29 September 2008

the clue-by-four in beta: men's monday

I put my first post up on the new blog: "Men’s Monday #1: why do some guys “step up” when others don’t?"

Trip on over there if you can. It's still pretty raw, but I'd like to see if anything doesn't work out of the box: commenting, RSS, whatever.

28 September 2008

like a 2x4 of awesome upside the head

Dear Readers (and in particular those of you who have hung in through my long, boring novel word count and subsequent allergy to writing)... I have, as they say in the trade, an announcement.

I've been thinking for a while how to make this little online diary of mine into a much bloggier blog, one that might be of interest to more people. A random phrase dropped into conversation and a subsequent whois search led me to register the domain cluebyfour.com. And I'm pretty stoked about it!

I'll be rolling out the new blog in the days and weeks to come. Wrangling with registrars and hosts, working with a talented friend on the new design, and, of course, drumming up new business and finishing the novel... gotta keep all those balls in the air. But I hope to get going really soon. I miss blogging! And it's more fun, in a lot of ways, than whipping a big flabby old novel into shape...

The theme will be, basically, my own weird, irreverent, opinionated take on the issues of the day, the human condition, religion, sex, futurism and bicycles. I want to do regular weekly features like my cool blogger friends do, and, hopefully, actually provoke some debate in the comments.

If you guys have anything that you've seen in other blogs that you thought worked, or any other suggestions of what might be readable and worth bookmarking/subscribing to, please let me know.

C'mon back now, y'hear?

16 September 2008


Tonight I was delivered of a rough draft of a novel of speculative fiction, weighing in at 78 pages of single-spaced 12-point Helvetica. After 31 days of labor, I now have this sort of helpless squirming mass to deal with.

Soon, the editing will begin, but for now... I think I'm going to stop writing for a while, stop thinking about writing, and re-connect with the rest of my life.

Thanks to all of you that put up with my using this blog as a scoreboard, and still kept checking in. (I know your IP addresses, don't try to deny it!)

Thanks so much to all of you who sent me support and encouragement.

Holy shit.

15 September 2008

Day 30: coming in under the wire (48,043 words)

A totally scattered day. I'm coming to realize what a complete fucking creature of habit I am... I had to go on the run at 8 this morning because our landlord said we had to evacuate due to the fact that he decided he would be roachbombing the second floor. And yeah, that kind of is a sucky way to begin the day, but I shoud be able to roll with change better. I went to the gym and brought a change of clothes for my 11 o'clock job interview, except I forgot my headphones, deodorant... and underwear. So I went commando to a business appointment. I rock.

I was just kind of out of it all day. Rode up to City Sports after work to get a heart-rate monitor, and I almost got nailed by a car door some alert driver helpfully opened in front of me as I was tearing up Harvard Street. I know better than to let my attention wander when I'm cycling.

Anyway... meditation has totally fallen by the way in the last few months of my life, and that needs to change. The novel-writing experience has been good, but I'm a total absent-minded professor now, thinking about plot complications, and characterizations, and new and different ways to write "he said."

No more!

I am two thousand words shy of fifty K, and then I'm going to set the novel aside for at least a week before I start the edit.


14 September 2008

Day 29: O Eris, o Discordia! (46,747 words)

Well, I finally know exactly how this novel ends, and I can definitely say that it is going to have to begin differently. But that's cool.

I wrote the novel to explore the question of "what would happen if what's going on in Iraq were going on in America?" Because what so few people seem to remember is that pre-war, pre-sanctions Iraq was a thoroughly modern, technologically advanced nation. When the existing order devolved into what I call "mere" anarchy (as opposed to social anarchy), the vacuum was filled by the most vicious and the heaviest armed. It's human.

I didn't have a story in mind, really, when I started... I just let it go in the direction it wanted to go in. I've been surprised many times by decisions characters seemed to make on their own that changed the direction of the plot. I am going to go back and exercise some editorial tyranny over some of their free choices, just for flow and pacing and so forth. But, the story that emerged holds together, and the outcome is not surprising, if disturbing.

When there is no order in society, when people are weakened and alone, those with the power to enforce their will through violence get their way. That's so obvious and uncontroversial that I can't imagine why anyone would think it couldn't happen here. Most likely, I think people just can't imagine that there could be that level of social disruption in nice, happy America.

I have been fascinated/worried by the prospect of social collapse in North America. On the one hand, this state has gotten way too out of control, and history shows that all empires fall. On the other hand, the elites generally do just fine in any collapse... it is the common people who suffer.

This is something that sticks in my mind as the financial news gets scarier and yet scarier.

How hard could this crash be? And what will things look like on the other side?

12 September 2008

Day 27: almost became roadkill! (41,884 words)

Woke up at a decent hour after a decent sleep, had a decent run and came home, consumed a decent breakfast. My plan was to go on up to the gym by Cleveland Circle, and I hopped on my trusty steel urban assault bicycle and headed out.

I looked both ways, crossed Huntington... and got my front rim jammed into the track of the Green Line streetcar embedded in the roadbed. The rear wheel continued on its trajectory, getting itself locked in the track... and angular momentum brought me down, hard. I skidded across the street into the oncoming traffic lane, which was mercifully empty - I could very easily have been burgered by a speeding commuter box heading up the hill into JP.

I got out of it with mild road rash and surprisingly little damage done to the Motobécane. Solid steel rims are amazingly rigid... I will probably need to get my front wheel trued, but I am pretty sure everything else is working fine. It started to rain and I was definitely not feeling like risking wet streets. So, I stayed home and wrote.

Getting close now, but I don't feel it yet...

11 September 2008

Day 26: 40,611 words

A scattered day. I got not such a great night's sleep, woke up with an inflamed tendon - and realized I had let myself run out of coffee. Much as I'd have liked to do a Peet's run, I decided to give my legs a rest. Instead I gave some business to the original J. P. Lick's on Centre Street, so I'll be starting the day with some fair-trade Ethiopian Harrar tomorrow.

Not quite halfway through the month of Virgo, and I'm OK with the progress I'm making... but I feel like it's time for a real push. Personal, not really bloggable stuff is going on, which is great but also a little distracting.

It'll also be nice to have enough energy to make a blog entry that someone else might actually find interesting.

08 September 2008

Day 23: 37,353 words

I got a shit-tay night's sleep last night, with a noisy roommate and my landlord busting in at 7am telling me they were towing cars on the street. Apparently on months where the first Monday is a holiday, they do street cleaning on the second Monday. I sleep-drove a block up the hill, figuring they'd do the second-Monday streets on the third Monday.


Towed, and ticketed.

Love being a car-owner in Boston.

Anyway, my race got rescheduled... they're using that date for a triathlon in Providence that got postponed due to the wannabe hurricane last weekend. So I have some more time to train, which is kind of cool.

Book's kind of writing itself now... though there is going to be an ugly-ass knot at the end tying everything together. Maybe I'll start over at the end and work backwards... hmmm.

07 September 2008

Day 22: 36,099 words

They should totally have tropical storms around here more often.

I slept incredibly deeply through the night, finally crawling my lazy ass out of bed after 9:30. I literally cannot remember the last time I did that without having been out drinking the night before. The sound of rain is an awesome sleeping pill... that, I guess, and burning a lot of calories training.

Today was a beautiful day under crystalline blue skies. The air was shockingly, eerily clean, and there was even a cool breeze. I wrote, rode, went to the gym, rode some more, ate, wrote. Jesus H. Buddha Quan Yin Mercurius Christ, I love these kinds of days.

I don't really know if I want a full-time job or not. (Checks bank account.) Oh right. Yeah. A job will be good. Mmkay then.

swallowed by an hypothesis

My favorite doomsday device comes on line this Wednesday:

"I do not expect to be swallowed up by," said Evans. "I think nobody in their right mind expects to be swallowed up by hypothetical black holes which are created in the LHC."

Just so. No particle physicist worth his salt wants to imagine spending eternity in the guts of a provisional idea whose merit requires evaluation. But the strangelets, daddy-o! what about the strangelets?

06 September 2008

Day 21: 33,339 words and Tropical Storm Hanna

I made the most of a gray Saturday and wrote, wrote, wrote. I had a crisis of inspiration, though, so I walked the two miles up to Brookline Booksmith for a recharge. I am so hungry for a book, but it just seemed like reading fiction right now would throw my style off. Especially since what I want more than anything is On the Road: The Original Scroll. I don't know what reading Kerouac now would do to me. I might stop using paragraphs or something.

So far, this hurricane is underwhelming.

05 September 2008

Day 20: 31,217 words and 16.1 miles

I did some good race training on the wildest course one can imagine: the City of Boston.

Downtown is, not to put too fine a point on it, a fucking vortex. The grid (such as it is, and it really isn't) does like a 45-degree shift as you enter the historical center of the city, and streets you had counted on as reliable eastish-westish axes turn back on themselves and parallel lines suddenly intersect. Skyscrapers block any possible fixed landmark. Eventually, the gyre spits you out and you find yourself in Eastie or headed over the river to Cambridge.

Anyway, riding street in this town is, as I've mentioned before, mortal combat. I pushed as hard as I could and upped my mileage count just chasing my tail downtown, then rode back out to JP against a vicious headwind to sign up for the mechanic training course at Bikes Not Bombs... which was already full. I decided to go to the gym, figuring it'd be dead on Friday night. Wrong. Meat market. Undeterred, I put my headphones on and played a liveset I had downloaded before leaving home. Full of skips. Shit. Basically, I got denied all evening but still had a fucking great time. I worked out, took a long sauna and stretched. Came home, chatted with the roomie, wrote, and now I'm just gonna chill and get a good night's sleep so my body can recover. Friday, y'all.

You may ask how I afford my rock'n'roll lifestyle. It ain't easy being this crip.

Day 19: 29,799 words and some peace

My friend called his wife from the L station, incoherently drunk, and let her take him to the detox center. Hopefully, when he dries out, he'll have enough sense to check himself into the sober living place and spend some time getting his life back. I can still hope... because while he's still drawing breath, there's hope.

I drank caffeine at about 8 this evening (big risk) so I could catch up on my writing. I found a missing piece in my plot and what was held together with chewing gum and duct tape is now a smoothly pivoting little instrument. Tonight an ancient blind Chinese herbalist showed up in my story, pretty much out of nowhere. Kind of hilarious to see who parachutes in unexpectedly...

I really hope I didn't trade a night's sleep for twenty-seven hundred words, though.

04 September 2008

The Emperor's New Election and the gutless reaction to Sarah P

go ahead, make a stupid blowjob joke you fucking sexist punk-ass

As previously noted on this blog, I don't have a favored candidate in this election. In all the issues that are important to me, Obama and McCain adhere to the same program: a wildly assertive American imperialism, destruction of the natural environment, and government of big business, by big business and for big business.

I know that I'd be leaving myself open to a charge of gross Naderism even though I live in a state that's breaking 49% - 37% for Barry O. I'm fine with that, really. Every significant mass movement for change in this country has come to an end when it allowed itself to get subsumed into an electoral strategy. "Vote for So-and-So because he'll be more likely to support your cause." History shows, though, when So-and-So gets your vote, he'll take it and tack to the right to curry favor with the power elite. So, whatever. The Dem's are 2% less evil, so run out and vote. Have a ball.

The main problem I have with voting is that people are taught that this is the only - or at least the pre-eminent - way for them to express their political will. In Massachusetts, we're told on numerous signs that "it is our civic duty to vote." In a healthy democracy, sure: periodic voting for a representative could be one way for an organized people to send a trustworthy representative to the halls of power. As it is, though - with the process soaked in and controlled by money from start to finish - it's worse than a fruitless exercise: it is quite literally harmful to democracy. Voting is, in the 21st century, the opiate of the masses.

All that works, all that has ever worked, is organized people taking action in a consistent, direct way to influence (and scare the living shit out of) those in power, who then grudgingly, dragging their feet every inch of the way, enact some small change in the direction of the people's demands. You grab the inch and take a mile. It is, literally, the only thing that is worth a breath of energy.

One thing elections are really good up is stirring up the lowest impulses of the people. We always see the scary Other trotted out at some point during the quadrennial reality show. There was a lot of (IMO appropriate) outrage at the portrayal of mainstream lawyer and U.S. Senator Barack Hussein Khadafi Khomeini Abu-Jamal Osama Obama as some sort of wild-eyed radical, because he's a man of color with a funny name who did a bit of street work and once maybe read a book by Alinsky.

The response to the persistent, pervasive and vile misogyny directed at consummate Establishment insider Hillary Clinton, though, was remarkably muted in the so-called left blogsphere... when they weren't actively bitch-baiting her. After that, I know I shouldn't be surprised to read what I'm seeing, not in the mainstream media, but on the Koses and the Hullaballoos about Sarah "Caribou Barbie" Palin. I guess, since she's a Republican, she must be fair game, as it seems all tolerance of Vagina-Americans is premised on good behavior.

It's remarkable how little the left blogosphere seems to want to talk about her governing style, her outright lying, and her clear, unambiguously medieval stances on things like global climate change and a woman's right to choose. The chatter about her looks and the whole pregnancy scandal seems to have drowned out any semblance of debate, surprise surprise. It's hard to find a clearer example of people becoming what they hate... I am trying not to hate them, because I really don't want to be a punk-ass.

I'm a non-voter for a lot of very good reasons... some of them are outlined above, and some of them have to do with being sick of having it rammed down my throat my whole life that voting is my one and only chance to have my voice heard.

If you want to vote - go. I can't see the point in trying to talk anyone out of it that hasn't already talked themselves out of it.

Just remember we got to the place we are today - by voting. And maybe, when you have some space in your mind, think about whether or not there might be a better way of getting what we want...

03 September 2008


My best friend on Earth was kicked out by his wife... close to a year of depression and alcoholism, violence and more stints in rehab than I can count (literally) had just finally wore her down. He's walking the streets, with no credit cards (she took his plastic) and I don't know how much cash. Slept outside last night.

I tried to get him to go to a hotel, offered to pay... but he got belligerent with the staff. He stopped taking my calls. I really don't know where he is now. He's been saying a lot of crazy stuff, and the streets of Chicago are no place for a drunk in crisis.

Not getting a lot done today, just blowing up his cell and stressing. I'm up to 27 thousand something. Whatever.

02 September 2008

what and how I write

Instead of writing this morning, I decided to write about writing, inspired by a meme my friend Michelle passed along. I have to say, I've never really thought about how I write as much as just doing it - so it's kind of interesting to see how many different styles and attitudes people have about the craft.

1.  Do you write fiction or non-fiction? Or both?

Both - I'm here a lot, obviously, and I'm also trying to break into technical writing while I'm working on my first novel.

2.  Do you keep a journal or a writing notebook?

I have a personal journal, which is where I write the things that are for my eyes - and God's - alone. Other than that, no, I don't have a notebook per se, but I'll sometimes jot things down on scraps of paper, my iPhone, emails to myself, etc. as inspiration strikes.

3.  If you write fiction, do you know your characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts before you start writing or is that something else you discover only after you start writing? Do you find books on plotting useful or harmful?

As a newbie novelist, I'm kind of feeling my way here. I have outlined half a dozen novels so far, where I knew pretty much all the people, what the plot was and how it's going to end. Obviously, none of those books got written. This one, I am pretty much letting write itself, mainly because I decided to write it two days before I started...

4.  Are you a procrastinator or does the itch to write keep at you until you sit down and work?

Let me get back to you on that.

5.  Do you write in short bursts of creative energy, or can you sit down and write for hours at a time?

I find I'm pretty much a sprinter as a writer. If I can't pound it out in an hour or two, it's time to go do something else.

6.  Are you a morning or afternoon writer?

Mornings and late evenings are my times. Mornings especially because that's when the coffee's available - if I consume caffeine after noon, I will not sleep.

7.  Do you write with music/the noise of children/in a cafe or other public setting, or do you need complete silence to concentrate?

I'm fine with random noise - I live in the city - but I haven't been real successful writing with music on. Maybe I'll try instrumental music, but anything with lyrics throws me off: I'm one who actually likes to listen to the words of songs, and I can't really do "background" music.

8.  Computer or longhand?

Longhand? What is that?

But seriously folks... I do all my creative writing on OpenOffice on my Mac, and my journaling in what I could charitably call "handwriting."

9.  Do you know the ending before you type Chapter One? Or do you let the story evolve as you write?
I have a general destination that I'm navigating to, but I'm actually as interested to find out how this story ends as any reader would be.

10.  Does what’s selling in the market influence how and what you write?
I have no earthly idea what is selling in the market, so I guess this is a "no."

11.  Editing/Revision - love it or hate it?

I have edited a lot of other people's work, mostly articles and papers, and am pretty good at it - so I suppose I would say I "love" it. Of course, I've never seriously edited my own stuff, so this will be a new adventure for me. And this book will need a lot of editing...

If you write, I hope you do this meme - and please let me know if you do. There are, apparently, as many ways to write as there are writers, and I'd like to learn about your way.