Eating an Elephant

tivo-movie

Last week at the Celebration library, the Celebration writers group hosted an author named Patricia Charpentier, writer of the book “Eating an Elephant: Write Your Life One Bite at a Time”. She was there to talk about how to write one’s life story. As I blog a lot about my own life — and have a not-so-secret interest in perhaps writing fiction, if only my demons would stop getting in the way — I figured this would be relevant to my interests.

And it was. “The only way to do this wrong is to not do it at all,” she said. “It’s about capturing moments, not broad panoramic views. People always go too big; broad brushstrokes are too general and aren’t interesting enough. Don’t try to tell too large of a story. It’s like pointalism artwork: don’t think about the painting; think about the dots.”

That was useful to me. I think the reason I freeze up when I try to write is that I immediately go big, think epic, and how do you write the first sentence of an epic?

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Disney Monstrous Summer All-Nighter

IMG_9759

On May 24, Disney held an “All-Nighter” event at its parks. From six in the morning on Friday until six in the morning on Saturday, the Magic Kingdom, Disneyland Park, and Disney California Adventure would be open. Twenty-four hours, straight through!

And of course Jill and I had to be there.

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Being chosen

kitten-in-sink

So I was taking the trash out on Monday evening when I was approached by a cat.

It was dark out, and it was a black cat. I didn’t realize what was happening until two people riding bicycles on the street called over to me: “He’s been following us around and we’re worried he’s going to follow us home. Would you distract him for a moment so we can get away?” And that’s when he trotted over to me. “Thanks!” said the bikers, and rode away.

It was a small black cat. A kitten, really. Regular-cat-shaped, but not yet full sized; couldn’t have been older than a year. Bright amber eyes, more orange than yellow. It twined around my feet and rubbed up against my ankles. It made a squeaky little meow. I petted it; it pushed its head eagerly into my hand and purred.

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Thousands of drafts

bowling-lockers

A few days ago I was helping someone with some computer problems when I discovered she has a thousand unsent messages in Outlook. I was astonished. “You’re in the middle of writing a thousand emails?” I asked her.

“No, that’s where I keep any scraps of information I want to save for later!” she replied. “Web links, notes, bits of text I want to copy and store away…”

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Limited uses

nge-cupcakes

Mom once told me a story of when she was a little girl, and the kid down the street had a new battery-operated light on his bike. “I’m not supposed to use up the battery,” he said, but he proudly switched the light on and then quickly off again.

“Maybe that was the last time it will work,” Mom said, “maybe you used up the battery.”

“Nuh-uh!” the boy said, and switched the light on and off again.

“Maybe that was the last time,” Mom teased.

“Nuh-uh!”

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Driving lesson

mustang

Jill has a ’97 Ford Mustang convertible. Beautiful car, powerful, if a bit thirsty for fuel.

That last part became a problem a few years ago when she took a job in Lake Mary, which is an hour-and-a-half’s drive each direction. It became quickly apparent that the fuel costs alone would drive us to the poorhouse; so that’s when she bought the Honda Element, which is gentler on the budget and more comfortable to drive that distance.

Fortunately she decided to leave that job, but we both still drive the Element, and her Mustang has been sitting unused in the garage for long stretches of time. Jill has been wanting to teach me how to drive a manual transmission, but something always comes up and scuttles those plans. So while the car has been sitting unused, the battery died; Nick (our mechanic) put a new one in and we let it sit too long again and THAT battery also died. So as of two weeks ago we have a NEW new battery.

Yesterday morning was cool, breezy, overcast. I told Jill, “It’s time. Let’s go give me a driving lesson.”

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Welcome in!

*tap* *tap* Is this thing on?

There, my web site is redone! Not bad for a weekend’s work. I had tried to maintain it for a while with RapidWeaver, but that was just more hassle than it’s worth. Editing php and css files by hand in Eclipse gives me a lot more control.

I know the site looks a bit plain and grey right now, but perhaps I’ll improve on the design later. I’ve also been experimenting with responsive css so the site might eventually be usable on an iPhone, but I’ll do more with that later.

So please come on in, say hi, post a comment so I know this blog is working? And please also let me know if you find anything broken!

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Old machines

I love fixing up old computers. Who needs the latest-and-greatest if all you’re going to do is web surfing, email, and some light word processing? I’ve accepted donations of dozens of unloved computers around town, I’ve wiped them clean and put Ubuntu Linux on them, and I’ve given them new homes with families who need them. The new owners don’t mind much that Ubuntu can’t run Windows games or Windows viruses.

I’ve got a collection, in fact, of very old Mac computers. One of my favorite is a Mac IIfx, which was totally the boss of its day. 40MHz! “It can finish an infinite loop in twelve seconds!” people would say. “It takes seven HALT instructions to stop it!” I hear the Linux m68k project has come to life again; maybe someday I can put Debian on it.

I wish I knew as much about fixing cars as I know about fixing computers.

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.htaccess on a Mac web server

So, my first tech tip of this new blog.

I installed WordPress and customized a theme to match the rest of this site. (I used to do Enchanter.net entirely in hand-written HTML, but then I decided to “get with the times” and try using a template-based site-generation tool to do the work for me. In hindsight, I should have just continued to write the HTML by hand.) Everything went smoothly, but there was one hitch.

WordPress has a “Permalink Settings” page where I can change the URLs of my blog posts from something boring – “https://www.enchanter.net/ao/?p=123” – to something more trendy like “https://www.enchanter.net/ao/2013/04/sample-post/“. Problem is, to enable this, I had to either use a .htaccess file with some rewrite rules in it, or else modify the server’s httpd.conf with the rewrite rules.

There was much gnashing of teeth as I tried to figure out how to get this to work.

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Hello World

There’s a tradition in computer science that the first venture into a new area must begin with the words “Hello World“.

So, hi!

I’ve had a private LiveJournal for twelve years now. (More than 3,200 journal entries and 48,000 comments!) I’ve given Facebook and Twitter a try, but it’s too much effort to cram my thoughts into those tiny bite-sizes spaces. Meanwhile, though, I’ve been craving a public place where I can be more profound than personal – or try to, anyway. I want to post here about religion, and politics, and theme parks, and whatever else strikes my fancy. This’ll also be a good place for some how-tos as I figure out bits of technology; maybe as Google picks them up I can help other people avoid the messes I regularly find my way into.

Please keep your hands and arms safely inside the browser window, and don’t mind the dust.

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