I'm Writing My Own Story

It's happening.

I can't sleep.  It's too exciting.  For the first time in a long time, I realize that I'm in control of my own life.  And it's time to harness it.

This blog, as it stands today, will soon be gone.  I'm not entirely sure what will be here in the near future, but it will be great.  I know this simply because I want this.

Take stock of what's on here.  I will archive it, remove it, and start over - just like I'm doing in real life.  It's time.  It's happening.  I'm finally writing my own story.  I don't mean the book I've been writing for months, nor am I writing a story about myself.  I am WRITING my story.

For far too long I've allowed my life to be governed by other people's perception of me.  I'm taking it back.  Right.  Now.

This isn't bull shit.  This isn't some temporary epiphany.  This isn't a sleepless night kicking my ass.  This blog is ready for change.  A New Eric is coming, newer than before.

If you don't like it, who cares.  I sure don't.

Because it's MY story.

Damn you, spammers!

I love comments on this blog.  I used to get quite a few.  And then, about a year or two ago, I started getting crap from spammers, often copying text from legitimate sites to try and spoof search engines.  So I started requiring that users register to comment, and that helped for a time.

Then, the damn spammers started registering to spam my comments.  So I forced a text verification CAPTCHA.  Since some of these spammers are paid to circumvent these kinds of measures to leave their turds all over my space, I ended up having to implement a second CAPTCHA using a random font that almost no one would have, so it would be impossible to register.  I effectively prevented people from registering AND commenting.  In other words, I killed any chance of commenting except from a few people.

So about a month or so back, I had to reinstall the blog software.  Many of the changes I'd implemented weren't reloaded.  And now I'm getting shit spam again.

Damn you, spammers.  You ruin my blog.  Now I have to resort to protective measures.

Frustration Renewed

This is the year I am required to renew my driver license, and as my birthday came closer, the State of Utah was nice enough to send me something in the mail to let me know what I'll need to bring with me.

You see, in the five years since my last renewal, a few laws have changed.  As well as my patience.

But first, let me tell you the story.

When the renewal notice came in the mail just after the new year, it took me a moment to realize that it had been ten years since moving to Utah, and five years since my last renewal.  I had my ah ha moment, and moved on.  I remember looking at the paper, reading something that didn't make much sense, then moving on with my life.

And then, last month, my wife got her renewal notice, too.  I actually took a moment to read it.

The new state law for renewing your license - I did say renewing - goes somthing like this (paraphrasing):

"We don't care that we issued you a govermnent identification (license) before, but now you need to not only prove who you are, but that you have a legal right to be here before we will give you another one."

And so, I was required to procure and/or provide the following:

My birth certificate (or a passport)
My Socail Security card (or this year's W2)
Two letters mailed to me from a bank, utility, mortgage company, or government entity

Now, on the surface, this doesn't seem like a big deal.  It was annoying to me, but not a frustration at that point.  I called my mother, who had my birth certificate, and she mailed overnighted it to me.  A day after I got it, my wife and I went to the Driver License Division (the DMV is so annoying in Utah that they need two divisions) to both get our licenses renewed.

Now, I've never had a problem with Utah DMV or DLD.  They're typically nice and easy to work with.

Since then, the DLD has instituted a "soup Nazi" type of system.

We walked to the "information" desk, which is really the gatekeeper while the DLD employees sit at their stations in complete boredom.  There was a time when the "information" desk was simply the place where someone assigned a number for you, which helped separate the quicker visits from the longer ones (such as a kid getting his or her first license).  Now, they practically do all the work at the "information" desk, even taking your photo.  They sift through the various documents, type it all up, then hand you a number to talk to someone who does the actual work.  This, while a serious-looking security guard stares you down.

So I hand over my documents, my license, my W2, and a utility bill with my name on it (I had read the letter requirement wrong and thought I'd only need one, but no, I needed TWO).

The guy takes one look at my birth certificate, and tells me to wait.  He goes to some back office for a minute, comes back, and tells me I don't have the right birth certificate.

This is about where I start to lose it.

Not only had my mother paid almost $20 to send it to me so I could take care of my license renewal, but the same certificate had been used at various times throughout my life without any complaint.  The certificate was official, it was signed, and it was 36 years old.  Apparently, it was a certificate stating that there was a certificate on file, and not an actual certificate.  As confusing as that is, think for a moment about the fact that some government building somewhere in your own state warehouses a bunch of certificates stating that people were born.  You have a duplicate (or, if you will, a COPY), which is just as usable as the original.  So, in fact, everyone has a certificate stating that the state has a certificate of your birth.  But apparently, mine is less of a certificate and more of an "I.O.U." type of document.  But I digress.

The next issue the guy has is not bringing two letters with my name and current address.  Sure, I recognize that my state government-issued ID had my old address.  That's not my fault, as in 2009 when I moved into my current address, the state law simply dictated that I submit a form, either in person or online, and did not need a new license issued.  Now that I'm not only proving my identity, but where I live (THEY SENT ME A RENEWAL NOTICE TO MY HOME) needs to be verified with two pieces of mail.

I was handed a print-out of who and where to contact in the State of New York to get my "actual" birth certificate.  It was insenuated that if I'd had my passport, there would be no issue.  For the record, at least half the state seem to have passports from being on foreign missions for the LDS church, and when I responded to "do you have your passport," my response of "I've never needed to have a passport before" made the "information" desk employee uncomfortable.  Thank your for your assumptions, DLD employee.

And here's the kicker - after telling me I was doing it all wrong and would have to come back, they handed me a number to go talk to one of the employees who actually handles the computer processing and paperwork!

As I'm waiting with Jill as they sift through her documents, my number is called.  So I hastily leave to the right teller, and hand him the paperwork.

I mentioned the comments the first guy told me, the new guy (who was much nicer) looked at everything, and told me the same damned thing about my birth cerficate not being an actual birth certificate.

I took several deep breaths.  He kept going at whatever on the computer.  I turned to him and said, "I have to admit to you, I'm about as frustrated as I've ever been in my life right now."  I explain to him that when moving to Utah, my North Carolina diver's license (which was confiscated at the time) was all I needed - aside from an open-book test - to get a license in Utah.  I never needed my birth cerficate.  But the few times I'd needed to use it, which hasn't been necessary in the ten years I've lived in this state, no one ever told me I merely had a certificate stating that there was a birth certificate on file instead of an actual birth certificate which is merely a representation (read: copy) of a birth certificate on file.

The teller, a younger, married guy who looked like he was still in college, seemed empathetic to my complaints.  He told me I'd need to get a copy of my birth certificate within six months to get my license renewal.  Oh, and I'd need to bring in two pieces of mail and not just one.  I PAID my $25 and left to go stand by my wife (which caught the glare of the securty guard again).

Her experience was different.  She brought in her Utah birth certificate, her Social Security card, and one pirce of mail (just as I had).  She had a pleasant lady who was in training.  No bother about her certificate being a certificate stating there was a certificate on file, and no bother about not bringing two pieces of mail with her.  They worked through the application, took another $25 from us, and sent her on her way.

While waiting for them to finish, I told my wife about the visit with the teller (she was with me when the soup Nazi had issue with the one and only birth certificate I'd ever been issued, so she knew where it was heading).  I mentioned needing to get a new certificate and bringing in two pieces of mail.  It was then that I noticed my name and address on my W2.  I asked the lady doing the training if that would have worked, and it very much would have worked for the "two pieces of mail" issue.  Still, I had to get a new birth certificate, so there was no use getting in line (we walked right in, now there was a line to the door) to fix it when I'd have to come back again anyway.

So I left with a license will holes punched in it, a printed-out temporary license stating I would not be receiving a real one until my requirements were met, a receipt for $25 ($50 total, for the two of us), and a growing need to go punch a wall (away from the ire of the big polynesian security guard).

It was later when I got a chance to sit down and check out the web site I'd been given to get a new birth certificate from the State of New York.

A reissue will cost me $30 - if I request it in the mail and wait 8 weeks.  If I call it will cost me $45 and get to me in four weeks.  If I request it online, it will cost me $52.50 and get to me in about two weeks.  Oh, and the biggest F-you of all - to get a copy of my birth certificate, I need to provide a copy of a government-issued ID, or in other words, MY DAMNED DRIVER LICENSE.

My birth certificate isn't good enough to get a new license, but my license is enough to get a new birth certificate.  My biggest worry, which I've seen before, is that my valid yet temporary paper license won't be good enough to get my birth certificate.  So I'm sending a photocopy of my now defaced driver license (thanks to the DLD), as well as two utility bills (which were optional for NY).  I'll include my check for $30 and end up waiting two months.  And there is a part of me - a very angry and upset part of me - that hopes with all the hope I can muster, that the certificate I receive looks exactly like the one I have.  Because then I will lose it.  I will make an appointment with the director of the Utah DLD, my local elected officials, the TV station, and whoever else I need to see to show them the lunacy of the system they've put in place.

This all seems to stem from the federal REAL ID act of 2005, which was a nice piece of federal legislation that told the states how they needed to be issuing their driver and/or driver's licenses (Utah doesn't use the possessive).  At first, I assumed it was due to the lovely immigration laws that Utah put in place during the last couple years (read: Arizona immigration bill with a little less teeth), but after doing some digging, I find that millions of people across the country have or will be dealing with similar issues because their home states haven't been issuing IDs to the post-9/11 federal government's standards.

Here's the gist of it: I live here.  I've lived here for ten years.  I showed you my W2, so you know I'm paying my taxes.  Your computer system shares with most other Utah computer systems, so there shouldn't be any question about my legitimacy.  I have a document showing my birth, issued in 1976, from a state that is currently (and always had been) a member of the United States of America.  I receive mail at my address, which I showed you.  I received your own mail, telling me it was time to renew my license, at the same address, which I willingly and correctly gave to you in 2009.  You obviously don't hold everyone to the same laws, as my wife didn't have her second piece of mail with her, and two DLD employees (one of which spoke with me about the two-mail requirement) didn't have any problem with my wife's paperwork (for which, I am actually grateful, as it saved us yet another trip to the DLD office).  I'm not getting a new license from another state, or - GASP - from another country.  I'm renewing the worthless, stupid piece of plastic that YOU issued to me in 2007, which was a renewal of the one you issued to me in 2002.  If you had a problem with the way you issued driver licenses, then look inward at your own deficiencies.  If you want me to prove who I am and where I live - WHICH, by the way, I will have to do ALL OVER AGAIN in five years - let me show you what I have and let the evidence prove who and where I live.

Somewhere, somehow, a wall is being punched in my honor.

Utah DLD, see you in two months, when we get to have this dance all over again.

A Snowy Day

This winter has been a quiet one for us.

We normally get a few storms leaving several inches of snow, and spend at least a month or so with snow continuously on the ground.  Not this winter.  This winter, we've had perhaps one or two storms of any note, neither leaving anything for more than 24 hours.

Normally, I end up breaking my back shoveling the driveway, or breaking it trying to start the little snow blower my father-in-law gave us.  This year, I've shoveled maybe once, and it was only because I was trying to break up the ice tracks in the driveway where the cars rolled through what little snow we had.

The mountains, which are normally covered in snow by December, didn't really have anything of consequence until sometime in the past month.

In the nearly ten years I've lived here, I can't recall a winter with such little now.

I guess that's the way it goes.

Not to sound opportunistic here, but it's the same with writing.

It comes and it goes.  Sometimes, you have way to much of it, more than you can handle, and the thoughts and ideas pile up on the sides as you go about your day or work, family, and life.  They often melt away with some amount of time, only to come back again in short time.  Sometimes, they stick around way past your patience with them, and you find yourself wishing you could just clear the space for other needs.

Other times, you go quite a while without writing.  I've gone years without it, when I sometimes can't go minutes.  You might see a snow storm, or you might see me writing, or you might not see it for a long time.

Such is the life of a writer.  Sometimes, you're out in the thick of it, forming and shaping your space with your ideas, clearing out a path for others to follow.  Sometimes, you're covered in it, and those around you have to dredge through the mess just to talk to you.  The writer spends their time wanting to write, finding there isn't enough time to do what's necessary.  When they can write no more, they find themselves hoping for the next snow storm of ideas to drop little tidbits all over the driveway of their mind.  Like snow, it comes and goes.  You don't have much control over it, but when it happens, you go out there and break your back in it for a while, hoping that something forms from your efforts.

As I watch the snow fall this afternoon, I find myself sitting in front of the computer, writing.  Like making blocks of snow or a snowman, I hope to form something in words that will create the foundation, walls, and roof of something much bigger than myself.

A snowy day is a creative day for me.  As I watch nature change the story before me, I'm inspired to do the same.

Who knows how long it will last.  But the trick is doing something with it when you have it.

Things Change

Sometimes, it amazing to me all that's changed in the time I've had an interest in writing.

I wrote in school, though I don't remember much of the early years of it.  However, I remember when I was young, less than ten years old, and my parents bought us a huge computer to play with.  I had a few games (Boulder Dash!), played around with BASIC programming, and started typing away in IBM Write.

The blue screen with bright white letters was very enticing.  In no time, I was writing and saving my work.  It was rough - rudementary, at best.  But it was writing.

As my computers became more sophisticated, such as adding hard drives, Write followed me for some time.  After many years, we changed over from DOS programs to Microsoft software, such as Word.  My writing continued.

And then it stopped to a small trickle.  I barely wrote a thing, though I wanted to.  Life got complicated.  I got busy.

In 2005, I rediscovered something I'd dabbled in a few years before: blogging.  My writing exploded.  Through 2008, I was blogging like crazy.  In fact, 2008 was the year I resolved - and accomplished - the goal of blogging every day.

Then, like before, I fell silent.  My life had changed again.

In the past several months, I've been bit by the bug again.  It's been nice, but I've found the need to reform some of my techniques.  Word isn't cutting it any more (and my circa 2000 copy is archaic anyway).  So I moved my work to Google Documents.  The beauty of the site is being able to store my writing, and edit it, wherever I have Internet access.  I'm not limited to one computer, and hoping that I remembered to back up my work.  There's no need to remember to save my work, since Google saves it in the five seconds I pause to think of my next paragraph.  I can pick up wherever I left off, on almost any device.  And I can share the documents with those interested (and willing) to read.

I still use things like Word (or just Notepad, since I no longer have Word), and more often, real paper.  I need to scan some of my notes and drawings into the computer, which I can then drop into Documents (WIN!).  Freeing up my mind of the clutter of computing that mixes in with writing has been wonderful.  I've removed the distractive junk from my view, and can focus more on what I'm thinking and typing.

I look at my old archives of writing, some of which I can no longer read because the software no longer exists, and wonder what the future holds.  I can't wait to see what I fill up my Docs account with.

The Write Time

Sometimes, it can be difficult to get into the writing mode.  Lately, I've been fortunate enough to have a little bit of time, the right energy, and a good inclination toward writing to get it done.  Most of all, I've had amazing support from friends and family, especially from my wife.

In the past, I had to have a proper setting to even sit down and get my brain in the right mode to write.  Back in 2008, when I blogged every day or one year, I started out simply needing a view to the outside world.  My writing room was in a good spot for that.  Then, we moved.  The room I write in is partially underground, but I can still see things from my window without having to look up from a well.  Sometimes, all I need is some greenery to get in the mood for writing.  Lately, I haven't needed it all that much.

One thing that has definitely helped in the past has been getting away from home to someplace where I can really get away from the stress of work and the distractions of the house.  I've had a place I can go for a few years now which fits the bill.  For the most part, body willing, I can just sit down in front of a huge window and write like a madman while looking at scenery such as this:

Mental Gettaway

How can you not get away from work and home when you see this through your window?

And to top it off, my wife is willing to let me write.  Right frame of mind, right scenery, right setting, time to write!

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