Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipsing...Expectations


Since I use this blog as a family journal, I'm going to write about what we did today. And not only us, but millions of Americans--we experienced the Great American Eclipse of 2017.

Even before the event, I wasn't sure what I was going to do. At work I had a mandatory meeting to attend. It was being offered at 10am and at 2pm. That meeting meant I had to turn down an offer to go to Wyoming with my friend Bob to see a total eclipse. The meeting nixed that idea.

About that meeting, I wasn't sure if I was required to attend the 10am meeting so I planned on just going to work, like every other Monday. When I found out I could go to the later meeting, I thought of maybe going to work, driving home, checking out the eclipse with the family, then going back to work. Last night I just decided to stay home, take a couple of hours of annual, then go to work after the moon passed in front of the sun. Besides, the thought of going back to work early Monday morning is the best way to ruin a nice Sunday evening.

I'm so glad I stayed home.


We were a couple of hundred miles south of total eclipse coverage. Still, we expected to see 91% of the sun blocked out. We experienced a partial eclipse back in 2012. Today was nothing like that. What I LOVED (beside being with the family to see this...) was all the things we didn't expect. When more than 50% of the sun was covered, you could see thousands of little eclipses as sunlight filtered through the trees. I didn't know it did that. We also made pinhole viewers with our hands. I also loved how it darkened, and especially how it cooled down, almost ten degrees.


Having not seen an eclipse like this before (at least, one that I could remember...), I wanted to get some good pictures of the event, but I wasn't sure how I'd do it. Turns out good old "trial and error" proved the best teacher.


Luckily, we had eclipse glasses. I tried putting the filter over my phone cameras. Nope. I heard if you used the Selfie mode, you could see the eclipse without looking directly at the sun. Nope. I got my good camera and tried putting the filtered screen over my lens. It worked, but just barely.


Then I swapped lenses, took off the filter and tried it again.

Success!

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But in order to get the shot, I had to stand in the shade at the corner of our house and extend the camera into the sunlight. I then had to put the camera in movie mode so I could see what the camera saw on the camera's small screen. This involved holding the camera in place with the eclipse glasses in place while holding down the autofocus button. Once I did all that, I had to then take the camera out of movie mode and start snapping pictures, hoping it was still in focus and the sun was still in the picture.


Here's the first picture I took using this method. Not bad, if I don't say so myself.

Eventually, I could look in the viewfinder and take a photo as long as the eclipse glasses were covering the lens.

There was an eclipse back in 1979 and I'm sure I was interested in it, but I don't remember anything about it. Hopefully, in the future, my kids will be able to remember August 21, 2017 and recall the time Dad stayed home from work and we all saw the moon pass in front of the sun.











Sunday, August 20, 2017

Caryn Larrinaga's "Donn's Hill"...A Book Review

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Almost a year ago I read Craig Nybo's Dead Girl, a quirky, gritty, fantastic story of death and haunting in a small town. Last week I finished another story, different author, different town, but both had believable characters, an engaging story and enough creepiness to entertain without overpowering.

Caryn Larrinaga's Donn's Hill introduces us to Makenzie "Mac" Clair, a woman taking control of her life by moving across the country to a town she used to visit as a child with her mother, Donn's Hill. There's history in Donn's Hill and unbeknownst to Mac, the history involves more than just Mac's childhood memories--it involves deceit, spurned romances, murder, and the paranormal. And Mac's family is deep in the middle of all of it.

Larrinaga creates a character in Mac that's both tough and vulnerable at the same time. She moved and completely uprooted her life because of a cheating boyfriend. Upon returning to the community she remembered with fond childhood memories, she quickly finds there's more to the small town than she could have possibly imagined.

We learn, as Mac does, of the town's secrets. We learn of her family's and the town's history with ghosts and hauntings. What I enjoyed most was the story grew organically. We get to know Mac, understand her anxieties, feel for her as she gets a job and finds friends, which include a curious cat. The story is excellently paced with the creepiness building as the story continues. 

From the cover, you might imagine the story containing many of the typical paranormal tropes found in many stories. Yes, there are some, but I know I didn't mind--the character's in Larrinaga's Donn's Hill are real enough that I lived the experience with them and enjoyed the ride the whole time.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Peaceful Morning With Friends...

 

This week we had two weddings and a funeral. The weddings we knew about--the funeral we didn't. As things happen, we were unable to attend the weddings, but this morning, I stood with almost no one I knew to offer support to a child who lost his mother. It was a beautiful service.


As the child set a flower on his mother's casket, it reminded me of my youth, when I, having just turned eight-years old, watched as adults, my siblings, and cousins stood beside the casket of my father on a cold day in February, over forty-three years ago.


Suddenly, I was that eight-year old kid, thinking even though I'd lost my father, he was okay. He was in a good place and I'd see him again. I still believe that--it's just having more than four decades separate the child I was then and the father and husband I am now, I look at his passing, as well as my mother's passing, differently. I realize all the things I missed, all the questions left unanswered, all the memories never made.


Thanks to a caring neighbor, my dad's name is found among other veterans at the cemetery at the memorial. I need to thank him for that act of kindness. I also stopped by the Whitaker's headstone. They were both forces of nature, and are missed.


As the sun rose in the sky and family and friends left after the service, I looked around and noticed how beautiful our home-town cemetery is. Of course, I'd like to avoid taking up permanent residency there for many many years. I mean, it's not that beautiful...

Friday, August 18, 2017

Fair Animals...


This morning I went a mile or so west and attended this year's installment of the Davis County Fair. When a person goes to the fair, they expect to see certain things, at least, that's what I do when I go. And many of those things were there--the vendors, the food trucks, some rides, the inevitable hot tubs for sale, first-place ribbons and other attractions.


I also expected to see animals. There are always animals at the fair, bunnies, chickens, pigs, goats, and cattle.

I didn't expect to see camels (or, one camel), or sea lions.


This year, then fair had a sea lion show. We didn't watch the show, but we watched as a couple of sea lions as they swam in circles.


There was a petting zoo that had ducks, chickens, baby goats, a couple of tortoises, and even a fox. The fox was cool. In another pen was an alpaca and a llama. But my personal favorite was an eight-month old camel named Kadie. She was so sweet. I asked her owner how you pet a camel. He said just like a dog.


We try to go to the fair every year. It's kind of like our county, quint, not too big--not too small. One thing's for sure--if we make it to the fair next year, I'm no longer going to assume I know what animals we'll find inside.

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

I Killed Spongebob...At Least, For One Kid


Funny story...

A few years ago we picked up a very inexpensive cellphone because our carrier decided to upgrade their system thus making my wife's phone at the time obsolete. We saw this thing--I think it cost maybe $4, and we called it the Spongebob phone, for obvious reasons. We figured it would be a temporary situation.

And that's what it turned out to be. My wife now has a relatively new phone with a different carrier. So, what to do with a functional, but pretty lame phone that has a few months of service still on it?

Give it to the kids, of course.

My daughter ended up using the Spongebob phone more than the other kids, so it was her job to keep it working, which included keeping it charged. Last week my wife said that the phone had apparently given up its ghost and it needed replacing. It wouldn't even turn on.

We decided to go shopping for the phone, but first, we stopped by Old Navy to pick me up some shorts (see my blog post dated August 11, 2017...). And while we shopped we discussed the dead phone. That's when I let fly:

"So, looks like Spongebob is dead."

I didn't see it, but my wife said that a little boy overheard me and apparently was shocked that I had delivered the grave news of Spongebob's demise. Hopefully, the child was able to go home and dial up Netflix (or wherever kids access their favorite entertainment...) and saw that Spongebob Squarepants was, indeed, very much alive.

It turns out the phone did not die after all. The charging problem was with the cord, not the phone, so had I known that, I might not have not shocked that kid. The phone's working, but it's no longer a Spongebob phone. We took off the Spongebob case and threw it away.

I guess, at least one Spongebob, really is dead.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Well...My Book's In One Library


My mother-in-law first told me of the little lending library on Main Street in our town, but it took until last week before I visited it. I decided to check it out, and I thought it would be neighborly to help out.

So, I took a copy of Speckled and donated it.

I put it among the others. There were some westerns, a few political books, and even a Robert A. Heinlein in the collection. There was a cowboy poetry book that I'd like to check out, and the book Christmas Jars that I've always wanted to read.


Before I dropped off my book, I wrote a note to all my fellow Farmington-ites. I hope if they do choose to read my book that they enjoy it, and I'd love to hear what they think.


Tonight, after cub scout pack meeting, I stopped by the little library to see if my book was still there. I'm happy to say it was not. Of course all the books had been re-organized. When I saw that I wondered if maybe I had violated some rule of the Little Free Library I didn't know about and they took it out. Maybe I can't just add books whenever I want.

Then again, maybe some fellow towns member took a chance, picked up my little collection of stories and gave it a shot. That would be cool. But, hey--if anyone asks me if my book is in any libraries, I can honestly say it is.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Getting My Weekly Totals...No Big Deal


I got an e-mail today from Facebook. I get an e-mail from them about once a week. Apparently Facebook wants me to know just how many people are "liking" my Facebook author page. And not just the number of "likes" I get, but they're keeping track of all the stats.

Stats are interesting. Back when I first began this writing adventure, I attended many writing conferences. I remember going to one class in particular where they discussed an author's online footprint. Someone brought up a fact that a writer got a book deal just because of how many people were following them online. I guess if you have 50K Twitter followers, someone will agree to publish your book. I wonder if it even has to be good.

So, when I created my Facebook author page, I had several hundred Facebook friends. I thought I'd get several hundred Facebook author page likes. Turns out that didn't happen. About a year later, I had more Facebook friends so I asked those who I hadn't asked before if they'd like to "Like" my author page.

And I got a few more.

I then had a decision to make. Was I going to fret and feel bad that I wasn't getting the response I though I might get? I could, of course. But at the end of the day, it really didn't matter. Maybe it does to someone out there. Perhaps I'll submit a story or novel and they'll check my Facebook profile and see my "likes" and decide to pass. But I'm not going to keep hounding people or try and guilt them into liking a page. If they do, they do. If they don't, that's okay, too.

So, I continue getting the e-mails from Facebook. Today I learned both my Weekly Total Reach and People Engaged stats are down 100%! 

That's terrible.

Do I choose to worry about it?

Or do I choose to get on with my life?

I think you know the answer.

Monday, August 14, 2017

That Time I Was In A Miniseries...Because "Nothing Lasts Forever"


Back in 1994 I found myself on the set of a Made-For-TV miniseries, Sidney Sheldon's Nothing Lasts Forever.

Never saw it?

You're probably not alone.

Then again, you may have seen it and forgot--it's been twenty-two years, after all.

The courtroom shoot lasted a week. I took time off work and we put in 12-hour days--that was just for the extras. There were about a dozen of us, those who were spectators for the courtroom drama. I learned from that experience to always bring a book to read. I also learned that those behind the camera work their butts off and put in long long hours to create what looks seamless on screen.



Even though I lost money for the week (they paid us, but I would have earned more at my job...), I loved the experience. I saw some true celebrities, and spoke to some--even though the extras were told not to disturb them, something I completely understood.

Because this wasn't the most successful miniseries, it hasn't been seen much since 1995 when it was released. I even looked to see if I could buy a DVD copy, or even a VHS copy. I found none. But thanks to the miracle that is YouTube, I can watch my 15 seconds of screen time (if that...) any time I want! Just google "Nothing Lasts Forever" and YouTube and you too can be entertained by such stars as Brooke Shields, Gail O'Grady, Vanessa Williams, Saul Rubinek, Gerald McRaney, Chris Noth, Meshach Taylor, Lloyd Bridges, and yours truly. I also met Mike Lookingland. He was a cameraman--nice guy. Just click: HERE to access my episode.



So, here's my claim to dated fame. I was a law student pulling for the prosecution. That darned shifty defense attorney--he was just beyond the pale. That poor (rich...) widow should have gotten all the inheritance; none should have been awarded to that killer doctor.

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The defense attorney had no shame, tricking the widow to prove his point. Meshach and I were completely disgusted.

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And finally, after being so disillusioned with the whole process, a bald law student wearing a stylish teal sport jacket walks away to consider his career choice. Will he go back to law? Will he turn his back on the scales of justice forever? We'll never know, but the cute blonde doctor won so I guess that means America won.

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I was an extra on a couple of other projects, even met America Ferrera before she traveled in pants (which she most likely did before she became famous for doing it...). Back then so many projects were filmed in Utah--not so many now. I'd like to be an extra again. Maybe one day.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Church...Interacting With Some Great People


In our religion congregations are divided up geographically. We have in our area a nursing home facility and all the congregations in the area take turns helping out with their Sunday services. The facility is not big--only a couple of dozen residents call it home. Today, our family helped out. My son helped administer the Sacrament, my daughter sang, my wife and I gave talks. 

Interacting with people who have lived almost a century can be fascinating. I found it interesting in another way. I'm a state employee and my team handles state benefits for many people living in nursing homes. I worked as a caseworker for many in nursing homes until a few months ago when my caseload changed. The point is, as a caseworker, rarely do we ever talk to any of the people on our caseload. I work in a non-public facility. I do my correspondence mostly by phone and from digital paperwork.

As a civil servant, I never interact in person with the people I'm serving.


It's too bad, too. But, it's also a necessary evil. There are a couple of dozen state employees to handle thousands of nursing home cases. Thanks to technology, we're able to stay ahead of the workload. If we had to see and interview every person in person, we would need to hire hundreds of new state employees and that's just not in the budget.

Today, though, as I gave a talk, I was able to see the people, talk to them, thank them for having us be part of their Sunday morning. We drove away after the services, and I felt good. I felt good in a way that I never get at work. I guess that's one of the differences between government and religion. When it's done right, you're both helping, but one just means more.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Steve Martin's "Bowfinger"...An Under Appreciated Gem!


Anyone interested in film, comedy, the art of storytelling is familiar with Steve Martin. The talented man has gone from "wild and crazy" to a serious and important voice in entertainment. His fans can rattle off their favorite Steve Martin films, The Jerk, Roxanne, LA Story. Cheaper by the Dozen (1 & 2), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and many many more.

But there's a little film from 1999 that doesn't get much love when people talk about his projects, and it's one of my favorites, Bowfinger. I watched it again today--first time in a long time--and enjoyed it as much as when I first saw it, maybe more. Martin and Eddy Murphy make a fantastic team.

If you're not familiar with Bowfinger, here's the lowdown. Bob Bowfinger is nearly-broke filmmaker. The movie begins with him reading a script, an amazing script, a script that is so good, it must be made into a movie. The problem? Bowfinger has no money and no resources. His solution--get the world's biggest mega movie star to be in his movie, only the star rejects the idea outright. Not to worry--Bowfinger follows the star and secretly films him doing everyday things. With a cast of crazies, the film gets made and Bowfinger perseveres through it all.

Bowfinger has one of my all-time favorite lines of any film. He tells one of his actors that Tom Cruise didn't know he was in that vampire film until two years after it was made. As if Mr. Cruise walked around as a vampire in his everyday life. And speaking of Mr. Cruise, Bowfinger doesn't hold back in its opinion of Scientology.




Martin not only carries the film, he wrote it, too. He's written other film as well--he definitely knows how to create a successful screenplay. In addition to my favorite quote, I love the montage at the end of the film. As the film is shown the ragtag group of lovable losers sit and watch themselves on screen. Finally, Martin hears the applause and simply smiles. For an entertainer, that says it all, and I wonder if, when filming, Martin had to act. I'd like to think this is how it feels to create something that is loved by millions. And Mr. Martin has experienced that feeling time and time again.


The show holds up well, even though it's almost twenty years old. Eddy Murphy playing duel roles is amazing, total comedic genius. If you haven't seen the film, give it a shot--if you're a fan of Martin and Murphy, you'll love it. And if you have seen the show, watch it again and you'll realize just how great it is all over again.