The Failure Cascade, revisited

So, much like I recently did with Book of Dreams, I recently re-read my 2020 book The Failure Cascade, and made the decision to republish it.

TL;DR – here:

My description of this book from a long-deleted post:

This is […] a bit of a departure because although it contains a few super-short flash pieces, there are also four much longer stories. I felt a need to stretch out some stories a bit, and spend more time in them, so instead of a bunch of sub-thousand word things, there are some that go beyond the 3000-4000 word mark.

This isn’t like a major departure from what I’ve done in the last few books, but it is starting to move away from it. For almost ten years now, I’ve tried this absurdist/gonzo thing, and I feel like I’ve painted myself in a corner a bit. I’ve burned a lot of cycles creating a persona I now can’t stand. I’m not exactly ready to go off and write murder mysteries or tales of martians or anything, but I feel like the part of my personality I’ve mined for stories in all of my books in the 2010s has been stripped away, and I need to start doing something else. I write about this a bit in the title story of the book.

This was a difficult book to pull together. I mean, the problem was this year, 2020, and everything shitty that happened to all of us. I took a little break after Ranch, and when I went off to Vegas in the first week of March, my goal was to hole up in a suite and spend seven days starting to build out this work-in-progress which was to become Atmospheres 2. And just as I got into that, the whole world ended and we got locked down and… well, you know the rest of that story, and it’s still ongoing. As the pandemic built, I worked on the book, and got it above 100,000 words. (The original was 60,000.) But the more I got into it, the more it didn’t make sense. And the idea of writing a manic book of post-apocalyptic non-linear madness wasn’t that appetizing, especially since I was spending most of my day doom-scrolling through a reality that was that but worse. So I set that book aside a couple of months ago, and started collecting together the core bits for this book.

Of course, I never finished Atmospheres 2. After about nine months of beating my head against the wall, I gave up writing entirely. But now, it looks like I’m back.

While I like Book of Dreams like 95%, I like Failure Cascade maybe 75%. It’s too “Konrath” and some of the structure isn’t as good as I’d like it. Not a ringing endorsement, but it’s going in the right direction. When I read through the book, I found maybe a dozen typos, and corrected those in the new version. If you already have this book, you don’t need to buy it again. I didn’t want to do anything more than fix the obvious typos, so I didn’t. Chances are, you didn’t buy this book, because almost nobody did. The Amazon algorithm does not work for me. Oh well.

I love the cover of this book. I took the picture in Mendocino, California, from a 2017 trip up there. It’s at Point Mendocino, looking out at Portugese Beach and Mendocino Bay. There was a really good taco place behind another restaurant there, and I can’t find it on the map anymore. I’ll have to go back at some point. I think probably three of my favorite twenty pictures I ever took are from that trip.

Anyway, it’s live now, so check it out. Now I’ve got to figure out what’s next.


Book of Dreams revisited, writing un-retirement

So, in 2021, I unpublished all of my books and stopped writing. There were a few reasons for this. Maybe there’s a post in that. Bottom line though is that I’ve been trying to get back out of that and write again. And as I do that and try to figure out what to write, I’m trying to figure out what to do with the 17 books I’ve published since 2000. I have 1073852 words and 3649 pages in purgatory right now, and probably the same amount in never-published projects.

I’m slowly trying to work through this. In reading a few of my old books and thinking about it, one bit of low-hanging fruit is 2018’s Book of Dreams. When I gave it a quick read, it was 99.9% solid for me. I didn’t find it particularly problematic for me, especially when it comes to persona and general flow or structure of the book. I love the cover, done by Casey Babb. And when I read through the whole thing, I found maybe a dozen bone-headed typos or little nits that could be fixed in three keystrokes, but no major issues.

I mentioned this in my original announcement for the book:

I think this book is slightly less “Konrath” than my last few books. It’s not as manic or as fast-paced. NyQuil and Mariah Carey are not mentioned. It still has the same kind of humor; it just doesn’t lean on the persona as much, if that makes any sense.

I think that’s the key. And the fact that it’s all dreams is a big point for me. I write down my dreams a lot, whenever I can remember them, and I always find great stuff in them. I’ve snuck dream journals into a lot of zines and small collection books, and I use them as parts of ideas for stories.

Anyway, the book is live here. It’s in print and kindle. If you already have the 2018 version, there is no need to get this. The only thing that has changed are a few stealth edits, and a “, 2023” on the copyright page. Same ISBN, same page length. The price is slightly higher for print. $9.99 is not the end of the world. I’m done trying to competitively price my books at 7 cents more than the print cost. Publishing is dead and I don’t care if it sells. That’s not why I do this.

I need to go through the rest of the books. I really wanted to do some special edition of Rumored because I love that book, and then I was reading through it last October on vacation and thought, “oh shit, that’s getting me cancelled” about 19 times in the first 20 pages. I don’t know what to do about that. (I’m not asking for advice. I’m never asking for advice.)  Dealer Wins is out because it’s 100% obsolete, and was largely filler in the first place.   The Necrokonicon (aka “the glossary book”) is more of the same. Memory Hunter – nobody got the joke, and I wrote my most structured book ever and people bitched about the lack of structure, so that one is dead.

I have a sequel to Summer Rain in my head that would probably mean a quick edit to the original and both of them going out at once, but that sequel has been languishing for years. I also have a sequel to Atmospheres in its fourth draft, which is roughly twice as long. I would love to fix the cover of the first one, do a new layout, add some bonus material, and release it at the same time. That’s a plan, but an uphill battle. The sequel needs maybe a year of full-time work, and I’m not working on it right now.

I reread He and thought it was horrible. It has incredibly inconsistent and cringey writing, and nobody got the concept (which came from a Hubert Selby book.) All the “little” collection books (Ranch, Help…Thunderbird, etc.) have good and bad stuff. Maybe a bunch of that could be rolled into one omnibus. Maybe not. Maybe I should be writing new material instead.

Failure Cascade is probably the next-closest to being republishable. I like the cover, and I gave it a re-read and it was decent. I think almost nobody read this book, and it died right out of the gate. I’ll need to read it again with a thing of sticky flags and see what it will take to get it in shape.

I’m reluctant to write about exactly why I quit writing, but maybe I need to get that off my chest soon.



For the first time since September 13, 2010, I am no longer a remote-first employee. Wednesday was the first day back in the office. Well, it was the first day ever in the office for my job I started two years ago. So things are a bit interesting right now.

As per policy, I can’t talk about my employer, and none of what I say is their policy at all. I speak for myself, etc. I will need to dance around a few things here, so bear with me. I should also go back and explain a bit about why I’ve been doing this for roughly a decade longer than the rest of you.

OK, so when we got here in 2008, I was a commuter. I was actually a long-haul commuter, because I’m in the most northwest part of Oakland, and I used to work in San Jose. This was just under 40 miles, but you would be damn lucky to do it in under an hour. From fall of 2008 until spring of 2010, I did this every day. This was at Samsung, and we technically could not leave the building with our machines, use any sort of USB media, or connect to a company network from outside the building. Work from home was not a concept in the company whatsoever. I think I drove about 50,000 miles in that time period. The good news was podcasts and Audible were first becoming a big thing. The bad news was traffic got progressively worse as the internet boomed.

In 2010, my old boss Joel asked if I wanted to come back and work for him again. I said no, because I couldn’t move back to New York; I’d just bought a house. He said don’t worry about that. Work from home. Name your price. Fly out to New York once a year to eat on the company’s dime and see everyone, but otherwise he trusted me, and when could I start. Ironically, my last day was September 10th, and my first was the 13th. I installed FrameMaker in a VM, cloned the old repo I last touched in 2007, and I was fully remote for the next decade.

* * *

At my old job, it was easy to be remote. Even when we were in the same cube farm, we were largely remote, because we never talked to each other face-to-face. Joel wasn’t into meetings, and most of us sat on an internal IRC server, chatting back and forth on our day-to-day there. We were also way ahead of the curve on using Jira and wikis and all that. When half the team relocated to Boston, we barely noticed. Other than time-shifting three hours earlier to match their hours, I had no problem locking in right away. These were people I’d known for a decade, and we’d practically gone to war together. This was easy.

Well, it was until the company went sideways and everyone left. They decided to do a big “pivot to cloud” thing and I started managing and I was in this weird lurch where people wanted me to drive to Palo Alto all the time, but I’d get there and none of my team was there. I’d waste three hours fighting traffic and get to this corporate campus where everyone had an office and their doors were always shut. The ship was already sinking there, and I won’t go off on a tangent on that one.

So I jumped to the new place two years ago. Once again, I will skim over the details there, but it was fully remote. They FedEx’ed me a laptop and did everything on Zoom and Slack, and I kept powering away just as I did before, even at the same desk with the same monitor and keyboard, which was a bit weird.

* * *

Anyway. While I was gone in Vegas, an email went out, and the company went from a remote-first joint to a mandatory report-to-the-office two days a week, going up to three. There are two sides to this, and obviously as a manager I have to say this is great, and face-to-face collaboration is awesome, and something something synergy. There’s obviously some feelings about having to take time to commute to an office where none of my direct reports work and, like, talk to people. And my schedule was pretty much set up so I would start work at six in the morning, and then quit at maybe three and get a few hours of fiction writing in. It’s been a few years since that’s happened, but now it means a shift to the schedule again. I’ll shut up about this.

Wednesday was my first day back. I took the BART to Embarcadero, went to our new office, and worked all day. And I hate to sound like a return-to-office apologist, but it wasn’t bad. My commute is not horrible. The office is nice. They had lunch. But there were a few specific things that I enjoyed.

First, I have never worked in San Francisco. Honestly, in the 15 years I have lived here, I have probably only been in the city maybe two or three dozen times. I usually have maybe one or two runs into the city per year to go to a museum with an out-of-town guest or whatever. I honestly have almost no geographical knowledge of the city whatsoever. But taking the train there, getting out of the station, seeing all the tall buildings… it gave me a certain rush to feel that I was here. It reminded me of when I was a kid and would go to Chicago and have that sudden feeling that I was in a real city, that there were hundreds of thousands of people around and that things were happening.

Also, as much as I was being a contrarian about how face-to-face collaboration worked, I probably ended up straightening out more stuff before lunch than I’ve fixed in the last two years. But more than that, I need to get out of my head and get around people again. I have had this horrible interpersonal drama I can’t entirely get into, and I think a lot of it is from just ruminating around my condo, not being around people. I think a change of scenery will be good to me. I’m sure I will get sick of this once the trains start to fill up and break down. And I have no idea what to do about the writing thing. Write in the morning? Write during lunch? I don’t know. I’m not writing now, so…

* * *

The bike. So, I bought a bike. I have a choice of commuting to SF or Berkeley. The Berkeley office is closer to my house mile-wise, but it takes like an hour to get there on a bus that stops at every block. The train is ten minutes door-to-door plus the time it takes me to cover the mile or so to the station on my end. But I can bike to Berkeley in maybe a half hour, so that could be a nice way to break things up in the summer. I also got $600 of credit on exercise equipment from work, and that includes buying a bike.

I ended up buying a Cannondale Topstone 4 alloy from REI. I wanted a more commuter-oriented bike, but this gravel bike is honestly a better fit for me, and I like it a lot. Of course, I get it and the temps drop and it rains for two weeks straight. I’ve only had it out a few times, but it’s a great ride and a good way to get exercise and out of my own head a bit. Once the weather is not horrible, I’ll look at maybe going to the office once a week with it, and maybe taking it to the train station if I don’t want to take the bus.

* * *

Seems like there’s more to talk about, but those are the big parts. Sarah’s in Ireland right now, and then Spain, doing family stuff. I am solo for another week. Lots of guitar, lots of writing, I hope.


Vegas 2023

It’s been three years, but I managed to get to Las Vegas for my birthday. It was a good trip overall, so here’s the stupid bulleted list trip report.

  • Flew in Thursday afternoon, out Monday afternoon, with the actual birthday being on Friday, so the timing was great. The trip was slightly front-loaded with activities and we spent the back half of the trip in “well, what now?” mode, but the pace was pretty decent.
  • This was a trip with a full crew. Bill shares the same birthday as me, and Marc’s often on these trips. We also had Lon, who I haven’t seen in a while, and my old roommate Andrew, who I think I last saw on one of these trips maybe ten years ago. And there was Todd, who I literally had not seen since he was on the 2002 birthday jaunt, when I stayed in the Elvis suite of the long-gone Stardust.
  • Because I’ve had to fly business select on so many last-second Southwest flights, this was a free trip, airfare-wise. The trip itself was flawless; very easy in and out. I brought no luggage, just a computer bag and a duffel.
  • No camera gear would fit in my duffel, except my Canon EOS M1, which is a bit garbage, and my iPhone took better pictures all trip.
  • We stayed at the Mirage. This may be the last time we stay at the Mirage, because it was recently purchased by Hard Rock and will probably be gutted and turned into something else soon. (Or not, given the economy.) I am not sure I’ve ever stayed there, although I’ve wandered through a lot. Rooms were decent, and the view of the strip was nice. The food and the casino were eh.
  • Went to Penn and Teller on Thursday. The show was decent. I think it was solid, but not outstanding. Some of the tricks were new, and this was one of the first shows of the year, so I think they’re still working stuff out. Great crowd, though.
  • Dinner at the Rio, a bit eh. We went to some diner and I got a thing of nachos about as big as a bus tub. The Rio is such a mixed bag and I’m a bit surprised it’s still rolling.
  • Birthday brunch at Bouchon was over the top. I had a chicken and waffles, and there were far too many pastries and breads. Amazing stuff, but I needed insulin after that one.
  • Got a Swedish massage at the Mirage spa for my birthday, and my shoulders hurt for days. But, like, in a good way.
  • For dinner we went to The Palm, which was also way over the top. Really loud in there on a Friday night. The food was great, and wagyu steak is always good.
  • I’ve always had really good luck gambling on my birthday. That streak continues, but for accounting purposes, I won’t say how well I did.
  • Had a good lunch the next day at the Grand Luxe in the Venetian. There are actually two of them, which is confusing. This was no Bouchon, but bacon was involved.
  • We went to Resorts World, which is the first time I’ve been to a brand new casino probably since the Wynn was built? Or maybe City Center, I guess. Anyway, it’s a weird looking place. It’s absolutely cavernous, and looks more like an airport than a casino. We went to some bar to get drinks and then a few minutes later, they told us football was starting and we had to pay fifty bucks each to keep sitting there, so nope.
  • Saw this show called OPM at the Cosmopolitan, which was really fun. It was themed like a futuristic starship’s variety show, and the interior was all cyberpunk/neon looking. There was an “android” hostess/MC who was funny, and then they had various acrobatic or musical things, all of which were impressive. The one I liked best was Billy and Emily England, who did a roller skating/acrobatic routine that was absolutely insane, especially in the close quarters of the very small stage.
  • Went to the Trop for a Sunday comedy show that had Mike Binder opening for Rich Hall. Binder was garbage. He started off with the “I’m old and I don’t understand pronouns” and went from there. Rich Hall was amazingly good. He played songs and did a ton of crowd work. Very quick, sharp, and it was hilarious to see him pivot a song on a dime to start singing about the concrete world trade show. I didn’t know what to expect from him since the last thing I knew him for was the Sniglets thing thirty years ago. Absolutely didn’t do that, and it was great. The Tropicana, not so much.
  • Weather was the coldest I’d ever seen. I think it was down to the mid-30s some nights, sitting in the mid/high-40s most days.
  • I walked an extreme amount every day, usually between 12 and 15 miles. That almost counterbalanced my meal schedule going completely sideways and eating like 100 Weight Watchers points per day.
  • The best part of this trip: I have not spent any time with guy friends in a long time, probably since three years ago. And the last time I was with a group this size was maybe 10? 15? years ago. I really needed this trip, and being able to just bullshit for hours with other tech geeks was absolutely awesome.

Good birthday. Good trip. I need to do this more than once a year, though.



I am fifty-two today.

I’m trying to think of what the number 52 conjures in my head. A deck of cards, obviously. Games of “52 pickup” which we “played” with my little sister. The B-52 bomber, which my dad worked on when I was born on a desolate Air Force base in the middle of nowhere. The number of weeks in a year. The number of hostages Iran freed on my 10th birthday. Denver is at 5200 feet. (Well, 5280.) It is the fifth Bell Number and the third untouchable number. There are 52 white keys on a piano.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I like even-numbered ages. I liked 50, and did not like 51. 52 sits better with me, but it’s also solidly in my 50s. And 52 sounds way older than 50 for some reason. I do like the even number. And I dislike odd-numbered years. Unfortunately, there’s only 19 days where both my age and the year are even. Age is just a number and time is an abstract concept, but I do like a good even number for some reason.

* * *

I am getting old. 52 is old. I mean, we all are getting old, but this year, I look in the mirror and… yeah. I’m no longer young. When I was in my 40s I could sort of pass for 30s, but now I’m definitely in my 50s. I had to get my driver’s license renewed, and I don’t recognize the guy looking back at me. I look seventy. Not having hair anymore really does it. Things are happening to the skin on my neck that no face cream will fix. The eyes are not the eyes of a thirty-something. I shouldn’t care about any of this. I do.

* * *

I am going to Las Vegas for my birthday this year. I’m writing this before I leave, so it’s autoposting while I’m already there. This is the first big trip to Vegas in a while on the actual day of my birthday with Bill, Marc, and a few others. I think the last one like this was 2011. I don’t know what Las Vegas will be like post-pandemic (or during pandemic? I don’t know what their cases look like these days).

I’m staying at the Mirage this time, and maybe the last time, because it was bought by Hard Rock and it’s rumored that it will be completely gutted this year or next. I can’t remember if I’ve stayed at the Mirage before. I’ve been there a lot, and I know I stayed at Bellagio before. (2006?) It’s amazing that at one point, I knew enough about this to write a book, and now it’s a bit of a blur. And I generally don’t stay in hotels with casinos anymore. The last few times I was in town, I decided I needed a kitchen. So this time, I’m back to the regular grind of being on the strip.

A few plans this year: Penn and Teller, Bouchon. There will be steak. I’m not sure what else, but it will be good to get out of town for a few days and see friends.

* * *

A lot of amazing people left in their fifty-second year. Zappa. Houdini. Christopher Reeve. Chris Cornell. Luke Perry. Bob Ross. Grace Kelly. I’ve now outlived Shakespeare, Napoleon, Proust, James Gandolfini, Roger Maris. I’ve outlasted Alois Alzheimer and don’t have his namesake disease (yet). I’ve lived longer than Walter Reed and haven’t stayed at his hospital or caught yellow fever (yet).

Whenever I make these lists, I’m grateful I’m not on them, but it also makes me think about how these people are old, and I don’t even feel like an adult half the time, let alone an old, fully-formed person. I have a healthy dose of imposter syndrome when I think about this, and it’s deeper than thinking I haven’t accomplished enough. It’s this uncanny feeling: I am not an adult, am I?

* * *

Any time I make one of these posts, there’s always some forward-thinking statement about what I want to do in the next year of my life. I do a bit of that in my end-of-year summaries, and the two are almost back-to-back posts, so there’s a lot of redundancy there. (Also, I’ve already broken the no-Taco Bell goal.)

Year 51 was grim and not entirely happy. And I obviously want better than that in year 52. Otherwise the goals are the usual: write more, read more, do more, be more. So I will do that.


The death of an uncle

I know I’m always writing these “the death of” posts left and right about malls and stores and whatnot, but I really hate when I have to write one about a person, especially a person who I’ve known my entire life. And I’m not a fan about writing about family, because people get weird when a fact in your brain doesn’t match the narrative in theirs, which is why I’ve largely given up on autobiographical fiction or whatever it’s called this week. But this post isn’t about any of that; it’s about my uncle Jim, who died on the 27th.

My uncle Jim was my dad’s oldest brother, the oldest of the seven kids. His real first name was Ambrose, which I didn’t even know for years, because he was always Jim, or Jimmy. (My grandfather and my great-grandfather were also Ambrose. Prior to that, the names were significantly more Austrian: Paulus, Johann, Georg.) My grandfather died in a car accident when my father was six. Shortly after, my uncle joined the Navy and spent the next twenty-some years all over the world, working on planes, living on aircraft carriers. I vaguely remember him returning when I was maybe four or five. My memory was that he flew home and gave me the pack of peanuts from the plane. Nobody in my family ever traveled, so this was amazing to me at the time.

We lived in my dad’s home town from when I was an infant until I was seven. This was Edwardsburg, Michigan. It’s immediately north of Elkhart, and it’s a small village that had maybe a thousand people back then. My grandmother lived there, and was retired. My uncle retired from the Navy when he was 40 or so, and moved back in with her around 1975, to take care of her until she passed in 1993.

My uncle never married. I’m not sure he ever dated. He didn’t smoke or drink; he never swore. I can’t remember him even raising his voice. What I do remember is him always being around, always helping, coming over to do things around the house. My parents had this rundown cinderblock house, and they were always continuously adding onto it, sealing off the front porch into a room, covering the bricks with wood planks, adding in new windows, painting new trim. He was always around doing yard work or playing with us. And we spent a lot of time at my grandmother’s house, which was maybe a mile away, near the lake. That place was a central hub of activity for all seven kids, their kids, the neighbors, and many others. Almost my entire memory of Catholicism was going to the service, getting donuts, then going to my grandmother’s to play with my uncle and my cousins.

I have a lot of memories of specific things we did, things he taught me: playing golf, collecting cans for the deposits (ten cents in Michigan), playing card games, reading books. He and my grandmother were garage sale fiends, and any time he found a trove of Encyclopedia Brown books for sale, they were mine.

I also think a lot of his selflessness, and how he took care of my grandmother. He always drove her everywhere: to appointments in Elkhart; to see family in South Haven; to Florida in the winter when her health was poor. I remember him coming back from one trip and telling me all about watching an early Space Shuttle launch. I think he was a father figure to all of us cousins, and later the second cousins. (There were I think 13 cousins, and I don’t even know how many second cousins.)

After my grandmother died in 1993, he continued to live at the same house, and it was still our central hub for the family. I would go there any time I was home. Unfortunately, his health deteriorated over time. He managed to live alone until maybe four years ago, when he fell and went to a rehab center. He managed to hang on until he was 88, which is phenomenal. It’s sad for him to have gone, but he lived an amazing life. There was much tragedy in his lifetime, the loss of both parents and four siblings (one to suicide, three to cancer, all too young). But there was such great humility and service and selflessness in his whole life.

My uncle used to take us to McDonald’s when we were little. There wasn’t one in Edwardsburg; you had to go to one in Elkhart. This was pre-McNuggets, pre-Happy Meal, everything fried in beef lard, everything inside a shade of brown. I know it’s stupid, but when I got the news Tuesday morning, I went to McDonald’s for lunch and ordered two cheeseburgers and thought of that. A dumb tribute, but a strong memory to a long time ago. He will be greatly missed.



I guess I have not done one of these year in review things in a while. Well, I haven’t done much of anything here in a while. New Year/New Me, so here’s a summary:

  • Various health and psychology things, which I won’t go into here, because this is public. Spent a lot of time on various self-improvement schemes, some of which were useful. I also managed to not catch COVID.
  • Finally gave up on the battle versus male pattern baldness and having hair. I know, ha ha, middle aged balding guy wants hair plugs, much laughter. Giving up and shaving my head was a difficult decision, and it impacted me more than I could know. And yeah, everyone says “just own it,” but that advice only works if you are psychologically self-confident, and maybe don’t live in a society where hair = power.
  • 2,200,380 steps; 1,038.01 miles; Workout streak: 2,522 days. 2021 was 1,872,548 steps 883.23 miles, so good improvement there.
  • Weight was… not good. I lost 35 pounds in the last nine months of 2021, and I gained back about 25 of that in 2022. So, guess what my resolution is? (Please, no stupid advice on fad diets. I know what I have to do; I just didn’t do it.)
  • I don’t like to talk about work stuff here, so I won’t, but I did get promoted to director, finished hiring my team, and worked on big stuff.
  • I sold my land in Colorado. End of an era there.
  • Went to Chicago for my sister’s wedding in April. This was my first time on a plane since the beginning of 2020. It was a quick long weekend, and I saw a lot of relatives I haven’t seen in decades. I didn’t catch COVID, although many people there did. I also got to hang out with John Sheppard for an afternoon and do some mall-walking with him.
  • Visited Denver for a week in June. I haven’t been back in a dozen years, I think. (2010?) I spent a day photographing the city with my friend Tarasa, and met one of my coworkers (only the third person I have physically met at the company). Lots of walking, took a side trip to Pueblo, and many photos were taken.
  • Visited Stockholm for a week in August. This was my first time leaving the country since 2016, and a good test of if I can deal with long plane rides in my fifties. (I can’t.)
  • Visited Maui for a week in October/November. Stayed upcountry this time, and that made all the difference.
  • I was supposed to visit Indiana for Christmas, but hell froze over, and I decided to cancel.
  • Completed a two-year MBA program in five months. Wrote 184 pages, memorized thousands of terms, and I’ve probably forgotten most of it by now, but I have that line on my LinkedIn forever. And I can get into arguments with people about the Federal Reserve, although I now know that anybody who is talking about the Federal Reserve who hasn’t taken a finance class is 100% wrong and most likely financially illiterate, so don’t bother.
  • I quit writing in 2021. Towards the end of 2022, I “un-quit” and went back to identifying as a writer, and wrote about 50,000 words, mostly about how I couldn’t write and trying to figure out what I should be writing. I am not in a daily writing practice, but guess what my second resolution is?
  • Blogged 17 times here. I need to work on that.
  • I took exactly 12,600 photos. This is by far the most photos I have taken in a year. The highest was 3898 in 2011, and 2021 was 3779, with half of that in December. I had the idea that I’d take way more photos, and tried to hit 100 a day for a while, but there were some pretty dead months, and I did not take nearly as many as I wanted on vacations. I’m not sure how much I will do in 2023.
  • I had a huge interpersonal drama situation that probably burned up six months of my life. I cannot get into that, and this is just a reminder to myself in ten years that you really need to cut the shit there.
  • I don’t know how much I read, but it wasn’t much, except for finance and accounting books, and I really need to not do that.

So my goals are to keep writing, stop eating at Taco Bell, and keep writing. And all things related to writing need to change or get back on track: read more, take more notes, find new things, and write. And write. And write.


MBA, Maui, Writing

So I finished my MBA. Did I mention I was doing an MBA? I should probably write a larger post about this. But I completed my final capstone project in mid-October, then spent a week or two in administrative purgatory, and now it’s done. It feels odd to have this giant framed thing saying the trustees have conferred on me blah blah blah, but here it sits. I didn’t even think about having an MBA until maybe this spring, and it’s over. I am an MBA. I can read a statement of cash flows. Ask me anything about Pareto charts. But make it quick, as I will forget most of this in a month.

* * *

Went to Maui last week. This was our fourth trip to this island; we also went in 2013, 2015, and 2017. We stayed on the windward side each time previously, which is nice but very touristy. (Complaining about the Four Seasons being full of tourists is like complaining about Disney World “selling out,” but the combination of tripping over octogenarians at every turn and getting charged ten bucks for a baby-sized bottled water does get old.)

This time we stayed at a yoga resort in upcountry, which was a few clicks south of Mama’s Fish House on the north shore. It used to be a bunch of indigent housing built by the Baldwin family (farming magnates that owned half of everything at one point) and it was used for military training housing during the war, then plantation worker housing, then it sat empty until someone restored and reconfigured it in about 2011 to make it into a bougie new-age yoga retreat center. It’s a semi-circle of bungalows with decks on the front and rear, a big courtyard in the middle, lots of trees and landscaping and the occasional fake buddha statue. There was almost nobody there, and although they offered various yoga and meditation classes, I didn’t go and I actually didn’t even see them happening. When I booked the place, I had the fear that some new age zombies would start chanting at four AM every day and try to beat some cult veganism in my head if I left the house, but there was nothing like that at all.

The rooms were cool. The whole place had high ceilings, big wooden ceiling fans, and old, dark wood furniture. We had two big rooms and the bathroom, plus the front and back decks. Lots of hammocks overlooking the ocean in the distance. The whole thing looked like a French plantation in Vietnam from the 1950s.  No AC. No TVs. No espresso machines. No wall tablets and room service intercoms and everything else you find in modern hotels. I always hate it when I go across the country and check into a Hyatt and it’s the same exact Hyatt I’d see in Denver or Chicago or San Jose. This was very distinct, so that was cool.

Being upcountry was generally 10-15 degrees cooler than being elsewhere on the island. Lots of trees, too. Unfortunately, walking was not great there – a winding road with no sidewalks or room for pedestrians, and nothing in every direction. I still got my 10,000 steps a day in, and we saw a lot of other areas on the island, so that worked out. The place had a small restaurant where the food was decent, but it was usually two or three couples sitting on the porch for dinner, and a server and a chef, and they would just say what they were serving and we said “ok, cool” and they brought it out. I like that a lot, though. Also went to a good Italian place, and actually a tiki-eque lounge a bit further south.

No real big adventures while we were there, just a lot of chilling out, walking, and eating. No work. That’s the most important part. Usually on these trips, it’s a big thing to come up with an itinerary and activities, things. Zip-lines and jet skis and museums and shops and statues of dead people that you must see. I think we’ve covered most of that in previous trips, and it was an opportunity to just do nothing. So, that was good.

There are pictures, but honestly I haven’t even sorted out my Denver pictures, and that was like three trips ago. I’ll get to it when it starts raining and I can’t go outside anymore.

* * *

Now that school is over, I’m trying to write. I should probably make this a separate post and explain it fully, or maybe I shouldn’t talk about it at all. But I completely quit writing fiction just over a year ago, just a sudden rage-quit “I can’t do this anymore.” thing, and it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, and it was probably the wrong one.

Right before I doused every bridge with gasoline and lit them on fire, I wrote some notes on exactly why I stopped writing. And at the time, I thought these issues were insurmountable, and maybe some of them are. And maybe it’s impossible to write fiction in a world when everything has become TikTok-ified. I don’t know. There are a lot of other major obstacles that I have to figure out. The big one is I simply do not know what to write about anymore. I’m out of ideas, and I can’t keep repeating myself.

So I’ve been chipping and trying to get started again, trying to figure out which way is up. I used to write daily, and for almost ten years, had to write something every day. I always had this strong belief that if I stopped, I would lose momentum, and then the next thing I knew, years would go by and I wouldn’t even know what went wrong. That’s basically what happened. And starting from an absolute dead stop has been difficult. I have a feeling it will take me months to get back to the same cadence I was at a few years ago. But that’s the goal.

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Nothing else going on. Lots of other stuff going on. I should write more about the writing thing later. And the MBA thing. Stay tuned.


Labor, Sweden, Cameras, School

Labor day. A day off. As always, I haven’t updated here in forever, and a lot has been up. It’s good to have a Monday off to get caught up on things, so here we go.

It is unbearably hot this weekend. I think inland east in Pleasanton and Concord, it’s supposed to be like 110 this afternoon. It’s 93 here, and we have no AC. I have all the windows closed and drapes shut right now, and will open them as the sun sets. This generally keeps it cool, but I expect tonight to be unbearable.

* * *

OK, so, Sweden. I was in Stockholm last month. I was going to write a big thing about it, but I lost momentum, and then I ran out of time. I was anxious to pick up travel again, and haven’t been to Europe since 2016, so I threw a dart at the map (actually, looked at places with direct flights) and ended up on Sweden. I don’t know anybody there, except for maybe random Death Metal people I met once in 1993 or whatever. Didn’t know what to do, didn’t have time to make any plans, and just booked the whole thing on Expedia, forgot all about it, and next thing you know, I’m on a 13-hour flight to Scandinavia.

The trip was… weird. Stockholm is a beautiful city. I loved the bullet train from Arlada airport to downtown: 125 miles an hour and so clean, you could perform surgery on the floor. The whole city was spotless, and the architecture was a perfect mixture of a 16th-century city that had never seen war, mixed with the ultra-modern development of a thriving economy. Every subway station was a work of art. I think I had four bars of 5G at all times. I went to the Westfield mall, the biggest in Sweden. 224 stores, no vacancies. Everything about Stockholm was ultra-modern and progressive and advanced and almost surreal.

But… it didn’t click for me. I think part of it is that the people were a bit standoffish. They weren’t impolite, but they weren’t entirely inviting. I guess this is a thing? Also, I’d always heard that everyone in Sweden spoke English. They do, but by default, everyone spoke Swedish to me. I do not know one word of Swedish. Maybe I looked like a native, or because I was traveling alone and not in a pack, they assumed I wasn’t a tourist. I don’t mean to go on a rant about how people in other countries don’t speak English; I get it, and it would be stupid to think otherwise. I guess my experience in places like Germany or the Netherlands is that the switch from the other language to English was more fluid, or maybe the tourism was more English-oriented. And for me to be in a place where I can’t go to a record store or a camera shop and chat, or crack a joke to a waiter, it made the whole thing feel somewhat isolating.

I quickly ran out of things to do. There are a lot of museums, but I can only look at so many 600-year-old swords, and I’m not terribly into Vikings. I walked a lot every day, but I also found that I should have planned a train trip out of town to go walk in nature. You can easily walk for ten miles and still be in what looks like downtown. Went to lots of stores, bought some records even though I don’t have a record player, and I tried some of the native food at an old-school restaurant that had antlers hanging from the ceiling and looked like a ski lodge. Reindeer meatballs and lingonberries, along with a Swedish cake that put me in a coma. Cool, but two nights later, I’m at Pizza Hut. I am the Ugly American.

I don’t remember if I mentioned it in the Denver trip, but these solo trips are really getting to me. I mean, unless I have a really solid list of things to do, I tend to drift off into depression and loneliness, and it’s never good. Add to that not speaking more than ten words all week, and this one got pretty dire. Also add to that the jet lag situation. Normally, I’m chatting with people all day on messenger and reading posts online, but I was waking up just as people were falling asleep, and my day was the dead part of the news/doom-scroll cycle when no updates were happening. The trip made me realize how dependent I am on social media and chats to stay sane on a daily basis, and I sure didn’t in Sweden.

* * *

I posted a few pictures here and there, but the trip was a bit of a bust, photo-wise. I brought that Canon 5DS, and fought with it the entire week. First of all, Sweden is at a high latitude, so the light was just weird. It felt like there was maybe five minutes surrounding noon where light was directly overhead, but otherwise I was caught with harsh shadows from either side. (Or maybe I don’t know what I’m doing, which is very likely.) But like Denver, I had a lot of trouble getting clear shots with the high-megapixel 5DS. And it’s a beast of a camera to lug around all day. I think part of it is that lens has such poor dynamic range, and it really brings out any imperfections in lenses. Even that EF 24–70 f/2.8L II I have (also heavy) is pretty iffy on that camera, and it’s not image-stabilized. Locked down on a tripod taking pictures of a building, the 5DS is a great camera. On the go, I was finding my metering was just off and I was getting too many blurry shots. I also had an EOS M1 mirrorless with me, but I’ve been saying for almost a decade how bad that camera is. Most of my best shots were with the iPhone.

Short story long, the 5DS went back to KEH, and I got a 6D Mark ii. It’s a bit lighter, a bit smaller, but just a more well-rounded camera. It’s got half the pixels, but seven times the ISO performance. It has more creature comforts like a folding touchscreen, a built-in GPS, and all the bluetooth/wifi stuff I will never use. I still need to figure out my lens situation, but the few times I’ve taken out the camera, it’s been decent. I went out to the former NAS Alameda this morning at about nine to walk early before the heat got bad, did a quick lap, and shot a few hundred shots. I think it will work much better next vacation.

I also shot half a roll of film on my old Vivitar point/shoot today. I need to shoot more film. I just checked, and between my freezer and my closet, I have fifty rolls of 35mm, and a dozen more of Polaroid, and a dozen rolls of 120. Film’s hard because I can’t take it on a plane, unless I want to deal with TSA hand-checking stuff, and there’s not enough deodorant for that conversation. At some point I will have to go hike somewhere nearby and blow through some of the stockpile, but most days, I want to go digital.

* * *

Still motoring away on school. I actually finished my ethical leadership class while I was in Sweden. On day 100, I passed my financial management test, which was my worst class so far. Lots of math, lots of terms to memorize, but it’s done. I have this quant analysis class I’m about a third done with, then econ, and then the big final project. The goal was to finish by Thanksgiving, and I might be slightly ahead of that, but we’ll see.



Sunday morning. It’s been two months since I updated, so here goes. Unrelated picture: thanks to Jessica Anshutz for the Christmas ornament. Do people still call it surfing the net, or was that just a 90s thing? The phrase reminds me of my time at Spry/CompuServe, when Internet World was a big thing, and there was no shortage of dumb marketing trying to drive people online. And look how that turned out.

Exhausted today. I had an accounting final yesterday and it was like running a marathon in warm weather. I’d been studying three or four hours a day for the last two weeks, and in May, I’d done a finance boot camp that covered the same information. I took the practice test twice, and woke up at 0500 on Saturday to drill for three hours before the proctored exam. The class is a graduate-level accounting class, and I’ve never taken accounting. One test, 70 questions, three hours, about half multiple-choice stuff about auditing rules, and the rest big formula problems. I got through it in about an hour and twenty minutes, and got an exemplary score. So I’m happy, but tired.

I haven’t gone into any details on this program, and I will probably write an end-to-end summary when I finish, but the basic gist is that it’s an MBA in IT management, and it’s a self-paced degree, meaning you pay every six-month term, and you finish the classes as fast as you finish them. Yesterday was day 60, and I am 54% through the program. But aside from an ethics class I am taking now, the only things I have left are not easy. I blew through most of the IT planning and project management classes fast, because that’s all I do all day every day. But now I’m left with that business ethics class, then finance, econ, a data-driven decision making class, and the capstone project. I’d like to finish by the end of my first term, but this might creep into next year.

* * *

So last night, I crack open that ethics class. Chapter one, section one, example one, page one: the 1978 Ford Pinto explosion in Elkhart. That happened about a mile from my house when I was a kid. I only vaguely remember it, but it’s one of those events that launches me down a deep k-hole every few years, digging up old newspaper articles and pictures. Anyway, I can never escape. I think Kurt Vonnegut said something about this, but I’m too lazy to look.

* * *

In two months, I’ve written exactly 100 pages of papers. When I was writing fiction, I would write maybe a page a day. So even though I have “quit” writing (or whatever), I’m putting out way more than I used to. But, it’s not exactly enticing stuff, unless you want to read the marketing plan of releasing new Irish-themed Taco Bell menu items in Japan. I have fun doing this stuff, even though it is a completely different part of the brain. But one of the sad realizations of this is that these papers have no audience. I put in some cute reference I find clever or funny, and the paper goes to a grader who reads through it with a checklist in the other window, looking that I completed each step in the grading rubric, and that’s it. Nobody is “reading” my papers. I didn’t have much of an audience as a writer, but there was that thought that people would read my books and catch the little jokes I would hide in there, and I realize that is an important part of the writing cycle. If I was writing fiction and never releasing it, I’d have the same problem. Lots more to say about this problem, but not right now.

* * *

Big trip next week. On Saturday, I leave for Stockholm, Sweden. I’ll be there for a week, taking pictures and eating. I have not planned anything yet, and have been too busy with work and school to do anything other than book the tickets and the hotel. More on that as it happens, I guess.

I have not really been taking any photos lately, either. I think I took the new camera out once since I’ve been back to Denver, just the usual loop around NAS Alameda. I don’t think I even posted that many pictures from Denver. I’d go take more today, but I’ve got to tear down the camera gear and plan my pack. I’ve wanted to go to Sweden probably since college, so it will be a fun one.