Sunday, September 30, 2012

On the Move

Got my nephew and niece-in-law and their toddler visiting for a few days. The baby is nineteen months old. (Youngest grandson  is now six, and you forget how it is with a toddler. It comes back pretty fast ...)

A complicating factor is, the baby and our boy dog share a name. Call one, the other comes to see what you want ...

So the dogs are trailing around behind the baby, trying to herd him. And of course, he is constantly on the move, playing, babbling, sometimes screaming for joy. And toddlers love danger, of which there are kinds you also tend to forget. No, you don't want to stand up on the dog ramp there, you'll tumble right off. Um, if you slide off the bed like that, you'll probably fall and clonk your head, c'mere ...

Keeps you alert.

We are pulling up the decorative stones we laid under the overhang out front, to plant things, and we set the pavers in sand, which gives us a nice sand pit. Babies love sand pits ...

I have to go take a shower, quick, before baby patrol begins again. 

Never a dull moment. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Funny Political Ad

Okay, it's the silly season and I've tried to mostly stay out of it, but this one is worth watching, just because it's Samuel L. Jackson.

You saw it here first.

Safe for work (the f-word gets bleeped) unless you work for a Republican, and maybe even then, 'cause even if you don't agree with it, it is funny ...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

And Then There is This ...

So, the bound galley for Ramal. It is officially a January, 2013 release, which means it should be on the racks Christmas Eve–and there is terrific marketing, hey? 

Need a last minute gift? Over here! Over here–!

Maybe gift cards to book stores will cause a major surge in sales between Christmas and New Year's. And, of course, Spielberg, looking for a new space opera project, will get into a bidding war with George Lucas for the movie rights ...

Look at the picture. You don't see me holding my breath waiting on that one ...

Though I am onboard the e-train and copacetic with the idea of reading more stuff on my iPad than in treeware nowadays, there is something to be said for having a tangible, no-batteries-needed paper book in your hand that makes it more real. If I had to guess, I'd say that however many copies it sells, it will probably move more in the e-realm than in paper; the biggest thing there being that once it goes up into the electronic markets, it stays there, no strip-the-covers-off and returns.

Well. Whatever. The "First in a New Series!" it says on the cover, and there will be at least two, because I've already written that many. A third is contracted, and barring sudden illness or accident, I'll get that one done. After that? Depends on how well they do, I suppose.

Probably Ace will let me put up a chapter or so up here for promo as the pub date draws nigh.

Yeah, yeah, I'm still working on the next Matador book. Slowly ...

Artists Versus Their Art

On the heel of the Andy Williams obituary, some musings about artists. 

Williams was, by all accounts, a stand-up, laid-back, nice guy. Hard to find anybody who had anything bad to say about him on a personal level.

You like to hear that about artists you like.

Other artists who have achieved some renown in various fields sometimes aren't so nice. And the question for some people–me included–is: How much of a pass does being good or even great as an artist buy you?

Where do you draw the line, if you do? And should you?

Some people can separate it easily. There's the guy, over there; and over here, his music/art/movies/biz, whatever. The two aren't the same. If you don't know anything about the artist, can't you appreciate what s/he has created without that?


But if you know he was a total scuzzball? Does that matter?

I myself find this easier if the artist is question is dead. Nobody is perfect, and if Picasso was an asshole, well, he was Picasso, right?

It's a slippery slope, and for me, at least, it depends of how much of an asshole somebody was.

I know folks who were happy that Michael Jackson died. Not so much that they wanted to see him gone per se, but that knowing what they knew about his personal life, they couldn't listen to his music. They didn't want to buy any of it, or help make it more popular, because they didn't want to see him benefit by that. 

How good does a song have to be to excuse pedophilia?

William Burroughs and Naked Lunch. Brilliant book. But: That he got plastered down in Mexico and killed his common-law wife–he put a glass on top of her head and stepped back a ways to show everybody what a good shot he was by knocking it off. 

His aim was low. Hit her in the head.

(For me, even the idea somebody would shatter a glass on top of my head shows how drunk everybody must have been. Really? Flying glass shards?)

Johnny Carson took over The Tonight Show when I was in junior high. I watched him, on and off, for the thirty years he was the king of late night TV. I thought he was funny, a great interviewer, and like Stewart and Colbert today, that was the place to get your news and be able to laugh at it, instead of crying. 

I read recently an unathorized bio of Carson, and while you have to take these things with a grain of salt, there was a whole bunch of stuff I did not know about the man.

He was a mean drunk, and when he got lit, he beat his wives. He cheated on them all with a slew of women, both right before, and right after, "I do." He was a terrible father; not so much abusive as inattentive. He tried to fire Ed McMahon because he couldn't stand to get upstaged. Ed took the hint and dialed it back. (Apparently the bit that Gary Shandling did with his sidekick on The Larry Sanders Show, a really funny send-up of late night, was dead-on.) Carson was autocratic, held a grudge, and smoked himself into an early grave. 

Not to say he didn't have good qualities, but those bad ones, taken together, make me wonder: If I had known this about the man when I was watching him on the tube, would I have continued to do so? 

Truth is, I don't know. I like to think I would have changed the channel. I would now. 

It's all relative, isn't it ... ?

Andy Williams

Like Perry Como and Bing Crosby, Andy Williams was one of those laid-back crooners who never seemed to get too excited or upset when he delivered a song. Starting as a kid in the 1930s with his brothers, on the road, on radio, then onto a career alone, he cranked out a series of pop hits, the best known of which was "Moon River," which became his signature song, the title of his bio, and the theater he eventually opened in Branson.

One of the kings of Easy Listening, Williams was not a writer, he made his name doing covers, movie soundtracks, and standards, but he was butter-smooth and he picked some winners:

"Music to Watch Girls By," "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You," "Charade," "Born Free," "Dear Heart," and my favorite, "Can't Get Used to Losing You," which is one I keep in my repertoire. Written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, it's got a catchy, jazzy, syncopated flow. 

On his TV show, which ran for years, he would feature groups like The Jackson Five and The Osmonds, and he did a Christmas special for years that let you know it really was the Christmas season.

Been a couple hip-hop and rap singers who've used his stuff in mash-ups, but chances are most of my younger readers won't know who Williams was unless they happened to hear him on a visit to Grandma's house when her Victrola was going ...

He was eighty-four, and he stayed in front of the mike almost to the end. 

Adiós, Andy.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Florence, Oregon

We went to the Chowder and Blues Fest on the coast Friday and Saturday, held in the picturesque little town of Florence. Supposed to be gray and rainy and cold the whole time, turned out to be mostly sunny and short-sleeve shirt weather. Great.

Some of the groups or single players were pretty good, some not so much. One guy had pretty good chops, but he was using rhythm track loops on some of his song, i.e., pre-recorded backing, and a couple times, he started the song at a tempo, say 80 bpm, and when he got to the loop, it was running at 70 bpm, which meant he had to slow down. Time was, I wouldn't have caught this.

Our favorite restaurant, Feast, née Crave, has shut down. We tried to find a replacement, but couldn't. Food wasn't bad, but what is supposed to be the best place on town, according to reviews, didn't come close. Ah, well, maybe we'll stumble across another gem someday ...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Yard Work v2

Mostly got the juniper bonsai-ed. Looks better than the pictures, actually, but you can get an idea of what a wall of green turns into after about six hours of snipping and lopping. Filled up the green recycle bin and a big paper bag, with about that much more piled up waiting.

Still have to clean up a bit, a few more trims here and there, cover the ground with bark dust, like that, but pretty much, it is done.

Resonator Guitar

Here's a documentary on the resonator (steel body) guitar. Runs an hour and a half, the last few minutes in a second video, so it's probably a bit long to watch if you are at work, but if you don't how these things work, you might find it interesting–I did.

Better to go to YouTube and watch it there, and full screen is better. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Deals Not Done, Roads Not Taken

Got a note from a newbie writer who got an offer to do some writing work. A crappy offer that basically winds up giving all the rights from now until the end of time away for what amounts to virtually nothing. 

Don't do it, I counseled.

Easy for you to say, the writer allowed. You have a track record.

But listen, I said, there are times when it absolutely isn't worth it. If they were gonna give you big bucks for a flat fee? Yeah, that's something about which you'd have to think. But they aren't. Your end is all the work; their end is almost all the money. 

Some years ago, my agent was approached by the assistant of a well-known fellow in the writing and publishing biz. For this discussion, let's just call him ... Big Name Icon. 

Biggie was contemplating the creation of a new cross--platform universe–books, comics, TV, movies, games, T-shirts, like that, and would I be interested in becoming a minority partner in the project?

Why me? Because of my credits in shared universes: Conan, Aliens, Star Wars, Clancy. They thought I had the chops. 

Well, thanks, I was interested. Say on.

Said they:

Here's the deal: You would create a bible, write the first novel, upon which the rest of the universe would be based, and work hand-in-glove with Big Name Icon Himself! Sit down, kick ideas back and forth, get in on the ground floor. This could be huge. 

Cool. What are we talking about for, you know, my end?

The assistant named a figure. After I picked my laughing self up from the floor–the amount was less than I was getting for my own midlist books, I allowed as how that seemed, I dunno, a tad low. Want to explain why would I go to work for somebody else for less than I was making on my own? Where I didn't have to answer to anybody for any thing? 

Well, Big Name Icon, who created other major universes, got stung back in the day, and he's not as well-heeled as everybody thinks he is. We don't have a deal with any publishers yet, so he has to pay you out of his own pocket.

Oh, okay, I understand that. I'm willing to take short money up front for a piece of the action on the other end.

Um ... well, see, Biggie got stung on that, too, so he's not really interested in giving away points. 

No points? 

Huh. "Minority partner" doesn't seem to mean what I thought it did.

So let me see if I have it straight: He wants to pay peanuts for me to create his new universe from scratch, write a hundred-thousand-word novel, and not allow me to participate in the profits if it takes off?

Well, yes, but think about it: You get to work with (can I get a WAH-WAH ECHO SFX HERE?) Big-Big-Big-Name-Name-Name-Icon-Icon-Icon! Hand-in-glove! And first right of refusal for additional novels.

For the same piddly flat fee?

Well, after things take off, I'm sure that can be adjusted.

Oh, okay, so we are talking about writing escalators into the contract? They sell like ice water in Hell, the fee goes way up for each subsequent one?

Well, we don't want to, you know, nail it down quite so tight.

Hmm. I think I do know. From where I sit, what it sounds like to me is you want me to hand you the bar of soap and bend over.

I'm sure Big Name Icon won't have any trouble finding people who would fall agog on themselves for a chance to drop his name in conversation, but you know what? I'm not them. Thanks for dropping by; don't let the door hit you on the on the way out, hey ... ?  

There were and probably always will be people who will try to convince you that all-for-them-and-none-for-you is a great deal. Don't do it.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If it sounds as if you are about to get the splintery shaft? You probably are ...

Donkeys and Elephants: The Silly Season

If the results didn't matter so much, it would be really funny–the every-four-year circus that is the run for the U.S. Presidency. Billions spent, and come election day, a winner will be declared.

Let's get this out of the way first: Both sides shade the truth and spin it in their favor. Both sides outright lie. Both sides campaign in poetry, and the winner will govern in prose. Always been that way, and this cycle won't be any different, save that it will cost more.

Most of the promises either side holds up will, unless history is absolutely no indication, not come to pass. Whoever gets the job will move toward the center from where he started; it's the nature of the beast.

Friendships get made and unmade during the silly season. People who ordinarily can sit on different sides of the fence and have a conversation over the top rail get testy and personal and things get said that produce more heat than light. Enough heat to burn up communications.

What a fucking idiot you are, to believe that? Are you insane? Can you not see what a liar your guy is? 

Heard it; said it; I am not the guy to cast the first stone; however ...

Politics is how the world works, and the word "compromise" is a necessity. If you truly believe that your view, whatever it is, is the only valid way to look at things and you won't give an inch against the devils who say other? You can't get anything done.

And that's the point of politics, at least in theory: To get things done. To help the common folks get through their lives. To make the country a better place.

We lose sight of this. We forget how we felt the day after 9/11, when even old hippies who had no use for government unfurled flags out front. When, for a brief and shining moment, we were what the name says: United.

Didn't last, that feeling. What a shame.

I used to be a Republican. I was a fiscal conservative and a personal liberal, and the party reflected that. I don't think it does any more, and evidence of spending us into a hole? Look around.

Trickle down economics? Please. 

I used to be a Democrat. My feelings about social programs altered, and I became more liberal than I had been. But the D's sometimes offer things with which I don't agree.

Taxing the millionaires and billionaires? That isn't enough to balance the budget. I confess that having somebody who can buy yachts without asking how much the cost have to pay his or her fair share of taxes? Why, that doesn't bother me at all, but it won't fix the problems.

Now, I register Independent. And mostly vote for the D's because more of what I agree with comes from that side of the aisle. Not to say that they have it all together, certainly they don't. But overall, at this point in my life, I'm much more the bleeding heart liberal than I am conservative. 

I'm pro-gun, pro-choice, pro-personal freedom, anti-war. If you are black, brown, gay, straight, rich, poor, sick, healthy, there should be a place for you in our society. I see that the D's have a larger tent than the R's. 

Has Obama done a perfect job? No, don't be even more silly. Did he do a better job than George W. Bush? Absolutely. Did the R's dig us into a deep hole surrounded by war? Were the D's complicit in allowing it? Yes. That's how I see it. Do I want four more years of what got us there? Nope–but I don't blame Obama for it: The horse was lame when he got it.

What is best for the country? Who can say? I'm willing to give Obama another term to see what he can do. I don't expect him to entirely fix things–nobody can do that, and if you believe he or Romney can bail out the ship of state and make it look brand spanking new? You haven't been paying attention to history. Who is better to keep it from sinking?

No, government is not the answer to all our problems. But letting granny die because she can't afford medicine, even from Canada, is not an answer I like. 

(Normally in these discussion, I don't bring up religion, but since everybody else and her kid sister has? I don't believe Jesus was a Republican, not given what He did and said. I doubt he would have been a Democrat, either. He was a radical. But consider what he said about rich men and the poor and sick. About casting stones. And I surely don't think He and the Lost Tribe of Israel spent a lot of time in the Americas. Have you actually read The Book of Mormon? I have.) 

You weigh this and that, and then you choose. It's not just about whether I'm better off than I was; it's about is the country as a whole better off than it was. I see that it is and more so under Obama than it would have been under McCain. Or Romney. So that's how I'll vote.

Whatever you believe, you should seriously weigh the issues as best you can, and make your choice as informed as you can make it. Don't drink the Kool-Aid from either side. Do the research. Be honest. An educated electorate is better than one that is not. Do the work.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Favorite Lines

In 1964, leading man Cary Grant was starting to get a bit long in the tooth. He wasn't far from retiring–he was only sixty, and he lived until he was in his eighties–but he knew he couldn't keep playing lead roles, he didn't want to do character parts, and so he bowed out gracefully.

The movie Father Goose, with Leslie Caron and Trevor Howard, was one of those madcap screwball romantic comedies so popular in the thirties and forties, a genre in which Grant was as good as they got. 

Been almost fifty years since I saw it, so my memory is sketchy, but bear with me.

The set-up is, it's WWII, and Grant, a beach-combing curmudgeon and hard-drinking fellow, is recruited to spy on Japanese overflies on his island in the South Pacific. He reluctantly agrees to do so. One of his scruffiest roles, no suave character here. 

Pretty quick, Caron, playing a French school teacher, arrives with a gaggle of little girl students, on the run from the Japanese. Grant has no use for them, and calls on the Navy to come and fetch them, but of course, they can't, so he's stuck.

Grant and Caron's characters detest each other on sight, so you know where this is going, it being a screwball romantic comedy. They are at each other constantly, calling each other names, and, of course, the Japanese are coming, so that clock starts ticking. 

The teacher and girls hide his booze in order to blackmail him into doing stuff they want. It ramps up. Grant keeping calling his Navy contact, telling him to get them off his island.

Caron is just as eager to get off the island. They call each other names: Grant allows to the Navy contact, Howard, that Grant is a filthy beast; Grant counters with calling her Little Goody Two Shoes.

After much merriment and looming Japanese,  they fall for each other. And they decide that they want the captain to marry them, over the radio. 

One of the officers goes to fetch the captain. Says, "They want to get married."

The captain stares at him as if he's just turned into a giant tree frog. The line, delivered in amazement:

"Married? Goody Two Shoes and the Filthy Beast?!"

I can remember laughing my ass at least partway off when I heard that. It was the best moment of the film for me.

Written by Peter Stone and Frank Tarloff, both of whom wrote a lot of movies and TV on their own.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Get Up and Move!

Article in today's Big O by David Stabler on exercise. Basically says, exercise is better than diet in a lot of ways, vis a vis physical and mental health, and if you sit too much, you do yourself harm, even if you do work out.

Worth a gander.

I have to point out: The study that claims sitting and watching the tube will lop a couple years off your life is more than a little bit of a reach. The abstract is here, the full text here, and if you read it and look at the methodology, you can see it's one of those meta-data examination things that obviously doesn't eliminate enough other factors to be definitive. 

There might be a causal link is not the same as there is one, and the popular press tends to seize on anything that they can stir or shock a reader/viewer with–they are forever trumpeting a new cure for cancer, a live-forever potion, based on a small study with mice and despite the author's denials that s/he said any of that. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Way Cool Science

Watch this video, if you can see it. So cool.

Progress in the Yard

My wife got the first plants into the first box out back today, along with a whole buncha dirt, leaves, steer manure, and like that.

I carved some more on the juniper out front. Gotten about two-thirds of the way through. Wore out a pair of leather gloves–you can see the duct-tape patches on a couple fingers. Last of a set of three pair I got at Costco, like ten years ago. I'll have to get some more.

I had been wearing shorts and a T-shirt to do this work. Today, I opted for long sleeves and old blue jeans. No man-up here, just sissy-down ...

Broke in my new Felco clippers. The little red-handled ones, you can see them there, under the gloves. They came sharp enough to shave with. Made in Switzerland. The instructions on how to take them apart and put in new blades are written in twelve languages, including Arabic, Japanese, and Russian. High-end tools, these; I've never owned a pair of clippers that changing the blade was possible before now, I'd just get out the files and sharpen them.

Click on the second image, you can get a pretty good idea of what it looks like. It's gettin' there ...


That's what they call a pack rat's nest and collection, a midden. I have a certain amount of pack rack in me, not the least of which is that I tend to keep copies of nearly everything I've written. Boxes full of paper correspondence in the garage, old manuscripts, like that. Now, I don't print most of it out, but bundle it up every year or so on CDs. Takes a lot less space.

I don't keep a journal, save for Hallowe'en, but a lot of what I do is logged somewhere, much of it on this blog. If I exchange what I consider significant mail or email with somebody, somewhere these is a copy of it. 

This activity has pros and cons, but one of the good things is that, if I have ever been in a discussion with somebody via mail or email and there is some question about who said what, when? If I know an approximate date, I can find the discourse and review it.

Sometimes my memory isn't crystal clear, sometimes it's outright wrong, but having it written down helps. Doesn't make it any truer if it is on paper or a file I can access electronically, but it does show what actually got said, by whom. 

Writers are taught not to throw their work away. Someday, they can mine it for material, or leave it to some university after they shuffle off, and provide some desperate grad student a shot at a thesis or maybe a biography of some minor celebrity.

And it comes in handy when you are arguing about that time the doorknob broke and you can point out that you said so ...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Glow Stones

How cool is this? You can buy glow-in-the-dark rocks. Spendy, but I bet a few pounds would go a long way to sparking up your driveway on a moonless and dark night ...


When I was in college at LSU in the mid-sixties, I got a part-time job working for a high-end toy and baby furniture store called Kid Stuff. The place was in Baton Rouge, on Jefferson Highway, just off Government street, next to Joe D's Market. (Joe D's had a great fried chicken Po' boy.) 

The toy place was notable for having an airplane mounted on a pole in a nosedive position on the roof. The engine was gone, it was just the shell, but it was an attention-catcher. 

Sadly, I never took a picture of the place, and it's no longer there. 

My job was mostly to deliver and assemble things. I would come in after school, load the store's new pickup truck, and take off. The majority of toy items were swing-sets. I'd lay out the parts and then put them together, and I did enough of them after a few months I could do it on autopilot. Five minutes–I remember my record as being just over three minutes–and that with the kids waiting swarming all over the place.

The little jungle gyms? Those were a bitch. The holes never quite lined up, and by the end, the whole thing was under a lot of tension. If the last bolt let go, it was apt to be shot across the yard like a bullet ...

Not as much fun in the rain, though I did have a nifty rainsuit.

Inside the houses, what I mostly put together, were drop-side baby cribs. I think those are illegal now, or at least modified considerably, because they were dangerous. Over the years, a lot of babies were hurt, even killed, in these, and if ever you needed an example of why there needs to be some kind of governmental regulation of consumer products, this is one. We didn't know it back then. I mean, no reputable American company would make a product dangerous to babies, right?

They were called drop-sides because a latch at the bottom would allow a parent to do just that on one, sometimes both sides, making it easier to load and unload the baby. 

Never got really good at those, because it seemed no two of them were quite the same.

I was there only for a few months; when summer rolled around, I had a gig lifeguarding and teaching swimming lessons, and even at minimum wage, the combination of hours and a cut of the lesson fees paid better than the toy store.

After I got married and my bride and I moved into an old house downtown, I got a night job working the gift show and Avis rent-a-car counter in a big hotel a couple miles away. I rode my bicycle to and from work, which put me on the road home at eleven p.m. I remember I got stopped once by the police for going the wrong way on a one-way street on my bike. They didn't give me a ticket, which was good.

That's it from the oldie station for today ...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Here the image of Carmen Dell'orefice, a lifelong model, still walking the runway in fashion shows.

She is eighty-one years old ...

As Ye Sow

For years, our suburban crops have been grown in old whiskey barrels. Lettuce, tomatoes, chives, beans, cabbage, squash, chard, plus herbs, like that. But time and weather have killed the slats, rusted the bands, rotted out the bottoms, and it was time to replace the old barrels.

My wife–she's the gardener–found some guys who do raised-bed boxes, in cedar, for not much more than it would cost me for the wood. They deliver and set them up, too. So we now have three four-by-four boxes in which we will do our gardening. We will fill them with dirt and stuff and plant the fall and winter plants soon.

Stay tuned ...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Entertainment Round Up

A couple amusements:

If you can get BBC America (Or BBC UK, I suppose), check out the TV show Copper.
Set in New York City in 1864, the stories center around Corcoran, an Irish cop who was wounded in the war, and who uses a shillelagh to gimp around as he solves crimes.

Also to beat the everliving crap out of people, too ...

If you are a fan of Deadwood, I expect you find something to like about this one. It's gritty, dark, no-holds-barred, and even the good guys are seriously flawed, while the bad guys are flat-out the scum of the Earth. Stories go places you won't see in most cop shows. I mean, really.

For the readers, the latest Reacher novel is just out, A Wanted Man. These book are fluffy, unrealistic, and one of my guilty pleasures. Fans know that there is a movie version, starring Tom Cruise. Fans also know that, Cruise's action movie abilities notwithstanding, he's the wrong guy for this role. Reacher is a big guy, tall, muscular, and this is an integral part of his make-up. No matter how good a five-eight actor is, he can't sell six-five, even wearing Karloff's Frankenstein's monster boots ...

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Message in a Bottle

In August, a drift-bottle released in 1914 to check water currents was retrieved by a fishing boat. After almost ninety-eight years, the bottle was found just over nine miles from where it was released.

Nine miles in ninety-eight years. Makes a snail look like a cheetah.

Or: Maybe it went all around the world and came back, like a salmon returned to spawn ...

In some ways, posting on the net is the modern version of messages-in-bottles. Now and then, I get a note from somebody who plugged something into a search engine and happened across a post I put on my blog. Of course, the blog has only been around six years; still, there are some references that are so narrow that somebody looking for information on, say, a Rolls Royce mechanic in Baton Rouge in the early 1970s, is apt to come across something I wrote.

Got a note from a guy just this morning who'd had a mutual acquaintance back in the day, and who spotted my post about the guy when I had discovered he had passed away a few years back. 

Life is strange.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Yard Work

Juniper - Before

When we moved into this house, the yard was filthy-thick with juniper bushes. San Jose variety, I think, though I could be wrong. The front yard was completely covered, and it was under the porch overhang. There were some really big bushes in the back, some of them rising to eight feet in height. Our Chow-Chow dog Roxanne, believing she was a cat, tried to follow Stripe up a tree once, and managed to get six feet up in the juniper bush, which was pretty impressive. 

Eventually, we cut down and uprooted almost all of the stuff. Seemed like a good idea at the time. The bushes out back started to die, the ones out front kept trying to dig into the crawl space, and those under the porch took up space we wanted for lawn furniture.

We left a patch by the sidewalk, in the southwest corner of the yard, under the plum tree, and every year or two, I trim it back so it doesn't block the walk. 

Not much to look at, a tangled mess, but there you go.

Recently, we passed a neighbor's house on a walk and saw they had done some sculpting on their junipers, so it inspired me to do something with ours. I figured a bonsai haircut would be nice, clipping and trimming out the majority of it and trying to give it that twisty, windblown look. I've been meaning to start another bonsai, and, why not?

It'll take a while. An hour or so with the big clippers and bonsai scissors and I managed to get one corner sorta roughed out.

I'll post the after pictures when I'm done. I

f I get done ... 

Weekend Update: 

I started serious cutting, and came across a branch that had turned a full 360º. I trimmed off the bit that jutted toward the sidewalk, but I'll leave that loop.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

In Progress

Got the electronic galleys for Ramal today. This is the PDF version of what the final book will pretty much look like, and my last pass through it before publication in December. 

At this point, the copy editor will be looking for typos and formatting glitches, and that's what I'll be looking for–from here on, even a small change will mean they have to reformat a bunch of stuff, and you don't get to rewrite in galleys unless you are willing to pay for the time it takes to recast the book.

Aside from piddly stuff, it had better be done by now.

I'm a few chapters into it, and so far, it's pretty clean. Any corrections I spot, I'll upload to my editor and that'll be that until I see the print copy.

Editor's note: The second ms, The Vastalimi Gambit, is officially turned in.

Beware ...

A little background music while you read ...

From today's Oregonian:

"Beaverton police arrested a 23-year-old man this morning and accused him of disorderly conduct because he was walking around naked. 

Officers said Russell David Persons told them he knew he was naked but didn't think it was a problem. 

Police first received a call about Persons about 7:13 a.m. when a school bus driver said a naked adult man was walking in front of Five Oaks Middle School on Northwest 173rd Avenue. 

The driver said there were children on the bus who saw the man. 

Five Oaks was placed in lockdown and officers were dispatched to the area. Washington County deputies found Persons near Northwest 173rd and Fieldstone. He was reportedly wearing socks, shoes and a backpack -- but nothing else. 

Police said Persons told them that he had just left a friend's house and had decided to go for a walk. He also indicated that he didn't think it was a problem for him to be mostly unclothed, officers said ..."

They took him to jail. 

Took him to jail? Really? 

I wonder if there might be a psych consult in his future? Okay to walk past a middle school nekkid ... ?

Or, maybe, whatever he was smoking was really primo ...

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Six Gun

I grew up watching cowboy movies and TV shows. Roy and Dale and Gene and Lash Larue and Red Ryder and the Lone Ranger and Tonto; Clint and Scott and Gary and platoons of rangers and soldiers and Winchester rifles and the big iron on their hips, the Colt Peacemaker, the six-shooter.

I couldn't wait to get one of those guns.

First Colt single-action I owned was in 22 caliber, and came with a .22 Magnum cylinder. Great gun.  And I wish I still had it. 

Because it was a small caliber, the cylinder was smaller In relation to the grip, which was standard size. I got used to those proportions, and later, when I got into center fire calibers, they looked off to me. Grips were too small, cylinder too big. Look at the .22 LR above, and the .45 Colt below.

The black powder Colts in big calibers looked clunky to me, too, but the smaller Navy .36 looked great.

Then there were the conversions, and the precusers to the 1873 Peacemaker–black powder guns, converted to fire metallic cartridges, and then an open-top 1871-72, which, with the Navy grips, is, to my eye, is one of the best-looking guns ever, albeit they aren't as mechanically sound as the Peacemakers. 

Shooting black powder is fun, but messy, even if you use Pyrodex, and loading and swapping out cylinders takes a while. The conversions maintain much of the look, but are not as much hassle. 

Check out the charcoal bluing on the Uberti copy of the 1872 Navy Colt, above. Not very effective protection for the steel, but beautiful. (You get it by cooking the steel in an oven with charcoal and bits of bone.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Road Not Taken

Got a call from my agent today; somebody looking for a ghostwriter. I listened to the pitch and decided to pass on it. The money sounded good, but the scope of the project and the interaction with the client weren't going to be my cup of tea. 

There was a time when I'd have been all over it, but that's the key word these days, "time." I don't have so much of it left that I want to do stuff just for the money.

Always makes me a little uneasy when I turn away work; but the advantage of having gone down so many roads is that you come to realize which ones you don't want to go down again ...

And Speaking of Dogs ...

The dog days of summer ...

Monday, September 03, 2012

Making Dogs

I've mentioned this before, but I came across a reprinted article that lays it out nicely, and thought I'd put up a link. Fascinating reading.

 Basically, back in the Soviet days, the late 1950's, a Russian scientist, Dmitry Belyaev, began an experiment using foxes, breeding them for certain traits. The short version of the experiment is, if you select for their qualities, after several generations, you turn foxes into dogs.

They act like dogs, look like dogs, and are, essentially, dogs. 

Not the first example of hands-on evolution, given all the varieties of critters we have husbanded into existence, but good science nonetheless.