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.

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.

The zombie corpse of Orpheus drifts farther away every year. 1/1/09

Twelve years ago I made a New Year’s Resolution that I would never make New Year’s Resolutions. I kept it ever since. The Holidays will be over soon, and honestly, I’m ready to get back to the Real Struggle without the artificial stress and expense that we create for ourselves every year.

You can develop tennis elbow from playing Wii. I know this because Santa brought that for Christmas. (If consumer spending is down – don’t blame us!)

The Wii baseball that comes with it frustrates me because its like grade-school kickball. No double plays, no sacrifices – runner only advance on real hits. Ah well, I still spned too much time on it.

Dark Roasted Blend interviewed Kenneth C Davis, who write the Don’t Know Much About ______ books, basically encyclopedias of random facts.

Current astrophysics holds that our moon was formed when the semi-mythical planet “Orpheus”, probably the original resident of the Sun’s 5th, but now vacant orbital slot between Mars and Jupiter, slammed into our planet billions of years ago. Bernard Foing writes about that in Astrobiology.

Good leaders – who know its not their turn – make great followers. Most of them are happy to only have to worry about the job in front of them for once.

Now you know

Time consuming exercises with no measurable guarantee of success [10/30/08]

Right now, I am doing what all freelance magazine writers do when they are not actually writing, or doing their day-job. I am waiting for sources to call me back. I could probably get this same information over the internet (or perhaps even from the library- I’m old school like that) but it is better to get it from a real person whom you perhaps could quote.

Research, like fishing, has no guarantee of success.

I went out to Lake Roosevelt Monday, looking for Bald Eagles catching fish.

I didn’t see any Bald eagles on Vineyard Trail last Monday. It’s a known nesting area, but it was hot, and eagles hate that as much as the rest of us. I did however, duscover that my Garmin Etrex GPS unit is completely caput. New batteries – no screen. This means it lasted about 45 good hikes. Happily I didn’t need it. Vineyard is a straight forward hike that I covered in my guidebook.

Did I mention I have a book coming out? I do.

I have tentatively replaced Bongo with Lizards.

But I have just learned that you can change a load of laundry and play – nay win! – a round of spider solitare before WordPress can be bothered to upload a photo, so I’ll update this to a Flickr site when I get to that point.

Time consuming exercises with no measurable guarantee of success brings us naturally to trying to publish fiction.

Consider this Epistle from the Slush-pile. The important numbers lie at the bottom. 65-70% of submissions are unreadable;95% are unpublishable. If you’ve written professionally competent fiction, you’re only competing with the top 5% in the pile – though that’s still a large number.

One last note:

There has never been a rain-shortened game in the World Series until this year. If you believe, as I do, that God reveals His will to mankind through baseball, then surely this is a call to repentance.

How then, will we change our lives in response to this vague but clearly ominous portent?

And still, my phone does not ring.

Now you know.

What suspends everything above our heads [9/22/08]

Today’s gig was going into a new church, and straightening out some lighting pipes that had been hung crookedly. Now, when we got into lifts and ladders and lifted the drop ceiling panels, we saw stupid things. But, you have to realize, these were hung several months ago, before there was a drop ceiling, or AC ducts, or even interior walls.

That meant a lot of guessing as to what would be level and/or straight, and they guessed wrong. It wasn’t crooked because the hardware was mounted improperly (although that didn’t help). It was crooked because the floor, the surface they must’ve measured from, was not level.

Correcting the height is no big deal, but there was one pipe we had to move, and to do that we needed to create a new place to hang it, where there was otherwise only AC duct. So we ordered some all-thread.

All-thread, to a certain but real extent, is what keeps western civilization – or at least its casula architecture – from falling down upon our heads. Look up in the ceiling in some large, public building,sometime. Anything heavier than you are is likely suspended by all-thread.

(It’s more properly called threaded rod, but everyone calls it all-thread.)

All thread is nothing more than a contnuously threaded metal rod, usually coming in 10′ lengths (in the US). Like a 10′ long bolt. That’s a bit too long for what we usually do, so we cut it. The trick is, cutting it almost always boogers the threads, so you can’t thread the nut – which defeats the purpose of getting all thread in the first place.

What I learned today is that you simply cannot make a clean cut through all-thread with a hand-held reciprocating saw. I’ve tried everything. Long ago I learned that carefully leveling and securing the rod before cutting it merely means it takes longer to booger the treads with the saw. And today, I dispelled (for myself at least) the myth that laboriously running to bolts to either side of the cut will help preserve the thread. It won’t. And your co-worker will merely sigh.

The only thing for it is to de-booger the threads with a metal file (the one on my Leatherman works great for this). Make sure you get this step done before you go in the ceiling. I can usually clean the thread enough to force a nut on within five minutes, even after my own hasty, sloppy saw cut.

Speaking of things held up with more faith than the skill involved probably merits, Cramer – yeah that Cramer – went on for the better part of his show about how you need to sell stocks and buy gold because the sky’s about to fall. You, in the late innings of a close game, Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa will change pitchers for almost every different batter. So there are a lot of commercials. So I watch whichever cable news show isn’t running a commercial right at that moment, and tonight it was Cramer. And he said the same thing every time. If the bail-out doen’t pass, it will be Great Depression II. Buy gold before it gets to $1000/oz.

Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon Lyon had two Cardinals in scoring position with no outs, and got a double play and a pop up to leave the inning with a 4-2 lead intact. Almost gives a man hope for the future.

Banking is like rigging. It’s gonna get fixed because it has to get fixed. The only questions are how long and how much.

Tomorrow, I’m getting up in the morning and going to work as if the paper economy is going to sort itself out, and walk under the ceiling as if the all-thread is rigged correctly. The Diamondbacks are back in the pennant race whether the banks seize up or not. So now its up to the lawyers and bankers to fix their mistakes.