The Year I Became a Professional Blogger

It’s been an unusual year for me. Instead of just dreaming, I’ve taken action. I’ve pursued something I love — writing — and I’ve made money at it. This is the year I became a professional blogger.

On the 4th of March, I took the first steps to “monetizing” my web sites. Since then, I have earned $9000 from blogging. In December alone, I earned $2327. These numbers probably shock some of you. They shock me. I had no idea that it was possible to make money from something I loved so much, and yet it’s not only possible to earn money from this, it’s likely that I could make this my full-time job.

I know that foldedspace suffered for several months, but I hope you all understand why I opted to pursue other priorities. I’ve made an effort to return to my old posting habits recently. I’m not back to my old pace yet, but I probably won’t ever return to that until I make the leap to full-time blogger. (Well, I already work full-time hours at this, but most of those are at night and on weekends. Here it is, New Years Eve, and I’ve already written three entries for the coming week.)

In past years, I’ve written capsule summaries of what has come before (2002, 2003). My life was full of statistics: books I’d read, movies I’d seen, and music I’d heard. I still generated plenty of stats to track my progress this year — could I do anything else? — but my focus shifted in a big way. Still, here are some comparitive numbers:

  2002 2003 2006
Books read 56 43 ~40
Mariners games 4 0 0
Expensive toy iBook Gamecube Wii
Photography expense <$100 >$1000 $0!
Weight Dec. 31st 198 199 195
Weblog entries 203 329 214*
Weblog comments 232 2401 1754*

* These numbers are for foldedspace only. The numbers for all my active weblogs (some of which are more active than others):

Animal Intelligence: 30 posts, 23 comments
Get Rich Slowly: 670 posts, 4279 comments
Four Color Comics: 166 posts, 85 comments
Foldedspace: 214 posts, 1754 comments
Total: 1080 posts, 6141 comments

This has been a wonderful year. I feel fulfilled for the first time in ages. My Depression has receded to a background buzz. I attribute this to my newfound purpose in life, and to the assistance of Lauren Muney, my wellness coach. Lauren helped me to confront my self-destructive behavior, and to see that I could make smart choices. The change has been remarkable.

2006 hasn’t been without regrets, however. Kris and I spent less time with friends than in past years, and I feel the lack of companionship keenly. I’ll work to change this in 2007. Also, I feel like the house and yard are beginning ot show ragged edges. I want to spend a little more time maintaining the place. (I always feel this way in winter, though.)

Thanks to all of you who have stuck with foldedspace through the years. I know it’s probably been hard — the content here varies widely depending on my current obsession and my mood. Believe me, though, that it’s readers this worth the effort.

Happy new year and best wishes for 2007.

Rating the Bond Films: The Connery Era

After watching — and loving — Casino Royale, I’ve started a bit of James Bond kick. I’ve never read the novels before, so I’ve been picking them up in order. I’m also going to watch the entire film series in order via Netflix. I have fond memories of many Bond films, but I’m afraid that they don’t always live up to these remembrances upon re-watching.

The Bond films conventiently divide into three seven-film clusters. I plan to review each group in turn. Here are my evaluations of the Sean Connery-era Bond flicks.

Dr. No (1962) – Sean Connery [7.2 on IMDb] – B- from me
A passable entry, though a little schizophrenic. It’s nice to see the early incarnation of Bond. The trappings of the late-fifties and early-sixties seem as if they’re from another world. Some of the stuff at the beginning of the film is just absurd. I like Dr. No as a villain, though, and like his strange lair. This film is much more low-key and less gadget-oriented than the series becomes later.

From Russia With Love (1963) – Sean Connery [7.4] – A
Excellent. This is a wonderful spy film, and one of the best Bonds. It steers clear of most of the Bond conventions. There are few witticisms. There’s no secret lair. There’s real cloak-and-dagger stuff here instead of crazy superspy mumbo-jumbo. I watched this three weeks ago, and already want to watch it again (if only to get the bad taste of Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice out of my head). This film works well on its own, without any other knowledge of the Bond universe.

Goldfinger (1964) – Sean Connery [7.8] – C-
Vastly overrated. This is the first Bond film to fit the mold we’ve come to know as typical. The first half shows glimmers of promise, but the last half is obscenely stupid. Why has Goldfinger built an elaborate scale model of Fort Knox in his house? Simply for a short demonstration of his plan? How did the good guys get set in place outside Fort Knox without being subjected to the nerve gas? Who knows? This is the first of the films with a prolonged climactic battle scene between the forces of good and the forces of evil. These scenes, which become a staple of the series, suck. Plain and simple: they suck.

Thunderball (1965) – Sean Connery [6.9] – C+
This is a mixed bag. It has some great elements — strong female characters, a good villain with whom Bond has close contact in social situations while struggling to defeat behind the scenes, a prolonged underwater battle scene — but it has some clunkers too — hilariously bad background visuals during the climactic boat battle, a prolonged underwater battle scene (yes, it’s both good and bad), and a plot that doesn’t always make sense. The soundtrack is excellent.

You Only Live Twice (1967) – Sean Connery [6.9] – D
This film is pretty bad, especially in its last half. Like From Russia With Love, it opens with a fake Bond death. The first act features some interesting cinematography and intriguing ideas, but it quickly descends into absurdity. Things just don’t make sense. They occur for no other reason than to spur the plot along. Characters possess knowledge that they couldn’t possibly have. The final battle scene in the caldera of a volcano is overlong and dumb. The screenplay is by Roald Dahl, but that doesn’t matter. This film is not very good.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) – George Lazenby [6.9] – B
What an interesting trip. This is unlike any other Bond film I’ve ever seen. Bond doesn’t operate on any official secret service business (thus making the title a misnomer). He falls in love and gets married. The first half of the film unfolds at desultory pace, more like a romantic drama than an action-adventure movie. But things pick up at the end with a couple of exhilarating set pieces. The soundtrack is fantastic, almost psychedelic at times. Diana Rigg is the best Bond girl yet — smart and beautiful. Unfortunately Lazenby is a lousy Bond and, at times, a lousy actor. The film has other weaknesses, too, but they don’t detract too much.

Diamonds Are Forever (1971) – Sean Connery [6.7] – C
This film has its moments — Bond scaling the sheer surface of a building, his exceptional taste in wine, Blofeld’s cat confronting its double (Kris says this was the only good moment) — but it’s undone by sheer stupidity — Bambi and Thumper, Bond built into a pipeline, Bond jumping into a lunar probe, bad actresses, and yet another stupid mass-fight ending. I’ve probably scene Diamonds more often than any other Bond film.

For those keeping score, I’d order the films thusly: From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Dr. No, Thunderball, Diamonds are Forever, Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice.

Having now viewed the Sean Connery canon (he made one more appearance in a Thunderball remake, but that’s not part of the official series), I feel comfortable saying that he is a good Bond, but he’s often undone by lousy stories. Daniel Craig in the recent Casino Royale, though, is a better bond, and truer to Ian Fleming’s original imagination of the character. (Casino Royale is also better than any Connery film except for From Russia With Love.)

Story Problem

You own a box factory situated in the middle of the country.

Your delivery driver is returning from a trip. As every driver has done several times a day for twenty-one years, he idles up to the edge of the parking lot, angles across the entire road, and begins to back in.

Meanwhile, a woman in a Ford Focus comes flying around the corner (which is 500 feet down the road) and accelerates toward the the truck. The woman shows no signs of stopping. At the very last possible moment, she slams on her brakes. The tires smoke and squeal as the Ford Focus comes to rest three or four feet from the rear of the truck. After the truck has backed into the drive, the woman in the Ford Focus speeds away.

You happen to witness the whole incident because you were watching for the truck’s return. You go out to measure the skidmarks. They’re 45 feet, five inches long. (That’s 13.84 meters to those so inclined.)

Question one. How fast was the Ford Focus traveling at the time the driver slammed on her brakes? (I own a Ford Focus, too. My owners manual indicates the car’s mass is 3640lbs, or 1651kg.)

Question two. If an accident had occurred, who would be at fault? (This is in Oregon.) The truck driver followed all legally prescribed procedures except honking his horn — not that the woman could have heard it.

Question three. Why do people insist on driving so darn fast?


Somewhere along the way, Kris and I developed the tradition of seeing a movie (or, sometimes, more than one) on Christmas Day. I think this stems mostly from the fact that all of our Christmas celebrations are finished before the day itself, so that we’re left with a lot of time on our hands. Plus it’s kind of fun to venture forth for a mundane task on a day that the rest of the world shuts down.

Except that in the past decade, more and more people have developed the same habit.

The first Christmas film we can recall seeing is Schindler’s List in 1993. (Kind of a downer, I’m sure you’ll agree.) Because this is the season for Oscar-caliber pictures, those are the sort that we usually see. The worst Christmas film we ever saw was Gangs of New York. We were joined by the Mirons that day, and the other three in our group hated the film. I thought it was okay, but certainly no Oscar-worthy.

Yesterday Tiffany joined us to see Dreamgirls, a movie that has already received its fair share of Oscar buzz. Dreamgirls, a musical, is a fictionalized account of the rise of Diana Ross and The Supremes. It stars Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, and Eddie Murphy, and features the debut of Jennifer Hudson, a young woman with a magnificent set of lungs.

Dreamgirls gets a lot of things right. It is one of the best-directed films I’ve ever seen. Or maybe it’s just well-edited. It zooms along at an exhilarating pace, never feeling rushed, but never lingering over any scene for too long. (Kris felt that some of the numbers are ill-conceived — she cited “Family” as too stagey and over-the-top, for example.) The acting is good. The script, though trite, is adequate. This is a well-made film.

Its greatest weakness is a lack of catchy songs. Like most modern stage musicals (Dreamgirls made its Broadway debut 25 years ago, on 20 December 1981), the songs are too “busy”, with little melodic hook. Still, there are some knock-outs. The film’s centerpiece is Jennifer Hudson’s “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”, which she belts out of the park. (Many reviewers are writing that Dreamgirls is worth seeing for this number alone. They’re not wrong.)

Dreamgirls is a fine piece of entertainment — well-made and brisk. Like many films, it lacks a certain something that might have made it great, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in the running for Best Picture. (And there’s little doubt that “I Am Telling You” will win for Best Song.)

Here’s a schizophrenic trailer for the film:

And here’s a clip from the show’s second-best number, “Listen”, which Knowles nails:

Finally, here’s an amateur production of the show’s centerpiece confrontation, including “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” (which begins at about the 3:45 mark):

Meanwhile, at home we’ve been watching some of our traditional Christmas films. We haven’t seen It’s a Wonderful Life yet this year, but we’ve seen two of our other favorites: Meet Me in St. Louis and Love Actually (the latter of which we’ve seen twice now).

Return to Leisure

Ah, at last my life has begun to slow to that pastoral pace I crave. The last two weeks have been crazy non-stop from dawn ’til dusk. Finally, things have calmed. I’ve got a couple chores here at the box factory this morning, but mostly I can resume my life of leisure. I have grand plans for it!

For one, I’m going to try to remodel Get Rich Slowly.

For another, I’m going to rejuvenate our desktop computer at home. After three years of hard use, even Macs get bogged down with cruft, and that’s certainly happened here. In particular, Mail seems to have flipped a switch to berserk mode lately, and refuses to communicate with my spamfilter. Thus, there are hundreds of spam messages in our inbox. I need to fix this.

I also want to set that machine up with an RSS reader so that Kris can become acquainted with the magic of efficient blog-reading. To that end, I’ve gone through this morning and nabbed the RSS feeds from all my friends and family. (All except for Nicole and Ruth, that is. These two aren’t publishing feeds. Come on, ladies! Pull it together!)

I also intend to spend some of this leisure time — gasp — writing. It’s my turn to produce something for the Woodstock Writers Guild. Inspired by the story Mark shared yesterday, I’m going to dig up one of my old favorites. (It has some similarities to Mark’s story.) I’ll revise, revise, revise, and then share the fruits of my labors in a couple weeks. (I may also try to write some new material, too.)

Most of all, I’m looking forward to a slow, quiet weekend with Kris. We have nothing planned. I have a bunch of blog entries pre-written. It’ll be a fine time to laze around the house, go see a couple movies, and generally enjoy each other’s company, something we haven’t had time to do for the past few weeks.

And, of course, we’ll continue to help Max acclimate to his new home. Kris has dubbed him “Meatball”. “We’ve never had a cat with a silly name before,” she told me. His official name is still Max, but Kris simply calls him Meatball. (And he is a meatball.) Simon and Nemo are beginning to contemplate friendly terms with Max, but they’re still a little stand-offish. Toto’s policy is simply to hiss at everyone.

Ho Ho Ho!

I’ve been a busy little beaver at Custom Box lately. Or maybe I should say a busy little elf.

During the holidays, I get to put on my Santa hat (literally) and drive my sleigh from customer-to-customer delivering goodies. Time is tight this year. Jeff is leaving for vacation tomorrow. Nick’s taking Thursday off, too. That means today is the last day I can be out slipping down chimneys. I’ve had to rush the deliveries this year, but I think I’m going to get them all done.

So far I haven’t had any mishaps: no slugs of whiskey with clients, no smoking my pipe in the car before going into an office. In fact, I’ve had some downright pleasant conversations with clients. They’re uniformly pleased with us, which is good to hear.

Shockingly, doing actual work at work means I have little time to write. So, my evenings have been filled with weblog stuff. (I’m taking next week off from Get Rich Slowly, so I’m scrambling to prepare content now.) It’s all rather hectic.

I’ve made time to watch a couple movies with Kris, though. Over the weekend, we watched the fifth James Bond film (I’m watching them all in order), You Only Live Twice. It was terrible. This far into the series, my order of preference is: From Russia With Love (which is vastly superior to the others), Dr. No, Thunderall, Goldfinger, and You Only Live Twice. Look for a huge recap entry in a couple months, when I’ve finished watching them all.

On Monday, we watched an early Jodie Foster film: The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. Even at the age of fourteen, Foster was a great actress. But this is one strange film. (It features President Bartlett as a pedophile.) Last night we watched the much-lauded Little Miss Sunshine. I’d heard a lot about this film. It’s received almost unanimous praise. Yet Kris and I were both left feeling underwhelmed. The jokes had no depth. (The joke about the Proust scholar is simply that he’s a Proust scholar? Come on. Get a little deeper than that.) The film had no depth. It’s not a bad movie — I just don’t get the universal praise.

Oops. Customer with an emergency in Salem. Time to leave.

A Lot Like Christmas

We’re still test-driving Max. “He is cute,” Kris admitted last night, as he snuggled next to her to watch Amelie. The other cats — Toto, Simon, and Nemo — aren’t convinced.

Actually, Toto is a little less growly at Max than she is at Nemo, though she’s still growly. Simon and Nemo were both cranky initially, and they’re still concerned, but their fears seem to be waning. Last night Max made blind jump onto a chair where Nemo was sleeping. Though Max stepped on him, Nemo maintained composure. Then, while we were getting ready to sleep, Max was stalking Simon’s tail. Simon was sleeping on a corner of the bed, and as he dreamed his tailed flicked gently. This was too much to resist apparently, and Maxie pounced. Simon snapped awake, but he didn’t growl or hiss — he simply glared.

Max loves to play, and I think that eventually his brothers will be pleased to have him around. Especially Nemo.

My wellness program is going well. Despite a week of temptations — some of which I succumbed to — my weight remains unchanged and I feel good. (The real benefit of this program is how I feel, actually, and not how much I weigh.)

I’ve re-discovered something I already knew: it’s a mistake to have anything tempting in the house at all. For example, I bought some hard candies for the Roth family Christmas on Saturday. Only a few got eaten, so all Sunday I munched on the leftovers. I have no self-control. This is my first real sugar lapse since starting six weeks ago. I intend to simply toss the candy when I get home tonight. Yes, it’s a waste of a couple bucks, but so what? The benefit is worth much more.

As I mentioned, we had Roth family Christmas on Saturday. It was actually rather nice. Since Tony moved his family to Bend, we don’t see him them very often. It was good to spend some time together. (This must be what it’s like for normal families — when you spend most of your waking hours with your siblings, holiday gatherings can be rather anticlimactic.)

I was startled at how much Tony’s oldest son, Michael, resembles me at that age. He’s in second grade, and looking at him is like looking at one of my school photos. I know lots of other kids, and like most of them, but looking at Michael is different. It’s eerie. It’s like looking at future J.D. Or past J.D. Or something.

The Wii was a hit, yet again. That sports game Nintendo included was a stroke of genius. It’s so easy that a four-year-old can play. Well, okay, not quite. But a five-year-old could. And a four-year-old can with the help of a parent. Until he’s bored and lays down in the middle of the floor where everyone else is trying to play tennis!

The problem with being a professional blogger (yes, I did just write that) is that there’s never any time off. A free Sunday afternoon? Should I get together with friends? Head down to Zion for sing-your-own-Messiah? Watch movies with Kris? Nope. Time to whip up a few entries because I know that I won’t have time during the day this week — I’ll be off playing Santa Claus with my customers.

Duke, R.I.P.

Amy Jo, Frykitty — go away. You don’t want to be here today.

When I got to work yesterday, Jeff gave me news I’d been dreading. “Those dumb cats came from across the road this morning.” He meant that the kittens (who are no longer kittens) had discovered the wide open field across from the shop. For the six months that they’ve lived with us, our babies have stayed close to the office. We gave them a base of operations back in the tool shed, far away from the road. They have a warm, dry place to sleep there, as well as plenty of food. The eventual fate of most cats in this neighborhood is a resting place on the road, so we did our best to discourage them from going near it. And for a few months, it worked.

“That’s not good,” I said. “It’s only a matter of time now.”

“I know,” Jeff said. “Plus, when I was pulling into my parking spot, Max was in the way. He froze in my headlights. He just stood there. I had to honk my horn to get him out of the way.”

A black cloud descended on the kitty-cat side of my brain. “Their days are numbered,” I thought. “Should I try again to convince Kris that we can take them home?”

This morning as I left for work, I told Kris about my worries. She’s not attached to my boys like I am, though, and to her it was just another story of life at the box factory.

It was a wet drive to work. The rain came down sideways in thick sheets. As I pulled into the parking lot, I breathed a sigh of relief that there were no little cat bodies on the road. My relief was short-lived. “Did you see Blackie?” Jeff asked.

“You’re kidding,” I said.

“No,” he said. “I put him on the side of the road, near the number marker.”

Though I’m dressed nicely today in order to play Santa Claus to my customers, I trudged out into the monsoon, grabbed a shovel, and found Duke’s body at the side of the road. It was rigid, like a board, which I take to mean that he’s been dead several hours at least. Like most cats that are hit here, he only seemed to be sleeping. There was no blood. Except for the fact that he was soaked through, he looked exactly as he always did, sleeping on the chair in my office.

I will miss how Duke slept on that chair (one of those from Mac and Pam) all day long.
I will miss the way he’d shriek in protest when Max woke him from a nap by chomping on his neck.
I will miss his soft and gentle trill, the way he always talked to me.
I will miss his passion for Chee-tos.
I will miss the way he barged open my office door when he wanted in — no tapping it open for him!
I will miss the way he forced himself onto my lap if I was sitting in his chair.
I will miss the way he was scared out of his wits of the new cat.
I will miss how every week the cleaning lady told me, “He’s so cute.”
I will miss the way he couldn’t figure out the water faucet — Max will drink from the stream, but Duke just climbed in and licked the sink while the water poured on top of his head.
I will miss how he and his brother were bonded like no other animals I’ve ever known.

I will miss that little cat. I didn’t know him long, but I knew him well.

Good-bye, little Dukie.

(Duke’s death brings to the forefront a huge moral quandary for me. I love Duke and Max. They’re great cats. I want to bring them home. Kris refuses. But if Toto were not there, she might be open to the idea. Toto is old an unpleasant. Ought I to get rid of her? But I’m bonded to her, no matter how much of a bitch she is. I’ve known her since the day she was born. She’s my familiar. But wouldn’t it make sense now to bring home Max and get rid of Toto? Which is more heartless? Leaving Max at the shop or abandoning my cat of thirteen years? Max loves it at the shop, though I don’t think he understand that Duke is gone. If I knew he’d be safe, I wouldn’t mind leaving him here. It’s a tough call.)

Dutch Treat

The MNF group got together last week for our annual holiday dinner and white elephant gift exchange. Some lovely items made the rounds. For example, Ron and I went home with matching garden ornaments, which Kristin and Roger had decided to purge from their yard.

Actually, I went home with the pair. While Kris was distracted, we stashed both statues on the trunk. “This is perfect,” I said. “I can hide them in the shrubbery around the border of our property. It will be a game for visiting children: find the little Dutch kids.”

I posted the photo of us holding the statues at Get Rich Slowly in an article about frugal Christmas traditions. One commenter (‘peewee’) wrote:

My family is the manufacturer of those statues!! I am from the Netherlands and we are exporting those figures all over the world. The are wearing old dutch clothing from the 19th century. We also have the correponding windmills and Amsterdam houses.

On Saturday, Kris and I attended book group at Andrew and Courtney‘s. We discussed José Saramago‘s strange Blindness. (Bookworms: there’s a sequel, Seeing.) After the discussion, as we were loading the car to leave, Kris spied the statues in the trunk. “I don’t want those,” she said. And then she got a sly grin on her face. “Let’s leave them for Andrew and Courtney.”

I snuck back up the driveway and planted the statues in a flower bed, taking care to pose them so that they kissing.

Who knows where they’ll end up next?