The Arm: Back To Work, Finally

At the end of our last thrilling installment, the arm pain had improved remarkably for no discernible reason, enough so that the second shoulder surgery set for the end of June was cancelled, and I was referred to a physiatrist (musculature specialist) at Mayo for further evaluation and probable return to physical therapy for a while.

Between various scheduling, authorization and paperwork complications, I didn't see the physiatrist until July 19th.  The arm pain had continued at the reduced level, staying mostly in the lower half of that 1-to-10 pain scale doctors like to use, and with the use of aspirin and Tylenol several times a day, mostly in the lower half of that lower half.  And those lower levels keep me out of the Stupid Zone, where you can't ignore the pain and you can't think.

At those lower levels, I felt it was possible to finally return to work.  The upper arm and shoulder still feel stiff and sore a good amount of the time, but it's probably never going to be completely pain-free again for the rest of my life.  The doctor had a job-description sheet from my workplace, and we went over the list of tasks I need to perform at work, none of which I felt were un-doable.  (Some of them, involving high reaches or other extensive arm movements, need to be done with the left arm rather than the right, but they can be done.)  So he gave me a release to return to work as of July 22nd, within the right arm's limitations.  He also wrote orders for me to resume physical therapy for the next month, and scheduled an appointment for re-evaluating my progress in late August.

Then I had to contact the HR rep at work to see about actually resuming work.  Monday the 22nd I met with her and the assistant Security head, then went around the property with him to demonstrate that I was physically able to do the work required.  I didn't have much problem with any of the tests, so I got a call Tuesday morning to say I was back on the work schedule starting Thursday night.

Completed my first work-week back at work Sunday night.  No major problems.  The shoulder got stiff and sore a few times, but that was expected and I carried a small pillbox with extra aspirin/Tylenol tablets for those occasions.  So it looks like I'm a working stiff (heh) again.

The Arm saga isn't over quite yet.  My job isn't strenuous; it doesn't require lifting or moving any heavy objects, at least not any I can't handle left-handed.  But there's still a lot of stuff at home I'm not capable of without over-stressing the arm.  That's one of the reasons for going back to physical therapy, to try and get back some of the strength and stamina the right arm has lost over the months.  (The right arm is visibly thinner than the left, due to muscle loss from lack of use.)

So there'll probably still be occasional post about "The Arm" from time to time.   But, at least as of now, they should be farther apart in time and hopefully less dramatic than some of the posts have been.


A Hard Search For Hard Case Crime

Last week, one of Amazon's "Daily Specials" for e-books was offering a $1.99 price on a wide selection of e-books from Hard Case Crime.  The Hard Case Crime line, edited by Charles Ardai, has re-published a number of hard-to-find hardboiled works by writers such as Donald Westlake and Robert Silverberg, as well as new fiction in the hardboiled/noir tradition by a number of newer writers.  It's one of the publishing companies whose output I like to keep an eye on, so I was tempted to buy and download a number of titles to my smartphone's e-reader app.

But... I've noted in the past that I don't like Amazon's business practices, so rather than spend money there, I hied over to the Barnes & Noble website to see if the same discounted prices for Hard Case's books were being offered there.

Well, they were, but it was a hard slog to find the Hard Case titles on bn.com.  On Amazon's site, entering "Hard Case Crime" in the search window brought up a full list of HCC's available titles.  Reset the filter for "Low To High Price", and all the $1.99 titles were shown grouped together.

Not so much on Barnes & Noble's site.  Enter "Hard Case Crime" in bn.com's search box, and you end up with a scattered selection of ebooks, most with the word "Hard" in the actual title or in the description, and only a very few of Hard Case's books included.

B&N has an "Advanced Search" option available, with "Publisher" as one of the search categories available.  So I tried that, entering "Hard Case Crime" and got... zero results.

Wait, what?  Zero results?  How could that happen, when the first, regular, search had at least brought up a couple of Hard Case titles?

So I went to the page for one of those titles that had come up in the earlier search, and went down to the "Details" section.  Where I found that the listed publisher for the Hard Case title was "Titan".

Ho-kay.  So apparently Hard Case has a deal with Titan Books for distributing and marketing their books, much like DAW Books has a deal with Penguin.

But to find Hard Case titles on B&N's site, you have to enter "Titan" as the publisher.  If you don't know about the arrangement (I didn't until I ran into this), you can't search for Hard Case Crime under its own name.

When you do a "publisher" search for Titan, though, you end up with all of Titan's own titles (a lot of science fiction and other categories), with Hard Case titles mixed into the batch.

A list of categories appeared to the left of the search results, so I clicked on "Mystery & Crime" to narrow the search.  And finally I ended up with a list of mostly Hard Case titles (a few books from other arms of Titan also appeared).  Do another sort by price, and I finally had a list of the Hard Case titles on sale.

Well... not quite.  I noticed that several titles I'd seen in Amazon's search results weren't included in the B&N results.  One was David Schow's Gun Work.  A specific search for that title brought it up on B&N's site, but apparently it's not categorized as "Mystery & Crime" or "Thriller" like almost all the other Hard Case titles.  There were a few other titles in similar straits.

Why does Amazon give more inclusive, and a lot easier, search results?  That's simple:  On each product page for Hard Case titles on Amazon, after each title is the parenthetical addition of "(Hard Case Crime)".  So entering "Hard Case Crime" even in Amazon's general search window will trigger a hit on all those parenthetical additions.  Plus they list the publisher as "Hard Case Crime", not Titan.

I'd rather spend my money at Barnes & Noble than Amazon.   But it would be nice if B&N didn't make it so damn hard.

(I'm sending a separate copy of this post directly to Hard Case editor Charles Ardai.  This problem really needs to be fixed, because it means a damn good publisher is losing potential sales on the second-most popular bookselling site.)


This & That - links, etc, July 2013

Top Ten Books About Disability -- Interesting article from the Guardian, with an even more interesting comment thread.

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On a Reddit thread about time-management & motivation for writers, this tip from NinjaDiscoJesus seems like it might be particularly effective:
Find a picture of your favourite relative who has died.
Print out several copies. Write YOU ARE NEXT in red ink across them.
Post on the wall on your writing area.

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The Court Martial of Billy Orps.  Art blog Underpaintings tells the story of a WWI war artist.  Neat story, great art.

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The best worst one-line movie synopsis I've ever seen:

"Batman Returns-1992; Michael Keaton, Danny Devito; An abandoned child returns as an adult and searches for his parents."

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Radio show This American Life recently re-broadcast a 1998 episode, "Notes On Camp", about summer camps, which I caught part of while driving around on errands.  The final segment, about Color Days, felt like I was listening to a story from another planet, a planet populated by unmedicated lunatics.  I guess this may be how some people feel about cosplayers or other of the more fanatical members of science fiction fandom.  ("And it seems pretty simple, but everybody here will tell you, no one back home understands it. None of their friends, nobody. There is just a gap between camp people and non-camp people.")  Audio here.  Transcript here.

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Fragments -- One of My Old ST:TNG Story Pitches: "However Improbable"

Back in the old days when STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION was still in its first run, one of the more notable episodes was "Redemption: Part II", wherein Denise Crosby returned not as Tasha Yar, but as Sela, Tasha Yar's own daughter.  When, in the episode "Yesterday's Enterprise", the Enterprise-C returned to its original timeline from the alternate-the-Federation-is-getting-its-ass-whupped-timeline created when Enterprise-C was kicked into the future, the not-killed-by-black-porridge-monster Tasha Yar of that alternate-future returned with it, surviving the Enterprise-C's final battle but being captured by the Romulans, eventually bearing a child, Sela, by a sympathetic captor.  The alternate-Tasha was captured and executed after trying to escape with her young daughter.  Sela was raised as a Romulan, and became an enemy of the Federation.  (Are you with me so far?)

This was when I was still trying to sell movie scripts after having sold my own episode, "Clues", to ST:TNG.  But I still pitched story ideas to ST:TNG several times before the Toxic Boss From Hell threw a spanner into my writing gears (that unpleasant story told here), so when I cleaned out my office recently, a file folder of some of those story ideas came to light.  One of them was intended as a direct follow-up to the mystery of Sela.  I think subsequent episodes made my story idea obsolete before I had a chance to make the actual pitch.  But I thought it was a pretty good idea, so I present it here for the edification of the masses and, y'know, History!

"However Improbable"

(Picard tries to solve the mystery of Sela, the impossible daughter of Tasha Yar.)

With Sela, Picard faces the greatest puzzle of his career.  If this woman is actually Tasha's daughter, how could she be?

There may be one way to find out:  In the records of the original Enterprise is a description of a 'machine', the "Guardian of Forever", which reputedly can provide access to all of time and all possible times.  It is the nearest thing to omniscient that the Federation has yet found.

The Enterprise heads to the Guardian's planet.  After Kirk & Company had returned from their adventure years earlier, the Guardian had, apparently, shut itself down.  It had resisted all efforts at activation and analysis since then.  An unmanned station had been left there, to warn of any activity or the approach of any ship,

Picard's efforts to rouse the Guardian are to no avail.  Then -- surprise! -- Sela comes on the scene.  Seeking to regain face after the debacle of the Klingon civil war, and noting that the Enterprise was heading towards a planet the Federation appeared to hav deliberately concealed information on, she had cloaked her ship and followed the Enterprise.

It is the presence of Sela that activates the Guardian.  She is a chronic anomaly, the result of events that could not have occurred in the natural course of destiny.

The arrival of Sela and her guards, the sudden activity of the Guardian, all cause a pitched conflict.  The end result of which is that Picard, Data, and Sela go thru the Guardian's portal.

And end up... on the Romulan home planet, twenty-six years before, shortly before the altrnate-Tasha's doomed escape attempt.

Which is great from Sela's point of view: She's got twenty-six years of advance information she can give the Romulans.

Picard and data subdue Sela, disguise themselves, and enter the Romulan capitol in search of... answers.

Eventually they reach the alternate-Tasha.  And learn this is not the Tasha they knew, but one from a universe where the Federation had been fighting a losing war against both the Romulans and Klingons.

But the arrival of Picard and data gives Tasha back the hope she had lost, the hope that she might someday return to Federation space, even one differing from her own

Tasha insists on meeting the grown Sela.  She is shocked to see what her daughter has grown to become.  It increases her resolve to escape her captivity, and to take her young daughter with her.

The story can go two ways from here:

VERSION A:  Sela is also affected by th meeting.  She had previously nown her mother only thru her four-year-old's memories.  Now she sees Tasha with an adult's intelligence and reasoning.  And she sees a woman loyal to her people, loyal to her child.  A woman that Sela has to respect.

And when, during the escape attempt, the caper is blown and capture is imminent, Sela knocks out Tasha, swaps clothing, and takes her place.  When Sela-as-Tasha is executed, that triggers a return of the portal to return Picard, Data, and Tasha to their proper place.

Which means that only Picard and data return to the Enterprise they know.  The alternate-Tasha has been returned to her own universe, to a fate unknown.

VERSION B:  But despite Picard's efforts to persuade Tasha to a different course, to change history, Tasha is still betrayed by the young Sela, caught, and executed.

Returning to their own time, Picard is not only wracked by his own guilt, but Sela now considers him doubly responsible for her mother's death.  She departs, an even worse enemy than before.

Well, there you go.  I like to think that this pitch actually got bought, produced and broadcast, in some alternate timeline.

"Wibbly wobbly timey-wimey? WTF?"

Free Advice From A Chinese Epic


Punch a tiger in the head,
and suddenly all your other problems
will seem small and insignificant.

The character portrayed here is Wu Song, one of the 108 heroes of the Chinese literary epic The Water Margin.  This particular rendition is from a double-set of playing cards depicting each of the 108 characters (52x2, plus 4 extra cards).  In the epic, Wu Song ends up in this particular situation after way too much drinking.  (Who would have guessed?)  But he ends up beating the tiger to death with his bare hands anyway.  So I guess the actual lesson to be learned is "You don't have to be drunk to beat a tiger to death with your bare hands, but it sure seems to help."


Revisit: The Second Hundred Years

Tor.com's recent review of The Curiosity, a literary novel by Stephen P. Kiernan, reminded me of an old television sitcom from the 1960's that had a similar starting premise, The Second Hundred Years.

image from ctva.biz
TSHY starred Monte Markham in a dual role, both as Luke, an Alaskan Gold Rush prospector buried and frozen in a 1900 avalanche, only to be found and revived in 1967, and his nearly-identical grandson Ken, an uptight banker. Luke's own son Edwin was played by senior-citizen actor Arthur O'Connell; at the start of the series Edwin is considering moving to a retirement home until Luke is discovered.

I recall that Markham was a "bright" actor, with charisma enough to play the outgoing Luke and acting chops enough to play the restrained Ken. Arthur O'Connell was a well-regarded character actor, who brought a respectable amount of dignity to a comedic role. The scripts were silly but fun, and occasionally got a little bit deeper into how what was essentially time-traveling would affect someone from the past, and how present-day people would be affected by him in turn.

(A few years after this show, Markham's career took a big hit when, in a spectacular example of miscasting, he was cast as the title character in The New Adventures of Perry Mason. This was not that many years after the original Perry Mason series had ended, and the American public still identified the character of Mason with Raymond Burr's slow-moving, grim-faced portrayal. The slim, energetic Markham's presentation flopped big-time, badly enough that the series is still remembered as one of the worst remakes ever. Markham rarely played lead roles again, though he appeared in character roles fairly frequently.)

TSHY only lasted one season, despite its two stand-out actors. With proper casting, I could see this one being revived for a modern-day version.

The pilot episode can be seen (in 3 parts) on YouTube. Not available on Netflix, or much anywhere else, alas. (There's one online DVD vendor that claims to have the full season available, but there have been a significant amount of complaints about undelivered orders and lack of response.)


Toll The Dead

Ashcraft, Andrew - Age: 29
Caldwell, Robert - Age: 23
Carter, Travis - Age: 31
Deford, Dustin - Age: 24
MacKenzie, Christopher - Age: 30
Marsh, Eric - Age: 43
McKee, Grant - Age: 21
Misner, Sean - Age: 26
Norris, Scott - Age: 28
Parker, Wade - Age: 22
Percin, John - Age: 24
Rose, Anthony - Age: 23
Steed, Jesse - Age: 36
Thurston, Joe - Age: 32
Turbyfill, Travis - Age: 27
Warneke, William - Age: 25
Whitted, Clayton - Age: 28
Woyjeck, Kevin - Age: 21
Zuppiger, Garret - Age: 27

These are the names and ages of the 19 firefighters who died yesterday fighting the Yarnell wildfire here in Arizona.  They were trapped when a sudden reversal in wind direction sent the flames rushing in their direction.

Sometimes we forget that Nature can be just as vicious and destructive and deadly as an armed enemy in a war zone.

So young, so young.  Just old enough, many of them, to have started families of their own.

(list via Talking Points Memo)