Tuesday, August 31, 2004

     I told a friend of mine once that we all get the life we choose. I've been pondering that ever since I said it. Is it true? Do we get the life we choose? I mean, I'm not living the life I want to. My job is hard and unrewarding. I don't have anyone to share a laugh and a slap-and-tickle. Did I choose this?
     The answer is yes. I did choose this life. I made the choices that led here. Not gifted with foresight, I made what I thought were good choices at the time. And even now, I can't fault myself for what I did. Back then, I was trying to make things turn out right, trying to pay the price for everyone else, trying to make sacrifice mean something.
     No one minds dying if they think they're going to be a hero. Then they get to be noble. That's easy. Instead, we wrestle with the day to day. The nothingness. The endless ritual of baths and laundry and clothes and meals and work and and and and and and and ...
     Being a hero isn't hard. Anyone can be a hero. It's the everyday life that kills us. The endless hours. The meaningless moments that stretch until the days bury hope. The people who face the day after day are brave. They might not think they are, but they are.
     So this is me lifting my cup to all those who struggle: to K. who hates his job but is afraid to leave; to G. who is struggling with her family and her life and losing a dream; to M. who thinks she isn't worthy and really is; to H. who's been afraid her whole life to live but still keeps trying; to S. and J. who are struggling with mid-life; to everyone who rolls out of bed each day and gets their kids to school and goes to work and cares for their fellow man; to the people who bring unexpected doughnuts; to all the unpublished writers who keep putting the words down on paper; to all of you, may God keep and richly bless you in all the ways that you deserve.
     And maybe when He's bestowing these graces, He'll send a few my way.

A walkway in Corkscrew Swamp, Florida.
© 2004 C.G. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Monday, August 30, 2004

     The first thing you notice about writing -- and you will keep on noticing this if you continue in it -- is that it's not easy. Oh, it is when the words flow and you type until your fingers are raw and you can't type fast enough because you have the power rushing clear and pure through you. And then there are those minor blocks that make you stop for a moment, but your crafty mind figures out a crafty way around them, and you're off again, leaping paragraphs in a single, effortless bound.
     However, we're not talking about those times. We're talking about when it's hard. When the words are pulled out of you so reluctantly that it's an act of bloody self-surgery to put them on paper. When you consider cleaning the entire bathroom with a toothbrush with two bristles in it rather than write another word.
     If you're at that point, God love ya. You can take a break from it. Maybe read some books or take a walk to recharge you. Even clean that dirty tub. You can journal or talk to friends online or do research. Take a trip. Try another type of project. Surf the Net writing boards. But at the end, you will have sit back down and write. There is no other cure for not writing other than writing.
     If it helps, we all suffer from it eventually. No writer is immune. And never trust one that says he or she is. They're liars or hacks and always will be. It breaks some writers. They choose other lives, and more power to them. May they be happy. But you and me, we're writers. At the end of the day, it's those words on the paper that we crave.
     So sit down at your keyboard or pick up your pen. Take a deep breath. Remember it's not torture and it's not brain surgery. And then put down some words. Any words. They may be crap, but by gum, they're your crappy words. Keep at it. It's the only way to make it through and feel that glorious pure power again. I will and you will, too.

© 2004. All rights reserved.

The fountain at East Central University.
© 2004. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

     Just finished reading Rock This by Chris Rock. It's funny with some great riffs on racism and relationships. The language is rough, though, and Rock presents the swearing as being the way black people actually talk. I was curious about this since I know several black people, and none of them swear much -- at least around me. So I emailed my friend C.J. and asked him about it. I got a quick, sharp reply that I asked and received permission to share with you. Take the floor, C.J.

Urban black comedians make the mistake of thinking they speak for black people everywhere. They do not. They don't come close. The majority of black men don't cheat on their wives, don't call their girlfriend "bitch" or "ho," don't call each other "nigger," don't take crack, don't live on welfare, and don't think it's funny when other black men do. It's a shame that they get TV time and that's the only black faces that America sees.

I and my friends have jobs. We have wives and children. We go to church. We might swear when we're angry, but we don't do in front of the women we love. We don't dis our mothers. We might have a beer or two watching the Lakers, but we don't take drugs and don't want that crap around our kids. We like sports. We like fishing. We like hunting. We love our kids. We haven't been in jail. We don't beat up our wives or girlfriends or kids to prove our manhood. We don't hate white people just because they're white. You can find jerks in any skin color, white, black, red, yellow, striped. We're your friend when you're our friend. The only true story about blacks is we're better lovers. Just kidding. No, we are. :)

When Chris Rock or Martin Lawrence or any of the other self-called kings of comedy use foul language, they're trying to show they're just like every other black man -- or at least what they think a normal black man is -- except they make millions for their off-color humor. Do I think Chris Rock is funny? Yes. Do I think Martin Lawrence is funny? Yes. Do I think they could clean up their language and be just as funny? Yes. Do I think they should live better lives because they influence our children whether they want to or not? Yes. But black comedians aren't the only ones who need their mouths popped. White, Latino and other comedians should understand the F-word isn't funny or shocking now. We're heard it. We've said it. Move on and try to do something original for a change. Hey, why not be funny?

© 2004. All rights reserved.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

     I thought I was going to blog about my Friday night and the odd events that somehow tangled themselves around me. But as it turns out, I need to think about it more, and things continue to unfold. I need to see how things play out before I draw any conclusions. Vague enough?
     Instead I thought I would give a brief book review of Let's Go to The Tackle Store and Fondle the Plugs by JoAnn Phillips, published by New Forums Press. I chanced on this book at my library. Every time I go, I try to get at least one or two books on subjects I don't know much about. Basically I wander the stacks and then grab a title that looks interesting. It's random, and most times I end up with something I don't care for, but I have also gained a few keepers over the years.
     This book revolves around fishing. Think of it as a blog with bass. JoAnn and her husband Boyd traveled all over Oklahoma and the rest of the United States to fish. They also ventured to Mexico and Canada. Some of the stories are interesting, some sad, some funny. The short chapters don't tire you, and she has a good eye for landscape. You gain a sense of her life and how she approached it with a true zest for adventure. I'm not a big fishing fan (I get bored easy) but this book showed me that I've missed a few things about it. I thought it worth the hour and a half it took to read.

A marigold bed.
© 2004. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 27, 2004

     More slogging through that blasted wilderness. I'm learning more about the characters, though. They're gaining depth, getting some quirks, rounding out. I learned something new and amazing about one of them tonight. So this journey is good for us, but I don't think it's going to become fun anytime soon.
     I was off work this afternoon for a doctor's appointment. I took my digital cam with me, stopped and took some photos on my way home. I also went by the library and checked out a pile of books. When writing, I like to read books different from what I'm working on. That helps keep my story clear in my mind.
     A long weekend ahead of me. A lot of writing, and I need to finish a project that should have been done earlier this month. So I'm going to close now. Catch you on the flip side.

The fossilized stump of a rare giant Callixylon tree of the
late Devonian Age. It is at least 350 million years old.
© 2004. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

A stream at the park.
© 2004. All rights reserved.
     Another night of housework and writing, too much of the former and not enough of the latter. A friend has asked what’s giving me so much trouble on my book. I’ve always been able to write my way out of about any story problem (if only life were so easy).
     Here’s the stit on the book. Early on, I made the main foe overwhelming. Our heroes –- such as they are –- are vastly overmatched. In fact, the only reason they've survived is that basically they're beneath their foe’s notice. As long as he doesn’t realize they exist, they’re safe.
     Unfortunately, at this point, he’s aware of them. They’ve fled into an uncharted wilderness to escape his troops. While he wants to capture them, they’re not the main thrust of his goal, so he’s not committing his vast resources to finish them. In fact, he doesn’t know the whole truth about them and he might not care if he did. They're almost not worth the magic it would take to kill them. That “almost” is coming close to killing our heroes.
     So they’re in the wilderness, making their way cross-country to a trade road that will lead them to another country, thus escaping him. That’s where they’re at. Slogging their way through mud and forest and driving rain. That’s also where they’re stuck because I can’t get them across this wilderness in anything resembling an interesting fashion.
     Later on, they run into our chief foe whom they’re trying to avoid (he hid his fortress in the wilderness because he's experimenting with a magic that could place him on the throne of the empire) and much bloodshed, terror and excitement results, including a nifty explosion or two. What fun. Of course, that’s later on. I have that written. I know what happens then. In fact, I have finished the end of the book.
     It’s that bit between the middle and the end. The after-middle, pre-end if there is such a thing. I would just skip the wilderness trip with a few sentences that briefly detail the journey, and then they’re captured.
     BUT and notice it’s a big “but,” the book will be too short if I don’t expand out the wilderness journey. I’m aiming for 90,000 to 100,000 works to meet the average length requirements for novels of this particular genre. I have a little over 70,000.
     You’re probably thinking, “But if that’s all the story requires to be told, aren’t you just padding it?” And yes, you’d be right, except I know there’s more story. Somewhere in that journey is where our broken hero and his tormented lady find healing. Their love deepens with every peril they face. Somewhere in their flight, they finally fit. Our poor, dumb hero doesn’t know it, but he’s finally found what he needs to go on living. Naturally, I’m going to strip it all away from him, but he doesn’t know that yet.
     So there we all are, lost in the forest, trying to find our way. Every day they take a few more steps as I write a few more words. We’re going to make it. We both have a destiny out there waiting for us to arrive, but good grief, it’s slow going.
     On a bright note, my house is getting really clean.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Rose of Sharon at the park.
© 2004. All rights reserved.
     Got asked once in one of my poetry classes what motivated me to write as much as I do. I babbled on about creativity and nurturing the muse, but didn't mention the truth: I write to avoid housework.
     I like a clean house as much as the next person does, but I don't like to dust, vacuum, mop floors, clean toilets, etc. I want a maid. I like things neat, but don't like putting out the effort to neaten them.
     How does that relate to writing? I set aside a certain amount of time to write per day. Sometimes the words won't come. Or the plot needs more work. Or a character isn't speaking to me the way she or he should. I can write my way through these difficulties occasionally or write around them. Other times, I'm stopped. Rather than sit there sighing as I look at the blank computer screen, I get up and do something productive. I file, I wash dishes, I dust, I vacuum, I do any task that I've put off. After 30 minutes or an hour, I find my subconscious gladly gets back to work and the words flow.
     Depending the difficulty of the project and how my subconscious is cooperating, my house is either spotless or a step from being raided by the Health Department. Okay, I may be stretching it a bit, but not much.
     I'm currently trying to finish a book before an agent asks to read the whole thing (if he does). A particularly thorny passage has slowed progress to a crawl. How slow you ask?
     Last night, I did two sinks of dishes, washed and folded four loads of towels and clothes, dusted -- with Pledge no less -- my living room furniture, filed for a straight hour, straightened and rearranged the paper shelves, semi-thoroughly cleaned my fish tank, took apart the tank filter pump and cleaned it, put the newspapers in the recycling box and a few other small things. I got my words finally, but no breakthrough.
     So tonight, I'll be trying to write again and probably cleaning again. I guess it will be vacuuming tonight. Sigh. Oh my muse, you're a lazy wench.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Wintersmith Lake.
© 2004. All rights reserved.
     Well, I returned to work yesterday. And immediately discovered why I enjoyed being away from it so very much. Years ago, I'd leave on a vacation and come back and discover that things had indeed fallen apart while I was gone. It was work to fix everything, but it also -- in my heart of hearts -- made me feel needed. They really couldn't function without me.
     Now when I come back and find the mess, I just feel tired. Can't they at least follow up on their regular work? God willing some day I'll sell a book or two and leave, and then where will they be? I'm sure they would eventually work it out, but good grief. Actually, I think they just let things slide. They're perfectly capable. The mice will play, but what I want to know -- really want to know -- is how I got cast as the cat!

Monday, August 23, 2004

Walking sculpture at the park.
© 2004. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Yet another sculpture in the park.
© 2004. All rights reserved.
     I feel like someone has beat me with a stick. And the someone was me. I can't blame anyone else. I wrote a check that my body didn't want to cash.
     In college, it was nothing for me to stay awake a couple of days in a row, grab two hours of sleep and then hang out with my friends until the next morning. The past couple of days I've stayed up to 1 a.m. and then 4:30 a.m. and feel like a zombie, including and not limited to flesh dropping off in chunks.
     The reason I was up is too complicated to think about right now (I have a headache behind my right eye that threatens to move all over my tired brain) but we dealt with some of the fall-out of Gottehemah as well as all the new events after -- we've met twice since Gottehemah (including this weekend) and I think we're moving in a good direction, or at least, one that isn't quite as lethal. That's my hope, anyway. We''ll see. Some people are growing, some people are learning, some are just going with the flow. We think of ourselves as unique, but really, that describes just about everyone. But it is a good group despite those inevitable personality conflicts.
     A blanket apology to everyone who tried to contact me by IM and/or email Friday and Saturday. I went off and left my computer online. I returned to find over 20 different IMs. I wasn't there to respond.I will be responding to the emails tonight and tomorrow. Just wanted you to know that I wasn't purposely ignoring you. I still worship everyone of you ...
     Anyway, I'm alive, here and still kicking. Soon I will be sleeping. I'll post more after I catch on my dream time.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

     I'm tired tonight, and I still have another two hours of writing that I wanted to get done before I go to bed. When I'm off work, I find myself driven to write as much as I can. I want to do as much as I can. When I return to my job, sometimes it feels like a relief. That I can relax and not push myself so hard. Where did this work ethic come from?
     I know the answer to that. Both my mother and father worked themselves nearly to death to see that their four kids could go to college and have a better life than what they had. They taught me to work hard and to keep working hard. I'm not sure how talented I am, but I do know that I have had more success than other people more talented than I am simply because I kept my butt to the chair and my fingers on the keyboard. A little bit of talent applied hard will always do more than a great talent not used.
     A old cliché goes: "Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." It's only a cliché because it's true.

Another sculpture at the park.
© 2004. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

      "Find me!" Michael yells to his grandpapa, peeking from behind the storage building. Michael is three. One of his favorite games is playing hide-n-seek. I'm crouched behind him, laughing at his excitement.
      "No, we're supposed to be quiet so your Papa can't find us!" I say.
      "I want him to!" Michael says and giggles.
      And sure enough his grandpapa sticks his head around the storage building and says, "Hey! Who do I see? It's Michael!"
      Michael laughs and runs over to his grandfather who scoops him up in a hug.
      Michael then tells his grandpapa, "Go hide!" Michael grabs my hand and commands me to "Count!"
      So we count together to twenty, which if you didn't know, goes like this: "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 10, 15, 20!" (He's a little fuzzy after he reaches ten, but who isn't?)
      Off we go to find his grandpapa.
      We do, and then his grandpapa counts while we hide. We do this many times. It takes a lot for a three year old to get tired of a game.
      Each time Michael yells, "Find me! Find me!" He rolls with laughter when he's found and shouts with delight when his grandpapa scoops him up.
      It may be a kid's game, but really, isn't that what we all want? We want to be chased a little bit, but in the end, we want to be found by the one we love. And then we laugh with delight.

Sculpture at the park.
Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Elephant sisters at the Zoo.
Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.
     I'm off work for five whole days! I can actually feel the tension in my back relaxing. Ahhhhh. Time off, it's a good thing.
     I have five days of writing, doctor appointments, errands, housework, reading, yardwork, game playing, taking photos for my blog, and more to look forward to.
     The only sour note is that I have to do some continuing education for my job, but it won't be too bad. And remember, I'm not in my office. Have I said that time off is a good thing? Time off is a good thing.

Monday, August 16, 2004

     Nothing happened to me today. I went to work, came home, wrote a few pages for my book, and that's it. You're just going to have to find something else to read. Now, go along. There's nothing to read here. Check in tomorrow. Maybe something exciting and/or terrible will happen then, and I can expound on it.
     Why are you still here? Didn't I just say that nothing happened to me? What do you want me to do? Tell of my past? Like the time I helped solve a couple of murders? No, really, I did, but it's not as interesting as it sounds. It was mostly scary, and frankly I don't want to get into it right now. I will some other time. But anyway, it's time to go to another web page.
     Look, you're starting to annoy me. Go. Go now. Seriously, there are millions of pages out there. Come back tomorrow.
     I still see you. I'm right here. Don't make me call your mom. I will.
     Actually I like talking to your mom. Nice lady. Knits a bit much, but what else is she going to with all that goat hair? You should call her more often. And where are those grandchildren, eh? But that's not the point. The point is that I'm going to turn my back, and when I turn around, you should be gone. Okay, I'm turning my back now.
     Sigh. My, you are a lonely little thing, aren't you? Well, that's okay. I guess I don't mind a bit of company. We'll watch Stargate SG1 together. Comfy? Okay, settle back. This is the one where Jack is about to go fishing and then he gets zapped to an Asgard ship, which has been taken over by the Replicators (it's the Replicators' first appearance), and then the Samantha and Teal'c join him and they get trapped on the ship, and they have to blow up the ship before it lands on Earth. Have some popcorn.

Tortoise at the Zoo.
Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Boston fern.
Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.
A Prayer for Every Day
by Mary Carolyn Davies

Make me too brave to lie or be unkind
Make me too understanding, too, to mind
The little hurts companions give, and friends,
The careless hurts that no one quite intends.
Make me too thoughtful to hurt others so.
Help me to know
The inmost hearts of those for whom I care,
Their secret wishes, all the loads they bear,
That I may add my courage to their own.
May I make lonely folks feel less alone,
And happy ones a little happier yet.
May I forget
What ought to be forgotten; and recall
Unfailing, all
That ought to be recalled, each kindly thing,
Forgetting what might sting.
To all upon my way,
Day after day,
Let me be joy, be hope! Let my life sing!

Saturday, August 14, 2004

More flowers.
Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Mums in full bloom.
Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.
     Ever have a jealous moment? You know, when for a few brief moments, you see red and can't think, can barely breathe because someone that you care for apparently cares for someone else more than they do you? And you hate them and hate the one they care for a lot more.
     Just for that brief moment, you're not civilized anymore. You're a caveman, you're an ape. Some other beast has barged into your territory, and you feel your teeth draw back and your body hair bristles and your fingers curl into a fist.
     I'm having a jealous moment.
     Do you have them, too? Am I the only savage left?
     If by chance you have that beast in you, too, maybe this will help you. It's what I tell myself.
     First, no one belongs to anyone else. You cannot command a person's affections. You can hope they will love you, but they're ruled by their hearts, too. You can't force them to love you more or to love you at all.
     Second, you're still worthy of love. Just because you aren't loved by or not loved enough by the one whom you love doesn't mean that you are somehow less. The odds are good that someone somewhere is loving you more than you love them. That's the nature of this world. The reality of this life. You don't get to have everything; don't let jealousy take away what you have. Nothing in this life lasts forever; you'd better have enough brains to enjoy it while you can.
     Third, have some dignity. It makes you look small to run down your opponent. It won't endear you to your love who will start looking at you and may see that smallness in you. Instead, be friendly. If you can't do that, change the subject. If you can't do that, good grief, just stay silent.
     Fourth, it's okay to talk to a someone about how you feel. I suggest a good counselor. In fact, I trust counselors to keep secrets more than I do family or friends. There's an old poem that goes:
               Love your friends and love them well
               but to your friends no secrets tell
               for if your friends become your foes
               everyone your secrets will know.
      Fifth, if you get overwhelmed -- and God forbid -- think of violence, talk to a counselor immediately. Because once you've gone over that line, you're going to lose your honor, dignity and respect. And probably your love. No one likes a savage unthinking beast. They're nice in zoos and belong in the wild, but not much fun in your living room. I've not ever reached the point of violence, but I understand how people can. So don't be a beast. Be the honorable person that you truly are. Be worthy of the love you receive.
     Does any of that help?
     If not, you can do what I do in last ditch situations. I have a root beer float made with cherry amaretto pecan ice cream. Yummy. I find taking time to have ice cream helps almost everything.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

     When you write anything, you never really know how your readers are going to take it. You try to direct them, but readers are independent beasts and often go where you didn't intend or didn't think they would.
     One example is my entry for Monday, August 9. One of my readers took what I wrote ("We are nothing if we aren't loved") and saw it in a different light. Not only was his meaning one that I never meant, it's one that I had never even considered. And upon reflection, I could see how he got that meaning.
     Another example is my lunch with my friend Mendie as detailed in the entry for Tuesday, August 11.
     First, let me say that Mendie isn't her name. I called her before I blogged and read the entry to her. She told me to use her real first name -- she's not one to hide behind anything -- but I convinced her that it would be best if I made up a name. I chose Mendie because I don't know any Mendies and also because it happens to carry a memory jog for me so that I can remember what her alias is.
     Second, from Tuesday to this morning, I received three emails and one phone call from female friends of mine asking if "the cow" was them. Let's get this right out in front: No, it was none of them. All four of them don't live in my town. (One is two hours away, one three, one five and one lives several states over.)
     We'll leave aside why they would think any of the given description fits them, and instead focus on another interesting point: Blogs aren't truly anonymous.
     Despite our best efforts, secrets have a way of being known. And truthfully, we are our own worse enemies in this respect. I invited friends and neighbors to read my blog. I want it to be read. I think of it as communication, not a diary. I keep a personal journal offline. With pen and paper. It will never be electronic. Thus I make sure that none of 51313 Harbor Street -- unless flat-out stated otherwise -- applies to my friends and family. At least that's my intent. If a reader goes somewhere that I didn't intend, I can't help that, but it's not what I want. My subconscious probably slants my work in a particular way, so there might be connections that I'm unaware of, but it's not intentional.
     Just so it's completely clear, that entry didn't apply to K., G., J. or T. They know who they are.
     For me, the thrust of the Mendie entry was that unanswered question: Why do we love the wrong people? It's something I wrestle with and wish that I knew the answer. My heart is simply not forthcoming in this. As for "the cow" in my entry, yes, I know she's bad for me. I know that I should not answer the phone when she calls again or answer her emails. I suspect she would easily walk away from me if I did that. The break would be clean. Why don't I?
     Mendie already covered that.
     Huge congratulations go to the Erudite Redneck who just had one of his articles published in the major history journal in his state. And his story got the cover! Awesome! Absolutely awesome!

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

     Before I forget, Big & Rich's "Save A Horse (Ride a Cowboy)" is a great country song!

A pelican at the Zoo.
Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.
     Okay, first I was excited that an agent finally asked to see my book.
     Now I think ... it could be ... it may be ... yes, it's panic now.
     Why panic?
     Because it's not finished! Oh, I didn't conceal that fact in my query. In fact, a published author told me that was probably the reason I didn't get any positive responses until now. But I had read a book by an author who said that it was okay to send out a query as long as you were up-front with the fact that it wasn't finished.
     I was up-front.
     The letter said they want to see the first three chapters and then a synopsis. I have that. And the first three chapters are as good as I can make them. I wrote a good synopsis. I've even got the middle and end written. I need just that part between the middle and the end. (Yes, I know that might not the smartest way to write a book. Hey, you write one, and then get back to me, okay?) I'm 70,000 words into it. But still ... what do I do if he wants to represent the book?
     And oh, to have that problem!
     So now I've put that novel back on the front burner. All other projects will have to be put aside until I have it finished. It's my first and only priority until it's done. I've been working on a schedule, and if I keep it, it should be finished by the end of October.
     Heigh ho, heigh ho, off to write I go.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Okay, don't get excited.
It's just a small step ... but it is a step.
An agent has asked to see my fantasy novel Dragons Gather.
A real agent.
It's the first time one has.
So even if he ultimately rejects it -- which will probably happen; I'm not getting my hopes too far up -- my query got one of those elusive suckers interested.
I'm calm.
Well ...

Geese at the Zoo.
Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.
     I had lunch today with Mendie. She's probably my best female friend. I trust her. She's hates mind games and lies. She's bright and funny. She also has the worst taste in men. Or perhaps taste isn't the word. Attraction. She's attracted to the wrong guys. We get together and compare notes on our various romantic mishaps.
     Today we discussed a long-time crush of mine who was playing another one of her tired now-you-see-me-now-you-don't games. She plays them all the time, and the only thing unexpected about them now is when she will do it and how long. She goes around with her feelings out, and as soon as anyone looks at her the wrong way, she disappears for a while. Mendie told me that I should be walk away from "the lying self-important untalented lazy cow." (Mendie doesn't much care for her.)
     Then we talked about Mendie's latest disaster. A guy that chases, chases, chases until she gives him what he wants, and then she doesn't see him until he wants it again. She knows she should never see him again. H will never make a place for her in his life. In fact, in between times, he sees other women. Mendie has seen him with the other women at various restaurants and clubs. He never even looks embarrassed. As sure as gravity, Mendie knows they have no future. I told her she should be done with "the amoral weasel jerkfaced pig." (I don't much care for him.)
     Of course, we both made noises like we would do just that. We'd walk away. Change our phone numbers. Block our email addresses. Return the snail mail marked 'Refused.' We make these noises a lot.
     But then Mendie changed the conversation when she turned to me and said, "Why don't we fall in love?"
     I blinked.
     "No, I don't mean we should," she said. "I mean, we should, but we don't. Why can't we for once use our heads? You're bright and funny and devoted and cute. You send cards, give flowers, remember birthdays. Why can't I fall in love with you?"
     I looked at her for a moment. "And you're smart and witty and kind. You read books and care about literature and the environment and let's not forget that you have wonderful legs and a great smile. Why can't I fall in love with you?"
     We stared at each other.
     Then she leaned over, hugged me and kissed my cheek. "Because we're idiots, baby. We're just plain stupid."
     We laughed, although later after we thought about it, it didn't seem that funny.

Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Butterfly at the Zoo.
Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.
    A friend of mine is going through a hard divorce, although I don't know I've ever seen an easy one. Fortunately no children are involved so it's simpler than most. I'm only hearing his side of it so I can't judge or lay blame. As always, both sides will have to shoulder part of it.
    I attended their wedding about five years ago. It was a large church wedding with a line of attendants that stretched back to the third pew. A beautiful reception with flowers, dancing and champagne. They honeymooned at a tropical island resort. They were cute together, finishing each other's sentences, always holding hands, two peas in a pod, snug as a bug in a rug, and any other cliches you can think of. They had such plans. Kids, house, careers, growing old together but staying youthful forever.
    And here we are today. He can't speak her name without swearing. They are selling their huge perfect house and splitting the money. They're fighting over the furniture, electronics and automobiles. Both are accusing the other of being unfaithful, he has a lawyer, she has a lawyer, blah, blah, blah. It's the same tired and painful story that we see repeated a thousand times over daily.
    I don't know why love is so strange. Why it works for some people when it shouldn't and won't work for some when it should. It both breaks and heals our hearts. It's everything and nothing. You can't hold it in your hand, but some value it more than gold. Others walk away easily, hating what just the day before they loved. Others spend their lives in hopeless longing and deep devotion.
    I do know this. It's work. It's not an instant thing. It's something that you have to get up each day and work at. To remember why you loved and find new reasons to love. To forgive them for not being perfect and for them to forgive you. To grow together and not apart.
    Sure, there will be easy times, when love overflows. You'd better cherish those times. You'll need to remember them when the well is empty, and you need to believe it will be filled again. This applies to lovers and friends and all that fall between.
    Easy words, but hard to do. It's still worth it. We are nothing if we aren't loved. I have been blessed in my life because I have loved and been loved and love now and will love in what is to come.

Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

     To answer ThePress's question on yesterday comments about DPI and photos:
     DPI means Dots Per Inch. All printers (even laser) print photos by laying down dots of various colors and shades that our eyes combine into continuous color. (Laser printers do this also, but the toner melts and fuses together, mostly obscuring the dots.)You can use a magnifying glass and see the dots.
     The more dots per inch, the finer the detail the photo has. A 600 DPI picture is more detailed and more closely resembles a regular photo than a 100 DPI picture. I typically print 4x6 at 600 DPI and 8x10 at 1200 or 2400 DPI. (At those resolutions, it can take 10 minutes to print an 8x10.)
     Most newspapers print photos at 1200 DPI or 2400 DPI. So if the people who are sending photos to ThePress are sending them in at 100 or 200 DPI, then the resulting prints are going to be grainy and jaggie.
     What ThePress needs to do is specify that submitted photos be sent in at 1200 DPI. The file sizes are going to be quite large, but less than 2400 DPI. 600 DPI might work also as long as the photo was printed at a small size.
     Hope this helps, ThePress.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

     To answer Gloria's question in yesterday comments, here's what I look for in a digital camera.
     1. At least a 3 megapixel picture size. This will produce excellent 4x6 photos and good 8x10. If you think you're going to print a lot of 8x10 photos or larger, choose 4 or 5 megapixel and be prepared to pay more for it. All the photos on this blog were taken by a 3.3 mexapixel camera.
     2. An optical zoom. A lot of cameras have digital zoom, which basically only increases the size of the information already there. This adds "noise" and "jaggies." An optical zoom is best.
     3. A flash that allows at least these four settings: Always on, Always off, red-eye reduction and automatic. If you can find one that has a hot shoe to attach a flash, all the better, but those are only on high-end digital.
     4. Memory card expansion slot. Usually these are Compact Flash or Secure Digital, which are the most common and cheapest to buy. You're going to want to buy the largest cards you can afford.
     5. A mount so that you use a tripod. A tripod will allow you take great close-up pictures and portraits so you need a camera that will accept a tripod.
     6. A size that feels comfortable in your hands. The emphasis today is on smaller and smaller cameras. Some of them, however cute and cool, aren't practical. No place to place your fingers, and you need a toothpick to operate their controls. Go to a store that allows you to pick up a camera and see how it feels.
     7. The largest preview screen that you can find. This is helpful indoors, but don't buy a camera that doesn't have an optical viewfinder. Those LCD screens are useless in sunlight or bright light.
     As for brands, I like HP and Epson. Olympus, Nikon, Canon and Kodak also have some nice digital cameras. My personal fave: HP for the way it meshes with their printers.
     I hope this helps, Gloria, and I hope to see your pictures on your blog soon.

Friday, August 06, 2004

    I've had several nice comments and emails about the photos in this blog. Thank you all, but I will tell you the real secret, a tip that two professional photographers told me is the secret to their success: Film is cheap. Don't just take one photo, take five or six or more. Then when you show your photos, only show your best.
    I've tried to follow this guideline over the years, and it's stood up well, but back when I was using 35mm, it was expensive. Oh, not the film -- film really is cheap -- but the film processing and printing adds up. (Example: I took four rolls of film during a recent trip. The cost for processing [double prints and photos on CD] was a little over $38.) With my digital camera, processing costs have dropped dramatically. Not because it's any cheaper to print a photo, but because I don't print the unsatisfactory ones.
    Another trick that digital cameras and computers have made easier is cropping. My HP camera is 3.3 megapizel, which allows me to crop out distracting or ugly elements and still have a decent print size. You can do that with 35mm in a photography lab, too, but only professionals have their own labs. (I did it in college.)
    I still use 35mm for a few reasons. Because my digital isn't the top end, it cannot capture action well. And 35mm prints have a sharpness and depth that my digital camera cannot capture. The 35mm is best in low light conditions. And finally 35mm prints, for the most part, still last longer than ones printed in a printer, although Epson and HP are addressing this issue with new inks and special paper.
    The other day I looked at a high-end digital camera and a few of the prints it produced. Impressive. And it should be for $2,000. Still the features on the high-end cameras will make their way to the lower priced ones. Maybe someday soon, I will finally put my 35mm camera up in the closet for good. But not yet

Thursday, August 05, 2004

More flowers from the Zoo. (Click on photo for larger size.)
Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

More flowers at the Zoo.
Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Do you think of me all the time?

Of course, I think of you constantly.
Well, not every breathing moment, as sometimes
other things demand my attention
like rice and salad and
why Donald Trump has that dead possum on his head
but a lot of the time
when the TV is off
and I'm not on the computer
and not reading
or writing
or sleeping
or cleaning house
or mowing the lawn
or eating
I think of you
and what you mean
in the grand never-ending scheme
of the universe which overhead
gives forth a canopy of stars
that illuminate the heavens
and makes us wonder
if there truly is alien life
and what are they doing
and let's hope it doesn't involve anything with probes
because that's just nasty
and you have to wonder about
the mindset of creatures
who conquer space
just to come to Earth to do that
which doesn't make any kind of sense
and from that we can surmise
that probably they don't
but then you have to wonder
about all those people who say
they have been captured and probed
and surely not all of them are lying
so something strange and unsettling
is going on and someone should do something about it
soon before this probing spreads
and we all walk funny and
talk about being probed
instead of spending our lives
as we should
by thinking about you
all the time.

Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 02, 2004

"Nemo" at the Zoo.
Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 01, 2004


Frostfire passions
sparkle lonely
in the night.
If it feels good,
who cares if it's right?

And yet
still --

Morning mirror whispers
guilty beneath its fog
Shower scalds the flesh
but never washes all.

Until some morning
you slowly turn
and calmly inquire,
"Do I know you?"

The answer is, of course,

Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.