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!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mobile Man Cave-

My Mother's recent serious illness and brush with death prompted myself and a significant portion of my family to travel to Medford, Oregon. Once the crisis was passed and we were beginning to move more toward a normal state we had opportunity to go to my sister Conni's house.

I noted a van out front. To be specific, a 1993 Chevy Gladiator conversion van. I made some comment about the van. I don't recall just what. Conni said she was thinking of getting rid of it. She was considering getting something that got better mileage. They no longer had the boat they used to tow with the van, and it was no longer what she needed.

My Son-in-law Dave was watching me closely. Apparently my eyes had lit up a bit. I had been talking about getting a van for quite some time. Dave has been wanting my truck, which used to be his truck before he let me have it. We took over payments, they moved away, and now they have moved  back. Dave and I smiled.

Family dynamic and family economics are complicated.

I asked how much Conni wanted for the van. She gave me a price. A very good price. Dave had some money available to buy the truck, if I ever got a van. Hmmm. This was looking like it might work.

Over the following week arrangements were made, and now I have a van. A rather nice van, in spite of the years and miles on it. Dave will get a truck, and I now have a mobile man cave. A space of my own. A portable hole to hide in.

Mom is doing well. The California part of the family has returned to California. Now having transportation of my own, I remained for a bit more family time and to help where I could. Soon I will begin my first real journey with my mobile man cave.

I do need to get home, but having a portable living space makes a slow journey seem appealing. I really do need to get home, and I do wish to see everybody back home. Still, a little time on the road has a certain appeal.

Too bad most of my camping gear is at home.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Death is just a breath away-

My Mother came very close to death last week. I received the news that I have long anticipated and dreaded. I live about 400 miles away from my parents, who are both in their late 70's. As parents age, even though they are in generally good health, "the phone call" is just an anticipated part of life.

My sister Donni called. Mom was in the hospital, in Intensive Care. The insideous cold of this season, the Winter of 2009, had brought her close to death, and she was struggling for life at that very moment. Cold, as in a usually minor viral infection. Sneazing, sniffling, and coughing. Runny noses and lots of tissues.

The cold challenged a system already compromised by emphazema, and a body in a generally weakened state due to factors of which we would only learn later. Emphazema, pneumonia, and a handful of seamingly minor things brought my Mother near to death.

My daughter Beth was instrumental in mobilizing an emergency family visit. She and her husband Dave soon had their four children and the vehicle ready. Time off from work was quickly arranged, lots of little details pulled together quickly.

Though this phone call was long anticipated, I was still in shock. My Mother. Mom's can't die. That is just not possible. Logic plays no part. Mom can't die. I prayed, and finally began to pack a few things.

We drove through the night, arriving in Medford, Oregon in the early morning. Waking my Dad, we huddled and learned the details. Mom had been sick. She hadn't arisen as usual and remained in bed for many hours. My sister Donni came over with some soup to feed her, but she wouldn't respond.

They called 911, and help began ariving in minutes. First responders crowded the bedroom, where Dad stood anxiously watching. She was quickly prepared for transport and moved to the ambulance. Dad and Donni followed.

Mom was hooked up to a breathing system to pump in oxygen and draw out expended gasses. Intrvenous fluids and medications were many. Tubes and a multitude of devices were attached. Mom was the most compromised individual in the ICU. She existed on the cusp of death.

In small groups we visited her in the ICU. She was conscious when I visited, and frustrated by the breathing apparatus strapped to her face. She couldn't talk through the heavy plastic device. It was very hard to see her there, but encouraging in that moment by moment she was getting better.

Hour by hour, and then day by day she was getting better. My third visit found Mom without that blessed and dreaded mask. She could talk! Mom was coming back to us!

To keep busy and provide a clean environment at home for continued recovery the family launched into a massive cleaning campaign. My Dad and my two sisters were cleaning fanatics, and I joined in to provide some support and another pair of hands.

Family was together for meals and hospital visits. Great grand parents and great grand children, and everyone in between and even remotely family. Drawn together to rally and support and just be with each other. There was a warmth and richness and depth of sharing that offset the dread of the shadow of death.

I missed my wife, Linda. She had remained behind to be available to her own ageing Mother. Alta, her Mother, remains in reasonably good health, but later life is it's own danger. Travel would have been hard on her, and so they remained behind.

My brother in law, Paul, used some of his travel points to provide a very nice hotel suite for Beth, Dave and the kids. Though my children and grand children are troopers and would have camped on floors with delight, this provision was ever so much better. Dad could enjoy the grand children and great grand children, and still have a little peace in the late evening after a busy day.

Today my Mother is scheduled for release from the hospital. Nine days of ordeal behind her, and more time of recovery at home. That, and some lifestyle changes. She will be supported in the process of change, but still faces considerable challenge.

We learned a few things. Rest is good when someone is ill, but excessive tiredness and too much sleeping may indicate a serious condition. A compromised breathing system can cause a decline in the desire for food, and a downward spiral initiated as malnutrition sets in and compromises even more systems.

Most important of all, we learned again the value of family. Being there, being together even with all of our combined inadequacies, is important. Why it is important may or may not be quantifiable, but it is important. Building bonds of tolerance and mutual support in the family may well be our most important work in life.

So, enough blogging. It is time to make the final preparations. My Mother is coming home.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Real Player update and Computer Literacy-

I began my computer adventures in high school, which was not common in the late 1960's. My personal computer adventures began in the mid-1980's. A friend, Michael Wilson, fed me some surplus parts he had, and I cobbled together my first computer. He also supplied some stuff for my second computer, and I learned a lot putting them together and learning to operate them.

Not too far into that adventure I became what was known then as a "power user." That sounds pretty cool, but any child working with a computer today would probably earn the title with what they know. It was a comfortable competence in managing files and tweaking programs to get them to run together. It was a tedious process in those days. Once in a while I have experiences reminding me of those times, but for the most part computers are a bit easier to live with now.

Today I got a notice that the newest version of Real Player was available for download. I downloaded it immediately. I have learned that keeping your software up to date is critical for easy operation. So, I hit the download button. Immediately the first screen came up. It was an ad for Carbonite, the on-line back-up program being advertised frequently on television.

In the ad was a check box, which was already checked. It said that I wanted a trial version of Carbonite. I unchecked the box and went on with my download. This is not the first time this advertising ploy has come up, but it is a fairly recent development. I thought on the matter a bit, and realized that some of my Internet friends might not be aware of this new ploy.

Carbonite might well be a great program, but I already have a back-up plan in place. I do not want Carbonite, and many who might want to update their Real Player might not want Carbonite either. So, our lesson for today is to watch the ads coming along with automatic downloads. Look at those check boxes, and be sure to un-check any which are already checked if you don't want the product or service.

Younger people who have grown up with personal computers may consider this a "duh" moment, but older users often overlook a lot of what goes on with their computers. Many postpone critical updates not realizing how important they are. Advertisers do realize how important those regular updates are, and attach the ads for that reason.

So, look at those update offers. Make sure they are updates for programs you use. Watch the update process as it occurs, and especially note any check boxes that already have checks in the box. Adding new programs which you do not want to your system will just clutter the computer, and makes it run poorly.

It takes only a little time and effort to become a "power user." Just a little learning  and a bit of vigilance can reward you with a smooth running computer and trouble free operation. Too much neglect will net you a computer repair bill to clean up a clogged and bloated system.

It's so simple, even a Cave Man can do it. So can you.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Finished reading The Wheel of Time, again....

This is the twelfth book in a series which is truly a single tale. Not a linked series of fantasy novels, but one long tale. I started rereading months ago. Each volume runs six to eight hundred pages long. A serious bit of reading, but enjoyable none-the-less.

Robert Jordan himself wrote the first eleven novels. The balance of the story was in the works when a rare disease took his life. Brandon Sanderson has been selected to write the rest of the story, and he picked up the tale and presented it admirably.

I expect the next volume to come out on schedule next Fall. I hope that the tale will remain fresh enough in my mind for that much time. Reading this epic yet again would be a challenge. Perhaps one day I will read the whole thing again in its entirety, when the final volume is completed. Until then I hope to simply pick up the story when the next volume comes out.

There is something to be said for reading series novels like this. Part of the fun is the anticipation of the next release. Generally books do not come out in a series like this more frequently than one volume each year. In some cases a bit more time is required to craft the next installment, as Harry Potter fans learned over the course of that series.

Yes, I read Harry Potter as well. That series only once, so far. I have read The Lord of the Rings more than ten times, though I cannot recall the exact count. Every couple of years I feel compelled to visit Middle Earth again. I am delighted that both Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings made the transition to movies quite well. I view the movies again from time to time, being a bit more approachable than a reading.

Perhaps not that much more approachable, come to think of it. My extended edition of The Lord of the Rings runs around thirteen hours, and the completed Harry Potter series will probably go quite a bit longer when finished. That's a bit more than an evening of movies at home.

Such series literature will be both the blessing and the curse of the eReader, no matter what model each of us ends up with. Those of you planning to hold out continue in your delusions. The prospect of carrying your entire library everywhere will necessarily draw even the most devout of "real book" readers. Most of us will still have favorites in paper book form, but we will have fewer and fewer as time goes by.

It is the transition that will be troublesome. It will be necessary to purchase once again each of those favorites, unless someone in the reading industry comes up with a way to make the transition easier. I may never give up my Red Book edition of The Lord of the Rings or my signed copy of one of the volumes of The Wheel of Time, but I will gladly exchange the hard copy of most of my hard copy books for a free or deeply discounted electronic counterpart.

But, that is then, this is now. Next, the Chainfire trilogy in Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. I acquired the second and third novels this last Christmas, and now that I am in waiting mode for the next volume in The Wheel of Time, I have time to read them.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Health is a treasure-

For almost two weeks I had some mild symptoms of this cold that is "going around." Not to mention snot encrusted grandchildren. My daughter had to steam the baby (just days old) by taking her into a hot shower. So, I knew that things would eventually turn bad for me.

The day before yesterday was the day. My head filled with vile fluids and the coughing and sneezing began. Thinking and any capacity to really concentrate vanished. For a blogoholic this is not good. Fortunately, Facebook requires much less concentration and can be done during lucid moments in between sneezes, coughing fits and nose blowing.

These microscopic viruses have kicked my ample butt. Yesterday I did little, and wished I could do less. I slept a lot, knowing that such is a good thing for a warrior facing microscopic foe. I drank a lot of water, some tea, and rested. My bloggish thoughts were slowed, and I watched some pointless television. When it is a repeat, and a recent repeat at that, and you watch it again, it is pointless television.

I longed for some brandy, knowing that moderate doses may not really improve the symptoms or reduce the time of illness, but it would help the time pass more quickly and make pointless television less pointless. Seemingly. However, we lacked that elixir and I had to settle for Nyquil/Dayquil knock-offs for some symptom relief. Television did not get any better.

It is a day and a half later, and the cotton in my head has migrated largely through my nose into toilet paper, which is gathered in a paper gift bag. It was the handiest disposable receptacle I had, and the cheerful colors could not hurt in the effort to improve my subjective experience. I am getting better, or at least have some hope that I am getting better.

My thinker is again moving, cogitating on the news and blogs and daily life. Colds are a sufficient reminder that health can be fleeting, and should be appreciated while it is good.

I am aware that some people live with debilitating health problems which challenge them in finding a satisfying way of life. During times of my own good health I try to remember those people, and when I have a small downturn such as this cold I am reminded again of those who suffer just because an organ or something equally vital does not function properly.

Pancreatics especially come to mind, as I have experienced the exquisite pain of an acute pancreatitis attack. A former coworker who has both experienced giving birth to a child and had pancreatitis told me that I almost knew the pain of childbirth. Dislocations, broken bones, torn muscles are nothing in comparison.

People with chronic pancreatitis suffer this pain frequently. Some live with it all of the time. They have severely restricted diets due to a compromised digestive system. Yet many of them manage to maintain jobs and families and relationships, and find value in their lives.

That is only one such disease, one with which I am personally experienced. Many suffer from many different causes, and need minimally our prayers and good wishes. Like everyone else, once a hard time has passed I tend to get involved in my own life and fail to think of the many needs out there. I do not have a compassionate nature, unfortunately, so I am not one of those heroic persons that champion causes to serve this need, or that. Still, I recognize that I could do more, but don't.

There truly are more causes than my resources can service, even if my compassion were sufficient to drive me to impoverish myself to serve others. That is not the way. Few can follow such a path, and I know I am not one of them. However, I can commit myself to meet such needs as actually cross my path. I can determine in advance not to turn away from a need I actually see.

I can further determine what needs I currently service with my resources, and what I fail to use wisely. Caring for family and community is a good use of resources, and robbing those to serve others would neither be noble nor right. Yet I know that I waste resources, and allow others to do so without challenge. Perhaps it is time once again to examine my values and how they work out in the world.

Well, this has proved to be quite a lot of fruitful thought from such a small cold. Whether or not it inspires any fruitful action on my part or anyone else's remains to be seen.

Hmmm. What might arise from a root canal?

Friday, March 5, 2010


I am perennially fascinated by people who are dedicated. For example, visit this site. Look at those pictures. You can't, of course, if you didn't visit the site. If you haven't, do it now. Really. I can't go on until you do, because I am going to write about the images at that site. Done now? Good.

That man is dedicated. Devoted. Imagine the number of hours he had to spend developing the necessary skills to assemble Lego bricks into such phenomenal shapes. Such compelling images. Prior to applying artistic skill to the unusual medium of Lego bricks he had to develop his skills and sensibilities in art. Prior to that I imagine he had some natural drive or compulsion toward art in the first place.

I have put a few bricks together, though I am old enough not to have grown up with Lego bricks as part of the structure of my youth. This man has taken that childhood experience and nominal skill to a level few could imagine. That, of course, is why his work is interesting, compelling, and special.

Mary Engelbreit began drawing and coloring her drawings in her childhood. She continued into adulthood, eventually creating an art empire which had a solid period of success as a business. Dedicated. Focussed. She knew what she loved, she did it, and even did well by it.

I have been to only one ballet. It was an unusual ballet, in that baseball players from the Oakland Athletics baseball team performed a few bit parts in the production of The Nutcracker Suite. I noticed the bodies of the dancers, the physical conditioning that was necessary to achieve that level of power and control. Different from, yet similar to, the physical conditioning of the ball players. Athletes all, yet motivated differently.

Of course, some of my observations were motivated by my own area of expertise. As a correctional officer it was occasionally necessary to physically restrain people. That is a polite way to say that I occasionally had to fight people. So, I was constantly evaluating people for indications of how I might do that well. Part of such an evaluation was assessing physical conditioning and how they moved.

I would not want to fight a professional ball player. Most of them are large and have intimidating bodies. However, after watching the ballet dancers, I absolutely would not want to fight any of them. Male or female. They are physically less imposing, but from watching them I knew that the speed, strength and control they presented in the art of dance could transfer quickly and efficiently into affective combat.

Dedication. Baseball and ballet. Consider the hours necessary to master either in order to become a professional. The emotional investment, the devotion of resources.

Then there is music. I met a fellow named Billy Crockett at a small venue concert. His concert. He is a very good artist on the guitar. So good that Eric Clapton recognized him as a peer, or so I heard from a friend in the music business. Crockett never achieved the level of international recognition of Clapton, but if it is true that Clapton recognized a peer in Crockett, it is indeed high praise.

Devotion, dedication, commitment. The investment of time and energy. The investment of blood, sweat, and tears. I find it fascinating, probably because I have never been that driven, compelled, or focussed. The brevity of life and the breadth of my interests has compelled me to explore, sample, and contemplate. I have touched on various arts and skills and experienced enough to appreciate the devotion necessary to become the very best.

Of course, such devotion can have a price. Take Kenny Rogers as an example. He has achieved considerable success over several decades as a singer and song writer, and several other aspects of the entertainment industry. Devoted. He has been married five times. His first marriage was literally sacrificed for the sake of his career. I suspect the same may have been the case for the other failed marriages, as well.

I do not present Rogers as an object to be ridiculed. His personal life and his relationships are his responsibility. My point is simply that the object of devotion and the subsequent acts of devotion demand sacrifice. Time, money, energy, and many other aspects of life are sacrificed for the object of devotion. Some devotees are better at balancing the commitment, some not so much so.

Back to baseball, during the era in which I attended the baseball ballet blending in The Nutcracker Suite. An unfortunate number of those baseball players were so devoted to the art of baseball that they violated rules, regulations and laws to use steroids to enhance their performances. Another price of devotion, perhaps a price too high.

How about devotion to family? Can this, too, be taken to such extremes as to be unbalanced and therefore counter-productive? I believe so. Parents can often become so committed as to sacrifice proper care of themselves, and suffer deterioration of mental or physical health as a consequence. Such devotion is unbalanced, and a failure to achieve the goal of providing well for the family.

Then there is the pinnacle of devotion, devotion to God. A saying in the evangelical church; "It is better to burn out for God than to rust out." Perhaps that is true, but isn't a long, well-balanced life of devotion worth more than either?

Devotion is a very worthy mental state. Commitment is important, and can enrich the life of the devotee and the lives of others. However, devotion must be balanced by wisdom and a commitment to wholeness. We cannot all be shining stars, nor should we all wish to be. Striving to do well in our assumed and assigned responsibilities can be devotion enough.

The adulation and respect of the multitudes is not a bad thing. Better, by far, is a well founded sense of your own value and a respect for yourself.

Devotion is a choice. Choose wisely. Choose well.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Stephen King moments-

Many, many years ago I got to wondering what was so big about this Stephen King fellow. I figured he had to be some kind of hack writer to be so popular, with all of his popularity and such. My wife picked up Pet Sematary for me, and I had my first taste of his writing.

I immediately got a grip on what was so compelling about Stephen King's horror. He takes ordinary, flawed human beings and presents them in such a way that you get to like them. Then he does terrible things to them. After that he does more terrible things to them. Then things go downhill from there.

He also has a knack for pacing. I have actually (informally) studied his techniques to improve my own writing. His stories may not always be deep or profound, but they are always compelling.

Following the reading of Pet Sematary I had my first Stephen King moment. I was afraid of the dark for two days. I had not had a generalized fear of the dark since childhood, yet that book made me afraid of the dark.

I read Carrie next. This was King's break-out novel, the one that gave him sufficient wealth to become a full-time writer. I haven't been to a prom since reading this book, but that is not a Stephen King moment. I just haven't been invited. My dress is still hanging in the closet, but that is another matter, entirely.

Over time I read a lot of King's works. Not all, but a significant percentage. Some were very good, others not so much so, but everything was worth the time invested. And so, not in any particular order, I present the other works that are associated with a Stephen King moment.

The Stand is arguably one of his finest works. Epic in scale, beautifully knit together, and a classic theme of GOOD versus EVIL. Anyone sneezing following the reading of this book became a Stephen King moment. I have read it several times, once in the original published version and twice in the expanded version. Every time it caused me to pause whenever anyone sneezed.

IT. I really liked this book, both from the perspective of entertainment and from a technical standpoint. I studied the character development, the flash-back technique, and the difficult development of children as characters. That I did much later. First, I remember coveting the book.

This book came out at a time when I just did not have the money to buy hard-back new releases. The cover art work was compelling, and the book was prominently displayed in bookstores everywhere. I hungered to have this book. What was that evil thing lurking in the sewer drain? I had to know.

That might or might not be the first hard back Stephen King novel I received for Christmas. I have no real memory for such things. For many years my wife knew that the latest King release would serve as a suitable gift for me, and I have quite a number of his hard backs on my shelf. Suffice it to say that I somehow got the coveted volume, and devoured it.

My wife also read this one, and had her Stephen King moment before I did. She was driving the kids to or from something, I don't recall what, when a balloon drifted across the road just in front of her windshield. A balloon is a very strange phobic device, but King had used it in IT. For such a phobic device to suddenly drift in front of a moving vehicle, a device that was a portent of evil to come, can be very disturbing. It was.

My own was equally strange. I was riding the metro bus home along a country road. I looked to my left out of the window, and saw a clown leaning on the roadside fence. I did a double-take, and the clown was still there. A very real clown, leaning on the fence and staring across the street down which I was traveling.

Moments later we passed a field in which a circus tent had been erected, and it all made sense. For a moment, having only recently read IT, it was surreal. For those unfamiliar with IT, the clown is another phobic device in the tale. A very powerful phobic device.

That's about it for Stephen King moments. Oh, except for Gerald's Game. I happened to be working in a field in which handcuffs were a part of my equipment. After I read that book, I gave it to my wife to read. Following that reading I was no longer encouraged to bring the handcuffs home.