Friday, September 30, 2016

Some Pictures People Really Notice...Some They don't

I have, since Jan/Feb 2011, posted a picture on social media every day--that's close to 2100 pictures. Those who have followed this blog, or my Pic Of The Day on Facebook or Google +, you've seen some pretty remarkable pictures, and some dogs (and by "dogs" I mean not all that great pictures, even though I've includes some pictures of actual dogs as well...). You can tell when I'm trying, and when I was running out of time and snapped a picture of basically anything and post it.

Still, you've all been extremely kind with whatever I've posted. When you've commented, they've been positive and respectful. And for that, I'm grateful.

But sometimes, a picture even surprises myself. I know when I capture a beautiful sunset and post it, I get a lot of "Likes" and comments. No surprises there. The other day, however, I worked my weekend job--a job where I don't get home until after 10pm--and I quickly posted a picture of a telephone box that I saw tucked away at Lagoon in an alley that's closed to the public. I thought it was cool, but not necessarily that interesting. And since it was the most interesting thing I photographed that day, it became my Pic Of The Day.

Almost instantly on Facebook friends commented and "Liked" it. I could tell it was one of the pictures that made an impression. A few days later--maybe even the very next day--I posted a picture of my Amaryllis plant. I was shocked at how big it had grown in just a few days so I posted that picture as my Pic Of The Day. I got a couple of "Likes." I don't know if I expected more chatter about it--maybe I did. 

I plan on continuing my daily picture posts. I'll try to keep them interesting and hopefully good. And I think I'll still see which ones people like a lot and which ones not so much. It's fun to find out.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Yesterday...I Made A Marshmallow Eagle

Yesterday was one of those crazy days, one of those crazy busy days where I barely had a chance to snap a picture.

But I did take this of a marshmallow eagle.

I can understand if you look at what I made and see something that only slightly resembles an eagle. I admit, it's not the best representation--it's barely a representation. Here's how it came to be.

Last night was our cub scout pack meeting and I was in charge. Being a Cub Master is a church assignment and as church assignments go, it's a good one. The kids are usually well behaved and eager to learn new things. I thought since the election is coming up, I'd talk a little about patriotism and thanks to Pinterest (a cub master's best friend...), I found a fun activity for the little tikes to do.

If you're interested in making one, you need marshmallows, shredded coconut, candy corn (although, the Pinterest page used a cashew nut for the beak--we chose candy corn in case one of the kids had allergies...), and a couple of chocolate chips for the eyes. When done the whole contraptions sits atop an Oreo cookie.

We bought all the supplies the night before and last night I headed out for the meeting. Before I left we found out we needed to dip the marshmallows in white chocolate. It worked better for the coconut. We didn't have any white chocolate so we improvised. We ended up spraying the marshmallows with water and hoped for the best.

Before we started I challenged all the scouts to see if they could make a better marshmallow eagle than mine. They all thought they could. After a few frantic minutes, the kids each produced an eagle of their own. When all the scouts got back to their seats, I reminded them of my challenge and they all said their eagles looked better than mine.

Of course, I asked them to prove it by producing their finished product.

Mine was the only surviving eagle. I guess I won.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Best $4.88 I've Ever Spent On Photography Equipment...

I've seen them before, those little lenses you stick over the camera of your smartphone. They looked clunky, and a tad expensive. I've seen them at the Apple Store and in ads on the internet. But it wasn't until I spotted a small box while waiting in a forever line at Walmart last night that I actually seriously considered purchasing these little guys.

And the best part is they only cost $4.88 (sans sales tax...).

Today I tried them out and I was kind of blown away at how well they work. So much so, that I had to check the receipt to make sure they were under five bucks. The receipt confirmed it--they were. Here's just an example of the micro lens:

The picture is a close-up of my plant at work. Here's a shot of it from my phone without any additional lenses. The picture above is from a small spot on the base of the plant, near the bottom in the middle:

Like I said, I haven't really utilized the other two. I'll have to test them out as well. Photography is a very expensive hobby, but for once, I found an exception to that rule.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Who Knew...I Had A Fan In Arizona?

It's not every day you find out that someone in Arizona knows about your blog. I found out about it on Facebook.

My friend J. Scott Savage, an amazing author and good guy, sent me a little message back on September 16th. Scott said that a nice woman came up to him at a writer's conference he attended there and asked if he was Scott Watty Doodle. To which he answered he wasn't.

Of course, I wanted to know just who that nice woman was. I would have loved to talk to her and see what she thought of my blog. Was she a regular reader, or did she see it once and the name stuck? I've written many times why I write my blog. It's obvious to anyone who studies these things, I'm not writing to the masses. I write it mostly for me and my family. And, if I ever made it as an author, it would also be for my fans. 

I thought at one time that I wanted a lot of readers, a lot of blog post views. But to do that, I'd have to change things. I'd probably have to give up writing daily, and produce more like a one or two posts a week. Also, the most popular blogs seem to focus on single issues, like politics or writing about a specific genre. I didn't feel like doing that, so I didn't and I haven't. Thus, my following appears to be loyal, but small. They're the chosen few.

And so I continue writing my daily little blog post, like this one. One day I might one day travel to conferences in distance lands and maybe--just maybe--someone might come up to me and ask me if I'm Scotty Watty Doodle. 

And on that day, I'll say, "Yes."

Monday, September 26, 2016

Got Dirty Rain Gutters? There's An iRobot For That...

A few weeks back I noticed an online ad. It's called an iRobot Looj Gutter Cleaning Robot.

"Hey," I said getting my wife's attention. "Check this out."

She did.

"Wow, I wonder if it really works."

So did I.

Still...the draw of its potential made us give the ad more than our usual 0.02 seconds. What if it does work? We don't have the worst rain gutter situation our there, but we do have one on the west side of our house that is almost three stories up. And our ladders don't reach that high. I've climbed out on the roof a few times and it's an unpleasant experience for me.

We discussed it and realized, if it does work, maybe we should get it. It was on sale, after all.

"It's far cheaper than a visit to the emergency room," she said.

And I agreed.

We ordered it and it came last week. When the weekend hit, so did the rain, so the iRobot Looj 330 stayed pristine and unused under our room (and dirty rain gutters...). But when I came home it was such a beautiful afternoon that I got out the step stool and fired up our little Looj.

The west-side gutter gave us no problems; the east-side one did--mostly because the battery wound down. And heaping mounds of long pine needles proved too much for the little guy. I'm sure had I started on the east side, it would have done a better job. I snapped a few pictures and I wanted to get a video of the machine in action, but being on a roof and using a video camera is sort of like texting and driving. It's unadvisable.

If you're interested in purchasing your own iRobot Looj 330, you can check out their website: HERE. After I cleaned up the iRobot and put it away, I took my phone out and took a quick video of the west-side gutter. It looks very clean. I should have taken a "before" video. Oh well, maybe next time.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Do Cats Know...They Can Climb Trees?

Do cats know they can climb trees? I've watched our outdoor cat, our "hunter," climb trees again and again. He even climbs up our back deck, a deck with no stairs. He just shimmies right up the posts.

Do they know they can do that? Do they understand that eons of evolution (or some other way...) have bestowed cats with retractable claws that are sharp enough to dig into bark and wood enabling them to cheat gravity and rise to a height where they can observe the world below. Can they comprehend that this ability gives them advantages, both defensive and offensive when it comes to survival? Do they appreciate this talent?

Personally, I don't think they think about it at all. They go about, hunting, acting aloof, resting in the sun--all the while oblivious to the fact that some humans would love to have the natural abilities possessed by our hairy pets. Maybe it's like humans and our ability to drive, or cook, or build a civilization.

Or do our taxes.

I guess there's some things all of us don't think much about.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

why Do Some Great Ideas Make It...And Others Do Not?

Before college football kicked off a few weeks ago, my wife and I were in Walmart doing a little shopping. That's when I found an amazing invention:

The Party Tray!

What you see in the above picture is The Party Tray in action. The Party Tray is resting on my left arm. My hand is wrapped around a piece of plastic between the tray and the cup holder. I thought it was a brilliant idea. I mean, the one arm holds the tray, which in turn holds loads and loads of deliciousness--and a drink of your own choosing. This leaves the person using The Party Tray to have one arm free. The right arm and hand can load up The Party Tray with the aforementioned deliciousness and a drink.

I mean, it's just a perfect invention. I was extremely impressed.

I began to wonder, after seeing the brilliance of The Party Tray, why is not this item in every house in the country? Heck, why are there not multiple The Party Trays in every house in the country? There are worse ideas out there that have infiltrated our lives and homes, The Clapper, The Pet Rock, Barney Videos...the list is endless.

So, why not give The Party Tray a shot? Did the inventor of The Party Tray not make those decisions that would lead to fame, financial success, and his own private jet? Did he not get they guy who hocks Oxyclean to hock The Party Tray? I cannot say, but I wonder about those things.

Then again, the fact that I didn't even buy one unit of The Party Tray, but left them all on a shelf at Walmart--I guess that says something about the product after all.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Frightmares...When Not Many People Are There

My son and I weren't sure if we'd even work tonight--it's been raining all day long. The show my son and I do requires a dry stage, as in "dry as a bone" or else anyone trying to dance on it could get hurt and hurt bad.

But, we got the text that they wanted us to show up and we'd see how things would shake out. And so we did. And even though there were very few patrons, it turned out to be a pretty good evening at Lagoon's Frightmares.

My son and I are House Managers at the Hackenslash show. If you're unfamiliar with the show, it's basically dancers with chainsaws. Normally we do five shows on Fridays. Today--none, but we thought it would be fun to have the chainsaw-wielding dancers be available for photo ops and to meet the people. And so we did.

Unfortunately, there were so few people on the park tonight that we cut the evening short. Too bad, because the high rolling clouds made for a really cool atmosphere at Lagoon. I took a few pictures, pictures inside the Opera House, pictures outside. Like I said, it turned out to be a pretty good night.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Twenty Four Years...Here's To Even More!

I checked Facebook while on a break at work today and I saw my wife posted a picture that was taken twenty-four years ago today. It's the both of us surrounded by friends and family. The picture's bittersweet for me--there are many wonderful people in the picture no longer with us. That's how it goes with pictures--one day everyone in the picture will be gone. But the picture conjures good thoughts, too. The baby my sister is holding just got married less than three weeks ago, and that cluster of adorable kids on the bottom left corner are almost all married with kids of their own.

It's late now--we're letting our big dinner settle. My wife and I just returned from our anniversary tradition--going out and getting foot at someplace nice.

Looks like we've kept up the tradition for another year.

The past twelve months have seen a lot of changes. Our family is back to six under our roof. My son and I are back to working together on the weekends, and I'm back to trying to find time to write.

But, there are many things that have stayed the same. We still live in our home (which is a year older...), I still am with the same employer, and--at least for my wife and me--we still have the same cars. 

Everyone looks at the big years to do something fancy for their anniversaries, 20 years, 25, 50 plus. Really, it's just a number. So, here's to 24! From where I'm sitting, 24 looks pretty good!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Shopping At Joann...With The Wife

"Oh!" my wife sprung up from her chair as we watched some TV tonight.

"What?" I asked.

"I have to go to the store, tonight!"

"Tonight?" I kind of ask dumb questions, sometimes.

"Yeah--you want to go with me?" Now she asked the question.

" Harmons?" She shook her head. "Walmart?" Another no.

"Then where?"

"Joann--I've got a coupon and it expires tonight. And you already said you'd go."

Yes, I did, and I wasn't upset I said I'd go. With me working another part-time job until after Halloween, I don't see the family as much as I did, so when she wants to go shopping, I want to go with her. I grabbed my camera and I thought, I can take some pictures and maybe I'll get a blog post out of the trip.

And so I did.

I don't dislike Joann Fabrics and Crafts. It's a cool place--one of my co-worker's favorite stores. It's a good time of year to go to a craft store with Halloween just around the corner and Thanksgiving and Christmas close behind. So, here's a little of what I saw as I meandered through the aisles and saw all the stuff. Animal and human skeletons, silk flowers, cute scarecrows, some great Christmas ornaments, as well as a sewing machine that operated on its own. And, one framed item really classed up the place. Joann is like a wonderland, if you're crafty like that.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Click Bait...I Wonder How They'll Hook Us In The Future

I had a thought as I did a little web surfing tonight. I was looking at a site on Yahoo's home page that advertised free iPhone apps (I'm very cheap...). I've seen similar ads many times before, but today was much more excessive. Ads lined both sides of the web page beckoning me to answer their siren song. I copied a couple of them. If I had copied each ad I saw, this post would have been forever long.

They seem to keep inventing new phrases to try and get us to click a site. The latest that I've noticed--and they've used it for a while--is the, "You've got to see insert past celebrity here now--You won't believe it!" Or "See the Cast of Gunsmoke Now--They Look Amazing!" Those have always bugged me, especially when more than half of a given cast is dead. And, yes, in the example below--I believe I CAN look away (the fact they didn't use proper pronunciation doesn't help their cause, either...).

The thought that came to me was this: I wonder what phrases and tempting headlines they'll come up with when the ones they're using currently no longer work. I really don't know, and I'm almost afraid to think about it.

But rest assured, as long as the internet operates as it does now--mostly free--we're at the mercy of click bait. I only hope I can continue ignoring those fascinating and engaging headlines.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Alyson Peterson's "The Cursed Dagger"...A Book Review

Several weeks ago I was asked to blog about a upcoming book, Alyson Peterson's The Cursed Dagger, Book Two of the Ian Quicksilver series.

After finishing it, I realized several things. One--I'm not reading enough fantasy, and two--Alyson is a fantastic writer!

The Cursed Dagger tells the continuing story of Ian Quicksilver, an alien prince living on earth. Ian has an assignment and he's running out of time. He must marry Ari, another alien and princess before by his sixteenth birthday.

Which takes place in less than a week.

Peterson's writing style is crisp, sharp, focused. The story hums with good pacing. And even though I have not yet read Book One, I felt I knew the characters from the beginning. That whole "being confused because you joined a conversation halfway in" thing never happened for me.

Ian, his mentor/trainer/friend/fellow alien Corbin, and Ari experience the awkwardness of dating and growing up on earth not quite like everyone else. Books dealing with teenagers many times focus on the difficulties of growing up. This story is no different. Ian, Corbin, and Ari go from dating difficulties to dealing with possessed dragons. There's magic, and deception, painful goodbyes, and incredible escapes. The book does not lack for excitement.

One of the major surprises for me was Peterson's ability to so successfully write from a teenage boy's perspective. So many times she nailed it, the way a boy would react in certain situations was, in my opinion, spot on.

If you like middle grade/young adult fantasy, you will enjoy this book. Thank you  Alyson for letting me into your world.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

To Those At The Party...That I Missed

I stopped by my friend's office a few months ago and we were shooting the bull. And, as is wont to happen, we chatted about the old days, high school, summer jobs, college, and one of our personal favorites--the years we spent in the University of Utah A'Cappella Choir, Dr. Ed Thompson, Conductor.

"We should have a reunion," my friend said.

"We should," I agreed.

We picked a date, created a Facebook Event and sent out invites. I awaited the day with anticipation. The day came and has since passed. And because of work commitments, I pretty much missed it.

I arrived more than three hours late and greeted the hearty souls who stayed until the bitter end. We caught up, shared hugs then wished them well on their journeys home. Finally my friend and I--the original event organizers--were the only ones left. He prepared a plate of food for me (complete with delicious pie...) and we sat and shot the bull.

"The party was great," he said. He told me how everyone sat and talked, just talked. He then told me of an experience they all shared, one I won't include here. Oh, how I wish I could have been there, to see those wonderful people and enjoy their company.

Decades ago we meet every day at a former LDS Institute building and we sang. I looked forward to that class every school day for four years. After everyone left the reunion party, my friend and I talked about how that class changed our lives. We met our spouses through the choir. We've made fast friends through that choir. And both of us shared stories on how we made it into the choir, each could have ended up in another group and so much of our lives would have been different.

To those at the party, I'm sorry I couldn't attend. To my friend who ended up hosting by himself (I'm sure his wonderful wife helped him to make it a fantastic party...), I apologize for making you do all the work. I know I missed an amazing event. But I'm happy my friend and I decided to do it because those who attended had a blast.

I'll just have to go to the next one.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Old Penny Arcade...Not The Same As It Once Was

"You know," I said to a couple of people the last couple of days. "I used to go in that building every day growing up."

And it was true.

Growing up in Farmington on the edge of the Lagoon Amusement Park, the place was like an endless adventure for me and my friends. Sure, we had our usual summer routines. We got up, probably watched The Price is Right (Good ol' Bob Barker...), then we'd don our swimming suits, roll up a towel, throw it under our arm and hop on our bikes to the, now-extinct, East Gate. From there we'd park the bikes and head straight to the pool.

I'm sure I've written about the pool before. I can't tell you just how fantastic that huge body of water was for us kids. I've never seen anything like it and I feel that even though replacing the forever-old pool with a shiny new water park was a good financial decision, the place has never been the same since.

And what to a gaggle of pre-teens (and teens...) do after a fun morning and afternoon at the pool?

We headed down tho the Penny Arcade. 

The building's famous. It was once a dance floor where some of the biggest names in all of entertainment played. I suppose the proliferation of TV and concert halls--not to mention, Rock & Roll--people just stopped dancing the way they once did.

By the time me and my friends arrived on the scene, the dance hall was now an arcade. If I showed a kid today a picture of the way it looked decades ago, they wouldn't believe it was an arcade. Heck--I wonder if kids nowadays even know what an arcade is or was. Back then the place was lined on all three walls with pinball machines. I suppose they're still around, but I haven't seen one in a long time. Once video games became the thing, the arcade was one of the only places you could actually play quality games. We used to go around checking for free pinball games, or games where novice video game players did not realize they had an extra credit on the game. That was payday for us.

Now, the building houses different attractions. There's games where you can earn tickets. Those tickets can get you prizes. Though there's bells and whistles, lights and inviting sounds, just like the million-gallon swimming pool, it's just not the same.

I know things change, but looking inside the cavernous space, I remember the way it once was and in an instant, decades are erased. Those were good days.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Sewing Machines...For Some, They Can't Get Enough Of Them

I have a co-worker who's obsessed with sewing machines.

How is that possible, you might ask? I mean, many of us are obsessed with different things. Some people collect cars or stamps or comic books. Some people spend thousands of dollars on computer equipment or cameras. Truth is, we all seem to find things we gravitate toward, things that bring us joy.

And for my co-worker, it's sewing machines. We've had discussions about sewing machines many times. If find it fascinating to hear about her collections. She has a sewing room at home (like many people do...) and in that room she has several machines--I believe she said she current has seven, and she is considering buying more. To me, that's a lot, but I'm sure to her, it all makes sense.

I thought of her when I walked passed an old foot pedal machine I saw last night. It's a Singer sewing machine located in the costume shop at Lagoon. Personally, I know absolutely nothing about it--how valuable it is, how important, how rare. When I return to work next week I'll show it to her and get her opinion on it. Even if she doesn't necessarily know about this specific machine, I'll bet she knows what sewing jobs it could handle.

Then again, maybe not, but I'm sure she'll love seeing the picture.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Frightmares...And So It Begins

Tonight my son and I began a part-time job at the local amusement park that's just down the road. Some would say we're lucky to have an amusement park right down the road--not many can say that. I agree with them. It's been very cool to live so close. Many childhood memories, and teenage ones as well, have come from that place.

Last year I returned after a twenty + year absence. That was weird. I worked a show and my son worked with me. It was his first real job. The season passed and the show ended, but they needed people to help them with their Halloween shows. We applied and got the job. We applied for the Halloween shows this year and got the job again.

Tonight was a run-through of the entertainment that patrons will experience beginning tomorrow night. My son and I are house managers at the same stage we worked last year, but last year's show has been replace by chainsaw-wielding dancers. It's a fun show and the people like it. But I had to ask myself, is it really something a fifty-year old father should be doing? I mean, I just quit another part-time job a month ago because they pay stunk and the hours were brutal. 

This job has advantages over the library job. I work Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. At the library I worked Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. It was nice having Sundays off, but that only means I had to fit up to twenty hours in six days, not seven.

But even thought the show is fun and the pay is better than the library, the main reason I came back for another Frightmares is because my son wanted to do it. I probably wouldn't have done it if I didn't. And since he has fun doing it and makes pretty good money for a teenager, I decided to do it, too.

The place has provided many good memories for me. Hopefully, my son will be able to say the same one day.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Lionel Shriver's Speech On Writing Fiction...

I'd never heard of Lionel Shriver before yesterday. There's a lot of authors--many of them, very famous--I've never heard of. Such is a world in which we live. I saw a link of her speech from The Guardian on Facebook post recommended by a local author friend. He enjoyed her words and felt it necessary to tell his many followers that this was something worth our time to read.

It's a long speech and I read it all.

Instead of my friend's reaction (sort of a "high five" because she so masterfully articulated what many writers feel is happening in modern fiction writing today), I had a different reaction.

You can read the entire speech about cultural appropriation: HERE. It is long, but I found it fascinating. 

I usually avoid political opinions on this blog. I've never wanted it to be a platform to argue one point or another. So, if you are interested in this topic, read her speech. I know many writers already know about the things she brings up--they've been dealing with it for years. If you don't know what's going on, I feel it's an important story because it deals with the mindset of modern writers and how it affects the art they produce. And if you think what people write and what readers read isn't that important, think of how the things you've read in your life have helped mold the person you are today.

No, I had a different reaction from my friend. While he seemed excited someone with credibility in certain circles was finally saying what he and others have said for a long time, I was a little sad. You see, I don't believe what she said in her speech as necessarily political; it was pure common sense. The reason I was sad is because she had to even say it in the first place.