Weather is a fact of life… So is getting hit by flying debris

Weather services say that Alaska does not experience hurricanes, and that’s true, for the most part. But sometimes for those of us living in certain areas, it can seem like it. You see, I live in a valley between two glaciers, and winds tend to get funneled straight through my local area.

As you can see from the image above, we’re currently experiencing winds of 35 mph, with forecasts of gusts up to 54 mph. And this is the third day we’ve had conditions like this, with it expected to taper off by Friday.

Let’s put those wind speeds into perspective, with some information about how they’re classified…

So 35 mph is a moderate gale, and that’s pretty normal here year round, especially during winter high winds. After 13 years living here, I’ve come to expect trees to sway, and prepare to push against the wind when walking against it. But then, these winds are still more than strong enough to pick up trash, dust and has the potential to cause minor injuries if you aren’t careful.

Then we run up the scale two whole categories, with 54 mph winds. Now we’re talking about a strong gale, and real damage and potential for injuries to happen. At this point, expect shopping carts to roll across parking lots whenever they’re left loose. Watch out for cross-winds while driving, flying twigs and small branches. Keep hold of your car doors when opening and closing them, and check your roofs for missing slates.

I went out earlier today, and almost got blown over three times, and had a car door slam shut because I didn’t hold it with one hand while trying to load my shopping. Thankfully, I’d finished loading, had stepped aside, and was about to close the door anyway.

Also in the process of writing this post, I’ve lost power twice. Admittedly, only briefly in both cases, but for long enough to reboot my router, cable modem, and drop me into pitch blackness.

[update: I lost power again 20 minutes after scheduling this post. This time for almost 80 minutes. And since I rent, I don’t have the account information for the power company to log my outage. Spent the time reading a book, on my phone, in bed, while trying to stop the screen rotating every time I moved…]

Q: Who calls 18F temperatures, with 54 mph winds “Fair and Windy”?

A: The National Weather Service, that’s who!

I beg to differ. Personally, I’d say it’s cold and extremely windy. But then, I guess if I wrote the weather reports, I’d probably end up scaring people more than the NWS.

But I’ll tell you one thing. Experiences like this definitely make me take weather into account when I’m writing scenes. After all, the weather is as much a character as any of the people I create.

Disclaimer: No Debris Was Harmed In The Writing Of This Blog Post!

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English Rules Broken – Phonetics

Broken Phonetics - GHOTI=FISH

No, A GHOTI is Not A Type of Beard!

So, have you figured out what a ghoti is after reading the image above? And that last sentence is a huge clue.

If you need another clue, just remember, I love my ghoti deep fried in beer batter, slapped on a plate with a nice side order of chips (or steak cut fries), and smothered in salt and dripping with malt vinegar. Anyone suggesting I might want to dip my ghoti in tartar sauce with probably get a funny look, as I sprinkle on more vinegar.

Ghoti=fish.

By now, it should be obvious that I’m talking about fish in the paragraph above. But why do I keep calling it ghoti?

Simply put, phonetics are the building blocks of the spoken word. There are approximately 44 phonemes in the English language, based on the 26 individual letters, and some letter combinations. Unfortunately, there are way more ways to represent those sounds when written down (called graphemes).

This PDF file from Dyslexia Reading Well shows just how complicated spelling can be when we account for possible grapheme variations of the same phoneme.

Breaking It Down

Gh as in couGH (F)

O as in wOmen (i)

ti as in naTIon (sh)

Fish!

A 2017 Round-up 1 of 2 – News Updates

 

In This Post:

  • The FCC Repealed Net Neutrality, But It’s Not Dead Yet!
  • Giving A Drone This Christmas? Consider Adding a $5 Bill
  • My Bullet Journal Update & Why It’s A Huge Sucess!
  • Update On The Reader Survey

(Follow-up from this post: “Why I’m Supporting Net Neutrality”)

If you’ve been anywhere near the news in the last few weeks (or even months), you’ve heard about the battle to save Net Neutrality.

Last week I wrote a post, ahead of the vote by the FCC that would decide if we get to keep an “Open Internet”, or if the rules would be changing in favor of the Internet Service Providers. In the post I explained what Net Neutrality was, and why I felt that we could not afford to let the FCC dismantle the regulation they put in place during the Obama administration.

On December 14th 2017, the FCC voted 3-2 in favor of repealing the Net Neutrality rules. Popular Science explores why this is likely to be a bad thing, even if we don’t see immediate changes.

So is that the end of the discussion? Is Net Neutrality a thing of the past?

Not necessarily.

Several internet groups, states, and organizations are also looking at legal action to delay or reverse the decision. They cite the accelerated timeline under which this decision was made, compared to similar decisions in the past. This fast decision precluded public hearings and discussions makes the decision seem rushed in order to get it passed.

And… Congress still has a 60 day period, after the vote, in which to overturn the decision. Contact your representatives and let Congress know how you feel about Net Neutrality.

 

I happen to know a lot of people are receiving or buying drones (AKA quad-copters) for Christmas, because I work in retail. I’m also the owner of my own drone, thanks to my amazing wife, Sandi.

Being aware of restrictions on flying drones in certain places, except by express permission, I watch changes in legislation very carefully.

A few days ago, President Trump signed legislation that requires the registration of all drones between 0.55 lb and 55 lb in weight. (Hint: you can register  online for $5) And if your drone is OVER 55 lb in weight, then you need to register on paper. (Hint: you can get the details here).

This legislation affects you, ONLY IF you plan to fly your drone outdoors, at which point you are subject to several FAA regulations (some of which are new). And, for reference, most people will register under “Fly under the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Section 336)”

Find out more at:

Register Here… https://registermyuas.faa.gov/

 

(Follow-up from these posts: “Bullet Journal – The Solution To Your Planning Nightmares?”, “Question of the day: What Is Bullet Journal Day?”)

Three posts mentioning the same topic within the last year? Yep, that’s how life-changing the Bullet Journal system has been for me.

I’ve been using my Bullet Journal for almost a year now, and I couldn’t be happier with the results.

Initially I was working with a binder, and inserting pages as I needed them, and had got into the habit of doing all the regular tasks for the system. But then, in March, a leather-bound journal entered my life, and really changed everything.

Over the time I’ve been using my journal I’ve seen a lot of things change in how I handle it.

  • At first I was following the basic system, just writing everything into the journal as it occurred, without worrying about formatting, or how it looked on paper.
  • Once I moved from the binder to the journal, I started to create tables to track certain events I was planning for, and realized how helpful it was to have formatted pages.
  • My weekly layout changed at that point, and I was able to note down my work schedule, chores, events, blogging, writing/editing and promotion tasks on a single page. On the facing page, I was able to mark down goals, achievements, and forward planning notes. This was a massive change.
  • Then I started to spot particular things that came up every week, so I added “Habit Trackers” to my weekly layout.

And now I have a fresh journal to look forward to. I’ve brought a couple of sets of calendar stickers, and plastic templates with which to create the starting look for my new journal.

I’ll no doubt be posting more details in the coming weeks. In the meantime, check out my Bullet Journal board on  Pinterest for some ideas.

 

(Follow-up from these posts: “Shaking Things Up & Reader Survey”, “Update On My Reader Survey”)

From the results I’ve been receiving so far, most of this blog’s readers like what I’m doing. Which is great news for me, because it means I’ve been doing something right.

I’m also seeing indications that people want to see more guest spots, including stories, poems, top-10s and character interviews.

Click To Take The Survey Yourself…

English Rules Broken – “I before E”

I know I’m not the only one who was taught that “I comes before E, except after C”. But, then as I got older, I discovered an endless supply of words which broke that rule.

My wife brought the above example to my attention last night, after spotting it on a Facebook post, and I knew that I had to share.

There are many more “rules” of the English language that are frequently ignored, or aren’t hard and fast rules, as we’re led to believe. If you have any, please feel free to share them…

500+ Followers On Pinterest – Find out why!

A couple of months ago, I posted about my Pinterest account hitting 300 followers. That was mid-September. Now, just two months later, I’m pleased to announce that I’ve hit over 500 followers.

I’ve now got 51 boards, covering everything from topics I’m researching for my stories, to my personal interests. My followers can find everything from writing advice to writing prompts; from images of Seattle and the surrounding area to owls and wolves; from different kinds of magic to codes and languages.

You’ll even find a lot of my blog post images on there too, with links back to the original posts.

Since a lot of people who follow me here might not be aware of my Pinterest account, here’s a few of the things you can discover there.

  • Birds of Prey (4,000+ pins) – For those who know how much I love falconry, and getting up close with raptors, or love these amazing creatures themselves.
  • Writing Prompts (5,000+ pins) – Looking for a story starter, or something to kick-start a scene? This is where you want to be looking.
  • English Language (460+ pins) – Everything from spelling and grammar through to sayings and alternative words.
  • Big Cats (790+ pins) – Lions, Tigers, Leopards, Cougars… If they’re larger than a house cat, they’re here…
  • Bullet Journalling (680+ pins) – If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ve seen how I use my Bullet Journal to stay organized. This board covers everything from starting your own bullet journal to hacks that can help you really personalize it.
  • Character Naming (170+ pins) – This covers everything from explanations behind people’s names to what names were popular in given years.
  • Story Inspirations – Fantasy Art (960+ pins) – They say “a picture paints a thousand words”, and some of the images pinned to this board could inspire even more.
  • Wolves (520+ pins) – Getting up close to wolves was an experience I’ll never forget. And as a writer who loves wolf-shifters, I’d be remiss in not giving these glorious creatures their own board.
  • Creatures (190+ pins) – Creatures urban myth through to ancient gods and legendary beasts.
  • All Things Writing (960+ pins) -Yeah, actually not sure how I ended up with multiple boards for writing tips…

Pinterest just added a new feature, which I’m very excited to try out.

Instead of just adding pins to particular boards and watching it all pile up into a disorganized mess, you can now organize things a little more.

The answer is sub-boards, and over I’m going to be using this new feature pretty extensively over the coming months. I really want to give my followers the best chance of finding the pins that best suit their pinning habits, and that starts by being able to find them again whenever I want to.

So, keep your eyes on my boards, because they’re going to become better organized, as time allows. But that means I also have to go back through 20,000 pins to figure out what I need to move into sub-boards.

Not only will you learn something about me personally, but you’ll be getting an insight into the kinds of research that I do for my stories… Who knows, you might just find clues to an upcoming plotline…

Check out my Pinterest Boards Today!

My Top 10 Haunted Locations

No Halloween event is complete without a trip to the local Haunted House. For this reason I’ve scoured the internet trying to find some of the most iconic, and most haunted locations around the world.

Even though the number of places I found was huge, I selected my top 10, and present it (in no real order) for your reading pleasure.

#1 – The Catacombs of Paris (France)

The Paris Catacombs are built in the remains tunnels that connect the old stone mines. The tunnels head south from the Barrière d’Enfer and they were converted into a series of ossuaries to help alleviate the overcrowding of the Parisian cemeteries.

Work began in 1774, and by 1786 remains were being transferred to the catacombs on an almost nightly basis. After a while, it became almost forgotten, before being rediscovered and becoming a venue for private events and concerts.

In 1874 the catacombs opened to the public, and now see over a million visitors a year. With all those visitors and guides walking around, surrounded by the dead, is it any wonder that there are reports of encounters with ghosts?

#2 – Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp (Poland)

There are few names that inspire as much horror and trepidation as those of the concentration and extermination camps built during the Nazi rise to power. Auschwitz-Birkenau was a complex of camps established to initially extend the prisoner holding capability of local prisons in Poland, and received it’s first prisoners in June 1940.

The main camp, Auschwitz I, held anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 prisoners at any one time, and was built on the grounds of a Polish barracks.

Construction on the second camp, Birkenau (aka. Auschwitz II), was started in 1941 on the site of the Brzezinka village. The villagers were all evicted to make way for the camp, and it was here that the greatest part of the extermination machine was enacted, with the majority of deaths occurring within it’s walls.

When the Soviet troops approached the walls in January 1945, most of the prisoner population was west on a death march. Even those who visit the camps today can’t imagine the horrors that must have occurred on these grounds, with estimates of the dead from 630,000 to 900,000. With so many prisoners going unregistered, it’s almost impossible to guess at how many souls still wander the grounds.

#3 – Berry Pomeroy Castle, Devon (England)

Berry Pomeroy is a Tudor-period mansion that was built within the walls of an older castle in Totness, England. It was built in the 15th century, on land owned by the Pomeroy family since the 11th century, before passing into the hands of the Seymore family in 1547.

There are two very famous ghosts that haunt these halls… However, there are often overlaps between the stories, and the truth behind them is often blurred by time and retelling.

The White Lady is said to be the spirit of Lady Margaret Pomeroy, who apparently starved to death while imprisoned by her jealous sister.

The Blue Lady apparently also walks the hall and grounds, luring people into following her to her tower. Those who follow her are said to plummet to their deaths from the tower.

#4 – Underground  Vaults, Edinburgh (Scotland)

Edinburgh Castle sits atop the remains of a volcanic plug, overlooking the city from it’s highest point. The current structures are built on a site that has been occupied by one form of settlement since the 2nd century.

Over the years it has grown from a small settlement to the imposing fortress we see today. It served as a formidable stronghold throughout it’s 1100 year history, including at least 26 sieges, the Wars of Scottish Independence and the Jacobite Revolution.

While few of the current structures pre-date the 16th century, there are underground vaults that were rediscovered during the 1980’s. These vaults had lain abandoned for almost 200 years beneath the South Bridge, and had once been used as cellars, workshops, and even residences for the businesses that operated on the bridge. Unfortunately flooding started almost as soon as construction began on these vaults, and now the South Bridge is said to be among the many sites where hauntings have occurred. Some visitors even report being attacked, or nausea and vomiting when passing over the vaults.

#5 – Coliseum, Rome (Italy)

The Coliseum (aka Colloseum) is one of the most impressive landmarks to dominate the skyline of Rome. It dominates an area 620 feet by 510 feet,  and rises almost 160 feet over the crowds that come to visit it every year.

Construction was started by Emperor Vespasian sometime around AD 70, and it was officially opened in AD 80 by his son Titus. The event was celebrated with 100 days of games, gladiatorial contests and wild animal fights. And that was just the start of the history that bathes the amphitheater in the blood of those who fought for the entertainment of 50,000-80,000 spectators at any one time.

The complex boasts a number of cells, tunnels where slaves, prisoners and animals would be housed between fights. And fights and other entertainments continued to be held here right through to the middle of the 6th century, until it fell into.

With so much blood being shed within it’s walls, over such an extended period of time, is it any wonder that some visitors report seeing ghosts, or feelings of disquiet while making their way through the grounds?

#6 – Whitechappel/Spittalfields, London (England)

The streets of Whitechapel and Spittalfields are part of the famous London East End, and among those that became associated with the classic Dickensian London.

During the 1800s they were an overcrowded warren of poverty-stricken streets, alleyways that saw a large population increase from immigrants in the 1880s and onward. Even today, the East End is considered one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the London area.

Having already been made famous in the stories of Charles Dickens, it became infamous in 1888 for a string of murders that have baffled even modern investigators. Five murders occurred over the space of four months before the killing stopped, and all within a few blocks of each other.

Why were these deaths so significant? Because the killer struck without warning, with apparent surgical precision, and was given a name that struck terror into people’s hearts… After the fifth, and most brutal killing, he never struck again, was never caught, and his real identity has become the subject of hundreds of theories.

Just who was Jack the Ripper? And why did he stop killing? Maybe we’ll never know.

#7 – Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (USA)

In 1863, a tiny town in Pennsylvania played host to what has been described as the deadliest battle of the American Civil War. Over the course of three days, with the Union soldiers low on ammunition, and losing the fight against the Confederates, over 8,000 men died on the fields of this town.

However, the men weren’t the only ones to die during the fighting, 3,000 horses, and one woman were also killed, and it is said that the ghost of Jenny Wade haunts the apothecary at the center of town. But she’s not alone in haunting the town and fields. Visitors report seeing ghosts all over the battlefield, and some have even told tales of seeing parts of the battle replayed around them.

With such a huge loss of life, and the emotions that are stirred by the events of the battle, is it any wonder this is considered one of the most haunted places (acre-for-acre) in the USA.

#8 – Dominican Hill, Baguio City (Philippines)

Built the early 1900s, the Diplomat Hotel is one of several locations in the Philippines where refuges fled from the Japanese forces during World War II. That is until the location was bombed, causing severe damage to the building.

Over the years, the property has passed through several hands, starting life as a vacation house, seminary, and eventually a hotel.  A number of people are said to have died on the site, despite having come in the hopes of being cured of whatever terminal conditions they had.

The last known death was in 1987 when the owner of the property died of a heart attack. Ever since then the property has been off limits to the public.

Over the years, stories have circulated that the property was the site of a number of beheadings of priests and nuns, and that headless ghosts have been seen roaming the grounds. Considering the current dilapidated state of the property, it’s not hard to see why people experience periods of dead silence, when not a single sound can be heard.

#9 – Ancient Ram Inn, Gloucestershire (England)

This former pub is currently listed as one of the most haunted hotels in England. Built back in 1145, and said to have been owned by St Mary’s Church, this property is now under private ownership, having passed through a number of hands since it’s construction.

Over the years it has been investigated by a number of paranormal research groups, and featured on many shows centered around investigating hauntings and paranormal activities.

If local stories are to be believed, the inn is built on the intersection of two ley lines, and over an ancient burial ground from 5,000 years ago. It has apparently also been host to child sacrifice and devil worship. People who have stayed at the hotel have reported everything from a young ghostly girl (called Rosie), and objects being moved by unseen presences, to being physically pushed by forces they couldn’t identify.

Whatever is really going on here has been enough to terrify some guests into jumping out of windows to escape their experiences.

#10 – Highgate Cemetery, North London (England)

This is quite possibly one of the most famous cemetery in England, because of the size of the site, and the list of famous people who are buried here. It’s not just the people who have been buried here, but the architecture, and grave markers of the 170,000 people buried in 53,000 graves.

I’ve personally walked through sections of this cemetery in search of the graves of Karl Marx, Douglas Adams, and George Eliot. What struck me most is just how much architecture plays a part in the atmosphere of the site. Huge terraces at the top of the hill rest upon the catacombs beneath, Gothic architecture dominates large portions of the site, and there is even an area where Ancient Egypt seems to have taken root.

What I can’t easily describe is just how different this place feels and looks between daytime and night. But I was leaving the site just as the sun went down, and it’s easy for the mind and emotions to become ensnared by the creepy feeling that you’re not alone.

Discussion Topic:

Do you have a Top 10 of haunted places you’d like to share?

Have you had a personal ghost experience?

Comment below, and let everyone know they’re not alone in their experiences.

 

The Halloween Crazy Train Is About To Start

Tomorrow marks the start of the lead up to Halloween night, and I have a very full month of events scheduled for you. If you haven’t already taken a sneak peek at what’s coming up, then take a look at this post, where I give you a list of everything that’s happening. (And trust me, if you love reading as much as I do, you’re going to discover some great books, some fun stories, and hopefully uncover a new favorite author or two).

So What Happens To My Normally Scheduled Posts?

  • “Midweek Mumbles” will be in hiatus until November 1st 2017. This is my normal rambling post that goes up on a Wednesday, but it will be replaced an Author Spotlight, 2 Book Spotlights, and a Character Interview during the month of October.
  • “Someone Else’s Words” will also go on hiatus, returning November 4th 2017. This is my weekly quote post, and during October, it will be replaced by a Book Spotlight, and Author Spotlight, and two posts yet to be determined.

In the meantime, here’s a little piece to get us all in the mood:

The Louisville Leopard Percussionists is a non-profit organization offering extracurricular music opportunities to local children at little or no cost. And here they are playing Crazy Train by Ozzy Osborne.

And here’s the original

Are There Any Particular Posts That Have You Excited?

If there is a particular part of this month’s schedule that has you excited, let me know in the comments…