Monthly Archives: August 2016

In which I make a hotel chambermaid happy. No, not that way, you perv.

I do very well eating healthy when I’m home, but I’m horrible when I travel. I binge-eat junk food and candy. It’s the combination of stress, sleep deprivation, and solitude. I routinely gain about 1.25 pounds per day of travel. That’s just ridiculous.

I’m trying to do better. One thing I know works well at home is to limit my choices and keep temptation out of the house. We keep the house stocked with healthy food, and I keep my favorite candies and junk food out of the house.

Similarly: I can keep the candy and junk food out of my hotel room. I can’t do anything about all the delicious candy and ice cream in the lobby of a hotel, but at least I have to put on pants to get it.

Just now I checked into a hotel room for a conference, and got a knock on the door two minutes later. A bellman handed me a gift basket. I think it was from the PR team to attending journalists — I’d caught hints of something like that happening.

I saw a big box of malted milk balls on top of the basket, along with other chocolate candies. Chocolate is my favorite.

“No thank you,” I said reflexively, handing it back as if he’d handed me a basket of snakes.

The bellman looked puzzled. “Are you sure?” he said.

“Yes, I’m sure. Candy. Makes me fat.”

“OK,” he said, puzzled, and I thanked him and shut the door behind him.

A minute later I opened it again. “Changed my mind,” I said.

I brought the basket into my room and went through it. Plucked out a first aid kit, facial tissues, Tums, a tube of ChapStick (I had “buy ChapStick” on my to-do list — so that’s done now), a box of water (yes, a box of water) and a small bag of trail mix.

I took the rest of the basket outside the hotel room. A chambermaid was about to go into the room across the hall to clean.

“Want some candy?” I said, extending the box.

“Really?” she said.

“Really,” I said, and handed her the box. “Thank you!” she said, and I shut the door and was on my way.

This is no guarantee I’ll eat healthy this trip. I still have to face the temptations of the lobby, as well as all the conference food and restaurants. But at least I don’t have all that candy in my hotel room now.

Trump debuted in the public eye defending his father’s segregationist housing policy

One white investigator sent in to investigate claims of discrimination at the Trump organization more than 40 years ago was thrown out of the Cincinnati, Ohio, office by rental agent Irving Wolper, who called her a “nigger” lover and “traitor to the race.”

Jonathan Mahler and Steve Eder, The New York Times:

At a campaign stop in Ohio recently, Mr. Trump shared warm memories of his time in Cincinnati, calling it one of the early successes of his career. And in “The Art of the Deal,” he praised Mr. Wolper, without using his surname, calling him a “fabulous man” and “an amazing manager.”

“Irving was a classic,” Mr. Trump wrote.

Clinton grinds the books for debates while Trump spitballs with friends, family & advisors

Laura Ingraham is Trump’s Clinton surrogate

The Clinton campaign won’t say who her Trump surrogate is. But you know who would be great for that? There’s one national Democrat who’s been a fierce and knowledgable Trump critic, who also has experience as a professional actor and improv comic.

(Philip Rucker, Robert Costa and Anne Gearan, The Washington Post)


An Alabama mayor who dropped the N-bomb on Facebook says her account was hacked

Midland City, Ala., Mayor Patsy Capshaw Skipper lost her re-election race to an African-American opponent. She wrote on her Facebook, “I lost. The n—– won.” Or did she? Now she said her account “has been messed up for several weeks and I haven’t been using it…. I think I’ve been hacked.”

“Skipper, who is white, lost Tuesday’s mayoral election to JoAnn Bennett Grimsley, making Grimsley the first-ever black mayor in the town of 2,300 people, southeast of Montgomery.”

(Tobias Salinger, New York Daily News)

Super-early risers describe why 4 am is the most productive hour

Hilary Potkewitz, The Wall Street Journal:

Peter Shankman, a 44-year-old entrepreneur and speaker based in New York City, is usually out of bed a few minutes after 4 a.m. Twice a week he meets a buddy for a 10-mile run in the dark around lower Manhattan.

The city’s streets are usually deserted, providing a nearly distraction-free space for thinking. “If I’m busy dodging people or noticing who’s passing me, my ideas won’t come,” Mr. Shankman says.

By 7 a.m., he claims he is “showered, fed, watered and sitting at his desk” answering emails, writing or working on Faster Than Normal, a podcast focused on harnessing the advantages of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The flip side is that he is in bed by 8:30 p.m. “I’m exhausted, but in a good way, which means I won’t have the energy to do something stupid like eat two gallons of Ben & Jerry’s at 10:30 p.m.” He also says the early start gives him time to make his 3-year-old daughter an omelet for breakfast.

This is tempting. I like the idea of having a couple of hours to get started before the demands of the world crash in. 4 am wakeup seems extreme, but an hour or two earlier than I now awaken? Sure, why not?

Right now I feel like I rush into work on too little sleep and I’m already behind once I’m at my desk. That’s a problem with doing journalism for an international industry while based in the West Coast. Likewise, on days off it feels like I’m sleeping the day away.

Looks like the on-again off-again Forever War movie is off again

David Frese, The Kansas City Star, interviews our friend Joe Haldeman, author of “The Forever War” and a couple of dozen other fine novels:

Q: Whatever happened to the “Forever War” movie?

A: Well, it’s still flitting around. Every now and then you see something. The money has been invested at this very preliminary level, which is to say I’ve made plenty of money off of it by people buying the rights.

But that doesn’t make a movie happen. We have seven scripts, I understand, but that doesn’t mean much. I can write a script in two months — and I’m slow. I have a pile of scripts in my office here, but nobody’s beating down the door to get to them.

The interviewer notes that “The Forever War” was published in 1974 and begins during an interstellar war in 1997. He asks what aspects of the future haven’t met expectations.

A: It seems we should be well on our way to colonizing Mars by now. Which is what we thought back in the ’70s. What went wrong? Well, the world went wrong. I have to face the fact that space travel is not the most important thing on everybody’s agenda, and most people hardly ever think about it. That’s just reality.

Q: What has exceeded your expectations of the future?

A: I never thought there’d be a black president. I didn’t see that coming in my lifetime. So there’s one good thing that happened. There’s a demonstration that America isn’t a totally racist, backward country.

In fact, I think we’re all pretty good people, and it’s nice when we do something as a group that demonstrates that to people outside the United States.

The internet and mobile computing have exceeded expectations. You can access virtually all the information in the world from an inexpensive pocket sized device. Few if any of the science fiction writers whose work I devoured as a teen in the 70s (who included Joe) predicted that would happen in my lifetime.

Joe’s next book is “Phobos Means Fear,” which is an outstanding title for a science fiction/horror story.

For centuries, Japanese have erected “tsunami stones” to warn descendants of danger

The 99% Invisible podcast:

Residents of Aneyoshi, Japan, heeded the warnings of their ancestors. They obeyed directions and wisdom found on a local stone monument“Do not build any homes below this point,” it reads. “High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants. Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis.” When the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan, this village sat safely above the high water mark.

Admirable foresight.

Much of what we know about Bauhaus design comes from photographer Lucia Moholy

Lucia Moholoy joined her husband, László Moholy-Nagy, when he was hired to teach at the Bauhaus school in 1923. She was a trained photographer, and took pictures of buildings where designers worked, the things they made, and the people who made them, especially the buildings designed by Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. The 99% Invisible podcast tells Moholy’s story.

The Bauhaus sought to combine design and industrialization, creating buildings, furniture, tools, and other artifacts that were beautiful, useful, and that could be mass-produced to improve society that had been ravaged by World War I.

Moholy abandoned her hundreds of photographic plates when she fled the Nazis in 1933, and Gropius essentially stole them. They were published in books around the world, and she didn’t get credit. When she discovered what Gropius had done, she spent the rest of her life trying to reclaim them.

Who owns an image of a building? Intellectual property law on photography has evolved over the years, and still varies by country. Still, some rules of thumb that apply in many cases and places.

Generally, if someone takes a picture of a copyrighted two-dimensional object (like a painting) , the photographer has no claim to the ownership of that image. However, if one photographs a three-dimensional object, especially one viewable in public space (like a building), the photographer is clearly making decisions about composition, position, angle, lighting, framing—therefore, the photographer in this case is generally afforded more legal claim to the photograph’s copyright (though various caveats do apply).

In any case, right or wrong, Gropius kept making prints from Moholy’s negatives, kept publishing them, kept circulating them, and kept telling the story of the Bauhaus through her camerawork.

In many ways, architecture is understood and consumed through photography. For the most part, we don’t see the most iconic buildings in person—we see pictures. This turned out to be especially true of the Bauhaus buildings, because after the start of the Cold War, the West’s access to the Bauhaus campus was cut off by the Iron Curtain.

“Class,” a Doctor Who spinoff set in a high school, airs in the UK in October

“Class” is set at Coal Hill School in Shoreditch, where Clara Oswald taught and where the Doctor’s granddaughter was a student in the very first episode of Doctor Who 50 years ago.

Supposedly it’s a cross between “Torchwood” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” — teenagers vs. the supernatural, in a format both teens and adults can enjoy.

It airs in October in the UK. No word when it comes to the US.

I’ll give it a try.

(John Nugent, Empire)

Building a platform: It’s not just for jerks!

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The Black Eagle nagged me for days to watch this video from Cris Lema. Don’t wanna, I said. I don’t need a platform yet. What I need is to build discipline of sitting down to do creative writing every day, finishing what I write, and getting the finished work packaged to sell as ebooks. In that order. Then I can worry about building a platform. You can’t worry about selling until you have something to sell.

And besides, I said, I hate watching talking-heads videos. I’d much rather listen to the audio as a podcast.

And “building a platform” is for jerks.

But I finally watched the video — and I loved it. So I guess I’m a jerk.

Still wish I could’ve converted it to an MP3 and listened as a podcast.

Chris’s four rules:

  1. Always be helpful.
  2. Focus your attention on others.
  3. Go where others won’t go.
  4. Make your clients the hero (not you)

I don’t know that I need to make a lot of changes to what I’ve been doing online. But there are a few things I can do better. More reviews and original writing. Letting people know when I’ve responded meaningfully to something they posted. Spreading the word when I have a new article up on Light Reading.

There are right ways and wrong ways to build your platform. Nagging people for a newsletter signup before they’ve even settled down to read your website is the wrong way. Pestering your friends to join your multilevel marketing network is DEFINITELY the wrong way. Those are examples of being a jerk. What’s the right way? Start with Chris’s first rule, above.

By the way, I haven’t abandoned traditional publishing for my creative writing. It has abandoned me. I submitted my finished novel, Iron Star to about a dozen agents and publishers. About half rejected it with form letters. The other half never even responded.

I think it’s a good novel. I have faith in that book. If I want to get Iron Star in front of readers, I have to choose another path than traditional publishing.

MyScript Stack app does handwriting recognition on the iPad

I’m messing around with MyScript Stack, an app that does handwriting recognition on the Ipad. As you can see it works pretty well, combining handwriting recognition with word prediction to let you move along at pretty good clip. One thing I can’t figure out is how to do capital letters inside words, like the p in iPad. Ha! It worked that time but not the time before.

Writing with my finger actually seems to be easier than using the stylus, which is what I was doing with the first paragraph.

I’m getting into this.

Later: That was interesting. But a little uncomfortable. I’m back to using Google Gboard as my primary keyboard.