Archive for October, 2007

10/30/07: Voom

Word count: 65673 | Since last entry: 1317

I cannot believe how fast the last couple of weeks have gone.

Let’s see… we went to Ashland for the Shakespeare festival, where we stayed for a couple of days with square dance friends Mark and Tim in their lovely new house just blocks from the center of town. We saw As You Like It, a terrific production set in the Depression and using 1930s pop songs; On the Razzle by Tom Stoppard, a delightful farce full of rapid-fire wordplay; and Distracted, an intriguingly metafictional play about a mother coping with a son who may or may not have ADD. We also spent a little time with square dance friends Paul and Danny, who were in Ashland in their RV and intersected with us only because a car accident made them stay longer than planned. Many fine meals were eaten.

Right after we got back from that was Kate’s 25th college reunion, at Lewis & Clark College here in Portland. I was surprised how dated everything looked in the old college yearbook photos. It wasn’t so much the clothes — a sweater’s a sweater, jeans are still jeans — as the hair, the glasses (big as Jeep windshields!), and the typography and layout of the yearbook itself. My own 25th is next year, in St. Louis right before Wiscon. We could easily combine the two (we did so five years ago) but I haven’t decided if I want to.

At the reunion we also attended a couple of lectures by LC faculty, one on spiders and what can be learned about genetic diversity by studying their venom, and the other on geckos and how they stick to walls. Both were fun but the gecko one was particularly fascinating. When the research started, they thought geckos used some kind of adhesive. Turns out gecko feet are covered with microscopic hairs (setae), each of which ends in a nanoscale spatula. But it took the researchers months to figure out how to make an individual seta stick to an object. The little spatulas stick to surfaces by van der Waals force; they only stick when dragged slightly across the surface, then release when pulled up at a certain angle. The whole gecko is evolved to move in exactly the right way to use these forces to run up walls at high speed. The researcher pointed out, apropos of the previous lecture, that he hates spiders and likes to point out that “my research subject eats your research subject for lunch.”

Last weekend we bopped up to Seattle for their third annual Halloween square dance (it will return to Portland next year), ably called by new co-callers Anne Uebelacker and Scott Zinser. Had a good time, lightly marred by a minor cold which is still hanging on. I also managed to lose one of my favorite hats at the dance, but it was found and I hope that we will be reunited at the Thanksgiving square dance in Vancouver BC. We hung out for one extra night to see Into the Woods, a local production every bit as good as the best Broadway touring shows I’ve seen, presented in the amazing Oriental magnificence of the 5th Avenue Theatre. If you’re in Seattle and you haven’t seen this theatre, you really should.

We’ve been taking advantage of our time off to get together with friends. I count seven shared meals in the last two weeks, including dinner with writers Amy Thomson and Edd Vick Friday, dinner with visiting writer Matthew S. Rotundo yesterday, and an impromptu breakfast today with fans Ulrika and Hal O’Brien. That’s not counting the meals with Mark, Tim, Paul, and Danny in Ashland or going out for pho with Katy King during the lunch break at the square dance in Seattle.

What with all the travel and eating out, my fitness goals are in the toilet. I haven’t been to the gym more than a couple of times in the last few weeks (one of them with my new trainer, who proceeded to kill me (I got better)). I haven’t even weighed myself in a week. I think I’m scared to.

Writing? Yes, some. Finished up chapter 9 (just barely in time for crit group) and edited a story in response to a rewrite request from Aeon. Amazingly, the rewritten story was immediately accepted. This story has had a very interesting journey, which I think deserves a whole ‘nother post. Next up is a fantasy short story for an anthology, for which I have been doing some research and cogitation, but really needs more focused attention.

So we just got back from Seattle yesterday. I’m mostly recovered from my cold, but my voice is fragile and I am somewhat short on spoons. Tomorrow I fly to New York for World Fantasy Con. So much for October. Voom!

10/14/07: Retirement, weeks 1-2

Word count: 64356 | Since last entry: 280

Everyone I talked to about being retired said that they couldn’t imagine how they managed to get everything done and still work a full-time job. It’s true. You’d think that with 40 extra hours in a week I could relax. But no — I’m not even keeping up with my email.

You know how, going into the weekend, you think you’ll be able to get a lot done on your day off? And yet somehow the tasks expand to fill the time available, and you find yourself at the end of the weekend with only three of the twenty things on your to-do list crossed off (plus eight more things done which hadn’t been on the list in the first place)? Every day so far has been like that. Like the day I bought the iMac… it took basically the whole day, because I had to go to two different Apple Stores (one of them twice) before I found the computer and printer I wanted in stock. And getting the thing set up and all the files and applications switched over has taken a lot of time, though not nearly as much as I’d feared.

It’s easy to forget what day of the week it is. Every day feels like Saturday. But every day feels like Sunday too, because yesterday felt like a Saturday. There’s a bit of that Sunday afternoon angst, that uncomfortable can’t-possibly-get-everything-done and yet at the same time what-am-I-doing-with-my-life vibe.

Mind you, I have been able to take the time to do some things I would not otherwise have done. In the last couple of weeks we’ve attended four plays, three movies, and a reading by Charlie Stross. (Weekday theatre matinees are… different. The house is half full and they’re all female and over 60. Where are the retired men? Are they all dead, or do they just not like the theatre?) We finally got caught up on the TV shows we taped while we were in Japan. I’ve been doing the dishes and the laundry the way I always meant to. When Kate’s folks came for a visit, I was able to hang around with them instead of running off to the day job.

I’ve been writing every day, but not much… 100-300 words most days. I need to do a little more than that if I’m going to make my next crit group deadline. It’s hard, because I’m still trying to take this novel over the hump in the middle — the main plot driver for the second half of the book is just peeping its nose over the horizon now. It should start building momentum again in the next chapter or two, I hope.

I fear that I am transitioning from a successful short story writer to an unsuccessful novelist. Novel #1 has so far failed to find a publisher, and because I’ve been focusing on novel #2 I have, ironically enough, sold fewer short stories in the year since winning the Hugo than any year since I started selling at all. Also, next year’s Writers’ Weekend, at which I was to be a featured speaker, has been cancelled.

However, there is some good news on the writing front. “Charlie the Purple Giraffe Was Acting Strangely” (Realms of Fantasy, June 2004) has been picked up for The Mammoth Book Of Extreme Fantasy, edited by Mike Ashley. And I will be joining such luminaries as Mary Rosenblum, Irene Radford, Jay Lake, and Ken Scholes at Powell’s Cedar Hills for a multi-local-SF-author event on November 14. Watch this space for more details.

Tomorrow we’re heading to Ashland, where we’ll be visiting square dance friends Mark and Tim and seeing three more plays. We get back just in time for Kate’s 25th college reunion weekend. The days really are just packed.

10/13/07: I Mac, You Mac

Word count: 64076 | Since last entry: 2925

Two weeks gone by already? Wow. Plenty of stuff happening.

One big thing done in that time: I replaced the PC with a new top-of-the-line 24″ iMac. Screen: big, shiny, very crisp. Speakers: better than anything else in the house. Also took the opportunity to clear off the old desk and cubby. We found some very amusing old stuff dating back to before there was a web.

Before and after photos of the cleanup:



10/2/07: That’s no way to behave on your first day out

Word count: 61151 | Since last entry: 450

Retirement, day 1. Collect the whole set.

Kate took off this morning to take a friend to the doctor; I went to the gym, then walked down to Stumptown and bought some coffee beans then traded them to a funny little man for a magic cow. In the afternoon I sorted a pile of papers that I’d shoved in a box before a party a few weeks ago. Fortunately there were no overdue bills or other nasty surprises, and most of them could simply be thrown away. Two or three more such boxes to go.

Then we fixed dinner for friend Brenda Cooper, visiting from Seattle, after which we worked on a jigsaw puzzle Kate brought back from Japan. It was wicked hard, with a thousand tiny tiny pieces, most of them pretty much the same color. Right around the time Brenda left, Kate’s parents showed up for more jigsaw puzzle and conversation (mostly about Japan). They were supposed to have visited this weekend, but life intervened and delayed their trip by three days.

Tomorrow morning we’ll have breakfast with Kate’s parents. It must be Sunday, right? Feels like Sunday…

You may note that I have renamed this blog. I was going to call it “A Month of Saturdays” but I think “The Days Are Just Packed” seems more descriptive. And besides, it’s a Calvin and Hobbes quote.

10/1/07: Photo finish at the rat race

Word count: 60701 | Since last entry: 720 | Days until retirement: 0

The guys at work retired my keyboard.

They cut off the cord and epoxied it to a plaque with my name on a brass plate at the top. I signed it. It will hang in a place of honor in the Design Studio conference room.

I am truly touched.

I also got a going-away lunch on Friday and a get-together at the Hall Street Grill today after work. People were sincerely sorry to see me go. I didn’t get emotional (well, I got a little misty as I was going off to work for the last time this morning). I realized today that I never got a going-away lunch from Intel, or from any of the last several jobs at Intel (most of which stopped when the division was shut down, so any going-away was a group activity). I feel good about the work that I did at McAfee; I’m sorry to go, but there’s now a whole department to do what I used to have to do myself, so I’m not leaving them completely in the lurch.

Tomorrow… a new start!