I've been severely congested the last couple of days and have had a sore throat and a cough. I think I may have picked up a bug while down in Hollywood late last week. It's always frustrating getting sick, but for me, since I sleep with a nasal pillow C-PAP mask, any congestion and I'm not getting good sleep for days on end. I hate it.
As a writer, there is little that is worse than lack of sleep. You can't concentrate. Writing & reading are completely out of the question. I can't even play chess because I'm so tired and miserable. Can't exercise either.
I was hoping to catch the opening day Detroit Tiger's game, and that got rained out. So in-between my 5 minute naps (which is about as long as I can sleep without my CPAP), I've been playing video games, just wasting time. The 2015-remaster of Bethesda's Dishonored is on sale for $20, which includes all the DLC. I'm not big into stealth games, but because Dishonored 2 got such rave reviews, I figured I'd try out the first one. A few hours into it, and I'm liking it so far, even though graphically, it's showing its age (the original was released in 2012 on the previous gen consoles).
Luckily I rarely get sick in Southern California. In my home state of Michigan, it's a regular occurrence. That's one of the many reasons why I live here in Los Angeles.
I absolutely hate not being productive for more than a day or so. I think that's the worst part of getting sick.
I've been playing chess on and off for as long as I can remember. I always fell in the habit of getting into it for a year or so, and then not playing for several years. I used to belong to the Internet Chess Club, and found it to be a lot of fun. But I haven't had the chance to join a physical chess club because of my work schedule.
Since we now have three Americans in the World Top 10, and two very strong contenders to compete for the International Title next year, I decided to get back into it. It's always a great distraction from writing because it takes total concentration.
I decided to join Chess.com, which is the big alternative to ICC. And wow, am I impressed.
I pay the most expensive dues, which are about $100 a year. But you can play on the site for free if you want, and they have cheaper subscription packages as well.
I pay for the top package because I've found that their learning tutorials are excellent. They have tons of them, covering every aspect of the game. They give you a lessons rating that dips over time if you don't take more lessons or do tactic puzzles. This gives you the incentive needed to keep learning.
The best feature of the site is their analysis computing. They have a motto: There is no losing if you're learning. I love it. After every match, whether against a human opponent, or the computer (whose rating you can set), you can choose an analysis depth (the more in-depth, the longer it takes, but they only take minutes), and the computer will go through the entire match and show you your mild discrepancies, your errors, and your blunders. It will tell you what the better moves are, and show you why as it'll explain the lines of play. It's absolutely fantastic for learning.
The site also does an excellent job at broadcasting tournaments. I watched the final round of the Pro Chess League, and I'm now watching the early rounds of the U.S. Chess Championships. They have chess analysts that discuss the moves in depth. It's very fun to watch, and much more professional than I would have expected it to be.
I hope that my work schedule will someday allow me to join the local West Valley Chess Club. But, for now, I'm very happy with Chess.com, because I feel like they have the tools to not only make me a better chess player, but to allow me to understand the game at a deeper level so that I'll gain a better appreciation of watching the Grandmasters play.
If you haven't played chess in awhile, I highly recommend checking out Chess.com. It's a terrific place to learn.
Sometimes the stars align in the most magnificent of ways.
My work week starts on Thursday afternoon. My typical routine is to go to the grocery store on Thursday morning, cook my lunch for the next few work days, and then head off to work. However, this last Thursday, the water was shut off at my condo complex for maintenance purposes, so I didn't do any cooking.
On Thursdays, my employer gives out free bagels. I decided to eat one this Thursday, since I didn't bring my lunch. I was thinking about going out and getting something else small to eat, but decided to go for a walk during my lunch break instead, something I almost never do.
During my walk, which was at night, I strolled by the Westin Hotel on Century Blvd., just downstreet from LAX. There was a little black kitten, sitting in the grass in front of the hedges alongside the hotel, crying loudly. Several people just walked by her, without even looking. I decided to leave her for the time being, since I didn't want to take her in case her mother had left her there while going out to hunt.
After work, at 11:30pm, I walked back to the front of the hotel. I didn't see the cat, but I whistled, and it replied. So I put out a can of tuna, and after a few minutes, it came walking towards me. I let it eat for a bit before grabbing it and taking it home.
My previous cat had passed away at age 18, early last year. I wasn't planning on getting a new cat for another year or so. But, I figured I certainly wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to save this very frightened little kitty. It had been left on a very busy street, and I'm sure hundreds of people walked by it, ignoring its pleas for help.
She is doing well. I took her to a vet on Friday, and she's a healthy 5-6 week old female kitten. She's getting braver by the day, is eating copious amounts of food, and is a very playful, black ball of fur.
So, as fate would have it, because those water valves at my condo happened to be replaced on Thursday, I was able to rescue a beautiful little kitty who I've named Miss Daisy Buchanan High Dragonborn Metal Cat of Apocalyptic Supernova Thunder, or just plain 'Daisy' for short. You can follow her on Instagram: @missdaisykitten.
I recently returned to Los Angeles from a vacation in rural Upper Michigan, where I grew up. Obviously, these are two largely different worlds with different cultures. Having lived in Southern California for so many years has made me largely forget some of the differences between the places.
For example, Los Angelenos tend to take good weather for granted. You don't need to make alternative plans in case it rains. You don't need to check the weather forecast to decide if you need to reschedule something. You just go out and do what you need to do. You don't have to force yourself to go outside if the weather is good because a clear sky is a rare thing.
In Los Angeles, I rarely get sick. If a bug is going around at work, and I start feeling ill, I'll take a sick day or two, and it almost always puts the sickness at bay before it gains a strong foothold. Back in Michigan, when it gets cold and wet, people tend to stay inside, and you hear coughs the likes of which you almost never hear in Los Angeles. It's almost impossible to avoid sick people in cold climates.
I tend to go to sleep around 2am here in Los Angeles. This is 5am in Michigan, about the time people start getting up. This makes it incredibly hard for me to sleep while I'm there. I tend to get around one or two hours of sleep a night. Mix in with this a house with sick people in it, and it's hard not to catch something. I, fortunately, dodged the bullet this time around, but it really got me thinking about how differently people have to think and act in cold and warm climates. I must have a much greater chance of getting sick in two weeks while visiting in Michigan, than I do spending the other fifty weeks of the year in California.
Naturally, this makes me think about writing. I grew up in rural Michigan, yet because I rarely visit when it's cold, I sort of forgot how much harder it is to dodge sicknesses there than it is to in a climate where people don't have to stay indoors. Having gone to an outdoor wedding while in Michigan, I was reminded that in most places there has to be bad-weather contingency plans for major events. I can't remember the last time I even thought about the weather in Southern California affecting something that I wanted to do.
And that made me wonder if living in a unique area in the world actually works against fiction writers.
Obviously, many great writers have written beautifully about Paris without having been there. I think, however, it would greatly benefit any writer, if they have the opportunity, to travel to a place they're writing extensively about. There are so many different aspects to various regions of the world—some major, some minor—but knowing even the smaller stuff could really add some wonderful color to one's writing.
I never seem to have enough time, nor money, to do much traveling. I have to change that in the future, because traveling and experiencing can only lead to better writing.
I found a pretty cool (and I think useful) website called thetruesize.com. It allows users to accurately compare the sizes of states and countries (which are obviously massively distorted on globes).
I think this can help us as writers because it gives us a sense of how large things are compared to places we know. It's difficult to get a sense of how big Spain, The Netherlands, Brazil, or Bangladesh are, without having lived there. Fortunately, with this site, we can get a clue.
For example, Spain is slightly smaller than Texas (which doesn't seem accurate in my mind):
The Netherlands is much, much smaller than the state of Utah (how can that be?):
It turns out that Brazil is really, really big:
And Bangladesh, with its 172 million people, is half the size of New Mexico, with its population of just over 2 million:
I think this tool can not only help us with travel times, but it can give us a better sense of population densities as well. I'm definitely adding it to my writing research folder.
I absolutely love watching the Olympics, both the Summer & Winter Games. It's not just about the actual events--it's about the narratives. We learn so much about these athletes, and the trials and tribulations they went through to reach the grandest stage. Then we watch them succeed or fail, against the world's strongest competition. It's a true delight to witness.
Every cycle, there're new real-life heroes, the likes of which rival our greatest fictional characters. They get cemented in our long Olympic lore, not only for us to remember, but for future generations to honor as well.
I thought the opening ceremonies last night in Rio were pretty good. I was not a big fan of the London opening ceremonies, but obviously, Beijing's were spectacular. My favorite of all time were the Salt Lake City Winter Games opening ceremonies. From the girl in red with the lantern, to watching the US Hockey team light the soaring cauldron--it was fantastic throughout.
I really hope that Los Angeles wins the competition to host the 2024 Summer Games. I'd love to see many of the events, and unlike some, I'm willing to put up with the couple of weeks of horrible traffic. I'd also like to see a Winter Olympics at some point as well. It's something that's definitely on my bucket list.
Having the whole world get together in peace to compete in sporting events is absolutely wonderful. And every cycle it gets better as we're able to see more events with the expansion of tv channels and internet coverage. It's especially fun when it's in our hemisphere, and we're able to see a lot of live events.
There are some things that the world gets right, and the Olympic Games is definitely one of them.
What a busy end of July I had. I did manage to get moved from my apartment in the East San Fernando Valley to my new condo in the West SFV. It was 105F most days, and it wasn't a fun move, so I'm very glad that it's done.
I'm making slow progress on the stacks of boxes that inhibit my movement around my new place. I finally got my internet connected today, almost five days later than expected. Here's the fun story behind that:
I set up my Time Warner cable myself, over the internet. I brought my own cable modem to my new place, and couldn't get any connection. After calling the Time Warner rep, and after much confusion, we finally figured out that I was off by a digit when entering the new address. We then find out that a technician has to come to my place. A couple of days later, the tech comes, can't get a signal, so he traces the line, and it ends up going to a dish on the roof and not the cable junction box. He can't run the new line because the Co-Op has only contracted service through a different company. A couple of days later (today), the new tech comes, and I finally get my internet connection working. Excited, I set up my Xbox and come to discover that I can't find the power cord to the external drive (which I have most my games on). I know it's in a box somewhere, but Lord knows which one.
So that's the fun stuff of moving. Though I did get most of the painting done before the move, I still have some left to do and some trim work as well. Needless to say, I'll be busy for a few weeks.
I'm hoping to get back to writing soon. It's been too long. I'm going to have to start rereading my new novel from page one. But since I'm about halfway through the first draft, it'll be fun. I'm hoping my wi-fi router will reach all the way to the pool. If not, I might have to buy a more powerful one.
Yesterday I did go down to the pool to read. It was nice. I went for two 45 minute swims, one during the day, one at night. Hopefully, the exercise will help get my mind in shape as well.
I'm guessing that in a couple of weeks, I'll be writing daily, and having time to watch some of that wonderful TV that's out there. It's been a busy, hot summer, but I'm loving my new environment, and believe it will help me be more productive. One can only hope.
I haven't done any writing in almost three weeks. I've done far too little of it in the past couple of months, and I won't be able to do any writing for at least a couple of more weeks.
I'm going through the long process of buying a condo in a co-op and fixing it up before I move in. It's been painting at the new place for a couple of hours before driving into work, every day. Up in the morning, home after midnight. It's right at the same time of year where I work a bunch of overtime since a lot of people are on summer vacation. Needless to say, I've been busy.
What I have been able to do, is think a lot about my fantasy novel that I'm about halfway through the first draft of. So while I'm putting the paintbrush to the wall, I'm still thinking about my characters and the plot-lines, and it's actually been nice because I've worked through some things that I think will benefit the project as a whole. Separation from a project is sometimes beneficial.
Yet, not being able to get any writing done, much less watch any of the tv shows I've wanted to catch up on, has been a bit of a pain. Every couple of nights I've been able to play some Witcher 3 for an hour before nodding off, which has been fun, but I'm seriously looking forward to moving in so I can get back into the old routine.
I'm also looking forward to the change in environment to see how it affects my writing process. I have a feeling that I'm going to spend most mornings poolside doing some reading or writing before I hop in and get my exercise for the day. Plus, since I'm moving from one end of the San Fernando Valley to the other, I'll be able to check out a whole new neighborhood of coffee shops.
I'm hoping a change of environment does my creative process some good. I have a feeling it's going to bode well for me.
Though I have the Pandora app on my Google Nexus 6, I rarely listen to it while I'm out on my hour-long walks or while I'm grocery shopping. I tend to listen to podcasts or Sirius while I'm out and about.
But when I'm home, and I'm doing the dishes or my bills, I almost always turn Pandora on. The Xbox One app is completely useless because it always gets stuck on a still frame of an advertisement, usually one that seems perfectly chosen to create burn-in on my plasma TV. However, the Pandora app on my Amazon Fire box seems to work fine.
I have a complaint, though. Pandora should have two types of rating systems, the default being the simple one they have. The user should be able to choose a more complex rating system, however, one that will better fine-tune the listeners likes and dislikes.
Every song shouldn't be a thumbs-up, thumbs-down, or no rating. Yeah, there are songs that I like to hear often. But just because I give Traveling Band, Bad Moon Rising, and Fortunate Son a thumbs-up, doesn't mean that I want to hear Who'll Stop the Rain as much as those three. I still want to hear Rain every now and then, but Pandora plays it far too often for me. I don't dislike it, so I don't want to give it a thumbs-down. But I'd like to rank it compared to the other CCR songs.
My suggestion would be to have a 1 through 10 rating system for every thumbs-up and a -1 through -10 for every thumbs-down. You hold the thumb icon for two seconds in order to bring up the more accurate rating system.
With this system, Pandora would quickly learn that I'd give Def Leppard's Let it Roll an 8, Rock of Ages a 7, and Rocket a 6. It would also know that I'd give most current pop or country songs a -5 to -10. The more information an algorithm has to work with, the better it can produce the wanted results. In today's competitive world, you need stuff to work well in order to keep consumers attached. If Pandora worked better than it does now, I'd even pay to get rid of the advertising.
Of course, you could just preset anything off of Master of Puppets to be a perfect 10, as everyone would be known to give that score anyway. But for everything else, I think Pandora could use a more precise rating system because with the amount of hours I've poured into it, the algorithm should know me much better than it currently does.
A couple of days after AMC CEO Adam Aron said in a Variety interview that his company was considering allowing phone use during movies (in order to attract Millennials), he wholeheartedly rejected the notion via Twitter, stating that: "NO TEXTING AT AMC. Won't happen. You spoke. We listened. Quickly, that idea has been sent to the cutting room floor."
Great. So now that you've trashed that horrible idea, here're a few you should consider:
I just saw a clip on the local news regarding AMC Theatres. They're trying to come up with ideas to attract Millennials. One idea is to start allowing people to text and use their phones in certain sections of their theatres.
This will all but assure that I never step foot in an AMC theatre again.
There are three AMC theatres in Burbank, near where I live. For the most part, people behave. Since Burbank is the center of the world's film industry, patrons tend to have respect for others who come to watch a movie. Rarely do I see someone start up their smartphone mid-movie. But when I do, the damn thing is like a spotlight that is beyond annoying.
What AMC is going to do is irritate patrons who are over thirty years old in order to try to bring in more teenagers and people in their twenties. That's fine. But be aware that there are other avenues upon which to watch movies. I don't have to go to an overpriced theatre that isn't exactly the fanciest place on Earth to watch what I want to watch.
AMC Entertainment is making a huge mistake if they go through with this abhorrent idea. But then again, it wouldn't surprise me. I used to step into an AMC theatre about once a week. Now, I rarely do. I go to a much nicer theatre that serves my needs as a customer, and one that would never cave to children who can't behave themselves.
I'm sitting here watching the Detroit Tigers play the Miami Marlins during their first game of the season. I love it when the baseball season finally starts.
Baseball is different for me than football. Because the pace is so slow, I usually do something else while watching the game. Sometimes I play Minecraft. It's a slow, slog of a video game that works well when watching a slow, slog of a sports game.
I also tend to write while watching baseball. It's a good mix. Writing for me comes in spurts. Baseball action does too. They compliment each other well.
I watch baseball on the MLB app, sometimes on my TV, but usually on my phone. When I had a tablet, it worked perfectly for watching baseball. At some point, I'll have to buy another Google tablet, solely for watching sports on it.
Of course, if it's a big game, especially towards the end of the season or during the playoffs, it's on my tv, and I'm not doing anything but watching it. I think it's not only the fact that baseball is slow, but also that each regular season game means so little, that helps make it watchable while doing other stuff. I could never write or play a video game while watching football.
So here's to the 2016 baseball season and hopefully a successful campaign for the Detroit Tigers. I will most likely write hundreds of pages of stuff while watching them play. The game takes the edge off of writing, and writing takes the edge off of the game.
I came across this new calendar proposal the other day and found it to be fascinating. Thirteen months of 28 days each, plus a New Year's Day. Every day of the month is consistent (the 3rd is always a Tuesday, regardless of the month).
No more having to remember how many days are in a month because the calendar was created through a hodgepodge of events that happened centuries ago. I like it.