Wanderings

Anything you dream is fiction,
and anything you accomplish is science,
the whole history of mankind is nothing but science fiction.
- Ray Bradbury
November 28th, 2008

Websites Down for a few hours

My websites hosted at 1and1.com went down around noon today. I called and was told that there was a hardware error and that the hardware was being swapped out. The sites just came up so I am trying a post to the blog to see what happens.






November 26th, 2008

Murder in Nyack

Squirrel commented on my blog about how crime hasn’t changed much in Nyack.

Here are a few brief Nyack murder stories where family and friends were involved.

1) My friend Jim’s Uncle killed Jim’s other Uncle (mid 1930s). The younger brother shot his older brother who was physically and emotionally abusive. Jim’s mother hid the gun in the woods on the west side of Highland Avenue just north of Oak Hill. The police eventually broke down Jim’s mother and she took them to where the gun was hidden. Jim’s Uncle confessed. Because he was a minor and everyone in town knew how bad the brother was, he spent a short time in a youth facility (called a reform school, then). He moved away from Nyack and has not been heard from since. Jim still lives in the same house where the murder occurred.

2) My great Uncle killed a man around 1900 (The circumstances no longer known). My Great Grandfather had to pay the judge $500 (a huge amount then) to keep his son out of prison. He complained about it until the day he died claiming that his son was not worth it, and he should have let him go to jail.

3) One of my friends in Jr. High School (around 1964) was a foster child. His foster father was the pastor at a local church. The man had a fight with his wife and she locked herself in the bedroom. The pastor took a shotgun and tried to shoot out the lock to the door, accidentally killing his wife. He then took the shotgun, put it in his mouth and pulled the trigger. My friend, a track star, ran all the way in the winter in his bare feet to Nyack Hospital to get an ambulance.

4) My second cousin is a notorious murderer and is in jail now.

5) My mother’s best friend and roommate at nursing school injected her husband and his mistress with an overdose of insulin while they slept. The mistress deserved it as she killed Mom’s friend’s cat. They caught her and she did 20 years in prison and my Mom went to see here twice a month. She now lives in Nyack.

6) A woman’s body was found in the woods near where I grew up in Central Nyack when I was about 10. She was killed by a shotgun blast. A little while later my brother found a shotgun in the trunk of an abandoned car in the same area. He kept the shotgun and never told anyone until years later.

I have hazy recollections of other similar stories. My Grandfather was Chief of Police in Nyack for a while in the nineteen-teens. He was given the position of chief because he was the only one on the police force who owned a car (an old ,even then, used Model A Ford). He used to tell great stories. I have some of his stories on tape and will put them on the blog as audio files if I ever find them again.






November 26th, 2008

Ward’s Heat Exchanger

This is an interesting idea. It is designed to heat up water going to the hot water heater by extracting heat from waste water. Basically, when your dishwasher is flushing hot water down the drain, the heat exchanger is grabbing the heat and pre-heating the water going to your hot water heater. It is a simple and easy to recreate design. Ward is putting these together and selling them on the internet.

He says that he’s selling a version that he has modified to fit most waste pipes for $275 plus shipping. They go for around $500 on eBay. He says there is an amazingly good ROI. He’ll have a web page up soon.

You can contact Ward about it at

h-exch

h-e

Oh boy, I think I might get plumbing stuff for Christmas.






November 24th, 2008

Six Months and Counting

Today marks 180 days that I have been waiting to hear from the Robert A. Heinlein Centennial Short Story Contest. Six months is a long time to wait on a story. Their website is never updated and there is no discussion board to check to find out what progress is being made. I think this is one of those where they don’t contact you if you lose. If you are not on the winner list, then too bad. My feeling is that they’ll announce the winners of the 2008 contest well into 2009.






November 24th, 2008

Story finished and out the door

I spent about 45 minutes on Thursday and and again on Friday writing a 3200 word cyberpunk story. I proofed it one more time today. I sent it to the first of two venues in DuoTrope that had the keyword cyberpunk. I expect to hear by Christmas, but my experience is that as soon as I send something out, the editors get behind in the slush.

The story is based an idea I got from reading that awful book, The King in Yellow by Chambers. The first story in the book, Repairer of Reputations, gave me the idea to write about a modern person who can erase bad reputations from the internet. My story is not as unpleasant as the Chambers story but I had to make the main character very nasty to make the story work, in other words a person who has a reputation he deserves, yet has the money to make it go away. I am afraid that I made the whole story a little too dark. It also uses some pejorative slang, which I normally avoid.

We’ll see.






November 24th, 2008

In2Site – Not Good

My web host company offers this as a free option. It is supposed to allow a pop-up on the site so that users can chat with you while you are online and you can see what they see and help them through the site. It seemed like a good way to make a few more sales on FreeNameAStar.com so I installed it.

First, it never worked. Most browsers block the popup. Even with popup blocker turned off it I couldn’t get to work.

Second, it works by hijacking your site and wrapping a frame around it. This, it turns out, prevents paypal from working and I lost two days of sales before a frustrated customer emailed me.

The In2Site software was not well thought out. It is buggy and generally a really bad implementation. I would think that a nice ajax based javascript widget doing the same thing only better. I could write one in a few hours.

So, if you are considering In2Site, I’d say that you better avoid it.






November 23rd, 2008

Traffic up

Lately I’ve notice a gentle rise in traffic here. The traffic has doubled over the last four months. I figured it was due to the book reviews that I was doing, although I doubt that they really appeal to many people. A very recent increase in hits is because my cliche page has been getting pounded thanks to StumbleUpon.com. Some of these viewers are trickling up to my other pages. So maybe 20,000 people visit my site each month. Not many of them actually read the blog. The blog has a limited audience and appeal. It has a few dozen hardcore readers and a few hundred who wander in every day from google searches and never come back.

One interesting thing is that I get twenty or so hits every day through google image searches. People are dropping in to view pictures of my cats and yard. They especially like my fall and winter scenes. I can only assume the pictures are appearing in magazines or calendars somewhere.

Go to MyBlogLog.com and sign up for a free account and you also can get some nice stats. MyBlogLog is good at telling you where surfers go when they leave you page, as well as where they come from.






November 21st, 2008

Ebay Book Sales

I’ve shipped out four boxes of books. I am making about 25¢ per book. The large boxes do worse than the small boxes for some reason. It seems that 7 might be the best amount to sell in a lot. I will try a couple of lots of 5 books to see how they do.

Paperback books average about 6 ounces each, including packing material. The exception was the Stephen Donaldson books, which came in around 10 ounces each. The formula width times height times depth divided by 39 to get pounds is not very good due to the amount of space inside a box and the density of the paper. Some books are denser than other books. The thieves world books came in the least dense and the Donaldson the most dense. It is coincidence that this also describes the narrative.

I was hoping to be able to list the books without weighing them. The bathroom scale seems to give me very inconsistent results. I need a postal scale, but I have no place to put one. As it is, I can say that thin, older books are about 5 oz, while fat new books are 10 oz and make a judgment. If I am wrong, media mail only costs 5¢ per ounce so if I am off a few ounces it doesn’t hurt much.

So far my garage sale books has profited almost $9. Another week and I’ll have the 300+ books paid for with about 200 left over. I have 3 auctions totaling 38 books in auctions now. At the current rate that should be $9 more. This weekend I will pick out another 40 books to sell and that will put me in the black.






November 21st, 2008

What would you do?

My friend just told me this story.

I just had this borderline argument on the phone with someone I recently befriended — who is an older lady — who is a kind of New Agey therapist with numerous clients and who insists, among other things, that she cured herself of cancer without any of the traditional treatments (surgery, radiation, chemo), but simply by mind control.

I told her that I knew a friend of a friend who got breast cancer, tried to cure herself with alternative treatments but, when that didn’t work, decided to try traditional ones, by which time it was too late. I also told her that, because of her position of trust in relation to other people, that if one of her clients came to her saying he or she was afflicted of cancer, it was grossly irresponsible of her, who has no medical training whatsoever, to suggest that alternative cures were viable, and that if someone opted to forgo traditional treatments and opt for alternative ones based in whole or in part on discussions with her, and that if they died as a result, that she was partly responsible for killing them by virtue of her “authority,” I also told this person that she was either delusional or, worse, exploiting the gullibility of people, though that I was inclined to think the former.

She completely and utterly dismissed everything I said by basically saying, “Well, this reflects your reality, and therefore is perfectly legitimate for you. But my reality is completely different.”

How do you deal with someone like this? She, to my mind is dangerous, but it is difficult and dangerous to confront people’s belief systems.






November 20th, 2008

Knickerbocker Ice Festival

Henry Hudson sailed up the Hudson, stopping at Nyack, in 1609. Next year is the 400th anniversary celebration and one of the events will be the Ice Show at Rockland Lake.

The image at left is from one of last year’s ice sculptures.

Knickerbocker Ice Festival

One bad thing is that Rockland.org is spamming me. They used one of my odd spam emails so I know that it is nothing I voluntarily signed up for. This is too bad, because I am actually thinking about going to this.






November 20th, 2008

Mask of Chaos, John Jakes

maskofchaos Before John Jakes was a best selling author of historical fiction he was a trashy pulp magazine story teller. Jakes was into S&S and to my mind the best fantastic adventure writer – after Howard and Leiber. One of his short stories that I read in the 60s in the pages of Fantastic Magazine impressed me so much that I analyzed it sentence by sentence in order to figure out why it worked. I have tried to write my own version of it several times over the years and a decent unfinished story that uses the Jakes algorithm sits in my WIP pile waiting to be finished.

The Mask of Chaos (1970) is not S&S, but rather a very well done Space Opera. It is so much like a video game that I can’t believe that no one has licensed it. I find it hard to believe that Doom and Quake do not give Jakes credit for many of the elements ripped off from Mask of Chaos.

The story is about a man who has been turned into a cyborg and a woman of dubious virtue who are abandoned on a strange planet. They are forced to participate in a game that is televised to the whole planet and is the planetary national game. Think of a couple forced to work their way through the levels of Quake without the monsters. There are tricks and traps and red herrings. They accumulate money, find food and solve puzzles. They survive through the wits of the woman and the cyborg strengths of the man.

There is a part where a stairway changes to a 45 degree ramp and the woman slides towards a fan that is supposed to chop her into pieces. I swear that this is a trap that also exists in the Quake video game. There is no mention of Jakes in the Quake credits and I doubt that it is a case of parallel development.

I have about 20 pages to go, and I am sorry that I will have finished this by the time I get home. It is a page-turner and I am temped to wander off for a while and hope no one comes looking for me so that I can read some more of it. The story has just taken a very existentialist turn and I want to see how it comes out. The plot is good, the characters are well developed and I am emotionally invested in the outcome. This is what I consider a good book.

The copy I have is a decrepit Ace Double. I finished the other side yesterday. The picture above is much nicer than my copy. Ace books fall apart over the years. The one I have is held together by scotch tape and it sheds paper chips every time I open it. I like the Jack Gaughan cover with the vintage computer boards – no integrated circuits, just a few germanium type transistors!






November 20th, 2008

Nouveau Beaujolais Day

Each year on the third Thursday of November the Nouveau Beaujolais wine goes on sale. The wine is a "new" wine in that it is not aged. It is the 2008 grapes that have fermented and bottled. The Nouveaus are light, fruity and taste pretty much like grape cool-aid with a touch of alcohol.

I like these wines, even though they don’t have much of the character that we expect of a finished wine. Because they are not aged or blended with with other vintages or wines, they reflect the character of the grapes of the season. Nouveaus vary considerably from year to year depending on the weather. Last year was good, the year before was bad.

I will stop by at the wine store on the way home and buy a few bottles to check out. By the way, Nouveau Beaujolais is the perfect wine to have with a thanksgiving turkey.






November 19th, 2008

How to be Cruel to Old Men

Skip sent me this:

crueltytooldmen






November 19th, 2008

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

Amazon is having a novel writing contest. The first prize is a $25,000 contract with Penguin.

If you want to enter this you have to have a 50k words novel finished by the first week in February. There is a one week window to submit the novel. This is related to Amazon’s CreateSpace.com POD service.

Like chicken soup, it might help and it can’t hurt. It’s free and it seems that most people I know have a 50K novel sitting in a directory deep down on a hard disk. All nanowrimo people have several of these and another coming along. (My longest is about 24K and I have no time to make it longer.)

I expect that the romance genre will dominate this, but maybe there’s a spec-fic novel fresh enough to bubble to the top.

The first prize is a $25,000 contract. I’d have to win 5 of these a year to quit my day job. Writing for a living pays less than a fry cook at Burger King.

Amazon.com: Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award