fact 183 – purification

precisely no one has asked me this question, but since my novel is currently going through this process, i thought i might answer it anyway: How Doth I Write? well, we should start with the eternal question. no, not “What’s for dinner?” rather, Planning or Pantsing? that is, do i plan out, making an outline and actually forming characters before i start my draft, or do i just wing it and hope the gods bless me with something readable. i tried pantsing one year, but the story petered out way before 50k. so i tried planning the next year, but i way over-planned and got bored half way through. after a few years, i found my happy medium: – identify my beginning – identify my ending (or at least, the one i think i want, this is sometimes not the ending i finish with) – sketch a basic story arc (i’m talking super general, like, “Main character + love interest meet in first scene, they bicker like a married couple through entire first half of story, but bond over their mutual orphan status, and fall in love, only to be seperated by Big Evil Thing, and then they have to find their way back to each other just in time to Defeat Big Evil.”) – outline the first few scenes, just to get me started on Day 1, and if i know any other scenes, i’ll put general descriptions of these down on paper, too. then, come day 1, i’ll write whatever scene(s) i’ve got planned out, and then i’ll add my ideas for the next scene(s) to the outline. that way, i’m only planning two or three scenes in advance, so i don’t get bored, but i’m not totally pantsing either. after i finish the first draft, that’s when i do what most people would consider the major outlining and plotting and stuff. – i set the draft aside, often for a year or more. – before i even re-read it, i outline what i remember the plot being, which often isn’t What I Actually Wrote, but is always What I Thought I Was Writing, i.e. the Idealized Version. – i re-read the story, noting where it differs from my Idealized Outline, and either changing the scene to be in line with The Idealized Outline, or changing The Outline to match the story, if i think it’s that good. i also fix major problems at this stage, such as plot holes, inconsistancies, characters whose names changed halfway through the story, etc. – i go through the outline again, asking What If…? at every juncture. what if this character did this instead? what if X or Y happened instead? how else could we bring out Z’s personality/problems/conflict? once i’ve settled on my best choices, i more or less set the outline in stone, and rewrite the draft to match the outline. – then it’s the fine toothed comb passes, such as making sure people’s dialogue reflects things they’d actually say, assuring that the details i choose are details we actually care about, settings are adequately set-ed, etc. by this point, i’m usually several (dozen) drafts in, so it’s time for beta readers, and god help us all at that point. (^_^) or at least, god help my sister, who’s nose is currently buried in the thing. she’s here to make sure i don’t get discouraged. her advice to me tonight? a) “It’s /your/ writing, you don’t have to like it.” and b) “You put a book in front of me, of course I’m going to read it. Plus, I like your writing.” (^______^) and she’s laughed in the right places, and pointed out some moments where the stuff i know in my head didn’t quite make it to the page, etc, so i suppose i shall just have to move on from this “OH JESUS, SOMEONE IS READING MY STORY!!!1!!1!” feeling. (^^’) and so move on we shall. my air purifier broke last week. when i came home on friday, both my 3DS and my DS were out of batteries, so in looking for somewhere to plug them both in at the same time, i unplugged my old air purifier, only when i plugged it back in, it didn’t start up. me: *pushes power button* machine: *……* me: *clickaclickaclicka* machine: *drrrr* yeah. the lady who had this apartment before me had a cat that shed like, i don’t know, Something That Sheds, so i really need it. the following morning, my apartment smelled like moldy cat. *eww* so i spend saturday researching new air purifiers, and bought one from Target on saturday evening. it was $100, and it is super loud, but it’s air purifing power is actually much better than my old thing, so i’m okay with it. also, because my physician recommended it for my asthma, i can get reimbursed for the purchase from my HSA. yay health insurance! in other news… well, i guess i don’t have any other news, actually. or maybe i do, i just can’t remember since my sister is in the next room READING MY WORK. … (this post brought to you by NERVOUS.) .

fact 182 – CAMPing!

Camp NaNo 2011 – The Machine, edit! Camp NaNo 2012 – The Machine, edit. Camp NaNo 2013 – … yeah. something. yeah. so, i’m hoping i’ll actually produce what someone somewhere might chose to term a “final draft” of this thing at some point between now and early June. the CreateSpace five-free-copy deadline is June 30th, but it’s not good on the proof copy, so i’ve gotta get that and approve it, and then i can order my free copies. i’m hoping to pass those out to some beta readers this summer, so the pressure’s on… i guess… at this moment, i’m just hoping i’ll still like the story when i’m done with it. i was working on it this afternoon, and i was discovering all this really cool stuff, that’s going to make this draft the best one yet! and then i got to this one point, and i was like, great, okay, i like this scene, but it’s not really working, so we should change it… yeah… we totally should… okay so… let’s… yeah… *facepalm* it’s not that i have any particular aversion to killing my darlings, i take a kind of perverse pleasure in doing away with things i once thought were great. it’s just that i’m at that stage where i’m starting to wonder if the whole novel isn’t just too lame to continue being in existance. i think every writer goes through this feeling at some (all?) points of a book’s creation, so i’m definitely not going to stop just because of a little (huge) lack of confidence problem, but it is there nonetheless, staring at me with that neglected partner look that says, “your netflix subscription misses you.” well, my netflix subscription is gonna have to sit on its DVDs, because CAMP NANOWRIMO APPROACHETH! i’m in a really awesome cabin this year, with people who seem actually active, and one chick who lives like a couple blocks from me (well, i think. she tweets about going places that are “down the street” from her that also happen to be “down the street” from me…). i’ve got a fancy new/old notebook, and a fancy new biro, and i’ve been making lots of notes already, like i said. i did a big structural edit last year for Camp, so most of those pieces are already in place, but i’m going back over those decisions just in case i’ve had some cooler ideas. i’m pretty much writing a series of papers on the novel, covering all the connections, and the relationship of every single person/place/thing to the title/theme, asking “What if… (it wasn’t there? it happened like this? or like this?)” about every scene, every plot choice, every everything. this will (hopefully some time in the next 10 days) produce a rock solid outline, and then once Camp actually starts, i’m going to start at the top and go over everything with a fine toothed comb: is this the right word, is this how Kale/William/Mercer/etc would actually feel/act/think/speak/etc. then in May, i can do a final Read It Out Loud word choice pass and mull over it for a couple good weeks and then (finally! jeez) upload it for a proof copy and go from there. it’s a pretty short “novel,” so it’s 100% doable, i’ve just got to stop paying attention to my inner doubting thomas. *places hand in wound* .

fact 181 – terminal wiggling

or, How I Came to Own a smartCar for those of you who don’t know, i (used to!) own a 1997 Nissan Altima. a) it was big, b) it was ugly, c) it was very loud, that latter mostly due to its muffler being made of holes held together with rust. my father wired it back together at one point, but by the time i traded it in, even that was no longer sufficient to qualify it as a muffler. people at work joked that they could tell when i was about to arrive because they could hear my car coming down the street… they weren’t actually joking… (-_-) then there was the battery. i got the car in 2007. i had to get a new battery in 2009. i thought, okay, 2 years, and who knows what state it was in when i bought it. then i had to get another one in 2010, 15 months later. well, we replaced the alternator then, too, so maybe the alternator had gone bad. then i missed work this past tuesday because my battery died on me again. 2 and a half years since the last one, and the thing had been half-stalling out at every stop light in the intervening months. i had to press on the gas while pressing on the brake, just so i didn’t stall out. yeah. when the battery died this time, my father and i opened the hood to find almost as must corrosion as battery. after we brushed that away, we discovered that we couldn’t get the positive terminal lead thing off, thanks to said corrosion, which had all but welded the lead to the terminal. plus, the hex screw was so rounded that the wrenches couldn’t hold on to it. we eventually had to pry the thing off with a screwdriver. having had so much trouble removing it, the positive lead then refused to sit properly when we got the new battery in. with the hex screw like that, there wasn’t much we could do except push the lead on there and hope it stayed. (nb: yes, i know, you can get replacements, but unexpected battery purchases do not lend themselves to other unexpected car repair purchases, even cheap(er) ones.) so the list of things wrong with the altima grew: tail lights that didn’t turn off unless you removed the fuse (hence the presence of a pair of rusty pliers in my car), muffler that didn’t muffle, tires that liked to go flat at a moment’s notice thanks to a slight dent in my wheel rim (left over from a wheel vs curb battle that my car lost), and now, a battery lead that didn’t stay in place. whenever i wanted to start my car, i had to open the hood, reseat the terminal, and then start it up. and sometimes even then, it didn’t want to start. i did a lot of terminal wiggling that week. (>.>) my mother, my father, myself, pretty much everyone by this point was getting concerned for my safety, and urging me to obtain a new vehicle forthwith. it turned out that the CarMax (a used car place) near my house had a smartCar on the lot that my mother and sister had seen, so i called them up, and lo and behold it was still available. so i went over there on a lovely saturday afternoon, and to cut a long story slightly less long, i drove off the lot with a shiny new car! yay! a fancy picture of a fancy car (as an aside, the dude who sold me the thing was like, “it’s an altima you’re trading in?” and i was like, “what’s left of one, yeah.” he was like, “eheheh.” and then his dude appraised my car. …he was like, “is there any safety reason why someone should not buy this car?” i was like, “eheheh- i plead the fifth.” …the little report that came back was like, “engine: does not run properly.” i was like, “uh, nothing does on that car.” but they still gave me $500 for it, which was about $499 more than i thought i might get, so that was all to the good in the end.) so i thought i might review the darling thing right here, for your very much review fullfillment… let’s start with the outside. CUTE! super cute. tiny. miniscule. it’s basically the front seats of a car, plus a “trunk area.” it doesn’t really qualify as a full trunk, although my mother and i did fit groceries for 6 adults in there. the colored parts are actually plastic body panels, which are resistant to denting, and are replaceable, so if you scratch one up, or if you decide you’d like a yellow car for a while instead of a red one, you can go for it. full sets of body panels go for about $1200, and you need special tools to change them, so it’s not something you can just pop in and out, but if you can only find one color in your neighborhood, or if you want a custom color, you can get it that way. you can also get custom graphics and vinyls and stuff printed for that extra fancy touch. the headlights are cute, the back tail lights are cute (and functional! dude!), the headlights themselves are actually super bright, and are aimed very thoughtfully. the area they light up seems quite large to me when i’m just driving along, but when i pull up behind people, my lights are never shining right in their face. the seem to be aimed so that they come up just below the back windshield on most modern cars. since i work second shift, it’s pitch black half the year for my commute home, so i really appreciate that feature. the smart car also has a tridion frame, the black part on mine, but you can also get it in silver, and you can also get graphics to apply there if you don’t like black or silver. the frame is, of course, a safety moment, more than a decorative one, but that doesn’t prevent it from looking good. i watched a YouTube where they crashed the smart car into a concrete barrier at 70 mph, and the frame was hardly dented. where the frame stopped, the car didn’t exist any more, but the frame itself was perfectly intact.

which makes this a great time to talk about safety! if you watched the video above, you saw that the smart car fairs about as well as any other small car. the Geo Metro, the old Dodge Neons, the Honda Civics, the Honda Fit, all of the small, (sub)compact cars on the market (at least all of the ones that came out about circa 2008, which is when my smart car came out) have the same problem: THEY’RE TINY. when you crash half a car into concrete, you’re going to have some problems. imagine that. in the smart’s defense, it’s been engineered to take advantage of other cars’ crumple zones. the frame will protect you from slower impacts, but you’re more likely to survive a crash with another car, simply because of the way this car’s engineered, not to mention the way physics works. also in the smart’s defense, if you watch the video through, you see that the car hits the barrier at an angle, on the driver’s side corner. the driver’s compartment has a fair amount of intrusion, but the passenger side isn’t too bad, considering. it’s got some debris, but the door’s fine, the footwell is fine. the passenger would be bruised and shaken, but might be able to walk away from that crash, even at 70 mph. the lesson here? if you go out of control, try to crash on the passenger side. … unless you’ve got a passenger, in which case, try to crash into something with crumple zones… i suppose the point with regards to safety is this: the smart car is no more or less safe than other tiny cars. the smart did receive four star or better crash ratings in industry-standard crash tests (from the insurance institute for highway safety and the national highway traffic safety administration, links and a consumer reports summary article can be found here: http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/2008/05/smart-crashtest.html) and the thing has 14 air bags and a steering wheel that retracts in the event of a crash so it doesn’t go into your rib cage, so they’ve pretty much done everything they can to make the car as safe as possible. if you’re looking at compacts and sub-compacts, this car is no more or less safe than the other cars you’re looking at. and now we move on to where you’ll be spending most of your time, THE INTERIOR! depending on your trim level of course, you may have one or more of the following: * bucket seats (i hate buckets seats, but i suppose these aren’t horrible. you’re not gonna wanna drive cross country in these things, but hopefully you didn’t buy this car to go cross country in… -1 point.) * heated seats (i don’t have these, but my mother’s Honda CR-V does, and i find that i don’t like them. +1) * fabric trim on doors and dash (mine’s black, i hear you can get other colors on newer models, i guess i don’t really care, but it’s just something to make your car a little special. no points either direction.) * ash tray and 6 CD holder (i do have this, it gets a little rattle-y in the super cold Ohio winters, since it’s just plastic. i don’t really use it, since i’ve got an MP3 player. i ended up removing them both (a super easy process! they just snap out!) but if you have CDs, it’s going to be super convenient for you. no points.) * in-dash storage (there are two cubbies on either side of the steering column, one of which is quite large, and the glove box, which can be locked, is a nice size, too. +1) * fancy stereo (i have what i believe to be the basic basic model stereo. it sounds good, not amazing, but i haven’t messed with anything yet. it doesn’t have any full-on equalizer settings, but you can adjust the treble and bass, along with balance and fade settings, so it’s just about standard in that regard. of course it has AM/FM stereo, with 6 preset buttons, and a CD player. since the cabin’s so small, you don’t need much power to get good sound, but the volume maxes out at 25. for the normal radio and for CDs, that’s plenty loud, but for the AUX in, it doesn’t quite go where i’d like it to. i find that a lot of AUX in moments don’t go very loud, relying instead on the AUX device to provide the volume, which is super annoying. i shouldn’t have to turn up my mp3 player just because you didn’t want to power your AUX in port properly. anyhow, the speakers are okay, maybe a little underpowered, and if you’re an audiophile, these definitely aren’t going to live up to your standards. but if you’re a normal person, it’ll be fine. also, even this basic edition does come with an auxiliary input jack, and although that jack is located in the glove box (super odd), it works fine with my mp3 player. all in all, this is also +1) * tachometer and analog clock (sticking up like two little bug eyes on the dash. super cute. these are nicely lit, large enough to see easily, and the tachometer is useful for when you accidentally put yourself in manual mode (more on the transmission later) and miss the clues on the dash display, and it will help you recognize what’s going on when your car changes gears, but if you never go out of automated mode, it’ll be a little pointless for you. as for the analog clock, i strongly prefer analog clocks, so i was happy to see that there, but there is a digital clock on the dash display, so again, you may find it pointless. +1, ymmv) * air conditioning system (right below the tacho/clock. this is on the fugly side, but it does it’s job. you select a temp with the right-hand lever and the fan speed with the left-hand lever. it heats up in alright time, not super quick, but considering the tiny engine it’s got to work off of, that’s not surprising. since i came from a car w/ precisely zero air conditioning, i consider it a win, but objectively, it’s probably “meh,” at best. 0) * speedometer and dash display (i like this thing. the speedometer is right where it should be, behind the steering wheel, unlike certain other compact cars (i’m looking at YOU, toyota yaris!), it’s well lit, with large numbers. on either side of the speedometer are black arches, which is where your warning lights will come on. i haven’t had a chance to see many of those in action, of course, but they all light up when you start up the car, and they seem normal. i didn’t understand a couple of them at first, but that is what they made manuals for. resetting the digital clock is a little odd, but again, RTFM. it does have an indicator light for maintenance, which i haven’t seen in action yet, but it’s bound to be useful for me, since i’m very bad at remembering to get oil changes. +1) * fancy buttons (below the stereo is where you’ll find most of your fancy buttons. the switches for the automatic windows are on the door, but everything else, including the door locks, are here below the stereo. from left to right: blank space where the seat heating button would be were i to own that | fog lamps | a blank space for some other fancy feature i haven’t got | lock the doors | hazard lights | unlock the doors | arm security system (more on that later) | tire pressure monitoring system (more on that later) | and lastly, blank space for passenger seat-heating, were i to own that feature. these are all nice and clicky, the lock buttons are kind of pointless, because you’ve got your fob with you at all times (the fob IS the key) but i guess if your fob goes out, you can use that. the car alarm button is similar. if you haven’t got your fob, or if you give someone your valet key, they can use that to set the alarm. you press the button and then leave the cabin w/in x amount of time (i think it’s 12 seconds?) and voila the alarm’s set. as a side note, when your fob battery’s about to die, the car flashes its lights at you a lot more than normal when you lock the doors, and it’s still rated for 100 button presses after that, so you’ll know in plenty of time to get a new battery. it’s just a regular watch battery, CR 2016, in case you’re wondering.) yeah, i think that’s about it for the dash, so let’s go back and talk about some of your car’s fancy features. the transmission: this is the big one that most (all?) of the reviews complain about, and, unfortunately, rightly so, although perhaps it’s not as bad as people make out. the difference is this. this car is not an automatic in the normal sense. that is to say, the transmission is not the standard automatic that you find in any other car. it’s a sort of mix between manual and automatic. it’s officially called an “automated manual,” which is to say, it’s a manual car, a stick shift, with automated shifting. “but,” you say, “isn’t that what any automatic is?” well, not exactly. i don’t know all the details, but my impression is that a regular automatic has a different way of shifting, and a different way of engaging the clutch when it changes gears so that your car doesn’t lose forward momentum while you’re changing gears. the smart’s system doesn’t have that, it just eases up on the gas as its method of engaging the clutch, so while you’re changing gears, your car is subject to the laws of physics, i.e. your car slows down. this is especially noticeable between first and second gears, although it gets better as you get into higher gears, and it vastly improves if you accelerate at a slower rate. so if you put the pedal to the floor, you’re going to feel every gear change quite seriously. if you gently press the pedal down and accelerate at a slower rate, you’re not going to notice much of a change at all. although firstly, accelerating at a slower rate is better for your car and your gas mileage, the truth is that secondly, accelerating slowly is not how most people drive, myself included. i got used to the little jerk between first and second pretty much right away, but you’re just not going to be able to do any jack rabbit starts in this car. it’s especially annoying when turning corners after stop lights, because it likes to change gears right in the middle of the intersection. i notice a lot of people changing lanes to get around me in the first couple of dozen yards, only to be passed by me later on down the road. it’s definitely more tortoise than hare. the engine is only 1 liter, 3 cylinders, and even as small as the car is, the engine feels a little underpowered, maybe because of the way the transmission engages, so if you’re looking for something to zip in and out of traffic like a bicycle messenger in, this ain’t it. you can operate the car in full manual mode and drive it like you would any other stick shift/manual car, and although i don’t know how to drive a manual, my father does. during his drive around the block, which he did in manual mode, i found the ride much smoother, so i think i’m going to have to learn his mysterious stick shifting ways. all that said, i don’t have any major problem with the smart setup, because 90% of my commute is highways, so i don’t do much stopping/starting. i would recommend a longer than normal test drive to be sure that you can live with this engine. on the plus side, this car is maneuverable. it can turn almost literally on a dime. also, i’ve seen some videos say it felt sluggish, but it doesn’t feel that way to me. of course, my last car was a boat, so perhaps that’s relative. i will say, it’s not as zippy as my 1997 Toyota Tercel was when i first bought that, but i did last own that car 8 years ago, so maybe memory is also relative. (^_^) for the record, i do go on the highway with it. my commute to work is about 15~20 minutes either way, 90% highway. i get up to about 80 with no problem, and despite what i’ve read on the internets, i do not feel particularly vulnerable in it. no more than i did in the Tercel, certainly. it’s not an SUV, so of course if you pull up alongside a semi, you’re gonna feel some push back, but not much more than i do in my sister’s 2005 Toyota Echo (the precursor to the Yaris). Again, it’s a tiny car, so it’s going to react like a tiny car. stop expecting it to behave like a full size sedan. i should mention that i live in Ohio, where we have real winters, and real windy days, and the wind has actually been more of a concern for me than the snow/ice. which brings us to fuel economy. everybody wants to know, it must get good gas mileage! well, yes, as a point of fact, it does. nothing amazing, not like 100 mpg, but a solid 38 mpg on the highway. i’ve had the car for 45 days now and i’ve filled up thrice. that’s right. (^_^) i go about 10 days between fillups, and i went 19 days on this last one. if i only drive to work and back, w/ no driving on the weekends, i should be able to go ~20 days between fillups. it has an 8.9 gallon tank and the manual says it has a 1.3 gal reserve tank, although i haven’t been bold enough to encounter that yet. the gas light goes on when you have 1 gal left, and the dash display changes. where it used to list your trip OD, it now says “1.0 gals.” if you keep driving, it keeps track of how much gas you have left. “0.9 gals” “0.8 gals” etc. after the gas light goes on, i can get to work and back ~3.5 times. (^_^) this is a definite win. let’s see, what’s next? aaah, tires. they’re tiny 15″ things, nothing special. you can buy aftermarket upgrades. i am happy to have hub caps again. *poor nissan.* the smart has a tire pressure monitoring system to tell you when one (or more~) of your tires is going flat. this is vitally important, as it does not have a spare. (seriously, where would they have put it?) what it has instead is this monitoring system and a tire repair kit under the passenger side dashboard. if you get a puncture, you can use the kit to seal and reinflate your tire, and that will get you to the nearest dealership/garage/whatever, so you can get a new tire. the monitoring system should prevent blow outs, so either way, you’re not going to be left out by the side of the road with no way to get home. i guess this is a good example of the feeling i get from the entire car. it’s not what you expect, but it’s got innovative ways to get the job done. which brings us to the security system. the passenger side doesn’t actually have a key lock. the driver’s side does, but it’s got a stopper in it you’d have to pull out before you could use it. they obviously intend you to use the fob. which is fine, the fob is attached physically to the key, so you can’t start your car w/out it (unless you have the valet key, obviously). this does make the key huge, but most modern keys are using this design now. i’m not fond of it, but it seems to be standard these days. my mother’s CR-V key, for instance, isn’t that much smaller. if you haven’t got your main key, you can still unlock the driver’s door, you can still start the car of course, and you can still use the security system, using the button on the dash, so if more than one person in your household will be driving the car, it’s not that big of a deal, but i do feel like the car’s designed more for a one-driver-per-car type of household. i will say the security system is kind of loud. the little beeps are cute, but i feel like everyone on my block knows when i leave and when i get home now. i guess it’s better to have a loud security system than a soft one, but they could have turned it down just a notch. and so there we go. outside of the transmission, there’s really not much to dislike here. despite appearances, there’s plenty of room in the trunk for hauling your bags to the airport and back (you can probably fit a full sized suitcase + toiletry bag + carry on and the same for a spouse/mate/roomie/significant other without too much trouble), you can do your weekend errands in it definitely. you’re not going to fit a loveseat in here, probably not even a good sized ottoman, but hopefully that’s obvious from just looking at it. frankly, i’m not buying furniture in this thing. i’m not hauling dirt, or gravel or whatever. i hardly ever exit the city, and then only to drive to another city, and i don’t take anyone with me on my drive to work, so i don’t need much more than the front seats of a car. it’s designed to be a commuter car, or maybe a primary car for young, childless city dwellers. it’s perfect for me, and i’m very happy with it, but i also knew what i was going for and what i was going to get out of it. this car isn’t going to be applicable to everyone’s situation, but if it is applicable to yours, i definitely recommend it. i will say that when the smarts first came out, they were way overpriced. they were, what, $20k back in 2008? yeah, that was too much. but now, 4~5 years later, and i got mine used for just over $10k, and i feel like that was just about right. so in the end, do your research and know what you’re getting into, but if this size car is something you’re interested in, take a smart for a spin. (^_^) .

FACT 180 – The Search

the job search, that is. no, i haven’t quit, calm thyself. not that i don’t consider it, daily. but of course quitting would be purest folly, what with my savings account currently amounting to precisely 6% of my monthly pay, and my rent due shall we say soonish. indeed quitting would mean moving back in with my parents, and probably defaulting on some loans/credit cards/etc, and quite aside from having been there, done that with regards to financial ruin, i will shovel dog poo with my bare hands before i will move back in with anyone. #personalSpaceIssuesMuch? but, my discontent remains. the problem basically boils down to this, and i am certain i am not alone in this predicament: the job i want, i am not qualified for, and the job i can get, is not a job i want. that is to say, the job i want is to be a japanese translator. i do at least have the benefit of being headed towards fluency, but by my own reckoning, that is still several years off, at best. the job i can get, or rather, the broad class of jobs i am qualified for, include things such as data entry, receptionist/administrative assistant positions, call center operative, etc. that is to say, jobs i have already done, jobs i have grown bored with. so the only job i really want is a job i’ll have to wait several years to even have a shot at, and the jobs i can get are ones that would land me right back where i started: bored, perhaps with a slightly higher income. and so my main problem is this: do i bail on my current job, where i am (almost literally) bored to tears, forced to sit next to people who think that Cosmo and Marie Claire represent the most fun one can have whilst reading, and believe that it’s okay for them to be hateful and cynical but that everyone else should really cheer up, in favor of some job that might keep my mind occupied for the 18 months or so it generally takes me to learn even complex systems until i get bored again, or do i stick with it, counting on the dopamine response of my continued studies to carry me through the low points while at least enjoying the seniority, loads of paid time off, and respect of some decent managers i currently have, until such time as i can fly this coop in favor of bluer skies, or shall we say motto aoi sora? of course, job searching these days is difficult, even for the highest of highly qualified applicants. everyone wants you to NETWORK, as if every person on the planet were born with some innate sense that allowed them to take advantage of interpersonal relationships in order to climb up the corporate ladder. for introverts such as myself, who can name their close friends on one hand, and even people in the next circle out in the low double digits, this presents a serious problem. i don’t hate social interaction, it just wears me out. i can’t stand small talk, and talking about myself is so obnoxious i’d rather grab that bottle of Purell and go say hello to the dog poo. i recognize that i do have the luxury of saying this from behind a comfortably steady paycheck, but networking is not my idea of how i’d like to spend my off hours. in a perfect world, the job search sites would work quite differently from the way they currently do. you might create a profile, you might even type in keywords for your skills, but basically, what you would do is this: tell the system what you have, i.e. degree, skills, competancies, etc, and then the site, instead of trying to sell you their premium version, or giving you a list of every job listing in a 50 mile radius that uses the word “entry” in its description, would give you a list of positions that match your skills, regardless of job title. so, i might put in my English degree, my (far too) many years of customer service, and my Japanese skill, and then tell it i’m looking for something that interacts with the international community, something that plays to my communication ability, something that doesn’t really have all that much to do with what is traditionally called “customer service,” that is, i’m sick of being front facing. the system would probably still return a good number of customer service jobs, but there would be a way to tell the algorhythms “i’m not interested in this” and have them adjust. then i can start looking at jobs that i actually want, or at least, jobs that are closer to what i actually want than i get blindly typing keywords into a search engine. this would be a great boon for employers, too, who might now receive a higher percentage of people actually interested in the job for the job’s sake, rather than hundreds of people desperately hoping that this middle management position isn’t going to be like every single middle management position they’ve had before. and for those of us who don’t care what kind of title we have, as long as it’s a job that lets us use the skills we’ve got, and challenges us to learn some new ones, we can stop missing out on great opportunities simply because we don’t know what keywords to stick in the search box. .

fact 179 – that was hard

VICTORY DANCE! *falls over dead* oh my goodness. that was hard. i think that was the hardest NaNoWriMo i’ve ever done. (this is my eighth, by the way, and my eighth win, thank you very much~) i’m not sure why it was so hard for me. my level of enthusiasm going in certainly wasn’t there, but i’m not sure exactly why. i had originally planned to do a short story collection centered around the apocalypse, because i knew i wasn’t as fired up as normal, and if there’s one thing i’ll always enjoy, it’s a good end of the world story. but then one of the stories started to look like it was going to be long enough, so i ditched the whole multiple stories thing and focused on that story. … which suddenly ended about 26k in. i was just writing along, had the whole other half of the novel planned out, and then suddenly i was saying farewell to some of my remaining main characters. i’m all like, why does it feel like i’m saying goodbye to this person? and then, wait a minute, i’m saying goodbye to her, too! and then, okay, fine, i’m saying goodbye to all of them. at least killing off characters is an enjoyable past time! but then the story was over, and i was still, oh, you know, 24k short of a win? so i quick pulled in my other stories, and started writing them after all. but i am a planner, and of course i had completely failed to plan any of these stories… yeah, that might have had something to do with it. i also had a hard time turning my inner editor off. it was like having to fill in giant cannonball holes with toothpicks. i picked a bunch of stories i had started a couple of times and failed to complete, hoping that the deadline would spur me to action. well it worked, i guess, but i’m tired now. i’ve got four stories, two of which i’ve started at least three times each, and that was even before NaNo, and two stories that have been floating around for years, and they are all finished. i just don’t want to have anything further to do with them. for a long while. so for December, i’m playing video games. (^_^)-b #minecraft

FACT 178 – kimono wo tsukurimasho~

so, it’s come to this, has it. i am now so over the edge about japanese goods that i have made my own kimono. yes! yes it has come to this! and isn’t it AWESOME!? i’ll maybe be putting up some more details on how i made it, but that’ll have to be later. i’m making another one, this one electric blue. you should see my super anal-retentive diagrams and instructions and stuff i wrote out for myself. (^_^) i used an amalgam of a couple of sets of instructions i found on the web. the Immortal Geisha forums were helpful for detail stuff. it’s not especially historically accurate/traditional, but i’m not really into making 50 thousand little kise for my seams, for a garment i’m not actually going to be wearing to Obon festivals… also, because the fabric, i bought came in two (almost but not really) equal-length panels, my collar attaching in the front didn’t go quite as planned, and so, as you can see, there’s so wrinkling/gathering that shouldn’t be there, on the front, right above the obi. as for the obi. hot damn, i love that thing! (^_^) if you’re not especially attached to having your obi be all one piece, it turns out you can buy a yard of whatever you’d like, and (assuming 45 inch fabric) but it into 6ths, and piece them together for an obi of 540 cm. plenty long! I lined this one with some muslin i had laying around, but if you want to self line it, just buy 2 yards and in to town. this one isn’t stiffened in any way, and i think i’ll definitely be stiffening my next one, but for a casual kimono, this is okay. overall, i’m super pleased with my first effort. this next one i’m ongoing to be making with panels all of the same size (zomg!) so the neck portion should sit down more normally. hopefully less wrinkly, at the very least. guess we’re going to find out in pretty short order. i’m planning to do he thing this week, so i can year it for Easter service. we’ll see if my desire to stay out of the spotlight overrules my desire to wear cool things in public…

FACT 176 – #amwriting

well, i think three and a half months is quite long enough to recover from NaNo. (^_^) actually, i was fairly well recovered in January, but then a long drawn out Saga Happened, the course of which i may or may not relate to you at a later date, when i can manage to talk about it without flying into a screaming rage, and so writing did not. (T_T) But i have recovered enough (read: i realized a Deadline was Looming) to entice myself back to the writing desk. After each of the previous NaNos, some lovely company has swooped down to shower the winners with free copies of their manuscripts. This year, Amazon has done the honors, and they have profered not one, but FIVE free copies of our manuscripts to lure us into their little (read: not so little) self-publishing game. (^_^) i still have not looked at The Revolution, my 2011 NaNo effort, and i am not willing to do so, not even for five free copies of the thing, but i AM willing to read, perhaps even to revise, my 2009 NaNo effort, The Machine. to that end, i have placed the prologue of such an effort online for all to see. it is quite short, a mere two paragraphs, and i promise the entire novel is not project briefing excerpts, but you may wish to read it nonetheless. it doesn’t suck. The Machine (working title) | prologue (read: not that much) .

The Machine (working title) | prologue

Excerpt from ACC PROJECT BRIEFING MARCH 14, 15926 The lack of organized response to the crisis indicates not only that the Project’s failure was wholly unplanned for, but that even once Project leadership realized that such a failure was imminent, they were able to prevent any information concerning it and its implications from reaching either the media or other government agencies. The sole indication of civilian knowledge about the project is the discovery of an unknown male found among the dead at the California facility. Evidence suggests he was copying data from a Project computer when he was discovered by a security guard, who apparently shot and killed him, but due to the lapse of time between the incident and recovery efforts, as well as the general lack of genetic records endemic to the early 21st century, no further information is available on this unknown male.


man, if you thought i was high beFORE, dude. dood! DOOD! (^___^) a 3x wide smiley does not BEGIN to cover it. i am so awesome. i am! this? this right here? this is more awesome than one word can cover. i am so awesome, i have crossed the line into ossum! i’m so awesome, the internet had a to invent a word to cover how awesome i am. … yeah, okay, that’s enough. seriously, i’m getting lightheaded. man. it is pretty awesome, though. –oh, sorry, “ossum.” i know i say this every year, but this year? THIS YEAR i was sure for a minute there that i wasn’t going to make it. it was like, 35k words, and i was like, man, i actually /care/ about this story, and nothing was making sense. i had loose threads ALL over the place, and then my choir’s extra long practice day was right in the middle of week two, and then my priest’s last day was right in the middle of week three, and then my upstairs neighbor came home and played his music all loud, and i flew into my customary righteous indignation mode, etc etc et-novelus-interruptus-cetera. but then i realized that if i didn’t win, it would be my first fail in SEVEN years of doing NaNo. that’s right, my record would be Win Win Win Win Win Win FAIL. and then i also realized that i really did care about this story. nevermind losing, if i didn’t write the story, it wouldn’t get written. my poor characters would be stuck there, forever mired in the craptastic middle i had left them with. it was time to outsmart myself, as my old workshop professor would say, and get my characters down from the tree. luckily, their descent took just under twenty thousand words. somehow or other, most of the things i thought were pointless loose ends got tied up as i discovered more and more things about my characters and their horrible horrible pasts. i had a lot of fun killing three or four people one night, and so i resolved to get my main characters shot. incidentally, my one main character seems un-shoot-at-able. my other main character, god bless him, gets shot at all the time, and actually got hit two or three times in that final scene, but the other chap just refuses to get shot at. he does shoot a dude right in the face though, and manages to violate his own code of ethics in protection of his best friend, so maybe he didn’t escape unscathed after all. (^_^) what i’m really proud of this month, though, is that the story’s finished. i have a bad habit of ending NaNo without a completed story. my NaNo from a couple years ago, that i’ve been editing off and on all year, has no ending scene. i know exactly what it looks like, which may be the problem, but i just haven’t sat down and written the damn thing yet. in this story, i knew the ending even before i knew the beginning, and i was worried that i would get bored and just not write it, when it came down to it. but i did write it, and i have to say, I FEEL DAMN GOOD ABOUT THAT. in fact, i feel so good, that i feel like writing something else. that’s right, i wrote 3300+ words in the past three hours and i’m like, MOAR WORDS PLZ~ we’ll see if that lasts. ~meredeth. victorious. /me takes a Don’t Stop Believin’ break .

FACT 174 – the “high” life

when the bloody title contains scare quotes, you know you’re in trouble. (^___^) I HAVE RISEN LIKE THE PHOENIX! FROM A 3000 WORD DEFICIT, I HAVE COME BACK! LIKE AN UNHAPPY VAMPIRE REAWAKENED FROM THE GRAVE! ONLY, HAPPY! oh my god i am so high right now. not the illegal kind, the adrenaline kind. the other day, there was a question on the Office of Letters/Light blog (at least, i think that’s where it was, my neural pathways are a bit scattered at the moment) about why you write. some people said things like, i have to write or i get angry about all the stupid shit in my life. some people said things like, i want to experience things that would/could never happen in real life. some people even said the thing that i always tell people, which is, the thrill of writing is the thrill of reading, you get to find out what happens next. but the deeper truth is this: i get high, from writing. a totally legal, occasionally money-making, often admired past-time, and when i’m done, i’m totally, gigglingly, singing-loud-ly, divuldging-far-too-much-information-when-asked-only-innocuous-questions (using-too-many-hyphens) HIGH. like drunk, but on words. (^_^) (incidentally, this kind of high is also what happens to me when i read something good, hence my tendancy to read at home, alone. but that’s a discussion for another post~) and then of course, there’s the killing people. no, seriously. half the reason i’m so high right now is because no less than four people have died horrible horrible deaths in the past 2000 words. i set them on fire, while revealing some scary plot stuff about my main character. he behaved poorly, and it scared his naive friend. now they’re stuck in a creepy Moria-esque (only much smaller, and without short bearded people) hidey-hole (isn’t that like the second time i’ve used that phrase this november? what is WRONG with me? … oh. yeah.), so main character is going to have to explain himself to naive friend, or at least deal with the fallout from his poor behavior, which is far more likely, since he has not thus far displayed a habit of explaining himself to people. but slowly, we are finding out why. and the whole setting-people-on-fire thing started when the bad guys killed one of main character’s friends, and shafting your main character is one of those pleasures of writing that keeps an author at the keyboard when it seems there is no other reason to be there. nothing gets me reinvested in a story more quickly than making something horrible happen to my beloved characters. also helping me at this point is that i have a vague idea of where i’m going with this. i’ve had an ending in mind all along, and it seems i might actually make it there (find something wooden, dude, because i need to knock), and so i’m eager to find out exactly how the new things that are happening right now (for example, i thought the chick who just died was going to be an escaped rebel leader, but it turns out she’s the escaped government employee i had originally planned the naive friend to be) are going to play into the super awesome bombing run i’ve got planned for the end. the fun of writing is the fun of reading: you get to find out what happens next. that, and the killing. (^_^)-b .