Archive for December 16th, 2006

12/15/06: Any day you see a heron is a good day

Word count: 7209 | Since last entry: 2062

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. Sorry. I did start this entry yesterday, but then the power to our whole neighborhood was knocked out by the massive wind storm that pummeled the whole Pacific Northwest. (The power came back a few hours later, while we slept, and we had no other damage, unlike Mary Rosenblum, who lost a shed and an apple tree when a huge tree landed on them.)

Tonight I had a phone interview with Jason Rennie, host of The Sci Phi Show (, a podcast from Australia that looks at questions of science fiction and philosophy. I talked about where my ideas come from, and how I differ from my characters, and my history and ambitions as a writer. I think it went well, and it should be up on the site in January.

I’ve been writing 100-300 words every day — haven’t missed a day yet this month. It doesn’t feel like much progress, but this tortoise-like steady progression is better than longer but intermittent bursts. Or so I tell myself. I’m learning about the world and the characters as I go — a vaguely-defined group of aliens that my protagonist encounters in chapter 2 of the outline has resolved into a single, elderly cat-like creature named Huss (at least so far). I like him.

I don’t feel that this novel has really found its voice yet, and I think my protagonist is far too independent and self-assured for a traumatized 14-year-old. I might decide that it’s easier to change my notion of who she’s supposed to be to match the way she’s turning out, rather than to go back and rewrite her to be more the way I originally conceived of her.

It’s also very hard to write any kind of meaningful description when the viewpoint character’s whole world is made up. Not only do I have to decide what the alien ship looks like, I have to describe it using referents that the main character (who was raised on a different alien ship) would have, rather than using analogies or metaphors that will be meaningful to the reader. Why did I set myself such a hard task?

Apart from the writing… well, I had a pretty head-exploding day on Tuesday. First, I learned that I have been selected as one of the top 7% of engineering staff in the company. What this means is that, along with about 100 other employees and their spouses, Kate and I will be taking a trip at company expense… to Phuket, Thailand. It will be some time in February and I don’t yet know how long we will be gone or any other details. It doesn’t seem real yet.


Right after getting that email I headed off to meet with our financial adviser. We’d paid for a detailed analysis of our retirement situation, to answer the question of exactly when we will be able to afford to retire. And the answer came back: we are already making more from our investments than from my day job. And even the most conservative estimates of inflation and return on those investments indicate that they will continue to provide enough for us to live on, in the style to which we’ve become accustomed, for the forseeable future.

I can retire any time.


I enjoy my job (well, most aspects of it, most of the time). I’m good at it and, after all these years, I’ve finally reached a place that people respect and request my opinions. I feel a certain responsibility to my co-workers, not to mention that I want to see my current project, which I have been working on for between one and four years depending on how you count it, through to shipment some time next year. But the commute — lord, I’m tired of the commute. And it would be nice to be able to make travel plans without having to eke them out of a limited vacation budget.

So I’m probably going to retire in 2007. Or I might scale back to three or four days a week and keep on for longer than that. I don’t know — I haven’t discussed it with my boss yet. I talked with my dad and he suggested that there’s considerable value in continuing to work, even when you don’t need the money, for the external stimulus. It’s certainly true that Scott Adams’s work on Dilbert went downhill when he quit the day job.

Retirement is an extremely strange thing to contemplate. I’ve been going to work every weekday for twenty-three years, or thirty-nine if you count going to school as “work.” Although I’m sure I could find plenty to fill the empty days (everyone I know who’s retired says they can’t imagine how they found the time for the day job with all the other things they have to do) I still have a lot of trouble imagining what life would really be like if every day were Saturday. Yes, even with the writing.

As I was driving to work this morning, Code Monkey by Jonathan Coulton came up on the iPod and I found myself crying. And laughing at the same time, because it’s a silly little song and a stupid thing to get all weepy about. But there you have it.

And I saw a heron. Any day you see a heron is a good day.