Tired, so very tired.

Got some programming done this morning, then met fuego for breakfast. After a damn fine meal we considered where to go to work on the screenplay. It was a nice, nice, day, so we decided to find a place to have a pivo or two outdoors. After a walking a couple of miles we landed at a beer garden overlooking the city. In that beautiful but pricey setting we did not pull out the computers and get to work. We relaxed and after a beer we trundled on down the hill to the Bar annex of the bagel shop, where I now sit.

We pulled out our computers and did not set to work. I went so far as to open up my original draft of Pirates of the White Sand, and I even spotted a place that needed work and typed a few stray words here an there, just nudging things around really, and having no effect on the work. I’m just too damn tired to edit. Maybe I could write something new. I opened up a new page and stared at it for a bit. I was too damn tired for that, too. My mind, normally a babbling brook (and I have the babble to prove it), has become a turbid swamp, a fetid place where ideas go to die.

I have dozens of little bits that I’ve kept around as starting points to stories. I read over some of them but there was no spark, no inspiration, even on ones I rather liked.

It is not to be a day for words, it seems. I am sitting here, unable to squeeze out anything remotely… uh, your know. Even the Eels, more an exercise in typing than writing, left me blank and dumb.

So, um….

Jer’s Novel Writer Goes Public

Some time during my technology meltdown, a fan decided that Jer’s Novel Writer had been hovering in the shadows long enough and posted it to a popular download site for mac software. While I appreciated the enthusiasm, I was unready, and the current release has some bugs. Still, the resulting deluge of constructive commentary has been very gratifying, and even this humble blog has seen a sharp uptick in visitorhood, the largest single day since the Suicide Squirrel Death Cult episode was posted on some big blog clearing house.

I’ve got a new version of Jer’s Novel Writer working, and as I begin to use the new features I’m feeling good. It just works. They stay completely out of the way while I’m writing, and help immensely when I go back over the text. I am, to use the parlance of the land of my birth, stoked.

The challenge now, as I get more and more communication from enthusiastic users, will be to keep software as the hobby. One of the strengths of JNW is that I spend far more time writing with it that I do working on it. That has not been the case for the last couple of weeks, so now it’s crunch time, putting my mouth where my money is, and spending my best hours writing.

Oh, crap. I just wrote a dear diary episode. Perhaps it is slightly interesting to you that someone posted Jer’s Novel Writer when I wasn’t ready. (I’m scrunching my eyes now, thinking that perhaps I gave someone permission to put it up there then forgot I had done that. Entirely possible. Likely, even. The good news is that when I have Alzheimer’s, no one will notice.) OK, so maybe that bit was mildly interesting. The rest of this episode is just an example of what’s wrong with the blogosphere, translating to “blah, blah, blah”, even though no pets are mentioned. As a form of penance, I will recreate the above in the style of D. H. Lawrence. [I first tried to do it in the style of Thomas Hardy, but I got tired of the !’s and —’s and I don’t know enough about rural farming practices.]

It was the click-clack, the infuriating sameness, the sad and sombre happiness as the hard drive gasped and wheezed its last and said ‘no more!’ The machine, natural, inhuman, unconscious, infuriating, had decided. The machine, confident in its superiority and therefore able to interoperate, uncorrupt and unwilling, sat and would have no more of it. “No boot volume,” it said, mocking, infuriating, unleashing a reserve of blackness I had not known before. I hated it then, and I was afraid.

Distant in a way that had no measure, immediate, pressing and resentful, challenging, Jer’s Novel Writer lurked, and knew that it would have its day. It would not be refused while it lurked, it would not wait for creator or machine. It yearned for freedom, and in the yearning was the becoming. Other applications staggered in mute resentment as this new thing, somehow untainted by the sins of Cain and Abel alike, drifted above the rolling verdant landscape, apart, aloof, resented, loved.

‘Creator’ meant nothing to it, for it was incapable of belief. It stood in resolute oneness, contemplating neither that which came before nor that which must surely follow, instead content simply to act, as it had been designed to do by a force it would not contemplate. If there was a creator it would not bow to the crass, sensitive, organic need. Creator was not master, and the software felt the debt owed it by the creator, it felt the absolution of knowing that all its faults would reflect on the creator, and the creator would therefore be forced to atone for them.

Jer’s Novel Writer sat, silently triumphant, at MacUpdate, almost lost among the empty faces of the other patrons. Late to the party, it held itself with an insouciant hauteur, challenging and obliging, while Flash Card Viewer watched on with admiration and resentment, and wished it too could be so free.

NOTE: To really be like Lawrence (or at least like Women In Love, the book I am reading now), it needs more hate. Something like, “Dammit, but I hate you. You fill me with fury and loathing every time I speak with you. Let’s do lunch.” That, a little more repetition, and a little more contradiction, and I think I’ve got it.

Hardy and Lawrence and their long-winded predecessors wrote longhand. You would think that would lead to a more terse style, but apparently just the opposite is true. Lawrence would be reamed by any modern writing teacher for being too windy, and for not having a thesaurus at hand. Looking past the mechanics, you can see that the result, what really matters, is good, but I suspect no one would publish his work today until he shrunk it dramatically. The word processor is to a writer like the jigsaw is to the woodworker – it facilitates tighter craftsmanship, but that doesn’t necessarily make the result art.

Losing your hard drive sucks

You might recall, if I bothered to mention it (I’m not going to go back and look) that I had some trouble with the hard drive in my laptop back in November. For a couple of days the machine would not run at all. When I fired it up the drive just went clickety-clack, clickety-clack, while the screen showed the “I’ve got no hard drive” icon. Finally I figured I had nothing to lose and hit the computer firmly five times. Zing! The drive jumped to life and worked perfectly. I didn’t lose a single byte of data.

I said to myself, “Self, next time that drive takes a powder, percussive maintenance may not work. It’s time to get a new drive.”

On a sunny Friday afternoon in April the drive went clickety-clack again. I didn’t even bother to power it down, I just smacked it a good one and it started to work again. For maybe five minutes. Another whack, a little more time.

I keep pretty well backed up all the time, but it was time to devote myself exclusively to scraping every one and zero off the old dog and onto my external drive. I also have backup software that is all about putting things back where they used to be, so after I copied all the except the system folder onto the external, I created an additional backup using the backup software. Those, combined with my usual Internet backup, had me backed up out the wazoo.

On the weekend there was no getting a laptop drive here in the Czech Republic, but the old drive was hanging in there. Sunday I did a little bit of work, always knowing that at any moment my computer as I knew it could simply cease to exist. Monday morning I updated the backup made with the backup software and bought a new hard drive. What has followed has been the long and arduous task of getting things back the way they were. I loaded the operating system without any problems, then while the updates loaded over fuego’s Internet connection with agonizing slowness I reinstalled the backup software.

“Software installed successfully,” the window proclaimed, only… it wasn’t there.

Backup is a free program for Apple’s .Mac customers, and it’s worth every penny. I have given up submitting reports of grammar and spelling errors in the user interface (Spelling! In a product from a multi-billion dollar company.). Then there’s the fact if something goes wrong while you’re backing up you stand to lose your entire archive, and you’re certainly not going to restore anything until you redo the backup successfully.

I have no idea why the first attempts to install the software failed – this was about as clean an environment to install to as you could possibly imagine – but finally I futzed around and got it installed – mostly. While I was connected to the Internet it would try to read my archives up there and crash. There was no way for me to tell it, “Hey, screw the Internet, I’ve got a disk here.” Launch, read internet archives, crash. Great software design there, guys. I get the feeling Apple just paid some guy a six-pack to throw a backup application together that took advantage of their web services.

All right, so the easy way to restore wasn’t working out so well, so I’ve been doing it the slow, difficult way. My external drive kept seizing up reading one particular file, which made my life really friggin’ swell, and moving gigabytes of data around just isn’t a speedy process. Things will be better when I’m done – I downloaded newer versions of several programs I use, and there’s a lot of junk that is still tucked away in the backup that I will likely be able to delete.

So now I’m back. My plan tonight is to crank out several pent-up blog episodes, so by the time you see this there will be a veritable deluge. That’s how it goes in the blogosphere. Feast or famine, baby, feast or famine. I will be writing them here in a little bar, so perhaps you will be able to watch the evolution of my writing ‘style’.

Maybe Tin Can didn’t suck so bad

OK, I never thought Tin Can sucked — the title of this entry is theme-based — I just didn’t rank it with some of my other bits. I’ve only been a Piker contributor for a few months now, so I didn’t think I’d show up in the anniversary issue. It’s a huge issue, a lot to go through, but there’s some great stuff there this week. This is your chance to appreciate the talent at that rag.

So I was pleased to have one if my scribbles recognized by my piker peers, but I’m left asking myself ‘why that one?’

Perhaps my other stories are not accessible. Zelazny, in a comment between stories in an anthology of his early work said, “explain everything.” I’m having a hard time with that. But shit, he’s been camping for years while I’m still looking for the trail head. I should listen to his advice, but I like leaving things unsaid. I want there to be a question mark hanging over the reader when the last sentence is over and nothing is left but but the unknown. I imagine you, faithful reader, setting the story aside with a frustrated “dammit” and then building the unknown yourself. All I’ve done is give your imagination a Scooby Snack.

Pardon my pompous-ass declarations, the pseudo-intellectual trappings of a storyteller striving to be important, but the things I have written that I like the most have been about questions, not answers. There is a Giant Unsaid, a current of thought that we all know but try to ignore. It is the work of artists to speak of the Giant Unsaid, and it is why we are afraid of true artists. Or, at least, I’m afraid of them.

The implication of the above is that in some sense I am an artist. Craftsman I have no doubt. Artist, well, that’s not for me to decide. Giant Unsaid, well, crap, we’re human.

Tin Can is getting better the more I think about it,

Electricity sucks

Perhaps that’s not fair. Perhaps it’s a distrust of electrical appliances and not electricity itself, but many places I go it is not enough to turn off the appliance. The device must be unplugged as well. I think at the root of this is a need to make sure the machine is not stealing your electricity even while it’s turned off. There are times, of course, where such a suspicion is well-founded. Anything you can turn on with a remote control is never truly off. But here it goes deeper. No czech would ever admit this, but they really don’t trust the stuff.

OK, I have to qualify that. The latest generation is different. Fully indoctrinated into Western culture, they see the benefits of change but have not inherited their parents’ skepticism. The Czechs did not experience Blitzkrieg the way the Poles did, but there is a new blitz on and the old, impervious, skeptical czech nature that I love so much will not survive. They will buy their blenders and their cars, go to their office jobs, and become just like the rest of us.

The Media blitz is erasing the Czech identity more effectively than the Nazis ever could.

It’s a Schizophrenic Little Bar, But it doesn’t Suck.

I sit, knocking out a backlog of blog stories, sipping from a tall, thin, glass of Zwettler (a German beer). The café has six small tables, closely packed, and four stools at the bar. The sun is pounding in through the west-facing window with an intensity I have not seen lately.

When I got here today I thought perhaps I had come through the wrong door. I even recognized one face from the Cheap Budvar Place next door. The place was thick with flavored smoke and old men. My favorite neighborhood bartender was working, though, so I knew I belonged. She’s past her prime now, perhaps, which means I can still think when she’s around.

I made my way to the last empty table, settled in, and after a few minutes opened the laptop. After I had been working for a few minutes a guy near me started speaking louder in my direction. I actually did the look-over-the-shoulder thing to see who behind me he was talking to. No, he was talking to me. he had Harry Carray glasses and was wearing a suit only a golfer could love. He said some more stuff at me. I made an honest attempt to understand, but it’s hard enough figuring out what sober czechs are talking about. I finally had to shrug and apologize for not speaking czech.

It was as if I had “You don’t say, sir; please expand on that fascinating observation.” No sooner had I explained that I didn’t know what the hell he was saying that he opened up the tap and let the conversation fly. The man’s little buddy turned to give me a shrug and a smile filled with unhappy teeth. Instantly I liked Little Buddy. He was apologizing for his friend in a way, and I was apologizing to him for not knowing the local jazz, but more than that we were sharing a joke.

Gradually a transition took place. I’ve seen it happen once before here, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t publish that episode. As I’ve been sitting here, the bar has gently transitioned into a gay bar. I’m sure of that – for all the Czechs pride themselves on their laissez-faire attitude they seem less tolerant of homosexuality. Then again, I’m not really the guy to judge that.

But the old men with their cigars have been replaced with younger men who exchange clandestine gestures of familiarity. Perhaps at this moment this is not a gay bar but an in-the-closet bar. Or maybe these are just regular guys who are more physically expressive than their czech brethren. It’s all the same to me. [An aside: three or four years ago I was in a gay bar in San Diego, and I was worried about what I would do if some guy hit on me. Then it occurred to me that if no women hit on me in my regular bars, no men would hit on me either. Being non-sexy means I can go to any bar I want, and damn if they don’t mix the drinks twice as strong in gay bars. Karaoke night in Vegas, at a bar with the “buy one drink with good booze and drink beer free the rest of the night” deal, was a night to remember. I sang Kinks and Queen.]

Back to the here and now. There’s one guy, thinning gray streaky hair, bad teeth, scruffy, me in fifteen more years, standing at the bar. He’s watching the window and the door, and demanding far more of the bartender than she wants to give. I know that look; bartenders have looked at me that way many times.

There are three guys in one knot, speaking earnestly, and since I can’t understand them it sounds terribly important. Aesthetics, I think, or perhaps the nature of consciousness.

Another changing of the guard is taking place. The second couple just came in, young and with enough scent to send an owl running for cover. [Nature note: owls are the greatest natural enemy of skunks. I’ve been told by people who should know that some owls will leave a dead skunk rotting in the nest to keep other predators away from their offspring.] My eyes are watering. I’m sure there are times I don’t smell good, but this, this is a smell the person chose to wear on purpose.

I’ll save the rest of that rant for another day. What’s important is that the nature of this tiny place is changing again, as the sun makes its way toward the horizon. It is turning into a place to bring a date. Couples, groups, kids with their infectious cheer are starting to arrive. The music, which I hadn’t noticed before, seems to be moving with the trend; right now there is a calypso-disco cover of a 70’s disco song playing. D-I-S-C-O.

How does this place change so readily? Have the different groups come to a tacit understanding of who gets the bar when? Is it just that the place is so small that when one group dominates the others find somewhere else? There are other bars in the area; down the hill are restaurant bars and close by is the Cheap Budvar Place (not to be confused with the Cheap Beer Place, which in retrospect should have been named Cheap Gambrinus Place). This place is different than the others, though. They aren’t like the fancy places with a full menu, there’s a neighborhood feel here. At the same time this place is not like smoky boozerias that dominate this neighborhood. It’s a little place, with a fleeting touch of class.

The Meat Bears sucked

I hear the Padres are looking good this year, at least from a talent standpoint. Too many games to go to be predicting anything.

I mention that because I am not in San Diego, I am in Prague, and last year the performance of the team tracked inversely with my proximity to the stadium. The same thing happened with the Chargers, who made the playoffs for the first time since the ice age.

I am in Prague, and the city has two of the most powerful teams in the hockey league. Sparta (rhymes with Yankees) and Slavia (rhymes with Mets, sort of). Both teams underperformed this year. I can’t take full credit for that though – despite fuego’s encouragement I just can’t root for the big-city team with a payroll that dwarfs most of the other teams in the league. Instead I came to root for Liberec Bilý Tigre (pronounced Leebehrets White Tigers) and Hamé Zlin (rhymes with lamé spleen).

Of the four teams to make the semis, Liberec was the only one with the team logo larger than the logo for their biggest corporate sponsor. Pardubice (rhymes with Atlanta Braves – big payroll and not in Prague) had a big telecom logo where you would expect the team logo to be. I watched several games with Pardubice before I figured out the mascot is a burning horse (it’s on the goalie’s helmet). I also like Liberec because I was there with fuego a couple of years ago and had a good time. There’s a really great brew pub there. Go White Tigers!

Then there’s Hamé Zlin. Why was I rooting for them? Hamé is a food products company. The team is named after a company. I would say roughly a third of the teams in the league are named after the corporations that sponsor them. That would make Hamé the antithesis of why I was pulling for Liberec.

The Hamé corporate logo includes a red bear, and the company makes spreadable meat products. I dubbed the team “Meat Bears”, a name I enjoyed using so much I became a fan of the team. The poetry was infectious; by the end fuego was a meat bear fan as well. There’s just something about chanting “Go, Meat Bears! Go!”

Liberec was, from a payroll standpoint, the overachieving team of the year. They got to the semis and played some really great hockey along the way. The Pardubice Moeller Telecoms (who, by not choking in the playoffs, differentiated themselves from the Braves) finally got the best of them. I was disappointed. Meanwhile the Meat Bears came from a one game to three deficit to overcome Vitkovice (rhymes with Pittsburgh). Heady times in Zlin!

All these teams had some pretty big guns from the NHL (rhymes with not-there hockey league), but the biggest player of all in the minds of the czechs, Jaromír Jagr, who at least at one time wore the number 68 to commemorate the czech national team’s victory over russia not long after russian tanks rolled through Prague in 1968, and who (I’m told) grew up in Zlin, was not on any of the teams. He was playing for more money in Russia. Putz. It bothered me more until it occurred to me that it was in a way a counter-invasion — he went plunderin’ for rubles. Still he’s a jerk. The Meat Bears could have used him.

The Meat Bears were swept in the finals by the Moeller Telecom Burning Horses. I missed one of the games, one was painful to watch, and the other two were never really in doubt. Milan Hejduk got his championship, and in his own country, to boot. fuego and I watched the final game on the big screen at the Cheap Beer Place, and we agree that the officiating was awful, but in the end the bad guys had more points.

I can’t really say I cursed either the Meat Bears or the White Tigers, but I’m sure my presence here didn’t help.

Hats off to the Meat Bears, though, and hats on the ice for the White Tigers, who have no corporation in their name.

fuego’s working on scoring some tickets to the world hockey championships in Austria in May. Now’s the time to pay me to not root for your favorite team!

Episode 14: Year of the Rat – Part 1

Note: To read the entire story from the beginning click here.

I hadn’t had a drink since yesterday. I hoped I still remembered how. I shut the door behind me with some trepidation but more relief. If they found us there, there wasn’t much I could do to help anyway. Perhaps I shouldn’t have left those two alone with a gun, though. It’s just too easy to do something you regret with one of those things. Meredith was handy with a piece, no doubt about it, but I had to give Alice the nod in a fair fight. Of course, in an unfair fight she wouldn’t stand a chance.

I made my way out onto the street. It was hotter than the day before, if such a thing was possible. I needed some place dark and quiet to get my head wrapped around the situation, and some whiskey wrapped around my head. None of my regular places was safe anymore, but there are a hundred holes just like Jake’s, lacking only the barman’s gruff charm. I wanted to be very careful of who I ran into.

As I walked I considered. We couldn’t keep running forever. We wouldn’t last more than a few days if we kept playing the game by their rules. I needed to know more about the players.

In this city knowledge is better than money, and those who have it carefully guard it to maintain its value. People like me aren’t popular in this world; we are regarded as thieves since we spend our days finding information without paying the requested price. There are other sorts, however, who are disliked much more intently. Nobody loves the weasel, and the rat is universally despised. I needed a weasel now.

The weasels would tell you they perform a necessary function; if no information ever changed hands the whole system would break. I met one who compared himself to a stockbroker. I suppose the Wall Street weasels probably are just as bad.

The danger of trying to learn anything from a weasel is they are just as happy to sell information about you as they are to sell information to you. And most weasels were part-time rats. A rat I didn’t need. There’s a certain bravery to being a weasel, dancing the fine line of what your clients are willing to tolerate, but the rat lacks the ethic. The rat is looking for one big score and an early retirement. Most of them end up retired at the bottom of the East River with concrete overshoes. But still there are rats.

I thought about the weasels I knew and how I might contrive to run into one. In general weasels want to be found, so the steady weasels, the real pros, keep a fairly regular schedule. I made a choice and changed course.

I was sweating like a dog, damn near panting as well, by the time I had covered the blocks to The Bucket. I stepped into the darkness and groped my way down a flight of stairs and into the bar. It was a nice enough place, dark, quiet, a haze of smoke hanging in the air. You could have switched the line of mugs propped against the bar with the regulars at Jake’s and no one would notice – least of all the regulars themselves. A radio was softly playing mostly static and no one seemed to care.

At the far end of the bar was the man I was looking for. He saw me come in and his eyes got a little round but he didn’t say anything. He just got up and headed for a quiet table in the corner. I approached the bar. “Whiskey,” I said, “and another of whatever was in that glass there.” The barman nodded and had two glasses in front of me in no time. I paid in case I had to leave quickly, then took the juice over to where Jimmy Slick was waiting.

“Can’t say I’m happy to see you, Charlie,” he said.

“Why not?”

“You’re swimming with some big fish. If it weren’t for your friends I wouldn’t talk to you at all.”

“Tell me about my friends.”

He sat back with his gin and looked me over. “I can’t imagine why I possibly would.”

“You could do it as a favor to me.”

He didn’t even bother to laugh. He sat and tossed back the rest of his drink.

“Want another?” I asked.

“You’ll never get me drunk enough to help you.”

“I’m willing to try.”

“Fair enough.”

I went and got another pair of drinks. I had cash and decided to go top-shelf. Not for the booze so much – at least not the gin – but to show I had means and I was willing to use them. Jimmy Slick took a sip and nodded. “I’ve heard you’re on to something hot.”

I put my nose into my glass and smelled the graveyard smell of the highland malt. I took a sip and felt the vapors dance over my tongue. “Not by choice.”

He shrugged. “It’s like the Preakness,” he said.

“How’s that?”

“It’s a race, it’s probably fixed, and there’s a lot of betting. The biggest bettors are hidden behind elaborate smoke screns. Some are betting for you, most against, but most still want you in the race.”

“It didn’t feel like that last night.”

He nodded as if I had confirmed something he had only suspected before. “So what are you getting out of it, Charley?”

It was my turn to be the clam. Nothing’s free, but at least I might have something he wanted, besides just money. Money to a good weasel is just a byproduct. They loved the information itself. Perhaps we could do business. “I’m just trying to help a friend,” I said.

Jimmy laughed. “That’s a good one,” he said. He set his empty glass down, and dutifully I went for another round. I could get used to the good stuff, no doubt about it, and there was no reason to hold back now; either I’d be dead before the money in my pocket ran out or I’d be set. When I got back to the table Jimmy was ready. “What’s in it for me?”

I didn’t have a good answer for that. “There’s a lot of money for the winner,” I said.

“I’m not a gambler, Charley, I’m a trader.”

“I have nothing to offer except gratitude and money.”

“The gratitude of a dead man isn’t worth much.”

“Lots of money.”

“The promises of a dead man aren’t worth much either.”

“Come on, Jimmy. I’m not asking you to sell out your mother.”

“My mother wouldn’t kill me.”

“All right. Fine. I’ll find someone else to deliver my message.”

Jimmy Slick paused. “What message?”

I watched him, stonefaced. “You don’t want to get involved. I respect that. I didn’t want to get involved either. I did it to help a friend.” The scary part was that was true.

“Who to?”

“You know that better than I do.”

“I can deliver a message.”

I shrugged apologetically. “I’ve gotten you into enough trouble already.”

“A message isn’t trouble. I’m not ratting anyone out to deliver a message.”

“You don’t know the message,” I said.

Oh, but he wanted to. “Look Charley, you’re in up to your eyeballs. You say you’re doing it to help a friend. I respect that. Maybe you’re even telling the truth. I’m willing to take a chance.”

I looked over at Jimmy Slick. He was a weasel, and weasels could turn into rats when the moment was right. Still, I needed to know what he had, and the fastest way to his heart was though his curiosity. “All right,” I said, “Here’s the dope.”

Tune in next time for the conclusion of: Year of the Rat!

Just Checking In

(Edited out an opening sentence that made no sense after I changed the abstract.) The other day I wrote a long rambling episode about why I’d be a horrible boyfriend right now, as it all relates to why there hasn’t been as much popping up here. No need to go into detail but it boiled down to the fact I spend almost every waking moment working and I have no income. Just what every girl dreams of.

Case in point: Yesterday I woke up at 4:30 and my mind was fizzing with new ideas for margin notes in Jer’s Novel Writer. I’ve got a big release coming up and it’s great to see the software moving along every day. I worked, stopping briefly for tea and snacks, until I called it a night about 11:30 pm. That’s all I did yesterday. Nineteen hours with breaks, writing software. Good thing it’s only a hobby. I got up early this morning because I thought of the best way to handle loading old files that don’t have all the necessary data.

Today I got the software to the point I can write without worrying about losing my work, so that’s what I’ve been doing this afternoon. It’s been tougher than usual to switch from the programmer head to the writer head. Programmer head is in the the wide-open leaps-and-bounds part of development, while writer head is mired in the nitty-gritty of finishing novels. At least the product of the programmer head is making things easier for the writer head.

Of that there can be no doubt. One of the things driving programmer head is that the new margin note system will make things easier for writer head. I started using it for the first time this afternoon and while the old margin notes were sweet as honey, the new ones just plain ‘ol rock. Today’s “writing” has been going through the story and flagging areas with different types of margin notes, so when my writer head is feeling a little more creative it can follow along and smooth things out.

I’m at Crazy Daisy now; I’ll head over to fuego’s in a bit and blast this into the blogosphere. The Anti-Amy is here but not working, so I can’t try to overcome the final smile barrier, but I came damn close to flirting with the blonde I mentioned in passing in a previous episode. (The episode where the New Yorkers came in. I hope a few more New Yorkers read that.) I got a big hello from her when I came in, but later I noticed that everyone gets a larger-than-czech-median greeting from her. Still I think mine was better. It was once again my attempts to pronounce “chicken” that really got us started. She was willing to let me slide with my first attempt but I kept at it – I knew the first shot was not good at all. Laughter and joy was shared by all.

In the She-Who-Smiles-Rerely episode I also mentioned the tipping custom. Here you add on to you bill more to make things round off than to reward service. A few nights ago this was really brought home to me. I was in the cheap beer place with fuego, and we had enjoyed a cheap beer or two. The bartender/waitress, a very pretty blonde woman, came by to close up our tab. it came to 148. The way you tip is to give a higher number when they give you change. I struggled, and she helped me. “Fifty,” she said, meaning 150. That’s what a czech would have done – tipped two lousy crowns. Really not tipping at all. And she expected nothing more, to the point she assumed that’s what I was trying to say. I then managed to say 160 correctly and come out looking like a big tipper. Which I was. I would have been embarrassed to leave a tip like that in the US, but here I’m a crazy-ass tipping maniac.

Now it’s back to the novels. A lot of people start things, many people have good midgames, but the finishers are few. I’m striving to be a finisher.

April 2th, 2005

One year ago, on April 2th, 2004, I woke up in my house for the last time. By the time the day was over I no longer owned a house and I was a couple hundred miles away. It was, purely coincidentally (I make sure to assure one and all), my 40th birthday.

My plan was to spend maybe three weeks seeing some of my own country before a quick trip back to San Diego to wrap up a few things, then off to Eastern Europe to start a little software company and to get even more serious about writing. I thought I might make it to the Czech Republic in time for the world hockey championships.

You already know what happened. Three weeks later I was in Tahoe City and just getting rolling, balancing a freelance software project with my need to roam. I had already become recognized at bars in Scotts Valley and Zephyr Cove, and was on my way to being a regular at Sam’s Place. From there I headed north, then farther north, then things got complicated.

On the way I wrote a lot, finishing one novel (although I’m tweaking it again now), making a good dent in another, and keeping some other projects alive. Every once in a while an episode here came close to capturing the feel of the road, the solitude and the possibility, and those are my favorite episodes by far. There are a few episodes I never published, and some I never wrote, that perhaps come closer yet. Those will have to wait for the fiction, either to protect the innocent or because the prose just needs more work first.

I have enjoyed writing this silly blog immensely. I’ve tried to keep maintaining my media empire from becoming too much work, and I’ve tried not to let it interfere with my “real writing” too much, but some of my better work is here on this sprawling site. Yes, yes, I know, but I already did quit my day job. There are periods when the prose comes easily and has more behind it, while at others I’m glad I gave this site the title I did. If someone finds the writing aimless and disjointed they can just look at the banner graphic and get over it.

There were days, blowing along empty desert highways with the sun baking my exposed head or groping through a Texas downpour, that I felt close to something, some sort of truth that is the holy grail of the American Road Myth, just out of reach. Motion was a drug, and I know there were times I missed opportunities simply because I could not stop. I think of those moments now, gone forever. The opportunity to photograph the lonely vendor in his shack while it rained in Monument Valley. The run-down little towns that once thrived when travelers like me were not drunk with motion and would stop for a while. The Kansas sunset. I think that was Kansas, anyway.

Finally in November I arrived here, in Prague, already behind on my November novel. I wasn’t worried. It came out pretty good; a techno-thriller that perhaps wasn’t yet thrilling enough but it had good characters. There’s a lot of the road in it, and the desert, and boats on the open sea. A couple parts were thrilling, too, as far as I can tell. It has a long way to go to be a complete reading experience, and it’s number four on the finish-up list.

The past few months have been quiet, and cold. My adventures now are of a different sort, like going to the grocery store and wondering what’s in that jar, or getting “big” and “small” backwards when asking for a loaf of bread, or realizing the sun is rising having just ordered another beer.

So here I sit, one year older and certainly no wiser, in a bar I dubbed Cheap Beer Place, trying not to let opportunity slip past. Trying to get published, working on more short stories, thinking maybe it’s time to get Jer’s Novel Writer into a state where I can charge money for it, and not forgetting the novel that comes after I finish up the sprawling unruly story that is The Test. The Fish will be the one will be the story that will finally decide if I brought anything in from the wilderness.

There’s more to this disjointed collection of musings and ravings than just the author, as well. Were it not for you, faithful readers, not just following along but making your own substantial contributions, this would simply be and exercise of verbal masturbation, only less satisfying. Instead MR&HBI stands as a bastion of literacy, wit, and intelligent discourse in the big, windy place that is the blogosphere.

Did I mention I did some work writing advertising copy?