Writing at a crowded table in a small room with tea

Yesterday I did something I would have done during National Novel Writing Month if my novel hadn’t stalled out after 10,000 words. I took part in a write-in, specifically one set up as an offshoot of the local NaNoWriMo group where people are invited during the NaNo off-months to write at Waves Coffee in New Westminster every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

There’s a reserved from at the back that conveniently has a door that can be closed, allowing writerly types to scribe with little interference from outside. Eight had officially signed up on the Facebook page but a total of 11 made it, which resulted in a rather crowded table. I almost felt like I was co-authoring the projects of those to my left and right through osmosis.

Still, it was useful to have that three-hour block of (mostly) quiet concentration and focus. While I didn’t work on a single project, I successfully bounced around several, including:

  • new material on my 2014 NaNo novel, Road Closed
  • going over 2016’s stalled project and fixing most of the tense problems (specifically I started writing in the present tense then switched to the past tense without consciously meaning to. I have managed to fix all but the final section of writing to align everything to the present tense).

I was hoping to do some work on the short story “The Box on the Bench” but am still mulling over how best to approach it. I’ll write more on the revival of this ten-year-old (!) project soon.

Apart from a slight crick in my neck, I found the experience useful and refreshing. I’ll definitely be returning. If I actually write straight through next time I should be able to get quite a bit done, a novel (ho ho) change from my progress of late.

A fifth of elliptical

There’s not much to say about working out on an elliptical because the environment and machine never changes. I suppose if the machine magically came to life and galloped outside with me hanging on for dear life it would be different but so far that hasn’t happened.

Tonight I started with 14/12 on incline/resistance and eventually dropped the resistance to 10 before bumping it back up slightly to 11. At one point I felt muscles in my legs actually burning. Not literally on fire, just really feeling them stretching and such.

I also brought a water bottle tonight. It helped, though the cup holder is designed for righties. Prejudice!

I began to feel pretty tired near the end but finished with 350 calories burned on the machine and 364 according to the Apple watch (I let it run about a minute long before remembering to end the workout).

Officially:

Calories burned: 414 (364 active)
Time: 31:31
BPM: 155

I will likely do a treadmill run (bleah) next as I’d like to keep alternating. Plus the treadmills at least have dual cupholders so I don’t have to test my rightie hand-eye coordination when going for a sip.

Good news! Also, the press chooses reality over a certain thin-skinned man-child

Trump didn’t launch any nukes on his first day as president. Hooray.

Only 1,459 more days to go to dodge the atomic bullet (that’s when the 2021 inauguration happens and Trump will hopefully not be part of it, except as an onlooker–unless he is still missing after having been kidnapped by Bigfoot, of course).

On the second day of his presidency, we witnessed the first press conference of the new administration. The press secretary lied about something easily disproven–the size of the crowd at the inauguration–and took no questions. A press conference without questions. At least CNN didn’t feel more left out than any other media outlet (Trump declared them “fake news” in his last press conference before the inauguration and refused to take questions from their reporter).

Roughly twice as many turned up today for the Women’s March in Washington D.C. as did for Trump’s inauguration, with estimates of around 500,000 participants. Hundreds of thousands of others joined in around the world.

The Associated Press:

Trump said throngs “went all the way back to the Washington monument,” despite photos and live video showing the crowd stopping well short of the landmark.

The liar who became president continues to lie. His press secretary lies. This is not normal and should not be tolerated.

CNN: White House attacks media for accurately reporting inauguration crowds

The nice part is CNN has nothing to lose by going full attack mode on Trump now since he’s already cut them off. They have every incentive to dig for as much dirt as they can find. And they will find dirt.

There’s a good chance Trump won’t finish his term, though it is difficult to imagine a Republican-controlled Congress impeaching him and even more improbable to imagine him resigning. I suspect his usual technique–to simply ignore reality and lie about everything–is ultimately not going to see him through. The ignorant fools who helped elect him will lap up everything he says, of course, and there’s a lot of people out there who seem curiously proud of their stupidity, their unwillingness to think critically or to engage in anything that smacks of rational or logical thought in preference to leading with their emotions or their “gut,” whatever that means. But I don’t think there are enough of these people to protect him when the tide turns.

And it will turn.

Hopefully before the nukes.

The New York Times: With False Claims, Trump Attacks Media on Turnout and Intelligence Rift

Quotes (emphasis mine):

WASHINGTON — President Trump used his first full day in office on Saturday to unleash a remarkably bitter attack on the news media, falsely accusing journalists of both inventing a rift between him and intelligence agencies and deliberately understating the size of his inauguration crowd.

***

He also called journalists “among the most dishonest human beings on earth,” and he said that up to 1.5 million people had attended his inauguration, a claim that photographs disproved.

***

Later, at the White House, he dispatched Sean Spicer, the press secretary, to the briefing room in the West Wing, where Mr. Spicer scolded reporters and made a series of false statements.

Trump tries to forge a reality that simply doesn’t exist, and he may expect to get away with it by assuming no one will fact check or if they fact check, no one will care. On the small stuff, a lot of people (see the aforementioned ignorant fools) won’t care. But Trump won’t stop with constant, small fabrications. He’ll lie about important matters, too. And it will be his undoing.

The alternative is to watch the United States devolve from a democracy into something else (something worse and terrifying) and I can’t really entertain that notion right now.

On the other hand “President Trump” seemed ridiculous, too.

And again, this is only Day 2.

Sad!

Donald Trump officially became the 45th President of the United States today. Sad!

He and his cronies are already busy undoing every positive thing Obama accomplished. They’ll probably keep on with the bad stuff, though (drone killings, chasing after whistleblowers, etc.)

I can’t conceive of a scenario in which the next four years won’t be terrible. I have said it before but I am still utterly astonished that 60 million people voted for someone so obviously unfit for the role. I’d say America deserves what it gets but everyone in the rest of the world will have to suffer, too, and that sucks.

My best hope remains with him (and Pence and well, every Republican) being kidnapped by Bigfoot. I suppose it would require a Bigfoot army. If I can get one thing for Christmas, then, it would be a Bigfoot army. Come on Santa, make it happen.

A triumph over donuts

Two days I vowed to pass on the donuts that would be served at the weekly staff meeting. My immediate supervisor, who runs the meetings, opined that he might accommodate me in some way.

Today at the meeting the usual box of donuts was presented. And my supervisor brought along a banana for me. He quickly added that it was okay for me to have a donut, too. A donana, if you will. One of my co-workers said today is the official day people give up on their New Year resolutions. I guess people break before three weeks have passed or something like that.

But I held firm. I ate the banana and declined those freshly-baked yummy, mouth-watering donuts. And I assured myself they did not taunt me.

I am at 164.2 pounds. My weight is starting to trend downward again. I am exercising regularly. My body fat percentage has dropped 0.4%. These are all good things and I will not let them be derailed by a wickedly enticing Boston Cream.

Not this week, anyway.

And today would have been a good day to have a donut, too.

Run 478: On a treadmill, slowly

Run 478
Average pace: 6:13/km
Location: Canada Games Pool (treadmill)
Distance: 4.93 km
Time: 30:42
Weather: n/a
Temp: n/a
Wind: n/a
BPM: 162
Stride: n/a
Weight: 165.3 pounds
Total distance to date: 3780 km
Devices/apps: Apple Watch, iPod nano (for music) and Matrix treadmill (for running)

Another run on ye olde treadmill at the Canada Games Pool and I am reminded that I really need to bring a water bottle. The humidity in there basically makes every run feel like one at the height of summer.

The run itself started out strangely sluggish. I guess it took me awhile to ramp up. I set the speed to 6.3 and kept it there until about midway through, bringing it down to 5.8 before taking it back up to 6 and 6.1 for the last 1.5 km or so.

Toward the middle, I began to feel rather tired, the kind of “make it stop” tired but after slowing the speed I recovered and finished fairly well, though my times are still tracking slower than my outdoor runs.

While I was still feeling zippy I managed to put myself into a zone of sorts where I was no longer focusing on the readout ahead of me, but instead a vague sport on the treadmill display. When I began feeling tired my eyes drifted back up to the display and I found it very difficult to look away. The distance readout counts down from 5K and while 5K is not a great distance, watching it tick down from 4.65 to 4.64 to 4.63 is exhausting in itself. It’s like someone doing a countdown but being deliberately, infuriatingly slow.

Still, I got out and got a run in, so yay for me.

In a new and possibly intriguing development, a few days of torrential rain have led to virtually all of the snow disappearing, to be replaced by vast, lake-like puddles. I’m not sure if there’s been enough rain to fully clear the trails yet but on Saturday I’m going to check out the Brunette River trail and it just might be possible to do an outdoor run this weekend, which would be my first in six weeks–entirely due to weather.

Three days until who the heck knows what

In three days Donald Trump will be inaugurated as President of the United States.

It sounds like the start of a terrible alternate universe novel and yet here we are with reality saying otherwise.

As much as I think he will be a terrible president–he is a terrible person and wholly unsuited for the role 60 million American idiots voted him into–his choice of Vice President is vile in its own way so even fantasy scenarios of Trump not completing his term (gets bored, impeached, kidnapped by Bigfoot, etc.) are unsatisfying, knowing that things would still be bad, just a different kind of bad.

Mostly I just can’t believe so many people voted for him. I used to be fairly cynical when I was younger but as I matured (or at least got older) I mellowed and began to look at my fellow human beings as at least decent and reasonably intelligent types.

But over 60 million voted for Trump. It’s not just mindboggling, it is, to me, literally beyond comprehension. I’ve read a lot of the reasons he got crucial votes in the so-called rust belt that enabled his electoral college victory (there is some solace in that he did lose the popular vote by about 2.8 million) but none of the reasons can compare to the nigh-endless list of why he is completely unfit to be president. Nigh-endless, I say! It’s depressing.

Anyway, here’s hoping the media relentlessly savages him as he deserves. He’s so thin-skinned and petty that maybe he will resign in frustration after all the means things people say about him.

Blargh.

Book review: Dark Matter

Dark MatterDark Matter by Blake Crouch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a sucker for multiverse stories.

And so are the other countless millions of versions of me. If they exist.
Dark Matter is at heart a simple story, about a man–in this case atomic scientist Jason Dessen–who reaches a crossroads in his life and has to choose between a great career or a great family. He chooses the family and 15 years later seems pretty content with the choice.

Then he gets abducted while returning from a pub one night and things start getting weird. He is injected with some kind of drug and wakes up in a lab he has no memory of, surrounded by people who say he has been gone for 14 months. He has accomplished fantastic things he can’t recall. He wonders if he is losing his mind.

From this starting point, Dark Matter merrily takes the reader on a breakneck journey across parallel worlds, some seemingly utopian, others the stuff of nightmares, as Dessen struggles to figure out what has happened to him and tries to reconnect with his wife and son.

The story effortlessly switches gears from intimate to weird and back again and although the mystery is naturally peeled away as the plot drives forward, author Blake Crouch keeps interest high by constantly ratcheting up the tension over what will happen next. With a multitude of worlds, the possibilities are literally endless.

I particularly like the exploration of the concept that once you choose a certain path, it can shape and change you in profound ways, not just in what you do or become, but fundamentally altering the person you are and the identity you assume.

There are car chases, too.

Some might balk a bit at Crouch’s prose–he is nearly channeling Hemingway here, with short, staccato sentences and single line paragraphs. But the economy of words emerges as a strength, sort of the equivalent of a well-made sketch that allows the viewer to easily fill in details.

As I said, I am a sucker for multiverse stories and Dark Matters scratched the itch for me in fine style. If you are at all interested in parallel universe fiction, Dark Matter is an easy recommendation.

View all my reviews

Elliptical the Fourth

Yes, for the fourth day in a row I went to the gym (Canada Games Pool). I have never done this before. I may never do it again. But I did it this week.

I chose an elliptical workout with a setting of 14/11, adjusted down to 14/10 for a bit before going back to 14/11.

On the machine itself my step and calorie count were down slightly (sad face) but on the watch the calorie count was up slightly, perhaps reflecting the fact that I was ever-so-slightly heavier and this burning more.

Calories burned: 389 (341 active)
Time: 30:09
BPM: 156

Last night:

Calories burned: 383 (334 active)
Time: 30:56
BPM: 155

I actually felt myself getting tired earlier tonight, which isn’t that surprising given it was my fourth day in a row working out and sweat was literally pouring down my face. I made a tactical error in soaking in the swirl pool for about ten minutes before the workout. The logic was the dip would help my slightly stiff muscles loosen up. Although I felt I’d cooled off in the time it took me to dry off and change, I probably was still running (ho ho) a little hot.

Still, the end result was surprisingly consistent and I didn’t feel as wobbly heading down the stairs after.

I’m taking a break tomorrow (Monday) but should be back Tuesday, when I will likely tackle the treadmill again. Not literally tackle, because that would hurt. This also gives me time to find a groovy water bottle to help keep me hydrated and super-fast and such.

Elliptical, Part 3 or I can’t stop going to this place

For some crazy reason I went to the Canada Games Pool for the third day in a row, trading in the dreaded treadmill for the much less-dreaded elliptical again.

I managed to start things off a bit better by making sure the fan was running and started the elliptical activity on the watch only a little late. I adjusted the height and speed to 14/10 instead of 12/7 but in the end, I only burned six calories more than the previous time, 345 vs. 339. I apparently did 3,750 steps in the half hour workout. My advanced math skills (and calculator) tell me that’s 125 steps per minute. I have no idea if that’s good, bad or average.

Overall the workout went fine. I didn’t feel inordinately tired for doing this three days in a row (and four times this week) so that’s good. We’ll see how my various muscles feel about it tomorrow morning. I am apparently more serious than I realized about getting in shape.

One time I lost my rhythm and my left foot started to pop out of the foot guard or whatever you call it. This caused me to briefly stop until I got it back in. The equivalent thing on a treadmill would result in me flying off, so this is a definite advantage of the elliptical.

I was good and sweaty by the end so it at least looked like I worked out hard. And I’m all about looks.

And getting in shape, too, I suppose.

If I’m feeling extra nutty I may even go again tomorrow.

Run 477: Running to stand still (two nights in a row)

Run 477
Average pace: 6:06/km
Location: Canada Games Pool (treadmill)
Distance: 4.81 km
Time: 29:22
Weather: n/a
Temp: n/a
Wind: n/a
BPM: 163
Stride: n/a
Weight: 163.9 pounds
Total distance to date: 3775 km
Devices/apps: Apple Watch, iPod nano (for music) and Matrix treadmill (for running)

Feeling crazy I decided to do another treadmill run just 24 hours later. It was either that or sit and eat everything I could find. I’m still having a little trouble curbing the urge to stuff my face, though I’m getting better.

I made a few tweaks to my setup. I left the phone in the locker and swapped in my olde iPod nano for music. I last used it for a workout on September 23, 2014. I removed some old music, added some new music, synced and it was good to go. I also opted to just keep my Fitbit One in my shorts pocket instead of clipping it on because it’s not like there are dramatic sweeping movements made while jogging on a treadmill.

Despite all of my careful preparation I forgot to start the timer on the Workout app on the watch until about the 1:14 mark, so it recorded a little under 5 km. Alas.

It was also about that time that I noticed the fan was not working. The fans are mounted ahead and to the left of the machines so there is no way to reach them without stopping or pausing your workout, getting off the treadmill, making whatever adjustments, getting back on and essentially starting your jog over again (but not totally over). I left it and hoped for the best. The difference was noticeable. I was sweating sooner and felt hotter, but not the sexy kind of hot, just the “this is gross and uncomfortable” kind of hot. My mouth also got about as dry as a hotter summer run. I am going to bring a water bottle next time.

On the positive side, I improved in several respects. My BPM was down, from 166 to 163, and my pace dropped from 6:13/km to 6:06/km. Not bad for one day of progress.

My next trip to the pool will probably be back on the elliptical but I may whimsically change my mind and jog again. The elliptical is a more pleasant experience and though I burn fewer calories on it (unless I switch to Mountain Goat Mode or something that simulates stair-stepping up a cliff face) the difference isn’t enough to bother me.

While I like the relative convenience of having a fitness facility nearby that lets me get some exercise in, I miss being outside and running the trails. If you had told me that this winter I’d be unable to run due to snow for at least six weeks (and realistically I’m betting it will be closer to two months) I would have uttered a solid LOL in your general direction because that would be ridiculous. And yet here we are with a semi-permanent layer of crusty, ice-covered snow still all over the place.

Run 476: Dreadmill

Run 476
Average pace: 6:13/km
Location: Canada Games Pool (treadmill)
Distance: 5:15 km
Time: 32:08
Weather: n/a
Temp: n/a
Wind: n/a
BPM: 165
Stride: n/a
Weight: 166.4 pounds
Total distance to date: 3770 km
Devices/apps: Apple Watch, iPhone 6 (for music) and Matrix treadmill (for running)

And so it was that I returned to the Canada Games Pool for my second-ever treadmill run. I spent several minutes just standing on the thing trying to figure out all the options. I finally settled on choosing the 5K Run option and set the speed to 6 (out of 10? 100? I have no idea). I left the incline at 0 because running up hills is unfun when the hills are real so I doubt the experience is enhanced much on simulated hills.

It took me a bit to get to the point where I could let go of the handlebars and jog like I normally would. There’s that moment or two when you first let go and the treadmill is tugging away at your feet, wanting to throw you off like a hapless dolt on America’s Funniest Home Videos. And while I felt my feet shift slightly a few times I was pretty stable the rest of the way.

I still don’t like the treadmill. It captures the mechanic of running–moving your legs back and forth–but there’s none of the verve, the stuff that makes running enjoyable. Instead of seeing the scenery and experiencing an ever-shifting series of dips and curves and variety, you just keep moving in place on that rubber mat that forces you to literally go through the motions to avoid flying off.

My pace was way off but I’m not sure how accurately it reflects my usual running pace when I’m outside. I finished at 6:13/km, which is super-slow. On the other hand, my last run was on December 4th and a month+ of no jogging is going to have an effect.

I’ll try again with similar settings and see how the next pseudo-run compares. Going by the forecast it will probably be weeks still before I can begin running on trails again and then longer still to do it after work when there’s enough daylight.

Have I mentioned before that I’m ready for summer?