Friday, July 30, 2010

Cool Picture For You

On our way back from our family reunion, we drove many many miles down Interstate 80. At one of the rest stops we found this:That's a bird's nest that was built right above the door to the women's restroom.

Cool how nature sometimes does that, intrudes on our civilization and stuff. Once, our porch light at my house was broken. The cover was hanging from the ceiling by only one screw, the other one had come loose, fallen out, and gotten lost. Being ultimately lazy, I left it that way for a while. Then one day, I walked out my front door, and a bird buzzed my head as it flew away. I looked up, and saw that it had gathered a load of twigs and twine and so forth, and put it in the dangling light cover on my porch. The perfect place for a nest! I quickly grabbed a chair and unscrewed the other screw that was holding the cover on. The last thing I needed was to be attacked by birds every time I came out my front door because I'd come too close to their nest. The bird came back a few moments later, and cruised around, confused. Where had that whole nest it'd been building gone? Then it moved along, and found itself a nest somewhere else.

Anyway...carry on.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

It's Waaay Back!

My father-in-law is in town visiting this week. He's been a teacher in Alberta, Canada for a very long time, and is just one year short of retiring. He's seen a lot of changes in his time. If you're curious as to just how many changes, let me show you an example. He used one of his old school boxes to pack a few things down to us in. Here it is:Yes, folks, that's an Apple II computer box. I looked up the particular model Apple II UniDisk, and it came out in 1985. He's been using that box for Social Studies ever since.

Fun stuff can be pulled out of people's garages and attics sometimes. I think I've got my iMac box down in the basement somewhere still...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Crash and Flash

Last week, while we were camping in California, I was playing the good dad and taking lots of pictures of my kids. At one point, we were down by the rocky bed of a creek. I snapped a picture, and moved to get a different angle, and my foot caught on a rock. I stumbled to keep my balance, but couldn't, and down I crashed. I banged my forearm pretty hard on a large rock, but, luckily, not hard enough to break anything.

My wife ran over, and helped me back to my feet. Once I was back in sorts, she told me that when I had fallen, I'd taken a picture. She'd seen the flash pop as I hit the ground. We checked the camera, and sure enough, there it was. I think it pretty well encapsulates the ignominy of my tumble. For your viewing pleasure:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ben Folds

I've whined on here already in a previous post about my inability to see Sting play his concert with the Orchestra due to the fact that his tour stop in my city was cancelled for unknown reasons (well, unkown to me). Rish, of course, took a trip out to Las Vegas to see the show...but with his other, much better friend. So I was just plain high and dry. But I was okay with that, because it's a position I've been in a lot of times in my life.

Then, out of the blue, Rish sends me a link. He says, "Is this something you'd like to go see?" It's a webpage advertising a Ben Folds concert where he's playing arrangements of his songs with an orchestra. And the show was only a week away.

Yeah, I wanted to see it. So, we got ourselves some tickets.

The show was happening at an amphitheater on the premises of a ski resort. Apparently the orchestra plays a number of shows there every summer. Ben Folds is just one of many shows they'll be playing this summer. Next week will be a selection of Disney soundtracks, later in the summer the orchestra will be playing with special guest Randy Travis. (Which doesn't sound like it would work out well, I mean it's called the Grand Old Opry, not Opera, but what do I know about country?)The place was beautiful, as Ski Resorts are wont to be. It was a wonderful place to see a concert, nestled in the mountains, as the sun sets in the west.Everybody brought out blankets and sat right down on the hill to enjoy the show. I think the place usually sees a much smaller crowd at these concerts, after all it's a symphony orchestra's summmer program. They don't see the likes of Ben Folds every week. So the crowd was much larger than normal. Rish and I were a slightly late, walking into the show are Mr. Folds started playing the first song, so we wound up sitting way the hell in the back. At one of the orchestra's usual concerts, I bet there wouldn't have been anyone sitting within a hundred yards of where we had to be. So our view of the show wasn't great.

Up where we were, there was precious little grass on the ground. The place was as stony as my douchebag heart. After several hours of sitting on this harsh, inhospitable terrain, my arse is completely, and permanently misshapen. Exhibit A, is the picture below.Aside from the terrain, however, the concert was very cool. It wasn't one of those shows where they search your bag at the door, and make you leave anything and everything in your car. You could bring in a cooler if you wanted to. If you look in the background of this next picture, you can see the people sitting next to us. Spread out on their blanket was a full on picnic lunch, including gourmet sandwiches, some sort of vinagrette thing (I could definitely smell something along those lines--maybe pasta salad, I don't know), and they even had a bottle of wine as well. And they weren't the only ones. I saw several people wandering about with wine glasses in their hands. If I'd known that we were going to this sort of an event, Rish and I would probably not have stopped in at Wendy's to cram our faces with cheap burgers on the way to the show. (We'd have probably gotten those cheap burgers to go, and eaten them on the lawn...er, rocks).The show itself was really good. On the way out, I had expressed concerns to Rish that we would just get a rehash of the Ben Folds WASO concert album. It's not like a lot of rock and roll artists have had any of their songs arranged for orchestral accompaniment. Ben Folds had a whole set of them orchestrated once, but how likely is it that other newer songs would have been arranged for orchestra? But I really wanted to hear some of the songs he'd written post WASO concert.

"I hope he plays something like Effington," I said to Rish while we were in the car driving out.

It turned out that I had some sort of prophetic power this evening, because the show's third song turned out to be Effington.

When Rish saw my prophetic powers, he asked me to predict that some of the women in the audience would remove their tops as well (you may see that at a Motley Crue concert a lot, but Ben Folds is generally a different kind of crowd, so it would take some kind of magic to make it happen). I obliged Rish, and made the prediction. There were a lot of honeys at the show, so it would have been worthwhile if it came true. And wouldn't you know it, not five minutes later, while I'm conversing with Rish, I see his eyes bug out. He tells me that a girl sitting directly behind me who was wearing a strapless dress, had just fallen out of her top. She was rather embarrassed, and spent the rest of the night continuously pulling up her bodice, but my prediction had come true again. I should have predicted a windfall of money. I just wasn't thinking.Some of the songs sounded absolutely beautiful with the orchestra playing along. I particularly appreciated "Gracie," and "Fred Jones Part 2," but those were already favorites of mine. He also played a couple of songs from his upcoming album as well. If I hadn't been sleeping on the job, I'd have switched my camera over to video mode and recorded the tunes and posted them on YouTube already. I'm just too old I guess. My mind doesn't go to that immediately like it does for the younger generation.

When the show came to an end, Rish and I sat on the hill for an extra twenty minutes while we let the crowd clear out. To amuse ourselves we took a bunch of self-portrait photos.
Then someone took pity on us, and offered to take a picture for us.

Friday, July 16, 2010

New Story

For the heck of it, I thought I'd post my newest story that I just finished. I'm only going to leave it up for a short time (like a week or so) then I'll take it down. I figure that's a small enough release that I could still send it off to a bunch of websites and claim that it's never been published in any sort of wide release.

Feel free to offer constructive criticism on the story. I think I mentioned in another post that I was focusing on not infodumping in this story. So, tell me how successful I was. Did I still infodump? Or did I leave you in the dark too much about just what was going on in the story. Also, feel free to comment on any other aspect of the story that you feel deserves mentioning. I want to become a better writer, and the only way to do so is to know just what it is that I need to improve. Just remember when commenting that I'm a real person not some sort of celebrity who is used to withering diatribes nor some AI that makes the internet go without involving people with feelings. Thanks.

*Snip*

Okay, time's up. I've now taken the story down. Thanks for the comments, those of you who gave them. If you read it, and still want to comment, you may. I'll leave the post up here for that purpose. Thanks again.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I Win

With a little extra time today (admittedly, the time I usually spend working on the podcast), I managed to finish that Autism story, which I now call "Through The Din Of Silence". Hooray for me.

It is 2443 words. Now I guess it's time to start on something else.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Sort Of Motivation

Rish and I were recording for an upcoming episode of the show last night. Rish decided that now was a good time to talk a bit more about writing. As you can see if you go through the old posts here, I got really excited about writing recently after reading some of Tobias Buckell's Just A Draft as well as reading Dean Wesley Smith's Killing The Sacred Cows Of Publishing. But recently, things have changed substantially in my life, and I find myself with a lot less time to devote to writing, and without enough motivation to do it either.

After the conversation that Rish and I had the other night though, I felt a little ashamed of myself for giving up. I pulled out my Autism Story (which I still haven't got a title for yet), and read what I'd done so far. I liked it. I think I've done a good job. I did write the thing, though, so my opinion might be skewed. I focused on establishing the world without resorting to any info dumps. I hope I've succeeded, but I guess I won't know until someone other than myself reads it.

I had written 1,817 words so far. I started typing, and after a moment, I had a few hundred more. Then something came up that demanded my attention, and I was pulled away. But for that moment, I was in heaven. It was really enjoyable.

Rish and I talk about one of Dean Wesley Smith's posts on the show. It's the one where he says the idea that writing is hard work is just a myth. Hard work is digging ditches in the hot sun, picking cotton in a field all day, or performing an eight hour surgery on a critically injured patient. Writing is sitting in a comfortable chair, in an air-conditioned room, and making things up. Rish says it is hard work. But it's too much fun to be hard work. None of those other things that I mentioned are fun. But writing is really, really fun. I wish I could figure out what short-circuit in my brain makes me try to avoid it all the time. Because every time I write, I have fun.

To be fair, it is very mentally taxing. And it's not something that you can do well unless you've practiced and practiced and practice (that whole million words of crap thing). But it is fun. I'm going to try to remember that, so that the next time I try to think of something else that I should do instead of writing, I'll pick the fun choice instead.

Now I'm at 1993 words in the story. Another scene, and I'll be done, I think. I'll see if I can whip it out tomorrow (and write that last scene too, heh).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ugh

Just finished my first day of another week long stint doing the early morning shift. Two weeks ago I worked the shift to cover someone's vacation. Now the other guy took the week off, so I'm back on it. 3am to Noon is a tough schedule to do. It's even tougher to do twice. I wouldn't mind it so much if it was what I did every day, but it's not.

However, I do mean to keep it that way.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Douchebag

The word douche has become the hip thing to say when trying to put someone down. I hear people using it all the time, and it's always the cool ones that do it. I've been trying to work it into my vocabulary recently, so I can be cool like the rest of them. I never would have suspected, after all of this, that I am a douchebag. I think I have been all along.

I've been reading a lot about creating characters for fiction recently. People say that when you're creating your bad guy, be sure to give him depth, and a good reason to do the things that he does. And I've heard this next part in more than one place, they say, nobody thinks of themselves as the bad guy. They're all the hero of their own story. So, it was really weird for me to realize that I was a douche. I've always thought of myself as the hero, the good guy, not the d-bag.

Case in point. The other night, I was hoping to leave work right away. All I had to do, was start a video dub going before I left, and I would be golden. So, the moment the machine became available, I rushed in and started it. Then I grabbed my things and headed for the door. I wasn't working my normal schedule, so I wasn't used to the way things ran, and I forgot that they needed to record a sports thing with the machine first.

The guys who were preparing to do this were a little miffed at me for starting my dub, and they came out to stop me from going home. I was also a little miffed because they stopped me from heading out the door for home. I automatically went into douchebag mode. "Oh, sorry," I said with anger and sarcasm, "I forgot about your bullsh*t sports thing, blah blah blah."

I said this not only in front of the technicians who would be recording this thing, but also right in front of the guy who had worked to prepare the whole thing.

Someone uninvolved, but within earshot said, "Wow," amazed at my lack of respect for anyone and everyone.

At that moment, I realized that I'd gone too far, and I quickly tried to make it sound like a joke. "I mean...your valuable...contribution to us all.."

In the end, I don't think it'll cost me my job or anything, but it could cost me the respect and goodwill of some of the people I work with.

So the next day, I continued to dwell on my outburst, and that's when I came to the realization that I was in fact a douche. This wasn't a new thing. I can think all the way back to college, when a friend of mine suggested to me that he should deal with a teacher that didn't want to give a project that we were working on the go-ahead.

"If you talk to her, you'll get mad and start saying all sorts of stupid, angry things, and then we'll really be screwed," he reasoned. And he was right, that was my defense mechanism. And it continues to be.

So I realized Friday, that I am a douche. You would think that sort of revelation would initiate some sort of resolve to change, but would a douchebag change?

The next day, my wife asked me to figure out which of the kids MP3/Video players still worked. We're about to take our summer vacation, and long drives are much more pleasant when kids have something to keep them engaged. So I started working on that while she cleaned up the house a bit.

Determining the problem with these players was more of a pain than it should be, but I was methodically working my way through it. My wife, however, had finished with her house cleaning, and was ready to move on to the next thing on her checklist, yardwork.

"Are you ready to go help me in the yard?" she asked.

Oh crap, I thought. I was only halfway through my checklist for figuring out the problem with these things. I would forget which player had which problem if I stopped in the middle.

"No," I said flatly.

"But I have to go to work at two," said my wife, "If you don't come and help me now, then I won't be able to get everything done before I go. Can't you do this once I'm gone."

I had a good reason not to jump up and help her. Maybe if I explained it to her nicely, she'd understand and tell me to finish what I was doing. But that's not what I did. I flew into full douche mode, standing up from my desk, shutting down everything, and stomping away, nearly toppling the desk chair in the process.

"Fine, fine. I'll come help you. You just wasted an hour of my time, but fine who cares."

My wife had the stones to say, "If you're going to come out there and act all grumpy like this then don't come, because I don't want to deal with it," because, obviously, I've been a douche all along, acting like this all the time.

I walked out the door to the backyard thinking to myself, "there you go again, douchebag. I thought the plan was to give up on douchebaggery." But I guess that's easier said than done. What's worse is that it's one thing to be a douche to acquaintances and strangers at work, but to do it to my family and those that I care about the most is just awful. At least I recognize that I have a problem, there's that. That's the beginning of the twelve step program isn't it? Hi, I'm Big Anklevich, and I'm a douchebag. Maybe it's a good start on a return trip to being a decent human being again, if I ever was one to begin with.

You may wonder why I'm writing all this down and then posting it on my blog. I couldn't really answer. I'm wondering the same thing. It's not like that's the best way to win friends, telling everyone that you're a douche. Maybe, just putting it down in black and white will help me get it off my chest so that I can move one. I just don't know.

I don't know what to say about comments on this post either. I assume that the comments will be people saying, "Buck up, little camper, you're not a douche, you're just big boned," or, "If you're a douche, then we all are." And I'm not fishing for that, honestly. I would say, don't leave comments on the post, but that feels like a douchebag kind of thing to do. I guess I'll just turn comments off for this one post. I assumed I was too clueless to do that, but it turns out it's an easy enough thing after all. Maybe I'll just bury this post, pre-date it so that it shows up a few posts down the page. I definitely won't tweet about this post, that's for sure.

Crap, I've gone on too long. I guess I'll quit while I'm ahead...who am I kidding...while I'm behind, and move one. Merry Christmas everybody.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Deal

Rish was complaining last night that he's tired of coming to my blog only to find it as blank as my stare when he asks me to come up with something funny on the spot while we're recording the show. He didn't take my excuse that I only blog when I have something worth writing about, and I just didn't right now. He gave me several suggestions for what to blog about, and then disappeared into the night with a puff of smoke and a rustle of cape.

So, I guess I'll write a little something on here today.

Um, perhaps you're wondering what the deal is with the podcast right now. After all it's been a little more than two weeks and there hasn't been a new episode yet. And it was a little more than two weeks since the last episode before that was posted as well. If you're wondering about that, let me tell you that it is 100% my fault. Things have conspired against getting episodes out quickly these days. Rish has had our post-story comments edited for a while, and I've been struggling to find time to edit the story together. I'm almost done, but it's just going slow.

It's going to probably keep on like that for the foreseeable future, too. My wife is now working full-time, which places much more demand on my time for child care. My kids matter more to me than probably anything else in this world, so the podcast sometimes takes a backseat. Also, it's summertime, which means everyone is taking vacation. Where I work, it's the kind of job that things must be done that day. You can't just put a message on your phone that says, "I'm out of the office this week, try back next week," and then catch up on things when you return. You have to get everything done each day. So, when someone is on vacation, I wind up turning my schedule on its head to cover their shifts. That's what I was doing last week, and what I will be doing again next week. Then after that, it's my turn for vacation.

So, it's like that.

We'll try to keep your Dunesteef fix a comin' at a decent interval, but for the most part, you'll just have to wait. Sorry.