And None On The Wife’s Side

If the eldest’s DNA results are any indication. We had no American come back on my mother’s, even though we “know” there’s Wampanoag. We had none come back on mine, seemingly ruling out that as an unknown but sometimes suspected element on my father’s side.

Now my daughter’s results are in, and fascinating within the realm of the expected. Despite even more muted suspicions on her side, if these results are indicative, no Indian on my wife’s side either.

45% England, Wales and Northwestern Europe
29% Ireland and Scotland
16% Germanic Europe
6% Norway
4% Sweden

While my mother showed a trace of Germanic, I showed none. My father-in-law is of Mennonite ancestry, mainly via Switzerland. If anything, Germanic could have been higher.

My wife had a Swedish great grandmother who lived on the Norway side of the border before coming to the US. This is about as expected for Scandinavian.

My wife has ancestry from Country Cork, specifically, so the kid has a great share of what amounts to Celtic DNA than I do, between mine that’s heavy on the Scottish and hers that’s heavy on the Irish. In fact, the breakdown actually suggests that Irish and Germanic may be my wife’s biggest components.

In the kid, English et al are diluted from my 74% down to 45%. At a crude computation, it implies that the wife might be 16% on that count.

It would be interesting to see what my wife actually registered on a test, and the same for my father.

 

Google Is a Funny Thing

All the more so paired with AWSTATS, which purports to give results on search strings but really doesn’t. On the HTTPS version of the page, the only search string listed for this month is:
“melody s.w.a.l.k. release”

This blog is on the 4th page of Google results, but the result points to the category for Mark Lester. Not for Melody the movie, or just the site overall, or the post that uses enough of the above terms together to make the search work. Weird.

The top hits for melody s.w.a.l.k. release are things like March 28, 1971, parsed and displayed prominently by Google with a graphic linking a search for Melody. Next, per most searches, is the title for the link to “Melody (1971 film) – Wikipedia” linking to the Wikipedia entry.

Then it’s an offering of associated videos, IMDB, a Facebook post on the making of Melody, Rotten Tomatoes, and then it goes from there.

On my non-SSL stats, I show that there have been 1228 hits from Google proper (another 303 from Google Hong Kong) through May 26 for the month, but there’s nothing but nonsense words searched by bots, spammers, hackers or such in the list of search phrases or words. The most popular pages besides the main page are the post on Melodye and a Dog Named Boo, the category of Melody the movie, and a couple Game of Thrones posts. That doesn’t count all the traffic that pounds the pages that are hacker and spammer targets. This is how you can have a blog with comments turned off and still get comments. Mine are on, at least for an initial period of time after I write a post, but nobody ever comments. Just spammers.

I’d love to know what all the searches are that get here via Google.

Update:
Mission accomplished. This post moved me to the first page of results for that string, no quotes, and pointing at the Melody category. Using quotes makes me the only hit other than Google’s information thing that answers the question through AI or whatever.

As for the Melodye post, however else people get there, I’m high up in the hits for the woman’s birth name, and near the top if you add her married surname. Which begs the question of whether that’s how people end up there, searching that name, or if it’s some other way.

Well Darn

The best full copy of Melody on YouTube just got taken down. I figured it was being allowed to stay up because nobody really cared. The movie wasn’t exactly a blockbuster, it’s almost impossible to get a legitimate copy, and it’s almost 50 years old. The rights holders have abandoned the thing in all but name. Being available online lets new people discover what they missed because of lousy distributors and marketing.

I haven’t checked for other versions, but I’ve probably linked that one once or twice and now it’ll be broken. Since playing it from the DVD is tenuous, I’ll have to figure out how to port it to digital form for my own convenience. All I was going to do was play the music room scene because I was remembering how much the reactions Tracy portrayed from Melody regarding Daniel were like reactions I got from Ella when we were a couple years older than the kids in Melody. That’s part of why it’s one of my favorite scenes: the realism.

Update:

Technically this is a legitimate takedown, even though it is silly under the specific circumstances. However, it was done by a super sketchy outfit called LeakID, that has a history of false takedowns/copyright claims on material that is, for instance, homemade and copyright the person who posted it. They were so bad, they got fired years ago by a major software company that probably put them on the map by being their big client. That makes it more insulting than might otherwise be the case. If Puttnam, Parker and the production company suddenly decided Melody had more than sentimental value, that would be one thing. It’s entirely possible nobody actually hired LeakID to go after this movie, or after things by whatever entity owns the movie after all this time. Realistically, it’d be out of copyright and in the public domain after this long anyway. Or approaching it, even with a more liberal yet realistic term.

Forming Ideas

After the previous post, I poked around and discovered the trick of creating a Google Form to enter writing ideas from anywhere that the URL will bring up the form. It can be set to go to a spreadsheet, rather than simply being shown in the results tab when you’re on the form as the user who created it. Making the type of input a paragraph provides freedom for it to be extensive and freeform as  needed.

I have a shortcut to it on my phone and have tested it, though not over phone data rather than WiFi. I had meant to do that in the parking lot at work this morning.

It does me no good if there’s no internet, but if I am in a store or in a parking lot or whatever and have my phone, I can record a thought. That’s a start. I need to get the link onto my Kindle as well.

Writing and Distractions

I’m flowing with writing ideas, and I see it as the only thing I want to do that I can see myself doing. I also see it as a way to make a living, maybe even a decent one, as I head into my old age and increasingly toward my actual underfunded retirement. As opposed to the state of semi-retirement I have occupied for eleven years for various reasons and circumstances. One of the reasons I’ve been blogging relatively heavily is to have that flow going, and to have at least some outlet for the urge to write. I’ve actually written for a living, in a sense, in the past. It’s just that was a role pioneering Microsoft’s web-based tech support in the nineties, rather than the traditional forms of writing you might picture.

The trouble is, I feel privileged if I am able to complete so much as a blog post without losing track of what I was saying due to interruption or distraction.

First, the wife – sometimes the kids, but 98% the wife – interrupts freely without regard to whether I may or may not be concentrating or in the middle of something. We are back to a closed door not mattering, let alone the “working” sign not working. The latter has been foiled by my forgetting ever to flip it from “Working” to “Miller Time” but then again I almost never like to be interrupted. It doesn’t matter if I am writing, working on a web site, doing the proverbial checkbook, reading, or watching something.

Second, myself. I’m on this computer, online, and even if internet is down, with solitaire playable on it. Worse, perhaps, last time I made a major attempt at book writing, I had to be online because I used Google Docs.

I don’t have the space to adopt Jerry Pournelle’s monk’s cell concept, with or without the computer there being online. It would create a clear “do not disturb” zone for others, and a psychological change for my own benefit.

As unimpressed as I’ve been with Martin’s writing, I love his idea of writing on a dedicated DOS computer using WordStar. My first major word processor was WordStar 5.0, on a 286 with DOS. One of the good DOS versions. I think it was 3.3, then I was fortunate to have my newer version be 5 and then 6. I missed the ones before 3.3, and the versions between that and 5, except in passing on computers that were not my own. I adored WordStar 5.0 and had many of the keystrokes memorized. While I was using that, I actually had the chance to try WordPerfect and thought it was about the worst thing ever. My roommate loved it. You could do fancier things if you had the time and inclination to learn how. To be fair, I didn’t need anything fancier than you can do in Windows Notepad. I eventually used others, most notably Ami Pro, which created the resume I used for getting the job doing tech support that, it turned out, was for Word 6 (and the earlier ones if anyone called). I had tried Word 2 and dismissed it before that, but I fell in love with Word 6. It helped to have had intensive training on it.

So I have three problems:

  1. I get distracted too easily, as if I have ADHD more than I ever would have credited.
  2. I get interrupted by others.
  3. I have technical and environmental issues that maximize distraction and hinder focus.

Another thought: I have been known to have trouble bringing myself to reread my stuff to revise [case in point: right here I got interrupted for about an hour, with the biggest component being the wife], edit, or rewrite. This fits well with a possible attack on the goal and problem that I am considering.

We have sometimes talked about my going camping all by myself as a solitary retreat, even for a night. This idea originated with the wife, oddly enough. It makes sense. Camping is the kind of thing I can afford. She doesn’t camp, unless you count the level of rustic involved in going to a friend’s cabin in the woods, using an outhouse or composting toilet, having no refrigeration and modest cooking facilities, and having electricity via a solar setup or generator. There’s hot water and a well. You pretty much have to use the generator to run the pump to fill the tank to have some showers. When we all went there last summer, it was ungodly hot and that was miserable. I spent a lot of time in a pond and that gave me a severe “swimmer’s ear” infection. We almost entirely ate restaurant food or stuff that needed neither cooking nor cooling.

Besides swimming if there’s a pond, walking in the woods with someone who appreciates it (myself), cooking campfire food for the only one who wants it, and reading a lot, that would be a chance to write.

On paper. Realistically, I’d have to write on paper. It’s hard enough to bring a Kindle or two and a phone, keep them charged if the duration is long enough to need it. To write I’d either have to do it on a Kindle or get something portable but bigger. Or use paper.

If I use paper, I can write anywhere. I can sit in a parking lot! I used to write handwritten letters that way. I could pointedly get out of the house, go sit somewhere and spew into a notebook. Not in the yard, since I’d have no peace there. I’d have one of the neighbors standing by the car talking my ear off. Or at the picnic table.

I’d need to get the stuff into electronic form later, and that would force me to read what I had written while transcribing. There would inevitably be at least minor edits and corrections in the process. This may be the part that pushes me hardest to do it.

Another thing I’ve concluded is that I need multiple ideas going at once. I flit too much between things. If the things I have for flitting between are different pieces of writing or planning on paper for stories, then I am more likely to get something done on some of it, rather than nothing on any. That isn’t tied to where I write and the mechanics of it. It’s tied to recognition of my own inability to focus indefinitely on one project without flagging or pursuit of a shiny thing.

I’ve sometimes wondered if I ought to dictate some of my writing. It strikes me as slow yet spontaneous. If I were to work at a modern computer, dictating could be an option for creating a version that needs serious editing. It might have enough of a different feel, revising that, to keep me from dragging my feet. There’s a… stigma, for lack of a better word… associated with speech to text dictation. I spent years supporting Dragon Naturally Speaking for a law firm. I also did a presentation in college – in 1984! – on the state of work being done on voice recognition technology. At the time, they thought they almost had it. Even Dragon was sketchy and got gradually better over several years in basically the early aughts. Now it’s pretty much a given that any voice will be recognized with reasonable to near perfect accuracy by a device, without training or speaking carefully. That’s massive computing power and AI for you. It’s how we have spy devices for our homes, able to understand what we say when we address them. But I digress.

If I get in the writing habit and work on the distraction and focus angle, so long as I have the ideas, this could work.

Awstats Not the Most Useful Thing

I’ve grumbled about this before, including in the recent post about a hit for Tracy Hyde pics that, when I search it, brings up no actual result pointing here. Now I also see one for Tracy Hyde photo, same deal. Most of the “search phrases” reported by Awstats are things like attacku3k, pressdjv, changing1gx, holdk6w, etc. Completely strange and bogus. Then again, the referrers are almost completely fake, too: Referrer spam, in hopes you might click them when you look at your stats, or something. Some of them are topical, at least, like one that points to something on how to be assertive.

Why purport to show search strings in the stats when obviously you can’t or won’t? So far this month, through about 90 minutes ago, I have about 437 hits from Google. The rest are trivial. By comparison to supposed hits from other sources like “direct address,” “bookmark,” or “link in e-mail,” search hits are trivial. However, that is based on “pages,” which is a number inflated by spammers or other malicious sources hitting things on the site that might not even be visible to people. It’s what happens when you get a relative monoculture of one convenient CMS such as WordPress. Or even an oligarchical culture of a few such things, rather than a wild west of people writing their own HTML. Then again, the nature of the web is relatively transparent regardless. Back in the day, PCs using a Microsoft OS got viruses or malware, and, as people would say, “Apple doesn’t get viruses.” Aim at the big target.

So really those Google hits are probably actual people less a portion of malicious sources arriving via search, and are some fair portion of the 2317 “unique visitors” so far this month. Yet the stats can’t see what the search strings were and report them? I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some obfuscation from Google going on, since they are in the business of reporting their own results if you sign your site up with them. Google Analytics, in my experience, is a bit like hitting a gnat with a sledgehammer. Also I haven’t seen actual search strings there, on sites where I have used it, though it’s possible they must be if you look hard enough through the mess that is the interface.

The most useful thing I can discern currently is that an overwhelming amount of my traffic is now from Great Britain, with the next two being a race back and forth between Japan and United States. That’s how it settled out since blocking enough malicious IP addresses to reduce the numbers from the usual suspect countries. What do I post about a lot? Melody, the 1971 movie. Where was it filmed and where did it eventually if not instantly become popular? Great Britain. The actors tend to be from England or elsewhere in the UK. Some of them are actually part of the movie’s fandom. Where was it a runaway hit? Japan. However they’re finding it, that’s gotta be the source of a lot of traffic.

For some reason, this post is particularly popular as a landing page, and has been almost since I posted it, but after that is the category for Melody. Above both of those are the main page, naturally, and the feed. How are that many people reading via RSS? This is not my blogging heyday. Heck, in my blogging heyday, I’d have considered these great stats. I’ve had individual posts avalanched with tens of thousands of hits in years past, but not in a long time. Anyway, after that some of the results include popular ancient posts on an archived site at this domain that was created in Expression Engine and never ported to WordPress. Brave souls, going there when the pages consist of long lists of PHP errors before and after the actual post. The version of PHP on the server outstripped the version supported by EE.

So I can discern a few things mainly by looking at the stats. Melody posts generate some interest. So do some of the music posts. Google sends me a lot of mystery traffic from searches. For all I know, a lot of that goes to the archived site. A weird number of people use the feed. Most of the traffic is nefarious. All I get for comments are spam ones, which I believe these days are generally automated. The mix of pages people visit via HTTPS is substantially different, with the residual politics category and history category being far above Melody, but the total coming that way is dwarfed by plain HTTP.

It’d be fun to see a better report of the search results, but oh well.

At Least I Can Watch Game of Thrones

Somewhere along the way, Comcast talked the wife into adding TV and we got a lower bill for internet service that way. It’s pretty much basic plus HBO. Unlike The Orville now that Disney owns it and wants to punish Comcast’s customers, I can actually watch Game of Thrones on the web.

Despite Martin’s problematic writing of great concepts, and my resulting inability to read the first book, as if it were Winter’s Heart or Crossroads of Twilight, but without excellent context to keep you slogging, I absolutely love the show. I didn’t watch it really, apart from some clips, until after the first six seasons had aired and a guy I used to work with ensured I was able to see it. He later did the same for the seventh season, before he left us for parts unknown.

I fell asleep early last night, in response to that being closer to my normal schedule anyway, and my having gotten too little sleep Saturday night. I woke in the wee hours enough to stay up for a while and watch it.

Of course it was thrilling to see it again after the hiatus, but there were a lot of obligatory moments, and at times a feeling of dialing it in, that weakened the episode. Still, there were many things that needed to be done or checked off and it was well presented for doing so. There were the meetings of people who haven’t been together in a while, or have never been in the same place. Arya and Gendry flirting was everything the shippers could want.

What I don’t get is Bronn. I can’t remember the setup from the previous season that left him in King’s Landing and working for Cersei. WTF? Obviously I missed something, and I find it hard to believe he would actually do the thing she asks of him. Mercenary, yes, but we’ve seen he’s more than that.

Bottom line: I enjoyed it and can’t wait for more.

Watch The Orville?

Every Friday after a new episode airs Thursday night while I’m sleeping, I watch The Orville on the web.

This is the first new episode to air since Disney took ownership.

Unless it’s some crazy oversight that happened when they changed the site unnecessarily because reasons, they have changed it so Comcast customers are not accepted. Comcast did vie with Disney for the purchase of Fox, after all. So let’s punish Comcast customers? Who may have little choice who to use for internet because of the history of localities thinking they had the right to grant monopolies for cable TV service, which was always nonsensical at best.

I didn’t really have time to watch it all before taking the kids to an appointment, but I figured I’d catch part of it. Alas, there will apparently be no commentary from me this episode, and no encouragement of everyone to watch it because it’s awesome. If I won’t be able to watch it, I won’t be able to care. If this is how Disney is going to be, I’m even less likely to want their streaming service than I wasn’t in the first place.

Update:
I looked at this again when I should really have been going to bed, and found they had modified things to acknowledge the “corporate transaction” and changes to Fox TV, and to offer the ability to create an account or log in with Facebook. I did the latter and was excited. Then I agreed to create a password in case I ever wanted to watch something where the FB login wouldn’t work.

Instead of playing the episode, it started a 2 minute and change preview timer for how much you could see before logging in with your cable provider. Comcast remains not an option. Bastards. I’m not going to move onto some paid service just to get the one show. If this isn’t resolved or it doesn’t become available through a service I’d use anyway, they’ll lose an avid viewer and as annoyed as I may sound, I won’t lose sleep over it.

Update April 25, 2019:

As noted here, I checked again and found they had fixed the problem.

Sunday School

We’re talking – well, mostly the wife is talking while I play solitaire so my mind won’t wander – and the subject of Normal Borlaug came up. I had forgotten Borlaug’s birthday was on March 25th. Back in my blogging heyday, I would observe his birthday with a post. He was one of the greatest humans in history.

I interjected that I’d first heard of Norman Borlaug in Sunday school, of all things. Before I rebelled when I was 13 and refused to go to church any more, I would go some weeks and up to a certain age there was Sunday school. This could be fun and interesting, actually. I remember reading and learning about Borlaug in some publication that was the Sunday school equivalent of Weekly Reader. I never forgot that, young as I was.

For all I wasn’t religious and rebelled, I have a soft spot for the church basement where Sunday school was held. I also remember is being in the parish house when I was really little. I also have fond memories of the sisters I crushed on via church, first the one a little older and then the one a little younger than me.

Oh, I remember what I wanted to say besides mentioning Borlaug. School was for the most part a negative experience for me. Sunday was a day off from school. Thus there was extreme dissonance in putting the words Sunday and school together. Ugh. It didn’t have the pressure of school, but it was something I had to do and didn’t want to. It also involved people. A group of people of some size. This was never good for my autistic side and the need for down time.

The Orville Episode 11

I was completely convinced through much of the episode that Gordon would find out that Laura was a distant ancestor of his. They’re much too subtle for that. Nicely done. I was super impressed with Leighton Meester.

I kept thinking “I’m from Iowa. I only work in space.”

Back to the Twilight Zone moment: If the photo with Gordon had somehow been on the phone.

The nicotine addiction subplot was a riot. Tobacco may make me deathly sick, and may be the reason I was sickly before they gave me gamma globulin before I reached elementary school age, and may be the reason my brain phased in and out during school, and may be the reason I got super deathly sick when I was 16 1/2 through the rest of school, and so forth, but I still appreciate the humor and sympathize with the cravings.

I was never clear on why we were transporting the contents of a 400 year old time capsule from Earth to another planet.

I believe I have touched upon the concept of entangled lives and the influence people have on each other here. It’s cool that the show demonstrated it so well. That’s also why there’d be so many ramifications of “going back and changing things based on what we know now.” It’s going to be a dramatically different timeline, even for a minor change, and you might have no conception what would be different. For instance: My parents stay together. That completely eliminates my youngest brother. It eliminates his three kids and leaves his cool wife and her son my brother adopted in other hands. It changes the lives of my stepmother and stepsisters, with us never even knowing them. It would change me completely. In my twenties, I had an odd sort of a delayed meltdown over my parents splitting up. My father left just before I turned 9 and the divorce was final well after I turned 10. It was arguably for the best, but obviously to have not happened, things would already have been different, so there you go.

It’s kind of a thought provoking episode, in terms of how we are remembered, or not, how we interact and affect each other, and how we change but stay the same over the years and centuries.

Free Range Kids

It annoys me that there has to be an expression to describe “free range children.” Back in the olden days, we simply called them children. Yes, not a Melody post! But that inspired it, because it’s such a dramatic image of another time and place. The past is, after all, another country, and that was another country and in the past. It was also a different environment from the one I grew up in, city instead of rural.

I learned to ride a bike when I was 8, rather old because of my mild physical retardation from meningitis as an infant. I believe I talked about this in one post or another in the past few weeks. Once I could ride, that was it! I was gone! I had wings. Nobody thought a thing of my riding three miles to visit friends.

Even before that, though, I was walking all over the woods, to the nearest beach, to the store (over a mile away), and of course to the bus. We had to walk a third of a mile just to get the bus to school. It was rare and frigid for me to get a ride. My mother walked me to the bus, which stopped even farther away, for the town’s version of kindergarten. That was for a short time during the summer before first grade. It gave them a chance to teach us how to go to school and give us some bare preliminaries. Which was funny for me, since I already knew how to read. I don’t remember ever not knowing how to read, so I would guess I learned sometime in the 3-4 years old range. It was physical retardation. After that I walked with my older siblings for first grade, with my sister for second grade, and by myself thereafter. My kids had to walk to elementary school just a little farther than my walk to the bus. We ended up being expected to walk with them through third grade, even though they were considered fine to walk home by themselves.

Someone called the cops on the youngest when he went out to play with a kid about three houses down the street at the age of about 5. That was a little young, but it was also close, with a sidewalk and not busy street. I never did figure out who called. We taught the kids from a young age not to dash into the street and how to cross safely if they needed to. Compared to where I grew up, it’s downright urban, but really it’s a quaint old factory town’s downtown, the outskirts of it, basically suburbia, in a town that ranges to pure rural, cranberry bogs, and thick woods.

Circa first and second grade, I hung out with a kid, Reggie, who lived about a mile from the end of our street (end of our street being the bus stop, 1/3 of a mile from our house). He was on the other side of the main intersection and only traffic light in town. The big business at the junction was a liquor store/variety story with a gas pump. While we spent some time in his house, mostly we ranged around outside. We freely crossed the street. We walked back along the main road most of the way back to my street. We would collect bottles to turn in at the store so we could get ice cream bars or candy. Nobody thought the slightest thing of it that six or seven year old kids were doing this. That would have been about 1967-1968.

I think the last time anyone worried about my going walkabout was when I “went to pick blueberries” when I was 3 and it was the wrong time of year. The dog went with me. Then they went out in the woods and swamp to find me. I gather I wondered what all the fuss was about. Since my father’s business was maybe a tenth of a mile or so up the street from us, I would range between there and the house, almost as early as that age. I’ll never forget being no more than 5 and rushing down the path that was a shortcut between the two, trying to get home and failing. The business had an outhouse. The outhouse tended to attract hornets and I didn’t like it anyway. What a mess! I remember my mother cleaning me up while I stood in the bathroom sink. At least if all we had to do was pee, well, we lived in the woods. The world was our urinal.

I had to save this so I could go to bed on time. It’s always disorienting to pick back up on something like this after it has sat. If it veers off from this point even more than usual, that’s why.

Actually, I can remember going up the street to a building my grandfather worked out of, not long before he was disabled for good, and riding down the street with him on a giant bulldozer. I probably wasn’t even 4 yet then. I know i was extremely young and it’s one of those super early but vivid memories. He had worked for the original owner of all the land around us, who died two years before I was born. He had actually been involved in draining the swamp and building cranberry bogs many of the adult relatives would be employed on during harvest when I was little. We would hang out and watch, maybe hand pick rogue cranberries from the banks around the bogs. The house I grew up in was built for the guy he’d worked for, whose wife then refused to move there. That was how my grandparents came to buy it. My parents took it over when my grandparents couldn’t afford the payments. Originally they had planned to buy land and build a new house across the street. Weirdly, that house exists in my head, along with an imaginary house that never existed on a rise on the other side of the swamp from where we were. Both of those are yellow, whereas the house we ended up in was always white. The house on the other side of the swamp would appear in dreams when I was a kid, with us living in it. It wasn’t something I simply imagined. The house we didn’t build is more a matter of imagining it, knowing it could have happened, rather than it being pure fiction of my subconscious.

Anyway, when I was a kid, I walked all over. I rode my bike all over. When my father’s shop was in another part of town, I walked there from school some days. There was no special permission needed to leave school on foot rather than bus one day.

By the same token, if we were absent from school we were absent. Daniel and Melody didn’t go to school that day and paid the price later. In my case, we were supposed to take a note to the office the next day. I remember that in high school, but not in elementary. However, I seldom missed school in elementary. I was sickly after moving to the house I grew up in, mysteriously, and they eventually injected me with gamma globulin as an experiment to see if it’d help my immunity. It was years before I was sick again to any degree. Then I was sickly the last two years of high school and beyond, to varying degrees ever since. Since the cause became clear after a while, that provided insight into the mystery of my chronic ailment when I was very young, and why (I found out later) it didn’t start until after we moved. Also, it didn’t actually not affect me during the years after the gamma globulin. It just stuck to the more subtle aspects.

If one of my kids missed school, especially elementary, you had to call by a certain time. Like calling out sick from work. In middle school you just call the office, rather than there being a special voicemail line for it. If you don’t call them, they call you to find out if you know your kid isn’t at school. After all, kidnapping! Is! Rampant! Or something.

While my kids are mostly homebodies, they do stuff like walk to the store. The major street between us and many things you might want to walk to is not for the faint of heart, but between us and downtown, and to cross either main road downtown, is not so bad. The oldest is 14. She had a good friend not all that far away, and would walk there, but the friend’s mother kind of freaked out at the idea of doing so, especially in the dark. Conversely, the day her kid got off the late bus and came here, her mother called the police to come get her and was completely freaked out. Granted, the kid was messing with her mother by having her phone’s “battery die so she couldn’t call.” Probably just as well the kids had a falling out. You get too restrictive, then you have offspring who explode later. My kids wouldn’t feel like they couldn’t ask to go, or tell us where they were going. They aren’t as free range as I was in part because they don’t care as much, and in part because it’s a different place and time. At least we’re not stopping them, and they’re all old enough that nobody should be reporting them as unaccompanied kids as so many idiots have done with no good reason.

When I watch Melody, it’s awesome to see the kids roaming around London. They’re not only going to and from school, but also gallivanting around otherwise. It’s awesome to see two 11/12 year olds able to hop on a train and go to the seaside – on a school day! – and nobody questions it. Nobody wonders why they are hanging around at the beach, going on rides, riding the train, all without an adult. Or nobody wonders enough to call the authorities, anyway. that’s old enough that even here and now they might be fine. We’re nominally walking distance from the commuter rail to Boston and points between here and there. Two of the kids are old enough to ride as unaccompanied minors, and would probably receive little or no scrutiny.  In theory, one of them could decide to walk over to the station and pop up to Boston for the day, as long as they had the money. It’s kind of the equivalent. At the actual and apparent age of Melody and Daniel, that wouldn’t be possible. The youngest might even pass for old enough, if it came to it. I can’t see why any of them would think to do that, but it’s there.

When I was 14 and 15, I was riding my bike to high school, about five miles. I was riding to my friend’s house, an additional maybe two miles. I was riding to buzz around Ella’s house, go to the next town north from there, or a couple towns east of there, to watch drum and bugle corps practices, and I was riding home, often in the dark. The power of love. Google tells me the ride straight home from the far flung east practice would be about 7.4 miles. From the northern practice spot straight home would be about 9.6 miles. From the launching point where the group would go to practice, just a few houses from Ella’s, it’d be 5.9 miles to or from home. From there to the eastern practice spot would be about would be about 7.3 miles. So I’d go 5.9 miles, then 7.3 miles, then from there home 7.4 miles, all to stalk Ella and get those extra looks at her and see her in action, wielding a flag or a wooden rifle as part of a choreographed performance. All to the tune of MacArthur Park. It was a bit obsessive. No wonder I related so much to the boy in Endless Love when I read it several years later, and when I saw the film. Even though that was a sexual obsession and it hadn’t occurred to me yet that I ought to be after that as part of it.

I digress. But my point is I was still a freshman in high school, 14 turning 15, and I was everywhere. At that time in my life, I thought it’d be the Best Thing Ever to ride a bike across the whole country. It’d be cool, still, but I’m kind of used to driving. I’d love to drive across the country again, and glad I got even a marginal chance to do it once.

Do kids ride around like that these days? Even in the name of love? Maybe I’d have been glued to video games if we’d had them then. Who knows. Maybe technology moots the whole thing.

AWstats

To get an idea of traffic here, I normally look at AWStats through the Cpanel utility on the web hosting. It drives me crazy, though, because it can be so hard to tell what’s actually going on. In theory, it gives you search strings that were used to get here. In reality, it doesn’t return enough of those to correspond to the traffic it claims comes from Google alone. In turn, the referrals from Google and other such things aren’t remotely enough to account for total traffic. At least it’s generally possible to get an idea of what the real traffic is, versus the traffic hitting from nefarious sources for reasons having nothing to do with reading my keen and witty insights.

One thing that surprises me is the amount of traffic that seems associated with feed readers. In the heyday of blogs, that would be a given. On a blog that went many years being mostly neglected, and that had much of its contents stripped in a change of CMS, and most of the rest stripped in a change of direction, that lost much of its readership all the way back in 2004… I think it was 2004… When the wife was hot to switch to a clever new domain and name after less than a year here. I’m just surprised that there seem to be so many, in effect, subscribers for me to bore because I won’t stop mentioning that Melody movie and such.

On the other hand, there are no comments, besides a few a day of spam comments. This could be because there’s nothing to say, but they certainly are enabled. I’d see it if any were held for moderation, which is the default if you haven’t commented before and been approved. I was a little nervous about comments, in case I say something unforgivably stupid again. On the other hand, if I lose my mind unawares, that’s a quick way for me to find out and mitigate any public displays of ignorance.

Anyway, it’s a shame Site Meter died many years ago. That was always the standard, and if not perfect, gave useful info. I don’t think I have this on Google Analytics, though I could add it if not, but I’ve never found that information particularly helpful. If nothing else, I’m not generally interested in hitting gnats with sledgehammers.

Math

Last Sunday the daughter and I were talking to Naomi’s stepfather at the party we attended. He used to be a teacher and was excited that she was so interested in science, currently being most interested in being a geologist. He actually sent her home with a hunk of lava rock that I believe he got from Mt. St. Helens, though I could be mixing the origin up with his story of having climbed up the mountain not too long after the eruption.

We talked about how much the kids love math. The oldest will be taking a double track in 9th grade, one of a few students selected by the head of the math department at the high school for that program. The middle school has an advanced math program you can be in for 7th and 8th grade, so you come out of 8th grade having already covered algebra. Two of the kids are doing that and I expect the third will as well, since if anything he tends to make it seem even easier than the other two. When he’s not being lazy. So the oldest will do geometry and algebra II in 9th grade, and go on from there. That one wants to be a math major, and has been learning calculus independently.

The other one cooks and, especially, bakes. On Friday she tempered some chocolate and piped it into pi symbols. So we have a little bowl of tasty chocolate pi symbols, and a few in the shape of 3.14, in the freezer so they can’t melt.

When we were talking about it, I told Naomi’s father I had a “complicated relationship with math.” I love the idea of it and some of the concepts, but I had some mighty bad math teachers over the years and could be lazy at things I couldn’t just breeze through by being more intelligent than average. Or I would simply not lift a finger at anything I objected to doing at the time. The oldest has that last and to some degree the other problem at times. The youngest has the lazy if it’s not easy problem. The middle learned to work and will go far, since she has the brains as well. She was the one who had to learn that because the early days of school were a struggle and she had to have help and training to handle it.

I went through elementary school ranging from good, really good, to hopeless at math. It can take me time, and I tend to need to grok things conceptually. In 3rd grade, we were expected to memorize multiplication tables. Evil! Lousy math teacher plus that, forget it. Now I can… it’s hard to describe… see and feel what the numbers do in multiples. I’d have been helped, perhaps, if someone had pointed out that multiplication is addition and division is subtraction. When the kids were in school, I could see as early as first grade them being prepared for concepts like that, sets, and solving for a missing number when you already know the answer.

I don’t remember much about jr high, except that it reinforced things we’d covered and introduced or continued things to prepare us for algebra. Algebra in 9th grade was hell. Even after I’ve been all the way through college, that teacher is in a small rogue’s gallery of Worst Teachers Ever. The other two that come to mind right away are a 7th grade science teacher who was rumored to like sleeping with the jr high girls (most likely untrue, as these things go, but there was smoke), and a college professor I had for Pascal (Computer Science 101), who mostly taught math. I sometimes rank as horrible a professor I had for Accounting II, Advance Accounting, Business Law II, Federal Taxation, and Auditing, but he wasn’t in their league. For him it was more a weirdness of teaching method, use of teaching college for indoctrination, and philosophical differences.

Then I hit 10th grade, had an amazing Geometry teacher, was one of the top two students in the class, and the teacher tried to get the school to accept the two of us belatedly in to the advanced math program. I had mixed feelings about that and was just as glad the answer was no, since I felt like an imposter. In 11th grade I got sick, which is another story. I missed 48 days of school that year, was not up to braining the way I’d been in 8th, 9th, and even 10th grades, and still did adequately in Algebra II with a teacher who was super nice but just adequate at teaching. She drove me home after school a few times, I forget how I came to need a ride, because she was already going that way.

In 12th grade I was even sicker. With high hopes, I took the Trig and Pre-Calc class that was with the awesome Geometry teacher. I promptly dropped it because I was sure I was an imposter and would never be able to handle the class or the overall workload. Also I expected it to end badly because I was still sick. I missed 78 days of school through March, after which I dropped out with the couple months left before graduation. All I needed for graduating was to pass English, in which as I recall I was running an A, and Gym, which as I recall I had blown off. Plus one year of school they accidentally didn’t schedule me for it and I never said a word, and by then the state had made passing four years of phys ed mandatory to graduate. They needed to support the state college system’s big business of pumping out gym teachers. I might have hung in there if I had both of those and wouldn’t have faced taking summer school for the hated Gym, of all things. I was already not going to get my vocational certificate, since they had strict attendance requirements. I was fed up with school and there was the GED option available. I just had to wait until after my class had formally graduated to be allowed to take it.

When I went to college three years later, I needed to start over. I ended up taking Algebra and then a trig/pre-calc class, which were fine and really good. But I was required to take two semesters of watered down Calculus, plus semesters of Stats and “Quantitative Methods for Management.” That last one, MA318 by course number, allegedly needed the others as prerequisites. It didn’t. Not even close. It was easy. Reasonably so, anyway. What happened to me with Calculus was I’d start taking it, feel overwhelmed, and drop the class without dropping the class, thereby taking an F. Take away classes like those and my GPA would be considerably higher. Eventually I muddled through it, then the second part. I muddled through Statistics, which made far less sense to me than it should have, but I didn’t want to be there or expend any effort. I don’t remember clearly whether I actually took that twice. I took it with my friend Zack’s favorite math professor, who also wrote the book. That sort of added pressure and made it weird, since there was a lot of tension with Zack, my being two years belatedly at the same college, and my making a pest of myself. This was his god among teachers. If I’d been in the right frame of mind, I would also have thought he was awesome. I can see it, objectively.

I was an accounting major, and people always wondered how in the world I could do that and “not like math.” Two different things! You’re using basic math with the numbers recorded and analyzed in accounting. You’re not using Calculus. Statistics is relevant if you’re doing auditing, which was an incredibly boring class I did well in by reading the entire textbook twice. It was probably the biggest teaching fail for the professor I had for five different classes.

I came out the other end hating math studies but loving math concepts. Weird, right?

Meanwhile, the wife got almost all the way through an engineering degree before she dropped out because she wasn’t good enough. She was at the top of the class. There were other things going on, but she has some of the same anxiety about not being good enough that I do. My father wouldn’t have responded to my getting an A- by wondering why I didn’t get a real A, but my family in various ways had some of the same impact. It happens. She loves calculus. Stats maybe not as much, but she knows vastly more about it than I do. Don’t let the English degree fool you. She’s STEM underneath it.

When the two of us got together, we had the theory that intelligent people should have kids, and we did. On some level, our kids are a long term science experiment in genetics. I suppose all kids are, but we were completely conscious of it. In a way it was dangerous, since we are both possibly on the spectrum ourselves, especially me. We could easily have had autistic kids shades of The Geek Syndrome. Instead they are variants between almost normal and a good bit aspie. It can be riding a tiger, having kids who are “smarter than us,” as the wife put it. They also have resources and opportunities we didn’t. We walk around now with the cumulative knowledge of humanity in our hands. I always wanted to own an encyclopedia so I could read all of it, not just the random volumes of cheapo versions that came from incomplete supermarket volume a week specials.

It takes more than genetics, though.

When I would drive around with the kids when they were young, I would entertain them in the car by having them  answer math questions, or by talking about concepts. That would go on at home, too, but in the car it was a captive audience and they loved it. I wanted none of them to be intimidated by math the way I was after about first grade. So I taught them the concepts of multiplication and division way ahead of time. I taught them about fractions and decimals. I taught them about things like pi. I taught them square and cubes and roots. I helped them be comfortable adding and subtracting larger numbers. All kinds of things like that, especially stuff that could be explained on a car ride, or thrown out as a challenge on a car ride. They knew about negative numbers long before I did. They knew about imaginary numbers, because that went with learning about roots and negatives.

One of the math teachers thought this was awesome when I told her what I’d done when they were younger. I know we talked about other concepts and ideas. It was kind of science and math the way the Kennedy kids might have gathered around and talked politics over dinner with old Joe. Except there’d also be philosophy, politics, history, and whatever. The math is what stands out and was the thing I pointedly used on car rides with the goal of making the comfortable in mind. I didn’t set out to create a kid who would be eager to major in math, though I am proud. It’s a great major and she’ll be following in distinguished footsteps. It fits with our having raised the kids to become adults, knowing there’s a world out there in which they will need to make a living and support themselves. Nobody ever gave me that foundation. Which is funny, because I was much more free range, and in some ways I was older than them at the same age. In others I was much younger.

So yeah. I had a complicated relationship with math. I wanted theirs to be uncomplicated, whether it was anything they loved or not. The oldest helps teach the advanced math class at the moment, by virtue of being the only one who really understands what they are doing. That’s just amazing.

Mrs. Ginger

Not really a point to this. I’m just still struck by seeing one of the most attractive women I have ever seen arrive at my friend’s mother’s house for a family and friends party on Sunday. The occasion was my friend being out from Las Vegas and having a birthday this week.

If I were young, this is one of those times when just seeing the girl would have left me smitten. It would have been all over. She drew my eye before she even made it in the door. Because I am old and have learned a thing or two, and I am not my brother, I didn’t stare, but it wasn’t easy. I was going to say I’ve never had a crush on a ginger, but there was a minor one in college. Genetics being what they are, marrying one would probably have given me kids with red hair, or some variant between that and blond, with less pronounced brown. At different times, even the kids I have with a dark haired woman have exhibited substantial amounts of red, and one of them is still a dirty shade of blond. Hey, English, Scottish, Irish, and, for them but not me, Swedish.

The woman in question, whose relationship to the family holding the party is unknown to me, is married and has a couple young kids. She’s old enough to start to wrinkle and, well show a ginger’s sensitivity to sun. I’d guess somewhere not a lot to either side of 40. And that reminds me of what I wanted to post about. Which makes her technically young for me, and old for what I’d normally see as super attractive.

In a book, a series of books, that I never wrote, the heroine was a redhead. As if I were Heinlein or something. Notwithstanding my not having run into any I got interested in, she was matched with a hero based on an ideal of me. If I wrote the thing exactly as planned, these days it would sound like I was basing the hero on Musk or Bezos, and various villains on the current political class and Bin Laden/ISIS. It’d need some updating. Internet didn’t even exist then. I was working on what little I did of it at the point when I was hanging out and flirting with Vera, who worked with my sister, and being her date to her sister’s wedding. Funny thing is that the bits I wrote and the bits I planned or imagined are in my head just the way books I read would be, or scenes from a  movie I watched would be.

Mrs. Ginger could easily be the heroine of that series, several years after the beginning of it. She looked the part. No wonder that was what I’d imagined.

That Was Fun

As mentioned in the previous post, there was a party at Naomi’s mother’s house and I went with the middle child, who was interested in trying the expected Middle Eastern food. The youngest was upset when we got home that I hadn’t invited him, which I did weeks ago to a firm no. He assumed we’d had awesome food, which we did, but not from his perspective. He felt better when I listed off what we’d eaten. The one who went loved it. Bonus, there was lemon cheesecake! She loves cheesecake more than almost anything. She had to spend a couple hours being bored while Naomi, Sally and I gabbed, though she enjoyed watching the little kids and tiny dog playing. She also  got a piece of lava rock to bring home, from Naomi’s stepfather, who was enthusiastic about her interest in science generally and geology particularly.

There were a bunch of assorted relatives there, and some adorable little kids. A late arrival, no idea the relation, had a couple more, but older, like first grade. My eyes locked on that woman before she was in the door, and I had to make a point of not staring, she was so stunning. Basically a ginger. She seemed super nice to boot. If I were younger and prone to those serial crushes, she’s exactly the sort of scenario where her walking into a room might change everything.

I ate way too much, mostly because of the shrimp someone brought, with a dip based on mayo and Greek yogurt, seasoned with wasabi and I forget what else. There were also pita chips, pita pieces, amazing spinach dip, awesome cheese spread, hummus, feta cubes, olives that were actually good – my second encounter ever eating an olive and finding I liked it, crackers, cheese, baked ziti with sausage meat included in it, and fantastic salad. Besides cheesecake, there were good chocolate chip cookies, and squares with chocolate chips, coconut, and walnuts. The kid who thought he’d missed out *might* have tried the pasta dish and not much else. Well, there were potato chips, so he could have had those.

It was actually hard to leave because the conversation really got rolling, about books and such. But it was time to go so they could wind down and we could settle in for the night. I could be later, but there’s school in the morning.

One thing that’s funny is Naomi still thinks of me as the go to person for computer questions, even though she is pretty clueful herself. She’s gone through more computer antics in the past ten years than I have. Mostly I have things that work or don’t, and if they don’t, I somehow get something that does. Since we went broke, I spent a lot of time using hand-me-down machines. This one is a $239 refurbished Dell compact desktop, sort of thing I wouldn’t have been caught dead using back in the day. The old machine is a hand-me-down laptop that I retrieved files from for someone before the hard drive died. That was over 10 years ago, and it sat for a long time before I confirmed they didn’t want it back. I had to replace the drive and, it turned out, a bad memory stick. It got full and slow enough I needed better. I’d used it as a clamshell with keyboard, mouse and monitor all attached. Before that I had an old laptop someone else gave me. It had no disks and was kind of a mess, but I couldn’t reinstall it or fix some of the deep down settings. My last good computer I built died before that and I couldn’t keep anything I had around working reliably enough. So we talked about some of the stuff she’s been through and things she’d told herself to ask me about. Her best computer was her first one, which I’d helped her get from what turned out to be a local dealer at a computer show, back when those were a thing. We later used that dealer to supply computers for the business, until I started building them all myself.

Visiting Naomi

My friend Naomi is on this side of the country for a few days, so I’m going to visit at her mother’s house this afternoon, along with whoever else they’ve managed to get there. It’s about an hour of driving, but beats going all the way to Las Vegas.

We worked together in tech support for a couple years, ending just over 20 years ago. Wow! I’d forgotten it had been 20 years. Some of us ended up friends and hung out a lot together, waning over the years as people moved away or got preoccupied.

She was notable as my final serial crush. It’s not that she did anything special to break me, or to break the chain, though she did remind me just enough of Daphne to be uncomfortable. In her case, there wasn’t really ever the slightest chance. It was like dealing with a completely inert substance. She was aware enough of my attraction that she avoided being alone with me during a certain stretch of time, as if I’d ever have tried anything untoward.

At this point, we see each other on Facebook and once every year or two she is out this way and, with rare exceptions, there is a get-together. Normally it’s about June and she is at a beach house owned by her mother and aunts. I take the kids and some of our other friends, in diminishing numbers, go hang out there for food and on the beach. The kids loved it. It’s been a few years. I think she skipped last year entirely. the year before she was out for her father’s wedding. I was supposed to go to the party/cookout they had out in the central part of the state, similar distance to where I’m going today. I was bringing the kids. The car died and I ended up not going. I wasn’t thinking I could just go myself or with a single kid, but I was also worried about the truck. Plus I was feeling… not like seeing a bunch of people. Which could describe me today, but I’m fighting it. Today only one of the kids wanted to go for a party with Middle Eastern food, so it defaulted to the truck. The big issue is weather. It borders on my not wanting to drive there, especially since it’ll be snow and ice at the destination after it’s long since rain here. But I’d rather not miss it again.

Which is arguably weird, because in some ways we don’t have that much to say to each other beyond shared history and maybe some geek culture. It makes it more interesting if either or both of the remaining possible people from the old gang go, but one of them she has had trouble getting any response from for a couple years. That’s a case of someone drifting into her own bubble despite, in my case, not being far away. I can find Sally hard to take because she is all politics all the time and she has crazy notions. One year we got together with Naomi at her mother’s house and the politics of Naomi’s mother and stepfather were on display, much closer to mine, making Sally uncomfortable. The discomfort of being always surrounded by people who see things more or less your way, to the point where someone who sees things otherwise might seem like a unicorn to you. Not possible! But then you see a herd of them, real and not at all crazy. Sally is not on social media, so I am not in touch with her that way. She believes the right will use the data gathered by social media or an online presence to round up and incinerate people like her, because she seems to be in a mirror universe. But I digress.

Anyway, unless weather gets bad enough, I’ll get to see Naomi for the first time in like three years. That’ll be cool, even if it makes me nervous to hobnob with other people. I just remembered that Naomi was born the same year as the wife, who is 13 years my junior. Funny that in, say, 1997, that seems like one of the obstacles with Naomi, but several years later it wasn’t an obstacle to marrying the wife. In spirit, the wife has always been much older than Naomi.

One of these days I’ll write about all the crushes. Or all the ones I can remember. Just yesterday I remembered a couple of more minor ones from college. One of them had the unusual name of Ethel (not a pseudonym in this case), which one simply didn’t encounter in girls in their early twenties in the mid to late eighties. And doesn’t now, for that matter. That’s more like the name of a great aunt. When thinking that through a while back, I found big gaps in my memory where there were none I could think of. I think what happened then is I dwelled again on prior ones.

But I digress. This is an awfully long way to note what I’m planning today and why I won’t end up typing a bunch of other inane posts because I am occupied.

Random Melody Rewatch Observations 1

I say 1 because I am sure there will be more, and my rewatch got interrupted. Of course, the real rewatch will be after I get a DVD. Which will have unexpected challenges. My brother gave me Bohemian Rhapsody. Which I tried to watch it on the computer, it kept stopping because the drive barfed. Or the connection to the computer or the controller on the motherboard did. I gave up partway through. It came with the ability to watch digitally, so I can finish it after activating that. In the meantime, it’s about time for a replacement computer anyway.

Anyway, I got as far as the scene where the bus fills up and a bunch of the kids get left waiting at the bus stop for the next bus. Then I was interrupted.

The class theme that is one aspect of the film starts right away, with the Boy’s Brigade director mentioning “better class of recruit,” comparing Ornshaw and Daniel in particular. Then you get it from Mrs. Latimer. Daniel seems a bit oblivious, but Ornshaw is totally aware of it. He is obviously more worldly, too, winking flirtily at Mrs. Latimer, having been drinking whiskey, presumably, and looking at girly magazine pictures in religion class.

We see Daniel’s room after he’s naughty, but I’d thought we’d never seen Melody’s room, or any of her flat but the hall and the kitchen/dining room, and a bit of the bathroom. I’d forgotten she goes into some bedroom or another to take clothing out of a wardrobe. Now, the clothing and room made me think it was an adult bedroom, but I don’t know. When she gets evicted from playing the recorder and gets sent off to the pub to get money for ice cream from her father, she first goes into that same bedroom. Then we see her coming out across the courtyard. I’d interpreted putting the recorder in the big vase and going through that door as going outside. It would make sense to go in her room before leaving, though, and as I’ve said, we don’t have to see every last detail in sequence.

The opening scene with Melody really emphasizes two points. First, she is being a kid, but she’s not really a little kid anymore. The other kids swarming the rag man are little. She’s old and mature by comparison, and perhaps doesn’t belong there. We are seeing the last weekend of her childhood, in a sense.

By comparison with Ornshaw, Daniel really is completely innocent in his looking at nude pictures, because he wants to try painting a nude as an art subject he hasn’t tried before.

At break, we see the girls being very much interested in boys and in Muriel not hogging them all, and laughing about the idea of kissing bringing babies. They might be innocent of the exact mechanics, but they aren’t little kids.

I think that’s about it to that point. My big takeaway was the way it shows the kids transitioning in “age,” shows the class issues, and shows the adults negatively.

On My Way To Write One Post…

I thought of another, which relates a bit to the post on changing plots with modern technology.  I was looking at the header picture on AV, which is actually one of several that load randomly, and thinking I ought to change it eventually.

There are essentially no pictures of my childhood.

I mean, somewhere my family has some with us kids, and in some no doubt are backgrounds that include inside the houses or even outside. I’ve seen a couple pictures of the outside of the house before my time.

Now, though, we all have cameras, right on our phones and other devices. We are not reliant on film developing. Long term storage can get interesting and relies on the continuation of high tech civilization and/or some of it having been put to paper, but physical storage was also a problem. I, personally, have two devices in active use that can take photos and videos, and more that are retired or not actively used, but could be employed. I can take all the pictures I want, including over and over of the same basic shot in an effort to get one that’s particularly good.

If now were then, I’d have pictures of all the woods, swamp and bogs around my house. I’d have pictures of our dogs and chickens. I’d have pictures of my father’s business, the areas around those locations, my family, my grandparents when all were alive, my old friend Zack’s house and woods, the treehouse we built and the process of doing so… everything.

Or perhaps not. You have to think of taking pictures. How many people think “that building could be gone in thirty years but I’ll have a picture,” or similar long term awareness of the possibility that a throwaway scene might be special. How many people seek avidly to protect older photos from being lost or destroyed? Would I have taken pictures of how things were in my town? How the main intersection looked at different times? That might be an “if I knew what I know now” thing.

But… With pictures being taken so ubiquitously, the chances of that form of memory preservation are better.

Weather

Up early for work. It’s due to start snowing any time, and I expect to be done and driving home in the thick of it. I had hoped to sneak through the rest of the winter with nothing of significance. Sad.

The thing that irritates me is that Weather Underground normally won’t show me an hourly forecast during the first 2-3 hours or so of the day. That tends to give the clearest picture of snowfall, and break it down into how much can be expected to fall each hour. I will be going to work unable to see an updated version of that compared to several hours before.

Where I Went Wrong

There’s the standard “what would you change if you could go back to some point knowing what you know now” kind of thing. On some level, the answer to that is normally “but I wouldn’t want to give up these kids,” who presumably wouldn’t have happened in everything is different land. On the other hand, some different kids got lost in the shuffle that did happen. We just don’t get to know who they are. And the do exist, if you take many worlds quantum theory to be a thing, just with a different you. So don’t cry, Shopgirl. Don’t cry.

That said, and notwithstanding that there are many points where I could make changes happily, large or small, I often feel like I went wrong when I opted for the vocational agriculture program at my high school.

My brother’s first wife suggested it. She had dated boys who were in it, and had an extremely positive impression. Plus farming on some level was in my blood and in my experience. I did a lot of planting, weeding, and picking vegetables. I was around for a lot of cranberry harvests. I loved the growing of flowers, and my grandfather’s little greenhouse.

I had been a top student in chorus, and loved to sing. I’m shy, introverted, vaguely autistic, and terrified of singing in front of others, but I actually could sing. It’s in the blood and the family experience. Naturally I signed up for high school chorus.

We were on double sessions, and that dictated when some of the classes had to be held. It also rendered the two period vocational class a single period for that year. That was the same period as chorus. The school made the logical decision to drop the music and keep the vocational. Would I have done that if, say, at the end of eight grade I had know I could do only one? I don’t know. I might have gone with chorus and academics. It wasn’t a tough sell, making me an aggie, but it was a sell and not something that initiated within me. The best year of the vocational class was that first year. It was basically downhill from there.

If I could go back to eighth grade and the point of making such decisions, there is absolutely no contest in my mind. I would have chosen chorus. What else did I have that year? That would be a one to one trade, so I wouldn’t have to fill two periods. If I did, I might have ended up in one of the history classes I missed.

English, Algebra I, Earth Science, Gym for whatever part of the year that took and study hall the other part… there has to be something else. French! It was my third year of French, though I suspect it wasn’t a prerequisite to have taken the language in 7th and 8th grade. The class was obviously not memorable. I don’t remember it being bad, or especially good. I felt like I wasn’t learning much. When I started German in college six years later, I’d have told you I remembered almost nothing of French. However, I regularly ran into the problem of remembering the French for something instead of the German. But I digress.

I did meet one of my closest friends, Perry, through vocational. By rights he counted for a time as a third “best friend.” My second best friend, Frank, I met earlier that year and have meant to introduce in a post titled something like “My Ornshaw.” My second best friend died several years ago. My first best friend and I may as well be dead to each other, sadly. I am friends with the third one on social media, but he is absent a lot, and is not in the best of health. The first friend, Zack, married the ex-girlfriend, Joan, of the third friend. I was responsible for all of them having met, and particularly so for the union of the first to the girl. Small and convoluted and crazy world. Ditching vocational might have put an end to all that. I might still have met Frank, but with a different dynamic of classes, I might have noticed Ella less and someone else more. Ella helped trigger my befriending Frank, weirdly. There would be a lot of dominoes reversing back to upright in the scenario of no vocational. I can’t say those were bad things that should never have happened, and it’d be weird knowing the difference if I went back. It might be kinder if the terms were to make the decision then forget what came after the first time.

Chorus would have gotten me closer to some of the more academic and more musical kids who in part were already my peeps. I supposed I could have taken it as seriously or casually as I wanted. One concern I have is that I developed a health issue that would have destroyed my ability to sing properly in any reliable way. I still struggle with that, between sensitivity to what I am breathing, and reflux sometimes returning to haunt me.

It would have left me on a more academic track. After ninth, vocational did take 2 periods a day. That took the place of any two other classes, like a history or science or language. I made it worse in 10th grade! I signed up for electronics and the administration didn’t notice or stop me. That was a snootier vocational class that went three years rather than four, but was two periods per day. So four of seven periods in that year were devoted to the two vocational classes. Then it was English, Geometry, and gym. That was why I ended up taking the traditional 10th grade biology in 11th. At least that teacher didn’t hate me as much as the electronics teacher did. I still don’t know why, though it may have had to do with an awareness I didn’t belong in two vocational classes. It was a slap in the face to him when i got the highest grade on the midyear exam. I made a friend in that class who was my introduction to BASIC when he got an early Radio Shack computer. in 1977.

This has gotten long and gone in directions I didn’t intend.

I love to sing. My wife was one of the first people I could sing in front of with little discomfort, and with my kids it was completely natural. Now one of them sings like an angel and writes her own songs. One of them sings competently and taught herself guitar. The other one doesn’t seem interested in singing, but seems to do well on violin in school without bothering to practice, as if he’s just natural at it. I’ve gotten a bit more open about it. I’ve been known to sing along with or in the presence of people at work. A few weeks ago, I sang well the first little bit of Bus Stop by The Hollies for a young coworker who didn’t know the song.

I never wanted to be famous or felt comfortable performing, as my brother did. I’ve actually pondered in years past the idea of vocal lessons. I guess I can see wanting to be famous in that it was a bit of a rush when I was moderately “blog famous” around 2003/2004. When I worked in stores, there was one guy in particular I worked with for a while who, when we were together behind the counter, completed us as something of a comedic duo, entertaining customers. That was fun.

Something I’ve sometimes thought would have been interesting is getting into film. Before there was ever YouTube, and a venue for anyone to do that on some level. There were other reasons I saw a ton of movies circa 1998, but I also could see myself involved in the writing or creation of them. Not something I ever really mention to anyone, or think about actively. I find it hard to imagine acting, though. I am blown away when I see people adopting just the right expression in an artificial situation. I know how much work is involved, rehearsing, directing, doing many takes, getting just the right shots, so maybe you need only capture the right look that one take that’s a keeper. But still. I think I was put off of acting by a tiny play I was involved in during 6th grade. A few people each did a different little story, a series of plays for younger grades. My buddy Paul and I forget who else might have been in ours. It had something to do with picking berries. We laughed uncontrollably through the whole thing, barely able to deliver the lines, and laughed our way off the stage. It may only have been me and Paul, in the actual thing, since he’s the only one I remember. The two of us did much better when we built a telegraph. We both were interested in electricity, electronics and gadgets

So yes, I think I went wrong, not offense to my friends the change would affect, when I opted for the vocational program as I entered high school. I would have a very different life and there would have been more of an academic, professional expectation to pursue and fulfill.

Dialogue Dialog

I just found myself looking up the difference between dialog and dialogue when I found myself uncomfortable typing dialog, to mean words exchange between characters in a story, and changed it to dialogue. I am pretty sure I have been leaving off the -ue in that usage recently, without being tripped over into rebelling.

Looks like it’s overwhelmingly dialogue until very modern times, mainly as a computer term for a dialog box. This makes sense. Conversely, catalog was adopted more universally over catalogue, as an American spelling, long ago.

Modernizing Films and Shows

My youth, too. This is a topic I thought of long before discovering Melody, and had thought to write about in conjunction with it. I just remembered that when I sat down and started to read my unfinished book from a couple years ago. The very beginning holds up better than I had thought it would, for all I had been thinking of making substantial changes that would introduce the characters and modern location more fully. A tiny snippet:

Ben grumbled. He didn’t like camping much in the first place, so why should he have to help load the car with last minute supplies from the basement?

“Come on Ben, you dork!” His older sister, the older older sister, was probably no happier, but at least she loved camping. He was only in it for the swimming. Carrie put on her backpack and followed Lydia out the door and down the stairs.

“Fine,” he said grudgingly.

 By the time he got down two flights of stairs, he had almost caught up with his more enthusiastic siblings. They were at the back of the open part of the basement, looking at the shelves where odds and ends were stored.

 Ben noticed light glowing from under the plywood door to the landlord’s storage area and thought that seemed odd. Nobody ever went in there, and the landlord certainly wasn’t around just then. As he approached the girls, Carrie threw an unopened tarp package at him.

 “Here, carry that to the car,” she ordered.

 He picked up the tarp and the bag of snacks he’d dropped while trying to catch the unexpected missile, turned around and stopped cold.

 Not only was the light under the landlord’s mystery room door brighter now, but also the door was ajar. He had never seen it open. It was normally locked. Presumably it was locked. He had never checked it out. Why would he? But now…

The connection here is that they are going to find themselves in the past, but with one piece of modern technology.

What if the events of any given movie from the past were now? How would you write the same scenario? How amusingly or distressingly would that truncate the plot?

In Melody, phones are barely a thing. They exist, and toward the end are used, but people don’t seem to use them casually, or even have them if they are lower class or poor. Not like it’s the ancient past, after all. If I’d had a crush in, say, 1972, in theory I could have picked up the phone and called the girl, if I could obtain her number. It’s just that I wouldn’t have dared. I didn’t call my junior high crush until after I’d already made, in my eyes, a fool of myself. She liked me a lot but didn’t *like* me, and wasn’t bothered by my foolishness the way I am (decades later, we are friends on social media).

Now? Kids are online, depending on parents and age. They have phones after a certain point. I could say much about the wonders of being young now. The sum of human knowledge at your fingertips? I get absorbed sometimes for hours online, learning things, surfing from one topic to the next. I’d have been in heaven. Timid about calling? Where you might write a note decades ago, if you thought of it, you can write an e-mail or a text. It can spread embarrassment at the speed of internet, but hey. The tools for communication and knowledge are so much better, if less charming than alerts whispered across a room from kid to kid.

This happens in written fiction, too. Wheel of Time would be dramatically less drawn out with instant communications. It becomes more compressed and actions more effective as speeds of travel and communication improve in the manner they do during the series.

I’m so stuck on Melody, I am having trouble thinking of old enough examples to be deeply affected if you updated for internet or ubiquitous smartphones. It’s funny to picture the kids in Melody rushing home to get on their Xboxes to play online games with each other, but that’s a possibility. But then, it’s hard to imagine how one might put internet and a game console where people like the Perkins lived. Under those conditions, what kids would be excited about hanging out together in an overgrown cemetery?

I was thinking I should do a series of posts inserting new technology into old stories to imagine something along the lines of how it should have ended. We’ll see. They’ll need to be less lame and more coherent than this one, if so.

If I Were Religious…

I might be intrigued by the fact that only 4.9% of the universe is matter and such that we can perceive. Most of the rest is dark energy. Plus some dark matter thrown in. OK, even if I were ot religious per se.

Hmmm… energy we can’t perceive directly. All around us. Suffusing or underlying the material world. Use the Force, Luke. Channel the One Power, Rand. Pray for God’s power to achieve miracle, Father. What do you mean consciousness appears not to be an entirely corporal thing, scientists?

My take on dark energy and the unseen has long been that there is so much more to the universe than we can perceive or perhaps even conceive of, and it could open endless possibilities. If there is that much energy extant and we could ever tap it… and it’s everywhere. Tesla would be pleased. If it’s a well of all the “souls” that ever were or even may be, to which “you” return, well, wouldn’t that be something.

It sure fires up ideas for fiction.

Late to the Party

Correct, but many years late. I was all over the “it’s a post, not a blog” topic several years ago. It drove me nuts! It still does, and seems to have increased lately, but as people told me even then, that horse has left the barn and I’m not going to stop it.

Thus it surprises me to see someone at Slate jump on it now, and be linked by Glenn.

This is a post. Or an entry. Or an article. Or even a piece. On a blog. A blog post, if you will. Or a blog entry, blog article, blog piece, this little thing I dashed off, whatever, but it is not “a blog.”

As I said years past, saying “I wrote a blog” is like saying “I wrote a magazine.” The entire thing. Funnier still when the verb used is “published.” Perhaps you could write a whole magazine, though likely that’d be a fanzine, and you’d be hard pressed not to include… articles contributed by others.

If you say “I published a blog on the mating habits of invasive African snails” I will wonder how an entire blog could be devoted to such a finite topic, and whether it wouldn’t be better simply to post on a more expansive blog about snails in general. Ditto for a “blog” about speed records set by unladen African swallows. That’s enough for a post, perhaps, but an entire blog? I know you for illiterate at blogging, and take you less seriously.

Cooking, Blogging and Tech, Oh My

Or: Pay attention to your sites, dude.

Once upon a time, Jeff Soyer started a food blog called Single Guy Cook, which I hough was a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, it ran out of steam quickly, given limited funds and repertoire.

That inspired me to start one called Married Guy Cook, since I used to post frequently about what I’d cook, and I’d gotten deeply into cooking since getting married. Unfortunately, it hobbled along, given limited funds and repertoire, and I trailed off due to that and other issues. However, it was a popular and lucrative site, for a time, for earning money.

That and being even more broke than ever (I’d never realized while I was self-employed just how low my income was, though I did know that it was incredibly rocky – impossible, technically – to live on it) were part of the inspiration for starting Frugal Guy Cook, to which I ported the posts from Married Guy Cook.

Then I all but abandoned it, despite all my plans to make money from it, and to expand the focus to being frugal in this ridiculous economy and to handling our son’s multiple allergies and sensitivities. That meant it didn’t build much content or garner page rank, and never became a potential source of income. Granted, that was partly the reperoire thing, and the money thing goes without saying, but that was part of the schtick. Only so many things you can tout doing with dried pinto beans, cheap burger on sale (OK, that’s an oxymoron these days; burger that is sometimes on sale for less epensive enough to justify its purchase, if only because we have to eat), cheap beef on sale, cheap chicken on sale, rice, and what vegetables we can afford, or buy regardless. I never buy fish, for instance, because $5/lb and up is “rich people food.” Indeed, my current conundrum is that since my stents, I am supposed to eat healthier, and while there have been steps in that direction, going whole hog means money. And if I do spend more on food, it ceases to be “frugal,” at least by my standards. The next couple weeks will test my frugality. We have a freezer relatively full of meat, which helps, and are well stocked in other things, but I expect to have maybe $60 or so to spend through November 9th (maybe more, but there’s also gas, and I have to plan low rather than optimistic). Bread alone is $6-7 a week. Anyway, I digress.

I slacked off on that site so badly that I have yet to fix the weirdness that porting from the old one caused, or adjust the theme to look less funny as a result (or replace the theme).

On my last big shopping trip, I got a sugar pumpkin on sale for 29¢ a pound. Cheap and I love making pumpkin bread or other things from the source, though canned is easier. Yesterday I went looking for a pumpkin bread recipe. I may have had one saved on my computer, but my computer, and the spare one into which I put the till working drive from the dead one, is dead. I thought I might have written about making pumpkin bread, and if so, it might have made it onto the food blog. Otherwise it’s a matter of finding a likely looking recipe and trying it, rather than using one I knew was good from past use. Not that there’s much you can do to mess up pumkin bread. Besides, I can always make pumpkin cake, which is a matter of using pumpkin as the liquid in the egg and dairy-free cake recipe and adding appropriate seasoning.

In the course of checking whether I’d ever posted it, I found that every picture in every post I looked at had been replaced by a square graphic saying “SHOPWIKI.” Clicking the picture, rather than bringing up a larger version, took me to a site not my own.

“How was I hacked,” I wondered.

Well, I wasn’t. I allowed the old domain to expire, an unusual thing for me, but sometimes there’s reason to let go. The posts I had ported still pointed to graphics (and sometimes internal links) on the old domain. Which now belongs to someone else. My experience with lapsed domains, even if they have no page rank, is that someone snaps them up and makes them page full of ad links, such that they will generate at least something over the cost of registering and hosting the domain. It’s what my old business partner would have called “yawn money.” Make money while you sleep. Even if it’s a little, even if it’s some tiny form of arbitrage, it will add up and be something you wouldn’t make otherwise. I could go for some of that.

I still had all the graphics, mind you. The folder the old domain had been in was totally intact. So I copied it to the new location and modified each wrong URL directly in the database. Easy, but a bit embarrassing, given that it should have been done at the time of the port.

The moral of the story, I’d say, is pay attention. If you’re going to have a blog empire, mind your blog empire. If you’re going to write, write. If you’re going to maintain places to write, maintain them. Don’t be surprised if neglect leads to decay.

At the moment, I am only posting here, trying to do it regularly, building back up a blog we should never have left fallow in the first place. If it weren’t for the difficulty in porting Expression Engine to WordPress, the entire original content would be here, rather than archived. The conundrum is that topical blogs are lucrative. That was part of the reason for Frugal Guy Cook in the first place. I’ll probably post food-related stuff here now, but it’s an opportunity missed. Same for tech blogging and business blogging. I fell out of both, tech in paricular, since I all but stopped doing it for a living, and I lacked the money to keep myself up to date, which feeds the no doing it for a living and vice-versa. We’ll see what happens. For the time being, writing and maintaining this stuff is de facto a job for me, so all the more reason it should get caught up and get done routinely. Income, however speculative and lacking in direct connection to the effort, won’t be possible at all otherwise.

Either-Or

Yesterday I saw Atlas Shrugged Part 2. This time around, it was playing at a nearby Regal theater, which also showed Obama’s America, so I didn’t have to drive to a far-flung, unfamiliar theater, as I did for Part 1.

Of the two, Part 2 is unquestionably better, and not merely due to the meatier, more exciting material. It also did not suffer from the cast changes as I thought it might.

If there was ever any question that Atlas Shrugged falls in the science ficion genre, this movie, even more than the book, argues that it does. Simply being future/alt-history suggests it, without some of the futuristic technologies or elements.

If there was ever any question that John Galt was inspired by Nikola Tesla, this movie, even more than the book, makes clear that he was. Among the special effects are those associated with efforts to get Galt’s “motor” for drawing unlimited power from the air to work without Galt around to help.

As an aside, such a device represents the ultimate intellectual property challenge. Obviously, if anyone can build such a device, can know how, have access to it for reverse-engineering, then selling electricity generated from it would not be lucrative for long. The very reason Tesla lost backing for the very device he allegedly had working or near to it. As such, it would have to remain a black box, unable to be accessed to reverse-engineer. At that, simply knowing such a thing was possible would set others on the path of figuring out how to create their own. On the other hand, one might accept it quickly falling into public domain or generating competition, given what it would do to the world, and given the other ways its inventor could then make money.

Anyway, I liked the movie a lot. The script was pared down from the source material skillfully, with inclusion of key points, some of which I might have expected to suffer. What it could not convey was Reardon’s internal guilt and thought processes that made blackmailing him successful. I am not sure this would have been clear to a viewer who’d never read the book, despite being subtly implicit.

The flash forward opening was a nice touch, drawing us in with excitement and adrenaline. The fact that it is set in near future modern times actually helps Reader’s Digest things. All the action regarding the tunnel disaster and the buck-passing is distilled into the central control room and the scene itself.

The root of money speech was there, briefer but more than adequate. The breakout was there. The cabin was there, but barely, and wasn’t it in New Hampshire originally? And not sitting on a flood plain, immediately beside water? The wet nurse was well done, and well acted, in that you could see the character developing and thinking without a word.

Most of the casting was good, even great. Esai Morales, whom I knew from the ill-fated Caprica, was a better Francisco. Lillian was equally good, perhaps better, even if the original was the one to fit my mental image. This one was at least as good at portraying that form of evil. I could see Cheryl’s gears starting to turn before the movie was out. I couldn’t remember if she had her final scenes in 2 or 3, but must be 3. Dagny was better. Reardon was as good or better, though he could have supplied the voice of Batman in the most recent films. Robert Picardo rocks anyway, and did in this. Even having read about Teller’s small speaking role, I almost missed who it was, and there were faces like that of Michael Gross that looked familiar but I didn’t place at the time. Wyatt wasn’t in it, but they showed his picture on the news as the guy from Part 1. I’d love to see him back, even if he is not as described in the book.

On an unexpected note, I loved the soundtrack, or score, if that’s the better term. I don’t usually even notice a soundrack. I stayed through the credits mainly for the music.

I’m still amused by DB Sweeney as Galt! And we still haven’t seen his face, even at the end, when he finally becomes a person, not a question. I will forever think of him as Doug Dorsey from The Cutting Edge, one of my favorite “good bad movies” of all time. I’ve watched it at least six times. In Part 3, seeing him in the actual role may allow me finally to picture him otherwise.

There was one point when I thought we might actually see Danneskold, who has been almost entirely left out of the movie adaptation, but it proved instead to be the scene when Reardon calls his lawyer and finally orders up a divorce. About time.

The times depicted are worse and yet shockingly similar to our current ones. The actions of government are familiar, as are the consequences. The use of consequences of government to justify even worse actions of government are familiar. Even timeless.

Could someone see it without Part 1? Absolutely, if they’ve read the book. Probably, even if they haven’t. It doesn’t start with one of those total recaps, but you get enough of an idea the circumstances and background. Perhaps I am biased.

Overall, it’s a better adaptaion than we might have had cause to expect, considering the density of the source.

Don’t Call Us…

Introvert’s view of phones, which sounds exactly right to me.

Speaking of which, after being a Verizon customer for 13 years, straight pone, then DSL, then FiOS for the last 6 or so, I am cancelling today. We have Comcast for internet and we have cell service through Verizon Wireless. The land line exists as a number that bill collectors know, and is archaic and unused. Well, except when I can’t find my cell that I set down somewhere unexpected in the house in which case making it ring is a good locator. Since Verizon effectively refused to eliminate the phone service from our plan, and has gone up and up, the best way to eliminate the unwanted phone service and save money to boot was to invoke the competition.

What Verizon doesn’t seem to grasp yet is that they are now an internet connectivity company, which just happens to generate marginal added revenue/added value for customers in the form of phone and TV service. I suppose it would be easier to grasp that if FiOS or the equivalent were rolled out everywhere they service.

Comcast seems to have arrived at that realization to a greater degree. They are internet, and also they offer TV and phone. Perhaps easier to make the leap, having not started as The Phone Company.

Wireless companies face a similar struggle with recognizing what they are. They are wireless data (internet) services, which happen to be more closely associated with phones than anything, since that is the primary small device through which data services are accessed. Personally, I don’t have a smartphone, but even for me my cell phone is for texting first, calls a distant second. I’d love more capability, but I’d also love to be able to see the screen… oh, and afford it. Which is ultimately what the Comcast switch is about. For a year, we save upwards of $70 a month. We always have to option of switching based on new customer deals – for internet service alone – from Verizon once the initial rate expires, but we’ll see.