Monday, May 21, 2018

Airing it Out

One of the things I was very fortunate to do whilst on my blogging break was take an actual vacation, not just a vacation from the blog. My wife and I went to Las Vegas for a week, and stayed with her cousin. It was quite an experience, and I may share some pictures of it at some point, but today is not that day. Instead, I want to talk a little about air travel.

To get to Las Vegas, we had to take two flights. We flew from Albany at about 6am to Charlotte, where we met my brother-in-law (he was heading out there as well, and was the impetus for the trip). From there, we flew to Vegas. The magic of air travel is that you can leave Albany at six in the morning, spend something like ten hours in transit (we had a three hour layover in Charlotte) yet still arrive at Las Vegas at one in the afternoon. Wait, I guess that's not the magic of air travel as much as it's the magic of time zones.

I'm still new enough to air travel that I find the whole thing incredible. I mean, think of it: you're in a metal tube with 150 of your closest friends, and you're 35,000 feet in the air. Thirty-five thousand. It still boggles the mind. I understand the principles of flight well enough to understand how it happens, but it's still kind of magical when I get right down to it. And I love the perspective of looking down on towns and houses and cities, on forests and mountains and, in the west, canyons and deserts. A window seat is pretty much required for me; I don't know what I would have done on the five-hour flight if I hadn't been sitting by the window, because the sad thing is, the reality of air travel doesn't really match with the promise. Once you get off the ground and reach cruising altitude (35,000 feet!), the trip itself becomes kind of dull (on the flight out there, we ran into cloud cover from just west of the Appalachians to western Arizona. It opened up for the last forty-minutes or so of our flight, which did provide us some pretty good views). Seats are too cramped, the plane is really, really noisy, and those windows? Kind of small. I guess they have to be, but I would prefer a window that I didn't have to break my neck to see out of.

The thing that might be most amazing about air travel, though, is all the other stuff that had to be invented to support it. Baggage carts and carousels. The jet bridge. The pushback tug. Radar stations. To quote Sheriff Bart (Blazing Saddles):




Monday, May 14, 2018

And back again.

Hello, all!

It's hard to believe it's been over a month since I decided to take my break. I hope things have been well for all of you. They've been pretty good for me on the overall, though April in particular was a month run at breakneck speed, between work and personal stuff, which was compounded by getting ready to go on an actual vacation at the beginning of May.

The hardest part of being away is coming back. When I take time off (or when I'm home on a weekend), I rarely check work e-mails or think about work at all, and my mind doesn't start drifting back toward work in the last day or so of the break. Sometimes, this makes me feel guilty, especially when I come back to the office and find a roaring e-mail discussion amongst some of my volunteers that broke out over the weekend. Then, I tend to think, "This is something important to these people, would it really have killed me to spend a few minutes looking over this and weighing in over the weekend?" Probably not, but then again, the advent of the web and e-mails and texting has eaten more and more into our personal lives. It's not a matter of "I'm not getting paid for this time, so I won't do it" as much as it's "I just need to not think about this stuff for a while."

It's been kind of the same for the blog. Once in a while, I would think of it with a twinge of guilt, like, "I really should be writing something so when I come back to it I'm not scrambling around to produce" (kind of like I am now, hah ha). Unlike some of my other breaks, however, I never had one of those must-blog-about-this-now moments. I'm not sure if that's a good sign or not.

Wow, that's an inspiring way to resume the blog, huh? Let's chalk it up to vacation/hiatus hangover. Next week will be better. I don't know yet what it will be, but it will be better.

Thanks for coming back (or for stopping in, if this is your first time here). What's new with you?


Monday, April 9, 2018

Time for...

Yesterday morning, I spent a couple of hours drafting a couple of ideas for a post to run today. They weren't quite complete posts, though, because they never are. Even when I really, really work at pre-writing a post, when I sit down on Monday morning to get it done here on the blog, it's never as simple as a straight cut-and-paste job, or just retyping in the blog box what's in the Word box. No, the Word document tends to be a guide, and it takes a surprising amount of brain power to go from even a pretty good draft to a finished blog post. Well, here's where my brain power is at these days:


It's been like this for a while now: posting is never easy for me, but it's become increasingly difficult and that means it's time for a break. I was kind of thinking the entire month of April, but, well, last week was easy. And then you need a post saying it's break time, right? So, here's the official "I'm on break" post. I'll still be around, will still be visiting the blogs I usually visit, I just won't be posting here.*

I should also point out, it's not just the blog. For the last couple of weeks, I've been kind of dragging, my energy levels pretty much bottomed out. I suspect at least some of it is weather related: after having 60 degree weather in the middle of February, March has been shit, quite frankly, and April has not been much better, with limited sunshine and persistent, irritating snow. It's ten degrees outside right now. Ten! On April 9th!

At any rate, it seems like a good time to take a break, and recharge the batteries. The nice thing is, I've got a mini-vacation coming up at the beginning of May, one that is much needed, because April starts the crazy-busy season at work. I'll be back in mid-May, and I'll see you around the blogs in the interim. Enjoy my break!


*Which of course means in a week's time or so I'll have a burning, gotta post it now moment





Monday, April 2, 2018

Reading List, 2018 (Part I)

Howdy, folks. Can't believe we're already in the fourth month of 2018--time is flying! So, here's the list of what I've read so far:

The Education of Dixie Dupree (2016), Donna Everhart. I feel like I know Donna from around the blogosphere. I enjoyed this book, in as much as you can be said to enjoy a book about a girl dealing with sexual abuse from an uncle.

The Girl in the Spider's Web (2015), David Lagercrantz, translated by George Goulding. Shortly after starting, I realized I had never actually read the third installment of Steig Larsson's Millennium series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. It didn't impact the reading of this all that much. I enjoyed the first two, mostly, but this was a battle.

The House on Hope Street (2015), Menna van Praag.

Vanishing Girls (2017), Lisa Regan. My old blogging buddy scores with another thriller!

The Woman in the Window (2018), A.J. Finn. Agoraphobic alcoholic woman spies on her neighbors. Reminiscent of The Girl on the Train, yet not derivative. I blew through this one in about 24 hours.

Cannery Row (1945), John Steinbeck.

At Heaven's Gate (1943), Robert Penn Warren.

Stone Arabia (2011), Dana Spiotta.

The Great Alone (2018), Kristin Hannah. This felt a little too YA at times for my liking. Nothing against YA, but it's like taking a drink from a glass thinking it's Sprite and finding out it's club soda instead.

Hey, how about that--not a single Stephen King book in the mix!

I feel like there might have been another book between At Heaven's Gate and Stone Arabia, but I can't remember what it was. Nine books in three months is perhaps a little slow; my reading definitely tailed off in March, for reasons I can't explain. (Bruins too busy, perhaps? They've played literally every other day since around March 2, except for the weekend, when they played both days.)

Other things:

-Had an unusual dinner yesterday in which we Skyped the Catbird in from college. Set the laptop up on the end of the table and chatted with her while we ate. It was very futuristic in a 1960s kind of way.

-Last week during a program, I declared the end of winter. Thursday and Friday, I noticed actual, new green poking out through the mud. Yesterday, we had a dusting of snow. Right now, it's about 28 degrees outside. This is upstate New York in April. It's coming, but sloooooooooooow.


That's it for me, what about you? What have you been reading lately?
 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Fire forged

In one of my manuscripts, an unlikely hero steps up in a critical moment and saves his small town from sliding into chaos. Initially, he shrugs it off, telling another character, "Someone had to do something." Later, in a moment of reflection after the dust has settled, he muses over what he's done in relation to a slightly shortened quote from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night: "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." Considering the character's pretty unremarkable life up until that point, he's not quite sure where he fits.

Watching the March for Our Lives events--indeed, since the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School--I've been wondering about this in relation to the students we've been seeing. Ever since Emma Gonzalez stood before the crowd and cried, "We call--BS!" and stood toe-to-toe with NRA flack Dana Loesch; ever since David Hogg calmly brushed off those who said he was at best coached, at worst, a paid crisis actor. These students have been passionate, intelligent and articulate; they have started a movement that is having real impact. And I can't help but wonder about them: were they always like this? Were they activists? Were they outspoken? Were they the leaders in their school already, members of the student government, captains of sports teams and debate teams, editors of school newspapers, kids that everyone knew? Or were they shy, anonymous, kids that stayed out of sight, out of mind, on the edges of the MSD community, either by choice or circumstance?

The citizen in me applauds them and doesn't care much about what they were, only about what they are, and what they will become. The writer in me wants to know.



Monday, March 19, 2018

Random Thoughts

It's been a tough week, capped off by the long drive to get the Catbird back to school from spring break. Here are some random thoughts:

*Defenestrate is a great word, but, boy is it hard to work into everyday conversation.

*There is nothing more optimistic in this world than a dog.

*Waking up to single-digit temperatures again kind of sucks, but it looks like we're at least going to have a snow-free week.

*I need to find my next writing project.

*The Bruins are doing their best to make a believer out of me.

*Waiting is still the hardest part.

*There is nothing quite like a good bagel in the morning.

*It's nice to have it still light at 7pm, though I'm not crazy about waking up again in the pitch dark.

*Black Panther was a lot of fun.

*It's going to be hard for season 2 of Jessica Jones to top season 1, but two episodes in, they're off to a good start.

*David Byrne sounds like David Byrne--yet he doesn't. I find this video strangely compelling, and the song has been stuck in my head the last couple of days. It's funny how people's voices change as they age.


That's all I've got for today--what's on your mind?

Monday, March 12, 2018

Another day...

...another winter weather advisory.

Roughly a third of the snow that has fallen on my corner of the world has come down since March 1, according to the National Weather Service. It feels like this has been the case for at least the last four years or so. When we moved here 15 years ago, most of the snow fell in January and February, but it's been shifting later and later. As have the seasons in general.

At least this storm doesn't look to be too bad here, just four or five inches. Folks on the coast look like they could  get slammed (again--it's been a tough couple of weeks out there). Hopefully, we won't see a lot of power outages again.

That's about all I got today, sorry to say. My brain appears to be in a bit of a down cycle. What's new with all of you?