The House is Nearly Done… Or So we Hope!

9 and a half months after the house fire, our house is finally getting close to done. We should be moving back in this Friday, if all goes well.

Of course, all may not go well. Our contractor, picked after much discussion and research, turned out not to be as good or as organized as we’d hoped.

Decorative columns are falling off the front of the house because they were only attached to house with paint. We have concerns that maybe the builder didn’t tell the roofing truss company they had taken out a load bearing wall. We go on a trip with the builder to pick out appliances and finishes, and he calls us for the next week asking /us/ for the SKU’s because he’s lost them. Ditto for finishes. We show up at the house and the plumber is sitting there doing nothing because the builder has forgotten to bring in the toilets and dishwaser. There is something odd with the actual roof itself too; we can see the ribs of the roof through the tile, and we shouldn’t.

We are fed up, and as final inspections by the city and the move-in date approach, all we can do is cross our fingers and hope.

Well, that, and call the roofing truss company and bring in a third-party home inspection company. Because, really, I don’t trust my builder anymore. Honestly, I barely believe he can put his pants on the right way around in the mornings.

Bow, Book, and Sword

I haven’t been posting… because I’ve been busy.

 

Book

I’ve been coming to terms with the setting of my current novel, and reworking things so that it feels alive to me. For instance, since I’m writing about a place very much like Ancient South China, I’ve been learning a lot about rice and paddies, and really focusing on experiencing this place on a visceral level.

I had gone down a path of too much book learning about the subject, which really means I wasted a lot of time taking notes about useless stuff. None of my notes make it real. I need to see it, smell it, taste it in the back of my throat — then I can make it feel real.

This means not a lot of forward progress, but what I do have is much more satisfying to me, personally.

 

Bow (for Amtgard, the swords and sorcery LARP that I play)

Drills every day last week. Speed-nocking, arrow gripping, speed pull, rapid target acquisition. I am in an apartment still, so no target practice; this means my accuracy is likely crap. But, by god, I will be able to nock, grab, pull, pick a target, and fire fast. 

I still only have one arrow, but hopefully that will be fixed soon.

 

Sword (also for Amtgard)

Lots of sparring and block/strike drills this week. 

The park held a mini-tournament this weekend. The format was “Ironman”, also known as “Bear Pit” — two people fight in a ring for 15 seconds. Whoever wins, stays in, and the next person in line goes in to fight. Wounds are not healed between bouts. Overall time limit was 30 minutes, I believe. 

I came in second, and I could’ve come in first if I hadn’t made a couple of stupid mistakes. My longest streak was 6 kills in a row, and I had 29 kills total. The winner had 34, which is closer than it sounds. I lost my place in line (and thus my turn at winning and staying in the bear pit) twice, and it would’ve been a lot closer if I had been paying attention. 

My left shoulder is now killing me, due to overwork.

—-

Also for sword:

Three top level Taijiquan (Tai Chi Chuan) coaches from mainland China visited my Kung Fu school on Thursday. Really amazing to see 60 and 70 year olds move with lower stances, more fluidity, and more suppleness than me, someone 20-30 years their junior. 

I have lots of medals in Taiji from various national and international tournaments, but these people were much better than me. They were really doing Taiji. I don’t know quite what I’m doing, but it’s obviously not Taiji yet.

 

I will be appearing at ConDFW this weekend, 2/19/14-2/21/14

To my (tiny) fan base (and to my much larger group of friends):
I will be appearing at ConDFW this weekend (2/19/14-2/21/14). Come check it out!

My panels:

Friday 6p-7p: The Foot is Mightier than the Pen
- Me and Adrian Simmons show writers what real martial arts looks like.

Saturday 4p-5p: Star Wars vs. Star Trek
-I will be on the Star Wars side.

Sunday 11am-Noon: Mining for New Ideas
- Where to find new iedas for your writing.

Looking without looking, seeing without seeing

When you look at a field, what do you see? Do you see “green” or “grass” or even just “field”? If so, you’re not really looking.

I am looking at one now, and I see at least five to ten different shades of green, at least 3 different shades of tan and brown, and everything bit of grass, living or dead, at a different length. Even grasses of the same species look unique. They clump together, run in strips or curves, and the leave huge open spaces. Fate and randomness has textured like the rind of an orange.

This field was once a building, a vast warehouse, and the foundation of it is still there underneath, and there are tiny bits of rubble just beyond sight. The bulldozers scraped the whole surface clean once, long ago, and so the field always looks like it has been plowed for crops where their teeth dragged and then overgrown even though it has never been plowed before.

But what really amazes me are the bushes. You don’t even see them when you look at this place at first — you look and you see “field” and that’s all, and all the bushes disappear from your eyes because you see a category, a shape, an abstract object instead of the thing itself. It is cruel and heartless dominance of the abstract over the real.

Really, it’s like Plato and Aristotle had it all backward, that the abstract, perfect world of “forms” is not a thing beyond or behind reality, but an instinctive creation of the mind, a simplification that the brain resorts to in order to be able to process all of the data and sort it and organize it in a useful way. The “shadows on the wall of a cave” are not the physical world at all, but the cognitive system of grouping, classification, and ordering that our mind uses to construct meaning.

Reality is always complex, textured, nuanced, with layers of history right there, visible under the surface, between the bushes and the blades of grass, but the mind cannot handle all of this information at once. It is too much. It is not useful, not relevant to survival or thriving, and it is discarded. And that is the way it should be. Usually. But sometimes you need to turn that filter off, and you need to see what is actually HERE.

Because sometimes the “perfect form” is not enough.

Because sometimes you need the truth, with all its various shades.

Because… sometimes… the world is beautiful.

Recovering from the house fire: stage 1

Since there is a high likelihood of both us and our insurance suing (redacted), the house rebuild has been delayed for legal-related niceties.

We’ve finally started interviewing custom home builders, and it’s like a game of pick your poison. One guy is really expert on building techniques and city code, but has the bedside manner of an axe murderer. The other guy is nice, but everything he wants to build is against code.

The delay also means we are chewing through our housing allowance far too fast, especially since rebuild always go over time and over budget. The company that’s supposed to converge all of this for us is also overcharging. They’re only supposed to get 15 percent commission, but somehow this crazy overpriced $3000 per month hotel room is costing us an extra $1000. At this rate we’d be on the streets long before the build was done.  So now we have to find out own apartment and file manually for reimbursement.  Another headache we don’t need.

But still, it’s slowly coming together.

Feeling Old Today

Image 

Feeling a little worn out. Maybe the stress of the house post-fire is getting to me, the grind of listing every possession we owned and trying to figure out what it was worth; or perhaps it’s the slight,-pleasant-but-still-present pressure of getting the novel ready to sell that’s pushing me that little too far. 

I have not slept well since the house fire. Not well at all. I am not normally a bad sleeper, just a night-owl who burns the candle at both ends. But these days I have to be completely exhausted in order to sleep. And I’m a little snappier and grumpier than normal. I’m usually a laid back, meditative guy, so I weirds me out to be angry at all.

Still, it is an exciting adventure, too. The house fire has wiped our family’s life clean of accumulated junk, and the insurance has bent over backwards to help us, so we expect that we will have our house back soon, just a little newer and with a better floorplan than it had before.  And I’m learning things about how to sell a book I’ve never known much about before. 

Overall, I’m a little unsteady, a little unsure of myself. Inching along with all the insurance work and plans for my next novels. But hopefully soon I’ll be back to full throttle. 

A Reference Guide for the Rest of Us

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