A Touch of This and a Taste of That...

This is going to be a short post (SFX: sound of general celebration). Basically, I'm kind of beat from working on the "Obviously God has a sense of humor. - Humor in Writing" workshop over at the Catholic Writers' Conference Online (you may have heard me mention it once or twice in passing). Looking at it, the participants are doing a good job.


Ran across something nice for baseball fans. The iTunes store offers video of complete major league baseball games that can be downloaded to an iPod. I tried it with a 2007 game between the Orioles and Rangers. It works very well on my iPod Classic. The game cost me $1.99. Collections of 2007 and 2009 seasons are available while individual games maybe purchased from 2007, 2008, and 2009 (the 2007 collection is short and goes for about $40. The 2009 collection has a lot more games, but comes at a wallet-busting $125). As a note, my download ate around 1 GB of memory. I'm expecting to move the download over to my external drive after sending it to the iPod, to make space for the next on my poor little 160 GB laptop drive (the fact that the memory is partitioned into a pair of 80s isn't one of my favorites). The games can be found at the iTunes store by searching "MLB.Com."

Good Writing:

I made a pleasant discovery while researching for the workshop. Three of the writers I assigned as reading are available at Google Books and Read Books Online. Here are the links:

Hilaire Belloc's The Path to Rome

Rudyard Kipling's "The Village Who Voted the World Flat"

G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday

Okay, I'll be back when I get some sleep. Have fun.

28 February 2010: Feast of St. Hedwig of Poland. Han Dynasty begins with coronation of Liu Bang (Emperor Gaozu of Han) 202 BC, Fourth Council of Constantinople ends 870, Republican Party organized 1854, USS Houston (CA 30) and HMAS Perth (D 29) sunk in Battle of Sunda Strait 1942.

Please ignore the frozen St. Bernard, it's spring!

Well, we seemed to have received a misdirected shipment of snow intended for our friends to the north. As proof I point to the address on the packing list inside the delivery. It plainly reads, "Calgary, Alberta." Apparently somebody at the originating point screwed up the postal code. I must admit to being a bit surprised, usually that concern is noted for getting it right. Of course, I suppose it's possible circumstances way beyond my ability to understand came into play.

Speaking of play, it's THAT time of year again. Spring training begins next Tuesday! No more will I have to listen to games from last year as I write [more on this below], the new season is starting up. Maybe this year the Orioles will go all the way (for further thoughts along these lines, see the musical "Damn Yankees").

A guy named Austin Gisriel has written a good book entitled Safe at Home: A Season in the Valley. [Note to FTC: Bought it myself boys, so go peddle your papers.] It follows the New Market Rebels through a season of Valley league baseball. The book is a good read for the light it throws on minor league baseball, the Shenandoah Valley, and life in small town Virginia. You can find a better writeup on it here: http://www.rebelsbaseball.biz/html/safe_at_home/index.html
and buy it here: http://www.rebelsbaseball.biz/html/safe_at_home/buy.html .

Earlier I spoke of listening to ballgames while writing (which may explain my often disconnected flow of thought). The web is a very fine thing for the ball fan. You have your choice of watching or listening to major league games for a (what I consider reasonable) price, or listening to minor league games from all over the country for free.

I keep a MLB subscription year round [Note to FTC: It's on my personal plastic, guys. See above snide remark.]. This lets me watch or listen to any games played in the regular season. As I tend to follow the Orioles, Rangers, and Blue Jays and occasionally look at the Diamondbacks, Padres, and Nationals (thinking about the last one, admit it--who would really turn away from a train wreck?), I can't remember how the games went, so they're new to me each time. MLB can be found at: http://mlb.mlb.com/index.jsp (look under "Audio & Video").

In the minor leagues, a lot of teams have feeds so you can listen to live radio broadcasts of the games. Most also have archived games that you can listen to anytime you wish. The minor league games I tend to listen to are those of the Valley League, The Washington Wild Things (Washington, Pennsylvania), and the Salem Red Sox, Virginia farm team of the Boston Red Sox. The joy of this, besides hearing good baseball (and people who talk like me), is it's free! I'll give the links below.

Valley League: http://www.valleyleaguebaseball.com/landing/index (Click on "Valley League Baseball Listen Live." For the archive, click "Click here to listen to archived broadcasts" under the blue letters saying, "Stretch Internet." The site will ask to download a couple of programs so your computer can run the games. They're harmless.)

The Washington Wild Things: http://www.washingtonwildthings.com/ . The games are found on the MSA Sports Network under "Archived College Broadcasts (don't ask me why, the Wild Things are professional)" at: http://www.msasportsnetwork.com/main_calendar.asp?region=1&m=5-2009&d=22

Salem Red Sox: http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/index.jsp?sid=t414

Someone writing in Baseball Digest http://www.baseballdigest.com/ remarked that on opening day of spring training, every team is in first place. A rather reassuring thought.

20 February 2010: Feast of St. Wulfric of Haselbury. Orkney and Shetland given to Scotland by Norway as dowry payment 1472; U.S. Post Office Department established 1792; Lt. Edward "Butch" O'Hare USN becomes first U.S. ace of World War II 1942; Col. John Glenn USMC becomes first American to orbit the Earth aboard Project Mercury's "Friendship 7" 1962.

Something from Someone Rational.

Had surgery on my arm last Friday and since it hurts and I'm in a lousy mood, rather than inflict my spleen on the good folks who trip over this blog, I'm going to cop out and just post the following from some people who, no doubt, are much better company than I am at the moment:

Catholic Writers' Conference Online

For Immediate Release

Catholic Writers Online Conference Provides Authors More Opportunities than Ever!

World Wide Web--In order to get published, writers need several things: knowledge, support and opportunity. The Catholic Writers Conference Online seeks to give writers all of those--for free!

Writers, editors, agents, and other publishing professionals from around the world are gearing up for the third annual Catholic Writers' Conference Online, which will be held February 26-March 5, 2010. Sponsored by the Catholic Writer's Guild, the online conference is free of charge and open to writers of all levels who register before February 15, 2010.

Workshops and live online chats cover the gamut of writing topics from idea generation to marketing a published novel; traditional and self-publishing, article writing and fiction, and much more. "We have sixty subject-matter experts giving their time to teach others--from the fledgling writer learning about plot to the experienced author wanting to better market their works," said co-coordinator Karina Fabian.

In addition, ten prominent publishers (Catholic, Christian and secular) will hear pitches, giving authors an unprecedented opportunity to chat personally despite living hundreds or thousands of miles away.

The CWCO has also added small critique workshops, where writers can get information and advice specific to their writing.

"CWG's goal in creating these conferences is to help Catholic authors get published. In this economy, the online conference provides a great opportunity for Catholic writers to better their skills and jump forward in their writing careers. The cost is nil and the value is priceless. No Catholic writer should miss it," said CWG Vice President Ann Lewis.

Although the conference is offered free of charge, donations are accepted; proceeds will go toward future conferences. To register or for more information, go to: http://www.catholcwritersconference.com/

11 February 2010: Feast of St. Adolf of Osnabruck. Emperor Jimmu founds Japan 660 BC, Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry invents "gerrymandering" 1812, encyclical Vehementer nos published by Pope Pius X 1905, BBC produces first TV science fiction program - Karel Capek's R.U.R (source of word "robot) 1938.

"What's in a name?"

"To name something is to own it." This is an old idea from the beginning of time. If you can name something, not only can you describe it, you can possibly control it. This why among people who believe in magic and witchcraft, most have a secret or "spirit" name that is only known to them and a select few.

Naming conventions is something a fiction writer needs to keep in mind when introducing his or her characters to the reader. How people name their children and how those children identify themselves will tell a lot about the culture.

In medieval Europe the rise of family names came from people being known by their occupation, a feature, where they lived ("Miller," "Fuller," "Long," "Short," "Bridges," "London," "Longbottom") or who they were related to ("Watson," "Fitzhugh," "Brothersson [that one I don't think I want to look too closely at]"). As a note, in Iceland four members of a nuclear family can have four different last names such as Rorick Erikson, his wife Feya Jorgansdaughter, and their childern Erik Rorickson and Trondi Roricksdaughter (something that gives an Icelandic phone book a slightly higher page count than War and Peace).

The Romans seemed to have a dearth of names that were fashionable over the millennium their republic and empire lasted. To paraphrase Sam Goldwin, "Every Tom, Dick, and Harry was named Gaius." It seems there were only about eight names used for boys and approximately the same number for girls. This led one barbarian chieftain to remark, "The Romans must be a poor people as they can afford so few names to chose from." With everyone named pretty much the same thing, the Romans had to resort to nicknames and qualifiers such as "the elder/the younger," "Black/florid/tall/short/fat," "The African/Thracian/Iberian," etc (which somewhat puts the lie to "Roman efficiency"). The same sort of thing arose among the men who fought the War Between the States. So many were either named John or something outlandish that, like the Romans, most ended up known more by their nicknames (Ulysses Simpson Grant and John Bell Hood were "Sam" as an example) or used their middle name (William Dorsey Pender was known to his contemporaries and history usually just as Dorsey Pender--one of the uncles on my father's side and our cat of the moment were named "Dorsey" for him). In the movie "Zulu," the fact so many Welshmen were named William Jones is highlighted in the practice in Welsh regiments of using a portion of their service number as a qualifier ("2451 Jones" or "Jones 6325"). We ran into something like this in a medievalist group I belonged to. We had three "Roricks," "Rorick Rorickson," "Rorick the Long," and the luckiest of all, "Rorick Joanna's Husband."

Another name use convention I've found notably within three groups is the first two initials used rather than first and second name. Quite often when you run across such, there is a fair chance that the person (male usually) is either a Russian, an Indian (from the subcontinent rather than Amerindian), or worked for the Norfolk and Western Railway.

If you write crime, keep in mind dang near everybody on the street goes by a nickname. Part of this just a natural human affinity for such and part is because there are a lot of dudes out there you just don't want to know your real name. There's also the "AKA" factor (Also Known As). Multiple aliases are the norm (without such, police files that take up three floors could probably be kept in one file cabinet with a drawer left over for munchies and another for girlie magazines). As one cop said, "Everybody on the street's got a name."

There is also the divide between East and West. In eastern Asia, the family name comes first followed by the given names. In my young and more foolish days, this used to trip me up when doing research on that area. As I have to read in translation, whether the family name came first or last (and Lord help me, I even came across one in which it was sandwiched between two given names) seemed totally at the whim of an editor in either New York or London. Before I wised up, I wasted time looking for information on Saburo Sakai under what I thought was the family name, "Saburo"--which is kind of like trying to look up James Longstreet under "Jimmy (by the way, he went by "Pete")."

For the writer, naming characters gives you a certain power. The name can describe their inner person (Dickens' name picks immediately pops to mind), make them ridiculous ("Major Minor," "Private Means,"), show how life treats them (Joseph Heller's "Major Major Major"), or you can honor someone (my naming of spacecraft such as the survey vessel Alfred L. Wegener or the "Hero" class destroyers Kevin Barry and Todd Beamer). The guys in England who translated Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's French comic "Asterix the Gaul" had a field day with this with folks like the Roman commander, Cumulus Nimbus, the over weight Goth, Hemispheric, the Greek Mercenary, Neverataloss, and the confused Egyptian vacationer, Ptennisnet (personally, I think the Druid's name "Readymix" in the American translation used during the comic's short run in U.S. newspapers was funnier than the Brit "Getafix"). I've noticed that Karina Fabian's elves in her Dragoneye, P.I. series have the same lamentable taste in names as Neverataloss' parents.

One thing a writer should probably have little fear of is coming up with a name that nobody would give their kid. Looking at some names will convince you that either all their taste was in their mouth or they must have hated their offspring. I remember a lady who had to go through life as Rose Thorn--naturally, she married a guy named Bush.

3 February 2010: Feast of St. Liafdag of Jutland. Spain recognizes U.S. 1783, Meiji Emperor enthroned - Tokyo 1867, Earthquake - Hawke's Bay, New Zealand 1931, U.S. Marines and Army capture Kwajalein 1944.