Winter’s Final Screw You

Dali's Persistence of Memory

Photo by ahisget, used under Creative Commons

No, not Jim Winter’s final screw you. I mean winter, the season. Snow and single-digit temps in March? Are you kidding me?

Then there’s the switch to Daylight Savings. Frankly, I wish they would just leave it on Daylight Savings. It’s not worth the extra hour of sleep in the fall since you lose it in the spring anyway.

Supposedly, there’s a move afoot to divide the continental US into two time zones and do away with the time change. I really wish this would gain some traction. For starters, I loathe Standard Time. By the time I get home from work between Thanksgiving and Groundhog Day, it’s dark. WTF?

I know a lot of people don’t like getting up in the dark. But you’re going to work? Who cares? I’d rather have my long evenings. I just feel more motivated.

And this year, with the polar vortex taking one last swipe at the country before winter gives way to spring, I’m just ready for the dark part of the year to end.

Windows 10: We Wants It

Windows 10 on laptop

Microsoft

Let’s face it. Microsoft consistently manages to mail it in every other version, a tradition dating back to Windows 95/98. Remember Windows ME? You don’t? It causes fits of laughter even within Microsoft. By the people who worked on it.

But then Windows XP, despite its leaky security, was so stable that there are still XP installs out there. (If you have one, you really need to upgrade. It’s a hack waiting to happen now that it’s not patched and updated. And IE6. Ick.)

But then they updated to Windows Vista. Um… What the hell was that? Missing drivers, balky interface… And what were these fences? Did anyone ever figure that out? No! They just upgraded to Windows 7. And Windows 7 was awesome! This blog post was written on a Windows 7 machine. Technically, Windows 7 is actually Windows 6.5. XP was Windows 5. Windows 8 was even officially dubbed Windows 7 during its early development. It’s really Windows NT 7.0 or 7.1 if you have the updated version.

But then Steve Ballmer decided that, because Apple upgrades OS X frequently, Microsoft needed to do the same with Windows. Enter Windows 8, which did away with the Start button as we know it and gave us…

Tiles? Some genius decided that your laptop should look just like your tablet or your phone. Yeah, this from Steve Ballmer, a man who introduced corporate cannibalism as a management technique to Microsoft. Users hated it. I have it on a Surface Pro, and for a touchscreen machine, it’s not bad. But…

I have a laptop and a tower. I use another tower at work. The tiles work great on the Surface and my wife’s phone. On full-blown PCs and servers? Not so much.

Well, Ballmer’s gone. Satya Nadella, a techie like founder Bill Gates, is in charge. And all this nonsense about “one experience across all devices” is gone. Windows 10, available in preview, is almost ready for prime time. The Start button is back. Internet Explorer is about to be replaced. All the under-the-hood goodness that makes Windows 8 run well is in Windows 10 without the ugly interface. (Still, this is technically Windows NT 8. What happened to 9? Microsoft is afraid you’ll confuse it with Windows 95.) And the tiles?

Gone!

They’ll be on the phones, maybe on the Surface (I hope not.), but your PC will remain your PC.

This is something Ballmer should have picked up on. Apple uses iOS for iPads and iPhones. PCs and laptops use OS X. Chromebooks use the ChromeOS. Tablets and phones use Android. Same code base in both cases, different interfaces and functionality. No one wants the iPad interface on a Mac, and no one wants to use Android on a netbook.

Best of all, if you have Windows 7 or Windows 8, Microsoft will let you have Windows 10. Free. They want everyone on one version of Windows. Easier to support. Easier to secure. Easier to upgrade.

About time, Microsoft.

Gypsy’s Kiss: Silky

Gypsy's KissA prominent figure in Gypsy’s life is Silky, the shady strip club owner who was a largely unseen presence in “Roofies.” Once upon a time, Silky paid Gypsy to get naked for his customers, She could, of course, earn a little more by doing more for said customers in the private rooms. Being a high-priced call girl during this phase of her career as a sex worker, she didn’t need the money from servicing some sweaty strip club patron in a backroom, particularly since it’s too easy to get busted.

But the events of “Roofies,” where Gypsy uses herself as bait to take out a more predatory club patron, cost Silky a lot of money. Kepler comes out and tells him that he and Gypsy probably saved his business by getting a couple of bartenders arrested for selling roofies and getting rid of someone who could harm his girls. His workers, thinks Kepler. His product, thinks Silky.

But it’s pretty obvious from his first interacting with Kepler in Gypsy’s Kiss that Silky is a narcissist. To him, the bust that sent sexual predator Harry Long to prison was a slap in the face. Ever the paternalist, Silky thinks he was doing Gypsy a favor by hiring her. How, he asks, could Gypsy betray him like that. And never mind that he fired her. He was there for her?

Of course, it looks silly from any sane person’s point of view. What happens to Gypsy, to one of the suspects, and eventually to Kepler is not the work of a stable mind. Of all those with a motive to harm Gypsy, Silky may be the least stable of them all.

Buy Gypsy’s Kiss now at Amazon!

February: The Longest Month

Blizzard

(C) Game Freak2600, used under GNU Free Documentation License

For a month that’s only 28 or 29 days long, depending on the year, February has to be the longest month in this hemisphere. If it’s not snowing in my part of the country, temperatures warm to the point where it’d be nice outside if all that snow we’d get didn’t come down as rain.

It’s said that one inch of rain equals ten inches of snow, which would make this February the wettest month in recent memory. This is the month that makes the climate change debate so confusing. If the Earth is getting warmer, why the f*** are we getting buried? Of course, the science behind all that is much more complicated that “If it’s warmer, we shouldn’t have subzero temps in, say, Kentucky.” A warmer Earth means whackier weather, and I’m sure you’ll agree the last twenty years have been pretty whacky.

But it’s not just that. Just as August is usually the hottest month of summer after two months of the northern pole pointed at the sun rather than away from it, the reverse is true of February. By December 21, winter solstice, the North Pole is pointed as far from the sun as it will get. And it stays in the dark until…  Well… February, when we start seeing signs of the spring equinox. So for two months, the northern hemisphere has not been getting as much sunlight, the pole is completely in the dark, and that dreaded polar vortex gets wider and wider until…

February. By then, we’re so sick of the cold and the dark that we torture small rodents by dragging them out of their holes early in the morning, and pretend they can tell us the weather. Said rodents, a groundhog likely named for your locality – Punxutawney Phil, Cleveland Chuck, etc. – would probably like it if we would all leave them alone. Instead, we focus all our rage on these animals that, most of the year, we barely realize exist. Yes, it’s Punxy Phil’s fault that Boston has ten feet of snow or that Cincinnati was actually colder than the North Pole this past week. It has nothing to do with the fact that neither Bostonians nor Cincinnatians do not live in Florida.

As I write this on Sunday morning, I’m looking at weather.com’s 10-day forecast. Granted, anything over three days is subject to radical change, but mysteriously, on March 1, the temperature is predicted to rise to 41 degrees. There’s snow in the forecast, but it looks as though next week, it’ll melt.

I would rejoice over a warm February, but the same year Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed New Orleans, we had a warm February. Cincinnati was a mudhole from Groundhog Day until St. Patrick’s Day. And by St. Patty’s Day, I really needed a beer.

The last thing I can’t figure out is why Valentine’s Day and Black History Month are in February. It’s cold. It’s dark. More often than not, it’s dangerous outside. Why not move them to August? Sure, it’s hot, but I’m more inclined to go somewhere in 90-degree heat than I am through the snow. I’d be more inclined to go to a black history event when I don’t have to bundle up, and let’s be honest. You can justify being already naked in hot weather. Win-win on Valentine’s Day.

You’re reading this on February 25. The best thing I can say about that is February ends in three days.

Thank God for small miracles.

Gypsy’s Kiss: Elaine

Gypsy's KissElaine Haskell started out as Nick’s inside link to TTG Insurance. As originally portrayed, she was a loud, brassy middle-aged mom who started out as a cheerleader for the Cleveland Cavaliers. On a sitcom, she would be that larger-than-life female neighbor who likes to stir things up. And that’s where I left her in Northcoast Shakedown. Then in Second Hand Goods, I decided to expand the relationship a bit. Nick working out of TTG as an independent operator was Elaine’s idea, as giving him secretarial support. So as Nick tries to sort out who, exactly, he’s working for, we find he’s come to view Elaine as a partner in his business and a voice for his conscience. So it comes as no surprise when both Nick and Elaine believe he will be dead that the married Elaine sleeps with him. This relationship only gets more complicated in Bad Religion as Elaine’s marriage crumbles while they try to find out who is defrauding a large suburban church. Which brings us to Gypsy’s Kiss.

It’s pretty clear that Elaine is scared. Changes are coming, and she is the one who has to make them. Her marriage is all but over. Her continued employment at TTG is bleeding the business dry. And then there’s Nick Kepler. He is there for her, but he’s not sure how much longer he can wait for her to make the hard decisions. Enter Gypsy. Elaine hates Gypsy, not just because she is a sex worker but because she sees what Nick cannot see. Gypsy wants Nick for herself.

In a way, Elaine is why this story has to be where Nick’s saga ends. The sexual and emotional tension between Nick and Elaine is there from the moment she first appears. By the time Bad Religion concludes, that tension is so intense that it requires some sort of resolution. But the tension has become central to Nick’s story. Resolving it or changing it would mean the story is over. And so Elaine’s final role in the tale is to give Nick Kepler some long-missing closure, the change in his life he’s been seeking since long before she even appeared in the series.

Buy Gypsy’s Kiss now at Amazon!

The Novel You Will Never Read – FINISHED!

Dusty old books

Tom Murphy VII, used under GNU Free Documentation License

A few years ago, I was done writing. I suspected it was the end of my career or maybe the dreaded Writer’s Block™!

In any event, once I told myself I quit (and the rest of the world, really), I got the itch again. But what to do?  That early draft of Holland Bay was a complete mess. I had nothing in the pipeline to work on. My network of other writers was starting to disintegrate. So how do I get back to writing?

I’ve talked here before about writing about a rock star, something a friend and I had done in college. The characters were based on people we knew, people we’d made up, and even real people (which is why I would never publish this thing. I don’t want to get sued, and frankly, no harm was intended. Unpublished keeps it that way.) But I had a whole storyline around this guy that my friend and I dubbed “Himself.” So to get my writing muscles moving again, I had him tell me his story from the beginning.

I thought maybe 90-100K tops. Maybe even 150K. It wasn’t something I’d devote all my time to, but I could do it when all the writing I had on my plate was academic or revisions or sketching new material. Well, that’s what I thought in 2011 when this started. Last Friday, I made him write his epilogue after finally getting him to write the final chapter in 2011. How many words?

349,000 words. Or really short Game of Thrones fanfic.

Now some of you are looking at me and going “How’d he do that and go to school and rewrite Holland Bay and write a science fiction novel and…”

500 words here. 1000 there. Early on I had a few 2000+ word days because it was all the writing I was doing. But this project, destined never to be more than fodder for short fiction work, also was where I had a watershed moment. At first, the words came in a trickle. Then a decent flow. And then one idle weekend in December of 2011, I wrote 17,000 words. I just kept writing. No outline other than what was in my head. No plan. Just wrote.

Since then, it’s been a few sessions here and there while I revise or plan other work. I’ll need to find something new to keep original words flowing. Some people suggest that’s what this blog is for, but this exercises different writing muscles. It’s like a newspaper column which is not writing fiction. Well, it’s not supposed to be. Even when it clearly is, it’s another form of writing altogether.