Total Eclipse of the Sun · 19 August 2017

Moon before Lunar Eclipse September 2015

You do not need to fly your Learjet up to Nova Scotia to see a total eclipse of the sun (a la Carly Simon). Just pack up your bags and head down to Grandma’s house to see it in Portland. At least that is what we are going to do.

Seeing a total eclipse of the sun is a pretty fantastic phenomenon. Or at least I imagine it will be.

I remember seeing a partial eclipse when I was in elementary school. Hardly any of the sun was eclipsed by the moon, but our principal showed it to us when we were out on the playground. He held two pieces of paper out in front of him and I looked at the partial eclipse on the lower piece. The upper piece of paper had a pinhole in it and the sun shone on the lower paper. He made sure to tell me that I should never look directly at the sun even through sunglasses, but seeing an eclipse with the pinhole was a perfectly safe way to view the partial eclipse. Even though the paper was very bright.

You can also look at the sun through welding goggles or welding helmets or glasses made specially for viewing the sun, but you can still not view an eclipse with your naked eyes or with sunglasses. Not unless it is a full eclipse. And then, only when the sun is fully eclipsed. Otherwise, you run the risk of damaging your eyes. (See NASA’s website.)

But enough about eclipse viewing safety.

Lunar Eclipse September 2015

I have been interested in eclipses ever since that day in elementary school when our principal showed me the partial solar eclipse projected through the pinhole in a piece of paper. I do not look at every eclipse (they usually happen a few times a year), but I have photographed a couple lunar eclipses. I suppose I could prepare for those solar eclipses with my pinholed paper apparatus, but I rarely know when they are going to happen. Still, I have bought into the hype of the total eclipse of the sun happening this summer. (I even bought a bunch of the special glasses that are on NASA’s list of reputable vendors.)

I think that Portland is just outside the path for the complete total eclipse, but it is pretty close. We ought to see most of the sun eclipsed by the moon (weather permitting). And that is pretty cool. I am also interested in hearing whether birds really do stop chirping because they think it is dusk and time to go to sleep. Even for a few minutes. And of course, it will be interesting to see the whole process of the sun getting blotted out by the moon. It will be like dusk happening a little after dawn in Portland. It will go dark and then it will be dawn again.

It will be a long trip for a short show, but I am looking forward to the August 21, 2017 total eclipse of the sun. I have my solar eclipse glasses and already have my viewing location reserved. We will be at my mother-in-law’s house up and ready for the event in the morning. I am just glad I do not need to have a Learjet to fly up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun.

© 2017 Michael T. Miyoshi

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Writing Dialogue · 12 August 2017

Dialogue is one of the toughest things to write. And one of the most fun.

I have not been writing fiction for too long, but so far, dialogue is by far the toughest part of the story. I would personally write with no dialogue at all, except it is one of the best parts of a story. At least when it is done correctly.

They (whoever they are) say that the best way to write dialogue is to listen. Eavesdropping is one of the best methods to learn how to write dialogue experts say. I do that all the time during the school year. I hear students talk. And talk. And talk. But that is not necessarily the best eavesdropping since I set some of the ground rules. At least about some of the words they cannot use. And dialogue in an academic setting is not always the best anyway.

“Hey, what’d you get for the second problem?”
“None of your bee’s wax, Bozo.”
“That’s twenty-five pushups for putting people down.”
“But Bozo’s his name.”
“Oh yeah.”

I also like to listen in on conversations by other adults. Unfortunately, that eavesdropping is usually listening on other educators. Acronyms and jargon abound. And I hear talk like you might hear when parents speak about their own kids. Mushy and gushy and sometimes chastising.

So for the most part, I do not hear dialogue I would put into a book or story. It is all too juvenile or academic in nature.

Besides, you cannot really listen to see how dialogue is done when you are part of the dialogue. It is like observing yourself. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle says that you can either know a particle’s speed or know its location, but not both at the same instant in time. While it is mainly a quantum mechanics truism, it also holds true for people. You cannot observe yourself or others without altering your own (or their) behavior. At least if they know you are observing. Since you are yourself, you cannot observe yourself without altering your own behavior because you always observe yourself whether you know you are observing or not.

I heard it explained this way. Think about which shoe you put on first. The left or the right or whichever shoe you grab first. If you do not know, you cannot really find out by observing yourself because as soon as you start observing yourself, you change your own behavior. You might even talk to yourself.

“I don’t want to be a left foot first person. So I’ll grab my right shoe first and put it on.”
“Oh darn! I put my left shoe on first.”
“But if I see myself put my left shoe on first, does that mean I saw myself or changed my behavior by observing myself?”
“Quit watching! You’ll change my behavior.”
“Who said that?”

And so it could go on and on and on and on until you finally could not put on any shoe, and you miss work because you caught yourself observing yourself putting on the wrong shoe first. Which just goes to show that you cannot really observe yourself in conversation because you might start using correct grammar and pronounce words correctly and enunciate precisely and actually wait for the other person to finish a thought before interjecting your own opinions on the matter at hand. In short, if you observe yourself, you will change your own behavior. Even in conversation. Of course, you could just listen and never talk, but people would get annoyed that you never said anything.

“That’s just because I’m trying to learn dialogue,” you might think but never say. After all, you do not want to change your own dialogue by observing your own dialogue. Or by letting others know you are observing theirs.

Which is why dialogue is so difficult. Even if you just like to hang out where people are hanging out and listen to their conversations. Just be careful about who you eavesdrop on. They might not like you eavesdropping and possibly changing their behavior.

“So like I said, writing dialogue is tough.”
“Hey! Is that guy eavesdropping in on us?”
“Yeah! He is.”
“Why I ought to…”
“Not with a preposition.”
“You ought to do something, but not end a sentence with a preposition.”
“Yeah right.” Pause. “Oh no.”
“What’s wrong.”
“He changed my dialogue by eavesdropping.”
“Oh. That’s too bad. See, I told you writing dialogue was tough. But he really did not change your dialogue directly. He changed your dialogue because you know he was eavesdropping which changed your behavior.”
“Yeah. That Heisenberg dude again.”
“Yeah. Even though it’s not rocket science or quantum mechanics.”
“You’re right. Dialogue’s tough.”
“Real tough.”
“He’s still listening to us!”

© 2017 Michael T. Miyoshi

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Just Keep Writing · 5 August 2017

Finding Dory

There are times when a writer just needs to write. Not that it will be some outstanding piece of prose or fiction. Nor that it will ever see the light of day. But I just need to keep writing.

We watched Finding Dory the other night. It was not the greatest show ever. (How many sequels or prequels or at-the-same-time-quels, which by the way are called paraquels, or circumquels or interquels ever are?) But it was enjoyable. And if you know anything about Dory in either Finding Nemo or Finding Dory, one of the most profound things she says is, “Just keep swimming.”

I know. Somebody is perturbed or baffled or indignant that anybody could or would say, “Just keep swimming,” is profound. But it is. Think about it. When all else fails, you just keep swimming. When you do not know what to do, you just keep swimming. When there are sharks all around you, you just keep swimming. What else can you do? You just gotta keep on keepin’ on.

Think about it, “just keep swimming” works on so many different levels. Sure. The “swimming” in could be lots of different things. Walking, riding, eating, talking (okay, maybe not eating or talking), going, working, or maybe even writing. That is why it is so profound.

For me, I just need to keep writing. Whether I have a story to tell or not, I just keep writing. Whether I am full of words that need to come out or not, I just keep writing. Whether I am just babbling or I have a perfect piece of prose, I just keep writing.

I just keep writing. No matter what.

I may never win an award for my writing. (Most likely.) I may not ever sell any more books. (Sold a couple, so who knows?) I may never get any more fans to read my drivel. (I probably should stop calling it drivel.) But it does not matter. I just keep writing. And writing. And writing. Who know? Something might stick sometime. Even a thousand chimpanzees typing away on a thousand computers for a thousand years might come up with something comprehensible. After all, I do it, why is it so hard to think that they never could?

Ah well. I have come to this conclusion to just keep writing, not so much because Dory said I should, but because I have nothing else to write. I have completed a bunch of stories, and there is not much else to write about right now, still I must continue my rite of writing. (How many homophones are there for write anyway?)

So I have written. I have taken a day when I have little to write about and written. Not that I am so much a task-check-er-off-er, but I am a creature of habit. And like Dory, I have a small brain. So like her, I need to just keep swimming. Oops, writing. Just keep writing.

© 2017 Michael T. Miyoshi

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