Sunday, August 30, 2009

Writing tasks for this week

Some blog-evaluation tool analyzed this blog and said it has too many pictures. What's up with that? Well, I'll try writing this one without pix.

My local writers' group starts up again this coming Saturday after a summer hiatus. I tried to interest someone else to take over the presidency, but apparently the perks are insufficient to stoke anyone's ambition. In other words, the job is mine for another year. So the first task is to publish the pre-meeting newsletter to tell members about our guest John Duncklee and get them all to show up.

Now that I'm back from Santa Fe, I also have to finish up a draft of a book review for The Internet Review of Books. It'll cover a pair of books on physics written for the intelligent lay person. Both were a challenge to read, perhaps the sort a person of my modest intellect should either read twice or not at all. The reviews themselves won't be as hard to write as I'd first thought, though.

In the living room, my son is watching The Simpsons on Fox, a network that doesn't get much airtime in our house. Maybe I can get Homer Simpson to help me with my review about black holes and conversion of matter into energy.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Visiting Santa Fe

Our son has flown in from Boston for a week's visit, and we're all spending a few days in Santa Fe. Jeff drove our car up from Las Cruces while Nancy, the cats, and I drove up in our RV. Yesterday we spent a few hours strolling down Canyon Road and poking our heads into the fancy galleries where the sculptures and paintings run a little on the pricey side. For example, you can have a beautiful bronze sculpture of a family of donkeys for only $85,000.

Today we took a look at Madrid and Cerrillos, two small towns on the Turquoise Trail. Here are some doodads created by a Madrid artist out of recycled materials:

And here is the Catholic church in Cerrillos:

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ode To The Yellow Pad

Here is a guest post by prolific Las Cruces writer John Duncklee, who is the author of Disowned and 16 other published novels.

Ode To The Yellow Pad


John Duncklee

We marvel at what we can do with the computer: cut and paste, send over the internet, correct mistakes and typos with ease and without erasing six carbon copies, choosing fonts and sizes with the touch on a mouse. The list goes on and on.

But, remember The Yellow Pad? No writer was without one or a pencil or pen to write on it. Fifty lined sheets begged to be written upon. With a pencil changes could be made with ease using an eraser. Erasers came in varied sizes shapes and materials. All worked well on The Yellow Pad.

And remember when you filled that last sheet, and took a clean Yellow Pad from the shelf to continue writing. That was always a good feeling of accomplishment. It kept you going in a way. You never counted the pages because you knew there were fifty. What did a Yellow Pad cost then? Twenty cents, thirty. Hell’s fire, pencils were only a nickel, and if you had a good pocket-knife, and knew how to use it, you didn’t need to buy a sharpener. With a pencil and a Yellow Pad you were in business. There were even editors that accepted some writers’ manuscripts written on Yellow Pads. Alas, I wasn’t one of those. I had to transfer those words to a blank white sheet of paper with a typewriter using two fingers. I had to borrow the typewriter. But, you had to be very careful. Corrections meant six carbon copies to erase and change. And, it took a different kind of eraser to obliterate typewriter ink. It never looked the same either.

My storage room has four large boxes filled with Yellow Pads. Every pad is filled. I know there are two non-fiction books and two novels in those boxes. And, they have been published. But, I’ll never toss away those Yellow Pads. Should I ever need more storage space, I’ll build another room, but the Yellow Pads with all that writing filling their fifty pages each will stay at rest. They deserve that much.

I stared at the computer for a month before I dared turn on the switch. It sat on a table so I could step around it to sit at my desk where I could write on my Yellow Pads. Of course, in time I started learning how to work the damn thing, but I realized soon that it meant learning more than what happened when I pushed different keys, I had to learn a completely new language. It was both spoken and written. It was also baffling, (and still is). In this new language a series of letters not making a word meant something important. I was only used to knowing that NRA meant National Recovery Act back in The Great Depression, and WPA meant Works Progress Administration, also in that time period. I also knew that WWA means Western Writers of America. I had no clue that RTF means Rich Text Format and I still haven’t a clue as to what Rich Text Format is or does. That list also goes on and on

But there have been plenty of laughs along the road to learning how to use a computer. In one book I changed the name of a character from Jack Ryland to Jason Roland. Pushing the command button on the keyboard along with the “f” key the “find” window popped into view. Again, with my two fingers I typed in Jack, clicked on “replace all” and then wrote in Jason in the space devoted to the resultant desired change. Satisfied and smug with my accomplishment, I hit the “replace all” command oval. Almost immediately, (another mind boggling characteristic of computers is their speed of execution), I saw the announcement that thirteen Jacks had been changed to Jason. Wow, that was easy, and I sat back I my chair in wonderment. Later, as I read through the manuscript I came upon “Jason rabbit”, then “pump Jason”, and even “Jason pot”. Bewildered by this I soon realized just how I had accomplished such a miracle. I also learned that important lesson that computers do exactly what you tell them to do. I also thought back and said to myself, ”This would never have happened on The Yellow Pad."

The other day I went to the office supply store to buy some toner for my printer. They don’t call it ink anymore. It is “toner”. No matter why I go to the office supply store I always end up strolling around to see what might be new. So I passed by the stacks of cases containing printer paper. I still had half a case. Beyond there was a shelf, part of which held The Yellow Pads. There was a stack of them all shrink-wrapped into bundles of six. The price wasn’t twenty cents per pad anymore, but the price was reasonable in my mind. I stood there a while thinking about those Yellow Pads. I couldn’t help myself a minute more. I reached down and grabbed a bundle and put it in the cart with my toner. As I wheeled the cart next to the cashier’s stand I thought once again about buying those Yellow Pads. One never knows when the power will go off or how long it will stay off. I patted the bundle of Yellow Pads as I put them on the counter.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Writing reviews for The Internet Review of Books

These are the reviews I've written for the Internet Review of Books dating back to October 2007. If you decide to purchase any of these through links on the review pages, the Internet Review of Books will earn a few pennies. In any case, please enjoy the reviews.

Contract with the Earth, by Newt Gingrich

American Lion, by Jon Meacham

Bananas, by Peter Chapman

Beyond Terror and Martyrdom, by Gilles Kepel

Blue Covenant, by Maude Barlow

Come to Think of It, by Daniel Schorr

Destiny Disrupted, by Tamim Ansary

Home Girl, by Judith Matloff

Independents Day, by Lou Dobbs

Simplexity, by Jeffrey Kluger

The Age of American Unreason, by Susan Jacoby

The Book that Changed My Life, by Roxanne J. Coady & Joy Johannessen

The First Day of the Blitz, by Peter Stansky

The Gamble, by Thomas E. Ricks

Three Generations, No Imbeciles, by Paul A. Lombardo

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Distractions from writing

I've been doing once-monthly radio interviews of local authors here in Las Cruces and have been eagerly waiting for podcasts of old shows to become available on KSNM's website. They're still getting things set up over there, but here is the first podcast they have ready for me, a chat with my friend the retired cardiologist David Hoekenga (at right):

Lately I seem to have been doing anything but writing. For example, there is an acquaintance's mother's apparently doomed appeal of an application for a green card that's consumed a ton of email and telephone time. There is organizing a writing contest for one writers' group and organizing meetings for another. There is fixing a supposedly professionally written press kit for When Pigs Fly. And straining my little brain to understand a lay explanation of E=mc2 for a book I'm going to review—and—oh, a whole passel of excuses for neither writing new fiction nor blogging nor keeping up with friends' blogs.

I'll try to fix that soon unless something else sidetracks me, like wondering why a green card isn't green. Here's a sample I found on the Internet: