Cart racing

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My work had a team-building event today where they brought us to an indoor go-cart track and set us loose for a while on a twisty course with gas-powered carts.  I raced 40 minutes of an hour-long race on a three-person team, and had a car change about halfway through because my throttle broke. Then I spent the last part of the race in a sliding car with cold tires.  I finished the practice round in second, but finished sixth in the full race.

Overall, it was a lot of fun, although it left me sore as hell, and made the commute home interesting.  I kept wanting to slam into turns and shave corners.  The whole experience reminded me of snowmobiling in Alaska, down to the annoying helmet.

If you ever have the chance to do this, here is one big tip: when the track safety guys blue flag you and tell you to let the guy behind you pass, ignore them.  I actually let people pass when I got flagged, and I was the only one who did.

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Album reviews are here

So, ProgSlob.com, my attempt at a music site, has pretty much died on the vine.  I stopped blogging there after my car accident in April, and never got back on the horse.  I’m in the process of moving all of the worthwhile writing here; since both are WordPress installs, this is easy-peasy.

Now you can find all of my album reviews scattered amongst the entries here.  Or just go to reviews and read them all in one clip.

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End of another season

God.  Damn.  It.  I am pissed about the way the Rockies lost tonight.  They were winning 4-2 at the top of the 9th, and then a blown save later, the season was over.  I spent most of the game pissed, thinking for sure they blew it, and then in the end of the 8th, a brief turnaround, and now… well, maybe next year.

I am thankful for a few things though:

  • I got to go to two games in Denver, when I initially thought this would be my first Coors Field-less season.
  • I also got to see a win here in Oakland.
  • I got to listen to a ton of games due to MLB at Bat on the iPhone, and all of them from the Denver-local 850 KOA feed.
  • They made it to the postseason.  After much last-second nail-biting wildcard antics, they managed to make it in.
  • They didn’t get swept in the NLDS.  In fact, they were the only team that wasn’t swept in a division series this year.
  • The switch to Jim Tracy not only got them a club-record number of wins, but they also got a bit of attention in the national media with their winning streaks and race to Rocktober.
  • It was good to see Jason Giambi in the purple pinstripes.
  • At least the Red Sox got eliminated.
  • And more salt to the above wound, at least the Yankees are still alive.

And in the “maybe next year” department, it will be good to see Jim Tracy coach a full season, with that initial two months’ of piss-poor coaching removed from the record.  And maybe Jeff Francis will be back, and Aaron Cook will stay with it for longer, and who knows what other talent will be added to the club.  I’m almost certain Garrett Atkins will move on, given his high salary and crappy year; I initially felt bad about that, given the sentimental attachment of him and 2007, but I’m now convinced that could be for the better.

There are still a few more weeks of baseball left, but I’m ready to close the book on 2009.  Way back before the all-star break, I predicted a Yankees-Dodgers WS, and maybe that will still happen.  I wouldn’t mind seeing the Angels make it, but this is the point where I tune out for a few months until the itch starts to develop again, and I start pulling out the baseball books and yearning for the start of April to roll around again…

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A roundabout appearance in the Times

My writing pal Michael Stutz out in Ohio had a brief appearance in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago.  What makes it interesting is he’s describing some of our late night phone calls back when I lived in the warzone of Astoria.  Check it out:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/14/nyregion/14diary.html?_r=1

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Automatic writing

I haven’t been writing in a while. I still feel like my last great writing project was Rumored to Exist, which shipped in 2002. Everything since then has been a greatest hits or a remix or a collection or something that I started and then watched die on the vine. I’ve managed to get a few good short stories hashed together in the zine, but it starts and ends there.

And in the last year, forget about it. I haven’t been able to spend more than ten seconds in front of my home computer, given my work schedule. I thought about a lot of different book projects, and would chip away a few words here and there, but I think in the last year, I’ve managed to write maybe a few thousand words. I did finish one short story, and I sort of dicked around with a few ideas for books, but never committed. And like waking up one day a decade after college and finding oneself fifty pounds overweight, I simply do not write anymore. It might be like riding a bike to some people, but I think it’s a perishable skill, and if you don’t sit down and work on something every day, it goes away. I now flip back to some of my old writing, the books or even stuff on here, and I’m amazed at how much better it is than anything I’ve tried to do in the last few months. And it’s because I used to write every god damned day, and now I write about as much as I go to the gym, which is basically never.

I’ve been talking to my friend Michael about this, and finally came to the conclusion that I just need to man up, wake up earlier every day, and pound out some writing every day, even if it is not for a project. That was the original intention of this journal, to give me some practice every day before I got to the actual writing. But there are a lot of political reasons I can’t just dump anything in here. I’m always afraid of who will read it, and I want things to have a start and a finish, and I want to match a certain theme, and blah blah blah and then I end up paralyzed by fear and unable to write anything. But I need to write SOMETHING.

That’s when I decided I needed to dump more into automatic writing. I’m not talking about the spirit world trance writing bullshit; I mean sitting down at the keyboard, starting with a thought, and just typing, dumping thoughts straight into the buffer with no concern about plot or structure or underlying anything, just brain to hard disk, trying to capture a scene or a feeling. I don’t know the history of this method; I guess Kerouac was pretty hip to it. But my goal was to sit down at 5:30 AM, eat my bowl of cereal, and speed-type down a thousand words a day of something.

I dropped this into my .emacs file:

(defvar write-directory "~/writing/automatic-writing")
(defun writing ()
  (interactive)
  (find-file
   (expand-file-name (format-time-string "%Y%m%d.txt" (current-time))
                     write-directory))
  (goto-char (point-max))
  (newline)
)

(global-set-key "\C-c\C-w" 'writing)

Now I can hit Control-C Control-W in emacs and open up a text file with today’s date, and type away.

I’ve been doing this for the last two weeks, and it has been amazing. I’m just writing stupid stuff, memories of old computers and cars and places I’ve lived, bits I’ve vaguely forgotten and have never put into stories, or things that don’t even make stories but have some good potential for description. I think of an idea in the shower, then without thinking too much, start hacking away. I’ve really been able to knock the rust loose, and I feel like my ability to write is coming back. I am not assembling together the next War and Peace or anything, but it’s something I’m thoroughly enjoying, and I look forward to doing it every day.

My next goal is to (maybe) try to get up a hair earlier, and see how I can work on actually getting the next book going. Or maybe I need to actually focus on a list of vague topics, and see if I can eventually knit together a hundred days of this stuff into something more substantial. But for now, a thousand a day, until I can do it in my sleep. (I sort of am doing that already…)

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More kicking of tires

I’m still trying to get used to this new infrastructure, and my actual writing is sapping away any momentum I might have to do this, but I keep thinking of neato ideas I might eventually do on here.

Case in point: I am attempting to write this entire post on the iPhone. WordPress has an app for that; it lets me enter text, take pictures, and do minor administrative tasks like approve comments, all from my little touchsceen. Yes, I have to type from a glass keyboard, but once you get going, it is not too bad.

It’s weird to think that when I started this journal in early 1997, my cell phone was this analog Sony model with a pull-out antenna that incurred massive roaming charges when I was not in western Washington and could barely store my favorite five speed dial numbers, let alone text message or run apps or browse the web. The most portable computer I had was a Mac Classic, which was luggable, but still required AC power.

The idea of typing away on a machine like this phone and then jetting it across the ether to my web page was completely unfathomable. Cell phones were not even that old then; I think nobody had one five years before. Now in some countries in Europe, there are more cell phones than people.  And I can carry a little Mac in my pocket that’s probably ten times faster than that old luggable mac.

I saved this as a draft, came home, and now it’s the next day and I’m editing it at home in a web browser.  But it’s still exciting that I’ll be able to use this to jot down the occasional note or two, all from a thing smaller than a deck of cards.

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Shell scripting will eventually kill me

I spent two hours the other night trying to hack out a shell script to import the archives into this thing. WordPress doesn’t have a simple way to just suck in a bunch of text files; you need to assemble them into something that resembles an RSS feed, and then import that. This brought up two problems:

1) All of the posts had to be on a single line in the element. This involved a bit of dicking around with awk and then sed before I finally gave up and realized I could do it faster with tr.

2) The pubdate element had to be in RFC-822 time format, and the only thing I had to work with was the filename, which was in YYYYMMDD format. It took most of the two hours to figure out the god damned /bin/date program that ships with OS X is fundamentally broken, and ALL date commands in unixes are broken, because instead of curing cancer or stopping wars, about 80% of our world’s brainpower goes to stupid pursuits like “oh, I have philosophical issues with the 87 flags offered in BSD’s date program, so I’m going to write a completely incompatible one with 73 flags of its own, but still fail to address the two or three things people need to do with a time program.”

Case in point, this DOES NOT work in OS X:

date -j -f "%Y%m%d" "20090930" +"%+"

This DOES work:

date -j -f "%Y %m%d" "2009 0930" +"%+"

But my filenames are 20090930.html and not 2009 0930.html. That extra fucking space killed me.

AND YES, I am sure I am just an idiot, and if I sat around all day writing shell scripts, I would KNOW that blah blah blah hidden flag blah blah blah run it through a perl script blah blah blah. But truth of the matter is, I write maybe a half-dozen lines of shell script every three months, and then promptly forget everything. I’m sure if I sat around all day slicing onions into cubes, I would be a god damned onion slicing master, but the truth of it is, I only need to cut up maybe one onion a week tops, and I’m not about to quit my day job just to sit around slicing up onions.

Here’s the script:

for f in ~/website-mirror/oldjournal/html/1997*.html; do
    echo "<item>"
    OLDDATE=`basename -s .html $f`
    THEYEAR=`echo $OLDDATE | cut -c1-4`
    THEREST=`echo $OLDDATE | cut -c5-8`
    SHIT=`echo $THEYEAR $THEREST`
    pubdate=$(    date -j -f "%Y %m%d" "`echo $SHIT`" +"%+")
    echo -n "<pubDate>"
    echo -n $pubdate
    echo "</pubDate>"
    echo "<category></category>"
    echo "<title></title>"
    echo "<content:encoded>`tr '\n' ' ' < $f`</content:encoded>"
    echo "</item>"
done
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