The unexpected safety features of Standard Transmissions

Life is art.  Time to talk a bit about the art of using a clutch.  When I first learned to drive, I was having such a hard time that I said frequently “I’ll always drive an automatic.”

It would have been possible to do that – however, I knew deep down that I needed to learn.  I admired the people who could work a clutch.  My own mother had, for most of her cars, and everybody I liked knew how.

I dreaded learning.  There was so much to do!   It seemed like I’d never get the rhythm right, especially starting up a hill.

Then came my pretty Dodge Dakota pickup.  It was perfect for my needs, but it was a standard.  I practiced and practiced – stalled out quite a few times – and eventually learned.  Then, when I was looking for a sedan, I found myself searching eagerly for a standard.  I found it – my battered Elantra has served me for over a decade.

Now, after quite a few years driving standards, I’m irritated if I have to drive an automatic.  There’s nothing to do!  I have so little control!  I can’t stand automatics anymore.  There are some very good reasons why standards are not only safer, but better cars to own.

Advantages of a Standard Transmission

Better speed control – when you stay in one particular gear, it naturally keeps you in a range of speeds.  This helps prevent you from driving too fast for the road.  It’s a bit like a cruise control only more flexible.

Safer braking – When you slow down while driving a standard, you use the brake as well as your engine to do it.  So if your brakes completely fail you have another option to get back under control.  You also tend brake more smoothly and safely.

Ticket avoidance – when you drive a standard, you can slow down without using the brake at all – just let off the gas and quietly shift into a lower gear.  That can help you avoid the notice of traffic cops who are looking for brake lights.

A back-up to your starter – with most standards, you can push start them without using your ignition at all.  So if it, your battery, or your alternator fail, you aren’t out of luck.  You can start up again with the help of either some strong friends or a gentle hill.

Cheaper to work on – a clutch replacement is usually less than a thousand dollars.  Mine are around six hundred.  With good driving you can get a clutch to last a long time.  An automatic transmission replacement will cost you a LOT more than that.

Cheaper to buy – with standards being less popular, many times you can get a better deal on them.  That’s a great advantage!

Better knowledge of your car – with a standard, you are more aware of what your engine is doing.  That helps you be easier on the car, and also be alert of any problems before they get bad.

Better gas mileage – some of the modern automatics claim to have better gas mileage than standards, but in general, you do get better gas mileage with a standard and good driving than older automatics can deliver.

If more of us learn to love and drive standards, they will continue to be available in new models of trucks and cars.   I’d hate to see the standard die out – they are just too useful!  Not only that, but they are a lot of fun to drive.

Cat Nests

Have you ever noticed how cats love to nest?

They love boxes, bags, shelves, drawers, dryers that are turned off, foots of beds, piled up blankets, and any other soft place and hidey hole you can imagine.  Baskets were made for cats.  Just ask one, they’ll tell you.

Nezumi’s favorite nest is on my guitar bag when it’s folded up and sitting on a stool.  It’s soft and she likes the somewhat shiny surface.  Shinji’s special nest is on a shelf in the middle of a chest of drawers.  It’s a perfect cat sized nook, and he still manages to fit into it even though I put things in there to try to keep him out.

I’ve seen Nezumi sleeping on a pantry shelf…

on the computer desk…

on beds…

in chairs…

trying to fit themselves inside sandals…

in windows…

under desks…

in the laundry basket, empty or full…

and so many other places I can’t recall them all.

Once in a great while, they’ll sleep in the beds I made for them!

Publishing Particulars for Draft2Digital

Read below for my special offer for authors!

As many of my fellow authors know, Pronoun is closing down.  Pronoun was actually a really great eBook publishing platform, and gave authors a great profit share.  Probably too great – since they are shutting down.  Anyway I’ll miss them.

On a recommendation, I gave Draft2Digital a try.  I found the conversion and formatting easy, the eBook templates varied and nice looking, and the interface was awesome!  Profit share is still good, too, and they distribute to multiple vendors.  They do provide universal links for ease in marketing, and there’s even a neat feature where your readers can sign up for email alerts for you publish a new book.

I had one little issue with one of the vendors, but the Draft2Dgital rep was responsive friendly and corrected it immediately.  So far I’ve had nothing but good to say about them.  I like retaining control over my books, and being able to price them at any rate I wish, without paying up front.  I also like how you can set any payment threshold you want, and they pay you via an assortment of methods.

So that brings me to my special offer, particularly for authors!  If you follow my affiliate link and join, then send me a message or an email, I’ll feature you in an author interview to promote your new book.

Just follow the link here!  My email address is on the About page.

That link, if you want to save it, is:

If you want to see what one of their universal book pages looks like, check this out:


Happy creating!

Meet Shinji, Mindflight’s droll new co-mascot.

Nezumi here.  Mom’s busy working the camera and trying to get decent photos.  Something about “darn autofocus,” whatever that means.  I have bad news.  Very, very bad.

There’s a new cat in the house.  Do you hear me?  A NEW CAT.  For the first day or two I hissed at him all the time just to let him know who’s boss.  Then I eased up a little and just stole his food, and gave him the Demon Eyes when I saw him.  Then I just hissed at him when he meowed too much.

He’s something called a Siamese.  He looks funny, with stripes and pale patches and blue eyes and stuff.  He’s kinda small too, especially for a boy, and the Moms keep calling him “Minimeez” or “Permakitty.”  It’s a good thing they are both giving me treats and petting me a lot, or I’d have to evict him.

The other day, Mom laughed at me hissing at him, and said “remember when Orion used to hiss at you, back when you were a kitten?”  She thought that was pretty droll.  Orion was my best friend.  I still miss him.  It’s hard to imagine being hissed at by my adoptive dad!

The Moms told me all about Shinji.  He’s an old man!  He could be as much as fourteen years old, and I’m only eleven!  But he looks and acts like he’s three or so.  The Moms said I should be nice to him because his two legged mother died, and then his two cat friends, and he was living in a backyard, and he needs a loving home.

I might be nice to him.  Later.  After all, he is pretty good at ankle-winding, and the Moms like that.  For now I’ll just not growl at him.  Much.

Catloaf 3 800

Catloaf 2 900

catloaf 1 900

He’s not very good at having his picture taken yet, is he?  Oh well.  I’ll teach him everything I know.  Eventually.  Anyway, here’s me, the great Nezumi, signing off.  All this blogging has made me tired.

Nezumi in chair.JPG


Contrasting Black

If you talk to some painters, they will tell you that black is an unnatural color and it shouldn’t be used.  I’m not one of them, I use black even in paintings with color.  Personally, I think black is essential, and a dash of it will really help everything else be more visible.  Black is really great if you want some drama, as in the photo above that I took yesterday.

Here is another example.  Between the two drawings, I think it looks much better once the darks are truly darkened.  That will happen with steady, even pressure, and a pencil that’s on the soft side.

side by side dragon.png

You can also see this principle with pen and ink.  Drawings with fields of black just pop out a little better and draw the eye.  I was trying for this effect when I did this lioness.  I think you will see she stands out a lot better than her stretching sister.









Black also looks better in drawings when you use smooth fields of it, and let it truly be dark.  Here, by the way, is an example of a painting where I used black in a color setting.  It’s a book cover that had some pretty specific requirements.

Experimental C corrected 800.png




Thoughts of a Neophyte Guitarist


I’m in love with a six stringed lady.

I jokingly call her my “mistress” to my spouse.

She’s got a rosewood fretboard and a mahogany body, with a rather battered wine red finish.  She stays in tune, more or less, and has only a little fret buzz.  She has dual humbucker pickups, being an Epiphone copy of the Gibson design, and sometime I’ll get an amp for her instead of plugging her into Tuxguitar on my Linux system through an adapter left over from my flying days.

I named her Rosie.

Starting over twenty years ago, I had a recurring dream about buying an acoustic guitar and just knowing how to play it.  The dream came and went but the desire never completely went away.

Now, only a year and a half from the magic number forty, I’ve decided to cross this item off my “Bucket List.”

Time’s wasting, and my fingers won’t get any more limber.  So I got this guitar, “Juke Box Hero” and “Summer of Sixty Nine” running through my head all the while.

I happily welcomed the sore fingers.  I don’t mind playing endless scales or doing the finger exercises my guitar Sensei has assigned me.  I am doggedly trying to learn to switch between C and G chords without interruption or muffled strings.  I practice at least twice every day.

However, the guitar has already brought me so much.  I’ve had great talks with people who love the instrument as much as I do, found tips on playing, learned so much. It seems like every other person I meet plays, or has played.  Several people have started up again after talking to me.  It’s like my enthusiasm has reminded them of a love they half forgot.

When I picked up this style of guitar for the first time, it fit in a way I can’t describe.  My hands knew where to go, and it just felt so right.

Right now I have a goal of just practicing every day, building up my new calluses, and seeing where it takes me.  I’m enjoying the journey every bit as much as the destination.  I think that’s something I couldn’t have done when I was younger, because I didn’t have the support network I do now and I hadn’t yet learned to see practice as fun.  Because it is.

Nobody told me practice would be fun!

I expected it to be drudgery.

“I want to learn to play…. ____.”

“You’ll have to practice a lot!”

I know – but it’s so much fun.  It’s meditative and stress reducing.  It makes me feel better.  I can’t be anxious or sad when I’m concentrating on making the notes sound right.  I relax.  And that’s all before I have even learned one song beyond “happy birthday.”

If you have something on your bucket list that you haven’t gotten to, or never thought you could get to, something creative like art or music or writing, why not try?  I did, because I hadn’t realized an electric guitar would be so affordable, or be quiet enough to practice in an apartment.  Once I learned that, it opened a bright, beautiful door that had always been closed before.

I wish you inspiration and joy.

What’s up with calling people Ginger?

I clearly remember a time when people with reddish hair called themselves “redheads.”   If others were being a bit rude to that redhead they might call them “carrot top.”  If I saw a cat of a generally marmalade shade, I’d say “that’s a cute orange cat!”  Or “will that darn red tabby stay out of my bushes?”

Now it’s all gone to “ginger.”  I know there are some places in the world where this term has always been common.  It seems to be spreading though.  “Ginger” is simple and a lazy way to describe something, giving almost no real information.  I’d rather be more descriptive.  I’d rather say “redhead,” “copper haired,” “strawberry blonde,” “russet,” “red,” “orange,” “ocher,” “auburn,” “fiery,” or any number of other descriptors than simply “ginger.”


Here’s a bonus tip for authors.  If you use more precise descriptions, not just going to the most commonly used but non-informative word, your writing will have more life in it and engage your audience better.  Dare I say, your writing will have more color?



How long will it be until I stop hearing about blood bay, strawberry roan, and red chestnut horses and start hearing about ginger horses?


Besides, though ginger is one of my favorite spices, and is really, really tasty, it’s not red in any way.  So why not “cinnamon?”  It’s reddish, at least!