I Stopped Trusting Microsoft After They Cancelled Groove Music

Groove Music, Windows 10, Cortana, Microsoft Films & TV, XBOX Games, and Office365 work together to allow me to happily interact digitally with my world. I even own a 950XL Windowsphone along with the adaptor so I can use it as a laptop and an entertainment device at home.

Then they cancelled Microsoft Groove on October 3rd and suggested Spotify.

I like the Microsoft Groove interface. I like the selection. I don’t mind that popular releases couldn’t be streamed until weeks after launch. If I wanted it bad enough, I could buy them from The Microsoft Store. 

I didn’t think the switch to Spotify would be that bad. But wait. The Spotify app isn’t supported because the mobile platform is in maintenance mode because Microsoft cancelled their Windowsphone. The Spotify app for the desktop is terrible, dark and crowded. Music purchases can’t be shared across my devices and it doesn’t sync with OneDrive.

Tidal and even Napster looked promising – but I can’t play my purchased music and won’t share among devices or sync with OneDrive. Napster doesn’t even let you purchase music. Pandora isn’t available in Canada.

Looking deeper, I started to chip away at the bedrock of my electronic world.

Where do I go? Well, hello Google.

Google Music does what I want and more. I cancelled Spotify and bought a Google Music Pass.

Google Play Movies & TV is excellent and competitive. As an example, seasons of “Castle” are $19.99 – Microsoft Films & TV has each season for different prices. I can stream it all easily to my current DVD player, which sees Android devices and iPhones quite nicely (not so much with my Windows devices). So why am I bothering with Microsoft Films & TV?

I can save my purchases to Google Drive – $120 annually with 1TB of storage – and migrate data to it from OneDrive after I cancel my Office 365 subscription (the same price). Sure, I don’t have Microsoft Office anymore, but who cares? The Google Suite of programs isn’t bad and my kids use it every day with zero issues. I’m talking about my 6 year old son. It’s that simple.

My children have accounts for Google Classroom at their school. I can see everything they are doing and remain up to date without having to wade through their bags all the time to see what is going on with the various flyers and pamphlets and handouts the teachers have to hand out. Where is the Microsoft equivalent? OneNote? The app is unstable and I’ve lost notes when trying to sync across devices.

Why do I have a Windowsphone? I wanted to support an awesome product that I thought would make my life easier. But now, it seems that Microsoft is focusing more on boutique hardware – the ‘Surface’ stable – and trying to make their OS work. I can’t afford the Surface line of laptops for my family to use any more than I can afford the Apple line of products.

And now that the basis of my digital world is exposed to scrutiny, it makes me wonder- Why did I choose Microsoft at all? Well, for one, I really liked Windows 8.1. But even that is gone and unsupported.

My plan is to migrate away from Microsoft by March of next year. Groove will be cancelled by then and I will have transferred all of my OneDrive content to Google Drive. And then I will not renew my Office 365 account for next year. Hell, I might even play with Ubuntu for a bit as an OS.

I’ll change up my phone, too. A Huawai Honor with dual SIM so I can use it for work and personal. I’ll let my daughter decide what kind of phone she wants when the time comes to change things up. My son is too young now, but Windowsphone won’t be available for him by then.

I’m less than a nit on the appendage of a gnat as far as Microsoft is concerned. I get it. Whether I cancel or not means nothing to them.

There are Microsoft supporters who can detail what’s wrong with Google, and I get that, too. Although, I doubt they will take the time to address my concerns.

What I also get, in the grand scheme of things, this is nothing to someone else and I am making a mountain out of a molehill. But, damnit, I interact with my world on a digital level and I need to trust the infrastructure to support me. Microsoft isn’t doing that for me anymore, so it’s time for a change.

NaNoWriMo Updates

1666 words per day. Every day. For 30 days.

  • 894 words per day. Half the expected output. But the month isn’t over yet.

Podcast or a YouTube channel.

  • It was hard enough writing the 20K words that I did. And a YouTube channel? What was I thinking?

Posting an inspirational phrase on the mirror every day

  • Done. And my wife and daughter got in on the act, too. My son just drew pictures on the mirror, but that was okay, too. And they provided a good deal of energy to write when I really didn’t feel like it.

Posting an inspirational image or message on Facebook every day

  • Stopped this past weekend. I started to feel self conscious about it.

Would I ever do this again?

  • Every year from now on.

What are my thoughts on the process?

  • Writing isn’t all about getting published. It’s about finishing what you started.
  • I don’t know how many people will read my book after I finish writing it, but I know exactly how many people will read it if I don’t.
  • You don’t have to feel like writing to write. Just write. The feeling part comes later.
  • Talking about writing is part of writing.
  • Remember at some point you have to shut up and write.
  • Reading is part of writing.
  • You don’t have time for bad books.
  • Remember at some point you have to put the book down and write.
  • Set fire to your television set.
  • Type on a computer with a great keyboard and a shitty internet connection.
  • Don’t get hung up on one process, but it’s important to have one.
  • I proved to myself that I can do it only if I want to do it.
  • Creating excuses only proves I don’t want to do it.
  • I need to be honest with myself about what I can do and why I am making excuses.
  • Believing in yourself is required to see it through to the end
  • Open mic afternoons are very, very important. If you have the courage to read your work in front of a group of strangers, you have the courage to write another page. And then another.
  • I cannot “wing it” because shiny things and Netflix distract me.
  • Speaking of ‘wings’, my internal editor should shut their pie hole until I’m done, and then they can have fun putting me down. Until then, it stays safely locked up in a thimble. For the record, my internal editor is a crew cut, cigar chomping, cybergoth steampunk fairy about the size of my thumb. Another writer plucked its wings years ago like a sadistic child would tear the wings from a fly. Since then the little prick has gotten hold of a backpack with gasoline powered wings so it can fly. It smells like tobacco and old cars whenever my editor shows up.
  • Never, ever give up

 

NaNoWriMo 2017 or “How I Plan to Drive Myself Insane in 30 days or less”

1666 words per day. Every day. For 30 days.

What do I do first?

  1. Visit the site. Don’t sign up. Not yet. But there’s a Google Calendar. I can do that.
  2. There’s a YouTube Channel? I’ll watch a few for inspiration. Nope. Not happening. Couldn’t make it through a single one. I tried 3. If I do NaNoWriMo, I think what I’ll do along with it is a podcast or a YouTube channel. If only to share what I think about all of this.
  3. Flair? What’s flair? Fancy stuff for social media? For me to turn my nose up to social media would be, in a word, stupid. But that’s a lot of work. And for some reason, it feels weird announcing to everyone that I’m doing this. But I’m blogging about it now, so isn’t THAT an announcement?
  4. Virtual Write Ins? Nope. Not for me.
  5. Word Sprints? Nope.
  6. Twitter coaches? I like the idea. Okay. Maybe that. Now following all the coaches
  7. Invite a friend? No. I don’t want to lose any friends over this.
  8. Pep talks? I like that. But I haven’t signed up yet and I don’t like the idea of going to a NaNoWriMo site to update to see the Pep Talks. I don’t want it to be like Facebook or Reddit. Odds though, it probably will. Oh, well.
  9. Word Count App? Nope. I have my fancy spreadsheet that I use for tracking that stuff and I’m sticking to it.
  10. Sponsors? Meh. Dunno. But wait. I haven’t signed up yet. Is there a signup fee for NaNoWriMo? Okay. No. There isn’t. I verified BY SIGNING UP! Damnit. Now I’m a member. Not only am I a member, I typed up a 400 word excerpt.

So – the answer to the question “What do I do first?”

Well, the answer is panic. I’ll figure the rest out later. Wish me luck. Maybe I’ll podcast about it. I don’t want to waste time writing a blog when I should be, well, writing.

Pearl Diving for Fiction War!

For thousands of years, divers risked their lives for repeated dives of more than a hundred feet to gather tonnes of bivalves in hopes of getting a handful of quality pearls. They would grease their bodies to conserve heat. They would weigh themselves down with rocks to save swimming to the bottom. They would use tortoise shells to clam their noses shut and stick grease swabs of cotton in their ears to keep from popping.

Writing for fiction war is kind of like that. Only more grueling. I dove deep to write two romance pieces. I’ll share one of them with you below.

The prompt was “Next In Line”. I searched the internet for inspiration. Seems like there is a disproportionate amount of songs written about this topic, but Conway Twitty’s is the one that struck me – watching the girl of your dreams peel the label from the bottle of booze she won’t put down because she misses the man of her dreams, and all you want to be is the next in line.

I’m not Conway Twitty – nor would I want to be. So, I wrote a pair of stories about a guy named “Buddy”. This is the one I didn’t submit. Wish me luck on the other one.

Found

“Next,” the customs officer said, holding her arm high so the person next in line could see.

Buddy held out his passport for it to be stamped, along with his declaration.

“You aren’t bringing back and tobacco, alcohol or gifts?”

“Nope.”

“You were gone for three months.”

“On a visa.”

“But you’re not bringing anything back. For anyone.”

“What was the nature of your visit?”

“Work study. I was looking for something.”

“Did you find it?”

“Yeah. I think so.”

She alternated from looking at him to checking her computer screen.

“Did you check any bags?”

“This is it,” He said and held up his backpack.

She leaned in when he showed it to her then recoiled. “Um, you might want to take a shower when you get home.”

Buddy didn’t understand.

“I got a pretty good whiff of you when you,” and she imitated his movement. “I wouldn’t want to sit next to you on the plane.”

“Hmm. Really? I hadn’t noticed.”

*

Buddy remembered standing the doorway, looking at his empty apartment. What furniture and books he had were now a youth hostel around the corner. The night before, he had slept on his bedroll, under the window, having fallen asleep after watching the moon rise.

As an afterthought he had grabbed at the rope ladder next to him, nimbly clambering up to the tiny loft overtop the front door, ignoring the sharp bite of pain. It didn’t take long to scan the bare, three by three area to make sure nothing was left behind. He remembered his first night, afraid of falling to his death if he rolled over. It didn’t take long to get used to it.

He came down and the pain returned but it wasn’t the rope ladder. The key to the apartment was biting into his hand.

Twirling the key around his finger, Buddy walked down to hall to the superintendent’s office – he was told to return it before leaving.

*

Buddy walked out of the bar, backpack over one shoulder, hand hooked behind its strap, and didn’t look back, a sad smile on his face. No one could hear the squeaky hinges of the old fashioned butterfly over the sounds of the party.

A woman with long, curly brown hair, dressed in a sheer, ankle length sundress caught up with him before he got to the end of the cobblestone street.

“Peter, where are you going?”

Buddy stopped and turned around. She hugged him hard.

“It’s going to take some getting used to,” Buddy said. “Not being called Peter anymore.” Peter was his father’s name.

They walked for a while, not paying attention to where they were going. The girl alternated between resting her head on his shoulder and holding it high.

“I didn’t think that you would leave.”

“I almost talked myself into staying.”

“Your friends are still here.”

Buddy nodded. “Yup. We’ve already said goodbye.”

“They aren’t going with you to the airport?”

“No.”

“Did you ask them to?’

“No. I was afraid they would accept.”

“I don’t understand.”

“It would only make it harder to say goodbye.”

“I still don’t understand,” she said.

Peter watched his feet, concentrating on putting one in front of the other.

“I came all this way looking for a girl,” he said.

“Me?”

He smiled. “Another girl. I thought it would be exciting.”

He remembered sitting with his Dad at the coffee shop counter, telling him that if she was the one, he couldn’t let her get away.

“I thought it would change me. I thought I needed to change. I came looking for someone to spend the rest of my life with.”

“Did you find it, Peter? Tell me. You owe me that much.”

Buddy looked up and smiled when he saw the beach, sand dunes piled high.

“We’re here,” he said and began to undress.

“Peter, you’re crazy!”

“No. I’m going for a swim. Care to join me?”

He broke into a run then dove into the surf.

The water washed the shore like a meditation, his arms pin wheeling, against the full moon, marking time. She watched his lithe, muscled body knife through the water. He stopped and stood up, a silhouette against the sky. She couldn’t see the devilish smile on his face but he hoped she felt it.

She slipped off her dress, here fear falling away with it. Her pale skin captured to silver light of the moon, making her seem a sculpture of a goddess.

She tip toed in and he savored the sight of the tight muscles in her calves. A soft shudder went through her body before leaping into the water. Pleasure coursed through Buddy as he swam to him.

She broke the surface of the water just in front of him and they didn’t speak or touch. Peter. The night air bit his skin when he reached out, then suddenly made it warm. He caressed her cheek, and she bent to it. Bringing his hand to her other cheek, Peter pulled her lips to his.

Their bodies moved with the tide as the moon and stars bore witness.

“Star Trek: Alderamin” or “How A Text Message About Karl Became A Story Idea”

A friend and I were chatting last night about how Star Trek: Discovery is to the Star Trek Universe what Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight” is to Adam West’s “Light Knight”. Both the same character, same city, vastly different and equally enjoyable. I went on about my personal theory about the spore drive, cloaking technology, the Klingon treaty, and the Kobayashi Maru.

Friend: “Star Fleet never had cloaking tech in Karl’s day but the Romulans did.”

Me: “Who’s Karl?”

Friend: “Stupid spell check and I was tired. Kirk.”

And then that is when, after a bunch of back and forth, a new Star Trek franchise was drafted.

Let’s call it “Star Trek: Alderamin”.

Captain Karl is a captain of the cargo ship USS Alderamin, delivering equipment and supplies throughout the far reaches of the outer rim of the Alpha Quadrant. She is escorted by a early model Defiant Class starship, USS Cepheus for protection. This is set maybe twenty, thirty years after “All Good Things” and this is Cepheus’s last tour before being decommissioned and the captain retires.

One of the signature food stuffs that the Alderamin carries is cheese. Sure, you can replicate a block of cheese, but a slice of the good stuff reminds you of home.

He’s a career cargo captain. Loves his job. Loves his family. All around great guy.

He has a small bridge crew and a dedicated engineering team. Three characters stand out for me right now.

The first officer is a Kelpien. I think much of the crew will have herd like qualities. Either I will find them in-universe or I will make them up. He is okay with his position because he knows how to manage herds and flocks. He will be important, later. His name is Tabar.

The chief engineer is a race I would have to appropriate from Star Wars – it will be a cross between a Gamorean and a Ugnaught (the guys that work in Bespin. They tore down C3P0 for parts). His name will be “Ace” Fener.

The navigator is an undetermined race of people that has a unique physiology – they feel the effects of inebriation from dairy products. They have four stomachs that ferments it like a vat. And I think somewhere in the story it becomes apparent that he has a substance abuse problem.

Now, the famous cheese is grown from a specialised culture of yeast – which is a form of life (something that Starfleet protects, right?). And the warden of that yeast – the steward of the cheese – is a mycologist and that mycologist is the Captain’s wife, Mercy Hamilton.

He has two kids – a boy and a girl. The girl is a frail thing – she was infected with ‘Barclay’s Protomorphosis Syndrome’. While she was cured, some lingering effects remained, one of which is a preternatural sense of danger like Picard had. Call it a ‘spidey sense’. And, as such, she ends up forming a kind of kinship with Tabar, my Kelpien. He becomes her mentor and guides her. Because she does not want to be a captain of a supply vessel – in her view, it’s little better than driving truck in ‘Ancient America’. She wants to join Starfleet. Her name is Olivia.

The boy is the scientist type. Precocious. He works mostly with his mom and wants to be a biologist when he grows up. He wants to deal with life on the larger scale. He talks to the yeast when no one is around and that is his imaginary friend. He kind of gazes into it and imagines that the yeast creates the rough outline of a face and talks back to him and it gives him comfort. His name is Wilbur but his family calls him “Toot”.

At some point the ship comes under attack from smugglers from the outer rim. They want to reconfigure the vats, destroy the yeast culture, and use it to make alcohol to be sold to the colonies. So, they get the prefix code for the nearly decommissioned USS Cepheus, disable it, and board the USS Alderamin.

There’s a pitched battle but it’s useless. The crew aren’t trained in combat. But Tabar is ready. He is always ready for an attack and has a plan for nearly anything – as a prey type creature would be – its how they survived. And when the attack happens, he and Olivia hatch a plan to use the transporter to go over to the Cepheus and regain control of the bridge and save the Alderamin.

Only, they are ambushed by the smugglers and have to fight their way to a secondary transporter – the cargo transporter that is not guarded because it is not configured to transport organics. “Toot” hotwires it so it can, Tabar guards the door while Olivia transports first, but as the transport is complete, she sees Tabar get shot. The smugglers are former miners and they illegally modified a digging tool – it’s a solid phase weapon. It doesn’t stun, it fires a bolt of energy. And it goes straight through Tabar’s chest.

As a consequence of the ‘Barclay’s Protomorphosis Syndrome’, our Olivia has developed a hyper ability to multitask in the face of danger (something that Tabar knew and was training her on, without her knowing). So, with the help of the computer, she is able to regain control of the Cepheus, destroy the smugglers ship (not killing any of them, though), and save the Alderamin.

When it is all said and done, and everything is sorted out, it turns out that Tabar was never in danger – his heart is located in a different spot and that shot merely went through muscle and tissue – not so much as touching his spine. He will fully recover.

The mother wants to carry on with the mission and transport food and equipment. She makes sure that the yeast will survive. The father wants to retire. And there are no more openings in Starfleet. So, Olivia is transferred to the Cepheus to the Operations department to begin her training for Starfleet. When the ship is decommissioned in a year, she will transfer to Earth to begin her training.

That, friends and neighbours, is a Star Trek Story. And I think I want to write it.

Meditation

I started meditating about a year ago. I don’t remember the exact day, but I do remember it was a last resort.

First, it involved sitting still and breathing. Just focusing on my breathing. The sensation of air coming in, and the feeling when it was released. Over and over again. First ten minutes, then twenty. Now, I can get to 40 minutes and need to set a timer so I don’t lose myself.

Second, it involved listening to an audiobook from Audible. First, it was free, offered as one of their ‘channels’. Then the sneaky bastards took it off the channel, forcing me to buy it with credits. That was okay. Worth it. It was one that focused on creativity – purporting that if I did it every day for 21 days, I would feel bursts of creative energy. I don’t know if that’s true, but I always felt better afterwards.

Third was another audiobook from Audible (more on my audiobook addiction later), this one called “The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress Free Living”. It didn’t give me any new meditations, but it did give me the tools to start relaxing.

And now it’s to a point where it is my go-to solution when I need to clear my head. It also helps with pain management.

For example, I’ve suffered from headaches all of my life. I would like to say it started around ten or eleven. Went to a neurologist and their only suggestion was medication. Next time I get a headache, they told me, just take four extra strength Tylenol.

“If that doesn’t work, take five. But no more than six.”

And that was my solution for headaches. I did it for years and years and soon enough, the headaches went away. Well, not away. Less frequent. I would get a doozie a couple times a year, but that was it. Recently, they came back with a vengeance and decided to make up for lost time – lasting not for hours or days, but weeks. The last one ebbed and surged for two weeks. My family doctor tells me that they are ‘cluster headaches’ and usually don’t respond to medication. I can attest to that last one, although sometimes aspirin did dull it through the day. He did suggest some high oxygen therapy, guiding me to a site that sold oxygen bottles used by pilots when at high altitudes. I don’t rule that out as an option, but what I have done is modified my meditation routine to help with it. Oh, the pain is still there, but in the background while I focus on other things. I have to meditate more often through the day, usually in fits and bursts of ten minutes every few hours and maybe one long one before bed. I actually woke up with one this morning and I spent about forty five minutes going through my routine.

I’m not sure if it’s pure meditation or if it conforms to some standard, but it works for me. Depending on what I want focus on changes the meditation a little and sometimes, I put on headphones and play the sounds of the ocean in the background to help me concentrate. It’s also a modification of the ‘creativity’ meditation I first learned. So, apologies to Val Gosselin in advance.

I start by sitting on a chair or couch, back straight, head up, and begin breathing. I keep my head up to remove any kinks or obstructions in my airway. I breathe deep, hold it for three seconds, and release, touching my tongue to the front of my mouth, just where my top teeth meet my gums. I do this for about ten or fifteen breaths, then focus my attention to the top of my head, running down through the major muscles of my body, relaxing them. I find I hold a lot of tension in my jaw and shoulders and focus on those. I do this with my neck, shoulders,  arms, fingers, waist, buttocks, all the way down to my feet. Being aware of them as parts of my body, looking for aches and pains that might not have been there before, and soothe them. Just be aware of them.

Then, when I feel I have begun to relax, I envision me lying on a bed in an open room at the top of a two story building. The wind from the ocean is blowing the curtains softly and I get up, and imagine the sensation of the cold, marble floor on my feet. I leave the room, walk down the hall and down a wide staircase. In the lobby there is a large, semi circular desk with an attendant. The attendant is different every time, sometimes a man, sometimes a woman, of different ages and appearances. They always say hello and I nod.

I walk out onto the beach and I feel the sand under my feet. The light of the sun on the horizon is diffuse in the fog that hangs over it and while I can hear the ocean and smell the surf, I can’t see it for the fog. I’m happy, though, because I know it is there. What I can see, is a dock with a row boat moored to it.

I continue to feel the sand beneath my feet – the soft sand of trillions of crushed sea shells – and walk to the dock. When I step on it, I can hear the schlup-schlup sound of the water around the dock and I can see the boat jostle up and down. I get into the boat, unmoor it from the dock, and begin to row out into the middle of the ocean. It’s an old boat, weathered wood and you can see the ghost of red and yellow paint along it’s hull. I sit on a padded seat and just begin to row and row until I can no longer see the house or the dock or the shore. Then, I am in the middle of the ocean.

And I go through my relaxation exercise again, checking all of my muscles for tension and letting them release. And I know that once I have relaxed, my island will show itself. If this is a short meditation, I will stay in my boat and never get to the island, but that’s okay, because for the short ones, I want to stay on the water and just feel the ocean waves and smell the water. Again, listening to the sounds of the ocean on headphones works, too.

But, if I need to go further, I reward my relaxations by bringing the island into view. The sun has now warmed the air and the fog has lifted and the ocean guides me to the beach of my island. I get to just before the shore and I roll up the cuffs of my pants and jump out, pulling the boat up onto the shore. It has a sandy beach and the trees are the trees of my childhood. The trees from my Grandma Rinne’s backyard, the trees from my Uncle Bill’s Cottage, the threes that surrounded the creek where my cousin took me when he saw that I was getting bored being around people who had nothing better to do but smoke and drink and curse. The island is all of those tress and none of them. I admire them and take them all in, sometimes, touching their bark, other times just listening to the sounds of the birds and the electric hum of the cicadas (which my dad always told me were tree frogs and I never believed him and he countered with telling me who to believe, some book or someone who spent their whole life in the bush?).

As I enjoyed the beach and the memories of the trees, I try to bring to mind good times I had. Getting lost in the forest and admiring the white-green moss that collected on the big rocks in the forest. The delicious feeling of fear, not knowing what I might find or what might find me. As I walk around the perimeter of my island, a path will always show itself. It’s always the same path, but never in the same place. It makes itself known to me once I am ready for it. The path is the one I took through the bush from Grandma Rinne’s house to my uncle’s cottage. But when I take it now, it brings me to the middle of the forest. A pool of clear, pure water.

It is surrounded by wood and detritus from the forest, but not a leaf or a bug or anything is inside it. I sit by the edge and test the water, but it’s always the perfect temperature. I enjoy the sound of my hand through the water and the sensations of the forest. I let this happen for a little while and then I undress, unafraid of being naked and defenceless in this forest of mine. Then I step down into the pool and float there.

I got through the relaxation exercise a third time, but this time, I let the water wash over those muscles and take away the pains and aches I felt before. It is a healing water and I stay there for as long as I can. I don’t move a muscle, and while the water heals me I go deeper into the meditation and let my thoughts wash over my mind, not owning them, just letting them come to me, and I look at them for a while. Sometimes it’s a fish like a Koi or any one of the fish I’ve keep in tanks or maybe a bird. I admire them for what they are, where they came from, and if I like the idea or the thought, if I think I can create something from it, I keep it with me. If it’s a thought that will harm me, or make me angry, or make me sad, I remind myself to feel happy that I have had experiences that give me the strength to let those go.

And then, depending on the vibration alarm set on my watch, I will slowly bring myself out of my meditation. When I am leaving this state, I tell myself, that when I do this again, the person in the pool is dreaming of a room in a house on a beach, and when I wake up again, I will be in that room, and every version of me is going deeper and deeper, relaxing more and more.

Yeah, sometimes I need to take a pill or four to get rid of the gonzo whoppers of headaches – the ones where you see auras and actually have short term amnesia for a while. But for all of my other aches and pains, my little house and my tiny island have come to help me quite a bit.

Stream of Consciousness Commute

“Joe, I’ve had enough fun for one day. I’m bugging out. You coming in tomorrow?”

Keep my lunch bags out of view. Behind my briefcase. Black with orange piping. Got it in Houston. Best Buy. Great trip. Sorry I miss out on it next week.

“Uh, no.”

“Then I will see you week after next.”

I get to go again in September, though.

“Yeah. Have a good vacation.”

Not after this vacation, but my other one.

Rena is at her desk.

“Seeya. We will talk more tomorrow. Have a good night.”

Oh, my arms. My legs. Burning a little. What to listen to on the way home? Music? Or my lectures? Let’s get hip with today’s new music. The Top 10 Songs You Need to Hear This Week. 7260 steps today and a peak heart rate of 90. Attach mount to phone, mount phone to air vent, clutch, first gear and I’m on my way. Ugh. Socks are wet. Oh, looks like the paving they did during shutdown didn’t take so well – there are already divots from the downpour this afternoon.
Sorry Not Sorry was one of those that played this weekend and Elena said it had bad language. Meh. Not so bad. Skip. Skip. Oh? Who’s Jack Johnson? Has a folksy pop feel to him. Not bad. Kinda like it. Skip. Skip. Coldplay? Nope. Not even. Nine Inch Nails? Man, haven’t listened to them in forever. Hurt is a great song, but Johnny Cash took it for his own. Didn’t Trent Reznor cry when he heard Cash’s version?

Whup! Gotta do ramp speed, Rob. Maybe a little faster. Feels better now. Shifting okay. These are great tires. Think of Josh every time. Hope my shoes under my desk don’t smell. Should bring Febreeze to work. Third gear, forty five hundred rpm, doing about eighty. Shoulder does hurt just a little. Why do I always lean to the right on these tight curves? Sit up straight, shift into fourth, fifth, sixth and settle into the outside lane doing an even 120. Set the cruise control. Stupid Cortana won’t respond to voice commands. Used to able to shout ‘Hey, Cortana, remind me’ and she would remind me. Shut off this horrible music. I am not hip with the times. Gotta fix that somehow.

Audible. The one course about writing fiction. That’ll do. Bought it, might as well listen to it. Audible subscription is amazing. Can’t give them up, or my Office 365, or my Groove Music. Whatever happens, we keep those. And the ROM membership. That, too. Stayed off the 407 for half the week, but I want to take it today, only to the 400. It’s early and it’s not Friday, traffic will be light.

Did he just say evocation? Is he talking about spells or something? Fiction is so much easier for an audiobook – non fiction and courses are hard to follow. Maybe I should put on some music. Gotta be careful. No more tickets. Speed ticket last year and one a few years before that. I hope Cam can get me out of the other one next year. I wasn’t even on the phone, just checking the GPS on my phone. Only glanced at it. Cop wasn’t hearing anything of it. Raining that day. Didn’t want to cop to get wet. So much water today, though. All through the warehouse. No lunch either. That’s too bad. Don’t know when I’ll get another chance.

Oh, shit. Switch lanes, gear down, no clutch and feeling cool. Why is that cop’s lights on. He just pulled someone over. I don’t want to be the next one. Why is everyone stopped? How far does this go? Oh, shit. What’s going on now? Switch to radio when he starts talking about character development and Miss Dalloway and Ulysses. Read the one, not the other. But I’ve started it a bunch of times. Ulysses is my favourite but I always feel like bragging. My copy is safe and sound on my bookcase at work. Top shelf. Not getting wet there. Hands still hurt. Should have worn gloves. Gonna get a blister. Doesn’t hurt when I shift. This traffic isn’t getting any lighter. It usually frees up around here.

Allannah Myles. Rockinghorse. Great song. Maybe I will listen to that. Listen to this first. When does the traffic come on? I need a traffic app. Never listen to the radio. Who’s texting me now. Ignore! Ah, man. Gotta wait in silence while the phone asks me again because Cortana doesn’t ever get it the first time. Why don’t they fix it? I should sign into the feedback app and explain my problem. Bet it’s simple. That’s a nice car. Ignore! Thank you. Christ that pisses me off. Telsa. Didn’t look like a Tesla. Did a work instruction for engineering changes. Hope they liked it. They promise an update on the traffic in a few minutes, but before get to that, they want everyone to know to avoid the highway. Paint thinner spill. Highway is closed and I’m ten kilometres from an exit. Aw, fuck. Shut off the radio. Hate it anyway. Well, in traffic like this, maybe a course is what I need. I really should read Miss Dalloway. Is that a blister on my hand.

What? Where you going? Get off the goddamned shoulder. Stay in traffic and suffer with the rest of us. You don’t get any special passes. What about is? Oh, man, poor bastard. Broke down on the side of the road. Driver’s side flat. Oh, shit buddy, wish I could help. Can’t see him, he’s looking over the bench seat of his truck. Someone is stuck behind him, too. Fuck you, buddy. Serves you right. This is what the shoulder was meant for.

The chick in the black Mercedes looks like she means business. Very serious look on her face. Is there anything left from my lunch? Apple and two oranges. Pork chops with rice and Brussel sprouts, too. Depends on how long I’m out here. Oh, God. How long? GPS doesn’t show distance to target. Could I change it to how far it is to the next exit. Can’t be bother. Not going to leave the apple core in the car. Roll down passenger side window. Won’t throw it over the bridge. Wait until there is grass for me to throw it in. Bite into oranges, leave the peel in my lunch bag. Got juice on my hand. Don’t think I can throw it as far as an apple. There! Maybe an apple tree will grow. Always wondered about that. Seeds grow in the belly. But they have cyanide. Didn’t know that then, but trees in the belly was a good image for a kid.

Another douche and his canoe trying to paddle up the shoulder. I don’t think so. Orange wedges arranged on my thigh, popping them in my mouth, savouring the juices. Had doesn’t sting. No open cuts. They’ve been in my lunch bag all week. Been eating granola bars and crackers instead. Seeing them in there makes me feel healthy. They taste good. Should eat more of them. Get off the fucking shoulder. Oh, no you bitch, you stay right there. Hey! Hey! Don’t let him in front of you! I don’t care if he spoke to you through an open window. What kind of a sob story did he tell you? I would’ve liked to hear it. Might have made me a good story.

Hope they like my story. Happy about the one. Need to read the critique on the other. Didn’t see it until today when I sent it to someone else to read. Rob? Abramovitch, that’s right. Great guy. Hit it off with him. Feel bad I can’t do more business with him. Up to Joe. Not my money. Yet. A boy can dream.

Holy fuck. An hour to go a kilometre. Dear God, I am getting off at the next exit, but I’m following to lines. The goddamned lines. There are rules for a reason. What if an emergency vehicle needed to go along the side? Mell said that, didn’t mean it, almost cried when they wouldn’t let the ambulance through. Cried at the ROM, too. Horrible exhibit. Very stark. She’s too good for me. Has a wonderful heart. Follow the fucking road assholes. Oh, no. Oh, no you don’t.

“Get in line, motherfucker.”

Oh, dude. Dude. You’re driving on that wheel? You shouldn’t it’ll fuck up the rim. Oh. That guy. They guy behind you was helping? He’s driving behind you with his hazards on. Good man. Well done. That’s what the shoulder is for. What if that was your husband, lady? Yeah. You don’t even think.

“Oh, no. No, no, you fucking bitch.”

If only my car had a roll cage like a demolition derby. I’d take these fuckers out. Show them a lesson. Oh, shit. I’m going to die on the highway. Still 90. But no. It won’t be a heart attack. It’ll be from stab wounds, after I get out of my car and try to throw a punch at a huge man in a deceptively small car.

“Fuck you!”

Was that loud? Felt like it was loud. Stupid lesson or course or whatever. Wasn’t listening. Maybe check Facebook. Didn’t you get a ticket for that? Court date next month. I was checking my GPS. Nothing on Facebook. What about Reddit? Oh, that’s always good. r/all. If I get convicted it’s like five hundred bucks to say nothing of insurance. I should take a motorcycle lesson next year. Val will hate that, but Damnit, I want to ride on. I can borrow Raj’s. He’s a good guy. Wonder how high my insurance will go if I’m convicted and get motorcycle insurance.

Praise Jesus, the line to the off ramp is moving. One alcohol, please. What was that? Nothing. How are you? I’ll be better in thirty seconds. Thirty seconds? That’s about how long it takes to pour me a nice, tall beer. Longer if you keep talking. No, sounds good in my head. Not happening. Still, would love a drink. Any beer at home? Cherry Coke and scotch? That’ll do, too. Before or after lunches? After. Well, maybe before. Kids can play games. I need this drink. 85. Getting better still want to murder someone.

“Get off the fucking shoulder. Oh, fuck no. You are no getting in my lane.”

Keep it in second and floor the accelerator. Oh, damn. Need to change my socks. Engine is revving high, but I am getting off the highway. Oh, look. He’s got a good jack. The kind my dad would use, only for all four weeks as a kind of hoist for working on cars. Mopped floors all day in the flood. Reminded me of him. Arvin was with me. He knew how to mop floors. First job was mopping floors in a warehouse and driving forklift. Fifteen thousand square feet. Current one is over three hundred, but that’s still a lot of mopping. I was seven or maybe nine. Nine when he showed me how to sweep and mop and how it would be the most important thing to learn because I would never be out of work. Thirty five years later and there I was.

Moving slow but off the highway and closer to home. He’s bearing down on those good and the guy in the car looks like his son. Hope it’s his son. Hope the rim isn’t fucked up and he can get a tire on it. Does he have a spare? Trunk looks pretty equipped. I don’t feel all that religious although I did learn about halal today. And the other one, I just don’t remember what it was. Either way, I hope that’s guys okay.