An obituary for an electric kettle

Today I am taking a moment to mourn the passing of a treasured help and companion that saw me through three years of college and a year and a third of adult employment: my ~$20 electric kettle purchased from a humble CVS that passed away quietly on Sept. 8, in the year of Our Lord 2015. This kettle saw to the boiling of the water for tea that prevented me from freezing when walking to work during apocalyptic Chicago winters, kept me caffeinated during the multiple papers and midterm papers, saw me through the one all-nighter I pulled for academic reasons and the one all-nighter I pulled for reading in the 24-hour Readathon. I’d crank it up and hear the whir when I needed to curl and calm down from stress, and when I began adult employment, it became routine to stumble into the kitchen and blindly grope for the kettle. The rumble of the water beginning to bubble was the sound of my lifeboat approaching as I tried to get ready for work without either putting on a shirt inside or knocking over things in my sleep-dazed stumbles, and it became a part of my pre-bedtime routine to whip it for something herbal, ridiculously sweet, and decaffeinated as I tried to readjust from my customary night-owl habits to those of someone who had catch a train before 6 a.m.

It will be greatly missed, and I have no doubt I will mourn its passing for many days to come. Not least because it was my primary method of getting caffeine for the mornings and I am genuinely at a loss for what to do tomorrow (I’ll probably end up forking over for coffee).

ETA: Tweaking some cords and things seem to have brought it back at least for the moment. How long that’s going to last, I can’t say, but here’s hoping the zombie version will at least get me through the rest of this week for caffeine…

Your grave will be watered by the tears of the uncaffeinated

Your grave will be watered by the tears of the uncaffeinated. Or at the very least, your memory will live on in my complaining.

What I’ve been doing: SO MUCH STORY REWRITING. This is what happens when you give up writing for a year- you think you’ve gotten the hang of finishing something decent and then you open the document again and it’s all spiders and cobwebs and overgrown ivy, where things are constantly scratching, nibbling at or distracting you as you try to clear things out. Writers, if you write… just don’t stop, for the love of Heaven. Having taken hiatuses in both writing and exercise, I’m finding regaining the writing stamina infinitely more excruciating.

What I’ve been listening to: a lot of podcasts, notably Thinking Sideways and The Tolkien Professor

On taking writing seriously

First of all, I’m so sorry about neglected comments, updates, and other neglected things. Something apparently went wrong with the email I was using before, and I wasn’t getting any updates at all, so I assumed this place was seeing its usual zero traffic (not exactly the case; I have no idea why, given my lack of updates). Anyway, a comment with foul language was purged, another is a thoughtful one that I have yet to respond to, and there are no doubt several updates that I completely missed on the assumption that every other person I followed was slacking off as much as I on the blogging front. I’ve changed emails while trying to sort out what’s going on with the other one, and I actually do have something written. I’ve also finally updated my About page.

Now to what I initially logged in to write… Continue reading

Thoughts on ‘Brain on Fire’

If you’re asked to define yourself, coming up with a working answer might take a few minutes. But you would have some things spring to mind, whether it’s boy or girl, native of certain country, hobbyist in something near and dear. You’d have to weigh which aspects of yourself are “you” and which are the result of outside factors. The definition could be given quickly and glibly, or it could be given with thought and consideration. But either way, most people could give an answer. The concept of self comes as naturally to most of us as breathing.

Brain on Fire takes an unsparing look at what it’s like to have that selfhood ripped away. Continue reading

On the name change and what things will look like going forward

The rename was a long time in coming, but I think it suits the blog better for where I’d like to take it now that I am no longer a college student (which reminds me I have to update my ‘About’ page). But in keeping with the Monty Python theme, the phrase is derived from the Spanish Inquisition skit.

I promise the room is cleaner now

I promise the room is cleaner now

I’m still going to do book reviews- I think it’ll be the only way to get me through the massive stacks of books I have. On a recent organization of my room, I counted up 164 physical books, not counting the ones I have on my Kindle; about 30, give or take a few, hadn’t been read at all or had been opened so long ago that I may as well not have opened them (and I have no bookshelves. Make of this what you will). I will, however, try and stretch a bit and get some nonfiction reviews in, which should be an interesting endeavor.

I’m also hoping to get more of my own works up on the blog once I get a bit more settled and have some finished that I like.

For categories and formatting, I haven’t yet decided if I’m going to merge “Unsolicited Opinions” with “Essays” but for now I’m going to keep them separate.

When I have some free time (ha), I’ll probably go through some of my older posts and weed out the pictures I used when I was dumber about these things and thought Googling an image meant it was automatically fair game to use. I did consider taking down some of my older posts, as the writing and humor attempts of some are just painfully bad, but if I was dumb enough to think it worth posting online a few years ago, I should bear with that decision now. Not to mention the internet is forever, and it probably wouldn’t be too hard to find an archived version if I ended up removing anything.

As evidenced by the long absences between updates, I have a lot of blog posts to catch up on. If you guys want to recommend any of yours that I’ve missed, feel free to do so!

Currently listening to: The Interstellar soundtrack by Hans Zimmer.
Just finished reading: “Bannerless” by Carrie Vaughn. A rather nice take on what might happen after the end times, particularly for focusing on how people might live as opposed to the destruction of the world as we know it.

On the blending of words and actions

When I was in college and the piles of deadlines became too much to handle, I’d finish what I absolutely had to for the day, grab my keys and head out to start walking.

It always began as an aimless stroll, one day moving through the residential areas to the west of my campus one day, heading east to Lake Michigan on the next day. I’d cross busy streets, double back, go down a road I’d headed down in the opposite direction a few days before. There was no rhyme or reason to any of it.

One thing was always constant, though. Somewhere along the way, I’d stop by a place with books. Continue reading

To write, perchance to read

The past ten months have included getting a job, graduating from college, moving to a new city, going to a live concert for a band I’ve wanted to see since high school, and developing the ability to write like a madwoman.

It’s been fun. And busy. Which meant that for these past ten-ish months, writing that wasn’t generating a paycheck got shelved.

As a result, I was hard-pressed to find reading time. When I did find time, it was often a chore in that the act of reading itself was all I could take. I didn’t have the energy to think beyond whether I’d enjoyed the book, much less talk about the reasons behind that with anything resembling coherence. I reread and poked around with newer stuff, but somehow the spark to talk about things never really stuck.

This isn’t even touching what a disaster my fiction writing schedule became as it slowly suffocated.

But like Desdemona in Othello, it wasn’t quite dead. Unlike Desdemona, I didn’t want to have to place the blame for its demise on myself.

The fiction writing came back more easily than the reading did, oddly enough. My day job is writing, a blessing that I’m truly delighted to have, but it’s writing in a style that is relentlessly factual. After a while, I realized I was losing my ability to put words together in a way that described and depicted, because I spent so much time using them to tell. For some reason, the first emotion this roused was irritation at myself for letting it get to that point. Apparently that’s a powerful motivator, as I ended up writing 53k-odd words for NaNoWriMo, figured out from there what was needed to make the plot work logistically, and sat down to do more thorough outlining.

Reading came when I realized I was compulsively buying $2 and $3 books on Kindle while the backlog of things I hadn’t read stretched back years. So starting in January, I started plowing through that backlog, got through roughly a dozen books, found a couple that were surprisingly enjoyable, and had one annoy me so much that I realized I wanted to complain about it somewhere, somehow. I found a different venting outlet than this blog, but it sparked the realization that I wanted to talk about books and storytelling again.

So that’s what I’m going to try to do. If there’s anyone reading, I hope you’ll join me for the ride.

Fictionwise: Aside from novel outlining, a short story that’s really rough quality and too much fun not to finish. It involves a city where powerful entities can make bargains with deities of different types for earthly advancement and focuses on a person who makes a living from finding out the details of those contracts for various interested parties. Whether it will go anywhere remains to be seen. Status- 3,048 words.

Music: Currently, the soundtrack for The Grand Budapest Hotel.


The Sound of Deadlines

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

Told you that the blogging deadline was going to be hardest to meet, didn’t I?

The truth is, absolutely none of the goals I’ve set for April for my leisure writing have been met. I failed spectacularly on my “two blog posts a month” goal and the story goal is best not discussed, as I don’t think I could discuss it without much profanity and drinking. I’ve been barely meeting the obligations of real life and that’s with stretching the definition of “meeting.”

I’ve been stressed out for numerous reasons over the course of my college career, but right now the demands of the real world have gotten back to the agonizing level they were at in high school when I was applying for college. At that time I had to put in hours of work for an incredibly uncertain outcome while juggling the demands of being a student, working, and sports. There’s something paralyzing in hitting your outermost limit in terms of what you can handle and it begins to seep into everything else.

When I first conceived of writing this particular blog post, I was going to delve into some spiel about how the things I’m juggling have impacted my ability to write and how I wish there was some way to shake all this and how, with just a few more hours in the day or with eliminating the need for sleep, I could meet all my goals. While there’s a ton of merit, to my mind, to losing sleep as a necessary thing for health and sanity (it takes up way too much time in an already short day), the truth is, I have been writing.

I’ve been writing a lot, actually. This week has been packed with it. Better yet, it’s writing I’m actually being paid for. I’ve been busy the past month trying to work and while I truly wish that I could write more for myself and read more for myself, this overload of things I’ve been doing is still meaningful.

Hell, it’s been fun.

I tend to throw myself into my work in most cases, but there’s no denying that I take a lot more joy in interviewing someone and writing an article than I ever did in mixing drinks and ringing up hangers. The truth is, when the work is something that I like, I’ve found that I love being busy.

So as far as this blog goes, I have no intention of abandoning it. However the coming months are going to be transitional ones, and they are not going to be easy to handle. I’m going to have to devote a lot of my waking hours to making it out of college and into the work force in one piece and when it comes to be being busy, I have to make sure that it’s the work that will actually enable me to get food, shelter, and the books that I love to spend time with. I didn’t have to worry about that when I started this blog, because I’m lucky and spoiled enough to not have to worry about things like tuition and board.

But that time is rapidly coming to a close and I have to adjust accordingly. So the writing I do will be offline, at least for now. When I get to a point where I have settled and gotten my own things in order, I will be back. But for now, much as I love reading other people’s stories, I have to start figuring out my own so my life doesn’t end up resembling a scribbled mess.

I think that by July, the revisions should be complete enough that I can come back here regularly. But until then, I will leave all of you with a tremendous thank you for following me and reading my ramblings.

If someone figures out how to get rid of sleep without bringing about insanity, do please let me know.