Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It pays to increase your word power

Two neologisms, or newly coined words, I just encountered for the first time today:

1. Sexile. To banish your roomie from your dorm room while you make whoopee. The old practice was just banned at Tufts University. Yeah, sure.

2. Crowdsourcing. Having a large group of people work independently on a single task rather than one or two individuals. Sometimes used for nefarious purposes, as when a bunch of Chinese put their heads together to come up with a translation of Dan Brown's new potboiler. That's just piracy, dammit. (I never thought I'd be defending the likes of Dan Brown.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The art of perp whispering

Seven things a cop should never say to anyone, according to George J. Thompson:








This morning I dropped by Police Link, a website devoted to law enforcement that's often valuable for its insights into cop thinking as well as tools and operations -- things that a mystery writer whose central character is a rural county sheriff can appreciate.

Today's feature on the site is by a "people whisperer" who specializes in the language with which cops ideally ought to approach subjects. George J. Thompson calls it "verbal judo," and keeps a website here.

For instance, saying No. 7, "Come here!", "you have just warned the subject that he is in trouble. 'Come here' means to you, 'Over here, you are under my authority.' But to the subject it means, 'Go away-quickly!' The words are not tactical for they have provided a warning and possibly precipitated a chase that would not have been necessary had you, instead, walked casually in his direction and once close said, 'Excuse me. Could I chat with [you] momentarily?' Notice this question is polite, professional, and calm."

Hmmm. Sounds like a good idea to me, but I just can't conceive of a cop using the word "chat." Maybe "Could we talk a moment?" might work better. Or "A word, sir?" as they might say in Britain.

Today's Police Link also contains a piece on "What Not to Say to a Cop." It'll make you laugh.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ken Burns' latest

Did you happen to catch the first episode of Ken Burns' latest documentary epic, "The National Parks: America's Best Idea," last night? If so, did you feel vaguely disappointed?

Maybe it's because Burns' series on the Civil War and baseball were so very good, but this new one just didn't thrill and move me the way those did. In fact, from time to time I began to nod off.

Seems to me there were just too many sentimental references to the spirituality of nature accompanied by wide-angle shots of the same lordly peaks and majestic waterfalls. Even watching the opener on a hi-definition widescreen TV didn't make up for the feeling of constant repetition. How many times do we need to see a bubbling fumarole in Yellowstone to get the point?

This being a Ken Burns production, however, there also was a lot of good stuff, especially the passages about that endearing nutball John Muir on Yosemite and the pointed evidence about the dangers of uncontrolled private enterprise on public lands. There was enough of that to keep me eager to see the second episode next Sunday. [Whoops. I mean tonight.]

I just hope it doesn't again feel like a 60-minute show stretched into two hours.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tomorrow. is, National' Punctuation; Day?

See here.

For sale: 1959 Cessna 150

Own a piece of literary history, aviation division: the 1959 Cessna 150 that was used to re-enact Cal Rodgers' historic 1911 flight from New York to California for my 1997 book Flight of the Gin Fizz: Midlife at 4,500 Feet.

Yes, old N5859E is on the block, and since her availability has to be advertised, that might as well start here.

For fifteen years and more than 1,300 logged hours, this little two-seater served me well, lifting me away from groundbound cares into the joyous freedom of the skies over Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Last month, as regular readers of this blog know, my ticker missed a few tocks and seized up like an aero engine run dry. That required a heavy-duty hospital overhaul involving considerable rearrangement of piping.

Since the FAA looks askance at cardiac cases in the cockpit, it's time for me to hang up the helmet, pass the airplane on to a new owner, and find pursuits closer to earth.

Old N5859E has been lovingly maintained all her 50 years of service. She's in great shape. For prospective buyers, her particulars, in proper airplane-speak:

FOR SALE: 1959 Cessna 150. TTAF 5830, TSMOH 993. Panel: Narco COM IIB, Narco NAV 12, RT459 Mode C transponder, Flybuddy Loran, clock, EGT. Engine: Spin-on oil filter, Tanis heater, carb overhauled 2008, last compressions 78-73-76-76. Cockpit: Four-point harnesses. Misc: Trimble Flightmate GPS with yoke mount, Bruce's canopy cover. All logs intact. Hangared since refurbishment in 1994. Repainted 1999. Next annual October 2010. $16,000. Based at 5K6 Westosha (Wilmot, WI). E-mail

Of course I'll throw in an inscribed copy of Flight of the Gin Fizz.

NOVEMBER 16: Old N5859E has been sold to a pilot in North Andover, Massachusetts. More on this later.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Garrison Keillor's stroke

Last week I groused about people who grab you by the lapel and, without asking, unload their health woes all over your shirt front. I still feel that way, but must modify the declaration: It depends on who's doing the unloading.

Garrison Keillor, that "nice 67 y.o. male" (as the E.R. doctor wrote) tells about his recent stroke and hospitalization here. Now that's the way to write about a life-changing event: a little wry exaggeration and a lot of self-abnegating humor, and ending with a bit of a political point. This cranky 69 y.o. male salutes him.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Midsummer sunset on Lake Superior

I was noodling through the camera bodies this morning hunting for overlooked treasures when I came upon this shot taken on my first digital SLR, a five-year-old Pentax *ist DS equipped with the inexpensive kit lens that usually comes with new cameras. On the brooding evening of July 30 while I was out of town, Tina Davidson, our chum, had picked up the camera and captured the image. Goes to show that a mere kit lens and an even merer 6-megapixel sensor can result in a stunning photograph. Thanks, Tina! (Click photo for large version.)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

No, you can't see my scar

Several folks who frequent this blog have asked if I'm going to post details about my hospitalization and recovery.

Good Lord, no! Wasn't Glenn Beck's anal surgery enough for you?

Listening to other people whine at length about their health is as bad as being assaulted by vacation slide shows on other people's laptops, especially of places you've never been to and have no wish to visit. Maybe worse.

Or having to view photos of their grandchildren on their iPhones. I don't show them mine -- why should I have to look at theirs? I don't know them and besides they're always funny-looking but you can't say anything.

And so for some time there may be few new posts, until my interest in the world about me has recovered.