Category Archives: Seattle

I Hate Running

I hate running. I ran on the Cross-Country team in high school, primarily because I thought it would look good on my college applications. I was totally one of those kids who did things because he thought it would look good on his college applications. (Adopting a Cambodian orphan sounds like it might be fun, but it turns out it really cramps the high school experience.) Little Joelene will not be one of those kids, in part because I plan to spend the next 18 years casually instilling my views on the worthlessness of a college education, and in part because my understanding of the Mayan Prophecies leads me to suspect that colleges as we know them will cease to exist sometime around the year 2012.

In some sports you actually have practices where they teach you how to get better, but in Cross-Country our “coach” would tell us a route to run and then follow us around in her car (!) to make sure that we were actually running instead of (I guess) eating donuts or renting videocassettes or smoking. So I never particularly got better at running, although I guess I got pretty good at not eating donuts and not renting videocassettes and not smoking. (Similarly, when I took “Walk, Jog, Run” as part of my PE requirement at college, I got pretty good at hiding in the music school for an hour.)

Almost every cross-country meet was held in a hilly cow field somewhere in the South part of the county. We’d ride there on the school bus, run a lap around the cow field (which was what distinguished our sport from track), drink imitation Gatorade, and then ride the bus back. There was the usual locker-room cameraderie, like making fun of people’s genitalia and duct-taping less-favored teammates to a bench. I didn’t get duct-taped the first time, but the writing was on the wall, and so I quit the team and got a job tutoring SAT students instead, which lasted until the company founders took millions of dollars that were supposed to buy #2 pencils and vanished.

So right, I hate running. But Ganga likes running and so every month she signs us up to run in the Magnuson Series. I don’t train, and I don’t practice. I just show up every month and run my 5k and then go to Jak’s and eat Sweet Southern Steak Hash with fried eggs on top and then go home and take a nap and pretend like I’m not going to have to do it all again a month later. After the first couple of times I knew that physically I was perfectly capable of running 5k, which has made every subsequent race more of a mental exercise. I have a lousy sense of timing (which is probably why none of the bands I drummed for ever made it big) and so I never know how fast to run, and so each month I pick someone who seems to be running a reasonable speed and try to keep up with him or her. (This morning it was “Asian kid in the yellow shirt,” to whom I attribute sole blame for my subpar time.)

Running requires music, and alas the only music player I have right now is my iPhone, and the only way to get music onto the iPhone is using iTunes (please someone tell me I’m wrong about this), and most days I’d rather stick a pen in my eye than use iTunes, which means that there’s very little music on my phone, and in particular there are only 3 running-appropriate albums: “A Night at the Hip-Hopera,” “Blood * Sugar * Sex * Magic” and “Them Crooked Vultures,” all of which I’m super sick of. Maybe next time I go to Home Depot I’ll pick up a day laborer and pay him to get the rest of my music onto my phone, but I only have another 6 months left on the AT&T contract, so maybe I’ll just keep exercising to “A Night at the Hip-Hopera” until then and then get one of those newfangled Zune Phones.

They say that once you start running you’ll start to develop this really awesome feeling afterward and it will totally become part of your life and you’ll crave it and you won’t be able to get through a day without thinking of it. I sort of understand this, as it kind of describes my feelings toward fried eggs, which I only started eating about a year ago in order to defuse Ganga’s constant “but you don’t even like eggs!” objections to my plan to raise chickens. Nonetheless, I can’t imagine any way to associate this feeling with running.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that I hate running, although I really do like fried eggs.

Political Satire

Once I left Microsoft I joined a Daytime Writing Group meetup, mostly as an excuse to get out of the house. Every week I’d go and share the latest chapter of my “Ayn Rand meets J.K. Rowling meets Joseph Heller meets Tom Wolfe” novel-in-progress and listen to everyone else’s latest vampire romance (the genre, not the band*).

While most of the participants were pleasant and helpful, after a few weeks we were joined by an extremely unpleasant woman who angrily criticized my story for not being set in the “country” of Timbuktu and for not acknowledging the accomplishments of “shamanic healers.” After a couple of weeks I decided that the positive interactions with the rest of the group weren’t enough to compensate for the aggravation of dealing with Large Miss Unpleasant, and I stopped attending.

But I’m still on the mailing list, which is how I learned that Daily-Show co-founder Lizz Winstead was conducting a “Political Satire Writing Workshop.” Of course there’s nothing I like better than writing political satire, unless it’s writing religious satire or spreadsheet how-to books or short stories about a boy who likes to play baseball but is no good at it.

Being Seattle, it ended up being more of a “Left-Wing Political Satire Writing Workshop,” with a collective glee focused on the comedic potential of Dick Cheney’s lack of pulse, Dick Cheney’s daughter’s self-hating lesbianness, something else Dick Cheney, and the word “teabagger.”

Still, we had a valuable discussion about comedy writing and the creative process, and I bit my tongue whenever people mocked a candidate’s dabbling in “witchcraft” as if its beliefs were prima facie more ludicrous than the beliefs of Catholicism or Judaism.

Since we were in the International (i.e. East Asian) District, we took a break for bubble tea, after which we divided into groups to bang out some political satire projects.

Most of the suggestions were things I couldn’t in good conscience write about (“teabaggers,” disparaging the Second Amendment, etc…), but one of my workshopmates suggested a news item about a Republican Senator who gave a somewhat oblivious speech assuming that his audience (being good Americans) all earned over $250,000K a year.

The truth, when we Googled it, was slightly less damning (the audience consisted of Chamber of Commerce members), but “Senator lives in insular world, assumes everyone is rich like him” was something I could work with. It was a group effort, so there are ideas in it that I wouldn’t have put in myself, but — for a political satire piece written collaboratively with other Seattleites — it’s actually not bad.

You can see it (along with the other groups’ pieces — ours is the one that’s not about Glenn Beck or “Teabaggers”) here, first in an edited-by-Lizz version, then in the original. I like the edited version better in some ways, worse in others, and I’d probably like some compromise version the best.

At the end I gifted Lizz with a copy of my book, which I predict she enjoys all the way up to the “Environmentalism is false” chapter.

* My fact-checker tells me there’s no such band as Vampire Romance. Well, there should be!

Using Statistics to Coddle Vagrants

I left Microsoft at the end of May, largely so that I could write my opus magnum book on Excel. At the time I set a September 1 deadline for having the first draft done. That seemed like the right amount of time, but I failed to predict that I’d spend a substantial chunk of August doing consulting work, and so I slipped the deadline.

I shifted it two weeks later, to September 15, which I slipped again due to unavoidable commitments like going to the Puyallup Fair and drinking beer and napping. Finally I pushed it to September 17, which I met by arbitrarily deciding that several components of the book were “not part of the first draft.” Right now I’m letting people read it for feedback, after which I’ll revise it, beg famous authors for blurbs (*cough* Philip Roth *cough*), and start selling the heck out of it.

While the book is out for alpha testing, I’ve shifted gears for several days to focus on other things like fiction-writing contests and shaving and working on an Ignite Seattle talk.

Ignite Seattle is a 4-times-a-year collection of 5-minute talks. As best I can tell, you submit a proposal, and “they” choose their favorites to actually give the talks. I attended the last one, and a surprising number of the speakers were introduced as “my longtime friend” or “my frat brother from college” or “my concubine,” which makes me suspect there’s a cronyism element involved. There also appears to be some sort of sex-quotaism, as they back-patted themselves for exceeding the (presumably court-imposed) 40%-female-speakers requirement.

I didn’t get the sense that the people picking the talks were demographically identical to the people listening to the talks, which sets up something of a political-primary dynamic: play to the base to get through the first round then pivot back to the center.

In any event, I think I need a more congenial title than “How Do You Like Obama Now, You Kitchen-Composting, Vagrant-Coddling, Prius-Driving Useful Idiots?” Maybe something more geek-friendly like “Eleven.com: Using Statistics to Model Elections in Washington State” or Seattle-friendly like “Home Composting Projects That Also Help Vagrants” or even a mixture of the two like “Using Statistics To Coddle Vagrants.” [Insert your own p-value joke here.]