The Time Is…

Anyone remember POP-CORN?

I grew up in California, as most of you know. When I was young, we had a service called "Time." Time was a specific phone number you could call to get the current time in ten second intervals. A nice lady read the numbers off to you so you could set your clocks and watches, and have a friendly voice to talk to when you’re lonely. It didn’t cost anything — back in those days, all calls were local, which will give you an idea of what time period I’m talking about here — but later, when things weren’t so local anymore, they had different area code numbers for Time.

I don’t remember when I first heard the term "POP-CORN" for it. I don’t know whether I had emigrated to the Midwest yet or not, but I do remember being confused about it until someone showed me the number. It was Time, complete with the same lady’s friendly and familiar voice, but the phone number translated to the alpha-characters P-O-P-C-O-R-N. So, whatever area code you lived in, you could dial POP-CORN and get the time and date.

I guess the advent of cell phones and time synchronization via Internet, satellite and even atomic clock has made POP-CORN obsolete. Our phones update their times automatically now, and even update for Daylight Saving Time. Our computers do the same, so long as we have an open Internet connection available for them. And we generally use those to set our other devices which aren’t smart enough to do so automatically, like coffee makers and (oddly) alarm clocks. And what’s up with wrist watches that can’t do that by themselves? If a tiny cell phone can house the computing power it does and still do the updates automatically, I don’t see why a tiny transceiver for satellite can’t be built into a wrist watch for such a purpose.

No matter what, though, I’ll remember fondly the days of POP-CORN and the warm, friendly lady’s voice who told me tirelessly what the current time was in ten second increments. Another piece of my youth which has passed into the twilight of memory.

Kind of like my flat stomach and 29 inch waist.

Have a good weekend, y’all.



No matter what I do over the weekend, I never really feel productive unless I do something work-related.

For instance, I could write 10,000 words in a new book or story and get LOADS of Photoshop images made for book covers. I could read vast volumes of fiction and spend quality Facebook time updating my author page, getting feedback, and promoting my latest and greatest endeavor. I could do almost anything every single weekend and still come away feeling like I didn’t accomplish a doggone thing.

I can spend quality time with my computer programming training videos, though, and even if I only get to a couple of ‘em, I feel like I’ve done huge amounts of work. I feel satisfied, proud of my achievement(s), and the sensation I deserve to relax.

I don’t know why that is, or what it is inside me which drives the disproportionate slant that way. I’m watching a series right now about MVC, which stands for “Model/View/Controller” and is a web site structure which separates the business and data access logic from the presentation and uses something called a “Controller” to route the user’s requests between the two. There’s a great deal of background into how the controller knows how to handle the requests from the user, and where to go with it when it receives them, but in the end, this series doesn’t seem to benefit me as much as I hoped. I have a couple of looming projects and need to get them done, and despite how much I think this has potential for future projects (like Appmageddon, if I can ever get back to that), it’s not having much impact on me and my ability to code now.

So I sit and don’t feel much like returning to those videos on the weekends. I want to watch movies, and write, and make book covers for books I haven’t even written yet, and play with the kids. I want to do all sorts of things and can’t do any of them because I can’t seem to get past the nagging sensation I have to watch those videos. If not the MVC ones (I’m 37.5% of the way through), then something. And nothing strikes my interest right now.

Sometimes I wonder if just making up projects to practice coding is better.

But I find it strange how accomplishing things in other areas of my life feels so insignificant and how little can make me feel accomplished in this area.

How ‘bout you? Did you accomplish anything this weekend?


Monday Mulling

Happy Monday, y’all. Before I get into today’s rant, guess what? I’ve just finished a cover for my latest short story, which will shortly be published on Amazon’s Kindle store. Before I do, however, I want some opinions about the cover. Check them out at my author site and let me know what you think by voting in the poll. You can find it here.

So. Now let’s talk, shall we?

We got a guy at work. Let’s call him J.

J. is one of those guys who’s always trying to be the nice guy. Well, usually trying to be the nice guy. He doesn’t always succeed. J. moved to a cube just outside my office a few weeks before they took my office away from me, and the day he moved, he accused us (some unknown person in our business group) of “stealing” one of his monitors.

But most of the time, he wants to be a nice guy. And he does all right at it. He’s a little weird, but weird in a good way. He chooses the smallest bathroom in the building, for instance, in which to brush his teeth and wash his lunch vessels. There’s a far larger one not far from him, but no; this is the one-staller and the one he’s going to use irrespective of inconveniencing those who need to, you know…use the restroom as a restroom.

Which brings me to what bothers me most about J. He’s a bathroom talker.

He calls out from the stall, with the door closed, to whomever might be the person unlucky enough to require the facilities at the moment. He has no problem chatting away while he, or the other person, are urinating. And he waits for the other person to finish, steps aside so they can wash their hands, and then follows them out of this very small, very public restroom, so he can finish his “thought”.

J. is someone I need to pray for, because I can’t stand him. He bothers me. I do not, repeat, do not, want to have a conversation with him, nor anyone else, in the restroom. I’m there for one, and only one, reason. Okay, maybe two. But neither of those are conversation and socializing.

Seriously, what is broken in someone like J. that the boundary system simply isn’t there? The idea of courtesy? How about the ability to look at someone’s clear and distinct “Leave Me Alone” body language and not see it?

I need to pray for J., not because he needs it, but because I do.

Anyone get to you like that? Anyone out there in the world just set off your hackles, without even trying? or knowing they do? How do you handle it?

Hope y’all had a good weekend.


Not Quite

Every day, I run across something that makes me wonder if I’m capable.

Usually, it’s a computer programming something or other. I try to do my job and while I have soaring victory sometimes, a lot of times I have pallid, miserable failures. I come up short way more often than I come out on top, and when I do, it sends me plunging back into the books and videos in hope of finding that silver bullet, the one I need to make me a full-fledged computer programmer.

But it’s true in other areas of my life too. The one where it hits me the hardest now is when I read someone’s writing and it makes me feel deficient, incompetent, and stupid for just trying. The words on the page seem to flow, and I sit there longing with a fiery jealousy in my heart burning a hole in my soul. The words, the voice, the structure, the beat – all of it is exactly what I hoped, dreamed, I’d be by now.

All I can do is keep trying, but it doesn’t ever seem to make any difference. I can’t sit and write enough to make a difference. I have no idea how I’d do that. I used to think I had raw talent, but now, I dare not. I dare not. I don’t come close to what I want to be, and some of the people I’m envious of are exactly what I want to be. How do I bridge the gap? How can I get from here to there? I just…can’t seem to do it. I can’t be the writer I want. I can’t find the voice I want.

I get so frustrated sometimes I want to cry. Other times, I just want to give up, forget it all, move on.

My dad used to say, “There’s always someone out there better ‘n you.” Whatever you think you’re the best at, there’s someone out there a little more skilled, a little more practiced, a little more polished, a little more talented…whatever. A little more. And I never seem to be the one who’s the better one.

I’ve been on top of the world last couple of days because of something I did at work. Something my predecessor never did, maybe couldn’t do. But he had the benefit of speed on his side. He could get it done. He did get it done. So whenever I get a little too big for my britches, I try to remember that. He did it in hours, or days. I take weeks or months, if I can do it at all.

And I guess I had it coming this time. I was bragging today about what I did, but then, when I got home, I read a little something. Nothing big, just a snippet from a deviantART writer I happen to watch. It’s amazing to me how good this guy is, and yet, he doesn’t do much of anything with it. For all I know, the months he spends between his posting are all spent polishing and honing that one piece. Never know, right?

Still, his finished work is what I want mine to be, and I can’t seem to get there. I can’t seem to hit my stride. I can’t seem to find the voice, the verbiage, the style I want. I struggled that way with comic art too. I struggled that way with martial arts. I struggled that way with everything I’ve ever tried, it seems. I’m always second fiddle, next best, not quite.

You ever feel that way? You ever get a little depressed because you can’t…quite? Just not quite?

I bet most of you never had that happen. Maybe you can look in admiration and not be envious, because you know you’re awesome at something.

What is it you’re awesome at? What do you want to be better at? What are you “not quite” with but struggle for every day?


“Good Night, Dad”

When I went in to kiss the kids good bye this morning, I found my daughter curled into a small, tight ball under a fairly flimsy blanket.

It’s not unusual for her to be caught in a tangle of disheveled bedclothes in the morning. At some point, she gets up to use the bathroom and when she comes back to bed she either isn’t able or can’t be bothered to arrange her covers to protect herself from the cold. So, in the mornings, I generally check on her and make sure she’s covered up.

This morning, however, she rolled over atop the rest of her blankets, and so I had to pull them out from beneath her, in a play on the classic "yank the table cloth off the table" trick. So by the time I wrestled the blankets from under her, placed her on the center of the bed (she sleeps precariously close to the outside edge and only uses about eight inches of the bed surface), and got her settled and safe, I was chuckling as quietly as possible. I covered her up, and kissed her soft on her forehead.

"Good night, Dad."

I stopped, surprised. "I love you, baby girl," I whispered.

"Love you too…" she said and drifted back to sleep.

I left on a cloud this morning. Even in her hypnogogic state, my little girl loves us.

What more reward can a parent have?

It’s going to be a good day today, even though it’s Monday.