Defender of Texel: an accidental new game addiction

So I play this game called Pocket Frogs, in which players collect and breed various color-combinations of frogs.  It's a Mobage game -- Mobage makes freemium app games for iOS and Android.  There's a pretty good play/cost balance, where you can get a lot out of the game without ever spending any money, but I really want to baby-proof another one of my habitats (you start with one nursery) so that I can breed more frogs at once.  That costs 499 MobaCoin, or $4.97.[1.  I would have some more MobaCoin left over after that transaction, but since they're sold in batch increments, that's the smallest amount of money I could pay to get a sufficient quantity of MobaCoin.] Instead of paying that, I'm just taking their pop-up offers, to download and start playing various other Mobage games in exchange for MobaCoins.  I'm up to 175 through these promotions, and I've started spending a lot more time playing one of the games, Defender of Texel (D.O.T.)

In D.O.T., players control a three-by-three grid of fighters, with which they explore linear dungeons full of random encounters.  Players have a high degree of control over the arrangement of their fighters, and reasonable control over their stats -- and during combat, choose the order of attacks, by drawing three tic-tac-toe style lines across the grid, forming three self-managing waves of attack against the enemy lineup.

There's also a semi-complicated system of evolution, to improve fighters, but I won't get into that.  The point is, Mobage's business model appears to be successful.  They have now enticed me into regularly playing two of their games, to the point where there's stuff I meant to have done by now today, that I haven't started on.  Like getting dressed.

Thoughts on Doctor Who series 7.2

So I caught up on Doctor Who -- after seeing a lot of hate about the series 7.2 premiere, then watching the first half of that episode, I took a break.  But I'm caught up now. And I really get the hate about the premiere.  It wasn't a good episode.  (Seriously,  'I don't understand WiFi' means 'I've never heard of Twitter?'  I can't figure out how to work Linux, but I can still make jokes about it.  I mean, I don't, but I'm aware enough of the stereotypes surrounding it that if I wanted to I could make uninformed statements that would sound like they made sense -- which is what it sounded like Clara was doing when the Doctor saw her incredible insight.)

And, a lot of the DW commentary I saw discussed giving up on the show after that episode, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that.  Disliking the problematic content in a part of the series and stepping away from the show because of that doesn't, in my opinion, make someone a bad Whovian, and it certainly doesn't make them a bad person if they choose to stop identifying as a Whovian.  (Or never did.  I'm not actually sure whether the people writing those essays thought of themselves as Whovians.)

But I decided to stick around, and I'm glad I did.

I came to new Who about a week late, after it started airing in America, and the first episode I ever saw wasn't "Rose."  It was "The End of the World," which was really a pretty good episode.  It got way better, really fast, after that, but "The End of the World" gave me enough faith in the show to keep watching, mainly because Doctor Who seemed important, and I wanted to be a part of the community.

A lot later, I got around to seeing "Rose."  You know, the one where the trash barrels come to life and a giant bowl of lava threatens Rose with a really obviously plastic Mickey that Rose can't tell is fake for some reason.  I was pretty sure that, if I had seen "Rose" first, I wouldn't have bothered with Doctor Who.

That ended up being true of a lot of companions' first episodes.  It seemed a bit like the producers of Doctor Who had all made a deal that the first episode of every series had to suck.  The first time that didn't happen for me was with the Eleventh Hour, which remains one of my favorite episodes.

So I kept watching, this season, even after Clara's first episode, "The Bells of Saint John," really, really sucked.  And I watched "The Rings of Akhaten," which I loved.  It wouldn't make the top ten, but it brought me close to tears once or twice, and if I had to rank all the episodes of new Who, it would beat out "The End of the World."  In that episode, the show proved to me that it still had the stuff I cared about, if, like always, I stuck it out through the terrible episodes.

Pants Points Report

This week: 129/350 Total for v2: 2540/3750 completion: 67.73% I got a D.

This is going to be the last one of these for a little while.  As I said yesterday, I'm cutting back on some things, and as my scores may have shown in the last few weeks, I'm not doing great.  The stress of not having my wardrobe together enough to make the points is just a little bit emotionally draining every day, and for now I could use that extra breathing room.

When they return, there will be modifications.  I'm not certain what they're going to be yet, but version 3 will include alterations to the effect of:

  • Belts/suspenders are not mandatory when wearing pants that fit.  A few times lately, I've missed out on full points because I didn't want to bother stringing a belt through the loops of a pair of pants that stay up fine on their own.
  • Weather-based conditions for whether I need to wear two shirts.
  • A point bonus for actually doing laundry, rather than just the consequences of doing laundry.
  • Penalties.  Like, on days when I'm wearing more dirty items than clean ones, or if I dress inappropriately, or stuff.

Version 3 may end up integrating some of my other self-maintenance routines[1. Or non-routines, which is the problem.], too, like exercise, showering, shaving, brushing my teeth, and so on.  I'd want to roll it in slowly, so that I don't overcomplicate it and break the game, but I might end up with a much more coherent system for keeping my life together outside the internet.

Gamefying this aspect of my life has been working out pretty well, and I'm glad I'm doing it and will continue to do it.  But for a little while, it will be nice to have one fewer thing on my to-do list -- especially one fewer thing that involves math.

Pants Points Report

It seems like I may never again manage to get one of these up on a Friday.  Oh well.  Last week's scores were 160/350, bringing the total to 2411/3400. I mentioned last week that I started exercising, too -- I won't be regularly checking in with my progress on that here, but I am keeping track.  I have to have some boundaries, I guess.  Also, thinking about my physical health makes me super-insecure.  I will say that we've been doing at least 10 minutes of exercise a day -- save Saturday, which we missed -- and it's getting better, even as it gets more intrinsically embarrassing.

I'm actually watching OnDemand exercise videos, which are awesome for getting me to go through with a whole set of exercises without hurting myself, but they're so steeped in cultural baggage that I have to wait for my parents to go to sleep before I do them.  (Actually, I'm doing all my exercising after they go to sleep, or before they get home from work.  I don't have a super-healthy relationship with them, self-esteem wise.)

I want a nicer desk

Right now, my primary writing surface is an old kitchen table set up in my office.  This is fine -- I'd rather have it than have nothing.  But I do spend a lot of time thinking about what kind of desk I would have, if I had totally free choice about it. This is not the first installment of my notes on a fantasy desk, nor will it be the last.  This one, in particular, was sparked by a Wiki-walk beginning at the Standing desk page, and proceeding from the bottom of that to the List of desk forms and types.

###

1.  My desk should be of standing height, but have an accompanying stool.

On the Wikipedia page for standing desks, the various research in favor of standing rather than sitting all day is there, but the page also references claims that standing all day without pause may be worse for a body than sitting all day.  It seems to me like a reasonable compromise would be to have a seat, and just try to keep the habit of not using it unless my feet need the rest.

2.  My desk should have compartments.  Many, organized, labeled compartments.

A lot of the desks listed on the page have some pretty cool arrangements for compartments.  The Carlton Carlton House desk , for example, has a beautiful layout of drawers.

But, even better than that, the Tambour desk has cool, rolltop-style wooden slat screens that conceal the compartments in a very pretty way.  Some combination of those two styles would probably be ideal.

3.  My desk should have a reasonably sized, but not massive, work surface.

I would want enough space for a keyboard or a tablet on the actual surface, but ideally I would have my monitors wall-mounted in front of the desk, rather than on it.  That said, I'd like enough space to work comfortably with larger sheets of paper.  I'd want to be able to work with a 9"x12" drawing pad, for example.  But the compartments and space above them should make room for the supplies, so they won't get in the way.

4.  My desk should have whatever cool features I can fit into it.

One of the desks that came up on the list was the Liseuse desk, which has a central panel that can be adjusted to whatever angle the user wants.  I think this would be an incredibly useful feature.  It would also be cool if I could have the speakers elegantly inserted into the desk, and possibly have the whole thing wired for sound.  It would be cool if there were a headphone jack right on the edge of the desk, or if I could take calls just by being in the room.  (A webcam would also be nice, but I'd prefer that be more mobile.)

Obviously, I'd want that part to have some kind of indicator light attached, in a way that makes it physically impossible for the desk to record sound without turning on the light.  I'd have no idea how that could be done, though.

5.  I would make the desk myself, or with the help of friends.

I think this desk would be even more incredibly cool if I got to make it on my own.  I don't really have the skills to do that, though, so I would settle for making it with the help of some of my friends who are more capable of manipulating physical objects in such a way as to add value.  That way, the desk would be totally unique, I could work hard to maximize the quality and not cut any corners, and it would have a cool story.  It might even last long enough to be an heirloom.

###

If there were a maker space very close to where I live, and if I had the money to buy the wood, I think I'd want to get started on actually building this desk.  Eventually, I think it could be a really fun and rewarding project.

Unfortunately, right now, I can't even settle for buying a desk with just some of these features.  But in the meantime, I can always get the plans ready enough that, when the day comes, I'll have ready all the things I need to know.

My cell phones

Wired published a slideshow today called The 12 Cellphones that Changed our World Forever. Reading it is making me feel pretty nostalgic, because my current phone, a Motorola Droid X, broke a little bit today.  Not much -- it's just the home button stopped working, though I can get it to work if I fiddle with it every time I want to press it.  (Update:  this doesn't work anymore.  Now, I just have to hit the back button till I get to the home screen.)  But since this month is the month that my contract is up for renewal, it seems like a good enough reason as any to hurry up and get a new phone.

My first phone, the Motorola RAZR, is number 8 in Wired's countdown.

Here's what they had to say about it:

The Razr was the first must-have phone. The thin flip phone was stylish and, if the commercials were to believed, would stick like a knife if dropped onto the floor.

While throwing the phone at walls like a knife was a bad idea, the Razr had a great four-year run, selling 130 million units. Is there any wonder why?

The Razr looked like it was straight out of the future. The numerical keyboard was cut from a single piece of metal. Its clamshell aluminum body and colored glass screen were gorgeous. And the damn thing worked like a charm. It was the last dumb phone that truly mattered.

Never mind that it also was the last Motorola phone that truly mattered.

That last line made me a little sad, because the phone I have now is a Motorola, but whatever.  It's not like I need the best phone in the world or anything.  (I totally do.  Give it to me.  Now.)

My next phone was a Samsung Alias, which I got because it had a full keyboard, and my partner at the time had convinced me to start texting.  (I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I was a late-adopter of texting.  But the keyboard made a huge difference.)

I really liked that phone, and had to get rid of it when something broke in the charging port, and the charger stopped working.  The battery died, and there was never a way to charge it again.  Unless, like, I bought a new battery.  But they cost about as much as a new phone, so:  nope.

By that point, I had become fairly addicted to having a phone.  I wrote a poem about how much it sucked, not having one.  (I'm not an awesome poet, but I think it was one of my better ones.)  So it was a huge relief when I got my next phone, the Droid X I have now.

The broken button is the second one in from the left.

Now, I'm looking at the Droid DNA as the phone I will most likely want next.  It's got the feature I've been most envious of lately -- a front-facing camera -- and looking over the features, there's an actual button in the web browser for switching between tabs.  I am probably disproportionately excited about that.

Some day, I hope I'll be able to have a tablet, a smartwatch, Google Glass, and an emergency backup smartphone on me at all times.  Plus whatever other cool, useful stuff comes out in the next few years. Right now, I'm really glad I get to have a smartphone, and I'm really excited that I'm probably going to have a new one, soon.

So, like, if anyone has any recommendations, or compelling reasons I shouldn't get the Droid DNA, or any other advice, really, at all, now would be a great time to comment.

I'm so tired

My partner and I have started exercising.  I don't normally exercise.  It's been a reasonably long time since I've walked for more than ten minutes straight.  But my various insecurities, anxieties, fears and prejudices that have held me back from getting in shape so far have been chipped away enough for me to have another go at being not totally unhealthy. It is exhausting.

I know that's the point and all, but I'm not even doing that much -- just ten minutes at a time -- and at the end of it I'm tired, in pain, emotionally drained, thirsty, hungry and nauseous.  It's honestly harder to type afterwards.

And I'm uncomfortable talking about this, because I know there are loads of people who would be perfectly happy to remind me of all the reasons that I'm already insecure about this, to mock me for having not already done what I'm trying to do now.  And being physically exhausted means I'm mentally exhausted (my brain being part of my body), which is one of my biggest apprehensions about exercise -- immediately afterwards, I'm just not equipped to deal with the kind of bullshit that floats to the top of most people's minds on the subject.

Stuff I always used to carry

There's a lot of stuff I like to have on me, if I can: rope, batteries, flashlight, masking tape, sharpies, a bottle opener, bandages, a multi-tool, a flash drive, a needle and thread, a microSD adapter, lockpicks, an MRE...  Mostly stuff I don't carry anymore.[1. I still generally have the rope and the microSD adapter.]  It just all gets a little heavy. But there are three things that I would ideally always carry -- two of which I don't have right now -- because they're light, useful, and philosophically significant: a knife, lighter, and a pen.

I'm a big fan of the worldview that the most significant thing about being human is the use of tools, and to me, these three items represent the three major categories of human achievement that I can identify.

The knife is the most basic.  It represents the simple manipulation of raw materials into a useful form:  creating value by changing the shape of things.  Pocket knives are pretty complicated, but the basic idea -- a blade -- is about as simple as you can get when you're looking for valuable tools that aren't naturally occurring.

The lighter represents fire, obviously, but more broadly, it represents a more fundamental chemical control of things than the knife.  With fire, we were able to start cooking food, which sped up digestion and gave us time and energy to do the things that built organized social structures.  We're able to alter the atmosphere, making it hotter or drier.  It's also got the most potential for violent, large-scale destruction, which has been generally true of chemistry for the rest of human history following the use of fire.

The pen, the one I still carry all the time, because it's the most useful, represents language, and more broadly, the complex social structures that language enables.  Language is super-important to me -- that might be obvious, because I have a blog and my career plan is to try and get people to pay me for the stuff I write -- but it's one of those things that literally no-one[2. Okay, not literally.  I'm sure that if you searched for a little while you could find some obscure fringe cases of people who don't use any language at all.  But, like, can you name anyone you know, personally, who doesn't use language?  Anyone you've met?] can do without.  You'd have to be in absurdly particular conditions to get through an entire day without using any language -- not speaking, but also not hearing-and-understanding, reading or writing, interpreting symbolic images or gestures, and so on.  It would be far more difficult than getting through a day without using any physical tools -- I'm sure a lot of people can make it through a single day, naked in the woods -- or without instigating any chemical reactions -- for that one, you can spend the day fully dressed, in a dark shed.

I don't have a knife right now because I lost the one I liked, and none of my other knives are quite worth carrying around in situations where they could be used as leverage if someone wanted me punished for something.  Instead I just keep them in my bathroom at home, for hair cuts.

I don't have a lighter because I misplaced it, but it shouldn't be difficult to find if I decide to start carrying it again soon.  At least a few times a month, I end up missing one or the other of them, because they really are incredibly useful.

But I've never gotten through a day without a pen where I didn't feel like kicking myself for not bringing one. I often end up regretting leaving a room without taking a pen with me.  And, obviously, I'm usually carrying two or three notebooks, as well.  I'm not sure, exactly, where they should fit on the list.

"Hats off to beautiful femmes" by Ivan E Coyote

One of the troubles with the internet is that sometimes you come across something incredibly awesome, and then you forget all the identifying details about it.  Maybe you remember a few phrases that really stand out, but the major pieces of information -- title, artist, source -- are gone. One of the advantages of the internet, when you have a blog[1. Literally a contraction of "Web Log," a record of all the things one sees when browsing the internet] is that you can create new permalinks to that stuff, where you know you'll be able to find it.

Today, I decided to try to track down one of those lost items, a poem that I remember made me choke up when I first heard it.

I started by throwing out all the search terms I could think of that were broadly related: beat poet, gay beat poet, lesbian poet video search, and so on.

Then I tried the couple phrases that really stood out to me.  "Matching bra and panties" got a lot of results, but I think the search may have been a bit too broad.  Adding to that a handful of other phrases didn't help, it eventually whittled down to "Did you mean...?" results for broader, unrelated searches.

I tried: closet "Made of glass"; but that didn't work.  Then, pretty sure that I might have remembered the exact phrasing, I tried "My closet was always made of glass," and I found this link.

The poem is by Ivan E Coyote, and is titled "Hats off to beautiful femmes" on that site I just linked.  There are actually a few youtube videos of the reading, but I found the one that I remembered, the one that I wanted to find again.  It's titled To all of the kick ass, beautiful fierce femmes out there...

I'm definitely supposed to be getting work done right now.  But I'm in the middle of a fifteen minute long video of a guy destroying a log with a lathe.  Or, not destroying.  That's not fair.  Shaping.  But there are a lot of bits coming off in the process. It's the second video in John Cheese's Cracked article from last month, The 12 Most Strangely Satisfying Videos on the Internet.

I believe I'm likely to spend quite a lot of time on this article, so I figured I should probably blog about it.

I'm watching because, like John says, these videos are incredibly soothing -- and I've had a seriously stressful day today.  Really, it's starting off with last night, when I had a panic attack relating to my serious dental problems.

You may have noticed that today, if you're paying a lot of attention to this  blog, that I had art therapy.  About a month ago I said I was going to start posting my art from those sessions, if I felt like it was appropriate.  I don't have anything to post today, but it's not because what I did was bad, or too personal.  It's because we never got to doing any art.  Instead, I spent the majority of the session trying not to cry over my anxiety about car ownership.

At this point in the Cracked article, I'm though the lathing, past the paper marbling, past the guy pouring some molten metal into the sand and pulling out a stool, and now I'm watching one of John Cheese's favorite videos, a video of an old man digging for clams.

The stuff I mentioned above isn't the only really stressful, painful stuff that happened today.  But I'm not as comfortable blogging about the other things.

Something came up, a new stressful thing, and I have to stop watching the videos now.  It's making me kind of feel sick to think about.  I don't know what to do with myself on days like this.  I don't know how to get out from under the feelings of dread and self-loathing that come with knowing I have things I need to do, and I haven't done them.  I spiral.  But I'm trying not to, I'm trying to get better at that.

I'm thankful, though, for the article, and for the videos in it.  For a little while, they made me feel calm, they made me feel human, they made me feel like not everything anyone ever does is so incredibly difficult that I can't even contemplate it.  Seeing other people do stuff made me feel more like I could do stuff, too.

I don't know how much I'm going to get done today, and I don't know how much of the stuff I do get done will be stuff that was on my list this morning.  Probably not a lot of it.  But I do know that the time I spent on these videos wasn't a waste of time -- because it helped me remember that there are things worth doing that don't produce any tangible value, and that my comfort and calm is worth something on its own, not just as a means to the end of production.

I'm still scared, and I still feel cold and a little bit frustrated, and the problems that I was dealing with when I started this post are still all there, and they'll be there when I publish it.  But I'm going to be okay, I think.

Charity Debt: Rootstrikers

My charity debt page is still screwed up, so this won't be going in the ledger quite yet.  (Which, by the way, I should really back up.) Nonetheless, March's commitment is going to Rootstrikers, the organization founded by Lawrence Lessig to get the corruption of campaign funding out of politics.

Corruption is the one major issue that doesn't really have a party split.  Everyone is affected.  And it's not just buying votes on big bills -- the influence he describes is more than a simple "I want you to do this, here's some money so you'll do it."  He describes politicians undermining the best interests of both the public and the corporations, in order to make it necessary for the corporations to keep donating, every election cycle.  He describes politicians treating congress as an internship before graduating into lobbying.

He lays it all out in a Google talk, @Google:  Lawrence Lessig:  Republic, Lost...

Rootstrikers's website is right here, and they could definitely use our money.

Friends: The half-way point

My partner and I have been watching Friends. She just pointed out that we're about halfway through the series, and I feel that is worthy of comment. Thing #1:  Spoilers.  I would appreciate it if you did not comment all the details of what happens in all the story arcs after season 5.  That said, I will be commenting on things that have happened so far, so if you are also working your way through the box-set, and are further back than I am, you may want to circle back to this one at another time.  I believe we're somewhere in early season 6, but I might be mis-remembering.

Thing #2:  Ross and Rachel are terrible people.  I kinda wish it was a pattern, that everyone in the show whose name started with R was awful, but Richard was a really good person as far as I could tell, so I don't see that theory panning out.

Everyone in this show displays some problematic behavior, but Ross and Rachel are, I think, the only really, really terrible people.  Monica's problematic behavior largely stems from her obsession with cleanliness and with being the best at everything, Chandler's behavior mostly stems from his severe low self-esteem and fear of intimacy, Joey's self-absorbed, impulsive and dishonest with the women he sleeps with, and Phoebe's got a lifetime of accumulated superstitions and traumatic experiences that make it virtually impossible for her to make consistently reasonable decisions.

But Ross and Rachel just do awful things.  They consistently treat other people (their friends and everyone else) like they're around for their benefit, they both take extreme positions in any argument, which place them as unequivocally right, and they're dishonest with themselves to the point where it compels them to make harmful decisions, even (and especially) when other people point it out to them.

So I really don't care what happens to Ross and Rachel.  I just hope they don't screw things up for anyone else.

Thing #3:  Chandler and Monica are my favorite characters, and Chandler/Monica is my OTP.  Unlike Ross and Rachel, they only generally let their neuroses and insecurities take them to a place of mild wrongness before they allow themselves to be dissuaded.  (Except in any case where Monica is trying to win something that has been clearly characterized as a competition.)  And they've been growing into better people as the series goes on, unlike Ross and Rachel, who came into the show on a down-note and kept up momentum since.

Thing #4:  I don't have anything against Phoebe and Joey, I just haven't been really engaged by their plots lately.

Pants Points Report (late, again)

Last week's total: 168/350.  Total-to-date as of last Friday: 2039/2700.  Last week's score was not great, because it was Spring Break, and because I was out of clean clothes, and because it's just generally difficult to make myself do stuff, so even though I was out of pants on Monday, I didn't do laundry until Friday.

That said, and as much as this is evidence to the contrary, I don't think that not getting into Clarion was a major source of apathy last week.  Actually, I think that was the one major motivating factor that made me do stuff last week, which is probably why I got more writing, editing, critiquing and submitting done than anything else in particular.

On the other hand, if I'd gotten into Clarion, I would probably have been motivated to do a lot of work, too... I'd want to be prepared, after all.  And I would want to do my best to be worthy of the slot.

So, maybe... I'm just motivated?  Like, in general, as a person?  Thinking about it, it does fit with the evidence, when it comes to writing work.  But it clashes with my self-concept, which is mainly rooted in decades of accumulated insecurity and low self-esteem.  It seems like "Motivated" is too nice a way to put it, because what would have been a more accurate description five years ago is "Desperate for validation," and I don't think those are the same, even if they have similar symptoms.

I'm happy with my progress right now, and I don't feel like my self-worth is compromised by setbacks and temporary failures.  This seems to me like a pretty huge deal.

OS X

I work for the newspaper at my college, and we have a newsroom.  In that newsroom, we have computers -- which, for a very long time, were mostly terrible and old.  I was assigned one of the oldest, terriblist of the computers, which made my work highly unpleasant until someone with a better computer went home and I could move over to a different seat. Immediately before Spring Break, though, the school's IT department came in and replaced all the old, crappy computers with big, shiny, new ones.  It turns out, we're behind on updates because half the computers were so old we couldn't download useful programs on them.

So today, apart from working on a newspaper, I've been exploring a fully functional Mac.  And it is a pretty nice experience.  Except --

All the keyboard shortcuts are different.  And it's so much harder to manage multiple windows.  And the expand button doesn't expand windows to take up the entire screen.  And the IT department didn't give the Observer employee accounts admin access, which isn't really Apple's fault but still.

My biggest problem with Apple, honestly, is that at the end of the day, when I go back to my PC, sometimes I hit alt+C when I'm trying to copy something (or some similar mistake) because on the Mac I have to hit command+C to copy.  And the buttons I hold down to move around in text by word rather than by character are different.  And command+tab (functional equivalent of alt-tab) scrolls by program, not by window.

But, yeah.  Apart from these annoying quirks, Apple is great.  And I've got a fun new computer to play with.

Charity debt delay

I just realized that I didn't post my charity debt this month.  I've got one picked -- I'm going to commit to donating to Rootstrikers -- but I can't update the chart and everything right now, because apparently, the program that I run my charts on has switched to a different plugin, and in transferring my data from one table to the other, half of my tables became corrupted. I'm sure it's not the developer's fault.  Or, at least, I'm pretty sure of that, and anyway, I'm not going to fault him for reasonable errors in a program he builds in his free time.

So, I'll be trying to figure out how to fix that this weekend.

A personal account of a trip to the mall

I went to the Mall at Rockingham Park today, with my partner.  We went for food, and to look at tablets.  So, the first stop was Bertucci's. I had the four-cheese ravioli, which was good, but the shells were cartoonishly yellow, and a side ceasar salad.  The salad wasn't totally awful, but it had some major problems -- first among them, the cheese.  According to Wikipedia, Parmesan cheese is the standard for caesar salad.  That's what I had thought it was.  But Bertucci's chose instead to use Asiago cheese, which tastes like someone stuck Parmesan cheese into an unwashed tube sock and left it out to moisten in the morning dew.[1. I recognize the existence of people who like a variety of cheeses, and I have nothing against them.  I am annoyed, though, when those obscure cheeses make it into my salad, instead of one of my favorite cheeses, Parmesan, in one of my favorite contexts, caesar salad.]  Fortunately the chunks were big enough to move all off onto the side of the plate.

After Bertucci's, we went and looked at tablets, and then laptops.  We didn't ask about anything at the Apple store, but at the Windows store, I asked a salesperson about what kind of laptops are good for gaming -- like, what I could use to play Sim City.  Or, rather, I asked him about a specific laptop, and whether I could play Sim City on it.  He immediately took me over to the most expensive laptop, and explained that it was the best laptop for gaming that they sold.  I tried several times to divert him back to the cheaper ones, but he wasn't interested in telling me much about what I could get out of a less expensive laptop.  Having been to the Apple store before, if they still operate the way they used to, I think I've spotted a difference:  at the Apple store, if I had asked, "What's the cheapest thing you sell that can do X?", they would have told me.

The place where the Borders I used to work at used to be, which has gone through (I think) three other businesses now, is being turned into a Bath and Body Works.  I am still sad that Borders went out of business.

All this makes it sound pretty horrible, but I actually had a great time.  The handful of bad things seem to be easier to write down than the good ones, but for each disappointing experience listed above, there were a hundred small, pleasanter moments with my partner, whom I love very much.

Today has been, and seems like it will continue to be, a good day.

New rules.

It's time to set some new rules for a while.  Starting off:  the end of this month, March 30; The Friday before the last week of classes this semester, May 3; Readercon 24, July 11.  The rules will be decreasingly heavy as they get farther out -- I'll layer in more if I think I can handle it, but I'm leaving myself enough slack to adjust.  There will also be a couple short-term deadlines. These are cumulative -- they all go into effect today, they just end when those deadlines hit.

Tomorrow

  • Get my Critters score back up over 75%
  • Put a story in the Critters queue
  • Submit a story for publication

Until March 30

  • Pixar drill every day

Until May 3

  • Short story every week
  • Second-drafts of all the short stories I like

Until July 11

  • Keep my Critters score over 75%
  • Always have a story in the Critters queue
  • Read one short story from an SFWA qualifying venue every day

I'm also starting a new workflow:  Every week, I write the full version of one of the Pixar drill stories.  (Unless I have a better idea, in which case I can write that.)  Every one of the stories I like enough, I will write the second draft.  Everything that gets a second draft goes to the Critters queue.  Everything that goes through Critters gets a third draft and gets submitted for publication.  A story has to be rejected 10 times before I can do a fourth draft.

I got my Clarion email

I didn't get in.  I've never done a particularly good job of coping with rejection, so I'm not sure whether the pain I'm feeling right now is going to ebb soon or keep flowing.  But getting over it now should be good practice -- I intend to do a lot of practice with exposing myself to rejection this year.  (First of all, I intend to submit at least one of my Clarion application stories to a venue by the end of today, and probably start new edits on the other.) So, this means I'll be able to go to Readercon this year, which, then, means I need to get together money for registration and a hotel room.  It also means I really need to buckle down on my writing over the next eight months, the time frame I have to write 2 new application stories for next year's Clarion.  (And also I need to find out whether you can simultaneously apply to Clarion and Clarion West.)

I really wanted to go this year.  I was really, particularly hoping for the opportunity to learn from Cory Doctorow and Kelly Link.  (I only found out after I'd applied to Clarion that Neil Gaiman would be teaching at Clarion West.  I'd love to learn under him, too.)

With a heavy heart, I've just turned off my Clarion IFTTT email alert.  I'll turn it on again next year, after I've applied.

Oh, and to any other pattern-seekers waiting for their clarion emails:  my rejection came within the same hour in 2013 as it did in 2010, on the third Monday of the month.  Last time, it was a waitlist email, so my new guess is that the third Monday of March is when they send all the not-accepted-s.  So that will be the date I set my anxiety to next year.

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While I'm on the subject, now's a good time to brainstorm some potential writing rules for the rest of the year (I'll come back and look at them more carefully later):

  • One short story first draft a week
  • Pixar drill every day[1. See this post, rule #4.  I've been writing synopses every night based on that format for a week or so now, and I think it's really helping.]
  • Never let my Critters score drop below 75%.
  • One story in the Critters queue at all times
  • One short story second draft a week
  • Every story gets at least three drafts
  • Stories that have had three drafts have to be rejected 10 times before being revised again
  • Read one short story from an SFWA qualifying venue every day
  • Read at least two books a month

I'm not sure how many of those I can actually do, I'm going to have to pick more carefully to figure out what I can balance in with my school life, and, this summer, my job.  And working for the school paper.  And writing a research paper for prize money.

I will return tomorrow with a more carefully considered list of commitments, and a timescale on which they will last.  For now, I'm going to spend a little bit of time feeling bad for myself, then get back to work doing all the crap I have to get done today.

Wish me luck.

Pants Points Report (&etc.)

This week: 238/350; total so far: 1871/2350.  This is the end point for this run of the rules, but I think they've been going well so far, so I'm going to stick with v2 for now. On Monday, in last Friday's pants points report, I talked about how anxious I was to hear back from Clarion.  I am still anxious.  No email has yet come.  As it turns out, Clarion does not send out all their responses, at the same time, on the same day, every year.  Which is disappointing.

I've also found a rumor on Twitter that people who are accepted get a phone call, and that everyone who was going to get accepted would hear this week.  They just looked like rumors, though.  I really have no idea.

I talked yesterday, too, about how much this week sucked:

 I don’t actually believe in a balance of luck or karma one way or the other, but I figured it would be better to think “I’m facing a lot of bad luck right now, it’s probably just a buildup of karmic debt to pre-balance my getting into Clarion later this week,” rather than thinking “I’m having such an awful week, I’m probably not going to get into Clarion, either.”

I didn't get the cherry on top of the sundae of suck that would have been getting a rejection email, but I didn't get the relief of an acceptance email, either.  (Or even the explicit, time-sensitive extension of anxiety of getting waitlisted.)  Any of these options might still come tonight.

Still, I have a lot that is worth looking forward to, tonight.  Caitlin and I are going to hang out with Violet and watch Friends.