Friday, January 28, 2011

For Hire

I'm brainstorming on my marketable skills. Want to listen in? Based on my own skill, experience, and interests, here is a list of ways I will be making money from now on.

Blogging: First off, there is this blog. It has started to pay off in a small way, it will keep growing as people visit and actually use the links. Secondly, I will blog for anyone else who wants a blog for self or business purposes. I am open to blogging as a guest, or as a ghost writer. These days the best way to promote a business is to have a blog for people to read about it. 

Writing: Work continues on my novels in progress including my Pen Sadler mystery series set in rural Central Texas, and my fantasy novel. I also have a couple of new plays working. More details to follow.

Drafting: I will continue to provide contract drafting services. My degree is in Drafting and Design, and I have forty years of experience as a working draftsman both manually and with CAD. Primarily I have worked in the steel fabrication business as a structural and miscellaneous steel detailer/checker. I will also provide custom house plans for people who know what they want, or any other related drafting services.

Permaculture: I hold a Permaculture Design Certificate. I will provide permaculture design service, as well as report writing and drafting services for other designers. I am also available to help in writing up permaculture, how-to, or other projects and related articles for magazine publication.

Resource person: I've been called a know-it-all. I hold a lot of knowledge in many diverse fields, I also am a very good researcher. Writing your own novel? Not sure about weapons? PLEASE check with me. Even experienced authors often make simple mistakes about weapons and other easy topics. Other research questions for any purpose whatever? Simple editing of text? Ask me first. Easy rates. 
Repairs: Small appliances, light welding, just about anything. Small construction projects too, and farm equipment. Just ask me about it!

Art and sales: I continue to represent Microbial Earth Farms at Bastrop 1832 Farmer's Market in season selling compost, soil improvement products, and compost systems. 
I also work with my partner Cat Dancing at Sherwood Forest Faire (booth 309, Feb. 19 thru April 3, 2011weekends) and other events. We sell Cat's Intarsia and stained glass art, as well as my own line of RainCrow and Sylph Song flutes.

There are probably a few more things to add to the list. I'll keep you posted.

Five Hundred

Well how about that? This blog of mine just hit five hundred visitors! That's so cool! I'm glad so many of you have dropped in to see me. Keep coming by. Tonight I just had to post an acknowledgment of this milestone.
Thanks so much.
Stay tuned, more to come!
Love you all!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Feeding the Belly

I paid a visit to an old friend the other night. 
     A few years back I was employed at Tips Iron & Steel off of 5th Street in Austin. When I'm working, I always find a good quiet restaurant for lunch, as I tend to read or write during my lunch hour. To be honest, I'll put more emphasis on comfortable and quiet than on flavor. I admit I'm not really picky on what I eat. Flavor is more of a plus. 
     That being said, I actually did settle on some tummy satisfying places for lunch. One was The Hoffbrau Steak House on 6th Street. Steaks there are awesome! And while it was often crowded at lunch, there was a covered patio area that usually wasn't. Most days I just sat out there and had all the peace and quiet I wanted. The waitress got to know me, and what I wanted. I was amused that after I left Tips and came back to eat after a couple of years absence the same waitress was there and still remembered exactly what I usually ordered. I loved their steaks, simple and good. I have been back a few times over the years, I'm not often downtown anymore during the day. The steaks are just as good as I remembered.
     The other main restaurant I went to back then was La Feria on South Lamar. It seemed like it was probably pretty busy at night, but at lunch it was usually pretty quiet. The wait staff was patient, and the food was very good. I am very fond of Mexican food, particularly TexMex. I considered La Feria to be among the best Mexican Food places in Austin. 
     Once again, it has been quite a while since I've eaten there. I had noticed some time back that they had moved down the street a bit, but just hadn't been in. 
     Now, Cat and I find ourselves often in South Austin. We greatly enjoy eating at Magnolia Cafe ( a mix of cuisines.) and Pei Wei (Oriental Food). 
     I've recently found that peanuts bother me. I've always loved peanuts and peanut butter, but now they bring on a migraine. Pei Wei, much as I enjoy it, seems to use peanut oil, as do most oriental restaurants. So, we need an alternative.
      We were in town and going to Whole Foods downtown. I reminded Cat we were going to try La Feria, so we went. 
     I was prepared to be disappointed. After all, it's been five years or so since I've been there. La Feria had moved and could have changed hands since then, anything could have happened. The restaurant was busy, but not excessively loud. Cat enjoys margaritas, La Feria was having a special on Mexican Martinis so she ordered one. She liked it, and it was a really good deal. The chips and salsa were fresh and plentiful. 
     The only drawback for me was the presence of the ubiquitous televisions. I rarely watch television, but if one is in the room it draws my eyes. However, it wasn't too hard to ignore.
     When I eat TexMex food for dinner, I tend to order beef enchiladas, especially if I am trying out a new place. That is how I judge a mexican restaurant. Give me stale tortilla chips and mediocre enchiladas and it goes way down the list, at least for dining. Remember, I have different lunch requirements!
     My beef enchilada plate was very good, as good or better than any I've had in a while. Cat had a grilled shrimp plate and pronounced it good as well. The price was reasonable. We're unanimous, we'll be back!
     On the flip side, just after Christmas we were traveling to Fort Worth to visit Cat's sister. We stopped in Burleson at a place on I35W called Mexican Inn. We'd never been before and were just looking for some place convenient. The ambiance was nice but the service was atrocious. When we finally got the food it was exactly the quality of the El Charrito frozen dinners I used to buy when I was a bachelor. Now, I admit to eating them back then, but then the emphasis was on cheap and quick. At the Mexican Inn we paid five times the price for the frozen dinner for exactly the same quality and terrible service. There is one place we won't return to! One oddity, instead of a basket of chips, each diner was given an individual small bowl of chips, tortilla chips the shape and size of regular Fritos. I'd never seen this before, and they were stale!
     If you're wandering around Austin, I certainly recommend La Feria on South Lamar, The Hoffbrau on W 6th and Magnolia Cafe on South Congress or Lake Austin Drive. We also like Jason's Deli and Hyde Park Cafe. Pei Wei is still good, we love their fried wontons, I just have to avoid the aforementioned peanuts.
     What are your favorites?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Finding Hiram Turnbloood

     After a couple of weeks hiatus, for various reasons, I got back to work on a couple of my writing projects.
     I had a couple of ideas to incorporate into my fantasy novel, and I needed to un-scramble my mystery series.
     You see, I've been planning out a series of mysteries set in a fictional Central Texas small town. I have a main character I like and a few possible story lines figured out. Early on I had great fun planning the town, based on my experiences with many different smallish towns over the years. Thinking of likely places of business and town characters has been interesting.
The program SimCity or The Sims might have been helpful for this process, I expect, but the way I was going, I may have gotten totally distracted by that process and forgotten my purpose of actually telling a story.
     So there I was, willy-nilly popping in characters and coming up with suitable names, with an eye on the whole series rather than just one novel. For this project, I'm actively using the free yWriter5 program I've written of previously. I set up one file for the overall series, treating each projected book as if it were one chapter for purposes of making notes and keeping them organized. Another file is set up for the one novel of that series I'm actively working on. The software has the capability of importing data from one file to the other, such as character files, etc.
     After some time of plugging in new ideas for the series, and working on the selected novel, a couple of things became evident. One, the list of characters in the book was digressing a bit from the list for the series. Two, I was losing track of the relationships of main and peripheral characters. Now, one of the telling characteristics of small towns is the appearance that literally all the old-timers are related to each other in some way. Not totally true, but it certainly seems that way.
     I realized as I went along that I couldn't just randomly establish that character A was an uncle to character B, or that C was an ex-wife of D. Before long that would get me into trouble. In fact,  I was already getting there. It wouldn't be so much of an issue in a one shot novel, but as a reader, I value some consistency in a series. Also, at least one of my projected story lines involved genealogy, so I decided I'd better get straight on it from the beginning.
     As I wrote in my blog on genealogy, I use the P.A.F. program from the L.D.S. folks for my genealogy pursuits. They have evolved a different name for it now, but I still think of it with the original name.
     I set up a genealogy file with that program for my townsfolk. I entered all my established characters into PAF. As I proceeded, I worked out ages and generations, who was related to who, and added a few new characters to round it all out. I actually came up with a few surprises for myself. Like "oh yeah, if this person is that one's aunt, that adds this interesting slant!"
     Yesterday I finished working it all out in the genealogy program. I printed out an alphabetized list of everyone (three columns on both sides of one sheet to save paper.) The list had names and birth dates. I went back to my story software, started correlating/adding new characters and filling in ages I now had established, marking them off the printed list as I went. I had to refer back to the genealogy now and then for relationships. "Oh yes, Susan is Claude's wife."
      I had one name left over.
     Hiram Turnblood.
     Who's that?
     I didn't recognize the name. Not a bad name. In fact, an appropriate name for the older generations of  my townsfolk. I just didn't remember who he was supposed to be. I looked in my original character list. Not there. I turned back to the genealogy program that produced the printed list. Hmm, he's not there either. No Turnblood family names, even. Not only is he not connected to anyone I entered, he does not exist in the program that generated the printout. He's there in black and white on the printout, he just doesn't exist anywhere prior to that.
     Hmmm. Okay, I guess he wants to be included. I added him to the story program character list. I don't know who he is, or what his purpose will be, but there he is. You hear writers talk about characters who take over the story, but this is totally out of left field. I wonder who he'll be.
     Maybe he'll be a Norwegian Bachelor Farmer type. (Prairie Home Companion reference, for the uninitiated.) 
     At least in my fictional world there's no shortage of potential jobs.

The Ultimate Writer's Name Book: A Novelist's, Screenwriter's, and Playwrighter's Resource for Naming Characters

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Riding Around Part The Second

Last week at my mother's funeral in Centerpoint, Tx, I saw my cousin Charles David Millard again. Unfortunately, the last time I saw him was just a few months ago at our Aunt Annette's funeral. Charles brought his new Harley to the funeral. We talked bikes a bit. I admit I was feeling a bit frustrated that my Shadow is awaiting me to do some work. I started thinking about significant bikes in my past.
I grew up in and around my grandfather's garage at Seward Junction, near Liberty Hill, Tx. Here's a pic.
I lived with my grandparents, W.K. and Mildred Seward in the upstairs of the gas station on the right. We ran the station and store downstairs. Dad's (my grandfather's) garage is on the left. Doesn't look like much. You can just see my great-grandmother Seward's stone house behind the station to the right. The location is just on the intersection between State Highway 29 and U.S. Highway 183 between Austin and Lampasas.

Dad was a fix-anything mechanic. We took in anything, including trucks, farm machinery, autos, lawn mowers, also welding and the occasional appliance. 

When I was very young, I remember one of my uncles riding an Allstate scooter. He may have even given me a ride on some occasion. 

I seem to remember it looking something like this one. I seem to remember standing on the floorboard with the ground wooshing by below me thrilled and frightened at the same time. ( I doubt he was going any more than five miles per hour, lol.)

Some time much later, perhaps about the time I was in junior high, Dad took in a machine to repair in the shop. It looked really odd to me. It turned out to be a German-made moped. The early mopeds like that one were made to be pedaled as well as running with the motor. This one was black, the frame was slightly larger than normal tubing, and was obviously made to incorporate the gas tank, as well as the engine, I was really intrigued. Unfortunately, I've been unable to locate any pictures that match my memory of that one. Mom and Dad never seemed to like motorcycles much, so they had little sympathy for my interest. Watching the roads in front of our store, though, and pumping gas, I did get to see a few bikes now and then.

In my first years of high school a few things happened. One, an older student who lived a couple of miles away started stopping by for gas and supplies occasionally. His name, I think, was James Cole. He rode a purple Triumph Bonneville, something like this one.

One thing is very clear. This bike has always represented "THE Motorcycle" in my memory. For the first time bikes were Really Cool! 

Another thing that happened not much later than that, is that my cousin Charles David, the guy I mentioned at the opening of this posting, came to visit me and brought his Bridgestone 90 motorcycle. 

Here's one like it. This was a lot of fun. We rode it around the place while he was there, he taught me to ride it actually. Ironic, actually, since it was while visiting him and his sister in New Mexico back when I was seven, that I learned to ride a bicycle. I just realized that, small world.
I also remember that Mom, my grandmother, thought that Charles David was too reckless on the bike. It was about this same time period that a biker had a fatal accident almost in front of our store, so Mom and Dad were even more set against motorcycles.

My step-father let me take home parts to an old Cushman scooter he had lying around disassembled in his garage. I put it back together and got it running at least a little, and rode it through the pasture occasionally. It had terminal carburetor problems, I believe, and would only run for a few minutes at a time.  It wasn't nearly in as good a shape as the one in the picture, but it was mostly all there.

College, marriage, and job intervened in the early 70's. My brother Tim Barber asked me to drive for him to get his motorcycle license. In Texas then, and probably now, you had to furnish a licensed driver with a car to drive the license tester and follow the biker being tested. We did this, and, on a whim, we switched places and I tested also, getting my motorcycle license, even though I didn't have any thought of getting a bike anytime soon. 

However, it worked out well. I owned a 1964 Chevrolet Pickup that Tim needed to borrow now and then, so we traded for a weekend, or a few days several times. I got to ride his Yamaha RD350. 

My brother Steve also turned up now and then riding his friend's Kawasaki KZ750. Like this one, but green. I rode it a few times as well. At the time it seemed a bit high muscle for me, not to mention heavy. He only let me ride it off road, and one time I laid it over in the mud. I had to get all the mud off so he could go home!

Tim and I also went together on a little Yamaha dirt bike, either a 50 or 80cc. Tim found it somewhere, and we bought it and got it running again. It was a load of fun running around the pastures on, but it looked pretty funny since it looked really tiny under either one of us! The little rascal really scooted, though!

Finally, in 1993, I got my own "real" bike! It was a well-used Kawasaki KZ440. I rode it as my main transportation for a full year before wrecking it, and me. Actually, the bike came out of it really well other than a busted windshield and a crimped brake line. I wound up with several broken ribs, gouges, and a broken collar bone and arm. I was unable to ride for quite a while. I finally sold it. I hope it is still going out there somewhere. Of course, I had to endure a few "I told you so's" from my grandparents.

Now I'm up to my current ride. My 1984 Honda Shadow VT700c. I enjoy this bike, as I've said in my earlier posts. It took me a bit to get my "bike legs" back. As an older bike, it needs fixing now and then, but I'm able to do it all myself, thanks to my background in the old garage. As I write this, it has a coil out, and a replacement coil waiting for nicer weather to go on. I'll be out there riding again soon!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Passing

My mother, Doris Evelyn (Millard) Barber, shown here with her husband Carl Edward Barber (dec'd) passed last night, Jan. 4, 2011 in Georgetown, Texas from complications following surgery. Funeral plans are not yet determined. We appreciate the support of all our friends and loved ones.