Thursday, November 30, 2006

Work In Progress

30 November and we still haven't had a decent story up here yet. I started a draft this morning, but it's bad. The point of writing is rewriting. Actually, I've rewritten this twice and rejected the last cut for melodrama -- Robert Jordan's story has already been told.

All I can say for now is, we'll keep trying.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Blogger Down At 8pm PST . . .

. . . so let's get this up.

The Bible says, and I tell the kids: what you say changes who you are. If you control everything you say, you'll never say anything you don't already know; if you don't, you make something of yourself without knowing what you're making. So writing stories is either dull or scary.

I work on chess problems to get out of my own head. I'll play a game, find the point where things went wrong, and try to figure out what I should have done. The idea isn't to find some magic sequence of moves, you don't have time for that in a game. But you can use rules, so once I've found the right line I try to extract some general rule that would find that line when time is short.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Well, Shut My Mouth

One nice thing about commenters -- beyond providing visible proof that Google Analytics Liar lies about zero visitors -- is that they get you to reconsider obvious stuff you never thought of. Like, maybe you have Google Analyzing Liar installed wrong. "Ha!" I thought as I read this. "I installed it right at the start and it worked then, didn't it? I even did a whole post about this blog's feeble traffic, didn't I? Read the blog before you comment, smartguy, I'm so smart I even changed my template a few weeks . . . "

Hmm . . . .

Yup, when I changed the template I wiped out the Google Analytics "Receiving Data Not" code. This might have occurred to me, since I did notice the change wiped out my link to Fussy (hi Mrs. Kennedy!) but nooo.

So, thanks, Fringes, whoever you are, and check this space for reports of several visitors, some of them possibly (well, theoretically) recurring.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Google Analytics Lies

Google Analytics says this blog has zero visitors, zero pageviews, zero, zip, nada. I think Analytics is unsure this blog even exists.

Well, Google Analytics, this blog has a comment. Actually, two comments. So how can it have no visitors?

First click fraud, now this. Clearly the internet is built on a foundation of sand.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A New Thing

This afternoon I read "The Velveteen Rabbit" to Littlest Impelled before her afternoon nap. Usually we read a couple of short stories with pictures to her, and then put her to bed where she falls asleep -- though she often keeps herself awake, though visibly tired, with chirping and playing and rolling around. It's annoying, because we know she needs a nap and she's a pain without one, but convincing her to sleep is a chore.

Not today. The book doesn't have many pictures, and it's long. She was interested, but sitting still stopped the chirping and whirling that keeps her awake, and in a few minutes she just drifted off to sleep in my arms.

Three years and a brother before her and we're just figuring this out.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

What To Do With Turkey Stock

Dinner tonight was a soup of meatballs with jalapeno and mint, poached in broth, with chard, potatoes, little onions and bow-tie pastas. Not bad.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Learning Curve

I'm making the second turkey stock of my life, even as I type. Chop the carcass into bits, chuck in neck, a lot of water, boil, down to simmer for 24 hours, strain. Stock.

What to do with it? I've got 24 hours to figure that out, and even if I already knew, I know I'm going to need a post tomorrow.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Certainly amusing, but come on -- what kind of idiot is infatuated with Pamela Anderson?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

You Are What You Write

I'm looking around for stories to write, but most of what I'm noticing is pretty grouchy. The past couple of days I don't see much besides indifference and stupidity and petty bureaucrats holding their entrenchments. I see general trends pushing such things and I'm sort of panicked for the kids.

But the old Jewish story about people in your new village being the same as the people in your last is true. I'm worried about the world, but I'm a little more worried that I'm seeing so much to worry about.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

It's New Day

Early this morning I got Littlest Impelled and brought her to bed with us. She snuggled right in. I left before she woke, but I gave her a kiss and whispered "It's a brand new day, little one. Use it well."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Enter Ward

Tonight, big battle with Littlest Impelled about listening to her mother. She is a beautiful little girl and I hate making her cry, but she's old enough to start paying a little more attention to what other people need and want. And while she plays the baby, I know she gets more than she let's on. Some days my job is making her laugh when she's crying, some days it's making her cry when she's laughing. She really could be a pretty girl -- if I let her think being cute is all she needs, she'll never be a person.

After all the fuss I told her I loved her and tomorrow's a new day and all this will be forgotten.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

So . . .

If one were to get a goldfish, just how would one keep a cat away from it?

Just curious.


I spent some time looking at this chess problem and came away with some quick tools for deciding if pushing a particular advantag will win. Since the problem I'm looking at has a decisive line for the other side if I start my line, I now need some tool for figuring out how to break down their best line. Rook and pawn endings are tougher than they look.

Watch Little Impelled's soccer game, which was the usual scrum of first graders chasing the ball. His coach had told him to play defense on the left, and he was all over the place, so I started calling to him "back, left, back, left". He started to do it a bit, and when the ball went to the right he edged to the middle. You could see him wanting to go further to the ball, so I called "stay there, you're doing an important job, the ball is coming to you." And the other team did try to center the ball, and he was there to stop it. The next time the ball went right he wanted to go after it, and I called "that kid there -- he's good, the ball is coming to him, stay between him and the goal." And the ball came out, and that kid got it, and Little Impelled was right on him. And after that no one needed to tell him not to go right, and he stopped another two or three balls. That one kid did score the game's only goal, pouncing from the left on a loose ball after Little Impelled was shifted to offense.

We talked afterwards. "It works, holding your spot, doesn't it?" "Yeah. "But i's hard, standing in the right spot when everyone else is over the ball, isn't it?" "Yeah." "Well, get used to it."

Friday, November 17, 2006


You'll remember I blundered away a couple of chess games a few weeks ago; here's one of them.

Well, maybe not. Hmm, maybe blogger beta is still more blogger alpha.

Okay, anyway. I've spent weeks looking at a position rook vs rook, w/ a two pawn advantage, and can't find a clear way forward. And now it turns out wikipedia has a page dedicated to this sort of thing.

I'd love to figure this out for myself, but the point is to win these games, and I don't have time for this. I've got some reading to do.


"So I think you've shown improvement but there are these other things we haven't gotten traction on and which I think we should work on more with my supervisor."

"Well, I don't understand why we don't have a clearer idea of what those other things might be."

"Well, we do, but I didn't want to scare you with the specifics."

"I see . . . . Well, I think it's hard to know what might be going on. Maybe these things are problems, maybe some deepseated issues simply haven't appeared. Or maybe I'm just able to do things I never could before and simply have to learn how to do them."

"You've been doing these things for years and you're still having trouble."

"Yes and no. If I'd been playing basketball for years with vision limited to ten feet around me, and suddenly could see the whole floor, I wouldn't expect to suddenly be a great player. I'd have a chance to learn all sorts of things, but they would still be new even though I had been the court for so much time."

"Even then some players would have different abilities, and you could be missing something that other players have. That's what we'd be looking for."

"Yes, but there's no way to know what those gaps are until I've tried to play under the new conditions for a while. I think we should break from this for a while and see what we've got. I've got to develop my own initiative, build up my focus on the things that matter and break down my distractions. If I can't do those things, then maybe I've got other issues to address."

"I'm glad you agree we should stop for a while and then come back and re-evaluate."

"Um, okay."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Struggle

Must . . . not . . . blog . . . about . . . cat . . .

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Not An Interesting Story

Our town has a lot of problems with its schools -- currently we're in the middle of a nasty negotiation with our teachers, but before that it was getting rid of a poor fit of a superintendent, improving the reading curriculum, focusing on teaching . . . . There's a lot of work to be done. I spend way too much time on the local message boards arguing with people about all this stuff, and I'm not sure if it's because I care or because I like to argue. Anyway, I think the debates have made a difference.

These discussions get heated and from time to time I lose my temper and it's embarrassing. I mean, there they are, some silly decisions in black and white and there's really no denying you wrote something so stupid.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Day Late

Yesterday was busy, but I got my little post done -- tapped it out on the email machine in a brief pause early in the evening. A little story that made my point without my usual sledgehammer technique. Not a great point and not made particularly well, but a touch better than yesterday's.

In the past couple of years I've built a good jogging habit. Some days it hurts like hell but my legs are a lot stronger and I feel great. I carry my three year old daughter on my shoulders, which she loves. She'll jabber along happily and when she feels I'm not listening she'll lean down and poke her face in mine to be sure she has my attention. I didn't know good legs would help appreciate my little girl but I'm sure glad I can play cheerfully with her. The determination to keep that running habit going is kind of mental, but satisfying that Type A voice has its unexpected dividends so I try to keep it happy.

I check these little posts from time to time, just to see them stack up, day after day after day, and quietly celebrate the momentum. So late last night I checked on Impelled from the email/web machine -- nothing? I checked the email, and had an "undeliverable" message. Which makes sense, as there is no "".

Choice C

The radio today had a story about some scientist scanning people's brains while they made a decison. They were told they were hiding with rest of their village from some enemy with their daughter who was coughing. Do they smother their daughter so she isn't heard or do they risk the whole village. The experimenters are looking at how the emotional parts of the brain fight it with the logical parts.

Haven't these people heard of cough syrup?

Choice C

The radio today had a story about some scientist scanning people's brains while they made a decison. They were told they were hiding with rest of their village from some enemy with their daughter who was coughing. Do they smother their daughter so she isn't heard or do they risk the whole village. The experimenters are looking at how the emotional parts of the brain fight it with the logical parts.

Haven't these people heard of cough syrup?

Choice C

The radio today had a story about some scientist scanning people's brains while they made a decison. They were told they were hiding with rest of their village from some enemy with their daughter who was coughing. Do they smother their daughter so she isn't heard or do they risk the whole village. The experimenters are looking at how the emotional parts of the brain fight it with the logical parts.

Haven't these people heard of cough syrup?

Saturday, November 11, 2006



So I now understand that you're supposed to draft and revise these things. That breezy, casual tone is carefully crafted and honed. I suppose it's a comforting explanation of why I too can't fire off 500 perfect words, but since I've no idea of what casual is I don't think this going to help.

Anyway, I now have two ideas that I don't have time to finish, and won't tomorrow, so I guess this weekend will end up a wash.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Big day at Impelled. After a long day of plotting greedy schemes solely for my own benefit, I began to dig out my desk from the Les Nesman-like stacks of paper walling it off from my colleagues. Our business brings in contact with all sorts of interesting stuff, and my curiousity generally exceeds my attention span, so I end up with World Bank reports on Chinese financial instutions and US Foreign Service reports on Indonesian coal usage stacked in piles around my chair until I have a positive fence around me. I mean to read all this stuff, but who has time? and I really don't have any way to fit it together or turn it into actionable information. After a while the distraction of all this stuff I meant to read and the guilt of not reading creates such confusion that I can't begin to do the actual thinking that might make some sense of it.

So away with it! Well, I'm too compulsive to just throw it away, and the one-touch rule while great in theory demands more discipline and organization than I have. If I had that kind of thoughtfulness I wouldn't have collected 75% of this stuff in the first place. I usually end up throwing away the most obvious offenders and filing some stuff and creating new piles of stuff to be dealt with promptly, once I do get organized -- but of course the organization is itself the problem that never gets confronted, and I expect I'll be back behind the barricades in no time.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I'm Spartacus!

Careful readers of Impelled (if Impelled had any readers of any kind) would notice two changes. Obviously, new template! I needed a new template for something clever, which didn't work out, but I'm too lazy to change.

Second, our Wednesday post has been deleted and reposted as of today, 9 November. If our fearless leader won't have an 8 November post because of the not-machinations of the Man, Impelled won't have one either.

I was about to ramble on about the social and technological meanings of all this, but I'm learning that my problem is I don't know when to stop.

Solidarity! Fussy, we're with you.

Lit Crit -- Again

I may not know why people read about cats but I'm sure God learning why people write about them. If the other 3000 or whatever bloggers doing this are anything like me, I'm expecting that Maggie is about to sell a lot of books. I can't bring myself to the cat thing, but I'm thinking about buying a goldfish so I can write about that.

Let's try another tack. I think I read the Iliad four or five times before I began to get anything out of it; I kept going because pretty much all of Western civilization insisted there was something in there, but for the longest time it was just Round One of Europe invading the Middle East and people trying to stay out of the gods' way. But at some point it did hit me (spoiler alert!): Achilles is confronting the dead body of his best friend and realizing that he is screwed. Though he is the mightiest man in the world, he too is going to die, and without any expectation or even imagination of a heaven or a christian salvation, and he's got nothing inside himself but to inflict the same fate on everyone in his path until he gets through the man who killed his friend. He's alone with all this, and he doesn't see any way out. And that pagan moment is so common that it's at the base of every writer in the West -- Christian, Jew, Renaissance, the Enlightenment, all of them at least until we stopped reading Homer.

Maybe I'd better go read it again.

[This was originally posted 8 November 2006. Click that picture up there if you don't believe me.]

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


I've only the vaguest understanding of this whole link thing -- I've seen blogs with links running for pages and pages and pages. I guess the newbie blogger protocol of reciprocal links gets you off the ground and into Google where more people can see you and come back again and then you get so big no one expects you to link back. What happens when you get to the point that your old links from your newbie days start to look, you know . . . awkward? You've moved up in the rankings, and hasn't really taken off, and you still like them but you can't talk to them about your bandwidth problems and the struggles you're having about google adwords and is sooo funny _and_ has their own domain name and is sort of wondering why they aren't at the top of your link list what with their Google Page Rank of (insert semi-impressive sounding number here I certainly don't follow this stuff enough to know). It's sort of like a sophomore year of a long-term college relationship when someone begins to get the idea that maybe they can do a little better. Only I expect the web thing probably happens in six weeks.

The odd thing to me is how anybody holds an audience for more than three months in the first place. I'm often interested in new stuff, it's always interesting to see how other people think and see things, but if these things don't evolve they get kind of predictable. There are certain dogs on the internet that have, apparently, exhausted their creative space, and I expect you know who I'm talking about. The people behind these blogs are still growing and changing, but it's like watching the grass grow while the internet zooms by. And yet we've got blogs out there moving serious traffic with pictures of pasta and pets. Who am I to argue with the wisdom of the crowd? But I just don't get it.

Anyway, I've figured out the link thing and added my vote for the wit and loveliness that is Eden Kennedy. I don't understand myself any better than the crowd, but there's some humane and literate and present in the moment about her writing, something that seems formed by what she's read and what she's writing. That determination to be formed and form one's self, and to find a way to do so with letters, is compelling, and fascinating to those of us forming ourselves by, ah, well, let's just say more controversial paths. Now, if I could _write_ I'd try to communicate the essence of that experience, but then again, you'd probably get that best by reading her for yourself, so there is the link and go find what you can for yourself. At this point I should be rewriting this mess and maybe then finding something actually worth saying, but it's getting late and the motto (today) is just fuck it and write. Which seems to be pretty much all we've accomplished today.

Well, that, and risked pissing off a fanbase that could swamp this thing's comments with all sorts of mean-spirited but true remarks about how crappy it is.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A haiku!

My stories bore you
Obvious, long, tedious
And this doesn't help

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Splendid Solitude

It's getting late here and no blog is complete without a self-referential metareference, so let's look at the traffic news.

Impelled made the NaBloPoMo blog list sometime Thursday. The traffic effect was obvious, as was visitors' verdict. Well, being good at this was never the point.

Sunday, 5 November -- check.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


So it's White's move here, and even if you don't know much chess, Black is clearly screwed. There are about a dozen ways for White to win this. 30 Qe7+ might even be one of them --White's still up a bishop even after trading Queens for no reason. I'll spare you the screen shot of how I blundered even that away. Geez.

I'd love to spin this into some witty and insightful story, but really this is about figuring out screen shots and checking the box on 4 November. Mission accomplished. Good night.

Friday, November 03, 2006

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

As a kid I daydreamed about being the next Larry Bird / Magic Johnson -- the court vision and savvy of the former with the athleticism of the latter. (And don't complain about the white = smart, black = athletic stereotype. Magic was one of the ten basketball-smartest guys ever, but teens starved for attention have the most grandiose visions and nothing but the absolute best will do.) I loved playing, but I stunk and never rose above the level of mediocre church-league player. On defense I kept my ass between my guy and the rim, switched and helped and didn't let anyone through the paint without a nudge, but when we had the ball I had no idea where to go and certainly no idea what to do when I got the ball. If I practiced jump shots half the time I spent daydreaming I might have scored occasionally. The idea of conditioning never really occurred to me.

Our coach was a young guy who loved the game and never stopped noticing that I ran hard and encouraging me to keep going. We were in some tournament game against a better team and were down eight or so with six or seven minutes to play. I had hardly played, but without even looking at me he said "Impelled, get in, play the point of the zone". We had this defense where one guy stands 20-25 feet in front of the basket and tries to force the man bringing up the ball to the left or the right sideline; when they get there, a teammate comes from behind and the two defenders leave the ballhandler trapped on three sides. Of course the guard throws cross-court over the top defender who then runs to do the same thing to the opponent who just got the ball. That "zone point" role is a great job hustler eager do _something_, and if the kid is rested and amped up by a close game . . . . For four minutes their offense completely broke down -- we generated three or four turnovers and they just could not get the ball through the top of our defense. At one point I got a clean steal and an open path to their basket, but traveled trying to get the ball under control. We lost, but somehow coach used his most awkward player to get his team almost over the top.

In college I played a lot of ultimate with some really good players, and slowly learned about creating and using space in a game. I slowly learned that with enough practice of some simple fundamentals you can do a lot of useful stuff. Once you've got a basic idea of how to score -- knowing that you need an open path for a pass or a drive or an open spot for a shot -- you can start thinking chess-like about the moves you need to get _that_ (there's a gap; I'll pass to my mate, drive right to pull my defender off the line to the gap and then shoot in there, get the ball back and go hard to the layup before the next guy can switch over), and over time you start to see and feel how to put this stuff together. If you are in condition to keep trying to keep trying stuff and have enough ball-handling to do some simple things, you can actually accomplish something.

I've dabbled a bit with soccer, and by accident really found myself in a league game last night on a really bad team. My teammate put the ball across the goal as I sprinted into a gap, I got to it a quarter-step late for a real drive but knew to just put it on goal and boom, our only goal of the night.

Driving home I wasn't fretting about about this stupid election or our bills or wishing I was the next Bill Russell; I was thinking about the simple satisfaction of the click-click-click of meaningless goal in an already forgotten game.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Learning to Crawl

Good morning. That last bit was a downer, wasn't it? Didn't know it was going to end up there. I'll try to be more cheerful.

So . . . I'm figuring out the blogger technology and here's our first image. I haven't figured out getting this to the sidebar or adding a proper link to Maybe in time.

While I'm playing with images, here's another:

Well, that wouldn't go where I wanted it. Never mind. I'm doing a reverse Howard Hughes thing with hand sanitizer; I've a nasty cold and started obsessively washing my hands with Purell to be less contagious. This is part noble concern for my fellow man, part OCD and part fascination with new technology. So far, no one has started looking at me funny.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

All Saints' Day

I'm a a fan of Fussy and (back in the day) of nycgetaj-o-b. I can't say why, and (if you knew me) you wouldn't expect of me, but there you are. They seem tapped into something that reminds me of people like old neighbors of ours who collected African art and German prints and had art books from floor to ceiling. I never really understood them, but they were clearly in touch with _something_. Lou Reed and and Hunter Thompson have a similar kind of effect. I've always been too wrapped up in Doing The Right Thing to really explore that. Well, I go to modern art museums to find out, but they refuse to write it out for me so I'm still not getting it.

Setting some arbitrary task to improve yourself is the kind of destructive Type A behavior I disassociate with such folks, so I think this is doomed from the start. Maybe they dutifully do their homework or run every day just because it's good for them, or because it's the Right Thing To Do, but I think more of their freedom from prescription and what they see with that opportunity.

You'd rather be reading a blog by a friend of mine. Funny, in-touch with all kinds of odd corners of pop culture, passionate about professional baseball despite its obvious commercial distortions of happier ideals, bright, dedicated but with a reasonable sense of proportion -- much more suited to this sort of thing. He died in a car accident because another driver didn't pay attention to the Rules about driving on bald tires in the rain. That kind of thing has always kept me from taking a walk on the wild side.