Archive for the ‘Ramblings Off Topic’ category

more bits and pieces

November 14, 2018

The forecasted low last night was 17 degrees. Only coincidentally did the furnace in my house die yesterday evening. Completely. The house had no heat other than what a batch of cookies in the oven and a load of laundry in the dryer could produce. (Also, two anemic space heaters snatched from my wife’s office.) The part needed is in a warehouse across town, and it’s supposed to be delivered and installed later today. Whether or not my pipes freeze in that time (or the four birds, two dogs, and uncounted fish object) I don’t know at this time.

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Remember that story I mentioned before with a leprechaun in it? I wrote it up quickly and sent it to a magazine I thought might like it (for its running aspect, not for the supernatural part). And I heard from the editor yesterday. He didn’t object to the supernatural part; in fact, he wants me to expand on that and put more leprechaun in it! That was a surprise. (He also suggested I delete some of the repetitive phrasing I sometimes use too much).

This is the first time I’ve ever had an editor ask for a rewrite. One editor had me change the very last sentence of a story, but that’s as close as I’ve come. The trouble is that the point of the story is that my character must reach his (running) goal without relying on magic. That’s the lesson of the story and what comprises the last third of it. So I’m not sure how I can expand on the supernatural part. But I know that many wish granters are devious and put barbs in their grants to catch up the recipient, so I’ll research that some and see what I can do with it.

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Visitors to this humble blog spiked yesterday so much that WordPress sent me a notice. Now, a spike for my visit average ain’t much, but I don’t know why it happened. I can’t figure out from the dashboard why I had the spike. The only search term it cited was “who carries the rabbit’s foot in the book the things they carried.” Well, maybe one or two new readers will hang around.

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wordless Wednesday ~ 17OCT18

October 17, 2018

recovery reading

September 24, 2018

Have you ever heard of a “recovery reading” or a “recovery writer”? I know I read about this somewhere, but I’m turning up no references. The idea is that after you’ve read something that wasn’t very good (for whatever reason, and there could be many where “good” is relative), you read something that you know is very good (again) as a way to “recover” from your “bad” reading experience.

Say, for example, you like to read Westerns but for some reason you picked up To The Lighthouse and all you can think about is getting back to Westerns you enjoy. The Westerns become your recovery reading; your favorite author is your recovery writer. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with To the Lighthouse, you concede, but it’s just not your thing, and you feel that you want to get back to where you once belonged.

That’s where I am now. I recently read the novel The Last Child by John Hart. I knew nothing more about it than what was blurbed on the back cover, and I picked it up at the used bookstore as something to read on the airplane coming back from Seattle last week. It turned out to be a police procedural thriller, filled with red herrings, tense cliffhanger chapters, and leading to a clever shaggy dog resolution. (Plus there were some well written images and word usages.) I don’t read in that genre, but it certainly seemed to deliver the goods. I was literally telling myself that I would read “just one more chapter” each night as I lay in bed, well past lights out. I did an eighty-page sprint to the end Sunday morning because I had to know how it all resolved. (It turned on an unreliable witness.) And while I don’t regret reading it, I don’t suppose I’ll read any more from this writer.

And now I’m turning to my recovery reading. I’ve started By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham. I had read his Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Hours, by fortunate coincidence not long after I had (re)read Mrs Dalloway, and the book connected with me. I was impressed with the three narratives and how they blended so well. And I reveled in the human nature insights Cunningham salted throughout. Not long after that I had listened to his re-told fairy tales The Wild Swan on a drive to/from my little Ozark cabin. After that I knew I would be reading Micheal Cunningham often.

I don’t mean to assert that Cunningham is a better writer than Hart. That would be like saying a baseball player is a better athlete than a football player (or whether a cat or a dog is a better companion). I only say that when I’ve ventured outside of my familiar (and am better for it), I am glad I have something to return to that works for me.

Do you have a recovery writer? (or any strong feelings on the dog/cat thing?)

blue skies over Washington ~ Skywatch Friday

September 21, 2018

I was in Seattle for a week, and it rained most of the time. (Everyone was grateful for the rain since it had been “dry” up there for so long. I guess my arrival brought the change in the weather.) I think it was Sunday when we had driven to my sister-in-law’s ranchette near Duvall to see her cattle and tiny house (rented as an overnight for guests). And while we there, the gray clouds scattered and left this impressive scene, looking east. That’s part of the ranchette in the foreground.

My wife is still up there and won’t return until next week, so I’m on pet sitting duty.

On one of my past visits to Seattle I managed to write an entire story (first draft) that eventually was published. I was hoping to do the same on this visit, but that didn’t happen. I tinkered with a couple of existing stories, and I made some notes for a new story (a fantasy piece involving a leprechaun, believe it or not), but that’s it.

bits and pieces

September 10, 2018

I did that thing again. I went out on my bike and tackled the trails. We’d had a week of rain and overcast skies, and I knew the trail was wet and muddy, so it wasn’t going to be a pleasant trek on those days. But then Saturday came, starting with rain and drizzle, and when I looked at the weather maps, we were pretty much done with the rain for the next week. That meant that I could get on the trail and grab some peddling time while everyone else feared more rain was to come. I started out under massing gray clouds, but by the time I got to my turnaround point, seen above, the sky was clearing. The week of rain had brought cooler temperatures too, so the ride was pleasant (though I did have to ride through some big puddles and a couple of spots of deep mud), and there were very few riders and runners on the trail, fearing more rain I suspect.

What you see above is the shipping container that the trail passes through below the construction on the interstate highway. It’s the green thing with the black maw.

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The words “jock” and “jock strap” and “jockstrap” appear six times in the current manuscript of One-Match Fire. I know this because I did a word search for them, having found in one story that I use “jock strap” and in another “jockstrap.” (It’s about four men, two of whom go from boys to men in the story and two of whom are runners.) Based on the dictionary on my phone (and the one in the app on my computer), the proper spelling is as a single word. Now you know the proper spelling, should it come up in conversation. You don’t have to thank me.

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I think I mentioned before that I have a mild “case” of synesthesia. I know the “color” of each letter of the alphabet, for example, and I can picture the “shapes” of most sounds. (Classical music is especially “shapely” to me.) I thought for a long time that everyone was this way, but it turns out most are not. I also used to think that everyone dreamed in color, as I do, but apparently that’s not true either.

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I had a runner friend who is also a handyman come by one afternoon last week — during the rain, which was handy for the man — to shuffle through the itchy insulation in my attic, stepping from joist to joist, to seal some leaks in the roof (that the roofers didn’t). The leaks are most common during driving rains, which led me to think the flashing wasn’t sealed properly. I reasoned this through without having gone into the attic myself. When my friend got up there, he confirmed it through observation. And then he sealed every bit he could find as well as replace both the bulbs and the pull chains in the two light fixtures up there.*

I’ve lived in this house 31 years, and I think I’ve been into the attic four times, three of those times getting no farther than poking my head in through the access panel.

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I currently have 12 story submissions circulating. That’s comprised of five stories as multiples and the One-Match Fire novel (in an earlier form) at a contest. The oldest is from last December, and I’m pretty sure it’s not a contender (though I’ve heard stories of older submissions getting accepted). I know/suppose I should be more aggressive about submitting my stories, but I’ve never been a hustler, and with my withered self confidence I understand why I’m not. Still.

 

 

*All of his work getting things done around my house motivated me to do some things myself! Fortunately, the feeling passed.

before the rain ~ Skywatch Friday

September 7, 2018

A hot day turned cool early this week as a continuous string of rainy days arrived. We took the dogs to the park to walk around the lake and get their exercise. To the west dark clouds were massing, but the above is what we saw to the north during our walk.

Not long after we were in the truck and driving home, the sprinkles started, followed soon by heavy rain that’s only stopped intermittently all week. While this has interfered with my bike riding, it has gotten me in the proper frame of mind for traveling to Seattle in a couple of weeks.

so I did a thing

September 3, 2018

As you probably know, I haven’t run a step since last October. That was when I did the Kansas City Half Marathon (with essentially no training) and did so poorly that I asked myself why I was doing it at all. (I still haven’t found an answer to that, but I think I need to; I have a 5K coming up later this month.) I don’t know if I’ve walked away from the noble sport of running or if I’m merely taking a break. A break is not uncommon from what I understand, but the longer my break lasts, the harder it’s going to be to get back into running.

Perhaps to alleviate that or to find an indirect way back, I got myself a bike. This is the latest in an almost unbroken series of bikes I’ve had since my earliest memories, perhaps the most memorable being a gold Stingray bike with raised handlebars and a banana seat. I called it Tiger Paws. I went everywhere on that bike when I was a boy. My last bike was taken from me when my son moved out, as I recall. It had hung from the garage ceiling for several years, untouched because I was, well, running. When that stopped, I no longer had that bike, and with the nagging in my head to get back to running increasing, I knew I had to do something to find a way back, so I got the new bike.

It’s nothing fantastic; it’s a cross bike, halfway between a mountain bike and a racing bike, meant for pavement and casual, noncompetitive cycling. It suits me perfectly. I’ve had it for a month, and in that time the heat has traded places with rain storms frequently. The times I was free for an hour or two ride didn’t often coincide with tolerable weather, so I was only able to get out on the bike (which I haven’t named yet) three times. Twice were rides of more than ten miles, and once was a rain-interrupted jaunt that had me sheltering under a park pavilion with about forty female high school tennis players doing various stretching and jumping exercises.* (I looked at my phone.)

But yesterday, before the heat got too intense and the forecasted rain came (but after bagels) I jumped on my bike and took off. I road on the Indian Creek Trail, a place where I have logged literally thousands of miles on foot (and may again). My vague idea was to ride it to the east, beyond where I ever ran. That meant going at least ten miles on familiar trail first, which was fine. I enjoyed revisiting the old places, zipping around walkers and runners (“On your left!” — I should probably get a bell) and bouncing over walnuts. This took me into Missouri (after mile 8), which made me feel like I had gone a respectable distance. And I kept going. Soon I was riding on parts of the ICT** I had never seen before. It appeared that the trail had very recently been repaved, and not cheaply either. The trail was paved with concrete rather than asphalt, which is certainly more permanent, and less prone to cracking and heaving as asphalt will do, and I suppose that’s better for cyclists, but among runners the conventional wisdom is that concrete is harder on the lower joints than asphalt. It’s a commonly held assertion that I’ve always been skeptical of, though I like to think I could feel a difference betwixt the two when I ran on them.

The ICT runs under the interstate three times, and the extension I took when I reached its end passed under the interstate a fourth time. The trail also passes under two railroad bridges, which I don’t think I’d ever run or ridden under before. The approach (from each side) to the railroad bridges was covered with metal canopies going out fifty feet. Does a lot of debris fly from railroad tracks when a train passes? When I passed under the interstate for the fourth time, the trail I was on was diverted through a shipping container (those metal boxes you see on the back of semi trailers or stacked perilously high on cargo ships). The highway bridge is under construction, and I suppose there was a risk of falling debris here as well. Thus the short passage through the cargo container. Odd, but effective.

I kept going, telling myself that at the next landmark I could see ahead (a bridge, a soccer field filled with grown men shouting plays to each other in a language I did not know, a certain rise or dip) I would stop and turn around. But I kept going. Finally, when I paused in some shade (the heat was rising) and checked my phone, I found I had dinner plans with my son. There was more trail ahead, but I knew I had to cover all of the distance I already had just to get home, so I thought best not to add any more to it. I turned around and tried to find my way back, which wasn’t easy since I wasn’t familiar with this part of the trail and there were many spurs leading from it. Plus I was going the opposite direction, so many things that ought to have looked familiar didn’t from this opposite direction. I managed to get back to the part of the trail I knew from my running days without mishap and the rest of the way home.

I did not wear my running watch to log my distance and time. If I had, I could have plugged it into my computer and gotten a map of my journey, including mileage. Instead, I visited one of the sites that distance athletes use to record their runs and mapped my ride. It turns out that my morning adventure was 28 miles. (It would have been longer, but my house is at the top of a hill. I think you can figure out what I mean.)

So, pretty good ride. The other conventional wisdom is that the ratio of cycling to running is three to one. Three miles of cycling is equivalent (in energy used? in wear on the joints? in conditioning?) to one mile of running. Thus my little ride was a bit more than nine miles of running. If I truly am building back my heart and lung capacity (and my quads), then maybe I’ll be (somewhat) ready for that 5K later this month.

 

*I’ve had a number of interesting, even spooky happenings at this shelter.

**I’ve found that there are some subtle but compelling differences between running and cycling. Hills for one. I’ve found that if I haven’t built up enuf momentum and I’m not in the right gear (and even if I have and am sometimes) I can’t always ride up a steep hill. I had to stop and walk rather than try to crank the gears into a hopeless fight against gravity a few times. With running, a steep hill ain’t pleasant, but it is manageable enuf to keep moving afoot without stopping even at a walking pace. Turns are another. At cycling speeds (even my speeds), there is less room for error. And with the luxurious growth of the trees and scrub that line most of this trail, there are some more or less blind turns. Were I running, they wouldn’t be a problem; I would simply hug the right side of the trail and come upon whatever was beyond the turn with a complete ability to deal with it (usually slowing or side stepping). On a bike, there is less time to react (stop quickly!) coming around a blind turn. I didn’t have any mishaps, but had there been a young parent pushing a stroller suddenly coming into view, I might have had to steer myself into the trees rather than something worse. So my point is that rather than call it the Indian Creek Trail, I think they should call it Insufficiently Clear Turns.