Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Twenty-five words: take two

So my last attempt at telling a story in 25 words didn't really work out (I'm not even going to attach a link). No one understood what I was talking about. Not everything can be told clearly in 25 words. So I'm going to make a second attempt. Here it is:

The first thing Sean noticed about the new girl was that despite her scowl and terrible haircut, she was pretty. Then he saw the scars.

Because I was trying to limit this to 25 words, I've changed what I wanted to say if I was allotting myself more words. In trying to keep things simple and short, I've changed them. I wanted the second sentence to say, she was really, really pretty. But that doesn't really leave you hanging (not that writing should always leave you hanging). But you should have a reason to keep reading.

Let me now what you least this time it's nice and simple, right?

Monday, June 25, 2012

A new very short story

She placed her foot, jumped, and pivoted, performing a muddled revolate. She connected with the ball. He ran home, delighted by her timing and physicality.

This is a story in 25 words. It's actually a different scene in the same larger story as my 10-word story.

This is what I end up doing every time I try to read my magazine, The Writer. I start reading an article, am inspired to write something, spend a bunch of time youtubing videos of dance moves (I knew what the move looked like, but not what it was called), and then write a blog post. I still haven't finished reading about Paper Lantern Lit.

This doesn't say exactly what I want it to say. I've been debating the placement of the and in the first sentence. I thought about: She placed her foot, jumped, pivoted, and performed a muddled, revolate. But I wanted to make it seem like two separate actions were occurring in a very short time frame. And I'm not sure if three sentences are too choppy for such a short amount of writing. I also wanted to include a second adjective, sloppy, to describe the revolate, but I couldn't figure out any other word that could be removed besides home, and just he ran seems like a silly thing to say. And I wanted to express that the "he" in the story is giddy with excitement about this girl, but he wouldn't be giddy by her timing and physicality. He could be made giddy by her response (like if he asked her on a date and she said yes), but it doesn't really work in this format. And his being giddy, while important, is secondary to her athleticism. (You're going to have to trust me on this one.)

Please let me know if you have any suggestions on this one.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Analyzing the Data

It should come to no surprise to you that I love data.

I just received a heart rate monitor/GPS watch for my birthday that is AWESOME!

I can track how far I've run, what my fastest mile is, what my average heart rate is, how many calories I've burned, and probably other stuff I don't know about yet!

Today, for the first time, I wore my heart rate monitor while doing my Insanity workout. I burned 167 calories in 37 minutes. This is very sad, but I'm going to give Insanity the benefit of the doubt and guess that my caloric burn is so low because it was a recovery workout. However, when I log this info into Sparkpeople, it predicts that I've burnt (vt?) 269 calories! I realize there are a vast array of differences between my heart rate monitor and the algorithm in the website, but this is a difference of 102 calories (or, in other words, Sparkpeople thinks I burned 61% more calories than I really did). Ugh.

When I'm in Oregon in July, I'm going to a clinic that a friend goes to to have a VO2 test done to determine my optimal fat-calorie burning zone. In the mean time, I've identified the following four areas of my diet that need work:

  1. Consume fewer beverages that have calories. As much as I hate this, I'm going to have to cut out juice and just eat real fruit. I've decided that on days that I've run more than 10 miles, I'm allowed a glass of orange juice (because it just tastes so good!) and a bottle of vitamin water (because it really seems to help with recovery). The jury's still out on whether or not hot chocolate counts as a beverage with calories. I know I drink it, but milk is actually digested as a solid. I am also allowing myself one cup of tea a day because when I tried to give up tea, it made me really sad. The conundrum is, I have open bottles of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages in my refrigerator. Should I consume these and just not replace them, or should I toss them to more quickly align with my diet? I hate wasting food, but I also want to lose weight. (I would like to point out right here that I know I'm not fat. I'm just outside the weight limit of my wardrobe and I'd like that to change.)
  2. Consume more fiber. Hopefully a lot of this will be managed by cutting out juice and eating real fruit. I've also discovered that I really like raw veggies dipped in ranch (although ranch isn't exactly diet-friendly). I'm going to see if I can find a DIY recipe for ranch that uses Greek yogurt or something. I still don't really like to eat salads, but there's a soup/sandwich/salad place right across the street. Is it worth the money every day to buy a salad? (One of the big problems with salads for me is that it takes so freakin' long to make a good one, and it's impossible to use up all of the ingredients at the same time, so you nearly always have something random in your fridge that's just about to go bad.) Also, when I lived with The Vegetarian (now The Vegan), she'd cook up a whole pot of veggies, and we'd eat them all week. I should get on that.
  3. Burn more calories. I'm running a marathon in October, and I've yet to actually get serious about my training. Somehow, I'm failing to make a consistent exercising schedule. I have a schedule, and I keep updating it as I learn what is not working, but I have yet to discover what will work. 
  4. Eat more protein. This is questionable. According to Sparkpeople, I only consume enough protein about half of the time. (This is actually the pro argument for allowing hot chocolate.) How much protein a person needs is a frequently debated health topic. Americans tend to overindulge in protein because we're such big meat-eaters. I am, in fact, the worst vegetarian in the world, but I don't actually eat a lot of meat (this is probably more due to the fact that Captain America gets home around 10pm and cooking dinner for one person is just a waste of time). I do drink milk, eat yogurt and cheese, eat mushrooms and avocados, and eat eggs. I'm going to try to add one hard boiled egg a day to my diet and see what happens. I know that when I don't eat enough protein, I don't have as much energy, but I have yet to figure out what "enough" actually is. I guess I'm going to need more data points!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ernest Hemingway and the art of the short story

Urban legend has it that Ernest Hemingway once won a bet that he couldn't write a short story in under 10 words. His rebuttal: For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

I don't love Hemingway (his brevity is a little too brief for my taste and his characters all seem stiff and unfeeling to me). I'm not even a particularly avid reader of the short story. But I do believe that if you can't tell a story in a few words, hundreds more isn't going to make it better.

I've been saying for a million years that I want to write, and I spend a lot of time thinking about writing, reading about writing, and reading in general. I'm sure these are all good preparatory things to do, but writers WRITE.

There are all sorts of exercises that writers can do, like finishing sentences, writing stories around specific topics and the like. I've never read an author say in an interview that any of those exercises were useful (or that they even used them). But I thought it would be interesting to try to write a short story and then methodically make it longer.

So here is my 10 word short story: She lay in darkness waiting. And then she saw him.

Let me know what you think! And be on the lookout for it's transformation into a slightly longer story!

Revision #1: She lay in darkness waiting. And then she heard him.

As one thoughtful reader pointed out, she wouldn't be able to see him in the dark. Since I had debated that a lot already, and then it was further reiterated (can something be further reiterated?) I decided the adjustment was appropriate. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Good Grief!

I went to the ears, nose, and throat doctor last week because I am having periodic numbness in my right ear. My doc thought my use of adjectives was interesting. He told me normally, people don't come in complaining of numbness in their ear. I told him it felt sort of like when your ears get clogged when flying, and sort of like when you can't shake water out of your ear, but more like when your hand falls asleep except with none of the pins-and-needles thing when it wakes up. My mother described it as heavy, which sort of works, too.

So the doc looked at my ears and my nose and my throat, and decided that everything looked normal. He then had me do a few basic tests. The first one was to stand in place with my eyes shut. Apparently some people can't do that. I said, that was a test? Then he had me march in place with my eyes shut and my hands over my ears. Evidently, you get signals in your ears about your general location. He had me stop but before I was allowed to open my eyes, he asked me if I thought I had drifted. I said yes, but I didn't know in which direction--I knew I had drifted because the tile floor was cold beneath my feet. As it turns out, I didn't drift as much as turn about 45 degrees clockwise. The doc said that indicated an imbalance/imperfection in the information my brain was getting from my ears, but didn't seem especially concerned about it.

Then I had a hearing test. My hearing is completely normal, so for all of you mumblers out there, yes, it really is you, not me.

At this point, the doc created a hypothesis: since I had gained about 10 pounds in the past year, it was possible I was retaining water, and it was messing with the chambers in my ear. (Okay, that's not exactly how he put it, but that's the gist.) So he put me on a diuretic. I was really hoping he was right because I'm struggling to lose the extra 10 pounds. And by struggling, I mean that despite the fact that I have been exercising more and eating less, I have lost exactly 0 pounds. And then for fun, I gained two on the diuretic. This is not only not the plan, but exactly the opposite of what's supposed to be happening! Good grief!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing TimeMaggots in My Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time by Susan Madden Lankford
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read an article about Madden Lankford in the San Diego Union Tribune that described her as a photographer. She's published three books, and I thought her subject matter sounded interesting. So, I checked her first book, Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes, out from the library.

I would not describe this book as a book of photographs. It does have a lot of photographs, but it also has a lot of dialogue with the inmates, guards, councilors, and others. The book follows too many inmates, and it is hard for me to keep their stories straight. Also, a lot of the dialogue feels like I've entered the conversation in the middle.

I think this book would have been better as a documentary, or if it had just followed one inmate. Or, for example, there's an inmate on trial for murder, but there are a few other people associated with the murder. In this book, you only learn of the one inmate's perspective. It might have been more interesting to learn about the event from the perspectives of the other suspects, as well as the homicide officer, and other parties involved in the crime.

I skimmed the last half of the book, mostly because I was curious as to how this would wrap up/if there was going to be a call to action. The book ends by discussing how women in prison are sort of a self-fulfilling prophesy. The women are abused/neglected as children, so they turn to a life of crime, they become mothers themselves, they don't know how to raise kids, their kids go through the same cycle and it becomes perpetuating.

There isn't really a call to action other than to state that the current criminal justice system isn't serving to help these women, and that money might be better spent training more councilors, etc to work with these people and their children.

Honestly, it's a depressing subject matter and the book doesn't do anything to inspire me to help.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012

I've had a day, and it somehow disintegrates from there

I am having one of those days/weeks/months/quarters (yes, I'm an accountant...I think in quarters) where I just can't seem to get things to happen. My April was totally disorganized, my May was insanely busy, and my June has somehow managed to be both disorganized and busy. I have no idea how this happened.

Don't get me wrong. I have a great life.

I'm just going through a period in it where I keep asking myself how did THIS become my life?

I'm feeling very much like I can't MAKE things happen, and this worries me. In addition to the fact that I'm not actually getting anything done, I'm worried about the language I'm using to express my feelings. Whenever I feel like I can't MAKE things happen, it is inevitably tied to my chronic depression. For anyone who's not in the know about chronic depression, it's a lot like any other mental always have just learn coping skills to deal with it/keep it under control. And for me, medication helps a lot. I have a physical chemical imbalance in my brain. I'm not imagining I'm sad and I'm not a hypochondriac. You wouldn't tell someone with high blood pressure not to take their medication, would you? Also running and reading help a lot. For me. I'm not a doctor, so I can't prescribe this combination for you.

So anyway, today I tried to go to a massage appointment. Except I could not get there. I'm not kidding. I left work in plenty of time. But then the gas light came on in my car. I have no idea how far I can actually drive with the light on because I've never tested it (and I don't plan to), and while I thought I had enough gas to get there if I was driving, as it turns out, I was driving in SoCal, so I was mostly sitting. In a shit-ton of traffic (Hey, Voracious, I know you love this magical measurement, so I threw it in just for you!). And I wasn't convinced I had enough gas for an hour of sitting. (As it turns out, I probably did). And just for fun, my gas light came on in the only 10 mile stretch of I-5 that doesn't have a gas station you can actually get to before you run out of gas because...wait for it...the fair is going so the traffic situation in SoCal is exponentially bad!

So, I got off the freeway, pulled over, and just waited for traffic to die down enough for me to actually get SOMEWHERE USEFUL.

So in the process of delivering this rant, I found this blog post that made me laugh out loud a lot. And of course, I facebooked it. Yup, I'm verbing facebook and verb. It's been that kind of day. Who knows what wild and crazy thing I'll do next, so watch out.

So anyway, back in my world where I'm not managing to get anything done...which of course is not actually true. I get a lot of stuff done. I just never get to the point where I feel like, aahhh, I've gotten a bunch of stuff done today and now I can relax BECAUSE THERE'S STILL MORE STUFF TO DO!! Which is sounding an awful lot like this amusing blog. So maybe that's the real problem. Not that I'm not getting anything done, but that there is so much to get done.

And then I got distracted by showing Captain America the words with friends game in which I beat the Professor by 7 points in the last move, causing me to text him (the Professor) Boo-ya! in my excitement. Because the Professor blew a 50 point lead. Because I'm awesome. And clearly in the Double Unicorn Success Club.

So it seems like now is a good time to have some hot chocolate and read about women in jail.

P.S. I realize that this blog post sounds a lot like I have ADD. I don't. Seriously. I've had that tested. (I'm also not schizophrenic or manic depressive, in case you're curious.) This whole ADD-thing is another manifestation of my chronic depression. Really. This is one of those things that acts up before I really feel like I'm losing control and go into a full depressive state. And for those of you who are now beginning to get worried about my mental health, relax. I'm really not to go off the deep end...I don't suffer migraines, but from what I understand, for a lot of people, there are signs that they are going to get one...and if they get rest or hydrate or whatever their migraine trigger is, they can cut it off before it happens. The feeling like I can't get anything done and the ADD-like behavior are both signs for me. But unlike when you're about to get a migraine and should probably do something ASAP, this state for me is fine for a while. (Obviously, since it's been going on for three months). My prediction is, given the events and tasks in my immediate future, that this state will exist for about another month and then it will resolve itself and I'll go back to being my more normal self.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

First Family (Sean King & Michelle Maxwell, #4)First Family by David Baldacci
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn't realize this was part of a series until a few chapters in, when I realized that there were some things being discussed as if I should already know something. Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately), the plot and characters were easy enough to keep track of that this wasn't a problem. This is by no means a literary triumph, and there were parts where I was frustrated by Baldacci's feeble attempts at waxing poetic, but as far as formulaic private investigator stories go, it was completely adequate and a nice, easy, fast read. I totally enjoyed it and plan on reading the rest of the series...this time maybe from the beginning.

One more thing, this particular book takes a random digression into Michelle Maxwell's personal life (and another aside, does that name sound somehow stereotypical for a female former-government-agent-turned-PI?). As far as I can tell, the only purpose this transgression serves is to show the reader that Michelle and her partner, Sean King, are perfect for each other, even if they don't know it yet.

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