July 31, 2009

how should I follow blogs now?

My online friends may have noticed that I haven't been commenting on your blogs much lately. Three things have conspired against me:

  • Work is crazy. Normally I'm a huge proponent of work-life balance, and in reality I still don't put in as many hours at work today as I did during the startup culture days of Geoworks when I was a 20-something. But they're intense hours, and work is actually terrific--love the job, love the people I work with and work for--and I have this truly huge project that could be something really special in my career. So there's that.
  • Jason Evans picked July for his contest. Writing the flash piece for the contest (yay me, a reader's choice second place finish sandwiched between the incomparable JaneyV and the illustrious Chris E!) was fun. So was reading and commenting on all 158 freakin' entries. But man, that takes time.
  • The IT folks at work decided to block netvibes through the firewall.
OK, that third one I can understand because I assume netvibes is a bandwidth hog. But it's meant that I no longer get notifications when friends post. So the question for all of you is:

If my company starts blocking feed reader sites, how should I follow your blogs? Is blogger's "follow" feature actually useful? Is there another feed reader I should try? Should I write it all down on a yellow pad?

Looking for your advice here, folks. Unless of course you are hoping I stay away from now on. Which I wouldn't blame you for.

July 29, 2009

haiku wednesday - July 29, 2009

This week's words are

How could I go a full week without even noticing it pass by? The last seven days have been wild. Camping in the Sierras, two presentations to 1,000 people each time, travel across three time zones. And I am chagrined that not only have I failed to visit all y'all in two weeks, but I don't believe I even replied to last week's comments. (I do read them, every one!)

east glows, stars weaken
we patronize coffee shops
darkness dissipates

stocks, markets weaken
darkness, famine, falling sky!
patronize the mall!

sleepless, cold darkness
your words weaken at morning
don't patronize me

July 23, 2009

haiku wednesday - July 22, 2009 special Thursday edition

This week's words are

Not only was I too busy last week to make the 3WW rounds, but I was so busy I never had a chance to post yesterday for this week's 3WW. I am, at least, rectifying that. Do I get to consider my streak still alive, or do I have to join #3wwfail?

snare the perfect guy
new cradle--no honeymoon
wed by Pa's shotgun

old snare, upside-down
taken from new mom's drum set
makes perfect cradle

clouds snare sunlight
spread colors in perfect arc
crdle in the mist

July 21, 2009

Wachovia tower Charlotte

Just finished a long day of meetings. I'm first on tomorrow's agenda, but it's a gorgeous night and I may have to take a walk...

Did I mention that while I am working away in my hotel room, putting together my presentation for the morning meetings, my wife & kids are attending the No Doubt concert back home, gratis, courtesy of our good friend Lola?

Yeah, I'm jealous.

July 20, 2009

SFWC Anthology Now Available

The San Francisco Writers Conference anthology, which includes the brilliant, ground-breaking, and breathtaking short story called "35 Across" by yours truly, is now available in both print and e-book. (I don't know where to get the ebook). I'm not going to tell you go rush right out and buy it today. I trust you all to do the right thing.

What I find funny is that my contributor copy has not yet arrived in the mail; I only got notification that the book was available on Friday night. Yet Amazon shows there's already one used copy for sale. Even odder: The used copy costs twice as much as the new copies. I guess they're still working out the kinks in this online book market.

July 16, 2009

post #700 - do you print your blog?

A dear friend of mine is in the genealogy business. She seems to do a lot of historical research and speaking (though I'm unclear on the revenue part of this gig). She recently raised a question for bloggers: Do you ever print your blog, just to have a "permanent" archive?

As this is my blog's 700th post (and I'm less than a month from my five-year blogiversary), the topic seems timely.

I always thought printing a blog would be missing the point. Won't Blogger be around for ever? Can't I export the file to XML and put it on a CD? Save trees!

But what if the unthinkable happens, and Blogger goes away one day? What if my archive CD gets scratched or simply degrades, as CDs are wont to do over time? Or what if formats pass us by, and my archive CD is no longer readable by new technology?

I wrote a story, I think it was a pretty good one, in college. I used my girlfriend's Mac, which was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. It was one of the originals (later to be renamed "Mac Classic"), way cooler than my Apple ][+. So anyway, I saved my story to a 3.5" floppy disk. I still have that disk, but I no longer have any disk drives. And I never printed the story. Lost? Maybe, maybe not. Worth the work and expense to recover? Maybe, maybe not.

At some point, CD drives will be replaced by something cooler. Nanotechnology is already producing some wild stuff. You'll get the cool new thing, then for a while you'll forget to migrate all your archived work, and one day you'll find you no longer have any equipment that can read your archive CDs that are stored in the garage, behind the carton of photos from the 1980s that you've been meaning to scrapbook.

But printed matter is always human-readable.

So what do you think? Should we periodically take our whole blog and lulu.com it into a type of journal? It would only be a few bucks; it would only take up a few inches of bookshelf space. But it would be permanent (barring flood, fire, etc.). Future anthropologists, biographers, and whatever it is my friend does would thank us. Maybe.

July 15, 2009

haiku wednesday - July 15, 2009

This week's words are

Although I didn't have a very difficult time with the words this week, "sulk" was a reluctant participant. Plus, that's one of those words that sounds funny if you say it a lot. Sulk. Sulk. Sulk. sulk sulk sulk sulk. See? (Aloof is also one of those words.)

high clouds sulk, aloof
hypnotic waves smooth lake's sand
tears drip from willow

your wine-sulk bores me
hypnotic gyrations lure
I melt, drip in pools

it's hypnotic--gross!
that drip hanging from your nose
is your sulk done yet?

July 12, 2009

Clarity of Night Contest Entry

UPDATE: My entry is posted as #97. So many, many of my friends are also entering! And, although I've only made it through five entries so far, the quality does not disappoint.

Jason Evans is once again running a short fiction contest on his blog, The Clarity of Night. All entries must be no more than 250 words, in any genre or style, somehow inspired by or relating to the theme of "In Vino Veritas (Truth in Wine)" (see accompanying photo, taken by Jason Evans).

I'm sure he'll get well over 150 entries for this contest, so be sure to get yours in no later than July 15th, 2009. (Full rules at the link.) Also, his contests typically generate some really terrific writing--from high quality to high entertainment--so be sure to visit Jason's blog and read the entries. Already there are more than 80 posted.

Below is my entry into the contest. Although I like it for the most part, I think I was trying to do too much in just 250 words.

Judgment Day

The younger vines below stand like gnarly Jesuses, wired to their posts, monuments to the dozens whose blood soaked this soil under the roar of his machine gun. I puff my way up the dirt path to his plain farmhouse dug into the hillside. My leg aches as if his German bullet were still lodged in the bone, these fifty years later.

Sweating, I arrive at the faded green door surrounded by once-white trim, brittle with age. As I lean to knock, the door swings inward. My heart races. My leg throbs.

"Bonjour," he says. His weathered face is furrowed with timeless grief. His crooked hand is worn hard and smooth. His eyes, however, have softened. No longer the cold, leaden discs of my nightmares, they are now clouded and wet. "Come in. Please."

He ushers me in, seats me, pours. "I’ve been saving this." The label's thick script reads, Sang du TombĂ©, blood of the fallen. "It's the last of my very first vintage. His voice dies, leaving the final word lingering, and he lowers his face to his hands.

As he sobs, I exhume the small vial of arsenic from my pocket and open it. He looks up, into my eyes. I can see that if I pour it into his wine, he will drink. "I've been saving this," I say, and I set the vial next to the bottle. I rise and depart, leaving him alone with his regret and his decision.

July 10, 2009

coaching myself

My wife would say I watch a lot of soccer on TV. But the first 25 minutes was all I could stomach of last night's Mexico vs Panama game in the Gold Cup.

The game was important for both teams; the loser would be in a bad position for advancing to the knockout stage. In addition, Mexico are under serious pressure to display some quality after poor showings in recent tournaments and falling to 4th in their six-team world cup qualifying group. I sat down with my DVR and high expectations for an interesting and spirited game.

What I saw, though, was more like a couple of preschoolers fighting over toys. Early on, the Mexican captain was booked for impertinence when he needlessly carried the ball away from the site of a foul, then flipped it over the heads of the Panama players. I say kudos to the Ref for showing him the yellow card. The next ten minutes was filled with players from both sides--mostly the Mexicans--whining at the ref and arguing every whistle (and most non-whistles), asking for bookings, and collapsing in indignant heaps of fake agony.

There were a few moments of very good soccer, but they were hard to pick out amid all the preschooler behavior.

And it's the lack of that kind of thing (in general) that I like about the American team. They'll complain about calls occasionally--every player does from time to time--but unless something is truly outrageous, they let it go and focus on playing the game. There's a respect for the game, the honest effort, that kind of behavior shows. The opposite, as demonstrated by Mexico and Panama, illustrates a lack of respect and a selfish petulance that is unbecoming.

I think about things like this a lot because I take my role as a youth coach very seriously. I love the game of soccer--very few games are simpler or more elegant when played well, and it's the ultimate accessible game. You don't need to be 6 foot 10 or 300 pounds to do well. You don't need a 3.4 time in the 40. When I coach kids, I want them to love it, too. But to love something is also to respect it, and to honor it.

I ranted here last year about a game my kids played. The opposing coach taught them to play dirty in order to win. Their dirty play sucked the fun out of the game, which they won. When we beat them in the tournament rematch, it wasn't so much fun as gratifying revenge. We lost the tournament final to a good, well-coached team. That loss was far more fun than our win over the dirty team. I think that's true both as a coach and as a player.

Twelve years ago, I joined an over-30 league after not playing since I was 12. I look back now and realize how frequently I whined about bad refereeing my first few years in the league. I understand the passion of the moment that underlies such bad behavior, but I've overcome that now (for the most part). Coaching helped me see my own behavior on the field and modify it. Even though the kids on my team never watch me play, I still feel I should model the behavior I'm trying to coach.

July 8, 2009

haiku wednesday - July 8, 2009

This week's words are

Happy 19th wedding anniversary to my wife. No, not apropos to 3WW exactly, but I figured I should say it.

hypocrites, we kneel
transparent priest prays for us
gloom of man-made church

your voice lights my gloom
thick walls dissolve, transparent
come, kneel next to me

kneel before you? ha!
your gloom and doom are all lies
transparent clothes, gone

July 6, 2009

learning through play

Every parent knows peer pressure.  It overwhelms us, drives us to irrational and often self-destructive behavior.  Like limiting our children to 30 minutes of "screen time" each day.

We have friends (some of whom may be reading this now) who allow their children 30 minutes of screen time a week.  Screen time includes video games, computer games, and even TV.  I believe exemptions are made for computer (homework) and TV (family movies).  Most families we know, including us, allow 30 minutes a day.  We give an hour on weekends.

Most screen time involves Wii FPS games, Wii "Brawl," or Spore on the computer.  But how much is really too much?  My kids have begun making a low-budget movie.  Their equipment is a 6-year-old digital camera with an MPG feature, plus whatever they can turn into costumes and props.  The most successful prop appears to be the garage door, which they film closing when they want to illustrate that the main character has been locked away in a prison camp cell.  They have a plot, but they take turns being the main character and there's not much dialog besides "oh, I've been shot" and such.  This makes the whole thing a little difficult to follow.

BUT today they discovered how to get the files onto the new MacBook and play with them in iMovie.  Ethan is cutting out bits and splicing the segments together.  He already knows how to add background music and sound effects.  Sam, who just turned 10, is actually quite a good cameraman and is learning iMovie and GarageBand, too.

Does this count as "screen time"?  They're creating.  They're learning.  They're developing skills that I think will help them achieve more in the future.  They're honing their ability to think creatively, to identify improvements and try again.  Their work allows us to talk about the craft of storytelling, the craft of moviemaking, even money management.

But they're still huddled over a screen inside during summer vacation for much of the day.

I suppose it's really about balance.  Time spent filming is time outdoors, imagining and playing.  Time not on the computer is time spent reading or playing games.  (The one thing they DON'T do is chores.  Of any kind.  At any time.)  Really it shouldn't be about time in front of the screen.  It should be about time spent in mindless play as opposed to imaginative or active play.

personal writing log
I've been a total slug with writing recently.  OK, only a partial slug.  Work is sucking up all my creative energy.  Still, in June I managed to write ten poems (besides my haiku wednesdays), and some of them were even decent.  That's ahead of my "2 poems a week" goal for 2009.  I hit 1,111 words for Aerin's random complexity challenge.  I even revised one chapter of "Andie's Gold," my MG adventure set in the gold rush.  So I'm on my goals.  But my goals are modest.

Any of you who would like to see my poems, please email me at dudleypj at gmail dot com.  They're posted to a private blog which only Aerin appears to be reading (hi Aerin!  Thanks!).  I'm happy to have more people there; I just don't want them to be considered "published."

Speaking of "published," within the next few weeks a story of mine will appear in the San Francisco Writers Conference anthology.  AND a poem of mine was accepted by a literary journal and is expected to be published I guess towards the end of this year.  It's my second attempt at publishing poetry and first hit.  Doesn't pay much, but I'm thrilled.  I heard the journal's co-editor speak, and I am honored and flattered that she liked my work.

July 1, 2009

haiku wednesday - July 1, 2009

This week's words are

Another work trip this week. I am sorry I won't get to visit everyone this week due to the travel. Thank-you to all who came by last week and left such kind notes! Also, "Airport Transportation NY" asked for a special haiku addressed to the king of pop, so I'm using one of my three 3WW haiku to do just that. See if you can guess which one. (I have to admit that although I agree he was talented, and I did sorta like some of his songs, I never cared much about MJ when he was popular... and I can't say I was much moved when I heard about his death.)

my lips yearn for yours
one final taste--I collapse
sweet, sweet Juliette...

ponzi schemes collapse
we yearn for greater justice
no sweet ending, this

fans scream, swoon, collapse
yearn for your sweet moves, smooth voice
moonwalking through life