Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Trek Desking to Better Health, Episode 2: Ramping up

The broken part took nearly two weeks to arrive (after I was promised delivery in three days), but the technician showed up right on time and had the
treadmill up and running within an hour. In the interim, I reread the
instructions and realized that I need a dedicated, grounded circuit in which to
plug it so that when it inevitably fails (see Episode 1: Made in China) the
treadmill doesn’t electrocute me. This required a couple of hours of rearranging
of equipment, which made me once again realize that just about everything I own
runs on electricity. When the zombie apocalypse happens, all of this equipment
will be good for nothing except hurling at the zombies as they crash through
the door.

My first work session on the treadmill went surprisingly well. I was able to
get the hang of walking and typing at the same time very quickly. The main drawback of the treadmill is that upon starting and stopping, it makes an extremely loud beeping sound which
our dog Zachary associates with aforementioned zombie apocalypse. (Note to
exercise equipment designers: Is the only sound option available the same one
used for fire and smoke alarms? Really?) Equally unfortunate is the fact that
the treadmill will only run for 60 minutes at a time since presumably nobody
ever works out for more than an hour at once. I tried to make him get used to
it, but no luck. Every hour, the noise gave the poor guy a near heart attack
(and he’s too old for that much excitement). So, over the course of the
previous week and a half, I’ve gotten into the habit of letting the dog
outside, starting the treadmill, getting off, letting him back in, jumping back
on, then working/exercising for 59 minutes, jumping off, letting the dog out
until the timer goes off, restarting it, letting the dog back in. Repeat.

I went for two hours on my first day, then three the next, and have
gradually worked up to a high of five and a half hours, which I did yesterday
in two sessions. I had to buy new shoes on the second day because the crappy
old trainers, which I’ve had for years whose only use was on the elliptical machine at
the gym, were killing me. I went to Roadrunner Shoes in Greenlake where they do a lot of high
tech voodoo to help choose the right shoes, and I’ll say that voodoo do good. I
love these shoes. They are so well supported and cushioned, I feel like I’m
walking on baby butts. I will never wear them outside so as not to soil them,
but I wish I could have them implanted on my feet.

The only interruption in my daily use was the day I got sick last week, but
I was back on track the day afterward, and the exercise made me feel much
better. Other than the above, it’s been smooth sailing. I’m able to work, talk
on the phone, (ahem play video games), and there has been no
diminishment of a;lkdjf l;kajsdl;jd

Just kidding. No diminishment of accuracy. In fact, I think I’m doing better
work all around. (But perhaps this is just a delusion brought on by

The results I’ve noted so far from my Trek Desking:

1. I have much more energy than I did before,
2. I am thinking more clearly and tend to get bored less while working (I
know, it’s so alarming that I sometimes get bored at my job!),
3. I now find I want to stand rather than immediately try to find a place to
sit down,
4. I’m eating less and losing some weight already,
5. And many people think I’m a little crazy when I tell them about having this
work set up. Perhaps. Crazy like a fox with a higher metabolism.

 Total time on treadmill: 24 hours
 Total calories burned: approximately 4200

Monday, February 21, 2011

About Fiction International's Writing Contest

For over 40 years, Fiction International has published writers just like you -- intelligent, far-thinking, politically progressive, and stylistically innovative. We continue the tradition by giving away more than $1,000 in cash and publication in Fiction International to one deserving writer and publication (but not cash) to two others!

Deadline: June 1, 2011. Winners will be announced Fall, 2011.
Entry fee: $15.
Theme: BLACKNESS. The meaning of the theme is entirely up to you. Please do not submit any text not related to the theme.
To enter the Writing Contest, submit here.


Grand Prize: $1,000 cash and publication in Fiction International. Two Honorable Mentions: Publication in Fiction International.


You may enter as many manuscripts as you like.

We will only accept entries which are fiction, non-fiction, and indeterminant prose. No poetry will be accepted.

Enter online at Submishmash.

Your entry must be original, in English, and not previously published or accepted by any other publisher or producer at the time of submission.

We have set a wordcount limit of 2000 (approximately). Although we won't adhere to a strict word limit, any manuscript that egregiously exceeds the limit of 2000 will be disqualified.


Every entry will be read and evaluated by the judges. The top 20 entries (finalists) will be read by FI's Editor-in-Chief Harold Jaffe. The First Prize and Honorable Mentions will be selected from among the 20 finalist entries.


Q: Is it okay to have illustration or pictures accompanying my submission?
A: Yes. Providing the artwork is original to you, submission of artwork as part of an entry will be accepted as long as it is part of a text and is not intended to substitute for text.

Q: If there is a word count, how many words am I allowed?
A: Approximately 2000.

Q: Are pen names allowed?
A: Pen names are fine. Write your pen name on all forms etc. so there is no mistakes on credits. Please be advised that we only need your real name if you are chosen as a winner (in order to issue prizes).

Q: What if I am not a U.S. resident?
A: Since we are named Fiction International, we encourage non-U.S. residents. All entry fees are due in U.S. Dollars.

Q: Is there an age limit for entrants?
A: No.

Q: Are there are any other limitations for entrants?
A: There are two limitations: (1) Because FI's editorial staff is also also judging the contest, staff and family members are not allowed to enter. (2) Because the contest is intended to encourage new writers, the contest is limited to writers who have published two books or fewer.

Q: What if I wanted to submit only part of my novel into the competition (to stay with in the maximum number of words)?
A: If you submit a portion of a novel, please understand that it will be judged as a complete story, not part of another work, so it needs to a complete story in and of itself.

Q: When will winners be notified?
A: Winners will be notified by email in Fall, 2011.

For additional questions, email Editor Harold Jaffe (


In order to protect your privacy, we will not make our customer list available outside San Diego State University.


To submit your entry online, visit our secure online entry form.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Why I hate Valentine's Day

I know I'm not the only one out there who hates this holiday. Actually, I don't so much hate it as wish it would go away, and so I typically ignore it.

Thankfully, my wife is one of the rarest of women who a) says she doesn't care about Valentine's Day, and b) ACTUALLY doesn't care about Valentine's Day. It took me a few years of being with her to trust this fact. The day would go by, and lying in bed that night I would wait for her to start crying and then say, "I can't believe you didn't get me anything for Valentine's Day." To which I would have to reply, "But you said you didn't celebrate it." And then she'd say, "OF COURSE I DO! I just say that because I was testing your love for me." But it's never happened. Yet, at least.

The merchandising is part of my distaste for the holiday, which seems to me is second only to that of Christmas. It's not just the amount of advertising but the implicit extortion. "If you REALLY love your special someone, then prove it by buying them some very expensive flowers that will die, leaving you with a vase you never use for anything else." Or "Show her you love her by buying that enormous diamond ring she wants that will cost you more than your car and which some poverty-stricken African miner got paid a few dollars to dig out of a well with his bare hands while holding his breath underwater."

I was put off of Valentine's Day quite early. In elementary school, we prepared for Valentine's Day by decorating white paper sacks with construction hearts and glitter the day beforehand. These we taped to the front of our desks as cheery little mailboxes. We were then instructed to bring in our valentines the next day and sent home with a list of every child in class. Every child was to bring a valentine for every other child so nobody would feel left out. This was an ingenious plan except that in the few blocks between school and home, I lost my list.

I was mortified. I wasn't exactly Mr. Popular anyway, and this, I felt certain, would seal my fate. My solution at the time was very me. I told my mother, "Well, I'll just stay home from school tomorrow. You can say I'm sick." But my mother wasn't buying. She came up with a solution: "No, just write 'To a Boy' on half of the Valentines and 'To a Girl' on the other half. We have extra, so you won't run out of either." Even as a young child, I realized the flaw in this logic, which was that I would look like a FREAKING IDIOT. I pleaded with my mother to not make me go through with it and to keep me home from school instead, but she was adamant. To lessen the pain, she helped me fill them out. I have a vivid memory of her sitting next to me writing out the ones for the boys while I did the girls, feeling as though I may as well be issuing certificates of death to any possibility I would ever be liked by any one of these girls. (I wasn't wrong.)

I went to school the next day, taking the most circuitous route possible, hoping to be accosted by a stranger in a van with candy or be run over by same, but no such luck. Instead, I got to school, went into class, and sat at my desk, dreading what I knew what was to come. When the teacher had us distribute our valentines, we all got out of our desks and in a flurry of excited chatter, all of the kids deposited their cards, and then rushed back to their desks to open the ones in their bags. It didn't take long before the first person, a girl I liked, in fact, read hers aloud. "To a GIRL?!" The quality of female indignation in her tone was one I'd become intimately familiar with over the course of my adolescence and adult life, but that was the first time I remember hearing it delivered so well. And then it was repeated, by both boys and girls, for the next hour, as I sat in my desk, slouching, trying hard to disappear. I've never felt much differently about the holiday since.

So, fuck you, Valentine's Day. Love, a Boy

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Trek Desking to Better Health, Episode 1: Made in China

Some goddamn assembly required
Desk work has a number of drawbacks, the primary one being that it makes for a sedentary lifestyle. Even if you go to the gym (and I try, I try), sitting for eight or more hours a day just takes a toll on the human body, especially the human body past 40 years of age. So, after a lot of research, I decided to purchase a Trek Desk ( and a treadmill ( so that, when I'm working at home, I can get exercise instead of allowing gravity, inertia, and a slowing metabolism turn me into this: (

The Trek Desk and treadmill arrived a couple of weeks ago via annoyed UPS man, and I assembled the desk a few days later only to find HOLY CRAP THAT'S BIGGER THAN I EXPECTED. (It did, however, have all the parts included and seems quite sturdy.) My study at home is not large and contained approximately a thousand books, a large "ordinary" desk, a bunch of guitars and music equipment, and sundry other toys and necessities for the 43-year-old adolescent, so it became immediately apparent that things had to change. One of the things I did was to purge half of my books and give them to charity (I hear the plaintive wail of several people who would've liked to have some of them, but I didn't have the patience or time to deal with that, sorry. I've instead increased the literacy of Seattle's homeless population, who may be some of the most literate in the country already.) I also had to take down shelving, which required me to paint my study for the first time in about six years.

So, after a weekend of industry, the desk is in place and last night my lovely wife and I assembled the treadmill. As an aside, I blame Ikea for making the Allen wrench the tool of choice for home assembly. The tool is ingenious for manufacturers because it costs virtually nothing to make and give away, but it is annoying to use IMHO especially if you're assembling something without the clearance to turn the wrench a full 360 degrees, meaning you have to put it in, turn a little, take it out, move the wrench, put it in, turn a little, repeat (sounds a little like something from the Kama Sutra, now that I write it out).

Once assembled (about an hour later because they didn't include the manual in the box and I had to get it off of the Internet--and it still wasn't complete), I plugged the treadmill in and VOILA! Nothing. No lights, no music, no nothing. (I didn't actually expect the music.) I then spent the next hour weaving a web of curse words and drinking a couple of glasses of wine while I tried to troubleshoot the problem. Finally figured it out and had to order a replacement part over the phone. Unfortunately, since it is one of the hardest parts to address, a technician has to come out to replace the part once it arrives. He'll be calling me within 48 hours for an appointment, which may be days later.

Total time on treadmill: 0 hours
Total calories burned: 0 (unless you count calories burned screaming and restraining myself from tearing the treadmill into pieces)