Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Team Staff Meeting...


At work, I am part of a team. I'm not self-employed, nor am I unemployed. My job requires the processing of information to the benefit of others. At work we each have our own assigned work, however, my employer has chosen to employ a team structure to better process the work, to get the work done quicker, and do it with fewer mistakes.

I think it's how humans are built--no man is an island (no matter what Hugh Grant's character says...). We're just designed to get more done if we work together. Families are more successful when they have and work for a common goal, marriages definitely are. Ever since I began working for my employer almost twenty years ago, I've been on one team or another.


And in an attempt to build a stronger team, we meet occasionally (unlike marriages and families that meet quite often...). Today we traveled in cars, trucks, and Priuses, and gathered at Jen Johansen Park located on Eightieth East and First North in Logan, Utah (I remember that address because we spent several minutes trying to find it...) for a team meeting and lunch.

Both were successful.

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Of course, we had the one before the other and I don't know if the team meeting would have been more successful had we the training part after lunch than before. Probably not because, even though most of us were starving as we discussed policy and procedure, trying to go through that after stuffing ourselves with salads, Dutch oven bacon and potatoes, and stacked hamburgers would have proven disastrous. We would have all most likely laid down on the grass or picnic tables and fallen asleep--the instructor included.

I am fortunate to be part of an excellent team, a team that works together to get the work done, a team dedicated to doing a great job. Having a blast at a team staff meeting where lunch is served is the dessert. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

My Fyrecon Schedule--Something For Everyone...Well, Almost


In just a couple of weeks several will gather in Davis County for an event where creativity is key. It's called Fyrecon, and it's going to be great!

I feel honored, and a little bit humbled, to be one of the presenters. Now, since the schedule's been published online, I can let everyone know the classes I'll be teaching. So, if any of these strike your fancy, sign up and check out the con, my classes, everyone else's classes, and all the other fantastic stuff planned for our first-ever event.

The convention runs Thursday through Saturday, June 8 through 10. On Thursday the classes and panels run from 12:30pm to 5:30pm. Friday and Saturday, they run 9:30am to 7:30pm.

My schedule is:

Friday, 3:30-4:20pm, Building D3, Room 204

Heroes That Wheeze

Heroes mean different things in different eras. What possibly is the most interesting aspect of any hero is their weakness. In this class, we'll discuss what makes a hero and what can bring them down.

This is set for Teens, but anyone can attend.

Friday, 5:30-6:20pm, Building D3, Room 203

Creating Another Wizard That Isn't Another Gandalf, Dumbledore, Etc.

An in-depth discussion of the wonderful world of wizard, what they are/aren't, should/shouldn't be, and just how far can you go with the character?

Again, a teen class, but feel free to check it out.

Friday, 6:30-7:20pm, Building D3, Room 206

 Are Critique Groups Worth It?

Writing Critique Groups--some swear by them, others swear at them. But are they worth the work and effort it takes to create a successful, sustainable group? In this class we'll discuss what works, and what doesn't. And above all, will it make you a batter writer?

Friday will be a busy day for me, but I can't wait! Please let me know if you have any questions for me--I'll be glad to help out any way I can. Or, you can click: HERE to access the Fyrecon website directly. Writer, editor, or just someone who loves literature, consider attending. I'd love to see you there!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Hiking With A Kid...And A Cat


My youngest and I were outside this afternoon and I spotted a small sign up on the mountain, not high up, but high enough I couldn't tell what the sign said. We decided to take a break and hike up to it to see what it said.

Turns out it had but a single work:

FLAG


Due to some recent construction, the trailhead to Flag Rock has moved. Due to the signs, we all know now where to start.


On our little excursion, we had an additional family member join us--one of our cats. I know many a kid who has hiked the mountain with their trusty dog by their side. In all my years living on the hill, I've never seen a cat join anyone for a hike. My son asked if our cat would follow us when we started up. I told him he probably would because the cat's followed me before.


We've had incredible skies of late so I snapped a few pictures, and if cats could take selfies, he'd probably like how the above picture turned out.


It's not everyday we head up on the hill. I suppose we should go more. And if we do and our cat's on the prowl, there's a good chance we'll once again have another team member join us on our hike.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Waiting At The Airport...


I work near the Salt Lake City International Airport, but unfortunately, from where I sit in my cubicle can't see any of the planes land or take off. Probably a good thing--that way I can focus more on my work and keep my job. When I take a break and walk around outside, that's when I see them. There's something about seeing one of those massive machines race into the sky that's mesmerizing. It's almost hypnotic.

I don't have many memories of my father, but I think there were times when we used to drive out to the airport and watch the planes take off and land. Back then, you could get closer, or even park your car by the side of the road and watch. I'm not sure you can even do that anymore. Like I said, these memories with my father might not have even happened, but I think they did--I'd like to think they did.

Even though I work close to the airport, I don't find myself at the airport very often. It's been years since I've been on a plane. I have, however, been asked to pick up people when they fly into town--something I'm happy to do. 


Such was the case earlier this week. We had family fly in from California. Luckily, I was able to work my full shift then afterwards, pick them up. I arrived a few minutes early and so I waited for them to deplane. When you wait, you do certain things, at least I do. I listened to the radio, memorized more of Frank Sinatra's My Way, and took a few pictures of the beautiful sky that sounded both fliers and non-fliers alike. Spring storms have been rolling into the valley as of late which makes for incredible cloud formations and amazing skies. My simple pictures don't even come close to doing them justice.

Tomorrow I'll return to the place where people can be transported to virtually every destination on the planet. And because I'm dropping off, I won't have an excuse to look at the sky and watch the planes. Of course, I could do it anyway, which would be a pretty good excuse, if you ask me.

Friday, May 19, 2017

I Found What I Want For My Birthday...


I knew these things existed, but I'd never seen one up close, let alone held one in my hand. That changed today when I picked up, turned on, and checked out the Osmo Mobile Gimbal Stabilizer from DJI.

The thing rocks! To quote Ralphie, it was "...as cool and deadly a piece of weaponry as I had ever laid eyes on."


If you've followed this blog much, you know I dabble in photography, which includes shooting video. I've been fascinated by the improvements in camera technology just in the past decade. And since smartphone cameras are finally getting the respect they deserve, we're now seeing products that reflect that change. The Osmo stabilizer is one such product.

It adjusts to fit different phones and when accessing the DJI GO app, you can do other things, even customizing what it can do. 


Of course, with all cool stuff, the technology isn't cheap, so I won't be casually picking one up any time soon. I wish I had a way to make money with it so I could justify the cost. And, to be honest, I don't really expect anyone to casually pick one of these up for me for my birthday. I don't travel in those circles. Who knows? Maybe one day I will be able to casually enter my local Apple Store and tell the Mac Expert that I'd like to purchase the cool item in the big box. It could happen.

video

Apologies for the somewhat amateur shooting. It was my first time.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Lost And Found...An LDS Chapel Staple


My daughter had a dance performance earlier this week and I attended (I provided transportation, but I still wanted to watch my daughter dance--you know, for support...). Like many of her performances, this one was held in a Latter-Day Saint chapel. We live in Utah, and there are places where LDS chapels can literally be across the street from each other--same religion, different congregations.

After a certain point in time, probably around the 1980s, most LDS chapels follow a similar design. Basically, the buildings are one big rectangle. Very smart. Take off the roof and you'll see the chapel on one half, and a basketball court (sometimes with a stage...) on the other half. Surrounding those two sections are classrooms and church offices. Once again, very smart.

There are things you'll find in every one of these church buildings. There's bishopric offices, a place for the nursery (or nurseries...), rooms for meetings of children, the men, and the women for their classes.

There's also a place--in every building, except this place is not found on any of the blueprints. It's a space for the Lost and Found. I snapped the above picture while the kids ballroom danced in the gym. What struck me--and why I took the picture--is I almost expected some of the Lost and Found stuff to be mine, as if things I misplaced at our church building magically appeared in this one thirteen miles away.

I thought that because the things in this particular Lost and Found were the same things found in all the other buildings. Scriptures, church manuals, water bottles, articles of clothing, eyeglasses--though I don't see any in this picture, there's usually small toys, Matchbox cars, or little action figures in the Lost and Founds.

As our kids have aged, fewer and fewer of our items have found their way into our Lost and Found. I don't know if any research has been done as to any direct correlation between age and forgetfulness. I imagine it's an inverse bell curve, high for the very young, and the perhaps the elderly. And if that's true, I guess we'll be searching in the Lost and Found more in the future.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Time To Pick Up "The Forgetting Moon" From Brian Lee Durfee...You Know You Want To!

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One of the cool thing about social media is that, while you didn't know a book was on sale, one quick search on Facebook can change all that. Today I found out Brian Lee Durfee's The Forgetting Moon is on sale for $1.99 (Kindle edition...). 

So I bought it!

And I'm posting about this to spread the gospel according to Brian (I think there was a film with similar themes...).

I first met Brian at Salt Lake Comic Con FanX last March. I was fortunate enough to share a vendor booth with him and a half a dozen insanely talented authors. And Brian wrote a really big book. He puts the "Epic" in epic fantasy. Back in jr. high school, I credit those epic fantasy books with rekindling my love of reading.

If you too would like to purchase The Forgetting Moon, click: HERE. I'm excited to read a book I know nothing about, other than it's got a great cover and Brian's a cool guy. So join me on this journey! It'll be fun!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Centerville Utah LDS 1st Ward Church Building...


It's been several decades since I stepped foot in the historic Centerville LDS First Ward chapel. 

Almost three, to be exact.

Back in the late 1980s I was part of a group of church members known as Single Adults. Our religion places so much emphasis on marriage that those who aren't married are "officially" branded as such (as opposed to the unofficial titles we give ourselves...). And, in an attempt to change the unwed masses from Single to No Longer Single, the church created congregations of single people. They did this so we could worship together, but more importantly, be together. Depending on who you ask, these congregations are either successful, or not. And finding a spouse doesn't necessarily translate to successful.

We singles met in this church. A few days ago I posted a picture of the chapel as my Pic Of The Day on Facebook. One comment said this is the oldest LDS church building to continually be used for weekly meetings. That's interesting to me. But, what I found more interesting was the building itself.


It has a fireplace in one of rooms. I don't know if it's functioning or not, but it was cool nevertheless.



In the same room it has an original LeConte Stewart paining--beautiful!


The chapel itself is very unique. Immediately left and right of the podium are overflow areas so you can listen to the messages while watching the speaker(s) in profile.

I wanted to go see every room to see what other treasures it held, but I only saw a few rooms. Which begs the question--how could I have missed it's awesomeness back when I attending meetings as a Single Adult?

I guess I was concentrating on other things back then...

Monday, May 15, 2017

Not All Greens Are Created Equal...


Yesterday, as our Mother's Day dinner cooked on the grill, I looked directly east, up at the mountain. This is the view I see as I leave the house every day. It's a view I've seen since my family bought a cherry and apricot orchard back in 1969.

I love this view.

Of course, there are times during the year when the view is prettier than others. Spring (now...) is great, so is autumn. I think winter's my favorite with everything covered in snow. But as I gazed upward yesterday, I took a couple of pictures because rarely is it this green.

Of course, something being green is relative. My friends Clif and Jenn live in Washington State. I visited them in 2006--my one and only time in the Northwest--and I was blown away. I'd been told they have a lot of trees in the Seattle area, but even knowing this, I could not have imagined how incredibly green it is. They carve canyons through the trees where they put roads, like driving through a carpet of vegetation. It was, in a word, beautiful.

I live in Utah, not Washington State. I used to think we had trees where I live, and we do, but nothing compared to where my friends live.

But even Washington State might come in second when it comes to being green like some places in Europe, specifically Denmark. I lived there for a couple of years back in the 1980s, and I saw shades and colors of green I've never seen anywhere else. Some were so bright, they were almost neon. Denmark doesn't have the trees like the Pacific Northwest, but the climate allows so many amazing plants to grow. Seeing Denmark in the spring is simply amazing, pure and simple.

In a few weeks the greens above us on the mountain will fade and turn tan and most of the vibrant green with disappear until next year. Since we technically live in a desert, that's the way it is and we who live here accept it. I suppose if I had to be surrounded by green, I'd have to move.

Once the harsh heat of summer subsides, the leaves will turn, and the mountain will be covered with reds and oranges. Seeing those colors--for me--is like an award for surviving the--for me--extreme heat of summers we endure.

Then comes the snow, and the mountains are reborn in white, my favorite thing.

For now, however, I'll enjoy the green, for a few weeks, anyway.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Then...You Turn Around And You're Friend's In "La La Land"



There are people you meet and fifteen minutes later, you might not remember you ever met them. Not that they're bad people, but they are just easily forgettable. 

But, I guarantee you, you'll never say that about Dale Tyczkowski. Once you meet him, you will not forget him.

I first met Dale in the summer of 1986 in Denmark. In all of my twenty years, I had never met anyone else like him. Most of the people I knew to that point in my life, lived in Utah. Dale hailed from Wisconsin. He was older and had a colorful past--not checkered, but colorful. For example, he had been at one time a professional ballet dancer. Number of ballet dancers I met to that point - zero. Dale had also been a professional cheerleader. Again, something new for me.

Thanks to the invention that is the internet, and more specifically, social media, Dale and I have have kept in touch over the years. Dale had embarked on many amazing adventures, but then again, I would have been surprised with nothing less. He became a professional interior decorator and he posted us all many of his creations online. They were extensions of his huge personality--classic Dale.


A few years ago, Dale entered a new career path--acting. The last time I saw him, we talked about his latest undertaking. He had gotten an agent and had appeared on several projects. This really shouldn't have surprised me--I mean, why not? I wonder if he ever doubted himself. Did he think that there was a possibility he couldn't do it? Most likely, no. 

A few months ago, I caught a Facebook post from Dale of a clip showing him dancing with a group of people. He said it was him in the Academy-Award nominated film, La La Land. Like most films, I didn't see it in the theater, but we rented it over the weekend. Not that I doubted my friend, but I watched and watched, and no Dale.

Until almost the very end. And there he was, dressing in black, sporting an amazing head of grey hair, and with a huge smile on his face--a Dale trademark--I saw him swinging with the music as if it were the most natural thing in the world. 

I have no idea what he'll do next. He may turn to cooking and we'll see him on the Next Food Network Star. Or, he may turn up building churches in Africa. Whatever it is, whoever is lucky enough to meet him, will never forget him. I know, in over thirty years, I haven't.

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Happy Mother's Day...


Ten years ago this month we celebrated our last Mother's Day with the woman who, all my life, I called "Mom." She was sick then, having been diagnosed the year before with the disease that took her life only a few months later. Ten years ago, we didn't know then how long we have with her. Turns out, not enough, never enough.

Today my sister posted a photo on Facebook of the family the way we looked only a few years after my father passed away. I've seen the picture before. In the summers after my dad died we took family vacations hiking in the Tetons. I still remember those hikes--they seemed long for a child. Imagine what they felt like to a single parent, but she toughed it out and made it the whole way. My mother came from pioneer stock, one tough lady.

Even though the photograph hasn't changed in over four decades, my perspective has. I see things differently now. When I now see the picture, I no longer immediately look at me, or my siblings. My eyes go directly to my mom and I can't help but try and put myself in her shoes, or how I would feel being responsible for raising three children, children she and another chose to adopt, and where one half of that decision couldn't see it fulfilled.

Would I be bitter? Would I make excuses?

Would I give up?

I'll never know. Fortunately for me, my partner was not taken from me when our children were small. Thank goodness! Of course, without her, I might have given up.

Tomorrow we celebrate one of the two people every person who's ever lived can claim as their own...mothers. I wish I could thank my mother in person; that will have to wait, but I can remember  long hikes through some of the most beautiful scenery on Earth, when a newly-widowed single parent matched each step of her children and taught each of us, it's just another one of those things you do when someone calls you "Mom." 

Happy Mother's Day to Mom, my beautiful wife, my mother-in-law, and all the mothers. We literally wouldn't be here without you.

Friday, May 12, 2017

...And Water Saves The Day!


We have a lawn, and like most everything, the lawn has problems. We're going to fix the problems, and by problems I mean weeds, so to our neighbors, it will look better, I promise.

But first, we have to resurrect the lawn.

We live in an area where we have a separate water line just for yards and gardens. It's wonderful, but when the water line to your property breaks and you go without the ability to water your lawn for four weeks, if it doesn't rain, things can get a bit dicey. Our grass is literally crunchy. Yesterday, the water guys fixed the line and we had water.

The other day, as I drove my daughter to the theater, I told her about how we watered our yards and gardens when I was her age. I don't know how much interest she had the topic, but back then we diverted water from a nearby canyon and it flowed through the neighborhood, each household having a specific time in which they could divert the water to their property. Gravity and water rights--it's worked for millennia.

Now, the water's on a timer. A program keeps track of when and where you want the water to go. Almost miraculous. Our yard's in tough shape, but we're hoping to, first, get it to start growing again, then we can take care of the weeds. First things first, we got the water and soon, we'll have the green.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

I Didn't Realize I Was Using "Was" So Much...


I received a bit of advice from a fellow writer who I greatly admire. She read through my latest WIP  and offered advice.

Really good advice.

This advice I'd heard before. It's one of the basic tenants of good writing writing.

Avoid passive voice.


She pointed out all the times I used passive verbs in the first half of my script, specifically was, and were. I decided to go through the second half and replace as many was verbs as possible. By doing this, I learned I use was a lot--way too much. By searching was through the entire document, so many yellow was words popped up. It looked like a type of literary pox disease hit my story.

I must say, however, that doing this exercise helped in so many ways. I modified the verbs, replaced passive with active time and time again. I left some of the was verbs in, to give it some character, but most exist no more. Many more pages and chapters need the edits--not a quick process, but I know it will help the story. Hopefully, one day, you can experience the results yourself, but until then, the edits continue!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Is There...A Subway Way?


"So," I said to my daughter as I picked her up from one organized activity so she could attend a second. "What do you want to eat for dinner?" We had about 25 minutes until her call time and we were headed into an area chuck full of eateries, many of which are considered "fast food" establishments.

"I'd love to go to Subway, but that's expensive," she said.

It is, but I thought about the request. My daughter has two more performances until this production ends and I thought, why not?

"Let's go to Subway," I said.

"Really?"

"Yup."


Subway...I don't know how you feel about the place, but I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I really enjoy their food. If I could only eat one type of food for the rest of my life, for me, it would be sandwiches. We used to go there a lot, but as the kids have grown (along with their appetites and their ability to eat more...), eating there for the family has gotten pricy. 

Then, there's the manner in which the sandwiches are constructed. You might call it "a labor of love" for either the worker or the patron. At the Subway we visited tonight, they were a little on the slow side. It didn't help that those in front of us had multiple orders, each order varying in its complexity.


I should have known going in that it would take a while--it usually does. And usually, I have plenty of time to wait for the food. This time, even though I wasn't in a huge hurry, I still tapped my toe and checked my phone more than usual.

It's good to have a corporate identity. It brings a sense of normalcy to those who like to visit. Of course, you want to have a good corporate identity. Does Subway have a way, and if so, what is it? To us tonight, it was the meal my daughter wanted that was hopefully worth the wait.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

To Give Flowers...Or To Not?


Last week we had family in town. And fortunately, they were able to attend the play my daughter's currently in. 

This was a big deal for them and for us.

My daughter's aunt and uncle come to town a couple of times a year, and because of all the plays my daughter and I do, if they come to town when we're involved in a play, chances are we're in rehearsals and not actually performing for audiences. The shows my daughter and I do take approximately three months. The first two months are for rehearsing, and the last month we get to perform the show.

But this time, they came right in the middle of Centerpoint Legacy Theatre's production of Oliver. I was lucky enough to attend the show with them. I arrived first, then my sister-in-law and brother-in-law showed up a little later.

And they brought with them a bouquet of flowers.

My first thought--how nice of them to do that. My second thought--why don't I do things like that?

Over the years I've seen a lot of flowers brought to the theatre. I've even seen guys in the show bring a rose for each of the female cast members on opening night (a very classy move...). But it's usually theatre-goers who want to congratulate their friends and/or family members who are in the show. As I watched my sister-in-law walk to the front doors with flowers in hand, I wondered if I had ever bought flowers to my daughter. For all the shows she's done, and it's getting to be quite a few, I don't think I've ever done it before.

I'm glad people don't think the way I do when it comes to situations like this. I'm glad people want to show their appreciation to those who volunteer their time on stage and bring them beautiful things. I'm also glad our out-of-town family were able to see their niece perform and that they showed me such a sweet gesture.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Confessions Of A Gadget Junkie...


I've said it more than once on this blog, and I'll say it again--we live in amazing times (doing a word search of "live in amazing times" on this blog nets 45 results...). Sometimes, it's the little things that manifest this idea. 

Case in point--the iPhone/iPad micro fan.


Yes, it's a gadget, and yes, I bought it. It's hard to resist when all those trinkets are sitting right there at the Chevron Gas Station desk. I'm sure all you gadget junkies know what I'm talking about.

I've seen similar fans that attach to the USB port so you can be lightly fanned as you slave away at your laptop. They're kitchy, but functional. And when I saw a tray of these little guys I thought the same thing--kitchy, but functional.

Yes, they're kitchy.


Functional...not so much.

I want it to be functional. I want it to work, to lightly fan me as I am doing things on the iPhone/iPad. But for the life of me, I can't really see how useful this little gadget will be. You can't speak on the phone with this thing plugged in. It will both hit you in the chin and warble every word that comes out of your mouth.


I suppose, you can plug in the fan while the iPhone/iPad sits on a desk at work. I usually have my phone open and listen to podcasts at work. Tomorrow I'll try and see if it makes any difference. My initial thoughts are, it won't. The phone will be too far away.

I guess I could have figured all this out when I first spotted it at the gas station, but while I held it in my hands and thought about how cool it was, even knowing how non-functional it was, how impractical, I'd probably have bought it anyway.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Mom's Flowers...


When my father passed away, my mother had the mammoth responsibility of not only raising three young children by herself, but also taking care of a monster yard. We lived up against the mountain and every weed known to man (it seemed...) ended up at our house.

My mom battled. Boy, did she battle! She valiantly fought the forces of mother nature with as much strength as could be contained in all of her five feet, zero inches. She used, as her weapons, plants that were as tough as she was. She loved iris flowers, mostly because they came back year after year and if you let them, they'll multiply and become even more abundant year after year.

Mom's gone. New neighbors live in the house we called home for almost four decades. And because her iris plants were so hearty, our new neighbors asked if we wanted some of the flowers to transplant to our yard.


Of course.

That was last year. This is the time of year they bloom and they're beautiful.

One of my childhood memories is each spring on Memorial Day my mom went to the yard and cut several iris flowers. We had a rainbow of colors back then. We'd take them with us to my father's grave and leave them there as a reminder of what he meant to all of us. Since my mother knew him the best, it meant the most to her. And, if conditions were right, we'd take along some snowball blooms as well.

I don't know if the flowers will make it this year. We're pretty sure the snowballs will be long gone come Memorial Day. Too bad. I'd love to decorate their graves with flowers from our yard, just as she did all those years. It's a tradition worth keeping.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A Book Signing In West Jordan, Utah...


It's been a while since I've been to a book signing. Back in the day, when I thought about book signings, I imagined what took place at book signings. There would be a table with books, of course, The author sitting with a collection of pens greeting each guest with a warm smile, a little banter, and a lot of autographs. I saw long lines of excited patrons waiting their turn to greet, banter, and receive the signature.

And I suppose many book signings are just like that. But there are other kinds of book signings out there and they go a little differently than what I've described. Sure there's a desk, some pens, lots of books, and (usually...) a smiling author. Sometimes, however, that long line of anxious and excited book-carrying people just doesn't materialize and people can approach the author without having to wait their turn.


This is, in no way, a reflection on the author, or the quality of his/her writing, it's just a fact of life. Unless you're a household name, or a household name among a specific fanbase or group of people, long lines just don't happen when you're doing a solo book signing. At least, that's what I've seen a couple of times.

At today's event while I was there, a few of Dave's friends gathered to chat and wish him well. If you know Dave, he's a great conversationalist, among other things. And he many times brings along a beautiful guitar on which he strums. I brought my copy of his latest novel. I did not buy it today, but I did buy it at a Barnes & Noble bookstore last month. I stood in line, sort of. I was a little anxious and a little excited, and I was greeted with a smile. So, I guess it's not the quantity of who attends, but the quality of experience of those who do.