Friday, February 26, 2010

If the jeans button wear them

In January of 2005, in part to assuage my wretched four dollar shame of a multi McGriddle breakfast followed by a multi double cheeseburger dinner and in part a successful attempt to improve my chances of dating a beautiful girl who would crush my soul a short nine months later, I gave up McDonald's for all eternity.  In the spring of 2007, to both prove a different ex-girlfriend correct when she said while waving goodbye that I would look great if I dropped 30 pounds and to attract a jealousy inspiring anyone for that day of proof-giving, I began exercising in earnest.  I gave up many comforts and pushed my body to the breaking point by grinding out mile after gloriously moderate North Carolina mile.  By the end of 2007 I had lost thirty pounds and could knock out a ten mile run without much difficulty.  In late January of 2008 I fell into the second darkest depression of my adult life...oh wait...third.  I forgot about another ex-girlfriend.  The pounds returned, the miles went away, and life crawled on.  

All of these events are related.

I began a weight watchers program in November of 2009, at long last tired by my failed attempts at giving up life to lose weight I shouldn't carry, angry at my inability to conform to any level of socializing norms wherein I could actually find a companion, and worried when I was no longer comfortable within my own clothes.  At its essence, the program was not about giving up.  Weight watchers is not a diet, it is a life style change.  It provided me with mathematical structure and useful substitutions timed to arrive each week at my meetings, arming me for the week ahead.  I fell into it with gusto and found that I liked the system.  I did not have to give anything up that I truly desired, I merely had to account for it.  The freedom of that realization was uplifting.  I can handle life style change - I did with McDonald's and never looked back.  What I cannot handle is sacrifice.  On my tear through 2007 I gave up many many things in the all consuming pursuit of proving I could be a better person if only I looked better.  Since November, the only thing I have given up is an occasional lunch at Panera.  (Seriously, the bacon turkey bravo is sixteen points...sixteen!!)

Once at a meeting I was asked what pushed me to keep with the program, to make the adjustments, and to avoid the temptations that exist everywhere a table next to a microwave can be found within a corporate workplace.  I told them about 2007 and how at the end of it all, I purchased a pair of jeans in celebration.  In December of 2007 I was 192 pounds with a 33 inch waist.  Those jeans looked good.  And I hadn't worn the things since halfway through 2008.  I told them that I keep the jeans on top of a dresser in my bedroom and I see the pair every day.  And every day I see them I think...soon....soon.  

I own four pairs of day to day, wear them to work jeans.  There was a time when I did not realize you could wear jeans more than once before you had to throw them in the washer.  Technically this morning I could have easily selected one the pair I had worn earlier in the week.  However, I had hit the weight goal I was trying to hold for the last week (I weight myself nearly every day but the only official data point for myself is taken on Thursday morning).  I could have selected one of those jeans and been fine.  For some reason, however, I wondered what the celebration jeans felt like.  I knew I was ten pounds out (202 currently), but I was down fifteen pounds since starting the program in November.  I felt good.  I felt that maybe...maybe they wouldn't be impossible to button.

They fit.  

A bit snug, but I did not have to do any crazy contortions or breathing tricks to button them up.  They fit!  

So I wore them and felt great about myself all day.  In another 10 weeks I will hopefully be back to the 192 level where I was at the end of 2007.  Regardless, I feel better about myself.  I still haven't figured out that companionship thing yet, but I am not terribly worried about it right now.  One thing at a time.  One pound at a time.  It's Friday, my old jeans fit me, and I had sushi for dinner.  Life is good.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Locations II - The City of Stones

Locations are writing exercises based on places I have been or imagined. The intent of Wednesday pieces is to practice tone and style.

You have heard of the Great Forest far to the north beyond the upper edges of the blasted Waste, but you know noone who has ever traveled past the forest's edge and returned.  The Great Forest is filled with worgs and haunted by spectres and therein also dwell the immortal scions of the lost ones.  But I have heard stories, told when I was merely as old as you are now.  Beyond the blasted Waste, past the Great Forest which stretches for days unending, there is a land of rolling hills.  There are no mountains, for no mountain has ever been raised in those parts, or, if one once was, it was crushed flat by cataclysm eons ago. 

Yet the land gently buckles, the Great Forest loosens its terrible grip and streams and rivers cut channels through the edges where hills touch.  The curiosity, however, is that although there are no mountains and perhaps never were, atop each gentle hill are great stones the likes of which you have never seen.  These are not fallen pieces of a broken mesa.  These are monstrous squarish blocks hewn from some Titans fortress and cast aside.  They are dark and rough, speckled with lichen and moss, unlike any other rock found within the ground.  Moisture catches at every nook and groove, but they are not worn away by the seasons and the rain.  Yes, it rains in this far land.  Not the acidic rains that plague us here; clean rains, pure, healthy, vibrant and cold rains that scour the air and feed the earth.  At the tops of each of the hills in that land...great boulders.  Every one.  Every single one.  It is a wonder to contemplate.  And atop the highest of those low hills, for they stretch merely half as high at their peaks as the mesa to the south, atop the highest is a city of stones.  The great boulders are not set as houses.  They are not the Titan's castle, for no such thing exists.  But in that place is such a concentration of alien stone... 

There are paths and walls and monuments of chance and when the sun begins to set strange and terrible shadows crawl across the face of it all.  But do not fear, for it is a sacred place.  It is blessed by an ancient people.  The demons and beasts of the Great Forest cannot go there for they cannot abide the presence of those dark stones.  But it is a cold city...the city of stones.   For the winters come early in that place and cling with every ounce of strength and spirit to the last edge and sun-shaded spot.  And the water trapped so readily at the surface of each dark boulder turns itself into ice to challenge even the spring and onset of summer. 

Perhaps the place yearns for an eternal winter.  Perhaps it once had it and wishes to return to that happy state.  Who can know the primal urges of earth and stone and the forces bound within it.  And so I will leave you to the rest of your evening but when you retire this night and your mind slips quietly into the realm of dreams...consider the city of stones, past the reaches of the Great Forest beyond the blasted Waste... consider too the season and keep summer locked firmly within your heart.  For if you travel to the city of stones and winter finds will lock you away in a tomb of ice until the end of your days.


Monday, February 22, 2010

The Necropolis of Alkhezzar - Part VI

"Oh brilliant hero," Pops asked Fafnir as they moved through the dank and dim tunnels below the city.  "If you were a member of a deranged chaos cult tasked with loosing a pack of beastmen on an unsuspecting flophouse in the Painted Quarter, how exactly would you get them there?"  

"Probably sneak them through the ...oh..."  Fafnir let his voice trail off.

"The sewers, yeah.  Excellent work as usual.  Riddle me this, do you ever think ahead?"  Pops grunted as he hopped over a small pile of broken stone.

"Hey, you burned down the whore house."  Fafnir reminded his friend.

"A situation that is not unfamiliar to you.  Yet you have selected a rather inconvenient path of escape."  Another grunt escaped Pops after clearing a sickly looking puddle.

"Next time, start the fire when I am awake.  You didn't give me much time."

"Speaking you hear that?"  Pops turned one ear toward the tunnel from which they came.

Fafnir listened then whispered, "Sounds like Darktongue."

"Can you translate?"

"Yes, but it will take a minute to set up."  Fafnir began rummaging through a small pouch on his belt.  The guttural rasping cut off and was replaced a moment later by howling.

"No longer an issue."  Fafnir said and Pops grimaced with a quick reply, "They must have scented us."

Fafnir looked at the aged and crumbling walls flanking them.  "We need to run Pops, anything I do in this section of tunnels is going to create more problems that it solves."

Pops looked ahead.  "Right.  This way."  The two continued moving down the tunnel.  "You know, it occurs to me that most of our problems could be solved by finding one decent swordsman, maybe a guy with a big axe."

"Like those double-headed things on the bravos at market?"  Fafnir asked.

"Yeah.  Something tasteful...but menacing."  Pops scooped up a piece of rock fallen from the remains of a wall slowly dying of age and the unyielding pressure of the careless city on its shoulders.  A brief tour in his sling gave it the momentum to find a new home in the darkness behind them.

"Oh. Like the Headsman's axe?  That has silver inlays and bloodgrooves."

"Really?"  Pops sounded genuinely curious.  "On an axe?"

"I suppose it helps with a cleaner cut."  Fafnir shrugged.

"Bleh.  Not something I like to dwell on."

"Truly?"   Fafnir gave Pops a disbelieving glance.  "I thought much of your scheming would involved thinking about the Headman's axe."

"Har. Har.  It isn't scheming when it works."

"And how often is that?"  Fafnir spent a hurried moment popping his crossbow into place.  The bolt was barely set before he shot it into the dark.

"You tell me.  Right now we are running through the sewers of the city, pursued by a pack of chaos beastmen for reasons unknown, headed who knows where and we just left a burning whorehouse filled with ladies who no doubt would have rewarded us handsomely for their rescue.  Did I get it all?"  Pops ended with a harrumph.

"You forgot about the part where you robbed the dying adventurers, started the actual fire, and left his friends to a fate of either immolation or indentured servitude via prostitution."  Fafnir said dryly.

"When you put it like that we don't come off as the greatest sort, do we?"  Pops snapped two stone missiles back down the corridor in rapid succession.  Heavy sounds of impact and pain brought a quick fierce smile to his face.
"And another thing...this 'we' business is a horrid exaggeration.  I was sleeping."  Fafnir pulled another tuner from a pouch and eyed it suspiciously.  He tapped it gently on the sewer wall, waited until Pops was clear of the most recent patch of what he hoped was mostly water, and released a bolt of lightning into it.  The tuner survived however there was an ominous cracking of stone beneath the water.

"Riiiight.  And when the watch finds out that the arrogant and temperamental Fafnir, battle wizard extraordinaire, was present when the unquenchable fire was started, what are they going to conclude?"

"Unquenchable?"  Fafnir stopped moving for a moment and looked at Pops in disbelief.  " used bottled fire??"

"It was the only thing available.  None of the fireplaces were lit.  Not even in the common room.  Keep moving."

"Pops! mean the first thing that came to mind when presented with the sudden arrival of unknown figures in robes, without any external visual cues, was 'Well, I guess its time to burn everything down.' ?!"

"Its worked in the past.  I say it is working now.  Stick with what works, that's my plan.  So anyway, if they can contain the blaze before it gets really out of hand, most of the district should be ok."

"And if not?"

"Well.  The district will think you did it because someone refused to service your tight ass.  The guard will think you did it because its magic fire and you were there.  And the council will think you did it because they want you gone."  Pops removed a small round bullet from an oiled pouch, licked the bullet, and shot it with two spins at their pursuers.  An excited howl was replaced with a cry of agony a moment later as a small burst of flame lit the tunnel.

"I would like to point out that those potentially explosive gasses in this part of the sewer and my death from them is about the only reason I haven't lit you up like a bonfire right now."  Fafnir growled.

"See?"  Pops exclaimed, "Temperamental fire caster prone to need to do some work on your image."

Fafnir smeared an inky black substance on to a wall.  Twenty yards later he turned and shot the wall with a jagged tipped bolt.  Sparks skittered down the rock face and ignited the sticky tar in a brilliant azure burst.  Several howls started and then cut out simultaneously.  "I think that was the last one."  Fafnir said.

"Hmm.  I thought there were two more.  Did you get the one with the lizard fin thing?"  Pops asked.

"Yes.  Did you get the blue one?"  Fafnir replied.

"One eye?"


"No, I thought you did."  

"Well that doesn't add up.  Do you have any idea where we are?"  Fafnir asked looking around.

"Not really."  Pops replied casually.  "The last few turns were a bit hard to read."

"Read."  Fafnir said with a flat voice.

"Yeah.  Map.  Remember?"  Pops sighed and shook his head.  "Seriously, you have the attention span of a puppy sometimes."

"You figured out the map?"

"A while back.  When we hit the older parts it started clicking together in my head.  The map is pointing us down that tunnel."

"Alright map-man.  Lead on."  Fafnir gestured at the tunnel.

"Oh no way.  That is just asking for a blade to come flying out of the wall or spikes or a pit with spikes.  See?  This is another reason we need a third guy."

"Apparently stupid is on the list of qualifications now?"  Fafnir asked.

"I prefer gullible.  But its just us so...light yourself up and go first.  I have your back."  Pops finished with a charming grin.

"Suddenly full of confidence in my abilities are we?"

"Never doubted you for a moment, my friend.  Get in there and sprint the inevitable traps."

"Sometimes I hate you."

"I know.  It's refreshing.  The constant admiration and worship wears me down.  Now go."


Friday, February 19, 2010

At every turn, magic (and good beer and more magic)

There exists, set deep within my bones at this very moment, an ache so thorough I can do nothing but notice it with every movement micro or macro.  The ache and wretched weariness is born in part from a fierce determination to get back into martial arts and part from the startling distance of my current shape from where it once lived.  Also, I have a devil may care attitude on the proper construction of just about anything involving grammar at this point in the evening.  It has been a good day, but it stuns me that I remain this destroyed two days after my last session in the dojo. 

A technical maelstrom swirls within my living room this evening.  To my right, I am party to 1/6th of a webcast conversation between six brewers, all of their twitter feeds, and an array of live blogging.  In front of me is...well...what I am typing at the moment, but hidden behind that is a world of distraction.  Beyond the table, the television sits ready to stream all manner of missed shows or Netflix wonderments.  The Brewers - a few months ago @topfermented @SimplyBeer @HopfenTreader @CaptainsChair @THFBeer_Name and @LutherHaus decided to try an experiment.  They each took the same recipe for a beer, altered one part of it, brewed the beer, and sent bottles to each of the other six participants.  They are trying each of the beers and commenting on them...broadcasting their thoughts...and I am piggybacking on @topfermented's native charm and tech savvy watching his part of the action.

Of course, I am having something excellent on my end as well.

And all of this swirls through my head and I was a good day.  I had a interesting set of experiences professionally that I can comment on at a later date, I heard from a friend that his partner received the job offer he was shooting for, I played about 90 solid minutes of some of the best and craziest RockBand 2 Drums, goofed of for a few minutes in Azeroth, and now find myself savoring a sweet and powerful beer listening to enthusiasts talk about their craft.

Over the weekend I am going to put together the next part of the Alkhezzar storyline to go up on Monday.  Wednesday will probably see another Location.  I am worried that Alkhezzar isn't good.  I am also worried that I completely suck at this and don't know it.  One of my goals this year (which has been a goal for a number of years now but seriously...its time) is to get my first novel edits completed and push it out through Lulu.  So that weighs on me as well.  But tonight is not a night to dwell on my fears of failing as a writer, tonight is a good night.  There is modern technical magic at every turn, I am wired into a conversation between a friend in Durham and a friend in Atlanta.  Off in another corner of my computer, over a half dozen people that I know well yet have never met face to face are playing out the remainder of their Friday hours in a fantasy realm of pixels and sorcery.  And somewhere, unknown to me, five other brewers join my friend in a shared passion of craft beer.  It is a strange and curious world and I love every bit of it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Locations I - Hirakata

Locations are writing exercises based on places I have been or imagined. The intent of Wednesday pieces is to practice tone and style.

The yakitori stand sits moments from the eki at the edge of Hirakata, Japan. Curved paths spin quickly away into an interlaced forest of shops and homes. Where Kyoto is part ancient culture and part modern function and its near distant sister Osaka is a concrete and steel anthill of lights and bustle, Hirakata nestles quietly between the two. The relatively small city is tucked away at the tail ends of the modern Japanese sprawl of two major cities in the western half of the country; an architectural impressionist painting of graceful blurs of culture and industry.

The city itself is cloaked in mystery. It is a pass-through civilization for nearly all travellers save the homeward bound, some workers, and students of the local university. There are no rolling hills, there are some trees, and there is quiet lane after quiet lane. The yakitori stand is not so far from the tracks that the soft rumble of the occasional passing train is missed. When the rains come, even the buildings and trees fade into shadows of suggestion lantern lit by dim orbs of diffuse yellows and off-whites. Steam or chill mist crawls skywards depending upon the season, lifted from hidden rest by rains and the setting sun.

Hints of music, as diffuse as the lanterns slip through the heavy plastic drapery hiding three sides of the yakitori stand. Slashes of solid light peak through the edges with the movement of customers or strong winds.

Night presses in upon the yakitori stand but the joyful liveliness within fills the meager space between drape, stool, and counter. A cook, sometimes two, slide back and forth along the three edges, their space as constrained as the hungry guests. It is an escape from wind, from chill, from rain, or inky night. The aromas, too bold and enticing to escape through brief breaches in the heavy curtain, infuse the warm lit land within.

"Iirashaii, iirashaii!" "Be welcome, be welcome!" begins each conversation and from that brief joyous start all manner of welcome and wonderful delights emerge.

And here is the same location using a slightly different style and tone (I hope):

There is a yakitori stand located near the eki in Hirakata, Japan. Hirakata sits squarely between the western cities of Kyoto and Osaka. The yakitori stand is just beyond the gates to the station, so close that a dark night or a rainstorm could not hide the slashes of light slipping through the heavy plastic curtain covering three of its sides.

The red paint and gold trim of the boxy structure is kept clean and moderately unblemished by age or rot. The warm air within mixes with the chill of the Hirakata air near the ground and eldritch wisps and tendrils of mist drift slowly along the ground outside before dying to equilibrium. Those tendrils snare passersby luring them towards the constant sizzle and clatter of the business bustling behind the curtain.

Within there is barely enough room to sit at the small stools between the counter and the heavy curtain. Three lantern lights, one of each at the front corners and one in the center fill the warm air with equally warm yellow light. Behind the counter, two cooks dance back and forth between supplies in small steel compartments near the customers and the flat featureless steel sheet stove top running the length of the back.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Reinvigorated to write following the Farpoint convention

I have been absent, neglectful, and hiding in fantastic worlds of words and pixels. This recently departed weekend found me at a small and intensely friendly convention just north of Baltimore, Maryland. Farpoint has been operating in the area for years serving up slices of sci-fi con fare for nearly two decades. It was my first experience at a con that size, my previous experience being massive undertakings such as Origins and Comic Con. My agenda was fairly straight forward: ask Felicia Day every question I had on a small list and find some motivation to de-rut my writing.

Both objectives were accomplished! Felicia answered questions for two one-hour blocks (and commanded the room the entire time). I had the great fortune to ask the first question at the first panel and the last question at the last panel (and numerous in between). More important to that bit of geek heaven: I attended a number of panels that turned the wheels in my head once again. In much the same way that I refashioned my efforts towards writing at the end of last summer (spawning this small blog), my brain finally settled on a format that should see an uptick in my previously faded interest in finishing anything ever.

Alkhezzar is about half published, mostly written, and somewhat edited (not really). I will be putting up the rest of the story over the next few weeks. Oddly enough, I am going to attempt to move to a more predictable publishing schedule. It remains to be seen how well I will take to this or if my new idea will work at all. Perhaps in another two or three months things will fade again and the next permutation of my will to express will bubble slowly to the surface. Until then, and with renewed determination (and yes I realize that this post is essentially a post about how I need to post more often, damn you Randall), I propose the following:

Mondays - original writing projects similar to what I am attempting to do with Alkhezzar.

Wednesdays - writing practice similar to what I attempted with Snippets (be honest, I both need the practice and practice is the only way to get better)

Fridays - a weekly commentary piece closer to an op-ed / travelogue / hey, check this out column.

I'll start this new format on Wednesday (the next part of Alkhezzar is not yet ready for prime time but damn well better be by Monday).

So, thank you #Farpoint, the people I met there, the blogging and copyright panels I attended, Felicia Day, (which is how I came to attend the con), and all the extremely geeky folk that made me feel great the entire weekend. Here I go...again.


About Me

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Geek - Gamer - Librarian - Writer. Only awesome at one of those things at a time, unfortunately.

About Fading Interest

After writing op-eds and travelogues for several years, after finishing a few books, and after failing to get the ball rolling with project after project I stumbled into an idea that might just hold my interest long enough to enjoy some level of satisfaction with my writing.