Friday, June 5, 2015

the Bare Page - or How 2015 Caught me by Surprise

It is not that I am lazy - or that I have not been writing.  I am not lazy and I have been writing.

I suspect that it is more a case of out of sight equals out of mind... But the end result of this is that my website - and specifically the page ON my website in which I provide links to the things I write - was basically empty.

The thing is it was not really empty. No, well, it was empty, but it did not get that way by accident or circumstances - it got that way because I was in the process of updating the website (back in January) and I was doing the annual update in which I move the current portfolio page from its location to a new page for the past year.

If you look at my site you will see that when you click on Portfolios from the main page of my site what you are supposed to get is the current year's writing output and at the top a menu of the portfolios for previous years.

Here is a picture of a cat.  People like pictures of cats - it is why they surf the Interwebs.  This cat is holding our dachshund's tail and asking you to please forgive me for failing to update my website or she will BITE the tail she is holding on to!  Please don't make her bite Calvin's tail - he really doesn't deserve that!  Seriously!
So each January I move the past year to its own page, and begin documenting the current year.

The only items that are ever added to these pages are the items that I got paid to write. With the exception of the Mused and Blog Sections of the page (those include content I was not necessarily paid to write) but the other sections you can count on it that someone somewhere paid me to write them.

So yeah, back in January I was in the process of completing the annual update and I got as far as creating the page for 2014 and getting the contents moved but then something happened - I don't know what exactly that was - in life -- and I had to pause.

Well I don't need to tell you that when you are working on a website and you have to pause for any reason - any reason at all - it almost always works out to be a bad thing. And so it was.

Because whatever the distraction was, I ended up closing the web page editing suite I use and then I never went back to finish the job. Of course that totally does not excuse the fact that since then I have not been doing updates - that truly is down to my being lazy.

But because out of sight really IS out of mind it mostly stayed that way... Well that and because I don't as a general rule visit my own website as a consumer.  So months go by - literally half a year goes by - and I have not been updating the site because why? Because I forgot.

It is actually worse than that mates...  Whatever it was that caused me to pause the work and then close it also left me confused about how far into the updating I had actually gotten.  I thought, for example, that I had actually completed updating the information on the 2014 page.  But I had not.  NONE of the content for December was added.
This is Charley.  Charley firmly believes that any food that is put out is intended to be eaten by pretty much him...  So if you don't want him eating the food, don't put it in bowls or on plates or other places.  He is very clear on this...

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

I started getting email from regular readers asking me if something was wrong?

 My reaction to that was “Whhaa?”

I inquired as to what specifically they were talking about and THAT was when I learned that I had not been updating my website and, specifically I learned for the first time that people actually visit AND read the pages on it!

Here is the thing mates... In the back of my mind one of the common excuses that I used with myself was that it really did not matter.  Because nobody actually READ those pages.  Right?  Except no, not right.  It turned out that there are people - you - who actually read the stuff I write.

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

It just never really occurred to me that anyone actually did more than hit the main page of the site and used it for anything OTHER than the Navigation Section, which provides links to my current writing at this blog, at my gaming blog, and the publications that I write for.

People were actually READING the Portfolios Section!

Not only that, but it turned out that they were actually reading my old stuff!

With a feather I am telling you...

This is Sir Calvin.  He is a knight in the Order of the Teckel.  Calvin is a dachshund - that translates to "Badger Hound."   Being as Calvin has never actually SEEN a Badger, he is not sure what they look - or smell - like....  The expression you see on his face is Calvin thinking - THIS could be a Badger!  The humans claim it is a cat, but what do THEY know?!  That large blue thing with the round black feet outside?  It could be a Badger!

It was at this point - in mid-May of 2015 - that I vowed I would get right on this, the first chance I had - the first free time I had. Yes sir I would remedy that situation....

Then I looked at the calendar and whoa!  It was the 4th of June already!  How did THAT happen?!

Well, it happened because I kept getting new assignments, and new guides to write, and games to play, and nobody pays me to update that website. I am just saying...

And so May turned into June. We have established that.

How come when there are things you want to do there is never enough time but when there are things you need to do time goes warp on you?

So now it is June and I have run out of excuses.  Bottom line?  I could not live with the shame.  So I said June 4th is The Day.  Color it red.  Mark it on the calendar.  By yimminy June 4 was the day when I would Get Stuff Done!

So I am happy and proud to be able to say "Hey! I have updated the Portfolio Page!"

This I knew I needed to do, but partly I was goaded into it, I freely admit.

The other day I received an email from a reader -- a very nasty email --  from a woman who rightfully pointed out that I owed her an updated page.   Owed her.  Because she was a reader.  And a fan.


This is another picture of a badger - err - Cat.  Just in case you wanted to see more cat pictures.  I am told that you DO want to see more cat pictures....  This cat picture contains a dachshund.  He is NOT a cat.  But he envies cats.  Especially their ability to fly through the air and reach high places.  Calvin would like to be able to do that.  But he can't.  He is a dachshund not a kelpie - actually he would be a really funny-looking kelpie if he WERE a kelpie.  Which he is not.
Her point was this: she is a regular reader, a fan, and respects my talents as a writer.

So how dare I fail to update the Portfolio Page on my website?!

What if she wanted to hire me to write an article at the magazine she was an editor for but could not see my recent work because I had failed to update that page?

Well of course I immediately emailed her back asking what magazine, and what the subject was she wanted me to write about?

And she replied that she did not edit a magazine, she worked in a pet store, but WHAT IF SHE DID?!

The caps in that are hers. Well, actually what she wrote was: “WHAT IF I DID? HUH SUGAR? YOU WOULDA MISSED AN ASSIGNMENT!”

Yup, she had me. No way out of that situation. Nailed.

So just to let you all know I have updated the main Portfolio Page and I really will try hard to keep it updated from here on, okay then?

So yeah, please stop with the angry email now, right?

 I love you all too.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

being Thankful

This post is going to wander into some rather personal areas so I hope you will understand that and that it may make you uncomfortable - and I apologize for that - but it is a subject that has been on my mind quite a bit lately.  And really the thoughts (and feelings) I express here are for a specific group of people.  People I know read this blog.  So there it is...

I believe that at least part of the reason that the subject of being thankful has dominated my thoughts of late has to do with the fact that I feel incredibly thankful to just about everybody in my life, but in particular to my wife and children.  And for still being alive.

I owe them big.  And not just because they stood by me during a very trying, very painful period.  

Not just because they could very easily have made excuses so that they could distance themselves from the train wreck that my life was becoming and nobody would have blamed them.  Least of all me.

They did not do that.  

So I feel incredibly humbled, overwhelmed and yes, grateful.

Tyrion Lannister (played by Peter Dinklage) is a little brother I would totally be proud to have...
Sometimes it Hurts
For the past almost nine moths I have been dealing with physical illness that goes way beyond the sort I am used to dealing with on a day-to-day basis.  

For those of you who know me IRL you are aware that my basic means of personal mobility consist of a combination of  a mechanical (I roll it) or electric (the batteries roll it) wheelchair.

The reason results from an industrial accident that happened in 1995 - when my spinal cord was damaged and I lost the use of my legs.

If you had asked me about my feelings on being a cripple (yes, I can use that word.  Cripple.  You cannot - unless you too happen to be one as well...)  at various points since the injury you would have obtained very different answers.

So you can probably imagine that this situation alone is sufficient to place a stress point in any sort of relationship.  

That said, I have no reason to complain in any regard because my family stuck.  

They confronted the issue of my disability and instead of looking for excuses to cut-and-run they looked for ways to help me to make my life as normal as it is possible to be.

The single greatest challenge was not the loss of mobility though, it was the constant unrelenting and inescapable pain I suffered.   

Her name is Midnight - "This is thy hour O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless."
Chronic pain is a horrible thing but until you have experienced it you can have no idea at all what those words mean.

Nine months ago circumstances changed again - and the very real concerns relating to mortality raised its ugly head.

At that point I would have totally understood it if they opted out.  Hell at that point *I* wanted to opt out!

Addressing that sort of issue is difficult enough when it is centered around someone you just know - but when its focus is someone you know and love?

Being  Obliged

I can honestly say that I have found my family and friends to be among the bravest and the most tenacious of humans one is want to find anywhere.

Even when *I* was ready to throw in the towel and give up THEY were not.

My illness had a significant impact on my state of being and mental and emotional health, and it caused me to lose some jobs.

When I lost a gig because I honestly lacked the energy to even think up new ideas to write about, instead of pointing at what I keenly felt was a failure, they encouraged me to look at it as an opportunity to do something else.  And it was!

So yeah, I have a lot to be thankful for, starting with the people in my life.  

Among them in particular are my wife, my son, and my daughter - and some very close friends who let me tell you are closer than most of  my blood relations.  Pete and Geofry stand out and shine brightly here.  Oddly I need to include some non-human mates in this list too.  

My friends Calvin and Charlie have been both supporting - and amusing - and caring.  

I am not sure just how much of the seriousness of the situation they grasped, they being members of the species canis lupus familiaris and usually inclined to ignore that sort of thing as a general rule...

But like the rest of my "pack" they were there for me too.  And the thing is, yeah, it's a ME thing.,

An important lesson that I learned from Ron White - Gratitude is just like greed - it is something that we feel for the most part for ourselves, even if we are expressing emotions that make others feel happy.  That does not mean that the thanks we feel and express mean anything less mind you...   It just helps to remember that it is all relative.
When you are ill - especially when it is seriously ill - fear causes the world to very quickly shrink for you; and even though this is totally unfair, a lot of the pressure points that exist in every life become all about you.  How you feel. How it impacts your life.  What you want and what you are willing to tolerate from others.

And this extends to all areas of life, not just the stuff that makes sense!  

Fortunately for me the people around me totally grok'd the situation and acted accordingly.  And I owe them big-time for that.  For their patience.  For their willingness to tolerate me.

While there are plenty of examples of this, one that my wife still finds  amusing totally stands out in my mind.

It has to do with my reaction to the way that Tyrion Lannister behaved in court as he was supposed to defend himself from the charge of poisoning his nephew.

The King is Dead
My keen disappointment in the seemingly bipolar meekness and reckless disregard Tyrion displayed in the crown chambers at King's Landing resulted in a ten-minute-long tirade from me in which it seems I assessed his evident stupidity rather completely.

And it appears that my assessment was also very amusing to those around me.

Bearing in mind that Tyrion was on trial for the poisoning of his nephew, King Joffrey Baratheon, and I (like the vast majority of the fan base) was of the decided opinion that rather than putting him on trial, they should be pinning a medal on his chest...

Even though he was not the agent responsible for that little bastard's death - and when I use the term "little bastard" I am not cursing but rather accurately describing the boy who was the incestuous product of the joining of loins between his mother and the other uncle, Jaime Lannister.

As an aside while Jaime Lannister was easy to hate for the first 2/3 of the story, by the time he is back at King's Landing and back in charge of the Royal Guard - missing his right (sword) hand and feeling the pain from it, I was surprised to find that the combination of the new and more aware Jaime and his unwavering loyalty to his little brother Tyrion somehow had redeemed him.

While the betrayal - and lies - of Tyrion's paramour Shae in court was certainly shocking, it should be noted that she was still feeling stung by the heavy-handed manner in which Tyrion broke off their relationship.

Shae was also too stupid to realize that his reasons (though they were brutal) were intended to help rather than to hurt her.  He meant to convince her to leave the dangers that were present in King's Landing...  And he did it by convincing her that he did not love her.

The Pantex Main Plant outside of Fritch, Texas, where the Nuclear Pool Boys go to work....
They Call Him 'Tater
If I can digress for a moment, in my salad years I was very easily impressed by comedy; and what I like to call the Great Philosophers of the 20th Century.

These included Buddy Hackett, Richard Pryor, Dennis Leary, Andy Kaufman, Billy Connolly, Dave Chappelle, Eddie Izzard, George Burns, Johnny Carson, and W.C.Fields, who all for the most part created original material as a product of their intelligence and self-awareness.  

They do not stand strictly alone - you may notice that Robin Williams is missing from the list.  The reason that he is missing has more to do with the fact at he was well-known for stealing routines from other comics, sad but it seems true...

There were still others though whose ideas went far beyond  observation of human nature and ventured into the genuine concepts of philosophical inquiry.

Three names stand out head-and-shoulders above the rest: Sam Kinison, Ron White, and George Carlin - a trio who not only told funny stories but THOUGHT funny thoughts.

Ron White comes from the sleepy little town of Fritch, Texas, which according to the federal census for the year 2000 had a population of 2,235 people and 886 households spread over its official 1.2 square miles (3.1 km).

The majority of the adults who live in Fritch work for a company called Pantex Corporation - a company whose primary business is technology.  And specifically the assembly and servicing of nuclear weapons.  I kid you not.  The good people of Fritch, Texas are the Nuclear Pool Boys for the nation! 

So you can probably imagine - having that in mind - how interesting it was to hear Ron White -- author of the book I Had the Right to Remain Silent But I Didn't Have the Ability (Dutton 2006, ISBN 978-0-525-94961-9) -- declare as an axiom "You can't fix stupid!"

So there I was angry at Tyrion Lannister for his failure to maintain his senses and decorum; to mount an effective defense in what can only be described as a Kangaroo Court (do they have Kangaroos in Westeros?)

There I was sincerely and personally disappointed in him - and it seems thinking that it should matter that I was disappointed.  In a fictional character.  And then I stop and realize - I read the books long before the show was green-lit by HBO!?!

"I'm guilty of a far more monstrous crime: I'm guilty of being a dwarf!"cried Tyrion.  And he was spot-on correct.

Isn't it strange how we can become emotionally invested in characters?  Or that even in the mind of a hurting and frightened human of supposed intelligence that such disappointment somehow matters?

You guys have gotten really tired of hearing me say "Thank You" - so this is it - one last Thank YOU!

Thanks mates.