Sunday, July 31, 2016

Time Keeps on Slippin'

Into the future. Can’t believe the thirty-one days that was July 2016 is just about history.

1. First, some business.

My laptop is back up and running, and Hopper is officially back in business!

Two months logged in the new job. Have it just about down, though every day there’s something new to troubleshoot, research, fix, provide an answer for. It’s not the most dynamic of environments I’ve been in, though maybe that’s just what I need right now. But it’s helping good people (not making sleazy people richer) and it’s toward a good cause (mental health). The pay is so-so, but the hours are great for when the little ones are back in school, and after my probationary period is over I will be getting tons of paid time off.

In six weeks I start taking courses for income tax preparation. I’ve done a lot myself over the past three months, reading and studying recommended books and guides. Ain’t no expert by far, yet, but my goal is not to see anything in these classes for the first time. And the classes look like the real deal: time-intensive, homework-intensive, and hands-on. I’m looking forward to it.

2. Next, some art.

Currently finishing up Tolkien’s The Two Towers. Then I’ll move on to The Return of the King, hoping to finish by the third week of August. I’m feeling an incredible itch to return to SF, to put away a half-dozen or so of some interesting paperbacks I have laying about before I cycle back to meatier things. Paperbacks such as:

The Long Afternoon of Earth (1961) by Brian Aldiss

As on a Darkling Plain (1972) by Ben Bova

False Dawn (1978) by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (a fave from my youth)

Spaceling (1978) by Doris Piserchia

The World at the End of Time (1990) by Frederik Pohl

Also have two classics by Robert Heinlein still unread that I want to get to:

Between Planets (1951)

Citizen of the Galaxy (1957)

Plus Gene Wolfe’s whole “Book of the New Sun” cycle of paperbacks from the early 80s, too.

Writing, and blogging, have, alas, taken a back seat these past dozen weeks, to the new job, the tax stuff, and to the reading that relaxes me better than any pre-dinner vodka martini. That’s a nag in the back of the head, yet another itch that’ll need satisfying sooner rather than later.

Musically, haven’t been listening to anything really. Which is rare for me. Early in the year I experimented with new stuff, trying to find something to kindle an interest. Nuthin’. However, I have been phenomenally creative on the acoustic guitar. Riffs and songs pour out of these fingertips with a frequency I only dreamed of back in my Les Paul-playin’ days. I think I have enough material to finish a third solo album. Makes me want to get some of my little ones’ friends’ dads and launch a quinquagenarian garage band. God, I’m getting old.

Now that there’s some relative stability in my life, I need to focus on my physical and spiritual health. A year ago I was lifting weights every day and walking ten miles a week. Now, with a job, all that’s been thrown to the wayside. But the job’s just an excuse. I have plenty of time to work out, just don’t do it. And I notice the difference in feeling, energy, and drive, believe me. So I need to resume that this upcoming month before things get hectic again. Cleaning up my diet – again, no big thing, just gotta do it – is essential, too.

There’s other stuff also, but I have the sneaking suspicion I may be boring you. I promise some interesting, off-the-wall posts in the next few days (have the ideas jotted down, just gotta write ’em), and a Tolkien extravaganza when King is finished, c. August 20th or so.

See ya, July! Your grade … mmmm … lessee …. A-minus!

Thursday, July 28, 2016


Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amethysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

- "Cargoes," by English poet John Masefield, 1902



Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Algebra of Warp

Not sure if I posted this here before … so here goes.

A few days back I was meandering through my backlog of writings (a couple hundred Word docs in a half-dozen places with completely unhelpful titles that must have seemed awfully witty at the time). I came across a math problem that I can’t figure out if I made it up or wrote about it after reading it. I think the latter, because I think it has something to do with Warp drives and the speed of light.




w(1) = c

w(2) = ?

w(3) = 24c

w(4) = ?

w(5) = ?

w(6) = 512c



Is there enough information to determine what expression w(x) can be?

Is there enough information to determine the values of the question marks?

If yes, what is it / what are they?


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Hullo Old Friend!

Life is good! I’ve been re-reading The Lord of the Rings since for the past three weeks, and whether its in the early light of the morning, the hot sun of lunchtime afternoon, or in the late evening when the house is quieting down, my time with the Professor is just about the highlight of my day.

As exceptional as a visit from your childhood friend, a visit that happens erratically, spontaneously, every couple of months or years. And as you can imagine, not only is the reacquaintance fond and heartfelt, but every time you visit you learn something new about your old pal.

This is my fourth go-round with the greatest piece of fiction of the twentieth century, over a span of 35 years. This time, though, I have no agenda other than pure enjoyment, a way of celebrating a very grim and dark period in my life. As a result, the pages are whirling by in a blur, and the hands of the clock spin round so fast when I’m reading of Middle-earth that I think Einstein must be involved somehow.

Anyway, what’s different this time?

Good question.

What completely struck me unawares is the weaknesses just below the surface in Aragorn. All of Tolkien’s characters are fully enfleshed, wondrous shades of gray in full spectrum. No one is fully good, no one if fully evil ("not even Sauron, in the beginning," saith Gandalf in The Fellowship). No one is all-knowing, no one is a foolhardy oaf. No one is the consummate hero, no one – er, hang on. Aragorn. I think my past experiences with Aragorn erroneously led me to consider the heir of Isildur the all-good Prophet Priest and King. Faultless, courageous, benevolent.

But wait. How did I miss his tortured agony over the failed decisions he made in the wake of Gandalf’s demise? The self-doubt, the railing against fate, self-recriminations over choices that he thinks could have been made better, though we know differently. I had not seen this Aragorn before (or at least it never stuck in my memory), and it is truly refreshing.

Though not a new observation, I never cease wondering about the number of creepy events that sprinkle The Fellowship of the Ring. It’s not something Tolkien’s noted for, yet it’s an outstanding element of the book. Consider:


- the eerie, otherworldly wail of the Nazgul in the forest at night … answered by another cry miles distant, both interrupting the hobbits’ campfire song

- the glowing eyes Frodo sees – or thinks he sees – in the mines of Moria and later in the relative safety among the elves in the woods

- the soft patter of feet as the company moves through Moria … that lasts a step or two longer than any echo should

- when Pippin startles Gandalf by dropping a stone down the bottomless well in the mines, ending in a plop after almost too much time has elapsed – then answered, a few minutes later, with an ominous tom-tap, tap-tom

- the apparition of the old man appearing to Gimli during his night watch on the plains of Rohan … is it Saruman, or something else?


Three weeks in I’m up to Chapter Three of Book Three. That’s about twenty percent finished with The Two Towers. At this rate I’ll probably finish earlier than planned, somewhere around the middle of August.

Must slow down! Must slow down!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Teknikl Defiqulteez

Yeah, having some problems with the laptop at home over the past week, week-and-a-half. Still too green in the new job to post stuff on to the Hopper from the work PC. So, I wrote up a bunch of entries in my downtime and will schedule them to post in an every-other-day fashion from my parents’ cyberspace command center here in rural northeastern Pennsylvania. Until the end of the month. By then I expect to get the home set-up back up and running.

Wish me luck …

Friday, July 15, 2016

You Cannot Pass No God Hollow

Two short excerpts from the two books I’m currently reading that struck me slightly askew in a pleasantly intriguing way:

“You cannot pass,” he said. The orcs stood still, and a dead silence fell. “I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass.”

– Gandalf to the Balrog, Chapter V of Part II of The Fellowship of the Ring, “The Bridge at Khazad-Dûm, by the greatest writer of the 20th century.

[He] had been a mischievous child, so much loved that when he ran away, his family served him lemonade and cookies upon his return. His family spread butter on their bread while others had bacon drippings … Still, [he] concluded in his childhood that the American game was rigged against farmers. They had so many poor neighbors, and so much chance of again becoming poor themselves; [his] mother had been born in a place called No God Hollow …

– Chapter 2 of The Forgotten Man, “The Junket”, by Amity Schlaes

As my old friend Timmy Lamb would unequivocally say: “Nice.”

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Different Perspective

Nice little motivational poster created from scratch by my own budding photographer, Little One, age eleven. She took the photo and came up with the message all on her own, one of many digital efforts she’s been producing of late.

Very proud of her …

Friday, July 8, 2016

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Yep, that’s us down at the lake, in an on-the-spot sketch done by Little One. Mrs. Hopper’s grilling up them Oscar Meyers, Patch (now a boy, I see) eagerly awaits my attention to show off her – uh, his – latest wheelie or bunny hop trick. Me, I got the outboard over my knee ready to change some plugs or something, and quench my hunger with some Wheaties. Later, as a family, we’ll shuttlecock the badminton, chip some golf balls, and then, I guess, mow the lawn by the dock.

All things considered, an awesome vacation!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

South Street Seaport

Yesterday the girls and I drove into NYC to meet with my in-laws, in town from Hilton Head to see the Mets-Cubs series (my father-in-law is a big Cubs fan from his youth). The day was absolutely gorgeous. After meeting by one of the piers right next to the Fulton Fish Market and watching some helicopters take off and land, we had an awesome lunch at an Italian eatery a few blocks inland. After that we trekked on down to the Staten Island ferry for some sightseeing in New York harbor.

Nice shot of the Peking, a four-masted steel-hulled ship built 105 years ago. Owned by several countries over the years (Germany, Italy, Britain), she was finally purchased by the US in 1975 and retired to the museum here. She’s most noteworthy, from what I understand, for traversing the treacherous waters around Cape Horn several times.

Meeting the in-laws beneath the bowsprit of the Peking. I took the little ones aside to notify them I would be selling them into servitude on a ship like this should they misbehave.

This wall of wine was mounted directly behind me at the open-air trattoria where we dined for lunch. The theme of the place seemed to be mixing eggs with tomato sauce in various dishes. Turned out to be much better than I expected.

And brave little Patch moments before gobbling down a fried egg on a basil pizza slice.

 Beautiful view of the harbor from the Staten Island ferry, featuring the Freedom Tower on the right. The picture does not do the scene justice.

Lady Liberty a few moments later.

Yours truly taken by Little One on the ride back to the seaport.

All in all, an all-around great day!