A Novel Idea

I’ve had to change the title slightly in my novel “Wanderlust”.  Originally I wanted to name it just as you see, but there was already a poem by that name so I had to alter it slightly.  First, came “Wanderlust – Chapter 1”.  But that sounded stupid when I added the following chapters.  So I’ve now named it “Wanderlust!” (note the exclamation point).

Chapter 1 can be found on this link (clicking will open a new window/tab):


I am heartened to see that over 30 people have already viewed the first chapter.  I hope more follow.

There are several more stories I am working on also.  One of them is a ‘what if?’ story that moves into an alternate universe at a crucial point and the other is pure fantasy (humorous, I hope).  Neither one of these will be ready for publication until I can flesh out some of the chapters a little more than a bare outline.

It seems strange, to me anyway, that I’ve suddenly discovered that I like to write at this time of my life.  One story I’d really like to write would cover almost all the things I did while I was in the navy.  Some stories, although true, would sound almost like fiction.  Unfortunately, if I were to publish most of them it would bring federal authorities down on me pretty hard – even though the personal events have been long surpassed by world events.  Suffice it to say that since the Soviet Union is no longer, writing about it could still land me in hot water.  This is a shame, because there are a lot of stories out there just waiting for someone to tell them.

Writing is very therapeutic and surprisingly easy to do.  All you really need is a good program, like Word, and a keyboard capable of taking a pounding.  I say that because, in my case, I started typing way back in high school (1958 to be exact) on an Underwood manual with very stiff keys.  You really had to mash them to get a good impression on the paper – especially when the ribbon began to get faint.  From high school papers, I graduated to writing a lot of letters to friends as I grew up.  making the transition to teletype keyboards in the navy was easy, except for having to shift between letters and numerals with a special key.  On a teletype, the key travel was around an inch and if you didn’t press firmly the letter (or numeral) wouldn’t register and it would mess up your coded message.

So, when I type, one can probably hear me all over the house because of the clatter.  In the last year, I have worn out four keyboards – one of which had the letters almost worn completely off the tops of the keys.  I’ve found the Hewlett Packard keyboards tend to hold up the best; Microsoft keyboards will fail within three or four months.  When I replace a keyboard, it always takes me a perceptible time to relate to a new layout, but soon I am flying along just fine.  In timed contests in the navy, I was clocked at 175 words per minute while touch-typing coded groups of five letters.  When I was taking Morse code, I can still handle around 35-40 words per minute using a typewriter  The key is to lag behind two or three words behind the code so that you can do “burst typing” to catch up.  It makes for much more accurate copy.

How in the world did I get on this subject?  My mind tends to wander on a lazy Saturday morning (or any other morning for that matter).  It is beautiful outside and the squirrels are gathering hungrily under new corncobs on the bungee cord.  One enterprising guy (has to be a guy because he’s just showing off), loves to jump from the limb supporting the cob and land on it holding tightly as it bounces up and down.  Once stopped, he calmly fills his cheeks with corn kernels and casually drops to the ground to run home with it.  A different one will pull on the chain until he has it on the branch next to him.  Far more effective, but not as much fun to watch.  He’s probably an executive in squirreldom.

My observations of the doves still lead me to believe that they are the cattle of the bird world.  They simply wander around under the feeder and peck at seeds that the more active birds kick down to them.  Even when I leave the house, they just look up at me and stare as I pass.  They are almost always a pair though.  Their pleasant cooing  is nice to hear after winter’s harsh crow calling.  Although yesterday there was a huge crow perched in the front yard tree cawing mightily.  It got so bad that Cami (our little cat) would bang her nose against the window in frustration trying to make it go away.

Time for a nice hot cup of tea.

WP’s new commenting system

Not being one to bite the hand that feeds me (much), I won’t go too deeply into how badly WordPress dropped the ball with their “new” commenting system.  I think it was done with the best of motives in mind (stopping drive-by harassment and spam) but the implementation was done with a chainsaw where a small surgical knife would have been better.

Forcing folks to log in (or even create an account first) serves a purpose even if one doesn’t immediately see it.  It helps to log an IP address of a commenter.  While this is done in the background, and is not intrusive (except for having to do it), it still annoys people.  I had my blog set up so that once I approved a person’s first comment, other comments could be made without approval.  This has gone by the wayside.  Where before, I enjoyed seeing colorful avatars, I now see only the default ones because there is some sort of mix-up between logging in to Avatar.com and WordPress.com so that using one email to log into one service is not sufficient for the other service.  This is a problem to be worked out between the two services and I don’t think it was intentionally caused by WP.

I feel certain that WP will eventually work this out to the satisfaction of all.  What does bother me is that there is absolutely NO comment (joke intended) from the WordPress staff anywhere except a few scattered posts in a now-locked thread concerning their change of policy.  This is just wrong.  They should be making sure their point of view is known to everyone who uses their service.  This is not the case.  All we can do is grouse about it – and even then not very effectively because we don’t know who to grouse AT/TO (choose correct grammar – I know it’s a preposition).

So, until things get straightened out, I am just going to ignore my statistics because they will be skewed out of shape because not everyone wants to have to log in to comment.  The whole point of blogging is to let the free association of ideas actually happen.  Having to put yourself down in a log file somewhere just to make a comment is just not the right way to go.  I feel I am perfectly capable of screening comments for my blog and keeping the obvious spam and whatnot out.  I don’t need some Java code doing the thinking for me.

The 20-year Itch

Also subtitled “What was I thinking?”

After being trashed by a very unfavorable (and error-filled) home appraisal for a refinance from a person who was definitely unqualified, we decided it was time to do some changes around the house.  Our family room contains one of our fireplaces and, since we are heading into summer, we probably wouldn’t be using it very much in the coming months.  So, our next decision was to remove the old paneling which had been slapped up around the beginning of time by our house’s old tenants from 20 years ago.

Last winter, we had an ice storm which built up in the rain gutters and forced a bit of water into the house over the french doors to our deck.  It wasn’t much, but it was enough for me to have to tear down a few pieces of paneling.  What I saw back then should have prepared me for what was coming at the beginning of this week.  The old paneling, which had been slapped up using a garden hose for a straightedge and a piece of bread for a square, practically disintegrated when I pried it off.  I spend quite a bit of time making repairs to the header over the door like filling in huge voids, removing plywood blocks to support a 12×8 lintel, and tugging out blackened pieces of non-outdoor insulation with an R-factor of about -12.

Once this was done, I began to apply new paneling.  Trying something new that the wife had found on a web site, we decided to use our composite flooring we bought at IKEA on the wall.  Don’t laugh, it works just fine.  Seeing as how the walls, corners, and ceiling were built to not-so-very-exacting standards, I had a heck of time measuring and cutting boards to fit.  After three days of struggling with saws, hammers, finishing nails, and the like, I am now about half-way through with the pr0ject.

My left thumb is black and blue with a severely cracked nail and I have multiple tiny little pokes from hidden nails behind the old paneling which was laid directly over small pieces of gypsum board and, in some places, the original lath & plaster.  Each new piece of paneling removed revealed more shoddy construction.

It will be nice when I am finished though because we plan to place bookshelves from floor to ceiling on either side of the fireplace.  Some other changes will be to lighting and, eventually, new flooring.  This coming winter should see our family room as a very cozy place to do some reading and toasting in front of the fire.  When you hit 70, pleasures like that are hard to find.

Our next project will be to tackle the downstairs (basement) fireplace and do pretty much the same to it.  At least down there I already know how the paneling was installed.  The fireplace area also includes the pool table and the sliding door out to the hot tub.  I can hardly wait.


Odds and Ends

I tried just the other day to watch the ‘new’ picture “The Mechanic”.   I only lasted about an hour and then flipped to another channel.  It was horrible.  Charlie Bronson does a face-palm.  The hitman had the same last name and he used a hot car – that’s about it.  This got me to thinking about all the other remakes I’ve seen that turned out worse than the original.  True, there were a few remakes that were okay.  A trio of my favorites are: The Parent Trap, Sabrina, and The Reluctant Debutante (What a Girl Wants).

Some of the rest are drek.  They Are:

3:10 to Yuma, The Bad News Bears, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Rear Window, The Firm, Flight of the Phoenix, The Absent Minded Professor = Flubber, The Incredible Journey = Homeward Bound, The Italian Job,The Longest Yard, Mostly Martha = No Reservations, The Nutty Professor, Ocean’s Eleven, On The Beach, Dial M for Murder = A Perfect Murder, Picnic, Planet of the Apes, Godzilla, Red Dawn, Rollerball, The Paleface (’48) = The Shakiest Gun in the West (’68), State Fair, Bye Bye Birdie, The Taking of Pelham 123, The Thing from Another World = The Thing, The Time Machine, Total Recall, Vanishing Point, The More the Merrier = Walk Don’t Run, Where the Boys Are = Where the Boys Are ’84, Yours Mine and Ours

Special Mention as being good remakes also: Les Visiteurs = Just Visiting, Day of the Jackal = The Jackal, Seven Samurai = The Magnificent Seven, The Man Who Knew Too Much (’34) = The Man Who Knew Too Much (’56), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House = The Money Pit, My Favorite Wife = Move Over Darling, High Noon = Outland, The Front Page = Switching Channels, To Be or Not to Be, The Shop Around the Corner = You’ve Got Mail

Come on, Hollywood.  Can’t you come up with some original films besides just adding computer effects and crud to what was a basically good story?  My all-time disliked remake is: Arthur.  Liza Minelli and Dudley Moore absolutely made that movie.  Sir John Gielgud as the butler was perfect.  The remake starred Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, and Jennifer Garner.  Making Hobson (Sir John’s part) a female was just plain mean spirited.  I only watched the first half hour of this loser.

Anyway, my rant is over – for now.  I’m sure that some pitchman in Tinseltown is just slavering to do a remake “because it’s easier than writing new stuff.  All we have to do is cut off the title page and change the name.  Nobody will be the wiser; especially those losers out there who’ll pay to see it”.