Monday, August 12, 2013

Showing My Age...

When I graduated from college in 1958, electric typewriters were not yet in use by anyone I knew.  So when I told an old college friend recently about Kickstarter and how we planned to use it to try to crowd fund some CYOA interactive cartoons via the internet, he had a hard time wrapping his head around it.  "Do the investors get part of the company?" "No, no, it's not like that.  They are backing a project," I explained.  "So do they get a share in the royalty stream?"  "No, not that either," I replied.  Peter, who made his money managing other people's money on Wall Street (very successfully) was seriously perplexed.  “They get the chance of seeing something that they believe in come to life and say ‘I was part of that’,” I added.  “And depending on their pledge, we might send them a signed copy of the script, an 80s time capsule and/or a copy of the final cartoon," I explained.  "Really?" he asked.  "Yes, really," I answered.  "That's crazy," he announced confidently.  "Actually, it's not so crazy,” I said.  “Kickstarter has been around for three years and in 2012, they gave three times as much money to the arts as the U.S. government." *

Peter, who gives many of the millions he's made to the arts and to early childhood education, sat quietly and thought.  After a while he spoke.  "I can't quite take it in.  I mean, I believe you.  But I just don't understand it."

I know what he means.  Sometimes as our incredible staff helped put our Kickstarter page together over the past couple of months, I had to pinch myself.  It's an incredible world we live in.  I've always embraced new technology, and have the Apple II nailed to the wall of my old writing office to prove it.  But Kickstarter, what it does and what it implies, is pushing me to the edge of my own comfort zone.  

I guess I am finally showing my age.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Astronaut Douglas Wheelock's Amazing Photos

NASA astronaut Douglas Wheelock, known to his Twitter followers as Astro_Wheels, shares pictures of the Earth.

Clear starry night over the eastern Mediterranean. The ancient land with a thousand years of history stretching from Athens to Cairo. Historical land of fabulous and alluring island … Athens – Crete – Rhodes – Izmir – Ankara – Cyprus – Damascus – Beirut – Haifa – Amman – Tel Aviv – Jerusalem – Cairo – all of them turned into tiny lights in this cool November night.
 Florida and southeastern U.S. in the evening. A clear autumn evening, the moonlight over the water and sky, dotted with millions of stars.

“Dome” on the side of nadir station gives a panoramic view of our beautiful planet. Fedor made the picture from the window of the Russian docking compartment. In this photo I’m sitting in the dome, preparing the camera for our evening flight over Hurricane Earl.
 At the southern end of South America lies the pearl of Patagonia.
The amazing beauty of rugged mountains, massive glaciers, fjords and seas combined in perfect harmony.
 All the beauty of Italy, a clear summer night. You can see many beautiful islands that adorn the coast – Capri, Sicily and Malta. Naples and Mount Vesuvius are allocated along the coast.

This is part of the Great Barrier Reef off the east coast of Australia, photographed through the lens of 1200 mm.
 Our unmanned ‘Progress 39P’ approaches the ISS for refuelling. It is full of food, fuel, spare parts and all necessities for our station. Inside was a real gift – fresh fruit and vegetables. What a miracle after three months of food from a tube!

Night view of the River Nile, stretching like a snake through Egypt to the Mediterranean, and Cairo, located in the Delta. Far away in this picture, one can see the Mediterranean Sea.
Over the Sahara desert, approaching the ancient lands and thousand-year history. River Nile flows through Egypt by the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo.
Further, the Red Sea, Sinai Peninsula, Dead Sea, Jordan River, as well as the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea and Greece on the horizon.

 Morning over the Andes in South America. I do not know for sure the title of this peak, but was simply amazed by her magic, stretching to the sun and wind tops.
 A little farther east, we saw a sacred monolith Uluru, better known as Ayers Rock. I have never had the opportunity to visit Australia, but someday I hope that I will stand by this miracle of nature.
 Beautiful atoll in the Pacific Ocean, photographed using 400mm lens. Approximately 1930 km south of Honolulu.
 Of all the places of our beautiful planet few can rival the beauty and richness of colors in the Bahamas. In this photo, our ship is seen against the backdrop of the Bahamas.
 Northern lights in the distance in one of the finest nights over Europe.
The photo clearly shows the Strait of Dover. Paris is dazzling with the city lights. A little fog over the western part of England, particularly over London.
 ‘MysteryIsland’ …located in the Indian Ocean close to Madagascar.
Interesting features on the island and the unusual shape should be enough to help you discover this beautiful place.
Greek islands on a clear night during our flight over Europe. Athens shine brightly along the Mediterranean Sea.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ramsey Montgomery

IT’S TAKEN ME THREE YEARS to write this entry.  It is very hard even now.  The loss of a child is so overwhelming that it does not go away; you do not get through it; you re-arrange your mental and emotional furniture.  Life is short; friends and family count the most; life is a true gift and you must not turn your back on it.

Our oldest son, Ramsey Montgomery, died of a massive brain aneurism March 4, 2008 in Saigon, Vietnam. He was just 40.  He had been living and teaching in Vietnam for four years.  He died in his apartment in his own bed.  Buddhists say that this is the kindest way to pass from this life to the next.

Ramsey was an adventurer, traveler, ski racer, author (4 Choose Your Own Adventure books), reader and thinker, teacher, and friend to people all over the world.  Rams could walk down a street in San Francisco or Boston or Paris or Bang Kok and run into people he knew.  He was loved by many people and loved them in return.

Rams spent 60 days in a Buddhist  forest monastery in Northern Thailand.  He had two roommates in his 9x10’ hut: a snake and a rat. Then one night the snake ate the rat.

Rams went to Green Mountain Valley School, a boarding school using ski racing as a metaphor for life, took a 13th year at a tutorial school in Oxford, England, went to UVM and UC Boulder.  He was a producer and project director for a number of start-up companies developing computer games and learning materials. He was good, really good.

Anson, his younger brother and also a CYOA author, Shannon my wife and his beloved step-mother, and I went to Vietnam where we met his friends both ex-pats and local Vietnamese. The warmth, acceptance, and help given by these people who loved Ramsey  helped us get through those days. His cremation was followed by a Buddhist ceremony in a temple with 50 of his friends.

Life is short.  At least the life we are currently in--remember energy is never lost, it is only transformed--so, Rams simply jumped the line at the bus stop ahead of us.

We love you, Rams, we will never forget you. Thanks.  Dad, Shan, Ans.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Through the Bifocals

READING. READING. READING. Not writing much right now, but soon I will. I read a great amount and I like fiction, history, economics, and kids' books (Harry Potter is for both kids and adults. I’ve read them all.). So, here is my latest reading with some notes.

Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy)
FALL OF GIANTS by Ken Follet. A huge book both in scope and pages. Our oldest son Ramsey used to say that he only liked books over 800 pages. He would have liked this one.
An epic historical fiction work, this book covers the tumultuous period in the opening years of the 20th century. World War One was peering over the wall of a vibrant, rich, and yet selfish Europe. Empire was in charge of the world; but times were about to change. The working class wanted a fair share in the wealth. (Sound familiar?)
The story follows the lives of an English, American, German, Russian, and Welsh family. Each suffer severe losses due to the war and to the changing times. Collapsing empire, woman’s suffrage, labor unions, the socio-political face of Europe.
The history is well-researched; the figures like Winston Churchill and US president Wilson are vigorously portrayed. I couldn’t put it down.

14211421: THE YEAR CHINA DISCOVERED AMERICA, by Gavin Menzies. Did you know about China’s huge fleets and giant boats during the Ming Dynasty in the 15th century? I didn’t, and I have read a great deal about Chinese history. This book re-creates the voyages by Chinese fleets all over the world. This is both history and conjecture, but if it is correct, then China was way ahead of Europe.

The World at Night

THE WORLD AT NIGHT by Alan Furst. 1940 Europe in the grip of WWII. Paris. Germans. Espionage. Realistic. Riveting. Moral issues. Is this a cautionary tale?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


 I WAS SITTING IN MY FAVORITE CHAIR READING by the fire the other day.  It was a warm day, and the late afternoon sun was filtered by high mackerel clouds. Suddenly something caught my  eye.  It was dark, moving fast and big.  A dog?  Probably.  Then another dark shape ran by.

They were two bear cubs, probably 70-80 lbs.  They ran right past the big, floor to ceiling windows right to a small apple grove about fifteen yards away.

Then she arrived, slowly, purposefully, with an ambling gait like a sailor too long at sea.  She was big, maybe 200 lbs.  She was wonderful.  A brown nose (snout would be disrespectful) and a powerful body.  She stopped and looked in the windows. I don’t know whether or not she saw me.  The afternoon sun might have reflected in such a way that I was out of her view.
The cubs were climbing the apple trees.  Fast!!!!  They went way up to shake the limbs and get the apples down on the ground to eat.  After all, winter is coming and they need to fatten up for the long winter sleep in some cave or under a ledge up on the ridge behind us.

The big bear lingered in front of our house certain that the cubs were safe.  Then she joined them to feast on the apples on the ground.

I grabbed my camera and had the foolish notion of going outside for a close-up.  I canceled that notion.  They are after all wild creatures.  I shot pictures from the safety of the inside of the house.  They stayed for maybe fifteen minutes and then ambled off.  Their range is about 10 square miles, and they probably had visited our apple trees before.

I wonder what they think of us?  I thought that they were incredible.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cold Day

I’M SUPPOSED TO BE WORKING TODAY.  Supposed to be is the operative phrase.  I don’t want to.  No, I like writing; I really like it. The work I’m talking about is all the stuff you have to do to be an author and a publisher: Contracts, trademark infringements, license agreements, lawyers, more lawyers!  Yuck! I’m a writer and a traveler. That means reading, research, talking to people, thinking (daydreaming sometimes), and then putting fingers to computer keys.

Being a writer is somewhat like being back in college.  Papers need research, good ideas, writing, re-writing, and deadlines.  If you like that kind of stuff and you don’t mind being alone a lot, then maybe writing is for you.

The internet revolution is providing space for  people to be heard and to get their ideas, thoughts, and creativity out there.  I love and believe in the book and the bookstore, but we can’t ignore or overlook the computer and what it offers. Change, as we all know, is the one big constant.  Embrace it.  It’s not always easy, but it is real.

It’s a cold day in Vermont. There is snow on the upper part of the mountains.  The leaves are gone.  Good riddance. I have never liked the overblown colors of the fall, it’s like too much candy all at once.  Now the hills and mountains are more prominent. I like seeing bare tree limbs.  I like pecking away at these keys.

Hurry back spring.