Wednesday, September 2, 2015

More On Space

I have to admit that the prospect of committing to something like this plan for the back yard is daunting. A large part of me is "inertia centric" and so getting to work on something this large is scary.

It's not a small amount of money or effort, either. Someone pointed out to me that I could get a driveway and a "project car" for about the same money and save a lot of work. But having one project car in the family already (my wife's old MGB in the garage) is enough.

Today I thought of a great idea for what to do with the side of our house (well, _I_ thought it was fantastic), but to be fair, it really only solves theoretical problems. Funny, my wife's objection is based on theoretical issues itself. Ok, now I'm making myself dizzy. I guess we'll have to put that plan on the back burner.

I can't really start with the back yard shed/shop project until after we're done growing our meager peppers and cucumbers in the raised bed. That'll have to be moved, along with the irrigation lines, before we get started.

On the financial side, we have a couple of more pressing items we need to spend our money on first, so this project will come after that. Hopefully the funds will be available around the same time we're ready to move the beds and tear out the irrigation.

More on the irrigation and raised bed move later.

Monday, August 31, 2015

On Space

So this weekend I kind of had a mini tantrum because I just don't have any space for me. The garage is just barely big enough for my wife's car and right now she can't even take it out of the garage (brakes are disassembled at the moment).

Even if/when she can take it out, it still needs to go back in, which means any temporary space I gain disappears when the car comes back in.

Why this matters so much now, is that I'm starting to realize that I'm burned out on video games, computers, reading. Basically, anything that requires me to sit and stare at a screen (or book) is just too much like being at work, and I'm starting to cut back on that stuff. Not that I don't still enjoy it, but I start reading in the AM when I get on the train. Then I'm at work all day. Then I come home and the kids are doing homework, my wife's working, and there's just nothing to do. My wife's doing more and more volunteer work for the school (which means lots of computer time doing data entry and also going to meetings), and the kids are growing up. There's just not a lot of "dad" time any more. 

This happens to coincide with a time in my life where I really want to "make something"... Not that I need more things, but the making of the things is what's really interesting to me right now. The "process" is more important than the "product," I guess.

Some of the stuff I want to make requires more/bigger/better tools. I can get the tools, but I literally have nowhere to put them. 

So I was talking to my wife about it. We can't make the garage bigger. We can't move -- we're here for at least the next 4 years while the girls get through high school, and honestly, I don't think I could get her to move even after that.

I could get a membership at the Techspace, which would be awesome! But it's $150/month whether you use it or not, and it's going to move soon (currently right across the highway from me, but it'll move somewhere else soon, and no guarantees the new location will be as convenient). I could try to rent a shop somewhere, but that's even more expensive and I'd still have to buy the tools, and then later, if/when I needed to stop renting a shop, I'd need to find space for the tools.

So I was joking and said if we had a bigger back yard, I'd build a shop. She didn't think it was a joke and was suddenly very supportive. "Let's go outside and measure!"
The drought here in California led us to stop watering the back lawn a while ago, and now it's just a brown wasteland (cue tumbleweed). I had entertained the idea of building a potager garden (spelling?) back there, but between my wife and me, we just don't have that big of an interest in gardening.

So, yeah, I'm now looking at maybe trying to build a small "shop" in our backyard. 

No idea if it's something I can pull off. We have a 6x12 slab there already (from 1947), but a 6' deep shop is too narrow. Maybe if we could go 10x12... Of course, she doesn't really want a bigger slab, but I think the old one is crumbling a bit and probably wouldn't work well as a shop floor anyway.
So now I'm giving it some serious consideration. Who knows? It's likely just too small, but desperate times and all that...

Monday, June 29, 2015


Well, I managed to reach what I'll call the "Alpha" version of Tin's story. I'm sure there are still a few typos in there (though I've spent several passes tidying up) and the story is in no way "Finished" but it's at a good enough point that I'm ready to get some additional eyes on it.

The initial feedback I've received has been consistent:

 - story and chars are ok to interesting
 - opening is a drag
 - some questions not answered or expectations not met in the ending

I can work with that.

The opening scene, in which a grizzled old prospector talks of "siftin' dust" was so much fun to write that I made it about 10 pages long, instead of the 1 page it should have been. I know that needs to change as readers won't be patient enough to dig through all that exposition.

As for unmet expectations or unanswered questions, that's a bit more tricky. In some ways, I don't ever think that a novel needs to answer every question or tie up every odd loose end. I _do_ believe that you owe the reader a good story and a conclusion of sorts. And I think I delivered on those. Now I just need flesh out the rest of the story and see if it's still interesting enough.

What I don't want to do, and haven't yet done, is chase a specific genre or demographic. This is not a "Young Adult" novel. Even if the world it's set in is "post apocalyptic" it's just not that kind of novel. But it does pose some much larger issues (class warfare, for example) and right now, those questions are not addressed. Can I save them for another book? Or do I have to tackle them now?

So, I'll rev the novel again and call it beta and look for more victe-- er, I mean, volunteers to read it through.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015


It's no secret: I've been having a really hard time with this latest novel. Every time I fix an issue and start to build momentum, it only lasts a short while. Then I'm right back at the "it's broken" phase and I want to quit.

Being honest with myself, I've known the real issue for a while. I "put a bandaid" on it with a quick writing fix a few months ago and then pushed onward. But I knew... I knew it wasn't the right fix, and honestly, I didn't know what the right fix was.

The issue stems around the main character's motivation. She's stuck in a town, working as a slave mechanic and existing at the whim of others. Sure, she's treated slightly better than some of the other classes in the city, but she has no real freedom. She not held captive, either.

It's just that the city is in the middle of a kind of badlands/desert, and she would not survive long out there. Plus there really isn't another safe town to run to even if she had the opportunity.

But she needs to leave the city in order for there to even be a story, and I know where she has to end up.

But her motivation seemed fake, forced. She was going to leave with no real hope of making it out alive. And that just didn't ring true. She isn't the kind of person who would willingly march to her death out in the wasteland.

But I felt almost like having her decide otherwise would be a lie as well.

Then today, I realized the _real_ reason I was stuck. I had written the scene one way, and didn't want to have to do the hard work of rewriting the chapter from the beginning. The minute I decided to give it a try, I felt better.

So I deleted the old chapter and rewrote it from the top. She is young, our main character, and so she would never be brave enough to march off to her doom without any chance of survival.

I won't spoil the key plot point, but I really, really, like the way it played out in the new chapter.

I think her motivation is rubbing off on me!

Sunday, May 24, 2015


The blog's been really quiet, but I've actually be fairly busy.

I built the second raised bed/bench thingy, a perfect clone of the first. They're in place now and that part of the yard looks much better. Of course, now the compost zone looks like a disaster so maybe I'll find a way to clean that up next.

I made an adirondack chair from some free plans I found on the internet. Despite really taking my time, the chair turned out to be a disaster. I tore it apart and threw most of it away.

I did save a few boards because I'm going to take an old chair I found in Tahoe, disassemble it (done), and then trace all the pieces and recreate it. I'm working on that now.

California's in the middle of a terrible drought so we're saving shower water to use in the garden. Our garden is much smaller than usual this year, as we're trying to balance wanting to grow food and having to water it. Hope the drought lets up soon.

Of our three chickens, TWO are broody at the moment, making for some hilarious scenes in and around the egg box. Firefly, our red sexlink/comet, is laying daily though.

And finally, the novel. I've been off and on editing the novel from nanowrimo last November. I found some fairly serious issues that ruined the story for me, but I managed to stick it out and find viable, fixes for each of them. In fact, I'm back in love with the story, and feel it's much stronger now. I've been working toward a beta draft to send out to folks who want to help give it a read and hope to have that done in a month or so...

Once that's finished and a few folks have read it, I'll be ready to make a version for editing/proofing and then I'll publish. I sincerely hope to have it out by November. It's taking much longer than I wanted, but it's definitely a better story now than it was at any time in the last 6 months.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Raised Bed Potting Bench

We built some raised beds about 12 or so years ago, and they've done well for us other the years. When they started falling apart, we moved them and repurposed them.  But they finally got so rotten that it was time to tear them out completely.

In this picture you can see what's left of the right-hand box. The left one is already torn out (it fell apart in my hands, no need for tools). The compost area is at the top of the picture, spilling over into the box zone. And though it's hard to see in the picture, the boxes are riddled with tree roots from the neighbor's yard, rendering them useless for planting..

And it's because of those roots that we're trying this type of raised bed:

I built it this morning. Didn't use as much scrap lumber as I wanted to, but if/when I build the second one, I'll be able to build the whole thing without buying any more lumber...

It's 32" high, 21" deep, and 48" wide. It weighs way too much...

I still need to get some lag screws for the sides to help keep it together, but that's about it. We probably won't even bother treating the outside. It's made out of the same stuff as the original boxes, and those lasted more than a decade.