Sunday, August 20, 2017

My Stepmother Died

I just got off the phone with my Dad. My Stepmother Dee died of cancer yesterday about 6 pm. He lives hours away from me in the Poconos. Now he's alone with 15 cats in the woods. I'm stuck with my crippled mother here in Clifton Heights and two dogs and everything SUCKS.

I will not be online for a while.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Happy 13th Birthday to My Dog Pony!

I first saw her when she was seven weeks old with her mom and litter mates in a small flat in England. She's now a teenager. We were both beaten up by the same man. Seeing her hit gave me the courage to leave that loser forever. We both were homeless together. We both saw our shelter home burnt down. We both survived the cross-Atlantic plane ride to America -- a new country for her but the land of my birth.

She's slowed down a bit and has far more white on her face than in this photo from ages past, but still as wonderful as ever. She's learned to share me with Hugo, a powderpuff Chinese Crested. She loves everybody -- except the vet. She's Pony, my dog and the best thing that ever happened to me.

Happy birthday, Pony. And hopefully there will be many more to come.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Too Tired To Blog -- I Blame My Mom

I know I haven't blogged on any of my numerous blogs Since Feb or March -- because I'm exhausted. That's a wimpy excuse, I know, but let's be honest -- I'm lucky to make $10 a year from all my blogs combined. It's not much of an incentive to continue. I worked my ass off in school, college and previous jobs so I deserve some time to relax.

Back to reading and watching Amazon Prime -- yeah, right. I spend most of my time taking care of my crippled mother. It's like taking care of a child -- a really smart child, but still. At any hour of the day or night there can be some kind of crisis -- a medication that needs renewing, a doctor who won't call back, a new food she suddenly becomes allergic to, spills, splats and anxiety attacks. She doesn't want me to be more than two hours away from home at any one time, so no more vacations to Germany and no more concerts.

And I take care of the dogs and the goldfish, too.

Let's put it this way -- a good day for me is when I only have to wipe my Mom's ass ONCE.

So yeah -- I'm EXHAUSTED.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The 50 Funniest American Writers: According to Andy Borowitz by Andy Borowitz

Not funny except for a few selections near the end (Wanda Sykes, George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Jean Shepherd, Woody Allen.)

(In other words -- not recommended.)

NOTE: This review (such as it is) originally appeared on Goodreads. I spend way too much time on Goodreads. Anyone else addicted to writing reviews on Goodreads?


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Book Series Review The Everything Series By Adams Media

No, I haven’t read them all but enough to get the general flavor of the series

First there was the For Dummies series by Wiley Publishing and then came The Complete Idiot's Guide series by the Penguin Group. Since they did so well, there has been a host of other series based on the similar themes, subjects and layouts as both the For Dummies series and The Complete Idiot's Guide series. The most promising of these knock-off series has been the Everything book series from Adams Media.
The Good
The Everything series tends to be indexed very well, organized well and include an interesting "Additional Resources" section of print media, websites or organizations to help you get further details. These are especially helpful for students, teachers or freelance writers.
The books use an easy to read font and use different colored text and headings to help break up long chapters into easy-to-digest pieces. Like the two series it mimics, the Everything books also has specially named and illustrated features scattered about the text. These include "E Alerts" which are warnings; "E Essentials" which are "quick, handy tips" and "E Facts" which sometimes wanders into the trivial.
The Bad
Unfortunately, the Everything book series does not have the clout (such that it is) that the For Dummies or The Complete Idiot's Guide has. Perhaps this will change in the future. But for now, the Everything series cannot pull in experts in the field that also know how to write. The writing quality varies considerably from book to book.
Also, these books are less than 300 pages long. That does not include the introduction, contents list, index, Additional Resources section and advertisements for other books in the series. Many books in the series try to cover topics much too broad to be explained in less than 300 pages. The most successful books in the series are ones that focus on a more specific topic, such as The Everything Blogging Book by Aliza Rishdahl.
The Downright Ugly
The titles of some books in the Everything series can be deceptive. The writer may cover a topic slightly different than what the title suggests. This can be highly annoying. One example of such a book is The Everything Aquarium Book by Frank Indiviglio. He spends most of the book talking about saltwater or marine aquariums. This does not help people with freshwater or brackish water aquariums.
This was also reflected in the eight pages of color photographs in the book. Seven pages described salt water species. Color pages also push up the cost of a book and so it would have been much better for the reader to ditch the photos and get eight more pages of content, especially about freshwater aquariums and equipment.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Happy Birthday Peter Gabriel

Today is Peter Gabriel's 67th birthday, so I'm trotting out this old picture that appeared originally on the Solsbury Hill website. I couldn't find any news on PG except that his rather mediocre song "The Veil" (from the Oliver Stone movie Snowden) is up for an Oscar (the show is on Feb. 26.) The same song was nominated but lost at last night's Grammys. Something called "Heathens" won and apparently the population of a small nation sung on the track.

The only other news I could find is that Anna Gabriel, PG's eldest child, is selling her posh New York flat.

If you're waiting for a new album from PG, don't hold your breath.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Is Blogging Stressful?

Several years ago, one of the most widely circulated stories among bloggers is The New York TimesIn Wide Word of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog ‘Til They Drop.   Chances are, you already read it, had it emailed to you or heard about it.  The story alleges that bloggers can kill themselves blogging in the hunt to report the Next Big Thing.

The Next Big Thing is crucial to bloggers trying to make some money.  The Next Big Thing often brings in more traffic and thus gives the blog a larger chunk of revenue share.

The Reality of Blogging

I hate to disappoint you, but blogging is not stressful in and of itself.  In fact, I find it to be a real relief from my daily stress.  I have two personal blogs that don’t generate money and have worked on blogs for clients that did make money.  The only stress I received was blogging for other clients. (“Hmm – wonder if he’ll bother paying me this month?”)

There does seem to be a difference between the blogger interviewed for the New York Times article than for "normal" bloggers.  The former — and most stressed out kind — are journalists where the deadline was always yesterday.  Don’t let their job pressures dissuade you from writing a diary, journal or blog.  Getting your thoughts out of your head and onto paper (or a computer screen) is one of the most economic and effective ways of managing stress.

The Word “Blog”

Just the word "blog" is can make you relax.  It’s such a ludicrous-sounding word.  I know blog is short for "weblog", but that’s not what I thought of when I first heard the word ‘blog" years ago.  I thought it was a sound you made when a vine or a tentacle wrapped around you.  You know — "Have I ever seem a giant squid around here?  Nah, there aren’t any giant sq — blog!" 

So, just thinking "I’ve got to go work on the blogs now" can put at least half a smile on my face.

Help In Survival Situations

I used to have a book on wilderness survival written by an ex-SAS guy, John Wiseman.  In it, you learn things like how to survive in the woods after your airplane has gone down or how to find drinkable water in the Arctic.  And you know what one thing he recommended for surviving difficult situations where you are stranded in the middle of nowhere?  

If you guess, "keep a journal", pat yourself on the book and go have a cookie.   If you kept a journal (ordinary or written blog") in survival situations, you can keep track of what plants are edible, any significant landmarks to remember and how long you’ve been stuck out in the middle of nowhere.  He also says that it helps as a stress reliever and to give you a sense of purpose ("I can’t die yet — needs I must blog!")

So, if you don’t believe me, you can take it from John Wiseman.  The act of blogging is not stressful and it can help you overcome stressful situations.  Blogging for money can be stressful, depending on how goofy your client is.  But even then, you don’t have to deal with the client face to face.  But you can always blog about how annoying blogging is, as long as you don’t name any clients and incur a lawsuit.

The Informal Library in Clifton Heights, Pennsylvania

My favorite place to go in my neighborhood

My home town of Clifton Heights has a rather unusual library.  It’s so unusual that most residents are completely unaware that it exists.  When asked where the closest library is, A Clifton Heights resident will most likely direct you to the public libraries in Lansdowne or Upper Darby.  But one library exists, unheralded and mostly ignored inside of the Clifton Heights Borough Hall.

The Informal Library

This library lacks many of the things a usual library has.  It does not have librarians, books organized into categories or even steady hours.  But it also does have due dates.  The library is based entirely on the honor system.  Residents can take as many books as they want, although they are requested to bring other books they do not want in compensation.

The library is the first room on the left as soon as you walk into the Borough Hall doors.  Often the lights are out.  Just open the door and switch on the lights.  Inside the vast room, you’ll see a lot of empty tables and chairs.  This is where Veteran’s Administration meetings, council meetings and voting takes place. 

But flanking the room are large, stately wooden bookshelves crammed with books, old textbooks and tons of Reader’s Digest Condensed Book tombs.  You never know what you are going to find at the informal library.  I try to only go a few times a year in order to ensure the largest turnover possible.  I like to savor the occasion as it’s such a treat.


The library is mostly open when the Borough Hall is open.  However, if there is a meeting going on, then the doors will be locked.  You are allowed to look for books while voting is going on, as long as you do not bother the volunteers helping out that day.  They usually park their desks in front of one wall of bookcases.

Bring a large tote bag or backpack and fill it up.  Don’t expect to see a lot of books or authors that you recognize.  But this is a great chance to expand your reading horizons and sample all kinds of authors and genres for free.  Bring a sense of humor.  Some volunteers do try and sort out the shelves, but mostly they are a hodge-podge of categories. 

Clifton Heights Borough Hall
30 South Springfield Road
Clifton Heights, PA 19018