Mapping the Hero’s Journey

ONE: Ordinary world (let’s say 5000 words)
We meet our hero.

TWO: Call to adventure (5000 words)
The adventure begins.

THREE: Refusal of the call (2500 words)
The hero digs in his feet.

FOUR: Meeting the mentor (2500 words)
The hero acquires a personal trainer

FIVE: Crossing the first threshold (3000 words)
The hero enters the other world in earnest.

SIX: Tests, allies, enemies (5000 words)
The hero faces new challenges and gets a squad.

SEVEN: Approach to the inmost cave (3000 words)
The hero gets closer to his goal.

EIGHT: Ordeal (5000 words)
The hero faces his biggest test of all so far.

NINE: Reward; seizing the sword (3000 words)
The hero sees the light at the end of the tunnel.

TEN: The road back (2500 words)
The light at the end of the tunnel might be further than the hero thought.

ELEVEN: Resurrection (1500 words)
The last test is met.

TWELVE: Return with the elixir (2500 words)
The hero has a triumphant homecoming.

This adds up to 40,500 words, which means I have 9,500 words to play with in hitting my goal. I’m going to have to revisit this every few days because honestly I don’t know how many words it takes to get my character from one step in the journey to the next.

More NaNoWriMo talk Friday.

Friday 5: Food Mood

From here.

  1. What’s the best striped food?
    Someone else said salmon, and I really wish I’d thought of that. My first thought was Fudge Stripes cookies, which aren’t really that great. Then I was chatting with Sylvia the other night. She wants to make Japanese-style potato salad (mmmmm…) and asked if I thought Kewpie mayo was a must. I said the only thing Kewpie mayo is a must for is okonomiyaki. Bing. There’s my answer.
  2. What’s the best spotted food?
    Crush Girl has a blouse that reminds me of a certain fruit I’m fond of, so of course that’s the food I want to name here. Really, though, how could it be anything other than vanilla bean ice cream? Great. Now I’m craving ice cream.
  3. What’s the best layered food?
    Why are layered foods so amazing? Tiramisu, ice cream cake, seven-layer dip, loco moco. Mm. The winner is clearly lasagna, though.
  4. What’s the best swirly food?
    Helloooooooo Cinnabon.
  5. What’s the best black-and-white food?
    I’m going comfort food here: nori tsukudani and rice. I only just learned the word tsukudani now. I had to look it up because in our house we just referred to it by one of the brand names we liked (Gohandesuyo!). When we were kids, my sister and I always called it “mushy nori.” My mom, the first time she heard us saying it (when I was like 6 and my sister was 4), told us not to call it that. Because mushi means bug. Hahaha. And if you look at nori tsukudani closely, you couldn’t swear that it wasn’t made of blended bugs. So of course that’s what we always called it when my mom wasn’t around. In college, it was a frequent breakfast, and my roomie Captain Daveman was grossed out by it. Wouldn’t even try it. Kept calling it “that black stuff.” But it is freaking delicious. That stuff is straight-up umami paste, and it will always give me feelings of being taken care of, which I suppose is really what comfort food is, right? The stuff in the photo up there isn’t as black as the stuff I usually have, but better photos were from personal blogs and I didn’t want to steal from them. This one’s from an online retailer and therefore fair game.

Story Brainstorming

Okay I think I have a premise and only the slightest glimmer of a hint of a whiff of a story idea so I am going to run with it and see what happens. Working title: Killian Kobayashi Gets Laid.

I’m going to start drafting in a bit but then come back here and answer some idea-generator questions I got from goteenwriters.com, a website I discovered when Googling brainstorming ideas. I haven’t explored it much, but it looks kind of interesting. Its about page has a misused it’s, though, which maaaaaaaaaay be a dealbreaker. Hey, it’s happens to us all, but on something as prominent as an about page, should there be some proofreading?

It’s 5:35 a.m. November 1. I got up at 3:30 to pick up some stuff for the NaNoWriMo kickoff Saturday morning. I had to wait around a little because I didn’t get what I wanted (although in fairness, I sorta got what I ordered), and the lady at FedEx Office was nice enough to redo the order while I waited.

So i’m off to a later start than I expected. I’m going to do some free-writing, then come back and respond to the questions from goteenwriters.

Don’t nobody go nowhere.


Okay, it’s 9:55 a.m. November 3. Here’s what happened between where I left off and where I’m picking up.

  1. I wrote more than 800 words Friday before a quick trip to the beach and then back to the office for real work. Friday wasn’t a great day at work — I pissed someone off and don’t know what I did, and my apology was clearly not accepted. It was barely acknowledged. Great.
  2. So I went to the boba cafe to continue the work. I was pretty spent by 9:00, the time for the online Oahu NaNo group meetup. Hung around and chatted a bit, but didn’t do any more writing.
  3. Woke up early Saturday for the annual Oahu Region kickoff. We had a nice group, and I had a nice time; I also got another 2476 words, then finally tried this new burger spot in Chinatown everyone’s taking pictures of for IG. It was good.
  4. Went home for a nap, thinking I’d hit the boba cafe for another evening push, but I got up, ate some leftovers, and pretty much went right back to bed. My body was telling me to cool it, so I cooled it.
  5. Woke up early Sunday for a swim, and to figure out what to do with my NaNo project now. See, I’m kind of bored with the premise already after only two days of work, and I don’t like it for the Hero’s Journey, which is my focus this year. I’ve already written the words and I’m not about to give them up for NaNo (every. word. counts.), but if I insist on staying wed to the premise, I won’t finish the month with a victory. And if I do, I’ll hate the process along the way, and that’s a loss, no matter how many words I crank out.
  6. Had a good swim, but already decided on a change in working title. It’s now Killian Kobayashi Gets Played. And I’m ditching the premise, but I haven’t quiiiiiiiite come up with a good premise to replace it. I’m going to do some brainstorming in a minute to see what I come up with.
  7. I also have some real work and some side work to do today, so yikes.

Although a lot of what i’ve already brainstormed is no longer relevant, I thought I’d post it here anyway, as intended. Didn’t get through the whole exercise yet, but I plan to in the next few days. Here’s what I have so far.

Character Questions (for major characters) •

Who is my character?

A fourteen-year old in the summer between eighth and ninth grades, a student at Pacific International School.  He gets middling grades but doesn’t find school challenging, except for assignments he doesn’t see a reason for.  His friends are the sorta alt crowd, kids who don’t listen to the popular music, who appreciate his not being like everyone else.

What is he named and why?

Killian Kobayashi.  Killian for the Irish side of his heritage (his mom) and Kobayashi for the Japanese side (his dad).

If I had to describe him in one word, it would be:

Horny?

What’s his family like?

His dad is a Japanese American computer security guy, contracted by the military but not in the military.  His mom is an Irish American restaurant manager from New York.  His parents met when his dad was at a conference in Washington.  His mom was there to visit a friend – they were both dining alone at the bar and struck up a conversation.

What does he value?

In others, he values intelligent people who treat him like he’s not an idiot.  He values wit.  He’s drawn to shy people.  He admires people who work hard, even though he isn’t a hard worker himself.

He loves learning but hates schoolwork.

I need more here.

What lie does he believe?

He believes a lie he’s told himself – that the raging hormones in his body demand he have sex, as soon as he possibly can and with as many people, and that if he doesn’t get laid he’s going to explode or die.

Why does he believe that lie?

A steady diet of guy talk, longtime exposure to porn, lots of talk about it from grownups in his life telling him not to do it.  And his own hormones.

What happened in his past that caused his to believe it?

Ooh, I think I just answered this.

What is his main goal in the story?

Externally, it’s to get laid.  He doesn’t know that it’s really for nice female companionship.  He’d also like to pass his summer typing course but he’s not stressed about it.  He might find out that a passing grade (that is, even a D-minus) will be as good as an A, since only the credit transfers to his school.

Why is he ideal for the journey and why is he not?

He’s pretty typically a horny teenaged young man, and he’s motivated by a stupid bet and his distaste for the guy he’s betting with.  He’s also kind of daring, but still a wuss about certain things.  Like, he wants to get laid but when he hears about some friends who did it in the McDonald’s bathroom he’s horrified.

Who are his allies and who are his enemies?

He has two friends in his typing class, a guy from his own school who sits next to him, and a girl from another school who he’s just getting to know, who sits at the desk behind him.

NaNOOOOOOOOOOOWriMo

It starts midnight tomorrow evening. Last year’s attempt was a disaster, ‘though I can’t feel too bad about it, since the reason was my work trip to Boston, which was wonderful.

I still haven’t settled on a premise, but I have decided I’m going to post all my NaNo writings in this space, for good or ill. Probably for ill. Almost surely for ill. I just feel the need to put my process out there while I’m going through it. I’ll put the NaNo stuff in its own category, then take it all down a week into December.

So you may want to go away for a month and come back around December 8.

I’m not looking forward to the stress of 50K words, but I have to say I’m looking forward to the writing. I need to get something out of me, and NaNo has proven to be a pretty good vehicle for it. I don’t care if it’s good or if it sucks. I mean, it’s sucks — I can pretty safely predict that right now. But the tapping on the keys, the reaching down for some shred of something expressive or creative, for some original thought or a handful of good phrases I might use another time? I need that like a junkie’s craving vein.

Don’t write that last image down — it’s Bruce Cockburn’s. Which reminds me I might want to set up a few playlists for NaNo. Bruce’s lyrics inspire me as a human plodding through this existence and as a writer yearning to express the truth that has been struggling for utterance in me.

Don’t write that last phrase down either. It’s Oswald Chambers’s.


I took the afternoon off from work to watch the World Series. I had visions of taking up residence at a table in a sports bar, perhaps a plate of nachos and a couple of Blue Moons keeping me company as the baseball season comes to its glorious end. I even asked for recommendations on FB.

My problem with sports bars when there’s an event I really want to see, besides my great dislike for bars, is that they tend to be noisy, and they almost always have the sound muted. I’ve been let down more than once, trying to see a World Series game in a sports bar where it seemed I was the only patron remotely interested in the game. So in my request for recommendations, I asked specifically for a place likely to have the sound up.

I cruised past one place in Moiliili, but it was closed. Then I went over to this spot in Manoa near the school, a spot I’m semi fond of, but it was closed too. Hello? People? Do we not understand this is the World Series we’re talking about?

I ended up right where I saw parts of the World Series last year: on campus at Manoa Gardens, where there’s a Vietnamese sandwich shop and supposedly the only place on a supposedly dry campus to get a beer. I actually like the spot since you don’t feel pressure to spend money. It’s as much a study spot as a lunch spot or bar.

I did spend a little bit of money, first on a large Diet Coke and some shrimp chips, and then on a lemongrass chicken banh mi and a Blue Moon. The spot has two large TVs and a small one over the bar. Guess which had the ballgame on?

So annoying. The big screens were showing an NBA game and an NHL game. Insanity. But I still managed to really enjoy my time away from the office, watching a fantastic World Series come to its climax and resolution.

You know what doesn’t have any trouble at all writing its own plot? A ballgame. Sigh.


Don’t ask me about Crush Girl today. I’m having one of my less pleasant nights thinking about her and I’d rather not plunge this evening. Too much on my mind with work and NaNoWriMo for self-indulgent wallowing.


I’m wondering if my drive to find some kind of story to tell is misguided. Most of my favorite books de-emphasize plot, as far as I can tell. Someday I will expound on Lynne Rae Perkins’s Criss Cross, the novel I most wish I’d written, which I just re-read this summer.

My writing partner seems frustrated with my avoidance of plot, and she hated Criss Cross. Haha. But then Criss Cross won the Newbery Medal so what does my writing partner know?



A whole lot of nothing going on

I really need to think of something to work on for NaNoWriMo. Running out of days in October. I normally don’t worry about plot, since I think (and NaNoWriMo has preached for more than a decade–the book about NaNoWriMo is called No Plot? No Problem!) everything should focus on characters. My problem is that all this character focus has helped me with my character development, but that character development hasn’t helped me with plot development.

I suck at plot.

I have a few premises floating around in my head, some of them for years and years and years. Maybe I’ll just grab one, work on a character, and force it into some kind of plot. Except that’s kind of what I always do, and it never works. I mean it never works for story development.

One idea I have is to take a look at the Hero’s Journey. I’d break it down into it components, then schedule my writing so I’m writing each component at a designated time of the month, however many words that is. I’d force my character, with a mind on my premise, into something I create that satisfies characteristics of the Hero’s Journey.

Could that work? It’s how I used to write my papers as an undergrad, and I slaughtered those assignments. It’s also sorta how I read Anna Karenina seven years ago in time to see the movie.

Okay, I just looked up the Hero’s Journey and there’s no way I can make it work with the premise I was hoping to use this time. So I either stick with my premise and find a different story framework, or find a premise more compatible.

I don’t think I’ll decide it now because it’s getting late and I really need to use the bathroom. Tomorrow for sure. Maybe!

Gummy one reason

I’m unusually stressed. I was going to text someone completely uninvolved just to get it out, but that person is ill and I’d rather not bother her at close to eleven in the evening.

I did text my friend Suzanne because I’m sure she’s up (and possibly out) but haven’t heard back from her. I figure that’s my sign. I’ll just deal with it myself, and with Ronald McDonald.

I don’t plan to write about any of it here, so I’m just hoping the act of writing something will help calm me down.

I know I shouldn’t stress-eat. I shouldn’t eat my feelings either and you should have seen my dietary behavior when I was in the depths of my Crush Girl misery. Helllllloooooo Cinnabon.

That was actually Suzanne’s fault too. When I texted her that I’d asked Crush Girl out and been rejected, she said, “Let’s to go Cinnabon!” We didn’t go that day, but you can believe I went later. And later. And. Later.

Cinnabon is amazingly effective at making you feel better. But only while you’re eating it. Then when it’s all over, you’re like, “Holy crap, not only am I still in this crappy situation but now I have eaten a CINNABON as well,” and you just feel lousier.

I don’t think I’ve written about Suzanne here. I met her when I was working for the engineering firm in Chinatown. Cornell grad (oh wait a minute, I have mentioned her but I haven’t said who she is) and a really supportive friend. She does a good job of sympathizing and then making you feel tougher.

Oh, I’ll write about this part of it. I sorta took care of the non-work-related stressful stuff. I really wanted to get some emails taken care of, so I got in my car to head to the boba cafe I’m so fond of. Pulled into the lot with two hours before closing, and realized I’d left my laptop in my living room.

Drove home. Grabbed laptop. Headed back to the cafe, but midway there I realized I didn’t know where my phone was. I called out “Hey Siri!” a few times but Siri didn’t respond. Noooooooo. Drove home and found my phone next to the spot where my laptop had been, with the flashlight still on. Urrrrrrggggggghhhhh. Got back to the cafe with a little more than an hour before closing.

At least I got the emails done. For a moment, though, I was having the worst evening in a very long time. Coulda been worse: I wasn’t sure what I’d done with my phone — I thought there was a fair chance I’d left it on the roof of my car (something I’ve never done, but there’s a good chance I will someday). But you know, most things are taken care of as best they can. Yet there’s still this hard, squiggly ball in the pit of my stomach.

Which I am now trying to feed with a Big Mac and fries. I don’t think it’s working.

I’m involved in a rather big project at work. The task itself is not daunting, even though possibly a hundred million dollars are at stake, and that’s not an exaggeration. I’m confident enough in my writing and in my coworkers’ talents (I’m the best writer in my company, but I don’t think I’m the third most creative or artistic person within fifteen feet of my desk), so I’m sure we’re going to knock this thing silly. We’re good.

So I’m not stressed about the task; I think I’m stressed about getting it going. I can’t really get rolling yet and argh. Also, I have a few other tasks I’d like to get moving on, but it’s the weekend and I need some rest. Not that I’m exactly getting that, what with all this thinking about it.

Oh, and sometime this week I’m going on a day trip to one of the neighbor islands. Because of the big project. Normally that would be awesome — I’d ask to stay overnight, too, since the others on this project are staying overnight. But I’m in frugal mode, remember (he asked, cramming another handful of McDonald’s fries into his maw)? I can’t really have the kind of fun work trip this could be. So it’s in and out, stay on task, and nobody gets hurt.

I wish I could text Crush Girl and just converse with her about all this, but I’m fairly sure she wouldn’t get back to me, possibly until Monday. We’re friendly but I don’t think we’re in the let’s-share-personal-problems-whenever stage of this friendship yet.

I was chatting with the CEO of my company about sleep, and he asked if I’ve ever tried melatonin. I hadn’t, and he recommended it. So a couple of weeks ago, while I was picking something up at Safeway, I thought I’d see what was available.

There were “regular strength” gummies. The bottle said to chew one or two 5mg gummies. Then there were “maximum strength” gummies. The bottle recommended one or two 10mg gummies. Hey, I’d had zero experience with melatonin, but if anyone’s sleep issues called for two 10mg “maximum strength” gummies, it was me, right?

I can’t say whether it worked or not because I was super tired that night anyway. I do know that I was very, very groggy the next morning, all the way to lunch. Yeah, that was bad.

Everyone I spoke to who’s taken it (and it’s a surprising number of people who’ve taken it) says he or she doesn’t take it every night, so I guess that’s my plan now. I’ll go through the whole bottle over time and see what happens.

I’ve eaten just one gummy a few times since, and I can’t tell if it’s working. I definitely don’t wake up groggy, and I don’t have an especially difficult time waking up (getting moving is a different story, but that’s related to my recent low work morale), but I can’t tell if it’s helping me get to sleep or if I’m just going to sleep.

What I would love is if, when I wake up in the middle of the night, I can just close my eyes and drop back to sleep. That hasn’t been happening. It’s my own fault because I always look at my phone. I check Twitter to see if the White House has blown up the world yet, and then I usually check Instagram to see who’s viewed whatever silliness I put in my IG stories before bed. And then all that blue light goes to work on me and makes my brain think I’m up.

I wonder if this is the time to take a melatonin gummy. When I get up in the middle of the night? Might have to try it.

Oh Suzanne just texted me back. She was sympathetic but not very verbose about it. Then when I told her I’m stress-eating, she said she hopes I’m eating nacho cheese Doritos. I said, “Big Mac and fries — close!”

I feel a bit calmer, if still quite wound up. This might be a good night for a melatonin gummy.

Scraping

Friday 5 from here.

  1. What does your favorite mug look like?
    I have two I consider favorites. I have a very large Eeyore mug I prefer most of the time. It holds two cups of coffee, for starters, and two cups of coffee are better than one cup of coffee. Eeyore is my spirit animal, and one of my friends in high school even used it as a nickname for me (I called her Roo, which if you knew her you’d know was close to perfect). This is the mug I bring with me to coffee hours or staff meetings (I try not to use disposable coffee cups at these things), so by now everyone at work knows it’s my mug. My other favorite is a white UH Hilo mug using a font and logo the school doesn’t use anymore. I bought one for me and two for my parents the week of my graduation. I don’t think they still have the ones I gave them (which is too bad — if they were going to give them away, I’d gladly have taken them off their hands). Go Vulcans.
  2. With a typical dinner out, how many glasses of water do you drink?
    I drink a lot of water. Easily six to eight glasses on a good night, if the waiters are attentive, but I wouldn’t be surprised if in some places it goes to ten. I just really like clearing the palate frequently so I can enjoy my meal appropriately. Plus I just like water, and the colder the better.
  3. What’s something for which you recently used a paper cup, other than to hold a beverage?
    Because I don’t like to use disposable cups, I try to get at least two or three uses out of each one I come into contact with, not counting whatever I get in fast food joints. Recently, I’ve used paper cups as my change jar, a pen holder, and a measuring cup for one of my go-to meals on evenings after longs days: microwaved pasta.
  4. How confidently do you pour a drink into a tumbler with your non-dominant hand?
    Something very few people know about me is that I’m trying to train my left hand to do everyday tasks in case I ever lose the use of my right hand. Have you ever tried to take your keys out of your pocket, select the right key, insert the key into your front door, and let yourself in with your non-dominant hand? I couldn’t believe how such a seemingly simple task could feel so complicated the first time I tried it. I do it with aplomb now; in fact I do it most days leaving the house or coming home, since I usually have my gym bag in my right hand. Pouring drinks into cups (or from one bottle of water to another, to consolidate half-drunk bottles) with my left hand has been a recent, targeted skill. I’d say I do it pretty confidently, ‘though not with the second-nature, no-need-to-concentrate ability with which I unlock a door.
  5. What’s going to be your holy grail for this weekend?
    I’d like to complete minimal amounts of work in pursuit of my holy grail: plenty of good sleep and time to read. Last weekend’s hoped-for good weather did come, but I only made it to the beach Saturday while I was hoping for two good days in the water. This week I’d like to get those two mornings, too.

Rereading what I wrote last week, I know I wasn’t being honest with myself when I said the bruises I still have were only because of the introspection. It was mostly that for sure, but it’s dumb to pretend I’m not also still aching a bit from the rejection, even while totally convinced I deserved rejection and pretty much no other response. It sucks to be rejected, and it causes injury. Nobody really thinks otherwise, not even me.

Crush Girl has inspired a lot of aching this week. I’ve been in a terrible mood everywhere I go, almost all the time, for the past few weeks, and fleeting moments with her have been respites from the crappy feelings. It makes me grateful in a twisted way for the friendzoning. Better this than no relationship at all, but the echoes of her absence do load me up with melancholy from time to time, this week particularly.


I’m in the middle of two weeks of deliberate frugality. It’s not extreme, as it has been a few times in recent months, but it’s still not exactly pleasant. Right after payday I took care of my obligations, and seeing how little I had left, I stocked my pantry and filled my gas tank, leaving me a little bit of cash for the occasional boba and possibly some fast food once or twice. So it’s not hellacious; it’s just pretty restrictive.

I’m typing this in my neighborhood boba spot. I like this place a lot for its super-fast wifi and good tea. The fruit teas are amazing here. I just wish they had a few no-caffeine options, as I’ve been getting here close to closing. Oh, that’s another thing I like about the spot: it’s open until 10 on weeknights. Down the road a few blocks is a really popular spot in a rather unlikely, mostly industrial place near the community college. We’re talking line from the counter to the door popular. I haven’t checked it out yet despite raves from friends mostly because it closes at 9.

I think this is going to be my NaNoWriMo HQ for November. I can get two solid hours here each night if I don’t waste time either getting out of the office or settling down to get busy. Still no idea what the plan is for a NaNo project, but I’ve got a few ideas floating around up here.

Sometimes I question my participation in this thing every year. I’ve already proven to myself that I can crank out the words, and that sometimes they’re pretty good. And as much as I value the community — I’ve made some really good friends during NaNo — it’s been difficult being one of the veterans with an ever-refreshed cast of newcomers. I like the new people fine; I just miss some of the old friends who no longer do this.

There is also, of course, a difference between knowing I can crank out 50K words in 30 days and actually doing it, and with my writing partner suuuuuuuper busy with real-life stuff, I haven’t had the motivation to work on stuff. Plus, of course, there’s the way the writing part of my brain is so tired after a long day of actually doing it for a living for someone else.

Teaching is emotionally and physically exhausting. It wasn’t nearly as mentally exhausting as writing is. I’m not sure why, but it’s absolutely true in my case. I’ve pretty much never been one of those get-home-and-veg-in-front-of-the-TV guys, since when I was teaching I could seldom afford myself the luxury. I can see it now, though. My brain when I get home from work at this job just wants to go into cruise control.

More about NaNo later.

Phase doubt

I think I can say I’m over Crush Girl, which is not to claim I’ve no feelings anymore. I would still like to get to be friends with her outside the one context in which we’re acquainted, and I still ache once or twice a day, but the hollowness doesn’t linger. Although I’m still not sleeping at night (except for last night which was wonderful), it’s for specific reasons that have nothing to do with her.

The bruises, which I still carry, had a lot to do with the self-examination I had to give myself. I came up wanting, big time, and there’s stuff I need to work on for sure. I lived. I still loathe myself, but that’s pretty much a constant state lately so whatever.


second-best album of the year so far

The new Opeth album is a thing of beauty. While it’s definitely not for everyone (some metalheads have tired of this phase of Opeth’s artistic arc), a lot of people who love music and think they know what metal sounds like would hear something they didn’t think existed. I don’t know if I can rate it fairly just yet, because the band released a regular version (with lyrics sung in Swedish) and an English version because if you want to be seriously profitable in metal you need to sing in English, a fact that annoys me but works in my favor, so I’m not complaining. I’ve only listened to the English version so far. Once I get a nice sense of the lyrical intentions, I’ll switch to Swedish and see if I hear something different.

I’ve tried my best to keep track of everything new I listen to this year, so my best-of list doesn’t have to wait until April or someday as it always does. I don’t have the list with me here, so I’ll wing this. My ten best metal albums of the year so far are probably

  1. Dream Theater, Distance over Time
  2. Opeth, In Cauda Venenum
  3. Soen, Lotus
  4. Fallujah, Undying Light
  5. Tool, Fear Inoculum
  6. Soilwork, Verkligheten
  7. Devin Townsend, Empath
  8. Evergrey, The Atlantic
  9. Children of Bodom, Hexed
  10. Avantasia, Moonglow

I kind of had to reach for the last three, not that they aren’t good. They’re just clearly not as good as the top four. One of my favorites, Vanden Plas, is releasing a new album the first of November, and I’m maybe keeping that number 5 spot warm for it.


Okie dokie. Friday 5 while I have this lovely Oreo McFlurry before heading to bed.

  1. What were you recently sure of, but are now having doubts about?
    I need to preface this (just in case) by saying I love where I work and I love my job, and I think anyone in the office who pays attention wouldn’t question either assertion. Still, I am having a heck of a trying couple of weeks at work, where two coworkers I’m very fond of had their positions terminated and several others have moved on. Six since September 13; sixteen since early July. It’s depressing the heck out of me, so I think it’s understandable that I’m beginning to doubt I’ll feel very much joy at work in the near future, if ever again. It’s fine. Loving the work and loving the people is enough without the joy. Still, that’s pretty dang sad.
  2. What’s something you’d like to see this weekend but probably won’t?
    Clear skies, pleasant tradewinds, a calm sea, and cool evening temperatures. My work-related depression has given me serious sleep problems, which means I’ve been unable to get up early enough to hit the beach in the mornings, and if you read this space with any regularity, you know how miserable that is. I just need two mornings in the next three to be swimmer-friendly and I think it’ll be a good weekend, however many or few points the Raiders beat the Packers by.
  3. When were your doubts pleasantly verified?
    This is going way back, but it popped into my head today while thinking about a friend who recently got engaged. I kinda doubt it’s going to work out that way, but of course I can’t say that to anyone, because what a jerk I am for even thinking of it. When R was engaged to Gregg, she packed up her stuff and moved to San Francisco to be with him while they figured out how it was going to happen. I was as sad as I’ve ever been in my life but I was pretty doubtful they would actually get married. They didn’t. Similarly, my friend Traci quit her teaching position and was all set to go to seminary, but I quietly told a couple of friends I just didn’t see it happening. I may have told Traci herself. Then she met Artoo and got engaged and seminary was off. I think in both cases, my not believing in my very close friends was some kind of failing, even though I was proven to be right. I’m telling you, you don’t want to tell me you’re about to make big plans for your future because I’m very likely not to believe it’s going down. What a jerk.
  4. When were your doubts pleasantly disproven?
    Almost every time I have to do something social with my closer friends. I’m super doubtful I’m going to have a good time, and I usually try up to the last minute to think of some excuse not to participate, but then I do and it turns out fun. Most recently I went to a Japanese whisky tasting with Jennifer, and darn it if it wasn’t really fun and super educational. I didn’t buy anything, but I got some good gift ideas for my dad and sister.
  5. What’s something you have absolutely no doubts about?
    I have lamented this aloud to my closest friends (and nearby strangers) for more than ten years: one of the things I miss most about being young is being totally sure I’m right about stuff. I was wrong most of the time, in retrospect, but I was sure I was right, and I miss that certainty. Now I’m fifty, and I am certain about nothing. I have doubts about everything. I’m probably right more often than I was in my youth, but the feeling of being that sure? I don’t think I’ll ever feel that again.

And down the road, I see the fog roll in.

I saw a creature, naked, bestial

My favorite boba spot is closing in the middle of this week. I haven’t been coming here as much since we moved offices, even though the new office is actually closer. The spot is along the bus line home from the old office, and four blocks (or so) out of my way driving home from the new office.

However, they claim they’re reopening in the Liliha area, which is pretty much the neighborhood just over from mine — I drive through it every day on my to and from work. One thing that’s kept me from this spot most nights is that I’d rather have boba close to home after work, so this could be a nice development, assuming there’s parking. Get out of the office, drive home for dinner, then hop back a little way to get boba.

I asked the cutie working the register if she knows where the new spot is going to be, explaining that I live in the area. She said she wasn’t sure, and that if I keep an eye on their social media that’s where they’d announce it. I asked her if they didn’t know, or if they knew but just weren’t telling people. She laughed and said they weren’t telling people. Of course.

If they’re being honest and actually mean Liliha (and not, say, Nuuanu), I can think of a few places it could go, and one of them is right across the street from Grace’s house, which would also be kind of cool. I hope it’s open as late as this location (until 11 on weeknights and 12 on weekends) but knowing the area, it almost surely won’t be.

I’ve found that the best thing about the massive proliferation of boba spots in this town is that when you identify the best unique thing each spot offers, you think of each differently for different moods or occasions, and they don’t blur into each other. The spot I favor makes this ginger black milk tea that’s amazing. A couple of other spots in town make it but those places don’t even come close to this one.

For a time a couple of years ago, they were always out of it when I asked. We’re talking six or eight months. Disappointed, I once accused them of not intending to bring it back.

The cutie behind the counter (a different cutie) explained to me that they get their ginger from China and it takes a long time to get here!

The boba girls all knew it was my drink. One day when I came in and ordered something else, the boba girl said, “You know we have the ginger again?”

It was worth waiting for, I tell you. Here’s hoping the new spot will also be worth waiting for. I’m trying not to hold my breath, but I will be keeping an eye on the social media.


The concert scene really slowed down after the early spring. Suddenly, though, a whole bunch of bands I’d like to see have been announced. Black Flag is coming up in a few days, Hanson was last weekend, the Raconteurs (!) are playing the Republik next month, and Jason Isbell is playing the concert hall in January. I’m not as liquid nowadays as I was, so I’m actually having to be choosy, and right now I can’t make up my mind.

I already have tickets (plural) to see Patton Oswalt the weekend of my birthday. I bought the tickets when I still thought Crush Girl and I could be a thing, before the friendzoning, figuring if that never worked out it wouldn’t be difficult to find someone to come along. It’s a standup comedian — I could easily just bring a guy friend if I ran out of girl friends to ask.

One of my friends has been texting me to ask if I’m going to Black Flag — she only wants to go if someone she knows is going too. While I was trying to decide, they announced the Raconteurs so of course she’s going to that, probably with her husband, so now my participation isn’t needed.

I’m almost certainly not going to the Raconteurs because tickets are a little steeper than I’m willing to pay for that show. I saw Jack White when he did a show here a few years ago (the same friend was also at that show, on the other side of the arena) and it was pretty good. I just have to be pickier, and I’m leaning toward Jason Isbell.


Wednesday night I saw the Metallica movie, an edited film of the band’s performance with the San Francisco Symphony in September. It was really good, although a little self-indulgent, a vibe I didn’t pick up from the CD recording of the original show with the symphony twenty years ago. I’m happy to look the other way on the self-indulgence. The band is still, all these years later, the biggest-selling live band in America, so they deserve some indulgence.

I enjoyed it so much I came off the fence on the Slayer movie next month. Slayer’s supposedly calling it a day after the current tour, so what the heck; I might as well.


This past summer, something at work really, really got me angry and I didn’t tell anyone about it, but a friend in the office says everyone knew I was pissed, even if they didn’t know what I was pissed about. They couldn’t have, because it was all happening in email between me and a few people in my department.

I don’t know why, but I always thought I was good about keeping my feelings to myself when I was determined to. But this coworker said no, when I’m mad it “oozes out” of me, a description I really liked. I’m picturing what I must have looked like during my four-hour CPR training that day if everyone else in the room (including the instructor, according to my friend) could see anger oozing out of me. I’d like to have seen it.

I mention this because I’ve been really down about something at work this week, something everyone knows about. Although I’ve heard from a few people that they didn’t think it was handled well, nobody seems to be as personally upset as I am, which puzzles me a little. I swear I must be oozing out of every pore.

So I stayed in bed all morning and didn’t drag myself to the office until somewhere around 2. We’ve had terrible rain this week, which means I can’t go swimming unless I want to soak up all that runoff. Yick.

That threw off my Saturday morning game, but sleeping in was really what I needed. I didn’t get anything on my list done at the office today. I did spend a few hours thinking about this thing I’m upset about, and about possible ways of (a) dealing with it now and (b) defending myself against this kind of being upset the next time it happens.

Yeah. I actually had a little cry about it, because it seemed the solution is just to stick to my job, and stop directing my energies at trying to encourage camaraderie and goodwill. I don’t want to be specific about what I do toward trying to help others feel as good about working here as I feel about it, because honestly it’s embarrassing and if I spelled it out, you’d think what I really need is a girlfriend or a dog or something, on whom I could direct all this energy and time.

Or a classroom full of teenagers, if I’m being honest.

But as I made a specific action plan for reining in my energies so I could just do my freaking job, I realized that although I could do it, I would be even unhappier than I am now. I’d rather try and fail, and have my ideals smooshed down, than not try. The trying makes me happy. The failure is just an accepted part of the mission.

I am going to cut back on a few things, though, because one must, every so often. I’ve been doing some fill-in work at the reception desk, and I’ve already asked that they call me only when they’ve gone through the list first, at least until sometime next month. And we’re doing our annual Halloween thing at the end of the month. I’m going to sit this one out.

My bitter heart needs some downtime.


In the Desert
by Stephen Crane

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;

“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”


You and me, naked, bestial creature.


Okay here’s the Friday 5.

  1. What’s something (besides an electronic device) for which you spent extra money on a protective case?
    When I wrote this question I was thinking about this cool case I bought for my wireless mechanical keyboard. Someone online recommended this hard case meant to carry around a small Akai electronic keyboard, but it’s the perfect (perfect!) size for this computer keyboard too, and it only cost thirteen bucks. I can’t tell you how pleased I am with it. Alas, it doesn’t answer the question because it houses something electronic, which means I have to go way back to maybe last fall, when I bought a plastic pencil case for all the pens I use for my bullet journal. I’ve put the BuJo on hold for now, but I still carry that pencil box around with me, and I still take it out of my bag and put it on my desk when I come in to work every morning.
  2. What product’s packaging do you find excessive or inadequate?
    In general, I think Amazon’s packaging gets out of hand quite often. Specifically, I’m thinking of these individual snack packs of roasted peanuts I have delivered to the office every two weeks. The packs of peanuts come 24 to a box, and on Amazon you buy them in sets of two boxes. The two boxes come in one box, and that box is packed into an Amazon box, along with those inflatable plastic packing bubbles (not bubble-wrap, but that other stuff). It’s incredibly wasteful.
  3. What are your preferences for food storage containers?
    Okay, I really like those Corningware microwavable things with the rubber lids, but those are expensive(ish) and far too often they sit somewhere unwashed for so long they get gross. I’ve lost some good food containers this way. So for the past few years (since I got out of the classroom, come to think of it), I pack food in disposable Gladware and Ziploc containers. At work, I spoon stuff into a microwaveable bowl (I don’t like microwaving stuff in plastic) and while it’s heating up, I wash the containers in the sink. I can’t tell you how much happier this has made me. On the rare occasion where I don’t get to wash stuff before I bring it home, I usually take care of it at home, but if I forget to and it gets gross, it’s not as heartbreaking to toss it.
  4. This coming week, what would you like to be shielded from?
    It’s been warm and muggy as heck. I’d like to be shielded from humidity, please.
  5. What’s something interesting you’re keeping in a plastic storage box in your home?
    I have a million plastic storage boxes in my house, since the day I committed to never storing things in cardboard boxes. Maybe the most unexpected thing is a small plastic box with my cross-stitching stuff in it. 🙂

Enough with the Coughs (and a Friday 5)

I’ve been sick in bed for the past three days. I’m rather sure it’s just a cold, but “just a cold” hardly exists anymore in my old age. Day one was just an overall tiredness and lack of energy, followed by sniffling and coughing. Day two was deep coughing and chest congestion plus a ragged-sounding voice. Day three (today) was less congestion and less coughing. My stomach aches from the coughing.

I’ve just been keeping up with the work lately, so the three days away from my desk are going to hurt. I didn’t have any hard deadlines, but where I wasn’t in a hurry on most things before, I’m in a hurry now. Being ill sucks.

bates and anna

I could probably have gone in today, but I think the coughing would have disturbed people, not just for the noise but for the suspicion I might be contagious, which I think I probably was. I feel pretty sure I’m not contagious now, since I’m not feeling yucky anymore. I’m even at a boba cafe typing this now, something I wouldn’t have done (out of consideration for others) yesterday.

I think two others in my department were out sick today, so something might be biting us all right in the productivity. I hope the others didn’t get it from me, and I’m wondering where I picked it up.

Æon

I finished season one of Downton Abbey. What a finish. And yeah, Mary is no longer in my list of favorites. Now it’s just Anna, Bates, and maybe Sybil.

Years of observing R and her little sister taught me not to judge women based on the way they interact with their sisters. I swear R was a different person when her sister was around. Sometimes their interactions were downright infantile, something neither of them would ever be called by people who didn’t know them in the context of family.

Mary’s silly contests with her younger sister Edith go beyond mere communication, though. They were just suuuuuper mean, and I don’t like it. Meanwhile, Anna and Bates are good and noble, far nobler than the nobles they wait upon.

I’m concurrently going through Aeon Flux (the animated series, not the Charlize Theron film, although I’ve got that queued up next). I have nothing to say about it now, but I think I will when I’m done, if for no other reason than to remind myself of what I saw, so that years from now I’m not tempted to see it again because I’ve forgotten everything.

a better read than you might think

I’m reading this great book called A History of Heavy Metal by Andrew O’Neil. The author is apparently a stand-up comic, and the history is apparently part of a popular stage routine. I’ve decided not to look up any of the performances of it so they don’t influence my reading.

It’s very funny. And quite literate, and while not exactly scholarly, it’s well researched. I know a lot about the history of this form of music, but he’s filling in a lot of holes in my knowledge, and I’m taking some really good notes for listening later. The casual fan might find it interesting, but anyone less interested in the music than that probably won’t. Which is too bad, because it’s a fascinating history full of great music.

I expect he’ll go into it more later (I’m about a third of the way through), but in the intro, he touches on the long hair and the denim-and-leather attire favored by heavy metal performers and fans. It has a lot to do with identity, not with the music but with others who like the music. O’Neil explains that there’s something about the outsider status of the music and the people who love it that draws them to the hair and clothing.

Someone at work asked me about the long hair recently, and the best I could come up with was, “I just like the way I feel when my hair is long.” I can’t explain it. I know I look ridiculous, especially at my advanced age. I look a lot better with short hair. I might even look better shiny bald (I’ve been there a few times in my life and have photos to prove it). But nothing I’ve done with my hair (and I’ve done a lot of things) makes me feel better than the way I feel when it’s long.

That outsider identity thing? I think that nails it. I need to think about this, very deliberately, since my hair is thinning and my hairline is receding at an alarming rate.

It’s just hair, and I’ll be completely fine with or without it, but dang it. There are few things in life that make me feel good about myself, and this stupid hair is one, as ridiculous as it sounds, and as ridiculous as it makes me look.

Frick.


I wasn’t planning on doing the Friday 5 this evening, but I have 15 minutes before this boba spot closes so maybe I’ll attempt to get it done in this small window.

  1. When did you last make an adjustment to your daily getting-ready routine?
    Okay, this is going to sound psycho, but a few weeks ago, every day of the working week, I left the house and about a block from home, turned around to check my front door. Every day! I don’t know what’s happened to my sense of getting things done with details taken care of, but it’s driving me insane. So now, unintentionally, almost every morning, I load up the car, turn the ignition, then turn it off and hop out to check the door. I can’t seem to get over it most days, although once in a while, I do walk back to the door before getting into my car. That second check has become compulsive, though. Ugh!
  2. When did you last try a new personal hygiene product?
    I switched to some variety of Herbal Essences shampoo and conditioner recently, and I really like what they do to my hair. I should probably take a photo so I know what to look for next time. For ten years or so, I’ve almost always gone with a two-in-one of various brands, but lately they’ve left my scalp feeling weird.
  3. What food or drink item have you most recently added to your regular consumption?
    I recently went back to oatmeal as my regular breakfast, only now I’m doing overnight oats in the fridge. They taste best with some kind of milk, or some kind of milk alternative, so I’ve brought back almond milk as a pantry staple. I’d rather have oat milk, and I may switch to that soon. Costco has almond milk at a really good price, though, and that may be the determining factor.
  4. What’s a brand-named product you recently abandoned your loyalty to?
    I don’t know if this counts, but because of budget constraints, I recently switched from bottles of Diet Pepsi, picked up at the 7-Eleven near the office on my way to work, to the fountain Diet Pepsi, which is cheaper. Although it doesn’t taste as good, it’s good enough, and I can suck on ice cubes throughout the morning when I’ve consumed the Double Gulp (that’s half a gallon of soda, with no ice, but I put a LOT of ice in it).
  5. What item in your wardrobe have you recently moved out of the regular rotation?
    When Ryan died, I bought a pair of Jams beach shorts to wear to a memorial gathering for some of his friends — it was separate from the services and ceremonies his family organized. Ryan was known for wearing loud shorts whenever he wasn’t at work. A whole bunch of us bought Jams for the occasion (when I went to the Jams store to buy mine, the store clerk asked if it was for Ryan’s memorial). Since the memorial, I’ve only worn them around the house, but now they’re worn out beyond even that. I’m toying with the idea of buying a new pair.