Saturday, October 31, 2009

Damp Run

We spent this morning working on the chickens' run. We raked out all the hay and let the place air out. We still had one low spot that was a bit damp, so it was nice to clean things up.

I ran to the local landscaping material yard and picked up about $12 worth of pea gravel and we spread that out on the floor of the run. It gave us a good two or three inch layer. Then we put down a nice dusting of DE and threw on a fresh layer of hay.

We have enough dry hay for a couple more run changes -- I'm not sure that will last us through the winter though.

Between the run cleanout and mowing the lawn, our compost bin is quite full.

The garden is still sputtering on, but the squash leaves are getting mildew, and I think it's time to shut it down for the rest of the winter. We have plans for an expanded SFG this spring, so I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

On Strike!

Well, it must be winter time or close enough to it because our flock of urban chickens is on strike. They've laid just a single egg this week! They don't appear to be molting, so it must just be the shorter days and maybe the colder temperatures.

Somehow, I bet this ends up making it into this year's Nanowrimo story...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Of Words and Weather

This year, nanowrimo plays right into my hands. Yes, I cannot wait! Typically, I don't do much if any writing on the weekends. In 2008, nanowrimo started on a Saturday and ended on a Sunday, providing only 20 non-weekend days in which to write. This year is slightly better, providing 21 non-weekend days. (but see below, I did ok on the first weekend, netting over 1900 words)

But I think there's more to my optimism than just the lone extra day. I think I'm feeling so good about it for several reasons. I've "won" the last 4 years in a row. I have a stable of known characters and a brief plot outline for this year. I'm motivated to write this year's story.

Of course I could be fooling myself. I could be setting myself up for failure. I suppose a lot of things "could" go wrong, but I've got a really good feeling about this year. My fifth grade daughter wants to write a 5k word story while I'm writing mine. I think that would be extra cool, but I don't want to pressure her. Yet. Maybe when she's in 6th grade...

Another factor could be weather. Recently I asked on twitter whether the weather mattered.

I was wondering if there was any correlation between the weather and my nanowrimo output. In other words, do I write more when it rains? Well, I looked up the rainfall for last November and...

It only rained about 2.5 inches all month, and that came on just 6 days. I couldn't find any kind of a trend in that data. I know that I don't write well when there's music playing, and I don't think I would do well writing during a real rainstorm. That'd be too much of a distraction; however, a slow drizzly day might be ok.

11/26.20N/A (Finished)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Point, and Shoot!

So much for my career as a photographer!

We went to a local farm (Ardenwood) on the weekend to get some pumpkins and just generally poke around and see the animals. This place has a huge chicken coop and lots of chickens. They also have another aviary with all sorts of colorful and odd birds. And of course, they have all the usual farm animals like sheep and pigs. Kids love that stuff.

I brought my new DSLR camera. I was giddy with the expectation of all the great shots I'd get. You know, the kids playing with pumpkins/etc. etc. I took 30 or 40 shots while we were there and...

... they all look like this:

Yes, I had my light set to "Tungsten" because that's what we were doing in photography class on Tuesday! I had forgotten to set it back! I'm bummed. There might be a way to fix this in Photoshop, but I'm throwing in the towel.

And, if you want to know why I didn't catch it until now, the pictures look fine on the LCD screen, and it wasn't until today that I had a chance to look at them on a monitor.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Almost Novel Time

Wow, Nanowrimo zooms towards us at FTL (faster than life) speed. Less than 10 days to go! Ah, but I'm ready. I have characters, plot points, settings. I have sub-plots and antagonists. I should be good, right? Maybe even strutting around... But I'll let you in on a little secret. I'm nervous. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. You know, the one that plunks down right when you're getting started on the writing. The one that lurks there in the back of your mind, interrupting you with the occasional clearing of its throat.

Oh yeah, you know what I'm talking about.

I wonder what it will be this year. What could possibly go wrong?

Some years it's an internal thing. "What am I going to do with this plot? Where's it going? What was I thinking?" And some years, it's external. Work gets extra busy, relatives visit. Kids, pets, spouses.

I look at it like these distractions are always around us. Things always come up. But we notice them more during Nanowrimo because they add drama. Some folks say to use the distractions, incorporate them into your novel. Others offer elaborate means to dodge them or lessen their impact.

For me, though, I figure it's just another day in the life. Another opportunity to defy gravity and friction and other miscellaneous evil forces and conspiracies. Another win against chaos.

8 days to go!


Now, on to more important things, like "how to make a novel banner?"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rainy Chickens

A chicken update...

The birds are starting to slow down, laying-wise, as the days get shorter. That's ok, though. We're still getting a dozen a week. The coop held up well during the first storm of the season. The ground inside the run got a little wet, though. We threw a bunch more hay down on top of it and the birds are fine. We had planned to rake out the run and put in a bunch of gravel as preparation for the rainy season, but we got lazy and that storm came a bit sooner than we had hoped. Still, knowing our area, there's a good chance it will dry out between now and the "real" rainy season. We'll tackle the run then.

The kids are not nearly as motivated to feed or water the chickens now that the mornings are colder. For the most part, they still love feeding treats to the birds and checking for eggs.

If we could legally keep more, I'd sure like to. Of course, the coop isn't big enough for more birds, really, so that would be a whole separate issue.

January will mark one year with chickens. So far so good!

Monday, October 19, 2009


Sometimes you cannot be selfish. Even when my parents tried to explain it to me back when I was knee high to a giant burrito, I didn't get it. Sure, I nodded my head and tried to not let my eyes glaze over. And I certainly wanted to please them... Wanted to assure them I "got it." But I didn't get it. Then I was a teenager and no one could tell me anything. Then I got older and presumably wiser--if by "wiser" I meant "more selfish."

And then I got older still. I got married, we had kids, careers, family. Still, I didn't get it.

But Sunday night, tired from playing ice hockey and tired from dealing with kids who know everything and for some strange reason refuse to listen to me, I got my lesson. Sunday night, tired, heaving and pulling; a body that had given in, a spirit that had given up. Straining against 80 years of life, and 40 years of neglect, there in the spare bedroom with the urine smell and the damp spots and the messy futon. I understood selfish.

The three of us "count of three"-ing our way from the walker to the floor--a devastating detour. The buckling knees, the uncooperative muscles. The futon so close! My bravest face and calmest voice a flimsy front. Terror, selfish and internal, lending my back and legs the strength to pull again. The strength to stay in the spare room for one more try. One more heave.

Is it selfish to stop caring? Is it selfish to let the atrophy begin and to just stop? Is it selfish to want to run from the room and wash your hands? Selfish to blame?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Note to self...

Note to my ninth grade self:

  • Keep up the running.

  • Don't be a dick.

  • Do the hard stuff, yes, it's harder, but doing it now will help you later.

  • Try something new, you're too young to get stuck in a rut.

  • Listen to David Gerulski.

  • Don't let work, or having a job, define you.

  • Eat healthier. You'll never be in better health.

  • As you get older, your computer skills become much more important, wrenching cars less so, but don't abandon either. Also, learn some home improvement skills while you're at it.

  • Your mom is awesome. But not infallible. Be nicer to your dad.

  • 90% of your friends from High School are gone and forgotten by the time you're 20. This is ok.

  • 80% of the friends you make after High School are gone and forgotten by the time you're 30.

  • The remainder? PRICELESS

Monday, October 12, 2009

Nanwrimo Prep!

We're fast approaching November and the fun that is Nanowrimo. This year I coined a new term: Nanogasp: that sudden jolt you get at the end of September when you forget about October and think #nanowrimo is a week away.

I'm better now, thanks.

What I love about Nanowrimo is all the "meta-wrimo" stuff. The blogging and outlining and plot-agonizing and twittering. I love the "Are you doing nano this year?" and the "What's your main character's biggest fear?" I love that I have an automated Python script that writes a status line to the CMD window every second. I used this for the first NaNo. I've made a few updates to the script each year. That's the fun part. The current version of the script provides 4 methods of status output:

  • A CMD window status. The status info includes:

    • Words per day/days remaining (but it includes the current day, so really the number is deceptively low)

    • Percent complete. Every 500 words is 1%

    • Amount of time ahead of or behind pace.

    • Number of words ahead/behind of pace car (running total) changes every x seconds (x = 6, I think)

    • Word count

    • Delta for midnight total. Similar to number of words ahead/behind pacecar, but rather than pacecar, it's the amount you should have at 11:59 that night, and it goes down by 1667 at midnight. Zero or a positive number means you're done for the day, if you're shooting for 1667 per day.

  • Log file output. This is the status line, pipe delimited, with the date/time prepended.

  • Web page update. A friend hosts a web page where a group of us check in with our word counts. The script updates that page with the word count once an hour.

  • Twitter.

    • The script sends a message like the following to my twitter account at noon and midnight: 'Nanowrimo Update: 1234 (#nanowrimo)'

    • Also added for 2008 is a histogram. The script makes a histogram twice a day and then compares the two. Words showing up for the first time are singled out and one is randomly selected to be posted to twitter with a message like 'badgerpendous just used the word "taco" for first time' or similar.

    • Twitters the last hour's progress if the wordcount > threshold. For example if I type, say, 900 words in an hour, a twitter entry is sent. But not for a low number like 300. Depends on the value, currently hard coded...

While I do love the fall, and pumpkin-gettin' with my kids, the real fun is getting ready to write!

Monday, October 5, 2009

One Down

Ok, so the garage door is in. Yay! Here's the house back when we purchased it.

And here it is with the new lights, windows, and garage door. Next up is the front door and then the paint. Then we can finally tackle removing that giant lawn and replacing it with something less thirsty and mowy.