Thank you for visiting!

You are invited to read Marcus of Abderus and the Inn at the Edge of the World, the first novel in my fantasy adventure series. Visit the Edge of the World! Come for the view, stay for the adventure!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Finally back in the swing of all things Internet-

Due to changes in the economy my job has undergone some adjustments. Fortunately, they are relatively superficial and don't impact my income. However, every third week sees an assignment which does NOT include ready access to a terminal.

So, I have not been able to keep up on my blog reading or writing while at work. I did not have those odd moments not otherwise occupied to do either. I realize now that a lot of my blog time was done in those odd moments, and I really missed that.

Due to changes in the economy the changes due to the economy will be changed again. I will be able to access a bit more, and at least until the next change to the changes due to the changes in the economy all will be good.

Just in case someone is concerned about "wasted time" at work, the odd moments come largely when the inmates I supervise are asleep. Even while awake they don't occupy all of the time the officers are at work. Odd moments, like I said.

We had a good bit of rain this week. Since I am camping in the parking lot during the day (to avoid trying to drive when I am very sleepy) I got to test my rain preparations. I have a tarp I lay in the bed to aid in protecting the interior of the tent from any wet that gets into the truck bed. That worked fine.

I have another larger tarp that goes over the whole tent and part of the truck cab, strapped down with bungee chords and looking pretty ghetto. Well, maybe sub-urban white-trash ghetto. It also worked well.

Only one problem occurred. I awoke in the midst of the rain and looked out through the bug screen door to see the awning bulging toward the ground. It had accumulated a lot of water. I was able to reach out and push the bulge, forcing the water off of either side and freeing the awning from the threat of collapse.

I set my alarm to awaken me every thirty minutes so that I could take care of this problem during the greater part of the rain. Annoying, but it worked.

After I got up I addressed the problem. Lots of elaborate ideas came to mind, and were rejected. I did not want to add more stuff to what I hauled around with me. Then, inspecting the awning and tent, I saw where I could solve the problem with some cord and two chop sticks.

I found a chop stick in my glove box, but only one. I tied it to the end of a cord and then used that to lock the cord to a loop at the top of the tent door just under the place the awning attaches to the tent. I stretched the cord to the awning support pole and tied it off tight.

The cord lifted the awning enough to cause water to run off in two directions and not accumulate where it had gathered before. Two cords forming a cross support under the awning will probably prevent a similar event. Problem solved.

I found some spare chop sticks in the dining hall at work, and added them to my kit. The cheap throw-away sticks from Chinese restaurants can serve a lot of purposes in camp, I should think. They can be whittled easily, and already have a useful shape. I recommend them highly.

As to bungee cords, I have really taken a liking to the cheap ones available at the Dollar Tree. Yes, they are not particularly heavy duty. However, the way they are made leaves the hook piece free to slide on the cord. This makes them adjustable.

I stretch the cord where I need to use it, and if it is a bit too long I just tie a knot in the cord to push the hook back on the cord and thus stretch it tight when in use.

These things are cheap enough to keep a lot of them with you in your camp kit. They come in packs of six, in several sizes per pack. There are two pack choices at my local store. The range of lengths for the various cords makes the collection versatile and useful.

Well, I am glad I could get back to blogging. I missed it this week, and it took me a while to catch up on my favorite blogs.

Now I need to go air out the tent. It got wet and needs to dry out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Blog Following-

I have made it a habit, recently, to check out the Blog of Note on Blogger Dashboard. I have even added some of them to my Follow list. I am selective. The blog has to be genuinely interesting to me. Though I am interested in promoting my own blogs, I don't see how I will have time to follow everything.

Indeed, if I add a blog each week to my list I will end up with fifty six new blogs to follow over the course of a year. That will be a lot of additional following. However, if they are genuinely interesting, it will be a pleasure.

Some bloggers I know follow hundreds of blogs. I don't know if that will do for me. I guess I will find out what my limit is when I reach it.

Meanwhile, it is certainly fun seeing what people are doing out there.

Sometimes things work out-

Blizzard Entertainment released Wrath of the Liche King, the World of Warcraft expansion, on the 13th. I did not have the $40 at the time. I expected to be waiting awhile, since money is tight these days.

My wife sold a piece of furniture on Craig's List. One stipulation was that we had to deliver. In exchange for delivery the purchasers added fifty dollars to the price. My son and I were to be the deliverers, and so split the fifty. Nice, but not enough for Wrath.

Delivery day came. Fortunately, my son Matthew had done some work that day using his company lift-bed, and had it with him for the delivery. With some effort we got it on board, and after a nice drive got it to the place of delivery. The people receiveing the large entertainment center had two big fellows on hand to help.

It went really well. One of the best furniture moves I have done, and I don't really like moving furniture. Just before we left their place the lady who bought the piece slipped me another fifty. So, Matthew and I each got fifty bucks for the work.

I bought Wrath of the Liche King. Actually, I just stopped by the store to see when the next shipment was coming in. I knew that missing the release date usually meant waiting weeks to get a copy of a new release. The young lady pulled one off of the shelf and I bought it. I was delighted.

The installation, downloads and initialization all went smoothly. I only had a few hours to play, but I jumped in, did a few quests, got myself killed, did another quest, and had a great time.

Now I am at work. I would love to be playing, but just knowing I will be able to when I get home on Wednesday is pretty nice. Plus, my main character Nehai will be well rested by the time I can play again. Being well rested provides some bonuses in the game, and is a good thing.

I was planning to bump my memory up a gig before getting the expansion, but it is running fine on the system just as it is. I still want the memory, but am glad I got into the next level of the game only two days after the release. It feels great.

Did God answer an unspoken prayer regarding the money? I believe so, even though I still have trouble believing God really cares about something as trivial as a computer game.

Then again, perhaps it is me he cares about. That is a great feeling, as well.

Trivial or not, I am thankful. This is going to be fun!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gilmore Girls-

I have never been fond of human emotions. At one point in my youth I attempted to shut off my emotions. I felt that emotions were at the center of most human problems.

I was right, but my solution was wrong. Our human emotions are a large part of being human. Indeed, though I still have a deep and abiding love of the intellect, I am convinced that we are fundamentally emotional beings. The intellect is just a part of our being, and quite possibly not the most important part.

That is a huge thing for me to say.

So, I struggle with feelings, with emotion. I am still not fond of human emotions. But, I am getting better. Perhaps before my time runs out I will become a complete human being.

Maybe not.

My wife, Linda, is a fan of the Gilmore Girls. She loved the show when it was fresh and new and on television. She loves it now when it is available on DVD. So, she offered me the first season.

It is a witty and cheerful program, for the most part. I like the nod toward the intellect. It makes me feel smart when I get some obscure reference. I also like cheerful. Along with all of that, a quirky set of characters, and pretty sets, there comes emotion. Not overwhelming. In palatable doses.

Just the thing for an emotionally retarded individual such as myself.

So, for the next few months I will be laughing and (maybe) crying along with the Gilmores.

I can probably balance that out with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I am still only half-way through that series.

Gotta love that Quark.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Day in History-

Actually, that is every day. However, today was a moment in history. Though the election was concluded on Tuesday I am still working the shift I started on Tuesday night. If you got here without seeing my profile, I am a correctional officer. I am writing this from jail.

This shift I am working a dormitory in a medium security jail facility. During the course of the evening the two televisions in the housing unit became tuned to the election results. One was in Spanish, the other in English. Both happened to be the same broadcast, and I could see both from my duty station.

I will say up front, I voted for Obama. I was pleased that he won the election. Though it registered in my mind that the election of a Black man to the White House was historical, it did not register as truly significant. Other than being factors in making up who we are and thus lending interest to each of us as human beings, ethnicity and skin color have never been of any special importance to me.

Not that I have adopted that attitude to be progressive or politically correct. It just has never been very important. So, I recognize the historical significance of the event, but do not experience it personally.

More important to me is the hope for change. It was that hope more than any affection for Obama as candidate or political figure that defined my vote.

Anyway, I observed the conclusion of the election of the President of the United States from the confines of a jail dormitory, and in the presence of a mix of inmates.

The several Black inmates were quiet but celebrated a victory I can only imagine. Some of the White inmates were obviously not pleased, but were neither vocal on the matter nor disruptive. Though I know that several of them were inclined toward White Supremacy, they did not act out in response to the news that Obama was victorious.

What surprised me was the response of the Hispanic inmates. A good percentage of the Hispanics I am supervising tonight are not citizens, and are not enjoying the best that the United States has to offer. Yet they were excited and elated by the news of Obama's victory. They were even more attentive to the events presented on the television than the other inmates in the dormitory.

The evening went well. I monitored the dormitory for any potential friction among inmates as a result of the news. The evening went well. They are now all asleep, and I have a moment to drop these observations into my blog.

The impact of this national decision will take time to become fully visible. Like most days in history the significance of any given day is not fully known without the perspective of time.

I feel vaguely hopeful.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Life in the Back of My Truck-

With the Internet I have excellent perspective on the weather. I saw the rains coming, and also saw that I had a nice window of not-rain in which to get set up. I purchased two tarps for the occasion. A smaller one to place inside the tent, and a large one to embrace my tent.

Set-up went fine. I got the tent up, and put on the rain fly. I always put on the rain fly, since it provides another layer of protection from the sun and is good for, uh, rain. This time I put up the awning as well. That went pretty good. I got things snug. Then the last item was the big tarp.

I had selected a tarp large enough to give excellent coverage, and some bungee chords to aid in securing the whole thing. The tarp even extended over part of the truck cab, insuring that the area between the tent and the cab was not exposed. It even extended about a foot out onto the awning, providing some added coverage of the door area.

When I went to sleep in the morning there were high clouds, but no rain. When I awoke about noon the clouds remained, but no rain. When I awoke again in the mid-afternoon I heard the patter of rain on the tarp. It got up to a pretty good roar of rain on my little Cloth Castle, but I remained dry inside.

The rain had reduced to a sporadic sprinkle as the time came for me to awake once again and go to my shower. I had finished my shower and was dressed when another officer arrived and asked if I had put down my awning. I told him I had left it up. He said the wind was strong. I went out to see to my little truck based house.

By shoving the awning poles under the truck I drew the awning down over the tent door. I then had to adjust the tie downs for the tarp. It was catching the wind and belling up. I adjusted the bungees and got it pulled down snug. Everything was ready for the rest of the storm.

The rest of the storm happened to be another hour of wind. The Cloth Castle bore that just fine. Apparently the storm was blowing away, and this was the grand finale.

Today I anticipate little rain, if any. I will put up the awning once again, to try and dry it out. I also like the little bit of extra shade. I may put it up more often.

The awning had fallen due to a tent peg rotating in the ground and dropping the guy line. I have another type of peg that should not rotate. I will try it out before buying more, but it seems to be a good design and not too costly.

On the whole life has not been too bad in the back of my little truck. Hopefully I can take this show back out on the road.

I feel the need to travel.

I Am the Audience-

Having completed my reading of the book Born Standing Up by Steve Martin, I am again impressed by the driving passion some people possess that, well, drives them. Having attempted a bit of performing I know it is not a particularly desirable place for me to be.

However, I can be the audience. Not just a member of the audience, but be consciously the audience. I have tried a lot of things in my life, and many of those samples have given me a depth of appreciation for the works of other people. I also read and watch informative video programs. I try to understand not just what someone is presently saying and doing, but how they got to this time and place.

Steve Martin essentially apprenticed as a comedian for ten years. That number ten comes up quite a bit. A lot of performers are out there doing performances for about that long before they are "overnight successes." Even more keep slogging along, sharpening the act, but remain in the minor league.

I have a place in some of those careers. I am the audience. I can appreciate how long it took (and sometimes how many people) to make the music, produce the movie, publish the book. I can watch/listen/read with deeper appreciation knowing that quite a few ten year apprenticeships went into making what I am experiencing.

That supporting actor that made the star look great may have years of dance training behind them. A decade of practice at tumbling or martial arts. A lifetime of cello playing.

With the advent of the Internet I can appreciate even more careers, and even avocations. As I explore the blogosphere I am constantly amazed by the things into which people pour their passions. Quilts (like my daughter's), knitting, tutus. Amazing. Photography. Poems. Fantastic.

Sometimes it is the passionate service of people. I recall a friend, Joni, who was honored one day at the place we worked. She had quietly delivered meals for Meals-On-Wheels for quite some time. None of us knew. She did this honorable task quietly. Just Joni and the grateful people receiving their meals.

So many others, doing so many good things.

I may not yet have paid my dues. I may not yet even have a consuming passion that might inspire others. I can, however, consciously be the audience. I can take the time to really appreciate the work that went into that last thing I enjoyed.

So follow your passion. Be your best. Share it freely, so that the audience can appreciate what you have done. We may not all have what it takes to hammer out a play or concert or television show, but with the Internet we can share.

Many of us do thankless tasks for years. The public does not see us.

Like the technical support making the actors look good, if the job is done well it will go unrecognized. That may be a testimony to the quality of such supporting work, but it does not hurt us to take a moment and look behind the scenes.

When you go to a movie, sit through the credits. Look at the names and titles. All of those people did their job so that you could enjoy a great movie. The same goes for plays, concerts, and just about anything else. Be conscious as The Audience. Do your job well, and appreciate all of the hard work.

Be the best audience you can be.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

How I Failed My Memory-

I do not have a good memory.

More correctly, I may or may not have a good memory. I have never trusted my memory very much, and so it never got big and strong. It languished in some forgotten place, getting little exercise and suffering from poor self-image due to neglect.

I do know that I have a terrible mind for names. They do not easily attach to objects (which includes people) and I have a laps of confidence in my memory as a result.

Over the years I could have (and should have) trusted my memory more. Taken it out for walks, gotten a little exercise and fresh air. Instead I learned how to find information. Whatever the information seeking part of the brain is called, that part got exercise.

I need information. I ask my memory. It says, "go look it up." Then it rolls over on the nice couch I bought it and goes back to sleep. I go to look it up, and then come back to my memory. "Where?" I ask. My memory does not even turn over. It just mumbles the best place to start, and I go and look it up.

Not a strong working relationship.

Don't neglect your memory, folks. When my Alzheimer comes I probably won't notice. A memory is such a terrible thing to waste.

Steve Martin and Me-

I am nearly through with Steve Martin's autobiographical book about his stand-up comedy career. I recommend it for any fans of comedy in general or Steve Martin in particular.

Over the years I have seen Steve Martin on television and in movies. I like the man's work, but more so I felt that I liked the man. There is a vulnerability and sensitivity that comes through in his work that makes him likable.

I have connected with Steve Martin on several levels. He loves Disneyland. My whole family loves Disneyland. Steve began building his career there. We just go to enjoy the magical environment.

Steve Martin is a magician. So am I. He came to the conclusion that he loved magic because he loves to perform. I learned magic because I was fascinated with the trappings, the techniques, and the strange psychology that makes it all work. That is why Steve Martin is an entertainer, and I am not.

Steve Martin is an eclectic scholar and loves philosophy. I am an eclectic scholar and also love philosophy. His broad learning does not seem to tie directly into comedy, but then few people understand that comedy is work. Hard work. Comedy is informed by the whole life experience of the comic.

We are both funny guys. Steve Martin took the hard road of making a living being a funny guy. Me, I just occasionally entertain the people around me, and constantly entertain myself. Even before reading this book I had some understanding of just how hard professional comedy might be. Steve Martin relates that challenge in his little book.

My father once quipped, "I like Steve Allen, not Steve Martin." Interestingly enough, Steve Martin studied the works of Steve Allen, and other masters of comedy. Steve Martin also liked Steve Allen.

I really like comedy, and comedians. I appreciate the hard work that stands behind the laughter. They are not just entertainers, they are great physicians. I love to laugh, and I need to laugh. They help me find that laughter, and I appreciate their long efforts.

I recommend this book. Born Standing Up, by Steve Martin. He is quite a guy. I like him.