Attempted NaNo

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Happy Halloween everyone!!

While I get to spend the day crossing the country before spending the night with wine and … well more wine … I hope the rest of you get into some real wickedness and fun.  I hope you do, because come the morning, it will be November, and that means we are going head first into the winter ahead.  The long cold nights piled surrounding you with the seemingly endless snow and ice, until such time that you dread digging yourself out of your warm comforters to even start the next season of a show on Netflix.

Did that sound poetic enough for you?

Dangit.

Oh well, I was just trying to practice a little, because November means something else as well.

November is National Novel Writing Month – or for short:  NaNoWriMo.  No, it’s not one of those goofy causal month titles some politician came up with to pat themselves on the back; NaNoWriMo is actually an activity intended to bring out the best in writers around the world.  The concept is simple — during November, write a Novel.  Or more specifically, write 50,000 words towards your novel.  As most writers will tell you, the hard part isn’t coming up with the story, the hard part is getting it down on paper.  Once you have words, you can edit the hell out of it and make it something good.  NaNoWriMo follows that in very intense fashion.  50,000 words is a fair bit in 30 days, which equates to about 1700 words a day.  As a point of reference – this blog is usually around 600 words (heck I am only at 300 right now).  Whatever you write is going to be crap, the point is to gush as many words as possible with the effort to be around getting them out there, not letting them stay bottled up.

Because it is an activity meant to draw upon a community of writers and offer novel writing tools, NaNoWriMo is this month long event of people trying their best to come up with whatever they can come up during the next 30 days.  My schedule this year will mean I will miss nearly all the events, but there is usually a few write-ins, where you meet at one location and crank out as many words as you can in a short time.  In fact, there is a ‘Boston Marathon’, a 24-hour write in, which I floundered a part of last year.

So that leads to the real focus with this — I am making an attempt (my second) and NaNoWriMo this year.  Without sharing too much (or anything), the story I am using is based on some cross overs between ancient and modern mythology.  I’ve had the concept in my head for over the year, tested out some characters, and even went a few rounds of roughing out the idea with some fellow creatives.

Do I think I can do it?  Probably not.  I was well set up last year, but didn’t make it half way.  Got behind due to a massive cold, then work happened.  I will have considerable down time to make it happen this year, but it all depends on motivation and the creative spirit.  But we’ll see.  First word goes to paper tomorrow, and from there … who knows.

Best Seat in the House

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This is a post I started at least three times, but because of some hardware issues I couldn’t get far enough along to give it to you — so consider that the excuse for not posting in a week.

Last Saturday I ended an eventful Marching Band Season with a bang.  For those of you who don’t know, I spend my weekends in September & October running around the country judging high school marching band competitions.  It’s something I took up shortly after I stopped marching, and with the exception of the autumn of my first year in Alaska I have continued to judge for 19 years.  During that time, I’ve judged in 12 different states, and adjudicated over 12 state/regional major championships.  For a guy who limits himself to just high school marching band (at this point no drum corps, no winter activities), it’s actually a pretty impressive resume.

This year found some nice unique twists.  I did a show outside of New Orleans.  Traveling like that has always been the norm, even when I first started I would expect a 4 hour drive to a show.  The last time I ‘drove’ to a show site was back in 2005.  I worked two shows this year for a Massachusetts Based circuit – which was the first time I drove home after the show.  One of those was on a Sunday, making it my first Sunday show as well.

My career in judging has always been made possible through the Central States Judging Association (CSJA), a Midwest based judges guild that brokers work and trains judges around the country.  The independent work here in Mass this year was the first time I ever worked independently.  While the training in CSJA is phenomenal and there are logistical benefits to being a part of a group that does all your booking for you; we are a fraternal order and embrace that side of it.  Some strong friends remained close through our judging group.

One of the shows this year was in the small town of Alamo, TN.  It wasn’t that outstanding of a show, it was early season and most groups were still trying to get the whole program on the field.  Yet it was at that same show site seven or eight years ago that I had the honor of judging with a high quality panel – sadly though, two of those panelists passed away before the next season.  We get to return to shows, especially those of us that are putting on the years.  It seems now I go back and I remember the people I spent time with there, remember what they taught me, and keep doing what I can to enjoy the process.

My final show of the year was just this past weekend, and was an incredible day.  For decades, the University of Memphis has hosted the Bandmasters Championships, a major competition that many schools in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi look to as their biggest of the big shows.  Not only that, the show is held at the Liberty Bowl, the home of Univ of Memphis’s college team — and on show day, the attendees reach near to 10,000 people.  Its such a well run show that doing it isn’t a chore, it’s a privilege.   All I have to do is sit in the best seat of the house, love what it is, and write down some numbers.

When you get down to the guts of it, that’s the best part of this process.  I get to a part of the a great activity, a great educational opportunity for the kids, and I get watch from the best seat in the house.

That’s New and Different

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A ‘go-to’ line of sarcasm I have is my ‘new and different’ line — example: “No parking in Boston? Well that’s new and different.”Arguably, the business trip I am heading to is my “New and Different that is equal parts sarcasm, and equal parts thin vail of personal fragility and fear. I am sitting in the airport about to get on a plane for Pittsburgh, PA for the Annual Pittsburgh Nadcap Meeting. Nadcap is an Aerospace Third Party Special Process Accreditation system that establishes baseline standards for processing suppliers to achieve. I’ll save you the boring and put it this way — the thing that will ultimately get me fired from my job is governed by this meeting.  

This is not my first Nadcap meeting, and way far from being the first Nadcap meeting in Pittsburgh in October. From April 2002 through July 2012 I attended these meetings all over the world, from Seattle to Cincinnati, from Paris to Beijing, from London to Dallas, From Pittsburgh to Pittsburgh to Pittsburgh. The group I specifically supported (the Heat Treat Task Group) I acted as the main representative for my company/corporation for 11 years – and sat as the vice-chair of the task group for seven years before my one day of glory where I was chair for one Meeting (the same meeting I received the offer to move to Alaska).  

I wouldn’t just say I attended a lot of these meetings – it defined my professional career. It developed my skill set, it expanded my level of expertise, and it looks pretty damn awesome on my resume. It was also where I met some of the most influential people in the areas of what I do, and I not only got to meet & learn from them, I became honored to get to know them as friends.

Today, when I walk back into that meeting, I will be returning for the first time in 3 years – the first time since I walked out for my ‘Alaskan Sabbatical’. Not only that, I walk in from the other direction. No longer am I a part of the group that orchestrates this program, but as a representative of the companies that are held responsible to meet it’s requirements. With that, I have a different outlook, a different set of concerns, and no longer the ability to make the change that I had before.

In a way too, I come back in changed — in some ways for the good, but in many ways (and many visible ways) for the worse. I’ll be honest with you – that’s what makes me the most nervous. Turth be told, I expect that to be water on the bridge, but like a friend and I discussed last night — sometimes when you don’t know what happens, you end up filling in the blanks with negative.

But let’s be honest, to know me is for you to say “Mitch is thinking negatively … well, that’s New and Different.”

I head in to this meeting focused and hopeful. Yet I am ready to make the same jokes, bitch about the same problems, and holler to the same deaf ears that makes this meeting so routine.

Message Recieved

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So, I was on the phone with my Dad the other night for about an hour.

The first topic — I need to get back to writing The Bear Feed.

The last topic — I need to get back to writing The Bear Feed.

The in-between — Lots of discussion about an area that will need his support on going forward … oh by the way, The Bear Feed.

Message Received Dad!

To be honest, there are reasons why I haven’t written many blog posts this year.  In short – I have no intent to write blogs about negative stuff, or boring stuff, or boring negative stuff.  That doesn’t mean my life is nothing but negative boring or boring negative stuff.  When you get in the habit of not writing, you continue the not writing.

I probably realized that just by sitting down and thinking about what I could blog about, and it became a good list just for the near future.  We’re weeks away from a new NaNoWriMo season.  There’s just a couple weeks left in my Band Judging season that was quite new ground for me and big in scope.   I am returning to a meeting that was a major part of my career for 10 years, but this time for a view of things.  That and I will have an Alaskan Visitor for the next two weeks in the Dahchesta Condo.  And there is bigger news to come, if things go the way they should.

So the throwdown was there.  To restart the Bear Feed.  I’m not going to have some outrageous plan to blog daily, just to get it going and stick to it.  Goal will be to get in two blogs a weeks, how’s that?

But this one counts as one, got it Dad?