Archive for June, 2009

A year on the bus

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

June 30th marks exactly one year taking the bus to work. I am used to it and I even know the names of some of the people that I see everyday (if you knew me you’d realize this is unusual).

The advantages of the bus are that I have saved a ton of money and that I’ve read probably 80 books. I figure that commuting has saved me about $4,000 cash money. I started at the peak of high gas prices, but even though the price of gas is down I am still saving. I can also doze on the bus when I am tired, although once I slept through my stop and had to walk back a half mile.

The disadvantage has been that I am stuck at work if I want to leave work early. I am a prisoner of the bus schedule. One thing is that I can’t play harmonica on the bus the way I used to play in the truck.

Overall, the bus has been a good thing.

Carnivale of Blood

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Carnivale of Blood – A lurid name for a short story (3300 words) that does not actually have much blood. I’ve been writing this a few hundred words at a time for the last month. It is based on an idea from Lawrence Durrel’s book Balthazar about a vampire in Venice, Italy. Along the way I lost the vampire and the story turned into cyberpunk murder tale with a little sex. I hate vampires so losing the vampire was good. I have to check it a few more times for typos and find a place where an R rated cyberpunk story might be accepted. As always, I want a good paying venue that reports quickly, but this seems to be impossible to find.

Friday I submitted a very short (2300 words) dark story, Remembering the Date, to Futurismic. It is about damage done to a man’s psyche when he undergoes a “lossy” jpeg type compression in order to transmit himself between the stars. The story is very brief with only just the one real character so I expect it will wind up at a free venue not long after the futurismic rejection.

Cat Mouse Circus

Monday, June 29th, 2009

willie Our oldest cat, Willie, is a thinker. He is slow and fat and does not like to exert himself. He uses his brains. He knows that since we fed the birds all winter that there has been a jump in the mouse population living off of the bird seed. He knows that the mice find a way into the cellar from time to time. He knows that there is a way that mice can get from the cellar into the kitchen from under the sink. He knows that the mice want to scarf his kibble.

What Willie does is sit to one side of the kitchen sink and watch carefully for mice. Once a month he catches one.

Last night Willie caught a mouse. The mouse was quite surprised and let out a squeak that sent all the cats rushing in. Willie ran into the dining room with Ollie and Furry on his tail. Blue and Gracie woke up and ran down to the dining room wondering what the commotion was, and even Max showed up.

Willie dropped the mouse and fled. Ollie picked up and started running around with the poor mouse in his mouth. He promptly let it go. I was there trying to rescue the mouse by this time and the mouse, unseen by me, ran beneath my legs and under the Grandfather Clock. (Think Hickory Dickory Dock). I went back to the TV and decided to let the cats solve the situation.

For the next hour, Ollie and Gracie searched for the mouse, finding him briefly, but then losing him as the mouse found a new place to hide. Willie went back to the sink to wait. I felt sorry for the mouse, but if the cats couldn’t catch him, how could I be expected to do better?

As Erica went up to take her bath, Gracie ran up to the bathroom ahead of her and dropped the mouse in the bathtub. Gracie has learned that her pets can’t escape from the bathtub. Many times I have come into the bathroom in the morning and found a cat toy in the bathtub and occasionally a dead rodent.

Gracie likes to play knock hockey with the prisoner, sending him spinning around the tub. The mouse looked dead and was wet from cat drool. I quickly went to grab it in a paper towel and as soon as I tried, the mouse woke up and started running around the tub, trying to escape. Gracie went nuts so I grabbed her and made Erica hold her while I caught the mouse.

The last time I saw the little fellow he was running under some bushes at the side of the house. I expect he’ll be back. When he returns, Willie will be waiting.

Mighty Starlites

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Here is my buddy Bob Rucker playing bass guitar with the Mighty Starlites. You can see Bob in the intro, I can hear him in the music, but he’s off to the side. I’ve played harp with Bob playing guitar many times. He’s an incredible blues slide guitar player, but since he’s found religion he only plays gospel. Still, it’s the best gospel you’ll ever hear. Isiah Whatley lives two doors down the street from my Mom.

YouTube – Mighty Starlites ” I made it” By Brother Tony Whatley

Famous Person Death New Coverage

Friday, June 26th, 2009

The blog where this comes from has been overwhelmed by traffic, so all I can do is show the image above.

Polymath, John Brunner (1974)

Friday, June 26th, 2009

I have another dozen or so Brunner books to read, including Stand on Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up, and I am starting to really enjoy Brunner’s style.

Polymath is an early Brunner Novel that first appeared in an Ace Double as Castaway’s World. This later revision has a good adventure plot plus heavy Brunner themes. It works well.

Read Review of Polymath, John Brunner (1974)

Manshape, John Brunner (1982)

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

When you read a Brunner novel you never know if you’re going to get one of the lesser ones that he knocked off in great numbers or one of the great ones.

Manshape is a much better novel than the ones I have been reading. It was published as “Bridge to Azrael” in 1964 in Astounding.

Read the review of Manshape by John Brunner


Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Eric’s son Ari is working on a chemistry project at college. He is doing a survey of certain types of molecules in order to find a new way of making solar cells.

He writes:

Dibenzothieno[3,2-B]-thiophene, one of our candidate molecules.

I’ve been trying to figure out where the electrons are in the Highest Occupied Molecular Orbital (HOMO) and the Lowest Unoccupied Molecular Orbital (LUMO), coloring them, and then creating graphics like this.

Lyme Disease

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

I got it.


That last tick was a nasty one. I have to take nasty horse pills for a few weeks.

William Gibson is on Twitter

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

Bummer – this is bad.


Friday, June 19th, 2009

It rained most of the day, but that did not prevent us from stopping by some of the beaches and walking around. My goal was to get my feet wet, but it was cold and nasty so all we did was take a walk.

Here are pictures of Mom collecting shells on the beach at the Kennedy memorial beach.

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Next are some pictures of Larry  at the beautiful beach up at Chatham.





Larry took some pictures. These are from his camera. That’s Mom and me.


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Annual Cape trip

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Larry and I headed out to Cape Cod. We are not doing anything new this year. We even have the exact same room in the hotel in Hyannis.

I have free wifi again so I can upload the pics as I take them.

Larry hit the bed and started channel surfing. Mom is asleep in her room. It is 4:15 in the afternoon and I am already bored.

The weather outlook is for rain the whole time we are here.

The main difference this time is that Mom is along.

Here is a picture of us at a rest stop in Rhode Island.

World’s End, T. Coraghessan Boyle (1987)

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

This is a novel that I want to like and in some ways I think is really good. I am however at odds with some of the things that the author does and there are some aspects of the book that I dislike.

The novel blends the history of the lower Hudson Valley with the events of two families separated by 300 years of history. Part of the book follows the fortunes of early Dutch settlers of the area below the Bear Mountain Bridge on the east side of the Hudson. This can only be Peekskill. My friend Phil Chadeayne’s family came from this area, and some of the things that I know about his family history, like the road building gangs, are recounted in the book. My own family lived on the west side of the Hudson in Tappan and Nyack. My ancestors fill the old cemetery next to my house where the earliest graves are from the early 1600s.

As I read the historical parts of the book, I found myself more interested in the life of my own early American family than in the events in the lives of Boyle’s mostly fictional characters. I was impressed at how the Blauvelts and Polhemuses on my side of the river never had the problems that the Van Brunts and Van Warts did on the other side.

The other half of the novel is about the descendants of these Dutch characters as they play out their destinies in the twentieth century. Although the characters were painted well by the author they seem to experience way too much angst for my taste. Life, in my experience, seems much more boring in reality than in fiction.

The aspect of the novel that I particularly dislike is that it tends to be too literary with cute coincidences and symbolic events. I dislike seeing the strings holding up the spaceships in Science Fiction Movies, and I dislike seeing the hand of the author as he writes a story.

I give as an example to the heavy hand of the author that both the Dutch protagonist and his 20th century descendant lose a foot due to an accident. In the case of the 20th century protagonist, the foot is lost in a motorcycle accident when he hits an historical marker that was placed on the site of an event that shapes the book. I’m sorry, but I felt like putting my finger down my throat when I read that.

The book seems to be constructed of these types of events, and the author many times appears more clever than interesting in his attempts to bring all of these coincidental details together.

I must say that Boyle writes well, but uses an occasional word that I have to look up. I have a decent vocabulary, but there are lots of words that are not in common every day usage and they should be avoided in a novel. It may impress some people, but the key is to get on with the story without stopping the flow on an odd, but very literate word.

I make no apologies for preferring stories written by engineers, and that read like user manuals. I enjoyed Word’s End, as much for its historical background as for the odd plot. The ending had a good punch to it and I think you might try reading it, if you like this sort of thing.

Cats Getting High on Catnip

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009