Archive | June, 2020

Why You Should Write In Code

30 Jun

Lie to me and tell me you never wanted to be a secret agent. If nothing else, you wanted to be able to keep your secrets… Well, secret! One of the reasons I had trouble keeping a diary was that I was afraid someone would read it! (There’s some embarrassing things I’d like to keep private.)

Now I tried different secret code systems over the years, but none stuck. At 10 years old, I wrote one letter ahead (A became Z, B became A, and so on). Then as a teen, I kept the same system but added vowels in-between. At 24, I learned the Korean alphabet and could write English in it. At 29, I learned Hebrew letters and tried the same thing.

The reason none of them ever stuck was because I had to do too much “code switching.” This is the problem of going from one language to another. I remember working with a lot of people from Mumbai and they jumped between Hindi and English easily… Because they had to in daily life. Most Indians are tri-lingual (add native language) because they use all those languages daily. I tried telling my Korean students something in Korean and I had to repeat it twice… Because they were used to me speaking English – they didn’t expect me to speak Korean.

So at age 38, I discovered Quikscript, and I absolutely love it. It was developed by a man named Kingston Reed to compete in a contest that the playwright George Bernard Shaw held after his death. You see, Shaw wrote longhand, and kept cursing how much English doesn’t write like English sounds. Because it doesn’t – it’s a Latin alphabet. Shaw learned shorthand, but he still didn’t like it. So in his will, he asked for somewhat to come up with a better alphabet for English. Reed won and it was called Shavian.

Ten years later, Reed saw some serious problems with his alphabet and wanted to correct them. So he created Quikscript. Now this alphabet flows better – you don’t have to lift up the pen to cross i’s and dot t’s. You write your words like they sound… Not as they are spelled. So once I learned the characters, it was very easy to write!

Now, it does have its flaws. For example, code switching still is a problem, but only when you want to read what you wrote. (It gets easier the longer you use it.) So if you use it to take notes in a class or meeting, it’s a little difficult to be useful. I tried writing stories in it… I gave up, because it took so long to decode what I wrote!

Then I learned the true joy of Quikscript. You don’t use it for notes you need, just the notes you DON’T need. I’ve been in so many meetings that I couldn’t care less about, but I need to look like I’m paying attention. Here’s where writing coded notes comes in handy. I can write about how my co-workers look, or song lyrics, or story ideas and never have to worry that someone needs those notes… I look diligent and good off at the same time!

I also use it for my diary, full of my dark, secret thoughts, and I occasionally look back and read them. I’ve been able to keep that journal for seven years… The secret code works!

So I thoroughly recommend it, even for your fewer handwriting needs in the modern era. But what codes did you use as a kid? Share them in the comments section below. Don’t worry – I won’t give away your secret decoder ring.

My Bicycle vs. Arizona Summer

29 Jun


Meet the Beast. It hasn’t earned its name yet, so for now, let’s call it the Beast. I ride the Beast because some #&#^$&*@ stole my nice red Specialized mountain bike from my own backyard! That beautiful bike that I bought in Connecticut, rode through a fierce New England summer and winter, and lovingly shipped back home to Arizona when my contract was through. Then in the Spring of 2019, some… person of ill repute took it and probably sold it for a dime bag; one-thirtieth of what it was worth.

So I bought a cheap black Roadmaster at a nearby liquidation store. It was $50; it wasn’t great, but it was new, and it worked! All was fine until one day in June 2019 I was riding home and I went down a ramp. The front brakes didn’t work. I drove shoulder-first into the pavement, broke my clavicle, and because I didn’t have insurance, let it heal on its own.

Arizona Summer wins!


Four months later, my clavicle is healed without complications and I decide that it’s time to get back on the bike. The only problem is that I thought only the front tire was broken. So I get a new tire, put it on, problem solved, right? WRONG – front deraileur is bent so it only works in one set of gears, can only shift between two or three gears even without it, and I have to keep adjusting the handlebars.

After a month of trying to live with this, I say to myself, “You gotta get a new bike, man.” However, the wife won’t hear “Let’s pay $150-200 for a decent used bike.”

  • She says, “Why don’t you repair the bike you got?”
  • Problem? Repairs will run $50-70, if lucky, and will be worth more than the bike is.
  • Solution? Hit the Goodwill stores around me and see what they got.

I see a couple good bike, but they need serious repairs before they’ll function like they should. As a Scottish-American Jew, I’m doubly-cheap, and will not accept massive repairs that I can’t do myself. Also, I can’t do more repairs than change the tire. So I’m cheap AND mechanically inept. 🙂 So I happen to go around the back of a Goodwill and find a whole pile of stuff the Goodwill guy hasn’t brought into the store, including the Beast. So I just got the bike, replaced the tire, changed out the seat, and BOOM! I have a working bicycle again!

You win!


Summer 2020 comes around, and with my kids stuck home doing school from home, they want to exercise. Except, I hadn’t replaced my son’s intertube in a while (reason: see above), so guess who gets to use my bicycle? Wouldn’t you know it? Intertube blows out.

Okay, not a problem, get a new intertube, get one for my son’s bike so that he can use his own bike for a while, and we’re golden, right? Heh. First day we replace my bike’s tube–flat again. Luckily, I had a thorn-resistant spare, but this time figured out the wheel was cutting into the actual tube input (sorry, don’t know the actual term). So we taped that up, no problem. While we’re at it, fixed Asher’s bike tire.

He goes on my bike again–BOOM! Same damn tire goes flat. Goes on his bike–BOOM! Both tires go flat. Thankfully, he wasn’t far from home, but walking it home half a mile in 100 degree heat, not fun.

Arizona Summer WINS!


We finally took our bikes to a new repair shop, the folks were very friendly, and we were fix my bike easy. (Tires inflated fine–not sure what happened.) My son’s bike is still in the shop because the supply chains messed up and there are no intertubes in that bike’s size.

So as brutal as Arizona Summers are, it’s not the 100 to 120 degree that’s gonna get you, it’s improper bicycle repair. 🙂

So what’s your worst bicycle disaster story? This is not mine (oh, not by a long shot), but let’s see if you can beat it. Put yours in the comment section below. Keep riding.

You say you want a revolution?

28 Jun

When I was bored with my current library, I decided to turn to the authors in The Royal Manticoran Navy and found this interesting story from Leo Champion, an indie author from Australia.

Our hero is a kid named Jake Linder, who leaves an overly regulated, rich, and boring Earth to seek his fortune in the stars. Instead, he gets hijacked by pirates and sold into slavery on the backwater world of Verana. One day, as he’s on a suicidal work detail, he decides he’s had enough to blindly following orders, and fights to live as a free man.

The next thing he knows, he’s started the Veranian Revolution, an entire planet rising against an empire. Jake becomes not just a soldier but a hero. He gets caught up in a galaxy-spanning conspiracy. He finds the love of his life, and lose her! It’s a wild, interesting ride!

Champion does a great job of balancing two main plotlines and a couple minor ones, so that you get Jake’s perspective on the front lines (with some really good, gritty but not depressing war realism), Damien’s perspective as the leader of the independence movement (so you get the cool diplomacy and problems of political struggle), and you get the minor plotlines that cover conspiracies, backstabs, space combat, and all the things that you want in a space opera.

This book happens to hit me where I’m itching because of the other book I’m reading…

That’s right, I’m double-fisting my books reading two books at the same time. I’m a madman! 🙂 What happened is that my son is really into Hamilton: The Musical. (Which is like saying a fish is really into water.) So when I went over to a friend’s house and he had it on his bookshelf, I asked to borrow it. Really amazing detail about the American Revolution, our early government, and the political backstabbing and nasty press that reminds me that plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. (That means I’m pretentious.)

So if you’re into Sci-fi, especially Military Sci-fi, check out Leo Champion and his other works! If you’re into American History, check out Ron Chernow… although he doesn’t need as much press, so go to Leo’s page first! 🙂

Now what do you think? What’s the biggest obstacle to revolutionary success? Write a comment below!

Furries… in… Space!

28 Jun

This is why you keep those old gaming books on your bookshelf. After a year and a half of my son (12 going on 13) only wanting to play Dungeons and Dragons every blessed weekend, I finally got a break. The #$@& shutdown pushed our weekly dungeon crawl online. With his school online, the last thing my boy wanted to do after eight hours of Zoom classes was four more hours of Zoom gaming.

So with me being burnout of D&D, and his sister (9 going on 10) having about an hour limit before getting bored with his campaign, my boy was at an impasse. I suggested, “What about this old game I could never get anybody to play?”

Once you get past the fact that it’s furries in space (no really, it’s “anthropomorphics”), it’s a really neat universe. It’s based on an 80’s comic book called Albedo. You play an officer in sci-fi military, fighting Nazi rabbits (not making this up), but despite that, the action is good and really deadly for both sides. This war pulls no punches and your players are right in the middle of it.

What makes this game perfect for small gaming groups is that you’re not only an officer, but you command four “supporting characters.” So your fireteam lives and dies by your actions, and if one or two dies, your player feels the grief of characters dying without slowing down the plot to make a new character.

There’s a learning curve to figuring out the system (true with any new system), and there are some aspects of the game that STILL aren’t clear, but I’ve played four sessions with my kids and they have a great time. Of course, my son is playing a murder hobo and my daughter is only interesting in promotion (and not developing her skills to be able to perform her job), but they’re happy!

If you want to try this out, the publisher put out the gaming engine (sans furries) as open source and called it Magenta. So if you weren’t lucky enough to win this in a gaming store contest, you can read it here:

Meanwhile, I’ll keep you posted on my kids’ new combat engineer company as they fight their way across another planet.

Join the Union!

26 Jun

As many have learned over time, if you don’t have a fan club, start your own! So I’m starting the Interstellar Merchant Marine Union! (Yes, that’s going to appear in a future story.)

No one’s asking you to actually ship out on a container ship, but it’s a clever name for readers who want to follow my work. If you sign up, you’ll get exclusive content, first access to new material, and even a chance to appear in a future story!

So sign up today and see the worlds!

Click Here:

Opening a New Chapter

25 Jun

Twenty-four years ago, I finished my first novel. It was over 500 pages, single-spaced, and… to this day, I’m the only one’s who’s ever read it. Since then, I’ve self-published eight novels, and expanded that list of readers to… oh, probably can be measured on two hands.

So I’m determined to change that. I’m reaching out to you, my potential readers, to finally fix that problem. I’ve revising some of my old work, I’ve got two novels that I’ve never published, and some more down the pipeline. Take the journey with me through worlds you’ve never explored, through characters you could never imagine, and simply enjoy the universes I show you. It’s gonna be a wild ride.

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