Category Archives: backlog

2017-08-02: Story Structure

Apparently Don Harmon has a good reputation for advising on how to structure a story. Here’s the meat of his advice, in eight parts:

  1.  A character is in a zone of comfort,
  2. But they want something.
  3. They enter an unfamiliar situation,
  4. Adapt to it,
  5. Get what they wanted,
  6. Pay a heavy price for it,
  7. Then return to their familiar situation,
  8. Having changed.

1990-01-01: Quotes

I’ve been collecting quotes for a long time, so the date in this post’s title is irrelevant. There is no order to these, except that when I add a new one, it is at the top of the list. It should go without saying that this post is full of memes, and will always be unfinished.

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Talent is like the marksman who hits a target which others cannot reach; genius is like the marksman who hits a target … which others cannot even see.

— Arthur Schopenhauer

When someone says something, don’t ask yourself if it is true. Ask what it might be true of.

— Daniel Kahneman

The psychological present is said to be about three seconds long; that means that, you know, in a life there are about 600 million of them; in a month, there are about 600,000 – most of them don’t leave a trace.

— Daniel Kahneman

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.

— Annie Dillard

Be sure and tell your friends this isn’t easy.

— Dot Blackstone (on her deathbed)

When so many deny the lessons of history it usually means they’re just about to learn them all over again.

— John Templeton, Jesse Felder

Bull markets are born on pessimism, grown on scepticism, mature on optimism and die on euphoria.

— John Templeton

Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.

— Edward Snowden

The hard part of standing on an exponential curve is: when you look backwards, it looks flat, and when you look forward, it looks vertical. And it’s very hard to calibrate how much you are moving because it always looks the same.

— Sam Altman

If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.

— Mickey Mantle.
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2017-08-01: Monthly review

On July 3rd we bought a new car. We bought our previous car, a 2016 Mazda CX-5, in August 2015 from FitzMall Mazda in Annapolis. In June we received a mailing that described incentives and low interest rates, suggesting they could put in a 2017 CX-5 for the same payment. Skeptical, I called Anthony Johnson, the salesman we had dealt with before, to see if that was actually realistic. He was encouraging (surprise!), so we went in to talk, and ended up buying the car. The 2016 model ws version 1.0 of the CX-5, and the newer model has better suspension, better sound insulation, and a few new features. Among the features we like are: two-driver seat position memory, auto-hold brake, heads-up display shows digital speed, and recognizes certain traffic signs (speed limits and stop signs).

We’ve completed most of the planning for our August research trip, prior to the eclipse expedition. I’ve also been in touch with Ken Armstrong; he won’t be able to meet up with us on this trip, but we’ll try some other time.

My Social Security benefit has started, so we’re now reaching all of our regular retirement income. The remainder will consist of Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) from IRA/401k accounts. These will vary each year, based on an IRS table and the year-end balance in the accounts.

We’ve also met with the realtor and his recommended interior designer, and have a fairly good idea of the changes they think we should make for selling the house.

We’ve also had advice on where to look for a place when we move: Edmonds. We’ll see.


2017-07-01: Monthly review

Chris and Ren came to visit in June, and we did a lot to get ready for a yard sale and to meet a real estate agent.

The yard sale netted over $200, and resulted in donation of a lot of metal for recycling, and usable items for Good Will, the Senior Center, and friends.

The agent advised us on people to do various tasks around the house, and things we should do. He recommended we prepare the house with minor tasks, then move out and allow major work to go forward without disrupting us. He also said the last few years sales have been best in Dec-Feb, rather than in the spring.

So, at last we have a strategy! We have “commitments” through October, but might be able to move to Seattle before Christmas. C has said we are welcome to stay up to six months with them.

On NS, added chapters 69-76 (Gunnar’s death).

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2017-06-29: The Lives of Arthur

Geoffrey Ashe’s The Discovery of King Arthur connects a historical person named Riothamus with the legendary King Arthur. When I read the book (late 1980s) I thought it might be interesting to incorporate the ideas into a novel-like structure where the historical aspects are recorded in some monastery after the death of Riothamus, then elaborated by accreting legendary aspects, and becomes the source material leading to Geoffrey of Monmouth and beyond.

2007-07-00: Road Warriors

Susan and I have long enjoyed attending minor league baseball, and have tried to attend every minor league stadium within a two-hour drive of home, as well as games when we travel. We often buy t-shirts to support teams we see.

Most of the nearby teams are clubs in the Minor League Baseball association, where each team is affiliated with a Major League Baseball team. The team we’ve seen most is the Bowie Baysox, the AA affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. However there is also an independent league within reach, the Atlantic League. This league provides opportunities for players who haven’t been able to get contracts with Major/Minor League Baseball teams, and play in towns that don’t have minor league teams. The stadiums are comparable to AA/AAA level stadiums.

In 2007, we attended a game in York, PA where the Revolution was playing the Road Warriors. The league was supposed to have eight teams, but one of them folded in 2006. In order to maintain the eight-team schedule, the league established the Road Warriors, a team with no home field that played all of its games on the road. Naturally they were underdogs everywhere they went. Naturally we rooted for them and bought the t-shirt for sale in the York stadium store.

In 2008, a new field was established in Waldorf, MD and the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs filled out the league, and the Road Warriors players dispersed. However, it turns out that there were other years where Road Warriors were needed as teams failed. The first were in 2002-2004, then 2006-2007, and most recently in 2011.

The players on the roster in July 2007 are listed below. Many also played on Minor or Major League teams.

Pos#NameB/TDOBHtWtLast ClubHighest
P23Benito BaezL/L1977-05-066-1160Road WarriorsMLB
P9Casey CahillR/R1982-03-156-3197SomersetAAA
P35Carlos CastilloR/R1975-04-016-3245MexicoMLB
P--Randy DickenR/R1982-08-196-2198CamdenA
P15Chris EickhorstR/R1975-12-196-4215Road WarriorsA
P24Bernie GonzalezR/R1980-05-106-2200Road WarriorsA
P32Julio GuerreroR/R1981-01-046-4180Road WarriorsA
P14Cody HarkcomR/R1983-12-156-1180BurlingtonA
P30Trevor MarcotteR/R1978-05-036-2170Road WarriorsIND
P18Damien MyersL/L1980-10-036-0180CamdenA
P25Darwin SotoR/R1982-01-156-2180Road WarriorsAAA
P16Emmanuel UlloaR/R1978-11-266-2180Colorado SpringsAAA
C27Sandy AracenaR/R1981-01-036-0180Road WarriorsA
C31Manuel MejiaR/R1978-10-056-2220Road WarriorsA
C28Nick ValdezR/R1986-10-36-1215Diamond Backs (Rookie)R
IF22Josh ArteagaR/R1980-03-145-9170NewarkAAA
IF21Ian BladergroenL/L1983-02-236-5210WilmingtonA
IF13Vito ChiaravallotiR/R1980-10-266-3225FrederickAA
IF8Ron FenwickL/R1978-12-195-11185ShreveportIND
IF36Omar GarciaR/R1971-11-166-2220Nashua (04)AAA
IF2David HouselS/R1981-09-066-2160Road WarriorsA
IF6Jorge MejiaS/R1982-08-156-1165Rio GrandA
IF11Gabe SuarezR/R1984-12-146-0170Tri-CitiesA
OF7Jason BryanR/R1981-11-186-2190Road WarriorsA
OF19Steve DoetschR/R1983-12-026-2200Myrtle BeachA
OF12Travis EziS/L1981-09-056-0175YorkAA
OF3Estee HarrisL/R1985-01-085-11170LI/Road WarriorsA
DL--Chris FlinnR/R1980-08-186-2180DurhamAAA
DL--Kevin MannixR/R1980-12-206-1205Long IslandA
DL26Jeff TamR/R1970-08-196-1202Syracuse (03)MLB
Mgr34Jeff Scott
Coach33D.J. Boston
Trainer--Mia Del Hierro

2017-04-04: Mom’s death

Around 4:15 am on April 4th, Dina called to say that we should go to Seattle, as Mom was in the hospital and had been told she could expect to survive only a couple of days if she didn’t have surgery, which she was refusing. Susan and I arrived at Skagit Valley Hospital in Mount Vernon that afternoon/evening (separate flights). Dina and Laura were with her. Mom had seen Chris, Grant, and Ren, apparently a very good visit.

Mom was entirely lucid, and determined that she was ready to die. It turned out that the prognosis was a bit pessimistic, and when she appeared to be lingering on Wednesday, we were told that she would be discharged from the hospital on Thursday; home hospice arrangements were made for her to be moved to Dina’s. It was not possible to move her to a formal hospice institution because of her determination to invoke Washington’s Death With Dignity law. This would entail her taking a prescription that would end her life, and no institution would allow this on their premises. However, on Thursday morning, her medications were not stabilized, so they did not discharge her. On Friday, the “hospitalist” told us that she wouldn’t be discharged before Monday; he also said she would probably not last that long.

Through Friday, when she awoke, she would sometimes make a comment like “That’s all folks”, or “Still here?”. She said also that she was sorry to be a burden to us. Once, she said “Be sure and tell your friends this isn’t easy.”

Through it all, she was very brave. She didn’t complain, except to request adjustments to her position or an ice pack for her forehead. She was in some pain, and apparently Fentanyl wasn’t as effective on her as expected. Sometime on Sunday they turned off her pacemaker (though it wasn’t thought to be having any effect). She passed more or less peacefully Sunday evening, April 9th, with Dina and me at her side.

She was cremated, and her remains were mixed with those of Terry (died 1996-07-07) and Gary (died 2008-05-19). Together, they were sent over Snoqualmie Falls, a spot which had been meaningful to Terry and Mom.


2017-06-01: Monthly review

NS is up to chapter 69.

No progress on WN.

Activated SS benefits; first payment expected July 26 (payments are scheduled for fourth Wednesday of each month).

Planned CO/WY part of August trip. Will locate Harry Gant’s house location (307 S Sherwood St, Fort Collins) and the street where John E Gant lived (number came up 1, but probably incorrect). In Greeley, hope to find some info about the Tenney ranch and brand, and maybe the Gant brand in 1905 Colorado Brand Book. Still need to refine questions for Fort Collins Museum of Discovery and Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum.

Saw Orioles/Yankees game with Barbara/John and Phyllis/Jim, in suite 62.

Had a quiet birthday, mostly to be celebrated when Chris/Ren arrive mid-June.

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2017-05-13: As I Knew Him

As I Knew Him

My Dad, Rod Serling (2013)

by Anne Serling (1965-)

I was always a fan and admirer of Rod Serling, but there is much I didn’t know in this book. It is a well-written description of a good relationship between a daughter and her father, and of the father himself. It also describes the grief Anne dealt with after her 50-year father died when she was just 20.

In the last chapter, she sums up:

The gifts and lessons my father left me will last forever: Never take yourself too seriously, never miss a chance to laugh long and hard, speak out about political and social issues you believe in, use the written word as often as you can to make yourself and the world a better place, and love your children with all you’ve got.

The book is full of anecdotes illustrating these themes.

2017-05-01: Monthly review

I didn’t write a review of March, due to a major distraction in early April: I was summoned to Mom’s deathbed on 4/4. She died 4/9, and we held a ceremony to commemorate her, Gary and Terry on 4/23. See the post: 2017-04-04: Mom’s death.

Aside from those significant events, March and April included the following.

Ended my trial run with and deleted my account. There were numerous problems with connecting to certain financial institutions, requiring me to repeatedly enter login credentials. Also (maybe not caused by mint) a credit card was fraudulently used (fortunately caught by Chase).

NS is up to chapter 61.

Little progress on WN.

While in Seattle, we attended the PBR at the Tacoma Dome. We visited the exhibition of China’s Terra-cotta Army; the exhibit was very good, and I have recommended it to others when it moves to Philadelphia.

Retirement: applied for SS benefits, payments should start in July.

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2002-01-03: GTD – Quarterly reviews

The quarterly review helps keep priorities aligned with goals. The list below is a snapshot of one of my quarterly reviews from early 2015.

These serve one or more of my life goals. Whenever I undertake a specific project (or one-time activity) it should be possible to relate it to one or more of these goals. Most of these Project Goals don’t have a definite end-state (and so technically aren’t projects); simply finding ways to work toward them is the goal. Ideally, every project or other activity supports one of these goals. (Note that these are in alphabetical order, not priority.)

Create: Creative activities in various media (such as writing, software, artwork) can leave a “footprint in the sands of time”. Acts of creation support the life goal of maintaining a sound mind. Ideally, the results of these creative acts support the life goal of influencing others.

Castle Knob: Castle Knob is a way to organize my creative endeavors, and supports my life goal to influence others. It would be nice to hand it on to someone else.

Effective Processes: A lot of life is just doing the day-to-day stuff we need to do, in the limited time and with the limited resources available to us. Effective processes and procedures help minimize the time and effort required for the mundane stuff, leaving more time and energy for the more interesting or challenging stuff. The goal of improving processes and procedures directly supports the Work/Life goal, and also leaves more time and energy for the other life goals.

Finances: Income from work and saving for future needs is necessary; managing money can make it more valuable, and move the possibility of retirement closer.

Fitness: Regular exercise in a variety of forms supports the life goal of maintaining a sound body.

Fun: Everyone should enjoy a reasonable amount of fun, supporting the life goal of enjoying life.

Habits: Good is better than Bad, for a sound mind and body. Monitor the bad to discourage them, and actively pursue development of good habits.

Health: Health depends on expert knowledge and assistance, supporting the life goal of a sound mind and body.

Household: A household (including house, yard, car, furnishings, appliances, and occupants) should operate smoothly, at reasonable cost and effort, supporting the life goal of maintaining a work/life balance.

Memetics: Understanding the working of memes should be able to promote a better social fabric, to everyone’s benefit (except for sociopaths). Making this understanding explicit and accessible to a broad audience supports the life goal of having a good influence on others.

Mental Challenges: Meeting mental challenges (e.g., learning a new skill, solving puzzles) is a part of keeping the mind sharp.

Relationships: Happiness comes from having good relationships with relatives, friends, casual acquaintances, and others. Creating and maintaining good relationships supports the life goals of influencing others, maintaining a good work/life balance, and enjoying life.

Work: Until retirement is possible, work is the primary source of income to support all other activities.

2002-01-02: GTD – Monthly reviews

2002-01-01: GTD – Life Goals

Part of the GTD approach involves an annual review, where you examine your projects and goals, making sure everything you’re doing supports achieving your life goals. The short list below guides the establishment of other (project-level) goals; they are guidelines for living in the most general sense. Ideally, everything I do would further the achievement of these life goals.

Sound Mind in a Sound Body: There won’t be much point to my life if I don’t have the mental and physical capacity to perform the actions to maintain and enjoy it.

Influence Others: I hope my family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, readers and the myriad others that they influence have better lives as a result of my actions.

Work/Life: Work is the time/effort that I exchange for the income that enables the rest of my life’s goals to be realized. It is an aspect of living in society, and should be balanced with non-work aspects of life, including the potential to retire from work in part or entirely.

Enjoy: I expect to get some joy out of my life, even while working to achieve my goals.

2002-01-00: GTD

I started trying to apply David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” principles about 15 years ago (I’m writing this in March 2017), with imperfect results. His approach is oriented to executives and managers, but there is plenty of advice on the web to simplify it. I generally think it’s a good approach, and I recommend it. Here’s my take-away:

The key is to have a trusted system (e.g., a paper notebook or a computer application) that holds everything you need to get things done. The main point is: as soon as you find something that needs to be done, if you can’t do it in the next couple of minutes, get it into your trusted system (i.e., an inbox). Then you can stop worrying about trying to remember it, and trust that you’ll be reminded in a timely way. Just this simple principle is a great stress-reducer.

Around this notion, Allen recommends a workflow of five main steps (some refinements are possible; check his book for details, or find web resources):

  1. Collect (Inbox, etc)
  2. Process (actionable? next action?)
  3. Organize (add actions to lists)
  4. Review (daily: actions;  weekly: lists;  monthly/quarterly: projects;  annually: goals)
  5. Do (actions by context, priority, time, energy)

In my attempt to apply the GTD approach, I tried the following:

  1. Documented some life goals
  2. Identified some projects that support those goals
  3. Identified tasks that would move the projects forward (in a. spreadsheet named ProjectsTasks)
  4. Prioritized and tracked accomplishment of tasks in monthly reviews

I haven’t been entirely successful in executing this program, but I still think it’s worthwhile to be aware of the approach, and try to adapt it as much as makes sense. The links above are to some additional posts that expand on aspects of the approach as I was trying to apply it.




2017-03-0: Beyond the Northlands

Beyond the Northlands

Viking Voyages and the Old Norse Sagas (2016)

by Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough (-)


The sagas are an interesting mix of historically-based story-telling and fantasy, hard for a modern reader to understand without knowing their manner of composition and context. The “Vikings” are thoroughly stereotyped in most people’s minds, to the extent that the actual roles of the Norse in history is little known to most of us. Barraclough does an admirable job of putting all of this into a coherent picture.

One of her points is that succeeding versions of saga stories were reinterpreted to reflect the culture in which they were refined. Of course, this interests me because it is exactly what I am doing with Njal’s Saga (Neal’s Story). Her writing is vivid and full of humor. I can recommend this book to anyone with an interest in any aspect of the Vikings or sagas. It might be interesting to send her a copy of Neal’s Story.

I particularly liked the part on the West, primarily Greenland. Coincidentally, just after reading it, the Smithsonian Associate magazine (March 2017) had an article describing the latest research on the nature and fate of the Greenland colonies.



2017-03-07: Castle Knob website

The original CK website was hand-coded with HTML and CSS. It isn’t very good, and hasn’t been updated in quite a while. I intend to replace it with a new website based on WordPress. I will use as much of the original content as possible.


  • select a template
  • create basic pages from existing content
  • add new content
  • ?


2017-03-01: Monthly review

NS: began making map to show relative locations of ranches and certain landmarks that figure in the story, e.g., waterways.

ISTRA: contacted Western Livestock Journal to inquire about archives. They’re at Colorado State University library in Fort Collins. Unfortunately, 1931 is missing. Still might find something interesting. Archivist Linda Meyer sent link to CO newspapers: which looks interesting.

Retirement: decided to move up start of SS benefit.

Finances: started trial of to see if budget, etc functions are worthwhile.

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