January Novel Writing Month '02
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Saturday, January 26

Mariah always carries an umbrella with her. She tells Jon why:

"The jinx says the more you anticipate something good, the less likely it is that good will occur."

"Like when I asked to be off on Super Bowl Sunday to watch the Packers and then they didn't even get past the first round?"

"Exactly. The anti-jinx works in reverse: The more plans you make for calamity, the less likely it is that calamity will happen."

I still didn't get it.

"Here�s a better example: When I was living in Berkeley, I really wanted to move to the Peninsula. So after I had applied for the job at Burning Bush and was waiting to hear back, I started manufacturing inconveniences: I joined a gym in Oakland. I registered to vote in Alameda County. I got a part-time job at a coffee shop. Voila: I got the job and had to spend two whole days undoing all that I�d done for the anti-jinx, but it was worth it."

"And so the umbrella is the anti-jinx?"

"Right. It wards off storms. Same thing with the cremation."

"The what?"

"I've already made plans for my cremation. It's going to be great. My brother has instructions to drive up the coast and deposit me into the Pacific around Cape Mendocino. I've told him exactly where I want it done, and that I�d rather it be done during whale season."

"That's so morbid. You really think your death is so imminent?"

"No, that's the thing: I'm going to be fine, thanks to the anti-jinx. You, since you haven't so much as made out a will, you're the one who'll get hit by a bus within the month, and then nobody will know what to do with you."

"Does it work?"

"I'm still here, aren't I?"

Posted at 1:01 AM


Friday, January 25

This is not be a good time to get sick, but I have gone ahead and done it anyhow.

On the other hand, it's a great time to call in sick, so I may this weekend. I could get a lot of writing done between sneezes.

Posted at 10:08 PM


37,268 words.

Even though I'm about two days behind schedule, word count is not my biggest problem. That honor goes to my plodding plot, which is still in the development stage and hasn't even gotten to its main complication. I fear that I'm going to end up compressing the climax, denoument and epligoue into the final hundred words. Something like:

Oh, yeah. And then the company collapsed, David was ruined, Mariah and I broke up and everyone lived unhappily ever after. Tra la la. The end.

Posted at 1:13 PM


Wednesday, January 23

I am so drunk! I am so drunk! D-R-N-K! I mean, D-R-U-N-K!

Whatever. I am finishing the day with 1,956 more words than with which I began it. That's more than 300 words more than my daily quota, and today was a work day.

I kiss you!

Posted at 11:20 PM


35,050 words. A hair more than a day behind schedule and starting to go nuts. Tom, however, has confidence in me. Thanks, Tom!

Posted at 9:29 PM


Jon and Mariah are having dinner in North Beach.

"Excuse me," I said to the waitress. "Your accent is extraordinary. What part of Italy are you from?"

"Ecuador, signore."

"Is that in the north or the south?"

Posted at 8:37 PM


I'd been writing a project-management utility in Java. It had started as a time-management tool for myself, but now I was trying to apply it to an entire company.

I called it GOD: Graphical Opportunity Display. It was a way of visualizing all the employees of the company in such a way that, by observing the metadata of colors and shapes, one could know exactly what everyone was working on and who was chalking up billable hours. I made it cross-referenced, too, so one could look at all the current projects, see their progress and know which clients were hogging resources. The result was an elegant way for a manager to spot downtime and, as the name implied, discover opportunities for growth and efficiency.

GOD was all-knowing. Since it was Web-based, GOD was everywhere. Most important, GOD revealed.

If I can't be famous, blasphemous will do.

Posted at 8:43 AM


Andrew the sales rep takes Jon to his first Vietnamese restaurant.

At a table near the cash register sat a girl about 10 years old. She wore red fuzzy slippers, which dangled under her chair without quite touching the ground. On the table were three plastic buckets of electronics components. She rapidly grabbed a piece from each of the first two buckets, snapped them together, dropped the result in the third bucket and repeated. She hummed "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" as she worked.

A woman carrying a smoking soldering gun emerged from the kitchen and started scolding the girl. The woman spoke Vietnamese, but it was clear she was very upset. She pointed to the clock a lot, shook one of the buckets once and twice gave the girl a light slap behind the head.

The girl resumed her work, now even faster than before. Her "Twinkle, Twinkle" sounded more like "The Flight of the Bumblebee."

Our waitress arrived with the spring rolls we had ordered as appetizers.

Andrew noticed I was staring at the girl. "Piece work," he said.

"What�s that?"

"Big companies like Intel and IBM outsource a lot of their assembly work. It goes from contractor to subcontractor to sub-subcontractor before landing in the laps of immigrants like these. The family will get maybe a penny for every component that girl snaps together. Let's say she does 90 a minute. That's, what, $5.40 an hour? Not bad for a 10-year-old. In the back, her mother and brother are probably soldering her work to transistor boards, when they�re not busy making our pho."

"That's terrible," I said.

"The hell it is," he said, gulping down a spring roll. �It's the American dream. These people went through some unimaginable shit to get to this country, and they�re not going to blow it by being poor. So they open a restaurant. Then some sub-sub-subcontractor comes along and says: �Your daughter has such small, beautiful hands. I�d like to put them to work.� Now the whole family is working, scraping together every penny possible. It�s no different than a paper route."

"Different from."

"Right. But you had a paper route, didn�t you, Jon? I say it�s beautiful. God I love capitalism.� He popped another segment of spring roll into his mouth.

�Andrew, she can�t be more than 11. Is this legal?�

�Fuck if I know. But she�s not doing anything that any other kid her age isn�t doing with Tinker Toys or Legos. She just gets paid for it. Besides, ask her whether she�d rather be doing this -- while wearing Elmo slippers and watching MTV, I might add -- or be back in Vietnam breaking her back in a rice paddy, and I think she'd say she's very content doing this." He laughed, then pointed his chopsticks at the last appetizer. "You going to eat that?"

"No, thanks. I'm not so hungry anymore."

Posted at 12:28 AM


Tuesday, January 22

32,479 words. Very much behind.

Levi, meanwhile, is done. 50,129 words, he says. I am absolutely amazed and in awe.

Posted at 9:23 PM


The laments of Jon Mueller continue:

I heard someone call this the Box Age. I agreed completely. Silicon Valley's worker bees spent their days shuttling, alone, from one enclosed box to another: bedroom to garage to car to cubicle to car to garage to episode of "Friends" before bed. Box to box to box to idiot box.

Weekends were no different. This was when the bees hit the megamall, driving, alone, from one big-box store to another.

The editor at the Beacon-Call liked to bleat about how diverse San Jose was. If by diversity he meant a variety of skin tones, then, yes, San Jose was very diverse. But if he meant actually living and dealing with a variety of people, he was very wrong. An Indian could live next door to a Pakistani and never say hello. They�d stay in their boxes and continue to hate each other. There may not have been the mass segregation of Milwaukee or Chicago, but lives were segregated nonetheless, and it should not have been a surprise, then, whenever a tech millionaire was caught donating money to white supremacists in Idaho.

In college I spent a summer interning in New York, taking the subway into Manhattan from Astoria. There was in a single subway car more true diversity than in the entire South Bay: teachers, businessmen, pipe fitters, Rastafarians, clerics, children, artists, grandmothers, criminals, firefighters � all the elements of a healthy society, together in the same box. I stopped noticing what race anybody was.

This diversity of occupation seemed vital. In the Bay Area there were only two kinds of people: those who worked in the tech industry and those who wished they did, and the latter were becoming more marginalized with every rent hike. Palo Alto, for instance, didn�t have a single cop who could afford to live within city limits. Some service providers lived as far away as Fresno. My plumber lived in Sacramento.

Posted at 3:08 PM


Monday, January 21

"Quick," Andrew said. "Name an online bookstore."


"Quick: Name another."

James could not.

"James, there are hundreds of bookstores on the Web, but you can name only one." Andrew put a hand on James� shoulder, steadying a man 20 years older than himself. "James, we're going to make you the Amazon of garlic."

"And garlic wreaths?"

"And the wreaths, too."

"I'd like that."

Posted at 12:27 AM