Tagged: Travel

The Hood

“Well where’s the hood?” he asked.

“The hood?” H- replied in kind.

“Which side is the hood facing?” he repeated.

The father-daughter duo were back in the tent from an early morning bathroom run. H- had really needed to go.

“Yeah, on good sleeping bags like yours they put a hood where your head goes for when it is super cold,” he explained.

With wide eyes and delicate hands she proceeded to maneuver the sleeping bag around until she thought it matched her father’s words.

“Good,” he confirmed. “Now get in like normal,” he suggested. “That’s right. Now-”

H- needed no further instruction. Once in, she pressed her head up against the top of the hood and pulled down on the sides, experiencing that sensation which must fall within the bounds of what more studied men call pure delight. Soon, no longer seen by H-, he observed that she had let the hood fall over her eyes all the way down to the tip of her nose. After she fiddled with the drawstring she carefully exposed her finger from within the bag once more, this time to touch her nostrils.

“What are you doing?” he inquired, chuckling to himself.

“What?” she feigned.

“Were you just checking to see if you could still breathe out of your nose?”

A pause–probably much longer for the girl in the dark.

“Yeah.”

Review of Sam Neill’s Velociraptor Speech in the first Jurassic Park

Click here if you need your memory jogged.

Or read these two snippets.

“You stare at him, and he just stares right back. And that’s when the attack comes. Not from the front, but from the side, from the other two ‘raptors you didn’t even know were there.”

“The point is… you are alive when they start to eat you. So you know… try to show a little respect.”

Do you remember how surprised you were to learn that the ever mysterious and enchanting king of the dinosaurs T-Rex’s visual acuity was based on movement, as “Oh Alan” describes? What an intriguing revelation that was. And then in the time it took for Sam Neill’s index fingers to swing from his side to his front, within that instant, a previously unknown dinosaur severed any remaining connection our minds had with any reality outside the film. From that moment, unlike the annoying kid who has had enough velociraptor for a lifetime, we found ourselves thirsting for them. Like Dana Delany’s head-straightening declaration “I want one” after hearing Billy Zane’s thespianic description of a quintessential cowboy while marveling at a distant, lean-silhouetted Wyatt Earp upon arriving in Tombstone, we wanted velociraptors. And Jurassic Park gave them to us. And to prove how much we wanted them, we set the Memorial Day weekend box office record as we paid to to see the sequel, The Lost World, way back then. Remember that? It’s true.

But the filmmakers failed us in the sequel. They had a little girl gymnastic-kick our beloved.

And then in number three, a velociraptor spoke English.

Last weekend, however, Sam Neill’s speech was back in the forefront as a new box-office record was set by the head-bobbing six-foot turkeys. Why? Why did we rush to see it? Because the previews and movie posters teased us with the idea that we’d get to see what it would be like to have our very own velociraptors. Velociraptors as pets. Awesome.

All because of Sam Neill. Nice work, Sam.

Mildly Depressing Information About WordPress Blogging – Part 1

Almost from the day I began this blog I had my suspicions about the integrity of the likes/follows my blog was getting, but last Thanksgiving was definitely the turning point. I’m sure that like many of you, I couldn’t help but notice that my posts often got a “like” plus “follow” by another blogger within moments of publishing my newest post. Blinded by the promise of fortune and fame, I would check out the culprit’s blog and see if I thought they were a discerning reader or a machine. More often than not, I allowed myself to believe they were a discerning reader and that their “like” meant that I had published something valuable.

Then came last Thanksgiving. I had been blogging fairly regularly for about one and a half years, and beginning in early 2014 it seemed that this blog was finally gaining some traction with “readers”. Letting myself succumb to the holiday spirit, I decided to write a post “thanking” all the “likers” that, in part, motivated me to keep writing. Of particular note was one particular blogger. She had tens of thousands of followers (30K+ as of today) and yet was liking my blog posts regularly. It felt so good to see that she was reading and liking my writing. I really wanted to throw some blog-love her way (and others) and so I began my thankful post with her name. Surely she would notice this, I thought. I named some thirteen other bloggers (see the post here) before moving to the names of real people that I knew were reading nearly every post–friends and family.

Guess what happened?

Not a single one of those bloggers “liked” the post.

I mentioned this to my sister and she said, “Maybe they don’t like being called out?” Maybe. But no. It soon became clear that the reason they didn’t like my post was it was Thanksgiving–a holiday. And unlike me, they didn’t get on their laptop that day. They didn’t go to their WordPress Reader and click “like” on some dude’s post in an effort to gain a follower.

Another example of this disingenuous tactic was a blogger that has since disappeared. He jumped from 1200 to 4000+ followers in no time. Yet he took the time to read (so I thought) and “like” my posts day after day after day. But I would never “follow” his blog. I’d “like” some of his posts, but it’s like I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of following his blog, so I didn’t. Finally he wore me down. So I clicked “follow”.

Guess what happened?

You got it. No more “likes” from him.

But it looked so cool that these blogs had thousands and thousands of followers. I wanted my blog to be that cool. It wasn’t. I had been writing for a year and a half. I had published about 300 well-written, engaging, strongly/uniquely-voiced posts and had around 400 followers heading into last December. Remember, I quit my job and was determined to write two books and keep blogging Monday-Friday at this point in time. I also decided while I wasn’t working that I would use the time to gain as many followers as I could by whatever methods were available. (“If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin'” as we said in the Air Force.) Being a doggedly determined guy who still held onto a fool’s hope that blog-followers would eventually become book-buyers, I gained 1400 followers between mid-December and late January (six weeks).

Tomorrow I will share how I did it so that you can too, not that you’ll want to. Tomorrow, I will also demonstrate unequivocally why you should learn to honestly stop caring about likes/follows. Tomorrow, I will unapologetically pull back the WordPress curtain.

All The World’s Not A Stage–It’s A Runway

Not to argue with Shakespeare, but from my humble experience all the world’s not a stage–it’s a runway. I don’t mean Top Gun runway, I mean runway like Zoolander–the place where fashion is king.

Topping a long list of very surprising situations in which I have discovered, post Air Force, that appearance reigns is last Saturday’s episode. I found myself wearing a black suit with a black open-collar button-down underneath it. A gold chain around my neck suspended a gold security officer badge. I was stationed at the front of a bar while the St. Patrick’s Day parade was passing by just outside. My mission: prevent liquid from passing by me in either direction.

At least I had a stool to sit on.

The guy who arranged the gig freely told me he wanted me specifically (out of three others) to man this highly visible post at the fairly nice bar because I had “the look.” It didn’t take long for a few of the older women from the group nearest me to come over.

“What are you? Off-duty cop?”

“Nope.”

“Right. You’re the best dressed off-duty cop I’ve ever seen. What’s that badge say?”

“It’s just for show.”

“Sure it is. I like your glasses.”

“Thank you.”

“Can we get a picture with you?” Turning to a friend, she says, “Hey. Use my phone, I want to get a picture with this guy. Isn’t he the best-dressed cop you’ve seen?”

One of the older guys with them then says to me with a knowing nod, “It’s pays to be good-looking, no?”

That proved the day’s only photo-op (luckily–it was exhausting) but about three more times before the end of the shift I found myself unable to convince talkative admirers that I was not an off-duty policeman and that the badge was just a psychological aide to calmness and security for the less talkative. Can you imagine my consternation? I’d suggest envisioning an ironic, unbelieving smile for starters.

A new portrait of the world is slowly forming in my head. One that includes me dressing like a millionaire and parking my Elantra several brisk-paced blocks away.

Mission Commander Stevenson

The planet’s Earth-like gravity had an unexpected welcoming effect on Mission Commander Stevenson as he stepped out of the craft. This was the forty-first world he had visited on this particular eighteen month mission. He hadn’t shared with anyone yet that it would be his last. He was sixty-four years old and while his mind was never sharper, his body was starting to say no.

NASA probably expected him to call it quits sooner rather than later, but he knew they would be sorry to see him leave. Not the first mission commander to make a career of exploring new galaxies, he hoped he would prove to be the most steadfast. He had personally stepped foot on six hundred thirty-five extraterrestrial worlds. Not one of them contained life.

Oh, sure, he had had plenty of R and R back on Earth between missions, but it was all beginning to wear on him. As evidence of this, to a person, all the other astronauts could even deliver his famous “one complaint” speech–accent and all–verbatim.

Month thirteen, almost to the day, he’d say, “For someone as fortunate as me, someone who has seen the glory of the cosmos up close and in person, to complain would be criminal.” The imitator would then pause, just like Stevenson always did. “But I am human. I do have my own thoughts. And if I had to pick one thing that I would change about the program, it would be the gloves! I have spent over half my life feeling the inside of a pair of gloves. Every celebratory hug we’ve had after discovering we got a chance to live on after opening the door, every rock I’ve lifted, every flagpole I’ve planted, every tool I’ve used, everything has felt the same. I just wish something could be done about that.” Every newbie expected the speech to end at that point and just about interrupted the old man as he continued undeterred, which made it all the more amusing for everyone else. “I miss the feel of a woman, the feel of a Christmas tree, the feel of not quite warm enough shower water. Most of all, I miss the feel of dirt–my dirt.”

As he looked back for the others to join him on the ritual first walk around the new world, he unconsciously reached for the fastener on his glove.

It’s Time To Give Thanks

Damyanti, Stephswint, iGamemom, Stuart M. Perkins, Frausto, E.I. Wong, Man of Many Thoughts, theryanlanz, RobertOkaji, Elan Mudrow, Dennis Cardiff, KidazzleInk, Dieter Rogiers, Christine Fichtner, Betsy, Karen, Daedalus, Ron, Drew, David, Joan, Vince, Alex, Joe, Eileen, Elliani, Susan, Greeny, Schoen, Tripp, Andy, Garrett, Shannon, Preston, Janet, Larry, Kate, Sam, (Mike?), Grandma, Grandpa, Noa, and K-: Thank you for reading. Some of you have read every single post, and it seems that the rest of you have read nearly every post. Thank you. You give me your time and that means the world to me. Thank you.

We’re all busy today, but in exchange for two minutes more, I’ll give you guys tomorrow off. Please keep reading.

I have quit every  job I have had since leaving the Air Force. The other day I finally figured out why. The reason has to do with time and energy. I gave all my time and all my energy to my singular goal of becoming a hero pilot for the United States of America for over a decade. And now when I unintentionally find myself in front of a news source, I see stuff about ISIS. To be clear, I can’t shake the feeling that I wasted my time and energy. If I believe serving in the Air Force of a country whose way of life is worth defending to the death is a waste, you needn’t read my anti-carwash/anti-customer posts to empathize with how I might feel about working at a carwash. Simply put, I realized I’m once bitten, twice shy as they say.

But through it all it’s been seeing your gravatars at the bottom of the posts that keeps me writing. I don’t think it’s a waste of my time to improve my writing, because I think I have something to say. Whether I do have anything of value to contribute on a large-scale is yet to be seen. What I know is that you make me feel like I might. While this blog is primarily a sounding board, I spend hours making sure I don’t think I’m wasting your time. And I think my writing has improved. I’m especially proud of Piano Practice and there is no way I could’ve written that without two years of your encouragement. Again, thank you.

Next to H- and the Mark Twain Listening Club, this blog is the only other thing I give my full attention to. If your name is in the list above, whether you care or not, know that you are one of my top three reasons to try–to fight–in this life. But there is one name missing.

George.

I met George two years ago. He is a constant source of inspiration. He is as principled a man as I have met, moreover he reads and responds sincerely to every post. I have moved away from nearly every friend I’ve ever had for one reason or another and will not hesitate to admit that I’m scared to ever lose George. Honestly, regarding my writing, his encouragement falls under the “dangerous” category.

To know that someone believes in you is probably the most empowering/powerful feeling we can experience as humans. Only I know how I’ve handled this life, and despite the tone that I’m sure comes through in my words, the great “I Am” knows that the truth is not pretty. But that’s the thing about believing in someone. It’s contagious. I know George believes in me. And that makes me believe in me. That makes me believe that no matter what mistakes–sometimes terrible mistakes–I’ve made, the fight is winnable and worth winning.

Thank you George.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

The only way to get there is together.

Trolls and Tolls

“I just realized something, H-” he announced, turning down the car stereo.

“What, daddy?”

“I just remembered that on our trip today we’re going to be passing through the toll booths again,” he said. “You know, the ones that have the trolls in them–the trolls that look like people.”

“Trolls that look like people?” she asked, her tone signalling that memories were beginning to solidify.

“Trolls collecting tolls, remember?”

“Oh yeah, I remember now,” she said.

“Do you want to practice your song now? Or do you think you’ll be ready to sing the beautiful flower song when we get to where they are?” he asked.

“I can practice now,” she answered. “And daddy?”

“What?”

“If I don’t sing a beautiful flower song,” she began earnestly, “then the trolls will chase us down and eat us.”

“That’s right, H-. I gotta pay the toll, and you gotta sing a beautiful flower song as I do. Do you think you’re up to it today?”

“Yep,” she said.

The little girl then began to sing.

Flowers are up in the sky

Flowers are up in the sky

Flowers are dying and some flowers are dying-

“Wait, H-,” he interrupted. “Why are flowers dying? I don’t think that’s going to pass the test. Dying flowers aren’t beautiful.”

“Oh,” she said, realizing he may be telling the truth.

“That’s okay, H-. Just start again.”

The little girl began again.

Flowers are up in the sky

Some flowers are unhappy and other flowers are unhappy-

“H-!” he interrupted a second time. “What is going on here? Why are you singing about flowers dying and being unhappy? The song to keep the trolls from eating us has to be a beautiful flower song. Beautiful. Do you think you can do that?”

“Yes, daddy, I can.”

And so again, H- began to sing.

Flowers, flowers are up in the sky

Some flowers are happy 

And some flowers-

She cut herself off as soon as the “D” sound began. Laughing at her perfect demonstration of what pilot’s call “strength of an idea”, he suggested she wait until they were at the toll booth and just shoot from the hip then.

Luckily for our duo, on cue H- put together a beautiful number as he paid the toll to the troll.

“That’s my girl. You did good, H-, real good,” he said as they sped away from the danger.

World Economy In Disarray After Oprah Endorses Everything

Chicago.  In an unexpected–and unprecedented–move this past weekend, Oprah endorsed every product. The only African-American Billionaire, Miss Winfrey is making headlines around the world after her weekend decision, and doing so in every news category.

Simply put, people do not know what to do.

Since her rise to stardom, which began in 1984, Americans, and subsequently all humans, have looked to Oprah for guidance when undecided about how to spend their money. From books, to clothing, to boots, to coffee, to perfume, popcorn and more, consumers grew to love this new found ease of shopping in which they didn’t have to weigh the options themselves.

But now, in only the three hours since Captain’s Log learned of the story, virtual chaos has engulfed the world’s major cities. Every stock market has plunged, and some analysts are already predicting it will take more than twenty years to recover from this new great depression–if recovery is possible at all.

The Obama administration is the leading voice in the world’s governments call for people to remain calm. More difficult, however, has been these government’s task of asking their citizens to essentially think for themselves.

As for this American writer, the only hope is that Oprah’s thoughtless action has the unintended consequence of being the first cut in America’s citizens much needed Cesarean section. Stay tuned to Captain’s Log for further updates as this story develops.

The Last Transmission

“This is the last transmission we received sir,” General Moberly informed the President.

“Play it.”

Click

“I feel so immature, but if you must know, my last thoughts here are of the ending of the most recent War of the Worlds film.  The one with TC.  You know the part I’m talking about, right?  The part when nature does what man couldn’t do.  Yep, that’s what I’m thinking about right now.  It’s kind of funny really.  Three nine-month one-way trips to a distant planet.  Three successful landings.  And we’ve been here for six years, nearly thriving.  All twelve of us.  And now this.

“No, it’s not martians that are going to wipe us out.  No, it’s not bacteria.  No, it’s not a lack of supplies.  What’s killing us is an asteroid that’s arriving in a few minutes.  Of course, it’s not going to hit us directly.  Instead of a nice clean death, we’re being told that we’ll see it, feel the Mars shake beneath our feet, and then within minutes the aftermath of debris and shock-wave will rip apart everything we’ve worked so hard to build.  First, the dust will erode the domes, then our suits, then our skin, and finally our bones.  Apparently the cosmos doesn’t like us humans squatting wherever we damn well please.  Well, I say fuck the cosmos.  Sorry ma.  But whoever’s listening needs to know that everyone here knew the risks and is content with this end.  Don’t stop exploring.  You can’t let this change anything.

“Okay, this is it.  Wow.  It’s so bright.  I didn’t expect it to be for another two-minutes.  I’m sorry for everything!  I don’t want to die!”

Click

“Is that it?” asked the President, “Everyone’s dead?  The base is destroyed?”

“Yes sir.”

“Well, then.  It seems to me there’s only one thing to do,” the President continued.

“What’s that sir?”

“We’re going to honor their wishes.  Get me NASA.  And schedule a press conference.  We’re going to Mars.”

“Yes sir!”

The Miniature Van

People don’t remember that twenty years ago the first minivans had two bench seats.  And just one sliding door.  And no TV screens.  Worse yet, the speed limits were slower.  Road trips, coast-to-coast family vacations took longer.  It was quite miserable having to spend time with your family.

Only then came bucket seats.  And CD players.  And space.  And younger brothers.  Soon, everyone sat in their own seat.

But there were occasionally short moments, usually right after a sack lunch at a rest area, when the trip would become bearable.  And in those moments, the family played car games that involved talking to each other.  Single words became phrases and phrases became conversations.  Conversations, of course, became love.  And love blossomed into memories.

A simple, yet fun, way to prolong the sugar high was a game where players had to name cities which began with the last letter of the previous city.  Bismark, led to Kansas City, which led to Yorkshire, to Edmonton and so on and so forth.

Anyone who has played this game can remember that after a few rounds, everyone seemed always to get stuck on cities that ended in “y”.  Not the youngest brother.  Receiving New York City, he quickly returned Yukon.  Oklahoma City became Yonkers, and Sioux City led to Yorba Linda.  Wait, what?  Yorba Linda?  How did Sam know Yorba Linda?

As one, father, mother, sister, and brother all turned back to see how he was doing it.

Looking up towards the silence, young Sam feigned ignorance to the rules of the game as he closed the giant road atlas and its alphabetical index.

That reminds me.  The first minivans didn’t have GPS either.