Archive for May, 2016

2016-05-19 19.51.52I’ve been resisting upgrading my OS for five years because I knew several of my most-used and/or most-loved pieces of software would no longer work. I didn’t want to have to buy yet another version of Quicken (to be clear, that’s in the most-used department) and, dang, living without Rise of Nations is no way to live. I had a back-up computer, an old tower that I rarely used, running on older OS, but it had a small (by today’s standards) hard drive. So I embarked on a fabulously ridiculous and ridiculously fabulous journey of geekitude: I bought two new large hard drives for the tower, which has two drive bays, and installed two out-of-date OS versions, one per drive. Counting the updated OS on my desktop, and the unbelievably old OS 9 on my iBook, that means I now have not one, not two, not three, but four, FOUR different versions of the Mac OS running. Yeah, I’m just that geeky. But it gets better than that—or worse, depending on your point of view.

Because video games have a limited shelf life after which selling them seems pointless, I 2016-05-19 19.49.34tend to just throw them in a stack in the closet, not being able to bring myself to add them to the million of CDs already in our landfills (AOL install discs, WALL-E and I are looking at you). But now that I have all these legacy versions of the Mac OS available to me, I got busy installing all of those games in whichever was the highest OS they would run in. And—you better sit down—some of these games originally came on floppy disks, but I had transferred them to CDs decades ago when floppies were hit by an asteroid and went extinct. I’m almost done with this project, so I can now sit back and simply behold the glory of what I have created. So, now that you ask, at upper left, that is indeed 1998’s Yoot Tower running on my 2001 iBook. At right we have 1991’s SimAnt, which actually runs fine under the Classic emulation of OS 10.4 on the tower. Yoot Tower is buggy in emulation, so that had to go into OS 9 on the laptop. Back with SimAnt, I also have SimEarth (1990), SimLife (1992), SimFarm (1994), SimTown (1995), and SimSafari (1998). Holy crap. Somebody help me.

I’ve got a bunch more games all available to me across three computers . . . but, of course, I barely have time to play any of them. Not to mention all the new games I have on my iPad. This has always been an issue for me: buying more books, games, movies, and CDs than I can ever really appreciate. I’ve gotten much better and resist buying new stuff. But if anyone wants to play decades-old Mac games, I’ve got a museum right over here. By appointment only.

Minnesota Stories

IMG_2706I’ve been revising my short story “The Satellite Dish,” which is a follow-up to “The Mailbox” and takes place  three years later, in 1984. Back in my college years while I was working toward my English degree with an emphasis on creative writing, I generally wrote nongenre fiction for my classes, what is sometimes called “literary fiction,” but that always sounds so pompous that I’m reluctant to use the label.

The first one was “Me and the Mean Kid,” which was about Nicky and the rocky start he had with Jimmy, a kid in his new Twin Cities neighborhood. After that came “The New Kid,” where the tables had turned; now Jimmy and Nick are best friends and a new kid moves into the house between them. Around the time I graduated I wrote “The Mailbox,” about Nick’s grandparents on his father’s side, who live outside the small fictional town of Lewis near the real cities of Cloquet and Carlton (my home town) south of Duluth. I still have the first typewritten draft of that, as the photo shows.

There were other stories and lots of notes about the intertwining characters. The setting of the earliest story I’ve written is 1944. A number of the stories take place in the eighties and nineties because that’s when I was writing them. I had grand plans for two short story collections and a novel; I even wrote the first chapter of the novel. Its present day is 1995, but the bulk of the story would be a flashback to 1965. Not all of these details were known in the stories’ first drafts, but have been fleshed out and added in over the years.

At some point I started calling them the Minnesota Stories, and I still have a fondness for them. The ones that focus on the extended family tend to be nice little stories. There’s a subset of the Minnesota Stories set in Duluth that are more tangential and edgier, however. Some are about Nick’s dad’s cousin, but the rest are about people who he knows or crosses paths with. Those stories and vignettes are more Raymond Carver inspired than Garrison Keillor inspired.

As my schedule permits, I’ll probably continue revisiting these pieces, revising them and putting them out as e-books. Realistically, I can now imagine someday having a modest collection of stories and a novella. If I ever get there I would probably look into a print version: I like to think that could be a solid regional seller. But that is still down a long, dusty country road . . .