The illusion of a secure perimeter

When one door won’t close and another door won’t open, it’s time to replace both of them, and that’s what happened. After 15 months on the property phase one of my renovation plan is complete. I have secured the perimeter.

This was supposed to take me four months. But the costs were higher than expected (which you’d know if you read the last entry) and my life is a balance of many things at once.

Because I can get away with it.

KIMG0777.JPG

New door in an old house. 

The fencing is fixed, the exterior doors have been replaced, the most troublesome windows have been summer-proofed and the swamp cooler has been brought back from the dead.

One of those doors is open now, because it is inexplicably 70 degrees in late May.

My grandfather, who built the Arizona room that comprises the rear portion of the house, saw fit to reinforce the bottom door jamb with galvanized fence tubing. Which is very innovative if you never want to replace the door. But if you do,  the door guy earns his fee by spending two hours cutting the thing away with a grinder.

Thanks Grandpa. (I say that a lot when working on the house – in that tone.)

My girlfriend was in town last weekend, so word count stopped at 3500, mostly Jack and writer’s group.

My Thursday night writer’s group no longer meets at the Armadillo Grill. The meeting space we have used since way back when I ran this group’s predecessor has been converted to the manager’s office.

So we have landed at the Duck and Decanter  at 1651 E Camelback – basically across the street.  That worked well last week. Sandwiches aren’t the same as fried calamari, and serving beer is not the same as being a bar, but we had a quiet table, good light, food and beer. I’ve been worse.

Of the many things that Cheryl and I did over the weekend, what was most interesting is what we did not manage to do. We drove north on Monday wit the intent to hike the fabled West Fork of Oak Creek. (Yes, this is in my book: Five Star Hikes Flagstaff and Sedona, along with every other relevant hiking guide ever printed.)

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I took this for the book, but it looked just like this – only hailing.

 

We drove north, however into dark, gathering clouds and plummeting temperatures.

 

 

 

 

Consequently, I can report that the Colt Grill in downtown Cottonwood is an excellent place for a burger and beer and maybe a flight of whiskey samples, and, unlike the Oak Creek trail, we were not getting hailed upon while we enjoyed it.

colt-inside

Whiskey good. Hail bad. 

If I have a point here, it’s that success, or just getting away with it, is determined as much by how well you recover from mistakes as how well you avoid them.

Sure, I could’ve checked the weather first. But if I’m honest with myself, and by extension you, I would have gone anyway.

But Cheryl might have brought different shoes.

Now we know.

The Ladder of Poor Decisions

I dimly recall reading somewhere that, on a broooaaad average, half of US management decisions are wrong. I’d love to cite that source, but it was something I picked up working backstage at a university in  the early 90’s and skimmed through while waiting on a cue.

That’s poor documentation for an insight that has informed my approach to managing and dealing with managers most of my adult life.  Even so, I have found this to be roughly true. We are only right about half the time – on the first try.

In my RPG systems (I’ve written three) I assume that an average person will succeed at a common task (that they have no particular expertise in) about half the time. This more or less works out.

Now, this is hard to pin down because most of us do not keep score about when we are right or wrong. Some experts think we should start, but most of us don;t actually balance our checkbooks, so good luck with that.

At a recent writer’s group, we received well meaning if unsolicited advice about how we go about making poor decisions. Complete with a hand-out.

Ladder of Inference

Adapted from The Fifth Discipline by Peter Serge

We work our way up this ladder of loosely defined terms whenever we make a decision, or so the presentation went. Experience informs data which informs Meaning and so forth. On average, though, we go up this ladder in about six seconds, which does not leave a lot of time to fully consider all the steps, particularly the lower ones.

Which may go a long way towards explaining our half-wrong problem.

But there’s an even chance that’s not the problem at all.

Our friends the octopi (a frequent subject of this blog) have a completely different approach., as this well-animated TedEd video explains:

Now you know.

 

A Beanstalk Review and a Parade of Other Notes

First, the good news: My novel Beanstalk and Beyond received a review from a publication that people might actually read, namely the Nameless Zine.

Reviewer Chris Wozney writes:

I am quite impressed by this blending of fairy tales and historical setting. The author is himself a wanderer, and he imbues this story with some of the compulsion a wanderer feels for the roads and ways that lead out to the world beyond one’s doorstep.

I will choose to believe he has read some of my hiking guides, rather than discovering their existence while Googling my name. No-shh! Don’t wreck this moment for me.

Now the break even news, everyone forgot I was going to run Go Action Fun Time at Rincon, including me. I found the commitment in one of my many notes this afternoon, but was relieved to find I am not actually scheduled for any game or event.

I don’t have an episode ready to go. (And I’m likely out of money).

If you go, give them my regards, and no hard feelings, OK?

Bad News: the primary purpose of an HP printer is to extort ink sales from the user. If they happen to successfully print a document along the way, that is an unexpected bonus. My HP Deskjet 3520 is skipping every six lines because it believes I am using counterfeit ink (I’m not). Multiply this user experience by several million, and you understand why Carly Fiorina will never be president.

NOTES FROM WRITER’S GROUPS:

The #30 for the Arizona Diamondbacks is currently worn by LHP and bullpen resident T.J. McFarland.  Previous owners of note have been pitchers Todd Stottlemyer and David Hernandez.

The Devonian period began 416 mya, and ended with a as-yet-unexplained massive marine extinction 319 mya. Curiously, the first land plants that evolved during thgis age survived the extinction. Also, of note, the first distinct insects apear.

Flowering plants will not appear until 120 mya.

Free Companies were the only clear victors in the Hundred years War.

Finally, authors Jamaica Kincaid,  and PJ O-Rourke.

Now you know.

 

Accumulated Notes from Writer’s Groups

First an announcement: I have started One of 64 as a web-comic. Every Thursday, you can watch me teach myself, perhaps painfully, how to produce a web-comic. The first four pages came out, by accident of Friday. That has been corrected.

Start here.

For those who might be new here, I go to a fair number of open invitation drop-in writer’s groups. More about that here, if’n you care. Sometimes I share first or second drafts. Most of the time I take notes. Here are some that have accumulated over time, in more or less the order they appears in my notebook.

Most of these notes are things I am reminding myself to look up afterwards, and the link would be the most relevant site I found in a few minutes searching.

I am told by multiple sources that 24 reviews of your work on Amazon bumps you up a level in exposure via their algorithm.

The Cheyenne Tribe speaks of their prophet and greatest medicine man, Motzeyout. The piece presented at group suggested he was a time traveler who predicted the coming of the white man.  That’s not mentioned in the summary here, but not ruled out either.

I have a note that says “Iowa Bird Museum” which does not seem to exist. You can go visit the Talbot Collection at the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History, and/or the Stempel Bird Museum in Macedonia Iowa. Both are sizeable collections of dead birds in various poses, but I think our author was describing the Talbot Collection. If you yearn to see living birds in Iowa, try the Iowa Raptor Project in Solon Iowa.

I have a note reading “history of Pima cotton in China” which I’m going to skip. You’re welcome.

I have two books noted:

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes 

Poltergiest – a Study in Destructive Haunting by Colin Wilson.

Below these I wrote: “Crackpot psychiatry is good fuel for fantasy”. So you were warned.

I have written “Akasha” which is either the Hindu equivalent for the Ethreal Plane or the name of the first Vampire. I have no idea which I meant here.

Finally, Skylark of Space is the first commonly recognized published space opera. The Author, EE Smith would go on to write the Lensmen series that gave us about half the known tropes in that genre. You can read it on Gutenberg, and so can I.

Now you know.

 

 

 

 

The More Things Change…

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

First, some rumor control. There has been a rash of stories about border guards detaining people for no good reason, and as much as I would like to attribute that to the Trumpster – this is not new. [Watts ended up convicted of a felony, is barred from traveling in or though the US and paid a fine.]

My wife has given notice at Rhino, and I will miss working with her very much, not only because I (obviously) enjoy her company, but because she was also good at her job.I don’t get into Rhino politics online, but from my perspective – which is abnormally well informed – this situation was 100% avoidable had anyone in charge been inclined to take action.

This is neither the first nor last good employee who has had this experience.

March 7th is her last day at Rhino. She took a new job which starts March 8th.

I have started going back to writer’s groups. I go to Central Phoenix one on Monday nights at Grand Central Coffee Company (where I’m work-shopping the sequel to Beanstalk and Beyond). and an independent one on Thursday Night at the Armadillo Grill – which seems really familiar.  (My old group met there for years, on Thursday night). Join us if your are inclined, and I will try not to spill beer on my copy of your first or second draft. [Links above are to the Meet-up sites which may require registration]

At Are We Lost Yet?  I report on outdoor retailers vs the Utah GOP.

The twice annual Outdoor Retailers Show has announced that it will pull out of its long time home in Salt Lake City Utah in protest of Utah officials support of eliminating federal lands by transferring them to the states.

At Fantastical History, we continue on with giants, exploring my strange (made-up) theory about the Muans and how they became Asuras.

Muans ( a term made up well after the fact) are a race of supernatural immortals native to southeast Asia. Their lost history informs the legends and myths behind the Asura and Devas and Jinn and Oni of more recent human cultures.

At Curious Continuity, I report both facts and wild conjecture about TRAPPIST-1 and its seven dwarves.

Unless we are captured by alien slavers and dragged there, we are not going to be around when (if) human starships reach the seven rocky dwarf planets orbiting tightly around TRAPPIST-1.  Why wait for that – when we can just make stuff up. Come on – NASA wants you to!

And I updated my writer’s resume to try and land a gig writing for Outer Places. So if they made it this far down checking me out – hi guys! The links were sparse because a lot of what I’ve written for the web has since evaporated in 404 unknown host country.

The more things stay the same, the more they change.

Now you know.

 

MORE ON PETER WATTS:

http://io9.gizmodo.com/5497556/sf-author-peter-watts-found-guilty-of-felony-resistance-against-border-guardhttp://io9.gizmodo.com/5497556/sf-author-peter-watts-found-guilty-of-felony-resistance-against-border-guard

https://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/2009/12/12/us_border_guards_arrest_author_peter_watts.html

http://www.tor.com/2010/04/27/sometimes-we-win/

 

 

A return to Thursday night writer’s group notes

In the distant past, when this was a more regular blog, I used to note things I learned at my weekly writer’s group. Currently, we meet on Thursday night at Armadillo Grill at 7pm. We’re supposed to go about two hours, but we’ve been going 2.5 hours. I choose to interpret that as a good sign.

The group is organized through MeetUp.com, but we welcome any interested writer.

First though, from IO9, and Tumblr, my new favorite blog: “Things I learned as a Field Biologist

Ok, last night we learned – in no particular order:

In China, red envelopes traditionally contain good news (or what the sender supposes to be good news). Red is lucky.

Mexico has 68+ separate languages. Purepechan isn’t related to any of them. But their culture still exists – after a fashion, throughout Michoacan. More from the Mexican Guru.

It’s nearly impossible to research Japanese actors on the interweb if you don’t have the correct spelling of their name.  If Toshiro Wantanabe (how I wrote it down) is an actual Japanese actor, he has been totally eclipsed by a physics professor of a similar name.  So here’s a good summary of Japanese movies about WWII – the reason we cared about this actor at all.

The Wright Brothers have an official website.  So does the cartoonist Rube Goldberg.

The trouble in researching the Druids of ancient history is that they didn’t write much down, and they didn’t feel like explaining themselves to outsiders. Any useful common knowledge about the religion was essentially wiped out by the Christianization process. This is what Father Oak says about human sacrifice

There is far enough evidence to substantiate the claim that the ancient Celts practiced and performed some form of human sacrifice. There is a great deal of evidence that these sacrifices were, however, voluntary in nature and that the sacrificed served as intermediaries, who took the petitions of their people directly before the God(s) of their clan.

There. We’re moving on now. (That’s an inside joke)

Pope Pius XI would have been the See through most of the 1920’s and 1930’s. As much as I hate to violate my wikipedia rule, they have a fairly balanced and thorough account of his life. All the other bio’s I found were either from the church, or from its sworn enemies.

You can still find druids in Florida.

 

Everything you would want to know about Epsilon Eridani.

 

Tesseracts are a real thing and will hurt your head.

 

Perhaps Carl Sagan can help you out with that.

 

Now you know

Accumulated Writer’s Group Notes

First, Palo Verde Pages, the Central Phoenix Writer’s Workshop’s very own quarterly anthology, is available as a PDF on Amazon, and will be available in print any moment now.

Hurray. There will soon be a dedicated blog to that project.

Submission deadline for issue #2 (July) is May 6th. 3000 word limit, any genre, no particular themes BUT it must be workshopped in one of our groups. So mention you have a PVP piece, and you go to the front of the line.

Back when David Mamet was exec producer on The Unit, he wrote a memo to the writing staff that, now that it has surfaced, is a classic primer on dramatic screenwriting and by extension, dramatic writing in general. Apparently his CAP LOCK KEY had seized.

YES BUT YES BUT YES BUT, YOU SAY: WHAT ABOUT THE NECESSITY OF WRITING IN ALL THAT “INFORMATION?”

AND I RESPOND “FIGURE IT OUT” ANY DICKHEAD WITH A BLUESUIT CAN BE (AND IS) TAUGHT TO SAY “MAKE IT CLEARER”, AND “I WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT HIM”.

WHEN YOU’VE MADE IT SO CLEAR THAT EVEN THIS BLUESUITED PENGUIN IS HAPPY, BOTH YOU AND HE OR SHE WILL BE OUT OF A JOB.

Read this, my friends. Read it many times.

Related, Script-Frenzy guest-poster Xander Bennet on Kick-ass protagonists

Xander has his own blog on screenwriting: Screenwriting Tips … You hack – which is very addicting.

One more good site to follow: Make a Living Writing

More soon, I trust.

Now you know.