Redbeard's Journal

Seriously. I have red hair and a beard. What did you expect?

A Short Quip
ghost of redbeard
mtlawson
The kids are watching X-Men: The Last Stand for completion's sake, as they want to eventually watch Days of Future Past.

Well, about 20 minutes in, my oldest turned to me and said "I can tell this is a bad movie. It's like the Prequels."

Can't argue with that.
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Character Quips
ghost of redbeard
mtlawson

I was driving my oldest to a band function --I can't remember which, there have been so many-- when she asked me if I've ever finished that book I was writing.

"No," I replied. "I haven't had the time to finish. And besides, I think I'd write something different now, since it's been so long."

Which set us off to discussing a main cast.

"I'd prefer to write someone who is a combination of people I know, so I have a feel how they will react."

"Oh?"

"Yeah," I said. "For example, a combination of you and one of your friends for a female lead."

"Oh, I know!" She sat up straight in the car. "'All men have a weakness, and only I can exploit it,'" she said, with a wicked gleam in her eye.

"Wow."  My mouth opened and closed.

"I know, right?"

"Yeah, that is just so perfect.  Mind if I steal it sometime?"


And a Nap in the Adirondack Chair. Yeah, that'll do it.
ghost of redbeard
mtlawson
Summer is here.

So why am I wishing it were Fall?

Hell if I know. Even though Fall is my second favorite season*, I don't often wish that it would be here sooner. At least, not while the kids aren't arguing over something.

Maybe it has something to do with weather and work combining to limit any time I had outside this Spring, and that we don't have any planting done for the year. Or maybe it has something to do with that we finally finished painting the kitchen and painting the bathroom in the summer heat isn't that much fun.

Or maybe I just need to write more, to get the stories bouncing around in my head onto the screen, so I feel more accomplished.

Did I mention that the adirondack chair needs painting? Yeah, what fun.



*After Winter. Yeah, I'm weird.

Collateral Damage
ghost of redbeard
mtlawson
Well, they managed to do it.

I'd hoped that the Russian mafia and political machines wouldn't ruin the non-Russian portion of LJ with their DDoS attacks, but it seems they have.

The activity on my friends list is miniscule compared to what it was 4-5 years ago. Admittedly, my own activity is down quite a bit as well, but I chalk that up to an overall lack of time to devote to writing. My lack of posting has nothing to do with DDoS attacks or anything of the sort, but others I know have either moved on to FB or G+ or have dropped blogging entirely.

This isn't the first time I've seen an active SF&F community decline into nothingness. I remember back in the early-mid 90s when GEnie (an AOL, Prodigy, and Compuserve competitor) was $5/month for regular non-gaming access. In those days, it seemed like most SF&F authors had GEnie accounts, and a lot of big fandoms (Middle-earth, Pernese, and Valdemar among others) had a presence there. It was a mini golden age that ended when GEnie decided to chase the online gamer dollars and change their pricing structure, eliminating the $5/month tier in favor of a much higher cost per month level of access.

When I stumbled on LJ many years later, it was a blast from the past, seeing the same sort of synergy among SF&F authors and fans that I saw in 90s era GEnie. But what has killed this wasn't corporate greed, but a combination of the march toward a social networking behemoth (Facebook) and being caught in the crossfire among Russian politics.

It's a shame, really, and it feels like LJ is just going through the motions now.
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Something For Warmer Weather
ghost of redbeard
mtlawson
Now that warmer weather is finally here, I thought I'd share an incident from a couple of years ago.

The kids had spent some Christmas gift cards on water guns with the intention of having a knock down water gun fight in the 100F degree heat. Naturally, I didn't want to feel outgunned, so I bought one of those "water shotguns", which is in the shape of a double barrel and uses the pump action to shoot water out of one of the barrels at a time.

Imagine my surprise when my youngest grabbed my own gun during the game, swung it around at the others, and shouted "Say hello to my little friend!!" before dousing them in water.
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Historically Speaking
ghost of redbeard
mtlawson
My oldest asked me the other day why we study history.  I got up from my spot at the dining room table I use for work and went into the kitchen.  "Do you want the pithy quote or a deeper answer?" I replied, pulling out a glass and filling it with water.

She wanted the quote first.

"We study the past so we don't have to repeat it."

"Oh."

"Do you know what that means?"

"No."

"It means that history is filled with mistakes, things gone wrong, and decisions that turned out to be disastrous.  If we study those, we can hopefully learn from those problems so we don't do those things again."

"Yeah, but what's the other answer?"

"That the past is completely foreign to us.  We look at things, and we don't know how they were achieved.  We may have ideas on how things were done, but we don't know without studying them.  Look at the pyramids."

"They were built with slave labor."

"Well, maybe and maybe not.  There's some evidence that each village in Egypt sent workers seasonally --and willingly-- to work on the pyramids.  But the details on how they were built were lost to antiquity.  Like how the pyramids in Central America were built remain a mystery. Or Egyptian obelisks."

"Hey, there was a NOVA show on that!"

"Yes.  People have theories how it works, but we still don't know how they were done."

She chewed on that for a few minutes.

"Look at it this way:  we see things with 21st century eyes and see the disconnect.  Like how our Founding Fathers fought for freedom to choose--"

"--yet they owned slaves," she finished.

"Exactly.  Some of them wrestled with that problem, but a lot of them didn't have an issue with it at all.  Studying the past allows us to take a critical eye at ourselves and see what we might be missing that future generations would point out."

I sat back down at my laptop. "Besides, learning about people and how they lived is fun.  I'll never get to travel to see Marcus Aurelius' Rome, but I can read about it.  And an archaeologist can study the city and reconstruct what it was like back then.  Without history, we'd never know."

Earworm Friday
ghost of redbeard
mtlawson
On days like this, I miss Ronnie James Dio.

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Sigh
ghost of redbeard
mtlawson
Again, it's been a long time between posts.  Not intended, but it seems that when I'm pushed for time, my writing gets squeezed.

I'm still alive, busy, and hoping to get heavily into NaNo.

Changes
ghost of redbeard
mtlawson
I came face to face with my mortality a few weeks ago.

No, not a life threatening situation, but reality that I simply can't do the things that I used to be able to do.

About three weeks ago, I finally go my first pair of bifocals.  At 44, I'm maybe slightly on the young side for them, but I'd gotten annoyed enough at having to take off my glasses to read close up that I decided to go for them.  They do take some getting used to, especially when I was accustomed to looking out of the corner of my eye at things and I find I can no longer do that with bifocals (the distortion really messes with your head).

However, that wasn't the source of my frustration.

No, it had to do with the Kindle Fire.

Apparently our Fire, which is out of warranty, is one of those that have USB port problems; the USB port is loose and/or disconnected from the motherboard, and the Fire becomes impossible to recharge.  It's apparently a common enough problem out there, and given my background in electronics, I figured it was one I could easily fix.

I removed the cover and removed the motherboard to find that yes indeed, the USB port had a few issues.  When you're holding the motherboard and the port is sitting there on the kitchen table, you know it wasn't connected well.  The USB port has five data pins that are soldered to the motherboard, and the port itself has two other pins that were to be soldered to the motherboard to act as support.  What I observed, however, was that the two support pins weren't soldered properly to the motherboard, meaning that the entire weight of the port was borne by the 5 data pins, something that they were not meant to handle.  Three of the pins weren't soldered well at all either, and popped out from their solder joint completely.  The other two pins had snapped in two, half in the solder and half on the port.

Looking at things, I felt that I could possibly fix it, I'd just need to make sure things were soldered properly.  But I didn't reckon that my eyes had different ideas.

I simply couldn't focus in on the details that I needed to see to get the job done.  It's not like I couldn't hold my hand still to perform the soldering, but my eyes wouldn't focus.  I'm nearsighted, so I'm used to not seeing anything far away, but close up like this had never been a problem before.  Now, suddenly, it was.  Even a magnifying glass couldn't help very much.

Frustration set in.  Unlike, say, other forms of physical labor that could be corrected my exercising more --like working on the deck with heavy beams-- this is strictly a limitation due to my eyes aging.  I was able to solder things back together, but after reinstalling the motherboard I couldn't get the port to work properly.

I'm sure that if I had a replacement USB port, and if this were even 5 years ago, I could have fixed the Fire without a problem.  But now it is simply beyond my skill to repair.  It's a hard thing to accept, particularly since this summer I'd replaced a toilet, a faucet, and built and installed a window box.  But one of the things I loved, puttering around electronics, is starting to recede from me.
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What, it's July Already?
ghost of redbeard
mtlawson
It's been a long time.

Summer has been, well, Summer.

Cold, then rainy, and now hot and melty.

The A/C went out in the van, and it required way too many Ben Franklins to fix it.  However, the mildew smell is officially gone from the van, so we get a side benefit from the repair.

Since school (and then Halloween!) is on the horizon, I've been doing some scouting for cloth for the kids' costumes.  The oldest wants to hang around as Tauriel (from the upcoming Hobbit movie), and she wants a Jedi robe.  The youngest wants to go as Asajj Ventress (Star Wars character), so that'll be a bit rough to handle.  My son, on the other hand, has an easy job:  Matt Smith, the Eleventh Doctor.

I went and looked at cloth at Jo-Ann tonight with the kids, and we've got the basic ideas down for Tauriel an the Jedi robe, but I'm going to have to dig deeper for Ventress.

Hmm....
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