Wednesday, June 29, 2005

MIT Blog Survey and What I've Been Up to

Yes, I read about this on Leslie Turek's blog:

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

It was pretty painless - give it a shot.

I've been pretty quiet here, partially because the insomnia is pretty wretched just now, but, despite that, I've been making some progress on the novel. I'm around 90,000 words, and have been pounding away at a chapter that's been causing me grief for nearly a month.

We did go to Midwestcon last week, which was quiet and fun. We threw ourselves a "30 Years in Fandom" party on Friday night, and went to a very long fondue dinner on Sautrday night.

Friday, June 17, 2005

So Tired and Latest Novel News

Over the last 2 weeks or so, my insomnia has gone from bad to worse, and I'm averaging under 4 hours of sleep a night. Sleeping pills stopped working months ago, so I don't take them. So, since I'm usually up by 4:30 or so anyway. I decided to get dressed, leave the house by 5:30 and walk for at least an hour every morning. Since I live near a high school, I walk on the track. And I am not alone. There's usually at least 5 people, even first thing in the morning. One woman says she's often there by 3:30!
So my daily walking average is now up from about 1-2 miles per day, to 3-4 miles per day. And, when it was warmer, I swam for six days in a row. I've made an appointment to see my doctor and will try to have a sleep study done. While I've battled insomnia my whole life, usually it was more obviously stress-related. I'd have trouble going to sleep, but once I was asleep I tended to stay asleep until 5:30 or 6. Now, I tend to fall alseep pretty quickly, but once I wake up, and it's any later than 3am, I stay awake.

My novel-writing has suffered, but that was probably more due to visiting my folks for a few days and doing a lot of Interaction scheduling. Three weeks ago, I'd hit 71,000 words and was optmisitically predicting I'd be done soon. Now, I'm at about 79,000. I did some pruning, restructured the first chapter a little and, sadly, put some material I thought I was writing for the novel into a backstory file.

Yesterday, Michael Burstein was talking about readability software in his blog. I ran the Word tool buried under Spelling and Grammar. Results of my novel analysis.

I was particularly happy to find that the grade level for the pseudo-AP story very closely matched the grade level for business paper writing discovered by a recent study!

If you're interested in reading a little of the novel, please check

Sunday, June 05, 2005

You Can't Go Home Again, But You Can Visit

I'm currently visiting the town I grew up in. I moved there when I was 4, and moved away to go to college when I was 18. I haven't lived in the town in 30 years. West Boylston is a small Massachusetts town due north of Worcester. It's small and easy-to-miss, but if you've ever driven Route 12 north out of Worcester, you might have noticed it because of the Old Stone Church and the Wachusett Reservoir.

With a growing family, my parents moved four times during those 14 years. First, we lived in a ranch house on Pierce St., in a neighborhood where people' yards backed up against yours. Next, we lived in a Cape with a larger, more private back yard on Goodale St. Then, in '69, during my last week of sixth grade, we moved to a brand new Colonial with a small yard on the other side of town, on Shady Lane (beside the old Mixter School). Finally, we moved to one of the many split levels on Yorktown Road (less than a half mile from our house on Pierce St.). My folks and younger siblings lived there until the early '80s.

Pierce St. has changed shockingly little over the last 40 years. Our old house has been expanded some and has a garage. "Goodale St. has really changed," Dad said. "They're building a lot of new houses up that way." The Cape Code I lived in for most of the '60s had long ago morphed into a Colonial. I'd always approved of that change (not that anyone asked me, but I did!). However, as I drove down Goodale St. today, I was shocked to find that my woods were being torn down.

The first few years we lived on Goodale St., we had the run of the neighborhood. While we sometimes were warned about "strangers," people didn't overprogram and overwatch their kids they way so many parents do now. We were allowed to explore the woods (with a babysitter or parent at first, but, then, later, on our own). There was a dirt road, a picnic area and winding paths. The woods were quiet and green, with a variety of trees, ferns, and flowers. A brook babbled about a 1/4 mile down the dirt road, and a small wooden bridge made the crossing easy. The most dangerous thing in the woods was poison ivy, something I wasn't even allergic to during my childhood (something I more than made up for in my 20s).

I spent many, many hours in the woods, often alone about sometimes with others. We looked for animals, lightning bugs, space aliens, anything a bunch of active, imaginative kids would look for. We had adventures, we ate picnic lunches. I loved the woods. Towards the late '60s, a family built a house in the woods. I guess they owned some amount of the property further back, because, there were times when we just didn't feel welcome there anymore. We still went back that way anyway, but it wasn't quite the same.

And, today, an awful lot of the woods had been clearcut for housing. Part of me almost cried (and I'm really not all that sentimental), but part of me wanted to see if any of that old brook still existed. Maybe we could buy that piece of land and build a house over it. Though, at Massachusetts prices, we don't have enough to build much more than a shed these days...

After driving down Goodale St., I dropped my car back at my folks' apartment house and walked all over the center of town. They live near the reservoir, and I've down that part of the walk dozens of times when I've come back to visit. The water was amazingly glassy this morning, so I took many pictures of the Old Stone Church, the trees, the surrounding hills and their reflections in the water.

Then I headed up lower Goodale St. to Central St. Goodale St. School, where I went to third grade, had been torn down years before and replaced by a ballfield. The metal jungle gym where I'd gotten a concussion in fourth grade was gone ("How many fingers?" asked Mr. Duffy, helping me back to the nurse's office). The huge swings on the playground edge were still there. Right nere the end, on the school side, that's where we talked about the shooting of Robert Kennedy at the end of fifth grade.

Major Edwards Elementary School was at the other end of the playground, and I was there from 4-7 grade. It looks pretty much the same as it did 40 years ago, with really minor additions to the end of one wing and a huge sattelite dish.

The high school was just up the street from the elementary school. I hadn't realized how much the front had changed, or that the lion had been moved. The plaster lion was in bad shape (I took a photo of it, but brought the wrong USB cable so I can't upload it until I get home).

I walked back down Central Street all the way to the Congregational Church. It's still a shady, pleasant walk. The MeatMaster has been replaced by some other butcher shop, and there's an extraordinarly good-smelling bakery in that little plaza. The old Post Office moved out to Route 12 a number of years ago - a kitchen design center is in the old Post Office, surrounded by some surprisingly large trees.

When you visit your old home town, you have a tendency to drive through on quick visits. Take a few minutes and walk around. I was suprised to find some buildings had been added 15 years ago, but I never noticed them until I got out of the car and walked!

The Archangel Book Meme: Four Questions for Book Geeks

Origin point of this:

Total Number of Books Owned

Somewhere around 17,000, probably another 3,000 magazines. We're a long married couple, both of whom have been collecting books since the early '60s and we keep almost everything.

The collection is probably about 9,000 science fiction and fantasy (about 200 of which are autographed), 1,500 history, 4,000 general fiction, 1,000 biographies, 1,000 general non-fiction, 200 antique (including a first edition of Adventures of Baron von Munchausen and an early edition of Poe's short stories I inherited from my grandparents), 150 cookbooks.

We're actually getting rid of books - duplicates, stuff that's just old and not interesting - as we're running out of space and hope to be moving by the end of the year.

Last Book Bought

1776 by David McCullough (OK, actuallly Jim bought it, but I almost bought it...).

Last Book Read

Still reading Warriors of God, which is more interesting than Kingdom of Heaven (the movie that cribbed from it without giving credit).

Five Books That Mean a Lot to You

To Kill a Mockingbird. I read it when I was about 8 and have read it every few years since then. The amazing thing about this book is how you grow with it - things that sail over year head when you're little much so much more sense when you're older.

The Left Hand of Darkness. Wow. I read this when I was about 16 or 17 and was completely floored by it. A completely brilliant book.

Lord of the Rings. Ditto. I read this just after my 18th birthday, while I was taking a bus from Massachusetts to Ohio and back again visiting colleges. I remember reading about Mordor while I was on the bus going by oil tanks in New Jersey and that image has always stayed with me.

The Sparrow and Children of God. I read these books at a point when I wasn't reading much SF that was interesting me. These really interested me. Some of the most intelligent SF of the last 10 years.

American Gods. What an incredible combination of genres and ideas in the same book!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Mark Felt, American Hero

Even in the early '70s, when I was still something of a Nixon supporter, I couldn't hate Deep Throat. I have way too much respect for the truth to attack the truth-teller. Listening to the televised Watergate hearings in 1973 convinced me of Nixon's guilt. So I've always thought that Mark Felt was a hero. Now, look at the way Republican apologists are already complaining about his behavior. And it's sad that a few rather noisy, twisted individuals think Felt was more of a lawbreaker than Nixon, Haldeman and all their friends were!!

So, focusing on the Republican apologists rather than Felt and his family is fairly disgusting. And I think that NBC's Today Show went over the line with its "reporting" on Felt this morning, and here's what I wrote them:

Today Show Comment

I've been a loyal viewer of The Today Show for over 40 years, and I'm making the switch to Good Morning America. I was tired of the lack of real news stories on the Today Show, but the final straw for me was letting Republican apologists dominate the show the day after his identity as Deep Throat was revealed. By contrast, Good Morning America got Felt's lawyer. Sorry, that's more interesting news to me than a convicted criminal like Coulson, or a conservative propoagandist like Buchanan. Shame!

Laurie Mann
No Longer the World's Slowest Blog