Wanderings

Anything you dream is fiction,
and anything you accomplish is science,
the whole history of mankind is nothing but science fiction.
- Ray Bradbury
January 29th, 2011

New Book on Amazon Kindle

I made the title too long. It is Playing Help-Me in the Style of Sonny Boy Williamson II






January 28th, 2011

Playing “Help-Me” in the Style of Sonny Boy Williamson II

I made another Kindle book. This one is the analysis of that I made of Sonny Boy Wiliamson’s great song “Help Me”. It is 50 pages of Blues Harp geek speak.

This should do much better than my Science Fiction stories, which have very slow sales.






January 24th, 2011

Science Fiction and a Live Studio Audience

I’ve never seen Red Dwarf, a BBS comedy about the last human alive some 3 million years in the future. I am told it is at least related to Science Fiction, but Wikipedia says that is is more like British comedy with an occasional science fiction reference thrown in.

Red Dwarf is coming back.

The series died after 8 seasons, mainly because the original writers left the show, but at least partially because “the producers decided to spend more money on cheesy CGI effects than on writers under the misapprehension that Sci-fi geeks would rather see giant monsters and big explosions than hear carefully-crafted gags…

I am certain that what is wrong with SciFi (Science Fiction in movies and TV) is that they rely too much on loud noises and flashing lights to maintain the attention of their audiences. Most good SF consists of Speculation that takes place largely in your head and is simulated by interesting discussions of the possibilities created by advancing technologies. It is not about light sabers, howling monsters, dancing virtual ninjas, or aliens that look like humans in rubber suits.

One of the interesting things about the New Red Dwarf Series is that it will filmed in front of live studio audience.

Now there’s a thought. If science fiction is to really work, it consists of good ideas, good characters, good writing and good science. The test of a good science fiction idea is could it be filmed in front of a live studio audience? It the answer is yes, than the idea would survive without all the flash and bang of super special affects and 3D graphics. The litmus test of Science Fiction becomes the Red Dwarf rule. If you could not do in a small studio in front of live audience without special effects, then it is not good SF.

I’ll have to check out this Red Dwarf stuff on YouTube.

Read more about the new Red Dwarf






January 24th, 2011

Capturing 35mm Film

Last year I bought a 35mm scanner at a garage sale for $5. I eventually want to scan my Dad’s 35mm film collection which dates back to the 1930s. He has some interesting negatives of world war II. Much of this my mother threw out after Dad died, but Larry has saved some of it.

I found some pictures that Larry had given me to test this and I scanned them. The scanner does a pretty good job, but I find that the images are a little faded, possibly because there is some light getting into the system. They negatives are also a little dusty and that shows up on the pictures. I will have to get some antistatic cleaning paper when I do the important stuff.

Capturing was easy, except for putting the strips in the holder. I put in a couple of strips in backwards (simple fix with mirror function in software) and it took 2 or 3 times to get them lined up right. The plastic cartridge is flimsy and hard to work with. The negatives were curled and it was difficult to get them in and lined up.

I wish there was a similar scanner to do the 120 film that Erica and I used for 30 years. I also have some old negatives from Brownie cameras that I would like to scan. I used to buy the black and white film and develop it in the cellar and make my own prints. This scanner only works for 35mm negatives and slides.

Larry’s pictures are an odd mix of stuff. I recognize Little Charlie and the Night Cats. This pictures were developed in September of 2000. There is a picture of one of kids that used to stop by (now in prison) and the obligatory strange guitar and 60s Chevy.

There is a picture of me at Walden Pond when Larry and I stopped there on the way to Cape Cod. I talked him into making the pilgrimage to Thoreau’s cabin on the pond, but the pond is now a state park with artificial sand beaches and it was very crowded. The reproduction of the cabin was not on the original site and it looked too well made to have been built from used lumber. Read the book, but avoid the historic site.






January 20th, 2011

36 Cents

My newest evil plan to conquer the universe involves embedding a link to buy my book in the WordPress Plugins that I write. Writing WordPress plugins is a kind of hobby of mine. These plugins get several hundred downloads per day, and that means several hundred eyes viewing the nag message, and every once in a while someone is actually buying the book.

I didn’t use just a link, but I used an Amazon affiliate link. Not only do I make $2.49 when someone buys a book, but I get and extra 36¢ from the affiliate link. This is an increase of 14% in revenues on a book sale. I consider this to be damn clever.

I have written a couple of dozen of these WordPress plugins. I am going to spend the next few weeks rewriting all of them so that people will upgrade and see the book ad.






January 19th, 2011

My Great Great Great Great Grandfather

I was looking for something else and found a link to this. I have a dozen or so ancestors who fought in the revolutionary war, but this is a sad story.

Rockland Lake is a pond up above the Hudson River that was used for ice for many years. There is a landing on the Hudson and a steep trail that leads up to the “High Road” which is now Route 9W, and then the “Lake Road” leads to the low road called “King’s Highway”. The British and Revolutionary forces used this road to go from Fort Lee, NJ to Albany. It ran along the top of the Palisades. “King’s Highway”, also known in parts as “The Greenbush” ran along the valley floor from Haverstraw, NY to Teaneck, NJ.

Verdridica appears to be one of the hills north of Hook Mountain, if not the Hook itself, which is about two miles south of where this happened. There was a militia at Haverstraw so it may have been the hill just south of Haverstraw that is a north shoulder of Hook Mountain.

The path to Rockland Lake was the only point between Nyack and Haverstraw where the British could land on the Hudson in force without being resisted.


The Revolutionary War POW window memorial is situated near NYPD Hq seen above. [Window photos by NYCHS.]

The “sugar house” mentioned was the Rhinelander Sugar House in New York City that was turned into a notorious prison.

This was a brick warehouse into which American prisoners of war and private citizens, suspected of helping the patriots, were thrown. Sanitary conditions were frightful and starvation was a constant threat, so that its evil reputation was well earned, and its death toll unbelievably high.


“The History of Rockland County”, by Frank Bertangue Green, M.D. page 112 and 113

Toward the close of the war, a boat load of marines landed at Rockland Lake, in the dusk of the evening, and under the guidance of neighboring Tories, started on a search for booty. On this errand bent, they marched around the lake and down the old lake road towards its junction with the Kings Highway.

On the west side of the lake road and almost opposite the junction of the mountain road with it, lived Garret Meyers, a militia-man. All that day Mr. Meyers had been watching the British vessels, to alarm the country in case an attempt was made to land from them, and only at nightfall had returned to his home.

Just before bedtime, he heard the tramp of feet on the road and surmising at once that the enemy had landed, he started out to light the beacon fire on Verdridica Hook, and thus warn the Minute Men.

As he stepped from his door however, he saw that the enemy was between him and the mountain, and that it would be necessary for him to wait till the road was clear. Hastening to a pear tree, which stood near the house, he flattened himself against it, hoping to be unobserved in the darkness.

But, fate was against him. In the yard was a pet white calf that Mr. Meyers had been accustomed to feed, and the animal had become so tame, that it would follow its master like a dog. Seeing him appear, the calf ran to the tree behind which he was standing and stood beside it.

Among the Tories, who accompanied the British, was a near neighbor of Meyers, who knew the habit of the calf, and when he saw it run to the pear tree, he suspected the presence of his neighbor. He therefore told the commanding officer of the party that a rebel Whig was hidden at that spot, and the search that followed resulted in Meyer’s capture.

The party then visited his house, gutted it completely, knocked Mrs. Meyers senseless with a blow from the butt of a musket, which drove her teeth down her throat, and then took their departure for the landing with their prisoner.

Mr. Meyers was confined in the Sugar House until the close of the war, and left it with his health forever broken. This unfortunate man always suspected a neighbor, who claimed to be a patriot, of having betrayed him, and, rendered frenzied by his sufferings while a prisoner, registered an oath to shoot the suspect on sight.

Being informed one day, long after the war had ended, that this neighbor was coming down the road, the bed-ridden old man, toilsomely dragged himself to his loaded gun, but fell dead ere he could take aim, and the villain who caused his misery escaped the judgment of man.






January 18th, 2011

At the Library, Maybe

I asked a friend at the library to see if I could get on the “local authors” shelf. Now the librarian wants me to show up and read a story one night. I don’t think I can do that. I don’t have a good speaking voice. My stories are not that dramatic. Teaching is OK, but reading in front of an audience is not something that I want to do.






January 18th, 2011

More back door marketing

I spent a few hours today fixing up a couple of my more popular WordPress Plugins. One of them has over 15,000 downloads. Now not all of those blogs are still using the plugin, but since I upgraded, I expect one or two thousand people to fetch the upgraded code.

In truth, I spent more time adding a nagging message to buy my book, than making changes or fixing  bugs. It is customary to ask for a donation when people use a free WordPress plugin. I am asking for them to buy the book.

The nag message has appeared in the last 3,000 or so of my plugins downloaded. I recently strengthened the language a little, demanding that they buy the book.

I expect to get 5,000 downloads of my updated plugins in the next two weeks. I expect that 50% of those will check the docs or the plugin to see what is new. I expect that 1%  will buy the book. That could be anything from 10 to 50 book sales.

My goal would be to sell 50 books a month for this year. That would be about $1,500 in royalties. As I put the nag messages into more plugins, this might be an achievable goal.

As I get more sales, my Amazon rank goes up and my books would appear in searches and I would get more sales – etc.

By the way, I’ve sold only two books in January. Bummer.

Update: It’s working! I just sold two paperbacks in the 6 hours since I posted this.






January 15th, 2011

Kindle-this now has a shortcode

A user can now send any page or post to a kindle when you place the short code -kindlethis- on a page.

Below is the form. If you have a kindle you can try it out. If you don’t have a kindle you can get the PC program that lets you you read kindle books from Amazon.

Try it:

[kindlethis]






January 15th, 2011

Marketing my Book

My book on amazon was more of an experiment than anything else. I made the mistake of showing some friends and they all want a (free) signed copy. I ordered 10 from CreateSpace and they cost me $3.70 each with the shipping. I guess that’s not bad.

I gave a copy to my Mom, and now she wants 5 copies so she can send it friends and relatives. I can’t imagine these 80 and 90 year-old ladies reading stories about computers and algorithms. I guess they will just put the book on the shelf.

I released new versions of three of my WordPress plugins. These are popular and they already have about 500 downloads. I put a link in the “Donate” section to the amazon page of the book. I am hoping that people who are inclined to say thank you will buy the book instead of ignoring the begging. They actually get something if they buy the book, other than satisfaction. I make about $3.00 on each one that they buy, more if they download the Kindle version. This is a really good form of advertising. It will take a week or two to see if it pays off. I have high hopes.

I have started formatting my next volume of stories. I might be called Pareidolia Blues. It is largely the non-SF stories that I have written. The image at the bottom is my first cut at a cover.

I have already overused this notebook to the point where the “V” and the “G” key are sticking. The Mouse buttons are starting to go. This has happened to every notebook computer that I’ve ever had. I am rough on them. It is getting annoying to type.







January 12th, 2011

Snow

We had 8 to 10 inches and in some places it seems a little deeper. It is a light fluffy snow, easy to shovel.

It is 10:40AM and I’ve finished all the walks, cleaned off the trucks and I have cleared the pile the blow puts at the front of the driveway.

I have to go out and shovel the rest of the driveway so I can turn the trucks around and get the white truck out to the road. I will head out to work at 11AM or so.

They did not close the office. They never close the office.

I don’t have any pictures – the snow is beautiful, but I have posted nice pictures here before.

Here are some pictures from 2007 – today looks about the same.






January 12th, 2011

How’s that working for you?

The phrase “How’s that working for you?” has become a sarcastic, obnoxious response to any attempt of a difficult task or policy, at least in politics.

My difficult task was to submit stories only to “PRO” markets. These markets get thousands of submissions a month and it is nearly impossible to crack. How’s it working for me? Well, I’ve had three stories that I consider “pro” quality out there in 2010. I received 24 rejections on them, far more than usual for my stories.I usually sell a story in less than three attempts, frequently on the first try.

There are a bunch of nice sites that pay $10 that are very happy to get something from me, but I haven’t sent them anything this last year. I have two more stories that I think are “pro” quality and I have not worked on them because of all the rejections I have been receiving. I am thinking of not writing any more SF for a while. It seems that this last year has pointed out to me that I am just not that good at it and I should concentrate on something else.






January 11th, 2011

Akin’s Laws of Spacecraft Design

Good stuff here, most of it applies to any process, including programming, management, or deciding which brand of toothpaste to buy.

7. At the start of any design effort, the person who most wants to be team leader is least likely to be capable of it.

20. A bad design with a good presentation is doomed eventually. A good design with a bad presentation is doomed immediately.

37. (Henshaw’s Law) One key to success in a mission is establishing clear lines of blame.

Akin’s Laws of Spacecraft Design.






January 11th, 2011

RAH quote

When a man makes up his mind without evidence, no evidence disproving his opinion will change his mind.
Robert A. Heinlein, from a letter.