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 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.