Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Breakfast, Lunch And Dinner...All At Work

Tonight I walked into the break room to get my third meal of the day--it was another reminder of just how long I had been at work. I should say that I am lucky. I work a regular day job and I'm fortunate enough to be able to work four ten-hour shifts. I've done this for years and even though a ten-hour shift can be long at times, it's not bad at all, especially considering nurses and doctors and people on-call work a heck of a lot longer shifts than I ever do.

But, today was still a long day. I usually eat breakfast at work. It's just easier. I take a half gallon of milk every week or so and a box of cereal. I'm set, so breakfast at work is no big deal.

Nor is lunch. I usually take lunch--leftovers, mostly. For me, leftovers are great because my wife is a killer cook (and by "killer," I don't mean "has killed" with her food...). Sometimes I'll indulge in a burrito from the taco cart, but mostly it's "bring it from home." Today some people on another floor had a fundraiser--two pieces of pizza and a can of pop for $5. I brought my lunch, but I decided I could save that until dinner, then I wouldn't have to go get fast food. Oh, and it was my boss's birthday so we had cupcakes...yum!

I usually don't eat dinner at work. In fact, in the almost eighteen years I've worked for the state, I don't think I've ever had dinner at work. I had a meeting at 7pm in Salt Lake so I just stayed at work. Leftover bacon, tomato, cheese and egg sandwich on sourdough bread was really good!

Like I said, I know many who spend entire days on one shift so they've hit for the food cycle several times before they can go home. It was a first for me.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My Son's Pinewood Derby...The Last Heat

Last week amid all the rain our local cub scout pack had a Pinewood Derby. It was my son's last derby--he'll be too old the next time the blocks of wood are carved, painted and have wheels attached.

But it's also the last Pinewood Derby for the Taylors, three boys, four cars. Needless to say, the organization informally known as "Taylor Racing" was not too successful and now the sun has set on our competitive team.

As a father and Team Leader, I feel sometimes feel bad about the cars we produced. They looked okay. Our limited woodworking tools meant the kids wouldn't get any "super cool" looking cars. We did our best under the circumstances. Building our cars was a task for both parent and child. I asked the kids how they wanted the cars to look like. Once they had a general shape down, I made the cuts then let them do the tough part--sanding.

Next came the painting then putting on the wheels. When the days of the big races came, we set our cars among the others and hoped for the best. Too bad "the best," as far as the timed races went, never could be said of the cars from "Taylor Racing." 

As with any project intended for kids, there's more to learn than just building a car and seeing if it can beat the others. They learn responsibility. They hopefully can take pride in a job well done. They learn about sportsmanship and that winning doesn't have to be the only reason for doing something. And I'm hoping my sons learned some of these lessons.

I remember when my mom and my uncle helped me build my Pinewood Derby car--the blond standing up all excited is me, and my car is the stylish red with white racing stripes is mine. This race was held decades ago in the same church gymnasium as my son's race last week. Back then, my car wasn't as fast as the others. Even so, I've kept that car all these years, partially because it's a cool car, but mostly because it brings back good memories. it reminds me of my youth, my mother and how she helped me with something in which I cared greatly. Who knows--maybe one day my boys will find their old Pinewood Derby cars and look back on their childhoods and remember good times.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day, 2015...At The Cemetery

My friend linked a story on Facebook today about one veteran's opinion of Memorial Day. He basically hated the way the holiday is more connected to the beginning of summer than a time to remember those who have gone before. In his opinion, he would rather people spend time in cemeteries than at the mall.

Because both my parents are gone, their children gather each Memorial Day at the local cemetery. I'm glad I read that article because it made this morning's visit even better. All my parent's kids and all but three of their grandkids were there--we even had a great-granddaughter make everyone smile.

Sure, we had a barbecue and even did a little yard work, but the hour we spent having a mini-family reunion at the Farmington Cemetery was the best part of the day. Thanks to my dad for his military service and all he did for us before he passed away. Thanks to my mother who put her husband through college and then raised three kids on her own after losing her husband. And thanks to them both for choosing me to be part of a wonderful family. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Peggy Eddleman's "Sky Jumpers"...A Book Review

Sky Jumpers (Sky Jumpers, #1)*

Yesterday, as I drove home from Conduit 25 I finished the audiobook of Peggy Eddleman's Sky Jumpers. I've been wanting to read this book every since I first saw the cover. I mean, isn't that a kick-butt cover?

I met Peggy last year at one of the Salt Lake Comic Cons. I think it was the first FanX in April, 2014. Our table of mostly self-published books was close to where several authors were signing their Big Publishing House-published books and when things slowed down, I found myself talking to a lot of the authors. I loved this cover and when Peggy told me about her series, I found the concept intriguing. 

Turns out, she was completely correct! Sky Jumpers is set in a smartly crafted dystopian world of America after World War III. Without technology communities are separated from each other and must survive using the talents and abilities of the inhabitants. And because human nature hasn't changed, towns must protect themselves from roving bandits. Sky Jumpers  tells the story of four children on a quest to save their loved ones and everyone in the town. They must outsmart the evil men, survive the winter trek and overcome the Bomb's Breath, a band of toxic air left over from the war.

The story's main protagonist is twelve-year old Hope. She is courageous without being cocky. I think her age has a lot to do with it. The girl questions her abilities, but when everything's on the line, she comes through. The story reminded me of similar storylines found in The Hunger Games and Divergent, except it was geared more toward a reader the same age as Hope. There's tension to be sure, but I think a younger reader can handle this dystopian story better than say, throwing a twelve-year old into The Hunger Games. 

 At the last FanX in January I was fortunate enough to moderate a panel with several talented middle-grade and young adult writers. Peggy was a fellow panelist and when you read her book, you'll understand why. She writes a great middle-grade thriller. I'm glad I decided last year to ask her what her book was all about.

* Photo used without permission from:

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Conduit 25...I've Been There And I Went Back Again

A few years ago I had no idea how many literary symposiums and conventions there were out there. Then I got a short story published and everything changed. Now, they seem to be all over the state. I'm sure the same could be said for Colorado, Arizona, Idaho and Nevada. If I wanted to, I could most likely attend a convention that benefits writers every weekend.

One of the conventions I had never heard of before last year was Conduit, a local science fiction and fantasy convention held in Utah each year. Last year's event was held in connection with the first ever FantasyCon so Conduit got lost in the mix. This year it was all by itself.

I was asked to participate on one panel, Geek Parenting. I love those kinds of panels. You're pretty sure what you're going to get from both the panelists and those there to listen to them. The panel was held in the strangest room for a panel that I've ever been in. It was right next to the swimming pool. Had someone been swimming during our discussion, we would not have been able to hear ourselves talk.

On our panel was me, Tom Carr (one of the very first people I ever met at a convention...) and John Olsen, fellow Xchyler writer. We had nine people attend, including two youths. We pointed out that those who brought their kids to the convention were on their way to successful Geek Parenting.

I saw fellow writer friends--Holli Anderson and Jason King pictured above--and even attended a panel on the latest Star Wars movie developments. I wish I could have stayed for other panels and to hear Sarah Seeley, Xchyler Author extraodinaire, when she gave a reading. 

When I attended my first convention I had no idea how they worked, what I was supposed to do or much of anything. Now after a couple of years, things have changed--and for the better. You might say, I'm now a "Professional."

Friday, May 22, 2015

Taking A Picture With The Lens Cap On...In Our Times

I don't have a lot of memories of my father, he passed away when I was pretty young. Maybe it's because I love taking pictures that one memory of him refused to leave me.

My dad dabbled in photography. When I was younger I snooped around our house and I found several of his cameras. Boy, they were old. I don't know if my dad fancied himself as a serious photographer. I think he loved the mechanics behind the whole thing. From what I do know about the man, that makes sense.

The one memory I have of him and photography was a time when we traveled north to spend some time with my mom's parents in Idaho. If you know the Teton Valley, you know there are vistas of the famous mountain range that literally take your breath away, and my grandparents had the best view of the Tetons hands down. My dad decided to take some pictures of the range--he snapped an entire roll.

Turns out, he left the lens cap on his camera and so when he got back the developed pictures, they were completely black. The camera he used did not have a direct line-of-sight from lens to viewfinder. So when my dad looked at the small glass window at the scene he wanted to capture, what he was seeing what not what the lens would see. He ended up completely wasting that roll of film and denying all of us the chance to see what the Teton mountains looked like from the Idaho side on that day back in the early 1970s.

My first quality camera was my Olympus OM-10 SLR. I LOVED that camera! So much so, I still have it. My dad would have loved it, too, and not just because of the lens cap debacle, but because that little thing was so amazing. When you look into the viewfinder of that camera, that's what would transfer to the film--the amazing Single Lens Reflex in action.

And cameras today are light years ahead of my OM-10. You don't even have to look at a viewfinder anymore. With most cameras, you look at the little video screen to see what the picture will look like. So I thought the days of "forgetting to take the lens cap off" were gone forever.

Turns out, that's not completely true. This week after work, I passed a small patch of flowers with amazing color. I took one with my iPhone one day thinking I would use it as my "Pic Of The Day." I didn't get a good shot of it, or at least, I felt I could do better. So the next day I took out my Nikon and snapped a picture. The problem was, I didn't check out the finished product. The last pictures I took with my Nikon were in a darkened theater so the settings were stuck on Manual. When I downloaded the shot to use for my "Pic Of The Day," the picture at the top of this blog is what I saw.

It was my own lens cap moment. And I didn't think those existed anymore.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Our Slithering Guest...

I got a call at work the other day from my wife. Thanks to the miracles of modern electronics, my wife and I usually communicate via text or instant messages.  It's so convenient and in just a sentence or two, it's all done. No calls need be made and both of us can keep on working.

So, a call nowadays is a rare event.

However, certain circumstances require a phone call. Emergencies, a fender-benders, broken appliances, or if we win the lottery or receive some other large cash award--all phone call-worthy events.

And that includes snakes measuring up to four feet in length inside the home.

The kids were out with the dog when they saw a snake finding its way into our garage. We've lived in our house since 2003 and as far as we know, it was our first snake. Of course, that may not be true, but it's the first visit backed up with evidence. My wife bravely approached and snapped a picture with her phone.

I'm not the biggest fan of snakes, but I don't mind them too much. I grew up on a mountain and we ran into snakes all the time. As a kid I even found a wild snake and kept it for a pet for a few months--letting it out and crawl all over me and everything. It wasn't big--a couple of feet maybe--but we fed it eggs and generally thought it was cool. I think I'd freak out if one of my kids did that to me. The thing about snakes is that they will leave you alone if you leave them alone.

My wife wondered if the snake was trying to find a new home. That make me think. Do snakes look for new places to live in people's homes? I had never thought about that. Where I grew up at my mom's house (located across the street from where I now live...), we kept the garage door open all the time. We'd have mice come in and even stray cats, but I never saw a snake taking up residence. I told my wife that I didn't think the snake was looking for anything permanent. It was most likely trying to find the baby birds that are living up near our roof, and once it found that they weren't near ground level, it took its business elsewhere.

Even though I'm pretty sure it wasn't looking for a new home, I'm pretty sure I'll be looking twice for that snake every time I enter the garage, at least for a while, anyway...