First, thanks to Balinares for poking me. It's been a long time since I've put anything in here, and while I can understand going a few days or even a few weeks between updates, this is bordering on the absurd. One might think that I'd be a little more cognizant of the fact that people can't read what hasn't been written, but that among other things is part of my problem.

First off, Anthrocon. Nothing much to say there, really. By now, anything I could say about the experience in general has been handled by someone else, so I'll narrow it down to my own area. The writing track this year boasted more panels than we had in any year previous, and next year we hope to take over the whole pocket program expand again. Instead of generic writing panel, my goal is to break things down into a larger number of narrowly-defined areas of interest. "How to write porn", "how to write character descriptions", and "how to write dialogue" are some of the proposed topics, and I believe I already have panelists ready to handle these. The annual Eye of Argon reading went off with only a few headsplosions, and the Iron Author submissions were as painful as ever. Kudos to the one who wrote a quarter of his dialogue in barks, yaps, yips and growls. More pain for next year.

Now, outside Anthrocon... why so silent? That's a hard question to answer. Truth is, I don't have a good reason. I've said it before, though, and it seems to bear repetition: I get too busy living life to talk about it. I've noticed that my post rate goes up when extraordinary events happen, but very little of late has seemed unusual, either good or bad. I have off days. I have on days. On the whole, my life goes well. I love my wife, I enjoy my housemates, I don't hate my job, I spend time with my friends. I feel a bit like the "average white suburbanite slob" from Denis Leary's famous song.

The person depicted in that song, incidentally, is exactly the wrong kind of person for me. In fact, that song stands for pretty much everything I think is wrong with America. That level of smug self-assurance and willingness to deliberately provoke schadenfreude drives me batshit insane when other people do it. It's what I like to call "internet-β" behavior. This is not to be confused with Universe β, though the two are related.

Back on the subject"one of many subjects"I've become somewhat complacent. I've paid off my debts. My mortgage is on autopay. My job isn't under any real risk, and at this point I feel like I've picked up enough skills that even if it does, I can pick up a new one reasonably easily. Really, I'm living a large part of my life on autopilot these days, simply because I've progressed to the point that I can. That's a heck of an achievement, in one fashion. I don't have to micromanage my day-to-day existence just to get by. I don't have to worry about how I'm going to pay for my next meal, my next mortgage payment, my next vacation. I'm one platform higher on the spiral staircase, worrying about whether to buy this new game or that one, whether I go to Further Confusion or save up for MegaPlex. I can choose whether to put money into savings accounts or the stock market. For lack of a better term, I'm set.

Therein lies the problem. I feel in some tiny way like I've stopped growing. I've stopped advancing. I've stopped moving towards other long-term goals, goals of getting out of the daily grind, of having a figure that I wouldn't mind showing off, or being able to extend my umbrella over others. I'm good, but in achieving good I've stopped looking for great.

So, it's time to do something.

If this seems like a cheap gimmick... it is. Strangely, what I'm finding at least at work is that it works. Small goals, over time, build up into larger projects. Short-term tasks linked to obvious and immediate gratification lead to a renewed dedication to complete those tasks. The bonus program at T-Mobile is structured around this idea, and as Pavlovian as it feels at times, I recognize its efficacy at least on my brain. I find myself saying, "I should get this done so I'll earn my bonus" and not hating it, because there's a direct link between an action and a reward. There's a stick, to be sure. Not participating in the "bonus program" can lead to performance warnings, but the way it's phrased as a carrot, enticing people with rewards, tricks the human brain into positive feedback.

Thus, I'm going to see if applying this to my own projects will help me complete them. This month—that is, the month of July—I have five goals: weight, increased time on my new trike, early arrival at work, complete another chapter of my novel, and add some extra money to my savings accounts. If I can achieve all of those, I'll buy myself a new DSLite. If I can't, I don't. I don't need one. I have a perfectly functional DS. I want one, and that's what makes this trick effective. I'm not denying myself something I need, but I'm indulging myself in a minor "goodie" and directly tying its acquisition to performance-based goals. I'll see if this makes me feel like I'm doing myself a mental disservice or if I come through it feeling like I did a good thing.

Branching to Iwego for a moment, I took the name for the project—Ranch on Mars—from a song by the Galactic Cowboys, a band that I happened to hear once in concert opening for Dream Theater in high school. Enamored of both groups, I bought their albums, and fell utterly in love with the latter while only being passingly interested in the former. However, there was this one track on Space In Your Face called Ranch On Mars. A quick scan of the lyrics should pretty much explain why they hit me the way they do, but more to the point, the music has on more than one occasion moved me to tears, which is pretty freaky for what's essentially a punk-style song. While most of the music is pretty jarring, everything falls into this incredible harmonic line during the chorus and it feels... uplifting. Empowering. Impassioned. Longing. It's not just a wishful thought; it's a call to action.

So, finally, after fourteen years and thousands of iterations, here I am trying to make something happen. It's not enough to say, "I want to be thin". What am I doing to make myself thinner? It's not enough to say "I want to be published". What am I writing and to whom am I sending it? It's not enough to say "I want to be healthy". How much exercise am I actually getting? It's time to stop saying "I want" and start saying "I do". Want implies the expectation that someone else will fill that want.

I know, I know. This is more bootstrap levitation rhetoric, and it deserves little more than deconstruction and mockery. To this I say, "not quite". Notice what my goals are: ten pounds, one chapter of a novel, three hours of riding a week, one hundred dollars, and shaving half an hour off of my start time every day. These aren't exactly huge things from a grand scope, and I still may not get all of them. There are a lot of old saws about eating whales in small bites and moving mountains one rock at a time, and that's what I'm trying to capture here. I'm trying to get that same sort of steady-progress-towards-small-goals feel here. If I can do ten pounds in a month, I'll maybe aim for twelve next month. If I can't, I'll look at what I did accomplish and scale up appropriately. The point is to set each goal within reach, recognize what the genuine limits are, and keep myself at or near the edge of what's reasonable. The idea here isn't to dedicate myself to move mountains every day. The idea is to figure out which rocks I can lift, lift them and use that to get a bit stronger and lift a few more, then build over time until I'm lifting fairly large boulders, but also moving mountains over time.

Don't wish me luck. Luck won't help. Wish me dedication. Wish me determination. Wish me focus.

Someday we'll live among the stars.

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