Archive for July, 2007

Spontaneous Contest – Best Weird Post Headline for 07.31.2007

July 31, 2007

It’s a brand new feature here at Tap: the Spontaneous Contest. Here’s how the Spontaneous Contest works:

Step 1 – Create contest

Step 2 – Select unwitting winner

Step 3 – Post link

And the winner of the inaugural Tap: Spontaneous Contest – Best Weird Post Headline is:

Odd Uses for Tea Bags

From a favorite blog of mine, the Frugal Duchess.

Judge’s comments:

Majority judge (Me): This headline is exemplary in its traffic attracting intrigue. C’mon, it’s the alpha and omega of mystery and steeped beverage infusion technique. Hands down winner. Minnie Driver’s Ex Inspires Her New Album from People online isn’t even in the same league.
Dissenting judge (Kimble): Needs a number, like 10. At least more than 4. I need to know how many odd uses there are. I’m not going to stop by to read about 4 odd uses. Especially if I decide one isnt’ odd at all. I need at least five solid odd uses for teabags to really grab my eyeballs.


Gerard Beirne knows what I’m talking about

July 30, 2007

It’s like there is a little voice in my head and he has a blog. His name is Gerard Beirne, and there is a whole host of reasons to like him. He wrote a book, Sightings of Bono, about my own personal superhero, Paul David Hewson – yes, that Paul Hewson, born May 10, 1960, who is better known as Bono. I’m a bit of a Bono fan (ask my college roommates. They thought I was freakishly obsessed; I thought it more of a guy love). His book has been optioned to be a movie WITH BONO. He probably has even met Bono. Bono, if you happen to catch this post, I’d appreciate a blurb for the book. A blurb in tandem with Gerard would be wicked excellent.

What’s more, Mr. Beirne has a MFA from Eastern Washington University, in Cheney (no relation to the V.P. Or is there?) Washington, the recent host (not this year) of the Seattle Seahawks (I am the 12th Man) training camp and my brother-in-law’s alma mater. I mean, c’mon, how much cooler could this guy be? But then he drops the sweet piece of writing insight in a recent post at Dear Dead Beat,

“When it becomes hard to move characters towards the end point it usually means that the plot has not emerged fully – the sequence of events driving the narrative from start to finish has faltered somewhere – i.e. the events are not entirely present, or the wrong events have presented themselves. “

Obviously – as you can tell from my rambling posts – more together, cohesive, and direct than I, Gerard puts what I was experiencing with my characters in a nutshell. He follows up with:

“Remember good old Chandler – when the plot flags, bring out a man with a gun. “

His expert advice dovetailed nicely with Janet’s “write something so outrageous, the characters would have to rebel.”

It’s all coming together.

62 days remaining (1477:22:32)

Fool’s Onion, Mt Baker Winery, and 912 words

July 29, 2007

What an exceptional evening. Dinner was great. My apologies to the owners and staff at the Fool’s Onion [Edit: man I have trouble with the name of that restaurant. It’s not Foolish Onion. It’s Fool’s Onion. Really.  ] in Fairhaven, I really thought the name of the restaurant was the Bloomin’ Onion. Sadly, I’m not the only one who is mistaken. Anniversary dinner was excellent. I’ve never had a less than exceptional dish at the Foolish Onion. The Mt. Baker Mad Angie was a delicious little white with a pleasant green apple crispness, yet surprisingly mellow finish. I’m not sure how they pull that off. Janet and I had a wonderful meal and got reacquainted. Being parents of two glorious children under the age of 4 requires a divide and conquer style of parenting – at least for us. So we really don’t see much of each other except in passing.

I told her how the story had become…frustrating isn’t the right way to put it, but along those lines. More difficult maybe. She suggested writing something so outrageous, the characters would have to rebel. Very Six Characters in Search of an Author. It was a neat twist. Here’s the result: Willie is pissed at the Sheriff Deacon Chisley. I’d had this idea Willie would pull an outrageous act and try to pin it on Chisley. Trouble was, it was a thin set up. Taking Janet’s advice, it occurred to me that if the set up is as thin as it is, what would be the consequence if it unraveled? 912 words in 1 1/2 hours was the consequence, thank you very much. Oh, and I’m not sure Willie survived.

63 days remaining (1499:22:39)

Happy 6th anniversary, most excellent wife

July 28, 2007

Today is our 6th wedding anniversary. We’ve been together for 8 years, I knew I was hooked after a week. My wife was a third grade school teacher in Issaquah, Washington before we moved. She’s really good at it and an excellent mother for our two children. Because of her, I am a better man. Eventually she’ll come to her senses.

What’s more, she’s totally into me writing this book.  On that note:

Still slipping – the art of not writing a book

Aw, heck. We got our big project out the door last night. It’s in second beta now. So I won’t need to spend all my time programming and learning about programming and slinging code. Hallelujah.

Last evening we watched the other half of the Alfie Kohn lecture at Stanford University. Turns out J. and I are not doing too terribly on the Kohn scale of just parenting. Slept much easier last night than I did the night we watched the first half of the lecture.

We talked for a long time about child plans. Rather than write, I went into our son’s room and sat in the chair and watched him sleep.

So between big project, Alfie Kohn, and our anniversary, I’m a little further behind than I expected. I’m also curious where the story is going next. The moonshine/ethanol turned out to be more of a plot warp than a wrinkle. Now that they have fuel, why wouldn’t they use it? And if they can use it, why have they stayed put for so long? I think I’ve solved these plausibly, but they do represent a crack that is worth exploring, rather than glossing over.  Think good thoughts for me.

That’s my time for today. Time to go pay attention to the family.

64 days remaining (1522:448:22)

Power cords blow

July 25, 2007

The wireless router died last week at home. OK, let’s try that sentence again. Back in three, two…

Last week, I lost my internet connection at home because our wireless router died. The router is fine. The 5.0v power cord kicked the AC/DC bucket. Here’ s the scam, the power cord from our router-router (our non-wireless router) is a 5.0v, but a different size. $43 later, we have an internet connection again. That’s not the reason why I’ve not been able to keep to my debut novel manuscript nightly word quota. You see, I’m not a programmer, but I play one at work. I’ve got this crazy project going out at the same time another crazy project is going out, while another crazy project is starting.

Long/short: business for the company (17 people including principals and me) has doubled – upwards of $5 million (estimated) for the year, and we’re booked into October 2008 (if ever there was a moment I’ve wanted to capitalize numbers, that was just it). Ooh, I’ll try a bold tag <b></b>. (Yeah, I know I’m a codeslinger dressed as an ultra hip writer guy. As Toy Story Woody would say, “If the boot fits.”) 2008 (nice), but we have not doubled our staff…wait, I feel a math visual analogy coming. I’m unstoppable.

Work load(2) + 0 New staff = Pete’s slinging code!

Truth be told, I really enjoy it. It’s fun because it’s a puzzle. I work with some awesomely talented and patient developers who are buried with work, so I’m happy to help out. It’s just I don’t know many timesaving tricks.

Case in point, this afternoon I was pulling my hair out trying to plug a list into a table. Throwing down a little <ul></ul> here; a little <li></li> there, you know, noob stuff. Since a page of code makes me go cross-eyed, it’d been about an hour and I’d slammed out three <td></td>s full of some pretty sweet three item lists.

That’s when it happens, code sensei Matt comes over to my coding dojo workstation to check in on my HTML chi. Then he pulled an HTML 4.0 sweep of the leg.

“Dude, just drop in a <br> and hit it with a / before the arrowy-looking thing.” (Or something like that.) I was like pwned and roflmao and several other instant messaging memes. “OMG,” I said, “CUL8R.” Then I stuck my head in the lunchroom freezer until the office was empty.

Thanks for stopping by.

67 days remaining (1856:09:28)

Off track, Alfie Kohn, and a 2100 word deficit

July 15, 2007

Fell off track this weekend. It’s going to happen from time to time. Yard work, in-laws, and, tonight, Alfie Kohn. He’s written a book called Unconditional Parenting. I’ve not read it, my wife has, and she and our two children are in a class exploring his ideas. Janet checked out a DVD of a lecture he gave at Stanford University. It was my introduction to Mr. Kohn. For the most part, I agree with his postulations. His ideas are exasperating. Here’s why, he’s really good at telling what not to do. That’s it. Unlike if someone were to tell you all the things you shouldn’t eat, you could pretty much figure out other things to eat. Unfortunately, my parental skills are not as widely developed as my palate and diet, so when you tell me something is off the menu (specifically, removing consequences – we don’t do time outs or spanking, that’s not our bag – more along the lines of “well, when you stomped on it, it broke.” Ergo, the consequence of the stomp is the ex-ness of the item stomped. I’m not buying another one. Anyway…) I need to know what to replace it with.

So the book took a necessary back seat to fine parenting. Janet and I had a great chat. Now, rather than work, I wrote a post. The consequence is another 729 words compounded across the next 76 days. Three days in a row, and I’ve got some catching up to do.

77 days remaining. (1825 :10:31)

Inciting moment: Roland Deschain’s gunbelt, 54 Express, and a construction site

July 13, 2007

Hey, I just finished Bad Luck and Trouble, by Lee Child. I dig Jack Reacher. Still my favorite is Without Fail. It will always be hard to beat. Followed closely by Killing Floor, and Echo Burning. I read Tripwire and Running Blind this spring, evidentially in reverse order. It’s funny the book that introduced me to the Reacher series, and the crowbar in the field moment that made me a lifelong fan, The Enemy, was essentially a flashback. The memory of the crowbar moment is so vivid, I was reading on the same couch I’m sitting on now, except the couch resided at the time with my wife and our daughter in West Seattle. It was late fall. Janet was putting Reese to bed, and from the sound of things, it wasn’t going well. I remember feeling a little selfish, but could not put the book down.

The recollection got me to thinking about my own inciting moment for my manuscript, working title, Strain.

It was a July morning in 2004. I was riding the 54 Express from West Seattle into Downtown to my regular gig as a freelance writer for an up and coming – and they’ll arrive any day now – agency.

I was reading Stephen King’s, The Dark Tower; the scene where the protagonist, Roland Deschain, is gunning down the entire town of people – a pile of bodies – with a pair of six-shooters. And I got to wondering: where’d he get all the bullets?

I appreciate the suspension of disbelief. It’s a major component of any good story – the contract between artist and audience – the promise that the audience can trust the storyteller. So I was on board with the bullets, the mythic training, the epic quest. Still, as the bus slowed for my stop, I was left feeling like I’d stepped into a Schwarzenegger movie, were the ammunition is plentiful and guns never jam.

The 54 makes limited stops (at least, it did) between West Seattle and 1st Ave. in Downtown. My stop was the second Downtown across from Pike Place Market. I’d walk up Pine towards Fifth Ave. As I walked, I was caught in a reverie: if the crap hit the fan and I was stranded like Roland, what weapon would I choose?

As Dark Tower series readers will know, Roland does become concerned about his stores of ammunition. Still, he’d gunned down an entire town with a single belt of bullets. I mean, c’mon.

So I was thinking about guns and calibers and whatnot. I was thinking about the quick draw, the reload, and the supply. I arrived at the question: if all the bullets were gone, and you needed a single handed projectile (yup, it sounded just like that in my head. It’s the years of D&D (Dungeons & Dragons for the high school popular people audience members) immersion) **a pause to reflect and respect the double parenthetical** what would be a common, reliable, accessible projectile weapon?

My answer: a nail.

Specifically a 50p framing spike. From my summers of construction in Columbus, Ohio, I’d farted around with plenty of framing spikes. During lunch breaks, we’d lean a piece Styrofoam against our truck and throw nails at it. Not pub darts style, more like a carnival knife throwers act.

So…I’m running out of steam. I’ll edit this to completion in the morning…

Oh, here’s a side-by-side comparison of two social networking profiles for you to consider:

Rachel Wiggins meet Jack Reacher

July 7, 2007

So I met Rachel Wiggins on the Fourth of July and now I can’t get her out of my head.

[UPDATE: At this point do I need to put a disclaimer that these are characters of fiction and any resemblance or likeness to actual persons real or dead is entirely coincidental? Well if I do, they are.]

Rachel was originally a male and an empty suit character. I was uninterested in writing the empty suit dude, and decided to make it more interesting for me and, hopefully, for an audience. Enter Rachel Wiggins. I’m glad she was lurking about.

Here’s the situation: I’d run into a scene that lagged, which (I hoped) could be improved if made more challenging. The good Dr. Truman Kristopherson needs to make contact with an unsavory counterpart. Easy–too easy. It read that way, too. So, I thought I could throw a wrench into the plan by putting a tail on him. Thing is Tru previously proved to be clever and evasive. So just dropping a tail on the good doctor, and allowing the tail to keep pace with him, diminished his capability. I’m not looking for convenient, I want to keep the reader engaged. Therefore, the tail needed to be clever, too. And pretty flippin’ smart.

Hello Rachel. She’s smart like the Numbers brother guy, but not the Dr. Fleishman guy. The fictional Rachel Wiggins (not the goal scoring soccer phenom from George Mason. She’s a starting forward with 17 goals in three seasons and probably in the middle of two-a-day practices right now. Go Pats) is plain of appearance, like a substitute barista. And she’s got a chip on her shoulder. Like one of the boys from my youth that was shorter than most and would beat you with his shoe if you were foolish enough to say so.

What’s more – and best of all – she’s quirky. As I’ve discovered, she loves new carpet. I can’t wait to see what else she does. She’s the perfect foil for Willie Ortiz. A wild card I can rely on to stir things up just as my interest in a situation is waning.

Oh, and Jack Reacher? I just picked up Lee Child’s new Bad Luck and Trouble today. I’m hoping it won’t effect my daily word count too terribly.

And Lee, you know this, I tell after each new read, Jack Reacher is the coolest thing since Indiana Jones.

15 minutes. I’m out.

85 days remaining (2027:07:56)