Trying something different

Posted in outline, pantser, plotter, writing with tags , , , on Saturday, December 13, 2014 by Ed Wyrd

I’m what is known in the writing community as a “pantser.” That means someone who is an organic writer, one who “writes from the seat of their pants.” Pantsers don’t make outlines or pre-write or make any sort of preparation before they write, they just start writing. We just jump into the river without looking and commence to swimming downstream, generally writing from beginning to end.

On the other side of the fence are the plotters. Before they ever get around to writing that first word in their story, they’ve done their preparations, created outlines, made up a bunch of 3×5 cards, scribbled on a white board the various turns and twists and with who knows what other information they feel is necessary to get things in order before they get down to the writing proper.

Pantsers and plotters do not get along. Its the literary equivalent of the Hatfield and the McCoys. Get enough writers together, throw in the topic of outlines, and before long, they’ll form up sides and begin to throw insults, eggs, and rotten tomatoes at each other. Each side believes its their way or no way at all and they’ll never see eye-to-eye. Its a feud that goes back to prehistoric days when two cavemen, Groo and Oop were tasked with painting the cave walls. Groo immediately set out drawing directly onto the wall, while Oop started to pre-write what he wanted in the sand. Oop criticized Groo for a misplaced antelope, “That not happen if you plot.” Groo took it badly and kicked at Oops writing in the sand. “That not happen if you paint on wall!” Blows were exchanged and the two started to grapple with each other. They fell to the ground, wrestled and rolled out of the cave where they were promptly eaten by a saber-toothed tiger.

For many years, I’ve been a true pantser. I’ve just picked up my fountain pen and started writing without any idea of anything. Like magic, the words would flow and I’d be completely surprised by what ended up on the paper. I’ve never tried to analyze how that happens, how I can write a complete story without knowing anything before hand. I’ve been afraid if I analyzed it, I’d lose it. (I once read back in the 1920s there was this champion-caliber golfer, who golfed like nobody’s business. He was, or so I read, that he was head and shoulders above all the other golfers at the time, with a gorgeous swing. A giant among duffers. Then one day, he was approached to write a “How to” book on his golf swing. He sat down and tried to analyze his swing, how he approached the game, and you know what? He over-analyzed it and actually lost whatever it was that made him so great. His analysis paralyzed his talent and he was never the same again.)

But my current project, which I have yet to write a word of, seems different to me. I’ve been letting it percolate in my head. I’ve already got a beginning scene, several action scenes, a few character sketches, all in my head. But things are beginning to overflow. I’m running out of room, so to speak, in my head and the other day I made a list of the characters who I expected to be in the story.

And keeping with the semi-plotter idea, I’m trying to figure out how the program “Shrivener” works, because I’m going to start writing each of those scenes — out of sequence — and that program looks like a convenient way to keep them organized.

So we’ll see how it goes. It’s a whole new concept for me, writing from prepared notes and pre-written scenes. I’m walking the fence, so to speak, between organic writing and plotting. With any luck, I’ll be able to perform that tightrope walk and I won’t slip, fall, and get eaten by a saber-tooth.

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Smoking, then and now

Posted in smoking, cigarettes with tags , on Tuesday, December 9, 2014 by Ed Wyrd

Presently, 17.8% of Americans smoke cigarettes. Less than 1 in 5.

Remember the good old days when everyone smoked and they could smoke any where? You could smoke at your desk. You could smoke in restaurants and bars. You could smoke everywhere. You could provably even smoke in movie theaters, but no one did or it would make it difficult to see the picture. But you could smoke in the lobby.

Everyone smoked. Just watch any movie from the ’40s. Everyone has one lit. They talked with it dangling from their lips. They held it in their hand. There was always one burning in a ashtray.

Smoking was ingrained in our culture. When you first met someone, the first thing you did was offer them a smoke. Gentlemen always lit a woman’s cigarette.

Advertising was everywhere. TV. Magazines. Newspapers. Radio. Even books had an insert extolling the benefits of one brand or another.

Ads for cigarettes were some of the more memorable written. Who can forget “Call for Phillip Morris!” here with Desi and Lucy promoting them.

Remember the Marlboro man?

And the jingles were some of the best ever written. “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should” (and most of us were willing to forgive the bad grammar).

OK, that didn’t have the “Winston tastes good” jingle. This one does, and it also shows how much fun you can have smoking. Almost as much fun as drinking beer!

Here’s another memorable jingle: “You can take Salem out of the country, BUT! You can’t take the country out of Salem.” Whatever the hell that means.

“Springtime, it happens every Salem.” And it has natural menthol, not that artificial stuff!

And not only does Newport taste smoother, but the TV characters jump right out into your living room!

As Kool as a breath of fresh air.

And forget about all the nonsense about Surgeon General warnings, more doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.

And of course, even the Flintstones got into the act!

So what happened? How did cigarettes go from being so popular, enjoyed by millions to this, where barely 1 in 5 Americans smoke?

A bunch of busy bodies, that’s what. There were maybe two or three non-smokers in America, but they started a grass roots campaign spreading lies and misconceptions about cigarettes. That they caused cancer. Really? What about people who have never smoked who get cancer? Huh? That it puts you in an early grave? Explain those people in their 90s who smoked then. That it gives you bad breath. Obviously you missed the part about menthol.

So cigarettes, once the relaxing, delicious 5 minute break has become banned almost everywhere. Smokers, once thought of sexy and suave, are considered pariahs.

I hope you non-smokers are happy. You’ve destroyed an entire, beautiful life style.

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Dirty Airy

Posted in Uncategorized on Tuesday, November 18, 2014 by Ed Wyrd

Its only November and 50% of the contiguous United States has snow cover. Here in Wisconsin, up north aways, by Gile, they recorded 50.1 inches of snow. Yes, four feet of the white stuff fell from November 10th through early morning November 14.

November. Normally we average temperatures in the 40s. This year we’re going through temperatures in the teens and colder.

This year, winter has come early and by many predictions, it’ll be here for a long while.

Milwaukee has been subjected to a long strange weather pattern over the last three or four years. We went through a period where we set a record for the longest time between snowfalls, 288 days set in 2012. (And I believe Chicago went 329 days without snow.)

That also happened to be the last year Milwaukee saw a decent summer. The last two were cool and wet.

Then in January 2014, we set a record for consecutive days below zero, 28. Not only that, 2014 was the year every month from January through June had below average temperatures (I stopped keeping track after that, so its possible that trend continued until November).

And it isn’t just Milwaukee. There’s drought in California, super storms across America, and unusual weather around the world.

Is this recent spate of weather just a fluke, or is this what Climate Change looks like? Well, to tell you the truth, in all the excitement over global warming, I’ve kinda lost track. But seeing how this is the Earth, and our lives depend on its fragile ecosystem, before you throw out denier rhetoric and spew more greenhouse gases into the air, you have to ask yourself, “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?

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The Compromise Gap

Posted in bolognium, Democrat, GOP with tags , , on Wednesday, November 5, 2014 by Ed Wyrd

Tuesday’s elections swung the power in Congress into the hands of the Republicans. Many Democrats, myself included, couldn’t understand why anyone paying attention to what was going on would vote for a Republican.

Many others seem to believe both parties are at fault. There might be some truth in that. One of the biggest complaints is neither party is willing to negotiate. Nobody on the right or left is willing to compromise. But the actual fact of the matter is, both parties have tried to negotiate, but the problem is something called the Compromise Gap.

What is the compromise gap? I’m glad you asked and what better way to illustrate it than with a graphic? Why, with two graphics, of course.

compromise gap

Graphic 1 illustrates how things used to be. The line represents the entire political spectrum; the farther right you go, the more conservative you become and the farther left you go the more liberal you become. In the center lie the America people, mostly moderate, not too liberal, not too conservative, just right.

The GOP and the Democrats traditionally occupied the circled areas, fluctuating along the line from more so to less so year to year, but never really deviating all that much between 4 and 5 for the GOP and 6 and 7 for the Dems.

The fringe groups occupy the farthest extremes on the scale. Representing the right wing extremists are the Christian Right, now joined more recently by the Tea Party. I didn’t bother to make a circle for the radical left, because as I’ll explain, they don’t have much of an affect upon the movement of the Democratic Party as a whole.

For years, the GOP and the Dems haven’t had very far to go to reach the center, where the majority of Americans await. It was easy to compromise on many issues. The two parties negotiated readily and those involved were often viewed as statesmen.

But then, the Tea Party and the Christian Right began to gain political clout, winning elections on their extremist platforms. With each new success, their political reach grew and the GOP was sucked across the political spectrum by their strengthening gravitation field, pulling the traditional Republicans farther and farther to the right.

Graphic 2 shows how things are today. The Tea Party and Christian Right still occupy the extreme right position, but now the traditional Republicans have been dragged over and occupy positions 2 and 3 on the scale compared to their previous position of 4 and 5, whereas the Democrats haven’t moved at all.

So there are several things at play here. First, many conservatives think the liberals have moved farther left, not realizing it is they, and they alone, who have moved.

Second, the Compromise Gap, once easily bridged has now grown into a political Ginnungagap, a vast, insurmountable frozen void that neither party is willing to cross for fear they’ll fall in and be destroyed.

Sure, both parties are still willing to negotiate the same 1 or 2 points left or right on the scale that they always have. And the Dems when negotiating are still crossing to the center where the rest of America as a whole still resides. And the GOP, likewise, is still willing to negotiate the same distance they did before, except for them, they now reside so far right that their attempts to compromise only land them solidly within the conservative spectrum, still many points away from center.

And it is the Republicans who decry the Dems for not being willing to cross the great divide while completely ignorant of the fact that they’ve moved so far right that even centrists seem like extreme liberals to them now.

It is not the Democrats’ fault at all that negotiations have often failed miserably, nor should anyone really expect them to move farther right than they already are.

The best the nation can hope for is a return to sanity on the side of the Republicans. Only by rejecting the fringe fanatical right wing and moving closer to center can we ever hope for the good old days of compromise and negotiation.

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Day 5 with Motorola Droid Turbo

Posted in Android, Droid Turbo, iPhone, motorola with tags , , , , , on Tuesday, November 4, 2014 by Ed Wyrd

It’s been five days that I’ve had the Motorola Droid Turbo. So far, I find it to be a great phone. Much better than the Nokia Lumia 928 I traded in for it. And tons better than the iPhone 4s I had prior to that.

Some quick thoughts: It’s fast. The apps open (some times they didn’t work at all on the Nokia Win8 phone) quickly and operate flawlessly.

It has really nice Internet reception and data transfer at work and in the mall I walk. I’ve only had two minor “Lost Internet Connection” issues and one was in the enclosed stairwell. That’s a whole lot better than my previous three smartphones. The Samsung Galaxy S had a habit of hanging up completely because it couldn’t get a signal in our building. I’d have to shut it down and take out the battery to get it to resync to the Internet. The iPhone hung up, too, often requiring me to do a hard restart. The Nokia wasn’t bad except for the fact that none of the social media apps worked. I could get things through the browser, sometimes. I give it an B+.

The battery is pretty impressive. I unplugged it this morning at 6:30 am and right now at 5:00 pm, it’s at 28%. That’s pretty incredible. Those other phones? I’d have had to plug in by Noon! Sure, the ads say the battery will last two days, but I’m a heavy user. I give it an A+.

As a music player? When I try to drag M4a or WMA, nothing happens. It shows up in the file manager, but you can’t see it in the phone’s player. It only takes MP3 files. Guess I have to figure out how to convert all my files to MP3. That’s a bummer. But the player itself? Awesome. Best sound I’ve ever heard from a smartphone. Great stereo separation. It’s like I’m hearing these songs that I’ve listened to on all my previous phones for the first time. For the sound, I give it an A+, but because I can’t figure out how to use M4a or WMA on it, I give it an overall B+.

The camera. I read one review that said this was the Droid Turbo’s weak point. What? It is 21megapixels. I thought my Nokia, with it’s 8.7 mp with the Carl Zeiss lens was decent, but this, well, even I can take some nice, in focus, pictures. Even my state-of-the-art SLRs couldn’t do that. I give it an A+.

So far, I haven’t run across any negatives on the Droid Turbo. Granted, it’s only been five days and these are just first impressions. But so far, the Droid Turbo is a great smartphone.

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Buh-Bye WIndows Phone

Posted in Android, iPhone, motorola, motorola droid turbo, win8 phone with tags , , , , on Friday, October 31, 2014 by Ed Wyrd

My first touchscreen phone was an LG. It wasn’t an Android, this was long before Google. Nor did I have a data plan, so my Internet use on it was limited. Mostly used for texting, with a flip open keyboard, and as a phone. You know, that thing people do when they hold the object to their head and say, “Hello? Is Joe there?”

But then the true smartphone revolution started. IOS, then Android (forget about all those silly first attempts like the Palm Pilot and Crackberry — which for about 2 seconds I had thought about the Crackberry Storm, but then I came to my senses), and of course, Windows.

My first smartphone in this area was the Samsung Galaxy S. I believe it was the first iteration. At first blush, it was a pretty great phone. But after a few months, that blush turned to a flush of anger as I discovered more and more things about it that simply irritated me. I probably blogged about that at some point.

So when that contract was up, I switched to the Apple iPhone 4S. And again, at first blush, I thought it was marvelous. I became an Apple fanboy. I was going to switch every electronic device I owned over to Apple, but that lasted for only about a year, then I started getting irritated by it again. For one thing, since it was an Apple, everything was proprietary. I had to use their music service, which also meant their software on my computer, software that wasn’t always compatible with my Windows machine. There were other complaints, which I’m sure I blogged about, but most critical to me was writing. The iPhone just didn’t have a writing program completely compatible with MS Word. And the teeny tiny screen made editing on it a nightmare.

So I divested myself of that as quickly as I could and picked up a Windows 8 Nokia Lumia 928. Best thing about it? It had a phone version of Word that was completely compatible with my laptop’s version. I could edit on it without any hiccups or complaints. So for that reason alone, I was happy. But, as the year went on, I started to realize how pathetic Win8 apps were. I thought I could live without many of the ones I had on my Android and my iPhone, but no. There wasn’t an app for my bank, or an app for Wisconsin Public Radio, or Live365, for starts. But more importantly, the apps it did have, Facebook, Twitter, and so on, were crap. More often than not, when connecting to Facebook, I received an error, “We’re having trouble receiving data.” Totally frustrating and it got to the point where that was the deal-breaker. A smartphone without useable apps is a paper weight.

So guess what? Yes. I have a new phone. I’ve gone back to Android. If it isn’t 100% compatible with my laptop, at least it will be compatible with my Samsung tablet.

What did I get? The just released Motorola Droid Turbo. Just released the day we bought it. Verizon has just started the ad campaign for it. I’ll let you know how much I like it in a few years, but so far, the Facebook app flies! Literally. Whereas the Win8 phone took forever to load, then took an addition forever to refresh, this one is open the instant you touch it and it responds instantly to every touch. Beautiful.

To me, the 21 megapixel camera itself is worth the price of admission. It puts my Nokia, which had an 8.7 mp camera with a Carl Zeiss lens, to shame.

My youngest son has had the Motorola Droid Maxx for a few months and has been very happy with it. I know Motorola fell on hard times for a while there after creating the original Droid, which was all the buzz back then. But things fell apart and much of their equipment was less than stellar. Then they were bought out by Google, and now by Lenovo, which puts them in very good hands. Lenovo makes some excellent devices.

As the months go by, I’ll try to give a report on my impressions, first, and with continued use, but for now:

Hello Moto.

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Adventures in ADHD

Posted in ADHD, life with tags , , on Friday, October 24, 2014 by Ed Wyrd

In our previous episode of “Adventures in ADHD,” I mentioned how important routine is to a sufferer of Attention Deficit.

Today, I bring another good example from personal experience.

Routinely, when I get home, I put my phone by my computer to charge overnight.

Routinely, when I get out of my work clothes and into that evening’s comfy clothes, I put my wallet on my dresser.

Routinely, in the morning when I dress, I put my wallet in my pocket, go downstairs and put the phone in my pocket.

Yesterday, for some reason, When I changes out of my work clothes, my phone was still in my pocket and I set it on my dresser, as well as my wallet.

This morning I got dressed, saw my phone and put it in my pocket. Do you see the problem? The action of taking the phone and putting it on my pocket was an unanticipated step in my routine that took the place of a normal step.

I continued to get ready, and left for work. I parked my car, got out, and felt something wasn’t quite right.

I reached into my pocket and…

…no wallet!

This meant, not only could I not buy anything, my morning coffee because our Keurig is down, but I also can’t get into work or use the elevator because my keypass is in my wallet!

Its going to be a great day. Thank god its Friday.

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