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Per my last post about asking for help: I did ask for help, but didn't find any takers, my assumption is partly that I needed help in the middle of a day on a Monday and that doesn't fit into many people's schedules, but also people just...not wanting to, which is fine, I ended up doing well on the project all by myself (although I haven't received my final grade on it yet).

Now we're on to the final project, which is to interpret a dream in film -- and I have found a helper this time, because I asked the teacher if he knew anyone who wanted help, and in class he asked for any raised hands for people looking for help, and I connected with one person I'd worked with before. I'm a little worried they may not actually show up, because, well, they are young and that's how young people can be, but I hope it works out, they should be able to add to the project in ways I hadn't thought of, which is the goal of having help.

Helping aside, I am discovering something in myself: when we received the final project assignment, it was disappointingly vague, which was similar to the first English class paper -- and I had very much the same visceral reaction -- anger, frustration, confusion, over being told to do something with no instruction on how to get there.

I think the reaction is actually to being assigned creativity. You, go do something creative, have it done in three weeks. What should you do? I already told you, go be creative, I don't want to hear from you until you've creatived all over the place.

I am not sure why this is the reaction, but it feels like something I've experienced in the past, so I don't think this is something new, but because I'm pretty much self-driven the rest of the time I haven't had the occasion of induced creative output in quite a while.

In this case, after a couple days (and after asking the professor about helpers), I came to a relatively acceptable plan for meeting the final project objectives, and have moved into nervousness over how I'm going to get that done.

Of my rules for returning to college, the inverse of "Ask for Help" is "Participate". When I was a theater student back in the 1990s, I didn't go to the mainstage shows, I didn't even go to my friend's projects, I was so wrapped up in my own stuff that I didn't think beyond arm's reach, and that not only wasn't supporting the theater program, but also wasn't helpful to me either.

So, in order to participate with the MSUM School of Media Arts, Design, and Entertainment, last spring I went to the Capstone premiere, which is the graduating senior projects, and the Juried Show, which was a selection of the best from all Film/Animation projects from the year; I joined the film appreciation club (which I haven't been super good at attending due to scheduling), and I am super open to helping if someone asked me for help (but that hasn't happened yet).

A few weeks ago, I saw a post on Facebook for an audition -- the guy who posted it I knew is also a student in the MSUM film production department, and the cast was one young man, and three men, any age.

My first reaction was, wow, that sounds like a cool project, I hope he finds some men, any age, actors.

It took two days to sink in that I am a man, any age, I can act, and I want to support the film production department any way I can.

Now, "Is Derek An Actor?" is a complicated question. Once upon a time I thought being an actor would be fun, but eventually decided, no, it wasn't my thing. In the meantime I took a bunch of acting classes, acted in a number of plays, and the complicated answer is yes, I have skills as an actor, no, I'm not a really good actor but I'm OK, and no, I don't generally want to be an actor.

However, if I'm going to "Participate", them's the rules, so I signed up for an audition slot, went, and got cast as the character with the second-most lines.

Now, my reaction was: oh no, now I have to actually go and act.

However, this production went really, really well, I thought it was an excellent experience. A lot of it was the actor I had to interact with the most had a lot of good ideas and made it easy to perform against him. The climactic scene of the short film is an argument between him and me; my character messed up badly, and his character reacts with anger.

The way the script is written, and the way our first rehearsals went, ended up with a sort of fist-shaking, "why I aughta..." level of anger.

One later run-through, he grabbed me by the shirt; afterwards he asked if it was OK, and I said yes.

He seemed to be realizing that the way for this to work is to really, really, make that climax...climactic -- he has to look unhinged, I need to look scared, and as he increased his anger I reacted appropriately and it went from "that guy has an anger problem" to "OH FUCK HE IS GONNA STAB THAT GUY IN THE FACE".

I think there's still a 10% chance it is going to look goofy, but the way that scene felt, it's going to look good, I'm so excited to watch.

But, it'll be a good month or two before they're done developing and editing -- it was shot on really-real actual movie film! -- so I will have to be patient.

In the meantime...another audition has been posted, the main character is a young man moving out of the house for the first time, and another character is his absent father. Guess which one I'm auditioning for? They sent me the script to read the scene for when I audition and I'm not sure how well I'll do, but I'll still go to the audition, that's Participating.

What, I missed August? Oh well, I'll try to be better, that's all I can do.

This is mostly the result of a mix of school picking up and work has been busy -- three big projects which all need to be completed by about the same deadline -- so I have less time to stop and breathe. But, like now, I can pause and write a bit.

This semester I have two classes, a 100-level Film Production class, and a 400-level English class. Both have their complexities, but not really what I would have expected.

The Film Production class is in-person, and I explicitly asked to take it even though my advisor wanted to get me an exception for the class due to past experience. But, filmmaking is a collaborative process, so I can't do all my work in a vacuum, I should get to know my fellow students. Those students are all very young, very new to college, and it's a little intimidating to be in class, old me with all these kids. I'm not that social of a person to begin with, so it's more of a crutch to blame the differences between me and my classmates; it's just me being me, and these are all strangers. I've sort of fell in with a group of animation students who are required to take this class, mostly because I was standing near them when the teacher said to form groups.

The midterm project is to film a 3-minute video "portrait", and I've arranged to do it on a friend with a unique career, and my initial plans were to just do it myself...but then I remembered, hey, this is supposed to be collaborative, I should ask someone to help. Extra hands are always good. Of course, now the hurdle is....actually asking someone for help, which is an even harder thing than just talking to strangers.

This 'asking for help' is something I've mentioned before, in regards to teachers, and I had to do this for my English class. The first assignment was very vague as to how to do it; the subject matter was specific but the format unclear, so I did a Zoom with the instructor, who introduced himself as a creative writing teacher, which was pretty much all I needed to know, and his further clarification only expanded on this. I wasn't writing a college-level paper, I was writing an essay about what I thought. In the end I got dinged for the amount of reference I included (I am not an expert on the subject, so why do my thoughts count?), which only goes to tell me that in the next three papers I can be looser in my writing style.

At the end of the Zoom the instructor, in impressed tones, called out my writing style from my emails and asked me about it. Yes, I explained, I had been a paid writer for many years, not so much lately, but yes, I write. So, I'm sort of excited to play with writing styles with the next paper and see where I get: the first one was a very stiff intro-content-conclusion that I expect to write in college, but the things the teacher marked in my papers as good were the spots I stretched the boundaries of the style. I expect more As.

Here I sit, sniffling and coughing, fighting off a cold I acquired while doing something cool. For the past 10 days I've put on my 'television production' hat and worked on a high school sporting tournament; but it's hard to really classify things as "television" any more -- this was a streaming event, so essentially dozens of channels, the overlapping rounds each broadcast separately and simultaneously, and all we had to do was keep it all on the air.

The label of Production Assistant, maybe I've said it before, pretty much means "do whatever would take the Skilled Technicians away from their work", so mostly it means getting coffee and food, standing someplace for some reason, and otherwise just being a go'fer.

For streaming video, I was in my natural element -- setting up networks and software and knowing what the different cables look like and what they do and knowing where to plug them in. There were the natural lulls where things were happening and nothing needed to be done, so I did get to sit in blissful relaxation for a little while, but otherwise there was work to be done. Fixing people clicking on the wrong thing. A network adapter suddenly goes bad. An extension cord needs to be guarded because people keep unplugging it.

Overall, I was really at the top of my game and got lots of compliments on my PA work; and while being a PA is usually an entry-level job and there's not a lot of skills needed to do a good job, I do try to make sure that I'm a valuable part of the team, and just that little effort goes a long way towards things going smoothly.

That is, until the last day: like someone at the bring of bowling a 300 game but hitting the gutter on the last throw, on the afternoon of the last day of the tournament I made a mistake. One with the real possibility of being fired over, and most of my effort went into not catastrophizing into a panic attack. I admitted my mistake, I took responsibility, I didn't try to make excuses, and I did get an angry lecture about being careful from my boss. In the end it became the past and the rest of the job went smoothly, although this company has the producers write up 'staff review' reports where my failing will be part of my permanent record if I work with them again (which I hope I can work with them again, it was a fun project).

But, the event was 10 days, with one day off in the middle, and every day was from about 10 - 12 hours long. It was tiring, and I ate like crap, but D noted a personality shift in me: I seem much more expressively happy when I'm working on these projects. She was even relatively shocked when I asked her for help. The crew were going out for drinks on the night before the day off, and I asked D if she could drop me off and pick me up so I could drink without driving, and not only did I have a good time, it did feel like old times.

On reflection, I wonder if what D is seeing is a bit of 'old me', from long before we ever met, back in my theater days. I mean, I don't 100% want to be my old self, because he was kind of dumb and a jerk, but maybe the Derek that has learned a bit more about life, put back in that world of working backstage, I'm probably being a bit more Me than I've been in a while.

Oh, the sniffling and coughing? Well, I spent the last week around thousands of gross high school kids, somebody must have coughed on me. I was tested for a variety of diseases, and the diagnosis is 'the common cold'. I hope it goes away soon, I'm tired of it.

I suppose once I started college again, I should have guessed my free time would shrink; my two courses are Advanced Film Editing Techniques and Astronomy, both entirely online.

The Astronomy class is a normal college class, and since it's summer semester it's a lot of returning-to-school, older-than-average students, and it's a relatively fluffy class where my personal interest in outer space means I know a lot of how this stuff works to begin with, but there's still a few things that I hadn't known before -- like how the sun works in the sky in the southern hemisphere in the summer and winter. That one is a three-credit course that runs to August.

The editing class is really a jump-in-with-both-feet class; it's my first Film Production class, but most of the other students are juniors or seniors, as its 372 designation would indicate. Because I have so many existing credits, and the film classes aren't offered every semester (or even every year) I have to take them wherever I can get them, which might be out of the normal sequential order. But I did OK, relying on stuff I learned decades ago. My midterm assignment got a good grade and some good feedback, and my final project is in the can but hasn't been graded yet. I, without reading the instructor's description closely, picked the hardest project to do, but I had the free time to try and get it as good as I could. There's things I know I was weak on, but overall it turned out really well. But, being a shorter class, I'm all done with Advanced Editing Techniques and just waiting for final grades.

One thing I have struggled with is figuring out how to get help with the online classes; I am, admittedly, bad at asking for help in general, but when you're in a project-based class like Film Editing, having time when you're sitting in class and can call the teacher over to look at something is a lot easier and non-flow-disrupting, versus needing to schedule a Zoom or sign up during the teacher's office hours, or try and compose an email with descriptions and screenshots and everything that would be much easier to just point at your screen to address. Sure, I may be an 'old' for this, but I'm also in an industry where we literally help people all day long via emails with screenshots or desktop-sharing so I'm not missing the skills, just knowing the right way to put them to use.

So, for the next month my class load is lighter, just Astronomy, but at the end of August is a new challenge: I have one in-person class, the Video Production 175 course. This is the normal "Welcome to Film Production" course, which my advisor wanted to let me skip due to pre-existing-knowledge reasons, but I really haven't touched any modern video or film equipment and I think I'd miss out on a lot of valuable skills, even if I'm probably overqualified.

But, there's my struggle with this -- on one hand, I have demonstrable skills, some of which I have learned and applied in actual professional capacity; on the other hand there's a lot of gaps due to not having a broad base of knowledge, because most of how I've gained my knowledge hasn't extended beyond an intern-level capacity. My current knowledge is like a sawed-off shotgun blast, a spray of dots with a lot of gaps but generally on target, while I need to either tighten up the skills with more focus, or fill in the gaps with more specific knowledge to reach more of a 'mastery' level. So, I'm leaning towards "take the class" and learn things I don't know -- like I did with my HTML class back when I was already a freelance web designer -- than to jump to assuming I know what I'm doing.

The other fall class is online-only, a nonfiction writing course to finish out my English requirements, which I should coast through. Overall, I think I'm doing alright with my classwork, so I should have no problem finishing with a degree in a couple years...knock on wood, the world around me has done its worst to stop me the other times I've tried to graduate college, but I think I've mitigated all that so far this time.

I know I missed a week: it's gotten busy around here. My classwork has been chugging along nicely, I think I'm doing OK although I haven't gotten a lot of grades back, and I have a midterm video project due next week.

The past week was in Wisconsin, visiting D's family -- and as we have done for a while now, we brought our dog Maggie along and stayed in a pet friendly hotel.

Maggie is a complicated girl: she was an abused puppy mill mom who has blossomed in the past four years that we've been taking care of her, but one consistent thing is her abject terror riding in a car. She pants and shakes the whole way. We tried giving her trazodone, which seems to have only made things worse. However, we're fairly certain that leaving her in a kennel, full of barking dogs and strangers, would break her spirit.

Her car ride response has improved though; she will jump up into the car herself about half the time, and the other half just stands by the door to be lifted in -- versus straining at the end of her leash to avoid the car. She seems to get that we're not leaving her someplace or taking her off to a horrible fate, but she still is not happy with the riding in the car part.

Interestingly, she is an expert at remembering places she had been before: the second time we stayed at the same hotel she went straight from the car to the door of the room we had stayed in before and it took some time to get her over to the correct room. She remembers where D's family's patio door is and heads there when we arrive for the visits. As we often say, Maggie contains multitudes.

The trip was otherwise uneventful: boardgames, eating out, antique malls, etc., etc. However, on the third day of the trip I noticed my phone case wasn't fitting right, which I wrote off as "cheap amazon junk" but on the last day of the trip I discovered that the reason it wasn't fitting was due to the battery inside puffing up like a balloon, pushing the (normally sealed) back of the phone off.

As we live in The Future, using what little voltage I had left without aggravating the dying battery, connected to Verizon, picked a very nice replacement, clicked OK a bunch of times, and had a new phone waiting for me at the Fargo Verizon store as soon as we were back in town the next day.

I get the security issues, but when you use a "copy my phone" feature which the phone manufacturers helpfully offer, it copies pretty much everything except security data. As part of my work I have a bunch of 2FA apps and other programs which meant this morning was a lot of figuring how I got them set up in the first place. Then, other settings like "what does a swipe mean in my email app" need to be fixed, the keyboard I like wasn't enabled, etc., etc. Nothing's easy when you need a pocket computer to get through life.

In I'm a TV Professional news: applied for two upcoming gigs in the area, and my latest episode of House Hunters airs next week on the 8th.

And, finally in Esmerelda news: I have no idea; all the security cameras are off-line, which usually means I need to reset the wifi router. I should have time to get down there this weekend, but I also have that project to finish. Such a busy life I lead.

Last Week:

Sunday I went to help the owner of the antique mall sort through her inventory, but then back to work on Monday. It was quite a busy week with more problems than usual, but for the most part everything went well. Then Saturday I worked at the antique mall, which was very, very slow unfortunately.

But then I woke up on Sunday, excited - I was going down to Esmerelda! If you don't follow me on social media, Esmerelda is a house we bought in Elbow Lake, Minnesota: built sometime around the 1890s, it was neglected for probably the past thirty years, until we bought it as a foreclosure for almost nothing, with the intention of remodeling it to live in. For the most part it's a fun hobby for me to go do physical work for a few hours.

I was excited because it was the first time I'd been down since there was snow on the ground, and also I was able to get the powder room sink installed. That part had more practical benefits, but getting to work in the yard is my guilty pleasure down there.

The lot is a large triangle, with the narrow point to the west; that point is covered with a large flower garden, which is pretty much just tigerlilies. I'd been working on getting it cleaned out of sticks and garbage and leaves, so this time I went nuclear on it - I took the lawnmower to it, and then used the thatching rake to scrape it down to dirt.

Don't worry about the tigerlilies - if there's one thing I've learned is that killing tigerlilies is difficult. They were growing around a couple trees that I had to cut down, and the stump grinder took out most of them, and then I dug down around them and took out all the bulbs I could find and replaced the top six inches of dirt, but, boom, this spring it's all tigerlilies again. The big tigerlily garden has probably been there since before I was born and it'll probably be there long after I'm gone.

Once it was cleared of leaf litter and garbage, I took the metal detector through it to see if there was interesting under the dirt, and the metal detector beeped everywhere. After a little digging I found it was because it was detecting the tigerlily bulbs. Sad trumpet noises. I did find a 1919 penny, though, and the lack of real metal garbage was nice.

I lost track of time and had to rush the last few tasks I needed to do, because I had to be back in town by 6 for Mother's Day dinner with D and Allie. Which was nice and uneventful - steaks, french bread, green beans, and blueberry pie.

Next week:

The first day of school! That is, if I survive the big project that wraps up tonight. And then - what - I have both a Saturday and a Sunday off? Snow was on the ground last time that happened.

Last Week:

Back to the real job again; the first two days of the week we tried to get more done with the storage units and the pile at the curb, but then the day job needed me back and I had to get to programming, managing, and otherwise being a normal office guy.

Friday night I went to the Juried Film & Animation Exhibition at MSUM - this is somewhat related to the Capstone screening I saw the previous Friday, but the content was a bit different. The Capstone consisted of all the senior projects, and there were some weaker than others. The Juried show, however, as you might expect consisted of the best they had from all classes, not just the seniors. The high level of quality was very noticeable; still of the "zero-budget" level limitations, but now I was a little anxious over whether or not I'll do a good job with such strong competition from other students when I get in these classes...but, of course, my family said I've got nothing to worry about, so I'll take their word for it for now.

Saturday was Free Comic Book Day, so Allie and I went, not so much for the free comics (although Allie loaded up on those), but to meet Chris Claremont. His biggest claim to fame was his work on the X-Men comic lines, which were largely the basis for the X-Men movies in some form, but he was co-creator of my most favorite comic during my teen years, The New Mutants. Teenagers coming of age but with superpowers? Of course that appealed to a 16-year-old nerdy kid. When I moved out to go to college I left my comic collection behind, which my brother took possession of and then added to, so when he passed the comics came to me. I found that he also liked New Mutants, and had added to what I had originally owned, including two copies of the first issue. So, I bagged the better of the two copies up and went to get it signed.

The autograph line moved very slow, out in the cold wind and with rain threatening to come down on us, and we found out that the slowness was because Claremont wanted a chance to have a conversation with everyone who came in for a signature. When we did get up to the table, I had a nice conversation about what works for storytelling; Claremont said what works is to start with a normal story - going out to eat, staying in school while everyone else leaves for Christmas, etc., but adding a little twist, something out of the ordinary, something different from normal, to put the story in motion and see where it goes; when you get to the next milestone in the story, another twist to keep things moving. I'm mostly writing it here so I'll remember it down the road, as part of my overcoming writer's block path I'm on.

Allie talked about a story she's been working on, a postapocalyptic story of werewolves, which they riffed together on a bit and ended up on a path where the werewolves are defending the Earth from zombie apes from around the world -- which was fun but also demonstrative of another technique: every idea is worth considering, don't discount things until they've been really thought over. I don't know that anyone really wants to hear about zombie apes from Russia, but you never know, and it might trigger an even better idea to discuss it.

Next Week:

Back on the normal schedule for the most part, but because I had to switch days with D at the antique mall, I get to work the 2nd weekend, this Saturday. Maybe I'll get an actual day off at some point; today I'm helping at the antique mall owner's warehouse to clear things out in anticipation of new inventory coming in. by next Saturday that will make it almost three weeks of days with scheduled tasks, and it is getting a bit tiring. But, I'll get through. At the end of the month we're planning a trip to visit D's family in Wisconsin, by that time I should get to rest.

Last week:

Monday and Tuesday were a race to get things done before my scheduled time off. The first two weeks of May are "Cleanup Week" in the area, so actually "Cleanup Fortnight" I guess, and as we've done for years I take time off so we can participate. It used to be for driving around and picking up other people's garbage to clean and fix it and either resell or use ourselves, but starting last year we began throwing out more than we picked up, trying to gain space in the garage and storage units. Each day so far we've made a couple trips to the storage unit, filled up one or more vehicles and left it on our curb, where the pile then slowly disappears like snow in spring, as strangers drive by and take our garbage to clean and fix, and then use or resell, and so goes the Circle Of Life.

Aside from this, the past week was also Participation Week. In deciding to go back to school, I've been forced to reflect on what I did wrong the first time I was in higher education. One of the things I failed to do was Participate. In theatre, someone was always performing somewhere, or there was an extracurricular event of some sort, and I never went, never supported my fellow students unless I was part of the event itself.

So, at MSUM, there were two things on the calendar: One, the film-watching club had a screening of The Shining, which I went to as my inaugural attendance, which was just watching a movie, but I hadn't seen The Shining before so that was good. The screening was poorly attended presumably because of the second event of the week: Friday was the "Capstone" screening of all the film production seniors' final projects. This was fun, technical problems aside - although a pretentious film critic might say that you should be able to watch a film without sound and still hit the emotional beats, but I don't think that's the goal here. On arriving your were confronted with a sign next to a table of cupcakes and cookies saying "DON'T TOUCH, WATCH THE MOVIES FIRST" but while the sound playback problems were resolved the faculty graciously let the attendees eat cookies early. There were five projects, three live action and two animated, with a Q&A with the creators after each; the energy of people showing off something they created doing something they love is infectious and I'm looking forward to my own Capstone in about three years.

Next Week:

I'll still be off Monday and Tuesday for Cleanup Fortnight, and then back to work Wednesday to do a week's worth of work in three days, but then Saturday could be fun: a local comic shop is having an anniversary event, which coincides with Free Comic Book Day, and this confluence will also include an appearance by comic book writer Chris Claremont. Back in the eighties, I was a big fan of the comic The New Mutants: me, a geeky teenager, reading a comic about teenagers discovering their superpowers, what was appealing about that? Claremont is one of the creators of this comic, and by acquiring my brother's comic book collection when he passed and combining it with my own I believe I have a complete set of New Mutants, including two copies of issue #1, one of which I plan on getting autographed during the event. I believe I'll be going with my daughter Allie, a rare event for just the both of us, in one of our common hobbies. Aside from that, our house's actual Cleanup Week is the 2nd week, so we get an extra weekend of piling things on our curb, if D and my bodies can handle that much lifting, carrying, and moving.

There's a little pilot light in me; it's to kick off the Creative Writing bug. In the past seven years or so, I've barely written anything, a few lengthy things on Facebook or responses to threads on Reddit or Metafilter, but nothing really substantial. But, either that pilot light has been too weak to fire things up, or it's glowing its brightest and I let my fuel tank go empty, but either way I'm a couple years deep into writer's block.

And, really, my writing outlets had been drying up - I did have a sweet gig with Prairie Public but ran out of stories; other places had dried up, and that's mostly due to how the internet works. I like to blame social media, my writing began to shrink around 2010 when that began to grow, and I've tried sharing things on social media, but the reach isn't very far, it hits maybe friends and family and a few fans, but that's about it. I'm not really a clickbait or listicle writer, so stringing words together for nobody to see in the shortest, easiest to ingest way, hasn't been feeding that creative furnace in me.

I feel that pilot light glowing, and it's been pointed out that when I'm doing creative things it shows up in my demeanor. I need creative outlets to feel good, just succeeding at my job - which doesn't really feed my creative bug even though it's programming, which should in theory meet the need - doesn't light that fire. I need the job to pay the bills, but I need to look around for ways to keep the pilot light burning.

A few months ago I enrolled in college: after dropping out once, and being unable to afford it the first time I returned to school, this time it should work out better. Today, I bring some maturity to the endeavor, plus stability, plus money, and I think I can make it happen, reassembling the courses I took for a BfA in Theatre Production in the 90s into a Film Production BfA in the 2020s.

Even my employer has dropped hinted at wondering if this means a career change; it's not so much to change careers, which I'll do without much thought if it continues the stability and money I currently enjoy, but mostly it's about a change in creativity.

Looking at a couple years of schooling in a creative field has really gotten the pilot light glowing, but nothing's burning yet.

So, leveraging what I've got, I'm restarting my old blog - now...24 years old? After a 11 year gap in posting. Hopefully this isn't hubris, resulting in this post sitting at the top of the page for another 11 years, but it's a start. I intend to return to the personal-diary format that it started out as waaaayyyy back when this site got my first media mention for my internet activities (boy, I was really hard on the Fargo Forum back then), without concern for who might be reading this still. In fact, I'm not even sure if this blogging software - which I wrote myself, decades ago - still even works. Well, let's see, here we go, light that pilot light and turn on the gas...

This makes me want to set up a faux production company just to get them to build things for my new house. Warner Brothers Studio does custom work for non-Warner clients, provided you qualify as a customer and have a need for a twenty-foot tall vacuform bas-relief elephant, an exploding airplane, or a hundred Edwardian costumes. #

Followup: Remember the time-traveller ad? Somebody's making a movie about it, with that one guy, and the chick, and the other guy. It apparently thinks it would be a better story if the ad was written by a real time-traveller rather than a bored typesetter at Backwoods Home Magazine. (Via) #

Remember Destiny Floor? Today is the tenth anniversary of my having bought naming rights of part of a building at MIT, and against all odds they've kept that name the whole time. Here's a recent blog post about Destiny Floor, lovingly named after my kindergartener at the time. The namesake of Destiny Floor is now a sophomore in high school, thinking about driving and graduation and summer jobs, while Destiny's bathrooms have been vacant for a couple of hours. #

New project: Dakota Death Trip. I've been saving weird story ideas since I started writing for Dakota Datebook, but these tend to be creepy rather than newsworthy. In the model of Michael Lesy's Wisconsin Death Trip, I'm putting them online, one a day, with a picture from my collection every Sunday. You can read sample pages from Wisconsin Death Trip here. #

Turned turtle: To flip a car onto its top. I've seen this reference several times in pre-1930s newspapers and found it amusing. The US apparently stopped using it by the 1950s, but Asian and African newspapers of British ancestry still use the term today. #

If you were unsure of how large the scale of oil production in North Dakota has grown, here's something to put it into perspective. Ths ISS released a video showing it screaming across the sky over North America, and one person noticed that there were thousands of square miles lit up as bright as any city where there shouldn't be anything so significant. It turns out the worklights from oil-rigs in the Bakken Formation are so numerous and dense that they're visible from 200 miles up, dwarfing metropolitan areas like Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Chicago. #

I'm not sure how I missed this, but I love the forward-imagining of Fargo. The city itself has come up with the Go 2030 program, an open-organized civic planning thinktank designed to brainstorm what Fargo will be in twenty years. Their "Town Hall" is where citizens have offered their suggestions, and while the urban-artism is heartening, a city is more than an advanced recycling program and public arts. If these plans continue to be to eliminate living spaces and increase boutiques, as the current downtown 'planning' did, they're not going to be doing the town any good. Towns are both a place for living and a living place, and the solutions seem too sterile for real humans to live in. If you want to redevelop West Acres to be more 'walkable', devote time to making practical living spaces within a quarter-mile of the building, not planting trees and pouring fake cobblestone paths. #

Sad news today: Tom Keith, aka Jim Ed Poole, passed away due to a heart attack on October 30th. He was the ever-talented sound-effects guy on A Prairie Home Companion, and I remember him more from the Minnesota Public Radio Morning Show he hosted with Dale Connelly. When I was a kid I often started the tape recorder when I left for school, to catch the end of the Morning Show, which included Dr. Science. Destiny and I got to see him perform live -- wearing that same sweater-vest and bowtie as always -- in 2002; here's the old post. #

Most of what people call "texting-speak" today really hails from the days of BBSes and Usenet groups; as long as people have had to convert words to electricity, they've been abbreviating, all the way back to the days of morse code telegraphy. The more 'colorful' abbreviations, like WTF, would seem to hail from a more modern time, but the Old English Dictionary has traced the abbreviation of OMG all the way back to 1917. Source, here. #

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We're going to be upgrading servers around these parts within the next week, but this part makes me a little sad. One of the servers in the rack has been doing such a good job that nobody has rebooted him in a while:

root@sql:/tmp# uptime
14:37:53 up 927 days, 5:45

Yes, when I installed that SQL server two and a half years ago, I booted him up and didn't look back. Over 900 days is a long time for a server to be online; older versions of Linux would even fail after a point, automatically resetting to zero once they hit their limit. This server might be my personal longest uptime, but it's not the longest uptime ever, however. There's computers on the internet that haven't been rebooted in over four years. Still, 927 days is nothing to sneeze at. It's sorta nice to have machines that simply work, without complaint or errors.

Oh, the 'sad' part. The server is keeping up fine, but it's beginning to run out of memory. Right now it has an anemic 512mb of RAM -- that's half a gigabyte -- which was OK when it started, but the number of Wordpress blogs we're hosting has grown and the memory usage is getting up there. Two gigs of memory are on their way...but you can't replace RAM without shutting down the computer. So, those 900+ days will be erased, and I'll have to start counting all over again. I had been hoping to hit 1000 days of uptime, but I can't hold out for another two months. Sorry, Little SQL Engine Who Could: to help you get up that hill, I have to push you all the way back down.

The two new (used) servers that will replace the email and webserver have an interesting past, though. Each arrived with a "Property of" asset ID sticker on the side. Per our usual hardware rotation, I consistently buy 5-year-old used servers, so thank you, (an eBay company), for upgrading your servers and passing the old ones on to an electronics liquidator -- who then sold them on eBay to little old me. These servers are a magnitude of power faster than any other computer I've had; hopefully that means I'll be able to leave them on, chugging away, until they hit their own 900+ days of uptime.

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