Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Year Day...

It's Leap Year Day, 2016 and because this particular day only comes around every four years, I wondered what I was doing on the last Leap Year Day.

And because my daily blog was in operation back then, I was able to look back at my blog post from Leap Year Day, 2012. I was a little surprised when I looked it up. I didn't talk about Leap Year Day at all. I posted the results of the Fifth Annual Bob's Vertical Challenge, an event that happened a few days before. If you want, you can look up that particular entry and check out who won.

And since I was also posting a Pic Of The Day, here's what I chose four years ago today. Not the most interesting photograph.

I have an app on my phone that highlights important events that happened on other Leap Year Days. I know my brother and sister-in-law got married on Leap Year Day. Davy Jones from the Monkees and Roland Bautista, guitarist from Earth, Wind, & Fire died on this date four years go. And it's the birthday of my friend, attorney, and fellow Pioneer Village stuntman Brandon Hobbs as well as the birthday of Howard Tayler, American author, podcaster, and illustrator of the Schlock Mercenary comics. They were both born on the same day so they're either 48-years old, or 12-years old.

On this date in 1940 Hattie McDaniel was the first African American to  win an Academy Award and on February 29, 1712 Sweden tried to return to the Old Style calendar by having a February 30th. I guess that didn't work out.

Personally I think it's a great day on which to have a birthday or get married. I could have gotten married on Leap Year Day, but I would have either needed to wait three and a half years, or gotten married one week after my wife and my first date. I mean, we got married quickly, but not that quickly. And as far as my birthday is concerned, I had no control over that one--that was my parent's decision...

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Scott Westerfeld's "Behemoth"...A Book Review


When Book 2 of Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan's series, Behemoth came available at our local library, I jumped at it. I was so impressed with Book 1, I knew anything continuing that world would be amazing.

And I was right.

Like the first book, Westerfeld continues using a real point in history and infusing it with fantastical animals, machines, and heroes. The two main characters, Deryn--a girl masquerading as a boy in the British Air Service, and Alek, Pre-WWI nobility travel to Istanbul where intrigue and danger await.

But Westerfeld's strength is the imaginative way he creates his animals. The books can be categorized as Steampunk, but I believe this does them a disservice. They're so much more than strictly steampunk. They're alternative history. They're monsters and battles. They're simply great. Apparently the printed version (or some printed versions...) have illustrations. Unfortunately, I missed out on these listening to it on audiobook.

There's one more story in the series and I hope to get to that one soon, just as soon as it comes available.

* Photo used without permission from:

Saturday, February 27, 2016

We're Having A Homecoming...Because He Came Home

We've had a great week. It was the first time in two years we had the whole family together. That happens when someone who's been away comes home. In our religion, as with many religions, young people leave on missions.

I don't know how other religions celebrate when their children/parents come home, but for us, we gather, spend time with family (eat yummy snacks...) and listen to them report on their mission. That's what our family will be doing tomorrow morning, in our local church just down the street.

Missions are not normal, if normal is defined as what everyone else is doing. It's not normal for eighteen and nineteen-year olds to live by mission rules 24/7. But, in our culture it is. Now that he's home, many people have asked us about him, how he's doing, what are his plans. They haven't had a chance to talk to him. Tomorrow, they'll get that chance. And they'll know something that we know, something they might have known before but forgotten. He's a pretty good kid.

And we're happy to have him home. We've had a great week.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Dave Butler's "Clockwork Charlie: The Kidnap Plot"...A Book Review

Some say you can learn a lot about a book from its cover. 

What does this cover tell you about the book I'm holding?

A lot, actually.

A few weeks ago I received a book in the mail. Dave Butler's Clockwork Charlie: The Kidnap Plot. I have not read such a delightful read in a long time. Charlie Pondicherry, a boy of Indian descent, begins the story defending himself from Skip, Mickey, and Bruiser, a trio of London street toughs. But these bullies become the least of his worries when Charlie's only parent is kidnapped, an event invoking more questions for our wonderful spunky hero.

Butler transports us into a whimsical steampunk world complete with trolls, fairies, giant rats, and shape shifters. But it's really a story about a brave boy who gathers an unlikely team to rescue his only parent. Along the way they escape burning buildings, underground jails and corrupt policeman who work for the mysterious tall Sinister Man.

I cannot recommend this book enough. With each new chapter the author ups the ante on creativity. It's refreshing. It's exciting. It's fun. The intended target is Middle Grade or Young Adult readers, but anyone--everyone--will enjoy this delightful story. You can pre-order this book right now on Kindle by going to this link: HERE. Both the Kindle version and the hardcopy will be available later this year.

I asked earlier what can a book's cover tell you about what's inside. Even though I love this cover, if it only had the name of the author on it, I would know it's a great read. Well done, Mr. Butler, well done!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

What's In A Name? Facebook Wants To Know...

Several years ago my oldest son wanted to get on Facebook. And so he did, but when he signed up, he entered in his first and last name along with the other required information. When he hit "Enter," he got a message back from Facebook that cordially asked him to "Please use your real name when signing up for Facebook." Or something like that.

When our first son was born we thought long and hard about what we would name him. It's a big decision, almost as big a decision as deciding to have a child in the first place. We wanted him to have a distinctive name, a strong name, but nothing too unusual. 

We decided upon the name, Knight.

Apparently Facebook didn't believe that anyone would be named Knight or that parents would ever name their child Knight. Actually, they probably didn't think that at all. Facebook has a rule that titles cannot be used as a substitute for a name. I didn't think this would apply to my son's name. I mean, I don't run into a lot of knighted individuals. Nor, do I believe, do you. But, it is technically a title so it was a "no-go."

When my son signed up years ago, he was known by Facebook as Nate. So when he wanted to sign up again this week, I thought Facebook might have changed their rules a little. I was hoping he'd have no problem this time. Turns out they did. My son had to send them a photo showing proof that his first name was actually his first name. After a day, he received a notice that he could use his first name.

And all was right with the world.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Blue And Gold Banquet...With The Force

If you're involved in the Cub Scout program, you know what a Blue and Gold Banquet is. I am involved in the program and tonight we had our annual event.

It was a big hit!

These things don't just happen overnight; there's planning that needs to take place. Luckily for us, we have a person involved in the process who is stellar in what she does. She got on the Pinterest and found a ton of cute ideas. I'm sharing them with you to entertain and to possibly give someone out there ideas on how to do their Blue and Gold Banquets.

Our theme: Star Wars. Here's what we served:

Yes, it was a lot of fun.

And to top it off, we had a Death Star piñata--always a hit (pun intended...).

So, for all you cub scouts out there (and all you cub scout parents and leaders...) may the Blue and Gold force be with you!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

So...I Finally Saw Star Wars, Episode VII The Force Awakens!

About the time it was announced that tickets could be purchased months in advance for the new Star Wars film, I made a decision. I decided not to see it until my son came home from his mission. 

Yesterday he finished up and came home.

Today we saw the film.

And it was still in the theater.

And it was amazing!

You might be wondering if it was difficult for me to wait three months to see a film we've been waiting, well, decades to see. It was, but only the first few weeks it was out. Since we usually don't see films in the theater, not seeing a show was not unusual. And because I think there's such a reverence for the film and the franchise, no one blurted out any spoilers. Of course, they were there if I'd looked for them, but I didn't and I went into the theater this afternoon pretty much knowing as much as those who saw it opening day knew.

Yes, I waited. My son and I saw the film for the first time. The film was fantastic, but what made it even more special was the wait; it was worth the wait.

Monday, February 22, 2016

LTUE 34...Another Fantastic Conference!

Earlier this month I attended the Light, The Universe and Everything Symposium along with several thousand other attendees. Normally I try and take a ton of pictures at these events, but this time was different. I found myself more interested in what was being taught than getting as many photos as possible. I was able, however, to take a few shots.

I wish these pictures could convey the atmosphere, the electric feeling we as convention goers felt as we sat and learned more about the craft of writing. It's such an intimate setting to get top-notch advice and to meet world-famous authors. But a simple photograph can only do so much. 

I create these blog posts (that are really photo dumps...) mostly because I want to be able to look back and remember how I felt during these events. And if you happened to be captured in these pictures, hopefully it will bring back good memories for you too.

I have found LTUE to be one of my most favorite conventions. I've made many friendships and there's few things better than shooting the bull with good friends. If you're looking for a reasonably priced good writing symposium held in the Intermountain West, please check out next year's LTUE. It's held around Valentine's Day. You won't be disappointed.


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Next Week, It Won't Look Like This...

 Each Sunday a program is printed for our local congregation and on the back side is a list of those serving missions. Next week it won't look the same. A couple of names will be missing.

And I'm going to miss that.

But only a little.

Just over 29 years ago I wasn't a dad preparing to pick up his son. I was the one preparing to be picked up. I remember certain things about that day. Our plane made an unscheduled stop in Oslo which meant we missed our connection at JFK. Which meant we had to spend the night in NYC (the one and only time I ever set foot on New York State soil...) and caught a flight to Chicago. We then went to Casper (or Cody--I don't remember which...) then finally we made it to SLC.

I was very tired and extremely jet-lagged.

But I remember and hope to never forget the feeling I had getting off the plane and seeing my mom, and family waiting to welcome me home.  There are few feelings that can match being loved by those you love and returning to those people after an extended absence. We've been preparing for day all week. This afternoon we took three blank poster boards and turned them into easily-recognized messages. It's a physical symbol that will inadequately express how we really feel.

So tomorrow our lives will change again and our son will come home. Just as everything that has a beginning must have an end. Tomorrow each of us in my family will have endings and new beginnings. Lives will change; doors will close and windows will open. Yes, I will miss some things about the life we've lived these past twenty-four months.

But only a little.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

So Many Memories In One Picture...

Several months ago a video popped up on my friend's Facebook page and it took me back, back to the summer of 1983.

I was seventeen-years old.

It was quite a summer, and this picture sums up a lot of what happened.

It's amazing how so much has changed since then.

If you take just the buildings, that theater--the place where I watched Star Wars: A New Hope, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi--is gone. In its place is a shiny high-rise office building. Across the street, just right of that big white building is the future home of where I go to work every workday.  The building won't be built for another decade or so.

Next, there's the gal taking a picture with the only camera that could give you an instant picture. Those old Polaroids were great! Of course, they took terrible photos, but quality really wasn't the point of the Instamatics. Whoever she is, she has classic 80s hair, too.

I remember the logo for one of our local television station. They were an NBC affiliate at the time--they've since changed to CBS.

And there's the river running down the street. That has only happened once in my lifetime. We had such a snowy winter that winter that the record snowfall turned into flooding, mudslides, and a wave of volunteerism that made the state famous for a reason other than the obvious. It was so bad that they turned a major downtown road in Salt Lake City into a river. That was pretty cool.

I tried looking for the video to see if I could link it on this blog post. I couldn't. It had some great pictures of my neighbors back in the day but for some reason I took a screenshot of the girl taking a Polaroid picture standing beside the Centre Theater where Return of the Jedi was showing as a river of high spring run-off raced by.

There's a lot of memories in that one picture.

Friday, February 19, 2016

J. Scott Savage's Steampunk Dragon Blueprint...Frickin' Awesome!

Last weekend I attended a writing symposium. I've attended this particular event for the past three years. When you go so often to these conferences you meet many people, many talented and colorful people.

And one of the most talented and most colorful is an author maned J. Scott Savage. If you're fortunate enough to know him, you know what I mean. I made it a point this year to attend as many panels as I could and the first one I went to was about dragons. I'm going to be putting a dragon in my next story so I wanted to glean as much information on the subject as I could.

Scott was on the panel and he talked about his latest book series which includes a steampunk dragon. He also talked about a poster that he commissioned to show how his mechanical beast would work. Local and incredibly talented artists Devon and Dennis Dorrity created it. Scott was really excited about the finished product. Luckily I was about to get a signed copy and I put it up on my cubicle wall, and when I saw it, I knew why he was so excited. But it wasn't until I was at work that I really got to appreciate just how cool this blueprint was. Just looking at it at works inspires me. 

I've written some steampunk fiction; I like steampunk as a genre. This poster shows how a steam powered dragon might look and function. It's fascinating! If you get a chance to get your hands on one of these posters, please check it out! If you like steampunk, you'll love this work of art as much as I did. Now, I've just got to read the books.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Art...Made In Jail

The other day a co-worker approached me and asked if I had ever seen prison art. I had to ask twice what she meant by that. She knows someone who is in prison and will probably be for the rest of his life.

And he's an incredible artist.

All of the things I was shown were made out of paper.

I took a lot of pictures, but there was no way I could capture the beauty of what he made with those photos. You have to pick these things up and examine them up close to really appreciate the craftsmanship. Even the hinges on the jewelry box were all made of paper.

I don't know much about prison life, but I imagine there's a lot of free time. This particular person used that time to create some amazing pieces of art.