Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Old Man Steve

My grandniece, Tiffany, gave birth to a little boy last night, making me a great-granduncle. And also making me feel awfully darn old!

This makes my mom a great-great-grandmother at a couple weeks shy of turning 94. I don't think the news made much of an impression on her. She continues her relatively slow slide further into dementia (relative to the rather rapid onslaught of Alzheimer's for some). It gets a little harder to get  her to eat rather than stare at or play with her food. It gets a little harder to get her to stand (with assistance, of course) or try to use her walker. She becomes a little less likely to roll her wheelchair around rather than staying in one spot.

Yet she remains surprisingly healthy, physically. I truly did not expect Mom to still be with us at this point. Indeed, in some respects she seems healthier than a couple years ago. I do recognize that this could change quite literally overnight, that I could wake up some morning and she could be 'gone.' (Not necessarily deceased, though that is always a possibility.)

Well, her birthday is on October 11 and she will be, as mentioned, 94. How many more? Only the Lord knows (and He never tells).

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Person Could Die Out There

A pic I stole from someone on FaceBook of a largish day at the pier at Flagler Beach. One of my favorite spots after I moved from South Florida -- straight across the state from Steinhatchee, waves were frequently quite decent and almost always uncrowded.

It was also a day much like this one that I almost drowned, oh, maybe fifteen years or so back. I posted an early draft short story (title, oh so originally, 'Surf') based on the experience on line several years back. Since rewritten to include more of the psychology aspect, though I usually prefer to let actions speak and keep internal dialog to a minimum. Maybe someday I'll try to place this version somewhere or anthologize it or incorporate it into a novel, even.

It's been a while and at this point the story I wrote is actually clearer in my mind than the incident itself! One thing though, there was a definite feeling of accomplishment and even exhilaration when I made it to the beach that day. I could have ended right there...and would it have made any difference? I don't know; we all go sometime, after all, and I've been in other life-threatening situations (but drowning is definitely NOT the way I'd want to go!). Gee, I've had some exciting times for a little low-key sort of guy.

And I think I need more of them. I get depressed when I'm bored and the every-day-the-same grind of being a caregiver lately has not exactly helped. Oh well, things inevitably change. Sometimes even for the better.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The New Board

So here is the new Isle 'Retro Longboard' that arrived today.
It seems okay...a few minor blemishes but nothing that would impact its performance or durability. 9'6", the same as my first board 45 years ago, but somewhat lighter. I picked it up and thought 'hmm, 18 pounds' and sure enough it was when I got on the scale.

The rails are thinner and softer than my last longboard (which had blocky, turned-down edges), sort of a 60/40 profile. I guess we'll see how well I like that when I manage to get to the water. The 'vee' in the bottom is so subtle as to be almost nonexistent but that's probably just as well. That 8" fin that came with it will be replaced by a deeper one I have on order. Steve prefers big fins, especially since I almost certainly won't install any side fins.

Anyway, I do hope to get into the water again soon and get back into it. Fortunately, I remain in pretty good shape (though I'm like 40 pounds lighter than in my bodybuilding days). If and when I'm ready to move on to better equipment, it will be custom built; the cost difference of having something from a local shaper (or doing it myself) is fairly negligible.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Literal Minded

                                                                                                                      Stephen Brooke ©2012

On Taxes and Stuff

I'm not running for anything! Just some thoughts I've had on taxes (yes, and stuff).

Lowering taxes does stimulate economic growth – to a point. After that point, there are diminishing returns with each decrease, until we reach a level where there is no improvement at all. The thing is to find that ideal spot where the needs of stimulation and revenue balance.

Those on the Right claim it is further down, those on the Left think it is higher. Ideology gets in the way of reason. It's probably a moving target, anyway; the needs change with the economic climate.

Income tax rates on the wealthiest probably could stand a small increase but I do not really consider this a big deal one way or the other. I would rather see them paying more to Social Security. Remove the cap and make it a percentage of ones total income tax.

And then pay everyone on SS the same amount, no matter how much they paid in over the years. As it stands, the people who need the money the least are the ones who generally collect the most. We could start by freezing the top tier of payments but raising the lower ones until they catch up.

If the above mentioned changes were made to Social Security (and, ideally, health insurance/Medicare as well), tax payments would be higher for those with larger incomes anyway. They might be higher for just about everyone but, after all, we get what we pay for. It would certainly make the Social Security system more, um, secure.

There should also be a national sales tax. I know this is not a popular idea with liberals, nor many conservatives for that matter. The point would be not so much to bring more income to the national government but to allow the states to collect sales tax on transactions across state lines. Right now, they are increasingly losing that revenue as more sales are made on line.

Streamlining the sales tax process would benefit all and the federal government could take a portion of this revenue, with perhaps a one or two per cent national sales tax. It would also be an aid to small local businesses as online and mail order sales would lose one of their advantages.

This last point is, to me, the most important. A national sales tax system would help shift the balance back in favor of local businesses, bringing more money to local governments, as well as to state budgets.

And, of course, if we were all paying national sales tax then Mr Romney couldn’t call us freeloaders anymore, could he? (As if the payment of state sales tax and property tax and gasoline tax and so on doesn’t count.) Going off on a tangent now, but his recent statements pretty much ended any remnant of respect I might have had for the man. Presidential sorts should unite, not divide. They should attack their opponents and their ideas, not the American people.


Barbecue, a poem


The monster under my bed
has been feuding with
the one in the closet.

I hear them growl at each other
when they think I’m asleep,
arguing over who

has the better storage boxes
and whether I’d taste better
with a mustard or tomato-based

barbecue sauce. I’m partial
to mustard myself but not
inclined to offer an opinion.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

I sat up in bed and wrote most of this one in the middle of last night. It was stormy, leading to fitful sleep -- the sort of night that lends itself to such odd thoughts. I could have gone on and on with the conceit here, but what would be the point?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Pratfall, a poem


The apprentice clown has learned
all his master’s tricks,

save one. He can fall
but not yet pick himself up,

laughing with the crowd.
They still see the pain,

hide it though he does
behind greasepaint and wig.

They see him wince, and know
the cost of each pratfall.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

A quickly written little piece (which usually means revision down the line) from a thought that came to me while hanging out the laundry! I had half the lines in my head before I got inside and typed it out.

Which is quite a bit different from the more polished poem, 'Sleep,' that I posted a few entries back. I labored on that one for months and still don't know if it's 'right.' One thing is for sure, though -- there is probably more of an actual point to this little poem, whereas the other turned out to be essentially an exercise of the craft.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Another Surfboard Post

This is a snapshot of me c.1971 outside my garage/workshop with a couple of boards I had built. The blue one is about a 6' 6" as I remember, single fin, vee through the mid-section, and standard polyurethane construction. I rode that board quite a while.

The other was my first polystyrene board and also my first twin-fin. I had just shared a surf (well, we were in the water at the same time) with the late Australian champion Keith Paull and he was on a brand new two-fin board. This was at the north jetty of Sebastian Inlet, back when it was still illegal to surf there! Anyway, I was impressed enough with his surfing (though he probably could have made any board look good) to go home and make myself something similar, rounded template, 5' 8'' long, thick, with boxy-but-hard rails.

Unfortunately, I snapped it fairly quickly. It happens. It wasn't that good a board, so not a big loss.

Speaking of losses, the Keith Paull story is one. Among the best surfers of his time, within a few years he descended into drug use and schizophrenia and never came back. He passed away, still a relatively young man, about a decade ago.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Of Pop-outs and Other Surfboards

In that I mentioned ordering a stock more-or-less mass-produced surfboard, I thought I’d make some comments on the whole manufacturing thing as it is today. And as it was yesterday, as well – the pop-out versus the custom board.

The original ‘pop-outs’ were just that – they popped them out of a mold. This was something that started in the ‘60s, as far as I know. A mold would be lined with resin-saturated fiberglass mat (not cloth) and then injected with polyurethane (PU) foam. The result was a board that was both heavier and weaker than a standard shaped design, but cheaper.

Only a bit cheaper, though, and there is an economy of scale involved here. Molds are relatively expensive and one must sell a lot of identical boards to make them worthwhile. There are still cheap molded boards today, but the process has changed. Now it’s inexpensive polyethylene skins, as found in ‘soft’ boards or the lines from companies such as Bic.

There are more expensive molded boards too, such as those from Surf-Tech. It is a different process but still ‘popped-out.’ That does not prevent them from being decent surfboards.

Surfboards from the late ‘50s (when wood was largely abandoned) until fairly recently were generally hand-shaped from polyurethane foam blanks that were somewhat close in shape to a finished board. The less foam the shaper had to remove, the stronger the board, as molded PU is strongest and densest in its outermost layer. Indeed, some boards were pretty close to being pop-outs in that they underwent little more than a bit of final sanding before the fiberglass was applied.

That is where the real difference lies between a standard hand-made surfboard and a pop-out – the lamination of fiberglass and polyester resin for a strong outer shell rather than a one-step molding of both interior and exterior.

The ever-growing use of polystyrene foam has changed things some. PS has one great advantage over PU, namely that it is the same density and strength throughout. One could start with a block of foam and cut away as much as one desired without compromising strength. This, in turn, opened the way for working with CNC machines that roughly shape the board without needing such a large selection of almost-the-right-shape blanks.

This is much more cost-effective for modest runs of standard shapes than using a mold. Want to make a small change? Just get on your computer and reprogram the CNC. No need to invest in a separate mold for each board design and length.

Using PS foam does mean one must switch to epoxy resin. That’s no big deal now but was a pain when builders began experimenting with it. I built a polystyrene boards in the '70s myself. It was a terrible pain to shape the sort of PS that was available then – the best approach was to cut it with a hot-wire tool. Now, the available PS surfboard blanks word fine with the traditional shapers’ tools of plane and rasp.

The stock board I just ordered (from Isle Surfboards) was done in this manner – CNC shaping with hand-finishing and then hand lamination with fiberglass and epoxy resin. And, yes, it was made overseas as are many boards these days, whether in China or Taiwan or Brazil or wherever. Shoot, a board I had twenty years ago was manufactured in Taiwan (though by a supposedly Australian company).

I have nothing against this sort of machine shaping. If it’s good enough for Taylor Guitars, it’s good enough for my surfboard. Not that my plans for the future wouldn’t include a true custom board (or guitar, for that matter!) but right now, a decent stock design will be fine.

As long as it’s not a pop-out, of course.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Surf Boards

These are the two surf boards I still have, even though it's been a good while since I've had the opportunity to ride them. Both are over forty years old. The brown one (that's a later skin I added -- it used to be blue) is a first generation 'short board,' circa 1967. Most likely cut down from a longer board. Quite a few 'obsolete' long boards (for which folks would pay plenty now) were reshaped at the factory or by owners. It's 9 feet long and pretty darn heavy, with a slightly rounded bottom.

The red one is a 7'2" Rick from '69. The 'Radical Rick' as my surf buddies called it, ski nose, hard down rails, flat bottom, deep V at the tail. I could not ride it properly at all when I purchased it but when I got back on it a few years later, I found that I really loved it! It looks like it should be a big wave board (it is 'gun'-like) but actually excels in surf of relatively modest size (but with a bit of power). Part of the reason I liked it better later -- aside from being more experienced -- was that I had largely switched to surfing left-handed ('goofy-foot') which is more natural to me. I seem to be a righty purely by training.

I've had other boards since -- including a half-dozen I built myself -- but they all eventually deteriorated beyond usability, so these are what's left. Note that, unlike the typical modern board, they have only ONE fin. No trainer wheels for Steve.

Actually, I rode a thruster (tri-fin) briefly when they first appeared. Never liked the feel of them and I detest the modern style of surfing, all flat turns and skate-like. Where's the power? That includes the popular concave bottom which essentially loosens up the board for moving quickly side-to-side -- not for 'channeling' the water flow, as is sometimes claimed -- but is less well suited to hard, on-edge turns. Instead, the modern surfer tends to pivot on his inside fin and then pump side-to-side to try to build up speed. A traditional turn on the rail channels the power of the wave to create speed.

But enough complaints. If that's what them darn kids want, let 'em have it. It does make it hard to find an 'off-the-shelf' surfboard that is quite what I would want...and I'm not about to lay out money for a custom job at this point. I need to get back into the water on something versatile and inexpensive before I think about that!

So I finally ordered one. A long board, of course, for riding the little waves down at Panama Beach if and when I can get there. Epoxy, for durability. Hand-shaped, not molded -- I'm only willing to compromise so far on quality! Stock design, but with the bottom and edge shape I would more-or-less prefer. I went pretty conservative and chose to go somewhere between a full-blown traditional 'log' and a performance design.

Alas, it does have three fins, but it is the sort with one big fin in the middle and two smaller ones, all removable, so I can and probably will dispense with the outer fins. I do not think they will add anything to this board's performance. I'm hoping to get out in the Gulf and try it within a reasonable time frame. Or out in the Atlantic for that matter...or the Pacific...oh, heck, why not an Endless Summer trip around the world!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Shown Up

Nine years after the first publication of 'Pieces of the Moon,' I just noticed a rather glaring typo in the title of one of the poems. How the heck did it escape me all these years?

What was it, you ask? Well, I should make you buy a copy and find out one your own...oh, okay, it says 'shown' where it should be 'shone.' It's actually correct in the poem itself but somehow the title went wrong. Never noticed it until now, nor has anyone ever pointed it out to me.

Not that all that many people have read it, but still.

I suppose I'll do a revised version eventually. It's not that difficult when it's offered as ebook and print-on-demand, but would be another demand on my time.

Sites and Pages

Like quite a few other web sites, most of mine were 'down' yesterday when Go Daddy fell to an attack. Not my main site, the Insolent Lad, however, which is both hosted and has its domain registered at Yahoo. The others, including that for the Arachis Press, are registered through Go Daddy but are actually hosted as part of at Yahoo. So they aren't actually down, just hard to find when their dot-com addresses stop working!

But they can be reached through the Insolent Lad, all linked up on my home page there. Not that anyone probably has a pressing need to visit them.

Having mentioned the Arachis Press, I shall also mention that there is now an official Face Book page: for anyone who wishes to 'like' it. I do think there will be pages eventually for each book, as well, but I know from experience that it doesn't really do much in terms of publicity, so there is no hurry.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Back to the Book

Okay, so my fairly short hiatus from FaceBook is over and I reactivated the account. I do not expect to interact much (if any) for a while. I had enough of pretending I had a life before.

I also deleted all three of my pages.

But pages are the main reason I decided to keep a presence there. I will eventually do another one for myself, when there seems a need. I realized that it was ridiculous to have one page as musician, one as writer, and yet another as artist. It’s all me, after all, and for right now my profile should be enough.

However, I do intend to start up a page for the Arachis Press shortly. Maybe even pages for the individual books – it is a good thing to be able to let people ‘like’ them. Unless, of course, they don’t...  

Now aren't you happy I post these little updates on the important events in my life?

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Sleep, a poem


What is that distant moan I hear,
In the darkness deep?
It seems the voice of nameless fear,
Crying on and on.
It's but the sighing of the wind;
Sleep, my dearest, sleep.
A song for every man who's sinned;
Sleep until the dawn.

Whose voices call across the moor;
Do they wail and weep
In torment no heart should endure,
Empty and forlorn?
It's surely but the hunting owl;
Sleep, my dearest, sleep.
The gray wolf’s distant hungry howl;
Sleep until the morn.

What shadowed forms do I behold
From the marshes creep?
Misshapen phantoms, ghastly, cold,
Grasp the very night.
It is naught but the mists that rise;
Sleep, my dearest, sleep.
The moon plays tricks upon your eyes;
Sleep till morning light.

Whose eyes are these that hold my own,
Where such fires leap?
Ensorcelled, I lose all I’ve known,
Dancing with despair.
Your image, mirrored, monstrous seems;
Sleep, my dearest, sleep.
‘Tis only twisted by dark dreams;
Sleep, forgetting care.

What bell is this that endless tolls?
As the night winds weep,
I hear some choir of lost souls
Singing over me.
It is your fragile beating heart;
Sleep, my dearest, sleep.
And I who mourn my destined part;
Sleep, now, peacefully.

Whose words are these, who murmurs low,
Prays my soul to keep?
This sanguine lust seems all I know,
Endless, naught before.
It’s I who grieves, yet brings you rest;
Sleep, my dearest, sleep.
And drives the stake into your breast;
Sleep forever more.

Sleep till a dawn that can not be;
Sleep eternally.

Stephen Brooke ©2012

Yes, a vampire poem. Not my normal sort of product, not being very much into the Gothic horror thing. I thought I would explore this idea, however, the woman awaking (so to speak) to her vampish-ness and her lover staking her before it takes hold. 

I actually had the first three stanzas more-or-less done before I was aware of just what the poem was about. Admittedly, I originally was going to have the roles reversed and the male character as predator, but realized this was a more interesting (to me) way to go. This is, of course, still a working draft and might well be changed somewhat.

Pretty much strictly metrical here -- that's not necessarily my normal thing either. Incidentally, all the even-numbered lines should be indented a bit but Blogger always seems to delete the spaces!