Thursday, May 1, 2014

Five for May

(My 50th published post!)

Writing Update!

For me, the personal Everest is character and plot development.  Each bullet of the outline a foothold, a carabiner cinched, another deep inhale before the next tug on the ascenders.  The scope of Dust’s sequel is so very wide.  I can only blame myself for deciding to chisel a Rushmore instead of oiling a standard portrait.  That’s why it’s taking so long.  Well, that, and the diversions of home ownership.  Oh, and BOLITA.  I wouldn’t have it any other way though, and that first word on the first page has yet to be inked, but I’m almost there…so very close.  I know how it begins.  I know how it ends (I knew it before that cruelest clap of thunder echoed through Cupertino, and then something changed).  And, thankfully, I know most of the in-betweensies, so I’m excited to loft the wily tendrils of creation soon.  By that, I mean get busy typing.  But first, a crack of the knuckles...

Dealing with The Bear

I suppose Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula would be akin our invading eastern Cuba from Guantanamo, and, while in occupation, calling for a popular vote to join the USA.  How’d  you think that would go?  Smell the mojo?  Coincidence the Russkies parked an intelligence ship in Havana last month?  Games.  Maybe not.  The same ship has reportedly been buzzing some of our eastern naval bases since.  I understand this is normal and the United States does the same, but timing becomes more important in these matters.  Messages.  We mustn’t become naive and/or complacent when real people in power are calling for Gorbachev’s head, publicity stunt or not.  Current actions in Ukraine speak to their sincerity.  I don’t know about you, but it was nice not sweating the bomb for the last 25 years.

Another Baseball Cheating Scandal?

Pitcher Michael Pineda of the New York Yankees was recently caught red-handed again, or rather brown-necked, using pine rosin for better grip.  His punishment was “10 games”— actually just one since that’s all he was scheduled to start.  That’s not even a hand-slap!  (Think what happens for drug violations), but it’s the explanation of enforcement by so many media outlets causing greater concern.  In essence, it appears that MLB says it’s okay to cheat as long as you‘re discreet (meaning not caught due to complaint).  Wrong message for our youth, methinks, like being a racist NBA team owner.

More DUST Trivia!

You may already know this, but if not, the book is crammed with self-indulged and largely arcane trivia, homage and references or “Easter eggs”.  Occasionally I’ll spill hints on this blog or Facebook—and I prefer that the readers have their own aha moments—but here’s a few just for grins:

  • A brain tissue sample jar someone facetiously labeled “Abby”.  This is a reference/homage to Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder’s comedy Young Frankenstein—one of my all-time favorite comedies.
  • Emily laments her reading assignments by snubbing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as “…that wizard boy book.”  Yes, I’ve read it and yes, I’m a fan of J.K. Rowling’s work.  You might sense that with Chris Miller’s response and jab at Emily’s horrible Cockney by using a My Fair Lady reference.
  • “You can always throw a sheet over him, or something.”  Chris said this to Emily when she was frightened at the prospect of another night with Xeno (her toy clown).  This is a reference to a classic scene from the movie Poltergeist.

There are over two dozen of these instances.  Look for them!

For Whom the Highway Tolls

The latest revenue hunt from D.C.  Have your heard about it?  I think most traffic engineers will agree: The greatest threat to the evolution of ground transportation is actually the brake pedal.  Think about this for a minute.  Much of all that energy expended on accelerating and maintaining speed is wasted on friction and resulting heat from your brakes.  Gone.  Zip.  And nothing to show for it.  That is, unless you’re one of the very few currently driving an electric or hybrid with regenerative brakes.  Lucky you!

Well, that’s just one of my gripes with installing toll booths on our interstates.  To me, it's plainly the spawn of yet more government, more procedure and eventual ambiguity while on the roads—roads that have been freely traversed without additional encumbrance since created by President Eisenhower in the 1950s.  I live near a major toll road and I can tell you firsthand it creates traffic, aggravation and bother.  This is all besides the feeling of constantly being pickpocketed by the state.

So the proponents of the bill are saying that the interstate program is about to run out of money.  Really?  After no troubles running it for 60 years, now it needs more funding?  Sorry, no.  This is likely not true, and yet another grab for revenue—revenue that, like the lottery, can be siphoned to other places than lauded. 

Argument #1:  It generates revenue (tax) from only those who actually use it.  Right, it does.  It also prohibits regular use by those in relative poverty, creating an additional class issue.  Slap from the Invisible Hand:  It also increases operating expenses for businesses and professionals who use those highways, and those expenses will eventually be passed along equally to those who might not.

Argument #2:  Electronic tolling.  Yes, I have a “SunPass”.  For those of you wondering, it’s a device placed on the inside of your windshield that a toll facility reads as you pass through it.  In many cases, you may select a special lane and pass through without stopping.  This works well in many places, but
Not all toll roads use e-tolling, or utilize full-speed gates.  Often you must merge (great fun in heavy traffic) into a special lane that passes under a narrow gate at a much reduced speed.  In my area, it’s 25 MPH.  Besides that, you must also create and maintain an account with the tolling agency.  This account must (and I laugh the loudest here) carry a balance sufficient to pay your tolls.  For those of you facepalming or silently screaming about the creation of government float at our expense, I’ve been doing that for quite some time.  Suffice to say, the lament of added waste of my valuable life regularly checking on that account.  Are you old enough to remember freely traveling without constantly stopping or worrying about money in yet another account?  I am.  I also remember not having so many bills and having a bit more time for friends and family…and myself.

Argument #3:  The government says “We need more money!”  No you don’t.  You were fine before without it, you’ll be fine going forward.  Mind your spending, negotiate better, reduce your size.

Anyway you look at this proposal, it means more taxes, more procedure, more government and slower travel...more waste.  Others might also froth at the potential for greater loss of privacy...being tracked and such.  I agree.

The laugher?  There is a bill currently on Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s table seeking to increase the speed limit on rural interstates to 75 MPH.  If passed, you’ll get to those proposed tollgates just a bit faster. 

What can we do about it?  Stay informed with groups like the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates, make your thoughts known.

More Soon,

T. Nelson Taylor | Official Site | DusT | Bolita