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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Brothers In Arms

My brother arrived from Louisiana last night. It's great to have him around. No matter how well someone understands me, there's nothing like someone who was raised by the same parents.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Too Hip

My girlfriend sent me an instant message last night; "are you around?" Busy and scurrying as I have been that seemed like a good way to start a conversation. A simple 'yes' would have been the obvious answer, but master of the obvious is something I automatically avoid.

So my answer was 'no, I'm a purple square.'

On Yahoo chess the listings of who is in a room include the name and rating of the players. For shorthand sorting there is a little block in front of your name, and the color of the block relates to a wide range of ratings. 1500-1800 is purple.

My girlfriend is way too hip to be hanging out with a square. Even a purple one. Glad she loves me.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Best Laid Plans

After all the debate and planning to accommodate my parents wishes to die with dignity in the comforts of their own home, dad decides last night he wants to go to the hospital. Getting home at three in the morning after hours spent in a plastic chair in the ER hallway tells me that being funny today is unlikely at best. Especially since his occasional awakenings while waiting for a room involved such terrific conversations. Topics like; 'why do you look so tired, I thought you were supposed to be tough?', 'get used to this, in a few years it will be your brother, then it's your turn', and that absolute favorite 'I'll bet this is really screwing things up with your girlfriend, huh?' This morning the hospital called to get some info about his medications. They commented on what a pleasant man he is. A real charmer...when he wants to be.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Power Weekend

There's a song, There's Nothing Soft About Hard Times. As anyone who knows me would expect it's a Jimmy Buffett song. As most people would probably assume the 'hard times' referred to are a function of money...where a dime means bread not a movie as the song goes.

This weekend was hard times of another sort; working with my brother and sister and mom through the difficult questions raised by caring for an eighty-five year old father in failing health. Difficult questions. Differing opinions. Emotional issues. And nothing soft about it. But in the end we came through together.

I have seen some families that seem so close, then something happens and they just splinter apart. My family has always seemed like a distant scattering, with outposts from coast to coast, but there is a magic in our clan. We hold through hard times.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Around Morrowind In Eighty Days

I just published the eightieth day of Arvil Bren's Journal. I guess that could have been anticipated. Start at day one, some period of time later there is a day eighty. It does follow pretty obviously. But somehow today I'm surprised. Pleased with myself, but surprised.

I have published every Monday through Friday with one exception, a Thursday that went awry. Sometimes I have had ten to fifteen days written ahead, sometimes I have scrambled in the morning to get that day up. I like the former, but do more of the latter it seems. I have pursued readers in any and every way I could think of, and those readers have unknowingly kept a guy who is not really known for consistency ticking along like a clock. In three months I have written about 60,000 words. That is a pace that writes a novel in six months.

When I started writing the book I was working on I knew myself as someone who could write, and said writing a book would be a one year project. I had no idea really what that would take, a year just seemed like a good even figure of time. Now I know. And I know myself to be someone who can write 20,000 words a month on a project; the right project, with the right management. I've been outlining and gathering my wits to start a new project, and I'm almost ready. And this is my management.

Somewhere over there---->, in the sidebar, I'm putting a 'day count' to track how far ahead I am with AB's Journal. I've said my intention is to be ten days ahead, but up until now no one has ever known if I was or I wasn't. A public counter to update will make a difference for me. Along with it next week will be a word counter for the new book. Even if no one ever really looks at them, just updating them every day will keep me on track.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Here a Blog, There a Blog...

Obviously I am not hitting on all cylinders this morning. I just stared in horror at the 'edit posts' screen for about thirty seconds. Today's entry for Arvil Bren's Journal was not there. I knew I had saved it as a draft. I knew it! How could Blogger do this to me?! Oh. Well, yeah. That draft for AB's Journal would be on the edit posts screen for that blog, not this blog.

So, now for my excuse. I post here every weekday, just about. I do AB's Journal every weekday without fail. I have AB's Journal archived manually in ten day blocks in yet another blog; Arvil's Dusty Tomes, which I have tricked into keeping the entries in order like a book instead of most recent first. I said this blog would be a 'politics free' zone, so I have a political blog for whenever I get particularly rabid. Now I've started a 'team' blog with all my extended family members, where they can all post...and I'm the administrator and said I would keep the template managed and all the nuts and bolts stuff handled. Which I have a little practice at doing...and have another blog that I use for template modification testing.

When you log into Blogger the first screen is called the 'Dashboard'. When I started out I used to laugh at that. I figured it was just an advertising thing, since it was just an extra click on the way to my one and only blog. Now I have six blogs and my dashboard reminds me of the reactor control panel on my old submarine.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Making The Best Of Things

Or maybe making something out of nothing.

The drive to my girlfriend's house at night is getting pretty automatic. Same roads. Sometimes flooded, most times not. Other drivers sometimes doing dumb stuff. My mind wandering into tracking them down and pummelling them... as a public service. A routine. Twenty minutes of my day that I have been enduring, a get it over with time. That's not how I choose to burn my limited lifespan, even in small twenty minute blocks.

Last night there was a guy with his lights off. 47th Street. A well lit, busy road, where you could easily not notice your lights being off. I flashed my brights. He got the message and turned them on. Or maybe he was reaching for the lightswitch and never even saw me. Who knows?

And who knows? Someone might have been arriving at the very next intersection to pull out in front of his darkened car. Me being there to flash my lights at him may have saved his life, or saved him from a lifetime of guilt for killing someone that never saw him coming. Long odds. The high probability is that he would have noticed anyway. But since there is no way of knowing, really, I get to consider my twenty minutes well spent.

So tonight's drive will be twenty minutes lived, not just gotten over with.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

That's Not A Movie, That's A Lifestyle

We watched Lord of the Rings this past weekend. All of it. DVD extended versions. One of very few books that I've read more than once. An epic that has left its mark on bookstores for all time. When you go to Barnes and Noble consider; without LOTR that whole fantasy genre that has taken over half the science fiction section may not exist. Anyway, enough bowing to the great ancestor...

My girlfriend had never seen any of the movies. She was shocked when the first one ended. I remember the uproar in the theater when I saw it the first time. Despite the fact that it consumed the whole weekend, this was the way to watch it. It is clearly one movie in three parts. Long, but a heck of a ride.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Flower Power

In my long ago world where I had no interest in being a nice guy there was this saying: hire the handicapped, they're fun to watch. I worked for a contractor, and that was the standard response whenever anyone hit their hand with a hammer, dropped something, tripped, or otherwise gave us an opportunity to say it. I try not to think that way about Jack, especially since most of his blindness induced misadventures in some way result from me failing to warn him as his person should. But this morning...

Apparently some female dog left a calling card in my girlfriend's lawn. Jack was searching, nose four inches off the grass, for the epicenter of the smell. In the intensity of the moment he was ignoring the open car door and anything I had to say, so I really don't feel bad about not warning him, and I honestly didn't see this one coming. I still got the accusing look that is his clear expression of 'why didn't you warn me?'

The look lost something this time though. Something about the explosive exhalation of dandelion seeds and the litter of white specks across the black part of his muzzle took a lot of the sting out of it.

Friday, March 18, 2005


Strangest thing. My girlfriend brought home two movies borrowed from a guy at work. We watched one Wednesday night; Ladder 49. Great film I thought, but that's not the issue. Weeknight movie watching is off the agenda by the way, we are both exhausted, but that's not the issue either.

Last night I was hanging out with my friend Greg. At our guitar playing spot, but not playing, just talking. Anyway, at some point I said something about the movie I'd seen the night before; told him it was good and worth seeing. As those conversations frequently go, he responded with a recommendation of his own. Not a big time movie by any means, just one he had seen recently that he happened to like. I vaguely remember ads for it when it was in theaters, but I don't recall anyone else ever saying they saw it. Funny that he would up and recommend it when it's lying on the dining room table at my girlfriend's house. It's the other movieshe got from the guy at work.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Mixed Pack

Jack the dog, like any dog, assumes that he lives in a pack. Like most domestic dogs his pack is led by the big dog that walks on its hind legs. Me. As in most packs, choosing his leader went pretty quickly for him, but sorting out the rest of the order is more complicated. For Jack, very complicated. His pack is split into two camps.

During the day he has his 'grandmother'. He has definately identified that she is in charge and minds her in all matters except following me around. Then there's his 'grandfather'. He's not quite sure what to make of that. Dad gets his meals on a cart that is low enough for Jack to nose around on, and he would probably risk snagging some food if I wasn't vigilant. In the dog pack that's a clear sign of position. So during the day things are pretty settled. Then there's the nights.

My girlfriend, in Jack's world, is the goddess known as she-who-gives-snackies. This elevates her completely above all pack status. When he thinks she has snackies he will follow her everywhere, and whenever she pauses he runs in front, faces her, and sits. This homage has been rewarded by manna from heaven in the past, and is well worth the try. But like most devout followers, in his awe he has a hard time grasping directions from the godhead.

The new word in Jack's vocabulary is 'bed'. I say bed, Jack goes to his bed and sits in it. He doesn't lay down, or stay very long, but he is right on target. With Laurie, he is engaged in continuing exploration. He sits near the bed but close enough to her that no stretching to deliver the snackie is required. His obvious concern for her convenience and the irresistible adoring look will sometimes serve to buffer not quite doing what he was told. Hmmmm. Are we his dog pack, or is Jack more human than I thought?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Good Game Wasted

I started playing this game; WAR! Age of Imperialism. It's a computer version of a board game, which I'm sure is a great board game. It's a great computer game if you like turn based strategy games, which I do. I found out yesterday the mistake I made though.

I was looking for on-line games to get into. It has an on-line function built in. Since it is turn based rather than real time it doesn't require a committed group all on at the same time and long enough to play it out, it's sort of like play by e-mail. That works for me, and I'm interested.

Where I found out I had made a mistake was when I stumbled onto a game review. They said 'Most of the time spent in playing is spent reviewing the computer opponent's moves, learning strategies that work. Eventually this developes an ability to compete with the artificial intelligence, which plays a very strong game even on the easy setting.' I thought the review screens were cool, but time consuming, and mostly skipped them. Maybe that's why I need to find live opponents. I can't find any harder settings for the AI, which I've been drubbing since day one. Had I let them teach me their strategy I guess I'd still be losing.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


When I was in the navy I did my time on a submarine. Men, in the prime years of hormone madness, trapped in a very confined space under high stress with no women. How to not kill each other was a daily question. We played a lot of chess. Being able to sit down, armed with exactly the same pieces as an enemy, with no opportunity for wayward luck to intervene, provided something vital.

I'm not quite as intense about it now, though when I'm having a bad day I go to Yahoo Chess with the stated intention to 'take some scalps'. On those days my rating tends to rise pretty fast. Testosterone still works I guess.

When people ask how I got to be a good chessplayer I tell them it's pretty simple. I've lost more games than they have. I've lost more games than they likely ever will. My brother taught me to play when I was six, and beat me like a drum until I was seventeen. I lived with his family for a while when I was seventeen and we both had off-shore oil jobs...so when we were on shore we could just hang out and play forty or fifty games a day...and often did. I learned a lot about life across that board...and I lost games beyond counting.

My life since then has given me lots of opportunities to lose chess games, and as Darth Vader says 'then I was but the learner, now I am the master'. I play chess on line with my brother, and I don't go soft since it is chess, but every time I beat him I think about how much I owe him for those early lessons. Thanks my brother.

Monday, March 14, 2005

The Latest In Too Much Bother

In taking care of elderly folk the biggest upset and mayhem is the falling down. My dad has Parkinson's disease among other things, so falling down is a somewhat regular event. Sometimes he falls down even when he takes his meds. When he doesn't take his meds the probability goes through the roof.

So yesterday I get called home to pick him off the floor. Last night I'm putting together his pills for today and, what a surprise, the box from Saturday is almost full. I trot in to check on him, and sure enough, Sunday's box is still almost full too. Once again he is apparently on strike. "Why aren't you taking your meds?" I tried to keep calm and reasonable.

"I don't have any pill milk." He has gotten it into his head that only the special weight gain milk is good for washing down pills. I know he got a glass of regular milk or a soda with every meal, and can account for at least two in between that I got him at his request during my passes through over the weekend. Mom's computer is right across the hall from his day room, and I know by how frazzled she gets that when I'm not here he keeps her jumping.

But he apparently doesn't want to bother anyone by asking for milk, it's better just to skip the pills and get picked off the floor the next day. Thanks for the break pops.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Schedules, Habits, and Reliability

So I decided to schedule my time to try to manage my obsessive nature. When I find a new game I tend to play it until I win it. When I am writing well I tend to keep going until the demand for sleep knocks me flat. The need for food is managed with peperoncinis and cheese. It's a wonder I survive.

Anyway, I fired up the Yahoo calendar and blocked out time for all my current projects and obsessions. So far it has worked great for a couple days, not so great for one day, and not at all for one day. If I can hold it together today I'll call the week at three and a half out of five...not great, but not bad considering.

Yesterday was the bomb out day. Blogger was down at the appointed time for blogging. I could just blame them for yesterday's missing post, but in truth after not getting posting done I started playing War: Age of Imperialism...and the rest, as they say, is history.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

So I Did Everything Wrong

The Milo Foundation, where I adopted Jack, sent me a book; How To Live With A Blind Dog. Gotta love those guys! Anyway, I read about halfway through it yesterday. It is a good thing Jack is Jack. I knew the only dog I would have is an Australian Shepherd.

In my defense, the book is meant for wide application. Dogs born blind, blind in old age, or like Jack, blinded far before what seems like their time. Dogs completely blind and dogs with limited vision. Smart dogs like Jack and his breed, or the far more common dumb dogs. Yes, I am a breed snob.

Had I read the book ahead of time I would have known I was supposed to introduce Jack to one room at a time, only moving on when he had navigated about and gotten the lay of it. I live in a trailer and spend a lot of my time in two other houses. Jack explored them all, and their yards, pretty much on his own, within the first hour when we got home, and committed all the obstacles to memory. Watching him on his own turf you would think he was a sighted dog with an annoying habit of bowling over the light plastic patio chairs that occassionally move into his path.

It's a good thing he can't read. I read a lot of it out loud to him, but I left that part out.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Too Close to the Character

Yesterday I finished writing an episode (#69 I think it was) for Arvil Bren's Journal. For those who don't know what I'm talking about read 'Serial Fiction' in the sidebar--->. Anyway, in this particular episode there is a villain armed with a dagger that basically puts her victims to sleep. She leaves a bloody trail of slit throated corpses who clearly never even drew a weapon to defend themselves. Arvil, being the hero of the story, naturally has to deal with this at some point.

His battle with her took me three days to write. I kept having to take a nap.

Monday, March 07, 2005

What? A Movie Review?

I never intended to put movie reviews in my blog. Of course I started out with no idea what I was intending to put in my blog, so I guess it isn't that shocking. This is more a public service than a review anyway.

The movie in question is a comic book movie. As I've said before, I brought comic book movies into my girlfriend's life, and I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of Electra on video. A comic book movie about a chick hero. How great was that gonna be when I brought it over?

Fortunately, I had some time on my hands and it was playing at the dollar movies around the corner. I strolled on over and watched it. Unlike many, I sat through the whole thing. I wanted to get full value. It pains me enough to have paid $1.50, if it had been a three dollar rental I'd feel even more sorely abused. If they showed it for free I wouldn't see it again.

Run while you can! Save yourselves! Don't see this movie!!

Friday, March 04, 2005

My Road Dog

Knowing the way that I live I knew that I had to have a good car dog. When I started talking to the Milo Foundation about Jack I stressed that pretty hard. They assured me he would be, but there's always that nagging doubt. Not like a rescue organization would intentionally lie about a dog's characteristics, but I couldn't help but wonder if "yeah, he's good in the car" meant "from what I remember when we brought him in six months ago there wasn't a problem", or if he was really what I meant when I said 'good car dog'.

The final report is in. Yesterday was my volunteer day at the local after school program. I got a call and had to rush home to pick dad off the floor, so I left the car in the driveway. A couple hours later I went out to put it in the garage. The road dog couldn't stand it, he had to go along for the thirty foot ride. If he could see I'd teach him to drive.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Plan Ahead

There's this church. They are on the main street, and they have this marquee where they put up some sort of words of wisdom. When I lived here before I used to pass it every day; now not so often, but I did today. The current quote of note: Plan ahead, it wasn't raining when Noah built the ark.

At first glance that seemed pretty sage advice, but...

That wasn't planning. God up and told him, build an ark. Like this Noah, build it like this. The guys who kept some grain so they could plant again after the rainy season, they were planning, they just had the wrong plan. The guys who threw caution to the winds and lived like there was no tomorrow, they were planning, and they were right. Not exactly the intended message I guess, but it should make fora really good day.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Why are there bumps?

I guess like everyone else I've always had this fantasy about the perfect relationship. You know, the one where it's all smooth sailing. Like a catamaran on a glassy sea, where plenty of wind hits the sails but it never riffles the water. Like I said, fantasy.

I don't have that fantasy relationship now. And I'm too realistic to think I ever will. But it is so great to be with someone who is willing to help work the boat.

Life is good.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Sometimes Ya Really Gotta Try

There just isn't much funny about going to traffic court. So I thought anyway. Then I found myself standing in line with a very quick wit.

After appearing this morning, I went back this afternoon to pay my fine. The line for the traffic windows did not seem bad as the morning line when I got in it; about ten people in front of me. When there were twenty people behind me, and still eight in front of me I determined that it was actually worse than the morning line. I did not expect to find much blog material there, but there is this really old joke...

The woman in line behind me was extremely pregnant, and when we got to the front I let her go ahead of me. There had been quite a few remarks about the wait, some a bit funny, many more of the whiny variety. The woman who moved into place behind me had kept herself in pretty good spirits throughout, so I figured even an old joke would be well received. She looked after the pregnant woman, looked at me, and said "that was nice of you."

I had the line ready, having thought about it a dozen times since the pregnant woman got in line, and came back with "y'know, she wasn't even pregnant when she got in line."

Without missing a beat my comedic partner looked up and said "did you do that?"

Very seldom do I let someone have the last word; but a tip of the hat.