Wanderings

Anything you dream is fiction,
and anything you accomplish is science,
the whole history of mankind is nothing but science fiction.
- Ray Bradbury
February 28th, 2005

Sell Yourself to Science

Sell Yourself to Science is the first book that shows how to really tap your human potential. You can legally sell your blood, milk, sperm, hair and other renewable resources — this book tells how.






February 28th, 2005

The Kid Loves Pook

There is a romanticism of ignorance. We generate impressions of love where none exists. A phrase painted on a rock cut gives birth to a lifetime of dreams.

The words have been there as long as I can remember. “The Kid Loves Pook” in white letters on a wall of basalt as route 9w climbs up to the top of the Palisades that overlook the Hudson River.

I boarded the 6:10 am bus out of Nyack to the George Washington Bridge every morning, five days a week, from 1969 to 1971. The bus ride took nearly an hour and I always felt sick from diesel fumes and the rocking motion on abused shock absorbers. I planted my face against the cool glass and watched the scenery. The bus ground through its gears up the hill towards the Lamont Geophysical Laboratories and, on the right, written in large white letters, was “The Kid Loves Pook”. Under the words was a heart shaped glyph made from initials. I thought it was the perfect title for a short story, but I stopped writing soon afterwards.

As the years passed, I seldom passed that way. New York was easier to get to on speeding highways than on tired old roads. Every few years I passed the declaration of love and once I noticed that someone refreshed the paint. It has been ten years at least since I have passed that place.

Then, I dreamed that I was on the bus and looked out the window, and I saw a man standing near the rock wall, reading “The Kid Loves Pook”.

Sunday, I drove my truck down route 9W and slowed down as the road cut through the hard rock of the Palisades. The old words were gone, but as I went by, I saw a trace of flaking white paint on the stone.

“The Kid Loves Pook” still could be read in faded letters. I took some pictures. The glyph was gone and I don’t remember what it looked like other than a complicated heart made of superimposed characters. The flat stretch of wall that the unnamed lover chose for his advertisement is crumbling away. Nearby, there is a sign warning of a road widening project. In a few months all trace of the old words will be gone.

Who was the Kid? I know he was in love and chose to declare it to the world in a code only one person would ever recognize. Pook was his secret pet name for her. Their love lived many years because the words were refreshed regularly up until a few years ago.

The kid was young and smart and creative. He coded his message so only Pook knew who the Kid was, and only the Kid knew who Pook was. They passed by those words many times and smiled at each other.

What happened to them?

I wish that I knew.

Did they grow old together?

Was theirs a forbidden love that kept them apart?

Was their love tragic and it was a lonely and lost soul that painted those words?

Why have the words gone unpainted these last few years?

Has the Kid died or moved away?

Have they fallen out of love?

I wish that I knew.


The approach to the old words. You can see the construction sign in the distance.


There it is, faded but still visible.


A little closer. The wall is crumbling away.


All that remains of the heart glyph.






February 28th, 2005

Astounding Tales Volume 1 Issue 4 released

I put the zine to bed today at 11:30AM. This is the 4th edition that we’ve published on time. I am sure that it’s full of bugs and Arthur will tell me if he finds anything. I estimate that I put in about 12 hours setting up the zine. I would guess that Arthur puts in twice that.

Astounding Tales March 1, 2005






February 27th, 2005

Larry on his new ladder

Larry, my brother, insisted that I take his picture. I was on the way to take pictures of the Pook rock. This is 19 Vine Street where I grew up. Larry is on his new ladder (found at a garage sale the day before – imagine! Garage sales in February!) We replaced the drafty storm window that my mother has complained about for years.






February 21st, 2005

Snowy Monday Blues

It snowed 7 to 8 inches here last night. It was a wet, heavy snow and I’ve been shoveling on and off all morning. It started last night while I was playing poker in Nyack. Jimmy lives on a steep hill in Upper Nyack and when we knocked off around 10:30 PM there was two inches of wet slippery snow on the road. I skidded on down to Midland Avenue sure that I was going to hit a telephone pole. I made it to the thruway, figuring that it was better plowed than the back roads, but there were idiots going 50 mph on an unplowed road. It’s only a mile and a half to the West Nyack exit, but I saw two cars that had spun out and stuck on the side of the road.

Here are some nice pictures of the snow. When I bought this house the main advantage was that is was a small house on 1-1/4 acres of wooded lot. Suburban sprawl has turned the New York City suburbs into little houses on every 1/8 acre plot available. I have the biggest piece of property around here. I didn’t clear the land, in fact I registered the land as a Back Yard Wildlife Habitat with National Wildlife Federation.

Here is a picture of Gracie searching for the door into summer. (Click on the picture for a larger image.)









February 14th, 2005

Short Review: Find a Victim by Ross McDonald

Audio Book Review: Find a Victim by Ross McDonald, Blackstone Audio Books.

My Mom is now volunteering at the New City Library. She’s helping Senior Citizens fill out their income taxes. She doesn’t know anything about income tax law, she just does triage on the people that come in and make sure that they qualify for the free service and that they brought the tax documents that they need. Mom got talked into this by her best friend BJ (not an appropriate name for a 76 year old woman.) BJ was Mom’s roommate back in Saint Luke’s nursing school in the late 1940s. BJ spent the last 20 years doing hard time for murder – it’s a long story. Now that she’s out, she and Mom hang out. You can tell that BJ was the girl that came into the dorm and talked Mom into going out and hitting the bars, even when there was a test the next morning.

While she was at the library, Mom hit the bargain bin and bought me a couple of books on tape. This is a review of one of the tapes, Find a Victim by Ross McDonald.

Ross McDonald is considered one of the masters of the Hard-Boiled Detective yarn. He is similar in many ways to Raymond Chandler, but the hard detective patter is a little more sophisticated with literary references and some good descriptive prose. Ross has his detective, Lew Archer, fall into murder and mayhem in a small California town. Archer investigates murderers, drug addicts, child molesters and an assortment of perverts in search of hijacked booze. There are an interesting cast of characters and never a dull moment. The tape is read by Tom Parker, who I have listened to before on other tapes. He is a good reader, especially for detective fiction. He has a quick clipped way of reading, but his voice is a little higher than the one I hear in my head when I read these stories. Blackstone Audio Books does a good job in the production, announcing the end of each side and clearly reading the tape number and side at the beginning. This sounds like a little thing, but I don’t like it when Random House or one of the other big name publishers doesn’t bother with this small detail that so improves the experience.

The writing is very good in the book, but some of Ross MacDonald’s style leaves me feeling a little uneasy. He tends to view women in a corpse light – as dead things. The women are always passive or stupid and they are motivated out of blind passion or insanity. Women are never reasonable or even very real in the books. Written in 1954, I suppose that the book is a reflection of the times. Detectives made love to women or slapped them around in these old books. It is unsettling, though, in modern times. One of the characters has raped his daughter, but he never did any time for it and it seems to be a minor point in the book, only used to explain why the daughter doesn’t live with him any more.

There is one thing that I found a little silly. MacDonald describes a woman who is addicted to Marijuana. Her reaction to the drug is bizarre. It is obvious that MacDonald had no first hand knowledge of the use of reefer and its effects, even though he got the vocabulary correct.

If you like hard-boiled fiction, this is a very well done book. I enjoyed the plotting, although the discovery of the real killer was a little bit of a let-down for me. I expected more action at the end, possibly with a shoot out with the killer. The end was a little soft. It relies on MacDonald’s 1950s view of women to be believable. There is a good shoot-out near the end, though, just to satisfy those of us who need it.

Check out Ross MacDonald it you get a chance. The stories are easier to follow than Chandler’s and he is better stylist, although Chandler had the hard-boiled vocabulary down. Just remember that MacDonald is a product of his times.


I am currently listening to “The Withdrawing Room : A Sarah Kelling & Max Bittersohn Mystery” by Charlotte McLeod. This is what I would call an Old Lady mystery. There is no blood or sex, just a bunch of odd characters and a middle aged woman to solve the mystery. It reads almost like an Agatha Christie Miss Marple story and could be compared to a Murder, She Wrote episode. I think that my mother actually bought it for herself. It’s a fun listen, but I don’t think that I will bother reviewing it.

I ordered Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy from Blackstone. They have an Amazon Marketplace store for their used tapes. They rent the tapes out and then sell the used tapes at a deep discount. I have no problem with pre-listened-to tapes so I bought it. I should receive it by the end of the week and I will revied it as soon as I finish it. Citizen of the Galaxy is one of those Heinlein books that starts off great and then gets finished up quickly. It is almost like two separate novels. I always skim the last half of the book. You can’t do that with a book on tape so I’ll be paying closer attention than I usually do and I’ll write a review of the whole book.






February 14th, 2005

P&E votes results

My story, The Lucky Strike, made it to the top ten in the P&E vote. Astounding Tales and Arthur Sanchez as editor made it also. Arthur has a horror story at #8. Pretty good showing for Arthur, me, and Astounding Tales.

Thanks to all of you who voted. I owe you all a drink.






February 10th, 2005

The Cyborg Name Generator

Very cool code to create a custom cyborg icon using your name.

Try it!

http://www.cyborgname.com/






February 8th, 2005

The Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett

You can pick up the unabridged audio of The Monstrous Regiment at bookcloseouts.com for $7.49. I think this is a great deal. Since I go through Audio Books at the rate of about one every ten days, I am always looking for used or cheap books on tape.

If you have read one Discworld book, you haven’t read them all. The Monstrous Regiment has much in common with The Thief of Time, the Pratchett audio book that I listened to last August.

The book is a fun, pun filled, look at the army of Borogrovia. It pokes fun at sex roles, politics, religion and genre novels. Pratchett had fun writing the book and I had fun reading it.

The general McGuffin is that a girl joins the army disguised as a boy in order to find her missing brother. This sets off one funny situation after another. It is a very slight premise, but Pratchett continually finds new ways to milk it for another laugh.

Overall, the book does not hold up in comparison to The Thief of Time. The reader, Stephan Briggs does a good job, although a female voice might have been more appropriate. The plot, however, is a fairly straight-line to the logical, ad absurdum, conclusion of the original idea. Pratchett assumes familiarity with previous Discworld books and does not spend much time introducing the usual cast of characters such as Igors, Trolls, and Vampires. Harper Audio does a piss poor job of production, compared to Blackstone or Booksontape.com.

I am zipping this one off to Ward. This book will appeal more to his personal sense of Humor. He is big fan of Douglas Adams and he enjoyed Thief of Time.

Next Book: Find a Victim by Ross McDonald (not spec-fic). My mom bought this at a local library for $2.00. I am finished with tape 1 of 5 so I should be reporting back on this one soon.






February 6th, 2005

Denial of sevice attack on my websites

I received this email from 1and1.com. It explains why the 30 sites that I have hosted there have been so slow. My blog pages are hosted on 1and1.com, but harptab is the big money maker, as well as strangetales.net, which hosts the grafitti pages.

There several thousand websites on this server, but I would guess that I have the most traffic. I hope that the attack isn’t against one of my websites.

Dear Keith Graham,

We are writing to you today to inform you on the status of the server your website is being hosted on.

As of 1pm ET we have been experiencing a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack of the server which lead to the machine and your website being offline at this time. Our engineers are working on various measures to "fight off" the attack. Unfortunately we are currently unable to tell you exactly when your website will be up and running again but we can assure you that we are doing everything possible to restore service as quickly as possible.

We sincerely apologize for this major inconvenience.

Sincerely

Your Customer Service Team

1&1 Internet Inc.







February 4th, 2005

Al Sharpton Calls for KFC Ban

This is wrong in so many ways!

I love Reverand Al. He is the most entertaining man in politics. Larry and I saw him once driving down the West side Highway in New York. We pulled up next to him and waved. He smiled and waved back.