I sent an Avatar Instead

Actually my last cruise was in 2012.  I, myself, never went on a cruise ever again. In the year of 2013 instead of taking a post-thanksgiving cruise, I stayed home and sent my Avatar ahead to take the cruise for me!  Then again in 2016, it was my Avatar that went on that cruise as well. And truth to be told, in 2018 for two days while at Universal Orlando, Paul D. Dute stayed in the hotel room, and my Avatar was the one that visited Volcano Bay and Universal Orlando Studios.

You see, once upon a time, I had another name when working.  I eventually was able to give that up. And became Paul D. Dute full time, once again, and I have been so ever since. As Paul D. Dute, I went on cruises beginning in 1990 and up through 2012.  I ended my series of cruises with a 7 day cruise from Baltimore to Florida and the Bahamas. I really enjoyed all of those cruises over that time span.

I had no intention of giving up on cruising though, no, not at all.  In 2014, 2015, and 2018 I went on multi-day visits to Disney World and Universal Orlando.  Those years I would have to fly down to Orlando. Having to fly, since on a cruise ship there is only a one day port stop where one can catch a shore excursion over to the theme park area.  If  I wanted to make a multi-day visit, then the only choices to get there are, flying, the train, or driving down.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  For 2013 I planned a cruise on the MS Carnival Pride. However I did not go, instead I send out my Avatar: eccentric blurb writing nerd with a speech recognition equipped laptop.

On a cruise it is possible to create an whole new identity, as it were.  I thought about it as creating and projecting a new Personae (footnote 1).  For this cruise my Avatar would wander the ship with his laptop, headset and microphone.  And my Avatar would make extensive diary and journal entries of the happenings around while hanging out at various lounges, bars, and seating areas aboard the ship.

My Avatar would stand out because of the headset with microphone.  The laptop was equipped with Dragon Speech Recognition© software. It worked very well.  I would softly speak and my dictation would be input into my file. But it was early days for speech recognition in those times.  So the sight of my Avatar there with a laptop at the bar was quite noticeable and stand outish.

By the end of the first evening several people had wondered why my Avarar was talking to the laptop.  That was the time for my Avatar to deploy my new Personae. When queried, I would explain that I was a political “blurb” writer. Invariably they would ask me to explain just what I meant by “blurb” writing.

My Avatar would explain that a “blurb” was a short essay upon a given topic.  He explained that he did not write whole books or speeches. My Avatar called itself a ‘political’ “blurb” writer because, rather than making stuff up, it was my calling to take a candidate’s thoughts, and then fill them up with that “homey” stuff that would make those thoughts sound “Stream of Consciousness Like”.  My Avatar explained that this was actually much harder than it might seem, and that there was a real demand for that sort of thing.

People are of course knowledgeable that serious candidates have a whole staff of people to work on their communications.  What you need: Idea Guys to come up with the basic message. But for a real success strategy, before calling in the Speech Writer(s), it is helpful to call my Avatar in!

Why? Because he can take the ideas and then wrap an anecdote around the ideas, and “homey it up a bit”.  Add those little touches, even some deliberate mispronunciation, and a cute metaphor or two, but don’t over do it!  In other words he writes a set of “blurbs” for the campaign. It is these blurbs that go to the formal Speech Writers to be turned into a stump address, or a full blown speech at a big fundraiser.

My Avatar realized a couple of days before the cruise, that once he got a conversation going, the very next question would be: “In the 2012 Election, did you sell anything, and to who?”  This gave my Avatar the chance to:

  1. Give a little gasp………
  2. Pause, and with some pomposity state: “Sorry but my dealings are understandably quite confidential, and I am bound by very firm “Non Disclosure Agreements”…….
  3. Another serious pause…….
  4. Give a Shy Grin, and wait for the next question: “can you give us a hint?”
  5. Another pause…………
  6. Then my Avatar would say something to the effect of: “Well, all I can say is that the campaign staff, which I could not name of course, was MOST GRATEFUL for my help.”
  7. Followed up by: “I can say no more.”

Then my Avatar would, from then on be most careful to close the laptop when anyone was too close.  Also for the rest of the cruise we would carefully place ourselves to be seen with the laptop and the headset in all sorts of places.  Prominent bars, at the food court tables after meals, at the very stern of the ship at the Conservatory (adults only bar and pool area).  We would be dictating to my journal, or dictating emails for family and friends.

For the remainder of the cruise my Avatar had become a minor celebrity on the ship! Once he heard faintly on the third day someone say: “Look! There is that crazy writer! The election is over, you would think he could just relax and enjoy the cruise!” My Avatar just chuckled under his breath!

By the end of the cruise I was being asked: “You can tell me! I won’t say anything!, You wrote that stuff for Obama didn’t you?”  I was quite pleased at reaction that my Avatar’s Personae had attracted! It was a most enjoyable cruise for my Avatar!

This little essay is not the end of the story however.  As I related previously, in 2014 I went for a 5 day visit to Walt Disney World.  And then in 2015 I went on a 4 day visit to Universal Orlando Studios to see the new Harry Potter Diagon Alley expansion.  For both of those trips I had to fly down to Florida.

But in 2016 I intended to cruise once again.  And once again I would take a post-thanksgiving cruise on the MS Carnival Pride.  And it would be AGAIN time to send of my Avatar on the cruise with yet another twist to the Personae.  

I was planning this time to be a Novelist, looking for “Color” on a cruise ship.  Should be FUN! …..To Be Continued…..

Foot Note 1;  I got the idea from one of my favorite books. “The Image Men” by J.B. Preistly, 1967,  About a couple of down on their luck professors, who create a new science “Social Imagistics” for the creation and projection of Social Images as a Personae.


from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

The Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster cocktail©

  1. Take the juice from one bottle of that Ol’ Janx Spirit.
  2. Pour into it one measure of water from the seas of Santraginus V (Oh, that Santragian seawater! Oh, those Santragian fish!)
  3. Allow three cubes of Arcturian Mega-gin to melt into the mixture (it must be properly iced or the benzine is lost).
  4. Allow four liters of Fallian marsh gas to bubble through it, in honor of all those happy hikers who have died of pleasure in the Marshes of Fallia.
  5. Over the back of a silver spoon float a measure of Qalactin Hypermint extract, redolent of all the heavy odors of the dark Qalactin Zones, subtle, sweet, and mystic.
  6. Drop in the tooth of an Algolian Suntiger.  Watch it dissolve, spreading the fires of the Algolian Suns deep into the heart of the drink.
  7. Sprinkle Zamphuor.
  8. Add an olive.
  9. Drink…but…very carefully…

This effect of this drink have been described as “like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon, wrapped ’round a large gold brick’.”

Another version of the recipe:
  • 1.5 shots 151 Proof Rum
  • 1/4 shot Tequila
  • 1/4 shot Gin
  • 2/3 shot of Triple Sec
  • 1 shot of Blue Curaçao
  • 1 dash Bitters
  • 1 dash Grenadine

Have I tried one?

No, I have not, quite frankly it sounds like a ‘scary’ combination of liquor.

Where I found the recipe

I got this cocktail out of my 1987 Leather Bound Edition of “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”.  One of my favorite and much loved books in my collection, a book that I treasure and that I hope will find an appreciative home after I have gone.

Book Recommendation

I have a Problem

There are some books that I can highly recommend. this includes a book that I intend to talk about later on in this essay. The problem in my recommendation for this particular book is that there is not necessarily any one certain thing that I can point to that makes this a recommendable book, it is kind of complicated.

There is, for example, a book such as Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”. I have always loved this book since it sparked a new wave of “Realism” in late 18th and early 19th century English literature. Instead of a florid style of writing and the stilted language of the British nobility that filled the pages of English literature,  Jane Austen brought a simple story of the middle class problems with a family consisting of too many daughters and no sons. It was a story written in simple direct language and a clear direct manner.

In many ways it was such a ‘breath’ of fresh air that was complemented with the writing style of Charles Dickens. It was the Dickens massive collection of writings that burst the limits of the English literary circles that had been so confined. Bringing literature to the entire nation of Great Britain, indeed his popularity spread to the Americas as well. He brought a concern for the plight of the lower classes to the fore and he touched the lives of millions.

Yet, it was Jane Austen who really led the way for Dickens, and it seems only mildly strange that Jane Austen never intended to start a revolution in literature, she didn’t even intend to publish her stories. She wanted to write a stories to amuse her younger nieces. That is why the stories were written so simply, yet so clearly, and with great irony! In her lifetime they were published anonymously and she derived little income. Yet her influence in the world of literature was to become very large after her death, just as Dickens was to have a huge influence on the world of literature while he still lived. The style of “Realism” was to be their legacy.

This makes it very easy to recommend the books of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens to young readers. Even though the details of the works are clearly dated, the style is infectious and is still enjoyable even now in the 21st century.

What is My Problem?

My problem is that there are also books that I have found most enjoyable, but without the clear cut reasons for recommendation that I could offer for “Pride and Prejudice”, or “The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby”.

The book that I want to recommend is “The Soul of a New Machine” by Tracy Kidder and published in 1981. The new machine of the book is the Data General Eclipse MV/8000.  And the book details the high pressure world of a computer engineering team racing to design and build a new machine from the ground up in a blistering race of time.

Data General had gotten itself into a pickle. They needed a new computer to compete with the VAX computer from DEC that had begun the race to enter the new 32 bit minicomputer market.

The senior designers for Data General were assigned the “sexy’ job of the designing the new generation computer that would put Data General into the race. They were being sent to the new Data General Research center in North Carolina. There to begin the “Fountainhead Project” that would bring the laurels to the company.

In the meantime, the remaining computer designers in Data General would stay in the corporate headquarters in Westborough, Mass and were given the more humble job of improving existing Data General products, such as the 16 bit Eagle minicomputer.

When the “Fountainhead Project” ran into difficulties and delays, Data General faced the prospect of falling behind the “hated” Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC)!

While inside the basements of Data General, the “humble” team, headed by computer engineer Tom West, decided to begin a project in semi-secret that could become a backup plan in case the fancy machine foundered. In that case, his project, code named “Super Eagle” could save the day for Data General. With his lieutenants, Tom West decided to take the Eagle and using a bit of stealth turn it into a 32 bit machine without top management being the wiser.

However, to complete this semi-secret project in time to be able to save the company, West had to take great risks. He decided to rely on new computer chips that had not proven themselves, and that had uncertain prospects for mass production. He had his middle level managers bring on promising college graduates (who had never designed anything so complicated before), but would be youngsters who would would work all their waking hours feverishly to get in on the ground floor of a new machine. In their world it was called playing “Pong”; if you played and won, you would get to build the next machine!

Another huge risk that West took was in allowing Tracy Kidder into the lab to observe everything and to document the race against time to take silicon, plastic, wires and put them together in a coherent pattern that could handle the new micro-code that they had to write at the same time as the circuits that would accept the micro-code were being wired together. Tracy Kidder was also there at the frantic debugging sessions as the hand wired circuits were brought to life, the micro-code would be inserted and bring the “Soul” of their new Eagle computer to become real.

What results is a riveting story of engineers bringing to life a computer, admittedly a bit of a “kludge”, but nonetheless under budget and on time to rescue the fortunes of Data General when the “Fountainhead Project” did indeed falter and fail.

At the end of the book, I could let out a great sigh of relief, and I felt that I had indeed watched a team of dedicated young engineers breath a “Soul” into their New Machine! I can indeed highly recommend this book as a behind the scenes look of a high tech “arms race”, exciting all the way down to the last page even for non-techies!

My Second Post

Why I created this Blog Page?

I was advised that it would be good practice to write a blog if I wanted to do some serious writing.  I primarily want to write about my traveling experiences.  My trips on cruise ships, and my trips down to the theme parks of Orlando Florida.  There have been some interesting observations, as well as some instructive tips that I could relate.  There has, on occasion,  been some curious things that have happened on my cruises.

What do I want to Write about?

I want to write about my cruises in detail.  The places that I have visited, the sights that I have seen.  An important part of my cruises, are the people that I have met on the cruises, as well as curious events that have happened on various cruise ships and various times.  I also want to write about the the drinks that I had enjoyed on my travels.  I also have dreamed of writing about the detective skills of Detective Lieutenant Columbo and just how he solves his cases.  I even have a title for this prospective book, “The Methodology of Columbo”.

Have I tried to Write before?

Yes, I have.  My last serious attempt at writing was just in this past 18 months.  I went on a cruise the first week of December 2016.  The cruise was on Carnival, the MS Pride sailing out of Baltimore to the Bahamas and back.  I have taken this exact cruise 4 time previously.  While on board of these cruises I would spend considerable time each cruise to fill out a newsletter for my family and friends.  I would put immense detail into these newsletters, spending 3 and 4 hours a day at it.

For my December 2016 cruise I conceived of the idea of making it a book of my cruise that I could self publish perhaps.  While on the cruise I wrote everything in a block style or at least what I considered to be a block style.  Having never taken any course in writing I was probably thinking in the wrong terms.  But basically I put down everything as a set of detailed notes.  Then after getting back I would take those notes and transcribe them.

While on board of the cruise ship I would pretend that I was an actual writer writing a novel of my cruise.  I adopted a ‘personaè’ as it were, and I amused myself with convincing people that I was writing a novel, and that they all might find themselves as characters in my “novel”.

Just What is it that I think I have been doing Wrong?

Once I had returned home, I amused myself on the weekends ‘writing’ my book (I was still working a full time job, and only had the weekends available) and adding as many flourishes to sentences and paragraphs as I could.  I felt as if I had to “dazzle” my readers and it just kept going and going.  I constructed Tables of Contents, and even Indexes, and Appendices, and, too numerous to count, Footnotes.  It was only months later after completing 70 pages that I carefully began to review what I had written.  I had gotten back a couple of comments from family and friends.  While these tended to be friendly, I realized that this was just kindness.  The terms that I myself attached to my efforts were brutal.

“Paul,” I would tell myself, “your work is diffuse, and unfocused.  You are inconsistent with your depictions of time, alternating between the military 24 hour clock and the civilian am/pm style.”  Further I berated myself with, “You keep jumping around topics, and your sentences contain a myriad of comma’s and they go on and on forever.”  Paragraphs that I considered witty at the time of writing, I now considered “contrived and condescending.”  My final comment to myself was terribly wounding, “What would Hemingway say if he could read what you wrote!”

What can I do to Write Better?

It has been several months since I engaged in the self-flagellation of my literary skills.  But I have come to several conclusions.

  1. Remember Hemingway and write simple direct sentences.  In seeking to ‘dazzle’,  I was instead spreading a load of BS.
  2. Pick a single topic, and then select the sub-topics and outline what I want to say.  And complete the outline before even attempting to begin the final composing.
  3. Forget, Forget, Forget my attempt to make my experiences look like a Thriller Novel, only to then disappoint my readers when they discover that the “Exciting Opening Paragraph” was nothing but a hook, a trick to make people read further.  That is nothing but a “Scurvy” trick and unworthy of what I want to do.  Write stuff that is serious and of actual merit.
  4. For now, forget trying to write a complete book.  I am not ready for that.  Instead, at the suggestion of my sibling.  I decided to create a blog, and to start writing in there, but writing real things, things that I know about.  Keeping my writings there simple, direct, to the point and practice the craft of writing.  This will be more along the lines of a journal.  It will be a Methodology!  And that is my aim, to write methodically about things I know, and that I want to know more about.
  5. This is going to take a while, but the first step is to design this blog.  Figure out its Outline as it were, then start to fill in that Outline with my words.  That is the important thing.  My writing, I want it to be real.  Not a bunch of contrived verbiage.  What I put in this blog is to be the REAL ME.  I guess it is time to begin the adventure and discover the REAL ME.  It begins once I press the PUBLISH button and launch this blog.