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!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The 1960's-

The 1960's. A decade often referred to, especially by those of us who lived through them. Most particularly persons such as myself, whose formative years were the 1960's. It was a decade in which the "generation gap" was recognized, touted, over-worked and made-fun-of. It was a decade of change. It was a lot more than a decade ought to be required to be.

Mythical, that's what it was. Yet something real. I, being now an old person (at 57 venerable years of age,) can look back at that decade and see it as a demarcation line for a lot of stuff. My parents still live, and are doing pretty well. I still see them as different from "us."

"Us," of course, being "we" who were formed during the 1960's or those who came later. I just don't sense the difference between myself and my children that I sense between myself and my parents. Oh, we are not the same, my children's generation and mine. Perhaps the big difference is that I recognize that, and I think it is fine. We should be different.

I don't expect them to automatically adopt my values. Neither the corporate values (whatever they might be) of my generation or my personal values. With the people who were formed before the 1960's there seems to be that expectation, and shock (even after all of this time) when those values are not adopted and held in high esteem.

Perhaps that is the difference. I accept fluidity and flux in all aspects of life as the normal way things are. I don't really have an idea of "how things should be," so I am not shocked when they aren't that way. It is strange that the generation that survived the huge fluctuations surrounding the Great Depression and World War II aren't flux-oriented, but they aren't.

One commentator I read (and of course the name of whom I don't recall) noted that a significant part of that generation served in the military or some similarly regimented system adopted to meet the demands of a world-spanning war. It might be that. They had a war to fight, a war for survival that was really about survival.

We had Viet Nam. A dumb-ass war that had no real purpose, except for the anti-communist ideologists who tried to put communism in the same world-threatening basket as Hitler and Hirohito. Yeah, right. Not to denigrate the very real sacrifices of my brothers-in-arms who actually fought in Viet Nam. Those were real sacrifices, but sacrifices for what? I am still not clear on that matter.

True, I have had Vietnamese friends who benefited from the events there by eventually coming to America and participating in the American Dream. Still, the sacrifice was considerable and the gain negligible. But, this post isn't about Viet Nam, per se. Nor is it about the current lot of dumb-ass wars we are involved in.

It is about a very real difference in generations demarcated by the decade called the 1960's. The world began changing at an increasingly rapid pace in that generation. We grew up with change as the normal way of things. Many of us embraced change. Most learned to live with it and not be shocked by the fluidity and flux.

This shall be posted into the blogosphere via Blogger, and into the even more fluid place called Facebook. It will be read by (perhaps) a DOZEN people. Few of them will have been formed before the 1960's. There is some vague possibility that someone will make a comment. Even less likely, but still possibly, someone will be impacted by my prose and their lives will change.

What is my hope? I am not entirely sure, but I would love for some of my word-stones being cast into the flux and fluidity to cause the kind of ripple that makes someone think. It would be lovely if I changed a life for the better. It might be fun if it went viral, as well, but that isn't likely and isn't really important to me.

Mostly, I hope that should a reader have to deal with a dinosaur from the era before 1960 they will deal gently with them. The flux and fluidity is threatening to them, and they might be a bit afraid. Be gentle, and listen to the stories they will tell. Listen, as an act of kindness.

Change is...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wisdom, and other fables-

In my youth I hungered for Wisdom, or whatever I thought might constitute wisdom. I have to admit, after all of this time I am not sure what I envisioned when I thought about wisdom. I figured it related to Truth (the capital T is very important) in some profound yet mystical way. I held Truth in high esteem, as well, though I had no better idea of Truth than I did of Wisdom.

Many years later my tag line on my work related email (an internal system predating our access to the Internet in the jail in which I worked) related to wisdom. "For over forty years I sought wisdom only to learn it is one of the least valued commodities on Earth." It earned no comment, good or bad. Perhaps that underlines what I thought I had to say.

During the course of that forty years I often longed for a venue through which to share my wisdom, and even experimented with some. Now, some years later still, I have that venue. The Internet. Wow! What power!

What deep profundity wishes to burst forth from the depths of my being? After all, seeking wisdom for so many years should have provided a well of great thought. I should have so much to share!

I do. However, the greatest gift my quest for wisdom has given me is the ability to recognize that few seek wisdom from a venue such as this. The pathway to that little guy sitting on top of the mountain is not a broad and beaten path. Nope.

Pretty much whatever wisdom you are going to acquire will be beaten into you along the way to just living your life. There really aren't that many wise men or women out there, just some who have learned to contain their inner fool. I hope that I have at least learned a little of that.

I tend to believe that living simply is better. I consider the greatest gift we can give to others is to leave people alone and let them live their own lives. I hold that the best interactions are catalytic rather than analytic or well-intended. In other words, just bumping up against one another is sufficient to sharpen and polish. Too much attention or intention just screws up the process.

Indeed, the tyranny of the well-intended is no better than the tyranny of the profoundly self-interested. It is still tyranny. Political despots or meddlesome old ladies (of any gender or age) differ only by degree.

In reviewing my journals I realize that the things that confused me in my youth largely still do. However, I have grown to better accept my limitations in understanding. I valued sunrises and sunsets then, and still do. I valued new horizons and new vistas then, and still do.

When I was younger I saw humanity as flawed, and I wanted to fix it. Now I see people as flawed, as I am flawed, and beyond my ability to fix. That is what grace and redemption is all about.  If you want to know about those, there are many books on the subject. Better yet, ask God to show you. Even if you don't believe that there is a God, you can ask. Interesting things may happen.

I have come to believe, and perhaps always have, that reason and mysticism are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Life is not one color, or one texture, or one note. It is not just one flavor, or just one scent. It is not just one size, either. It is infinitely large, and infinitely small, yet just the right size to embrace. Touch it with all of your senses, and your mind, and your heart.

Even fear and anger are a part of life. However, neither should define or limit life or how it is to be lived. They are simply parts of the palate from which life is painted, components from which your being is constructed. The art of composition can be applied to more than art, and should be. Paint with your whole being.

I have learned that laughter is valuable, even in difficult times and in dark places. Especially in difficult times and dark places. It is most valuable when I have learned to laugh at myself. Others will, so why should I miss out on the joke?

Is any of this wisdom? I don't really know. It doesn't hurt to call it that.

Got Wisdom?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Serendipity, revisited-

Some time back I thought about and wrote about a thing I called Serendipity Scholarship. I used it to describe and somewhat justify my free flowing and undisciplined approach to learning. There are merits to serendipity, some of which are noted in the linked article. However, more and more I have reexamined my disdain for formal learning.

The difficulty I have had with formal learning has not been the structure itself, nor the formality. It is my own sense of my mortality and a selfish longing for ever more knowledge. Time devoted to deep and formal study of one subject or one set of subjects takes time away from all of the other things that might be learned.

Over time I have also come to recognize some characteristics of my intellectual self that preclude success in formal learning environments. I don't retain information well, at least in detail. I retain what I am currently calling "notions." In this case a notion is a set of feelings and vague intuitive associations related to an idea or subject. I can see or sense relationships between notions, but regarding specifics of what that notion relates to I must constantly refresh my mind by looking things up.

In essence, I better understand the relationships between ideas than the ideas themselves. I don't know if any other brains work like this, but I do know that institutional learning is not presented for this kind of thinking. School is a constant struggle for me. After all, testing tends to be regarding specific content and not the relationships between ideas, and the rule by which learning is measured is the results of such testing.

Granted, with discipline most human brains can be taught something with the standard teaching methods. Additionally, tailored teaching is just not practical for teaching the masses. The existing system gave me valuable tools and I have actually learned a few things along the way.

The mortality issue applies to serendipity scholarship as well as any other way of learning. I shall live only a limited time. As diligent as I might be at study, I can only learn so much. Serendipity can provide for a broad experience of learning, but at the cost of depth.

What I realize I miss most with my solo wandering through the world of wonders is shared learning. Having a guide and peers is helpful, because real discussions and debates can take place. Such interchange sharpens ideas and grinds away falsehoods. It also provides more than one perspective on any matter being studied and discussed.

I have to suspect that most readers, if you have even read this far, won't really understand what I am talking about. The current modes of learning are sufficient for them. That is good. However, some of you will understand because the existing modes of teaching and learning don't fit your own experiences.

My mind is constantly filled with questions. These questions often beget more questions rather than an equal number of answers. Without the mortality issue, this would not be a bad thing. However, there is a time limit. I had a professor who once noted that I was good at framing the right kind of questions. That is probably due to the fact that the larger content of my mind is questions on all sorts of things.

The concept of life after death, of eternal life, is comforting. It offers something beyond the time limit, a place where answers may be sought and time enough is available to seek them. The belief system I adopted long ago allows for that. The bit of comfort is a good thing.

Of course, eternal life and life after death is a concept related to a whole lot of questions. A great many questions.

It would probably take forever to answer them. : )

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

On the Road Again-

Thanksgiving brought my daughter, Beth and her family down to Santa Cruz, California for a visit. She, her husband Dave, and my four grandchildren (who are coincidentally their children) came down in Dave's small truck and with an assist from my son, Matthew. He carried the larger portion of the clan in his Jeep SUV. They had moved to Medford, Oregon, ahead of us, anticipating the sale of our house and the rest of us following shortly.

They are residing in temporary shared housing of my extended family. Unfortunately, the home sale fell through at this end, protracting the temporary situation. The kids are in the process of moving into a rental that will carry them through until we finally sell the house, get moved and find a new place for everyone to live happily ever after.

So they came, we visited, had Thanksgiving. Did family stuff. It was good. Then came the return. Winter travel in most of California does not face some of the challenges of other parts of the country. However, between Santa Cruz and Medford lay some truly challenging mountain passes. How would we get everyone back to Oregon?

The small truck was going back, anyway. The other vehicle would be my van, named The Mobile Man Cave. The camping components were reduced to what I would need on the return. The rear seat was returned to the full upright position, and we loaded up. Lots of room in the middle for cargo and general stuff.

A weather check defined the coast route to be the better choice, though the total mileage came to 548 miles. A lot of miles for one day, but we had only that much time for the return. The up side was that the kids had not traveled that route. Well, Beth had, but she was so little that her memory of that trip would largely be composed of the view of the back of the front seat in a Mercury small car of some forgettable name. I think we called it "the blue car" back in those days.

So, off we go. Surprisingly good weather. The passage through Oakland and across the toll bridge to Marin County was relatively uneventful. We did In-and-Out Burger in Oakland for lunch. Some nice guy in the parking lot offered to sell me a new laptop computer. That was nice of him, but I didn't need one right then.

So, North we go. North. Highway 101. Wine country. It was beautiful, but we had hundreds of miles to cover. No stopping for pretty. Small towns the highway still actually passes through in places. North. Into the northern redwoods. Getting foggy. Getting dark. Passing sights to see in the darkness. We could have been anywhere. North. Ever north.

So, we get to Medford in the very early morning. 548 miles. Long drive. Pleasant enough. The kids travel well, and did not fuss and generally were well behaved. Except at the point when one of them hit the button that lays the seat down flat under the power of an electric motor. I had visions of the kids cut in half by seat belts as the motor ground away into the down position, but it simply turned into a short yet funny interlude.

Now I am in Medford, and it is a good time to spend with family. I got to see everyone, and it was pretty nice. I also met the real estate agent my Dad had engaged to help us when we got sold and were ready to buy. We looked at property, and he put me in touch with a finance officer who might help with the money thing once we were sold and ready to buy.

Time to go home. Watching the weather, looking for a good departure window that would get me safely over the mountain passes. Monday, January 6th, looked like the day. I left late, around ten in the morning, to allow the ice on the passes to become just water and thus no particular problem. We took that time to do some final checks on the van.

Two days before departure I had started it, backed it out, and started down the road to run some errands with my daughter and the grandkids. Smoke had poured out of the heater vent. It was exciting, but not in a good way. I shut it down and checked it out. Turned out to be leaves that had gotten into the heating system and been ignited by friction. Fortunately, no damage and the offending leaves apparently burned up and blew away.

So, I roll out and head south. I was going the more direct I-5 route. Ashland is along the way, and I always stop and drink a bit of Lithia Water at the plaza fountain. I grew up, in part, in Ashland, and always had some of that bubbling mineral water whenever I passed that way. The taste is at best a unique experience, but it has become a tradition with me.

Now, souther. I went over the pass with no problem. I passed by the first rest stop without stopping. I usually stop, but I needed to get some drinking water in Yreka. I took the route through the town, looking around and generally seeking a Dollar Tree or something. I found a Walmart at the end of town, got my water, and hit the road again.

My target at this point was the rest stop at Shasta Lake. Hence, I did not stop at the Weed rest stop. The weather was closing in, Mount Shasta was robed in clouds and I was into some steady rain from Dunsmuir to the rest stop at Shasta Lake. It was still raining when I got there, but not very heavy. I had lunch at that stop, and then I was on the road again.

I dropped out of the mountains and into the Central Valley. The clouds cleared to partially cloudy, and it was very nice weather as I continued south. My next stop was a planned visit to the Rolling Hills Casino. I wanted to look at their RV park (which was mostly an extension of the parking lot) and get some free coffee. I walked around the casino, watched the games a bit, but placed no bets this trip. I took my coffee out to my van and got back on the road.

My final goal for the day was the Pilot Travel Center near the I-5/505 interchange. I didn't make it. At sunset I spotted a rest stop and decided to rest. I pulled in, recognizing the spot as the beginnings of a short story I wrote in my head on a previous journey. That story sits now in a file, awaiting publication. It fell out of my head at some point, and I caught it in my digital net.

Putting the van in camp mode, I settled in for the evening. Being tired, I elected to sleep a bit. I awoke a couple of hours later, and did not really want to get on the road again. In the dark. Traveling in the dark is generally not that great. It is hard to see the vistas I am so fond of. Dark is just about the same everywhere, but vistas are special. Each and every one.

So, I read a bit. Then I laid down and did some thinking. That put me to sleep, because I am an apparently boring thinker. I awoke at about two, and did enough thinking to put myself to sleep until a bit after six. I got up, used the restroom, generally prepared to get moving, and got moving.

It was a really nice sunrise. By the time I got to the Pilot Travel Center the sun was well up. I stopped for gas and to look the place over. It would have been a decent over-night, but the rest stop was better. I got a discount on a cup of coffee with my gas purchase. That was fortuitous, as I was quite ready for coffee. I got my coffee, and was again back on the road.

My usual route would have been to take the 505 cut-off and go through Vacaville and the Bay Area on my way home. It would have been very busy at that time of day on a week day. I elected to continue south on I-5. My hope was for less traffic, and some vistas I had not often seen.

As I drew closer to Sacramento, my hope for avoiding traffic diminished. Yep, city traffic. Busy. Lots of trucks and cars and plenty of stupid drivers. However, the duration was nothing like I would have had to endure (for hours) on the other route. Then, fog. And traffic. Hmmm. I began to wonder if my decision was a good one.

The fog and traffic broke just south of the Sacramento area, and the highway stretched before me. We moved a bit west, toward rolling grassy hills. Yes, there were vistas. Hills, farm lands, pastures, and a huge valley stretching into the haze that covered the distant mountains. It was nice. Very nice.

It continued to be nice for quite some time. All of the way home, for that matter. At Highway 152 I turned again west, and passed through passes that were beautiful. Rocky outcroppings, oak trees in abundance. Grassy meadows. Lakes. Farm lands. Then, in the distance, the Pacific Ocean.

Along the way on Highway 152 is Casa de Fruta. I had passed it many times, but never stopped. It was always too early in a journey, or too late. I most often passed it late at night. This time I came upon Casa de Fruta at a time I could stop. I had planned this, and unlike my plans for word domination, this plan bore fruit. Ahem.

Casa de Fruta has a pretty nice RV park, a motel, and some fruit related retail outlets along with an amusement park in miniature. It is pretty, well presented, and quite over-priced. However, they have some very nice culinary contributions to make to the traveler's shopping experience, and the price might be worthwhile. I definitely recommend the stop if it is not too early, or too late.

I took the Highway 156 route through these coastal mountains in order to enjoy the valley around Hollister and to cross Highway 25. I hope to eventually travel that little highway and add it to my list of complete highways traveled. But, not today. I passed through San Juan Bautista and Castroville on my way home.

Then the familiar lands around Watsonville and Santa Cruz.

Home. Yet, while traveling in The Mobile Man Cave, I was very much at home every mile of this particular journey. I still wonder if I could travel endlessly in this fashion. Who knows? That future might be mine, or it might not. However, I can look forward to many more such adventures, long and short.

It was good. It was fun. The highways still beckon.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Tribute to an Old Friend-

This past Monday, November 15, it became necessary to put our old dog, Bernard, to sleep. He was fourteen years old, and gray around the muzzle. He was arthritic, partially blind, mostly deaf, and plagued by a large tumor in his side. For all of that he still had some pretty good days. Dog days, but all of his days were dog days.

During the week before we took him in to end his life, he was unable to keep much down in the way of food and water. The tumor had invaded his insides to the point of restricting his stomach. Any future he might have would be an extended period of vomiting and protracted starvation. Though with humans we do not permit a more graceful exit, with dogs a decision can be made and acted upon.

And so it was.

He came to us, fourteen years ago, when my daughter brought a puppy home. I was not thrilled. From the beginning it was necessary for someone to take him out to do his duty, and I was often that person. Over the years the kids moved away, but Bernard stayed. And stayed. And stayed.

He was, for the most part, a good dog. He was a Beagle mix, but mostly looked like a generic hound in black and white. I considered him the first of a new breed, The North American Stupid Hound. He really was not stupid, he was just very doggy. He was also the perennial omega dog. That's the opposite of the Alpha dog. Bernard submitted to everyone else in the pack.

For most of his life I was busy. My job required a lot of my time, and what was left did not often fall to the dog. In spite of the lack of any significant attention, Bernard became increasingly devoted to me. I always thought he got a bad bargain in the relationship, but dogs are dogs and can't help that deep and unthinking devotion.

During this last year I have been retired. I have been increasingly available to Bernard, and that suited him just fine. Over the last six months of his life he was seldom far from me. Indeed, in the last month or two I could walk no more than ten feet from the end of his tether. Beyond that and he responded as if being abandoned forever.

I did not abandon him. I allowed him the dubious benefits of my presence most of the time. I was present as he suffered the last indignity, which was handled gently and compassionately by the vet and her assistant. I watched and kept my hand on his head as he breathed his last.

I loved that old dog. In spite of myself and my devotion to my own cantankerousness and seeming insensitivity, I loved that dog.

No, I don't want another one. They are messy, inconvenient, and restrict mobility. What's more, they worm their way into your heart. Then they precede you into death, leaving you with a void that need never have existed. No, I don't want another one.

Then again, life has taught me to "never say never."

Goodbye, Bernard. You were my friend.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Guns and Freedom-

I cannot recall just how old I was when my Grandpa Laatz taught me to shoot. Not yet ten, I know that for sure. We used his .22 auto-load rifle. It was a relatively light rifle and pretty good for a boy learning to shoot. There were a number of other times we went shooting together, mostly with his .22 pistol.

Later I bought a .22 bolt action rifle from my Uncle Dave. I had it a number of years, plinking a bit now and then. I often looked at hunting rifles in the hardware stores and sporting goods stores. I went hunting a few times, though not often. I never did bag anything. Lever action Winchester .30 and M-1 Carbine were my weapons in those days.

After high school I entered the Army. Now the M-16 was my weapon, along with a lot of other toys they taught me to use. I really liked the grenade launcher. You pretty much just had to get the round in the neighborhood of your target, the explosions were exciting, and you could keep your distance. Staying away from an armed enemy always struck me as a good idea.

My favorite weapon, however, was the M-60 machine gun. Portable, more or less. Quick to break down and assemble. The .308 round traveled fast and hit hard. With tracer rounds it was easy to walk in on a target. You could put out a lot of rounds and it made me feel like Superman. Give me enough ammunition,  an elevated position and a clear field of fire and I was Superman.

Yep, that day of training was one of the best. I came away from the firing range feeling powerful. The next item on the training schedule deflated that feeling, however. Napalm. Not our napalm, either. It was the napalm the enemy would call down on that nice elevated position with the clear field of fire. Next thing you know, Superman becomes Cinder-man.

Since then the U. S. military has added a lot of new toys to the things we had "back in the day." I don't keep track of all of that stuff. It isn't a particular passion of mine. Still, I have some awareness of the new toys and what they can do. Destruction has never been so easy and so complete.

Many of my friends own guns. Some, probably most, simply own guns because they like guns and shooting. The weapons have an inherent charm for many of us, and the act of shooting is a skill that can be useful and has that wonderful sense of power associated with it. I still like guns and shooting, even though I haven't owned one for a long time.

Why not? The return is not worth the expense for me. Guns are costly, and require considerable care if they are not to become a danger in the household. The laws in most places around the country don't permit the carrying of such weapons for "self-defense." Additionally, the outcome in court is no longer favorable for the shooter even in self-defense. There are other self-defense alternatives that won't land you in prison.

Some people associate the ownership of a gun (or a great many guns) with freedom. Indeed, the gun has been a significant part of American history and freedom has sometimes been the consequence of their accessibility. The ownership of guns is a freedom still protected by law.

There are people, good people, who hold their guns as insurance against tyranny. They genuinely believe that, should "the government" overstep it's bounds and begin repressing the people, they could take up their arms and fight the oppressor. I suspect many of them get a good feeling from holding all of that firepower in reserve for preserving freedom.

I cannot maintain that delusion. I remember napalm.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The rest of the Bucket List-

Let's see. I covered the Disney thing, and the U.S. Routes. Western State exploration and touched on the National Parks. Ah, some specific locations.

Mackinac Island. Conveniently, Mackinac Island is at the end of the U.S. Route 2 journey. I don't think my wife, Linda, would enjoy a protracted road trip like Route 2. However, I am pretty sure she would like to see Mackinac Island. I think the only thing to do here would be to have her fly out and meet me near the island and we could visit it together. I think that would be cool.

Not as cool as having her along for these adventures, but not everyone is cut out for extended road journeys. For that matter, I can't even say for sure I am cut out for extended road journeys. It may yet prove to be a dream that is better as a dream than a reality.

Nah. I live for the road!

Savannah. Yep, I really want to share that one with her. She really wants to see Savannah, and it is definitely an adventure I would want to share with her. A destination travel adventure, but a pretty interesting one. I think that this one should be a high priority shared destination travel adventure.

I'd love to share the Boston and New York City adventures with her, as well. Oh, and Disney World, of course. As seemingly logical as incorporating these adventures into the Route 1 journey might seem, they really do stand up better as separate destination adventures. Route 1 will be huge in itself. Yes. Separate adventures, for sure.

Then there is the Smithsonian. Like Disney World, this is no small project. I have already visited the Smithsonian, but only a small sample on two separate visits to Washington, D.C. Even a week seems too little time for such a visit, excluding any other D.C. sightseeing. I suppose that this one would fit better into the Route 1 adventure. Stop in the D.C. area and visit the Smithsonian until weariness drives me onward.

There are a lot of things not listed in my Bucket List which draw me. Some may yet become sufficiently interesting to demand a place on my Bucket List. Others will probably remain vague interests.

For example, I have a desire to learn to play the mandolin. It is not a strong enough desire to demand a place on my list, but there is a vague urge there to learn to play at least one tune well. In line with this would be learning to read music well enough to play what I read. This desire, however, is not accompanied by a driving hunger, a motivating passion. It is just an interest slightly greater than a whim.

I can, after all, quite easily find recorded music to listen to and enjoy. The need to make music is not sufficient to drive this interest. This need may grow, or with the passage of time and the fulfillment of some of my list items I might just need something to add to the list.

Some things I did not place on my list because they ultimately are not my dreams but the dreams of others. I wish very much to participate in the achievements of my children and grand-children, but I don't want to limit their dreams with my desires. So, I do not make attending graduations, weddings and the like on my list.

There are other smallish activities and achievements I have not seen suited to a bucket list. For example, I recently learned loom knitting as a pastime to do while waiting for the house to sell. I have produced some nice items which are also useful to me. I have learned the basic skills, and continue to learn skills related to loom knitting. I may expand my fiber art horizons over time, and there are even some prospects for a family business related to fiber arts, but these things just don't seem to be bucket list material.

Other craft areas remain general interests, but are not likely to rise to passions. I view videos on the Internet regarding various crafts that relate to this or that transient interest, but again they are not passions and they do not rate a place on a bucket list. As opportunity presents itself and as I proceed through exploration of various life pathways I am sure I will acquire some of these skills and play a bit with arts and crafts.

In writing this series of blogs regarding my Bucket List I have come to one important conclusion. The Bucket List ought to be written in pencil, a document easily edited and adjusted over time. Digital documents, of course, are the best "pencil" documents, as they are very easy to edit. The Bucket List should be a sound guide for a life adventure, but should it become a burden it stops being a source of joy.

After all, the Bucket List should serve as a tool to wring every drop of joy from life that can be wrung. Joy in life is a worthy pursuit, and a Bucket List can help provide focus and direction in the pursuing. The future is a direction, not a destination, and in life it is the journey that matters most.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Exploring States and National Parks: a Bucket List entry-

In my Bucket List I noted a number of the Western States of the United States of America. Technically, I have already visited thirty of the fifty states. However, most of those visits were limited in scope. I was compelled for one reason or another to remain largely in just a few places within those states. I have seen a lot of the country, but not as much of it up close as I would like.

Our protracted move to Medford, Oregon, will define a lot of my early exploration. Southern Oregon and Northern California will be within reach for shorter adventures. Shorter adventures are less costly, and therefore can be conducted more frequently. However, local exploration is not the whole of my desire as expressed in my Bucket List.

Other states will be touched on by my U.S. Route adventures. Washington state shall benefit from the Route 395 adventure as well as the Route 2 adventure. Indeed, only a few more explorations will be necessary to pretty much complete that exploration, at least for the purpose of my Bucket List.

Route 395 will also fulfill a big part of California and Oregon exploration. It will just touch on Nevada. That state will require some additional planned explorations. Again, much can be reached on forays from Oregon. A dozen two week adventures could cover quite a bit of that state, with careful planning.

Arizona will require more advanced planning. It is an interesting state, and worth some protracted adventuring. Probably explorations of New Mexico would be made at the same time, since visiting Arizona will bring me closer to New Mexico than I would be under any normal circumstances.

These two states also stand along the return path from Route 61. A carefully plotted return journey could allow for some pretty nice exploration along the way. However, the Route 2/Route 61 adventure will take a lot of time and resources, so the Arizona/New Mexico exploration would be defined to a large degree by available time and money.

Forays to visit some National Parks would serve as platforms for exploring a number of states on my list. These forays are far in the future, most of them. I should be able to apply a lot of travel experience to reducing the cost of these journeys, and I should also learn just how much time I can afford to spend on any one adventure.

In the Western States I shall incorporate the National Parks into exploration. The National Parks, however, exist in places other than the Western States. Those outside of the Western States shall await completion (to my satisfaction) of Western State exploration before becoming the targets of future adventures. Some might fit into my distant route 1 journey. Others will have to be targets in themselves.

I am anxious to begin these adventures. Even my little journeys in the beginning are exciting prospects. If I am quite fortunate I shall be able to find seasonal employment or develop some flexible business venture to help fund my adventures. I don't expect to be traveling a lot in the colder months, and dedicating them to building travel funds seems a good use of the time.

For now, I wait on the buyer of our house finding us. We are doing all we can to find them. It is just a matter of time.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Traveling US routes: a Bucket List entry-

My bucket list includes the following US Routes:

Route 1- This is the East Coast north/south route that takes you through lots of states to see lots of stuff.

Route 2- Starting west to east in Everett, Washington and running to the Great Lakes. There is a bit on the east side of the lakes which is not as important to me, but I would probably incorporate that part in the Route 1 run.

Route 61- This is the route along the Mississippi River. I would probably take this route going north to south following a west to east run on the western part of Route 2.

Route 395- From the middle of the desert in California (about parallel with Anaheim, indicating a probable side trip) north to Canada, this route includes much of the eastern side of California, a bit of Nevada, and Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington.

In all probability, I will do the 395 first among these routes. Since Disneyland is so near to the starting point in the south, I would begin by going there for a few days. Then, off to the desert and a journey north. It just looks like a fun journey with a lot of interesting places to visit along the way. Plenty of vistas and small towns. I really like vistas and small towns.

Relative to my bucket list, the 395 run would comprise a goodly bit of exploring California, Oregon and Washington. It also covers a bit of Nevada. That is a nice dent in my bucket (list.)

Since Route 2 (western portion) will bring me near to the starting point (in the north) of Route 61, I would probably plan to combine the two into one epic journey. Crossing several major mountain ranges and bringing me to the Great Lakes, and then down the length of the Mighty Mississippi. Epic, indeed.

Again, this provides a bit of exploration of Washington state. Another dent in the bucket (list.)

This journey also passes close to several National Parks along the way. Since National Parks are listed generally in my bucket list, I would naturally have to stop in for a visit. Dent. Hey, once I have reached the Gulf of Mexico on this journey, I would have to get home. I think the return route could cover some exploration in several states, and possibly another stop at the Disneyland Resort.

Giggidy!

A less defined journey will be a run from Canada to Mexico along the West Coast of the United States. This journey will be comprised largely of Interstate 101 and California Highway 1, plus such incidental roads as are necessary to complete the journey.

Oh, and a stop by Disneyland Resort on the way back. It is right on the way, so it simply must be done!

Route 1 would be very interesting, but logistically the most difficult. Camping on the East Coast is a bit more challenging, and so I would have to anticipate a larger expense in completing the journey. Additionally, I would have to cross the width of the United States just to begin.

The up-side is the number of items on my bucket list which would be accessible via Route 1. Disney World in Florida. The Smithsonian in D.C. and Boston and New York City are along the way. Savannah, as well, but I suspect that at least that one would be a separate adventure to share with my wife, Linda.

Anyway, the Route 1 thing is farthest in the future. Much could change between now and then.

At this point, it is all a dream. Once the house is sold, and we are moved and settled, I can begin planning the Route 395 journey. Even the planning phase will be fun.

Perhaps I shall have opportunity to to travel all of these routes, and more. There are far more roads than I have days to travel them. However, my travel philosophy embraces the journey more than the destination. Every individual journey enriches my life, and the end of my days shall see a life that has been rich and full.

Until then, I shall dream, look at maps and web sites, and generally enjoy the anticipation.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Wheel of Time: a Bucket List entry-

I have included the reading of The Wheel of Time as part of my bucket list because it is important to me to complete the reading of that epic fantasy series. The death of the author, Robert Jordan, complicated the reading, but a successor author was appointed and is drawing the series to a conclusion.

Earlier portions of the work I have read several times. It is a huge tale, and a daunting task for anyone not a voracious reader and a lover of the fantasy genre. I find it quite worthwhile.

There remain two more volumes to complete the series. I await the next with great anticipation. That said, it shall be the first of the works I shall purchase in electronic format. Eventually I shall purchase the earlier volumes and have the whole thing available for future readings on my Nook. My last recap took about three months. I am current enough that I don't have to recap to continue with the next volume.

I have read other epic fantasy series in their entirety, some several times. Lackey, King, Goodkind and  others. Some I shall eventually collect into my electronic library. Reading them again is pleasant, like visiting a place you know and love but haven't been to in quite some time. Lord of the Rings is like that for me and for many people. Some of the others are equally worthwhile.

I shall, perhaps, soon return my hand to my own work. I have written the first book, and have begun the sequel. I have not yet finished the final polish on the first, but it won't require much. Shall I publish? Perhaps, one day. The first book was actually just an exercise for therapy, a tool in fighting to overcome depression. It was a valuable tool, though I am still not sure it is worthy of publication.

We shall see.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Disneyland Annual visit: A Bucket List entry-

At the top of my bucket list I have placed Annual Disneyland visit. The family loves Disneyland. I love Disneyland. At various times we have held annual passes and visited the Disneyland Resort multiple times for multiple days. We have not yet reached the point where we just could not stand another trip to Disneyland.

I love going with the family. I love going just with my wife, Linda. I have not yet gone to Disneyland by myself, but I suspect I shall love that just as much. With the MMC in campable shape, I can cut the cost of a visit a bit, at least a solo run. The nearest RV park to Disneyland is just a few minutes away by regular shuttle. The cost of a space there is around fifty bucks, which is much cheaper than most other accommodations.

Linda does not care much for camping, nor would she necessarily like my slow journey to and from the resort. So, a solo visit will probably only occur sometime during one of my other journeys passing near enough to Anaheim to make the visit practical. Who knows?

An annual visit can be planned for, including accommodations and flight. My parents don't understand the spending of so much money on visits to Disneyland, and I think a lot of other family and friends consider this obsession to be obsessive. I consider it a worthwhile investment in happiness and mental well-being. Those are good things, I do believe.

So, Annual Disneyland Resort visits are top of the list. If I must abandon all else, I plan to keep this one.

Why Disneyland? Why so often? I think that I enjoy the engineered environment that is truly geared to create a sense of adventure in safety, an environment intended to aid people in achieving a state of happiness. It feels good to be there. It is fun, reaching down and capturing the childlike sense of fun and giving it physical form.

This, of course, works best if you are a willing participant. I go there with that will to participate in the magic, and cooperate with the engineering. I want to have the Disney experience.

With the grandkids the right age, and having recently reread Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, I am anxious for a day on Tom Sawyer's Island. It has changed over the years, but I think for the better. It is a great place to play and imagine. A few hours of running around having island adventures could be fun.

There are also some new features which have been completed and which will be new experiences. We have been in the parks frequently enough in recent years to have watched the progress on several new features, and I enjoy watching that development.

Watching development goes a long way back, for me. I remember as a child going to Disneyland with my parents. While up in the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House (Now Tarzan's Tree House) I recall seeing some construction. That construction later became The Pirates of the Caribbean.

I saw other progress in features presented on "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color." Recently I have watched the development of a feature in California Adventure by that same name. I look forward to the experience.

Disneyland is a place to have fun. It is as simple as that. It is fun to be there, and I value that experience of fun in an environment engineered just for fun. That is why I want to keep going back to Disneyland Resort, year after year.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bucket List-

My bucket list is rather small. This is largely due to the size it could get if I don't tone it down. After all, I have about twenty more active years of living to do. Maybe more, maybe less, but twenty is a reasonable number to consider. Additionally, I have not acquired wealth in the course of my lifetime, and so there are limits to what I can do. Indeed, this list stretches any anticipated resources considerably.





Now, my Bucket List-

Annual Disneyland Trip
Finish reading The Wheel of Time

Travel US Routes:
West Coast Canada to Mexico to include California Highway 1/Interstate Highway 101
1
2
61
395

Explore:
Oregon
California
Washington
Nevada
Arizona

then

Idaho
Wyoming
Utah
New Mexico

Visit:

New York City
New Orleans
Savannah
Boston

Mackinac Island
The Smithsonian
Disney World

All  U.S. National Parks
Northeastern U.S. Leaf Tour
Tour Rogue River

I have already had a lot of jobs, including what could be called a career from which I have retired. I have saved lives, flown airplanes, ridden motorcycles, designed and built things. I have written poems, written stories and written a book. I have done blogs and such. I have raised a family and am participating in the lives of my children and grand children. I have been on a life-long spiritual and intellectual journey.

Life has been full. I have seen great evil, and much more that is good. Out of full experience I have formed this tiny bucket list. Were I wealthy I could do these rather quickly and expand the list considerably. I am not, at least in money. So, my more humble list must do.

I do not long to stay at home and cultivate a garden. Most of my dreams involve travel, at this point. Quite a number of them meet in various ways, and so in fulfilling one I can easily fulfill another. I shall in future posts break the list down a bit, explaining what I want from each entry, how they relate to one another, and why they seem important to me.

I expect to learn a lot about my own desires in the process. Perhaps I shall learn more from myself about identifying dreams and bringing them to life. It would be a very nice thing if the process, shared here, aids someone else in defining and following their dreams.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Report from the Mobile Man Cave-

This is where the MMC sits. I sit in the MMC, or just outside. I am waiting for someone to buy the house so that the MMC can hit the road to Oregon. There the MMC will sit a bit, as we buy housing for the clan and then get everyone settled.

I live in the MMC, just where it sits. I had gotten it pretty much ready for the move, back before our buyers backed out on the deal. I had all of my stuff on-board, at least everything that didn't ship with the household items. We were so sure the deal would go through that we were 90% moved to Medford. Then, epic fail.

I did not want to move my stuff back into the house. Having converted the MMC into a camper, I decided to camp. I have been there ever since. I have made modifications and adjustments, making it more comfortable. Just recently I removed the center passenger seats. They cluttered the living area and did not provide the kind of seating I wanted.

Now there is room to move around a bit. The camp chair provides a better seat, and can be taken outside for seating as well. It can be folded and stowed for travel. I plan to add some hooks inside to hang some more of the necessaries, and have found some area rugs for the floor to protect my feet from the mounting plates that held the old passenger seats.

The sleeping area uses the original fold-down rear bench seat for a base. I am using a twin sized mattress, which leaves an area to the side of the mattress which holds boxes and bins for storage. One bin is modified to hold the fuel canister of my catalytic heater to properly position the heater for use. It can be seen next to the fire extinguisher. It is positioned with safe clearances, I have adequate ventilation, and can start the heater from the comfort of my bed without getting out from under the covers.

At present things are warm enough that the heater is not needed. Generally, unless the temperatures inside the MMC drop below 55 degrees, the heater is not necessary. I have adequate comfortable clothing and gear to keep me warm. No area for cooking inside has been established. In a space this small, cooking is best done outside.

For me this is adequate living space for solo travel. Some of the items currently on-board will be removed once a new home is established. I shall rearrange things a bit to allow for stowing necessaries, and hopefully actually get out on the road.

I have dreamed of traveling for a great many years. Since the MMC is the embodiment of those long dreams, I spend as much time in and around the MMC as I can. I have been fortunate enough to have traveled a bit, but not yet as the MMC shall allow.

It is the going I enjoy, not just the getting there. I am fond of coming around the bend and seeing a new vista. I very much enjoy passing through small towns. I long to travel slowly, stopping often and experiencing life along the road. I want to take pictures, and write about the things I see. This remains largely just a dream, but the MMC brings me a bit closer.

Moving to Medford will alter the location of the base from which I shall travel, but will not alter the dream. I expect to spend a lot of time just exploring the Rogue and Applegate valleys. Then outward. If things go well I shall see where a great many roads in the area might take me. Once I am able to gather the necessary funds I hope to make a dent in my travel bucket list. The content of that evolving list shall have to wait for a future post.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bifurcated Lap Robe-

The process of selling the house has proved a bit arduous. Initial preparations, the subsequent move of a lot of the family to our target location in Medford, Oregon. Moving everything (just about) to storage, and from storage to storage, then to storage in Oregon, has been challenging.

The initial buyers made an offer the second day we were on the market. Thirty day escrow. We figured we were almost done. Then inspections. We needed a new roof. We put on a new roof. The buyer's couldn't get financing. We gave them time to work on another loan. Almost, almost it all went through. However, it didn't go through.

So, now we sit with an empty house and little to do but putter around and keep it ready to show. We putter around, and keep it ready to show. We go on Facebook. Do email. Look at YouTube. Read. Still, there is much time and a lot of waiting.

I needed something to do with my hands. So, I started juggling again. I still suck, but I suck less as a consequence of the practice. I started whittling a bit. That was good. I like whittling. I broke out my old tin whistle. I practiced on that a bit. I whittled a bit on the wooden case I made for my tin whistle.

Essentially, I have been keeping busy. However, juggling and whittling cannot be conveniently done in the confines of a van. Since the van is where most of my stuff is, it is pretty much my home. So, I sits and thinks. I remember the kids knitting hats on knitting looms. Hmmm. That's not too messy, and it is something new to learn.

I got a set of looms. I made a hat. Turned out OK. I looked at some videos on YouTube on loom knitting. I reflected a bit, and came up with a next project.

When I sit in the van and use my computer I place the computer on a folding table that fits between my legs. To keep warm I can cover my legs with a blanket, but the bulk interferes with placing the table between my legs. I remembered my great grandfather used a small blanket he called a "lap robe" when he was sitting. An idea was born.

Using my looms I made two little lap robes, one for each leg. I called this set of lap robes my "bifurcated lap robe." The family thinks I am a bit wacky, with this knitting and sitting. They are right. The knitting thing is a bit weird, but it has proved satisfying and provided me with some practical stuff. A warm hat, and a bifurcated lap robe.

I have a few more little projects in mind, just exercises for the most part. Plus another idea for staying warm in the van as I sit through the process of selling the house. A serape! Yep, a blanket I can poke my head through, to keep more of me warm.

That's not all. I have been watching a video on making knit socks using the loom. I remember my grandmother making me knit slippers every year for a great many years. I got them for Christmas. Yes! I can make my own wool socks!

I really hope this house sells, soon. Really.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Minimalist RV-

This just popped up recently on an ad for Amazon.com. It is a trailer to be hauled by a bicycle, providing a pop-up tent with a cot built in. Pretty cool. I thought it would be interesting to camp like this. I have friends who bicycle and camp, traveling considerable distances. Of course, my bicycle might have to be a little different.

There really are a lot of options for traveling. I wouldn't do this for real, of course. I don't motorcycle anymore, due to the plague of stupid on the highways. I don't think I would do this bicycle camping thing, either. Same reason. I just don't want to be taken out by a distracted SUV-driving soccer Mom who is managing the kids, the dog, texting while driving, and operating her Internet business from the car. You gotta admire a Mom like that, but I don't want to do so posthumously.

Considering that the trailer dry-weight is nearly 70 lbs., I have to wonder if I could pump the total weight once the bike and trailer were loaded and my fat ass was in the seat. The world is not level enough for me to get far managing such an RV system. Still, it is an interesting direction in which to think.

Wheelbarrows, maybe? Ara certainly sets the bar for minimalism without resorting to a wheelbarrow. I just don't see myself sleeping on the ground that much, however. My dog is also a bit too old for this form of adventuring. Still, it is a worthy dream, beautifully fulfilled. There's a motorcycle and sidecar somewhere in all of that gear. And, a dog. The art of traveling is supplemented by the art of packing in this case.

At present the Mobile Man Cave will probably be sufficient for me. This one and the ones that will probably follow. I hope to keep this one on the road for quite a while, but things happen. I suspect there might be a MMC II and perhaps a MMC III. The passage of time and the plague of stupid will probably see to that. Not to mention, building the MMC II might just be fun.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Leroy-

I knew a man named Leroy back in the days when I was working for Salz Tannery. We worked there together. I operated huge mixers used to remove the hair from cow hides. Leroy was a mechanic. I really liked Leroy.

Actually, everyone liked Leroy. He was one of those unique persons whom everyone liked. These people are rare. He seemed to exist in a bubble of good will, held in high esteem by both sides of various social factions without jealousy or general bad feelings. He didn't "suck up," and was not sucked up to by people seeking his favor. He was just inherently pleasant to be around.

I have known a few such people, whom I refer to in my thoughts as Leroys. Now, being of an analytical nature it would not be surprising to find out I have observed myself. I know I am not a Leroy. People are not automatically attracted to me. Neither are they universally repulsed. I have determined that this is partially due to my social defensive tactics. I tend to be charming and abrasive in equal measures, adjusting those qualities to keep people at a manageable emotional distance.

Some people have a longing to be liked and accepted, in the extreme. They want to be Leroys. Most of them are unpleasant to be around simply due to the aura of needy and complex emotions. A true Leroy does not need to be accepted, and by virtue of that are more often accepted and in more places. That centered-ness might be one of the features that makes a Leroy so attractive.

The social interactions of a Leroy aren't driven by fear, or avarice, or some complex complex of emotions that make people who they are. The Leroy has a balance of social needs, is not predatory in relationships, and has a genuine affection for people as people. The Leroy gives in reasonable measure, yet in giving does not invite the predation of emotional predators. The Leroy is comfortable enough in his (or her) own skin to interact honestly with people without presenting that honesty as a wall.

That observation regarding honesty used as a wall was revelatory to me regarding my own non-Leroy-ness. I am honest in the extreme. Until I made this observation I did not realize that I used my honesty as one of my tools to keep people at a safe distance. I already realized that my honesty was not just the consequence of values like integrity. I simply don't have the kind of memory necessary for successful dishonesty, don't care for the complications of dishonesty, and don't have the need for approval from other humans to drive me to be dishonest for social gain.

Leroys, then, don't have the need to keep people at a distance. They don't have a cloying need to draw people close. The have a phenomenal sense of social balance. They are genuinely like this, inherently like this. It is a natural nature, not contrived or assumed.

I now recall a friend who was pretty good at mimicking the Leroy. He had it down pretty well, unlike the cliche used-car-salesman personality that is patently not genuine.  I think he longed to be a Leroy, but wasn't quite. I must admit that I tested his Leroy armor from time to time, and on occasion found a chink and saw the conflicted and angry person hiding inside.

Much as I admire the Leroy, I have to wonder if the Leroy is simply a mythical beast, an artifact of the flaws in my observations? I never had the opportunity to observe the Leroy at home, in contact solely with his (or her) intimate associations. Is the Leroy a Leroy at home? Lacking a suitable blind from which to make the necessary observations, I really can't say.

Whether mythical or real, I find the Leroy useful as a foil against which to test my own concept of self. If the Leroy is the perfect balance at the center of the scale of human interactive personalities, where do I fall? What Leroy qualities, real or imagined, might I adopt to improve myself as a human?

Where are you, Leroy? I have some questions.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gorre and Daphetid Railroad

I don't spend a lot of time reminiscing about my childhood. It was a good childhood, but the rest of my life has been pretty good as well. Since I am not compelled to escape into the past, my childhood is generally a fond but distant memory.

Occasionally, however, I have a spark of memory that compels me to think on those days past. It is often a pleasant journey. Such was my recent recollection of John Allen and the Gorre and Daphetid Railroad. John built the G&D (Gorre and Daphetid) as an epic model railroad. Being a professional photographer, he built this massive model to be photographed.

A play on words is common in model railroading. Gorre (Gory) and Daphetid (Defeated) is such. There were others here and there in the huge model project. Unfortunately, I only explored the G&D through model railroading magazines. Being young, I was rather oblivious to word play in the adult world. Now, years later, those images of the G&D are not readily available. Those that are prove to be quite expensive, and properly so.

The G&D was huge. It was complex. It was highly detailed, and probably one of the best examples of the art form that was model railroading. John was an adult, and had a disposable income. Most of my model railroading was done in my youth, a time of small funds for me. My efforts to emulate this master railroader were child's play. Worthy efforts, but limited.

My first model railroad was given to me by my Grandpa and Grandma Laatz. It was a Marx HO scale toy train. My father helped me to attach the tracks to a sheet of plywood that would slip under the bed. We painted roads and other features on the plywood. My father is a good painter, an artist, so the work had more than a childish quality.

With limited funds I was able to occasionally get a cardboard model house or some street lights or such. HO cars and trucks. I added surface textures and eventually a tunnel made of cardboard and plaster. For a first effort it wasn't bad.

Unfortunately, I am not the kind of guy who took meticulous care of these old toys and now has them to display. I can't recall where they went, other than a lot of items from my childhood were not there when I returned from my time in the Army. That is probably as it should be.

My next model railroad was an N gauge set I saved up to purchase. The plywood was a thing of the past, and the HO train was in a box. This smaller gauge allowed me to do more railroad in a smaller space. My next effort had elevations and mountains and tunnels and such. I had lichen foliage and  more detailed plastic buildings. There were track switches and crossings and all sorts of things. I added more sophisticated wiring that allowed me to run two trains at the same time.

I continued to putter about with my valiant but limited efforts, and continued to monitor the G&D through model railroad magazines. Eventually John Allen died, and the G&D was lost in a house fire. Now both only exist in archived photos, old books and magazines, and the minds and hearts of several model railroading generations.

I am forever grateful to John Allen and still inspired by the memory of the Gorre and Daphetid Railroad. I am also thankful for a great childhood, my grandparents and my parents, and all of their support.

Life was good then. It still is.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Pens and other anachronisms-

I have a fondness for pens. Most particularly, fountain pens and dip pens. Dip pens are those very rudimentary writing instruments that you dip into an ink pot to charge the nib, and have to dip periodically as you write or draw. I have on occasion sat by candle light and written with such a pen. It was satisfying to share that experience with so many writers over many hundreds of years.

Over the years I have owned quite a number of pens, though none were particularly high-end forms of the art. That pens became over time art forms in themselves is not particularly unusual or strange. Perhaps that is part of the attraction, that these ever-so-practical daily tools can be things of great beauty. Anyway, I have owned quite a few.

Sadly, over the years I have used pens less and less. I find that the keyboard serves me much better for the actual act of writing. My wife cannot believe the speed of my typing when I am in the throes of writing. In all actuality I am not that fast on the keyboard. When my thoughts are flowing, however, the clicking can be furious.

My pen related motor skills have deteriorated over time as I have taken pen in hand less and less often. Like any other skill, use of the pen requires time and patience. My penmanship has deteriorated from a not particularly high level to a difficult to read scrawl. I must concentrate to physically write, and sometimes even forget how to form cursive letters.

From a practical perspective, this is not much of a loss. The keyboard is currently the mode of written communication. When I was in junior high school nearly half-a-century ago I elected to take typing classes. Keyboard writing was not common then, and few males elected to learn the skill. Children in the current era grow up keyboarding, cultivating a more ad hoc skill with sheer volume of use.

How many young people know nothing more of pens than the common stick pen that is sold by the dozen, and thrown away when it no longer has ink? Many adults my own age, or near to that age, are not aware of the pen as art. Such pens are expensive, and belong to a declining culture. A fine writing instrument can only be appreciated by those who practice fine writing, who value paper and ink and the very lines themselves.

They shall be kept alive, as are many anachronism and symbolic items from past eras. That is encouraging. The more beautiful representatives of the art form shall be elements of sophisticated and rare collections, viewed and appreciated by ever declining numbers of people. Like the charred stick from which they came, pens will simply become curiosities from another time.

From what I have seen, the physical keyboard is on the same path. Only a limited number of communication devices (cell phones in particular) now have physical keyboards. The keyboard as art has not had the centuries necessary to mature, and may never attain the status of the fine art pen. Oh, there have been attempts, and good ones at that. However, the time of the keyboard may well be ending.

From the most practical perspective, these transitions are not bad. The purpose of writing, no matter what the mode, is communication. Changes in the interface between ourselves and our communication technology will necessarily evolve, and only those evolutions that allow us to get the job done will survive. It is difficult to speculate what those evolutions may involve. They are happening fast, and in such volume that I cannot follow all of it.

We will each of us hold to the mode of communication that works for us. Some of us will be so bound to a mode that is falling behind the evolutionary curve that we shall fall out of the current center of human culture. Like little old ladies with excellent penmanship but nobody left to whom to write, we will drift to some cultural eddy and practice our anachronistic skills until we fade from history altogether.

The river of time flows rapidly, and none of us knows where we shall eventually wash up. So, if you happen to find me in some cultural backwater, banging away on an ancient keyboard or dipping a rusty pen in a bottle of aged ink, treat me kindly.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Report from the Mobile Man Cave-

The Mobile Man Cave had a previous incarnation as a family vehicle for my sister and her family. When I met the MMC (Mobile Man Cave) it was sitting in their driveway. I asked about it, and not much later she had sold it to me. I do still owe her a bit, and will be delighted to complete payment when the house sells in a couple of weeks.

The home sale is another story. The MMC has been more of an office and personal retreat for me, since preparing for the move has left little time for road adventures. One is soon coming, however, when we hand over the keys to the house and hit the road. The MMC, my dog Bernard and I shall head once again North to Medford, Oregon, from whence the MMC had come.

The MMC had previously been a seven passenger vehicle. It has since become a RV suitable for one person, and currently can easily accommodate only the driver and two passengers. The rear bench seat is folded down into a bed. I have a twin sized mattress on that bed, which leaves a bit of room being used for storage. Mostly plastic crates holding clothes, books, food, and miscellaneous items.

The left passenger seat in the center of the van holds a plastic dresser sort of thing. This holds underwear, socks, and various items I often need to access. In front of that seat sits a toilet. This is one of those bed-side hospital toilets. On top of that is my water jug and a waste basket. Below them is a container serving as a urinal.

Below the back seat/bed are plastic containers holding a lot of other necessary items. In the far back is a basket of tools, a basket of clothing and miscellaneous items, extra propane cylinders in an air-tight container, and a folding camp chair. Accessible from the middle of the van is a bin of higene intems, a bin of useful hardware (including extra batteries), and a bin of cleaning supplies. Two buckets are also under that seat.

The other center seat is my office chair. I am sitting there now, writing on my netbook which rests on a folding table.

The drivers seat and front passenger seat remain pretty much as intended. Between them is a power storage system, and a bucket that contains my catalytic heater and currently holds up my fan. I am running on electrical power from the house right now, and the power line comes in through the passenger window and is split on a power strip.

My laundry bag sits on the front passenger seat, and my binoculars hang there should I need them. I also have a barbecue of sorts on the floor in front of the front passenger seat. On the drivers seat sit a bus tray filled with a number of items I have not yet put away.

My rear curtain and curtain between the driver's section and the living quarters are made from Army blankets. My privacy is protected by the built-in curtains in most windows.

Since I am using electrical power right now I have also added an electric lamp. This will certainly save on batteries. When not on "shore power" I use the LED lamps I have acquired. Both use very little power and the batteries last a long time. One is a Northwest Territories standing flashlight, the other a head light held onto my forehead by straps. They have proved to be quite adequate.

I have some plans for the future. Since this is intended as a camping vehicle and the base for many future road adventures I am considering removing the front passenger seat. In its place I would like to build more storage, and a platform on which a camera tripod can be mounted. A video camera could then be used to record travels in real-time.

This modification would also provide more leg-room when I am sitting in my office chair. Perhaps a little table could fold out to hold a computer near the driver's seat, to provide a navigation resource. Alternatively, navigation instruments and a back-up camera monitor could be mounted there.

This vehicle is still water-tight and mechanically sound. I look forward to seeing how long I can keep it on the road, and what adventures we might have together. I also have some other camping configurations in mind for other vehicles, should I have the opportunity to explore and experiment a bit along that line.

I am certainly having fun with this, and hope to get out and do some exploring in the near future. Until next time, then.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Deep Space Nine-

I love the Star Trek franchise. The original series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine. Even Voyager, though it had some issues. I finished viewing the whole NG (Next Generation) a while back. Recently I finished DS9 (Deep Space Nine.) It is always a bit emotional, reaching the end of a series, much like the ending of The Lord of the Rings. In both the book and the film it ends with Sam Gamgee saying, "Well, I'm back."  The bittersweet feeling I get at that point is similar to what I felt at the end of TNG and DS9.

There is a richness and depth to these long tales. Perhaps a sufficient separation from reality as I know it allows me to connect. I don't particularly like cop stories, or social commentary, or complex people stories, which are too much like real life. Problems in real life compel a compassion I haven't the resources to meet. It is overwhelming. In realms of science fiction and fantasy I can address my feelings associated with these all-to-real problems without the immediate connection to real life compelling me to do something.

Why not do something? I am possessed by a spirit of vengeance. Not a demonic type possession. It is just a part of my nature. In another era I might have been a knight errant taking up the cause of the downtrodden, or something of the sort. Someone behaving like that today would simply be placed in prison, and rightly so. to go out as an agent of vengeance would accomplish little, and I have spent too much time in jail (wearing a badge.)

In events when someone is victimize here in the real world I do feel compassion for the victim. However, I am not the one drawn to their side, offering aid. Others are better equipped to do that. I feel compelled to seek out and find the villain, the victimizer. Seek them out, and visit justice upon them by my own hand. Oh, I don't do this, of course. There are systems in place to see to the exercise of justice. Sterile, impersonal systems, but they are probably better for that absence of passion.

So, I enjoy the richness of these tales, the spectacle of the images that support the illusion of life in space, and the openness of the unexplored frontier. I also have a fondness for old time cowboy movies that have the same sense of frontier adventure, but those are tales from a time now past. The placement of tales in the future  contributes an essential flavor of possibility. The dead past, even the fantasy cowboy past, is devoid of such possibility. It can only lead to now.

So, it is off to space, the final frontier. DS9 managed to use that great stage to present some very interesting tales, and develop some quite interesting characters. Some explored political associations and the complexity of those relationships. Others were character tales, or tales of growing relationships. A few were even exploration of the very idea of writing and producing tales of life on a space station far from Earth.

I have begun the Voyager series, to complete my viewing of the Star Trek franchise. Some hold DS9 to be the pinnacle of the Star Trek adventures. I must grant that there is a temptation to take such a position. However, I don't see the need to compare the original series to Next Generation to DS9 to Voyager. They are all available to enjoy for their own contributions.

It is truly a delight to live in an era where many things Star Trek have not only come into being, but are sometimes superior to the dreams of those writers who created tomorrow over the course of decades. Vacuous Valley Girls routinely use technologies superior to those impossible dreams presented in the original series, and even subsequent and more modern Star Trek iterations. The future comes fast, these days, and seems to belong to everyone.

How long until Star Trek in it's entirety is old and dated as a cowboy matinĂ©e feature? Who can tell? The future is coming so fast that I can barely see for the temporal wind in my eyes. We shall hopefully be surprised and delighted by how it all turns out.

Live long, and prosper. \\//

Monday, July 5, 2010

Regarding ebooks-

I just posted a blog on ebooks over on my short story blog. I didn't want to post twice, when I could do this little reference thing. I have different followers on the two blogs, and thought everyone might want to read my pro-ebook ramblings.

We hope to have the house sold in the coming weeks, and make the move to Medford, Oregon. Once settled I hope to get back to writing again. I have missed it, and amazingly some of you have, as well.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

An End to Prohibition-

Around 1917 the U.S. government established some comprehensive regulations regarding the possession, use and access to drugs. Bodies such as The Women's Christian Temperance Union reacted to abuses of drugs and alcohol, gained influence, and the net result was a ban on the recreational use of drugs. In effect, the government was acting to protect citizens from themselves and their own choices.

Subsequent to this regulation was a ban on the manufacture, use and possession of alcohol. Again, influenced by such bodies as the temperance movement, this was government acting to protect people from their own choices by eliminating those choices and criminalizing certain behaviors.

A consequence of this regulation and restriction of individual choices was the rapid expansion of criminal forces to take advantage of a demand without a supply. Criminal suppliers of drugs and alcohol became wealthy, and the battle for that wealth was increasingly violent.

The regulation of drugs was separate from the ban on alcohol. When the overall cost of the ban on alcohol became too great, the public accepted a return to a moderately regulated system through which alcohol might be made, sold, and possessed for consumption. The regulation and restriction on drugs continued, and the general ban on recreational use of drugs has continued to this day.

For a time the illegal use of drugs continued to fuel a criminal economy which was content to remain in the background. Good people simply did not go to the side of town where drugs were sold and used, and the violence of that drug culture was largely ignored.

In the decade of the 1960's the use of drugs expanded from these dark realms. College campuses became another place where drug use was common, and a "rebellious" youth bent on exploring all aspects of life brought those drugs and their purveyors into environments previously unsullied by such "filth."

This was certainly not a problem for the criminal communities. Expanding their markets was quite appealing. Eventually even some of the rich and powerful were at least sometimes users. The taint of drug use colored entertainment, politics, and even the best of families. The fingers of the criminal organizations reached high and deep.

We are fast approaching the centennial of this failed effort to control the choices of citizens with regard to recreational drug use. The cost of enforcing these laws has become a huge burden on the society at large. Much of the enormous cost of incarcerating so many offenders is directly related to the illegal drug industry. Meanwhile, drug cartels have become so wealthy and powerful that they have camped literally on the borders of the United States, even taking control of entire towns in Northern Mexico.

Unless the U.S. government is willing to fight a real war on drugs, with real guns and bullets and death for multitudes, the only reasonable choice is legalization and a moderated system of regulation.

Consider the consequences. Drug cartels will immediately lose their vast wealth, and the motivation to continue in the drug market. Drugs will be regulated regarding mode of distribution and with regard to quality. The price of drugs will come down from the astronomical rates required by criminal distributors, and very few drug users will be compelled to steal or sell their bodies to secure this much more affordable substance.

The savings in enforcement cost and incarceration expenses can be applied to other services, to include expanded drug and alcohol awareness education. The choice as to whether or not use drugs would be returned to the individual, and the individual would not become a criminal for choosing to use drugs or alcohol.

Granted, there exists the possibility of some people who refrained from drug use due to the criminal aspect going ahead and now choosing to use drugs. There exists the possibility of an increase in antisocial behavior in some places at some times due to the reduced regulation and increased access. The degree is unknown, and predictions will remain speculations until the case is tested through a well planned and executed legalization of drugs.

I propose that the money saved in enforcing a failed drug management policy could be better spent in education and providing services to overcome such slight bumps in the road as I mentioned above. The legalization and reduced regulation is not a perfect answer to the problem. Indeed, the problem may be so deep seated in humans as humans that it cannot be fully overcome, by regulation or anything else created by human beings.

Even so, the present system enriches criminals, costs a great deal in a multitude of resources including human lives, and has accomplished little in the hundred years of regulation. Perhaps it is time to try something else. Something radical. Something that returns the dignity of choice to the individual regarding their own lives.

A Comedy of Errors, with lots of smoke...

I was sleeping in my van, out in the yard. Why I was sleeping in my van out in the yard is another story. As I said, I was sleeping. A knocking awoke me. I waited. Lot's of things might knock in the night. The knocking came again.

"Who is there?" I asked.

"Jon."

"What's up?" I asked. It had to be late, and my son Jon had no night knocking proclivities of which I was aware.

"Mom asked me to tell you the house is on fire."

I lay there a moment.

"Is the house on fire?" I asked.

"It was. Everyone is outside while the smoke clears."

I decided I needed to get up. I did so, and wandered to the front porch where the whole family was gathered.

To tell the rest of the story, we need to go back to early evening. I sat at my computer, and my wife Linda sat at hers. There was a bang outside, and the lights went out. Our computers were both on battery back up systems, so we started to shut them down as family members found each other in the dark. Flashlights came on, a few candles were lit. Soon the computers were shut down, along with the modem and the wifi router.

That part about the modem and router will prove important, later.

Beth, my daughter, had started boiling water for spaghetti. I went and got the camp stove from the shed, and set it up on the stove top. It is one of those electric glass top stoves. The rest of the kitchen was in disorder, as we were in the middle of renovations and the counter tops were covered with construction materials and dirty dishes. The stove top seemed a good place to set up the camp stove.

It was not.

We got the water boiling, cooked the noodles, got everybody fed. With the power out, there was little to do, and so everyone made their way to bed. As I noted before, I was using the van as a bedroom, and that is where I went.

Now, back to the front porch. It's about two in the morning, the power is back on, and everyone is on the porch. Here is how the events were related to me.

Linda awoke when the lights came back on. She started her computer, but could not get on the Internet. As I related, the modem and router were on another power line, and the back up supply was still turned off. Linda was not familiar with how this was set up, and not being able to connect she headed for the bathroom.

As she made her way down the hall, she observed billowing clouds of smoke up in the vaulted ceiling of the living room. She rushed to the kitchen, to find the camp stove burning on the stove top. None of us had made sure that the power switch for the electric burner was turned off. With all of the finding people in the dark and setting up camp, it had simply been overlooked.

Finding that she could not blow the fire out like a birthday candle, she ran back and awoke my son-in-law Dave. Beth awoke as well. Dave went to the kitchen to try and smother the fire. Beth remembered the fire extinguisher, which she located and applied. By this time the house was full of smoke.

I am sure I am missing some of the details. I was sleeping in my van at the time. Anyway, everyone was awakened and moved out of the house as windows were thrown open and fans started and the elimination of smoke begun. Then Jon was dispatched to awaken his father, who was sleeping in the van.

That's me, by the way.

What had burned on the camp stove were two plastic feet. The ones sitting on the burner that had not been turned off, but we did not know that because the power was out. Fortunately, nothing else had become involved. Had my wife been able to connect to the Internet, she would not have made the discovery when she did. The house may have become involved in the fire, and things would have become very unpleasant.

Linda declares Divine Providence. I do, as well, but I also think we were lucky. I am convinced that God has incorporated an element of luck in the whole Providence thing, just to make things interesting.

So, what have we learned, Dorothy? I don't think I will use the stove top as a counter space from now on. That was dumb. Also, in the event of a power outage I think I will be checking the status of stoves and other things that may cause a fire. Finding and accounting for everyone in the confusion caused this critical oversight. That cannot be allowed to happen again.

It was quite possible that I would have awakened to find most of my family gone, literally up in smoke. I am very thankful that such was not the case. I am rather fond of them, and they still seem willing to put up with me after all of these years. Even if I insist in sleeping in a van.

Why was I sleeping in the van? That will have to be another story.