First 5 Words of Toujours Voir

“Folks!” the bodyguard announced. “In…”

David Brin — Toujours Voir from The River of Time

I quote only five words from this short story because as a precision short story it is only 250 words long. Quoting 50 words would therefore be quoting a disproportionate amount of the story.

David Brin describes a precision story as “a fable written to very exacting standards.”

This 250 word version is one such fable, something that can also be called flash fiction and also constrained writing. I don’t much care for flash fiction, which sometimes seems pointless, but I do like constrained writing and I might try this version someday.

How I increased my email subscriber list a 100% with just one click

What, you don’t believe that that is possible? How can you increase your subscribers with just one click. This is a hoax. A foolish prank and just plain nonsense.

Well refuse to believe it if you want to because it is true and I will tell you exactly how to do it. First you create a completely new mailing list. And then you subscribe to your own list which means with one click you have increased your subscribers with 100%.

Okay, admit, it is a bit funny.

But seriously, what is this about? A couple of things to be sure.

Firstly, I have created a mailing list and I have put a new sign-up form here. It is at the bottom of the right column if you are on a normal screen. I would of course like you to click there and sign-up. I mean, why else would I put it up here?

Screenshot of mailing list sign-up form
This is what the mailing list sign-up looks like, but this is not it – this is just a picture of it.

Which brings us to secondly and that is that everybody and their cat says that you need an email list. Because that is the only way to make a real difference. No, don’t ask me for proof. I don’t have it. As far as I am concerned it is all hearsay but I am willing to give it a try. The try being having a mailing list and seeing what that does.

And that is the third, getting people to sign up for the mailing list. Well it is like Twitter followers or any other media. By the way I have re-activated my second Twitter account and will be building the group there as well so you can sign up as a Twitter follower as well.

Again, why?

Because talking in the echo chamber is beginning to make my ears hurt. And because I would like to figure out how to build a list. And when I do I might write something about it. Or not.

Who knows, I might even send you an email telling you about my amazing findings. But then you would have to be on the list. And that is just to the right of this on the bottom of the column.

Try it, I promise you will make a phenomenal difference to my subscriber list.

First 50 Words of People Don’t Do Such Things

People don’t do such things.
That’s the last line of Hedda Gabler, and Ibsen makes this chap say it out of a sort of bewilderment at finding truth stranger than fiction. I know just how he felt. I say it myself every time I come up against the hard reality…

Ruth Rendell — People Don’t Do Such Things from Collected Short Stories

First 50 Words of The Crystal Spheres

It was just a luckychance that I had been defrosted when I was—the very year that farprobe 992573-aa4 reported back that it had found a goodstar with a shattered crystalsphere. I was one of only twelve deepspacers alivewarm at the time, so naturally I got to take part…

David Brin — The Crystal Spheres from The River of Time

First 50 Words of The Year Of The Jackpot

At first Potiphar Breen did not notice the girl who was undressing.
She was standing at a bus stop only ten feet away. He was indoors, but that would not have kept him from noticing; he was seated in a drugstore booth adjacent to the bus stop; there was nothing…

Robert A. Heinlein — The Year Of The Jackpot from The Menace From Earth

Stop Re-inventing the Wheel

We have become so enamoured with innovation and originality that it has become a punishment to do any task. In stead of stealing and borrowing ideas and parts from anywhere we would rather go and figure out the core purpose and re-invent the thing from the ground up.

This has to stop.


Because trying to be innovative and original on every single task is daft. It is like trying to re-invent walking every morning before you get out of bed. You are not going to get very far.

Case in point. I have to set a test. The work to be covered are well circumscribed by the curriculum. The weight of the marks and the level of questioning as well. I have been testing this section for a number of years, so has other teachers.

What would be easier? Trying to develop completely original questions or cutting and pasting more or less from a number of previous papers?

Had you asked me a year ago I would have said that you have to work out your own questions, from scratch. But even that is not possible. Because scratch do not exist. And if I did it would be a colossal waste of time.

No, I’m cutting and pasting (and editing for flow), and spending more of my energy and time teaching rather that trying to reinvent the track.

Nothing original going on here.

First 50 Words of The Fallen Curtain

The incident happened in the spring after his sixth birthday. His mother always referred to it as ‘that dreadful evening’, and always is no exageration. She talked about it a lot, especially when he did well at anything, which was often as he was good at school and at passing exams.

Ruth Rendell — The Fallen Curtain from Collected Short Stories

The Mouse-track Method of Cleaning Up House

If you do not have a set method of cleaning house, a system of some sort, you are probably exactly where we are most weeks. Some things are okay but underlying that there is a general mess and you have no idea how to tackle it.

This is one method I use to overcome the overwhelming feeling that nothing except a major demolition is going to get the problem fixed. I call it the Mouse-track Method. We find it especially useful because stuff tend to accumulate in corners.

You do it like this:

First decide on a point of origin. This is your safe zone to which you will return once you are overwhelmed. For me it is my bed. But it could also be your front door, back door or any other significant marker in the house.

Secondly you set a timer. Ten minutes are good. You can do a lot in ten minutes. Much more than you think. And doing a lot more than you think is the goal that you can only reach if you manage to trick your mind to not focus on the overwhelming load of cleaning up to be done.

Thirdly you work from your starting point, along the wall and to the corner and back. The way that a mouse would run, along the skirting. You clean up whatever you find along the way. Put stuff away, tidy up and if you can wipe and dust.

Starting at my bed that means stacking the books I’m reading, taking away whatever accumulates in the night and tossing abandoned socks in the wash.

Fourthly, when the timer goes of decide if you have the energy to continue or are you done (or out of time). If you still have energy and time set a new timer and go again. From the first corner to the next.

Rinse and repeat until you run out of steam.

Some more notes

If you get to a wall that takes a couple of seconds to do, which you might once you reach a passage or something, then go on to the next wall.

If you continue for a number of sessions you might reach an outside door. Skip over the door and continue inside or slip out and tidy the front porch, weed a flowerbed or sweep the courtyard.

Our place is built with outside walls so I can continue along going out the front door and eventually coming back in the back door — doing half the house. To do the other side of the house I would have to start somewhere else such as at the fridge. That would take me the other way around.

It is unlikely to complete a circle in a day, so at some point you will have to stop. You can then continue next time where you left of or start again from your safe spot. Either way you will get a lot tidied up, especially corners you would normally ignore. Combine this with other strategies and the whole house should be less of a mess.

I don’t know if I can but I am willing to try

If this sounds a bit like I am rambling then it is because I am. I’m going back to the original idea of what a blog is, as I understand it. A web log. As it was explained then, a reverse-chronological journal of whatever comes to mind.

This is what is coming to mind. And a lot is coming to mind because my mind is not pre-occupied with school at the moment (our vacation having started yesterday). And yesterday was Youth Day which means (as an old man) I spent most of the day lounging about doing nothing. But also as an old man I know that I don’t have that many days left and I can’t spent too much time doing nothing. I start itching.

So, this morning I’m scratching at least one itch by blogging. Something I should be doing regularly if it is supposed to be a proper blog (web log). And always when I say log I think of those Star Trek logs that give a star date and a Captain’s log and then an intro or conclusion to a story. I always wanted to hear at least one log that deal with the nitty-gritty of a Starship like dealing with blocked toilets.

I’m picking up on a number of things, which I hope to touch on over the next couple of weeks. And with this I hope to revive my blog again to something I do at least semi-regularly, if not over-frequently. I am aiming for too much rather than too little with the hope of hitting just right.

What is coming up then? Or, where is my mind wandering and what projects do I have on the boil? Let me make a list, just because:

  1. I start next term with a Main Lesson with my own guardian class. It is Drama Main Lesson and we will be doing Twelfth Night. That would be one of Shakespeare’s plays I know very little about and that means a bit of study and reading and thinking to get a handle on it. It will also be my first Drama Main Lesson so that makes it a double challenge for me. I’m very much looking forward to it.
  2. Still with school, I need to write an essay on my own teaching at a Waldorf school. This is part of my training as a Waldorf teacher and once I have done it I would be mostly finished with the introduction to be a Waldorf teacher. Apparently, however, it will take another four years before I really begin to feel like one. Always learning.
  3. I’ve set myself a challenge to make some paintings. Look back at the five things post. With the business of the end of term that whole process fell apart and I have to pick it up again. Updates on that as it goes because I would really like to get some painting done again.
  4. There are some hard-core maintenance to be done at home. One kitchen cupboard door has been broken for six months. Some shrubs needs winter trimming and all kinds of other stuff. Let’s see how much of that I get done.
  5. I have written a short monologue. I hope it will grow but I want to work it up as something I can perform, even just as the short snippet it is. I’m ploughing into new ground here so it feels a bit daunting but also exciting.
  6. Leading on from that, I trying to get together with a friend because we have an idea for writing a play together. It might just be a dead-end conversation or it may lead to something but we need to have a talk about it. That needs happening.
  7. And then lastly I have my fiction writing that I want to get to. Whether it would be new things or reviving old things I don’t know. Possibly half-half if I can get it right. For that I will be picking up on the Slow Writing post format. Let’s see how tat goes.
  8. And then really lastly, this blog and other online stuff that needs doing such as the Playing Mantis website.

And that brings me to the end of the ramblings, for now. Because it seems as if I have bitten of much more than what I can chew. All above here is much more than three weeks of business, or is it?

I don’t know. I’ve never pushed myself to work very hard before. What will happen if I do?

What is up with just five things?

I am in a confessional mood so here comes a confession about another project I’m involved in. Involved because I created the project, or is busy creating the project, and is the one responsible for planning, executing and mucking it up as I go along.

Five Things: spoon, tin opener, knife, glass shell and copper crustacean
Five Things: spoon, tin opener, knife, glass shell and copper crustacean

I visited the charity shop at the SPCA and bought five objects to the total cost of one hundred rand. These are small object which I can hold in one hand. A knife, a funny spoon, a glass shell-shaped bowl, a tine opener and a copper crustacean (or something).

The idea with the project is to use these five items as inspiration and starting point for a series of artworks. More specifically a set of paintings, though that may not be so certain depending or where things go.

But why am I doing this?

For a number of reasons which may not all seem logical. There might be even some reasons I’m not aware of but of those I am aware of here goes:

  1. I need to want to paint again with a fair amount of abandon. For this I need to be sure about my subject matter and not doubt what I am doing. By focussing on a limited number of objects, and what they could signify, I am aiming for a less is more approach.
  2. There are certain things I keep telling my students: “It is not the idea that matters but what you do with it”, “Pick anything and just start, it gets good later”, and “Make stuff, quality follows quantity.” However, I am not sure if I believe what I say because I do not do it myself. This project is an attempt to do so in order to be able to teach from a deeper experience.
  3. I would like to experiment with a project based approach to art making vs a constant productive stream. In other words working with stops and starts and deadlines before shifting gear to something completely different. This is a first attempt of such an approach for myself.
  4. My class 12 students will need a topic for their year work practical for 2017. I am putting this kind of topic through a test run to see if it would work. I’ll write down my parameters in a follow up post to clarify it for myself, and as a draft for the practical project.

Now, what I don’t have at the moment is the time to dedicate to painting. Not the way I want to paint, for a succession of days, deeply immersed and with absolute focus. So what I am doing at the moment is exploring the objects in quick sketches. And beginning to think about what they could mean. Which will soon mean some research but which for now just means being aware of them, as stuff.

And that then is another project I’m messing around with.