Saturday, December 31, 2011

Computer Confusion

Current word-processing software is pretty neat, there are all kinds of bells and whistles unavailable back in the early desktop day, especially in the way one edits a document. Layout, styles, spellcheck, even grammar-check, though both the latter have drawbacks–writing science fiction or fantasy, you will likely use a lot of words the program won't recognize; and sometimes you will use a correctly-spelled word, but it's the wrong one: "sea," instead of "see."  Of course, it could be any word: "Seal" or "Platypus." Spellchecker won't care. 

The grammar checker might catch that, and certainly proper grammar has its place, but not so much in a novel. Lot of things I do deliberately that the grammar-checker says are wrong. 

Since I'm in charge, we do it my way.

What is the old Churchill cavil? "Something I won't put up with." should properly be rendered as "Something up with which I will not put." to avoid ending the sentence in a preposition. Uh huh. Right. 

Among the features in WP software is the auto-word count. Back in the day, you took your manuscript, picked three pages at random, and counted the lines and words per line on each page, multiplied that, then divided the total by three, to come up with a typical word-per-page count. (Between thin dialog and thick description, it did average out, and it was important to know that printers who charged by the page didn't differentiate twixt the two, a page was a page.) 

Multiply that average you got by the number of pages you had, and that was what you wrote in the upper right hand corner, to give the editor and printer some idea of how long a book it was gonna be. And you rounded it off: "About 75,000 words." Not "About 75,102 words."
Because right away doing that, you'd mark yourself as somebody who didn't know the difference between "about" and "exactly ..."

My typewriter days, I averaged about 250 words per page, that being double-spaced pica and with one-inch margins all around. 

Depending on the print size and page layout in the finished book, the ratio was somewhere in the vicinity of 10:7; i.e., for a 400 pp ms, you'd get 280 pp in print, more or less.

Early WP software, I adjusted fonts and spacing to give me the same as the typewriter did, and it made it simple to do the math. Four pages = a thousand words. Wanted 100,000 words? You needed 400 pp. 

Nowadays, the machine gives you the number. Some of the software, you don't even have to ask, there's a running total at the bottom. 

The problem is that none of the software does it quite the same. They tend to get close, but sometimes close is a relative term.

Current book-in-progress, the first draft in Pages–that's the Mac's default WP–the total words when I got to -30- came to 76,045. Since I was aiming for around 75K, that's close enough.

But if I check that file in's slimmed-down version of MS Word? the count is 77,449, which is more than 1400 words difference. How come?

They used different parameters, apparently. The way I learned it was five-letters-and-space equals a word, but obviously both aren't using the same method.

What is more interesting is that I have Pages installed on my iPad, and when I open the book there, the count is 75,965.  Now, that's only eighty words difference from the Mac, no big deal, but still, it makes you realize that the computer version and the iPad version of the same software are not the same.

Caveat numerator ...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

There's a Draft ...

So: Through the first draft on the current novel-in-progress. Still needs another pass to add or subtract this 'n' that, smooth out the rough spots, but my Writer's Prayer was answered once again:

"Lord, don't let me die before I get the book done ..."

Because of the constraints of the contract, I am not able to put excerpts of it up here yet. Probably as we get closer to pub date, that will become possible. 

When I get it polished, I may ask for a reader to run through it and see if it works. Given the time-crunch–it's technically due in three days, that might not happen; I'm not expecting the decks to be entirely cleared come New Year's Day over to the book house, but you never know. We'll see.

I'm pleased. It is (intentionally) leaner than what I have been doing of late. I pitched these at  75,000 words and it's hair over that.  Might go up a tad on the rewrite, but not that much. 

The book moves pretty fast, has a fair amount of action, guns going off, knives slicing, all like that. 

Dunno when it is slotted for publication, probably some time late in 2012. 

Cutter's Wars: The Ramal Extraction.

The next one's working title is, Cutter's Wars: The Vastalimi Gambit. 

Dunno what the third one will be called, I haven't gotten around to doing anything on it yet. I may wait until the second one gets cranking and see what calls to me. 

Addendum: When you run the spellchecker on a science fiction manuscript? You spend a lot of time tapping the "Learn" button ...

Rise of the Singer Songwriters

I'm reading Sheila Weller's braided biography, Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carley Simon–and the Journey of a Generation. It's a fun read, and showcases the best-known of the women singer/songwriters, starting with King in the late 1950s, picking up Mitchell and Simon along the way through the sixties and seventies. 

They are much alike, but just as much different, these three. At eighteen, King was, with her first husband, a drone at the Brill Building, churning out hits for doo-wop rock groups in the late fifties and early sixties. This continued until the British Invasion changed the music scene in America.

At various times, they all had chart toppers on their own. Aside from the hits-for-money, King's Tapestry was the best-selling album by a woman for years, and still might be. 

Mitchell's mostly-autobiographical songs, often covered by others, include "Both Sides Now," and "Woodstock," and "Big Yellow Taxi."

Simon's "You're So Vain," had everybody wondering who she was singing about, and there was a long list from which to choose. In what she calls her "belle of the ball year and a half," she had affairs with Cat Stevens, Kris Kristofferson, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, and Mick Jagger, before she hooked up with James Taylor. Former lovers allow that they'd never been with anybody who enjoyed sex as much as she did. (And for the record, none of the men listed above are the so-vain character in her song; according to most sources, he is a blend of several different guys.)

Mitchell came out of Canada and the folk scene. Simon's parents were well-off–the surname come from the book company, Simon & Schuster. While King married early and frequently, Mitchell and Simon were less frequently monogamous.

All were connected to James Taylor, one of the first male singer/songwriters. King was in  a working relationship with him; Mitchell was his lover for a time; and Simon had a short-lived, stormy marriage to Taylor, who was in and out of rehab for heroin addiction from an early age.

Weller points out that the three came of age with The Pill, and how that affected their behavior, along with a generation of women. There is a focus on the post-feminist aspect of their lives, and the turbulent times, and this is interesting, if now and then a tad overmuch in the "Right on, Sisters!" department. 

It's gossipy, name-dropping, and full of little tidbits that give you the flavor of what it was like for a woman to come up in the music business in those days. Weller tells a story about how Carly Simon came to be associated with Albert Grossman, a club-owner who became a high-end manager early in the folk music days, with a stable that included Peter, Paul & Mary, the Band, Bob Dylan, and Janis Joplin. (An aggressive fellow who did things his way, Grossman made Noel Stookey change his name to "Paul," and forbade Mary Travers from exposing her skin to the sun, so as to keep that pale white look. Would they have done as well being called Peter, Noel, & Mary? If Mary had gotten a tan, would that have killed the trio?)

According to Simon, Grossman, a pudgy fellow and married, waved at the casting couch and "...  offered me his body in exchange for worldly success. Sadly, his body was not the kind you would easily sell yourself for."

She declined, she said, and he didn't hold it against her, but worked to get her star aloft ...

I'm still in the middle of it, just leading into Woodstock, so the best is yet to come ...

Editor's Note:

While you have to admire this trio for their musical accomplishments, their personal lives took big beatings along the way. What love they seemed to find was in bits and pieces, and  they were all much married and divorced (or in one case, widowed, due to a heroin OD) and none of them found anybody they could keep a relationship going with, least not when this book was finished a couple years back.  Maybe that's what drove the engines of their talent, that lack of partner continuity. 

Big price to pay, that. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011



Saw MI4-Ghost Protocol with my son and grandson last week. Tom Cruise, doing some of his own stunts, Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg, and the pocket review is simple: If you liked the other Mission Impossible movies, you'll probably like this one. A little more humor in it, not as dire as some of them, and a nice twist fans of the series will enjoy. 

Great locations and beautiful photography, from Budapest to Moscow to Dubai to India. Impressive stunt gags, brutal fight scenes, and the usual car and foot chases.

Big sandstorm and tall buildings ...

It has all the bells and whistles–self-destructing messages, delivered via phones and panels on ratty boxcars. Whiz-bang electronic toys that crack locks in a second, present parallax-free holograms to fool watchers, guns, bombs, gecko-pad gloves that let you spider up a glass wall, a gorgeous BMW concept car. An outrageous camera built into a contact lens. A device that creates a perfect 3D mask. A float-in-the-air magnetically-operated suit, and a cute robot to make it work ...


Of course, half the high-tech gadgets fail at just the wrong instant, necessitating heroic emergency actions or sudden-death. It can't be too easy, no fun in that ...

Got crazed physicists, stolen atomic launch codes, a nuclear armageddon in the works, a gorgeous femme fatale wetwork op, handsome CIA spooks, and the geeky electronics guy who can wave his hands at a destroyed computer and fix it. A horny billionaire. 

This time, the IM force is blamed for something they didn't do and the Secretary is forced to cut them off, so it's just four of them, one of whom is supposedly naught but an analyst without field experience dragged into it. 

High production values, well-acted, funny bits, an impossible way to pull off the caper and save the IM force's bacon, nothing really wrong with it, but ...

It seemed a little flat, overall. Had some moments. And a bad guy who seemed a lot more durable than I would have expected, but since none of it is remotely believable, that's a shrug on top of a bunch of others. You go for the ride, and you can't stop and give it the fish eye. 

Almost most an E-ticket ride, but maybe not quite up to the Haunted Mansion or Pirates of the  Caribbean at Disneyland ...


Monday, December 26, 2011

Gun Grips

I was on eBay recently and came across some cool-looking spalted Maple burl pistol grips by Randy Frantz, selling as RTF. Frantz is a gun guy in Arizona, and I have a fondness for Maple burl, as evidenced by the wood Chuck and I picked out for the handle of the CK, upon which he is working. 

"Spalted" means that the wood was infested with a fungus at some point, and the resulting pattern as the wood and fungi chewed on each other can sometimes be quite attractive.

Good price, nice grips, check 'em out. 

Survived Another Christmas

Happy to report we are still here. And pleased to be in a situation in which I get to eat turkey and dressing and mashed potatoes and gravy and punkin' pie, given all those folks in the world who can't afford to do so. 

It's a little rock in a backwater galaxy and my part of it is tiny indeed, but I'm glad to be here.

We had family over, exchanged gifts, ate, drank, laughed. Talked to distant family. All was well. The gym beckons: Yo, fat boy! Better get down here! (Watching basketball off and on all day didn't take all that much effort ...)

And got the lamp picture above from my son and daughter-in-law. Surprised it took them this long. If you don't get it, you've never seen A Christmas Story (aka The BB Gun Story.)

I hope you all had a good Christmas, too. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011


If you have an iPad (or iPhone/iPod) and you are looking for a way to burn free time you probably don't have, check into a program called Uzu.

Back in our hippie days, we had a little toy, I can't recall what it was called, but which was essentially a slab of clear plastic with a flexible backing and some kind of oil emulsion under it. You dragged your fingertip along the backing and got a shiny, colored line under the clear covering. You could vary it with pressure, use more than one finger, and create some cool, mind-blowing patterns.

The colors, man, the colors!

Uzu is the electronic counterpart, allowing you to create all manner of interactive foofaraw on the screen.  Sucks you right in.

The grandsons had a ball with it yesterday. My son-in-law started playing with it and finally said, "You better take this away now ..."

Warning: Don't give it to anybody who is stoned, because I expect you won't get your device back until the battery dies.

Far out, dude ...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dazed and Confused

Reading in bed last night and I fell asleep early; earlier than I have in years. I'm usually a late-to-bed, late-to-rise person, an owl rather than a wren. Midnight, I'm usually still rattling around.

Yesterday started early, fetching a repaired laptop computer at the mall three days before Christmas. Even mad dogs and Englishmen avoid the mall at this time of year, so I went early to get in and out before the lemmings arrived. 

Then there was a long slog on the book-in-progress, new stuff, cut-and-paste, rearranging this 'n' that. This was followed by a nearly a two-hour drive to get to class, all the loons on the road blocking my path and–I am certain–actively trying to smash me. 

Then there was a harder-than-usual workout there, even plyometrics, who expected that? 

And I was fasting, because I usually do that on Thursdays, the breath mint notwithstanding, so it wasn't as if I didn't have cause to be tired ...

But: What this resulted in was walking up two hours earlier than my norm. And I was awake, couldn't drop back off.

So, get up Steve. Pad down the hall. 

I sat down at computer and went into work-fugue,  and when I blinked and looked around, three hours had zipped past.

Great for getting pages in the done column, but given the time I started, it spaced me right out. I'm not used to being up at such an ungodly hour, putting work in the basket  before the sun even comes up. 

Had an online appointment I missed, unaware that today was Friday, and still haven't gotten around to eating anything yet. 

Then again, given the various sprints I've been making through the draft, it looks as though the week off to visit the folks in Louisiana won't affect the delivery date of the novel to Ace next month. (I tend to cut deadlines pretty close, but I seldom miss one.) So, I'm almost through the first draft of CUTTER'S WARS: The Ramal Extraction. And it's going pretty well, if I do say so myself. It's not the Matadors, but I expect fans of them might find something to like in this one.

If I don't get back here before Christmas, I hope you and yours have happy holidays. If you can be with somebody who makes you smile? Go for it ...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

White on White

On record to be the driest December in these parts ever. Almost no rain, and no snow this month. (In 2008 around this time, we had a record snowfall, a foot on the ground at Steve's house. Gotta love Oregon weather.)

Which is not to say we don't have water in the air. The last couple weeks, we've had fog, hanging on all day some days, and on nights like last evening, it has gotten cold enough so the fog has frozen. 

I used to wonder, how was it possible to have fog when the temperature was below freezing? Why didn't it just, you know, freeze and fall out the sky?

Same reason running water doesn't go solid as fast as standing water–that motion, heat, all like that.

However, when the things around you are below freezing–roofs, trees, sidewalks, spider webs–then the fog does coat that in a nice layer of rime. 

So one could easily have a white Christmas without any snow ...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Speed Bump on the Information Highway

My wife's Macbook Pro started acting up last night–printer and scanner were not printing and scanning, and when I restarted the computer, I got the Lonely Silver Screen: The restart sosumi, yes, but no Apple logo, no spinning ball, and naught else ...

So, off to the Apple Store, having first made an appointment to sit at the Genius Bar. Tech wired it up, fiddled with this and that, and declared the hard drive done crashed.

More of a problem with laptops, and since this one was functioning as a desktop most of the time, two-and-a-half years isn't bad.

They can replace the drive easily enough, have it done in a day or two. Maybe recover and port the data across, but if not, fortunately we have been running Time Machine, which automatically backs up all new input every hour, so restoration of the system should be as easy as checking a box when we power things up again.

Out of warranty, of course ...

It's always something. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The CK Sharpens ...

Chuck Pippin's latest update, roughing out the guard for the cylinder knife. It's a heavy, thick, tsuba-style protector, and while tusba are usually round, or sometimes squared-off, this one is oval to facilitate a sheath carry. The weight will, I think, help the balance stay where we want it on the CK.

If you look in the b.g. to the lower right, just under the tang, you can see the unfinished handle.

This is sooo cool!

I'd Rather Have A Bottle In Front of Me ...

... Than a frontal lobotomy ...

My youngest grandson, Nate, could get a job right now working for Mattel as a break-tester. Want to see if a new toy will hold up? Give it to Nate–no matter how indestructible you think it is? He can break it.

Behold Woody, the star of Toy Story. This is Woody v5 or 6, I think. The earlier versions are all dead, Jim. One of them was beheaded completely; by that, I don't mean Nate somehow worked the head off; I mean he destroyed the head, leaving a jagged neck.

Buzz Lightyear is gimpy, having lost a foot, a hand, and his wings. Jessie's innards have been pulled out to hang from her back. 

We don't even want to talk about poor headless Bullseye.

If you are captured by the enemy, don't let them give you to the children ...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

On the Road to Find Out

Tooling along in the novel-in-progress, about which I will be intentionally-vague, and suddenly had one of those mini-epiphanies that sometimes slap me upside the head. A direction in which I had been driving the entire book, aiming for a particular destination, exactly there, knowing who did what, to whom, and why, suddenly just ... changed.

And of a moment, I clicked on the blinker and got into the turn lane. Didn't expect it, was perfectly happy with the route I'd been on, but there I went.

I'll have to fix stuff on the rewrite to lay the new direction in and make sure it makes sense, and that will involve some cut-and-paste, added or subtracted wordage hither and yon, like that, but that's okay. (And actually, not as much as I first thought, because on an unconscious level, I had to know this was coming–there are clues that pointed a reader this way, even though I didn't consciously put them in.)

Tap the brake, into the turn lane, go that way, and it'll be a better drive.

Or at least I think it will be, which goes to the same end, doesn't it? I'm at the wheel.

Sort of.

I usually don't natter on about the creative process of writing. My working motto has always been "Just tell the story," and this is sometimes more akin to watching it unfold and writing it down than it is being out in front of it leading. 

How the Zeitgeist delivers its payload is something of a mystery to most writers I know, and doesn't bear too close a scrutiny: Look too hard, you might spook the golden goose, I don't want that. 

Where do I get my crazy ideas? Not as important as that I get them at all. 

Writing for me is this kind of schizophrenia–obviously as the writer, the tale is coming from my brain and through my fingers; on the other hand, there is a sense sometimes of being split into two people: I am also the watcher who sees and hears the story being shown and told by some invisible-but-present Muse. In this head, it's as if it is as much a surprise to me as it might be to a reader.

Sounds nutty to a lot of people, and I agree. But there it is. 

The unconscious mind is a wondrous thing. It will chug along in the background, filing this away, getting rid of that, rearranging these things, and sometimes, it rings the bell and announces its presence: Hey, there, Steve. Look, I know we were going to take the interstate and drive straight through to our destination, but check it out, there is this scenic back road, the sign post is just ahead, and what say we go that way instead? Trust me, it'll be a more interesting trip if we do, see? And haven't I been setting it up all along?

Son-of-a-bitch, I believe you are right! Let's go! 

Stay tuned for more adventures in the sunshine of my spotty mind ...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Just in Case You Missed This One ..

From The Oregonian:  

"Police arrested a man who allegedly assaulted three people with a blue light saber at a Hayden Island Toys R Us Wednesday night.

A 9-1-1 caller reported the incident about 9:50 p.m. and said the man was inside the store, 1800 Jantzen Beach Center, swinging the "Star Wars" weapon of choice at customers, said Sgt. Pete Simpson, a spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau. While the caller was on the phone, the man then left the store — light saber in hand — and walked out to the parking lot.

Officers tried to arrest the man, but he kept swinging the light saber at them, Simpson said. One tried to use his Taser on the suspect but the device didn't work.

Another officer used his Taser and made contact, but the man knocked one of the wires away with the light saber.

("Crap! The Force is strong in this one!")

The officers finally arrested the man after grabbing him and pinning him to the ground. The suspect, identified only as a 33-year-old Hillsboro man, was treated by medics at the scene and taken to an area hospital for a mental evaluation. He faces 'several criminal charges' after he is evaluated, Simpson said."

They took him in for a mental evaluation. You think?

How you like to be the officers getting that call? "That's what I said, we have a man with a light saber attacking patrons in the Toys R Us. Go get 'em, Luke ..."

Keeping Portland weird has never been a problem ...

Gotta Love This One

Turn the sound down, if barking dogs aren't appropriate for your venue.
(Courtesy of Steve Van Harn.)


I don't know how I missed this one, but my buddy Denny sent me a compilation of these strips, which you can find on the Oglaf Website. A perverse and twisted and profane web comic series, mostly NSFW (not safe for work) set in a really alternative-Middle Ages, with a wide cast, and featuring the mistreated Apprentice of a nasty magical Mistress. 

A book that opens with a cum sprite from enchanted semen running to blab to the Mistress that the Apprentice is jerking off? Not everybody's cup of tea.

Really well-drawn by Australian artist Trudy Cooper, it ranges from funny to really funny, and while there is redeeming social value in it, let me not kid you, it's pretty much porn, straight, gay, and other ...

Fortunately, perverse, twisted, and profane is right up my alley.

As they say on the website, "Ruin Christmas with this thoughtless gift ..."

I went to buy Denny the T-shirt of Mistress and her magic falcon with the laser-beam eyes, but they were sold out. 

One of my favorites is the one-pager "The Fountain of Doubt."  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lack of Critical Thinking

The Occupy movement shut down three of the Port of Portland's terminals day before yesterday. For some vague notion that this is going to rectify problems with international trade, or that some bank has a piece of a shipping company, or to protect the dockworkers, or whichever, they stopped traffic coming and going into the gate(s) for the day.

Is it just me, that I am struck by the unthinking,  and selfish actions people will go to in order to make some arcane point? Four hundred dockworkers took a day off without pay. Dozens of truck drivers trying to deliver local products to the port were turned back at the gate, and they ate the fuel costs and payment for their loads.

That's a great Christmas presents for the blue-collar working folks, isn't it? Sorry, but we need to do this for the greater good and all, and if you can't make your rent or your car payment or swing that bottle of medicine for granny this month? Too bad.  We must all make sacrifices.

"Sorry for any inconvenience while we fix our Democracy," the sign says. "Inconvenient" is having to take a detour that puts you couple blocks off your route. Losing a days' wages or the delivery price for your trucking run hits the 99% everybody blathers about in the wallet. 

And you know what? It won't fix anything. Who are you trying to change? 

You think this is going to gain you friends and influence the working stiffs to see your point of view? The dockworkers and truckers were on your side, but this isn't the way to keep them there. It's all fun and games until somebody gets hurt, and stabbing somebody in the pocketbook who doesn't deserve it? Bad tactics.

Somebody needs to take a page from the Scarecrow here, and get a fucking brain. 

Hit the Road, Jack

Regular classical, left, half-size right.

One of the things I really missed when I took the big metal bird to Louisiana was my guitar. I play pretty much every day, hour to an hour and a half, and even though I didn't have that much spare time when I was there, I'd have found some to do music. I could have used it.

Last time I flew to Dallas for a con, I took my full-sized guitar, and the jet was big enough so I could get it into the overhead bin. On the most recent flight to Louisiana, I had to switch flights at DFW, and the little plane they put us on to BTR was one of those one-seat-on-the left, two-on-the-right crop-dusters, and there not only isn't enough room for a full-sized classical guitar in a case in the overhead, the flight was full enough so that normal carry-on that would fit had to be gate-checked from a lack of room. Either that, or fly holding your bag out the window ...

It's not my intent to spend any quality time on aeroplanes in the near future, but given the medical situation with my folks, another flight back down home is a matter of "when," and not "if." So I decided to look around for a little travel guitar.

I looked at Martin's Backpacker. Didn't like the way it felt, nor sounded. Even looked at a guitalele–six-strings, but a baritone uke's body, but it's tuned in A, and I didn't like that way that sounded, either. You can tune it down to E, but then you need Hawaiian slack-key chops.

So I needed a little guitar.

Before any of you offer I could have opted for the less-than-sane option of checking my classical guitar and submitting it to the baggage handlers–"Kreegah! Bundalo!" and DIAL UP TARZAN'S YELL IN THE B.G. to go with the great apes hurling luggage hither and yon–don't even go down that road. To get a case that would hold up would cost a thousand bucks. I mean, Calton's or some of the other nice spiffy new carbon fiber jobs are cool, lightweight and bulletproof, but I'm not going to be traveling that much.

I can, however, justify a half-size Yamaha classical guitar at just under a hundred and twenty bucks. Add a gig bag and tuner, and we're still talking no big deal compared to an airline-proof case.

These guitars were basically designed for children getting into playing classical, and quickly became useful for travelers.

The fretboard is tiny, and that requires some adjustment, but with the good Nylgut strings, it doesn't sound too bad. Plays better quietly, not a cannon, but I'm not looking to fill a concert hall with sound, and if it gets mauled en route somewhere, it won't be a major loss. 

So, Merry Christmas, Steve. I'll let my wife put it under the tree.

Pippin's Puzzle Pieces

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Saturday, December 10, 2011

'Tis the Season

Not really close enough, but let's face it, when the Xmas lights start going up while the Hallowe'en punkin is still unrotted by the front door, December the 10th is not as outrageous as it used to be. I confess that I have my outside lights up, and probably we'll put up our white trash tree this weekend.

Ho, ho, ho!

Going with that, some things: First, Robert Earl Keene's video, "Merry Christmas from the Family," which has for the last few years been my favorite Christmas song. Joins my all-time favorite Christmas movie, "A Christmas Story," aka "The BB Gun Movie." If you haven't seen this one and you are within plus or minus ten years of my age, it's a real treat. I wait until Christmas Eve to watch it, after everybody has gone home and my wife is asleep.

And my own modest contribution to the holiday madness, "It's Not Christmas," lyrics, music, guitar and vocals by Yours Truly, which if you can stream music on your electronic device, is here ... (Lyrics, if you can't hear it and want to know, here.)

None of which have anything to do with the ostensible reason we celebrate Christmas, only my commentary on the whole commercialization of it all.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Thursday, December 08, 2011


On the screen over the sliding glass door onto my mother's patio, a few days ago when the temperature in south Louisiana was a balmy eighty degrees F.

Saw another one that same day on the mailbox when I went to collect the mail. 

Probably hibernating now, since it has cooled off there, down around freezing for overnight lows ...

Soft Target Book Review

Stephen Hunter's most recent novel. You should get it. 

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Knife Scales

For those of you following the Pippin knife design and construction, we selected the wood for the handle: Big Leaf Maple burl, double-pressure stabilized and double-dyed, from Mike, at Woodlabs. 

There were several gorgeous burls from which to choose: white oak, ash, more maple, but we both liked this one. Red will be next to the guard. Gonna be an outstanding knife.

Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie, Filé Gumbo ...

My brother-in-law Gary's recipe for Jambalaya, photos and text by Dal Perry:

Family Matters

I just got back from a week in Baton Rouge; my son and I flew down to see my folks. 

Without getting into way too much information, my mother had a stroke, from which she is in rehab recovering. She's coming along, although it was not as minor as I understood. This is complicated because my father is in mid-stage Alzheimer's. My sister and her husband are there and carrying the heavy load, and I needed to go and offer some small help. There are therapists and nurses and home help to be scheduled, and a whole shitload of other things to deal with, things to be discussed, and it was not the most restful trip.

Odd disconnects: We got up at three a.m., caught an early flight to DFW. We left Portland, it was freezing and foggy. Day after we arrived in B.R., it got to 80º at my Mother's house. 

Night before last, we had the AC running; at midnight, I had to switch it over to heat. The temperature difference went from a high of 80º to a low of  40º.

Welcome to the semi-tropics in December.

We had a family gathering, my brother-in-law Gary made Jambalaya on the patio in a big iron pot over a propane burner. I'll probably put his recipe up here when I think about it. Good stuff.

We spent our time either watching my father, who needs somebody with him round-the-clock, and going to visit my mother in the rehab facility, about twenty miles away, swapping off with other family.

It wasn't all doom-and-gloom. We had nice visits with sisters, and sisters-in-law, aunts, nieces and grand-nieces, in-laws. My other brother-in-law Dave came by with some nasty Dixie beer. My nieces two little girls ran us ragged playing baseball, tag, hide-'n'-go-seek, and even chess ...

My parents are fortunate to have a good family support system nearby. I was happy to have my son along for support.

If you have elderly parents and you've had to deal with these issues, you'll understand how it is without further ado; if you don't, I can't really convey how it feels to help your father get dressed and shower and hear for the fifth time on a given day where the pocket knife he carries came from:

"Steve gave me this."

"I know, Daddy. I'm Steve ..."

Or to be awakened for the sixth or seventh time in the middle of the night by a disoriented Alzheimer's patient wandering up and down the hall yelling for help because he can't find his way back to bed. 

Thank God for my sister and her husband, Gary, and thanks to all of you who sent along prayers and best wishes, I do appreciate it. 

If I owe you email, I'll get back to you once I get caught up.

Life is short. Enjoy it while you can ...

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Geaux, Tigers ...

So, in honor of the LSU/Georgia football game, which had a rocky start for tiger fans, we have these chips ...

The plain Who Dat? potato chips are pretty good.

The sweet potato chips are pretty bad.

The Tiger Tators Crawfish-flavored ones? Vile and disgusting ...

But the Tigers won the SEC and will play for the national championships.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

New Sheriff in Town

So, the Sheriff of Washington County, in which I reside, has retired, and one of his chief deputies has been sworn in as the new sheriff. Want to guess what his name is?

Pat Garrett.

Those of who with any knowledge of history might find that amusing. I did.

Oregon as had some fun law enforcement stories. Some years ago, the Chief of Police in Portland was one Charles Moose. During some demonstration or the other, a protestor was arrested, alleged that he was roughed up, and subsequently, he sued the police. Man's name was "Squirrel."

The piece was buried in the Metro section, but I cannot imagine how the headline writer missed that: SQUIRREL SUES MOOSE ...

Truth is ever so much stranger than fiction ...

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 ...


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.