Stand and Deliver

I spend a lot of time working on a computer.

I don’t mean ‘eight hours’: eight hours would be a remarkably light amount of screen time for me on any weekday. Given that I get up around 6 am (or earlier; thank you, Zoe), don’t head to bed until around 11:30 pm, and spend all but about 2 or 3 hours of that time looking at some kind of LCD… yeah. It adds up.

It has, as the kids say, always been thus, and after some near misses with serious repetitive stress injuries in college, I devoted more than a little thought to ensuring my (potentially) sixteen daily hours of computer work didn’t cripple me. Different keyboard and mice styles at home than at work — that sort of thing. Lately, my smartphone has taken up about fifty percent of the casual, look-it-up browsing that I do at home (more out of the necessity born of need-an-answer-while-holding-infant than it being an especially good replacement), and my Macbook Air is handling at least 70% of my serious at-home computer use (because it is an especially good replacement), but none of that addresses the real killer hiding behind that much time sitting at a desk.

The actual sitting.

I’d pondered the idea of a standing desk for a long time, but it simply wasn’t something I could start doing at home – there are too many times when I’m already at the computer and suddenly need to do that and (say) hold a kid in my lap.

So I turned to my day job work environment, and the question of how I could incorporate a standing desk. I tried several solutions that didn’t stand (heh) the test of time, but the current iteration is both one I’m very happy with and something I believe is cheap and easy enough to recommend to nearly everyone (assuming you’re within driving distance of an Ikea). I’ve been using this set up for a little over two years, and I find it helps me focus, increases my energy levels, and (very important) keeps me from dozing off after a long night of toddler wrangling.

Sitting is killing you, after all, so maybe this will help.

Start with your basic cubicle. You’re going to be working with the “long” side of the cubicle (on the right, in this picture), which should measure roughly 48 inches long and about 23 or 24 inches deep, give or take.

Grab two Linnmon table tops from Ikea. You can use the version that is 39″ long (which cost about $6 each) or (my preference) the 47″ versions. Both lengths are the same 23.5″ depth, which fit most cubicle dimensions perfectly.

(If you don’t have an Ikea around, just check out the website, see what I’m talking about, and go look for something similar – they are very common dimensions for table and desk tops.)

Buy two four-packs of Capita legs from Ikea. They come in 4″, 6″, and 8″ lengths. Remembering that the desk tops themselves are 1″ deep, you can add leg height to desk thickness to figure out what combination will bring the top of the desk even with your elbows, once the whole thing is sitting on your cubicle desk. Someone who’s shorter may only need one desk top and a single set of legs.

(Example: I am six feet tall. My cubicle desk is 28.5″ high. I purchase one set of 8″ legs, and one set of 4″ legs which, combined with the two desk tops, and stacked one atop the other, makes a standing desk ‘addition’ that’s roughly 14.5″ high or, when added to the cubicle, 43″ from the ground.)

If you want to get fancy, get one more set of capita 4″ legs and mount them to a spare bookshelf shelf – use that as a riser for your monitors.


With this, I lose no desktop space (rather, I gain considerably more easy-access storage for whatever I’m working on at the moment) move the laptop dock out of my way, and create a spot where I can comfortably stand for six to eight hours a day (what I do), which is apparently the equivalent yearly calorie burn of running 20 marathons (which I will never do).

Works a treat, costs 40 to 60 bucks total, you don’t have to justify it to your company’s budget people, and you can take it with you when you leave.

I will miss my office, but the new bedroom turned out really great

I will miss my office, but the new bedroom turned out really great.

238/365 | ktbuffy
ktbuffy. Once just a girl and her shoes. Now a girl and her family, dogs, books, photos, friends and shoes. Search. Main menu. Skip to primary content. Skip to secondary content. About ktbuffy · Work · Twitter · Flickr · Shoes · Books · Pinterest · Facebook · Nia. Post navigation. ← Previous …

Charles de Lint on Hidden Things? Yeah, right…

Actually? As it turns out, yes:

“I loved this book from start to finish. It’s strange, weird and down to earth, all at the same time; chock full of fascinating characters, dark dreams and fantasy elements that deliver a real sense of wonder. What’s not to love?”

That was in my inbox last night — a forwarded message, via my editor. I mean, I really didn’t think…

Let me back up and tell you a story.

I read my first Charles de Lint book, The Onion Girl, in 2003.

First off, it’s really kind of amazing that I went as long as I did without reading his stuff — as a writer, the man is incredibly prolific, and pretty much everything he’s ever done falls squarely in what anyone would recognize as one of my reading sweet spots. I think it’s fair to say (De will correct me if not) that he is really one of the seminal authors in the genre of urban fantasy or mythic fiction or whatever people are calling it this week, especially when it comes to stuff in the magical realist vein, which is pretty much where I live when I’m writing.

And yet, somehow, I hadn’t encountered his work up to that point. I have no explanation other than the fact that county libraries in South Dakota were pretty thin in the Sci-fi and Fantasy section.

Then, just after I wrapped up the first draft of Hidden Things, one of my First Readers (Stacy Tabb, aka Sekimori, Queen of the Internet) said to me “You know what this reminds me of? It reminds me of Charles de Lint, in a good way.”

“Who?” I replied, because Wikipedia wasn’t really a thing, yet.


So, because I trust my first readers (or they wouldn’t be my first readers), I did exactly that.

And, having read The Onion Girl, I set the book on my shelves and said “I have to be very careful about when I read this guy.”

The reason was simple: in my mind de Lint was a guy who, in a lot of pretty meaningful ways, was doing what I, at that point, was learning to do. Taken in small doses, that can be a great way to orient yourself as you develop as a writer, but overdo it and you can hobble your ability to figure out your own particular voice.

And I’m sorry if that sounded stupid and pretentious and arty. As Miriam Black would say, it is what it is. Writers worry about shit like that, sometimes.

So fast forward to about a month ago, and I’m exchanging emails with my editor and agent about the Hidden Things ARC. We each have a short list of “Absolutely Must” people whom we’d really like to read the story and yes: on the business side of things, it is for all intents and purposes done in the hope that these people you admire will want to say something nice about the book, but personally? I mean, I’ll be honest: for me, all of those names were just as much “MAN I would love for them to read this thing.”

Anyway, I list my names, and my agent lists her names, and my editor lists her names.

And one of them is Charles de Lint.

As in, she actually wrote the words “I’m going to send an ARC to Charles de Lint and see if he’ll write about it.” and no one laughed.

Well, I laughed. Right at the screen. Sure, let’s just send it over to the guy nominated for about twenty World Fantasy awards, I thought, I’m sure the chief book critic for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction has loads of free time available, between his own writing and music and whatnot.

But secretly, in my heart of hearts (read: when talking about it with Kate), I hoped.

“I loved this book from start to finish. It’s strange, weird and down to earth, all at the same time; chock full of fascinating characters, dark dreams and fantasy elements that deliver a real sense of wonder. What’s not to love?”

As far as “first book blurbs” go, it’s… not a bad place to start.

I’m still a tiny bit stunned. And happy.

It’s going to be a pretty interesting summer.

This is not my holiday

Martin Luther King Jr. will never mean the same thing to me that he means to my brother-in-law Reggie, nor will he have the same impact on me as on my nieces and nephew.

Close as we are, I can’t even claim Reverend King’s impact to the same degree as my sister.

I’m just a liberal white boy, full of liberal white-boy guilt, who tries real hard to do the right thing and tries too hard to say the right thing (and who ends saying too much of the right thing, and trying too hard, and just… embarrassing himself). I’m the one who thinks, deep down, no matter what I do, I’m somehow part of the problem.

But if nothing else, I can see the dinosaurs of our past dying out, year by year; replaced by children who are better than the generations past. Better than me. It is a glacially slow change, but likewise inexorable, and it gives me hope.

And when I read too much of today’s news, and hear too many quotes from too many stupid, scared, old white men, and my faith in the glacier starts to fade, I look at pictures like this…

'I have a dream that one day little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.'
'I have a dream that one day that little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.'

… and I think that maybe I can see the change happening. Maybe I even do a (very) small amount to help.

And I am very, very lucky that this is so.

“I submit to you that if a man hasn’t discovered something he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

malik and me

Hugging my Security Blanket Ball

Short post today; I love you (I do, really. Put this mask on.), but I have other writing to do.

So last night, I spoke to Twitter and said:

I love my new bowling ball. My new bowling ball hates me and is filing for a restraining order. I think I’ll name her ‘Carla’.

Yeah. I’m going to talk about bowling again.

As I’ve mentioned previously, my bowling game has improved quite a bit in the year since I got started in a league with some other gamer nerds in the area. Good times and steady improvement led to a pretty surprising second-place finish for the fall season. Our team was edged out of 1st place in a nail-biter of a final game, our salty tears diluted somewhat by the fact that Kate and I were first in the Most Improved categories for our respective genders and we both got second place in our “High Handicap Series” categories.

Oh, and the prize money. That helped too.

I decided to farm the filthy lucre back into the habit that spawned it and get myself a new bowling ball.

See, for the last 18 months or so, I’ve been using a ball generously given to me by Chris (the guy who got us into the league in the first place). It’s an old ball of his, drilled for both his hand measurements and for a ‘beginner’s’ grip. It’s a little beat up, and I have to kind of crook my thumb a bit to wedge it into its hole well enough, but… well, it works. It doesn’t do anything too fancy, but clearly I can make it hit the pins.

So why get a new ball? Well, I can turn in a very nice score with the Old Ball, but it doesn’t really let me do those fancy curving shots that you see the pro guys put out, and those fancy curving shots actually help the ball hit the pins in a way that makes it more likely they’ll fall down and go cracka-boom.

So I dug around a bit, and took some suggestions from Chris, and ordered up a nice new ball. It’s pretty. It does lovely curvy things. I named it Carla. You know, just in my head. As a joke. Totally a joke.

Say hello, Carla.
Say hello, Carla.

Before the new season started last night, I went in and got the ball drilled. Oh, shush: quit snickering.

Okay, fine: “I got new finger grips added to the ball.” Happy now?

The guy at the shop told me that he would allow no stinking beginner’s grip on a ball like that, so I drilled me up a ‘fingertip’ grip.

Which is fine; that’s kind of what I was expecting. When he was done, the ball was finally ‘finished’. Ready.

And damn she was pretty.

But there’s a saying in bowling: “Pretty balls don’t throw strikes.”

The ball curves, yeah. WAY more than I’m used to, but that hardly matters, cuz I can’t get the damn thing to come off my hand; that fancy fingertip grip basically means that everything I’ve trained myself to do with Old Ball is wrong wrong wrong. So wrong that I damn near hurt myself last night. I’m going to have to completely relearn how to play, pretty much from the ground up.

So after an abysmal first game (95 pins! Woo!) during which I threw more gutter balls than I think I ever have in a game, and air-balled a fifteen-pound hunk of stone more than I’d like to admit (encouraging many nearby bowlers to look around for the moron noob who didn’t know how to play), I put Carla back in my bag, mumbling something like “It puts the lotion on its skin…” and pulled out Old Ball. My security blanket. Security ball. Whatever. Shut up.

Old Ball didn’t fail me. The approach I used was simpler. Crude. Basic.

But the pins fell down and went cracka-boom.

Frustrating, to have the New Pretty Thing and to have to actually WORK before it produces… well, forget about ‘something better than the old ball’; I’ll be happy with ‘something comparable to the old ball’.

Is this about writing? It might be. I’m a pretty basic guy when it comes to putting words down. As Papa said “I know the 10 dollar words, but there are older words; better, simpler, and those are the ones I use.” Could be that the thing I’m working on right now also includes some fancy-schmancy tricks that I’ve seen used by writers I admire, and I thought “I can do that. How hard can it be? It’s just writing.”

Yeah. Gutterball.

So what happens to Carla now? Do I stick with Old Ball and my respectable-but-maybe-not-as-good-as-it-could-be game?

No. This weekend, I go to the lanes and I practice. A lot. First I figure out how to simply deliver the damn thing, then I’ll figure out how much that changes the roll, until finally, maybe, I’ll get the results I want. Practice practice practice. Lots of people throw tricky balls like mine; they do just fine, and dammit, they aren’t any better than me.

But last night I bought a bowling bag that holds two balls. Old Ball will never be very far away.

Sometimes you need old and simple and crude and ugly. I see no reason to give up the simple things that work, just because I’m working on a fancy new thing.

None at all.

What I’ve learned about Bowling

Tonight marks the conclusion of the fall season of the bowling league in which I, my wife, and several of my game-geek friends participate.

It’s fun. Shut up.

In a way, it’s a weird return to my childhood. While bowling continues to grow in popularity in the U.S., bowling league participation dwindles, but such was not the case when I was a little kid. Both my parents bowl (and bowled), and I can remember many Saturday nights when my folks couldn’t get a sitter and my sister and I spent the evening running around the alley, screwing up someone’s game of pool, or mastering a sliding tile game that I only got to mess with during league play.

So about a year ago, one of our gamer friends asked if we’d be interested, and my wife thought it’d be a good way to meet people in her new home town, and I thought “sure, I’m a pretty decent bowler, why not?” (Funny thing: being around bowling doesn’t actually make you a good bowler. Who knew?)

This is what I remembered about the fine points of bowling.
This is what I remember about the bowling alley when I was a kid.

So we dove in. We got shoes. (Those of you who know my wife know she needs very little provocation or encouragement to buy shoes.) I bought her a bowling ball for Christmas. We didn’t do that great that season, but we had a pretty good time.

The next season started up, and we decided to keep playing.

And the next…

And the next…

And now it’s eighteen months later. Tonight is the last week of play for the fall league. The team that Kate and I are on (Crazy Bowling Monkeys) is in first place. Kate’s the #1 Most Improved women’s bowler. I’m #1 Most Improved men’s. Between us and the other gamer-geek team (White and Nerdy, with Ninja Pin Action), there is not a “leader” category we don’t pretty much dominate. It’s kind of awesome.

Obviously, with the big showdown tonight, it’s on my mind, so I thought I’d write down some stuff I’ve learned about Bowling in the last year and a half.

blue_bowling_pin1. You gotta show up.

It’s a hassle. Sometimes you have to bring your kids along and keep them distracted (and in turn be distracted by them). But the only way to enjoy the game is to play the game, and (if you’re me) try to get better.

2. Getting better takes time. And lots of repetition.

I was never a horrible bowler. Sure, I’ve had horrible games, but I don’t know that I was ever really super-bad (and the nice thing about bowling is that you can still help your team out even if you kinda suck).

But I’ve always wanted to do well. I may not have learned a ton about the technical bits of bowling as a kid, but I did learn what good bowling looked like. I saw a lot of it. Hell, I heard a lot of it. I wanted my ball to do this, and the pins to do that, and the noise they all make to go cracka-boom.

So I keep working at it, and what used to be a 120 average is now a 160 average, and for all that that’s pretty respectable, not a game goes by that I can’t name a dozen things I did wrong, even on the strikes.

3. Don’t aim at the pins.

It seems counter-intuitive, but aiming at the pins you want to knock down is a pretty good way to ensure you’ll hit fuck-all when you throw the ball. There are these great little arrows on the lane that are about a third to half-way down, and you aim at those. They’re close enough to hit with some accuracy, for one thing, so you use them as your front-sight (shooting reference). Basically, it’s not the end result you think about, it’s the beginning and the middle that you work to get right, and the cracka-boom will follow.

4. Be consistent.

Generally speaking, if you start from the same spot every time, and you hit the right arrow, the end result is assured considerably more likely. That’s why you do the repetition — you figure out what works and what doesn’t, then you do the ‘what works’ thing over and over again until it’s hard not to.

5. Don’t be consistent when it’s not working…

Lanes dry out and suddenly the ball hooks too much. Or the lane-monkeys greased the damn thing up and nothing hooks at all. Or your pants are too tight. Or you shouldn’t have had a beer. Or you should have had a beer. Or you’re distracted from work, or family, or your kid with the tile-sliding game. Whatever the reason, The Thing You Do to Make the Pins Go Boom ain’t working: not by a little, but by a lot.

See when that’s happening, and try something else. If that doesn’t work either, sometimes you just have to laugh a little at the whole stupid game and have a good time while you rack up a terrible, terrible score.

6. … but don’t freak out when it’s almost working.

The hardest thing to deal with in bowling is a split — when you leave a couple pins behind, and they’re physically separated from one another by a great and terrible distance. And here’s a hard fact: the difference between a strike and a split is fractions of an inch. Or the exact same throw, but at a different speed. A spare is usually a strike that just didn’t quite strike.

So what do you do if you’re throwing a bunch of splits?

Nothing. The errors are small. Sometimes they aren’t even visible, and you’re left looking at the lane saying “are you kidding me?” In those situations, you just suck it up, go get your ball, and try to clean the mess up as best as you can with the second roll. You’re not doing anything wrong, it’s just not quite working, so keep throwing the ball the same way you have been, and eventually – probably – the kinks will work out.

7. Have fun. Don’t look at the scoreboard.

Is it a sport or is it a game? Could you go pro if you get good enough? Are we going to place this season?

These are all silly questions.

It’s something you enjoy, so do it. If you get really really good at it, maybe you’ll get back a little prize money when the season’s over. Maybe you’ll get a patch for your shirt, or a fridge magnet.

But seriously, who cares? If you can’t remember that it’s supposed to be something you like doing — maybe even love doing — why waste the time?

Yeah, you gotta show up, and you have to play a lot (a LOT) to get better (and take some other player’s advice, and maybe a few lessons, and, again, lots of practice). All good play is also good work, I think, and vice-versa.

But the fact is this: You will never be good if you forget how to enjoy it. Never ever.

There. I’m all done talking about bowling now. Too bad none of this applies to any other activity. Ahh well.

Maybe tomorrow.

... totally buying this if we win tonight.
... totally buying this if we win tonight.


This thing, while good on its own, gets better with addition of a stick of butter and a bunch of vanilla and brown sugar. WHO KNEW?
This thing, while good on its own, gets better with the addition of a stick of butter and a bunch of vanilla and brown sugar. WHO KNEW?

So there’s this thing Floy-Jean makes around the holidays. It’s generally called “Grandma’s Special Squash”, because

  1. No one really makes it quite as good as she does.
  2. It’s special. (And be ‘special’ I mean ‘actually a dessert, masquerading as a hot dish’.)

Here’s how it goes.

1. Start with 3 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded. and cubed. (Not everyone skins them. Grandma does. Grandma’s version is better. Draw your own conclusions.)

2. Cook the squash in water until the cubes are tender enough to mash.

3. Drain the squash pieces, drop em in mixing bowl, and beat em until they’re smooth. Smooooth. No. Smoother.

4. Add milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla; mix well.

  • 3/4 c milk
  • 6 T butter, melted (yeah, that’s most of a stick of butter. deal.)
  • 3 eggs, already beaten
  • 1/2 t vanilla

5. Combine these dry ingredients, add them to squash, and mix well.

  • 1/8 t nutmeg
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 3 T flour
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/8 t cloves

6. Transfer everything in the mixing bowl to a (greased) 2-qt baking dish. Cover it and bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

7. While the squash-ness is baking, make the Topping. THE TOPPING IS NOT OPTIONAL.

In a small bowl, combine these topping ingredients until crumbly.

  • 1/2 c vanilla wafer crumbs (about 15 wafers)
  • 1/4 c packed brown sugar
  • 2 T butter, melted (yeah, that’s the rest of that stick of butter you started in on before)

8. When the squash is done baking, pull it out, and sprinkle the Topping over it.

9. Stick the whole thing back in the oven again, uncovered, for about 12 to 15 minutes.

10. Mouthgasm.

Doycean White Chili

Okay, so Grandma Floy (she of the dusting-of-furniture-while-we-move-it) has a pretty rad white chili recipe. I had it a couple-five holidays ago and followed up my third bowl by begging for the recipe on my hands and knees.

(To which she was like: “Here’s the recipe, you didn’t have to beg. Food isn’t a secret.” Which is one reason she’s awesome.)

I had trouble finding the recipe last year. When I did find it, I posted it on my blog to make it more readily accessible to me.

Anyway, it’s getting cold out again, and when it gets cold my thoughts turn to this yummy chili. I dug the posted recipe up and, in reading it, realized that I actually don’t make the recipe as written by Floy-Jean anymore.

So here’s my version.

Step One: double the following ingredient portions, unless you’re in a real hurry.

2. You will need, in this order:

  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2 in. cubes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1.5 teasp. garlic powder 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 tbs. veg. oil
  • 2 cans (15.5 oz) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
  • 8 oz chopped green chilis 8+ oz chopped jalapenos. You can get cans of these, pre-chopped, but I now just buy them whole and chop em myself.
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. ground cumin 2 t. ground cumin, maybe a little more
  • 1 t. dried oregano
  • 1/2 t. pepper
  • 1/4 t. cayenne pepper 1 t. cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup sour cream (I don’t like sour cream that much, so I don’t always use it. You like it? Use it at the same time as the whipping cream.)
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream

(Note on the seasonings. I’m not sure exactly HOW much I put in. I know it’s more than the original recipe, and sometimes a lot more. Season til it smells good; I trust you.)

3. First cooking bit
In a large saucepan, cook the chicken chunks, chopped onion and garlic in the oil, until the chicken’s not pink. (Sometimes I throw a few of the chopped chilis in at this point, but not all. Some.)

4a. If you Did Not Double the Recipe (or if you did double it and your saucepan is muy macho):
Add the beans, broth, chopped chilis & seasonings to the pan. Bring the whole thing to a boil. Reduce your heat & simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Doubling the recipe is one of the few situations in which I’ll get out our deep-dish electric skillet.

4b. If you Doubled the Recipe and your Saucepan is not Huge, or you have loads of time and want your house to smell like Awesome:
Dump the cooked chicken stuff and everything but the whipping cream into a crock pot and run it for a couple hours on high, or all day on low.

5. Finally:
Remove from the heat, add the whipping & sour cream, and serve immediately. (With some shredded cheese and crackers and such: you know, chili stuff.  Basic recipe feeds about six or seven people.

If you are very good, I will share her amazing squash recipe in a few days. It’s a Holiday Miracle, people.