Bring back the Underwood

underwood

Just bought a new laptop. I have a sudden desire to get an Underwood.

I’m no Luddite. I appreciate advances in technology. My phone is invariably with me and my audio/video system, while on the duller edge of the curve, has brought me plenty of enjoyment. Technology can make us more productive in many fields. It can also be a lot of fun. The problem is, the leading edge is too far ahead of me. It even leaves itself behind at times.

Have you noticed that, with each advance, we lose something? Few would choose to go back to analog recordings, but Neil Young is right when he decries the subtlety lost in the digital recordings we all use now. More is lost in the compression algorithms used, whether for audio or video. (Can you spell MP3?) Plus, we’re watching films on 3 inch phones that were intended for acre-size screens. One step forward, two or more back?

Like most computers, which are no longer used or useful for computing (or writing), cell phones fail at their original raison d’etre. Yeah, they’re great for lots of things—texting, browsing, reading—but between dropped connections, poor reception, speech delay, and butt calls, their suitability for talking to other people is debatable.

Matters grow worse as I age. The value of high-def TV and audio is lost on my low-def eyes and ears. As devices get smaller, the controls necessarily do as well. My fingers weren’t meant to manipulate buttons the size of boogers.

As a writer, I’ve already chronicled my frustrations with the modern computer in this post on my other blog. (It would have been more appropriate in this forum, but I hadn’t started this blog yet when I wrote that in 2014. Consider this my atonement. Please note that I predicted the rapid deployment of landscape-format web sites.) Those complaints remain valid. And since that day, no one has yet come out with the “writer’s laptop” I asked for. I suspect no one will.

I want to write.

I don’t want moronic games.

I don’t want to remove your bloatware.

I don’t want to learn new versions of software every six months.

Have I made myself clear enough yet? I’m a writer. I want to write words.

Don’t even get me started on Windows 10. Heaven help the writer.

Haiti seven years after

Does the seventh anniversary of the earthquake that ravaged Haiti mean so much to me because I wrote a book about it? Or did I write a book about the Haiti earthquake because it meant so much to me? One can never be 100% sure of one’s own motives but I’d be dreadfully disappointed in myself if there were even a hint of truth in the former.

Rather, I hope I wrote a book about Haiti because of my love for the nation and its people. Exposing others to the truth about a place so badly misunderstood is one of my missions in life. Thus, it’s appropriate to keep the nation and its plight in the forefront of peoples’ consciousnesses, whether through a blog or a photo or a book.

Never forget.

proudhaitian

[This is important enough that I wrote a much longer post in my other blog. You can read it here.]

HTML for real life

When the technical and business worlds collide with real life, the results can be entertaining and instructive, giving insights into both. A couple of very clever guys, Tripp and Tyler, have leveraged this intersection to create (at least) two hysterical videos: A Conference Call in Real Life and Email in Real Life.

Why not push this into other areas? Back in the day when I was a software engineer, I dabbled in HTML. (Just enough to get myself in trouble.) In its simplest form, HTML involves a directive, i.e. an HTML command, that applies to all following text until an end marker, in the form of a slash and the same command, is encountered. For example, I can put text in italics by using the following syntax:

<i>This is in italics.</i>

…would appear on the screen as:

This is in italics.

It’s time to incorporate basic HTML notation in real life. That way, we can tell how to treat certain language and behaviors. Not only would this make intentions obvious to everyone, thus allowing us all to be prepared for what’s coming, it would be a boon for those of us who have trouble picking up both verbal and non-verbal cues.

Here’s a sampling of ideas that would improve our quality of life immediately, were they to be implemented across the board:

  • <whine>They don’t make good movies anymore.</whine>
  • <sarcasm>Oh, yeah, that’s a great idea.</sarcasm>
  • <throwaway>I’m fine. How are you?</throwaway>
  • <lie>No one respects women more than me.</lie> (In reality, no need for an end marker for this guy.)
  • <defensive>As a matter of fact, yes, I am a vegan.</defensive>
  • <flirt>Here, let me fix that strap for you.</flirt>
  • <insult>Your words are like water to a drowning man.</insult>
  • <braindamaged>I have a gun in my house to keep my family safe.</braindamaged>
  • <gossip>It was probably someone else with that woman, but it sure looked like Jim.</gossip>
  • <delusional>Steven Spielberg said he’d read my screenplay.</delusional>
  • <selfpromotion>I wouldn’t say so myself, but some people call me a genius.</selfpromotion>
  • <insincere>Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.</insincere>

You get the idea. Wouldn’t discourse be easier to follow if this notation were used? Which syntax would you like to see implemented?

Christmas Bells

[Although this is a blog dedicated to my writing, it would be the ultimate hubris on my part to think that my creations alone are worth publishing. Thus, I present a real writer, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and his contribution to our Christmas literary legacy. This poem is as relevant today as it was when Longfellow composed it during the Civil War.]

church_bells

Christmas Bells

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

YALMP

This is YALMP: Yet Another Lazy Man’s Post. Sometimes, you do what you must to meet deadlines, even self-imposed ones. Case in point, this post.

First, a funny email header I saw:

clown

Hard to believe there’s room for any more clowns in corporate America.


Second, this being a writing blog, here’s a short story I wrote several years ago. I already published it in my other blog, Limping in the Light, before this blog was begun. Rather than copy it into this space, here are three links, each to a part of the story.

6 Hours

Part one

Part two

Part three

Enjoy! And Merry Christmas!

“Idiocracy” and other reflections on the demise of America

Written Wednesday morning, 11/9.

I’m not a drinker, so I’ve never known the misery of “the morning after”. Until now. As penitence, purge, and catharsis, I offer up this series of reflections. Think of it as “literary ipecac”. (I’m also considering taking up binge drinking.)

For a long time I resisted recommending the movie “Idiocracy” (tag line: “In the future, intelligence is extinct.”) because, while it’s smart and funny, it’s incredibly profane. Now, in the aftermath of one of the most shameful days in American history, I feel comfortable doing so. In fact, I consider it mandatory viewing, especially the opening setup. Not only is it hysterically funny, it has proven to be prophetic, almost frighteningly accurate.

For reasons I can’t figure out myself, I’ve never written about my father here. He died one year ago this month. He was a stereotypical member of “the greatest generation”. He lived to make sure his children had better lives than he did. He worked for the same company for decades. He fought on a PT boat in the South Pacific in World War II. (You remember WWII – the last war that wasn’t fought purely to generate profit for American industry.) I was incredibly proud of him. As much as I miss my father, I’m glad he isn’t around to see this day. He used to say, “I didn’t fight in a war just to see this country sold to billionaires.” I can’t imagine what it would do to him to see it handed over for free.

Time to dust off my “Don’t blame me, I’m from Massachusetts” bumper sticker. It served me well when a previous sleaze-bag won an election. This pudgy-fingered, overgrown, adolescent sexual predator makes Nixon look like Mother Teresa. I’ve never been more proud to be a citizen of Massachusetts.

I’ve been ashamed of my country before. The war in Vietnam, Watergate, our silence in Rwanda, and the invasion of Iraq in my lifetime were embarrassing episodes. They remain taints on our history along with a lot of others that preceded me: slavery, Native American genocide, the internment of Japanese in WWII, the McCarthy hearings. This day can be counted among that infamous number because it could usher in new versions of any or all of those.

In addition to a lot of other negative lessons, this campaign and election have taught me that most American men, especially self-proclaimed “Christians”, hate women.

The term “bully pulpit” has taken on a whole new meaning.

My next vote: Lexapro or Zoloft.

“Make America Hate Again”

Before your president-elect did it, when was the last time you saw someone ridicule a disabled person? Right. Middle school. Most of us grew out of that phase. I have a lot of disabled friends. A lot. That image is burned into my mind forever.

We still haven’t learned that those who forget history (or, more commonly in this culture, were ignorant of it in the first place) are condemned to repeat it. Welcome to the Fourth Reich. Ask holocaust survivors. They’ve been there.

I have a few predictions:
1) The presidunce-elect will not serve out a full term.
2) His ignorance and arrogance will cause a major international tragedy.
3) Along with Nixon and McCarthy, he will be remembered as one of the darkest stains in American history.

To start, I’m going to place all stamps on envelopes upside down, an old protest trick from the Vietnam era. I know it’s just symbolic, but it makes me feel better. It takes on greater significance if there’s a flag on the stamp, as there often is. An American flag flown upside down is a sign of national distress.

There was a similar feeling among some people back in 1980 when the Reagan revolution helped Republicans sweep the presidency and both houses of Congress. That was different. People chose one philosophy and rejected another. It was an ideological victory. This was an idiot-illogical victory.

My previous post in my other blog, LITL, about the Christian community’s culpability in this fiasco is hereby re-emphasized.

Pray for mercy.

I’m going to build a wall around me. I’ll gladly pay for it.

All the news that’s fit to depress

Here’s a column I saw recently in a small-town Maine newspaper. Have you ever seen anything so depressing?

DivorceListEdit

I’ve never seen anything like this. It went on quite a bit longer. Each paragraph saddened me more deeply.

Sorry to ruin your day, but it ruined mine. I couldn’t resist sharing the pain.

On the positive side, each of those items is a story prompt. A sad story.

Photo Dump

I’m a word guy, but whenever I see something that evokes the absurd, I pull out my camera. Phone. Or whatever it is. When enough of them back up, it’s time to dump them on my unsuspecting readers. Consider them all to be writing prompts. There’s bound to be a story behind each one.

This week, here are some photos that capture certain facets of the weird world we live in.

This art exhibit gives the attendee the full "class distinction" immersion experience. (Note: This photo is actually from my daughter who also has a keen eye for the bizarre,)

This art exhibit gives the attendee the full “class distinction” immersion experience. (Note: This photo is actually from my daughter who also has a keen eye for the bizarre.)


3rd Ave at 2nd Ave?!? Is this a math or geography fail? Either way, some mail's gonna get lost.

3rd Ave at Second Ave?!? Is this a math or geography fail? Either way, some mail’s gonna get lost.


For the life of my, I can't figure out who can park here when. There are too many clauses. If you can parse this for me, I'd be much in your debt. Meanwhile I'll play it safe and park on the other side of the street.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out who can park here when. There are too many clauses. If you can parse this for me, I’d be forever in your debt. Meanwhile I’ll play it safe and park on the other side of the street.


It's bad enough that there's a store selling monsters at a discount, but look who's selling them...

It’s bad enough that there’s a store selling monsters at a discount, but look who’s selling them…

...a store for kids! We all thought the movie "Monsters, Inc." explained where the monsters under the bed came from. Now we know different.

…a store for kids! We all thought the movie “Monsters, Inc.” explained where the monsters under the bed came from. Now we know different.


Finally! A store that's selling something we can all really use. Check out the circled sign, lost in a jumble of useless shops.

Finally! A store that’s selling something we can all really use. Check out the circled sign, lost in a jumble of useless shops.


Sign at a local take-out shop. Risking their own business to do their parts to restore some semblance of civility to our technology-obsessed culture. Sign at a local take-out shop. Risking their own business to do their parts to restore some semblance of civility to our technology-obsessed culture.

Sign at a local take-out shop. Risking their own business to do their part to restore some semblance of civility to our technology-obsessed culture.


IMG_20160706_153633066

Power drinks. Neither food nor nourishment, yet they’re in a cooler with that label. Go figure. What else can we expect in a nation where ketchup has been declared a vegetable?


Regression7-26

Believe it or not, this photo was taken in the cradle of American liberty, the birthplace of the American Revolution: Concord (MA) green. Yet they’re using the British term for the traffic circle! It’s a rotary, people! A rotary. Lorries don’t go around it, TRUCKS do! Next thing you know, we’ll be driving on the wrong side of the road! Stop the madness! Is this what we fought the revolution for? I say NO! Then again, who cares.

Bill Gates for President!

GatesHello, I’m Bill Gates. It’s late in the game but nevertheless I’ve decided to “throw my hat into the ring” for the 2016 presidential election. How, you may ask, do I have the temerity to pursue such a goal when I haven’t the slightest experience whatsoever in the fields of politics or statesmanship or public service or governance?

Where have you been for the past year?

It’s been demonstrated that any idiot can achieve the highest office in the nation if he can scrape together a few bucks. I’ve got a lot more than a few bucks.

Hell, if that weasel Donald Trump can run, why can’t I? After all, he’s running on nothing beyond his ability to make money. He’s worth a measly four and a half billion and I’m worth 76 billion.

76 BILLION! Read it and weep, combover clown.

For people who equate intelligence with net worth, that makes me a mega-genius and Mr. Schlump a moron. How appropriate.

I eat impoverished punks like Trump for breakfast and fart them out at lunch. There are 120 people in this country worth more than him, people like Rupert Murdoch, Ralph Lauren and every Tom-Dick-and-Mary in the Walton family. Maybe I’ll put them all in my cabinet. George Lucas (also richer) can run NASA. (Anything to keep him from making more movies.)

That bozo Trump doesn’t know jack about making real money and he wants to run the country? He started out with the fortune daddy-kins gave him and he  managed to make a slightly bigger fortune. Big friggin’ deal. You can do that by putting the money in a savings account. Oh yeah, Trump only had to declare bankruptcy FOUR TIMES on the way to accumulating his pittance.

And the guy calls himself a winner? I think wiener is more like it. What has he won? A handful of Republican primaries over a splintered field of posers and almost never getting a majority until everyone else quit? How’s about Robert Kraft? Four time Super Bowl champ! And richer than loser Schlump! Kraft can be my Surgeon General. He can put warning labels on football helmets.

To sweeten the pot, I’m picking Warren Buffet as Vice President. Between us, we’re worth more than 30 times what Trump is. If a measly 4.5 billion qualifies someone to run for president, we should be emperors of the solar system.

But we’ll settle for making Trump look like the paltry jackass he is.

Vote for me!