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Showing posts from July, 2015

As Yet Untidy and Untitled

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People have been asking me questions on my next book. What's it about? When will it be done? Are you going with the same publisher? Aren't you done yet? Etc, etc.

I'll try and answer some questions here.

The book will be a creative nonfiction memoir about the house I grew up in during the 70's and early 80's. I believe what will make it unique is that it is centered around a six child, single parent family - for much of the book, anyway. (My mother remarried in 1979, after we'd lived in this house for nearly ten full years with Mom.) Because Mom had to work full time to support us, we were latchkey kids, largely alone before and after school. When we moved in before Christmas in 1969, we ranged in ages from 14 to 5. If you don't see the potential for some good stories given these variables, well, you'll have to trust me on this one.

I'm not sure how to structure or chapterize the book as of yet. At the moment, it's in a mind-numbing state of dis…

Ten From Ten

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I recently returned from San Diego. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I was out there for the ESRI User Conference. It came on the tail end of a five day trip to New York to visit family and to celebrate my niece's high school graduation. Being away from home for 10 days and family for 5 of those 10 led to some longings. I thought I'd list them here - some may resonate with you if you travel away from your family a lot.

Ten things I missed after being away from home for ten days.
Talking to my kids. They both have jobs right now, so between that and their friends, they are always coming or going somewhere. That makes those five and ten minute conversations around the dinner table or in passing so much more important. I enjoy hearing their stories about crazy customers at their respective grocery stores. They are getting a good taste of what it's like to navigate this world. Most of it good, some not.Laughing with my wife. When you've been married for 25 years, you know …

A Little Salvation

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I am on the tail-end of my ESRI Users Conference, a gathering of 16,000 Geographic Information Systems professionals in San Diego, California. It was a harried week of running from session to session, networking with other GIS types, talking to support people, vendors, and friends. For an introvert like myself it is positively exhausting and draining. At the same time, I realize it is the most valuable training I'll get every year. Tons of technical workshops, tips, tricks and access to software people make access to this conference so important to many of us in the fast changing field of geospatial technology.

So, as part of this blog, I was going to post all the pictures of my week's experience. But my heart has been in a state of discomfort since I arrived, so it seemed out of place - at least today, at this moment.

You see, everywhere you go in San Diego, the homeless are tucked away in alleys, parks, doorways and benches. I'm not sure if it's because the climate h…

The Goat Whisperer

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I am writing this from the JFK airport in part because I've always wanted to say I'm a writer writing from an airport in New York City on my way to California. Truth is it's because I'm bored, and I have a two and a half hour layover and can't sleep.

I wanted to write about our friend's goat farm in Clifton Springs, New York. It was our second visit in a year to this farm and I always find it to be such a happy experience. Our friend Jody and Rob have somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 goats ranging in size from a medium sized dog to some that stand four feet at the shoulder.

Jody is a fixture on Facebook with her silly goat pictures. She loves her goats like children and regularly dresses them up or "plays" with them in new and creative ways. I am jealous of her life. Being raised a city-boy, I was never around goats and farm animals, so it's always fun because I love animals.

I bonded with one of the bigger goats named, appropriately enough, Bi…

Bucket Listed at 70

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My usual Thursday and Sunday posts will be disrupted for the next few entries. I hope to get posts in when time permits, but the days may change and their content might be brief, so please bear with me and check back frequently. As always I will post them to Facebook and Twitter to notify people.

Yesterday we celebrated my mother in-law's 70th birthday. We had an absolutely PERFECT day weather wise from sunup to sundown. Temps in the low 70's, no humidity, clear skies and no wind. It was spectacular.

Donna, her brother and her dad spent the morning getting ready for guests. I took a walk with Mom and we had one of the best chats in a long time. I don't get one-on-one time with her that much, but when I do, I'm always amazed how well we connect. She has a wonderful attitude despite some health issues, and is fun to talk to face to face.

For her birthday, two of her best friends from high school come over for dinner. She didn't want a big party, so we limited it to th…

Deadbolts vs. The Incredible Hulk

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You've heard me say it a few times before. I'm not handy. To some people, a hammer and drill in their hand is perfection. It gives them a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Those same things give me a sense of dread, and defeat. And while I continue to admit my non-handiness, I always seem to finish my projects and, ultimately, there is a small sense of accomplishment that comes along with each.

My latest project involved putting two deadbolts into an upstairs door that leads out to a flat roof over our kitchen. Our insurance company said either bar the door with deadbolts or put up a very expensive railing. Dead bolts it is. What followed was a total of about four hours of sweat, sawdust and colorful language. It was not my finest hour...or four hours, actually. Here's how it went.


I brought up my tool tray and drill from the basement. I figured that would about cover it. I opened the directions and set to work. After deliberating over whether my latch was a 60mm or 70m…

Fishing for Metaphors

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I feel I have to tell you about my latest fishing outings. Everyone knows I love to fish. But almost as well known is the fact that I love to teach others to fish. I get a charge out of seeing their excitement as they pull in that first or forty fourth fish. Part of my aim is to see that they develop a lifelong passion for the sport and hopefully pass it on to someone else along the way.


The first incident was when we were in the BWCA. My niece Alison, who loves to fish, had great success the first afternoon we were up there. She caught three walleye and a rock bass. The best fish came the next day when she landed her personal best, a 28" northern. When she pulled it in, my kids laughed as I went scrambling down a rock wall to see that it didn't get away. During the hook extraction I managed to cut myself a good one on the fish so was bleeding a bit too. It was chaotic fun, in the name of a big fish. But to me, I wanted to make sure she got a picture with it. It was a great m…

Summer Skin

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We've had a few days of eighty-plus degree weather this past weekend and it would appear that Summer is upon us for good this time. I once called summer my favorite season, but have come to appreciate all of them - with the exception of winter which, I'll be honest, I still kinda hate. Because of all the fun Summer brings, including vacations and a few national holidays sprinkled in, it's right up there with the beauty of Fall and the promise of Spring. Here's a bit of what summer held for me as a kid in the seventies as well as today.

70's: With Mom at work all day us kids were left to fend for ourselves and make our own summer fun. One of my favorite things was to leave notes for her at night to leave us a quarter or fifty cents that we could use to buy candy like Jolly Joes, Now and Laters, Pixie Stix and Dots. Or maybe a package of football cards or Wacky Packages.

2015: Summer is a time for shorts and sandals. As a Midwesterner, I get so tired of layers of cloth…

The Conference Circus

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I went down to Chicago yesterday for the Amazon Web Services Summit. This is a fairly large conference (approx. 5500 attendees). For those that don't know, Amazon offers cloud servers and storage space for any public or private organization for pennies on the dollar compared to what you might pay your own IT shop. They're the 500 pound gorilla of computing technology right now and getting bigger everyday.

I'll try not to bore you with all the geeky cool stuff I saw because, frankly it's a yawner for most people. I took the train down and between it and the conference, I came away with some interesting thoughts on the day. I'll sum them up here.


If you've been to one tech conference, you've kind of been to them all. Lots of geeky looking people, many lugging laptops, tablets, phones and coffee while fast walking between sessions. Statistically I would put them at 70% male with a median age around 36.The train is my favorite way to travel for a number of reaso…