Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Music that Will Endure


For some reason this morning, I remembered an exchange I had with a young wanna-be writer, back in the paper mail days. We were discussing Art and Literature and Music and all like that, and this kid allowed as how the best musical group of the twentieth century, the one that would be remembered a hundred, even five hundred years down the line, revered above all others was ...


Supertramp.


I remembered laughing so hard I thought I was going to pee on myself when I read that. 


Of course, none of us will be here in a hundred or five hundred years to see, and probably stranger things have happened, but ... a show of hands: Supertramp?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Drop



Fans of Connelly's L.A. detective need know no more, and if you are a mystery reader and not a fan? Pick up one of these and see if you aren't sucked in.

Bosch–named after the painter, yes–is a grizzled old murder cop who has been retired and is back on the unsolved cases squad. There are usually two or three storylines going: The main murder, which is often snagged in politics; a second case that often turns out as interesting as the first; and Harry's personal life, which involves a daughter and assorted women friends.

Bosch's creed as a detective is simple: Everyone matters or no one matters. He doggedly follows the evidence where it goes and calls it like he sees it, personal and political consequences be damned. And there are always lots of those damned consequences he'll have to deal with next time. 

This round, in The Drop, Bosch is beset with a new case involving the death of his oldest enemy's son. Suicide? Or murder? 

There is also an old rape/murder file in which DNA evidence seems to indicate it was done by an eight-year-old boy. If the DNA evidence is tainted, that could cause a shitload of problems. 

There a new woman who has her own demons and a partner who doesn't like how Harry does things.

Connelly melds all this together with an offhand expertise and style that makes going for a drive with Harry like a visit with an old friend. I know this guy, what makes him tick, and watching him figure out whodunnit and how is always a great ride. 

There are seventeen novels featuring Bosch, and Connelly also has a second series featuring L.A. lawyer Mickey Haller, aka "The Lincoln Lawyer," so called because in the beginning, he runs his office out of his car, a Lincoln. Haller is, just to make it more fun, Bosch's half-brother. 

Been a couple of movies made from his books, including The Lincoln Lawyer and Bloodwork, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood.

Now and again, on the TV show Castle, you'll see Connelly as one of Castle's poker-playing buddies, along with Dennis Lehane, James Patterson, and the late Stephen J. Cannell.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dead Last Book Review


It should come as no surprise to long-time readers here that I'm a big fan of John D. MacDonald's work, especially Travis McGee. Plug "Travis" into the blog's search pane and see. 


One of my own novels is an homage to Trav, down to the lead character's name, and McGee's attitude permeates many of my other books. 


Gonna steal, steal from the best.


Since MacDonald's death, nobody has stepped up  to fill his shoes, but there are a handful of writers who work the Florida sun-sand-sea-beach-bum-mystery-solver vein to good effect; my two favorites are Carl Hiassen and James W. Hall


Hiassen has a continuing character, Skink, a half-loon former Florida state Governor who has gone into the swamps to live and who, from time-to-time gets involved with a caper. Hiassen gets into environmental stuff that was usually part of MacDonald's storylines. Less in the forefront in McGee's adventures, it was a concern that MacDonald addressed: The grief at the vanishing beauty of the old Florida for what an ugly thing it is still changing into. 


This is a through-line in a lot of stories that are ostensibly mysteries set in present-day Florida, and with good reason. 


Hall's main character is Thorn, who is much more a beach bum than McGee–throughout most of the series, he makes a meager living tying fishing lure flies, and lives in a stilt house next to the water on one of the Keys. 


If they met, Thorn and McGee would smile and nod at each other, both knowing at a glance they were brothers under the skin. Hedge knights who keep bumping into dragons. 


Again, what has become a standard comment for me: If you've read this series, all you need know is the next one is out. If you haven't read them,  you should. The ideal way would be to go back and collect the first one, from 1986, and work your way forward. 


Hall has some surprises in Dead Last, a couple of which are solar plexus punches that took my breath away. Whoa! Didn't see that one coming ... 


Not content to just let Thorn roll along easy after getting a big inheritance in a previous novel, Hall stirs his protagonist up, and turns him–and the readers–every which way but loose.   


(Aside: I've always had a fondness for the name "Thorn," since that was also the name of the protagonist in my first novel, The Tularemia Gambit, back in 1981.)


I won't reveal the story, save in the most general way: A crappy TV show being shot in Miami features a serial killer who uses newspaper obituaries to select the next victim. This seems to set off a copycat killer, who drags Thorn into it. 


If you don't know the term, google"zentai," and click on the picture search.


Life starts off hard for Thorn this time, and it gets harder as it goes along. I think John D. MacDonald would be proud of Hall, especially a twist that fans of The Lonely Silver Rain will surely smile about.


This is the best mystery I've read this year, and I've read more than a few. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

You're Gonna Love This Part ...





(Pictures by Chuck's son, Nate)

So a note from Chuck Pippin. Seems that he noticed a slight warp in the blade when he was done. Not major, but, he said, he would know it was there. So ...


So, he just up and made another blade. Bap! Just like that. And it's already heat-treated, eight-hundred grit polished, and he likes it better, since the tang is a little longer, and the shoulders are cleaner and like that.


Note: The blade will be etched, to bring out the damascus grain. 


Wow. How interesting is that, to be able to just, you know, whip out a second blade?


He's thinking about using the same material for the guard, which would be way cool, and sending along some images of the handle material he's considering.


Makes me want to jump up and down. Of course, I'm too dignified and old for that. 


Sorta ...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Amazing Knife Pictures!

Mastersmith Pippin heats things up ...


Pre-heat (above)


Into the Fire


The Cremation of Sam McGee


Hot!


Still hot ...


What happens when still hot hits the quenching solution.


Cooler and tempered.


Wiped (above and below)



A Pause ...


Haven't been here much lately, got some family medical stuff going on: Down in Louisiana, my mother has had a mild stroke. She's got local family gathered round, attending to her and to my father, who is in the middle stage of Alzheimer's. 


Never a dull moment.


I've been talking to my sister and niece, had a conversation with my mother's primary care doctor, and she seems  stable and relatively intact. Speech is pretty good, she can move okay, but she'll need to do rehab for a while to get back to normal for an eighty-five year old.


My son and I will be going down for a visit, after we get past the Thanksgiving flight jam. If you need to fly commercial around this time of year and you don't already have a ticket? Good luck with that. 


Fortunately, it isn't critical that I get there immediately.


I'll keep you posted. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Yet More Knifery ...


With a 320 grit, before annealing and tempering and like that. Handle samples TK ....

Ooh! Ooh!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Knife Progress




More images from Chuck Pippin, as the blade gets shaped. The damascus will, he says, start to show back up once the steel is polished. The steel, by the by, is "... 416 layers. It's made up of 3 layers of 52100, 4 layers of 5160, 3 layers of 203E, and 3 layers of 15N20 ... folded 5 times."


Cool, hey?


Chuck has suggested that a round guard might not be idea for a sheathed blade this short and I agree. (A katana is fine because of the way it's carried.) We're going with an oval shape.


And more later ...
 

Anniversary



This many years ...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Occupy


Probably you've seen this image, from today's Oregonian. A woman, screaming at a cop, gets more seasoning with her meal than she expected. 


I've been waiting before I weighed in on the Occupy Movement, a branch of which has been active in Portland for the last few weeks.


I have mixed emotions about it.


On the one hand, civil disobedience in pursuit of a just cause is valid and honorable. Lord knows we-the-people got screwed by Wall Street and big banks and very few of the folks who did it were punished for their actions. And with the economy in the toilet and the rich getting ever richer, if you aren't upset, you aren't paying attention. So I support them on that level, even if their desires seem passing vague. Life is unfair, we all know that, and would that it wasn't so, but ... what does this do to fix it?


On the other hand, the moment is all over the map, and that diffuse a focus is not the best tactic. It's not about camping in the park, though that seems to have been the biggest part shown to the world. Where shall we march today? Anybody got a charger for my iPhone?


Portland police have blown through more than three-quarters-of-million-bucks in overtime trying to keep things from getting out of hand downtown, and other crimes have been getting short shrift. If it's not an emergency call, don't bother, they don't have anybody to take the report. 


People say nobody is in charge of the Occupy movement, and maybe officially, nobody is, but there are folks who bring the megaphone, and who start the discussions, so the idea that all the animals in the barnyard are equal falls to the notion that some are more equal than others. Always been that way and is apt to stay so. Every tribe has leaders; sometimes, they aren't obvious, but they are there. Grass movements work best when somebody sows fertile ground.


The right to free speech, to assemble and petition our government are guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment, and I haven't heard anybody in local government say otherwise. However, that does not mean you can assemble in the middle of the freeway, or  private property that belongs to somebody who doesn't want you there, and occupying a bank or a Starbucks isn't going to get the Supreme Court's blessing. You simply cannot go anywhere you want and do anything you want when you get there. And, welcome to Earth–what planet did you say you were from?


The Bill of Rights is not absolute, was never intended to be. Free speech doesn't mean you can stand up in a crowded theater and yell "Fire!"


If I can't sit on my usual stool at the lunch counter, or have to move to the back of the bus because you are protesting against racism, that doesn't hurt me, and good for you. 


If you are blocking traffic on a bridge and an ambulance carrying a heart-attack victim cannot cross to take him to the hospital as a result and he dies, whose rights are being violated? 


Yesterday, the tent city having been taken down last weekend, the protestors marched and started occupying banks in Portland. Which is fine, except that people who maybe had a real need to get their money in or out were being kept from entering. Guy who can't make his deposit and his rent check is gonna bounce? Again, whose rights are being violated?


Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins, and that's why we have police, to protect folks from each other. Civil disobedience breaks laws, sometimes unjust ones, but there are limits as to what is acceptable.


Stand in front of my bank, put your hand on my chest and tell me, Sorry, Dude, but corporate America sucks, so I'm afraid I just can't let you go in and support that! 


Really? Trust me, that won't the the smartest decision you make all day, though it might be the last one you make on your own for a little while. Bad tactic.


If you shove a police officer dressed in riot gear holding a three-foot baton or a pepper-spray fogger? Another bad tactic. Peaceful? Sure. Stand there passively, let them arrest and take you away, they shouldn't use any violence on you. Get feisty? Push and scream?  Punch the mounted guy's horse? That makes you stupid, and you get no sympathy from me. 


First time I really noticed this was watching the Chicago riots on TV during the convention in 1968. How smart is it to get into a man's face if he's standing there with a big, honkin' stick and leave to use it? 


Here on Earth, we don't think much of that notion. 


And this is not to say that some officers haven't stepped over the line and used too much force, because they have. And that's wrong, no two ways about it. But you had to know there were risks involved when you went down there, and if you didn't, see the last line three paragraphs above.


My advice? Re-focus. Develop some political power and use that. It will work better than camping in the cold rain and peeing in the bushes and blocking traffic. Being mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore! is not enough. You need a plan. 



Got Dem Backed Up Toilet Blues


Some stories just cry out to be told: The USS George H.W. Bush, a new, eight-billion-dollar aircraft carrier, has a major headache–pun intended. The vacuum system for the toilets is screwed up, and more than a few of the suckers are malfunctioning. Not flushing, or backing up, and the ship's Captain has seen to it that those have been locked. Which results in about six thousand sailors in serious need of places in which to take a dump ...


Half the johns are apparently down, and waiting times in some parts of the ship can run to half an hour ...


And you gotta love the Captain's name, too. Brian Luthor. Whose nickname is–anybody?–yep, that's right: "Lex."


Picture it: You are a sailor on a ship working for Lex Luthor, standing in line every time you need to go pee. 


Join the Navy and see the hallway ...


Apparently some of the stoppages are due to folks sticking things into the toilets that ought not go into them, but even so, you have to wonder. You'd think for eight billion and change, one could get some place to go crap better than hanging one's ass out over the rail.


Yoo, hoo, sailor! New in town? Want to party? What? You want to use my bathroom ... ?

Placeholder for the Placeholder


For those of you who don't know, I have a second blog where I do posts regarding my martial art, Pukulan Pentjak Silat Sera Plinck. 


I put that one up as a placeholder for Maha Guru Plinck when the server Todd had up for our branch of the art crashed and died, and we never got around to repairing it. 


That one only gets a few hits a day, mostly from silat students. I don't post there often, and those posts are narrow in scope, being mostly of interest to folks who are already training in the art. Nearly all of what in the backlog are my thoughts; there are a few things from Todd and Tiel on the art's basic principles. 


From time-to-time, I mention it here, for those folks who might be interested in checking out the site. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lay Down Candles


Work up this morning, the electricity was out. The storm that came through last evening, while much more anemic than predicted–we got but a few hundredths of an inch of rain at my house–did arrive with gusty winds, and some trees and branches came down hither and yon, enough so something got knocked over somewhere. 


Got up, lit a candle, put a log in the fireplace. The iPad was charged, and the 3G connection worked, so I was able to get on PGE's outage site and see there were several hundred folks in my area code sitting in the dark, and a couple thousand in the surrounding areas. PGE had logged four hundred and some calls telling them about it, so I didn't add my voice.


They expected the juice to be flowing again by nine o'clock, they said, but it was back on by 7:40 a.m.


And so it goes ...



Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Keep It Simple Stupid


I was never a particular fan of the costume-rock band KISS. The one song I really liked was the power-ballad "Beth," and that was so unlike everything else they did, it was part of the attraction.


For me, KISS was about the show, not so much the music, and it didn't call to me. By the time they hit it big, I was past the days when I wanted to sit in front of amps turned up to eleven watching comic book rockers and explosions. Not that there's anything wrong with that ...


Ace Frehley (rhymes with "Hailey") one of the original four members and the lead guitarist,  has done his autobiography, and I was curious enough to pick it up. Called No Regrets, it certainly seems to offer a few of those.


It's a warts-and-all story, but it didn't really move me. Maybe it is because I wasn't a big fan back in the day and don't care as much. Hardcore KISS fans will probably love it.


It's written well-enough; Joe Layden and John Ostrosky are co-credited as writers. It's got all the beats of a VH-1 rise-and-fall rock bio. The unknowns getting together, rehearsing, coming up with new songs and ideas for presentation that would set them apart. The subsequent rise from hauling their own gear from bar-to-bar, to getting a record deal, opening for bigger bands, then hitting it big-time.


It tells of how they agreed early on it would be all-for-one, one-for-all, evenly shared across the board. And how that ended badly. 


There are sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, name-dropping, the excesses that should have killed them.


Well, a couple of them. Frehley (Spaceman) and Peter Criss (Kitten) were the party boys; Paul Stanley (Starchild) and Gene Simmons (Demon) didn't indulge in the booze and coke, though Simmons, as Frehley paints him, was a stone sex-addict totally without a sense of humor. He'd nail any woman who had a pulse, (and you get the impression that Frehley didn't think that was necessary,) and bring polaroids to show the boys the next day.


So they went up the ladder into arena rock, got locked into a Broadway-style performance that the live audiences loved, but that didn't usually translate into the albums, which were cranked out really fast, four of them in the first couple years. 


Not that they didn't sell a lot of records, they did.


They spent several weeks in the studio doctoring the "live" album that brought them into the top echelon of seventies rockers, to get that unfiddled-with live-performance sound. Frehley's explanation is defensive, and ends with, "Does it matter?" 


In the grand cosmic scheme of things? No. Of course, neither does Milli Vanilli ...


Frehley's love/hate relationship with the band is foremost on the pages. Simmons, nee Chaim Weitz, an Israeli by birth, gets skewered pretty well. At one point, after Frehley had left the band, Simmons supposedly called to ask him to show up at a TV roast in Simmons' honor. Frehley says this was puzzling, and he declined. He checked around and found out that nobody else in the band was going, either, and how sad was that? The roast was a disaster, he says, and no surprise that it was. He allows as how Simmons had no friends.


He also says Simmons was always about the money and fame, and that for Frehley, it was about the music, and he wasn't all that interested in the money. 


Uh huh. I'm always a little leery when a millionaire rock star who spends high, wide, and everywhere says it's not about the money. Maybe it isn't, but he didn't turn it down.


There is a sequence in which Frehley says his daughter was the victim of a cruel trick by Simmons, and how he never liked the guy after that, and why that was one of the reasons he quit the band the second time. But the telling of how his daughter was in tears and him not bailing right then, or going over to punch Simmons out seems more a retrospective rationalization than it does fatherly outrage. I was really pissed off at the motherfucker, but, well, you know ...


Of course, when you are drunk or stoned or both, all your waking hours, recollections of things might be hazy. Like Keef, he says he's clean now but if anybody is taking bets on that not lasting, put me down for fifty bucks.


In the end, you don't come away with a portrait of the boys in KISS as hale-fellows-well-met, but of the usual disfunctional set of egos jockeying with assholes for the best spot at the trough.  


Maybe after having read a slew of these, it ought not to be a surprise to me by now. It seems to be the rule rather than the exception.

When the Rain Comes


Supposed to be a big storm moving in here today, rain, wind, followed by a drop in temperature that could, in theory, put a few wet snowflakes all the way to the valley floor by Friday.


It's all relative, of course. A "big" storm here drizzles an inch of rain in twenty-four hours. Where I grew up, any passing summer thundershower could drop three times that much in an hour or so, move off, and the water mostly dried up and gone by sundown. And those could happen almost every day from June to September, not counting the hurricanes.


In hurricane season, sometimes we'd get a foot of rain in twenty-four hours, more, and it only made the swamps cloudier, and irritated the alligators and cottonmouth moccasins ...


Driving in the rain doesn't bother me, nor most of the drivers up this way. Not like L.A. where, if somebody spits out their car window, everybody goes stark, raving mad behind the wheel.


Use my brakes? Are you insane?! I might skid! The default response to rain in L.A. is to tromp on the gas pedal.


I'm one to talk, though. Even after more than thirty years living here, if a snowflake lands on my driveway, I stay home. If God had wanted me to drive in the snow, I figure I'd have been born wearing skis ...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What's in a Name?


Saturday night, my wife and I left Orycon and drove across the river in the rain to the Portland Historical Society, which pretty much has all the artifacts of Oregon history worth having. The state keeps most of the documents, but the Society keeps the hardware. Got a hundred thousand square foot warehouse full of it, out in Gresham. 


Some friends of ours, considerably better off financially than are we, had the winning bid in a charity auction on a catered dinner for ten, to be be held after-hours at the place, and we were invited along.


The food, supplied by the Heathman, was outstanding. I had a dish of chicken, shrimp, and morel mushrooms to die for. Great red wine, too. 


Part of the event was a chance to roam around the exhibits, getting a special tour from the director.


Electronic media are wonderful–TV, radio, ebooks, computers, iPads and the lot–but there is something lost with their gains. A hand-written letter from Mark Twain (signed "Sam Clements") to somebody in Oregon isn't so fascinating if you just read the text-version on your computer. Even a high-rez picture scanned into your computer simply isn't the same.


Look that that spidery, ornate handwriting on the copy of the Oregon constitution's preamble.


A copy of the first newspaper printed on the west coast was upstairs. They passed around a chunk of the Oregon Meteorite, the largest iron one ever found, and told a terrific story about where it was first located, how it was stolen, and where it wound up eventually. (In a planetarium in New York City.)


In the 1830s, the two men who owned most of the property known as The Clearing, on the Willamette River, decided they needed something a little classier to call it. Each wanted to name it after his home town. Asa Lovejoy was from Boston; William Pettygrove, from Portland, ME. They decided to flip a coin, best two out of three. Pettygrove won; had Lovejoy done so, we'd be Boston, the City of Roses, and our not-working basketball team called the Boston Trailblazers.


That penny, a large cent, is in a glass case just off the lobby. 


There is a certain pleasure to be found wandering though history. The nine-foot-tall gasoline pump here; the old diving suit there; the gravy boat from the captain's chest of the first ship to sail up the Columbia. A pair of our current governor's old bluejeans ...


A fine time was had by all, and I learned a bit more about local history than I had known. What's not to like?





Sunday, November 13, 2011

Orycon 33


Went to Orycon this weekend, which I usually do. Missed one when we were living in Port Townsend and got snowed in one year, but mostly I try to be useful at the local shindig. I've toastmastered it a couple times, but am still waiting to be asked to be Guest of Honor. (Since they know I'm coming anyway, though, why would they do that?)


We are getting grayer and our kids and grandkids growing up-this was the 33rd incarnation.


Friday, I MCed the Endeavour Award. My part lasted about two minutes, went fine.


Saturday, I did panels, an autographing, and a reading. Steve Barnes, Rory Miller, and I were on a panel together about kung-fu versus wire-fu, that was fun. We were all booked solidly enough so we couldn't find a matching gap between gigs to do lunch or drinks. Too bad. 


I did a panel on formidable women in fiction and that was also–I thought–both entertaining and enlightening. The panelists were bright, funny, and knew their stuff. One of them, now a small press publisher, was a woman I corresponded with for a time when she was at Dark Horse, and it was the first time we had met. 


I sat next to William F. Nolan at the autographing. A man whose stuff I grew up reading, and whose book (with George Clayton Johnson) was the basis for the move Logan's Run.) Man has written 84 books. He's also 84 years old.


I followed Nolan at our readings. He did a funny short story about a ghost trying to kill his ex-wife. I read one of the Roy the Demon stories. I warned the audience that it was rated NC-17 for language and gave them a choice between that and "Jolly Roger," and they elected Roy.


Had a pretty good crowd for the reading, about twenty-five or so, but it looked smaller–for some reason they put us in the ballroom ...

Again, Black Steel



Alan Maisey's catalogue is up. If you have an interest in a keris, or a couple of other Indonesian blades, have a look. 


This one is Balinese, a thirteen-wave example of a rare pamor, buntel mayit, (aka tambang badung).

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Misfire



Just got back from a long day at Orycon, followed by a dinner with some friends at the Oregon Historical Society, and I'll report on those later. To unwind–I get pretty ramped up when I go to a convention, it's like being onstage wearing my party hat from start to finish–I decided to read a mystery novel I downloaded from iBooks.


Well-known writer, bestseller, and he throws a lot of gun stuff at the reader, most of which doesn't seem too bad. Then I came to a scene wherein the local cop points her Colt Cobra at a military investigator. Which starts out fine, writer calling it a double-action revolver,  and then he gets to telling us the caliber: .45.


Nope, it isn't. The basic Cobra is .38 Special. Once upon a time, Colt made Cobras in .32 Colt, and even .22 LR, but they have all been out of production for a long time. 


Maybe he meant the Colt King Cobra, which was around until the late 1990's as a production gun, not as neat as the Python, but a fine sidearm.


But–no. The CKC is chambered for .357 Magnum (and will thus shoot .38 Specials, as well.)


That was also the chambering of the Python. No .45's here.


There are revolvers that shoot .45 caliber ammunition, usually what they call Long Colt, and mostly not .45 ACP, which requires specially made cylinders that will handle .45 ACP, usually with half- or full moon-clips. And there is one tricked-out cylinder like the ones in Medusas for those revolvers with .45 barrels, but there isn't any such thing as a Cobra/King Cobra DA revolver in .45 caliber. Never has been. Won't ever be.


Good writer. Bad research. Five Hail Marys, Seven Our Fathers, go and sin no more.

Gumshoe


The term "gumshoe" comes from the early athletic footwear, aka, sneakers, which were called that because the soft rubber soles allowed for a quiet walk. Back in the day when most folks wore shoes with leather soles and heels, clumping across a hard surface produced a certain amount of noise. Hard to steal up on somebody in your #12 cowboy boot on a wooden floor.


Gumshoes thus came to represent private eyes, who were into stealth.


In my misspent youth, I was a private eye. I did it for about five years, starting in Los Angeles working for a big agency, then opening my own business when I moved back to Louisiana. 


Mostly, it's not like they depict it on TV or in the movies or in those hardboiled detective novels; however, it does have its moments, the business, and I had a few. Some were exciting, some funny, and those are fond memories. 


I've spoken to a couple of those here in passing, but I've always wanted to do a memoir of my time in that realm, and while I certainly don't have any room on my plate at the moment, what with the books I already have piled up there, the first of which is due in about six weeks, I'm going to crank the back-burner up and get it cooking anyway.


Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gizmos


Our wedding anniversary is coming up in a little over week, and my wife has been eyeing a Kindle Fire. (Well, looking at pictures, since they haven't shipped any yet, and there's no place where you can lay hands on one to play with.) 


We are Mac folks, however, have been since she owned and ran a newspaper that used a Mac toaster for layout, in the early 1990s. Try that some time, laying out a tabloid on a nine-inch screen. OS 4 or 5, as I recall.


The iPad has the same size screen as the first desktop we had. And that's about all they have in common.


The toaster, which quickly became a boat anchor, was but the first of many Macs that have cycled through here. The memory gets ever larger, the screens get bigger, and the price has gone down. Welcome to the future. 


Um. Anyway, yesterday I decided to go see if there were any iPad 2s available. When I got mine, there was an eight-week waiting list, and I haven't been tracking that. While the Mac store down at the mall was packed with early Christmas shoppers–there were fifty or sixty people clogging up the place–they have an express desk. Say, what are the possibilities of getting an iPod 2 in such and such a configuration?


100% said the sweet young thing behind the table.


Okay. Gimme.


Yeah, it cost twice as much as the Kindle, more by the time you get the extended warranty, but if you are dyed-in-the-wool Apple fan, you know going in you are paying for the hardware and that there will be ten million programs and applications at prices from free to reasonable, to stuff into the new toy, so I went for it.


Mostly, it'll be a reader and web-surfer, and you can use WiFi (3G is a built-in option). Got the neat little magnetic cover that turns it off when you close it, color-coƶrdinated, too. 


She didn't know I was going to get it, and was properly surprised. Ran the battery way down yesterday playing with it. 


Happy Anniversary!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Repost of an Old Video



Somebody sent me a note about steel–wondering why it mattered so much in knifemaking.

Hereover, a fine example of why the steel (and temper) make a difference. It's a sword, but the principle is the same.



Sunday, November 06, 2011

Proof of Knife




While back, I came up with the notion of a knife with a fat, tubular-shaped handle I thought would be fun to twirl and play with. Made a rough prototype of PVC pipe, an old butterfly knife, and some epoxy, and then went back to my usual business.


Chuck Pippin, a silat guy and knifemaker who has done some steel for me–link over in the sidebar–saw the drawing and offered to have a go at making the knife. 


Life, as it is wont to do, gets in the way, so he didn't get around to it until now.


It's early in-progress, but a couple of pictures, to show the forged Damascus slab he is using, and the rough cut. I'll post more images as he progresses.


This is way cool, as I told him, like serialized installments of an adventure story. What will happen next?!


Stay tuned. 




Research


I was cleaning out a section of the store room and came across a big box of books I had stuck out there. We were about to make a Powell's run, so I figured I'd go through them and see if there were any I could lose.


Turned out there were more than a few that could go away, so I stuck them into the trade-in bag.


A decade and some ago, I wrote a novel set in a fantasy version of Nineteenth Century Java. I was deep into my silat training, and, doing research, I found all kind of things I thought fascinating, so I figured what-the-hey, I'd use it in a book.


The book, Master of Pamor, couldn't find a traditional publisher who wanted it, so I eventually stuck it up as a POD, then an ebook, where it has sold slowly but steadily since. 


While I would have loved to have seen it become a bestseller, it was an odd duck, and hard to categorize: It had a little fantasy, but ambiguous enough so it wasn't right to stick it under sword & sorcery. The historical stuff was fun, but it didn't feel like a historical novel. The martial arts were thick, and so much a part of the thing that it was probably more information than most readers wanted. Rated R, for sex and violence. It fell, as they like to say in New York publishing, between two stools. Who was the audience? 


Mostly, the audience was me. I wrote it because I wanted to write it, and after that, it did what it did. I liked it, that was the main thing. Sometimes, that's how it happens. Type -30- and move along.


But going through the box of books, I realized how much research I had done on the sucker, There were nine books about Indonesia in the box–histories, culture, language, and even a cookbook, as well as a couple of detailed maps. I also had a fat file on the computer with web research, and maps I had made detailing my fictional landscape, as well as a slew of pictures.


Most of the writers I know like to do research. It means you don't have to actually write if you are poking around for background material. (And let it be known that if you aren't putting pages into the pile, you aren't really writing, you are getting ready to write, or avoiding same. Yeah, yeah, you have to answer fan mail and do research and drop by the bank and read galleys and ninety-seven other things necessary for the maintenance of your career, but if you aren't getting pages and chapters done, none of that really counts. You aren't writing.)


There's a trap here you have to watch for–two of them, actually. First is, you could spend too much time and energy doing research, and not enough writing the book. Second is, you love the stuff you found so much you want to put it all into the novel, and you run the risk over overloading the story. 


I've done both, so hear me now but listen to to me later: Do enough to make it feel real, then stop ...

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Andy Rooney


Andy Rooney
1919-2011

AdiĆ³s, Andy. You were one of our favorite curmudgeons.

Hard Rain


I just finished reading Karl Marlantes's What It Is Like To Go To War, his memoir of Vietnam, and how he came to put it in perspective. It's a must-read for anybody going into an active war-zone, as well as anybody who will potentially have to deal with life-or-death situations involving deliberate intent. And thanks to Denny Bershaw for sending the book my way.

This was written for warriors by a warrior, and it is a warts-and-all picture that covers the good, the bad, and the ugly, and how sometimes it's impossible to tell one from the other. 

Marlantes was a platoon commander in the Marines, and his tour-of-duty covered serious combat on the ground. He won the Navy Cross, a Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for Valor, two Purple Hearts, and Ten Air Medals. How he dealt with his feeling then and afterward is why you read it: It's a primer on how to be a warrior and why you have to have rituals and ways of blowing off what can become corrosive and self-destructing steam.

I haven't been there, so I don't know, but it mostly feels real to me. Some of the events seem a bit over the top, and knowing he is a novelist makes me wonder if he automatically adjusted his memories toward the dramatic, but even if he did, his points are impossible to dispute. We are tool-using apes who, when killing begins, hate it, fear it, glory in it, and at some level, enjoy it. Within most of us, the potential to do all of those exists.

If the book has one drawback, it's that Marlantes uses footnotes. I can understand this, he returned from the war and went to Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar (after Yale) so there is that academic bent; however, a narrative like this doesn't need this kind of aside, it only stops the flow, which is otherwise well-done. The book should be passed out with uniforms in basic training to every military unit we have.