Monday, July 25, 2005

A Tribute

Robert Henry Williams -- the only child of Percy Andrew Williams and Sigrid Kristina Akerstadt -- grew up in Port Orchard, in the Puget Sound area. After a stint in the Army during the Korean war, he settled down in his home town, married a Seattle girl, and started working for the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

He was a Naval Nuclear Inspector, a volunteer firefighter, a scuba diving instructor, the son of a United States Marine from Arkansas and a Swedish immigrant.

And he was my dad.

He taught me how to swim. He taught me how to dive. He taught me how to handle anything that floats, with or without a motor, regardless of the size. He taught me marine safety, boating safety, how to build a fire and pitch a tent, how to bait a hook, gut a fish and read the weather.

He showed my sisters and I how to set up a camp, build a shoreline bulkhead, and use power tools. He taught us how to play tennis, drive cars, climb trees and navigate rough water. He made sure we knew how never to get lost, and how to find our way back no matter where we went.

My dad showed me how to build anything I wanted, and take care of it once I did.

He taught me that when using a knife, always push away, never pull it toward you. He taught me that if you can’t carry your gear, you’re not strong enough to use it.

He showed me how to adjust the timing belt in a car, change the oil, and when to buy a new one.

He made sure we grew up with pets, and always took perfect care of them.

Even though he had only daughters, he saw to it we went camping, water skiing, and hiking all the time. He taught us to be resilient, independent, self-assured and confident.

He loved history, war movies and spy novels. Boating, camping and golf were his favorite pastimes. When he was a young boy, he had a German Shepherd that wouldn’t allow his mother to spank him! As a teenager, he’d borrow his father’s car without permission, then reset the odometer. He thought dogs were great, but secretly he preferred cats.

My dad had a favorite saying, whenever we were out on our boat and he saw a bigger one. He’d point to the owner of the bigger boat and say “Now if I had that, and he had a feather up his butt, we’d both be tickled.”

Robert Henry Williams was born on September 21st, 1935. He died July 20th, 2005.

He was my dad.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Building the Perfect Man

So I downloaded the trial version of this software program, Poser, and played around in what limited capacity the demo allowed - - and I must say, were I not preoccupied with writing, I might be tempted to devote the every-waking-hour this program requires to attain any real results.

The demo, as far as demos go, isn’t great. It’s so limited, you can’t access enough controls to decide if you can or will enjoy the full version. And there’s no way I’m shelling out the nearly $300/US to purchase that. And unless I were to stop writing completely, and sit around doing nothing BUT use this program, there’s no way I’d get good enough at it to produce any sort of results.

And I’m just not ready to stop writing.

Also, clearly, I’m no artist !

But it was a hoot - you can actually take a face, male or female (only male in this demo) and build yourself the perfect man. Kinda like a click and drag version of a police sketch artist - you can alter every feature of the face, right down to the wrinkles in the brow line, and even animate body, hair and clothes. With patience, a talented person could create their own fully animated original movie with this thing, complete with actors.

Well you could, I couldn’t.

And oddly enough, even after a few hours of goofing around with it, I still couldn’t “create” faces for the characters I write. They’re clear as day in my head, but I couldn’t translate that using visual media. I could get the eyes perfect, but the nose was off. I managed the jaw line, but the chin wasn’t good.

And just as I suspected, the tutorial assumes you have a Masters Degree in Geometric Science. Just try and grow a beard and moustache!

Ah well. I had to try. I get these little mental burrs up my proverbial butt and can’t get by them until I try it out.

The flip side, and the one I find most fascinating, is that after trying something like that and failing, I dive straight back into the story I’m working on at the time (yes, I am working on one) and I seem to have a whole new excitement about writing. Finding out I suck at something makes me run right back to the one thing I like to think I don’t suck so much at !

Sometimes doing that is like taking a mini vacation. You had some fun, did some out-of-the-ordinary things, but then you’re suddenly glad to be home again.

Now I’m glancing around and realizing I’m within a couple of chapters of the end of this new story, and I’m getting excited. From the outline, when you feel that tingling sensation as a story begins to flesh itself out in your mind, to the first page of Chapter 1, when you look at that page number on the bottom of the screen and wonder how on earth you’ll have the stamina and patience to crank out the whole story, to the middle, when you can see so many pages behind you, and yet still so many more to come, right up to the final few scenes when you look back at all you managed to say and marvel with much humility that you were able to DO that much, say and write that much, and still realize there’s room for another.

The next best feeling to starting a new story, is realizing you’ve nearly completed one.

But don’t take those dentures out of the glass yet, Grandpa. The car is only just warming up in the garage.

Friday, July 08, 2005

It's Foolproof !!

Ever find something that intrigues you - maybe a software product, or complicated-looking piece of equipment or hi-tech toy - and while a large portion of your brain is screaming out how cool that would be, and how fantastic it looks, another part of your brain is remembering all the other cool, fantastic and really neat-o things you’ve tried in the past. You know the ones where you got completely confused by the directions, couldn’t put it together, couldn’t make it work, couldn’t quite figure it out.

You’re checking out something new that sparked your interest, and you see that it’s being advertised as basically something “anyone can use”. They’re all but coming right out and saying “Unless you’re a complete moron, you can use this.”

Sure, it LOOKS simple enough. They’ve even used phrases like “drag and drop” or “no assembly required” or my favorite “easy step-by-step instructions will have you up and running in minutes”.

So you assume you’re not the complete moron they’re talking about - after all, you can work a PC, you own a house and can dress and feed yourself -- hell, you even have a career and drive a nice car ! They’re saying this is simple to use, and you’re not a simpleton, so give it a go !

I like to think I know my limitations. I mean, I’m a writer, but I’m not Shakespeare. I can fuse two metals together, but I’m no welder. I can build a database using Microsoft Access - but so can anyone who uses that program.

But every now and again, something comes along that just looks so nice, and so much fun, and really appeals to this little voice inside my head that thinks - if only I could really make this work the way they say it can, I could have a lot of fun with it.

I’ve read up on the product, and it sounds pretty cool. I’ve even checked out the web page in detail, and they sure make it LOOK easy enough. After all, you just “drag and drop” from a wide array of choices, make simple alterations that any Howler Monkey could make with his eyes closed, and Voila! You have this really cool, completely original result.


The other voice in my head (there’s so many to choose from) is reminding me of all the other times I’ve tried such “easy to use” things. Turned out, they weren’t so much “easy to use” as “quick to confuse”.

I’m not an artist, not in the visual sense. My mother is a painter, two of my nieces are incredible with watercolor, acrylics and even pencils. My nephew has an amazing talent with the brush. Even my stepfather can wow you with charcoal.

Me . . . I do a stick figure and it looks like it’s been run over by a herd of angry Water Buffalo.

But I’ve always harbored this deep desire to illustrate certain portions of my fiction. Maybe not for display, but for my own enjoyment - - since I write Science Fiction, I’m creating things that don’t exist, and sometimes have to sketch them out in order to remember where the head is, what size the door was, what those alien marks looked like, or where did I put the couch in relation to the galley?

And then there’s the characters. Sometimes you have to SEE a facial expression in order to adequately describe it with words. For some reason I can’t remember if one main character has a special mark on his RIGHT or LEFT hand ! And to think, I created him! It’s easy, though, to forget little tiny things like that when your mind is occupied by the story as a whole - while you’re trying to work out the physics of how they’re going to get a crashed ship off a planet, or how your characters are going to figure out what’s happening . . . you can forget one or two little things and not even realize it.

So along comes this piece of software that promises to be easy as pie (though personally I find crusts a little difficult to master). They say that anyone can do this - using prefab models and thousands of variations, you can drag and drop your way to creating three-dimensional, photo-realistic images of human beings, animals, even scenery.

It’s called Poser, newest version is 6.

It’s rather expensive - so the little voice in my mind that has doubts concerning my non-idiot abilities to follow simple instruction is speaking right up. It’s shouting - rather loudly - that soon after I install this program, I’ll discover what a moron I am and how amazingly confused the complex instructions have made me. I’ll be reduced to a blithering idiot who can’t comprehend the difference between rendering and dithering (which sounds oddly like blithering) and quickly I’ll learn that “drag and drop” just naturally assumed I had a degree in mathematics and spatial relations.

Well never fear, there’s a 30 day free trial ! Oh happy day - I can explore the borders of my own ineptitude without spending a dime.

So I’m gonna try it . . . Not today, though. If it has a 30 day expiration, I need to wait until I can devote a few steady weeks of trial and error, error, error and more error. So I’m thinking next week, if I can. I’m gonna try this thing out, most likely expose my extreme lack of visual artistic talent and my apparently limitless ability to disappoint myself.

I’ll let you know how badly it goes.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Just a personal venting

I think I’m being stalked.

Not in that afraid-for-my-life, Fatal Attraction way that happens to some people - but stalked nevertheless.

Several months ago, I told this woman I no longer needed her to be my editor. I wasn’t happy with her ideas, she missed way too many of the little details that a writer trusts an editor to catch, and she’d been - in general - getting on my nerves over the years.

Now she won’t stop calling me.

I’ve had to stop answering my phone so the answering machine can screen my calls - and I hate being a person who does that! I don’t fault anyone out there who does use their machine to screen calls, after all personal time is personal time. But I don’t generally do that because I don’t generally get bothersome phone calls.

Until now.

In the past three weeks, she’s phoned my house multiple times a day, sometimes leaving a message, sometimes hanging up halfway through the recording. I know it was her, because I *69 the number.

I don’t call her back. In fact, I haven’t called her in more than 2 years. Her phone calls, which generally consist of a full 60 minutes of “my life sucks” followed by a complete grilling wherein she demands to know minute details of what has taken place in my life in the short (usually one or two days) time since her last call.

About seven months ago, I decided to try and “ween her off” by avoiding giving her any information, aside from the “Oh, nothing much” and “Just hanging out, nothing special” replies, hoping she’d get bored. It didn’t work - and I know why now . . . She doesn’t call to hear me, she calls to hear herself talk to me.

Over the years, she’s never really heard a word I’ve said. I’ve had to repeat things over and over again, explain things I’ve explained so many times before. I’d tell her something and a day or two later she’d act like I never told her. I came to realize last year that I know every detail of her life - she tells me often enough - and she can’t even remember the simplest things.

If we had a bad phone connection, it was always my phone going bad. If we were emailing each other and it took too long for email delivery, it was always something wrong with my ISP. In fact, her definition of emailing was assuming I should provide entertainment for her. We tried instant messaging one summer, and I soon learned the conversations were completely one-sided. She didn’t say anything - with the exception of “Where’d you go? Why aren’t you saying things?”

I was never more glad than when she changed jobs and could no longer use email at work. For so long before then, my days were filled with emails from her that said nothing more than “Why aren’t you keeping me entertained?” I’d never get a “good morning” from her, but rather “You have to be there by now, why aren’t you emailing me?”

I dunno, call me paranoid, but does that sound NORMAL to you?

When my writing began to be popular, she flew into one of the most bizarre jealous rages I have ever witnessed from an adult. And I mean it was strange ! I was suddenly to blame for her not being more popular than me, when she wasn’t even writing.

Her selfish, self-centeredness has gotten the better of me. I just can’t take it anymore.

So I’ve resorted to screening my calls - but that can’t go on. It’s been 3 weeks, and she’s still calling 2 or 3 times a day, sometimes leaving messages, sometimes not.

I’m going to have to take some sort of action - I just hate that I have to. Normal people would stop calling after leaving one or two messages, and wait for the other person to reply. Clearly I’m not dealing with normal, here. And in case anyone’s wondering - this is not some young, innocent kid we’re talking about. She’s quite a bit older than me. This woman is in her mid-fifties!

And yes - clearly some of this must be my fault - after all, I let it go on for so many years and just kept bending over backwards. I took all the blame, all the belittling, all the ignoring and verbal abuse, and didn’t do anything about it until now. I’ve reached the end, the breaking point.

And I’ve wasted good time fretting over the whole situation. Well, I’m not taking it anymore!

Sorry to unload here - I didn’t mean to use this blog as a self-cleanser, but sometimes you just gotta scream. I apologize if I’ve wasted a few minutes of your day, but I had to get that off my chest - it was ruining the elastic of my bra!