Archive for May, 2009

Willie in the Grass

Friday, May 29th, 2009

I have been reluctant to mow the lawn. First, I hate mowing the lawn, and second, the lawn is full of wild flowers, which are in turn being pollinated by my bees.

Willie is our oldest cat. The vet record says that he is 15 years and 7 months, but Erica thinks he is a year younger. He is fat and old and diabetic. I have to give him insulin twice a day. He usually spends his free time eating or sleeping. (All time for cats is free time.)

He has started to get active and enjoy the outdoors. Here is a picture that Erica took of Willie, Gracie and Ollie playing the invisible mouse game in the tall grass on the side of the house.

Willie in the grass

Here is a close-up of Willie with a crazy look in his eyes.

Willie in the grass2

One Year and Still Waiting

Friday, May 29th, 2009

It was one year ago today that I entered a story into the Heinlein Short Story contest.

I read somewhere that the persons running the society have had health problems. My guess is that the society is in trouble because of lack of management. The web site is a disgrace and has not been updated in many months. I did not renew my own membership in the Heinlein Society, although I did agree with its principles.

My guess is that the contest will end soon, although it may end badly for everyone.

RAH would have had much to say about any editor that kept him waiting for a year!

Heinlein Centennial Short Story Contest

Older Writers Grant Winner Chosen (almost me)

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

The Speculative Literature Foundation has been announced the winner of the 2009 Older Writers Grant – the name will be announced June 1.

More important (at least to me), my story RepFix received an Honorable Mention.

Malon Edwards wrote:

We are also delighted to inform you that your submission, “RepFix,” has been selected as one of five Honorable Mentions for the 2009 Older Writers Grant.

We enjoyed your story very much, especially the plausible depiction of what near-future technology can be. Ten years from now, we can see some of the seedier celebrities whose careers would be ended by questionable or gray lifestyle preferences paying for something like this.

Blackberry Flowers and My Bees

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

My bees are working the blackberry brambles that grow wild on my property. I got some interesting shots with the telephoto lens.

Nyack High School Class of 69

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

The Nyack High School class of 69 has found time to meet and remember old times every 5 years since we graduated.

It looks like this year, our 40th, there will be no reunion. If there was going to be one, I would have heard by now.

The 35th reunion was a hoot. It had quite a few people show up and there was some drama, sex, and comedy. My guess is that nobody wants a repeat of the embarrassing events of our 35th reunion.

My only hope is that someone gets the word out that sometime this summer, anyone who wants to meet up with their old friends can drop by some designated bar in Nyack.

I wonder who has the mailing list? I had a paper copy, but the cat peed on it and I used it to start a fire a few winters ago.

It would be nice to raise a glass to those who will never make another reunion. We were a good group.

The Triumph of Time, James Blish (1959)

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

This is my first reading of The Triumph of Time.

Although I had read the first three books several times as complete novels and parts as short stories in the pages of Astounding and Analog Magazine, I had somehow missed this one.

Read Review of The Triumph of Time, James Blish (1959)

Considering buying a house

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

We are tempted to buy this house, but it is an eight and a half hour drive, although near a large airport. It is very small, but the price is amazing and it has a guest house to keep the freeloaders at arm’s length.

The house is on the bay. The picture is from the “beach”. Beaches in Down East Maine are not usually sandy.


Stella on Gossip Girl

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Watch Stella Monday. She got called back to Gossip Girl to reprise her roll as the bitchiest girl on the show. This pains me because she’s nothing like that, but it also good because it means that she can really act.

Hermie finds Catnip

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Hermie came to visit us last year and is finally getting used to us. He was abandoned when his owners moved away and left him. Hermie loves Erica but he is not too sure about me. I’m too big and loud.

Max, Blue, Furry and Hermie are strays that came to stay because the neighbors did not take care of them or moved away.

It’s hard to tell Hermie is a stray and prefers to stay out doors. That tuna belly is a sure sign that he is getting used to the good life.

Blue is finally warming up to me and Furry has always liked me. Max can take or leave me, but at least he doesn’t run away from me anymore.

FaceBook Circles of Friends

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

I’ve been on FaceBook for a month or so. I’ve also been on Twitter mostly to advertise blog posts and new projects, but I deleted my MySpace account. I am not sure why I am on FaceBook. I felt at the time that I might be able to use it to get work. Since I don’t actually need a job at the moment, I have just been "going with the flow". My rule about friends is that I will not actually add a friend with whom I have never had a meaningful conversation, either in person or by way of email. I see lots of names of people that I recognize, but would not count as actual acquaintances, not to mention friends.

It seems there is definite shape to the internal topology of FaceBook. I have several major circles.

First, I have a few relatives and close friends. There are very few of these as my friends and family are not computer geeks. The ones on FaceBook do not update their profiles very often and do no use the status box much.

Next, there is the blues harmonica crowd, which has somehow expanded to the Rockland Westchester blues jam crowd. There are many people that I have jammed with years ago and many more that I recognize, but few that I think would know me. I befriended some harmonica players, but not guitar players (especially not bass players or singers). Surprisingly, Carlos Colina is not not FaceBook. He would have a million contacts. This group is very social and makes up a good chunk of my FaceBook contacts. It is by far the largest group represented when I check to see the friends suggestions.

The next crew is the Spec-Fic people. By befriending social butterflies such as J. Erwine (yes, J, you are a social butterfly, at least on FaceBook), I have been exposed to a wide circle of Spec-Fic writers, most of whom I have read, several of whom have sent my stories back with rejections, and a very few that I have actually had email conversations with. This is the most varied group by age and location. If I was as gregarious as the very friendly J. Erwine, I would have a really wide network here.

There is a smaller group of former coworkers. I have recently contacted former coworkers from Lockheed, IBM, RCC and Spherion. I tried to find my old O&R, St. Regis Paper, and Western Union friends, but they either dead or not on FaceBook. I suffer from an inability to remember names, so I have not been able to locate many people that I can visualize. I go through the people that I have not seen in more than 20 years and if I can remember them well enough (and actually liked them) I have been adding them. Several people where I work now are on FaceBook, but I have not contacted them. I would rather wait until after I leave here to decide whether or not they are friends. For now they are coworkers, which is very much a different animal.

The last group is a few people that I have had odd conversations with over the years who have found me in their email. Every once in a while one stands out and I add this singleton to my list of friends. I feel no compunction about not adding people that I can’t remember, or if I do, didn’t like. I’m not trying to reach a large audience or rack up a huge number of friends. I am social with limits.

Earthman, Come Home, James Blish (1955)

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

In the novel Earthman, Come Home, the third book in the Cities in Flight series, shorter works are joined into a story about the Mayor of New York as the city travels between the stars looking for work. The book, is not a good novel, but it is a great anthology. The attempts to smooth over the changes between the four parts do not work to join them together into a larger story. The stories remain stories with a common theme, but there is nothing wrong with that. It is well worth reading and one novella, Sargasso of Lost Cities, is one of Blish’s best.

Read the review of Earthman, Come Home, James Blish

Bad Bee

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

They were upset with me last night when I tried to refill the feeder. A couple of stings on the forehead and one on the jaw.


Where the Money Is

Monday, May 11th, 2009

I was shocked to discover that my bee blog had made me $25 so far this month. This is based on a dozen or so readers per day. How can 12 readers a day make me $25 in the first 10 days of May? I find it difficult to conceive, but it happened.

I make money from my websites in three ways.

The first is direct sales such as the JT30 store and FreeNameAStar. These sites sell something and in the case of Erica has to mail out little pieces of vintage hardware to make the money. Direct sales is the classic store front idea. Open a store, stock it with something and people will buy it. My Freenameastar site sells a virtual item, but I had to program in the Smithsonian Star catalog to make it work. It is less work for me, but it is still a store.

The next way that I make money is by selling ads. I use web ads for Chitika and Kontera and I make a few dollars a day from all of my sites. I use other big name ad companies, too. Sometimes I make money, sometimes I don’t. I make a few cents a day on the bee blog and a few dollars a day on my music sites.

The other way that I make money is with affiliate links. I used to make lists of books listed on Amazon and put links on my websites. Amazon will pay you if someone buys something after being referred from your site. These are affiliate referral fees. Money from Amazon dried up a few years ago so I stopped using them. I started making links to things on eBay, instead. If someone clicks on these links and wins the auction, eBay sends you a buck or two. You get a cut of the auction fees that the seller pays. eBay is the best affiliate program that I’ve used.

What I did was to create a web page called Bee Sales that is a list of 100 auctions on eBay for beekeeping equipment. I wrote a program to change the eBay feed for these items to a web page that looks more like a store front and not at all like a list of auctions. Maybe five or six people read the blog everyday, but most of them click on the Bee Sales link. Another five or six come directly into the Bee Sales site looking for specific equipment. On the average of once a day, someone clicks through to eBay, bids and wins an auction. That’s when I get money.

It turns out Bees are a very popular hobby and there only four or so big bee stores. These stores all look the same and charge the same inflated prices so beekeepers are constantly searching for cheaper places to buy equipment. Beekeeping requires you to continually buy supplies, so I continually get clicks.

I began to think about this and it occurred to me that there are lots of other hobbies that require buying equipment. A small number of clicks could provide a web site with a small but steady income. You’ll never get rich, but it might pay your bar tab each month.

Here are some of the more popular hobbies.

Fishing: one of the most popular hobbies in the U.S. and it requires lures and poles and line. Fly fishing requires special clothes and even kits to make your own flies. Because fishing is one of the most popular hobbies, there are more stores around, but they still like to charge an arm and a leg. A simple fishing blog linked with a list of eBay auctions will make some money.

Other hobbies that need specialized equipment are: Paintball, skiing, Hunting, Golf, Cycling, Motorcycling, Boating, Bowling, Tennis, Music (playing, not listening), Woodworking, and Hiking.

All of these require that you have a blog or a series of web pages that users will find valuable. If you add content once or twice a week, the search engines will send you traffic. Users will be able get to your valuable page through the search engines and then click on your nicely formatted web page of auctions. I have found that people have been bookmarking my auction pages because they are easier to read than an actual eBay search results page.

There is commercial software to convert an eBay affiliate feed into a web page. I wrote my own. I have thought about releasing the PHP code, but it might be used by my competition against me.

I created a sample page showing a bunch of Paintball auctions. Some of these are big ticket items. I only played paintball once, more than 10 years ago, and I never blogged about it so I won’t get many clicks, but I bet I make a few dollars a month off of Paintball Sales.

Bee Progress: My Third Nuc

Monday, May 11th, 2009
My third beehive is now started. I got a sting on my finger, but otherwise things are settling down. I blogged it on the Bee Progress blog.