What we Learn by Flailing in the Dark

Before we recite my mistakes, and then some notes from writer’s groups and other sources, I have an announcement:

 

I will be in Kingman this Saturday for KABAM (a book festival)

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More information on KABAM on their Facebook page. I will have copies of Beanstalk and Beyond on hand, as perhaps copies of my hiking guides as well.

Now..

My son owns a 2003 Cadillac Deville, which broke down recently because of course it did.  I went to help him, and that grew into a 12 hour day until I finally sprung for the tow truck.

  • Removing the water pump, and  the pulley above it both require special tools, which, happily, you can “rent” from most auto parts store with just a deposit.
  • To remove the water pump you also need a 3/4″ socket, and to turn the thing the opposite direction of what you would want to.
  • Once you realize it’s not just the belt – it’s the water pump, you are past where you can do the deed curbside. Tow the thing to somewhere you can actually work on it.

Because the shadows, and our collective exhaustion were defeating our efforts to remove that damn water pump. (Also, we were doggedly twisting it the wrong direction).

Do not wipe all the cookies from your browser just because they freaked out a part of your credit union’s website. The website still doesn’t work, and now I have to re-enter a bunch of passwords – which I hate.

At Brazen Wonk, we notice how Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination troubles are entirely of his own making.

There is also, after a long lapse, a new page of the 64 webcomic.

I haven’t made anything like word-count the last few weeks. I have been distracted by my son’s car disasters (I only mention the smaller crisis here) and romance. That’s right. But not here – you’d have to ask me in person.

Except this – I haven’t been getting much sleep,. and yet I still have a bunch of energy. Like back to being hyperactive sort of energy.

But let’s step past that rabbit hole and get to notes from writer’s group sans meaningful context:

The Uncanny Valley is when an android is almost convincing, but not quite. TV Tropes sums it up here. Stranger Dimensions has examples.

Someone in the group knows Loren Coleman – Cryptozoologist.

 

camas_pocket_gopher_wikiwand_0

Not just a collection of random nouns

Pocket gophers, specifically the Camas Pocket Gophers are real creatures, and not just a collection of random nouns.

 

 

Those two items are actually unrelated.

 

Finally we cannot reccomend strongly enough Toilets with Threatening Auras on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Vice wrote them up a bit, if you need to know more.

Now we know.

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My Many Reasons for Drinking Whiskey Right Now

As I write this, I have been up for 27 straight hours. This will not last much longer. I am drinking good whisky like water, and there are many reasons for that.

Because I’m running on fumes, I am blowing off all the usual links.

I have made word count for the last 2 weeks, mostly on Go Action Fun Time. We are blowing that off tonight too.

I did indeed go to MaricopaCon, where one of my two Go Action Fun Time sessions fired – as we say.  Meaning I had players.

Two dads and four kids under 12. So I cut the A plot and the B plot, and strung together a series of nuisance encounters and that constituted the actual episode.  This seemed to work. They clobbered giant scorpions, found a way to fly over the moat full of blood, and worked their way through five of the six insane encounter rooms.

Everyone had fun playing a game I made up. Cheers.

Mayan mythology – where I drew most of this material is seriously messed up – just so you know.

I came home from MaricopaCon to find the AC dead. Some investigation revealed filters clogged with enough hair to make whole new pets, and a coil covered in gunk, which was in turn covered in ice. I remedied all of that, and went to work.

I have been working overnights on my “day” job, because the building we are trying to finish is already occupied. The poor denizens of that cubicle farm have a hard enough existence without turning their lights on and off at random, as I do. So we work in the middle of the night sometimes.

Come back just before dawn and the AC is still not working. This would be a source of discontent.

Earl, having been recently homeless, was game to just suffer through. Julie found other places to be. I managed to sleep through most of the heat until about 4:30 yesterday afternoon. I have been awake ever since. Partly because I had to go back to work.

Without going into the objectively dull particulars of my job, I finished whispering to the lighting relays, and a job that has been plaguing me since February is finally done.

Cheers.

Came back home, and the AC guy I had hoped to see at seven said 10 was more realistic. OK.

I mowed the lawn – which was up to my knees in places. Cheers.

It wasn’t like I could go inside and cool off. Even so, I had an hour to fret about how I might come up with the three grand or so it would take to replace the AC unit. Also, I napped for maybe 20 minutes.

The AC guy  arrived, and quickly determined that the problem was not at the AC unit, but at the fuse-box.  OK- I had gotten that far, but only with a hot stick. The hot stick said that current was reaching the AC unit. A

A meter, though, revealed that only a fraction of the voltage was reaching the meter. The 3-phase exterior-handled disconnect panel that my grandfather probably kloodged in there had finally failed mechanically, and the blades no longer made full contact. It would have to be replaced.

This would be $250 if he did it, but even on short rest, I am an electrician. I can replace the box. That seemed to be the answer the AC guy was hoping for.

But not just right now – I had an appointment.

I went to the divorce shop and signed some documents in front of a notary. That’s not a happy reason to drink whiskey, but whiskey is called for nonetheless.

Cheers?

Then I bought the wrong fuse box, some printer ink and a handful of groceries.

My Epson XP440 won’t print in black unless is has ink in all three other cartridges either. This has been a source of discontent. But I bought the damn ink, because the $30 get me functional as opposed to $200 for an actual laser printer to Solve This Problem.

That day is coming, but today was about the AC.

It says 50 amps right there on the plate, so I take my 30A back and get a 50 amp. Then I climb up on the roof in the bright afternoon sunshine and verb with nouns until I get the damn thing in place.

I knocked out one of the holes too large for the fitting. Never ask how I fixed that.

I thought about carefully metering everything but nah. The proof of the wiring in in the humm. Flip the breaker and …

VICTORY OVER STUPID SHIT!

Cheers.

I have the haouse to myself tonight. Cheers.

The diamnodbnacjsm are winning . Cheers . Starting to get really fuixxxzy now. Maybe beers  soon. And a shower – a long overdue showers.

Soon we will be inandmmwairtbsiazzzzzzz.

 

Poorly blogging about smoke alarms in 3 or 5 acts

Every once in a while all I have learned in a week cannot be connected by anything particularly clever, and I just spew random facts.  I don’t even have anything to yell about. Next weekend I will be in town doing nothing that is open to the public or of general interest.

The most interesting parts of my life right now are off limits to this blog: the antics of my house-mates, finances (in any detail), and my still essentially non-existent love life. There is, to be clear, no actual news on any of those fronts. But there are plans, some clearly insane, and they are off limits here. Because I don’t want to break news to (or tip off) people who actually know me through my silly blog.

So lessons learned that are in-bounds, going roughly backwards through the week.

GAFT cover image

This is from the “Pilot Episode”

In the draft of Go Action Fun Time, I write at some length about how episodes (aka adventure or modules in other games) are broken into the traditional 3 act structure for a lot of reasons.

Episodic TV actually runs in five acts. But, in our defense, those are hour long dramas. We are simulating a half-hour action cartoon. Besides, I like what I wrote, and I am keeping to 3 acts.

I may though, go to 12 pt courier on everything, in line with these standards. 

 

On a busy construction site, late in the game (when guys like me saunter in) there will be active smoke alarms. And if your work makes a lot of smoke or dust, you will set these off, and this is bad. Especially if you’re working (as a hypothetical example)  on a partially occupied hospital. You might be tempted, rather than go through the process of filling out forms and getting clearance to bypass the alarms, to just tape over them. Don’t. Not just because it’s not the Right Procedure, and not just because the tape might not work anyway, but because the act of removing that tape will absolutely set off the alarm.

And then you find yourself standing in the warm sunshine of a late August morning in Phoenix with every other person on the jobsite while the GC goes on about this at some length, and threatens to dismiss the next clown he catches doing this.

Writer at work

The cheesy graphic Patel used. I learn from the best!

On occasion my curiosity mixes with abit of greed and I wonder how I might make some money off a blog. This leads me predictably to other blogs blogging about monetizing blogs. The best I’ve come across in NeilPatel.com, where the always upbeat Patel will explain with a breezy blog voice and a ton of screen-captured statistics how everything I do here at WHWL? is wrong.

  • My posts are too short (1800-2400 words is what you want for Google to take you seriously and yet still have a chance of someone finishing the article.  My posts weight in around 850)
  • My posts are not focused on a  single topic that would be known to attract readers. They are usually a little more focused than this, but not much. But I do not research possible topics by SEO strength.
  • My posts are not structured. I do not do number lists or this-then-that explainers.
  • I don’t have consistent video content.
  • I don’t have pop-up boxes asking you to subscribe.
  • I don’t buy targeted advertising

What impressed me most about Patel though is his easy-breezy writing voice that whisks you through some relative thick material before you even know it.

https://neilpatel.com/blog/how-to-become-a-better-blog-writer-in-30-days/

https://neilpatel.com/blog/content-marketing-works/

https://neilpatel.com/blog/the-future-of-seo/

 

There is no decent place to eat breakfast on a weekend morning in Show Low unless you are local. Conversely, I was able to get a decent breakfast with little drama in the far smaller burg of Overgaard. Go figure.

Bongo Overgaard

Breakfast in Overgaard

I was up in and around Show Low for a friend’s wedding. I shouldn’t get seriously drunk at wedding receptions, it seems. I’m still a bit too bitter.

I enjoyed the drive home though.

Bongo SaltRBridge

WORD COUNT

Last week’s What Have We Learned? = 1000 words

Monday Night Writer’s Group = 5000 words (even though I was the only one who showed up). (Again.)

2 hours editing Go Action Fun Time = 1000

2 hours revising my novelette “Enrinyes” = 1000

Good thing too! The file labelled “submittal copy” still had “2nd draft” pasted in the header among other problems.

Thursday night writer’s Group = 500 (this group is still well-attended!)

Hand-written draft of Taliesin’s Last Apprentice (the sequel to Beanstalk and beyond) = 900 words.

4900 words. Close enough.

[750 words]

Weird facts about my Soul

KIMG0762

A few years ago, I traded in my Chevy Sonic for a 2013 Kia Soul. My children rejoiced, saying, “Look! Dad finally has a soul. I mean, it’s black inside and full of garbage, but he finally has a soul.”

Then, “Can we borrow your soul Dad?”

And so forth.

My 2011 Chevy Sonic, for context, was a panic buy to replace my beloved Equinox, which had a gas tank issue. Once your wife is envisioning your vehicle going up in a ball of flame, you have no choice but to sell it.

The Sonic is like a sports-car made by east European communists. It’s is surprisingly fast (because it uses the same engine block as the larger cars in Chevy’s fleet car line) and handles decently, because it is small. And everything in the interior feels cramped, just like a sports-car. But it is a fleet car, engineered to fall apart after 80k miles or so.

While I could drive it like a maniac, putting four adults inside felt like a clown car stunt, and things were starting to fall off. So we went to the dealership and came home with the Hyundai Veracruz, and my Soul.

Early on in my ownership of it, someone asked me about it, and I told them that it was the best MP3 player I had ever driven. They do seem to have put more thought into the media system than any other part. The speakers have LED rims that change color with the music. I never saw that as a selling point when I purchased it, but they have come to amuse me.

KIMG0760

Its is boxy, mediocre in both acceleration and climbing, and the fuses jiggle loose from time to time. It has no roof rack. You will feel every bump in the road – every one. Those are my complaints. All of them.

Four adults can fit within with some dignity. I can actually fit a lot of things in it – for boxy=roomy. When I moved 1000 feet north, most of the things made the journey in my Soul. My lawn furniture and gas grill came home in my Soul. But it’s not a truck, so people don’t ask me to move stuff for them all the time.

It has a tight turning radius and a relatively high ground clearance. It gets around 20 mph even when I drive it the way I do. I made it 80K miles before it needed any major service.

KIMG0761

This might be its best feature!

Of course, I need it to go another 60K miles at least. I have three years left on the $15k note secured by my Soul that is generously valued at about $5k. How the hell do you get $10k upside down on a car loan?

You wreck a car without the means to make a cash down payment, or even cover the insurance deductible. So you find yourself at the mercy of whatever scheme the dealership puts together. The Soul (and the Veracruz) were the fourth generation of cars coming off the lot with this debt still buried in the financing somehow.

When we bought it, this Kia Soul had a big rebate, so magically, this is the car they buried that debt inside.

I owe a lot more on my Soul than my Soul is worth. My Soul has been used to hide previous sins.

KIMG0759

I do not own my Soul.

Somehow the only name on either the title or the loan paperwork is that of my (soon-to-be-ex) wife. She does not know how that happened either.  She has a completely different car now. The Soul remains my primary vehicle, even though, after the divorce, I will have no legal ownership of it.

Sometimes, when I project the payments out over time, I daydream about saving up a down payment, and just leaving this thing in the parking lot of the credit union that actually owns it. But that would be Wrong.

After all, I’m the one who wrecked that car I have yet to finish paying off.

In a year at RC Lurie I put 20k miles on that car. That’s a fact that will shut a car salesman up about leasing options. Those are hard miles, city traffic, construction sites, lost on back roads. My Soul has already taken a beating.

I have become fond of the Soul I am driving to death without any real hope of ever paying off. Good thing, because I just dropped $800 on brake repairs and a long list of maintenance items.  (My local mechanic is a master of never fixing just one thing, and since I cannot abide multiple trips to the garage, I am his lawful prey here).

So I choose, for now, to keep my Soul, even if it isn’t legally mine. It works for me. And there is speculation that Kia cars can go 200k if treated right. So maybe I can get mine to 140? We shall see.

And I can always add a roof rack later.

Consumer Reports on the 2013 Soul. They even make a little joke about the interior.

Recovering from Mistakes with unrelated links

Success is not determined by the ability to avoid mistakes, You want to try and avoid them but no matter what you do, mistakes will be made. Success is then determined by your ability to correct from mistakes.

Your ability to adapt.

Your ability to come back after half-time and run off 20 points against the Phoenix Suns.

Let’s, uh, change the subject. Writing about the suns is like crying in a war zone: you may not be able to stop.

I’ve had a busy few weeks at my day-job, and while I mostly kept up with the fiction, the blogs did not make the cut. I made up for that today.

At Curious Continuity we gush with praise about James Gleik’s Time Travel A History.

At Fantastical History we start what may be a series of articles about the rules of magic.

Before we get to word count, a few things that blew into my inbox:

Generic blog advice

http://www.wealthywebwriter.com/2018/04/attract-more-traffic-to-your-website/
Lost letters of the alphabet

http://omgfacts.com/we-used-to-have-6-more-letters-in-our-alphabet/

WORD COUNT:

1700 on Talisin’s Last Apprentice.

500 for the Monday night group where only one other person showed.

1300 on Two of 64.

500 for the Thursday night group.

1000 for Curious Continuity (it had pictures).

500 for Fantastical History

600 new words on TLA

And 300 for this blog.

That’s a bit (6400?). And it’s midnight, so I’m lidding it up.

Next week? Sure. That could happen.

This blog is not dead. I guess that’s what I’m really trying to say here.

Now we know.

Some Working Notes on Bullying

There has been of late a new and popular campaign against bullying, and that’s laudable, but they are going about it the wrong way.

What follows are some working notes from what may become a longer work, but I dared some people on twitter to read my blog, so some of this is for them. Some of it is truly working notes.

I’m skipping the part where I establish my expertise. You’ll have to trust me: I have a lot of experience with this from both sides.

The current tendency is to target the bullies. While you won’t find me stopping you, that approach will never really work. You may stop some bullies, but more will always take their place.

Bullying as a social tactic is both easy and alarmingly effective, and therefore will always be popular. Bullying is not used so much to steal lunch money – though that surely happens – but to raise one’s status among one’s peers.

That works because we collectively let it work. We let it work because we tend to equate people who are difference as threats, and therefore confer status upon those who join us in suppressing them.

We are not wrong about this.

The trouble with weirdos is that you may not be able to guess with any safe level of certainty how they might react in any given situation. Given that the number one predator to human beings is other humans beings, this causes alarm at a primal level. Our history overflows with people attacking other people for no reason beyond perceived differences and tactical opportunity.

This attitude, of course, is at odds with our expressed desire to build a more just social society. While any useful remedy for the underlying psycho-social tension eludes us, it’s relatively easy to point out the big kid picking on the little kid and say “There! He’s the problem!”

So we bully the least of the bullies. Ok – that kid totally had it coming. But you are not likely to solve anything beyond that one incident. Hell, you have a better than even chance to make it worse.

In the 1970’s, when I learned to deal with bullies, I was taught we are responsible for our own emotions, specifically how we react to those emotions. Make no mistake, emotions are going to hit you. They are auto-triggered in the brain. But outside of some very specific adrenaline circumstances, we then choose what to do about them.

Let me distill the lesson I learned the hard way:

If you let the abuse affect your reactions, you are giving a bully more power over your life than he needs or deserves. Yelling or crying or other fits will only ever make it worse. Now you’ve validated the underlying premise – that you are weird and unpredictable and to be shunned.

I am also leery of counseling kids that they should always appeal to authority. Many times the worst bully in the classroom is the teacher. May times the worst bully at work is the boss.

You fight bullying with what you can control – which is you. Don’t take the bait when you’re the target. Don’t pile on if you’re a bystander. Oh- and don’t be the fucking bully.

This is easier written than done – for these are totally natural impulses. I’m over fifty, and I still struggle with this. But that’s the answer. Tolerance, kindness, understanding, just like in the Bible, or Sesame Street.
OK – housekeeping.

The week before last I made 4500 words – close but no cigar. I’m not going to list it out – you’re welcome.

This week I did even worse 3500 plus this blog. Some of that has been work. Some has just been a funk.

I have lost my super-powers.

I used to make a to-do list and it would all get done – somehow. The shortcomings above are matched all across my life.

I used to be impervious to bully bait , and here I wasted half the night getting pummeled on twitter- when I knew a hundred times better what the actual agenda was. As an explanation, not an excuse, I think the reality of living alone is catching up to me, now that the logistics of the separation are mostly settled.

My first impulse is to talk about these things with my wife but…And that, actually, has been the hardest part for me.

I have had many friends offer to listen if I needed to talk, and I appreciate their concern, but what  I’m really missing is the deeper context. Being near the boat once in a while is not the same as being in the boat every day. It’s the difference between “the noisy thingy”, and “ the ratchet on the forward portside railing that makes the disturbing clacking noise”.

There is no one left in my life that knows what I mean by the noisy thingy. And that has been the hardest adjustment to make.

Now we know.

Maybe I shouldn’t be left alone…

I have the house to myself for the first time in a month. Earl has gone back to Tucson to sort his life, and my daughter has gone back to NAU. I paid off a credit card with the meager profit from the house, and drank good whiskey to celebrate.

It’s only been 24 hours, but so far – it’s been good to be alone.

That’s pretty much the news.

From the Armadillo group we learned:

The EEOC has well written guidance about sexual harassment. No, seriously, they do.

Six years ago, when we came to EEOC as commissioners, we were struck by how many cases of sexual harassment EEOC continues to deal with every year. What was further striking to us were the number of complaints of harassment on every other basis protected under equal employment opportunity laws the Commission deals with today. We are deeply troubled by what we have seen during our tenure on the Commission.

With legal liability long ago established, with reputational harm from harassment well known, with an entire cottage industry of workplace compliance and training adopted and encouraged for 30 years, why does so much harassment persist and take place in so many of our workplaces? And, most important of all, what can be done to prevent it? After 30 years – is there something we’ve been missing?

Once you realize that the other gender(s) are of equal status to your own, the lines aren’t hard to puzzle out. It’s that first realization that seems to cause all the trouble.

It has been posited that 1070’s Des Moines, Iowa is the blandest  time/space coordinate possible.

 

ardan

None are so bland

But Google image searches for 19670’s Des Moines turn up weird shit:

 

afa-187788

Hulk Hogan, Donald Trump and Andre the Giant from back when they were all equally respectable.

And/or

Word count:

Last Monday’s WHWL? counts for 1000 words.

I wrote an interlude of Echoes (the sequel to One of 64) of about 1000 words about the Imperials, gianr silicone spheres what inhabit gas giants and used to rule the galaxy until they basically got tired of it.

I shared that at the same writer’s group where we talked about the EEOC and 1970’s Des Moines. 500 words.

I sketched and inked 4 panels of One of 64 – webcomic version(200 each =800 words).

I hand-wrote wrote another 750 words on Taliesin’s Last Apprentice, the sequel to Beanstalk and Beyond.

And whatever this word count is puts me comfortably over the limit. I’d say drinky time, but I have already started.

Now we know.