Tag Archives: freelance editor

Radcon 2012, Saturday

A decidedly slow awakening but for good reason:  Marcel had desired to make omelets for all for breakfast, and while they are delicious, they take time.  No matter for me, as oddly enough there was only a single panel that interested me.  Our friend Amanda had wanted to bring taco truck lunch for all of us at the con; I knew the idea was likely not going to succeed (due to the difficulty of getting six people to all not be in panels at the same time before 5 PM), but she seemed to want to do it badly, so I just let her give it a shot.  Well, they made good midnight snacks later.

The Rasputin outfit is more comfortable than the Boer costume, but requires more prep because I have to wear a wig and mousse my beard back to the brown it once was (a messy process). Jane, seamstress of my Rasputin outfit, was elated to see me in it for the first time.  I’ll probably be on her business’s Facebook site, doing the freaky eyes for the camera.

Most of my day was spent socializing, except for one abortive panel at which an author (I’ll give the name privately if someone gives me a good reason to want to know) proved to be a full-dress horse’s ass.  The subject involved gender and writing.  Three of the panelists (two women, one man) were on time and at their assigned posts, and the discussion began down some productive lines of exploration.  Perhaps fifteen minutes in, the fourth (male) panelist arrived with apologies.  He then conceded to construct Fort Conceit on the table in front of him:  a small fanned-out wall of perhaps a dozen of his titles in paperback.  It is customary for panelists to display a book or two, especially if it’s new, but to display your complete works is absurd.  It looks like you are saying:

“I have more stuff in print than these other clowns.”

“I fear that you haven’t heard of me at all, so I’d better prove I belong.”

“I have an ego the size of Idaho and it spills over into British Columbia.”

I already didn’t like him when he committed a sin of panelism:  he failed to shut up and listen to the discussion for a while.  Another:  he used his outside voice.  Thus, when he began to debate with his fellow panelists, he sounded like a double fool.  As he shattered the urbane, thoughtful ambience with what may have been thoughtful views if taken at face value, he had no way to know he was retreading ground already covered in the discussion.  I put up with it for about five minutes and left, and I am quite loath to leave a panel between the first five and last five minutes.  My bro John was forty seconds behind me, having reached similar conclusions.

All in all a fairly normal Radcon Saturday otherwise, except that the wind put a damper on the fire dancing troupe.  They performed anyway, of course, and did their very level best, but gusts were too high for some of their best stunts.  One weakness this year:  their music was lame.  Not loud enough, not fierce enough.  Their crowd fluffers had a hard time keeping the audience excited, which is normally not a problem with the fire dancers.

Later on, Jenn and Marcel pretended to be interested in the dance/rave, and I pretended that there was a a chance they’d want to stay for it, mainly because it was their first con experience and I wanted them to at least explore everything to their hearts’ content.  Mission accomplished.  My feet felt like I’d had an ‘enhanced interrogation’ by then, so anything that let me take a seat and relax was a winner for me.  We weren’t even motivated to bother seeking out room parties Saturday; by trying to create a secure area where all parties must be, with Security providing the ID checks, they have in essence destroyed room partying.  Either that or I just don’t get invited to the real ones.

As with the usual Radcon Saturday, by then I just didn’t give a damn, I was so tired and footsore.

Radcon 2012, Friday

Rolling with my crew:  my bro John (flew in from Bahamas) and good friends Jenn and Marcel from B.C.  For those who do not know, Radcon is the Tri-Cities’ own science fiction convention.  To some it’s essentially the geekfest (and they have a point), but to a lot of us, it’s something not to miss.

Registration at past Radcons has been a disaster.  How disastrous? How about a three hour wait in line for those who failed to pre-register, half and hour to an hour for those who paid in advance? I was certain Radcon would never, ever fix this.  I was wrong.  John, whose pre-registration failed to reach the destination, was in line maybe ten minutes.  He actually got in quicker than did Jenn, Marcel and I, in the nearly non-existent pre-registered line, because the person handling it was on break.  We were badged and ready to rock in fifteen.  I’m still processing the amazement.

I wore my Boer veldkornet outfit:  farmy clothes, bandoliers, sjambok (an African whip), bush hat with purple plume–steampunk without the goggles.  Jenn went Victorian and looked like a figure from a different time in corset, frilly blouse and long dress with knee boots.  Smashing.  Marcel, who is a big dude, went pirate with a big longsword, eyepatch and period shirt.  As strongly as one would never want to aggravate Marcel even under normal conditions, one would really not wish to in that case.

None of the Friday panels were must-go events for me, though everyone else was in panel heaven.  For me it was more a day of exploring and shopping.  Many friends from past cons, howdies and updates swapped, many hugs and smiles:  a feeling of being by now something of a fixture and familiar sight oneself, comforting.  Jenn and Marcel found what John found, and what I found before:  people at Radcon are in the main embracing and open, easy to talk to, with no tendency to try making new people feel like outsiders.

Dinner with Sharon and her friends from Spokane (all delightful ladies; Sharon fairly lights up a room), Jeff and Nyssa (probably the most competent and successful vendors who attend Radcon, year after year), and of course our crew.  Nyssa is a riotous deadpan storyteller and entertained us greatly, as she always does.

We were going to go to the Spocon room party, but it was completely packed.  We were going to head down to Irish Heather’s for a nightcap, but no one was around,  and by universal agreement we were all footsore and zonked from staying up too late the previous night.  We thus made it an early night and came home.

Shortly thereafter, I did one of the more boneheaded things I’ve done in some time.  It speaks well to my comfort with my guests.  I was getting out of my Boer accoutrements in the dining room (where, to Deb’s annoyance, everything I need for Radcon is piled on the dining table).  Without really thinking, I shucked my trousers, leaving me in a short-sleeved shirt and my underwear.  I then remembered the gift necklace I had gotten Deb, and mushed over to show it to her.

That was fine, except that Jenn was still upstairs.  Oops.

In such a circumstance there is nothing to do (after making a hasty retreat to repair one’s insufficient attire) but accept that there will be much hilarity at one’s expense from the women.  And the men, too, when they learn about it, which will occur within seconds of their next meeting with the women.  Guess it’s a good thing I didn’t also ditch the underwear too.

As we relaxed to tell Deb of our day, and hear her comments on our utter geekery, Jen whipped out a bottle of Buckley’s.  This is a Canadian cold remedy not sold in the U.S., and while she had brought it to combat lingering cold effects, it was also a chance for me to sample its legendary nastiness of taste.  If you search on Youtube, you’ll find videos of people suffering through their doses of Buckley’s.  First, of course, I smelled it and got a shock:  imagine Vicks mixed with ammonia.  Seriously!  Now, I’ve had a faceful of ammonia in life, and I didn’t like it much.  Since I didn’t have a cold, I just put a little in a teaspoon and…down the hatch.  No sweetener, no alcohol; it looked and tasted something like an acrid liquid Vicks.  Pretty unpleasant, but nothing as repulsive as Nyquil.

What, you mean you all don’t accidentally drop trou in front of your guests, then taste-test a new Fear Factor cold medicine on your first day of a science fiction convention?

Then You’re Doing It Wrong.

Current read: Vietnam novel _Frenchy’s Whore_

The main reason for the blogging hiatus has been real life happening, and it continues to happen, though Radcon is coming and I may be sober enough late at night to post summaries.  (I am, in great pain, replacing the caulking in my guest room shower.  Does anyone want me to blog about this?)  But in the interim, I’ve been reading a novel about the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam by Verne E. Brewer, Frenchy’s Whore.

I learned of this tale by meeting the author himself playing a Facebook game.  He impressed me as a good guy who hung out with good people, and a little experimentation satisfied me that my rather unorthodox social perspective needn’t divide us.  I’m always interested in descriptions of warfare from those in a position to know, since I’ve never been in that kind of war.

So far I’m quite impressed by Brewer’s descriptive talent.  I wish I’d been there to do some editing, but that would be mainly proofreading and very minor orthographic adjustments; he paints a scene with the sort of talent you expect of a far more seasoned writer.  Though it’s presented as a novel, Brewer doesn’t make any pretense that it is other than an autobiographical work.  So far I like the presentation, especially the story about chucking the CS grenade in the 1SG’s quarters.  While my father-in-law was a jumping first sergeant, and evidently one hell of a good one, I can easily imagine that some of them needed a tear gas grenade chucked into their rooms while drunk.

Looking forward to seeing how the book develops.  Brewer is quite candid that it was a form of therapy to help him process and come to terms with the experience that was Vietnam, but I think he’s also got messages in here, as do most authors worth their salt.

Some odd language facts

Odd to us native English speakers, anyway.  To non-native speakers, our whole language is odd.  Anyway, I just felt like writing this, so here we go:

Magyar (Hungarian) has almost no relative, only distant ones:  Finnish and Estonian (which are not far apart from each other).

German and Arabic have four cases (meaning the noun changes to show its function in the sentence).  Latin has five, Russian six.  Finnish has, good lord, fifteen.

In Hebrew and Arabic, a ‘conjugation’ doesn’t mean what it means in French or Spanish.  It means actual changes to a root that make it into different verbs.

Irish has arcane rules that require changes to spelling and pronunciation at certain times.  Most of those spare Hs you see are really more like diacritical marks, that somehow affect the preceding letter.  FH, for example, is completely silent.  There are two different methods for this, and only some letters can be modified this way.  And of course, the two groups only have some overlap.  So C can become CH or GC.

French makes its spoken past tense with different helping verbs.  Thus, ‘he is died’ but ‘I have spoken.’

Bad news about Greek:  none of the accented syllables have accents where we intuit they should be.  Good news:  nearly every word incorporates an accent mark, so you’re going to know anyway.

Any word in Spanish over a certain number of syllables (four +, I think) has an accent mark to show the stress.  In French, however, there are no stressed syllables.  The marks you see affect only pronunciation.

Turkish has two Is, one without a dot.  The one without the dot is pronounced more like IH, like in ‘fish.’  All things considered, they adapted their language to the Latin characters pretty well.  It wasn’t even a century ago.

No matter how many Dutch people you ask, you will never properly pronounce ‘Schiphol.’  Do not bother.  Every Dutch word you try and read aloud, you are butchering, unless you actually studied Dutch.  Happily, speaking only three languages is considered borderline mentally challenged for a Dutch person, so they very likely speak another language that you also speak.

Swedish not only has a word for ‘so’ (try to define it sometime for a non-native speaker!), it sounds the same: så.  The ring makes an A a long O sound, so every time you said ‘awng-strom’ for Ångstrom in physics, you were wrong.  ‘oang-stroom, ‘ with vowels like ‘oat broom.’

Russian has no articles.  None.  (Neither does Swahili.)  This explains why Russians learning English find the concept so very challenging, much as we find verb aspect (a different verb for whether the action is completed or ongoing) a challenging aspect of Russian.  (In Spanish and French, this is handled by choice of tense.)

Latin is named for Latium, the part of ancient Italy where Rome was.

Swahili has noun classes based on what the noun represents:  people, objects, abstract concepts, etc.  One differentiates these with prefixes.  Thus, a group of Tutsi are ‘Watutsi’ (yes, that’s where the old dance name comes from).  The language is ‘Kiswahili.’

Afrikaans is essentially an evolved, simplified Dutch.  By the time it was named Afrikaans, it had gotten rather farther from Dutch than Australian from British, or arguably, Québécois French from Parisian French.

A lot of the swear words in Parisian French are scatological.  A surprising number in Québécois French are religious.

If you know swear words in Spanish, don’t use them.  They are taken by native speakers as sullying a beautiful language, and can mark you as a person of the lowest social class.  Also, say ‘mamá’ rather than ‘madre.’  The latter carries overtones that are a short throw from speaking of all Hispanic mothers anywhere, not a group you’d want to slight in even a minor way.

Swedish has two genders:  common and neuter.  They used to have three, but they combined masculine and feminine, as a national decision, about a century ago.  One of the advantages to having a native language spoken nowhere else in numbers:  whatever the Japanese say is Japanese, for example, no one’s in a position to debate with them.

Icelandic is so similar to Old Norse that any literate Icelander can read the ancient sagas without trouble.  Convenient, as there are just about zero illiterate Icelanders.

What makes English so hard for non-native speakers to learn well? It’s not our grammar, which isn’t too bad.  It is the inconsistent spelling, immense vocabulary, and multiple meanings a given word can have.  Proof of the difficulty comes in how atrociously even many native speakers write English–it’s hard even for us.

Arabic has 28 letters.  Most have four forms: initial, medial, final and isolated.  The ‘unfriendly’ letters, have only two forms:  final and isolated, as they cannot join to the next letter.  The dots are part of the letter; many letters can be told apart only by the number and location of dots.  Thus, a TH looks like a B except that TH has three dots above, and a B has one dot below.

Farsi uses the Arabic alphabet written in a slightly different style, and adds four letters not found in Arabic:  P, CH, ZH and a sort of G.

If Spaniards seem to lisp their Spanish (to ears used to LatAm Spanish), they don’t have speech impediments.  Z and soft C are pronounced TH in Castilian.  Una therbaytha, por favor.

Finns find the consonant blends of English terribly difficult to master.  That’s okay.  Everyone else in the world, except Estonians, finds everything about Finnish impossible to master.

What was it like growing up in the 1970s?

(This was originally a message board post people seemed to really enjoy, so I felt free to republish it here.)

When the 1970s began, Vietnam was still going on but the hippies were starting to thin out. It took pot a few years to grow mainstream (by my early high school years late in the decade it seemed like I was the only one not smoking it). Then Nixon got in trouble and resigned. I got a pretty good laugh over his later rehabilitation, given how deeply and nationally he was excoriated. In a sense, he was the initiator of the modern political climate, where the good of the nation has ceased to factor and the only thing that matters is beating the other guy. This was confirmed when Ford promptly turned around and pardoned him.

The energy crisis was just unreal. What most people do not realize today is that, in terms of relative purchasing power, the $4/gal spikes a couple years ago were probably less dramatic than what we saw in the early 70s, with gas lines around the block and rationing in place. Just as when gas was hovering around $0.80 in the late 1990s, it was actually a lot cheaper than the $0.25/gal I remember as the lowest price in my lifetime’s awareness (late 60s). As ever, most people simply have no idea how to compare costs and values from one era to the next.

One big kerfluffle was the gas pumps. They were not digital–the numbers rolled on a spindle inside–nor were they equipped to show prices over $0.99.9. When gas cleared a buck a gallon, just about every gas pump in the country required a retrofit. What a goat rodeo.

A lot of new stuff came along: the desktop digital calculator (we were awed), video games (wanting an Atari in the mid-70s was like wanting a PS3 a couple of years back, only more so because there was nothing before it), and the fadeout of party lines. (Yes, they were a prime tool for snooping on your neighbors’ conversations, and yes, that did occur. It was a punishable offense to fail to yield a party line if someone declared an emergency.)

Carter got elected just as the post-Vietnam national malaise was settling in. It lasted into the early 1980s. Might have been the worst president ever for the time in which we got him. Inflation up to double digits. Interest rates for borrowing up in the same neck of the woods. People with decent credit and income who do not buy houses now, at today’s depressed mortgage rates and prices, simply have no idea of the historic buying opportunity before them, perhaps because it was before they were born. Carter’s focus was to rag on the rest of the world to have better human rights. (Everyone ignored him.) That didn’t do jack for our flopping national morale. The modern deification of the troops? Unthinkable. Did not exist. The military was outdated, had too many druggies, and the junior officer corps in particular was shaky. Good thing the Soviets didn’t invade West Germany in 1976–they probably would have won. Happy Bicentennial.

Then comes the second defining event of the era after the energy crisis, the Iran hostage crisis. On top of that, we couldn’t even make a rescue attempt without a desert disaster. In 1979, “person who burns flags” became synonymous in many minds with “Iranian” in many minds, and the term “Iran” acquired a lasting toxicity akin to that which “Jane Fonda” has with Vietnam vets. Every night on the national news, Walter Cronkite: “And that’s the way it is, this 300th (or whatever) day of captivity for the American hostages in Iran.” When I see Iran talking about getting nuclear weapons, it proves to me that they understand us as poorly as we understand them. They truly believe that we think like them–like pragmatic Near Easterners interested in bargaining, who understand the game. They have no idea. A lot of us in those days felt so infuriated that we would have welcomed and endorsed an air attack on Iran’s population centers with weapons of mass destruction (not a chance under Carter), and some of us (emotionally, if not practically–and not everyone looks at such matters with a practical side) think it’s long overdue. That generation–mine–is now starting to run the country. If Iran had any idea of how much lasting loathing it created by taking and keeping the hostages, and how gladly some people would open up on them even thirty years later, they would turn pale. They would immediately shut down anything and everything nuclear. They would not do the least thing to give an excuse to people who, at least on an emotional level, would love a pretext to even that score with modern weapons. I’m not saying this is the right idea for us as a nation today (at least not with my rational side…), just pointing out what kind of fire they are playing with. If they knew, and they are sane (and I think they are, at least when it comes to their own survival), they would throw a bucket of water on that fire and never light it again.

That’s part of the reason the 1980 Olympic ice hockey victory meant so much, why everyone can remember where he or she was when we beat the USSR (probably glued to the TV; it should not be forgotten that we still had to beat a tough Finnish team to win the gold). We felt like a country that couldn’t do anything right, couldn’t even stop a bunch of radicals from invading our embassy and humiliating our people, couldn’t rescue them without screwing up, completely demoralized. Then came the Olympics and something finally went right. I would describe the 1970s as a time of national pessimism, a sense that we had already lost the Cold War and were just waiting to be the last non-socialist country in the world, a time of things going wrong and government unable or unwilling to do a thing to fix them. We know now, of course, that it didn’t all work out that way. But that’s how it felt at the time.

I disliked the 1970s deeply. I remember them as a nearly unbroken string of bad news, failed leadership, and general impotence. I’d never want them back again. While we had a lot more freedom as kids–we were essentially still as free-range as kids of earlier decades–I for one had the sense that my parents’ generation had completely boned the pooch and was going to leave it up to mine to clean up. And looking around at the people in my school, it seemed pretty obvious we would be too drunk, stoned and lazy to do that. (What I did not foresee was just how much worse they would screw it up; how, presented with golden opportunities, first the Boomers and then their successors would botch them.)

I graduated from high school in 1981 with a general sense of worse things to come, a very dystopian view of my country and even humanity. When the Berlin Wall fell, this dystopian view shook quite a bit–maybe I’d been wrong. Subsequent events proved that it had just been a temporary hiccup. I soon realized that our national psyche had to have its Emanuel Goldstein, a focus for regular sessions of the Two Minutes hate, and if the Soviet one were gone, we’d need a new one and we’d create it as necessary. Without an external enemy to direct the angst toward, it would find its direction inward, and a lot of people had a lot invested in that not happening.

Letting kids borrow your apartment

(Warning:  contains a profanity.)

About sixteen years ago, my dear friend Domi’s son Lars was coming to Seattle for a couple of weeks.  I was going to Kansas for those weeks, so I agreed to let him stay in my one-bedroom dump on Aurora North (Shoreline).  Lars was about 18, if I recall right.  Really nice kid, responsible, intelligent, great family.  No worries in the world.

Before I left, I said to Lars:  “There’s only one rule, besides don’t misplace the keys.  Do not have anyone over.  Anyone.  At all.  I trust you but I can’t know some random other people.  So, just do not do that.  Okay?”  He agreed.

Very good.  I went off to Kansas and did all my usual Kansas things.  Two weeks later I came home.  Lars was there.  Howdied him, asked how his time had gone.  Small talk, but it was quite evident something was on his mind.  I waited.  Lars was always a good kid, so I knew he’d fess sooner or later.

“Jonathan, there’s something I have to tell you.”

“Yeah? What’s up?”

“Well, I had some people over.”  He looked somewhat miserable.

You did what?” Now, it’s not my way to raise my voice much, but when I’m somewhat angry I can be animated.  I had to pretend to be a little angrier than I was, but not overdo it, because it had taken some serious decency to fess and I had a lot of respect for Lars.  What came out was a series of chilly, annoyed sentences, jabbed like icepicks:

“Did I somehow fail to be clear as to what was expected? Was there a life in danger? Was there some compelling benefit to this? Did I mishear you when you agreed? Did I ask a great deal of you? Was that unreasonable to ask? Did I in some way do you wrong, or make you feel that it would be just fine to make casual disregard of this one clear request?”  Each time, I let him answer, then kept on.  I watched him carefully because I was pretty sure he was near tears.  Yeah, I was punishing him a bit, and I felt a little mean, but at these times one has to make the point sink in.  Plus, I was authentically annoyed.

When I figured he’d had enough, and he did not try to argue or offer a bunch of childish excuses, it was time for the finish.  “Lars, I have one question from you, and I expect a candid answer.  Think carefully before you respond.”

“Okay.”  Poor kid looked like it was his worst day on earth, but he was still in there taking his medicine.  Had to hand it to him.

I put a little extra snarl into it.  “DID YOU FUCK IN MY BED?”

“No!” His shocked look and quick answer confirmed that he was being honest, as he had done all along.  Good lad.  Time to break the ice.

Incredulous quizzical look and tone:  “Well…why NOT, boy?!!”  Then I laughed.

So did he.

So you want to join the ‘lancers…

The freelancers, of course; freelance writers. We are the mercenaries of the literary world. When editors simply want the job done, without long-term commitment, they assign us writing work. If Paul Theroux and J.K. Rowling represent the nobility, we are the yeomanry.

Where do you start? Ideally, with a liberal arts degree that involved writing copious papers. If you don’t have that, your best course is one of the online review writing sites, such as Epinions or Amazon. Your ‘lancing employers won’t teach you to write, so you must first learn it on your own, in forums that provide for critique and commentary. Book and product reviews are excellent practice. Since you read heavily, you have piles of books that you could review. Your reviews might well get you noticed, and if nothing else, you’ll grow in skill.

If you also grow in ego, you did it wrong, and it’s time to rewrite your basic writing philosophy. Freelancers must be prepared to hear all manner of critique from editors. There is no crying in writing. You will find most editors as humane and pleasant as reality permits them to be, but they’ll surely tell you where your material falls short. Therefore, as you build your writing ability, don’t get too cocky even if everyone swoons over your prose. Think of frank critique as a generous gift. Consider the source, then adapt its message to evolve your talent. “You can’t write” isn’t very useful, but “that’s the clunkiest paragraph I’ve read this week” is useful indeed. Check your ego and go see what the clunk factor is, then fix it and learn.

When you think you’re ready to rent your pen, Craigslist is a fine source of leads. Many will be scams and spam opportunities, but in time you’ll learn to winnow those out. Read the application instructions with great care, and follow them precisely. Editors are watching to see how well you take direction. You’re on the ramp, so show your stuff. Write the sort of material they said they buy. During the process, don’t neglect to evaluate them in turn. Questions to ask yourself, in order of priority: do they sound like they can pay you? Do they answer your inquiries candidly, or do they simply repeat how great it’s going to be? Can you do what they’re asking, on time to spec with a good attitude?

Keep applying until someone picks you up. That part is easy. The trick is staying hired.

Your goal is to earn a repeat customer—and you must never forget that your editor is your customer, her business earned. See the world through her eyes: she has projects, deadlines, spaces to fill. She may seek topic ideas. She wants to publish quality material that will reflect well upon her and her organization. She needs reliable, drama-free, honest writers who want to write. Since this is pivotal, let’s quantify:

A reliable writer turns in consistent high-quality work on time. His work is predictably thoughtful, heedful of guidelines, sourced to the editor’s satisfaction. He can cut the mustard, which means that when she assigns him work, it’s off her list so she can get on with other duties. She wants less stress, more results. You wanted to be a writer? It’s showtime. Deliver.

It follows, then, that she doesn’t want drama. If she sends your work back for a rewrite, don’t be snippy, whiny or argumentative. Read what she says and perform the rewrite with a good attitude. If your work satisfied her that you just didn’t have the chops, she’d have simply paid you, written off the loss and never gotten back in touch. She thinks you can still provide what she wants. Prove her right.

Your editor expects you to be honest. One cardinal rule is not to slip in some cute entendre that she might miss, publish and find embarrassing. If a reference has implications she might not grasp, say so in appended notes for her consideration. If you’re unsure of something, say so. Tell her what she should know, and let her decide if it’s okay. That’s what editors do.

Everyone, it seems, says they want to write. Most writers are more interested in talking about being writers, or attending writers’ groups to talk about being writers. It’s baloney, as is writer’s block. As a ‘lancer, you renounce the right to writer’s block. People complaining of writer’s block don’t have a contract that says “You will write…” and “You will be compensated…” Depressed? Headache? Can’t find your muse? Do it anyway.

Freelancing won’t make you rich, but it’ll improve your writing as you rewrite your unfinished zombie thriller.  It’s fun, varied and lets you work with some great people.  Many careers cannot boast that.

(c) 2012 J.K. Kelley


The above was an audition piece, a sample intended for submission along with résumé and all the other usual stuff, to a credible freelancing opportunity.  I worked hard on it, trimmed, tightened, honed, shaved, planed, sanded.  I’d seen the ad a couple of days before and figured I had time.  Was feeling pretty clever:  send a sample essay that would also market me and my approach to the job.  Clever can get you some points.

Unfortunately, when I went to submit it, they had all the ‘lancers their squadron needed.  Probably wouldn’t have been the case if I hadn’t been lax about getting it done and in.  And that’s the other lesson:  jump on it.

Playing Grand Theft Auto in my driveway

Well, our cul-de-sac.  We live on a steep slope, 17%, and to get to our place one must climb that slope.  When Deb came back from Vancouver after seven hours of driving to go 230 miles, her last step was to make it up that cul-de-sac.  She did it on her third try.  In a front wheel drive Prius with studs, slinging ice and snow everywhere.

How it works is one approaches the leftward (upward) sloped cul-de-sac from the street, gaining good speed, then throws the wheel left, sliding all over the place.  If you do it just right with enough accumulated momentum, you have enough impetus to reach our driveway.  I’m an okay snow driver, but not as good as Deb.

That is why, after five tries, I didn’t get up the cul-de-sac even though the snow is now slush.  Went to the store, somewhat excited as one rarely gets to throw fishtail turns in our modern day, like Tommy Vercetti in Grand Theft Auto:  Vice City.  Vroooom!  Halfway up, a joke.  Back down, back up the street.  Vroooooom!  All over the damn place.  Didn’t help that someone had to park at the bottom, and I had to avoid his or her car at all costs.  Turn around and drive back, start farther.  Vrooooooom!  If you had stood next to the car, you would have been completely plastered in slush.  Two more tries.  Significant cursing.  On the last, finally utter a vile oath and pull into Mrs. Anderson’s driveway, which is an easy target.  Mrs. Anderson doesn’t care if we park there, any time, however long.  She’s nice like that.

Yeah, I failed, but it was great fun having license and purpose to make like GTA.  It is fun to have to do things that at any other time, people would stand and gape and eventually call the police.

We all need a little adventure, and freelance writers don’t get a lot, as you can see.


No, I’m fine.  Today we are experiencing some of the bizarrest weather I can recall.  It’s 20° F (about -7° C, for the rest of the world), and we have freezing rain, feels a lot like ‘slain’ as in sleet/rain.  This is not supposed to be possible.  This should be snow, at that temperature, not slain.  It’s landing atop the 8″ of snow we have, creating an icy crust.  The icy crust does bring some amusement–for example, when one’s miniature schnauzer attempts to navigate it.  And he must, because I have to take the little bendejo outside for his restroom visits.

Naturally, when this happens, your correspondent is in his element.  I like ice and snow and tend to be highly resistant to both, so it’s a good time to look out for neighbors–especially Mrs. A, who is elderly, lives alone and is a wise and kind lady.  This is why we stock up on icemelt in early spring when everyone’s trying to get rid of it.  We live at the top of a very steep cul-de-sac, 17% slope, and no one can get up it without studs or chains.  Amazingly, the pizza people still delivered, trudging up from the bottom.

If someone delivers you pizza in this, and you give them a lousy tip (or none), and you have a religion, you need to apostatize, because you lack a soul.

Looks like someone barfed in my sinks, bathtub and shower

Fortunately, no one did.  When the plumbers came recently to address our water pressure issues, I asked them about drain cleaner.  They don’t recommend Drano (what plumber ever does?), but instead, an environmentally friendly cleaner (what environmentally friendly cleaner ever works?). Because I was not getting anywhere with my toxic chemical soups full of sodium hydroxide, I was willing to explore a new option.

This stuff looks a lot like coarse goldenseal powder, costs about $55 a can, can lasts about a year.  It is insoluble in water, so the water you mix with it basically is there to wash it down the drain.  Its enzymes, which are all -ases of some sort, are supposed to eat hair, slime, anything of biological origin, yet be safe on skin and even if you ate it.  I think not.  You have to treat all your drains with it, then not mess with the water system for about eight hours.  I have been doing this before I go to bed, and am supposed to do it for five days.  Four down, one to go.

Of course, you may imagine the visual effect.  I’m not supposed to wash the stuff down the drain after dumping it in, so it looks like our drains have been the target of the Kennewick Serial Vomiter.  Kind of reminds me of 5th Floor McCarty Hall men’s room at the UW on a Friday night.  I know (at least, I tell myself, and hope) that this is beneficial in the long term, once the -ases finish chowing on all the disgusting things slowing down our drains.

In the short term, though, it looks like we got attacked by a rogue drain puker.  Good thing I did this when Deb was out of town–her commentary would wither my spirit and blister the paint.