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!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Swing Dancing and the Video Lifestyle-

In Disneyland there is a bandstand, with a nice little dance floor. On this visit and some of our previous visits we have found it a pleasant place to rest and watch the dancers in the evening. Some dancers have outfits and routines indicative of a deep commitment to dancing and the dancing lifestyle. Most wore more ordinary park visitor garb, but many of those exhibited considerable experience and skill in an art I know little about.

Knowing little did not prevent me from appreciating the skill and zeal of the dancers. One young lady sitting in front of us was literally bouncing in her chair, waiting until her partner was ready to hit the floor. They literally hit the floor running, and launched into a routine they had obviously practiced a great deal.

Children danced with each other, or with an adult companion. Two teenage young women danced together. One young lady of prodigious energy had a pair of young men attending her. They alternated time on the floor, while she danced every dance. Many dancers were adorned with gray hair, yet moved with the fluidity of perpetual youth.

Perhaps I should consider learning this art. There are worse ways of getting exercise and extending my days on the earth. A turn or two in the Magic Kingdom would not be bad at all. I may need an economy sized package of Pixie Dust to make it work.

We shall see. On to my next thought...

I collected some videos during our visit. Several on our inexpensive digital camera, and several more on my phone. Videos are a constant in our digital era. For good, and sometimes ill, videos are here to stay.

So I got to thinking. Cameras are small enough to mount on hats, or webbed head gear. Capture equipment is small enough to carry in a bag, or strap to a belt. It would be possible to capture an entire Disneyland adventure, moment by moment, in real time. Every minute. EVERY minute!

Perhaps that's not such a good idea. See you on the dance floor!

Disneyland and Bumps in the Road-

No travel adventure is without mishap. Little problems, bumps in the road. Our Disneyland adventure of last week is no exception. For me it was shaving and acid reflux.

These did not occur together, or as the result of the same particular event. I will begin with the shaving event. To save space I opted for an inexpensive battery driven electric razor. I had used it before, and it worked fine. Not an outstanding shave, but adequate. Cheap to operate, and I already owned it. So, rather than my larger plug-in razor I took the cheapo.

The first morning we are there, getting ready, I showered and then tried to shave. It began fine, but after completing the right side of my face and working the area below my lower lip and beginning to work on the left side of my face I noticed a problem. Two fine lines of blood just below my lip, about a half inch long.

I pulled the razor away, looked at it, and could see no problem. However, on examining my little wounds I also saw a red line down the left side of my face from temple to jaw. I looked more closely at the razor head, and finally found the problem. The screen had shifted and exposed a bit of the edge. A fine, sharp edge.

So, cleaning up the blood and stanching the flow, I finished my ablutions and we made our way into the park. The rend on the cheek remained clear and visible for our entire visit. On a more suitable face it may have appeared dashing. Somehow, I suspect I missed that by a significant degree.

That first night I had a bit of acid reflux as a consequence of sleeping flat. I generally use a wedge pillow, along with another pillow, to elevate my head and avoid acid problems. I am using prescription medications to minimize the issue, and these generally work for me. However, I lacked a wedge pillow for my journey. They just don't pack well.

The second night was really bad. I slept poorly, and kept trying to stack up things to sleep on. I finally pulled some wedge shaped cushions from the couch in the room. I tried several configurations, and finally stuffed them under the mattress. Ahhh! That worked! It was like turning off an acid faucet.

The next two nights were much better, using this configuration.

Of course, there were some issues with feet. I broke my left foot about nine months ago, and still have some stiffness and discomfort. The right foot was badly damage many years ago, but over the years has been surprisingly serviceable. Lately a bone spur on the left heal has contributed to increasing levels of discomfort.

I had been using postal workers shoes in my work as a correctional officer for a number of years. These are the shoes I took on our journey. Not pretty, but then neither am I. They really made a difference. That, and taking frequent breaks just to sit and enjoy the parks. Rest the feet. Contemplate those rental scooters.

I figure I could condition my feet and drop some of the weight that makes them work harder by more frequent walks in the Disneyland Resort Parks. Unfortunately, four days was all we could schedule, and about all we could afford. Which brings us to the biggest bump in the road.

Having to go home.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Disneyland Scooter Posse-

They are growing in number. At one time only the infirm were scootered in the Magic Kingdom. (For those purists out there, Disneyland is also the Magic Kingdom, by prior usage.) Now they are a clan of people who recognize that hiking all over the place is hard on untrained legs.

Traveling in groups, so far none have been threatening. No gang colors, other than those affiliated with "The Mouse." A lot of evidence of The Mouse's influence, but so far no encouragement of malfeasance. Just people using technology to enhance their experience at the Disneyland Resort.

Sometimes the presence of these mobility devices provides impromptu entertainment. Linda and I were sitting on a bench in the town square on Main Street, enjoying a bit of rest and the general ambiance of Disneyland. Along came two men using scooters. Responding to background music they launched into a scooter dance, which was surprisingly good for something unrehearsed.

They circled the central area performing scooter pirouettes and other scooter dance moves, at one point joining hands and orbiting some central point of greater gravitation. Finishing with a flourish, one man gave up his scooter to a lady he called "Mom." Apparently he was just scooter sitting, and he and Dad just had a "special moment."

Scooters in a place like the Disneyland Resort do make sense. People are sometimes injured, sometimes expand in dimensions without intending to do so, and all eventually grow older. Using technology to overcome these inconveniences can make the experience of the Magic Kingdom truly magical.

I love the Disneyland Resort. At the cost of encouraging larger crowds, I encourage everyone to visit at least once. If mobility is an issue, rest assured that the Disneyland Resort provides several alternatives. For just a bit more in cost a scooter can become part of your posse, and make the visit a truly magical experience.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Four Days at the Disneyland Resort-

My wife, Linda, proposed this visit not too long ago. It never takes much to inspire a visit to the Disneyland Resort. Having annual passes, it is just a matter of transportation and money for dining. We are reasonably comfortable with less elaborate lodging, so it was the Motel 6 on Disney Way. Our previous visits determined that the shuttle system was adequate.

Our son, Matthew, drove us to the airport. We went late on a Friday night, and were in bed before the middle of the night. The next two days were early opening at the park, so we sought to be there by around eight. Breakfast at La Brea Bakery in Downtown Disney, then on to the entrance.

The week before, at home, storms rendered us without power for several days. Additional storms were a threat, and we had anticipated this being a wet visit. However, our days were generally comfortable, the parks uncrowded, and conditions were ideal for a very relaxed visit. For days we just sauntered here and there, doing whatever seemed appealing.

In a very general way Linda intended this visit to be a celebration of my retirement from the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office. The attached video is an impromptu gift she arranged on the spot. The cast member, I believe the name was Timothy, had been present on another visit and proved quite knowledgeable on Disney history. He works in the small store attached to Toy Story Midway Mania in California Adventure.

The day before, when we got off of the ride, she had heard him sing a birthday greeting for one of the guests. Unknown to me, she hatched a plot for a retirement song. When we got off of the ride this time she approached Timothy and asked for a retirement song. An impromptu tune, and much appreciated. It was a bit of special fun on top of a big bowl of other fun times.

Having often visited the parks, our photos this visit were a bit different. We focused largely on details and such things as seemed interesting. Part of our photo effort was to document the changes under way in both parks. Being the off-season a lot was going on. It's a Small World was still down for removal of holiday specific elements. The Rivers of America (all of that water around Tom Sawyer's Island) was empty and a lot of work was going on.

California Adventure was also the site of many changes. Adding the Red Cars trolly system to the front of the park. The new water show installation still going on in the lagoon. The massive addition of Cars Land (based on the Pixar movie, Cars) was not visible except from elevated positions.

It was a lot of fun. Linda bought a lot of things for various family members. It is one of her ways of enjoying the park when we travel without the rest of the family. The shops are fun to visit, especially with so few people in the parks. I got a few more pins for my collection. My Disneyland hat is almost full of pins, and I think I may need to assess the future direction of my collecting. It is a fun hobby associated with Disneyland Resort visits, but can easily get out of hand.

The most fun was getting away with my wife, Linda. I am never convinced that she grasps how much I value her. Though I have moments of clarity and can often be articulate, that is one area of communication in which I always feel I fail.

So, Linda, before all of those who read these words, or might read them in the future, I say, "thank you." Thank you for this extended weekend in a very special place. Thank you for being my wife for over thirty years. I love you, and appreciate you more than I can truly express.

Thank you.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

In Disneyland today. Not crowded at all and the weather is great.

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

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Power Dance-

The predicted Storm of the Century was still a prediction. As usual, we had not really prepared. We were waiting, knowing we would lose power. Whenever Mother Nature sneezes, we lose power. Though we are not particularly out "in the sticks," our little node on the power grid seems to be delicate.

Delicate, and low on the list of places to fix. We commonly experience three to seven days of power outages every year. If we had any of the wisdom I like to think of myself as having, we would be better prepared. We seldom are.

So, we wait. The storm hits. Not much of a much, but the power does go out. Six or seven hours later, it comes back on. We had been mostly sitting around, those of us who don't work or who had work cancelled. A lot of napping. The kids weren't yet going nuts. We knew that would come later. Then this surprise. They got the power back on quickly!

Turn on the TV for the kids! Rush to the computer! Post to Facebook! Ack! Both uninterpretable power supplies are screaming! It went out again! So, the evening progressed, and everyone went to bed early.

Next day, time to "prepare." Maybe it should just be called "pare," since we missed the window for "pre." Somehow that just doesn't make sense. Anyway, we start by setting up camp stoves and trying to use what food we could before the refrigerator no longer is cold enough.

As evening comes on, the children are beginning to recognize that a life without power is something foreign. It is not fun, and the fact that it is different does not offset the fact that it sucks. Manic moments give way to generalized wailing and gnashing of teeth.

I go out, plotting my course based on the unusual traffic patterns. Too many cars where they ought not to be, moving slowly. My path is fast, because nobody is going that way. My objective: food and ice. I had the ice chest in the truck for transporting the ice. The food would be hamburger buns and some chips so we could consume some frozen burgers before they became useless.

My objective secured, buns in the truck and ice in the chest, and I head back. I try to follow my carefully planned route back, but the strangeness in traffic patterns holds true this way. Backed up. Moving slowly. I reroute through back roads, try another way. Slow. Slow. Slow.

I am nearly home, and only had one near miss, almost kissing bumpers with a mini-SUV. Mini-SUV. Strange concept, really, but I don't have time to think about it. I have to get home with the supplies. Visions of the Donner Party might or might not have passed through my mind as I waded through the strange traffic.

It should not be still bumper-to-bumper here. What's wrong? Flashing blue lights ahead. Deputy waving flashlight. CHP officer waving flashlight. My road is blocked off! Power company trucks, several of them, groaning in the dark. I am redirected into a church parking lot.

An hour, maybe, the Chippy said. Cars roll through the parking lot, seeking egress an an alternative route. I get out and talk to the deputy. My alternative routes are all closed. I hike to Safeway and buy a sandwich. I bring it back and eat it in my truck. I have water in the truck, to drink with my sandwich.

I call home. Nobody there knows how to use the camp stove. Still no "pre" in our "prepared." They eat cereal while I have a tailgate party with the dozens waiting in the parking lot. Actually, I exchange a few words in passing, eat my sandwich and then break into the bag of chips I had purchased for dinner.

Finally we can go. The downed power lines are off of the street, the power company people and police have been exemplary in performing their difficult duties, and I am on my way home.

Once there we move what can be salvaged from the refrigerator to the ice chest, and muddle on through the night. Those of us who read do so by candle light. The rest count the hours. Early to bed, since all of us know how to sleep and it is a very attractive option.

Next day. Or has it been a week? More reading. Another food run, just something to get us through. The kids are restless, but over time they seem to be adjusting. Grandma reading to them. Playing with toys. Wanting to blow out the candles, not understanding that our light is coming from those little flames.

The house is surprisingly dark even in the daytime. The hillside that protects us from much of the wind also diminishes out access to light. The 1960's inattention to passive power conservation did not lead to a sound 21st century design. We are burning a lot of candles, and camp stove propane.

The candles are our only "pre" in "prepared." We have a lot of them. They are cheap at Ikea, and some had been purchased mostly for decoration. Whatever the case, I have read most of my current book by the candle light.

Being disconnected from the electronic world we begin to adjust. Not all that bad, really. The children are enjoying being read to, and are finding things to do. Nobody is going completely crazy. At least, not yet.

Another evening. The prospect of "early to bed" is just being contemplated when the lights come on. Too late, really, to get on the computer and try and make up for three down days. Facebook will have to wait.

"The power's on!" shouts my grandson Lucas, bounding out of a back bedroom. He begins dancing in the hallway, infecting his brother and sister with the joy of electricity. "The power's on!" they chant, doing the Power Dance.

Addicted to electricity? Probably. Still, there were quiet moments. The warm light of the candle on the pages of my book was rather pleasant. Really.

Do I long for another era, a quieter time? Absolutely not. The power's on, and I feel like dancing!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How to be funny-

I can be a funny guy. When I was young I wanted to be cool, and I wanted to be funny. A neighbor kid named Howard wanted to start a comedy team, like Martin and Lewis, or Rowan and Martin, or something like The Three Stooges (lite). We tried too hard. Often silly, frequently annoying, seldom funny.

Eventually I learned the secret, at least for me. Just say stuff. Something happens, make an observation. People have editors built into their listening system. We don't really hear much of what we say to each other. So, the dumb stuff I said that was just dumb got edited out. The funny stuff made an impact. I was funny due simply to volume.

One of my former co-workers told jokes. He remembered jokes, and told them to everyone. He did it well. I don't do jokes well, since they require a memory. I don't have a memory that is particularly accessible. Oh, there is a lot of random information in there, but it just comes out when the right nerve endings are stimulated, not when I want it. Again, I just say stuff. Somehow that makes me seem smart.

Combined with my approach to comedy, that pretty much makes me a smart ass. It's incidental comedy. It works for me.

Of course, if you don't keep the annoyance level under control it can just be a smart ass being irritating. Timing is everything.

How about another fascinating illustration from jail life? Thought you would never ask. We had this really crazy lady who had to go to an institution. She was loud, obnoxious and sometimes violent. The team from the institution arrived and we prepared for the transfer.

I was working the housing unit where this woman was housed, so I was leader of our team. Two of us, two of the institution heavies, and a back-up team in case things went badly. We went in fast, got the woman on the ground, and began applying belly chains and shackles.

The woman is pressed to the ground, her arms and feet held by professional correctional staff, and she growled out some complaints. She didn't complain about the discomfort, or how scary we were, or anything like that. She was telling us we were doing it wrong.

"You're criticizing our technique?" I quipped. Apparently the timing was correct, because the jail staff laughed. The observing medical staff laughed. The woman I had pinned to the ground laughed. After that the preparations for transportation went quickly and she was whisked off to the institution.

In itself this is not a particularly funny story. It was definitely one of those "you had to be there" kind of tale. It illustrates my point. I tossed out something, and people laughed. In the midst of the madness and adrenaline, I hit a comedic moment and it worked. It also helped make the job go better, a technique I liked to use often in jail. I prefer laughing to fighting.

As a footnote, the woman came back from the institution several months later. She had been forced to take her medications, and when I saw her again she was a genuinely sweet person. She even apologized for whatever trouble she might have caused. I have no idea what happened to her after that, but I do hope she is doing well, and able to stay on her medications when she is free to make her own choices.

I learned to be funny by relaxing and not trying to be funny. I like to laugh, and I don't need to be the only funny guy in the room. In fact, a really fun way to be funny is playing straight man to other people. Throw out words or observations that someone can make a quip about. A lot of people will take the bait, make a joke, and everyone can laugh.

Don't forget, the word "fun" is in funny. So is the word "nny", but I don't know what it means and I can't pronounce it. So, share the spotlight, have fun, and laugh often.

Now, does anyone know how to be "cool?"

Monday, January 4, 2010

My Ideal Job-

I have been using What Color is your Parachute to aid me in finding my next career. It is a useful tool, one that has stood the test of time. There are a number of exercises in the book to aid the reader in assessing their desires and skills. There is quite a bit on networking, making the contacts necessary to find work. All in all, a good reference for the job seeker.

What I have been doing for the past month is not the best job search technique, according to the book. I have been using job sites to find and apply for work. This is relatively simple, and easy to do from home. Most of the other suggestions are good. The best require superb networking skills and a lot of luck.

What I would like to do is more like a hobby or retirement project than a real job. I would really enjoy traveling around, documenting my travels on video and in writing. I have studied a number of highways and routes in the United States, and would love to document these roads and the places found along them.

I visualize a vehicle that is small enough to park in a single parking space, yet can be lived in for weeks at a time. This vehicle is outfitted with camera mounts to allow for video capture while on the road, and enough electrical storage to allow for operating cameras and computers in remote locations. The equipment must be portable, to allow for using motel rooms as editing studios as well as a break from camping.

How can this activity provide income? Well, a monetized web site associated with the adventure could provide some. DVD sales could provide some income. Books about the highways and byways and what is discovered along the way could also provide income. Amazon provides an outlet for such products and the resources to bring them to market.

The market, that is one real issue. How much of a market is there for such travel adventure documents? Enough to provide the income I need? With my pension and other household incomes we can cover costs, but will have little beyond just surviving. I need another income source.

If it were just me, I would do this. I would make it happen. However, it is not just me. I still have a family to care for, even if I have retired from law enforcement. So, I seek a less adventurous source of income, one that will probably keep me from such an adventure.

That is not bad. I love and enjoy my family, and where we live is a very nice place. Still, the road and adventure call to me. Perhaps I can find a next career that will allow me to fulfill this dream of adventure, and still provide for those who love and depend on me.

I won't stop dreaming, and I certainly won't stop writing. I believe I can find a way.

What color is my parachute? Even after reading the book, I don't really know. I do know I am better equipped to find a job than I was before I read the book. I have found jobs before, even though none were particularly fulfilling.

Maybe this time will be my time.