Mr. Keelty and the case of the dampened jacket

March 29, 2010 Personal Comments (1) 345

Funny story: as I was slipping on my coat to head out to work this morning, another gray and rainy Monday here in Philadelphia, I noticed that along the right side, the wool was quite damp.  My first (utterly horrified) thought was that one of my cats, most likely the 10-month old, has started spraying, but when I hung the coat back on its hook beside the door, I realized that it hangs far too high off the floor for either cat to possibly spray it.

I assumed it must still have been wet from the last time I wore it, a somewhat dubious theory considering our recent summery weather.  Then I put on the jacket that hangs next to the coat, only to find that, too, very damp.

At that point I looked up.  A dark brown spot had spread on the ceiling, just above the coat hook, the spackle cracked and pursed like a pair of lips waiting for a kiss.  A leak.

Fortunately, I rent.  Unfortunately, this is the second leak in this apartment. I’ve known about a minor leak in the bathroom for a couple of weeks, but that one leaks into the wall and so no water enters the actual apartment. Instead the paint along the seam between wall and ceiling bulges, and brown drip-lines are left on the wall where the rainwater trickles.

I’ve been meaning to let the landlord know about that leak for a while, and have put it off.  Now that I’ve found a leak that’s soaking my outerwear, it may be a bit more urgent.

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Word count, proofreading

March 15, 2010 Writing Comments (1) 417

So I’m back at work on Volve again. I considered it finished back in September, and sent a couple of dozen queries via email and snail mail, all of which returned rejections.  Based on my experiences querying past incarnations of the work, I expected at least a few requests for partials, so my 0.00% response rate was disappointing.  I had intended to shelve the project and focus on completing the manuscript for my second (presently untitled) novel, but then I came across a number of blog posts addressing the question of word count, and realized I may have committed a cardinal sin.

All of my queries mentioned that Volve is about 130,000 words long.  At the time, I thought that was acceptable for epic fantasy – even encouraged, as readers of the genre expected a thicker “meatier” book for their money.  Not so, say several literary agents.  Fantasy does tolerate a higher word count, but not that much higher.  Anything above 120,000 words is usually an automatic rejection.

Armed with that information, I looked back at previous incarnations that generated interest.  120,000 words.  Horrors!  When I did my last rewrite, in which I changed the prologue into scattered flashbacks and moved my inciting incident into my first chapter, I apparently also bloated my manuscript up to an unpalatable length.

So I’m back at it, this same manuscript that has been on my desk for portions of the past decade, this time focused on paring it down.  My target is 115,000 words or fewer.

I spent my morning commute today doing markup on the first chapter, and wouldn’t you know I found two hideous typos hidden away like trap door spiders ON PAGE TWO.

Two dozen queries.  Two dozen agents, to whom I sent a bloated manuscript that greeted them with two mistakes in the first 500 words.  Two dozen agents I can’t solicit again merely six months later.


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Further argument against NHL headshots

March 9, 2010 Hockey, In The News Comments (0) 462

The aftermath of Sunday’s Matt Cooke head-shot on Marc Savard has left Savard with an uncertain future and the NHL mired in controversy yet again.  Coming just a day before a meeting of General Managers, the Cooke hit was one more point in an argument the players have made very convincingly all season long that the league must do something to stop this madness.

I don’t read a lot of hockey blogs, but I read Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy fairly regularly, and I’m a little disappointed in his approach to this.  For one thing, he gets sidetracked, like a lot of die-hard hockey fans, by the fear that arguments like this one open the door for those who would, in Mike Milbury’s words, “pansify” the sport.  That fear leads him to argue too hard against the pansifiers, and he ends up defending what he should be condemning.

Wysh, I understand your concern.  We’re both hockey fans.  We both love physical, hard, grinding hockey.  We love that the playoffs are a battle of attrition where no player emerges unharmed.  We love what it requires for a person to be a hockey player.  Neither of us wants to see that change.  But as hockey fans, we have to be firm here: targeting the head has never been acceptable in the history of the NHL, and it is not acceptable now.

We may speculate as to why headhunting has become more prevalent– personally I think it’s a combination of the instigator rule diminishing the consequences and better equipment making hits to the body just play hurt less — but regardless of reason, this has become a plague on the NHL, and it’s up to the league to do something about it.

There are two points Wysh makes with which I take issue.  The first is that there is a big difference between the Cooke hit on Savard and the hit early in the season by Mike Richards on David Booth.  Wysh’s point is that the Cooke hit is just a plain old dirty play, while the Richards hit is a valid hockey play, an attempt to separate Booth from the puck.  I agree with this, and the distinction is important – but less important, to me, than what the two plays have in common.  In both cases, one player caught another player in a vulnerable position, and rather than applying a devastating body check, they chose to target the head, and only the head.

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The NHL has got to do something about headhunting.

March 7, 2010 Hockey, In The News Comments (4) 327

Still recovering from my septoplasty surgery, so I’ve spent most of this beautiful Philadelphia Sunday sitting inside watching NHL Center Ice.  I’ve just watched Marc Savard of the Bruins carried off the ice of Pittsburgh’s Mellon Arena on a stretcher, after left wing Matt Cooke tried to disconnect his head from his body.

Edit: new video below.  This one’s less dramatic and shows more context.

As is far too common these days, Cooke saw that Savard was vulnerable, came in from his blind spot, and hit Savard in such a way as to maximize impact to the head – and, as is almost as common, there was no penalty on the ice.  I expect Cooke will be suspended once the league reviews the hit, but in the meantime, the Bruins lose one of their most important offensive players, and the Penguins get to keep their two points.  Cooke will lose a few games worth of pay, but he will ensure job stability in the salary-cap era by being a guy who will “deliver a big hit.”

It seems rare these days to get through a single NHL game without one of these hits, and I have to say that it’s become disgusting.  I am a die-hard NHL fan, a defender of the hockey fight and the big hit, but I cannot stomach the way these players target each others’ heads, especially with the research that has recently been emerging about the long-term consequences of sports concussions.  While league officials and GMs debate the merits of penalizing this kind of play, athletes are seeing their lives shortened and worsened by plays that should never be allowed in any reputable league.

Meanwhile, international hockey leagues carefully protect the heads of their players.  As we recently saw in the Olympics, IIHF rules forbid players from playing without a helmet, and hand out swift justice for hits to the head.  I do feel that the IIHF goes too far (if a player wants to continue playing without his helmet, for instance, I don’t see why that should be penalized) but I do think the NHL needs to take action – definitive, clear action – to stop the headhunting that pollutes this league.

My proposed solution for the NHL is as follows:

(1) Any hit that either (a) contacts only the head or (b) contacts the head before any other part of the body, whether intentional or unintentional on the part of the player initiating the hit, should be a minor penalty.

(2) Any hit where, in the referee’s determination, the player initiating the hit deliberately (a) targetted only the head or (b) targetted the head before any other part of the body should be a match penalty.

At this point, I believe it is safe to say that these sorts of hits will result in injury.  Therefore, any player who intentionally hits in this fashion intends to injure the other player, which justifies a match penalty.

The main objection most people have to this argument is against the “unintentional” hits to the head.  My response is that the NHL already awards a two-minute power play when a player (a) breaks the stick of an opponent, even unintentionally, or (b) clears the puck out of play, even unintentionally.  I find it pretty hard to accept that a broken stick or puck out of play are less tolerable than a player’s health and career being risked with a hit to the head.

I have no wish to see hitting reduced in the NHL, but I do want to see these blind-side head-only or head-first hits stopped.  I am tired of the argument that any hit where a guy keeps his skates on the ice and his elbows down is a “clean hit.”  They are only “clean” because the rulebook says otherwise, which is a major oversight.  Hockey players know how devastating those types of hits are, or they wouldn’t throw them so often.  I do believe that a guy has to keep his head up, and I like to see the big hit against the player who watches his pass or skates with his head down across the blue-line – but I want that hit to be delivered to his body, or his hips, or his chest.  I don’t want to see another player victimize him by clipping him across the head.

Until the NHL does something drastic about this kind of play, nothing is going to change, and the game will continue to suffer for it.

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Remember that scene from Total Recall?

March 4, 2010 Personal Comments (0) 636

This is what I’m in for next Wednesday – and couldn’t be looking forward to it more.


Nasal splints are made of silicon and are stuffed into the nostrils after rhinoplasty or septoplasty in order to stabilize the septum for healing and to prevent adhesion of the healing wounds inside the nose.  They’re totally necessary, but they’re also absurdly huge.  Right now I can feel them both, crammed far enough up my nose that they might be touching my brain.  On Wednesday I have an appointment to have them removed, but in the meantime there are a host of YouTube users who have had the courtesy of uploading their own splint removal – and boy, is it something.

On the good side, the procedure doesn’t seem especially painful.  Opinions vary, with some people seeming to actually enjoy it and others saying it hurts just a little.  Everyone agrees that it’s a bizarre feeling, like having your brain pulled out in preparation for mummification.  That, and they all agree that it’s a tremendous relief, and breathing afterward is pure pleasure.  I’m really looking forward to it.

In case you enjoyed that first one, after the jump I’m embedding a few more YouTubers having their splints removed.  If you’re really getting off on this, a search on YouTube will turn up dozens more.

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March 3, 2010 Personal Comments (0) 1415

It’s 4:30 AM and I’m watching a show on Animal Planet about a guy who had a spiny Amazonian fish swim up his pee-hole. Meanwhile, the bundle of gauze strapped to my upper lip sops up the continuous trickle of blood from my nose.  Five minutes ago I coughed up a black tadpole of semi-clotted blood.

Four years ago I noticed that my septum had bent into my left nostril, like a postcard squeezed at the edges. At the time it was trivial, but since that time I’ve run into a host of nose, mouth, throat, and pharynx problems: constant post-nasal drip, difficulty breathing through my nose, sinus infections, hay fever, and poor sleep patterns.  Then there were the tonsiloliths, one of those maladies most people never know exists until they’re afflicted.

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