Dog Ear
Faster (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 23 February 2017 00:00

've probably touched on this before, but stories do have a way of affecting us. Because of heroes in our tales, such as the heroes on the fields before Troy (I count Hector in that number, but not Achilles - not until he calms down, that puff-boy), we can improve our lives. Stories teach us to change, to thrive and challenge.

In my case, it was a cartoon.

Yowamushi Pedal is a wonderful anime series in Japan, a story about a young kid who can't get the school anime club off the ground but somehow finds himself drawn into the world of bicycle racing. In the begriming, he rides what is termed (in Japan) a "mommie bike" (shown in the picture). He races handicap for a bit and even takes it into the introductionary road race (where he is so spastic he locks up the chain and crashes over and over. Finally he is given a road racer, and now he can compete). For about four episodes we see him broil up the hill, picking off the riders one by one (the story actually makes this believable to a certain extent) until he's right up with the top dog, peddling his heart out and trying to just top the hill first. And it's close. Hub to hub. 100 meters to go...

But the thing was, it affected me. I commute two to three times a week. I've ridden my route for sixteen years. I mounted saddlebags on a rear rack and suspended a fender front and back. The tires were thick and knobby, good for gripping the road.

And that was fine, I suppose, until I started riding with a young coworker.

And not the competition started.

Oh, it wasn't racing. Nothing so direct. But we'd both push each other to ride harder and faster. And my mommie bike wasn't cutting it.

After I'd watch the first eight or so episodes, I saw a picture of my bike type on the web, a Cannondale T700. In its prime it was a pretty slick touring bike; heavy, yes, but hell, the ride had beat the crap out of my old racer. So I started to think it over, and started to make changes.

First off, the fenders and back rack. While the backpack is a bit cumbersome, it also cuts down some of the wind resistance. And then the tires. I replaced the knobbers with Japanese street slicks - thin and smooth but with clever patch-grips, a slight but needful tread. I concluded things by raising the seat up 3/4 of an inch, to get a better position on the pedals.

Rode it to work today - first time. It was very fast; rode like the wind. Just a delight to ride. Coming home was a 15mph headwind - I wasn't blazing but I know I was moving a bit faster than normal. But riding isn't just a commute now - it's fun again.

So yes, I've changed my ways. I'm still not going to join any bicycle clubs anytime soon. Let's not go crazy on this.

My bike now, all stripped down for fun and speed



Last Updated on Thursday, 23 February 2017 21:05
Gone in Sixty Seconds (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 16 February 2017 00:00

’ve had service interruptions on the site before. From time to time my Amazon links suddenly stop working. I’ll notice that instead of profit-generating links to my books, I’ll end up with generic orange-box links to Amazon-in-general. Usually in an hour, maybe a half-day, the links return.

So last Thursday when I found my site replaced by a 500 internal error page, I figured GoDaddy was at fault. There was also a chance that our information security people here at work had gotten even more draconian and had deemed my home site a threat. Decided to wait it out and see.

By COB, the site was still not visible. Rode the bike home with hauntings of concern and checked (even before showering – that’s how concerned I was). Still 500-ing. Uh oh. This removed all thoughts of interference by work security. So I called GoDaddy proper.

The woman tech I got was nice enough. No service interruptions on their part, no. But let me look into something… I’m going to put you on hold… the Girl from Enchilada goes walking… okay, I’m going to have you try something…

In the end, all I got from them was the statement that “I must have broken my site” (I hadn’t done anything for days, and it had been up all week) and a link to the Joomla discussion board. Hey, thanks for that. So I had a dead page and nothing to show for it.

Sent out a feeler email to the guy who’d helped me years ago, to see if I could rub the lamp and make that particularly-helpful genie reappear. And I spend the day Friday oddly considering my site.

Sure, I liked it. A lot of people chat about my model train blogs and people have read (and enjoyed) the books I’ve recommended. Have even had writers reach out to me (usually positively) about reviews I’ve posted. Overall, blogging on writing, reading, Go, my trips, my interests has been rewarding. But what could I replace it with?

Friday I asked about – what web tools did people recommend? And what would my site look like? Were there things I could do better? And worse? How could I lay it out to be more attractive. Overall, I was surprised at my levelness on this, that I wasn’t in a panic, just accepting.

Got home Friday and decided to check Facebook for the usual political-meme-tossing that it has become. Of course, I’d have to go through my dead site page (which was my homepage). Maybe I’d change that until I could figure something out. Firefoxed in and…

There was my site!

All back! All restored! Pictures of me! Trip reports, book reports, train reports, all nice and clean.


So clearly GoDaddy had had a disruption of service and had eventually rebooted my server. Perhaps enough people had complained. Perhaps it had just been routine. Either way, the site was back.

Going forward, I am going to make some small changes, like getting my books on the front page, little cosmetic stuff. But for now, I’m just happy that I’m back on the web.

And what’s this got to do with writing? I ask myself that every time something like this happens.


Moon Scout (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 09 February 2017 00:00

as engaged in one of my more relaxing hobbies, astronomy, the other night. While waiting for Orion to come up (so I could look under his belt – I’m a nasty man) I swung the barrel on the moon. Always a favorite place to see things, and I really wanted to try out my new eyepieces.

Okay, so I know there are astronomers with big trench-mortar tubes that can see that golf ball  Alan Shepard whacked. Very good. But with my new eyepiece giving me a CLEAR view at 120x (a big improvement), I can see things pretty well lunar-wise. With serendipitous luck, I swung onto the moon and nailed my favorite place of all, the round Sea of Crisis.

A year or so back, I was looking at the moon and thinking of an old story I’d written and considered a rewrite. Imagine a younger moon (three billion years younger) with silvery plants and glass-smooth stony seas and steampunk pursuit all the way across its visible face, from its Southwest to the Northeast. And what better place to end than the Sea of Crisis, so remarkably named for this sort of thing.

So I was picturing a lonely sea, with hard-to-find access that would allow the hero and heroine to hide. But how to get in there? Yet as I sat on my stool examining the actual landscape, I could see the world as it would be in my story. It centers on the so-called Second Empire, the First having come apart in some sort of high-tech calamity that left this small world cratered. I’ve only hinted at this. So far, outside of a section of standing fuse-stone bridge (the likes of which are impossible for this new empire to understand), there is little about the calamity that crashed that first civilization. In the final section, I wanted to give some sort of proof, to confirm what I’d hinted at. And looking down my focal length, I had my answer.

I could clearly see the way they’d approach from (from the left). The Sea of Crisis is along the top of the picture, a nice ringed “sea” with zillions of hidyholes. And the approach?

You see that rough area that speckles the “sea” – perhaps it’s a reed field hundreds of miles across. And the crater at the sea-side tip – I can easily envision a ruined port city, melted and silent since the fall of the First Empire. Gliding through this on their little runner-boat, our heroes discover a crude channel of sorts that runs through the impenetrable growth. Pushing onwards, they reach the low ridge that rings Crisis. Could there be a passage through, some sort of old ramp-step system the ancients employed? I haven’t figured the full details yet, but just looking at it in the middle of the night, I got a sense of lost ruins, of the perfect place to slip a boat into, and the undiscovered sea beyond.

H.G. Wells noted that while writing War of the Worlds, he bicycled about south-eastern England, looking for “people and places suitable for destruction”. And that’s what I’ve found here – a lonely landscape of hissing reeds and slagged cities, a haunting places for my heroes to hide.

Until they are found.

And that’s another story.


Last Updated on Friday, 10 February 2017 23:08
A charm (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 02 February 2017 00:00

eah, third time.

Was relaxing on my vacation. Woke up and thought, I just finished that Orion Nebula book. Need to knock out a review before I forget too much.

What could be nicer, more "writery" than to sit in a side bedroom looking at rain and sea and write a wonderful review? I just needed a tweed jacket and I'd be set. The cat even curled up on my lap.

So, wrote out a brilliant first two paragraphs, describing the first time I'd seen the nebula with my scope. What was that big orange star called? Like bug-juice something-r-other? Yeah, Michael Keaton even made a movie about it. But how is it spelled? Thankfully with the internet that's right at your fingertips. Typed in Orion and got a couple of pages that denoted Betelgeuse, yeah, just like that.

Except I'd used the same window I was accessing my site on. When I back-arrowed to it, the page was still in place but the text was gone.


So I sat down and rewrote it. This isn't a bad thing, I comforted myself with. Often coding or writing is better on the second draft. You're a writer. You can beat these things.

So, finally, all finished. Went to save it off and the categories seemed funky. Clicked save, went back to the Article Manager. Nothing there. I could actually type Orion in the search window and see my late article referenced but Joomla had lost it. I looked high and low, but it would seem that simply returning to the page via back-arrow didn't mean I was actually all hooked up to the website. And all that newer, better writing? Gone.


I really didn't want to do this a third time. Instead, I wrote a letter to a friend, walked around for a bit, played with the cat (who, frankly, didn't want to be played with). Finally I sat down. Like eating a plate of cold porridge, I struggled through the third rewrite (saving every paragraph off and getting out into the Manager to make sure it was there). Finally, carefully, painstakingly, I got it in and set for it's Sunday debut (next Sunday, in fact). It was done. Whew.

And that's writing, real writing. Not comfy chairs and warm cats and easy prose. It's writing something over and over until you are sick of it, drafts and revisions and rewrites. And it's the self-pressure to keep pushing, even when a wet walk on the beach looks a lot nicer by comparison. But that's what it takes to get your copy out, a full-field effort.

Watch for it Sunday.


Last Updated on Thursday, 02 February 2017 12:01

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