Sunday, October 30, 2011

You talk a good game, Mark, but just exactly what's been taking up all of your time?

So yeah, here I am a good, I don't know, several months after having posted anything substantive on here and I'm still inexplicably getting hundreds of hits per day on this site. Which, I've gotta say, does make me feel a little guilty. And of course I never wanted this site to devolve into a series of long-winded excuses of why I don't have time to post here, but this time I actually do have some good ones.

The last year has meant enormous upheaval in my work life. I was working part-time at two different practices six days a week for almost an entire year before I left the one in Mount Prospect and went to work full-time in August for the practice in Lincoln Park. This was a good move for me, but it's always stressful to switch jobs and my boss from the Mount Prospect practice always treated me like family instead of just a mere employee, so I was sad to see her move to California.

Nevertheless, my new practice in the city is very fun, very busy, and I work with some terrific new folks who, similarly to my old boss, really "get" good patient care and go the extra mile to make sure that our patients get the most out of their treatment with us. So that's reassuring and I feel confident that I'm in the right place for this phase of my career. If my schedule is anything to go by (usually booked solid after only three months of being there full-time), I fit right in.

DePaul's quad
Also, importantly, this new practice of mine happens to be located only about three blocks from DePaul University, where I've been accepted into the Masters program in Writing & Publishing, which I started last month and am already nearly through the Autumn quarter of. DePaul goes by quarters instead of semesters, and though I dare not question their math, there are apparently only three quarters per calendar year. No judgment here, just saying.

Your SEO meta-tags are
poorly conceived, father.
I'm learning all sorts of fun, rad stuff in the Writing & Publishing curriculum, including a lot I didn't know about web design, effective writing for the web, SEO, and other technical things for my class on digital publishing. You'd think by looking to the right-hand bar here and noticing that I've had this blog now for a whopping thirteen years that there wouldn't be all that much you could teach me about writing for the web. And you'd be wrong. There are a ton of fascinating web-use studies and style guides emerging that really make a lot of sense when sitting down to put thoughts on something as simple as a blog, and I'm slowly becoming a convert to their logic.

So if you're in grad school full-time and working full-time, why haven't you had time to blog? you ask. It can't be all that hard to carve a few minutes out of every week to post clever or creatively-phrased thoughts about your life on this little online diary, right?  Right?

Yeah, well I've also been doing a shitload of writing, including four new short stories (one of which was already published in CClaP's anthology American Wasteland: bleak tales of the future on the tenth anniversary of 9/11) and two new guest blog posts at Patrick Wensink's We Who Are About To Die and Robert Duffer's Experiments in Manhood, I'm working on a collaborative project that's still in the early phases so I won't go into it further yet, AND finally at long last my latest novel The Damnation of Memory will be released within the next few weeks.

This is a robot dressed as a
caveman. No caption needed.
I've been trying to get out to reading events on a semi-regular basis as my punishing schedule allows, and since I last posted I was able to attend the annual Chicago Tribune Printer's Row Lit Fest, Poetry Magazine's Printer's Ball, a Quickies! (run by my fellow Chicago writer Lindsay Hunter), as many Orange Alerts as I could get to, the CCLaP Multi-Release Party (Life After Sleep was one of the books), and the release party at Quimby's for American Wasteland where I read with Delphine Pontvieux and Larry Santoro. Quimby's, if you don't know, is probably the coolest bookstore I've ever been in in my life, and aside from shelves and shelves of some of the most legit indie fiction out there, it's just packed to the rafters with random junk/treasure like a life-sized pair of mannequin she-devils and a robot dressed like a caveman. I mentioned to my friend and author Katherine Scott Nelson that I if I ever manage to obtain a full-on Man Cave, I want it to look like Quimby's.

My Crane technique will defeat
your Dragon technique.
And of course that's just the formal stuff. I haven't even mentioned yet that my son John is getting HUGE, and, unbelievably enough, will be starting Kindergarten in ten short months. Even though he was a December baby, and therefore gets almost an entire extra year before starting formal school, that still seems lightning fast to me somehow. It was like he was two and a half for about a decade and then suddenly he's going to be asking me for the keys to my car. I'm only partly joking about this, he did actually ask me a month or two back how old he would have to be before he could drive a car.

Him: Dad, when can I drive a car?
Me: When you're sixteen.
Him: I'm four.
Me: I know.
Him: Will you teach me?
Me: Sure.
Him: Can I drive your car?
Me: Uhhh...

So not fucking around...
John has also discovered just in the last month or so a budding love for video games. That's right, that earth-shaking rumble you felt a few weeks ago wasn't another sub-oceanic mega-quake, it was the confluence of interests between two equally devoted fans of pirates, spacemen, ninjas, knights, and pretty much anything that carries a sword or laser pistol. Add this to his (and my) affection for LEGOs, and you get LEGO Universe, a kid-friendly MMORPG with characters made out of... you guessed it. I was sure it would take John at least a while before he could master the controls and dexterity necessary to move and shoot and jump in a totally 3D environment. I mean, we had Frogger in the arcade when I was four and a half and THAT was hard. He sat next to me for about a week before trying it himself and now he patiently assures me: "I've got this, Dad." Here's Ruckus Sam, our main character.

Too pimp?
My beloved Volvo S60 turbo finally gave up the ghost. Or, more precisely, was threatening to cost me several thousand dollars to repair during a time when several thousand dollars is several thousand dollars more than I have to spend on a ten year old car, so I traded it in for a sensible, responsible daddy car, which weirdly was only available in the package I wanted in white with black tinted windows. I wasn't sure I was a Hyundai guy at first, and I really wasn't sure I could pull off something quite so pimp-looking as a white car with dark tint, but I've come to love my new ride and it has all sorts of nifty little things that weren't available when I bought the Volvo, like full Bluetooth compatibility with my phone, which means in addition to podcasts and streaming radio, I can now take calls from you on my cell while driving to and from work and school at all hours of the day and not simultaneously crash my car trying to get the combination of wires and adapters just right. So call me. I'll probably answer. I've got to tell you, as well, after having bought premium gas for a turbo engine for almost six years, the pump is a hell of a lot less painful now when I'm filling up.

Lego Boba Fett
stares at you icily.
Let's see, what else? I've updated the look of all of my pages so they sort of match each other now. www.markrbrand.com, www.vinniethevole.com, and www.breakfastwiththeauthor.com all now have vaguely similar aesthetics, and they're all cross-linked for maximum surf-age. Hope you get a chance to check them all out because with this digital publishing class I'm taking I've rededicated myself somewhat to keeping all of them current and updated.

That's about it, I guess. More posts coming soon.

1 comment:

Sarah Z. said...

I always feel bad that we always say we'll catch up, but never do. This alleviates my guilt. Thank you for helping me with my guilt. I told you, kids grow fast! I'm glad you always manage to find time to stop and appreciate where John's at, the two of you kill me. I can't wait to see your new work. I'm a mega fan!