Let’s say you’ve been working on this novel. OK, let’s be honest – you worked really hard on this novel for about six months, then life, and your real job, got in the way, and the novel said “that’s alright, I’ll wait for you”. And a month’s pause became three months and then six months and then a year, and then more than a year. And you want to go back to it, you want to really dig back into it. How do you start? Read what you’ve written from the beginning? Read the last few chapters? Just start writing and sort out the mess and contradictions later?

Posted in Writing | Leave a comment

We Had A Dream

Shining city on a hill
Damn we let that one slide
In the fading sparkle of a thousand points of light
We didn’t keep hope alive
We killed it and threw it off the bridge
to the twenty-first century
Fear is our constant companion
An abusive lover
That tells us not to dream
We could have done better
We chose to do worse
But once we did have a dream

Posted in Poetry | Leave a comment


It’s hard to shed the feeling that a fundamental change has occurred, that “normal” won’t ever be normal again. At some point, we’ll come out of this, but how many small businesses and local restaurants will come out with us? When will we feel comfortable going to lunch with friends? When will we feel comfortable going back to work, or school, or church? For me, this may well be the end of my working life – before it all began I was pondering how much longer I would go, now that I’ve basically been off for nearly two months I’m pondering if I want to go back. It’s been like a dress rehearsal for retirement, and I’ve enjoyed the change in my sleep habits, not waking at 4 or 4:30, not constantly worrying about what might be going wrong at work. Walking away from all that offers new opportunities, but present circumstances stop you from taking advantage. The isolation presses on me at times – because my wife and I have been pretty strict about social distancing, I haven’t been inside a store in two months, I’ve had very little contact with friends, church might as well not exist. My only outlet has been a few trips to Home Depot, ordering online and doing curbside pickup of some things I needed to do some projects. I’ve caught up on lots of projects during this time, got the yard and garden looking pretty good. How much longer do we stay like this? I don’t know. While some businesses are opening up again, some restaurants are resuming full service, people are going to work and play again – we’ll be staying home, watching to see if the infection rates start to rise again. Time will tell.

Posted in Life | Leave a comment

Nerdy Spreadsheet Stuff

On one of my projects, I have to process data from lots of sources. One of these provides essentially a report in spreadsheet format. I need to strip out all the extraneous things – empty rows, data split into rows by line feeds – so I end up with one line containing a name and address so I can geocode it. To do this in Excel, I use these steps:

  1. Copy the column (B) containing the name and address to a new worksheet
  2. On the new worksheet, select the column just pasted, then click (on the Home tab) Find And Select –> Go To Special –> Blanks, then click OK
  3. Still on the Home tab, select Delete –> Delete Sheet Rows (the paste command brings lots of empty rows from the original worksheet, because of the report formatting; these commands will select and then delete the empty rows)
  4. Select the Data tab
  5. Select Text To Columns –> Delimited –> Next
  6. Step 2 of the Text To Columns Wizard, de-select Tab, select Other, and type Ctrl-J (control-J) in the box beside Other. You’ll just see a period in the box, but the sample display will show the data split into columns. Click Next and then Finish.
  7. To combine the address for geocoding, use the Excel formula =CONCATENATE(B2,”,”,C2)

For whatever reason, this is a satisfying exercise, watching Excel rearrange the data into a form that is usable for my needs. Especially the text-to-columns function.

Posted in Geek Stuff | Leave a comment

One of the many reasons I love BBC History Magazine

From the October 2019 issue:


In a caption on page 44 of August’s issue (Trafalgar: An Overrated Victory?) we wrote that the “Dutch fleet” was destroyed at the battle of Copenhagen. It should of course have read “Danish fleet”. Thanks to the many readers who pointed out this error.”

Posted in History | Leave a comment