December 31, 2009

Making a to-do about 2010

I'm not even sure I'll get today's to-do list completed. So, in the grand, self-centered tradition of making annual to-do lists that are not likely to get to-done, I hereby document my resolutions commitments objectives aspirations for 2010.

(I actually like my Day Job, but if you want my Day Job objectives, ya hafta go aks my boss. You won't read them here, even though they're a huge part of what my 2010 will be.)

  • Finish my revision of Andie's Gold, then query in earnest. Don't stop until someone sees it for the work of brilliance it is.
  • Post at least one new poem every week to my private blog. Mid year, figure out if it's possible to sell an anthology of light verse for kids.
  • Shore up the Unlucky 26 and look for any small, quirky publishers who might like it.
  • Complete my training for Scouting and become more actively involved in the troop. Make sure Sam bridges and Ethan achieves at least First Class.
  • NOT sign up as a soccer coach again unless Sam really really really REALLY wants me to.
  • Do something fun and different for our 20th wedding anniversary. says I should do something Chinese because china is the traditional 20th anniversary gift. Huh?
  • Read at least six novels.
  • Attend my high school 25th reunion.
  • Brew one batch of beer each quarter and try some new recipes.
  • Random other things: Submit to Jason Evans' contests and a couple other things through the year. Volunteer at the San Francisco Writers Conference. Keep up with friends' blogs, and cultivate existing non-virtual friendships. Try to get over to EE's place more often. More consistently hit the gym. Journal more often. Take a couple of interesting vacations (possibly Hawaii?) and visit family.
Typical schlock, right? But hey, it's my typical schlock. You want someone else's typical schlock, go visit their blog.

December 28, 2009

Resolution Report Card

Sunday's paper was full of "year in review" and "decade in review" articles that I did not read. So in the spirit of modern journalism, I hereby present my very own year in review that you will not read.

I start with my 2009 resolutions because, well, isn't that the obvious place to start? These resolutions come straight from last year's blog post about the same thing.

  1. Do something proactive with the Unlucky 26. Agents, small publishers, or self publish. Not sure yet, but something will be done.
    Define "proactive." I did get comments from the incomparable Aerin, and I did lay out the whole thing and get 10 print copies in a book form from And I even researched publishers and agents a bit. But it ended there; no queries. I even tried to create a sequel, but that fell flat before it even left the starting gate. Grade: C-minus.
  2. Be more proactive with Andie's Gold. (Assuming none of the outstanding queries bear fruit.) I have faith that this book should be published, and I just need to find the right combination.
    Define "more proactive." I am about 70% finished with revision, including a lot of rewrite of the first half to improve pacing. My midyear goal was to finish the revision so I could send queries in February, 2010. Generally on track but a little behind. Grade: B-plus.
  3. Continue to write. I did pretty well until work got crazy; work will continue to be insane throughout 2009, but I should be able to continue writing at least as much as this year, hopefully more.
    I had modest goals in 2009. Revise one chapter of Andie's Gold per month and write two new light verse poems a week. Ups & downs throughout the year, but on average I came close. Grade: solid B.
  4. Don't skip the gym. It's so easy to say "today is too busy," but the days that I go I feel so much more energized. When I don't go, I start getting down on myself. It helps that I now have a buddy who goes to the same gym.
    Yeah, not so much. The gym buddy and I managed three workouts together. Then I got moved to a different building a half mile away. Then things got really busy. I think I've finally established a new routine, but... Grade: D-plus.
  5. Be realistic about my time. This fall, I had too many obligations. I need to scale back something to retain my sanity.
    The thing I decided to scale back turned out to be sleep. And writing. I still coached soccer, led cub scouts, assisted (less) with boy scouts, and kept up with a number of other things. All while managing through a uniquely hectic work year. I get extra credit for retaining my sanity. That's why this isn't officially a resolutionfail. Grade: D-minus.
  6. Reprise #4 of last year: Write and call family more often. Um, yeah. That's a resolution like for every year of my life.
    Define "more often." I actually did OK with this, for the most part. The bar was already set very low. Grade: B-plus.
Resolutions for 2010 will appear in a future post. Remember, this is a year in review post.

Facts about 2009, the year that is almost over:
  • Professionally, I grew immensely. (Fortunately, despite missing out on lots of gym time, I did not grow immense.) The job I have today is twice as big and twice as complex--at least--as what I was doing a year ago. I don't tend to toot my own horn, but in 2009 I believe I did an outstanding job managing a turbulent, difficult, unsettled situation and turning in stellar results. I work with a terrific team, and I am profoundly proud of what we accomplished.
  • Vacationally, it was a roller coaster year. Two awesome weeks in London (and Paris) along with trips to Disneyland, Tahoe (twice), San Luis Obispo, and Santa Monica. Unfortunately, work schedule (see above) kept me home from my family's visits back east and to Bend, Oregon. One of the main highlights was meeting a few of EE's minions at a Giraffe on the Thames.
  • Computationally, we suffered a complete PC meltdown (boo!) and switched to Macs (yay!).
  • Escritorially, my writing life wasn't as down as it appeared from my resolution report card. I had a short story published in the San Francisco Writers Conference Anthology; I won Jason Evans' flash contest in January and a readers' choice award in his July contest. (He has another coming up soon. Enter!) I had a poem accepted for publication in Caesura, and I started a new private poetry blog for my light verse which now has over 50 poems. I volunteered at the San Francisco Writers Conference. So it wasn't all tar pits and ice storms.
  • Familialy, we enjoyed campouts, roller coasters, soccer, Mario Kart, skiing, and many daily trivias that make being a parent the most wonderful experience ever. (Usually.)
Last, but certainly not least, in 2009 we lost a dear, wonderful, exuberant, joyful friend. I do not hope you rest in peace, Trevor; rather, I hope you are enjoying the afterlife with as much flair and vigor as you enjoyed this one for your sixteen short years. We will miss you for always.

And that's my 2009 in review. For the most part. For me, 2009 will be the Year of the Day Job, in the best possible sense. I am hoping that 2010 will be remembered as the Year of the Winning Lottery Ticket. We shall see.

December 26, 2009

the obligatory virtual christmas card

Yes, our Christmas photo was taken in the spring in England. Yes, Sam is holding three chopsticks. Chopsticks because we had just eaten lunch at a very good Japanese restaurant. Why three chopsticks? You'd have to ask Sam.

Photo credit goes to the beautiful and talented super-hostess Tiffany Talbott. Thanks, Tiff!

Although I hope to reflect on 2009 in the next few posts, below is a "my year in status" from Facebook.

December 19, 2009


There is nothing that is truly appropriate to post after something like the previous one.

We had mixed emotions yesterday packing up and loading the car for a trip to Disneyland. Not only are we devastated by our dear friend Trevor's death, but he truly loved Disneyland.

When something like Trevor's death happens, you spend a lot of time realizing that you've been standing in front of an open closet for a minute, having forgotten why you were there. Or the open refrigerator. Or the telephone. Perhaps you weren't thinking of Trevor at that moment, or perhaps you were. It's sometimes hard to tell what you were just thinking. It's like a mental fog a lot of the time. That's sadness, I suppose.

Although we will be cutting our trip short by two days to return for the memorial service, we still will have four out of our five planned days at Disneyland. I think that Disneyland will probably prove to be the best possible therapy for all of us at this time. When you're sad, isn't it a good idea to go to the Happiest Place on Earth?

December 17, 2009

in memory of a dear, dear friend

In memory of a very dear friend who brought joy and energy to all things in this life. He died today, only a teenager.

My friend, may you find as much joy in the next life as you brought to this one. We miss you already.

December 16, 2009

But where's the analysis?

I get excited about college football season. A few years ago I wrote a weekly game preview column for a Cal football fan website. I did that for two or so years and had a great time with it. I never played football, but I'm pretty good at picking out patterns in numbers and the theory of the game. In each preview, I predicted the outcome and final score (crazy true coincidence: in every single prediction I somehow came up with the Bears winning).

Then, somewhere around 2006 I got too busy to write my weekly prediction, and decided they wanted someone else to do game previews. I read the new guy's previews for a few weeks but gave up because they said nothing that I didn't already get from my local daily newspaper.

Fast forward to the 2009 season. Cal is about to play in their seventh straight bowl game. I check out the news and have a few sports sites in my feed reader. Every now and then I skim through a game preview. But they are all the same.

The articles always mention the recent wins and losses. They print quotes provided by the teams' media departments. If there's an interesting storyline (such as Jahvid Best's injury), they mention that... also typically provided by the media department. But there's literally no analysis. Nobody digs deep into the stats to see that, for example, one team consistently loses when when they average fewer than 2.5 yards per carry, or that the other team seriously outscores their opponents in the fourth quarter because their offensive line is enormous and incredibly fit. Instead, we get vapid observations like, "the team doesn't want to end on a sour note" and "they lost big in their final game after winning three in a row against ranked teams." Blah blah blah. Anyone who cares to read your game preview already knows these things.

These days, repetition masquerades as news. Because news outlets have lost the patience to analyze and think, the only way they can differentiate themselves is through sensationalism and shiny graphics.

The only place we get in-depth analysis is in the celebrity sections of tabloids. Because that's where sensationalism and analysis intersect. It's really tragic.

December 14, 2009

watching them grow up

We are going to Disneyland! Disneyland! Yay! Next week. We already bought our super-expensive five-day park hopper passes. One of the three grandmas is coming with us. We'll be staying at a nice, big, upscale timeshare resort about 30 minutes from the park. Disneyland! Can you tell I'm excited?

The last time we went was December 2007, just three weeks before our old Subaru was totaled on I-15 heading to Las Vegas. The boys were 11 and 8, and they'd never been to Disneyland before. Sam had recently broken his arm (monkey bars) and faded early each day since it really hurt. The Disneyland first aid folks fed him lots of free Tylenol when we ran out. Just yesterday he said, "Most of the rides are for little kids. Really there's only like ten good rides, and they're all really crowded." Perhaps his memory is slightly skewed by the pain and that royally huge cast.

Ethan was still deeply into Star Wars and plastic light sabers and make-believe games that did not involve knowing the minute differences between an AK-47 and an AK-74. (Seriously, his knowledge of WWII and modern weaponry is troubling at 13 years old.) For him, Disneyland was pure magic. Thus, it became again pure magic for me, too, looking at it all through his eyes. The highlight was the Jedi Training Academy, where he got to go one-on-one in a light saber duel against Darth Vader.

Now 13, Ethan is well beyond the Jedi Training Academy. He looks, acts, and talks like a middle schooler. I know that he'll still feel the magic of Disneyland--that's the type of person he is--but it won't be the same. Sam, however, may discover a bit of the magic he missed out on with his broken arm. I hope so.

December 11, 2009

New Clarity of Night Contest

Jason Evans is at it again. I like the photo a lot this time, particularly as a writing prompt. So many ways to play off it.

His upcoming writing contest will happen in mid January. Max 250 words. Make it your new year's resolution to enter the best 250 words you possibly can. It's always a fun contest, with some truly special writing.

December 8, 2009

December 4, 2009

The Group of Heck

By now everyone who's anyone knows that England and the USA will play each other in the group stage of next summer's World Cup. All things considered, this is a reasonably good draw for both teams, in my opinion.

For example, we could be in Mexico's zapatos, having to face the host country and a good Uraguay as well as Ireland. (Hold on... what's that? Really? Really?) OK, France. Or in Korea's place with Brazil and Portugal in the group. Or Denmark's group with Netherlands, Japan, and Cameroon. Or Nigeria's, against Argentina, Korea, and Greece. Even Australia look to have a difficult road to the knockout stage with Serbia and Germany.

This time, even with the absence of Charlie Davies and Oguche Onyewu (no, I didn't look it up to see if I spelled it right), the US should look at a first-round exit as a severe disappointment. They've got solid defenders and a teriffically athletic midfield, and despite their recent friendly losses they have a strong top 11 or 13 players. And they've actually got an advantage in having played well in the Confederations Cup this year.

The worst thing about the World Cup draw is that now we have to wait six months for the games to begin!

I will be supporting the USA (obviously), England, Australia, Netherlands, and New Zealand. That should be enough to get me someone to root for at least through the quarterfinals.

What teams do you support? Will you be watching live? Will you see every minute of every game? Will you ignore the whole thing? Anyone want to come over to my house to catch a few games? Bring beer.

December 2, 2009

I missed the exit

Last Saturday night, my family and I were driving back from visiting friends in Sebastopol. Driving down 101, I had been looking for the exit that would cut off a few miles, along Lakeville Highway. My GPS didn't tell me where it was, and I missed it. A few miles later I took our usual exit onto CA-37. No big deal. It probably cost us five minutes.

We're cruising along CA-37 and approach the traffic light where Lakeville Highway reconnects with our route. It's dark out, but I can see that there's a small RV pulled over just beyond the intersection. Since it looks like it's a little off the shoulder and into the right traffic lane, I switch to the left lane. A thought pops up in the back of my mind--an odd place for the RV to be stopped. Maybe there's a fender-bender. I'd better go slow.

A hundred yards from the intersection, I see a few other vehicles have stopped and are off the roadway in a big turnout next to the intersection. One, a minivan, looks strange. I concentrate on the road; Maria remarks on the stopped traffic. There are no emergency vehicle lights flashing. Might just be tourists checking maps or changing a tire.

Fifty yards from the intersection, I can see that the van is entirely smashed in on the side. That's why it looks strange in the glare of headlights. It looks like it's been dropped on its side from five stories high, then set upright again. This can't be good. Maria asks a question about the van, just thinking out loud as we're both processing what we see.

At the intersection, the light is green and I cruise through slowly, avoiding broken glass and some indefinable metal pieces as well as another vehicle in the right lane, this one stopped and pointing mostly the wrong way. There's been an accident. A bad accident, judging from the state of the van. And it's only just happened. No police or ambulance here yet. No sirens in the distance. The other cars appear to have stopped to help, and a half dozen good samaritans jog around here and there. I consider stopping to help, too, but I keep driving. My only useful skills are dialing 9-1-1 and trying to keep people calm. There are enough people on scene who can do what I can; I'd only be in the way.

I am shaken. It was only two years ago that we were hit from behind on I-15, totaling our car. I try to hold out hope for the driver of the smashed minivan, but honestly I can't imagine anyone could survive that. Maria and the boys are talking, agitated, troubled. "What if we hadn't missed our exit? What if we'd been on Lakeville?" We all get quiet when we realize that we'd probably have been at the scene almost exactly at the time of the crash.

A family of four died in that minivan, as did the driver of the car that hit them. Although I did not know them, I mourn for them and am sad.

I think about the random chance that we all face, day to day. I explain the premise behind the movie "Sliding Doors" to my kids, that a small chance occurrence can change a person's--or a family's--future in dramatic ways. What if my GPS had told me that it was CA-116 I wanted? Had I taken the right exit, could it have been my Outback wagon and my family in the newspapers the next day?