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!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Corn Starch Conundrum-

Corn starch. Unless you are unusually active in the kitchen, you only need it once in a while. When you need it, though, you need it.

For some of us it is easier to find it at the store than to remember where it was last seen in the kitchen. Little used, and not particularly large, these little packages get pushed back to those odd corners of kitchen cabinets, perhaps to never be seen again.

At least, until some member of the family has a lot more time on his hands than he once did. Organizing the pantry seemed a good idea. I have given it a great deal more order than it had, but I did come across a bit of corn starch. And some old yeast. And a lot of those potato flakes.

I do watch some cooking shows. Those well planned and well ordered kitchens are a dream. Then again, so are those lovely homes featured in so many home related magazines. Rooms that are neat, tidy, and not really lived in. Kind of like movie sets. Hey, cooking shows are done on movie sets!

For the most part I think it is not a bad thing to let the store do the organizing and storage. It really isn't that far, whether grocery store or hardware store. They can store the meat, and screws, and chard, and wood glue. I only need a little, once in a while.

They can mind the corn starch for me, as well.

Monday, December 14, 2009

"I got a key!"

I was in the bathroom (always a great way to start a story) when I heard a scrabbling at the door. I live in a house with six adults, three (and sometimes four) children, four cats and an ancient dog. Scrabbling at the bathroom door is not unusual.

I opened the door. My cherubic grandson, Wyatt, was at his most cherubic. He held up a key. "I got a key!" he said. Wyatt is not given to much verbalization, so I took this at face value. I could see Wyatt. I could see the key. "I don't think that your key will work on the bathroom door." I said. He grinned and ran off.

Later Wyatt went with Mom and Grandma and his little brother Lucas. They were going to Target. I was working in the kitchen. I finished in the kitchen. I decided to go back to the bedroom where I kept my desktop computer. Oh, my laptop was in there, as well. And my phone! And here is the door, locked! I didn't have a key for this door!

Yes, I suspect Wyatt wanted to try out his key, and this was the door on which he tried. I doubt that it worked. After all, I was locked out.

No problem. I had learned a little trick some time ago. That little board to the right of the knob, against which the door closes? It can be pried loose with very little damage, if you take care. I did so. Pushing a flat knife blade in I tried to disengage the lock tongue. No luck. I tried. I tried some more. Then I quit. Time for more serious measures.

In this case it was a sheet rock saw. Yep. You can just push one of those through a hollow core door. I did. A little sawing and I had a hand sized hole. Reach in, open the lock. Now just some duct tape and it is good as new. Good as new if you really like duct tape, that is.

Now I have access to my computer, and something to blog about.

Have fun, and watch out for small boys with keys.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

More technology, more learning-

Well, part of the learning here is that I just can't seem to cut and paste as I would like into this editor. The lesson? Perhaps I should do a lot of my blog writing here.

That, however, is the issue. I am learning to use my Samsung netbook. Small, portable, somewhat limited but great for staying on the Internet and grabbing wifi sites. I want to be able to write in any location, however, not just net linked locations. Blogger is on the net, and so is not a first choice for my editor.

Also, I want to be able to write my novels, short stories, blogs and such anywhere using this nice little machine. So, I must master my software and do a bit of writing.

To initiate my Microsoft Office Suite trial package I had to connect this machine by cable. It went well, but I was not made confident by the necessity. Can I trust it out in the field? Time shall tell.

I tried the Notepad program for plain text editing, copying the text and pasting to Facebook and MySpace. It would not paste here. I had to do a lot of editing in the other editors to finish, and even so the MySpace copy was not well formatted.

I have a lot to learn. I don't mind. Learning is fun. I suspect I will find this little Samsung my constant companion, and the platform for some interesting work.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A mindset of poverty-

I have determined that I have a mind-set of poverty. Not “Woe is me!” poverty. Monkish poverty. The poverty of a priest or supplicant. A philosophy of poverty, the opposite of a philosophy of wealth.

This philosophy has been mine a long time. I recall that my mother warned my wife (before we were married) that I had gotten by on very little for quite some time. It seems I have never required much.

There have been times I have studied philosophies of wealth and wealth builders. Not people of avarice, but people who respect wealth and the things wealth can bring. My motivation was generally wanting to provide well for my family.

Such study never came to much. I simply do not value property and acquisition the way such people do. I see the things I possess largely as tools for living, to be used and appreciated but not valuable as things in themselves. When a tool no longer serves the purpose for which it is intended, it is time to be rid of the thing. Dull and broken tools are simply an incumbrance, and life is better unencumbered.

For the sake of my family I have often put aside my monkish ways, and sought material things to meet their needs. Many of those needs require more than a minimum of possessions, and so we have acquired more than I feel the need to have. I often feel encumbered.

I do not mind. My family has provided me with a focus and an anchor. An anchor in the sense of that useful nautical element that prevents drifting at sea. Focus as opposed to unfocused rambling. I am inclined toward drifting through the world, observing and contemplating but not contributing to any great degree. A vagabond existential priest, a monk of the moment. The love of my family gives my life form and definition.

Family can also be an expression of faith. My drift brought me into the Christian faith, and working out that faith brought me to family and church. Within the limits of my nature I have tried to be faithful to family and church, and am content with how it all has worked out.

I am not always sure how my family feels. Perhaps they have longed for designer jeans, horse riding lessons and private schools. I don’t recall any mention of such things. I am not privy to their more secret longings. I have done my best, and they seem content.

Such thoughts are mine right now because I am working through my plans for my next career. Can my longing to drift a bit be somehow satisfied at this point in my life? My family is still with me, and has needs. Still, they are not so dependant upon me as once they were.

The tools of our modern era increase the temptation to pull up the anchor and drift. Electronic readers allow one to carry whole libraries in one hand. Computers and cell phones keep anyone as connected as they might want to be, and still free to see what is beyond the horizon. See, and report on it.

Can I get a tweet on that?

With such tools I could drift with few possessions, yet have great wealth of knowledge and information.

Now that’s what I call poverty!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Learning Curve-

I purchased a Samsung N130 Netbook computer today. I really felt ubergeek using it along side my desktop. Actually, I was just configuring the little thing while checking my reader and my email. Still, it felt pretty uber.

It felt so uber that I wrote it up. Then I came here to paste the document and found a bit of trouble. Not yet sure what, but I can't seem to paste into this document. Something more to learn.

I selected this Samsung for the price (under $300) and the size. It is small enough to take with me just about everywhere. I have the flexibility of going online in more places, and I can work on writing more often. It is far from a power house, but it is a useful tool and not particularly costly.

My desktop will probably need to be replaced in two more years. I expect to get a larger format laptop for a main computer, and this little rig will be my knock-about take anywhere machine. Until then the desktop will remain, my primarily gaming machine and general work horse.

I was tempted to get a nook book reader, but they are hard to find and this really is more useful. I may not have the free cash when a nook becomes available, but I think I can work it out when the time is right.

A Nintendo DSi was also tempting. However, I game on my desktop machine, and we have a Wii in the house. Though some DS games are tempting, I just don't really have the time. I can game quite a bit, but I do need to do a few other things.

Like write. Oh, and I do need to find a job.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dryer Sheets in the Kitchen-

My daughter, Beth, claims that she has pregnant brain. Her otherwise serviceable and astute thinking capacity seems somewhat compromised during this (her fourth) pregnancy. That is why she served up pasta for herself and the kids and then forgot to turn the heat off under the boiling noodles.

Burning spaghetti is not a common thing, I should think. A LOT of water is usually involved, and that tends to preclude burning. However, pregnancy apparently can bring forth surprising talents, and so the spaghetti got burned.

I do a lot of kitchen cleaning. I do even more since retiring all of two weeks ago. I got to clean the pot. A few minutes of scrubbing proved to me that this task was onerous in the extreme. This was going to take quite a while. The pot was of too good quality to just throw out and replace. I was in a quandary. Befuddled. Not really wanting to grind on a pot for the next week.

My wife said she had heard that dryer sheets would help. You know, those little sheets of paper or whatever that many people like to put into the dryer. Makes clothing soft and eliminates static electricity.

I don’t use them, myself. I find the clothes feel, well, funny if I use them. Like they are coated with plastic. It does not feel right. Much like with shower soap. I like a man’s soap that will strip all of the oils from my skin, making me feel clean. I guess stiff and scratchy clothes also feel clean to me.

So, dryer sheet in the pot. A bit of warm water. A half day of soaking. Hot water, soap and a scrubbing pad. The crud came off of the bottom with very little effort! Wow.

Made me feel like Martha Stewart. Or maybe Rachel Ray. Hmm. Now I am feeling a bit funny, again.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Job search is challenging. For example, selling toys sounds like fun, but it can't pay much. Hmmm.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ban Bottom Shelves-

As time has passed, and I have grown both older and more round, I have discovered that the floor has gotten farther away without my growing taller. Most amazing.

I have also developed an aversion to bottom shelves and drawers. Items that have been stored in such places have diminished value to me. It is, perhaps, a corollary of the "four book rule."

The four book rule dictates that any book below the fourth book in any stack of books has a diminished probability of being used. Add enough books to a stack of four, and the bottom book simply becomes part of the shelf.

How does this relate in real life? Well, I went to the book store the other day. They have books, and shelves. Some of the shelves are bottom shelves. I was looking for a book on writing resumes. Reference? No. Business? No. Self help? No.

Back to business. I look and look. Nothing. Back to self help. Nada. Back to reference. Nothing.

So, I go to the desk and ask. The nice young lady leads me back to the business shelf. She pulls two books from the bottom shelf. I had not seen them because I did not bend over sufficiently to really look at the books on that shelf. It was as if that shelf did not exist in my world.

It really is just a matter of engineering. Eliminate the bottom shelf. Ban the bottom drawer. Oh, of course the next shelf or drawer up then becomes the bottom shelf or drawer. But that one won't be so hard to reach.

I am sure a smart attorney could write something into the ban to prevent an infinite regress. Otherwise the ban would lead to the elimination of shelves and drawers altogether. That would be bad.

Then we would have to put all of our stuff on stacks of books.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Praying for Cops-

I have been retired from law enforcement for just a bit over a week, now. I already have to face the world in a different way. I am no longer a cop. I have been a part of a sub-culture, and by virtue of my position as a correctional officer was able to observe another sub-culture quite closely.

Some of my contacts on the Internet pray for cops. It is just something they feel compelled to do, no matter just how that compulsion came about. I have been thinking about that. Cops are a peculiar breed, and it might be good for those who would pray for them, or offer any support at all, to understand that sub-culture.

Cops are violent people. Not pointlessly violent like crazed killers. Unfortunately, violence is often required to end violence, and to perform the policing tasks the cop must be violent. They train constantly to be efficiently violent, professionally violent, to end violence quickly and decisively.

That violence often arises from a driving sense of right. It is not necessarily a philosophically founded sense of right. Often it is intuitive, an inherent drive. It leads to embracing the laws of the land to bring order to the land.

Cops tend to see the world in black and white. Good or bad. Right or wrong. At the same time many of them have lived all of their days on the border between ordered society and the differently ordered realm of the criminal. They choose the side of right and good, of law and order, but they know and understand that underworld.

Some slip a bit. It is a difficult place to keep your feet, that dark and broken borderland. Yet they still identify with right, even those who for a time might lose their way.

They stand apart from the rest of society, stand against the dark underworld while being little understood by the society they protect. They cannot trust the criminals with whom they are in constant conflict, and cannot trust the rest of society because they cannot understand.

To constantly stand against those who hate you, to be often criticized and not fully trusted by those you protect, and to practice a violence constrained by high ideals is to be subjected to a constant erosion of the spirit.

So, how to pray for cops? Pray that they will not succumb to the violence, for it is seductive and hard to contain. Pray that the line between good and bad, light and darkness, the lawful and unlawful shall remain clear to them, especially those who must live long close to that line. There are dark seductions there, as well.

Pray that they not be overcome by pride and fail to seek the aid and support of family and friends. Their task is noble, but the society they protect is not always as noble as the ideals they strive to uphold. Pray that they can forgive shortfalls in society and not succumb to bitterness.

Pray that they be able to see and know themselves. There is a time to get out of law enforcement. A time to step away from that dark line, and heal. Pray that each will know that right time to move on.

Cops are humans performing tasks that are sometimes too much for humans to perform. Some depend too much on inflated egos, and might lack the grace to deal gently with those whom they serve. Most will be distant. Some will be bitter, having stood the line too long. To the degree you can, forgive their failings. Be thankful, for they hold a slippery line to keep you safe.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

New Moon-

My wife Linda and I just went and viewed New Moon. Over the years, as they were introduced, our family read the books. We viewed the first movie. Stephanie Meyer is a pretty good story teller, and I have enjoyed the stories.

Yes, when I read the first novel I recognized it was written for teen aged girls. As my wife and I found seats in the theater we were not surprised to find the theater filled with young women, mostly early and mid-teens. There were several dads there with their teen daughters, a few families. Mostly, however, it was clutches of teen aged women.

I still find the young man who plays Edward a bit of a James Dean parody, though most likely not intentionally so. What is lacking in the movie that I had noticed in the books was the sexual tension. It was the driving force in the books, but less so in the movie. The film can carry a lot in the visual elements, and perhaps the level of sexual tension was not required or even desirable.

Having never experienced life as a teen aged girl, I have no idea just what impact that form of tension has on the psyche. It did contribute to the reading of the tale, serving as a pacing element to keep the pages turning and the reader waiting for the next book.

I have also read The Host, Meyer’s science fiction adult novel. She demonstrated a fine creative mind in approaching the idea of alien invasion in a most unusual way. That particular book is not driven by such a convenient tool as sexual tension to keep the pages turning. My wife could not make it through the book.

I found the story conceptually interesting enough to read all of the way to the end. I am, after all, a big fan of science fiction and fantasy, and the tale was a very interesting take on the whole alien invasion theme. Alien invasion is a very popular science fiction theme, and any unusual take on a common theme is inherently interesting.

So, New Moon. Worth seeing. A must see for fans. Probably a must see if you are a teen aged girl. Not a terrible experience if you get dragged there by someone you care for. If you have an inappropriate interest in pre-adult females the parking lot may be better than the film. Just stay in your car.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Visited optomitrist, had exam and ordered new glasses.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

I hate taggers-

I don't mind the "art" that sometimes actually is art on obscure locations like hidden bridges and drainage tunnels and such. I don't care for the "in your face" tagging of public places. The destruction of property just to leave a mark, often in a script that fails to communicate.

Puppies marking territories.

One of our local stores failed early in the recession. An anchor store at the mall. We only have one mall in our smallish community. The new store coming in was KOHLS. They did a nice renovation of the store area, and a particularly nice job on the restrooms.

Some petty little twit tagged the mirror in the new restroom. An overly stylized script, quite unreadable, scratched in the mirror in eight inch letters.

This behavior really makes me angry. This waste of skin invaded my world and made it poorer by inflicting his tag on me in a public place. I really don't care what deficiencies in his week little life he is compensating for by so assaulting my senses. The counsel I might offer would likely be violent, should I be present at the time of the crime.

Unfortunately, I am compelled to simply tolerate these assaults, these petty offenses. Fleas. Useless little bags of offal. They make me weary.
Nintendo is missing an element in it's gaming for everyone marketing plan. Preschool games. Games that can develop video game skills in the next generation. Games oriented to little people lacking fine motor skills and the ability to read.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day-

To those of you who have served in the Armed Forces of these United States I say, "Thank you."

I am among your numbers, being a Viet Nam Era Vet. For those who do not know what that means, I explain. Those who served during the term of the Viet Nam War but did not serve in active combat zones associated with that war are Era Vets.

Whether or not a veteran served during wartime, whether or not a veteran served in country or served supporting the active combatants, the service is real. To serve is to take up arms and place your life on the line for home and country. Those who have done so are worthy of great honor. Thank you, one and all.

I am not given easily to tears. This morning as I drove home from working a night shift deep emotions associated with thoughts of my brothers and sisters in arms came to the surface. I struggled to drive as tears flowed, tears for those many who left home to serve the nation. Tears for the many who never came back.

When I arrived home I poured a drink and took it out into my yard. I stood in front of the home I have the privilege of owning, on a piece of land that belongs to myself and my family according to the laws and freedoms of these United States. I drank a toast to my brothers and sisters in arms of every place and every era, those who stood the line in defense of this place we call home.

I cannot bring back those who have died. I cannot give back the torn and broken limbs, or the broken minds and hearts. I can do little to see that those who sacrifice today get something in return for that sacrifice.

I can say, "Thank you." The tears I shed today may have little value in themselves, but they came from a grateful heart.

Thank you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tioga George-

If you have not become acquainted with Tioga George, I recommend you do. George has been traveling and living in a Tioga RV (whom he calls Ms. Tioga) for around six years or so. He has been north into Canada and south into Mexico quite a number of times, exploring many of the western states in the US as he has traveled.

He has most recently been remaining in Mexico, finding comfortable temperatures, pleasant adventures, and reduced costs as he travels there. The need for some repairs drew him back to the US, California most specifically. Here he visited family, got the work done, and now is drifting back toward Mexico.

I became aware of George and his blog during a critical time in my life. Sometimes we demand too much of ourselves, and we can become unbalanced. That happened to me, and I fell into a depression that was quite severe. With the intervention of some coworkers and friends I sought counsel and was set on a course of recovery and management.

As a part of that I was exploring the ideas of travel. I was able, through the magic of the Internet, to do virtual traveling even while fulfilling my duties at my desk in jail. Sleeping inmates require only minimal supervision, and it was possible for me to explore the world through such tools as Google Maps, travel related web sites, and blogs.

George stood out to me. He had dealt with some challenges in his life, and at a time when most people settle down and do less and less George decided to hit the road. He has lived in Ms. Tioga for many years now, exploring and meeting people. He travels slowly, yet in doing so has still covered a great many miles and touched many lives.

Just hours ago I was able to meet George in Santa Cruz. We had communicated by email and phone the past few days to coordinate a meeting. I found him day camped at Twin Lakes Beach. He welcomed me into his home and his world and we talked for about an hour and a half. The sun set as we talked and the lights of Santa Cruz and Santa Cruz Harbor became the background of our little chat.

It was interesting meeting someone I have followed for several years on the Internet. For me it was like seeing an old friend again after only a short time away. George has shared his life with me every day for over two years. More than that considering that I read his whole archive of travels.

I am sure that the experience was a bit different for him, but his welcome was so warm that I felt a bond right away. We chatted about RV life, my career (which ends tomorrow night), books, movies, cooking on board an RV, and generally anything that came to mind. George showed me around Ms. Tioga, and talked about the merits of maintaining her over purchasing a newer RV and then making the changes to fit George's lifestyle.

All too soon it was time for me to go to work. We said goodbye alongside Ms. Tioga, the crash of the ocean breakers punctuating our last words. I shook George's hand and touched the side of Ms. Tioga just below the painting on her side. Then it was back to my truck and off to work.

George has found a way to live his life well and fulfill some of his dreams while doing so. He has also generously shared that life. My own life has been enriched by that sharing.

I wish George the best in his journey. I shall follow with interest.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

End of Chapter. Turn the page-

I cannot help but recall the stories I have read of people who damaged their careers and their personal lives by blogging without discretion. It could be a poorly chosen photograph, a badly worded criticism, or a too clear statement of a personal philosophy that might make the blogger unattractive in the workplace. Jobs lost, or career opportunities missed, simply due to blog enthusiasm and a moment or two (or quite a few) of simply poor decision making.

Until this last Tuesday I had to refrain from addressing changes in my career. I had intended to retire from my present position as a correctional officer with the Sheriff's Office of Santa Cruz County this coming February 5th. That would be my anniversary date, and I would have completed twenty years of service. Though it would be fiscally sound to continue my career into another five years, I cannot do so. I am no longer able to manage the stresses of working at the Main Jail in our jail system.

Perhaps a word of explanation. In our jail system we have three facilities. The Blaine Street Women's Facility is not an aspect of the career of male officers. Males being in charge of an exclusively female facility just opens up to many potential legal issues, and the county just does not want to take such risks.

Two other facilities make up the work place options for male officers, as well as female. The south county Sheriff's Rountree Facility is comprised of two jails. One is a minimum security facility, the other a medium. Inmates assigned to these two facilities are selected due to having less serious charges, less propensity toward violence, and a higher probability of responding positively to offered programs of training and education. This is the facility at which I have worked for the past three years, and at which I have served two other terms of service. Almost half of my career has been served at the Rountree Facility.

My career began at the Main Jail. This is where all arrestees are brought for processing. Many are housed there pending court appointments. Some are sentenced to remain there either for whole sentences or pending transportation to prison. Some of these inmates are mentally ill. Most are anti-social and a significant percentage are disgruntled at being arrested and being held prisoner. It is a threatening environment, and all too often violent.

The job is challenging, sometimes rewarding, and even occasionally fun. The constant threat of violence is stressful, and over time that stress takes a toll. For some the opportunity to work in a support position or move up to supervision reduces the constant tension due to directly supervising inmates. For all, however, the stress is a constant factor.

For me, the stress has reduced my capacity for patience with unbearable people. Not simply irritating people, but mentally twisted people who use bad behavior to strike out at those who hold them prisoners. Occasionally, and all too frequently, violence must be used to control and contain these people. Applying such violence with steady nerves is challenging. Trying to apply such controlled violence with frayed nerves is dangerous.

I received news this last Friday stating that I was being transfered to the Main Jail on the 15th of this month. I spent the weekend contemplating my own mental condition and the challenges such a transfer would present. I talked with my wife. On Monday I requested permission to remain at the Rountree Facility for the few months until my planned retirement date in February. That request was denied.

On Tuesday I submitted my letter of resignation. I am retiring on Friday 13, 2009, completing my career in corrections after nearly twenty years of service.

I really don't know what comes next. Our reserve funds will carry us well enough to find another job. As to finding a "next career," that may take a little longer. Part-time work and schooling? Perhaps. I have a few thoughts, but none to share this soon.

Am I afraid? A little. Am I excited? Yes, surprisingly so. Am I optimistic? Yes, I am confident that we as a family will get through this and make it work.

For those who are interested I shall be posting as things go forward. This may be fun!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Google Chrome-

It was probably eight or nine months ago when an update to my Firefox browser made it impossible for me to add bookmarks. I have worked around the problem during the time between then and now. Obviously I have not needed a lot of new bookmarks.

The other day I was doing some serious clean-up on my computer, and contemplated removing and reinstalling Firefox. I like Firefox. I find Internet Explorer to be often slow and frequently unstable. At work it locks up and shuts down often, and I don't have the Firefox option there. Still, the hassle of a reinstall was unappealing.

Then I entered my Google suite to do some work and realized that this would be a good time to test Google Chrome. That is the new browser Google has created. I generally prefer Google as a search engine and have often used their other software products as well. So, I downloaded and installed Google Chrome.

It installed easily, and was quite intuitive in operation. The tutorial was adequate, and soon I was on my way. I now had access to all of my bookmarks, could manage them (which was lost in Firefox), and add new ones.

The only problem I have had with Google Chrome is in getting updates for some of my software. For example, I was having lock-ups on my World of Warcraft game. That usually indicates that my video drivers are not current. So, off to Nvidia to see what was new. Indeed, a new driver was out, just weeks old.

I tried to auto-search for that driver when on the Nvidia site, and it would not work under Google Chrome. I had to go to Firefox to get the auto-update. Not a problem, as I had kept Firefox in reserve until I had tested Google Chrome for a time.

Updates are installed, and I am back on Google Chrome. I will probably uninstall and reinstall Firefox in a few weeks, once I am confident that things are going well here in Googleland.

For those of you reading who are not particularly technically oriented, I recommend you find a geek friend or hire a tech service to do an annual on your computer. Perhaps they can install some easy to use clean-up and maintenance programs that will operate automatically or with the periodic click of an icon. A little prevention is worth the small effort. Rebuilding your system is a major hassle.

I know. I have had to do it several times.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


Some time back I watched a television program in which the idea of happiness was examined. There was some argument for an inherited aptitude for happiness in humans. It was an interesting idea, somewhat supported by my own experiences in an impromptu laboratory. I have been in jail for almost twenty years now, an officer with the opportunity to observe.

I tend to have a significant degree of circumspection in my life. I examine it constantly, assessing and evaluating and contemplating. Perhaps even obsessively. While I can point to many periods and even more moments of contentment, I cannot point to extended periods of happiness. I can point to even fewer periods (and even moments) of ecstasy, but I don't think that very many of us expect to be ecstatic most of the time.

Having observed humans for quite some time, many of whom were going through some of the lower periods in their lives, I can informally conclude that happiness is an occasional experience, at best. This is not a bad thing. Those who framed the Constitution recognized that the pursuit of happiness framed our lives, not the realization. It is a state to which we aspire, and as a consequence of our efforts many good things happen.

Today I experienced happiness. I was shopping at Safeway, receiving periodic messages from the family visiting Disneyland. I observed a number of big, burly daddies with their daughters, and then stepped outside into the sunshine. I loaded my groceries into the truck, responded to a message on my phone, looked around, and realized that I was happy.

For some reason I was just happy. I cannot say why. I know I was not ecstatic. I know I was more than content. I was happy. I was happy that my family was having a good experience. I was happy to be alive. I was just happy. It was nice, and it has lasted through the afternoon. I am delighted by that.

I have reviewed some blogs, edited some photos and albums. I have been content, and even happy. I have realized (fortunately not for the first time) that I have a very good life. I also realized that, should my life end soon, it has been disproportionately good.

In the context of the world, I have been lucky. In the context of my Christian faith, I have been blessed. Perhaps other contexts might give me another word or two, but the essence of my observations today is that I am happy.

I cannot discount my recent decision to retire from Corrections. I get out of jail on February 5, 2010. This decision may well have opened my capacity for happiness. Jail is a hard place to live, and I can easily see forces contrary to happiness working there. Yes, that decision may well have liberated my psyche to be happy.

My hope is that my days may be long on the Earth. I am content in the belief that I have done some good in my life, and that I have executed my responsibilities with honor. I have known love and have loved others.

Today I declare that life is good, and that I have attained (at least for a time) a state of happiness. In this moment I can thank God and my fellow humans for all of the good I have known, and cast behind me all of the evil I have known.

Will this last? Of course not. Life and all of its elements are transient.

That is what makes moments like these precious.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cell Phones after 50-

My wife would probably be upset if I stated her age. The times of our respective births were rather near to one another, and I am 56 years old. Since I would not, in any way, wish to imply that my wife is old, or not young, or whatever state it is she finds offensive to point out or mention in any way, I shall simply say that she feels that the cell phone is probably the most significant invention in this century.

Granted, the cell phone was invented in the previous century. It has, however, become a very significant part of modern life during these early years of the 21st. century. She perceives the connectedness as a positive thing.

I tend to agree with her.

I carry an LG Vu at present. I just upgraded to that phone last week. I sought a few features in particular in the upgrade. The most important, of course, was free. Next to that was a better camera. In this case, a 2 megapixel camera to provide a reasonable quality photo. I did not think I would use the camera much in my prior phone, and so did not procure a good one. Then I went on to take a surprising number of photos. This time around I planned on using the phone as a camera, and research indicated that a 2 meg was adequate.

Texting. Early on in my cell phone career I did not understand the texting explosion in this country. I understood it overseas, where the cost of texting was significantly lower than voice communication. Here, however, it did not make sense. So many people texting, texting, texting.

Over time my opinion of texting changed. I found that a quick text can require less time than a phone call. A voice call requires certain polite interchanges that don't seem to be required in texting. Now that I have an easier to use keyboard on my touch screen phone I can text easily enough to dash off notes faster than the same communication by voice. Not only that, I can actually blog from my phone.

I don't Tweet, at least not yet. I just don't have the fan base that would require me to advise them every time I went to the bathroom, how it went, and how much paper it required. However, I have learned my lesson in phone cameras and texting. I may yet find it needful to Tweet on Twitter, or do whatever the next thing to come along might require.

My present phone takes videos. I have discovered that these videos are not particularly good unless viewed on the tiny screen of a phone. In fact, the look best on a small part of my phone screen. They are particularly bad if blown up to fit a full computer screen. That part of this cell phone thing is still developing. I won't say, "I don't see the need for cell phone video. I can do fine without it." Somehow, I think that my next phone will have to have some kick-ass video capability.

That's just the way these things go.

I value having my calendar in my phone. If it could coordinate with Google calendars it would be very nice, indeed. Come to think of it, I haven't explored that. I wonder if they can be made to work together. Hmmm.

What might the future of the cell phone be? I have a vision of breaking a capsule and inhaling the contents through the nose. The nano-tech phone takes up residence somewhere in there, and you are in constant communication. Just snort your periodic upgrades to stay current.

Comfort Food-

I had a very nice childhood. I often wish I had been aware of just how nice it was, but the anxiety and trauma of every childhood is immediate and fills the entire universe with its awfulness. Those of us who were so blessed still had to find ways to manage the rough passages.

For me it was books and barbecue potato chips. I would often stop by the library on the way home from school and pick up a volume of science fiction. Further along my way I would stop by the store and get a box of barbecue potato chips. Three bags in the box, all for $.79.

It was another time.

So, I would take my treasures home and go to my room. I would open a bag of chips and prop it up in the box and set it next to the bed. I would then sprawl on the bed, propping up the book on my pillow. I would read and munch, often for hours.

I had my own room. My own room! I really didn't know how great a gift that was for my parents to provide for me. A space all my own, a space larger than what some entire families might live in. A warm, dry, well lighted space in which to read and enjoy a snack.

Now, decades and many pounds later, I still love reading and I still love barbecue potato chips. Even knowing how bad they are for me I often indulge in way too many chips. I love them.

As a child I also really liked spaghetti. It was only an occasional meal in our household, but when it was on the table I would eat until it hurt. Literally.

Eventually growing up I learned that one of the real treats of being your own boss was being free to eat whatever you might want. Needless to say, I have eaten a lot of spaghetti in my adult years. Inexpensive, easy to make (if you so wished), and not particularly demanding.

I never established a meaningful relationship with brocolli. That is unfortunate. Indeed, most vegetables only become my friend if they are encorporated into a sauce you can pour over a big pile of noodles. I have gotten better about this by small increments, but probably will not live long enough to build a bond in which brocolli brings me comfort.

For some people it might be pot roast, or some particular kind of soup. It might be a chowder, or a particularly good bread. Whatever it is, it is likely that the sight and smell and flavor of that comfort food is associated with some pleasant emotions. The love of a mother, or a grandmother, or someone equally special. The security of family and friends, of home and community. Perhaps a special place.

We all have to eat. It is nice that sometimes eating can be more than just eating. It can be comforting. That's very nice, indeed.

Monday, October 26, 2009

When Sunday is Monday-

Sunday night begins my work week. This week I have a dorm in our medium security facility. The maturity level of inmates tends to be between seven and ten years of age. So, tonight I am locked in with thirty one large and dangerous seven year olds.

They tend to be loud, and often self centered. Like seven to ten year olds. Tonight they were reasonably well behaved, until I sent them to bed. In jail parlance it is called "rack down." This refers to days past when jail cell doors were opened and closed by a mechanical racking device. Whatever the name, they went to bed just as well as you might expect thirty one seven year olds to go to bed.

So, I now have their microwave, hot water pot, tv controllers, and a number of other items locked up. They won't get them until after I go home.

One might conclude that parenting had been less than successful on this lot. Here I am, continuing that effort with little hope of any real success.

The good news? I am alive, and I go home in a few minutes. Not bad at all.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pumpkin Patch-

Our journey today took the whole family north along Highway 1 to Pescadero. A little farm that sells pumpkins, and has turned the Halloween Holiday into an event and their farm into an event destination. Hay Rides, Pony Rides, Petting Zoo, Hay Maze, and even some pumpkins. Arata's Farm.

It was a very nice day. A bit foggy, but that is not unusual along this part of the California coast. Four generations, our whole household with the exception of our youngest son, Jon. Apparently pumpkins were not his thing.

Arata's Farm has evolved in recent years, expanding their entertainment menu. We partook of a bit, but elected to dine in Pescadero. We traveled the few miles to the little town, which proved not to particularly sleepy. Droves of people lined the few streets, procuring meals or visiting the shops.

We procured sandwiches at Norm's Market and dined at a nice little picnic area they had out back of the store. The bread was fresh and delicious, the sandwiches generous and tasty. We picked up a couple of loaves of their Artichoke bread to take home for dinner. (I just had some. Delicious!)

On the way home we passed a patch of ocean in which there were dozens of kite surfers, sail surfers, and sky surfers. We paused to enjoy the spectacle, and continued south. We drove in to have a closer look at Pigeon Point Lighthouse, and again were headed south.

Home, and soon it was time to address dressing the pumpkins. The kids did great, creating some very unique Jack-O-Lanterns to adorn the front steps.

A late dinner, (those sandwiches were filling), of pasta and the artichoke bread.

Now, just a bit of blogging, and soon to bed.

I will try and get some photos of the finished pumpkins tomorrow.

New phone

I was due for an upgrade, and settled on a LG Vu. It was free, had a 2.0 meg camera, video capability, expandable memory, music capability, decent touch screen texting, and a lot of features I don't think I will use (but will probably find that I do.) ; )

The previous entry was just a test. It worked fine. So, I schlep into mobile blogging.

Now, off to the Pumpkin Patch up the coast from Santa Cruz, California.

Having grandkids is soo coool!

This mobile text message is brought to you by AT&T

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Some semi-related thoughts-

I entered into blogging largely as a means to reach out and "network" to promote my writing. My short stories blog was intended to showcase some of my very short fiction, hoping that in time I might get something out there that would bring me revenue as well as providing an outlet.

Then I started blogging my adventures in barbecue, and tried to get serious about my personal philosophy in blog form. Lastly I created this blog to catch "Everything Else."

Needless to say, this blog has probably been my most active. Part online diary, part sandbox for ideas, this blog became the central blog of my little blog universe. Changes in my life and work schedule distanced me from the short story writing. Oh, there will be more. At present there is little compulsion to sit down and write.

As to philosophy, I just don't seem to have the need to sound profound, to work diligently to build a system of thought that captures my world view. The blog will remain, a place to put such works as I ultimately am driven to produce that fit into the context of "philosophy." However, I just am not driven to philosophy as I was in my youth.

Barbecue. Now that is an area I have not abandoned. Changes in the household, however, have altered the process. I need to regroup and focus on the barbecue adventure. Perhaps I should expand the scope of the blog, since there have been some recent explorations in cooking that were not related to the barbecue. We shall see.

So, back to Everything Else. I have given some thought to the idea of being more diligent in the journal/diary aspect of blogging. Recording every day, a record of the doings of the day. The sameness of most days tends to wash away such a compulsion, but I think that the discipline to find something in each day to record might compel me to think about each day.

I am somewhat restricted in that recording too much detail of my work days could cause issues with the Sheriff's Office for which I work. I am sure that our tech crime people frequently scan the works of employees as part of their duties. I cannot state that as a fact, of course, since I have nothing to substantiate such a claim. However, it is difficult to imagine that they do not.

Indeed, the Internet is full of tales of blogs and social sites adversely affecting individual people as far as employment goes. So, my work news will be general at best. A jail is a great source of interesting stories, but sharing them could prove problematic.

What of other aspects of my life? Well, over the course of the last year I have resided in the jail parking lot during my work week. I have sheltered in a tent that fits in the back of my truck. A surprisingly comfortable way of living, at least for me.

Recently, we were directed to cease residing in the parking lot. Though I was just sleeping days there, being on the night shift, some issues came up and I and the other camper were directed to stop sleeping here. I now day sleep in a state park, using a seasonal day use pass.

To be quite honest, it is not bad at all. I sleep near the sea, and the park I use has little traffic at this time of year. Having to set up camp every day, rather than once each week, is a little bit of extra work. Having an ocean view every day is a pretty good compensation.

Will there be sufficient details to share? I shall look for them, and we shall see.

Now, life with the family. We have nine people living in the house. Four generations. Are there family issues? Of course. Is this the place to air them? I don't think so. That aspect of the diary certainly won't take place here. However, I think I can watch for things that can be shared.

Perhaps I will take a page or two from the blogs of some other bloggers I follow and blog the household and family activities. That will have some very positive consequences. We will have a record of our lives together. I will be compelled to watch for blogable events, and record them. I may also be compelled to follow through on some projects so that I can share them.

More pictures, of course. I know that I seldom take the time, and I need to do better. There are plenty of fine blogs I follow that provide the example. I need to follow through.

So, let's see.

Expand My Barbecue Adventures to include other foody explorations.

Keep open to expressing philosophical thoughts in Philosophy on Purpose. Perhaps try to give it a monthly essay or something.

Discipline myself to create at least one story each month for my short story blog.

Strive to come up with a daily entry to Everything Else. Look at my life and write it down.

Sounds good. If nothing else, the road to Hell will be a little less bumpy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dream Incompatability-

Dreams are one of the major victims of depression. Previously held dreams fade and die. The capacity to dream grows weak and eventually seems to no longer exist. The difficult path back from a depressive episode can be made easier if the capacity to dream is revived and encouraged.

During my own healing I sought to give wings to my dreams, finding old ones under dust and debris and also trying to create new ones. Some were fantastic and impractical, but I embraced them and made them mine in spite of that. I needed to dream.

I embraced dreams of travel, of seeing what lies over the horizon. I used maps and atlas' and Internet tools. I brought back a hunger that had died within me, and I wanted to travel.

Unfortunately, my realized dreams of having a home and family have put fetters on my traveling feet. The funds and freedom are just not there.

I have dream incompatibility.

One option is to let this frustration spiral me into a new depression. After the struggle to climb out of that pit it seems a poor option.

Another is to recognize the realized dream of home and family. Just as I reached down and found those old, dusty dreams of the vagabond life, I must embrace the life that I have. Home. Family.

Easy to take for granted. Easy to focus on the frustrations and limitations those realized dreams can bring. Easy to forget that they are dreams, and dreams realized.

There are big changes coming soon in my life. Big changes for my family. Changes that can be enhanced if I remember the dreams of home and family. Some of those changes I am not quite ready to make public. Necessary changes. They shall certainly be interesting.

I have no intention of abandoning my dreams of travel, of being a sometimes vagabond. I have learned skills and acquired tools over the past year that will allow for at least a taste of that life, now and then.

It is time, however, to focus on those dreams of home and family. I need to actively cultivate those dreams, and make more of them a reality.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Discount Disneyland-

Our family does a lot of Disneyland. As a consequence, we have learned a little about visiting the Magic Kingdom. We enjoy sharing what we have learned, as do many Disneyland fans. Here are a few notes on saving money on your visit.

First, annual passes. This is the second year in which we have used annual passes in anticipation of more than one visit within a year. If you anticipate visiting for more than five days in any given year the annual pass becomes an economical option. The five day pass can often be upgraded to the Deluxe Annual pass for just a handful of dollars.

Distance from home to the Disneyland Resort can be a factor in making this decision. Our travel distance is 400 miles, which can be made in one day. The proximity makes the annual pass a good option for our family. The Deluxe pass has some blackout days, days on which the pass does not allow free entry. Those days may be purchased as discounted day passes. The Premium Annual Pass has no blackout days.

Obviously, if you live at a greater distance frequent visits can become much more expensive and require greater planning. There are a number of multi-day pass options. For a first time visit I would recommend no fewer than three days at the Disneyland Resort. This will allow you the time necessary to learn how to navigate the parks and use the many customer conveniences offered, such as the Fast Pass.

Prices change over time, as do the rules applying to day-pass-to-annual-pass upgrades. Check the official Disneyland Resort site for the particulars at around the time you are planning a visit, or stop by the Annual Pass center inside Disneyland Park for additional information while you are there.

Second, food. There are a lot of dining options within the Disneyland Resort itself. At present it is best to assume a minimum of $11 per adult, for the purpose of estimating. There are a few places within the resort that are a bit cheaper, but those are rare and the $11 estimate is a good starting point for thinking about the cost of dining.

There are some very nice restaurants within the resort that offer finer dining, at a somewhat higher price per person. If money is no problem and quality is important, there are some very good options within the Disneyland Resort. Again, consult their web site for additional information.

Just outside the park are some other options. An IHOP, a Denney’s, and a MacDonald’s are all within easy walking distance. They do, however, have a bit of price padding in their menus, and so might not provide significant savings relative to the distance you would have to walk. They do, however, remain good options.

Though it is a bit of a walk, the Anaheim GardenWalk mall is a very nice option. This is a new shopping and dining destination not terribly far from the Disneyland Resort. It is an attractive mall, with a number of dining options for the vacationing family.

The Anaheim Garden Walk is on the Anaheim Resort Transit (ART) system that performs shuttle services for some of the area hotels. ART is a great alternative to walking, and quite affordable.

Our third point is motel accommodations. Most of the motels and hotels around the Disneyland Resort have web sites, and can be easily searched out on the Internet. If you have a preferred motel chain that would be a great beginning to your search. Many chains have a system that allows you to earn discounts or free days. Having a favorite is a good place to begin.

The quality of accommodation varies greatly. The Disneyland Resort has three different hotels within its own system, at three different levels of cost. None are particularly inexpensive, but they are worth visiting on the Internet to see what the options might be. The benefit of on-site accommodations would be the ability to take a break from park activities to rest in the middle of a busy day. A nap in the room and an hour by the pool can be very refreshing in an otherwise very active day.

The ART shuttle system, along with other shuttle options, can make taking a similar break practical even if your budget drives you a few blocks from the action. Our last visit was with the Motel 6 on Disney Way. The ART shuttle was timely and prompt, and made planning any break during the day easy and practical.

Some nearby motels and hotels have themes to make them more attractive. Some have on site spa options, or fine dining options, and even convention facilities. Most of these are not necessary for families on a budget, but knowing about them can be helpful should you future needs change. It is important for the sake of planning to know the particular needs and desires of your entire party.

Remember, time taken in planning can greatly improve your use of time within the Disneyland Resort, reduce frustration, and expand your enjoyment of this wonderful family destination.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Disneyland After 80-

We have just completed a visit to Disneyland. We visit Disneyland often. It is a family obsession, and one we share and encourage. For us, it is truly The Happiest Place on Earth. Having something in which we all share is precious, and we consider Walt Disney’s creation a genuine contribution to our family.

This visit was special. Often the journey is an epic journey. The extended family caravans the four hundred miles from our home in Felton, California, and establishes a camp at some motel or another for a week or so. This journey was just myself, my wife Linda, and her mother, Alta. The visit to the Magic Kingdom was especially for Alta.

Alta is 83 years old, and the epic journey has become difficult. Four generations, many of whom are young children, makes for a lot of various needs and interests. At 83 years, it is hard to maintain the energy to keep up with little children. So, a special trip was planned to conform to Alta’s particular interests and needs.

Now, before you assume saintliness on the part of my wife and myself, it must be recognized that we find any excuse for a visit to Disneyland to be adequate and undeniable. We were in the Magic Kingdom just a couple of months ago, and Linda will be there with much of the family again next month. While there might have been an element of generosity on our part, it is largely just another reason to go to Disneyland.

We flew down from San Jose, California. San Jose is the closest suitable airport to Felton, less than an hour away. The wait for the flight was another hour or so, and the flight itself is about an hour. We are up to three travel hours so far. Add the half-hour shuttle ride from the airport to the motel, and we are at about three and a half hours of travel time.

The road trip is usually twice that, with a large clan in an SUV or minivan. Since nobody on this trip was young, the flying thing was a very good decision. We fly Southwest Airlines, which generally has provided the most reasonable air fares. Not having to haul small children and a ton of kid stuff makes this flying option a strong choice for the older adults.

Our motel of choice this trip was the Motel 6 on Disney Way. It is more than a walk away from the park, and we usually opt for a motel closer. However, we were experimenting with budget this trip, and wanted to try out the shuttle services and experience the quality of the Motel 6.

The motel was clean, and the beds were good. The orange and cream color scheme was a bit much, but we use the motels as a camp more than a destination. The bathroom was adequate, but lacked proper doors. Dual closet doors seemed to be the choice in this motel construction for the bathroom doors. They closed with difficulty, and did not lock.

The lack of a vanity outside of the bathroom enclosure was a small problem, preventing multiple people from getting ready at the same time. There was also no refrigerator or microwave, and no complimentary in-room coffee. No hair dryer, either. They did have a nice enough pool, though that was not a priority for this trip.

A lobby coffee service was provided, free, and near to the shuttle stop point just outside of the lobby. So, get ready, stop in the lobby for coffee (or tea or chocolate) and head outside to wait for the shuttle. The Anaheim Resort Transit service runs every twenty minutes, and proved prompt and clean and comfortable. The drivers were friendly and helpful. Each bus has a rack of information pamphlets on board, and the system is easy to learn and use.

If you wanted to visit another hotel or restaurant along the various routes a map is provided, and use of other routes than the one for your own motel is encouraged. We purchased a three day pass, at a price of $10 each. That is a savings over the $4 daily fee. It can be used on the whole ART system all day for every day the pass is active. A five day pass was also available, and children’s passes were discounted for additional savings.

The ART bus delivered us to one of the shuttle stops inside the Disneyland Resort entrance. A short walk takes you to the entry plaza, between the two parks and Downtown Disney. We always go to Disneyland first, and it is our custom to enter the park under the left underpass beneath the train.

Seeing the train station above, the flower image of Mickey Mouse, and walking through that underpass always makes me feel like I am coming home. Then the Main Street Plaza opens up before you, and it is Disneyland!

We strolled down Main Street at a leisurely pace, appropriate to a geriatric citizen of the Magic Kingdom. Alta remains healthy, but even the healthiest older citizen must take an appropriate pace. This pace was planned, and encouraged. The sights, the sounds, the scents, it is all part of the experience and need not be rushed.

Another custom in our family is to go first to Adventureland after strolling down Main Street. This we did. We passed by the iconic Tiki Room, an attraction that failed to attract this visit. Instead we began with a night ride on the Jungle Cruise. Though little changed since our childhood visits (my wife and I being only slightly older than the park) this ride is a classic in every sense of the word.

Generations of young people have operated this ride, delivering the corny jokes with various degrees of success. This night it was nicely done, and we enjoyed the journey as we always have.

Next was a walk through the balance of Adventureland, and then down to the waters of The Rivers of America. The entrance to Pirates of the Caribbean is right there, and so on we went. I believe this is the ride I have most ridden in all of my visits to Disneyland, and it never grows old. It is suitable for older family members, easy to get onto and out of. The enhancements of recent years have truly enhanced the ride, and it remains a wonderful experience.

Pirates lets you out into New Orleans Square. Over the course of our one evening plus two days visit we gravitated to New Orleans Square often. It is a great place to get a meal, a snack, or a beverage and just enjoy being in the park. Many great sitting spots, lots of fine people watching, and good shade for those sunny and hot parts of the day.

That first evening we made our way to Critter Country, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Keeping in mind suitability for older family members, this is a gentle ride, very nicely done, and quite appealing to the youngest and the oldest members of the party. Following the ride you exit right to the entrance to a candy shop and other theme stores, and a character visiting plaza right in front of Splash Mountain.

Alta wanted to sit, and encouraged Linda and I to go on Splash Mountain. The line was short, at about twenty five minutes, so we agreed. Off we went to ride our log through the Brer Rabbit theme adventure. We had done this ride before, and did not expect any surprises. It is charming and fun, and generally just a bit wet.

So it was, until that final plunge of fifty feet down the log flume. We hit the bottom and were shocked to see a wall of water coming at us. The little splash we had expected had become a tidal wave of white that engulfed everyone in the log. We dripped our way through the cute ending of the ride and out to where Alta waited.

Showing her our moist persons, she related a tale of a young man who came off of the ride ahead of us who felt compelled to tell her the same story. Water, water, everywhere! My clothes retained something of this humidity the following day. Apparently a bit more splash had been added to Splash Mountain!

Disneyland fans may have noticed that we bypassed the Haunted Mansion on our way to Critter Country. This was not by intent. The Haunted Mansion was closed for holiday refit, preparing for the coming Holiday Season. Indeed, there were nicely constructed construction barriers throughout both Disneyland Park and California Adventure Park. The resort is a busy place for construction, with many added features to come next year!

Having had our moist adventure in Critter Country, we decided to make it an evening. With travel and a late beginning in Disneyland, we wanted to get some rest and be fresh for the next two days of adventure. So, back through the crowds assembling for Fantasmic! and on through Main Street to find our shuttle.

For any readers unfamiliar with the construction of Disneyland Main Street, it is possible to make your way up or down Main Street not only along the street, but through the various buildings. Passages between the buildings allow for this travel, which is also a shopping adventure. The journey need not be the same every time.

On the following day we made our way to the park, had another leisurely stroll down Main Street, and this time we entered Frontierland through the Frontierland gate. Even here was a bit of construction, hidden by nicely done barriers. It looked to me like a Pin Collectors Corner was being prepared.

Not familiar with Pin Collecting? Over the past several years custom pins celebrating virtually everything Disney have been created and sold in the parks. I am among the collectors, though I am more of a dabbler than a serious collector. Many bring their pin portfolios to the park just to trade. It does allow one to buy relatively inexpensive souvenirs that are fun to collect, trade and share, and very pleasant to look at as well.

We made our way through the various shops in Frontierland, and found the time for a visit to the Golden Horseshoe Saloon to see Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. The Golden Horseshoe Saloon serves great snacks, is a cool place to rest, and the show is a lot of fun. Our return to The Golden Horseshoe was at one in the afternoon. Time to see more of the park.

Another family tradition is to enter Fantasyland for the first time each visit only through the Castle main gate, and so we did. The line for Peter Pan’s Flight was relatively short, so we got in line for this classic ride. It is really a fine attraction that has been maintained and upgraded over the years without diminishing the original high quality of the experience. It is a testimony to the quality of this experience that the line for Peter Pan is almost always quite long.

One huge, burly fellow complimented me on my Tower of Terror t-shirt. He was wearing one also, which he said he had gotten at the park in Florida. I later overheard this huge man telling another person in line how he budgeted each year for annual passes and additions to his Disney t-shirt collection. This fellow looked like he might bite the heads off of nails for a hobby, and here he is a major Disney fan. Fabulous!

The Storybook Land boat ride and Casey Junior train were also closed for repair and upgrades. The Mad Tea Party ride, however, was quite up and running. Without comment Linda lead her mother into the line. When she realized where we were Alta was a bit concerned. I was required to promise not to spin the tea cups.

There is an art to spinning tea cups. The proper grip, the correct flexing of the wrist during rotations, the incorporation of the weight of the upper body in the spinning actions. Quite involved. Apparently my oldest son had taken my lessons to heart and demonstrated them to Alta during some previous visit.

No spinning! I agreed, and we went for a sedate tea-cup ride. Toward the end she finally said I could spin it a little, but the ride was then coming to a halt and our time for tea had ended. The lack of spin did not detract from the colors and sounds of this attraction. It is one of my favorite places in the park, even without spinning our way to the edge of madness.

I also love the Alice in Wonderland ride, but the line is often prohibitively long. It was so in this case, so we continued on to... It’s A Small World! Refurbished and updated, this ride is still interminably long and terrifyingly cheerful. Now, however, the endless cheer can be broken up by trying to spot the added characters from various Disney feature films.

During the ride one lady recruited us to be extras in her filmography of her children’s first visit to Disneyland. We smiled and waved for the camera several times, destined to be the “who are those people?” people in her vacation photos.

On to a quick tour of Toontown. I love Toontown, but it lacks shade and the sun was often responsible for sapping Alta’s energy. We kept this visit short, sticking with the nice gift shop that happens to be shady and air conditioned. I have to imagine that Roger Rabbit’s Car
Toon Spin was just not quite the right choice of attraction for Alta, so we headed back toward Frontierland and The Golden Horseshoe Saloon.

Now, a note on benches. Disneyland has a lot of benches, and strolling and sitting is a viable option. Not every location has shade, however, and the shaded benches are often occupied. So, a journey for an older family member has to have a bit of planning. Keep your eyes open, and watch for good sitting options. Keep in mind that various parts of the park will have shade at one time and not another.

Two items from the past that would be a good option for anyone visiting the park would be folding fans and parasols. I noticed several very nice fans, and one parasol that was a real work of art. If you are not a hat person, it would be wise to look into items such as these that suited you personal style.

Anyway, we got back to the Golden Horseshoe and enjoyed the show, along with the cool and a snack. We wandered again for several hours, until our reserved dinner time at The Blue Bayou Restaurant in New Orleans Square.

This is not a budget dining option. Dinner, especially. I had the Jambalaya, with shrimp, Mahi Mahi, ham and sausage. It was preceded by a Chicken Gumbo. Both were fantastic. I only regret that I am no longer young enough to eat so much. It was fabulous, but I had to stop before I hurt myself. I am growing wiser in this, but it is hard to leave so much goodness still on the plate.

The Blue Bayou is situated in the entry scene of The Pirates of the Caribbean ride. It is evening in the swamp, with boats and cabins and houseboats in view and the sounds of the swamp echoing across the waters. If you can stretch your budget I recommend this restaurant. Lunch is also very good, and much cheaper. Still pricey, but cheaper than dinner.

We eventually made our way to Tomorrowland. This has continued to be our least favorite part of Disneyland, though it is growing more interesting in recent years. We visited Innoventions, which has been redone and much improved. We also visited Honey, I Shrunk the Audience. The lines for other attractions were a bit long, though we slipped into Star Tours when the line was just ten minutes long.

Space Mountain was also closed for upgrades and (?) holiday retrofit. I have no idea what holiday theme might be added to Space Mountain. However, for a geriatric tour of Disneyland it was not terribly missed.

As evening came on we found our way to the head of Main Street, and camped one of the benches up by the Train Station. Again we found the nicest benches reserved for some special group. However, the space just behind the reserved area remained open. So, we watched people, drank hot chocolate, and enjoyed the ambiance of Main Street for a couple of hours until it was time for fireworks.

Just before the fireworks began we moved to stand behind the reserved section. I made some comment about the “special people,” which was picked up by other less special people. For just a moment I was concerned that it would escalate and cause the special people in the reserved section to react, but it died down and the fireworks began.

Following the always satisfying display of pyrotechnics we did another little walk back toward the Rivers of America, and then Main Street yet again. Then off to the motel for the night.

Our final day we started in California Adventure. We went straight to Soarin’ Over California, an amazing flight simulation that engages sight, sound and smell, as well as physical motion and wind in your hair. That done, we had breakfast at a little bakery near the entrance of the park. Baker’s Field Bakery in a building that looks like a vintage passenger train.

We then headed to the Boardwalk part of the park, to visit the Toy Story Mania! Here we capitalized on the age of our special guest, seeking some alternative to standing in line for thirty or forty minutes. The accommodating folk managing the ride created a special fast pass to bring us onto the ride with minimal waiting. To be fair to the other people waiting in line the time was set far enough away to be equal to a wait in line.

So, we found Alta a shady spot where she could watch the people, and Linda and I went to try our hands at some boardwalk games. Rolling balls, squirt guns, things like that. We even won a little Timothy Mouse (from Dumbo) stuffed animal. Cool!

The last few minutes before our ride we went into the store associated with Toy Story Mania! There we met Danny. He was a cast member working in the store, and a treasure trove of Disney history. He had an abundance of anecdotes to share.

Toy Story Mania! is a boardwalk game ride. You ride in cars that have strange guns mounted in front of the riders. You pull the string at the back of the gun to fire darts, rings, balls and pies at targets placed within the game. It is a very fun ride. Alta wanted to do it again to try to beat he score of 14,000. She does not generally care for games, so that is a high recommendation for this attraction.

Next was Mickey’s Fun Wheel. This is a Ferris wheel that has cars that remain at the rim of the wheel and others that slide around on tracks within the wheel. We opted for the rim cars, as the ride goes higher but is more sedate. The sliding cars are a bit exciting, and might not be best included on a geriatric tour.

Alta enjoyed the view, and also enjoyed riding the Zephyr that was around the corner. We then went to the Pacific Wharf Café for lunch. Sour dough clam chowder bowls made from bread baked in the demonstration bakery on premises. We visited the demonstration bakery, and the tortilla factory next door.

Then off to see It’s Tough to be a Bug, a multidimensional experience featured in the Bug’s Land part of the park. If you haven’t experienced this, you should try ti fit it into any visit. If you have, be sure to try and get someone who hasn’t experienced the attraction to join you. It is good for a lot of laughs!

Our time was running short, so we were off to Downtown Disney. We shopped in the World of Disney store, in what seemed like the largest collection of Disney related fare just about anywhere. We visited the Grand Californian hotel lobby, which is quite impressive. It is also a great place to rest a weary party member. Great ambiance, comfortable furniture. I suspect one could snatch a nap in one of those comfy chairs and not be noticed. I may try that, someday.

We returned to Disneyland for our last few hours in the Disneyland Resort. Just wandering, sitting, riding a boat on the Rivers of America. A little last minute shopping. More people watching. Alta rested at the River Belle Terrace while Linda and I took advantage to short lines at the Indiana Jones Adventure.

Another bowl of Dole Pineapple Whip. We love that stuff. Then to Main Street Plaza for a last glance at the park, and off to the shuttle and another flight home.

Highlights? Well, seeing Alta serenaded by the lead of The Firehouse Five Plus Two was a big one. Three nights of Dole Pineapple Whip might be another. Finding some great sitting spots in Disneyland just for enjoying being there was priceless.

It doesn’t hurt to take your time in the Happiest Place on Earth! Old or young, whoever you might be, give the Magic Kingdom a try.

There is no place I would rather be.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Wharf Fishing in Capitola-

Let's see. I drank a bit more home brew beer than was good for me. We got a tortilla press and learned just how much we didn't know about making tortillas, and had fun doing it. That was my daughter, Beth, and I. And I went fishing on the Capitola Wharf with my son-in-law, David. Not a bad several days off.

Pier fishing is rather fun and relaxing. The Santa Cruz Wharf is long, with many restaurants and businesses along that length. A busy, fun and exciting place, with a view of the Boardwalk amusement park. The Capitola Wharf, in Capitola quite coincidentally, is a different thing altogether.

It is shorter than the wharf at Santa Cruz. That is to be expected, since the Santa Cruz Wharf is, I believe, the longest on the west coast. It has but one restaurant, a small boat service and little else. Unlike the sturdy Santa Cruz Wharf, the Capitola Wharf moves with the ocean, with any motor traffic on the deck, and even people walking.

It also has a charming intimacy. Like little Capitola village it has character and is delightful, but not in the bombastic fashion of the flashy Santa Cruz Wharf. Intimate. Families and friends seemed to abound on the wharf, and quiet fishing was the rule of the day.

The weather was wonderful. A few clouds in the sky, and a rim of fog off over the ocean, but enough sunshine to be pleasant without being too bright or too hot. Thought the view toward the east was better we set up on the west side of the end of the wharf. The sun was just rising and looking into it was not a pleasant prospect no matter how nice the view.

Over the course of the day I caught a goodly amount of kelp, and a lot of sea snails. We were using fish heads from a number of previous outings as bait. I was amazed at how much of a fish head can be stripped by a half-dozen sea snails in just twenty minutes. I had to throw the bait away and start over several times.

For the most part nobody was catching anything, and most were enjoying the process. It is more being there than anything else. One guy did land a Bat Ray, providing the only real fishing excitement for the day. Another fisherman had to help land it, since it weighed probably ten or fifteen pounds and would likely have gotten loose if hauled up from the sea on the fishing line. They lowered a crab net and scooped it up. The hook was removed, a lot of pictures were taken, and then the Ray was returned to the sea.

David caught a crab. We got some Shiner Perch in our impromptu crab net, made from some metal mesh. They became bait, but nothing else was caught.

We did watch a blimp fly over. It came in from the north, turned out to sea, and came back in to fly low over the length of the wharf. I was not sure who was advertising on the airship, but I think it was Navigenics. I really like airships, so it made a very nice day even better.

No license is required to fish on the Capitola Wharf. In fact, fishing piers along the coast lines of the United States do not require a license. It is an affordable alternative to a boat, which is largely a hole in the water into which the owner pours money. Fishing tackle is pretty much whatever you want to use. Technique can be as involved or as informal as you like.

I may not yet be a wharf rat, spending most of my free time on the pier. I am, however, a real fan of this form of fishing. It is just plain fun.

With luck, and our tortilla press, we may yet have some nice fish tacos!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dreams in Conflict-

I have had a few periods in my life when I lost the capacity to dream. In retrospect, I have never had a strong capacity for real dreaming. Oh, I am a pretty good daydreamer. I seem to lack the capacity for a passionate, consuming life dream.

In those particularly down times I lost even the capacity to have daydreams. This, I believe, is a real loss. Daydreams are as valuable as those real dreams that make up part of healthy sleep. A healthy mind benefits from periods of both kinds of dreaming.

Ah, but to have experienced that life directing passionate dream. I begin to think I won't ever have such an experience. I just never bothered to sort through those wispy daydreams to find my real passions, and then give them legs as well as wings.

For example, I longed to be Huck Finn on a river raft. I dreamed about such adventures, even on a few occasions finding myself on some floating junk on an actual body of water. One time it was with my childhood friend Manuel. We found a wooden pallet floating in a pond of gathered rain water and polled it around for hours. Another time I pushed off on a log floating in the Rogue River. It only took a few hundred feet to convince me that this was not a good idea. When it washed up on a sand bar I jumped off and hoofed it home.

I never put legs to the longing. I didn't diligently save money for the purchase of a suitable craft. I did not study the great rivers to learn how to make this dream a reality. I didn't develop a passion for river boats. I just had a vague dream of floating along and doing... nothing.

Over the years I have gotten pretty good at doing... nothing. I have worked at jobs I haven't liked to provide for my family. When my wife had enough vision to put together vacations and other family activities I was able to find the extra work to pay for it. Never, however, did I find the passion to do much more than... nothing.

In recovering from my most recent bout of the loss of dreams I did focus on dreaming once again. However, I again fueled daydreams rather than finding a passion about which to dream and do... something. My dreams of travel were nebulous, and often comprised of finding ways to move slowly from place to place at very little cost.

It could work, for a man alone in a truck. A man who simply wanted to move on and largely do... nothing.

Yet I find that I am living a dream. I have family, and a place to live. We do things together, and even if our relationships are not perfect there is love present. We have enough stuff that it is a problem figuring out what to do with all of it. We may not be flush with cash, but we get by and that with full bellies.

The longing to be a wheeled hobo must represent some real need within me. It is a dream in opposition to the life I live. Not hateful opposition, just a dream that does not easily fit. It has the substance of a daydream, and is more longing than passion. It is a dream untested, and probably one that would not survive in the long run.

Vague dreams of the open road. The real dream of having a lap full of grandchildren. It would be grand if the one was able to feed the other, but the longing to go and see conflicts with the desire to stay and be.

Oh, I don't doubt that I will be able to find a chance to hit the road now and again. Perhaps I will be able to get more than enough. More than enough, and find the contentment to stay at home and dream of home.

We shall see.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Wheel of Time-

The Wheel of Time is an epic fantasy adventure tale written by the late Robert Jordan. It currently stands at eleven books in the series. Robert Jordan died prior to completion of the whole tale. Heroically, he made sure that the balance of the tale was handed down to his wife and others to insure the completion of the work. Refering to either (or both) of the links above will provide more details, should you be interested.

I met the author several years ago at a book signing here in Santa Cruz, California. I have a signed copy of the tenth volume in the series. These books are of unusual size, all of them exceeding the size of a standard novel by at least half, and often more. This is a lot of reading. A lot of really great reading.

I am currently reading the series again. I have read it several times over the years, mostly when a new volume was being released and I wanted to refresh my memory. With the next volume coming out in October or November, I want to be ready.

There will be three more volumes, bringing this series to a total of fifteen books. If they manage to produce one volume each year I might be able to rest on this rereading to simply read them as they come out.

If not, I will be reading the whole thing at least one more time. I probably will do so anyway, somewhere in the future. It is very good, and worth reading many times. As with Lord of the Rings, and even Harry Potter, reading an excellent work again is worth much more than reading a multitude of lesser works.

Perhaps I will become motivated to get back to my own writing. Not just the short stories over at

but also my novels. I have completed the one, but not yet published. I have begun a sequel to the first in what will probably end up a trilogy. I am currently stalled, but not forever. It calls me, and I can't stay away forever.

For now, though, I read. I have eleven volumes to get through in just a few months.

Ah, the sublime agony!