First Week of Class

I have now finished my first week of class, and it will be a demanding semester. I am taking classes in hardware installation and maintenance, networking fundamentals, and computer security fundamentals. These classes are essential foundations for my program.

I began some of the work early. During the week before class I read ahead in my hardware book. I brought out a dead desktop computer, placed it on my kitchen table, and opened it. While reading the book, I looked at the hardware inside, examined the parts, and noticed how they were connected. I intend to resurrect this computer as a personal challenge this semester.

Arwen and my sister’s dogs are learning to live with each other. I am now the dogs’ primary caretaker, and so they are usually with me. I am impressed that Arwen will move among the dogs unintimidated, despite her small size. Maybe they do not chase her because she does not run from them. Instead, they sniff her.

For the most part, they appear to be fascinated with her, and I think Molly genuinely likes her. About a week ago Arwen cut her back feet. I confined the dogs in another section of the basement to get them out of the way and then cleaned Arwen’s feet. She fought so hard when I tried to wash her feet in the sink that I instead dipped her feet in a puddle in the shower. She meowed loudly and sounded like she was panicking. When I was finished I found that the dogs had forced their way out of their room and came to investigate. I think they may have been worried for their buddy.

Earlier this past week I visited the Barnes and Noble near my sister’s house to study my computer networking book. It is an interesting but complex topic, and I will need to work hard to master the material. As I left for the night I walked by a bookcase of science fiction and fantasy books, which are my favorite fiction genres. I have many books which I want to read, but I will be unable to read them for over a year because I plan to stay in school every semester until I graduate (including summer). When I graduate, maybe I will reward myself with a trip to a bookstore to buy such a book. For now, I need to focus on classes. This is a time to acquire the skills for a new career. It will be a busy and challenging time, but it will pay off in the end.

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Writing Prompt – The Best Library EVER

You are in a library with every book ever written.


  • Before you begin writing, consider how incredible this would be. Any book you could possibly want is here. There is no need for inter-library loan; it is at this library.
  • This library contains a printed copy of every printed book ever written.
    1. It includes every edition and every translation. It does not contain every book in every language. It only contains translations that have actually been written.
    2. This library even contains books that are considered to be lost
    3. You can determine whether it also contains eBooks. This will depend on the world and time period you choose. A contemporary world like ours might have eBooks. A library in a science fiction world with a highly advanced culture is likely to have eBooks, but a medieval library in a fantasy world will not have them. On the other hand, maybe there is a magical equivalent to eBooks.
    4. This library does not contain books that have not yet been written. You determine how the library adds new books and how long it takes them to acquire a copy.
  • How large is the building? Does it fill an entire city? Maybe the entire city’s population works in the library.
  • How are the books stored:
    1. Are they on bookcases hundreds of feet high?
    2. Are the books floating in the air?
  • How are the books cataloged? This will depend on the technology of the world.
  • Do you find a book in the catalog and then go to the appropriate section to get it yourself?
    1. Because the library is immense, then maybe you place a request and wait for an employee to get it. What sort of employees perform this task? Humans, flying drones, gnomes?
    2. Whoever retrieves a book might need the ability to fly considering the size of the bookcases. The means of flight will depend on the world. Maybe the library instead has scaffolding with staircases for each bookcase
    3. You do not order a book and have it delivered to your home. You go to the library in person.
  • How do people move through such a large library, especially if it is the size of a large city? This will largely depend on the world you choose.
    1. If it is a fantasy world, then maybe it uses flying carpets.
    2. If it is in an urban fantasy world, then maybe it has a roller coaster network like Gringott’s Bank.
    3. If it is a science fiction world, then maybe it has flying cars.
    4. If it is a contemporary world, then maybe it has a trolley network.

You are free to use this prompt in your own writing. If you print it or post it online, however, please credit this post.

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The New Journey

I have moved into my space in my older sister’s house. She has a fully finished basement, and I have two rooms partitioned off from the main section. My space is smaller than I had at my previous residence, and so I keep some items in a rental shed.

My older sister and her husband wanted to help me with my efforts to change my life’s direction, and so they offered me a very low rent (even after I add the price of the shed). In return I care for their dogs. They are both so busy now that they cannot give the dogs as much attention as they would like, and so I have taken that responsibility. I feed the dogs, play with them, and walk them. I have been here for less than three weeks, but the dogs have already grown to love me. They follow me around and seem to enjoy just being with me. If I lie down, then the fox red lab Jenny will aggressively try to lick my face. The black lab Molly constantly wants belly rubs and looks at me with eyes that say, “Love me.” Sometimes when I sit on my recliner, they rest nearby on my couch. It has become one of their favorite nap spots.

My cat Arwen is adjusting. The first night she insisted on going outside. I was nervous, but I knew I needed to let her out eventually. That first night she walked around meowing for a long time (probably scared). When I brought her back in she insisted on going back out, and so I let her out and went to bed. The next morning she was ready to come in and have some breakfast.

She does not like the dogs, of course, and so when she is inside she spends most of her time either on or under my bed. At night she sleeps with me, unless she is prowling outside. Over the past week we have had cold temperatures and rain almost every day. She does not want to go outside in that weather, and I like to keep her inside at night if it drops below freezing. Unfortunately, if the dogs are out of their kennels, then I need to keep Arwen confined to my bedroom for her protection. She does not enjoy this, and so I am happy that the weather has been better today and yesterday. She can spend some time roaming freely outside. As a former stray, she has an yearning for adventure and a need to explore. When she does come inside, however, she takes full advantage of my bed and her favorite blanket.

Class begins on January 7. Until then I am making good use of my time. I am reading Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. I am also studying some Python programming and working on my resume and LinkedIn profile. After I have adjusted to the demands of a full load in school, I will look for a part time job

My other sister recently participated in National Novel Writing Month and met her goal. She has wanted to write a novel for years but thought she could not do it, and yet she succeeded (you can read about it here). This brings back to mind my desire to write fiction. I have thought many times about a collection of loosely connected short stories. I have always struggled with writing fiction, but I feel like I have story ideas that want to come out. I have notes on some of the stories. When I sit down to make an attempt, however, nothing  comes out. With school starting soon, I do not know when I will have the time to work on this. Right now I need to focus on getting a new career so that I can make a sustainable living, but someday I need to write this book. It will not leave me alone.

I am also thinking again about my desire to visit Iona and the surrounding islands. That yearning remains stuck in my head. Someday, I need to do it.

I expect my first semester to be intense, and so I do not know how often I will be able to write in this blog. Nonetheless, I will try to chronicle my journey. I am taking a risk by quitting my job and taking on student debt, but sometimes a person needs to take a risk to move forward. This endeavor can lead to a career which is better for me physically and financially and also more suited to my interests and abilities.

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Writing Prompt – Leave Your Life and Move to the Shire

You face serious stress or a crisis in your life. When you reach a breaking point you receive the opportunity to leave your life behind and move to the Shire.

  • You struggle could be any of these:
    1. You recently lost your entire family.
    2. You have an overwhelmingly stressful career, and you long to quit.
    3. You are in sudden financial ruin.
    4. This world has been devastated by war, plague, or natural disaster.
    5. You have terminal cancer or a terminal disease.
    6. You can combine any number of these into the same story and/or add a struggle not listed here.
  • Describe your psychological condition when you reach a breaking point.
  • You then receive an opportunity to leave this life behind and move to the Shire. This would be the Shire in Middle-Earth, not a vacation resort replica in this world.
  • How will you move there:
    1. Will you walk through a wardrobe like Lucy in The Chronicles of Narnia?
    2. Will you fall asleep in this world and wake up in your own hobbit hole in the Shire?
    3. Will you go to a boat port in this world to board one of the white ships of the Grey Havens, sail to Middle-Earth, and then travel by land to the Shire? Middle-Earth does not exist in this world, and so the ship will need a way to jump between worlds. It will not take you to Valinor.
  • At which point in Middle-Earth history do you arrive? Is it before or after the One Ring is destroyed? You will not join the quest to destroy the Ring. You will move to the Shire to find a peaceful life.
  • You will leave your current life behind, but what will you do for a living in the Shire? It must be something that would be natural for life there. You cannot bring the modern technology of this world.
  • Will you remain human or become a hobbit?
  • Is the move permanent?
    1. If it is, then you leave your current life behind and never return.
    2. Maybe you stay there for a year and then have the option to return to this world or stay in the Shire. That choice is permanent.
    3. Maybe you can return to this world for up to a few months and then make a permanent choice whether to stay in this world or return to the Shire.
  • In either case, when you go to the Shire, you get a fresh start. Financial obligations and health problems in this world will not follow you to the Shire, but they will be waiting for you if you return.
  • You also leave behind everyone you know in this world. Maybe you can bring one person or a few people with you, but they will need to make the same permanent choice.

By the way, while writing this post I found an effort to build the Shire in central Tennessee. I would love to spend a week long vacation there. The replica in New Zealand is too far for my budget, but Tennessee would be more manageable. Unfortunately this project was proposed three years ago and appears to have quickly fizzled out.

You are free to use this prompt in your own writing. If you print it or post it online, however, please credit this post.

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The First Day of the New Journey

My last day at the warehouse yesterday went well. It was not too exhausting. People were supportive of my plan to improve myself, and they said I would be missed. One of the managers said I had served them well and had earned the right to “knock on the door again.” During my final days I did not slack off in my work. I wanted to end well because I did not want to burn my bridge on the way out, and I wanted to maintain my work ethic.

Today was my first day after resigning. I slept a little later than I would on a work day, but I still set my alarm to get up early. I quit my job to make this life change, and so I cannot waste time or lose discipline. I have  much to do. This week I need to focus on moving and studying for my final exam.

When that is finished I plan to invest the few weeks I have before Spring classes begin. I want to revise my LinkedIn profile and resume and maybe buy some business appropriate clothes that will help me find an IT job. I also plan to do some beneficial reading, such as Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

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A New Chapter Begins

Journey

Today was my last day working at the warehouse. That means I am now unemployed. As this day has drawn closer, I have felt uneasy. I am taking a risk, a leap of faith, but I believe I am making the best decision.

If I play it safe and remain at the warehouse, then a year from now I will still be there and will be no closer to making a better life for myself. My body also will continue to decline. This is not a criticism of the company. It is just the nature of the work. It takes a toll on the body, and my back and hands definitely feel it.

I have a mind that can do more, but I will need to get credentials to use it in a job. Finances will be very tight for a while, but through this I can make a better life in the long run.

This past Fall semester I took one online class while continuing to work at the warehouse. This weekend I will move, and in the Spring I will take three classes on campus. These classes will cover some vital fundamentals for my program, and so I will be busy making sure I do well in all three.

I have experienced cold feet many times regarding this decision, but as I said, I believe it is the best decision. If I play it safe with my current circumstances, then I will move nowhere. Breaking out of this rut will require me to take a risk.

So, now it begins. I no longer work at the warehouse. After I am done moving, and after I take the final exam for my online class, I will have about 4 weeks before Spring classes begin. I will use that time for some personal development to prepare for my future career. Then I will go ahead full into my classes.

Get ready for the ride.

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Running Against the Wind

Back in September I said I would post on some coming changes in my life. Here it is.

On the way home from work a few months ago I listened to “Against the Wind” by Bob Seger. It is a great song. It plays in the movie Forest Gump while Forest is running across the country. During this journey he learns to put the past behind him and move on with his life. That has been my life for many months. While driving home with this song I thought about how my life did not turn out as planned, and how I intended to proceed from there.

Did you have a goal which you held closely and which defined the direction of your life and the decisions you made, except it did not come to fruition? How long did you keep trying, and at which point did you move on?

I have explained in previous posts how my previous career plans never materialized. For that reason the past several years have been difficult. I did not struggle with a lost relationship as in Seger’s song, but my struggle was equally difficult. I did not want to move on because I did not want everything I had invested into my education to be wasted. This left me stuck in a rut.

But I need to move on. I am working a physical labor job which is taking its toll on my body. I know I am capable of doing better and that I should not waste my potential. I am left with a choice: I can either continue doing what I am doing while going nowhere (running against the wind), or I can move on and turn things around for the better.

In pursuit of this change, I have enrolled at Gwinnett Technical College for some training in their cyber security program. I am taking one class online now, but some classes meet only on campus. I also want to take most of my classes on campus so that I can build a network of contacts. This will require me to quit my job at the warehouse and move almost two hours away. I will begin just taking classes to get back in the habit of school and later get a part-time job. Finances will be a significant challenge for a while (probably more than a year), but long-term I think this will be the right move because it will give me the credentials to get a much better job.

I have been offered a place to live with my sister for cheap in exchange for helping at the house. I can also bring Arwen with me, which is great. I would hate to give her up. She is a great companion. I will have less time to write, but I will try to chronicle my journey.

(I did not post this back in September because I thought I should wait until I had officially given my notice of resignation at the warehouse, in case any of them read this.)

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Writing Prompt – A Special Writing Notebook

Imagine that every page of your writing notebook works like a Myst linking book with the ability to take you to the world described on that page/ How did your notebook get that ability? Where will it take you? How do you get back home?


  • The notebook need not work exactly like a Myst linking book: 1) In the Myst series, a descriptive book which described the target world in great detail was needed first. Linking books referred to the descriptive book and linked to a specific location in the target world. In one sense, they were similar to a desktop shortcut on a computer which refers to a file. 2) A linking book also could not link from one place in a world to another place in the same world; it could only link to another world. You can follow these restrictions if you choose, but they are not necessary.
  • This story will be different for each person. The details will depend on what you have written in your notebook.
  • If your notebook describes different parts of the same world, can you use it to link to different locations in that world? If so, it would be an immensely valuable item, and inhabitants of that world may go to great lengths to acquire it.
  • If each section of your notebook describes a different story, can you jump around to each story?
  • Does your writing in your notebook literally create the world described? If so, how much control do you have over its history?
  • Does the notebook work only for you? If a character in a target world steals your notebook, could he link to other worlds or even to your world? That would open some fascinating story possibilities.
  • Maybe it only works for you and other writers. If so, that could open great story possibilities regarding a special status for writers. A fantasy world could have an elite class of writers who exercise incredible influence over many worlds. Can anyone learn the skills necessary to become such a writer, or is someone born into it? What happens when someone abuses this gift? This could grow into an entire novel.

You are free to use this prompt in your own writing. If you print it or post it online, however, please credit this post.

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Musings on “The Neverending Story” and My Own Writing

The Neverending Story is a classic movie from the 1980s and a must see for anyone who enjoys the fantasy genre or simply appreciates a free range imagination. I have watched this movie many times, but I can still watch it again and continue to enjoy it.

Why do I enjoy this movie? I have enjoyed fantasy stories for as long as I can remember. Some memorable moments in the fantasy genre include the Nazgul chasing Frodo as his pony carries him toward the river at the edge of Rivendell in The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien, and Goldmoon defeating the black dragon Khisanth in Xak Tsaroth with the blue crystal staff of Mishakal in Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. These stories provide fun adventure in well-developed worlds that are foreign to us but which still grab our attention, and the magic and strange creatures provide special intrigue and wonder. The Neverending Story is filled with strange creatures (such as the rock biter and the luck dragon), and it has an intriguing plot about Atreyu’s effort to save his world from destruction.

I also enjoy The Neverending Story because it is about imagination unleashed. The entire world of Fantasia (every place and every creature) is the manifestation of human imagination. The movie is based on the premise that each world (including our world) manifests the imagination of another world in a never-ending chain, and yet those worlds are real in a physical sense. Each world is as boundless as the imaginations which create it, and they in turn are the creations of the imaginations of other beings in other worlds.

Throughout most of the movie, the plot plays out for real in Fantasia as Bastian reads it in the book that he borrowed (without permission) from the bookstore. After Fantasia is destroyed by the Nothing, Bastian enters the story and meets the empress face to face. She encourages him to re-create Fantasia in his dreams. She says he can have as many wishes as he wants, and that the more wishes he makes, the more amazing Fantasia will become. Fantasia then becomes the manifestation of his dreams, and he expresses his imagination freely.

I can somewhat relate to this story. I feel like I have an imagination that wants to break free in writing. The world inside my head can be an interesting place. Sometimes it is strange, but that makes it fun. Despite this, I struggle to write fiction. I once wrote a sci-fi story for a short story competition. I did not think I had a likely chance to win, but I decided that I needed to try regardless. It was rejected. I then submitted it to a sci-fi/fantasy literary magazine. It was rejected. Maybe I should post it on this blog so that more experienced writers can critique it. If I get enough requests in the comments, then I will do that. I am an amateur writer who has much to learn, but I am open to learn.

Sometimes I think that I am not cut out to write fiction, and yet that imagination wants to express itself. So, how do I let it out fully? “The Neverending Story” is an example of what can happen when a creative imagination is let out to play. I would enjoy doing the same.

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Writing Prompt – A Dark Ferryman

You are standing on a river bank when a dark ferry boat comes to shore. The ferryman wears a dark robe and hood. It is Charon, the ferryman of the river Styx. He says that he took a wrong turn and needs your help.


 

  • What do you do? Do you run away, afraid that he will take you with him?
  • Do you give him directions back to Styx? If so, how do you know where it is? You have never been there . . . , or maybe you have.
  • Suppose he offers you something in return for your help. What will you ask him to give you?
    1. Maybe you need a ride across the river, but can you trust him? Maybe he will take you to Hades instead.
    2. Maybe you want to tour the afterlife like Dante. Who will be your tour guide?
  • Why is he lost? He should know what he is doing. He has been doing it for thousands of years.
    1. Even if he took a wrong turn on Styx, how did he end up on this river? Are the two rivers connected? That would be disturbing.
    2. Maybe he did not take a wrong turn. You did, and you now stand on the shore of the river Styx.
  • Maybe he is nothing like he is portrayed in mythology. You could use this story to completely reinvent him.
  • You can draw from various sources in writing this story, such as Greek mythology, Dante’s Inferno, and Rick Riordans’ Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Be sure to add your own twist.

You are free to use this prompt in your own writing. If you print it or post it online, however, please credit this post.

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