The Whale Defeated Me

I admit it; the White Whale defeated me, as he has defeated many other. Indeed, as he defeated Ahab himself.

I tried, I sincerely tried to finish Moby Dick, but I just couldn’t do it. After reading a full two thirds of the book I just didn’t care any more. I didn’t care about the characters. I was actively beginning to despise the narrator, Ishmael, and I was actively cheering for the whale.

Fortunately, I already knew how the story ends, so I’m not actually losing any thing by giving it up. I can now go on to better, more enjoyable activities. If only Ahab could have given up his obsession he could have done the same.

Current Reading Devices and List

This past Christmas my blessed Mother gave me what is quite possibly the greatest Christmas gift I have ever received: A Kindle E-Book Reader. I cannot adequately begin to describe how cool this thing is; I have been carrying it everywhere since the day I opened it. So far I have purchased ten books for it, and that means that I am carrying with me 10 books everywhere I go. When you combine that with the audio books on my Ipod, I am a veritable walking library.

I mostly listen to the audio books on the Ipod while I’m driving to and from work, running errands, or working on some kind of other project here in the house. The Kindle gets read whenever I have time to just sit and devote myself to reading.

Among the collection of books I have on the IPod is the entire collection of the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O’Brien. These novels feature the adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey and his best friend/ship’s surgeon Steven Maturin of the British Royal Navy during and just after the Napoleonic Wars. I’ve read them all before, and loved them, but when listening to them read by a narrator I often find myself noticing things about the characters, or the plot that I missed upon the first reading.

The series starts with Master and Commander. Jack Aubrey has just been promoted to the rank  of Master and Commander of the Sophie in the Mediterranean. He is based out of Port Minorca. He strikes a friendship with Dr. Maturin, who has temporarily been left ashore without employment and invites him to become the ships surgeon for the Sophie.

The story then goes on to describe several cruises the Sophie undertakes. Because of his luck in taking prizes, Aubrey quickly earns the nickname of “Lucky Jack”. His skill as a sailor, and as an officer, enable him to form the crew of the Sophie into a effective naval fighting force.

When we first meet Steven Maturin, he is mostly ignorant of the Navy, and of naval customs. It is through him that O’Brian describes the customs of the navy, and of naval terms. These novels are considered by many to be some of the most historically accurate descriptions of the British navy of the period. I find them fascinating.

Meanwhile, I’m reading Moby Dick on the Kindle. I know , I know. Moby Dick is widely considered to be one of the “Great American Novels”. I also know I should have read it years ago when I was in high school or college, but I never did. I have to tell you, I’m not seeing the quality of the novel. Melville is overly verbose, and the story could have benefited from the work of a rather ruthless editor. It is it at times preachey, moralizing, and, to me, utterly annoying. However, I have pledged to finish it, so I will. If nothing else, I know I have better, more interesting books waiting to be read.

Daily Use

Each day I read about 15 different blogs and websites.  A couple these are focused on the news (CNN), a couple are focused on humor (Break.com and Icanhascheezburger.com), but because of some changes I’m trying to make in my own life, because of some habits I’m trying to build in my character, most of the sites I check daily are devoted to frugality, personal organization, personal development, and minimalism.

Sunday I was reading about the 100 Thing Challenge on one of the sites devoted to attaining and maintaining a minimalist lifestyle. This writer was describing how he had arrived at the decision to try and limit his possessions to just 100 items. He, the blog author, had reached a point in his life where he felt his living space was to cluttered, and that the clutter was impacting not only his physical space, but also his “mental space”. He was fed up with the clutter, and in a larger sense with the “consumerist” lifestyle. He decided to see if he could limit all of his possessions to just 100 things.

Think about that; think about limiting all of your possessions to just one hundred items. I have been thinking about it for the last couple of days, and my thoughts go kind of like this:

1. Despite a very great desire on my part to simplify my life in a number of ways, despite a very great desire to de-clutter my life, I don’t think I am any where near ready to limit my total possessions to just 100 items. I want to maintain a minimalists lifestyle, but I want to do it without limiting my hobbies or interests. I’m sure that is possible, but I will have to think some more to figure out how to do it.

2. If one were to so limit one’s possessions to such a small number, they would have to be items that were used regularly, if not every day. I don’t have an idea of the actual number of items I own, and I have not thought about the number of items I actually use on a daily, or near daily basis.

3. Now, that would be an interesting project: Track every item I own that I gets used for a week, or maybe for a month. In order to do that I would have to define what, exactly, is meant by “gets used”? Is reading a book the same as “using” a book? I would also have to rather carefully define other terms. “Computer” would include all the peripherals like monitor, keyboard, power cords, mouse, etc. “Television” would include  the television, cable converter box/tivo and remote control.

I had a lot of other thoughts, but the main thing I wanted to report is that I decided to track what items I actually use on a daily basis. I’m going to do it for at least a week, starting today. Just to keep things simple, I’m not going to include furniture items, but if I decide to extend this experiment after the first week I might decide to start including furniture.  Oh, I’m also not going to report on the clothes I wear, although, again, those items might get included if I expand this project. I will, when appropriate, list what the item was used for, and in cases of items that have more than one feature that is used, I’ll  list all the features that were used.

So, let’s start:

January 4, 2011: Used item list:
1. Alarm clock – wake up alarm
2. Cell phone: alarms, timer, and phone.
3.  2 towels
4. Shaving brush & shaving soap mug
5. Kitchen knife
6. 2 water bottles.
7. Computer system : Multiple uses.
8. Truck.
9. Ipod
10. Cigarette lighter.
11. Truck
12. 3 different fountain pens
13. 1 highlighter
14. Call log note book: used at work to track the accounts I worked during the day
15. Clip board and spare paper
16. Daily log notebook
17. Digital Camera
18. Kindle
19. lap top computer.
20. saucepan
21. Serving bowl
23. serving spoon
24. Fork
25. Desk lamp
26. Messenger bag.
27. 2 pairs of bent nose pliers.
28. drinking glass.
29. Trash can.

…and that’s where I stopped keeping notes for the day. Not even a full day, and not counting clothing, or things like my wallet, etc., and I’ve already used 29 items. I know this probably doesn’t interest anybody but me, but it DOES interest me.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

I find myself in an exceptionally odd mood this evening. I got some news today that should have me in a great mood, but for some reason I’m not feeling it. I can’t find enjoyment in any of my regular activities. I logged into my game for the first time in three days and couldn’t maintain an interest for more than 15 minutes. I tried working on the various jewelry projects I have going, and again, I just couldn’t maintain an interest for more than 15 minutes or so. Finally, I tried my old standby, reading, and after another fifteen minutes or so my mind was veering off in several different directions. Even reading on my Kindle (quite possibly the greatest Christmas gift I have ever received) I couldn’t concentrate.

I want to spend. I want to engage in retail therapy. I want to buy that personal wifi hot-spot gadget I’ve been looking at for several months. I want to buy a high quality pocket knife. While I’m at it I want to buy a new computer, ten new pairs of socks, two pairs of sweat pants and two sweatshirts.

Yeah, I want to spend, but right now I don’t feel that I can. Not yet, anyway. You see, all the things I said I want to spend on are things I *want*, but there are some things I need.

For instance I need to reserve the room for next weekend. I also need to buy some new tires for Bertha. In fact I need to make sure that Bertha is not going to go titties up on me again. Gods, I hate temptations.

Perhaps most importantly I need to avoid spending in order to build my sense of fiscal self confidence. I need to build my feelings of responsibility.

Sometimes I truly wish that the things I need to do were the things I want to do.

Full Dark, No Stars

I just finished reading Stephen King’s newest collection, Full Dark, No Stars. Over the last 34 years or so I have read almost all of King’s work. Some of his books are brilliant, some not so good, but I’ve always felt that he was best at short stories and novellas. Don’t get me wrong, his full length novels, for the most part, are great, but they tend to ….go on to long.  Be overly verbose?  I don’t know, but I’ve always thought his work could benefit from a really firm Editor, one that trimmed all the fat off the story to make it leaner and more focused.King does that in his short stories and novellas, and that’s why I’ve always thought those stories were his best.

Full Dark, No Stars, is a collection of four stories: 1942, Big Driver, Fair Extension, and Good Marriage. These stories are all very different, but they have a central theme; Revenge. Perhaps “retribution” would be a better word, but I will go with Revenge, just because I like that word better.

1922 is the story of Wilfred James, a farmer in Hemmingford Home Nebraska. Wilfred, with the help of is 14 year old son,  killed his wife, Arlette  in the sumer of 1922. King does a good job of establishing why he wanted to kill his wife, but that is not particularly important. What is important is what happens to Wilf and James after the murder. 1922 is the only story in the collection that has a supernatural element. Arlette’s ghost haunts Wilf, causing him to lose his farm, his son, and ultimately driving him to suicide.

Big Driver is a straight revenge story. The main character, Tess, is the author of a series of murder mysteries, who is raped while on her way home from a speaking engagement. She refuses to be a victim, and with the help of her cat and a TOM TOM unit that offers advice on more than driving directions, manages to find her attacker and get her revenge.

Fair Extension is the story of Dave Streeter. When we meet Dave he is dying of Cancer. He strikes a deal with a very unusual salesman for a “fair extension” of his life. The only catch is, for every person that gets an extension, someone else has to get a reduction. To play the part of the person getting the reduction, Dave choses his best friend/worst enemy, Tom Goodhugh. What follows next is darkly funny.

Good Marriage explores what happens when Darcy Anderson, discovers that her husband, Bob, is the serial killer known as Beadie. Just as Tess did in Big Driver, Darcy decides to not be a victim, and to deal with the situation herself.

 

Early Memories

So, apparently last week I didn’t make any blog posts at all. That violates just about everything I’ve read about maintaining a successful blog. Sue me.

I guess I really should spend some time deciding what I want to accomplish with this blog. I don’t particularly have any goals to monetize it. I have no thought of making it into some kind of money making enterprise.

Nor do I want it to become  a place where I just post random facts, or random rants. I do want it to have some kind of structure.

Mostly, I think, I want this blog to be a way to help me examine different aspects of my life, and to help me build some kind of personal discipline. I have felt for years that I lack personal discipline, and I’m trying to build that quality into my personality.

Monday is, according to plan, the day I make an autobiographical post. The last post in that series described my Grandmother Butterfield. In a logical world I would next describe my one of my Fletcher Grandparents, but I’m just not ready to do that. I need to think very carefully before I tackle that kind description. It would be huge understatement to say I have conflicting feelings about them.

So, I’m going to skip around a bit. It’s my autobiography, I can do what I want. Deal with it. Tonight I think I’m going to talk about my earliest memories.

The very first thing I remember is just a fragment. I couldn’t have been more than three or four, but I remember being on a paddle boat, the kind you can rent at resorts, on Lake Okaboji.  I don’t remember anything else about the trip. I just remember being on that paddle boat with Mom and Dad. I don’t remember getting on it and I don’t remember getting off of it, I just remember sitting between them as we paddled across the lake.

And now that I think about it, I realize I must have been even younger than I thought, because my next memory is of Christmas at the house in Platssmouth Nebraska. I know I was three when we lived there. And I don’t actually remember Christmas, but I remember Christmas Eve. Specifically, I remember standing at the top of the stairs, and yelling down to Mom and Dad, to see what they were doing. I know now, that what they were doing was assembling Christmas presents. Mom loves to tell that story.

My next memories are of the apartment in Bellevue Nebraska. I was four when we moved in there, and from that point on my memory is more or less continual. I remember swimming in the pool at the complex. Remember learning to ride a bicyle. I emphatically don’t remember learning how to stop the bike: According to my parents the only way I could stop the bike was by riding it into a bush. No, I don’t remember that at all. I do, however remember playing in the creek bed near the apartment.

I remember the day my sister was born. I wasn’t really sure what was going on, I just knew I got taken to my babysitter’s place, and that Dad seemed to be really excited about something. I do remember the day we brought her back to the apartment.

October 8, 2010: Cormac’s SCA Origin

According to my new blogging schedule, Friday is the day I blog about the SCA. Last Friday I talked about Coronation. This week I think I’m going to describe how I came to join the SCA. It’s a strange story, but some people might find it entertaining. So, here goes…

I am not exactly sure when I first heard of the SCA. In my mind I knew of the organization some time before I started college. I vaguely remember reading about the Society many many years ago; but it was a story about a group far away from where I was. I thought it was kind of an interesting idea, I mean I love studying history, but like I said, it was far, far away.

I do know that while I was in college I saw some folks in “funny” clothes, and even funnier armor beating each other with what I thought were baseball bats on MSU’s Drill Field. I was intrigued, but no one I knew was involved, and at the time most of my time was spent finding ways to avoid my classes and get as drunk as possible. Amazing how many ways you can find to do that if you are properly motivated, and I was.

Now, let’s skip forward from 1990 to 2002. I had recently moved to Memphis, and my only hobby, my only social interaction other than work, was playing an 0n-line game called Everquest. In the game I had met, and started spending far, far to much time socializing with a lady from Madison Wisconsin. I’ll skip the gory details, nobody wants to hear them, and I certainly don’t want to remember them, but eventually that Lady decided to move to Memphis, and we were going to be together always. Yeah, right.

Now, I mention She Who Must Not Be Named, because over the course of our many months of conversation, and face to face time (Believe me, there was not nearly enough of that. Not nearly enough.), she had mentioned that she had been member of the SCA for years up in Wisconsin. We thought that might be a cool thing to do when she moved. It would be a way for us to spend time together, and to meet some other people to socialize with.

Now, as our plans evolved that Spring, it was eventually decided she would move the last week of April. She would, in fact, arrive in Memphis the last Thursday in April. I had done some research, and found out that the local SCA group, The Barony of Grey Niche, was holding their spring event, Beltaine, that very weekend. We decided to attend. She made me a very basic tunic, and brought it with her when she headed south.

Eight years later, I still remember that day perfectly. Perfectly. We arrived at the Piersol group camp some time between 9:30 and 10:00 AM that morning. It was  a gorgeous spring day, not to cool, and not to warm. A pleasant breeze was blowing. We trolled in, and although I didn’t know it at the time, the ladies that trolled us in, THL Caitriona Campbell, and THL Luca, would, in time, become two of my closest friends. After we trolled in, we left the Museum Shelter, and headed down toward the main field.

I saw pavilions set up around the fighting field. I saw beautiful, multicolored flags, and pennons,with people’s heraldry. I saw a lot of gorgeous women (hey, I’m a guy,I notice these things),  and I saw guys that positively made me look small, in armor, and being perfectly accepted.

I guess I should point out that prior to becoming a member of the SCA I was used to being the largest person in any group of people I was likely to be a part of. I’ve been overweight all of my life, and in the past I’ve had … self esteem issues because of that. Those issues are mostly gone now, and what few remain are so …trivial, because of my involvement in the SCA. Hell, that day I was far from the largest person there. I may have been in the top five, but only barely. What is important, though, was that these large guys were not ostracized, or sidelined. They were accepted, welcomed. No one paid any attention to their size at all. This was the first time I had ever been in a group like that. It made an impression, let me tell you.

SWMNBN wanted to attend a coif making class, so after looking around the field for a while, and looking around the hall for a while, we headed down to Cabin Builiding B, where the class was being held. I don’t sew, and have no interest in learning to sew, so while she was in the class, which was taught by Vickie and Doc, I just kind of hung out on the porch, and talked to people. Again, I had never, ever been to any kind of event where I was among so many friendly, open people. I met Raven , and a few others.

After her class we went back up to the field to watch the fighting. The Silver Torc Tournament was over by that time, but easily a dozen people, both men and women, were taking part in pickup fights. I had no real desire to fight myself but I was thrilled to be watching those that were fighting. I was amazed that it was up to the honor of each combatant to determine what was a good blow. No judges. No referees. What a concept.

The day passed all to quickly. Eventually it was time to go to take a seat for Court. As we sat in the hall, I asked SWMNBN what the significance of the of the various banners were. That is when Lady Blue, and Lord Brendan, turned around, introduced themselves, and started explaining which banner was associated with what household, or peer. I began asking a ton of questions, which they answered. They made an effort to explain what each of the awards were for as they were presented in court. Oh, and let me tell you, I just thought I was impressed with the organization prior to court, but during and after court, I knew I was impressed. Something about seeing the joy on people’s faces when they received an award, but more importantly seeing the joy on the member of the audience when people received awards just really, really impressed me.

After Court, Blue and …his SCA name is Brendan, but he introduced himself as Neal, and that is still how I think of him, invited us to sit feast with them. During feast they told stories about their involvement, the local group, local notables, and just generally did their very best to make us feel welcome. The feast itself, was…well it full of what I am convinced was very good food, but just not the kind of food I really liked. Apparently the dishes were not to Blue’s taste either cause as the last remove  was cleared away, she and Neal invited us to the Shadow Legion Camp for what she called “Legion Feast at it’s Finest”. That is how I was introduced to Kane, Illissa, and the Shadow Legion.  Damn glad I was.

We stayed at the Legion camp until very late that evening, but eventually it was time to leave. As we drove home that night, SWMNBN asked me, “what did you think of it all?” My answer was simple; I loved it. I wanted to know more. I wanted to be part of it all. I remember telling her, “I want to be part of running something like what we saw today. I want to be part of making it possible for people to have as much fun as I had today”.

By November of that year, SWMNBN was gone. Our relationship was over, and a lot of really bad stuff had happened. But of all the things she did, all the hurtful things she did, she did introduce me to the SCA. A lot has changed; I know a lot more about the organization, and I’ve seen some of the bad things as well as all of the good things. I’ve met, literally, hundreds of people; most of them good, some very bad, but even the bad ones are (usually) better than the people I meet in the regular world. Yeah, a lot of things have changed, but I”m still here. I still want to be part of the SCA, I still want to be part of running something that enables people to have as much fun as I had that day.  I pray to all gods, great and small, that I always feel that.