Category Archives: blog

2015 Blog Retrospective

As another year comes to a close, I find that it’s fun to look back and see how things have gone for the blog over the past year. Overall, I’m really pleased; traffic has continued to increase at a steady pace and I’ve received enough comments from people to convince me that not all of the traffic is spam robots.

My post output has been reduced considerably compared to previous years, which sort of fun to puzzle over; more people are reading less content! Is that a thing to be proud of?

The problem is that posts don’t equate for all of my online footprint. If you take a look at my Goodreads page (perhaps through the helpful widget on the right siderbar!) you’ll notice that I’ve been writing reviews for the books I read. Time was I used to read a book, slap a star-rating on it, and go on my merry way with nary a grunt. About two years ago, someone pointed out that they were really curious why I’d rate a book with whatever rating I happened to give it, so I started actually writing my thoughts out.

The reviews tend to be shorter than blog posts, but since I read pretty quickly, there are a lot of them. So while blog post content is down, I think that’s because my output shifted to a source outside of this site. I’ve considered linking WordPress to Goodreads so that reviews would get posted here, but thus far I’ve resisted for the same reason that I don’t tweet my Goodreads links anymore; it feels annoying and spam-y to me. The content is there if you’re interested; no need to plaster it everywhere.

Which is an attitude that I realize makes me doomed in the evolving ecosystem of the Internet (see previous post about online advertising and ad block).

Finally, there were less posts this year because I’ve actually been writing my novel again! Between the experiment with giving my book away for free (and actually getting a bit of money for it, whee!) and the new project that really has my attention, there’s actually been a huge increase in my word ouput. It’s just in a place that no one gets to see right now, except for me and my spreadsheet.

So that’s what I’ve been doing over the past year. I realize it’s made this blog somewhat of a lonely place, but it’s been infinitely better for my head. I haven’t felt the urge to write a post just to write a post about something, which usually meant seeking out a topic that made me angry enough to have thoughts about it. It’s made for a more harmonious life. And really, we don’t need one more blog by a straight white guy on the Internet talking about things that make him angry. There are a lot of those already.

So instead I focus on my book, because my research has shown me that we really do need more books where people ride dinosaurs into battle and kill each other with them. Because dinosaurs are awesome.

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Oh, Right, I Have A Blog

When last we spoke, I informed you of the exciting news that NASA is planning its first voyage to Mars. That’s still true, which is good. I also saw The Martian at the movie theater and liked it very much, which is also good. In fact, I loved the movie whereas I only enjoyed the book. This has everything to do with the fact that I’m an artist rather than an engineer and I tend to favor soft, squishy subjects like the humanities rather than MATH.

Ahem. Sorry. I may have lapsed into the remnants of a heated discussion about The Martian that evidently I’m not entirely over.

In other news, it’s November and November means NaNoWriMo and NaNoWriMo means “oh my God, I have so much writing to do, how can I waste it blogging, what the hell am I thinking, I have to get back to WORK!” So, you know, there’s that.

The new book I’m working on is pretty cool, though. At least, think it’s cool. My working title is Dinomancer and it’s a book about people who can ride dinosaurs into battle. I’d tell you the elevator pitch about it, but since I haven’t written it all yet, it’d be somewhat insubstantial. I feel good about it, though, and my girlfriend fiancée says that she hasn’t seen me get this excited about a new project in a long time, so who knows. Maybe this will be the book that makes millions of dollars enough dollars to make a small payment on one of my outstanding student loans.

Also, this is my first winter since I moved to Washington state several months ago. My verdict thus far: seasons are beautiful, I really enjoy the cold weather, I look great in my stylish long raincoat, I hate the fact that it gets dark like at 4pm, and related to the previous bullet point, DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME SUCKS. Arizona may not get a lot of things right (politics, 115 degree summer days, the impending fiery apocalypse drought brought on by global climate change), but they’re the only state in the Union that doesn’t have Daylight Savings Time, and that’s pretty damn good in my opinion.

Anyway. Thanks for stopping by. I’m going to get back to writing about dinos.

On The Eve Of The New Year

I meant to write a post reflecting on the year, but obviously that didn’t happen today. But I still wanted to get one final post in for 2014, so here it is. Have a very happy New Year, stay safe, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

Welcome To December

Another NaNoWriMo has come and gone. My winning streak is safe for another year. This year it seemed particularly difficult to keep my momentum going on the story, even though I ended up finishing two days early due to a nice sprint on the 28th. It’s possible that I say this every year; I haven’t looked back at any of my previous blog posts or Twitter updates to see how 2014 compared to 2013 or 2012. Regardless, the month is over and I have another 50,000 words of novel that I’ll now need to do something with. I have the next 11 months to sort it all out. Perhaps I’ll write another follow-up post about the experience, but right now, the idea of writing much of anything is just tiring. It’s time for a break.

It seems that quite a bit happened in November and perhaps you’ve been stopping by expecting my commentary. I apologize for letting you down. There’s certainly a lot of negative things in the world deserving of scorn and well-honed verbal barrages, but you know, I spent a lot of time thinking this past month, when I wasn’t writing and I’ve felt the urge to shy away from posting about the shitty stuff in the world. This blog started out as a way for me to vent my anger, which is really obvious if you look back at the first few months of posts. Well, actually, if I’m being honest, first this blog was just my squatting on my domain name, then I decided to write a blog to vent my anger.

It’s easier to be angry and pissed off and writing about it doesn’t it any better, at least for me. I stopped seeking out things that intentionally pissed me off just so I have fuel to write about. It probably doesn’t make the world any better but I also can’t imagine that it doesn’t make it any worse. And it certainly makes me feel better to not be as angry. So there’s that.

Movie trailers! The Jurassic World trailer and the Star Wars: Episode VII trailer were both released in the same month! 2015 looks like it will be a very good year for movies for my personal demographic (that demographic being “people who are me.” It’s an admittedly small niche) in a way that 2014 was very much a lackluster year. Did I actually go to the movies this year? I can’t recall. But 2015 has me excited. I don’t care what anyone else in the world says; a scene involving motorcycles and velociraptors fulfills one of my dreams. And yes, I do often daydream about riding my motorcycle alongside a pack of velociraptors, usually on my way to work. It’s just a thing that I want to do, because it’s awesome. The Episode VII trailer has me excited for Star Wars once again, although it’s still a cautious excitement; I remember how exciting the trailer was for Episode I. Trailers cannot always be trusted.

I’ve been learning to cook over the past few months and I’m getting pretty good at it. One of those little things about being a vegetarian means that most of your cooking efforts also involve chopping. And slicing. And dicing. And cutting. And whatever other words exist for cutting things in the culinary world. I bought a new knife a few months ago to begin this new journey into adulthood and it was getting really, really dull, so dull that I had trouble with a tomato. I’d learned how to sharpen knives on a whetstone when I was a kid and I was curious to see if I’d still remember how to do it, so I went out today and bought a whetstone and used my dull kitchen knife for practice.

There is nothing more pleasing than taking a practice cut with a newly sharpened knife. It’s liking taking a lightsaber to your vegetables. I promptly went crazy and sharpened all of our knives. I can’t wait to use them back into dullness so I can sharpen them again. I don’t know what this new feeling is; it’s either self-reliance, adulthood, or some combination thereof. I don’t have a word for it, but I think I like it.

Dusting The Blog Off

Where the hell have you been? It’s only been . . . almost a month since I last wrote anything here. I’m sure that’s not dust. Since this is a digital space, any dust you might be perceiving either exists purely in your mind or your electronic device of choice is really, really dusty. You should probably clean that up.

I’m doing fine, thanks for asking. What have I been up to? Oh, lots! Let’s run through the list:

  • Searching for a new house
  • Giving up on searching for a new house
  • Playing Skyrim again (my lizard man is level 84!)
  • Avoiding writing, blogging, or doing anything creative of any kind

That really sounds like a lot when you write it all out, doesn’t it?

The house search ended up being a bust. There’s nothing in my price range that’s available right now. It got to the point where we were looking at a 900 square foot house (same as what we have currently) with two bedrooms (again, same as our current option), a tinier kitchen, and a $300 increase over our current rent.

I think that was the point when we determined that it really didn’t make sense to move into a new place. So, technically I’m still moving; I’m just moving into the dwelling of my significant other. It’s a really nice place. It’s just not what I’d call a new place, since I’ve been spending a majority of my time there already.

My thinking is that available rentals pop up in six month increments. There seemed to be a surplus of places back in early August but now things are sparse. I’m curious to see how it will go come December, not that we’ll be looking to move at that point.

It might sound insane that people would move out in December, but keep in mind that this is Arizona we’re talking about. For us, the winter months are actually the best time to doing your moving.

Various Thoughts

Are we halfway through May already? How did that happen? The time, where does it go?

I’ve been busy over the past few weeks, as my lack of presence here on the old blog can attest. In no particular order, here are a few of the various and sundry things that I’ve gotten myself up to:

  • I took a backpacking trip through Aravaipa Canyon. This is my third trip to the canyon in the past four years. This is, without a doubt, my favorite place in all of Arizona. The Grand Canyon might be larger, but it’s also busy. Aravaipa is remote; really, really remote. We counted how long it took us to get from the canyon entrance to the first gas station: nearly two hours.
  •  My Challenge mode group finally earned all gold ratings, so now my night elf druid has a bad-ass looking set of armor. This is a World of WarCraft thing, so worry not if you understand what all of these words mean individually, just not in this particular configuration.
  • I completed my first oil change on my Z1000. I would have taken pictures of the event to commemorate baby’s first oil change, but my hands were covered in gross oil that I didn’t want to get all over my smartphone. You’ll just have to imagine how it went.
  • I managed to contract some particularly virulent plague. I had to stay home from work on two separate occasions within the same week, but even so, I managed to infect almost everyone I came into contact with. If I’d written anything during that time, it likely would have infected all who read it, so be glad I stayed away.
  • I’ve been trying to catch up on my reading. I like to set a reading goal for the year, which Goodreads then tracks and helpfully informs you of how far ahead or behind you are on that goal. For most of 2014, I’ve had a comfortable eight book lead but it shrank considerably over the past few weeks as I grappled with some particularly challenging philosophy reading. At last glance, my lead was down to four books. I’m hoping to build that back up with some lighter fiction reading soon.
  • No word from the agent that I queried. It hasn’t been four weeks yet, but I’ve got my list of who to send to next. In the meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about what novel I want to finish writing next. I’ve got a sequel to my current work that’s half-done, but there was also that cyber-punk novel that I started and am actually kind of proud of. Hmm, decisions, decisions.
  • The freelance writing thing is going pretty well! I can’t talk about it too much due to respect for client privacy, but I just finished working on a draft for a technical guide that I’m really proud of. I actually rather enjoy technical writing. I worry what this enjoyment indicates about my level of mental health.

That’s all I can think of at the moment. Usually I check my own Twitter feed for reminders (I look at my Twitter account as a little archive of my life), but I haven’t been tweeting all that much, so there are no helpful reminders. So it goes.

What have you been up to? Anything fun?

Cynical Idealism Is One Year Old Today

I made my first post on this blog on March 13, 2013. I’d moved to WordPress after retiring Objects in the Mirror, my oft-neglected blogspot site that was begun as an undergrad writing assignment that continued on for a few years after I finished that class.

It’s been a very interesting first year. This blog has been the most successful thing I’ve ever done online. There have been some interesting and insightful comments made from both dedicated readers and brief visitors alike. In fact, although I wrote up a comment policy and posted it last summer, I haven’t had to deal with trolls outside of a brief influx of MRA activists back in June and July.

That’s the aspect of this blog that I’m the most proud of. Not the MRA activists, screw those guys. I’m proud that this site and these posts have been able to create a place for discussion, however small a corner it may be in the scheme of the larger web. I debated even allowing comments when I first started. I looked at sites both large and small and saw the spam, the trolls, the general toxicity and I asked myself if it was even worth it.

Over the past year, my readers have shown me that it has been worth it unequivocally. I’ve learned more from the responses to my posts than I ever thought possible.

So rather than take this moment to look back and talk about all the things I did, I’d like to say thank you for everything that you did. I started this blog assuming that I was talking to myself. You’ve shown me that this wasn’t true and for that, I am deeply appreciative and grateful. I look forward to the second year of Cynical Idealism’s life and all the things that I’m sure to learn through your comments and discussions.

Thank you for reading.

New Theme

After mulling it over for a few days, I decided to change the theme on the blog. I’m rolling with WordPress’s new Twenty Fourteen theme because it is, after all, 2014 now. I think it’s time for a new look.

I was a little hesitant since the description billed it as a “magazine” theme and I’m very obviously running a blog here but after trying it out for a while, I think it’ll still do the job I want it to do. It has the clean and minimalist lines that I appreciated from my previous theme, Coraline, which is good. I also like the way it uses its space differently. It feels more airy and open to me. The tight column that Coraline used for its arrangement was starting to feel cramped.

Do you like the change? Let me know what you think, although I should note that I’m still going to do whatever I want, regardless of feedback. I’m just selfish like that.

Getting Back To It

The difficult part about the end of December is that the multiple of holidays rolling into one another tend to create a feeling of inertia that makes it difficult to return to normal. But now the holidays are well and truly over; it’s long past time for the fake tree to come down and get stuffed back into its box for another year. Time to dust off the blog and think about what I want to say.

Originally, I planned on doing a post about what 2013 meant to me. A lot of people are going on the record as saying that 2013 was the worst year ever. That might be true for them; I don’t think it’s true for me. 2013 had its ups and its downs, although overall, I think there were more ups.

What will 2014 be? I’m hoping it will be a good year. I’m going to try and publish my book (at long last). I have a few other writing and editing related opportunities that I can’t discuss in detail (out of respect to the privacy of the client) but that have me very excited. I cashed my first check that I earned from editing last week and it was glorious.

The urge to spend it all on a new laptop instead of building up my ravaged savings account was almost overwhelming. Right now, the desire to save is winning . . . but we’ll see how long that lasts.

One thing I’ve been discussing with myself is the direction I want to take the blog. Over the past year, I tended to write about whatever struck my fancy . . . and that included a lot of political and opinion posts. I’m uncertain whether I’ll continue that trend. It did provide me with something to talk about but it also meant that sometimes I went looking for things to get annoyed at just so I could have something to write about. I think that tendency skewed much of my writing towards the Cynical end of the spectrum. If 2013 was the Cynical year, I feel compelled to make 2014 the Idealist year.

Expect posts about adorable kittens and puppies falling asleep EVERY DAY. Ye be warned.

Meanwhile, On the Surface

The blog has been quiet for a few weeks. Only my Twitter feed has provided an indication that I haven’t shuffled off this mortal coil and even that’s been pretty sparse. This is typical behavior during a NaNoWriMo; the only way for me to focus is to completely submerge myself in the project. Time spent blogging is time spent not getting to that glimmering 50,000 word count.

My attention was drawn out of my NaNoWriMo-induced haze and back to my blog when my phone pinged me this morning to let me know that I’d had an explosion of new page views; several hundred in the few days. Considering how my usual average is about thirty unique hits a day, this was very noteworthy!

It was also head-scratchingly confusing, since I haven’t written anything new for almost two weeks.

My first thought was that I was getting increased traffic flow from folks searching for reactions and opinions on the news that acclaimed psychic and bestselling author liar and fraud Sylvia Browne had passed away. My condolences go out to her family; the death of a family member is a tragic thing regardless of how that person made her living.

That being said, I’ve made my feelings on Ms. Browne well known in the past and that hasn’t changed. I hate how she preyed on the desperation of many, many grieving people. I’m already kind of a tree-hugger, so I try to adopt a live and let live approach to others, but I have an important distinction when it comes to paranormal and New Age things: is it harmful?

Lighting candles, doing affirmations, meditating, or whatever doesn’t hurt anybody, so if that’s your thing, cool, go for it. Likewise, if you want to try to contact the spirit world with a Ouija board, it’s something that’s usually done for fun at sleepovers and such. Most people aren’t looking for solace. At worst, the person that bought the board is out twenty bucks.

That’s not what Sylvia Browne did. A psychic reading over the phone would cost upwards of $450 dollars, which people desperate for answers are willing to pay. She wrongly told the mother of Amanda Berry, Louwana Miller, that her daughter was dead. Miller died before Berry’s rescue and never learned the truth.

Enough about that.

Interestingly, however, a look at my stats has shown that it isn’t anything to do with the news about Sylvia Browne. Instead, the increased traffic flow has been due to my recent posts about the MBTI. WordPress hasn’t identified where the traffic is coming from exactly, which would be interesting if my post was picked up by a larger site. Regardless, hello to all the new people!

Regular blogging will resume at the end of November. This has been the most grueling NaNoWriMo I’ve ever done (although I think I say that every year). Even though this is my sixth year doing it, it’s still a challenge. More thoughts on that soon(ish).