A Mirror into Ken's Past -- 2005

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Winter

January 11
The beginning of the year was ... well, the beginning of the year. We spent New Year's evening with Don and BJ (they came to our place), I made dinner, using a pasta sauce I had made the week earlier for XMas eve. That was fun, but then it's always fun to see them.

Lots of effort into gearing up for 12th Night, the play, and all that.

Carolyn and I had decided to spend the $$ to replace the computer, because the old one was locking up for no apparent reason. I still am not sure why it did that and had tried lots of things, including adding memory (no change), and playing with disc cache and lots of things. No go. It just locked up in weird places at weird times. So, I went to Fry's and spent more than I intended to, because I also got a new LCD monitor (17", which gives me about the same visible space that I had on the old 19" monitor). The reason I wanted to upgrade the monitor is that the old one had problems with dark photos, and I process a lot of photos. With really dark ones, I couldn't see detail, but if I looked at them on the notebook, no problem. The computer's a really nice one, has some video input features (if I wanted to spend the $$ for it, I could actually connect directly to a cable port, and watch TV on the computer, record to the hard drive, etc.). I intend to eventually look seriously at burning DVDs from the video tapes of the Golden Stag Players, and such. The old computer will be donated to Jack's school in Vallejo, including the monitor.

Anyway, after spending a few days with that around 12th Night, the software is all reinstalled (although I still have some configuration things to deal with here and there), and I can do everything I used to, including all the website updating, and such. And I can do it faster, and have more disc space than I did before. I also have a DVD burner, which will burn CDs, but also will burn DVDs ... pretty kewl.

SCA: As usual, the SCA started out the year with 12th Night, and Carolyn's birthday. Friday night we did dinner (the day before her birthday) for her, and lots of folk showed up. She got tons o'presents, had a great time ... and when we got back to the hotel, we crashed and burned. This was literally around 9:30, too. Weird.

And as usual, the Golden Stag Players did a play ... this one was really good, and except for the fight scenes was really tight. Even the fight scenes were funny, but they could have been just a bit more snappy. Oh well. I am not complaining -- the performance was great, and everyone seemed to have a good time.

After the play, CJ and I went to dinner, but the restaurant in the hotel was not prepared for having a convention (weird, you'd think they would have been told), and had only one waiter and tons of reservations. We went to the bar. They weren't very prepared either, but at least we could sit with some folk (Tangwystyl and Maxen) and had dinner there.

We went back to our "suite" (a suite only by virtue of having a tiny sitting room associated with it, and I do mean TINY), and eventually most of the cast and a bunch of friends converged on us (as planned) and we had a "post-mortem" party, and drank a lot, and had fun. We were up until 2am ... (unusual for either of us anymore). The real cast party will happen this coming Saturday, but this was fun.

In the morning, we packed, loaded the car, checked out of the hotel and then met up with folk for breakfast, and then headed for home. Didn't actually crash at home -- I expected I'd get a nap, but oh well. We watched one of the movies CJ got as a birthday present, and then the first episode of the new season of Carnivàle.

We already have some good photos ... to see them, go to Golden Stag Players, click on the "Plays" link in the menu, and when the menu changes, click on "27) The Jealous Baker" ... some of the photos are on the West Kingdom History website, and there's a great black and white on that page ... and more photos to follow. The video apparently turned out pretty good as well. Yeah! (One photo below of me doing the prologue, taken by Carolyn ...)

Among other things, because the job market sucks (having sent my resume to tons of head hunters and having heard nothing back from them), I am considering a career change. Carolyn and I agreed that I should do the research into getting a Teaching Credential (High School -- English/Drama), and try to become a teacher. There is a huge demand in the state for credentialed teachers. The drawback? It is EXPENSIVE. On the other hand, college in general isn't cheap these days. And it would be an investment. However, it would mean work would be sporadic for me until I got the credential. Sigh. If I decide to go to St. Mary's (near where we used to live in Moraga), I couldn't start until the Fall semester. If I go to JFK University (nearby -- about 4-5 miles or so) I might be able to start in the Spring.

So, the first couple of weeks of the year have come and mostly gone. I am back on unemployment for the moment, but trying to get things going for a possible contract in Florida, looking at the school thing, and still trying to find full time work. It's been weird already, but I have hopes this year will be better than last (which you have to admit was a mixed bag -- I mean, we bought a house and that was good; I got laid off, and that was bad; I had a contract for awhile and that was good; but I haven't been able to find full time work, and that is bad ...). Of course, keeping the reality check in there, it could always be worse. We weren't anywhere near the earthquake in India or the places hit by the Tsunami that totaled over 100,000 lives so far right after Christmas. We don't even know anyone that was directly impacted by all that. So, yeah, it could be a LOT worse.

January 19
Well, I think I've have given up on the "going back to school and getting teaching credentials" thing. The reason? I found, after replacing the computer and going through old paperwork and manuals, a letter from a firm here in the Bay Area that does Career Counseling from last July. The VP that sent the letter was interested in my resume, and thought they could help me. All of that is in addition to the cost and time involved in going back to school.

I contacted them, and had an interview last week. Then on Monday (Jan. 17) Carolyn and I went in (it was Martin Luther King, Jr. day, so she wasn't working), and we decided to pay them huge amounts of money to work with me (I won't give the amount -- it varies from client to client, apparently), to put me on the path for a career. This is not just a head-hunter agency. They work with you to find a career, and once you actually get a job, they work with you for three years, keeping in touch. You visit with a counselor every so often, and so on. I've pretty much been doing what a lot of folk do -- drift from job to job. This will actually put me into a career, one that suits me, and I (hopefully) will enjoy doing. I am trying to be positive, and need to stop using words such as "hope" and "hopefully" (because that implies it may not work ...).

They have given me some homework that's proving to be a major headache. They want, among other things, 15 major achievements (I had to pare mine down), and a COMPLETE (seriously!) job history -- from the first job ever ... I am not sure if this includes mowing lawns ...

While a bit annoying (I hate digging up the past more than I already have, and some of what I did for this bio was hard ...), I think I see what they're doing. They want to put together everything that might affect a career -- including areas of interest, likes, dislikes, difficulties, and so on. But it's a bit of a headache, to put it mildly. Sigh.

My first visit with my actual counselor is Friday, and all this needs to be done prior to then and entered into their online database. I'm working through the job history stuff now ... ack!

January 23
So, the Career Counseling seems to be on the right track, although I've only had one meeting with my counselor so far. I have two next week, and some more homework (one part done today ...). The hard part is that I have never been good at self-analysis. I've never really felt much need for it, and so I don't spend much time doing it. Now I have to do it (among other things, I paid these folk to help me out, so it behooves me to actually work with them ...). This is not an easy process, and I have a feeling it is going to get harder before it all starts to come together. Sigh.

Today started out gawdawful early, as Carolyn went to Texas today, so I had to get up at 3, to drive her to the airport. Got back around 4:30, fed the cats and went back to bed. After getting up, did a few things 'round the house, some on the computer, then got lunch, and did the first part of the homework due Tuesday for my next counseling session. One more bit, I can do that tomorrow afternoon and be done and ready for the session. I have another session on Thursday ...

Started going over the ton of commentary from J.P. on my book (he's helping me edit), and send that all back. I have two more chapters of commentary, and another to write, and then time to move on ... I am only halfway through the book, got sidetracked by the holidays. I really do want the book in good shape before I start trying to find a publisher (among other things so I can guesstimate page count -- it's going to be big).

Otherwise, not much to report. It's been a week, and it looks like next week will be just as busy and weird.

February 14
Yep, Valentine's Day. So, I know, I've been really crappy about updating this, I've been doing more updating over on Live Journal than here. That's really okay, I guess. This was never meant to be a "daily diary" type thing.

So, today is Valentine's Day. In order to celebrate I made sure CJ got flowers (half/dozen red roses) at work today, and went out (sinec I've been doing adventures in cooking anyway) to buy stuff to make a nice dinner, which is costing me more than I would have volunteered to do, if I had realized just how expensive it was. The one thing the cooks on Food TV don't tell you is how much some of this stuff costs. Lobster tails are NOT cheap! Oh well. Herself made yummy sounds when we watched the show I got the recipe from, and so we're trying it tonight.

On other fronts, still working on the book, but slowly. I stopped on Chapter 16 (of 24), because I need to rewrite the first pages on Menus. I was going in the wrong direction. Then I got side-tracked by some code someone was hoping was out there, so I wrote it. A freeware program for documenting the file dependencies in an application -- useful for developers, not for end-users, but still ...

The Career Counseling -- going along. Did a long (4+ hour) seminar on Friday, and have three huge stacks of homework to do before my next session. Gah. I see where this is all going, but it's a lot of work. I just hope in the long run it's worth the effort, time and money that's going into it. In the meantime, I've been collecting unemployment, and trying to find work (in case) but not putting quite as much effort into the job hunt until I'm nearer the completion of this CC stuff. The job thing really is frustrating, but I am trying to stay positive about the Career Counseling.

Carolyn is just as busy at work as ever, although she's getting into the wrong head-space about her current project (which ends this year, apparently) ... she's pretty sure that she'll have work once done with this project, as she's been approached by several people in the company (mucky-mucks).

The new computer that I bought last month is doing fine, knock on silicon. I may need to replace the printer sometime soon, but I've certainly gotten a lot of use out of the old one. It's having problems feeding paper (has had for a long time now), but otherwise prints fine -- it just uses too much paper (once feed through the drum the heat is intense enough that the paper shouldn't be used in the printer as it curls, and can get stuck ... sheesh!). Oh well. If that's the worst problem right now, I'm not doing too badly, I guess.

February 18
The end of a loooong week. While the week started out looking okay, it also started out with way too little sleep. Between the bad sofa bed at my mother-in-law's on Saturday, and then Sunday and Monday nights sleeping poorly, it was amazing how good a solid night's sleep felt come Wednesday morning, after I slept like I'd been pummeled ...

I also agonized hard over the latest homework for my Career Counselor, because it was some nasty stuff (including questions from interviews that no one likes, such as "What do people criticize about you?" ... and such). The idea was to answer the questions as best you could and then the next meeting with your counselor sit down and discuss, and improve and tweak the answers to get you prepared. Sigh. I hate that kind of thing, but oh well. It's all for the good, right?

I finished a chapter of my book that's been making me crazy, so I feel better about that. The first part of the chapter was one I had never written anything about before (kind of like the chapter on object-oriented programming ...), but I finally found an approach I was happy with. I hope my editors can spend more time on the editing process soon (one of them got promoted to Dean at the university he works for, so he's had his hands full ...), as I'm now officially about 2/3 done with the draft version of the book. Starting in on the next chapter soon, which will also be fairly lengthy as it has to do with creating reports ...

In the meantime, my former manager Charles has gotten a tiny contract for me doing some database design for a company working with their engineer ... not lots of money, but it's a start for his new companies ...

Spring
Well, sort of spring -- it's a bit early (by a week+), but the weather has been way too spring-like lately, so it might as well be spring.

March 14
Haven't been really writing much here lately ... trying to find work, trying to find contracts, etc. Been tough. For my career counseling stuff, I spent over $1000 on (2) suits a couple weeks ago, and tomorrow, and the two days after I get to actually wear them for referral meetings. I'm feeling a bit weird around the edges right now, because the job situation is so bad. My unemployment is close to running out, and while I've talked to one guy about a possible contract, I am not real sure what's happening there; and Charles (my former manager) has some work lining up, but I don't know when that'll start and ... argh! Crazy ... very crazy. I'm not sleeping well because of some of it either.

In addition to all that, my friends Tim and Laurie (former apprentices in the SCA) had to move, because their landlord got a bug up his butt and decided to sell the house they were in with very little notice. They're out of sorts for reasons that make sense. We went and helped them on Saturday ...

March 31
Busy busy busy. That's really about it. I went out and had several meetings for the Career Counseling stuff, but didn't manage to get any actual referrals out of it. Figures. I'm not mad, just slightly frustrated.

I sent out four cold referral letters (folk I don't know) at the beginning of the week, and one warm referral on Wednesday (waited until then for contact info ...). Today I get to make the calls on the four cold referrals and try to set up meetings -- that ought to be weird.

I think my counselor is a bit frustrated with me -- the expectation is that the job hunt is full time. The problem is that I am trying to get some contract work (guaranteed income), working on the book (hopefully guaranteed income), and do the job search stuff (potential job, not guaranteed). It's a tough juggling act.

The "small contract" referenced in the earlier entry is really small -- $500 -- $50/hour for 10 hours of consultation, which means phone calls, email, time spent looking at code and sending it back to him, etc. I've already used about 7.5 hours of that time. And still the check hasn't arrived, although Charles did actually send me the money (it took a month for the company we're doing this for to send him the check ... sheesh!).

In the meantime ... last weekend was March Crown. We went to that and daytripped, because the week prior CJ was in Texas for work. She came back on Friday -- normally if we camp we have shopped Thursday evening, packed and gone to the site on Friday ... that wasn't going to happen. So we got a hotel room, and day-tripped the event. That was okay. The event was fun, got to see folk, hang out, all the usual. Nothing particularly spectacular, just nice to see the SCA folk I don't see often.

This weekend we're camping for Mists Coronet, so tomorrow (Friday) through Sunday we'll be doing that.

In the meantime, tons of updates to the West History site. Worked on the book a bit, and hope to get started on the next chapter soon.

April 10
Well, last weekend was Mists Coronet at which we camped. Cold, windy, and I spent most of the week recovering, although it was a fun event despite all that. Busy week, but the usual stuff mostly. Some Career Counseling stuff (actually did a meeting with someone in the SCA in Mountain View, but the cold referrals I sent out all bombed out, and it looks like at least one of the ones I sent this last week have bombed out as well ... sheesh). Some history site updates. Lots of work on the book. Attempts to do some contract stuff, but not getting very far ... the person I am trying to work with is so busy he doesn't get back to me very quickly about anything. Agh!

Posted some photos (below). This morning (a non-SCA, non-other obligation weekend!!) CJ was doing laundry, and the Zootie went a bit silly, got under some of the fabric, and went goofball on us. Tried to capture some of that in the photos below. Also took a couple of photos of the patio, to show the furniture and the new pot one of the geraniums is in ...

Mellow weekend. Went to see Sin City (the movie) yesterday after we went to Navelets (local store for gardening stuff) to get the pots, potting soil, and a systemic to try to salvage the rose we bought last summer (which got mildew and looks sickly ...).

That's about it ... though. Watched some movies at home, took it easy. Some cleaning around the house ... Kind of nice to be able to do that once in awhile.

April 17
Sunday, sort of lazy. I worked on my book a bunch this morning. Carolyn has been working on the chemise for Donata's Laurel ceremony in a couple of weeks. (Donata is Wulfric's wife ...) She's watching the HBO series From the Earth to the Moon which is quite good. I watched some of it, but ...

Overall this last week has been a weird mix. I met with an SCAer last week -- well, a week ago last Friday, to do the whole career counseling meeting thing. He had one of his folk send me some contacts for temp agencies that work with companies to do temp (Contract) to hire type work. Since he signs the checks, his name is known. I've heard from a few of them, so I am feeling positive about that.

Still doing the rest of the Career Counseling stuff. Tomorrow I am researching some folk to send letters to and try to set up meetings. Tuesday I am calling folk I sent out letters for last week and had problems contacting. It's been a weird and tiring process.

Anyway, with the book I have figured that self publication is likely to be the only way to do it, because this book has limited appeal. I've ordered some books on self publication, and am going to research it, trying to approach it in the most logical way, and hopefully the best for myself financially. I am expecting that there will be an initial outlay, but have hopes that it will be recovered relatively quickly. Guess we'll see.

Nothing earth-shattering is going on right now ... which in a way I guess is good.

May 6
So, my birthday came and went (we went to the Hungry Hunter, had steak, nice dinner, Carolyn gave me some cooking stuff, and some software for my Pilot that doesn't work ... oh well ... she needs to return that). Nice quiet evening.

SCA: Beltane came and went. Nothing earthshattering, nice event overall. Tiring, but there you go.

Book: Manuscript is pretty much done, except any further editing, and Chapter 19, which Jim Sare is working on. One of my editors is working on a new cover (because he can't resize the other, and the publisher I'm working with (after lots of hair-pulling and decisions to make) doesn't do that size ... figures). And I have a copy of Pagemaker on the way to actually format this thing myself. Over 800 pages when I last compiled it, it may be even larger ... eeek! I may have to edit to cut some pages, which I don't want to do unless necessary. I could remove some of the appendices, but ...

Work: Well, the Career Counseling stuff is being a PITA. Very little is happening. Sigh. On the other hand, one of the folk I met at the conference last summer has some work for me -- in the vicinity of 4-6 man-weeks of work. Interesting project, complex, still working out some details. But ... some of that "working out details" is on the clock. I don't want to waste anyone's time on things that I shouldn't, but still -- this is a biggie. It does mean some money coming in.

We have a vacation planned -- this year the biggie is going on a cruise up the inland passage of Alaska with Carolyn's family. It will kind of put everything at a halt for a week or so, but after that ...

So, that's a fast recap. I am feeling a little overwhelmed, but it will all settle. Starting to get a grip on things ... I will have to juggle the book/programming stuff -- try to keep an even keel on all that, so I can get the book ready but still do the programming. I want the book done, but I want it done right as well, so it will take some time. Oh well.

May 22
Sunday before we go on our cruise. Wow. Time keeps flying along. Things have been busy, which is why I haven't written anything here for awhile.

"Busy" includes:

On top of everything else, we've seen Kingdom of Heaven -- an okay movie about the crusades, but it's too bad Ridley Scott (writer/director) doesn't care about history. Could have been better. Maybe the 80 minutes of cut film will help ... and we saw Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and loved it. Good movie, very funny, well worth watching. We'll see Star Wars III after we get back from the cruise.

Speaking of which, we're going on a cruise up the inland passage of Alaska with the wife's family (well, her mom, step-father and sister), whom I know I've mentioned before, I get along with really well. That's a week on a big boat. It'll be fun ... details (and photos) when we return.

Not much else to add at this point, but ... am hoping when I return from this cruise to really get cracking on finishing the book and the contract mentioned above. Both will (hopefully) mean good money.

June 2
The Cruise -- we're back, tired, and slightly ill. We both got a head cold. Sigh. Details about the cruise can be gotten by going to this page: Alaskan Cruise. This includes photos, and details (travellogue sort of) and all that good stuff.

June 12
Briefly. The week+ after the cruise was mostly a living hell for me. The cold that my wife managed to shrug off in a couple of days sank in and took root in me. I was hacking and coughing and all of that so badly that I got little sleep, etc. Finally gave up and earlier this week went to the doctor's office and got some prescription meds that helped a bit. Not as fast as I would have liked, but this was nasty. This is the worst bug I can recall ever having. I'm still not 100% over it. Sigh. It took me an hour to get to the point I could actually sleep last night -- I would settle in and get comfortable and then have to get up and hack up some crap from my lungs, blow my nose, and try again. Shit. Still, doing better than I was a week ago today.

I am really miffed, because I got NO work done on the contract last week. I need to get some money coming in ... so tomorrow I get to jump in again. The book is still waiting for the two chapters I need from the one friend. He was going to have it done by the time I got back, but I've seen nothing. Have dropped a couple of polite reminder emails and gotten nothing back from those, as well. I sure hope he can get this stuff to me soon, as I really want to get the book out there (among other things, it means at least some income ...). I also was in such bad shape that I blew off meeting with my career counselor or doing the usual weekly set of letters/cold calls/etc. I need to get that back on track, but following my current schedule, the letters should go out on Thursday of this week, and calls on Tuesday of the week after. So, that gives me a bit more time to get more healthy, at least.

At some point today when my wife is ready, we're driving to Livermore to do a BBQ at her sister's, as her brother is in town, so her mother and step-father have driven down from Sacramento, and all that. She's getting some sewing done for June Crown, but we really need to get on the road ... sheesh.

And on a "Feelthy Bourgeois Peeg" note -- we've been in the house for just about one year. That's something ... I guess it's no longer "new" ... thank gawd that CJ has a solid/steady job that pays well. This has been a weird year, to put it mildly.

Summer

June 20
Weather has been freaking weird for June. One day hot, the next it's raining ... I stuffed the summer heading in above this entry, because I don't know if I'll add anything on the 21st or 22nd or whenver the equinox is ... and it is pretty much summertime in this part of the world.

In the midst of all that, I've still been battling this freaking cold. I gave up this morning and went to the Kaiser Pharmacy and filled a prescription for antibiotics, in the hope that this will finish the job. The prescription was given to me by the nurse practitioner when I went in the previous time and got some other prescription drugs. She suggested I not fill it unless necessary, and after a few more days. Well, I waited longer than a few days, because I hate taking drugs, but ... well, sometimes you just have to say "screw it!" and do what needs to be done.

Am doing a bit of work on the one contract. And am waiting (sigh) for the person working on the last chapters of my book to finish them and get them to me. That's been truly frustrating, as they were supposed to be done nearly three weeks ago. And he doesn't respond to email queries about 'em. Argh. I suppose I ought to try calling him.

Extremely frustrated with the Career Counseling stuff. I have a meeting with my counselor tomorrow to talk about possible other approaches. The cold referral thing is going nowhere really fast. Out of the gawd knows how many letters I've mailed out, I've managed to have only a few meetings, and only one cold meeting, and no referrals have come out of any of those meetings. None. Zilch. Nada.

Carolyn, since getting back from the cruise, has been doing 9-12 hour work days on a regular basis. What a royal pain. Date night last week was put off to Saturday (normally it's Friday), because of that ... sigh. Oh well. At least she's working and her work is highly regarded and in demand.

July 8
Catching up a bit here ... have been busy elsewhere.

The cold: it went on for 2 and a half weeks, I finally went and got the antiobiotics that the Nurse Practicitioner suggested I take if it didn't go away. That helped, although after a 10-day course of that, there are still some minor sinus/throat issues. Sigh.

The book: the manuscript and cover have been sent to the publisher. I am supposed to have a "design meeting" with them (phone call/conference) to discuss any final issues -- I have no idea what these might be.

Work -- sporadic with the contract I am currently doing, as the code is very complex, and trying to get some of it to work is hair pullingly frustrating at times. I have currently a lookup that I'm trying to get to work that is returning weird values that make no sense. Sigh.

I met with my career counselor as noted above, but he's moving to San Diego, and has passed me off to someone else, who was supposed to call. I have heard nothing since. Sheesh. Well, if I don't have a job by mid-August (have to check the date on the contract), they owe me my money back.

Golden Stag Player update: we had our annual picnic last weekend, and that was fun as usual. We decided to try a commedia this year, but to try going for full improvisational. That's hard, and we have a backup plan -- if after one month of rehearsals, it's not working, we will take what we've done in the improv sessions and convert it all to a script and do it as a scripted commedia.

And on a different note, Carolyn had a gall attack last Friday night. As it was the Friday of a three day weekend, we didn't take her in to see anyone (she didn't feel it was life-threatening) until Tuesday. And that was after I practically forced her to do so, because she was going to go to work and catch her boss up on things that had been happening. Sheesh. The blood tests show nothing specific (they were looking for poisons in the blood, diabetes, cholesterol levels, etc.). Today she's going in for an ultrasound exam, to see if she has gall stones, and how bad they are. We both have a feeling that since it hasn't gone away, she's going to have to have the gall bladder removed.

August 1
Various short updates:

It never rains but it pours around here. Sigh.

August 20
More quick updates (life's been busy):

Overall -- busy, but in weird ways half the time. Just keeping busy sometimes ...

August 22
Well, shit ...

Someone whom I always liked in high school passed away yesterday morning. I mentioned her in the earlier parts of my bio, because she is one of the few folk from school that really stuck in my head as someone to remember. Vera Phillips, a very nice, very bright, and very sweet girl died of a pulmonary embolism. Obviously she wasn't a girl anymore, was married with two children, and so on, I was saddened to hear it. As the person who told me (Colin Maynard) said "Her sudden death is a great shock to her family and friends. While she has had health troubles for a large portion of her life, they always seemed more debilitating than life threatening. She was the most lively person I have ever known, despite those concerns."

After I left high school I lost track of most of my friends from school, including Vera. I guess it's the normal way of things, but sometimes you regret not keeping up with some of your friends and acquaintances. She was always kind to me, and in a way I had a bit of a crush on her back then because of it (being the geek I was, and not good with girls, any girl who was nice to me was important, and the fact that she was popular was a bonus ...).

I saw her in passing once after high school -- the day of the picnic for the 10 year High School reunion, she and a close friend of hers were there with strollers (and babies, of course), and I felt awkward about saying anything (I was there with my current girlfriend), so I didn't even talk to her. I am sorry I didn't now.

I guess I'm at that age where I will be hearing about more folk passing on that I know, or knew. I wasn't as close to Vera as I am sure many others were, but it's still sad to find out that someone as good as her is gone.

August 29
Just some minor catching up.

On other fronts ...

CJ bought tickets to ACT (The American Conservatory Theatre) this year, we're seeing all seven shows in the 2005-2006 season. This is pretty cool. We're doing the Tuesday Night preview shows, which are less expensive then regular performances, but with our budget still a bit tight, this is the best we can afford. We're meeting up with Donna and Andrew before each show for dinner, because they also do the preview shows on that night (it's why we chose that night, among other things). Our seats are not likely to be together, I somehow doubt it, but ... And tomorrow night is the first show of the season for us -- The Overcoat. Looking forward to it.

We're also going to see Donna and Andrew again Friday night -- we're visiting them in San Francisco for dinner, spending the night, and in the morning going to the Farmer's Market with them and probably Jeremy and Dawn. Fun, fun, fun! (Seriously ...)

That's about it for now. Really ought to get back to working ...

August 30
More on my wife's health (from an email today): "I talked to NP Rollins (who’s going to be my regular doctor), and they want me to go back and have another CT scan in about 3 months, just to make certain that the lesions on my spleen and liver are truly benign (no growth or change). And yes, I DO have “gallstones & sludge” in my gall bladder, and they are going to take it out (YAY). So I’ll go to the surgery clinic and then consult with a surgeon, just like Gail did."

So, the spots on her liver and spleen are benign, meaning no problem. However, she will have to have the gall bladder out.

On another note, the lovely peacock that's been living in the neighborhood for over 11 years is gone. We have no idea what happened. I hope that if he died, it was of old age, otherwise the only option I can think of is that some idiot racing through our complex (and they do, dammit) hit him. I would be very upset to find that had happened. Sigh. It's a shame -- he's been so cool to have around.

September 10
Late yesterday (around 5 pm), my complimentary copy of my book arrived. As you can imagine, I was thrilled. Until I started flipping through it.

Somehow in the processing between the time I signed off on the galley (which I still have) and the time it got to the printer, the quotes in the main text were converted to funky upper ansi characters such as:

     Making it Possible to ěUpsizeî to Other Platforms

which should have looked like:

     Making it Possible to "Upsize" to Other Platforms

To put it mildly, I am quite pissed off. If this had been in the galleys I would have seen it and dealt with it then. However, it wasn't. I am astounded at the fact that no one there saw this. What happened to a QA team who are supposed to check these things? Add to it the fact that everything takes so long to get processed -- it took three weeks for the complimentary copy of the book to get here from the time they told me it was being sent to the printer. THREE WEEKS? What the fuck is wrong with these cheapskates, that they had to send things UPS ground on top of everything else?

I'm so ticked off that I woke up at 4 or so and was unable to go back to sleep because of it. Shit. Shit shit shit.

So, what am I going to do? Well, for starters, shortly after I found this problem (and it is pervasive -- not a single incident -- that I could maybe overlook -- it's throughout the book), I wrote an enraged email explaining the issue. I heard back from the manager responsible for this book, and he apologized and said he would be checking into it Monday morning, but I also intend to call them on Monday.

September 16
The Book: No resolution yet. I am getting even more upset. I heard back a bit the other day, but the wording was basically "We've tried a couple of things and haven't been able to figure it out." That's it. ARGH. I am thinking I need to find someone in charge of the company and complain to them.

A Bit Later in the morning ... I got a phone call from my account manager. He believes the problem may be that when the PDFs were generated on my end, a "hidden character" was inserted with the quotes/dashes that were messed up, and that in the process of printing at the printer's side of things, the hidden character is causing problems. The interesting thing to me is that it didn't show up when they printed the galley.

Anyway, at this time I am emailing a completely new set of PDF files that I generated from Pagemaker again ... They will re-create the final document, and try printing it. If that solves the problem, I'll be surprised.

At least it's not costing me any extra for all this. However, it is delaying the release of the book. But, it has my name on it, I want this to look good, and be readable, dammit! Sigh.

BH Careers: No resolution yet. Monday a new letter is going both to the local office and the Corporate headquarters. Argh. At this point, the 8 month period that I was guaranteed is up ...

Peackock: I'm pretty sure he's gone. Haven't heard a peep (as it were) in over a month, no sign of him visibly, either. Bummer. I liked having him around ... The photo to the right is one I took last August -- on top of the garage ....

Ingrown Toenails: Second surgery yesterday (right toe). Hopefully after these heal up completely I will never have those issues again.

Contracts ...: The one contract has actually been keeping me fairly busy. It is a bit frustrating to have questions go to my main contact, only to not get anything back, but he's a busy guy, and when I get around to reminding him, he usually comes back ... The other contract due to the reorg at the company has been rather light on work (I got three whole hours in on the last invoice sent yesterday ...). Sigh.

Carolyn: Returning from a business trip to Tex-ass today. Monday is a surgical consultation visit (talk with the doctor over what is involved, all that fun stuff) so she can have her gall bladder removed. Hopefully that will resolve that.

Upcoming Vacation: The annual Eaton-Family Stinson Beach trip is coming up (approx. one month). One can't help but know about it -- Carolyn's Brother, the local (as in Bay Area -- he lives in the Seattle area now) history buff keeps sending photos from the 40s and 50s of what the area looked like. Sheesh. It's a great time, but holy cow ... we're on a dial-up connection, and he keeps inundating us with photos.

Fall

September 22
Book: The publisher and I may have found the problem. The frustrating thing is how long its taking. The problem appears to be that Acrobat Distiller doesn't default to embedding fonts in the PDF when it creates them, and all attempts I made to force the issue didn't work. I spent 4.5 hours on Monday sending the source (PageMaker and image files) to the publisher through this crappy dialup line. Then Tuesday morning bright and early I realized that a shareware package I commonly use for a variety of things called PDF995, which cost me a grand total of $20 to register (cheap at twice the price, really), does embedding of fonts.

With a bit of enthusiasm, I created "Chapter 1.pdf" and emailed it to my account manager. He spent some time with it, and I assume had some other folk check it out, and indeed, the fonts were properly embedded. I then generated the whole book that way, and emailed that.

It's taken two days, but they're nearly done merging the PDF files back to one file, including the two pages they have to remove/replace (copyright and last page ...). They need to do some spot checking of the index (for whatever reason), and will then send it to the printer in the morning. Gad, I hope this works properly this time. The frustration and anger has sort of been wearing me out.

On a plus note: one person bought the book before I announced to folk "PLEASE DON'T" -- he was in a hurry, I guess. Anyway, he was helpful because he pointed out that he saw the same problem (fodder for the publisher -- my account manager was working on the assumption that this was an anomaly -- a one-time printing glitch, until I pointed out that a customer bought the book and had the same problem). Anyway, he contacted the publisher today and asked if he could get a new copy once the problem was fixed (something I had been meaning to ask, but got busy) and was told that they would definitely send him a new copy ... That's good to see.

I will admit that the account manager I've been dealing with has been pretty even handed and even-tempered throughout this whole process. I may need to write the president or someone above him in the company and suggest that he be commended for handling a tough situation with such aplomb.

Work: The principal contact for my main contract lives in Houston. Unfortunately, Hurricane Rita is headed their way. After the devestation of Hurricane Katrina, they aren't taking any chances and he and his family are evacuating. This means that the usually fairly quick turnaround on questions is almost non-existant. Sigh. This does make it harder to get some of my work done. I have spent time tinkering with things, and all that. I have gotten some more work done, but I really need a bunch of questions answered before I can do much more. Frustrating? Yeah.

On other fronts ... not much to say. My two toes that I've recently had ingrown toenail surgery on appear to be healing nicely. Carolyn's health continues to be fine, but the meeting with a doctor she was supposed to have on Monday to discuss the gall-bladder removal surgery got cancelled/postponed for a couple of weeks. Figures.

I have been slowly working a bit on one of my older apps that I never finished, largely because I stopped gaming on a regular basis some years ago. I still have three shelves full of gaming material (Role-Playing Game -- RPG), in the hopes that some day I may actually get back in there and start gaming again. The application I have been futzing with is a combination of character generation and computer-assisted gamemaster stuff. It's been a kick to go back and look things over, and see about finishing or enhancing parts of it. I want to eventually have it ready, possibly for DunDraCon in February of next year ... just for grins. Take computer and printer and a small amount of books, and run a game that way ... could be fun.

October 19
Okay, I've been really swamped, and things have been weird.

Quick overview because I'm still reeling from vacation (gad) ...

The book is done finally and available for sale. Details at: The dBASE Book. I finally got my complimentary copy on Tuesday, Oct. 11 (a week ago ...) with the printing errors resolved. I may know now why the screen prints are not as high quality as I would like, and any new printings will have higher resolution images (300 dpi), even if I have to re-create every single screen shot yet again.

The input from the user community has been very positive, and I have hopes sales will be decent. I am jazzed enough I'm considering up to three more books on dBASE ... they would all be smaller, and more focused on specific aspects of the software.

Health: Carolyn had her meeting/class on the gall bladder surgery, and now has to wait for a slot to open up for her to do it -- which may take as long as four months. Sheesh.

Work: Gad, the primary contract has been keeping me busy. It's been made weirder because the main contact (the guy who hired me) is on vacation himself for a month. He is out with his family in an RV, and dialing into email and such with his notebook and cell-phone. On the other hand, if I can put in the hours I've been putting in for some time, that will be great, because the amount of money I've been making in the last month+ has been respectable and the work, while a tad frustrating at times (what isn't?) is interesting and challenging me.

Just noted that in my previous post about my principal (now on vacation) for the contract and Hurricane Katrina. Turns out he turned back after trying to evacuate, and had very little problem except for a period 18 hours with no power. Other than that, his part of Texas was not really touched by the hurricane. So he and his family are fine.

To add to it, Zahra, who cuts my hair, wants an address book application (not a big deal, and any money I charge will not be huge); and another guy is willing to pay me the same amount I'm making hourly for the big contract to do some small string manipulation functions in dBASE. Whew.

Vacation: Carolyn and I and her family did the annual Stinson Beach trip, and I will try to write up a real write-up for that soon, and go through the small amount of photos I took and post them. It was fun, tiring, but fun. I didn't sleep well most of the time, but otherwise enjoyed myself. The Stinson Beach Trip Write-up and Photos (More photos added, Jan. 2006 - photos by Marge (Ken's mother-in-law) ...)

When we got back yesterday, we had time to do things like weed the spam out of email, and skim through that, and then clean-up and go into San Francisco to meet up with Donna and Andrew for dinner and a play at A.C.T. We did dinner at the restaurant Jean d'Arc (John of Arc) -- a nice French restaurant -- really good food. Oof. For a flat fee you get a four course meal (pick from the options for salad, entree, dessert). Nice. The play was Tennessee Williams' Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. A.C.T. is usually quite good, but I was really disappointed with the performance of Brick -- there was no true rage in his character, and that rage is what Maggie and other characters have to react to. It fell flat for me. Oh well. We got home at midnight, and I've been working on staying awake ....sheesh. Carolyn can't be doing much better, but that's how it goes.

October 26
Monday night, late (7:30 -- to me, that's late for a delivery) UPS delivered my "free" author's copies of the book. I just finished this morning sending out the complimentary copies I owed. Man is it expensive to ship a large book to Canada! Sheesh.

On other fronts: Work is crazed. Right now a break is occurring because my email server (well, Earthlink, the ISP that hosts everything) is down. That's a drag. I need the communication with folk to get information on things. Sheesh. Oh well. I've put in 6+ hours today, and that's around running around and doing other things like mailing books.

Among other things, way back earlier in the year when I bought two suits at the Men's Wearhouse, I got some certificates for $50 each ($100 worth of free merchandise!) at the Men's Wearhouse, but they had an expiration date of Oct. 31, well, that's coming up quickly ... so, I went and spent them today. I bought a nice sports coat that is beige, in a micro-corduoroy (water/stain resistant, wrinkle resistant). It was more than the $100 of the certificates, but still worth it, I think. It is nice and dressy without being a suit coat, will go well with jeans and more formal slacks ...

We (CJ and I) did catch up a bit on sleep this last weekend, but I've been having insomnia attacks. Bleh. Not getting enough sleep in general. I think some of it is my brain going over the source code for this monster app trying to find ways to deal with issues. I've got a lot of them dealt with, but can't get them to the principal until we get a problem with this new spiffy fancyschmancy grid working ... Jan's working on it as the problem is with his custom code, but still ... sheesh.

Oh well. Rambling ... I am tired.

October 27
Got a nice email from Bob Burns this morning. Bob is one of my High School classmates, and the person who started dating my first girlfriend when she and I broke up. No anger on my part -- among other things that was 31 or so years ago ... what would be the point? <g> He heard about this autobiography from Colin (Maynard) who has been keeping up with me through it, after they visited in Oregon for Vera's memorial. Thought I'd cite a few things:

I jumped to the Alaska part and, up until February of our senior year, it was a real hoot to read. A lot of "I could have written that!".

More tidbits.

It seems Bob is living in Campbell (in the San Jose area) now, and has for the last few years. Maybe we'll manage to actually get together for lunch or dinner sometime ...

November 2
Gad, Halloween came and went quickly. I think it was because I was buried in my computer. Or with it. Or something. Things have been pretty nuts, but are mellowing out. We had some serious deadlines (Crunch Mode) for the application I've been working on, and I've been doing 10+ hour days for awhile. I did 13 last night. The reason? So that the guy who's been fronting the money for this could try to get some investors, so it wasn't all coming out of his own pocket. We managed to get things to the point that they were able to be demonstrated today, and apparently well enough that at least one person/company is going to invest, and possibly another. I don't want to jinx anything, but the news as I got it was pretty positive. Whew. Lots of hours, lots of money, but man ... whatta pain.

On other fronts ... not much news on the health front. CJ's not gotten her gall bladder surgery scheduled yet. My health is okay, but I need to:

Book: I got a fantastic review from a guy in French, but I don't read French. Eek. Luckily I know someone who has French as a first language and English as a second, and he translated it for me:

Excellent book by Ken Mayer. Nothing to do with Ted Blue's "Getting Started".

The goal of Ken's book is to really help the 'average' dBASE developer. It is full of details on the difficulties which one meets when upgrading from dBASE II, III or IV to object-oriented programming and on the multiple possibilities offered by dBASE PLUS 2.5. Even I, who is not very good in English, was able to understand the book with no particular effort.

The return on investment when one buys that book is a positive one. Thanks to that book, I was able to debug a program that used to freeze for reasons that I couldn't understand. Step-by-step, the author explains his subjects, with an obvious pleasure to be helpful.

This is a book to place into the hands of anyone who knows how to use the procedurial language of the DOS dBASE but who have difficulties when it comes to develop programs using OOP.

A French translation would be welcome: however that one is already a formidable one.

I must say that I have no interest in the promotion of that book. I am only giving my impression as a developer fluent in dBASE-IV 2.0 but who have (or had?) problems with the latest version of dBASE. dBASE is already a formidable tool and it is pity that it has lost it notoriety in France. With that book, dBASE can appeal and win back those who used to like that development platform.

If you are already fluent with Windows' API calls, SQL, OOP, Interbase and Oracle, that book might be slightly too light reading for you. However that was not the author's intent to write a book for experts only.

Before I had taken my decision, I hesitated to buy that book because if its price. Now that I have decided to buy it, thrust me: you will be satisfied of the profitability of your investment.

Of course, this opinion binds only me. Since I've also bought books previously published about dBASE (in French as well as in English), which often only describe the basic features of the program and often ignore or look superficially at how to program on that platform, I think it is useful for me to share my view about this new book.

I was able to unravel when upgrading from dBASE 5.5 to 5.7, but since dBASE 7.x I had the impression to have been set aside (development being not the essential part of my job). In this book, we feel the author's will to help us to migrate from old DOS habits to the new powerful object-oriented way of creating programs.

My only regret is that I didn't order that book directly from the author's web site. I thought that if I order it from Amazon.fr, I would get it within 48 hours: actually, it took 15 days to be delivered to me. I don't think that it would have taken more time ordering from Ken Mayer's web site.

This book is the one to own to rediscover the joy of programming with dBASE, thanks to the author's clear and handy explanations.

M. Abraham.

Wow. Pretty spiffy, eh? He posted this originally on Amazon.FR (France), and forwarded it to me ...

Otherwise, not much to say. My acting troupe is in rehearsals for the annual show in January -- doing a Commedia from scratch -- improvisational this time. That's being weird, but there's some good stuff happening. I'm working on a piece of jewelry for my former apprentice who is stepping down (SCA stuff) as Bard of the Mists in a week and a half. First time in years I've pulled out the saw, and I did pretty well -- most of the cuts are clean, needing only a little file-work to finish them. Kewl.

November 26
Things were pretty darn busy for awhile there work-wise. The big project was going to demo, and the main contact was in Germany, and ... well, it was a hassle, but ...

It slowed down again, to the point that I spent a week and a half with no work to do, which is weird. That doesn't mean I was bored, I'm always busy with something, but ...

Thanksgiving came and went since last I wrote here. Most of my updates have been on LiveJournal, but no really big things. We did Thanksgiving at my sister-in-law's place, with just the three of us. Nice dinner, but even though she tried to keep the fat content down, CJ came down with another gall attack. Bummer.

Let's see, going back over the last couple of entries ... I haven't dealt with any of the health issues listed in the previous entry. Haven't heard from Bob since a couple of emails went back and forth. Not really a lot to add.

While I started laying out the next dBASE book at Stinson Beach, I keep getting sidetracked and haven't gotten back to it ... I really need to focus. Sigh.

This year we're doing more festive for Christmas. For the first time since Carolyn and I have been together (a long time now -- close to 15 years, nearly 12 of those married ...) we put up Christmas lights (well, I did). And we have a wreath on the door. No tree, but then, where would we put it?

Got the Christmas cards ready to mail last night. Monday is gonna be a busy day.

Today is the Orphan's Thanksgiving party that one of my actors and her husband have been doing for a few years. It's fun -- food, games, movies ... a chance to play some of those silly-ass card cames from Steve Jackson Games (Munchkin and variants, and so on). I have been bringing a few each year, as well as other games folk have been digging up. It's a lot of fun.

Sunday (tomorrow) is another play rehearsal (with half the actors out, that's not going to be big), but we're also doing a potluck, and inviting all of the troupe members who can make it ... it's at our clubhouse down the street, so I'm cooking a dish, rather than making CJ do one. Figure I'll cook it tomorrow morning, and she'll keep it warm during rehearsal and cook the noodles just before dinner ...

Well, that's pretty much it for the time being ... hope all who read this are having a good holiday season.

December 1
WET! WET! Gad, it's wet out. When it decides it is time for rainy season to hit around here, it doesn't hold out. Rain has taken awhile to get here, but today it decided to DUMP RAIN ALL OVER THE PLACE! With wind and thunder (thunder is far enough away I can't see lightning). I'd say it was Winter, despite the fact that there's 21 more days to go for the official beginning of Winter. Oof. That's all ...

In the mail today was the latest check from my current contract, and my first Royalty Check! I didn't expect to get one for the third quarter. It's for 14 books (four of which were sold through Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble), so it's not huge, but ... wow! I need to get that sucker copied before depositing it! Spiff.

December 13
Feeling a bit out of sorts today. I picked up a cold over the weekend -- not bad, but just enough ... I'm actually mostly over it -- no sinuses (well, just barely ...).

The current contract is winding down to a "holding pattern", because the folk funding it have put a lot into it, but not made any sales yet. They still believe that they can sell it, but until they get some income, we're not going to be doing much work. Sigh. That just figures. I don't blame them, and surely hope that all this work wasn't "wasted", nor their money. I do hope as well that they can get funding soon. I really don't want to start job hunting again ... but I have started working on the resume. Sigh.

On other fronts, the latest play for the GSP is working well. The troupe has really pulled it together -- improvisational theatre is hard, but they're doing admirably well. I could rant and rave, but you'll see more of that both on LiveJournal and the GSP website, so no real need to do that here.

Futzing with some software I got awhile back to help me preserve the GSP videos -- these are videos of the plays we've done over the years, all on VHS tape. I want to burn them to DVD, so I bought from Adobe a software package called Premiere Elements™ which looks like it'll do what I need. I don't want huge numbers of bells and whistles, but some options are nice (such as creating menus, and putting slide-shows of the photos on the same DVD, for example ...). I'm really just messing with the software now to get a feel for it. I need to hook up a VCR to the computer to transfer the video over before I can play with it, and haven't done that yet.

Winter

December 20
Okay, officially tomorrow is the solstice and the first day of Winter, but the weather has been such that it's felt like Winter for the last couple of weeks. This last weekend we had frog-strangling rain, and all that.

Not a lot to say. The contract has slowed down, although yesterday was pretty good, with just some minor finishing bits this morning. I fear that's it though, at least at the moment. Sigh.

Started work on the next book at the end of last week, and was going to work on it more yesterday, but got caught up in the contract stuff, and today I was running on little sleep (insomnia ...).

Being the week of Christmas, it's a bit odd of course. You can't drive anywhere or go to any store without there being too many people™, which makes it a bit tough. We have Dani coming over for dinner Thursday, because she and CJ missed each other a couple weeks ago at the Boar Hunt event; Friday we're going to dinner and a movie with John/Leohtulf and his girlfriend Sandy/Gillian (who recently moved into an apartment together). Saturday (Christmas Eve) I think we're spending at home, and Christmas Day (and that evening/night) are at Gail's (CJ's sister's) in Livermore. Busy? Yeah, but it's all good. I'm sort of rambling, waiting for my wife to call from the BART station ... she's running late now ... sigh.

 


If you want to contact me (corrections, updates, or just chat), you can drop me a note by clicking here:


A Few Photos

(These are thumbnails, click on them to see larger versions with text explaining them)

From 12th Night

Ken doing
the prologue to the play


April 10, 2005

Zootie at Play

Zootie at Play

Zootie at Play

Patio Furniture

Patio Furniture


Carolyn's Flowers - June 20, 2005

Lilies

Lilies

Lilies

Yappie


Ken's Book Cover

Artwork by Jean-Pierre Martel


Photos of the Stinson Beach trip, October, 2005 (updated with more photos by Marge (Ken's mother-in-law), January, 2006)


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