Are We There Yet?

Ric Hallock blogs about being a family man dealing with life in and around Gig Harbor.
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Archive for the ‘Esoterica’ Category

I Keep Muttering, ‘I’m Too Old for This’

Friday, June 11th, 2010

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“Oh, dear sweet Mother Mary and Joseph, not again!”

Would that my knees, ankles, shins, feet, thighs, elbows, shoulders, biceps and back could all but speak — that would be their collective lament. What could possibly have my body wailing in protest so loud you can actually hear it?

One word: softball.

Funny — looking at the word sitting there so smugly and cuddly looking on the screen — one wouldn’t think a word containing “soft” and “ball” (even babies and puppies love to play with a ball) could also entertain such thoughts as pulled muscles, bruised bones, torn tendons and lacerated ligaments.

OK, for the sake of full disclosure, I’ve only suffered about half of the above — but really, isn’t that enough?

Last season it seemed I injured some new muscle set hitherto unknown to me before playing each game. And unlike the days of youth, instead of taking a day to recover — it took me the better part of the week to be able to walk like a normal human once more — just in time for the next game and a whole new series of painful lessons. Good thing we didn’t practice during the week or I’d have been unable to muster the strength to make it to a game at all.

I attended the first practice of the new Gig Harbor Church Softball League season last night and afterward I walked and moved something akin to Abe Vigoda playing the role of Frankenstein — after aging another decade. My ever supportive bride scoffed at my slow shuffle from room to room, saying “it was just a practice.” My young son — who just wrapped up his Little League baseball season — just delighted in counting my errors.

Hmph. No respect for the old man. And I place the emphasis on “old.”

Without giving it away, let’s just say I’m fast approaching a milestone bithday and really only have one more on the horizon before I settle into the sunset years.

It’s been a long, tough battle between mind and body — but lately I’ve found the arguments being put forth by my aging frame to hold sway. For years, I fought the notion that I could no longer move like I did when I was 20. I could see it in my mind, so surely I could manifest it in my body. And the mind will play tricks on you — working in tandem with your body to make you believe you still have the grace and speed of a carefree youth — despite the decades of working a job where the only muscle action is to reposition my butt in the chair to keep from creating a permanent cushion indentation.

Like the Kübler-Ross model of the five stages of grief, I went through the usual litany: Denial (I’m every bit as strong and agile as I was 10 years ago, 20 years, 30 …); Anger (#@&*! I know I’m as strong and agile as I was 20 years ago, etc.); Bargaining (please, please, please I’ll give up Dr. Pepper forever if I can only throw the ball from second to first without bouncing it); to Depression (OK, so I bounce the ball to first, but at least it gets there).

And now I’ve hit the final stage: acceptance. My days of running between the bases without something snapping, popping or tearing are over.

It’s been a difficult battle, but the body has won out. I concede. The white flag is flying. But what my body doesn’t realize is that my mind is only conceding the battle — not the war. Sure, I’ll admit it — I can no longer play the game as I did in my youth. But I will not give up trying to play. Ha!

That is, at least until this Sunday, when we open the season with a double-header. I may be singing an entirely new tune by Sunday night.


Anyone See the Same UFO as This Guy Did?

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

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Despite sitting in our backyard a few weeks ago at night roasting marshmallows and dogs over a campfire, no one in our immediate family saw anything unusual in the sky. But one Gig Harbor resident saw something on May 1 — enough to write a report of the sighting and send it in to the Mutual Unidentified Flying Object Network (MUFON).

Anyone else from Gig Harbor to Port Orchard see anything that night? below is an excerpt of the filed report, which — according to MUFON — has not yet investigated by the organization:

My name is –. I live in Gig Harbor Washington on the water facing SW towards an area we locally refer to as the Purdy (Wa) spit. The Olympic Mountain range is in the back ground.

Three-Four weeks ago while driving down our road at around dusk I saw something. At first I thought it was a very bright star and then realized it was moving. I pulled my truck into the driveway and grabbed my scope, fixed it directly onto the object and viewed something far beyond my knowledge of technology.

I could see it very clearly through my Orion 90 refractor scope. It was the shape of a diamond. The top half was amber red and the bottom half was as bright as a star. It hovered a while at around my guess 20-25 thousand feet and then dropped to around 8-6? in a matter of a minute or two as it approached then just cruised right over the top of us towards Mount Rainier. It made no sound though I felt like I could hear something like being close to a power line or similar almost like maybe all sound went away, hard to explain. As it passed over I then grabbed my scope and went to the driveway to view it as it moved away. From behind it was no longer the shape of a diamond, it looked liked an elongated circle eight figure of light, all amber red. And no, I am not an alcoholic nor drug addled so I know what I saw.

Two nights ago,coming from the same direction, this time it was around midnight, a round orb like thing with a half circular arc just as bright coming out of the orb from top to bottom. It came from the same elevation and traveled the same direction as the first. Then one hour later another one. These objects were without a doubt not planes nor helicopters. We have had quite a bit of F-16 type jets and apache/military looking helicopters buzzing over I think as a result these past few nights. We do not normally see these military type craft directly over us.
Other than the usual black helicopters that rattle our windows every other night from 10 p.m. to midnight, we don’t see (or hear) much going on in the skies above us.

My boys have become quite adept at spotting satellites as they silently pass overhead and we’ve been able to confirm sightings of the International Space Station on different nights. So it seems unlikely we would have missed this particular sighting — unless we just weren’t outside at the exact same time.

Years ago, I was one of several witnesses watching a bonafide UFO cross the sky, but not being one to quickly assign the unusual site of lights crossing overhead to alien technology, I assumed it to be some space debris breaking up as it entered the atmosphere.

But as this posting was recent, I’ll once more be watching the skies and I can guarantee this: If I ever spot anything unexplainable and odd, I won’t settle with getting some grainy, blurry, shaky images that look like a blob of light.


In Search of Spirits — the ‘Elicits Laughs’ Kind, Part III

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

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The video of the medium channeling spirits during the ghost hunt in Union is finally in (the investigation took place July 11 at the McReavy house). Thanks to Ron at Pixietale Studios for taking more than an hour’s worth of raw video and bringing together the most salient points for a 4-minute clip. I’ve attached it with the Part II blog post (link below).

For the complete story, you can check out the earlier posts: Part I detailing the anticipation of going ghost hunting and Part II, an account of the evening’s events. But if you just want to see the video, then you can watch it from the link below.

Ghost Hunt in Union, Channeling Spirits


In Search of Spirits — The Elusive Kind, Part II

Friday, July 17th, 2009

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mcreavyhouseunion-919

As the evening sky darkened, distant flashes illuminated the gathering clouds, followed by a low and ominous rumble as the thunder rolled across the sky, accompanied by gusts of wind shaking the alders and pines that surrounded our diminutive camp.

A handful of paranormal enthusiasts — along with an invited, spirit-beckoning “medium” — and a confirmed skeptic (myself) gathered together July 11 outside the McReavy house, perched atop the steep hillside overlooking the Hood Canal in Union, which has stood empty of living residents for nearly 40 years.

The purpose was to investigate purported paranormal activity (read: ghosts) that might be present at the site. My job: to help document the event in video and still digital images. The image above is of the medium channeling “Mary,” a young girl who told us, through tears, of her having great difficulties while swimming alone. The blurred effect is a result of a slowed shutter speed due to only two dim light sources, one directly behind the chair he is seated in and a second coming from a video camera off-screen to the left.

Built by John and Fannie (Gove) McReavy in 1883, the house certainly held the charm of being home to unearthly spirits. Willed to the local historical society by the heirs of the last couple to live in the home — McReavy’s daughter, Helen (who wrote “How, When and Where, On the Hood Canal,” 1960 Puget Press) and her husband — it has long been cleared of most of the interior furnishings. In fact, before the couple died (in 1969 and 1970) it appears they had come into some money and had started a major renovation of the home, both inside and out.

They removed the Victorian style pitched roof in favor of a flat beam and plank venture, essentially lopping off a third-story room just visible in some historical photos. And the first and second floors were in various array of having the interior wood plank wall coverings replaced by sheetrock.

As a result, much of the internal charm was boxed up, as fancy moldings and cornices that framed the doors and windows had all been removed to accommodate the remodeling work.

The reality struck me as a far more poignant story. Imagine remodeling your entire home and in the middle of the work, your spouse dies. For upward of a year, you continue to live in the home, but never complete the work, instead living our your days in a home with one foot in the 19th century and one foot in the 20th century. It must have been a lonely final year for Mr. Andersen.

The only remaining vestiges of the home’s original interior were the doors, hinges and some wallpaper remnants stubbornly clinging to some surfaces. The unfinished basement provided tantalizing clues to former occupants with a mishmash of home knickknacks from rolling pins to teacups and records to steamer trunks covered in the dust of dried mildew. One item of particular interest was the front page of a Good Housekeeping magazine dated 1894 — it was found lying on the floor where it had doubtless been tread upon for decades.

Ivy tenaciously invaded one eastern window, preferring the controlled climate inside to the harsh weather blowing off the canal’s shores to the north.

The house itself had stories to tell — an intriguing one lingered about the internal fireplace with a partially dismantled brick chimney and insert installed. The backside of the fireplace faced a back room where the wall was exposed, showing burned timbers where a chimney fire must have put quite a scare in the residents of the time. They were lucky indeed that a timber house of well-seasoned and dried wood didn’t literally explode in flames, as so many homes of that era would do when exposed to fire.

And where the chimney had been removed, a member of the party discovered a large piece of cut tree trunk, bark still clinging to it, wedged between the first floor ceiling and second floor flooring. We surmised it must have been some tradition of putting a piece of unfinished wood from which the home was being built into the home to either bring good luck or ward off bad.

In an unfinished crawl space along the western side of the home, a large knarled tree stump measuring several feet across was left — obviously deemed too much trouble to try and uproot, they cut it to its base and built the home above it.

But if there were spirits lingering about with stories to tell, they remained elusive to our party.

The medium — by his reckoning — was successful in raising a half-dozen denizens of the past. But proof of this reality must be measured in quantifiable facts and every attempt to question a channeled spirit on a detail that could be fact-checked was adroitly side-stepped or ignored.

For example, when asked what book they last read, each and every one of the channeled spirits answered, “The Bible.” And of the channeled McReavy himself, an important businessman and one of the signers of the state charter, whom you would think would be in keen touch with the world around him and the comings and goings on in his own personally named “Venice on the Hood Canal.” But when I asked him what was the name of the newspaper in town, he replied, “I don’t care about newspapers.” Remember: this is the late 1800s when no other form of mass communication existed. Do you really think a man of his stature wouldn’t care to keep up on the news in his community?

I caught the medium in a few outright errors as well (that hopefully the rest of the group will pick up on as they review the videotaped sessions). His first spirit said he was a visitor in the home in 1880 (remember, it was built in 1883) and later when he channeled McReavy, presumably John as he referred to the home as his and wondered at the renovations, he said he built the home in the 1870s and later referred to the master bedroom as a guest room.

Some of the party saw validation of their beliefs in the medium’s manifestations while others maintained their doubts, but having been a theater major many years ago, I must admit that to me the mood lighting and channeled spirits who each rather conveniently “had to go” after a few minutes seemed more like a poorly staged one-act play than anything even beginning to approach reality.

To get a glimpse of the fun we had that night, check out the video here — apologies for the poor quality, but the lighting was limited.

I know one other member of our expedition was as skeptical as I when he asked a spirit if they liked to eat salmon.

The evening petered out around 4:30 a.m. with everyone succumbing to the Sandman, slinking away to find his or her sleeping bag or tent.

For what its worth, I will share my notes and observations with the group and they are free to include or exclude whatever part they desire as they prepare their report of the happening of the night.

As for me, I continue to remain skeptical, having not seen or heard anything that would change my mind. Although the stories that flowed around the room between channeling sessions and also around the campfire outside were anecdotal and filled with provoking details of secondhand sightings, I chalked up the night as being akin to a grown-up version of camp night, where the campers would gather about a fire nestled deep amid rustling trees and snapping branches as a camp counselor weaved a tale of suspense and terror of a haunted night long ago at the very site.

The scariest moment I had was while driving away and pointing down Main Street on a very, very steep incline and imagining the brakes giving way to a fast and furious ride down the hill, across a short gravel parking lot and straight into the cold waters of Hood Canal. That would be a chilly fright indeed.


New Words Demonstrate Ever-changing Humanity

Friday, July 10th, 2009

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Attention all you linguists and lexicographers — the venerable scriveners at Merriam-Webster’s wordsmith shop have just released a passel of new words and phrases that have found their way into the newest pages of the 11th edition of the collegiate dictionary.

To herald the event (and certainly to the chagrin of the folks at Oxford), a quarter of the new words have been posted to the M-W Web site and a good quarter of the publicized words are tech-related — such as webisode: a television show viewable on the Internet, vlog: a blog filled with video content and green-collar; denoting an environmentally friendly professional career.

Some the words and phrases have been in use for some time, like zip line, fan fiction and sock puppet — the latter having gained new life with a new, more sinister definition from its original use in the 1950s when it was literally a puppet made from a sock. Sock puppet in the 21st century is defined as a false online identity used for deceptive purposes. A lot of the Web site commentators can relate to that one …

And some of the entries gained stardom and dictionary fame rather quickly — such as waterboarding, staycation and flash mob.

These handful of words join an ever-growing lexicon that can see as many as 10,000 new entries in a decade. The last time Merriam-Webster came out with a new edition — in 2003 — such colorful entries as dead-cat bounce, phreaker, waitron and gimme cap were added to the official American lexicon, as were such other oft-turned words like barista, tankini, longneck, Botox, Goth, brewski and tweener. (Interesting side note: the spell check on the computer on which I write doesn’t like any of the above “new” words — with the sole exception of Goth.)

But as they sow, so do they reap. There is no official documentation as to how many words are dropped from the dictionary each year — who really wants to keep track of that? — but old and antiquated words that have outlived their usefulness or simply fall out of usage do fall from grace with the editors and find themselves unceremoniously tossed into the dustheap of the past.

Such notables from the recent past include vitamin G, microcopy, ten cent store, portapak, pantdress and sheep-dip. These were all expunged from the M-W pages in 2003.

And then there are the rare few who fall out of favor — only to be recalled back into use. Wheatgrass was dropped from the the 8th edition only to be revived once more for the 11th.

So just how do word make the grade to qualify for the dictionary? The good folks at Merriam-Webster track print use of words from books to newspapers (see? They still have a use …) to magazines, such as: the New York Times, the New Yorker, Newsweek, People, Air & Space, Better Homes and Gardens, Cats, Consumer Reports, Yoga Journal, Discover, Harper’s, Library Journal, National Geographic, the New England Journal of Medicine, PC Magazine, Rolling Stone, Smithsonian, Sports Illustrated, Time, TV Guide, Vanity Fair and Vogue, and Chocolatier (from a 2003 article in the San Francisco Chronicle).

They use a somewhat complex tracking system, apply a Google-esque algorithm or two and voila: new dictionary entires are born.

So as much as I would like to introduce a new word or two into the American culture, my chances of writing anytime soon for one of those publications remains slim — unless maybe I can crack the pages of Cats.


Being ‘Dad’ Is a Never-ending Role: Reflection of Being a Son and a Father

Friday, June 19th, 2009

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Father’s Day is Sunday and the pending date has gotten me to thinking about being both a son and a father.

My days of sending a Father’s Day card or making a phone call on the annual date are over as my dad passed away a few years back. We were never exceptionally close, nor were we estranged in any exceptional fashion. We got along well enough and quietly accepted our shared dysfunctions without making any ado about them or trying to fix them.

It’s far too late for me to do anything about any of that now, and I do live with a modicum of regret buried deep that I don’t bring out except for special occasions. But I do use the past I shared with my dad as a kind of road map to the mistakes we made in the past and to try and correct those errors he and I made — applying them to my role reversal from son to dad as I stumble on in my role as a dad to my own two sons (mirroring the life of my dad).

Unlike him (he became a father in his mid-20s), I didn’t become a dad until the ripe old age 39. But unlike the birth of a son to clearly delineate the day of becoming a dad, my entry into the club was more subtle, spread over a length of time, as I entered my oldest son’s life when he was 10 months old. As soon as his mother and I married, we began the adoption process, but it gave me time to hone my “dad” skills along the way — and honing was needed in a big way.

I knew nothing about how to calm a crying baby, was clumsy at spooning him food and diapers were like some three-dimensional Rubic’s Cube in trying to assemble. And that was just the physical nature of my new role. The mental aspects were far more troublesome as I had no guidance or counsel — no practical experience to differentiate right from wrong as I plowed my way into fatherhood.

Plowed is the proper verb, because although I had no clue what I was getting in to, I never had a doubt about wanting to do this. The little guy was (and still is) lovable in every way. He is my son and I could no better get along in life without him as get along without my heart. In our home the only steps are the ones in the stairway and on the porches. He is my son and I am his dad and we make no further distinction in either case.

In his later years, my dad took to telling me he loved me — which was odd to me only because growing up the word was never used in our home. To be sure it was present in non-verbal ways, but was never spoken nor was it ever outwardly expressed. So as I hastily developed the rules that would govern my “dadship,” I determined that was going to be one thing I did differently. Daily I tell my children I love them and hugs are a regular and routine gesture that is freely given by either party.

Even though the love in our family has always been easily expressed and I’ve never questioned my place in the family, I can still recall with clarity the moment I knew I had “arrived” as a bonafide, card-carrying dad. We were in our first home as a newly minted family and my oldest son had his own room as his brother was a newborn and we didn’t want either disturbing the sleep of the other.

The nights were troublesome enough because of the older one’s continuing bout with night terrors. Like clockwork he would scream in the middle of the night and though you could talk to him, he wasn’t really listening as he was still asleep. The best we could do was calm him, comfort him until he would lay back down and then we’d all head back to slumber.

One night he awoke, but instead of screams, he was moaning. I went to his room to sit with him and as he sat up, he complained about his tummy hurting. And the next thing to pass his lips were not words, but his dinner. Without thinking, in a reflexive action I “caught” his now mostly liquid dinner in my hands.

I didn’t know it at that moment, but later, I realized — as a dad, I had arrived.

Many years later, as my children have grown older (currently 11 and about to be 9) I still find myself being challenged by new and perplexing demands of being a dad, I can’t help but see my own dad — his actions and just as often his words — coming from me, as if his spirit lives on. But even putting it that particular way is misleading, because to invoke his spirit is to insinuate his presence — like a haunting. But a haunting conjures unsettling and disturbing thoughts, and when I see a bit of himself in me it produces the opposite effect: I am sometimes amazed, but ultimately comforted by the thought that the time-worn adage of an acorn not falling far from a tree rings true.

It’s as if I’m being given the guidance of being a dad after all. When I thought I had no clue in how to proceed in this role, the information I needed was right there for me to find all along, laid down all those years ago by my dad. I just couldn’t see it for all the barriers I had placed between us through the years and it took his absence for me to recognize his legacy.

Am I doing things right? I still have my doubts. I know there are a number of things I still need to learn. And the true legacy of my time as a dad will quite likely not be finalized in my lifetime. One day, as one of my sons battles the complexities of being “dad,” and he finds guidance and comfort in a long-forgotten moment he had with me, maybe then I will know I did alright being dad.


Don’t Read This — It’s a Waste of Time

Friday, June 12th, 2009

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Hey, don’t say the headline didn’t warn you …

Wasting time — to some it’s a national past-time, for others, it’s a personal goal while a few (very few) see it as anathema to a productive life. (What’s wrong with you people?)

Even coming to this blog is a waste of time in it’s own fashion — but some of you still don’t seem to get it, even though I told you so in the very first posting.

But I digress (and waste time to boot … nothing like double tasking for no real purpose).

Time wasters can limit their habit to their personal time at home, save it for work or mix the two. (Me? I’m working on perfecting it during my “free” time — the entire concept of time being free is a whole other topic for a later date.) Depending on who you ask, time wasters can be a big productivity drain on the workforce or they can have just the opposite affect: boosting workplace productivity.

Disclosure note: The study (linked above) citing an annual waste of nearly $200 billion annually must be viewed with some skepticism, being that it was issued by a software firm that sells Web site blocking applications. Kinda like a former Halliburton exec sitting in the White House and declaring we need to send massive rebuilding aid to foreign territory, a Halliburton specialty … ah, but there I go again wasting your time on an irrelevant tangent.

Within the realm of time wasters, there are those who are truly professionals at the craft. Few of us can ever aspire to reach such heights. I would attribute such high honors to the likes of Tony Hawk, Dave Wolak and Antonio Bryant. Sure, an argument postulating the benefits of skateboarding, fishing and video gaming can be made, but c’mon now — we’re talking about skateboarding, fishing and playing video games, for Pete’s sake.

Most of us will never make a living at wasting time, but that doesn’t stop us from implementing tried and true methods while also incorporating new alternatives. The Internet provides a wealth of time wasting activities — both useful and useless. There are an untold number of sites that provide nearly any diversion imaginable, like Falling Sand, not prOn and Samorost, while others that specialize in highlighting such popular sites, such as StumbleUpon, Fark and MakeUseOf.

One need not go high-tech to find ways to uselessly burn time. Low-tech activities like pulling weeds, flying a kite and even thumb wrestling can be great ways to whittle away the hours.

The definition of “wasting time” is subject to personal opinion. what I might consider a big (but fun) waste of time you might see as culturally significant or personally uplifting. Few are likely to agree as the determination of useful or wasted time is defined largely by personal experience and taste. For example, I find watching football culturally significant, and to be far more a true representation of “Reality TV” than what the networks pawn off as reality, while my wife finds it a complete waste of time, but she enjoys contrived reality such as “American Idol.”

Regardless of how you define wasted time, experts by and large agree that some down time is good for the soul and important for rejuvenating our creative juices.

What are your favorite ways to waste time? What do you consider a negative waste of time (other than reading this blog …)? Share your thoughts and maybe we can all discover some new ways to while away the hours. If you’ve read this far, then you’ve wasted a nice chunk of time and if you actually took the time to look at the several links provided then you do indeed have a lot of expendable time to waste. Good for you.


Diving Into the Deep End of the Internet

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

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Grabbed my nose, jumped off the ledge and pulled my knees tightly to my chest … If you listened carefully, you could have heard my scream as I descended rapidly into unknown and dangerous (at least for me) waters.

I added this column to the ever-growing world of Twitter and you can now follow my sporadic postings by following GigHarborAWTY on the social network. But, of course, I gotta remember to tweet whenever I post. (Feel like I’m talking to a 2-year-old using this language — yet feel like a 2-year-old when it comes to understanding its usefulness.) Spent way too much time trying to figure out how it works and came away will little real-time answers.

Stuff about @replies, twits, retweets, twitter badges — it’s enough to make me turn the computer off with a sledgehammer. I’m not sure how to get anyone to “follow” me via Twitter, so figured I’d just use the old-fashioned Internet and post this whole bit of nonsense on the blog. Seems as though leaving a trail of breadcrumbs might work better.

If you can figure out how to connect to this via Twitter — good for you. Should you even want to — then you get bonus points.

I fully admit to being permanently left behind, probably somewhere in the mid 1970s, though I didn’t know it way back then. We all try at varying degrees of involvement to stay abreast with technology and the general pace of life, but the combination of advancement of age and the advancement of new technology eventually catches up to us all (like the inevitability of mortality itself) and one day we wake up and realize we have joined the ever-growing rank of dinosaurs — technologically challenged relics doomed to be left in the ionized dust of the savvy and the young.

Yes, horrid as it sounds to you technophiles, I have no myspace or Facebook account, have never posted to YouTube, use my cell phone only to make and receive phone calls and have never texted anyone (wouldn’t even know how). We do not own a satellite or cable DVD-R receiver, still watch movies on VHS, only last year ditched the dial-up for high speed Internet and — gasp! — have a PlayStation2 (not a PS3, PSP, Xbox or Wii in sight).

I can just barely manage to Google while Bing just leaves me dazed and confused. I steer clear of sites like eBay and Craigslist like they carried Hanta virus.

And I admit my confusion over the popularity of social Web sites like Facebook and Twitter. I know this is dinosuarspeak, but didn’t we used to use the phone or — another gasp! — letters when we felt the need to tell someone we are eating a PBJ sandwich or to share a joke we heard at work?

It seems a strange dichotomy to me that people seem so driven to protect their privacy and then turn around and share the most intimate and trivial information about themselves for the whole world to discover. In the interests of serving both the technophiles and technophobes who are reading this — technophiles read on; technophobes skip the next paragraph.

I just finished eating my pretzels for lunch, washed down by a Dixie cup of water I nabbed from the office water cooler because I’m too cheap to spend a buck to buy a bottle of water from the vending machine.

The above information took 208 characters to announce, exactly 68 more than is allowed in a Tweet, so I wouldn’t have been able to share such a rich amount of info with you had I tweeted or twitted or flitted or fluttered.

But whether you are a phile or a phobe, please take a moment to follow me on Twitter. It seems so lonely with no one following me and I don’t have the slightest clue on how to set it up to follow myself …


Space, The Final Frontier, Sure is Fun to Stare At

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

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Two galaxies swirling past each other

From time to time when I stumble across something cool or unusual on the Web that I think is worth sharing, I will post a link here so you too can marvel or wonder or gasp or whatever it is you do to react.

Check out this cool video on the Milky Way Galaxy.

I love astronomy and the many mysteries of space, and missed my calling due to a major failing in being able to understand mathematics at a much younger age. But that never dampened my enjoyment of deep space discovery and finding out about the world, solar system, galaxy and universe that surrounds us.

It is equally enjoyable to pass along this love of science to my two young boys. Just last week, we were having a campfire in the backyard (one of their favorite activities), sitting in our lawn chairs, heads bent skyward, looking for satellites. Most satellites go south to north in the sky, but we spotted a particularly bright object going west to east. I surmised (wrongly) that it could be the space shuttle as it was still awaiting word to land at that time.

But a quick check on the Web told us it was in fact the International Space Station, ISS for short. We found a Web site, Live Real Time Satellite and Space Shuttle Tracking, that gives advance notice of when the ISS would be overhead in the coming days, so two days later, when the viewing was good, we were back outside and it appeared like clockwork.

Nothing beats the wonder of a young child making the realization there are people up there, beyond the reach of gravity, traveling at thousands of miles per hour. Cool stuff.


Just What the World Needs, Another Blog

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

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Excuse me a minute — fwhsssst — while I blow the dust off my AP Style Guide.

When Gig Harbor Life Editor Scott Turner asked me to write a column for his publication, I just laughed — long and hard. He’s got no space in that tightly packed publication to print any words from me — especially given his past propensity to write 1,400 word tomes.

As his managing editor, my job is to help him corral his copy, meet deadlines and otherwise generally run herd in the background as he fashions each bi-monthly issue. I do the same for a number of other similar publications in Kitsap and Mason counties, and none of those other editors pester me to write anything for their publications.

But anyone who knows Scott knows how danged persistent he can be. He’s been on me for some time to write something — anything — for his fledgling paper and finally, just to get him to stop asking, I agreed to write a blog. Ha. Can’t print that in the paper. That will just be online only, nobody will see it, I can trash talk about Gig Harbor to my little black heart’s content and no one outside of him and my wife will be the wiser.

Except Scott won’t stop being Scott.

Dang him and his dogged persistence, anyway. Being bound by some higher calling, he’s been on a fast track to seeing his nearly one-year-old publication gain traction with the gentiles (and not-so-gentiles) of Gig Harbor and its surrounding environs. And in so doing, he’s pumped a lot of time, effort, copy, photos, videos and various other content-rich items into the companion Web site, www.gigharbor-life.com and you know what? That crazy galoot’s been making it pay off.

Even though the other publications had the jump on his by one or more years, his Web hits have been steadily increasing and he’s already moved his otherwise non-advertised Web site to the middle of the pack for all the Scripps-sponsored Web sites similar to his – and the numbers keep growing.

Cripes. That means people in and around Gig Harbor will likely be reading this blog. And commenting on it. And making me stay on topic and keeping me from spinning fancy with the facts. Man, now I’m going to have to research before making up … er, I mean, writing up the facts.

And Scott won’t stop.

I’m warning anyone who comes into contact with him now: DON’T ask him how the paper’s going. He’ll pin you down for hours about his vision, the potential, the unbounded and as yet untapped future of Gig Harbor Life and all things GHL-related. He keeps this up and someone higher up than me is going to take notice and then where will I be?

I can tell you. In my boss’s office, answering to how this upstart editor can jump in and outpace all the other sister publications all by his lonesome (at which time I will duly clear my throat and point out that, hey I’m writing for him too — no doubt accounting for a large percentage of his Web audience …). It’s an even bet who will laugh first.

Which is why I’m shaking the cobwebs off my writing Bible. If I’m gonna jump on this bandwagon, I better get aboard while I can still grab a handhold.

What will I blog about, you ask? Nothing. Anything. The old adage is to write what you know best, and being in the field of journalism, I typically know a little about a lot, but know a lot about nothing.

So you’re likely to hear about my wife’s garden one day, and the inconvenience of Harborview Drive construction the next. I’ll prattle about growth, old growth and growing concerns about education, environment, government and any other “ment” I can find.

Consistency is something I’ll strive for but be warned now — that’s a big inconsistency with me. So you’ll get what I can provide. And feel free to offer up a discourse whenever you want. Although this whole Internet thing has pretty much passed me by (much like Homer Simpson: “Ooh, the Internet, I hear they have that on the computer now.”) and I’m in need of help just to get this blog online, I think it will have the bells and whistles of the 21st century. I believe it will have reader feedback where you can comment on my comments to your little black heart’s desire — as long as you remain civil, clean and on task to the current subject matter. At least let’s hope so. Just hearing my point of view can be tedious — just ask my wife.

I’m not sure who will be the moderator of all this online blather.

Maybe I’ll make Scott do it.


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About This Blog

Gig Harbor, nestled in the northwest corner of Pierce County, snugly between Tacoma and Bremerton, is fast shedding its small-town demeanor as people seeking to escape the hectic pace, congested traffic and high cost of living in the big city continue to “discover” the fishing village in the harbor. With the influx of population, Gig Harbor continues to morph and develop, coming of age — as it were — as it defines its place among the many communities that dot the waters up and down Puget Sound. Kitsap Sun Special Sections Managing Editor Ric Hallock (whose responsibilities include Gig Harbor Life), lives in Gig Harbor and finds that reason enough to blog on living, breathing and spending money in the Maritime City.

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