Monday, February 27, 2006

Are You In Good Hands?

No. This isn't an insurance commercial.

No, wait. Yes, actually, it is. I wanted to tackle a significantly important issue for those parents of children with diabetes. And while this loosely affects those who are adults, the impact is limited.

I had absolutely wonderful parents. My mother, bless her heart, was so proactively involved in my diabetes early on that it bordered on annoying. But she quickly helped me become very self-sufficient, and I can owe my own ability to manage my diabetes so well to her involvement. She went beyond "controlling", to the point of teaching me to be the one who was controlling for myself.

So it isn't any surprise that my mother had the foresight to realize my eventual choice of career would significantly impact my life as a diabetic. Anytime I alluded to a desire to pursue music as a career (as my older brother had), she would set me straight.

"You have diabetes, Ryan. You need a job that you can work for a large company with health insurance."

She was absolutely right. It wasn't really about squelching any dreams of mine, but the harsh reality of the disease: that living with diabetes is expensive. Fortunately, I had also always wanted to be a software developer, and that became my future. (Although, I flirted with becoming an English teacher for a while, until I realized that teachers really make next-to-nothing.)

But what was important was the constant and irritating reminders throughout my childhood up through my teen years that I had to find myself a good job. And so now, I pass this lesson on to you. I encourage parents of children with diabetes to help guide their children into career paths that will ensure they are in good hands, insurance-wise. As much as we want to encourage our children to excel where they are most interested, there is a point where that must be utilized...or perhaps even pushed aside entirely...for a greater benefit. And by starting this young, by the time your children are old enough to start truly thinking about a career path, this consideration will weigh heavily on their decision.

To a small degree, I do this with my own children. My second son is obsessed with drawing. He has a flair for art, and we like to encourage that. But we know that being an artist isn't really a wise career decision, so I want to help guide him into an area where his talents in art might bloom into a good career. Architecture, perhaps, or some kind of design work. Who knows at this point. But he needs to learn that drawing for a living isn't a good way to put food on the table.

And for the diabetic, this is even more significant. Healthcare is expensive these days, and it only looks to be more expensive. We cannot rely on hopes (and, in my opinion, false hopes) of a cure before they graduate from high school. The reality is, they will most likely live out the rest of their lives with the disease. And that will be expensive. Do them a favor, and make sure they choose a path that will allow them to take care of themselves and, ultimately, their own family.

I admit, I have a passion for creative endeavors. For a while it was piano, then singing, then choir. Now, I'm focused on writing (which is actually a passion I had starting in elementary school). But these are things I can pursue while still maintaining a full-time career that also provides me decent health-care. And unless my writing makes me millions of dollars a few times over (which isn't likely), it is unlikely I'll ever stop working as a software engineer, even if I have many published novels to my credit.

Finally, I would be wrong to miss talking about life insurance. Realize that obtaining life insurance for the diabetic is also an expensive option. While I have life insurance through my job, I have two policies that I pay for myself. And these policies really aren't worth a whole lot, but they are there. Again, my mother had the good sense to get a life insurance policy for myself when I was young, when the premiums were still relatively low, even with diabetes. Not too long ago, I checked into the premiums for a similar policy at my age, and it was prohibitively expensive. Why? Because as far as insurance companies are concerned, I'm knocking on death's door as a diabetic, no matter how well I take care of myself. So if you haven't done it, talk to an insurance agent as soon as possible and get a policy for your child. The younger you start, the less expensive it will be.

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Color of Men

Do you remember the 80s? Specifically, the clothing and style of the 80s? Men and women alike had feathered hair, women wore something called "Units", colors were bright, pants baggy, clothing layered to varying degrees. Most of my way through Junior High and High School, I had mix-and-match outfits where I wore some T-shirt or Polo shirt beneath another unbuttoned button-up shirt that sort of swayed and drifted as you walked. I was cool. (Although, I am now rather embarrassed at the thought of wearing royal blue cotton pants with a drawstring/elastic waist and no fly. Who in the world thought up such things?)

Anyhow, it was during the time period where everybody who was anybody wore sweaters hugging the neck that men were introduced to a new freedom of their masculinity: real men wore pink!

I bought into it. I remember on my ninth grade spring break buying this pink cotton button-up shirt with various gray and white and blue geometric shapes splattered all over it. It was about three sizes too big, which was okay since I would wear it unbuttoned over another shirt most of the time anyhow. But for the rest of my high school career, it was a staple of my wardrobe, even though we would cross over into the 90s.

I must reiterate here. It was pink. Pink as the Pink Panther. Cotton Candy pink. But eventually the world righted itself, and the idea of men wearing pink sort of evaporated.

Flash forward to 2006. Yesterday, I was trotting through Wal-Mart to pick up some pictures, and it was clear the spring wardrobe had bloomed. "Think Spring" displays were everywhere, and the winter coats have been replaced with short-sleaves.

But then I noticed something quite disturbing. There was an awful lot of pink. In the men's clothes. Pink T-shirts, pink Polos, pink plaids. And once again, the fashion world shows us that history means nothing to them. Apparently, they hadn't been paying attention in class when they taught the importance of learning history: don't repeat the mistakes of the past. Sure, the teachers were talking about how to avoid World War III, but I think it's safe to assume it applies to men wearing pink as well.

So, what's a guy to do? I already went through my pink stage in life. Yet, here it is upon us again. Must I prove my manhood yet again? Must I demonstrate how secure I am in my masculinity by investing in pink?

Well, I won't do it. Because everyone knows that next year, the color of men will be brown, or puce, or burgundy, or charcoal gray, or even seafoam green. (In fact, I already have a shirt with seafoam green, so consider me ahead of my time.)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Dream Come True

Last night, I had this dream. I don't remember a lot about the dream, actually. But then I woke up, and found myself at Barnes and Noble or Border's...I don't remember which, as both are pretty much the same (except for the fact that I'm still mad at Barnes and Noble for selling my contact information without my permission to a third party because they decided to have an "opt-out" policy instead of an "opt-in" policy, which I find utterly unforgiveable these days).

Anyhow, I was there setting up a table for my first-ever book signing. As you can imagine, I was very excited. I've been working on Mindburst for years, and to finally see it in print and do a book-signing! This was exciting stuff.

So, I'm sitting there, and an employee comes up to me and asks me what I'm doing.

"I have a book-signing today."

The employee looks at me funny, then says, "Okay, but you'll have to go get your own books off the shelves."

No problem. I meander back to the Children's and Young Adult section and search the shelves for my book. But there isn't a single copy to be found. And when I head back up to the front of the store, someone else is sitting at my table.

Then, I realized my book hasn't yet been published. My dream had been so utterly real, that when I woke up I thought I really did have a published book! But now I looked to be a complete fool, sitting in a bookstore claiming I'm doing a book-signing for a book that hasn't been published. I quickly packed up my stuff and snuck out the door. It was a moment of utter embarrassment.

But, then I woke up. Again. In my bed, this time. And I was so relieved to find out that I had experienced one of those dream within a dream dreams. But, it was bittersweet...because I truly had believed my book was published. In my dream, that is. And that feeling was a very warming moment.

As an update, I am, in fact, seeking agent representation still for my book. It is a long process, and I've had limited success. I have had three requests for partials (which is the first three chapters). But then silence has ensued since then, and I keeping checking my e-mail so often that I wonder if my internet provider might think I'm launching one of those denial of service attacks or something. No...just me, hoping for a request for a full to arrive. But it hasn't. Yet again.

Anyhow, the wait continues, but I promise to keep my faithful compadres (psst...wake up...that means you!) notified of any significant events. In the meantime, in case you missed it from a few days ago, I have February's Story of the Month, A Time to Die, posted on my website. Take a gander if you haven't already.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Good Old Days

You know, I was thinking about my kids and how much they are missing out on educational opportunities that I had as a children. There are so many things they just don't know that was common knowledge for me. And I blame it all on television.

You see, the shows I grew up watching were highly educational. Shows like Tom and Jerry, The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Show, and Sylvester and Tweety.

When I was a kid, it was clear that cats ate mice, and mice were clever and quick little things that found ways to keep away from cats. In Tom and Jerry, we also learned an important truth about mice: they always lived in little holes in the wall. Of course, as a kid, I always wondered why there were no holes in our walls that were mouse sized, but I figured that someone somewhere must have them.

And then there are the numerous scientific principles that I learned from Road Runner. For example, for every action there is an equal and opposite delayed reaction. You know, like the five second delay on gravity that allows the Road Runner to run across a chasm, and gives the Wyle E. Coyote time to wave good-bye before plummetting to the canyon floor below. And, of course, most important...never ever buy your products from ACME, because they'll never work as advertised.

Sylvester, of course, taught us the same lesson as Tom, except as it applied to birds rather than mice. Cats love to eat birds...particularly birds that, for whatever reason, never learned to fly. I also learned you can't trust cats for anything (which is something any dog lover could tell you anyhow).

These are lessons my kids are missing out on. Instead, they're watching shows like The Magic School Bus, which teaches them about such useless topics as muscle fatigue, effects of pollution on coral reefs, how light works, etc. Or Lazy Town, which tries to convince my kids that they should be exercising more and watching television less (nevermind they have to actually watch television to learn this lesson). I mean, just what is this world coming to?

Let's bring back the classics, folks. The good old days of television. I mean, after all, have you noticed that the test scores of our children have been dropping ever since these shows dropped from the airwaves? Coincidence? I think not!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Your Arrogance Is Unbecoming

Aside from two nights, we've been watching the Olympics every night now. And you know what? I'm really sick of Bode Miller. Is it un-American for me to say that? I know we're supposed to be cheering our own countrymen along and all, but frankly, I'm kind of glad Bode hasn't won't a thing in these Winter Games.

If you haven't been paying attention, well, Bode Miller was supposedly Team USA's best chance for winning gold in one of the Alpine Skiing events. Yet, his understated arrogance was grating. He had this cockiness to him that was subtle and irritating. So when he has repeatedly lost out on earning himself a medal of any color, I don't know...I just can't help but be glad about that. I know that being an Olympic athlete is supposed to take guts and determination, which is clearly something Miller has. But there is still the fact that these athletes will set role models. We'll see their faces plastered on various commercials for years to come. And when I want my children to model themselves after someone...Bode Miller doesn't come to mind.

Compare that to Apollo Ohno. Now he's a man who deserves applause. He's a man with self-respect, as well as respect for others. He demonstrates a level of humility and grace under pressure. Okay, so he didn't win the gold either. But I wanted him to, unlike Miller.

Where are the truly interesting stories in the Olympics? While watching the pairs Figure Skating competition, there were stories of hardship which humanized these people. It made them accessible to us common folk. It made them seem like real people striving to be the best against the hardest of times. Take, for instance, the pair where the man had ripped his Achilles. He deserved to make it up on that podium. Or the Chinese pairs under the direction of the coach who had been laughed at in the 1976 Olympics.

Perhaps it is because I'm not all that into watching sports...but the Olympics are still about people. It isn't about being the best, but being the underdog and making it through. Like Lindsay Kildow, who skied the women's downhill in extraordinary much that you could see it across her face. She didn't win a medal...but she won our hearts.

These are the people I want my children to take note of. To see that sometimes being the best means falling down and getting back up. It means facing hardship, but pushing through anyhow. Sometimes it means never reaching that ultimate dream, but having tried anyway.

It doesn't mean acting like you are the king of the hill, and only finishing two of the three races you enter because of your arrogance. Sorry, Mr. Miller. But your arrogance is just unbecoming. Not that you care, I'm sure.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

February Story of the Month

Here it is, halfway through February, and I still hadn't posted my Story of the Month. Oddly enough, I have written two all-new short stories, one for the sole purpose of making available on my website. But then I decided in both cases to submit them to some publications.

So, I figured I would simply edit an existing short. The one I was originally going to put up, however, I didn't have enough time to clean up. But then I remembered another story that I wrote about a year ago. It is in my favorite genre: science fiction. I did a few quick edits, and is now available as the February Story of the Month.

A Time To Die is now available on my website. As before, let me know what you think...positive or negative comments welcome.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Trouble With Sleeping

My wife laughs at me sometimes when I tell her I'm having trouble falling asleep. For me, that means it takes fifteen minutes instead of fifteen seconds. She's a bit of insomniac, you see, and so even if we start out in bed together, I'll end up snoozing, and she'll head back out to the computer or watch the Late Late Show or something.

But there is a time when I really do have trouble sleeping (aside from when I am stupid enough to drink a Diet Mt. Dew an hour before bed). It has to do with my blood sugars. And, yes, this is yet another case of keeping tabs on your symptoms.

Of course, it really is two separate cases, not one. The first being low. Once my BGL hits into the 60s, I can't sleep. And if I'm already asleep, I'll wake up. I guess I'm fortunate, because a lot of diabetics have the opposite problem. When they go low, they can't wake up, which could be rather dangerous. I think part of this is because I've worked hard to not allow myself to become insensitive to my lows. I can detect being low by the time I hit 75. I hate being low, and it has shocked me to learn that other diabetics actually prefer being low to being high. Not me. Not one little bit.

But being high is, in fact, another cause for a restless night of sleep. But in a very different way from being low. Usually, I'll just keep waking up over and over, finding myself tangled up in my sheets. Sometimes even my dreams are restless, and I'm caught in some situation I can't get out of. I'll wake up, relieved, but fall right back to sleep at the same point in my dream. If this goes on for more than an hour, I know something isn't right. I'll get up, check my BGL, and find I'm in the 300s or something. A quick bolus, and thirty minutes later, I'll be back to sleep and my restlessness is gone.

To me, it is an amazing gift of God to have such indicators of abnormal BGLs. I can't imagine how much more difficult it would be to keep BGLs under control without these signs, which is why I've repeatedly talked about how important it is to be aware of your symptoms. Pay attention, because I believe more than even frequent BGL testing, being self-aware is your number one offensive measure in keeping your diabetes under control. If you've lost some of that awareness, take heart. It can be trained back in with some hard work.

Anyhow, sleep, for me, is precious. I can't operate at 100% if I miss even a half-hour of my required sleep. I'm not only crabbier, but I find myself dragging, and my wife finds me annoying to look at, and I can't enjoy my kids, and I'm unable to write. What energy I have goes into my work, which just doesn't seem right, you know? So, at the first sign of any trouble sleeping to me is a sign to test my BGL and get things back into normal range quickly, so that I can be all that I am meant to be.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Love, Exciting and New

You know, I know I'm not only dating myself, but also perhaps revealing information that could be used against me in a court of law...but I absolutely loved watching The Love Boat back when it was on television. Gopher was my favorite character, and overall, each episode was completely predictable. But that's what made it so great...seeing how they could play out the same sequence of events with a completely different situation. New love, old love, and a relationship teetering, looking for major need of repair.

Sadly, I've never been on a cruise myself...unless the ferry ride at Walt Disney World across the lake counts. I once brought it up to my wife. Wouldn't it be romantic? Only, she pointed out that we could pretty much afford the tiniest of rooms, and then what would we do while on the ship? We're not really social people. We wouldn't climb any on-board rock walls or go swimming. We probably wouldn't go dancing. And there is no way we could afford the fine restaurants. We could go into the ports, though! Of course, we couldn't afford to buy anything there, either. So, suddenly the thought of a cruise wasn't as appealing. I suppose The Love Boat makes it look so, well, exciting and new!

But today is Valentine's Day...the day for lovers. And I most definitely love my wife, more than I could ever express in words. (Today, I decided to express it through a box of chocolates and a card.) But have you ever considered what a horrible holiday it really is? It's all about mass polygamy, if you think about it. Because you can't just celebrate the love you have for your spouse...but for your children, and parents, and friends.

Think about it. Think back to the days in elementary school. Each February 14th, you were expected to show up with a box of thirty cards for each person in the class. You were expected to express your undying love to all fifteen of the girls, and figure out which of the cards wouldn't sound mushy so that you could give them to the other boys. (Well, if you are woman reading this, swap the genders in that sentence.) "Best buddies forever!"

And then, of course, there is the horror that you actually forgot someone, and they are eternally offended. That happened to me once, in the third grade. I remembered everyone except Suzette Colins. And boy, was she mad that I forgot her. Our relationship was never the same since. Who knows, had I just remembered, perhaps my wife's name would be Suzette today.

Hmm. On second thought, I'm glad I forgot, because I wouldn't trade my wife for anything, nor anyone.

Anyhow, there we were, little kids, encouraged to forego a life of monogamy and play the field. And then, of course, there is the pornography involved. You know what I'm talking about, don't you? The little naked Cupid? Oh, sure, he is always shown with one leg turned just enough to hide anything explicit...but we're smart kids. We know what they were hiding. We weren't stupid.

And the violence. I mean, I had nightmares imagining having Cupid's arrow flying through the air and hitting me right in the heart. Oh, they say it would just make you fall in love, but come on...who has ever seen a bow and arrow make anyone fall in love? It is a weapon meant to kill, pure and simple. And they put such a weapon in the hands of a cute little cherub, as though that would lessen the impact of the murderer he is! What I do know is that, fortunately, Cupid is a poor aim, since no one I know was ever killed.

And to think that Hallmark embraces this holiday. I'm thinking we should start a protest. A boycott of Saint Valentine entirely. I'll lead the way...just as soon as my wife and I are done celebrating our love for one another. After all, there are certain advantages to the day involving a husband, his wife, and their bedroom. And I'm not talking about sleep.

So, the day lives on, spreading evil along the way.

Oh well. Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Miscellany, and Other Stuff

So, we're three days into the Olympics. Well, four...but since we only watch it during prime time, three. There seems to be a contest going on in our house as to who can stay up for everything. Next to my wife and myself, my oldest son is really the only contender. While my six-year-old makes every best effort, he just can't seem to make it past ten o'clock. It was rather funny, actually, when I woke him up and he wouldn't admit that he fell asleep. Nevermind he missed half of the events, including both times the U.S. took home a gold medal. He wasn't asleep. Really.

One thing watching the Games this year has taught me is that I'm ancient. It is a term that, even as a child, only applied to those who were in their 80s. But we were watching the Women's Mogul event, and they referred to one of the Americans as "ancient" because she was 31. Hmm. I'm 32. And then I watched as 19-year-old Shaun White ("The Flying Tomato") took home a gold. I'm used to seeing such youth in Gymnastics...but why is it that more and more of these world's greatest athletes seem like kids to me? Being 32 is not old. Right?

Speaking of getting old...I was realizing the other day as I started to write another short story that my reading tastes have changed since my teen and college-aged years. I used to read science fiction and fantasy almost exclusively. Today, while I still enjoy writing science fiction, I find I read it very rarely. I think it has been two years since I've read a science fiction book. Does this mean I'm "growing up"? I hope not.

When I was in college, I lived with my parents in an apartment just off campus. I was home watching an episode of Star Trek:The Next Generation...which, by the way, I eventually gave up for Babylon 5. Anyhow, my mom came up behind me, leaning over the couch watching a scene with Worf. Not even a full minute passed, and she turned to me and said, "You know, Ryan, that's not real...don't you?"

Well, yes, Mom. That's why it is called science fiction. I can only hope I don't do the same thing to my own kids a few years from now. I mean, after all, I'm ancient, soon to be downright prehistoric. We didn't have all these newfangled gizmos back in the caves where I spent my childhood.

As you can see from the title of this post, I'm in a rather "random thought" mood today. Hopefully I'll have something more coherant to write about next time!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Let the Games Begin

We have a tradition in our family. A two-year-old tradition. Actually, we've only done it once, but we decided after that one time to make it a tradition.

Two years ago, at the Summer Olympics in Greece, our two oldest sons stayed up with us each and every night, stretched out on the floor with bowls of popcorn, and watched the games. To our surprise, they were quickly hooked, and actually started playing "Olympics" outside during the day. They set up various lawn and yard equipment in various patterns and had themselves hurdling, swimming, gymnastics, and so on. It was also a nice family time. Each evening, we spent really wonderful, quality time together.

So, here we are again, two years later. Only this time it is the Winter Games. And my boys are ecstatic. Sweep everything else from the calendar for the next few weeks, because we'll be busy watching downhill skiing, figure skating, and everyone's favorite-though-I-could-never-figure-out-why-it-is-called-a-sport event, bobsledding.

To have sports playing on the television each evening is an odd sight in our house. I've mentioned before that I really despise watching professional, baseball, hockey, curling. Yet, the Olympics are somehow different. Perhaps it is the excitement of pitting nearly every country in the world against one another. Perhaps it is the thrill of seeing the U.S.A. take most of the medals...again. Or, maybe it is just the fast-paced presentation on network television only showing the highlights. Whatever the reason, tomorrow my family will be there watching when they say, "Let the Games Begin."

But let me share a related story. Because this tradition actually started before I ever had kids...or even married. My family grew up had a tradition of watching the Opening Ceremonies together. The rest of the Olympics were hit and miss...but we didn't miss the big spectacular. (Anyone remember the Los Angeles Olympics where the UFO landed, and the big controversy about who posed for the anatomically correct male statue? Diver Greg Louganis, I believe it was.)

When I was in college, my folks decided to watch the Opening Ceremonies at my brother and sister-in-law's apartment. I had to work. A top executive in for Little Caesars. (Either that or an assistant manager of a local chain pick which you find more interesting.) Anyhow, I was apparently driving with very low blood sugar. By the time I got there, I was totally out of it. I was functioning, but I have very little memory of anything going on. I remember my mom trying to force food into me, and myself just wanting to fall asleep on the couch. Needless to say, I missed most of the ceremonies, and I don't even remember much of what happened. But it was a scary moment. One of the few times in my life where my BGL had dropped so low that I actually have memory loss. It is scary to think I was driving in that state.

Anyhow, I'm sure that won't happen again.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

My Nail Biting Woes

I've noticed my fingernails are dangerously short right now. Granted, as a nailbiter who has tried many vain attempts to quit, I typically have short fingernails. The rule is if I can see any white of a fingernail above the nailbed, it must be bitten off. And fingernail clippers won't do. If you bite your nails, you'd understand. Nails are considerably smoother when trimmed via teeth. If you clip them, there is a sharper edge that needs to be gnawed down. Easier just to bite.

But right now, they are shorter than usual, to the point where they actually hurt when I type. And the reason for this? Well, starting January 2, I began sending out queries to agents for my novel. I've sent out somewhere around thirty total so far, but close to ten rejections received. Form letters, you know. The kind that say, "Thanks for thinking of us, but frankly, we're too busy." But, I can't help but think this is a kind way of saying, "Thanks for thinking of us, but who in the world are you kidding? You think someone would actually want to read this drivel?"

I've also had a few requests to read partials (first three chapters), so I have reason to believe perhaps they really are just form letter rejections. But on top of this, last week I sent out a couple of short stories to several publications for consideration. So now, I find myself checking my e-mail every few minutes. Hence, the nail biting.

What makes it worse is the inordinate amount of junk e-mail I receive. It seems every other time I check my e-mail, there is a new message. And for a brief half-second, my heart thuds a little more loudly in my chest, and I think, "Is this another rejection? Or maybe it is a request for a full? Or maybe..." It's just another advertisement for Viagra.

This leads to several minutes of gnawing until I recover from the close encounter with fame...or failure. Yesterday I bit the nail from my left-hand index finger so far down, it started to bleed. Just a tiny bit, though. I'm okay, really.

This is the lot in the life of a would-be author. The wait. The rejections. The false hopes. The despair. And then the acceptance of having to wait. I have much more waiting ahead of me. Even if the partials pan out, then I send out full manuscripts. Then you wait again. If an agent is so inclined to want to represent you, then you wait for edits. Make edits. Then more waiting as they begin the submission process to editors. Wait, wait, wait. Finally, the editor accepts your book, you sign a contract for an amount significantly less than the millions you always imagined an author makes, and then you wait. It takes a year or more before your book sees the light of day.

I'm worried about my fingers in all of this, as you can imagine a nail biter such as myself would be. Fortunately, nails grow. And I'm given fresh meat to chew on. In the meantime, I'm already tired of waiting. Just reject me already and get it over with. (I don't really mean that. I mean, if I really wanted you to reject I wouldn't have sent my queries and short stories. It was just a weak moment. So if you happen to be an agent or editor reading my work and you see this blog, pretend I didn't just say, "Just reject me already and get it over with.")

Monday, February 06, 2006

I'm a Tycoon

This weekend, I became a tycoon. Seriously. Because I, frankly, was too worn out to do anything else...including write. So, what else does one do when they don't want to do anything but become a tycoon?

Specifically, I built a highly successful amusement part. Two, actually. In one weekend. With my children watching. (They can really cheer me one when I have to dig a tunnel for a roller coaster.) Okay, okay. So it wasn't a real amusement park, but a virtual one on my laptop. Yes, folks, I'm a closet Roller Coaster Tycoon addict.

Not really an addict. I go through phases. When I first got the game, I couldn't stop playing it. My wife would come home from being out with friends and barely get a "Hi honey" out of me. She'd sit there, all lonely, staring at me, trying to tell me about her day, and I'd glance up and go "Uh huh" and "That's nice" and then she'd go "What did I just say?" and I'd go "Ummmm....."

But after the first couple of weeks, my love affair with the game died off, and it was only a very occasional thing. (No, really. I mean it.) This weekend, my love for it was re-ignited, and last night my wife was, again, trying to get me to actually look at her when she was talking to me.

There is something mind-numbing about the game. Okay, so it is technically a strategy game. Strategy games are supposed to make you think. But the kind of thinking Roller Coaster Tycoon makes me do is rather natural. Easy. You just kind of go with the flow, and you can veg-out much in the same way watching television does. Or used to before you had to flip through a hundred channels to find something worth watching, and well, television is just too interactive now for my tastes when you want to veg. (Hmm. When writing "veg", should you really spell it "vej" or, perhaps, "vegg"?)

I've almost got it out of my system now. Basically, I have one coaster to finish and then I'm done with the second park, and I can tuck away the CD-ROM for a few more months, or perhaps an upcoming boys night. My boys love the game as well, although mostly because they like to make roller coasters which crash and burn, killing dozens of people in one shot. They also like to put a sign up that prevents people from exiting the park, now that I think of it. Kind of sadistic, aren't they? I'm going to have to talk to them about that.

My wife will be happy to know it is almost out of my system as well. When she sees that game on my computer, she just rolls her eyes at me. Or, at least, I imagine she rolls her eyes at me, since I don't actually look up from the screen to see what she's doing. Frankly, most of the time, I don't even notice she's there at all, until she sits down and stares at me, wondering if I heard a word she just said. (I did hear it. Really. I just don't remember it beyond two seconds.)

Now I can move on to more important endeavors again. Back to writing, for example. After all, I owe you February's Story of the Month. Actually, I already wrote February's Story of the Month...but then I liked it enough that I have it circulating at a few publications looking for a home. So, that means I have to either write another one, or take a previously written short story and clean it up. Hopefully I'll have one ready by the fifteenth.

Anyhow, as I see it, playing Roller Coaster Tycoon this weekend was rather like a religious experience. And by that, I mean that after all the work God did to create the world, he spent day seven resting. Perhaps He, too, fired up the XBox Eternity. Okay, probably not. Still, this weekend was my "day of rest", of the mental variety. (I heard there was some big football game on this weekend as well...)

Friday, February 03, 2006

A Guy Name Steve

I suppose many of you will not recognize the name Steve Green, but in my life, he is a significant figure. A role model, actually. There was a time in my life that any and every song I would sing in church was a song found on a Steve Green album. In the Christian Music market, there was a time he was the King. His voice was powerful, and his songs had depth.

Admittedly, today I've kind of moved on. Avalon is my music of choice these days. I like a lot more vocal challenge in my musicians. At least if I want to sing with them.

Anyhow, a couple nights ago, we went out for dinner. A very fancy place called Arby's. You know it? (Hey, in the land of fast-food, Arby's really is top-notch...after all, it is hard to come away and feed our family of six for under twenty bucks there. Compare that to Mickey D's, where if I'm really good, I can get it under thirteen. Nevermind the food is pathetic.)

Oh right. Arby's. So, I go up to the counter and start my order. You must understand, I'm quite babbling fool when I'm ordering food.

"Uh. Let's see. A With curly fries and...uh...another number one. Yes. With curly fries. Plus I need...uh, Josiah, what did you want again? Right an Arby Melt. Plus another Arby Melt. Plus another Arby Melt. " Points to fingers and starts counting out sandwiches in my head. "Oh, wait. I need a Junior Roast Beef. Plus an order of Homestyle fries."

"Is that it?"

"No. Four cups of water."

"Okay, so I have..." and he repeats the order in under ten seconds, which took me ten minutes to relate.

Anyhow, halfway through my order, I notice the man's nametag. He's the manager. His name's Steve Green. And wouldn't you know it, it totally messed me up. I started giggling, imagining that this guy was none other than the same Steve Green that I had sung along with in my car for twenty years. The same Steve Green I saw in concert. Only, not quite as slim. And he really way less hair. But still. Steve Green.

I briefly imagined him breaking out into song. He Holds The Keys! Find Us Faithful! Broken and Spilled Out! I mean, come one, it would seem a funny sight, to have a professional singer break out into the same songs you've sung in church all while asking me if I want homestyle or curly fries.

The guy was quite professional, though I can imagine he was wondering why in the world I was wasting his time laughing at him. I finished my order, debating whether or not I should tell him. But then how pathetic would that sound?

"Do you know you have the same name as Steve Green?"

Well, duh!

So I kept my mouth shut. But if you, Steve, happen to read this blog, just know...I wasn't laughing at you. I wasn't even really laughing at your name. But I couldn't help myself.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Live! Near the Super Bowl

I suppose it would be un-American not to mention the Super Bowl this week, considering it is the premiere and wholly American event in commercial advertising. After all, who cares about the game? It's all about the commercials. Or so I'm told.

Not only that, but Super Bowl 40 (or, XL, as it is referred to formally...but I can't help but read those Roman numerals as "extra large") is actually being hosted in my hometown of Detroit, Michigan. And by "hometown", I really mean the city that I dare not step foot in more than once every few years to see a production of Les Miserables. The city is otherwise a dangerous place to visit, almost annually topping a list no city wishes to be on: Murder capital of the United States.

I don't really live in Detroit. In fact, I've never lived in Detroit. But it seems that if you live within an hour of any major city, it is considered your hometown. Perhaps I can get out of that by saying on a bad day, when there is an accident on the freeway, it can take more than an hour to get there.

Anyway, the Super Bowl is here, and frankly, you'd never know it. Nothing has really changed around the Metropolitan area...although, I'm told they've spruced up the downtown area quite a bit. I wouldn't know. And I won't know. Because I'm one of those weirdos who find watching football, watching practically any professional sporting event...about as boring as watching...well, frankly I can't think of anything as boring.

I've been told by some, "Yeah, well...I only watch it for the commercials."

I suppose I'm not making my point strong enough. Why would anyone put themselves through the torture of watching a bunch of guys knocking each other silly on a field, occasionally making a few yards progress, only to cede to the opponents, and then once again knock each other silly and make a few yards progress in the opposite direction? Just to watch a few commercials that will be played ad nauseum once the game is over?

There is the "water cooler" effect, I suppose. (Although, I've never actually worked anywhere that has a water cooler.) Men and women standing around discussing how hysterical some advertisement for the next best thing in the land of automobiles was that won't actually prompt anyone to buy anything anyhow.

Uh, what was I talking about, anyhow? Oh, right, the Super Bowl. The only good I see out of this is something a local charity does called the Souper Bowl. The idea is to have people drop a few bucks into a bowl at your Super Bowl parties. Then, send that money off to support Grace Centers of Hope, which is a homeless shelter and addiction rehab center. They do good work. I took my kids there a few weeks ago to help out. We got to organize the supply closet!

Anyhow, for all you who enjoy football, I wish you the best of luck on whichever team you are rooting for. Frankly, I have no idea who's playing...just where they're playing. My hometown. Not.

Especially For Diabetics

Some of you know that I sell software for diabetics. Specifically, it is software for PalmOS-based PDAs. While I don't do much development on this software anymore, it is still useful to many. The market is shrinking, and I actually hope that the need for the software will be gone eventually. Many pumps, for example, offer some of the features I have in Logbook DM, such as calculating boluses for you automatically.

I actually don't care about making money from this software any longer. However, in an effort to be fair to the competition, I have decided not to make this software available for free. There are, in fact, others who sell competing products that are, in fact, trying to make money.

However, I thought I would make my Diabetic O.C. readership an exclusive offer. And, you are welcome to forward this information to anyone who isn't in the Diabetic O.C., but you feel might be interested. For all of February, if you purchase Logbook DM from Handango, you can use the coupon code 623B7A47 to get the software for $10 off. This means it is only $2 instead of $12. Now, don't don't have to buy it outright. You can download it and try it out for free. But if you feel it is useful, this is a chance to get it for practically nothing.

I'm honestly not doing this to drum up sales or anything. In fact, I debated whether to use this blog as a means to communicate this information. But, I figured why not. It is my blog, after all, and it is my software. Why not give the O.C. an advantage?

So, if you know any other diabetics who use PalmOS-based PDAs, let them know. In fact, one of our fellow O.C. folks was formerly a user of Logbook DM. (I believe, however, he jumped to the Pocket PC platform...and Logbook DM doesn't work on Pocket PC.) Anyhow, ask Scott what he thinks of the software. (Go ahead. I dare you.)

Anyhow, this offer is especially for you, my fellow diabetics. At least through the end of February. (Handango makes you put a time limit on offers, in case you're wondering.) To use the code, add Logbook DM to your cart, where it will then ask you to enter the coupon code (623B7A47).