Ad Nauseam

amad1On Friday morning a friend observed on Facebook that he was getting email from every website he had ever visited that had something to sell. His situation was hardly unique. I’m rather confident that everyone with any sort of internet connection was seeing an uptick in activity on the official beginning of open season on customers. The barrage had been building as anxious hunters fired off emails and other communications telling us that their Black Friday started on Thursday or Wednesday or even earlier. This is, I assume, the same sort of time warp that allows certain drinking establishments to advertise “The world’s longest Happy Hour”. I considered emailing him some sympathy but didn’t for two reasons. One was that to do so would be to add to the tide of useless messages in his inbox. The other was that I would soon be part of the problem.

Not the email overload problem but the general advertising overload problem it is part of. In a way, I’m already part of the problem. I published my second book in early November and that apparently tripped some trigger at Amazon. I have seen occasional Amazon sponsored Facebook ads not only for the new book but also for my first book published nearly two years ago. I don’t know if anyone else ever sees these ads and it has occurred to me that perhaps the only place these ads appear is on my own Facebook pages in some strange scheme to impress me.

But even if those ads do show up elsewhere (and they sure aren’t generating a rush of orders) my involvement is indirect only. That changed yesterday when a limited ad campaign for the latest book was launched. The seed was planted several months ago when a friend told me about his experience with Facebook advertising. The pricing was reasonable and, although there was little hard evidence, his gut feel was that it had helped. He had used it to promote an event and one of Facebook’s biggest attractions to him was the ability to geographically target the ads rather precisely. That sort of geographic precision isn’t nearly as useful in pushing a book but there were other attractions and I decided to give it a try. I have no illusions of actually making money peddling paperbacks but writers do like to be read.

amad2The image at the top of this article shows the ad that appears in what Facebook calls the “Desktop Right Column”. The one at left is for the “Mobile News Feed”. Other variations appear in other channels. As can be seen in the “News Feed” version, the ads are sponsored not by me but by Trip Mouse Publishing which has its own silly story.

The “mouse” thing goes back many years to my dart playing days. We always tried to come up with clever team names though we rarely succeeded. What I think may have been the very last team I played on was called, in a fairly accurate indication of our accuracy,  the Blind Mice. My participation in a CART (the guys who used to race at Indy) fantasy league overlapped the existence of the Blind Mice. I needed a team name when I signed up and, with mice on my mind, chose “Quick Mouse”. Years later I needed a user name for something and everything I submitted with pieces of my real name was refused. The site had something to do with travel and that prompted me to try TripMouse which was accepted. In 2013, when I was setting up the Create Space account for my first book, I had to indicate whether or not I wanted Create Space to appear as the publisher. I decided not but that meant I needed to say who and there was that somewhat appropriate TripMouse name laying around. Trip Mouse Publishing was born.

I used the name in establishing an account for paying Ohio sales tax on the few books I sold directly in state but it was otherwise an essentially imaginary company. As I created my Facebook ad, I was asked to set up a business page. Although this was presented as being optional, there were things that seemed to not work well or at all without it. After a few frustrating attempts to move on, I made a Trip Mouse Publishing Facebook page. I probably should have stopped right there but I decided that, if Trip Mouse was going to have a web presence, I wanted to have control of at least some of it. I set out to acquire a domain name. I was mildly surprised to find that someone already owned tripmouse.com but absolutely flabbergasted to see that they wanted $1895 for it. I have absolutely no idea why that is especially when both tripmouse.net and trip-mouse.com were available at 99¢ for the first year. For no logical reason, I opted for Trip-Mouse.com.

It has been many years since I’ve registered a new domain name and the world has changed. Identifying Trip Mouse Publishing as a small business on Facebook probably spilled a little blood in the water, too. The result is that in addition to all the absolutely astounding deals I’m being offered on TVs, books, phones, clothes, cameras, et cetera, et cetera, I’m getting equally astounding offers for logo design, web hosting, website creation, and more. I do feel a little guilty for adding to the commercial clutter of Facebook but with every offer of a half price premium turnkey website package the guilt diminishes just a little more.

Book Review
Greetings from Coldwater
Emily Priddy

gfc_cvrI’m going to admit right up front that defending this post against my About page claim that readers will “not be seeing a review of the latest novel” is pretty much a lost cause. I proclaimed my earlier review of Cincinnatus “not guilty” on the technicality that, at five years of age, it was not “the latest novel”. That tactic simply won’t work here as Greetings from Coldwater was published right at two months ago and is Priddy’s latest offering and first novel. That I am guilty of breaking my own promise is obvious. I can only beg for leniency on the grounds that I did say I’d be reviewing books “related to something I personally like such as old roads or cars” and, while Greetings from Coldwater isn’t actually about Route 66 or classic Volvos, both have roles. Maybe I can be forgiven.

Volvos only get bit parts but Route 66 is a star. The novel’s story-line is a girl-meets-boy romance. Motel owner Sierra Goldsmith meets school principal Grant Loucks and sparks — tastefully subdued — ensue. But Grant doesn’t even show up until page 104 and there’s romance in the air almost from the book’s beginning. That romance is between Sierra and Route 66. More specifically Route 66 in New Mexico. Anyone who knows Emily Priddy will recognize that the love Sierra has for the state and its portion of the historic highway is a dead-on reflection of the author’s. There is no avoiding the fact that there is a certain amount of autofantasy (It’s related to autobiography.) in the book but it’s hardly a hindrance. It doesn’t get in the way of the story and it adds energy and conviction to its telling.

Sierra is not a motel owner when the story begins. She stumbles into the aging Tumbleweed Motel shortly after her fathers death. Her mother died years before and they had separated years before that. The fictitious Tumbleweed is in the equally fictitious town of Coldwater, New Mexico. The more or less directionless Sierra, buys the motel and proceeds to refurbish it as she learns about the small town that has suddenly become her home. Even after Miss Shirley, the previous owner, leaves the Tumbleweed, Sierra isn’t the only full time resident. She inherits/adopts Joey, the developmentally disabled resident “handyman” Miss Shirley had taken in long ago. Other businesses in the town include a garage, hardware store, and bar each with a friendly and helpful — in his own way — owner. It’s a good place for someone who, although not exactly running from her past life, is not at all eager to share it.

Not only does Priddy have the knowledge, through years spent on Route 66 and the Coldwater-like towns it connects, to paint a complete and colorful background for her story, she has the skill, from years as a journalist, to tell that story properly. I wouldn’t know a good romance story if it stuck its tongue in my ear (although I suspect that’s a sign of a bad romance story) so I can’t really say if the tale of Sierra and Grant is one. I can say that it is well written.

It is also well drawn. Several of the novel’s chapters are fronted by pen-and-ink drawings produced by Priddy. In her acknowledgements she points to the late Bob Waldmire as the influence for these. Some are indeed reminiscent of his work and add to the book’s Route 66 flavor.

There are some “Easter eggs” in those drawings and in the text. Readers familiar with the Route 66 community will have fun finding them, all readers will be treated to a well informed sense of what life beside the historic highway might be like, and some readers will really enjoy following Grant and Sierra as they deal with the baggage Sierra brings to their relationship. I guess I even enjoyed it a little myself. It is somewhat, as Joey would say, “a kissy story” but not terribly so. The girl definitely shows some love for her guy but she shows at least as much for her road.

Greetings from Coldwater, Emily Priddy, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, September 26, 2015, 9 x 6 inches, 272 pages, ISBN 978-1517049386

The Art of the Brick

aotb01“Remember”, says Nathan Sawaya, “it all starts with one brick.” Sawaya is the artist responsible for all those LEGO® sculptures currently on display at Cincinnati’s Museum Center in “The Art of the Brick”. I failed to do my homework before visiting the exhibit on Monday though I actually think that might have helped as much as it hurt. Since I’m writing about it, I’m obviously not advocating that everyone attend with the level of ignorance I had but I can’t help but think my off target expectations caused me to be more impressed with some aspects of the exhibit than I would have been otherwise.

aotb02aotb03aotb04Museum mailings on the exhibit included “Make & Take” and “Harry Potter Building Part” promotions. Apparently those “fun & games” promises made more of an impression on me than the word “art” in the title. What I expected, I suppose, was a collection of technically impressive structures. My misconception was not immediately apparent as things started off with items that were either flat or fairly shallow base-relief. Most were copies of popular works which more or less supported the idea of “technically impressive”.

aotb07aotb06aotb05Next up were some fully 3-dimensional copies of some 2- dimensional works of art. These were followed by reproductions of some familiar 3-D sculptures. The technology was more complex and the results more impressive but it was still, you know…

aotb08aotb09Then things changed. I don’t really know what Sawaya had in mind when he chose the word “metamorphosis” to identify a particular subset of his work but I do know it fit what I experienced. When I first entered the exhibit I didn’t even know that it was the work of one man. I learned that during the introductory video. I now realized that the word “art” in the title was no accident. Venus de Milo and friends were essentially the last “reproductions” in the exhibit. Sawaya’s vision would pretty much rule from here on out. An athlete is captured mid-stroke in Swimmer. Facemask is a self portrait.

aotb12aotb11aotb10That Sawaya is a talented artist as well as a skilled technician becomes even more apparent in his “Human Condition” collection.

aotb13aotb14As Sawaya notes, Yellow is probably his best known piece. Its ability to grab attention gets it featured in plenty of ads and brochures. Full frontal shots are everywhere and oblique views aren’t uncommon. This “dark side of the moon” shot is a kind of rare, however. Sawaya also notes that it gets that attention from both young and old. For adults he conjectures that it is seen as a “cathartic ‘opening one self up to the world'” and for kids he thinks it’s “Probably because yellow guts spilling onto the floor looks cool.”

aotb15I know this isn’t very artsy. I guess it might even be considered a reproduction of sorts but it’s not a reproduction like that reproduction of Michelangelo’s David. In this entire exhibition made of children’s building blocks, this is the only piece that was made specifically with kids in mind. It isn’t life size but it is big — over six feet tall and a tad under twenty feet long — and it is certainly technically impressive. 80,020 pieces they say.

aotb16aotb17aotb18One more big surprise awaited. It’s a collaboration with photographer Dean West called “In Pieces”. The first picture shows a group of items constructed from LEGOs by Sawaya. The surrounding walls are lined with photographs in which the items are combined with people and other real-world elements. For example, the red dress can be seen being worn in the picture beyond it.

aotb20aotb19These two pieces near the very end of the exhibit may require a little explaining. Cincinnati was once the pork packing capital of the world. Porkopolis borrows the city’s one time nickname and flying pig mascot. Sawaya made the piece specifically for this exhibit. Hugman is the name of a style of sculpture that Sawaya likes to install in various cities he visits. The three shown here are special in that they are made of bricks by visitors to other exhibits. I may have even found one signed by an unknown relative. “The Art of the Brick” differs from most temporary exhibits at the museum by not only permitting but encouraging photos, even flash. That might be apparent simply by the number of photos in this article. That much appreciated photo policy made the purpose of that empty pole obvious to me even though it wasn’t exactly spelled out.

“The Art of the Brick” is at the Museum Center through May 1 and is definitely recommended.

Road Trip Essentials Redux
A My Gear Extra

This post first appeared on June 8, 2014. It was done at the request/suggestion of a company called RelayRides. The company has changed its name to Turo and recently contacted me to request an update in the 2014 post. I made the name and URL changes then decided to reuse the post as well. Turo is a peer-to-peer car rental company. I still have not used the service so can no more rate or endorse it now than I could in 2014. What I can say is that the company seemed to honestly appreciate a mention in that original post and, unlike some other outfits, have not pounded me with additional requests since then. The current request is not only reasonable but helpful. I appreciate being given an opportunity to fix things. I will also compliment them on some very good timing.

I had already decided to queue up a “Trip Peek” for this week’s post but after rereading the original “…Essentials” post decided to reuse it instead. I like the post and everything is basically the same now as it was then. So, with only minor corrections, here it is again.


rtecolI recently received a request/suggestion for a post on “must have” road trip items. I initially blew it off but returned to it a week or so later. Since I am about to actually head out on a road trip, I need to stockpile some “dateless” (“timeless” almost, but not quite, fits) articles for posting while I travel. You know, the “Trip Peek” or “My Wheels” sort of things that have no connection to what I’m actually doing but can be posted at anytime to meet the blog’s every Sunday schedule. In the middle of generating a couple of “Trip Peeks”, I remembered the email and realized that the suggested “Road Trip Essentials” was as good a topic as any. Of course, it would take more time than a “Trip Peek” but it could be sort of a consolidated “My Gear” and it might be fun. If it also made somebody (the requester) happy, even better.

The request came from RelayRides (now Turo), a peer-to-peer car rental outfit. I’d never heard of them and naming them is not meant to endorse them but I could see that continued references to “the requester” were going to get old. Though the services offered are different, the contact from RelayRides (Turo) reminded me of a recent conversation with some friends about Uber, a person-to-person taxi service. After using Uber on several occasions in a couple of different cities, they were singing its praises. These person-to-person/peer-to-peer businesses are certainly worth keeping an eye on. The RelayRides (Turo) call was for blog posts that could tie into an upcoming “Road Trip Essentials” campaign. There is absolutely nothing in it for me except the possibility of an extra visitor or two but neither are there any restrictions or guidelines. The friendly and conversational request used playlists, caffeine, and frozen grapes as possible essentials so my list may be a little more serious than what they’re thinking. I believe everyone knows, however, that, while I take my road trips seriously, they are rarely serious trips. There was no actual suggestion that I include a collage but the word was used twice and I figured making a small one might be fun. It was.

The camera needs little explanation. If I’m on a full tilt road trip, I need pictures for the daily updates and there are other trips taken with the clear intent of using all or part of the outing in a blog entry. In addition to pictures that, if they’re not too crappy, might appear in a journal or blog entry, I use a camera to take notes. Snapping a photo of a sign or menu is a lot easier and less error prone than trying to write down what I think I might want to know later. Even when there is no advance thought of documenting any part of a trip, l want a camera near by in case some Martians land along the road or Bruce Springsteen’s car breaks down and he needs a ride.

I imagine that almost everyone now considers a GPS unit at least useful on a trip. It can keep you from reaching Tijuana instead of Vancouver and can be a great help in finding gas, food, or lodging. I do use mine to find motels and restaurants and such but I also use it in a manner that makes it truly essential. Many of my trips are on historic (i.e., imaginary) highways. They probably don’t appear on any current map or atlas and there are few, if any, signs to follow. Even if there were, I typically travel alone with no one to constantly read maps or watch for signs. What I do is plot the exact route I want to follow and load it into the GPS unit which then verbally directs me along my chosen path. Yes, it does require a fair amount of advance work and a more capable than average GPS unit.

Even with every turn programmed into the GPS, I pack guide books and maps. The GPS can fail, the situation on the ground might not match the plotted course, or my intentions might simply change. Plus, guidebooks like those in the picture provide valuable information when putting together a journal or blog entry.

The last item pictured, the cell phone, is the electronic Swiss army knife of our age. It is almost essential to everybody everyday just to talk, text, search, and email. In my case, in the context of road trips, it is also essential as a backup camera and as a voice recorder. Not too long ago, I would have included a small voice recorder in my essentials but the phone now serves to make quick notes especially while driving. I still carry a digital recorder for use when appropriate but it no longer rides on the seat beside me.

rtecabOf course, all of those accessories have their own accessories. For many years, I only bought gear that used AA batteries on the theory that I could always buy power at the corner drug store if required. I believe that happened once. I carried around a bag of nicads and the chargers to fill them in either car or motel. I eventually had to abandon that position but I still cling to the ability to recharge everything whether stopped or on the go. I now carry spare proprietary batteries and AC/DC chargers for two different cameras and a cell phone. I do not carry a spare for the GPS since I seldom operate it on battery power.

I’ll also almost always have my laptop along and some music/podcasts, and maybe, depending on departure time and length of trip, a thermos of coffee and a cooler. The cooler will have water or Gatorade and possibly a beer or two. There will probably be some carrots, or apple slices, or grapes in there, too. Next time, the grapes might even be frozen.

Book Review
A Decade Driving the Dixie Highway
Denny Gibson

addtdh_cvrI did it again. I wrote another book. It’s a lot like the other one. It’s an illustrated travelogue and, although there is no old car involved, there is an old man and an old road. That other book, By Mopar to the Golden Gate, told of a single excursion lasting a few weeks. A Decade Driving the Dixie Highway draws on roughly thirty road trips spread over eleven years. Multiple trips were pretty much required since the Dixie Highway was not a straight forward point to point road but a system that connected ten states with nearly 6,000 miles of roadway.

Road scholars Brian Butko and Russell S. Rein both contributed glowing modesty-challenging blurbs that appear on the back cover.

addtdh_int

A Decade Driving the Dixie Highway is available as a Kindle download (with color photos) as well as a paperback. Either may be purchased through Amazon and the purchase of a paperback there includes the ability to acquire the Kindle edition for a couple bucks. I’ve also set up an eBay listing in an attempt to make providing signed copies easier. I can’t offer access to the Kindle download or the potentially free shipping of Amazon but they can’t ship books with my scribbling in them.

The book was produced through Amazon’a CreateSpace and there is a CreateSpace eStore although I can’t think of any reason for someone to buy there. I do get a slightly bigger cut on sStore sales but there is no Kindle access, free shipping, or autograph. The book may eventually be available through some other channels but for now the two sources I’m suggesting are Amazon and my eBay listing.

A Decade Driving the Dixie Highway, Denny Gibson, Trip Mouse Publishing, 2015, paperback, 9 x 6 inches, 152 pages, ISBN 978-0692516966.

Signed copies available through eBay.

Reader reviews at Amazon are appreciated and helpful and can be submitted even if you didn’t purchase the book there.

Three for Me and the DAV

dav5k2015_01A veteran buddy talked me into walking with him at the inaugural National 5K Run/Walk/Roll/Ride in 2013. We both signed up again last year but, when I called from near the start line to see why he was late, I learned he had forgotten and was half way across the state. This year he is living out of state so I knew when I registered that I would be doing it alone. Just me and more than 3,000 strangers.

dav5k2015_02dav5k2015_03Just before the hand-cycles lead off the timed entries, the motorcycle contingent rolls by the starting line. This large group, mostly veterans, will cruise the course then park near the end to greet and cheer every participant.

dav5k2015_05dav5k2015_04The picture at the top of this article is a capture from a video posted as part of the results. Participants can view a clip of their finish based on bib number. I finished in 1:04:26. That’s 4 minutes and 3 seconds faster than last year and a mere 47:31 behind the fastest runner. I’m obviously closing in.

In 2013 the only event was the one in the DAV’s home town of Cincinnati. In 2014 an event in Dan Diego was added and this year an Atlanta event joins the other two. With a perfect attendance record to maintain, I intend to be back next year. Blog posts on the previous events are here and here.

I Care Not How. Only If. (2015)

I first posted this last year with the intention of reposting it every year just ahead of election day. I realize that the “I Care Not.” in the title loses some credibility following last week’s post on a couple of Ohio ballot issues but that doesn’t alter the core sentiments of the piece one bit.


yvyvWe fought a war to get this country going then gave every land owning white male above the age of twenty-one the right to vote. A little more than four score years later, we fought a war with ourselves that cleared the way for non-whites to vote. Several decades of loud, disruptive, and sometimes dangerous behavior brought the granting of that same right to non-males a half-century later and another half century saw the voting age lowered to eighteen after a decade or so of protests and demonstrations.

dftv1Of course, putting something in a constitution does not automatically make it a practice throughout the land and I am painfully aware that resistance followed each of those changes and that efforts to make voting extremely difficult for “the other side” are ongoing today. I don’t want to ignore partisan obstructions and system flaws but neither do I want to get hung up on them. I meant my first paragraph to be a reminder that a hell of a lot of effort, property, and lives have gone into providing an opportunity to vote to a hell of a lot of people. Far too many of those opportunities go unused.

There are so many ways to slice and dice the numbers that producing a fair and accurate measure of voter turn out may not be possible. A Wikipedia article  on the subject includes a table of voter turnout in a number of countries for the period 1960-1995. The United States is at the bottom. The numbers are nearly twenty years old and open to interpretation so maybe we’re doing better now or maybe we shouldn’t have been dead last even then. But even if you want to think we are better than that, being anywhere near the bottom of the list and having something in the vicinity of 50% turnout is embarrassing… and frightening.

dftv2In the title I claim to not care how anyone votes. That’s not entirely true, of course. I have my favorite candidates and issues. I’ll be disappointed in anyone who votes differently than I do but not nearly as disappointed as I’ll be in anyone who doesn’t vote at all. I’m reminded of parents working on getting their kids to clean their plates with lines like, “There are hungry children in China who would love to have your green beans.” I’m not sure what the demand for leftover beans is in Beijing these days but I’m pretty sure some folks there would like to have our access to ballots and voting booths.