Sunday, January 24, 2016

Snowzilla 2016

I took this shot yesterday, at the height of the 2016 blizzard, from my upstairs window. Snow swirled and the wind howled and you really couldn't see a thing. Our power was on, though, so all was good.

This morning after the storm had passed and the sun had come out, I was able to venture out. This is what that street actually looked like:
And, yes, those white lumps are cars. When I tried to walk closer to get a better shot, the snow came to my thighs, so I gave up on that attempt and turned to look the other way, down the street. Not much better.

The large lump of snow to the left was created by a truck with a plow on its front that got stuck in the road last night. I guess they abandoned their attempt to clear the parking lot next door after they got the truck dug out, but now our street is blocked by the remains of their attempt. It'll probably be there until Tuesday when the temperature is supposed to get to 45 F. We'll see.

The good news is we have a nice clear driveway, as can be seen here (yes, that's my car, still half-buried), thanks to this guy, my dear hubby and proud owner of a working snowblower!

Until the thaw....that's it from Complexity Simplified.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Happy 207th, Edgar!

On this date in 1809 a boy named Edgar Poe was born in Boston, the second child of a couple of touring actors. His father disappeared soon after he was born and his mother died a short time later, leaving him an orphan. John Allan of Richmond, Virginia, took Edgar in as a foster son and we now know that boy by his full name: Edgar Allan Poe.

I was a huge Poe fan at the age of ten or so and read as many of his gothic horror tales as I could get my little hands on. This man knew how to tell a gripping story, one that caught and held a reader's attention, and his work certainly held my attention. I loved his poetry, as well, but it's only in recent years that I've learned another impressive fact about this important writer: Edgar Allan Poe invented the detective story.

Yes, before Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie introduced us to Poirot and Miss Marple, Poe wrote about C. August Dupin, an expert in "ratiocination," as it was known then. The word "detective" did not exist at the time Poe was writing, but the ability to reason things out with a nearly-supernatural ability (ratiocination) was of great interest to readers in those days.

Arthur Conan Doyle gives Poe credit for inventing this genre: "Each [of Poe's detective stories] is a root from which a whole literature has developed...Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?" 

Indeed, the formula used by Conan Doyle so brilliantly can be seen in its entirety in Poe's three detective stories -- "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (published 1841), "The Mystery of Marie Roget" (1842) and "The Purloined Letter" (1844). We have the brilliant detective, Dupin, his companion -- a "normal" fellow who is Poe himself and serves as the narrator of the story about Dupin's amazing crime-solving abilities -- and a police chief, Prefect G-, a fellow who tries hard, but needs Dupin's skills to solve tough crimes.

Poe explained his intent in writing these detective tales and a fourth story, "The Gold Bug," (which is similar and involves a code-breaking protagonist), as an attempt to arouse intellectual excitement in his readers by involving them in solving puzzles. He contrasted this with his intent in writing the Gothic horror stories I so loved as a child (such as "The Fall of the House of Usher.") These were meant to arouse emotional excitement in readers, and they certainly succeed in doing that.

His poetry, though, had a different intent altogether. To Poe, poetry was only meant to express beauty. And while his poems are, in fact, beautiful and metrical and basically like music, he never strays far from his focus on the dark and mysterious side of life.

Poe's own life ended in a mystery. He was found injured one evening on a roadside, beaten and delirious, and died in the hospital soon thereafter. It is now thought that he was involved in some sort of ballot-box-stuffing scheme and got caught and beaten for it, but the full truth remains shrouded in the past. Edgar Allan Poe died on Oct. 7, 1849, at only 40 years of age, after a brief, brilliant career as a writer who changed the course of literature forever.

I'll end with a quote from his most famous poem, "The Raven." Published in 1845, this poem is the piece that made Poe a household name. Many children (including yours truly) memorized this first stanza and can still, decades later, recite it from memory:

 Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore--
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door--
only this and nothing more."

Saturday, January 9, 2016

FREE Download!

My short story, "The Omega Upgrade," is available as a FREE Kindle download this weekend! Click here to claim your copy. Note that you don't need a Kindle to read this...a free app for your phone, tablet or computer can be downloaded at the same link.

Here's what this story is about: "Elaine's son Peter has been after her to upgrade her connection to the web, but she wants nothing to do with the new-fangled device, an implant that will allow her access to the mindweb--whatever that is--using something called an Omega Upgrade. A chance encounter at a fruit stand with a purple-haired girl gives Elaine a scary glimpse of this new technology. What happens later, when Peter arrives for dinner, causes Elaine to make an uncharacteristic decision when she realizes that the Omega Upgrade will provide something she never imagined could be possible. This short story of approximately 6000 words gives an entertaining, somewhat scary, but very intriguing, glimpse of our possible future as more and more of us connect through the web and social media."