The NaNoWriMo countdown is on

The end of July’s Camp NaNoWriMo means that the main November NaNoWriMo event is mere days away. Sure, it’s not October yet, but the countdown is already down to the double digits, which is exciting in itself. This time of year also means my mind goes directly to NaNoWriMo–well, even more than usual. There’s so much to be done before November arrives, and no matter how well I plan, not all of those things get done. Heck, not all of those things get done after NaNo is over.

There are Wikiwrimo updates to be done and Is It NaNo Yet? code to be fixed and meals to be cooked and books to read and runs to go on and shenanigans to get into and NaNo flyers to acquire and hang and on and on and on… Oh, and the weather is starting to cool down, which means festival season is upon us, not to mention training for that half marathon I’m running in December. Let’s say that training during NaNo will be interesting, with three of the four weekends already booked for out-of-town events.

And then there are the repeated tasks that I can’t do in August and then declare done through November: making sure my house isn’t more of a mess than usual, for instance. Timing my laundry for minimal actual laundry-doing in November.

I’m already planning easily freezable meals for November, taking into account that I won’t actually be at home for nearly half the month. This also means I need to acquire more plastic storage containers soon; living with people means that my current collection, which I used most of last November, won’t cut it for freezing all these NaNo meals.

While “I sold my soul to NaNo” mode won’t come into full swing until Wikiwrimo becomes a part-time job in September, NaNo planning mode is already gearing up for everything except my novel (or novels, as it seems to be these days). With a goal of reaching 2 million lifetime NaNo November words, I’ve got a lot to write–about 250k words, to be exact, which makes up half my 2016 writing goal. So no pressure, self. None at all. (Fortunately, I’m on track for my overall 2016 goal once my very wordy November is taken into account.)

I haven’t figured out when or where to host my usual intown write-in for NaNo yet. This year will be particularly challenging due to all the travel in November, but I’ll figure out something, even if it means doing regular client work while hosting a write-in.

So… is it November yet? What about now?

Half Marathon Training Time Commences Now

I mentioned a few posts back that I’m training for my first half marathon in December. This is partly due to my desire to continue running and staying in shape and partly because, well, I contribute to a running website as part of my day job. Walk the walk, talk the talk, et cetera.

Since the December half marathon is my first half marathon and I’m more than a little out of shape (despite running for awhile), training needs to start soon. Partly due to the heat this summer, I’ve been slacking in my regular running schedule due to the heat. It’s still hot here around 7pm, the latest I can run and still take a shower and rehydrate before bed; otherwise I find myself waking up for midnight bathroom trips. Getting up earlier to run is also an option, but let’s face it–who actually likes getting up early? I don’t, that’s for certain. Especially when it interferes with my plans for the rest of the day and shifts my working time into the evening or (gasp) to Friday.

Some of these things, like getting up earlier, are plain-and-simple excuses. I know. But with the half marathon only four months away, it’s time to stop the excuses and start the training now, even if that involves getting up earlier or going to bed later. I can also use this as a convenient reason to get through more audiobooks and podcasts. I even bought a hydration belt with a pocket and new earbuds just for this purpose. This way I’m not limited to buying shorts and pants with pockets big enough for my iPod touch.

The fun part will be training during NaNo, when the running distances get longer and I already have three of the four November weekends booked. All of these weekends involve out-of-town plans. If nothing else, I can use the San Francisco hills for training and thinking up novel and plot developments that weekend.

There’s also Pokemon Go and using that in my runs, if only to hatch eggs. Running has been my primary method of hatching the 10km eggs since I cover a lot of distance in a short period; short of cycling or tying your phone to a ceiling fan (yes, I’ve heard of people doing this), running is the most efficient way to hatch those eggs. I’ve made a rule during my long runs not to stop for yet another Pidgey, which frees me to up for a Pokemon I don’t already have. Spinning the Pokestops, fortunately, is something that can be easily done while running a familiar route and is worth doing on routes like mine with many Pokestops within a mile or so of each other. This also motivates me to go on longer runs so I can stop for a break near a Pokemon gym on the way back. And yes, I may or may not be getting the Pokemon Go Plus when it comes out. Priorities: I have them.

After I survive this and the half marathon gets checked off my to-do list, who knows. I’ve wanted to run a full marathon for awhile, just for the experience. If this half marathon goes well, who knows–maybe I’ll sign up for a spring full marathon and train through the winter. I’ll keep you updated on that because if there’s anything I dislike more than heat and humidity, it’s cold weather. But maybe zooming through the cold weather will help me accept the cold, if not embrace it.

But we’ll see about that. Let’s tackle the half first. One thing at a time, self.

What I’m reading, July 2016

July books! Okay, and a few books from super-late in June and super-early in August. This month has been a busy one due to work, Camp NaNoWriMo, and working on other assorted writing things. I read a lot of BSC and BSLS books this month in an attempt to finish off all the BSC books by the end of year. I’m down to 51 remaining books.

All the non-BSC books read are also contributing to the adult summer reading challenge at my local library. I’ll find out soon enough if I won any prizes, but with the small number of people participating and my large number of books read, the odds appear to be in my favor.

While I’m ahead of my year-long reading challenge of 250 books, I’m technically behind after taking my lack of October and November books into consideration. Past years have told me that I hardly read anything during those two months, especially in November. So if I’m going to reach 250 total books read by the end of this year, I need to get going. Thank goodness all my BSC books count toward the overall challenge. I will definitely read fewer books in 2017.

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig: I wanted to like this book. The premise sounded really neat, and then the story fell flat. The main problem with this story was that there was no hook. Most of the characters were dull, the plot was slow and ambling, and there was no one to root for or against. The only character I found myself caring about was the tutor aboard the ship, and the plot didn’t end in a remotely satisfying matter. This could have been so much more, and yet… it wasn’t. (2 out of 5 maps)

Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg: I listened to this book. While this book mostly told me things I already knew and attempted to apply, that in itself doesn’t explain the low rating for this book. The main reason this book is rated so low is because of the way it’s organized. It took me awhile to figure out just how the book was organized, and even then, the book was slow-paced and didn’t tie all its elements together very well in the end. (3 out of 5 mental models)

P.S. Longer Letter Later by Ann M. Martin and Paula Danziger: I loved both authors’ books as a kid and am currently trying to finish the entire Baby-Sitters Club series. I probably would have loved this book as a kid, but now the book is just eh. While I’m sure a lot of my issues have to do with the way the story is told, some of the major plot elements are really sudden, and we hear a lot about Elizabeth’s life but very little about Tara*Starr’s. The character development isn’t equal on both sides, which left me wanting a lot more out of this book. (3 out of 5 letters)

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli: I probably would have liked this book as a kid, but as an adult, it didn’t provide the depth I really wanted in this story. While the story features a kid who runs away from his old life and finds himself in a racially divided town, the plot doesn’t feature enough of how the town was divided and what this kid did to make a difference. That’s not to say it’s a bad book (it’s not!). The narrative is strong with some twists I didn’t see coming. But the depth of the story could have explored so much more while telling the same tale. (3 out of 5 legends)

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day: I haven’t followed much of Felicia Day’s work, but I know plenty about it through Internet osmosis. Felicia and I are a lot alike in some ways–both anxiety-prone math major geeks who were unhealthily obsessed with getting the best grades. This book makes me wish that I could be a few years older so I could have been a full-blown adult when the whole Internet thing really started to take off, while showing me a story of someone whose go-get-em approach, even with an unexpected background, led her to a fulfilling professional career. While this book is most likely for existing fans of her work, it would also be great for the young person in your life with big dreams as encouragement. Now I want to go make more things. (4 out of 5 awkward encounters)

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: I read this for the library’s book club. This book tells the story of two Nigerian teenagers who fall in love. They wind up separated during a dictatorship when people are trying to leave the country: Ifemelu to the United States, Obinze as an undocumented immigrant in England. The book shows their separate lives and what happens when they meet again in Nigeria years later. Even though the beginning was a little slow and I wanted more out of the end, I really enjoyed this book and its way of taking on a lot: race, identity, natural hair, love, and the intersection of these… and that’s just for starters. (4 out of 5 Americanisms)

The Revenant by Michael Punke: Yes, I read this because of the movie, despite never having seen it. I have to admit that my focus was elsewhere during the first 30 or so pages of the book, making it hard for the characters and their characteristics to stick with me. Fortunately, this improved as the book went on, and I was able to figure out what was going on. While the prose itself isn’t bad, the story lost me in several spots along the way, and the ending disappointed me more than anything else. That’s it? All that buildup was for nothing? (3 out of 5 grizzly bear attacks)

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed: I listened to this book, the tale of a young woman who had lost her mother and her marriage before hiking (part of) the Pacific Crest Trail. I spent half the book amazed at how utterly unprepared she was for the trip: she carried a bag that was way too heavy, didn’t plan enough money for the trip and spent parts of the trail with less than a dollar to her name. I spent another significant chunk of time tuning out all the sexual stuff–maybe I’m just a very private person when it comes to sex, but some things I just don’t want to know. The prose itself is good, but this is no hike account. If you’re looking for a detailed hike report, this isn’t the book for you. But if you’re looking for one person’s personal account of self-discovery, you might like this memoir. (3 out of 5 impulsive decisions)

Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do about It: I listened to this book, and holy crap is it unsettling. If you hang around the Internet long enough, you’ll probably hear the term “rape culture” at some point. The short version: survivors are often not believed (or they “asked for it” with their behavior), while the perpetrator gets off scot-free. This book is very well-researched and will make almost anyone angry at some point to hear real stories and how the media and investigators perceive them. I would have appreciated this book even more if I had read it, as I process information better that way, but it is a solid read. (5 out of 5 double standards)

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor: I love the podcast to bits and pieces. The book took a long time to get going, by which time my interest was waning, but fortunately the book picks up again for the last hundred or so pages. Two of the things I found particularly frustrating was all the rambling and long explanations of things that podcast listeners would already know. While some things certainly need to be explained so this book can be accessible to non-listeners, not everything needs to be explained in so much detail. (3 out of 5 suitcases with flies)

Little Victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living by Jason Gay: I listened to this book. If you have no idea who Jason Gay is, I didn’t either before reading his author bio. (It turns out he’s a sports writer for WSJ.) But no worries, this book isn’t about sports, nor is it–if we’re really being honest–about the little victories. This book is more of a personal memoir, but despite the misleading title, that’s fine. The memoir talks about everything from music at weddings to testicular cancer to being cool to Thanksgiving footballs to in vitro fertilization. Even if he is a little judgemental at times, the writing is funny and insightful, making this a good short read (or listen). Spoiler alert: Go see someone you love right now. Or call them, or text them, or email them. Seriously. (4 out of 5 little victories)

Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks: I read this book (okay, play) for my local library’s book club. This play tells the tale of two black brothers living together, their family and past, and their obsession with the three-card monte card trick. There’s so much subtext in this short play that some of it is easy to miss, especially on a first read, and Parks’s unconventional writing style suits the play perfectly. This play would be wonderful when performed, but reading it and envisioning everything in your head is also a good way to go. (4 out of 5 3-card montes)

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff: This book tells the tale of a couple and their marriage while showing that so many details depend on who’s telling the story. It’s divided into two parts: Lotto tells his story in Part One, and Mathilde tells her story in Part Two. I honestly didn’t care about the first part at all, and I mostly kept going in the hopes that it would get interesting eventually. Mathilde’s section was more interesting with some twists, but by this point I was just trying to get to The End so I could start reading something else. There were also some bits that made no sense to me, such as several elements that seem completely unreasonable to lie about in a relationship. All this is a shame because there were some lovely bits of prose, and I liked how the not-straight characters are mentioned like it’s no big deal (because it’s not). If you like character studies, you might like this, but otherwise, eh. (3 out of 5 plays)

My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South by Rick Bragg: I listened to this book. Like the author, I grew up in a small town; unlike the author, I grew up in a different generation and didn’t write multiple essays about life in the South. Many of these essays have been published before, and each previous publication is mentioned at the beginning of the tale itself. While many of the essays were good and showed me a different (past) life in the South, I gotta admit–Bragg lost me with his multiple essays on football; my own family was a Braves family was nowhere near as obsessed as some of these essays made people out to be. Maybe that’s because baseball games are more frequent; I’m not sure. (Also, awkward moment: when the ex of an acquaintance is quoted in a couple of these essays.) (4 out of 5 potluck dishes)

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne: EEEEEEEEEEEEEE. (Really, did you expect anything serious out of this review? At least without talking about the plot and spoilers and stuff?) (5 out of 5 fan theories)

Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath by Ted Koppel: I listened to this book. You may recognize the author’s name from Nightline. I, however, did not recognize the name. Fame aside, I did enjoy this book, which provides a good overview of the possibility of a cyberattack and how (not) ready the United States would be in this event. While this book is by no means a complete guide, it still provides enough information to be useful… and to make me want to start preparing. (4 out of 5 attacks)

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara: Damn. I cried myself to sleep after finishing this book last night. It’s more of a character study than anything else, and even though it starts a little slowly with characters I cared about less, this book is beautiful and raw and graphic in its depictions of self-harm and sexual abuse; while I’m not a survivor of these things, it was still hard for me to read. Just be sure to have something light and fluffy to read afterward. (5 out of 5 haunting tales)

Camp NaNoWriMo 2016: The Aftermath

Confession: I’m writing most of this post in July so it can count toward my Camp NaNo total.

Now that July is over, let’s look back at the month.

I wrote a total of 20,389 words in July out of a 20,000 word goal, which means I won both Camps this year. Hooray!

July saw me working on a total of 28 blog posts. This includes my monthly(ish) book review post as well as a few posts that have been published throughout the month. July also saw me lowering my goal from 30,000 words of blogging to 20,000 words mid-month. While it felt like the easy way out at first, now I’m glad I did it. Aiming for 30,000 words was stressful enough when I was trying to make those words suck less than usual, and it was easily eating up most of my evenings during the week. Lowering my goal let me concentrate on other things on top of blogging, giving me a chance to work more regular writing into my busy lifestyle.

I wrote a lot of the blog posts on my list of things to write, whether in my ginormous Google doc or already existing as drafts within this site. This is great! I’ve written a lot of the ideas that have made their way to that list, as well as some posts that weren’t on the list at the beginning of the month. The saying is true: writing brings forth more ideas. Even though there were several days of the month where I’d stare at the “Add New Post” screen for ten minutes, there were also days where a new post would magically show up in my mind and not leave until I scribbled it down in its entirety. Some days I’d spend three hours writing my daily quota; other days, the quota would show up on my screen in under an hour–nowhere near my fiction first draft writing pace. That’s okay. What really matters is getting the words down, no matter how long it takes.

Taking on this blogging project for July Camp NaNo has also forced me to look at that list of posts and eliminate the ones I’ll never write, for one reason or another. This has been an experience in itself, as some of those ideas are over five years old and have therefore lost all relevance. Case in point: one of my old blog ideas was about what I could buy with $1500 instead of Google Glass. Remember Google Glass? I went to one of their demos in 2014, and it was a good time. But much like Google Wave and Google Buzz, Glass just didn’t take off. No one would care about that post now unless I were a time travel blogger of some kind.

So, to answer the real question: when will you see these posts? Most of these posts are as edited as I can get them in one go. My current plan is to reread the posts for typos and making sure I don’t stop in the middle of a sentence anywhere, and then post them at about a rate of once a week (or about the rate I try to blog at now). If you didn’t know I was writing all these posts in one month, you’d probably have no idea I wasn’t just writing them a few hours before posting in the first place. But thanks to camp, there are enough posts in my buffer to last quite awhile.

You’ll get to read me talking about feelings and life and anxiety and spoilers and books and social issues and who knows what else. I’ll be getting down and dirty and personal and confessing things that haven’t found their way online yet (and sometimes not even on paper). There will be essays of an impersonal nature and about writing and the occasional whining over why I’m not accomplished yet, dangit.

But somewhere in all those posts, there’s a glimmer of hope–that maybe not everything is terrible after all.

I hope you’ll stay along for the ride.

My race is not your greeting

Last weekend I went to the grocery store to pick up a few things, as you do. As I walked up to the store entrance, a ragged-looking guy sitting in front of the store asked if I was Native American. Were I in the mood to talk to other people and not in a rush to get in and out of the store, I would have told him outright why this wasn’t a proper way to start a conversation. But instead I just said “Nope”, walked away from him, and entered the store.

This is not the first time someone has asked me if I’m Native American, nor is it the last. When I was waiting to be seated at a restaurant for lunch on Wednesday, a guy also waiting for a table turned to me and asked if I was Native American. Hungry and still not in the mood to talk to others, I said no. If he didn’t have a small child with him, I might have launched into my own conversation on why this wasn’t an appropriate way to start a conversation. But instead I just said no, and the host appeared then to seat all of us at different tables.

This has happened enough times in the past to get my attention and make me cranky for awhile afterward. Even though I’m a little socially awkward, I am not (or at least try not to be) rude. It sounds like some people need some extra help in starting a conversation off on the right foot.

So here we go, Internet: Sushi’s acceptable ways of starting a conversation.

  • Hello! (Hi, Hey, and other variants are acceptable. Bonus points for using a foreign language. Extra bonus points for using a language I don’t recognize.)
  • Make an observation about your surroundings. This could be about someone’s shirt or an interest of theirs. I pointed out someone’s NaNo shirt this morning when I spotted an unfamiliar Wrimo. Someone else started a conversation with me this afternoon when asking about the fountain ink I was using.
  • Ask a question. “Do you know when…” or “Do you know where…” related to something in your vicinity are good ones.

This is by no means a complete list, and I’ve covered nowhere near every single situation out there. The social skills website Succeed Socially has a better guide for even the ultra-awkward person. (By the way, if you’re super-awkward and want to become less so, this is a good resource for learning how to do it.) Do you see “What’s your race?” or “Are you [insert race here]” on either list? Of course you don’t. While the opener itself isn’t essential to get just right when starting a conversation with a stranger, it can set the tone for the next few minutes. Quite frankly, asking someone’s race as a conversation starter is akin to asking how much someone weighs or when they’re due (in the case of possibly pregnant people). Just don’t do it.

I don’t mind if people ask once we’ve started a conversation–heck, it’s bound to come up eventually. But asking this question as a greeting is flat-out rude. I am not here just to satisfy your racial curiosity. Figuring out someone’s race is not a scavenger hunt. Please stop treating it as such, world.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2016: Mid-Month Update

Camp NaNoWriMo is halfway over.

While I’m making solid progress on writing a bunch of these blog posts that have sat in the pipeline for ages, I’m still terribly behind my 30,000 word goal for the month. Despite my progress and long list of blog posts, I’m not sure I have enough material to last another 20,000 words.

Writing these blog posts has also taken up a lot of time. I know the NaNoWriMo philosophy is to write now, edit later. I’ve been doing that for a lot of these posts in progress, often writing random sentences as some semblance of an outline and then later figuring out how to string them all together into something coherent. That’s how a lot of these posts are getting written: I write out whatever I can get out of my head, occasionally stopping mid-sentence, to get an idea of what I want to say in a given post.

As a result, I’m frequently writing three or four posts at a time, piecing the elements of each of these posts together and trying to figure out what exactly I want to say in a certain post. A day or two later, I come back to these posts, fill in the blanks, and then polish up the post and declare it finished. That’s what I did yesterday; I started one post (which I finished today) and filled in the blanks to finish four different posts that I had been tapping away at for several days.

The problem is that I’m just past 10,000 words and am starting to run out of material to write in a timely fashion. My brain isn’t churning out the ideas like it has in past years. Sure, I could count some of my other writing toward the 30,000 word goal, but to be honest, this already feels like substantial progress. I’ve finished enough blog posts to post content for at least several months, perhaps through the end of the year if I come up with a few more ideas.

There’s also the time factor. A 30,000 word goal means writing roughly a thousand words a day every day for a month. Even on good days, it still takes me at least an hour to reach that thousand words, sometimes two hours if I’m writing multiple posts or struggling to get my thoughts organized. This makes me feel unproductive, which brings my mood down, which affects other areas of my life. (Yes, I know I spend that much time–and more!–writing fiction in November, but that feels different because I find myself getting more done in those hours.)

I’ve officially lowered my goal from 30,000 words to 20,000 words. At first this sounded like cheating to me, but the point of Camp NaNoWriMo is to set an achievable goal and reach that. And for me, that goal isn’t 30,000 words of blogging–at least, not if I’m putting my mood on the line. So 20k it is.

What about you? How is your Camp NaNoWriMo going?

Pokemon Go

I grew up with Pokemon. I never had a GameBoy growing up, but fortunately my neighbor was kind enough to share his GameBoy. My brother and I would take turns playing game after game of Pokemon Red and Yellow for hours at a time, but since we had only one GameBoy between us, we couldn’t trade and truly catch ’em all.

Since then I’ve kept up with each new generation, albeit several years late. I spent high school playing Pokemon Crystal, while later playing Emerald and Fire Red and Platinum and Soul Silver and Black. (I still haven’t grabbed Black 2, nor acquired a 3DS yet for Generation 6.) Each generation grabbed a big part of my interest, my interest growing with each generation of new Pokemon.

So when Pokemon GO was announced, a mobile game where you can catch virtual Pokemon while out and about in the real world, I was pumped. Even though Ingress never appealed to me, I have occasionally played mobile location games like geocaching. A game where you could really catch Pokemon? Sign me up.

And sign up I did, as soon as the game was available in the United States. Unfortunately that was on Wednesday evening, and naturally the game was released after I had walked to and from my monthly book club meeting and run five miles. But that didn’t stop me from wandering outside around sunset in search of Pokemon and Pokestops (local landmarks to get free in-game supplies).

The Pokemon Go servers have experienced some ups and downs over the last few days; almost everyone I know who grew up with Pokemon has embraced Pokemon Go. We’ve been going out, stopping by Pokestops to get new supplies for free and wandering around in search of new Pokemon. While one of my friends is catching Eevees and Dratinis out the wazoo from her own living room, I seem to be stuck with Pidgey and Rattata and the occasional Zubat if I don’t want to leave the house.

Fortunately, Pokemon Go contains yet another perk to living in a large city. There are Pokestops almost everywhere here, including three that I can access from the parking area behind my house and three or four more just by walking around the block.

The only small problem with this is that, just like in the handheld games, there’s a limit to how many items you can carry in your bag. While the handheld games limit the number of distinct items (so if you have 100 Pokeballs, only one of them counts toward the limit), Pokemon Go counts each individual item as an item, so those 100 Pokeballs count as 100 items toward the 350 item limit. Since there are so many Pokestops within a short walk from my house and these Pokestops can be activated again for more items, I’ve reached that item limit several times in two days. Most of those items are Pokeballs, so my main current solution is to catch more Pokemon to get rid of Pokeballs while getting more items and experience.

This also means that at level 7, I’m building a small Rattata and Pidgey army. It really is like starting a regular Pokemon game. Time to take a break and transfer the weaklings for more candies. My Rattata will be in the top percentage of Rattata!

For any non-Pokemon Go players who want to go on a walk with me: I’m so sorry.

Who else is playing? Anyone managed to find any cool Pokemon yet?

Camp NaNoWriMo 2016

I mentioned in my last post that I’ve been blogging for fifteen years. That’s over half my life, and I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around that.

What I forgot to mention (and half the reason I wrote that post in the first place, oops) is that I have about a page of blog post ideas and almost as many separate post ideas in progress, many of them stagnating to the point where I forgot what was actually supposed to go in a given post. Oops.

Fortunately, Camp NaNoWriMo is upon us. Since I seem to have better luck with projects that aren’t fiction, I’m giving myself a deadline for writing some of those posts. That’s right. Writing more material for this site is my Camp NaNoWriMo project, so this site will be active once again.

That doesn’t mean you’ll see all these posts at the same time. Far from it. I plan on scheduling these posts, so you’ll continue to see about a post a week on average until I run out of ideas. This is particularly important for November NaNo and the weeks leading up to it, since the one month of the year when people are paying attention to me is the one month of the year I don’t have time to take advantage of that attention. Funny how that works.

I’ll be back at the official @NaNoWordSprints Twitter throughout the month, along with some other fabulous Wrimos and volunteers, to lead writing sprints and get you across your goal finish line. Join us there and watch your word count rise!

And a very happy Camp NaNoWriMo to everyone! Write, write, write!

Are you participating in Camp NaNoWriMo? What are you working on?

Fifteen years

Fifteen years ago today, I was fourteen years old and about to start high school. Bored one summer night, I took the advice of someone on a journaling forum that I was a member of at the time: keep an online diary and let other people read an online version of my paper journals.

So I signed up for Diaryland (which, by some miracle, is still around) and started writing. This was a lifechanger. I discovered NaNoWriMo, one of my single biggest lifechangers. In a society where I felt isolated and never anyone’s best friend, blogging gave me an outlet that I could share with others if desired.

Over the years I moved to Livejournal and eventually here. Every single one of my entries–over 3000 in all–are archived here through some tedious labor and import scripting, which makes them easier to search and run statistics on. I’ve transitioned from writing about everyone and everything in my life to writing about whatever’s on my mind, in part because my life isn’t all that exciting. But no matter what has changed, having an online home has never changed.

This is a short post, but thanks, friends, acquaintances, and even a hater or two. Here’s to fifteen more years.

What I’m Reading, May-June 2016

I didn’t read as much as originally planned in late April and May (and the beginning of June, oops) due to that tricky thing called having a social life, but I still made it through a respectable number of books (on top of a pile of BSC books and several manga volumes). Here is that list.

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert: I haven’t read Eat, Pray, Love, nor do I really want to, but this book grabbed me because of its subject matter: the author digging through her own creative process. I listened to this book and loved it. If you consider yourself creative in any way, you need to read this book. You owe it to yourself, if only to know that you’re not alone in all the feelings that come with being a creative person. (5 out of 5 magical moments)

How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics by Eugenia Cheng: I met the author of this book at the Decatur Book Festival last year, got super excited about her book, and was disappointed to discover that it was sold out after her talk. This book deals with category theory, part of my beloved algebra. This book takes the reader through adventures in abstraction, something that can be very difficult to understand for mathematicians of all levels, before introducing readers to category theory. While this book has its issues, it is still well-thought out and enjoyable, especially with the culinary illustrations of mathematical concepts. (4 out of 5 categories)

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam: One of my big interests lately is the attemnpt to cram everything I want to do into a short period of time. This book takes on the idea that I’ve been working with for a long time: I have more time than I think, so what happens to all that time, and how can we get more out of the time that we do have? While there are some issues with this book, such as assuming everyone can afford to outsource things like laundry, the book still makes many excellent points on how to get more out of your time and makes me feel better about listening to this audiobook while running. (4 out of 5 extra minutes)

The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success by Emma Seppälä: This book is targeted at executives and other professionals and makes the argument that happiness is the best way to fast track our success. The author takes a different approach than that in 168 Hours, and listening to these books one after the other made for some interesting contrasts. Despite being targeted at a different audience, the author still makes a strong argument for putting your own happiness first, even (maybe especially) in your career. (4 out of 5 ways to be happy)

Hit by Delilah S. Dawson: I borrowed this book from a friend after seeing the author pop up in my Twitter feed all the time. Imagine a world where a bank has bought out America and you can legally be killed for your debts. The main character is a teenage girl who is off to kill ten people to pay off her mother’s debt. Along the way she discovers that the people she has to kill are more connected to her and her life than she could have guessed, which made for a compelling read. My main complaint is in the chapter length: it varied so widely that I had a hard time judging where a good stopping point would be. (A real concern considering I read a good chunk of this book on the train.) Oh, and there’s apparently a sequel out now that I need to get my hands on. (4 out of 5 debtors)

Winter by Marissa Meyer: I’m finally finished with this series! (Well, minus the Stars Above collection, which is currently in my to-read pile with deadlines.) Winter is my least favorite of the title characters in the series, which made this book a little less enjoyable than the others in the series. She was just… kind of boring, to be honest. But I did enjoy the character interactions and the overall plot, especially with the need to cram a lot into such a short period of time and doing it well. (4 out of 5 lunar revolutions)

Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts–Becoming the Person You Want to Be by Marshall Goldsmith: I listened to this book and wanted so badly to like it. One source of annoyance was the author’s putting an emphasis on everything while narrating the book, which got really old after awhile. While this book brings up some good points about asking questions like “Did I do my best to…”, it didn’t add very much new to that approach, choosing instead to rehash things that most readers of self-help books already know. (The author acknowledges this point, to be fair.) (3 out of 5 triggers)

The Watermelon King by Daniel Wallace: I read this book for my local library’s monthly book club. It deals with a man traveling to a tiny Alabama town in search of stories about his mother, who died giving birth to him. Along the way, the main character discovers stories about the town and his mother that he never could have anticipated. I know this book illustrates small-town life, but some of it got a little weird even for me and my small-town upbringing. The writing itself was also slow to start and clunky in spots. I hear the author also wrote Big Fish, which several friends rank among their all-time favorite movies. For once I’ll stick to the movie. (3 out of 5 watermelons)

What Stands in a Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South’s Tornado Alley by Kim Cross: I listened to this book, which goes into detail about the Alabama tornadoes in 2011. Fortunately for me, the book deals primarily with the Alabama tornadoes and not the Georgia ones such as the one that struck the town I grew up in (and was living in at the time). Lots of firsthand accounts of the time before, during, and after the tornado make this book stand out while capturing the humanity of everyone in the book. What stands in a storm? Plenty. (4 out of 5 tornadoes)

Fuck Feelings: One Shrink’s Practical Advice for Managing All Life’s Impossible Problems by Michael I. Bennett and Sarah Bennett: Won’t lie, I checked out this book because of the title alone. Unfortunately titles alone don’t make the book good. Despite chapter titles like “Fuck treatment” and “Fuck self-esteem”, most of the book doled out advice that I already knew and didn’t have clear markers between sections. While there is some comedy in this book, sometimes it was overdone just to drive a point home. (3 out of 5 f-bombs)

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson: I read and enjoyed her first book, so the fact that I enjoyed this one wasn’t too surprising. This book is even better as an audiobook since the author herself reads it and has a way of making her hilarious random thoughts even funnier. Books like these make me wonder where all my random thoughts went. Am I just getting dumber as I get older? Why aren’t my random thoughts as brilliant as some of these thoughts of hers? Sure, the humor was a little over the top sometimes, but in a way that a lot of us can relate to in some sense. (4 out of 5 koalas with chlamydia)

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney: I wanted to like this. I really did. But despite the prose itself being good, the characters and plot suffer from some serious rich people problems that I couldn’t bring myself to care about. The parts of this book I did care about were less about the problems brought on by wealth. (For instance, I’d read a whole book about Melody’s teenage daughters.) While I generally like books about messed-up families, this one fell flat with its shallowness and rich people problems. (3 out of 5 nests)

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey: I heard a lot of good things about this book, so I read it to see what the big deal was. The beginning was interesting enough, but then, as in many young adult novels, unnecessary romance happened. Ugh. If the story had continued as it did in the beginning, I probably would have enjoyed it more, but truth be told, this book is hard to follow. Most of the characters were dull and I couldn’t bring myself to care about their adventures, despite freaking aliens happening. Except for Ringer. Someone please tell me we see more of her in the rest of the series, which I may or may not read. (3 out of 5 aliens)

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy: The author of this book pops in my Twitter feed occasionally due to retweets, which made me want to check out this book. This book stars a self-proclaimed fat girl coming to terms with being fat to the people in her life. While I enjoyed the premise of this book and the narrator’s strong voice (and hoo boy does the small town life ring true), I wasn’t a huge fan of the pacing or the sudden romance or the sudden ending. Oh, and there’s a love triangle. Because of course there is. (3 out of 5 talents)

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer: The Lunar Chronicles series may be completed, but this short story collection provides some new perspectives into the books and characters. While four of these stories had been published previously, I hadn’t read any of them before. These stories also helped jog my memory over some of the events in the series, as I read the books over a very long period. And yes, there’s a story that could serve as an epilogue to Winter, and it’s pretty aww-worthy. My favorite of these stories was the one about Thorne and his childhood, which tells the story of an incident referred to in one of the books. (4 out of 5 cyborgs)

What’s next? I’ve started The Girl From Everywhere and will read Americanuh for my library’s book club next. But between reading, work, and writing all the things, it’s a wonder I have time for the social life that keeps pulling me away from these things.