Tag Archives: The Adventures of Mitch Wagner

The cats held a meeting last night on my bed

Whatever the meeting was about, it must have been important, because they were quite worked up about it. I participated by waking up, sitting bolt upright and shouting swear words. Which startled Julie, who was still awake and reading in bed.

Not long afterward, Sammy, our male cat, decided to have carnal knowledge of my feet. He got so excited he bit down on my toe, which was protected only by a thin blanket. I shot bolt upright again and swore at Sammy. He scrammed. I guess he doesn’t like dirty talk during sex.

So if I seem to be tired and cranky today, that’s why.

Today’s creative writing: 596 words, 6,997 words total, on “The Reluctant Magician”

I decided to set a target of 70,000 words for this novel. It’s an arbitrary number — I don’t care if it goes significantly longer or shorter. 70,000 words seems like a good length for an urban fantasy caper novel.

The outline is still working well for me. I know where I need to go. And it does not preclude improvisation — I came up with an ending for the scene I’m working on that fits quite nicely. It isn’t in the outline, and it doesn’t throw the outline off either.

I fell down and broke my face

The next-door neighbors have two weimaraners, which are often out late in a dog run in their backyard. The dog run goes right up to the edge of our driveway, along the property line. When I walk Minnie before bedtime, the weimaraners are often in the yard, and there is much barking and excitement and lunging.

Last night I was walking Minnie and the dogs were at it. I remember Minnie lunged on the leash. I remember the driveway coming up and punching me in the face. That was not very nice of the driveway. I never did the driveway any harm.

Then I’m lying face down on the pavement.

Fortunately, nothing broke. Not my glasses, which were not riven into shards which plunged into my eyes. Not my back, which is what happened when Julie took a similar spill three years ago. Not my Pebble smartwatch or iPhone, which are far less important than eyes and a back but which would have been expensive to replace.

I’m not sure what I was doing when I fell. I remember I did not have a proper grip on the leash. I wasn’t doing something with my iPhone; it was in my pocket. I think I was setting the timer on the Pebble watch. I do that every night to be sure I walk Minnie for at least 20 minutes.

I got to my feet and retrieved the end of Minnie’s leash, before she could run away. She had no idea anything was odd, parked at the side of the dog run, barking vociferously.

Minnie was fine through all this. Indeed, she was completely unaware anything was wrong or unusual — happy, tail wagging, barking away at the weimeraners. You hear about dogs whose masters fall down and have a heart attack and the dog escapes from the house and summons the neighbors for help. Minnie is not that dog. Minnie is clueless.

I swore quite a bit, and loudly. I was very creative.

I went back inside to take inventory. “Look at what YOUR DOG did,” I told Julie.

I went back out. The weimeraners were nowhere to be seen or heard. I suspect the neighbors may have heard my editorializing. They’re very nice neighbors and the whole thing is really not their fault. They go to church regularly. I took the name of the Lord our God in vain when I was commenting on the incident. Additionally, I took the name of THEIR Lord their God in vain. I’m Jewish, but yelling the name of the Christian savior is so much more satisfying when in distress than any language we Jews have generated. Especially when you use His full name. His middle name starts with F.

I finished walking Minnie without further mishap, other than my frequently giving her dirty looks. That’ll show her.

When I got back to the house I took a look at my face. All I have to show for the accident is a small ding on the bridge of my nose. I had really hoped to have some properly ghastly wounds to show for my mishap but nope. I did scrape up both of my knees but that’s hardly the same as some nice facial wounds.

My knees were scraped up. Getting scraped knees as an adult feels foolish. What am I eight years old?

Julie ministered me with some care, wrapping my knees in bandages, and doing so without adhesive, which would be painfully getting off of my copiously hairy legs. The bandages came halfway off in my sleep, I tore the rest off in the morning. Sorry, Julie! Thanks anyway for the ministrations!

And how is your first week of unofficial autumn going?

Ow my head

I wrote an email to our new corporate HR department summarizing my employment history with UBM/CMP Media. The email took a while to write. It’s more complicated than the storyline of the Back to the Future movies.

By my count, I was hired by the same company … four times? I think  it was four times. I  quit once (twice if you count the transition to Light Reading), and was laid off twice. During the years I worked for them, CMP was acquired by United Business Media, which I think changed its name to just UBM.

Two recently discovered rules for business travel

Even if you don’t have any leisure activities planned, always bring jeans or some other comfortable, casual pants. Also bring a colored T-shirt, or some other casual shirt that you’re comfortable being seen in public wearing.

Also: When traveling to the suburbs — such as Silicon Valley — it’s often OK to skip staying in a nice business-traveler hotel and instead stay in a cheap motel. And it’s often OK to skip renting a car and instead rely on Uber and taxis. But not both.

My review of “Star Trek: Beyond”

I’m trying to just talk about the movie itself here, and not about past Trek movies and TV shows and my own nearly lifelong relationship with the series. I can’t do it.

In the new movie, the characters seemed most true to the original series. In earlier JJ Abrams Trek movies, Kirk especially but all the characters seemed like children. Chris Pine is 36 years old now — a year older than William Shatner was when he started playing Kirk. He’s believable.

I had a lot of problems with the first two movies in this series. For me, there were a couple of themes that were always important to Trek. The Federation sought peaceful solutions to problems, and only resorted to violence when the peaceful solution proved impossible. Of course, this being a science fiction action-adventure series, the peaceful solution was impossible just about every episode. But they tried for peace first.

The new series of movies seemed too bloodthirsty. In the first two movies, Kirk and the gang were going after vengeance. True Trek doesn’t do vengeance. Vengeance is for the bad guys.

A second major theme of the movies was that the Federation was a meritocracy. Captain Kirk was born a nobody, an Iowa farmboy. He achieved his position through hard work and ability (and, sure, cheating on the Kobayashi Maru — but still that was his work). In the new movies, Kirk gets in Starfleet Academy because his Dad was an officer. He doesn’t get his position from hard work and talent. He inherits it.

But all that baggage is gone now. The new movie finds the Enterprise on a rescue mission gone wrong. Kirk has now earned the captaincy he previously inherited — and he has his doubts about what he’s doing. He’s burned out.

I loved the opening sequence. There’s a real sense of the ship being a tiny little bubble of comfort and safety in the indifferent vastness of space. I don’t remember that from any of the series or other movies.

The character interplay was easygoing. They’ve been cooped up together in this tiny bottle for three years. They know each other very well, better than family.

Likewise, I loved the bits at the end, after the bad guy has been vanquished.

In the middle…. too much action. I love a good action movie, but today’s action movies seem to be ALL action. It needs pacing.

Julie got motion sickness from all the swooping camera angles.

The sets and special effects were gorgeous, particularly the Yorktown, one of the most science-fictional things I’ve ever seen on the big screen.

I liked that every one of the major characters got a turn to shine. Scotty and Jaylah stole it. Or maybe Spock and Bones stole it. Or maybe it was Kirk and Chekov. Poor Anton Yelchin — I don’t remember him from the previous movies. In those movies, he seemed like just an extra with a few speaking lines and a Russian accent. He was quite good in “Star Trek: Beyond.”

I liked that the women were portrayed as powerful and self-reliant, the equal of men. The second J.J. Abrams movie in particular was all about the white men, except for one scene where a female scientist strips to her underwear for no particular reason.

I loved the new character, Jaylah. I hope we see more of her in future movies.

I loved that we got to see some real alien-looking aliens, who didn’t just look like human actors wearing rubber masks.

I thought the main storyline was confusing. I get the broad strokes, but I was confused on the details. Who were all the other people on the planet with the main villain? Where did he get the swarming thingies he used to take down the Enterprise? What was the origin of the superweapon?

I could have used more Idris Elba acting, rather than just being a generic science fiction villain.

Overall, I liked it. Didn’t love it. Looking forward to the next movie, and the TV series in January.

Informa acquires Light Reading. I work for Informa now.

I’m still digesting this. We just got the news less than two hours ago.

I have an article to write this morning, and earnings calls in the afternoon, so I’ll focus on that. I’ve been through one acquisition before, and too many reorganizations to count. Best thing a person can do in a situation like this is keep doing their job.

Further out, I do see potentially interesting opportunities coming from this.

Minnie gives us a scare

I was walking Minnie in the park Sunday like we do every day when I’m home. The temperature was in the mid-80s, which is not warm enough for me to bring water. It was a typical walk. We do about 3-1/4 miles at a moderate pace.

We had done three quarters of the route and were well on the way home when Minnie fell over while walking and struggled to get back to her feet. Once she got up she went over again. She was panting pretty hard too. It looked enough like heatstroke that I was quite concerned.

In the few seconds it took me to think that through, she’d regained the ability to stand and walk. I wanted to get some water in her but I had none and we weren’t near any. Fortunately, there was a couple picnicking nearby, and they gave me some cold water in a styrofoam cup. I brought Minnie to a shady spot and let her drink water at her own pace from my hand and the cup. When her breathing was regular again we continued the walk home, letting her set the pace. Nice and slow.

We’ve been keeping an eye on her and she’s back to her old self.

Lessons: Be careful about rushing Minnie while walking her. This will be tricky because if I let her set the pace she will stop and eat every damn thing.

And always bring water on our daytime walks, at least until November when the weather cools off.

Back to Evernote

I’m getting back into using Evernote more. Primarily for interview notes and research materials for articles. I haven’t found anything as good for mixing media types (plain text notes, PDFs, and images), and I like the synch between multiple platforms. The recent price increase doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t look like much money, frankly.

I had nearly abandoned Evernote in 2014 or so because it was bloated and slow on my then-primary computer, a 2010 MacBook Pro. And I really didn’t like the public statements by then-CEO Phil Libin about the way the company was going to go. It looked like Evernote was going to get worse, not better, adding more useless features in an attempt to steal Google’s mission of organizing the world’s information.

I’m encouraged by comments by the new CEO that they’re looking to refocus on note taking, rather than being a company that sells socks and software to take food selfies. Maybe they’ll even kill work chat, which nobody likes.

I’m still writing in Ulysses, though I’m not using it to take notes anymore. One thing I liked when I was taking notes in Ulysses was that the notes and article would be together in a single folder. My solution now that I’m using different apps for research and writing: Tags. I tag each article, starting with the letter n to be sure all the tags are grouped in the list, followed by company name or keyword, short code for day of the week, followed by the date I start work on the article. Example: “n Microsoft Thu 2016-06-30”. I use the same tag for every document, Ulysses sheet, and Evernote note related to that article. Seems like that will work. Ask me again in a year.

I found a note in my journal from three years ago saying I’m getting back into Evernote. So this is not my first turn on that merry go round.

If I were alone I would just walk right through them, but I had Minnie on the leash and each goose is as big as she is, and Minnie doesn’t have the sense to not antagonize them. So I just went around.

I only see the geese on the path when they have goslings with them. I think the goslings go there to feed and the geese stay with them to keep them out of trouble.

Scatology, dog crate, injured back, haircut. Also, flipflops – yay!

“Man proposes, but God disposes,” goes the proverb. For example, Man has a certain way he planned Saturday, but instead the dog crapped the crate overnight.

I have no idea why Minnie did that. She was in there no longer than usual, had nothing unusual to eat before she went in.

I dragged the crate outside, washed everything down, went to PetCo to buy a new crate because I couldn’t figure out how to get the cover off the old one, laundered her bedding, and got everything assembled again in my office in time to put her to bed again.

I also stopped off at the drugstore and got a haircut. My hair was almost long enough to need combing, and I hate for it to get that long. I was a longhair when that was fashionable and I had enough hair for it to be a good look for me. But now my hair has receded enough that the only thing that looks good on me is a No. 2 cut or shorter. And I like the convenience of hair short enough to not need combing.

When I came into my office Sunday morning to let Minnie out again I led nose-first, as I did back when she was a pup and we were still figuring out how to crate-train her. The air in my office smelled nice and clean. No repeat of Friday night’s mishap – yay! The air was cleaner and fresher than it usually is, actually; even before her mishap that crate was overdue for washing out. She hasn’t soiled it in a couple of years before this weekend, but the crate and the area around it were very full of shed dog components.

In the process of dragging the crate in and out of the office, I wrenched my back, so I had some trouble bending over Sunday. The slouched position in which I usually sit on the sofa certainly didn’t help. On the other hand, the tall stool I sometimes sit on when I’m at my standing desk is fantastic for my back. As I write this, it’s Sunday night. I seem to be mostly improved now, if not entirely well.

And now I can wear flip-flops, which pleases me.