Saturday, April 24, 2010

Hell Wednesday

On Wednesday I showed up at work and found out that a network error had wiped out our computers. Apparently McAfee sent an update to its corporate antivirus clients that identified one of Windows XP's key system files as a virus, quarantined it, and shut down the computer. We had no way to fix it. Most of UNH's network shut down.

But I needed the money, so I didn't go home. I sat there without the internet, without any work to do, for five hours. I learned a couple of things from this.

  1. I spend a disturbing number of my waking hours in front of a computer. I work thirty hours a week at two jobs, and both of them require that I sit in front of a computer. At the OCM I'm sometimes at loose ends, and kill time by reading blogs, checking up on Facebook, and reading music/movie/video game reviews and commentary. When I'm logged on to work for Smarthinking, I'll sometimes take a break between student essays to check up on a couple of my sites. When I'm not working, at school, sleeping, or reading, I'm in front of the computer, either writing or responding to my classmates' writing. I'm a little terrified to take a guess at how many hours a week I spend in front of a screen. It's way too many.
  2. DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG FIVE HOURS IS? Five hours without the internet!? My God! The boredom caused by #2 is what made me realize #1. I was itching to check my e-mail, or get on Facebook. Shit, I practically had the shakes. I'm an addict. Instead of writhing around on the ground and sweating it out, I had a nice conversation with my coworkers, who were, of course, in the same situation.
So my goal for the summer is to try to spend less time in front of a screen. I'm not sure how well this is going to work out, since I'm going to try to bust out as much of my thesis as I can (goal for the summer is three-hundred pages of crappy first draft), and I have to work at least twelve hours a week for Smarthinking, but hey, it will be the summer. I'm going to go on runs, go on hikes, get outside, lounge in the sun and read a book--I also have an extensive reading list for the summer, which I plan to supplement with trips to used bookstores. We'll see how it goes.

Friday, April 16, 2010

AWP 2010: Pros and Cons

I attended AWP in Denver last week, and man was it fun. Of course, there were not-as-awesome bits mixed in with all the partying and literariness and schmoozing. Let me run through my list of AWP pros and cons.

: Hanging out with Josh, Chas, and Kenny—not to mention Joy, Andrea, Leslie, and Nancy. The four of us guys split a hotel room and shared beds. It was great to see my Western friends again—man I've missed you guys—and talk books, drink beer, wander around Denver, watch YouTube videos of people falling down, etc.

AWP dudes. Notice my ripped jeans and bloody knee. This is shortly after my epic fail where I fell off a sidewalk because I wasn't paying attention to where I was walking.

: Sleep farts. That's all I'm saying. I won't say who.

But it definitely wasn't this guy.

Pro: Michael freaking Chabon. He gave the keynote speech and we arrived early so we could sit in the front. Josh pointed out that we were sitting only a few feet from the guy, who was schmoozing with reporters and fans. We considered getting a picture with him, but decided that would be a little too dorky fanboy. Josh and Chas went to the bathroom, and Kenny and Mary (one of Kenny's friends at Portland State's publishing program) went up to talk to Chabon—apparently they go to school with his brother. It was my chance, so I went. He was super-nice, shook our hands, took pictures with us, and, when we tried to go sit back down, dragged us back to tell him about his brother, who he hadn't seen in a year. He then proceeded to give a totally kickass keynote address.

Con: I'm not ever going to be as cool as Michael Chabon. He played himself on the Simpsons! He wrote Kavalier and Clay and won the Pulitzer! He scripted Spiderman 2. As the guy who introduced him said, “He's the coolest guy I've ever shook hands with.” I couldn't agree more.

Look at that shirt! Look at that hair! His smile is so dazzling!

Pro: There were not as many crazy people as there were at Chicago's convention last year. I'm not sure why this was—perhaps because it was a smaller city. It's also possible that my judgment is skewed because this year I wasn't sitting at The Bellingham Review table, which is a magnet for insane people. Last year a children's writer who dressed like a homeless woman gave us a card and smiled at us with a terrifyingly vacant expression. “I drew a can of worms on the back. Would you like to know why?” Kenny and I shook our heads and asked why. “Because writing is like a can of worms. When you open it up—” She smiled even bigger and got so excited her voice became a whisper. “—You never know what you're going to get.” There was less of that this year.

Two of the crazy people we did find.

Con: Crazy people were replaced with hipsters. I felt severely under-dressed and un-hip the entire time. As Leslie from WWU pointed out, at academic conferences, everyone is dowdy and awkward, and at writer's conferences, all the young people are hot and hip and trying to show off.

Pro: The bookfair. AWP's bookfair basically consists of free literary magazines, people I haven't seen in a few years, hot chicks behind tables (how else to draw attention to your magazine?) and weird giveaways—I received a beer cozy from The Minnetonka Review, and last year I got a plastic pizza cutter from The Mid-American Review. I found that several of my old WWU friends edit journals now (which is sweet—I have an in), I got a ton of litmags, I learned that Michael Czyzniejewski—the editor of one of my favorite magazines, The Mid-American Review—has a vague recollection of me from the numerous stories of mine he's rejected, barely missed Sam Ligon about five times, bumped into professors new and old, and generally had a great time.

Con: The last day of the bookfair, however, is a little strange. All the conference-goers are nursing hangovers that have been snowballing from the last three nights, and they let the public in, so there's a few hundred extra people. Also, journals don't want to take their stockpiles of back issues home, so they give them out for free, which is good, but also overwhelming when you realize your bag is falling apart because there's forty pounds of literature in it. It's a weird vibe. The girl at the Yalobusha Review table gave me a tall plastic cup of cheap merlot, which helped.

: Denver is a cool city. Also, the convention center, where the conference was held, was being assaulted by a giant bear. There was good food and cheap beer, one of the best fast-food pizza restaurants I've ever found, and just a nice vibe throughout.

Look out for the giant bear.

Con: But Denver wasn't without its drawbacks. It's the mile high city, and the elevation got to us. Everybody I was with had fierce headaches and most people were sick by the end of the trip. I dodged those bullets, but, like everyone else, I was dehydrated the entire time, had a nose full of bloody boogers (the little capillaries in their explode at high altitudes), and the skin on my hands got so dry that it cracked open and fell apart. Bummer. I was pretty glad to return to sea level.

It's in Washington D.C. next year, and I am so there. I had a great time! Here's some other, random pictures, courtesy of Josh's Facebook album.

Kenny's friends stayed in the hotel across the street, the Brown Palace, which is one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever been in. These are the elevator doors, which have walnut, gold, and dragons on them. Awesome.

The elevator to our hotel. Not as classy as the Brown Palace.

More Chabon love. That's Kenny and Mary, from PSU.

Before Chabon's speech.

The view from our hotel window. The brown building is the Brown Palace.

a quick break from pictures to share an anecdote. We thought the Brown Palace was a hilarious name for a hotel, and it quickly became a euphemism. "Don't go into the bathroom--I just built a brown palace."

Guess who built the most ostentatious brown palaces?

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Josh wants me to blog, so I'm blogging while he's in the shower. Suck it! Ha ha! Okay, now he's out. Josh, Kenny, Chas, and I are sharing a hotel room in Denver while we attend AWP. Today is the first day of the conference proper, and I've attended a panel, a reading, wandered the bookfair, and schmoozed with people from UNH and WWU (and a few inbetween from Houston and Portland State). I'm already pooped, lying on the hotel bed, and in a few hours I have to be up and about for the keynote address by Michael Chabon. Denver is also awesome, although I wish I could afford to eat all the delicious steak and Mexican food and beer. Oh well. Possibly I'll blog more about this later.