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Finished the book THE MARTIAN: A NOVEL by Andy Weir. It’s a tinkerer’s love letter to space exploration written by a space nerd. Read most of it today. It’s the kind of a book that gives vision to the exploration of outer space. It was so real that it felt like it was happening, now, for real. I hope more books come along that work from vision – positive vision, rather than the apocalyptic, obligatory, stale crap written in the last few years. (Excluding Neale Stephenson’s blowing up of the moon, which was awesome,  provocative and imaginative in SEVENEVES)! I hope visionary books about space travel are a refreshing trend. Judging from the 7000 excited reviews, it might just be. The Martian was a pure pleasure to read. Thank you Amazon for recommending this amazing book.This review is from: The Martian: A Novel (Kindle Edition


Review Fire TV Stick December 30, 2014

Fire TV Stick has won the hearts in our household of two generalists and one techie. Google Chromecast may have been my favorite, but I’m waffling. When Amazon offered the Fire Stick for $19 to Prime members, I was one of the first wave who ordered it.

It arrived the first week of December. But, it wasn’t for me. It was for the normals. I’ve cut the cord. I cut it several years ago. I go to reddit for US & World news. I watch movies on Netflix, television on Hulu — all on my Android tablet in HD or on my old laptop. It’s not that I don’t have space for a TV, it’s that if I spend money on more electronics, I’d fill up the house with more gadgets not a TV set.

The thing that has rankled me is that although Amazon had promised a video app for Android, I couldn’t find it. I had a library of Amazon Instant video that I couldn’t access on my Android tablets. I’d bought full seasons of television shows that I could only use on my laptop. It’s five years old. The video was top shelf then, now it’s so-so compared to the HD on my Google Android tablets. That was a problem.

So, when the Fire TV Stick came up for sale, I had to try it, even if it disappointed. You know, it’s a new gadget. I had have one, and yes, Google Chromecast is very good, but I wanted to compare it to the Fire TV Stick. What I found was that in a sense Google Chromecast is more dependable than the Fire TV Stick. It’s easy to set up, it’s uncluttered to navigate from either my Nexus 2012 or 2013 tablet. (I might add that I powered both dongles.) But here’s the thing.

One person in our household has a smart phone, but not a tablet, and he doesn’t want his phone tied up with Google Chromecast, and he’s not comfortable using our tablets. He doesn’t like to navigate from Google Chromecast. The clicker included with Amazon Fire TV Stick makes him happy.

After getting comfortable with the Fire TV Stick navigation and clutter, and it’s extensive options like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime literally at his fingertips, he said, “take a good look because you might never see me again!” He’s an inveterate movie watcher, National Geographic kind of man. The Comcast cable offerings were stale. He’s watched and re-watched the same Sci-Fi offerings. This was big.

As a couple they watched “Hemlock Grove” on Netflix through Google Chromecast on the living room TV in November. This hooked them. They’d been watching some movies on their desktop but the sound was muffled, so to get the Internet entertainment they wanted on a big screen with super sound was, well, big.

In anticipation of the Fire TV Stick device with a real, honest to god clicker, and Fire TV Stick’s decent sized clicker, they bought a new TV set, with of course, the obligatory HDMI connection during the Christmas season at a sale price. It had a larger screen, better sound, and the set didn’t shut off intermittently while they were viewing the nightly news or “Grimm.”

As soon as the new TV arrived, the old TV and Google Chromecast were exiled to the bedroom. It’s getting some play there, but not nearly what the Fire TV Stick has gotten. Now in their third week they’ve found fresh Sci-Fi like “The 100’s”, and “The Fall” among others. Initially, Netflix’s “Hemlock Grove” captured them on Google Chromecast, and but they sat transfixed watching a crapload of stuff on Amazon Fire TV Stick, December, through the Christmas and New Year holiday season.

And, of course we watched “The Interview” on Google Play, me included. If you’re a techie you had to watch Seth Rogen and James Franco chase Kim Jong Un around North Korea. I don’t know about your house, but at our house, Comcast must be feeling lonely, and if other families adapted to the new, inexpensive tools for Internet TV like we have, ignoring Comcast’s offerings, Comcast, too, might be feeling a pinch.

We did have some glitches during Amazon Prime video. Our bandwidth faded during Christmas. I thought it might be hackers using the connection and bandwidth tor DDoS  elsewhere,  but there was a lot of network traffic during the holidays. We had no network connection, except we really did have network connection, Amazon forgot our wireless password, but it really wasn’t forgotten, and we experienced excessive video buffering. The video buffered so much that we unplugged the Fire TV Stick and the routers, half-dozen times. In the three weeks we had the Amazon Fire TV Stick this had happened only a few times. Now the video stopped at least twenty times.

In the midst of the buffering we talked about hooking up Google Chromecast. I got out my older Google Nexus 7 (2012) tablet for the family to navigate to the movie that was interrupted, and that’s when I knew — yes, they were ready to cut the Comcast cord, but no, they weren’t ready to give up the Fire TV Stick clicker. Google Chromecast does not have a clicker. We unplugged the Fire TV Stick once again and plugged it in again, and waited for the interminable buffer to fill up with video.

Intuitive navigation via the clicker was the game breaker at our house even though Google Chromecast probably seems a lot better about not buffering. The second game breaker is that whatever they were watching was free on Amazon Prime. Prime offered delicacies that Netflix and Hulu didn’t have. It completed the cord cutting package. For whatever reason, Fire TV Stick is just convenient. Natural. Music in the cloud and on the radio.

We like a radio station from our old hometown six states away. The music is outstanding. Now we could listen to any radio station on a tablet or phone with speakers, but the convenience of the Amazon Fire TV Stick allows us to listen to our music in the cloud or our favorite radio station on Tunein in a centralized place with rich sound. It’s like Amazon packaged our wants we didn’t know we had and included everyone, techie or not. Now that’s a feat.

This little stick might be Comcast’s worst nightmare. Normals or non-techies can cut the cord and never feel it. So what did I do once the television was free. I watched the Christmas season of ” The Wrong Mans” on Hulu on the Amazon Fire Stick! Sorry Google Chromecast I can just be so loyal.



Put the Kettle on

Never start anything on a Monday. Began with good intentions. Put the kettle on, sat down to write, got distracted cause the Internet bill was four days late. Forgot the water. Put the kettle on, the kettle boiled empty, lights flashed all over the Cuisinart. Impending meltdown.

Paid the Comcast bill over the phone. Bill paying they make easy. Service is good unless you ask a question. They don’t like that sort of stuff. Sat in the sun on the patio tweezing hairs from my big toes. Everyone needs vitamin D. Washed my face with the all purpose handmade foamy soap that smells like lemon grass, massaged in cream on my face and neck.

Sighed deeply. Intention to write on a Monday morning is a serious way for me to get nothing done.

I Did What?

Read two percent in the Amazon book on Africa. Downloaded it for inspiration [procrastination]. It has some good pages and some okay. I’d like it if it had a bit more complexity. Style is lacking. I like style in prose. [insert profanity] WTF am I saying?

The non-African author wrote better than respectable prose, shared the inner workings of his Hippocampus, finished, published, and got money for those three-hundred pages, sacrificed a year of his life, most likely, and it’s not so bad a book that I don’t learn something every few pages; it just that it simply shuts down my hippocampus  [similar to G-spot]  the opposite of which, when I find a damn good book to read, bonfires are set off in my neurons.

This morning I said bonfires be-damned I’m gonna fill up that spot in my hippocampus with writing; the little sea horse in the brain, the one that London cabbies grow larger by taking different routes for faster and faster ways through a hulking metropolis pulsating with tiger passengers who are already late before they flop on the back seat.

Fire in the Mind

I’m gonna build a cache full of writing, irrelevant, mundane, serviceable-if-it must be cache. I’m gonna fill it with words that taste like milk chocolate. Oh no I didn’t! There I go again, playing in the word patch instead writing. [yet another form of procrastination]

That African book mightn’t held my interest if it had helped me build a cache of tiny words with bite: tart, sweet, gingery words that rich up sentences, or a sublime sentence structure that makes the heart palpably happier.

The born elsewhere, African author/teacher touts intimacy in his preface; instead his sentences are impersonal, he stands at the back of the room mouthing words from where it’s emotionally safe to write. But then maybe he’s only a surface, he can’t write any deeper, like a John Irving character, scratch his surface and there’s another surface under that. Or maybe he was afraid he might say what he really felt. I get that.

Not that I’m not learning from his deep knowledge of the continent of Africa, but the plebeian prose hurts my stomach. I crave “fire in the mind” prose, convoluted thinking parsed like a knitting needle picking at yarn, subtle colors woven through textury yarn sheered from a genuine ruminant.

But who takes time to knit brilliant socks in brilliantly subtle colors, easier to buy a consistent thread woven by questionable laborers. I like a good pair of socks. Socks can be functional, full of perfectly recurring patterns that don’t challenge my beliefs, my favored reading threads, though, better not be.

Dear Mr. Grisholm It’s Not You It’s Me. Seriously, it’s me.

Yeah, ya know, I’ll read the Africa book in short visitations – piecemeal – like the latest John Grisholm, who I’d like a word with about our reading relationship. Dear Mr. Grisholm it’s not you it’s me. Seriously, it’s me. Your 1980 setting for your latest book is an echolocation of a distant last century that I barely believe I lived in and a small community mindset that drives me nuts. That said, had I written your book, and not you written it, I would be so proud, to know that a lot of people do love your latest book, and read it breathless to the end.

But, I don’t want to revisit that time with its racist worries about how mixed race in Mississippi reacts to scandalous money. The personal genome challenges the concept of race in this century. Whatever skin color, we are all junk yard dogs, a hardy breed. Race discrimination conversation is updated, now, and very much alive. So, Mr. Grisholm, forgive me if I don’t want to revisit last century; the eighties were not my best decade.

Since it seems I’m not writing a novel this morning or maybe any morning, here’s my pared down goal: write a thousand words for thirty days, design an eBook, plunk it down for sale on Google Books and Amazon clouds. I am rusty at design but my skills are serviceable enough to publish on Google Books and Amazon. Decide at the end of thirty days whether to publish a 30K non-fiction novelette or write a 60K book in two months.

Sounds so doable when the prose is from stream of consciousness and not “fire in the mind.” Decide whether to publish on WordPress  [rewrite, second draft country] first or wait for the big book to come out. In reality only a half-dozen readers will catch it on WordPress. If I publish it on Google Books maybe a dozen more might read it. I think I’m safe to publish what amounts to dumping my plebeian output on the Internet. Anonymity in the midst of the crowd is my preferred outcome. I can live with that. Whisper so I can’t be heard at the front of the room.

Found Essay

The “found essay” worked for me yesterday. “Write it Slant” writing book suggests that the writer find an object from the past and free associate. It’s a technique that rated over one thousand words in a not so bad memory of my Commodore 1541. At least, the quantity of words is going up steeply from nothing to 4000 words by dropping the quality or the “fire in the mind” essaying. But if I forget to pay attention, to hide my most inner thoughts, the strangest thoughts sneak into a harmless essay about my first computer.

Before writing a few paragraphs the helplessness and hopelessness of my marriage bled through a story on code and computer classes. It’s hard not to write about him, he’s entwined in every struggle I made to become a person in my own right. Computers were entwined with writing, he was entwined with stopping me from finishing what I started, becoming a journalist.

He stood over me when I typed the title “Tracking Snow,” the name of a short story that I  didn’t grow to a full book. He screamed and I typed, he jerked the cord from the wall, and enunciated each syllable, “I’ll grind you to dust, WHORE if you don’t stop.” And as I those words sneak into my story, I’m right back there, my heart beating faster, like an Iraq veteran it never wholly leaves me.

Oops! Uh mm, have to whip that 1980 history out of my essay. Getting into Grisholm story telling. It is me not you Mr. Grisholm who doesn’t want to read about the eighties. Human dignity is important to me, and you serve it well when you write. I don’t want to look back at the eighties lest I turn into a pillar of salt, and no longer write. The wounds of marriage are fresh. The African book hovers above the surface denying the individual African mind for the universal African, for which there is none. My brain in marriage felt like Africa, the gold and minerals taken, the humanity denied.

There I stand beside the author who tried to stand at the front of the room and be heard but didn’t have the courage. I see that filling a page with one thousand words encourages that which is below the surface to come up. Not sure I like that but I made a promise to write one-thousand words and that I’m going to do. I’m going to publish these words whether they sound odd or not because who will read them? It is illogical to think writing practice could upturn the customary routine of a life. There! I’ve written my quota. It’s somewhat readable. I swear Mr. Grisholm it is me not you.