when in doubt

He slammed his hands down in frustration.  The keyboard rattled.  The monitor swayed slightly on its pedistal.  But, nothing changed.

“Blue screen of death again,” he mumbled under his breath. 

The oft cursed adage about Windows products, “when in doubt, restart,” ran through his thoughts peppered with the colorful langauge he had learned long ago was not suitable for polite company but perfectly at home in his mind.  Though he wasn’t currently in polite company and could have spouted off as much black and blue (bruises) and red (blood) as he desired without offending anyone, old habits are hard to break, and he found he could only rarely allow the creative combinations of four letter words from his mind out into the open.

Sighing, he leaned forward and used the index finger of his right hand to hold the power button on the CPU at his feet.  The grey tower leaned back every so slightly as he pressed into it.  After two seconds the spinning sound of the hard drive beneath its metal case disappeared and the blue screen on his monitor blinked off, leaving the blank reflective surface and nothing else.

He sneered at the faint copy of himself as he pulled his finger off the power button and sat back into his chair.  He was not the man he had thought he would be.  Not only had he never fulfilled any of the dreams he’d had in childhood, he’d also lost any resemblance to that exuberant youth.  He wasn’t a copy of a copy of a copy.  He wasn’t a shadow of his former self.  He had turned into something altogether unrecognizable.

He knew it was time to get a new computer, but his old Pentium II processor powered machine was the last remaining tie to his old life.  He had believed he would change the world when he first purchased the computer.  Paid for with money he had earned on his own, it had been the inspiration for most of his dreams, for the goals he had set for his life rather than the goals his family had set for him. 

His reflection laughed at him.

If he bought a new computer it would be admitting failure.  As long as he could continue to fix his worn down desktop he could hang on to that last sliver of hope that one day he might turn his life around and reach some of the goals those first few years clicking away on it had originally inspired.

His reflection laughed at him again and he felt the corners of his lips turn up even further.  The sneer had turned into a smirk. 

He hated waiting.

The prerequisite thirty seconds elapsed and he leaned forward to reboot the machine.  His finger depressed the button again and then quickly released it.  The hard drive spun up with a few clicks and a few beeps.  He straightened up in his chair again and watched as his reflection on the blank screen was replaced by the start-up prompts.

“Would I like to start in safe mode?”  His left hand found the “3” to select that option on the keyboard and his right hand selected “Enter.”  He could make that selection without looking at the keyboard anymore.  His hands new the desired paths from multiple repetitions.

“Here I go starting over again…  If only I could do that with my life.”

After some thought, while still waiting for the computer to boot fully, he added, “Wouldn’t mind the safe mode option either.”

My life through maps

Feeling inspired to challenge myself today and do something a bit different, I’m going to use the Google Map embed feature to provide a (very) brief history of my life.

From 1981 through the summer 1999 I grew up in Ridgecrest, CA in the middle of the Mojave Desert:

It was a great place to grow up though I didn’t appreciate it at the time.  Quiet, peaceful, safe, and with easy access to both the western and eastern side of the Sierra. 

I was baptized in the Kings River, Zumwalt Meadows, Kings Canyon National park:

These driving directions are pretty good.  Take the 180 to Zumwalt Meadows, park, and then step down the trail a little ways.  I don’t think I could find the exact spot anymore, but once you are there you’ll get the idea.  And, yes, it was cold.

At the ripe old age of ten I went on a backpacking trip that, among other things on the week long adventure, saw us summit Mount Whitney:

These driving directions will get you to Whitney Portals and, if you have the proper permits and are properly conditioned, you can do the day hike up to the summit and back from there. On our trip we went in over Kearsarge Pass and hit Whitney on our way out of the backcountry.

We went on several family trips growing up.
Yellowstone:

Washington DC:

London:

Paris:

In 1999 I graduated from high school and moved to San Diego in the fall to attend UCSD, Revelle College. I lived in La Jolla (2 years), Serra Mesa (3 years) and Mira Mesa (3 years) until I left in 2007:

My alma-mater:

Shh, don’t tell my parents, but I may have taken a couple trips down to Tijuana:

After graduation, I took a trip out to Catalina Island to, er, um, “rest” and “recuperate” from the long and arduous years studying for school. (Can you hear my parents laughing in the background?):

I headed east to Prescott to visit my brother who went to Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and then worked for the school for several years after graduating as a flight instructor before eventually winding up in Phoenix:

All of those trips were about resting and recuperating as well.

In 2007 I moved from San Diego to Camarillo where I lived with my soon to be wife until 2009:

We ventured out to Colorado on several occasions to visit her sister in Gunnison and to go snowboarding at Crested Butte:

The Rockies are as enchanting as the Sierra. Each of those trips was an absolute blast.

We took several trips up to Mammoth to snowboard, and we married there in April of 2009 at McCoy Station:

Eventually I’m going to have to do a separate post about our wedding. It was amazing. The picture at the top of my blog page is from that day – Top of the Sierra, standing on 18 feet of snow. We had some of our pictures taken with us sitting on that sign. Anyway, if you’ve never been to Mammoth, winter or summer, stop whatever you are doing (after you finish reading my blog of course) and go now.

In 2009 we bought our first house (a condo) in Oxnard and that is where we still find ourselves today:

We still venture out and about though, and aside from our normal trips up to the mountains we’ve also made it out to Pennsylvania a couple times and even to Playa Del Carmen:

Who knows where we will head next.

I wish I were(n’t)

Oh, the hypocrisy that is me…  We’ve been down this road before, haven’t we?

I wish I were a published author.  I guess I should submit something I’ve written to an agent or publisher.  I wish I were less lazy.  I wish I were more motivated.

I wish I were a better writer.  I guess I should take some classes and attend some workshops and conferences.  I wish I were richer.  I wish I were able to justify the expense.

I wish I were paid more for my 9-5 job.  (Okay, it’s actually 7 – 4, but you understand.)  I guess I should look for ways to advance my career.  I wish I were in a more stable industry.  I wish I were more dedicated to my work.

I wish I were no longer living in California.  I guess I should try to find a job in a different state to facilitate the moving process.  I wish I were capable of predicting the future.  I wish I were able to see a silver lining here on the silver strand.

I wish I were more confident.  I guess I should be happy with what I’ve achieved so far in my life and the path I am on.  And I am.  I have a college degree, a good job, a beautiful wife, a good little condo, two crazy kitties, and a child on the way.  I’ve travelled, I’ve learned, I’ve loved.  I wish I had all the answers.  I wish it were that simple.

I wish I weren’t such a hypocrite.

…..

Written in response to this week’s writing challenge: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/weekly-writing-challenge-i-wish-i-were/

To allow or not allow, that is the question

… of this week’s writing challenge: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/weekly-writing-challenge-children/  “This week, we’re particularly interested in what you think about kids in adult-oriented places. I think most of us can agree that it’s not a good idea to drag little Sally to a bar at 1AM, but what about a museum? A fancy restaurant?”

While ultimately I think it should be left to the owner of the establishment who they would like to provide service to (as long as no civil rights are being violated – and that is a completely different matter altogether) for the purposes of this week’s writing challenge I would like to argue that children should be allowed everywhere their parents are willing to take them.

I’d even go so far as to encourage parents to specifically seek out these sorts of “questionable” environments and take their children early and often.

Children are sponges: they learn from all aspects of their lives – reading, studying, playing, and interacting with everyone and everything around them which includes observing.  They observe how their parents behave in every situation and they learn to model their own behavior accordingly.  If there were no other benefits from taking children into museums, fancy restaurants, live action theatres (musicals, plays, etc…), libraries or any other setting where their potential for noise could be disturbing, the life lessons they learn by simply being there and observing is enough of a reason to warrant their inclusion.  Period.  End of story.

(Returning to the hypocrisy that is me, however, that won’t keep me from being annoyed if I’m in one of those situations and a child erupts into a noisy fit.)

Okay, for arguments sake, beyond the benefits of having children observe their parents and every other person at these locations and events each of these situations also holds additional opportunities for children to learn and grow that they would not otherwise get.

There is no way to recreate the acoustics and interactions of a live performance in a grand theatre.  By not taking children to see plays and musicals at early ages we could be denying our children the spark that would help mold them into the next great composer or actor or playwrite.  Would you want to take away that opportunity from anyone?

There is no way to recreate the ambiance of a fancy restaurant without actually going to one: the etiquette, the atmosphere, the interplay between the different parties, and all of the remaining norms that come into play only when in a fine dining experience.  There are many lessons to be learned here, but it provides a great opportunity to teach the value of money.  Don’t you think children should learn the difference between what money can purchase at a McDonalds and what money can purchase at a Ruth’s Chris?  Maybe a child exposed to that lesson early on will grow up to be a great accountant or a Wall Street Broker.

The internet has come a long way, no argument there, but would you really deny children access to Libraries just because they might be a little rambunctious from time to time?  Really?  There are lessons to be learned in every book and on every shelf and in every reading group and in just interacting with the librarians…  I spent a vast amount of time in my library growing up and I hope that the internet hasn’t killed them off when I have children old enough to go.  Maybe they will grow up to be authors, or editors, or publishers, or any of the proffesions they could read about while sitting at a table in the library lost in a good book.

Museums… really?  How is this even a question?  In my mind this would fall into the same category as libraries – there is too much of value, too many great lessons waiting to be learned, too many discoveries waiting to be found, too many mysteries waiting to be solved.  I would never deny children access to those experiences no matter what slight discomfort I may encounter as a result.  What spark might we be denying them if we do so?

From learning through observation how to act to the various specific additional benefits children get in each of these settings, they should be there.  They should be in the museums and fancy restaurants.  I may grumble about it under my breath, but deep down I know it is good for them to be learning in those environments even as they are screaming at the top of their lungs.

“Red – a world about to dawn!”

This week’s writing challenge, a splash of color, asks us to consider the power of colors as emotional triggers.  As the challenge voices, there are certain colors that have stereotypical (cultural) responses – white: clean, blue: sad, red: angry, green: healthy – and there are certain colors that have would trigger more personal responses based on memories and experiences of each individual – the colors of leaves as the seasons change: reds, oranges and browns, the color of the ocean as it breaks on shore: a full gradient of blues topped with a foamy white, the storm clouds gathering on the horizon: blacks, purples, greys, and oranges if the sun happens to be setting behind the clouds.  These are all great examples of the power of color.  I could write blog posts about each of these, what they mean to me, and how the color influences my reactions and responses.

However, personally, the first colors I think of when I’m considering them as emotional triggers are Red and Black.  Specifically, I think of a song from the musical Les Miserables titled exactly that: Red and Black.  (For reference, you can check out the full song here: Les Miserables – Red and Black lyrics.)

My first introduction to Les Miserables came in the form of the 1998 film starring Liam Neeson as Valjean and Geoffrey Rush as Javert (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119683/).  I was so utterly captivated by the story in the film that I immediately went out and read the Victor Hugo classic.  I was hooked.  After finishing the novel I had the opportunity to see the musical performed several times, in several locations, with several different touring companies.  They have all been fantastic.  (Perhaps I’m just a sucker for the story no matter what form it is told in.)

This may be taking the challenge slightly out of context, as rather than “actual” colors I’m going to focus on colors as words, but there are several lines in the song “Red and Black” that help me relive the experiences of watching, reading, and listening to the story and relive the full ensemble of emotions that the story has brought out in me each and every time I’ve gotten to experience it:

The color of the world is changing day by day…

Red – the blood of angry men!  Black – the dark of ages past!

Red – a world about to dawn!  Black – the night that ends at last!

…..

Red…  I feel my soul on fire!  Black…  My world if she’s not there…

Red…  The color of desire!  Black…  The color of despair!

Red and Black, two colors, seemingly such simple descriptions (they aren’t even the most imaginative or expressive of colors) but in this song they exist on a palate all their own.  They encompass life and death, love and loss, past, present, and future.  They are everything we have ever been and everything we will ever be.

Red is passion, hope, love, the dawning of a new day, the dawning of a new life, a new relationship, and all the possibilities the future may have in store, as well as the drive to make that future a better world.

Black is loss, and loneliness, the necessary evils to bring about change, strife, anguish, the demons from our pasts, the things that haunt our memories, and, ultimately, death.

These simple words, these two simple colors, help me remember all of the corresponding interactions and emotions in the story.  From there, the colors help me transfer my thoughts from the story to experiences in my own life; Red and Black trigger a flood of memories: pain and sorrow, triumph and joy, and above all love – that ever constant and ever fluctuating drive in all of our lives. 

Ups and downs, back and forth, good and bad, red and black: love and life.  These two colors can represent the entire sum of our human experience.  At least, when I’m listening to that song, they can for me.