NaNoWriMo Again

Against my better judgment, I’ve decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) once again this year.  I know I said only a couple of posts ago that I wasn’t a big fan of simply writing for the sake of getting as many words on the paper as possible, and that’s essentially what NaNoWriMo is.  However, I have to admit that some good things came out of it last year.  I may not have “won” by finishing my 50,000 words, and I did end up totally scrapping the novel, but two of the short stories I wrote in preparation for the month last year ended up getting published.

More importantly, it made me a better writer.  I started to figure out what works when writing such a long story, and what doesn’t.  I used many of those learnings as I completed my first novella earlier this year, now under review at various publications.  So in the end, it turned out to be worth it, even if I had little to show for the piece I was mainly focused on at the time.  My hope is that, even if the same thing happens this year, it will once again be worth the effort for the same reasons.  Of course, it’d be nice to actually finish the novel too.  We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

As for the story itself, I’ve been plotting it pretty extensively over the last few weeks in preparation.  Even if I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo, I knew this was the next story I wanted to tell.  I’m pretty excited to get going on it.  For those interested, it’s a Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy novel.  Yup, it’s a mouthful, but it’ll make more sense at some point, I promise.  With any luck, I’ll be posting updates throughout the month about my progress, and maybe even some snippets from the novel itself.

It’ll be a long month, but I have to admit… I’m looking forward to it.

Accidents Happen

It was a fine Winter day in Texas. The sun was shining, the air was brisk, and I had just finished up with Choir practice over at a friend’s house. Life was good. Good, that is, until I got behind the wheel. You see, I’d only gotten my driver’s license about three weeks earlier. I blew through Driver’s Ed with flying colors, acing the written test and wowing my driving instructor. As far as I was concerned, I was the best driver in the world. As I found out that fateful day, I was dead wrong.

I pulled out of my friend’s house and sped down the road, easily going twice the residential speed limit. No one was around, what was the harm? As I approached the 90° curve in the road that heralded the exit to the neighborhood, I decided I was going to have a little fun. Maybe I’d been playing too many racing games lately, or maybe I was simply not in my right mind. I really don’t know why I did it, if you want to know the honest truth. But for whatever reason, I floored it, planning to slam on my brakes as I entered the curve and drift around it like I was driving a Mario Kart. I suppose it goes without saying, but things didn’t quite turn out that way.

In the end, I lost control of the car I was driving, my Dad’s 1981 Mercedes Benz (likely built the same year I was born), swerved off the road, and slammed directly into a huge oak tree. I had to have been going at least 50 mph. Though the impact totaled the car, and despite the utter lack of safety features that have become common in nearly every vehicle built today, I miraculously walked away from it without a single scratch.

Why do I tell you this story now?  Because until last Friday night, that was the only accident I’ve ever been in.

 

 

I was traveling up to Forney, TX, which is near Dallas, with my daughter Claire to my brother’s house to attend my nephew’s birthday party the next day. About a 5-hour drive. My parents, coming from a different direction, somehow ended up within a few miles of us on I-45. So, we ended up meeting at a burger joint and having dinner.  My mom, looking for a little more leg room, ended up riding shotgun with me from there, with Claire still in the middle seat behind me as usual. For the next two hours we drove without incident, listening to Claire’s music and talking politics and stuff that you generally only talk about with family. We were only about fifteen minutes away from my brother’s house when something huge appeared in the middle of our lane, seemingly out of nowhere. It looked kind of like this:

 

 

It was nearly as tall as our vehicle, standing at almost 6′ tall and about as wide. I had no idea what it was at the time, but doing some research later, I found out that they’re called Intermediate Bulk Containers, or IBCs. They’re generally used for transport of fluids and bulk materials or chemicals. And yes, with me traveling down the interstate at 60 mph, this thing somehow suddenly materialized in my headlights right in front of me.

Naturally, I hit it. I tried to swerve, but was going too fast and had too little reaction time to completely avoid it. I managed to swerve enough to keep from hitting it head on (which would have undoubtedly caused massive damage), but it still messed up the car pretty good. It ended up hitting the left side of the front fender, then glanced off and skid across the entire left side of the vehicle. As it did, it completely tore off the driver’s side-view mirror, which in turn punctured the driver’s side front window. It sounded like a bomb going off. Shattered glass flew into the vehicle, completely covering me, my mom, and everything inside. Well, almost everything.

 

 

As it turns out, Claire – who was sitting right behind me and should have been the one showered with the most glass – was untouched. After the collision and somehow keeping control of the car, we pulled into a gas station to check everything out.  I pulled Claire out to see if she was okay, and couldn’t find a spec of glass on her. My mom took her into the bathroom to double check and confirmed this. Though there was glass all around her, on the floor and on her seat, and though my mom and I were covered in tiny pieces of glass from head to toe, she was completely clean. Even better, she was asleep when the impact occurred, so she couldn’t even remember it happening. She later said that there must have been a shield around her when it happened. I think she’s more right than she could possibly know.

 

 

In the end, other than a few small scratches on our arms, my mom and I were also okay. The car was a mess,  I had no window or mirror on my side, the fender was messed up, and there were several dents and scratches along the side of the car. Otherwise though, it was drive-able, and I was able to get the rest of the way to my brother’s house that night.

 

 

In the end, we had a fun day at my nephew’s party the next day. Lots of go-karts, bumper boats, putt-putt golf, and video games.  I was unable to find a place there near Mesquite that could repair the window that morning though, so we ended up having to make the five-hour drive back to Richmond without a window.  Not a lot of fun, but Claire was a trooper and didn’t complain (much).  Thankfully, we’re past the hottest part of the year, so the weather was mild, if not a little cool near the last couple of hours, and we made it back just fine.

Now, the car’s in the shop, and we’re waiting on estimates to see what the damage will be.  It’ll cost plenty I’m sure, but considering how lucky we truly were, it’s a pittance in the grand scheme of things.

 

 

All I can say is, it’s been nearly fifteen years since that first accident until this one.  Let’s hope that pattern doesn’t continue.

Top Five Minor Annoyances

As I was driving in traffic on the way home from work the other day, someone pulled out in front of me and forced me to slam on my brakes.  Not a big deal, right?  It happens to everyone, and like everyone else, it immediately got my blood pressure up.  Then I started thinking though; what’s the big deal?  He changed lanes two seconds later, and I was on my way again.  His actions cost me maybe a second of extra time on my evening commute, if that.  A minor annoyance, at best.

This got me thinking about other extremely minor things that seem to annoy me to no end, and I came up with a list.  For your reading pleasure, here are the top five things that annoy me but in the end probably aren’t worth getting annoyed about.

 

#5 – Change

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lately, I’ve been paying for more things with cash.  With the rise in new Debit fees and a general desire to keep better track of how I’m spending my money, cash makes a lot of sense.  The problem is the change.  I don’t have anything against change, personally.  In fact, I love being able to save my change and then later use it exclusively to pay for stuff.  Who doesn’t like giving the cashier a handful of quarters?

No, the real issue with change is how its given to me.  See, nearly every cashier I’ve paid with cash gives me my change in the same way.  Cash on the bottom, then receipt on top of the cash, with change on top of the receipt.  So now I’m standing in line with my wallet in one hand, my change stack in the other, and my food sitting there waiting for my imaginary third hand to pick it up and move on.  See, for me at least, the change, receipt, and wallet all go in three separate pockets.  So before I can do anything, I have to put my wallet down, stand there and sort this stack that the cashier just gave me.  Not a big deal, certainly, but enough so that I have to stop and hold up the line while others are trying to move through.

If they’d just separate it as they hand it to me, that’d make things so much easier.  I don’t care how else they do it, just don’t hand it to me as one big stack!

 

#4 – Universal Remote

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of years ago when we moved to Houston, we go a new entertainment system.  New TV, Bluray, speakers, the works.  To control all of this, we got a swanky universal remote to turn everything on and off with one button press.  It works pretty well for the most part.  However, the Bluray player, which also doubles as the sound system, is placed in the cabinet so that the cross beams of the window sit right in front of the IR receiver.  This means that every time  we want to watch TV and turn everything on, we have to make sure the remote is pointed at just the right angle to turn the receiver on.  If we don’t (which is often the case when my daughter tries to turn it on), we have to go through this help process on the remote which would probably take longer than just turning it all on manually.

So why haven’t I changed the position of the receiver?  Because I like how it looks in the cabinet, and the inconvenience of turning it on hasn’t been enough yet to overcome that.  That may change eventually.

 

#3 – Facebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was once a time when Facebook was fun.  It was great reconnecting with old friends from school and getting to know new friends even better.  Now though, it’s quickly turning into more of a pain than it’s worth.  The constant changes to the site, the drama between friends and family, the incessant updates about nothing but pets… it’s all just becoming too much for me.

The problem is, Facebook, I just can’t quit you.  I’ve tried.  When Google+ came up, I did my best to get friends on board with invites, with little success.  Everyone is so engrained in Facebook that it seems almost an impossible task to start over somewhere else.  Until it is no longer the place to be, I’ll have to stick around too I suppose.

 

#2 – Package Deliveries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whatever happened to timely deliveries?  I’m not just talking about your packages getting to your home on the day they are supposed to.  No, what we’ve had to deal with lately are companies who deliver their packages as late as 8:00 or 9:00 at night.  That’s late enough that our daughter is often in bed by that time.  Still, they ring the doorbell twice and knock loudly on the door, like it’s the middle of the day.

Why?  What’s the point once it gets that late?  Just come back the next day at a reasonable hour.  Or hey, here’s a thought, just deliver it when it’s supposed to be delivered in the first place.

 

#1 – Truck Nuts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do I even need to explain this one?