Communion Of Dreams

I’m sure
October 30, 2009, 9:42 am
Filed under: Failure, Humor

that this sounded like a good idea at the time:

Matthew Allan McNelly, left, and Joey Lee Miller, 20, still had the permanent marker on their faces when they were booked.

(CNN) — Police say guilt was written all over their faces.

Police received a call Friday night that two men with hooded sweatshirts and painted faces had tried to break into a man’s home in Carroll, Iowa.

When police stopped a vehicle matching the caller’s description blocks away, they were stunned by the men’s disguises.

There were no ski masks or stockings pulled over their heads; instead, Matthew Allan McNelly, 23, and Joey Lee Miller, 20, streaked their faces with permanent black marker.

Yes, alcohol *was* involved.

Well, that solves my quandary about what Hallowe’en costume to wear this year . . .

Jim Downey

Cross posted to UTI.

Makes you wonder…
October 29, 2009, 5:40 pm
Filed under: Humor, MetaFilter, Promotion, Society, Wired, YouTube

. . .what’s going through the mind of the flies:

OK, quirky. I like quirky. But I also wonder what people who experienced this kind of thing thought about it later. That the product being promoted was as nasty as flies? That the advertisers who came up with this were just mean bastards? Not to get all PETA about it, I think that it’s a fairly cruel trick. Yeah, sure, the tag at the end says that the banners were mounted with wax, and came off on their own after about an hour, but still the flies were clearly struggling.


Jim Downey

From Wired.UK. Via MeFi. Cross posted to UTI.

Plugging along.
October 29, 2009, 12:45 pm
Filed under: Publishing, Science Fiction, Writing stuff

I know I’ve been fairly quiet, but that’s mostly due to spending my mornings working on editing. I keep plugging along, and just finished work on Chapter 16 (only three more to go!). Altogether I have trimmed over 22,000 words from the text.

And one thing I want to say – I still really like this book. When you’ve lived with something for years, and been through the guts of it time and again doing editing, it is easy to not give it a lot of consideration. But I’m still pleased with it, still enjoy reading the thing. I hope that others will enjoy the revisions I’ve made, and will give the new version a go once I am done.



Things continue.
October 26, 2009, 2:04 pm
Filed under: Alzheimer's, BoingBoing, Health, Humor, Publishing, Writing stuff, YouTube

So, things continue. I finished editing my entries in the care-giving book yesterday, so next I need to sort out with my co-author what else needs to be done to finish that project. And I’m now through Chapter 13 of the revisions of Communion of Dreams – having trimmed 19,884 words so far. With a little luck, I should be able to finish that editing and get the revised manuscript off to the publisher this week. As you might have gathered, I am recovering fairly well from the concussion, though I now think that it was probably a bit more serious than I initially thought, including a hairline fracture. Oh well, I’m healing and that’s what matters.

This is amusing:

Via BB.

Jim Downey

October 22, 2009, 9:07 am
Filed under: Book Conservation, Failure, Health

“Hi Jim, this is Dottie. I just wanted to make sure that you were the one who came by and got the wood this weekend.”

“Yeah, thanks. As I said, if it was still there by the weekend, I’d get it out of your way. Sorry that I left those three large pieces – something came up. I’ll come get them later this week.” I didn’t figure I needed to tell her about the accident.

“OK, thanks. I just wanted to make sure you were the one to get the wood, that someone else didn’t take it.”

* * * * * * *

Sunday, I basically couldn’t work. Was still much too dizzy from the concussion on Saturday, so just spent the time trying to take it easy. Which meant that I lost one of the three day’s time to finish up a batch of books I had promised my big client that I would deliver on Wednesday morning.

But by Monday, the dizziness had mostly passed. I worked steadily through the day and into the evening, making up for lost time. Tuesday I got back to it, and concentrated on trying to finish up, but there are some things that just take time – I stopped at midnight. Got up yesterday at 5:00, and with a little help packing things from my good lady wife was ready to leave as scheduled.

Drove to KC, arrived about ten minutes early. Unpacked the car, was waiting for the Director when he walked in. He looked at me and said “Oh, were we meeting today?”

* * * * * * *

I got home, tired from working hard the last couple of days, tired from not getting much sleep, tired from the 5-hour round trip drive over to KC. Patted the dog, chatted with my wife, came in to check mail and the state of the world. A couple of minutes later my wife came into my office.

“Oh, meant to tell you, Dottie called.”

“Oh? She called me the other day to confirm that I was the one who cleared out the wood. What’s up?”

“Well, she promised her daughter that she could have the smaller stuff.”

“She didn’t mention that when I talked to her.”

“Well, evidently her daughter had been delayed. Dottie thought that maybe you could just come over and split the rest of the wood that’s there, so her daughter could take it.”

“Split large chunks of green wood? She has no idea how hard that would be, does she?”

* * * * * * *

The Director shook my hand as his assistant started unpacking the books. They love my work, always make nice noises when they unpack things and see the results of my labor.

“Well, I have bad news. We can’t send any books back with you.”


“Yeah, we’ve run out of money for this project.”

This came as no surprise to me, since they had delayed paying me for the last batch of book for two months, with one excuse after another. And then the Director had asked for and pushed through an estimated invoice for the work I was delivering, the check coming to me a couple of weeks ago. My guess is that they got in some money, and he wanted to make sure I got paid before it went to something else.

“But we want to keep at it, as soon as we get some more donations!” Said the Director.

“Well, let me know.”

I helped them unpack the rest of the books. Shook hands, and left.

And with that, about 75% of my workload disappeared.

* * * * * * *

I laid in bed this morning after waking about 4:00, thinking. I still have enough other work to keep me busy and the wolf from the door. And now I can spend more time finishing the revisions of Communion, and what remains to be done on the care-giving book.

And I must admit, I am seriously tempted to just take back all the wood I had gotten from Dottie, be done with it.

Jim Downey

No good deed . . .
October 17, 2009, 2:06 pm
Filed under: Health, Humor, SCA, Survival

Sent this to a friend a few minutes ago.

So, here’s the deal. A neighbor decided to take down a big tree a couple of weeks ago. She asked us whether we wanted the wood from it. Not really, since it was a live tree (meaning it would need to cure at least a year), and not one particularly good for firewood (soft maple) anyway. But to save her having to pay to have it hauled off, I told her I’d get it first chance I had if no one else got it first. Figured I’d just stack it up for next year.

I noticed it was still there this morning when on my walk with the dog. Figured since I had a social thing over at a local arts school my wife is involved with this afternoon, the day was going to be something of a wash anyway, and I might as well go move the lumber. The wet, heavy lumber.

Got the first couple of carloads moved, and stacked. Went back for the last one, this the largest bits of trunk. Took my two-wheeled hand truck, since those remaining pieces are simply too heavy for me to move any distance on my own. Got three of the seven pieces shifted and loaded. Went to move the fourth, transferring from being on top of another piece to the hand truck.

Then my luck kicked in.

Hand truck leaned back (I didn’t notice this) as I shifted over the wood, since I had cleverly put my foot behind the wheel to stop it from moving. When I then dropped the wood the 18″, it hit the bottom of the hand truck with considerable force. This functioned as a lever, the wheels as the fulcrum, slamming the upright part forward. This I *did* notice, because it smacked me upside the head – right on the right temple. And me having given my SCA helmet away just a month ago . . .

Well, I didn’t lose consciousness. And after the world stopped spinning, I checked, and yes, was bleeding profusely from the large lump swelling on my temple. But I didn’t feel any shock or anything serious, so I finished moving that piece of lumber into the car, tossed the hand truck in the back, and got in. From what I could see in the mirror, it didn’t look too bad – not enough that I needed to go straight to the ER, anyway.

Came home, went to the bathroom, asked my good lady wife to come take a look. Nasty knot the size of a half golf ball, pressure split of about 3/4″ just outside the hairline. Lots of blood (head wounds always bleed a lot), but didn’t look serious. We cleaned it up, applied antibiotic, and I walked my good lady wife through applying suture strips to the wound. I have some symptoms of a mild concussion, but nothing too serious – thanks to lots of SCA/martial arts experience, and being a klutz all my life, I know how to deal with it from here out. Unless things go significantly downhill, there’s no reason to go to the hospital.

But I think I’ll skip the social function this afternoon.

Jim Downey

PS 10/18 8:30 AM: Got through the rest of the day and last night just fine, with only the usual and expected symptoms. Doing much better this morning, though it’ll likely be a couple of days before I’m back up to par.

“You think about those famous truths…”
October 16, 2009, 8:28 am
Filed under: Daily Kos, General Musings, movies, Society, Survival, Violence

It’s always dangerous to quote yourself. But I think this is worthwhile:

“You think about those famous truths in our culture-about a son’s coming to adulthood and seeking to avenge his father’s death. It’s been a recurring theme in Western culture for centuries. Look at Shakespeare. The first ‘Star Wars’ movie was largely that.

“One of my favorite movies is ‘The Princess Bride.’ There you have one of the main characters, Inigo Montoya, say, ‘You killed my father. Prepare to die.’ And that refrain plays out through the entire movie. It is interesting because one of the things that same character says in the movie is: ‘There’s not a lot of money in vengeance.’ That’s a very insightful thing. I could not have allowed that to twist my life, to give me that sort of single-minded determination, to seek revenge in one way or another.”

At the mid-century point of his life, the pain is still there.

“Talented authors can explore these themes, but I was actually faced with dealing with it. My father was murdered and the man who did it was sentenced to death for that crime. But his sentence was commuted to a life sentence without parole by the court in the mid-1970s,” reflects Downey.

“If I dwelled on who he was and what he had done, there would have been a lot of rage that would have been given personification. I really wanted to avoid dwelling on the negative things. This man is presumably still in prison. I have tried my absolute best to ignore him. By distancing myself that way, I don’t feel like I have to seek vengeance personally. But the thought still crosses my mind every time I watch a movie that has that theme, every time I read a book or watch a movie, or an officer dies,” he adds.

That’s from page three of an article in this month’s POLICE magazine, titled “What Happens to the Children of Fallen Officers”.

Trust me, that was not an easy interview to give.

I’ve written about this subject before, and mentioned it in passing. It’s obviously, and appropriately, been a major factor in my life – one which has never been far from my awareness.

It’s almost trite to say “we are defined by the choices we make rather than the experiences we have,” as if life were just simply a game of cards where you sought to win some small pot of money. I know hard choices. Choices that have to be made again, and again, and again, in the face of ongoing societal pressures pushing you to make different choices. And because I have had to face this, I am much less inclined to pass judgment on those who have chosen poorly. I know full well – as lucky as I have been to have a loving wife, a loving family, and friends who care deeply – I know full well how close I have come to making poor choices myself.

Rage and vengeance are part of our heritage, part of what makes us human, part of what has enabled us to survive. That cannot be denied. But they are less important than love and community – which have allowed us to start to build a civilization.

Jim Downey

(Cross posted to Daily Kos.)

Living in the past.*

“Hello. Can I speak with Karen?”

“Karen? Who are you calling?”

“Is this Legacy Art & BookWorks?”

*sigh* “Legacy Art & BookWorks closed over 5 years ago. Karen had moved almost four years before that. Your database is at least 9 years out of date.”

>laughter< "Oh, sorry . . . "

* * * * * * *

Yesterday morning I finished work on "November" – the 11th chapter of the care-giving book I have been working on, tentatively titled Her Final Year. The conceit is that the book is divided into the months of a year, which track the progression of the Alzheimer’s and our experience in caring. The bulk of the material for the book is drawn from my posts here (and from my co-author’s similar blog posts about his experience in caring for his mother-in-law), supplemented with emails that my wife and I sent the family and friends, discussing the day-to-day realities of what was happening.

Anyway, November is dealing with the end-of-life experience, those final months of what we went through (not the actual passing – that is appropriately enough the final chapter). So I’ve been going through and editing/tweaking material from two years ago, when we were in the deepest and most intense part of caring for Martha Sr. Just reading that stuff leaves an emotional impact, calling up echoes and ghosts.

* * * * * * *

“So, Jim, what do you do?”

We were at the big dinner for my wife’s High School reunion this past Saturday. I went as supportive spouse. Another spouse across the table was trying to make small talk. I already knew that he was an engineer – he and my wife have worked together professionally, and they had exhausted that material for discussion.

How to answer that? I am sometimes amused at the options.

“I’m a book & document conservator.” I like this answer.

“I’m sorry?”

“I repair rare books and documents. Mostly historical stuff.”

* * * * * * *

We got an invitation to an opening reception over at the University of Missouri, for a show of portraits which included work of a friend. It was a good excuse to get out of the house a bit.

An interesting show, pairing up historical portraits with more modern work by notable artists. It was good to see our friend and his wife, some other artists that we know.

But I spent most of the time there talking with others about how much they missed my art gallery. It’s been five years, but still everyone wants to talk about how great it was, how much of a shame it was that we had to close it.

* * * * * * *

“So, where do you go shooting?” I asked the engineer, after he had mentioned that he and his son had been out that morning.

“Green Valley.”

“Nice range.”

“You shoot?”

“Yeah, a bit.” I looked up with a smile. It’s always fun to see how guys will react to this. The more macho types will sometime use it as a cue to start talking about their big, powerful guns, or bragging in some other way. But I figured this engineer would be more subtle. “Handguns, mostly, for me.”

He nodded. “Yeah, I do a fair amount of that, too. Even reload.”

Reloading is a measure of a fairly serious shooter, and someone who has the patience and attention to detail necessary. I nodded. “Yeah, me too.”

His eyebrows went up a bit. I took a business card out of my jacket pocket, flipped it over and wrote down a url on the back. I passed it across the table to him. “You might be interested in this.”

Ballistics by the inch dot com, huh?”

I smiled, explained.

* * * * * * *

“This is James Downey.”

“Um, is this Legacy Bookbindery?”

“Same thing. What can I help you with?”

“I wasn’t sure this number was any good. I got it out of a magazine article from 1993. Do you still do book conservation?”

“I do indeed. What can I help you with?”

* * * * * * *

Last night I finished the revisions for Chapter 11 of Communion of Dreams. Trimmed another 1,449 words from the text, bringing the total I have edited out in this rewrite to over 17,500. It still takes a lot of attention to get through it, but from here on there will be fewer actual sections/passages trimmed out.

* * * * * * *

He flipped over the card before he put it in his pocket. “Communion of Dreams?”

“Yeah, a novel I wrote.”


“Well, not yet – not conventionally, though I have a publisher interested. But over 19,000 people have downloaded it.”

He looked at me.

I shrugged. “I’ve led an odd life.”

* * * * * * *

Jim Downey

*With apologies to Ian and the gang.

There are times . . .
October 12, 2009, 6:31 pm
Filed under: Failure, Humor, tech

. . . when I am *really* glad I am not in the demographic for most of what is marketed these days. Like now:

App To Help Men Score & Tweet (by Pepsi)

Tired of a night out clubbing only to come home with a limp ego? Then try AMP UP BEFORE YOU SCORE, an actual iPhone app that helps you change your game and increase your chances to score with any type of woman, whether she’s a “rebound girl,” “aspiring actress,” or a member of the ever-growing herd of “cougars.”

Once a woman is defined by type, the rest is a snap. Check the app for her profile, and review the cheat-sheet providing details as to what she’s into, and more importantly what sure-fire pick-up lines will cinch the deal.

No, it’s not a joke. Well, it is, but it isn’t *really* an intentional one. Except in the hey-I-meant-it-ironically way that seems to be the escape clause for everything these days.

Ah, brave new world, that has such technology in it. Who could have imagined such a thing?

Jim Downey

(Via MeFi. Cross-posted to UTI.)

October 9, 2009, 7:34 am
Filed under: Government, Humor, Politics

I heard the news when the radio went on this morning at 6:00, and just started laughing:

OSLO – President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday in a stunning decision designed to encourage his initiatives to reduce nuclear arms, ease tensions with the Muslim world and stress diplomacy and cooperation rather than unilateralism.

* * *

The award appeared to be a slap at Bush from a committee that harshly criticized Obama’s predecessor for his largely unilateral military action in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The Nobel committee praised Obama’s creation of “a new climate in international politics” and said he had returned multilateral diplomacy and institutions like the U.N. to the center of the world stage.

“The award appeared to be a slap at Bush . . . “ No shit, Sherlock. I can just imagine heads exploding all across the Right today.

Heh. Hehehehehe . . .

Jim Downey

(Cross posted to UTI.)