Monday, January 30, 2006
I spent a lot of the evening reviewing--well, reviewing, taking a break, reviewing, taking a break... no wonder I need several hours to crit a chapter. It can be intense work, though. I haven't had much chance to work on my own projects yet, and I probably won't get far since it's so late. I need a clearer direction for my current scene in Key, and I'd rather start working on the next chapter of Day when I have more time for it.
Since I posted yesterday, I did get three reviews of my latest chapter of Day. All of them say that my main character is spoiled and unsympathetic, so she's going to need some tweaking. I want her to develop over the course of the novel, but I can't make her so awful no one will want to read her. It's a balancing act. In some ways, Day of All Seasons is a more complicated book than Lennon's Line, where I have fewer viewpoints to deal with. Ironic that I wrote Day first; if I knew then what I know now, I might have structured it differently. This is why fools rush in, I guess.
OK, time to stare at Word some more....
Sunday, January 29, 2006
After playing with Heidi for a while, we had dinner: salad, chicken, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and asparagus. Mom also brought out a box of Godiva chocolates I gave her, so we helped her eat them. Then we played Uno--a more civilized version than the one I play at work (see previous post). Mom was leading for a while, and Eugene nearly caught up with her. Then Dad and Eugene slammed me with cards and stuck me with a massive score. Eugene says I managed to snatch defeat from the very jaws of victory, but I want to make sure credit goes where credit is due.
We drove home afterwards, stopping along the way to get groceries. Working together, we picked up our full load in half an hour (normally it takes an hour) and put them away in fifteen minutes when we got home. Are we a good team or what?
On a writing note, I reviewed a chapter and posted Chapter Three of Day of All Seasons on OWW. Surprisingly, no one's reviewed it yet; normally my regular reviewers return the favor pretty quickly. Sue posted in her blog that she was busy today with real life chores, so I suppose other people are doing the same thing. Then again, maybe it's a good thing my chapter hasn't been reviewed yet. ;)
One final picture before I sign off for the night and start writing: this is of me in my tango dress. I'm getting it altered (it needs shortening, which should be no surprise), and I took a picture of myself after it had been pinned in a few places. At least there's no video of me trying to dance in it, though that would probably rate pretty high on the amusement scale. ;)
Have a good night, everybody!
Saturday, January 28, 2006
I was a sophomore at Delavan-Darien High School, a few months shy of sixteen. I was in the North Commons, our honors study hall. It is (or was, as I have no idea if DDHS has been remodeled since my time) a section of the hall blocked off by a pair of long white benches. Three or four rows of desks took up most of the space, and along the wall were several carrels where pairs of students could study together. The back of the North Commons was a glass wall looking out into the courtyard, but the desks were arranged so you faced the hall. The North Commons was located next to the small auditorium/AV Department. As I was studying, someone from the AV Department came out and told us the news, also inviting us to come down to the AV department and see the replay for ourselves. Over and over the explosion happened as we watched. At lunchtime, I told everyone I could about the accident.
This certainly wasn't the first piece of news that caught my attention, but it was one of those moments that sticks with you. Only 9/11 made more of an emotional impact on me. Years later, when I was in D.C. for my internship at the National Cancer Institute, one of my friends came down to visit. We went to Arlington National Cemetery, and one of the memorials I particularly wanted to see was the one to the Challenger's crew. I have a photo of myself next to it, but it's not scanned. I should ask Eugene to do that sometime.
It's going to be business as usual for me today, running errands after I post this, then returning home to clean and cook dinner before spending the evening at Barnes and Noble, but it seems appropriate to think about those who died on this day back in 1986. I also feel I should stress how important it is to check little details, especially those that affect safety. After all, it was for want of an O-ring that seven lives were lost. You never know what little details will change history.
Finally, let me end this entry with the names of the seven who gave their lives for space exploration:
Francis R. "Dick" Scobee
Michael J. Smith
Ronald E. McNair
Ellison S. Onizuka
Judith A. Resnik
Gregory B. Jarvis
Friday, January 27, 2006
Today went better at work than it has in the last couple of days. I reviewed my notes from one project and started a new experiment, changing a couple of variables. I think this time it should work, but I'll find out on Monday. The supplies I needed came in this afternoon, so we'll see if my microbes held on over the weekend or if I need to grow a new batch of them. Finally, I discussed another project with my boss and figured out some new directions to follow with that one. It's easier to feel like you're getting somewhere if you have a plan. It also reminds me of writing, as characters need to have goals that they work towards over the course of a story. In fact, as I've become more aware of that, I've also felt the need to behave more like a heroine from a story--always trying to find solutions to problems and working towards my goals.
Even heroines have to take breaks sometime, however, and that's where the inspiration for my blog today comes from. My co-workers and I like to play games over lunch. We tend to go in streaks, playing games like Trivial Pursuit, Phase 10, and a German version of Sorry! called Mensch ärgere dich nicht (Translation: Don't get angry, man.) that I have. But the game we play most often is Uno. We started with Uno Attack!, which features a machine that spits out random amounts of cards when you press a button. The machine doesn't work too well anymore, so we've gone back to using a regular Uno deck--but with our own rules. Those of you from college (hi, Russ!) may remember some of them. For example, if Person A plays a Draw Two or a Draw Four on Person B, if B has one of those, she can play it and make Person C pick the total amount of cards. (This actually keeps going until it reaches the unlucky person who cannot defend herself with a card, so you can accumulate cards very quickly. In college, when we used Uno decks enriched with extra cards, we once made Tom Dees, one of the Sellery gang, pick 22 cards.) But at my job, it's not enough just to have the right cards, but to play them properly. What we do is flick the cards into the air and make them spin before landing on the pile. We also impose penalties if you make a mistake. Below are the normal rules for picking cards:
Missing the pile: 1 card
Missing a Wild or Draw Four card (applies to the first person to play after it appears): 1 card
Landing upside down: 2 cards
Hitting someone: 3 cards
Landing on the floor: 4 cards
These penalties accumulate, so if you miss the pile and your card is upside down, you pick three cards. As you can imagine, your hand can grow very quickly under these rules. I've also seen people (and done this myself) miss the pile with their last card and have to pick a penalty card.
Today, we decided to be even more sadistic than usual. We discarded the normal rules and replaced them with a simple one: land on the last card played or draw a card. After we finished, I took a picture of the table and posted it above. Looks like we need to work on our aim a bit, don't we? When we get to the point where we can flick cards from behind our backs across the room and hit our targets, then I think it's time to call the Olympic Committee and have this declared a sport. In the meantime, we may not win gold, but we have fun with our lunch hour.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
In general, I try not to complain. This is because I've been around several constant complainers, and they made me feel like I was their emotional toxic waste dump. Sure, it's natural to complain every so often, and sometimes you do need to say something in order to solve a problem. Many times, however, people gripe about something that can't be fixed. When I can, I try to solve my own problems, such as ordering supplies and trying to figure out what to do to replicate the results of my experiments. But sometimes the only thing you can do is to change your attitude.
In that case, let me end with some positive things: tomorrow is Friday; it's supposed to be 50 degrees tomorrow; I wrote over 600 words tonight and finished a chapter of Day of All Seasons; and most importantly, as soon as I put the computer on Stand By for the night, I can snuggle up to my sweetie. Nothing like holding someone you love to make you feel better.
(Eugene just gave me a thumbs up after he read that last bit, BTW.)
Have a good night, everyone, and may tomorrow be more ups than downs for you.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Eugene and I still need a lot a practice. He worked with one of the instructors tonight and learned he needs to project more to establish a connection. As for me, well, I have even more to work on: relaxing my hips and knees, keeping my weight on the foot it needs to be on instead of shifting too soon, not anticipating my partner.... If it's any consolation, it seems as if some of our fellow students need to work on the same things. And while I'm still having trouble with one of the moves (the cross), I was able to do a sidestep called ochos (eight), where I walk and spin in front of Eugene.
The next class (Level 2) starts the first week in February. In the meantime, I have to break in some new shoes (and buy some shoe inserts so I can be gelling) and practice my weight shifts at work and at home with Eugene.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Besides seeing people from my old town, I reviewed five chapters of Heather's book to make some overall comments. I also wrote about 260 words for Key. I wrote over 300 words in Day before dinner, so that's not too bad overall.
Some of you may wonder what Eugene does at the bookstore while I write. He researches his various hobbies, such as photography, computers, and cooking. Lately he's started something different but something he's been meaning to do for a while: write up the family history. Tonight he browsed through several books on genealogy. His family is so big I joke we're all related to him. It's going to take him a while to collect information, and some irreplaceable records in the Philippines were destroyed during WWII. But I think the final result will be worth it.
I was tempted to use the title of the Christmas carol, but I figured that was the last thing people wanted to hear in January. ;) As proof that it really is winter, here's what the balcony looked like this morning. (That's Mr. Ficus in the lower-lefthand corner.) Anyone want to hang out outside and have drinks? ;)
Eugene and I have become crockpot converts and try to use it every week. We did use it on Monday, but last night I found a recipe for pork chops that I really wanted to try. (Leftovers don't stretch as far as they did when I was single, so I keep looking for new ways to cook old standbys.) The only problem is that we didn't have some of the ingredients it called for. I didn't feel like driving on a side street with all the snow we got during the night, so I decided to walk to Jewel this morning instead. That way I could exercise and run an errand at the same time. I ate a bowl of oatmeal first, then set out. A few people were shoveling their driveways, and some of the sidewalk had been cleared, but it was easier to walk on the street instead of the sidewalk. The footing wasn't too bad, but I saw a car swerving around, so I'm glad I didn't drive. The sky was a beautiful, cloudless deep blue, the perfect remedy for the ominous cloud cover we had yesterday. It was only about a mile to the store each way, so the trip took between 40 and 50 minutes total. And now I have dinner slowly cooking and a loaf of bread baking. I installed the latest version of Norton Antivirus without any problems (for once), and the general apartment is picked up. (Still have to tidy my desk a bit, though.) Time to make a PBJ for lunch and get to writing/reviewing.
Friday, January 20, 2006
I've accomplished a fair amount this week writing-wise, so perhaps that's why I'm feeling lazy tonight. I performed an experiment with Lennon's Line: I converted the first chapter from first-person (narrated by an "I" voice) to third (an indirect voice using "he" or "she.") I posted the original and modified chapters on OWW, and so far it looks like people are saying the third person viewpoint will be better for the novel. I've also made some progress with Day of All Seasons, even though I'm throwing out a scene and rewriting it. I tend to do that a lot; it's as if I get better ideas the second (or third) time around. I've even found time to work on Key; maybe I'll work on that a bit before turning in. Tonight I've mostly done line edits for one of Sue's chapters and established a losing streak with Pyramids. ;) I should have more free time tomorrow to get more done.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
I had Monday off for the holiday. I spent part of it on the eternal round of chores and reviews, then decided it was time to work on my stuff. I brought my printout of Lennon's Line and my laptop with me when I had the oil changed on my car. As I waited, I finally started to re-read my story.
It's always a little weird reading something you've written yourself. I'm my own worst critic, of course, and I did find commas out of place, minor continunity errors, and some phrasings to fix. But to my surprise, it didn't suck. ;) I say that because when I revise one of my stories, I generally start by throwing everything out and writing it over again. I do that because I get ideas for better scenes, though I'm sure my perfectionistic qualities have something to do with it too. I have to admit I did rewrite a lot of this story even before I posted it to the workshop; in some cases, I even rewrote what I'd posted and submitted it again. But I enjoyed reading this story so much that after the oil change, when I stopped by Barnes and Noble to hang out there, I didn't even open up my laptop; I just sat there, drank my tea, and continued to read. By reading some more after dinner, I managed to make my way through the whole thing. The funny thing about this draft is that as I read it, I didn't come up with my own ideas for the next draft. Instead, I remembered comments reviewers have made.
Probably the next big thing I have to do with this novel is review all of the reviews I received on it. That will take a while, as I think the printout of reviews is as big as the 400-page novel itself! One thing I started in the meantime is to go ahead and play with the opening chapter. Most of you reading this probably haven't read my story. I don't want to give too much away, but the first part of the story is in the first-person viewpoint of Joanna Lennon. (I originally wrote this part as a stand-alone story, but then I decided Paul's son needed his own story too. Little did I know what I was letting myself in for....) The second half is mostly in Paul's POV, but it's in third person. Basically, I start off with an "I" story and switch to a "he" one halfway through. A few people commented on that, so I'm going to try converting Jo's section to third person to see what it's like. I've had better luck with first-person stories than with third-person ones; my theory is that the first person POV makes me pay more attention to style. I'm also going to create a third alternate opening in which I've changed names and details to disguise the fact that it's a Lennon story. It should be interesting to see which version gets the most votes.
I'm making more progress with Day of All Seasons now, even if it means throwing out what I have and rewriting a new scene, which is what I'm doing now. At least I should have a new chapter up by the end of the month. My reviewers may be a bit surprised to see me post so much in a relatively short amount of time. ;) I also finished the second chapter of Key (I can't remember if I said this before), but I still have to review it before I can upload it to my website.
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Class was more difficult this week. I think we're both making some basic mistakes that are hindering us from learning some of the more advanced steps. The main thing we need to work on is developing the connection between us, so Eugene can project what he wants me to do. Posture is also important; if I twist my hips instead of keeping them straight, then the steps we're trying to do won't work properly. Hopefully we'll be able to find someplace to practice during the week.
As for writing, last night at the bookstore I managed to finish Chapter Two of Key. It's nearly 15,000 words, which is a pretty long chapter. I'm debating on whether I should trim some of it, though it's meant to give a slice of everyday life in the colony on Jovonne. I still have to make some changes Sue suggested to one of the scenes. Hopefully I'll be able to upload the chapter to my website this week, though. I started that story in 2004, and it's nice to be making some progress with it again.
Speaking of Sue, we chatted a bit on Skype last night. I told her I was blocked on Day, and she suggested maybe my subconscious is telling me to work on Paul's stories for a while. I have to admit he tends to monopolize my writing thoughts, but I guess that's natural when you're dealing with a prima donna (what's the male equivalent?) superstar actor like him. ;) Still, I was able to make some progress with Day at the bookstore, so I'm going to keep going with that one for as long as possible. Maybe I need to stop rewriting it before I post it on OWW and focus on revising Lennon's Line.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
I did all of my chores except for washing the placemats, and it's a little late to do them now. Again, that can wait until later. Time to look at Key for a half hour and possibly give myself a manicure before Eugene comes home.
Yesterday a few interesting things happened, though I was too lazy last night to blog. First, for those of you who remember my "big drip" entry (I could mention Russ here, since he brought it up, but I won't. Well, maybe I will. :evil grin:) about the water purification system at work, we're still having problems with it. I was revising a document when I heard a popping sound in the lab. I came out of my office and saw that one of the filters had blown out of the system. These aren't small filters; they're over a foot long, and it had flown about six feet. And yes, we had water all over the floor. My boss was passing by when it happened, so we both cleaned it up. We still have no idea what's going on with the unit, but hopefully we won't have to spend the money to replace it.
After dinner last night, Eugene and I did something we haven't done for a while: we played Trivial Pursuit. We're fairly evenly matched, except I have a very obvious weakness in the Sports and Leisure category. But last night Eugene got off to an early lead while I floundered. The answers just weren't coming to me; there was one question that I knew had to be about one of the Beach Boys, but I couldn't think of the very obvious Brian Wilson. After a while, I began to catch up, but I was still down two wedges by the time Eugene got all six of his. Luckily for me, he missed the final question a couple of times, which gave me a chance to catch up. I won in the end, but that was because Eugene didn't read the sports question completely before giving it to me, as it had a big clue embedded in the wording. I'd say overall we split the victories when we play against each other. It's more fun to work together, though. On our honeymoon cruise, we played Team Trivia a couple times a day when we were at sea, and we won three times.
I'm sure Eugene will add this if I don't list it, so I might as well poke fun at myself first. After the game, we were talking about various things, and he said something that inspired me to joke about giving him nose-hair clippers for Valentine's Day. Well, it didn't quite come out that way; I said "nose clippers" instead. We both got a good laugh out of that; just thinking of it now makes me chuckle. For the record, I really don't want to give my husband the Tycho Brahe look. Beside, I already have a pair of pruning shears that I use on Mr. Ficus to lop off his branches. I'm sure they will work on someone's nose as well.
OK, that's about it. Time for me to finish my chores (clean the kitchen, vacuum, hand-wash some placemats, and cook wheat berries), so I can then finish my last crit for Sue and maybe get some writing of my own done. I've been doing lots of crits this week and have been making some progress with Key, but I really need to return to Day of All Seasons again. It's not fair to the people who are waiting to give my next chapter some well-needed tough love.
Sunday, January 08, 2006
One good thing about a big city like Chicago is that it offers a lot of things to do. Today was particularly packed. Eugene and I went to the Field Museum to see the Pompeii exhibit. It featured artifacts (a lot of jewelry and coins, but also tools, including a couple of surgeon's kits) from Pompeii and other nearby areas destroyed by the eruption. It described where the artifacts were found and what clues they provided about the people they were found next to. They also had parts of the original frescoes, still brightly colored after all these centuries. There were also casts of the bodies; in some of them, you could still make out the fear these people must have felt as they tried to flee. We thought it was an interesting exhibit and well worth seeing. We also joined the Field Museum, and since there are several other good exhibits coming (King Tut, Mendel, and Auschwitz), I think we'll be getting some good use out of our membership. Although we didn't tour the entire museum, we did look at some of the permanent exhibits. For example, here's Eugene bravely holding Sue at bay with nothing more than a digital camera. Even she's scared of his equipment! ;)
We had our hearts set on German food (the Bergoff) for dinner, but we didn't realize they were closed on Sundays. We had to settle for Swedish food at Ann Sather instead. Their cinnamon rolls are good, but I still want a wiener schnitzel and apple strudel!
Finally, Eugene and I began tango lessons. Yes, you read that correctly: tango lessons. We decided after the wedding that we wanted to take more dancing lessons, and when we heard about this class, we decided it was a great opportunity. The class meets for three Sundays, though there are two more classes (three weeks each) we can take afterwards to improve our skills. We like the class so far. The instructors start off by explaining a lot of the technique of tango, teaching individual components of the dance (such as movement, connection between the partners) instead of throwing everything at once at you. They also don't teach you
a choreographed dance; instead, they teach you the steps so it's more of an "improv" dance. By now, I bet you're wondering how we did. Well, we're still learning, but at least we didn't run into the wall--though we came close. I think we both need to wear better shoes next time. Oh, and please don't tell Eugene's parent's we're taking this class; we want to surprise them the next time they throw a party!
Well, it's after 11:00, and I don't know how much, if any, writing I'll do tonight. We'll see if the muse is up for a few quick steps before I go to bed.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Update: We were there for nearly four hours, and I wound up with having written over 800 words today. Woo-hoo! I also bought two paperbacks to add to my twin towers of books to read eventually.
Thursday, January 05, 2006
In the spirit of New Year's and Russ's blog (http://platzek.blogspot.com/) about resolutions, I thought I would talk about resolutions myself tonight. I have some projects in mind for this year, such as buying our first home with Eugene and losing weight. (I gained a few pounds after the wedding, but at least I'm not as heavy as I was this time last year. I would like to reach a normal BMI though, even if I don't expect to stay there for long.) For writing projects, I have too many things I want to do: write at least one short story, finish posting Day of All Seasons on OWW, and work on both Lennon's Line and The Key to All Locked Doors. I don't think I'll finish them all, but at least I can give it a good try.
This brings me to the point of this blog entry. I think many people approach their resolutions as an all-or-nothing, short-term project, like a 100-yard dash that's quickly over, so it's not surprising that so many of them fail to keep their goals. If you really want to change, you have to be willing to make it a long-term project, like a marathon you run your entire life. If you want to lose weight, you have to eat right and exercise. When I do that, my weight goes down; when I slip, my weight increases. But since I know I'm in it for the long haul, it's easier for me to forgive myself when I indulge in sleeping in (and missing a workout) or eating something decadent. It's the same thing for writing. I get frustrated when I don't get to write at all or if I have a bad day, but I know I'll have both good and bad stretches over my writing career. It's a typing marathon, and I have to work on it every day to keep going. But as much as I'd love to get down 500 words or more a day, I have to accept it's harder now when I have so many other demands on my time. The important thing is to keep going, even when it's hard. I might not make much progress on a given day, but it's still better and more disciplined than waiting for that capricious muse of mine to cooperate.
Having said that, I should return to Key and write some more. As for you, dear readers, keep on running your own personal marathons, and hopefully we can all make it past the wall and reach the finish line--even if we don't reach it this year, we can eventually if we don't give up.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
I'm holding a special pastry they brought us from a Japanese bakery.
I have a few other things I need to do tonight before I start writing, let alone go to bed, so I'll end this entry here. Hopefully tomorrow I'll have a little more time to catch up with reviewing, writing, and everything else.
Monday, January 02, 2006
Saturday we ran errands, such as picking up new copies of our wedding video (our personal copy was damaged, and some of the entourage's names were misspelled. The videographer fixed it for free, though.), stocking up on groceries at Sam's, and buying new exercise equipment and clothing. To celebrate New Year's, we drove downtown for sushi and ComedySportz (improv comedy). They had a special New Year's Eve show, but the early show, which we went to, wasn't much different from a typical show. We still enjoyed it, but I don't think the additional charges were justified. I did get a special compliment when the ref had the team captains try to guess the name of the "beautiful lady" in the first row--me. That doesn't happen to me too often. We were home by 10:30 to avoid all the drunks on the road. We watched Dick Clark and the local Chicago celebration, but I was more interested in stretching out on the couch than ringing in 2006. Again, not much of a writing day, though I did write in the car while we were on the way to the videographer.
We got up late on Sunday, and after brunch, we drove up to Wisconsin to visit my friend Liz and give her her Christmas present. She liked the earrings I found for her in Alaska. I finally had a chance to crit a couple of chapters and even work on my own stuff.
Today, the focus was on our household chores. Eugene also had to pick up the wedding proofs from his mother, as we had to place our order tonight. It took us about an hour and a half to review everything, but as one couple had been there for over seven hours while they laid out their album, I think our order went pretty smoothly. Even though we hadn't thought much about the physical appearance of our album or our parents' albums, we were pretty decisive about them once we reviewed the options. The pictures should be ready by mid-April, so it's nice to have a break from them for a while. As for writing/reviewing, well, I did line edits for one crit, but I didn't finish it. I wrote about 100 words of Key before posting this entry, but I haven't worked on Day for several days. I need to get back into the groove for that story, plus I still have to reread Lennon's Line and catch up with the rest of my crits. I'm so glad the holidays are over and things can go back to their usual level of craziness.