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Showing posts from May, 2013

Ten Minute Fantasies

It's that time of the year again. The AllWriters' writing retreat starts a week from tomorrow. I had to miss it last year, but will be there this year. It's basically a 4 day immersion into writing. While there is a significant amount of time devoted to critiques and lecture, a significant amount time is devoted to writing as well. The event is held on the grounds of a monastery and for most of the mornings, we are told to go to our rooms, or go outside and just write. For some people this would be punishment, for me it's music to my ears. You don't have to tell me twice.

As part of it though, we are required to read about 13 other peoples' work ahead of time and then critique them so they are ready for the evening critique sessions. Because we're allowed to submit up to 13 pages it is a lot of reading. Furthermore, we can't just read it quickly, we must look at it with a critical eye and then form a summary of our thoughts that the people can take with…

Notes From The Unhandy

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"I am not handy. Just saying"

This is the text I sent a friend who I told I would help on a project to build a wheelchair ramp. I sent him the text as a reply to his solicitation of help. I did it for good reason, or at least I thought it was. You see, I feel that I'm not handy with woodwork, metalwork, plumbing, flooring and many of the other '-ing' words. This is an interesting perception of myself, and the more I do things, the more I find out that it's unfounded. Yesterday was again proof of that.

I told my wife that part of my trepidation with offering help with projects such as these is the fear of messing up and having someone else have to fix it for me. Rather than have that happen, there's a part of me that would just rather not do it at all.

So my first thought when these things come up is "Save face by not helping." Now that's a commandment from God I've never seen in any Bible, even the New Living Translation. Thankfully rea…

Maps Day and Night

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Being in the GIS and mapping world for as long as I have, I have a tendency to want to use maps to solve a number of different issues. Maps can make boring, dull data into a vibrant picture that actually tells a story. While you don't often think of it most digital data has a mapping component to it. Customer base equates to a list of addresses that can be geocoded to tell you where they are coming from. Voters can be tied to demographic data (at times). Crime can be mapped using a pin map and, when there's lots of violent crime, the pins can be ranked by severity. The severity can then be calculated into a "heat map" showing hot spots of high crime.

I came across a really cool map today that shows where the building footprints would be for the areas of tornado devastation in and near Moore, Oklahoma. While this is more flash than not, it could be easily tied to a land/improvement value file and the values of the homes lost in the disaster could be calculated.

As I …

Just Cuz

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This past weekend my kids and I spent camping and trout fishing in southern Minnesota. It is positively gorgeous country down there, near Lanesboro and Preston. Rolling hills, farmlands and lots of rivers, creeks and streams. I had heard from a couple of people that the area was beautiful and they weren't kidding. Not as breathtaking as Colorado, but pretty dang nice for being only 4.5 hours away.

One of the best parts about all of our road trips is watching my kids have fun with their cousins. Being out of state, we only see them about 3-4 times a year, so our kids make it a point to maximize the time they have with their cousins. Sarah and Alison are close in age so pal around together, as do Ben and Hunter and Mandy and Jocelyn. Since the kids were young, we would stay with Alison and Mandy's parents when we travelled to Minnesota, so they kids have been together since they were babies. Despite the distance, they have remained close.


Our kids grew up fishing together. They&…

Thoughts Near And Far

Lots of random thoughts these past few days. Here's a sampling.


Chuck Muncie died yesterday. He was one of those college heroes of mine. His style was slashing and he was always distinguishable with his athletic glasses inside his helmet. I found it sad to hear of his death, and was surprised to hear he struggled with drug addiction. It goes to show again that we should never put people on a pedestal, as they only tend to let us down when we doAs I was vacuuming the other day I realized that much of what I was vacuuming up was dead skin. While I was vacuuming, I was also shedding the next layer of my skin in the process, thereby completing the cycle. Cleaning up after myself as I die, so to speak.While on a walk with the dog the other day on my iPod came the song Tomorrow, by U2. The next song was Monday Morning by Death Cab For Cutie. The next song was Tomorrow by The Cranberries. And incidentally no, Tomorrow wouldn't have been Monday Morning. It would have been Tuesday. I kn…

To Mothers Young And Old

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Being mothers day, a few words about mom might be in order.

Mom turned 80 last April. While I realize you're never supposed to mention a woman's age, I have no shame in declaring hers because she is the youngest 80 year-old I've ever known.

At 80, she is:


Still working part time a couple days a week at a monastery answering phones and doing clerical work. This helps with grocery money and bills, but more importantly, gets her out of the house and connected with people. They say that in retirement, having a good social network is as important as anything. Volunteering at her church, counting the offering money and organizing food/arrangements for funerals. Driving herself wherever she needs to go. She isn't big on night driving anymore, and if offered, she'll take a ride from anyone. But I love the fact that she would drive anywhere by herself without giving it a second thought.Adventurous. When she was in Cozumel, my sister and nieces were going to rent mopeds and r…

Write Where I'm At

Some notes and thoughts about life in the writing lane. 
I continue to work through what I'd like to call the "final unprofessional edit" of my BWCA book with my Thursday night colleagues at AllWriters. We have one week left in this session and then another starts up on May 30th and runs 12 weeks. As I've mentioned before, this run-through has been really good. It is giving a (somewhat) objective audience a start-to-finish look at the book. At the same time, this group is probably the most critical group the book will ever see, from a reader's standpoint. This gives the book a thorough check for facts, timelines, content, clarity and structure.

In the class we've actually had a couple of students (there's 5 of us) finish their "final unprofessional edit." One has moved on to her next book and another has decided to run through the start again. We writers are nothing if not thorough. We're like compulsive fire-pokers, we just keep futzin'…

Things of Beauty

A while back I posted about my latest observations of things that kind of took my breath away or struck me as beautiful. I mentioned that much of what I observe has changed in part due to my brother's death. It changes your paradigm and in many ways, clarifies what is important and what is not. Here are some of the things this weekend that struck me as poignant, beautiful and worthwhile:

On Saturday we volunteered again at the Guest House in Milwaukee. While there were not as many men as there was over Easter when we served the first time, it was still a moving experience. I always go thinking what I am doing is a blessing to these guys and I always come away feeling like the one who was blessed by it. The minute we got there a few of the guys came up to the van and asked if we needed help. We obliged and they got everything in the kitchen in one trip.

The guys are nothing short of overly courteous, thankful and grateful for our service. The thank yous and pleases are abundant. It …

Thinking Man's Ink

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I made one of the brasher decisions in my life a couple of weeks back. I got a tattoo. This wasn't some spur of the moment decision like the movie Hangover II where Ed Helms gets a Mike Tyson tattoo during a blackout. I have been thinking about getting a tattoo for a year and a half. There was real thought that went into both if I would get one, and what I would get if I did decide to. Part of me was intrigued by the thought of doing something no one would ever guess me to do in a million years. The other part was concerned what people would think. That's where my brother came in.

When I mentioned that I was thinking of getting one, my older brother said, "Why not? You're 50, who cares?" I had the hardest time finding an argument against his reasoning. When I mentioned it to my wife, she said she had been thinking about getting one too. When my mom heard about it she said that maybe she would get one too. She's 80. Her attitude was much like mine. "I…