Writing Lull? What Writing Lull?

Hi there. It's me, Liam. You might remember me from such times as that one Summer Blog Challenge, or the times that I've done other blog things. I'm looking around here, and it's hard to make anything out through all the dust. I mean, that picture in the corner, it's all faded from the sunlight, and dang if that 20 to 40 blog challenge didn't make a huge mess and just refuse to clean up after itself.

I wonder what anyone who cares to keep up with this blog thinks when I go away for a long time between posts. I mean, I'm reasonably active on other social media platforms, primarily facebook and twitter, so I doubt there's any concern after my health. But I wonder if you think I'm not writing.

Because I am writing. I write all the time. Just that a lot of the things that I write are not suitable for the blog. But I hit a milestone last night in some of the writing that is not for the blog, and I thought I'd bring it up, because it's something that I'm proud of.

Last year, despite professional upheaval, I decided to try something epic. I was going to try to write a 50000 word book in a month. By hand. I figured it was a new way to look at writing a novel, would let me let my thoughts outpace my writing, and hopefully come to something that was more readable than the novel that I'd successfully completed the year before. The novel I completed the year before is only notable in that it exists. It will not likely ever be edited or cleaned up, because it is stupid.

Anyway, as I should have anticipated, work and life got in the way of my lofty goal and I did not complete my hand-written novel in 30 days. It was too bad, too, because through two weeks, I was keeping up. But work just demanded too much.

Instead of 30 days, the novel took 362 days to complete, hand-written, every single word. And I think I like what I have. It's raw, no joke there, but it is a story that is remarkably less stupid than the one the year before, and if it isn't as cool as the one from two years before, it has the distinction of being finished. four days before NaNoWriMo is scheduled to start again.

I don't think I'm going to hand-write my book again this year. It's tricky, what with word-counts and time, and then the added time of eventually typing out the book into a computer if I want to ever actually do anything with it beyond putting it on a shelf to stare at.

Still, I wouldn't trade the last year of writing this book for anything. It's been an experience I won't forget, and if I do, there's a physical reminder of it. No, not the book, the indentation I have permanently scored into my middle finger from my pen.

Anyway, this isn't where I'm going to recommit myself to writing. I'm still writing, and I've been writing. But there are a few things I want to share with you before I jump back into the NaNo insanity. Thoughts about Luke Cage, thoughts about Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. You know, things.

They might not make it up here, especially if I don't get them written in time, but I am thinking of them, and chances are, I'm writing about them too, even if they don't end up here.

On Writing

Well, if that title doesn’t dissipate the cloak of humility I usually try to wear, I can’t imagine anything else would either. Now that it’s out of the way, I can get to what I want to say.

I’ve meant to be a better writer than I am. I’ve meant to be more consistent in my writing effort, and more conscious of the effort I am putting out, in order to be a writer with greater skill. I’ve wanted to fill my blog with poignant pieces, both about social issues and about personal things; about writing and programming, as well as the occasional piece of fiction.

I haven’t done any of this.

In fiction writing, I got off to a great start with my current project, sprinting out of the gate for last year’s NaNoWriMo. I’ve stalled out a half-dozen times, changed directions more than once, and I’m at the point where the story feels stupid, unnecessary, and not worth my time.

I feel like I've been spinning my wheels and struggling uphill with writing, and the worst part is, I feel like I haven't gotten any better. It's very discouraging.

I'm sure that this would be a super-appropriate place to pledge renewed commitment to improving and inspire myself to new heights of productivity and quality.

2015 Houston Texans, Week 1: Kansas City

Week 1 with a new quarterback. Is there anything more hopeful than a team going into the season with a quarterback who earned his way into the lineup with an open competition? Never mind that he barely won the competition over the guy now holding the clipboard. Never mind how the guy actually performed when he played for the Browns. No. forget that. Mute the uncertain voice down to a buzz. At least for now. This is the coach's guy! Let's go! Game 1!

[Note: I'm kinda finding my way on this game writeup stuff. This one is going to be a bit more wordy than I intended, but there it is. --l]

The first drive had a couple of concerning pieces for Houston on defense. Nothing major, but Jonathan Joseph looked like what he was: a player who hadn't played at all in the preseason. Still, as the Chiefs got to near midfield, Jared Crick made a couple of plays and Whitney Mercilus made another, and the Texans got the ball inside the ten yard line.

One play. One play on offense was all the Texans got as Hoyer channeled his inner Matt Schaub.

Quite often, I can figure out a quarterback's decision-making process, what leads him to the thing he does. In honesty, I'm probably wrong, but I can at least make a guess with some level of confidence. I bet, if you were able to remove the identities from the game tape, Brian Hoyer would look at that video and be completely unable to tell you what that guy was thinking. He made some sort of blind fade-away pass straight to a Chiefs' player, and the Texans' drive was over.

The Chiefs didn't turn their noses up at this gift, and within a couple of plays, it was 7-0 Chiefs.

The Texans didn't make much of their next drive, but at least they didn't turn it over. Unfortunately, the improved field position didn't make much of a difference, and the Chiefs scored on that drive too, thanks to a wide open Travis Kelce.

The Texans made something of themselves on the following drive, when they put it in the end-zone, but Randy Bullock, clubhouse-leader of the "Why exactly is he still on teh team?" competition coming into the season, missed on the now-longer extra point.

On a drive that verified that Kelce is a beast, and that they were totally justified in paying Jeremy Maclin, the Texans managed to hold the Chiefs to a field goal.

Hoyer had some really non-stellar drives, one with head-scratching throws and a punt that led to another KC field goal, and then a fumble by Hoyer which was followed up by a one-play drive into the end-zone. The team traded three-and-outs then Houston got a field goal on their last drive before the halftime whistle. Remember when it used to be the halftime gun? Neither do I, but I do remember when they used that as a joke on a Goofy cartoon, so I suppose it must have been at some point.

HALFTIME: KC 27, HOU 9

Houston received the ball to start the second half, and some questionable hands on the part of the receivers led to a three-and-out. The defense was up to the task, though, forcing a punt as well.

3-and-outs and punts dominated the second half as both teams struggled to score. Eventually, it looked like O'Brian had enough of the futility on an intentional grounding call, since he went Full-Kubiak and called a draw play on third and a mile.

Strong defense got the Texans the ball back with something like 7 minutes left, and down by 18. Suspicions about O'Brian's patience with Hoyer were confirmed when the enigmatic Ryan Mallett took the reins. I will let my notes from the game tell the story of the following drive:

Mallett. Zip! Zip! Good throws with 5 minutes left, down by 18... TD! 2PT!

Exciting. And just enough time left so the argument could be made it wasn't garbage-time.

The defense stopped the Chiefs again, and Mallett drove them into scoring range again. A couple of WTF throws, though, meant they had to settle for a field goal. No biggie, since they needed two scores anyway. Except the kicker was Randy "weak year for kickers" Bullock, and the field goal was 47 yards. Still, the ball made it through the uprights, providing a little bit of drama with a doinker off the inside of the left upright. Within 7 points! One score! Not enough time, though, and no timeouts. So, the game ended on an anticlimactic note, with the Chiefs taking a knee or two and running the clock out.

FINAL: Kansas City 27, Houston 20.

There really isn't anything to pin on the defense in this game. There was the one drive where Kansas City scored on a play where Kelce was running wide open, but that was about it. They really clamped it down in the second half, completely shutting out the other team.

I won't say that Hoyer was complete garbage. He showed some flashes. Mallett looked like the man against a defense that was trying to hold onto a lead. Maybe I'm damning him with faint praise, but that was a lot more than Hoyer whose flashes were not nearly enough to balance out HANDING THE OTHER TEAM 14 POINTS. You're supposed to be the SMART quarterback, the one who manages the game and doesn't do stupid things. If you use your brain, for Christ's sake, maybe sneak a quick score in there somewhere, and the defense gives you this game.

2015 Texans after Week 1: 0-1

Up next: have fun trying to stop Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.

2015 Houston Texans – Preseason

Through the magic of the internet, and thanks to the NFL, I have the ability to watch every game from last season right now. So, what am I doing with this newfound ability? Am I tracking the championship season of the Denver Broncos in Peyton Manning's last season? Am I looking at has, of late, been my second-favourite team, the Arizona Cardinals, and their nigh-unprecedented success? Or maybe scouting division rivals, to see what they might bring to bear against my beloved Texans this year?

Nah.

Instead, I'm getting ready for the upcoming season by looking at the Texans and how they did last year, the turmoil-filled season that saw yet another injury for Arian Foster, and a revolving door at quarterback between Ryan Mallett and Bryan Hoyer. Also, which saw the mid-season ouster of oft-underwhelming but never impressive kicker Randy Bullock.

You might ask yourself why I would subject myself to such a regimen. After all, there are more things to life than football, which will likely consume a large portion of my attention once the regular season comes around. Well, the thing is, I want to write posts about the Texans this year, and I figured this would be a chance to practice. Alongside this is the knowledge that I've been less than enthusiastic for football the last couple of seasons. Kubiak's dismal campaign coupled with the regime change, as well as other stuff going on in my life meant that I didn't have much stake. Well, I want that to change. So here we are, with the regular season looming, and I don't feel like I know my team as well as I'd like.

I plan on doing a write-up of the Texans game each week, and over the next couple of weeks or so, I'm going to watch the 2015 season, from the first game, a humiliating loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, to the last game, a... um... a humiliating loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. And you get to follow along.

Starting with my next post.

For now, I want to talk about the 2015 preseason, which was under a microscope for the Texans, the roster last year, and where it felt like we were heading into the regular season. Keep in mind, I'm going off a memory from a year ago, relying on a brain that has since celebrated its 40th birthday. So, take it with a grain of salt.

Hard Knocks

I didn't watch Hard Knocks last year. I don't subscribe to HBO, and I honestly wasn't concerned about it. But what I did get was an awful lot of hearsay from the announcers on the pre-season games, which were all available on the NFL Network. Who was funny on-camera, who was on the bubble, who was absolutely killing it in practice. These are things that I would have done horrible, bloody murder to know back in my pre-family-man days. As it was, life was happening pretty thick right around the time of the pre-season and Hard Knocks, so while I managed a job loss, a job search, and a new job, not to mention the dismantling of my main floor, the Texans went about the business of getting ready for the season.

Standouts

Some of the players that stood out were obvious: DeAndre Hopkins, Kareem Jackson, the rookie corner Kevin Johnson. But there were some new guys. Obviously, getting gravity-hog Vince Wilfork was a big deal, and he impressed in camp at the same time as being a hilarious guy. But there was also Charles James. He was amusing. He was old-school, able to play defensive back and carry the football. I don't know why, but somewhere along the way, they let him go. Just released him. Spoiler alert, they eventually brought him back, but I'm still not sure why they got rid of him in the first place.

Open Competition

At quarterback, it felt like everyone was gone. EVERYONE. Ryan Fitzpatrick. Case Keenum. T.J. Yates. Pretty much the only one left was Tom Savage, who played in the preseason, but wasn't a factor in competition. Ok, ok... Ryan Mallett was also a holdover from the season before, but it never felt like that since he was hurt in 2014 and wasn't very much a factor.

He was one of the two quarterbacks in competition in training camp, however. He and Brian Hoyer who the Texans brought in as a free agent. Mallett had all the physical gifts, but Hoyer was supposedly the steadying influence, the guy who went about his work with a more professional attitude. In the end, in a much replayed and chewed over, and stewed over, and over-analyzed clip from HBO, Coach O'Brien let the quarterbacks know that Hoyer was his guy. Kind of. He said he wouldn't have a hair trigger, but that he wouldn't hesitate to go to Mallett if Hoyer wasn't up to the job. It was the most marshmallow decision I've ever heard, and it is very prescient over the rest of the season.

Impending Season

So, with the roster boasting a three-headed ... I won't call it a monster, maybe a three-headed muppet at running back, tight ends without a clear number one, and quarterbacks whose jobs were safe until they weren't, the Texans closed up training camp and got ready for the regular season.

Next post: Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs sees OB's words come to bite him in the butt.

Rescuing, Fostering, and Other Acts of Heroism

It started, for me at least, with good feeling. I learned about Zoe’s Animal Rescue through a friend who was fostering one of their dogs. Kim was maybe, possibly interested in adopting him. I wasn’t incredibly against it either. We could give a dog a good home, especially since we’d moved out to the country. Jack could use some caninely companionship. And really, I love dogs.

But it wasn’t until I got to know Jagger-who-would-become-Bear’s story that I really got an appreciation for just what Zoe’s do for the animals they take into their care.

When we got Bear, he was a skinny little thing, just sticks for legs and a bunch of ribs. I’ve seen photos of him from when Zoe’s picked him up, and if possible, he looked even worse. I’m not a veterinarian and I don’t know the details, but from what I understand, Zoe’s invested thousands of dollars to keep Bear from death’s clutches.

We’ve basically spent the last couple of years feeding Bear, and he’s filled out. No longer a skinny stack of twigs, he’s a massive, glorious dog, healthy and happy, whether he’s jumping in the pond for the fourth time that day or pulling a sled.

That was my good feeling. Y’know, the one that got me into fostering.

We’ve had, I think, five fosters since then, of varying shapes and sizes, from Melanie, who left us too soon, and passed on from a heart failure, to Sweet Georgia Brown, who was as sweet as her name implies. She came to us mangy and miserable, and every time I see pictures of her, with her shiny, healthy coat, and playing, I get wistful. Then there’s Chance, the big dog who liked to play and who didn’t like to be on the leash, and Poppy, who we completely failed to foster, because we fell in love and adopted her ourselves. And finally, Two-Bit, the super-cute chew machine we’re taking care of for now.

With all of the hard work that Zoe’s volunteers do, with all the emotion, time, and money they’re willing to invest to keep these dogs alive, it seems like a small sacrifice to open my doors to a dog for a week every couple of months. With three dogs already, the idea of a long-term foster doesn’t seem feasible to me, but I’m certainly happy to provide an interim place to stay, before they go to a long-term foster home.

My Friend Cliff

We grew up playing countless games of street hockey, football, tennis, even baseball. I totally forgive him for breaking my nose with a baseball bat the day of grade nine graduation (mostly because it was totally my fault).

Apart from sports, we've worked together on a lot of things: we've been writing partners, we’ve been the protagonists of our own stories, we've podcasted, we've had blog challenges together, and dueled via comments on various platforms.

I've been friends with Cliff for at least two and a half of his four decades, and as he embarks on his fifth, I can't help but look forward to whatever it is he cooks up.

Favourite Cliff Moment: I dunno. There are so many. Is it sneaking out of my house at three in the morning after waking up my mom? Is it the hilarity over whether I could drive some piece of construction equipment at Bonnie Doon Mall? Is it the complete debacle that was the NBA Hoop-It-Up tournament? Could be any of those.

Worst Cliff Moment: Was I not clear before? Dude broke my nose. Though there was also the ankle thing on his front lawn. And the wrist playing street hockey. Come to think of it, Cliff might just be hazardous to my health.

Happy 40th, Cliff. We're so goddamned old.

Also, Ass-kick and Nunchuk.

Becoming

I was too young. Then, I had my head in the sand. I honestly believed that racism, hatred, and xenophobia were on the sharp decline. I thought that things like, y’know, gender equality, and acceptance of LGBTQ were, if not here, at least inevitable. I have to face it: I was naïve. I was doing the lazy man's "good job" of substituting my life and my experiences for those of the world at large. This helps nobody and serves nothing but my own ego as I stick my fingers in my ears and smile inwardly at how good a man I am.

A child received rape and death threats because her mother dared to have an opinion. men made the decision to send rape and death threats to a child. A child was abducted and murdered because her mother made bad relationship decisions. a man decided to kill a woman and her child. And a very real human piece of garbage is about to be handed nuclear launch codes. But everything is getting better because, hey, none of that happens in my immediate vicinity. In fact, if I narrow my scope enough, nothing bad ever happens.

LA LA LA, can't hear you over the sound of me not raping or killing anybody!

I have to do better. We have to do better. Men, we can do better. Instead of "not raping anyone" and "not being that guy" being the alpha and omega of me making the world a better place, instead of just telling my son not to rape anyone instead of telling my daughter not to get raped, maybe I should see these as a pre-requisite for being a man. Not a good man, but a man.

Instead of letting my lack of horrific decisions be my legacy, letting that be the change I want to see in the world, maybe I should start doing things that are actively positive maybe I can say the things I think instead of just thinking them, and following it up with a "tsk tsk, how terrible," before finishing my cereal and getting on with my day.

Guys, and by that, I mean all you guys out there who are doing the hard work of not raping anyone and not sending death threats to little children, maybe you can join me in this. Instead of letting "not horrific" be good enough, maybe we can make our voices heard that not only should WE not rape and murder and threaten the same, but yes, ALL MEN should not rape or murder or be pieces of shit on the internet who hide behind anonymity and threaten little girls.

Finally, instead of carrying the standard and defending the purity of the millions upon millions of guys who are so amazing that they don't send death threats over twitter, instead of standing up for poor put-upon men who are lumped in with rapists and pieces of shit by women who have had enough, before you slam on the caps lock and unleash your "never done anything life-alteringly horrific" indignation with a "NOT ALL MEN" blast that you're sure will finally let the man's point of view be seen, because, by God, we haven't heard enough from the offended heterosexual white man, put your keyboard away, and try to understand. Before you try to explain why you're offended at being lumped in with all other men, maybe try to understand why that person chose to do that. Then try to understand why you're offended. Then, if you're still offended, log off and go eat some chips. Because I promise you, if you try to override someone else's feelings by telling them what they should feel, not only are you one of "those guys" but it's been said and done so many times by "those guys" that you won't be saying anything anyone hasn't heard.

As for me, I will make this my next first step. I admit that I haven't understood. I accept that I need to know more, to do more, and to do better. I hope I have the guts.

You Can Have Your Party Too

I've got something to say to all the people out there who keep saying that All Lives Matter and Straight Pride and White Power or white-specialist interest groups are not allowed to happen. You know, all you people who are physically threatening the diligent members of a hard-bitten downtrodden majority. If you've ever passed a law that has made it illegal fora straight white mail to profess his love of a straight, white woman or her love of him, if you've ever even tried to physically bar someone from a rally that says, "Hey, everyone's important!" then this message is purely for you: STOP IT. Stop passing those laws that restrict the movements and assembly rights of the majority. They just want to live their life in peace.

But seriously, folks: If you are seriously chapped that there is no Straight Pride Parade and Festival (tm), no All Lives Matter rally in your area, no event to celebrate any silly thing that comes into your head, rather than cynically and disingenuously trying to take the air out of someone else's sails, I'm going to tell you something. The reason those things don't exist isn't because you're being repressed. It's because nobody has created those things. Nobody has thought it important enough to assert our human right to be white, or our human right to be heterosexual. You haven't created those things. You have that right. Look it up! Gay pride wasn't something that just started itself. Black Lives Matter wasn't some natural phenomenon. People did work to make those things happen. Courageous people who faced real danger to stand up for what they believe in.

What you call "not being allowed" or "repression" for your coveted cause isn't that. It's societal pressure. Society's moved on from what you espouse, it rejects your backlash against inclusion, and for once you're left in -- that's right -- the minority. Your fear of speaking out doesn't come from fear of physical danger, but from a niggling suspicion that you might just e wrong, and from the very real knowledge that you're being judged for your words and your actions, as we all ore. If everyone were so easily silenced by the disapproval of others, probably we wouldn't be where we are now.

So go ahead. Float your white supremacy balloons. Walk proudly down the street, unabashedly holding the hand of your heterosexual life partner. Play some Pat Boone or some other unthreatening and unchallenging music. No one's going to stop you. The jeering might get quite loud, though, so you'll probably want some hearing protection.

Long Road Back – intro

Something went wrong. Horribly wrong. Life-altering and not for the better. It was all very public and very publicized. If you lived in the area at that time, you’ve probably heard about me and my family. The search parties even got some national coverage, though that didn’t help. My wife and daughter are still missing. It’s been long enough, though, that the investigation isn’t open anymore, and the file has been relegated to the bottom of someone’s drawer.

Basically, they’re not going to spend any more time on the investigation unless some big new evidence is introduced. Even then, it would have to be some pretty strong evidence.

I got a long look from the police, from the media. I don’t blame any of them for that. A woman goes missing, you look to the husband. You look hard, even past the time when he looks to be in the clear. No, I don’t blame the police or the papers for doing their jobs. But I could have done without the public or their Johnny Sleuth act. More than once I was stopped on the street and confronted with what the person was sure was a damning piece of evidence or a supposed hole in my story. The only problem with that was the story they were countering was hearsay and not part of my alibi, and as for the evidence, it obviously wasn’t damning, or it wasn’t real, because I had nothing to do with the disappearance of my daughter or my wife.

I cooperated with the police, even though my heart really wasn’t in it. I coordinated search parties even though I knew there wasn’t anything they could do. A guy has to be realistic in situations like this or he risks going insane. And it wasn’t the despondency of the depressed or the resignation that of course this would happen to me. It was a knowledge, a fact-based certainty that Deb and Ella weren’t coming back. They were gone for good and there was nothing I could do about it. Nothing anybody could do about it.

I didn’t have them declared legally dead, because I knew they weren’t dead, not in any normal sense of the word, and I didn’t move on with my life -- get remarried or start a new family. I’m not really sure why on that score, beyond maybe a feeling that I didn’t deserve it. Well, that and the hope that fools reach for -- the hope that while there’s life -- a life of a sort, anyway -- there’s hope.

Yes, hope for the hopeless. Hours of research into how I could... I don’t know... make something happen and bring them back, which always turned up the same goddamned dead ends.

Lucid dreams where I would be reunited with them only to have my isolation, my loneliness, my depression shoved into my face like the dream was the taunt of a bully who knew that there was no way I could touch him, tha there was nothing I could ever do to turn these desperate dreams into reality.

And so, my life continued even as it stood still, hovering over that one event, that one period in my life, waiting for some impossible resolution before the scene could change. A pause, pregnant with the hopes of an enrapt audience, one year, two, five, seven, and still I continued, in my job, in my desperate research, knowing it was hopeless.

Until I met the man who told me I could be reunited with my wife and daughter and told me how it might be accomplished. tHis peddler of hope, this snake oil salesman, who would be my salvation, my retribution, but at what cost?

I’m leaping ahead. Let me start at the beginning.

Page 2

Wherein the protagonist offers to fist-fight the narrator for the rest of his fries

Because fries, you see, are the economy that drives the majority of this story, it is important that you know that John, upon waking, had none of the fries in his possession any longer. In the parlance of the time, John was flat busted broke.

Fortunately for him, though unfortunate for this humble voice in the darkness, on the previous page, John had acquired the Fourth Wall Buster, pulling it off of the corpse of the troll that he'd wrestled to the ground. In desperation, and in hopes of recovering some of his currency, John set off the Fourth Wall Buster and broke through the front panel of the scene.

"What was that?" he asked, staring at yours truly. "Why are you repeating what I say in a fake voice then describing - Cut it out!"

"I am the narrator, the humble thespian provided to guide the reader through this story."

"You have fries. I'd totally fight you for those," he offered, squinting menacingly at the narrator's continued antics. In an effort to stave off the impending pugilism, the narrator extended a fry-encumbered hand toward the protagonist. John took the proffered container of fried goods and returned to his scene, resetting the Fourth Wall Buster and setting the story, once more, upon its correct path.

As the rift sealed, John winced at the narrator's next words:

"Page 3, wherein the protagonist faces certain d-"

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