Dog Ear
Lent Rethought (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 02 March 2017 00:00

 couple of weeks back I noted my thought that for Lent I’d give up storytelling. It seemed like a good idea at the time but I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to tell storytelling from simple discussion. For example, if you see a crime, are you storytelling when you talk to the police? Or are you fulfilling a duty as a citizen?

It’s a bit… nebulous. And that’s me speaking as both a writer and an amateur astronomer.

Now, I’ve long had a hate-affair with smartphones and the zombie-wander aspects of their users. Worse, if I’m killed on my bike, I know it’s going to be because of a self-centered twit plowing me under while surfing for kitten pictures. Poor me – I died so ironically.

Still, I’ve heard there is a physical issue about smartphones and constant “approval” from click-friends. With every like and every share, a small dose of pleasure squirts into the brain (don’t ask what the details are concerning this – my sister’s the doctor. I just heard it somewhere). So, like a monkey conditioned to pull a lever and win a banana when a light flashes, these people drag out their smartphones in the elevator, on walks, on the commode, everywhere. They are literally addicted to their smartphones.

Which brings me to Facebook.

So while I can sneer about the zombie apocalypse, I will admit that I’m a bit of a Facebook clicker. At work, I’ll glance in every hour. I’ll think about what someone said, or come up with a witty rejoinder, or nod at a comment I agree with. The bell rings. I pull the lever. I get the banana.

So yes, I’m the guy who snorts lines of coke and laughs at the addicts with their needles.

Like kicking soft drinks a few years back, I’ve got to cut back on this. It’s just too much now, a bit out of control. If I had my way I’d go cold turkey. I’m sure I could (says the addict with the confidence of the moment). However, I do need to post notice of my latest blogs. So here’s the rules – I’ll only go into Facebook to post up book reviews, writing considerations, astronomy events and model railroad sessions (and only in their proper areas). I will not read any other entries. And I will not click on the indicators of updates and messages. And since Lent started a day ago (March 1st) it’s already in effect. So I hope you like and share and forward this all to hell and back – I just won’t be here to see it.

See you  at Easter*.

(* = and only once a day. I’m only going into Facebook once per day as a follow-through. Yes, like sodas, I’m limiting my intake)


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

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