So Yeah, There Was This Tornado

Uh, yeah, seriously. A Tornado. Two of them, if you want to get technical.

I know it was two months ago, but I’m just now approaching normal. Granted, my normal is a pretty fluid place found somewhere between psychotic and passive aggressive but I can almost see it from here.

Yeah, I’m OK — or did you think I was posting this from the great beyond? Just to get it out of the way: Wife and Daughter are unhurt (Son lives with his mom in another city).

I weathered the thing at the underpass at I-35 and Indian Hills Road trapped in between 3 tractor trailers while the thing passed in front of us. It was the most terrifying 10 minutes of my life. Not the tornado, mind you. Not knowing if the thing it my house where my wife and daughter were crouched inside of a closet. The 10 minutes were spent trapped there, trying to get around the semi’s while staring at the last text from my wife before it hit, sending text after text to her in hopes she would respond.

Insane. That’s the only word for it.

I don’t want to whine about it or give you the whole “woe is me” bullshit — There are a great number of people much worse off than I am and I feel for them. My life is a bowl of friggin’ kittens compared to some people. I can’t imagine being a husband left to raise a child on his own while morning another. Those people need your support, not me, so, um, uh. Huh?

Crap, I had a point in there somewhere.

The point is that after 3 weeks in a dorm room ( thanks for the place to shack up, University of Oklahoma ), a month of limbo and fighting with insurance and mortgage companies, and a month of seedy, irresponsible and just plain MIA contractors, my brain is beginning to work again. That translates to me starting to write, trying to remember where the hell I was on building the sandbox, reviewing the code on the TRPG game and finding it lacking for the directions I need, and starting to try to be social again.

I’ve still got a ton of work to do before my home is back to normal, but if I have time where I’m not building stuff for my employer, repairing the house, supervising contractors or playing with the family, I’ll be on projects again.

This is a Good Thing

So, yanno, things right now are, uh, going pretty well.

Shhhh, don’t tell anyone! Damn… Seriously, shut your pie hole about it. Because if people found out that things were going pretty well — well, then it’ll all come crashing down.

Creatively, I’ve got lots of juices flowing. Eww — sicko I didn’t mean like that! Get yer mind out of the gutter I’m talking about a web site. Really, I’m working on a site for the kidlet I’m calling “1-aWeek.” We each have to draw one sketch a week. Simple, no? Design’s pretty decent too. We’ve even started drawing in preparation for the project. I’ve got a doodle or two. Riana has a few drawings ready. I’ve also got a few ideas that are bouncing around in my head. I don’t promise anything I do for it is good, just drawn. Once a week. We’ll see how it goes.

I started work on my TRPG Project again, making progress and planning at least one post every two weeks or so. At the moment the project is pretty simplistic, but the plan is solid.

To make that run, I’ve started a plugin for WordPress called “Sandbox.” It’s basically a JSFiddle-like toolset that runs inside of WordPress. It’s working right now, allowing me to edit HTML, JavaScript and CSS right in-post ( in browser ). But I’ve encountered a few things that it doesn’t do well. It doesn’t share well, nor does it make it easy to reuse code from other post. I also want an easy way of adding assets ( images, json, xml) to a sandbox including upload. It also can’t order it’s include files yet.  Still, it’s an extremely good start on a very cool concept.

I’ve been writing too. Daughter and I have a story we’re thinking about tackling ( I’m tentatively calling it “The Heck-Hounds” because I think it’s funny, but YMMV ). I’ve solidified the idea behind my novel ( tentatively titled “Quota” ) and the outline for this thing is coming along well. Down-side to this progress is that it’s putting me back to 0 words written on the novel itself — it requires throwing away about 10-20K words. It really is the writing itself that I enjoy so this doesn’t trouble me all that much. I’ve said it before: I want to finish it, but I don’t care if it ever gets published.

Have a few construction projects on tap as well: I need to build a cabinet for my Cintiq — A standing desk that allows me to hide the thing when I’m not using it and stand at it like an easel when one of us wants to draw. I also need some shelves —  beginning to think these two projects are related.

Family’s healthy, nothing’s exploding. Camping trip should be coming soon ( I hope ).

Wichita Mountains

My daughter, Riana, needed a science fair project this year. We must have talked our way through and eventually rejected hundreds of ideas. Finally, while reading an article on Bad Astronomy we hit on the idea of somehow working in Astrophotography — that is taking pictures of stars, planets and other stuff in the night sky.

OMG It's, like, full of, like, stars!

So after lots of trial and error in getting these photos to come out, we realized that the problem was the light pollution here in the city after stumbling on a Google Maps mashup with a light pollution overlay. There was the science project: The Effects of Light Pollution on Astrophotography.

So, the idea was we needed to travel to a location in each of the color codes on the map and using fixed camera & temperature settings and take photos, counting the number of stars in the results ( after stacking them, of course ).

But this presented a problem: We lived in a “red” zone, with no green or blue even remotely nearby. So like the family of insane people we are, we loaded up the car and drove out to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge with the plan of taking some pics. The campsites turned out to be in a nice, fat “blue” zone.

Yeah, it's deeper than 40ft and it's not a hole. Someone should complain.

Of course, the trip wasn’t without it’s issues. See, we forgot that it just happened to be the last weekend of Spring Break: The place was PACKED, with more cars driving around the camping areas duking it out for camping sites. Just as we were about to give up, this guy flags us down and lets us know that the people in the spot next to him are packing it in. We jet over and stake out the site and luck right into it.

So, after setting up the camp, we head out for a little spot in the grounds known as the “40-foot Hole.” Realistically, there’s no hole, and it’s deeper than 40ft. Despite the name, it was an easy, fun first hike.

There is no way in hell you're getting me up that, Daddy!

Course, it wasn’t without it’s tense moments. We hiked the top of the canyon and then descended towards the falls, about mid-way along. With the water levels low, we were able to get right down into it. Getting down was pretty easy for me, but I didn’t think about the girls: It was their first hike and extremely nerve wracking for them. Riana objected when I wanted to climb up the dry falls, but I can’t blame her. It was a pretty challenging climb over slick rock with no hand-holds — you basically had to jump each step in the falls and wedge your self upward. I managed to drag them up one level, but we stopped after that.

It worked out for the best, anyway. We were all hungry and it was getting late; Better to head back to the campsite and start some dinner. Sandwiches, chips, and SMORES!

And here’s where we learned a valuable lesson about the native wildlife of the Wichita: They go insane for Panera’s sourdough. I’m not kidding. From the moment I opened the bag, things started attacking, trying to take the bread from me. Ants, wasps, yellow jackets, small feral children, then as the day got dark, raccoons.

The raccoons didn’t even bother being shy about it. They tried to make off with our food pack while we were sitting out watching the stars and waiting for the moon to set. But wait, I should probably do this right:

Riana and her family were all lying down on a blanket a few feet from their tent, just a little ways off so there were no trees blocking the sky. It was a weekend of the Orionid meteor shower, so she was excited, focusing on the sky when we heard a noise. There, close to the tent was a ripping like tearing flesh followed by the chittering sound of bones scattering on the dirt floor of the campsite. Riana felt the hair on the back of her neck stand on end and she turned to the sound. Her father, moving slowly, cautiously, swept the beam of the flashlight towards the tent. Riana screamed!

There before the tent was a horror, it’s fur illuminated by the flashlight. It’s baleful eyes glared at the intrusion of the light and it grew, body puffing up to the size of a large dog. It stared at them, ready to pounce, to feed!

It looked like Aleira in a raccoon suit!

Okay, seriously, he broke into our food bag and stole the bread. You heard that right: Skipped everything else and stole the sourdough.

All in all, it turned out to be a pretty amazing trip. It’s been a fight to just stay in town every weekend — if I hadn’t promised to we’d be going camping for Thanksgiving.