Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Preretirement

New year I will be cutting back my work load approximately 20%.  This is one of my relaxation devices that I plan to employ.  Very relaxing at night.  



Print Blog Post

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wandering Brain Revisited (Update on November’s Activity)



In late October I started a two-part blog series, Wandering Brain.  Then I stopped to engage in a month-long writing program/contest.  National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) was a challenge to writers to create a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.  I accepted the call on November 4th and began writing a sequel to Far from Newark, titled Return to Newark, and I am pleased to announce that I completed the novel on November 25th.   I received a certificate of achievement, which I had to print myself.  And if I want I could purchase a T-shirt stating my accomplishment.



Of course participating in this program required that all other writing, reading and most other leisure pursuits be kept at a minimum.  It required that 65 and Alive Blog cease for the month, it also required discipline of a structured plan and sticking to a schedule which I sometimes lack.  I wrote every morning and reviewed my work in the evenings with minor revisions and corrections of completely incomprehensible sentences or thoughts.  Then start again the next day.


Writing a novel is full-time work and not suited for a family life, children, honey-do lists or anything close to a normal life.  Not recommended for most people.  I am now, at a much slower pace, reviewing and editing my novel.  At some point I will print a copy and rewrite again.  Then edit and edit some more.  Return to Newark may see the light of day (in digital edition) by the end of 2014.


My Wandering Brain took me on a completely unexpected path.  Perhaps knowing that it would only last one month allowed me to complete it.  My plan was to just plow right into the work and write each day knowing that I was 2500 words closer to completion.  It did feel rather good when I submitted my rough draft for final word count validation.  I got almost as good a feeling as I did when Far from Newark was submitted to Smashwords.com and then received confirmation of its conversion to digital format.


I hope that upon my return to more regular blogging that I didn’t lose too many of my readers.  With that in mind I would appreciate a comment just to tell me someone read this blog.


Far from Newark Update


McDonald’s posts “Billions sold” on its signboard to announce how they are doing.  I am pleased to state my motto for now is: Dozens sold.  Email me and I will be glad to send my followers a free copy of Far from Newark, just tell me what digital format you would like.

 



Print Blog Post

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wandering Brain

-->
Earlier this week I read an article that was published on NPR.org dealing with the Wandering Brain.  Apparently, some people can control pain with a Wandering Brain.  Research by Wendy Davis at theUniversity of Toronto indicates that “mind-wanderers” were able to function better on cognitive tests if they focused their thoughts away from the pain than those who focused on the pain.

While small, the study and preliminary findings indicate non-medical treatment for pain sufferers might be available in a somewhat easy manner.  A focused thought is not quite the same as day-dreaming but it reminds me of an old adage, “Take your mind off of it.”  Perhaps there is some science or truth behind that expression.

Some of you may remember sitting through boring, painful, early morning lecture classes as a college freshman.  The text books had all the information and note taking was merely writing down the same information you highlighted the night before and therefore was mostly, by me anyway, perfunctory and incomplete.  So the student’s mind does what it tends to do, wander, daydream, or sleep. 

In smaller classes the teacher could catch the wanders, those off on an imaginary trip.  As a teacher myself I have on occasion asked a student where he or she was.  This question was directed at their mental state not their physical location.  It usually got a chuckle from them and their classmates and then a return to the classroom activity.  I hope they were merely bored and not in pain from my classes.  Although being merely bored or in pain from my class did not reflect well on my technique or the subject matter at that moment.  The need to ask that question usually was a prompt for me to change and re-engage the class.  Mind-wandering was okay for the student but not for the instructor.





Large lecture halls of the 1960s excelled in the creation of mind-wandering situations.   I have seen card games in progress, students working on other homework assignments, and outright sleeping.  But the blank looks that appeared on the faces of the wandering student raise another question:  Where do we go when we mind-wander?  Good research and blog writing should not just give static opinions by the author but prompt or ask other questions that promote critical dialogue.

So where do we go when we wander?  Answers to that question vary by individual, some people relieve past experiences of their youth or merely last weekend, others speculate on what if situations, or dwell on upcoming events with dread or anticipation.  Come back next blog for a trip in mind-wandering.

Update:  My mind has wandered and I entered a contest to write a 50,000 novel in one month for National Novel Writing Month.  The clock is ticking now.  No more posts until the end of November.  


Print Blog Post

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Slippery Slope



Part 1


In 2004 I joined the Sun Poets writing group as a tool to divert and channel my energy after leaving the best job I ever had in 2001 (up to that point).  In fact, I had resigned my position on September 7 (a few days later the world was turned upside).  I wasn’t searching for a better job, nor was I chasing a dream or experiencing a mid-life crisis.  A wall at work hit me and a change was required.  Best move I ever made, but not without regrets at times.


The slippery slope started with flash fiction, very short pieces that could be written in 15 minutes, perhaps only 200 or 300 words at most.  Some were written during the sessions and re-crafted later.  Others were started at home and shared with the group during the critic period. 


Later I gravitated to longer pieces of perhaps 600 to 1000 words.  These pieces took longer to thrash out in my head and on paper.  I eventually wrote a few pieces that I submitted to a few publications.  Rejected.  No problem, I was just writing for myself and with no dreams of becoming a famous or rich writer, although that would be nice.  Eventually several pieces became published on-line for zero dollars.  Again, no problem.  I was writing garbage and regularly working at it.  Many hours were spent during lunch-times at the book store with my laptop or early on the weekends to work the keyboard and my pound head on the wall for a few hours.


I wrote a true story about an event that I experienced during my tour of service in Thailand.  Then I wrote a second true event recreation; next came a fictional account of a Buddhist monk giving a lesson.  The wheels in my head started to turn overtime.  


A basic concept of a novel developed.  These three finished stories and a few scraps of other pieces I had written formed the basis of Far from Newark.  And so it started.  No outline at first, just writing as thoughts and events popped into my.  No direction just working at my computer whenever I could.  At some point I sketched a story on a page or two, created a general timeline of events and the story evolved when I moved the timeline to 3 x 5 cards.  Then I arranged and rearranged the cards, into a logical sequence of events.  It was light on details, just a sentence or two on what happened.  Those few lines acted as a prompt to create a chapter or two.

Posed picture on original Mac


Many hours of research went into learning about old Newark, Thailand, Buddhism and anything that popped into my head.  The writing and research occurred simultaneously.  The entire process ended in 2013 with a notebook (3” thick) of information, a notebook of rough draft chapters and a finished story of 55,500 words.  Strangely enough, the three original stories are not part of novel, but remain as stand-alone pieces that were the inspiration for Far from Newark.


The past year was spent editing the final piece.  In all honesty to my readers there were times, sometimes months long, that I did not touch the story.  But at some point during each lapse I decided to finish the project.  It could not be left incomplete. So I plunged back in and finished the novel, and then went back and trashed and rewrote some sections.  AND EDITED.  


Now, what next was the question?  I decided to utilize Smashwords to self-publish in digital format my novel.  It is scheduled for release on November 5.  My goal for now is still modest.  I just want to sell enough books to plow back into printing a small number of print copies to give away and sell.  



The slippery slope continues with the next blog.  Come back.  Please.



To read Parts 2 and 3 click on READ MORE below








Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Siclovia San Antonio



On Sunday Broadway Street from Mulberry Street to Alamo Plaza was closed to vehicular traffic from 10 am to 3 pm to allow 75,000 San Antonians to walk, ride, stroll or bike the 6-mile route for its semi-annual Siclovia event.  I arrived with my bike and camera around ten am at the middle of the route.  (Pronounced sic-lo-via)


Even at that early hour and after a overnight heavy rain downpour many thousands of people were already enjoying the event.  At my starting point I looked for someone I was supposed to meet.  Couldn’t find them, but meet a few others I knew.  After a quick schmooze I checked out a few health vendor booths, got two T-shirts, a bag and a water bottle, before pedaling south towards the Alamo.


My trek was a slow easy ride with increasing crowds as I approached the Alamo.  The sounds at the Alamo were amazing.  Vendors galore, people milling about and a buzz in the air of excitement.   Having your picture taken in front of the Alamo is a popular tourist and resident’s activity that I didn’t decline.  At this time I am waiting for the on-line photo to be posted.  At the Alamo I took the opportunity get free air for my bike.

Alamo

I didn’t stay long before I turned around and rode north towards my starting spot and beyond.  I stopped to enjoy the San Antonio Youth Symphony performing at a street corner.  Rode past “bubble artists.”  Waved at strangers and just goofed along.

Siclovians
At the mid-point I stopped again to check for my missing companion, still missing.  To be honest it was a person that I had only spoken to on the phone and I had no idea what they looked like.  Could have been right next to me and I wouldn’t have known.  Then I continued north with increasing crowds.  Past Ronald McDonald, the Pig Stand, a rock climbing tower and Larry’s Lop-cycle.   


Larry's "Lop-cycle." Note rear wheel hub location.

The Siclovia event ended at Brackenridge Park with numerous booths, refreshments, water and crowds.

Booth at Brackenridge Park, with water, bananas, apples and more

At one point I glanced at my watch and realized how long I had been out and proceeded to call my wife.


“Honey, I am having too much fun and I might leave in another hour.”

It turned to be more like ninety minutes, but when having a good time there is no reason to quit too soon. 
Me at the Alamo

See the entire slide show on my webpage of my 12-mile Siclovia day. 



Print Blog Post

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Almost Fall

Day Out in Comfort Texas


Hot San Antonio and south Texas days are just now starting to reduce its brutal affect on outdoor activities.  There still may be a few scattered high ninety degree days ahead, but the day-after-day run of extremely hot temperatures is probably over.  By northern standards high eighties can seem summer-like but to the residents of south Texas eighty degree days are almost balmy.  Fall or what equates to fall is soon approaching.  No change in the trees or frosty mornings but a sub sixty degree morning is almost as good.  Only a few areas of south Texas enjoy colorful foliage during late fall so the abatement of the heat is the signal that fall is near.  Winter is only a few weeks in late January and February, and it usually only results in rain not daytime freezing temperatures.


Last Saturday my wife, her sister and I ventured forty miles north of San Antonio to one of Texas’ little known gems.  The German Freethinkers who founded Comfort in1854 embraced the democratic values of their new homeland.  Comfort Texas is unique in the south because many of its original settlers remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War and as a result thirty-five soldiers from Comfort were massacred during an ambush as they tried to get to Mexico during the war.  


We drove to an outdoor art show in nearby Comfort Texas.  Today Comfort’s old historical district is home to a small number unique shops and restaurants.  We walked a block or two and had a wonderful lunch at High’s CafĂ© and Store.  My wife and her sister enjoyed an extra cup of coffee and dessert while I wandered around taking photographs and adding to my Faces collection.


Old Bank is now the Comfort Heritage Foundation

Old gas station now a Pizzeria, Ice Cream Shoppe and Bicycle Rental

Celebrating arrival of Fall

Combination Meat Market, Tavern and Music Venue

Residence


Antique Shops

Metal Insect

Art by Al Roche

www.thingsatroche.com

Just an interesting comment on life

No earth shaking thoughts or revelations, just an enjoyable afternoon after a long, hot summer.  Life can be enjoyed in small bite-sized pieces.  Served cool (or almost cool).



Print Blog Post

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Reality Distortion Field

Mr. Berney, my high school physics teacher, droned on about E= MC2 one hot spring afternoon.  Most of his students were mentally on a trip to the Jersey shore from the previous weekend or dreaming of the next trip.  Alan next to me was dead asleep and Richie was working full-time on his geometry homework due next period.  I was just staring out the window at the pizzeria across the street, the image of a hot steaming slice with extra cheese and sausage caused my stomach to grumble.  I am surprised it didn’t wake Alan.


Mr. Berney had perfected a method of putting his students to sleep or otherwise kept mentally preoccupied as a way of holding the noise down for one more day before he retired.  Mr. B was using his personal Reality Distortion Field for his own devious purposes.


Mr. B is on far left.  I am in this picture.  Homeroom 1961 in physics classroom.  Picture from Weequahic HS year book, Jan. 1962.

BS.  Nothing like that ever happened to me.  But I am sure that teachers all over are working a secret, patentable and marketable Reality Distortion Field device to use in their classrooms.

But wait a minute.  What is the Reality Distortion Field?  An associate of mine was taking about a person we knew in common and used Reality Distortion Field as a descriptive phrase.  He went on to say that in the recent biography of Steve Jobs the phrase Reality Distortion Field (RDF) was used by Bud Tribble to describe Jobs’ behavior and management style and attributes this phrase to Star Trek. 

In the Star Trek 2-part episode Menagerie (Nov. 1986), Gene Rodenberry tells a convoluted story that used RDF as a plot gimmick and as production technique.  The characters used the RDF to manipulate Captain Kirk and Doctor Spock into believing that a twisted reality was true. 

RDF is a phenomenon in which the impossible is stated to be possible through force of personality and persuasive force.  Impossible is made out as easy, people are motivated to perform difficult tasks and they end up believing the RDF user’s logic or at least working towards elusive goals despite reservations.  World leaders use it all the time, likewise politicians,  business tycoons and other charlatans cajole and convince their followers black is white, hot is cold, and any number opposite and mutually exclusive terms that are proposed with authority.  The users of RDF generally justify their actions by stating, believing and acting that the end justifies the means. 

I visualize RDFers at a traffic stop, ““Sorry officer I wasn’t speeding, you were standing still.”

The higher power position the user of RDF occupies on the political or business ladder the more difficult it becomes to defy the power of the RDF.  Once used it become difficult to counter at a later time.  The force of the RDF can be resisted very easily if the user is confronted with the falsehoods of facts or logic early. 

I wish I could get my RDF working right now and have that slice of pizza from my 1961 daydream.  Things were better in the good old days is a phrase average RDF users employee since we don’t have the power over thousands of employees or followers.

You might want to consider reading this blog from the Musings of the Big Red Car to read about the Theory of Global Bullshit.

Or if you’re lazy just visit this website and recite its mantra.

In any event you need to develop your own RDF counter offensive technique because global BS is getting deeper and smellier everyday.



Print Blog Post