About those resolutions …

Back in February, I followed up on how I was doing with my New Year’s Resolutions after only a month. I was surprised to find that I was doing pretty well. Let’s see how I’m doing now that we’re five months into the year.

Creativity

1. Write more consistently, whether journaling, blogging, or creative writing.

I haven’t been able to attend my writing group for the last month or so because the meeting day changed due to a scheduling conflict for Melanie, the group’s instructor. I don’t have to have a writing group to write; I could blog every day if I simply had the motivation, and that would count as writing. In other words, I just used the writing group as an excuse for not writing. Sorry, Melanie. I take that back and restate it thus: I have not met my goal of writing more consistently.

I did, however, finally check out Ficlets.com after reading about it a few times on Wil Wheaton’s blog in exile. More on that a little later in this post.

2. Find another outlet for article writing (since ComputorEdge has gone virtual.)

I never heard from one of the computer magazines to which I sent a query letter, but I did hear back from another one, which is in its startup phase. We’ll see how that one works out. In the meantime, I wrote a second pro bono feature article for ComputorEdge, officially my 25th article for them. (Link goes to a PDF of the online issue.)

3. Publish some fiction. (Didn’t I say this last year?)

Other than putting a little piece up on Ficlets, I haven’t done anything in this regard except think about it. I think I like Ficlets, though. I’m a fan of structured writing, and the 1K limit on posts forces me to write tightly.

4. Play more musical gigs.

SR3 has played a couple of gigs recently, and we have a few more lined up. We will probably play at Federal Heights Day on September 20, as well.

5. Start teaching my stepson how to play guitar (his request, my responsibility to follow up.)

We haven’t done much with this since our initial attempts. It’s clear that Logan needs a Logan-sized guitar with standard tuning, but I haven’t had the money to get him one.

6. Transplant my Variax electronics into a Carvin Bolt kit or Warmoth guitar body.

I’m still not in a position to do this yet. I have scaled back my grandiose plans, though, and will be simply transplanting the Variax electronics into a nice body and adding a tremolo. I’ll save the passive pickups for a future project.

Physical & Mental Health

1. Learn how to get up earlier, consistently.

Through March, I did very well with this. However, I’m back to having a hard time getting up on time in the morning. In an effort to make progress, I have stopped taking the medication that was making me bleary-eyed in the morning, with no apparent negative effects. The key is going to be consistency. I need to get to bed at the same time on most nights, and then I will be able to get up on time easier.

2. Utilize my handheld BalanceLog software to track my eating and exercising habits.

Again, I haven’t been using it, but I’m at my lowest weight in the last few years. Go figure.

3. Ride my bike or walk to work more often. (If I get up earlier, this is not a problem!)

I still have not ridden my bike to work as much as I would like. Now that spring is here, I really have no excuse.

4. Schedule dental appointments to get my teeth taken care of.

I have not done this yet, despite my wife’s repeated urgings to do so. I’ve definitely dropped the ball on this one.

Financial Health

1. Get the amp out of the pawn shop, and never put it in again.

I had planned to get the amp out in February, but then I got a major wage garnishment from the State of Colorado for back taxes. (This relates to the 401k disbursement I took to buy my house not long before Intermountain Color — now Signature Offset — fired me and two other managers with no severance pay.) With this garnishment almost behind me, I’m hoping to get the amp out soon, as well as the two guitars I had to pawn in order to make rent and mortgage payments. 🙁

2. Continue to provide quality computer consulting, but stop devaluing my services as much.

I’ve been doing well on consulting. In the last week alone, I have made over $200 on consulting. I also have decided to take on the web hosting and design for a liberal poetry and essay site. In the interest of no longer devaluing my services, I parted ways with Flying Pen Press in March. The amount of time I spent working on the site was not worth the return I received when compared with other consulting jobs, so I officially resigned as their webmaster. I wish no one in the company any ill will, and I still want the company to succeed. I simply won’t be part of it when they do.

3. Keep current on space rent, car payment, mortgage, and car insurance.

Because of the garnishment I mentioned earlier, we did get behind on mortgage and space rent again. With my next check, the garnishment will be over, and we have a payment plan in place to have both space rent and mortgage payments current as of May 31 (including the June mortgage payment!) After August, things will be easier, because our mortgage will go down by about $275 per month. Before then, I should be receiving a raise at work, as well. See that light at the end of the tunnel? It’s actually daylight, not a train this time.

4. Make a spending plan (a.k.a. budget) and stick to it.

The “Mad Money” budget that I made is working pretty well, although most of my Mad Money has either gone into the gas tank or to help pay bills. Again, after my (hopeful) raise and reduction in mortgage payment, it should be much easier to stick to the budget, as well as pay down other old debts.

5. Track finances better with Quicken on computer and handheld.

I have completely fallen off the wagon with Quicken since my last post about this. I need to take statements for the last three months and reconcile them with my Quicken account so I can get back on track.

Home Improvements

1. Clean cat boxes daily.

I started out the year well with this chore, but I’ve fallen back again. I’m not as bad about it as I once was, but I’m definitely not in the habit of cleaning the boxes daily. This is one of the simple things that I can control; I just need to do it.

2. Help more with household chores without having to be asked.

I still help out in the kitchen, though not as much as I was. Again, I’ve backslid on this, and again, it’s something I can control.

3. Reduce household clutter gradually (this will help mental health, too.)

This is a tough one. Lannette and I have too much stuff and not enough room, and although I consider myself to be fastidious, I get overwhelmed with clutter and give up. We have made some changes; the city had a trash amnesty day recently, in which we got rid of quite a bit of unused stuff, and we’ve re-arranged some of the storage cabinets inside the house to make them more useful. Lannette found a china hutch and buffet on Freecycle, which allowed us to free up one of our huge bookshelves that we had been using as a pantry. This means I can bring in the books that I still have in storage in our shed. 🙂

4. Upgrade my computer (new mobo, RAM, and video.)

Eventually, my old motherboard died forever. The culprit: bad capacitors. I have fixed other motherboards with similar problems, but this one had far too many capacitors leaking brown fluid to spend time replacing them all. So, I was forced to upgrade to a new board, and now I have a great base upon which to build. Unfortunately, I’m running onboard video because I couldn’t afford to get a new PCI-E video card to go with the new board. When I can, I will get a good video card and maybe get back into gaming a bit.

5. Replace carpet with hardwood flooring throughout the house.

No change here. I really hope we can do this this summer. It will take a good chunk of money and a lot of work, but it will get rid of the carpet that the cats ruined, will make the house easier to keep clean, and will increase the value of our home.

6. Landscape yard.

Things are moving on this front. The park where I live replaced some poorly made rampart walls with better ones, driving piles into the hillside to help support the walls. This left a lot of old rampart bricks available for resident use, so my neighbor collected a lot of them. His lot sits about four feet below mine, and we would both like to see a low wall placed along the property line, which I would backfill with the dirt I moved into our back yard when building our shed three years ago. I just found a $10 used wheelbarrow to help with this task. My neighbor doesn’t have enough bricks to run the length of the yard at the height we need, but I promised him that I would purchase the necessary bricks to bring the wall up level with my yard later this summer.

7. Install carport/awning.

Nothing has changed in this regard. I would love it if I could build one of these this year. I can envision it, but I don’t know if I can afford to do it, either in terms of money or time.


Overall, it feels like I’ve backslid since February, particularly in the areas of keeping up with the catboxes and the household chores. The garnishment didn’t help things any, and if I’m able to rescue my amp and guitars, I will be very surprised and happy. I just hope there’s not another garnishment waiting around the corner.

Sweet Jem

As promised in the last entry, here is the short-short story I wrote using only E for all the vowels. I have modified it slightly since the writing group to fix a particularly clunky paragraph. As always, feedback is welcome and encouraged via the blog comments (even if you think I cheated by using too many Ys!)

—- —- —-
“Sweet Jem”

Effervescent, ever-present, Jem represents reverence. She dresses her level best; resplendent velvets reflect here, there. Men seek her, need her.

She enters tents, pretext-free, then sheds her dress. When she emerges, she’s bent, her eyes red, chest wet, legs spent; she needs rest.

West she wends, perverts between her, her tent. They jeer; they prey. Never reckless, she enters her secret shelter between leers.

She never resents; she respects her men. Her men? Few seem tender, even fewer respect her. Yet, when she presses, relentless, gents cede ten percent: her rent.

—- —- —-
This work is protected by a Creative Commons License, ©2007.

2007 Resolutions

Yes, like every other blogger in the blogosphere, I’m going to post my resolutions for the new year. I did this once before, in a prior incarnation of the Lytspeed Communications site, back before the term “blog” existed. I did keep a few of those resolutions, namely dropping the weight (45 pounds, actually!), playing more live music, volunteering for Colorado Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, and learning more about coding HTML, but not in 1997.

Yes, my online home turns ten years old this year. And though I don’t have the popularity or visitation that mainstream bloggers have, I do feel pretty good about being ahead of the curve.

I think my resolutions for this year are quite a bit more reasonable than the ones I made in 1997. Maybe I’ll look back in another nine or ten years and see how many of them I accomplished this year.

Okay, enough stalling. Here are my resolutions for 2007:

Manage Finances Better – I have always had a hard time with finances, and I’m getting tired of always being behind the 8-ball. It’s time for me to get it together this year.

Take Care of My Health – My heart attack scare of a couple of years ago really woke me up, and I have made some changes to prevent that from happening again. However, there are some other concerns I need to address before they become Big Issues.

Write Every Day – Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make one better at what one practices, and I haven’t practiced writing enough. I need to write every day. What I write and which medium I use is immaterial; if I write every day, I will get back in the habit I used to have in college, when I was most prolific. Yes, that means more blog entries, too.

Publish Some Fiction – 2006 was a great year for me as far as writing goes. I published several articles at ComputorEdge, sold four poems to Romantic-Short-Love-Stories.com (now defunct, unfortunately), and actually managed to turn a meager profit for the year after deducting my writing-related expenses. However, I didn’t accomplish one of my main goals for last year, which was to publish some fiction. It’s time to complete the set this year.

Do My Taxes On Time – Last year, I was late — very late — in doing my taxes. I guess this could be part of managing my finances better.

Buy a Variax – Line 6 makes the ultimate geek guitar, and I want one so bad I can taste it. (Yum! Rosewood!) I have all kinds of ideas on how I could use it to make things easier in my gigs.

That’s it. Hopefully I’ll get somewhere with these goals this year, and if you’ve made resolutions, I hope you reach your goals as well.

Jammed

I’m jammed right now.

I’m sitting in front of my computer, trying to work on “Chesterfield Gray,” and Pig Won’t (as Bruce Holland Rogers calls the inertia we have to overcome in order to write) is doing everything he can to get me to stop. He’s distracting me with e-mails, sounds, thirst, games, and a sore butt. Some of these are easy to combat; the e-mails don’t come if Outlook isn’t open, the thirst trick works only once, and the sore butt is less sore after getting up to get the drink.

It pisses me off that I have lots of energy to spend on writing and thinking about writing except when I’m in front of the screen. Just opening Front Page to work on this journal entry was a battle of laziness vs. stubbornness. In this case, Pig Will won out, and I’m at least writing something. Maybe if I write enough of this, it will kick start the desire to move ahead on the story, the first draft of which I want to have done by the end of Wednesday night.

I don’t want to talk about the story itself too much in this blog. The parasitic nature of the ‘Net keeps me from wanting to say too much about the stories I’m writing. That probably comes across as a tease to those of you reading, and I apologize. However, this open journal is still, first and foremost, for my learning purposes. Its entertainment value for you, unfortunately, is a side benefit.

I suppose I can say that I’m at a point in the construction of the story where I need to figure out what the characters are going to do next. I need to figure out how the female character is going to crack the shell of the main male character. Then I need to justify his brusque behavior by getting a bit into his history. A central event will involve all the characters toward the end, and I will need to show their reactions to it, but I will only be able to get inside the head of one of the characters.

It’s interesting how this is coming out, because the overall viewpoint is limited omniscient; we get in the head of only one character — a sideline character, in fact — but we know what the other characters are doing. So far, that seems to be working, but I may need to revise it as the story progresses.

Okay, it feels like the juices are flowing a bit, so I’m going to switch gears and leave the journal entry for now. One quick note; I found out today that I won’t be able to attend Mile Hi Con like I was hoping to this year. I will be in Key West that weekend on business.

Later — I was able to get some work done on the story. I cleared up a few fuzzy areas and wrote three more pages. I’m glad I was able to beat back Pig Won’t this time. I’ll have to remember that directly addressing the issue by writing about it seems to take some of Pig Won’t’s power away. (Believe it or not, that’s a correct construction of a possessive proper noun, in this case!)

Off the Map

Sunday was a much more productive day for creativity. I got an e-mail about a flash fiction market at Wormhole Books, and after confirming that this limited e-mail solicitation was open to new writers, I wrote a piece called “To Be Human.” I revised it a couple of times that day, then read it to my wife and son. Based on their reactions, I tweaked the ending a bit and sent it off as an electronic submission. Hopefully something will come of that, but if it doesn’t, at least I sent it off.

I also wrote about 300 words of “Sphere of Success,” the next story in my Fear Spheres series. It’s funny how stories work sometimes; I had a vague outline in my head of where I wanted to go with that story, but when I started writing, the main character kind of took over and is sending the story in a different direction. It may wind up where I originally wanted it, but it’s taking a different road — one that’s not on my map!