The Den of Ubiquity

Friday, November 30, 2001:

Where'd All The Dip Go?

...And it's done. It's not 50,000 words, but I already warned you about that. I don't care...I finished a novel. If I actually went back and put in worldbuilding and description and character development and beefed up my plot complications, I'd probably have twice that. But that's the second draft, just barfing it all out onto paper.

And I could get close to another 3,000 words by changing all my character and place names to be two or three words long. Let's just say I did, then changed it back for readability's sake.

I wrote a novel! Whoo-hoo! "The Shadow And The Flame" is the title it's stuck with for now.

I'll probably take a few days off now, rent some movies, whatever, but I swear that sometime next month I will start on another project. Perhaps a rewrite and expansion of "Evangeline", or revision on one of many short stories that are only a draft or two away from submissibility.

It's hard to find good Warner Brothers cartoons on TV these days...Teletoon has the Roadrunner Show on once a week(I think it was last night and I missed it while suffering my headache), but that's practically it. But I did find "Bugs Bunny: Truth Or Hare" at the library, which probably has numerous others. (I love the
Edmonton Public Library; had you guessed that?) I'll even watch it with Simon tomorrow morning, so he can be introduced to the wonder that is Bugs Bunny. (It's got "Water, Water, Every Hare", with its infamous ether-powered slow-motion chase scene, which is one of my favourites.)

Aaron // 10:29 p.m. Clix me!

The One They Said Was So Weird

So we got lots and lots of snow this week. Probably more than we did all last winter, which is a good thing because it means that we might not get so many forest fires next summer. (Lots of forests in Alberta, north of Edmonton at least; south of that it's more prairie and hills, cattle country.) Also much slower traffic, as people either drive slower to get used to the sudden decrease in traction(and inability to see things like lane lines), or they drive the same speed they would under summer conditions, get into accidents, and slow traffic down that way. So I've been getting into work about ten-fifteen minutes late this week, since I also have to incorporate driveway-shoveling time. (Except for Thursday, since some kid shoveled our driveway for 25 cents Wednesday night and then it actually managed not to snow overnight.) (Does it bother anyone else that the "cents" symbol is not on your average computer keyboard?)

This morning, though, I was ready early, and left the driveway at precisely 8:30, which I don't usually manage. I was on track to be at work on time. And what happened? During morning rush hour, 50th Street was blocked by a train going back and forth across the tracks, for at least ten minutes. I got to work at 9:12. Why do they do that? Admittedly, it hasn't happened for a while, but morning rush hour is a stupid time to be assembling your train across a busy thoroughfare. And I don't run into it as much as I did because I leave work earlier these days, and take a different route home anyway, but it used to happen during afternoon rush hour a lot too. I guess 50th Street is almost on the edge of the city, and those railyards used to be out of town so nobody was inconvenienced...but still, have a little consideration, people.

One of the reasons I was ready early today was that I was tired and decided to sleep in. That meant that instead of getting up at 7:00 and getting sucked into something on my computer which kept me there until 8:10, I got up at 7:45, read my book for a little while, then got dressed and went downstairs. I was out there shoveling at 8:15, when I'm usually still getting dressed.

It's the novel that's gotten me so tired, staying up until 11:00 or later practically every night for two weeks. Not that that happened last night. Last night I got a killer headache at 8:00, which got worse every time I coughed, until I just couldn't handle looking at a computer screen any longer. I read then too, and went to bed early. So my word total is still the same as yesterday.

So I'm almost done Six Moon Dance, and I must say that I'm enjoying it immensely. It's not too heavy on the sexualpolitik stuff, it's got interesting aliens, and enigmas that don't really get fully explained until near the end of the book.

Anyway, I'm mostly at peace with probably not getting to 50,000 words in my novel tonight. There's a variety of reasons--I am pretty much finished, and if I've finished a novel I don't see why it should have to be 50,000 words instead of 46,000 or something. Stories are the length they are. I've read novels that would have made good short stories. Yeah, some of that is sour grapes, but not a lot, I hope. Also, I did start a few days late, and I achieved what I wanted to--proof that I could make writing part of my regular routine. Now I just have to not abandon it, though I will feel free to lower the quota a little bit. I've got lots of comments on "Evangeline", a former short story that seems to have gotten novelitis, from Michael Bishop and Allen Steele from the abortive ConSpec workshop.

Since I seem to be wandering all over the map today, let me clarify something that seems to confuse a lot of writers--the question of "passive voice". This will be a semi-didactic rant, in case you're wondering.

I learned most of my grammatical terms from my dad's old Latin schoolbooks. In Latin, they had many ways of dividing up their verb conjugations--voice, mood, tense, number, person, etc. The highest dividing line was between active and passive voice. (Or maybe it's "mood"...I can't remember.) Basically, the difference is between "The ball hit me" and "I was hit by the ball". In English, you switch the object and subject of the verb around, add in the preposition "by", and the verb changes from "hit" to "was hit"(or "were hit", for plural or second-person objects).

Now in writing passive voice is generally considered a bad thing. It leads to a level of detachment from the action in question, with only some small justification if the subject of the active verb is not known. But there are a lot of other things out there that people call "passive voice" which are not passive voice.

People tend to focus on that "was"(or "were"), and say that any sentence containing "was"(or "were") is passive voice. Well, let me show you a thing or two:

"Fred was watering his lawn when the house next to him disappeared."

This is what I learned(in French class, this time)was called the imperfect tense. You use it when some action occurred in the past, but was interrupted by something else. ("Was interrupted by" is passive voice--just to make sure you're paying attention.) If you say "Fred watered his lawn", you imply that he began watering his lawn and finished watering his lawn all in that one sentence, with an appropriate duration in between--that is sometimes called "past perfect", though more often just plain "past tense". But Fred did not get a chance to finish watering his lawn before the house you use the imperfect tense. And in English, the imperfect tense uses "was" or "were" with the present participle(that's the "-ing" form). There is nothing wrong with the imperfect tense. But people lump it in with this passive voice thing, and they think it's bad, and probably want to replace it with the past perfect, or rip the whole sentence apart and turn it inside out, rephrase and paraphrase in any way they can, just to make sure that "was" and "were" don't mysteriously suck all the life out of it through its mystical black voodoo.

Similarly, when it's just being used as what it is, the past tense of the verb "to be", they think that it's bad--to say "I was unhappy" or "I was valedictorian of my school". They'd rather say "I felt unhappy" or "My school elected me valedictorian" or something to avoid that taboo word "was".

Maybe there are problems with those other usages of the word "was". Maybe it is a word that sucks the life from any sentence it appears in and makes it look dull and lifeless. But, by god, don't call it passive voice when it's not!

End of semi-didactic rant.

I might have alluded once or twice to a fondness for languages. Well, it's true, I like languages. I'm not what you would call a polyglot, because I only speak English and a little bit of French, but I nonetheless like languages and appreciate them in an aesthetic way. I'm better at figuring out grammar than I am at memorizing vocabulary, in other languages at least(I do, if I say so myself, have a large vocabulary in English...), so I can conjugate the French verb "tricoter" but will take minutes to try to remember if that means "knit" or "browse" or "stain" or something else entirely.

I've also managed to pick up a number of non-English sounds--nasalized vowels, and those "ü" and "œ" vowel sounds, the guttural consonants used in Arabic(and some of them in German, and French, and Spanish, and Russian), the glottal stop that comes at the beginning of each syllable in "uh-oh", the ubiquitous(everywhere east of France, practically)"ts" sound, etc. I still have trouble with aspirated vs. unaspirated consonants--in English, most consonants at the beginnings of words are aspirated, and most of the rest aren't. In many languages, especially the Indian(from India, I mean)ones, they're two different sounds with different letters, and they can go anywhere in a word. I can't manage that. Or the glottalized consonants in Georgian, or the clicks in Khoisan languages (at least not to be able to put them in the middle of words), or the tones of Chinese and its relatives.

I can free myself from English phonotactics--the structure that dictates which sounds can occur at which points in words. They say that we can't begin a word with "ng", or end it with "h". To paraphrase one book, we can easily say the word "glimpsed", but we can't say "dlinpfk"--and it contains the same type of sound in every slot. But once you learn the rules, you can break them, which is essential for learning other languages, where they have different rules. In French, you have to be able to say "trwa" for something as simple as the number three, which is just not allowed in English. Or even "shl", which either marks a German or Yiddish import, or someone shlurring their words. Or "psyche" or "pneumatic"--those p's weren't silent in Greek, but they are in English because we can't say them otherwise.

Break free of your phonotactic chains!

Another thing I alluded to earlier was my usage of a mixture of metric and "Imperial" measurements. (Considering that only the U.S. still uses the "Imperial" system, it's a bit misnamed these days, isn't it? Unless you really are all American imperialists, like the Soviets kept telling us...) They did teach the metric system at school when I went, but I still learned things from different places.

I know Celsius degrees, not Fahrenheit; I always have to convert in my head for anything except 32, 98.6, 212, or -40. (Which correspond to Celsius 0, 37, 100, and -40 respectively.) (Does it bother anyone else the the "degrees" symbol is not on your standard computer keyboard?) But I'm afraid that I learned human height and weight in feet/inches and pounds, mostly from Dungeons & Dragons. I can estimate small distances in inches better than centimetres. But I use kilometres instead of miles, and always have. If I want to convert, say, teaspoons to cups or ounces, I have to go through millilitres first, because I know that a teaspoon is about 5 mL and a cup is 250 mL.

I just read about George Harrison's death. I guess it wasn't a surprise, since he had cancer recently, but it's still saddening.

My uncle Tim died of cancer a few years ago, and he was in his fifties too. This comes to mind because it was his wife who first got me into listening to George Harrison's older--and by that I mean before "Cloud Nine"--albums. I still don't find them totally arresting(though I haven't tried "All Things Must Pass" yet--I've got that one with my brother's records, and maybe it's time to give it a listen), but there are good songs there, and I do quite like "Extra Texture(Read All About It)".

But in some ways it's the death of another celebrity that doesn't quite manage to make me feel anything. Kirsty MacColl's affected me more, perhaps because so few people(and I wasn't among them)noticed at the time, or had heard of her in the first place. So once again I have nothing more to say about it.

I'm going to do my countdown thing at the end of this entry, as opposed to the beginning this time.

734. Erasure: Too Darn Hot

I don't actually like Erasure that much, but I've become more reconciled to them. I've never been that fond of Vince Clarke--some of his stuff with Yaz was okay, but I didn't like the first Depeche Mode album with him on it either. But this one, from the "Red Hot & Blue" collection, was pretty good.

733. Francis Cabrel: Encore Et Encore

Another French song that I remember from MuchMusic. I don't know a single thing about this guy, but I like this song, and I can figure out almost all of the words.

And that's today's installment, unless I think of something else to write about this afternoon...

Aaron // 11:40 a.m. Clix me!

Thursday, November 29, 2001:

An Early End To This Story

Time for the next installment(in my countdown of my 750 favourite songs, approximately ordered, for those of you who came in late):

736. Brian Eno & John Cale: Lay My Love

From the collaborative album "This End Up". This song combines perky music with deadpan vocals and bizarre lyrics.

735. Thomas Dolby: Dissidents

I've always liked Dolby's second album, "The Flat Earth", better than his first. This is not the best song on that album (since we're not that far up the countdown yet), but it's effective nonetheless.

I'm now just over 45,000 words in my novel, and the damn thing's practically done. As in, I'm really going to have to stretch out the denouement or tack on a long epilogue to bring it up to 50,000 words, 'cause I'm certainly past the climax. I could just wrap it up earlier and say that I've written a novel, even if it's shorter than quota. I mean, whose quota is this? Some contest that doesn't give out a prize, that I'm not even in? What will it gain me to write further? Will I write anything I'm going to use in my next draft?

I suppose I could toss in an anticlimax, like in some James Bond movie where the main villain's been killed but his head goon tries to kill James & his squeeze just as they're about to go into the final clinch. (I guess I'm thinking of "Live & Let Die" here...) I originally had a better illustration, but they're making that book into a movie right now and I won't spoil the surprise for you.

I toyed with the idea of giving all of my characters two-word names and seeing how much more wordage I could get that way. I still haven't ruled it out.

Anyway, if I do keep on through to the 50,000, I doubt I'll get it finished before Friday night, but it shouldn't be too difficult to manage it then. Then maybe we can do something else this weekend, like get a babysitter and go and see Harry Potter or something.

I was looking at
Matt Enlow's site where he mentioned a neat movie puzzle(or game, or whatever you want to call it)where you have to see how large a group of actors you can come up with where every single pair of them has been in a movie together. For extra challenge, make it so that no two such movies are the same. Threesomes are easy to come up with, foursomes much harder, and fivesomes...well, we managed one so far, by using a group of actors who were in a lot of movies together. That group is Bill Murray, John Candy, Dan Aykroyd, Steve Martin, and Chevy Chase. I'll leave the actual movies used to link them as an exercise.

Some other interesting foursomes include: Bruce Willis, John Travolta, Madeleine Stowe, and Andie MacDowell; Ethan Hawke, Robert De Niro, Robin Williams, and Uma Thurman; Bill Pullman, Carrie Fisher, John Candy, and Tom Hanks; and Andy Garcia, Joan Cusack, Julia Roberts, and Robin Williams. I also did one with Jack Nicholson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Glenn Close, and Michael Keaton.

Of course, you could do some incredibly easy ones using ensemble casts that did a lot of movies together, like the original Star Trek cast, or Monty Python, or the Carry On movies. Those don't really count either, in my book.

Aaron // 2:26 p.m. Clix me!

Wednesday, November 28, 2001:

At The Risk of Getting Wet

Quick installment of the countdown:

738. Kid Creole & The Coconuts: No Fish Today

A nice little song, with a little bit of political edge to it, from their "Wise Guy" album.

737. Rush: Making Memories

From their second album, "Fly By Night", which is still more Led Zeppelin than prog-rock; the song is mostly about touring and why it might be better than staying at home. Good rhythm guitar work.

A bit perfunctory, perhaps, but I'm in a rush...

Aaron // 3:05 p.m. Clix me!

Tuesday, November 27, 2001:

It's Blank--What Have You Got To Lose?

"Andre creep. Andre creep. Andre creep."

740. Laurie Anderson: Classified

From her "United States Live" album, which I used to think was extremely clever, but hasn't always aged well. This is one of my favourite live bits that isn't on one of her other albums, in her usual "Big Science"-era disconnected spoken-word verses style, before she found her singing voice.

739. Bündock: Le Corbeau

A Québecois, but not always francophone, band I remember from MuchMusic in the mid-80's. I haven't quite figured out the words to most of this song, but what I have is pretty neat. The title means "The raven", I believe. I wonder whatever happened to these people...I suppose they could be superstars in Quebec and I might not know.

40,123 words as of last night, despite another late start. I'm beginning the climax, and hopefully it will be about the right length. The characters have been reunited at last.

I think one of the secrets of my speed is that I skip a lot of complications. I don't want to spend the time to have the characters actually have trouble doing things, so they tend to get out of things pretty easily. I think of them all as placeholders for "insert complication here". Does that mean that if I actually go and put all of them in, I can get up to 120,000 words? 'Cause the day of the short fantasy novel is past.

Part of my late start last night was caused by wasting time playing with "The Little Computer People Project", an old Apple game I now can run on my Apple ][ emulator. Picture The Sims with one character(but a dog), no mouse interaction, and Apple ][-level graphics and sound. That would actually be better than LCP. Maybe I should let him starve to death just to see what happens. I'd be better off playing Leisure-Suit Larry.

Quincunx was expressing surprise at the rate of writing than I can manage. I think it's because while I have never written a novel before, all the muscles are there; I just rarely use them. I've written short stories, I've written ongoing interactive storylines--heck, some of my writing might have added up to 50,000 words. So I have the craft to churn out words. Maybe not to plot the novel yet, but I always thought I'd be more of the writing off the cuff anyway.

A few more recent library CD reviews:

"A Place In The Sun" by Lit was unremarkable, though I wouldn't go so far as to say, like the All-Music Guide did, that they're just another alt-rock band, like Better Than Ezra or something. They've still got those heavy guitars in there on most of their songs, which frankly turns me off. So it didn't make much an impression on me, but what it did was not particularly good.

"Another Five Songs And A Poem" by Bif Naked was good; I tend to like her stuff, so I'm not surprised. She's an interesting character, really...

Hidden Agenda's self-titled album was pretty dull, boring straight-ahead rock. I really didn't expect anything different from a local band fronted by a TV news anchorman. But c'mon, man, did you just hate the last two decades of music, or what?

Right now I'm listening to Greg Garing's "Alone". I had already heard his song "My Love Is Real" from a CD sampler my Dad got a while ago, and that's a good song; we'll see if the rest of the album stands up. The All-Music guide calls it "an awkward blend of rootsy singer-songwriter folk-rock and light trip-hop". I'd have to say that in general I like that blend--I like the little trip-hop beat in the background.

Aaron // 2:16 p.m. Clix me!

Monday, November 26, 2001:

A Mood Ring We're Not Allowed To See

The numbers creep slowly down...

742. They Might Be Giants: Shoehorn With Teeth

This is sort of a placeholder for a lot of random They Might Be Giants songs that are a bit silly and kind of short, which I have a hard time choosing between. It could be "Particle Man" or "Pencil Rain" or "Rabid Child" or "Which Describes How You're Feeling". But "Shoehorn With Teeth" was the one I picked.

741. Heart: Sylvan Song/Dream of The Archer

Listed together because I've never been sure where one ends and the other begins--or, rather, because it all sounds like one song to me. (Maybe I should see if I can find "Little Queen" on CD sometime.) Whenever I listen to early Heart, pre-"Baby Le Strange", I can't help but think of them as a sort of female Led Zeppelin. This song is very much after the style of, say, "Battle of Evermore" with its jangling folk-guitar, but I like it better. Haven't quite managed to make out all the words yet, so I don't know what it's all about yet, but it sounds a little bit art-rocky.

So I didn't get a lot of extra writing done this weekend; last night I finished at about 37,600. I'd managed to work my way around a nasty plot problem, though, at the expense of further complicating my world and pulling a big obvious plot device out of my hat. Oh, well, first draft and all that. Maybe it will all work out okay. When(if?)I rewrite this maybe I will throw in more viewpoint characters.

Like in my current read, Sheri S. Tepper's Six Moon Dance. It's the kind of book where at the beginning you don't even know how the various characters are going to meet, since they're on different planets. There are quite a few viewpoints going on, and in true Tepper fashion, an undercurrent of genderpolitik. In this case it mostly just consists(for now)of a society where male and female roles are almost completely reversed, nothing serious like in The Gate To Women's Country or Gibbon's Decline And Fall where it dominates the plot.

I was a wee bit disappointed in Allen Steele's The Tranquillity Alternative, though. While it does paint an interesting picture of a slightly alternate world where space travel began a little earlier after WWII, the actual plot moved a bit too slowly for my tastes, and was in general far too slight. The toss-off cast list of "Star Trek: The New Generation" is the best thing about the book. (Or "wise-cracking Dr. Arnold Spock's signature line, 'It just ain't logical, Cap'n!'", in a world where "Star Trek" took place entirely inside the solar system and was about as science-fictional as "JAG".) There was probably a good short story in there somewhere.

I was just flashing back to my abortive attempt to study Spanish at University. I had gotten interested in it the previous year during my brief crush on a woman from Argentina, and since I am always interested in languages, thought I'd give it a try.

The woman teaching the course was nice...but then she said she was only doing the first couple of sessions until the real instructor showed up. The real instructor proved to be a woman named Farida Dollie, who had one of those high-pitched, strident voices one always associates with peevish old women. That was bad enough, but then she blithely made a mistake in her first class: something to do with the genders of nouns, and how "paréd" was an exception to the rule, except that in the textbook it clearly wasn't. When I started to point this out, she turned to me and said acerbically, "Do you know what an exception is?"

I never went back to that class. I only barely managed to get around to going to the Arts Faculty office in time to withdraw from the course before I got a failing grade. I made it up with a one-semester Linguistics course over the summer, and even then that turned out not to count towards my degree because I had "too many junior courses" or something, so I had to take another arts course in fourth year.

This was all brought back to me by seeing the track named "Le Secret Farida" on Yello's "One Second" album, currently in the tape deck.

These days I'm more drawn to the exotic languages, non-Indo-European ones. Hungarian, for instance, or Georgian, members of obscure groups only loosely connected to others. (I'm also drawn to Georgian by its amazing alphabet--check it out sometime if you get a chance. If only it didn't have those glottalized consonants which I can't pronounce...)

Some day I'd like to do a big book of alphabets. I remember finding a little thing, hardly more than a pamphlet, in the university library; it's high time to do another. They all have their little peculiarities. Every language that uses the Roman alphabet pronounces it slightly differently. The Cyrillic alphabet has different signs for palatized vs. unpalatalized vowels...even though it's the preceding consonant that is or isn't palatalized. (And it's used for so many languages spoken in the former Soviet Union that it probably has as much variance as the Roman alphabet...) The Arabic alphabet has those optional vowels, different letter forms depending on whether you're in the middle of a word or at either end. In Devanagari(used for a number of languages in India), the vowel for "i" is placed before the consonant it comes after, and the vowel "a" is assumed to occur between two consonants whose signs are not blended together. Amharic(spoken in Ethiopia)has a syllabary, where symbols stand for syllables rather than letters, with complex rules about how the symbols change when the syllable's vowel sound changes. The Cherokee syllabary designed by Sequoyah uses a number of Roman letters and other recognizable symbols, but Sequoyah had no idea how they were used in English, so their Cherokee sounds bear no resemblance. Korean actually uses a real alphabet, but they arrange the letters into clusters that vaguely resemble Chinese characters.

And so on. Oh, sure, everyone could write in the International Phonetic Alphabet, but where would be the fun in that?

Aaron // 1:18 p.m. Clix me!

Sunday, November 25, 2001:

You Know It Ain't Easy

Doing my countdown post a little bit earlier today...

744. Bob Geldof: Attitude Chicken

I think I mentioned in a previous entry that I liked a lot of Bob Geldof solo that I did Boomtown Rats. This is from his third solo album, "The Happy Club", and it's pretty much as silly a song as the title would indicate, in a sort of Ogden-Nashian kind of way at times.

743. Nik Kershaw: Don Quixote

This is another borderline entry for the list. Nik Kershaw is kind of cool, on his first couple of albums at least, for a bit of late-new-wave-pop(or whatever you want to call it); this song stood out ever so slightly above the rest for me the last time I listened to "The Riddle". And that's all I can really say about it.

Last night I didn't quite do 2500 words, but I did get to 35,008 before I stopped. And in the bath this morning, I got an inkling as to my ending. I was hoping to get some extra writing done today, but it sounds likely that Simon will not wish to have his nap today, so I won't get it done during the afternoon, at least. Last night's writing was done in only about an hour and a quarter, though, so that might give me enough time if I stick to it.

We're into real winter here now, over an inch of snow(yes, even though I'm a Canadian I still don't think metric all the time)and -10 Celsius(but sometimes I do). Hopefully I won't have to leave the house today, but I'll have to budget more time on Monday morning for shovelling...or wait, no I won't! My wife needs the car tomorrow, so she'll have to shovel before I leave for the bus, or something. Heh.

Aaron // 2:35 p.m. Clix me!

Saturday, November 24, 2001:

Last Time I Saw You, You Were Still Running Around

I really shouldn't be doing this now, but I forgot about it until now, so I guess instead of starting my writing for the day just yet(yeah, haven't gotten any extra done yet), I'll do this, but just quick.

746. OMD: Watch Us Fall

A cool song from their album "The Pacific Age". I really liked "(Forever)Live & Die" when it came out, but it didn't last as a favourite, I guess. Can't think of much more to say about this one...which is why it's near the bottom here.

745. Yes: Into The Lens

From "Drama", I believe, the album with Trevor Horn of the Buggles rather than Jon Anderson. On the second Buggles album, "Adventures In Modern Recording", they rerecord the song as "I Am A Camera", which is a more intuitive title for the song anyway. Trivia note: The Frantics used the intro to the song as their opening music for their first few shows, before getting their own music. Again, kind of cool but not spectacular, so it's in the lower reaches.

And now I should really get to my writing. I already checked all my favourite blogs for new entries. Last night I wrote exactly 2500 words, so I'll leave you to do the math at how many I've got right now. We'll see if I can pull off the same before it's time for bed. (I have to get up with Simon again in the morning, so staying up really late is not an option. Next Friday it may be. What time zone does the NaNoWriMo thing end in, anyway?)

Aaron // 9:33 p.m. Clix me!

Friday, November 23, 2001:

This Land's A Place I Love

Interesting pastime: clicking on random recently-updated Blog links trying to see if you can correctly guess which ones are Portuguese.

Mildly close to the topic, here's a Romanian page for you:
Sarmizegetusa! If someone could tell me what this is all about without charging me to translate it, that would be really cool. I'm not sure if it's a club, a historical site, or a revolutionary group. "Sarmizegetusa" proper seems to be the former capital of Dacia under the Emperor Trajan, or before he conquered. Nobody will tell me what it means, but there's a kind of a henge there, too. Why do I even care about any of this? Ask Cristian Deac.

I'm so glad that now that the Taliban seems to be on the run, we can get back to the burning question of Aaliyah's death. Yawn.

Aaron // 2:08 p.m. Clix me!

Chemical Imbalance Or Something

Day 2 of the countdown...

748. Weird Al Yankovic: Generic Blues

From the UHF soundtrack(though it's not in the movie or anything). I've heard Weird Al described as "the Mad Magazine of music"--and that somewhat derisively. Whatever, dude. I grew up listening to this guy; quite a few songs I first heard as parody or polka versions before the originals. I've also always liked his original compositions, and this one is pretty clever. Okay, maybe it's not immortal, but it's good enough to make #748.

747. Burton Cummings: Ferry Cross The Mersey

Burton Cummings is almost(but not quite, in my mind)one of Canada's Great Men of Music. He was formerly with The Guess Who, and has some solo work under his belt as well. This is from an "unplugged" type album called "Up Close And Alone", and I don't know if he ever recorded this song previously; it's an old British invasion hit by Gerry & The Pacemakers, or so I'm told. Here Cummings displays his legendary perfect pitch.

I went a little bit short on the writing last night, only hitting 30,134, but originally I didn't want to do any at all, so doing a mere 1600 is better than nothing. And I can still hit 50,000 in eight more days by doing 2500 a day, which I have managed in the past. The question of whether I will actually pull it off or not is still open, though, but it's still a valuable experience.

I don't seem to have mentioned this before; I didn't want to tell my blog audience(if any)about it before I told my family etc., and before the official confirmation, but all that has passed now, so there's no further excuse.

My wife and I are going to have another baby. The due date is June 28th or 29th(estimates from two different doctors), of next year of course, so if this baby goes as far overdue as Simon did, there's a non-negligible chance that it will actually be born on July 14th, which is my birthday and also my grandma Irma's. That's something to aim for, anyway. Second babies aren't always as long overdue as first, though, or so I heard. I guess we'll see.

The pregnancy complicated my wife's recent illness, because she couldn't take any cough syrup. Apparently dextromethorphan(sp?) in the first trimester is severely contraindicated. I've been able to take it, though, which has been an immense help. Actually, what I've got is something she was prescribed a few years ago, which expired in January, but still seems to be working okay. Better than the other two bottles in our medicine cabinet, which have '93 and '97 on them. Don't worry, we've thrown them out now.

I realize that these things do expire, but sometimes I get really annoyed at the people who sell these things, who sometimes only sell things in huge quantities that you will never manage to use before the expiry date unless your illness continues the entire time, in which case you'll probably be in the hospital anyway. What a scam. Someone should call them on it sometime.

Aaron // 9:50 a.m. Clix me!

Thursday, November 22, 2001:

You Must Not Ask For So Much

Here starts the countdown!

750. Shriekback: Coelacanth

Some of you may have already come to the conclusion that Shriekback is one of my favourite bands, and this song is from "Oil & Gold", my favourite album. (By anyone.) This is the closing track, an instrumental for breathy flute and occasional underwater-sounding effects. Which is why it's down on the bottom of the list here.

For those of you who don't know, the coelacanth is a fish that was thought to be extinct until in 1938 a South African fisherman discovered one in his net. They are thought(by some, at least, to hedge my bets)to be closely related to the direct ancestors of amphibians, and hence all land vertebrates. For more info, go to (I did a quick web search to find out if I was spelling the name right, and get a few other details right.) Oh, and they seem to be up to almost six feet in length. Ick. I don't like fish that much, and big fish...

749. Jennifer Warnes: Bird On A Wire

I heard a number of Leonard Cohen songs on Jennifer Warnes's tribute album, "Famous Blue Raincoat", before I heard the originals. This version is sprightly and bouncy, so I was very surprised to hear that the original was, well, dirgelike. Warnes changes a few of the words around, but it's still a good song. (Leonard Cohen is sort of like Bob Dylan in the sense that many musicians seem to hear his songs and think, "Wouldn't it be great if someone who could sing did that song?")

Last night I managed to get almost precisely my quote done. According to my calculations I had to get up to 28,560 words, and I stopped at 28,577. I could probably have gone on for longer, but it does seem to work a little better if I don't necessarily finish a chapter at the end of a session. My chapter lengths seem to be varying wildly anyway, and last night I finished a Tor'shye chapter, did a short Yeryis chapter, and then went back to Tor'shye, because I'm not really sure what to do with Yeryis right now. She's in such a powerless situation, and I don't really want her to escape from it too easily, so all she can do is watch other people and talk to them...and right now they're not very nice people.

My timeline is probably all screwed up, since I don't really have one. I don't know how far away Tor'shye had to travel, I have no maps, and I don't know how fast a longboat sails anyway. Well, this is the first draft; the second draft is for fixing up little details like that. At least, that's my wife's approach.

I'm spending a lot of time right now trying to figure out how those web pages that start files downloading work. You think I can find help for that anywhere on the Net? It looks like you can do it with JavaScript, but not with pure HTML. I'm already using JSP, so I can probably do it with that somehow.

Aaron // 11:43 a.m. Clix me!

Wednesday, November 21, 2001:

Another Hope Feeds Another Dream

I am exactly on schedule tonight; before and after "The West Wing", I brought my total up to 28,577 words; my goal was 28,560. Still aiming for 50,000 words, not necessarily completion of the novel. It's not impossible I'll have to write 10,000 words of epilogue after wrapping up the main plot.

I've finished my provisional list of my 750 favourite songs, though at the end if almost felt like scraping the bottom of the barrel...and I'm sure there are some lurking in my collection that I like and have just forgotten about, or will like the next time I listen to them. But screw that. Tomorrow the countdown starts, two songs a day, which will probably take until the end of 2002 since I will probably not post absolutely every day. (I will take Christmas off, for instance, possible the whole week.)

I've also started on my wishlist, which I will link up here when it's done to my satisfaction. Not that I expect anyone out there to buy me things, since I'm not fifteen and female, but it can't hurt, right?

Oh, and I know I've made a few dismissive comments about teenage girls, but I don't really mean them. Really. I know that everyone has problems, even if some people's seem larger than others. Mine may seem larger than yours; maybe Acanit's seem larger than mine. And a lot of people's problems look the same from the outside.

I don't know what I'm saying here, so let me just sum it up by saying: Whatever your problems, a lot of teenage girls have enjoyed reading my wife's books. Over there where it says "Nicole Luiken". Violet Eyes is getting a second printing, no doubt to prepare for the release of the sequel, Silver Eyes, next month. And some of her backlist may come out in e-book format soon. So what are you waiting for? Pre-order your copies today! Not with me, I have nothing to do with it. Go to your bookstores, online or off, and demand satisfaction!

Aaron // 10:52 p.m. Clix me!

A Calm But Steady Flow

Done some twiddling with my template, added a few blog links, though I haven't informed all the authors of that yet. Well, one of them has linked me already(you know who you are). A modest list so far; I went through and culled the ones that I'd bookmarked before from random Blogger explorations that didn't strike me on reread. Maybe I'll give 'em another chance.

Reading 'twixt joy and sorrow gave me some inspiration for actually doing writing last night--thank you, Quincunx--and I did manage 2100 words, to bring me up to 26,178, so I'm finally over the halfway point. Two-thirds of the way through the month. Not to worry, because if I can manage to write 2400 words every day from now on, I can easily reach the word limit. Will I be finished the novel, though? Before or after that point? Well, who cares? If it's before I'll either go back and flesh out some scenes or start on the sequel or just write a really big epilogue or envoi or something. Of course, I have to actually write every day, instead of every other day or every third day like I've been doing lately. No more Mr. Nice Guy.

I also have another possible title: The Shadow And The Flame. Better then Queen of Swords, when it comes right down to it, and considering that the "flame" part is only starting to make sense at the halfway point, could be sufficiently enigmatic, and has enough pushbutton words to hook people in.

Most importantly last night, though, I actually managed to do some writing before Simon's bedtime, in the half-hour gap between "Friends" and "Enterprise"(which I decided to watch this week--I think I skipped the last three episodes or something)as well as in the hour-long gap between "Enterprise" and "24". "24" is starting to get a little bit predictable, but is still enjoyable, and the whole thing with different frames focusing on the different characters is still refreshing.

(It's my morning for taking Simon when he wakes up, but it's 7:40 and he's still asleep! Yay!)

By the way, if you hadn't already noticed, the Comments links are down right now. I can't be bothered to go and install new ones, and the software is supposed to be back up in December sometime, so I'm just leaving the nonfunctional links there until then. My email should be up there now, though, if you really want to comment. Let me know if you want me to reply on-blog and if I can quote you. Especially if you're identifying some of my titles.

Aaron // 7:44 a.m. Clix me!

Tuesday, November 20, 2001:

Catch The Blue Train

Been spending a lot of team on, since someone happened to mention the awards on their site. Last night, when I should have been writing(my bad), I was reading the various single-entry nominees, and then was blown away by one of the "Best Writing" site nominees, The Sex Pistols are Alive and Well and Living in Sohatsenango. I barely even looked at the other two nominees, which is probably a good thing because I don't have that much time on my hands. Less than a week for the final voting, and eighteen more sites to look at... Well, "Best Design" shouldn't require as much reading, just looking, which is quicker.

Now I realize that this site is really more of an "online journal" than a "blog", because the latter is apparently used principally for the sharing of choice links. I've done that a few times, but I prefer writing about stuff, because I don't think that everything I want to express is actually found somewhere else on the Net. So I decided to register my site at, but I'm not sure if they will accept it because of some little proviso about "hive sites". I don't know whether Blogger/blogspot counts as a "hive site"(since they don't actually come out and say which ones are), but I think it's pretty stupid to discriminate against them just because some people, even most, that use them don't stick to it, and abandon it, just because it's easy to start it up in the first place. Do they want to discriminate against people who are too lazy to make up their own site by hand, but, like me, are perfectly willing to use tools to make it easier? I have my own web pages, and I've done my own web pages, though I am bad at design because I tend to think that anything too fancy to show up a plain-text browser is not worth putting on a page in the first place. So Blogger gives me something cool without my having to work at it too hard.

I suppose I could probably figure out how to host it on my own web site at Telus, but I really don't want to give them my password. And I hate the Geocities ad windows(the one thing I disliked about the Sohatsenango site above). So I'm going to stick to Blogger, and if is too benighted to consider this an online journal for that reason, then they can stick to their own little world.

Yes, I'm itching for accolades for what I consider to be high-quality writing. I think I'm interesting, I think I have interesting thoughts, and I don't consider myself unduly conceited to think so. When someone like Acanit(the Sohatsenango writer)can wonder whether her stuff is worth putting up for anyone else to read, I think that I should be able to get at least some notice. I don't know if that last sentence made logical sense, but whatever. What I meant was that just because someone whose site is really good doesn't have confidence in it, doesn't mean that I can't have confidence in my site, though it may not compare. And, I confess it, I'm not a goddamn 14-year-old girl blogging about what guy she likes and what guy she thinks is sweet but just a friend and how the big Radiohead concert was.

I like to be noticed for what I like to do. I would probably have dropped completely out of the Atlantis games I'm playing right now, if it weren't for a few people who more or less asked me not to. It might be another week where I don't send in any orders, but I won't quit just yet.

So go ahead and nominate me for a award come January. Make 'em sit up and take notice.

I hate maintenance tasks. It's just the second law of thermodynamics at work again. You have to do work just to keep things the way they are, and even then not quite as good.

Doing dishes, for instance. I do dishes about once a week because I can't stand doing them every night. It takes most of an afternoon by the time I get around to it. Once I get down to it, I can do them all at once, usually, without minding that much; my mind just gets into the dish-doing subprocess and I get all focused on it. It's just getting into the subprocess in the first place that's the problem.

And other cleaning? Forget it. Once a year, maybe, washing sinks and bathtubs and things. Walls and windows are only for moving out. Vacuuming carpets is for when company comes over. Sweeping the kitchen floor is for when I get tired of things getting stuck to my socks when I walk near Simon's chair.

Even cooking and eating--left to my own devices, I leave it to the last possible moment. Nicole cooks and I do dishes, that was our bargain from the start. Myself, I like things like Ichiban soup and Kraft Dinner, frozen chicken cutlets, peanut-butter sandwiches, leftovers, etc. I can make lasagna or meatloaf if I try, and I do the occasional cheese fondue, but that's the time when I start eating at 8:00 or something because it's just too much work to do before I'm actually starving.

I think the world would be a much better place if we didn't have to do these mundane tasks. Cleaning robots would be good, cooking robots would be better. Although finding someone to deal with all of my loose papers and stuff scattered all over my office would require more like a summer student.

And speaking of Ichiban and Kraft Dinner, one thing that drives me nuts is how my favourite products just seem to arbitrary disappear from time to time.

I'm not sure in any given case whether it's the store that stops stocking it(though I can sometimes find things at other stores), or whether the product itself is retired, but it's happened enough to be really annoying. Maybe my tastes are a little bit unorthodox, but it's like I'm the anti-test group or something.

I've eaten Eggo toaster waffles for years. I remember when they used to have an Apple-Cinnamon flavour. Haven't seen it in years, though they did come out with a Cinnamon Toast version. And there was a Cream Cheese and Blueberry-filled toaster strudel that disappeared. I usually alternate between Rio Red Grapefruit juice and Apple-Lime, but Apple-Lime has disappeared off of store shelves. I would like to eat Ichiban flavours other than Beef, but Safeway only stocks three others, none of which I like; I sometimes see others at other stores, and pick them up if I do.

Sometimes it's just temporary. There were no Kraft Spirals(vastly superior to any of the other macaroni types)for almost a month at Safeway, but then they came back. I don't like the competitors' cheese sauce, and the tubular macaroni doesn't cook well enough for me. Yeah, I'm picky. And there was a time in Grande Prairie where they only stocked the two-pizza size Kraft Pizza Mix, not the one-pizza size, at the Safeway either.

What else...pasta sauces! We like those Olivieri pasta & sauce things, but our taste in sauces is fairly limited. I'm not a big tomato-sauce person. I like tortellini in Four Cheese Sauce, and that's fine. For a little while they had a Mushroom Porcini sauce which was just heavenly, and we had that with everything. Then it disappeared. We sometimes go for the Olive Oil & Garlic sauce instead, but that's a bit unreliable too.

Okay, now maybe this kind of writing won't get me any awards. But it keeps happening, over and over, and I sometimes wonder if I'm the only one who gets discriminated against like this, or if everyone has experiences with disappearing favourite products. Maybe I just don't shop around enough, but that's a lot of work. I've never been much for price comparisons, either, except maybe with CDs. (HMV is too expensive, generally, though I do snag the occasional one on sale; for serious purchasing, I go to A&B Sound.)

I'm getting closer to done my favourite-song list. I think it'll probably stabilize at 750, and I'm at 500 so far, still filling it fairly randomly, but then I'll have something I can twiddle a little bit. It'd be nicer if I could start at the bottom, but the top's easier for me to figure out. I don't want to have to leave out too many, so I can impress you with what I think are variegated tastes and you will probably think is somebody irretrievably mired with 80's pop and juvenilia. Sorry, I always get a bit defensive about my tastes, as a way to keep from being apologetic about them. But I like what I like, and all I hope is that maybe somewhere out there someone will be able to think of something else I might like too.

I don't know if I've mentioned that I'd like to have a radio show somewhere where I could play all of this stuff, but it'll probably never happen...

Aaron // 12:02 p.m. Clix me!

Sunday, November 18, 2001:

Scraps of Brain Rushing Down The Drain

I am fairly close to finishing another sequence of tapes(i.e. listening to each of my tapes, and CDs, once). The other day I was preparing for the next one, and I was re-sorting my tapes and periodically checking against my computerized list to make sure I didn't miss any...I discovered that there were half a dozen tapes that I have had in my collection for a few years now that were not on my list. Which meant that they would never come up in the randomized list, so I hadn't listened to them at all in that time. And they're all ones that I had remembered thinking, "It's been a while since I heard that one," but I thought nothing of it at the time. Oh, and a couple of CDs too(including my South Park "Chef Aid" CD). That is always the danger of making catalogues of your possessions--they may resemble reality, but they may also depart from it at some points because the cataloguing happens through a fallible human medium.

Yesterday I bought a few more library booksale tapes, although these ones didn't have library barcode stickers or anything on them(yay!), so I'm not sure where the library got them. Sometimes people donate stuff and the library doesn't want it(all), so they sell it. I got six tapes, for a dollar, which I think is pretty good. So far all the ones I've listened to have been decent sound quality. Most of them are vintage early-80's new wave stuff--Martha & The Muffins' "This Is The Ice Age", Images In Vogue's self-titled EP, Darkroom's "San Paku". Yello's "Stella" might fit in there too, and maybe Wang Chung's "Points On The Curve". (Just noticed that most of those are Canadian--I've never been sure about Images In Vogue, but I have my suspicions; Wang Chung is, Darkroom was actually from Edmonton, and at least some of Martha & The Muffins.) The sole ringer is Animotion's self-titled, which I'm still not sure about. I liked Animotion's first two albums, with Astrid Plane & Bill Wadhams, but this one they got Cynthia Rhodes & Paul Engemann, and it's not quite the same. (This is the album with "Room To Move" on it, as opposed to their other big hit, "Obsession".) I just realized, too, that Cynthia Rhodes is probably the same woman who's liked married to Richard Marx or something, since they cowrote a song on the album. Ah, music trivia. Who needs sports?

The car got fixed, by the way, to the tune of $750 or so, but half of that was maintenance stuff--new brake fluid and coolant, new battery, new rear-window brake light, new PVC valve(which I think has something to do with the air filter; the people at Mr. Lube told me to get it replaced, because it was on too tight for them to do). The actual stalling problem seemed to be accountable more to moribund spark plugs and a faulty thermostat. Anyway, it seems to be running fine, though it hasn't been driven much this week.

I might go into work Monday, I haven't decided yet.

Aaron // 3:32 p.m. Clix me!

Keep Your Eyes On The Dice

Some of you may have noticed that, with my compulsive's attention to detail, there is always a title in <H2> on all of my blog entries. I just don't go for minimalism, I guess. And some of them may be tantalizing familiar, or even mind-shatteringly obvious. I usually grab them from the song in my head or in my tape deck, whether it's appropriate or not, though sometimes I try harder. Sometimes they come from other places, too. What I want you to do is compete to see if you can identify them. Comment them, email them, or whatever, as long as you don't try just screaming at your computer screen until the anti-terrorist police come and take you away.

I can't legislate against web searches, but they are a bit unsporting, don't you think? (
/dev/joe, this means you. Oh, and by the way, the Manx Cat was from Grimjack, and Inky Bloaters is a Danielle Dax song.)

Actually, I'm just posting this right now so because I've added a Clix thing to my template, and wanted to see if it will show up if I submit something new. But I've been meaning to do this for a while. I have to come up with a title for this entry...oh, the pressure, the pressure... (This will seem anticlimactic to you, the reader, because of the fact that you've already seen the title, but I can't help that.)

Aaron // 12:14 p.m. Clix me!

Friday, November 16, 2001:

There Goes The Neighbourhood

I almost forget, I was going to sign paeans to the wonder that is Halls cough drops. They have saved me more times than I can count, from messy disease symptoms. I've been accused of being a junkie, but I can stop anytime I want. All I have to do is get better, and I can cut down to one a day.

Honey Lemon is my favourite flavour, at least regular-strength flavour. Cherry is fine too, though it wears on me after a while. Orange was okay for a change, but I think they're retired it. Now they have a bunch of new "mild" flavours. Lemon-Lime is great, but unfortunately it doesn't do anything for the symptoms! Humbug. Ditto for Strawberry.

Saw it in someone else's Blog, downloaded it, installed it, and it rocks! PopUp Killer is what it's called, and I should have a link to it here, but I can't find it. Ah,
here it is. Kills pop-ups and makes neat sound effects while it does so.

Aaron // 9:22 p.m. Clix me!

Check Your Tears At The Door

It's been a few days, and I don't really apologize for that. Nobody's sent me any angry Den-of-Ubiquity-withdrawal emails, for instance. And I've been sick, which is probably only an indirect reason for my not blogging; I've been at home, and I like to blog at work. At home I've got other interesting things to do.

The novel is proceeding fitfully--some days I don't write at all, some I only write a few hundred words, a paragraph of two, and some I manage to write a respectable amount. Last night, the halfway point, I pushed it over 20,000 words, which means I probably won't hit 50,000 by the end of the month unless I pick up the pace. But I'm not really seeing this as a contest to get over the finish line, but an excuse to get myself writing regularly in the hope that it becomes a habit. If I can manage to fit it into my life and not feel like the rest of it's getting shorted, then there's a hope. And my wife is always quite supportive of my writing, since she would like me to do it more and become a big successful author like her. There's a way to go yet; she's got about a fifteen-year head start on me, at least as far as novels go.

The Tarot card thing isn't working as well as I'd thought; turns out a lot of the card descriptions are way too vague. Often when you need help with your story, you want something concrete--you want to know that a cat will show up, rather than "Accomplishment; discernment; discretion; foresight; safety; prudence; material well-being; love of nature". At least, for a plot-driven person like me--well, actually, I'm mostly idea-driven, but I'll settle for plot, because if I stick to an idea sometimes a plot never shows up and people complain.

As for the sick part, I haven't yet erupted into the huge coughing fits that my wife did; it seems to be sticking in my throat and occasionally my sinuses. By accident a little while ago I picked up what I thought were cough drops, and were actually some kind of throat lozenges that actually numb your throat, but don't do much for coughs. In my current state, they are a godsend. Yesterday morning I almost thought I had laryngitis, because that's where my sore throat was centered, and I was having trouble talking...took one of those lozenges, and in a little while I was back to normal. Something to keep my sinuses clear also proved helpful; last night I neglected it, and this morning I got a nosebleed trying to clear my passages so I could breathe. The humidifier also helps, when I remember it.

I keep thinking that since I feel like crap in the morning, like crap in the evening, and not too bad in the afternoon, that I should really try to sleep in the afternoon. But I don't know if that would work, and sometimes it's nice to be up when it's light out. Right now it gets dark by 5:00 in the afternoon.

At least my office has been great about my being gone this entire week, and part of last week too. No major problems they couldn't fix have come up(at least, none they thought I could help with). I don't think Edna even keeps track of my sick days, or holidays for that matter. I fill in timesheets, but I don't think they ever get entered. I'm not worried about holidays this year, though, because Christmas finally manages to be in the middle of the week, so I only need four days to get from the 22nd all the way through to New Year's.

Right now I'm listening to "Out My Way" by the Meat Puppets, another library pick, though not completely random because I've been curious about these guys for a while. So far I'm liking what I hear, though fifteen years ago when it originally came out I probably wouldn't have. The name turned me off for a while, and I think I saw a video of theirs way back, though I could be mixing them up with somebody else. ("King of The Hill", I think it was called.) Other library albums this week have been less rewarding; Staind's "Break The Cycle" was okay but not great--by my standards--the music did not make me interested in listening to the lyrics. And Sparklehorse's "Good Morning Spider" was just weird. Not quite Pere Ubu weird or anything, but not very accessible. I like things to be accessible.

For books, I just finished Tanith Lee's Reigning Cats And Dogs, which is not her best, but okay. Actually, I've been a little bit disappointed with most of her books I read since The Blood of Roses, which should really be the be-all and end-all of vampire novels. (It wasn't, though.) Just started Terry Pratchett's Carpe Jugulum, which makes me almost caught up on him--only one more paperback novel left, and then two that are still in hardcover. (Still waiting for The Truth--I think he switched paperback publishers, and it threw his schedule all off.)

Before that I was reading Generica by Will Ferguson, and it was a hoot. A very funny satire on Western culture, the publishing industry, self-help books, and a bunch of other stuff. Joe Bob says check it out.

Aaron // 8:32 p.m. Clix me!

Saturday, November 10, 2001:

I Swim By And Pull The Plug

I forget to record my word count last night, but it was close to 12,500; yeah, I only managed a thousand words last night. I was starting to run out of things to do, and there was no conflict, no risk. I'm still having some trouble with that, but I have a direction to move in now, at least, and now I'm up to 14,343 words. A little bit more than the minimum rate I needed as of last night, but I hope to get further ahead in future. I did manage to push myself this far, though.

To add to the Real Fun Time that is this week, our car decided to do funny things this week. Three times in a row on Wednesday, once on Thursday, and then several dozen times on Friday morning. Friday I managed to analyze the problem, which seemed at first to consist of stalling at red lights, but it was more complicated than that. Basically, what was happening was that if I was in third(or possible second, I wasn't sure)gear, and took my foot off the gas for too long, the RPM's plunged down to zero, and the car stalled. The only way to prevent this was to brake hard and get back down into first gear, where it never stalled. Morning rush hour traffic is not the most fun time to stall over and over again, with many hapless drivers behind you. At least it always started again.

So I took it in(the Ford place across from my office said they couldn't do anything about it, but on the short drive over to the Chrysler place, it didn't stall on me once), and last I heard they're scheduled to work on it on Monday. I tossed in a number of other maintenance-type tasks that either they or the people that did my last oil change and transmission flush recommended. I hope that it isn't a big transmission problem, but I suppose it probably is. It'd be nice if I could blame it on the people who did the transmission flush, but it was probably going to fall apart anyway. Glad it didn't do it on the highway up to Grande Prairie at Thanksgiving. (Remember, you furriners, Canadian Thanksgiving is in October.)

Not having a car kinda sucks, but I get more reading done on the bus, which is good because I've been kind of crawling through my current read, Tanya Huff's The Quartered Sea. It's the fourth in her "Quarters" fantasy series--Sing The Four Quarters, Fifth Quarter, and No Quarter being the other ones. Fifth is my favourite so far, because it's got lots of nice conflict going on. This one has mostly been suffering from my attempts(successful, as of today)to finish reading that Asimov's Chronology of the World, so maybe I'll manage to make major progress in it tomorrow. Next I will probably have to go to Generica by Will Ferguson, which is due back at the library in two weeks. My friend Trish recommended it to me, and it sounded interesting, so I will keep you posted.

Robert Christgau and I finally agree on something! Well, we've probably done it more than once, but I might have mentioned in general that I disagree with the venerable rock critic about a lot of albums. Still, I decided to try a few that he recommended, and his paydirt with Amy Rigby's "Diary of A Mod Housewife". Best album I've heard since Poe's "Haunted". I hear she's got a couple of other albums out, too...though while I put her on my to-buy list, it'll be a while, at my current rate, before I actually buy it. Especially what with having a possible transmission repair bill coming up soon.

Should probably go to bed now; Simon skipped his nap today, then seemed to be in pain during supper, so we gave him some Tylenol and then decided not to go to the doctor when he calmed down right away(even before the Tylenol could possibly have taken effect), and then he zonked out totally shortly after 7:00. So it's not impossible he could be waking up at 5:30 asking for milk...and it's my turn to get up. Lucky me. At least Nicole's cough is dying down a bit, and we can actually sleep in the same room again.

Aaron // 10:56 p.m. Clix me!

Thursday, November 08, 2001:

It's A Petrol-Driven Violin

Might as well duplicate the funky number-crunching that I posted on the
NaNoWriMo Guerrilla Rebellion page. Yeah, I got invited to join the rebellion, which is to say all those people who were too late to sign up for the actual Writing Month, but are still trying to do it. Thirteen of us so far, an auspicious number. We should change our name to the Guerrilla Coven or something.

Anyway, crunchy numbers: 11,598 words as of tonight. That means 22 more days at 1746 words a day, or 16.5 more days at my current average rate of 2320 words a (productive) day.

Still don't quite know where this thing is going, but it's going...

My wife is still having trouble sleeping due to her cough. Last night she thinks she got about two least, by the time Simon woke up at 6:00. So I stayed home from work today, went out on our several-days-overdue grocery trip(she hasn't been feeling like cooking, so we haven't been using as many of the raw materials...we always have to run out of meat for supper before we go shopping), and generally tried to give her more rest time. We'll see if she's better tomorrow...and then the weekend.

Watched "24" on Tuesday, and I still can't believe that that's actually television. I mean, it's on TV, and yet it was so far beyond every other thing I've seen there... Well, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but it was amazing. Watched "The Tick" tonight, and it was funny. I've never read the comic or watched the animated show, but I've heard about it...

Aaron // 11:31 p.m. Clix me!

Tuesday, November 06, 2001:

Words Are Weapons, Sharper Than Knives

There was a comment back on that quiz-meme thing I filled out which I responded to there, but I decided I wanted to go into it at greater length, and also to make it less ephemeral, since apparently the guy who stores the comments feels free to delete them at any time.

The comment in question boiled down to: Why would I use the Tarot to help me with my book (and own a deck in the first place)while thinking that astrology was bunk?

The two are really independent issues, so let me address them as such:

I don't remember when I first ran across the Tarot; I remember reading about them in some Piers Anthony books, but I think I already knew what they were at that point. Anyway, I liked their imagery, and felt free to imbue them with magical powers in a Dungeons & Dragons setting, but I never took them seriously as real-world fortune-telling devices. They embody a variety of archetypal events, emotions, and people.

So lest you think that I am seeking mystical advice on the foreordained course of my story, what I am in fact doing is merely a slightly more focused version of flipping open my Funk & Wagnalls and picking a random word. This way I am more likely to get something I can use in my story, and not have to try to figure out how to work "cytoplasm" into my fantasy novel. I also have a list of story elements from Ye Olde Rusty Lantern(which I promise to explain in greater detail sometime soon, or find a link to), which I am using as well.

Now, as to the bunkness of astrology... Well, first of all, sun-sign astrology, which presumes that everyone born in the same month-long period has exactly the same personality, I find highly unlikely, almost as bad as the Chinese-year system whereby everyone born in the same year has the same personality. And then to say that a person must share some of the characteristics of a bull, because they happened to be born in a period when, two thousand years ago, the sun's apparent position would have coincided with an arbitrary pattern of stars scattered at varying distances through space that the ancients happened to think formed a pattern resembling a bull's horns--well, that's just riding the unlikely into the absurd. (And let's face it, when the sun is in Taurus, whether the real constellation or the zodiacal one, which lags a month or so behind, you can't see Taurus, can you? That never made any sense to me.)

I am willing to believe that, in primitive societies, more tied to the cycle of the seasons, that a child born in summer may have a different personality than a child born in winter. But in a lot of primitive societies, most children were born nine months after the annual fertility festival(when was that, vernal equinox?)anyway, or so the theory goes.

When you bring the moon and the planets and the houses of the sky and all that into things, then there is a bit more variance in the personality descriptions, but from what I've seen you get a hodgepodge which a competent astrologer can tailor to say whatever the hell they want, and if they have someone actually present whose personality they can make spot-judgements on, they can quickly figure out what to throw away and what to keep.

What would convince me that there was anything at all to astrology? Okay, well let's say someone did a study that used people's horoscopes, and no other information, to predict their personality types, let's say using Myers-Briggs typing, and then those same people were shown to have predominantly that same Myers-Briggs personality. Of course, a person's horoscope reflects only the conditions at their birth, which would be the "nature" part of their personality; everything else that happened to them after that could still throw things out of whack. To take an extreme example, someone who would otherwise have had an outgoing personality type who was locked up in a box and sexually abused by their stepfather may be a bit less outgoing in adulthood.

But the presumption of astrology is that things work the other way, that you can draw analogies between complex systems like the human brain and overly simplified animal-personality types, and use something unrelated to either except in the most superficial sense to predict which are associated with which. And I'd need a lot more evidence than astrologers are willing to provide, not to mention some kind of explanation as to the mechanism, before I'll buy into that.

Aaron // 4:03 p.m. Clix me!

Monday, November 05, 2001:

Say It Isn't So

7470 words today, a little under the 2500/day goal I've been setting myself, but it also seemed to be the end of a chapter, so I'll call it close enough. Went a bit slower today than the other two days, probably at least partly due to the hot love scene I put in. Those things are harder to write than one would think. Maybe it gets better with practice... Starting to get a bit of an idea where it's going, still don't have a title.

I should clarify, for
some people, that I'm really not as productive a person as I might seem. I might have mentioned(I get tired of looking up on my blog to see if I've already mentioned things, so if I repeat myself you'll just have to deal)that I've never finished a long work; in fact, I'm probably already close to or past the length of my longest. Yes, I know, it's not done yet.... In general I don't have staying power, and once things start to get hard or unrewarding then I stop. I have umpteen different long-term projects(most of them involving lists, why do you ask?)which I may never finish, and the enthusiasm for which comes and goes. Maybe this will be one of them, who knows.

When asked to explain this flaw, I usually point to my youth. I was a gifted child, I say, and I was insufficiently challenged all throughout school, because I made the decision to stay in a grade with reasonably like-aged classmates rather than catapult forward into university like Gary Coleman in that stupid TV-movie years ago. If I had done that, maybe I would have been a Steven Hawking graduate student, or Vice-President at Microsoft or something. This is fine as far as it goes, but I have a bad habit of feeling that once I've accounted for a flaw, I don't have to deal with it anymore. As Linus once said, "These aren't flaws! These are character traits!"

But I always seem to work well under deadlines. Once, in a programming contest in University, as a one-person team, I creamed a number of two- or three-person teams in completing four short programming assignments in a limited amount of time.
(Of course, when I went to the regional championships with a three-person team, we crashed and burned badly.) I often finished my exams long before the deadline. So I figure that a one-month deadline, however fake, might get me off my ass and doing some writing. And maybe even keep doing writing after the month is over. It's building up the routine that is the hard part. My computer is chock full o' fun & games, and I'm a guy who can have fun with a text editor program if I've got the right text. What I have to do is convince myself that writing is fun. (And this is just churning out first draft; after that, I'd have to try to convice myself that rewriting is fun.)

Whether what comes out of this novel thing is worthwhile or just unmitigated crap, it will be a valuable experience. Sort of like I imagine a Clarion Workshop would be. (Love to do one of those sometime...this is just a warmup. Another goal for my retirement after Nicole's books really start to sell. (And it looks like The Catalyst, one of her earlier-published books, will be rereleased in e-book format sometime relatively soon. Not much of an advance, but 50% royalties are nothing to sneeze at, even if that's 50% of e-book revenues, which I suppose you could probably sneeze at if you wanted to and had a cold or something.)

Time for updates on a few more library CD's I listened to recently, nothing particularly striking, I'm afraid. First we have "Live At Last" by The Subdudes, who you may recall I ran across in that Allen Steele novel a little while ago. Now I've never heard much of the Grateful Dead, but this is kind of what I would imagine they'd sound like. Just blues-rock stuff, maybe a little more creative than your run of the mill, but I'd probably rather listen to Phish instead. Then there's some Arvo Part, who my brother put some of on a tape for me a little while ago. This one, "I Am The True Vine", is entirely choral, and frankly I just couldn't give a toss. What I heard before was more strings and drum, and that was kind of cool. (I'm not sure how I can like harmony singing so much, but am so cold toward choral. Maybe it's because it's usually incomprehensible, and religious to boot. Religious music makes me uncomfortable.) Finally there was the Butthole Surfers' "Locust Abortion Technician", which was just weird. Some bits I liked, but not an entire song or anything. I also found it very annoying that the CD booklet didn't have any of the track listings on it; they were written on the CD itself, so while I was listening I had no clue what I was listening to. I like to have titles; they help me get a grasp on the song, something to hook it to in my mind.

My wife's got a bad cough right now, and something close to laryngitis. That's not particularly fun; it's hard for her to lie down, like to sleep for instance, without having a big coughing fit. She was semi-seriously considering trying to sleep in the recliner chair we got from my Grandpa's house. Last night she slept downstairs so that I could get some sleep, at least. I hope she's better tonight, and I hope she gets well soon.

Aaron // 10:57 p.m. Clix me!

Sunday, November 04, 2001:

I Can't Stop Laughing But It's Nothing You Said

And day two of the novel ends at 5037 words. I wonder what I should call it. "Queen of Swords" suggests itself, but badly misleading because of the near-complete lack of swords so far, and besides, I'm not sure Yeryis would know how to use one. It's taken a bit of a dark and ugly turn, probably a combination of my watching that "Uprising" miniseries about the Warsaw ghettoes in World War II, and maybe a little bit of Katherine Kurtz's The Bastard Prince, with all that oppression of the Deryni.

I did wonder once or twice, when reading the Kurtz book, about the ethics of the main characters. I mean, we have this group of people, the Deryni, who have psychic/magic powers, can mess with people's minds as well as healing, and at the time of this book they are being persecuted by the Church, hunted, and generally feared and mistrusted. And what do our Deryni go around doing? Whenever they run across someone who either a)might help them, or b)won't help them, they go into his or her mind the first chance they get and mess around to make sure that they will help. And they wonder why people don't like them! The worst part is that only once or twice is any one of them conflicted about it. Maybe they dealt with this problem in an earlier book and I'm just not remembering, but it's a little bit disquieting.

Just finished Dean Koontz's Shadowfires, which was okay but felt a little bit repetitive. It was originally released under a pseudonym, so maybe Koontz felt free to reuse elements in or from other books. I mean, it's got the desert flash flood from Dark Rivers of The Heart(which did it much better, I think), as well as the corrupt government guys, and a little bit of the weird uncontrollable some-things-man-was-not-meant-to-know science of Midnight. Better than the latter, though. And there is one major coincidence threaded through the book--you know, man A and woman B are together, and the guy who is investigating woman B's husband's death is also an old enemy of man A...and there's no good reason for the two to be related. Which also happened in DRoTH.

That Bonzi thing is getting a little bit annoying. It's a decent voice synthesizer, but Simon has really been obsessing about it. Probably because it can talk. He wouldn't shut up about "purple monkey" all evening, so we had to put him up in his crib. I felt a little bad about it, but I figure one of the things you have to learn in childhood is that you can't always get what you want. We must seem awfully arbitrary to him, though, giving him things sometimes but not other times, with no pattern that he can discern. Not to mention his obsession with the new library books. Though he is getting spookily able to fill in the words if you pause to let him while you're reading, and even with books he hasn't had that long... Getting that audio memory going, I guess. I have a fantastic audio memory, so maybe that's it.

Aaron // 10:54 p.m. Clix me!

Saturday, November 03, 2001:

It's A Dirty Story of A Dirty Man

Whoo-hoo! My first day on this novel-writing thing, and I already rack up 2587 words. That's ahead of the 1800 or so I needed as my minimum, but I should probably bank up some time for later when I'm trying to actually wrap everything up.

Since I had no inspirations whatsoever, I went to my Tarot cards(Thoth Tarot, but I'm using Stuart Kaplan's Tarot Classic for decoding)for story elements, and, why not, to my old Ye Olde Rusty Lantern story-element cards as well. So, starting out with a Queen of Swords(main character #1), The Chariot reversed, "darkness", "winter solstice", Three of Disks(led me to main character #2), Three of Wands, "ocean", and "roses", I seem to have picked up a certain amount of steam. We got a culture clash in the making, at the very least. Some of the setting may be at least slightly borrowed from Rebecca Bradley's Lady In Gil, but that didn't occur to me until now so I should be okay. A fantasy-ish world, but no overt magic yet, and I may not. I reserve the right to toss in SF colony-world stuff later anyway. We'll see if I get a YORL card of "rocket" or something. I am also using the Fantasy Name Generator(see previous entry with lots o' links)for all my names, so far. Doesn't give me any linguistic consistency, like there are two separate cultures with different languages or anything, but most fantasy novels people all speak the same language anyway, so I don't care. No idea what my main characters look like, either...

I downloaded BonziBuddy today, from a popup I kept getting from Bearshare. It's a cute little purple gorilla thing that sits on your screen sort of like one of those Microsoft Office Assistant things, only this one has an actual voice synthesizer built in. It's free, but it's got a bunch of features you have to pay for, and I'm not sure if I want to shell out for that right now. I mean, it's very useful for amusing Simon, especially since I can make it say whatever I want, and he's still monkey-crazy, but I don't think I need it to check my email for me, or surf the web, or even play checkers. So I'll think of it as a free voice-synthesizer with occasional nag features, and probably be happy with that.

But it is cute.

Aaron // 10:26 p.m. Clix me!

Friday, November 02, 2001:

When You're Following An Angel

And now, some more of those links cluttering up my "Favourites" menu:

The Poll: Wheel of Time: The Movie Basically a poll where you can register your own ideas as to who should be cast in a notional movie of the Robert Jordan books. I don't have a clue myself, but others may find it fun...

Fractint Homepage A nifty freeware DOS program for generating fractal images. There's a Windows version as well, but it doesn't have as many nifty features. - Invent Your Own Language LangMaker is a program intended to make it easier to devise model languages, but the program itself is no great shakes--written in Visual Basic version 3, flaky in a modern Windows environment, and not that feature-rich. The links here are pretty impressive, though.

SETI@home: Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence at Home A massively distributed project whereby you can devote your own computer's spare cycles to analyzing massive amounts of radio telescope data and search for patterns that might indicate intelligent life. Because it's best to know if they're coming.

Jeffrey Zeldman Presents: The Ad Graveyard A collection of ads that never ran, for reasons ranging from the obscure to the blisteringly obvious.

Moller International The flying car people. My wife had this bookmarked for research she was doing for her book Silver Eyes(which will be out in December!).

Star Trek: Voyager LogBook My wife and I liked to watch Voyager, but due to lack of cable we missed most of the second season; here we could check to see which ones we had managed to catch on reruns.

The Unofficial Frantics Web Site Web pages dedicated to one of Canada's funniest comedy troupes ever, the Frantics, who were on CBC Radio for several years. I might have talked about them on other pages; I am acquiring many of their shows on MP3.

Ibn Qirtaiba SF Magazine I forget why I bookmarked this now, but apparently this is a magazine run by the SF SIG of Australian Mensa.

NewWorld Homepage A page with info about Canadian music(which they also sell some of).

ZapSpot ZapSpot has made some pretty fun little games, and it's all free, although their site has some annoyingly obnoxious popups! Is there any way to disable those stupid things????

Solitaire Central Hey, if you like playing solitaire on your computer, or with real physical cards, this is the site for you.

Dave Bernazzani's Freeware A number of freeware(though you are encouraged to donate)games written by Mr. Bernazzani.

Snood homepage Snood is a very addictive little game for Windows or DOS...and it looks like a Gameboy edition is coming out too.

The Market List - A Writers Market Resource for Genre Fiction I'd use this more if I sent out more stories, and there are better market lists out there, but it's a good place to start. Home Page A site for sharing reviews of books and getting them recommended. I don't have the time to spend there, and I am not short of books to read, but others may find it interesting...

Cygwin A.K.A. Cygnus for Windows, Cygnus being a port of UNIX onto MS-DOS. What that all means is that I can run UNIX from Windows, which to me ended up being less hassle than running Linux and trying to share data with Windows. Essentialy to my life right now.

The Atlantis Project The source for that Atlantis game I might have mentioned, two games of which I'm playing right now and which Lorenai was loosely based on.

Loud Sound Home of Tony Mason, a.k.a. None of The Above, who gave out a few free tapes of his sometimes interesting, sometimes lame, and often quirky music over the Internet. I still listen to them, so there must be something there.

Name Generator Table of Contents Another name generator site; if I had to guess, I'd say it was WarHammer-related.

Fantasy Name Generator And another one, one of the best I've come across.

Atlantis Crystal Ball A utility for keeping track of data from Atlantis games, which I have already found indispensible. And the author is quick to respond to bug reports, too. I think I bookmarked this site mostly because it had a Windows version of an old favourite Apple game, Santa Paravia, but I thought it was a bit buggy.

And that's enough for now.

Aaron // 11:05 p.m. Clix me!

Too Many Clues In This Room

One thing I hate in talking to users(which I rarely do), or even getting bug reports indirectly, is that they don't know how to describe bugs.

I mean, your program crashes and you get a message-box which says "Runtime error '53': No such item in collection". What do you report? 50% of our users will probably say "Yeah, then it said 'Error 53'." As if we all had the numerical error codes memorized. It would take me ten minutes just to find it in the help documentation system. Another 25% would probably say, "Yeah, then there was a runtime error." A "runtime error" is basically any kind of error that would cause a if it crashes, then it is because of a runtime error, so there was NO ADDITIONAL INFORMATION imparted there.

Ideally, we would change the format of the error messages so that the extraneous info would not get shown at all, but we're working with Visual Basic, which makes it impossible to implement a true global error handler, and makes it difficult to fake it, so that would be difficult.

But more annoying than users doing this, is our sales guy doing it. He works here, he's used the software for a long time, and he still can't get it through his head that he should be reading past the number.

I might have finally found Alex Zahara! Those of you in the know will recognize him as an occasional or frequent guest-star on such SF shows(all or most Vancouver-based)as "Stargate SG-1", "Andromeda", "Dark Angel", and "Third Wave". But he's from Grande Prairie, and around the same age as my brother and I, so I remember him from school and after. The last time I saw him was when he was briefly playing a Jet in a production of "West Side Story" at the G.P. Regional College theatre. He left before we actually went on stage. And he went by "Sandy" for years, though I don't blame him for changing that.

Anyway, I was reminded that he's slated to be one of the main stars in the upcoming Babylon 5 series about the Rangers, and also just discovered that he's a lead character in J. Michael Stracyzinski's other upcoming series, "Jeremiah", a post-holocaust kind of thing. So I did another web search for him, to see if I could actually find some contact info. After some fruitless searches from MSN(yeah, well, it's my startup page at work, for various reasons), I decided to try Google, and stumbled across a Yahoogroups fan club mailing list, to which he is allegedly subscribed, and posted there. So we'll see if he still remembers me or not, or if he ever reads the thing...

Aaron // 2:40 p.m. Clix me!

Forces Pulling From The Centre of The Earth

This is something I found on
Every Little Thing I Do Is Magic, one of my current favourite blogs. No idea where she got it, but it looked interesting so I will, as she said, "pass the meme" and try it.

Living arrangement?
Me & the missus & the kid in a three-bedroom, two-story house with finished basement. Very narrow lot. One entire room in the basement more or less dedicated to books(plus a futon for guests). Two computers.

What book are you reading now?
Shadowfires by Dean Koontz. Since I alternate him with Dick Francis, and seeing new items about the Breeders Cup made me want to read Dick Francis. Yes, I am sometimes a bit silly about sticking to my reading schedule. I probably shouldn't have read it before going to bed last night, though.

What's on your mousepad?
My work one is boring blue with worn patches on it. My home one is an one with a Groucho Marx quote: "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a book, it's too dark to read." I think I stole it from Terranet.

Favorite board game?
Could be Clue right now, but since two-person Clue is boring, we only play it with company, which is pretty rarely for us. I also like Scattergories and Mah Jongg, but those aren't really board games. Oh, and Hand & Foot Canasta, which is a family tradition by this point.

Favorite magazine?
Locus, possibly, although I rarely read the author interviews or book reviews, but I like the market news and lists of forthcoming books.

Favorite smells?
I have a weird taste for smells that other people might find unpleasant, even acrid. Gasoline, for instance. All carcinogenic, I don't doubt, so I try to avoid them.

Favorite sound?
I've got lots of favourite songs, but sounds? I pass.

Worst feeling in the world?
The stomach-wrenching feeling of falling.

First thing you think when you wake up?
Is it my turn to get up with Simon or not?

Favorite color?
Purple, though the shade varies.

How many rings before you answer the phone?
After two, the answering machine picks up. We aren't so deluged with phone calls that it's usually a major hassle. At work, it takes more like four or five before I conclude that nobody else is going to get it.

Future child's name?
Well, we've already got one, but we have also extensively discussed the next one as well. Luke and Tasha are leading contenders.

Most important thing in life?
Books & music. I could probably survive without all else.

Favorite foods?
Non-chocolate cheesecake and other cream cheese desserts. Almonds & pistachio nuts. Red Delicious apples, in season. (They've been very good for the past few weeks.)

Chocolate or vanilla?
Vanilla. Chocolate is okay in moderation, but I only tolerate it. (Chocaholic comments to /dev/null. You already dominate the goddamn dessert world, so shut up, okay?)

Do you like to drive fast?
I like to drive the speed limit, and make the people behind me drive it as well. I'm anal retentive and holier-than-thou when it comes to my driving. If you pass me when I'm going the speed limit, I will swear at you from the safety of my glass and metal cocoon. I have no compunctions about passing those going slower than the limit, though, and I like to accelerate very quickly to the speed limit when the light turns green.

Do you sleep with a stuffed animal?
No, although Simon has a monkey and a bunny, and occasionally a pink panther.

Storms: cool or scary?
As long as they don't make my computer go off, and I'm not on the highway at night, they're fine.

First car?
My wife actually bought it, back before we were married, but a red '84 Mercury Topaz, which we drove not quite into the ground.

If you could meet someone dead or alive...?
I've often had conversations with William Shakespeare in which I explain various aspects of modern life. (Almost put that dating myself?) But I'd love to jaw with Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison, and possibly Spider Robinson(who I did meet a fanboy geek I got him to sign my fairly complete collection of his books.)

Favorite alcoholic beverage?
Wildberry vodka coolers, although vodka & ginger will work, or even White Russians. Don't like beer, tequila, or red wine.

What's your zodiac sign?
I was born under the astrological sign of Cancer, but that's absolutely irrelevant. Why do you care? Astrology is bunk.

Do you eat broccoli stems?
Mmmm. I'm the guy who hangs out at the vegetable tray at parties and eats it clean, except for icky things like tomatoes, and usually eschews the dip.

If you could have any job you want, what would it be?
Playtester. But since that doesn't pay...

If you could dye your hair any color?
I don't care that much about it, so I wouldn't. Girly question.

Ever been in love?
Hey, I've been married for ten years. You think maybe?

Is the glass half empty or hall full?
That depends on whether I'm eating spicy food or picking it up two hours after supper with the illusion that it's empty.

Favorite movie?
The Princess Bride. The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover.

Do you type with your fingers on the right keys?
Sure. I learned to touch-type when I was about eight because my handwriting was(and is)atrocious, although it improved once I stopped trying cursive writing. (Now I do cursive printing instead.)

What's under your bed?
Dust bunnies, used Bounce sheets, one of Simon's old pacifiers.

What's your favorite number?
I'd say pi, but that's so trite. Let's go for the golden ratio, know, the number where n^2 = 1+n and n-1 = 1/n.

What's your favorite sport to watch?
Decathlon was great fun when you could actually watch all the competitors. Otherwise I'd go for darts or snooker.

Aaron // 11:33 a.m. Clix me!

The Sky Is A Poisonous Garden

Two years ago on Halloween we hardly got any trick-or-treaters at all. We had lots of candy, and my wife made popcorn balls, and we had a lot of leftovers. We figured that we must just now be on a poorly-travelled route; our last place, we were in a townhouse-condominium complex, and we faced onto a park, so we didn't get many people there either. Simon was five days old, and we had the blinds closed so he wouldn't get cold(first-time parent syndrome, I guess).

Last year, we bought a modest amount of candy, and were absolutely deluged, because we had our blinds open, and apparently that was the recognized signal that we were giving out candy. We ran out fairly quickly, and they still kept coming. We gave out my wagon wheels, we gave out apples and oranges, we gave out pop cans. And finally we closed the blinds and stopped answering the doorbell. (We never descended to giving out money, like Rachel on last night's Friends episode...)

And this year, we bought lots and lots of candy, stocking up for weeks beforehand. And we've got two-thirds of it left. I blame the weather, which was windy and rainy this year. I don't remember what it was like last year, but it must have been better than that. Oh, well, now we've got a bunch of leftover candy again. (If we'd known, we would've been more generous with the kids that did come.)

I took Simon around to a few houses, and I have no idea if he knew what was going on, but he seemed to get into it. He was in a sort of cowboy costume, with a cowboy hat, cowboy-motif bib, red rubber boots, and blue jeans, although his hat kept blowing off. Some people were really into the decorations, and I was amazed by some of the gadgets available. Simon was particularly impressed by the bats, and has been on a bat kick ever since. "Bat out side?" he keeps saying, and their frequent appearance in the Wizard And Wart book I got from the library last weekend has catapulted it into high popularity, rivaling Amelia Bedelia.

There were a few Harry Potters, with glasses and the forehead mark, and one group looked like a whole Gryffindor delegation. (It is Gryffindor, right? Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Slytherin, and what's the other one?) Looking forward to the movie, even at 2.5 hours. That and "Fellowship of The Ring" within weeks of each other. I anticipate a few lineups. But I recall hearing that some early showings of "The Phantom Menace" were under-attended; anyone who didn't want to be there for the first show apparently was willing to wait for a few days.

Just got a look at the
National Novel Writing Month page. If only I had known in time! Not that I would've managed it, but hey, a month is more possible than three days.

Aaron // 10:57 a.m. Clix me!

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