Monday, February 28, 2011

Happy Ending

A tale of two checks.

I visited two agents on Friday to pick up checks. The first was for a brief fill-in voiceover session (for another client that changed copy after the fact). It was $75. Minus commission and taxes.

The second was a total surprise. It turns out these guys actually ponied up for re-airing that commercial. Excellent news, and substantially more than $75. I think I'm going to use the money to buy one of the new iPads being announced this week.

I suppose if I was prudent I'd use the money to pay the $700+ in ER bills for my dislocated pinky. WTF? My otherwise solid health plan charges a $500 deductible for ER visits, plus a $200 co-pay. My crappy individual plan a few years ago paid every cent of a $2,500 ER trip.

Insane. But instead of paying for that, I think I'm going to treat myself. I deserve it after the couple of months I've had of toiling in the proverbial salt mines.

It was the worst of times, so I should have some best of times.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Eyes Have It

I did an industrial shoot today that was sort of a make-up session. The lawyers changed the script, which would have been a lot easier to do when it was a Word document and not a fully shot and edited video. Duh.

Anyway, they showed me the (now almost) finished product and I got to see my footage. It's a close-up, straight into the camera thing, kind of dramatic, different characters phasing in and out doing a line or two at a time. It turned out great, but ...

... I was distracted by my blinking. I have a DVD of Michael Caine is running a little acting workshop and one of his tips, which I obviously did not internalize, is to avoid blinking. It makes the performance more powerful, more intimate, more dramatic.

I'd never really thought about it, because I guess I haven't done a project where it would quite apply -- extreme close-up with short bits of copy.

Of course, trying not to blink when you're thinking about it is like stifling a yawn in front of another yawner.

Next time.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Into the fuuuuuture ...

A friend of mine who has always been way ahead of me technology (and everything else) wise, asked if I like reading on the Kindle better than hard copy books. And as I talked about it I could name a half-dozen advantages of hard copy over electronic -- it's easier to skim around, to look up characters and references in past chapters, the pictures look better, you can lend them out, etc., etc.

But the one major advantage of the Kindle outweighs all of those others. It's lightweight and portable. I love being able to take the book -- tons of books, actually -- anywhere. Most of all, I like how I can move (mostly) seamlessly from device to device. So even when lugging the Kindle is too much, I can read off my phone.

This is how I read Life -- on the phone, the Kindle, the computer and even in hard copy. I've had the Kindle software on my computer for a couple of years now, but never bothered to read a book on it since I had the Kindle device. It has the advantage of much sharper resolution, which is good for pictures. In fact, the only reason I got the hard copy was because I wanted to see the photos better.

So now that I know this I've probably bought my last hard copy book.

The great thing is, any limitations e-readers have will soon be eliminated. The iPad has already made great advances. I'm looking forward to easier skimming, seamlessly going back and forth from a book to the Internet to look stuff up. And someday, if they can weave audio -- and even video -- versions into the mix, that'll be really awesome.

The book itself? Fantastic. Funny, witty, insightful, and a really wonderful and consistent voice throughout. Now he just needs to make a 90-minute video demonstrating the guitar licks and effects he describes in the book.

Someday all that stuff will be right in the book, accessible at the tap of a finger. Someday ...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rehab ... noooo, nooo, no!


I haven't quite made it to doing these exercises once per hour, but I probably got in six sessions today. It hurts. I guess I should look at the handwritten message on the instructions from the PT: "respect pain, don't push through."

It also gives me the willies. That pinky is definitely not cooperating with the other fingers when they straighten out and make a straight fist and a full fist and a hook fist.

But at least I can type again with decent proficiency. And I need to, because work is continuing to kill me. I made a mistake in knocking off early Monday and not working last night, so I find myself here still slogging away, one eye and ear on the Colbert Report.

The reward for all this hard work over the past six weeks is supposed to be some much-needed technology upgrades. Rumors have had it that new MacBook Pros are coming out tomorrow and new iPads next week. But then the latest rumors as of today have backtracked. They're saying these will be slightly modified models, not overhauled ones.

So what I am working for? Prudent savings and practicality?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Neverending Story, Part 6

The occupational therapist seemed 3,000 times more knowledgeable and personally engaged than the doctor was.

She was like a real craftsman, measuring the angles of my pinky with a protractor-like thingy, checking and recording the amount of swelling, creating and custom-fitting a new splint, talking me through everything, providing diagrams of exercises and bunch of other things.

So I'm glad I went. And I talked her down to going week-to-week on this, as opposed to scheduling several visits a week. I've got a bunch of finger exercises I'm supposed to do ONCE AN HOUR (though she did assure me I didn't have to wake up during the night to do them).

Not sure I'll get them in every hour, but will try for every several. They're tough to do right now, partly from the injury, partly from the swelling and partly from being immobilized for almost three weeks, so I'm looking forward to seeing some progress.

Mostly I'm happy to have a much smaller and easy-to-remove splint, so I can do more things when I have it on and take it off for important things like showering. And auditioning. In fact, I've got a booking on Friday -- a followup to an earlier job -- and I think it will be fairly manageable.

On the other hand, I don't have the same amount of protection with this splint. I've got to be very careful and take things really, really slowly. I tend to move with great force. Whether getting a coffee mug out of the cupboard or washing my face, my arm is moving at 60 mph. So when I miss and hit the side of the cabinet (or a nostril), it really hurts.

Same reason I've been to the ER twice to get my tongue stitched from errant gum chewing. I am an odd person.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A little relaxation

It seemed just about everybody was on holiday today, so I kind of went with the flow.

After taking care of a few things this morning -- particularly finishing the latest draft of the book -- I went to the gym, came home and decided maybe a break was in order. So I went to a movie this afternoon, which I hardly ever do. Blue Valentine was excellent, btw.

Of course than I proceed to get multiple calls and emails. An audition in the morning, a booking for Friday, scheduling of a conference call somewhere in between.

Now my pleasantly "caught up" status could easily slip into "desperately behind" again. Still, it was nice to have an afternoon (and evening) of no work. Tomorrow, and the rest of the week, I will probably end up paying the piper ...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A break in the weather

Yesterday I got up early, around 6:15, like I've been doing for weeks and started in on work. Banged out another revision to another paper, made some calls, tied up some loose ends then ... realized I had time to go to they gym, which I did.

And when I got back? An eerie feeling. For the first time in weeks and weeks I felt completely caught up. Nothing major due or hanging over my head. Two drafts in the client's hands, a new project starting up Monday, two others quiet for now. Insane.

So I ran some errands, vacuumed the place, read a hundred articles on the Internet about how the GOP is screwing the country. It was heaven.

Looking ahead, I think the hardest of the hard part is mostly over for this one project. And the new one starting up is totally manageable. I don't mind not being completely challenged for a bit.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Last dispatch from Fingerland

Yup, every finger post is my "last" one.

So I shamed them into seeing me against their stated policy and it was ... odd. They do plastic and reconstructive surgery there, so it's like a whole other world. The receptionist looks like a model, the offices are on a corner with a great view, several different areas to wait in, with little alcoves for privacy.

All in all, I think my little finger issue is not what you'd call a profit leader in their business model, and it was treated as such.

The doctor was a little rushed and a little scattered, not knowing I had brought x-rays, then looking at the wrong x-rays, unwrapping the hand kind of clumsily, not giving me much of a diagnosis upon the quick examination ...

Then he starts to re-wrap it and I ask whether it shouldn't be washed. You know, a full week under wraps and unshowered and it was getting pretty nanky. He agreed that might be a good idea.

He's sending me to rehab and I'm probably going to go once -- mainly to get the splint off and figure out how to take care of it from here. Maybe get a more, um ... thorough diagnosis.

Then I'll take whatever exercises they give me (probably the same ones we pulled off the Internet), but I'll probably do them on my own instead of going there three or four times a week. Honestly, at this point in my life, if I don't recover a full range of motion in my pinky, I'll probably live.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

ValentiMes and all ...

I have done almost nothing for the past week but:
  • Work on the book. The changes have been advertised as minor and limited, but it's taking me between one and two hours per chapter to fix. Which means 20-40 hours. Editing fast is easy; editing well is hard. Writing that's well constructed can't just have chunks taken out of it -- all those chunks come with long threads of connection, like jellyfish stingers, that have to be managed as well. I'm about three quarters of the way through, though. And I'm moving a bunch of chapters around. Which is a bitch in track changes mode.
  • Working on work. These briefings/white papers are killing me. We're taking articles written by technology/management consultants and trying to make them read like Wired magazine. You know, compelling, interesting, thought-provoking -- all that. A very tall order in some cases. Today my head was spinning from trying to pull meaning and understanding from these people.
  • Dealing with my hobbling. I'm looking forward to getting my other hand back, especially in the shower. And yoga and Pilates have been a real trick. I'm hoping to become expert in one-handed pushups.

That's it. Worked 'til 11 last night, but knocked off tonight at 9:30. Exhausted, but looking forward to re-energizing with some sleep and starting fresh tomorrow.

Oh, one other thing. Valentines Day pizza!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

On the bright side ...

... I'm getting auditions again. Two last week and two this week. Not gangbusters by historical standards but fantastic compared to lately.

On the downside it's happening when I've got this big nasty splint on my paw. (I lied -- yesterday was not my last finger post.)

I tell them this is just a temporary thing and I'm seeing the doctor and everything will probably be fine, but if I were them, why take a chance? But I figure if necessary I can take this splint off and just buddy-tape the ring and pinky fingers in a little bit of unobtrusive flesh-colored tape for a few hours.

I've read different things -- splint or tape for a week or 10 days all the way up to splint for six weeks and physical therapy. I guess it all depends on how serious it is.

At least tomorrow we'll see what an actual doctor says. Yes, I called them up and shamed them and they're going to see me, though I worry this is like insulting the wait staff -- what's the medical field equivalent of spitting in the customer's food? Invasive procedures? Endless bloodwork?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Last finger post

I pinky swear.

So the other day when my finger was bent into an L shape, my first thought was to get to the emergency room. And by that I mean the nearest emergency room.

Northwestern is my regular hospital -- they do excellent work, but they're several miles away. So I went to the one three blocks away. Because it was closer and because I was freaked out. Also, I thought it would be less crowded with trauma victims competing for attention.

Now I need follow-up care. Sort of. That's debatable, actually, but I figure since I have good insurance, why not cross the Ts and dot the Is. You never know. If nothing else, I wouldn't mind getting a fresh splint and bandage.

But the people in the hand surgery/reconstruction/etc. department at Northwestern say they don't take patients who were treated in emergency rooms outside the system.

I was so flabbergasted by this I just sort of laughed. Now I'm kinda pissed. What if I was out of town when I had to go the ER? Or if I'd had chest pains?

So now that I've got my dander up I need to call them tomorrow and talk to someone in patient services or something. I could go to the doctor the ER referred me to, but I'd really prefer to get back into the system. And it's bizarre that they're not interested in taking my money. Or my insurance company's money.

Total bizarro world.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Lucky breaks

The day of the blizzard I was feeling nearly suffocated by all the work on my plate. I got up early to go out in the gloom and the gale-force winds to survey the damage because I wasn't sure I'd have a chance to get back out there.

And sure enough, while everyone else was playing in the sun and the calm I was shuttered inside, working well into the night in order to catch up and maybe get ahead.

Then the next day I fell and dislocated my finger -- maybe because I was so crazed, rushing to get laundry and other stuff done as I prepared for multiple conference calls that afternoon. In fact, most of those calls didn't end up happening anyway.

A lot of things didn't happen. A client that was in a mad-rush with an impossible deadline dragged its feet for several days. Another went back and forth with so many questions and revisions on the one-page statement-of-work that the budget was nearly busted before the project started. The latest draft is in their hands now.

So everything's down to one huge project, one that shrank to medium-sized, the very tail end of another (thanks to multiple nights and wee-mornings), and the other one still on the back-burner.

Oh, and then there's the book. Conference call tomorrow to go over their latest edits. Even that's looking more manageable.

I should know by now that it always seems to works out. Just when I think I'm going to be totally snowed under, a combination of good luck and hard work gets me through.

Such a relief.

Friday, February 04, 2011

The one-armed man

So far, about half my time today has been spent employing the backspace key. I am not a ten-finger typist anyway, but apparently one or both of the fingers that are splinted are pretty critical to the process. Also, the damned splint keeps hitting keys on its own.

I know it's a small injury as these things go, but the shock of seeing a part of my body in such an unholy position continues to haunt me. I mean, that's like Exorcist time. Or Black Swan.

I physically shudder every time that image pops into my head. I can't imagine how I'd fare on a vast scale, like war, or EMT work, where you're seeing bodies mutilated and ripped apart.

Apart from all that, my hair's a wreck. That is definitely something I need 10 fingers for, apparently. And I showered with some big plastic contraption big enough to cover a leg cast. Awkward.

Other than that, I'm not reaping a ton of benefit from this thing. Nobody's jumping out of the handicap seat on the bus and offering it to me. The tea place didn't comp me. My agent noticed, and that was nice. Still, some sort of government subsidy or tax break would be cool.

Strange who didn't notice -- the people in an audition today. It was for a casino -- I guess as long as my dice-rolling hand is okay it's no big deal.

Okay, I'm off to buy a single left mitten if I can ...

Thursday, February 03, 2011

When bad things happen to good fingers

This hurt a lot less than I would have expected. And it looked even worse in the IRL version with the skin on.

So that was my afternoon. Slipped down some icy steps. Ironically, after they were shoveled. I went down them fine when they were covered with a foot of snow. Then the maintenance guy shoveled them down to their icy core and just 30 minutes later, BAM!

I remember it hurt like hell, thinking I'd really knocked the crap out of my pinky finger. Then when I saw it pointing East when I was facing South, it absolutely freaked my shit out. The pain almost went away entirely. I think I was in a very mild form of shock.

I scrambled around, not even remembering if I locked the door (which caused extra ER-related anxiety) and ran out to catch a cab to the hospital (after a quick stop at the ATM).

They measured my BP at over 160 and the doctor was looking at me very worriedly, asking if I thought I was going to throw up or pass out. No, I'm just kinda freaked out. I mean, for whatever reason, I was really, really scared.

I did not cry. But I almost did. I guess I didn't know what was going on -- broken or dislocated or what. Most of all I think I was terrified of what they'd have to do to fix it. Break it? Amputate it? Yank it?

Yanking was the remedy. They offered, and I accepted, a local. But I guess football players and kids pop theirs back out all the time. But I've never even broken a bone (at least not one of my own).

And it wasn't as bad as I expected. I'd pictured her yanking with two hands and a foot pressed into my chest for leverage. But it was nothing like that. Just a little tug.

X-rays showed no fracture. Or "probably" no fracture, which is odd.

Overall, I picked a wonderful time to go to the ER -- mid-afternoon on a weekday. No gunshot or car crash victims clogging things up. Very little waiting and in and out in a couple of hours.

The rest of the afternoon I admit my brains were a little scrambled, and I managed to just perform the barest administrative tasks, returning emails and phone calls. And fetching the laundry I left downstairs.

Now, as a FB friend suggested, it's Miller Time.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


Well, the waves were a bust -- the lakeshore was locked in by ice -- but the storm wasn't.

It doesn't matter what city you live in, two feet of snow is going to be crippling. Hundreds stranded all night on Lakeshore drive, schools (and many businesses) shut down, trains not running.

The major arteries are fine but most side streets, including mine, are unplowed.

And, unbelievably, there were still 200 cars stuck on the Drive as of 4 pm. It may not even be open by tomorrow.

Thankfully, I didn't have to get anywhere. On the other hand, I had no excuse not to work. I am absolutely hammered with it right now. Just too, too much on my plate. I see many nights and weekends of work in my near future. Not happy about it now, but it's a good thing, I know.

And last night's kitchen snow drift? Just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Here's what I woke up to out there:

Tuesday, February 01, 2011


Mini snowdrift driven through my kitchen door
by 50 mph north winds.

People act like they've never seen thundersnow before.

Seriously, we seem to get that every couple of years. But this sounds like it's going to be a blizzard for the books. The biggest since 1999, which I remember. Or maybe going back to the '60s, which I do not.

I hope we get a ton. It seems since I left the East Coast they've suddenly been getting all the huge snows. So we're due.

Unlike '99, though, work goes on -- business as usual. For me, at least. Lake Shore Drive is closed and people are stuck on buses and ditching their cars ... but I've got a 10 am conference call, a bunch of reading to do beforehand, and then a deadline or two to meet afterward.

Clients in San Francisco, Houston and Atlanta don't much care about our little snowstorm. And clients right here are working at home just like me.

As long as I can find some time to get out and capture photos of the alleged 15-to-30-foot waves they're projecting, I'll be fine ...