Feb 28, 2010

The randomness of thinking

Are you a regular reader of my ramblings?  If you are, first I'd like to thank you.  Second, I'd like to say that my whole "Daily Photo" idea went out the window sometime last week, or maybe the week before, who really knows.  I'll still be posting pictures, but much more randomly than I had planned.

Oh, sure, I could have the gumption to fix my wrongs and take photos for each day that I missed, but that isn't really my style.  I'm more of a "well, let's see where we go from here" kind of person.  And that leads me back around to some random thoughts and observations.  Here we go!

Our company firewall and network traffic router only misbehaves when the boss is trying to do something important.  Normally, the system runs quite well.  Every so often, though, it needs a swift kick in the pants.  I believe the issue is related to a patch or two that have yet to be applied.  My goal this coming week: apply the patches and cross my fingers.  Every three weeks or so, the server reports that it is out of memory.  It isn't.  I just *thinks* it is.  So far, the cure is to reboot the server and let it run for a few weeks, reboot again, repeat.  Not a biggie, as the reboots usually occur around 2am when I am awake and the rest of the employees are sleeping soundly.  Every once in a great while, however, the server does not get rebooted.  And, coincidentally I'm sure, that same every so often my boss calls to let me know the server has gone wonky.  "Wonky" is my word, not one she uses.

On the way home the other day, changing subjects in case you're trying to follow along here, I had the sunset in my rear-view mirror.  the sun was hovering just above the horizon, brightly radiating reds and yellows and oranges from its hot white center.  In front of me, a large full moon rose from a sea of blues, purples and colors I don't have words to describe.  I glanced ahead, then looked in the mirror, then glanced ahead again.  Though a camera would have been handy from my vantage point, what popped in my head was how cool it would be to looking at the view from the side.  I'm not sure how (or even if) that could be pulled off, but to be able to see both a magnificent sunset and an awe-inspiring moonrise at the same time would surely be the stuff of poets and troubadours.

Our preacher today brought up a thought that would have normally come from my own head if I had given myself to it:  How did Jesus get baptized?  How do you baptize a man that can walk on water?  The visual Bro Perry gave had me rolling in the pew - that of John trying to push Jesus into the water as Jesus simply bounced back up from the surface, unable to break through.  Of course, Bro Perry said he did have the answer for it, but that it would have to wait for another sermon.  I tried searching Google, but came up empty.  So, I've posed the question on Yahoo Answers.  We'll see how far that gets me.  Frankly, I've seen some of the answers given and many are biting and sarcastic.  I'm hoping for actual insight.

I've been branching out on the MacBook, trying different things to see what it can/can't do.  My latest venture involved connecting the Mac to the HP MediaVault server we have at the house in order to use the Time Machine backup program.  There are a few tricks that had to be done to let Time Machine use the shared 'backup' folder on the server.  Once the backup started, I let it run for a while.  And then at one point, I absentmindedly shut the lid, thus putting the laptop to sleep in the middle of the backup.  Not smart.  I had to delete the partial backup and start over.  It worked!  At least for a while.  Turns out that Time Machine runs all the time, so when I closed my lid for the night (even though no backup was running), the link between the Mac and the server was broken.  I found some steps online to supposedly recover from the problem, but nothing I did solved the problem.  I think I will try again at the office and see how that goes.  I will also make sure to shut down Time Machine when I am not within access of the backup server.

We recently learned of the closing of the office where some of our friends are employed.  This is what kills me.  This is when I wish I had that magic ... something ... wherein I could keep those folks employed working for me.  Alas, I do not have such vision or else I would already be doing it.  I cannot help but feel, though, that somewhere inside is the answer.  I just haven't figured out how to unlock the door that will bring it to the forefront with clarity and direction.  Oh sure, I have ideas, but nothing so far has seemed ... I dunno... SOLID.  Granted, nothing will ever be 100% recession-proof, but many businesses are more likely to survive than others.  I am reminded of the scene in the movie (ironically) "Dave," in which everyone shouts, "Everybody works on Monday!"  That's what I wish I could offer - at least one day where everybody gets work.

Did you watch the USA/Canada hockey game!? Holy cow!  What a great hockey match, sent into overtime and the winning goal scored by the Pittsburgh Penguins' own Syndey Crosby!!  Too bad he was playing for Canada, but still what a great game!

Feb 25, 2010

And then there were twenty (SPOILER ALERT! Idol)

American Idol results are here.

Let's see who actually survived the first round of voting.

Siobahn - safe - We all said Yes.
Haeley - safe - Em said yes, Shan and I said no
Michelle - safe - Emily said no, Shan and I said yes
Katelyn - safe - We all said yes
Katie - safe - we all said yes
Janell - OUT - we all said yes

Paige - safe - I said no, but Shan and Em said yes
Lacey - safe - we all said no
Lilly - safe - we all said no
Crystal - safe - we all said yes
Ashley - OUT - we all said no
Didi - safe - I said no, but Em and Shan said yes

Well, we went 50% on the girls.  Let's see how we do with the guys.  It's funny that Janell knew she was out and seemed okay with it.  Ashley looks like she wants to kill someone with her harsh stares.

Mike - safe - we all said yes
John - safe - we all said no way
Aaron - safe - Emily said yes, the rest of us said no
Todrick - safe - we all said no
Tim - safe - The girls here said no, the guys here said yes
Joe - OUT - we all said no

Wow! Tim thought he was going home. He was in total shock.

Kris Allen's "Let it be" was fantastic, very touching.

Casey - safe - we all said yes (well, Tyler said "sure…")
Jermaine - safe - we all said no
Lee - safe - Em and Shan said no, Tyler and I said yes
Andrew - safe - everyone said no but I had a question mark.
Alex - safe - we all said no
Tyler - OUT - girls said no, guys said yes

WOW! I never would have guessed that. Really!? Man, I liked him.

Well, Emily and Shan went 3-for-4.  Tyler and I went 50-50.  I don't know what that means, but it's fun to see how things go during the rest of the season.

Feb 24, 2010

American Idol - Top 12 Guys

It's time for the guys to perform. Let's see how they do! Tonight we have a special guest judge - Tyler is joining us.


Todrick - "Since you been gone" - Well, he made it his own. Uh… I just don't know. Tyler says not bad for this song, but needed a better song choice. Emily says NO! I hate it! Don't like it!

Aaron - Well, let's see if he remembers his lyrics THIS time. He's missed TWICE so far yet made it through. Shan said, "He's tearing my song up, man," as he held her head in her hands. It was not pretty, and neither was the singing.

Jermaine - Uh, no.

Tim - He looks like a dark-haired version of Sterling Knight LOL. Not really liking this, but best so far to me.

Joe - Tyler said, "He looks like Adam Lambert." I said, "Uh, David Archuletta?" He said, "Yeah, yeah, that's the guy. Whatever." Well, another bites the dust. Man, these guys are as bad as the women yesterday. Shan said she liked him better than the others to this point.

Tyler - Uh, not OUR Tyler, of course :-) Not a strong start, but I like him. Tyler (our Tyler) likes his (the singing Tyler) name. LOL. Good as reason to vote for him, I suppose.

Lee - I like him, but that's because he sounds like several artists already out there. Good performance, but he's going to have to step up and show his own thing or he will be the same as everyone already hears.

John - Emily said, "Nope. No." when the first note came out. It took me a few more notes than that, but uh, no.

Michael - We love "Big Mike!" I hope he does well here. Well, it's a little hard to understand some of his words. Shan gives her first YES! Once he got going, I really got into it, but he had a rough start to me.

Alex - What is up with his nasality!? Man, did someone ask Fran Drescher to sing!? Man, this is not good.

Casey - Wow, he's very "Bob Seger" or something. I like his sound a lot. Marc Cohn maybe? I dunno, but very well done.

Andrew - Hmm. Well, he is a toughie for me. I kinda like his sound, not sure of hostage on the song. Kinda karaoke or something maybe? My first question mark.

Okay, I'm not sure what's going on this season. This is supposedly the "best season ever," yet these folks as a whole failed miserably in my opinion.

Feb 23, 2010

THIS is American Idol!

Welcome to another season of American Idol! We are back again with our picks and pans for this season. For those new to reading my blog, let me catch you up. Shan, Emily and I make our picks (marked with "Y") or our pans (marked with "N"). We also have an undecided mark ("?") for times when we just cannot decide if we liked a performance or not.

After the voting, I post a follow-up and talk about our agreement or disagreement with the outcome(s). Also, as I'm sure will be a surprise, I also tend to make some comments about various performances.


*I actually liked Janell's "What About Love." I thought she did well and brought just enough difference to make it hers, which is why I am sitting here and not at the judges table, I suppose.

*Haeley's lisp really bothers me. It shouldn't, I know. But it does. So there it is. Not a fan of her version of "I wanna hold your hand" because the song should be much more exciting - this is a person who is excited to be holding someone's hand for the first time. This was way too slow or something.

*Lacey - Shan said she thought Lacey was very nervous. I'm not fan of Lacey's. At least not with with song. It was like she was trying to imitate Stevie Nicks and at the same time add her own twist, but it just hurt my ears.

*Michelle - Wow, we knew within a few notes this one was gonna be good! I am liking her!

*Didi - I like her a lot. I hope she does well. Let's see how it goes… Well, I'm not a fan of her selection. Sounded too much like the 'real' version. I hope she makes it, but I would no vote for her.

*Siobhan - Started off rough, but seemed to find herself as she went on. Not a breakout performance, but I thought it was kinda cool.

*Crystal - I am a big fan of Crystal's. I hope she knocks this out of the park. Great song choice. Rockin' the harmonica and guitar. Nice! Awesome job!

*Katie - I am not surprised she picked Buble'. That seems to be right up her alley for the style. I will bet Simon says, "a bit cabaret." We'll see after she's done.

Wow, after listening to the recap, there are a LOT of the girls that are in danger. So much for the girls being so string this year. They have a long way to go to prove that after tonight.

Feb 22, 2010

Killing several birds with one stone

One photo - several projects
Well, it didn't take long, but I finally managed to get behind on my daily photos.  As I have mentioned before, I use www.dailyshoot.com for inspiration.  The last few challenges have been "Get close" (take an up-close photo), "Symbols" (take a photo of a symbol that represents something else), and today's is "Squares" (take a picture of square things).  And so, I present one photo that reaches each of these challenges.  The photo comes from a close-up of a pair of "hang-out" pants I have, featuring the symbol of my favorite baseball team, the Cleveland Indians, and the pants have red- and white-lined squares on them!  Some people may say I cheated.  Others may say I'm a genius.  Well, maybe not the latter.

Feb 21, 2010

Shan's Crockpot Lasagna Recipe

This serves 10-12 people.

6 cups of mozzerella cheese
2 lbs. ground beef
minced onion
lg. jar spaghetti sauce (or 2 reg. sized jars)
8-12 oz lasagna noodles (we use the no-boil ones)
24 oz small-curd cottage cheese
1/2 cup parmesean cheese

Cook garlic, onions, salt, oregano and ground beef until beef is done; drain.  Add spaghetti sauce and mix well.

Spread 1/4 of the meat mixture in bottom of crockpot.  Add 1/3 of the noodles on top of the meat mix, keeping the noodles in one layer (break noodles if needed).  Mix the moz cheese, parm cheese and cottage cheese together.  Add 1/3 of cheese mixture on top of noodles.  Repeat the meat/noodles/cheese.  End with meat on top.

Cook on HIGH 3-4 hours or on LOW for 6-8 hours.

Don't bring your laptop to class! How ludicrous.

Thanks to a friend, Cliff, I was directed to a post regarding a professor that bathed a laptop in liquid nitrogen and the smashed the thing as a warning to his students *NOT* to bring their laptops to his class.  Really!?  Here is the video of the "professor's" warning:

The actual article that Cliff pointed me to is here: Dr. Z Reflects

My response:

How insecure about one's own teaching methods and materials does one have to be such that they ban a tool which would enable their students to get all the possible knowledge they have access to?  Just because I use a laptop during a lecture does not mean I am Facebooking, Tweeting, or checking email.  I am taking notes, tying information in class to information found online.  And, you know what? Maybe I am Tweeting what I am learning (though I dislike twitter, so I wouldn't personally be using that "tool").  Let's ban pens.  We should ban pencils. Ban paper, too.  Let's use rocks and slate. Oh wait, that is also technology. Well, crap, let us simply bask in the glory of the professor's diatribes.

To me, we face the same types of issues in the K-12 world as well.  Students today, whether in High School or in college, have access to tools that *can* allow them to enrich and enhance the lessons and information they get in the classroom.  But, over and over again, rather than try to figure out how to use these tools, instructors and institutions throw up walls and DEMAND that students set these tools aside.  There is nothing that frustrates me more than "rule by intimidation and fear."  Banning the tools that have become a very extension of today's students demonstrates the epitome of fear and intimidation.

We must, as educators and administrators, reach students in the arenas in which they live and play.  When I was in 9th grade, I had a Commodore 64 with a dot matrix printer.  During the school year, my English teacher (we actually called the class "English" in those days (GASP!)) went from being totally against my using those tools (it was not a typewriter, somehow I was cheating by using a computer, etc) to understanding that the tool had nothing to do with the original thoughts I was putting on paper.  Now, in her defense, she had an issue with the 9-pin typesetting - it was blocky, ugly, and hard to read.  That was rectified with a 24-pin printer. Ah, the good ol' days.

How many professors, teachers and administrators use their own computers each and every day in order to prepare their lessons, report grades, communicate with colleagues, make notes, etc?  Today's students (not all of them, I am well aware) are much more adept at sharing their brain's processing power between multiple tasks and multiple stimuli - how could they not?  They live in that environment every single day (computers, television, gaming, texting, etc).  When they get to class, we expect them to put all of that aside.  Sometimes, the reason is because the instructor is so deathly afraid the student will not be paying attention to what s/he is saying.  Want to know how the students are using those tools in the classroom?  Ask them.  Really.  One might be surprised.

Should there be anarchy and lawlessness about the tools?  Of course not.  Set rules.  But, as with all rules, educate the students as to the appropriate use of those tools.  If a student should break the rules of use?  Discipline that one student - privately. 

While destroying a laptop may be somewhat entertaining, the reason behind the destruction is far from it.  If one is so afraid that his/her students are "playing" during lectures, then perhaps it is time for that instructor to evaluate his/her own material and/or delivery style.  Someone once said something akin to, "The thing we fear most is that which see in ourselves."

Feb 18, 2010

Talking About Writing - Who has time?

The number one issue I have with my own writing is time.  If you read my last piece about writing (Getting Started), you may recall that I talked about ways in which to combat the fears and blocks in getting started.  I have since heard comments to the effect, "That's great, but I don't have TIME for writing!"

For the sake of sharing, I tell you, I often say those words to myself.  And, sometimes I don't just say them in my head, which I'm sure causes a mild case of concern for those around me.  But, the fact is - we won't get anything written if we don't write something!  So how does one find time to juggle work, supper, kids, practice, homework, email, social networking, walking the dog (or in our case, feeding the goats) AND write!?

I have learned (or have read, to be more accurate) about several different methods people use to find the time to write.  Maybe something in here will connect with you and perhaps kickstart your own adventure(s) in writing!

  1. Get a Recorder - Though technically not "writing," a voice recorder is a great way to at least get your thoughts down.  I have that using the voice memo feature of my cell phone works great for capturing thoughts about story lines, characters, tweaking a current project, etc.  I have also recorded the workings of story (who knows if it will grow to be novel-length) while driving down the road.  I do not record everything in one take nor in one sitting.  If an idea hits me, I hit the "MEMO" button on my phone, touch "Record" and begin talking.  Most of my thoughts last for less than two minutes.  then, I stop recording.  When another idea hits, I record it.  Though I know I am not getting the ideas down on paper (or in the computer), I feel like I've at least accomplished something by having my thoughts "on tape" as we used to say.  Most MP3 players have a recording feature.  Even an iPod Touch will work if you get the headphone/microphone combo for it.  And, if you happen to have a tape-based recorder laying around not doing anything, this might serve to revive it.

    Of course, the issue remains: talking and recording is not writing.  One still has to transcribe what one has recorded.  Or, if you don't have a recorder, you still need to figure out just WHEN you are going to write.
  2. Write for 15 Minutes - I recently read an article dealing with the subject of finding time, and the article (in Writer's Digest) suggests finding (or making, actually) 15 minutes available in the morning, at lunch, at night before one goes to bed.  I think this plan of attack serves those who are very serious about their writing but not able/willing to give up their day jobs.  While working on my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) project, I forced myself to write.  At times, it was worse than getting up at 5:30am to exercise.  I fired up the laptop and wrote while I watched TV.  I took the laptop to bed with me and while my wife slept, I typed away until my eyelids shielded the screen from my view (side note: Autosave is a VERY handy feature!).  When writing in this fashion, it really does not matter what you are writing - you don't necessarily have to think about plot, theme, or anything deep.  The secret is to keep writing.  Describe a character you'd like to use, write how you would feel if your best friend just told you s/he was dying, won the lottery, or had changed sexual orientation.  Write about the yapping dog next door and what you (although it's really your story's character we're talking about) would do about it.  Just write.  But, many times, I didn't have 15 minutes to write.  In fact, many times, I barely found even five minutes of time.
  3. Write for 5 Minutes - And, thus I come to the "five-minute rule."  Write for five minutes.  I read this in Immediate Fiction: Start small and write for five minutes.  Where do I have five minutes?  In the bathroom.  Yes, while you are sitting there, instead of a magazine, pick up a pen and write.  As mentioned before, write about whatever comes to mind.  Remember, in stories, your characters can do anything, and they can do things you never would - kill someone, steal something, save a drowning baby, cook an eight-course meal, whatever!  Don't worry about details and jargon.  There's time for that later (yes, I said "time").  In the short time you have between, well moon up and moon down, you can write.  I prefer a pen and spiral notebook for that particular venue.  but, if you are happy taking a laptop with you, do that, but WRITE - no social networking, no email-checking!  What you will find is that you have five minutes in the morning while eating breakfast, or five minutes at lunch before you have to get back to work, or at lunch while you eat - perhaps before you eat.  What about bedtime?  Just before you turn out the lights, grab the notebook and write for a few minutes.  Can't do five whole minutes?  Do three.  Really.  Or how about two?  Want to know where you can find two minutes?  How about during nearly every commercial break on every television station?  Write during the commercials then put the pen down when the show comes back on (if you can put it down. If you can't stop, just keep writing!).
As you push yourself to write (especially in 2-, 3-, or 5-minute intervals), you will find that you are able to get a lot more written in those precious few moments than you may have ever fathomed.  It really works!  You may also find yourself rearranging your time in order to write more.  TV shows you thought were so worth watching may fall to the wayside.  You may find yourself writing instead of aimlessly reading people's updates on social networks.  Not that you should give those things up - not by a long shot!  But, in my experience (and from an old adage or two): we make time for things we deem important in our lives.  I exercise every morning (not much, but better than nothing at all in my case) because I think it's important to my overall health.  I write in weird places at odd times because I think it's important to my future as someone that wants to write for fun (and hopefully profit some day).

And, with a bit of discipline, baby steps and creativity, you too will (hopefully!) find that you've had the time to write all along.

Daily Photo (Fragility)

Challenge - Something fragile or someone in a fragile state of mind

I admit, my original thought for Wednesday's challenge (yes, this is being posted a day late) was to find something "Christmas Story" related and snap a photo.  preferably, it would have been a picture of the mini leg lamp lights Shan's Dad has.  Alas, it was not to be.  This picture is one I took while playing around with some kind of camera software or something.  I don't know about you, but the guy in that photo looks to be a bit in the "fragile state of mind."

Feb 16, 2010

Daily Photo (Construction)

Today's challenge was to take a picture of something being built.

The picture above is a snapshot from the web cam that keeps tabs on the construction of our new offices.  Since I did not technically "take" that picture, I decided to run over there at lunch and snap a couple of my own:

Feb 15, 2010

Daily Photo (Americana)

Today's challenge - something in honor of America for President's Day

Shan has a collection of Angel Cheeks characters (mainly because I buy her at least a couple a year), and this little guy is watching over the good ol' U.S. of A.

Feb 14, 2010

Daily Photo (Love)


Our wedding bands resting on the words of God.

Happy Valentine's Day, Shan! I love you!

Feb 13, 2010

Paying tribute Tech Deck-style

Tech Deck Dude - Bob (Ross)
My Mother's father (I called him "Pap-Pap") was an avid Bob Ross fan.  I remember spending many hours sitting on the floor and on the couch as my grandfather watched Ross paint mountains, clouds, and "happy little trees."  While at Wal-Mart last night, I saw this Tech Deck Dude on the rack and had to laugh.  For those that watched Bob Ross, the connection is immediate and instantly recognizable.  For those that have no idea what I'm talking about, Bob Ross had a painting show on PBS called "The Joy of Painting."  As far as I know, he was the first 'mainstream' painter who put on a show that showed you HOW to paint things and he made it look so easy.  My grandfather painted many things using Ross' techniques (along with some of his own, I'm sure).  I never think of Bob Ross without thinking of my Pap-Pap, who ALWAYS greeted us with "Hey, Pal!"

Thanks, Tech Deck, for a great tribute and for bringing back so many wonderful memories!

Feb 12, 2010

Taking the day off

Shan's favorite tree. The big one in the pasture!

We even had icicles!

Emily and Shan rolling snow parts for our redneck snowman-person-thing.

Our redneck snow-thing: Camo hat, Redwood snuff can nose, branch arms, rock eyes.  He didn't last long.  He fell over.  Must have been the Bud Light.

Yes, she's excited about the prospect of chunking snow at me!

Emily and I mount our attack from behind the fallen snowman. Hey, you gotta find cover where you can!

Emily makes a snow angel on the bed of the hay trailer!

Shan grabbed a great shot of Tyler on the trampoline!

Yes, that's my son using his (er, actually MY) jacket as a shield.  It runs in the family.

I made this on the deck behind our house.  Happy Valentine's Day, Shan! :-)

Feb 11, 2010

Valentines Party and SNOW!

Today was Emily's Valentines party at school.  I took the morning off from work so I could spend some time with her at her party.  It was fun!
Emily poses next to her bag o' v-day cards

I think she might be a little excited about opening her treat bag!

Now, THAT'S how you put on a watch!

Goofing around with "Dorito lips!"

The mini cupcakes we supplied for the party!

I thought these treat bags were lined up perfectly for picture-taking!

After the party, I headed to work for about half a day.  Around 1:30 or so, it began to SNOW!! WAHOO!!  We are expecting 2-3 inches, but I snagged a few pics of the "early" stuff on my way home (and after I got home):

The dusty road that leads home!


This is our trampoline!  That is too cool!

Happy Valentine's Day, Tigger! Brrrr! 

More pics will follow as the snow builds higher and higher!!

Feb 10, 2010

Daily Photo (Hobby Pics)

Today's DailyShoot.com challenge asks us to take a picture of us participating in our favorite hobby (hobbies).  Well, I don't have a picture of me working with my hobby/ies, so I will provide you some of the finished products I have come up with over the past year or so.  Before we get rolling, one of my hobbies is digital photo/image editing - I love playing with images!  I especially love taking multiple images and making them into something they weren't - kind of like digital collages with purpose (usually humor, which I know is hard to believe).  But, I also am an avid Cleveland Indians baseball card collector.  By avid, I mean that my collection currently sits at just under 10,000 single non-duplicated cards.  I also have some other Indians "stuff," but I mostly collect the cards.  Sometimes, my hobbies overlap...

"A Pack to be Named Later" is a blog I participate on occasionally. I also contribute fake "packs" to serve as the sites header graphic.  The image above is one I did a bit ago.

The little guy above is Bloo! One of the funniest things I ever saw was the cartoon in which Bloo and another character repeat "It's hot in Topeka" over and over.  I cannot explain it.  Look for "hot in topeka" on YouTube. After that, I made an avatar for myself.
This graphic is actually huge in "real life."  I made it after 9/11 and it served as the background on my wide-screen monitor for a long, long time.  I purposely made the 'tear' between the images to represent things like my feelings, time and space, and what ever else ran through my head at the time.

Above is one of my infamous "iPad" spoofs.  Steve Jobs holds the one that looks like one of those giant remotes for people that can't see too well, or who are challenged by tiny buttons.  Speaking of which, below you see Jobs holding the "large button phone" version of the iPad:
Hard to miss the buttons on that puppy!

The Indians logo above was something I created during one of the worst parts of the Indians season last year.  Though, given how awfully they did, it could represent the WHOLE season.  ouch.

For "Talk Like a Pirate Day," one of the card-collecting blogs I read had a contest of sorts for folks to design pirate-related cards.  Kenny Lofton was one of the greatest base-stealers ever.  From there, my brain went.. well, you can see...

My most recent creation above: Leonard gets a Mini Cooper.  I love Big Bang Theory!

So there you have a peek (and trust me, this is just a PEEK) into the images that float around in the space between my ears.  Sometimes, whether you like it or not, those image escape and take on a life of their own...

*Note: I have no idea why the pics are all weird sizes. I tried to fix the pictures, but it didn't take.

**Note: I am adding this one below because I couldn't find it when I originally posted this entry:

Feb 9, 2010

Daily Photo ('til the cows come home)

I guess the party's over...
When I got home, the cows in the field delivered the message in only the way they know how: with their backsides pointing right at me.  Only the big guy stopped for a moment to check on me.  He and I don't get along so well.  The big white bull likes to come over to the fence when I am out and about just to make sure I am not going to jump the fence and go running through 'his' field.  I have no problem with that.

Feb 8, 2010

Daily Photo (Valentines for the departed)

The rain poured down from the sky above, as if from huge watering cans of days gone by.  The kind of watering cans that were made of tin and whose spout ended with a large round disc punched with tiny holes so the water wouldn't fall out in a stream, but rather like a constant soft waterfall.  I approached the place where beloveds of ages long gone, and those of the not so long ago, find rest for the rest of our own days.  And there, I saw gathered three stone hearts soaking up the constant shower from above.  I only had the camera in my phone, so I snapped a photo (below), and then another (above).  It wasn't until I returned to my home that I saw the reds and whites, flowers from Christmas this past and of Valentine's Day to come.  The falling water created a veil through which only the sense of those things could be discerned.  Though I tried to make things clearer, brighter, more lifelike, nothing seemed as poignant as the raw (albeit cropped) photos that you see here.  The photo below shows the place where my father spends his eternity.  His is the one with red and white on the left side of the photo.


Feb 6, 2010

Daily Photo (Curves - Emily and her Zhu-Zhu)

Today's challenge: Curves
Emily wanted my picture for today to be her new Zhu Zhu pet, Mr. Squiggles.  She bought him with her own money that she has save since Christmas.  Actually, I think she's been saving money since her last birthday.  She tends to be very thrifty with her money.  

I purposely left the lighting as you see it.  Depending on your personal viewing style, you either start with the large dark area and shift your focus to Emily then to the toy *or* you see the bright toy and move toward the right.  And, yes, in some cases, you may be the type that sees Emily first and then lets the eyes wander around.  What I hoped to achieve with "curves" as the theme is that the round toy leads to Em's round face, and the roundness stands out against a dark background.

Stephen asked me where I get my challenge ideas.  Most of my photos have been just pictures I wanted to post.  But, I also get ideas (especially for the 'challenge' part) from www.dailyshoot.com, though I do not submit my entries to them.  I don't because they have photo sites they like to use and I just insert my pics into my posts.  I suppose I could jet over to Picasaweb where Blogger stores photos and get the link to the pictures and add them to the DailyShoot site, but really, that's a bit much work for me. :-)  I have other random things I must get out of my head!

Friday's Daily Photo

It's right there, don't you see it?  You don't?  Well, Friday's topic was "Interpretation of a movie title."  I ended up with "The Invisible Man."  And, you can see why... er, well, NOT see it, really.

Now, that was a cop-out, for sure.  In truth, I had LOTS of ideas, but couldn't come up with their execution.  Let me 'splain:

"Raiders of the Lost Ark" - My friend, Jeff, has an old Raider SUV.  He lives in Arkansas. My plan was to take a picture of the back of the vehicle such that you could read the word "Raider" and get just enough of the license plate that you could not see the word "Ark" - Get it? the 'lost' Ark, right? I know, I'm sayin' I am too clever.  So clever that I never got the shot. Yay me. Strike one.

"Broken Arrow" - Yeap, you guessed it - a photo of, well, a broken arrow.  I don't have an arrow, let lone a broken one, so that never materialized either.  Strike two.

"Silverado" - Okay, this should be easy! Find a Chevy, take a picture of the badge on the tailgate. Call it good.  By the time I found a Silverado, I had forgotten about the picture. DUH! Strike three.  One out.

"The Color Purple" - Well, come on, how hard could that be?  Again, by the time I remembered to take a picture of something purple, it was too late (by my own clock. Meaning it was Saturday).  Strike one.

"Spaceballs" - This one came to me very late while I was driving to pick up my son from his church thing (we're talking 11:30pm or so).  I could gather up various balls, spread them out, and there ya go - space balls.  That never made it anywhere. A dud.  Strike two.

"Back to the Future" - I thought there was a sign in town that said something about progress and the future or something.  I was going to turn my back toward the sign and stand next to the word "future."  I know, brilliant, right?  Wrong.  I couldn't find the sign.  I'm not even sure there WAS such a sign. Strike three, two outs.

"Shawshank Redemption" - I was going to play on words, find a shawl, a small piece of meat, and a coupon.  Well, it sounded good in my head, okay?  Strike one.

"The Green Mile" - Simple. Easy. Forgotten.  Take a picture of a mile marker sign.  They're green. Strike two.

"Saw I, II, III" - Again, simple. Easy. Forgotten.  My father-in-law has more saws than anyone I know. How easy is this one!?  Take a photo of a saw...  then another of two saws, and so on!  This one actually came to me on my way home from work.  In the DRIVEWAY.  What happened between the driveway and the house to get my camera?  I have no idea.  Strike three. three outs. game over, man.

So, you are blessed with "The Invisible Man" as my photo (er, non-photo) of the day.  Oh, sure, I could have followed through with any of my ideas and posted a picture and said, "here it is!"  But I would know I was cheating.  While that's not good, that isn't really the issue I have.  You see, had I simply done that, I probably wouldn't have shared this story.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  So can the LACK of a picture.

Feb 5, 2010

Talking about Writing - Getting Started

I've published one collection of short stories so far.  I have one novel that is somewhere between "close to the end" and "catching a second wind."  Why am I telling you this?  Because, I'm just a normal, everyday guy.  Just like you.  Unless you're a woman, in which case I should probably say, "I am a normal, everyday person."  Then again, the implication is that I am normal, whatever that means.  I digress, as I often do.

My point is this: Anyone can write.  And, in my opinion, unlike the Ratatouille saying "Anyone can, but not everyone should," I say that everyone should write at least once.  Write some short stories, write some poems, write a novel, write some of each, whatever hits your fancy.

For the purposes of this post, I will concentrate on the "starter's blocks" that often come long before anyone sits down to start hammering out their own creativity onto the typewritten page (or computer screen). 

Block #1 - "I don't have anything to say" - Some writing guides would argue that the fact you just said you had nothing to say was, in fact, something to say.  Here's my take on it: You only think you have nothing to say.  We all have plenty to say every day - we talk to our friends, our co-workers, neighbors, families, the checkout clerk at Wal-Mart that decides to share every detail of her life when all you really want is to go home... Lots of things to say (or hear) from people you encounter each day.  So, it's not that you don't have anything to say, but you might counter here (and most likely are as you read this) with Block #2.

Block #2 - "I don't have anything interesting to say" - Ah!  We have exposed one of the fears of writing - rejection - and we haven't even started writing yet!  Think back to the last book or story you read.  What made you read it?  What made you want to read it?  Right now, you may be thinking, "It was sad, scary, poignant - interesting!" Well, I would hope so, or else what was the point, right?  Now, if you have the book handy, look through it.  What do you see?  How is it written?  What does the author do that made it an interesting read?  Usually, the answer is: nothing special.  In truth, the story in the book was probably a series of events with a handful of people that led you down a path.  Think about talking to folks you know.  How do those stories usually unfold?  They usually go something like this:
---Person 1 (call her Patty): "You should have seen Jim last night!"
---Person 2 (call her Rachel): "What happened!?"
---Patty: "We had gone out to Dino's for supper, and when the waiter brought our water glasses to the table, he tripped and spilled the drinks all over Jim!"
---Rachel: (gasps, putting her hand to her mouth), "No way!" she says as she starts to laugh. "What happened after that!?"
---Patty: "Oh my gosh!  Jim is sitting there, water is pouring down his head into his lap. Oh, he was wearing the new shirt I got him for Christmas! I just realized that!"

You see where I'm going, right?  Just an office conversation.  Were you interested? Would you like to know what happened next?  Maybe. Depends on you as a reader to determine your own interest level.  What about me as the writer?  How do I make that story interesting?  I feed you tidbits.  What, in my few lines, would you like to know?  What's the restaurant look like?  What do Patty and Rachel look like?  What kind of person is Jim?  How does he react?  You can do the same thing.  It may take some practice, but you can do it.  The easiest way to start?  Write an actual conversation as best you remember it - use one that made you laugh or brought tears to your eyes.  Believe me, if it affected you, it will affect (that is, be interesting) to others.  And, that brings us to another block.

Block #3 - "I've heard people say, 'write what you know,' but I don't know anything." - I hate that advice.  To me, for me, it is the worst possible thing to say to someone.  Because it is too generic.  It's like most fortunes from a cookie.  When I write, I usually have no idea what's going to come out.  Then again, sometimes I have the topic or maybe the people, and things grow from there.  But, what do I know?  Do I know about hanging on a wooden cross because I had been caught and thrown in jail?  Do I know what hanging on the cross next to Jesus Christ was like?  Of course not.  Do I know what winning the lottery is like?  I wish!  But, no.  Now, can I imagine what things might be like sitting in a jail cell as a crowd of people begin shouting for some guy to killed?  Why not, right?  Can I imagine what winning the lottery would be like?  Heck yeah, almost everyone I know does that!  Writing, for me and I hope to show that it can be for you too, is a way to express the imagination we have running around in our heads.  Forget "what you know."  I am a Technology Coordinator - a techie.  None of my stories (that I can recall) have anything to do with techie stuff.  Why not?  Because that's "what I know" and I have yet to imagine a story involving techie 'stuff.'  Forget "what you know."  I do like something else I heard, though: "Write what you think you might feel, or what you might want to feel."  Ah, now wait... There may be something there.  Pick a scenario (say, winning the lottery), make up a person's name.  What would that person do if s/he won the lottery?  "Yeah, but," you may be thinking, "do you know how many other people have written about that very same thing!?"  My response: at least one less than should have because YOU haven't yet.  What would that person feel?  Who would want your character's money?  Does the person have kids, a spouse, an ex-? What do they think about your character? About your character winning?  Happy? Jealous? Faking happiness but really jealous?  Would someone kill for that money?  Of course, it doesn't have to go that way - YOU make it go the way you want (or, go the way the story takes you).

Block #4 - "What if I am no good?  What if no one reads it?" - This is the block that kept me from publishing for more than ten years.  Frankly, if I had not heard about Lulu.com from a friend, I might still be hiding behind this block.  Most of us fear some kind of rejection.  So, how do we overcome it?  Stephen King did it by hanging every rejection letter he got on a nail in his wall.  As time wore on, the nail was replace by a railroad spike.  Yes, that's right. And, yes, I am talking about THAT Stephen King.  He has said that to this day, he keeps those rejections.  I don't know that I could handle that.  But, I have found there are several things one can do to help combat this block. 
  1. Find someone you trust - a family member, a friend, a co-worker - and let them know that you have started writing and that you'd like to bounce a story or two off them.  Let me tell you, you need to select someone that you don't mind brutal honesty.  Especially if they are not writers themselves.  BUT, even if that one person doesn't like the story, it's not the end.  Why not?  They may not like your style, or the subject matter, or the font you used. Seriously.  What you want from them, though, is a review/critique of the writing itself - wording, rhythm, etc.
  2. Find a fellow writer or editor via local college or social network - Heck, ask me.  I can't speak for all writer, of course, but I'd love to read someone else's writing.  A fellow writer is much more apt to critique/criticize the WRITING and not the WRITER.  There is nothing wrong with YOU as a person just because you have to work on technique, phrasing, pacing, etc.  I think all writers strive for improvement. Or I hope so.
  3. Take the "Who cares" approach - not an easy one because it means you are letting your ego take a hike and you are going to put yourself out there regardless.  That's the approach I took.  Once I got on Lulu.com (and there are plenty of other self-publishing sites to choose from, or you can submit to publishers in the traditional manner), I decided that I was going to put my stories out there and let them rise or fall.  Does that mean I don't care if no one buys the book?  Of course not! I would LOVE to see a million sales.  Or even a hundred.  But, what mattered to me was that I did it - I wrote some stories, reviewed them, edited them, then published them.  In my case, I decided to offer up the PDF version for free.  Why on earth would I just give away my hard work?  I figure there are people who will check it out simply based on curiosity.  And, I figure some folks prefer to have a book-in-hand.  I know of one person that bought a hard copy after reading "Hero" in the PDF.  You can do the same thing - put it out there and let it ride.  Perhaps knowing you have something in print will light a fire to write more.  Or, maybe it helps cross one thing off your "bucket list."  Either way, you can tell the world "I'm Published!"
I've only covered a few of the blocks people may use when first starting out on the road to authorship, but hopefully I've given you a few ideas on how to poke holes in those blocks.  I'm not saying my advice will bulldoze the blocks, just saying that if you remove enough bricks, the roadblock will fall down all by itself.

Feel free to comment, criticize, critique, etc.  After all, I'm just an everyday guy trying to help.  And, I'll be happy to edit this post to reflect the comments I feel should be incorporated.

Podstock 2010 - July 16 & 17

Oh, yeah!! Gotta be gearin' up for Podstock 2010 in Wichita, KS!

What is "Podstock?"  Think Woodstock, education, and technology all meeting in one creative two-day event!  The event comes from the amazingly creative mind of Kevin Honeycutt and others at ESSDACK in Hutchinson, KS.  Mark you calendar now, and RSVP via the 2010 PodStock Facebook event page! Kevin has also created the PodStock Ning.  If you follow the link, you can sign up for more info and follow along as Podstock takes place.  I am planning on being there!  I have a feeling I will be letting my creative juices flow - and we all know what happens when that lets loose!  We're talking parodies, photos, videos, and general creative mayhem!

Wesley Fryar recorded a three-minute video to whet your appetite: