Jason Snell: November 2008 Archives

Six Random Things

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I curse Marck Bailey and all he stands for.

The rules:

  1. Link to the person who tagged me. (Above.)
  2. Post the rules on your blog. (Yup.)
  3. Write six random things about yourself. (Sigh.)
  4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them. (Sigh again.)
  5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog. (Zzz.)
  6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

So, six random things.

  1. My high school had an actual, legitimate broadcast radio station. These days I suppose you’d just stream it on the Internet. I think we broadcast at fifty watts. It was like a light bulb. But my Junior year in high school I did radio, and had my own radio show for two hours every Wednesday, 3-5. I have a sound-check tape of my last show somewhere. I played a lot of Peter Gabriel. (One of the girls in my radio class was, in fact, the person who suggested that I might like a song called “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by a group called Crowded House. Uh, yeah.)

  2. I was on my elementary school basketball team. Seventh and eighth grade. We didn’t have any place to practice or play at our school (I believe they’ve since converted the cafeteria into a combination cafeteria/basketball court). So we had to walk a mile down the Frank Dondero Nature Trail to the National Guard Armory at the Columbia Airport. (The Columbia College basketball team also practiced there, though they played at the high school — these days they practice and play at their own gym.) We were really terrible, especially after half the team quit or was ruled academically ineligible. We lost one game, to Twain Harte, 82-2. I kid you not. I wore a bag over my head to school the next day. Also true.

  3. My favorite TV show of all time used to be “Max Headroom.” Great show. Waaaay ahead of its time. What it says about our culture and media and technology today, twenty years later, is still relevant. However, a couple years back I realized that it wasn’t true anymore. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” has eclipsed it. Depending on how it ends, “Lost” might beat that too.

  4. I met my first girlfriend online. Which in 1987 meant on a computer bulletin-board. We had just had a scandal at the BBS I ran, where a user had posed as a girl, going to far as to having a girl he know call people and pose as this fictitious female user as “proof.” So when my new user from Michigan claimed to be a girl, I expressed skepticism. She immediately told me to pick up the phone. When the modems died out, we were left on the phone together. She was a girl, I can verify, and within a few months we were pretty much obsessed with one another. At seventeen years old I bought an airplane ticket and went to Michigan to spend a week with her. You’d think we would have been worried that we wouldn’t hit it off in person. We did. She’s one of my Facebook friends these days and I hear from her every now and then. She’s got three kids and is married to her college boyfriend. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know about how serious it was between her and me, which is probably all for the best.

  5. My daughter Jamie is named after my cousin, who we called Jamie growing up. (He was the last in a series of James Hysongs dating back to my great-great grandfather.) Jamie Hysong qualified as a pilot very young and was hoping to be a flight instructor when the plane he was flying disappeared over Lake Michigan in the spring of 1993. Eight years later I asked my aunt and uncle’s permission to name my first child after their son.

  6. The first computer I used was not, in fact, an Apple computer. It was a Commodore PET, which my family bought in 1980. In the summer of 1984 I dipped into my college money a bit early to buy an Apple IIe, and experienced my first period of “buyer’s remorse.” That feeling didn’t last long — I wore that Apple IIe out. I joined the Mac world when I bought a Mac SE on clearance at the UCSD Bookstore in the spring of 1990. And I’ve never looked back.

I’m going to tag Lauren, Lisa, Matt because he’ll give me hell for it, CRAIG BECAUSE HE WOULD DO IT WITH THE CHOCK LOCK ON OK, and Andy. Though I’m not sure any of them will really do it. Nor should they.

Relativity mania

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  1. A starship leaves earth at a constant acceleration rate of 1G.

  2. After the ship has flown five light-years, the people on board the ship have experienced 4.85 years of time passing. Earth has experienced almost six years of time. (I think.)

  3. Every day a message is sent from the earth to the spaceship via radio.

So here’s the question. From the perspective of the spaceship, how often are those daily messages received? Although time on the spaceship is passing slower relative to time on the Earth, it also takes the radio message a year to travel one light-year.

Or to put it another way, the ship is now five light-years away from Earth. If I sent them a message five years ago, Earth time (i.e., one year after they departed), when did they get it, from the perspective of their ship’s clocks? And if I sent them another message the day after that, when did they receive that message? 24 hours later? 23 hours later? 25 hours later?

My head hurts.

Set List: November 9, 2008

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In a rare no-requests concert tonight in Jamie and Julian’s room (usually the rule is that each of us picks one song), Daddy sang the following chart-toppers.

  1. “No One Is To Blame,” Howard Jones
  2. “Barbara H.,” Fountains of Wayne
  3. “No Sunlight,” Death Cab for Cutie* (first time ever performed in this venue)
  4. “James K. Polk,” They Might Be Giants

Last night at the same venue was a standard request show.

  1. Julian: “Shock the Monkey,” Peter Gabriel
  2. Jason: “No One Is To Blame,” Howard Jones
  3. Jamie: “Every Little Kiss,” Bruce Hornsby & The Range

Long Day

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I drove my parents to Sonora yesterday, loaded a truck full of their stuff, and then drove home. Long day. Then I watched Cal lose to USC and wrote 3,000 words to get caught up with NaNoWriMo. Geez! What a day.

The good news is, I worked out a bunch of things that have been in flux about the universe & setting of my novel on the drive home, so that was productive time. But even though I’m more than 10,000 words in, I’m definitely not even to the core of the book yet. Still, I’m getting close now. Last night I introduced another character that I think will become one of the core six main characters. So that’s two introduced. Good for me.

Still, it’s a struggle sometimes. But that’s why I like NaNoWriMo — if it was easy it wouldn’t be worth doing.

On the Election

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There are a lot of people saying that this is the most important election of our lifetimes, or of recent years, or of something equally hyperbolic. Balderdash. There’s no way to judge an election until after it has passed. In hindsight, perhaps you could say the 1980 election was the most important, because it led to changes in U.S. policy that helped speed the break-up of the Soviet Union.

And you certainly could point to the 2000 election, where the guy who lost the popular vote squeaked through in the Electoral College. At the time neither of those guys seemed to be very hot stuff, but we had to pick one. I voted for the guy from Texas. And you know what? As it turned out, that guy was a completely incompetent president who helped wreck our economy, came up with bogus pretenses to invade Iraq — a decision that cost our country thousands of lives, billions of dollars, and all the goodwill the country had built up in the previous 60 years — and conspired with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress to spend an inconceivable sum of money and dig us a huge financial hole.

So it turns out that maybe the 2000 election was the most important one of our lifetime. Oops.

Anyway, now it’s 2008. And here’s the unsolicited brain dump.

I’m voting for Obama because I think he’s a pretty smart and pragmatic guy, and that when push comes to shove he’s probably likely to make some decent decisions. I think McCain’s temperament is not generally suited for the office, though if elected I’m pretty sure he would compromise like a son of a bitch with the Democratic-controlled Congress. (What is McCain’s 2008 presidential run but a demonstration of compromise? This moderate Republican has said anything he could to be elected, including kowtowing to the same religious right-wing Republicans who tore him a new one in 2000.) In fact, I might even wager that McCain would do more backroom dealing with Congress than Obama would, if that makes any sense. I think Obama will want to be his own man, while McCain would want to “go across the aisle.”

I have little doubt that Obama will disappoint me, in ways big or small. Every president I have voted for has disappointed me. But I think he’s the right guy for the job, especially now.

The other reason I want Obama to win is, I want the Republican party to fall out of power and consider what it did to get to this point. What the trends — demographic and otherwise — are in this country. And to find a way to remold itself into something better than it is now.

When I checked the Republican box in my first voting registration in 1988, I did so because I appreciated the party’s beliefs about reduced government intervention, competence in government, and a philosophy to reduce spending whenever possible. These days, the Democrats seem more financially responsible (how in the world did that happen?) while the Republicans seem more concerned about fighting the culture war.

My vision of the Republican party was a party that wanted less government. Today’s Republicans want more government intervention than ever before, so long as it’s intervening for their interests, whether that’s Terri Shiavo or a late-term abortion or, yes, gay people who just want to get married.

Back in 1980 the Reagan Democrats said that they hadn’t changed — but the Democratic Party had changed right under them. When they looked up, they saw they were voting with Ronald Reagan instead of Jimmy Carter. Well, I feel much the same way. I haven’t gone anywhere. But the Republican Party has changed, and the ground beneath my feet is no longer painted in their color.

I haven’t been a registered Republican since 1996 (I’m a certified California Decline-to-State), but in all that time I generally thought of myself as a default-Republican voter. Even in 2004, when I voted for the stiff known as John Kerry because Bush had already proven himself to be incompetent, I felt that way.

But this year? This year, for the first time in my life, I want the Republicans beaten back into the woods. I want it to hurt. I want them decimated. Not just because they deserve it after the ruin that they have made of this country and their own party in the past ten years. But because they need to spend some time out of power, thinking about all the things they’ve done wrong.

It’ll be good for them.

Shut Up, Writer Boy

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4,000 words in and the theoretical reader who is following along would have little idea what the thing is about. Am I doing the same thing I did the last time — writing a story that’s waaaaay longer than I thought it would be? I hope not. But I’ve always said, stories are as long as they need to be. In my outline I always had a whole section that was about the initial event that sets the stories in motion.

My main characters are kids when this first event happens, which is important because it sets up some massive social change that makes the world the characters grow up in.

So I’m doing a lot of writing of these characters that aren’t the main characters, which is really weird. But I want to take my time with this, because this is setting the scene for everything that comes later, and I think the readers need to know it. Though I might end up cutting it all in rewrite. Who knows?

Still, I’m 4,000 words in and we haven’t met a single main character other than the narrator. Hmm.

Breaking Ground

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I don’t remember what got me started on my last novel. It just poured out of me, the idea of three kids brought together under mysterious circumstances and discovering they had superpowers.

This one, the one I started today, is more complicated. I’ve had a vague outline of this novel since at least 2006, maybe 2005. The idea has been percolating for all that time, but when it came time to write it, I wrote “Civic Powers” instead, all 160,000 words of it.

Now I’ve broken ground on “Seedling,” and it feels a bit weird to be actually hoeing this dirt that’s been laying fallow for all these years. (Enough metaphor for you?)

Getting started is tricky. You have to commit, at least until you change your mind. In the shower this morning I settled on writing in first-person, and telling the story with a single narrator, rather than the multiple-narrator approach I had considered. Too hard, too confusing, and not necessary. My character has a lot of spare time on his hands — he can tell my whole story, tell it about himself and about all the other characters in the book. So we’ll see how that goes.

My original outline starts with a few time-jumps, but I’ve decided not to write it that way. If I want to pull out a prologue that’s set toward the end of the story, I can do that in rewrite. For now I’m going to try to be more linear, following the idea that my character is writing this book while killing time locked inside a — well, that would be telling.

Also, thanks to my friend Marck for giving me more to read this month. Even if it’s not his novel.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Jason Snell in November 2008.

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