Monthly Archives: August 2014

Train simulator replaces flight simulator as my favorite

Greetings, readers. I never thought I’d say it but it is true. Train Simulator 2014 is my new favorite simulation program for the computer. Flight Simulator X is wonderful and it helped me immensely during my depression. Looking at the clear blue sky and the white puffy clouds did make me feel better. However, with Train Simulator you are on the ground and can see all the fantastic scenery.

When I first purchased this game from the Steam website, I was a little leery. My anti-virus constantly fought with it for the first two weeks, which made matters worse. Once I learned that anti-virus systems include an exceptions list to blocked sites, I put Steam on this list. Finally Train Simulation 14 worked wonderfully. With my older laptop, with a not-so-great graphics card, I do have to have everything on the lowest settings. That is okay with me; it runs. So far I have run trains in England, Germany and the United States.

Now for the downside of Train Simulator 14. Unlike Flight Simulator X and its primary uploading website, Simviation, trains are not free to download. You must purchase everything. For a person like me on a budget, that can get mucho expensive quickly. So I’ve purchased everything I am going to purchase for a while. I’m done.

Let me briefly tell you about the trains that I have. I have three very fast Amtrak trains, three old-style steam locomotives, various trains powered by electricity, and a couple of old-style diesel trains complete with authentic sounds. Five stars on those.

Am I going to pump hundreds of dollars into this hobby? No, I can’t afford to do that. I have probably spent too much on this already. But it is extremely relaxing to hop on a train, choose your run, and set out. I have runs ranging from twelve miles in the Portland Maine scenario, to the northeast corridor route which is roughly ninety miles long.

To summarize, I would dearly love to see this game with its fullest graphics settings to get the sheer beauty of it. With the five-year-old laptop, I am grateful it runs at all. When it comes time for the next laptop I will make sure it has a good graphics card for my simulations.

Until next week, take care, have a good weekend, and happy reading.

Beautiful late summer day

Greeting, readers. Keeping to my after-camp resolution, I am getting up early and going to bed early. This provides me the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful cool mornings that we had yesterday and today. Although both afternoons were a little steamy, it’s nice to have that contrast between the day’s warmth and the morning’s coolness.

I was so hoping not to get back into my rut of being a night owl. I think I’ve finally broken that habit. I am tired between 10:30 and 11:00 at night and I’m waking up just before my alarm goes off at 6:45. Being a regular at Panera, I love the fact that only the early morning regulars are there at that time. When I arrive at 7:30, I can usually find a table near an outlet for my computer. I get myself my morning coffee and a pastry and I’m set for a nice long morning. Okay, it’s not like fishing in Maine, but it is a nice long morning nevertheless.

After my September 12th performance, I will be writing longhand in the mornings. I have chosen that to be my creative time. I’m really psyched about the upcoming year. As for the current project, the third Bear Spring Camps book, I’ve already had to get rid of a few ideas because those stories have already been told in another form. The one thing I refuse to do it tell the same story over again just to fill up pages. I fully intend to come up with 20 – 26 new stories about my experiences at Bear Spring since the age of five. So stay turned for updates on that.

Lastly, an update on my rehearsing for the show. My singing is coming along quite well, but I have not gone full-scale rehearsal yet. I have permission from the office manager to rehearse tonight in the community room if I keep noise down to a minor dull roar. I need to work on any dancing moves that I can do. My apartment is not big enough to move around in. Hopefully my balance and coordination will allow me to give the folks at my apartment building a good show.

Until Friday, have a good week, take care and happy reading.

Top ten list of my favorite television show finales

Greetings, readers. The other day I began to think of all the TV shows I have watched and loved over the years. When I was younger, I was really into television. Here’s a top ten list of my favorite show finales. Please chime in with yours via comment if you would like to.

#10. Little House on the Prairie [It was wonderful that the population of Walnut Grove stood up for what they believed in and did not let someone else take over their town.]

#9. Futurama [I always knew that Leela and Fry would fall in love. I just wish they would have fallen in love earlier. It was a heart warming ending to the series.]

#8. Everybody Loves Raymond [Sweet ending, and to me it proves that even a family who fights a lot knows that they really do love one another.]

#7. M*A*S*H final movie [Even though everything that could go wrong did go wrong, the final scene where everyone was saying their good-byes made that film one of the best that I’ve seen in a long time. We must remember that a forest fire in California is what caused the re-write to explain the compound being destroyed.]

#6. Full House [Excellent series. I watched every episode. Michelle getting amnesia after falling off the horse was an eerie but likable twist to the series ending.]

#5. Cagney and Lacey [To me this show was left open as Lieutenant Samuels told Cagney and Lacey to go paint the ladies’ room. If the show came back for another season, they would have a freshly painted washroom. The series did not come back, so we were left knowing that the two characters went to the major cases squad.]

#4. Star Trek: The Next Generation [Probably one of the best series finales I’ve ever seen. The jumping through time wasn’t difficult to follow at all and I enjoyed the scene where Picard was shuttled to the Enterprise for the first time. Denise Crosby came back to play Lieutenant Yar, and Marina Sirtis was back in her original uniform and hair style. OMG.]

#3. Cheers [An definite closing scene, wonderfully done by Ted Danson. As he walked around the bar for a final time, and after getting a knock on the door, he simply said, “Sorry, we’re closed,” and waved. The scene was simple yet powerful.]

#2. Star Trek: Voyager [I always hoped that at the end of the series Voyager would get home. When Voyager shot through the vortex and Earth was in front of them, I must admit I had to hold back tears. Very well done and emotional scene. The acting was excellent. A great ender.]

#1. The Mary Tyler Moore Show [Not only were these characters saying good-bye to one another in the news room at WJM, but these actors and actresses were saying good-bye at the same time. To me, that is what makes that scene the best closer of any series I’ve ever watched. Bravo, and five stars.]

Honorable Mention:

The third season finale: The M*A*S*H episode where Henry Blake died. [Although this is not a series finale episode, it was for poor Henry. The character thought he was going home, but of course war is hell and not everybody gets to go home. I still remember watching this episode first run and cried at the end. I was around the age of ten. Sad, but extremely well done.]

Well, there you have it. Again, as mentioned at the top, chime in with comments or a list. Until next week, have a wonderful weekend, take care and happy reading.

Busy wet Wednesday

Greetings, readers. Oh, what a rain storm we just had. For about an hour and a half it came down in a deluge. Roads were flooded and my usual Wednesday meeting took place late. This threw my whole work day’s schedule off. Rebecca and I are working hard to get this mini-blog entry done by 3:00.

A quick update on what is going on with me. Tonight or tomorrow morning I shall begin writing the first draft of the first story for Bear Spring Camp book #3, tentatively set to come out the end of July 2015. I want that book done and out before I go on vacation again. That goal is important to me.

Also, I am working with my psychologist on some personal issues that shall remain private, but suffice it to say I am making great progress. My confidence is up and my depression is down.

Finally, I am completely hooked on two simulator games. Train Simulator 2014, and Euro Truck Simulator 2. I’ve been watching plenty of YouTube videos of the truck sim; I must tell you I don’t have the computer good enough to run that game. And as far as Train Simulator, it only runs on my laptop if the settings are low. You know what? That’s okay with me. More on Friday, for we have to leave time to edit this entry.

Have a great Wednesday, take care, and happy reading.

In control

Greetings, readers. After much reflection over the past few months, and with the help of my therapist, I am becoming a more confident person. I am starting to regain control of my life and it feels good. In 2009, when I made my triumphant return to Bear Spring Camps I had to go by airplane, for I was not confident enough to drive the 1,200 mile trip by car. It was great fun, because I love airplanes, but I missed all the scenery that I so enjoyed looking at as a passenger when Mom drove the trip. For the past four years, I’ve rented a vehicle from Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Here’s how it gave me back control.

With the aid of the rental, I can stop where and when I want to stop. I can pull off for a stretch at anytime, grab a coffee and a donut at the Dunkin’ Donuts, and choose any motel I want. When I traveled by bus for two years, we stopped when they wanted to, and you were all but threatened to get back on the bus on time or they would literally leave without you. Going by plane was nice, but oh, brother, all that waiting and the long lines at the security checks. The biggest benefit of the car to me is that I can pack my truck full of whatever I want to take to camp. I am not having to limit myself to a couple of carry-ons. And no luggage lost on the way.

My mom was always in control. It was one of the things I loved most about her. It seemed that almost every minute of every day was planned out and organized. I can remember Mom beginning to plan for the trip weeks in advance. I’m striving to be able to get all the accommodations booked and confirmation numbers written down well in advance. It is one less thing to worry about a few days before leaving.

On a non-camp note, I’m also taking steps to become more confident in other aspects of my life. Good friend Rebecca as well as others are helping me in this endeavor. Do I want to drastically change Joseph Kockelmans? No. He just needs peaked and tweaked a little. 😉

Until tomorrow or next Wednesday, take care, chin up, be well, and happy reading.

Back from camp renewed and energized

Greetings, readers. After a wonderful vacation in Maine, I’ve come home with an entire new outlook on writing. It is so positive I can’t even begin to tell you. But I will try.

For several months now I have been playing around with the idea of a third and final camp book. But I wasn’t sure how to proceed. Then the idea hit me. Over the next several weeks I am going to create from scratch two fictitious characters, a man and woman, both probably in their mid-20s. They will be the newbies at Bear Spring Camps. Not only will this third camp book contain true stories from my camp life, but also it will have fictitious stories told by the new Bear Spring Camp’s couple.

I started to think of all the stories I could tell and in my mind I already have several that I can expand on. If I put my nose to the grindstone, we could have a new book out by next July. That is my goal.

Now, about the vacation itself. It was one of the very best ever. I was completely calm and at ease, laughing, telling jokes and stories, eating like a horse, and making people happy. The camp menus changed very little, thank goodness. I did everything I wanted to do and more, including renting a pontoon boat for two days. I am going to do that next year for the whole week. It was much easier for me to get in and out of, as well as a better area for fishing; as you know I need all the help I can get. Five stars for the pontoon boat idea.

The first few days were long and filled with fun and good times. The last couple of days seemed to go by very quickly. I guess we all knew the end was near. Friday afternoon, of course, was packing day. I thought to myself I’ll wait and do it after supper. Well, a thunderstorm came and knocked out the power for two hours. So much for packing. Still, the next morning I was packed and ready to go, and on the road, by quarter to ten. I had told Rebecca, and I might have mentioned it in the blog also, that I thought this year might be my swan song at Bear Spring Camps. Well, I’ve got news for you. I enjoyed this year so much that I’ve already decided that I will be back next year. My arrival date is August 8th, and boy I can’t wait.

I’ll be keeping you up-to-date on my writing projects, as well as what’s going on in State College, PA. I can tell you already that students are beginning to flood back in. Classes start in two weeks. Where did the summer go?

Finally, Keekee was one happy kitty-cat when I came in the door. She missed her daddy. She was literally underfoot for a day and a half. She seems to know now that I am home and she’s gone back to her regular routine.

Until next time, have a great day, happy reading, and stay tuned for more details about my trip and about my up-coming musical performance at Addison Court. 🙂

From Rebecca: Role playing games

My husband Darren has played role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons since he was a teenager. When I started dating him twelve years ago, he introduced me to the games. At first I didn’t do so well with them, but after the initial stumble I began to do better and liked playing them. Joe joined us for gaming three years ago. There is a lot of learning to be good at gaming, but it is worth the effort. Darren and I have played with other people before, and each group dynamic is different; I have enjoyed each group experience.

Darren is our dungeon master, which means that he reads the adventures we play and sets up each week’s encounters. He gives us experience points so our characters can level up, making them stronger and better at skills. He plays the roles of the monsters we fight and the other creatures we interact with. He does a ton of work for each encounter. I tried my hand at being the DM once, and I wasn’t very good at it. Darren is good at it; he is inventive, knows the rules, and rules with a benign fist.

Joe and I are the players. We have characters with certain abilities, scores, and combat strategies that we develop as we play week after week. We just finished a 4th edition version of Dungeons and Dragons, which is published by Wizards of the Coast. Joe played Donaar, a Dragonborn Paladin and I played Shaadow, a Razorclaw Shifter Rogue, and we got our characters to 21st level. When Joe gets back from Maine, we are going to start an adventure in a game called Pathfinder, published by Paizo. Joe already chose to play a Half-Elf Ranger, but he still needs to finish making the character. I haven’t decided for sure about my character yet, though I am leaning heavily towards Half-Elf Oracle.

Both D&D and Pathfinder use the d20 system, which means we use dice of different sizes to play the game. A d20 dice has 20 sides, a d8 has 8 sides, a d6 dice has 6 sides (it is also used in a lot of games other than just role-playing) and so on. The dice are used to randomize the play in a variety of situations, like in combat, to see if we hit a monster or not, and skill checks, to see if we can jump over a creek or talk a guard into letting us past. We sometimes role-play an interaction with characters, especially if we are trying to get information from a NPC – non-player character – and asking questions, but we still have to roll the d20 to see if we succeed.

Once in a while we take a break from playing our role-playing game to do other things, like play Axis and Allies, when we are in between adventures or when life dictates it. Darren has different versions of Axis and Allies, and he loves playing it. He doesn’t get to as much as he wants, so we usually play that during breaks.

Joe will be back next week. As he would write, take care, have a good weekend, and happy reading.

From Rebecca: Update on Keekee while Joe is away

Greetings, Joe’s readers. I have heard from Joe up in Maine a couple of times and he is having fun. He took a boat out at least once, which he enjoyed. And the day he got to camp, he called me from the front porch of his cabin, looking out at the same lake he has seen so many times before, and told me that it never changes and is beautiful. I talked to him today, and he said that they got rain in Maine last night, which made the fish scarce this morning. We are forecast to have storms in both central Pennsylvania and Maine today. It is strange to think that Joe is so far away and might have the same weather I am experiencing, maybe at the same time.

I visited with Keekee today. She seemed glad to see me and let me pet her for a bit of time. She is shedding, as usual when Joe goes away, but it doesn’t seem so bad yet. Probably by Friday I will look like a rug after cuddling with her. She has plenty of dry cat foot in a self-feeder container (gravity pulls more out into a front bowl as she eats out of it) but she really likes the wet food that I give her while I am there. I also make sure her water bowl is full. She is used to Joe talking to her and petting her (I suspect she sheds so much when he is away partly because he naturally thins out her coat on a daily basis by handling her) so I make sure I pay attention to and talk to her when I am there.

Last Sunday, I took my teenage nephew with me when I looked in on Keekee. She has met him before, but this time she was really shy and hid in the bathroom much of the time we were there. We stayed awhile, but I didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable. She seemed okay otherwise, so I just fed her and checked her water dish before we left.

I will be visiting her tomorrow and Friday as well.

As Joe would say, take care, have a great day, and happy reading.

From Rebecca: Sunrise memory

Greetings, Joe’s readers. I just heard from Joe and he is currently driving to a beach for a short while, and then he will finish the trek up to Maine. He sounded good.

I wrote a blog entry yesterday in longhand, but today I just don’t feel like typing it in. I think I will share it with you next week. For today, I have to come up with something off the top of my head, and in a hurry because I am short of time on Schlow library’s public computer. Entirely my fault; before my work shift started, I looked at a bunch of other things on the internet before buckling down to do this.

With Joe traveling today, I am thinking about times when I was on the road, usually for family vacations to the mid-west to see my extended family when I was growing up. My father, mother, and two sisters would get in the car and drive two days each way to visit relatives.

I remember one early morning we were parked somewhere off the road. I woke up at dawn. I think one of my parents had been driving all night and had to stop for a bit. I have a vague memory of my dad being up and moving around, but I’m not sure. My mom and sisters were asleep, I know that. I got out of the car, and it was like we were alone in the world. I haven’t seen a lot of sunrises in my time, but they all feel like that one morning. Slightly chilly, even in the summer, and sleepy. The day was new and full of possibilities. The colors in the sky were breathtaking.

I know that Joe’s schedule in Bear Spring Camps sometimes includes getting up early to fish. I hope he enjoys his sunrises next week as much as I enjoyed that one so long ago.

As Joe would say, until next time, take care and happy reading.