Category Archives: general

Not The Most Productive Day

Today was spent in civic duty. Rising earlier than normal I drove to the local trolley station and journeyed downtown for Jury Duty.

It seems like every two years I get that summons but I have never had the privilege of sitting on an empaneled jury. Don’t get me wrong, I have no mad desire to wield power over my fellow citizens, and I quake at the thought of the responsibility, but I do feel that it is my duty as a citizen to participate in the justice system. I also have a selfish desire to experience it firsthand and expand my horizons as a writer.

Today I got called for a jury pool in the second set of potentials. (That’s makes us sound like Slayers-in-Waiting.) We got to the court and after getting random numbers, mine was 43 out of about 50, we started the selection questioning.

With such a high number I knew there was very little chance that I would end up empaneled. We worked until lunch and then through the afternoon, not getting the final selection in place until 4:30. (They reached the high 30’s, so this year I turned out to be safely beyond fates fortune this time. Perhaps next time.)

One bright spot to the wasted day was the judge, David Ruben. He had a relaxed style and a smooth dry wit. In voice and in mannerisms he was thoroughly a character to be portrayed by Stanley Tucci.

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Frank Herbert Was Wrong

Fear is not the mind killer. Fear can sharpen our wits, heighten our perceptions, and induce much needed caution into a dangerous environment. Fear is a tool sharpened by billions of years of evolution, one that should not be lightly tossed aside. Panic, handmaiden to fear, is useless and counter-productive, but this essay is not about panic but the true mind killer.

Despair is the mind killer.

Where despair takes root initiative dies. The thoughts grow sluggish and foresight sees nothing but doom when the mind is wrapped in despair. Unlike fear that make you hyper-aware of the things and consequences, Despair robs you of perception and tell lies of the future. Despair will have you lay down your arms and surrender when the battle has not yet been joined. Taken with cynicism masquerading as wisdom despair is defeat preordained.

Reject despair, even when odds of hopeless and you see no path out, fight on, you can not know the future and life is full of strange and unpredictable twists.

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My Car Two Weeks In

So, just about two weeks ago I purchased a used 2011 Kia Soul as a second vehicle so that my sweetie-wife and I would no longer need to share a single car.

Before going out and buying a used care I did tons of research, looking for a make and model that scored well on reliability, economy, and safety. In addition to those criteria I wanted a small car that would feel cramped for my six foot two inch frame. The data lead me to the Kia Soul and after a few test drives I settled on that make and model.

I can say that after two week I have no second thoughts about my purchase. The car drives well and easily, it handles in a manner that I find both easy to control and fun to drive. Yes, it has a simple four cylinder engine with a four speed transmission, Kia upgraded the transmission with the next year’s model, but I am not interested in a sport car or I would have gone for one of those.

The car had 60,000 miles on it, under the industry average of 12-15 thousand miles per year for American cars, and the results of the mechanical inspection well very good, indicating a car that had been well maintained. I suspect the own before me sold the car off once the 60,000 warranty had expired.

In May I look forward to a drive to Los Angeles when two friends and I, the three of us have not hung together in 30 years, will spend the day at Universal Studios Hollywood.

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It’s Not That Simple

The graphic here, or one very similar to it, is an example of a member i see shared quite a bit on social media. It is generally shared by my friends on the

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/01/07/everything-chuck-hagel-needs-to-know-about-the-defense-budget-in-charts/?utm_term=.97db4021446c
Credit: Washington Post

left side of spectrum as an example of the wasteful and needless spending by Washington when no other country, by spending, can even threaten us.

Something as complex as the United States and it’s global obligations can not be summarized with a single graph. (Or even a short blog post, but I just want to illustrate the scale of the complexity not delve into it.)

Is history there has been Pax Rome, the peace that the Roman Empire brought to the world with is vast military. There has also been Pax Britannia, same thing many centuries later with the British Empire astride the world, we are now in the Pax Americana.

That enormous military budget isn’t just about defending our borders, it is much more than that.

It’s our commitment to defending the freedom of Japan, South Korea, Western Europe, and many other allies. Some have suggested it would better if those allies simply carried their own load, but that looking at it from the wrong way around. Yes, we could cut back and force those allies to spend their own treasure and blood. Doing that increases the chances of war. Right now you attack an American ally you risk war with America and that deters such conflicts. Remember small regional wars can escalate out of control into global conflicts.

The second great function of the US military is upholding international law. Pirates off the East African Coast? the U.S. Navy is there. Iraq and Iran threaten neutral shipping with a terrible war, the U.S. is there ensuring the safety of those neutral ships. Withdraw our force from around the world and you threaten global commerce. he very commerce that make you prosperous enough to have that smartphone to share that graphic.

Of course one should ignore the humanitarian mission undertaken by the US Military. Typhoons, Earthquakes, man-made disasters, the US Military is often first on the scene providing vital supplies and logistics.

None of this is cheap. and all of this is vital. Now that is not to say we don’t spend too much, or to support any particular budget proposal, but the answers and questions are far more than what can be addressed with a snarky comment while tweeting a graphic you saw on Facebook.

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Pet Peeves

This is not an exhaustive list but just a couple of things I see in movies and television that irk me.

I once read a science-fiction novel where the author took the time to describe the conjoined circles view through a pair of binoculars. I very nearly threw that book across the room right there.

This is a sign that the author only knows what he sees in Hollywood movies. The point of binoculars is that they allow you binocular vision just as you have with your own eyes. You know the two eyes you have in the front of your head. When you peer through them you do not see two circles that overlap like a bad Venn diagram. You see one circle and the view has depth.

Recently I watched the Netflix period/historical drama The Crown. It’s damn good and should be watched if for no other reason than the great performances, but when they presented the correct view through a pair of binoculars I nearly shouted in triumph. It is a little thing, a tiny detail, but details are important. If you get something so basic wrong how can I trust you as a film make or story teller to get the important details right? I would love to find out which movie started this damned trope so I can curse it.

Another optical pet peeve is the view through a sniper scope. You all know the picture. A person, usually a bad guy, is holding a scoped rifle. He pulls it to his shoulder, and peers through the scope. The shot changes to a POB through the scope showing crosshairs fixed firmly on the target, if it is a bad guy you can count on the crosshairs settling right onto the target’s head. Those crosshairs are rock steady.

Bull.

Take out your cell phone and set up the camera. Focus on something distant and then zoom all the way to the subject while holding the camera/cell phone steady. Do you see how much the image moves? Up, down, side to side, it really hard to hold it steady and you certainly can’t replicate the tripod perfect shot presented as a hand held scoped rifle.

If you are making movies, or writing stories please pay attention to such things. Don’t assume that Hollywood has taught you anything factual because really you can’t trust the movies.

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Universal Studios Hollywood: February 2017

So Sunday was my first trip of the year to Universal Studios. I take these trips 3 or 4 times a year. I have strong introvert tendencies and I find that being alone in a crowd to be a very relaxing environment. It helps that I am a movie nut and never tire of things that are film related.

I departed San Diego about 7 am and arrived just after the park opened. Sadly the Stunt show was closed for refurbishment, along with the Jaws attraction on the tram tour, but these are the sort of things that happen when you go in the dead of winter.

I always do the tram tour. Depending on what’s filing and where the course can vary quite a bit and the tour is different with each guide. I do have to admit that on this trip I had the worst tour guide yet. It may be that he was a last minute replacement or something like that. I sat in the front tram car and I watched as he read the script right of the page. Now that script is a tough one, the corny jokes are a tough sell on a good day but doing them in a cold read renders them worse than dead.

The weather was cold, grey, and fogged in for most the morning, which made the Wizarding World of Harry Potter feel just like a Scot winter. This was my first visit to the Harry Potter part of the park. It was fun and the ride “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey’ was fun and became my second favorite ride. (The Simpsons remain number one just for the sheer number of jokes at the park’s expense, but if I am being honest the flight sim of the Potter ride was better.)

Sadly they took out the little museum that used to live on the lower level. I guess people want more food and rides but I always enjoyed the exhibits.

I left early, about 3 pm, spending a total of about 6 hours in the park The weather threatened to turn rainy and I thought it best to get home to my sweetie-wife as quickly as possible.

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Liberty Station

Today walk was out at LIberty Station in the Point Loma region of San Diego. For those who do not know San Diego used to be home to one of the navy’s three Naval Training Centers, the other two being in Orland (Where I did my basic Training) and up int he Great Lakes region. Several years ago the USN gave up NTC San Diego and it has since been trnasform into a bayside park,  business & Arts district.

Here is a panoramic shot I took today of Liberty Station. It didn;t turn out half bad.

 

Liberty Station

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My trip to Fire station 45

So for the past year my sweetie-wife and I have watched as the city built a new fire station near our home. Today, after several months of operation, Firestation 45 hosted an open house for the public, and while my sweetie-wife need to work I managed to attend. Here are just a few picture and thoughts from that visit.

Bunkhouse

This is the area called the bunkhouse. It is the ‘living room’ for the station for the people on duty. Off to the left is a big screen TV and a stack of DVDs. ( I was informed because that cable and internet access has yet to be connected.) Now you can see that those recliners look quite comfy, and they are, but they are not a product of your tax dollars. The city provides utilities and  toilet paper, everything else including the food, the personal pay for themselves. They work 24 hours on, then have 24 hours off, after 4 work periods they get 4 days off.  I learned that smaller stations the people on duty just brown bag it, but at larger ones like 45 they chip in each day for a grocery run and buy the food communally.

kitchen-2Here is the kitchen. It’s very nice and ultra modern, but then again this is a brand new station.

Here is a reverse angle of the rest of the kitchen.

Kitchen-1

 

 

 

 

I learned that station 45 is the Hazardous waste specialists for San Diego County and so they are on call for any Hazardous waste issues county wide. Fire department personnel also suffer cancers at a higher rate than the general population due to their continual exposure to burning chemical. Because of this the department goes to great lengths to reduce exposure whenever and as much as possible. Those bulky protective uniforms are washed after every use and each person has two sets of ‘turn outs’ so that one can be in the process of being cleaned while the other worn on a call.

Here is a [picture of a fire truck and a fire engine. The truck is one the left, the yellow hose is Truck and Engineconnected to the exhaust to reduce carcinogen exposure. The difference between a ‘truck’ and an ‘engine?’ A fire truck carries a tank of water, this one I think has 500 gallons, while an engine doesn’t carry water but carries ladders and equipment. Essentially a Fire Engine is a giant motorized tool box.

 

 

I mentioned that the people on duty are on duty for 24 hours at a stretch, so of course there has to be living spaces. They don;t live, at least not at this station, in a giant barracks style room, butquarters here you can see that they have private rooms. The one picture is unoccupied. There were two wings and the occupied wing was off limits to the public.

 

Now in case you were getting sentimental about Firepolethings and felt that traditions were dying out, here for your pleasure is the fireman’s pole. Yup, they actually use that pole for quick transits from the upper floor to the ground floor. One thing that did surprise me, though it makes sense from a middle of the night safety thing, is that the pole is actually inFirepole door an enclosed space behind a door. This is of course so that you don’t stumble and fall through it by accident. (And no they were not letting us use the pole.) The display above the door is a ticker tape sort of thing that during a call continuously flashes the call and which units are responding.

I’ll end this post with a panoramic view from the second floor balcony.

panorama 45

 

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New Theme

So, I decided to experiment again with a theme for my blog. This time I wanted something simple and direct. Go ahead and let me know what you think.

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2014 A Personal Review

So today is the first day of 2015 and I have decided to look back over the totality of 2014, the challenges, the changes, and share a few of them with you.

  • A year about I was working as a temp, earing about 66% of what I had been pulling down, plowing in serious amount of overtime every week to make ends meet.
  • Now I am fully employed in a good position with union benefits making 15% above my previous high-income mark. I have good co-workers and everything on that front looks to be stable and growing.
  • This year I have received 40 rejections on short stories I have submitted for publication and 1 acceptance. That may sound dreary and depressing but of those 40 rejections 12 were personalized with comment from the proposed markets. 30% of my rejections elicited comment from editors and screeners. This is a new high water mark and indicates that more and more often my prose is scratching at professional acceptance.
  • My rejection streak continues with the Writers of The Future contest. Under the new coordinating judge I cannot seem to advance. A year ago this generated a great deal of frustration, but now I have only acceptance. It is simply one of many markets.
  • Sadly two friends passed away this year. They will be missed
  • I finished a new novel and that novel is generating at least some professional interest. We’ll have to see if 2015 closes that deal.
  • I attended a family reunion and spend a far too short weekend with my kin.
  • I started this year and ended it happily married to my sweetie-wife. Clearly the best aspect of the year.

 

 

This year was good and bad, as most years are, but overall I am happy to be be here and optimistic about the future.

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