Category Archives: sport

When things go right

Great football weekend; my husband (Packers) and siblings’ (Raiders and Cowboys) teams all won.  The 49ers had beaten Seattle on Thursday, so all of us were pleased.

Of course  on Thursday, things weren’t perfect.  Computer bought the farm.  San Francisco Giants lost.  I felt like crud.  But it’s often very dark right before the dawn.

Those San Francisco Giants won in St. Louis on Friday behind a much maligned but resilient pitcher named Barry Zito.  Sometimes people get a chance at redemption; Zito did, why baseball is such fantastic drama, or heck, sport in general.  Just ask my brother and sister about those Raiders, or my husband about the Packers.

But if you’re not into sport, and I’ll concede not everyone is, then I’ll regale you with my (long-winded) computer tales.  Yes, the hard drive was safe, but how about getting everything from one drive to a new machine?  My husband, wow.  He’s the MAN, in many respects, but what he accomplished over the weekend with file transfers needs to be noted.  It’s like Zito being left off the Giants’ 2010 playoff roster even if they were paying him exorbitant sums.  He wasn’t getting it done, others were, so Barry watched from the dugout, a part of the team, but more of a bystander.

My husband had big dreams for transferring files, we can all dream.  Often those lofty ideas are caught on strong winds, leaving us desolate, or just cleaning up from the hurricane.  I have a plethora of bookmarks, mostly research.  He thought he might be able to save them.  I was… skeptical.  Hard to assume things will be okay, like my Giants, down three games to one in the NLCS.  But they had come back against the Reds, down three games.  And after Ryan Vogelsong’s masterful triumph last night, they are tied with the Cardinals three games apiece.  Tonight one team will celebrate, the other will not.

But back to my computer; on Saturday we bought a new tower, smaller than the old one, but with plenty of ram and a terabyte in the hard drive.  A terabyte?  Do you know how many novels I’d have to write to even come close to threatening?  But music and pictures will fill those slots; I have a lot of photos, even more songs, 116 gig’s worth.  My two biggest worries with this transfer were my bookmarks and iTunes.  I assumed Sunday would be spent remaking playlists; eighty-two sit on my iPod, which isn’t all, some would be lost.  But at least I could resurrect most of them.

I spent Saturday morning poking around on the NaNo forums, making tea, while a new PC was born, renamed the same as the old one.  My husband had a plan; if the music files could be duped into thinking they were going back to the same machine, maybe the files would just fall into iTunes as if Thursday never happened.  The same with the bookmarks; perhaps they could all be slotted right where they belonged.

Maybe that’s how Barry Zito felt, hurling without tremendous speed, but with loping curve balls, slow but tricky pitches that stymied the Cardinals on Friday.  As my toolbar filled in with all my folders and sites, I wanted to jump for joy.  The bookmarks were intact, from the few I’d gathered for next month’s writing to ones from ages back, like all the dates of Easter and the list of surviving World War I veterans.  My husband and I gaped at the monitor, both in semi-shock; it had worked!

I spent the rest of Saturday moving those bookmarks to the laptop (back up back up back up).  My spouse took a nap, a head cold in the way.  No baseball that night, all we could talk about was how well everything had gone.  But the music waited.

I have over 18,000 songs on iTunes; loads of rock, plenty of pop, stacks of reggae and jazz, soundtracks too.  It wasn’t just the daunting, time-consuming task of remaking playlists, but smaller niggles that only real music lovers and Last.fm fans can appreciate; play counts, dates added, the tracking of one’s listening history.  I’ve been keeping tabs on all those silly details since summer 2009, when my previous machine came into play.  All of that would be lost, unless my husband’s plan worked.  We had a lovely Sunday breakfast, then returned to a machine; a computer is only technology, but as I noted in the last post, it facilitates dreams.  I dream through music, I write because of melodies.  I wouldn’t fall apart if all that information was lost, but how cool would it be if it came back, unharmed?

Like Ryan Vogelsong’s outing last night, after a rough second half of the season, not even bringing his whole baseball career into it.  Vogelsong was one of the Giants’ strongest arms up to the All-Star break, then his pitches lost direction.  His ERA jumped, losses accumulated.  Like Zito, Vogelsong is in his mid-thirties, about the time when an arm grows weary.  You could see it in his game face last night; determination and guts, also knowledge.  Last night he knew he was on, even getting a hit, driving in a run.  Sometimes, things just go right.

This morning my iTunes looks just like it did on Thursday before the crash.  “In The Sun”, sung by Peter Gabriel, has eleven plays, was added on the twelfth of June in 2009 at 8.37 a.m., along with the bulk of my music.  It wasn’t added yesterday, even though really it was.  According to my iTunes, that song never left this machine, this monitor, my view.  It has been here the whole time.  My husband had tricked iTunes that nothing had altered, nothing was wrong.  Yeah maybe the computer did crash, maybe for a few hours I felt the world had slipped away.  Maybe the Giants went down three games to one in St. Louis, but in that same city they came back, returning the National League Championship Series to San Francisco, back to a deciding game seven.  The World Series might start on Wednesday, but tonight, at 4.30 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, there will be a NLCS game seven.

I still have to plug my iPod into this machine, see just how magical my husband’s idea was, is, will be.  But first I have some edits to attend, An Innate Sense of Recognition as an epub (version 6, just so you know how much revising goes into novels) waiting to be read.  I’ll go through that book once more on my device, then see what happens.  If I have to wipe the iPod, well, small potatoes compared to what was saved.  Giants’ catcher (and possible MVP) Buster Posey has had a pretty flat series, but oft-injured Pablo Sandoval and summer acquisition Marco Scutaro have been aces for the line-up.  I’m sure Buster would love to get some hits, just like I’d prefer to not have to start over with that iPod, but right now, what is there to complain about?

When things are going right, better not to question.  Just smile and let the good times roll.

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Basset hounds, Cornetto ice creams, and indecisiveness

Oi!  I am up to my eyeteeth with dithering about what to write.  Until this year, I have been usually, no, almost always certain of what the next project was going to be.  But in summer, I changed my mind about Camp NaNo, and now, after changing my mind once already, I’ve done it again.  I blame it all on baseball, bacon, and The Beatles.

So yesterday…  I was minding my own writerly business, just getting some potato soup into the crock pot.  It wasn’t any more than that, playoff baseball soft in the background as a playlist for a possible idea wafted from my PC.  But sounds trigger emotions, plots, memories; Bob Costas was calling the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals as John, Paul, George, and Ringo provided the soundtrack.  Onions made me teary, but Costas soothed my soul.  I’ve had to suffer through Ron Darling on TBS while watching my San Francisco Giants battle after being down two games.  While Darling was a fine pitcher for the Mets, he’s a rather pompous broadcaster.  Costas, on the other hand, working for the MLB Network, is like listening to your beloved grandfather spin tales, wishing to be back in those carefree days where the biggest heartache was one’s favourite team losing an important game.

That happened yesterday to the Nationals.  They are on the brink of elimination, at home, as St. Louis creamed them 8-0.  I watched most of that game, or rather listened to it while peeling potatoes, tearing apart bacon, mixing soup.  Mixing a novel, as Otis Redding added his soulful voice, plopping a story’s beginning right in my head.

How in the world was I supposed to battle that while chopping strong onions, wiping copious tears on my shoulders.  I already have a novel, I wanted to say, or wanted Bob Costas to remind me.  I already have a NaNo idea for 2012!

I don’t like being wishy-washy.  I like having a plan, sticking to it.  For a while I’ve been blogging about what I was going to write, working out the playlist, the plot.  But outlining that novel has been slow-going, just like what happened over summer for Camp NaNo.  In mid-July I threw that idea out, sat down with one that made me itch to write.  I was watching baseball then too; some characters in Splitting the Sky are named for athletes, the Giants facing the Dodgers one evening.  And now this new idea bounces against what I was going to write, still in a Vietnam War thread.  I think it’s going to be a trilogy, but not a Star Wars sort of series.  More like The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy (which is a reference to The Three Colours trilogy); movies related by theme, not plot.  My trilogy, nameless at this point, focuses on the repercussions of Vietnam.  And basset hounds.  And 1960s music, and other things too.  Not sure what they are yet, but Kelly Tremane, while the last conjured, will be the first written.

As God as my witness, this is the novel I am going to write for NaNoWriMo 2012!

Okay, well, having said ALL THAT, I suppose there’s the notion of plotting a novel that isn’t any more than a few names (Kelly Tremane is one) and music.  And a blog.  And one heck of a first chapter, born out of crock-pot and baseball madness.  Four games took place yesterday, four more are slated for today.  Two will decide those teams’ fates, two others will either lock up series championship slots, or extend the insanity into tomorrow.  But for me, and the rest of Bay Area baseball fans, by this day’s end our teams will be in or out.  And I’m going to watch as much of the action as I can, as soon as this entry is posted.  My beloved Giants are up first, at ten a.m. Pacific time, the Oakland A’s hours away, a local 6.30 p.m. start.  As I inhale the joy that is October baseball, I’ll also absorb the appropriate noveling music, a 1960s-laden soundtrack that will sow the seeds of yet another unanticipated series.  While it won’t be like Alvin’s Farm, again it focuses on love and loss.

And redemption.  Hopefully my Giants and those A’s will capture that feeling too, both teams having lost their first two divisional series games.  Then by the end of the night, much rejoicing will occur in this part of the nation, as well as in my noveling, NaNo-fed soul.

In a NaNoWriMo frame of mind

Many things of which I want to note this morning; both the 49ers and Packers won, whew!  My Niner game wasn’t too stressful, although the offense played poorly in the first half.  During the Packer game, I went to my room and read In Watermelon Sugar, by Richard Brautigan.  I could still note my husband’s groans, we live in a small house.  Then hearing his raucous YES, I had to investigate.  By hook and by crook the Pack beat the New Orleans Saints, which made the remainder of the evening pleasant.

Football means that much to my spouse and me, and will finally make its way into my fiction.  For the next short story for Top Writers Block, I will be incorporating that beloved sport, about time!

This is why I love October so much; gridiron action every Sunday, baseball most other days, signaling the end of the regular season and the beginning of the post season.  My SF Giants are in LA today, will play their last three games against the Dodgers.  Then they will meet the Nationals or Reds in the first round of the 2012 playoffs.  And then, large smile and relaxed breath, there is National Novel Writing Month.

That has nothing to do with the Washington Nationals.  NaNoWriMo has to do with 50,000 words in 30 days.  It means writing, and all that goes with it; plotting, procrastination, forums (which can fall under procrastination), write-ins, swag.  I have a new t-shirt, stickers, and a hoodie.  I wanted that sweatshirt last year, but it found its way to me this year.  Once our brief but blazing Silicon Valley heatwave ends, I’ll even wear it!

In the meantime, the NaNo site resets today, forums wiped, time to upload new novel info, and revel in the joy that is autumn.  October is a good time to meet new writing buddies and steep oneself in all the noveling magic available.  It’s shoehorned in between sport and cooling (or eventually temperate) weather.  It’s why I’m here, writing this post.  In a few days, I’ll regale anyone willing to read just how I started NaNoWriMo, way back in ’06.  But for today I’ll be keeping one eye on the NaNo site, one on the WIP (revising Alvin’s Farm #6, The Timeless Nature of Patience, written for NaNo in 2010).  I’ll peek to the hummingbirds, then to snippets of sport news.  My Niners are in second place in the NFC West, the husband’s Packers in third in the NFC North.  Chicago plays Dallas tonight; perhaps the Packers will benefit from a Cowboys win, and move in front of the Bears!

But now, back to the editing…

I’m not left-handed but…

For the time being, my mouse has moved to the other side of the keyboard.  The bottom of my right palm is irritated, and while it might not be carpal tunnel, I’m wearing a splint, navigating with my left hand.  It’s slow going, and I’m really glad I don’t have any more to write than a blog entry.

And it’s not even from writing!  I’ve been crocheting more lately, I think that’s the cause.  I’m just hoping it’s better by November.

If nothing else, life has slowed; harder to surf and edit with my left hand.  I really don’t want to see the doctor about this, I don’t like doctors.  They just tell me my blood pressure is high, which it always is when I go into their offices.  At home, it’s just fine.

So not much writing today.  49ers won on Sunday, Giants beat the Rockies last night.  I have a manuscript to read over, the Fall of Saigon to research, The Concert in Central Park to absorb.  Thirty years ago that album was one of my faves, on cassette.  I listened to it again recently, came up with a new story line.  Instead of faffing about with my right hand in charge, I’ll pull some left-brain activities, or just left-handed actions.  Two of my siblings are left-handed, now I’m joining the club!

I really love my life

Sundays in autumn are some of my favorite days, due to sport.  I’ve been watching American football since I was fifteen years old, a life-long San Francisco 49ers fan.  They haven’t always been the best team in the league, but I will root for them until I die.

Other teams wax and wane, although since 1987, I’ve been a de facto Green Bay Packers lover, due to my husband.  Some very lean years for the Pack when I first met my spouse, but lately fortunes have turned.

But football isn’t all I love about my life (although on Sundays from September-early February, it’s a major contributor); I adore my husband, who is sitting beside me, changing the channels between two footie games and one baseball, SF Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks.  Yesterday I took a road trip, keeping an eye on my young nephew.  I love him too, but even being away from my house for a day and night made me realize what a creature of habit I am, especially when my butt isn’t parked in my computer chair, but resting on the sofa, the TV just feet away, the laptop underneath my fingers.

And that’s not even bringing the chocolate covered raisins into it.

My writing is fairly drama-packed, and at times dark.  Bad things happen to my characters, although love usually trumps at the end.  But a lot of tears are spilled in the interim, because sometimes life is hard.  I’ve lived my share of bone-crushing tackles, but the last fourteen years have been pretty joyous.  And in those years, I’ve learned that even the soul-sucking events won’t kill me.  My heart’s been scattered across the length of a football field, but it’s a better muscle for the injury.  I bet football players would say the same; no pain, no gain.  It sounds trite, but from experience, it’s the solid truth.

Why I can sit here, appreciating my existence.  I write and publish, which are precious, stunning gifts.  I also am incredibly blessed with a terrific husband, a vastly improved 49ers team, a playoff-bound baseball team, chocolate covered raisins in the chocolate drawer (also where dip mixes are kept), kids who cook.  My son bakes a mean homemade pizza, eldest daughter whips up fantastic Alfredo pasta with red peppers, and youngest daughter is making carne asada tacos this very evening.  And, as I requested, she’ll clean up the kitchen afterwards.  My football team plays tonight, and other than to use the loo, I am not moving from this sofa until it is time for bed.

And if my team loses the Handshake Bowl, no biggie!  Many teams I dislike lost today, and life is the sum, not the parts.  Some pieces might feel crippling at times, but I have so many blessings.  And as long as the chocolate covered raisins hold out, how can I complain?

Books, then a little football

Last week I was given The Booker blog award from Chelsea Brown at The Jenny Mac Book Blog; thanks so much Chelsea!  My five favorite books…   That’s a tough assignment.  I’ll give two lists, fiction and non, just so I can squeeze five extra books into this post.

Fiction

1. In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan – Probably my all time fave book of any genre.  I first read it as a teenager, and I’m as stunned now as back then.  It’s a slip of a manuscript, but an entire world exists in the tigers and watermelon trout oil, as well as the Forgotten Works.

2. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien – Meta-fiction that weaves a hypnotic spell, just bumping against my top choice for fave book.  In a twist of real and pretend, O’Brien recounts  his Vietnam tour, leaving me wondering not just what’s factual, but how, why, for what purpose?  Just amazing.

3. The World According to Garp by John Irving – How many times I have reread this book, feeling inspired and humbled, vexed and thrilled; Garp and his mother Jenny, Garp’s wife Helen and his best friend Roberta, and never forget the Undertoad!

4. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee – Like a collection of short stories is how Lee presents this precious and horrendous slice of America’s past.  Gently this story is told, but not a single brutal truth is omitted.

5. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry – Sprawling and rollicking, this tale of the American West brings together a motley crew taking cattle from Texas to Montana.  Along the way hearts are challenged, lives lost.  But Gus and Woodrow maintain integrity, be it dealing with killers or tag-along pigs.

Nonfiction

1. And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts – Shilts covered the AIDS epidemic for the San Francisco Chronicle, then wrote a tome explaining one of the most mystifying and debilitating diseases of the twentieth century.  Grace and truth haunt this account, leaving me staggered.

2. Haywire by Brooke Hayward – A memoir from the daughter of two early Hollywood greats, Hayward notes the piecemeal destruction of a family studded with film stars.  More that touches is the humanity of men and women playing pretend on screen and off.

3. Just Kids by Patti Smith – Together Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe rose from obscurity to fame in the New York art and music scenes.  Smith’s honesty makes this more than another memoir; love permeates, even when it seems so lost.

4. Dorothy Day: A Radical Devotion by Robert Coles – Day’s role as a co-founder (along with Peter Maurin) of the Catholic Worker Movement is detailed.  I was struck by Day’s unflinching dedication to others and Coles’ ability to capture many facets of that care.

5. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. edited by Clayborne Carson – Reading this, I was overwhelmed by a part of my nation’s history unrealized by where and when I was born.  An amazing read.

Honorable mentions (as I just couldn’t leave these out)

1. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough – A saga for the ages.  Please read this book.

2. Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes – The poet’s love story and goodbye to his late wife, poet Sylvia Plath.

3. The Stand by Stephen King – An epic struggle of good and evil set across America.

4. Asta’s Book by Barbara Vine – Called Anna’s Book in the US, you’ll be left wondering what’s real and what’s not.

5. Don’t Mean Nothing by Susan O’Neill – Short stories based on O’Neill’s tour as a nurse in Vietnam unlike any short stories I have ever read before.

If you feel so inclined to share your fave books, please do, and let me know so I have more great reads to discover!  Now, onto footie…

A huge day for my San Francisco 49ers, beating the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, the first time SF has won there since 1990!  David Akers tied a record for longest field goal (63 yards) as the ball thumped against the cross bar, then plopped over, a ringing thud for Green Bay fans, one of which is my beloved husband.  Several times I told him I loved him, usually after screaming in joy as the Niners made another outstanding play.  One of us was going to be disappointed at the end of that game, and unfortunately it was my spouse.

Rookie quarterbacks had tough days, all but Robert Griffin III; he shined as the Washington Redskins beat the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome.  And thirty-six-year-old Peyton Manning threw his 400th touchdown pass (his second as a Denver Bronco), beating the Pittsburg Steelers 31-19.  It was a startling beginning to the season, for which I have been waiting.  As much as I love to write and read, I ADORE American football!

(And a bit of baseball, as my SF Giants beat the LA Dodgers 4-0, taking two of three games of that series.  Go Giants!)

Something comforting about autumn

When I was young, summer was my favorite season, no school, that sort of thing.  But after living in Britain for eleven years, California summers seem sort of endless; it’s called the Golden State for a reason.  Now, with a few decades under my belt, I prefer autumn, which in California doesn’t last as long as in other places.  But I’ll take what I can get.

Autumn means football, baseball playoffs, US Open tennis.  That tournament only runs for two weeks as August turns into September, but ushers in my beloved American footie as the national pastime winds down.  My San Francisco Giants are in the playoff hunt, which heightens the thrill.  But even if they don’t make it, I’ll still be watching the divisional series games, then the World Series.  In Britain those games were lost to time differences, although I taped them in 2006, the Detroit Tigers against the St. Louis Cardinals, all for writing.  That autumn I was preparing for my first NaNoWriMo.

National Novel Writing Month doesn’t start until November, but I’m already pondering what to write alongside hundreds of thousands of others as if what I do isn’t only here, near the hummingbirds.  The run-up to that month is a huge part of the adventure; I can’t spill in one blog entry how indebted I am to the notion of bashing out fifty thousand words in thirty days.  All I can do is let the giddy rush fill my bones as I begin to outline yet another story, while the exuberance of sport placates.

And don’t even get me started on my crock pot!  Autumn is truly the best season of the year.