Category Archives: general

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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E.P. Review: Without You Renee Olstead

cover170x170First let me say that I have no formal training in music, musical theory or criticism. I know what I like and I know how it makes me fee and it will be from that perspective that disc this recently released E.P. by Ms. Olstead.

Renee Olstead is a singer/actress with a dazzling voice and a love of jazz. I discovered her as I slowly discovered my own appreciation for Jazz and bassa nova music.

Without You a crowd-sourced E.P. featuring 4 covers, all in a airy jazz style.

First up is Blue Moon. Being a cinephile I principally am aware of this song from it’s prominent use in the comedy horror film An American Werewolf in London. Renee’s voice and the arraignment give this cover a haunting dreamlike quality that makes this version stand out as a new take on a standard song.

Next is Leaving On your Mind. Patsy Kline made this song into a country hit back when country music didn’t go around a rock roll’s lesser cousin. Renee’s take on the song is so different that as I listened I had a hard time remembering just where it was I knew the tune from. Again the over all impression is one that is ethereal and nearly spectral in its floating vocals.

Without You a song where I am unfamiliar with the original or other covers, so I can’t compare what has changed, but as she typically does woth Love song, Renee’s fills this rendition with heart, soul, and longing.

The E.P. ends with the song Everything. Another piece where I have no knowledge of the source material, but continues in the floating, haunting vocals.

I thoroughly enjoyed this mini-album and throughout my listened I was repeatedly struck by how well these songs and this performance would have fir onto the soundtracks for either Blue Velvet or Twin Peaks.

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My CPAP wisdom

It was a little over four years ago that I received by diagnosis of severe sleep apnea. It came as a surprise; though I snored and had issues with being tired I had not expected that this would happen. I started CPAP therapy and this gave me my life back. So now that it has been four years I thought I would put together a small post sharing what I learned about making this therapy work effectively. Before we continue, these are simply my personal experiences. I am not a medical professional and you should always consult with a medical professional about any therapy you are engaged in.

1)   The Right Mask

First and foremost in getting the most of your CPAP therapy is finding the right mask for you face and your sleeping habits. Personally I started nasal pillows, which isn’t even really a mask. This was a device that affixed right under my nose and plugged directly into the nostrils. I thought it might work best because of the small profile, however I tend to open my mouth during my slumber, and this dropped my pressure below therapeutic levels. Even with a chinstrap I couldn’t keep my mouth closed. (A symptom I am sure many would say it equally true when I am awake.) This also ruled out the nose only masks. I tried several nose & Mouth masks before I found one with a gel form that sealed nicely against my skin without requiring too much pressure.

So if you first few masks don’t work for you, keep looking. There are all sorts of masks with all sorts of materials. Keep at it until you find the right one.

2)   A Clean Mask

Most instructions that come with the masks advise cleaning on a weekly basis, but this may be too infrequent. Each night you use the mask oils from your skin become affixed in a thin layer on the contact surfaces, degrading the seal. I have found that by purchasing CPAP mask wipes, I can clean the contact surfaces each night and improve the seal. This reduces how tight the mask needs to be when worn, and improves the general effectiveness of the therapy.

3)   A Shorn Face

If you’re male, and particularly if you are hirsute and given to ‘five o’clock’ shadow, it would be prudent to shave before bed. Just like gas masks, sleep apnea therapy masks do not function well with beards and unshorn skin.   You see a common theme appearing in my advise, getting a good seal. The point of the therapy is raising the pressure in you airways so that you have unobstructed breathing and you can keep properly oxygenated. A good seal is critical to obtaining that needed pressure.

4)   The Right Accessories

The mask and your skin are the most critical elements in securing good therapy, but making your sleep comfortable can sometimes be a matter of the correct ancillary devices. I myself tumbled and turn in my sleep, when I first started my CPAP therapy I often woke myself either tanged in the hose or by the roar of air escaping the machine after I had pulled the tubing free of the connectors.

I found a hose stand on Amazon that works well for me. The base slips between the mattresses and it hold the hose overhead, much like an IV stand does in a hospital, allowing me to toss and turn with little restriction.

I hope that this sharing experience helps someone out. If you think you may have sleep apnea I cannot stress enough the need to be tested. I didn’t think this applied to me, but during testing they discovered my blood oxygen levels were dropping in the high 80’s, and as I understand it, anything under 95% is considered dangerous. If people tell you that you snore and stop breathing, get thee to a doctor. If you wake up constantly through the night, get thee to a doctor. If when you stop moving you find yourself falling asleep, get thee to a doctor.

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How Life Has Changed

I remember clearly a bit of frustration from my youth. I had read the Isaac Asimov novelization of the film “Fantastic Voyage” and I desperately wanted to see the movie. I have always been a fan of film and fantastic genre fiction particularly so. The problem was that this was the 1970s. There were no Blu-rays, DVDS, VHSs or Betamaxes around to sate one’s entertainment cravings.

The town I lived in did not have a revival theater, and all I could do was searched the listing on the weekly TV Guide and hope that some station like TBS , which aired a lot of films, would pay it.

I remember weeks of searching the guides, with no indication of an upcoming presentation, only my fondest hopes for one. It didn’t appear.

This weekend on a whim while scanned through the instant view option at Netflix I started watching Fantastic Voyage. Now I had seen it in the intervening years, so I was not watching to to satisfy that unscratched itch from decades past. It was just a way to pass the time and look at the filmmaking of years gone by.

However it did get me thinking about those months when I forlornly hoped against reality that it would appear in the listings.

We truly live in an age of Science-Fiction, so many treasures await our pleasures. We are approaching a film lover’s paradise.

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I’ve been very busy

In addition to working 50 hours a week at my day job, I have been racing to complete my novel in progress. The final section has been handed over to my sweetie-wife for her proofing and when that is done I will be ready for beta readers.

To pass the time here is a picture of Obama on the iron throne as tweeted by the White House.

Obama Iron Throne

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Dreams at 24 Frames per Second

I came to San Diego, courtesy of the United States Navy, late in 1981. The west coast had kensington-ken-cinema-lbeen a choice of mine and I do not regret that, but when I arrived I knew no one in this town. First the first few months my only recreation were movies and one of my favorite places to visit, though the bus ride was tedious, was the revival house, the Ken Theater.

I have always loved films, and some of my earliest memories are of movies, so it was natural that I sough out the theaters of my new home town, the Ken however was unlike anything I had ever experienced of even heard of in my naively limited knowledge.

Check out this image from one of our local weekly papers, The San Diego Reader.

KenCult6_t620

That is the Ken Guide as it appeared when I first arrived at this city, double features that changed daily, except for when the theater would run a festival of some sort, which might block out a week or two. I did not get to th Ken as often as I would have like to during this period, but I made enough time to have forged some rosey cinematic memories.

The Maltese Falcon, M, Little Shop of Horrors (the original non-musical), The Seven Samurai, Creature from the Black Lagoon (in 3D!), this is a small sample of the wonderful film experiences I have had at the Ken. Truly classic films on the big screen.

The Ken is also where I met and made friendships during the mid 80’s as I attended the midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I have written in another essay the importance that period played if helping me come out of a very tight introverted shell, and I will not belabor the point again, but the Ken was there for me during that time. Many fond and funny memories were forged on that sidewalk as we waited for the film.

Home video killed the revival theater. When you could own or rent the movies, fewer people would take the time and trouble to see them as they should be seen. By the 90s The Ken turned from revivals to art house films and I remained a true fan of the theater. So many smaller and independent films that never played in mainstream house played here, Cube, Raise The Red Lantern, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra are just three that I had the good fortune to see there. I missed the revival days, but the art house experience remained fulfilling.

All that is ending. The business owners and the landlord can not come to an agreement on a new lease and the announce has been made that the theater is closing down at month’s end. This was not part of my childhood, but this feels like childhood’s end. The last single screen theater in San Diego, a place that has shown movies for over 100 years, will so be no more.

The dreams will stop flickering, but my memories are eternal.

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Been quite the busy bee

Last weekend was Condor XXI, so now one of our local SF conventions is older enough to drink. I, of course, attended the convention as I have for quite a few years now.

Our guest of honor was steampunk author Gail Carriger. I’ve personally know Gail since before her fabulous writing career took off. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching her books sell lots of copes and gather up a fandom fairly unique in its nature. (She’s fond of saying her has the best fan I will not debate her wisodom here.)

Friday I was on no panels myself so I got to play around and be totally relaxed. I reconnected with a few friends I see mostly at conventions, and enjoyed the rarest of treats, sleeping in.

The secret masters of programming put me on all media panels this year, but since I ma huge media fan as well as a lit fan and aspiring author, I found not trouble with that.

We discussed the enduring popularity of  Doctor Who, and I put forth the ideas that part of the popularity may rest on two aspects of the show. First, they are not tied to a particular kind of story. They can go dark one week, and silly comedic the next. This gives them a wide range of stories to tell and if you didn’t like what you saw this week, wait it will change. Second, the regenerations, first invented to replace an ailing actor, has created a unique possibility for the show. Each new actor playing the Doctor brings their own spin on it and so the Doctor slightly changes as the actors change. This allows the Doctor to always be a  reflection of the times when it was produced, keep it fresh and connected to the audience.

On Sunday evening my sweetie-wife and I had dinner with Gail and her adorable boyfriend. It was a very pleasant time of good food, good company, and good conversation. The weekend was a rejuvenating experience for your humble host and improved my mood considerably.

I also finished the draft for my current novel in progress. I landed at 116,000 words and I have begun the process of cleaning up the copy before turning it over to afore mentioned sweetie-wife for her eagle eyed proofing.

In addition to all that I have been back working my overtime hours at the day job, and getting a submission ready for rejection at Writers of the Future. It has been a busy busy week, but a good one.

 

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A Very Pleasant Day

No politics, no film this posting but just my life and a generally decent day I have experienced.

After a couple of enjoyable D&D games on Friday and Saturday nights, I awoke on Sunday feeling down right good. As we had planned my sweetie-wife and I instead of our usual walk in Balboa Park or alone the shore, went to Morley Field and played a half round of disc golf.

For those of you not in the know, Disc Golf is like regular golf, but played with specialized throwing discs. The distance to the holes is measure in hundreds of feet not yard, but the basics are the same. Each hole has a par rating and the person with the lowest score, i.e. the fewest number of tossed to place their disc in the target basket, wins.

A couple of friends of mine had introduced me to the game years and years ago. We used to play on weekday afternoons, when the days were long and I could get to the field after work with a reasonable amount of time for play. When I started working in La Jolla until 5 in the afternoon, the games stopped. My bag of discs (because you have driver and putters, not the kind of disc you would play catch with at the beach) has sat in my closet for 5 or 6 years now.

Last weekend my sweetie-wife and I took  our Sunday walk near the Morley Field course and I noticed that Sunday mornings seemed to have a low turnout. That’s when we made the decision to come back this weekend and again play the field.

This morning was not as lightly attended as last Sunday, but I think if we had been just twenty minutes earlier it would have made a large difference in the speed of our play. That said, I had a fun time. My muscle memory seemed to return fairly quickly, and after 9 holes I was just 3 over par. (Though this is not truly fair. At the Morley Field Course it is not uncommon to have decent scores on the front nine utterly destroyed by the terror that is the back nine.)

Afterwards we went to lunch at our favorite lunch spot, Tioli’s Crazy Burger, and then window shopped a bit at the military surplus store. (I will admit to eyeing military trench-coats such as the ones worn by Cpt. Jack Harkness.

The rest fot he day was spent at home and feeling in general that life is good.

Tomorrow it is back to the day job, back to the novel, and back to little sleep, but until then I plan to watch a film (1987’s Robocop), enjoy a little popcorn, and let my relaxation continue.

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My Sister-in-Law

Monday morning Juanita Evans, a member of my family for many many years passed away.

Juanita came to our family when she and my brother Lonny married. He was taken too soon from us in 1980 in a act of senseless gun violence and now they are reunited. My heart goes out to their two children, my nephew and niece, smart, talented people.

Juanita was a kind and loving woman of deep faith and though her life was one that witnessed many periods of darkness, she never lost her ability to smile or bring a smile to others. She will be missed.

I live on the other side of the continent from my family, and artifact of my time in the United States Navy, but distance does not diminish the bond of family. I hope she find peace, and love in the presence of the God she believed in.

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