2020 summary

So, 2020. We can all go on forever talking about the horrors of the year: the pandemic, the economy, the job market, politics, and everything else. I don’t want to get into it. I can’t get into it.

Let me try to scrape together an update like I did last year and stick to my facts. I know that’s narcissistic, given everything going on. But, write what you know.

Good stuff:

  • I published The Failure Cascade in December. It’s a little longer than the last few placeholder books, but it’s still not the Big Book I wanted to finish this year. Maybe next year.
  • That book was 37,565 words, plus I wrote another 122,494 in my morgue project, and a hair over 100,000 in the book I couldn’t finish. So a little more than last year, maybe.
  • 31 posts here for a hair over 30,000 words, which was better than last year.
  • I edited and revisited all 1600-some posts here, which took me… a while.
  • 2,010,005 steps, 2780 floors, 948.09 miles, which is lower than last year. Weight is 5.3 pounds more, but considering what I gained over the summer during lockdown, I’m about ten pounds lower than the peak, so I’ll take it. I also meditated every day of the year. Closed all three rings on the Apple Watch every day. Current move streak: 1791 days.
  • No interviews, no podcasts, no stories published. Whatever.
  • I wrote the intro and helped publish John’s book Latch Key Kids. Also helped Keith publish The Orphic Egg Caper.
  • Only about a thousand pictures taken, which is amazingly low.
  • Just took one trip to Vegas this year with Bill and Marc. Managed to go back to Area 51 again. Had vague “when this clears” up plans for travel, which obviously didn’t happen.
  • I didn’t die.
  • I didn’t catch COVID.
  • I didn’t lose my job.

The not-so-good:

  • My friend Joel died.
  • My Aunt Eva died.
  • Ray’s dad died.
  • Two people at work died.
  • Neil Peart died.
  • I don’t even know how many people I know who caught COVID. My sister-in-law, two of my uncles, a few friends, and I can’t keep track of the rest.
  • Because my job was locked down and my company is not doing stellar, everyone was working constantly. I started getting up early just to get caught up with a big project, and then that became a regular requirement. I started working weekends, started taking 6AM meetings, 9PM meetings, Saturday meetings.
  • At some point (probably after my aunt died) my director told me I absolutely had to take time off, because I’d worked every day for like three months straight. I said okay, I’ll take next week off. An hour later, HR emailed me and told me I had to lay off 60% of my employees the week I was taking off.
  • I actually ended up having to lay everyone off twice. They had a round of these “opt-in separations” and then none of the people took it (we’re in a pandemic) so I had to re-lay them off three months later.
  • I didn’t know if I was getting laid off. I kept getting invited to these layoff meetings and wasn’t sure until they started if I was there to terminate people or if I was getting terminated.
  • I’ve been working from home for ten years, so nothing new there. But it’s been a learning curve for having both of us here at home. And I usually go mall walking on weekends to break up the week, and that didn’t happen anymore.
  • I had various health-related stuff of the cardiac sort happening, which is mostly from stress, an unhealthy relationship with caffeine, and whatnot. Nothing drastic, but lots of dumb tests, and I think my days as a carnivore are numbered.
  • One of my crowns came off in May, when we were still in extreme lockdown, but my dentist was able to see me and fix it.
  • The fires and the air quality were brutal this year.
  • This was the first Christmas where me and Sarah were both home (i.e. our home) at the same time, ever. I’ll put this under the bad column because she was really bummed about not seeing her family. (It is the first time I didn’t catch the flu in December from air travel, though.)
  • My iPhone 8 blew up (for a second time).
  • My 2017 MacBook Pro blew up.
  • Taco Bell discontinued the Mexican Pizza.

OK, that’s enough bad stuff. I don’t even want to get into what a cesspool Facebook and Twitter have been all year, or how the whole post-truth era has made about half of my relationships impossible. Let’s put all of that behind us. I don’t know if we can, and the 2021 memes are about to start, but whatever.

The first big thing that’s going to happen in about 21 days is that I will hit a very big birthday. And I won’t be able to do much about it. Maybe I’ll go off into the hills and hike all day.

No resolutions, though. The usual. Try to finish this book, try to stay employed and inch toward retirement, try to write here more and spend less time on FB. Try to get healthy. Try to stay sane. You?


2018 Summary

I keep attempting to write a nice, lofty post about the great things that happened in 2018, but it was a shit year, by any metric. So, I’ll keep this short, with a nice little list of accomplishments and appearances:

  • Although published on 12/31/17, my book Help Me Find My Car Keys and We Can Drive Out! was sort of a 2018 thing. It was a fun release and a few people got the joke, although many also didn’t. It was nominated for a Wonderland award in the first round, but I’m not a Bizarro writer and much like high school, I’m not cool or popular, so it didn’t make it to the second round.
  • Joshua Citrak had me on the Do Better podcast.
  • I wrote an introduction for Jeff O’Brien’s book Butt Stuff. I didn’t get to read the book first, but I wrote an introduction, so there’s that.
  • My familiar picture was used as a boss character in a video game called Heckpoint.
  • I published Book of Dreams, my 15th book.
  • That book put me above one million published words. (Excluding stories and online junk. And this blog.)
  • I helped (minimally) John Sheppard publish his book Doug Liberty Presents Bandit the Dancing Raccoon.

For quantifiables: the activity line was pretty close to last year: 2,522,801 steps, 3779 floors, 1,190.62 miles. Weight is up, and I don’t want to get into that. Definitely cannot go into how much money I lost in the stock market this year. (I’m never retiring, it looks like.) I took 2634 photos, which is up from 1914 last year, but I think my highest year was 3900 in 2010. I think 500-some of those were analog though, which is a new record. I always need to exercise more, and take more pictures.

I don’t do resolutions, but I have the usual goals: write more, exercise more, blog more, don’t watch the news, don’t spend money. You?


2010, we hardly knew ye

2010 has come to a close, and I am getting a slow trickle of end-of-year letters and holiday cards in the old fashioned paper format, both things I always wish I would do, except I think about them roughly two days before xmas and all of my postal addresses are years out of date and in sorry shape.  Maybe I should put a reminder in iCal around mid-July that says something about thinking about this.  Another option is not giving a shit, which is more appealing.

But here I am, and here’s a year in summary for those who were not paying attention:

  • January brought about another trip to Vegas, my tenth trip there for my birthday.  I brought along my brand new DSLR, which I still know next to nothing about.  Highlights of the trip include paying for a dinner that cost roughly as much as my first four cars combined (although admittedly I used to drive some pretty shitty cars) and seeing Marc get so drunk that he sang “Turbo Lover” with great enthusiasm.  Photos of the trip, whittled down to a mere 100 photos (I took 49,324) is on flickr.
  • In February, I quit my job at the Korean status report company that happens to also make mobile phones.  During my tenure, I did all of the things a high-priced technical writer is most adept at doing, such as working at trade shows answering questions about said company’s televisions and washing machines, maintaining a bug database that was hardly used because the company preferred to use ten-meg excel spreadsheets mailed to the entire division to keep track of bugs, and daily maintenance of a farm of cell phones that nobody used that required battery-out reboots.  You can read more about my departure at Three stars in the sunset.
  • I published the 13th and probably final issue of Air in the Paragraph Line, which included two of my short stories, and lots of other great stuff by John Sheppard, Timothy Gager, Hassan Riaz, and a dozen or so others.  Check it out in paperback on Amazon – only $9.95 for 240 pages of excellent reading.  Or if you’re a Kindle person, it’s only $1.99 for the e-book version, which is a steal.
  • I got a tech writing job at a company nobody has heard of, which sells a pricing software solution that I could explain in maybe four hours with a whiteboard and a lot of markers, provided you have at least a minor in economics.  The good news is that I got on a team with three other writers and two more open positions (I have been working solo forever), met some good folks, and got to work in Java again.  The bad news is that when you have a product that only a couple of dozen companies use, you tend to do stuff like make the interface only work in IE6 and have a configuration situation that’s roughly as intuitive as being given nothing but air, earth, fire, and water and having to build a B-2 stealth bomber.  But the pay was good and the Cokes were free, so I planned to hang out there a bit and slog away at 600-page config guides.
  • After roughly six months at the new job, I got a call from my old boss at my job in New York where I worked from 2001-2007.  They offered to let me work at home doing what I did back then, and I accepted, bringing the job total for 2010 up to three.  The new job has been a great situation, albeit a bit weird to be back editing things I wrote years ago.  It’s great to be back with the band after so many years apart, but of course the best part is I no longer spend two to three hours a day in my Toyota stuck on traffic on the I-880.
  • We bought another house, the unit four doors down from our previous one, to have more space and to give me a home office.  It’s roughly twice as big as the old place, and after a few months of insanely high stress, it’s a pretty decent situation.
  • My seasonal allergy situation got progressively worse, and I went on a whole armada of pills, sprays, and inhalers to combat it.  I briefly tried acupuncture, which I found to be a crock of shit.  I then got allergy tested and started allergy injections, so we’ll see how that goes in a few months when I get up to maintenance levels.
  • We went to Denver in August to see the Rockies.  I spent more money than I have ever spent for a pair of seats right behind home plate, and of course they lost that game.  But we had a good time, and I shot roughly 847,231 photos.  I also found out Prince Fielder does not like being called Cecil, especially when he is at bat.  There’s some non-baseball pics of Denver here, along with the Coors Field tour, and the first and second game against the Brewers.
  • I saw a total of six baseball games this summer: Rockies @ Giants twice, Brewers @ Rockies twice; Cardinals @ Giants, and Rangers @ A’s.  Photos of a lot of those are here.
  • I got a new MacBook Pro, the highest-spec’ed i7 15″ model, the day the new rev came out.  It is a sweet piece of machinery and I love everything about it, except the fact that it has not made me write more or better.
  • I also got an iPad in October.  The world is divided into two types of people: those who have no idea who the hell would ever want an iPad, and those who realize that they will forever change the way you use a computer.
  • I went back to New York for the first time since leaving in 2007.  They’ve cleaned the subways since I left.  Once.  See also this and this for the full report.
  • I guess I read a lot over the year, but a good chunk of that was re-reading.  Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City was probably one of the more enjoyable books I read in 2010; Jerry Stahl’s Pain Killers was also a good read.  I also, thanks to the Kindle, got through a big chunk of Philip K. Dick’s older works, with Ubik being a great work and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch completely blowing my mind.
  • I’ve realized I had all but given up on being timely or in style with music, and I probably listened to mostly crap I’ve had for twenty years.  I think the new 2010 album I enjoyed the most in 2010 was A Star-Crossed Wasteland by In This Moment, although I am the only person in the world who liked their previous album better, but you can’t argue anything with a metal fan, which is why I have given up on ever reviewing albums.  The new Devo was okay, and BT released eleventy billion remixed tracks, which were decent but nowhere near This Binary Universe, which still probably remains, to me, as one of the best albums ever recorded.
  • I have big plans for 2011, and none of them involve writing more dumb bulleted lists, so I hope this gets it all out of my system.

New decade rising

For whatever reason, I have not been overwhelmed with this whole change in decade.  I vaguely remember the start of the 1980s, but I think that was mostly because I got the Death Star playset that Christmas.  (And when I got it, my dad joked that I should just leave it in the box because it would be worth more.  And if I would have, I could sell the damn thing now and pay off my mortgage.)  I also remember the 1989/1990 change, mostly because I was home for college, and this girlfriend I had back then came up from Bloomington to visit me, and we fought constantly for the entire week she visited.  And I guess we all remember the whole Y2K thing, mostly because we were all waiting for jets to fall from the sky at midnight, and nothing happened.

This decade change is pretty anticlimactic, though.  I think part of it is the addition of numbers behind that big 20 prefix doesn’t seem to have as much impact.  2012 and 2001 and 2112 and 2010 and 2020 all seem too similar to me.  Another possibility is that I’m so apathetic, I just don’t give a shit anymore.  I remember back when my first car hit 140,000 miles, and me and Tom Sample pulled over on the side of US33 and danced around the car like idiots because all of those zeroes came up at the same time.  My car just hit 30,000 miles, and I didn’t even notice it.  Maybe that’s because it’s just an LCD display now, and not actual dials of numbers.  Or, once again, apathy.

I also don’t make many new year’s resolutions, because all of the big things I do or plan never happen to land on even numbers like that.  But here are some vague ideas of resolutions I may or may not do this year:

  1. Not gain back any weight.  I managed to stay below my goal weight for all of 2009, and I need to keep that up.  Actually, it wouldn’t hurt me to lose about five more pounds, but as long as I stay the same pant size so I don’t have to go out and buy more, I’m fine.
  2. Publish Air in the Paragraph Line #13.
  3. Try to write here more.
  4. Try to write more, period.
  5. Kill a dolphin with a spear gun from a helicopter.
  6. Learn a dead language, and teach it to several of my coworkers, so we can talk about other people behind their backs.
  7. Only eat hot dogs at baseball games.  I think I ruined this by eating a char dog at Midway airport, but come to think of it, that was still 2009, so who cares.
  8. Memorize one page of a dictionary word-for-word, and then tell everyone I memorized the entire dictionary, and when they ask, I start reading off that one page and everyone thinks I’m a goddamn genius.
  9. Be in an emergency situation where someone asks if there’s a doctor because someone collapsed or something, and say “yes, I’m a doctor”, and when they ask me to do CPR or something, tell them I actually have a Doctor of Divinity degree and tell that dead guy to suck it.
  10. Keep hand-shaking to a minimum.

I should actually make one of those giant 101 goals lists and put it on here, but these guys are doing a much better job at that idea.


A poor excuse at an end-of-year wrapup

I’ve come to hate writing any kind of end-of-year bullshit on here. There is no possibility of me writing a favorite music of 2007 list, as I think I bought three CDs this year. I bought almost no DVDs, and pretty much every movie in the theaters in 2007 sucked total shit. (I actually liked The Darjeeling Limited a lot, but the one major downside to leaving NY is that it’s impossible to catch these limited release movies until they hit NetFlix. I just found one of those arthouse theaters though, so that gives me hope.) I spent a lot of 2007 trying to get rid of stuff, so a list of new posessions to hang around my neck is a bit redundant.

I could talk about books; I read a lot this year, but I didn’t buy many books at all, so there were a lot of rereads. Denis Johnson’s Tree of Smoke was by far the best thing I’ve read in a while.  Stasiland by Anna Funder took a nice look at the brighter side of communism, and what it was like to live in a country where centralization broke down every aspect of life, as did the East German’s secret police of having something like one in four citizens on the payroll as narcs. John Sheppard’s Small Town Punk came out, albeit edited like Sherman’s troops ‘edited’ the south at the end of the Civil War. I went back and re-read the iUniverse version, and went through his next book a couple of times over the summer.

A lot of shit happened in 2007, to put it mildly. I moved to Denver. I got engaged. I got married. I left my job of six years, and started a new one. We bought two cars. We adopted two cats. I saw about 20 baseball games, including a World Series. (We lost, and I’m still bitter, but at least it’s not like we lost to the White Sox or something.) I went to like 863 doctors this year. (See videos of my knee MRI here and here.) I went to my land twice. I didn’t go to any new states, but I went to the Bahamas, which is the 4th country outside of the US I’ve visited, and the first where they drove on the wrong side of the road.

My old friend Chuck Stringer died this year, which was surprising and depressing. It also really pushed the whole fear of mortality trip on me, as time keeps moving faster and I keep thinking about the limitation of the whole thing. Visiting a million doctors for various failures with my own body makes me even more fearful of this.

This journal was ten years old in 2007. The domain will be ten years old in 2008. The first time I got my VAX account and started using will be 20 years ago in 2009. I moved to Elkart in 1978, which was 30 years ago. In 1988, I worked at Wards, and my weekly paycheck was less than my 401K contribution these days. A nice round number like that occurring today makes me start thinking about this stuff too much.


Goodbye 2005

Okay, it looks like the annual archive-last-year-and-start anew journal maintenance worked, and I’m ready to start 2006. Because I cobbled together this system back in 1997 and slowly added new features to it over the years, I can never remember exactly how to do this big shift at the end of the year, and every year I swear I will rewrite the whole thing to make it easier, but I never do. Maybe before 2007.

We had a pretty quiet but nice new year. We went to Balthazar for an early dinner, and that was pretty damn good. Actually, the problem there is that the same owner or restaurant umbrella or whatever also runs a bar called Schiller’s in our neighborhood, and they have a decent bar food menu with some similar entrees, and they deliver. We’re pretty much on a first-name basis with their delivery guy because they’re now the default delivery choice, and having their entrees constantly sort of ruins going to the restaurant and ordering them. But it was neat to see everything in full swing for the big night. We got out of there by like seven though, and went home to lay in diabetic coma after the big meal and watch TV. Nothing exciting, but it was nice.

In conversation, Sarah asked me what I did last year, and I couldn’t even remember. I probably watched Platoon for the 8000th time and contemplated rigging up tripwires and punji sticks to take out my neighbors. I haven’t done anything for the new year in a while. I know everyone thinks that all New Yorkers stand in Times Square, but I haven’t done that and probably never will, since even if the weather is ultra-nice on the 29th and 30th, it always turns horrible on the day of the 31st and dips below freezing, as if someone out there knows there will be tens of thousands of people standing out there waiting to get frostbite. The flipside of this is that every bar and restaurant in the city suddenly adds an extra zero or two to their rates, and you end up spending a grand to sit in a greasy spoon with a thimble of champagne bought at CostCo, getting loaded with a bunch of strangers. So I’ve always avoided leaving the house.

I think the last time I actually threw a party was when I lived with Simms and Liggett in Bloomington at West Sixth. That was in 94/95, and we had a huge bottle rocket war outside, lots of Simms’ chili, a keg in the kitchen, a ton of people, and Chuck’s nephew Eric made this fortified distilled champagne that was like rocket fuel and gave me a hangover for like a week. But without the huge college house and a bunch of roommates and ultra-cheap Big Red Liquors right down the road, it’s hard to throw a big bash like that. And the whole “too old” thing comes into play, especially since I don’t drink anymore, and it actually took some effort to stay up till midnight last night.

I considered typing up some huge year-in-review meme and decided not to. I really don’t give a shit about what happened this year outside my life, and it seems like most preassembled sets of questions seem to require me giving a shit about the hurricanes or Tom Delay or whatever else, and I honestly don’t. I had a good year in the sense that I met Sarah, and moved out of Astoria, and finally got out of the country on vacation (Canada doesn’t count). I got to Hawaii again, and I got some new states checked off of my list (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island.) I got the next issue of the zine out, which was good. Nobody bought it, which isn’t.

I really don’t feel like I got much done as far as writing this last year. I barely wrote in here (50,000 words compared to 2004’s 80,000), and a lot of that has to do with my own neuroses about what a blog should be and what I should put out there for people to read and all of that shit. Part of it is also just apathy. I didn’t write much in my paper journal, either. And other than the production of the zine, I didn’t really get any work done on any large projects. I think I cycled between six and eight ideas, all somewhat bad, and did little work in any of them. I don’t set new year resolutions, but if I did, it would be to get my shit straight on all of that, pick a project, and get some work done on it. I don’t even give a shit about the whole selling and finding a market and all of the other stuff that other so-called authors get stuck on. I just want to find a project and WRITE and get words on paper and come up with something that rivals the other two books in length, depth, complexity, etc. I have a bunch of ideas for scraping together various crap and stories and journals and photos and putting them into books that nobody will buy, but I’m so tired of the fact that all of those are the equivalent to “greatest hits” packages, and I need to move on to something new.

Add to that the usual resolutions, like getting in shape, paying off debt, etc. I also want to focus a lot more on completely ignoring politics, which will be important with the elections in the coming year. I’m also trying to read more this year, and maybe I should help enforce that by writing more book reviews and stuff. I have a huge stack of books from Christmas that I need to get through, so that should keep me busy.

We have a nice, three-day weekend, so today’s a day for lounging around. We also got started with zipcar, and tomorrow we are taking the afternoon to drive to New Jersey and go to the mall and to Target and just to get the hell out of the city for a day. I know there’s a common perception that Jersey is horrible, but after being cooped up on this little island for the last month or two, going out there is like panacea. So, happy new year and all of that stuff. I’m going to go read for a while.