Thursday, 4 December 2008

Christmas presents

OK, so I've raved on about this before, but I just found this video about it on the Oxfam site, so thought I'd post it... last mention of this (excellent) idea now, I promise! (At least until next Christmas.)

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

I'm graduating!

Got all my exam marks back, and looks like I'll be graduating next year!

It's a good feeling. I got an A+ on sub-editing, which isn't hugely surprising but is still nice; and I got a good mark on the paper I thought I'd failed.

I'm graduating!

The awesome thing is that my graduation day is also on my birthday.

I'm also really, really, really tired now. I don't think it can be attributed directly to NaNoWriMo, since I wasn't this tired yesterday. But to some extent, it probably is — just my body realising that finally, it can sleep.

Unfortunately, so far, it hasn't had any particular opportunity to sleep; so instead it's trying to do so all during the day....

Oh, but this was my favourite NaNoWriMo ever; and I'm left with possibly my favourite novel to date; and a novel-length manuscript, albeit unfinished, the first draft of which I hope to finish in December/January.

And now I'm off to plan out a bit more of the rest of my novel... then to read my new book, to shop online for some Christmas presents, and to sleep.

I'm so lucky to have such a good life.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

There.

Forty six hours and ten minutes.

Thirty days.

Three exams.

100,249 words.


So... can you tell which days the Sundays are?

Gettin' there

90052 down, 9948 to go.

It seems almost absurd that I've struggled so much every year (except my first) to get to 50K. 50K's so little. And I've only once actually finished my story within that 50K — last year, when I had extremely little plot. I think, probably most of the stories I've written would be done at about 70, maybe 75K. It's hard to know, since I never have finished them.

This year, I'm hoping the incentive of actually getting my story published in book format will be enough to motivate me to write. It's tough that NaNoWriMo is in November, since as soon as it's over you're into Christmas — you don't have time to revise or edit it; and by the time January or February rolls around and your holiday's over, you aren't in "the zone" any more and your novel isn't exactly top-of-mind.

I realised on Friday that my motivation has died since I finished "Book One" (my story consists of two "books"). I had planned out Book One in great detail; Book Two, although I know the beginning and end, is pretty hazy on the middle, and hence much harder to write. I almost feel as if I'm writing a new story, since the focus of the plot changes dramatically in Book Two.

Having said that, writing nearly 5000 words today has started to get me a bit back in the "flow" — get back in my character's mind, come to grips with the new problem. It's just not something I've dealt with before.

I'll be fine. I just wish I'd planned Book Two out a bit more thoroughly; I certainly don't have time to do so now. But after I've written my 100K, I'm definitely going to plan out (in minute detail) every scene of the rest of Book Two before I go any further in writing it.

But back to writing. That evil ruler won't usurp the throne on his own....

Total words today: 15,158.
Total words overall: 100,249.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Week Three goal

Less than 10,000 to go!

Not till I finish, obviously; but less than 10,000 to go till I reach where I'm meant to be today: at 76,682 words. Wow, that sounds like a lot.

I've written 67,061 total words at time of writing: 6680 words today (although just over 1000 of that was before I went to bed). That feels like a pretty damn good effort already, to me. But I'm so motivated, I so want to get to this word count because I've said I would, so I can buy my book, and to write 16,301 words in a day!

This may sound difficult, and it will be. But I can do it. As proof that it can be done, may I present rejectednightmares, a writing dynamo who signed up to NaNoWriMo yesterday and wrote 20,000 words that day. (Making the rest of us look bad!)

But if rejectednightmares can do 20,000 words in a day, I can do 16.

Besides which, I've advertised to both the NZ NaNoWriMo forum and on this blog that I am going to get 76,682 words by midnight tonight. If I fail at something I've publicised so widely, it'll just be embarrassing (which, of course, is why I publicised it so widely). Now I have to make it!

So, 67,061 at the moment. 76,682 by midnight.

Now look at me go!

7.47pm: SEVENTY THOUSAND! Man, that's a good feeling. I think every ten thousand is always a great feeling. But seventy thousand! That's huge. I hope so much I manage another 6542 words tonight! It's gonna be tough....

Total words today: 16,402.
Total words overall: 76,783. I WIN!!!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Whee!

They're back in stock!

I love GoodBooks. It was just a temporary out-of-stock thing, after all. And I thought they were lying to me!

Now, to get 20,000 words in the next two days so I can buy me Arabella.

Happy.

Total words today: 3050.
Total words overall: 60,381.

Monday, 17 November 2008

The problem with winning

I've won NaNoWriMo. No matter what I do from now — won.

While this is a fantastic feeling, it's dangerous, too. The NNWM graph doesn't go any higher than 50k; it's like anything higher doesn't matter.

I know this isn't true, and I'm still excited about my story and where it's going. (Part of me wonders if this shows something wrong with it already... am I not writing it properly? Everything I've read, my own experience, all says that I should be thoroughly sick of my story by this stage.)

The other Kiwi aiming for 100,000 words mentioned, when he hit 50k a few days ago, how much his motivation lagged afterwards. I hoped it wouldn't happen to me, but I think it's hard not to lose a little drive.

It's such a good feeling — I've done it! I've won! — that it's easy to forget how much of a long haul there still is left to go.

I've found it interesting that the stages in my story are still coming at the same places, proportionally. My motivation levels, writer's block, plot climaxes, character development etc are occurring at the same stages of the month, not at the same word counts.

Now that I'm at 50k, it's harder to keep going. I'm lacking the push.

It may all be in my head, because I was expecting this to happen. But I need to make myself keep writing, at least 1000 words a day, and trying to catch up so I can have 75,000 by Saturday (hey, it could happen).

It seems incredible how much I've done, and I feel my writing classes, reading and previous novels all helping me.

Anyway — it's past 11pm, so I'm off to get my 1000 words.

I won't let myself lose motivation.

Total words today: 1009.
Total words overall: 51,126.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Half way.

I didn't make my Week Two goal.

After various computer issues yesterday (two crashes, one set of lost words and one case of laptop dying completely), I missed my Saturday goal (40,000) and clocked in at midnight with 38,000 words. But I stayed up till nearly 2am, getting out my last 2000 words, and went to bed happy.

Today was less successful. I had an unproductive 5000-word morning before I had to skedaddle to meet up with friends, and didn't get any further time to write until Dan and I finally got home at nearly 10pm.

With the greatest will in the world, and a complete disregard for RSI, I cannot write 8000 words in two hours. My fingers just don't type that fast.

But I did make it to 50,000, and for that I'm happy. After all, getting to 50k is still the official goal: getting to 50 is always a good feeling, and getting there on the 16th is a fantastic accomplishment, to me. (Oh no, I just realised — I'm going to have to aim for 100,000 words every year now!)

I'm disappointed I didn't make my weekly goal, though. If we hadn't had to go to Wellington for the weekend, I probably would have made it, but that's not the point. I should have been more organised during the week.

I don't like not meeting my goals: I feel I've let myself down. More importantly, I feel I've let Dan down, because the whole reason I'm doing this weekly goal thing is to stop myself from getting behind and stressing Dan out too much. The incentive thing isn't really relevant, since GoodBooks don't even stock said incentives any more.

...but, you know what? I have fifty thousand words.

Total words today: 11,713.
Total words overall: 50,117.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Lost words

From now on I'm backing up my file every day. Plus saving it in a separate file for each day. That way I won't lose the last three days' work.

Since I've been really lazy the last few days, I only lost 966 words. But it still hurts pretty badly, especially when I'm so far behind with my goal.

I lost most of a scene, and there's no way I'm rewriting all that at the moment. So I'll have to go back later — at some stage when I'm less furiously angry with myself — and write the whole scene again.

And now I have to go on with an incomplete scene in my novel, which is messy and which I've been trying really hard to avoid this year, finishing every scene but one before I moved on.

I have back-ups, but my most recent back-up was made four days ago.

I had decided to write on my laptop for a while. So I copied my NaNoWriMo folder onto my pen drive, overriding what I assumed were the old files. Unfortunately, it seems I had been writing on the pen drive copy; so now I've overwritten it with an old file from several days ago, losing my word count from today, yesterday and the day before.

I'm angry with myself, and I'm really sad. I'll still keep my lost word count; but I've lost a part of my story. It's not just word count — it's story I've lost.

I should be glad that I only lost 966 relatively unimportant words. I should be glad I didn't lose a 10,000-word day — I think I'd have broken down if that had happened. But I can't be glad. Losing even 966 unimportant words hurts. It was a tricky scene to write, too, and I'd done it.

This is so demoralising.

Total words lost today: 966.
Total words written today: 1601. EDIT: 4693.
Words both written and lost today: 654.
Total words overall: Whatever. I don't care. I want to cry. EDIT: 38,404. You tie a knot, you move on.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Incentivelessness

They're temporarily out of stock.

The books, I mean; the Georgette Heyer books I promised myself as a reward for being up to date at the end of each week. All the titles I wanted are now out of stock; they aren't listed any more in the catalogue, and I doubt they'll be re-listed.

A twelve-thousand-word day! Not all for nothing, since I've still got a nice word count, but all to find I don't get the reward I'd hoped for — it sucks. They were all in stock a week ago!

It just sucks that I now get no reward.

I guess I'll think of some other reward. I might buy myself The art of racing in the rain by Garth Stein, which I've wanted to read for a while. But I still need three other "rewards".

It's just disappointing that my cheap incentives — books I really wanted — are now all out of stock. The same titles are available in a different series, but I want the same series so it'll look all pretty in my bookcase. And honestly, GoodBooks are the cheapest I've found those books.

Oh well, Dan and I are moseying down to Wellington this weekend, and I think Borders stocks the same series, so I might get one there. But somehow it's not quite the same... achieving your goal, and just being able to click that "Buy" button online. Or achieving that goal, and going proudly into the local bookshop the next day. The local bookstores don't stock Georgette Heyer.

I'll tie a knot and move on. It's just disappointing.

Total words today: 298.
Total words overall: 33,399.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Share the joy

OK, I know this is shockingly unoriginal of me, but: for Christmas this year, I want one of three gifts: a gift that grows; a gift of hope; or a gift for life. I figure that birthdays are probably more a time of individual gift-giving; at Christmas you need to buy heaps of presents for heaps of people, and it's just so much easier if you can just glance down a catalogue (or three), select a gift for the amount you feel like spending, and just buy it.

When it comes to my birthday next year, I'll be selfish again; but for Christmas it just makes sense to get a gift that helps those in need. To that end, I've also decided to buy gifts like this for other people this year; and it makes it so much easier to just go to one catalogue.

It's not like they have to be impersonal gifts, either. There's a wide range of presents in the three different catalogues, and I've already had fun going through and selecting baby food for a child-loving person, school uniforms for a fashion-conscious friend, etc....

I guess I'm preaching here, so I'll stop. But that's what I want for Christmas this year, and I think it'd be really cool to give these gifts to other people who would appreciate them — people who may not need anything themselves, but who would appreciate knowing that their gift has helped someone who needed it.

Plus I feel that's a little bit of the spirit of Christmas, isn't it? Not the original baby-Jesus meaning, but a more recent meaning: help those in need. Give someone the means to a better life. Share the joy.

Total words today: 1010.
Total words overall: 33,101.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Writing for money

Recently I read a blog post where the author mentioned the unlikely chance that a writer will ever sell a book, let alone make much (or any) money off said book. He noted that we all dream of making it big, of being the next Terry Pratchett (or whoever you admire), of reeling in cash.

I've often seen/heard/read people talking about the "dream" that writers have of getting some fantastic amount of money from books, and it occurred to me: I have never thought about making money from books.

I would love to write a book, to sell a book, to see people enjoying what I write. But money? I don't care. I'm keeping my day job. I just want people to enjoy my writing. For all I care, if I made any money I'd donate it to a charity somewhere. In fact, that's a cool idea. But make money? No.

Sure, I'd love to be the next big name, but I know that won't happen; I'd just love to be published. I want to create and to craft words, to make magic, to provoke emotion and to stir thought. I don't want to write the next crappy Mills & Boon novel which might make me money; I want to write something good, that I can read and love and respect, that I can give to my parents.

It's hard to explain. I just want to write a book that I think is good, and that a publisher thinks is good enough to publish. Money doesn't mean anything; I'd never want to make a full-time career of writing, because I always want to keep my head in "the real world". But I love writing, and this NaNoWriMo so far has really reminded me of that; I'm in love with this story so far, and I love my characters and my world and my plot.

I write because I love writing. I'll try to get published to see if I'm good enough to be published. And I want to sell books to share my writing — never for money.

Total words today: 1891.
Total words overall: 32,091.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Twelve thousand

So to get to where I'm meant to be today — 30,006 words — I'm going to need to write 12,000 words. I'm determined to get this, so I can not only buy that book, but to complete my self-imposed goal of keeping up to speed every week. This week I slipped, mainly due to exams and being sick.

But overall, I'm happy with the amount of words I'm getting out. Twice I've felt I've reached a mental wall, and usually, I'd skip the scene and either start a more interesting one, recount a character's dream, or introduce a new character. This year, I've just finished the scene off quickly, and moved on to the next. There's one scene I haven't finished; but it's by no means essential to the story, and I may cut it out entirely in the rewrite.

I'm going against a lot of the advice I give out to my NNWM participants, this year. But having written five hasty, unreadable novels, this year I'd like to write a good-sized, readable first draft of a submittable manuscript.

My outline is helping me hugely — it's so good to have a written scene-by-scene playout. So far it hasn't at all impeded my creativity; it just keeps me focussed. I know where I want to go to next, and how many words it should take me to get there. The only exception has been when one scene took 800 instead of 300 words; so for my next scene, rather than taking up 400 words, I found it more effective to sum it up: "When we woke up the next morning, the house was still there. Our neighbours were gone."

Overall, my estimated scene lengths are conservative (which is good, I thought they were too generous); at this part of the story, I've written 4000 words more than I had projected.

So it's good. It's all good. But now I need to stop congratulating myself on my current 18% — and get to writing twelve thousand words in one day.

Total words today: 12,026. WOOHOOO!!
Total words overall: 30,200. Passed the quarter-mile mark!

I rock so hard! Man, that was good. My story is awesome. I'm awesome. The world is awesome!

I also do not want to have to do another 12,000-word day. Ever.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Why you shouldn't vote

OK, I know this probably seems like one of those silly titles like that American celebrity "Don't vote" ad, but I'm quite serious.

First, I think it's your responsibility to read up on party's policies and vote according to those policies.

Second, there's a general perception that it is your duty to vote.

I disagree. I think that you have a responsibility to vote; if you forego this responsibility, you also forego any complaining rights about whatever government ends up in power or any governmental policies you don't agree with. If you don't vote, you forego that right to complain.

On the radio recently, they were asking "undecided" voters to call and say what they were thinking. The first girl who rang up said she knew it was her duty to vote, and she was going to, but she couldn't decide because "Helen Clark has those teeth, but then I don't know how John Key would look as Prime Minister". First: there are more than two parties you can vote for! Second: if that is your rationale for voting, you should not vote. It is not your duty to inflict the most attractive politician on the world, regardless of intellect, policies or ability. If you can't be bothered doing the very simple homework on different parties, you should not vote.

If you want to vote but you don't know much about different parties' policies, may I suggest this website. If you can't be bothered going through them all, just check out the couple of areas (e.g. education, justice) that are important to you; at least you'll have some idea of what you're voting for.

I also suggest voting for a minor party that supports the major party you want to see in power. Most people vote for the major parties: if you vote for a little one, it'll stop the fat cats taking over Parliament on their own.

Total words today: 1394. (I was still going, but it was midnight.)
Total words overall: 18,061.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Pity Parade

Last week I mentioned an ad made by MUSA promoting universal student allowances; and I want to comment on a couple issues the ad raised for me.

The ad refers to our national "student debt". I assumed it meant student loans. But it means debt: credit cards, hire purchases, mortgages, finance deals, personal loans, overdrafts... and student loans.

In general, it's students' choices to get that finance, with the vast majority going on expensive electronics, cars, clothes and alcohol. So many students are incapable of managing their own finances that they spill over into voluntary debt. They only "need" that money for groceries because their own money's gone on alcohol. Don't show me that pity parade.

There is a very small minority of students who really do have no money, and they should get financial help. But they are a very small minority.

If you go straight to university out of high school, you have no idea of the value of money; of budgeting; of bills and rent and the cost of life. You're out in the big wide world for the first time, and the world has a lot of pretty things... with price tags that you can avoid with finance deals.

And thus the debt mounts up.

And having a universal student allowance? That's just the way to even more irresponsible spending by students. I think students should have a break before uni, to save up some money and understand the world a bit before you plunge idealistically into studying a world you've never experienced. It would have been a lot better for me if I had.

And when you moan about NZ's "harsh repayment scheme": if you live economically it can be done. If you compare student loans here to in the States, we're so much better off. Not to mention — interest-free! Booyah.

(Update: New MUSA ad released)

Total words today: 5152.
Total words overall: 16,667. Yee-ha!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Why now?

Ohhhhhhhh.

I was talking to my Mum tonight (because there's no one better to talk to when you think you've failed your exam, especially when you have a good boyfriend and Dad to back up Mum), and my body's just been slowly collapsing on me lately... as I was saying to her, I've been incredibly stressed for the last few months, more so than ever before, and my body was dealing with it and dealing with it and then after I had my exam on Saturday my body just kinda went ohhhhhh... now I can relax. And I'm thinking no, I've still got two more exams I still need it to survive for!

Sadly, it didn't, and while I think I bluffed my way through Imperial Rome, I don't know if I managed to scrape together the 33% needed in my exam today. I've also been flu-ey for the past couple days, leading to the deterioration of brain as well as body — my voice has now faded to that oh-so-sexy husky tone, accompanied with sexy sneezes and coughs — and yesterday I simply could not think until about 4.30pm yesterday, after I had got home and slept for about six hours in all my day clothes, ick.

Hence, it's been very hard for me to study. When I went into my exam today, and saw three topics that I'd been studying on that morning, and knew that I knew the answers to all of them, my brain could not produce what on earth I had been studying. It just... wouldn't. And it didn't, so I had to produce some mediocre crap and waffle through an exam that I should have known the answers for, and now I'm afraid I'm going to fail.

I just wish my body had waited a few days before dying on me. Why now?

I think it was just worn down with stress, and I accept that when you push yourself that hard you're going to get sick sooner or later. But why now?

Total words today: 160. Shut up, I've been exam-ing.
Total words overall: 11,515.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Incentive

So I've come up with an incentive to get myself to complete my word goals each week: books.

I love books, and due to my upcoming summer job I'll soon have all the money I could possibly want... or, at least, more than my student allowance and ten-hour job are currently providing. So I thought a relatively cheap incentive would be to buy myself a book at the end of each week, if I complete my word goal by midnight of the Sunday.

I love Georgette Heyer, and own every single one of her historical romances, mostly in old, falling-to-pieces (literally), water-logged (through me reading them in the shower and bath) wrinkled and bent covers. But the wonderful GoodBooks store has each and every title in a beautiful new edition, each of which is horribly spell-checked and has a cover which has nothing at all to do with the plot or characters. Nonetheless. Beautiful; new; much nicer than my current ones with the pages falling out.

For Week One: Frederica
Week Two: Arabella
Week Three: These old shades
Week Four: Devil's cub

This is mostly an incentive to keep me on track, so I don't have to do 80% of the novel in the last week, like I did last year; to keep me consistent, and to stop me from completely stressing out and hence stressing Dan out.

Oh, yeah. When I mentioned to him I was thinking of increasing my word goal this year, he looked thoughtfully at me, and said: "Well, I don't know. How much do you want to be single by the end of the month?"

Total words today: 1183
Total words overall: 11,355

Monday, 3 November 2008

Two down, one to go

Very, very, very tired. Feel flu-ey and didn't sleep well last night. Was up late studying. Answered exam questions at length, ran out of time and bullet-pointed end of last essay; not sure how relevant essays were to some questions. Six questions in exam = evil. I ended up studying eight topics, which meant I didn't know them really in-depth; so answered the three short questions well, I think, but the longer ones weren't as good. Ended up using four of the topics I'd studied for and two that I hadn't.

Should pass. Other than that, too tired to care.

Would like to sleep now. Not going to study any more today — I found it hard enough just now trying to remember what topics I actually wrote on. Brain quite dead.

Lost ability to write coherent sentences again.

After exam, the parking machines refused to read my credit card. Then alarm battery stopped working and couldn't unlock car, until I texted Dan both problems, when alarm magically started working again and I found a used ticket. Got into car, waited 45 minutes for ticket to work, left. Texted Dan that all was well. Unfortunately, his phone had died, so the poor guy got cash out specially, drove all the way up to Massey, bought a parking ticket for me, looked for me in vain and then drove back to work twenty minutes late from lunch. That guy is so sweet, and I feel really bad about it. I would cook his favourite dinner tonight, but I don't think he has one.

Would like to go sleep now. But NaNoWriMo guilt consuming me.

Might write about how tired my character is and what a crappy mood she's in, and what an awesome boyfriend she has.

That sounds good.

Total words today: 2738.
Total words overall: 10,172. 10%!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Motivation level: 10

I think I've decided. I've written 6510 words to date — granted, it's the weekend — but I've been doing it unhurriedly, without stressing, and I'm liking what I've put out. It needs rearranging and editing, but I still like my story, my characters, my world, and how it's all progressing so far.

So I think I'm going to go for 100,000. Yesterday I wrote 3070 words between 8pm and midnight, while watching a movie and chatting far too much on the forums; my outline's working really really well so far, and keeping me on track and focussed in what I'm doing; today I wrote 3440 words in two hours, and I figure if I can keep that up then I'm sorted for November. I easily set aside two hours most evenings for writing a novel, and make up the rest on a weekend.

I hope I don't get disenchanted with my novel too quickly. I realise and accept that that's just a part of life; but one of my 101 goals is to submit a novel for publication, and if I can get this one to 100,000 words and then revise it, this might just be that novel.

And so far, amazingly, I'm still loving what I'm writing. I know it's got a long, long way to come; but for a very fast-written first draft, I like it. And as I write, I'm thinking about (and occasionally applying) some rules of writing I've learned from my writing classes over the past year and a half; and I've got heaps of research to do to back up what I'm writing about (how edible really is goat stew?), but I'm even looking forward to doing that, and to building this world more believably than I've built others.

I'm really looking forward to writing 100,000 words on this story.

Total words today: 3440.
Total words overall: 4364.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

100,000?

I wrote 22 words at midnight and then went to bed. Studied this morning for exam today; and tonight, rather than studying, I think I'll do some of my novel instead — see if I can get up to my daily limit.

Problem is, what's my daily limit? I still don't know what to aim for. Four people voted I aim for 50,000 words; one person voted 70,000 words; and three voted 100,000.

50,000 doesn't seem much of a challenge any more; so I guess, based on the poll, I should go for 100,000. But that just seems like a lot of words.

I don't know.

Maybe I'll decide at the end of Week One — see how I'm going then.

100,000 words just seems like a lot.

Just like 50,000 words seemed my first NaNoWriMo....

Total words today: 3070. Woohoo!

Friday, 31 October 2008

NaNoWriMo Eve!

Also, Exam Eve.

Kick-off today. Nervous. Worried people will end up at wrong venue. Must remember to take goodies. Will I have to buy snacks for whole table?

Tonight. Stay up till midnight to write first few words? I do like being the first person in the world to update their word count (first equal last year).

Must study. Exam tomorrow. Must study.

Want do NaNoWriMo. Want plan novel more.

Must study.

At some stage, attempt to re-locate ability to write sentences.

Also, attempt to lose nervousness.

I may not be updating blog again till after exams (Thursday).

I probably will, though. But I shouldn't.

Must study.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Story ideas abound! Study... doesn't.

Exams are horribly, hideously soon — and NaNoWriMo's still top-of-mind. I have a 120-point breakdown of what I'm going to write (with the number of words each point should take), and that's only for the first half of the story. I think the whole novel will probably end up being about that length; which isn't to say that I've decided to try for 100,000 words — I haven't — but just that that's how long it'll probably be in the end.

I have, however, decided that some minor character will die in the second half, so that they can have the burial, cos I thought of a cool way of burying someone due to my burial research a lil while ago. But when you know NaNoWriMo's coming up, everything starts turning into story ideas.

Oh, and in the shower the other day I came up with an idea for the sequel to this year's novel, assuming this one goes well. Which is irrelevant, but it does show how much I'm thinking about NaNoWriMo rather than exams. I have three exams in five days; so far, I've done about two hours' study.

I got another A+ for my last sub-editing assignment (I now have 47 out of a possible 50%), so I'm not too worried about failing that one.

The other two exams are far more real possibilities, and for some reason I'm not finding ancient Rome and revolutionary France as interesting as I should be. Although, it must be noted, I've got a couple of story ideas from studying both topics, and almost named my villain "Gaius" after Caligula.

Again, I think that shows just how focussed my mind is on exams.

My first exam is the day after tomorrow....

Maybe I should stop spending all my time on the NaNoWriMo forums.

...and on my blog.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Elections '08

First, the American one. Although I think Sarah Palin is pretty blonde, I like her recent Saturday Night Live skit — it wasn't hilarious, but it showed she has a sense of humour, can laugh at herself and isn't holding a grudge at SNL. Having said that, she's far too ditzy to really help run the country. The fact that, as per a recent poll, a third of American women are now more likely to vote for McCain because he has a female running candidate, is pathetic and sexist. Vote on the basis of capability, not gender.

Having said that, I'm much more interested in the New Zealand election.

I hate the two-horse race, and in previous elections I've always voted for a minor party, in the interests of coalitions. However, this election looks more like a two-horse race than ever — either National, or Labour with four minor parties backing it up to give it seats.

Now, my opinion of a good way to run elections consists of focussing on the benefits of your own policies. My opinion of a bad way is to focus your entire ad campaign on trying to diss the other guy.

This election, National's ads have been focussed on their policies. Labour's have been focussed on dissing on John Key (culminating in a shot of Helen Clark photoshopped beyond all recognition).

Are you serious? Your ads consist of bringing down your opponent? Let's hear some good positive work about your own policies! Labour's current ads just make me want to vote National.

And the one ad which Labour's cracked out not focussed on John Key wasn't actually engineered by them: it was good ol' CHAFF making an ad starring the future MUSA president, and regardless of the truthfulness of the statistics it quotes, it still rocks.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Karma

I believe in karma like I believe in luck, and I believe in luck like Thomas Jefferson did: "I'm a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it."

Which obviously isn't to say I don't believe in luck, per se; just that if I work hard, I'll have better luck in life; and similarly, if I'm generally a good person and behave well at work and in personal life, good karma will probably generally follow me as well, in some aspects of life.

I'm talking about online karma, too. Earlier this year, an employee was fired from The Warehouse for abusing the management on Bebo; last week, some poor schmuck was refused sick leave because his boss saw that he'd posted, "Still trashed — sickie WOOHOO!" on Facebook. Employers are googling potential employees, and checking out Facebook and Bebo, and for a lot of people that's not a good thing. It does, however, prove that Facebook and Bebo's potential for evil is limitless.

I used to put a lot of crap on my diaryland blog; whining about exes, work, and friends. I also hurt people's feelings, and some people found my blog who weren't meant to find it, and it almost ruined one friendship. These days I try to keep my blog content so that anyone can read it — friends, family, boss, co-workers, editor, ex-boyfriends... I don't want to offend anyone, and if someone stumbles onto my blog for any reason, it's good to have a clear conscience and know there's nothing on there they can't read.

The internet's a public forum, and I think it's just good common sense to keep issues with other people private. Bitch about it to your friends or your partner privately; there's no call to take it public. And, if I don't get any good karma out of it, at least I'm stopping the bad karma.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Embalming and shallow graves

So Ang asked me to explain two points in my recent "Death wish" post:

1. I don't want to be embalmed.

What is it? They suck all a corpse's fluids out and inject toxic chemicals into blood vessels, the abdomen, chest, and under the skin; and paint other chemicals and cosmetics onto the skin to hide the fact that the body basically doesn't contain anything natural but skin and bones any more.

Why do it? There's a misperception that embalming kills diseases. But most diseases die within 24 hours once the body's dead; and other diseases (e.g. anthrax) aren't killed by embalming. Other reasons are to keep the body looking and smelling acceptable for the funeral; however, if the body's kept cold enough, it should still be fine for up to four days.

Why not do it? Embalming keeps the body preserved for years longer than natural, as insects won't go near the embalming fluids. When the body does decay, it won't all go at once. First your legs will decay, and your butt. Last — because injected with the most chemicals — are your chest, arms, hands and face, so you end up melting away like some weird decaying mummy from a crappy horror film. And those parts won't stay looking normal before they finally do decay; they shrink.

2. I want to be buried in a shallow grave.

This one's easier to answer. Your body decays in under two years; it's much better for the environment. Deeper graves make the body take longer to decompose, and it's too cold for the soil to properly absorb your body's nutrients. The minimum depth you can be buried in New Zealand is one metre. You can be buried at one metre deep in the Palmy cemetery.

Any other questions?

Sunday, 26 October 2008

I quit

It's always such a good feeling to resign a job. Not that this has been a bad job — I've enjoyed it — but it's just always a good feeling. Maybe it's the knowledge of moving forward, of going somewhere, of change.

Although currently I'm going more backwards than forwards: I'm going back to the job I had last summer...and the summer before. A job for which a degree is wholly unnecessary. I would like to get a job which utilises my degree, but I may need to wait until I've completed postgrad for that.

I still remember my dismay a couple years ago. I was at a contact course for a paper, really proud that I was finally getting on with my degree, should have it finished within two years or so, and then:
"It's a shame you can't even get a job with a BA," someone said.
"You really need to have an MA for it to be worthwhile," someone else said, and everyone agreed, as I saw my future study suddenly double....

Although that's fine, I'm now quite happy at the thought of doing postgrad, especially if I'm lucky enough (or good enough) to get into that MA in Creative Writing. Massey's selection, sadly, seems to be extremely limited.

But my point is, new job. New people (to some extent), new challenges, new money (always good), new hours. I'll probably miss spending so much time with my kitties at home — they probably won't miss it at all — but it'll be nice to have a bit more order in my life before I come home and desperately try to crank out 4000 words in a day.

I'm leaving my current job on good terms. I don't like burning bridges: it all comes down to karma, I reckon. But that's a topic for another post....

Friday, 24 October 2008

Doubling the stakes

So I've done NaNoWriMo — and won NaNoWriMo — five times running. That's cool. I've had different challenges all the way through. But my problem is that I don't really have a challenge this year. In fact, this year will be easier, since for the first time in three years — after exams — I won't be studying at the same time.

Actually, when you look at 2007, it was frickin' insane. I was working full-time; studying full-time; had exams; only had 17 days; was writing in a new genre; and moved house. I think the only way it could've got harder would've been if Dan and I had broken up, got married or had a baby.

I started idly thinking today what new challenges I could set myself. The answer's pretty evident: word limit. I wrote 50,000 words in 17 days last year. That's a lot of words in not a lot of time. What if I upped the challenge?

I don't know if I could do it; I don't know how many words my storyline would even last for. But I think my storyline is pretty fluid; and I hope I'll be adding lots of new scenes and characters and sub-plots along the way.

And out of my five different NaNoWriMo novels, only one — last year's, which had abysmally little plot — was actually finished in 50,000 words (actually, 50,087). The others are still, embarrassingly, waiting for me to go back and finish them. But maybe that shows I can write more than a 50,000-word story.

A 70,000-word novella? Maybe.

A 100,000-word novel? Probably not. But that first year, I didn't think I could do a 50,000-word one either. And isn't not knowing you can do something, part of the challenge of doing it?

I haven't decided on anything yet. I'm just thinking.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Death wish

No, I have no desire to die. But having just done an article on burial, cremation and embalming, I would like to make the following things clear:
  1. I don't want to be cremated.
  2. I don't want to be embalmed.
  3. I want to be buried in a shallow grave (one metre deep).
  4. I want to be buried horizontally (so far as I know, there aren't vertical graves available in NZ, but just in case).
  5. I would prefer a pine coffin from the fella in Kimbolton who makes eco-friendly caskets.
  6. If my family want to have my funeral at a church, I don't care. If it makes them feel better, then do it. Just don't try to make out that I believed in God.
  7. I don't want the cost of my funeral, burial etc to run over the cost of what's in my savings account. I don't see why anyone else should have to pay for me dying.
  8. I would like a tree planted at the head of my grave as a memorial (if not a very good memorial, since I know nothing about trees).
At the moment, the only "woodland" cemetery in NZ is in Wellington, and I don't particularly want to be buried in Wellington, as I have no emotional roots to it or reasons I'd want to be buried there. I guess I'd prefer either Dunedin or Palmy. And as there aren't any woodland cemeteries yet in either town, I guess I'll just have to wait a good few long years before dying.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Ever!

No more assignments ever! Ever, ever, ever, ever! I'm so glad.

I just handed in my final assignment for Feature writing, a feature article on eco-friendly burials. On my way home, I realised: free! No more assignments to do, ever! Unless I return to study at some stage.

End of the semester, and of my study overall. This has been the most stressful semester I've ever survived, and the last month or so has probably been the most stressful of my life.

End of writing for CHAFF. I enjoy writing for CHAFF. But writing two columns a week, one of which requires careful research and takes about six hours; and writing reviews and feature articles as well, just gets stressful.

End of assignments. My assignments have been a constant assault on my time and life. My assignment due on Monday — worth 50% — kept me up till 5am on Tuesday morning, and the 1.5 hours' sleep I had before work did not make me a happy (or attractive) little cookie.

I've also decided not to apply for that MA next year. I think I'll take the year off from study of any kind, apart from night classes at QEC which don't count cos there's no assessment... unless I decide to enrol in one paper so I can get the discounted price for Massey students at the gym (cos that makes sense... do a $500 paper to get a $300 discount).

Now I have only exams to look forward to, and in a fortnight today I'll be at the end of those, too! At least my sub-editing one should be easy.

Which reminds me, today I got back an essay I honestly was afraid I'd failed: A++. I didn't even know there was such a grade.

I am happy.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Absurdist CHAFF: Issue 26

The last issue of CHAFF this year! Oh, I'm so glad. Oh, I'm so glad. I couldn't handle any more, and the last few issues have been so hard to get out with everything else I've been doing. I just haven't had the time; have had to put it off to do assignments; have had to put assignments off to get articles in at the absolute last minute possible.
  1. Last week in history
  2. (editor didn't have room for Issue 25's week, so I told him to just put it in this week and I'd have a week off)
  3. Horoscopes
  4. Feature article on NaNoWriMo
  5. Movie review on The Edge of Love

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is that. Done. The end. Finit.

Until next year, when I have to decide if I still want to keep contributing, despite the fact that I'll no longer be at Massey... my editor seems to be assuming I'll keep contributing, and I'm loath to disappoint people's expectations of me.

But we'll see.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Too tired to think of a title

I'm tired.

I'm so tired.

I've been tired for several weeks, and every day I fall asleep on the bus to or from work, and I'm sleeping in more and more, and I still can't find time to get to bed earlier than 1 or 2 am.

I'm so tired.

When I say I'm sleeping in, I should note that that means I sleep in till 7.10am instead of getting up at 6.30am.

I've been working on assignments, writing articles for CHAFF,...

I'm so tired I didn't have the energy to finish this post yesterday and went to bed instead.

I just want to sleep in. I just want to have one week off. Unfortunately, once my exams are finished and I finish at my current job (which starts at 8am), I'll be going straight into my new job, which starts at 7am.

But I won't have any study to do then. Or CHAFF articles to write.

Just 1667 words to write every day. And you know what, I'm looking forward to NaNoWriMo as being a much more relaxing month than this has been. Oh no, and it's only half over.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

October goals

I did poorly on last month's goals, as I was much busier than anticipated. So, anticipating this month — which, with assignments and exams galore, will be far busier than last — I've decided to cut down on my October goals. I'll just be too busy; I hope to have more time from November onwards.

I think that every year: while I'm working, I look forward to study because I'll have so much more time; and when I'm studying, I look forward to work for the same reason. However, after exams and NaNoWriMo I really do think I'll have more time, since I won't be doing any study at all. My evenings and weekends will be my own! Oh, I'm looking forward to that.

Tasks to complete
#67: Go for walks with Dan twice a week. (2/5)

Reading goals
Any two books I own which I haven't previously read. (1/2)

Writing goals
Do outline of NaNoWriMo novel; 50 bullet points. (50/50)

Tasks to work towards
#17: Complete six chapters of Russian textbook.
#25: Sort out one "Unsorted" folder.
#78: Burn 1000 calories at the gym each week. (5/5)

#82: Use plaque stuff ten times. (0/10)
#92: Write Francis a Christmas card and send him a photo.

Actually, even looking at my "tasks to work towards", I wonder if I'm setting myself too many goals. But I guess we'll see.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Children's CHAFF: Issue 24

Oh man, I rock. Oh man, I rock. Check me out in CHAFF this week:
  1. Childish horoscopes
  2. This week in history, covering R. L. Stine (author of the Goosebumps series); Orson Welles; Werner von Trapp; Louis XII and Mary Tudor; and a UFO sighting by some Ukrainian kids
  3. Movie review of Eagle Eye
  4. DVD review of Beauty and the Beast
  5. Feature article on the origins of nursery rhymes

I don't think I've ever contributed so much to any single issue before (later: apparently I have). Five articles! Five! For anyone wondering, Women's CHAFF (aka "Fem-O") was pretty cool, and I'll try to scan the cover at some stage to put it on here; it was just so... woman's magazine-y.

Anyway, I think writing those five articles has sapped my strength to the degree that they'll be my last for the year; apart from my regular week-in-history and horoscope columns, of course. Also, the assignments are beginning to pile on thick and strong, and I need to start turning my attention to them — and then to exams!

So much to do... so little time. Still just hoping I pass all my papers....

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Internal struggles

I'm tired.

Tired tired tired. I slept in this morning till 7.24am, which is a problem since I usually leave at 7.26am. Woke up, brushed hair, got up at 7.26am, and left at 7.28am after literally pulling on the first clothes I found, grabbing my wallet, keys and cellphone and running out the door.

The good thing was I ran nearly all the way to the bus-stop, and that I caught the bus. The bad thing was that I left my student ID (i.e. free bus pass) at home, so had to plead with the bus driver to let me on.

The other good thing was that it showed I can actually get ready in two minutes (on days where I'm not going to the gym or to any lectures).

But it's pretty bad that I did get that overtired — even Dan slept in, and Dan never sleeps in. We're both just so tired, and I'd love to think we'll get an early night tonight or tomorrow, or sleep in on the weekend; but my assignments are starting to pile up next week so I can't afford to sleep in, and for tonight I need to finish off one last, last-minute article for CHAFF.

I should be prioritising my assignments and exams more than I currently am, but they aren't really top of mind for me. When I've been trying to pass papers (i.e. handing in assignments, etc), I've never failed a paper; so it's easy to feel complacent, to put assignments on the back-burner because, never having failed, I find it hard to believe I really would fail any.

But if I don't start putting more effort in, I might.

Although I doubt it.

But I should stop doubting it.

Internal struggles!

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Women's CHAFF: Issue 23

OK, I'm not actually sure if it's Women's CHAFF or Woman's CHAFF, but the result will be much the same: CHAFF for (and probably a bit about) ladies! I'm hoping this will be a really good/interesting CHAFF: there was a Man CHAFF last semester, which had things like the "Man-O" game with Testosterone cards, etc. Apparently there will be a Fem-O game this CHAFF, but thankfully William (the editor) and his exclusively male team didn't orchestrate it — William's girlfriend and her friend made it.

Anyway, on to my contributions to the team:

  1. Girly horoscopes
  2. This week in history, covering Jacqueline Pascal (Blaise Pascal's sister), Catherine Booth, two prostitutes killed and dismembered by Jack the Ripper, and the fishwives' march on Versailles
  3. DVD review of Calendar Girls
  4. Quiz: Are you a bee-yatch?

Having quizzes was my idea, since most girls' magazines I've seen have quizzes. Ang and I put our heads together and came up with some awesome questions, so you'll have to take the quiz to see if you are a bee-yatch. And William, inspired, made his own quiz too: Are you a woman?

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Friday, 19 September 2008

Window-shopping

I don't think I should be allowed to "window-shop", especially when I have my Visa in my pocket and a penchant for impulse buys.

Yesterday, waiting for Dan to finish work, I wander into a second-hand bookstore to pass the time, and come out with a book I've never heard of. Today, wandering through town, I had a look in a store with a closing-down sale, and found two beautiful dresses, both of which are far too pretty to wear in the foreseeable future; sadly, I just don't have the kind of life where I need little elegant dresses.

To be fair, I didn't buy the dresses; and I didn't buy that cute little miniskirt I like at Instinct Clothing either. But I might buy them tomorrow — which is almost worse because, knowing that I have several unworn miniskirts already, and knowing I have no events to wear these dresses to, I still may be stupid enough to spend my money on them.

They're just so pretty.... But I've bought so much lately, and I hate being in debt. (I'm just waiting for my new Shopaholic book to arrive; when I first heard of it recently it sounded too similar to me not to get.)

I guess it's not too bad if I do buy a dress; they're so pretty, and on such a good deal. But I don't want to be tempted by any more; so I'm seriously considering a policy of no longer allowing myself into stores until I'm out of the red. I'm clearly just not very good at the "window" aspect of shopping.

And now I want a hoody and a tee from Threadless, too... which reminds me: check out this new t-shirt store I just discovered. I promise faithfully not to buy anything from it. But some of the slogans are funny; someone else should buy one instead. Let me shop vicariously through you!

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

#5: Sunday Star-Times competition

Woo! My hundredth post in this blog, and it feels like it should be a momentous one: part of the reason I've held off from blogging lately (although not most of the reason: I've just been too busy and haven't had huge amounts of stuff to write about).

But I entered the Sunday Star-Times short story competition today.

I'm really pleased: I've been wanting to enter it for so long. I didn't submit a particularly great story, but it's one I like: a true story about something that happened when I was six. I almost submitted another story, which I'd originally intended for the competition; but it's not finished, or polished to the same degree. My problem with the one I entered is that it's only 700 words long. It won't win, but that's OK. Maybe the judge will enjoy it.

I don't really feel I put my best effort into it, which is disappointing. With the BNZ competition, although again I didn't enter the story I'd originally intended to, I put a lot of effort in; I felt I submitted a good story. Well, I guess I do think the story I entered this time is a good story, but that was more due to the fact that it had been an assignment for a writing paper, than because I'd actually polished it hugely for the competition.

But, deadline's over; hopefully I'll enter it again next year. I almost wondered if I should cross this goal off my 101 list, but that's silly; I did accomplish it. Just maybe, hopefully, next year I'll do better.

I'm kind of glad my 100th entry is about writing and competitions and my 101 list. That's what I want to be focussing on. It's not really true of what I do focus on; but I need to stop being so busy, make more time for it, and, as Kerryn's blog constantly reminds me: "No excuses. Just write."

Friday, 12 September 2008

Nihilist CHAFF: Issue 20

Coming up next week in everyone's favourite Palmerston North student newspaper (unless you prefer the UCOL one):
  1. Nietzchey horoscopes
  2. This week in history on Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvarayya, circus elephants, Tolkien vs. Lewis, women's suffrage in New Zealand (and why we were not, after all, the first country to give women the vote), and Napoleon's invasion of Moscow.
  3. Six Pack review — have you bought YOUR copy yet?

All exciting stuff, and if you haven't bought your copy of the Six Pack Three yet, then go do it now! And then read my review of it and see if you agree.

Off to write more articles now! I'm such a willing slave.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Grandma

Dan and I are going to go visit my Grandma this weekend.

I'm quite worried, I don't know how it'll be. From what Dad said (Grandma and Granddad visited my family last week), it sounds like there's already been some pretty rapid deterioration. I'd hoped to catch up on those times that I should have visited but didn't; visit her while the dementia's still in its early stages. But I don't know if it is still in its early stages. It's early enough that she'll remember me and be happy to see me, but I don't know — I think she'll mostly just be forgetful. "Not herself". Being "not yourself" is fine if it's a temporary thing, but this is just going to get worse and worse.

It doesn't sound like she knows/has been told she has dementia — but how would you tell someone something like that?

Dad said I'll notice the difference in her. I'm worried as to what that means.

I love my Grandma, I don't want this to be happening.

At least I'm visiting her now. I just wish there hadn't been all those free weekends when I thought about visiting them but just couldn't be bothered.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

NaNoWriMo approacheth

I can't wait for NaNoWriMo.

Each year, lately, I lose a little more enthusiasm; wonder if it's worth doing again; sigh over the sleep I'll lose.

Not so this year. This year, my subconscious decided to give me a story idea. That's right, ladies and gentlemen: It came to me in a dream.

Sadly, because my first exam is on 1 November, I won't be able to do my usual stay-up-till-midnight-and-see-if-I-can-be-the-first-person-in-the-world-to-post-a-word count (last year I tied with one other person).

But the good thing about my exams is that this year they end on the 5th; last year I wasn't able to start till halfway (literally) through November, and ended up having to write 50,000 words in 18 days.

The other awesome thing is that this is my last semester. Done! Gone! Finit! Therefore, after exams I will have NO STUDY to do after work; I will have hours and hours and HOURS to devote to NaNoWriMo. Having done summer semester for the last two years, I really haven't had a break from studying since summer 2005/06. It feels great to be almost done with that, as much as I honestly do love studying. But I'll actually have a holiday! Eee! Not from work, which is pretty mindless anyway, but from study; my evenings and weekends will be mine, all mine!

And in other fantastic news, I got 96% on my first sub-editing assignment. Y'know, the paper where you have to be incredibly anal over punctuation and grammar and everything... 96%! That's an A+, baby. Only one other person even got an A. And I got ninety six percent.

On a side note, when I apologised for missing our last tutorial, our lecturer said they'd missed me... because she'd forgotten her dictionary! I don't know if that's really a good thing....

And Dan's comment about my 96%? "You know this means you're 46% more anal about punctuation than you need to be...."

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Veitch

I'm angry. This makes me angry.

A little back story, for anyone who doesn't know: Tony Veitch was a TV/radio broadcaster until it was found out that, in 2006, he had reportedly beaten his then-partner till he broke her back, and then paid her $150,000 so she wouldn't tell anyone. When the public found out, there was outrage, resulting in Veitch leaving his job.

And the latest update is that he's tried to kill himself.

I think suicide is a cowardly thing to do, and a very selfish thing to do — it's giving up on life, saying you can't do it any more; and leaving every person you love or who loves you, with no regard at all for their feelings.

But in this case, the population of New Zealand must have contributed to it so heavily that Veitch just couldn't take it any more.

Don't get me wrong, I think it was a horrible thing to do; but it's between Veitch, his ex and the police. It's not the public's duty to lynch him. And remember, this was two years ago. Some people can change in two years. And his ex accepted the money he gave her; she felt that was compensation enough. That doesn't mean the police shouldn't get involved, but if she's happy, why shouldn't we be?

And now you, the New Zealand public, have hated this man to the extent he felt he had no option other than to leave this life. Yes, it was his choice, and it was cowardly and selfish; but you drove him to that point.

Well done, New Zealand. Good job at innocent-till-proven-guilty. Good job at bullying a guy to the point of suicide.

Monday, 1 September 2008

September goals

OK, I feel like I did a little better last month in my goals. Three out of five goals accomplished; three out of eight books read (and one given away). I think I need to set fewer goals for myself, though; lower expectations. Once I can achieve those low expectations, maybe then I can rise higher. That's what I tell myself, anyway. So, my low September goals:

Tasks to complete
#1: Complete crossword task.

#5: Enter SST short story competition.

#29: Back up "Personal" folder.
#52: Make jam!
#91: Complete sponsorship task.

Reading goals
Killing floor; The client; Far from the madding crowd; In my father's den; The eleventh commandment; Solaris; A Christmas Carol; Six Pack Three.

Writing goals
Send a story off to Takahe; write 1000 words of The Snow Dragon.

Tasks to work towards
#17: Complete six chapters of Russian textbook. (0/6)
#25: Sort out one "Unsorted" folder.

#33: Sort out one box of crap.
#58: Knit 22 more rows of my jumper. (0/22)
#67: Go for walks with Dan twice a week each week. (8/8)

#69: Have a "date night" with Dan each week. (2/4)

#78: Burn 1000 calories at gym each week. (3/4)

#82: Use plaque stuff ten times. (3/10)

#90: Donate ten items to a charity. (0/10)

Saturday, 30 August 2008

I can't imagine

I'm still struggling to get my head around the fact that my friend's mother is dying. My only real experiences of death have been when my step-grandfather died; when a guy in my class at high school killed himself; and when our dog Kesha never came home one day (presumably run over).

I can't imagine what it's like to know you won't be here in a year; to have to clear up your affairs, sell your house, get your will up-to-date, say your goodbyes, whatever else you need to do. Would you do last-minute things you've always wanted to do? Would you regret not having lived your life more fully? Would you change your attitude to your friends and family, appreciating them more, wanting to leave good memories?

I can't even imagine.

And it hurts me to think of my friend knowing his wonderful mother won't be there in a few months, knowing he'll need to watch her die a slow and painful death. He's a wonderful guy, and his mother's a wonderful woman. I haven't seen her in years, but I remember her clearly: her long hair, the sarong she often wore, her tired face, her kindness and understanding and quiet helpfulness, her love for her sons.

I can't imagine knowing your mother's going to die; that has to be one of the most painful things you'd ever have to deal with.

I want to go there and say goodbye, to make sure there are no hard feelings between us, to tell her what a great woman she is. I want to hug my friend, to know he's being taken good care of, to help him deal with it.

I can't imagine what it's like, but it must be unbearably painful for both of them. His mother's such a strong, wonderful woman. Both she and her son will need so much strength and courage to deal with this.

I just can't imagine.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Daffodil Day

There's so much tragedy.

A friend's mother has pancreatic cancer. She's been given 3-4 months to live; they're hoping to increase that to six months with chemotherapy. She's in pain, she's in chemo, she's lost 30 kilos this year (and she's not exactly overweight to begin with), and she's still going to work — I'd have given up. She's a strong woman.

It feels almost unbelievable. She's such an awesome woman — this shouldn't be happening to her.

I asked my friend what I could do; he said, "If you still pray, you could do that."

It's Daffodil Day today in New Zealand, a day to support cancer research and treatment. You can donate online here, text "DDay" to 883 for a $3 donation, or call 0900 31 111 for a $20 donation.

Another cool way to donate is here, where the National Bank have made a map of New Zealand. You can buy little virtual daffodils, which you plant in whichever region you want; and you can name the daffodil you buy and put a message on it. One virtual daffodil in the Manawatu region is called Christine Clunie; the message is, "Mum, I love you and miss you every day." It's so sad — but what a cool way to remember someone.

So give some thought and some time and maybe some money, to help those who have this horrible disease. And if you're a praying person, pray for my friend and his mother.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Six Pack Three

Finally! The annual Sunday Star-Times short story competition is on again (terms and conditions here), and this time I'm determined to enter — even if I haven't yet completed my first draft of the story I want to enter. Must get onto that. Must get onto assignments and articles first, unfortunately. So many good intentions, so very little time!

In other bookish news, guess what I got.

No, really, guess.

Go on....

That's right, ladies and gentlemen: yesterday I arrived home to find a beauteous brown-paper package in the mail, and as we all know brown-paper packages can contain wonderful and mysterious things, from anthrax to Christmas presents. In this case, it contained my own beautiful copy of The Six Pack Three, courtesy of Dee from NZ Book Month.

Of course, I can't possibly reveal ahead of time who the illustrious winners are, although I can tell you that there are six of them. Wow.

I can probably also tell you that my choice (from the reader's choice poll) is in there (go me and my awesome taste!). Actually, as I flick through the book I notice... oh, that's interesting. But I don't think I'm allowed to say.

And to finish off this totally informative post, I'd like to quote from Stacey Morrison in the introduction of The Six Pack Three: "Sculptors of words, lovers of writing and all the emotions a pen may wield, we salute you!"

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

The purr is back

Unfortunately, so am I.

Our holiday was so nice. Dan and I went to visit my family, and it ended up being a really busy visit. We toured Cadbury World and the Speights Brewery; put two coats of stain on my Nana's balustrade; went for a Hägglund ride and saw penguins being fed; went on a scenic railway tour; made cake; went through a Tropical World; and bought various presents for Mother's Day (belated), Father's Day (early) and assorted birthdays. Good times! Expensive times, but definitely good.

On the way home I got pretty depressed about leaving; I would really have liked to have had just a couple more days there. But my family's coming up to Wellington for Christmas, so we'll see them then, and that's not too far away. In fact, Mum said they might be able to come stay with Dan and me for a couple of days, which means we need to sort out our house. Get some kitchen benches installed, buy a dining room table, that kind of thing.

I was a little worried about our cats; we haven't left them for so long before, but when we got back they were so happy to see us — Toby could hardly stop purring. We decided to let the cats in our bedroom for the night, since they seemed to be craving affection, but oh dear. They were obviously craving more affection than we'd realised; I was awake most of the night with Mitsi sniffing me and nudging me and trying to get under the covers, as Toby lay on my ankles and purred contentedly.

But it's nice to feel we've been so missed. When we first got Toby, he had a really loud purr that you could hear all the way down the hall, but lately his purr's just faded into a regular cat purr, and Dan and I have joked that he's "broken" his purr through overuse. But when we got back last night, there was no doubt about it: Toby's purr is definitely back.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Gym: Week Two

Total calory burn for Week Two: 1215 calories

OK, week two was technically last week, but I wasn't really in the right head-space to write about exercise. And my Nana broke her arm last week, so all things considered, not a good week for my grandmothers.

But on to gymnastical talk. I ended up having to go to the gym four days last week, and it has been an additional source of stress for me to find the time to go. And I ended up being half an hour late to lunch with a friend one day, because I took 30 seconds too long at the gym and missed my bus.

I only needed to get 70 calories burned on Friday to get to 1000, but decided that, since I was going to miss lunch anyway, there was no point in only doing the 15ish minutes I needed; so I did 50 minutes instead, which is exciting for me as it means I voluntarily stayed on at the gym.

But I've decided to skip this week, so I'll have to start over again next week; but I don't feel too bad about it. As Dan and I are going to visit my family tomorrow (ee! very excited), I only have two days in Palmy this week; thus I'd need to burn 700-800 calories today, and skip lunch to do the rest tomorrow. It's just not worth it, especially when I need that time to finish those three assignments I have due this week. I'm not failing the task, just postponing it; and with the gym, I intend to try and continue to do 1000 calories per week till my membership runs out anyway.

Despite the stress it can cause, I'm really enjoying working out; my body just feels so much fresher and healthier and fitter. Maybe the sensation's all in my mind; but as long as my heart's a little healthier, that's fine by me.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Dementia

My Grandma's been diagnosed with dementia.

There are so many things I could say, and maybe later I will. I hate myself a bit for not visiting her more often, for not treasuring her while I could.

Jo's Gran has Alzheimer's, and it's been painful for me to watch Gran deteriorate over the years. I can't imagine how it must have been for Jo and Joy; and I don't know why I was never more grateful that my three living grandparents are in relatively good mental and physical health.

Apparently Grandma already has "bad days", and I don't want to think what that means. My poor Granddad, living at home with her, taking care of her. She's always been the reliable one; he's depended on her for years. At least, since the stroke, he's been more used to taking charge.

I want to visit her, but what's the point? Will she know me? She must do, it can't be that advanced yet. Will she forget me visiting? I guess she will. Will she forget what we talked about five minutes ago? I hope not, I hate to think of my strong, wonderful grandmother like this. I need to visit her, to spend time with her while she's still her, even if only on her good days.

I hate to think of this — it's awful, horrible. It would almost be better to hear she had some physical disease; at least they're generally treatable.

Why do so many physical diseases have cures, and so few mental ones? We're going to end up having cures that will keep you alive for 200 years, but for the last 100 years your brain will be a pile of mush.

I hate thinking of her like this. Her brain's slowly dying before her body's ready to go. It's horrible.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Diversity CHAFF: Issue 19

Drumroll please for the upcoming instalment of CHAFF:
  1. Diverse horoscopes
  2. Ye diuerse olde weeke in historie — Elizabeth Stuart, Elizabeth Báthory and Nessie
  3. An incredibly dull article on the Six Pack Three (Update: This ended up being moved to Issue 20)
This will be the last issue before semester break, which means two weeks' break from CHAFF while I haphazardly attempt to complete my four upcoming assignments before semester break, when I'll be visiting my parents and coming back to do contact courses, more assignments and of course more CHAFF articles! Lucky me.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Silver

To continue my self-appointed task of listing Kyrgyzstan's results in the Olympics: Kanatbek Begaliev just won a silver for wrestling, which is fantastic, although I'm not impressed with the French guy who stopped Kyrgyzstan from getting their first-ever gold.

On the Kiwi front, more disappointing results in rowing and canoeing, although full props to Moss Burmester, even if he didn't get a medal. He got a very solid fourth, and if only someone had knocked Phelps over the head beforehand, we might have got a medal....

Speaking of which, I'm starting to dislike Phelps on principle of all the adulation he's receiving. His head's going to be huge at the end of this. They're calling him "the best Olympian" and even "the Olympian king". Ugh.

Which reminds me of my other peeve relating to the Olympics: changing the swimming times so that they fit into US prime-time. I accept that the States are the current superpower, but I don't like the rest of the world (or at least the Olympics) having to reorganise their schedule to suit the USA.

Anyway, at the end of the day, New Zealand is still medalless and Kyrgyzstan now have both a bronze and a silver in wrestling. Hopefully Saturday's rowing will change all that, or maybe an event before then... but we'll see. It's a little embarrassing for NZ's 180-strong team to be coming behind Kyrgyzstan's 15 athletes.

But tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Bronze!

Articles are increasingly overdue; assignments are looming; I've only burned 179 calories at the gym this week; but the Olympics are on.

Ahh, my once-in-four-years love. My... quadannual love?

New Zealand's still medalless, but with the sad exception of equestrian events we're still doing as well as could be expected — while countries like Chinese Taipei, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan are slowly accumulating medals.

My main focus is still Kyrgyzstan, though; partly because, with only 15 athletes competing, they're much easier to keep an eye on than NZ's 180ish-strong team; and partly because if New Zealand wins anything, it'll be on all the NZ news before the athletes themselves find out they've won.

I found myself getting irritated at the news yesterday for all of the non-Olympics news. The National Party's made a new policy... who cares? How did we go in rowing? Russia's invaded Georgia... but what about the swimming? Did Phelps score another gold?

Not that I'm trying to detract from either news item; both very important, but...did they have to happen now? If the world revolves around me (and it does), shouldn't it also revolve around the Olympics?

But as far as Kyrgyzstan's going in the Olympics, Asylbek Talasbaev won his boxing match and is going through to the next round; and Ruslan Tiumenbaev just (as I wrote this entry) got a bronze medal for wrestling. Go Ruslan! Go Kyrgyzstan! That's their second medal ever as an independent nation. (I was psychically trying to send Ruslan bronze-vibes during the match, and must therefore claim all credit for the medal.) But that's fantastic news for Kyrgyzstan.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Friendships

I sometimes complain about the few remaining friends I have in Palmy, but the fact is that to an extent that's my fault. I've decided I'm really bad at keeping in touch with my friends: and I want that to change.

I want to reconnect with my friends. Recently I was talking with Kylie, who said how she'd always appreciated the fact that when Dan and I started dating, I was still there for my friends; that I didn't mind going out without him for a night with the girls; that I wasn't one of those girls who suddenly can't function without her man.

Then, when I moved in with Dan, that all changed.

I love living with Dan; I'm so glad I moved in, but I don't want that to affect my friendships. Nate, Daniel, Siska, Jo, Sherryn, Darcy, Reuben, even Kylie; and probably others, that's just off the top of my head. I've been a pretty poor friend, and I really want to make an effort to rekindle my friendships with these people.

I was talking about my priorities with Joy over the weekend, and we worked out that my priorities are more or less: Work, study, CHAFF and gym. (Dan and housework should also be on that list, although I'm not sure where.) But my friends weren't mentioned on my priority list, which I want to change. I hung out with Jo, Daniel, Nate and Nate's fiancée last week, which was really great, and made me realise how much I'm missing out on.

I do feel like this new life with Dan has been so comfortable and nice and easy that I've forgotten my friends a bit; and I do get a little lonely for a good girl friend sometimes. So I want to make an effort, and renew my friendships; and if you're a friend I haven't kept in touch with — I'm sorry!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Kyrgyz efforts at the Olympics

First-off, congratulations to Vasily Danilov, a 19-year-old from Kyrgyzstan who came 3rd in the first heat for the men's 400m individual medley... OK, he may not have won, and no one from that heat actually got into the finals; but I think it's great that Kyrgyzstan managed to enter a swimmer who didn't (as per my expectations) come last, but who beat the speedy swimmers of Turkey and Andorra.

OK, it may not sound that great, but the Olympics (as of 1996/98) were virtually uncovered in Kyrgyzstan, so there's very little support for Kyrgyz athletes; which makes it fantastic they even manage to enter a team.

Little-known fact: Kyrygzstan (although then "the Kirghiz Republic of the USSR") has won one gold medal in Olympics history, for weight-lifting, in 1980. Go Kyrgyzstan! Independent of the USSR, I think they've only won the one medal — bronze — for extra lightweight judo in 2000.

In Kiwier news, congrats to the Evers-Swindell twins, who exceeded everyone's expectations with a beautiful easy win in the first heat of the women's double sculls; and the Waddell/Cohen team who everyone knew would win the first heat of the men's double sculls, although the Belorussian team gave them a very good run for their money.

Ahh, the Olympics. I'm mainly rooting for Kyrgyzstan and New Zealand, as well as any random small countries (e.g. Belorus) that catch my eye; and I do hope China get more golds than the States this year. Go China! Woo!

...end Olympics rave.

Friday, 8 August 2008

Gym: Week One

Total calory burn this week: 1035 calories

I'm exhausted. I feel bad for not updating my blog lately; but I've been so busy, especially with the gym... I feel really proud about the gym, though.

On Monday, as I was about to head off to the gym, I ended up talking with a guy I know for a while, with the result that I only ended up having 35 minutes at the gym. Tuesday, no time between lectures; and on Wednesday, I was so behind with CHAFF that I actually decided to go home and work on an overdue article rather than go to the gym.

On Thursday, I forgot my towel, so I had to go home, grab my towel and made a special trip out to Massey. And today, I had to postpone lunch till 3pm to fit the gym in. I knew exactly how many calories I needed to burn off today to get to my 1000-calories goals, and wasn't too impressed at the end of my hour to be three calories short. Grrr.

When I went back on the treadmill to burn those three calories, my heart rate was much lower than my first effort today — and I did 38 calories in 5 minutes, as opposed to my first effort, which averaged 27 calories in 5 minutes. I was wondering: would it be better to do three lots of 20-minute exercises (as I'm doing now) or six lots of 10-minute exercises?

I'm really glad I've done it this week. I enjoy the training, the feeling, the knowledge I'm helping my heart somewhat — although I was worried today when my chest felt quite tight for almost two hours after training. My heart rate went as high as 192bpm, too, which can't be good; and I've been exhausted every afternoon this week, even the days I haven't trained. Hopefully that's just something my body will learn to deal with, but we'll see. And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go to bed.

Olympics CHAFF: Issue 18

To celebrate the Olympics, of course we had to have an Olympics-themed CHAFF at some stage:
  1. This week in history — Hulk Hogan, Pat O'Connor, Pee Wee Reese, Billy Fiske, and the Olympics 1936 (the year of Hitler and Jesse Owens) and 1964 (the year without South Africa due to apartheid)
  2. Sportsy horoscopes
  3. Possibly a movie review of Forgetting Sarah Marshall (although that might be in next issue, I don't know what my editor's doing)

So, good times. I kinda feel like I haven't done much for this issue of CHAFF, although I may or may not have another DVD review and feature article in Issue 19, depending on how sorry I feel for my editor and how much time I have. I've been so exhausted and busy lately — I'm really trying to complete my monthly goals this month, as well as going to the gym, staying awake during lectures, and contemplating my five upcoming assignments. Nervous breakdown, here I come!

Although I haven't really been particularly stressed. Just very, very busy.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Bruchko (Bruce Olson)

They say not to judge a book by its cover, and maybe it's a mistake to judge it by its genre, either. I was so little enthused about reading Bruchko that I almost put it on TradeMe instead; but decided to give it a go first.

Bruchko is the autobiography of Bruce Olson, a missionary who went to South America to convert the Molitone Indians. I generally steer clear of Christian literature, which tends to be full of far too many nauseauting descriptions of the love and peace of our Lord God Almighty amen.

Bruchko had a few of those scenes; but they're easily skipped over, and the book was still really interesting. He also initially went to Venezuela, which was an extra facet of interest to me with the story I'm writing.

The good thing about Olson was that he didn't try to "Westernise" the Molitones; he didn't even object to the witch doctor, which I know many missionaries tend to strongly dislike, as witch doctors often pray to demons. Instead, Olson (or "Bruchko") works with the witch doctor to help her, far more effective than running against the current culture.

This isn't a sentimental account: Olson is open about the bad as well as the good in Molitone culture; and there's tragedy here too, as he shows life as it is. He starts his story by showing how his conversion alienated his family; he ends by showing how the Molitones' conversion caused death.

The account of his family life seemed pretty one-sided, casting his family in an unloveable light — I'm sure their side of the story would have been completely different, probably with Olson as a self-righteous little brat.

But all in all, this book was interesting throughout, and held my interest. It's a pretty short book, and took me maybe a couple of hours to read. But I'm glad I didn't flick it off on TradeMe after all.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Angels Fall

I love that first stage of a story, the first excitement, new possibilities and ideas and wonders to explore, new characters with heart and passion and longing... and I don't mean romance, I mean fire in the soul.

Writing can be such a beautiful experience, especially at the start. Some day I hope I'll write a story that's beautiful at the end, as well. I don't mean happy (necessarily) or wishy-washy — just beautiful to read.

It's hard for me to think up new plots, and often I base my stories on my own life. But this new story isn't based around me at all; so far it seems to be about a 12-year-old girl and her solo mother. And I love the fact that this story is based, not on a conversation or experience; but on my calendar.

The July picture for this calendar was a photo of Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world... which struck me as exquisitely funny, and every time I saw that calendar I just smiled and savoured the inner joke*.

Then, about a week ago, a related story idea occurred to me; and from then on, every time I saw that calendar, I just mused on the idea a bit and a bit more, until I had a theme for my story. I had no plot or "hook" or anything, but I've been brainstorming those on paper lately, and now I'm beginning to write scraps of the story as I plan out the plot.

It's so long since I've written a story just for my own pleasure, and... I guess I always know I enjoy writing, but it's not till I'm actually really doing creative writing that I realise how much I love it.

*The joke, for me, is that when an angel falls (e.g. Lucifer/Satan), it really is the longest fall in the world....

Friday, 1 August 2008

August goals

Although I only completed 1 out of the 5 goals I'd wanted to accomplish in July, I ended up achieving several others instead: backing up my Personal folder, reinstalling Windows, and seeing a professional stage-show — The gods of warm beer, starring Laura Hill (Toni from Shortland Street). I'd counted on time during semester break; but my break was mostly taken up with writing articles for CHAFF (grrr). Still, I am undaunted: August goals.

Tasks to complete
#34: Keep desk and floor tidy for a week!
#38: Get a facial.
#49: Bake a птичье молоко (ptich'e moloko) cake.

#66: Visit Mum and Dad.

#93: Buy Francis a birthday present.

Reading goals
As the crow flies; Bruchko; Oliver Twist; Plumb; The man from St Petersburg; The tenant of Wildfell Hall; Sold.

Writing goals
Write first draft of story for SST competition; send story in to Takahe; write 10,000 words of The Snow Dragon; enter story to the Heartland 1000.

Tasks to work towards
#17: Complete six chapters of Russian textbook.
#25: Sort out one "Unsorted" folder.

#33: Sort out one box of crap.
#58: Knit 30 more rows of my jumper. (8/30)

#62: Play chess.
#78: Burn 1000 calories at gym each week. (2/4)
#82: Use plaque stuff ten times. (10/10)

Unthemed CHAFF: Issue 17

Coming up this exciting week in CHAFF:
  1. This week in history — Percy Bysshe Shelley, Marilyn Monroe, the Tower of Pisa, John Walsh and Sultan Qaboos of Oman
  2. Abecedarian, periphrastic and verbose horoscopes
  3. Unmissable feature article on the unintentional cruelty of vegetarians and the self-awareness of plants
  4. A free competition where you (yes you) can win a free copy of the Six Pack Two! Watch this space for more details. (OK, I didn't write the competition, but it was my idea so hopefully it doesn't utterly fail... you can help by entering the competition!)

And no, there's no theme for the upcoming week's CHAFF. Which reminds me, I was leaving the CHAFF office earlier today and almost bumped into a woman dressed all in black Muslim clothing... I'm pretty sure she was the girl who wrote me that letter, and I'm just happy she couldn't know who I was! (Although my editor, the traitorous scum, probably immediately told her. Oh well — I was out of shouting distance by then.)

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Be still, my beating heart

No, really. When I went to the gym yesterday the machine I was on kept beeping and flashing at me: "SLOW DOWN TO REDUCE HEART RATE!"

And yes, you read right. I went to the gym yesterday. Woohoo! First time ever! (Unless you count the time a month ago when I went on the treadmill for two minutes, saw someone I knew, and ran for it.)

But my visit confirmed what I already feared: my heart is about to fall over and die. The speed I was doing was embarrassing, when everyone else was doing at least thrice my speed. I could and did go faster, but every time: "SLOW DOWN TO REDUCE HEART RATE!" (beep, beep, beep).

It was a great workout, though. I only did 45 minutes, but I felt great afterwards, and look forward to doing it again. I burned 265 calories — I don't know if that's good or bad, but I've now changed that goal to a more measurable "Burn 1000 calories a week", which I should be able to do easily. Hopefully, as time goes on, I'll be able to run to the bus-stop without stopping for air, or climb the two flights of stairs to work without panting.

I am worried about the state of my heart. I'm not doing this to lose weight or get great abs or anything (although hey, if I get nicer abs I won't complain); but to prevent my heart from falling over and dying too soon.

I used to tell people how little I exercised, and they'd look at me and say, "You don't need to exercise, you're so skinny!" That's silly — like appearance is the only reason to exercise. I am incredibly unfit, and I'm glad I can't see the state my heart is in. But I'd like to work to fix it before it's in serious trouble.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Sub-editing

I don't think I should be the one correcting the lecturer.

Sadly, it looks like my sub-editing class may be one of those ones where I have to. Our lecture today was on punctuation, and many of the examples given were taken straight out of Eats, shoots and leaves — examples I immediately recognised, having been reading the book for the past week.

However, not all of the examples were from Eats, shoots and leaves, and I had to correct my lecturer on one example she gave us about the correct use of an ellipsis... upon which she looked at the powerpoint in some confusion, admitted that I was right, and said she'd borrowed the example from somewhere. If you're giving a lecture on sub-editing, at least sub-edit the examples you filch off the net!

This class isn't shaping up encouragingly. We have no desks on which to write notes (when this was brought up, our lecturer said she hadn't expected us to take notes); and she seems quite frightened of us.

When asked if a particular use of punctuation was permissible, she hesitates, thinks it over, and answers either, "Well... maybe... yes, I guess you could do that" or "Well... maybe... I mean, no, not technically, but you could". Be firm! These students will go away with no clue as to what is actually allowable and what is really a maybe-rule; and this is a class training people to be journalists, after all.

Not me; I'm doing it purely for interest's sake, as I had an elective free at the end of my degree and it looked interesting; and the subject still seems interesting. But the teaching style... I guess I'll just rely on my other class to keep me sane. At least that one has a really good lecturer. And it's another writing paper. I love writing-papers!