Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Unconventional Writing Exercise #2

Here's another one of these, which offers an odd sort of bit of description for readers.

Let's introduce a couple of characters, one deceased.  What should be done differently?  Or should anything?

The detective stood looking down at the victim, trying to see the person, not the brutal ending.

Chocolate skin…bleached hair like cotton candy…cherry lips…well-fed looking, yet with meat on those bones underneath…

Short enough, I hope, and I think I made this very easy.  But if it gives anyone an idea for improvement, that's good enough for me.

My answer (which isn't "the" answer) later, in the comments.

Monday, August 2, 2021

The #1 Thing You Can Do for the Environment

It's kind of aggravating.  My sweetie and I are getting older, with all that entails.  Moving furniture isn't as easy.  I can't do the repairs that I once did.  And electronics have stopped being fun new things to learn, and instead chores distracting me from what I want to do.  (I have no interest in learning new operating systems, thanks, I want to order groceries and write novels.  Go away!)

At least the pandemic has eased enough that we can get some help.  But it's not like I can call up one of my kids and say help out your old man, huh?  Because I don't have any.

It's not on purpose, it's just the way things worked out.  And it does make older age scarier.

Then again, it's the #1 thing I could do for the environment.

Think about it.  The next generation, I haven't put anyone in place to use electricity, increase habitat loss, generate carbon, burn natural gas or gasoline, create waste—electronic or otherwise—eat meat, use up water or oxygen or anything else.

Population is the biggest problem for the environment.  Honest.  Do you think we'd be in this kind of shape if the world population was still what it was in, oh, 1804?

I do understand if this isn't the direction you want to go.  Having kids to cuddle when they're babies, teach when they're growing, and rely on when you need them is what most people choose, and no wonder.

But if you want the world to be a better place, if you want to keep it from being pushed to its limits, maybe not.

Me, I'm going to order some groceries.  And get back to the novel I'm drafting.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Halyards and Carburetors

Key to the illustration's 169 pieces of rigging:

You know what a fore topmast staysail halyard is, don't you?  Or a fore staysail downhaul?

What?  You don't?  How can that be?  Haven't you ever left your native village?  Haven't you ever traveled a long distance?

Every important technology evolves its own technical terms and jargon, because with enough use those terms are coined to satisfy users' needs.  And goodness knows people used these.

Did you want to visit somewhere else along a coast, or across a lake?  Shipboard would be fastest.  Did you want to go from the US east coast to the west?  Shipboard still might be quickest.  Did you want to visit another continent?  Shipboard will be indispensable.

Only professionals might have known what each halyard specifically did.  But any traveler knew about hauling yards, and the word that expression turned into.

Stays, by the way, support the masts, staysails are attached to stays, halyards adjust sails and the yards and such they're attached to, and a downhaul is used to pull a sail down to shorten it.  Now you're a world traveler.

Then there's carburetors.  Even if you don't know what they are (they mix the air and fuel in internal combustion engines), you can see what critical technology they are: They're in every car.  Well, except the fuel-injected ones.  And of course the electric.


They were in every car when I was a kid.  Everyone had heard of them then.  Most people knew of them.  Just like halyards a couple centuries before.

The point, of course, is that technology changes, and so does the language.  Words that are needed then aren't now.  And won't be tomorrow.  Your grandchildren won't be talking excitedly of 5G or lithium-ion or any of that.  They may not even know what those are.

Today's crucial tech…isn't tomorrow's mainstay.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Unconventional Writing Exercise #1

Back in the day I was considered one of the best at coming up with texts to demonstrate common problems (and solutions) in technical writing.  Besides, they're fun, so I'll come up with some, and for more than just technical writers.

Here's a couple of paragraphs in an space adventure tale (made up by me, of course, because that's half the fun) as the story builds to a climax.  Quibbles over wording aside, I've designed it to have one predominant problem.  Does it need rewriting?  See what you think:

As the ship moved behind the asteroid, Blackie fired the thrusters to kill momentum.  In the shadow of the space rock, that is, where the maneuver wouldn't be visible.  Because if the pirate lurking out there spotted the ship…Blackie shuddered.

Unbeknownst to the young pilot, however, the poorly maintained pirate vessel had been suffering engine problems.  In an effort to keep its main rocket from going cold, the pirate fired it up for a two-second burn.  Changing its vector thus, the pirate shifted to where the heat of Blackie's thrusters would show up on infra-red sensors.

Remember this is unconventional.  I picked a problem that isn't the easiest to spot, but is good to be aware of.  My answer (which is not the answer) tomorrow-ish in the comments.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Uncharted Territory

Ever go running out in the country on a cloudy night?  Maybe in some woods?  Charging ahead, trusting to luck and reflexes not to bust something against a trunk suddenly looming?  Certain enough of the ground to believe it won't drop away beneath you?

Or do you, would you, walk instead, arms outstretched, cautious and taking more care?  Shuffling along, perhaps, turning your head as you seek every sound and suggestion of trouble?

Or would you never step out at all, staying still, avoiding the dangers of moving in the darkness, of challenging uncharted territory?

One or more of the above is likely to strike you as foolish, completely unacceptable.  The risks of running blind may be a deal breaker for you, not to mention an ankle breaker.  The cautious approach, though, might seem like it doesn't move forward fast enough; creeping along might leave you cold, refusing to make the most of potential excitement.

And, of course, the third option may seem like doing nothing, refusing to make anything happen when who knows what lies ahead.

But that's life.  None of us know what lies ahead.  There's no map of the future.  No guidebook of what's to come.  We can't be sure of what obstacles may appear, what we might run into, when the bottom will fall out.  How reckless or fearful we go on and into our lives is a decision we all must make.

Just remember that none of these ways forward is wrong, it's just a matter of what's right for you.  It's your life, your choice, no one else's.  Live it as you like.

"Here there be dragons," from the Hunt-Lenox Globe of 1510