Blog to the Edge

Chris Harris's Blog Archive: November 2012

There's not very much on the blog this month as I was wading my way through writing a novel...


I'm delighted to report that last night I finished Nanowrimo ahead of schedule, ending up with a final word count of 50592. This year I did some writing on my main machine at home, as well as a few thousand words on my laptop. This year's best productivity booster? Writing in bed. Okay, retiring under the duvet to write isn't exactly pushing the envelope when you consider how technology has shaped the way in which some other authors wrote their novels, but it worked for me.

Now, what I wrote might need a lot of beating into shape before I let anyone else near it, but I learned a lot about writing and plotting this year. And best of all, I succeeded in the challenge that I set myself, and that's important to me. Tonight I am going to have a celebratory tipple of something or other and start thinking about my next set of creative activity; it's about time I started putting together my Christmas album...


Now that I've finished Nanowrimo for another year, I'm getting back to some serious reading. I have a stack of books next to my bed that I'm working my way through, and there's another stack in the bathroom that I read while I'm in the bath. There's something about books that I find terribly addictive, and I'm not alone: Joe Queenan, writing in the Wall Street Journal, sounds like he's in the same situation. It's one of the most entertaining pieces of writing I've read for a long time.


The "ICY" warning was on in the car when I drove over to Thornbury on the way home tonight. Through Latteridge there was still frost by the side of the road in the shade. Despite the fact it's only just gone 6 o'clock the temperature outside is -1°C and I've just put the central heating on. I suspect it might stay on tonight, too.


I'm still wading through the depths of this year's novel. It's reached the difficult stage where I have no clue what is going to happen next. Tonight's main task is going to be figuring out exactly what it is that is going to happen. When I get through this block I should be able to strike for the finish line, and I'm planning on having everything done and dusted by Sunday night.

Noveling has rather killed off my blogging faculties for the time being, though. I wrote the entry below on Monday night but as a result of being ridiculously tired I completely forgot that I'd written it and went to bed without uploading it! I remembered this during the day on Tuesday, and then forgot about uploading it again when I got home; I really have not been at my best this week. So today as a special Thanksgiving treat you get two updates for the price of one: how's that for service?


I have also been a little preoccupied over the last couple of days with the weather. We've had an extended period of heavy rain in the South West and after such a wet and miserable autumn the ground just can't soak up any more water. On Tuesday night it rained continuously from early evening and by Wednesday morning local roads (and my neighbours' back garden) had started flooding. The road north out of the village was impassable; luckily I was heading south. One of my neighbours had trouble trying to get to Wotton, which is a shade over three miles away. After three hours he gave up.

Further afield, Wales has been hammered. I'm fortunate that, so far, my place has escaped the worst of it, but I couldn't take my usual route home from work yesterday as Gloucester Road at Hambrook was closed, it was still closed this morning, and only opened around lunchtime. Tonight it's raining again and when I drove through Rangeworthy the water was already halfway across the road. As I'm typing this I can hear the rain on the windows. More rain and more flooding is forecast for the next few days, too; I suspect it's going to be quite a mess out there.


I was disappointed to discover this week that the NOAA's famous mystery 'bloop' sound has been identified, and the source turns out to be rather mundane: an iceberg. The NOAA have even worked out the approximate location of the iceberg that made the noise.


Exciting film news this week: Lawrence Kasdan has been signed to write and produce one of Disney's new Star Wars movies. Given that Mr Kasdan previously worked on The Empire Strikes Back, I think this bodes very well indeed.


My car's now fully operational again, with a shiny new exhaust system (the last one had snapped in two) and I'm really, really pleased to have it back.


I'm still on target with this year's Nanowrimo novel and I broke the 30k barrier yesterday afternoon. But writing takes time and the last couple of weekends have been very busy, so the blog has been woefully neglected this month.

Last weekend I was over in Norfolk celebrating Dad's 80th birthday. We'd all clubbed together and bought him a laptop. When he unwrapped it, he was so surprised we rendered him speechless, and that's no mean feat , believe me. Fifteen minutes after he took it out of the box, he was talking to my brother Andy and his family in California using Skype. Communications have changed out of all recognition since Dad's day, and video links with webcams are something he hasn't really seen working before. It made quite an impression.

I'd set the PC up for him beforehand, of course. Modern computers come with ridiculous amounts of "bloatware" - evaluation or limited-functionality versions of popular programs whose principal function is to spam you with adverts rather than let you do the things that their original designers intended them to do. I was able to get rid of most of them and replace them with open-source versions that just do what it says on the tin. They take up less disk space, too - although that's unlikely to be a problem as the new machines hard disk drive is ten times the size of his old one.

We had a Chinese takeaway on the Saturday night and watching my brother Dave's one-year-old son Ben working his way through a plate of noodles was very entertaining. We went out for Sunday lunch to Letheringsett and the food (and beer) was delicious. Driving over was a bit different - I've been driving a Ford Ka while the Z is being fixed and although I was getting nearly 50 mpg out of it, doing anything other than driving downhill in a straight line with a following wind was distinctly unpleasant. I was glad to hand it over and get my own car back this week.


I had a great night out yesterday at the Colston Hall in Bristol. It was the last night of Motörhead and Anthrax's UK tour, and both bands were on top form.

Anthrax have been gigging since 1981 and they're very, very good at it. If they're lucky, bands get to a stage in their careers where they retain the energy of their early days but combine it with tight, well-practised professionalism and killer music. I certainly got that with Anthrax. Nice to see Joey back in the fold, too.

Motörhead, though, have transcended even that; they've acquired an almost zen-like ability to deliver the goods and make it look effortless. Lemmy, Phil and Mikkey rattled through a great set that featured a lot of older material, so we got Stay Clean, Damage Case, Metropolis, and Overkill as well as classics like Ace of Spades, The Chase is Better Than The Catch, Doctor Rock and even a track off Another Perfect Day. "And it's not the one you think it is," Lemmy told us before they launched into Rock It. It was the last night of the UK leg of their 2012 European tour and they were obviously determined to do things properly. As a result it ended up being the best gig I've been to for several years. Job done, guys.


It's Sunday evening and I'm sitting here wearing a pair of jeans that I hadn't been able to put on for about five years. And before you ask - yes, I kept them because I thought it might motivate me to lose weight more than if I'd given them away to one of the many clothing collections that seem to take place around here every month. It looks like I made the right decision, so I am feeling rather pleased with myself.

I'm still on the 5:2 diet and it's still working. I've noticed that restricting my calorie intake to 600 calories twice a week has also changed what I eat on other days. In particular I've become very fond of miso soup, which contains just 30 calories - far fewer than the pizza, cornish pasties or plates of chilli that I would normally eat at the weekends. Having said that, I'm just about to make myself some bacon sandwiches for tea; however, I no longer fry bacon - I cook it in the oven for 12 minutes on a baking sheet, and it comes out done to perfection: crispy, brown, and just how I like it. I've got to fuel my creative engines, after all.

I've been fairly creative over the weekend. I've spent the past hour programming more combis into the Korg M3. It's becoming addictive; I find myself just letting the sounds run and only occasionally intervene to change key. I suspect that when FAWM comes round again in February I will be writing songs that last considerably longer than they did this year (only one song was longer than 6 minutes, and the shortest lasts for just 2 minutes and 1 second).

After tea I will be firing up the laptop and carrying on with my attempt for NaNoWriMo this year. I've already restarted once, and while I'm happier with things the second time out of the gate, I have only a vague idea of where things are going. Maybe after I've finished this evening's writing session I will have a better idea. I'm enjoying writing with the laptop, though. I can slouch in my favourite armchair in the lounge with some music playing rather than hunching over the keyboard at my desk. Yesterday I rattled off over three and a half thousand words that way, so I feel safe enough in my progress to have added the traditional Nanowrimo widget to the top of the page.

It's better than being outside right now, that's for sure: just down the road in Bath it snowed today!


It's the first day of November, and once again I have committed to write 50,000 words by the end of the month as part of Nanowrimo, and I am already beginning to panic. It's nearly six in the evening and I haven't even started thinking about what I'm going to write. Maybe I should do what I've done on previous occasions which is to just pile in regardless and see what happens. I will be using Word 2010 on the laptop this year, just for a change - but I will have plenty to say about Word as the month continues. For now, please wish me luck; I suspect I will need some...


It's definitely a night for staying in and working on hitting my word count this evening. My view of the sky tonight was completely taken up with an enormous storm cloud and just before I got home it started to rain, heavily. Tomorrow they're forcasting thundery showers. Thunder? In November?

Over in America they're picking up the pieces after Sandy devastated the east coast. The storm threw an awful lot of moisture into the atmosphere and at high levels it's been forming ice crystals. This in turn has presented the folk in Alabama with an awe-inspiring natural light show.


Via the magic of the Internet we can listen as Donald Fagen is shown video of Japanese Steely Dan tribute band Steely Shodan for the first time.

It's interesting listening to their version of I.G.Y. compared with the way the Dan do it because right away it becomes obvious that they aren't getting the timing of the original. They're playing the right notes, in the right order, but the spaces in between are off just enough to be unpleasant. Well, for me, anyway.


I might be late to the party but I thought the eerie sounds that icebergs make (it's the second clip on the page) is entirely appropriate for the day after halloween.


Ars Technica explain exactly what every console in Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston was used for during the Apollo Space Program. And there are photographs of the room today, which has been restored and refurbished. Seeing the photos makes me feel like an excited nine year old again.