Dog Ear
Fatalism (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 22 February 2018 00:00

thought I’d pissed off the Russian mob and had suffered a contract hit.

You’ll remember how I mentioned I shut off my blog comments because of all the entries being placed on it (sites get a lot more traffic the more places they are featured, which is a faulty algorithm that drives disreputable behaviors). I’d decided that the last time my site got hacked it was through this mechanism and, if anything, my feedback mechanism was getting stone-aged. Once I started getting volumes of Russian traffic, I decided to mitigate the risk and shut it down. And three days later, my site went down. Just totally, utterly blank.

I sat there looking at the void where my site had been, figuring I’d been vengeance-hacked by some angry Russian cyber-pirate. Something like a thousand postings (book reviews and Dog Ears, but even my trip reports) all gone. It was a lot to take in.

I lay in bed that night, wondering what I could do. Yes, I have backups but I’m not sure how to do a full cold restart (and even if I could, might I not get knocked down again?) And I had to come to terms that I might have lost it all. So, was that a bad thing?

One thing I learned (from my complete system reinstall after a malware attack) is that nothing is permanent. Hackers can get into just about everything. Margot Kidder went crazy years back when her memoirs were hacked and deleted – ended up babbling through people’s backyards in the dead of night, as I recall. But I’d read that the best armor there was against hacking was not to care. Do not place great sentimental value in the late-winter snow-dusting that is your computer files. Back up the irreplaceable. Print off the critical. And the rest? Be ready to bid it a sorrowful goodbye.

And that’s what I did. As I lay there, I changed my thinking from what I’d possibly lost to what might be my future site. First off, I’d find a better platform than creaky old Joomla. And maybe I’d change the nature of my blogs into a more freeform style, less formal, more flowing (possibly combining book reviews with writer perspective). Possibly a more engaging background than my parchment and pen template. But there was no rush – my replacement of would be careful and considered, not a blind rush to duplicate it. It was actually heady to shake off the chains of what-was and embrace what-could-be.

I dropped off to sleep for a bit but woke up in the dead of night. Just because I am who I am, I decided to look to the site one more time. Booted up and Firefoxed in and pop! Here was the Blogotorium, all up and running (slowly). I would find out later that a new Russian cyber-offensive directed at the Ukraine might have had something to do with it. So maybe that’s it and the worse is behind me. Maybe the site will stay up. We’ll see.

Tune in.

If you can.


P.S. GoDaddy (my host) confirmed that the server where this site resides had been down for a few days. The timing was magnificent.

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 February 2018 05:48
No feedback (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 15 February 2018 00:00

es, it’s been a while. My computer cratered and it’s been the work of a half month (one week for the shop to scrub and rewindow my box, then one for me to reinstall and reconnect everything). I’ve got a ton of book reviews in the hopper (I’d lose myself in reading to escape my Tron woes).

But it got me thinking about other things. Like the feedback I’ve gotten off the bottom of my entries (yes, if you scroll down, you’ll notice it’s no longer there).

The reason for this is many-fold. First, it’s not because I don’t like what got said. Outside of one or two authors I hammered (justifiably) in reviews, I’ve always enjoyed the feedback. No, there were some dangers the feedback introduced.

First off, I’m using an old version of Joomla and an even older version of the comment app. A couple of years ago you might remember that the site got hacked and was used to launch DOS attacks on other sites. I had to freelance a pro to shoot our way out of that box canyon. And I’ve been conscious that even though the feedback tool had been updated a couple of years back, it has hit its final shelf life, and that it was my site’s Achilles Heel.

Second, there were a number of automated bots that posted comments of a repetitive and frustrating nature. Even though I held all comments for review, I’d still have to clean six to ten off every day. Yes, ways to monetize my site. And clueless praise about “whatever I’d written” with a link to some other site (often a sexy one). Refinancing options. And, in a very recent one, ones in Russian Cyrillic asking for God knows what. The amazing thing is that I never let a single one of these through but still they tried and tried. Bots can be like that, I guess. So can  dime-a-dozen Malaysian Captcha-punchers, endlessly entering rote off yellowing scraps of paper.

So, yes, on an idyllic bike ride, I mulled over the value adding comments brought me. And while I do like the feedback (and the attention), you’ll have to rely on other means to take issue with me. Of course most of my entries are posted on Facebook so you hammer me at the origin. That works. Or, if you feel strongly enough, I’ve got a contact selection somewhere that kinda works.

But to preserve this site as long as I can, I’ve cut off the feedback mechanism.

If you don’t like it, keep it to yourself.


Last Updated on Thursday, 15 February 2018 05:58
Book Burning (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 25 January 2018 00:00

here comes a time in every book’s life when you flip to the final page and read to the bottom. And then you think, “Wonderful.” Or possibly, “Thank Christ that’s done.”

But either way, we get to the end of all books (even if we blow the canopy early and bail). The question then becomes – what to do with those leftovers?


For the books that made me smile or spoke to me in my loneliness, that connected to my soul in some way, I keep. There is a straining set of shelves in the Florida room I place them on. It is my shrine to good storytelling. In the corners of this room there are also piles of collections and series that I liked. Yes, the plan is to someday read them. That’s the plan. Sure.

This is not to be confused with the books from my earlier life. At one point I had four mismatched bookshelves containing everything I’d read. Some of it was good. A lot of it was bad. And once I moved into the bungalow I’ve shared with my wife these three decades, I had to do something with them. Currently they are slowly dryrotting in dozens of cardboard boxes in the attic and over the carport. Terrible, really, but what else can I do? From time to time I’ll climb up and tug a couple down to read. And generally time puts a new set of eyes in my head. What I loved then I’m not so fond of now. The Hoka’s come to mind (with all respect).

But for all of these, I might keep one book in ten or twenty. The others? Well, my idea is to toss them. Into the trash they go with a nod and a shrug. But to my wife, I might as well be wearing a Wehrmacht uniform with a torch in one hand and a can of gasoline in the other. Yes, she hates that. So that begins a series of I-toss, she-fetches games that prove so frustrating to a modern marriage. Really, dear, the book was lousy. I’ve got thousands of other lousy books to reread. I’ll never touch this one again.

But that doesn’t work.

What does work is my newest trick. At work we have a usually-empty break room (even more empty after they took the foosball table and the arcade games out). And that’s where getting to work early pays off. I just slipped into the room early one morning and dumped a small pile of books on a corner table. The implication is there. To a good home. Of course, given that most of my co-workers are lousy readers (and given that my tastes are strange) my baited hooks don’t draw many nibbles. Still, of the ten or so there, I’ve noticed that two are missing. But that’s okay. I’ve got more replacements, including Homeward Bound, which I’ll be reviewing next week. And then you’ll see why I’m giving that one up.

But if you do want it, I’ll tell you where you can find it. For free!


Last Updated on Thursday, 25 January 2018 18:38
Advocate (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 17 January 2018 23:21

never started out to be a bicycle advocate. It just sort of happened.

I didn’t even think about bikes in my twenties. One day in my early thirties, my brother peddled over to my house and while we were chatting offered his bike over for a spin. “Well, I don’t know. It’s not really my thing blabbady blah”. So I rode. And I rather liked it. A few days later I started talking bikes with the two ride-to-workers, getting some ideas. For the next four years I was riding four miles in every day. After I got canned from that dumb job, and after a few years being a rocket scientist, I picked up at my current job, riding the nine miles in for sixteen years.

And suddenly everyone knew me as “the bike guy”. I always had my bike at my desk. I also was quick to verbally vivisect anyone who brought me an anti-bike, guy ran a stop-sign, guy was in my way/on my road story. And now I had a Share the Road decal on the back of my car. And then my corporation was putting a picture of me in the hall with my bike, saying something corporate-patriotic. And then I was speaking on podcasts.

I never planned it to be that way.

But that’s the way it goes in stories and real life. Frodo never considered sticking a hairy toe out of the Shire. No character in mid-adventure at page 250 could have seen it coming when they were first established on page one. And life, after all, is art (or the other way ‘round).

And so now I’m also an author. Forty years ago, I was just a punk kid reading all sorts of science fiction and fantasy. I could hardly write and barely type.  But I started to dabble, wrote a couple of awful unpublished books, came close, landed a sale, sold a bunch of short stories, wrote for radio and published another book. Suddenly I was the writer guy, the guy could make any mundane story sound exciting (my coworkers imagine my drab life as a rollicking adventure yarn (little they know)).

So I’m either the writing guy who pedals a bike or the cyclist with a paperback in his back pocket. Either one suits me.

Focusing on writing, part of being a writer is being a writer. You need to project your imagination, your craft and magic in all those people around you. You need to be the guy people go to when they need a report proofed or a child inspired. It’s more than just being someone who can write. It’s being A writer. It’s the entire thing.

Because if you are a writer and nobody knows, you are just a cyclist who keeps his bike in the garage. Make it your life. Be it.



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