Friday, October 31, 2008

Jack O' Lantern Pirate V2

Okay, I thought the black plastic would work, but I decided a slice of pumpkin would be more appropriate. And yeah, I cheated -- it's tacked on with toothpicks. If I were a real sculptor, I would have carved the eye patch into the design. But since I'm not, I can live with it ...

Hallowe'en II


Before

As I have mentioned here before, Hallowe'en is my holiday. I was a horror fan as a kid. Had a buddy who was as weird as I was. We got into ghouls and ghosts. Used to run around reciting "The Raven." Once, I knew it all and could do that. We ran a spook house at a local school a couple of times -- "Feel the dead man's guts!" (boiled spaghetti). "Feel the dead man's eyeballs!" (peeled grapes). And before such things were common, I managed to get hold of some glow-in-the-dark paint used for fishing lures, coat some plastic bullets that could be shot from a spring-powered toy gun, to create my own version of tracers that would suddenly blow past somebody's face in the darkness ...

Mooooowhoooooohahahahahahaaaaaaa -- !

In addition, my son was born on Hallowe'en, and my daughter married on Hallowe'en, so there is some significance to the day around my house.

Up top, the pumpkin I'll be carving for the front stoop. I'll add the after picture when I'm done later today.

Gray and rainy out, so probably not a lot of the little spooklets coming to trick-or-treat this eve.

Come midnight, I'll be writing in my journal, which I do once a year. Been a busy year, a lot to take note of this time.

Happy Hallowe'en, you things that go bump in the night ...

After

Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom/

/Gonna shoot you right down ...

Behold the tiny flare pistol, from Berloque.

As you can see from the picture, it is small enough to fit on your keychain.

Itty-bitty as it is, using pin-fire blanks that need nimble fingers or tweezers to load, the single-shot pistol will launch a mini-flare in assorted colors -- red, white, green, yellow, like that. They claim a height of twenty-five meters, and that looked to be about right.

I bought one for my son for his birthday, and we gave it a go last night.

Comes with twenty blanks and ten flares, and while you can buy spares of both, they are pretty spendy -- couple refills of twenty-five rounds each will cost you as much as the gun.

Because the barrel of this gadget has to be drilled through so that the blank can ignite the flare as it launches, this means you can't point it at somebody because the blast will blow out through the muzzle. (It also means that if you happened to be holding a #7-1/2 BB from a shotgun shell and accidentally dropped it and it somehow fell into the muzzle and you accidentally jammed it in deeper with the little ramrod used to eject the spent blanks while trying to remove the BB, you would have a teenie-weenie smoothbore single-shot pistol.)

Not that I would ever tell you to do this. That would be dangerous, for if you then fired the pistol thus accidentally loaded in order to remove the BB, you might find that the blank charge would be sufficiently powerful enough to propel the pellet at a velocity that would punch a hole right through a cardboard box. A true mousegun.

Good luck with a barrel as long as your little fingernail trying to hit something with it, though.

An amusing toy, though, for those of you who find such things interesting.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Guilty Pleasures

We all have our guilty pleasures. Being a true son of Louisiana, one of mine is fried food. If we can fit it into the pot, we fry it down home, and nobody does it better.

If I was going to the electric chair, the first item on my last meal menu would be two pounds of fried Gulf shrimp ... what the hell, I'm gonna die anyway.

The picture is stock -- I ate the last batch I did before they could get cold -- going to fetch the camera would have taken too long.

Here's how I make mine:

Take two pounds of shrimp. (Serves two, if one isn't very hungry.) Shell them yourself and leave a bit of the tail shell on, or if you can't get fresh ones, you can get a bag from Costco.

There are two tricks to making them Louisiana-style. First is the batter.

There are all kinds of ways to make this. Some people mix it up wet, some do a wash and roll them into dry ingredients, some do double-coating. What works best for me is to blend an egg with milk or cream -- Half-and-Half works -- with a whisk in a bowl. Drop ten or twelve shrimp into this at a time and work them around. You can add a dash of Tabasco if you want.

My breading: Half a cup of white flour. Half a cup of corn flour. Half a cup of medium-ground cornmeal. A dash of whole-wheat flour or pancake mix. A tablespoon of Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning. Dash of lemon pepper. Put the dry ingredients into a big plastic bag.

Pour a bottle of cooking oil into a deep pot. You'll need most of a big bottle -- doesn't matter if it is corn, peanut, or canola oil, though olive oil tends to burn at the temperature you need.

Use a big burner on your stove and crank the heat all the way up. The oil has to be hot before you start cooking, that's the second trick. To test it, drop a pinch of your breading into it. When it bubbles and hisses, the oil is ready. If you drop a shrimp into it and the critter falls to the bottom and bubbles not, that's bad.

Put the shrimp into the plastic bag, close the top -- this is important -- CLOSE THE TOP -- and shake things up until the shrimp are coated with the flour-meal-seasoning mix.

Remove the shrimp from the bag and put them into the hot oil. Be careful whilst you do else you will fry your hand.

Let them cook for a minute, then stir them. You can use a slotted steel spoon, but I have a tool that looks like a round spatula full of holes I like. Something that will allow you to reach under and lift the shrimp but allow the oil to drip back into the pot. A fry basket will work if you have one. You don't need to turn them over if the oil is deep enough and you need at least three inches in the bottom of the pot.

Time varies as the oils get hotter and the volume decreases. It can run three or four minutes, sometimes more. Best way to judge them is by color. (Note that shrimp with corn meal in the batter take longer to get dark than those cooked in flour alone. You want a nice golden color. Deep brown here means they are overcooked.)

When they are done, lift them out, put them on something to soak up the excess oil. You can use newspaper, brown paper bags, or some combination thereof, with a paper towel pressed on top. I like to stack a couple days worth of newspaper, and as each batch of cooked shrimp comes out, slide them onto a dry section and toss the oil-soaked one.

If you are feeling particularly healthy and can afford to ruin it, you can do some onion rings using the same method. Better to double-dip these, or use a wet batter, but they'll work okay doing them the same way as the shrimp.

You can use plain ketchup, tartar sauce, or cocktail sauce as a condiment. I make the last by mixing ketchup, mustard, Tabasco, horse radish, a dash of soy sauce, and lemon juice. Not too hot but if you like it that way, it's easy to heat up.

This process, by the by, is messy. Your house will smell like fried shrimp, there will be oil and flour and cornmeal dust hither and yon. You'll burn up four bucks worth of oil and while you can strain it and re-use it for frying again, you probably won't -- I never do, having gotten all the fried I'm allowed for at least a month.

Your arteries will clog if you do this too often. It is a rare indulgence for me these days, but I sure do enjoy it when I give in to my addiction.

Bon appetit!

John Cleese - on Sarah Palin

Proctoscope Blues



Which Picture is Scarier ... ?

Van Harn sent me a funny bit by Dave Barry on his colonoscopy. For those of you who are unaware of what this is, it is a form of endoscopy in which the colon is examined in some detail. The colon, being within one's body, is accessed by means of a long tube with a camera in it via the rectal opening.

Yeah. They shove a long tube up your butt and it's lights! camera! action!

Barry's article is hilarious.

Medical humor, like that of cops and reporters and hangmen, tends to the dark side. Things that involve death, dismemberment, and assorted body fluids that people in the ER think are funny don't always play in Peoria, but here's one ...

Back in the day when I was working in the medical field, there was a similar procedure, though not as in-depth, a proctoscopic exam. Shorter tube, no camera, to view the last section of bowel before it reached the dump, and this was something the doctors at the Family Practice clinic where I worked routinely did.

I have been on the back side of this tube, assisting.

Preparation for the patient undergoing this procedure is the same as for the colonoscopy -- clear liquids only for a day before, and a laxative purging, both to provide a clear field. Because you know what is normally in residence.

Our scope came equipped with a surgical rubber tube attached to a drain, which was connected on the other end to a vacuum pump feeding a large jar, in case there were -- um -- dregs the diet and such missed.

One bright and sunny day, Dr. X had a patient sceduled. Man came in, put on the gown, kneeled upon the motorized table and was positioned arse-up for the event. The nurse handed the KY-ed scope to Dr. X .

Thing was, the patient hadn't done the prep and very quickly, Dr. X -- ah -- struck oil.

Cursing as the flow commenced, Dr. X yelled, "Turn on the pump, quick!"

And the assistant -- not me, fortunately -- did so. Which was fine, except that thirty seconds after the rescue unit cranked up, the motor seized and the pump died.

If ever a man needed an endoscope pump to be in working order, Dr. X did at that moment, but alas ...

The result of which was that Dr. X demonstrated a remarkable ability in his command of Anglo-Saxon -- and had to change his shoes, his pants, and his shirt. Plus the floor, table and the very walls had to be cleaned. It does not inspire confidence in patients when they enter a surgical room and notice that there is a funny smell, and, say ... what's that spot on the ceiling there ... ?

On my lunch hour, once I was able to control my hysterical laughter, I composed a song for Dr. X entitled "Proctoscope Blues." Lost, alas, to the vagaries of time, I thought it might be one of the funniest things I had ever written: "I got the proctoscope blues baby, got feces all over my shoes ..."

Oddly enough, Dr. X didn't think it was funny at all.

Of course, this was the same man who invited half the office to his house for dinner once, to demonstrate his new turkey smoker. He put a twenty-five pound bird in the device -- it took three days to properly cook the thing -- but forgot to turn it on. Imagine his surprise -- and ours -- when he opened it to find a raw turkey that had been at room temperature for three days ...

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Brass Verdict

Novelist Michael Connelly has a couple of series. One concerns an L.A. cop, Hieronymous (Harry) Bosch. Bosch has played in a dozen books, and I got hooked on him early and look forward to his new adventures. Man has a hard life, personally and professionally, and is always a treat to follow around for the course of an investigation.

The second series -- only up to two so far -- concerns Mickey Haller, who showed up in The Lincoln Lawyer -- so named because he conducts his law practice out of an automobile of the same name. Three of them, actually.

The Brass Verdict concerns Haller, son of a famous local lawyer, whose criminal defense practice has been on hold for a year as he struggles back from being gut-shot and addicted to pain pills. He's lost his wife, who has custody of their daughter, and is just about ready to get back into the swing of things when an on-again-off-again friend and colleague, Jerry Vincent, is murdered, and Haller is tapped to take over his practice.

There has been a double murder, Haller's inherited client, a studio owner in LaLaLand stands accused, and things go to hell and gone in a big hurry.

This time, Connelly adds a bit of spice -- Haller is the viewpoint character, but he quickly runs into Harry Bosch -- and they don't exactly get along ...

Connelly's characterization is always fun, the plot turns get as twisty as a nest of snakes on speed, and I didn't have a dull moment tagging along for the ride.

Basically a legal thriller, and probably more a procedural than anything else, it's well worth the trip. I confess that I like Harry Bosch better -- he's a tougher, rougher hero, but Haller is a clever lad and interesting in his own way.

Knee Three

Under the After

And, of course, two of the three Steri-Strips pulled right off as I changed the bandage, and my stock of those is long-gone so I'll have to find some more ...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Under the Knife

Before and After

Bright and early yesterday morning, I hied myself on down to the orthopodery and went under the high-tech knife. This would be a minor and partial meniscusectomy, in which a torn flap of gristle that has been giving me pain in the knee for the past few months got excised.

To spare the sensibilities of some of my queasier readers, I'll refrain from an overly graphic description of the procedure, which I didn't get to watch anyway, alas. Instead of a local or a spinal block, they did a general. (Probably not a worry, since many of my readers are fans of zombie movies and gore-hounds, but still ...)

Those backless nightgowns have gone high-tech, too. I was issued one, double-layered paper. Had a hole in one side, looked like the opening for a vacuum cleaner's bag. Once in bed, with my little food-server's cap on, a hose was attached to the gown, and warm air was pumped in, so I was all nice and toasty.

In my curtained cubicle, I listened to the patients on either side as they talked to assorted doctors and nurses and was most happy that the only thing medically amiss with me was the knee. These poor women to my left and right had a litany of problems that had to be taken into account for their surgeries.

My orthopod is a sports guy, and does a lot of knees -- he had done two before I got there and the women to either sides were more of the same. I gave the doc copies of Battle Surgeon and Jedi Healer to read. Apparently he likes country music, that's what they played in the OR, though I didn't get to hear it. My anesthesiologist came in, pumped a couple of syringes of green and orange stuff into my IV, and by the time I got to the OR, I was in a real good mood: Fentanyl Cocktail -- ask for it by name. Had time for a quick look at the ceiling, a couple of jokes with the surgical nurses, and --

-- then I woke up back in my cubicle. Because I hadn't eaten anything since Wednesday night, and had been NPO even for liquids for twelve hours, I didn't even have any nausea. Amazing.

A small parade of medical folks came in and out, telling me how everything went swimmingly well. A moderate tear in the meniscus, whatever that means, snipped, and after some recovery time, I should be good to go back to where I was before. In theory.

In the morning, out by noon, easy, no muss, no fuss.

My wife brought the car round, we came home, I crutched it into the house and hooked up the ice machine. This toy, an upgrade on the Ace and ice pack, is a motorized and electronic box one fills with ice and water, connected to a Velcro wrap that circulates the cold liquid and squeezes the enwrapped limb rather like a blood pressure cuff. Cycle runs half an hour, and the sports folk are all over it. Called Game Ready, and it really seems to work. I got a brochure for it when I scheduled the surgery, but probably wouldn't have gone for it, except that my doctor thought it was the cat's pajamas and wrote me a prescription for it. They sent somebody to my house with the unit and showed me how to use it. It's rental, I have it for a couple of weeks, and insurance covers most of it, so what the heck. I'm impressed with it so far. Really helps with the pain and swelling.

After the injection into the knee during surgery wore off, it was a tad uncomfortable, but they also gave me a script for some of those Rush-Limbaugh-addicting-pills in case I needed them. So far, ibuprofen seems to be enough, but it's nice to have the option. I'm already able to totter around the house without the crutches, a cane, just in case.

So, another day or so, I change the bandage, wash the sticky goop off my leg, and within a few weeks, should be back to what passes for normal. No leg work at silat, but I should be good to drive there by next class and sit around to watch.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Momento Mori

Out walking the dogs at noon and my neighbor two doors down stopped me. Had I heard about Diane whose house was between ours?

No.

Well, she died yesterday.

Shocked me, the revelation. She was seventy, and once upon a time, that seemed a goodly age, but not so much when you are less than a decade away from it yourself.

Been sick for a while, went into the hospital, got better, came home, went to a nursing facility because she needed skilled care, and passed away unexpectedly.

We weren't close, but she was next door when we moved to this house more than twenty-five years ago. We smiled and spoke when we saw each other, our dogs barked at each other through the back fence. We went through having old and ill dogs, and lamented about that to each other. She had lost a husband just before we moved in. Met a man she liked, and they got married a few years back. Had two grown sons.

And now she's gone.

In ancient Rome, so the story goes, the victorious generals who marched through the streets to celebrate their triumphs on the field of battle had special servants whose job it was, now and then, to step up close and remind them that they were going to die. Momento mori, it was called -- a reminder of death.

Whatever is going on in the stock market or one's personal life, all it takes is for somebody you know to keel over dead to put it into perspective, and render up the validity of another Latin phrase: Carpe diem.

Seize the day. You have only a finite number of them, and that number decreases from the first breath that you draw ...

On the Vanity of Earthly Greatness

The tusks which clashed in mighty brawls
Of mastodons, are billiard balls.

The sword of Charlemagne the Just
Is Ferric Oxide, known as rust.

The grizzly bear, whose potent hug,
Was feared by all, is now a rug.

Great Caesar's bust is on the shelf,
And I don't feel so well myself.

-- Arthur Guiterman

Working Dog


One of Jude's duties is to make sure the water in the hot tub doesn't get too deep ...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fall Arrives

Beautiful day out there today in my neighborhood -- clear, sunny, sixty-nine degrees. And the foliage on the tree in the neutral ground on my street, fire in the sky ...

The rains will come, but today is as good a day to be walking around alive outside as any.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Place Your Bets, Ladies and Gentlemen, Place Your Bets ...

Oregon, being a progressive state in the main, and as blue as teenage boy's balls during a slow dance near the end of the prom, we have a vote-by-mail system. You get your ballot. You read the voter's pamphlet, you see who is for the measures and against them, pick your candidate, and mark your choices in the privacy of your own home.

We usually get a bunch of measures, local, country, and state. We have some professional ne'er-do-wells here who spend all their time gathering signatures to put ballots on the tickets. (Some measures are, of course, valid and necessary. Many are repressive and mean-spirited. There is one local fellow, name of Sizemore, who always manages to get two or three measures validated enough to make the cut. A recent letter to the editor of the newspaper in Portland had a wonderful line in it about how people didn't give the guy enough credit -- his name on a measure was very useful -- like the skull-and-crossbones on a bottle of poison, the letter said. If he is fer it, I can guarantee you I am agin it.)

What this mail stuff means is that we get to vote early. I filled out my ballot today, and will either mail or drop it off tomorrow, and my vote in this election will be done.

What I would like to see is a swing back to the left for a bit. A Democratic President and House and Senate in the United States, so that we can maybe get a few of our civil liberties back -- getting a little less of Big Brother in our libraries and book stores, and off the unseen phone extension and email would be refreshing. Stopping the stupid fucking war. National health insurance for our poor folks. Maybe balancing out a few key judges and making the rich folks pay more of their share of taxes. Staving off international bankruptcy, like that.

If Obama wins, I'm not naive enough to believe that he's the cure for all that ails us, but he will, I believe, at least make the attempt to treat the causes. Better than blowing smoke, flashing mirrors, and hoping that voodoo economics and jingositic Imperialism will do the trick. They've been trying that for the last eight years and if it hasn't worked by now, it ain't gonna.

The D's will almost certainly want some payback for what the R's did when the Current Occupant and his party swaggered into power. That's to be expected and, I think, understandable. I hope they won't do too much of it -- the country is in deep shit and needs everybody to lend a hand to get us out. A little slap across the face, maybe two or three, and then move on.

I hope that, come Wednesday morning early November, that, soundly defeated, John McCain goes back to Arizona, and Sarah Palin goes back to her igloo, and that the day will dawn a little brighter over the country. Even just a little would be better.

I've done my part to make that happen. Be sure and do yours.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Depressing Songs

At Powell's Books yesterday, and came across, on the sale table, the title: I hate Myself And Want to Die: The 52 Most Depressing Songs You've Ever Heard, by Tom Reynolds.

Okay, so normally, I'm not much on arch criticism, but now and then, I succumb, and this was one of those times. I picked it up. My wife was still shopping, so I found a chair and started reading, thinking I'd leave it behind when she showed up.

I didn't leave it, though.

Reynolds, who is listed as a former country-western deejay and technical director of the sketch comedy group, The Groundlings, is snide and snippy in his lambasting of what he offers as the most downbeat songs, but is redeemed because now and then, the comments are funny.

If you are Mark Twain eviscerating Fenimore Cooper and can make me laugh out loud, you have my blessing to be as snide as you want. This isn't Twain, but Reynolds has his moments.

The literary guests at Powell's Beavo yesterday were Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, just on the other side of a bookcase from me, and I was laughing as I read. Barry and Pearson were funny, too, but my laughs were out-of-synch, and I'm sure somebody wondered who the unseen idiot was behind the writers who was either too quick or too slow to laugh at what they were saying ...

Reynolds offers divisions: I Was A Teenage Car Crash; I Hate Myself And Want To Die; I’m Trying To Be Profound And Touching But Really Suck At It; If I Sing About Drugs, People Will Take Me Seriously; She Hates Me I Hate Her; Horrifying Remakes of Already Depressing Songs; I'm Telling a Story Nobody Wants to Hear; I Had No Idea That Song was so Morbid; I Mope, Therefore I Am; and Perfect Storm.

He takes his choices in each category, breaks them down into a history, what the songs are about, and why he finds them depressing. Sometimes it is the material, sometimes, the delivery, sometimes a combination.

As in all such things, he is going to stick somebody's sacred cows, but he had me when the first ones he offered were a trio of what I've always called Teenage Death Songs -- Tell Laura I Love Her; Teen Angel, and Last Kiss. Same chords, same sequence, same speed, same story, Last Kiss is catchy enough that I started humming the intro and couldn't get it out of my head the rest of the day. Even now ...

Some of the inductees were #1 hits, by the by, and he skewers not just bad singers, but really good ones. Under the Horrifying Remakes section, for instance, there are six entries: All by Myself, by Celine Dion; Without You, by Mariah Carey; I Will Always Love You, by Whitney Houston; Landslide, by Smashing Pumpkins; and Send in the Clowns, by Everybody ...

One could argue about the placings -- I think Honey, by Bobby Goldsboro should be a notch or two higher than #3. And DOA, by Bloodrock should be in the top five, and only makes it to #6. A song about a guy killed in a plane crash -- from his point of view. Bloodrock, being a one-hit wonder, had to sing this dirge every time they were on stage and quickly got sick of it. They started telling their audiences they just weren't going to do it any more, and their audience disappeared like soap bubbles in the hot sunshine. What a shame.

Beth, by Kiss? A song about a guy telling his girl he's going to be late getting home from band practice? Are you kidding me? Band practice?

Two of the Dishonorable Mentions who didn't make the list and who should have -- Patches, about a guy on his way to commit suicide because his poor girlfriend killed herself when he callously dumped her; and Wildfire, about a girl who freezes to death in a blizzard while searching for her lost pony. She ran calling Wiiiiildfire!

His top choice? The Christmas Shoes, by Newsong, and I confess, I missed the story, song, book, and Movie of the Week all made for this one, and from his description, glad that I did. It's a song about a little boy who goes to buy his dying mother a pair of shoes so she'll look good when she meets Jesus, only he doesn't have enough money when he's checking out. Doesn't that sound like a real cheery subject? What kind of father sends his kid to the store alone on such a chore while his mother is dying, Reynolds wonders, and doesn't give him enough money? And are shoes really a deal-breaker for getting into Heaven?

Okay, so I'm flacking a guilty pleasure here, but if you come across this one, you might be warped enough to enjoy it, too.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Disingenuous

Years ago, before martial arts really got rolling in pop USA culture anywhere close to where it is now, I knew a guy who opened a "kung-fu" school in a small town in southwestern Louisiana. The Kung-Fu TV series had just premiered, so this would have been about 1972.

He had to put an electric fence around the place to keep the enrollment manageable. They were beating down the doors and throwing money at him. He wasn't just the only game in town, he was the only game in the state.

Thirty-five years ago, you didn't see much kung-fu outside of the coastal Chinatowns, and  only a few places were teaching round-eyes. Only two open-enrollment schools I had ever seen personally up until then had been when I lived in L.A. -- Jimmy Woo's, on, I think, Sunset Blvd., and Bruce Lee -- by then being taught mostly by Dan Inosanto. There was a guy in New Orleans, but he was a fraud -- I saw him do a demo where he badly injured a student; and there was a black guy in Houston who was legit, but nobody in Louisiana.

"Kung-fu" is in parentheses because the guy about whom I am talking did have a black belt in karate, but knew zip about the Chinese arts. I figured he watched a few episodes of Kwai Chang Caine, added in a few circular moves to what he knew, and presto! he became Master Po.

Or maybe Master Po'boy, given the locale ...

I knew the guy and had seen his karate stuff. I lost track of him for a couple of months when he went off to visit a girlfriend out of state. When he came back, he had suddenly turned into the Louisiana version of Caine, shaved head, Shaolin suit and all. (We've had guys do that in silat. Students with year or two of training who go off to Java for a few weeks and come back as certified pendekars. Must be something in the water there that allows such a miraculous ability.)

Master Po'Boy wasn't the only guy to jump on that bandwagon. There were a bunch of schools that had been teaching karate that suddenly discovered they'd mastered kung-fu and repainted their signs to reflect this new knowledge when the TV series took off. (Later, these same folks found some ninja training in their checkered pasts, too, and then combative this and mixed martial art that, whatever was the flavor of the month. Some were just hard-fudging -- they took a few seminars and added that to what they knew. Some were outright frauds who picked it all up watching TV or subtitled Jackie Chan movies. Print up some impressively-decorated certificates with Chinese characters and a crane and dragon, voila! you da man.)

I went down to see this kung-fu school and sat in on one of this guy's classes. He had the Master Po rap, too. Never called his students grasshoppers, but did everything but.

He had sprung for the total package: At a time when long hair had become the norm, he shaved his head. Nobody else I knew except Yul Brynner had done that. He had a tattoo of the yin-yang symbol on his chest. He wore a frog-closure, black kung-fu shirt on the street, not just to class, making him the only white guy to do so in six states in any direction. He was fond of long, eagle-eyed stares and slow takes, and he had worked on his enigmatic smile. Guy was passing smart, and he hammed it up real good. All he needed was somebody following him around with a flute, playing the theme from the Carradine TV series.

So, I watched. We talked. I knew him from way back, I had done a fair amount of training at that point, relative to my age, and during our discussion, he looked at me and sighed theatrically. "My students," he said, shaking his head, "put me on a pedestal. They idolize me. I don't want that. I can't understand why they do it."

I thought I was gonna have a heart attack I laughed so hard. "Bullshit!" I said. He really didn't like hearing that. He wasn't what he claimed, but he truly worked the disguise to the limit. If his students hadn't worshiped the ground he walked on, he would have been outraged. Or crushed.

I had a similar discussion once with a woman who looked like a Vaughn Bode cartoon elf -- she was short, cute, busty, wore tight shirts and short-shorts, and flirted like a stadium full of geishas tanked on sake with every male she met between the ages of nine and ninety. During a discussion regarding the husband of a woman she knew who had made a pass at her, she looked at me all doe-eyed and said, "Why do men keep hitting on me? I don't want that! I don't understand!"

"Honey, please!" I said to her. Oh, she didn't like hearing that,. (And there were three other people involved in the conversation who didn't like it, either. How could I be so mean?)

Disingenuous. These are examples of what the title of this post means.

There is a lot of it going around these days. Pay attention or you might get fooled ...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Heat Lightning

Fans of John Sandford and John Camp's novels -- they are the same guy -- know that he has three series running. The Lucas Davenport books, most of which have "Prey" in the title; then the Jason Kidd novels; and most recently, a couple about one of Davenport's guys on the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, said agency which may be as fine a play on words as I've seen in mystery novels.

Dark of the Moon and most recently, Heat Lightning, concern, as Prey readers all know him, "that fuckin' Flowers." Virgil Flowers, who likes punk rock band T-shirts, wears his blond hair long, and is a serial marry-er. Like the other guys in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Virgil likes to fish, drink beer, and get laid, and he does all of those in his second outing, while chasing after a serial killer.

The story starts off with a murder, there are a bunch more along the way, and it is twisty enough to keep most readers guessing until the Aha! moment close to the end. You will suspect before then whodunnit if you are paying attention. He gives fair clues. 

Any of Sandford/Camp's books are worth reading, and if you can find them in paperback, start with the beginning and watch as Davenport grows -- it's quite the arc over twenty books or so.
Be interesting to see if he gives that-fuckin'-Flowers the same depth if he keeps these up.

Good read. Gets the gun stuff right. And when he was a reporter, he won the Pulitzer Prize.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Set Phasers on Kill

Today, children, we take up the subject of homonyms.

What's that, Johnny? No, no, those aren't words used to describe queers. They are words that sound alike, but are spelled differently, and can have different meanings. Like, "to" and "two," or "see," and "sea." They are words that make developing voxware for your computer an interesting challenge.

Some authorities also include words that are spelled and pronounced the same but have different meanings, such as "pole," and "pole," or spelled alike but pronounced differently and with different meanings, such as "read," and "read." Johnny can pole a raft, on his way to visit his friend Herumin the Pole. Or, Johnny can read his assignment or Johnny has already read his assignment, which, as we all know, is wishful thinking, because Johnny is more likely to sprout wings and fly than do his fracking homework ...

But never mind that. Back to the subject at hand.

Today's words are "phase," and "faze." Just yesterday, I saw a book in which the writer, editor, and copy editor allowed one of these homonyms to slip by. Shame on them.

"Phase," has to do with a period of time, or a stage of development. Such as "phase of the moon," or what teenagers do when their parents are desperate to try and explain their foolish behavior. "It's just a phase she's going through." (Please, God!)

"Faze," means to affect something or somebody, usually negatively. "The sight of the gun pointed at him didn't faze Biff." Use of the term "phased," would be incorrect here -- unless, of course, the gun was in Captain Kirk's hand and he missed the shot. In which case Biff could be both "unfazed," and "unphased ..."

Writers sometimes mistake one of these words for the other.

They should knot do this ...

Look! Up in the Sky! It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's ...


Superman vs. Hollywood: How Fiendish Producers, Devious Directors, and Warring Writers Grounded an American Icon.

This book, by Jake Rossen, details the adventures of the man of steel in LaLaLand, i.e., upon the silver screen, the tube, and radio, along with some interesting tidbits from the comic books and even the internet.

According to Harlan Ellison, there are five characters that resonate across the world:
Mickey Mouse, Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood, and Superman. Growing up, the choice was to tie a towel around my neck and leap off the roof, or climb high up in the willow tree and do the yell. I did both ...

If you are a fan of Supe, you will enjoy this work, and I expect, you will learn something you didn't know -- I've been reading and watching Supe/Clark/Kal-el for more than fifty years, and I can recite the opening of the TV show starring George Reeves verbatim (dramatically, too) and there is a slew of stuff here I never knew.

Check it out.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

October Set

When you play an instrument, you sometimes put together sets of songs, as in, if I had to fill an hour or so singing and playing, what would I offer? Currently, here is the October set upon which I have been working ...

Bell Bottom Blues
Can’t Get Used to Losin’ You
One Toke Over the Line
Daydream Believer
Political Science
Layla
Hotel California
Lola
Walk Away Renee
We Just Disagree
Year of the Cat
Hallelujah
Angel from Montgomery
Sail Away
Way Down in the Hole
The Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down
Dixie (Instrumental)
The Weight
Blackbird
In My Life
Yesterday (Inst.)
Here Comes the Sun (Inst.)
Hey, Jude (Inst.)

Not necessarily in this order, but that's the set ...

Nice Try, Son ...


Now and then, I get fan mail. Sometimes it is to tell me they liked what wrote. Sometimes, it is to tell me I made a mistake in my text and what it was. Sometimes, the mail is a mistake -- they want the rock singer from Journey. Now and then, I get one that takes me task because the reader didn't like what I wrote. My favorite of these was a guy who went on for two pages in detail telling me what a stupid, badly-written story I had told, but ended it with a P.S. saying that he was looking forward to my next book. In that case my royalty on the book amounted to $0.32 -- my percentage of the cover price -- so I mailed that amount to him and told him not to bother reading any more of my stuff.

Sometimes, I get queries from students who are writing book reports, and they want answers to questions they can't find, so they ask directly. I got one of those today. See if you can spot the fun part of the questions the student asked. The names of the kid, school, and city are omitted to protect the guilty .
_______________________

Dear Mr. Perry:

I am an eigtht grader in Xxx Xxxxxx, Xx. I am working on a book report on Titan A.E. Part of my syllabus requires information that I have not been able to find anywhere. I am hoping that you can assist me by answering the following:

Date of Birth:

Where did you live when this novel was written?

Describe the social "climate" of the decade prior to the book's publication. What was happening with the government, with other countries, and with society in general that you viewed as a "problem", for example, racism, women's rights, abortion rights, etc. Please provide SPECIFIC occurrences and events.

Your response would be most appreciated and helpful!

Respectfully,
Xxxxxx Xxxxx
8th Grader
Pre-AP Language Arts
Xxxxxx Middle School
_________________

If I'd had access to the internet when I was in junior high, this is the kind of thing I'd have done -- Hey, mister! Would you write my report for me ... ?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Star Wars Deleted Scene

You gotta love this:


Going to the Candidates Debate ...

Okay, the final presidential candidates debate is tonight, Wednesday, October 15th, 2008. If you haven't made a decision by now, I don't expect you've really been paying attention to the state of the world, and have been sitting on your brains. How could you not?  But: if you haven't chosen because you were shipwrecked on an island, or exploring Mars, you should turn on your TV at six p.m. Eastern Time in the U.S. and have a look at Obama and McCain. The past and the future are going to be there.

If you are already firm in your selection, it probably won't change your mind, but it won't hurt to see what the two men have to say and how they say it.

Every election, there is blather about how it is the most important one in years or decades. This time, it's true. Our country has been in the toilet and swirling widdershins for eight years. It's time for us to climb out and take a shower. We ought to be better than we are.

If you are a citizen of the United States of America, it is part of your obligation to engage in the process of voting. Cast your ballot. Be heard. Be part of the solution and not part of the problem. If you don't, you don't get to bitch if you don't like how things are going. If you don't think it matters, you are wrong. It does.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Legal, Moral, Ethical

So a quick discussion of legal, moral, and ethical. Brought on by a couple of things in the news of late. 1) The commission report on Sarah Palin's firing of her Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, allegedly because he wouldn't fire her ex-brother-in-law Mike Wooten from the state police, and 2) The anti-Palin T-shirt sported recently that cannot be shown on basic cable TV because it uses one of George Carlin's famous Seven Words. (It says, "Sarah Palin is a Cunt," for those of you for whom that reference is too subtle.)

Legal, first. Legal concerns the law, and carries the force of punishment for disobedience. Not all laws are aimed at morality or ethics per se, and the ideal law protects its citizens without harming any.

It is illegal to run a stop sign in your automobile or upon your bike. At three a.m. on a clear stretch of highway with no other traffic in sight, a lot of people will roll through the sign, because in that instance, stopping isn't protecting anybody in practice -- albeit does in principle.

If there is a traffic cop parked there at three a.m., and you see him, chances are you won't run the sign because you will, in all probability, get an expensive ticket if you do, even though there was no real risk to anybody. The law applies 24/7.

The law doesn't always allow you to substitute your judgement for that of the legislature, even though yours might be better at times. If they make an exception for you, then somebody else will want the same right, and his judgement might not be as good as yours: Yeah, yeah, I saw the truck coming, but I knew I could make it, so it was okay to run the sign ...

"Moral" concerns right and wrong. There are things that are illegal, but not immoral, and vice-versa. If the government says you may not have sex with your spouse in certain ways that neither your SO nor you mind, then it is, not to put too fine a point on it, none of their fucking business. Pun intended.

Murder, robbery, like that, are crimes because they offend our collective morality, and we believe they are intrinsically bad.

"Ethics" goes to the systems one uses in determining and applying morality. I like the definition that morality is what you do when nobody can see you. That you do the right thing even if nobody would know if you didn't.

If you found a quarter on the sidewalk, probably you'd pick it up and put it in your pocket, and nobody would find that particularly heinous. If you likewise spotted a ten dollar bill fluttering past and claimed it, same deal. If, however, you came across a big grocery bag full of used hundred dollar bills and decided to keep it? Is that legal, moral, or ethical by most standards?

And -- if nobody saw you, if you knew you could get away with it, would you do it? Is it right or wrong? That's where morality and ethics come in.

That brings us to situational ethics, too, another whole can of vermis vulgaris ...

But, back to Palin. Was she within her legal rights to fire her commissioner? Absolutely. Cabinet-level officers serve at the pleasure of the governor, and she can fire any or all of them because it's Tuesday and partly-cloudy, and not offer a word of explanation. Legally. Politically it might be wise to offer a good reason, so you don't seem capricious, and piss off the voters, but that's another subject.

Morally and ethically? If she did so because the guy wouldn't roll over on a personal vendetta to get rid of the ex-brother-in-law? Slipperier territory, that. At the very least, it makes her look petty and vindictive, at worst, it trips over ethical statutes that apply to politicians and have yet to be decided. More importantly, I think, it offers a window into her character: If that's how she rolls, do we want her a heartbeat away from The Red Button that Will Make the Rubble Dance?

Put me in the Hell-no! column. Governor Palin strikes me as mean-spirited, small-minded, vindictive, a religious crank, and a scientific illiterate. Any of those are reasons for me to vote against her. Altogether, they are overwhelmingly so.

The T-shirt. Is is legal? Yes. Is it moral and ethical? Well, freedom of speech and all, and maybe, but it is in poor taste, certainly does more harm to the opposition's cause than good, and is bush-league -- another pun -- and lame. (I confess I like the more clever T-shirt/bumper sticker pictured above. At least there is some humor in it.)

The line is sometimes thin and sketchy, but the cunt-T-shirt steps over it. Bad idea.

Going to Hell, Part Seventeen

We've already determined that if there is a Hell, I'm goin' there, so one more brick on the load won't make any difference. And I have a warped sense of humor, so ...




Sunday, October 12, 2008

Miracle Heaters ...

So there are all kinds of ads out now for the "miracle" heaters, a product of some Chinese genius, apparently. The latest incarnation includes an Amish cabinet you can roll from room to room.

The Amish only make the cabinet, which would have to be the case, given they don't do electricity. Which makes the picture accompanying the ad less than truthful.

Apparently, most of the ad is similarly misleading.

The big claim is that it saves money, but the catch is, you have to turn off your other heat and keep only one room at a time warm. If you buy enough units to keep every room in your house warm, it will cost way more than central heat, gas or electric.

The part I most like is the ad in today's paper that explains how the things works. It's kind of technical, but here goes: Cold air goes in, and warm air comes out!

That's how they explain it. Isn't that amazing? I nearly spewed my coffee through my nose when I read that.

What it is is an electric heater with a fan, you can get them a lot cheaper down at K-Mart ...

P.T. Barnum was right: There's a sucker born every minute.

Tape

So, I was on Amazon.com and posting my review there of the Underwood/Due/Barnes novel I did here on ye olde blogge and came across my review of a product I once bought there that I had forgotten I'd done. I thought it would be fun to put it up here, just to show that my range is all over the map ...
________________

5.0 out of 5 stars It's Tape, for Pete's Sake! November 9, 2006
Yeah, yeah, how exciting is tape? But for certain applications, some are better than others. I do martial arts, which involves a lot of punching and grabbing, and I have jammed my thumbs so many times I have no connective tissue left in the proximal joints, especially on the left. I can sprain that taking my sock off.

I've tried a bunch of splints designed for this -- it's called "gamekeeper's thumb," or "skier's thumb" -- and they just don't hold up when you whack them. The Absolute Waterproof, when wrapped carefully around the joint and anchored with a loop around my hand, stays on and offers good support for a typical hour-and-a-half class, which gets both active and sweaty. It's stretchy enough to allow some give, and still keep the joint stable.

If you have this problem, this stuff is great. I buy it by the case, and use about half a roll total each class. Cheap insurance ...
_________________

Maybe later, if anybody is interested, I'll do a little how-to vid of the way I apply the tape to support my thumbs and fingers for MA players who might have the same problem with jamming fingers. Works very well for me.

Guess Who Has Fallen Behind in the Polls ...

Too soon to call, and thus risk the ire of the gods, but one should enjoy the small moments when they happen. If the U.S. presidential election were held today, it would -- the Bradley Effect aside -- be Obama by 6%, (plus or minus about 3%.)

One hopes the momentum will keep going in that direction, one does ...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Thursday, October 09, 2008

I Got the Low Down Dirty Medial Meniscus Blues ...


So, back in late May when I was doing PT for my shoulder, one of the exercises was to kneel on the floor and throw a weighted rubber ball at a mini-trampoline angled so the ball would bounce back. It was throw, catch, and repeat, using the whole torso to make the toss. 

During this exercise, I noticed a twinge in my right knee, but being a long-time jock, thought nothing of it. I have been straining this or pulling that forever, and what's a twinge?

But, it got worse. I dunno if it was from that exercise per se, or if it only exacerbated something already there, but I went into RICE mode (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation), along with Ibuprofen. I babied it. Wore a knee brace if there was any chance of torque, avoided as best I could doing anything that caused pain and possible further injury.

It didn't go away. I could walk okay, but any twisting, and it felt as if somebody had stabbed me in the knee with an ice pick.

I ramped up the conservative treatment: Ice, then heat, Ibuprofen, MSM, glucosamine, balor, even DMSO gel. The pain localized a bit to the medial side.

I was never very good at all the physical exam tests one does to check a bad knee -- Lachman's, McMurray's, anterior drawer, like that -- some of these require that you be lying down and somebody yanking or pulling hither and yon, so it's hard to do by yourself anyhow. The ones I could manage that made it hurt made me think it was the meniscus, and medial, i.e., to the inside. Could have been ACL -- might still be some involvement there, but if I were betting, I'd go MM.

I wore a double knee-brace to silat class -- neoprene sleeve under a strap-on job with hinged metal braces down the sides, and stepped with care. Did a lot of sweeping with my left foot. Skipped some of the groundwork.

Finally sucked it up went to see my primary care doctor. She tugged and twisted and allowed as how she thought it was the meniscus, which was good and bad. Good, because it confirmed my diagnosis. Bad because if such a thing doesn't get better after a few months, then you are talking orthopedist, MRI and ... Mr. Arthroscope Comes to Dinner. Took X-rays, which don't show any of this stuff, to rule out arthritis.

Well, it's been four months, and outside a straight hinge move, the icepick stab is still there. The wait-and-see method has passed "wait," and come to "see." So now, it's gather up X-rays and off to the orthopod's for me ...

Odd, that in forty-some years of martial arts training and practice, I have had only a couple of injuries of note. Early on, I cracked an ankle doing Okinawa-te. Eight years ago, I tore a calf muscle in a cold garage because I didn't warm up properly. Lot of bruises, a couple of busted lips and jammed and sprained fingers, but not so much considering four decades of thumping and bumping.

The torn rotator cuff I got from tossing my grandson into the air and catching him. The knee seems to be from doing exercises to rehabilitate the shoulder ...

No irony here.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Jesu

One more tune in today's practice session ...

video

Political Science Revisited

Ah, Randy ...


video

Here's a Political Debate ...

Notice how the more things change, the more they remain the same ...



Assisted Stupidity

In Oregon, we have a certain level of compassion; this has led to the Death with Dignity Act. Basically what this says is, if you are dying of some horrible, crippling disease, and there's no hope of a cure -- no chance you are gonna survive it -- you can get a prescription for an overdose of barbiturates and leave before you die ugly.

I whole-heartedly support this law. It is humane. If your dog was dying of painful cancer, you would put him down to spare him the misery, but most places -- every place in this country except Oregon -- Grandma has to ride the train to the bitter end, no matter how terrible the station.

Me, I think I would fight to my last breath, and Death would have to drag me away kicking and screaming, but I would sure like the option if I realized I couldn't make it through. I am glad to know it is there.

This act was hard to get passed, and has several safeguards. The Feds have tried take it away from us. Not a lot of people use it. You have to have two doctors sign off, an attending and consulting. You have to put your request in writing, have witnesses who aren't going to inherit your estate, and you are supposed to be of sound mind and aren't supposed to be depressed -- without getting counseling.

So, in today's paper, there is a piece that says as many as a quarter of those who elect to take the shortcut to the big sleep are clinically depressed.

No fucking shit?

The duh-factor of this inane bit of knowledge is beyond reasonable belief. You have terminal cancer or ALS or something that is crumbling your bones every time you turn over in your death bed. You have months, maybe weeks, left on your clock before you punch out. You think you might be depressed?

Can you imagine that you would not be?

Hello?

Here's the catch: Being depressed and making a decision in that mind-set means you don't qualify under the terms of the law.

You are supposed to get counseling so that you feel better about it, which then qualifies you to get the prescription, only, since you feel better about it, why, you might choose not to do it. Whatever is killing you is the same, it's still gonna get you, but you aren't allowed to be depressed by it. You are going to be taking the forever dirt nap, but -- you have to be okay with that before they will let you opt out.

Every time I think we have plumbed the depths of stupidity, I find that I am once again wrong. No, no, that's pretty stupid, but wait! -- any second now, somebody will do something stupider. Trust me on this.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

"That one ... "

So, the second presidential candidates debate is done. Not really a debate so much, given the town hall format, and both men probably did about the same on substance, vis a vis their particular drums, but, clearly Obama won the match over all. No question, especially on the financial stuff. He played it safe -- it was a crappy format -- and McCain didn't make a dent in his lead.

But:

McCain stepped in it. He was attacking high, wide, and repeatedly, and in his zeal to nail Obama, in referring to a vote, there came a line. If you saw it, if you heard the commentary, or you read the newspaper, you will know what it is and how it came across: "And you know who voted for it? That one ..." referring to Obama. Not "Senator Obama." That one.

That one.

When I heard that, I looked at my wife and said, "Oh. Oh, that's bad! That's really bad!" That, I believe, is gonna be the sound bite of the night.

I believe that comment, in a nutshell, lays out McCain's view of Obama, and goes to his core beliefs and his heart. His true colors shining through.

Was it racist? No, probably not. Did it sound aggressive and demeaning? You betcha. It caught McCain's contempt and laid it out there. McCain looks like a bomb with a lit, short fuse, and his dislike of Obama is impossible to miss. 

Cranky, tired, mean-spirited old man. Not the steady hand we want on the nation's tiller, nor on the button that launches the bombs. 

It is waaaay past time for a change, folks. The country needs to swing to the left; if it stays to the right, we will all suffer even more for it than we are now.

If you don't want to vote for Obama, then vote against McCain and Palin. They are not what the country needs. Absolutely not.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Whitebread Blues

video

Sanctuary!

Okay, so the SciFi Channel's new series Sanctuary has premiered. I finally got around to catching it.

Speaking as a fan and writer of this skiffy stuff, I feel I should address it here, and offer my opinion:

Thus far, I am unimpressed.

For those of you who haven't seen it, the show concerns a kind of jail/mental institution for sentient beings other than garden variety humans, including aliens, genetic mutants, and -- apparently upcoming -- witches. Run by a mysterious woman doctor who looks much younger than she actually is, plus her daughter, and a couple of oddball supporting players, the sanctuary in the title is a mostly CGI setting that looks like a cross between a German castle and the Bat Cave.

The story as I saw it, using the high-concept of movies to nail it down, seems to be equal parts of Men in Black, Escape from Alcatraz, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Kolchak, the Night Stalker.

The opening episode involves recruiting a reluctant new guy, (who is a Daniel Jackson clone from Star Gate) to become part of the team. There is a mysterious kick-ass bald headed bad guy who can not only move like the Flash and teleport, but who was formerly Jack the Ripper and kept alive by infusions of blood supplied by his ex-, who happens to be the immortal doctor running the place.

All these people have dark histories, some of which is revealed, some merely hinted at for later revelation.

There's a kid who has an appendage growing out of his torso that sucks brains and has a mind of its own. Until he takes his shirt off, that skinny tentacle snaking out of his clothes looks like an, um, lesser-sized appendage that men all have, and is -- probably unintentionally -- hilarious.

Everything but the kitchen sink is here. Maybe it will become a guilty pleasure, but so far, neither the EFX, the acting, nor the story have overwhelmed me.

I have the feeling that it is going to turn into a monster-of-the-week show, and if they don't so something about the angst and talking heads, destined for the chopping block.

(Plus, very time I think of the title, I hear the voice of Charles Laughton as the hunchback of Notre Dame saying "Sanctuary!" as the mob chases him to the church ...)

You'd think the folks at SciFi Channel would have a better handle on science fiction and fantasy than they have demonstrated to date. So far, the crown seems to be held by Eureka, which is harmless and kind of entertaining, but -- c'mon Where is Firefly when we need it?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

In the Night of the Heat - Book Review


So, the second Tennyson Hardwick novel, In the Night of the Heat, is out, and if you liked Casanegra, which I did and reviewed here, you'll like this one -- the trio of Underwood, Due, and Barnes have found the range. The characters from the first novel are developed more, the action and sex and gumshoe-ry are mixed well, and it is all served in a tall glass with a Hollywood insiders' whipped, sweet-and-tart topping ...

The hero is a C-list actor, Tennyson Hardwick, a name that is certainly appropriate, formerly a professional ladies man. Ten does unofficial private eye and bodyguard work when he finds himself dragged into the middle of  a situation not of his own making, either in self-defense, or in this case, guilt. 

Ten gets involved in the death of  T.D. Jackson, a former schoolmate and famous football player and actor who was tried for murdering his wife and her fiance, but found not guilty. Sound familiar? 

The plot is twisty, and I won't give any of it away. There are hot sex scenes, fights, car chases, and colorful characters hither and yon. Some sexual harassment, intrigue on the set, lost love, and even a bit of Southern Gothic. (My favorite minor character, just a walk-on, is an arrogant former A-list actor doing guest shots on TV -- if you read it, you'll see why.)

A great read and a fun ride. Give it an R-rating for sex and violence and 4.5 stars*. I still see this as an HBO series, and if they are paying attention over there, they'll snap it up. 

* (One minor quibble involves some of the hardware. Nothing major, but gun nuts will notice and mark it, even if most people won't. If the viewpoint around the shootin' irons is that of a regular guy, you keep it general. If it is through the eyes of an expert, then you have to get the details right. I expect it won't happen again, since I pointed it out to Barnes.) 

Saturday, October 04, 2008

O.J. Goin' to the Big House

Nice to see karma work out in this incarnation ...

Saturday Housekeeping


Raining and windy here, probably will be all day.

Last night, about seven-fifteen, the power went out, stayed off for forty minutes or so -- right in the middle of fixing dinner. Fortunately, we have a gas stove over the electric oven, so I ate pan-cooked instead of broiled burgers by the light of the Coleman lantern. Didn't figure out what caused it, but there were fire engines and police cars blocking sections of a couple major local streets, and the juice was out for blocks in all directions.

I was online when it shut off, and it trashed my browser preferences, wiped 'em out. I keep thinking I should get a battery backup for the computer, but never seem to get around to it. 
Maybe next time I get a new one ...

Noticed that when I added the content warning to my blog, the number of hits has dropped about thirty percent. I wonder if that's because people are worried it's a porno site and they don't want a record of it on their computers. Probably something like that. My regular visitors don't seem to mind having to click a second time.

StatCounter does a world map that shows you the location of the last hundred folks to visit your site. Tickles me to see people from other continents checking in. So far, I've had visitors from every continent but Antarctica, though usually not close enough to track on the map at the same time. Some maps, I get Australia and South America, but not Africa; some maps, it's the other way. There are 195 countries in the world, if you count Taiwan, and I haven't tracked the hits that closely, but I've gotten some from places of which I've never heard ...

Friday, October 03, 2008

Finished!


Louisiana Jones

So, the book-in-progress, Indy and zombies and all like that, is done.

I have mentioned before how the writing cycle goes for me, but it bears repeating, for you writers who might find some comfort in knowing that no matter how many novels you write, they never get any easier to do.

What, that didn't make you feel better? Sorry ...

The flush of enthusiasm when starting a book is heady, rich, kick-ass stuff. I sit down grinning, roll along, sometimes laughing at the images I create. Speaking parts out loud, looking for ways to hook a reader, a place to put a joke, ramp up the jeopardy, thicken the characters.

This lasts, in my case, for about eleven chapters, give or take, a hundred, hundred and ten pages, at which point I completely run out of steam. Chapter Eleven bankruptcy, appropriately ...

Second acts are bitches, and what separates the pro from the wanna-be is that the pro just keeps going. Prime the pump with something, work the handle, prime it some more, work the sucker hard. If all else fails, skip ahead a couple of chapters, write a scene I know I'll need later, and backfill.

Then there comes a place, whereupon I realize that I am are coming to the end of the book, all of a sudden I have way more to say than I have room to say it.

Too little there. Too much here. Happens this way for me every time. Since I know it, I don't feel the sense of terror I did the first couple books I wrote. (I should be used to it by now, for I have now written more novels than I am old in years. Spooky.)

For me, there is sprint to the finish, there's light at the end of a long, dark tunnel, and its call cannot be denied. Last few days of a novel, I always write more pages than during any other section. My record is thirty-five pages in one day. Didn't come close to that this time, but I did manage about twice my normal daily output.

Victory! It's done, it's done! flows over me. It's quite the giddy feeling, and while it's not as ecstatic these days as it was the first time I did it -- you only lose your virginity once -- it's still a big rush.

A quick read and touch up with the spell-checker comes next, which is a pain, because my books are all full of names and words the computer never heard of and wants me to change to something that usually makes me laugh. I plug in the new terms, skip stuff I don't think I'll use again.

Then another read for editing. Since I tend to do draft-and-a-half as I go -- generally going over the chapter I did yesterday and line-editing before starting on today's chapter -- that's usually not hard. There are always continuity things that need to be fixed. In Chapter Four one of the characters does something that no longer seems useful in Chapter Twelve, so they have to be reconciled. Pacing needs to be addressed -- I want a roller coaster effect, slow, then fast, then slow, then waaahhhoohoohoohoooo -- ! Sometime I nail it pretty good, sometimes it still needs touch-up.

One more read. If nothing clunks, it's ready to ship.

Up to this point, I'm feeling pretty good about it. Once it leaves the house, either as treeware or a computer file, then the anticipatory dread sets in. This is typically represented in this light:

Editor: Hey, I got the thing you sent. Funny, great joke. Okay, where is the real book ... ?

All writers worry that what they did won't find favor. First with the editor, then the readers. It goes with the job. Get used to it.

If the editor doesn't have a heart attack and accepts it, then I move on to whatever rewrites upon which we agree, and the process of publication -- about which I have spoken before -- continues. There will be a copy-edited manuscript, more changes, a galley-proof, checked for typographical errors and anything I missed last time, and maybe a bound galley past that before the published book hits the shelves for sale.

At which point I will read it once more. So if you have been keeping count, you will see that I will have read the sucker a minimum of seven or eight times by the time the public sees it, and generally, I am sick of it. I will stick it on a shelf and if I ever pick it up again, it will be years later.

I recently read some of the early Net Force books, and it's been long enough that I didn't remember everything I'd done in 'em. They were pretty good, if I do say so myself.

And I'm going to take the rest of the day off before I start working on the next one ...

Silat Class by Torchlight

Sensitivity comes in handy when you can't see all that well ...
(Image is pushed and lightened somewhat here)

And while the tree keeps much of the rain off, the sand is passing damp ...

Flash photography makes things a bit easier to observe ...

P.S. Those of you who are silat folks and who haven't seen it yet, might want to check out
SilatTV on the web. Some nice videos there, and a diverse group of members.

Veep Debate





So, the candidates' debate for the VP job is over.

How'd they do?

Both did better than expected. Palin's expectations were so low that 84% of the people who watched said she did better than expected.

Who won?

Biden, hands down.

He looked more presidential. Somebody who knew his stuff, laid out specifics, and had command of his facts and figures.

Palin looked like the girl included on the debate team at the last moment because they needed a girl. She had crammed to pass the exam, and sounded like it. When she didn't know something, her coaches must have told her, do not wing it -- skip the question and talk about something else. Smile, give 'em a lot of the aw-shucks-gee-I'm-just-down-home-folks-like-you and wave the flag. She did that a lot. People liked it.

People liked it when George Bush did it, too.

Overall, Biden helped his principal. He connected McCain to the failing economy, put him in lock-step with Bush, and showed real emotion in a couple of places that made him likable. That was his job.

Palin's main job was not to screw up too badly, and she did that. I don't think she moved big numbers of the Independent swing voters, and she didn't convince any Democrats to switch parties that I could tell. Probably the most telling mistake was when she said that McCain wouldn't have to cut back on his plans due to the current economic crisis, which was and is simply not true. Whoever gets the job is going in with that albatross around his neck. (The just-plain-folks out there know that if you are in debt up to your eyeballs, getting a big new house is gonna cost money you can't get.)

If you liked Palin going in -- she's perky and as long as she doesn't talk about anything of substance, she's a cute Caribou Barbie -- you'll still like her. If you were going to vote for the D's, Biden didn't say anything to scare you away.