Wednesday, December 30, 2009

R.I.P. Hunter, 1997-2009

I have a picture of him somewhere, though I don't think I can upload it to any of the computer I normally work at. If I can find the card, I'll add a picture later.

Hunter was our dachshund. He joined our family in the fall of 1998, age 18 months. We had not had a dog for several years, and he was a delight from the start. He was friendly to a fault. One time when he wandered from our yard, he gladly hopped in the dog-catchers car. Anything to go for a ride.

He loved to hop up on the couch when I sat there, or when I lay there taking a nap. He would wedge himself between me and the back of the couch. That was his favorite position, to be wedged in behind someone. He seemed to enjoy the television, though possibly what he enjoyed most was his human company.

In the yard he loved chasing squirrels and digging after moles. If he found a carcass of any kind in our field, he would role on top of it. He especially liked to do this right after we gave him a bath. Running in the field was a favorite pastime of his.

In March 2003, at a time when we had another, more quiescent dog, and four foster children, we gave Hunter (I should say my wife gave Hunter) to her step-sister's family in Oklahoma City. That meant we got to see him from time to time, and he even came back for one or two visits to Bella Vista. He had a good life there, and they took good care of him. But at 12 years of age he was beginning to suffer. We learned in their Christmas letter that they had him put to sleep a few weeks ago.

This is not as sad as a human death (I'll be writing about one of them soon), nor as if he had been with us these last six years, but still it is sad. Hunter was the inspiration for the following poem, a parody of Leigh Hunt's famous "Jenny Kissed Me".

Hunter Licked Me

Hunter licked me on the nose,
showing me his deep affection.
Whimpering, this dachshund knows
who provides food and protection.
Tell me that my poems won't sell,
that no muse has ever picked me.
Call me crazy, but then yell
"Hunter licked me."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Weathering It

Good morning, everyone. I'm back at work, my first hours here since last Tuesday noon. Fighting that cough last week I only worked 1/2 day on Tuesday. I had Wednesday scheduled as vacation, and we were off Thursday-Friday.

Weather reports didn't look good on Wednesday as we prepared to drive 450 miles to Meade Kansas. We considered not going, but we got a local weather report that indicated things were pretty good there. So off we went, taking a southern route through Oklahoma and arriving in Meade about 8 PM. No snow at all on the way; Meade had only a dusting.

For the next three days I proceeded to do as little as I could. I parked my over-stuffed hide in a recliner and sat there. They didn't want me in the kitchen, coughing all over the food. They didn't want my on the furniture moving detail, since the exertion would set me to coughing. And they didn't want me much in conversations and games, for the same reason. And I didn't want that much either. Thursday I was mostly in a fog. I had no head cold, just the cough, but that was taking a lot of energy, so I rested. Outside the prairie winds blew at 40 to 50 mph for three days solid. The house shook and windows rattled. But with some senior citizens in the house the hostess kept the furnace cranked up pretty good and we were all warm enough.

I find that when I have a cough, if I just rest quietly, I can resist the urge to cough for a long time. After a cough I lay back, regulate my breathing to short breaths, and before long I can feel the air going after the tickle in my throat. Then it's a matter of slowly letting my breaths lengthen, and restricting my air passage as best I can to minimize the irritation of the tickle. Knowing where the tickle is, and controlling my breathing, when the urge to cough comes I am able to endure the pain across the tickle instead of coughing. Eventually the tickle worsens, and I cough, but maybe it's every 15 minutes or half hour instead of every three to five minutes.

I suspect that helps with healing, but it requires extreme concentration. I can't read while doing that, for I will forget about the tickle and cough when I could have suppressed it. Even television is too much of a distraction. Don't want to talk or hardly move at all. I can pray some while doing that, but even praying is a distraction that lessens the benefits of my cough self-suppression.

Of course, driving won't work either. So Lynda drove on the trip home, and some of the trip out. We came back through Oklahoma City and picked up Sara and Ephraim to come and stay with us a few days. Richard is in Mexico with a group from their church and an extended group from the college on a mission trip. So they'll be with us until New Years Day, when Lynda will take them back and I'll batch it again for a few days.

During this time, writing went by the wayside. I hardly checked in at Suite101, didn't check in at Absolute Write, and didn't read, think about plots or story lines or poems. I think I need another day or two before I'll be ready to think about words again.

Oh, yes. That snow that Kansas was supposed to get--Oklahoma got it, but a day later. On Christmas eve Oklahoma City got 14 inches and Tulsa 8 inches from a wrap-around band of the storm--the first blizzard ever in Tulsa. The roads east of Tulsa were still a mess when we drove them on Sunday. Lynda did a great job and we had no problem at all.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Under the Weather

Well, I had great plans to make several posts to this blog over the last few days, but I have been knocked down with a winter cold. A strange cold. Normally they begin with my sinuses, and I can feel them coming on a day or two before sinus drainage really hits. Then they progress to full sinus drainage then to a chest cold that seems to linger forever. This one, however, began as a chest cold, the same as my usual cold but without the preceding sinus drainage. As I say, strange.

On Saturday, when I probably should have been resting, we drove to Baxter Springs Kansas (68 miles) to meet up with Lynda's cousins for lunch at a small cafe on the old Route 66. It was a pleasant time, but I could feel myself going downhill during the day. Our route back home took us by the Wal-Mart we normally shop at, so we stopped and shopped for two hours. And the downhill slide continued. By the time we got home around 5:30 PM I knew I wouldn't be going to church the next day.

So I rested Sunday, doing almost nothing except reading my Bible (several chapters in Numbers, as I'm trying to figure out the wandering Israelites), napping, watching football, and reading in magazines and newsletters. I got caught up on a number of those. I didn't think, in my diminished capacity, that I could tackle the next book in my reading pile.

Monday I stayed home from work. I hate to do that on a holiday week, because who will believe you are really sick? I had a restful day, doing very little. I exerted myself only in looking for a couple of misplaced items needed to work on our Christmas cards. Those items being found, I developed our send-list and then Lynda and I began addressing. We got about half of those done by the time to turn in. Tonight will be dedicated to the other half, and to finishing and printing the Christmas letter. Maybe we'll get most of them in the mail tomorrow. Then again, maybe not.

I'm at work, but only for a half day to do some critical items. I've got three out of four done already, so should have no problems heading home by 1 PM at the latest. Between resting due to this lingering cold, and the normal busyness that comes with Christmas and the days that immediately surround it, I doubt I'll be posting again before next Sunday at the earliest. I wish my few regular readers, and those who stumble on this, a blessed Christmas. Ponder Christ's birth, and be thankful.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Rheumatoid Report

I took the last pill in my steroid dose pack last night. The decreasing dosage should have been having less and less effect anyway. The immediate effect on my finger, from last Friday to last Saturday, was amazing. I was ready to find the person who discovered this miracle drug and kiss him/her. Through Monday all was well.

Tuesday I felt just a little more swelling and a little more pain in the same finger, the ring finger on my right hand. The other nine were as usual through all of this. Well, maybe the right middle and pinkie had some sympathetic pains for their neighbor, and the left hand fingers were perhaps a little stiffer. The steroid helped them all.

Until Tuesday, that is. As I said, the swelling, pain, and stiffness crept up a little on Tuesday; more so on Wednesday. So I was not looking forward to this morning, expecting it to be more or last like last Thursday: swollen to the point where it felt hard, stiffness all around, pain more than I felt like bearing.

But it wasn't. In fact, this morning the stiffness may have been a little less than yesterday. I was able to go through my morning routine at my usual speed, using both hands as normal. Of course, of late I've been compensating for that errant finger. Today I may have had less compensation to do.

So what's up? Wish I knew. If I did something right over the last two days, something that caused this improvement in the arthritis, I'd like to know what it was so I can do it all the time. The only thing that stands out is I'm losing a little weight again. In the past I've noticed that, when I'm gaining weight, the arthritis feels worse; when I'm losing weight, the arthritis feels better. At my weigh-in yesterday I had lost all my Thanksgiving bloat, and more. I'm within striking distance of where I hoped to be by the end of the year, which is at least 20 pounds lost for the year, or 25 if possible. It's possible.

Maybe that's all it is, being careful of overall food intake and eating small enough portions that I'm losing some weight even without exercising. Whatever it is, I'll take it. Now it's time to get a little bit of writing done and posted on-line before the days of Christmas start, and writing ceases for a time.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Mixed Bag

It's amazing what a white powder, pressed into oblong shape and put into a dose pack, can do to rheumatoid arthritis. After all the problems of getting my prescription--both due to doctor error and pharmacy busyness--the pills did an amazing job. By Saturday morning I was in good shape. By Sunday morning my hands were mostly healed. I say mostly because not quite. The stiffness I normally have was back to background pain. The extreme flare-up was under control. I was able to work again.

Except the emotional toll of the pick-up repairs, the prescription fiasco, Lynda's lingering illness, and general lack of success with writing in general brought me to Sunday not feeling like doing much. So I did little except go to church and rest. I read a few blogs, finished a stock trading article at (an article I had started on earlier), and read. I read in two days Charles Dickens' novella The Chimes, the second of his Christmas books. Tomorrow I plan on posting a review of it.

Speaking of Charles Dickens, my Suite101 article on him is one of my recent success stories. This article was picked up and linked by a Charles Dickens dedicated web site. Scroll down to the "Dickens in the News" section to see the link. The way the page is set up, this link should be public for quite some time. Given the season, this is having a positive impact on my page views at Suite.

Also positive is that I discovered a certain site, Investors Journal, is linking to Suite101 articles. Several of mine have been there, although they rotate quickly and none are listed at the moment. But my recent stock trading articles were there, Google still has those links, which boosts my article ranking in a Google search. This apparently was unknown to Suite until I discovered it.

A negative is that the rheumatoid is a bit worse today: same hand, same finger. I've worked my way down the steroid dose pack to where I'm not taking much now, and I'm hoping this doesn't mean in a day or two I'll be back to where I was last Thursday-Friday. But, to compensate that my weight is down some. I've lost about six pounds from the Thanksgiving overeating times, and am pleased with it. I'm right now five pounds above where I hoped to be at the end of the year, so a little exercise, reasonable eating, and the New Year should see me at my goal weight. Time to set a more ambitious goal for 2010.

Two positives are things I wrote at Absolute Write recently, one in a poetry critique and one in a comment on a public events topic. Both were thought excellent by others, and are being quoted. That's a good feeling.

I suppose we should expect a mixed bag out of life. It can't all be good. The trick is to not become emotionally down when the bad comes. That's been my problem lately. Setbacks have set me back emotionally, when they shouldn't. Hopefully, with a correct appreciation for the situation and expectation for outcomes, from this point on they won't.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Book Review: Foxe's Book of Martyrs

I'm not sure where I acquired this book, Foxe's Book of Martyrs, by John Foxe, Whitaker House, 1981, ISBN 0-88368-095-5. Perhaps at a garage sale, for it does not have a resale shop sticker. I bought it because of the subject matter, not from prior familiarity. Who wouldn't want to read about those who went before us in the faith, and who suffered the ultimate price for that faith?

John Foxe wrote this record of the saints' suffering from about 1550 to 1563. He continued to modify it for years after until his death in 1587, adding anecdotes and more stories. These were difficult times in England. King Henry 8th took his nation out of the Roman Catholic church when the pope wouldn't grant him a divorce. His heir, the boy king Edward VI, continued on the same Protestant path under the influence of regents, but died at age sixteen. His half sister Mary became queen in 1553, and for the five years of her short reign through domestic affairs into turmoil as she restored Catholicism and attempted to purge Protestantism with threats, coercion, imprisonment, and execution.

Foxe lived through this, though he spent the Mary years in exile. So the book is concerned mostly with the martyrs of that era. One long chapter covers martyrs of the first three centuries of Christianity. The next covers Constantine--not because he was a martyr but because of his impact on Christianity. John Wycliff is next, again not for martyrdom but for persecution and impact.

After this are chapters covering the martyred and the persecuted of the late 15th and 16th centuries, a parade of names both familiar and not: Oldcastle, Huss, Tyndale, Luther, Hooper, Taylor, Latimer, Ridley, Cranmer. Some chapters cover a number of martyrs in short fashion, such as those from Scotland and those many burned at the stake at Smithfield near Newgate.

Foxe, in his narratives, concentrates on the period after arrest of the "heretic"--the subsequent attempts to turn the prisoner to the Catholic faith, perhaps some words in defense or the refusal to recant, then the actual execution. Almost nothing is included about what led to the arrest, or of the martyr's earlier life. That's probably as it should be, but it leaves me a bit unsatisfied. I'd like to know more about how these men and woman developed the beliefs and convictions that allowed them to face the flames without fear and with joy.

I left the book having disgust for Queen Mary, and sadness that such things as trans-substantiation and the mass and the authority of the pope were once thought important enough to kill for. The most uplifting part was the testimony of the saints, who maintained confidence and steadfastness in their beliefs, who joined the ones that an ancient writer declared "faced jeers and flogging, ...were chained and put in prison, ...stoned, ...sawed in two, ... put to death by the sword...went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated." For all of these received something better, planned by God.

Is this book a keeper? I'm not sure at this point. It is almost source material for other writing. But I think probably not. Should you read it? The language is archaic, as is the organization (lack of subheadings, extremely long paragraphs), so it is a difficult read. But, yes, if you have an opportunity, read it and be enlightened.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Good News to Counter the Bad

Well, my arthritis in my fingers is still bad this morning. Saw the doctor yesterday. They x-rayed my right hand and found no trauma. His conclusion is a severe rheumatoid arthritis attack. He prescribed me a steroid and a strong pain killer. Went to the pharmacy later that evening and they had the painkiller but not the steroid. Seems something was unclear about what the doc wanted, and they wouldn't fill it until he returned their call. Since the doc's office is closed today (a special day off, it appears) I may not get that medicine till Monday. The painkiller is helping a little, I guess.

And I got my pickup back yesterday. New engine, rebuilt clutch, new warranty. I'm considerably poorer, though I'm glad to have this friend back who has carried me for over thirteen years now. Looks like I'll have to take it back in tomorrow morning, for they failed to properly fasten the boot in the cab at the bottom of the gear stick. It's kind of flopping around and I can hear all kinds of strange noises coming from below somewhere.

But the real good news is last night I had an e-mail from the Suite101 editor-in-chief. My article on homemade turkey soup was chosen as one of the winners in the Best of the Holidays contest. The announcement hasn't been made publicly yet, but I imagine it will be today. The prise is $101, which comes at an opportune time, both in terms needing the money and needing the confidence boost.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What's up with my arthritis--or is it arthritis?

Lately I've had a flare up of my rheumatoid arthritis. It has hit my hands and wrists in late Nov/Dec, but in October it was my upper back and right shoulder. Right now it's confined to both wrists, the bottom joint on my left thumb, and the ring finger on my right hand. That has been getting progressively worse. Aleve has seemed to have no effect, so I quit taking that and putting that foul stuff on my stomach. This morning I woke up and the rt ring finger is so bad it is in constant pain and I can hardly do anything with it. Of course, when one finger on a hand hurts the entire hand hurts, to some extent. Shifted the mouse to use it left handed (as I once did) and I'm keeping on keeping on.

But this really hurts, and I'm not even sure it's rheumatoid. I must digress a little. I was first diagnosed with rheumatoid back in the early 90s, when I began getting pain in my ankles, an elbow now and then, and maybe other places from time to time. They x-rayed, took the usual tests, and all the rheumatoid tests turned out negative. So they called it "sero-negative rheumatoid arthritis", which I guess means rheumatoid-like symptoms without the typical rheumatoid chemicals. Sometimes it flares up, and sometimes I have almost no pain at all.

When I had my annual physical in August my new doctor said she questioned the diagnosis, saying that sero-negative is more or less a doctor punting: gotta call it something. But we never got to the point where she could run any tests to see what it might be. And, in August I had almost no symptoms. Now I have the symptoms, and now she has closed her practice and moved to Oklahoma. Blankety-blank Okies!

So today I'll call our new doctor, one who I've never seen but Lynda has, and say "Could I have you look at my rt ring finger and figure out why it's swollen, deformed, and painful? Could it be phlebitis? Or what? I haven't had any trauma." I'll probably sound ridiculous, but it's come to the point where I have to do it. If I can't get in with them, perhaps I'll go to the ER.

Well, I got through the typing okay. Tapping keys with that finger is a little painful, but I can bear it as long as I don't tap too hard. My speed was okay as well. Don't feel like proofreading, thought.

See you all on the flip side.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Report on

I have now finished 5 1/2 months as a writer at I have a little bit of perspective, though not really enough yet to know if it is worthwhile. As I've stated before, I first applied to Suite in the hopes of using it to increase my platform--that is, increase the number of potential book buyers I would bring to a publisher. For that purpose, how much money I earn there should be irrelevant. Of course, I couldn't let it be irrelevant forever, so money has become one of the goals and motivating factors for participation there.

For platform-building purposes, the number of page views I get is most important. The first graph (wish I could get the graphs clearer--click on the graph for a clearer image) shows where I stand with page views. I peaked in mid-October when I had 53 articles posted, and began a slow decline. Page views tanked over Thanksgiving, though that's to be expected. They have recovered nicely, but not to where they were right before Thanksgiving. Still, my current readership is 86,000 people per year with current article total at 70. That's not too shabby.

Revenue is going up, though I'm way below the reported site average. The second graph shows my revenue history. It is more volatile than are page views, but the trend is upward. The third graph shows revenue per week. While revenue is still low, I had four of my best weeks in November to early December. As I wrote once before, I began writing some different type articles around October 21st to try to stimulate revenue. That seems to have worked, though the coincident peak in page views at the same time is curious, if not causal. I'll have to watch that and see how page views go in January, after we get past all this holiday hubbub.

Last week the site went through a major face lift, completely changing its look. The site had limited functionality for about 20 hours, which probably hurt page views and revenue. It's too soon to know if and how the new look will affect readership and revenue. I can and do hope for the best, however.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Number 1 on Google

Dr. Hook and his Medicine Machine may have fixated on getting their picture on the cover of The Rolling Stone magazine. Athletes hope for Sports Illustrated covers. I suppose politicians hope for the conservative or liberal magazine of choice. But for a writer who writes on the web and tries to attract readers through search engines, the goal is to be number 1 on Google for the critical search term(s).

My article, Book Review: Lost Letters of Pergamum, from June 2008, has for a long time been the most popular article I've posted to this blog. It's companion, More Thoughts on Lost Letters of Pergamum, doesn't get near as many hits. Some of my other book reviews get some traffic. Otherwise it's a known reader in Rhode Island, a known reader in north Georgia, a mystery reader in Little Rock, and me who look at any of these pages.

I can always tell when some class somewhere has begun a study of The Lost Letters of Pergamum, for I get a few hits from that locale on the article. They show up in my sitemeter stats for a day or two, then things go quiet till next semester.

But Wednesday and Thursday I got a lot of hits on that article, many more than just one class studying the book. In fact, I think the hits came from five different institutions of higher ed. I wondered what was going on. At least one of the hits indicated they accessed the site after searching on Google for "review of lost letters of Pergamum". So I did the Google search for that term.

And there I was, number 1 on Google. Even ahead of the Christian Book Shops page reviewing the book. Ahead of the page. Ahead of Barnes and Noble. Ahead of 12,799 other sites.

Those who have been at this Internet writing game for a while, and who know more about "search engine optimization" (SEO) than I do, say that somehow, through magical al-gore-ithms, Google can tell what is good writing and what isn't. Or maybe it's what is popular writing and what isn't. Either way, my review seems to have passed Google-muster and risen to the top. It must have always been fairly high in a Google search, because I wouldn't have been getting the occasional hits if it hadn't. Research shows people rarely look past the first page of hits, and even more rarely go past page three.

But to rise to the number 1 position for the most important search phrase is validation. I must be doing something right. Since I wrote that article long before I had even heard about SEO, either I'm a natural at that new practice or the writing must be fairly good. Either way, I'll take it. Time to get back to my SEO-based writing, trying to figure out how to write informative articles that incorporate search terms and that are written with excellence, not with mindless repetition of those terms.

It's a good feeling.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Book Review: From The President

I came of age during the Watergate era, both literally and politically. In November 1972, helped along by a national law that lowered the voting age in national elections, I stepped into a voting booth in Cranston RI and cast my first vote for president. I voted for Richard Nixon. The Watergate scandal was a gnat buzzing in people's ears, pushed about by a press that hated Nixon. It was not till five months after the election that it erupted to the point where heads rolled, and it was another year and then some before Nixon resigned.

Out of this scandal was the fight over Nixon's presidential papers. The courts wanted them. The press wanted them. Defendants wanted them--even more so than prosecutors in some cases. Yet history had said that a president's papers from his years in office were his own, to be done with as he saw fit. Destroy them, put them in a library, suppress them, edit them. They were his. The need for Nixon's papers caused a long legal battle that was not resolved until 1987. The papers became available in 1988.

Bruce Oudes began the process of going through the released Nixon papers, which went into his book From The President: Richard Nixon's Secret Files. Oudes' title is almost yellow journalism. The files were not secret because they all contain salacious material that showed what bad dudes Nixon and his cronies were. They were "secret" simply because Nixon thought they belonged to him, as those of his predecessors had belonged to them. But Congress passed laws, the courts upheld them, and Oudes and countless like him got the papers.

The lengthy Introduction to the book is excellent. Oudes describes the fight for the papers and how the national mood was pretty much to give nothing to Nixon. Oudes describes how the files amounted to 1.5 million pages, which he culled through to produce a book of 640 pages. It was a massive work, and obviously everything could not be included. With such abridgement, achieving a fair balance is difficult if not impossible. The editor's prejudices must show through.

The papers focus heavily on Chuck Colson and the political maneuverings he orchestrated. In fact, the papers as a whole are mostly political. A small minority deal strictly with governing. The China trip, for instance, is covered in memos that discuss the political ramifications of the trip but not many that discuss what that trip would mean for the world and for US interests. The years 1973 and 1974 are under-represented, 1974 badly so. It was as if the Administration quit producing memos on January 1, 1973.

Despite these faults, I found the reading fascinating. It was sort of like the business correspondence I read every day. Seeing how the Administration sought to manipulate the press was eye-opening. The reaction to a bad press consumed many memos. The Vietnam War was the backdrop to everything, but the memos described the happenings on the home front, not the battle front.

I was disturbed to see White House employees--Coulson, Buchanan, Haldeman, and others spending time producing memos purely about politics and the 1970 and 1972 elections. I was not pleased to see how my tax dollars (well, mostly Dad's tax dollars) go to politics rather than governing. Perhaps it is not possible to achieve a complete separation of staff so that some work on politics, some work on governing, and each is paid by monies from an appropriate source. Still, it was bothersome.

It's a good book, and well worth the $2.00 I paid for it used at our local thrift store. If you have a chance to find it, read it. The memos themselves are unfiltered history--original source material--though of course the selection of the memos make the book a highly filtered flawed history. This one is not a keeper. It will be in the next garage sale, where I hope to make back half my investment.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

December Goals

This may be the season to be jolly, but it's not the season for audacious writing goals, or plans to make tons of progress on creative works. So I'll back off some on my goals.

1. Blog 12 times

2. Post at least 8 articles to

3. Make my submittals log perfect: all entries made in appropriate places; all acceptances/rejections gathered.

4. Make my ideas notebook perfect: appropriate dividers; hard copies of all ideas in the file.

5. All poems properly filed; includes transferring all poems from my computer at work to the one at home, and making the one at home the official repository of electronic copies; hard copies of all poems in a file.

6. Write 2,000 words in In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People. Last month's goal was too ambitious, given all that's going on.

7. Finish that appendix in the Harmony of the Gospels. I believe I left it, some months ago, with not much more than a page to finish. I shouldn't leave it hanging.

8. Continue studies of Demand Studios (tutorials, editorial guides), and begin writing for them.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The November Report

December 1st--time to see how I did relative to my November goals.

1. Blog at least 12 times. I blogged 14 times.

2. Post at least 8 articles at Posted 9 articles at Suite.

3. Write 10,000 word in In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People. Only wrote a little over 1,000 words, so way behind on this one.

4. Complete the Bible study writing goal of October. I actually did this. Early in the month I gathered all (well, I think all) of the started or planned Bible studies, listed them, determined where they were relative to the completion continuum, and put them in a semi-organized file. I have a little more to do on this, but I consider it essentially completed.

5. Make at least four writing related submittals. I completed this, making either 4 or 5 submittals. I'll check my submittals log later tonight and see what the exact number was.

6. Complete the started but as yet unfinished appendix in my Harmony of the Gospels. Did nothing on this.

7. Work on Screwtape's Good Advice. Did nothing on this.

So, all in all not a very good month as far as writing accomplishment goes. Guess I'll have to try harder in December.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Best Laid Plans...

Yesterday afternoon, 5:30 PM to be precise, I was basking in the solitude of a quiet house, and the prospect of several days with evenings to myself and the time to begin work on my new writing gig while at the same time work on this blog and articles for

Then a call came from my wife. She drove our daughter and grandson back to OKC yesterday (son-in-law having left the day before that to be in his pulpit Sunday morning). It seems our daughter did not have her main suitcase; would I check in the basement bedroom? Sure enough, there it was. She had said something to me about her suitcase still downstairs and might have asked if I would bring it up, but that was 30 or more minutes before they left. I asked her right as she left if she had everything from downstairs. She said yes, I suppose assuming I had gone downstairs to get the suitcase. I almost asked her to go down and make one more sweep. Should have.

We made tentative plans to meet tonight, maybe in Tulsa, and do the transfer. Meanwhile Lynda did some checking on-line, and determined a bus company had a bus leaving from Rogers at 1:50 AM and would have the suitcase in Oklahoma City by 2:30 PM. I spent some time debating whether to do that, or just to wait and see what I could do today, since my office is just a couple of miles from that bus stop. I decided to not be lazy and instead to tie up the suitcase, put it in the pickup, and drive the 15 miles. I got there at 12:30 AM. The bus would arrive at 1:30 AM. I had a pleasant time reading in my current selection from the reading pile for that hour.

The bus arrived on time--Great! But then I learned that the driver can't accept freight that wasn't already ticketed. I would have to come back during normal business hours and have the agent ticketed. Oh, well, about two hours wasted, and a late night to bed. At 1:45 AM I headed home.

But, I must first backtrack. About a mile from the bus stop (which is at a convenience store at the highway exit), the truck began acting rough--loud engine noises. What was going on? Was it low oil level? I was several thousand miles behind on having it serviced. No, the oil pressure gauge showed good pressure. I left the convenience store and headed home, deciding to drive through town and avoid the high speeds of the convenient Interstate. This took me right past our new office, the Ford garage near the office, and the Wal-Mart Supercenter. However, despite the rough sounds of the engine and the oil pressure gauge now pegged at zero, I kept going.

It got to sounding so bad that I decided to stop at the Phillips 66 station/convenience store in Bella Vista. In the near darkness I couldn't really see what the oil level was, but it looked low. I put in two quarts, started the car, and the oil pressure gauge showed a good level. Headed down the road and the gauge pegged zero within a block. I stopped, checked to make sure I had the cap on tight, and decided to drive the remaining seven miles home. When I got there I was too wound up to go to bed, so finished the chapter in the book and got to bed at 3 AM.

Up at 7:30 AM, called the Ford garage four miles from the house, and after I described the problem they said to drive it in. Got there at 8:10 AM. Sat till 8:45 AM, when they told me the engine was blown. It was just a matter of time before it locked up, maybe a mile, maybe a month. Why did it do that, I asked them? Low oil? Oil pump quit? Long term damage that just reached a critical point between 12:30 and 2:00 AM on a Monday morning? No way to know. I waited some time at the dealership before telling them to go ahead. And while they are at it, to check the clutch too. The other Ford garage told me a year ago it was bad, and I've been nursing it, trying to get by for as long as possible.

They gave me a loaner for the duration. Went home, ate an early lunch, headed to the bus depot, got the bag on the 12:30 PM departure, and arrived at the office.

With my equilibrium and my tranquility quite upset. Haven't gotten much done today, but will try to knuckle down as soon as I get this posted. Did I cause the engine damage by letting the servicing go? Was it just time for it to happen, and it happened in the wee hours when my back-up transportation and cell phone was in Oklahoma City? All I know is the outcome, which is in a week I will be considerably poorer, with my emergency fund, auto repair fund, and savings significantly drained.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Home Alone

Well, it's 5:30 PM Central time, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and I'm home alone. The holiday company have left, my wife taking our daughter and son-in-law back to Oklahoma City this afternoon. So I'll be batching it for a few days.

Time to work on my writing, catching up on what I let go from Tuesday until now. I don't know that I'll do a whole lot today. I'll probably write a second blog post a little later, and possibly I'll work on and maybe complete an article for My article on homemade turkey soup has done quite well there lately, helping to sustain my page views at respectable levels through the holidays. My revenue is also up, at the highest level for any month with three days to go in the month. I'm within striking distance of having enough to get a payout this month.

Tonight, though, I may take most of the evening to just relax. I'll fix a thick turkey sandwich, complete with gravy and dressing, and watch Gladiator, which is supposed to be on one of the cable channels tonight with limited commercial interruptions. While watching that I might get my submittal log up to date, and take notes on a couple of Suite articles. I can multi-task, since I've seen Gladiator before.

I also have a new writing gig that I should take the evening studying, but I think I will put that off till tomorrow, and will report about it on this blog sometime later in the week. For now, this will suffice to get me back in the groove.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Crunch Time

I've never particularly enjoyed the holidays. At least not in recent years. All the work preparing, and then all the work un-preparing, has caused me considerable angst. Thanksgiving is not too much trouble. There's not much decoration. It's just a big meal and making sure the fridge is prepared to hold the leftovers. Christmas is more difficult, with the round of parties, extensive decorating, and the big meal(s) so close on the heals of Thanksgiving. But I muddle through.

I suppose the worst part of it all is cleaning the house for guests. Lynda and I do not tend to keep the house real clean, not that we two are the only inhabitants. Heck, why mince words: the house is a wreck. The kitchen table is generally covered with papers: mail to be read, finances to be filed, coupons to use or discard, magazines and newsletters we don't feel like reading. Since we rarely have company between holidays, by Thanksgiving it is an insurmountable task to clear the clutter. So, a day or two before the kids arrive (or other guests) for Thanksgiving, we shove it all in a box, put it in the south bedroom, and figure we'll get to it before Christmas. But, a week after Thanksgiving the table is covered with Christmas card stuff, and other stuff also begins to pile up. When someone comes for Christmas--another box or perhaps the same and the same outcome.

By now the south bedroom is incredibly full of junk. Not all of it is junk. Much of it is boxes and bags of children's books relatives have given us to give to Ephraim. These are mostly unsorted, and maybe we'll go through them with Richard and Sara when they arrive. But also in the room are boxes and bags of...what? I couldn't tell you what all is in them. We need a serious house cleaning, starting with the kitchen table, then the south bedroom, then the storage room in the basement, then maybe the garage.

Actually, except for the south bedroom I would say other parts of the house are, right now, in better shape than they were a year ago. We have done kitchen table cleaning for the last week, slowly working through the piles. We even pulled one box out of the south bedroom and went through it. It was mostly stuff from last year, or maybe two years ago. The good news is if we haven't had or seen the stuff for that long we don't need it, and most can be discarded. The bad news is a few things are not easy to decide on.

The garage is relatively straightened up, and the basement storage room is slightly cleaner than last Thanksgiving, in part due to some extra shelves. We may, however, have a little less junk in the room; certainly fewer empty boxes, which tend to add to the clutter.

So what's to be done? Tonight we must finish decorating the Christmas tree, which stands there with lights but nothing else. I must move a file cabinet out of the basement bedroom, and see that the Dungeon (our computer work area) gets a significant overhaul. Must also find a place to stash the old, over-sized monitor that I changed out last night for a free, surplus one from the company. I'd love to do a little work in the storeroom. I'm not far away from having it look pretty decent.

But, it looks like the stuff on the table will find its way to a box, perhaps the same box not yet emptied from last year. We're careful not to stuff bills in there, only those things that are junk mail or a step above junk mail, which we'd like to go through but never seem to find the time. Hopefully that box will get cleaned out the week after Thanksgiving. I don't want to see some of that stuff for a fourth year.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Back On-Site, and a Writing Lesson Learned

This morning the street superintendent of Centerton called. He needed me at a construction site. He was modifying something I "designed" a year ago and he wanted me to look at it. I put designed in quotes because this wasn't a rigorous engineering design. A culvert wasn't draining properly; erosion downstream had exposed a water line; wingwalls obstructed proper flow of water; he was tired of waiting for the highway department to fix it. So he and I met on site and I drew a sketch of what needed to be done. He hired a contractor and had it constructed. It has worked fine.

Well, sort of fine. The erosion control measures worked like a charm, save in one location they didn't complete. The culvert drains as it should now. But a problem he has noticed since is that the flow entering the culvert, from the east and west and which turn and flows south, don't work well together. The flow from the west is so much more than from the east that it overwhelms the smaller flow and creates backflow in that direction, over-topping the highway three hundred feet east. He wanted to put in a diversion wall and let the two flows get into the culvert with less co-mingling. I helped them lay it out, and hopefully it will accomplish what he wants.

I say hopefully, because once again this is not rigorous engineering. I get to do that this afternoon as I re-evaluate a flood study and respond to FEMA comments. But this approximate engineering is something I'm not as comfortable with. There's no way to know if this will work until the next rain storm allows us to watch it in operation--and it needs to be enough rain to have the ditch flow at lest two feet deep. One of these half-inch rainfalls won't do that. Much better to engineer something that works according to the laws of science and mathematics. Something I can reasonably predict how it is going to perform. Oh well, billable hours are billable hours. I shouldn't complain.

It's sort of like the difference of writing for a residual income website and a pay up-front website. On the latter I know exactly what I'm getting for what I have to write. For Suite101 and its residual income payment model, what I get paid is totally dependent on how many ads are clicked, which is somewhat dependent on what subjects I write about. It's also dependent on how well I optimize the article for search engines. Maybe, over several years, it will amount to more than I would make writing for up-front pay; maybe not.

I'm working on my SEO abilities, but frequently find that butting up against what I consider to be good writing. So far, with one exception insisted on by an editor, I have always come down on the side of good writing. I hope I always will.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Submittals Made

Well, just over half way through November and I'm met my submittal goal for the month. Yesterday morning I completed an article that qualifies for a current Suite101 contest for their writers. Yesterday noon I researched magazines where I could submit some poems. I found close to eighty mags suitable for what I wanted to send. I narrowed it down to two start-up mags. Last night, after writers guild, I completed this research, and decided to submit to Four Branches Press. I selected five poems (the upper limit) and fired off the e-mail before I could change my mind. They don't pay except in contributor's copies and a subscription, so this is mainly to get a publishing credit.

At writers guild last night, only four of us attended, and only three had material to share. I brought the first four pages of Father Daughter Day. I had been sharing with them my baseball novel, but no one in the guild except me seems to know the first thing about baseball, so I decided to shift to FDD. Of course, only two of us who attend regularly know anything about poetry, so this might not be best either. Still, although over the years I've shared with them two or three poems from the book, I've never shared the book from beginning to end. Their comments will be interesting. Last night comments were limited to "very nice."

Also yesterday I began researching other on-line markets to write for. Right now at Suite101 I'm averaging only $7 per month (though Nov. appears to be higher than that), and I've got to make some more money. I went through this before, looking at, and decided I couldn't commit to that. But maybe there's another site I can write for. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Okay, yesterday and today I worked on my writing goals. Yesterday I pulled out out my submissions notebook and updated it. So far this year I have this record:

20 submissions
4 acceptances
8 rejections
8 not yet heard
0 withdrawn

One of my goals this month was to make 4 (I think) submissions of any type. I'm sitting at two thus far, and want to get as many done this week as I can, hopefully exceeding my goal. This noon hour I researched poetry and short story markets, and identified two or three to submit to. The pay stinks (if something non-existent can be said to stink), but being able to add publishing credits would be good. I'll likely submit something to then tomorrow.

Yesterday I pulled out my Bible study ideas notebook, intent on organizing it and trying to decide what to work on next. What I found was I never gathered all my idea sheets into that notebook! So I spent a half-hour documenting, by title and status only, nine ideas I've had for Bible studies. Now I have to see if I have an idea sheet written up on each and if so get them in the notebook. I'm not sure where I'll find them. Some I might have typed into the computer and never printed. Some may exist only in my mind, and are waiting escape. I suppose this will be some of my work this week.

Well, my employer beckons, so I'll get back to what pays the bills.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Turkey Soup

Since I made my last post, on Wednesday, I've had a couple of good days. The arthritis flare-up has waned significantly. That flare-up may have been caused by certain contraband items I ate on Tuesday, which taste wonderful but apparently are not good for my body and which will remain nameless. Wednesday, Thursday, and today I've eaten right: no snacks, no sugar, NO CHIPS, no evening snacks, no anything except home-prepared food of reasonable calorie levels, adequate fiber, and lots of taste.

I also walked on my noon hour each day, a little over twenty minutes each day. I'm still trying to figure out what route I should walk and for how long, in the vicinity of our new building. I miss the parking lot with its nine laps to the mile. My weight is down a few pounds since Wednesday; I'm back on track toward reaching my weight loss goals for the year.

At work I found I had excellent powers of concentration. Yesterday and today most of my time went to a street widening project in Bentonville, for which public bids will be received on Thursday next and the final changes must be done my Monday. Today's work was tedious: going through the utility relocation sheets twice and counting all the pipe, fittings and valves on the water lines. It's grunt work, normally assigned to a junior level person. Actually, it was done by a junior staffer, and based on bidder questions I was pretty sure it was botched. So I checked it in detail, and sure enough found way too many errors to let it go by. So I took it upon myself to do the material take-off and, hopefully, get it right.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with turkey soup? In the process of having more energy and focus, I wrote three articles for Two I wrote yesterday, one on an engineering/construction topic and one on stock trading. These were in line with my general strategy of writing articles with "evergreen" content. That is, they will be as applicable to a search on any day of the year. This is as opposed to articles of seasonal interest or current interest (per a news item). So all of my 61 articles at Suite were evergreen. Until today.

I decided to dip a toe into the seasonal article market. I decided to put my expertise with turkey soup as the basis. Each year I render the bones and make soup. It's almost down to a routine. I don't use a recipe, just add ingredients according to how I think they will work.

For my article, I used a strategy for trying to coax people to click on ads, whereby my revenue comes. First I checked "turkey soup" in a Google Adsense tool to see what the popular search words were and the amount advertisers are willing to pay for ads associated with those words, and ranked them. I checked the title on the Google sandbox and verified that it would attract appropriate ads. I used the best key word phrases in the title, subtitle, and internal headings. I found four copyright-free, apt photos, and used some more key word phrases as their captions.

But, the other strategy: I did not give a recipe for turkey soup. If I did that (which I could have even though I don't use a recipe), the reader would be satisfied and not bother to click on an ad. But, if I can convince the reader that it would be a good thing for them to make turkey soup on Thanksgiving, and leave them short of a complete recipe, maybe--just maybe--they will be enticed to click on an ad for a recipe, and I'll get some revenue.

We'll see how this strategy works. The article has some good ads attached to it right now, though none specifically for "turkey soup recipes". The ads change regularly, however, and vary depending upon the IPA of the computer. Right now it ranks on the first page of Google for some of the keyword searches, even in first place for a couple. Oh, it also qualifies for a Suite 101 contest going on right now for writers. Today so far it's had six page views, which is not bad for an article's first six hours. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The bloom has come off the Suite 101 rose

That is, if there ever was a bloom on it. I began writing for for two main reasons: gain some experience with web writing, and help build a writer's platform. The amount of the payment was never an issue, though of course I wanted to be paid for my writing. Well, I may be doing something wrong, not figuring out how to properly optimize my writing for search engines or something, because payment is a definite problem.

Oh, I've been paid. In September I received a payment of $10.27 for revenues accumulated through August. Right now I'm due a payment of $13.16 for revenues accumulated through October. So far in November I've accumulated an additional $0.96, which will be paid whenever I reach another $10 accumulated.

I know, I know, some of you are laughing your something-or-other off at those numbers. They're paltry. They're sick. They're minuscule. It makes me wonder why I've written and posted 59 articles there, amounting to about 45,000 words, to have earned a measly $24.39. Suite 101 says the usual parameters are: earning $1 to $2 per article per month; earning $2-$3 per 1000 page views. My numbers? $0.12 per article per month; $1.19 per 1000 page views aggregate and $0.57/1000 last seven days.

I don't know what I'll do. I don't like being a quitter. And I didn't get into it primarily for the money. But good grief, 6/100 of a cent per word? I must be out of my mind to keep doing that. Even if I wrote no more articles, and the ones already up there earned at the same rate as they have for the first third of November, in a year I'd be up to .14 cent per word, and in three years I'd be up to .31 cent per word.

Meanwhile, my page views have begun to tumble, which I reported earlier. I'll try to attach a graph that shows how the page views have taken a noticeable drop in the last two weeks. Having climbing page views always helped to offset the lack of revenues in terms of giving me an incentive to write. But if now page views are going to tank---well, I'll have to re-think.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Exercise and Arthritis

For several weekends I've been planning to take a long walk. The weather has been good, and I need the exercise. But Saturday is a busy day of work around the house, resulting in very tired legs by 1 or 2 PM. Sunday we get home from church and, well, the Sunday afternoon nap syndrome takes effect, as well as the must watch football syndrome. So I haven't made that walk.

But yesterday, with excellent weather, I decided to do it. Coming home from work I sat in my reading chair, read for twenty minutes or so, and was overcome by tiredness. Rather than go to the couch, I just put my head back in the chair and slept for perhaps fifteen minutes. That was all I needed. I read a little more, then headed out. I had determined that I would follow a new route, which I estimate is four miles. My previous longest walk was three miles.

So I headed down the hill, and turned left at the bottom instead of right. This took me on the long loop around the golf course--probably just part of the golf course, to the bottom of the dam, then uphill all the way home. I had planned on the difficulty of the last hill, but not of two intermediate hills. The walk took me about an hour and fifteen minutes, and I was quite tired. Later, Lynda wanted to walk, and we did another mile.

But I felt good. Tired legs, a slightly hurting right knee, a tickle in the throat from heavy breathing, but I felt good. That old single cusp on my aortic valve gave no problem. My mind was fairly well engaged, and in the evening I managed to write 1,000 words on my novel.

However, this morning my hands and wrists are killing me. Not sure what is going on with that. I had a good week last week in terms of arthritis. Why now? Actually they were hurting on Saturday after work around the house, but felt better Sunday, even at day's end. Was it the peanut butter toast I ate as a late snack? I've always wondered if the sero-negative rheumatoid arthritis I have is really a food allergy.

Whatever it is, typing is quite painful this morning. Plus, it's 8 AM, and my employer is beckoning. Let's see what the day brings.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Writing for the Internet: Strange Happenings

After four months of increasing readership of my articles at, about two weeks ago I saw a slight drop. Then last week I had another slight drop. Then Wednesday readership tanked, to about 60 percent of what it had been. This continued on Thursday, and today is shaping up about the same. What is going on?

It's not a holiday season that people should be away from their computers. Nor have I written articles about seasonal or current events. All of my articles are what they call "evergreen," that is, not tied to a season of the year, or a holiday, or a current event. They should be as important to people one day as the next. I suppose my history and poetry articles might do better when school is in session, but otherwise they are evergreen.

So what gives? It would appear that Google has changed its search algorithms, to my detriment. Actually, to Suite 101's detriment, for a number of other writers there have noticed the same thing. My revenues have stayed the same or gone up slightly. Although, Wednesday was average and I don't know yet about yesterday or today.

I'll have to watch to see if this is a trend, or a temporary glitch. Let's hope for the latter.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November Goals

Having just finished my October report, and this being the 4th of November, I'd better work on my November goals. Even though I didn't do well in October relative to goals, I'm going to set a little bit higher goals in November and try harder.

1. Blog at least 12 times. I've hit this many consecutive months.

2. Post at least 8 articles at My current plans call for more than this. I might revise this goal tonight and set a higher target.

3. Write 10,000 words in In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People. This is in place of just finishing the chapter I'm in. If I make this goal, I will be about 1/4 into the novel.

4. Complete the Bible study goal of October. Assess where I am with that goal; complete the organization; and do the evaluation.

5. Make at least 4 writing related submittals. I won't specify what type of submittals. I made one yesterday, so I'm 1/4 complete with this goal already.

6. Complete the started but unfinished appendix in my harmony of the gospels. Might as well keep it as a goal until I get it done.

7. Work on Screwtape's Good Advice, my study guide of The Screwtape Letters. I may be teaching a class in this come February, and it would be nice to have this to use as a guide.

I'll leave it at seven goals, and see what I can accomplish.

The October Report

Time to be accountable to my reader(s), and to myself. Here's my October goals and how I did on them.

1. Blog 12 or more times. >>> I blogged 16 times. Score 1.

2. Write 7 articles for >>> I wrote and posted 8 articles, so squeaked by. Score 2.

3. Complete chapter 7 of In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People. >>> I did NOT do this. I did begin sharing the novel with my writers critique group, and did a little bit of editing based on those critiques. Perhaps I can give myself half credit. Score 2.5.

4. Make three literary or freelance magazine submittals. >>> Let's see if I can remember, because I don't have my submittal log here at work. I didn't submit anything to any literary magazines, but I don't think it was three. In fact, I think it was just one. I'll check tonight and might edit this. For now I'll put it down as a goose-egg. Score still 2.5.

5. Make sure that appendix [i.e. the one I've worked on since August] in my harmony of the gospels is finished. >>> Did not do. Not sure why I didn't other than lack of interest. I did read a little in the harmony, and noted a couple of edits I have to make, but that gives me no credit. Score still 2.5.

6. Organize the various Bible studies I've started. This includes listing them, and evaluating them to see if I want to take them further. >>> I did some of this, early in the month, and my mind is somewhat hazy about it. I know I gathered all the loose papers of Bible study ideas to one place. I think I made the list, but I didn't do the evaluation. Can I give myself half credit for this? I think I will. Score 3.0.

So there it is. Not the prettiest of pictures but perhaps not the worst. Hopefully I'll do better in November, the Thanksgiving holiday not withstanding.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Joyous Sound of...Plotters

I arrived at the office this morning, not knowing what to expect as to IT issues. When I left last night: e-mail was down; Internet access was down; our intranet was down; and all copiers and plotters were inaccessible. All the way home, through especially horrendous traffic, I kept thinking this would be a good time to launch my dream magazine, Technophobia.

This morning, I got to work about 7:30 AM after a stop at the bank and the gas station. Rounding the corner and entering the long, narrow corridor to my office, I saw a beautiful sight: an engineering drawing sitting on the out-put tray of a plotter. They must be working! I thought. Then, after getting coffee and completing my short devotional, the joyous sound came: the whine of the back-and-forth of a plotter head, producing a drawing. I about cheered these two sensory experiences.

So I took a chance. Calling up MS Word, I opened my daily diary sheet, chose the printer that's supposed to be closest to me, and clicked . For five seconds nothing happened, then came the joyous sound: the printer/copier spitting out my document after it's morning warm-up. Everything's working; all's right with the world.

So it's back to the routines of the last nine years. Only difference is the route to work, and that only for the last mile and a half. I don't have a key to the office yet (because the electronic entry is not yet installed), so I'll come in a little later and fight heavier traffic on the commute. Before work I'll have devotions then check writing web sites. On noon hours I'll walk and write and eat simple fare at my desk. After work I'll spend a half-hour or so waiting on traffic to clear by doing something else for writing. Hopefully, in between these, I'll return to my past love of civil engineering and find meaning in flood plains and drainage ditches and sewer lines and streets, etc. At least I can write about some of those things at Suite101.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Move Is Over

CEI is now in its new offices, still in Bentonville, not really that far from our old office. The moving company did some pre-moving on Wednesday and Thursday, to avoid being overloaded on Friday and have to go into an overtime situation. They took all of the library (which I had ready on Monday) and most of my office stuff on those two days. On Thursday and Friday morning I set up the library in its new place--135 boxes, give or take a box. My fingers were raw, my wrists hurt, and I was tired.

Still, on Friday I actually felt pretty good. I went back to the old office to assist in any way I could. I found and broke down utility shelves and moved them to the elevator, where the loading crews took them upstairs to the large storage space we are keeping in the old building. I gathered up old network cables for salvage or discard. I helped the movers load a large bookcase onto my pick-up, for delivery to my near neighbor (who also works here, and who had bought the bookcase). I went to the IT room and helped them break down racks of servers, unplug a whole bunch of connecting cables and sorted them by length and bundled them.

We had lunch at the old building, courtesy of CEI, which was very good. I set up the tables and chairs in the break room. I also suggested to the chairman of the board that we have an informal ceremony for striking the colors. The US and Arkansas flags are tattered and need to be replaced. No reason to leave them for the tenants. He liked the idea, so at the end of lunch we all went to the front of the building, to the flagpole. Without any veterans present (except the chairman and one board member), a couple of boy scout leaders handled the ceremony. The chairman and the CEO made brief remarks. I don't know that I would call it a "moving" ceremony, but I'm glad I suggested it.

In short, I was sort of a jack-of-all-trades on Friday. Got to the new office about 4 PM and worked till 6 PM on my own office set-up, and was far along with it at the end. Oh, and in the morning I received a call on my cell phone (our office phones being down, along with e-mail, Internet, etc.) from a client, assigning us a new project, one we will do jointly with the company I broke into this business with, Black & Veatch. It's a relatively small share for us, but it's still a project. That was a fitting event on a day we moved to quarters about 35 % of the size we had.

During these last five days I have not been able to think about much besides the move. So I'm behind on posts to this blog, such as end of the month report and new month goals. Haven't written anything in over a week either. Hopefully today I begin getting back to normal.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Form of Flattery

That's what they say about imitation--it's the sincerest form of flattery. That doesn't, however, extend to plagiarism and copyright theft. At, several people posted to the writers forum there today to say their articles had been stolen verbatim and posted at It has happened with at least two articles, possibly a dozen. One of the authors effected found that general-finance didn't get them directly from Suite, but from another, content-washing site which posted them all with a date one day before they were posted on Suite, making it appear that a dozen different Suite authors stole work from this other site. Yeah, right.

This didn't affect me, but it did make my get off my lazy cyber-butt and set up a few Google Alerts. This is a tool that helps you spot copyright theft automatically using their powerful search spiders. I set up three alerts: one for my name, and two for phrases in two of my articles. I set them up to report as an event was found. We'll see what happens. Nothing so far.

I set up one alert for my name. Then I decided to Google my name and see what I get. I do this from time to time, also for my Internet pseudonym, Norman D Gutter. Today I found at least five other David A. Todds: a doctor in California who writes about secretions from nipples; a welder in Texas who makes political contributions to the Republican party; an engineer in Texas; a civil engineer in Oklahoma City--with his own firm; and another I can't remember right now. Oh, now I remember: someone with a home for sale in Florissant, MO.

Several of the search hits were to my writings, including one that appeared in American Profile magazine, the Sunday newspaper insert that competes with Parade Magazine, in 2004. What I wrote and sent to them was:

America, settled by those who thought freedom more important than comfort, was forged to nationhood through the concept that men can govern themselves, if only they adopt excellent laws, then embrace them.

The best citizen puts ethics before law, law before gain, nation before self.

What they put in the magazine was:

The best citizen puts ethics before law, law before gain, nation before self.

That was close enough I didn't gripe about it. Now, as I Googled my name, I found this latter statement at a number of places, normally with attribution to me. Here are some of the links:

The News-Sun forums.


Yahoo Answers

MaybeNow Answers

Then I decided to do a Google search for a key phrase in my published quote, and found this site in addition. [If you go to the site, you have to scroll down to near the end to see my words, slightly modified.] So, I suppose I should be flattered to think that this young man saw my words, thought enough of them to post them as his own. I guess I'll let him get away with it for now. After all, I can easily prove they are my words if I ever have to.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Packing, Packing

Our corporate headquarters moves on Friday. The word from on high is that we must have everything in boxes and those boxes and all furniture marked before we leave the office on Thursday. I'm in pretty good shape. All the furniture I'm taking is marked. I have thirteen boxes packed, and I estimate about eight more boxes--maybe nine--should finish me up.

Yesterday I finished packing the library. I think I blogged about this effort before. First I spent a week organizing the library, which was in sad shape from almost nine years of neglect. Then I took a week to cull through the materials and eliminate duplicates and out-dated material. I probably discarded close to fifteen percent of the documents therein. Constantly I was fighting things dumped in the room by those too lazy to properly take care of things, such as: surplus office hardware such as staplers, three-hole punches, tape dispensers, filing/storage trays; empty notebooks; and library materials I asked to be brought back there a month ago.

I beat my expectations of when I would be done by a day. As I was preparing to leave the VP over Operations came by my office and said he didn't think I would have it done on time. I said to him, "Oh ye of little faith." Today I sent an e-mail to the coordinator of the move, with the title "put a fork in it". Ah, satisfaction.

The day remains dreary and my mood is better than last night. Have writers guild this evening, and need to decide what to take. I have nothing recently written to show them, so I'll probably take the next installment of In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People.

Monday, October 26, 2009

My Kind of Day

The rain started yesterday, Sunday. Never heavy, and not steady. Just enough to make you not want to leave the house on a walk. Gloomy clouds; fresh north wind; temperatures falling. Just the kind of thing to perk me up from a gloomy mood.

Last night, after dark but while we were in the Dungeon at our computers with the night shut out, the heavier rain came. By this morning the heaviest rain was over, and we had steady drizzle through the day. No sun. Dark clouds. The north wind persisting and freshening.

I had a huge day of accomplishment at work, getting stuff done a day ahead of schedule, and surprising people in the office.

Then came the evening. As the rain ended my mood worsened and disappointments came. I guess I should just learn to be an engineer and not worry about being a writer.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Venture Out and Project Explorer

At, I've now been posting articles for four months. Posted my 56th article there last night, and have one in mind to whip out today. These average about 750 words each, so that's about 42,000 words, I figure. That productivity on my novel would have put me more than halfway through.

At Suite we have a forum--a message board--where writers, editors, and administrators interact about Suite, writing in general, and occasionally the competition. Some Suite writer will fairly regularly post something about "Oh, my revenues are so low!" Yet when they say what they've earned they are miles and miles ahead of me. I'll post how low my revenues are and tell them they are actually doing fairly well.

It seems I've selected to write in topics that simply don't generate much ad revenue: civil engineering, American history, poetry. I have a few articles in other topics, but most are in these. After my last post about low revenues, a friend on the board, Donald, presented a challenge to me, himself, and others with low revenue. Break outside of our boxes, he said. Find a new topic to write in. Write one article in it, track what happens for a month, and report weekly to the forum. He called it the "Venture Out and Project Explorer" challenge. Only three of us accepted it.

Searching for other categories/topics to post in, I decided maybe I could do something from my stock trading experience. I'm not trading now, leaving that to my better half to do, but I've taken a bunch of training and have traded off and on for five years, and we have a couple of books and other references I can use. Why not? Would articles on stock trading generate ad clicks? I figured it was worth trying.

I selected Bollinger Bands as my first topic in the VO&PE program. This is a technical indicator of the range a stock price is likely to trade in. I did my research in our technical analysis books. I checked Google Adsense to see how many monthly searches were made for that term and how much advertisers are willing to pay for ads for web pages with those key words, and determined both were high enough. I checked the Google Sandbox (don't ask me how it got that name), and found there were adequate numbers of ads ready to go for that kind of article. So I wrote the article and posted it on Wednesday, Oct 21, 2009.

Now, the statistics that Suite 101 give the writer does not include how much each article earns. We get: daily page views; page views accumulated for three months; daily revenue; accumulated revenue; page views per article; and details on how our articles were access (i.e. a search engine with the search term used, another web page, or Suite internal). So I'll never know whether my Bollinger Bands article earns a bunch of money or not. But what I can know is that Wednesday I had record page views, and I had a revenue spike to my second highest day so far.

Neither of these is definitive. It could be coincidence that the revenue went up. And the page views were not that much higher than the previous record, and they were down on Thursday. But, if the revenue stays up, maybe--just maybe--I've found something I can write on that will generate a little income. If I could earn every day the amount I earned on Wednesday, that would be almost twelve tanks of gas in a year.

And that would be fine.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

An Evening at the Writers Critique Group

Last night I attended the writer's critique group in Bella Vista. This is the group that I attended regularly from 2002 to 2007, quit for a while, then attended the another writer's group in more-distant Gravette until March of this year. I spent a few months without attending any writer's group at all, then decided to go back to the old one, and have been a regular since July.

Why did I leave this group in the first place? For one, I was the only person in the group who was trying to be published with a royalty publisher. Everyone else was satisfied with self-publishing. Now there's nothing wrong with self-publishing if it is done well. But obviously the threshold of excellence for royalty publishing is a whole lot higher than for self-publishing. the self-publishing company makes their money in charging set-up fees, not by selling books, so their writing goals tend not to be as high as mine.

But on-line fellowship is not the same as in-person, and I missed being with writers. So I went back to the old group. It meets only a little more than a mile from my house, so getting there and back is a snap. In fact, last night I fell asleep in my reading chair in the time before I needed to leave. Lynda woke me at one minute till seven and said, "Aren't you suppose to be at writers group about now?" I quickly went and was there well before they began sharing.

Some good and bad about the group, which goes by the name of Northwest Arkansas Writers Guild:
  • As I said, most in the group are not striving for royalty publishing, so the outlook on writing tends to be different.
  • I'm the only one in the group who is a serious poet. Two women in the guild write some poetry, but I don't think either studies the art or really works on her craft. One may; I can't tell for sure yet. I gave up bringing poetry to this group a long time before I left it.
  • The ladies all bring snacks to the meetings. This takes quite a bit of time to distribute around the table, with plates and napkins. We meet at an assisted living center, who provide us the meeting room and coffee. I'd prefer we didn't have snacks at all. Without the time given to snacks we could each read five pages instead of four.
  • We don't tend to stick to business. Too much chatting. I don't mind some of that--that's what fellowship's about. But we do too much of it.
  • At times members don't tend to say focused. I won't mention names, just in case one of them should wander in here (quite unlikely). But one has a habit of interrupting the reader with comments that have nothing at all with what is being read. This happens almost every week. Finally, one of the ladies called out the offender this week. She did it nicely, perhaps so nicely that the offender didn't even realize that she was being mildly chastised.
  • I'm the only man in the group. That's not so bad, except I'm the only non-retired person in the group. One woman works, but she rarely attends and will soon be moving away.
  • In general, everyone is polite; we never talk politics; everyone in the group seems to be a practicing Christian (though that's not a requirement); and we never have off-color material to read or listen to.
Well, that's the status of the group. I'll stick with it. It's the closest game in town, and fills a need in my life. Hopefully they find value in my contribution.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Busy Weekend, and I Learned Something

Yes, Friday-Saturday-Sunday was a busy time for me. I stayed late at work on Friday, continuing to work on preparations for our move. I finished culling duplicate materials out of the library on Friday, and began packing some boxes of things I'm sure we won't need. I'll continue that today, and hope to get about ten more boxes packed. Friday evening I kind of relaxed, reading in my current book from the pile and a little in a reference book. I went to the computer in the Dungeon and tried to work on a Suite101 article on floodplains, but couldn't concentrate.

Saturday was busy with things a married bachelor does on the day his wife is due back. Oh, I had kept the house fairly neat while Lynda was gone, but I had too many things out of place or waiting attention. So I folded laundry and put it away; I vacuumed the main traffic areas; I carried newly purchase furniture (book cases and folding tables from CEI) in their places. I went through a week's worth of accumulated mail while watching college football. I walked to the P.O. to mail something, about 1.3 miles total. And I read when I felt like it or napped when I was tired.

By the end of the day I had accomplished everything I wanted to do, except complete that Suite101 article. I started on it, and had it about 3/4 complete, but bogged down when I needed to research an item needed to complete it. Lynda arrived home about 10:30 PM and remarked how clean the house looked.

Sunday was the usual activities of church, life group, reading, resting, and writing. About 4 PM I decided I needed to finish that article, and went to the FEMA document I had already downloaded, found the info needed, and finished the article. In so doing I came to the conclusion that the main reason I fail to produce as much writing as I'd like to do is the research. I just don't want to research. I'd rather be writing. That revelation was kind of strange to me, as I thought I really do like to do research. At work I have to research frequently, so why wouldn't I want to do it for writing?

I have no answers for that, just a new insight into my solitary behavior. Perhaps just knowing this will help me conquer the problem. I have about six articles in mind for working on this week, all of which will require some amount of research. Let's see how the conqueror performs.

Friday, October 16, 2009

102,024 Page Views a Year

My writing at has, as I feared, taken up most of my creative writing time since I began writing for the site in late June. I'm up to 53 articles posted. My revenue is abysmal. So far I've earned $19.00 for about 43,000 words. Of course, since this is a revenue sharing site, if I never write another article, those I've already posted will continue to earn over time. Perhaps after a couple of years it will add up to a decent rate per word. At least I hope so.

But what's gratifying is the page views I'm getting. I don't know how I stack up against others at the site, but I'm pleased with mine. I track this on a spreadsheet, including a graph. Since daily page views fluctuate, I look more at 7-day page views, a rolling total of the number of total page views in the seven days ending on the latest day. For the seven days ending October 15, I had 1,962 page views, a record for me. And, that multiplied times 52 gives me 102,024 page views per year. This is the first time I've broken 100,000. The chart above shows this. Wish it were more readable, but it's just a screen capture of the spreadsheet graph. The blue line is the 7-day page views, magenta line the daily page views, and the black line is a trend line of the daily page views.

Now that is encouraging. My articles are being accessed 102 thousand times a year. That's with no growth, and no more articles published. I'm going to publish more articles, and the articles I have are all what they call "evergreen" articles; that is, they will be just as meaningful next month as they are this, next year as they are this. None are tied to seasonal things or current events such that they would drop in page views. Most of the page views are coming from search engine hits.

My latest article, The Intolerable Acts, in just two days had 69 page views and was my second best performing article. That leads me to believe maybe I'm getting the hang of this search engine optimization stuff, and my performance overall will improve at Suite.

Now, if only my revenue will take an upturn, I'll be a happy camper.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

More Books to the Dumpster

Since I last posted on Monday, my work at the office has been a mixture of library organization and miscellaneous assistance to people who request help. Tuesday I began work on a small project, checking and recalculating something in the drainage system of a large subdivision designed under my supervision back in 2003. But the computer program has changed since then, and I have to re-key everything into the new program. Except the new program was bought out by AutoCAD, is no longer stand-alone, and I don't do AutoCAD. So today I need to find someone to help me with it.

The library is organized. Except for two shelves of old project documents I discovered yesterday, everything else is in its place. I haven't arranged the reference materials in a way that makes sense, but at least they are all together. Nor have I alphabetized the many project documents (specs, drainage reports, flood studies, master plans), but they are all together.

Yesterday I began the process of getting rid of duplicates. I started with the local regulations for the three nearby cities we do many projects in. This required checking manuals that were seemingly the same to make sure they really were the same, or if not to determine if one superseded the other and get rid of the old one. I found one manual of ordinances that had three packets of updates just stuck in the front rather than collated. So I did that. I think I freed-up close to two shelves.

Then I began doing the same thing to manufacturers' catalogs and data. I only did a little of this, yet freed-up at least two shelves there. Today will be the main work of catalog culling.

CEI is selling some surplus furniture: bookcases, folding tables, file cabinets, etc. I bought some and loaded them in the pick-up last night, took them home via Wednesday night church, and unloaded them into the garage. Consequently I was exhausted physically, which affected my mental state as well. I did no writing, spent a little time on Facebook, played some mindless computer games, and read in the book off the top of the reading pile.

Tonight promises more of the same, as the library work today will not doubt tire me again. I may, however, finally go to the link friend GB sent me months ago and watch Diary of a High School Bride, at least the critical scene an hour in, and re-live a college prank from freshman year. That's a good way to spend an evening while batching it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Books to the Dumpster

No, not my books, but some CEI books. We will be re-locating to a new building the end of this month, and I volunteered to take responsibility for the library. Before I can back it up I need to delete duplicate and out-dated materials. Before I can know what materials are duplicate and outdated I need to organize it, for materials are scattered due to a faulty systems of original organization and to ten or so years of neglect. Before I can organize it I need to reorganize it to correct the original faults.

Last week I spent parts of four days on it, and managed to pull all the manufacturer's catalogs and brochures together and alphabetize them. I say "all" because I'm still finding some hiding in places. The shelves the catalogs were on did not have enough space for them all, so I had to move them but first had to move some things to make room for them. Then I misjudged the extra space I'd need by about 40 percent. Hence I moved the catalogs beginning with "A" about five times. Last week I also mostly finished pulling all the Federal regulations together and the consensus standards.

Today I worked on State and local regulations and standards. These are the most difficult of all, for it was with these that the original filing system was faulty, IMHO. I won't go into how it was faulty, but it was. I'm probably only a little more than halfway through this task, even though I worked seven hours on it today. I should finish tomorrow and get on to reference materials and project documents.

But this post was about discarding books. Even though I'm not ready to discard duplicates and out-dateds (coined a word), I'm still discarding things. Means' construction cost data from 1999 is kind of meaningless now, so I'm tossing those in a barrel. Broken notebooks don't make sense to keep, so I'm taking them apart, recycling what I can, and discarding what I can't. A few other things are obviously unsuitable for keeping, so those are going. The discard barrel is close to full.

At noon today, instead of walking I decided to carry the 2004 Thomas Registers to the dumpster. I don't know the distant equivalent. It took me four trips from library to dumpster, with about as many books as it was possible to carry. At the end I felt that I'd had an adequate workout. Even though these books are outdated (we have 2008 and 2009 ones), I was sad to see them in a common morgue with the garbage from the break room and the pencil sharpener dumpings from individual trash baskets. These are books, and deserve a better fate than a common morgue followed by a common grave in a dry-bed landfill, to sit there for a hundred years barely decomposing due to lack of moisture.

But we can't keep everything. I'm almost thinking it's foolhardy to even have a library, in this digital age. Surely we can do better than to kill trees for things that become outdated in a year or two. Oh, well, tomorrow I'll begin carrying the barrel contents to the dumpster, before I begin crying over them. At least I get to keep all the textbooks.

Friday, October 9, 2009

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

I worked till 6:30 PM yesterday. I had planned to work longer, reviewing a set of construction specifications before they went out for bids on Monday. But the design team did not get me the drawings, just the specs. I did what I could without having the drawings, but ran out of stuff to do and so packed up shop and plunged into the storm.

For those of you not in the lower mid west, we were (and still are) in the midst of a huge rain storm, some lightning and thunder too. On Tuesday they were predicting floods for Thursday and Friday, that's how sure they were of their computer models. It began raining lightly Wednesday night and continued off and on, then hit us hard mid-afternoon on Tuesday, but had periods of light rain sandwiched with downpours. At 6:30 PM it was light rain--or none--so I headed to the Bentonville library to do some research for an article for When I arrived at the library it was still barely raining, but the sky was darker than ever.

As I arrived at the library so did Scott, a friend from church. He rode up on his bicycle, which he rides everywhere. He has a car, but he prefers to go by bike. He rode his bike to church on Wednesday night. As we left church it looked like rain could start, and I offered him a ride. He said no, he thought he could get home before the rain hit. We went our separate ways and the rain hit a few minutes after we parted. No way could he have made the 5 mile ride home in the dry.

I went straight to the reference books I needed and Scott went straight to the computers. I could see him in my peripheral vision, his back towards me. Hard rain drummed the library roof. When I got up to get one last book to check one paragraph, Scott was gone. I finished my work, checked out a book, talked with the librarians a minute, and headed to the exit. I ran into Scott. He had been somewhere else in the library. I quickly said to load his bike up in the back of the pick-up and I'd take him home. He accepted this time, the rain coming down in buckets (sorry for the cliche).

The route to his place took us along a state highway currently under construction, being widened from two lanes to five. The drainage was not working and we were constantly driving in three inches of water. We got to his duplex subdivision and power was out. He got in to his house, and I headed the twelve miles home from there. The power was out all the way, and it was at my house too. Lynda is in Oklahoma City (drove there yesterday in a seam in the storm, praise the Lord), so I made my way through the dark house, found flashlights, and sat and read.

A most enjoyable time. But only for an hour. The power came on and stayed on, so it was off the to computer for my evening rituals, the dark drive and dark hour not forgotten, but pushed aside. I did all I wanted too then headed to my reading chair where I ate a very late supper and read for an hour under the glare of an electric light.

The dark and stormy night was quite enjoyable.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A New Submittal

As I wrote in a post some time ago, we are in the fall submittal season for literary magazines connected with universities. I have not yet done the research needed to know what submittals to make, but I think I will have time to do this over the weekend. I'll hopefully submit my short story to three or four more magazines, and I'd like to submit poems to close to a dozen mags.

If I can do that, I will be up to 32 or so submittals for the year. I'm sitting at 17 right now, having made my 18th this morning. The results of those submittals so far are:

18 submittals
4 acceptances
7 rejections
7 not yet heard
0 withdrawn

I may have to come back and adjust those numbers. My submittal log is at home and I'm writing this from work, going from memory. Edited on 8 October, to put in the correct numbers.

This includes a couple of contest entries as well as a couple of engineering articles that were submitted and accepted or assigned and published. That's not a lot of submittals for someone who fancies himself a writer, but it's what I've been able to do this year. I suppose I could pad the numbers by saying each of my articles is a separate submission. Then I'd add 52 submittals and 52 acceptances to those numbers. Since each article is reviewed by an editor and could be disabled and eventually deleted if not up to snuff, it might be legitimate to includethem. But I'm counting Suite 101 as a single submission, my initial application.

Actually, my submission this morning was to Suite 101, suggesting a new category of article topics, and proposing that they promote me to Feature Writer over that category. I did some research into how many worldwide Google searches there are in a month for a number of keywords and keyword phrases associated with that category, and what is the typical rate for an ad associated with those keywords. I'm hopeful that the research will pay-off, as will the faithfulness I have shown at writing for Suite. I'm past the threshold number of articles you must have before you can be considered for a feature writer position.

Being a feature writer means: you must write a minimum of one article per week in your category; and you receive a 20 percent bonus on your revenue immediately and another 10 percent bonus when you hit 100 articles. I'm not bringing in much revenue right now, so the bonuses won't add up to much. But every little bit helps; and the promotion would look good on a writing resume.

Stay tuned.

Monday, October 5, 2009

More on "East Of Eden"

As I wrote earlier today, East Of Eden is an enjoyable book, at least it was for me. It would most likely fall under the genre literary fiction, for it tells more about relationships than it provides action. If action adventures is what you are looking for, don't expect to find it in EoE.

What you will find, from beginning to end, is whorehouses and prostitutes. In every city, next to every army camp, where ever the characters are across America, a prostitute is sure to be in the scene. It seems that for Steinbeck the footsteps of all men eventually find their way into a whorehouse, at least once in their lives and most likely on a regular basis. This was not a particularly enjoyable part of the book, but Steinbeck actually handled it with tastefulness, not given us gratuitous sex scenes. The men were there, the prostitutes came, and the men indulged; details not included.

Maybe Steinbeck's world was like that. I know mine hasn't been, and so this was all something difficult to relate to. In the book, two men do not find their way to the ladies: the two main characters Samuel Hamilton and Adam Trask. Somehow these two heroes are not reduced to finding sexual gratification with prostitutes. Perhaps that is part of the story.

After taking a good chunk of the book for the characters to have their early lives and make their way to the Salinas Valley, the book sort of revolves around Trask's wayward wife, Cathy. She does not want to be a wife, monster that she is, and constantly tells Adam she will be leaving him after her child is born. He blows this off as pregnancy talk. When she gives birth to twins, as soon as she is able she packs a bag to leave. Adam prevents her, and she shoots him with his gun and leaves anyway. She only goes about fifty miles, to Salinas, largest city in the county, where she finds work in an established whorehouse, taking the name of Kate.

I don't want to say too much about the rest of the plot, in case someone who hasn't read it should stumble onto this blog and be searching for information before they read. The main characters are Hamilton, Trask and his wife, there twin sons Cal and Aron, and Lee, the American-Chinese servant of the Trask family. Lee is sort of the hero of the book: level-headed, hard working, intelligent, forward looking yet down to earth. When Adam Trask is in a ten year daze following his wife's departure, it is Lee who holds the family together, with a little help from Sam Hamilton.

One of the suspenseful parts of the book is whether the two boys will learn that their mother is not dead, as their dad said, but that she is really quite close and is not a nice person. When Adam Trask moves his small family from the remote farm to Salinas, you expect the boys to find out, somehow, even thought their dad won't tell them the truth.

I may write some more about this. A 601 page book deserves more than two posts, don't you think? For now I'll say this book is a keeper. I'm not sure I'll ever read it again. Maybe in a world where I don't have a reading pile fifteen deep, and shelves upon shelves of books in hand waiting to be read and thousands in stores waiting for me to buy. If you haven't read East Of Eden, I urge you to do so.