The Dog Days of August

Life’s been a peach lately (he says, without substantial sarcasm).

In no particular order:

  • Joint Statistical Meetings. I attended #JSM2016 in Chicago last week. The event centered at McCormick Place, although my hotel was the (ever delightful) Palmer House Hilton. I attended a committee meeting — the executive strategy session of the Section on Quality and Productivity — and chaired a session on new approaches in classification methods for the Section on Statistical Learning and Data Mining. And I ran into my colleague Linda at Starbucks. I did a bit of walking the streets of the Loop, in the blocks around the hotel, one night. Such a great change of pace to see Chicago’s downtown versus, oh, downtown Grand Rapids.
  • Atlanta & Chicago. Speaking of Chicago, I’ll be back in a couple of weeks for the quarterly board of directors meetings for NAHQ. A few weeks ago, however, a subset of the board traveled to Atlanta for some project-coordination meetings. The Atlanta trip was really good — we uncovered a process block that was causing us some epistemic confusion about NAHQ’s new governance model. We’re currently working through a pair of books — Race to Relevance and Road to Relevance — and one of the authors, Mary Byers, is working with us as a consultant to help clarify strategic direction about our target market.
  • County Commission. I am now the official Republican candidate for the 17th district of the Kent County Commission. Congratulations to me for winning an uncontested primary. Interestingly, the Democratic incumbent, Candace Chivas, narrowly lost her primary to Robert S. Womack. Chivas and Womack have gone head-to-head before; this is his first win. Chivas was a solid commissioner — speaking to current GOP commissioners, I understand that she was considered a particularly engaged and thoughtful colleague by her peers across the aisle. I was recruited to run on the Republican side so that we have an appropriate ballot presence; the 17th is the most heavily Democratic district in the county. I earned roughly 350 primary votes as the sole candidate whereas Chivas and Womack split nearly 1,700 votes, if that’s any indication. I do not, to put it delicately, expect to win, but I am pleased to play a small role in the body politic and look forward to the election season to come.
  • Norovirus. A week ago Friday I experienced an unplanned sick day. I thought I had food poisoning, but Maria the Nurse tells me I had norovirus instead. I was ill from roughly 4 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Friday. It was awful. I think my entire intestinal tract was power-washed in the process. But what fascinates me is that my appetite really hasn’t recovered. I’m down several pounds and I’m not especially hungry. I’m capitalizing on that sickness to re-calibrate some diet choices.
  • New Neighbors. The house in which I dwell — a circa 1892 Victorian mansion — was subdivided during the Great Depression into three apartments. I occupy No. 1, which is the entire main floor. The second floor is divided into two fully furnished efficiencies. The third-floor-slash-attic was never finished, so it sits vacant except for dust. Anyway, the previous occupants of Nos. 2 and 3 had moved out by last Halloween. However, No. 2 was rented out in May and No. 3 in June. So the house is full again. My new housemates seem like nice fellas, and there have been no challenges of noise or bad behavior. Not that, historically, there had been before. But it’s nice to have respectful neighbors.
  • Muscle Daddy. Having recently enjoyed the unexpected opportunity to reconnect with a former coworker, I realized — based on thinking launched by some of his more ribald comments — that I’ve been looking at the aging process in a completely ass-backwards way. So let’s stipulate that I’m physically attracted to people with a young/fit/athletic appearance. As a rule, that demographic doesn’t tend to gravitate toward early-middle-aged, soft-bodied men. “Alas, woe is me,” one might think, “for I cannot go back in time to recover the glow of my early 20s.” However, as my friend reminded me, people do dig the muscle-daddy type — older, built, dominant. I can’t turn back the clock, but I can pump the iron, so to speak. The irony (haha) is that I’ve recently read a fair amount about the value of weight training as a contributor to long-term calorie burn, so my mind was moving in that direction anyway. Add some strength training to my cardio, and dive more deeply into macronutrient best practices … hmm. Perhaps aging will have its sundry charms, after all.
  • Authorial Bullies. The only real drama of late has been on the Caffeinated Press front, wherein we’ve had to get a bit more aggressive recently in dealing with the bullying behavior of a creative type gone full-bore “tyranny of the entitled.” It’s unfortunate, really. Sucks the time out of my schedule, having to deal with it, and reinforces my personal sense that many authors do not grasp their economic role in the literary revenue cycle.
  • CafPress Contracting. Speaking of Caffeinated Press, we’ve got a lot of fun projects now on the docket that have recently passed through the contracting process. We’ve got an informal working list of stuff, with their relative sequence, that runs through the next 12 months. Wow.
  • Novella. A while back I mentioned that I wrote a novella, released to Amazon, in a subgenre of erotica. (Written, of course, under pseudonym.) That little book is actually doing quite well — just this month I earned a deposit of almost $60 from Amazon for the first partial-month’s royalties.
  • Other Personal Writing. The nice thing about curating the Caffeinated Press Community site is that not only do I get to give myself a fancy title (I went with “supreme chancellor”), but I also have a first-hand window into various writing opportunities. In my downtime, often an hour or so before Murphy d’Cat yells at me to go to bed, I sit at the computer and work on various creative-writing projects. Lately, it’s been the novella series plus an occasional poem or flash piece or long-form essay. Good for the soul. I went to the July flash-fiction roundtable led by Phillip Sterling, offered through the Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters. My 750-word flash piece, Regret, was considerably enhanced through the critiquing session.
  • VLO Summer Plans. Tony and I went to an every-other-week release schedule for July and August. A bit of a summer vacation of sorts, but with a twist — we’ve got (oh, god) and idea. Won’t spill the beans just yet, but he and I are getting together in a few weeks to see if we can do what we’ve been talking about doing, privately, for a while now.
  • Day Job Transitions. The strategic re-alignments at Priority Health arising from a new CEO, transition to a different SVP and a new VP, continue to unfold. It’s an interesting time, but there’s a virtue, I think, in being serene amidst the storm. “This too shall pass,” I keep telling people. If you do well and you’re focused on the mission rather than a portfolio of work, you’ll usually come out fine during corporate restructuring.
  • Correspondence. I’m back to being pretty much caught up with emails. Sometimes I get behind — and sometimes, three to five weeks behind. All a function of volume and scheduling, I’m afraid. This weekend, I achieved Inbox Zero on nine of my ten different inboxes. #W00t

All for now. Write on, and prosper.

(Oh, and if you’re wondering about the cover photo — Fiona d’Cat enjoys hiding in her collapsible fabric cube. On occasion, when I don’t realize she’s there, I’ll walk by it and then feel her swiping at my ankles. It’s funny, really, and a good metaphor for some of this summer’s distractions.)

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