An Eventful Day

I have finished NaNoWriMo with a word count of 50035. That was a long haul. I managed to finish writing and get my word count certified so I have officially “won”. I am not pleased with the first draft but I understand that is a typical reaction upon finishing a first draft.

The next step is to start editing my novel from 2014. I’m going to let this one sit for a while before I try to evaluate it. I’m excited to get back to the older novel. I have some good ideas for cleaning it up.

Also, I managed to get my new laptop mostly set up. There was a big effort to get the iTunes situation straightened out. While I did that I made good use of the time installing various other packages that I needed.

Then, on top of everything else, we had a string of tornado warnings so I was monitoring the ham radio emergency weather network. It looks like there may be more rough weather tomorrow.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

A Pitiful Excuse for a Blog Post

I’m writing this blog post on my new MacBook Pro. It is a Ferrari of a laptop. It didn’t arrive until around seven this evening. It was raining. The traffic was congested. Who knows why it took so long. I set it up while the wildings stormed Castle Black (a reference to Game of Thrones) on TV.

I took a brief break to move to the bedroom. I haven’t had a laptop for some time. I’ve never had a laptop that was so comfortable to use anywhere. It is light and cool and the keyboard has a nice feel to it.

When one has tools as nice as this, one feels an obligation to use it to craft truly outstanding work. I’m afraid I’ve fallen somewhat short of the mark tonight. I am resolved to do better for my next post. But for tonight, I’m just going to go with what I’ve got.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Adolescence Begins

Nineteen sixty nine was a landmark year. It was the year of the summer of love, Woodstock, and the year that Crosby, Stills, and Nash formed. It was the year that I turned fourteen. It was the year that I started high school. These were all important pivot points in my development.

The summer of love was the height of the hippie movement. I have always considered myself a hippie. Through four years in the Army, and thirty six years working as part of the industrial/military complex, as we so colorfully called it, I still considered myself a hippie.

Woodstock was the cultural event of the decade. Henry the Fifth’s St. Crispen’s day speech in Shakespeare’s Henry V captures the essence of how those of us that weren’t at Woodstock felt about missing it, i.e. “we counted our manhood cheap”. It launched the careers of so many bands, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Canned Heat, Sly and the family Stone, and others too numerous to mention.

Crosby, Stills, and Nash and sometimes Young are still affecting my musical vocabulary to this day. I study their music in an attempt to fathom the art of the rock ballad. So many of the things that happened to me later in life had echoes of Crosby, Stills, and Nash entwined with it. When Skip and I did our duo act, their songs comprised a significant portion of our repertoire, when I was in the Army in Germany their music was on all the stereos all the time, and when I got out of the Army and started working in the Computer industry, their music was still a major part of our daily soundtrack.

I started high school at Lone Oak High School in Lone Oak, Kentucky that year. My mother taught English there and my aunt taught Art there. I had my first introduction to choral music in A Capella Choir. I took music theory there. I learned to play the trombone there. I learned to debate there.

And then, after my sophomore year, we moved to Murphysboro, Illinois. But that was the beginning of another chapter in my life. One that would be influenced by that golden year of nineteen sixty nine but that would change my story again, bending it in yet another direction.

This blog post isn’t a portrait, it’s an impressionistic painting. It is an attempt to capture the flavor and emotions associated with this time in my life, not to chronicle the details of what happened. I don’t know if I could remember them well enough to adequately report what actually happened.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

I Know How Moses Felt

Tonight my new MacBook Pro that I ordered in October is sitting in the UPS warehouse in Huntsville. Thanks to the magic of the internet and UPS: Tracking software, I followed it from China to Shanghai, to Anchorage, AK, to Louisville, KY, to Nashville, TN, and finally, at 2:09AM this morning, to Huntsville, AL. It will sit there until Monday when it will be put on the truck for delivery.

To say that I am frustrated is an understatement. I have a perfectly good computer. It is serving me well for the things that I use it for every day. I read my email. I record my vitals. I write my words, which for the past month has entailed writing a minimum of 1667 words per day on a novel. I use it to write my blog post. I occasionally use it to write software.

The MacBook Pro will allow me to do all that plus more. It will allow me to record music with Garage Band, edit video with iMovie, develop iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS software in Swift using the XCode IDE. It will allow me to do all that anywhere I want to take it. It is the lightest, most capable laptop Apple has ever made.

And yet it sits in the UPS warehouse until Monday. I will live. I will enjoy it when it comes but I will do other things until then. But I will be frustrated, thinking about how close it is and yet still not here.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

I’m Thankful

My father in law gave me a half a box of tomatoes yesterday. About half of them were a little bit green so I put them in the window to ripen. The other half were extremely ripe. So, I got busy. I washed them and chopped them up and then mashed them. I diced a large onion, four miniature bell peppers of various colors, two jalapenos, two cloves of garlic, chopped about six stems of cilantro, juiced  one lemon and one lime,  a half a tablespoon of salt.

That was about an hour of chopping. I sealed it all in a big bowl and put it in the refrigerator to marinate. It will be good tomorrow and better as the week progresses. I love to make fresh salsa. I used to eat it with chips. Now, I eat it instead of salad dressing. I eat it on baked potatoes. I eat it with carrots and celery.

I continue to lose weight. I’m hovering around 240 now. I expect to drop into the 230s this next week. I’ve been losing about five pounds a week. It’s not a straight line. There is a good bit of oscillation up and down. The important thing is that the downward swings are larger than the upward swings.

I counted Thanksgiving as a cheat day. I allowed myself a single bite of turkey, just for the flavor. I didn’t kibitz about butter in the mashed potatoes or sour cream and bread crumbs in the squash casserole. And I totally ignored the fact that the dressing had way to much processed flour in it. I had a salad for dinner and I still managed to lose a pound yesterday.

Today I was more or less back on the program. I did have a couple of pieces of Pam’s low sugar pumpkin pie and a serving of the left over squash casserole. I’ll be more careful about what I eat tomorrow.

Tonight we had dinner with friends. All things considered, I consider myself very blessed. I am thankful for good food, good friends, family and all  the other great things in my life. I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving and survived black Friday.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Smelling the Barn

I have made it eighty percent of the way through the word count of my NaNoWriMo novel for 2016. That’s over forty thousand words written to date. I have less than ten thousand words to write to complete the challenge. Who knows how many words it will take to complete the story. It is an interesting story. I can see that it is going to need a lot of work to whip into shape.

I have learned a lot about following where my instincts take me. The best parts of this work have been pulled out of my imagination on the spur of the moment as opposed to being part of the original premise. One of the things that I’m going to have to do is rework the main premise to fit in with the good parts that I discovered while writing it.

I’m still learning the craft of writing. I’m not sure if this is something that I’m going to want to try to pursue as a full time occupation or not. It is hard to know from the experience that I’ve got under my belt so far. I will say that I’ve had more fun writing this story than I did the first one. Or the second one either. I forgot to count the novella that I serialized on this blog earlier this year.

I’m going to reserve my judgment until after I’ve shepherded a novel all the way through the process of editing, rewriting and selling it. After I’ve done that a couple of times maybe I can make an informed decision about whether I want to continue doing it. But by that time, I may be so addicted to the activity that I won’t have any choice but to keep writing. I’ll risk it.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

The Effect of Personal Computers on Independent Artistic Productions

We used to do things in a very linear, one thing after another fashion. Then we invented computers or more particularly, personal computers. Then, slowly and surely, we learned how to assemble things as a collage of pieces.

Before computers, you sat down to write a term paper, or a story, or a report and you started at the beginning and you wrote until you got to the end. Then, you went back and read what you had written. You looked up words that you were unsure of to see if you spelled them correctly or not. You marked up changes on your draft copy.

Then, when you had made your corrections, you sat down and produced a second draft. It had your changes incorporated. This is the draft that you would show to a friend or maybe a parent to solicit comments. After you collected all the comments you would make another pass at correcting the piece.

Then you would very carefully write or type the final draft. You would measure your margins and take extreme care not to make mistakes. This was the product that you would hand in to the teacher or your publisher as the case might be.

With the advent of the personal computer and word processing software, you could assemble your work in any order you like. If you didn’t get the order of the piece write when you entered the text, it was no problem to cut and paste the pieces of text to different places in your piece.

And spelling was checked as you typed. You still had to be careful of using the right word in the right context. But outright misspelled words were hard to overlook.

This should have raised the bar and made papers better. It seems to have had the opposite effect. People don’t take as much care when they are writing. And even though it is easier to correct and edit a piece until it is highly polished, because the first draft looks good, people are not as likely to spend the time reading what they have written to see if it says what they mean.

I am guilty of this as well but I only recently realized the connection between this dip in writing quality and the rise of word processors. But the written word isn’t the only nonlinear product enabled by computers. Because of computers we can now assemble music piece at a time and reorder and mix it after the fact easily.

Before digital recording became affordable, audio production was done on expensive machines and cut and paste type of nonlinear editing was often accomplished by literally cutting the magnetic tape and splicing it together with cellophane tape. Special effects were often added in line as the original sound was recorded because every time the original recording was copied, it’s quality was degraded in the process.

The other example of nonlinear editing that was enabled by the personal computer was video. Film and later video was painstakingly edited by cutting and splicing original media much like audio tape. When digital quality caught up with film quality, it suddenly became feasible for independent filmmakers (or videographers as the case often is) to make their productions on a fraction of the budget that they used to require.

Strangely enough, I don’t see digital music editors or video editors suffering from the same oversights that I observed the writers making. Perhaps it is because the result of their art is so much more immediately evident where as writers have trouble seeing what they actually wrote because they know what they meant to write.

In any case, many more people have access to professional quality production tools because of the personal computer. It has already gone a long way to leveling the playing field and disrupting the studio production system in music and films. And the number of self published books on Amazon is a testament to how many writers are enabled by their personal computers. If they’d just pay more attention to what they are saying instead of how pretty it looks, we’ll see a lot more successful self published books.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Brevity is the Soul of WIt

I’m taking tomorrow and Monday off. It will be six days in a row of vacation. I am looking forward to it. I started the day at four thirty this morning. I can barely keep my eyes open to write this. Consequently it is going to be short.

I got notification that my MacBook Pro had shipped this morning. I will be checking its progress online until it gets here. It is due in on Monday. I’ve got my fingers crossed that it might get here a little bit earlier. I’ll be glad to see it in any case.

Pam was disappointed by the end table that I built last night. To be honest, so was I. We’re going to ship the other one back for a refund. Then we’ll buy a pair that we like better. I may talk her in to looking around for a pair locally. I’d appreciate not having to assemble them.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

Of Furniture Wax and Prose

Tonight I put together an end table. It was more difficult than I expected. The instructions were poorly written. The thing was poorly designed. When I finally got it put together, it was fairly sturdy and looked pretty good.

There is another one in a box waiting for me to put together tomorrow night. I have a better idea how it is done, having built one already. I expect that it will be easier to put together. I am happy to get the new furniture. It will make the living room look better.

I have this on good authority. The person with the best taste in furniture that I know picked out these end tables. They are clever and designed for people with a digital lifestyle, like us.

I am hoping that my MacBook Pro will ship tomorrow. Then again, I’ll hope that every day until it actually ships. I actually like the new design, unlike so many of the technical press who all can’t wait to pile on it.

I’m creeping slowly up on the fifty thousand word mark. Although I will have technically “won” at that point, I will still be writing the book for several more months. I may cut back to writing an hour a day instead of a specific minimum number of words every day.

It’s late and I’m tired. Tomorrow is the last day that I intend to work until after Thanksgiving. That means I’ll be off five days in a row.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.

My Life in the Theater

I grew up in the theater. Not at the theater, in the theater. When I was eight years old I was cast as an extra in Stars in My Crown, a musical play about the development of Kentucky Dam and Barkley Dam in western Kentucky. My mother was cast in a supporting role as a school teacher and my father was part of the technical crew. We did the show for two summers in a row before it closed.

It was run like a professional show although most of the actors and crew did not have a union card. My dad was the property master the first year. He acquired or built, stored, and maintained all of the props used in the show. The second year he ran the lights.

I loved getting up at ten o’clock in the morning, leaving for the show around five, getting dressed and made up for a curtain at eight. The show ran until around ten. Then there were pickups after the show. On the way home we would often stop for a hamburger at an all night truck stop and play popular songs on the juke box for a nickel.

I was obsessed by theater. I wanted to direct my class mates in plays when I got back to school in the third and fourth grade. As you might imagine, that didn’t go well. They couldn’t remember their lines or their blocking and had no patience being told what to do by one of their classmates.

I did participate in various school plays throughout junior high and high school. After high school I worked in a couple of western theme parks as a gunfighter and a guitar player in the saloon show. I also did Kentucky Long Rifle demonstrations and assisted in magic shows.

That, alas, was my last professional theatrical endeavor. I miss it. But it doesn’t pay very well. Unless you are one of the very lucky few that actually make it really big. That doesn’t happen to many people. You’d probably do better if you planned to make a fortune by playing the lottery.

I plan to perform some more. I’m not sure what I plan to do but the theater in my blood is starting to boil again. I’m going to do something about it soon.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.