Don't be fooled by the title of this blog. I don't discuss herbs very much here. This blog is general-purpose, although I do like ranting about politics and religion.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What else...?

I don't write much here. I love to write, but finding time to do it has become a problem. I was working on a book awhile back, but other concerns have taken precedence and so that, too, has gone by the wayside. It's not that the book is unimportant, far from it, but there's life outside of it. Besides, I sent out fifteen book proposals to publishers, and a little less than half have come back (rejected, of course, but that's expected). So, I am waiting and doing other things at the moment.

One of those things is remodeling a part of downstairs. I'm expanding the TV room into the first floor bathroom, and making the bedroom downstairs into the new bathroom. It will be quite a big bathroom, compared to the upstairs, or main bathroom, and significantly larger than the bathroom it replaces. It will have an actual bathtub! There is a lot to do before I get to that point, however. The interior wall of the old bathroom was damaged, rotted, and though the floor was not rotted, it definitely needed to be replaced. It and the joists holding it up.

Well, the new joists are in place, after repairing the supports for them so they could be hung, and the first sheet of flooring has been cut and laid down. Not attached, yet, however, as there is some plumbing I want to do before closing the floor up and making it necessary to enter the crawlspace from the side of the house, rather than from the TV room. So this work progresses!

On Sunday night I took the time to finally build the little QRP radio (the "Rock Mite") I bought as a kit last year. It turned out to be a lot less scary to build than I thought it was going to be. It was quite enjoyable. It might even work, when I get it finally attached to power and an antenna! Note that it is a Ham radio, and is a transceiver. I'll have to use my Morse code skills to communicate using it, too, as it doesn't have enough power to communicate using voice. It's specially made for Morse, and specially made for low power operation. That's what "QRP" means.

Well, that's it for now!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Martial Arts

I'm sure this has happened to you -- surfing the net and suddenly you remember someone from long ago and wonder about what they're doing now, so you google them. A lot of times you get nothing, but for one reason or another I happened to think about the time after I served my LDS mission when I took a few martial arts courses. One of my instructors was named Brewster and he impressed me so much that I remember him after all these years. So I thought I would see what happened to him.

When I knew him, he was instructing in a dojo associated with the Universal Kenpo Kung-fu Association, so I ran UKKA and Brewster into Google to see what would pop out. About the eighth hit was UKKA all nicely spelled out so I had a look. Bingo! Fred Brewster! And from the internal evidence I could tell it was definitely my old sensei. Had forgotten his first name was Fred. Seems he's still kicking (or since he's a Kenpo fighter, punching), and is working as an instructor in a security training company named SafeHouse. Pop over to and search down the page for Brewster and there he is.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

Micro-ISV by Bob Walsh

I just yesterday picked up a book by Bob Walsh, a software developer / entrepreneur I was aware of, and I have to tell you, that if you want to start an internet business selling your own software product, you gotta buy this book and read it a few times! I'm only one-third the way through and I find it hard to put down. This is unusual, as I read technical books rather in fits and starts (because they're frequently fairly boring while being useful nevertheless), but this book is well written, highly informative, interesting, and so on. Walsh went to the trouble of interviewing a number of successful micro-ISV'ers and including the interviews in the book. And I just have to say it: this book is pure gold. HIGHLY recommended.

Bob also has a new website dedicated to the Micro-ISV'er:

The book can be had on Amazon, of course:

Friday, October 07, 2005

What a Story!

This evening I finished reading my mother-in-law's tale of what it was like to live in Soviet prison camps for three and a half years. This was 20 pages, single-space typed, on what had to have been originally a European paper format for size. The copy of the manuscript I have is on 11" x 17" paper, and the typewritten part is about 10" x 13", and it is thickly typed without paragraph breaks. My coauthor, Rita, typed it from a tape recording of her mother made years ago.

The story is a little hard to follow sometimes because Mom Baltutt did tend to go off on tangents in her tale (as anyone would do while speaking freely telling a story that hadn't been told before), but it's pretty clear what was going on — except for some German words I had never seen before, and some unfamiliar idiomatic expressions. This is one tough story, though. This would have made a good book, if an interviewer had had some time to sit down with Mom Baltutt and elicit more details and background. As it is, I am afraid it is going to delay completion of the book by a few months! Maybe I'm being pessimistic. But whatever I am being, the book cannot go out without this part of the story.

One thing that I found worthy of mention (among many others) is that she ran into a number of Germans held in servitude in the Ural Mountains who had been taken prisoner during World War ONE! And were never released.

Demon Tech

I really love science-fiction. Not so crazy about fantasy, but occasionally some of it seems readable enough. My favorite SF writers are Jerry Pournelle and David Sherman, and interestingly enough, both have taken on fantasy projects that I found very worthwhile. Pournelle started out with Burning City (of course, written with Larry Niven), and Sherman came up with a military-themed series he called DemonTech, based on a very clever notion of different kinds of demons who would respond to desires (and food!) to do the bidding of humans.

At first I thought Sherman's notion was silly, but after finishing the first DemonTech novel, featuring two marines (naturally), I was hooked. Because I delayed getting into the series, I was able to read the first two books (Onslaught and Rally Point), in one sitting, so to speak, and in short order the third (Gulf Run) as soon as it came out. This was an excellent series, with each book getting better and better, and I was really enjoying the characters, too. Oh, was I ever looking forward to book IV! They're in a pretty pickle at the end of Book III, so I was on the edge of my chair, metaphorically speaking, to find out what was going to happen next!

And now, this. I wasn't paying attention, and yes, this news was put on Sherman's website eight freeping months ago, but the publisher has bailed on the series! Oh, yeah, and now I am truly ticked off. I don't suppose I can prevail upon David Sherman to finish the last book and publish it online, at least, but that would be nice. I would even work with him to put the book on the web, for free!

DemonTechers Unite!

I don't know if Sherman's suggestions for helping to resurrect the series would work:
The publisher has told me that if sales pick up, they'll reconsider. If you want to continue reading DemonTech, there are a couple of things you can do: You can write reviews at or other online booksellers, and personally urge friends, relatives, acquaintances, whoever, to try DemonTech.
But I will do what I can, at least.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Book Done? Not Really!

My coauthor just rediscovered something she had forgotten all about, and that was a transcript she had made of her mother's experiences in the same time as the book. I have just started to read it, and of course as a transcript of a audiotape it is in German -- which of course I speak and read fluently, so no problem. I am very happy to find that the manuscript describes Rita's mother's experiences in the Russian prison camp! Woo hoo! That is wonderful!

It also means that I am going to have to find a place to put this in the book. This is a good thing, and I think I know how I am going to do it.

So, back to work!

Friday, September 30, 2005

Positive Reactions!

I wrote in my last post that I had finished the first publishable version of the book (the title is "Yesterday's Sandhills" by the way), and that I had sent a copy to my co-author for her impressions. Well, today I have gotten some encouragement about the book and other good news from a friend of my wife's and from my sister-in-law.

Let me tell you that during the course of working on the book, I put many hours into restructuring and rewording the story, researching historical facts to enhance the story with, and so on, but I was never quite sure I was doing a good enough job. My wife, Val, was of little help, unfortunately, because she is so close to the story, her taste in reading material is quite different from mine, and she was resisting getting very involved anyway because while I have been working on the book she has been spending the past year and half attending training and studying to be certified as a nutritional therapist (which she quite recently attained, so that is cool!). So I wasn't getting a lot of usable feedback from her, except for one notion (also independently suggested by our daughter in law), which was to take a more action-oriented part of the later story and put it at the beginning as a "flash-forward", and that seems to have made a crucial difference.

But I was quite unsure I had done anything useful after all this time and effort, until the wife took my manuscript to show to a lady she works with, Jane. This woman and her husband are actually publishers (though not of this kind of book), so Val had shown her the original manuscript months ago, and Jane had said it was a great story, but that it desperately needed someone who knew what they were doing to rewrite it for publication. After I finished my second rewrite two weeks ago, my wife took one of the copies to Jane to show her. This is part of her report:

"Val, I think this book is great and it is very well written. I had time to read only the prologue, first chapter, last chapter and epilogue ... [she then wrote some comments about some word usage which I will not reproduce here, and ends with:] ... The writing style is excellent and I surely think this is worthy of publication. Your husband has really done a good job and is quite a good editor. There will always be a few grammatical errors and/or questionable punctuation marks, but the important components are the story itself and it being told in an interesting manner."

I can't tell you how much of a relief this was! Someone who works in the publishing field actually thinks that it is worthy of publication! All this time I had been wondering if I was turning a poorly-written but fascinating and compelling story into a grammatically-correct but boring documentary, and now at last a ray of sunshine! I mean, I myself thought I had done a decent job of it, but how objective could I really be? Jane said to Val that we should get the manuscript out to potential publishers as soon as possible, since there is a lot of current interest in stories related to World War 2.

The book still needs some work. I am starting to go through it again to try to "tighten up" the writing, and also correct a few mistakes I found upon re-reading it (how do these things creep in like that?). I also need to add some material to the Epilog (that tells about what happened to everybody in the end), but even better is that a few days ago my sister-in-law, Rita, rediscovered a 20-page typewritten manuscript she had written from her mother's dictation over twenty years ago, which I will be integrating into the book when I get a copy. This manuscript tells about her mother's experience in the Soviet prison camp, and Rita says it is tragic, suspenseful and a "real tear jerker." I am wondering how I can integrate it into the existing manuscript; maybe Tom Clancy style, you know, jump from one point of view to the other. Anyway, there are fun and games ahead, that's for certain.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Book Finished! Mostly...

I haven't yet mentioned this in this blog, but I have been working on my wife's sister's book for the past year and a half, rewriting it from her original manuscript which, despite its very interesting and compelling story, was quite unpublishable.

She originally wrote the book back in 1980. I saw a copy of the manuscript shortly thereafter, but never read the manuscript until many years later. Anyway, she was never able to get a publisher interested in it. The book is about their family's experiences in World War 2 in Germany. Her family was living in the eastern part of Germany, called East Prussia, when the Soviet Army invaded towards the end of the war. They tried to flee (along with hundreds of thousands of others), but weren't quick enough. My wife was 4 years old when her family left their hometown, and they only got about 60 kilometers away when the Russians caught up. They were stuck in a town called Prussian Holland for a few weeks before the Russians got around to taking prisoner nearly all the able-bodied adults left in the town and shipping them eastwards into Siberia and other places. The four sisters (ages 4 to 10) were left in a bombed-out town with no parents or any other adults to look after them for about seven months, and only managed to survive by scavenging for food in bombed out and burned houses and other buildings. After seven months of this, all the remaining Germans in the town were put on a train and shipped west to Berlin, and the area became part of Poland. The four little girls were in orphanages and foster homes in and around Berlin or three years until their mother returned from slavery in the Ural mountains. Like many other Germans taken prisoner by the Russians, their father never returned. Their mother was extremely lucky to have lived through Communist slavery, because most of those went with her from Prussian Holland did not. The whole thing is quite a story.

Anyway, the reason this is exciting is because I have finally finished the first version that I think is in good enough shape to offer to a publisher. I have some tightening up of the writing and some error correcting to do, but now the main task is to make a good list of likely publishers and get ready to send off copies of the manuscript!

I have sent a copy of the reworked manuscript to my sister-in-law, as she has not seen any of my work up to this point.