Category Archives: personal

3 Milestones for Writing and Blogging

I seem to be passing through a confluence of three milestones. That they have all come at roughly the same time is coincidence, but they are still worth mentioning.

1. I passed 400,000 words written on my consecutive day writing streak

With the writing I did last night, I have now passed 400,000 words written over the span of my (so far) 430 day consecutive writing streak.

400K Words
Click to enlarge

Four hundred thousand words seems like an awful lot to me. But what I find more remarkable is that I don’t have a lot of time to write each day, and yet, the streak has helped pile up the words. Over 430 days, I’ve averaged about 930 words/day. If we assume that most professional full time writers try to get in 2,000 words/day, I’m nearly halfway there.

I didn’t start automating the tracking of my writing time until August, but if you look at the RescueTime data (the green chart) over the last 2 months, you can see that on my best day, I spent only 80 minutes at the keyboard. Indeed, over the course of the last 2 months, I’ve averaged 40 minutes of writing time per day.

2. I passed 500,000 words since starting my attempt to write every day

My 430 consecutive-day writing streak is part of a larger effort to write every day, which began in late February 2013. Since then, I’ve written for 573 out of the last 575 days. Put another way, I’ve only missed 2 days in the last 575 days. In all of that time, I’ve written 511,000 words. Half a million words is a pretty big milestone. It’s like an entire Stephen King or George R. R. Martin novel!

3. This blog has had about 1 million page views so far in 2014

I’m jumping the gun slightly on this one. More than likely, the blog will actually hit 1 million tomorrow evening or Saturday, but I have a busy weekend coming up and wasn’t sure I’d have time to note it.

One million views

It’s kind of hard to believe that I’ve managed a million page views over the space of 9 months. It means I should end up with around 1.3 million by the end of the year. Things slowed down a bit in September, possibly because I haven’t had time to post as much. Still, it’s pretty amazing. I can remember back in 2011 when I was hoping to triple the page views from about 30/day to 90/day. And here I am averaging somewhere between 3,000 – 4,000/day.

Here is how the traffic has evolved since January 2011:

Since 2011

Anyway, those three milestones all happened (or will happen) in the last few days. Pretty cool, eh?

Good Customer Service at the Apple Store

Last week, while getting out the car after the Little Man’s baseball practice, my iPhone slipped through a hole in my pocket and landed, face first, on the concrete. At first I thought it was no big deal. I’ve dropped the phone before. But later, I discovered a long, crack diagonally across the screen, and was dismayed.

For a while, I thought I’d have to get a new phone, but then I remembered that I’d bought Apple Care+ with my iPhone last summer (2013). I checked, and from what I could tell, Apple Care+ covered a couple of incidents of accidental damage to the phone. So I booked an appointment at the Genius Bar for this morning at 10 am.

At 10 am, I arrived and was greeted by the Official Apple Store Greeter, who signed me in and asked me to wait a moment for the tech. A moment later, Tim arrived. I showed him what happened. He verified my Apple Care and then said that it would take about an hour to fix. It seemed to me that the Apple Care+ held the possibility of a $79 charge, but when he processed my order, there was no charge. He told me to come back an hour later, which I did.

I picked up my phone and it had a new display. The crack was gone! I didn’t even need to restore my data!

Tim told me that without Apple Care+, it would have cost me $129 to have the display replaced. As it turns out, it cost me nothing today. Of course, I did pay $99 for Apple Care+ when I bought the phone, but it has now more than paid for itself.

All told, it was a solid customer service experience. Quick, efficient, and entirely paperless!

My Friend, Winston Churchill

I should finish the Winston Churchill biography today, and once I do, I’ll have some thoughts about it, which I will post in due course. However, I wanted to mention a strange dream that I had last night, and yes, the dream involved Winston Churchill. My dreams rarely seem to have any relation to what goes on during my days, but in this case, it was very closely related. As I approach the end of the book, I am also approaching Churchill’s death. That thought must have stuck with me.

In the dream, I was wandering through the underbelly of London with my friend, Winston Churchill. He was old, and somewhat frail, but was focused on his task. That task, it seemed, was evaluating the superstructure of London from beneath. We walked through broad tunnels, down into which sunlight filtered from the sides somehow, and every now and then, Churchill would stop, tap some object with his case, and say something like, “Struts for the bridge. Needs a new coat of paint, I think.”

This went on for quite some time, until we arrived at a place where stairs led up to the street level to the left and right. From one direction, a phone was ringing, and I picked it up. On the other end of the line was King George VI. “I’m very sorry to report,” he said, “that His Majesty’s Government bears the news that Winston Churchill has passed.”

I started to tell the King (uncertain how to address him) that he was mistaken, that Churchill was here with me, checking out the superstructure of the city. I turned, but Churchill was gone, and I was down there all alone. All at once, I was overcome by a feeling of despair and sadness, certain that HMG was right, that Churchill had died, and here I was all alone.

I began calling friends and family to tell them the news, and they were duly sympathetic. I remember thinking, “My friend, Winston Churchill, is gone.”

After that, the dream faded away and I woke up. The Little Man was calling me from his room, and I got out of bed to see what it was he wanted. But the dream stayed with me, and I still feel some of that sadness lingering this morning.

Red Sky This Morning

I didn’t post here all weekend, and indeed, barely posted to Twitter, Facebook, or other social media. On Saturday, the heat just drained me, and I tried doing as little as possible. Yesterday, the weather was much nicer, but there was lots of small stuff going on.

I awoke this morning to a red sky out of my home office windows.

Red Sky

It it is a sign of cooler weather, I’m all for it. Saturday was blisteringly hot, and Sunday, finally cooled off. In fact yesterday evening was delightful, and we spent it barbecuing with friends.

I’m approaching the halfway mark on the final volume of William Manchester’s The Last Lion, and the truth is, I’m neglecting other things (like the blog) in order to squeeze in more time to read. Once the book is over, I expect things to return to normal around here.

I’m making some progress on the new story, although I restarted it yesterday because I realized that I’d been telling it from the wrong point of view. That said, I think it will go much more smoothly now. And I have a small backlog of nonfiction articles to work on. I’m nothing if not busy.

And as of yesterday, I’ve written every day for the last 413 days.

Here I Am Accepting the ALS Ice Bucket Challange

I woke up this morning to discover that Brent Bowen, of Adventures In Sci-Fi Publishing fame, had named me in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Not one to delay the inevitable, I enlisted the help of my family to complete the challenge. We made a donation to the ALS Foundation this morning, and then, we me made this video:

In case it wasn’t clear in the video, I challenged Doug Rubin, Jennifer Ashlock, Eric Straus, and Lisa Krupp. You guys have 24 hours…

Happy Birthday, Little Miss

Three years ago today, the Little Miss was born. This is the first birthday that she has been fully aware of, and consequently, very excited about. In the ordinary course of the morning, getting ready for school, I’ll ask her what she wants for breakfast, and she’ll tell me yogurt and Cheerios. This morning when I asked, she said, “Nuffin” (Nothing).

I went downstairs to put stuff in the car (there’s cupcakes and goodie bags for her class, after all), and when I came in, she was coming down the stairs. “Are we leaving yet?” she asked. Clearly, she was excited to get started.

Three years goes by in the blink of an eye, and it is easy to lose the little moments in the over all wave of passing time. But, as I’ve done for both kids, I jot down milestones in Evernote, as they happen. I was reviewing the milestones for the Little Miss this morning, and here are a few of them from the last 3 years.

5/13/2012, Crawling

My note reads: [The Little Miss] crawled forward about 2 paces this evening on the carpet in the office.

She was about 9 months old at this time.

5/21/2012, Standing

Not one for being satisfied with simple, crawling, a week later, I noted (with a photograph) that she was pulling herself up into a standing position.

5/27/2012, Mama

The Little Miss said, “Mama” deliberately for the first time.

6/5/2012, Big brother

The Little Miss said her brother’s name, deliberately, twice in the same evening.

8/13/2012, Steps

Just shy of a year old, the Little Miss is taking 5-6 steps at a time before plopping back down to the floor.

9/29/2012, Sleep

The Little Miss is sleeping through the night in her crib. Both of her parents are greatly relieved, and are also (finally) sleeping through the night.

2/25/2013, ABCs, and potty

The Little Miss sings (adorably) the ABC song, as well as “Bah Bah Black Sheep.” She’s 18 months old. She also used the potty for the first time on this day.

7/8/2013, Preschool

The Little Miss had her first day at preschool today.

10/25/2013, Bunk Beds

Never one for wanting to sleep in her own room, the Little Miss and Little Man spent their first night in their new (at the time) bunk beds, and loved it. They’ve been sleeping there ever since.

12/8/2013, Frozen

The Little Miss went to see her first movie in the theater, Frozen. She hasn’t stopped singing since.

2/1/2014, Skating

The Little Miss (and Little Man) went ice skating for the first time today.


The Little Miss will have yet another milestone in the next 2 weeks, when she moves into the “senior” classroom at her school. In the meantime, it was wonderful to see her so happy and excited about her birthday this morning. She will be celebrating with her classmates today, her family this evening, and her friends (at her party) this weekend.

Happy birthday, Little Miss!

Lazy, Low-Energy Saturday

Possibly because I am still recovering from the last few weeks of very intense work and long hours, possibly because I am still recovering from my trip to L.A., today turned out to be a lazy, low-energy day for me, very unusual, especially for a Saturday.

Kelly and the kids were gone most of the day. They left the house for various adventures at 8:30 in the morning, and didn’t get back home until 10 hours later. And what did I do during those 10 hours? I’d planned to go for a long walk, get a bunch of writing done, and a bunch of chores as well.

In reality, I spent most of the time on the couch. I finally finished the first volume of William Manchester’s biography of Winston Churchill, and started almost at once on the second volume. But until this evening, I did no writing at all. I lazed around all day, except for about an hour in the middle of the day when I found enough energy to clean all of the bathrooms in the house.

This evening, I finally sat down to write. I was planning to write the second draft of an article, and adding another scene to my story. I managed only to add the scene to the story, but it was an important step forward. I’d been struggling with this part of the story for months, writing, and rewriting, but never getting it right. Tonight, I decided to brute force my way through it, and it seemed to work! I feel pretty good about it.

We have quite a few things on the calendar for tomorrow, but it was nice to have a lazy day, even if it was unexpected.

“Who’s the Yankees Shortstop?” Or, Knowledge Versus Fandom

Last night, after a wonderful happy hour at Finn McCool’s in Santa Monica, catching up with old friends and coworkers, I walked back to my hotel. Movie crews were working on both sides of Pico between 4th and Main filming something all day long, but by the time I walked through there at 9 pm or so, it looked like things were winding down.

I was wearing my Yankees shirt, and a guy saw it and said, “Who’s the Yankees shortstop?”

“Jeter,” I said, automatically, thinking, cool, another Yankees fan.

The guy seemed momentarily taken aback, paused, regrouped, and then said, “Well, you wouldn’t believe how many people wear that that shirt and don’t know shit.”

I walked on.

As I got into the elevator, I was still thinking about it. Knowledge of a team in no way defines your enjoyment of that team, unless you are in fourth grade, when knowing the names of the band members in the current popular band, or the starting lineup of the team is a silly badge of schoolyard pride. If I hadn’t come up with the name of the Yankees shortstop, it wouldn’t make me any less a fan. (Perhaps just less fanatic.)

It occurred to me then, that what I might said, when he asked me about the Yankees shortstop was this:

“Jeter. But if you think knowledge of the players makes someone more or less a fan of team, then you tell me, who was the Yankees shortstop before Jeter?” I wonder if he would have come up with the answer. Of course, even if it couldn’t it wouldn’t make him any less a fan.

Yesterday’s Inaugural LAX Bradley Terminal Mini-Con

As the fates would have it, my flight yesterday arrived at Los Angeles International Airport around the same time that my friend, and fellow science fiction writer, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, was arriving for his flight to London for the World Science Fiction Convention. I’m not going to make it out to London for Worldcon this year, alas, but there is an unspoken rule in the science fiction world that if two writers find themselves together in the same airport at the same time, a mini-con must be arranged at once. And so, one was thus arranged.

We met up in the Bradley Terminal and proceeded downstairs for food. Alvaro and I then proceeded to talk shop for the next 90 minutes, and it was a blast. Of course, no mini-con would be complete without memorabilia, so I pulled out my copy of the November 1942 issue of Astounding1, which I carry around with me for just such emergencies2, and Alvaro and I posed for a Golden Age selfie.

LA MiniCon
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Swart Fowler

Despite what you may have heard, Alvaro and I did not plan to dress similarly for our mini-con. That part, at least, was a coincidence.

We made a sacred pledge that should any disaster befall Alvaro, I will inherit his copy of Asimov’s Annotated Paradise Lost, the only Asimov annotation that I don’t own. Should any disaster befall me, Alvar will inherit my signed paperback of The Caves of Steel. Should anything untoward happen to either of us, immediately look with suspicion upon the other. After all, we are writers, and science fiction fans moreover, and books, especially rare book, are the currency in which we deal.

When it was over, I grabbed a cab for my hotel, and Alvaro and his crew boarded their flight to London. I’d say that the inaugural LAX Bradley Terminal Mini-Con was a complete success. We are already trying to figure out in which city the 2nd annual LAX Bradley Terminal Mini-Con will take place.

Notes

  1. Which Alvaro can attest, really is signed by A.E. van Vogt and Jack Williamson.
  2. The way one might carry around a towel for similar emergencies.

My New Macbook Air

On Friday, I got myself a brand new Macbook Air, the fruit of my labor from writing over the last several months. I got the 13″ model, essentially the mid-range, which is fine for what I need. I’ve only had it about a day, but I love it. Two things I especially like are its light weight and its backlit keyboard.

Tomorrow, I head to L.A. for work, and I have a lot of work to do on the plane, some related to the day-job and some related to writing. So tomorrow I will get to test out the 12 hour battery life of this thing and see how well it really holds up.

Getting the laptop was setup was relatively trivial, thanks in part to a playbook I have for what to install on new computers, and in what order so that I can be efficient about it. Then, too, since most of my documents are in the cloud, there was no need to copy back and forth a lot of stuff.

At this point, everything is synced up nicely. All of my Git projects have been pulled over, all of my TextExpander snippets, and my Keyboard Maestro macros, so it is like working at my desktop computer. Except on a small screen. And I can take it with me wherever I go.

For #TBT: The Grave of the Unknown Warrior, Westminster Abbey, July 2007

West entrance to Westminster Abbey
West entrance to Westminster Abbey, July 2007
Back in July 2007, I visited London for a week, after spending the two previous weeks in Italy, Greece, Turkey and Croatia. It was my first trip to London, and I loved the city. One of the more moving events of that trip was my visit to Westminster Abbey, where I stood among the graves of people like Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Henry V (“Harry the King” from Shakespeare’s play.)

Upon leaving the Abbey, I came across the Grave of the Unknown Warrior. Having just finished the section on World War I in Manchester’s biography of Winston Churchill, I feel compelled to repeat it here:

Beneath this stone rest the body
Of a British warrior
Unknown by name or rank
Brought from France to lie among
The most illustrious of the land
And buried here on Armistice Day
11 Nov. 1920, in the presence of
His Majesty King George V
His ministers of state
The chiefs of his forces
And a vast concourse of the nation
Thus are commemorated the many
Multitudes who during the Great
War of 1914-1918 gave the most that
Man can give life itself
For God
For King and country
For loved ones home and Empire
For the sacred cause of justice and
The freedom of the world
They buried him among the kings
Because he
Had done good toward God and
Toward
His house