Wrote this Christmas 2007 newsletter over two weeks ago and forgot to link it here until now…
…blame the meds.
The more Steph and I listen to Brad Paisley, the more impressed we are. (Those of you who don’t know who he is, he’s a country singer. If you don’t like country, that’s fine, you can stop reading, although I suggest you go to the video section of his website and at the very least watch Whiskey Lullaby, the duet he does with the incomparable Alison Krauss.) Tonight, though, I came in the middle of a new song on our local radio station: Letter to Me. The basic premise is simple: the song is a list of the things the singer would tell his 17 year-old self.
The best line of the song comes in the bridge:
And I’d end up saying have no fear
These are nowhere near the best years of your life
I don’t think I can tell you just how nice it is to hear one of these types of songs that doesn’t wallow in that sugar-coated all-American myth that “your high school years are the best years of your life.” Those years aren’t your best years — they shouldn’t be, at any rate — and if they are, you either need to pull your head out of your ass and look around to see how good your life is or you need to get in line for a serious kick in the ass.
Thanks, Brad. You continue to confirm that you are one of the coolest people in the music business.
Yesterday evening, I found out that author James Oliver Rigney died yesterday after a long struggle with amyloidosis (a disease where your body deposits insoluble proteins in its own tissues and organs). Mr. Rigney was better known under a variety of pennames; the one that touched my life the most was Robert Jordan, author of the best-selling Wheel of Time fantasy series.
At one point in my life, I was extremely active in the rec.arts.sf.written.robert-jordan Usenet newsgroup. We’re talking ancient history here — at least a year and a half before I was married according to Google (and I think they’re missing a lot of the older stuff). My participation in that group filled a huge gap in my social life at a really shitty time in my life. I don’t even remember how I got introduced to The Wheel of Time, but I do remember that I was just in time to read the first three and start waiting for the fourth book along with everyone else. My days of Usenet participation are long past, but I still have a handful of active friendships from that group.
More importantly, that group –and thus Robert Jordan — is directly responsible for me deciding to move to Tacoma and thus be in the right place at the right time to meet the woman who would become my wife. I stopped reading the books many years ago (maybe I’ll get into my reasons some other day when it won’t just sound like bashing the departed, and if people actually care) but they brought me from the worst place in my life to the best place in my life. It took a while for the news to hit me, but hit me it finally did last night. Robert Jordan introduced me to many neat people, including the person who is my best friend, my lover, and my partner in all ways.
Thank you, Mr. Rigney. You have been loved, you will be missed, you have touched my life, and I send you back to the Light with sadness and gratitude.
I’m working from home today, for various and sundry reasons. It’s been a stressful week, for more various and sundry reasons.I figured out why I was getting particularly steamed today by looking at my Caller ID.
18 inbound calls.
Dude. That’s not counting the frequent outbound calls.
No wonder I’m still stressed.
Summer is here and school is out, so the kids are looking for more to do. One thing they won’t be doing for the next couple of weeks, however, is riding their bikes.
You see, some bastard(s) stole their bikes at some point in the last couple of days (we were out most of Friday, so it could have been any time from Friday afternoon until Saturday afternoon. We assume that the parties who felt the need to liberate the bikes from our carport are the same parties who helped themselves to Nick and Steph’s bikes last Sunday. (Nick stored his bike here since he doesn’t have room at his apartment.)
Needless to say, the kids were pretty upset yesterday when they’d put on their helmets and went out to ride. These bikes were their major Christmas presents and were the first brand-new bikes either child has owned. They’ve taken pretty good care of them, all things considered, and really enjoyed having mountain bikes with multiple gears.
I’m not sure how we’re going to replace them at this point. Nick offered to pick up a couple of new bikes for them in a couple of weeks, and we’ll probably let him help us out, but he’s not going to shoulder it on his own. We need to find some way to scrounge up the money from what is a tight time of the year for various reasons (mainly because we’ve been aggressively paying off debts). Steph, of course, immediately started looking on Craigslist and Freecycle, but Nick suggested — and I agree with him completely — that we may want to spend the extra money for new bikes, since the kids’ bikes were new and were lost through no fault of their own.
I’m trying to maintain a good attitude about this. After all, like I told the kids, their mother and I believe that God gives us financial resources for many reasons, including ministering to others, and if someone is in a bad enough place in their lives to steal someone else’s bike then a) they probably need it worse than we do and b) they have to answer to God about it. The kids are pondering that one thoughtfully; they don’t entirely accept it, and I honestly don’t expect them to, especially since I flat-out admitted that that’s a hard one for me to keep my head wrapped around all the time. It did, however, get them thinking about the general wisdom of getting really attached to material things (and carefully picking which things, if any, you get attached to), which is a huge step forward.
I, however, just want to find the people who made my kids cry and introduce their face to my aluminum baseball bat. With all the love of Jesus in my arm, of course.
Edit: Started NFSMW last November, not April.
It’s been a long time since I posted on any of my blogs. Between lots of travel in April into May, a lot of work, and starting a new technical book for Sybex — not to mention still trying to make time (and more often than not failing) to be a good supportive husband and loving, patient father — I’ve had very little spare time, and what time I *did* have goes straight to vegging out by reading, playing Nick’s PlayStation 2 (I started Need For Speed: Most Wanted last November, and finally finished it near the end of May), or playing the PC (I finished Alaric’s Lego Star Wars and helped him get it finished too).
However, it’s Father’s Day, so happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. Mine has been relatively quiet and while it started off with a migraine, it’s been relatively decent. I got a lovely brunch, a Tenth Doctor sonic screwdriver (which will look fantastic! with the rest of my SF toy collection at work), and the family is off hunting down a copy of Lego Star Wars II for the PC for me. I also had time to read a couple of chapters out of Castle of Wizardry to the kids, book four of David Eddings’ classic high fantasy series The Belgariad.
Before I head back to finishing up the whitepaper (we had some medical issues on Thursday and Friday that interfered took time away from my work schedule without adjusting the deadlines correspondingly) I’ve been working on, and then on to editing more chapters for my book (more about that in a separate post), I wanted to share with you a thought-provoking little YouTube clip I found thanks to my daily blog reading. The remarkable thing about this piece is that it was put together by a 15-year old.
Thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer.
I was looking back through my LiveJournal and found this piece from 2004 Jun 30. For some reason it struck me, so first I’m going to repost the content here, then I’ll add my additional thoughts after.
Put on the extended version of Fellowship of the Ring tonight to help grease my mental wheels while catching up on the badly neglected Exchange Cookbook recipes I owe my co-workers. Noticed something this time and was finally able to put it into words.
The cave troll scene in Moria always makes me feel sad. He always strikes me as a picked-on, abused victim who finally finds someone he can thump on. Kinda like he’s the really big, but really slow, older brother of one of the cool orcs. Cool Orc doesn’t want brother to tag along, but some time ago, Momma Orc put her foot down, so Cool Orc and the gang are stuck with having to let him tag along. Over the years, they’ve gotten accustomed to the benefits of this arrangement: he’s big and, with the proper teasing, quite scary. He’s a great prop for terrorizing dwarves and holding up other gangs of orcs for their milk money.
Then Cool Orc and his gang — and poor cave troll — run into the Fellowship. Cool Orc and his cronies realize that they’re in over their head — hell, maybe Cool Orc is the one who takes Legolas’s first arrow in the throat. So the rest of the the gang is pissed about that, but also has lost all control over the cave troll, who sees Cool Orc gurgling in a pool of his own blood with a nice feather throat piercing compliments of the prettiest boy-elf this side of Valinor, and yeah — he’s pissed. Conflicted, but still, this is family, and you don’t let tragically hip elves in facepowder and down-to-his-ass hair kill family.
So of course he goes nuts, and yeah he tries to skewer Frodo. But still, he’s not on top of it all, and the orcs have left him to his fate pretty quickly, and it’s sad.
That’s all I’m saying. Maybe I should go to bed now.
For the most part, this is still an accurate description of my feelings when watching this scene. It occurs to me to wonder why, in a world that is clearly designed with Good and Evil — and in which orcs and and trolls are clearly Evil — I still identify with one of the bad guys, at least in this way. It’s easy to understand with Gollum/Smeagol — during the narrative, we clearly see the duality within him, presenting as it does a mirror for the struggle going on within Frodo — because he’s meant to generate at least some sense of compassion.
So am I projecting, here, when I watch this scene and see the cave troll, or am I seeing hints that Jackson & company put in? The animators and special-effects crew clearly put a lot of time in to creating the cave troll model; for them, he’s not just a clear-cut case of evil foil, an obstacle to be vanquished. They put hours and hours of sweat and tears into him, even as they knew that his fate was to die on-screen.
How often do we see cave trolls in our own life? Like that asshole in the BMW on I-405 today who came across three lanes of traffic to zip into my lane just in front of me when there really wasn’t enough space, when he had 15 carlengths behind me — clearly, he is Evil. Needs an axe to the head. But when I get frustrated in traffic, see an opening and go for it, I’m the noble hero of the piece, only taking that which is my due.
Maybe not. Maybe it’s just my turn to be the asshole.
Four 3-day trips in four weeks:
For those of you keeping score at home, yes, it’s why my blogging has been very sporadic of late. And I’m particularly annoyed about the timing of the current trip; turns out John Scalzi was doing a signing in Seattle yesterday, and that would have been something I would have gone to had my travel schedule not prevented it.
Needless to say, I’m a bit burnt out. Travel always screws me up to begin with; this series has been particularly hard, because the last time I did this kind of back-to-back travel was several jobs ago (not that I cared for it then, either). And I’m not done yet: I still have one more Exchange 2007 roadshow date in Phoenix May 14-16, although at least for that one I’m flying into Tucson a couple of days early and meeting up with my parents and sister for the weekend.
Travel screws up my sleep schedule, big time. I finally got a decent night of sleep last night — I’m not sure how — but my body is repaying me now big time with massive insomnia. Partly it’s being away from home in a strange place and bed, partly it’s that the hotel beds are never quite right no matter how comfortable they may be (and since the roadshow has been putting me up in decent hotels, bed quality is actually pretty good). It screws up my eating, especially when I’m speaking — I hardly ever can eat lunch on a day I’m speaking, because I’m just too damn busy/nervous; even if I did find the time to eat and could find something suitable in whatever catered options we have at the events, I’d probably just throw it back up. It doesn’t help that I’ve made some recent big changes to my normal routine, and I’m trying to keep those changes in place and going even while traveling.
Plus, since I’m outside of my routines, I’m an insecure nervous wreck. I’ll take 15 minutes to lay out my clothes and various articles for the next day, then re-check them six times before I go to bed. I’m very precise about how I unpack and where I put stuff. I maintain a level of worry just below “freak out” over things like getting to the venue/airport on time, and obsessively check and verify addresses and route maps. Not that this level of preparation is a bad thing, mind you; I hardly ever have to hurry in the morning (which is good because I’m usually groggier than crap), I hardly ever forget to take stuff along that I need, and I’ve been able to just hand our taxi driver a post-it note with the address of the venue the last two cities. But this level of obsessiveness takes it too far, and dumps me right in the middle of awkward, paranoia mode, which is so not helpful. If I’m chatting with one of my co-presenters and there’s a lull in the conversation, I’m immediately worrying that it’s a direct result of something I’ve done or said; if I don’t get included in a casual conversation, I spend minutes trying to figure out why. Take me out of my routine, and my Asperger’s isn’t at all far underneath the surface, no matter how well people tell me I conceal it.
The funny part is, I really love speaking — and the bigger the audience, the better. Smaller audiences require me to deal with a collection of individuals, which taxes my social skills to the limit. I find smaller audiences usually tend to be “flatter” — they don’t react as well to the jokes I make, they don’t tend to ask questions of the same intensity, and I just don’t seem to “click” as well with them. This is disappointing; I want my audiences to feel like they’re getting not just the technical information they paid for, but I want them to be entertained. I want them to feel like I’ve helped them. Hardly anyone who comes up to me afterwards and asks a good, hard question ever takes me up on my offer to email me so I can research and give them an answer. I tend to get good marks and comments on my feedback sheets, so if the people listening feel like I’m doing them a disservice, they’re not complaining about it, but I just can’t read them.
Give me an audience of 150+ people, though, and I start to have fun. I’m only nervous for a few seconds, and then something clicks and I turn on. The few times I’ve talked in front of a really large audience, I had great sessions — lots of fun, lots of laughter, and lots of good questions.
Having said all that, for being a smallish group today, the crowd here in Dallas was just plain fun. At the other venues, I’ve left my cowboy hat off when I got on stage; I left it on here and was able to get a laugh from it (at Anaheim’s expense; sorry, SoCal!) My post-lunchbreak observation that bringing in 100% clouds and rain to make the Seattle boy feel more at home was probably overkill got another good laugh. Thanks to everyone who showed up and had a kind word or question for me; y’all were great.
Now to see if I can get an hour or two of sleep before the wake-up call drags me out of bed. Have to get to the airport early enough to be sure to get on my flight home, since I’m not sure what kind of crowding has resulted from last night’s weather-related ground stop. I’d be more than mildly stressed at this point if I didn’t make it home tomorrow reasonably on-time.
While Steph and I were getting our Battlestar Galactica fix last night, I did something I haven’t done since mid-December 1992: have a shoe-shine party. I’ve got four pairs of nice black shoes that were in various states of repair, but before we figured out which ones were worth keeping and which ones need a new home, they all needed polishing. I used to be pretty good at shining shoes. I still am, once I got back into it. The only problem is that my right shoulder and arm have been aching all day today because of the non-typical exercise. That wouldn’t be so bad, but work recently got a foosball table and the shoulder screwed up my game today. Not like my game needs the help; I pretty much suck.
The key to putting a good shine on a shoe? Don’t stint on the polish, use your fingers to apply it (wrap a cloth around them first, of course), and don’t use plain water when you go to buff the excess polish off. We always used Listerine. You can use other things, but the point is to use something that evaporates fairly quickly (which is what leaves a good shine) without evaporating so quickly that the polish develops cracks. Listerine is a good balance. I’ve still got the glass bottle I bought after getting out of boot camp; apparently, they don’t sell Listerine in glass bottles anymore.
The combined smell of shoe polish and Listerine really did a head trip on me. My dreams last night were far more nostalgic than I’m used to. I remembered a lot of stuff I thought I’d forgotten, or at least had forgotten to think about. As crummy as my life was back in those days, it wasn’t all bad; there were some good times, too. It’s nice to remember that every now and then. Life was not all bad before I got married.
 Insert obligatory “BSG is the best show on television!” plug here. I keep lending out my DVD boxed sets.
I’ve never flown on Jet Blue, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about them. However, if the following turns out to be true, I will never step foot on their planes.
Jet Blue wanted to squeeze just a few more working hours out of its pilots but it needed the facts to prove that a change in FAA regulations wouldn’t lead to a spate of crashes and flight errors. Its solution? Hook up
5030 odd pilots to monitoring devices and make them illegally work in excess of FAA protocol in a makeshift clinical trial.
And it isn’t just Wired and BoingBoing talking about it. From the Wall Street Journal article Pilot-Fatigue Test Lands JetBlue
In Hot Water (should be a free link):
The airline says it never intended to mislead anyone at the FAA, and the JetBlue spokeswoman chalked the situation up to “a miscommunication,” though, she says, in retrospect the company understands “we have to widen the circle of consultation.” JetBlue said: “Safety is our bedrock value. It is the fundamental promise we make, and keep, to our customers and crew members.”
The spokeswoman says there were no in-flight emergencies during the test period, and safety was never compromised because a third pilot was always on board to take the controls if needed. The JetBlue pilots who participated in the experiment volunteered for the assignment.
That’s a heck of a miscommunication, even if they thought they had the approval of “lower-level FAA officials,” and even if they had a third pilot on-board to take over if needed.
The FAA officials who green-lighted this should be fired. The pilots should be fired. The Jet Blue executives who approved this stunt should be fired. But before any of them are fired, they should all be locked into a room with a stack of expensive stationary, decent pens, and the passenger lists from the flights in question, and hand-write a personal apology to each and every person whose lives they so casually played God with.
10/28: Updated links so, y’know, they work.
Again with the lack of posting. You’d think I was busy or something!
I’ve got some more writing fragments on the way. I’m trying to sit down and work on them when I have free moments, and then I’ll use the new scheduled posting feature in Community Server 2.1 to space them out so I get regular updates even when I’m away from the keyboard.
In fact, if all goes well, you won’t see this go live until 4pm this afternoon (Pacific time), even though I wrote it nearly 20 minutes earlier.
John doesn’t quote it directly in his post, but if you follow his link to the original article and read all three pages, you’ll come to this cheery bit of news:
Cat lovers need not get rid of their cats. The chances are not great that a modern cat, kept on a diet of safe cat food and not left to feed off rats, will transmit the parasite to humans. It’s possible, but not likely, Lafferty says.
Whew! Good to know.
I have a broken tooth and no set date for geting it fixed, so my phobia of dentists is free to whirl in full force. I’m constantly slurring, and the tooth next to it needs pulled as well. I’ve not been this self-conscious in years.
I have had the most difficult week of work I think I’ve ever had in my life. None of that difficulty is from technical reasons. The office is noisy, and I don’t feel like I fit in there anymore.
I just got home at eight. This is the earliest I’ve been home this week, other than the comp day I was given on Tuesday because we all thought the dentist would actually be, y’know, fixing my tooth.
Steph had a minor outpatient procedure on Tuesday afternoon. She’s still wiped and drained, and the kids have been taking advantage of that to try to play us against each other. That shit don’t fly.
Treanna just said grace over the meal. She prayed that Steph would be healed, and then added “And help Dad with his over-sad, over-mad times.” I felt like I’d been punched in the testicles. I couldn’t eat, and got up to hid the fact that I was crying.
I’m locked in my office with another family dinner going on in the other room that I, putz that I am, am once again missing. I’m tired of being so damn broken, I’m tired of being in the middle of this desert. I’m not asking for fame and wealth and to slay all the dragons and vanquish all my enemies. I’m just trying to raise decent kids, have time for my wife, do good work, meet our needs, and make a difference in the lives of the people around me in whatever way God leads.
I don’t feel like clay. I feel like a mud pie. In a desert. So, not so much mud as much as dust and grit. And the grit’s pretty much been blown away.
…but one that is not entirely unexpected.
It seems that the Boston Globe is announcing a change in their domestic partner benefits coverage for gay employees. Specifically, they will no longer be extending coverage for unammried gay domestic partners as of January 1, 2007. From a recent story in the Boston Herald:
Benefits for domestic partners were originally offered to gay employees because they couldn’t legally marry, said Ilene Robinson Sunshine, a lawyer at Sullivan & Worcester.
Now that gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts companies that offer benefits to gay employees’ partners risk hearing cries of discrimination from unmarried straight couples.
I am curious to find out how the GBLT community is reacting to this news. I, myself, think it’s an entirely logical position to take, and not from the “mitigating legal risk” viewpoint. I find the timing interesting — is it just that gay marriage has weathered all current legal challenges, so legal departments are starting to feel confident in making policy changes that assume it’s going to be around for a while?
Specifically, here’s the latest info:
Jim Baen is in the ICU after a stroke, it is serious, Toni and a relative are there with him. Now you know as much as we do about his condition.
Baen Books is functioning under the very detailed emergency plans that Jim has in place.
Please don’t send cards or flowers. Please do send whatever prayers are appropriate to your faith.
I’m sorry to have to announce that Jim Baen suffered a stroke on Monday, and has been in the hospital ever since. His condition is serious, but it’s too early for any prognosis as to how he’ll fare from here on in.
His family has arrived in NC, and are with him in the hospital. I’ve been to see him, as have other members of Baen’s staff and his friend David Drake. In the meantime, so far as Baen Books is concerned, our plans continue on schedule.
The business is fine, we’re all simply very concerned about Jim.
Chief editor, Baen Books
Note: the “no cards/no flowers” thing is a common restriction for patients in the ICU, as the medical staff need to have ready access to the patients and don’t need clutter from well-wishers getting in the way.
May the Great Physician attend Jim
and the Comforter be with his family.
The Eternal go before them and follow up behind them;
The Swift Sure Hand guide to the right and left of them;
The Rock of Ages below them, the Highest above them;
Lord of Light without, Emmanuel within them.
His will in all, His Grace to submit.
Update: In response to a question, as far as I know this is an original prayer — though I’ve consciously patterned it on many Celtic sources including a well-known portion of the Lorican. Feel free to pass it on with a link back here.
I’m home from Europe a couple of days early; I was originally supposed to be in Oslo today, doing a second presentation, but I got really sick once I got to London and my bosses couldn’t take the chance I wouldn’t be better (sorry, Jim, for making you go to Oslo!). Lisbon was interesting. Paul talks about it a bit and relates some of the interesting bits of what happened there, but I have a couple of comments to add:
Being sick sucks. Being sick in a foreign country in a shoddy hotel really bites. And I was pretty out of it — the only reason I wasn’t in more serious trouble is that a couple of college friends (Mickie and Jen) were at the same hotel and keeping an eye out for me.
I’d been planning on going and staying with Jen and her husband Rich in Harrogate (up by York) on the weekend anyway, but instead of going back to London Sunday night I just stayed a couple of extra days and got better. It was definitely the right thing to do; the area right around Kings Cross station (where my dodgy hotel was) was a bit grimy and depressing.
The highlight of my trip was going to York on Sunday. I still wasn’t fully up to speed, so we focused on the Minster (the giant cathedral there; I’d been planning on trying to catch Sunday services there, but we didn’t get out the door quite on time and I didn’t feel like hanging around for the Evensong service at 4pm). That is a lovely cathedral. I now plan on going back there with the family at some point.
I’ve not been blogging much lately because I’ve been buried under a ton of work. One of the things I’ve been busy with has been developing a full day of content on Exchange 2007 to present in Lisbon (May 30th) and Oslo (June 8th).
Astu Are thte readers will have noticed the timestamp of this entry, done some math, and realized that I’m probably not in the US anymore. Those readers would be correct. I’m sitting in one of the food courts (near the B and C concourses) of the Amsterdam Schipol airport, waiting for my connecting flight to Lisbon in just under three hours.
This is my first international flight, and other than some business trips to Hawaii, my first time off the North American continent. Since I’m sorta wiped out and still have work to do before I take off, I’ll share just a short list of observations (in no particular order):
I might do more later, if I’m not complete tapioca after 17 hours of travel plus an afternoon of session prep.
I’ve been silent on the blogging front lately, so here’s a quick update on what I’ve been up to this last week:
Anybody doing anything fun this weekend? I’m trying to get the last couple chapters of my ebook finished and into my editor so I can polish up my presentations for Orlando (which is rapidly approaching).
I should have known, from first thing yesterday morning, what kind of day it was going to be. Starting with sleeping through the alarm I’d set so I could get up and get a headstart to a long day, right through trying to change the roll of toilet paper and ending up by dropping the fresh roll into the toilet bowl, I had signs it was going to be a difficult day.
We did finally manage to make it to all of our errands in Redmond, including my eye exam and subsequent purchase of not one but two new pairs of glasses (luckily, we were able to turn a $410 purchase into a mere $155, through clever use of an eye plan discount we get through our bank and by recycling my existing set of frames, which were in remarkably good shape after three years of living with me). Yes, I now have driving glasses and reading glasses. I’m having to get used to the reading glasses — anything beyond about 10 feet gets blurry. This is more than fine for my daily computer work and reading books, but I’ll have to figure out the best way to keep both pairs on my person (or at least near me) at all times so I can switch, because if I’m not looking at something up close, the reading glasses will get me sick in a hurry.
It is nice to be able to read my monitors again without having to crank up the font size or get a headache, though.
We also managed to swing by the office so I could get the lowdown on some stuff I’ve been asked to do. We also picked up a new ATX power supply for Steph’s computer, dual-1GHz motherboard with processors, 512MB of RAM, and even a 40GB hard drive thrown in — all for very cheap, courtesy of the Seattle Craigslist. These will go into the Exchange server, giving it a much needed upgrade, freeing up other components so Steph can have my old system and we can get her back up and running on her own machine.
All in all, it ended up being a productive day; everything just took longer than we’d expected. I ended up working on day job stuff well into the evening. Thank goodness today is Friday.
On the calendar for the weekend: some good clean RoboRally fun with new friends, a Saturday evening visit to Church of the Apostles, some computer upgrades, and hammering out Chapter 5 of my ebook.
As you may remember, the local bookstore closed down last year. Today, I found out that our charming little hole-in-the-wall CD shop will be closing down in 6 weeks or so. This bites, because Steph and I try to support small local shops even if it means paying more, as long as we can get what we want there.
On the good side, they’re holding a 15% off everything sale, and I was finally able to pick up a copy of Billy Idol’s infamous (and very hard to find) Cyberpunk album, as well as a boxed 3-CD set of Queen’s greatest hits. Still, I’d rather that they were able to stay in business.
We finally diagnosed whatever is going on with Steph’s computer — motherboard or CPU. Well, shite. I wasn’t really looking to be rebuilding machines at this point, nor to be acquiring new hardware. I think we have a gameplan, but Steph will be computerless for another couple of days. Good thing she can read her email from OWA.
Oh, yeah — chapter 4 of the DCAR ebook is kicking my ass. I just cannot find the words to put on paper. This is doubly infuriating, because there are a lot of other projects that are clamoring inside my skull for airtime. I’ve got a wonderful essay rattling around in there, tentatively titled “The Relationship Lens: Re-imaging the role of faith and the church.” This sounds like a lot more fun to write, but it’s not what has the deadline.
Got a concerned email from one of the ladies at church. Rumors are now going around that we’re leaving. This wouldn’t be so bad of itself, because we are going to be actively looking for a new church home. What pisses me off is that it sounds like there’s already a healthy load of bullshit going around about my reasons — lots of gossip and speculation. Mind you, nobody’s bothered to ask me what the truth is.
If it weren’t for the fact that we still have a great school for the kids, I’d almost be thinking it was time to seriously consider moving from Monroe.
Update: the kids are really grooving on the Queen albums. They recognize a lot of the music from the Highlander movies and TV series. Yep, they are geeks.
We’ve been getting over the flu here at Casa del Ganger. For the past several weeks, I’ve been feeling under the weather to a greater or lesser extent, so I’d slow down and try to get extra rest, etc. After a few days I’d feel better, so I’d go back to normal life, and whammo! a couple of days later, down I’d go again.
Last week and weekend, however, was the absolute bottom of this cycle. I struggled along the week slowly feeling more and more like crud scraped off the bottom of the Coney Island boardwalk, and when Friday finally arrived I almost decided to postpone the Auspex move. In the end, I didn’t postpone it because I’d already done so once. So I got up on Saturday, went to breakfast with a friend, then came back home and hauled the Auspex out and got it ready for transport. The new owner showed up right on time and right around noon, we had it loaded into his rental truck and were pulling away from the house for the trip down to Factoria. I had my new Qtek 9100 Windows Mobile PDA/cell phone with me so I could tell Steph when we were done unloading it and getting it set up. A couple more hours later and I was sitting at McDonald’s waiting for my family, entering my first blog entry on my geektoy.
When we got home (minus a detour through Costco Home), I intended to lay down for two hours or so and take a refreshing nap, since I felt like hammered crap. Instead, I woke up at midnight when Steph crawled into bed. I went back to bed and ended up sleeping most of Sunday.
Of course, Murphy was having none of this — so Steph started coming down with it too.
This week, I’ve been on the mend, although I’m still sadly lacking in energy. I’ve been going to bed by 8:30 most nights. On the upside, I’ve been getting up nice and early — anywhere from 4:30 to 7:00 — so I’ve had plenty of time to get my work done. I’m just running out of steam awfully quickly though, and if I’m tempted to think I’m completely healthy, all I have to do is plot when my energy falls off. Nobody who can tell exactly when their last dose of acetaminophen wore off by noting that the sudden loss of energy is exactly eight hours past the last pill-ingestion has any business deluding themselves about being healthy.
As an aside, reading Stephen King’s uncut version of The Stand probably isn’t a great idea when you’re sick. I felt like I was drowning in phlegm a little too often last weekend to be comfortable reading about the superflu that killed people by drowning them in phlegm. I finally realized that the reason I kept reading it was that even as sick as I felt, I took a certain perverse pleasure in not being as sick as those poor bastards.
Speaking of perverse pleasures, Steph and I scared a truck driver this morning on the way back from taking the kids to school. On our way up to school Steph noticed a Guinness truck parked at the local Canyons and idly commented that it was too bad we didn’t have our camera with us, since it would be funny to get a picture of me in front of the truck.
Enter the geektoy — the Qtek 9100 Windows Mobile 5.0 PDA and cell phone, with integrated 1.3 megapixel camera. You, being an astute reader, can probably see where this is going…
So that was a good start to the day. It was book-ended by what may be a quite awesome ending to the day — we’ll see if things pan out the way I hope they do.
[Ed: “What’s an Auspex?” I hear many of you say. “Why the heck are you wasting two posts about this stupid thing?” Well, Auspex was a company in the 1990s that made very high-end file servers. The model I had, an Auspex NS5500, cost around three-quarters of a million dollars when it was manufactured and sold in 1990 and represented the pinnacle of non-mainframe computer engineering. It was a 7-foot tall, 700lbs. black metal cabinet chock full of computery file server goodness. At one point I contacted Auspex to find out what it would take to refurbish it and the tech I was talking to exclaimed, “Oh! That’s where that one went!” You see, these were the kind of computers you didn’t just buy, use for a couple of years, then throw away; they usually got traded back to Auspex as part of an upgrade cycle. The story about how I came to own it will have to wait for another day.]
Last week, we’d been making a big push to finish getting the house cleaned up (my server area and office — two separate areas at opposite ends of the house, for those who haven’t been here) before Friday evening because Treanna was supposed to have an after-school playdate with her best friend. We’d take best friend’s little brother, and later their family would come our way for games after the girls were done. Well, that got cancelled because her friend stayed home sick with fever and vomiting, so poor Treanna was pretty upset. We compensated by having hot chocolate, Pringles, and watching The Prince and Me. Needless to say, the house was mostly clean but there were a couple of islands of clutter left.
So, I faced the weekend with cleaning left to do — never my favorite way to start the weekend, especially after spending at least a couple of hours cleaning and sorting every evening during the week. My body kicked into high insomnia mode, and I didn’t get to bed until 5:30am. Slept too late on Saturday, and when I finally got up it took me a while to get into gear. Just as we finally got moving and I was making progress, we got a phone call from one of our church leaders and found out that Moe, our priest’s husband, had suffered a heart attack that morning and died. Since his daughter is the head Sunday School teacher, they really needed to make sure Steph and I would be there for the kids — Moe regularly played guitar for the Godly Play class.
Sunday morning service was, understandably, subdued and tearful. Someone at the diocese showed an unusual level of tact and diplomacy and arranged to have Father Bob, our previous priest, come supply for us since Esther wasn’t going to be up to handling things. Even though the typical policy is for a priest to be hands-off regarding a church once he leaves, in this case it was a nice move because he’s been gone long enough — and enough changes have been made — that it clearly wasn’t “his” Church of Our Saviour (CoS) anymore. Yet enough of us there remember him that we had family sharing our grief with us, instead of some interloper. Nevertheless, bombshell number two came at the end of service, as the Bishop’s Committee (we’re a mission church, not a self-sustaining parish, so we have a vicar and a Bishop’s Committee instead of a rector and a vestry) announced that Esther had been called to (and accepted) a position at a new church and would be leaving CoS at the end of February. She had been planning on making an announcement that morning. So we are now a parish once again in transition. I was on the BC the last time we were in transition (we ended up hiring Esther), and I was asked by a couple of people to please take over an empty slot on the BC this time around (in addition to several open seats that must be filled during elections next week at our annual meeting, we had some folks step down). So, I’ll be joining the BC again — at least for the next year.
Didn’t feel the greatest Sunday afternoon, but between the dust from cleaning and all the crying, I didn’t think anything of it. Until I woke up Monday morning, sick as a dog. I’ve been down the last couple of days. I still don’t feel completely on top of my game, but I’m clearly on the mend and I’m digging back into work now that I have the attention to spare.
So there is the saga of my Suckiest Weekend Ever. There were some high spots — my shiny new Windows Mobile PDA/cell phone showed up last Thursday, and it is tres sweet — but in all, I’d rather not do that again any time soon.
If you’ve ever met me in person (or seen a full-body photograph of me), then you know that I’m more than a touch convex. The life of a sysadmin doesn’t really include enough of the right type of exercise to keep a body trim and slim, and the life of a technical writer is even less physically demanding. Now, many of my peers and co-workers have the discipline to maintain some sort of physical fitness regime, but I never really have.
The two times in my life when I was in the best physical shape were my junior year of high school, when I had spent a year and a half of cycling around a very hilly town on a beat-up ten speed (I had great legs then — Cassandra Guiwitz told me so, and I don’t think she was just being nice — even if they were pale), and during boot camp, when this smart mouth of mine helped ensure a regular flow of pushups, situps, eight-count body builders, and other fun activities.
Last week, when I was away for business travel, I had one of those moments when I basically decided that I was done sitting around like a lump on a log.
To pull back for a moment: several months ago just before Lent, during one of my assorted Web searches, I happened to run across a physical fitness program called Combat Conditioning, offered by a wrestler named Matt Furey. It doesn’t take much Googling to figure out that there is a lot of controversy surrounding Matt and his programs. The core of his argument is that if you’re looking to build maximum usable strength, endurance, and flexibility, weight training may be hurting you more than it helps you. Sure, it helps bulk up the muscles and gives you a bigger bench press, but can those muscles keep putting out their peak effort for a long period of time? Matt doesn’t think so; he thinks that using your own body weight is all the load you need to get and stay fit. His Combat Conditioning program centers around what he calls his “Royal Court” of exercises: the Hindu squat, the Hindu pushup, and the back bridging exercise. Do these three exercises long enough to get proficient, he advises, then start slowly adding additional exercises to help stretch and target other muscles, and you’ll be more fit than you’ve ever been before.
Now, few if any of his detractors complain about the squat and pushup exercises (although they are a bit snippy that he’s renamed them), but they go wild over the bridging. “It’s dangerous!” they cry. “You could hurt yourself badly!” Well, yes, which is why all of Matt’s advice tells you to never start a new exercise plan without the advice of your doctor, and why he tells you over and over how to do the bridging safely. He even gives several alternatives, including the use of one of those big exercise balls.
By the time I’d finished reading, I was intrigued enough to want to give some of his claims a try, despite the take-no-prisoners marketing spiel he uses. (I’ve written some marketing material of my own for various projects, so I was impressed by how sensible his claims really are when you strip away the adverbs. Unlike most personal fitness trainers, he’s not promising you the moon.) For the first week of Lent, I managed to do the Hindu squats and pushups and began to notice a significant improvement in how I felt. Sure, my legs were a touch sore, but I was starting to have energy that didn’t come from the bottom of the Coke can. I was also starting to sleep better at night and by the end of the first week, all those little aches and pains I’ve come to accept as a part of my life were missing or muted. I forget what happened, but I fell off the exercise routine for the rest of Lent, and soon moved back into the Land of Feeling Like Poo.
Back to last week. I was in the San Francisco airport, waiting to catch my final flight home, and decided I needed to get something to eat. I finally found a Burger King and grabbed a meal, which I began eating as I headed back for my gate to join the boarding for my flight. I got to the gate (most of the passengers had boarded by this time), into my seat, and was finishing my tasty chicken burger when I had a mild esophageal spasm. As I’ve gained weight through the years, I’ve had more and more problems with this ailment; in a nutshell, every now and then something happens to disrupt my esophagus from moving food down to my stomach in an orderly fashion. The food gets stuck, which causes varying amounts of discomfort or pain, and it can often require several minutes to get everything working again.
I’ll spare you the unpleasant details — suffice it to say that I thought I was going to prevent the plane from taking off on time, and I had the flight attendants scared for a couple of minutes there — but the thing I remember most clearly is sitting back in my seat and thinking, “I never had this trouble when I was healthy and not carrying all these extra pounds. I do not want to live like this anymore.” We’d ordered the Combat Conditioning DVD and book set the previous week, and they’d arrived the Monday I was on my way down to San Diego. At that point, I made the commitment to restarting the exercises.
So, for this last week I’ve been trying to build the habit of physical fitness. We picked up an exercise ball over the weekend, so both Steph and I have been using it to supplement the bridging exercise. Wow — what a difference the bridging makes to the rest of them. I’ve already passed the first hurdle — my legs ached for a day or two, making it difficult to walk — and I’m starting to feel good again.
I’m tired of being fat and feeling old. This time, though, I’m doing something about it.
This article in NewScientistSpace.com talks about research into why astronauts are more prone to infections. They now have data that suggests that microgravity interferes with the activation of T-cells. This explains why NASA needed to institute 10-day quarantines for all of their astronauts. Worse, the article concludes with this:
No one is yet sure whether an astronaut with a suppressed immune system would be able to complete a three-year space mission – the estimated time for a round-trip to Mars. Astronauts and cosmonauts live aboard the International Space Station in six-month shifts.
Dammit. Now to discover if simulated gravity is good enough to do the trick or if you need a bona-fide pile of mass nearby to curve space-time. Let’s hope the Habitrail Solution is good enough.
The insomnia, the puffy feeling in the eyes, the last few days of sneezing and phlegm that I thought was just allergies being kicked into high gear because of the shift in temperature and weather. No, no. The chest cough and raspy throat confirm it. I’m coming down with something.
Drat. I really did not want to take a sick day today.
I turn 33 today. In most ways, it is a surprise. Oh, I don’t mean that somehow 33 managed to sneak up on me and pop an air-filled bag behind my head; rather, that in many of the ways and metrics I use to gauge myself, I don’t feel like I’m 33.
For example, we went to the fair Saturday evening. There were moments that I definitely felt my age there, such as staggering off of the hang glider ride that I foolishly went on (no, I didn’t get the name), trying to keep from throwing up while assuring my stomach and ears that yes, I understand they’re quite pissed off with me, no I won’t be foolish enough to forget again, and no really I won’t be indulging in any more high-G foolishness. On the other hand, I felt 12 again when the only exhibits that I really liked were the cats (poor kitties, all locked up by snot-nosed 4-H kids for two weeks in a cage! just to win a damn ribbon) and the Legos; everything else was there and I appreciated the work and pride the folks had put into it but, enh, not my thing.
Or at work. Some days I feel like I’m on top of my game and that I’m the equal of anyone in the office; I’m experienced and professional, calm and cool, just hitting my stride and the prime of my life. Other days, like this last week, when I’m grinding myself away against the project that just won’t die and I’m at work at 11:45 on a Friday night rebuilding my test environment for a fourth time, only this time everything has inexplicably slowed down to a crawl and tasks that were taking 15 minutes are now taking an hour and a half, I feel like I’m 17 again only without that inexhaustible supply of energy.
I have this strange dichotomy going on at church, too. Steph and I recently went to our regional pre-Convention gathering, since we’re alternate delegates for our congregation to this year’s Diocesan Convention. We were definitely the youngest people in the room and a few of the other attendees made a point of telling us how much they enjoyed seeing younger faces. One very nice gentleman who clearly has far too much time on his hands made a point of telling me I need to be ordained, and when one of the priests there overheard him she agreed. That’s something I emotionally associate with either young people in seminary or older people who have been priests for longer than my kids have been alive, even though I know rationally that the majority of priests in the ECUSA come to it as a second career. On the other hand, I feel old at the mere thought of trying to go through the discernment process, let alone seminary and ordination. It’s that whole lack of energy again; I just don’t feel as wound up as I used to be.
Back when vinyl records were the rage, there were three primary formats, all measured by how fast they spun: 78rpm, 45rpm, and 33 1/3rpm. I remember a couple of rare examples of the 78rpm format; we had a recording of Peter and the Wolf in 78. Of course, 45s were usually singles, and I still have a handful of them kicking around. 33 1/3 was your long-play (LP) format; I’ve got a couple of those, including a soundtrack to Fiddler on the Roof, and there were quite a few movie soundtracks I had memorized back in the day (Benji and Escape to Witch Mountain come to mind). But it was the 33 1/3 that were always the longest albums; ou got through the material too quickly with 45s or 78s. As fast as thirty-three and one-third revolutions in a single minute might sound, it was the slowpoke that got the job done.
Judging my life by the standards of vinyl, I’m played out less than a minute. I’m just getting started, and while I’m not as tightly wound, I’m not in danger of running out of material any time soon. Now, I realize I’m a human, not a piece of plastic with sounds encoding in a spiral groove (good thing, because my groove isn’t spiral!), so taking this vague metaphor too far could get me into trouble. Nevertheless, that’s the imagery that sticks in my head — I’m just settling down for the long haul. Pacing and discipline — two things I’ve always needed work on — are my watchwords for the next 33 years.
I’ve decided that I should read greater meaning into the fact that the donation button didn’t want to work for me. Those of you who wanted to donate money to keep me on the online community, thank you — I’m touched. However, there are far more people out there who need your money and generosity. My family and I have power, a solid roof, blankets, and a vehicle. I have the certainty of work tomorrow; my kids know they’ll be going back to school.
Please, donate the money to the Red Cross. I certainly intend to. And while we’re at it, let’s go donate some blood as well. I hate needles, but this is far bigger than one person’s phobias.
If anyone knows of any worthwhile food banks or charities who will take food, blankets, and other essential supplies, let me know.
Thank you those of you who let me know the donation button was broken. It turns out there is a fundamental incompatibility between the way PayPal generates their buttons and ASP.NET, so I removed the button until I have time to figure out what to do (if anything).
In the meantime, sorry that I’m not around to chat and explain this stuff in person, and that I actually let several hours go by before I addressed the situation. I’m amazed and gratified that people apparently want to throw money my way so badly, but every now then this nasty little thing called “my job” creeps in and demands my attention. Since they’re throwing more money my way, they win the battle for my limited attention span.
If anyone other than my family knows where the title of this post comes from, I’ll be impressed.
I have belonged to a certain online community for many years, the only one that I’ve joined that requires a subscription payment. While there have been occasional downsides, it has been a mostly positive experience and I have made a lot of what I consider to be good friends there. However, my life has changed quite a bit over the last year, and some of the interests that brought me to this community have lessened or been fulfilled in other ways (my extracirricualr technical writing, in particular, fills a lot of one particular need). These interests no longer influence my life quite so much and I find that I am now only participating in one very small aspect of this community.
So when I got the notice that my subscription was due to expire on 01 Sep, I thought about it for a while and decided that although I could squeeze the $20 out of my budget, it wasn’t enough of a priority for me to do so. I’d get a lot more fun out of using that $20 when we take the kids to the fair over Labor Day weekend, just to name one activity. So, I set about saying my goodbyes and preparing to depart from this community that I have now been part of for many years.
A couple of people asked me to reconsider, and after hearing my reasons, volunteered to chip in a small bit towards the renewal fee. I was completely not expecting that, and agreed that I would look into putting a PayPal donation button on my site. I thought about it over the next few days and realized that I felt uncomfortable doing so just for this community; it seemed, well, presumptuous. Then, I was reminded of an old joke that I shared with many members of this community back in the days before I owned a Mac — I would gladly accept any and all donations to the “Devin Needs a New Mac!” fund. This was good for many laughs and (if memory serves) even a few small donations, which actually went directly towards upkeep of my web server (I host sites for free for a few people from the mystery community).
So, here’s the deal. I added a generic PayPal donation button down near the bottom of the sidebar. I am comfortable with having an ad for a book I have written (and that is on sale) up at the top; I am not comfortable pleading for stray pennies. Down to the bottom it goes. But if you ever want to prod me to, oh, make time to work on the next chapter of Silicon Cats or write an essay on a particular topic, making a donation is a good way to let me know you’re serious.
If it’s good enough for The Bard, it’s good enough for me. Heck, I’ll even write you a customzied sonnet as a thank-you note — and post it publicly — if you (the indefinite you) ever donated a largeish amount at one time. Since I once submitted a sonnet as a weekly status report, don’t think I’m not up to the challenge.
I have a line on an interesting writing project. All I want to say about it right now is that it involves group blogging, possibly introducing some established writers to blogging for the first time. As I am able to share more details, I’ll let you know.
It probably doesn’t surprise anyone who knows me that I struggle with liking my fellow human beings. When I deal with you all on an individual basis, I can usually find something to like about everyone. When I start having to deal with you in aggregate, that’s where my opinion starts to slip. (This is generally the reverse of how people tell me they view me — no good alone, but the larger crowd I have around me the better I look.) This mostly manifests itself when I’m driving, viewing the results of politics (secular or church), or pondering which shows the television networks renew because they’re popular.
Every now and then, though, something happens that makes me proud to be a human. The story of reservist Chris Yanez and his special dinner for his fiance at Canlis is one of those things.
The best part of the story, to me: “He [Mark Canlis, owner of the restaurant] said it’s not the first time in recent months that returning troops have been honored at Canlis.”
Can you still call it a s’more when:
In other news, life has been busy lately (as is probably obvious from my decreased blogging frequency).
Okay, now I’ve seen an entire anime title: Spirited Away. No thanks. The visual style wasn’t nearly as painful as I find most anime and manga to be — the backgrounds in particular were usually stunning, even if the people and monsters were just odd — but the culture shock more than made up for it. Japanese mythology is weird and not in a way that my brain finds engaging. I realize that anime isn’t a genre, but whatever it is, the closest I want to get to it is Titan A.E. — and if that makes me gaijin, so be it.
Thoughts and prayers to the dead and wounded in London (and their friends, families, and fellow countrymen) after this morning’s series of explosions on the Underground and bus network. The blasts, which are almost certainly the work of organized terrorism, brought London’s transport grid to a standstill during rush hour and prompted Tony Blair’s early return from the start of the G8 summit in Scotland.
To the law enforcement officials: Godspeed and happy hunting. May you swiftly catch the bastards responsible for this atrocity and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. And may you do so in a fashion that can show my own deranged government that you don’t need to set aside the rights of your own citizens, nor act in a reprehensible fashion, to catch and convict the bad guys.
As a parent with my own checkered past with drug experimentation, I now and then worry about the issue of drug abuse and how I need to be handling it with my kids. I certainly don’t want them to be afraid and paranoid, but I want them to be afraid enough — to realize that right now, with our current social and legal climate, drug use (casual or not) is not going to lead them into good friendships or uplifting behaviors. Since I don’t know how early is too early to be talking about drugs, Steph and I have followed a policy of being very open and honest with our kids. We take advantage of opportunities that come our way to have conversations with the kids, so they’re used to talking to us about all sorts of things. If my kids are ever dumb enough to go to a party and get smashed, I want them to be more afraid of trying to drive home or hide it than they are of calling me to come get them.
That’s why this article on the dangers of inhalant abuse hit me like a ten-foot pole. Cans of Dust-Off (or generic equivalent)? I know them well; they’re in my house, since I have more than once in the past opened up a computer and dusted it out.
Wherever you are on the drug legalization spectrum, you owe it to yourself and those around you to be watching for signs of this kind of “invisible” substance abuse. No one should ever be taking any substance unless they are fully aware of the risks and dangers, and I don’t care how strongly you value individual freedoms. The “right” to do drugs (if there is such a thing, and while I don’t personally think there is, I find it difficult to square that with alcohol and tobacco — or even caffeine — so there you go) must be predicated on informed, intelligent consent if it is to be a freedom that is in any way meaningful. Come to think of it, that’s probably true of most freedoms, but that’s a rant for another day.
Once again, I’m up far too late, trying to fix a raft of computer problems. This time I’m reinstalling my Exchange organization, migrating DNS zones, and trying to install a new reverse proxy web server. The usual.
I’ve got my iPod playing away — I love the Griffin iTrip I bought for it. For $40, I have wireless streaming media at home and in any car. The iTrip takes the output of my iPod and broadcasts it onto any FM channel I select. It doesn’t have a large radius, but it’s good enough to hit every radio in the house, which means Steph and I can listen to the same music all through the house. Not at all bad for the price.
Right now, I’m listening to my Favorites playlist on shuffle. It just brought up a song I’ve been meaning to blog about for the past couple of weeks — Big & Rich’s Live This Life — and I’m struck by how appropriate it is in light of some news I received Monday. First, though, the song:
Met a man on a street last night / said his name was Jesus
Met a man on a street last night
Thought he was crazy / until I watched him heal a blind man
I watched him heal a blind man / and now I see, yeah
I live this life / until this life won’t let me live here anymore
Then I will walk / yes I will walk with patience through that open door
I have no fears / angels follow me wherever I may go
I live this life / until this life won’t let me live here anymore
Met a girl in a chair with wheels / but no one else could see her
Met a girl in a chair with wheels
Everyone was so afraid / to even look down on her
And she just spread her little wings / and flew away, yeah
Repeat Chorus 2x
For a bit of extra kick, go read what Big & Rich have to say about their songs. From the notes on Live This Life:
The first verse came from a late-night conversation Big Kenny had with a homeless man in Nashville. “I met a man on a street last night/He said his name was Jesus.” John and Big both felt that something very important had been laid on them, but three weeks passed by before its purpose hit them and the rest of the song was written. The second verse describes Katie Darnell, a teenage girl and a friend of John and Kenny’s who died of brain cancer in the summer of 2003.
The song itself is very simple musically, but B&R have a powerful way of harmonizing. They’re joined on this track (I think) by the talented and haunting vocals of Gretchen Wilson. The result is easily my favorite song on this album.
I may seem like I’m switching gears here for a minute, but bear with me. As the release of the Cookbook gets closer, we’ve had a bunch of last-minute tasks to take care of (uploading scripts to our blog site, publicity, etc.) and one of the ones on my list was finalizing who I was going to send my author copies to. During the QC1 phase, I realized that I’d left two very important names out of my acknowledgements list — Ms. Kathy Snyder and Mrs. Tricia Boylen, two incredible high school teachers who nurtured my love of writing while ensuring I remained challenged in their classes. Both of them took personal time to read my fledgling stories and give me meaningful critiques. I reealized that even though the Cookbook wasn’t quite the first book I’d imagined writing during high school, I wouldn’t have gotten to this point without them.
So on Monday afternoon, I called my old high school to find out if they had contact information for them. That’s when I learned that Mrs. Boylen passed away last year. It was all I could do to finish my conversation with the nice office lady who I am sure had no idea how her casual news gutted the heart out of my day. After I put the phone down, I sat and cried like I haven’t in a long time. I am still stunned and heartbroken as I write this. Although she was talking about retiring at the end of my senior year, she was so full of life and energy. She never seemed to be old enough to be even thinking about retiring; in the fifteen years that have passed in my life from the time I graduated, I’ve often visualized sending a copy of my first book to Kathy and Tricia. I just assumed they would always be around by the time I got around to getting published.
The worst part was the little voice in my head that whispered that maybe, just maybe if I’d pushed harder on the Cookbook all through last year, if I’d cajoled my co-authors and myself into keeping on schedule, I’d have had time to follow through and send her the book. So I did some more digging. Although the town newspaper charges for access to the web archives, I was able to finagle up enough free information to find out that she died on May 5, 2004. Even with our original schedule, there’s no way the book would have been done. Thus I banished that bit of guilt, only to confront another one: I don’t think I ever told her that she was one of my favorite teacher, that she and Ms. Snyder were often the only reasons I’d get out of bed and come to school.
I hated my high school years with a passion; I hated the town, I had nothing in common with most of the kids, and what few friends I did have always left me with the feeling they’d befriended me out of pity. I was lucky with my teachers; almost all of them left me feeling that they considered themselves lucky to have me, know-it-all that I was. Kathy and Tricia never made me feel like anything other than the most important student they’d ever taught. I know they tried to make every student feel that way, but the message sunk down deep into my psyche. I’ve never doubted once, over these fifteen years, that when I finally see my name in print, they’ll be absolutely thrilled to see it too. I was so blindly confident that I never thought to take the time to drop them a note and let them know how I was doing. I kept making excuses for why I wasn’t writing instead of just sitting down and doing it. If I’d been pushing all through those fifteen years, would I have been published by now? We’ll never know.
Between this news and Live This Life, I’ve received a wake-up call. We only have so much time and then we have to move on.
Speaking of moving on, Exchange is done upgrading. Time to move to bed. Thanks for letting me ramble, if you made it this far.
It was a good weekend. Between a wedding, church, and a long-overdue visit from one set of the kids’ godparents (who decided to take our family out to the theaters to see The Pacifier), got lots of non-computer stuff done for the first time in many, many weekends. I didn’t even read my blogs, let alone post to mine.
Without further ado, a grab-bag of stuff that jumped out at me as I was catching up tonight with three days’ worth of blogs:
Steph has started indulging in a nice habit, now that I’m getting my home office more mucked out; she’ll drag her chair into my office, along with some craft project such as knitting, and sit with me while I’m working. We may not talk much depending on how hard I’m concentrating, but she provides a comforting presence.
Today I was writing up a reaction to CNET’s interview with ITU Director Houlin Zhao for my work blog and she made reference to the story thread with Peter and Valentine in Ender’s Game (written by Orson Scott Card. For those of you who don’t know (or remember) the plot, Peter and Valentine are the brother and sister of the protaganist. While Ender is off in space learning how to lead armies and kill things efficiently, they’re back on Earth building up a power base through eloquent punditry using anonymous accounts on the worlds’ information networks. Their most successful identities are those of Demosthenes and Locke, a virtual Odd Couple who are just about guaranteed to take opposing viewpoints on any matter.
Steph pointed out that between web forums and blogs, we’re starting to get to that stage. We’re a little more transparent than Card envisioned — as a blogger gets popular, the ability to find out who they really are (and more importantly, who is funding them) increases. Likewise, today’s bloggers are not nearly so dependent on corporate sponsorships to pay for their blogging, although there are a growing number of bloggers who are making money just by spouting their opinions.
[Editor: I’m down with that. Yo, phat cash deals for corporate blogging consluting? I am so there.]
What Card got right, though, is that more and more, a blogger’s real identity is less important than what they have to say and how they say it. You don’t have to be a law professor to be the Instapundit (hi, Glenn!)…okay, bad example, but you get my point. By the time the real identities of Demosthenes and Locke were unmasked in his book, they had such a loyal following that they were able to wield significant influence in global politics, even though they were children. Bloggers aren’t nearly that influential, but the constant clashing between big media and bloggers seems to prove that bloggers of all stripes are exerting more and more influence on the world around them.
Heady stuff. Where do I sign up? I’d be a benevolent dictator, I promise.
[Editor: I see I’m not the first person to remark on this.]
We recently picked up some lovely scented votives at one of my mother-in-law’s craft shows recently. Steph and I portioned them out and I greedily ran back to my office with mine.
I’ve been burning them today while I’ve been finishing up a paper for work and have been extremely pleased with them. I have a hard time with scented candles; I like the concept, but the vast majority of them don’t smell good to begin with or are extremely overpowering. These lovely candles are neither. I spent part of the afternoon with the Georgia Peach candle lit, another hour or two with the Cranberry candle going, and finally ended up with both of them. Not only were they both individually pleasing without knocking me out of the office, they blended well. My office is a nice place to be currently, which is good — I’ve been in here most of the evening.
If you’re interested in the candles, they’re made by the Belle Creek Candle Company. I have no connection to them other than as a satisfied customer.
I was going to take some time this evening to process the digital pictures of my new Lego Mars Rover so I could post them here for your pleasure, but it got eaten up finishing a couple of final drafts for papers for work. I’ll make time tomorrow, but right now I’m going to go indulge in the novelty of going to bed before midnight.
Thanks to the joys of wireless networks, laptops, and the rare conjunction of having a free evening, enough energy to do something about it, and enough brainpower to remember what all I want to do, I’m sitting in bed next to Steph (who is reading) and getting some bits and scraps of stuff done.
[Steph: You’re not blogging again, are you?]
Just with blog entries alone, I’ve got a list:
And then there’s the stuff notblog-related:
[Devin: I told you, dear reader, that I want to be an author. See how many of my action items involve writing? Maybe now you’ll believe me.]
Bleh. Now I’m tired enough to go to bed. Not that I will, of course.
Currently listening to: “Ghost in This House,” Allison Krauss and Union Station
I laid down to take a nap yesterday at around 3:30pm. I woke up around midnight as Steph came to bed. After the hijinks of the last week, combined with the stress of the consecration/reception on Saturday and the annual meeting on Sunday, my body had enough.
The good part about this is that I was able to lay back down and sleep until 5am, when I got up, did my morning round of blogs and email, and made breakfast for myself. Got working by 6am. Although I am not by inclincation a morning person, I work better on a morning schedule. I will get back on one.
One of the benefits of a morning schedule is seeing things like this:
I should have been out 3-4 minutes earlier; the colors were lots more saturated and vivid. I could see the sky fading visibly as I got the tripod and camera set up.
It’s going to be a good day.
So why did I decide I needed my own blog? How come LiveJournal wasn’t enough?
So, what other blogs am I on?
I’m almost ashamed to point to these blogs because I post to them so infrequently, but perhaps I can harness that shame into actually using them and posting to them. However, I just posted something new to my 3Sharp blog, so go read that.