Thursday, March 31, 2011

Maintenance


Not my house, but not all that far off ...

Our roof, of cedar-shakes, was, like most everything outside here now, covered with a thick, furry green coat of moss. Plus the gutters were full, and some of the shakes had mostly rotted away. No leaks yet, but the roof is what they call a fifteen-year roof, and it's been more than twenty years since we had it installed, so we broke down and had a guy come to work on it. 


Eventually, we need to go to composite shingles, which will outlast us, but that requires ripping the shakes off, installing plywood, and then shingling over that, and for a house the size of ours, is half again spendier than replacing the shakes, which isn't cheap, either. Somewhere between twelve and fifteen grand. 


So, if we can patch the current top and get a few more years out of it, which the roof guy guarantees, and for a few hundred dollars, it's a deal.


Which we elected to do. But it was a wet, dirty, and noisy two-day process. DID I MENTION THAT IT WAS NOISY!?


This was because the compressor that ran the big water tank and pump and all was just outside my office. And also because two guys were power-washing, then tromping around on the roof in spikes, ripping out old shakes and nailing in new ones.


The dogs were real skittish. Me, too. 


When there is a high-decibel roar coming through the walls, it's harder to tune out than you expect, especially when you can feel it vibrating your chair ...


Um. Anyway, it's done. We can mop up the muddy dog footprints again and sleep better knowing the rain won't start dripping on our heads for a while.


It's always something.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Feet Don't Fail Me Now ...


Earlier this month, I did a post on barefoot/minimal shoes, the most recent of a few. My experience has been that when my shoes, usually cross-trainers, get worn down, my feet start to hurt, and the logic of that for me was, less padding = sore feet, and since more padding in the replacements stopped that, you can see how I might make the leap to causality there.


But since everybody and her kid sister has been writing pieces on the glory of minimal footwear, ranging from totally bare to those that are essentially rubber socks, to slightly heavier versions, I thought maybe I should–to be fair–revisit the notion.


As it happened, I have a pair of wrestling shoes in the bottom of my closet. These were from a time when we were doing a lot of mat-work in silat class in a cold garage. Summers, I go barefoot in the sand pit, but that cold concrete is more than I can manage bare-tootsied, so I got the wrestling shoes for that. 


I think the rubber socks, ala Vibram Five Fingers, and the like, aren't feasible for dog walking on muddy concrete–I wear out the soles on a pair of heavier shoes in three or four months, which is also what I used to get out of leather moccasins, and I can't imagine that the thin rubber things would last any longer, and they are really spendy. And let's be honest here, I think these things–with apologies to my friends who wear them–look like they been beat on with an ugly stick Sorry. 


The wrestling shoes, as you can see from the pictures, are pretty minimal. There are two patches of rubber on the sole, heel and ball of the foot, the rest of the sole is leather, and they aren't designed for the street, especially on wet, muddy, slippery sidewalks. I expect they'll wear out pretty fast outside. But they are thin enough so I can feel a rock or even a fir cone through the sole, and I already have them, so I am going to try wearing them instead of the cross-trainers for a while and see what that does. Empirical research.


I don't walk so fast that I can't alter my stride for a mid-sole instead of a heel strike, and they are thin enough that my foot flattens out when I put my weight on it.


So, never let it be said that I am completely closed-minded about such things. I'll try these for a while and see what's what. (What is "a while?" I dunno. If my feet start screaming after a block, that'll probably be a bad sign. One wouldn't think that one would need to break in one's feet, but perhaps mine are weak after all the time in padded shoes with arch supports, so I'll allow for that.


My main criterion for such experiments is simple: The new way feels much better than the old? I'm there. If it is less comfortable after a trial period? I'm not there. If it's the same? I'm not there, either. 


Some years ago, I decided to give up red meat, to see if it made me feel better. It didn't, so I went back to it. Later, I did cut way down on it, but for other reasons. 




Unless thin shoes that wear out in a hurry and cost more are an improvement in how my feet feel, then switching to them doesn't make sense. If there is a big improvement? I can justify that. 


Stay tuned.

How-to Knifery for Writers

Mac, over at Quantum Donuts, put up a little video on YouTube as a how-to for writers. The terminology is a little more broken out than I usually use–I tend to just use either "stab" or "slash."  (And "slice" is an alternative term to "slash.")


The first is a thrusting, or pushing motion, and the second more a waving action that eventually draws the knife sideways or backwards in a pull. A stab is usually–not always–like a punch or a hammer, with the arm extending. A slash tends to be like a slap. (One can stab on a drawing motion, of course, if one's hand is behind an opponent.)


Basically, that's all you do with any kind of muscular activity, push, pull, or combinations thereof.


Mac's divisions offer more detail, and it's a most useful bit of business if you are a writer and you don't know from knives.


Have a look:




Obama's Report Card


Those of you who are long-time followers of my ramblings here will probably recall my political posts over the last few years. Plug "Obama" into the blog's search pane and you'll see a few, more than a couple of which said, back before the election, that anybody who thought that Obama was going to sweep into office and cure everything that ailed us was in for an unpleasant surprise.


Wasn't gonna happen.


Hasn't happened.


He wouldn't be able to do half what he promised, I said, and while I expected him to fall short, I figured he was so far superior to GWB that all he had to do was one thing to beat the meatball's record, and he's done that. Health care alone, as flawed as it is, did that.


If you are against the idea of health care, that's your business; I'm for it–civilized countries don't let their old and sick and poor die because they can't afford medicine or bandages. The private sector hasn't done, and never will do, anything that will adversely affect their bottom line. Yesterday, there was a piece on the news about a drug company that raised the price of injections to help with problem pregnancies from thirty bucks a hit to fifteen hundred dollars a pop. They didn't invent the drug, so it's not as if they are trying to recoup all that research money. They just got greedy. 


They declined to be interviewed on camera. Hard to imagine why–just because they are looking to make obscene profits off women terrified of having miscarriages?


Greed might not be good, but there's a bunch of it around. 


Why has Obama's tenure been so difficult? First, here was the hellacious mess he inherited from Previous Occupant–a couple wars, a depression, country going widdershins down the toilet, all like that. Then, there were the spineless Democrats in congress who didn't step up; The man started out with two strikes against him and a pitcher with a fresh arm and a fastball with a lot of heat standing on the mound. And Republicans who didn't give a rat's ass about the country as long as Obama failed trying to fix things. And on and on and on. Started out in a deep hole and all he had to work with was a shovel ...


Obama's report card so far?


Health care, education, aid to countries hit by disasters, helping the economic recovery, mostly good. The Forever War, the situation at Gitmo, the current lob-missiles-into-Libya business? Bad. 


Yeah, yeah, NATO, everybody is being really careful to point at NATO, look, look, it's not us, but let's face it, a quarter of NATO's money comes from the U.S. and we call a lot of those shots. And most of the missiles came off our aircraft carriers and jets, even though the French and English are stepping in. There's some smoke and mirrors there, and they don't look any better now then they did when Bush and company lied about the WMDs. 


Why Libya and not Ivory Coast? There is always a line of tinpot dictators oppressing their people, and when Obama accused Bush of picking his battles–why Iraq and not North Korea? Because they have a big fucking army and no oil? he was on the money. 


Does it look different on him? No, it doesn't. 


We are still in Afghanistan and there's no early train home from that lonely stop. Everybody knows you can't win a war from the air, and unless Gaddafi bags it and heads for a villa in Syria–which might not be safe for long–the only way to beat him is on the ground. If his army doesn't defect, the rebels can't beat them. 


There is no way in hell that Obama can spin American troops on the ground there and not wind up looking like the reincarnation of George Bush.


I think he's trying. I think he's so much smarter than Bush as to be Einstein to your average bonobo. But he's not batting anywhere close to a thousand, and he needs to focus.


I give him a C+, and the plus is shaky. 


Better, of course, than the F- I gave Bush ...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Weather in Portland This Month


March, which is supposed to come in like a lion but go out like a lamb, or vice-versa, is almost over. Here, it came in like a tuna and is going out that way, too. We've had twenty-three days in a row in which we have had rain, and twenty-six of the last twenty-nine altogether. 


There's a bearded old guy down the street building a big wooden boat, and the dogs bark at something running around in his back yard every time we go for a walk ...


And twenty-three days only equals the old record–when today is over–and it's raining now–I expect a new record will have been set.


Also been cool. So far this year, we haven't hit sixty-degrees F. yet, and that's a new record, too.


At least the rain hasn't gotten too radioactive yet ...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Book Review: Devil Red

Ahem:


If you are a fan of Joe Lansdale's series featuring Hap and Leonard, then all you need to know is that the newest novel featuring them, Devil Red, is out. Go get it.


If you aren't a fan of Lansdale's work, you should be. He writes good, for a white boy. 


He's also a martial arts master who has created his own system, and when he does a fight scene and wants to make it play, you can tell that he knows some stuff.


Other than that, I'm not gonna say much, save for this: In the previous adventure, Vanilla Ride, there was some gun stuff Joe got wrong. I pointed it out, and offered to vet stuff if he wanted. He thanked me, and said he'd consider that.


When I saw the book, not having gotten the call to look at gun stuff, I figured he found somebody else. 


Not exactly ...


On page 75, there is a gun reference, and I'm going to quote part of the graph in this here review:


"I mention is was a Super because if I don't Leonard always says something like, 'They don't actually make thirty-eights in automatic.' And I always think if they don't, then why do they call it a .38 with a word behind it? Shouldn't he know I'm talking about a .38 Super? Gun fanatics make my ass tired ... "


Made me laugh out loud, and is an elegant and unexpected way of dealing with it. Nice. 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

ePub Updates


The publishing industry is changing, and the pace of change is picking up. Traditional paper publishers are noticing that the ePub train is leaving the station and scrambling to find a seat. Agents are looking for new models for staying onboard. Writers are realizing that they have a choice and opting at times to take the bullet train instead of the bus ...


Not to say that paper is moribund–it's still the prevailing vehicle for books, and even though the numbers there declined last year as the eBooks went up, it still offers advantages. Don't need batteries. There is the organic experience of holding a book in your hand. The royalty advances. Seeing your work in a bookstore and watching as other people see it.


Anybody notice that Borders went bankrupt? That Powell's laid off thirty people? That outside Amazon.com and the big box stores like Costco and Wallyworld, books stores in general are having a hard time of it?


There are writers who look at some of the strictures of traditional publishing and elect to turn away from that route, to directly feed the Kindles, iPad, Nooks, and whatever else can download material from the new stores, and that includes phones, laptops, and regular computers. No advance, but ebooks never go out of print. The royalty rates are six or seven times more. The delivery is immediate. The cover looks like the writer wants it to look.


Check the picture above. In some cases, at least, it even looks like a book.


I have four novels and a collection of short stories that started out as eBooks only, no paper editions, and six others that are out-of-print in paper, but now available electronically. 


If I could get the rights to all the Matador novels, I expect I could sell a few of them as ebooks. Ace doesn't want to give them up, and can't be bothered to put them on Amazon.com.


Am I making as much from them as I would if New York had put my novels out? No. Not yet. Eventually, I might, but–even if I don't? At least there is a great amount of crap up with which I won't have to put. Something to be said for that, too. 


Write a book and it doesn't slot neatly for the traditional publishers, they pass on it. If they don't think they can make enough profit on it? They pass. Put it up on the eStores, and if it sells ten copies? That's forty bucks you wouldn't have otherwise. Is that a smart choice? Hell, no, not moneywise; however, there are books that I feel the need to write, and the commercial aspects of them aren't the motivating factor. Stories I want to tell.


Dan Moran's new Trent novel is going to be an eBook first, and a POD, and I would give you good odds that he will make more money with it going this route than he would have from a traditional publisher. Not at first, maybe, but eventually. Because it is a good book–as good or better than it would be as a paper version. He's the same writer. He doesn't have to answer to a publisher or editor who doesn't like what he did. He can get input from folks who can help the same ways he did before, only faster. He makes a good living doing computer-y things, he doesn't need the money, so he can say, "Fuck this crap!" and do what he wants. 


I read about all this future-shock stuff at various places, and here are a couple, if you are interested, where you should drop round and tune in: Check out writer/editor/publisher Dean Wesley Smith's blog, along with Kristine Kathryn Rusch's, also a writer/editor/publisher. Follow some of their links.


And ... keep watching the skies ...

Laughter is the Best Medicine

You've probably seen this before–thirty eight million people have on YouTube–and there are others, but if this doesn't make you smile or laugh out loud yourself, you need to get your wiring checked:


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Mixed Blessing


Regular readers here know that I have gone from playing my guitar alone for an audience consisting of my dogs and cat, to a weekly jam session with five or six, sometimes more, musicians. Been doing this for about six months now, and been having a fine ole time.


On balance, it's terrific. But there is a drawback ...


The good part is that I'm learning how to play with other folks making sounds at the same time, and figuring out how to fit my instrument and voice into the mix. That's all new, and I'm getting everything from how to do a start count-down–one, two three, four!– and keeping time, to shifting keys without using a capo, to which harmonies I can add, or how I sing lead when somebody else is harmonizing. Great stuff.


If I hit a clam, it usually passes unheard, since there are other instruments covering it.


I'm learning new repertoire, and this is where the mixed blessing arrives. On the one hand, I've got a bunch of new songs, some in genres I've never dabbled in before–light jazz standards from the 1920s, anybody? On the other hand, most of what the group plays is simple enough that I can keep up on first seeing the words and chords–there are sevenths now and then, but mostly, the chord progressions are 12-bar blues or simple rock, three, sometimes four or five major chords, and that's not stretching me, technique-wise. 


I like playing "Hesitation Blues," which has been around since 1915, but it's not a stretch the way we do it. 


If I'm practicing repertoire for the jam and not working on some of the more complex (well, as complex as I can manage) chordal and fingerpicking material, then I'm actually losing chops. I don't want to do that.


What that means is that I'm going to have to up my playing time if I want to learn new stuff and keep the old. 


I suppose there are worse things in life than saying, Oh, well. I have to play my guitar more ...

Accoutrements


iPhone skin, above, from Grove


iPad case


iPad folding cover/stand

When new toys arrive from the electronics industry,  accessories quickly develop for them from third-party makers–not the least of which are ways to carry the gadgets around. 


There are some neat cases for iPhones, laptop computers, and the iPad. Plastic, leather, and here's a local maker, Grove, who has come to the Apple fold using bamboo.


I am fond of bamboo as a construction material. I like the way it looks, and while one can hardly talk about green and an iPhone or iPad in the same breath, the bamboo and electronics together have a nice wry effect, as you can see from the images. Way cool look.


I will be getting one of these cases for my iPad when I get it. 

Roy, Roy, Roy


With one thing and another, the Roy short stories haven't been making it into the store. Since I've continued to write them, I now have nine, and while they will be available as singles eventually, I am also going to bundle them all into a collection, and peddle it for $4.99.


Here's the slug for that:




Collected here, the nine Roy the Demon short stories. These are raucous, profane tales, rated NC-17, for language, sex, and hellish situations. You know you are curious. Come on down ...



The Roy the Demon Stories

1. Neighbors
2. A&R
3. FNG
4. Balance of Power
5. Alliance
6. Under the Rose
7. Paved With Gold
8. Disco Inferno
9. Blades




Nine stories at .99 each is nine cents short of nine bucks. The collection of all nine at five dollars, less a penny? Such a deal ...


I'll probably have to fiddle with the link, but for the moment, it does take you to my page on the Fat Sam store, and once the collection is up, that's where you'll find it first.


Eventually, I'll make these available elsewhere, Amazon.com and Smashwords, so as not to miss any of my tens of fans ...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Song Stuck in My Head


For a couple years now, there has been a song stuck in my head. Actually, the more accurate depiction would be that there's a song hiding in my head. I think it's a love song, but I don't have any words for it, nor even a tune. It has a sound I can't quite describe, but I know it involves an aggressive, rising chord sequence between the verse and the chorus–or bridge, I'm not sure which way it will go. Each change should create more tension until it resolves with the last chord


Thing is, I'm not sure what the chord sequence is, or even exactly what it sounds like. 


That sounds a little bit addled, I know, but–it's kind of how a terrier knows a rat–I'll know it when I hear it, but I'm having trouble figuring out how to hear it. I think if I can get that chord sequence, which right now seems to be at least eight chords long, I can get the rest of it.


I've tried to nail it down a couple times, and that wound up in a couple of songs I thought weren't bad, one of them an instrumental, "Cady Jo," but those weren't what I was trying to find.


I think maybe I'm going try to pick out a melody line for the chord and then amplify that g and see can I get there from here. 


Now is when I wish I had the music theory to figure this kind of stuff out instead of trial-and-error ...

But Weight!


Before I cut out most white sugar and down on saturated fat, I weighed 205 pounds most days.


On days after I fasted, those run 36 hours between meals, that resulted in a temporary loss, usually around six pounds, sometimes a little more. All of it back during the week until the next fast.


After eschewing White Death and various forms of lard, including cream and butter and cheese, my cruising weight dropped nine or ten pounds, so 195-196. However, on mornings after the fast, it now drops only four pounds. 


I find this interesting. I am doing as much exercise as before, but only shedding two-thirds as much temporary weight after the same length fast.


I'm drinking as much water as I was. Still getting plenty of fat, mostly in the form of vegetable oils and nuts and fake butter–I couldn't give that up on baked potatoes. Not as good as real butter, but at least it's the yellow experience ...


Might be due to body composition. I figure I was about 14% body fat at 205, and maybe 11-12% now.


 It is interesting ...

Book Review - The A.I. War





I am fond of doing book reviews that go something like this:


"If you are a fan of X, then all you need to know is that X's latest book in his/her series featuring Y is out. And if you aren't already a fan? You should be ..."


So herein a slight modification, because I don't want to wait:


If you are a fan of Daniel Keys Moran's novels, then all you need to know is that The A.I. War, Book One of The Continuing Time: The Big Boost, featuring Trent the Uncatchable, is, um ... almost out ...


That is to say, the book is done, save for touch-ups, of which I didn't really see any worth mentioning save one weird font toward the end, and because Dan has his own ebook store, FS&, wherein you may also find some of my stuff, that's where you'll be able to get it first. And it'll show up on Amazon.com, like that.


Real soon now ...


I am happy that I got a chance to be one of the first to read the novel, and tell you how good the sucker is. 


Dan says that he'll likely have a POD option, too, for those of you who still must have paper. But, of course, if you are rabid fan of Trent the Player, you won't want to wait for it to be printed, then shipped to your house. Get the e-version first, and then you can order the POD (that's print-on-demand) version later. I will do that myself. 


About the book? It's terrific. Excellent. Outstanding. Moran is one of the best space opera writers around, and for my money, if you carefully picked out the top three or four, he'd be among them. 


If you have been wondering about Trent for the last, what ... eighteen years? Here is the answer, and an e-ticket ride it is, too ...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

More on Communications


Finally got a note from a Comcast tech, on one of their forums, regarding my outgoing email. She asked several questions: Was I using the Mac's Mail program? Getting error messages? Did I have a URL or phone number in my sig?


Yes, no, and yes. My blog's URL has been down there under my name on all outgoing email for three or four years, and why would that all of a sudden matter?


Guess what? It matters. I couldn't tell you why, but when I amended the sig so that the URL wasn't there, those messages started getting through.


Raises more questions than it answers. Why, if it was toodling along just fine for years did it suddenly make a difference? How do they know it's even there, do they somehow scan all the outgoing mail for such? Why?


Will a URL elsewhere in the message cause the system to choke? (First time I tried it, it did. I sent two messages, one with, one without, the one with a URL in the body of the text hasn't gone through. )


Will it hang if I reply to a message and the sender had a URL in it? I'm standing by to find out, but so far, it looks as if that stalls it, too.


Since I haven't changed my set-up–same software and hardware–and it works just hunky-dory with Gmail, then logic would seem to dictate that the fault lies with Comcast.


They are checking into it further. We'll see what's what.


EDITOR'S NOTE–UPDATE


Gotten some more back-and-forth from Comcast, suggestions to try this or that, and I'm doing it. With the embedded sig gone and changing the SMPT port number, it seems as if it might fix the problem. For a while, I'm going to send double messages to my correspondents, one via Comcast, the other via Gmail, and ask 'em how many came through, one or both. When they both get through, then it's solved. If they don't, I'll just confine my outgoing messages to Gmail, and to hell with it ...

Nope. Wasn't my email program. Apparently somebody out there in other ISP land thought my blog URL under my sig was spam and so reported it to to Comcast who stopped sending it out. Didn't bother to contact me and tell me. Anyway, in theory, it's fixed.


We'll see.


#


Long as we are on communications, a short tale of the telephone. Early this morning–early for me is before 9 a.m.–my cell phone rang. Time I woke up and got to it, the caller was gone, and when I looked to see who it had been, it was that old devil Anonymous.


I won't be returning that call.


Here's a heads-up for anybody who phones me, cell or landline: If you have blocked your caller ID because you don't want me to know who you are? Then I probably don't want to talk to you. Unblock it; otherwise, I'm going to assume it's because you have something to hide–your identity. This intent usually goes along with the idea that if I know who you are, i.e., somebody trying to sell me something or get me to invest in their worthy cause, I won't want to talk to you.


In this, you would be correct. 


I'm on the no-sales-call lists, home and mobiles, but that doesn't screen out all the commercial folk, and it doesn't apply to non-profits. I further have an electronic answering device on the landline that screens numbers I don't have programmed into it, and it picks up after the first ring and tells people if they are selling something to go away. If it rings again, then either I have their number on file, or they have punched a button to call through because they aren't computers or salespeople. If they are selling something and they continue past the warning–a deep and vaguely-menacing voice provided by the zapper company–then I feel justified in hanging up on them. So generally, if my phone rings, it's somebody to whom I'm willing to talk, and I answer it, but not always ...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

iPad-ery




To take my mind off Comcast's snafu, in which most of my email for the last few weeks has been going into the void, naturally I decided to go and check out the new technology that will likely cause me problems ...


Dropped by the Mac store. Asked the guy, So, what's the delivery time on the new iPad?


I have no idea, he said. Deadpan.


I thought that was funny. No, really.


No, really ...


The word on the net says 4-5 weeks, but that doesn't really mean anything, and it might be two months.


Naturally, with a world-wide rollout, Apple once again didn't make enough of 'em to go around, and so the line forms at the left and stretches quite a ways.


This is complicated somewhat further: There are nine possible configurations of the new toy: Three sizes, 16, 32, or 64 gigs; There are two communication options: wifi only, or wifi with 3G capability. That brings us to six, but: the 3G options are subdivided into two more choices, AT&T or Verizon, so which version you want determines which list you get put upon, vis a vis the delivery ...


Never a dull moment around here, nossiree ...

More Email Woes


Got a note from somebody who wondered why I hadn't answered his email. According to my records, I had, so I sent him another reply, with a copy of the first.


But unlike when I started noticing that some of my incoming mail wasn't getting through, I can't tell if somebody is collecting what I'm sending.


When I started having trouble, it was because my server's spam filter somehow adjusted itself to stop folks I wanted to hear from, and the solution was turning that filter off and going to my own email program's filter. 


As a public service, let me suggest that you check your spam filter, in-house or at your server, and see if maybe one or both might have become a bit too diligent. 


If you sent me a note and didn't get a reply, try it again. If you don't hear back, we'll have to call Houston and report the problem. I am getting emai,l and some of my correspondents are getting mine, so the system here isn't totally defunct. 


And:


Jack: No, I wasn't talking about you.
Michael: Sorry to hear about the script.
Bobbe: I did wish you happy birthday.
John: I did offer a date for the conference call.
Cotten: Wasn't flu, but food poisoning ...
Dan: I've sent up to Roy #8, and #9 should be done tomorrow.


EDITOR'S NOTE: Comcast's interactive technician, who is probably in Mumbai, tells me there is an ongoing upgrade to their email SmartZone feature and that it should be fixed within the next 24 hours. Sounds fishy to me, but if you need to contact me, do it here, or on Facebook until this gets straightened out. 


BUT WAIT!


Getting through to Comcast's techs via phone or message is currently not happening–I'm getting the "Try later" note, so I'm guessing I'm not the only customer with problems. Meanwhile, I'll be using a Gmail account for outgoing stuff. Apparently this has been a problem for weeks–I've had folks to whom I've sent eight or ten emails allow as how they didn't get any of them.


Nice, isn't it? I'd do better putting messages in bottles and tossing them into the sea. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Roy, Roy, Roy ...


A preview of Roy #9, "Blades ... "


Blades
by
Steve Perry
Roy, in his mercenary disguise–complete with shaved head and eye-patch–sat at the table, his expression as deadpan as he could manage. He wore a khaki shirt that revealed his biceps and the colorful tattoos thereupon, and cargo pants over combat books. A sitting soldier-of-fortune cliche, he was.
In Cleveland, Fucking Ohio. 
“Show me your knife,” he said.
The applicant, a young man who looked as if he had pumped a lot of iron and who smelled a bit sweaty, frowned. “Knife?”
Roy smiled. “Thanks for coming by. We’ve got your application, we’ll be in touch.”
The kid took a couple seconds to process that. Realized he was dismissed. Stood, nodded, and headed for the door. A wanna-be. 
“Send in the next one, my lovely,” Roy called out.
“Fuck you, pendejo,” came the response from Doris in the outer office. She was on loan, and also suitably disguised for the event.
“Keep your pants on, sweetie, we’ll get to that later.”
She muttered something else, most of which Roy didn’t catch, and just as well. What few words he heard were vile even for a dyke demoness. First time he had met Doris, he almost heard the diesel truck rumbling in the background. It seemed, however, that she wasn’t strictly a carpet-muncher, if Larry could be believed, but somebody who swung both ways. Or all ways, though Roy wouldn’t have guessed that in a million years ...
The next applicant came in. He was tall, heavy, but not all of it muscle, and had a couple of interesting scars on his face. He moved the the table and sat when Roy waved him him over.
Roy looked at the application in front of him. So far, none of the applicants had been worth the paper they’d written on, but that wasn’t a surprise. Everybody fudged on resum├ęs, that was to be expected.
There were a dozen queries you could ask to sort players into the yea-or-nay category, but he didn’t even need one question:
“Show me your knife.”
The guy frowned, but produced a pocket knife. It was big, maybe five inches, a friction folder. Roy took it, prized the blade open. It was stainless steel, and it came open slowly, grit rasping in the action. The blade was cruddy,  and when he tested it with his thumb, dull. 
Roy folded the blade and handed it back to the guy. “Thanks for stopping by. Doris has your information, we’ll get back to you.”
The guy left, and Roy blew out a sigh. A dozen so far, and he was batting zero. Looked like it was going to be a long day.
“Doris. Next!”
The next guy came in, and he was wary. He scanned the room, took in the layout, the exits, and moved to the table. Roy motioned at the chair.
The guy was short, thin, but had a feline grace about him. He took another look around, then moved the chair so he was on the end of the table to Roy’s left, able to see the entry, his back to an empty wall.
Roy nodded. Promising.
“Show me your knife.”
“What size you want?”
Roy grinned. 
“Medium.”
The guy’s hands were below the table, hidden from Roy’s view, and when he brought his left hand out, the knife, a tactical folder, was already open. He held it in saber grip, but gave it a half-spin around and tendered it butt first.
Roy already knew, but he took the knife and nodded. 
The knife was immaculate. Four-inch blade, drop-point. Stone-washed or sand-blasted to a satin-finish instead of bright and shiny. Razor-sharp, with a hint of sandlewood oil wafting up from the blade. No dust in the works, not the best one made, but not a cheapie, either. Cross-checked scales. A working  knife.
With the folder in his hand, Roy looked at the little guy. “I have your knife. What do you do if I come across the table at you with it?”
The guy smiled. “I don’t know. Come and let’s see.”
Roy was very much aware of how the guy had responded to his first comment. He couldn’t see the guy’s other hand, and he’d bet a million hours of free time against five minutes that he had a knife in it, and he was pretty sure it was bigger than the one Roy held.
“How many you carry?”
“Four. That one. Penknife for little stuff. SOB-horizontal on the belt. Boot knife in the right.”
“What about the boot knife on the left?” Roy couldn’t see it, but it was a good guess. 
The guy grinned wider. “Oh, yeah. I forgot that one.”
“I’m sure you did.” Roy looked down at the application.
“So, your name is ... John Smith?”
“Sure, why not?”
Roy, to show he wasn’t totally inept, did a little flourish with the folder that ended with a  fast thumb to open the liner lock and a little flick of the wrist to start, and then a tug on the stud to finish the close. It was a simple move, didn’t look impressive, but it had taken him a while to get it down, and the guy’s eyes lit up when he saw it.
“Nice.”
Roy passed the folder back. “When can you start?”
“What time is it now?”
“Call me ‘Roy.’ I think we’ll get along fine. You have any friends looking for work?”
Smith nodded. “I know some guys. You want shooters or cutters?”
“Cutters. The job is going to be different than any you’ve ever done. No guns, and we’ll supply the blades, which are ... unusual. You still interested?”
Smith shook his head and grinned. “You should be selling ice to Eskimos, Roy. How could I not be interested?”
Roy nodded. “Yeah, I figured.” Steel was how these guys got high. A promise of a new way to play with knives? Better than hillbilly heroin.
#


Music


L. to R.: Dana, Maya, Ian, Jason

Ian Young, the guy who plays mandolin and sometimes guitar in our weekly jam session, is involved in a couple other groups, one of which is called Vox Swifts. There are four of 'em -- Ian, Dana Wendel, Maya Rowland, and Jason Everly. As it happens, they will be playing tonight at the Alberta Street Pub in Portland, Oregon, at 8 p.m. If you are bopping around town with nothing to do, check 'em out. 


Old Tyme Musick ...





Small Medium at Large


Got an email from Mark Kilbane, my producer for the theoretical movie of TMWNM. He's at a big to-do film festival thingee in Hong Kong, hustling, and give the man credit, he is busting his balls to get something off the ground. Got a director attached if funding arrives, and that helps sell the project. In Hollywood, it's all pie-in-the-sky until the check clears, and not until you see it on the silver screen is the deal totally done, but forward motion is better than not.


I told him to break a leg ...


In theatrical circles, there are a  number of superstitions, and the two that stand out the most for me involve luck. Not that I'm all that conversant with the theater–I haven't trodden the boards since high school, but I have been peripherally involved via TV and assorted spec movie scripts. What I know is, it is considered bad luck to wish somebody good luck on a new show. To offset this, you instead wish them ill, with the notion being that bored gods looking for mischief will do the opposite, so that will portend good. Thus, "Break a leg."


The other superstition concerns the play Macbeth. It is considered a cursed play, going back to long-past performances where bad things happened. The story is that in the very first production, somebody used a real knife instead of a fake, and an actor was killed. Or that the witches doing the toil-and-trouble curse were actually offering real curses. Whatever. Quoting from the play outside a rehearsal or performance, or even mentioning its name is considered a bad idea, so it's usually referred to as "The Scottish Play," when spoken of it must be, especially inside a theater proper.


So, now you know if you didn't before. Use this knowledge wisely.