Wednesday, February 14, 2018

This time I have to leave.

Well, all good things must come to an end, and so do things like this blog. I thought about what I should give up for Lent, and I decided: Everything! Dust thou art and all that.

In some regards, the blog has done what I'd hoped, in that it kept me busy every day, made me write something every day. In other regards, it has been a disappointment, or rather, I have been a disappointment.

I'm grateful for every one of you who stopped by to spend a few minutes with my words and pictures. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your visit.

For now, the books are available from iBooks, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Google.

Good-bye and God bless,


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Fish... Out of WATER.

[Series Finale of Bacon's Beat.]

This program contains graphic images and mature subject matter. Viewer discretion is advised.

(EXT: A parking lot at the old abandoned mall. Police are cordoning off the area, some taking photos. Detective Bacon strolls into the lot, sniffing this way and that. The smell of death is in the air, yet againBacon knows it's a mean city and it's written all over his face. He approaches lead investigator Peter "P.B." Barilotto, whiskers trembling, eyes riveted on the corpse.)

Detective Bacon: Well, this is a puzzle, right, P.B.?

P.B.: I've known a few fish out of water, Bacon, but this guy takes the cake. Some squirrel found him while running across the lot.

Bacon: Murder?

P.B.: (shrugs) Not sure yet. Cause of death looks like acute asphyxiation, but we're a mile from any substantial water. It's not like he was out for a walk and had a coronary.

Bacon: No. So either he was killed, or someone came on the body and dumped him here.

P.B.: Always hard to tell with these wetbacks.

Bacon: Hey, now---

P.B.: I'm serious! We drybacks get killed and dumped in the river. Maybe this was the reverse.

Bacon: I can't figure on a pack of fish killing this guy and dragging him a mile from the water. It's not like he washed out this far from the banks, you know?

P.B.: You're right. Looks like he just landed here, no sign of dragging or flopping around. Can't be dead more than a few hours.

Bacon: How'd he get here?

P.B.: Maybe was dropped off from a vehicle; we're gonna check out some of these tire tracks.

Bacon: Any I.D.?

P.B.: Why should today be easy?

Bacon: Yeah. I'll get in touch with the chief. We'll contact someone in the aqua district, see if they have any missing fish reports. Where's the squirrel that spotted him?

P.B.: It was an anonymous call to precinct. No name.

Bacon: Figures. I'll see if the tech boys can figure out where it came from.

P.B.: We can't even figure out where he came from!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Prufreed Ur Werk!

The big day is less than a month away! I can't wait!

I refer of course to March 8, National Proofreading Day, the day in which we reflect on the importance of proper spelling and grammar and those unsung heroes who are the last line of defense: the proofreaders.

The home page for the celebration will give you any number of reasons why it’s important to read your work or have it read---for example, you might think you’re a person of great importance, but your typo may render you a person of great impotence. Spellcheck will not help you then.

Proofreading, like copyediting, used to have more respect in the publishing world because mistakes make publishers look sloppy and stupid. In the Internet era almost everyone online IS sloppy and stupid, however, so looking intelligent has less value. Plus, as they always say, content is king but it doesn’t pay the bills; publishers of all kinds get much less return on each word published than they used to. To feed the beast it behooves them to generate copy as cheaply as possible. Proofreading is one of the first things to go.

If the people who make their living on words don't much care anymore, you can imagine how much other industries think about proofreading, even though all of them need to communicate. Hey, if everyone is a moron, then no one looks moronic! seems to be the rallying cry of our time.

Proofreaders are, as I say, the last line of defense, usually the last people to see copy before it gets published. What do they do? The proofreader must carefully read each word, seeing that it is spelled properly; they must make certain each sentence follows accepted rules of grammar; they must check previous versions of the copy to see that all corrections were properly made; they must see to it that proper style is followed for whatever the assignment requires, be it footnotes on academic work, page numbers on indexes, running heads on book pages, or even musical or mathematical notation. The proofreader must be hyperfocused on the page. It’s hard to find people like that in our modern ADD world.

Proofreading differs from editing and copyediting in a number of ways. Basically, here’s the breakdown of duties in a book publishing house:

Writer: Poor slob crunching through pages slowly, wondering why he chose a career that pays peanuts or less up front, noticing that there are fewer famous authors than there are famous architects and maybe Mom was right and he should have gone to engineering school; then looks in newspaper and sees that a guy who spent thirty years as a civil engineer has written a murder mystery about a civil engineer who solves crimes in his spare time and it has shot to the top of the best-seller list (The Pothole of Doom); writer wonders how he can kill himself and make it look like this son-of-a-bitch engineer-turned-author killed him.

Editor: Acquires manuscripts; lunches with agents; glances at story and tells writer what a great book it is; then tells writer to change the plot, characters, names, setting, audience, and title, to rework huge sections of the story, and by the way, instead of a historical mystery about pyramid engineers who solve murders, could you make it something more contemporary and like The Girl on the Train? Then goes home and watches HBO and wishes she were like one of those editors on TV who live in nice apartments and never seem to worry about money.

Copy editor: Main duties include reading carefully for spelling and grammar but also for sense---to track the plot, mind the time and sequence of events, and fact-check as necessary (“Since the book takes place in London, why are all the characters in this book Egyptian? QUERY”). Watch as editor STETs everything and says the author is already crying every time they talk. Other duties include: Bitching about authors and editors.

Proofreader: Can’t make the book other than a piece of whale crap, but must see to it that it is a neat, polished, professional piece of whale crap.

As you can guess, there is a certain amount of tension between these jobs. When feeling good they call it “creative tension,” but this is infrequent. Also a lie.

Most of my experience in-house has been copyediting, and I’ve copyedited more books than I’ve written by orders of magnitude. We like to tell editors and authors that we’re not trying to make them feel as if they are stupid! No, we’re trying to make them look as if they were smart! But they never appreciate it.

Anyway, I salute the proofreaders, who as you can guess are the only grown-ups in the editing world. Thanks, proofreaders! Maybe it's not too late to go to engineering school.

Saturday, February 10, 2018


Hi, Neighbor! Welcome to Whispering Rock Development! We're so glad you bought a home in our community! So glad to see you! We're sure you'll "fit right in"!

Now, you're probably wondering if Whispering Rock has any covenants. Of course! We want the place to stay as delightful as it was when you decided to move here. So there are a few little "odds and ends" we ought to address. When you purchased your home you agreed to abide by these---so let's see what they are!


1. Paint. No wacky paint colors on houses. We know, one man's "wacky" is another man's "traditional," right? But we all pretty know what it means. If you have any doubts, please feel free to ask at the next board meeting, open to all residents.

2. Pets. Please restrict the number of dogs to an overall average of one large dog, which would be either one large dog, one medium and one small dog, or no more than three small dogs. We don't restrict the number of cats, but more than three is in bad taste, don't you think?

3. Mailboxes. Please, no whimsical mailboxes. We've had people ask if they can have mailboxes in the form of windmills, footballs, Jeeps, teddy bears, golf bags, and barns, barns, barns. Let's just stay with the classic Joroleman mailbox in uniform white.

4. Trees. We may be named for a rock, but we love our trees! No cutting down trees unless you are replacing the tree with a larger, healthier tree.

5. In-home businesses. We certainly don't think we can stop anyone from making money out of their home! That would require 24-hour surveillance! But we do discourage any obvious commercial activity, including but not limited to: storefronts, doctor's offices, medical labs, meth factories, animal breeding, distilling, accounting offices, massage parlors or "massage" parlors, tanning salons, hair salons, restaurants, catering, espionage, organized criminal activity, daycares, babysitting, dog-sitting, blogging, or writing and copyediting. Any violations will be dealt with firmly.

6. Vehicles. Every home in our development comes with an attractive two-car garage. Which doesn't mean you have to park your car in them---goodness, where would you store everything? No, but it does mean that we ask you to have no more than two cars to avoid cluttering the curbs. Please never use your home to store other vehicles, especially those that do not function. No hoopty wagons. Anything up on blocks will be forcibly removed.

7. Fences. Unless you build a board-approved backyard swimming pool, in which case state law requires at least a four-foot fence around the perimeter of the pool, we insist on no fencing to interrupt the flow of our development. They say good fences make good neighbors, but we say, who needs good neighbors? (That's a little Whispering Rock joke.) And if you do have a board-approved backyard swimming pool, that fence ought to be tasteful, preferably natural wood or stone. It better not be chain link, buster.

8. Decoration. Decorating for holidays is fun! But so is elegance and style. For most holidays we recommend a fun banner; the December holidays may include monocolor lights in a tasteful arrangement. A United States flag is welcome---we love our veterans! Please restrict its use to Flag Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Veterans Day. Flags of other nations are welcome any time.

9. Parties. No more than twenty people are permitted at any gathering and must end at ten p.m., eleven p.m. on weekends. No amplified or live music. Please inform the board in advance so we'll know what to think when we see people outside your house. Better yet, invite the board to your party! Maybe you can run a little past eleven, if you get an impromptu approval!

10. Controlling authority. Don't give us that old "no controlling legal authority" guff. The board means business, and we can make you miserable even if we can't have you arrested. We know, it may seem restrictive, oppressive, even Victorian, but we in Whispering Rock believe the good life means restraint and feng shui, and we pretty much all back progressive causes so we could not possibly be oppressive.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Five-ring circus.

In 2014, the last time the Winter Olympics were starting, my wife and I had just taken a huge puppy named Tralfaz into our home. So, as much as we like the Games -- and we actually do -- we hardly got to see a moment of them. Because we were either getting the puppy outside to evacuate  his little bowels (and it was cold as hell that month) or we were training him or we were trying to keep him from hurting himself or anything valuable. By strange coincidence, we got our second dog, Nipper, right before the Summer Olympics in Rio began. So ditto all of the above.

I do have some memories of the Sochi Olympics. Okay, not really. I pretty much saw nothing beyond the opening ceremony. But what an opening ceremony it was! 

Well, I don't remember much of that either, and I was sacked out by the time of the famous ring failure:

But I do remember two things quite clearly, probably because I blogged about them on the old, defunct blog shortly thereafter. The first was the prison garb worn by the Irish team -- I even saved this shot:

Take away the flag and they'd look like a handful of army prisoners, wouldn't they? Happy army prisoners, maybe because they're getting time in the yard. I suspect they decided on those uniforms because the Irish had never won a medal in the Winter Games, and sure enough, they didn't in Russia, either.

The other thing I kept a picture of was an example of what someone thought would look great as the escort's uniforms during the opening ceremony:

Apparently they thought that the Games were being held on a planet in the Power Rangers universe.

I have hopes for better things at today's opener in PyeongChang. Seoul has become a very important fashion and cosmetics center, so we can hope that everyone will look a little better this time. The Norks are participating, so there's a slightly better chance that no horrible acts of warfare will take place.

And I don't have a new dog hanging around today. So we got a shot at seeing something. Maybe some of that cool curling action.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Lessons of KinderFred.

It's been 30 years since Robert Fulghum published his runaway best-seller All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. I've never read it, but it was enjoyed by people I respect, so I can't knock it. I don't know how comprehensive the author's kindergarten learning was. I mean, personally, I need to know how to write checks and balance my checkbook, but I doubt that these skills were in the curriculum. Neither, I suppose, were how to drive a car, how to talk to girls after puberty, how to cook a decent meal, how to tie a necktie, how to make yourself get up and go to your stupid job when all you want to do is stay in bed--these are all important things that every man ought to know.

I guess he means lessons like: share your stuff, don't hit, be nice, and so on, the basic building blocks that turn the little savages into rational human beings--or try to. I am reminded, as was perhaps Mr. Fulghum, of Hannah Arendt's famous quote: "Every generation, Western civilization is invaded by barbarians – we call them 'children.'"

As I thought about it I realized there were some important things I did learn in kindergarten, although I'm not sure they would have made Mr. Fulghum's book or its several sequels. 

My lessons include:

• Never get into a fight with girls. If you lose, you got beat up by a girl; if you win--you just beat up a girl, jerk.

• Always make sure you take the right paper bag off the counter in the morning. Instead of your toy for show-and-tell, you might wind up with a sack full of Dad's leftover bolts and pipe connectors for the machine shop.

• When it becomes apparent that they are never going to give you anything but unflavored milk, you'd better learn to choke it down.

• Never snap your fingers at the substitute teacher.

• To talk to the pretty girls, it helps to have a neat parlor trick. Blowing a bubble with your own saliva is an excellent one.

• Use the magic words "please" and "thank you." It's astonishing how well grown-ups respond to them. But you still won't get chocolate milk.

• Being able to sit Indian-style is very important. It may be that this is how the President holds Cabinet Meetings.

• Fifth graders are immense, inscrutable, and dangerous. Don't make eye contact with them.

• Proper crayon etiquette dictates that you share, even if Charlie rubbed his black crayon down to a nub and now it looks like he wants to do the same to yours. Perhaps explain that it's enough to hint that the night sky is black with a little shading. You don't have to color in every inch of the paper.

• Don't worry too much about what you say you want to do when you grow up. It's not a contract; no one will hold you to it.

• Somersaults are cool. So is standing on your head. But socking people in the eye with your foot while doing them is not cool.

• Girls cry no matter what. Get used to it.

• The nap mat you used last year for naptime in nursery school is a thing of the past. So is naptime, for that matter. It's hard, but it's time to move on. No point staying attached to the things of your fleeting youth.

• School is going to bore you stupid sometimes. Learn to distract yourself by thinking of other stuff. It's like talking in your own head where no one else can hear it. This "thinking" thing might really be worth something someday.

• Never miss an opportunity to use the can. You do not want any accidents. Not ever.

• In a similar vein, boogers can be a real social faux pas, although some guys have the chutzpah to use them to their advantage. Unless you are certain that you are in the latter camp, maintain good nasal hygiene at all times. But not in class. No nasal spelunking in public. 

• Most of the time, whatever you want to fight about is not worth it. But don't let anyone ever try to tell you that you will never have to stand up for yourself, that you'll never be called on to let someone have it in spades. Some people need to have the mean knocked out of them.

• Cupcakes are awesome. But if you have too many, you will discover that they taste much better on the way down than on the way up.