Tuesday, November 29, 2022

This Georgia voter's 2022 in-person vote

**After 8 days since Cobb Cty elections office says they issued our absentee ballots, they still hadn't come. Checking with  them, they advised to vote in person. We live 3/4 mile from the Gov't Center where they do "Advance Voting." Every time we've driven past it, there have been long lines and traffic congestion. Son Pete waited a long time a couple days ago. 

Today, about 9:15am we drove over there and saw that though there were lots of cars and a full parking lot, there were no long lines of people outside the building. I let Joan off to get a place in line while I went to hunt for a parking place. As I was waiting in the lot, a woman walked past and indicated she would be vacating the parking place ahead, 5 spaces from the entrance to the lot! 

As she backed out, I saw a Warnock sticker on her bumper. Good sign.

Went to the entrance and was admitted right away, where I joined Joan.  

A poll worker came by and announced that those over 75 should go to the front of the line and have a seat. 

Within 5 minutes we were getting our voting cards processed. 5 minutes after that we'd voted and acquired our stickers:

Even if I'd had my usual 11am swim time, I would have made it. I've got a couple more hours this morning, some of which I'm using to chronicle this easiest voting experience ever.

And, to give due credit, the process was smooth and cheery. At least at the Government Center on Lower Rowell Road in East Cobb.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Forking the Gullible

**  Finally listened to Life Lessons podcast with Gin Stephens. #104 "Healing with Vibrational Therapy with Eileen McKusick" - As I'd feared, this type of program is extremely susceptible to wu-wu. It's a skeptics's game preserve! Claiming to be "based in science," it is the classic selective collecting of evidence to support a pre-determined thesis. 
Tuning forkThis woman sells tuning forks and therapies based on them and the hosts, Gin and Sherri, nod approvingly and gush with approval, neither of them being a scientist, nor apparently a skeptic. Hesitating to post this on one of her youtube vids: 
There is NO scientific basis for anything you sell or promote.Like acupuncture, crystals, tarot cards and the lot. I pity the poor saps who fall for your pitch. Like all scam artists, your "research" consists of selectively assembling scraps of real information in order to support your preferred thesis, while ignoring those that invalidate it.

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

A Blog for the Ages?


Having passed my first year of practicing Intermittent Fasting as a lifestyle, I feel I've learned enough to offer support and information especially relevant to older people. While there are examples on other platform of elderly fasters having great success, it's a mixed bag. Many issues with older folks aren't addressed in those forums. I hope to provide that support, authenticated by my own octogenarian status and success with this lifestyle change. 
While weight issues are common among the elderly, there often are other issues with more urgency. These center around health and quality of life. A common mindset of the elderly is the sense of impending doom, which includes a variety of other factors, such as the absence of hope, and fear of the future, a yielding to resignation that often expresses itself as disregard for oneself, both in appearance and in health. I hope to counter this mindset with information on how Intermittent Fasting participates in the human body's own mechanisms for survival to reverse many of the debilities associated with the elderly. It's not a "fountain of youth," so much as a fountain for the hopefulness of youth. 

Monday, September 07, 2020

Can I do this indefinitely?

Writing long form pieces, whether memoir or novel or short story, is a relatively new experience for me. It’s only been since moving to Georgia from northern California that I’ve taken it up. Since then, craft has come under my serious observation, and I’ve sought to improve my writing in a number of ways.

  • I joined a local writing group, one specializing in science fiction, because my novel is nominally "cli-fi," being set in a post-climate-catastrophe Earth with little high technology. This proved helpful on many fronts, introducing me to several useful standards for good fiction writing. Personality clashes and a blurt of hot temper, dislodged me from that group.
  • I also listen to podcasts that focus on writers and writing, including The Book Review podcast from The New York Times. From these I’ve gleaned many writing tips, as well as interesting reading recommendations, from which I’ve benefitted.
  • I use a Kindle e-reader for a couple of reasons: 1) it works best on my "desk treadmill," which is now my only form of exercise; and 2) because it enables highlighting and note-taking that I can later port into a text document so I get a collection of all my notes in one place.
  • In addition, I keep a post-it and pencil handy for when I come across especially good turns of phrase or words that I may be able to use in my own writing. I then type them into a plain document I can quickly scan when I’m searching for a good word.
  • I think my writing has improved measurably since last year, when I started writing my novel, tentatively titled, "The Lifeboat Chronicles." 

But my latest, and most drastic, trick is one I suspect few others will find acceptable, or think possible. It all came about after considering a critique of one of my SF group submissions. Someone noted I had used "the" several times in one long sentence. There’s nothing wrong with that definite article, other than its overuse in a sentence. But I wondered if I could write a long piece without using that word at all in anything where it is not part of a proper noun. To compound my constraint, I also committed to refraining from using "was" anywhere in my writing. (In fact, you will not find them in this very piece.) 

So insidious are those words that I resorted to creating a macro on my computer that beeps me every time I use them, because they sneak in. I’ve maintained this discipline in writing a chapter that as of this date has gone just above fourteen-thousand words, where "the" and "was" do not appear.

Not only have I demonstrated to myself, that it’s possible to write without those words, but I believe my writing has improved because of it. When I find that those verboten words naturally flow out, I have to stop and figure out a different way to express similar concepts. This slows my writing down considerably. I’ve already written about countering "efficiency" in writing. I still use an iPad and an Apple Pencil to hand print first drafts. But this discipline slows me down even more.

What I feel results is second or third draft quality in a first draft. I still go back and edit, but I never add those two banished words. I think my writing is better because it’s denser. You may not agree. But at this point it satisfies me that it’s a valuable discipline. I just don’t know if I can keep up not using that one definite article indefinitely! 

Friday, April 03, 2020

Short stories, short leash

As a kind of authorial therapy, I took the advice of someone and started writing short stories as a way to exercise my writing muscles and generate an oeuvre. Since January, I've written four stories. Quite prolix of me, I'd say.

But nobody is reading them. It's like extracting blood from a stone to get anyone to read the damn things. I'm tempted to just "publish" them here, on this exoplanet of blogs, where only aliens may drift by randomly over eons of time.

Here's the list:

A Dacha for DonRicco
Almost Adequate
The Glass

I work on these things as though it's my highly-paid full-time job. I refuse to think of it as a "hobby," as one of my writing group members calls it. At 79, I don't need any friggin' hobbies. Everything I do these days is part of my last rites. Fuck you, hobbyists, worthless time-wasters and foolish futurists.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Rejection by friendly fire

The withering effect of a rejection letter is something I've never experienced as a serious writer.

Two ways to accomplish this:

1. Have your first and subsequent submissions published

2. Submit nothing for publication

I just found a third way to achieve a similar effect: ask a friend who is a published writer to read something of yours that you like. Until his reply, I lived in painless privacy.

Now I am a man  — or at least I am a writer still aspiring to be published, posthumously or sooner. He is probably right, of course, about the short story and he took my imposition graciously, standing in for the agent I wish I had.

Not in defense, but as context, the story I showed him came about as part of an exercise routine I'd adopted recently that promised to strengthen my writing skills — kind of weight training for word-lifters. The advice was to write short stories even while working on a novel. I'm not sure how well I built my writing chops, but in writing the story, I had fun. A nice bonus. I'm close to finishing my second story, which I'll keep for when my agent-prince comes. So, my writer friend can relax.

Having recently turned seventy-nine, I'm envious of what my slightly younger friend has accomplished: "three early suspense novels," four self-published on Amazon, a new novel in the publishing process, etc.

One of the harsh realities of aging is having the realization sneak up on you that you have become useless. Not that I was so useful before (religious fanatic et al.), but at least I enjoyed for a while the illusion of fulfilling a purpose.

As someone bouncing along on the tailgate of life, writing prose has become palliative care, and, so far, the drugs are working fine —  except on my overworked tailbone. To get some serious feedback, I've joined a local writing group, which keeps me working on the cli-fi novel that'll probably never get finished. In the meantime, I'll keep writing short stories, for fitness, and possibly for a collection someday. But I'll keep them to myself.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Slo-mo Retro-Techno Combo

Because you scrutinize every pixel on this author blog, you've encountered a strange, odd, different, rare, still life background image on the home page. It shows an iPad lying on the keyboard of a MacBook. There's an Apple pencil 2 resting on the iPad that is displaying some hand-printed text. And because you scrutinize every pixel on this page, you also notice the
MacBook is open to a grammar-checking app where the text from the iPad is being analyzed.

The photo illustrates part of my writing method: I first hand write the text on the iPad, then transcribe it by typing it into the grammar checker, rewriting along the way. After that, I paste the cleaned-up digitized text into a professional writing app, Scrivener, where I continue to edit.

Highly inefficient, you say, you scions of the digital age. I hear ya. Been there.

Some of you may remember that "word processors" were made by business machine companies and used to cost up to twenty-thousand dollars. They were clumsier than WordStar or WordPerfect, the neandertalic, yet vastly superior, PC programs that replaced those pricey clunk-o-matics.

Highly inefficient, you say, to take three passes at the text, when a modern "text editor app" would have sufficed. Yep, since the Eighties, such was my method of long-form, and even short-form, writing.

But I have changed my ways after hearing an interview with an author whose work I would probably never read, though I commend him for his perspicacity. And endurance. He spoke with a NYT interviewer on the occasion of the publication of his FIFTH volume of a biography about President Lyndon Johnson. Now, LBJ was a hero, in the tragic-comic sense, but I can't imagine reading, much less writing, five (out of a promised six) volumes of his story.

What turned my writing MO around, however, was his answer to the question: "Do you use a computer to write?"

The expected reply, from a writer of such arcana, would be something along the lines of "Oh, heavens, no! I prefer a pencil and paper, the traditional, more natural way." Something old fogyish.

He didn't. He said something I immediately recognized as true:
"No, computer's too fast."

If I'm writing a bit of fluff, like this post, fast is fine. The computer gets the job done quickly and adds checking tools that keep you from gagging on my typos.

But if I'm conjuring something out of the depths of imagination, I don't need quick. I need slow. Handwriting slow. But even slower than that, which I'll get to in a trice.

The iPad app I use, Notability (there are others), enables handwriting. It's mostly used for note-taking in classes or meetings, etc. At its base, it's a drawing app that records your scribbles. With my Apple pencil, I just draw words on the screen. It's analogous to writing with pencil on paper.

On most occasions when I relate this experience, this is when people usually ask if the app then digitizes the handwriting (there are apps that do).

NO! Absolutely not. I don't want it to. I really WANT to type it all over again. Why? Because I can make changes while I'm re-thinking what I've written. It's a way to knead the clay again. Because it's true, WRITING IS REALLY RE-WRITING. What's the hurry? Where would I go instead? Why do I need "efficiency?" It's not an odious job I need to finish so I can move on to something better. It's an artistic experience, enjoyable all on its own, not dull piecework in a widget factory. I need time to live with the words, the visions, the nuances, the overtones, the surprises.

So, I started handwriting my novel.

In cursive.


Not only was my cursive illegible, but, like a computer, it was "too fast."

So I reverted to grade school-level handwriting. Early grade school. Yes, I PRINTED. Ah, now I had time to envision the words and pictures bubbling up from my whatever, imagination, I suppose. But here, in the midst of retro slow, is where faster is better. Using the high-tech Apple pencil 2, I can switch between the writing tool and an eraser and back with just light finger taps on the barrel of the pencil, allowing me to continue writing and obviating the hash of cross-outs and overprinting. It's faster than with a 3-D pencil and eraser. And no eraser crumbs.

Most of the seventy-five thousands words I've written so far for my current novel have been hand printed on an iPad first. Yes, further refinements have come from the digital tools I use to process those teased-out emanations. But to generate new material, I stick with a "by hand" process. It may take a lot longer, but I think the writing I produce is better than trying to keep up with the inane flurry of evanescent sparks that my brain produces constantly.

I'm not in a hurry to get something finished.  I want to witness the miracle of creativity that, at least for me, comes with slow-cooking the words.