TV sports, quiet T’giving, and Challenger memories…

Thanksgiving came…and went.


Not the kind we’ve been used to for all those years, but we made it anyway and had a nice day with friends who were nice enough to include us in their day.

The weekend that followed was pleasant and quiet and perfect for getting the outdoor “stuff” done before the cold and snows of winter arrive. Best of all, there was plenty of time to enjoy college and pro football and some Blackhawks hockey. Without a doubt, I managed to take it all in!

By Sunday evening, though, having had enough TV football and hockey for one long weekend, I happened upon a documentary from CNN titled The 80s-The Tech Boom. And though I don’t usually watch CNN, I realized that this program was made up of actual archival news footage and would be presented in an unaltered and honest fashion. So I watched and enjoyed the hour-long show.

It was fun to see again the “cutting edge” gadgets that would become staples in our lives right on up to today. Particularly interesting to me was the section on the birth of the personal computer and the cell phone. It’s hard to imagine that what was “state of the art” not all that long ago, is so cumbersome and awkward looking by today’s standards.

Seeing young and fresh out-of-the-box geniuses such as the two Steves–Wozniak and Jobs–and a seemingly still-wet-behind-the-ears Bill Gates and Paul Allen was quite amazing. Watching all of this from a 2016 perspective adds an extra-special realization as to how far things have advanced in such a short period of time.

Near the end of the documentary, the focus shifted to the technology involved with NASA’s Shuttle Program, where things were full speed ahead for so many years, until the January 1986 launch of the Challenger, another one of those memorable moments in time for my family.

On that frigid morning, I was teaching a high school English class at Astronaut High School in Titusville, Florida. (It’s not named Astronaut by chance, since the Space Center and Cape Canaveral are located nearby.)

Following our dream to live in Florida, the previous summer I accepted a job in Titusville, and Carolyn and I and our two young kids moved there in time to start the new school year.

Photo: ABC News

January 28, 1986,  began as usual, in a pretty normal manner for everyone in those parts. It seems as though most folks had become used to the regularity of the launches and had seemed complacent (?) in a way about the space program, although so many were employees of one of the many companies who worked for NASA in some capacity.

I suppose it’s human nature to take things for granted and not think too much about what could go wrong after such an outstanding long string of successful launches and missions. It’s not that folks didn’t care, it’s just that everyone thought that something terrible would never happen.

But on that cold Tuesday morning in Florida, terrible things certainly did happen!

I was first made aware of the explosion when one of my seniors, Danny, returned from one of his many trips to the restroom (to avoid class time, I’m sure!) with a serious expression and a tone that  instantly told me that he wasn’t joking around.

When he said, “The shuttle blew up,” I really hoped that he was, indeed, pulling everyone’s leg as he tended to do frequently. But he was dead serious, and I could now hear commotion in the hallways, as two girls nearly sprinted past the door in tears and panic in their efforts to get to where they were going.

It was one of those moments when everyone seems completely mired in the muck of trying to figure out exactly what has happened and how we should handle things. Soon, a school-wide announcement informed everyone that there had been an accident with the launch and any further information would be relayed at the appropriate time.

As so many others were doing, I hurried down the hall to the east side of the building where large windows provided  an open view out towards the Space Center and the Atlantic beyond. And it was then that I saw the brilliant blue sky filled with the snow-like contrails from the Challenger’s explosion, scattered and splattered in all sorts of directions. Anyone who has seen the famous photographs of this knows exactly what I mean.images.jpeg

I don’t really remember much else of the rest of the day other than getting home that afternoon and learning that our 3rd grader, Josh, and the rest of his classmates had witnessed the whole thing on the playground, as had Carolyn, daughter Laura, and my mom, who was visiting from Ohio. They had a pretty “up close and personal” vantage point along the river. It was my mom’s first time to view a launch.

That day certainly played a major role and turning point in our lives, one that would bring our time as residents of Florida to an end. But that’s another story for another time. Suffice it to say for now, though, that the reason I’m writing this from northern Illinois is all because of that terrible day in January 1986.

Now that Thanksgiving has faded and the Christmas and New Years holidays lurk, I know that another anniversary of the sad event on January 28, 1986, won’t be far behind. And I’ll remember…

Cart before the horse?

Scrivener (software)
Scrivener (software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Call this the week of my journey into parts unknown and unfamiliar, and, quite frankly, I’m finding it all just a bit uncomfortable. For example, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get comfortable with Scrivener, that writing program that seems to include way too much stuff for my comprehension. Even the Scrivener for Dummies book has caused me some serious pauses and gnashing of teeth during these past several days—and late nights!


Writing this post now in Scrivener notwithstanding, I have not reached a true comfort level so that when I open the program I feel that I am in control and that my current masterpiece is just waiting to unfold before me on the Scrivener screen. Alas, that hasn’t happened yet, and what’s more frustrating than merely not knowing how things really work is that right when I figure I’ve grasped a concept (the Binder hierarchy, for example) something doesn’t quite jibe with the words in the book or the various other sources I’ve located, read, and tried to adapt for my own personal needs. Thus, I find myself backtracking way too far—and too often—in my opinion.


Through it all, however, I keep reminding myself that I’m going to be taking a 6-week online course about all things Scrivener beginning in a couple of weeks, taught by a kind lady who is regarded as an expert on the thing. In fact, she’s the author of the Dummies book I have perched inches away from me on my writing desk.


I also discovered a free program called GIMP that looked as though it would be perfect for designing my own book covers—ePub editions, especially. Of course things were moving along swimmingly as I worked through part one of a very nice tutorial, but then things began to get gummed up, and my progress halted. It was one of those casual begin-it-in-late afternoon-and-end-up-very-frustrated-very-late-at-night occasions! I eventually began to realize that I was trying to follow instructions for PC systems instead of my Mac OSX. And so I returned to the download’s page and noticed another version for the Mac and downloaded that one. Now, though, nothing really looked like the stuff on the tutorial, so I decided I’d be much better off returning to my quest to learn the basics of Scrivener and worry about cover design and art at a more appropriate time.


It has been my experience that I tend to put the cart before the horse way too soon—and often—and have to deal with my mounting frustration over and over. Once I’m ensconced thoroughly in the flow of the course, I know that I will look back and realize what a fool I am to worry about things that are so simple and that will be explained beautifully through the duration of the course. At least I’m hoping that’s what happens.


English: Old barn in Rural Ontario, Canada
English: Old barn in Rural Ontario, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Perhaps it is time now to re-fill my coffee cup, take a deep breath, and put the horse and cart back in the barn and allow things to happen as they’re meant to.…CortlandWriter


Oh, the things that annoy!

Okay, it’s been awhile since I last wrote about things that annoy me—at my age more things are annoying than not, it seems—so I will spend a few writing moments today and mention some more “random” items that have worked their magic annoyance on me!

First, I’m yet to understand the preponderance of “LOL” in blog posts, e-mails, or other forms of written communication. Is it really necessary for the writer to include these cutesy-pie examples of Internet Speak? A smiley face emoticon when appropriate, I can understand (don’t really know why), but I detest the LOL or its cousin, ROTFL. It’s as though the writer isn’t confident enough that his/her words will carry the intended meaning. Call me an old, out-of-touch fuddy-duddy, but so it goes…

Next, TV commercials that make little or no sense to me are annoying beyond belief. The ad that comes to mind right away is the one which ran for quite some time promoting some 4G network (whatever that means), and some guy, in a large, public area—a train station, perhaps—begins dancing and gesticulating as the passersby look on in wonderment. Soon, a message appears on his phone that the flash mob event had been scheduled for a later time. The fact that I had no idea what a flash mob was, I didn’t quite grasp the overall concept of the commercial. I kind of understand it now, but for the majority of the time the ad ran, I had no idea why this guy was acting like a complete, unfettered goof and what it was they were trying to convey. Guess I missed the cut on that part of the current youth culture!

Twitter. Every time I think I can handle it—at least understand how it works—something else comes along to frustrate—and annoy—me all the more! I have yet to find an easy-to-understand tutorial (video or PDF), and those that I have run across are either for earlier versions of Twitter or they fail to explain the basic terminology and what we need to do to get started and up and running. I fear that the folks who produce these tutorials assume way too much that we (the users) are far more advanced in our understanding of the lingo involved than what we really are. I’m still trying to comprehend what a hash tag and ReTweet are! I have not grasped the concept, I suppose, so I’m very tempted to go back in and delete my account and be done with it altogether. But I’m inclined to give it another chance…for now, anyway. Stay tuned.

There’s more, of course, but I realize I’ve used up my self-imposed word limit for this post. In the very near future, I will write about those things. Now, though, I must get the travel bag out of dry dock and get some clothes packed for my journey to Kent State for a weekend of May 4 memories and fraternity reunion activities. Should be good to get back with some other fuddy-duddies and try to figure out hash tags and ReTweets over cold beers in old haunts. Now that makes me smile…LOL!