Getting there is all the fun

Volume 1: The early years 1948-1966

Volume 2: College, Army, first jobs 1966-1977

Volume 3: PC Revolutionary: Computerland, Beehive, Novell 1977-1989

Volume 4: Beginning The Great Panic: Divorce, bankruptcy, mid-life crisis 1990-1993

Volume 5: Being a Sea Cucumber 1994-1997

Volume 6: Searching for a new life, 1997-2002 (and discovering how deep the Panic Scars are)

Volume 7: Recovering from Panic Thinking 2003-2008

Volume 8: Remaking a home in the USA 2008-2010

Volume 9: Searching for positive feedback 2011-2014

Volume 10: Furnishing my Comfort Zone 2015-

Searching for Positive Feedback

Winter 2011: Medical Miracles and Author Frustration

The first part of the year 2011 a health issue loomed large: my eyes were giving out. The left eye in particular was growing a large and very healthy cataract dead center in the lens. This did not come on suddenly so I had been budgeting for its replacement for a year. What was a surprise was when the eye doctor said, "You know, you really ought to get both eyes fixed at the same time."

Urk! The idea of getting one eye messed with was plenty scary. ...One one day, and other the next day? Umm!...

But I did, and I got to experience a miracle of modern medical technology: Both eyes worked so well that I could give up on glasses! The procedure was scary but painless, and the recovery consisted of steadily improving vision for about three weeks and putting in eye drops for five weeks. I noticed that the world I saw was blue-shifted (my old lenses had been yellowing as well as clouding up) and there were some other minor oddities as the nervous part of my vision system adapted to the new optical reality. One surprise adaptation was that over a couple of months my lower eye lids started rising up again, they had dropped a lot when I started wearing glasses a lot, which made me look wide-eyed. After the operation they started rising again, which a couple months later did affect the shape of my eyes and my vision.

The other fascinating part was how quickly I took my new seeing skills for granted. I write about this as a miracle, and intellectually I know it is a miracle, but it never really felt... awesome. It felt pretty normal after just a night's sleep when I got over the iris dilating.

Ah... such is life. ...and having a miracle become that transparent defines a true miracle.

Life Changes... Gaming life, that is

Another interesting element of life came up shortly thereafter: I quit playing the computer game City of Heroes (COH), and that was surprisingly traumatic for me. The process of doing so made me restless for many nights and lethargic for many days. I was surprised at the intensity of this distress.

As this phase was ending, I hit me that what I was feeling was much like a divorce. For six years COH had been a daily companion, and a faithful and entertaining one. But in early 2011 my dear little companion was getting boring, and then judgmental (I got into a fight with the support people over the name of a character), and finally fickle: after an update it stopped playing well on my computer. Here's the tale of that sad final month. It was time to cut bait, but it wasn't easy on me.

At the same time, I my years-long restlessness about theatrical movie offerings also spiked. I was seeing too much that I'd seen already. I knew the story just by reading the log line and all that would be different would be the special effects. I really, really wanted to be seeing new and different stories. So... movie watching was not going to be able to take up the time slack that coming off computer games was going to give me. This was sad. I really enjoyed a weekly jaunt to the movies, and my body really felt better when I made the trip. I was losing a therapy session as well as an entertainment session. It was doubly distressing.

2011 photos


My grandchild of 2011: Skyler from Altair and Alan.





Attending a Superstars Writing Seminar with Dave Farland and Kevin Anderson.


2012 photos


It's solar eclipse time... and Venus transiting the sun time. And also cloudy time. <sigh>


Part of a photo shoot with Jon Olson.


"Just who's lawn were you thinking of walking on, son?"



But book selling success did not change

And another change happening at this same time was that I reviewed my success at promoting my books and I was quite unhappy. I was spending time and money, and no one was buying!

Related to that, I was increasingly disappointed with acquaintances I'd made in my book promoting and movie making projects. The highlight of this frustration centered around a book promotion seminar I attended in January 2011, The Superstars Writing Seminar. I paid good money to go to this seminar, and one of its featured authors was Dave Woolverton/Farland, an old acquaintance from my Novell days. These were competent people, and I wanted a breakthrough.

What was covered at the seminar was very similar to what I'd been reading in books on book promoting. That part was good: It said that for the months previous I'd been going through the right motions. I also did a lot of networking at the seminar. That was good, too.

But in the months that followed the networking proved useless, and I sold no more books after the seminar than I had before it. <sigh> In fact, the networking was worse than useless: Very few of the other aspiring authors also attending, and the successful authors putting on the seminar, seemed interested in what I was interested in. And none seemed able to help my book promoting in any meaningful way.

After four months I got discouraged with them and defriended most of them from my Facebook account. As a group they were impressively dull, and not helping, and routinely falling victim to Facebook scams. They vividly reminded me of why I had given up on a local writers group two years earlier.

And that got me discouraged with this whole book promoting business. Sadly, it seemed to confirm my chronic worry that the Technofiction I was writing really was a breed of its own, and unlikely to become a popular one.

The insight I was getting as I was getting discouraged was that SF book publishing and general audience movie making where both dominated by two virtues: persistence and familiarity. And that was it: Those were the virtues that counted. The person who tried and tried, and who presented a familiar topic in a familiar way, and who was familiar to those with publishing/production power... won: He or she got an SF book published or a movie made.

What was discouraging about this was that the virtues I'm interested in -- insight, good science basis, worldly experience and good story -- play a vanishingly minor role. Likewise, novelty is deeply suspect -- taking a fresh look at a topic, or looking at a new topic, brings a "Huh?" response from those who can greenlight.

I recall from an article which I cannot now locate, some movie maker saying something like, "In my film class we had a lot of bright people. Many of those bright people are now bright accountants and other bright professionals. They gave up, I persisted. I'm the film maker." ...I think those other people made good choices. They pursued their other virtues, and they will live richer and more satisfying lives for doing so.

By April I had decided that I would finish the editing and publishing project for my current books, and finish my latest SF book, Child Champs: Babymaking in the World of 2112, but it was time to be looking for other activities onto which to lavish my time and attention. Book promoting as a primary activity had had its day in the sun. Persistence was not going to become my primary virtue.

However, figuring out what would be next was not going to be easy...

The editorial that launched a thousand... ten thousand comments!

One of the odder incidents of early 2011 was starting a discussion thread on an MIT alumni group blog that continued on very actively for over two months... and then even more! I started it on 20 Feb and by 25 April there were 1025 comments and it was still producing more than a half-dozen comments a day.

Update: on 24 May it reached 2,000 comments.

Update: on 20 Jun it reached 3,000 comments.

Update: on 16 Jul it reached 4,000 comments and picked up the nickname "blogathon" from Owen Franken one of the participants.

Update: on 28 Feb 12, a year later, 14,000 comments. Amazing. I have created a standard. LoL!

Update: on 12 Dec 13, at 23,514 comments, Linked-In, in their infinite wisdom, closed the thread to further comments. The end of an era.

Here is the editorial that launched a thousand comments: Collectivism is back. ...and BAD: Wisconsin State Budget Battle, and here is The 10K Blogathon.


Technology update:

The story of a sad little phone number

When I returned from Korea in 2008 I had to reconnect to the US in many ways. One of those ways was getting a cell phone. The process took a surprising amount of hoop-jumping -- which I blame on America's phone regulatory environment. The Curse of Being Important is strong here.

One factor that strongly influenced my choice was that upon returning I discovered that the cell phone account which I had closed properly years earlier had been turned over to a collection agency. Umm... cheap shots had been taken. OK... no more contracts for me! I tried month-to-month for a while, but I used my cell phone so little that that plan seemed expensive.

I went back to pre-pay, and found that if I paid $100 my first year, I could refill that pool each year with whatever I wanted to... typically about $20. Cell phone service for $20/year... it matched my cell phone usage well.

The cost was right, but what was bad was three previous owners of this phone number had been deadbeats. I got a stream of voice, robo calls and even faxes from collection agencies trying to contact those previous owners. I learned about collection agency tactics. <sigh> The most annoying being: They would sell around their lists. I would get one agency to stop bothering me, then they would sell their list to another agency and the bothering would start up again. It took about two years to get each and every list holder to not only stop calling me, but to not pass on my number when they sold it on.

... Or so I thought.

In the summer of 2011 I got hit with a new technology twist: the Phish Phone Call. I got a robo call claiming to be from my bank saying that my credit card limit had been dropped. The first time I got the call it was spooky... and I followed the first instruction to get it straightened out. Fortunately, just the first. When more was asked for I caught the strong whiff of scam and hung up.

Bad... Even worse, I got the same robo call two weeks later, and again a couple weeks after that! Umm... it was a new scheme, but the perpetrators were no smarter than other scam artists.

Still, the more I thought about this the more discouraged I became. I was getting these calls only on my cell phone number. This meant that some collection agency had sold their list to these phishers. And, since these phishers weren't about to listen when I asked to be removed from their list... <sigh>

Further, the fact that I was getting these monotonous calls regularly over a six week period meant that in spite of their monotony the perpetrators weren't getting caught. This meant my bank, the phone company and law enforcement were spending mill..., no thou..., no tens of dollars trying to catch these people. <sigh again> And, it meant that making these calls was as dirt cheap to do as sending e-mail scam was. And... there was no reason why these people would not sell their list on and on as the collection agencies had.

So, my crystal ball told me this was not a problem that was going to fix quickly. It was time to change my number, and I did.

The moral of this story is that cell phone feature technology has some catching up to do. Now that there are phone phish scammers who will become as profligate as e-mail scammers, there needs to be a quick way to identify and report robo caller fraud. And there should be quicker and easier ways for end users, such as me, to block unwanted calls.

Update: In August my patience ran out and I changed phone numbers. Doing so paid off. The new phone number stays blessedly quiet most of the time. Once in a while I get a call for the old owner, but, surprisingly, the people calling are night-and-day different from those who called the other number. They are polite, courteous, and stay connected long enough to find out what had happened. None are robo-call collection agencies and I'm on no phone-phishing lists. Changing numbers paid off handsomely.


2012: Hitting the books again

It didn't happen suddenly, but in 2012 I got back into book promoting. I met a man, Michael Tanner, who sparked the renewal. I originally started dealing with him because he was a radio talk show host and he was looking for science fiction-oriented people to bring on the show.

As we became more acquainted it turned out he had some contacts with local book sellers and we toured Salt Lake and Utah valley putting copies of Evolution and Thought and Tips for Tailoring Spacetime Fabric in places such as Eborn books, Weller and King's English.

This went on for about six months and I did some book signings at these stores as well. At the signings I sold a few books, but when I wasn't there the books just sat on the shelves gathering dust. In August I cut bait on the experiment; I collected all my books back. Ah well... time to look for the next promotion plan. The lessons learned: just having books on the shelf in a book store is not going to sell them, and for the numbers of books I sold at signings, I would have had much better income spending the time selling insurance. <sigh>

And after nine months Michael lost interest as well and moved on, yet again, to other projects. (While I had been working with him on the book stuff he'd stopped doing his radio show. He was a move-on'er kinda guy.)

In the meantime I kept up on my ESL tutoring and attended two SLCC classes to broaden my skill base. An anthropology class I took inspired some more blogs about human thinking, and a Digital Media Essentials class broadened my Adobe products skills. I created some better looking home pages for White World, Cyreenik Says and KIRS (Korean Immigration Recruiting Service -- a recruiting company Kim Tok Han was starting up... slooowly... in Korea.) Many of the anthropology blogs helped fill out the How Evolution Explains the Human Condition book... that was finishing so slowly! I also did some volunteer work helping Channing Lowe with his screen writing class at SLCC (mood start and internal consistency), and I was a speaker at LTUE. I got some nice praise in the SLCC class, and for my presentation on Putting Technology Ramifications into Your World Building at LTUE.

The other odd thing that happened, book-wise, was that George Trosper got glacially slow as editor. It was strange. I finally had to take him off of Quirky Romance, Science and Insight for Science Fiction Writing and Child Champs and give those to other editors. I let him keep working on How Evolution Explains the Human Condition because it was almost done. But, it turned out to be almost done for nine months. I stuck with him because his quality was high -- he was giving the book a lot of thought and it got better. But...whew! Such a long time to finish!

In May of 2013 it finally finished. Yay! This ten-book odyssey that I brought home with me from Korea was now complete.

In early 2013 I also spent more time and money learning Social Media from Author House. I built up several Facebook pages, started two author personas and learned about Twitter. As was getting monotonously consistent, none of the above did anything for book sales.

In late 2012 I started thinking about audio books. When signing at books stores I got several queries about whether my books were available in audio. In early 2013 I personally did recordings of several books, but I could never find a good way to get those recordings either edited or published. The Author House offering seemed weak at the time, and looked weaker and weaker over time. But I could never stumble on anything that looked better. This was still "wishes and dreams land". <sigh>

Also in 2013 I stumbled on to a screenwriters group. My... it's amazing how consistently poor the match is between these writers groups and what I produce -- writing or screen writing. I was patient, and helpful. I always wrote out my critiques and handed the hard copy to the writer. But what little I could present was always greeted with, "Huh?" It got deeply frustrating.


2013: The Photo Scanning begins at last

I'd moved the boxes from the closet to my library room a couple years ago. Finally in the summer of 2013 I opened the boxes and moved my albums of photo negatives on to book shelves, did a rough count, and started taking them in small batches to local photo shops for scanning. I had tens of thousands. This was not going to be fast or cheap. But, now that both Social Security and Medicare had kicked in, and my stock investments were doing well, I could actually begin the project. I would take batches to get scanned, get back a DVD, mindlessly upload the raw files to the archive section on my web site (unlimited storage plan now), then selectively move files to a different section in Familyland to be commented upon later. The first batches were from Korea, Australia and New Zealand in my 1994-96 stays. It was fun to see them again.


The end of the water bed

In 2011 and 2012 my water bed sprung leaks. In early 2013 I had to replace it yet again. "This one will be my last." I vowed, "Unless it lasts a lot more than a year."

I made the vow, but then I had to live with it. It was like living with a dear but deeply sickly aunt. "Is tonight the night?" I would periodically worry. When the sloshing sound would change character, I would get out of bed and check the air frame. The crazy part was I started doing this worrying and checking after only three months.

Sadly, I was only off by about four months. This one gave out in November, on Saturday night, <sigh> no surprise there. Fortunately, as planned, it just leaked between the water and air parts, no midnight weekend tape-over-the-leak crisis. On Monday I shopped and Tuesday I had the replacement delivered. It was a conventional mattress. I kissed "Auntie Waterbed" a last good-bye and moved on.

In sum, one less unique pleasure in my Comfort Zone life; one less worry. And after a week or so, I found I was sleeping better on the conventional mattress. It supported my weight better.


The Audio Book (Mis)Adventure continues

In 2012 I spent hours and hours sitting with a headphone reading my books into Apple's Soundtrack Pro software. My plan was to make audio books. (At most of my limited number of book signings people had asked if they were available.) My further plan was to let someone else edit what I had spoken, and submit the results to an audio book program offered by Author House -- the people who have published my books in hard copy and ebook format.

Alas, this project has not gone smoothly. First, I never could find an audio book editor. Then the program that Author House offered got to look flaky... then real flaky... I looked for alternatives, but didn't find any, so after I did hours and hours of speaking I let the project languish.

Then late in 2013 I heard through my social media about an offering by -- an Amazon company. I looked into that. It turned out to be convoluted, but in different ways from the Author House offering. But its availability, and a lack of availability of other more interesting projects, got me back on the audio book bandwagon.

My... what an adventure that has become for late 2013 and early 2014! One big time-consuming change is that I have taken on the editing task. I learned more about Soundtrack Pro and once again I was hunched in front of the computer with headphone in place. The editing is taking about three times as long as the talking. But, since I didn't know what I was doing when I was talking, and made "audio convention" mistakes, I have become my own best editor.

The "jaw dropping" didn't end there. I also started doing the conversions of edited Soundtrack Pro raw files into MP3 and WAV files, and discovered the Soundtrack Pro was flaky doing that on longer files. Ouch! Hours and hours of work, and maybe I wouldn't be able to get it into usable format? Lots of worry for a while, but I finally figured out workarounds and progress continued.

Then yet another round of jaw dropping: The headset I had been using got flaky... some kind of loose wire in it... and four headsets later I found a suitable replacement. <sigh> Then... in April 2014, when I was down to just one book to go, my main iMac got flakey! Incredible! It took a week to replace it, and in the meanwhile I was back to audio editing on my notebook and my oldest iMac.

So the Great Audio Book Adventure has been consuming lots of time and attention, and a surprising bit of cash, and computer juggling, for much of late 2013 and early 2014. Finally in May the last chapter of the last book was edited. Yay! Then I started doing a whole lot of file transferring as I moved not only audio book files, but all sorts of other files as I adapted to having a new iMac. It was a scary time, indeed!

In addition to the audio book project, I was spending time on reworking my movie scripts (I'd been attending a screen writers critique group) and writing up another book on human thinking -- this one working titled "Goat Sacrificing in the 21st Century". It is about how much time, money and attention we waste on projects where we don't apply enough "head thinking" to get the results our "heart thinking" is after -- but we keep spending anyway. The various "Wars" (Drugs and Terror) are prime examples.


Power Off!

End of February 2014

For the first time in a long time... so long I can't remember when it last happened... I am enduring an hours-long power failure.

It started at 5PM, just as I was leaving for some dinner. If it had happened even a minute later, I would not have noticed... except it was still out when I came back. I would have noticed that. No reason to stay home in the dark so I headed out for a movie.

I ended up seeing The Lego Movie. Gag! It was just as formulaic as I feared. But, as I watched I kept thinking, "At least I'm not sitting in a dark apartment with no Internet connection available."

The movie finished... and now I am! It is 10:30PM and still no power! It has been raining much of the day, so I suspect a flooding problem of some sort. It is just Lakeside -- the apartments to the south and the stores to the west are both fully lit.

Ouch! This is no fun. And now that I'm older and my thinking is changing, it is even less fun. I don't feel challenged like I used to, and I do feel more fearful.

These days I've been doing a whole lot with audio book editing. And for the last month I've been having a stream of "Yes, but..." problems that have been blocking my doing the speaking part of one more book, Child Champs, which I've paid Author House to edit and publish. The stream of "Yes, but's" on that project has been jaw-dropping. ...And now a unique hours-long power failure to add to the list. Sigh!

The apartment is staying warm enough that I don't feel forced to leave because of cold. On the other hand, I'm keeping my clothes on because there's sure no way I'm taking a shower until the power comes back.

The biggest feeling I have is frustration: This is blocking the usual placidness and productiveness I feel when coming home, and it is blocking progress on the audio books, my other writing, and the screen writing. Even though it is on my laptop computer, I can't do the screen writing because Celtx needs an Internet link before it will fully wake up. The moral here is: be shy of those applications which are cloud-based if you want to function on a laptop when the power is out. (Dreamweaver is doing fine.)

I've been trying to sleep through this, and had a wee bit of success. It seems I managed to blank out about an hour of this crisis. I'll be trying more when I finish writing this.

Yes, I'm writing this just to pass time. This is such bullshit! I'm quite surprised that the failure is lasting this long. There was an earlier power failure here at Lakeside, six months to a year ago, but that got fixed in two or three hours and I dodged so much of it that the memory of it has faded. This one is now well beyond five.

Ah well...


The power comes back on at 11PM, as I'm eating my "midnight breakfast". Six hours of failure! But what a feeling of relief I feel when it does come back on. I finish eating my breakfast in the dark, to stay in practice, then turn lights on and try to catch up on the day's assignments.


2013 photos


Definitely my most fun photo of 2013.

This is my prediction of what the street corner card-carriers will be posting in the near future. Mobile paying, here we come!

2014 photos


Family gathering for Adrienne's Birthday Party.

Roger III, Susan, Dev, Ben and Jaina.









Give me that Ole Time Software...

As far as the computer revolution is concerned, in 2014 I feel like I'm Trotsky living in Mexico after Lenin and the boys kicked him out of Moscow: It is passing me by.

I use Facebook, but smart phones and Twitter are more distracting than valuable -- my 90's-era flip phone serves my mobile phone needs just fine, and at $20/year very cheaply as well.

But now the winds of change are sweeping into the software I use. I find 2010's software to be less comfortable than the 90's versions, and this new leasing trend to pay for it means it is pricier than the old owning style.

This has caused some surprising choices: when one of my iMacs gave out, I first bought a replacement, but then decided to pay for having it repaired as well because the new machine didn't have a DVD player, and at first it was cranky about playing my old 90's-style software.

So it seems that these days I'm living on borrowed time in my computer realm.


2014: Books, Audio Books and Investing

Most of my work time in 2014 went to finishing Goat and finishing getting the audio books published. In November the book and audio book adventures both come to a close. The audio book project has been the worst case of Murphy's Law that I have faced in decades -- everything that could go wrong did go wrong. But I finally got two books posted on Amazon's and five books posted with Author House. It was long; it was surprising; it was expensive, but in November it was finally done.

The "goat book" took longer than expected as well. But in this case this was because I engaged Christine Larson, a "head's up" editor who read for understanding as well as grammar and spelling. She asked a lot of questions, and asked me to provide more examples. The result, while more expensive than I expected and taking months longer than I expected, has been a much more understandable book. So, in sum, I'm happy with the book experience. The only bright side to the audio book experience is the great "war story" it has become, for anyone who wants to listen.

During the year I was also working at extending my friends base to new people of younger generations. I worked at this by taking more classes at SLCC. I took Evolution in spring and History in fall. Sadly, little success.

The other project that grew on my radar was my investments. Much of what I wrote about in "Goat" could be applied to determining the success or failure of business projects, so I started paying even more attention to business current events, and more attention to my investments. The results were encouraging. I picked several hot stocks and ETF's, and they grew, and got out of several when I saw what looked like hitting a peak, and I was right. Thanks to the generally hot stock market for the year, I got closer to my goal of honoring my parents by becoming a millionaire in 1966 dollars -- a bit over seven million in 2014 dollars.

I had honored my parents in several ways already, but there were a few still to complete. I honored them by gaining worldliness and wisdom through my work, studies and travels, I honored them further by dispensing the wisdom through my writings and teachings. I honored them by defending my country as a soldier. I honored them by siring four wonderful children who brought seven grandchildren into this world. One more way to honor them was to bring my personal finances to their level of success. This was the goal of my investing in 2014. I also wanted to further honor them by making my accomplishments more widely memorable.

So, as 2014 drew to a close, my Comfort Zone Living continued to provide a comfy comfort zone, and it provided me with the time and energy to do a lot of project finishing. The question for 2015 and beyond became how to take even better advantage of The Zone, or to find a way to shake my life up in a more profitable and fulfilling way.

And in a delightful surprise for year's end Beth Hoemke (now Beth Corso), from my MIT days, popped up on Facebook. As she put it, "Tom, how MIT-ish of us to show up on the same page - virtually and in cyberspace - after 43 years." I agree wholeheartedly. One of my life's mysteries, "What happened to Beth?", has been solved most delightfully.


-- The End --

Volume 1: The early years 1948-1966

Volume 2: College, Army, first jobs 1966-1977

Volume 3: PC Revolutionary: Computerland, Beehive, Novell 1977-1989

Volume 4: Beginning The Great Panic: Divorce, bankruptcy, mid-life crisis 1990-1993

Volume 5: Being a Sea Cucumber 1994-1997

Volume 6: Searching for a new life, 1997-2002 (and discovering how deep the Panic Scars are)

Volume 7: Recovering from Panic Thinking 2003-2008

Volume 8: Remaking a home in the USA 2008-2010

Volume 9: Searching for positive feedback 2011-2014

Volume 10: Furnishing my Comfort Zone 2015-

Appendix: Fun Times