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Saturday, February 25, 2012

How To Be A Thief

In case you are not aware, I have moved the "How To Be A Thief" story from this blog to its own! It has been edited and fixed up, made to look pretty, and given a new name! It is now "Murphy's Law" and you can find it here, at murphyslawstory.blogspot.com. I hope you all enjoy it and please, do not spread it around or steal it. I do not make money at this, but perhaps someday I will if I get enough people to read it. And then I can update it more often. So, if you like the story, visit it on its new site and click on a few of the ads while you're there! If you find any of it has been stolen, be sure to bring it to my attention. Thank you!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cold Weather Camping

If you do not know me too well, then you should know that I am big into camping and backpacking. Even though I don't have any sons, and my daughter is only 10 months old, I am currently acting as an Assistant Scoutmaster in one of my local Boy Scout troops, because I love scouting! Now, when I was a scout myself, it just so happened that I was able to avoid most campouts where the temperature went below freezing. I had thought that I would not have that problem living in South Carolina (where the only winter we've had was a cold drizzle). So, I decided to go on my first camp out with this troop last weekend!

It just so happened that Mother Nature had a surprise up her sleeve. Winter decided that it was time to show up for a full 48 hours... the 48 hours of our campout. But as I learned, it wasn't the cold temperatures that got to us, even the fact that it was about 20 on Sunday morning. No, it was the wind. The 20-30 mph gusts were brutal and frequent. I got to stay behind in camp where there was little shelter and little sun. At night, the wind chill was probably around 10. I needed to get more clothing, as I was getting dangerously cold despite wearing 7 shirts (2 long-sleeve, 2 t-shirts, a very warm sweater, thermal underwear, and a windbreaker jacket), 3 pants, 2 thick socks, boots, ear muffs, a hat, and gloves. The ski pants and second pair of gloves were what I needed. There's being prepared, and then there's that.

Despite the cold, I did have fun. Like I said, I love to camp. I got to see the boys attempt to make catapults with nothing but ropes and logs, we did a compass game (which teaches orienteering skills), and one of the boys discovered a UXO. That's right, an unexploded ordinance. It was a hand grenade from World War 2 that had the pin pulled, but the handle was rusted shut. Apparently paratroopers used the woods for training exercises back in the '40s. Another leader took the grenade from him, put it far away from everyone, and kept everyone away from it. The bomb squad (a single guy) came out and told us that it was likely a dud, but he'd have to x-ray it to be sure. Despite the fears that parents may have, it was a good thing that it happened; it allowed us to show the kids how to handle UXOs and other weapons of that nature. If you don't know how, there are three steps to the safe handling of a UXO. The 3 Rs.

1) Recognize. If you suspect something is an unexploded ordinance, take a bit of time to recognize it as such and not something mundane like a can. However, do not touch it, move it, or disturb it in an way. If you cannot tell what it is, treat it as a UXO. Some DO look like mufflers, soda cans, small balls, etc. If you have any reason to suspect it, treat it as a UXO.

2) Retreat. Get as far away from it as you can. Tell other people to stay away from the area. If you have the means, mark the area on a map, or put up tape or red/black flags at a safe distance from the UXO to keep others away.

3) Report. Tell the proper authorities what you have found and where. This is likely the local police and/or bomb squad, though if you are on or near a military base, the base may be better equipped to handle it. Stay nearby until the authorities get there so you can give them all the information you have. Don't worry if it turns out the UXO is actually just a pipe or paint ball. It is better to be safe than sorry. Although you may not think a grenade is that dangerous, even an old one may still be potent, and the shrapnel can travel 4 times faster than a bullet.

So after the grenade was carried away, we returned to our normal campout. For the cold, the company, and the grenade, this will definitely be a trip to remember.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Exemplary writing

One of the things that I have strived to become is an exemplary writer. Not just decent, not good, not even great. Legendary. The kind of writer that, when you read his work, you are left in awe. There is something in the way a master crafts language as though it were clay. It is that kind of writing that can truly become art.

For a while I fancied myself a great writer. I was, as far as I know, at the top of my classes. Whenever I worked for someone in a writing capacity, I was generally regarded as a valuable asset. I know there are better - and younger - writers out there, particularly now. Even if my working vocabulary grew exponentially, my similes and metaphors were akin to Shakespeare's, and my depth a rival to Hemingway, I still will not be the legendary writer that I wish to be. At least, not for a while.

There is some truth to the idea that writers have troubled pasts, but mine was not wracked by hardships. Many writers have had the advantages of an education that has no equal; mine was at times sub par. Some have seen the world, changed our mother tongue in unalterable ways, and fired the imaginations of millions. However, there are still top-shelf authors who, like me, have had none of these. It is time and my own personal demons that are preventing me from being the writer I could be.

Time I can change very little. I can make a little more time for writing, set aside time every day, keep myself focused and awake and habitual. Having a 10-month older who is now starting to walk and teethe (and make a grinding noise with her teeth that sends shivers reserved for dentists alone* up my spine) does make things more difficult, but not impossible. I will not be denying my daughter time with me, or the time she needs to be raised properly. But that does not mean I have to deny myself that which defines and drives me (if only I was driven by a single force).

This, of course, leaves my own personal demons. These are, for the most part, distractions. Sure, I could blame it on ADHD. I have been ADHD my entire life and am still, at 30, learning to deal with it. I have yet to find a medicine that has acceptable side effects (but that is for another post). But to be my own devil's advocate, I HAVE lived with it for 30 years and should be able to deal with it fairly well. No, I will not blame my distractions on ADHD. I lack the discipline that I need to do the things I wish to do. I lack the habits, the routine, the self-control. Currently my distractions are games (and not just one in particular, but a variety), Netflix, and attempting to role-play online. I do get some writing done, and the role-playing I have tried to start up is writing intensive. I have learned, however, that I really am a better writer than most. The writing can at times be excellent, but it is usually poor. And I do not think it is helping me, but instead forcing me into the habit of writing poorly. And that is one habit I do not need.

I have other things on my plate. My wife and I are attempting to brew beer. I have purchased (and intend to start) a cross-stitching pattern. I have about 4 writing projects that I want to pursue. I am still in the process of transferring my rather sizable collection of CDs onto my computer. There are a variety of songs I want to learn to play on the guitar, including songs for Children's Chapel (which I will be taking up) and songs taught to me by the PS3 game Rocksmith (although a game, it uses a real guitar, and teaches you how to play songs to the point where you could play them on your own for others). I still have not been on a camp out with the boy scout troop I am helping. And on top of all this, I am attempting to find things to do with my daughter now and when she gets a little older. It has been said that a man only has time for one passion in his life. I feel I can get away with 2 or 3... but I have about 7.

So, in short, I am going to have to work on the discipline. I have come to redefine my goals and my thought of what "exemplary" writing is. I do not know if it is an achievable goal, but it is a path I wish to tread. In time, who knows?

*It is not only a sound that makes my teeth ache with empathy pangs, but also makes my wallet hurt with the thought of the dentist's bill once we see the damage she has done to her teeth.