8th Inning and Defending Our Silly Format

With the Diamondbacks, its all about the 8th inning. Sometimes, especially recently, they storm back to tie or lead in the eighth. Mostly, like tonight, they cough up the lead, often wasting the efforts of what would otherwise be the best starting rotation in baseball, through a combination of ineffective pitching and clown-like errors. As of yesterday, they had given up a league-leading 70 runs in the eighth inning.

Tonight, they gave up ten more. So it goes.

If you ask the panel experts at Westercon, the Central Phoenix Writing Workshop does everything wrong:

* You’re supposed to assemble a small group, 3-6, of regulars; a close-knit, steady group. We are 100% drop-in, and our meeting sizes range from 2 to 20 (though 8 is our median attendance).

* You’re supposed to have a group where every writer is at a similar level of skill and professional development. We range from career journalists to absolute newbies.

* You’re supposed to concentrate on a narrow range of genres, to better focus your collective expertise. We have everything from fan-fiction to college essays to memoirs, plus the usual assortment of genre fiction. We do, however, tilt slightly towards F/SF fiction.

* You’re supposed to meet once or twice a month. We meet weekly.

* You’re supposed to circulate manuscripts in advance, so everyone has a chance to consider them before the meeting. We find out who has work to share at the start of the meeting. That work is read aloud, where, ideally,we follow along, marking up our copy as we go. But not all of us are that organized, and that is not a barrier to participation.

* The person whose work is being critiqued is supposed to remain silent during the critique. Yeah – good luck with that.

Now, I’ve been in groups that follow most of the rules, and they’re very productive, and my writing has improved as a result of my assosciation with such groups. The Glendale Grendelmen works along these lines, and I’d still be going if I hadn’t been kinda forced to choose between groups.

I am a leader – as far as that goes – of the unruly mob of writers that meets at Coffee Unlimited. And while we’re not as productuve per minute of meeting as a small group of Serious Writers, your piece will leave the table in better shape than we found it.

More importantly, you can meet a lot – a lot – of writers, from which you can form your own splinter cell to do some Serious Work.

One last thing: Odds of Dying

An important reference tool for maintaining perspective.

Now You Know

Panic and Pride and ignoring the circus

The circus elephants dance backstage. They’re fond of dance-pop.

Other than that, I’ve been trying to ignore the circus at the USAC this week as much as possible. It’s not that hard: if the spots work – I can go hide. So I do.

Let me now debunk the legend I heard today that bra sizes originated in the army. in the 1930’s, Maidenform was the first company to actually make bras in different sizes (small, medium and full) but Warner Brothers Brassiers (no relation to the movie conglomerate) devised the alphabetical size categories that have become industry standards.

See how the internet improves our lives?

Yes. Its true. Had the Suns held on the Shawn Marion, letting him walk at the expiration of his contract, they would have saved more money than the humiliating Shaq “trade” (neither of the players they received from Cleveland are expected to be on the roster next season). These are the wages of Panic and Pride.

We’re not even to the all-star break, and you can write off the D-backs. Hows this for historically perverse: “Can’t wait for Cardinals season, so that we can see our team win once in a while…”

For the writers: Book Marketing 101

And lost in all the Micheal Jackson Is Still Dead nonsense – the state of Arizona is either going to pass the most regressive budget in my lifetime or shut down completely by July 1st. Flat tax. Elimination of the property tax that provides the bulk of the money for the most poorly funded state education system in the nation. I am understating how bad this is. More on this later.

Now you know.

A hundred miles a day for eight days

Between driving a stakebed out to a distant golf course and back for a show, cross-valley errands, and a camping trip to the Rim, I drove about a hundred miles a day for the past eight days, gaining some wisdom in the process.

First, the Equinox photo I promised:

2006 Chevy Equinox

That photo is near General Springs on the Mogollon Rim. If you can see them, the decorations drawn in the dust on the side of the car are courtesy of the children.

Eight busy days later, and I have learned a lot of things:

Three layers of mark-up will seriously impair the viability of a competitive bid.

Burn Notice is the secret re-boot of the A-Team.

Everyone in Little League is a volunteer, except the guys in the national office – who are paid – and this is reflected in the league dues.

My informal and random poll indicates that  0 out of 19 education professionals believe that No Child Left Behind (as implemented) is actually helping to educate children.

One guy calls the truck pack – and all the other logistical geniuses on the call need to live with that guy’s decisions, or you add an hour to load out.

If you have a crew loading out a show on a golf course, and you lock the only restroom, this will not prevent the crew from relieving themselves. It will only prevent them from relieving themselves in the toilet.

One simply cannot underestimate the importance of worklight when loading out in an open field in the middle of the night. Moonlight is not an acceptable substitute.

When launching model rockets, bring extra batteries and fuses.

The RXC went camping at Bear Canyon Lake, on the Mogollon Rim. Some notes about that site can be found on my other blog:

Are We Lost Yet?

Hammock at Bear Lake

When taking middle-graders camping, they all need chairs, or none of them need chairs. Musical chairs around the campfire is a recipe for discontent.

The kids get their own campfire.

The kids get their own campfire.

American adults car-camping will never run out of food. They always bring too much. This was, however, the first trip in a long time where we did not run out of booze. Perhaps we’re growing wiser.

Pie irons still rock! Especially now that we know how to use them.

New vocabulary: Bailing wire = “ranch tape”

I have established that the Equinox can bounce through the Buick Filter. Though I damn near found the Equinox filter (its still a 2WD) on our way to General Cabin Springs. We were scouting a multi-day bacpacking trip taking the General Crook Trail east from Clear Creek to its intersection with the AZT (near General Springs), then taking the AZT north to Blue Ridge Reservoir.

Having scouted that, I have concluded it wuld be far easier to start at Blue Ridge and head down to Clear Creek. But it would be even easier just to stay n the AZT and go down the Rim to Pine. I’m still noodling on these things.

But there is a marked section of the GCT that follows AZ 260 from around Camp Verde to the Rim. We found a blaze by following a randomly selected dirt road off the highway. I love the Equinox.

Camp Verde State Park s closed on Tuesdays.

Some links:

World Food Program trying to bring disaster relief over the objections of the Myanmar government. “The people of Myanmar do not eat biscuits…”

The Onion reporting on President Obama’s visit to Denny’s.

Now You Know

A Digest of Last Week’s Lessons

I’ve been a little busy.

Baseball is a lot more fun when somebody swings the bat once in a while, instead of praying to draw a walk. (Are you listening D-Backs?)

There is no such thing as a minor detail in a construction contract.

Do not leave your tool bags where the cats are likely to pee on it. If I actually find something that removes the smell out of my nifty new tool-harness – I’ll update.

Somebody has to run out all the motor cable when you’re loading in a system of trusses. The sooner you make that assignment, the easier load-in will go. You can’t always count on some guy like me just doing it.

Triple digit hi temps means its summer. The calender isn’t relevant.

Daniel Goleman tells Bill Moyers that just about everything is bad for the environment. Science = buzzkill.

Required reading: Basic Laws of Stupidity

and (loosely related to the items above) Flouridation = Communism

A new entry in our catalogue of Random Facts sites: Futility Closet

FOR WRITERS:

Free marketing (and doubtless worth every penny) FiledBy

9 step program for cover letters

And I may ave posted this before, but it is Need To Know if you write books for money: Actual Costs Behind Books

And a bunch of other stuff discretion or sleep deprivation has driven from my mind.

Now you know.

Things to know when working in ceilings

The past few days, my day job has found me crawling through a ceiling space installing permanent hardware (all-thread) into concrete. This combines all the problems of working at height with all the problems of working in confined spaces. However difficult this seems when you first picture it, it’s probably worse than that.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

* Only step on things that you can visibly see are attached to the concrete above you.

*If in doubt, you have to crawl.

* The hardest part will always be turning around. If you can plan a circular route – do that.

* A 5′ 2×4 is the most mobile (and this a relative term) means to span the typical and frequent 4′ gaps of spaces where nothing will hold your weight.

* Don’t wear clothes you care about – or ever want to wear again.

* Have extra batteries for your headlamp.

* Before you move, make sure you have all your tools ready to move with you. OK? Check again. There is little worse than crawling 30 feet inch by inch under conduit and over exposed drywall screws to discover that your wrench is still sitting where you left it.

* We spent the better part of the first day just measuring things – and as a result, we’re ahead of schedule.

* Even with a cap or bandana, you’re going to need to wash the concrete and insulation dust out of your hair every night.

* Unless its an active construction site (and this is not) no one is going to crawl into the ceiling to steal your tools.

* God made cordless Hilti TE6 hammer drills because He loves us, and He wants us to get shit done.

* And if you’re not in shape for this sort of thing, remember that you’re going to wake up 20 years older every morning until the job is done.

(And don’t plan on having energy to blog when you get home…)

Oh – and hey, because some people apparently are not aware of this, Little League Games are not an appropriate venue for drinking beer. Really.

Now you know.

Just throw strikes…

The Suns are out. For those who get their NBA news from my blog.

Mule line, the flat line somewhere between rope and string that we use to pull cable through conduit is expensive – but so is labor. At some point, you just gotta cut the line, tie a new one, and move on with the job.

It’s a lot more expensive to change plans after the conduit is in place – a lot.

If your first instinct is that you probably can’t quite get the boom basket around the obstruction from this position – you’re right. Proving that to yourself is a slow and frustrating exercise.

You all know that North Korea will never actually launch a nuclear missile at the US, right? The whole country operates like its run by kindergarteners, and this is just one more tantrum for attention. We gotta calm down and be the grown-ups. Really.

Much as I like the Obama admin, they still live in fear, at least in foreign policy. [sigh..]

In little league, you can hit a ball three feet from the plate and still score a run on that very play.

And the team my son’s team faced last Tuesday – they’re the terror of the entire league. My son’s team is closer to the middle of the pack than that game would indicate.

And they played well tonight. And Ben scored his first run (walk, two stolen bases, walk home on a bases loaded HBP). His team played well and won. Don’t worry – I’m not going to update in this sort of detail all season.

Now you know.

Bullets, bats and sharks.

My son’s baseball team learned that if you don’t listen to the coach in practice – you get shelled – and I mean shelled – in your first game. Now, the other team had some higher skill levels (where my son’s team is still working on basic base running, they were working on steals), but the athletic talent was about even. The lopsided score was the difference between working on your game and making excuses.

There’s an ammo shortage in the United States. Between wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and – ahem – Mexico, plus the 30-50% increase in sales since O’Bama took office (the gun-lovers are a fearin’ new laws and/or taxes) both gun shops and police departments are struggling to stay fully loaded, as it were.

I sent a version of the query letter for Jack (the title is The Beanstalk and Beyond) to Query Shark. The letter was sufficiently off main sequence that I felt some more objective eyes might be useful. My letter isn’t up at this writing and there is no timetable for it (the agent who writes QS does this in her “spare” time). We’ll see what comes of it.

What’s the value of Facebook? My 20+ hit day (24 March) came after announcing my blog update on FB.

Now you know.