Monday, April 14, 2014

Routine Maintenance

I started waking myself up at 5am in December. The company I work for relocated nearly all of its employees to a location that is farther from my home and in a busy area. I wanted to set my hours such that I never got stuck in rush hour traffic, and so that I was able to make the reliable car available to my wife before all businesses closed. A few weeks ago, as I was finally starting to get the hang of my stupid hours, we bought a new car and I promptly overhauled my schedule.

So, out with the old routine, in with something that is hopefully more beneficial to me!

I'm getting up at 7am, but instead of rushing out the door immediately, I'm writing, meditating, and practicing guitar. I leave around 9am, get home around 7:30 or 8pm, and stay up late. So far, I like it. We'll see how it goes for the next few weeks.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Shelves and Surfaces

I had originally planned to make Sunday my "queue up blog posts" day, because one time I managed to write three posts by accident in one sitting and it seemed like a good idea. Yesterday, however, I was sidetracked by dealing with the trash vortex around my desk and never got around to it.

Today, I call it a trash vortex, but prior to today I just thought of it as a place that needed a little straightening. After buying some books, I tucked them away on my desk so they'd be visible and I wouldn't forget to read them; I haven't read them. I had a shelf that I designated "creative stuff" that had some drawing books and music books, as well as a pen holder. From that shelf, I've only grabbed pens in the last several months. I had unlabeled boxes and a vague understanding that one had guitar accessories, one had cables of some kind, and one had art supplies. One shelf was starting to sag under the weight of the unread and half-read programming books that resided there.

There were folders. Some were plain, and some were the fancy kind you can use like binders. One even has binder rings in it. Most of them were empty. Most were acquired because I forgot I had the others. Several sketchbooks were there, including two that I had completely filled, as well as two or three that were completely empty. Plus, the handful that were half(or less)-filled.

And notebooks. So. many. notebooks. So many blank notebooks. So many notebooks with writing on no more than 4 pages.

So, during the time I had previously imagined would be for writing, I was actually cleaning the hell out of my workspace. The end result is that it's a much less stressful environment, and I'm optimistic that it will be easier to do stuff there.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Hey! Listen! - Mixtape by Jimmy Eat World



I've been on a Jimmy Eat World kick lately. Invented is an amazing album that punches me right in the feels every time I listen to it.

The title of this song had me thinking about the art of making a mixtape. I wasn't old enough to be making them for girls before CD-Rs came and killed them, but I remember putting tremendous amounts of care into selecting which tracks would go on the mixes that accompanied me in my Walkman. I even made some for my friends -- one was a birthday gift that had my favorite Nirvana songs on it, and months later he told me that it was an awesome tape. So, success.

Coming up with a playlist can still be a good experience. I'm not trying to be That Guy who hates all this Newfangled Technology for Ruining Everything, but it's different. With the playlist, you can take shortcuts. Listen to the first 30 seconds and the last 10 seconds of a track, figure out what fits where, and the end result ends up being more cohesive. Amusingly, I think that shortcut makes it take more time.

Contrast with the tape -- Even if I planned ahead, once I got rolling there was a great chance something would pop into my head that demanded to be on the cassette, and then what? I wasn't going to redo it and wear out the tape. It got added wherever it got added.

The end result was raw, disjointed, chaotic, and yet still great to listen to, because the songs were curated, vetted, approved by the part of my brain dedicated to making sure I heard music I loved as often as possible.

And the limitations! 60 minutes was a good length. It was ripe for multiple trips to the grocery store, or multiple listens on a drive across the state.

CD-Rs were harder to fill. 74 minutes doesn't sound like that much more (3-4 songs), but the space was hard to fill. When I was burning CDs regularly, they would either be half-empty, or they would be full of filler, both of which felt wasteful. Since it was easy to skip songs I didn't feel like listening to, so I opted for filler. Indie rock for 19 tracks with a U2 song in the middle was the wrong kind of chaos.

In more recent years, it's been mp3-capable devices, like my iPod and my Nexus tablet. The other day, I put 9 gigs of music on my tablet, and I've listened to Invented and the soundtrack to Valdis Story. This isn't a problem, it just amuses me -- I have ridiculous portability and I still fall back to smaller groups of songs.

Perhaps the solution is to take an afternoon and curate some new mixes.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Writing Aid

When I ordered my Nexus, I didn't realize I was acquiring a device that would make me write more. Something about using the stylus to swipe words syncs my brain to my input speed better than a keyboard does, possibly even better than a pencil. Maybe it just gives me more time to consider each word than my typing speed does. Having to argue with auto-correct doesn't hurt, either. 

So far, it doesn't look like the Blogger app has a way for me to schedule posts (I'm hoping it's just something I'm overlooking), so I still have to log in from a PC to do that. Also, line breaks don't seem to behave in here, so I have to add more to get clean paragraph breaks*. But still, I'm able to spend more time writing because I don't need to tether myself to a chair if my back is sore or if I'm planning to go to bed soon. 

And hey! It's fun for other stuff, too, like Kingdom Rush: Frontiers.

*Correction: For this post, I tried adding extra line breaks in the app on my Nexus, and when I logged in to schedule this, the lines were properly broken!

Monday, March 17, 2014

WTFWJD

Not long ago, someone asked one of my Facebook friends, "Would Jesus bake a wedding cake for a gay couple? Would Jesus host a gay couple at his bed-and-breakfast?" These questions were intended as a gotcha, an attempt to shout down something my friend shared that argued that Christians should support marriage equality.

Leaving aside the fact that the gospels never establish for certain whether Jesus established a bakery or a BnB, the answer to both questions seems obvious -- yes. To conclude otherwise requires either ignorance of what Jesus says in the gospels, or a malicious misreading of those words.

If you don't think Jesus would at least hit the bar for "minimally decent human being", you're doing Christianity wrong.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Dear Steve Finnell

Dear Steve Finnell,

Thank you for your 586 word comment on my 332 word blog post the other day. You did a masterful job of interpreting the words that I had written, ignoring them, and using my comment section as a place to copy and paste a slew of context-free Bible verses in an attempt to define the magical incantation I need to perform to prevent God from having me tormented for all eternity. I would also like to thank you for your gracious invitation to follow your blog, and invitation I must decline with a heavy heart.

Unfortunately, I found the checklist you left me a little confusing.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Speed of Write

Recently, I saw a blog post by an author that argued that writing is not hard work and doesn't take very long. I immediately thought of all my writer friends who work hard to create the best prose they are capable of, as well as my own experiences with writing fiction, and wondered what the hell this guy was talking about.

But as I read further, it became clear -- this dude has no love for his craft. Maybe he loves telling stories, but his writing lacked a unique voice and featured the quadruple exclamation point that is so common among saleswolves.

Not that he didn't raise some good points. Fifteen minutes of writing in a day can result in a novel-length work in a year. The math works at 250 words a day! But he was trying to make the point that good writing shouldn't take a long time, and I have yet to see a first draft of anything that is worth paying for.

But hey, if this dude can sell his first drafts and make a living, more power to him. He's definitely not the only one. Maybe only writers can tell the difference? We are super critical of ourselves and prone to spotting every flaw we produce. Maybe that carries over into reading the work of others.

I don't think so, though. Lots of people see flaws in things and love them anyway. I've had so many conversations that included a phrase like, "I know it's cheesy, but I love it!" Conversely, there is Ulysses, which was obviously well-crafted but which I just couldn't get into. People seem to be able forgive an awful lot for an interesting story, and the most polished prose in the world won't keep them reading a story that doesn't resonate with them.

That doesn't excuse us from taking some extra time to make sure our art is awesome. I don't think we should settle for mediocrity just because we can sell it.