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National Novel Writing Month Begins Tomorrow October 31, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Books, Market Research, NaNoWriMo 2006, Other, writing.

It all starts in just a few hours; November is National Novel Writing Month.  I will be serializing my novel, as I write it, on this space and then testing the parameters of the “Long Tail” by marketing it here as well. 

Here’s the deal:

  1. If you like what you see, you can get the novel I am writing by going to Bookmooch and sending me a credit.  Don’t have a Bookmooch account?  Get one here.  Maybe I’ll order one of your books.  By the way, I chose Bookmooch instead of paperbackswap for this only because I have a large number of paperbackswap credits and very few Bookmooch ones right now. 
  2. When the novel is done (some time before December 1), I will bind it as a paperback book (using the method described at Achieve It), with a cover and everything, and ship it to you (I pay the postage) some time before the new year (hopefully in time for Christmas).  This offer is open to the first ten people to send me a Bookmooch credit (and any others who happen to send credits that day).

This is how you commit yourself to completing a project: you tell others you are going to accomplish it.  Yeah, it’s a little terrifying.  As we get older and more fearless we have to invent better ways to scare ourselves.  Happy Halloween!

nano_06_icon_88×31.gifAs David Lee Roth once said, “I’ve got my pencil . . . gimme something to write on, man. . . . “

One hundred ninety-sixth safest city October 30, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Lowell, Other.

Lowell has been ranked the 196th safest city in America, according to a report by Morgan Quinto Press, who collected crime statistics from, apparently, as many cities as they could.  It’s all about perspective.  The ranking shows, sort of, in a weird way, that the city is safer than Sacramento (322), San Francisco (270), and Concord (142), where I lived when I first moved out of Mom and Dad’s house (Folsom apparently did not respond to the survey). 

 And in Massachusetts the rankings are a little surprising, too.

  • #4. Newton
  • #76. Quincy
  • #85. Somerville
  • #117. Cambridge
  • #196. Lowell
  • #229. Worcester
  • #242. Lynn
  • #254. New Bedford
  • #314. Boston
  • #341. Springfield

I’m sure that now that Boston has taken Lowell’s Chief of Police as their Commissioner, Ed Davis will clean them up a little.  I just hope that whoever attempts to fill Davis’ sizeable shoes will stick to his comminity policing tactics.

Designs for Index Card Wallets/Folders October 28, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Hipster PDA, Origami, Other.

Over the last few months I’ve experimented a little with materials and designs for these things.  Click on the thumbnail for a larger picture. 

I really like how durable various grocery bags are.  Here’s one made from a University of Massachusetts Amherst bookstore bag.


And here’s a Trader Joe’s bag.  I have lots of these because they change the design every so often.


Here’s a Starbucks bag that I liked.


And a bag from North Country Books that turned out pretty cool.


Free maps that you get at rest stops are pretty cool looking.  This is one for the White Mountain region of New Hampshire.


Here’s a bag that I cut to 8 1/2 by 11 inches and printed a logo from some sort of microbiological library in the U.K. that I found on the net.  Durable and chic.


You can buy a lot of different papers now that they make for scrapbooking.  Here’s one that I keep blogging notes on.


And here’s the one I use for notes on music I’m writing (yeah, it’s almost empty.)


And here’s one that has cool french cursive writing on it.


And something I got at Charette in Woburn that’s black paper with silver elephants.


And some white paper printed with a pdf version of the input-output, sources and uses diagram that Lawrence Livermore labs in California put in some report for 2002.


And a map of the Clearwater National Forest area of Idaho.


And some downloaded cave painting that I printed onto a recycled manila envelope.


And one of my favorites, from Crow Bookshop in Burlington Vermont.


Revision and Extension to Index Card Folder Diagram October 27, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Hipster PDA, Origami, Other.
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There has been a lot of action on this site in the last few days regarding the index card wallet, and I always wanted to clarify one point but had not got around to it yet.  So today is the day, before a lot more people have somewhat inadequate folders for their Hipster PDAs or index cards.  So, if you follow the instructions that I have already posted on this site as a modified daisy letterfold, you will end up with a folder that has a horizontal crease in it.  This is ordinarily O.K.  It works out fine if you are using paper bags or heavy-duty paper of some sort.  But if you are doing something fancy, or printing in colors on the paper, or using shiny types of paper, it looks kinda bad.  So here is the solution: 

Instead of creasing all the way on step three (which goes from corner to corner) just crease it a little in the very middle of the paper like this:


And that way you get just a little discoloration in the middle of one side of the folder (shown at top in picture below) rather than a wicked-ugly crease across the whole flippin’ thing.


So, there you go.

National Novel Writing Month October 26, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Books, Other, writing.

I joined up with the folks at NaNoWriMo, registering on the site and the whole business. 


I have committed to writing a (shortish) novel (of 50,000 words or more) in November.  I don’t yet have a plot or title or anything else for it, but I am up to the challenge, I think.  I was inspired by H. P. Lovecraft (and how often do you hear that phrase?  I just searched for it in Google and the answer, before I publish this, is zero.  There will be at least one in a couple of minutes.  Perfect candidate for that googleslap game or whatever it is called.)


So, that’s about five pages per day.  And about one in six people who entered the contest last year completed their 50,000-word requirement (which meant nearly 10,000 new novels in November of last year.  Next year I might get more involved in this, but I see that there are no official events in Lowell (this despite the fact that much of the money raised goes to build libraries in Cambodia, where many of our residents came from).  Wish me luck.

Books–At the Mountains of Madness October 26, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Books, Other.
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H.P. Lovecraft is amazing.  I thought a lot while I was reading this book about the writing process, since I am seriously considering writing a novel in November for NaNoWriMo.  Lovecraft couldn’t have possibly read the same book that I read on plotting, but he reminds me of it nonetheless.  I read this old book I found in the library written by a guy who only identifies himself as Foster-Harris.  (I don’t know whether that’s a first name spatchcocked to a last name with a hyphen, or whether he thinks his first name isn’t important, or what.)  Anyway, this guy’s advice was pretty kookety, and I’ll post more about it maybe during November.  “At the Mountains of Madness” reminded me of Foster-Harris’s advice that you take the central conflict in your story and make it more and more difficult for the protagonist.  Make it so difficult that it looks to be simply impossible for some sort of positive resolution.

Now in terms of plot, Lovecraft’s stories are nothing like that.  But he seems to sometimes accept a similar sort of challenge.  It is as if someone said to him when he was writing this “H.P.  I think that you could not possibly make penguins scary or creepy.  Penguins are too cute and goofy.  They look too happy-go-lucky.  I’ll give you ten thousand bucks if you can make some scary penguins without screwing up your story.”  And then H. P. rose to the challenge. These are, I should note, six-foot tall, sightless, albino penguins.  And they are not the main villains of the story; they may not be villains at all.  But still, if you can mak penguins creepy and then later in your story make them seem a welcome sight by comparison, you are the best. 

Far worse than the penguins are the Shoggoths, which were originally engineered by the Old Ones, the Elder Gods of the Cthulhu mythos.  They appear in this story as creations that have gone out of the control of their makers.  These creatures remind me a little too much of the final scenes of John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” which veered substantially from the original movie.  I see from the wikipedia entry on this book/story that Carpenter was fascinated by Lovecraft, and of course both stories take place in the arctic. 

At the “Mountains of Madness” is the longest story in this collection of four stories at about 110 pages.  The shortest in this book is five pages long.  It also contains “The Shunned House,” “The Dreams in the Witch House,” and “The Statement of Randolph Carter” (the five-page one).  All are excellent and creepy.  Perfect reading for the end of a New England October.  I wish I had a few more on hand.

 Next Up:  Another Bullshit Day in Suck City, by Nick Flynn

Books–The Necronomicon October 25, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Books, Memory, Other.
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This one, purchased at Crow Bookshop, in Burlington Vermont, is apparently by someone who called himself The Mad Arab, or so I am led to believe.  I first became interested in The Necronomicon by reading the works of H. P. Lovecraft, who refers to the book’s writer as Abdul Alhazred.  I didn’t ever expect to see the book itself, because Lovecraft claimed that there were only one or two copies in the world, and many others claimed that it never existed.  The book itself is much more interesting in Lovecraft’s novels, partially, I think because of his prose style and instincts for mystery and horror.  The editors of the issue in my possession (copyright 1977 by Schlangecraft, Inc., and printed as an Avon Paperback) do not claim to know the name of this Mad Arab.

At any rate, the editors claim that this book is in the tradition of a grimoire, a book of spells for a sorceror, and that you should be a pretty accomplished magician to attempt any of them without the requisite background knowledge.  Indeed, they claim that they were visited by poltergeists and had horrible things happen to them while they merely edited and typeset the thing.  More recent sources about all of this stuff disagree (and here, too), concluding that it is more of a history, and perhaps complete balderdash.  So I guess that’s how I’ll have to read it. 

Even as a history there are some things that trouble me about this work (well, duh, right?)  First there is the matter of Alhazred’s motivation.  If this is a history, starring Alhazred and the weird mythos of demons and old ones, etc., then I should be able to understand Alhazred’s motivations.  And he tries to explain them in his introduction, claiming that he “learned the names and properties of all the demons, devils, fiends and monsters listed herein, in this Book of the Black Earth.”  And he “learned of the powers of the astral Gods, and how to summon their aid in times of need.”  These, you’d think, are good things to know, although they are somewhat vague.  I mean, it’s not clear what needs Abdul would have.  Did he need more goats?  He claims that he did not marry, so if he needed a wife or whatever, he did not use their help for that.  So much of the things he learned seem to be unpleasant.  Is it just my modern sensibilities and outlook, or is it a mixed blessing to learn “of the frightful beings who dwell beyond the astral spirits, who guard the Temple of the Lost, of the Ancient Days, the Ancient of the Ancient Ones, whose names [he] cannot write here”?

Mr. Alhazred, according to the book’s editors, wrote this all down at a time when things were not going well for him.  And they claim that he was consumed by these forces and didn’t get to end the book in the traditional manner, signing it with his name and the names of his ancestors.  Indeed, this seems to be the tone of the work, as Alhazred claims that “the Maskim nip at [his] heels, the Rabishu pull at [his] hair, Lammashta opens her dread jaws, AZAG-THOTH gloats blindly at his throne, KUTULU raises his head and stares up through the Veils of sunkun Varloorni, up through the Abyss, and fixes his stare upon me . . .” 

He starts the work by noting how he first came upon this strange knowledge, and it is a riveting and weird story.  But again, there is the problem of motivation to deal with.  He is sleeping in the desert near a rock and is spooked by some strange sights and noises.  Then he rolls into the grass, thinking that it could be robbers.  He sees a weird sight, some people in hoods performing a weird rite near the rock, and the rock rises up.  He screams and one of the hooded figures runs after him.  But he apparently interrupted something in their ritual, and all of these figures are consumed, or possibly melted, by something.  He decides he must find out more about this stuff.  Why?  I am interested in finding things out, but I guess I like to think that much of my self-education tends towards the utilitarian.  If I can’t figure out how to use something, to make my life better, or someone else’s life better, I tend to forget it anyway.  So it seems like a waste of time to learn it in the first place. 

Possibly this is how Alhazred met his end, attempting to remember trivial arcane rituals (although out of self-preservation he might have been more careful, I suppose).  He writes “My fate is no longer writ in the stars, for I have broken the Chaldean Covenant by seeking power over the Zonei. . . . The lines of my life have been obliterated by my Wanderings in the Waste, over the letters written in the heavens by the gods.  And even now I can hear the wolves howling in the mountains as they did that fateful night, and they are calling my name, and the names of the Others.  I fear for my flesh, byt I fear for my spirit more.”  Well, why were you seeking power over the Zonei, then, Abdul?  I really do want to know. 

Next Up: At the Mountains of Madness, by H. P. Lovecraft

The Hottest Blog October 23, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Blogs and Blogging, Market Research, Other.

You will all want to link here as soon as you can because this is going to be the number one blog in the world in a mere 210 days.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  On August 23rd this blog was ranked number 1,446,587 in Technorati.  Today when I checked it was ranked Number 1,125,384. 


That’s one fast-moving blog.  And even if the curve levels out a little, you can see this happening in one short year pretty easily.  I attribute all of this to the fact that there are people out there entering the blogging world and seeing that it is full of these tech-savvy engineers and programmers who simply don’t have the variety of interests and skills to differentiate themselves sufficiently from one another very well.  They all talk about the same things all of the time.  And the ones that don’t fit this mold are desparately scheming at viral marketing strategies or shamelessly flogging political ideologies or candidates or the newest software or television show. 

I say all of that to say this: Start the countdown to the celebration.  Today is T-minus 210.

Gazebo Crash October 23, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Other.
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Such a windstorm we had on Friday night.  I think we must have been out having dinner when the gazebo jumped over the railing on our back deck and launched itself into our back yard. 


It grazed the house a little bit, which is a bit of an issue because there is some vinyl siding that I’ll have to replace, probably.  It also took a chunk out of the playset.  It is a lot heavier than I thought (plus it was actually screwed into the deck in a couple of places.)  There was one tear in the fake canvas roof of the thing, but I think that structurally I should be able to repair it.  The cover needed to be replaced anyway.

As you can see, it vaulted not only the railing, but all of the patio furniture that was inside of it, which was untouched. 

Books–Left Behind October 20, 2006

Posted by caveblogem in Books, luck or time, Other.

Boy, do I feel stupid.  I am a member of Paperbackswap.com and bookmooch.com because I read a lot.  Anyway, I ordered this book, thinking that it was fiction.  Apparently there is more than one book about the end of the world called Left Behind.  (Apparently I wanted the one by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye, the first in a series of fictional works that has been very popular.  It may also suck, but at this point I do not know that for sure.)  The one I ordered is called Left Behind, by Peter and Patti LaLonde.  I’ll review it to spare anyone else the torture of this book.

Imagine a book about biblical events like rapture and the time of tribulations written in the second person in a style that begins as a story, but almost immediately becomes a sort of FAQ.  Now imagine that it was written by people with a loose grasp of how the different tenses of Standard Written English may be used.  Yes, it makes some difficult reading.  Not that they had an easy task before them. 

The book starts out as a sort of extended letter from a couple who was swept up in the rapture to all those unfortunates who remained behind.  But as an evangelical work, its main goal is to convince the reader to accept Jesus as their personal savior before it is too late.  Thematically it is grounded in the here-and-now.  In terms of plotting, it takes place in the future.  But since it was written in the early 1990s, much of its “future” is actually our past, or possibly our present.  Much of the book’s “support” comes from biblical sources and biblical “scholars” like Hal Lindsey (who I always confuse with TV’s Barney Miller, Hal Linden).  So you have to add at least two temporal modes and you have to be really careful with the originals.  The writers did not take such care. 

And the chapter titles and subheads often take you out of the action entirely and are sometimes simply pointless.  Consider my personal favorite subheading of all time: “We Say All That To Say This” (37).  I’m going to modify that one and use it in my correspondence from now until the end times as a replacement for my frequent ellipses. 

Another problem is the writer-based prose.  The title of chapter five is a good case in point for this.  Chapter five is called “What Are Some Of The Excuses You Will Hear For The Vanishing?”  Now if this were really intended to be a FAQ-style document, the title should be “What are some of the excuses I will hear for the vanishing?”  But that shouldn’t side-track us from the fact that this simply is not one of the questions I would ask anybody.  There are chapters devoted to Star Trek and Whitley Strieber as well.  Not really what I’d be thinking about w/r/t the end times.  But I say all that to say this: Do not buy this book, even if you believe in this stuff.  I’m sure that there are books that are much more accessible and less confusing.