Make it So

Inflection Points


I’m completely aware that New Year’s is an artificial inflection point in our lives. Of course it is. As a day in which the sun comes up and the sun sets, in which the normal number of things happen, it is a day like any other.

But then when you think about it, so much about human life and consciousness is artificial. By which I mean it is something learned and sought, something created and held onto; it is not a “natural” occurrence. The natural occurrences are our eating, our drinking and in the parlance of Rex Stout, the “appetites we share with dogs.”

The refinements put on those, be they gourmet cookery or marriage are inherently artificial, something we impose on a natural process for a reason.

So, since I don’t sleep naked in a tree, and since I use a whole constructed language that allows me to set events on a timeline, I’m not going to apologize for giving importance to the inflection point that is new year’s.

I will not make resolutions. I tried last year, and then life happened.

I’m also not ten or eleven, and I know one can’t change one’s entire life at a word, at the stroke of a decision, unless one is on the road to Damascus (metaphorically), and the words are “I believe” of course.

That sort of sudden irrevocable change doesn’t happen very often and it usually requires more of an incentive than “I want to change.”

My mom tells me for instance that my dad stop smoking cold turkey at 31. He’d been smoking since 14. (Not unusual for men his generation in Portugal.) But the doctor asked him which he valued more, the cigarettes or his (then) one year old daughter with frail lungs. He told him “you can continue smoking, or you can raise her.” Reportedly, dad went in the backyard, smoked one last cigarette, and threw the rest in the trash.

I understand he’s smoked a cigar four times, since then, on the birth of each of his grandson’s.

I’ve also known people diagnosed with a severe illness who are told, “stop eating this or that” or “lose a bazillion pounds” and do it, because they don’t want to die.

Those are rather immediate and potent objectives. (This is why, btw, Dwight Swain says that you should always have objectives for your characters that you can visualize. You can visualize ending up as so and so’s girlfriend, winning the contest, getting the mcguffin. World peace, lasting love, or whatever, which might be the greater objective, are harder to visualize and therefore harder to achieve.)

My main objective, just now, is to stop spinning my wheels on writing. These last two years have been a lesson in humility, as I couldn’t seem to get traction.

Now, a lot of this might be physiological, in which case, it’s getting taken care of.

At any rate, Through Fire, REALLY is almost finished, if life could stop happening to me. (The Writer and the Mystery of the Smoking Washer is not funny. Not really.)

And I suspect, though I could be totally wrong, that once that is done, the going will be easier. I hope. I don’t think I can take much more delay.

After that I hope to finish Darkship Revenge, and then the dragons, and then everything I’ve been putting off. If I’m very good and write a book a month this year, I’ll be semi-caught-up.

Is that possible? I don’t know. It used to be. I suspect a couple of months nothing will happen, since we’re trying to get this house ready to go on the market. On the good (?!) side I’ve found a couple of houses that look good, at least on paper, in the area we’d like to move to. We’ll see if this house sells fast and well enough that we can do it. (I’m not sure what it says about me that the house I’m most interested in is the one that needs a complete redecoration form the bones out. Yes, it would take time, but it’s also our chance to make it ours, something we never did here.)

But perhaps it will be just a couple of months.

I know new year’s is an artificial inflection point. And at any rate, it doesn’t matter much. But I’m going to try to start changing certain habits that don’t help with the writing. Like… I’m going to try to move my web browsing elsewhere, off this computer. Location habit is a bit part of it. I’m hoping to set up (at last) the treadmill so that I can do these posts and read comments while walking. After several attempts, I’m just going to clip a board to the treadmill and use the travel laptop.

For various reasons I suspect this will be an year of turmoil and change. Which is why I need to establish firmly that form 9 to 5 I write. I’ve done it before, and I don’t know why I wouldn’t be able to do it again.

This is not the road to Damascus. It is that other form of change. The one where you tell yourself “I’m going to take this road, and not that.”

If I work very hard, maybe it will work.

And maybe it will work for the rest of you, as well.

Two thousand and fifteen. It’s a nice number. Let’s make it the year we build, the year we finish, the year we slowly but surely discipline and train ourselves to build under, build through, build around.

2015 – make it so!

234 responses to “Make it So

  1. Another key is realistic goals. You’re right in that we can’t change things with a stroke of a pen or a word, but by digging deep and putting ourselves on task, we can accomplish the things we set out to do. Turmoil is a given, what isn’t is our ability to deal effectively with it.

    • Dean Wesley Smith did a great piece on goals vs. dreams – he makes the distinction that anything you cannot control is a dream. (Selling ten thousand copies of a book being a dream, because we can’t control the reader’s decisions on what they buy, Indie publishing a story, though, is all up to us.)

      I still stick with the advice that goals have to have a definable target and a deadline. Even if it’s “Get 4 books published this year.” (That one inspires laughter at this house, of the “you’re bloody joking” kind)

      • On the other hand, if X books get written, but only X – Y books get published, that means you’ve got a private stash of story that can be dusted off, re-worked, and resubmitted at some later date.

        (Yeah, I know, indie vs. traditional, but I’m still pretty sure Baen would do a better job of marketing anything I managed to write to completion.)

      • funny. It’s my goal, too.

  2. Jan 1st may be artificial, but the general concept of starting afresh as the days lengthen after the winter solstice is probably 2000 or more years old. Why else would the Romans have Janus as the god of the month now?

    It does no harm to have a spot on the calendar to compare where you were this time last year and see what you did wrong and/or should have done better.

    Anyway may 2015 bring you joy and success!

    • I have wondered for many years, though, why the new year doesn’t begin immediately after the solstice. Seems a logical choice, to me.

      • Might date back to the Egyptian calendar. 12 months of 30 days with a 5 day period that didn’t belong to any month. The solstice would be near the end of the last month, run that out add in the 5 day party, and the new year begins Jan. 1.

        • Didn’t the Phoenicians use a 360-day calendar?

          I used to know how to count to 360 Phoenician style — knuckle, knuckle, knuckle, thumb, wrist, elbow every cycle of twelve knuckles …

      • I think its partly to do with not getting the year length completely right. See also the Julian vs Gregorian calendar

        • Umm – weren’t we supposed to get something in the FAQ about “don’t start the Julian calendar debate again”? After all, The Undead Imperator is a well known and honored Hun, and as a general rule it never pays to reopen old …well… topics of debate.

          • 1. It does not constitute reopening a debate to observe that it a) occurred and b) informs the current discussion.

            2. It is clearly recognized by all intelligent and sensible people that the Julian Calendar was superior; the fault lay in the universe.

    • You do realize that the Roman New Year was March 25th?

      That is why February has 28 days. As the last (full) month of the year, it was dedicated to the dead. They didn’t dare tamper for fear of offending them.

      • Do you mean they counted the new year as starting with March 25th precisely, or do you mean they started it at the spring equinox? Because I found several sources online that mention March as the start of the Roman year before Julius Ceasar reformed the calendar, but none that gave a specific start date like March 25th. What’s your source?

        • And US presidents were originally sworn in in March; I suspect that had more to do with better weather in the spring, but I think the new year starting in March was in Great Britain (or the U. K. even) until semi-modern times (18th century at first guess).

      • Yes. Hence December being the 10th month. But January (the month after the winter solstice) is dedicated to Janus of the two faces.

  3. CombatMissionary

    You’re right, Sarah. A lot of the lines, transitions, observances and rites of passage we observe are largely arbitrary. Like drinking or voting at 18 versus 21, or driving at 16 versus at 18. The addition of responsibilities has to happen at some point within a fairly broad window for people to become functional adults. WHERE within that window doesn’t really appear to matter much, as long as it happens (OK, maybe taking up drinking and/or smoking are optional).

    And all I can say, Sarah, is if you don’t sleep naked in a tree, you’re clearly NOT from California. 😀

    • Eeeeew, both husband and I are from Cali, and neither of us sleep naked in trees. And not just because I’m scared of heights…..

      • CombatMissionary

        If you were REALLY from California, at least the high-society parts, you’d at least have had NEIGHBORS sleeping naked in the trees. 😉

        • I am very, very low society.

          Husband’s people are more high society, but military– great grand Brooks None Of This Nonsense.

          • CombatMissionary

            I once (previous millennium) saw a gag California job application. It included things like, “Which drugs do you use? If none, please explain.” and, “Mother’s address:___ Father’s address:___ If same, please explain.” etc. Of course, the lifestyle implications are far too tame for this day and age.

            Yup, it’s good to have left California. 😀

      • You know, I was betting if anyone did …

    • I’m from California, and I *do* sleep (occasionally) in trees.

      But that’s inside an asymmetric hammock, with mosquito netting and sleeping bag and clothes. I’m not a complete idiot (hush up!).

      Just now wondering when I can start doing it here in Minnesota this spring…

      • Well, I knew someone who went winter camping in Yellowstone, so you could sleep outside now, with the right equipment. But, I’m not sure how that translates to trees.

  4. C4C

  5. It’s the bolt that’s supposed to smoke, not the washer. As in “tighten it till it smokes, then back it off a quarter turn.” (Found under: Why Skippy is not allowed to touch the torque wrenches anymore)

    • Groooooan.

      If Skippy tries to come anywhere near MY torque wrench, I have a crowbar that will embed itself up his backside. In fact, given all the things Skippy is not allowed to do anymore, if he comes anywhere near my hangar, much less my tools, I have a gun and I’m not afraid to use it!

      • ahahaha. Another sad but true story of Lab Life. A fellow postdoc hails me as I am headed for the beamline. I can’t tighten this bolt correctly, he says. I think the torque wrench is broken.
        So I play with the torque wrench, it appears to be in working order. I then ask, why do you think it is broken?
        “Oh, I set the value and I can’t turn the bolt any more but the wrench isn’t ratcheting.”

        Yes, ladies and germs, he a) did not know how to operate a torque wrench and b) acquired this knowledge very, very painfully. He’d been seating a metal seal valve (expensive) on a main beamline (very hard to fix) and had pretty much wrecked it. I tried to cushion the blow, but it was still painful. Days of work and lots of money down the drain.

        (for those of you playing at home, a torque wrench does this cute little “kink” thing when it reaches the set torque value. It does not ratchet free.)

        • Ow, ow, ow. Back to Tool Use 101 for that guy. I just had to explain that you cannot use an air hammer to torque bolts that are to go no tighter than 5 foot/pounds. Yes, Barney, that’s why the bolt head broke off. *sigh*

          • I should probably invest in a torque wrench, though I’m not sure where to find information on how to set it for ordinary, everyday uses, but I seem to have a problem of producing loose bolt heads, once in a while.

            • CombatMissionary

              I finally KNEW my dad loved me when he gave me a Snap-On torque wrench for my 18th birthday for torquing engine head bolts. [WIPES AWAY TEAR]

        • And that is why breakaway torque wrenches are not allowed in Navy nuclear power plants.

          • OK, I’ll bite. How do Navy nukes torque bolts to the correct value?

            • Officially? With a dial-indicating torque wrench. Unofficially, there are a lot of calibrated arms in the plants.

              • At work we have a wide variety of pre-calibrated air and electric torque tools. Although for putting the vertical fin on, we have a computerized tool that measures the tension in the bolt as it is being tightened.

                • U.S. Navy: Work with technology so advanced, the rest of the world hasn’t seen it yet.

                  • CombatMissionary

                    Hey, you knew that Starfleet engineers had to be based on SOMEBODY. And it certainly wasn’t on the Army.

        • Metallurgy tech flashback: Do not segment the broken part needing examination at the failure surface even if it won’t fit in the chop saw any other way. (Lest you hear the words “We might as well get the guys at the plant to do it.”)

          Drop back ten and punt–cut it with the band saw; yes, you have to start at 180 grit, but you won’t LOSE evidence!

          (And don’t test the duress switch in the arms room without prior notification to the MPs, but that’s a horse of another color.)

          • CombatMissionary

            If you’ve ever found yourself cutting corrugated steel up on the roof with a pocket knife in an electrical storm, you’ve probably been in the Army.

    • So it’s the bolt, not the wires, then? I always thought you were supposed to let the smoke out of the wires first, then you’d know it was working right. *grin*

      • only on Lucas Electronics…

        • Loose Unsoldered Connections And Splices? Gah, and here I’d almost* managed to forget that company.

          *: I’ve been trying very hard! Not been under the hood of a classic British auto for years!

          • It’s not just automobiles. British-built power supply in the lab, burst into flames. THAT’s when we discovered the solderless connections, and the wire ties pulled so tight they cut through the insulation (at the power connection, so it caught fire even though it *wasn’t turned on*. Gaaaaah. WHY did you have to trigger my PTSD?? And can we find whoever is teaching the poor dears and give him some wall-to-wall counseling so it STOPS???

            • Ye gods and little fishes, they actually built something other than mostly non-functional, prone to catch fire, sparking, smoking, garage ornaments? And someone actually *bought,* paid money for, and worked in locations that they installed!?

              Can’t we just take their tools away until they learn better, if that’s even possible? Somehow I think the beatings would continue until they started to like it, the twisted souls that they are.

              • It wasn’t Lucas. That’s why I suspect a single vocational school or former Lucas electronics assemblers, because who else on the planet thinks you can get working circuit boards using only contact pressure? Even toothless IED assemblers in Karachi know better than that!

                Yeah, this power supply came with an electron spectrograph. The actual apparatus was pretty good, having no Brit electronics, and it was affordable making it attractive to penurious physics professors. Those in the know tossed the power supply and made their own. My boss only looked at the price tag. One minor victory–I was not the one who set it on fire.

          • Could be worse. I’ve had two cars whose electrics were worse than J. Lucas’ kit. (And I had a ’56 Morris Minor on which to practice fixing Lucas electrical stuff before them. It also required three different socket sets, depending on which part of the car you were working; Metric, English, and Whitworth.)

            They were Fiats, whose electrics appeared to be cheap copies of Lucas. The 124 Spider was great fun when it ran, though.

          • Lucas, the prince of darkness….

          • When I sold auto parts (mid to late 90’s) they started handling Lucas replacements parts and even though they were fine (being mostly sourced from the same places Autozone, O’Reilly’s et al get their store brands) we changed over to Bosch in part because people freaked over them being Lucas, prince of darkness and leaky magic smoke. During the change over, the Bosch reps literally took the Lucas stuff out of the yellow boxes and put them in white boxes and re-shelved them. Bosch was using most of the same parts suppliers and were willing to warranty the stuff as the lower priced White Box products. Guys who refused to use the Lucas often were happy to get the same part in a Bosch white box.

        • Yup. That is why the first thing you do when acquiring a lovely Jag is to replace the electrical system with AC/DELCO. Because then it will only be in the shop every other week, as opposed to every week. 🙂

          • older Jags have a electronic ignition that is actually a GM HEI control module riveted inside a box … 90’s price was around $100. Drill out the rivets, stick in a Name brand replacement and charge the customer $50, et viola! Happy customer, and killer profit. For real killer profit pull the starter from a Lambo Countach (that is a day long operation) then send it out for a rebuild as a Big Block Chev starter and instead of $800 it costs less than $80.

        • Why do the Brits drink warm beer?

          Lucas Electrics in the refrigerators.

      • I always yell “smoke test time! whenever I’m working on anything electrical/electronic. Because it’s actually a test. If you left a screwdriver in there, you want to know before you need the thing to work. So you do a smoke test by turning it on. If there’s no catastrophic halt/melt/burst into flames errors in the first ten seconds, most likely it’s good to go.

        Sometimes the test fails. That can be exciting. ~:(

        • The great irony I see in that is, as a steamfitter’s apprentice, I actually had to do legit smoke testing on installed systems to check for leaks. That was before I fell into mechanic work… *chuckle*

        • Do you shake the equipment, in case something is there, but it just happens to not be shorting anything?

    • Sigh. The whole point behind MilSpec torque is that you don’t need a torque wrench. You don’t even need a calibrated arm.

  6. Wait a minute. I’m not supposed to be sleeping naked in a tree?

    There go my retirement plans.

    • As the realtors say, it’s all about location. On a desert island, go for it. In Central Park, not so much. Although, doing so in Central Park at this time of year would be a self correcting situation one would think.

  7. I have found that lifestyle changes for myself as well as patients is initiated by adjustment, sometimes quite minute, sometimes very major, in one aspect of perception that “flips a switch” in your head. Your examples all have a statement or idea that motivated change in behavior. Often there is a need for an accompanying external change/modification that can be associated with that change (logic not necessary). Thus, in my case, effecting weight loss to age 25 levels at age 60 after decades of failure, was accomplished by finally acknowledging that I really wasn’t a slave to chocolate and could choose not to eat every candy and muffin within my reach at work, and accompanied by plastic braces for my teeth that had to be taken off to eat (and I vowed not to take them off at work). So I lost 30 pounds in 6 months and my teeth are now straight. I am able to floss without tearing up the thread (though to my wife’s dismay I still don’t floss daily – maybe in 2015?). And I haven’t opened a box of 2 x 3 foot Whitman’s Chocolate an employee with a sadistic streak gave to me at Thanksgiving, even though I finished the braces a months ago.

    Of course I could have chosen to take the braces off and eat, but I didn’t. It took two years of this external change to get me used to making the better choice that now I don’t need it.

    Use your imagination and find your own version of Invisalign when you want to change your behavior. And make sure you laugh at yourself for falling for the “magic feather” that helps you fly.

  8. In my world, it won’t be 2015 so much as, for a few months, it’s already been 5775. I can already feel the Power of the Palindrome in the air, and my rabbi claims that this year has long been predicted as one in which Big Things are gonna go down. For all our sakes, may those Big Things be positive ones, both on the national and personal levels.

    As for you especially, o Space Princess, may there be health, profit, happy family, and lots ‘n’ lots of writing time!

    • You know, for years now, I have wanted to write the story of a bunch of elves in search of a rabbi. The thought goes like this: what if the kidnapped wives/midwives are Jewish? What of their children?
      Of course I don’t know enough to write it. However Jewish werewolves are something I’m not prepared to cope with at any level. No. Nevah. (And no, Ms. Muse, I don’t care how good a metaphor they are for conversos and how yeah I should be able to write that. This is me putting my feet in concrete. You can’t make me write it.)

      • On the other hand, a Star of David properly constructed would indeed make a bitchin shuriken. And then there’s matzah ball soup, heavy on the garlic.
        Wasn’t Robert recently singing the praises of the Moel, known for their fancy blade work?
        None of us would ever presume to try to make you write anything, sweetie. Instead we’d much rather tease you into making yourself write it.

      • Yah, good thinking. Just applying the Kosher dietary laws to werewolves would be hard enough, but since Judaism employs the lunar calendar the good orthodox wolf needn’t worry about changing on Yom Kippur, but how to do sedar?

        • Would it work to only eat the children of rabbis?

        • The full moons near the equinoxes are particularly powerful—so the holidays of Sukkot and Passover exist to keep the werewolf from turning then. If you thought wolfsbane was powerful, try horseradish 🙂

          • My ritual response to the horseradish part of the seder “I’m feeling very oppressed..” as tears run down my face. My friend spends the entire year tracking down the hottest horseradish she can find for her seders 😉

            • Strong horseradish isn’t so much of a big deal — the real competition is for the best Charoset. That is where you find the real opportunity for debate.

          • And as for the full moon of Purim, well, on that night it’s easy to get away with it. “Great costume!” Arf.

          • Oh, my. I now want to start a story with that last sentence. And I still must finish this book…

      • On the topic of Jewish werewolves… BuzzFeed News: Argentina’s President Adopted A Jewish Godson To Stop Him From Turning Into A Werewolf. (OK, it turns out that this, widely shared on the ’net, is the conflation of two totally different stories, but the true version is a much less interesting story.)

        Regarding elves…. Hmmm….

        There’s a tradition (the vach nacht, or “vigil night”) of having school-children recite the Shema and Jacob’s blessing to his grandchildren (“May the angel who rescued me from all evil bless these children…”) at the cradle of a baby boy the night before his circumcision. A vague tradition grew up around this that boys are particularly vulnerable to supernatural dangers that night; I have even heard folk versions of this involving demonic kidnapping.

        If the plot bunny needs some more carrots (:twisted:), remember that boys are often only given their names right after the bris—what does the power of knowing someone’s true name help if he doesn’t have a name yet? And why are girls not in any peril?

      • What a good story idea! – the elves/changelings one. Fortunately (for the reading public especially), I don’t write. Hey, you weren’t around for the reigns of Louis XIII or Good Queen Bess, but the Musketeers Mysteries and Magical Shakespeare are great. But if you begin research into the truly IMMENSE corpus of Jewish folklore (which has the most fun intersections with that of all its host countries), don’t expect ever to finish – as if one would ever want to.
        As for the second story idea, well, I like to think that I ‘were’ it well.

        (Seriously, it’s an honor to be replied to. Thank you and happy 2015!)

        • I have this … curious idea that it’s embedded in the stories my grandmother told me, but it would be peculiar, because she made up the stories, likely of sephardic origin, and changed over the three centuries or so and some of the things you have to dig in for the origin. So, not very useful.

          However, you know, I always have some dirty old money in the drawer earmarked books, so if you wish to give me some book titles to do at least some reading, I’d love to at least scratch the surface.

          And my son is a were elephant, so he would really fit in well at Purim. 😉

          Happy 2015.

          • Money?! For the Love of Life Orchestra, why? Begin with a quick trip to Project Gutenberg for Jewish Fairy Tales and Legends (1919) by Gertrude Landa. Hit your public library system for Miriam’s Tambourine (1986) by Howard Schwartz and Jewish Folktales (1983) by Pinhas Sadeh, tr. Hillel Halkin (these two are huge, with good notes). If you want to expand into Biblical material, go back to for Louis Ginzberg’s Legends of the Jews – 4 volumes, no waiting!

            Sorry it took me so long to get back to you with this, but as the song goes, “Some people like to go out dancing and other people, they gotta work.” I have the worst time staying in blog conversations, but I’ll be bragging about this one to my kids…

  9. I don’t know if I could handle any more big things. Plus life has happened and I am still going through the aftershakes.

    • I think recovering from major shock is your big thing this year, Cyn.

      • Yes – I am over the death-shock, but I still have a lot of shocks ahead of me– Feb 16, would have been our 22 anniversary and so forth. And, I may think I am recovering, but shock is a strange thing and we don’t know when we are out of it until it is all over…

  10. …since I don’t sleep naked in a tree…

    Fine. Just shatter all my illusions, why doncha.

  11. The New Year may be arbitrarily chosen by day, but the concept is anything but arbitrary. Good luck with your goals. May this year go more smoothly than you expect and may the eyes of Murphy be elsewhere.

    • CombatMissionary

      Based on recent experience, Murphy’s had his eyes on my wife’s van, so I think you guys are safe. Nothing like blowing $500 to get heads rebuilt, only to reinstall them in a snowstorm.

  12. My main objective, just now, is to stop spinning my wheels on writing. These last two years have been a lesson in humility, as I couldn’t seem to get traction.

    Two thousand and fifteen. It’s a nice number. Let’s make it the year we build, the year we finish, the year we slowly but surely discipline and train ourselves to build under, build through, build around.

    Two snippets, there. Two that are timely and (wow) massively encouraging/calming/illuminating.

    I don’t know if I’m a writer, yet. At least, I don’t know if I’m a novel writer. I’ve always been able to do short stories to one degree of success or another (not saying they’re good, just saying they’re done), but I’ve been struggling with getting this novel thing going…

    Spinning wheels, most definitely. Racing slicks buried to the hubs in silt.

    2015. Maybe…

    • Well, we already have the novel workshop group, maybe we use that to encourage each other to write this year if we’ve had trouble doing that in the past?

    • You are too. Finish what you sent me.

      • :humble:

        Thank you, sir. I’m going to struggle (mightily) to do just that. It’s currently the WI(theoretical)P.

    • Suggest sand paddles, they work awesome in silt. 🙂

      I know what you mean though. The longer stories, they start up in my brain and they won’t shut up… for a while. Then they kind of stop, and won’t resolve. So I end up with a few really fun half stories rattling around on my hard drive, all dressed up with no place to go.

      Kind of like my barn, which has a few half finished things in dark corners. Most things are made for a purpose and get finished, but the odd one doesn’t. Stories are like that, for me. I don’t -have- to finish them, and there’s always something much more important to do.

    • Nail studded board, nail side down, with spare roofing shingles on top. Mostly works in mud, silt, snow…

      Of course, sometimes the thing for stuck-in-the-muds is a good winch and a solid weight to anchor it. Find your anchor, and you’re halfway there. *grin*

  13. Sarah, not be be a wet blanket, but as an old hand at renovation I have to say this. If you want to write a book a month, you’re not going to be able to do it in the middle of a bones-out renovation.

    Renovations are all-consuming affairs. They eat time and money at a rate at has to be experienced to be believed. I’ve done well at them in the past, but I was bashing on alone and doing the reno -instead of- a job.

    Being Odd, I find that sometimes the way forward is to go around things we normally call Jobs and do something else. Flipping a couple of houses made me a bunch of money over the years, more than most Jobs ever have and in a much less annoying way.

    But you can’t be a Writer in the middle of somebody’s renovation. Because at least half the time you’ll find yourself at Starbucks due to the floor having been removed, or the wall is gone, or the power is off, or… “Honey, can you come and hold this right here while I hit it?”

    • “Honey, can you come and hold this right here while I hit it?”

      Oh, she’s already used to that. Although — Dan may be the holder more often than the hitter…

      The things that come wandering out of the wild imagination…

      Hm? Oh. Houses. Right.

      • I’ve installed kitchen cabinets. Upper ones. With knee holding it up, hand leveling it, other hand holding the screw and the screwdriver… “HONEY, I can’t grow a third hand.”
        He had no idea why not, but helped anyway.

        • I’ve been engaged in similar tasks, three of the four limbs involved holding an object (fourth is usually fighting that gravity thing), shoulder and hip involved, fasteners in mouth, tool in hand, target — just out of reach.

          But everything was level and aligned, ready for a passer-by to grab tool and fasteners. And take credit for installation…


        • When I did the upper cabinets in my old house, I propped them up on books (don’t worry – they were old computer reference books, no longer relevant).

        • STOP. If you’re going to repaint (and you are), Screw in a 2×4 level right below where you want the upper cabinets, so they rest on the beam next time! Then, when the cabinets are in, take out the beam, mud the holes, and paint!

          Don’t ask how many times, swears, blood, and frustration I spent before I learned this one from a rehabber. Just… don’t.

        • CombatMissionary

          I know that feeling. Finishing up a roofing job, my wife thought I was being unreasonably stubborn when the high winds kicked up and I kept hauling up 20-foot long sheets of steel roofing, because we were almost done and I wasn’t going to put it off until the next morning.

          In retrospect, I may bave not been thinking clearly at the time. 😀

    • That will be once the house sells, which will probalby put it at 2016

      • Once upon a time I sold a house in Hamilton Ontario. The bloody thing sat on the market for weeks, nobody looked at it. No offers.

        Then one day I got mad and changed the price to the magic number, $199,000. Closed a week later. Bunch of offers.

        Turns out a whole lot of people set their search engines to round numbers and won’t look even $5k above. Then, stupidly, they bid each other up. Enough to make you scream.

        • We had a house up for 8 months. NOTHING. Two very low ball offers.
          Did the counters in tile. Bought some furniture at arc and staged it. Pumped price up 50k. Sold in a month.

        • When I sold the house prior to the one we’re working on now, I had two offers within the first 24 hours. Obviously priced it too low.

        • Recently sold our house in California. Our realtor stood firm and had us list the place about $20K higher than we thought we might possibly get.

          Got three offers in a week, countered with +$10K over the highest offer, who responded with a counter-counter +$15K higher. (?) And his bank didn’t twitch, either.

          We’re still not sure what happened, exactly. (Our realtor friend noted that the very same house on the very same size lot, if situated about a half hour away near my wife’s aunt’s place, would have gone for $1.4M, almost four times what it sold for. California is crazy.)

          Now we’ve got 40 acres of howling wilderness, and plan to start clearing some of it for building a home in a few months. Good thing I’m retired now.

    • Oh, and I’ve done this before, in the years of three novels a year, a short story a week (which I think would be about a novel a month sans distractions) and toddlers. Took two years. The house I have under eye is livable, just the person who decorated it should be shot. Or at least have the bastinado applied to them.
      At any rate if we buy it (supposing this house sells really fast, and the other is still up) a lot of it will be “save up to” renovations, like changing bathroom fixtures, done on weeks over two, three years.

      • Be easy on yourself. You might have been able to produce a lot then, even with toddlers, but you were in your thirties, with thirty-year-old’s lungs.

        Rehabbing a unit that the tenant filled with cigarette smoke and mold is a lot tougher for me now than it was in my twenties; and once the breathing gets hard, not only the muscles but the attitude go downhill fast.

    • CombatMissionary

      That’s my favorite part of home ownership. If I want that wall to come out, IT’S COMING OUT.

      Oops, hopefully that wasn’t a loadbearing wall. 😉

  14. “I’ve also known people diagnosed with a severe illness who are told, “stop eating this or that” or “lose a bazillion pounds” and do it, because they don’t want to die.”

    This. When I was diagnosed with diabetes, this was the choice. I lost thirty pounds in three months and have kept the weight off. It’s amazing what an incentive like the prospect of horrible death can do to your resolve.

    • You know, I haven’t been diagnosed yet, but reading The Cold Equations a few years ago drove the point home fairly well, and I’ve slowly been making improvements since then. Those equations apply to the body as well as a starship, and just as harshly.

    • On Type II diabetes diagnosis: gets your attention, it does. Currently down 55 lbs, 25 to go. And you can turn down things you used to consume without thinking, without a twinge.

      • I guess I’m an outlier. I’ve Type II Diabetes for over 10 years with worsening symptoms yet I’m eating the worst I have in 30 years. Getting threatened by my doctor makes me eat more. My health has been on a downhill slide ever since went through menopause. On the other hand I can’t anybody but myself for eating poorly. I’ve gained 40 lbs since last year.

        • Stress can cause overeating.

        • Type II Diabetes loss of limbs was a minor incentive for me, but the possibility of blindness truly motivates watching the diet.

          It was surprising how many things (fries, cakes, etc.) I was eating out of habit and convenience and discovered that I do not actually like. I like the concept of cake, for instance, but what is offered in fulfillment of that ideal falls so far short …

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      It wasn’t per se, a horrible /death/ with me. Even that young, even with the problems that were, in hindsight, caused by it, I could run the numbers and calculate quality of life.

    • My grandfather gave up smoking the time he asked his doctor whether he should, and the doctor laughed — no, no need. Of course he would die in six months if he didn’t, and could probably live two or three years if he did, but the doctor had plenty of patients and didn’t need him.

    • Geoff Withnell

      I was told about 8 years ago by my cardiologist “lose weight and exercise or die”. I lost about 110 lbs, and I work out 3 times a week. The Doc tells me that about 60% of the people he gives “do X or die” advice to, choose die. They don’t say they are choosing die, they just don’t do the alternative. People are weird.

      • Habits are hard to break

      • It probably has to do with the number of doctors who elevate their pet project to “do this or die.”

        Way, way too many people have suffered through the totally predictable side-effects of a fanatic with a lab coat pronouncing everything as “do my pet project or die.”

        It nearly killed my dad when the local salt-fanatic told him he had to cut his intake or die of a heart attack; my mom is terrified of heart attacks, so stopped cooking with salt, just had it at the table for post-cooking seasoning…and dad nearly died because he actually works for a living. The idiot in a lab coat just assumed everybody worked in an air conditioned office, and all fit the studies on folks who were already high risk for heart attacks, and that’s what he was basing the “you must stop eating salt or die” on. Mom figured it out when he tried to prescribe dad “sodium tablets.” That was…wow, almost thirty years ago.

        I sometimes wonder how many folks are killed because they’re trained to dismiss the apocalyptic warnings and bad advice. (Seriously, I went through the pregnancy package my hospital gave out and more than half of the information was either false or so mangled as to be worthless, some of it contradicted, and some of it was possibly harmful.)

        • My wife’s grandmother nearly killed herself by following the low-salt diet advice along with the “drink at least 8 glasses of water a day” advice. Fortunately, she was in an assisted-living community, so they found her unconscious on the floor in her apartment.

          When I worked in the foundry, just looking at my shirt at the end of the day would have told me that low salt would have been a really bad idea. I probably had more than the average person’s RDA crusted on it.

        • Lawyers trolling the Liability Pool probably contributes to this trend.

  15. Two-thousand fifteen. ehhhh. Should be twenty-fifteen. Clarke and Kubrick and that damned movie.

    • Nah, don’t blame the movie for that one. Two thousand and one is more natural to say then twenty-oh-one, and so on all the way up to two thousand and nine. It’s 2010 that should have flipped to twenty-ten… and it mostly has, among all the people I usually talk to. As for why it’s “mostly” and not “entirely”… I blame lingering habits from the past decade, that’s all.

      • Sigh. I was raised in Europe. Two thousand and fifteen. (It was very weird to hear Americans give phone numbers in pieces oh, two hundred and ten, twenty fifty. In Europe it would jut be zero two one zero, two zero five zero.)

        • Just 510 more years and you can sing it 🙂

        • Except in France where phone numbers are seventy five, eighty six, twelve, thirty one

          • Or ages back, when you had to know the name of the telephone exchange (i.e. “PEnnsylvania 6-5000” Kinda like sending email using the “Bang Path”.)

            Actually, that’s probably something people should be more aware of when writing historicals. Like how letters were addressed before Zip codes.

            • Which ALSO reminds me to think of how things will change in the future. Currently, when asking for someone to tell you what time it is, people point to their wrists, but as watches fall out of favor and people use their smartphones to tell them the time, perhaps the gesture will change to one of holding up an imaginary phone to look at it.

              And nobody will be able to read an analog clockface. At which point “Clockwise” and “Counterclockwise” (“Anticlockwise” for the Brits) will become very confusing terms.

  16. Where to start, maybe by wishing that the next year is better, has to be better than last year. I could write a novel about last year that would be so much a tragedy, even a French morbidity fan couldn’t read it. But, I refuse melancholy and will leave it unwritten. Joy is gone; perhaps appreciation can yet be found as a partial replacement.
    Also, I need to find someone who would appreciate a Passover Seder my wife and I used to learn the roots of our Christian religion. No way that will go to the second hand store.
    On the remodel, if it were in Northern Oklahoma, I could volunteer labor. Flipping houses is not my favorite thing; however, I’ve done my share for friends and relatives and have a garage full shop.
    It is time to return to writing, publishing for all of us and I think that’s a goal worth seeking. To move from hobbyist to professional (regardless of how much you earn) is a move forward. Here’s to the Hope of 2015.

  17. A more fortunate year this next year I wish for you. (Goes for all of the Huns actually.)

    And I hope one of those houses works for you Sarah. My parents have only had their dream house for about 6 years now. They couldn’t be happier and I sincerely wish that kind of happiness of everyone that I can.

  18. Now being in my father’s house, I have a place to use the treadmill (the basement). It’s old and not motorized, and really needs lubed, because you can’t make the belt keep moving after throwing your weight backwards to get it started, but it does work. I’m building a frame to put against the wall to give me a push rail (I don’t know if I can get it lubricated enough to work the way it’s supposed to), and a shelf over the rail to set the laptop on. I should be able to start dropping some weight finally.

        • If yours has been sitting a while, you may want to see if you need to get dust/pet fur out of bearings and re-grease those, too. But we use the above on our treadmill every couple months, when we notice it’s getting harder to walk / the motor whine grows noticeable when under two miles an hour.

          The treadmill desk has really helped us. After a year, it’s still in use a couple hours a day (we have a motorized lifespan base and custom-built shelving via industrial shelves and wood from home despot.)

          Calmer Half may not have dropped any weight from its use, but his mobility has greatly increased, and his weight stabilized. We don’t have to rent a motorized scooter when we go to the zoo anymore! (Unless I want to see the entire zoo on one trip. It’s not miraculous, just really helpful.)

          If you have an unbroken back, I suspect it’ll do a lot more in the weight loss department for you.

          • Know any good tricks for an inner ear problem that makes the room breathe when on the treadmill?

          • Remember that weight is used because it’s a conveniently measured proxy for fat. Increasing your muscle can decrease fat without changing weight.

  19. “Reportedly, dad went in the backyard, smoked one last cigarette, and threw the rest in the trash.”

    That right there is called Love. Not Luuuuv. Cold Hard Love in the Golgothan sense. Bless that man.

  20. Re the washer: no mouse in the motor? dust/junk on the electrical connection? plug good?
    And may you be blessed in every way this coming year. Likewise all of the huns.

  21. +1

  22. I don’t think today as a mark is artificial. It’s my birthday. The entire world gets together to celebrate.

    They just don’t invite me.

    • Happy birthday! Allow me to formally invite you to the celebration. Somebody’s having one (I’m not), and it’s somewhere near you. Feel free to drop by, let ’em know you appreciate them for coming out, thank everybody for the free drinks.

      Leave quietly…

    • If you can make it here, I invite you to shrimp alfredo on broccoli, with a nice dry Riesling, and a dessert of brie baked in pastry (surprisingly low-carb, as it doesn’t take much puff-pastry.) We’re not celebrating much, but once the level of the reisling drops, well, no one says friends shouldn’t let friends comment tipsy.

    • Maybe they don’t know they are celebrating the anniversary of your birth. Ignorance, y’know.

      You should crash their parties anyway. If you find the right party, you’ll get your birthday celebration for free, and have more fun than some folks think is legal if it’s *really* the right one!

    • Many happy returns of the day!

  23. HGTV

    Don’t know what it takes to qualify, but have been watching a lot if Property Brothers and Rehab Addict lately.

    Just a thought.

    Stop laughing!!! I have them every once in a while.

    • CombatMissionary

      I watched rehab addict. It was like a very precisely executed train wreck. The way that gal romanticizes older homes, I’m surprised she ever made a dime.

    • No, thanks. I’ve watched enough Holmes on Homes to know how those stories end . . .

      • CombatMissionary

        So far I’ve noticed about an 80% chance of Mike Holmes using the phrase, “Well, I was hoping we wouldn’t have to gut this place…” But I’m learning a TON from his show. And more than once I’ve said, “Well, I didn’t know that! I did it right by mistake!” And about twice, “Well, that’s minor, but I better go back and fix that.” Great show.

  24. Rolling over to a new calendar has certain conveniences conducive to behavioural change, although less so now that 16-month calendars (or longer, starting with the beginning of the new school year) are grtowing in popularity.

    It is not simply the act of turning to a new calendar but the fact that many calendars offer a 01/365 tally in each day’s corner, making it convenient to count how many days you have maintained the “new” you.

    • I was looking through a catalog of calenders with pictures from various TV shows, some were 12 months, some were 16, although the Calender for 24 only had one day….

  25. We are reading The Black Book of Communism in January. Owing to a certain lack of spoilers to be made, we will have one topic for discussion:—-the-black-book-of-communism

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Communists kill people and lie? Now you’ve ruined all the plot twists for me.

      Think it’ll need another volume at the end of the 21st century?

    • CombatMissionary

      The Black Book of Communism?

      Have the Democrats updated their platform again? 😉

  26. Happy New Year from my little mountains, Huns and Hoydens. Make merry and relax with friends as ye may find the time, for all too soon we’ll roll up our sleeves and take up our tools once more.

    But for now, rejoice! A new year’s soon to dawn, and with it, babies will be born, things will be made, the broken will be repaired, and life and love will carry on. Let’s greet it with a smile, if for no other reason than it makes the squares wonder what we’re up to *this time.*


  27. For sudden change, I am definitely an example. I hurt my back (herniated discs), and my Doctor told me I either needed to lose the weight or I should prepare to live in a wheel chair.

    I’m down 90 lbs and have 75 to go. The constant back pain has been a reminder and a motivator every time I am presented with a food situation. It’s working so far!