I Don’t Know What the Weather Is Doing Where You Are

But where I am, in far northern New Hampshire, it’s snowing.  Again.

We’re under a winter storm warning until 2AM, and it’s been snowing with steady determination since mid-morning. And even after the storm warning has passed, the weather forecast is still calling for snow every day until the weekend.

To which I can only say, “Enough, already!”

This is the sort of weather that takes all of my get-up-and-go and stuffs it into a sack and throws it into a snowbank.

But I have editing jobs to work on, so once more into the breach . . . .

What’s Happening This Weekend, Dr. Doyle?


What’s happening this weekend on March 3 is that my spouse and co-author, Jim Macdonald, is going to be doing his stage magic at the Vermont Winter Faire in Essex Junction, Vermont.  This is an indoor faire, being held at the Champlain Valley Exposition event center.

Once again, he’ll be doing walkaround magic all day; this time, he’ll also be doing a stage performance at 2:30 PM.

If you’re in the area, come by and give him (and all the other vendors and performers) a look!

Food for Plot

While idly mousing about the internet the other day, I followed a link to this page, which is all about an artist in Texas who’s been re-imagining images of classic Western heroes using female models, with awesome results:

And my thought, instantly, was “Damn, I want to read the books that those are the covers for!”  Because behind every powerful image is a good story.

Happy New Year!

New Year

May the good parts of 2017 stay with us, and may the bad parts recede quickly in the rear-view mirror.

And may 2018 bring all of the good things that we need, and a fair share of the good things we may not need but would like to have anyway, because a little fun and frivolity are good for the soul.

(The best advice my father ever gave me was, “As long as nobody’s getting hurt, ‘just for fun’ is a perfectly valid reason for doing anything.”  My mother, more practical, said, “Make your bed first thing in the morning after you get out of it, or you’ll never make it all day.”  They were both right.)

Vocabulary Expansion Through Homeownership, and Other Lexical Consequences of Choosing to Settle in Northern New Engand.

Let us consider, for example, “soffit.” Until I ended up living in a 19th-century wooden house in deep snow country, I had no idea what a soffit was. I may have been in the vicinity of soffits from time to time, but they had by no means impinged upon my consciousness.

But now I know. Per Wikipedia, “in popular use, soffit most often…refers to the material forming a ceiling from the top of an exterior house wall to the outer edge of the roof, i.e., bridging the gap between a home’s siding and the roofline, otherwise known as the eaves.”

Per my own experience, soffits are those rotted bits under the roof of the upstairs gable windows that I’m going to have to get replaced this spring, right after I get the plumbing fixed and the north side of the roof reshingled.

(Old houses always need the plumbing fixed. I think it’s a rule.)

Winter weather up here provides other items of interest for word nuts, as well. Like this idiomatic tidbit, picked up from listening to the local road crews on the radio scanner: “Be careful up on Titus Hill. It’s getting greasy out there.” Translated out of the north woods accent, what this means is that the previously snow-plowed roads, having been lightly rained on for a few hours, are now in the process of freezing again, and have reached a particularly nasty and treacherous state of slickness.

Good weather for staying in and updating one’s blog, in fact.

The Free Speech Bargain

Every so often, a voice from the back row asks the plaintive question, “In today’s publishing climate, what am I, as an [insert identify marker or lack of one here], allowed to write about?”

Okay.  Here’s the deal, at least as far as the US of A goes*:

You’re allowed** to write about anything you damned well please.

And everybody else – your mom, your best friend, all the other people in your writers’ group, your editor, the New York Times Review of Books, and total random strangers on the internet – is allowed to say out loud and in public what they thought about it.

The thing about the deal, you see, is that it goes both ways.  And a writer who can’t handle the deal is probably better off pulling an Emily Dickinson and keeping their stuff locked up in their dresser drawer for posterity.

*The world is a large and varied place, and I make no claim to pontificate for all of it.

**With the usual narrow exceptions involving nonexistent fires in crowded theatres, and the like.


Sometimes It’s an Analog Problem

For the past few days, I’ve been having really bad audio playback problems on my desktop computer – sounds dropping out, sounds being fuzzy, dialogue on videos suddenly becoming harder to follow.  Because we’d just had a fairly large Windows 10 update, and because I’d just said “The hell with waiting for the bad news, I’m going to switch over to the Firefox 57 Beta now,” I went about searching for a cure for the problem in my Firefox and Windows setups, to no avail.

Then this afternoon I finally wised up, and bethought myself of the maxim that when in doubt, one should always switch in a known good piece of hardware and see if the problem persists.  So I dug out my emergency earbuds (I hate earbuds, so I never use them unless I have to; earmuff-style headphones suit me much better, and keep my ears warm in winter to boot) and unplugged my headphones – whereupon I got a good look at the headphone jack for the first time in a couple of weeks.

And lo, the jack was visibly bent several degrees off true.

I blame the cats, who are in the annoying habit of leaping from the top of my desk to the floor and catching the headphone cord with their hind legs on the way.  I will have to buy a new pair of earmuff headphones this afternoon, and I can see a pair of cordless bluetooth headphones in my future as well.  (I can cheap out on regular wired headphones, because they all break eventually and don’t really get much sturdier until you get into the $100-and-up range, but the wireless ones don’t have anything like the battery life I’d need until they’re well into not-cheap territory.  Also, my desktop computer is sufficiently elderly that I’ll also have to throw in a bluetooth adapter to make it work.)

Anyhow – I plugged in the earbuds, and gave the sound another try.

Yep.  Dead jack on the old headphones was the problem source.

So.  Immediate solution:  earbuds.  Short-term solution: new headphones.  Medium-term solution: wireless headphones+bluetooth adapter.  Long-term solution: New desktop computer.

It’s always nice to have a path mapped out.

Harbingers Ahoy!

First Tree Color SmallerThat tree in the front driveway that I was talking about the other day is now showing its first patch of color.  Summer is now officially (for local household values of “official”) transitioning into autumn.

We have also recently taken in our first batch of gift zucchini. Likewise a couple of locally-grown tomatoes, which promptly went into BLT sandwiches.  Raising tomatoes up here in northern New England is a triumph of hope over experience every time; they have to be started indoors, and once they’re out in the garden, it’s a race between them and the first frost.

(A harbinger, by the way, was originally a person who went ahead of an army to arrange for lodgings, going back through Old French to Old Saxon to a couple of root words heri and berga – meaning, respectively “army” and “a fortified place.”  The latter is the same root that shows up in a lot of place names, since for a long time, historically speaking, “city” and “fortified place” were more or less synonymous.)

Another Sign of the Changing Times

Our printer died the other day, somewhat to our surprise. It was an HP Deskjet 6940 — in other words, a fairly sturdy office model — and it really shouldn’t have reacted so badly to having been taken for a car ride to Peabody, Massachusetts, and back again.  But react badly it did; once reconnected to our household setup, it steadfastly refused to communicate with the desktop computer.

We did all the usual things to confirm its defunct state:  We switched in a known good USB cable, to make certain it wasn’t the cable, and it didn’t work; we switched in an old but working college printer left behind by one of our various offspring, and it did work, to the extent that it would install and communicate with the desktop computer (it had paper take-up issues, and its ink cartridges were several years old, so it wasn’t good for anything other than diagnostic purposes); we ran all the troubleshooters and checked for updated drivers; all to no avail.

It was time, we admitted, to go printer shopping, and so we did.  I wound up ordering a refurbished Kodak Verite 55 from New Egg; I’ve had good luck with their refurbished stuff before.  Also, the printer in question was on sale that week for $34.99, which meant that even if it turned out to be a dud, I wouldn’t be weeping hot tears over its demise.  Nor would I feel unduly guilty if we decided at some more wealthy point to upgrade to a more expensive model.

The printer in question is low-end enough that by the time we’ve gone through a couple of replacement ink cartridges, we’ll have spent more on ink than on the machine itself.   (It’s the “don’t make your money selling razors; make your money selling razor blades” principle, I suppose.)  But it doesn’t matter.  We don’t actually need an iron-thewed workhorse of an office printer that can do 600-plus pages in an afternoon without breaking down, because it’s been over a decade since we last submitted a novel in hardcopy form.

It’s all electronic now, and I don’t miss it a bit — not the wrestling with a stack of loose paper that wants to slump over into an uncollated pile; not the necessity of keeping an eagle eye on the printing process to make certain that no blank pages or skipped pages get through; not the wrestling with paper jams or the inevitable discovery at page 550 that you’re out of ink and the nearest Staples is an hour and a half away and already closed for the night.

Other people can wax nostalgic over their old-school office-quality printers†, or their IBM Selectrics or their Smith-Coronas, or their one true fountain pen, or their perfectly-trimmed goose quill, but not me.

In this case, at least, technology is my friend.

Okay, I’ll admit to looking back at my first Epson MX-80 dot-matrix with fond remembrance; that printer was built like a tank, and survived both a transcontinental move and an international move without failing, and was our printer of choice for first drafts for a long time after that.