On Facebook the last few days I’ve seen a personal survey of sorts circulating, who you are, what you like, that sort of thing. The survey, however, showed all the hallmarks of having been copied and added to as it propogated across social media as the spellings were inconsistent (showing both American and British spelling), similar questions were worded in wildly different ways, and similar questions were separated by unconnected questions. Before I answered these, then, I decided to put on my editor’s hat, group the questions, reword them for consistency’s sake, and format them better.

Let’s go deep!

1. Are you named after someone?

My first name comes from my great-grandfather, Allyn Gardner. My middle name comes from my great-grandmother, Olive Russell.

My full name has all six vowels, each used exactly once, though not in order. When I pointed this out to my parents some years ago, they had no idea. It certainly wasn’t planned.

2. Where were you born?

Baltimore.

3. What do you do for a living?

I’m a writer for Diamond Comic Distributors. I write the monthly PREVIEWS catalog. As I’m writing this, work has begun on my 112th issue.

4. Do you have a special talent?

None come to mind. Unless making ebooks for myself with Calibre counts as a talent.

I suppose it does.

I’ll give you an example. Two weeks ago I made an epub out of a document I had. I put it on my Kindle (I sideloaded Readmill a while back, and I like that better than the actual Kindle software), where it worked fantastically well. I put it on my Nook, too, and on my Nook the ebook had extra space between the lines.

Puzzled by this, I decided to look at some other ebooks on my Nook. Some had the extra space. Some did not.

What I discovered is that the Nook can’t handle a margin: 0; definition. It doesn’t know what to do with it. When I replaced that with…

margin-top: 0;
margin-right: 0;
margin-bottom: 0;
margin-left: 0;

…then the ebook formatted exactly like it should have, with no extra space between paragraphs. It was a puzzle, I solved it, and now I know for the future.

5. Do you like your handwriting?

I do. I enjoy writing with pen and paper. I’ve often said that writing by hand rather than at the keyboard forces different choices and produces a different quality of prose because while you can type at (or close to) the speed of thought, you can’t scratch out a word on paper at anything close to that speed. Words become more precise, thoughts become tighter.

6. Do you use sarcasm?

Absosmurfly not.

7. Do you have any kids?

No, I don’t.

8. When was the last time you cried?

Several times in the last few days, as recently as yesterday (thanks to Scott Simon’s commentary on NPR’s Weekend Edition), prompted by the story of Omran Daqneesh, the young Syrian boy who was pulled from a bombed-out home in Aleppo, Syria.

The fighting in Syria and Yemen is a subject that has occupied me greatly over the last eighteen months. I’m bothered by the refugee crisis and the fear shown by my fellow Americans toward people who need and can use our help. I watched UNICEF’s animated “Unfairy Tale” shorts about child refugees and felt utterly devastated, not only due to their plight but to my own inability to do anything meaningful to help.

9. If you were a crayon, what color would you be?

I don’t know. Turquoise Blue, maybe?

10. Do you still have your tonsils?

I do.

11. Would you bungee jump?

Possibly. It’s never come up.

12. Do you think you’re strong?

I manage.

13. What color shirt are you wearing?

Right now, I’m wearing a red t-shirt. It features Oscar the Grouch.

14. What color pants and shoes are you wearing?

Blue cargo shorts. No shoes. I wear shoes when I have to. If I don’t have to, I don’t wear shoes.

15. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?

Depends on the shoes. My work shoes, a pair of oxford-style deck shoes, I can slip on and off withut untying them. My sneakers, those I do have to tie and untie.

16. What is your favorite cereal?

Coco Wheats!

17. What is your favorite lunch meat?

Ham! No, turkey! No, roast beef! No, chicken salad! No, don’t make me choose!

18. What is your favorite ice cream?

Mint chocolate chip.

19. What is your favorite drink?

Iced tea.

20. What was the last thing you ate?

A bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream, actually.

21. Favorite smell?

Rain. The ink in a new issue of PREVIEWS. Freshly baked cookies.

22. Favorite sport to watch?

Baseball.

23. Hair color that’s real?

Black hair.

24. Eye color?

Today, they look green-gray.

25. Do you wear contacts?

I do not. I do wear glasses, though.

26. Favorite food?

Hmm. I’m not sure. It depends on what I’m in the mood for, really.

27. Scary movies or happy endings?

Happy endings.

28. Red or pink?

Why choose?

29. Summer or winter?

I like summer more. I like the sunshine and the green and the feeling of life. I like the long days and the warm nights.

30. Hugs or kisses?

Again, why choose?

31. What is on your mouse pad?

I don’t use a mousepad.

32. Who was the last person you talked to on the phone?

Someone at work. It would have been Tuesday or Wednesday. It was probably my direct supervisor or the department director. The vagueness comes from how unmemorable the conversation was. It was probably on a really trivial matter.

33. What book are you currently reading?

I’m in-between books at the moment. Next up may be Lance Parkin’s The Impossible Has Happened, his biography of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, which I received at work on Thursday. Or possibly Doctor Who: The Legends of River Song, an anthology of stories about the 51st-century archaeologist, which I also acquired recently. Or I may take a look at Tim Riley’s biography of John Lennon, which I’ve had on my to-be-read pile for about six months.

What I’ve finished recently? Steven Galloway’s The Cellist of Sarajevo, a novel based on an event during the Siege of Sarajevo twenty years ago. Nick Abadzis’ Laika, a graphic novel about Laika, the Russian dog who was sent into space in the early days of the space race. Jason Zemcik’s Leadoff Hit, a book about the Holly Spring Salamanders’ first season in the Coastal Plain League. And Ann Crispin’s Return to Yesterday, her unpublished third Zar novel. (Return to Yesterday came up in a discussion on TrekBBS recently. I hadn’t looked at the manuscript in a decade, and I read through it quickly just to remind myself.)

34. What did you watch on television last?

BrainDead on CBS last Sunday night. Tonight I’ll watch the repeat of Madame Secretary followed by the new episode of BrainDead.

35. What was the last movie you watched?

The Beatles and World War II, a reimagining of the little-seen 1970s film All This and World War II, a documentary on World War II that used vintage newsreel footage matched to covers of Beatles songs. The new film takes the idea and, using most of the same songs, uses either better footage or new footage altogether. To give you an idea, footage of Hitler is matched to “A Fool on the Hill.” The Battle of Britain is matched to “I am the Walrus.” Japan’s pre-Pearl Harbor military build-up is set to “Come Together.” Busting up German spy rings is matched to “Let It Be.” I’m still trying to process what, exactly, it was that I watched. I think I “get” it, but I’m not sure.

I’m planning on writing more extensively about this film, hopefully within the next week.

36. Favorite sound?

I’m not sure I really have one.

37. Rolling Stones or Beatles?

The Beatles.

I don’t dislike the Stones, but I never went out of my way to listen to them.

38. What are you listening to right now?

“All of the Places,” by Travis, from their new album, Everything at Once.

When I started working on this, I was listening to Die Where I Began, an album by the Will Overman Band I found on NoiseTrade on Thursday that I thought was quite nice. (I’m taken by the song “Ode to Virginia.”) After that finished, I listened to an episode of BBC Radio 3’s Sound of Cinema on James Horner from last year, inspired by a discussion on Facebook about Horner and his self-plagiarism. When that finished, I queued up Everything at Once.

Everything at Once came out a few months ago. I didn’t love it immediately as I had with some of the earlier Travis albums, but I liked it a lot. (The problem, I think, is that the songs the band used to promote the album before its release, such as the title track, were some of the weaker songs.) It’s not a groundbreaking album for the band by any means, but it has moments of magic and feels right, like a Travis album should. It also prompted me to go back and fill in two gaps in my Travis collection, Ode to J. Smith and Fran Healy’s solo album, Wreckorder.

39. What is the farthest you’ve traveled?

Las Vegas.

40. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?

Washington, DC or Edinburgh, Scotland. Though if Donald Trump is elected president, Halifax, Nova Scotia would be quite tempting.

41. If you could do anything at all, what would that be?

Something that makes the world a better place. We get one shot at life, this is the only world we have. We should leave it a better place, a happier place, a kinder place when we leave. I don’t know what that something is.

42. What is the first thing you notice about people?

Presence. That may not make sense, but that’s the only way I can describe it.

43. What is the least favorite thing about yourself?

Hmm, where to start…? No, I kid, I kid.

My least favorite thing is writing-related. I have great difficulty judging the worth of my writing, and I judge it far more harshly than it deserves. For a writer, that’s something of a death-spiral; you become trapped in a nightmare of, “This isn’t good enough, I can’t do this,” and it keeps you from moving forward.

I have some techniques that help me get around this “block.” Sometimes it’s as simple as saying, “This isn’t any good,” when I send the work off for approvals. Sometimes it takes writing in anything but Microsoft Word; writing in plain old Notepad or in an email makes the writing feel like it’s less significant, like it doesn’t need to be as important.

I have been searching for a way to be more Zen about what I write and the words I use. I haven’t found that, yet, maybe because I’m looking for it. The secret to finding Zen is to find it; you have to let Zen find you. This may be something I always struggle with.

But I know it’s there. And that’s important.

44. If you were another person, would you be friends with you?

Possibly. But, for all I know, I might irritate the heck out of me. :)

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