Category Archives: General

On The Beach

We needed to go to (south) Florida to take care of things and get the house ready to sell, because we don’t seem to be able to rely on anyone long distance. In my experience, if unsupervised people here don’t do things half ass, they do them quarter ass. As the old saying goes, a sunny place for shady people. I had to fix two toilets today that had needed it for months, among other things. And how many south Florida people does it take to change a light bulb? Apparently an infinite number, if they don’t actually own and live in the house.

Anyway, Patricia also was badly in need of a vacation, so I’m writing this after a relaxing home-made dinner of sockey salmon with pineapple salsa and chardonnay procured at (amazing that they finally exist here!) Trader Joe’s, overlooking the Atlantic and listening to a nice wind riffle through the palms. One of the disadvantages of the east shore, of course, is no sunset over the ocean, but it was still pleasant to watch day turn do dusk from our balcony. For those curious, here is where we are staying. Old Florida style, but modernized enough to be quite comfortable so far. We plan to sleep with windows open to the sound of the ocean, though in a couple months, that will be less advisable.

Off To DC

I got up at 3 AM to catch a 5 AM flight from LAX to DCA via ORD. Heading there for the FAA-AST Space Transportation Conference tomorrow. Earliest flight I’ve ever taken from there, I think. I had TSA pre-check, but the line wasn’t open yet, so I had to do the whole drill. The American terminal is pretty dead at 4 AM. Anyway, I’m in a flying chair somewhere over the plains with Internet. It almost feels like the 21st century.

Light Posting

…may continue until Monday night. We’re in Stinson Beach for the weekend for a mini-vacation.

[Sunday-evening update]

We have no television here, other than a big screen with a DVD player, but I’m not sure I’d watch the president’s latest attack on the American people even if I did.

In Seattle

I had a long trip to get here, starting at 2:30 AM Central (two-hour bus ride from Columbia MO to St. Louis, two-hour plane ride to Charlotte, five-hour plane ride to Seattle), but I’m at the Museum of Flight, where I’ll be giving a talk and book signing tomorrow, for any Seattlites who want to show up. It’s $20 admission to the Spacefest, but it’s an opportunity for a signed book if you don’t have one.

I’ve never been here this time of year. I was surprised at the fall colors.

Back In Missouri

We drove back to Columbia today from west of Ann Arbor, after visiting family and friends up there. Initially took back roads, not the freeway, as we were trying to catch the last of the fall colors. I took Route 12 from south of Manchester all the way to Coldwater, through the Irish Hills which, despite having been raised in southeast Michigan, I’d never done, so if I had a bucket list, I’d cross that one off. Lovely (but looking a little depressed in off-season), and Michigan International Speedway was impressive from a distance.

From there we headed south to Fort Wayne, went east on 24 across northern Indiana. The plan was to go to Peoria, then continue down to Hannibal, but we realized that we would run out of light (and butt stamina in the car) long before we ran out of road, so we bailed not long after getting into Illinois, and took 57 south to 72, then 55 south to 270, then 370, then 70 west to Columbia. Got in about 7:30. Always nicer to gain an hour from the time change than losing it (we got into Michigan about 10 PM when we drove up Friday).

Anyway, here until Friday when I fly to Seattle for a book signing at the Museum of Flight on Saturday. Hope locals can make it.

The Alleged Rules Of Writing

…are actually superstitions. An interesting essay from Steven Pinker:

I have long recognised the need for a style guide based on modern linguistics and cognitive science. The manuals written by journalists and essayists often had serviceable rules of thumb, but they were also idiosyncratic, crabby, and filled with folklore and apocrypha. Linguistics experts, for their part, have been scathing about the illogic and ignorance in traditional advice on usage, but have been unwilling to proffer their own pointers to which rules to follow or how to use grammar effectively. The last straw in my decision to sit down and write the book was getting back a manuscript that had been mutilated by a copy editor who, I could tell, was mindlessly enforcing rules that had been laid out in some ancient style book as if they were the Ten Commandments.

As in many other life activities, it’s OK to break the “rules” if a) you know the rules and the reasons for them and b) you know what you’re doing. Unfortunately, that’s a rare combination.

I liked this:

The real problem is that writing, unlike speaking, is an unnatural act. In the absence of a conversational partner who shares the writer’s background and who can furrow her brows or break in and ask for clarification when he stops making sense, good writing depends an ability to imagine a generic reader and empathise about what she already knows and how she interprets the flow of words in real time. Writing, above all, is a topic in cognitive psychology.

It’s what I try to do when I write, though it’s always best to have someone else read it to say, “what do you mean by that?”