Tag Archives: musings

Guess What I’m Having for Dinner?

I talk about all my favorite things on this blog except food.  Why you ask? (you know I’m going to tell you anyway.)

My brain works in peculiar ways, and I often feel it is just as important to explain why I don’t do things than it is to explain why I do.  This habit has been reinforced over the years by having to explain to my wife why I didn’t wash the dishes, or any number of other tasks that I should have done in her estimation. (sound familiar?)

So why don’t I blog about food and cooking?

Cooking is actually one of my favorite things.  I love to cook and share food with friends, but there is a difference between sharing food with a friend and the food videos I see all over the internet.  Here’s the difference:

I like to play a game with my mom when we talk on the phone.  If I made something for dinner that I know she loves, I’ll say “guess what we’re having for dinner?”  Then I’ll describe the dish in detail and, of course, invite her over to share the meal.  My mother lives six hours away.  So, in essence, I’m rubbing her face in it.  I’m saying “Nah, nah!  See what I got and you don’t.”  If I really want to get her goat, I’ll take a picture and text it to her.  Of course, she does the same to me.

Those food videos and pictures all over the internet are basically the same thing — “Look what I got!”  Oh yeah, you can have some too.  Just rummage through the pantry and try to find all these ingredients (Who keeps capers in their pantry anyway?).  And good luck getting it right!

Don’t show me food that I can’t eat.    It’s like going to a topless bar (or watching Magic Mike for you ladies I suppose).  What’s the point?

So I’ve decided that I will start a food blog just as soon as someone develops a food replicator like in Star Trek.  I’ll happily share my food with you online.  I’ll just shove a slice of lasagna in the chute, and you can pull it out of your replicator without having to rummage through the pantry.

Until that happens, I guess you’ll just have to come to Charlotte if you want to check out my cooking.  Tonight we’re having BLT’s.  See you at seven.

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Filed under Culture, musings, Society

Holiday Rain

When your eyes well up

they remind me of a day at the beach

with small children shivering

underneath the dark clouds

of suppressed emotion.

 

Then you give me that look,

and it’s like an afternoon shower

on the fourth of July.

Guests scurry inside,

leaving muddy tracks

across the carpet of my regard.

 

With trembling lips

you unleash the storm.

Faces press against the window

bemoaning the loss of sunshine,

and our lighthearted romp

through life’s mysteries.

 

Your tears are like holiday rain.

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Filed under Philosophy, Poetry

No New Tale to Tell

Earth_Sun_Moon

I was riding in the car the other day and a familiar song came over the radio:

“No New Tale to Tell” by Love and Rockets from their Earth, Sun, Moon album.

At the time, my brain was hopping around like a frog trying to avoid capture.  (Like the tree frog that got into my house the other day, and it took me several tries to get it back out again.)  I was thinking about my recent writing and marketing efforts when the following verses played:

My world is your world
People like to hear their names
I’m no exception
Please call my name
Call my name

My mind jumped to the thought:

Is that why I write?  Is that why people do crazy things on the internet, or in life?  Are we all just trying to be recognized? (For the record, I don’t know.)

Then came the refrain:

No new tale to tell
No new tale to tell
No new tale to tell

That is exactly what I wanted to tell a person the other day in one of my online writers groups.  They were worrying about sharing their work with other writers for fear the other writers would steal their ideas.  I just wanted to shout at them: No new tale to tell!  There are no new ideas, just new versions of the same old stories.  How many times have you seen The Lord of the Rings retold in the fantasy genre?  Let them have the idea, just write it better.

Then came the verse:

When you’re down
It’s a long way up
When you’re up
It’s a long way down

It’s all the same thing
No new tale to tell

Yep, it’s long way up, and down.  Everyone started somewhere and will end somewhere. Hopefully, I’ll end with several readers.  It’s funny how songs sometimes just hit the mark on where you’re brain is currently hopping.

If you’ve never heard of Love and Rockets, you should give them a listen.  They are an alternative rock band from the late eighties.  I own three of their CD’s, and like all the songs.  Here a a few of my favorites:

“Here on Earth”, “Welcome Tomorrow”, “An American Dream”, “No Big Deal”, “So Alive”, and “Holiday on the Moon”

Look them up, check them out, and enjoy.

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Filed under Culture, Music Mondays, Writing

Where is Santa?

At a writers meeting the other day, someone asked me about my experiences in the military.  So I told a couple a stories, and then she asked:  “Why don’t you write about that?”

It’s a simple question, with a complex answer.  I spent six years in the US Navy—1982 to 1988.  I was a nuclear electrician and served aboard a fast attack nuclear submarine.  There is no dark, dramatic story behind my reluctance to talk about that time.  Even so, I’m always tempted to use the standard flippant answer we used back then when civilians asked us what we did:

“I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

There are several reasons why I am reluctant to talk about my navy days:

  1. I’m an introvert and prefer to keep such things private.
  2. I was lucky to serve in a time between wars. I have no exciting war stories to share.
  3. Most people think of combat troops when they think of the military. While I was qualified with small arms, the only time I ever carried one was when we had repel boarder drills.
  4. We weren’t allowed to talk about the nuclear submarine (I had a secret clearance) and I still feel uncomfortable discussing it even now (even though that whole submarine class has been decommissioned).
  5. Most of my navy stories involve drinking, which are mostly funny stories, but are not ones I care to share with strangers.

Being in the military, any branch, does give you a different perspective.  I write fantasy novels with a strong military element.  While I was never in combat—especially with swords, spears, bows and arrows—I understand the sense of belonging to a greater group than yourself, and the camaraderie that military people share.

With all that being said, there is a story from my navy days that most people may find entertaining.  I was stationed aboard the USS Gurnard (SSN 662).  It was commissioned in 1968.  At the time when I served on board, it was middle-aged for a submarine; there were older diesel and nuclear subs still in service, but there were also shiny new 688 submarines (Los Angeles Class) getting all the attention.  The older subs, like the Gurnard, had one advantage over the newer Los Angeles class subs—they were designed to surface through the ice.

When the navy decided to send a couple of submarines under the arctic ice in 1984, the Gurnard was chosen.  Luckily for me (Yes, this is meant to be sarcastic), I was on board at the time.  We left sunny San Diego and headed up the western seaboard.

Unfortunately, we had a major piece of equipment breakdown and had to make a pit stop in Adak, Alaska (I did say this was an older boat, right?).  If you’ve never been to Adak, Alaska, you didn’t miss much.  It was a small base on a small island in the middle of a cold sea.  We were there for two days, and I had duty.  All I saw was the dock.  The guys that went ashore only saw the bars, go figure.  From what I understand, there’s nothing left to see there today.

http://www.ktuu.com/content/news/Abandoned-Alaska-Once-a-thriving-naval-base-now-an-Adak-ghost-town-401510545.html

We left Adak and headed through the Bering Strait, submerged.  I worked in the engine room, but the guys from up forward said it was a white-knuckle ride with the ice above and the sea bed below and not much room in between.  I couldn’t say, but sometimes it can be good not knowing where you are.

After that, we were submerged under the ice for over a month (44 days).  We surfaced through the ice twice during that time.  Once early on to load the equipment that needed replacing (from our stop in Adak).  The navy set up an ice camp and we surfaced long enough to clear ice from our main hatch so we could rig the new motor onboard the sub.  I was awake for over a day during that fiasco (I call it a fiasco, but we actually got a commendation letter for our planning and execution), because my division was responsible for rigging and setting up the pump.  After replacing the pump, we slipped back under the ice until we reached the North Pole.

When I tell people I’ve been to the North Pole, I always get two questions, so I’ll save you the trouble:

  • No, there is not an actual pole there, and
  • No, I did not see Santa.

Really, I didn’t see much of anything but snow and ice and darkness.  We were there in the winter when it stays dark forever.  The picture below is the sail of the USS Gurnard sticking up through the ice at the North Pole.  The color on the ice is a reflection from the flare shot off so you can see.

North Pole

I actually got out on the ice twice while we were there.  The first time was because who would go to the North Pole and not go up on the ice?  So I dressed up like a green Stay-Puff Marshmellow Man and went up to look.  I kinda looked like this guy, only all green instead of camo with a mask over my face.

DA-ST-88-03349

We were only allowed to be up there for about 5-10 minutes because of the temperature (I don’t actually remember how long, but it was no more than 10 minutes).  It was probably the most surreal experience of my life—walking away from the boat’s sail, on the ice, in the dark, and thinking, “I hope I don’t fall through (the ice was way too thick for that); I hope they don’t leave me (That would suck); and I hope I don’t get eaten by a polar bear (If you look at the picture, there are two men up in the sail with high-powered rifles.  They were called the polar bear watch.).”

That could have been the end to my North Pole adventure, and I would probably have been left with a more positive overall impression—been left more in awe of the majesty of the place—but this was the navy.  Several hours later, I was woken up (during my never-enough-to-really-feel-rested rack time) to go back up on the ice to hook up temporary lights.  Several crew members decided that it would be awesome to reenlist at the North Pole.  How exciting!  Of course, I was the poor slob who had to go up and string lights for the ceremony.  Have you ever tried to hang lights in the dark wearing two pairs of gloves (the outer pair being mittens thick enough to be used as oven mitts)?  Needless to say, my North Pole memories are somewhat marred by the experience.  But hey, the navy promised adventure, right?

I remember the ads from those days: “Navy.  It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure.”  I’m not sure why they didn’t show someone stringing up lights in freezing weather on that commercial.  I’m sure it would have been a hit.

All joking aside, the navy was a positive experience.  I have made a good living because of the training I received.  (And I don’t glow in the dark much either.)

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Filed under History, Navy, North Pole, Travel

Is AI Bad?

Recently, several companies that work with developing Artificial Intelligence (AI) sent an open letter to the UN.  The letter was to voice concerns over the use of AI in weapons.  These companies are concerned that AI will be used to develop weapons that will act independently of humans.  They call it the “third revolution in warfare” which will “permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend.”

This is scary stuff, but it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that this is a possibility.  Especially if you have read or watched much science fiction over the last few decades.  Most people would probably point to the Terminator movie franchise as an example where Skynet takes over the world from humans.  There are other examples, for me the first one that got me thinking about this topic was 2001: A Space Odyssey.

HAL

I’m Sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.

HAL’s monotone voice only enhanced the creepy factor.  There was no obvious malice involved HAL’s non-compliance, was there?

2001: A Space Odyssey came out in 1968.   I remember watching it as a kid and thinking it was weird, but that voice has stayed with me since.

Over the years, there have been several movies that took on the AI question:

  • Wargames (1983) – AI bad.
  • Terminator (1984) – AI bad. (First movie bad, but mixed in later movies with “good” terminator)
  • Maximum Overdrive (1986) – AI bad. (Of course this one is a bit campy, but it does have AC/DC music)
  • The Matrix (1999) – AI mixed. (First movie bad, but got mixed up in later movies)
  • AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001) – AI good.
  • I Robot (2004) – AI mixed.
  • Chappie (2015) – AI good.

The AI comments are mine (you may not agree).  I’m sure there are other movies that I didn’t see, but there seems to be a trend where AI is becoming more acceptable, less scary (in the movies at least).  What does this mean about the acceptance of AI in our society?

I’m with the letter writers.  Yes, Artificial Intelligence is cool, but it is way too scary for me to be happy about it being developed.  A couple of recent developments reinforce my concern:

While human intelligence maybe somewhat of an oxymoron at times, I say let’s keep the robot programming simple, and let people think for themselves.  Who’s with me?

Hey, what’s that button?

download

 

 

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Filed under Culture, Philosophy, Science Fiction, Society

Super Genius

Coyote

My daughter calls me Super Genius, but not in a good way.  She doesn’t mean Fruit Loops with marshmallows genius (If you haven’t tried this perfect breakfast cereal, stop denying yourself).  When she calls me Super Genius, the words are accompanied by a smirk and an eye roll.  She means Wile E. Coyote Super Genius. . . and I’m okay with that.  She even bought me this nifty shirt.

Genius shirt

I earned this designation by sharing all the trivia stuck in my head with my family at the dinner table.  So this means we made a habit of sitting down and eating dinner together, and even (gasp) talked as a family during that time.  So yeah, I tell too many “dad jokes” and spout off nonsense trivia, but it beats each of us burying our heads in our cell phones only coming up for air for a “pass the bread.”

Besides, Wile E. Coyote is one of my childhood heroes.  That dude never gave up!  Get blown up, fall off a cliff, get hit by a train—it didn’t matter, he always came back for more.  That coyote had a goal, and he was determined to reach it no matter what.  To be honest, I always cheered for Wile E. Coyote.  He was the underdog (or would that be undercoyote?), and that roadrunner was a bit too arrogant for my taste.

So when my daughter calls me Super Genius, I just smile.

That’s me.

genius

When the roadrunner finally slips up, I’ll be the one strapped to my Acme rocket ready to swoop in and finally reach my goal.  Or, maybe it’s off the cliff again.  Who can say, but you can’t stop trying.

Coyote Bye

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Filed under Culture, Philosophy, Society

How Many O’s are in Oxymoron?

I consider myself a change proponent.  I think change is necessary for growth.  Who wants to live the same day over and over again?  Still, this year has been a bit of a roller coaster at work.  My job changed in May when I moved to a new division—same title and basic job duties but different boss, group of coworkers, and work assignments.  To be fair, I asked for the change.  I work with power plants, and a new plant was opening close to where I live.  I asked to be moved to the new division to support that plant.

I really didn’t fully settle into the new spot when my company decided to restructure.  So now here at the end of the year, I have another new boss, new group of coworkers, and, this time, a new title and job duties.  Still the same company though.

Whew, it’s been one of those years.  I can’t say either change was a bad thing for me.  I’m actually looking forward to the challenge of my new position.  Even though I think the changes have been good, it is still stressful.  I am a routine sort of guy. (I know a routine loving change proponent is a bit of an oxymoron, but, to be fair, my wife just leaves off the oxy part when she addresses me on the subject.)

When work is changing so drastically, I find it hard to focus on anything important in my home life.  So, I haven’t posted much here, or read many books this year, or finished the writing projects I had planned to complete.  Change at work is my excuse.  I wanted to whine about it, but I’m anti-whine.  I planned to just get over it and get busy, but I’m a professional procrastinator.  So instead of doing anything truly productive this year, I played games on my PlayStation, and binge-watched Netflix, and ate too much junk food.  Luckily, my pants still (kind of) fit, but my brain feels a bit mushy around the edges.

At this point, I think I’m supposed to make a resolution to get myself back in gear, but it’s the holidays.  Instead, I resolve to lay off the junk food (The fact that we are out of Halloween candy and Christmas cookies has nothing to do with it!) and revisit this whole resolution thing in January like a true procrastinator.  Well, maybe February, because, you know, I’m a non-conformist too.

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Filed under Work Life