Monday, July 29, 2019

YouTube and Other Obsessions

Okay, I'm not really obsessed with YouTube. I'm obsessed with taking photos and making videos. It's a lot of fun, but there are a few aspects of it that I'm not good at.

1. I still haven't learned to use my Canon EOS Rebel T5 properly, and 99% of the time I use my iPhone instead. It's a lot lighter and easier to carry, and I (mostly) know how to use it. But iPhones have their limitations, and so have I, especially if I don't take the time to really learn photography.

2. I'm terrible at getting people to watch my videos, especially on YouTube. Sometimes I spend an hour or more putting one together, and weeks later, there have been zero views.

I'm very aware that very few people follow this blog anymore, or blogs in general (Whatever and Stonekettle excepted). Nevertheless, here's a post with links to a few of my recent videos. If you come across this post, please do me a favor. Visit my YouTube channel (the main one where nearly all these videos are), watch a few minutes of pretty pictures in motion, and like (if you like) and comment (if you have anything to say). Thanks!

The other obsessions part? I have two of them, currently. It's all interrelated. I'm spending way too much time driving up and down Mount Lemmon, partly to take pictures, but also to take short hikes on side roads and the easiest trails I can find. I have three roads now that I've hiked on, not counting Mount Lemmon Highway itself or the Marshall Gulch section thereof.

I've also been on at least five trails, two of them unsuccessfully (one was closed and the other was too rugged for me). I'm doing this because it's cooler than the city, and more interesting than walking in a mall or grocery store. The other obsession, you see, is to step up my exercise and get stricter on my dieting. I had been stuck bouncing up and down in an eight-pound range for two months, but as of this part week, with the hikes and other extra walking, I finally seem to be actually losing weight again.

If only I had the metabolism of these guys!


Saturday, July 20, 2019

When We Walked on the Moon

For about ten years when I was a kid, my family rented a beachfront house on Lake Ontario for a week or two each summer. It was called the Speakman Camp, and I slept in the attic. The house had a black and white TV that pulled in one CBS station out of Watertown, NY (WWNY), and I think a couple of the Syracuse ones. Only WWNY had decent reception. I could be wrong, but I think it was from the Speakman Camp that I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan in August 1964. And I know for sure that that's where I was when Mom, Dad, Steve and I watched Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, 50 years ago today. It was a big deal, exciting and important. But the actual image was primitive and blurry, the sound muddy. It was amazing that anyone could speak to us from the moon at all, but it seems to me that I was a little disappointed.

Seven years later, my mom was divorced and I was spending that Bicentennial summer with her in Cape
Canaveral, Florida. We visited Kennedy Space Center, and I saw Mission Control. Even then, the technology that achieved this amazing thing was starting to look a little dated. I can't find a photo from that summer, so here are a couple of Polaroid shots from (probably) 1986.

Something that definitely happened in 1986 was the Big Trip. That was when John and I drove all over the country, up and down the East Coast and west to Arizona and California, looking for someplace it wasn't winter. We ended up in Tucson. A year or so after that, a friend of ours from Columbus Ohio, Mark Haverkos, invited us to visit him on the Hopi reservation. As I wrote in 2004:

Back in the late 1980s, a former next door neighbor of ours from 13th Ave in Columbus, Ohio was the hippie, holistic veterinarian to the Hopi Nation.  He lived in Polacca, Arizona, over by First Mesa. ...

The Hopi Reservation is in northeastern Arizona, basically surrounded by Navajo territory. From Holbrook on I-40 / Route 66, there's a road (SR 87) that goes north.  ... Just 13 miles north of the Holbrook exit is the turnoff for the Little Painted Desert.  A visit to this obscure Navajo County park is like a day trip to the moon.

The Little Painted Desert doesn't have the (relatively) bright colors of its more famous National Park namesake, which is south of I-40. The county park version is basically gray.  That just makes it look more alien. The ground is caked and cracked, and hardly anybody goes there.  The day we found the place, for part of the time it was just John, me, Jenny Dog, and a cow.  The cow didn't venture down into the dunes and craters, or whatever you want to call them, but we did. I don't know whether you can find him, but John is in the lower left picture above.  

I've been to that park once since then, and it didn't look the same somehow. Neither do my 30-year-old photos. I was going to scan some of them at work today, but I didn't have time. I ended up photographing the photos.

All these years later, any mention of the Apollo program reminds me of that day when John and I walked on this strange, moon-like landscape, with no other creatures in evidence except Jenny Dog and a skinny cow. I haven't found any evidence that the Apollo astronauts trained at the Little Painted Desert, but they were at such nearby sites as Meteor Crater, Hopi Buttes and  the Grand Canyon. They also blasted an area at Cinder Lake to make their own custom crater field.

Close enough.


Left: Astronauts Edgar Mitchell (left) and Alan Shepard on a geological field exercise near Cottonwood, Arizona, Paul Switzer Collection, NAU.PH.426.475, Center of Astrogeology, USGS, Photo No. 1170142PR, Cline Library Special Collections and Archives, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Fireworks, Family, and Times Gone By

Last night I made a little video comparing fireworks and sunsets, posing the musical question, "Which is Better?" Here it is:

Since then, I've been thinking about my memories of past Independence Days. Here are the ones that came to mind:

Awesome fireworks, with shaped displays, on the boardwalk at Seaside Park, NJ with my cousins, circa 1964, while my mom was in the hospital.

Boring fireworks seen from the Suburban Park parking lot with my family, circa 1970.

Fireworks on the beach at Cape Canaveral with my mom, July 4, 1976.

Fireworks at Hi Corbett Field while John collects Tucson Toros autographs, circa 1994. I think I took my mom there one year.

Fireworks at Disneyland, July 4, 2003. Best part was when John took an interesting picture of a kid watching a popcorn cart.

Lots of years in which I tried to photograph distant fireworks that barely clear neighborhood trees, 1998-2018. The one above was a composite from 2006.

A fire-less picnic at Inspiration Rock with John and my dad, 2013.

Photographing A-Mountain fireworks from the car while waiting for my friend, 2017. I actually watched from the convention center once, but mostly we don't bother.

A mediocre sunset at Gates Pass, solo, July 4, 2018.

What I'm realizing is that the memorable part - except maybe Seaside Park - isn't the fireworks at all. It's about where I was, who I was with, and what I was trying to do. I've never managed great fireworks photos, and that's part of it, and also the fact that I find most fireworks pretty boring. But more important has been the human connections. Spending the Bicentennial with my mom. Disneyland with John. Even seeing Spiderman with John this afternoon, and hoping he's started the charcoal for tonight's dinner.

I'm going to post this now, and try to spend some more quality time with John. I hope that whatever you are doing this holiday, it's a) with someone you love, and b) interesting, fun and memorable.

Fireworks optional.


Sunday, June 16, 2019

Son of Jersey, Scholar of Syracuse

My dad, Frank E Funk, was born in Jersey City and raised in New Jersey, the only son in a family with four daughters. A high school graduate, he initially did't go to college, in part because he knew that war was coming:
I'd gotten out of high school in 1940, and you could tell the war was coming. You know, the march into Poland and all kinds of things. And Britain was in it early and so on. So I was saving money to go to college. Nobody else in my family had gone to college. I have four sisters.
So I didn't go to college. I went to work for a valves company and did all kinds of other things. Eventually, after Pearl Harbor, all young men wanted to get into the service, and most of us wanted to be a hot pilot. I went to get a physical and was rejected because of a deviated septum. I went and got it operated on and went back the same day. And I remember the doctor looked at me and pulled the cotton out and said, "I can't even see, but I can tell you've had an operation done on your nose. Accepted." And then you went to basic training, Atlantic City, then to a classification center in Nashville, where you had all kinds of tests. Then you'd go to the bulletin board, and if your name was on it in the right way, you'd go to an officer's school. If it wasn't you'd go to a gunnery school and be a noncom, or an enlisted man, a gunner. I evidently made it to navigation school at Monroe, Louisiana, and the government spent about $87,000 on each of us and taught us to navigate by the stars, celestial navigation, and then they sent us to Europe. And my sextant to do the star sighting was in a polished wooden box at the corner of my muddy tent in Italy. But if they needed to, they could have sent me the Pacific, you see. So that's the way it was.
He first came to Syracuse, NY in March 1943 as part of his training as a navigator for the Army Air Force. He didn't actually get to Europe until 1944, where he flew seven missions before bailing out of a (probably) sabotaged plane and ending up in Stalag Luft 1. When the prison camp was liberated, he was evacuated to France, where he met General Eisenhower:
Yeah, we were in Marseilles, on a chow line, ready to be shipped out. And usually, by boat, which gave them a chance to fatten us up on the way over to the States. Anyway, the story goes like this. We noticed this commotion, and here comes Ike Eisenhower and a whole retinue of people with him. And he stopped and it sounds like I'm making this up, but I swear, I'm not. He stopped the guy next to me and he said, 
"Where are you from, son?"  
And the guy said, "Kansas, sir."  
"Oh, the hell you are. You know, I'm from Kansas too," and they both laughed. And he says, "Got a question to ask you," says Ike. "Would you rather go home quickly, or in style?"  
And this kid, without missing a beat, said, "Both, sir." And he laughed and moved on. And that's a wonderful memory of a world renowned figure and humanizing. And he was that way with the troops, and it was genuine. You know, it wasn't phony. "Oh, the hell you are. I'm from Kansas." You know, it was like-- it made him very human and special.

Eventually, Frank made it back to the States, and went to college on the G.I. Bill:

When I first got in the service, as so many men were going in soon after Pearl Harbor that the classification center was jammed. So what they did was to send you to a campus in a college training detachment, and I went to Syracuse University. And so, I wanted to go, I knew it, and it was a beautiful city, and I wanted to go back to it, and I did. And eventually, you know, got my undergraduate degree there, on the GI bill. Went to Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania as an instructor, working on a master's. Finished my master's, went to Purdue University to get my doctorate in 1955.

He returned to Syracuse University in 1956, this time as Assistant (later Associate) Professor of Speech. I was born the following year. What I remember of his professorial days was my Mom driving me down to the University on the day JFK was shot, and leaving me sitting in a classroom at the Hall of Languages, drawing headstones.

In 1965, Frank became Assistant Dean at S.U.'s University College. About five years after that, he succeeded Cliff Winters as dean of U.C. He finished his 32-year career at Syracuse as Dean of University College and Director of Continuing Education.

In 1988 he retired and moved to Wilmington NC, where he quickly got involved in the community there, at the local NPR station, the Wilmington Railroad Museum and at First Presbyterian Church. He spent the last few years of his life in memory care here in Tucson.

This funny medieval-style outfit is from a Commencement in the 1970s. Is that Melvin Eggers next to him? Eggers was Chancellor at Syracuse for most of my Dad’s time there.

On this Father’s Day, I’m thinking of my dad, and wondering why I don’t have the same painful reaction to that holiday as I have to Mother’s Day. Perhaps it’s because my dad had a long, good life, my mom, not so much. In any case, this year I've been thinking about all these connections between Dad and Syracuse, NY, and with Syracuse University in particular. Although I moved away from Syracuse in 1979, the choices my Dad made all those years ago still echo through my own life.

Happy Father’s Day to all who celebrate it, whether or not your father is still around.


Thursday, June 13, 2019


Time to get this thing going again. I don't know whether anyone will see it, and I don't promise to have all-new material. But this is a good place for thoughts that are a bit longer than a tweet. Here goes.

On May 19th, 2019, John and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary. Over the years, we had celebrated that date several times with trips, including a Las Vegas trip in 2004 for our 25th, when digital photos were stored on floppies and my first blog was still a new thing. Here is a photo from that occasion, when the Las Vegas Hilton still hosted Star Trek: The Experience:

We also went to Disneyland twice on our anniversary, in 2012...

and in 2013, when Cars Land was new at DCA:

I don't think we had done anything much since then. For our 40th, though, I wanted to do something, and John suggested Monument Valley. Monument Valley! I've wanted to see that place with my own eyes since at least 1986, if not long before that, when I still lived Back East. We thought about stopping by on our way back from my dad's funeral in Wilmington NC nearly four years ago, but time and distances would not permit. I was also desperate to go see Doctor Who episodes being filmed in Arizona and Utah during the Eleventh Doctor era, but that didn't pan out, either. 2019 would be different.

John left the arrangements to me. I booked us into a hotel in Sedona, which was sort of on the way up. On the Friday before our anniversary, we drove to Sedona, arriving after dark. In the morning we saw this (click to see it bigger):

Then we went on to the Monument Valley Tribal Park in Utah, arriving in time for our 5 PM "sunset" tour.

We got back well before sunset, which turned out to be good news. We got to see this from the edge of the parking lot.

The next day, we went through Bear's Ears National Monument and Natural Bridges National Monument. The latter is where I saw this:

There was more to this trip, but you get the idea. In short: it was great. John had a great time, too, which hardly ever happens. Because of this, we plan to start doing day trips once a month, and I've also been hacking around the mountains of Tucson, to the point of not working enough hours at one of my jobs this pay period. Oops! So I need to back off a little, but I'm definitely in picture-taking mode right now.

And in video-making mode. This is a little bit of a problem, because I'm putting a lot of effort into my videos, and hardly anyone visits my YouTube channel, ever. If you find this message-in-a-bottle blog post, I hope you'll help me rectify that. Here are my social media links: (page for my fiction)

And some others I'm not currently using. There's a lot of overlap, but Instagram is hopeless with panoramic photos and longer videos, Twitter isn't good with essays, and so on. Facebook tends to have the majority of the content found elsewhere, but I realize some people refuse to use Facebook these days.

I hope you've found this revival of my old blog at least a little engaging. I'll try to do something a bit meatier and more original next time.


Sunday, October 28, 2018

One Book Out, One in Waiting; One in Revision, Two in the Wings

Beyond Tucson: Adventures in the Multiverse

Hi, remember me? Remember this blog? I't's been a long time. Let's get caught up, shall we?

In late September, 2017, I was offered a contract with MuseItUp Publishing for publication of my first fantasy trilogy, Heirs of Mâvarin. I signed the contract on October 2, 2017. There have been delays since then, but the first book in the trilogy, The Tengrem Sword, should be out in early 2019. Yay!

It won't be my first book publication, however. In early October, 2018, my writing group, Tucson Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers, published its first anthology. Beyond Tucson: Adventures in the Multiverse is a truly collaborative effort. Edited by CA Morgan and myself and published under the Toughnut Press imprint, it features stories and poems by 14 of our members, along with artwork, a foreword and an afterward. I have two novelettes in it. "The Jace Letters" was previously published in my fiction blog and is newly revised. "The Boy Who Saw" is brand new, a prequel to The Tengrem Sword that takes place forty years earlier.

Here's the book trailer I made for the anthology:

Meanwhile, I've been slogging away at the second trilogy, Mages of Mâvarin. It's more ambitious than Heirs, and is potentially an even better story. But boy, it's a lot of work!

Once The Tengrem Sword comes out, I will probably be posting on these two blogs again (this and the fiction blog), at least occasionally. I'm much more active on Facebook, however. Follow my progress on my Facebook author page, and of course on


Monday, March 12, 2018

An Imperfect Wrinkle

This is a reposting of a comment I wrote to John Scalzi's review of A Wrinkle in Time on Whatever
Billboard at Disney's California Adventure, Feb. 2018
On my birthday on Saturday, I sat in a darkened theater and tried to love director Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, while my close friend Kevin sat crying, quietly, beside me. It’s my favorite book, and I knew going in that it wasn’t going to be very faithful to the text. That’s okay, I told myself. The film Mary Poppins is not even moderately faithful to the books, and it’s a great movie. I wanted that for the film adaptation of Wrinkle: different, but great on its own terms.
I don’t feel that it quite got there.
The casting is mostly excellent (I would not have gone with that actor for Charles Wallace, but the other Murrys are great), the effects are terrific, and the addition of the “mean girl” subplot really works for me. I can cope with the loss of the twins, the gender change for the Happy Medium, and the complete reimagining of the Mrs Ws. Let’s just say it’s an alternate universe version of these people and events, and that’s okay. The visualization of IT is a big improvement over the brain-in-a-jar trope. And I liked that Meg is the one who drags them to Camazotz.
Outside the film's preview at DCA, February 2018
What doesn’t work for me is the complete deletion (X-ing, in A Wind in the Door parlance) of everything that ever got A Wrinkle in Time banned in book form. Nobody would ever mistake Oprah et al. for witches, or identify this Medium with a crystal ball-wielding fortune teller. Not one mention of Christianity or Jesus gets through, or even God in general, unless I missed something. That strikes me as missing a large chunk of the heart of the book, and perhaps a bit of cowardice on the part of the part of the filmmakers. Perhaps that’s a part of the story they don’t want to tell for personal philosophical reasons, but I notice that the same thing happened with the tv movie over a decade ago, with one of the same producers (Catherine Hand). I suppose different people get different things out of the same work, but this is a major thematic change.
In story terms, I think it was a mistake to skip the whole interlude on Aunt Beast’s planet. We lose much of Meg’s struggle to realize that her father isn’t perfect and can’t fix everything for her, and to throw off the negativity that invades her heart. It’s also impossible to see (at least for me, on one viewing), where Alex Murry and Calvin went, exactly, and when and how. Dr. Murry tried to tesser, but was Calvin even in the shot? Also, making Charles Wallace an adoptee lessens the power of this family producing a biological “sport” who is “different” and “new.” And making the suburban subdivision melt away as an illusion implies that there aren’t real people suffering the hell of authoritarianism
Still, there’s a lot to like here. I did come close to tears twice, and I will go see it again. You should probably go see it, too.

But I can’t help being a little disappointed.