Dog Ear
Falling short (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 13 October 2016 00:00

o it's said that writing can put you into a scene, allowing you to live an experience that you'd never actually encountered. True?

Generally, yeah. Specifically, no.

Yes, there are a great number of writers out there that can convey a feeling. As it stands, I can't tell you how many stories I've read about, say, hurricanes. I've read dozens of stories set on ships at sea, hammered by hurricanes. The Caine Mutiny and Lord Jim are two that stick with me. And I've read about huge storms breaking over settlements, of twisters, cyclones, even wacky crime stories (i.e. Hiaasen's Stormy Weather). Hell, in my unpublished Indigo, a flock of crows fight the battle for the end of the world against overwhelming odds in the face of Hurricane Charlie. So, yes, I am no stranger to literary storms.

But none of that quite captured my mood as of last Thursday night when Hurricane Matthew was bearing down on us. Sure, we were eighty miles off the track. But we had a big dead oak in the back, an older house, a forested neighborhood. A swerve in the track, a whirlwind under the car port, a unsecured projectile, any one of those could spell disaster (possibly death). So I sat around Thursday listening to the rains stream down and the wind moan through the trees and felt dry-mouth fear.

Stories of other people (even first person people (or crows) didn't quite capture my tripping heart and shortness of breath.

It's like when I read Quicksilver - there, a character in the 1600's suffers a kidney stone. And yes, I understood the pain he was suffering. Yes, it hurts, got it. That is until a while ago when I suffered my own rock. And then I knew what pain was. Deep throbbing pain, pain that makes you lay in a huddled heap and gasp. Pain there is no escape from. I simply cannot express what that was like, other than when I met another kidney stone sufferer - we exchanged looks and shared-shudders at the ghastly shrieking agony we'd both suffered.

Still, as a writer, I do try to keep these memories as sharp as I can. These are moments that can't be selfied into a phone. These are the things one experiences, the things that might come up in later writing. So all those moments are filed away, car crashes, plane crashes, relationship crashes, job crashes; moments my characters might one day face, which I'll do my damnedest to capture and carry. While you don't have to stand on the burning deck to write about it, experience helps.

Especially if you survive the research.


Last Updated on Sunday, 09 October 2016 14:07
Weave (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 06 October 2016 00:00

f you live a life that is open and full, you can start to see the weave. Stories and events, all wrapping together.

Recently an young Indian lady who shares a pod with me was chatting about a function she was at (actually, the story had more to do about parallel parking that the function). But she mentioned the Bhagavad Gita which I admitted to have read (another nice Indian lady on my team picked up a copy on a trip to her homeland years back – it has a chariot in it. I ended up reading the whole epic and was all the better for it). So I got to be the bookish professor again, knowing something beyond my traditional culture and media.

So through this mix of storytelling, I ended up loaning her the delightfully critical Sita Sings the Blues, while she recommended the Indian flick Oh My God (which involves an atheist shopkeeper who, once the claim on his destroyed shop is denied as an “act of God”, sues God (and the insurance company and every church, temple and mosque nearby)). It’s a deep social commentary about ourselves and our gods, and ties back to one of the prime messages of the Gita itself (that God must serve man just as man serves God).

Meanwhile, just to the side of my desk is the Go board. This came from watching the story Hikaru No Go, an anime series I’ve commented on extensively here. A good story about a young boy growing up with the ghost of an ancient go instructor, one that interested me in the game behind the story that I picked it up (and even read a couple of books on it, reviewed on this site). So now I’m playing short games against people here at work, my best friend is considering playing me online, and my sister even picked up a board and wants to play on her next trip down (my secret dread is that she’s going to kill me at it – so logical!).

And now, because those seventy-five episodes of Hikaru are behind me, now I’ve picked up Yowamushi Pedal, a new Japanese epic of two seasons on Hulu. Once again, we have the rudderless kid (who just wants to form an anime club at school). Instead he’s noticed riding pretty fast and far on his “mommie bike” (just what you think it is, with a bell and basket). And now he’s getting involved in his high school bike club. In mid-introduction-race, he’s ditched his silly bike and replaced it with a road bike from the breakdown van. And now he’s pushing to catch up to the pack, including the back-rider sneerers (they’ll be the first he overhauls).

The point is, while jogging today (I don’t have any story that inspired this one), I thought about the punk on his bike, gasping his heart out, pushing himself. And thus I set my own personal record for the 3.5 miles – nothing fast for most of you, but good (and non-stop) for me. And most of this came from Yowamushi Pedal, and that kid who won’t back down.

But that’s life and stories. They wrap around us, these tales we concoct. Something happens to a storyteller and he incorporates the experience into his tale. And this tale inspires others, who model themselves after this thing they saw. Which makes new stories, and inspires new generations. Bad and good can both be mimicked. Vampires were evil, but now they are cool. Same with smoking – cool, not cool, and then cool. I think of the boxes of books I’ve read, and how they’ve shaped me. And I think of the stories and movies I’ve shared, and the efforts I’ve engaged in that have paid off. And down my life I can see stories and experiences form a weave, meshing together until it’s hard to figure the baseline of truth. Are there uninspired actions? Or do tales of heroism, patriotism, pride, vanity, a hundred deadly sins and saintly virtues, does this explain who we are and why we are?

Always write. And always remain open to the world which surrounds you. Let reality and story mesh and form your truths.

See it. Realize it. Blog it. And on it goes. smiley


Frustrations (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 29 September 2016 00:00

’ve written these before. Usually I explain what I thought writing would be, and then what it actually is. Generally it’s some mechanical nutbaggery, something that doesn’t bring understanding or joy or excitement to others (and myself).

Thursday was posting day for another Dog Ear piece, one about Government Labs. It was just a fun piece, something I whipped out in the moment when I noticed the thoughts I had over that phrase and how worn out it’s becoming. Just a fun little thing. I’d had it prepped a few days early. It should be no problem to get it set up in my site (adding it to the Dog Ear contents section) and posting it on Facebook (once to my general site, and then a share over to the Early ReTyrement site).

The devil was in the details, of course, chortling and sawing on his golden fiddle.

First, Facebook – can there be a more inconsistent social media site? Some days spellcheck runs. Some days it doesn’t. I’ll type something and think, “That doesn’t look right”, and have to post it over to Word and spellcheck it there. But my real problem is with presentation. I don’t like the general link (without an image) nor the “Manuscript” image (which comes from the top of my site) for my postings. I like the letters I use to start off every piece – like the “I” in the upper corner of this one. However, Facebook is a bit problematic with this. To get it to work requires a magic spell I developed. First, I cut&paste to my profile page. The link never works there. But then, without saving, I jump to Home to access the general feed. Here I repeat the paste process and usually the link will now show with the nice icon. If that doesn’t work, sometimes a second round of pasting into my profile and then pasting into the general feed will work.

Look, I’m a coder and know how whacky this sounds. But I also know that software usually has hacks that you can exploit, and something about the order I attempt to post permits the Facebook link creator to get it right.

Well, Thursday, it wasn’t getting it right.

I tried it this way and that but FB wasn’t buying it. Finally I just had to go with a lame no-icon post, which I know makes it less noticeable in the visually-driven world of idle clickthroughs.

Yet in the process of doing all this, I happened to jump down to my book listings (where you go if you click on the link to my works on the bottom of my posts (the >>>THIS IS HOW MY LINK TO MY BOOKS LOOKS! JUST LIKE I SAID EARLIER<<< bit)). And inside that, I realized that all of my Amazon links, the ones to Early Retyrement, to Fire and Bronze, to Don’t Jettison Medicine, weren’t working. They were generic orange boxes that took you to Amazon but not my specific products. Amazon problem? Waited an hour. Nope, still broken. Maybe a new firewall change here at work? Asked a retired (not ReTyred) friend at home to try. He saw it too. When I got home, still sweaty from my bike commute, I took a look on my trusted, true home computer. Still broken.

After my shower (and some sudsy thinking) I dug around for how one provides product links (it’s been years since I set this up). It isn’t easy – Amazon hides it pretty deep. There is way to get the HTML coding which you can put into your web’s source (see, I told you I was a coder but this certainly doesn’t have much to do about writing). It took about an hour or so (and a support call to Amazon) before I finally figured it out. This time, at least, I was smart enough to bookmark it. Anyway, picked up a link and posted it at the bottom of my inert product page. Checked it in the browser and there it was. So clearly something in the Amazon links had changed. Used to work, and now it didn’t. Now, it was a simple matter of digging into my HTML source and carefully (as carefully as a demolitions expert tinkering around a UXB) removing the old HTML lines and replacing them with new ones. For each replacement, I’d save and check. Eventually I got the formatting back the way I liked it. So yes, that page all of you ignore? It’s all fully functional again.

And that was just one day in the life of a writer.

Now I know why people seek literary fame. It’s not because you’ll touch souls or make hearts fly. And it’s not for all that money. Or the women. It’s about being successful enough to keep a webmaster on call. Man, I’d rather someone else root around in the HTML guts of my site. I just want to write!


Last Updated on Thursday, 29 September 2016 07:50
Perfect makes Practice (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 22 September 2016 00:00

y brother is Mr. Fixit. Everyone goes to him for practical tinkerings. When we got the phone call that my dad was sliding away, we were in his garage replacing the bearings on my bike’s wheel hub.

My sister, she’s the international speaker on medical issues. She does all those conferences and speaking tours. And she also shoves probes up people’s wazzos and makes damn good money doing it. When it comes to medical questions, everyone rings her up.

Me? Heh. Me. What do I bring to the table? Outside of corporate compliance and a wide span of devoured books, not much. As the black sheep of the family, about all I’ve done notable is writing, and even that is limited to a lot of web foolishness, several magazine articles and three books (available in the link below, via this blogsite’s gift shop).

So it’s nothing short of incredible when one of them rings up one of me with a need for help on anything.

But my sister did – she had a pitch coming up to a group representing medical headhunters and the practical issues of that calling (stress, burnout, and frustration). This is my sister’s niche, the place she speaks of most. And now she had to produce copy quick. And she wanted it to shine. So she called me.

Me? I blinked, disturbing a layout of eyebrow dust. Then I removed the owl from my shoulder, fussily rolled up a bone-dry scroll, and fuddled, “A quest, you say?”

So we sat for a while, working on the title. The trick of creativity is that, like a Rubik’s cube, you turn something this way and that, trying to get wordplay, irony and punism to  line up. She was just tossing phrases out there and mentioned “Practice makes perfect”. Hmmmm. Click-click-click. A little twist to reverse it and you end up with “Perfect makes Practice.” And that’s good, since it states the goal of medical headhunters, “making practices” (medical practices) with the desired bedrock state the audience seeks, “being perfect”. Or, if you are a perfect medical headhunter, you’ll make practices by recruiting doctors.

I was really pleased with that.

Then we worked out her opener. In this, it was just writer stuff. She read what she had and I listened to the clunkers, the places where there were too many words, too many syllables, a weak punch. It’s the trick you develop when you learn to critically review your own work, looking beyond your dreams of sharp writing to the actuality of what you’d just hammered out. Like a master furnature maker, you know how to run your hand along the grain, feeling every imperfection. Good oak, this…

Anyway, she’s happy, and that makes me happy. I just added value to my own worth and even got a blog out of it.

I’m not going onto the B Ark just yet.*


*=points to those who get the referernce.


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