Monday, January 30, 2012

Why It's Important To Keep In Touch

I'm really bad at staying in touch. When I was younger, I was truly awful at it. I was more withdrawn then. I knew people but I was quiet and not good at holding a conversation.

Case in point: when I was young I visited relatives in Greece twice. Once was when I was really young (4ish), but the second time was my junior year in high school. I have cousins who still live in Greece. It was fun to hang out with them.

But I flew back to The States and time moved on and I didn't stay in touch. Last June my dad gave me my cousin's phone number and we got in touch again. He was recovering from a cancer scare. We talked and it was good to catch up on the last couple of decades. 

And then I lost touch with him again for six months. Monday morning I talked to my dad over the phone again. My cousin's cancer came back. He passed away over the weekend.

It's times like these when I wish I was better at keeping in touch. You never know when it will be the last time.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Super Bowl Talk at the Leominster McDonald's

Sunday night I was on my way home. At the exit to my place I stopped at McDonald's because I was tired and not in the mood to cook.

I had my Patriots jacket and Wes Welker jersey on. I ordered McNuggets. I turned my back to the cashier as I waited for my order, and then I heard....

"The Giants are gonna win next Sunday."

The night manager, who uttered this, apparently was taken aback that I turned to look at him. Every so often I have that moment when I seem to intimidate someone without trying.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa," he said, backing up until he almost crashed into the fry-o-lator. "I was just kidding. I'm a Pats fan."

I chuckled and said, "I just spent the day with friends, a couple of whom were Giants fans."

The night manager said, "Wow, what the fuck is wrong with these people? This is MASSACHUSETTS. This is Patriots country."

Actually, I hadn't been in Massachusetts all day, but I hope I did my part to make sure the Leominster McDonald's stays true to the Pats.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Every Once In Awhile, I Get Cake

Turns out one thing that happens when you get an MFA  is cake.

Saturday night I was treated to a cake by Sebastian, his butler, limo driver and servants. It looks delicious. I'm told it's yellowcake, my favorite (and no I'm not talking about uranium enrichment). I haven't had any yet because, though it's not a big cake, I'm stuffed.

If anyone wants to help me polish it off, let me know.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Wheel of Tequila

Recently Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak admitted that he and Vanna White used to tape the show after having a few drinks across the street. This is not in the current incarnation of the show but back in the '80, when there was both a daytime and nighttime version. He later backtracked/downplayed his comments after receiving some criticism.

This is ridiculous. It's not like Pat and Vanna have a difficult job. Here are their job responsibilities:

* Pat calls on a contestant to spin.

* When contestant calls out a letter, Pat says "I'm sorry there's no D" or "Yes, there are 3 T's."

* Vanna looks at the puzzle to see which tiles are lighted, walks over to them, touches them and the three T's show up.

* Pat makes sure contestant has enough money to buy a vowel (at least $250).

* Pat makes sure contestant doesn't call a letter on the used letter board.

* Pat makes sure contestant correctly solves the puzzle.

Not a lot of heavy lifting involved. You should be able to do this drunk.

Besides, back in those days, many game shows were notorious for erratic (i.e, drunk) behavior from the hosts/guest panel. Match Game is a notorious example. So who cares?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Facebook Timeline

It's coming. According to published reports, Facebook will be forcing me to switch to Timeline soon.

I've always been a holdout to Facebook redesigns. They happen so often, I feel like they disappear once I get used to them. This one seems to be particularly nerve-wracking. People are scrambling to go back through five years of Facebook status updates to erase any embarrassing comments.

There's a certain narcissism to Facebook. I post a lot of status updates and links to my blog and funny articles and such and I'm sure I drive people nuts from time to time. However, I also like to think that I can count on one hand the number of things I've posted that I'm embarrassed about.

I'm not necessarily looking forward to Timeline, but I'm not going to obsess about it. I don't think I have to go back and delete stuff. And that's good. Because I like to sleep at night.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

This Is Rude

A recent report shows that Boston is the fifth-rudest city in America.

This is total bullshit.

Fifth? Only fifth? No way in hell.

Behind Miami, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles? No way.

What's more disconcerting about this is that New York finished first. Going into the Super Bowl, this is not what I want to hear. A bad omen.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tim Thomas

Monday, Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who led the B's to the Stanley Cup last June, declined to meet President Obama at the White House, the only player on the team to do so.

On his Facebook page, Thomas posted his reasons why:

I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.
This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.
Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.
This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT

Reaction has been varied. Some people are angry at Thomas, calling him everything from an Obama-hater to hypocritical to unpatriotic. Others are happy that he took a stand and some take it even further by launching into a tirade on Obama.

Here's how I feel:

Tim Thomas is indeed a free citizen, and as such I respect and applaud his decision. He does not have to attend White House functions, nor should he be forced to attend. The United States not a dictatorship.

That said, if I were in his shoes I would've attended. I've never met Tim Thomas, but his Wikipedia page  says he's a Republican, so it's tough not to find it ingenuous when he says "this was not about politics or party." Also, while I can agree that the size and scope of government is larger than I feel comfortable with, much of the mechanism for that was in place long before Obama assumed the Presidency. And meeting with the President after your team wins the Stanley Cup/Super Bowl/World Series/NBA Finals is such a nonpartisan event, it'd seem like a better way to express your political loyalties to donate money to or endorse a candidate.

Lastly, this Tim Thomas controversy has taken valuable time on sports talk radio away from what's really important -- 24/7 talk about the upcoming Super Bowl. So knock it off, people!

Monday, January 23, 2012

New Tires and Plastered Holes

Monday was a long day. I got almost no sleep, largely because I spent all night watching highlights of the NFL conference championship games on TV, first on the local 11 p.m. news, then on NFL Network, then on ESPN. Soon it was 3:30 a.m.

I woke up four hours later because it dawned on me that my car was 30 miles away with a flat tire,  and I needed to let the service station know why my car was there and ask them to see if they could replace the tires. They said they would try to acquire tires by the end of the day.

Then I called the folks who punched two holes in my apartment because they can't move furniture. They said one of them would be back Monday to replaster the holes. I scheduled a time for Furniture Guy to come over.

Then I got a rental car (actually a pickup truck, from the Enterprise that's within walking distance of my place).

Of course, the car repair and replastering events were set in motion almost simultaneously. Here's the timeline:

3:52 -- The auto body shop called to tell me my car was ready.

4:37 -- I arrived at the shop and pay for the new tires.

4:38 -- Furniture guy calls to tell me they're loading up the truck and will be heading to my apartment shortly.

4:39 -- I call Enterprise and ask how to get to the nearest branch (in Maynard, two towns away from the shop), so I can drop off my truck and have them drive me back to the shop so I can drive my car home.

5:04 -- I arrive at Enterprise Maynard.

5:20 -- After paying for the rental, one of the Enterprise guys drives me home. He starts talking about the Pats game and misses the exit back to Route 2.

5:31 -- We stumble upon the shop through total accident by driving the back roads. I realie Route 2 was a very roundabout way to get the Enterprise.

5:54 -- I get a call from the furniture guy. I'm 10 minutes from home, They tell me they're 5 minutes from my place. (If they're like most people, this means they're 15-20 minutes from my place.)

6:01 -- I get to my house.

6:14 -- The furntiure guy arrives.

Long story short, the holes have been replastered and partially painted. Furniture Guy will be back Wednesday to finish the job.

Now I need some sleep.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

On Proclaiming Neutrality When a Super Bowl Rematch Is On the Line

For me, Conference Championship Sunday is stressful when the Patriots are in it.

Their opponent, the Baltimore Ravens, are a good team. They've punched the Patriots in the mouth in the playoffs before. Sunday, the Patriots and Ravens played a title fight worthy of a conference championship game, even though both teams played sloppy football at times. (If this were a boxing match, I might've even given it to Baltimore on points.) QB Tom Brady sucked, by his own admission. Despite the Pats' o-line neutralizing the Raven pass rush throughout the game, Brady threw two interceptions and missed some makeable throws. The Pats trailed entering the fourth quarter. They were a last-moment deflected pass away from giving up the go-ahead touchdown with 22 seconds left. Then they were a shanked 32-yard field goal away from having to go to overtime to decide the winner. But they pulled it off, 23-20.

This is only half the battle, though.

When you win the early game, then you sit and wait. The New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers met in the NFC Championship Game to determine the Patriots' opponent.

This left me with very conflicted emotions. Ordinarily in a 49ers-Giants matchup I would root for the 49ers. I've always hated the Giants. Before the Patriots were founded in 1960, Boston didn't have an NFL team and so many in New England adopted the Giants, at the time the closest NFL team geographically, as their team. As such there are still some 80-year-old geezers around these parts who claim allegiance to Big Blue. (And, when I was growing up the Giants were perennial Super Bowl contenders while the Patriots generally sucked so these old geezers were obnoxious about their loyalties.) And of course, my Giant hatred only intensified four years ago when the Giants upset the Patriots and ruined their perfect season in Super Bowl XLII .

That said, there's that part of me that wanted the Giants to win. Pretty much every Patriots fan was rooting for the Giants on Sunday night, for that shot at revenge. I mean, it was that much sweeter that the Red Sox had to vanquish the Yankees in the ALCS before they could win the 2004 World Series, and that the Celtics had to go through the Los Angeles Lakers to win the 2008 NBA Finals. Revenge is a powerful motivator.

That said, there's that part of me that feels like it's bad karma to root for a team as your Super Bowl opponent. Be careful what you wish for, you know? You may get it, and then the team you rooted for may turn around and beat the Patriots. So I rooted for neither the 49ers nor the Giants, and simply watched the game. It's very difficult for me to watch a game, especially one of this magnitude, and not openly root for someone. Even when I hate both teams, there's usually one team I hate less. Twitter was great for this. I would tweet after every score, every big play, or every time referee Ed Hochuli gave a rambling, 12-minute explanation of why he threw a flag (seriously, what was up with that?), and it allowed me not to get emotionally involved.

Of course, the NFC title game game had to go into overtime. But the Giants outlasted San Francisco 20-17, and so here we are. Patriots-Giants. I let the chips fall where they may, and now it will happen.

There's the possibility of the healing of old wounds, or of a deepening of the hurt. But this is the Super Bowl, and that's what should be at stake. Now the buildup can begin.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Flat Tire

I was on my way to see writer friends Saturday night when I got a flat tire on Route 2 in Concord.

Route 2 in Concord is a lousy place to have a flat. It doesn't have a wide breakdown lane, particularly after 6 inches of snow falls during the day. Still, I refuse to change my own tires (not to mention I have a spare but no rims). You always hear that story on the news a couple of times a year about the person who's changing a tire in the breakdown lane and they get hit and killed by an inattentive or drunk driver. I don't want that to be me, so I sat in the car, seatbelt on, waiting for a tow.

I was surprisingly calm. I called AAA. Because I was not in the safest location, they accelerated the tow and called the police, both of which came within 15 minutes. I was fine. We got my car towed to a place (that of course, is closed all weekend). Hopefully my car will be up and running by Monday afternoon.

I thank my friend Sebastian, who totally came through in the clutch by dispatching his butler to fetch me a ride back home.

And all throughout the evening's events, my primary concern was: how does this affect today's Patriots game? Also, this means I won't be returning to Dianne's house for the AFC Championship game.

It doesn't see like this is a good omen for the Pats. 

Friday, January 20, 2012


I don't use all my brain power.

Exhibit A: My new place is nice, but one downside is the dryer downstairs doesn't work. When I did my first laundry I ran it through the dryer twice. Basically, I flushed $2.50 down the toilet. My clothes were just as wet after two times in the dryer than they were when I threw them in.

I chalked it up as a failure, and most of autumn I air-dryed my clothes in my apartment. Which saves me $1.25 (or $2.50, or more) but also gives my clothes that odd musty smell. Not desirable. A few times I hit up a friend for use of her dryer (in exchange for babysitting her kids for a few hours), but there are only so many times I can go to that well.

Now that I'm back home from residency I started to think, there has to be a better way.

There's a Market Basket supermarket that I shop at right up the street from my house. Three doors down is a laundromat. Friday I gave it a try.

Four quarters in the dryer and my clothes were dry. Better than dry. Toasty warm. For less money than it would cost me to dry the clothes in my house (and about 16 cents in gas to drive there), I can finally dry my clothes satisfactorily. I mean, my friend's dryer works like a charm too but, well like I sad earlier, there are only so many times....

I've known this laundromat exists since I moved to town. Why I haven't connected the dots before now is beyond me.

I have to work on this brain power thing.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sleeper Sofa Sequel

I've had some people asking how my first night was on my new sleeper sofa.

It went well. I pulled out the sofa around 1 a.m. and I was amazed at how comfy it is. I bought one of those Something-O-Pedic mattresses and as it turns out they're quite comfortable.

I woke up in the middle of the night (around 4 a.m.) and felt tired but really good. No back aches. No neck aches. No hands asleep (I have a tendency to fall asleep on my side). I rolled around and enjoyed the comfy feeling and then I fell asleep again.

Next thing I new the sun was up, it was 7:30 and on 6 1/2 hours sleep I felt fantastic.

Thus far, this appears to be a wise investment.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Beware the Sleeper Sofa

Sometimes life reminds me that I'm an adult and I need to start acting like one.

Two casualties from my September moving hell were my sofa and my bed. I gave them away on Craig's List because I didn't need them anymore. Of course, the Great Roommate Experiment lasted only a couple of months and suddenly I was back on my own again, with my only remaining furniture a computer chair and air mattress.

This lasted for a few months, because my top priority was my thesis and so I was fine lounging around in a chair and mattress. Then I went to my graduation residency, began to appreciate the creature comfort of a real bed (albeit without working plumbing). Sure enough, when I got back home I needed a real bed. Some people asked how my back survived for so long without a real bed, but to be honest it was my neck that ached and creaked, not my back.

So last week I went to The Furniture Store [not its real name] to purchase a sleeper sofa. (This way, I can be frugal and combine the need for a sofa and bed. The sleeper part was surprisingly comfortable. I can always address the need for a real bed at a later date.) I was careful and, unusual for me, adult-like. I measured my front doorway and stairwell so that I could make sure whatever sleeper I purchased would fit through the door. I purchased one (six months, zero interest).

Delivery was scheduled for Wednesday morning, between 7 and 10. At 7:30 sharp the truck arrived.

And then the crisis began.

Two guys were assigned to bring my sleeper sofa up the two Victorian flight of stairs to my third-floor apartment. It's not a heavy piece of furniture; again, I tried to be adult-ish and pick something that would be, by sleeper standards, light.

I heard them bring the sofa up the first flight and then the second flight.

Then I heard nothing.

Then I heard this:

"Fucking A, Skippy [not his real name], pick the fucking sofa up."

The sofa is sitting on the stairs. Skippy is manning the back of the sofa and Zeke [the other guy, also not his real name] is screaming at him because he can't seem to lift up the sofa anymore. Zeke's profanity-laced tirade continues. More f-bombs. More swearing. "I'm sick of this shit, Skippy" Zeke shouts. "I'm asking for a new partner from now on. You're hopeless."

Skippy barks back. I get my first look at him. Skippy looks like he's about to puke. He's not a big guy. It dawns on me that Skippy either needs to hit the weight room more or not be a furniture deliverer.

It also dawns on me that I am trapped in my apartment. Someday I will need to use the stairs to leave the house and run an errand and the sofa is blocking access to them.

Through the back and forth of profanity, I learn that Skippy is a friend of Zeke's and just got laid off and Zeke's trying to help out Skippy by hooking him up with a job.

I'm uncomfortable. I understand Zeke's pissed at Skippy. I'm pissed at Skippy too. Skippy clearly needs to not be a mover, because as Zeke says he clearly doesn't have what it takes. Seriously. I'm far from a bodybuilder but I can lift one end of this sofa by myself.

But I don't want the verbal abuse to continue. I also don't want a fistfight to break out between two friends-turned-adversaries/coworkers. It's unprofessional. Also, I live above two other apartments and its still early and I have to think this is waking up my downstairs neighbors.

After more shouting, f-bombing and finally a violent thrust, the sofa makes it halfway through my door. I've never given birth but this sort of seems what it might look like. It's stuck. More violent thrusting, pulling out, pushing in, and suddenly, two WHACKS.

The sofa bed is in, but not without two large plaster holes, one in the stairwell just outside my house, the other along my door.

I'm pissed. The first order of business is to drop a note with my landlord and explain what happened and express my frustration and apologize. He was at work Wednesday morning. He's been home since then but as of yet he hasn't contacted me, so I'm not sure if he'll be laid back about this or pissed. Zeke and Skippy offer to replaster the damaged area next week and give me their phone number. They continue to curse each other out as they leave. I want to call The Furniture Store and complain. That's tomorrow's order of business.

Like I said, sometimes life reminds me that I'm an adult and I need to start acting like one. And sometimes life reminds me that I'm much more mature than other adults.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wikipedia Blackout

I'm a Wikipedia junkie. Thus, today is a bad day for me. I learned the hard way while trying to look up "Canadian Football League" on Wiki in a fit of boredom at 12:01 a.m.

Wikipedia is blacked out today in protest of the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) rumbling through the House and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate. To learn more, here's a line to a story that explains the purpose of the blackout.

I haven't fact-checked this article so I can't vouch for its 100% accuracy. That said, it's a little disturbing that the House bill seemingly would allow the government to "blacklist" sites that allegedly distribute pirated content.

Certainly, as a writer, I understand that the need to keep intellectual property secure. But there's only so much that can be done. Intellectual property is also a gray area that will forever be open to interpretation. And anything that purports to shut down Internet sites seems to me to be a blatant violation of free speech.

So I hope the House reconsiders and tempers its bill. There has to be some room for compromise somewhere.

Because I need my Wikipedia Canadian Football League article back.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Three Fellow MFAers Get Published -- Woot!

January has been a good month for a few of my fellow Fairfield MFA graduates, who've had books published.

A.J. O'Connell's "Beware the Hawk" is a pulp fiction e-novella, formatted for Kindle, Nook and PDF that drops today. You can buy it here. Even though it's an e-book, if you want an "autographed copy" you can - until next Monday - send A.J. your mailing address at annjoconnell<at>gmail<dot>com, and she'll send you an autographed Post-It note that you can stick on your Nook/Kindle/computer/phone while you're reading.

Chris Belden has a Web site devoted to his novel, Carry-On, which was released Jan. 3. It's a dark and yet hilarious look into the world of the life of Caleb after his marriage dissolves. You can buy a copy here. He read an excerpt from it one evening during my graduation residency and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

And poet Annabelle Moseley's The Clock of the Long Now, released Monday, is a collection of sonnets that tackle time in its many forms. It's available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Having workshopped and eaten at the same table as and hung out with them during my time in the program, you can imagine how thrilled I am to see this trio in print. I can only hope that someday I'll be able to follow in their rather large footsteps.

Your Browser, the Sequel

Back in August, I blogged about how Blogger was trying to force me to switch my browser to Google Chrome. It gave me this message when I tried to blog:

Your browser is no longer supported by Blogger. Some parts of Blogger will not work and you may experience problems.
If you are having problems, try Google Chrome. | Dismiss

This was a seemingly nondescript blog, and I was able to figure it out and return to Internet Explorer the next day without incident. I'm sure Google Chrome is fine. I know several people who prefer Chrome, and perhaps if I really spent some time trying to acclimate myself to Chrome I might prefer it too. But I don't have time to think about such things. To me, if it's not intuitive enough for me to figure out immediately, then it's not worth the time.

Apparently I struck a chord. That blog is now my most viewed blog of all time by a wide margin. Perhaps people googled "Your browser is no longer supported by Blogger" and stumbled upon my blog. I even got a comment on this blog from someone whom I don't know.

It's somewhat depressing for me that it has replaced my previous most-viewed blog, in which I announced that I had finished a first draft of my novel. But you never know what people will gravitate toward when they're searching the blogosphere.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Post-Patriots Cop Log

After a night in which, at least for one week, I reversed the Patriots' playoff curse at my friend Dianne's house, I was pretty overjoyed and happy to be driving down my home street at 2:30 a.m.

When I got there, though, I saw flashing lights. And three police cruisers blocking the driveway to my house. They've apparently stopped a couple of cars several pedestrians, a total of about a dozen of people who, while not outwardly committing any crimes, seem to be somewhat unproductive members of society. I live in a Victorian house that's the only residential building on my block. I can imagine someone else who lives here may have dropped a dime on the cops that these folks were being loud and boisterous late at night. (Overcelebrating the Patriots, maybe?)

Clearly I will be unable to pull into the back of the house where my designated parking spot is. Thus, I am trapped. I could park on the street, but I do not know these people or what their purpose is. I don't want to leave my car unattended. Nor do I want to get out of the car, for the same reasons.

So I sit in the car, because, as I correctly predict, eventually one of the cops comes over to me.

"Can I help you?" the cop asks me.

"Yeah, I live right there," I say, pointing to my house.

"Oh, OK, we're just asking them to leave and making sure there are no warrants on any of them." He gestures one of the other cruisers to back up so I can pull into the driveway.

Five minutes later, the cars, people and cruisers are all gone, and I'm safe in my apartment. This was too good a night for anything bad to happen.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Patriots Playoff: Facing the Curse of Dianne's House Head-on

There are two sides to me.

One is the wildly superstitious side, the side that avoids cracks in the sidewalks and wears the same Patriots' shirt on game day as long as they keep winning.

The other side is the rational side of me, that realizes that Bill Belichick doesn't know I exist and that the earth does not spin off its axis because of inconsequential decisions on my part.

The Two Sides Of Phil will collide head-on later tonight, when the Patriots play the Broncos in an AFC Divisional Playoff game. My tentative plans are to go to my friend Dianne's house for a cookout, the same house in which I watched the Patriots lose to the Jets in last year's playoffs.

The one side of me is apoplectic. "Why are you doing this, Phil. YOU IDIOT," it tells me. "You remember what happened last year. In fact, in your lifetime you've watched the Patriots lose three playoff games there. Dianne's house is a curse."

The other side of me refuses to get sucked into talk of jinxes and curses. "Phil, don't listen to this kook," the other side says. "First of all, the Patriots are 2-3 in playoff games at Dianne's house -- remember the 24-21 upset of top-seeded San Diego in the 2007 playoffs? Yeah, you saw that at Dianne's too. So it's not like they ALWAYS lose here. Secondly, if the Patriots lose, it will be because their 31st-ranked defense let them down, or because they only played two teams with a winning record all year and lost to both of them, or because Tom Brady played like shit, or because Bill Belichick got outcoached and didn't run the ball enough and lost his fourth consecutive playoff game to a team the Pats were favored to beat. You will not miss a single tackle, drop a single pass, or fumble a single ball, just like you won't score a touchdown or intercept a pass if they win. Whatever happens it is NOT YOUR FAULT. Thirdly, in order for the Patriots to break the jinx and win the Super Bowl again you have to face this head-on. It wouldn't be the same. The Red Sox had to beat the Yankees before winning the World Series. The Bruins had to beat the Canadiens en route to winning the Stanley Cup. And lastly, Dianne's pretty good on the grill."

The rational side of me is beginning to take over. I will face The Curse of Dianne's House.

Though, it's 1:30 a.m. I have 18 hours to change my mind.


Thursday, January 12, 2012


One of the things that's happened to me after graduating from an MFA program last week is restlessness. There's this void where you no longer have the packet deadlines. But I have to do something to stay in the game. Luckily I have some writer friends and a former mentor who keep me focused and force me to set goals for myself.

So I've been trying to set goal for the coming year. Because it's the beginning of the year, I'm basically setting New Year's Resolutions, which I hate. (This is how bad I am at New Year's resolutions: one year my New Year's resolution was to stop making New Year's resolutions, and as you can see I can't even make good on that one.)

This is vulnerability at its core. For one, setting goals puts me in a position to fail. Secondly, it's goal-setting is difficult. You have to set the goals high for them to be worthwhile. By definition, this means you have to risk failure. But if you set all your goals too high, then you can fail at all of them and become easily discouraged.

So I've set some attainable goals, that are more modest, and some ambitious goals that will be difficult to accomplish (and some actually may contradict each other, so I doubt it would even be possible to accomplish them all). But would very worthwhile and make me proud to achieve one of more of them.

Attainable goals:

1) Continue to revise and polish my novel until it's agent-ready
2) Apply for writing fellowships
3) Apply for adjunct teaching positions
4) Pursue freelance writing opportunities.
5) Read for one hour a day

Ambitious goals:

1) Secure an agent for my novel
2) Get accepted for a writing fellowship
3) Land an adjunct gig for fall 2012 or spring 2013
4) Revise three short stories that have been sitting in the belly of my laptop for years and secure publication for at least one
5) Apply for creative writing Ph. D programs (just in case...)
6) Put myself in a position where, going forward, I can earn enough money to get by on some combination of freelance writing and teaching and fellowship money.

We'll see. I may be a compete failure come December.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

On the Disappearance Of an Icon

Today I noticed that all my links to my blog on my Facebook Wall had disappeared.

This confuses me. This past semester I sort of slowed down my blog production because I was focused on my thesis. But since I came home from my final residency I've blogged every day. Normally I'll post a link to the blog on Facebook and it shows up, along with my icon, a map of New England.

Interestingly, the particular map I used as the icon also seems to have disappeared from Google Images.

So I have no idea what is going on or who took my icon. Aliens? The Jersey Devil? The mind wanders. This is when I wish I was more of a techie so that I could get to the bottom of things.

Hopefully, things will return to normal soon.

Oh, And One More Thing....

One last addendum from yesterday, I think I have to post this icon to my blog: order to win the Versatile Blogger Award.

So there it is. I would hate to get declined for a minor oversight.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Versatile Blogger Award Winner

A couple of days ago I found out there's a thing called the Versatile Blogger Award. I found this out because I was nominated for it by a fellow blogger friend (thanks, Kate).

According to the VBA website, if you've been nominated, you're a winner. So there will be no red-carpet ceremony hosted by Ryan Seacrest, no drama when someone wins and I don't (or vice versa), no after-party hijinks to be reported in People or on TMZ. The award does come with some housecleaning items that I have to take care of before I can officially be a VBA recipient.

1) Thank the person who gave me this award (already taken care of above. Thanks again, Kate.)

2) Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it. (Also already taken care of above).

3) Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. ( I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!) Herein lies the challenge. Since Kate and I are MFA buds, she's already named a lot of the blogs I would have selected. However, as best as I can tell there's nothing in the bylaws that says I can't nominate someone again. At some point there's bound to be some repetition.

4) Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site.  
Here goes:
Curses in Cursive (from Kate, this probs doesn't count toward the 15 since it's already mentioned above though)
Reinventing Erin (from my MFA Little Sister)
Write Here, Write Now (from my MFA Little Sister, Once Removed)
Climbing the Treacherous Mountain (from another MFA pal)
The Garret (from yet another MFA pal and my fellow workshopmate, who has a novella coming out in a week)
Hair-Raising Situations (you guessed it, another MFA buddy)
The Dirty Lamp (from my former MFA roommate)
Becoming Sissa (from another fellow MFAer and song-lyric-changer)
Carry On The Novel (from an MFA graduate from one year ago, whose novel has justg been published)
Theropoda (now I'm gonna get crazy and switch the focus from MFA classmates to dinosaur nuts)
Paul Lisicky (back to my MFA roots, author and teacher)
The Baby Blogs (blog from an infant boy, though I strongly suspect it's ghostwritten by his mom, a former fellow newspaper reporter friend of mine) Blogs (back to things prehistoric, the favorite blog of my fictitious football team)
Eyes Peeled, Always (from someone I've never officially met but is inspirational nonetheless)
The Theropod Database Blog (yep, more dinosaurs)
Homen Dun Roamin (not an MFA friend, but a writer who received her MFA elsewhere and with whom I'm in a writers group).
Elizabeth Hilts Like Blowing Glass In Public (Surprise! Another fellow MFAer)
The Info Dump (still another MFAer and Trueblood Award winner)
The Dog and Spoke (lastly, this is a debut blog of yet another MFA buddy)

5) Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself. Whew! I had no idea winning awards was so exhausting. And narcissistic.
Anyway, here goes:
* I'm a dinosaur junkie.
* I have a vivid imagination and I'm not afraid to use it.
* I'm obsessed with all things New England (OK, most things New England).
* I'm lost without the Internet
* I'm a big football fan.
* I'm an avid reader.
* I just received my MFA in fiction.

That's it, right? Good. Thanks for your support, everyone! I couldn't have done it without you.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Life After the MFA, Day 2

Thanks to the sense of urgency with which I packed and left for residency back in December, my apartment looks as if a tornado hit. Now that I've had a good night's sleep, this is my next order of business now that I'm back home.

Here are the things that, in my haste to bust outta here, I neglected to do:

* Take the trash out (so you can imagine how good it smells in here. Stupid, stupid move, Phil).
* Throw out the half-eaten apple in the fridge that I apparently didn't have time to finish before I left.
* Pick up scattered papers that together constitute numerous thesis revisions lying on the floor, which I could've picked up a few weeks ago, but in my anxiety to get ready to leave, I simply avoided them as I walked through the apartment.

This is a daunting task. I did, however, benefit from a few breaks. I only received four pieces of mail, and only two phone calls, neither of whom left a message. So I really have nothing to catch up on.

Being at a writer's retreat can be magical and exciting. But it ends, and at some point the real world intervenes. Life goes on.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Life After the MFA, Day 1

It usually takes me a couple of days to decompress after my MFA residency. It was a whirlwind residency.

The good news was that, as a graduating student, I didn't have to go to the faculty seminars (I did go to a couple anyway because they sounded interesting). We survived a septic disaster and worse-than-usual wireless internet. I wasn't as social as I usually am at these residencies, because despite not having to go to the seminars, there were other things I had to do -- lots of TA stuff, putting the finishing touches on a speech. So I was still as exhausted, if not more so, as I usually am at these residencies. Still, we had a great time.

I stayed in Mystic an extra day and hung out with one of my MFA friends. Usually I'm ready to go home at the end of the residencies. This time it was a different feeling. Because I'm done. I have my MFA now and won't be heading down to Enders anymore except for Alumni Day. This time I felt the need to stay an extra day.

On the way home, I began to feel a little sad. But staying in Mystic for breakfast was an omen, because the ride home gave me some nostalgic and inspirational tunes to listen to on the way back home.

"When the World Is Running Down, You Make the Best of What's Still Around" -- The Police
"Dreams" -- Van Halen
"Blow" -- Ke$ha
"Pumped Up Kicks" -- Foster The People (there's nothing inspirational about this song, in fact the lyrics are pretty dark. But because I've heard it so much in the past six months, in my mind it will forever be inexorably linked to my thesis.) 
"Empire State of Mind" -- Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys

It made the drive a lot easier. I'm still tired, but I feel more prepared for life after the MFA.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Mystic Cop Log

I've been showering at my friend's hotel room of late because of the septic fiasco. Monday they gave me the keys and told me to let myself in because they had to go to a seminar and, as part of the graduating cohort, I do not.

I showered, shaved and put new clothes on. Then I let myself out. As I got into the car, a guy burst out of the manager's office at the Taber Inn and flagged me down.

"Excuse me, what room are you in?" he asked.

"Room 17."

"What's your name?"

Shit. Clearly I am neither Erin nor Linsey.

"I'm not actually renting the room. My friends offered it to me because I'm part of the Enders crowd that had the septic debacle. They gave me the keys." I jiggle the keys to show him.

He seems to be fine after this. It was an awkward encounter. Erin and Linsey are my friends and they've been very generous to let me shower over there while we're in septic hell and I would never steal anything from them. But it's good news. It's good that the Taber is watching out for them.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Now that I've survived the sea monster, I face my next challenge at residency. I'll be a teaching assistant in my second-half workshop for one of my former mentors. I'm not sure what to expect. I'll be critiquing the workshops alongside Porochista, and making copies for her, sending out emails, etc. I'm a little nevous. I hope I'm not too tough or too easy on the students. But it should be an interesting experience.