Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Shiny Day

A shiny day of amber damp.
A slow day not windish.
A changing, shifting, faint,
ever so faint suspense
of forthcoming damp.
But bright sun dapples
the tall grass. The plants stand
still breath lightly.
The goats peaceful in their languor;
chewing frankly, lolling;
unembarrassed maternal
bellies thick with juice.
Magistrates of the barn.
By dark, rain.
Come dawn, the tree tops blaze
in a towering sun.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Blog Entries

I have found an interesting app on the net to write blogs on, for whomever doesn't like the Blogger interface. It is called OmPad. It is more a background than an app but it seems serviceable. You can't make another page, which in my case is probably good because I tend to get out of focus with numerous ideas blossoming every which way and most things never getting finished. The interface takes about five minutes to figure out. I have Blogger in another tab. All you need to do is copy and paste. Though not elegant, you'd like to push it off with a couple of keystrokes, I have never been able to find that capability anywhere. The claim of such an end is always more arduous and complicated than copy and paste.

The dream for the web writer is to get on the Internet not next to it or near it but right on top of it, which isn't as easy, in my opinion, as it should be. I don't think anybody, especially programmers, think that this service should be available to everybody whether educated or uneducated, whether steeped in the art of programming or not. Geeks tend to admire each other and they band together to exclude and obfuscate. They also like the idea that their program may be "controlling" fifty other input screens, which in fact is hardly ever the case. Most people who use their computers to write on are simply lonely voices using the internet to get heard. What they put out there is what they want everybody to know about. They know all about emails and privacy. Private files are kept in a local directory, and backups are done one way or another locally too. Why would a famous person or just any person want to put a private file on the web? You want to get on top of the internet. You don't want to get embarrassed by it.

On the other hand there are OS dreamers who don't want the Internet at all. They also don't want Apple secrecy. The backslapping clubbiness of Internet insiders is almost as obnoxious as Apple secrecy. On the other hand, the combination of Apple hardware and software is hard to say no to. Every OS has something wrong with it. Flash is a big hassle for everybody, a creepy, greedy nonsense. For an interesting take on one OS dreamer see here.

In this article the author, Richard Mitton, looks at the work of Terry A. Davis, the author of TempleOS. Incidentally, Mr Davis's You Tube videos are riveting. TempleOS is an expression of its author. As I have said repeatedly in my blogs, wouldn't anyone prefer to avoid waiting forever, sometimes it seems, for an app to launch or for an OS to boot up? I can't work that way. I need the snatch of info now, I need my Emacs to open up now not ten seconds from now. You might think that is a little crazy but when you get to a place where a command happens instantly, it becomes a habit you never want to leave. It is like an addiction. My personal OS is an admixture of Debian and Fluxbox and Emacs. I use ROX sometimes because it gives me what I want fast, and Elinks because it also is instantaneous. My Mac, with the addition of a super fast OWC SSD, is almost as fast as Debian which I built around whatever hardware I happened to run across at the dump, very ordinary hardware. My fondness for my Apple Macbook pro is not reasonable. But TempleOS is in another league altogether in this respect. It works at the rate of brainwaves. I don't care about the inventor's personal life or his personal beliefs: I see it as an extension of a mind and a personality. Anybody who can get into TempleOS and dig it will think: why didn't the big money come up with that? And that, and this other thing? My feeling is that if Terry Davis is crazy, what are we?

But it does not add up to the Internet.

If you love to write on your computer and you run maybe two at a time—I have run three at a time, a server and a work computer and a web machine—and what you want for a career is to write for the web without having to pay x dollars a month to a server farm—good old Blogger is still free, and there are others—, say you want to build your own server, then, if you weren't a computer science major in college, without help or instruction, it is hard. There is plenty of information out there; books on Amazon and You Tube instructional videos to get by eventually. Apache isn't that hard once you get into it; nor is mySQL. But I do remember the first time I got into mySQL. What is this, I thought? I gave up and tried to find an easier way. I couldn't make any sense of it. I tried Hugo for awhile, which worked okay, but still wasn't what I wanted. I wanted a Wordpress blog on my personal server. That took awhile. I got help on the Internet to a point, but You Tube nor the available books cannot stay up to date and much of the stuff taught a few years ago doesn't work any more. They tell you, well, study and you'll figure it out eventually. Thanks.

Some net related subjects are very well documented. Emacs documentation is voluminous, BSD UNIX, HTML and LaTex can be figured out and understood and employed without too much struggle because the documentation is thorough and always kept by little munchkin scriveners up to date. But when it comes to putting that info on the Web in serious blogger fashion, not so easy. I don't know why it is easy to a point and then mystifying. Want to throw together hardware and build a machine; want to install an OS on a spare hard drive; set up a serious, well thought out and smooth desk top? That's all easy and instructions are everywhere. A couple of trips to the dump, you can put it all together for $25. But put your server on line? No! It's almost like the insiders don't want you to do it. They remind me of mob gangs; there is too much big money; they want you to go through the money. When Aaron Schwartz died the first thing I thought was he touched the net too close and he got hot. I still don't think it was suicide. Now there are others who are touching it and getting hot and I wait with baited breath.

I am off OmPad, as anyone might expect, and back on Emacs. They want to cut off your fingers, make it hard to do anything. You can't write a blog because there isn't a form for a blog. Well here I go again. I don't care if CBS news has been in Paris for almost two weeks now. It is impossible to separate what happened in Paris from the Internet. The Paris massacre is a fog to be breathed in whole. Now, all news comes from the Internet. It is the moral duty of everyone who has trained himself to write code or who has learned to understand computers to put a server in everyman's house. That's where the future will come from, an army of millions of small computer boxes running ARM CPU's connected directly to the Internet, not through Facebook or Twitter or any of the others. Then see how far the Barbarians will get. Secrecy slows down both the insider and the outsider. It is hard to be secret when everybody has the same tools available to them.

Last modified: Thu Nov 19 20:41:02 EST 2015

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Just Testing

I have left OS X in favor of Xubuntu. I don't know how anybody can use Emacs in OS X Mountain Lion. I guess some people do. I got sick of the crashes. However, Aquamacs is stable. Emacs and Aquamacs are approximately the same thing. There are a few features that are slightly different. Aquamacs does not play nice with custom. Changing colors, for instance, in Aquamacs through custom is buggy. Tabs are buggy. Frames can be buggy when scrolling. But it is easy to steer away from a bug once you get used to it. I could have done okay on Aquamacs. The reason why I departed OS X is because the equipment is so expensive. It is great equipment, but too expensive for me. Besides build-your-own is fun. Hacking on hardware and configuration files is fun, too much fun to pass up. You don't know how much fun till you have tried it. I still have the Mac; I can't bring myself to sell it. But I keep it as hardware. I am hoping that one day somebody will figure out a way to Libreboot 8,3. Then I'll run GNU on it like Gluglug does with Thinkpads. But now I have Trisquel and Xubuntu installed on my desktop and Apple OS on the Macbook to compare.

Who wins?

All three OSes are on SSD's, though one is a Seagate hybrid. The disk Trisquel is on is a 65G SATA2 Kingston SSD. You can still use small SSDs with most Linux distros. A complete installation of Trisquel is 8.9G, that is with 2.6G of Auctex files. So the install uses about half of /. That leaves 40G of free space in /home. I have piggy backed a 650G 7200rpm Western Digital Blue for archiving and downloads directory. Ubuntu is on a 500G Seagate hybrid. Since they each boot up on their own disk, neither one or the other is on a virtual disk. I believe this is a fair way to compare them. Both have been long term trials: I used Xubuntu for four months. Then I set up Trisquel as similarly to Xubuntu as I was able to. Trisquel is GNU free software. The browsers in Trisquel are Icecat and Abrowser, which are similar to Firefox and Chromium, the two Xubuntu browsers, except no Flash, which may be a deal breaker if you are addicted to You Tube. The disgusting situation with Flash is a good subject for another blog. But most videos in Abrowser do play. Dropbox is not available in GNU, though there are other possibilities if you need to sync across multiple machines. Emacs in Xubuntu is the latest 24.4 which has the internal browser EWW; I have not installed the latest Emacs on Trisquel yet. EWW is nothing to run around in joy about.

First let me describe the hardware. It so happened that one day I ran across an Acer/Gateway desktop that somebody left at the dump. I have worked the Phenom Quad and the extra RAM into my existing installation. The parts are probably four to five years old. The board I am presently using is an ECS board. Everything works together and though the hardware is less than average, I have not had any problems with it. The SSDs are snappy, as snappy as my Macbook Pro in which is a modern i7 quad and an up-to-date board. You may find that statement hard to believe, but there is only so much that human beings can notice. I am not interested in numbers.

Let me say first of all to anybody interested in my personal testimony: for launching apps the hybrid is equally quick as the SSD. I am unable to detect any difference. Also, I am unable to detect any difference between the OWC SATA3 Extreme (I love these names!) SSD I have in my Mac and these other solid state devices I have in my desktop. Even when downloading large files, I can't detect any difference between SATA3 and SATA2. You can refer to the numbers if that is your thing. I can't even say that the hybrid is slower than either of the SSDs. At first it was, in fact I thought it was another phony ripoff, though I got it for $75 on sale. Then I couldn't tell the difference between hybrid and SSD until I had opened six or so tabs in a browser and a folder of photos. Then the hybrid might have been a little slower. The only other way I could tell the hybrid was SSDs are, of course, silent. The mechanical part of the hybrid is easy to hear, especially in a laptop when you are sitting right over the disk. The disk is turning at 7,200rpm, which makes a distinct obnoxious whine that I am sensitive to, and I'd bet a lot of other writers are sensitive to it also. When anyone tells you a mechanical drive is quiet, they mean one is slightly quieter than another. They all make noise. The OWC SSD was more expensive. Both machines, the Macbook Pro and my ragtag desktop have 4G of RAM and they both have quad-core CPUs. I believe both machines are comparable in feel, though not exactly comparable in hardware. The Mac is slightly more modern. The best way I know of to upgrade a system is to put an SSD in it. You may not see much difference with extra RAM but you will see a big difference with the SSD. If your board does not support SATA3, buy a SATA2 SSD for $50 and piggy back. Or so they tell me, you can buy a SATA3 and when you get around to it a more modern board. SATA2 SSDs can be got cheap. If you use your machine to write on, almost any hardware that will run quietly will do.

I have spent a lot of time comparing Ubuntu with Mac OS 10.8, Mountain Lion. Ubuntu is a good running OS. It is rare that anything odd pops up that needs immediate attention. You can run around through Linux for years, have a great time amazing your friends and acting like a geek. Some geeks like it when a bug pops up and they take care of it. Others hate bugs passionately, attack them with fervor and hope that finding the fix won't take too long. Ubuntu is dependable. Dropbox, for instance, may not be in a big hurry to adapt the newer version to Linux. The newer version is suddenly swilling RAM to the point where the system locks up. A twitter feed to the desktop may cease working, and so on. But that is not Ubuntu's fault. Some people may be reluctant to shut off Dropbox and switch to Google Drive—I personally love the words, maybe we can do a workaround—it is music to my ears. In OS X or Windows these sorts of happenings are unusual but don't say never. In OS X Aquamacs I can no longer send an Email in Gnus! That is after doing it for five years. Some phenomenal hocus-pocus has happened. For the most part you can boot up Ubuntu and write all day and nothing will happen; everything that works will continue to work; you might wish something would happen to break up the routine.1 You are as likely to waste time playing in OS X as you are in Linux. Neither Ubuntu or Trisquel require a lot of maintenance. Updates come along in rhythm, and they don't seem inclined to break the system. One reason I moved away from OS X is, as I have said, I couldn't get Emacs to work. Text interests me; pictures and video not so much. Apple's thing is all about pictures. They do pictures not necessarily better than anyone else. If you want to watch a movie or fix up a photo, make it look nice, Apple will do the job. At one time Apple did a lot of work on fonts. They have passable fonts and colors. Many times I have returned to OS X for the fonts and colors. But the later versions of OS X since Tiger have been less stable than anyone would like. The machines have not dropped off. The hardware is the best, but the software is in a decline right now. That probably won't last long. I should not say that Apple OS is in a decline when I am primarily interested in writing text. I still haven't sold my Macbook but that is only because I want to load Linux on it later on, because I have a feeling I will be wandering around occasionally in my retirement, and a laptop will be useful. Sometimes I go back to the Mac to remind myself of its faults.

Now when I first loaded Trisquel, frankly, I wasn't expecting much that was different. I was just curious. It made sense to me that Emacs, my favorite app, the foremost GNU app, in my opinion, would run nice on a GNU distro. Trisquel is basically Ubuntu and Debian. Trisquel does a few things a little differently. Everything is open source. If your thing is spending money on apps, then you won't like GNU because nothing is for sale. If you want to buy a lawn mower and research them on the web before buying, and you use a GNU browser, Google will not necessarily know about it. There are people who do not mind Google's googling, who tune out the subsequent ads via extension or frame of mind, but anyone must admit that seeing lawn mower ads for months after the lawn mower situation has past can be noisome. None of that will happen in GNU. Then as I got the OS set up and it became comfortable (non-obtrusive) for me to write on, I began to notice a feel to the OS that had not been present in any OS I had used previously. That goes back to Windows 98 and OS X Tiger. I think XP was good and enjoyable to work on and Tiger was so good it got me started with Apple hardware. There were at least two Linuxes, Debian Lenny (5.0) and Linux Mint Helena (8.0), that I used a lot. I think highly of them still. But I used them both before I started to get into the richness and common sense that is Emacs. I found that the more I learned about Emacs the more efficiently I could write and output to typeset quality PDFs, HTML and UTF-8 and so on. The problem was finding distros that ran Emacs without a hassle. One distro might run Emacs better than another.2 Emacs 24.4 is in Synaptic. That is not the latest Emacs. But I always run at least a version behind because I am in Emacs 95% of the time, and I do my work with it and I don't want any screw-ups.

My Emacs setup is extensive and complex. It took me awhile to set it up on Trisquel. That is a big problem with Emacs. Still, usually you can do a lot with stock basic Emacs if you happen to work on different systems and different machines by work or habit. In Mac, when I switched to Aquamacs, I switched init from .emacs to init.el basically because Finder in Mac doesn't play nice with dot files, and I didn't want to be in the terminal all day. Xubuntu didn't seem to mind that init was in .emacs.d named init.el. But Trisquel would have no such bullshit. It wanted .emacs. Once I realized that, Emacs went in like a charm, and brother does it work nice. After a month and a half, other than the fact that twittering-mode doesn't work in Linux at all, Emacs has been solid. Everything I put on it works. In fact Trisquel has been so good that there is no comparison between it and Xubuntu. That's saying a lot. It has a "feel", a cooperation between the forces that used to show up occasionally in Tiger and XP.

My hardware is old and most users would say sub-adequate. I don't have a lot of RAM to waste, or disk space. I have used the 65G Kingston SSD in both Xubuntu and Debian Lenny besides Trisquel 7.0. There was always plenty of room. Both OS X and Windows have outgrown 65g disks. A simple arrangement of Mountain Lion on my Mac is 65g alone! (That fact is slightly unbelievable to me.) You could still run on the Mac a 120g SSD, but if you are into pictures, you'd have to be careful. It is frustrating to have to worry whether a download of six movies, for instance, will break the bank. Mount the 650g mechanical drive and send your downloads there. The only problem is backing up your big disk with all that valuable stuff on it. Let me tell you, once you get into Linux and understand its basic procedures, it is easy to back up a non-bootable disk to either a partition of the same disk, not too bright in my opinion, or to another disk of equal size. If you have a bootable disk, that is easy to back up too. Linux makes backups easy, a subject for another blog. I have on Xubuntu my present writing projects and two or three hundred family photos. Root is about 9.5g and /home is less than 3g. Since the disk that it is on is 500g, there is essentially nothing on the disk. I could imagine the free space getting filled in a hurry if I ever got into movies. The problem with substandard hardware in modern versions of some Linux distos is not room on the disk, any disk bigger than 30g will do, it has to do with RAM.

As ridiculous as it sounds even if you decide to get into BSD, which will provide added security, or another lightweight Linux distro, 4G of RAM is about the minimum.3 Six to eight gigs makes you a happy camper. My Mac runs up to 2G of RAM quite often. Xubuntu comes with XFCE, said to be a lightweight desktop, but it is easy to utilize 1G of RAM, and lots of times you will be well over 1G. It can even get into swap on occasion even with 4G RAM. (So much for the theory that you don't need swap.) The basic desktop for Trisquel is a fixed up and deflated Gnome. That seems to use less RAM than XFCE; Trisquel stays around 800mb RAM though it can explode over 1G if three or four apps are launched and open and a browser running full time. But Fluxbox in Salix is 400mb to 600mb, and if you are careful you can get by on 2G of salvaged DDR2, and be happy with it, and have a nice running computer besides. Salix also has a version with Ratpoison desktop. The boys have been working on Ratpoison so that Emacs and Ratpoison function keys don't clobber each other. Last time I used Ratpoison, I was averaging 50mb of RAM, which means I could operate fine on 1G RAM total. Salix is touchy about Wi-Fi. It is derived from Slackware, so you know that after a while of familiarization, you will get work done on it. I am anxious to give the Ratpoison version a try out. Both Ubuntu and Trisquel and Debian will do Wi-Fi on almost anything. Salix didn't like my Athos Wi-Fi card, but if you are on the wire, you can get the Internet from any distro. I have never run across one that did not pick up the wire. And besides, I am talking about a desktop with lots of I/O. Why would you not be on the wire?

At times I cannot come to a decision about which distro is best. They all have different features and you can find out about all that on the Net, pictures and all. If you want to use Ubuntu, Ubuntu is selling you to Google. Go here to see Stallman on that subject. But I don't care about that as much as I probably should. I write on my computer, I blog and I research my blogs on my computer. I don't see any reason for secrecy. I take care of my own files. And I know how to keep a secret. I don't need the cloud or specifically Dropbox to help me. I do my backups, and I hope everybody one day will go to StoryNoir and read my blogs and follow the links to other places such as Scribd where I have published other writings. Free software is not less useful or serviceable than non-free software. Emacs is free however you want to think about it; it is one of the oldest apps on the planet and it is still as vital and useful as ever. The fact that it seems so far to work on Trisquel as well or better than anywhere else I have been able to discover gives Trisquel a leg up in my opinion. But also in Trisquel there is a feel that comes with FSF philosophy. It is as if all the apps are pulling together. You don't have to fight with any of them. They flutter around Emacs like bees around the hive. The Gnome work over is splendid. I am going along fine with my old friendly board and 4G of RAM. Ubuntu wants more; Ubuntu wants an almost new board and at least 8G of RAM. I don't think it was much of a battle. Trisquel has so far won this battle. Trisquel by philosophy allows me to be minimal. But all that means nothing until we build the system into a server.

To sum up: Xubuntu doesn't match up very well with either OS X or Trisquel. The match up is between OS X and Trisquel. On the inexpensive equipment I like to run and the fact that I derive enjoyment from build-your-own, for me and my purposes Trisquel is the easy winner in this battle. But with 8G of RAM on the Mac and Yosemite installed, which is on the 100% POSIX compliant list, maybe...

Hope you will be reading here again soon.


1 They say Faulkner used to swill Bourbon to break up the routine of writing. But you have your computer to play with. And it is much better for your health. Another good reason to write on a computer.

2 I don't know why this is so. I give up. But Trisquel has not disappointed me too much so far. Every system even my favorites are off one way or another. One programmer pointed out to me that I wouldn't have to look too far to find programming that didn't work any more.

3 That makes me angry, and I don't believe there is any reason for it. When some OSes went to a DVD or a thumb drive to load an install disk, and they took my old CD Rom out of the picture, I also became angry. Trisquel needs a DVD. The download of the OS is over 1G. There is a lightweight install that fits on a CD. But you won't get to serious work on it right away. Xubuntu comes on a CD Rom. I finally found a DVD Rom at the dump. Forget floppies except for emergency boot disk. All this is sad and driven by profit.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Philosophy of StoryNoir

I have been a writer for a long time. It has been a great and happy occupation. It gives me solace and diversion in troubled times and in good times recreation and delight. I have written much, mostly from personal experience; I am a puzzler over experience. I get inspiration from the Internet and my computer too. My computer has eased the terrific burden of constant retyping, which has allowed me to edit a piece till I am vaguely content. Also, I have finally been able to make artistic decisions and stick to them. My characters appear, they explain themselves. I have learnt over the years some general understandings. Perhaps you will find them interesting.

Autobiographic writing is not my favorite. I dream of writing imaginative stories. I have tried for a long time to learn how to use the imagination. I didn’t want to let the imagination get extreme. Usually that’s what happens. As we all know, wildly imaginative writing can be popular. But even if you have art burning inside you, you shouldn’t need to suspend disbelief to the point that you wonder whether you must be cracking up! Why should I feel like a lunatic for reading a book and actually believing in it? Even worse, suppose I am writing the book? Truth interests me, and it is in my nature to be skeptical. But I don’t think anymore that truth, in the sense of experience, has much to do with the real world. Truth has more to do with the unreal world. When you are driving in traffic and an extra long stop light irritates you, the stoplight is engaging you in a truth of experience. But truths of experience (data) like stoplights come and go. Untruths flicker and vanish, they may be suitable to the occasion, but truths of experience may act similarly. The kind of experience that concerns me is stubborn and persistent. This experience has a quality of truth that finds a niche in the world and it persists, and damned if you are not stubbing your toe on it your whole life! That's what I mean by realism: not what comes and goes but rather the patterns that are incessantly THERE; and it seems like at times they're gonna drive you crazy, so you try to forget about them, ignoring them. So I try to stick to these truths of experience. The fact that although important, they are ignored or forgotten is, I think, worth puzzling over. I try to be realistic. I haven’t gone off into fantasy. The upshot is that if you go by this notion of stubborn facts the writing must be believable. You don't have to drive yourself crazy wondering why you have to suspend belief to such an extreme. But you still have to use your imagination to get there. Stubborn facts don't just present themselves; everybody has to search for them.

Now, I’m thinking of the word fair. It disturbs me that a fair-minded person in this world tends to sound like a radical, or like a person who has let his imagination get the better of him. You take a fair-minded person trying to explain why it is better to compromise with another person than kill him. Such people clear the air, but how has it come to be that they sound so weird? I used to be a nihilist and an anarchist. I still love the theory that least is best. If you want to improve something make it simpler. My youthful nihilism, which simplified everything it couldn’t end, eventually made it a little easier to believe because in reducing the number of blockhead pre-conceptions, it made my perception of the real world a little truer. (I hope!) So I try to convey that perception because it has been a struggle to learn to believe in it myself. The result is that I want to be fair to my characters and not kill them off when they slip up or don't seem useful anymore. They must persist if I am ever to reach truths that persist. I hope I am fair and balanced in how I judge them.

I don't mean to suggest that everything I write about actually happened. Something similar to it did happen to me personally, else I wouldn't be writing about it. But I’m only a soldier, a lover of the written word, not one of the brass. I'm not interested in the doings of the brass, what I’m interested in is the greater world, which exposes the darkness that surrounds the self. The fact that we can actually turn back darkness into light is what makes us human, and a little less than angels. What I have tried to write about are the mysteries that surround every one of us, to turn back that darkness a little. Well, a man can always dream. In my life I have been a terrible dreamer, and not much of a success. Any kind of light can be a long time dawning.

Another word, balance, has bothered me for a long time. Everybody thinks about Ulysses’ avoidance of extremes. Now suppose. You want to write a best seller. But you want to be loyal to your upbringing and your mother’s admonition about not lying, and true to the experience of the world you have gathered over a lifetime. So invoke balance. Stand there, let them take their shots. Maybe they’ll even take you seriously. In other words: show up! The guys who are out of balance will disappear. But you'll show up.

When I was a young fellow, I used to search all over, town and city, for stores that sold used paperback books for a nickel. There was always some crazy guy in there who’d give you a cardboard box, and pretty soon you were walking out with fifty or a hundred books, a big pile of them anyway, for ten bucks. My dream was that one day I’d find a book that had everything you could imagine in it. Not The Holy Bible, which, of course, is okay for starters—I spent days loitering over it—, but a for real scuzzy paperback that had everything in it, and no bullshit. Then I’d screw around with it and keep it in my back pocket. Leaves of Grass, plenty of good reading there, I used to tell myself, better get started, time is wasting; and other books passed the time. Now I'm dreaming that one day I'll write that big book with everything in it and no bullshit. It will explain everything I know about noir and storynoir.

But that's energy and enthusiasm. There is nothing I'd rather do than sit in front of my computer and write. For me the undocumented life is not worth living. The simple object is to write a best seller, but the complicated object is to get read. How do you do that? Sex, violence (guns and war always help), and love and family. If you can convincingly write about kids, that’s a good thing. A few writers have been lucky that they can write about kids. Something for the head, something for the heart. If anybody can explain to me how you get read, I'll listen to everybody.

Some other items (not in order of importance) I am pretty sure about:

— I’m usually not interested in anything that doesn’t have some sort of climax somewhere close to the end.

— Almost everything I try to read is about a third too long, even Holy Ye Christmas! books. The popular taste is inured to it; it’s another opportunity to speed read and accomplish something. Think again.

— If I don’t know the story by personal experience, I’m not interested in writing it. But I hate journalism and my stories are anything but memoirs.

— I don’t know what imagination is. I think it’s something you’re born with. If you are a person born with it, maybe you could explain it to me.

— I like to dump my subject matter into the road and drive over it about a thousand times with a ¾-ton pick up. To leave it fluffed up is a sin. Once it's flattened then you load it. You don’t want to drive away with less than a full load. It is something that has always bothered me. Too long, too much stuff. Either you understand this or you don’t. I don’t have any words for what I am trying to get at from my love of brevity. Not minimalism. That is a professor’s word, and I don’t even know what it means. The deep wisdom silence spins off. There are people who think I am not brief at all.

— I like the illusion of spontaneity. Who invented the words “flash fiction”? Is that supposed to leave the impression of an insult like teenybopper used to? But I like it and crave to obtain an effect that is immediate, that “flashes” at you. And best of all: the work is all figured out when you finally write it down as if on an impulse. Then you don't have to spend the best part of a lifetime worrying it to death (and ruining it).

— This all goes hand in hand with the classical drill that inculcates clarity. Clarity sure helps. It is hard work, though, and good luck to the player. You have good days and bad days. On a bad day you can't get the mud out of the writing because you don't even know it's there.

— One thing I’m pretty sure of, I have noticed that a time comes for everything. I owned a paperback copy of Isaac Babel’s stories for almost twenty years before the cobwebs cleared and I could finally see in them a philosophy of storytelling that I could build on. Take John Milton! What a struggle I had with him! How could I ever read that? I must be dumb. No sense going to school any more. Eventually the time came. I like to read, and I’d read a lot more than I do if I didn’t love to write so much.

— The big objective: avoid journalism. A man does not avoid a rat carrying the plague like I avoid journalism. In my younger days we used to sit around wondering why we didn’t want to write journalism. Some of us eventually did. And there was a scholar among us, too. But to this day I’ve never sinned that way. Journalists are all dickweeds, though some of the ladies are cute.

— I don’t set myself up as anybody’s conscience. I am not a doctor, so I can’t tell you what happens in the ER. I can’t write a glossy detective story either. Criticize another writer? Don't be ridiculous. But write a potboiler? Maybe. I have ideas. I don’t intend to mirror my age, wouldn’t know how to even if I wanted to. I’m a guy who loves to write. I’ve been doing it all my life on the back of cereal boxes, on file cards, little notebooks, big notebooks and now on my computers. In college I cut an amusing figure. People shook their heads in bewilderment and smiled: I didn't look smart enough to put one foot in front of the other! Still it can’t be that of all the millions of words I have written nothing of it can be any good, can it? Given the even possibility of happy accident.

— Face it, the object is to finish the work, and like it enough to believe somebody ought to read it.