How Big Are Your Dreams?

25 Nov 2009 In: bucket list, hot air balloon

A few months ago I posted my “Bucket List” on my blog. These are things I want to accomplish, do, or see, before–you know–kicking the bucket. Anyway, #1 on my bucket list was to ride in a hot air balloon. It was one of those things I’ve wanted to do — well, always, but never had the chance. It was such a big bucket list item that I almost didn’t want to fly in a balloon until I was much older, since I figured that would be the ONE time life experience and then it would be over.

My First Balloon Flight

My First Balloon Flight

But a few weeks ago we met some neat sport balloonists, and we got to crew and fly in a hot air balloon. It was everything I’d ever anticipated, and more. And it made me reassess my bucket list. How big ARE my dreams, anyway?

So I decided, why stop at just a ride once in a hot air balloon when I can PILOT a balloon? OWN a balloon? If it’s something that was so special, why just the one time, why not throw myself into it with everything I’ve got? So, no, my pretty yellow roadster will not tow a balloon trailer, but those are just details.  Meanwhile I’m going to do everything I can to work toward the goal of one day owning a hot air balloon and being a licensed sport balloon pilot. Maybe five years from now, maybe eight or ten. But I’ll get there if I want it bad enough. And meanwhile, what a cool hobby, getting to crew for local balloon teams!

What dreams do you have that might not be as big as they can be? What are you doing to achieve those dreams and make them a reality? When I think about goal setting, I think about the movie “What About Bob?” where Bill Murray, a scared-of-everything psych patient, is told to just take baby steps. Baby steps to the door. Baby steps down the hall. Baby steps to the elevator. What baby steps are you choosing for the path to reach your goals?

My balloon “baby steps” right now consist of reading the FAA Balloon Flying Handbook, and crewing for different balloons as often as my schedule allows. My “baby steps” for my “Going to Japan” bucket list item consist of studying my Kana and Kanji, and learning to speak and read Japanese. “Baby steps” for getting my novel published? Doing NaNoWriMo to get at least a workable “zero draft” this month. The big picture is there, but if you just keep your head down and baby step toward your goal, it makes it a whole lot easier.

1.  Writing Discipline

Gaming is so much more fun, but I force myself to hit my word count and then some extra every single day.  The days that I come up short on word count I berate myself and feel guilty. Better to just finish word count so I don’t have to deal with my own guilt. In 2008, my personal daily word count was set at 1800. This year I set the daily bar at 2000. My goal is a 100K word count “zero draft” so I can cut 10% per edit, estimating two edits beyond the original zero draft. I won’t hit 100K in November alone, but I’ll be further along the way than if I hadn’t participated in NaNoWriMo.

2. You CAN turn creativity on and off like a switch.

You don’t have to have that day’s writing planned out.  Just figure out what you want to say that sentence.  And then that paragraph.  And then that little bit of dialogue.  Sooner or later, more ideas will flow and then you’re off and running.

3. I obsessively watch my word count.

At first I would write two very tiny paragraphs and press Ctrl-Shift-C (Google Docs shortcut for Word Count). Then I’d be sad that it didn’t jump from 200 to 1000 with those two minuscule, magical paragraphs.  Then I would go play online games and come back 30 minutes later amazed that my word count hadn’t spontaneously increased.  Go figure.  I am working on making myself write straight for 15 minutes uninterrupted and no word count checks allowed. That seems to help. I still need a Ctrl-Shift-C intervention. Write or Die also helps immensely.

4.  I have a lot to learn about the craft of noveling.

When I thought I was terrible at dialogue, I ended up doing quite well.  Pacing, however, took me down a couple of notches.  I still can’t pace a story right now very well.  I still have no concept of what 50,000 words *means* in a story, despite reading at least a novel a week for almost as long as I can remember. But I can read about noveling technique in the other eleven months that aren’t NaNoWriMo. November is for word count.

5.  Save daily copies of your manuscript EVERYWHERE!

I originally used Google Docs to “write in the cloud,” so I could work from anywhere with an Internet connection. Things were good the first two weeks and then the sheer text size began to break down — things wouldn’t always save, I lost the last few paragraphs of work from each night, etc.  I have learned to back EVERYTHING up to notepad and Word, and email copies to work and Gmail. Daily. I also learned that Google Docs has an anemic 500kb limit which is easy to hit with formatted text. I separate my manuscript out by chapter now instead.

6.  Some days I hate writing.

But I push myself to do it. In the end it isn’t so bad. And if you focus JUST on writing instead of playing on Twitter, MMO’s, and watching the latest episode of “The Office,” it goes much easier.

7.  I miss sleep.

I sacrificed my before bedtime novel reading to write instead.  Problem is, when I read novels, I can get drowsy and fall asleep whenever I feel like it with no consequences.  With a word count kicking me in the backside, I don’t have that choice. And it’s a rough writing night, I spend the rest of the night tossing and turning trying to solve plot problems in my sleep. /sigh.

8.  I miss READING!

But when I do read now, it’s like a whole new world unfolding.  I notice dialogue.  I notice plot twists.  I notice subplots.  It’s like walking through a field of poppies and then having the color saturation turned way way up — all of a sudden subtleties leap out. Kind of like watching The Wizard of Oz in the beginning where it’s black and white, and then when Dorothy gets to Oz all the colors of Munchkinland are brilliant.

Here are my “approved distractions” for the rest of the month:

We’re a little over halfway done with NaNoWriMo 2009, so all you NaNo’ers hang in there and keep writing! You can do it!

NaNoWriMo and Hot Air Balloons

6 Nov 2009 In: Uncategorized

I have a tendency to fall off Planet Earth for a few weeks in November. Because of having to hit a daily word count at night after working all day, there’s little time for gaming, socializing, and TV.

I was so frustrated with my protagonist yesterday that in the first 100 words I had her murdered by a Starbucks barista who harvested her organs on the black market. Chuck came home and glanced at my screen (since I was so busy scowling at it) and said, “Ooookay, someone needs a break.”  So we went out to dinner at Lis Doon Varna, a little Irish restaurant in Peoria.

I came back to my senses after dinner and deleted the 100 words that killed off my protagonist, and all was right with the world again — at least for another day.  Chuck went to bed early, which left me to crank out 2000 words in the span of an hour and a half. Not a bad night’s writing.

Peoria Balloon Illumination

We were planning to to go TEDx tonight, but since we’re going to help chase crew for a hot air balloon tomorrow morning and have to get up at 5am, we decided to opt-out. I am SO EXCITED about the hot air balloon! I’ll post pictures later on tomorrow afternoon (probably after a nap and word count). Phantom of the Opera is tomorrow night at ASU Gammage as well. Busy weekend!

NaNoWriMo 2009 Approaches

28 Oct 2009 In: Uncategorized

I competed last year and learned a lot about my writing. I also formed a wonderful habit of writing 1800 words a day (which I promptly kicked by mid-December — arrgh).  For those of you unfamiliar with the strange word, NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. Every year in November, both published and aspiring novelists alike will compete against themselves to see if they can produce 50,000 words in the month of November.

November is one of those difficult months with Thanksgiving, lots of work before holidays, and the onslaught of the Christmas season. We even visited the Grand Canyon by train last November! I brought my trusty little Acer Aspire One along for the ride (write?), and wrote while gazing at the landscape.

Going for it again this year, this time with a little more structure, a lot more outline and hopefully a great story arc that will keep me writing daily through and beyond 50,000 words.  My NaNoWriMo novel is tentatively titled “Time Jumpers” and is about a girl who figures out how to jump to a different point in time.  Here’s a synopsis:

Time Jumpers

At 16, rebellious teen Sammi has discovered the ability to jump through time — both backward and forward. When she is caught by the ruling society called The Utopics, she gets shipped off to a special school for TJ’s (Time Jumpers). Sammi and her classmates become trained to either jump backwards to assassinate historical targets such as Hitler and Mussolini, or scout future events by jumping ahead.

A rogue group of jumpers is trying to change what The Utopics are doing, believing that society should learn from the mistakes of history rather than trying to eliminate them to create perfection. Does Sammi choose to perfect history the way she was trained? Or does she decide to alter the course of history in a different way?

Have you decided to do NaNo too? You can be my “Writing Buddy” at: or just stealthily eyeball my word count as November marches on.

With eReaders, Format is King

21 Oct 2009 In: ebooks, ePub, Sony Reader

With the slew of new eBook devices being released with almost daily announcements, it would seem that our digital literary utopia is near at hand. However, I’m concerned that every one of these ebook devices uses a different format, none being compatible with each other.

I’ve been reading ebooks since 1999 on various Palm and PocketPC devices. I’ve had a Sony Reader PRS-500 since 2007, and upgraded to the Sony Reader PRS-505 in 2008.  I’ve acquired, tweaked, converted, and uploaded just about every ebook format available in the search for “one format to rule them all.”


One Format to Rule them All

The problem with more new devices on the market is that each one wants to be the “winner” with their format.  On the Amazon Kindle, we have the Kindle proprietary format, which of course doesn’t talk to the Sony Reader lrf format, which of course, neither will talk to the new BN “nook” Reader which has its own format. Each device is focused on purchasing the content directly from their store, and only reading that content on that device.  But in doing so, they’re limiting a huge, tech-savvy market that would love to read books on more than one device.

As a Sony Reader owner, I would love to purchase books from or and read them on either my Reader or my iPhone. I love reading ebooks on both devices. In order for me to do that, however, I have to acquire an open format (txt, rtf) and convert it to epub. With Stanza on my iPhone and epub support on my Sony Reader, I’m able to read the same books on both devices.

Epub Makes it Possible

Epub format (via Adobe Digital Editions) is currently being used by libraries across the United States. I can log onto my local Phoenix library account and immediately download a book to load onto my Sony Reader.  None of the other new ebook handhelds can do that, including my iPhone. Allowing me to also have that same content on my iPhone (or Kindle, or Nook, or iRex) would be tremendous!

Buy Anywhere, Run Anywhere

I’m looking forward to an ebook future where I can purchase digital content from any of the “Big Three” (Borders, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon) or borrow from my library and download it to my Sony Reader *and* my iPhone 3G. Epub format is an open format that I’d love to see adopted by the new devices, giving us the ability to read the books we purchased where, how, and when we want. Having one common format available to all units is the path to success for all of us ebook enthusiasts.

Hello world!

21 Oct 2009 In: Uncategorized

The hosting switchover is complete, and I’m now on WordPress instead of Blogger. Next fun part is to import all of my Blogger entries from 2003 to present into WordPress.  We’ll see how that goes.

Moving from Blogger to WordPress

19 Oct 2009 In: blogger, hosting, wordpress

After using Blogger for over six years, I’ve decided to move over to WordPress. I’ve been using it for several other sites and just love its features, plug-ins, and customizability.

I’m currently taking a backup of my entire domain (I have years of old stuff on there, sketches, animations, books, etc).

I’m also moving my hosting from PowWeb who I’ve been with for over ten years, and switching to GoDaddy. All of my other domains are hosted there, so it’ll be nice to finally have everything in one single control panel.

I’m also hoping that the move to WordPress will encourage me to blog a little more as well. It just started feeling stale using Blogger, and I found ways to avoid blogging (such as tweeting way too much for one). :)

That being said, since I’m transferring my hosting as well, my email and site might be down awhile. I’m hoping for a super short downtime, but meanwhile, please use my tekchic @ gmail dot com email address if you need to get something to me quickly.

Looking forward to posting some of the art I’ve been working soon on as well as some pieces for a new novel. And of course all the usual about what hikes we’ve been on, what restaurants we’ve been craving, and what musicals I’m dying to see… ;-)

I’m not disappearing, just coming back new and improved!

Crossword Word I Learned Today

21 Aug 2009 In: Uncategorized

The clue was “A butterfly’s wings” and answer was “alae”. Had to look this one up. Dictionary says:

1. a wing.
2. a winglike part, process, or expansion, as of a bone, shell, seed, or stem.
3. either of the two side petals of a flower in the legume family, as the pea.
4. (in an ancient Roman house) a small room, as an alcove, opening into a larger room or courtyard.

The blogosphere has been busy the past few days about Sony announcing that they’re going to start selling their ebooks in open ePub format. This has caused a lot of people to focus on “ePub” itself and acting like this is new for Sony. I wanted to do a quick blog entry to clear up the fact that Sony has supported ePub format since shortly after releasing the Sony Reader PRS-505 (the second-generation Sony Reader) almost two years ago.

The reason this suddenly became news is because Sony will now going to change the ebooks they sell in their Sony eBook Store from the old *.lrf format to this new open ePub format. This is fantastic, because now it means I could potentially read the same book on both my iPhone (using Stanza eReader app) and Sony Reader. I carry my iPhone everywhere, but I don’t tote my Sony Reader around with me as much anymore, even though it’s a better reading platform. Now I’d be able to work my way through the same novel whether I’m standing in line at the grocery store or curled up at home in my La-Z-Boy chair.

A largely overlooked benefit to the Sony Reader is that it also supports the Adobe Digital Edition books format. This is a biggie for me, because it means that if my Phoenix Digital Library has a copy in this format, I can check out the book, download it to my Sony Reader PRS-505, and I’m reading new releases on my Sony Reader for free.

Barnes and Noble has also tossed their hat into the ebook sale ring. All of this new competition is great for ebook fans because it now gives us a choice of where we purchase ebooks (provided they truly all go open format down the line). If I don’t mind reading the book on my iPhone exclusively, I can compare prices between the BN ebook store and Amazon and buy the ebook from the cheapest retailer. The fact that both offer iPhone reading apps (neither as good as Stanza, but competent enough to get through a novel) means that I can shop for the lowest ebook price and send my dollars to the cheapest. My dream is that all ebook merchants go open ePub format which would allow readers to read on their hardware of choice rather than proprietary Amazon Kindle / Sony Reader configurations. They did it for mp3’s, it’s time to do it for ebooks!

(Disclosure: I’ve owned both the Sony Reader PRS-500 and the Sony Reader PRS-505, and have been reading ebooks since my first Palm Pilot Professional back in 1997. I bought both my Readers outright, I’m not employed by Sony or anything, hehe, I’m just a rabid ebook advocate).

My Bucket List

27 Jul 2009 In: bucket list, hot air balloon, japan, novel

Seeing the ISS (International Space Station) fly directly overhead tonight gave me goosebumps — I was so excited! It would be such a neat experience to see the shuttle (or whatever it becomes in the future) launch in person at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

It got me thinking about what other great life experiences I want to have before I “kick the bucket”. So, here’s my Bucket List. I’ll probably add and edit this one as I go along. I don’t really think they’re in any particular order.

Bucket List

  1. Ride in a hot air balloon
  2. Visit India and see the Taj Mahal
  3. Visit Japan and eat fugu (blowfish)
  4. Take an Alaskan cruise
  5. Sing the national anthem at a game
  6. Publish at least one novel
  7. Play in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (and not suck!)
  8. Be able to hike down to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon
  9. See the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights)
  10. Learn to speak (and read) Japanese
  11. See the shuttle launch in person

What’s on your “Bucket List”?

About this blog

UI/UX Developer by day, a million other hobbies by night. Attracted to shiny objects that need recharging. Passion for life, love, and sushi. Trail running, hiking, books, gaming, sketching and travel are just a few of my interests. Multi-platform (Windows, OS X, Android, iOS) enthusiast.