NaNoWriMo Retrospective

This November had so many issues that if it were a person, it would be waist-deep in therapy, hopped up on dubious psych meds, and answering a lot of kind-yet-probing questions from well-meaning-yet-irritating family and friends.  Despite this, I managed to pull out a National Novel Writing Month win by writing 12,000 words this past weekend while also finishing moving out of my old apartment.

Here are some of my NaNoWriMo highlights:

Accidentally naming a character “Feta.”

Yes, like the cheese. This came of fiddling around with random syllables to name characters in my fantasy world. It worked out in my favor because writing her name “Feta” eventually made something click in my head and I thought, “Ooh, what if she isn’t using her real name?” Thus, a sinister plotline was born.

BTW, in 2010, I accidentally named a character Sean Astin. Yes, like the actor.

Successfully writing a jump rope rhyme

Poetry ain’t my thing. Saying “ain’t” ain’t my thing either, because that felt awkward and self-conscious. I’ve always envied fantasy with Tolkien-esque rhymes and songs, so penning a creepy little jump rope rhyme for my fantasy world was a milestone for me.

The Coffee Crawl and Writing Marathon

Not only do I participate in the online aspect of NaNoWriMo, I also co-run events for my local region. This was our 4th annual writing marathon, a 12-hour event that we spend hopping between coffee shops and writing all the way in a state of gleeful, caffeinated madness.

Writing in my new office

November was also the month I moved to a bigger apartment. I now have an office, which was probably meant to be a mud room.

Soap opera conflict

For all the faults of soap operas, I can’t help but enjoy gloriously convoluted soap opera plots. Like: Stanley is marrying Nancy but he slept with her twin sister Valerie, only it was actually Nancy pretending to be Valerie because Sasha blackmailed her and meanwhile Dirk is embezzling money from Stanley’s brother, Cal, who has a secret in his lake house that Dr. Van Shrubbery discovers when he pays a house call to Nancy who only called him to make sure he wasn’t home so Barbette could search his files for evidence of Sasha’s secret younger brother who was adopted by a family in France and is looking for money but only so he can use it for revenge on Valerie, who went to France once and broke his heart.

I didn’t manage anywhere close to that level of soap opera conflict, but the much smaller dose I added to my novel was a lot of fun.

Paper, flip phones, and anvils

If someone prefers physical books to ebooks, don’t make them justify it.

If someone doesn’t have a smartphone, don’t make them justify it.

If someone doesn’t have internet access at home, don’t make them justify it.

If someone doesn’t have GPS and, to all appearances doesn’t need it, don’t make them justify it.

It doesn’t matter if they are poor, or old, or technologically illiterate, or made a choice that you don’t understand and don’t give a shit about. Don’t make them justify that they don’t own an item, just like you wouldn’t make them justify not owning designer jeans or not owning a home aquarium or not owning a BMW*.

Not having those things doesn’t mean someone doesn’t understand what they are or what they do. It doesn’t mean someone hates them. You don’t have to explain. You don’t have to evangelize. You don’t have to lay out the logic.

If someone enjoys activities in the physical world, things like:

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drawing and

painting and

games and

cooking and

running and swimming and climbing and popping bubble wrap and walking through their town and brewing beer and singing and short wave radio and collecting cool rocks and moonwalking in their socks and making puns and roasting coffee beans and inventing sentient toasters and blacksmithing and exploring and scrunching their toes in their wool socks.

Don’t tell them they have too much stuff, because real hobbies in the real world take up physical space and use stuff, and that stuff can’t be stored on a harddrive. Creating real things with real value in the real world uses stuff. Don’t make someone justify a love for tangible things. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying tactile sensations, and there’s nothing wrong with a screen either.

And especially don’t make them justify owning the stuff that facilitates the activities they love if you’re also going to make them justify not owning the technology you do. Because that’s making them justify not being you.


 

*Unless you do those things too. In which case, congratulations on being an odious caricature of a rich asshat.

Stealth, strategy, and sustenance: sneaking food into the movies

If there’s one thing I love more than sneakiness, it’s food. If there’s one thing I love more than food, it’s sneakiness. I had a hard time deciding which order food and sneakiness needed to be in for that last sentence.

Recently, a friend on facebook asked:

“What’s the best way to sneak a quarter of a pie into a movie theater? Y’know, hypothetically. Thinking hoodie pocket with a bag.”

My response was brief, but that’s only because it would have looked weird to write an enormous comment on this topic.

No, not topic.  Lifestyle.

Here are my strategies for sneaking food and beverage into places where I’m not supposed to have food and beverage.

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How many avocados can a priest, a rabbi, and a blonde sneak into a movie theater?

Bags and pockets

This is one area where women have an advantage. A lot of women have a “movie purse,” usually something big, blocky, and obvious. I’ve yet to see a movie theater check one of these bags, but why draw attention? Wedge or tear-drop shaped bags appear smaller than they are. My movie purse is a skull-patterned red sack with a top that tapers into a shoulder strap. I’d say it’s a chic shape for a bag, but honestly, I don’t have a damn clue.

One day in second grade, my friend Tom snuck tater tots into his pockets and brought them back to class. All the kids whispered about the tater tots with some combination of disgust, awe, and jealousy. Suffice it to say that I broadened my definition of pocket food that day.

Binders

Carrying around a fuck ton of office supplies nearly every where I go has taught me the utility of binders for hiding things. A large-spined binder would work well for smuggling bagged pie, and trust me, no one is going to be going through your binder to see if you’re hiding something. To most people, binder=boring.  They will assume you’re a film student, or writing a review, or someone so boring and so busy that they bring office work to the movies.

Zip-lock bags

Accessiblity is key. Once you get the food in, how will you eat it? If you’re in a darkened movie theater, you can basically go to town on a whole Thanksgiving dinner, and no one will care unless your gravy-slurping ways drown out the intensely whispered dialogue.*  With a zip-lock bag, you can eat food of any consistency, held at any angle.

And, no, I’ve never brought an entire Thanksgiving dinner to the movies.

What?

Was that a challenge?

Moxie

Not the cola.  You should only sneak that in somewhere if you enjoy the taste of earwax and death.  You can often go in boldly, with food or beverage in plain sight. Act casual. Show no sign you’re doing anything wrong. Don’t look around to see if anyone is looking at you. Most people aren’t paying attention and don’t give a shit. This is how I “snuck” coffee past my high school band teacher every single day without getting caught while my younger brother had his mug confiscated. I walked casually, and let the flow of students screen me from view.

Now, go forth.  To the movies, to the library, to school, to work.  To stores and to restaurants that sell one thing when you want to eat another.


*Does this bug anyone else? When something onscreen is really dramatic and important, the characters whisper. You know, so you can’t actually hear what’s going on in the damn movie. I’ve been watching for years to catch someone doing this in real life, and it never happens.

Christmas lies

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Softly glowing LIES.

Over the past month and a half, three separate people have told me that Christmas is on Friday this year. Two of them even talked to me at length about the benefits of a Friday Christmas, namely a weekend off instead of a miserable return to work, and plenty of luxuriating in gluttony and presents.

Naturally, I was excited. I don’t get vacation days, and I’ve had to go in to work on December 26th every year since 2011. And that really put a damper on Christmas itself, by essentially turning it into a Sunday, the most off-putting off all the weekend days.

You know this is going to end badly, right?

I spent a month in a glorious state of an assumed Friday Christmas. In my daydream, I would awaken and spoil my appetite for breakfast by munching on stocking candy, stay in my pajamas until 1pm, and spend most of the day playing with my new Legos (someone get me Legos, ok?).

A couple days ago, I mentioned to my boss that the December schedule he printed was wrong, because Christmas was on a Friday this year.

Finally, I checked a calendar for myself.

Yeah.

Guess I’ll have fun playing with my Legos on some crappy day like December 27th, if I even receive Legos on a Thursday Christmas.

There is a moral to this story, if it can even be called a story. Maybe it’s more of a grievance, or perhaps a saga. Actually, there are two morals.

One: spreading rumors and lies can hurt people. More than anything that ever happened to you in high school, more than any shit anyone ever posted about you on Livejournal, this story/grievance/saga really illustrates that.

Two: If you don’t trust other people’s medical advice without doing your own research, don’t trust them to tell you when Christmas is. No one would assume that three separate people would be wrong about something so non-contentious and easily verified, but apparently it does happen.

And a third moral: think very hard before you purchase your name as a domain name. Do you think that your own father is the type of person who woud lie to you about Christmas? And that, if he did, you would want to legally change your name and cut all ties because you can’t decide what hurts more: the Christmas misinformation, or the lies.


 

Note 1: Did you know that Black Friday is now an entire season? Black Friday deals starting in late October? I feel like I don’t even need to rant about that. It speaks for itself.

Note 2: I’m turning thirty in six months, which you would probably not guess from basically any aspect of this post.

Dungeons & Dragons & Depression

Excluding my flower inspiration message, it’s been three weeks since my last post. One might think that I haven’t had anything to say, that nothing noteworthy has happened in my life or crossed my attention for the last several weeks. The opposite is true. As of this writing, I have 49 post ideas in a file, with 20 posts already started, some even mostly completed, that I haven’t bothered to upload.

Depression saps energy, takes up a lot of mind space, and is also damn boring. Medication has its uses, but comes with its own set of issues. Coping without medication involves frequent exercise, activity schedules, journal-keeping, and doing CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) exercises. All of which have been proven effective, and take a buttload of time to complete.

I’ve found that if there’s one thing more difficult than fighting against depressive lethargy, it’s prioritizing the time I have left to me. There are a lot of things I want to do with the remaining time in my day: back exercises; write blog; write novel; write current short story; edit other short story; work on assignments for How to Think Sideways; learn more about graphic design; learn more about locksmithing; do vision exercises; learn more about current events, electricity, meteorology, geology, and car repair so I don’t have to be embarrassed when these subjects come up; go on adventures; practice drawing; search for new job; search for new apartment; research yurts instead of searching for apartments; and practice drawing.

In other words, it’s the same dilemma I run into when I make a Dungeons and Dragons character. More often that not, I play skill based characters, like rogues and bards. Choosing between the many skills is both annoying and difficult. And for every single skill on the character sheet, I can come up with some kind of excuse for why I need that skill.

What good is Hide if you can’t hack your Move Silently check? Points to both!

Handle Animal? If we run into an animal, this will be so useful.

Bluff? Well, what if I have to lie to an animal? And if it has the same number of points as Diplomacy, I don’t have to worry if I’m lying or telling the truth!

Use rope? I’ve absolutely got to be able to use a rope. Every nerd remembers how important Samwise thought it was to have rope. But what good is it if it just sits limp in my hands because I can’t fathom the deep mysteries of how to operate it?

Disguise is a particular weak spot for me. I always imagine that putting points into disguise will result in something like this:

When in fact I don’t tend to find a lot of opportunities for Disguise at all.

And on, and on. Every single skill has some kind of useful appeal, except Listen and Spot, which are generally ignored by the bulk of my group. The end result is a character who has two points in everything except Listen and Spot, and consequently, never does anything because someone else in the party specialized in whatever skill check is needed, and is the more logical choice to make the check.

I’m sure by now you think you know what direction I’m going with this fairly obvious analogy*, but you’re wrong. I’m not going to compare the minutes in the day with a character’s allotted number of skill points, or state with flashing lights-obvious double meaning that true strength of character comes from prioritizing, choosing what is truly important over what is simply nice to have.

No.

Here’s my take-away from all this soul-searching and blogulating and youtube video-seeking: Put all your damn points in Disguise. In D&D and in real life.

But of course, you’ll need a few in Bluff also, so you can speak in disguise. And Diplomacy, in case you have to tell the truth. And Escape Artist, in case you get locked up anyway by the guy who was the sheep.


 

*Because you’re crafty, and you put due skill points into Knowledge: Obvious Analogies that Show up on Blogs.

Flower inspiration message

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Today I had a wonderful morning, and went into the afternoon with high hopes.  And what do high hopes lead to?  Disappointment. I was going to post this as a facebook status, but the stark naked words looked kind of dramatic.  Hence, I have turned my grumpy sentiment of the… Continue reading