Dog Ear
The Great Train Bloggery (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 26 April 2017 22:49

t’s eleven at night. I’m driving home after eight hours of work, an hour’s commuting, two hours of dinner with the buddies and then three hours of model train operations. And now I need to blog about the latter.

To define – model train operation is where a group of train enthusiasts use their layout to simulate how a real railroad operates. There is a dispatcher controlling things by phones from a remote office. There is a yardmaster sorting inbound cuts to locals, and outbound strings for export. And there are the train crews, dozens of guys running freight, passenger and local trains, following switchlists, timetables and transmitted warrants to move hundreds of train cars from one end of our 40x60 layout to the other. It’s the great game, the largest and most complex cooperative effort you will ever be a part of. And it’s a load of fun.

And I always blog it.

Been doing this for years. Right after the session, no matter how tired I am, I log in and blog out, capturing the flavor of railroading and the humor of the debacles. Of course, in the latter, I can’t be too snarky. Some people go home saddened that they screwed up (the one time I got myself “killed” on a railroad, I was bummed for a week). So there is a fine balance between breathless-tabloidalsim and kind chiding. In some remarkable bonehead cases, I’ll skip it entirely.

Usually while I’m driving, I’m thinking how I want to break it. Will it be a cab-viewpoint recount of some interesting meet or event that I was part of, told in full fictionalization mode? Or will I step back and talk about the hobby from the 10,000 foot level? Or perhaps a discussion of an aspect of railroading I hadn’t considered until this session. All I know is that it has to be fresh and new and interesting and dynamic. I know that eventually all the guys will be reading it so I want to make it worth their while.

It’s funny – my blogging has actually become part of the session. People joke about what I’ll be blogging about. If a crew misspots a car or ends up on a wrong track, you’ll hear the quip “Looks like I made the blog!” I do remember one night where a cub dispatcher went through the wringer – he just couldn’t keep up with the demand of crews for warrants. End of the night, I’m rolling my last train home to Martin Yard on the authority of the final warrant and he comes out, white as a sheet. “I’m in the blog, right?” he weakly asked.

From a writer’s perspective, this is good training. Often writers are forced by deadlines to generate prose when they are tired and burned out. Some of the greatest literary works were pushed out to meet rabid publishing demands. Writers don’t always get to roll out of bed and sit before their computers, preparing to work with a fresh perspective a full night’s sleep affords. No, often it’s late, a deadline is looming and they need to produce NOW!

So for you out there playing at writing, get ready for long stretches of bleary-eyed creativity. It’s what this profession is about.

And BTW, the reason I wrote this is because I had a session yesterday. You can read about it HERE.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 April 2017 22:54
Faceless Finale (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 20 April 2017 00:00

o really, what was being anti-social in regards to social media (as a Lent objective) like?

Freeing in some ways. Restrictive in others.

First off – I’m a writer. Technically I create my own social media. I maintain a set of blogs and create content for them. I post broadly about the craft of writing and specifically about the craft of reading (i.e. book reviews). So I do have my creative outlet there.

Without Facebook and an incessant need to click into it to see who liked me and who I needed to defend my views against (you trolls, you), my life certainly became more tranquil. Yes, I know that we only expect tranquility if you book a dream Caribbean vacation that involves a shared hammock, a tall drink, a wide sun hat (and presumably a staff of waiters/slaves to meet every need). But this freed up a lot of the noise one gets in Facebook. I didn’t have to judge people’s opinions or be outraged by crazy stunts. I didn’t need to reflect on wise sayings (usually with pictures of teepees or wolves silhouetted against the moon accompanying them). My life is my life again. My opinions are mine. And I could enjoy them without having to put them out on a stage most public for comment or rebuttal.

However, there were noteworthy things that I did wish to take for Facebook but couldn’t, not until Easter anyway. There was the fifty mile bike ride I did (a fun effort, my first effort at long-distance cycling). And then the Orlando-Daytona trip my brother and I rode. There was my friend’s birthday party, the bike I rented while there, and the wonderful trip along the D&L canal I took. And the pizza I spilled while enjoying my own tranquil moment. There was the completion of Timeless, and the season opener of Better Call Saul. There was even that wonderfully complex new episode of Rick and Morty. There is just a lot of stuff that happened and, frankly, my blog site is not popular enough to stand on its own – I need the link to Facebook to bring the traffic in. Recognizing this, it’s why I put the caveat in place that I could update on Facebook with direct links to my site, but not click around and not read postings. And it worked. But it’s easier to go into Facebook and post a quick account of something than it is to come up with a blog posting about it.

So there you have it. I learned both the power of Facebook and the danger. Now I’m checking only once a day (if that). I’m avoiding danger of juicing on it, of that Pavlovian response of click-click-click to take in every reposting and every share request. Overall, my life is much better now that I’ve got this limit in place (just as not drinking sodas (a goal of past Lent) has helped). I can’t recommend it enough.

So share this. You won’t believe what happened next.




Last Updated on Thursday, 20 April 2017 07:18
The perfect evening for reading (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 13 April 2017 00:00

was pleasantly weary and hungry following my 40 miles or so of riding the D&L canal on a rented bike in a recent visit to my buddy in Easton PA. I'd dropped the bike off, strolled home to the hotel, took a shower, took a nap, and now set out for dinner, We are Pirates, my current written companion, under my arm. With the Sunday evening slowly settling over this small Pennsylvanian town I found an outdoor cafe - crowded inside, which I couldn’t understand - the evening was so perfect. Settled down on the last outside table on the end, a nice private spot. Ordered a glass of wine from the waitress, to be followed by a 12" pizza (chicken and barbeque sauce). I'd ridden far. I could eat what I wanted. And I'd walked over. I could drink as much as I wanted. It would be perfect.

So I just enjoyed my wine as an occasional car probed by, looking for a parking spot. The story was rounding out, finishing up. I wasn't sure where it was going - I'll talk further about this in this week's review. But yeah, so the book was twisty, the wine interestingly tart, the weather perfect, my body tired, my belly yawning.

The waitress made an appearance, placing the pizza rack on the table, the historic message that your pizza is on final. Ordered another glass.

Of course, I really didn't think about the table set up. See, it was a metal mesh table. A umbrella went through the center and some clever dick in design had figured that would be a heck of a place for a condiments shelf. So there is this disk, bigger than a hub cap, positioned right at pizza-tray height.

I had another sip of wine, turned another page.

The pizza came out, all loaded with chicken chunks, all orange with sauce. And mine, all mine. Of course, it was a tight fit to get the tray in against the condiments rack - the waitress had to put it on the corner to my left, a bit of a reach, and slide it just right so it would fit. No matter. I took a piece from the tray. I took a bite. Mmmmm. Pizza. I was just lifting my glass to toast this perfect evening when something moved.

Slowly, like the Titanic going bow-first, I noticed that the table-edge leg of the tray was haphazardly placed. As I watched, it went over the edge. And my pizza, my glorious piping-hot pizza, as slowly as all disasters, tipped and went over the side. The tray bwanged on the pavement, the pizza spattered sauce and chicken all over the mesh seats and sidewalk.

Oh good God.

The table of yuppies a short distance off grew quiet as they observed my disaster.

So what to do?

I went inside and explained what happened. No problem (the waitress said with irritation), they'd make another. Then I came out, tossed every piece of pizza (yes, the seven I hadn't gotten to) onto the recovered tray. The chairs I tapped out on gutter-side, to get the goo off. I tried to get back to my book but it was covered with saucy cheese. My hands were sticky. And the waitress, that sweet, piqued thing, didn't come out to check. No napkins. No quick sweep up. She didn't even come to take the tray of pizza-wreckage away.

So I sat there, sipping wine. Passersby would glance at the orange scatter-shot pavement, the mound of pizza-flops on the plate, and arch an eyebrow. The yuppies buzzed like crickets in the field, having something new to talk about.

I sipped my wine.

Eventually my new pizza came, the waitress removing the tray support but leaving the plate of massacred pizza behind. I really wished she hadn't done that - it seemed like petty vengeance for a mistake that she, in some minor way, had a hand in.

I ate my pizza carefully, sipping wine.

The book was quite good.


p.s. Yes, I tipped her for the trouble. $40 for a $28 bill.

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 April 2017 05:46
Imagry (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 05 April 2017 22:18

'll admit that it was an odd place to have this conversation, but that's part of the story so I'll include it.

My co-rider and I were buzzing along the lip of an asphalt road, cars clipping by dangerously close, the rain hissing down. I was getting it from both sides - my tire was spraying grit up my butt, and the co-rider's bike (in lead slot) was rooster-tailing water into my face. So I was already pretty speckled.

The conversation, shouted over the passing cars and the patter of rain on helmets, was about anime.

Japanese animation.

I watch a lot of it. My co-rider can't stand it.

I was going on and on (while keeping an eye to see just where traffic had gotten to) about some of the amazing stories I've seen on anime.Tales of down-on-their-luck bounty hunters in space. Tales of a demon who gives a vain high school student a means to secretly kill. A posturing scientist actually discoveres a time machine. A young kid joins a high-school bicycle club and struggles to find his place in the world.

He was hung up (he told me over his wet shoulder) with the blue hair and crazy round eyes.

I was hooked (as I gingerly coaxed a left across a slick intersection) on the unconventional stories paced in a way new to me.

Nobody sold anyone on their position. Eventually we were running in some tight spots and had to lay off the gab. But still, my point stands - I don't care about the appearance or the "believability of image". To me, the story is all. The animation is merely the prop.

But to him, the image was everything. Unless it looked real, totally real, he could not sink into the story. Black and white, subtitled, animated - if it didn't look real, he didn't get the story at all.

Of course, I mentioned (in one stretch after we ran a red and bought a breather from the pursuing car-pack) that most things I saw on today's movies, most CGI, it's overdone to the point of being cartoonish. Flyboys. 300. Pearl Harbor. All of these were awful. If you knew anything about the subject, they was laughably idiotic. But from his point of view, as long as it was seamless, no strings or brush-strokes, no words on the bottom, nothing to detract, then cars that exploded and machine guns that never ran out of ammo, sure, it was realistic (and, hence, worth watching).

But to me, the story is all. Which is why I poised this interesting question against the background of conflict, man against traffic, the eternal struggle.

It's for the reader to decide who is right.

Hint. Me.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 April 2017 22:41

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