Rail travel inspiration offers fertile ground for writing ideas
Rail travel inspiration
I wrote an article for NOLA History Guy last week on “Hickory Creek,” a 1948-vintage railcar built for the New York Central’s “20th Century Limited” train. The car operates in charter service, pulled behind Amtrak trains. I saw it leaving New Orleans, behind the Amtrak Crescent. The Crescent travels from New Orleans to New York City. I included the poster above, as a bit of a flashback. It flashed to me, even if nobody else follows along!
Grand Central Terminal in the 1950s
My thoughts go back to 1950, but not necessarily to the New York Central. While Grand Central Terminal was A Big Deal to the railroad, their trains connected Chicago to New York, not the South. So, for the South, it’s Southern Railway and Louisville and Nashville. They brought the Crescent and other trains up from New Orleans. Replace the 20th Century Limited in that poster with the Crescent and it’s a New Orleans story! Additionally, a story doesn’t have to be limited to a single train trip.
The romance of train travel
This New York Central poster shows a 4-6-4 “Hudson” steam engine, pulling the 20th Century Limited. While most steam locomotives presented a lot of exposed rods, gears, and machinery, the railroad covered all that up for their signature train. So, the streamline look of those engines increased the romance aspect of a trip to Chicago.
Switching to diesel continues rail travel inspiration
The railroad switched the 20th Century Limited to diesel locomotives in 1945. The Electro-Motive Division of General Motors sold “E” units to the New York Central. The railroad ordered new cars, “trainsets” as well. Those entered service in 1948. That’s where Hickory Creek comes in.
Imagine a regular traveler on the 20th Century Limited, settling into a sleeping compartment in one of those new cars. Or, maybe a couple from Jersey, taking a trip to the Lake Michigan shore. While those visuals aren’t Southern, they’re still inspiring! So many possibilities!
USS Topeka SSN-754 gets a new Navigator this week.
USS Topeka SSN-754
LT Firstborn was home for the holidays, having completed the Submarine Officer Advanced Course (SOAC) at Naval Submarine Base New London. We brought him to the airport this morning, and he’s off to Naval Base Guam, which is the home port of the USS Topeka SSN-754. The Topeka is a Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine. These submarines formed the backbone of the US Navy’s attack submarine force for the last forty years. While some of the 688s (as they’re known) were upgraded to extend their service lives, the USS Virginia-class boats phase them out.
The USS Topeka SSN-754 entered service on 23-January-1988. That makes the boat six months older than LT Firstborn! The Lieutenant did his “junior officer” tour on the USS Alexandria SSN-757. So, it was logical for him to go back to sea on a 688.
LT Firstborn surprised me by choosing Naval Base Guam as his home port. He opted for that base over a position as Engineer. He had several reasons for this choice. Because Guam is so forward (in relation to Pearl Harbor or San Diego), the boats there go out for a few weeks and then return to port. The boats assigned to US ports often go out for as long as six months as a time. By choosing Guam, he gets to sleep in his apartment more often.
His other motivation for Guam is travel. Hopefully things will remain stable enough that he’ll be able to visit places like Tokyo, Bangkok, and other interesting Asian destinations.
The path to Guam
So, LT Firstborn was commissioned as an Ensign (O-1), after completing OCS. He received promotion to Lt. Junior Grade (O-2) while in the various schools required of a submarine officer. As a LTJG, he served on the Alexandria. He received promotion to Lieutenant while on that boat. Then came his three-year “shore tour.” He served at NSA Saratoga Springs in upstate New York for two years. Then came a year at the US Army Command and General Staff College in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Next came SOAC, to get him and other O-3s ready to return to the fleet as senor officers.
Navigator of USS Topeka SSN-754
Submarines such as the USS Topeka SSN-754 have a Captain and an Executive Officer, who hold the rank of Commander (O-5). Under them are three “department heads,” They command three departments, Engineering, Navigation, and Weapons. The Engineer is usually promoted to Lt. Commander (O-4) when assuming the job. The other two department heads are Lieutenants (O-3). They receive promotion during the tour. LT Firstborn joins Topeka as its Navigator. He’ll be responsible for 30-40 sailors, three or four Chiefs, and a couple of junior officers. He’ll be responsible for bringing the boat in and out of port, underway navigation, and ship’s communications. He will also stand watch as needed, as Officer of the Deck and as Engineering Duty Officer, as needed.
I am so proud of this young man! I do hope we’ll get to go out to Guam to visit. Better still, if the boat puts into Pearl Harbor at a time when we only have to go that far. It was so good to have him home for even a short time. Now I’m back to teaching and writing.
Personal Log 20191123
Personal Log 20191123
Taking a moment to catch my breath. It’s been a crazy week. I had a hardware class for HitachiVantara Global Learning on the schedule for some time, but then I was asked by Megan Holt of “One Book New Orleans” if I’d be interested in presenting a talk on “Personal Websites for Authors” at this year’s Words and Music New Orleans festival. I jumped on it! So, I planned the teaching week to get the lecture material for the course done by Thursday. Home on Southwest Thursday night, then out to the Ace Hotel for the festival yesterday morning.
Not a bad plan overall, but there’s often a complication. I got an email last week asking me to teach a class to a group of folks from the UK. It was a two-day class (Monday and Tuesday), via WebEx. So, it wasn’t a logistical conflict. I delivered the UK class from 0400 to 0830ish EST, from Columbus, OH, site of the hardware class. No problem, I thought, go to bed early on Sunday night, get up at 0330 Monday, do the deed. Rinse and repeat on Tuesday.
It wasted me. I’m not as young as I used to be, and spent most of Tuesday yawning. Fortunately, I was able to stay awake and coherent for the face-to-face class! I went to a pizza place down High Street from the hotel, had some beer, and a calzone, and went to bed early again. Wednesday, slept to the late hour of 0700! Anyway, I’m back on track by Saturday.
Websites for Authors
The talk at Words and Music New Orleans went well, I think. This was the second time I’ve presented this material. The first was at the Jefferson Parish Library (Hi, Chris Smith!). When I do a history talk, there’s a lot of interaction and audience feedback. Ooohs and Ahhhs on various old photos. Someone will chime in with an anectode or two.
When I present on websites, the audience is quiet. They appear to be attentive, but they’re quiet. I’m good at reading classrooms and audiences, but even the computer nerds are more animated than these folks. The feedback after the talk at the library was solid. Folks came up and thanked me for the information. Others asked specific questions, one-on-one. During the talk? Silence.
I’m thinking this topic attracts writers who really don’t know much about the mechanics of website development. That’s not a bad thing, mind you. I’m thinking this merits discussion and such here on my site.
Words and Music New Orleans
Words and Music New Orleans
Thanks to everyone attending today’s talk at the Ace Hotel! Click on the title graphic or here to get the PDF of the presentation.
Web Design and Consulting
In addition to my corporate training portfolio, and my alter ego, NOLA History Guy, I also do website work. If you’d like to discuss any of the ideas from today’s presentation further, please feel free to email me at email@example.com.
Upcoming adventures – Edward’s talks and signings.
A few engagements coming up, stop by and check them out!
Friday, November 22 (TOMORROW)
Personal Websites for Authors
Ace Hotel, 600 Carondelet Street, New Orleans
Workshop. $10. Ticket price includes continental breakfast.
Local writer and self-described computer nerd Edward Branley will guide writers through the fundamentals of building a website to increase their visibility and marketing. Topics include website content, writing bios for different platforms, and more!
Tuesday, December 10th
The Golden Age of Canal Street
Reception – 6:30pm – 7pm
Talk begins at 7pm.
Friday, December, 13th
Book Signing at Walgreens
Notebooks fountain pens and updating my Bujo strategy
Notebooks, fountain pens
I was in Manhattan back in the spring, teaching a class for Hitachi Global Learning. When I’m on the road, I prefer taking my backpack rather than the messenger bag I take to coffee shops when I’m home. When packing for the trip, this desire adds a step, shifting stuff from the “home” bag to the “travel” bag. I’m usually pretty good about this, but this particular trip, I forgot something. I left my current Bullet Journal notebook (BuJo) in the messenger bag! Not to worry, there’s a Staples on 5th Avenue around 38th or 39th. So, I picked up a Moleskine and kept on going.
I filled up that notebook this week. Therefore, I’m going back to the one I left at home. So, now I’m back to a Leuchturm1917 brand notebook. I forgot that I really like the quality of the Leuchturm1917 when compared to the Moleskine. Now, please understand, I’m not saying the Moleskine is bad, just that the Leuchturm1917 feels better.
Cheap vs. Pricey
There’s another complication/issue with the German notebooks. While the paper is good quality, it’s thinner than the Moleskine. My love of notebooks, fountain pens is the complication. Most of the inexpensive fountain pens I use have medium-point nibs. The ink flow is a bit heavy. This was more of an issue when all I used to write in the BuJo were the pens. Now that I make my weekly planner page and daily headers with my “adult coloring” set of Prismacolor pencils, all I write in ink is the detail stuff.
So, that means I have to do something I haven’t done regularly. I carry my most expensive fountain pen with me. It’s a Waterman I bought for about a hundred bucks a few years back. My other pens are under-$10 items I buy off eBay. If I wear them out or lose one, well, I don’t shed many tears. I still may leave the Waterman home when I travel and just let notebooks, fountain pens bleed in Ohio.
Jeff Parish Library Workshop, just before the meeting of the RWA chapter
Jeff Parish Library Workshop
I had the privilege of speaking at the Jefferson Parish Public Library (East Bank Regional Branch) this morning. This Jeff Parish Library workshop was titled, The Importance of Author Websites.
The top-level topics of the talk:
- What is your goal? – you need to have an idea of where you’re going with this.
- Domain names and hosting – get YourName dot com at a minimum.
- Content Management with WordPress – It’s the easiest way to do this.
- Design – logos, banners, book covers, images/art, specific fonts
- Content – write! fire up the blogging!
- eCommerce – It’s OK to punt sales to Amazon and your publisher. There are ways to sell your own stuff (books and book-related merchandise) from a WordPress site.
- Connections – Start everything from your blog. Syndicate your blog to Amazon Author’s page and your Goodreads author page. Push your blog posts out to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr
- Personal Networking – promote your friends who are writers, as well as local booksellers, podcasters, and others.
- Search Engines – spread the word about your blog.
- Have Fun!
We went a bit over the time Chris set for us, but the group had fun, and that’s what it’s all about.
You can download the PPT file of the presentation here. This was a good talk, so we’ll likely jump off into some specific blog posts about this stuff. If anyone wants to discuss something in detail, find me on Facebook, or email me.
We did the “live” thing again today. I’ve got it sorted out now. You can click through and watch the entire presentation on my Edward Branley’s Author Page on the Book of Zucker. I don’t know which of Facebook and YouTube is the “lesser evil,” but I’m good with using Facebook Live for now. Fewer crazies and such there. YouTube is such a sewer.
Several folks asked after the wallpaper on my computer. Here’s the story.
How I use my BuJo Weekly Layout (Part 2 of Bullet Journaling)
BuJo Weekly Layout
In Part 1, y’all learned how I came to BuJo as a time management/organization system. “Minimalist” characterizes my approach. At first, I started the ABC/123 of Franklin-Covey, but gave up on it quickly. I wanted a to-do list. I wanted to prioritize it. If I didn’t sit down and set it up one day, I didn’t want my planner to shame me. BuJo gets me.
A comfortable place for a daily to-do was a great start. Then I followed some of the BuJo groups on the Book of Zucker. Many members of these groups possess much more artistic ability than I. Their work challenged me to “do more” with my BuJo. I’m not the type to embellish my BuJo with drawings in the margins, etc. I do like color, though. So, I looked at layouts and spreads and templates.
Then my friend Grey posted a pic of her weekly template. I fell in love with it immediately. It offered structure and coordination beyond a daily list. Here’s the breakdown.
I start the week on Monday, in the BuJo and on Gcal. I like to indicate the week of the year, because my European colleagues regularly refer to “Week X” or “Week Y” when discussing projects and milestones.
Color appeared in my monthly calendar early. I usually have four pens in my bag, with blue, black, purple, and red ink. Sometimes the blue gets switched out for green. The calendar contained up to four colors: current month dates (black), current week dates (red), previous month (blue or green), next month (purple). This was before the Prismacolor set.
Essentially traditional, Monday to Sunday. The idea here is to force me to sync up Gcal with the BuJo on a Monday morning. BuJo notes transform into Gcal events/appointments. The engagement starts on the BuJo, since it’s easy to jot something down. Note on daily becomes item on next week becomes Gcal.
Master Task List
One of the features of the Franklin-Covey system I’ve always appreciated is the “Master Task List.” The F-C idea is, you put down all your tasks/to-dos. Then you designate them A-B-C, and prioritize within those larger designations.
We kick tasks down the road. When we do, they fall to “C”, and low in that pecking order. F-C recognizes this. After kicking the can a few days, the task moves to the “master task list.” When you have fewer tasks on a particular day, pick up something from the master list.
The sections at the bottom of the weekly layout are a take on the Master Task List. Some of the items are time-sensitive (podcast production, for example). They receive a “M” or other day notation. Others are flexible. I might not right something for a particular project on Monday. Then Tuesday becomes a hot mess. The writing moves to Wednesday. Maybe. Things move to next week if they’re not done. I should expand this to a master task list at some point.
As mentioned earlier, the early BuJo presented in monochrome. I wrote a day/date in black, then to-dos kept going. Red joined in as emphasis for scheduled items and important tasks. Then tasks morphed into purple, notes later in the day in black.
Enter my Prismacolor pencil set. I occasionally color, part of the “adult coloring” fad. I extended that to the BuJo. Color is pure whimsy. Date numbers for the current week still appear in a shade of read, for the most part. Otherwise, it’s whatever mood strikes me!
Is BuJo right for you?
Give it a try for a week. Buy the book, if you’re inspired. Check out some of the Zuckerd00d groups. Let’s talk about it all!
Staying flexible with bullet journaling
I make attempts to keep organized. For the last couple of years, those attempts revolve around using a “bullet journal.” Bullet Journaling got its name and start from a blogger, Ryder Carroll. Carroll turned the concept into a book, The Bullet Journal Method.
How I came to BuJo
I’ve used a number of different systems, programs, websites, and apps for task and time management over the years. The one thing I got very serious (and consistent in its use) was the Franklin-Covey Method, using their Day Planners. Back in the late 1980s, I had the privilege of doing contract work at a local office of an oil/gas company. Their HR department brought in a Franklin Institute trainer to do a couple of professional development seminars. I was invited to attend. I bought into the Franklin Day Planner hook, line, and sinker, and used it for about fifteen years.
Reconciling paper and electronic
This was a huge challenge for me. I liked my Franklin Day Planner, but the company focused most of their electronic offerings and effort on add-ins for Microsoft Outlook. Since I use Linux more than I do Windows, this presented problems. I needed something to work on my Linux desktop. A number of companies offer open source planning/scheduling/task applications. Franklin-Covey created the “ABC/123” and combined it with the “7 Habits” philosophy. These are proprietary. So, using something that wasn’t Franklin-Covey created gaps.
Locked into the system
I’m not as organized as I could be. My day planner often had blanks for a week at a time. The Franklin-Covey systems offer the pre-printed packs, six months or a year at a time. But what if you need two or three pages for a single day? They offer blank pages, some even matching the pretty theme (I loved “Monticello”) you used in your binder.All that added up to some righteous dollars.
Something more flexible
Between the cost of “filler” packs, “expansion” pages, and subscriptions to on-line services, using Franklin-Covey becomes a commitment. That’s all fine and dandy, until you look at your binder and all those empty pages for the last two weeks. So, I drifted away from the company. Other apps offered to-do list function. Some even had web-based and mobile versions. This was good, right up until the app company got bought out by somebody bigger.
Enter Bullet Journaling (BuJo)
That’s where Bullet Journaling (BuJo) came in. I learned of the concept from the lovely and talented Lady Duchess of the Red Pen, Dara Rochlin. Dara is a list-maker. When we’re in the midst of a writing project (she edits my books), I’m on multiple lists. Bullet Journaling offered Dara a method to organize her prolific lists. It didn’t do all that much for me, at first. I mourned the loss of my “ABC/123” structure.
I discovered that BuJo isn’t a “system” like Franklin-Covey, or Outlook, or any other commercial product. The primary principle of BuJo is that you can use any sort of notebook. You’ve sunk money into a Franklin-Covey binder? Buy blank pages that fit it and BuJo on them. You like basic, student, spiral notebooks? Do that. I like the Moleskine style notebooks. I use them for writing projects. An excuse to buy another notebook? I’m there.
So, I dedicated a Moleskine as a replacement for my day planner. At first, I didn’t do anything fancy, just put the date/day on the top of a page, list to-dos, then add notes on how things worked out. Phone call? Text? Note it below the to-do. Need more space? Keep going to the next page. Writing snippet? put it in the BuJo. Sometimes I’ll just take a pic of the snippet and post it to Instagram.
Expanding the concept
Dara found a number of Facebook groups where people share BuJo ideas. I looked into them. The “minimalist” concepts and designs offered me what I wanted. When my friend Grey posted a photo of her weekly planner layout, I was hooked. We’ll go into that layout in Part 2.
Pincord dresses are classic New Orleans Summer
Every spring, there comes a warm day when Southern gentlemen and women head to the closet and pull out something seersucker. While Seersucker is considered classic “Old South”, I personally prefer pincord. There’s something about a pincord dress or suit that feels more New Orleans to me.
Pincord and the Uptown Girl
Brooks Stirling Sumner, “Silver” to her friends, is one of my characters in Trusted Talents, the second novel in the “Bayou Talents” series. Silver’s story is a fascinating one, and suffice to say, she’ll figure prominently as the series goes forward. Silver is a 28yo former queen of one of the “old-line” Carnival krewes. She comes from money and privilege.
Silver is a running-yoga-pilates person, She cycles when she can, leaving the car in the garage of her condo building. Her wardrobe is, for the most part, classic Preppy. So, pincord in the closet makes sense. Classic preppy pleases her mum and grand-mama. Silver’s wild streak conflicts with their ideas, however. Therefore, her pincord dress climbs up the knee. Mum thought she outgrew that stage after graduating from the Academy of the Sacred Heart, but Pilates creates nice legs!
Last week, I threw out a question to my Zuckerd00d friends: do you prefer flip flops or sandals with a back? The responses were mixed. The big knock on flips was the sound of the shoe hitting the foot.
It surprised me that there were no remarks about driving in flip-flops. In the UK, most women opt for sandals with a back, lest the flip get tangled with the pedals when driving. Not a consideration in last week’s thread.
So, I’m still unsure about footwear for Silver and her pincord dress. Flips? Maybe when going someplace very casual, like meeting friends for happy hour. Maybe a nicer sandal for a date. Possibly a wedge to boost height.
I’ll try a basic scene and see what happens.