Archive for the ‘Ramblings Off Topic’ category

bits and pieces

June 26, 2017

I’m sure I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: there is no such thing as unsweetened tea! There is sweetened tea, and there is tea. Simple as that.


The words “tattoo” and “tattoo” are completely different. The first is an evening drum or bugle signal recalling soldiers to their quarters. Its first English use was in the mid-17th Century and is derived from the Dutch “taptoe” that meant, literally, “close the tap (to the casks).”

The second has a Polynesian origin and refers to the inking of skin with designs. It first appeared in English with this meaning in the mid-18th Century.

You can now make even more interesting conversation at parties.


My son said he saw a sticker in the back window of a car that said 26.2, but he thought it looked wrong. Closer inspection revealed the words in small type below it: “Number of Oreos I can eat in an hour.”

That seems a little low.


I regularly look at the Calendar at Duotrope’s Digest to see if any of the themes of upcoming journals match what is going on — even remotely — in any of my unpublished stories. I saw a journal calling for stories about “the face in the photo” and one of my One-Match Fire stories, “Moving Day”, includes the son finding a picture of his father as an infant, with a cryptic notation on the back that sets his imagination and worry on fire. The photo makes another appearance in a later story, so it is an important discovery in the cycle. (See this post for more background.) And so I imagined that my story might be a fit for the theme the journal was soliciting.

Thus I began researching the submission requirements for the journal and found something odd. Submitters within the U.S. must send in a paper document by snail mail. That’s old school (though I am old enuf to have begun my writing life submitting this way and looking askance at this newfangled email submission business). My guess is either the editor is still looking askance at email or they’re using this more labor-intensive method to winnow out impulsive submissions.

So I’m going to prepare a printed version of the story and submit it. All it will cost me is a little time and a little postage (plus a return-addressed* envelope with postage).

*I read an impassioned response to the phrasing “self-addressed envelope” which is the standard wording in the business and which everyone understands: your own address is on the face of the envelope so they can send you the inevitable rejection letter. The writer who objected to this said that a self-addressed envelope would be one that did the writing of the address itself. Better phrasing, he insisted, was “return-addressed envelop” since it is both more precise and, well, possible. You know I’m not so very obsessive about our evolving language, but I was impressed with the passion of the man’s point, and I’ve followed it ever since.



summer solstice

June 21, 2017

Today is the summer solstice, the official beginning of summer and the longest day of the year.

Depending on your outlook, that could be a good thing or a bad thing.

bits and pieces (and dog hair)

May 30, 2017

I cancelled my plans to travel to Kentucky over the holiday weekend to see my mother because I had a bad head cold moving into my chest, and that she is not well was the reason we were going. Then I cancelled my back-up plan to go to the cabin for the weekend because of the cold. I didn’t run the miles I needed. I did, however, manage to mow my lawn on Friday despite being sick. My grandkids are still years away from being big enuf to do this for me.


I’m coming to the conclusion that the universe is primarily made of dog hair. It seems to be the most common substance.


You’d think that New York would be considered a civilized land, but they consistently do not offer chocolate milk after their runs!


Oddly, there have been four unsolved murders recently along the Indian Creek Trail that I regularly run in my part of Kansas City. I understand the FBI is now involved. Granted, this trail is 20+ miles long, and I don’t generally run as far east on it as the area where these events have taken place, but I fit more or less exactly the demographic of the victims. Maybe I’ll steer my feet to the Tomahawk Creek Trail instead.


I am now behind on my personal schedule of running 1,000 miles this year. With the week of resting my knee and the unexpectedly long taper before the half marathon, I’ve fallen behind. I’m still well within range of doing it; I just wanted to collect 100 miles each month.


I’m currently reading a collection of short stories by Colm Toibin called The Empty Family. His work demands close and careful reading.

bits and pieces

May 17, 2017

Two Saturdays ago, when I was out for my freakishly early morning run, aiming for seven miles, I pulled up lame at about mile two-point-five. (Should those be en dashes?) My right calf cramped up about as bad as it ever has. Normally when this happens, I just try to run through it. And normally, that works; whatever the complaint was, it generally proves temporary and by the next mile I often can’t remember if it was the right or left calf or knee or ankle or quad that was the problem. Not so this time. It hurt for the duration, and I called the run finished at mile four, with three miles left to get to the bagel shop. I called in ground support and limped along until my wife arrived in the car.

I gave my calf the day off the next morning and then tried a much more local run on Monday, managing to coax five miles out of my body. But my calf seized up again. My next two runs were on the treadmill, which is easier on the body, I think. And then I went out again on Saturday, thinking my calf was healed enuf. Not so, again. I managed to get six of my planned seven miles, but that’s it. I’m not running again until this coming Saturday, May 20. And I hope my calf is back in the game by then. If not, I have a problem because my run this coming Saturday is the Brooklyn Half Marathon, a run it is nearly impossible to get into (though my clever son-in-law — again, hyphens or dashes? — showed me how to beat the odds). That’s thirteen-point-one miles. Never mind whether my heart and lungs will cooperate. If this calf issue isn’t resolved by then, I’m going to have an epic experience. I’ve never limped across a finish line, but I fear I may soon. So, stretching, resting, heating pads, (non-alcoholic) hydration, sensible shoes. I figure my angry calf is a lame excuse, don’t you think?


I managed to get the rewrite done of my One-Match Fire story “Men at Work and Play” that I mentioned in this post. I’ll let it simmer for a while then go back and re-read what I’ve re-written. I’ll likely tinker with it further, but I’m glad I’ve gotten it in place. The story needed an edge.


No fresh rejections for my queries of One-Match Fire, but also no new queries sent. I’ve had this nagging thought that I’m not finished with the novel yet. Not only does the tinkering I mention above suggest that, but I’ve begun making notes on a whole new story to add to the collection. I’d been thinking about this story for some time, more as a missed opportunity than a hole that needed filling. But I’m also bugged by the word count of the novel. It barely reaches 63,000 words, which is pretty much the minimum to qualify as a novel rather than a novella. (I’m not sure why that’s important to me though.) Another few thousand words won’t boost the total by much, but it might ease my tormented mind. It would also flesh out the relationships narrative and allow for more character development. I’m pretty sure I’m going to write this new story, which will have a flashback in it, so it will visit two time periods in the novel.


I joined a fitness challenge at work that runs into the middle of next month. Basically it involves logging the number of minutes you exercise, and exercise can be broadly defined. Not only does it include the running and weight work I do, but things like mowing my yard, gardening, and even tending my grandson can be logged. Several of the runners in my department formed a team with the ambition of winning this challenge. (Not sure what it is the winners get though.) On the first day, when I went into the system to log my hour of running, some individual had already logged 2,000 minutes. Never mind that there are only 1,440 minutes in a day. (The entry was subsequently edited down to 1,052 minutes, which means the individual was still “exercising” two-thirds of his/her day.) The highest our team has placed so far is forty-second, but I think that is, in part, because some of us are not as diligent as others in logging the minutes. (I won’t be surprised when we see a sudden surge as a week’s worth of minutes gets logged.)

Each individual is encouraged to log 900 minutes over the month and a half of the contest. At the end of last week, I’d already reported 300+ minutes. This problem with my right calf, however, may slow things down. (Lame excuse.)

nothing much to say

April 3, 2017

I’ve been A.W.O.L. but only because I haven’t had much to say. The interstice betwixt “finishing” One-Match Fire and beginning something new is dragging out longer than I would like, but it also explains why I don’t have any writing dispatches or insights to give.


I continue to receive rejections from agents for my One-Match Fire submissions, which suggests strongly to me that I must have been sending out submissions. I suppose I should do more of that. I’m pretty sure after a point, it’s all a numbers game anyway.


The weather around here has been erratic (“bipolar” is the word one friend used). In the eighties one day and then in the twenties two days later. Dry enuf to make your skin crack and then enuf rain in a few days to make basements damp. Whether it has been enuf to fill my dry lake (or even give the poor fish in the remaining puddle a little recharge) remains to be seen. Because of some mixed messages, I didn’t get a chance to trek down to my cabin over the weekend as I had hoped, but I have been watching the weather reports for that part of the state, and it sure looks as though my watershed got plenty of precipitation.


You may already know that my daughter is expecting twins in August. On Saturday, my son sent us a sonogram of triplets! Yes, triplets!

Then we realized it was April Fools’ Day.


I managed to run 100.26 miles last month. Just a quarter mile over my minimum goal. I was hampered, however, by a wonky knee. I’m not sure what caused it, whether it was the newish shoes I have or the transition from treadmill to pavement. But I took off an entire week from running to rest the knee, which would have otherwise added at least 25 miles to my total, so I don’t feel so bad. And once I got back to running, the wonkiness of the knee quickly went away. I’m not sure what that means either.


February 24, 2017

Okay, so I sent out a query to an agent this morning for One-Match Fire. My inertia is broken. You have to be sanguine about these things, even though you know the odds are astronomically not in your favor. But you have to begin somewhere.

Now that it’s done, I suppose it will be easier for me to begin sending out more queries for the novel. Sometimes this part of the effort seems harder than the actual creative writing.


I’m still reading White-Jacket. It’s a long voyage and the ship is now at anchor in Rio de Janeiro where the sailors are chafing at getting too little and too much shore leave. Melville is writing a humorous tale, but it is clear that just below the surface he is railing about the injustices and inhumanity of the Navy in those days. In fact, when the novel was published, a copy was given to each member of Congress and, I’ve read, it was instrumental in getting flogging banned as a punishment aboard U.S. ships. I’m enjoying every word, but I’ll be glad when I’ve finished the novel and I can move from the 19th Century and into something more contemporary.


I crossed the 200-mile mark in my running two days ago. With the cold weather, I’ve done most of those miles on treadmills. But in the unseasonably warm days of late, I’ve been going outside for my miles. The transition from treadmill to pavement has been rough on my poor legs and lungs. The treadmill presents a continuous pace on a forgiving surface. The pavement, not so much. I constantly find myself going too “fast” to sustain, and my legs — especially my quadriceps — ache afterward. I don’t remember this much trouble in past years. Not sure why that is.


I’m making some progress with the story I’m now calling “Stargazing and Eavesdropping.” A couple more scenes and I should have the first draft finished. Still no news on the status of the various stories I have out in submission.

still here

February 16, 2017

I’m sorry I haven’t had a post in a while. Nothing much to report, I guess. I’m still around, still attempting to write, and run, and live as well as I can in each case.