Saturday, December 13, 2008

Prison and writing

There are many connections between being in prison and writing for a living. A few of them are good, most of them are not so good, but none of them are the things I'm going to talk about.

Some years ago, I was talking to my stepmother on the phone. I was near the end of a book at that time and I asked her if, as I suspected, she had noticed a stage in the writing of any book that I just became really grumpy with the project and had a hard time working on it, regardless of how much fun the book was and how much money I expected to make from it. She said, "Oh, yes!" and told me a story that I think will be interesting and educational for all of us in this silly business.

(Background: my stepmother was on the police force for 20 years. She was the first woman to graduate first in the class at the Tucson Police Academy and she worked her way up through the ranks to become one of the very few woman police chiefs for a major metro area in this country. I'm enormously proud of her.)

Elaine said that the worst point for escapes and attempted escapes is right before prisoners are due to be released. This has been recognized in incarceration for decades. This is because you've been incarcerated for however long and you can see the end in sight but it's not there yet and it really pisses you off.

What they generally do for prisoners as they get to be short-timers is put them in solitary and lock them up tight so they can't get out. This isn't really done out of any sense of charity for the prisoners, who don't appreciate being put in lockdown at all for some odd reasons. No, the jailers' idea is to prevent escapes because it looks bad on their records. But it's still the best thing you can do for the prisoners, too, who don't need to try to escape and get time added to their sentences.

Elaine said that this can and does happen as close as 2 weeks before release: The prisoners just hit the wall and they say to themselves "I'm due to get out of here and I can't take it any more!" She says that you can see that the end is in sight and you really resent the last effing bit!

Elaine went on to say that this is much the same with any major project. She went through much the same thing, she says, when she retired from the force a few years ago. As she was getting down to the last couple months of her 20, she was having more and more motivational problems with heading to work. However, she had structured it so she had enough vacation time to give her an escape hatch if she just couldn't deal with it, so she could phone in on vacation for her final 5-6 weeks if she needed to. :)

What can we learn from this?

1. Writers will always feel cranky right near the end of a project.

2. Possibly the best kindness an editor or publisher or manager can do for a writer is to tighten the thumbscrews and make sure they don't leave their desks as the deadline approaches.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Something from this time last year

For some reason, I found myself thinking about The Dungeon Master of Lord of the Rings last night. I sent it out a year ago via email to a bunch of people, but it bears repeating on the blog as well. This one takes a little explaining, so bear with me.

The author of DMLoTR has taken photos--lots of them--from "The Lord of the Rings" and redone it all as if it's a D&D campaign. If you haven't played D&D (or hung out with bunches of people who do), this probably won't be very funny. It may be a bit slow at first, but it picks up as you go along. There are a couple of running jokes, notably "Where's the loot?" and "I hate this campaign." There are wonderful comments by the author about DMing below many of the strips and a lot of the blog comments are very funny, too. This will suck up a couple hours to look through the WHOLE thing, but it's worth it.

If you just want a couple of examples of why I think this is so funny, try out these two pages:

There's a comment a while later in this strip (it's really kind of a running observation throughout) about the total lack of loot in the LotR campaign (true). The author in one of his bottom-of-the-page comments said "I can't add much to the stuff on sparse loot. The idea has become a sort of zombie joke at this point. It just keeps getting back up, no matter how dead it is. Sooner or later a cleric is going to cast turning on my loot jokes and half of my material will be obliterated in a blinding flash of holy, humorless light. I suppose the next joke needs to be Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas standing on a corner with a crude cardboard sign, 'Will fight Sauron for food.' "

And this one cracked me up for the best part of an hour and still makes me laugh whenever I reread it:

I simply cannot stop laughing about this one. Couldn't tell you why, but the timing on it's perfect.

Quick Friday notes

I've a ton of things to do today, but I did want to make a few comments:
  • My system is exhibiting a really shocking latency. Part of it may be the mouse that I'm using, which I think is on its way out, so that I can click on something and maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. I'll try a replacement for it soon and see if that fixes anything. But part of it is is just that Windows is taking this "Yeah, yeah, I'll get to it" attitude that I find unacceptable in any inanimate object I own. This also happens sometimes when I try to open a link from my email: I'll get a "This application is busy; do you want to retry?" message. Yer damn right I wanna retry; exactly what do you think you're doing if not listening to me? Having Windows go off into mumble mode is one of many really irritating things about it.
  • I'm wrapping up a zillion different things, which is pestiferous.
  • I made the mistake of installing a bunch of Windows updates yesterday. MS has gotten better about not throwing shit out on an unsuspecting market, but when the machine says "Okay, you need to restart to have all these take effect" and I say "No, do it later," I do not want the box to appear every 15-20 minutes saying "How 'bout now?" Particularly when the default is "Yes" and a stray spacebar will trigger the system shutdown with no saving throw. You know, guys, I've got the idea that I need to shut the system down and restart in order for my changes to take effect. Now piss off and let me work. If I wanted this kind of constant obnoxious reminder of my options getting in the way of what I'm trying to do, I'd be using a Mac.
  • I got the unkempt hair and beard trimmed heavily yesterday. I feel much better now without hair flopping all over everything.
  • The Babe comes home from the conference in Anaheim this evening. That'll be nice.
Okay, it's downstairs to whip up a fresh potta coffee and get to it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

World's stupidest laugh

I just saw this. It's a clip from "The Comedy Barn." Wade through the first couple minutes; it'll be worth it. (And stick around 'till the end; it's kinda fun what the schtick was that they were ending with.) The guy with the world's stupidest laugh is the one in the middle. According to the note from the man who submitted this, the man is the submitter's father and that is definitely his real laugh. How he reproduced is a wonder.


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Bernie and BC

I used to have a 21" monitor here in my office a few years ago. My old cat BC used to sleep on top of the monitor: it was warm, it was big, and it was comfortable. He'd stretch out on top of the monitor and sleep for hours. Paws would dangle over the edge every so often and once in a while I'd have to move a leg so I could see part of the screen.

Yang would do the same thing. His tummy was always a lot bigger than BC's and he'd tend to lap over the edges in some less-than-dignified ways. Once in a while, I'd have two cats curled up on the monitor at a time.
When I went to a flat-screen monitor about a year ago, Yang came into the office once, looked at the flat-screen monitor, and tried to leap on top of it. This had about the result you might expect. He was grumpy with me for a while for having made him look foolish.

Bernie the Fuzzball has never known a CRT monitor. He's spending his time curled up next to the keyboard or halfway on top of it. I'm hoping to get him used to the idea of being charmingly round and somnolent nearby on the desk and not blocking the keyboard or mouse as he seems to prefer. However, he has found a place: stretched out on me, purring, and generally contributing to the writing process.


Cookies and Anaheim

The Babe spent all Sunday baking four different kinds of cookies--fruitcake shortbread cookies, triple ginger molasses cookies (with fresh ginger, candied ginger, and powdered ginger), lemon ginger cookies, and pepper cookies--and a batch of chocolate pecan fudge.

We gave a lot of this away to the neighbors in gift plates, that being our intention from the start, and the Babe took a big tray in to her office for the judges and staff, but there is a disturbingly large tupperware container with leftovers. I think I've already had a full meal's equivalent of carbs this afternoon from nibbling on these things, which is not good for a diabetic who's hoping to do well on his blood sugar test next week.

Unfortunately, the Babe flew off to Anaheim to teach at a judges' conference this morning and she'll be gone until Friday, so it's me and my shabby excuse for willpower. Oy.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Almost out of paper!

Good heavens, the End Times must be near: I'm almost out of printer paper! I was about to start a print of the manual I'm wrapping up and the upper tray was empty and the big 500-sheet tray was almost empty. Might 's well fill 'em both up before starting a print, right?

I've got ~a~ ream of 8-1/2' x 11" left. One. Uno. And that huge stack of one-sided paper I'd been using for drafts that I keep in the upper tray? It's down to about 30 sheets. The box, she is empty.

Sonomagun! I think I need to go buy more printer paper soon. Fortunately, that one ream will keep me for a few days, but only just.



Sunday, December 07, 2008

Yule Cards

It's always a bit of a question whether or not I'll be getting out Yule cards. It's not a small deal, really: the mailing list is about 250 people, so it's a real operation to do so. But I'm thinking that we will be getting Yule letters & cards out this year, but they're going to go out the last week or so before the holiday. Getting everything done that I have to get done prior to getting cards out is going to be the gating factor in all of this.

So there will be something this year... just a bit late.