Wednesday, December 31, 2014

How to keep after your goals even when you get sidetracked

I have taken sort of a sabbatical from the gym since December 23rd. Today was going to be my big day to get back after it. After all, it's my day off, tomorrow's a holiday, and it's the perfect time to get going on those goals even if it's continuing goals. I got dressed in my workout clothes, and headed out to the trusty 4runner to drive to the gym. The battery was dead. I hooked up the charger, but I knew that with all my plans for the day, the workout was going to be discarded, like a block of worthless Velveeta cheese.

The question is, do I let that stop me from getting back after it tomorrow? The answer is a huge, emphatic, "NO"! I will make sure the battery is up and running today. I will purchase a new one if need be, and I will be rarin' to go tomorrow.

You see, sometimes we let little things throw us off our paths to success. If we can catch the vision of how we want to be, if we can keep that vision out there in front of us and focus on it, if we can do these things, we can achieve our goals and dreams. What that means is that a little sidetracking rarely hurts anyone. It's the failure to continue after the sidetracking that derails us from our goals.

If I can leave you with anything this New Year's Eve, it's to get back up after the failures. It's to grab life by the scruff of the neck and make it do what you want it to do. It's to believe that you can accomplish what you set out to do, and then to keep plugging until you make it. You can succeed. You will succeed. Believe.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

I want to be like this guy

I just saw this video this morning, Never Leave the Playground. Stephen Jepson, age 72, is a new hero of mine. There's a lot to be said for staying active, and a lot to be said for staying real active. Watch this video to see how fantastic this guy is at what he does. It's amazing.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Today the streets ran with blood

I was out on the street today, just doing my job. I was happy, thrilled, feeling good. It's Christmas Eve, I've talked to people I care about, I'm going to get done early with my mail route and head home--everything is good. Then I see liquid running down the gutter that looked an awful lot like blood. What in the world? I wondered. Where is this coming from? Not being one who is normally afraid to investigate, I turned my mail truck around and followed the blood upstream and saw the dead body.

 Someone hunters had a dead animal that they had just unloaded from a trailer and I saw them out there with a hose, spraying it down. Heckuva lot of blood, and, hey, remember guys, we all live downstream? I'm sure animal blood isn't as dangerous as anti-freeze, but dudes, maybe you can think of a better way to clean up than to make it look like some sort of mass murder has taken place in the neighborhood. I'm just sayin'...

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Another great quote

Here's another great quote, this one, by Muhammad Ali:

"Don't count the days. Make the days count."


I love a good quote. I love this one because it refers to living in the present and enjoying your days as they come instead of waiting for some day in the future when things will improve. I'm reminded of several years ago when I had in my mind plans for spending a lot of time with my dad when my kids were grown and I was an empty-nester. Sadly, before that point happened, Dad died. We just never know. Making the most of the lives God has given us helps us to have happy and productive lives. Don't short change the present because we have no way of knowing what the future will bring. 

The same holds true for troubles. Don't imagine unforeseen future predicaments. Matthew 6:34 says: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (New International Version)

Living in the present helps us preserve the great things and deal more effectively with the negative things. As Matthew says in chapter 6 verse 27: "Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" (NIV)


Treats for the Christmas spirit

Christmas time is a time when insane amounts of treats are passed out and consumed. It's a fact that the time between Thanksgiving and New Years is when people pack on the pounds. Here are just a few random thoughts about treats this time of year.

Interesting treats: If this offends anyone, I'm sorry, but I've seen these decorative bags of mixed cereals, pretzels, and popcorn, on the break table at work. I started putting two and two together. We store our cereal boxes on top of the fridge and generally, there is that last little ¼ cup of cereal left in the bottom of the box that sits there for months. If you have enough of these mostly empty boxes lying around, what a neat idea—dump them all into a decorative bag, throw in a handful of pretzels and a handful of popcorn and voilรก, instant treats for the neighbors or the mail carrier! I actually don't know what makes this appealing at all, but it's good for the thrifty.

Best treats: My list of best treats include nearly anything that's homemade, and that doesn't include raisins or walnuts. Raisins are not a hot item at Christmas time anyway, but walnuts manage to make their way into some of the best foods, like fudge. That being said, if I had to make a list of things I like best as far as Christmas treats goes, here's what would be on the list: fudge, sugar cookies, various kinds of candy (the good non-peppermint kind), and anything put together with love.

Worst treats: There are none. If anyone takes the time to do something for you, you should appreciate it. Even if it's a bag of leftover cereals mixed up, whoever gave it to you thought you might like it. Actually, I might like it if the pretzels and popcorn were left out, because then I could actually dump it in a bowl with some milk and have a great potpouri of cereals. That's why I never have those mostly empty boxes of cereal on my fridge or in my cupboard, btw. They get used up by me...wheat chex mixed with bran flakes, etc. Not too shabby.

Suggestions for treats that you don't normally think about: Have you ever thought of doing a service treat? How about showing up, early in the morning after a snow storm and clearing your neighbor's sidewalks? How about rolling in their trash cans from off the street for them? How about visiting them or giving them a phone call just to say “hi”?

My final thought is that everything should be accepted graciously and with gratitude. It's not the food that we get this time of year that's important, it's the love that we feel. More importantly, it's the love that we share, because Christ's love is the greatest of all and sharing our love with others is a great way to honor Him.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas is a time for great food

Food, wonderful food.Usually, around this time of year, we start planning the food for assorted holiday season get-togethers. Christmastime and New Years is the time period when I usually splurge on good food. For example, on Christmas Eve, our tradition is a steak dinner. I bought the steaks (New York) a couple of months ago, and I'd better get them out of the freezer tonight if they're going to thaw in time. I usually marinade them, serve them with baked potatoes, rolls, and some kind of veggies. This year though, instead of the baked potatoes, a couple of wonderful women in our household have decided to prepare au gratin potatoes. That's just great with me.

Sunday night, we're having our family party for Ann and I and our children and grandchildren. It should be great fun, and we've already planned out the menu. We're having sandwiches (with deli meats—roast beef, turkey, and ham), potato salad, pasta salad, chips with guacamole and/or salsa, shrimp, a tray of fresh veggies, and assorted other good things.

Christmas morning has generally been some kind of casserole, but I'll be shaking things up a bit this year. The plan is to make a fabulous cinnamon coffee cake. I'm thinking I'll provide assorted choices to go with it—maybe hot chocolate, orange juice, or milk, and probably some fresh fruit. I may even cook some link sausage. It's already sounding amazing.

If you're going to splurge on food, one of the best times to do so is right around Christmas. It helps build great memories.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Goodies

And so, a new adventure begins with a bang, crash, boom, and squish. I began making the annual Christmas treats for the neighbors by dropping one loaf pan of pumpkin bread batter, which ricocheted off the edge of the counter, coated the fronts of the cabinets and drawers, then landed, bottom-side down on the floor. There was lustrous applause for this stunt, or there should have been. It has never been so masterfully done. I scraped down the side of the pan, noticed that we could still use what was left and put it in the oven.

Earlier today, my wife Ann had told me that she was glad she won the Ghirardelli  Brownie mix because we could use it for part of our goodies to the neighbors plates. I gave her a sidelong glance, "No, I said, I won't make something out of a box to give to the neighbors." It's a pet peeve of mine, for me only--I don't mind if the neighbors give me something made from a box or nothing at all, I just don't like to do it myself. Of course, the neighbors of years ago who got our sugar cookies with the glossy frosting (made glossy by our children licking frosting off their little fingers and then spreading the remaining frosting around...sorry neighbors, we didn't find out until later), would beg to differ. "Please, give us something made from a box," they might say, or better yet, "just give us the box. We'll make our own." Not me. I'm not making anything from a box.

My next act was to begin figuring out how to ruin more treats. Maybe I could mix Red Hots in with the marshmallow for the Rice Krispy treats, or perhaps add Red Hots to the next batch of pumpkin bread. I like cinnamon, but Red Hots do not qualify.

I'm thinking if I keep my head in the game, I can accomplish with aplomb, burning at least one batch of chocolate chip cookies, scorching the fudge, or carmelizing something that needed to be taffyized.

Really, I need to focus on one thing at a time. If I try to make tacos at the same time as I'm doing a batch of sugar cookies, I'll end up with chili powder flavored frosting on the cookies, and Christmas tree-shaped tortillas. Actually, the tortillas shaped like Christmas trees do not sound too bad, but while I'm creating those, I'll end up with lettuce embedded in the frosting instead of red and green sprinkles. A multi-tasker, I am not.

When I became the chief cook and bottle washer a few years ago, I never knew the trouble it would be--for me, and for everyone else. One thing I can say though, those treats are going to be made with love, even if not with kid's saliva.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hiking Nebo

After reading this article on hiking solo, from Backpacker Magazine I feel vindicated for hiking alone. Actually, most of the time I have no choice as my rotating work schedule has me off during mid-week instead of weekends. For example, I get every sixth Saturday off, when most of my pals could go along with me. This past summer I had the opportunity of climbing Mt. Nebo, the highest peak in the Wasatch Range. It would have been nice to have a companion on this hike, maybe two of us could cheer each other along. However, there's something to be said for conquering something with your own inner will. Here's the trip report of that hike that I posted at Bogley: Mt. Nebo trip report.

Great quote

I saw this insightful quote earlier this morning:

". . . when it comes down to it, that’s what life is all about: showing up for the people you love, again and again, until you can’t show up anymore." -Rebecca Walker

I love it. 

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Snowman

While I'm on the topic of Christmas, one of my favorite holiday films is this short film about a boy and his magical flight with a snowman. In particular, I'm fond of the song Walking in the Air, but the entire thing is charming. Here is a youtube video of The Snowman in its entirety.

Mary did you know?

Mark Lowry does a fantastic version of Mary Did You Know? Which is one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs. I love it. Here it is: Mary Did You Know?

This one by Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd is awesome as well: Click me now!

Sunday, December 07, 2014

A rare gem of a Christmas song

I pride myself on finding Christmas songs that are relatively unknown in this day and age. Eddie Fisher has some great Christmas songs, and here is one of his finest nostalgic tunes: Christmas Day

Friday, December 05, 2014

Addictions: I want a new drug

Sometimes, the hardest battles are those we fight within ourselves. Addictions are some of the toughest--especially when they are good addictions. Most people want to rid themselves of addictions that afflict them, but when the addiction is good and makes one feel good, there doesn't seem to be much of a point, and the will power sometimes just isn't there. For example, what if your addiction was helping other people? What if it was having a friendly conversation with someone? Why, when these things make you feel good, would you ever want to break such an addiction?

The answer is, you wouldn't. There would need to be an overpowering reason why these things were wrong in order for you to have the will to stop doing them. And the withdrawal from such addictions could be just as great as some kinds of drug withdrawal.

Maybe that's why Huey Lewis & the News did the song I Want a New Drug...

Yeah, and maybe that whole introduction was so that I could share this excellent live version of the song with you...just maybe.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered for Christmas

Tonight on the Hallmark Channel we watched a very good made for television movie called Signed, Sealed, Delivered for Christmas. The spirit of the season was felt, and my mind was momentarily clear of other things that have been bothering me today. It's on again tomorrow at 9 am for anyone interested in watching this good Christmas film. Check it out.

My workout plan

If you're thinking of setting any New Year's goals as far as exercise goes, now may be the time to start instead of waiting until after the first of the year. Why? Because getting into good habits sooner rather than later is always best. I try to do mine year round, because it helps with activities I like to do, such as hiking, backpacking, and just about anything else, and I keep consistent on it because at my age, if I quit for even a week or two, it hurts too darn bad when I start up again. Just to help kick start you, here's more or less what I do on a weekly basis. For all my exercises, I rest 30-45 seconds in between sets.

Monday: Running 20-30 minutes. Ideally, it's 30 minutes, but realistically, I often can't get out the door early enough. Then I do my leg workout.

 I begin with 2 sets of 30 reps on the hip abductor machine. Here's what that looks like: Hip abductor exercises
Next I do 2 sets of 15 on the seated leg press machine
My next exercise is two sets of twenty Hip Swings. Here they are.
Next are lunges. I do mine with a twenty pound dumbbell in each hand, two sets of 15, alternating legs. Like this: clickety-click
I then do two sets of 20 calf raises, but I do them differently than most people do them. I raise up as high as I can go, and then just let my body weight (no extra weights) drop me down suddenly, instead of slowly. This actually helps to strengthen the achilles tendons.
Later on in the spring, I will add stair lifts onto a box or platform about 1 foot high, both front and lateral, so that I'm doing 30-35 to the front, then 30-35 with each leg to the right and left.

Tuesday: Running 20-30 minutes. Tuesday is chest and shoulder day, so here's what I do. First of all, this is a rotational thing. In other words, I go through each exercise once (except for the dips, but I could work those into the rotation as well if I wanted to), and then go through them a second time. On the pushups on one leg, the second time through, I raise the opposite leg off the floor, the same thing with the overhead shoulder press.

First I do a couple of sets of 15 dips. Dip exercises. I do mine by raising my legs to the front, so I'm bent at the waist. This helps build the core at the same time as working on chest and shoulders.

Pushups. I do pushups on one of those half exercise balls, called a Bosu Ball. As in the top image on this page: Bosu ball exercises. I do as many of these as I can until failure.

Second exercise is another one on the Bosu ball. With this exercise, I lift one leg as I do the push up. Again, doing the pushups until failure.

Next, I do decline pushups. Again, I do them until failure.

My next exercise is bench dips. A good video of how to do them, from beginner to more complicated is found here. I do 20 repetitions.

For shoulders, I do a variety of raises, with very light weights. My front raises  and side raises I do with an 8 lb. dumbbell in each hand and I do one set of 15. I also do overhead shoulder press standing on one foot as I do so, to increase core stability. I have a 12 lb. dumbbell in each hand for this. For both front and side raises, I raise the weight until it's completely vertical as taught by my physical therapist. I can't find any videos of exactly how I do it, but straight arm side raises and straight arm front raises can be found on this page. Just remember that I do them all the way up, until my arms are over head. For the side raises, I start with my hands down, palms facing forward, then move my arms in a wide arc from bottom (down near my hips) to top. If I can find a video, I'll add it later.

I will often do a set up pushups, then a set of side raises, then the one leg pushups, then another set of side raises, alternating shoulder and chest exercises. This seems to work well. I go through it until I've done two sets of every exercise.

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: I begin with a 20-30 minute run. Thursday is back and arms day, really biceps and forearms because the triceps is worked on chest/shoulder day.

Here are my back exercises:

First, I lay on a mat on my abdomen and extend my arms out at the side like a bird, my fingertips angled at 45 degrees toward my feet. From there, I raise my arms up toward the ceiling, hands sideways with my thumbs pointed up, 20 reps. Next, I move my arms to the 90 degree position, repeating the exercise. Finally, I point my hands upward at 45 degrees, toward my head, then lift them again off the floor and back down, 20 reps. The idea is to look like you're making a snow angel, only on your stomach instead of your back, and to raise your arms up toward the ceiling and lower them back down.

My next exercise is similar to a swimmer doing the butterfly stroke. Still lying on my stomach, I reach up above my head until my hands touch, then swing my arms down toward my lower back, crossing them above my back, then back up to the above the head position. I do twenty of these.

Next I do pushups, but with the elbows out wide, hands turned in. This stretches the scapulae and increases range of motion. Twenty reps. I wish I had pictures of these exercises. If I find some I'll update it.

The next thing I do is seated rowing. I do two sets of 15 with 90 lbs.

Finally, I do two sets of lat pull downs with 70 lbs. With both the rowing and the lat pull-downs, the object is to engage the scapulae, so with the rowing, focus on bringing your shoulder blades back toward each other.

The only thing I do for my biceps is dumbbell alternate bicep curls. I do four sets of 22 (eleven per arm) with 25 lbs. My forearms are engaged in this exercise as well, and always remember that when you tighten your grip on the bar, and then do any exercise, your forearm flexors are strengthened.

Friday: Running 20-30 minutes. Friday is abs day and I basically follow Coach Nicole's ab workout. I have modified it though and have dropped the leg raise portion of it from my personal workout, and added planking, both facing the mat, and from both sides. I've also added an exercise call the prone extension.

Saturday: Right now, I'm doing nothing on Saturday. In the spring, I will be adding a long run, probably around 45 minutes.

Diet Considerations

One thing I've found is that maybe even more important than exercise in maintaining a healthy body weight/composition is diet. I personally have exercised at times to extremes, and still haven't been able to lose the extra fat around my mid-section. On the other hand, I've found when I eliminate or severely cut back unhealthy food and concentrate on eating stuff that's good for me, instead of just good, the fat begins to melt away. Too bad that celery doesn't taste like cheesecake or that cheesecake doesn't have the same number of calories as the equivalent in celery. That would make for an ideal world.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Dennis Prager on the Ten Commandments

I usually like Dennis Prager's "Prager University" videos. These on the Ten Commandments are no exception. They are well done, and thought-provoking. Enjoy.

Good Reads

A week or so ago I finished a great book by Thomas Williams called The Crown of Eden. It's the first in a series called The Seven Kingdoms Chronicles. It was a very good book that I highly recommend and for those who care about such things, I would give it a PG rating, so it's pretty tame while still being a page turner. Great work by Williams. The sad thing about this series is that our local library is lame and doesn't have it—even though it's rated highly on Goodreads. I've noticed that a lot about the Salt Lake County Library system—if it's not currently popular, and by that I mean it's not a New York Times best seller or a book that has been made into a series of bad movies (like Twilight), it cannot be found on the shelves of the library. Sad, but our library caters to popular culture in many ways. I had to buy the first book and will probably need to buy the second book, which is cool because I like books, but in most cases, with fiction, I'd rather read the book first to know if I want it hanging around my house. With limited space and so many books, it's an issue.

There are some great lists out there of fantasy novels and their ratings. If you go to my Goodreadslist for fantasy books,    you'll see a number of really popular novels and series in the top ten, but once you begin seeing some more obscure titles, you can rest assured that none of these are in the Salt Lake County Library system.

I just started a new series called The Riyria Revelations by Michael J. Sullivan. The first book is called Theft of Swords, and surprisingly, the library actually had it. So far, so good. Highly interesting.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is one of my favorite musical performers. Here are three of his songs as found on youtube:

When No One's Around

Ireland's Green Shore


I Like the Way You Cook

Check them out.

What is a hero?

What is a hero? We think of heroes as those who respond to a crisis with daring and courage in times of need. Those who rise above selfish behavior and do the truly selfless—sometimes at the peril of their own lives—in order to help those in need. Those people are heroes.

There are also the quiet heroes. Those who rescue people, but not with quick action or brute strength. The quiet heroes are those who go about day after day, serving, helping where needed. Mother Theresa comes to mind as one such hero.

We love the movies about super heroes, those fictional characters whose super powers help them to fight off the super villains. We long for the ability to do likewise. “Imagine how much I could help people if I only could be Spiderman,” we might think. “Too bad I don't have a super power.”

The fact is, super powers exist. They are called, “love”, “caring”, “selflessness”. People who use such super powers become men and women of character. From the TV series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. comes the quote, “The real heroes are not those who have something that we don't. It's what they do with it.” We have all been given gifts and abilities that if used to help others, to uplift and to protect them, enable and ennoble us to do acts of greatness. God gives us these gifts. Let's not be afraid to use them.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

You'll have to think for both of us...

Rick and Ilsa from the great film Casablana. I often think of Ilsa's line "You'll have to think for both of us." I use it sometimes when I don't know which way to go, or sometimes which is right and which is wrong. Thankfully, the people I say that to are often those whom I trust more than myself to make great decisions. My own decisions too often are emotion-based and reactionary. When we learn that most of the time, it's better to go with the decision of the brain instead of the decision of the heart, we are on the good road--the road that will bring success. I'm indebted to those who can "think for both of us".

Fly killing...a sport anyone can try

If there's one thing in the world I can't stand, it's flies in the house. These vile things are my nemeses. I will use all means at my disposal to get rid of swatters, shovels, cannons—whatever it takes that will do the job. One of the most satisfying means of getting rid of flies, however, is towel flipping. This is the method I use:

  1. Grab a towel. A thin one is better than a thick one.
  2. Start at a corner and roll the towel so that the first roll is about two inches across. Roll until the entire towel is rolled up making a long strip.
  3. Wet the pointed end of the rolled up towel with regular tap water.
  4. Fold the non-wet end over itself about five inches, so that you have a good handhold, and something to stop the towel from coming unrolled.

Once you have your towel ready to flip, use a quick wrist action to flip it, so that the wet end snaps like the crack of a whip. Practice, practice, practice. When you feel confident in your ability to knock over full glasses of milk, thousand dollar vases, and antique china, you are ready to tackle flies. Try stationary flies first. See if you can flick them off of priceless glassware. Once you have perfected this, it is time to try for the beasts in flight. Knocking a fly out of the air with a loud “SNAP” will leave you feeling positively pumped. If you hate flies like I do, give it a try the next time the kids leave the doors open a bit too long, and the ugly little buggers get in.

Challenges and decisions

One of my favorite quotes is from The Lord of the Rings:

Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

Sometimes, we get great responsibility thrown upon us, through no fault of our own. We cannot keep the evils that happen in the world from happening, nor the challenges that life places upon us. But we are given a certain amount of finite time, and with that time, we can add to the evil, or we can choose to fight it. It's our choice. Free will is the name of the game. Let us be brave in these times of challenge. Let us strengthen our faith. Let us choose to be on the side of good, even if that costs us some perceived security.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Life is an adventure

“Life is an adventure”. So true. There are things in our lives that challenge us to the very core of who we are inside. And there are joys so high that they almost cannot be measured. The thing is, one never really knows when each of them will come.

That's why, we must learn to cope with anything that happens. Why we must be able to not just survive, but come out a victor in the end.

As Charles Swindoll has said, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you...we are in charge of our attitudes.”

We can decide how to react in any given situation. Sometimes it's easier said than done, but it can still be done, no matter the circumstances. As Denis Waitley said, “The losers in life let things happen. The winners in life make things happen.”

So take off the tie, roll up the sleeves, and get going at making your life what you want it to be. As the old ranch hands used to say, “we're burnin' daylight”. Saddle up.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Tony Stark: the final picture

This is pretty much the way I looked on Halloween. Actually, it was Halloween when I took this shot, so I did look like this:

Still, not Robert Downey Jr., but I hope I pulled off the Stark thing well enough. I was trying to get a shirt that looked like this:
The center image would light up with battery power, but after I ordered in in late September, I was informed a couple of weeks later that they were out of stock, issued a refund, and was unable to find another place that sold them that also wasn't out of stock. I found the red Iron Man shirt at Target, which helped. I wasn't going to spend the money to rent a suit.

So, how'd I do?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Before and After...Tony Stark

I've been working on perfecting my Halloween costume these past couple of days. As I said before, my grandkids had wanted me to dress up as something. I chose Tony Stark (for those wondering, he's he guy inside the Iron Man suit, played by Robert Downey Jr.). I took this picture of me with the goatee as the before shot (it's admittedly bad):
This weird lookin' guy is me.

Now, I went through the process of getting my hair cut, trimmed and dyed the goatee and removed my glasses. Obviously, I'm not Robert Downey Jr., but here's the result:
All I need is the suit.

Did it come out okay? Let me know if I need to keep the helmet on.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Mt. Sneffels, Colorado

My friend, Eric Reeder took this fabulous photo of Mt. Sneffels in Colorado:

I love this part of Colorado. We nearly moved to the Durango/Cortez area years ago, which is only a hop, skip and a jump from Ouray, the town closest to Sneffels, at least on the east. West of Mt. Sneffels is the touristy town of Telluride. For more of Eric's fine work check out

Halloween ideas

Here's a classic scene from The Avengers. My grandkids kept asking me what I was going to be for Halloween. Finally I decided on Tony Stark. I can pretty much resemble Stark, I think. The attitude is what I need to work on. I won't be in the Iron Man suit however.

I had ordered a shirt with the flashing lights power emblem on it, and it was supposed to barely make it before Halloween, but a week or so later I got a notice that it wouldn't be coming. All other sources seem to be bereft of that shirt as well. I'm not going to wear the Black Sabbath shirt on principle. I've got a Plan B going for that though, thanks to my cousin Gena.

A FB friend of mine hates Halloween because she believes it glorifies evil. I'm not a fan of the evil part of Halloween, but I'm always in favor of those who fight evil (fictional or otherwise). I told her that instead of focusing on evil, focus on helping little kids just be kids, and ask them to dress up as superheroes or other heroic figures. What are you going to be for Halloween?

BTW, do they make Grecian Formula for beards?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Kind of my theme song...

Bob Seger's Against the Wind

Life is kind of like that. You all keep fighting and I will too. Cheers. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Military service

People sometimes ask me if I ever served in the military, and the answer is "no". There was a time though when I considered it. Just after high school when I was trying to decide what to do with my life, I approached some Army recruiters who came over to my house and met with me. I was interested, but told them I needed to give it more consideration. After some days of thinking about it, I decided that I would go a different direction. About that time one of the recruiters called me back and asked me what I had decided. I told him that I'd decided not to do it. He said something like, "Well, you're never going to make it in life if you don't join up." That pretty much sealed the deal. I'm the kind of person who if someone tells me I can't do something, I go ahead and prove them wrong, which I've done.

That doesn't mean I've accomplished all I want to in my life. But the day is still young. I've got other people to prove things to, including me, and more causes to fight.

All that being said, my thoughts on this weekend are for those who gave their lives in defense of liberty. I honor all such men and women. To me, they are heroes. Other heroes to me are those who live to fight for freedom. One doesn't need to die to be a hero. One doesn't need to have joined the military to be a warrior in the cause of which I'm speaking. One only needs to stand up for the Constitution, to love liberty, to stand for our God-given rights, to not shut our mouths when confronted, but boldly make our points and defend them.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Writing challenges and how to overcome them

I found a solution to the schedule change dilemma I mentioned in my last post. I found a timer I could download and put on the desktop. I can set it for any length of time, so, what I've done is set it for 10-15 minutes. This allows me to wake up as I peruse Facebook or other things like that. When the timer goes off, I switch it to 30 minutes and do some kind of writing for that length of time. Now writing can mean revising a scene, posting on this blog, thinking about how to change a scene to incorporate all the info I need it to have--you know, anything to do with writing. I'll even use it to study a writing book. As long as I'm focused on writing.

As for finding more time in a day to write, I'm afraid I'm just out of luck. To be a writer when you have an eight hour job, you need to either write only for a short time per day, or abandon other things that need doing, such as keeping up the yard, working out, etc.

One idea I'm toying with is setting aside a specific night per week to write for a longer period of time, say two to three hours.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Work schedules and forming habits

Now, after having been screwed up in my writing schedule by my place of employment changing our starting time to 7:30 from 8:00, I find myself trying to adjust. And they've announced that they're doing a study as to whether or not they can change our starting times 7:00. This seemingly small thing has caused me to stop writing, because I was doing both writing and my gym time before work. I find myself thrown off of my habits too easily. I've finally got the gym going (after work), and now I'm thinking I'll be able to do the writing before work. In fact, that's what I'm doing now by writing this. It's the most I've actually written in the few weeks since they changed our schedule.

It's said that it takes 21 days to form a habit and only about two weeks to lose the habit if you stop doing whatever it is you've been in the habit of doing, so it's kind of like starting over again. Nevertheless, we writers need to persevere and overcome these little roadblocks, for they are everywhere.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Law enforcement and the abuse of power

I have posted links on Facebook recently to stories that show acts of conduct unbecoming a Police Officer. For the observant, you will know that I continually post links about what I consider to be abuses of power, whether in the presidency, other political entities, or otherwise. I'm an equal opportunity reporter of abuses. Police are not exempt in this. I personally have nothing against law enforcement officers in general. I have known several and still know some---all of whom have been and are outstanding men. I have had brief run-ins with the other kind though—those who go into law enforcement for the love of power.

Considering all that, within law enforcement there are far too many incidences of mistaken shootings in which the officer mistakes a cane or a wallet for a gun. Nearly daily we see examples of brutality, and though a case may be made for some violence being warranted (I dislike the news media who only show the beatings and not what led up to the beatings. That too does not tell the full story) in far too many incidences, it is used inappropriately.

This is the Law Enforcement Oath of Honor:

On my honor, I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character, or the public trust.  I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions.  I will always uphold the constitution, and will remain loyal to my community and the agency I serve.

Let me first say that I understand the challenges of being under pressure. I understand the danger that some suspects are to police officers. That being said, there is never an excuse for a police officer to shoot an innocent person. Rule number one in gun safety is to not even put your finger on the trigger until you know at what you're shooting. I'm thinking that cops violate this rule frequently and probably for their own safety. But their own safety is not the reason they should be involved in law enforcement. Their job is to protect the public. How does shooting someone in error protect the public?

A big issue is the attitude that “it's a war out there.” If it's a war, then casualties enemy and “friendlies” should be expected. This is not the proper approach.

I'm thinking that unless someone is really willing to risk their own life to protect the public, they shouldn't be doing the job. It should not be the public's lives that are at risk because someone failed to obey the first rule of gun safety in order to keep themselves from getting shot. Of course, an officer doesn't want to leave his or her children fatherless or motherless. So because of that, it's okay to be trigger happy? What about the innocent person who just got killed because of you? Don't you think their children need their father or mother?

So if they really want to go into law enforcement, they should go into it with the realization that they need to protect the public, even if their own lives are in jeopardy. If not, they should find another line of work.

My next issue involves another point in which I think many (but not all) law enforcement officers are breaking their oath, and that's the phrase “I will always uphold the Constitution”. Consider the recent law that was passed in Connecticut, which turned gun-owners who failed to register their semi-automatic guns into felons overnight. Officers were willing to go into people's homes to confiscate their guns, a clear violation of the Constitution they are sworn to uphold.

What is going to happen if there is some general order from the President to confiscate guns? How many officers are going to march in lock-step with such laws and go ahead and try and carry out the confiscations? How many, if ordered to, will carry out such laws just because they have been ordered and have the power to do so? I'm encouraged by county sheriffs in various states around the country who refuse to enforce gun control laws. These individuals take seriously their edict to uphold the Constitution. We can only hope that that is the majority opinion amongst law enforcement officers and administrators.

The misuse of power has long been a problem among law enforcement officers, including, but not limited to, adding more violations on to speeding tickets because someone is a smart aleck. Adding on violations because one can is just the smallest example of the abuse of power. Everyone with power has the potential to abuse it. Abuse of power amongst law enforcement is why some people come to dislike police officers. Think of someone you know who was abused or molested as a child. Does that person not have a reason to hate the abuser? The same thing goes for law enforcement officers who abuse their power, especially in its most extreme forms, such as unwarranted tazing, beatings, and shootings.

Now I've said this because I post a lot of links about such abuses. I also post good stories about police officers when I find them. I know and love some fine police officers to whom I am grateful for the hard work they do, but I hope that these good people will not turn a blind eye to the abusers within their ranks, or to the oath breakers who walk among them. I have a pretty good idea that those I know will not do so. I hope that they believe that their main job is to protect the public, not themselves. I hope most of all, that those who have been entrusted by the public to protect them, will do so, whether it's protecting them from criminals, or protecting them from their own government who is violating the Constitution. They have sworn an oath to do so.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Working on the story

So, I've been going back over my story Last Stand at Cibola, and I can see some really well-written sections. I'm not trying to brag, but maybe I'm not as far away from that million word level as I thought I was. That's really a step up from where I was a while back when I reread my first novel Gateway to Fear. I had thought I had done a good job with that, and there were some places in it where I did, but overall, it sucked. I could rewrite it, and maybe will some day, but for now, it's onward and upward.

 I think the hardest part for me is organizing the plot into a story that makes sense on every level. My characters have complicated back stories and relationships and it's difficult to keep all of that straight. I'm using a program called “Scrivener” now and I think it's going to help in the organizing process, though there's definitely a learning curve associated with it. If we as writers keep plugging away though, eventually we will write something good.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

On writing a million words

They say you don't get good at writing until you've written a million words. I'm not really sure what that means. Does it mean you need to write a million words of fiction in order to be a good fiction writer, or is that million words any words that you've written? If it's any words you've written in your lifetime, then I'm pretty sure I've eclipsed the million word mark. If it's a million words of fiction writing, such as novels, short stories etc., I'm probably well below that level.

I kind of like the 10,000 hour approach. Basically that is that one must spend a minimum of 10,000 hours at something in order to become really good at it. It's definitely a good rule of thumb for guitar practice, and I'm pretty sure I could become a darn good writer if I spent 10k hours doing it. I don't know about golfing though. I'd probably become better, but that would just get my hopes up and get me spending more money playing golf, which, since I've only golfed twice in my life, would be a substantial increase. Still if 10,000 hours would make me really good at it, perhaps I could make it back.

Back to writing, I've started a "million word" file in OpenOffice and I'm trying go do as many words as possible. Still though, it would help to know if they all need to be fiction in order for me to become great at writing fiction.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

My thoughts on "Life, the Universe and Everything: the Marion K. "Doc" Smith Symposium on Science Fiction and Fantasy

This past Thursday and Saturday (I missed Friday, because my cold got the better of me), I attended the LTUE Symposium held in the Marriott Hotel in Provo, Utah. I had preregistered for the event and it only cost me thirty bucks. I didn't attend any of the things you had to pay extra for, like the dinner etc., which meant I didn't get to listen to Brandon Sanderson. I feel bad about that, but I didn't want to fork out another $30 to do so. Like most of these events, there are some good classes and some that aren't as good as one had hoped. I attended a few of both. The class presenters and panels were a smattering of local writers and some who weren't local. Some had published many books, and some had published few. The number of books published wasn't necessarily representative of how good of instructors they were either.

One of the highlights was Orson Scott Card as the keynote speaker. Card had been expected to arrive earlier in the week, but due to weather, made it for the Saturday sessions. The talk he gave was effective and interesting, geared in large part to the majority LDS audience. It was marred a bit in the end when those running the symposium kept cutting in and telling him his time was up. You could tell he was frustrated by the interruptions. "Those of you who need to go to other classes can go," he said at one point, "I won't hate you." I'm not sure he understood that the large room where he was speaking was taking up three rooms (movable walls) in which some of those classes were supposed to take place, or if he didn't care that this was the case. It didn't hurt my feelings either way.

At any rate, for most of the people in the crowd, he was the one they had come to see, so they didn't care all that much if the other classes were shortened. One has to wonder how the other presenters felt about it though.

I had arrived early in the morning to get on the list for a class called "1000 Ideas in 1 Hour" taught by OSC--a class that would be a maximum of fifty people. When it was time for that class in the late afternoon, I thought it was well worth the time I spent arriving early in order to take part. With five minutes to go, one of the organizers came in with a sign that read "Five minutes". Card said "It'll be ten." In fact, it ended up being closer to thirty. However, unlike the earlier time, there weren't repeated interruptions.

It was my first time attending this event and I'd definitely go back again if my schedule permitted it. Whether or not the classes were valuable, the action of attending helped me to focus more on writing and getting on with it. That's a plus in and of itself.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Olympics=nation versus nation

No matter if you like to look at the Olympics as the opportunity for great individual achievement--it's certainly that--at their core, the Olympics are about nation versus nation.

If not, then why the national anthems played for the winners? Why the parade of nations? Why the medals tally?

Of course national pride is on the line.

When one goes to an NBA or NFL game, one doesn't go to watch great individual achievement, although that often happens. One goes to support one's team. In the Olympics, one's team is that team which represents one's country.

That great individual sports achievement occurs and sometimes transcends such support is what often makes the Olympics a thing of beauty. I might have gone to watch the Utah Jazz play the Chicago Bulls, but the fact that Michael Jordan scored 45 points was not lost on me. At the core though, it was about the Jazz winning even when MJ was at his best.

The same goes for the Olympics. I want the Americans to win against the best the world has to offer.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Don't say the "T" word?

It looks like now we can't say the word "thug" without being accused of racism.
Never mind that those of us who use that phrase use it as a term referring to criminal elements, of any race, who often use violence in their crimes.
Sheesh, stop turning everything into a race issue.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Glenn Beck says he shouldn't have been so divisive

Glenn Beck says that he shouldn't have been so "divisive". Hmm. I wonder if any of the democratic pundits and leaders will ever say the same thing. I don't think so. It's really only the people on the right who ever have any remorse for the harm they've caused. On the left, it's part of a means to an end. Divide and conquer has been a huge part of the Obama administration strategy from the get go. Whether it's pitting rich against poor, male against female, black against white, or any number of this versus that, it's a strategy that seems to work for them.

I think there's a time and a place for divisiveness anyway. Consider Samuel Adams, agitator for the patriots in the American Revolution. Was he divisive? Yes. Was it necessary at the time? Again, my answer is yes.

One thing those of us who tend to complain about the other side should do though, is use facts and reason...the Thomas Paine approach works best. If Glenn Beck has a fault in this, it's mostly through hyperbole in his divisiveness. Avoiding hyperbole and meanness, and sticking with facts will go a long way toward persuading people, much further than attacks made with acid tongues. At a time when the nation is on the skids, some times, attacking those who are doing the damage is the only way to help stop the slide.

But do it in a civil manner, and don't stoop to their level.