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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/2041762
Rated: 18+ · Book · Writing · #2041762
A math guy's random thoughts.
A math guy's random thoughts.
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August 22, 2017 at 5:09pm
August 22, 2017 at 5:09pm
#918189
Totality 2017

We went to see the eclipse and found a community.

We travelled 350 miles from our home in Tulsa to Fairmont, Nebraska to witness the solar eclipse. Despite 70% cloud cover, at the time of totality the sun was in patch of blue sky, giving a clear view of the event. It was indeed an awesome sight.

This short diary isn’t about that, though. It’s about our experience in the village of Fairmont.

First, the community had spent months planning for the event. They anticipated a rush of outsiders arriving and, with planning and foresight, welcomed us to their small town. There were viewing areas in two local parks, a fly-in to the local airstrip, and many community volunteers serving sandwiches, water, and other sundries to the visitors. The community had rented porta-pies for their guests. The library even had a supply of viewing glasses. along with eclipse information.

Fairmont welcomed us with open arms.

We found a place to park on a street near downtown where a family from Texas had set up a telescope for viewing. As I got out our car, I heard them asking if anyone had an extra set of viewing glasses. As it happened, the place I’d purchased ours sold them in packets of five, so I had three spares. I gave one of them to the telescope guys, which they used to jury-rig a filter for one of their cell phones. They were sharing their telescope with anyone who wanted to look—this was about noon, when the moon already occluded about 25% of the solar disk.

The local AmVets was nearby, so I strolled down there to get some bottled water. I overheard a distressed man who was looking for viewing glasses for himself and his daughter. It seems the library, despite their preparations, had run out. I offered our remaining two spares to them. They seemed thunderstruck and kept insisting on paying me for them. I asked, “Why would I want that?” After all, they were (a) inexpensive; (b) I didn’t need them; and (c) they’d be worthless in about an hour in any case. He eventually agreed that just a handshake was enough payment.

When totality came, the telescope guys took the filter off their scope and placed their cell phone next to the eyepiece to take stunning pictures. They even did the same for bystanders—they took the picture on this diary using my cell phone. Bear in mind, they took time to share in this way with strangers during the all-too-brief 150 seconds of totality.

When it was over, we thanked the telescope guys again for their generosity. They, too, shook our hands and wished us a safe trip home. We did the same for them—they had travelled from Texas.

In this small, doubtless conservative, Nebraska village, we found community and common purpose. The eclipse brought us together.

If something inanimate can bring us together, I was left to ponder why it is so hard to come together on the many challenges facing our nation. But that’s not for this diary. Instead, I’m grateful to have, for one day, found so much good will in a community of strangers.

Cross-posted from DailyKos  

Max Griffin
Please visit my website and blog at
http://MaxGriffin.net
http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/

Check out my latest release!
ASIN: B00THNWLJY
The Hounds of Hollenbeck
Product Type: eBooks
Amazon's Price: Price N/A

June 3, 2017 at 2:11pm
June 3, 2017 at 2:11pm
#912317
Another--of a seemingly infinite list--of Microsoft Word annoyances. When I copy formatted text from WDC to Word, MS helpfully inserts a pink background that is close to impossible to remove. I've found the secret.

Addendum. 6/4/2017. If you Google this, you'll find dozens of links to this problem, but almost none with the solution below. Sometimes the background is a different color--grey, blue, etc. But it's always impossible to remove using the "normal" tools in Word.

I'm putting this in a blog so (a) I can find it again; and (b) because it's bound to help others.

I routinely edit my documents here on WDC, using WritingML to format the documents. For a variety of reasons, I want to save BOTH the formatted version and the text version with WritingML to my dropbox fiction folder.

Saving the text document with the WritingML code is no problem.

When I save the formatted version, though, Word helpfully puts a nice pink background on all the text. Ordinarily, you would think that invoking one of the tools on the ribbon would fix this. For example, there's a "shading" tool. You can use it to set the shading on whatever part of your document you select. Except, of course, it will NOT remove the shading that Microsoft has so helpfully inserted for you.

So, here's what you have to do.

1. Cut and past your document into word. You'll see that lovely pink shading.

2. Select the text in the document.

3. Press SHIFT F1. This brings up a REVEAL FORMATTING code window and is the key step. Buried someplace in the formatting is the troubling SHADING command. Note that if you have centered text or other aligned elements, you might have to selected each part of the document separately. and repeat these steps.

4. Click on the SHADING link the reveal formatting window.

5. You need to select CLEAR NO COLOR in the drop-down for FILL (not PATTERNS!). Then, under apply to, select PARAGRAPH.

6. Repeat step 4, but this time select CLEAR NO COLOR in the drop-down, then select TEXT in the drop-down for "apply to."

Presto, your document is fixed. There's a much easier solution if you want to erase ALL of the formatting of from your copied text, but why do that after you went to the work to put it in.

Why this happens to copied text is beyond me. I use Chrome, but it happens with the Micorsoft browsers, too, and with FIrefox. It happens on MACs and PCs. I've heard it doesn't happen with the Opera browser.

Hope people find this helpful. If someone has a simpler solution, please let me know.

Max

PS If anyone is interested, I've written a Word macro to convert the most common MS formatting to WritingML, so I can go the other way--Word to WritingML.
October 5, 2015 at 9:12pm
October 5, 2015 at 9:12pm
#861903
I love getting reviews that make me think.

I got a review of a book chapter this morning that did that. This reviewer told me I used obscure words that would be unfamiliar to readers. Well, I can’t argue with the merits of that advice in general. I love Hemingway in no small part because of his spare style. When an author uses a word that I have to look up, it almost always annoys me. It’s not that I don’t like learning new words–to the contrary. The problem is that looking up a word takes me out of the story. It breaks the fictional dream, which is at the heart of modern fiction.

My first reaction was to run the two tests of readability that come with most word processors: the Flesch grade level and the Flesch-Kincaid reading ease score. My chapter had a Flesch grade level of 4.1 and a reading ease score of 82.5. According to Wikipedia, that grade level score means that a US fourth-grader should be able to read and understand it. The same Wikipedia article says a reading ease score of 90 is easily understood by an eleven-year-old, while one of 70 is easily understood by a thirteen-year-old.

It’s interesting to see how various authors stack up on the readability scales. This blog   actually gives some comparative scores. The Old Man and the Sea, for example, has a grade level of 4 and a readability score of over 90. This means that Hemingway’s masterwork is exceptionally readable: lower grade levels and higher readability scores are good things when it comes to lucidity. Authors like Stephen King, Dan Brown, and John Grisham have grade levels of 6 to 8 and reading scores from 75 to 80. These are all readable authors by any measure. Depending on the passage you choose, other famous authors don’t fare so well. One passage in particular from Proust in particular has a readability score of -515.

This blog isn’t doing so well, either. It has a readability score of 67.3 and a grade level of 7.7. If this were fiction, I’d be looking for ways to make it more readable.

The point is that if you are writing fiction, you probably don’t want your use of language to obscure your meaning. You want your fiction to be readable. You’re not trying to impress your reader with your proclivity for polysyllabic elucidation. Oops. I meant to say, "your tendency to use big words."

Okay, then, back to my thought-provoking reviewer. My scores are roughly the same as King and Grisham, so that must mean my chapter is peachy-keen, right? By the way, "keen"--as in making a high-pitched sound--was one of the words my reviewer objected to. If you think the scores absolve me, think again.

Consider this sentence:
The jark on the spiv’s deed wricked the truth.

This unintelligible sentence has a readability score of 100 and a grade level of zero, so by the above measures it’s more lucid than, say, the children’s book Goodnight Moon, which has a grade level slightly less than 3.

Say, what?

Suppose I had written instead:
The forged seal on the criminal’s deed twisted the truth.

It turns out, this says the same thing as the earlier sentence, except it uses plain English rather than obscure words. It has a grade level of 3.6 and a readability score of 86. It’s also a sentence anyone reading this can likely understand.

So what's going on? Like Sheldon on Big Bang Theory, I like to do the math. If you look at the formulae for the Flesch scales, you'll see that they are based on counting characters per word and words per sentence. In fact, all the scales that mechanically calculate readability do the same kind of thing. What they don't do is decide whether or not your words are obscure. So my first sentence, the one with the jark on the spiv's deed, is short and uses one-syllable words, hence the high readability and low grade level scores. Readability in this case is a deliberate artifact--I constructed a sentence to "falsify" the score.

Now, another way to test readability is have real people read the sentence and see how many know what it says. In fact, you could have fifth graders read it and find out if the "average" --whatever that means--fifth grader understood it. Of course, that kind of real-world test can't be automated and built into your word processor. I think we don't need a test, though, to conclude the first sentence above is unreadable, despite its score to the contrary.

Does this mean that the Flesch scales and all their relatives are useless? No, of course not. In fact, if you compare the results of the Flesch scales with the above real-world test using real people, the results generally have a 90% correlation. That's really quite good, especially for social science results where there are often multiple unmeasured variables. One of those unmeasured variables in this case is how common the words are in the passage being tested. As the above example shows, it's an imperfect measure. Still, for most documents, readability fails more due to long words and complex sentences rather than obscurantism. Thus, the scales do in fact measure something useful. They're just not 100% accurate.

This takes me back to my thought-provoking review. It’s a matter of taste and style whether or not use a particular word. Indeed, Dean Koontz has almost made a trademark of using at least one obscure word per novel--kind of like Alfred Hitchcock’s appearance in all of his films. He does this was a certain insouciance–one of his words–and this is no doubt part of his appeal to his legion fans.

Now, the fact that Dean Koontz does this doesn’t make it "okay" for a beginning author. If I used the wonderful word "insouciance" in an opening paragraph, I’m sure the acquisitions editor would stop reading and toss my manuscript in the reject pile. Koontz, on the other hand, could open with the page 178 of the Tulsa phone book and he’d still get a contract and readers would still buy his book. He’s not only more talented, he’s a best-selling author. The "rules" don’t apply to him: nothing sells like success. Whether it’s an agent, editor, or an ordinary Joe picking a paperback out at the supermarket, Koontz’s solid reputation means that he doesn’t have to prove himself with those first paragraphs. I do.

So how about that verb "keened" that I used? Well, it’s onomatopoetic (there I go again!), so I like it. I’m also pretty convinced it’s not so obscure that people will have to look it up, although I concede it’s not a word most people would use in conversation. Bottom line: I think I’ll keep it, but I’m glad I thought about it.

Cross-posted at http://maxgriffin.net/blog
September 16, 2015 at 5:14pm
September 16, 2015 at 5:14pm
#860215
Craft or Art?

I don't tell anyone how to write and no one tells me.
--Ray Bradbury

Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.
--Pablo Picasso


Life is choices.

When you're eighteen, the future stretches before you. Your life is a page with no words, a canvas with no paint, a score with no notes. Each choice you make writes the story, colors the portrait, and sings the harmonies.

However, for every door that choice opens, it closes another. At eighteen, I dreamed of many careers, and I was lucky enough to follow several. By the end of my fifth decade, though, I'd still not tried writing fiction. I thought it couldn't be that hard. I'd written dozens of research papers, a couple of math text books, and I'd read a zillion novels.

So, I set out to write a publishable short story. That was my goal. Six months, tops, and I could cross that off my to-do list. After all, I had lots of stories to tell. I'd just pick one, polish it, and I'd be done. Like Bradbury, I didn't think I needed anyone to tell me how to write.

Of course, I'm not a natural genius like Ray Bradbury. I'm just a guy who wanted to write fiction.

Hemingway tells us writing is easy: just sit at a keyboard, open a vein, and let the blood flow. How true! Sure, I had lots of stories in my head. But they turned out to be excruciating to write. Characters came to alive in my brain. Their anguish became mine, along with their joys and their triumphs. All those strangers stomping around in my skull, clamoring to be heard, scared the crap out of me. I had to get them out, onto the page.

Despite being so real in my head, when they populated my page they turned to ash. Instead of living, breathing people, my pages filled with dust. My mathematics monograph   on A Rapidly Convergent Iteration Method and Gateaux Differentiable Operators was a zinger by comparison.

So, I decided to read a book on how to write. In fact, I read a bunch of books, but none of them really helped. Even John Gardner's marvelous The Art of Fiction didn't help, although it clearly provided a theoretical basis for effective fiction.

The problem is that good fiction is more than characterization, or plotting, or pacing. It's more than dramatic structure, or theme, or metaphor and simile. It's even more than the solid foundation that Gardner teaches. Good fiction is also craft: countless details that work together to produce art.

When I first joined Writing.Com, I was incredibly lucky to have a small group of talented writers take me under their collective wing. I learned simple techniques to make prose more effective. At first, these looked like stylistic idiosyncrasies, like tricks. But then I remembered from my mathematical training the difference between a trick and a technique. A trick is something you do once; a technique is something you can do many times.

If you master the techniques of effective writing, then and only then can you develop your own style. Indeed, it is in mastering those techniques that your style evolves.

Just because you own paints and a brush doesn't mean you can produce art. Just because you can construct grammatical sentences doesn't make you an author.

Sometimes, I'll have a beginning author reject my suggestions about technique, telling me that's "not their style." Fine. Everyone has their own style. But pay attention to the Picasso quote at the start of this essay. Contrast it with the Bradbury quote. Unless you're one of those rare geniuses like Bradbury, it pays to learn the techniques other authors have worked out over the ages. Even Picasso said we are all beginners, learning from each other.

Picasso mastered the techniques of realism as a young man. If you don't think so, just Google "Picasso realism" and look at the images that come up. In fact, he never totally abandoned realism. Consider his lovingly detailed 1924 painting of his spouse Olga.   While his 1954 portrait   of Jacqueline Rocque is a recognizable Picasso, he also penned this delightful and realistic sketch   of her in the same year.
Picasso never abandoned realism even as he developed his world-shattering style.

Picasso once said that when he was young, he could have become anything: a doctor, a lawyer, an author. Instead, he said, he became Picasso. But he became Picasso because he first learned the rules like a pro, and then broke them like an artist.

If you are an author, really an author, you have stories in you clamoring to get out. You have no choice. You must write them. But if you want their telling to be effective, you need to master the craft of writing, just as Picasso mastered the craft of drawing.

Effective stories are works of art. Successful authors make their own rules. The artist knows the purpose the rule serves and breaks it with deliberate intent, to achieve an artistic goal.

So is writing art or is it craft? The answer is that it's both. Craft precedes art, and art transcends craft.

I'll end this essay with another quote from Ray Bradbury: "You fail only if you stop writing."

July 24, 2015 at 11:00am
July 24, 2015 at 11:00am
#855283
I've written a new blog on describing characters. It has embedded photos, which don't work so well with WritingML, so I'm going to send you off-site to read this one:

http://www.maxgriffin.net/blog/describing-characters/

Feel free to comment here or on the off-site blog, or both places.
July 14, 2015 at 4:35pm
July 14, 2015 at 4:35pm
#854353
Info-dumps and opening paragraphs

Opening paragraphs are tough to write. Everyone knows that. You've got to introduce your character, draw the readers into the story, foreshadow the plot, and establish the point of view. You also have to orient your readers, so it helps to answer as many of the who, what, when, and where questions as you can. Even more challenging, this is your first and best chance to capture your readers. The best openings grab them by the throat and make them continue reading.

I thought it might be helpful to show the evolution of the opening paragraphs to a short story I've been working on the last couple of weeks.

Here's my first attempt.
Hank shivered in the chilly air of the The Last Chance. His dress shirt, sweat-soaked from the searing heat of July in Oklahoma, clung to his clammy torso. He squirmed on his stool at the diner's counter and inhaled ancient scents of greasy hamburgers, cigarettes, and unwashed roustabouts. He checked his mobile phone. No signal. Awesome.

My usual technique, in evidence here, is to first and foremost draw the readers into the head of the point-of-view character. I almost always start by naming the character, and then go on to have some visceral reaction to the physical surroundings. In this case, he shivers and his shirt clings to his clammy torso. With any luck, the reader is now in his head, so whatever follows is also in his head. I also locate him in space (in a diner in Oklahoma) and time (it's July). In fact, the diner is old, since it has "ancient" scents. We also learn he's in a remote location, since there's no cell signal. Finally, the name of the diner--The Last Chance--adds a bit of foreboding and foreshadowing.

All in all, this doesn't look like a terrible opening to me. It didn't quite work for the story, though, since I didn't think it had enough information. Basically, this is your typical "guy gets lost in the middle of nowhere and weird things happen" story--the kind you would see on an old Twilight Zone episode, for example. So, I decided I needed to add a bit of that to the opening, along with an explanation of why he was there. So, here's my second attempt at an opening paragraph.

Hank shivered in the chilly air of the The Last Chance. His dress shirt, sweat-soaked from the searing heat of July in Oklahoma, clung to his clammy torso. He squirmed on his stool at the diner's counter and inhaled ancient scents of greasy hamburgers, cigarettes, and unwashed roustabouts. When he pulled out his mobile phone to call the office, it showed "no signal." Awesome. After his last sales stop, he'd gotten lost in the scrub oak forest and twisty gravel roads, and he was overdue. He supposed he'd been lucky to find this place, such as it was. The town consisted of a church, a dozen boarded-up houses, and this diner.

Now if the waitress would take his order, he could eat and be on his way.


Notice this adds that he's lost and paints a picture of a ghost town buried in the forest. There's also a bit of tension since the waitress seems to be ignoring him. While that was better, the first paragraph now drags a bit with too much explanation, so I decided to insert another paragraph with even more explanation, some of it to set up things later in the story.

Hank shivered in the chilly air of the The Last Chance. His dress shirt, sweat-soaked from the searing heat of July in Oklahoma, clung to his clammy torso. He squirmed on his stool at the diner's counter and inhaled ancient scents of greasy hamburgers, cigarettes, and unwashed roustabouts. When he pulled out his mobile phone to call the office, it showed "no signal." Awesome. After his last sales stop, he'd gotten lost in the scrub oak forest and twisty gravel roads, and his report was overdue.

This trip had been a total waste. After all the quakes last year, you'd think wireless seismic monitors would sell like iPhones in Silicon Valley in these parts, but no one here had any money, and most of the time there was no network for the monitors to connect to. It was like he'd dropped into another century. He supposed he'd been lucky to find this place, such as it was. The town consisted of a church, a dozen boarded-up houses, and this diner.

Now if the waitress would only take his order, he could eat and be on his way.


Well. Harumph. That needs work. Look at the last sentence in the first paragraph. It's all telling: an info-dump. Same for the second paragraph. How embarrassing. So, let's work on that.

Hank shivered in the dark and dank air of the The Last Chance. His dress shirt, sweat-soaked from the searing heat of July in Oklahoma, clung to his clammy torso. He squirmed on his stool at the diner's counter and inhaled ancient scents of greasy hamburgers, cigarettes, and unwashed roustabouts. When he checked his mobile phone, it showed "no signal." Awesome. Here he was, lost in Hicksville, or Carl's Corner, or whatever they called this nowhere town, buried inside a nowhere scrub forest, with twisty gravel roads that led to nowhere, and now he couldn't even make a friggin' phone call.

On top of all that, this sales trip had been a total waste. With all the quakes last year, you'd think wireless seismic monitors would sell around here like prayer books at a revival, but no one had any money, and these backwoods bumpkins didn't even have cell phone coverage. It was like he'd dropped into another century. He supposed he'd been lucky to find this diner, such as it was. At least the GPS in his car told him it was only a few miles back to the turnpike.

If the waitress would only take his order, he could eat and be on his way back to civilization.


All right, then. This is better. Now the information at the end of the first paragraph is clearly in Hank's head, and we're getting a sense of his frustration and isolation from what he's thinking. I like the first paragraph at this point.

The second paragraph? Well, it's still got too much information. It sounds like earthquakes and seismic monitors are important to the story, and they're not. What is important is the feeling he's "dropped into another century," he wants to get "back to civilization," and the GPS will lead him there.

So, here's where the opening stands now.

Hank shivered in the dark and dank air of the The Last Chance. His dress shirt, sweat-soaked from the searing heat of July in Oklahoma, clung to his clammy torso. He squirmed on his stool at the diner's counter and inhaled ancient scents of greasy hamburgers, cigarettes, and unwashed roustabouts. When he checked his mobile phone, it showed "no signal." Awesome. Here he was, lost in Hicksville, or Carl's Corner, or whatever they called this nowhere town, buried inside a nowhere scrub forest, with twisty gravel roads that led to nowhere, and now he couldn't even make a friggin' phone call.

On top of all that, this sales trip had been a total waste. The few bumpkins who'd listened to his pitch didn't have the brains to pound dirt, and even less money. It was like he'd dropped into another century. He supposed he'd been lucky to find a place to eat. At least the GPS in his car told him it was only a few miles back to the turnpike.

If the waitress would only take his order, he could eat and be on his way back to civilization.


At 190 words, that's still a little long. The precipitating incident, the arrival a mysterious stranger at diner, starts in the next paragraph. It'd be better if I could push that earlier, so this probably still needs some work.

The point is that openings are hard. The story stands at 2800 words right now, and I'm happy with everything except the first 200 of them.

I'll keep you posted!

Update about six hours later--
I decided to eliminate the second paragraph altogether. The only important bit of information was that his GPS would lead him to the nearby turnpike, which I tucked away later in the story. That brings the precipitating incident closer to the front, so I think it's better now.


Max Griffin
Please visit my website and blog at
http://MaxGriffin.net
http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/

Check out my latest release!
ASIN: B00THNWLJY
The Hounds of Hollenbeck
Product Type: eBooks
Amazon's Price: Price N/A

June 23, 2015 at 12:23pm
June 23, 2015 at 12:23pm
#852268
While they are fun, this blog is not about the coloring hard-boiled ova from hens. Instead, this is about clever hidden references that directors and authors sometimes plant inside creative works. For example, in my most recent novel The Hounds of Hollenbeck, the protagonist's address is the same as Franz Kafka's when he wrote Metamorphosis. There's also a little min-scene with earthworms that's an homage to David Lynch and Blue Velvet.

It can be lots of fun finding Easter eggs in movies. A famous example is Alfred Hitchcock, who made a cameo appearance in nearly every film he directed. Other directors have imitated this. For example, in Jurassic Park, Stephen Spielberg's reflection appears in the hum cab of the jeep after it falls out of the tree. M. Night Shyamalan makes a cameo appearance in his movies, too.

I thought about this topic the other night while watching an old Columbo episode with Suzanne Pleshette in a guest-starring role. Remember, she played Bob Newhart's wife in the 1970s sitcom, but before that she was in Hitchcock's The Birds, playing a school teacher who gets pecked to death. In the Columbo episode, Falk asks her what she does, and she says she "used to work with children and animals." I immediately thought of her earlier Hitchcock roll, and wondered if this was an Easter egg homage to Hitchcock. Only the writers know.

Anyway, here are a few fun Easter eggs for your enjoyment.

Rocky Horror Picture Show
Apparently while shooting, the cast had a real Easter egg hunt on the set. They neglected to clean up thoroughly, though, and sharp-eyed fans spotted Easter eggs scattered here and there throughout the film. Folklore says this is the origin of the term "Easter egg."

Newhart.
In the final episode, Bob wakes up in the apartment he and Emily shared in Chicago in his prior sitcom, The Bob Newhart Show, where Suzanne Pleshette played his wife. Suzanne is there, and he tells her he just had a horrible dream about running an inn in Vermont. In another episode of Newhart, Bob and Mary Frann, who plays his spouse in Newhart, go to a psychiatrist’s office where Mr. Carlin and Mr. Petterson, two of Dr. Hartley’s patients from the 1970s sitcom, appear. The psychiatrist comments it’s taking him years to correct the damage done “by that quack in Chicago.”

Silence of the Lambs
The Easter egg here is in the poster. It's memorable: it shows Jody Foster's face with the death's head moth splayed over her lips. Of course, the moth has a skull on its carapace, hence its name. But on the poster, the artist was able to be more detailed and more creative. It's actually shows seven nude women arranged to look like a skull, taken from a famous Phillipe Halsman photo   of Salvador Dali.

Raiders of the Lost Ark
Hidden in the hieroglyphs on the wall of the well of souls are images of R2-D2 and C3PO. They do get around, don't they?

Return of the Jedi
Three of Jabba the Hut's workers on his barge are named Klaatu, Barada, and Nikto, a reference to the classic SciFi film The Day the Earth Stood Still.

The Phantom Menace
E.T. appears in the senate cheering as Palpatine announces the formation of the Empire. Of course, Yoda appears in E.T., at least as a costumed child. In fact, there's a whole web page   that speculates E.T., Indiana Jones, and Star Wars are from the same universe, all based on Easter eggs.

Back to the Future
Marty crashes into a farmhouse where the son is named Sherman and the name on the mailbox is Peabody, a reference to the famous time-travelling cartoon duo.

3rd Rock from the Sun
When Dick Solomon, played by John Lithgow, greets his boss the Big Giant Head, played by William Shatner, the latter complains about a crazy person on his flight to earth who claimed gremlins were sabotaging the space ship. Solomon says, "The same thing happened to me!" Of course, in Twilight Zone the Movie, Lithgow reprised Shatner's roll in the TV series where exactly the same incident happened.

Hannibal
In Florence, Hannibal's first victim peals and eats an orange, in tribute to Coppola's Godfather, where an orange appears in the scene where any character about to meet their death.

Toy Story
The carpet in Sid's house is the same as the carpet in the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. Of course, those two movies are exactly the same (eye roll).

20th Anniversary of The Simpsons
Fox put Easter eggs in many of their shows during the week of the anniversary. For example, in Bones, there's a scan of Homer Simpson's brain (Season 5 - Episode 7, 5:19 to 5:21). In House, the eponymous physician refers to Cuddy's breasts as "Patty and Selma."

Roseanne
In 1993, the actress who played Becky left the show and the producers replaced her with a new actress, Sarah Chalke. In the final scene of her first appearance, the family is watching re-runs of Bewitched and discuss the fact that two different actors played Darrin in the series. Rosanne makes a sarcastic comment about the producers thinking the audience must be idiots to not notice. Then the new Becky, Sarah Chalke, remarks that she thinks the second Darrin is "much better."

As with everything else, Google is our friend. There are web pages of Easter eggs for movies   and for TV shows.   Even these enormous lists, with have thousands of eggs, are not comprehensive. They miss the Roseanne and 3rd Rock eggs I mentioned above, for example.

Do you have a favorite Easter egg? Let me know.

Reposted from the blog   on my website, which includes some photos of the above eggs.
June 13, 2015 at 12:50pm
June 13, 2015 at 12:50pm
#851543
I'm Mr. Dinger's pet human.

Meow. My name is Dinger, and I'm taking control of my pet human Max's blog this morning.

Max is kinda dumb, even for a human. Sometimes he can't even remember my name and calls me Nonobadcat. I mean, how silly is that? I'm too genteel to repeat what he called me this morning as he dashed out to the farmer's market. All I did was trip him because he gave me the wrong kind of cat food. I know: for the last 286 days I've refused to eat anything but the gravy-ladled salmon and whitefish cat food, but this morning I wanted the beef morsels. With gravy, of course. How hard is that?

Anyway, Max was in such a rush to get away that he left the door to his office open. Since I'm an especially catty cat, I decided to show him. So here I am, to tell you the truth about one Max Griffin, human.

Ordinarily, I'd never read another cat's email, but Max isn't a feline so who cares? The first thing I saw was a note from his publisher that his short story collection, What in Dreams Abides, is releasing today. What a great opportunity for my revenge, thought I. I'll write a review. I purred and narrowed my eyes at the thought, just like I do when he scratches my tummy. He is good for something. Sometimes.

I just pawed my way through this volume. I'm relieved to report that there are almost no dogs in this book. The last two books by Max have had those mangy creatures. The dog in The Hounds of Hollenbeck was even supposed to be super smart, which I guess doesn't take much for a dog. Anyway, this new book has only one dog which is a big plus.

This one is all short stories. I guess as Max ages, his attention span is fading and he can't get it together to write novels any more. I mean, he can't even pet me for than two or three hours at a time before he has to use the bathroom or something. Bless his heart.

Some of the short stories are pretty scary, I admit. There's one based on the old fable "The Tinder Box" that's set here in Tulsa, or maybe in Kandahar. It's kind of hard to tell, since the character seems to hop back and forth between the two, and then into a Disney animated movie at the end. Really, Max is getting so scatterbrained. This story has the only dog in the collection, guarding a dried-up river of sticks. Max is so subtle. Not. Dog, sticks, Cerberus, Styx. Anywhose, this dog doesn't have much to do besides be a metaphor and gnaw on a bone. And slobber. After all, he's a dog.

At least three of the stories are updates on classic Edgar Allen Poe tales. "The Eye" was really creepy, except for the crickets in the wall. They sounded tasty. The narrator needed a cat to eat them, along with that thing he left in the closet.

Other stories read like they belong on the old Alfred Hitchcock TV shows. There's one, "Fred Cleans House," that Max said he wrote to prove that a story about housework could have tension. I don't get that. There was plenty of tension last night when Max and his partner Gene discussed whose turn it was to clean my litter box. I threw up on the DVD player to calm them down. It didn't have the desired effect, though. Humans are so stupid.

Oh wait! I hear Max's car driving down the street. I need to run downstairs and help him unload things in the kitchen. He likes it when I do that, especially when I follow him in front of him.

So, I guess Max's new book isn't bad, if you like short stories. It's kind of scary and icky in places, and it re-works some old tales and folk legends in new ways. Most important, it's only got one dog, and he's in a minor role.

I'm outta here.

Dinger

You can purchase Max's new collection in paperback on Amazon
What in Dreams Abides  
The Kindle version will be available soon.

Max Griffin
Please visit my website and blog at
http://MaxGriffin.net
http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/

Check out my latest release!
ASIN: B00THNWLJY
The Hounds of Hollenbeck
Product Type: eBooks
Amazon's Price: Price N/A

June 6, 2015 at 11:19am
June 6, 2015 at 11:19am
#851114
It's amazing what you can find on the internet.

I recently wanted to find a list of positive words in order to construct an acronym from the word "nice" -- see "Standards Based Learning and Contests. What I came up with was this:
         Nurture talent;
         Inspire excellence;
         Celebrate creativity; and
         Encourage improvement.

But what's interesting was that I found an internet page of positive words.   Who knew such things existed?

I tried to use the list of positive words to construct an acronym for how I try to write reviews:
         Respect the author;
         Promote Excellence;
         Value what is done well; ;
         Suggest ways to Improve;
         Encourage creativity; and
         Affirm the Worth of the creative impulse.
Well, okay, that didn't work so well, but you get the idea.

I confess to a bureaucrat's delight in acronyms. Sometimes they are less direct. In jest, I suggested a colleague in the school of electrical engineering name his lab the "Wireless Electronic Compatibility and Advanced Design" Lab because you could pronounce WECAD as "wicked." He loved it, and that's now the name of his lab.

Of course, finding a list of positive words naturally led me seek out a list of negative words. Turns out there are several pages with such words, including one that charges for the list. That struck me as avaricious. For what it's worth, I didn't need a list of negative words come up with that description.

Thinking about it, I don't generally need help coming up with negative words. You know old conundrum: "is the glass half full or half empty?" My daughter pointed out it didn't apply to me, since I'd think the glass was poisoned. She knows me so well.

Anyway, this list of negative words   includes a list of links to other word lists. There's even one for math   words.

I have to say the math list is pretty disappointing. Key words from calculus like integral and derivative don't appear. More advanced words like transfinite, accretive, induction, and topology are absent. Mathematicians also name things after people, like Zorn's Lemma. Who couldn't love something with that name, even if it does involve the controversial Axiom of Choice? Then there's Peano arithmetic, which has nothing to do with counting to 88.

But I've digressed. Chances are, if you want to find something on the internet, you can. Even a pointless
         Banal
         Lousy
         Out of touch
         Grumpy
blog.







Max Griffin
Please visit my website and blog at
http://MaxGriffin.net
http://MaxGriffin.net/blog/

Check out my latest release!
ASIN: B00THNWLJY
The Hounds of Hollenbeck
Product Type: eBooks
Amazon's Price: Price N/A

May 27, 2015 at 1:34pm
May 27, 2015 at 1:34pm
#850354
Cheeky Nandos

After last week's blog on the varieties of American English, I stumbled across this blog   post about the international varieties of English. It's about cheeky Nandos.

Say what?

I suggest you first glance at the blog and peruse some of the impenetrable explanations of what this term means. Here's one, by way of example:
it’s when u and the lads are having a bit of banter in town and ur mate is like “im hungry lets go greggs” but then ur like “nah man not feeling a pasty lets go somewhere else” and then ur top mate (probs called Gaz) is like “oi lads lets go for a cheeky nandos” and ur like oh gaz ur a ledge


After that clear and concise explanation, you know exactly what a cheeky Nandos is, right?

No? Well, let me help you, based on some Googling. From context I can figure out a bit of this up front. "Pasty" is what we in in the US call "pastry," so "Gregg's" must be a place to buy, say, donuts. Sure enough, Google verifies Gregg's is a UK chain that sells "pasties." A "mate" is of course a bud, but why would your BFF be called "Gaz" (short for Gary on the other side of the Atlantic)? Got me, but it's not essential to understanding a cheeky Nando. Now we come to the term in question, "cheeky Nando." Since Nandos is an alternative to Gregg's, it must also be a food chain in the UK. Sure enough, Google tells me that Nandos is UK chain that sells fried chicken among other things. So, the buds in the above have decided to have KFC rather than donuts. "Ledge" is probably short for "legend," and the urban dictionary verifies this.

But that still doesn't answer why the Nando's chicken is cheeky. I think I get "cheeky" in general. Depending on context, we Yanks might say "impertinent," "sassy," "brassy," or even "saucy," but that doesn't quite fit here. Basically, as nearly as I can tell, a "cheeky Nandos" is an unexpected suggestion to have chicken. It's fun, a bit clever, and perhaps a touch irresponsible. It reeks of a charming insouciance.

In a US context, then, these buds know that they should do the responsible thing, say catch some reps at the gym or hang with the old ball and chain. Instead, they kick back and suck some brewskies, maybe slinging some #bantersaurusrex or even #barackobanter. Then they get the munchies, and consider snarfing down some Krispy Kremes. But when one of the dogs goes hey, let's do the Colonel, they're all over it like #sheldononflags.

Does that help? Of course, I have no idea if I got this right, even in the US version. But it was kind of fun researching it.

If anyone can tell me what a "cheeky Nandos" really is, there's the comment section below.

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