sm1ley

Sep 132017
 

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this one.  It’s already after 9PM and I’m only on the second day of the new job.

Yep.  A new job.

Well, sort of…  I’ve been hired as a contractor to do something I’ve done repeatedly over the years, so it’s not like it’s really a new job.  First of all, it’s a contract position, not exactly a career move.  And second, it’s not really like it’s something I’ve never done before.  So it’s not new, or really a job (at least not in the sense of permanent employment).

I’m going to be helping to roll out a bunch of new computers… like I said, something I’ve done a few times before over the course of seventeen years in IT.  It’s always a big job, but that’s why they need a contractor, right?  Confirm and tweak the images on the new computers, customize them for the user to whom they’re going, migrate the data… the programs… help organize the old computers for return or disposal… and keep records of what’s been done.

Yeah, been there… done that.  And this time, it’s actually kind of fun.   :)

I used to dread doing it, and I was surprised to find that it seems different this time.  It took a little thinking about it to realize why.  Before, I was always one of the guys in charge of the project – responsible for one aspect or another of a herculean task that often felt like the old adage about eating an elephant turned to reality.  And all I could do was keep eating bite after bite of that persistent pachyderm.

But now, the scale is smaller.  The elephant is more like a nice dinner.  Where before, I was part of a team pushing out hundreds, and sometimes thousands of new computers, now I’ve only got double digits to worry about.  Granted, the time-frame is also smaller, but in a way that’s also better.  I mean, it takes a LONG time to eat a freaking elephant, right?  As a result, you get to continue to worry about the thing for months at a time.  And as a manager, you not only worry about your work, but that of your team as well.  You get to worry about the project, the reports, the personnel… and you do it day after day for however many months it takes to get it done.

But I’m not a manager in this one.  And like I said, it’s not an elephant.  It takes only a short while to eat a smaller dinner.  A shorter time, less worry about managing a team or justifying the progress.  Now, I just have to do the work.  And when I leave… I leave the work behind.

It’s a strangely comforting feeling, and my emotions are a little mixed.  I want to do the best job for them that I can.  That’s just who I am.  But I also have to accept that I’m nothing more than hired muscle.  I have no say in how the project will be done.

Don’t misunderstand.  There’s absolutely no way that I should have any say in it.  I don’t know the company, or the people, the systems, or anything else.  It’s just that for so long, I had so much more responsibility in projects like this that it’s a bit odd for me to stand back and realize that my job now is just to do the basic grunt work.  There’s no pressure to answer to upper management, to worry about the budgets, personnel reports, progress reports, inventories, disposal of assets…

I just have to do the work.  And that lack of pressure is oddly freeing.

Now, I’ve been out of the field for three years now, and I’m admittedly a bit rusty.  So there’s that small pressure to ramp back up to speed for them.  But it’s coming back to me pretty quickly.  And it’s going to bring in a steady income for a short while, where the writing hasn’t been.

Of course, the down side is that this is going to cut into the writing time.  But like I said, bills have to be paid.  Maybe doing temp jobs as an IT contractor can help me find a balance between what I love doing, and what will keep some cash coming in.  At least until the writing can fill both niches for me.  

So wish me luck, and I’ll try to manage my time a bit better next week so maybe I won’t be so rushed (or so late) with the blog post.

In the meantime, stay safe, and I’ll talk to you again soon.   :bye:

 Posted by at 10:40 pm
Aug 302017
 

This week’s post has nothing to do with writing.  No reports of progress or lessons learned in the business. This week is about Hurricane Harvey.  It’s about the friends and family that MBH and I left behind in Houston when we moved to Oklahoma three years ago.  It’s about recognition of the way they, and Texas in general came together in the face of one of the worst natural disasters in recent history.

BTW, if any of you ever wondered why I’m such a strong proponent of prepping, look at the picture here.  That was taken the day before Harvey made its first landfall. This is typical of store shelves just before a disaster.  I’ve been through a few such events, and seen this repeated in most instances.

But moving on…  For the most part, our friends and family have come through without any serious damage.  My son & his family evacuated when things got close, but they got out before any water got in, while it was still safe to do so.  And as it turns out, they made it through without the water actually getting in (though like so many others in the Houston area, it came REALLY close to coming in.

My brother from another mother, James Husum, lives in The Woodlands, just north of Houston, and was house sitting when Harvey hit.  He was trapped away from his home, with several dogs, while the water rose and trapped them in.  But other than a leak in the roof, there was no water damage in either his home, or the one where he was staying.

Another friend posted on Facebook that he and his family had been forced to leave their home and had taken shelter in a local high school.  And my cousin Brenda Jackson, who is an awesome amateur photographer, has taken all sorts of pictures from the area where, until three years ago, MBH and I called home.

The picture to the right shows a strip center where we used to stop pretty often. The pic is taken from a freeway overpass through a rain-streaked window.  Just to the left of the frame of this pic, there is (or at least, there used to be) a Smoothie King where we would occasionally stop for a light dinner or lunch.  Now to be perfectly honest, this picture isn’t that much of a surprise.  The area has flooded several times in the last few years, a victim of all the construction that’s popped up around them.

This picture (to the left) hits a little closer to home, though.  It’s taken from hwy 249, and you can see the water is up onto the freeway.  If I’m not mistaken, this is near the exit for an HEB grocery store we used to shop at quite often.  It’s where we used to buy our buffalo flank steak for grilling.

By the way, you can always click any of these photos to see an enlarged version.

The picture below to the right shows a strip center near my sister and brother-in-law’s place.  We’ve eaten at that Gringo’s restaurant on a few occasions.  I honestly don’t recall it flooding before, but since it was a little farther from our home, I’m not as familiar with the area. I found this picture online.

Another picture from Brenda here (left).  She called this one, Boat on the Feeder.  Yes, that’s the feeder road to a freeway.

It’s a shame that it took a flood of such magnitude to wipe the previous flood of political crap from our news feeds.  But since the goal of our media “services” is to sensationalize everything, it takes something huge to refocus them.  The message I see repeatedly coming out of the news now is that people are helping one another.  Joe Everyman is grabbing his fishing boat, kayak, canoe, or fishing waders… if he’s high and dry, then he’s moving to where he’s needed.

I’ve read numerous accounts of people launching their boats and helping out wherever they can, and I’m proud to know so many of them.  To the right here, my cousin, once removed (Brenda’s son Jason) is helping a friend get a family and their dog out of danger.

One of my former martial arts instructors has been posting videos on Facebook as he has worked for the last few days, helping to get people and animals to dry land.  I know others who have worked (and are still working) at getting supplies from surrounding areas into the shelters where they’re needed.  As a matter of fact, the church where my parents went for years was just recently remodeled.  It’s been closed for months during the process.

But they’re open now, supplying food, clothing, and shelter to those in need.

This is the America I recognize.  We pull together, lift each other up, help those who need help.  It’s how I was raised, and I’m so glad to see that it is apparently also the way a lot of other Texans were raised.

 

RPotW – 

Let me wrap this up with a “not so” Random Pic of the Week. I don’t know who took this one, but it’s been running around the interwebs for the last day or so.  It’s a powerful image, and doesn’t really need any comment so I’ll just leave it right here for you.

Stay dry everyone.  Stay safe.  I’ll talk to you next time.

Aug 232017
 

Yep.  Lots going on.  And that’s a good thing.  There’s nothing like the feeling of accomplishment that comes from whittling down the old “to-do” list.  We’ve had friends and family in and out of the house for the last few weeks, gotten the bathroom remodel nearly completed, and are in the final stages of getting my mom’s cabin cleaned out and ready for the new tenants to move in.

On the writing front, you may be happy to know that I got the manuscript for Pangaea Exiles back from the publisher three days ago.  As of a few minutes ago, I finished the final revisions and sent them back.  That should be the last of the editing, and as far as I know, the manuscript is now ready for formatting.  Woohoo! 

CL – In the meantime, Crazy Larry has proven to be longer than I originally anticipated. In fact, it looks like it’s actually going to be a little longer than The Road to Rejas.  But I think I’m in the final stretch now. We’ll see how it finishes out.

Y12 – The audiobook for Year 12 is in production, and the chapters I’ve reviewed so far sound fantastic.  Corey Snow is an amazing talent.  I’m so lucky to have him as the voice of the Half Past Midnight universe.  If anyone needs a talented voice actor, Corey is one of the absolute best.

I think I’m actually going to make this one a short entry.  I know I always say that, but this time it’s true. So very quickly, here’s the RPotW.  I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it, but Baby Bird is a sushi fanatic.  I think she would eat the stuff for every meal if she could afford to.  We recently found a sushi restaurant in a nearby town that serves amazing rolls.  We’ve been able to take her there a few times, and she declared it the best she’s ever had.

Of course, that means that any time we get a chance to go, we have to send her a pic like this one and tease her with the fact that we’re there, while she’s back home eating the college student’s typical diet of Raman, or some similarly blasé meal.  Yeah, we’re mean that way.  But it serves to remind her that she has good food here anytime she comes to visit.  (Hint, hint!) 

And that’s it.  Time to get back to it.  Stay safe everyone, and I’ll talk to you next time!  

Aug 092017
 

I missed last week’s post, but you know me… I had a good reason.  

Last Wednesday, our oldest daughter and granddaughter flew in from Utah for a visit.  We don’t get to see them very often, so this was a fantastic treat.  Even more of a treat was the fact that her siblings (who get to see them even less often) also decided to come up and surprise her.  So the day after she got here, Baby Bird and her girlfriend arrived to surprise her older sister.  The timing was perfect, as MBH had taken Elder Daughter into town to the store, while I had taken my granddaughter to a friend’s farm to get some eggs for the horde that MBH and I knew was coming.  It was a chance for her to see the chickens and ducks at the farm.  And while we were all gone was exactly when Baby Bird arrived.  When MBH and Elder Daughter got home, it was a very pleasant surprise.

She was tickled, to say the least.  She even mentioned how nice it would be to see her brother and his family.  But she “knew” that wasn’t going to possible, since he was in training with his new job.  What she didn’t  know was that his training ended Friday afternoon, and he and his wife were already packed.  Even more of a surprise was the fact that my mother had been wanting to come up for a visit.  When she found out about the surprise, she hitched a ride up with my son and his family.  So Saturday morning, Elder daughter woke up to find a house full of her siblings, their families, and her grandmother all waiting to greet her.

“SURPRISE!!!”  

So we had a great weekend.  There were all kinds of family stories as everyone caught up.  We went to the lake and walked Bella (who was tickled to have the whole pack to play with).  The only tricky part was that our shower in the master still isn’t finished and we only have three bedrooms.  Ten people in three bedrooms and only one shower was a logistical nightmare, so my son, his wife & daughter, and my mother stayed in a hotel in town. The girls stayed with us.

You would think that was an advantage for the girls, but the reality ended up being a little less peaceful than you would think.  A storm came through on Saturday night, and we went to sleep to the sounds of thunder and whistling winds.  At about 1:30 AM a deafening clap of thunder woke MBH and I.  In typical fashion, I rolled over and went back to sleep.  MBH got up to look outside. A few minutes later, she woke me again, letting me know that the tornado sirens in town were going off.

About then, the weather alarms on our phones and the NOAA radio all went off, and the kids got to experience their first Oklahoma tornado party.  MBH and I knocked on doors to wake everyone and had them get dressed in case we had to leave.  I gathered our “storm bag”, my laptop, and got Bella harnessed.  Shortly after everyone was ready to bug out, our good friends (the same ones who own the farm behind us) who are trained Civil Air Patrol weather watchers, called to let me know a couple of twisters were in the area and they were getting staged to get in their shelter.  We got everyone in the car and drove the half mile to our friends’, where we all waited on their back porch to see if things got bad enough to actually get inside the shelter.  Luckily, after about half an hour, the danger passed and we all went back home where most of them went back to bed, while MBH and I stayed up to watch the news until 4 AM.

It turns out that four tornadoes hit the Tulsa area, but only one did any damage near us.  Ironically, even though they were actually in town where the sirens were going off, we found out the next morning that my mom, son, and his family had completely slept through all the excitement.   LOL

Despite the weather, we all had a wonderful weekend.  Unfortunately, as these things do, it all ended too soon.  Everyone had to go back to their respective lives. So later Sunday morning Baby Bird headed back to San Antonio, while my son and his family headed back to the Houston area.  Elder Daughter and Granddaughter were flying back to Utah, and she had arranged to stay an extra day, so they and my mom (who is staying with us for a few weeks) got one more morning together.  At 2:30 PM, we had to take them to the airport for a flight leaving around 3:30.  We dropped them off, said tearful goodbyes, and told them to call when they got home.  Not fifteen minutes later, she called to let us know that her flight had been delayed until 5, which was going to make her miss her connecting flight.  Suddenly the trip that was supposed to get them home before 8 o’clock wasn’t going to get them back home until around midnight.

After a bit of back and forth, she managed to get them to reroute her through Denver on a flight that should get her home about 9 PM.  A few hours later, she called from Denver to let us know that her flight from there had also been delayed.  She didn’t end up getting home until 12:40 AM.  I have to say, flying just isn’t as reliable as it used to be.  But all’s well that ends well, right?

RPotW –

This week’s pic is the poster for “The Knockout”, the short film Yours Truly had a hand in.  If you click on the poster and look at the credits at the bottom, you’ll see me listed as a writer, boom operator, and an extra.  Despite not being edited, they still showed the movie at the competition, though it was still disqualified from winning anything.  The people from the team who went to OKC to see it said they still received plenty of compliments.  Unfortunately, since it was a musical, not having sound was a little problematic.

Oh, did I not mention it was a musical?  LOL.  Yep.  The genre we drew was musical.  I ended up writing lyrics to some short (very short) songs in a seven minute musical.  I would have NEVER thought I would be involved in something like that.  But it ended up being a lot of fun.

And that’s it for now.  It’s been an eventful week, and I haven’t gotten a lot of writing done. So it’s time to get back into the swing of things.  Crazy Larry and Amber Payne are waiting for me.

So take care, stay safe, and I’ll talk to you all next time.   :bye:

 

 Posted by at 8:00 am
Jul 262017
 

Minor change in the blog here. It looks like part of the problem I had on the site had to do with a corrupted emoticon plugin.  I traced the last three corrupted files to the plugin and when I tried to go to the site to see if there was an available update, their site was also messed up.  As a result, I’ve removed that plugin and you will notice new emoticons here.  There is supposed to be a table of them that shows up when you go to make comments, but since I post from the admin dashboard, I have no way of knowing if that’s true.  If anyone tries to comment, please look for the table marked “wp-Monalisa”.  It will hopefully have a bunch of smileys and the accompanying text codes that will create them.  If not, I’ll try to figure out an easy way to let you see what they are, but for now, I’m more concerned with just getting the site running smoothly again.

Other news… last weekend was the 48 Hour Film Project (48HFP) competition.  Now, because of the terms of the competition, I still can’t talk publicly about any specifics.  But speaking in generalities, I can say that I ended up pitching a story idea in a genre that I NEVER thought I would write in.  But I would like to tell you a little about the experience. So let me give you an idea of how my weekend went.  We (the writers) were supposed to show up on location at 6PM.  I got there a little early because I wanted to know what kind of locations we would have access to.  After all, it wouldn’t do any good to write a script about a car race if the only set we had access to was going to be a church, right?  I also wanted to discuss what the other writers knew about the actors… skills, aptitudes, etc.

At roughly 6:45, we received the phone call letting us know our required genre, character name, line of dialogue, and prop.  Each of these things had to be written into the script.  Three teams of two writers (including yours truly) then began putting our ideas into pitch form.  A few hours later the director and his team met with all three writing teams to listen to the pitches.

The pitch my writing partner and I made was accepted, and we went to work on the full script.  Things went a little off course from where I thought they were going to go at that point.  It had been my understanding that all six writers would get together to knock out the completed script, but someone had decided that having six writers working on a seven minute script would likely be a matter of too many cooks in the kitchen.   That made sense, so my partner (a great guy named Aaron Stein) and I sat down and knocked out a collaborative effort, writing until about 2:30 AM.  Between the writing, printing out the copies, and getting everything ready for the crew setup later that morning, I ended up getting to sleep around 3:30.

My alarm got me up less than three hours later, because the crew was supposed to meet at 7AM.  Yeah, after less than three hours of sleep, I got to haul my tired old phatass back to work with them.  This time I got to learn about setting up lights, power, how to set a boom mic just out of frame so it won’t show up in the film, but will still be close enough to pick up dialogue… it was both exhilarating and intimidating, not to mention incredibly hot and exhausting.  We filmed at three different locations, and finished up once again at around 3AM.  By the time I got home, got showered (I did mention hot, didn’t I? I was drenched in sweat and soaked through four shirts) and finally got to bed, it was about 5AM.

Let me tell you folks, I’m just too old for that kind of schedule anymore.  I remember pulling all-nighters when I was in my twenties.  I even remember literally working around the clock on rare occasions in my thirties.  But I’m nearly twice that age now, and I paid hell for the excess the following day.  I woke up with a migraine so bad that I ended up puking, and I was pretty much useless to MBH.  To make things worse, she had strained her back while I was gone, and the two of us spent most of Sunday lying around the house, while Bella looked at us wondering what in the world was wrong with us.

Unfortunately, despite all the work everyone put into the project, the film didn’t get through editing soon enough to make the deadline, and we were disqualified from the competition.  It was still an amazing experience.  Hard, HARD, work, but amazing, nonetheless.  It was also one hell of a learning experience, and I learned a new respect for the names that go at the end of a film… all the “grips” and “best boys”, lighting crew, and boom operators… Their work is thankless, tiring, and all it gets them is a little footnote at the end of the credits.  Like writers, these are people who love their craft, work hard to advance it, and my hat is off to them.

I’ve already been asked if I would participate again next year, and I have to say… right now, I’m on the fence.  As I said, I really liked it.  I just can’t put in hours like that.  This year was REALLY hard on me.  Today is Wednesday, and I still had to take a short nap this morning.  I’m still working to get my schedule back on track.  I can’t afford that much of a disruption in my writing schedule.  But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that there is a draw to the comradery of working so closely with a team of artists to make something you can be proud of… something you can point to and say, “I had a hand in creating that.”

So will I do it again next year?  I don’t know.  Part of me wants to.  But next year I’ll be even older, my body will likely be less forgiving to the abuse, and I simply don’t think I can handle working back-to-back, twenty-something hour days.  It’s been one hell of a learning experience though.  I’ve learned that I can write under extreme pressure.  I’ve learned a little about script writing.  And as I said, I learned quite a bit about the work that goes on behind the scenes (literally) of a movie.

Now back to the reality of my own writing…

Crazy Larry hasn’t moved all that much.  Between the prep for the 48 HFP, and recuperating afterwards, I’m sitting on just under 22k words, and I haven’t made any more progress on Payne and Suffering since last week, at all.  But I’m feeling more like my old self again, and am going to try working on multiple projects at once.  I’ve tried this in the past, but didn’t have the mental discipline to keep track of the various projects.  I want to see if I can do it now.  I need to make it work.  Working on one project at a time seems to be bogging me down.  I have a problem with focusing on a single plot problem and letting it bog me down.  If I can make myself stop when I hit one of those proverbial walls, and move over to another WIP, then maybe that will give my subconscious time to chip away at the wall while I remain productive on another title.  I’ll let you know how it works.

That’s it for now. Stay safe, and I’ll talk to you next time.