Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day

I learned something about Leap Day/Year today.

I always thought Leap Year was every four years. It's not. It's every four years...

Except for years ending in '00, which ordinarily are not leap years.

Except for years ending in '00 but beginning with a multiple of 4 (16, 20, 24, etc.), which are leap years.

This means that 2000 was a leap year, but 2100 will not be. Which is fine. Except that, unless there are remarkable advancements in the world of medicine in the coming years, 2000 was the only year ending in '00 in my lifetime. I will never witness an '00 year that is not a leap year.

I'm a little disappointed about this. I feel like I missed out.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dude, Where's My Icon?

Last week I cleared my browser cookies , and in the process I apparently cleared something else: my blog's icon.

Since then I've been patient. This happened to me once before and, within a few days my icon had returned without any heavy lifting on my part. But it's been about a week now and nothing's changed.

I've tried changing deleting my icon and re-adding it to my blog, without success. I don't want to spend a lot of time trying to figure this out. 

If anyone has an ideas, let me know. Because this is annoying.

Monday, February 27, 2012

On Being a Fictional Misogynist

Creating female characters has always been one of my biggest weaknesses as a writer.

I don't fully understand why this is. My best guess is that it's because I'm not female and so this creates a mystification process, where I create some version of my female ideal and then I try to recreate this on paper and it comes out cardboardish. I've been told at one time or another that a female character I created was too male-fantasy, too grotesque, too shrill, too quiet, too agreeable, too bitchy. And at one time or another these have been legitimate gripes.

I try to combat this problem. I'm in several writers groups and, in doing the math in my head, a quick census reveals that 80% of the people in these collective groups are female, which is probably what I need. And I do feel like it's helped. I'm writing a novel that revolves around a fictitious football team, and so most of the characters are male, but there are a few key female characters. I want to get this right. There have been times in the past when my fellow writers have saved my female characters from veering into bad stereotypes.

However, I'm at a point where I'm struggling with my female characters again. So for my writers group Sunday, I submitted a novel excerpt that was pretty rough because, among other things, my major female character is poorly conceived in it. It got the response I expected, and some suggestions as to how to make her more realistic as a character.

The only problem was that A.J. O'Connell was the most vociferous about the issues with my female character.

That in itself isn't a problem. A.J. is

1) a talented writer (if you haven't read her novella Beware the Hawk yet you need to do so).
2) female
3) a friend
4) generous in her time and ability to help

But here was the problem: she, too, submitted an excerpt for our group too. And on Saturday night, at the same time that she was reading my excerpt and being less-than-enthused with my female character, I was reading her story and finding that I really disliked the male character in it, to the point where I found him a little offensive. For many of the same reasons she disliked my female character. I felt like this character devolved into many of the bad male stereotypes -- he was nameless, he sat around and watched shoot-'em-up movies or played with guns, he seemed to only be in the story when the protagonist needed to converse with someone in between scenes, and then he spoke in grunts and monosyllables or in a way that demonstrated he wasn't paying attention.

So I was pissed. Not because I felt like A.J. was wrong about my female character -- she was spot-on. I got pissed because A.J. was spot-on while, in my opinion, doing the same thing she accused me of doing.

It's like this: if you tell me you're gonna pick me up at 8 and when you arrive I still need to shower and shave and brush my teeth, you'd be pissed at me for holding you up, and rightfully so. I'd apologize and try not to do that again. But then, if it's my turn to pick you up and you tell me, "Hang tight, I'm jumping in the shower now," I'm gonna be Pissed + 1 at you for doing the exact same thing.

And because I was one of the first to be workshopped and she was one of the last, when it was A.J.'s turn I was loaded for bear.

So I reacted. Badly. I whacked my hand on the table and said her character was a meathead and that I was offended by him. We're all in these groups, not to be carried across the room and told how great we are, but to become better writers. Yet I feel like you can offer writing advice without being a dick. And for a couple of minutes, I crossed the line. I felt bad for the rest of the meeting.

After the meeting ended and we walked to our cars, I was worried that brawl would spill out into the street. But A.J. and I hugged it out and we were fine, which was a huge relief to me. I wouldn't want to lose a friend over this.

Everything worked out in the end. We both have a better understanding of what not to do. We both got a blog out of this: (hers is here). We challenged ourselves to work on gender-based writing exercises. This isn't really the way I envisioned it happening, but maybe a few minutes of accusations of misandry and misogyny will help make us better writers.

Will Be Back Shortly

I had a crazybusy weekend. Sorry I haven't posted in awhile. A new blog (a real new blog, not just a "letting you know one's coming" blog) will be forthcoming later tonight. It has to do with some of the business of this past weekend.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Another Classmate Gets Published

I went online yesterday and ordered The Whipping Club, another book published by one of my Fairfield MFA classmates, Deb Henry. Congrats to Deb.

This comes off the heels of some of my other former classmates getting published.  This, however, is the first time something I actually workshopped in the program has been published. I look forward to reading again and seeing how the novel has evolved over time.

In fact, I was in five (count 'em, five) workshops with Deb in my time on the island. We referred to each other as our fictitious spouses because of this. We went through a fictitious divorce one residency when we were not in any workshops together.

We try to stay on good terms for our fictitious kids, though.

Deleting History

As someone who has a functional knowledge of computers but is hardly a techie, I always get nervous when things go wrong. And I've been trying to write a blog, but every time I log onto my site, I get a perpetual loading loop and I can't type anything into the text of my blog.

A few minutes ago I realized it's been doing this for 12 hours now and this was becoming a big problem. In my last blog, I complained about how mundane life has been lately. No good deed goes unpunished. So I decided to think about what could be wrong. Usually, for me, this involves shutting the laptop down, restarting it and hoping for the best.

However, today I thought to myself, "I haven't deleted my browser history in awhile, so maybe I should give that a try." I have no idea what the correlation would be, except for that things seem to load quicker when my history is cleared. So I tried it.

Here is the end result -- a blog. Once again, I've somehow managed to survive cyberspace hell.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

On the Cure To Boredom

Last week I had a really boring week.

It's not that nothing happened. I accomplished some things. Just nothing of major significance.

The most interesting things that happened:

* I was in the car on my way to some errands, and my friend Rebecca called my cell.
"Look to your right," she said.
I did, and she was in the lane next to me, waving.

* I saw a bug on my living room wall, and I grabbed a shoe to kill it. And then I realized it was not a bug but a nail in the wall.

I'm not sure what to make of this, but it worries me. Usually I'm a magnet of weird-dom, whether it's people taking the wrong carriage at Market Basket or just being general dicks.

Hopefully the cycle will be reversed soon.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Monthly Sofa Bill

It's amazing how financial companies will sneakily make it hard for you to pay your bill.

I put my my sleeper sofa on credit. It's interest free if I pay it off within six months. If I don't, or if I make a late payment, I get dinged for all the interest that would've normally accrued.

So my first payment is due tomorrow. I looked at the bill and there's no indication that I can pay it online. Obviously at this point, if I sent it via snail mail, it'll be late and I'll get screwed into high interest payments. The bill does give me a phone number to call. But I've called those numbers before. They'll let you pay your bill over the phone but they tack on a $15 service charge. #Lame.

But when I called the number, a recorded woman's voice told me that I can indeed pay my bill online. So I went online. Though the website tried to ensure that I wouldn't do it by claiming that my password didn't match when I tried to retype it, I was persistent and eventually it relented and let me access my account and pay the bill online.

Take that, Wells Fargo.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

White Coke Cans

I was at the store yesterday when I saw a red Coke can with polar bears on it.

A couple of months ago, all hell broke loose when Coke unveiled some white Coke cans with polar bears on them (as part of the campaign, they've donated millions to wildlife conservation efforts). People began confusing them with silver Diet Coke cans. And then they got pissed. I can understand how frustrating it can be for someone to be expecting Diet Coke and take a sip off regular Coke, since I despise Diet Coke. I remember being very careful the first time I saw the white Coke cans, because I wanted to make sure I was buying the right Coke.

Some people even said the regular Coke in white cans "tastes different." I actually thought it tasted a little better.

I understand the ruckus, but it seems a careful look at what you're grabbing goes a long way at preventing soft drink disappointment. Still, it looks like the new polar bear-themed red can means the white can is no more.

I still have a white can sitting on my kitchen counter. Maybe it'll be a collectors item.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Computer Freeze

I had my laptop on (appropriately enough) my lap when I heard it make a loud beeping sound, and then the cursor froze.

Weird things like this happen to me on occasion. And as I started to curse myself and figure out if I had to run to Best Buy to talk to the Geek Squad, I told myself to try to recreate the position the computer was on my lap.

After some wiggling and maneuvering, I heard the beeping sounds again, and I've regained use of my cursor.

Now I have to figure out which positions I can sit in as I use my laptop going forward. I never thought computer ergonomics would require so much thought.

Late Xmas Present

Over the weekend I received my final Christmas present. It's the "A Charlie Brown Christmas" CD from Vince Guaraldi.

Coming off the heels of watching "Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown", this is great news. Of course is has some of the most time-tested Christmas songs of the holiday season. But it also has some lesser known songs that are really good, such as "My Little Drum".

I didn't receive this gift until recently because of the hustle involved in getting ready for my final residency and other scheduling conflicts. However, this was worth the wait.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Random Questions About "Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown"

I watched Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, I had a few unanswered questions.

Why are Charlie Brown and Lucy in the same class as their little siblings Sally and Linus?

Why are there no desks in that classroom?

Why not include the Lucy/Schroeder unrequited subplot? They both feature heavily in this episode.

Why does Miss Othmar get up and walk out of class in the middle of the day? I mean, like all Peanuts adults, we don't see her. But Linus runs out of the classroom chases after her with his Valentine's Day box of chocolates, so it's implied.

Is the boyfriend that Miss Othmar runs off with one of her students? (Maybe Charles Schultz was edgier than we thought.)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Real Women Don’t Date Yankees Fans

My MFA Little Sister Erin Corriveau...

...and I are guest blogging for each other today, in honor of Valentine's Day and the Red Sox trucks leaving for spring training. This is her blog (the title speaks for itself). For an alternate take on dating a Yankee fan, check out my guest blog for Erin here.

And now, here's Erin:

I’m sure I made a lot of foolish decisions when I was 21 years old. There were probably a few drunken nights. I probably skipped a few classes, failed to study for a few tests. But the worst decision of all? That’s easy. The worst decision was dating a Yankees fan.

I met Mike at a wedding. That should have been the first sign something would go wrong. Listen up, single ladies. Weddings, like alcohol, cloud your judgment. He’s related to a very close friend of mine, so I’m not going to write anything that would embarrass or hurt him. I knew he was a Yankees fan before I dated him. I am at fault for that. Plus, I can’t really blame all my disinterest in Yankees men on solely him. There were others. Other guys I talked to or dated. All I can do is share the lessons I’ve learned from them all.

First: Yankees fans can talk a good talk. Let’s get something straight right off the bat. It is easy to be a Yankees fan. Mike and I dated in 2006. From 1919 to 2006, the Yankees won 26 World Series Championships. The Red Sox won zero. Why wouldn’t you want to be a fan of the winning team? Being a Red Sox fan takes dedication that Yankees fans can’t even begin to fathom.  When you root for a team year after year that hasn’t won in 89 years, you’re obviously committed. Anyone can be a Yankees fan; it takes a completely different person to be a Red Sox fan.

Second: Baseball, like relationships, is a team sport. There is no changing that. The most important thing to mention here is that if you don’t want to be on a team, you might as well trade your bat for a racquet and your baseball for a tennis ball. When you’re part of a team, you need to work with your teammates. Match your strengths with their weaknesses and vice versa. When you’re a member of a team (or relationship) you support your teammates; you encourage them. When one player throws in the towel (Eh Hem, like Manny Ramirez circa Red Sox 2008 season or Mike circa our brief 2006 dating), the other teammates are forced to try and pick up the slack, and this is not a recipe for success. Obviously, no one plays perfectly in every single game, but a little effort goes a very long way, which brings me nicely to my next point.

Third: It isn’t just the home runs (or fancy presents or wild stories of an imagined future) that wins a game. Sometimes, a bunt is what wins the game. In my opinion, it is the small moments that help relationships and win baseball games. Everyone loves the major moments. Fans love the big home runs or stolen bases or grand slams. It makes sense. Who doesn’t like exciting moments, especially when it’s your team that’s winning, but what about the rest of the game? A lot happens in nine innings. When I was a child, I didn’t understand why the player would hit a bunt, but now I get it. Sometimes all you need to do is move the ball for your teammates to be able to move farther, and when you’re in it together, them advancing will help you advance. Sometimes, a bunt is all you need to keep the momentum going.

Finally: Good sportsmanship is the absolute most important skill in baseball, and this is particularly why I’ve always been so fond of the Red Sox, and not so fond of the Yankees. (I won’t get into it, but remember A-Rod swatting the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove on his way to first base? Who does that? Well, guess what A-Rod? We won that game, and then the ALCS and the 2004 World Series.) Good sportsmanship, aka respect, is also paramount in dating. What’s that saying? It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game? I completely agree. No one likes a whiner or a poor thing or a pity part. No one wants to date one either.

When I turned 22, I moved from Massachusetts to Norfolk, Virginia for a little while. I’ve been told I have a “wicked” Boston accent, and everyone there used to call me a Yankee.

Yankee? No way in hell. Get it straight, Southerners: I love y’all, but I’m a member of Red Sox Nation.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Coming Soon: The First Guest Blog for "Life in the Philloverse."

It's tough being a blogger, all that coming up with a unique topic every day and stuff. It can be exhausting. (I know, WAAAAAH!)

But I'm excited to announce that the next time you read "Life in the Philloverse," it'll be written, for the first time, by a special guest blogger. And I'm even more excited that the guest blogger will be my MFA Little Sister Erin. That's really the way it should be. After all, Erin was one of the biggest proponents of me starting a blog, and the constant encouragement paid off.

Also, on the same day her post runs (likely Saturday), I'll be writing a guest blog for her site. We'll be blogging on the same topic, one that has some timeliness to it as it pertains to relationships (for Valentine's Day) and the Red Sox (for Truck Day, when the equipment trucks leave Fenway for spring training in Florida). And Erin and I have differing viewpoints on the topic in question, so it'll be great. Point/Counterpoint.

Stay tuned. This should be fun. Once Erin sends me her guest blog (ahem), we'll be up and running.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Attention Market Basket Shoppers

Overheard on the PA system while shopping at Market Basket this morning:

"Attention Market Basket shoppers: Please check your carriages. If you're pushing one that doesn't have your groceries in it, please take it to the customer service desk. Thank you."

I wish I had seen this happen firsthand.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Bowl Redux

Quickly, since I just got home and I'm tired:

Congratulations to the Giants. It was a great game that went down to the wire. I'd like to blame the loss on the guy at my Super Bowl party who had too much to drink and turned into a total dick by game's end, but in reality the Giants made a couple of more plays than the Patriots and often times that's the difference.

Still, I'm blessed that all four of my teams -- Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins -- have won world championships in my lifetime and that doesn't change with the loss.

Every year is unique. Nobody knows what injuries the Patriots will have contend with, or who will be back or acquired next year, but I feel like the Patriots have a future and I'm excited about that.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Super Bowl XLVI Prediction

You may have heard there’s a game Sunday night – Super Bowl XLVI. And my Patriots are involved.

They’re playing the Giants. It’s billed as a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, when the Giants won 17-14 and spoiled New England’s shot at a perfect season. And for Boston and New York fans, it is a rematch. However, these are two different teams. None of the four players who scored touchdowns in that game – Laurence Maroney, David Tyree, Randy Moss and Plaxico Burress – are involved in this game (in fact, Burress is the only one who’s even still in the league). Only 15 Giants and 7 Patriots on the active rosters played in that game.

Every year I make a Super Bowl prediction. I think these two teams are evenly matched and I wouldn’t count anything out. Both teams have their strengths and weakenesses.

Because this is an even-numbered Super Bowl, the NFC-representative Giants are the designated road team. So I’ll begin with them:

·         Their playoff push this year has emulated their Super Bowl XLII run with eerie precision.
·         The Giants will be wearing their white uniforms again, just like they did in Super Bowl XLII.  
·         Giant WRs vs. Patriot DBs is an exploitable mismatch (and Hakeem Nicks missed the regular-season matchup between the teams).
·         The Giant defensive line has historically had success putting pressure on Tom Brady.
·         You can’t spell “Elite” without “Eli”
·         Big brother Peyton will be watching, and the Patriots aren’t too popular in Indianapolis. The stadium crowd will be dramatically skewed in favor of the Giants. This could be a de facto home game for them.

·         The Giant defense has given up 23.11 points per game (439 points in 19 regular-season and postseason games). No team has given up that many points or PPG and gone on to win a Super Bowl (The 2006 Indianapolis Colts yielded 425 points and 21.25 ppg on their way to winning Super Bowl XLI).
·         On Saturday, the Giants Web site briefly announced that "the Giants are Super Bowl champions" before someone quickly took it down. Bad karma.
·         No 7-loss team has ever won a Super Bowl, and no team has ever sustained a four-game losing streak during the season and gone on to win a Super Bowl.
·         You can’t spell “Eliminated” without “Eli.”
·         No team has ever been outscored during the regular season and gone on to win a Super Bowl (though if you include their playoff wins the Giants are now +36 in point differential).
·         The Giants have battled inconsistency all year. They’re hot right now, but you never know which Giant team will show up. The same team that beat 15-1 Green Bay and 13-3 San Francisco also lost to Philadelphia-with-Vince-Young-at-QB, Seattle and cellar-dwelling Washington (twice). No team has ever been swept by the last-place team in its division and gone on to win a Super Bowl.

·         The Patriot defense has given up 401.50 yards per game (7,227 yards in 18 regular-season and postseason games). No team has given up that many yards or YPG and gone on to win a Super Bowl (The 2009 Saints yielded 6,998 yards and 368.32 ypg en route to winning Super Bowl XLIV).
·         The Patriots didn’t defeat a team with a winning record until their AFC Championship victory over the Ravens. Even one of their playoff wins was against a team that ultimately finished 9-9 (Denver).
·         Nobody knows how Rob Gronkowski’s ankle will hold up.
·         The Giants have beaten New England twice in a row in agonizing fashion. They could be in the Patriots’ heads.
·         The Patriots (in the persons of Tom Brady and Bob Kraft) have been on the cover of Sports Illustrated the past two weeks. This will be the true test of the SI cover jinx.

·         This will be the 13th Super Bowl in which the teams also met in the regular season – the  Giants beat the Patriots 24-20 in Week 9. Interestingly, the team that lost the regular-season matchup has the upper hand, going 7-5 in the Super Bowl rematch (and the losing regular-season team is 5-1 in the last six).
·         The margin of victory in eight of those 12 regular-season previews was seven points or less. In those eight contests, the team that lost the regular-season game is 7-1 in the Super Bowl.
·         Patriot TEs + WRs vs. Giant LBs + DBs is an exploitable mismatch.
·         Anastasia the Balloon-Popping Dog picked the Patriots. (Anastasia begins her antics at 9:40 of the link.)
·         Nobody outside of New England is giving the Patriots a chance to win. The Patriots play best with a chip on their shoulders. Nobody outside of New England gave the Patriots a chance to beat the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI, either.

So, basically, all this shows is that one team will defy history and do something no Super Bowl champion has ever done before. Nothing would surprise me in this game. I can envision the Giants kicking the shit out of the Patriots. I can envision the Patriots kicking the shit out of the Giants. I can see one team taking control of the game early in the second quarter and not looking back en route to a 17-point victory. And Tom Brady and Eli Manning have both quarterbacked Super Bowl-winning drives, so if either has the ball, down four with two minutes to play.

But I’m a Pats fan. In a game that could go either way, I have to go with my heart.

Patriots 32, Giants 27.


I'm not good at taking photographs.

I can successfully snap a picture. That's not the problem.

The problem is that I take so few pictures that I lose touch with the technological nuances of a camera.

Today I took out my digital camera and tried to snap some pictures, the first photographs I've taken with it since July, when I decided to take a picture of my novella. Some of you may be aware that there's a game tomorrow (check my blog again in about 12 hours for more on that), and I felt like there might be an opportunity for pictures.

But when I turned the camera on, I got a message that said, "Error: Please take out battery out, reinsert and try again."

So I did. And it worked. Except I got that annoying red "your battery is about to die" light flashing. This started a mad dash of me fumbling through my drawers trying to find the charger.

I have chargers for a lot of things -- my cellphone, my Bluetooth, my laptop. But I can't find one for my camera. I'm simultaneously ripping my place apart and cursing myself. "You always lose shit, Phil. Now you're gonna have to buy a new camera."

After I've pulled out all my drawers and duped them onto the floor, I look next to the microwave and there are some loose papers that I put there one day back in October or so. They haven't moved since. I dig underneath them, and....

...there's my camera charger.

Success! I plug it in. All is well. Photos are taken.

A good omen, I hope.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Hole in the Wall

The folks who punched a hole in the wall with my new sleeper sofa came back to finish patching it up yesterday.

They had started work on it one night last week, but it was getting late and they needed to return the van back to the warehouse and I didn't want them hanging around after, say, 9pm anyway. I get a little antsy when I have strangers in my place at night. I was also starving, and I didnt want to eat dinner around them because it would make them hungry, and then they might try to corece me into making them dinner.

We tried to schedule a date to finish the job, and we had some fits and starts but we couldn't make it work. Also, I was stating to suspect they were trying to get out of finishing the job. So when my landlord swung by to finall check out the damage and pick up the rent check, I used that as an opportunity.

He was pretty laid back about the hole. But someday I'll move out of here and I don't want to have to pay for repairing the wall when I leave. I texted the dudes and told them he was pissed and was about to call the furniture store if they didn't come back to finish the job.

They showed up Thursday and finished patching. I'm much more relaxed now. Now I don't have to entertain them anymore, or make them dinner.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Painful Act of Super Bowl Scouting

In anticipation of Sundays Super Bowl, NFL Network the last couple of nights has rebroadcast Patriots-Giants games of the past.

Tuesday night the network rebroadcast Super Bowl XLII, in which the Patriots took a 14-10 lead over the Giants with a Tom Brady-to-Randy Moss touchdown pass, only to have the Giants score with 35 second left to spoil the Patriots' shot at an undefeated season and win 17-14.

Wednesday night the network rebroadcast the regular-season matchup between the two teams, in which the Patriots took a 20-17 lead with a Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski touchdown pass, only to have the Giants score with 15 seconds left to win 24-20.

Needless to say, both nights I switched the channel after the Pats' go-ahead score.

Thursday night NFL Network will rebroadcast the Pats' 38-35 win in the final weekend of the 2007 that clinched their 16-0  regular season. At least I won't have to worry about changing the channel tomorrow night.

Late Discovery

As many of you know, I had a little fiasco a couple of weeks ago when the movers came with my sleeper sofa. One of them came back to plaster the hole in the wall  but he still needs to do some touch-up work.

Today my landlord called me.

"I just got your note. Is everything OK?" he asked.

He just got my note, dated to weeks ago to the day.

One thing I've noticed about my landlord: he has a way of letting mail pile up.

He'll be stopping by late to inspect the damage. We'll see how this goes.