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Just Like Starting Over (Part n in a series)

I posted this originally on November 1, 2013.  As any casual perusal of this site will show, I didn’t succeed.  So this is another attempt.

It’s November 1st, boys and girls!  And you know what that means!

You don’t know what that means?  Oh.  Well, bear with me.

Once upon a time, I wrote regularly in this space.  Some of it was personal life update rambling, and some of it was musing on this and that, and some of it was just random cool things that I found around the Internet.  when I look back on it, though, it gives me a insight into where I was in my head at the time.

Around late 2008 or so, I stopped writing so much.  There’s a variety of reasons why, but the primary one is that there were things going on that I didn’t want to talk about publicly, but that were taking up a large number of my mental cycles.  And then after going for a while, there was an odd inertia, where I couldn’t post about topic Z because before I write about that, I really should write about topics Y and X, and the next thing you know you’re backed up to topic A and the whole thing feels insurmountable.1

In fits and starts, I’ve tried to relaunch my online blog, most recently in May and June of this year, and I had a good roll until I got derailed by a few unexpected psychic bumps.  But inertia works both ways.  If you can get the momentum, you can sustain it.

November is traditionally NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where people promise to produce a 50,000 words towards a novel by the end of the month.  It is also NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), where people pledge to produce at least one blog entry every day for the month of November.  So that is what I intend.

I aim to misbehave.2

I can’t promise every entry will be scintillating.  Perhaps they won’t even be as scintillating as this one.3  But I’m hoping that the inertia of doing this will get me back into the regular habit.

You can help!  I’m absurdly response driven, so if there something that catches your eye and you have something to say about it, please comment.  My posts are mirrored on LJ and Dreamwidth, and linked on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.  Follow me wherever suits you.  If you want to comment where you see the post/link, do it there.  If you want to comment on the main blog, you should be able to authenticate with whatever service you like in order to leave a note.

In closing, I leave you with a video I return to again and again for inspiration.  Ze Frank sent this out to all his kickstarter backers just before he restarted his online video show.  It’s titled “An Invocation For Beginnings”, and it’s worth watching, no matter what project you’re about to undertake.

“There is no need to sharpen my pencils anymore.  My pencils are sharp enough. Even the dull ones will make a mark. Warts and all, let’s start this shit up.”
–Ze Frank

  1. Yes, you could just skip all that and start where you are, but that’s your brain, not mine. 

  2. And by “misbehave”, I mean “write a blog entry every day in November.  And also the other things.  Not because they are easy, but because they are hard. 

  3. A friend of mine on LJ has a tag that reads “don’t be interesting just post”. 

Dusting Out The Cobwebs

*walks in, blows the dust off the cover of this journal, and looks sheeishly apologetic*

It’s been far too long since I kept this journal.  There’s a lot of reasons for that, but most of them are boring, so I’m going to skip past them to the more interesting promise of actually starting again.

With the new year already well in full swing, there’s a lot of things I want to apply myself towards in 2017.  In no particular order;

  • Reading

    In recent years, I haven’t been reading as much as I did in the past.   Or rather, I haven’t been reading books, and particular fiction.  Part of that was that for a long time, a large part of our library was still in storage in Georgia, but we got that fixed back in May.  Mostly, it’s just a matter of allocating my time so that sitting with a book rather than staring at a screen is what I’m doing.  So this year, I’m going to take myself up on one of those book challenges where I record the books I read and try to read at least 50 in the calendar year.   If I can get myself back in the habit, I should easily exceed that number.  (I once had to have my mother come with me to the public library to confirm that, yes, I had in fact read the entire stack of books I’d checked out just a few days earlier.)

  • Creating

    I want to spend more time making art in various forms.  I want to write more songs.  I want to improve my guitar skills, and finally learn to play the bass guitar I bought.  I want to write more essays and fiction and film reviews.  And, importantly, I want to start podcasting again.  All of my previous podcasting projects went onto hiatus, and I’ve really been missing that outlet.  I have some ideas bubbling up, and in the meantime, I’m always available to guest if anyone needs someone to come on and run their mouth. 🙂

  • Blogging

    One of the reasons I haven’t been blogging more is because a lot of the things that used to make up a blog post have turned into Facebook fodder.  And I’m probably not going to stop writing on Facebook, but I want to make an effort to keep this forum engaged too, because the way I approach writing on this journal is substantially different to the way I approach writing on Facebook.  And I’ve found it very useful at times to go back and re-read the things I write here, because they keep me in touch with where I was at the time.

So this is, by way of being the first real post in quite some time, a rededication of this blog.  I will, as is my custom, continue to crosspost things from here onto other platforms (FB, Twitter, Tumblr, Dreamwidth), in order to make it easier for people to find what I’m writing wherever it is you happen to be hanging out these days.


A question I’m frequently asked is “Why is your username ‘autographedcat?”  Since I was asked again recently, I thought I’d repost the answer I’ve given in the past.

I was at a Flash Girls concert several years ago,1 and during a re-tuning break, Lorraine Garland mentioned that they were going to pass a hat around after the show, because if they couldn’t raise enough money to pay for their trip home, they’d have to sell their cats.

Everyone dutifully said “Awwwww.”

Emma Bull looked up sharply from her retuning and said “Oh, stop. It’s not like anyone would WANT them.”

I replied “Well, maybe if you autographed them.”, which provoked much laughter.

Later, while exchanging e-mail with Lorraine, I mentioned this conversation, and she said, “Oh, I remember you! You’re the autographed cat guy!” It seemed as good a nickname as any, and it’s always available when I need a screen name. 🙂

And that’s why I’m called autographedcat.

At this point, I’ll open the floor to further questions.  Leave them in a comment, and I’ll answer them over the next couple of days.  Ask me anything.

  1. It was, I’m almost certain, at Dragon*Con in the mid-late 1990s.  Neil Gaiman was there, with early rushes of the TV series Neverwhere, which was then in development. 

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a slight detour

When I was 16 years old, I bought a guitar.

It was a bit of an impulse.  I’d been working all summer as an inventory clerk for the county Board of Education, and having very little to spend my first real wages on, I’d just been putting the money in my savings account.  I was visiting a friend in Greenville, and we stopped by a music store because he wanted to look for something.  And there was this guitar.  It was a black Rickenbacker solid-body six-string,1 and the guy who was selling it needed exactly $250 to buy a keyboard for a gig, so that’s what he was selling for.  I didn’t know a lot about guitars, but it seemed like a pretty good deal, so I decided on the spot to buy it.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have anyone to teach me how to play it, and I turned out to not be very good at figuring it out for myself.  A few years later, needing money to move, I reluctantly sold it to a friend.  But I always regretted it,  2 and told myself that one day, I was going to buy another guitar and learn to play it.

Ten years later…

A near-death experience has a remarkable ability to bring your future plans into sharp focus.  I decided that I should consider doing those things I’d always meant to get around to sooner rather than later, and so I began looking for an instrument to suit me.  I finally purchased a Fender 12-string acoustic3 from a shop in Alpharetta, and signed myself up for a 12 week group class at Mars Music.  Once I’d completed that, I borrowed song books from anyone I could, and leafed through them looking for songs I knew the chords to.   These I copied into a binder, which I then played through as much as I could, trying to develop at least enough technique to accompany myself.  I’ve kept at that over the years, adding new songs as often as I can and trying to improve my playing.

I haven’t done too badly at that, I suppose.  I’ve played on stages in front of tens of people from time to time.  But a long time ago I found the plateau of where I could push myself, and I’ve been stalled there ever since.  Good enough to do what I’ve been doing, but not where I wanted to be.  I’ve known for quite some time that to get to the next level, I need an instructor.  For one reason or another, I’ve not actually taken the  step of finding one.  There was always a good reason.  I didn’t have the money, or I didn’t have the time, or we were going to be moving soon4

But there was also fear.  For all that I seem gregarious and outgoing, I hide a lot of shyness and social anxiety, and the truth is that part of what I had to overcome was my own mental blocks.  I knew going in that I was going to have to say to a potential teacher:  “This is what I have.  15 years of bad habits, cheats and short-cuts that have kept me from stepping up to the next level.  I will have to unlearn those before I can move forward”, and that was a harder thing to do that I realised.

But after searching around, I finally decided to take that step.  I reached out to an instructor I found on the web who isn’t far from where I’m now living and inquired about availability, and have since exchanged some emails5 and set up a time to go in and meet with him.  I’m hoping that we click and that I’ll be able to expand my horizons and start doing some of the things that have felt out of my reach.

And despite all my trepidation, I’m really looking forward to it.

  1. I’m pretty sure it was a Rickenbacker 230, but since I don’t have it any more, I can’t really be certain. 

  2. I’ve happily in recent years, thanks to Facebook, reconnected with the friend, but sadly she sold it to someone else some years ago, so there’s no chance of getting it back.  Alas. 

  3. I liked the wider fretboard on the 12 string.  I have large hands. 

  4. which has been the excuse for pretty much the last two years, honestly. 

  5. I told him a version of this story you’re reading, with a lot more focus on the specific skills that I’m lacking and wanting to pick up.  So at least he knows what he’s in for when I show up the first time. 

Just a stranger on the bus trying to make his way home

Conversation between me and kitanzi just now:

Me:  Buffalo wings should have a crispy texture when you bite into them.  Crispy skin, that is, no breading.  Breaded wings are an abomination in the eyes of God.1

Her:  I wasn’t aware God had an firm opinion on wings.

Me: God has an firm opinion on almost everything.

Her: Well, all sorts of people have an opinion about what God’s opinion of things is.  That’s not the same thing.

Me:  Ok, let me clarify.  God – as I understand Him – has a very firm opinion on wings. And, when I say “God as I understand him”, what I mean is…

Her:  (offers high-five) Well, at least you’re honest.

I love my wife.  We’re perfect for each other.

  1. Trying to find buffalo wings in Seattle as good as my favourite place back in Atlanta is an ongoing quest. 

So I Turned Myself To Face Me

Sometimes, you realise something about yourself so fundamentally obvious in hindsight that you’re not sure how it took you so long for it to occur to you.

I’ve been struggling a bit with my depression in recent weeks. Given the amount of slow-motion change in my life right now, that’s hardly surprising, but today, while thinking about a comment thread yesterday in osewalrus‘s Facebook page, something clicked in my brain that clarified to me why I’ve felt so unsettled.

I have two strong behavioural methods for temporarily punching up my mood: eating and buying things.

Neither of which I can really do right now.

I’m trying hard to get back on my fitness plan, which means I have a careful budget with regards to what and how much I can eat in a given day.

I’m saving up money to move across country in 3 months and need to be prepared to weather out a period of unemployment, so I can’t really shop for much of anything I don’t actually require.

It could be argued that neither of this are strictly healthy ways of dealing with stress and depression, but I’ve been me for a long time, and I know they both work, at least in the short term. And right now, for a variety for reasons, I’m denied their outlet.

Not sure what to do with this information presently, but there you have it.

And I’ve now become an expert on the subject I like most.

From the echoing annals of history, it’s the interview meme! Here’s how this works. I’ve been given questions from various people, in sets of five. I will answer them, for your enlightenment and entertainment. You can then comment on these answers, and if you choose, request that I give YOU five questions, for which to use on your own blog.

My first set of questions come from Brooke (


1. What’s a work of non-fiction you really enjoyed reading?

Wow, that’s a lot of non-fiction, because I read a lot of it.  I read a lot of history and science for fun.  If I had to pick a single book, I might pick Isaac Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare, which is a wonderful, enormous book which endeavours to give Elizabethan contexts to many things that make little sense to modern audiences.  And includes of a lot of the sort of writing that made Asimov’s non-fiction so compelling.

Another book that I return to frequently is Robert X. Cringely’s Accidental Empires, which is a fascinating anecdotal history of the personal computer industry.

2. The hobgoblin’s hat is on your desk! But you left your sensible restraint in your other jacket, so you cannot resist dropping an inanimate object inside just to see what happens. Also you can’t resist describing the resulting chaos, neatly skirting the lack of a question mark anywhere in this paragraph.

I reached for the first thing at hand, which turned out to be a smallish paperclip.  For hours, nothing seemed to happen, but over the night a change came, and suddenly the entire house was filled with aluminium armoured praying mantises.  At first we tried to fight them, and then we realised that all they really wanted was to go outside and sit on branches, so they could glisten in the sun.  So we let them outside, and the scampered up the sides of trees and our apartment complex thinks its some sort of subtle art installation.

3. What’s your favourite limerick that has an educational purpose that you just wrote?

Imagine, if you will, that this is read by NPR’s Carl Kassel.

There are many paths leading to power
But your rise might lead others to glower
One part lemon, one lime
Jack and syrup combine
Win their love with a great whiskey sour.
You can find more drink recipes for world domination in my new book, "First, We Make Manhattans."

4. I just tried to order an autographedcat, and the bartender had no idea what I was talking about. What’s the recipe again?

A very reliable drink!  It’s sweet, with a tiny dash of bitters, and is highly adaptable to different liquors to suit different palates.  

5. Oh god, it’s EVIL ROB, he has a goatee and an eyepatch and everything. How does he TAKE OVER THE WORLD BWAHAHAHAH? I ask out of simple curiosity.

Evil Rob takes over the world by using his vast evil fortune towards controlling all the worlds reality shows.  Once he has completely buy in of the market, he launches Who Wants To Be a Global Despotic Meglomaniac.  Despite his great advantage, he’s eliminated in Week 4, and then cancels the rest of the show out of spite.    (All of Evil Rob’s plans tend to foil themselves.  He’s not a very good villain, mostly because he’s not that good at being genuinely evil.

When I find myself in times of trouble…

So, having made a solemn pledge to start updating again, I promptly stopped updating. Which isn’t to say things have been boring around here. [personal profile] runnerwolf came to visit, which was shiny and awesome, and then I went to California for Consonance, which was also shiny and awesome, and then I came home and had the plague, which was dingy and boring, and then Marian Call was in town for a concert, which was back to shiny and awesome.

So, rather than talk about those things, each of which deserves at least a post unto itself, I want to talk about Pop Culture Comfort Food.

This past weekend was mentally fragile for me. I do pretty well most of the time these days, but depression still sucks, and every so often it gets the better of me. There are some things that reliably help, but it’s mostly a matter of just getting through them until my brain chemistry balances out.

Since I had managed to lure [personal profile] kitanzi into playing The Old Republic with me, I got the notion over the weekend to rewatch Star Wars. I followed it up with The Empire Strikes Back because, well, it comes next, doesn’t it. And a couple of things struck me while I was watching it:

1) The Special Editions are fine. Seriously. There’s really nothing wrong with them. (Before you start, I want to note something: Han still shoots first. Really. Go watch. He shoots Greedo, whose gun discharges at strikes the wall. At the very worst, they shoot simultaneously. It’s Not Even A Thing, stop griping about it.)

2) These films are, for me, the cinematic equivalent of a big bowl of macaroni and cheese. I’ve seen them enough times now that they really are like comfort food. I go back to them and I’m 10 again and the world is okay.

[personal profile] kitanzi and I were discussing this last night, and she said that she couldn’t really think of a movie that fit that category for her, but she certainly had books which did, most notably Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, which she claims to have read more times than she can actually count anymore.

So what are *your* pop culture comfort foods? When you just need something warm and familiar, what entertainment do you turn to?

*blinks innocently*

Oh, The Places You’ve Lived!

As a reminder, I’m still taking questions in this previous post. Help me generate content! Ask me impertinent things! You know you want to.

But for the moment, here’s the latest dance craze: where was I living during each of the last few census periods:

I was nine months old, and quite likely living in a house somewhere in Williamston with my mom, and probably my dad. I don’t actually know when they split, as it predates my conscious memory.

We were living in a house outside of Williamston on Wildcat Road (which may at that point in time still officially been “Rural Route 4”. There were only a few houses right there, and we were surrounded by fields and forest. Due to the vacant lot next to our house, I had what amounted to an enormous yard. There was an enormous outbuilding behind our house that I turned into my personal domain. It was a great place to be eleven years old.

I was living in Athens, Georgia with stars_and_magic, in a 2BR duplex on Ramble Hills Way. Ramble Hills was a square circle, on which we were in a back corner, and they’d obviously planned to add a second block, because there was a dirt road that ran from our corner several hundred yards, across, and then back to connect with the opposite corner. On either side of the dirt road was forest, and blackberry brambles ran all along the edge of the woods. We made homemade blackberry cobbler a lot.

I was living in a 2BR townhouse in Norcross, Georgia, with stars_and_magic, on Weyden Court. We had moved here after our previous apartment building burned down. There was an enormous basement, and a reasonable amount of backyard, including a largish empty field nearby. Toward the end of the year, K. and I split up, and I moved in with telynor for a few months before getting my own apartment.

Living in an apartment on Windward Place in Alpharetta with kitanzi. We’re having a housefilk on Saturday, so everyone come on over. 🙂

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