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Preview: Musings from the Windowsill

Musings from the Windowsill



I'm a lot like Eutychus, but I'll try not to fall from my perch. I share random thoughts about life, writing, grammar, faith and the joys of really loud music.



Updated: 2015-09-16T10:54:31.401-05:00

 






My impressions of the new U2 album

2009-03-06T23:33:45.791-06:00

I've posted my impressions of the new U2 album No Line on the Horizon over here.



The musings are moving

2009-03-05T22:30:18.216-06:00

I'm moving my blogging over to a Word Press blog that I'm calling Observations from the Windowsill. Perhaps not a lot more original of a title than this one, but when I find a theme, I stick with it. :) I moved my devotions and other links to published things over there a while back and I like the interface. There's also lots of nice themes to choose from. This blog will remain in place for now (for some reason, my post about living in a small town still gets a lot of hits), but I may migrate the entries eventually.

I hope to be a little more focused in the new blog -- writing about what I'm reading, watching, listening to, and thinking about. (Maybe that's not really all that focused, but I like to think it is.) Anyway, if anyone is interested, that's where I'll be.



Classic mystery goodness

2009-02-12T21:04:23.980-06:00

One of the joys of my new computer (I got a Mac laptop back in November) is that I can take advantage of Netflix's "Watch Instantly" option. And lately I've been watching episodes from the first couple of seasons of Columbo, the classic TV show with Peter Falk. It holds up pretty well.

Columbo was originally part of a rotating set of programs on NBC -- if I remember correctly some of the other shows it alternated with were McMillan and Wife (with Rock Hudson and Susan St. James) and McCloud (with Dennis Weaver). I think there were a couple of others. But Columbo was my favorite. The series featured a different guest murderer every episode and the audience always knew who the murderer was from the start. The pleasure came in watching Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk) solve the crime. He was always rumpled and untidy and drove an old junky car. He chewed on a cigar and didn't always seem like he was on top of things. But he was, of course. He seldom raised his voice, let alone chased anybody or got in fights, but he always caught the criminal.

Sure the show followed a formula, but it worked because of several things. One, of course, was Peter Falk. He was perfect and he had a great character to work with. Columbo was an everyman in a rumpled raincoat. When he met aging movie stars, he was starstruck (but it didn't keep him from arresting them). He was unfailingly polite. And he was shrewd. He didn't need to be brawny -- he had brains. He was middle-aged and that was OK.

But even a great actor has to have good material to work with. The writing elevated Columbo above the standard TV mystery fare of the day (or now, for that matter). The network gave the episodes about an hour and a half, so there was time to set up the story and time for some plot twists. Some episodes are better than others, but generally they're all pretty good. And when you watch the credits, you can see why the writing is so good -- among the writers and editors is Steven Bochco, and a few other familiar names from TV in the 1970s and 80s.

Of course, part of the fun of Columbo was watching some excellent guest stars almost get away with murder. There's a mix of TV stars of the era and older movie stars -- Robert Culp, Ray Milland, Jackie Cooper, Anne Baxter, Julie Newmar, Leonard Nimoy and many others. And they usually had good material to work with.

To top it all off, the series had excellent music, with a theme composed by Henry Mancini.

I watched one of the best I've seen so far a couple of days ago -- "Double Shock," from the second season. It stars Martin Landau as twin brothers who are as different as night and day, except for their mutual need for cash. Columbo steps in to investigate when their wealthy uncle is murdered. It's very good and kept some surprises for the end. And this was one of the episodes written by Steven Bochco (who created Hill Street Blues, another excellent cop show).

So, if you want to get the most out of your Netflix subscription and have a reasonably fast internet connection, enjoy some episodes of this classic mystery series. (And if you don't subscribe to Netflix, see if you can track down some DVDs of the series. It's definitely worth it.)

[Maybe this doesn't have a whole lot to do with the mystery novel I'm supposed to be revising this month, but I figure watching good mysteries from time to time is always good research. At least that's what I keep telling myself.]



February is for ...

2009-02-01T15:22:07.868-06:00

Writing. A friend of mine here likes to tackle a NaNo-like task (that's 50,000 words in a month) during February instead of November. A few of us have joined her in the effort this year and so today I'm starting a major rewrite of Secrets in Connors Grove. (That's the novel I wrote about 5 years ago and have fiddled around with off and on since then.)

I haven't done much writing for several months, but I want to get back into the groove again. I'm rusty and I figure 28 days of steady effort should help. I know this novel can be better than it is -- the characters need to be more real, the conflict needs to be less contrived, and the story can be tighter. I think I am a better writer than I was 5 years ago, so we'll see what I can do with it.

I may or may not post some word counts. We'll see.



Blog Tour: Parting the Waters

2009-01-27T21:05:42.913-06:00

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Jeanne Damoff's book, Parting the Waters, is a wonderful testimony to a family's journey of faith. I've known Jeanne through the Faith in Fiction community and her regular posting at The Master's Artist, so I knew a bit of the story of her son Jacob. But in her book, she tells of Jacob's near-drowning and long recovery in more detail. And what struck me as I read it the other night (yes, in one sitting) was that it was not a kind of movie-of-the-week story for Christians. It's a story of a family dealing with tragedy and asking the hard questions about how God could let such a thing happen and facing their own grief for the future that was forever altered. Jeanne doesn't gloss over their doubts and fears. But she also shows how they do come to see how God works in surprising and even miraculous ways and can give thanks for his goodness.

Jeanne weaves the story well. She uses the metaphor of ripples in the water to show the far-reaching consequences of Jacob's accident. The reader walks with the Damoff family as they deal with all the challenges and decisions after the accident. We meet the people of Marshall, Texas, and the doctors and nurses and physical therapists who cared for Jacob. By the end of the book, you feel you're a part of the community. And you rejoice with each step Jacob takes toward recovery. And, most important, you'll marvel at how God has brought beauty out of tragedy and give thanks for his goodness.

This is a good book for anyone -- whether you've experienced a similar tragedy or not. But it will be especially meaningful for people who are facing difficult times and wondering where God is. Jeanne also includes a section at the end that deals more directly with the theology of suffering, which is helpful.

Others are posting this week about Parting the Waters and you can find a list here. Be sure to visit some.

You can also visit Jeanne's Facebook page and share your thoughts about the book (and see what others are saying).



it's finally quiet ...

2009-01-19T20:51:27.319-06:00

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I'm babysitting for Kiernan for a few days, which is lots of fun, but exhausting. Add in a cocker spaniel puppy and I'm beat. But I wouldn't trade it for anything. Right now, Kiernan's asleep (hopefully for the night) and Woody is napping. He'll have to go out again in a bit, but right now he's quiet in his crate, so I'm letting him be. It's the most quiet the house has been all day (which began about 5:30 this morning).

Woody is cute, but he gets so excited and jumps on Kiernan, which knocks the boy down, so I try to make sure Kiernan is in his high chair or play pen (or taking a nap) when I let Woody out of his crate. And Kiernan is 1 and walking and getting into everything, so I have to have him someplace safe while Woody goes out and does his business. (And of course, adding to the entertainment are the two cats, Franklin and Winston-- they stay clear of Woody, though, but they roam around at night and make odd noises.)

So above are a couple of pics: Woody attacking a stuffed fish and Kiernan with his toy mower (which we gave him for his birthday and it's very fun and noisy). He actually pulls it along behind him more than pushes it, but he seems to enjoy it all the same.



One year ago today ...

2009-01-12T20:35:47.550-06:00

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We welcomed little Kiernan into the world. What a joy he's been. It's hard to believe he's a year old already. He's already walking and babbling and showing quite the personality. He's a sweetie, and he's fast, and he's busy. I get to go take care of him for a few days next week and I expect he'll keep me on my toes. But I wouldn't trade it for anything. As I've said before, being a grandma is the best thing ever.



Happy Birthday!

2008-12-22T21:24:21.592-06:00

(image) As of 10:22 p.m. tonight, I'll be the mother of a 30-year-old. For some reason, it just doesn't seem like Julia should be 30 -- time slips away so fast.

Here are a couple of pictures:
In the upper picture, Julia is the child at the top of the group. (And I wasn't nearly as overwhelmed as I look in that picture.)

And of course, she is the mother of the adorable little boy in the next picture. I think her sparkling personality shows in both pictures.

I remember that when she was born, I was very happy, and very unsure of myself. I was terrified of giving her a bath. The first morning, when the nurses brought her to me, I looked at her and realized I had no idea how to take care of a baby (and this was after reading every baby book I could get my hands on). But then I realized she had never been a baby before, so she didn't know what to expect. I found that to be a comforting thought -- I didn't have to live up to anyone else's expectations of perfection, I could just do my best and be Julia's mother. She seems to have survived.

Now she's a mom herself, and I'm enjoying this new phase of our relationship. And I'm very proud of her -- as a woman, a wife, a mom and a lawyer.

Happy Birthday Julia!



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Support fair trade music: Vote for NoiseTrade

2008-12-09T21:18:23.315-06:00

One of the best places to find music, NoiseTrade, is a finalist in the Mashable Open Web Awards. This is the second year that Mashable has recognized the 26 best web startups and services. They are competing with Last.fm and Pandora in the Music category. This is huge and it's time to show your support for NoiseTrade and the idea of fair trade music.

You can vote here, and you can vote again with a different e-mail address -- once per category per address every 24 hours. I think I've posted about NoiseTrade before -- one of the people behind it is Derek Webb and the site includes a growing number of artists offering their music in an innovative setting. Very cool, so show your support until Dec. 14.



Hands of Hope: Give the Gift of Life This Christmas

2008-11-30T22:14:00.939-06:00

Here's a different kind of blog tour ... (and FYI -- 100% of the money collected from the card sale goes to cost of providing chickens, goats and building wells; no administrative costs are deducted.) Hands of Hope, a charity of Women Helping Women A World Away, isannouncing that their Holiday Gift Cards are available for purchase. These cards provide food, income and water for impoverished women and children in Zambia, Uganda, and Southern Sudan. They can be purchased on the Hands of Hope website www.handsofhopeonline.org for $15.00, $30.00 and $50.00. Purchasing these cards will provide goats, chickens or wells to help change lives. What could be a more meaningful gift for holiday giving for family, friends, and customer appreciation? Hands of Hope helps mobilize communities to respond to the needs of women and children around the world. With an ever-expanding support base in the Chicago area, Hands of Hope works to raise community awareness regarding poverty and HIV/AIDS in Africa and its relevance globally. We are confident in the integrity of the channels we have established so that contributions provide the highest possible impact for the most critical needs. A Chicken Card will purchase a gift of twelve chicks and be given to an impoverished family in Africa. As the flock multiplies, a struggling family will be given the hope to survive. Your gift will help those in need for generations to come. A Goat Card represents an actual goat being purchased for a needy family. Beyond providing much needed milk, a few goats can quickly become a herd, providing sustenance and additional income that can make the difference between whether a child goes to school or not. A Well Card will go toward funding a well in the Western Province of Zambia. Statistics show that nearly half of all people in developing countries suffer from health related problems caused by unsafe water. In addition, African women and children spend several hours a day collecting water that is often miles away and may or may not be contaminated. This well will provide clean and safe drinking water and will go a long way to ease a heavy burden for hundreds of village people who struggle daily with basic physical needs. Links: http://www.handsofhopeonline.org The cards: http://www.handsofhopeonline.org/goat.asp Purchase cards: http://www.handsofhopeonline.org/goat.asp#purchase How HOH got their start: http://www.handsofhopeonline.org/history.asp Current Projects: http://www.handsofhopeonline.org/ourwork.asp [...]



Thoughts on faith and politics

2008-10-31T13:06:59.331-05:00

I don't think I've ever felt more conflicted about a presidential election than I have about this one. The level of invective and hysteria from supporters (even Christian supporters) of both main candidates is astonishing. I want to make a wise decision, but I'm finding it hard to filter out what I need to know. And then there's the fact that I live in the reddest of states -- it hardly matters if I vote at all (except locally).

One of the things that has always puzzled me is how Christians who believe fundamentally the same things can come to completely opposite conclusions about an issue. You see this all the time in theology, in how we address cultural issues, and in politics. I know sincere Christians who will vote for John McCain. I also know sincere Christians who will vote for Barak Obama. They have all approached the election seriously and with prayer. They read their Bibles and study where the candidates stand on the issues they care about and make their choices. Is one set of believers right and the other wrong? I don't think so. I think Romans 14 applies here -- to avoid passing judgment on a brother or sister who disagrees with you, and to follow your conscience. And guess what -- on Nov. 5 God will still be God.

We live in trying times. Of course I want to make a wise decision about who I vote for, but I have to remember that God is in charge and is working out his plan for the world.

What I hope for is that, no matter who is elected, Christians will exhibit love and respect for those they have disagreed with about politics. More than ever, the church needs to be the church -- the hands and feet of Jesus in this world.

Peace. And vote.



Random thoughts in no particular order

2008-10-16T12:37:07.063-05:00

My iGoogle homepage now has the left-hand column. I like it (though not everyone does). It lets me interact with my mail or my reader without having to open a new window. (Click on an item in the left column and the main window is devoted to that application, without navigating away from the page.) I can now share items in my Reader without having to actually open Reader -- great time saver. I tend to browse through my google homepage, so this is actually useful to me. I can skim through e-mail and delete items quickly. Pretty nifty.

I have lots of time to think while I'm riding on the van and here's a few thoughts:
• Small towns are good places to live, but so often get bogged down on quality-of-life issues that appear to cost too much money to deal with. Clay Center has one of the oldest Carnegie Library buildings in Kansas, a swimming pool that was built during the Depression, and an aging movie theater that has been partially restored. All of these things need attention, but we seem to lack the collective imagination to visualize a way to deal with them. The theater is in private hands, but run mostly by volunteers and is used by the community for concerts and events, as well as movies. But the library and the pool are public buildings and yet can't seem to find the funds needed for improvements or (in the case of the pool) rebuilding. I think part of the problem is that these facilities are not streets or water plants and so are assumed to be "optional." Believe me, if you want to keep families with children in your town, a pool and a library are not optional. And maybe neither is a functional theater.

• I've watched the debates this year. They haven't helped me make up my mind about who I'm going to vote for. I know which way I'm leaning, but I still feel conflicted. This is the ugliest election I can remember and I'll be glad when it's over.

• There are some Covenant bloggers I follow regularly, for example Randall Friesen, Brad Boydston and Scot McKnight. Now I've added Eugene Cho to that list. (Actually, I've read him for a while, but I finally got around to adding him to my google reader list.) He always has thoughtful, insightful comments about faith and living it out in this world.



TGIF

2008-09-26T15:10:19.514-05:00

A few things for a Friday:

Congratulations to my daughter Julia, who passed the Missouri bar and is being sworn in as an attorney today. She had a baby, finished law school, took her bar exam and passed all in the same year (and while she was still pregnant she received job offers from two law firms -- she works for one in KC now)!

New music from Andy Osenga: Letters to the Editor, II. Once again he took suggestions from fans and readers of his blog and wrote six great songs. You can download it for free or a for a donation. Great stuff.

I like Bono.

I also like Randall's pictures of Prince Albert (in Canada) in the fall -- wow! Be sure to follow the link to his Flickr set.



CFBA Tour: Merciless, by Robin Parrish

2008-08-20T07:55:16.712-05:00

Here's a book I've been looking forward to for a long time. My take on it is below the author and book info.Merciless by Robin Parrish This week, theChristian Fiction Blog Allianceis introducingMerciless(Bethany House - July 1, 2008)byRobin ParrishABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robin Parrish had two great ambitions in his life: to have a family, and to be a published novelist. In March of 2005, he proposed to his future wife the same week he signed his first book contract.More than ten years he spent writing for various websites, including About.com, CMCentral.com, and Infuze Magazine, which is a unique intersection between art and faith which he also conceived of and created.One of his more "high concept" ideas for Infuze was to return to his love for storytelling and create a serialized tale that would play out every two weeks, telling a complete, compelling story over the course of nine months. That serialized story eventually came to the attention of several publishers, who saw it as a potential debut novel for Robin Parrish.In 2005, Bethany House Publishers brought Robin full circle by contracting him for the rights to not only that first book, Relentless -- but two sequels including Fearless and Merciless. A trilogy that unfolded in the consecutive summers of 2006, 2007, and this year, 2008. One massive tale -- of which that first, original story would form only the foundational first volume of the three -- spread across three books.Robin Parrish is a journalist who's written about pop culture for more than a decade. Currently he serves as Senior Editor at XZOOSIA.com, a community portal that fuses social networking with magazine-style features about entertainment and culture. He and his wife, Karen and son live in North Carolina.ABOUT THE BOOKThe world as we know it has ENDED.DEATH and CHAOS creep across the globe and only the POWERLESS can RISE UP to stop it.But can anything stop the onslaught of the DARKWORLDFrom the earth's depths crawls a figure with skin like granite, flames for eyes, and the face of Grant Borrows.Oblivion has arrived.Every clock around the world has stopped. Time has frozen.The Secretum have fulfilled the prophecy, unleashing on earth the most powerful being to walk the earth in thousands of years. His name is Oblivion and his touch is death.He can't be slowed.He can't be stopped.And he can't be killed.But as long as any live who trust in hope and love and freedom, the fight is not over.They have only one chance before he brings forth the Darkworld.Oblivion is: MercilessIf you would like to read the first chapter of Merciless, go HERE Last year, when I finished Fearless, I really couldn't see where the story was headed. So, I started Merciless with a pretty open mind about what would happen next. And boy, I was not disappointed. What a ride. From the opening scenes, Robin Parrish takes the reader on a harrowing journey through darkness and chaos. At times, I wondered how he was going to resolve the story, but in the end, he did, and pretty satisfactorily, too. If you've ever wondered what the world would look like if evil was really let loose, Merciless offers a pretty convincing vision of the possibility. It's hard to talk too much about the plot without major spoilers, but I'll just say that though the story goes to some very dark places, hope and redemption awaits.With his Dominion Trilogy, Robin Parrish has attempted something quite ambitious -- crafting a new mythology for a post-modern generation. I think he's succeeded. These are good stories, full of truth, but told in a way that is accessible to people from lots of different backgrounds, not only Christians.[...]



Because any day is better with a picture of Kiernan

2008-08-15T15:54:03.318-05:00

(image) There's our boy smiling big. I went and helped a few weekends ago while Julia studied for her bar exam. I know, it was a tough job, but somebody has to do it. (the babysitting, I mean)

We had a good time, Julia got in some good studying and even a date with her husband. (And the bar exam is done and she is greatly relieved.)



A sign of the apocalypse?

2008-08-11T15:31:30.856-05:00

Two quirks of my family:
1) We haven't watched the Olympics in years because the two stations we could get with the rabbit ears didn't carry them. But now we have cable and so that has changed.
2) Our three younger sons have no interest in televised sports.

So imagine my astonishment yesterday morning when I went into the living room and Joel was watching the U.S. men's soccer game.



What I'm reading ...

2008-08-07T12:04:55.704-05:00

I have eclectic tastes in reading, and usually have multiple books going at once. I've been reading some good stuff lately, so I thought I'd share:

His Majesty's Dragon, by Naomi Novik. I saw a review of the newest book in the series and thought it sounded like something I would enjoy, so I started with the first one. I was right -- I really enjoyed it. The stories are set during the Napoleonic wars, and the twist is that all the countries have, besides armies and navies, dragons! It's very cool, sort of Master & Commander meets Pern, but different. Novik writes consistent with the style of the era, her characters' attitudes reflect that time, and her descriptions and characterizations are vivid. Now that I've finished the first one, I can't wait to get hold of the next book in the series and see what happens to Temeraire (the dragon) and Will Laurence, his aviator.

The River at the Center of the World, by Simon Winchester. Back about 1995, Winchester took a voyage of the Yangtzee and this book is his account. It's also a voyage through Chinese history and it's fascinating. This is one of his earlier books, but I picked up a recent reprint this summer and I'm enjoying it (I haven't finished it yet).

Graphic Discovery: A Trout in the Milk and Other Visual Adventures, by Howard Wainer. I found this book about the development of information graphics when I was looking for a book by Edward Tufte in the K-State library. I suppose it's more of a textbook, but Wainer's style is engaging and the subject interests me. I deal with charts and graphs in my work and have always been interested in them. This book, along with Tufte's work (such as The Visual Display of Quantitative Information) are good explications of the subject.

Coming up is Merciless, by Robin Parrish, the final installment of his Dominion trilogy. I'm eager to get into this. I also just bought Water for Elephants, which everyone tells me is an excellent book, and The Jesus Creed, a book I've been meaning to read for a long time.



Derek Webb is offering a new way to acquire music

2008-07-03T10:23:17.256-05:00

Derek Webb has started a new initiative called NoiseTrade to distribute music in a new way. You can choose to download music after recommending it to three friends, or you can pay whatever you want for it. This is how the e-mail I got today puts it:

It was through the support and success you gave the Mockingbird experiment that inspired Derek, with the help of a few friends, to start NoiseTrade. Now any artist can freely distribute their music online, via NoiseTrade's remarkable and embeddable widget, offering fans the choice to tell 3 friends or to pay any amount in exchange for an immediate download.

Derek concludes, "If artists and fans realized how they could help each other and started making direct connections, without a middleman, the whole industry would change overnight. It would start a revolution."

Rather than over-charging for music, we want to let you choose your price or will give you the record for free in exchange for a little help. NoiseTrade believes it's time to stop applying the old rules to a new world. If we can work together, an environment is created for the long-term benefit of both fans and artists.

I think it's a good idea from a ground-breaking artist.



Sailing on a tall ship

2008-07-03T10:17:44.123-05:00

When I was in Michigan I went with my group (the Ace Leadership Institute) on the tall ship Manitou in Traverse Bay. Very fun. Here's proof (video by Jeff Hino, of Oregon State):


Choose the high quality option (it didn't embed very well, so I'm linking). I'm the person who more or less introduces the ship.



Impressions: 'So Brave, Young and Handsome'

2008-06-27T16:24:32.297-05:00

I read Leif Enger's new novel, So Brave, Young and Handsome, this week. I enjoyed it, but not as much as I had hoped to. That's probably not fair, but you see I loved Peace Like a River so much and was really looking forward to this novel. Of course, even a somewhat disappointing effort by Enger is still many times better than my best effort, so this is all relative. Still, here goes:

The narrator of the story, Monte Becket, is a writer in Minnesota in 1915. He's written one bestseller and has spent the five years since writing and discarding seven tries at another novel. He's getting pretty discouraged and it comes as no surprise when he agrees to accompany a vagabond named Glendon Hale on a quest to find Hale's long-lost love. The journey takes them through Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico -- all the way to California. Along the way they encounter some colorful characters, including a former Pinkerton's agent who wants to arrest Hale for an old crime. Before the end, both Monte and Hale will change, and lots of things happen.

The journey is significant in the story's development, but it also suffers from the problem shared by a lot of road stories -- it becomes a little disjointed, a series of incidents in each successive location. This is hardly a fatal flaw, but at times I found myself peeking ahead, which is not usually a good sign with me. It means I'm getting a little bored.

I think the main problem for me, the reason I feel a bit disappointed, is that the narrator never quite engaged me. Monte is certainly involved in the story, but his voice comes across somewhat detached. I don't know how it could be fixed, but at the most exciting moments of crisis the narrator's tone seems to fall a little short. The result was a story that could be put down and taken up again another day. (When I'm really engaged in a story, I can't put it down.) I'm not sure I was completely pulled into the world of the story.

I don't want to be completely negative about this book because it is a well-written story. Enger has a wonderful vocabulary and he sets the scenes well. Monte sounds like a (fairly well educated) person of his era. Enger gives a good sense of a time when the old West was fading, but still visible in places. The plot takes some unexpected turns -- one good thing about a road story (anything can happen on the road). I liked the ending, which is more satisfying as I reflect on it than it felt when I was reading it.

Like I said, I enjoyed the book and I would recommend it, especially if you enjoy Enger's style of writing. It's an entertaining tale with some meat to it. It's just not Peace Like a River. But then, why should it be?



Listening to ...

2008-06-27T15:52:41.779-05:00

Nine Lives by Steve Winwood. Excellent album. It's all good, in a kind of jazzy style, but the outstanding track is "Dirty City," featuring Eric Clapton on guitar. It sizzles. Winwood gets better with age.



Happy Birthday, Sam!

2008-06-25T09:03:22.955-05:00

(image) Today is my son Sam's 22nd birthday. The picture was from a family gathering a few weeks ago -- he's actually smiling. (He doesn't usually like having his picture taken, but maybe Kiernan softened him up.)

So happy birthday, Sam.



Should travel really be this hard?

2008-06-20T13:09:22.533-05:00

The "hard" part of the title does not refer to the picture. This is sunset over the West Bay of Grand Traverse Bay, from my hotel window in Traverse City, Mich. I think it turned out pretty good. Traverse City is a lovely town and has a great bookstore, Horizon Books. I was there last week for a conference and enjoyed it.No, the hard part was getting there and getting home. We were supposed to fly out of Kansas City at about 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 8 (United Flight 682). We were to change planes in Chicago (O'Hare) and arrive in Traverse City around 3:30 that afternoon.Unfortunately, June 8 was the day that Chicago was pummeled with severe thunderstorms and we weren't even allowed to take off. I was fine with that. After a short while, our plane pulled back up to a gate and we were allowed to get on and off. It became considerably more tiresome, though, as hours passed and we still weren't able to leave Kansas City. The gate areas at KCI have sandwich kiosks and restrooms, so it's not like we were stuck on a plane with no food or drink or clean restrooms. But by mid-afternoon, the sandwich kiosk was getting pretty empty. Our pilot gave us updates as he had information, but it wasn't much. Finally, a little after 4 p.m. they said we could take off and our plane taxied out to the runway and we were first in line. And then our pilot came on again and said "You won't believe this, but an indicator light just came on." He said it was something that needed to be fixed and we headed back to the gate. And then, after probably another 20 or 30 minutes, we were told the crew had worked as long as they were able to legally do so and they couldn't find another crew and we were all getting off the plane. That's when the fun really began.Let me be clear -- I don't want to fly into a thunderstorm on a plane with a dicey engine. I can understand weather and mechanical delays. Up to this point, I think most of us on the plane recognized this and knew it was beyond our control and mostly beyond the airline's control. There were families with small children and even a little dog and nobody was going ballistic or crying.But when we got off the plane, the communication from airline folks mostly stopped. There seemed to be poor communication between the crew on the plane and the employees at the ticket counter. We got our luggage back and got in line to find out what was going to happen next. And we stood in that line, barely moving for long stretches, for 2 1/2 hours. At first we were told that it was a weather-related delay and we were on our own. Then they said that since we were told it was mechanical the airline would provide hotel vouchers and we would be automatically booked on the earliest flight out in the morning. We got this information pretty quickly, but then all communication stopped and we just stood there in the really long, non-moving line and wondered why on earth it was taking so long to issue hotel vouchers. Some of the slowness was people trying to change arrangements because the morning flight wouldn't work. Some of it was short-staffing. (Sunday in KCI is not a day with full staffing, believe me.) Of course they had to take care of passengers for other flights that evening. But I was not impressed with the quality of United's customer service.I have a lot of sympathy for people with thankless jobs, but a few things could have helped, such as:Asking us to wait in a separate area.Opening up another line o[...]



A season of change

2008-06-05T13:11:29.230-05:00

I've been a sporadic blogger for several months (or longer) and I don't see that changing soon, though if my planned technology upgrade at home goes through I'll be able to do this a little easier.

But it's not just the blogging. I haven't written anything substantive in months. I have been thinking and I've done some planning on a rewrite of a novel I wrote a few years ago. It would be a major rewrite, though, and I haven't figured it all out yet.

But there's more. Today a story I submitted to the next issue of Coach's Midnight Diner was rejected. If I'm honest with myself, I have to admit I'm not surprised. It's just not good enough and it was lacking in other ways.

I'm not sitting here feeling sorry for myself, or vowing to never write again. That's just silly. But what I do need to do is figure out how I'm going to do this writing thing and develop some discipline about it. There are other disciplines I need to work on -- spiritual disciplines -- and I think that has something to do with the creative drought.

Add in that our youngest will be off to college in a couple of months and another one of our boys is probably moving out (and to another state) before then, and it means I'm not going to be blogging much this summer.
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I hope that by fall I'll have a plan in place to do some regular writing and can better focus the direction of this blog. Till then, have a great summer. Oh, here's a couple of pictures of Kiernan because I think any blog post is better with a picture of Kiernan.








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