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Thursday, October 31, 2013

I am NOT a Minion!

I just like yellow. Sheesh.

Something for Thursday

Here is Howard Shore's main theme to my favorite horror film, The Silence of the Lambs. Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A bit of parenting advice

Courtesy Roald Dahl, in his amazing book Danny the Champion of the World. If you haven't read this beautiful, funny, moving, and exciting story, what's keeping you!

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Bad puns: Do you like them, or not?

(Bonus: If you DO like them, what's your favorite one?)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A sketch

We stood on the balcony of our room while on vacation, looking across the street at the moonlit beach. There were people still about on the Promenade -- not many, but it wasn't deserted, not quite yet. Most of the people who were out were young. Couples in love, or couples who might be in love someday, or couples who weren't couples but who were just hanging out because they weren't couples with anybody else yet.

Along came a couple. Definitely a couple. I could tell, despite the fact that they were only in my sight for less than ten seconds. They were riding the same skateboard, him in back, her in front, their hands joined, their bodies leaning in unison. He was tall and lanky, she was tiny -- probably the only way a couple could even fit on the same skateboard. But it was dark, and he realized that the skateboard was heading not for a smooth transition from street to sidewalk, but rather, right for a curb. So he slowed, but not slow enough, and stepped back, off the skateboard onto the street. But she didn't know this was going to happen, so she was still on wheels and moving forward a lot faster.

They never let go, though. She held tight to his hands and he held tight to hers, and as the skateboard surged forward without him on it, she simply allowed herself to lean back, back, ever farther back, until he was supporting her by the hands as she stopped the skateboard but was lying backward at a forty-five degree angle. They hung there, the two of them, having narrowly avoided a crash. She gave out a scream, but it was a scream of delight, the scream of a girl on a thrill ride with a guy she loved, and he laughed, and then she laughed too. Then he kicked the skateboard up onto the sidewalk, they jumped on again, and with two kicks of his left foot, they were off again and out of my sight.

Through that whole thing, they never let go of each other's hands.

This was four months ago. I hope they're still holding hands, somewhere.



Monday, October 28, 2013

Four Days to #NaNoWriMo!

In four days, NaNoWriMo 2013 kicks off! I'm still torn over whether to just keep going on GhostCop (not the actual title) until the draft is done, or put it aside and return to it at a later time in favor of Lighthouse Boy. I'm leaning toward the former, mainly because I don't like leaving unfinished manuscripts, especially once I get more than 60000 words in, which is where I am right now. Hopefully it doesn't take an entire month to finish the book. I doubt it will, because I really don't see this book being all that long. We'll see!

Anyway, I am now starting to ramp up my production. My plan, as last year, is to attack the first few weeks with vigor, so that if I need to back off along the way for any reason, I have a cushion built in. Or something like that. Who knows. My main plan is to just write my ever-lovin' ass off. The only difference for me, really, between NaNoWriMo and AnyOtherMo is the page on the calendar!






(Hashtag in post title in use for when this post appears as a Twitter link.)

One perk of owning lots of overalls

Every year around Halloween, I enjoy going on Twitter and seeing all kinds of this going on:













I'm starting to feel like Dwight Schrute in that episode of The Office, when it's Christmas so he finds out what the hot new toy is, buys every single one in Scranton, and then eBays them all for a tidy profit. Except I'm not selling my overalls, so it's really not like that at all.

Anyway....

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome

Oddities and Awesome abound!

:: I'm not sure if this is weird or awesome:

Beard yeast might sound icky at first, but it's really grown on one Oregon brewmaster.

Rogue Ales, a brewery and pub based in Newport, Ore., is developing an ale made out of yeast harvested from the beard of award-winning brewmaster John "More Hops" Maier.

The whole thing started as a joke. Brett Joyce, president of Rogue Ales, told KPTV on Sunday that the folks at Rogue Ales had been trying to harvest a new yeast strain from their hop yard for some time, but with little success.

Then the thought occurred to Joyce, "Why not look for a different place that might have some magic yeast in it?"

Brewery employees took nine follicles from Maier's beard, which Maier says has not been shaved since 1978.

:: Albino whale shark. Wow.


More next week!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wow.

That is all.

"A magnetic filament of solar material erupted on the sun in late September, breaking the quiet conditions in a spectacular fashion. The 200,000 mile long filament ripped through the sun's atmosphere, the corona, leaving behind what looks like a canyon of fire. The glowing canyon traces the channel where magnetic fields held the filament aloft before the explosion."

Click through for more.

Something for Thursday

The bad news is that the BBC's third season of Sherlock won't air until January. Ugh! Meantime, here's a bit of Sherlockian music!

Miklos Rozsa wrote a wonderful score for a film called The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Here is a suite from that score:


A nice contrast is this score by an underrated and underused composer named Bruce Broughton, for the film Young Sherlock Holmes. I always had a difficult time with this film, owing to its odd conversion of Holmes into an Indiana Jones-like adventurer and its somewhat downbeat ending. The music, though, is quite good.


And then there's the BBC's theme, which is incredibly earwormy:


By the way, my personal favorite portrayal of Sherlock Holmes came in an episode of Magnum PI, in which Patrick Macnee plays a friend of Higgins's who has gone delusional to the point of believing himself to be Holmes. It's a really good episode, called "Holmes is Where the Heart Is". Worth checking out, if you have access to the show...I believe it's on Netflix.

The game's afoot, folks!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Do you listen to podcasts? If so, which ones, and why?

Yes, this is a thinly-veiled solicitation for suggestions. I already listen to a few, but I wouldn't mind finding more. I listen to the podcasts on the Trending Buffalo site (some of my favorite local commentary comes from this site), The Human Bible (endlessly fascinating if a secular take on the Bible is your thing), and I've listened to Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Star Talk podcast (although that one has ads inside it, which kind of bugs me, especially when I'm listening in the car and can't access my tablet to skip past the ads). Oh, and I listen to Night Vale, so I'm aware of that one.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The X-Manatees

I am stealing this from Tumblr, because I love it so.










One word at a time, man. One word at a time.

Wow. An extended visit from Lady Momentum. And a KEY scene is done. Cupcake time! #AmWriting

The current book, GhostCop (not the actual title), really gave me some fits toward the end of last month and the beginning of this one. The story reached a point where I had no idea what was coming next, and what was coming next refused to reveal itself. So I had an uncomfortably large number of days where I didn't write a single word.

But as you can tell by my tracking spreadsheet, I broke through quite nicely, finally figuring out the direction that most of the story elements need to go. My main problem now is that I really wanted to get this draft done in time for NaNoWriMo, but I'm not sure that's in the cards right now. That being the case, I will likely keep writing this one until it's done, even if that leads into NaNoWriMo, at which point I will casually segue into Lighthouse Boy (not the actual title).

Sometimes this writing thing is hard. Maybe it would be easier if I bothered outlining or plotting things in advance in some way, but the notion of doing that really bugs me, for some reason. I'm just not wired to stick to an outline.

I am wired, however, to keep writing until the day I drop. Excelsior! Onward and upward! Zap! Pow!!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sentential Links!!!

It's time for...LINKAGE!!!

:: You probably judge me, condemn me from your ivory tower, safe from addictive substance. But you are only an accident, a painful illness, an injury away from being in my shoes. I did not choose this, I really had no choice.

:: Sometimes I forget that writing is a living, breathing thing; that the story (or the poem, etc.) not only transforms you and feeds you, but is transformed and fed because of you. Erin Bow in her interview with the Quill & Quire last month said that she thinks she writes what she will ultimately end up needing. And I wonder if there's truth in that for every writer.

:: Lots of people put up big, ugly walls and we get that they’re cries for help so everyone rallies and tries to tear it down, but if you put up a wall and pant something pretty on it, nobody is going to ask what’s behind that wall and that’s the true danger of charisma. (That's actually the whole post.)

:: Curse your memory. Curse the timing of lightning. Curse the notepad, which always parts ways with the pen you were certain you put it next to. Curse writing. Who invented it, anyway? It’s their fault you’re even in this mess.

:: Bottom line, none of us are the same. Thank God. Life would be so boring. That's why it's important for you to never give up on your piece of art until you've gone as deep as you can go. That's where the story lies and where you will find your true voice.

:: I am so many pieces of these songs. They are moments in my life. They somehow fill these aching holes – the holes that I am learning will never truly be filled – well, they temporarily plug them with their verses, and choruses. Their bridges bridge the gap between broken and whole. For a few moments, I can feel free.

:: Lou Scheimer, the man who founded Filmation Studios, died a few days ago at the age of 84. Mark Evanier has a very nice post about him. I just had to mark it here and say a little thank you for contributing to a childhood that relished in fantasy and the imagination, and delighted at such things as lion men, monkey sidekicks, and ghostbusting gorillas.

:: Uncle Merlin called in from the Cape this morning to report he’s having woodpecker trouble. Judging by his description, a female downy has punched a hole in the eave of his house. He wanted to know how to drive her away.

More next week!!!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome

Oddities and Awesome abound!

:: If it seems like virtually every 30-40-something woman you know is named "Jennifer", well, here's why. This also shows that in about ten to fifteen years, the world will be run by Emily's, Emma's, and Sophia's.

(And please tell me that the recent surge of Isabella's is not because of Twilight. I'd hate to think that such an awful book is going to live so long in American consciousness.)

:: In many places, you get a ticket if you leave your car parked for too long. Apparently not so in a town in China, where if you leave your car parked too long, something else happens.

All for this week. More next. Maybe. Who knows. Hmmmmm....

Friday, October 18, 2013

The kind of weird thought that keeps me from achieving success

Regarding this clip from The Karate Kid:


I think it would be funny if this clip just went on and on and on, with the Evil Sensei just listing all these things that do not exist in his dojo.

FEAR does not EXIST in this DOJO, does it?

NO SENSEI!!!

PAIN does not EXIST in this DOJO, does it?

NO SENSEI!!!

DEFEAT does not EXIST in this DOJO, does it?"

NO SENSEI!!!

GHOSTS do not EXIST in this DOJO, do they?

NO SENSEI!!!

RICHARD MILHOUS NIXON does not EXIST in this DOJO, does he?

NO SENSEI!!!

A LARGE PIZZA WITH EXTRA CHEESE AND ACHOVIES does not EXIST in this DOJO, does it?

NO SENSEI!!!

ETHEL MERMAN does not EXIST in this DOJO, does she?

NO SENSEI!!!

In other news....

Comet ISON Appears Intact

Wow. That is all.

Something for Thursday (Friday edition)

Whoops. Sorry, folks. Here's some very famous Rachmaninov, the Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra on a Theme of Paganini. (The work's most famous section, the 18th Variation, comes at the 15:28 mark, for those curious.)


The Paganini tune that forms the backbone of this work has inspired a lot of composers over the last 150+ years. We played a fascinating different set of variations on the same theme in the concert band when I was in college...but few settings beat Rachmaninov's.

Anyway, enjoy and have a fine weekend! Maybe I'll even have some -- gasp! -- new content at some point!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A writing update, an apology for a lack of nifty content, and a cool photo!

In order, the things mentioned in the title to this post:

1. A Writing Update.

Starting about halfway through September, I entered a protracted slump, wherein I had a terrible time figuring out what was supposed to happen in GhostCop (not the actual title). So severe was this slump that I actually failed to write a single word for 10 of the last 14 days of that month, including the entire final week. It was a disaster, which put me really far behind where I wanted to be; I was hoping to have the draft of this novel done by the time November rolled around, so I could so into NaNoWriMo with a totally new project (actually, an old one: I'm returning to work on Lighthouse Boy).

The malaise continued into October (partly abetted by my vacation last week). But during that stretch, I started to see glimmers of a possible resolution to my story's difficulties, and now, I seem to be back on track. Eight of the last nine days I've managed to write over 1000 words, the last two days I've written over 2000 words, and even that one "off" day saw 700 words, which is acceptable. Will I get the draft done by NaNoWriMo? I...don't know. I do know that this book is going to be significantly shorter than Princesses In SPACE!!! or Lighthouse Boy, but I'm really not sure how long it will be in the end. But I have more than two weeks left this month, and if I can keep cranking, who knows...maybe I can at least get to the point where I can finish it in the first part of NaNoWriMo. We shall see.

It's tough, though, when the mojo goes away.

2. An Apology for a Lack of Nifty Content.

Yeah...sorry about that. I'm hoping to get more good stuff done here, by way of writing posts beforehand and scheduling them. But I've been really pushing forward on GhostCop, so I can make no promises. I'm going to try to have something up here on a regular basis, even if it's not of "penetrating essay" quality.

3. A Cool Photo!

This is amazing. I saw this on Twitter today, via a user named Usman Masood. The photo:



Mr. Masood's caption was very clever:

This is a ship-shipping ship, shipping shipping ships.

How awesome is that!

Thanks for stopping by, and stay classy, San Diego!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Productivity!

I wrote 2000 words today, got some reading done, and cleaned my desk.

Callin' it a night.

Don't taunt the football gods.

The Houston Texans are supposed to be one of the best teams in the NFL this year, but they've had some hiccups, including some very erratic play by Matt Schaub, their starting quarterback. Going into yesterday's game, Schaub had thrown a "pick-6" -- an interception that was returned by the other team for a touchdown -- in three consecutive games. And yesterday, the visiting St. Louis Rams jumped out to a lead, so when Schaub got hurt and the backup QB had to come in, the fans in Houston cheered.

The football gods took notice of this.

That backup quarterback promptly came in and...threw a pick-6.

Taunt not the football gods! For they are a spiteful bunch.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sunday Burst of THE WORST THING EVER

Oddities and Awesome abound. So does jaw-dropping awfulness, like this.


Yeah...sorry, folks, but it is, by a wide margin, the single weirdest thing I saw online all week.

(In all seriousness, the "group" Ylvis is actually a comedy duo, and this song was meant as a simple silly parody thing, but then it went "viral". Here's an article about the phenomenon -- it's really not unlike how, for a time, Steve Martin was completely overshadowed by his own "King Tut".)

Lester is silently judging my writing.

"Me write book better dan dis guy."

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Something for Thursday

A repeat today, because this is one of those pieces to which I return every now and again. This is one of the most beautiful choral works I know, a simple and stunning setting of the folk song "Shenandoah".

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Assuming you can be guaranteed to live to tell the tale, what historic battle would you most like to witness?

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Sentential Links

Linkage....

:: I’m wondering what others do to get inspired and keep themselves from getting distracted? It is definitely something I am still trying to do. (I try to incorporate distraction into my routine, inasmuch as I even have a routine. I should probably get a routine. Hmmmm....This is a brand new blog, by the way. I met this fellow on Instagram. Check him out!)

:: So reading fantasy novels is perhaps a second best to being able to distract myself with my own stories, but at least it lets me go to sleep without focusing on the ugly stuff happening in the world.

:: I suppose I don’t have a great emotional attachment to it. If I found a much better one I might give this one up. Maybe. A thing doesn’t have to be very good or very special to make one happy.

:: All female Doctor Who companions have been held under intense scrutiny since the show returned in 2005, and while the narrative of critique often starts out with “let’s look at how the showrunner/scriptwriters have screwed up in portraying female characters” somehow it often seems to come down to burying those female characters under criticism and complaints while the Doctor and male companions get away largely unscathed.

:: If I’m a curmudgeon about Gravity, it’s because it turned out not to be the movie I wanted to see. I wanted an Apollo 13 about a problem the space industry is seriously worried about right now. I want a movie of Downbelow Station and The Forever War and The Stars My Destination. I want a movie about living and working in space that’s actually about living and working in space. If I squint real hard, I can turn Gravity into that movie. But it’s not, quite, and that made me just a little bit sad.

:: Getting upset, brooding and/or feeling despair over things you cannot possible change prevent you from changing what you can, and moving forward, and enjoying your writing life. So: let it go. Accept that there will always be things about Publishing that you can't change, and that will stop them from depressing you and getting between you and the page. (Oh, so, so hard! Letting go the frustration of my currently unending sea of rejection is the hardest of things for me to do. I read an article a few weeks ago about self-publishing in which the writer indicated that "You won't get rich doing this", which...well hey, I'm not rich now, so what of that? But then he said, "You can't even live off it, really." And then he named the figure that he makes per month...and it's more than I'm making now, by a comfortable margin. Hmmmmm....)

:: Why conjure an illusion when you can spend a quarter on a cheap prank? "And I would've gotten away with it if it weren't for you meddling kids and your dumb Asgardian God of Thunder!"

:: My wife was baking muffins and was out of baking soda and wanted to know what she could use instead. I have no idea, and in fact, have confused baking soda with baking powder. I do know, once upon a time, I used one instead of the other in making pancakes, took one bite of the bitter batter concoction and threw them out.

More next week!

Monday, October 07, 2013

Snapshots from Ithaca

This weekend The Wife and I made our annual getaway to the Ithaca Apple Harvest Festival, and we had a great time as always...although the festival itself wasn't quite like it usually is, owing to the fact that Ithaca is in the midst of tearing apart its pedestrian mall to rebuild it (in truth, the infrastructure there was looking a bit long in the tooth, and I look forward to seeing what things look like when it's done). I know that pedestrian malls aren't thought of very highly anymore, but Ithaca is a small enough city that they are able to pull it off -- it's all of three blocks, and there's plenty of parking and lots of nice businesses to frequent.

Anyway, it all started with a trip to a knitting supply store just outside of town, which is one of the nicer yarn shops we've found in our travels of such. The Wife ended up with a small pile of yarn to add to her stash:

The Wife's yarn haul. Wow!

Then we were off to downtown, where our first order of business was lunch at Waffle Frolic, a restaurant that we absolutely adore. This is their counter.

Ordering counter at WaffleFrolic #Ithaca

Since The Wife went on a gluten-free diet last year, we were thrilled to discover that Waffle Frolic has GF waffles. Even better, though, was that we learned that they also have GF fried chicken, so that we were both able to have waffles and fried chicken, which is one of the finest of all food combos. I never heard of it before a few years ago, but I am seriously in the tank for waffles and fried chicken, folks!

Waffles and fried chicken! #Yum

Next was some shopping and milling about. As I said, the Festival usually takes up the entire pedestrian mall, but this time it was sequestered mostly to either end of the mall, so there was more walking than usual, which was fine. There's food and lots of crafts, with a great deal of stuff available that is made by local or regional artisans. I am increasingly a fan of buying things that are locally made, and if I can buy it directly from the person who made it, then that's fantastic.

Now this was funny. There's a comics store there that I usually go into, more to find something to bring back for The Daughter than for myself (I love comics, but I find that they tend to be wildly overpriced, which is why I tend to exclusively rely on the library for comics reading). Looking through the wares, I found a case with some toys and action figures and the like inside, and on top was this giant model of the starship Enterprise, in my favorite design that ship has ever sported:

Amazing model of the Enterprise at a comics shop in #Ithaca. The shopkeep proceeded to give me a mild tongue-lashing for taking the photo, because of technology and omnipresent access to photography and the like. Wasn't sure I understood his point, but I

As soon as I took the photo, though, the owner was right there to give me a tongue-lashing for taking photos in his shop. He went on some rant about the need to control or limit the technology, now that everyone has access to photography. I honestly did not understand the point he was making -- is he worried about people using iPhone cameras to scan comics pages in his store so that they don't have to buy the comics? It's not like any of the stuff in there is his intellectual property, and besides, many times I've chosen to go into a business or store because someone posted a picture from within and said, "Check out the cool stuff this store has!" Weird. He also pointed to the "No photographs!" sign that maybe I should have seen...but the sign is above the door in the back of the store that leads to their back room, it's about the size of an index card, and it's taped to a wall that is also covered with all manner of comics-related posters and artwork. I offered to delete the photo, but he said that wasn't necessary. I bought a little TARDIS for The Daughter -- it has a little light on top -- but I think I'll be foregoing that shop in future trips to Ithaca. If he doesn't want word getting out that he has cool shit in his store, then I'm happy to oblige.

Nice model, though.

On a happier note, the lack of pedestrian traffic in usual areas meant that I got to actually get up close to one of the Sagan Planet Walk markers! This is a public art installation in Ithaca, honoring the memory of Carl Sagan (one of my eternal heroes), in which stone markers are placed throughout the town in such a way as to constitute a walking tour of the Solar System, with the distances between the markers proportionally accurate to the distances between the planetary orbits. According to the website for the Planet Walk (associated with the Ithaca Sciencenter), the markers for the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars are in temporary storage (with temporary signage indicating their location, so that the Planet Walk is still possible). But I got to pose with Jupiter. Yay, Jupiter!

Posing with Jupiter in Ithaca! (Wow, the camera did weird things with the stripes of my overalls.)

Finally, I visited my favorite used bookstore, Autumn Leaves. I only bought a couple of books this time -- I'm trying to cut down my book acquisition until such time as we acquire more space for book storage, which will involve moving -- but I always love going in that store. It's bright and open and airy and inviting. And in their storefront window, they had a mannequin, attired thusly:

Mannequin at Autumn Leaves Used Books in Ithaca. I think they knew I was coming. #overalls #mannequin #Ithaca

It's like they knew I was coming!

All in all, a lovely trip, and I'm sad it's over. There are two places I'd like to live on this world, other than right here. One is Toronto. The other is Ithaca!

You think YOUR Monday sucks?

I wonder how long it took this truckdriver to figure out what to say in his phone call to his employers.




I've been fond, for a couple of years, of the metaphor of a "tire fire" for something that's going incredibly poorly. This driver, though, gets to use that phrase literally. That's a bad day, folks.

Back Roads of WNY

US 20A, my favorite road. What's yours?

I'm pretty sure that I inherited from my father a general sense of antipathy for expressways. When we'd take long roadtrips, when I was a kid, such as going from our home in Allegany, NY to New Jersey (near Philadelphia) to visit my grandmother, we would often take some route through Pennsylvania that was almost entirely 2-lane roads, sometimes feeling like a lot of over-hill-and-over-dale. A lot of times back then I'd wonder why we just didn't take the Interstates and get there faster, and it wasn't until much later that I realized that Interstates are boring. Except for freeways in cities, which are cool, expressways are just a whole lot of dull. So it's come that I, too, look for alternate routes that might make a trip take a bit longer, but also makes the drive more pleasant, more adventurous. Expressways are designed to take you past places, which is why they're always built in the really boring stretches of land. It's always amazing to me that some roads can spend a great deal of their length within just a few miles of the thruway, and yet the driving experience is so starkly different.

The main routes out of Buffalo, for just about any location, are either Interstate 90 (going east or west) or US 219 (going south). Both of these routes are really boring drives. US 219 is only a thruway for about twenty miles; just south of Springville it's two-lane all the way to PA. And that two-lane stretch can be very nice in a few spots, but that road has become such a main route south that I just find the whole thing rather boring. As for I-90, well...it's I-90. Mile after mile after mile of boring, flat road. (Which is also a toll road, another reason why I avoid it like the plague.) So here are some of my favorite roads!

US 20A: Orchard Park to Canandaigua. This is, by far, my favorite road just about anywhere. (The main road through Yellowstone may outrank it.) It's a hilly road through mostly rural areas, and in the space of about ninety minutes driving it you go from the longer rises and falls in Erie County to the much hillier terrain of the Finger Lakes region. In fall, this drive is amazing. We take this road most times on our annual fall getaway, since the road ends near Canandaigua, NY, southwest of Rochester and a few miles from Victor, NY, where we like to stay overnight. Notable feature: the steep descent into, and ascent out of, Warsaw, NY. The road is so steep here that trucks are required to exit the road and take an alternate route.

NY 39: Springville to Geneseo. Route 39 actually runs from US 20 near Dunkirk all the way to Avon, NY (a small town about fifteen miles outside of Rochester), but I'm only familiar with the part between Springville and Geneseo. It's another hilly, gorgeous ride, especially between Springville and Yorkshire, when it closely tracks Cattaraugus Creek. I don't take this road often as we're rarely in a position to go east or west from Springville. But this is another wonderful trek through rural NY. We just drove this the other day, and it was refreshing to see new stuff! Notable feature: NY 39 parallels Letchworth State Park, and runs with US 20A for a short while near Geneseo.

NY 354: Buffalo to Attica. Also known as Clinton Street. I love this road in winter, because it runs along a lot of high ridges that give nice, long views of snowy fields with the lights of Buffalo in the distance. I drove this often when The Wife worked in Batavia. Not as often now, but I like to incorporate this road into return trips from Rochester. Notable feature: Nothing stands out, except the views. On a clear, cold winter night, particularly with a bright moon, this road is tops.

NY 98: Franklinville to Batavia. This road actually starts outside Great Valley in the Southern Tier and runs all the way to Lake Ontario, but the part I'm mostly familiar with is between Franklinville and Batavia. We mostly would end up on this road when traveling to Arcade, NY for a pancake breakfast every year during maple season. Another hilly rural route that goes more through farmland than forest, which makes for a different kind of drive. Also, as a north-south route, ascents and descents tend to be much longer, and there are a few spots where, on a really clear day, you can probably see the Buffalo skyline from the farthest possible vantage point short of being on a boat on Lake Erie. Notable feature: spectacular views of the huge wind farm along the north-south ridges, if you like wind turbines. (I do.)

NY 240: Orchard Park to Ashford. The roads I've described thus far are hilly routes; NY 240 is almost exclusively a valley road, and it's a nice alternative to the "usual" routes from Buffalo to the Southern Tier, US 219 and NY 16. Route 240 runs through a fairly narrow series of valleys, past a couple of Erie County's main ski resorts, and follows the rushing waters of Cazenovia Creek's West Branch. There is an abandoned rail line along the route that is the focus of a possible rails-to-trails project. It's also a surprisingly twisting road, so if curves are your thing, this may be the road for you. South of Springville, if memory serves, the road is notably rougher than its northern half. NY 240 actually comprises all of Harlem Road in Buffalo, so it actually connects Amherst to Ashford. Additionally, 240 is the main drag through Orchard Park, and The Store lies on 240. So this is one of the roads my life centers around! But the part south of OP is a very nice drive. Notable feature: Mill Rd, between 240 and East Aurora, is a nice short drive that includes the wonderful Mill Rd. Overlook, a spot where the road is at the top of a bare hill facing north. The view is only spoiled by, ironically enough, a big sign exhorting people to "Save this view!" (They want to prevent someone from buying the large field there and turning it into yet another development clogged with McMansions.)

NY 16: Buffalo to the PA State line, south of Olean. This is actually one of the main routes from Buffalo to the Southern Tier, but I'm listing it anyway because it has a pretty unique character all its own. The road actually goes all the way to downtown Buffalo, but for my purposes, it's notable for being the main drag through East Aurora and a decent connector to the Olean area (where The Parents still reside). It's also a fairly pretty drive, too, especially in fall when you start getting into the hilly regions. Most notable for me about NY 16, though, is that of all these roads, it's on 16 that I get the strongest sense of New York on the wane. All the other roads have old stuff along their ways, but for some reason, everything along NY 16 feels older, and much more distant from the days when some of these places were a going concern. I just drove this road the other day, and I noticed at one point a building whose business had long-since closed, and at the road there was a onetime illuminated sign. The signage itself was gone, but the frame of the sign was intact, with the lightbulbs still there. There's an old surplus store in a town called Machias that's been closed for a while, but the huge banners advertising Carhartt apparel are still stapled to the storefront. All of these roads have, to some degree, a "days gone by" feel, but NY 16 is the road that most feels like Time has won the battle.

Obviously this has been Southtowns-centric and mainly focused on roads going either south or east from this region, because those are the directions we mostly find ourselves traveling. But what others are out there? What roads do you folks like?

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Sunday Burst of Weird and Awesome

Links fixed. Sorry folks, I don't know what happened there.

Oddities and Awesome abound!

:: We've made a weekly ritual in these parts of going to a local artisanal cupcake joint that launched a couple of years ago. They're very creative with their wares, and we look forward each week to seeing the online posting of their special flavors and planning our Saturday visit. Now, they have come up with some doozies of strange flavors, but thus far, they have to my knowledge attempted nothing like this. I'm not even gonna describe it. Just go look.

(No, I would not partake of those. I'm not wild about mango.)

:: Dinosaur porn exists. The world is odd and I'm not sure I like it.

That is all.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Writing in the hotel room

Getting a little work done before we head to Ithaca, because as Captain Malcolm Reynolds once said, "We work before we play."

He also said some other stuff, but that's the one that's relevant here.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Breaking Brown

I was in a pretty oddly dark mood this morning, so I tweeted the following:

I like to think that when he turned 18, Encyclopedia Brown got sick of the whole thing and committed a string of still-unsolved murders.

Of course, my brain being the brain it is, I couldn't stop turning that over in my head, so I imagined the following scenario:

:: Encyclopedia grows more and more grim and despondent; maybe he starts dressing in black. He spends less time with Sally Kimball, who is hurt by this. He closes his detective business.

:: His first victim is, of course, Bugs Meany, whom he kills in a way that leaves no visible markings of trauma on the corpse and which vexes the Idaville medical examiner, who hasn't had much to do in eighteen years. Encyclopedia leaves the body by the back door of that delicatessen that the first paragraphs of each Encyclopedia Brown book make a point of mentioning.

:: Encyclopedia's string of murders begins after his father, the Idaville police chief, announces his intention to retire.

:: When the second victim is found near one of Idaville's two movie theaters, a palpable sense of fear descends on this quiet community. Chief Brown's years of successful law enforcement are called into question. He brings details home to Encyclopedia, who uses his own knowledge of the case to send his father down wild goose chases before he ultimately just refuses to do anything more.

:: The murders continue, until finally Sally Kimball discovers the key piece of evidence that Encyclopedia forgot about, and gives it to Chief Brown, who must now arrest his own son.

But...

WHAT WAS THE CLUE THAT TIPPED SALLY OFF?

(turn to page 78 for the solution!)


The Law of Dietary Miracles

In any comments thread on a social media site pertaining to some new diet that someone is trying out, a commenter will report that a relative of theirs tried that same diet and hasn't had a migraine since.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Answers, the Tenth (and maybe the last?)

All right, let's get our nose off this particular grindstone, shall we?

Here's the final question of the ones that were posed by various anonymous readers:

Is the middle class terminal? Assuming it is how do we convince people to strive if opportunity is not there? If we are not striving aren't we just, well, breathing?

This is a question that I think about a lot. I honestly am not really sure, but I do wonder from time to time if the pace of technological improvement is going to render large parts of our economy obsolete. And then, what?

Manufacturing is going to become more and more automatic. I think most folks believe that our kids will live to see cars that drive themselves, and in fact, in a hundred years, our descendants may look back on us, shaking their heads, and say, "Can you believe they used to take control of two-ton vehicles and maneuver them in tight quarters at high speeds?!"

Putting the problem bluntly: What do we do if and when we reach a point where there simply isn't enough work for people to do? Our entire economy is built on the idea: Someone with money determines that work needs done, and pays someone some of their money to do it. There really could be a time when there isn't enough work for people. The natural question then is, then what? Can people be trusted to find things to do to occupy their time? Will they make work for themselves, as the growing artisal movements have? And will we (meaning, we as a species) be able to do enough of this sort of thing to keep our idleness from being a breeding ground for all of our usual hatreds and resentments?

I also worry a great deal about the current economic climate in the United States, which has been more and more tilted in the favor of funneling the nation's wealth upward. So I don't know if the middle-class is in "terminal" shape, but...there are some enormous challenges, and current policy seems to me utterly unlikely to meet them.

And then, we have...Roger. Roger, Roger, Roger!

what TV shows, movies, books, comic books, et al. have affected you in terms of your politics/geopolitical world view?

It's interesting: I'm not entirely sure that a lot of the fiction I've experienced has affected my worldview all that much. I suppose it would have to, but I'm not readily coming up with any great examples of books or movies or whatever that made me think, "Wow! What a wonderful expression of liberalism!"

I know, I know: The West Wing. But in a recent re-watch of the first 3.5 seasons of the show (I petered out right about when the slow-leak in Sorkin's balloon, which started in Season Three, finally let all the air out completely in Season Four), I found that the show isn't quite as liberal as most think. Sure, the administration and most of the main characters are Democrats, but many of the Republicans in the show are not depicted as fire-breathing demons, and it's actually pretty surprising how often it's the conservative argument that ends up winning the day. Liberalism is mostly depicted on The West Wing as an idealistic world view, and many times, a character will give a full throated expression of some liberal idea only to have to concede that it's just impossible or unwieldy or unaffordable or something similar.

It's not so much my liberalism that's informed about my approach to fictional properties, then...but my more general sense of right and wrong, and my feel of optimism for our future as a species. That is influenced hugely by a lot of science fiction, such as Star Trek and, yes, Star Wars, even though the latter is more mythic in approach and doesn't depict a "future" at all. But I like tales that suggest that we do have a bright future as a species, that we're not just doomed to do our thing on this planet until something happens and we all die, leaving only a few space probes in the dark as evidence of the things we once did. Peter F. Hamilton is an author who is good at this; so was Iain Banks. I get a bit of this from John Scalzi, too, although his future tends to be more violent.

Have you ever participated in a buycott, rather the opposite of a boycott, in which you buy some product or service to support someone whose values you admire?

I have to confess that I try to do this, but it's not always the easiest thing to do in the world. Often the businesses that are really admirable are hard to access (lots of driving), or they're more expensive (luckily, this is becoming a bit less of a concern for me these days), or...well, that sort of thing. I do feel the need to do more of that, especially since it's so often very easy to not do business with companies whose values I find ugly or abhorrent.

If I'm to believe what I watch on FOX News, the white man feel mighty oppressed in America! Why is that?

Well, by way of a short answer, the world they've always known is changing, and that can be scary. Things are getting difficult that weren't always difficult, and things are getting easy for "The Other" -- whomever your particular "other" happens to be -- in a way that they have not been. Simplistic answer, I know, but I really think that covers it.

What is your opinion of the Presidential Medal of Freedom nominees?

Hmmmm. First, by way of definition (via Wikipedia):

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award bestowed by the President of the United States and is—along with the comparable Congressional Gold Medal bestowed by an act of U.S. Congress—the highest civilian award in the United States. It recognizes those individuals who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors".[3] The award is not limited to U.S. citizens and, while it is a civilian award, it can also be awarded to military personnel and worn on the uniform.

Here is the roster of this year's honorees:

Ernie Banks
Ben Bradlee
Bill Clinton
Daniel Inouye
Daniel Kahneman
Richard Lugar
Loretta Lynn
Mario Molina
Sally Ride
Bayard Rustin
Arturo Sandoval
Dean Smith
Gloria Steinem
Cordy Tindell "C.T." Vivian
Patricia Wald
Oprah Winfrey

I don't really have a problem with any of these, to be honest. All are important figures (even if I wasn't familiar with a few of the names -- more info on each at WhiteHouse.gov) I don't see anyone on the list whose contributions I consider trite or silly. It's tempting, maybe, to think so of the sports figures, but sport is such a central part of American culture and identity, for better or worse, that to ignore it for things like this would seem odd. It's always hard with awards like this, because frankly, for every person out there, there's another person who can tell you either why they should or should not receive an award like this. These are all remarkable, important Americans, though, as far as I'm concerned.

This is less question than request: could you write a verse of song/poetry about the end of you finishing writing something. The thing I had in mind was for you to write something called "Put a Fork in It" to Beyonce's "Put a Ring on It", but you can pick another title as long as it's to a widely recognizable song.

OK...well, this is weird...huh...well, here goes. And before any of you rip me to pieces over this, I'm coming up with this right now, as I write this, off the top of my head. So yeah, it probably sucks.

(To the tune of the Discovery Channel song)

The book is finished,
The manuscript is done,
The plot is wrapped up,
And man, I had some fun!

I love to write books,
It's what I'm here to do,
Boom de yada, boom de yada,
Boom de yada, boom de yada!

I think the book is good,
And so will all the world,
When it's on the bookshelves
And my flag's unfurled!

All folks will read it,
And fortune will be mine,
Boom de yada, boom de yada
Boom...

sound of needle being dragged across record player. Music stops.

MAN WITH VOICE OF JAMES EARL JONES: Stop singing and write the next book, dumbass.


And with that, folks, I think we're done with Ask Me Anything August 2013! Thanks for playing and being patient, and we'll play again in February!

Something for Thursday

It's fall now, although here in Buffalo we're enduring a couple more days of unseasonably warm weather: upper 70s when we really should be in the upper 60s. Oh well: it's fall, darn it, and I'm gonna wear overalls anyway. It's my vacation and I can do that.

As for music, well, for me the fall is when I feel the strongest sense of "awakening", so I guess one could say that for me, fall is a bit spring-like. That being the case, here is Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring, but in the original orchestration for small ensemble. As wonderful as the more commonly-heard version for full orchestra may be, there's something refreshing about hearing the clarity of Copland's original writing.


BTW, this work and recording are also a fine object lesson in how beautiful an instrument the bassoon is.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

What's your preferred work schedule? Do you respond best to Monday-Friday, 9 to 5? Do you like a mix of days, nights? Is working weekends OK or godawful?

The last restaurant company I worked for, not long before I left, rolled out an interesting approach to the management schedule (that has since been abandoned, I believe). Their original approach had been to have managers work five consecutive days, and then always have back-to-back days off (which is always nice; split days off can be a pain), with one extra day off each month. But then they tried this, which I thought worked really nicely for the short time I was there: managers worked four consecutive days and then had their two days off. Obviously, this means that your days off change each week: one week you're off Wednesday-Thursday, then you're off Tuesday-Wednesday, and so on. I liked this because it meant that every five weeks, you would have consecutive Sundays off (Sunday being the busiest day at that restaurant, this was nice), and that every six weeks you would have a weekend off. In restaurants, weekends off are really hard to come by. They can happen, but you'd better be prepared to work a lot of days up to and after the weekend off.

Anyway, what do you like to work?

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

We will not talk about the shutdown here!

That is all. Ixnay on the utdown-shay!

Son of the Bride of the Return of Potential Cover Art!

Haven't done this in a while...some art that trips my trigger for what the cover of either of the first two Princesses In SPACE!!! (not the actual title) books should look like. Maybe.














A nifty paragraph

I've been reading The Count of Monte Cristo of late, and I just really liked this particular paragraph. I know I'm reading a translation, but I am greatly enjoying what I'm getting of Dumas's style. It's hard to explain, I must admit...it's like he uses a lot of words, fairly poetically, to state something bluntly.

I am now up to where Edmund Dantes has recovered the treasure and is investigating what has become of the shards of the life that was exploded years ago, when he was unjustly imprisoned. Good stuff!