Black Friday - The Unofficial Holiday

Ah, yes Black Friday is just around the corner. On this day thousands of people will kick off their Christmas shopping. While Black Friday is not an official holiday many businesses give their employees the day off. I have had the misfortune of working for companies where I had to report back to work on Black Friday, and let me tell you it is no fun.

It is said, by Wikipedia, that the term Black Friday originated in Philadelphia when the police officers coined it Black Friday because of the heavy traffic that day. Now store and business owners are referring to Black Friday as the start of retailers turning a profit or being in the black. This unofficial holiday goes back as far as the 1960's, but the tradition of starting the unofficial Christmas season on the day after Thanksgiving dates back to the 1920's.

I have never been one to rush out the day after Thanksgiving and go Christmas shopping. I refuse to fight with all those people, drive around the mall parking lot looking for a parking spot, and battling those gigantic crowds. If you are wondering where I will be on Black Friday it will be right here in front of my laptop squeezing out the last few thousand words of my NaNo novel, because at 5 AM when those retailers open their doors to the masses I will not be standing there bright eyed and bushy tailed. No sir. I will be in my nice warm bed with the covers pulled up high waiting for the sun to gently wake me up.

For those of you who will be braving the mad rush on Black Friday, may someone pull out of the coveted parking space the moment you get to your destination, may nothing you really want to buy be out of stock, and may there always be a Starbucks where ever you are to keep you going, 'cause 5 o'clock in the morning comes fast! Here is a link to the Official Black Friday site to get you ready for the big day.

Since I will be with my family tomorrow I want to wish all of my readers, visitors, and passersby a Happy Thanksgiving!

May all of us eat until we cannot eat anymore, and then have dessert until we bust.

NaNoWriMo Update - The Home Stretch

With less than six days to go I've got a little less than 10,000 words to write before I can claim my first ever NaNo victory. And I intend to do so.

Other writers out there doing NaNo talk about what kind of rewards they give themselves after writing a hard scene or doing a session of really good writing. Some give themselves a piece of candy, chocolate, or other food item. Others reward themselves with a new video game or movie they just bought. When I sit and think of what I do to reward myself after doing a writing session, nothing comes to my mind. I guess I don't reward myself in ways that you can see. I get my biggest reward in knowing that I am a thousand or two thousand words closer to my goal. Sure I flip on the TV after writing or go play a game on my computer afterward, but I wouldn't consider that my reward. That is more my down time after writing.

Ever since I crossed the halfway mark I have been even more motivated to get to the finish line with my 50,000 words in tow. I wake up, perform my morning rituals, and get to my laptop for the days writing session. The word count from the previous day motivates me to write more. Now that I have just over 40,000 words, the drive to reach 50,000 is stronger than ever. Coming this far in this challenge only to fail is not an option.

Yesterday I got through a difficult scene for me to write and I must say that if I was not doing NaNo I would have stalled there. I would have found excuse after excuse not to complete my novel and remain stuck at that one junction. Thanks to NaNo and my desire to get to finish what I have started, I pushed through and out to the other side.

The next time I provide a NaNo Update it will be to tell you that I have claimed my victory and completed my novel. See you all on the other side!

The best way out is always through.
Robert Frost

Trivial Pursuit

A few days ago I was playing Trivial Pursuit with a good friend of mine. Every now and again we get together to play, and every New Year's Eve we play with a group of friends while we wait for the ball to drop. So, getting together with my friend and playing was sort of like a little practice session. I personally love trivia of any kind.

Have you ever noticed the odd words that are used in the questions? Seriously, who uses the word warbled? I have never once in my life heard someone say, "Hey have you heard that new song that 50 Cent warbled? It's the shizzle!" No one I know uses that word in everyday conversation.

A question taken directly from a Trivial Pursuit card:
What dog breed's four billion olfactory receptors let it track a trail of single cells left by its quarry?
Say what?! Who talks like this? If they wanted us, really wanted us, to understand the question they would have worded it something like this: What dog has the greatest sense of smell known to man? That I understand. Not all this olfactory receptors and single cell craziness. I believe that one of the reasons the questions are written in that manner is to trip up the players, and it really works especially after a few cocktails.

So you've been playing Trivial Pursuit for hours and hours. Finally you have just answered a question that has earned the last pie piece to complete your token. "Yes!" you exclaim pumping your fists in the air but then your opponent reminds you that in order to win you have to make your way back through the wheel and land exactly in the center. Then you need to answer a question of their choice. No big deal you say to yourself. And now the real torture begins. It wasn't enough with the odd words and the questions you had to decipher. They didn't even give you a decoder ring. Or the grueling hours you have put into this game. No, that wasn't enough for the creators of Trivial Pursuit. Now your focus is getting to that middle hub, as they call it, and answer one final question that no one on the planet knows the answer to. So you land in the hub for the first time after five attempts and your opponent being the person they are reads you a question from the category you are the worst in:
What gigantic estuary was formed when rising sea levels flooded the mouth of the Susquehana River?
What is an estuary? And where in the world is the Susquehana River? Does such a river exist? Smacking your palm to your forehead because you know it's going to take another two hours of rolling the dice to get back into the hub, you yell out in desperation "Oh hell I don't know. The Hoover Dam!" Wrong, of course. Eventually you manage to answer a question correctly in the hub and are declared winner. It's now the year 2010, but hey you are the Trivial Pursuit master.

I love this game, even though it gets on my last nerve with the crazy way they word questions and how they seemingly do not use words that come from the English language. I always have a blast playing and this year I think I will be purchasing the Seinfeld version to mix it up a bit on New Year's Eve.

Are you a Trivial Pursuit fan too or a trivia buff?

Answers to the above questions respectively: A. Bloodhound B. Chesapeake Bay

NaNoWriMo Update - Moving into Week 3

Over the past seven days there was only one day I did not write and that was Monday. I just was not in the mood and could not get myself motivated to move my novel along. Wednesday and Friday I got my butt in the chair, BIC as the Absolute Writers call it, and wrote as if my life depended on it. Those days I pounded out 3211 and 4352 words respectively. I was really impressed with myself.

It blows my mind every time I think of how I am writing a novel. When I finish this challenge and claim my victory on November 30th this will be one of the greatest accomplishments I have ever done in my life. And one that I have dreamed of doing since I was a teenager writing in my room upstairs.

One of my friends asked me "How do you know what to write when you sit down in front of your computer?" My first reaction to the question is to chuckle because I really don't know. Everyday I take my laptop put it on my lap, open my novel and just start writing where I left off. More often than not I do not have a preconceived notion of where I am going next. I just write and the ideas come to me.

Some of my friends have asked me if I am going to try and get this NaNo novel published and the short answer is, Yes. As I said in my last update I will not be working on my second draft until next year, but I do plan on it. I think for some people doing NaNo does not mean that the novel they write will be publishing material or even that they will want to publish it. There are so many reasons people do NaNo.

I am doing NaNo to force myself to do something I had neglected for far too long: writing.

Why do you NaNo? And for those who are not NaNo'ing, would you ever?

If you could live in any time period what would it be?

I'm sure you have guessed that I like the future considering my favorite childhood cartoon was The Jetsons. Ever since I was a kid I have been fascinated the future. Watching Back To The Future II and being a Star Trek fan has also fueled my curiosity for this unknown time period.

I marvel in the idea of the future because it holds uncertainty and the promise of new inventions. The possibility of flying cars, a wrist watch that is actually a phone, and food that comes out of a machine on command would certainly be worth seeing and owning. The idea that we can really transport people from one place to the next like they do in Star Trek would solve so much of our traffic congestion. The adventure of flying into space, exploring new worlds, and making friends with aliens from other galaxies is both scary and exciting.

I have always said that I want to see the year 3000. I would love to be around for that turn of the century, but it's obvious that will remain a dream of mine. Why the year 3000? I'm not sure. Maybe because it is so far away from my own time line and I just cannot image what our world will look like. In the year 3000
will there be skyscrapers as tall as the eye can travel? Will people get around with jet packs? How much will a McDonald's cheeseburger cost? $30? Will we finally have the cure for the common cold? If so, will other diseases be cured too? The questions are endless.

The concepts of flying cars, transporters and, watches that are really phones are not too far fetched considering what mankind has done in the last thousand years. In 1900 no one ever thought there would be things called cars driving around city streets and they certainly did not think we would be transporting people by plane from one side of the country to the next. Thirty years ago no one thought people would listen to music on a CD. It was not until 1974 that computers became available to the average everyday person and look at us now. Nearly every home has at least one computer in it. Twenty years ago if you told some one that almost every human being would be carrying around a little portable phone they would have laughed at you.

I know I will never see the year 3000, but I will be around long enough to see the year 2040 and beyond. The only thing I want is to own a car that can fly. A DeLorean would do just fine, thank you.

Do you have a favorite time period? What is it?

NaNoWriMo - Update Part Duex

With just over 15,000 words under my belt translating to 30% complete, I survived the first week of NaNoWriMo. There were times when I didn't think I would make my quota for the day, but something inside kept pressing me on. I took election day off so I could watch the race unravel and the next day I was able to catch up adding 4,000 words to my novel. A few more days like that one and I will be well on my road to success.

I have found that doing 30 minute 'word wars' with the other NaNo'ers at Absolute Write is an outstanding way to make me focus and really get to work. In doing these 'word wars' my story has taken a few twists that I did not plan or even think of. The words just came to me as I feverishly typed. And, in the sprint of keeping my inner editor at bay, I ran with those ideas.

Many NaNo'ers are talking about starting on their second drafts in December, but I think I will be following the advice of Stephen King. He waits a minimum of six weeks before he goes back to a manuscript to make his first edit, or second draft as some call it. I want to be completely objectionable when I read my manuscript. I may not be able to wait six weeks, but I'm going to wait at least until the first of the year. It has been very hard to not start reading the novel each time I open the document. I tell myself that I will get a better idea of where I need to go, and then I get slapped back to reality by the writer in me. Write, write, write. Reading is for later. Much later.

My goal for the coming week is 12,000 words or an average of 1715 words a day. If I manage that I will be a little more than 50% done. I will have to kick it up a notch in the third week, but I can do it.

A big Thank You to all who have commented on my previous NaNo update. The enthusiasm and support is appreciated.

What's Your Favorite Childhood Cartoon?

My absolute favorite cartoon as a kid was The Jetsons. By the time I was a kid The Jetsons were already off the air and the shows I was watching were reruns. I loved that show because I wanted to live in the future. I wanted a car that flew and an apartment with a conveyor belt just like they had at the airport. Instead of eating dinner and sitting around a table they swallowed pills. The elevator was really one of those tubes like they used at the drive up bank. Astro, the family dog, cracked me up with the way he spoke. "I ruv you Rorge." Slurp! But I never understood George's job and even as an adult it still makes no sense. George's job was pushing a button. Now isn't that a great job with no stress? Oddly enough George had his share of stress from Mr. Spacely. He was always getting yelled at through the huge screen in his office. Yelled at to get to Mr. Spacely's office so he could ask George to do some daunting task that no one wanted. I love The Jetsons so much that when I get a text message on my Blackberry it plays The Jetsons doorbell.

Then there are the old stand by's like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Bugs was always escaping Elmer Fudd and when he wasn't doing that he was picking on poor Daffy. I loved watching Wile E. Coyote chase the Road Runner all over the desert. Although I wondered why he didn't just give up and chase something else. The looks on his face when he fell and how he turned into an accordion when he got up always gave me a laugh. Porky Pig and Foghorn Leghorn come to mind, but I didn't care for them too much.

Inquiring minds want to know what your favorite cartoon was when you were a kid?

NaNoWriMo - Update

I had to change my word count widget because the one I choose was not loading properly and not keeping up with my word count updates. The one you see over there seems to be the least temperamental. The actual word count is at the very top in teeny letters beneath my name. At the bottom of the counter is a red bar that moves along as my word count goes up.

So, for the first three days I have clocked in 4491 words. Not quite where I wanted to be on day three, but I am still pleased. My goal was 2084 words per day and if I had stuck to my goal I would have 6252 words right now. In fact I am really close to the bare minimum of 1667 words per day. I got stuck once, and managed to get through it by telling myself to move forward with the storyline. It is a tougher challenge than I thought, but I know my determination will see me through it.

I went to the library to return Duma Key and got Third Degree by Greg Iles. I figured that since reading helps motivate me into writing I had better get a new book. I have read most of Greg's books and really like his style. Highly recommended.

I also joined a writing forum called Absolute Write Water Cooler and have been chiming in on the NaNo discussions. There are a lot of fun people there. One writer, Jen at Scribbling, has a NaNo Catch Up Calculator on her blog. According to the Catch Up Calculator I have to write an average of 1686 words per day to meet my goal. For a new comer to NaNo I am very pleased that I am keeping, somewhat, on track. What does the Catch Up Calculator say about about your progress? How many words per day do you need to succeed?

With the rain drumming the windows outside and the fireplace blazing I think it is time to get comfortable and crack open my book.

The Electoral College

You have all heard of it. They even tried to teach you this in school, but what is this Electoral College really?
"The Electoral College is a controversial mechanism of presidential elections that was created by the framers of the U.S. Constitution as a compromise for the presidential election process. At the time, some politicians believed a purely popular election was too reckless, while others objected to giving Congress the power to select the president. The compromise was to set up an Electoral College system that allowed voters to vote for electors, who would then cast their votes for candidates, a system described in Article II, section 1 of the Constitution."
The entire process goes something like this: We the people of the United States of America get up, go to work on the second Tuesday of November, and then before going home we stand in line at our favorite voting booth and vote for our next President. We race home and eagerly watch the numbers unfold and watch the map of the United States turn red and blue. Ultimately someone is named the victor. But, this victor may or may not be the next President. On the Monday following the second Wednesday in December the electors of each state meet and vote for President. Those votes are sealed and sent to Congress where they are read on January 6th. Then the new President is sworn in on January 20th.

I am sure that most of you remember the infamous 2000 election between Al Gore and President George W. Bush. Gore received 537,179 more popular votes that President Bush on that Election Day but after the Electoral College met they awarded President Bush the state of Florida and he won the presidency. There were three other instances in which the Presidential candidate with the most popular votes did not win the presidency. They were:

  • 1824 John Quincy Adams received fewer votes than Andrew Jackson. Adams was awarded the Presidency after the House voted on it.
  • 1876 Rutherford Hayes lost the popular vote to Samuel Tilden. Hayes received 5 of the 6 smallest states electoral college votes along with Colorado to win.
  • 1888 Benjamin Harrison lost the popular vote to Grover Cleveland, but he won the electoral college by 65.
Throughout history it is easy to see that in most instances the Presidential candidate who wins the popular vote on the second Tuesday of November will be named the victor. So this begs the question: Why have an Electoral College? I personally believe that if we the people of the United States all vote for our favorite candidate and he/she receives the popular vote that person should be named President.

What do you think? Is the Electoral College a good idea or do you prefer electing a President by popular vote?