Category Archives: Writing

To Err Is Human—To Really F*** Up, You Really Need a Computer

I admit that life demands a place over blogging. I admit that faith, family, friends, work, and keeping up with laundry, mowing, etc. get in the way, too. However, over the past few weeks, I have actually written a few blogs, but my computer would not let me post them, and then they disappeared.

Eventually, I realized the truth.

Whenever I arrive home—early, late, whatever—Louis (our dog) expects to eat. Whenever Adam, my son is gone, his cat demands attention from me—lots of attention—just so long as I don’t try to actually pick her up and hold her.

OMG*, my computers have developed similar traits. If I don’t pay them adequate attention, they act out—obvious passive aggressive actions.

First, it’s a slowing of all functions followed by lost files. Something like:

Me: “Open blog May 2, 2017”

Computer: “                                                                                        Huh?

Okay.”

Then the computer moves to:

“I can’t locate the file.

What application do you want to use to open the file?

The file is corrupted and cannot be opened.

Ooops! The dog ate my files—I mean file not located.”

I’ve been busy looking at new computers online—using the offending computer—but it has such an inflated opinion of itself, it doesn’t seem to care. It just might be in for a big surprise. Feel free to castigate my offensive hardware.

 

 

*Others May Question (my sanity)

 

Complain, Complain, Complain!

I haven’t written much lately, or at least not much for the blog. (I have been working on a story, though. For some reason, writing fiction has become more satisfying than writing about reality).  I try, when I write, to focus on the silver lining rather than the cloud. Lately, this has become most difficult.

We’ve already discussed how the news media obsesses on all things negative—or meaningless (What’s wrong with Richard Simmons? Will Johnny Depp survive the breakup? Will Caitlin decide to become Bruce once again?). Every trend dies sooner or later, except, apparently for this one. I suppose it’s because they pick the stories that sell the most erectile dysfunction prescriptions, thereby financially benefiting the media, your physician, Big Pharma, venture capitalists, and investment firms.

I propose that we start anew. First, let’s hold a memorial service for journalism. It had a short and tragic life. The first American newspapers were all opinion pieces, but there was one brief shining moment—a century or so—when factual reporting became the gold standard. Many were thrilled at its demise.

My favorite magazines—National Geographic, Wired, and Smithsonian, and National Public Radio have begun to beat me over the head with more doom and gloom. I don’t care who just wrote a book to announce that they’ve come out as gay; I’m sorry that peasants hack down the rain forests because they need to plant food; I regret that there’s a controversy in reintroducing wild wolves into areas where cattle are raised; and I find it unfortunate that while developed countries used coal in the nineteenth century, we balk at twenty-first century countries using such antiquated (but economically viable) methods.  The difference is that rising sea levels today threaten ninety percent of the world’s population because they live near the coast.

In the 1960s we had a saying, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” Complaining, even if you’re a well-known television newsperson, accomplishes nothing. How do you plan to solve the problem? Like the ghost of Freddie Prinz the response seems to be, “Not my problem, man!”

So?

Schizophrenia as an Aid to Writing

Writers of fiction need to be a bit schizophrenic; they live partially in this world and partially in the world that doesn’t exist except as printed words. It’s the characters that are to blame. As I’ve mentioned before, when I’m writing, if I know my character—and for clarity’s sake, let’s stick to just a single character—when that character is placed in a certain situation, it’s easy to write, because I know what that character would do. I can even anticipate when that character is going to do the opposite of what would it would normally do.

As a writer I unconsciously develop the character’s back story. In the story I’m working on now, I’ve got a pretty good understanding of what the protagonist’s life has been like up till now. I may not have thought through details, but since I have the overview, the events that led to a particular trait reveal themselves fairly easily when I need them.

I wrote one column for nearly twenty years, and I knew one character intimately. On the other hand, these stories included a narrator—think Dr. Watson to Sherlock Holmes. The difference was that I never really knew who this narrator was. Was it me? Was the narrator male? Female? Caucasian? Ethnic? To this day, almost 33 years after I first began to write that story, I can’t tell you.

Why? I don’t know. Perhaps it encouraged everyone to identify with the narrator. It might have been that as a character, the narrator was merely a mechanism—like the plucky comic relief character in a movie. The narrator might have been the human version of Alfred Hitchcock’s McGuffin. Hitchcock explained that a McGuffin was something like the microfilm that all the characters tried to get; what is on the microfilm is unimportant.

For that matter, the narrator back then might even have been named McGuffin. Who knows?

No Pretty Pictures

I often wish that my blogs would lend themselves to more pictures. I’m not a bad photographer, and some blogs are full of sunsets, beach scenes, Grand Lake up in the Rockies, or whatever. Mine—not so much.

I’ve been going through some physical therapy for some old injuries. The therapy has actually worked better than a variety of drugs that have been prescribed in the past. However, for it to work, I need to be consistent in my follow through. It struck me, that if there’s a common theme in life, that’s it.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

Practice! Practice! Practice!

It’s true of music, physical fitness, painting, even math or science. (Do YOU remember how to solve a quadratic equation? We all learned how in high school.)

Calvin Coolidge was not one of our more noteworthy presidents, being known as “Silent Cal.” However, he did leave us with a great thought:

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Calvin Coolidge
30th president of US (1872 – 1933)

Practice! Practice! Practice!

Hermione! I Need Your Time-Turner!

Harold Lloyd Modern Times

Harold Lloyd
Modern Times

I’m having a problem with all the important things I’m supposed to do. You’re probably in the same boat, whether you realize it or not.

It takes me about an hour and 45 minutes to get up, shower, shave, dress, eat breakfast, and drive to work. I work an eight hour day and it takes between 30 and 45 minutes to get home. Most nights there’s practice, rehearsal, or something with one of the kids, which usually takes between two and three hours.

The “experts” (whoever they are) are recommending that I get between eight and nine hours sleep per night. In addition, I should work out at least half an hour every day. With changing into workout clothes (and don’t forget to stretch), showering and changing back it ends up being an hour.

Everyone should devote at least an hour praying, reading scripture, or meditating to satisfy their spiritual needs.

In order to eat properly, I really should avoid processed food, so preparing a proper home cooked meal from fresh, locally grown foodstuffs adds another two to three hours between stopping at the grocery for fresh ingredients, followed by cleaning, prepping, and cooking: grilled, not fried; steamed or raw vegetables (after rinsing, spraying with diluted vinegar, and rinsing again in hopes of killing the E. coli, listeria, salmonella, and the occasional frog. I tend to eat fast, so let’s add 30 minutes to eat and after dinner another half hour to clean up, followed by another half hour to put everything away.

Don’t forget, that we need to do what the church mouse said and feed our head; so add an hour of reading the newspaper plus another hour to concentrate on a good book, and maybe an hour to sit with my wife and watch television.

Finally, about an hour to write blog (assume no writers’ block); oops! I need to go online and pay some bills, for another half hour, and hopefully an hour or so to pursue my muse of gadgets and inventions, followed by another half hour to get ready for bed; teeth brushing, thoroughly flossing, taking all the correct medications, and attaching all of the required medical devices that make me feel like Darth Vader (“He’s more machine than man”).

So let’s see:

Task

Hours

Before work

1.75

Work

8.0

Drive home

0.5

Kids’ activities

2.5

Sleep

8.5

Workout

1.0

Spiritual

1.0

Cooking

2.5

Eating & cleanup

1.5

Newspaper

1.0

Book

1.0

Blog

1.0

Pay Bills

0.5

Gadgets

1.0

Prepare for bed

0.5

TOTAL

32.25

All I need is eight or nine more hours per day and I’ll be fine.

All Right! I Confess!

I admit it. I’ve been trying to write blogs lately, but:

  • There was Christmas.
  • My son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren drove 12 hours to visit.
  • My daughter, who has started reading my blog, says all my blogs are the same.
  • I keep coming up with ideas that are incomplete—which got me thinking.

Some of the Beatles songs, including much of Abbey Road were actually the parts of songs that had never fully developed. Therefore I tried to piece together ideas:

My New Year’s resolutions. After “I will never be a staffer for Donald Trump,” I got stuck.

I tried to write about the era of Downton Abbey and how people were once born into wealth and/or married into it, and how that is rare today.

Then I thought of:

  • The Bushes
  • The Clintons
  • Miley Cyrus
  • Jaden Smith
  • Colin Hanks
  • Drew Barrymore
  • Prince Charles

Which brought me back to square one, so, attempting to steal from the Beatles, using the tune from “She Came in through the Bathroom Window”:

My son and daughter trashed the bathroom,
I think they lost my silver spoon,
So I sat there and I pondered,
I should not get mad so soon.

My kids have always been expensive,
Cost me more than I could know,
But I wouldn’t change a minute,
So now I have these joys to show

Is it any wonder?

Let me close this year with my thanks to God for my NORMAL family (the emphasis is there to remind me that despite the condition of their bedrooms and bathroom, my kids are normal; on the other hand, given their outstanding academic, athletic, and musical accomplishments, I owe it to them to differentiate between normal and average).

For you, may 2015 be the year that was just before when everything became wonderful.

Mystery!

 

1891 Sidney Paget Strand portrait of Holmes for "The Man with the Twisted Lip"

1891 Sidney Paget Strand portrait of Holmes for “The Man with the Twisted Lip”

I don’t watch a lot of television—the news and weather, NCIS, and Elementary. At least two are mysteries. The weather is usally a mystery, and the news—well, to be a real mystery, you need clues, and most newscasters are clueless.

Elementary, BBC’s Sherlock Holmes, and House, MD are all essentially the same genre with the same skeletal structure. The hero is a brilliant man, addicted to opioids, who is able to quickly solve mysteries, but only takes on cases that interest him. His roommate is a doctor who served in Afghanistan, but was wounded. Dr. Watson is an intelligent and educated man, but is amazed at Holmes’s powers of deduction.

Holmes originally appeared in installments as a column, to use the modern vernacular, in The Strand, a monthly magazine. Having written monthly articles, I can understand Conan-Doyle’s fascination, and the dread of dealing with recurring deadlines. He eventually tried killing Holmes off—plunging to his death over a waterfall along with his arch-rival Moriarty—but the public wouldn’t stand for it. With a lame excuse of Jiu-Jitsu, Homes reappeared, to Conan-Doyle’s displeasure, but the approval of the readers who didn’t care HOW Holmes escaped–just that he did.

As a writer, I’m intrigued by such circumstance: a great lead character, a narrator who’s also part of the story, and an ensemble from poor Inspector Lestrade to Holmes’s smarter brother, Mycroft. And, yes, “The Woman,” Irene Adler.

I was going to write more, but instead I’m going to go and re-read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes yet again.