Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Elves Made the Paper

I submitted my essay on the elves to The Columbus Dispatch and they published it!

Click here to read it. Not much changed from the version posted on this blog, but there's a nice picture of me in a suit. Well, not really a full suit. Actually, just a coat and tie. When my wife took that picture I had on a pair of running shorts. I only needed the head shot and I hate getting dressed up.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Elves

Last year two elves visited our house for the Christmas season. They came in early December, and they had a note asking our kids to name them and make them beds so they could live with us until Christmas. The kids named them after their best friends that year, Ian and David.

Ian and David were mischievous little elves. They would move around, and un-spin rolls of toilet paper, and take clothes out of the hamper. We found them trying to play Guitar Hero once, and they would disappear from tables in the family room only to show up on top of the fridge in the kitchen or some other odd place.

The kids never saw them move and were fascinated. They became very attached to the elves. Very attached...

Christmas night the elves went back to the North Pole while the kids were sleeping. We told them this would happen, but it didn't lessen the impact. The kids were devastated. When I walked into their bedroom the next morning, my older son was sobbing.

"Ian ran away," he said, once he could compose himself enough to speak. I gave him a big hug.

It broke my heart to see him so upset. It was like he suffered a tragic loss of a family member or pet, so deep was his attachment to his new magic friend. I came very close to willing the elf to re-appear in his bed right then and there, but I didn't. I knew he would come back again the next Christmas, and tried to comfort my son with this thought. It worked. Eventually.

The elves returned this year. They came the night we set up our Christmas tree. They're already up to their usual hijinx. My younger son is always amazed and takes each prank or sudden movement for its face value. My older son...he's a skeptic.

He thinks my wife and I are really moving the elves, and he's always on the lookout. He was still up at 9:30 the other night, in bed in the dark watching for the elves to sneak into his room. He leaves notes asking them if they will prove they are real by moving for him. He even wrote a note for Santa asking him to make the elves move for him.

Remember, this is the kid who tried to trick the tooth fairy. I'm pretty sure he does believe, though, until he can prove otherwise. He still can't explain how they got up on the sill of the big window high above the front door.

I like having elves in the house. Watching the kids laugh at them is like a Christmas present each day of the month.



Wednesday, December 9, 2009

And the answer is...

Matt Delman tagged me with a question and answer game about writing and I could not help but play along. It is worth noting that I am easily flattered. I'm not going to tag others, but if you want to play along you can pretend I just tagged everyone following this blog. It is also worth noting that I am lazy and easily distracted.

If anyone has additional questions and you are curious to see what kind of a smart-ass response they will yield, ask me in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them.

1. What's the last thing you wrote? What's the first thing you wrote that you still have?

The last thing I completed was a revision of RUDY TOOT-TOOT, which is now in my agent’s inbox awaiting its turn to be read. The last thing I wrote in general is this sentence.

The first thing I wrote that I still have is a short story called THE QUEST and its sequel called THE SEQUEL. I used to work at a restaurant and I used all of my co-workers as characters.

2. Write poetry?

Yes, but not for a while. Most of my poetry is in the form of song lyrics, which is frustrating because I can’t sing to save my life.

3. Angsty poetry?

On occasion.

4. Favorite genre of writing?

Humor. Cynical, satirical, smart-assed humor.

5. Most annoying character you've ever created?

Greg Simon’s wife in EARTH’S END. She’s a mean spirited shrew of a woman, spoiled rotten and ungrateful. But she’s hot. Greg constantly evaluates the difference between internal and external beauty. Greg is quite materialistic and vain in his own right, and external beauty usually wins.

6. Best Plot you've ever created?

Probably the plot for FATE’S GUARDIAN. It has an interesting theme at its core, and the characters and motivations span several lifetimes so the plot is the most intricate.

7. Coolest Plot twist you've ever created?

There’s a twist in FATE’S GUARDIAN where I reveal the relationships between the present life characters with their past life counterparts. If I play my cards right, most readers will be surprised.

8. How often do you get writer's block?

I don’t get writer’s block as much as I get lazy. It’s rare that I struggle to make something up. Sometimes the need to get out of bed early to crank away at the keyboard falls prey to the convenience of the snooze button.

9. Write fan fiction?

Nope. I started to write an X-Files episode once, but stopped when I read online that Chris Carter never accepts outside story ideas.


10. Do you type or write by hand?

Not if I want to be able to read it back. My penmanship is awful.

11. Do you save everything you write?

Yes. I have a junk folder on my computer with ideas that range from a sentence to a few pages.

12. Do you ever go back to an idea after you've abandoned it?

It depends on the idea. There are some I’ve abandoned that I may still come back to, and others that I pulled back out and reapplied.

13. What's your favorite thing you've ever written?

EARTH’S END. I crack myself up with that one.

14. What's everyone else's favorite story that you've written?

Can’t say. Very few people have read all of my stories. My wife is probably the only one. She likes FATE’S GUARDIAN best.

15. Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?

I tried to write romance once. Didn’t work. It started off as my regular smart-ass rant, and then when I amped it up it bypassed romance and went straight to Penthouse Letter. I haven’t tried angsty teen drama yet.

16. What's your favorite setting for your characters?

Earth.

17. How many writing projects are you working on right now?

Four:

FATE’S GUARDIAN- status is 40k words in on a fuller-write. Was once 120k, but will be 80k when I’m done.

EARTH’S END- Status is only 16k words, will be around 60k when complete. Story line is mostly fleshed out, I just add things in as I go, but I know how it will unfold in a general sense.

RUDY TOOT-TOOT started as a 500-word picture book, and is now 17,500 word chapter book. Manuscript is finished and awaiting agent feedback.

THE CHRONICLES OF CHRISTMAS- a pre-history of Santa Clause. Targeting 30k words, middle-grade. Have some very fun ideas for it, haven’t done more than scratch the surface for the actual writing but I’ve outlined the story extensively.

18. Have you ever won an award for your writing?

Other than gratuitous blogging awards, no.

19. What are your five favorite words?

You won the lottery Rick.

20. What character have you created that is most like yourself?

None of them and all of them.

21. Where do you get ideas for your characters?

My characters come to me with ideas. I’d like to think I was in control of this process, but I’m not. They are. I just edit them.

22. Do you ever write based on your dreams?

No. My dreams are waaaay to bizarre to write about.

23. Do you favor happy endings?

That’s a little personal, isn’t it? And besides, I never visit those kinds of establishments.

24. Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?

All too much.

25. Does music help you write?

Not particularly. If music is on I’ll usually tune it out. Same for TV most of the time.

26. Quote something you've written. Whatever pops into your head.

This is from RUDY TOOT-TOOT. Most of RTT is light-hearted and fun, but this section is one of my favorite parts:

Late that night, while everyone was asleep, the wind pushed a thick cover of clouds in front of the moon and their shadow covered the land, blotting out the moonlight. There in the darkness a long rain fell. Without thunder or lightning the clouds released their contents onto the world below, the wind slowing and then stopping altogether as the earth drank deep.

The water gathered in small pools, looking for cracks in the ground and finding them. The water flowed down into the bigger cracks and found smaller cracks. The cracks got smaller and smaller, but they were still there, and the water worked its way down into them all, eventually making new cracks of its own and saturating the ground.

The remains of the corn that had been in the field the year before – now broken up and tilled into the ground – kept the rich topsoil from washing away in the rain. As the water went through the topsoil, it picked up tiny minerals – much smaller than anyone could see without a microscope – and carried them underground.

The water passed the soybean seeds, wetting their outer husks and loosening the dirt around them. The beans swelled as they got wet and they snuggled into their soft earthen beds for the rest of the night.

The clouds emptied out just before dawn, and without the weight of the water to keep them in place they blew away in the breeze. The sun rose over the nicely soaked farmland and started the day with a clear blue sky.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

And I Quote:

"I need something to keep my legs warm because this toilet is freaking cold."

- My 5-year old son.

Should I be concerned?

At least he said "freaking." That's a reflection of my wife and me and the admirable restraint we show in our own language around the house. Kids say what they hear, you know.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Time I Jumped From a Perfectly Good Airplane

I love that title. Replace the “I” with “Ross” or “Joey” and it could very well be an episode of Friends.

Last week my son said "I mean, I might want to do it...but it's still crazy!" and it made me think about the time I went skydiving.

Skydiving is a perfectly fine activity for many insane human beings. You have to a certain type of crazy, though. Your average garden-variety lunatic would not be able to graduate the training. The cunning Hannibal Lector type of smart-crazy is called for.

The training consists of a half-day’s activities. We jumped off a 5-foot platform to simulate landing (landing with a chute, of course…they don’t prepare you for the other eventuality). They suspended us from the ceiling of a barn by a tangled mass of lines so you feel like a fish that just gulped down twelve fishing worms. (The goal in the latter exercise is to learn to bicycle kick to spin around and untangle the lines).

There is a lot of emphasis on locating the ripcord to your reserve parachute and pulling it. ‘Cause if you don’t, you die.

You learn that toggles are handles above your head, and they are used to steer. Pulling down on a toggle collapses the back part of the parachute and you turn in that direction. Pulling down on both toggles makes you fall faster, because it effectively collapses half of your chute. The instructor said it’s a lot like being on a rollercoaster. I love rollercoasters.

The plane I jumped from was a single-engine Cessna. Its wings extended from the top of the fuselage (NOTE: I love that word, fuselage. I finally got to use it. Sweet.) Thin struts extended from the tips of the wings, connecting to the fuselage (twice!) at its bottom. These struts will be important later on, when I get to the step: GET ALL THE WAY OUT AND HANG.

The Cessna was very small inside. There was one seat, and the pilot sat in it. He never even called dibs. He was a selfish man, obviously. I sat on the floor beside him facing the rear of the plane with my legs extended. The JumpMaster sat on top of my legs. Two other jumpers were crammed into the back cavity of the plane, stuffing it like a Thanksgiving turkey (NOTE: Happy Thanksgiving!).

The JumpMaster had gone to high school with the other two guys in the back, so instead of taking us to 3,500 feet he had the pilot take us to 4,000 feet.

Training and flight = $80
Insurance = $30
Bonus altitude = Priceless.

The wind shook the small plane as it circled back toward the airport. The JumpMaster clipped a cord onto the small pilot chute in my backpack and then he clipped the other end to the pilot’s seat. When I jumped, the cord – called a static line – would pull the pilot chute from my pack, which in turn would pull my main chute. Barring accidents. In which case, I would pull the reserve (or die).

The JumpMaster opened the door. The hinges were at the top, so the bottom opened outward and clipped to the wing above us.

The wind rushed inside and the noise from the engine flooded the plane. Look at my eyes¸the JumpMaster gestured. He didn’t want me to look down at the ground and freak out. He studied the ground below us, and he said:

PUT YOUR FEET OUT AND STOP

I knew how to do this. We trained on it for an hour. There was a little step above the plane’s wheel. I turned to the doorway and put one foot outside the plane. The wind ripped at the leg of my jumpsuit. I scooted forward – just a little bit – and I found the step with my toes. I brought my other foot out and planted both feet firmly on the step. I never broke eye contact with the JumpMaster. He rewarded me by saying:

GET ALL THE WAY OUT AND HANG

I went hand over hand along the thin strut under the wing. My body flapped like a flag in the wind. When I got to the tip of the wing I looked back at the JumpMaster. He gave me a thumb’s up. I looked up at a red dot on the wing above me and let go.

One one-thousand.
Make sure I am in perfect form, legs apart, arms open and head back.

Two one-thousand.
Wow, the plane is really far away already. It’s like a toy…

Three one-thousand.
It’s like a postage stamp…

Four one-thousand.
There’s my chute. Wow, it’s way up above me. It’s almost like a postage stamp, too.

Five one-thousand.
There are the toggles. Grab right one, grab left one. Give each a tug. The chute is fully inflated. I’m...safe?

Where’s the plane?

At this point my body went into what is called “sensory overload.” Basically, your brain freaks out from the change in external stimuli. It’s very weird, being surrounded by nothing for at least 4,000 feet in any direction. At first I felt like I was going up. The wind swirled around me. For a second I was sure that if I saw the plane I would try to climb back in it, and wished for it to appear.

I looked down. My feet dangled below me, dancing on almost a mile of air. The farmland below looked like graph paper.

I calmed down and started to experiment with my toggles, turning in each direction. Then I tried the trick where you pull down on both toggles so you fall faster. I pulled them way down below my waist.

My stomach leaped up my throat and smacked me on the bottom of my chin. I let the toggles up, fast. No more of that silliness.

The ride to the ground took about five minutes. It would have been 30 seconds without a chute. A one-way radio in my ear started telling me where to turn, guiding me down to the circular landing area. It was a perfect landing, I hit with one foot with less impact than walking down the steps on my front porch. Right in the middle of the runway.

I hurried out of the way of the waiting Cessna and ran over to the ground crew, who helped me get out of my rig and jumpsuit. A surge of adrenaline coursed through me, starting a natural high that would last for a week. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done. That night I acted out the story for friends, family, and several strangers.

Someday I’ll do it again. And when I do, I’m going to 12,000 feet so I can free-fall for a minute. I’m just like my son. It may be crazy, but I still want to do it!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Story of My Life

Over the weekend my wife and I joined some friends for a day of tailgating when the Buckeyes played Iowa. I'm glad the Buckeyes won, but the game shouldn't have been so close. That's all I'm going to say about it. I'm not going to go into a long-winded post-game summary, because I have a different story to tell. And besides, I'm about as qualified to talk about football as a penguin is to talk about flying.

Our kids stayed at our friends' house and played with their kids all day (NOTE: No need to involve CPS. Put down the phone. There was a well compensated babysitter on site). While we adults were watching a real football game, the kids were playing one of their own.

My son doesn't have a helmet, but his friend does. My son got to wear the helmet for part of their front-yard game of tackle football. Until they knocked heads. My son didn't feel a thing. His friend realized that the helmet does not offer bidirectional protection. In a brief moment of fair play, they agreed neither would wear the helmet. It was the best play of the day. (NOTE: Awww.)

My son was also enthralled with shoulder pads. They just jumped to the top of his Christmas list. He likes how "they make the muscles of your arm look so big." They are what all of his SuperIronSpider-MorphinBat-PowerMan costumes dream about being.

"There are third graders who play tackle football with pads. Can you believe it?" he asked me.

"Sure, why?" I asked.

"That's crazy! They could get hurt, playing tackle for real, and they're only in third grade."

"You played tackle the other day and you're only in second grade."

"I mean, I might want to do it...but it's still crazy!"

Story of my life.

Coming up next week: The Time I Jumped out of a Perfectly Good Airplane

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

TheTooth Fairy

We were eating dinner last night and my wife noticed something.

"Max, look at me," she said to our 8-year old son. "Smile."

He gave her a tight lipped grin.

"Open your mouth," she commanded. He did, opening wide and trying to keep his lips over his teeth. We could still see it. Or rather, we couldn't see it.

"Did your tooth fall out today?" she asked. He's had a very loose top front tooth for a couple weeks.

"You little bugger!" I said. "I asked you if that was a tooth in your backpack and you said no."

Earlier that day...

When my son got home from school I emptied his backpack. After I pulled out his folders and library book I noticed an oddly shaped white object at the bottom of his book bag (along with several important rocks).

Upon closer inspection I discovered that the white thing was shaped like a tooth and it rattled when I shook it. Tape held the lid shut.

"Did you lose a tooth today at school?" I asked.

"No," he said and went right about his homework. Forget the plastic tooth, him going right into homework should have clued me in that something was amiss. But alas, I am a father and am therefore subject to severe lapses in reason and judgment.

"Okay," I said and went back to work.

We now return to the story already in progress...

"You lied to me!" I said, putting my fork down. "What's up with that?"

"I was going to trick you because I think you're really the tooth fairy," he said. My wife and I exchanged meaningful glances and started laughing. He was laughing, too, the gap from his missing front tooth now on full display.

"Dude, I'm not the tooth fairy," I said. "The tooth fairy has hair, and she does not have a goatee."

"And she doesn't like it if you try to trick her," my wife added. "Where's the tooth?"

He surrendered the tooth and we went through several more adamant rounds of denial. We couldn't believe the nerve of that kid! Too funny...

Later that evening...

"The kids are asleep, it's time," my wife said. "How much should we give him?"

"A buck is the going rate. That's what he got last time." I opened my wallet. A ten, a lottery ticket (estimated value $65 million), and several receipts. "Shit. How much do you have?"

"A five. We're losers," she said.

Wait, it gets better...

I didn't have a dollar. She didn't have a dollar. But we knew who did have a dollar. The little fiend who tried to trick us. My wife snuck into his room and got his money box and brought it back to our bedroom.

"Do you think he knows how much is in here?" she asked me as she pulled out the cash and selected a one-dollar bill.

"I'm sure he does. But if we give this to him and he puts it in there and then counts it it will be the right amount," I reasoned.

She put the dollar under his pillow and came back with the plastic tooth. We fished out the real tooth and admired it for a moment.

"Damn. Now we have to put this back," I said, fingering the plastic tooth case.

"Your turn."

I crept into his room, cringing as the springs in the doorknob moaned and the hinges creaked. Both kids stirred briefly, but were clearly sound asleep. I tiptoed to the bed and slipped the tooth case under his pillow and then got the hell out of dodge.

The next day...

He still believes in the tooth fairy. But I'm wondering what kind of post Santa Clause is going to inspire this year...

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Candy Quota

I'm disappointed in my kids. They totally missed their candy quota this year. Socialism be damned, we distribute that kind of wealth in this family and now I'm in the poorhouse.

I'm not sure what led to the downturn in productivity. We went a half-mile down the road and then came back down the other side of the street. You would think a mile's worth of candy would be a good amount. I should have pushed them farther. Some of the slowdown can be attributed to my kids' socializing with other kids. Each classmate they saw caused a time delay, and on several occasions it distracted them from hitting a door.

I am very disappointed in my neighbors. A mile of houses and only one Twix. And it was one of those little bite-sized ones, not even a full stick.

There was a moderate yield in both Snicker's and Butterfinger's, but between both kids we only nabbed 3 Reese's cups. What's up with that? I can understand no Nutrageous or Fifth Avenue, you hardly ever see Nutrageous on a good year and Fifth Avenue's are almost a Butterfinger so you don't really miss them. But only 3 Reese's cups? Come on, people!

Also appearing in a disappointingly low quantity were Kit-Kat's. This classic treat should be given at least once every three houses, and if there is a mix of treats it should be a neighborhood by-law that Kit-Kat's are included in the mix.

Another curious absence was the SweetTart (no chewy or regular), which is inexcusable. There was only one pack of Smarties, and that's very odd because Smarties are a staple for Halloween, kind of like jellybeans are for Easter. At least we didn't get any of those Necco wafers this year. Got them last year. I didn't like them as a kid and I don't like them now.

We have plenty of Baby Ruth's. Here's some Halloween candy trivia I just made up: did you know that Baby Ruth's are not named after the baseball player but are actually named after the candy bar they threw into the pool in Caddyshack? I think I might update Wikipedia with that little tidbit.

We do have an unusually large proportion of Almond Joy's, which are kind of a minority candy, usually handed out as part of a sweet affirmative-action program. This year my son decided Almond Joy's are a new favorite, and he grabbed all that he saw. If I ever find out that he was turning down Reese's cups and Kit-Kat's for Almond Joy's he's gonna be in biiiig trouble.

I don't really like Almond Joy's. I can stomach them, but when I eat them I always remember the time in high school when I ate too many of them when I was drunk. I'm not going to get into the dirty details of what happened later that evening, but let's just say that coconut is really tough to get out of the carpet in the bathroom.

Oh well. The kids were cute in their costumes (Police Officer and Skeleton), our jack-o-lanterns looked awesome and didn't get smashed, and we had our neighbors over for food, drinks, and games. All in all it was a great holiday, hope you had a good one, too.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Truth Lies in the Advertising

A couple weeks back I read about many people lamenting the new FTC rules regarding disclosure on blogs. For those in the publishing industry, this may have a big impact on book reviewers who have received a free copy of a book, agents promoting their clients' works, etc.

Today I saw a great example of why this rule is needed, although I agree that it was implemented on too broad a manner.

It started with this news article. The article itself has nothing to do with this blog post, other than the fact that it's a starting point. When I got to the end of it I read "Acai Berry Side Effects: In Our Shocking Special Report We Investigate Acai Berry" and I clicked on the link, curious. I'll sum it up, but you should really read the whole thing yourself. And then make sure you read the end of this post.

The Investigative Special Report starts like this:
"Bloggers around the country are raving about the weight loss benefits of Acai. We put their claims to the test in our Exclusive Report"

I thought it would be interesting to read the report. Maybe someone actually did some sort of reputable test. I read on, eager to see what it said. It said this:

"...
we here at the station are a little skeptical and aren't sure that we've seen any real proof that these pills work for weight loss. So we decided to put these products to the test. What better way to find out the truth than to conduct our own study? To get started, I volunteered to be the guinea pig."

The article then goes into full infomercial mode. And wouldn't you know it, the intrepid writer actually "Lost 25lbs in 4 Weeks, No Special Diet, No Intense Exercise"

Then there were comments at the bottom. Guess what? Each commentor was a) excited to try it, b) able to talk about success from a family member that tried it, or c) promoting their own success story, often involving feeling GREAT in just minutes. I would have loved to leave comment of my own, but wouldn't you know it, the comments were closed.

And then I read the fine print, which I will post for your here, but in a larger font and with emphasis added...


THE STORY DEPICTED ON THIS SITE AND THE PERSON DEPICTED IN THE STORY ARE NOT REAL. RATHER, THIS STORY IS BASED ON THE RESULTS THAT SOME PEOPLE WHO HAVE USED THESE PRODUCTS HAVE ACHIEVED. THE RESULTS PORTRAYED IN THE STORY AND IN THE COMMENTS ARE ILLUSTRATIVE, AND MAY NOT BE THE RESULTS THAT YOU ACHIEVE WITH THESE PRODUCTS.

It is important to note that this site and the stories depicted above is to be used as an illustrative example of what some individuals have achieved with this/these products. This website, and any page on the website, is based loosely off a true story, but has been modified in multiple ways including, but not limited to: the story, the photos, and the comments. Thus, this blog, and any page on this website, are not to be taken literally or as a non-fiction story.

This page receives compensation for clicks on or purchase of products featured on this site.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What were the pilots really doing?

You may have heard tale of a Northwest Airlines flight that missed its destination airport by 150 miles. Today the news said the pilots were lost and using their laptops, presumably either for blogging and/or for Google Maps. That's what I'd be doing. Or checking to see if Amazon.com sold parachutes (albeit too late, and knowing me I'd cheap out and get a used one).

Laptops. Lost. That's what the pilots say, anyways. Clearly a not-so-clever ruse. I don't believe it for a second.

And I would bet the creative people reading this blog may be able to venture guesses as to what they were really doing that caused them to miss the airport...

If you have a theory, please share it with us in the comments.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

This is so bad...

Yesterday was warm, we had the back door open. My son went to it and stuck his head out.

"Oh, no. This is so bad," he said. "I still hear the bus sound."

Curious, I walked to the door and stuck my head out. "Do you hear it?" he asked me.

"You mean that whoop-whoop-whoop?"

"Yes," he said.

"That's the alarm on the neighbor's house" I told him. He had gone over a few minutes before to play with his friend, but came back and said nobody was home. "When you went over to see if Jalen could play did you open the door?" I asked.

He nodded. "It was an accident. I was knocking and it came open a little bit and I closed it."

"Never open the door to someone's house if they aren't home. You can ring and knock but never open the door," I said as I walked to the mud room to put my shoes on. He followed me, tears starting to well up in his eyes.

"I am in so much trouble. I'm going to get arrested," he said, putting on his shoes.

"No, I think I can explain what happened to the police and they won't arrest you."

"Are you sure?" he sounded doubtful.

"I hope so," I said. He shuddered. I laughed and tussled his hair. "Come one, you'll be fine."

We walked through the garage, and when we got to the driveway I saw the Sheriff's car parked across the street. It was empty. We crossed our yard to the next-door neighbor's house. They were coming down the street in their car and waved to us, and they pulled into the driveway just as we walked onto it...and just as a Deputy Sheriff came out from their garage, holstering his firearm.

Tears were rolling down my son's cheeks as the Deputy walked over and my neighbor got out of her car.

"I can explain this," I said to both of them. "My son came over to see if the kids could play, and he opened the door by accident."

"Do you live nearby?" the Deputy asked.

"Right next door," I said, pointing to my house.

The Deputy had has pad and pencil ready. "What's your name?" he asked my son, who replied with a very feeble "Max."

"What's your last name, Max?" he asked. Max was crying, looking down at the ground. "Max, look at me," the Deputy said. Max looked up. "You're not in any trouble, okay?" Max nodded.

"Tell him your last name," I said.

It took a couple tries before he said it clearly. "Max, you want to be a police officer, this is just part of their job. They have to ask questions and write down what happened. You're not going to get arrested," I said. He had stopped crying but was still upset. I let him go in the backyard with his friend (who had just gotten home with his mother and younger brother).

Max went into our garage to get his soccer ball. My wife was in there, about to leave for a friend's house for the evening. She spotted the cruiser parked on the street.

"Oh Max, look! A police car. Did you get to talk to them?" she asked. Max nodded quietly and got his soccer ball. That's odd, she thought. He's usually really excited to see a police car. She had been upstairs getting ready and knew nothing the situation.

My wife was looking for me to tell me she was leaving, and she heard me laughing with our neighbor and came over, and we explained what happened. The Deputy went to his car and wrote up an incident report and gave it to my neighbor. No harm done. They get three false alarms per year before they get charged for them. Max's emotional scars healed quickly, and I think he learned an important lesson about forced entry. Plus our neighbors learned an important lesson about making sure the doors are all locked.

They also know that the money invested in the security system was well-spent.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pictures of My Crown

This is a wide view of one of the corners. It doesn't look bad from a distance. A darkened distance is the recommended viewing setting.



A closer-up look reveals some slight imperfections. I don't think blogger will show this in full resolution, which also works to my advantage.



The place where to pieces meet in the middle of a long run (as opposed to a corner) is called a scarf joint. This one didn't come out that bad. I probably could have sanded it down smoother, but why do that when you have satin paint that works so well to mask such imperfections?


The scarf joint below is the worst one. Coincidentally, it was also the first one. If you look at the bottom edge, you can see that the two pieces of molding are way out of alignment. The use of caulk and paint to create a straight line below the molding helps provide the illusion of a straight edge for the entire piece.


Now I'm off to take my chainsaw into the woods behind my house to cut up some downed tress for firewood. I sincerely hope my next post will not be written with prosthetic hands and/or fingers.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Crown King

I recently finished a home improvement project: I installed crown molding in our dining room.

Before I go on, let me tell you a little about my infatuation with "do it yourself" projects. I have no delusions of grandeur regarding my ability to take on complex tasks. I always overlook something important, and without fail the tasks take longer than expected. For some reason this does not stop me (although it should).

When my wife and I first moved in together I mentioned to my mom that I was installing curtain rods.

"Oh, you should get your Dad or your brother to help you," she advised me. Bah. Curtain rods are simple, any buffoon can manage a drill.

Then I learned what those little plastic drywall anchors are for...after I decided I didn't need them and the curtain rods fell down. Then I re-drilled (I strategically placed the mounting brackets so the rod and the curtains would cover the old holes). I used the plastic drywall anchors this time. I did not use a stud finder. Turns out you really don't need those things when your drilling/screwing into a stud. Lesson learned (mostly).

Next was the deck on the back of our old house. I didn't go into this one blind, I purchased plans off the Internet and solicited the help of my uncle, cousin, and brother-in-law, all of whom had more building experience than I did. They also had better tools. The weekend project went by without injury, and we actually finished framing it. I guess a deck with an octagonal raised dining platform is an ambitious first-deck project. Who knew? A month later I finally finished it.

And then there was the six month finish-the-basement project. That was a massive undertaking, and I ended up subbing out the drywall and the drop ceiling. That's not included in the six months. That's just the time it took me to frame it.

For the crown molding project, I used both the Internet and a book for guidance. This is my method of take-no-prisoners planning. The consensus was "4 hours to install crown molding in a room." The consensus was wrong.

After six hours I had successfully nailed up four relatively crooked pieces of crown molding. The next evening I nailed up the molding on the other half of the room.

I surveyed my handiwork. Looked like shit, I must say; but that didn't worry me. I had spackle, caulk, and wood filler on my side. Turns out wood filler can be pretty messy and difficult to work with. It also does amazing things to the top two layers of skin on your hands and fingers (NOTE: "does amazing things to" in this context can also be read as "dissolves").

When I was done with the spackle, caulk, and woodfiller (which I sanded down to a not-quite-imperceptible smoothness), it still looked like shit. But I wasn't worried, I knew the paint would cover most if it.

"What kind of paint do you want, semi-gloss or satin?" the guy at Home Depot asked me. This was my fourth trip there that week. He was well aware of my endeavors.

"Which kind will hide imperfections in carpentry?" I asked.

"The satin."

"I'll take it."

I taped off and painted. I was amazed at how well the paint and caulk created straight lines above and below the crooked pieces of molding. The satin paint did an admirable job of covering the less severe blemishes. As for the more severe blemishes...you can hardly see them in the dark.

Which brings me to my next project: install a dimmer switch in the dining room.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Inoculated- A Short Story

"Inoculated"
By Rick Daley

The scientist slaved away in his laboratory, fueled as much by his ego as his will to survive. He teetered on the cusp of a breakthrough. He knew how to isolate the virus; he just lacked the tools to do it efficiently.

He peered into his microscope. He watched the red blood cells change as the infection took root. He couldn’t see the virus itself without a more powerful instrument, so he relied on observation of its effects to guide his work. The lens did a good enough job. It ought to. It took him three months to grind it. Three months he needed back. Three months that were forever past.

He lived for the future. The present carried little meaning. Day and night were naught in his subterranean world, an impromptu lab set up in the remains of a military bunker hewn deep in the bedrock. He slept often, but never for long. He tried to keep alert while he worked but the isolation acted as a sedative, enveloping his senses and veiling the rest of the world. The world he wanted so desperately to save.

The ground above him bathed in light, but soon the sun would set for months and if he didn’t finish before then all hope would be lost. The virus would have to be delivered to the hosts immediately. He could not preserve it through the long darkness, and he didn’t have the resources to repeat his work.

Success could not avoid him forever, and when his tenacity finally culminated in a pure form of the virus, highly contagious and transmittable through the air, he packed up his gear and stepped into the October sunlight, taking in the waning remains of a continuous day that began in January.

As he set out on his journey south he passed a herd of caribou. He thanked them, for it was in their blood that he first found the virus. If he succeeded – and he did not come all this way to fail – then all humanity would owe its future to the caribou.

He trekked on for days, staying ever vigilant as he traveled in the darkness, relying on the security of the sunlight to rest. Hundreds of miles passed beneath his feet before he reached the breeding pens, located in the central building of a large farm compound. He worked to stay hidden, which was easier than he expected because they weren’t looking for him here. They had no idea what he was about to do; that he had the power to destroy them forever.

The livestock paddocks were fully enclosed. Inside, a colony of hosts for his virus. Incubators and carriers with a natural immunity, the livestock in this pen were special, used for breeding. The mature offspring were shipped worldwide where they were interbred with local livestock.

The virus would spread quickly, and when it did their entire food supply would be poisoned, and every last drop of human blood would be forever protected from than fangs of the vampires.

He looked up at the sun. Four hours before it would sink beneath the horizon. Four hours before they would awaken. If he failed, they would be humanity’s final hours.

He snuck around to a service entrance. Unlocked. They never expected intruders; the vampires had no natural enemies other than the light of the sun. Their order rivaled that of a hive of insects, working to keep their society fed with a steady stream of human blood. They lived with a ruthless efficiency but after years of having no threat to their power they had let down their guard. And it would be their undoing.

He worked his way deeper into the compound and voices echoed through the ductwork. Soft murmurs, primitive vocalizations devoid of true language. Is humanity even worth saving at this point? He wondered as he turned the corner and came upon hundreds of naked humans in a large room empty of any furnishings save the rows of commodes along one wall.

They stared at him, their young faces dumbfounded. They did not make any noise; rather, a hush fell over them as they struggled to make sense of this apparition – a bearded man, something that some of them had not seen since their early childhood, and many had never seen at all. Vampire skin did not produce facial hair, and they kept the human livestock shaved from head to toe.

As a rule, no human was allowed to live past the age of twenty. The oldest of the livestock in the room would have been six years old at the uprising. How quickly the power shifted; mere weeks from the time of the Reveal, when the vampires came together in the moonlight for all the world to see, to the time when they drained the last adult human of her blood. The vampires used their superior strength to wrest control of the planet from its human leaders and establish their own rule of law.

He moved into the center of the crowd, an old glass perfume bottle in hand, and he pointed it at the mouths of the people he passed. Their jaws opened without question, and into each he sprayed one pump of the viral agent. He continued until his spray was all gone, and he left undetected, stealing away into the final hour of daylight.

He reached the woods as darkness fell and he took shelter in a shallow cave. His job finished, he risked a night’s sleep, no longer concerned about his fate if found. Any vampire that tasted his blood would regret it.

Dawn broke and the morning light found its way to his eyes, teasing them open with its promise of warmth and safety. He crawled out of the cave and stood and stretched and breathed deep the fresh air. Today it tasted different, as if his pride and hope were carried on the breeze, nourishing a soul exhausted from years of trials fraught with much more error than success.

The whole farm is infected by now. The vampires won’t know it because they don’t eat the breeding stock. How long until the first vampire dies? He thought. It was the same thought that ran through his mind every day for the past four years, since the day he discovered the virus that the caribou carried. The half-strand of DNA that could kill a vampire within hours but did no harm to a human host.

Not long, I bet. There has to be a shipment of the older stock going out to breed soon. Whoever they are herded with, they will all be infected within days. All they need to do is breathe the same air. When the vampires dine on the infected stock, they will feel the pain of death.

How long until they figure out the cause? He wondered. Another oft-repeated question that seemed as old as the hills in which he hid, with an answer as familiar as the itch beneath his beard. Probably never. I just saved the human race, and nobody will ever know it.

To him, that mattered. As a scientist before the rise of the vampires he coveted the recognition of his peers and sought after the top prizes awarded in his field. And now, when he finally completed a work worthy of worldwide renown, he feared that news of his deeds would fall into a soundless void, never to resonate in the intellect of those that benefitted the most from it.

The disease spread faster than he anticipated. He failed to account for the frequency at which the vampires dined, and the way several of them would gorge themselves on the same human, one at the neck, one at each wrist, and one at the inside of each leg, draining the femoral arteries. For each human host, five vampires would die.

Across the earth the vampires became infected. The virus imbued their unfeeling flesh with a pain so intense it drove them into the fiery light of the sun in a suicidal frenzy. Unable to resist the temptation to feed, the vampires found extinction in the new human blood.

At first the human livestock remained in their pens, domesticated cattle that were born into slavery and had little to no sense of freedom. Eventually they emerged into a dangerous new world, learning how to eat and drink without being fed and watered. He did his best to help them and guide them, to give them back the gift of language. He impregnated as many females as he could, hoping that seed would empower a new generation to rise up and reclaim the reigns of the earth.

But is it any use at all? They are so many, and me only one, he thought. Still he tried. He accepted their fate, and with it, his own.

His people looked on him as a God, come to them one day as a ray from the sun to free them from slavery and bring them forth into the light. They erected for him a great stone monument, and carved for him an effigy in rock, part man and part animal, for the animals gave him the power to set them free. Those that made the statue did not know what his caribou looked like, so they chose instead a local animal that had earned their respect for its power and majesty.

When death finally claimed him, he surrendered to it openly, satisfied at last with his life and what he had done.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Little Humor...

I have to post something. I have a couple long stories to tell, but not enough time to write them, so for today I'm just posting one of my favorite jokes. I'll try to make it as clean as possible...

The judge pounded his gavel. "Order in the court," he called. "Mickey Mouse, I have reviewed your case and I will not grant you a divorce. This court has found Minnie Mouse to be mentally competent."

"Your honor, I didn't say she was crazy," Mickey pleaded. "I said she was f*&%ing Goofy!"

Monday, September 28, 2009

Questions About the Weather

Q: It's been cooler up there in Ohio for the past few days, hasn't it?
A: This weekend was the first time I really felt fall in the air. And it's not just colder, we're getting copious amounts of rain to boot!

Q: Wow, how does that impact outdoor activities, like soccer, mowing the lawn, and going to the bus stop?
A: One topic at a time, please.

Q: Sorry. How does that impact soccer?
A: We have two kids in soccer, a second-grader who loves it and gives it his all, and a kindergartner who seems to lose interest at a rate that is directly proportional to the positive interest of another family member. That is, the more we care about his games, the less he does. Weird.

So when it rained all day Saturday, and it was still coming down hard when it was time to leave for the young one's game, we stayed warm and dry at home. There was no reason to compound the misery. Although I spent the time finishing a crown molding project in the dining room, which is more unpleasant than standing in the cold rain. I am a glutton for punishment.

Q: OK, so how about mowing the lawn?
A: The weather impacts not mowing the lawn more than it impacts mowing the lawn. Right now I have a very moist jungle growing out back. I hope to be able to mow it this evening. If all goes well the mulching blade will do its job and I won't have to rake the lawn when I'm done. Because even if I need to rake it, it is very likely that I won't bother.

Q: Last but not least: the bus stop.
A: That's not a question.

Q: Humor me?
A: If you insist. We have been fortunate that all bus stop trips have been dry so far. Today was very windy and chilly, though. It was worse in the afternoon than the morning. My younger son was quite put off by the cold and the wind, and insisted I carry him. Since the walk is only five driveways, I declined, but I did carry his lunchbox for him.

Every few steps he complained about the cold and pleaded for me to carry him. It's not like we're summiting Mt. Everest or anything like that, so I decided that a character-building walk was not beyond his means.

When I got to the garage I knew he had been trailing a few paces behind me. I turned to check his progress, and instead set sight on this fabulous piece of melodrama, prone in my driveway, at which time I finally gave in and carried him:

Monday, September 21, 2009

I Have an Agent!

Cooler words have ne'er been spoken. Or writ, or typed, as it may be.

What does that mean?

Why revisions, of course. And more writing. The manuscript is not quite ready to submit to publishers, but it will be.

The work in question is RUDY TOOT-TOOT. My other two works-in-progress will have a shift to the back burner while I expand Rudy's story. It was 500-words at first, now it's 4,000, and will grow significantly in the very near future. My agent (wow it's awesome to type that) has an excellent background for editorial advice, having worked as a children's book editor for many years. I'm looking forward to working with her and introducing Rudy Toot-Toot to the world at large.

I've said it before and I'll say it again:

I'll find success if it doesn't find me first.

Preach Like a Pirate

September 19th was annual Talk Like a Pirate Day. Evil Editor had a writing contest involving pirate speak ("The task was to write a scene in which you take over for a preacher who just dropped dead, and deliver his sermon . . . on International Talk Like a Pirate Day" 300 words max), and since I haven't had time to put together an original post here I figured I may as well share my entry for yonder competition:


I hobbled up to the front of the room and whirled around. Peg legs offer a convenient pivot point. The parrot on my shoulder dug its talons into my tattered waistcoat as I gripped the sides of the podium.

“Arrgh vey,” I said. I told you I was going to use that line. “It seems me matey Rabbi Cohenbergenstein has walked ye proverbial plank. Now he’s gettin stuffed into Davy Jones’s locker like a wee landlubber on his first day o’ learnin. So now it’s up to me to complete this bris.”

The parrot on my shoulder whistled and squawked, “Polly want a foreskin.”

“At least the bilge rat was kind enough to swab the dick with a wee bit o’ grog,” I said as I drew my cutlass. “It should be as clean as the bung hole on me best barrel o’ rum.”

As I raised the blade and prepared to make the cut, a voice called out for me to stop.

“Avast ye scurvy dog, ‘fore I gets me cat o’ nine tails out. I got work to do,” I scowled, for scowling is an important aspect of pirate-speak. “Aye, well sink me, this little hornpipe ain’t got enough meat to cut.”

“That’s what I was trying to tell you. It’s a girl. This is a baptism, you fool.”

“Well shiver me timbers! This wee one squats on the head to pee. Not even me mateys up in the crow’s nest could ‘ave seen that one comin.”

#

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Simple Comprehension

As a follow up to my last post:

My wife and I were discussing the kindergarten Curriculum Night we attended yesterday evening. My son had told her about some of the books they were reading and other activities they are doing. He came into the room and climbed on my lap.

"Do you like kindergarten?" I asked.

"Uh-huh," he said, in a very nonchalant tone.

"Do you know what I just asked you?" I asked.

"What?"

Apparently not.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I Must Confess...

I’m going to come clean about something I do as a parent and I bet I’m not alone in this. It’s something I do almost every day, although I should not do it at all. I should know better. But I do it anyway. And there’s a good chance you do it too.

By now you’re probably dying to know what it is, so I’ll let the suspense build while I provide some background information. You’ll thank me, this will totally be worth it.

My sons are eight and five. They are bright boys, and they are well behaved (for the most part). And they are completely different. It’s not just that one likes trains and the other likes jigsaw puzzles. A lot of the difference is their age coming through. They are at a very formative stage, and each year they surprise me as they grow.

As I see them get bigger I interact with them differently, giving them more responsibility, harder tasks. And herein lies my problem: I dole out instructions like I’m talking to adults. But they aren’t. They are kids. And I talk to the eight-year-old like he’s an adult and I talk to the five-year-old like he’s an eight-year-old.

Then - this is the kicker - I get frustrated when they don’t do things right, or they do them too slow. And even though they are close in years, the eight-year-old has no concept of what it was like to be five, when he was still learning and wasn’t as coordinated. He gets frustrated over menial things, like how his brother plays Lego Batman on the Wii.

Kids don’t think like we do. They may be able to carry out a short list of simple tasks, but they can’t remember long lists of complex tasks. Especially my five-year-old, who is free-spirited on top of being five. Here’s an example:

I can’t say “Get ready for school” when he gets out of bed and expect him to make it all the way to the bus stop without further instruction (not counting assistance provided, like toasting the waffles, pouring the cereal, and crossing the street). Here’s what all is required of him in order to “get ready for school” -

- Get dressed
- Brush your teeth
- Comb your hair
- Go downstairs
- Take your allergy medicine
- Eat breakfast
- Use the bathroom
- Wash your hands
- Now dry them off
- Turn the light off
- You turned the fan on. Turn the light off
- Now turn the fan off, too
- Leave the dog alone.
- Come over here
- Now
- One
- Two
- Thank you. Now pick those shoes up and put them on…

Eventually we do make it to the bus stop. But you see, there is so much that falls under “Get Ready for school” that they can’t remember it all. I have to break it down into its smaller components and micro-manage the shit out of each child, or they will manage themselves. For kids at ages where they still miss important details, like “wear underpants,” they just aren’t ready for self-management. I will find that they inserted a 20-minute session of “Play with Darth Tater” between “Brush your teeth” and “Comb your hair.”

It gets worse when I use big words. These are usually reserved for the Great Parenting Lectures where I go on for ten minutes, knowing I lost them nine minutes and forty-five seconds ago but continuing to extol virtue after virtue nonetheless because I feel bad when I spank them.

I tell them about the consequences of their choices and taking responsibility for their decisions and owning up to their actions and being a leader, not a follower. And they look at me and say, “If you hold you face like this too long,” (pinches his cheeks and purses his lips like a fish) “will it stay like that forever?”

On the other hand, if I say let’s go to the park they will vanish and reappear a split-second later with shoes on, thrusting my car keys into my hand and urging ME along, telling me that I made a wrong turn when I wasn’t going to the park he was thinking of. Now he’s got a built-in GPS for crying out loud…

Friday, September 4, 2009

Are We F#$@ing Crazy?

I just read a news report that there is some kind of national frenzy over a planned speech by President Obama to our nation's schoolchildren next week.

Apparently there is fear that he will indoctrinate the children of this great country to his socialist agenda. Someone must have found a copy of the speech, and it must go something like this:

"Good morning children. I am your President, but you can call me Supreme Leader. Starting immediately I want you, the children of the nation, to start a communal sharing of all of your worldly goods. At lunch time, you will be asked to place your lunchbox in the center of the cafeteria and government workers will distribute the food equally among you all. You will be checked each day for money, and any cash found on your person will be confiscated, taxed, and the redistributed to the whole student body. Then we will give you all abortions and kill your grandparents in death panels. Go put on your new Red school uniforms and remember that disobedience means death in a labor camp."

This is especially dangerous in public schools, which are effectively socialist institutions already (socialized education), so the last thing those children need is self-realization of this fact, because then they will be able to skip school every day out of basic patriotic duty.

On the other hand, he might just encourage them to study hard. That in and of itself may be OK, but I'm not risking the chance that he'll turn our kids into little fetus-killing socialists in 20 minutes flat. That is his goal, you know.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I am soooo high right now

I mean that in a literal sense. I think we are cruising at about 29,000 feet. This plane has wifi!

It's a Delta flight. I'm coming home from a business trip in Florida and Atlanta, and there was a girls in Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport handing our cards with a promo code to use this service for free. It's called "gogo flight internet" and I must say, this is pretty cool.

I just finished reading INTO THIN AIR, about the 1996 tragedy on Mt. Everest. I bought it on Tuesday afternoon and read most of it on the way to Orlando, and I finished it on the way to Atlanta this morning. One of the climbers, a wealthy lady named Sandy Pittman, had planned to transmit a blog post from the heights of the mountain. Turns out that (among many other things that didn't go as planned) her equipment didn't work when she was as high as I am now. This is a much better solution.

And while I'm on the topic, it was a great book. I am insane enough to read it and think, "Wow, I'd like to try that." If only the whole tragedy thing could be averted, that is. I'm just talking about climbing Mt. Everest. I know I won't (I don't have the $65,000 needed to book a guided trip).

That's all for now. I'm going to work on a manuscript for the rest of the flight.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A Writing Game

I'm going to play a writing game. It's called "How much can I write before my wife and kids get home."

It should be easy, because I know when they get home I will have to stop. Time check: 6:15 pm EDT.

They are at an open house at school. We went to the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the brand new elementary school yesterday. One son, destined to wear the proud badge of a Hall Monitor before he graduates, is starting second grade. The other son, the Peanut, is starting kindergarten.

NOTE: Most other bloggers seem to have pet names for their families when they blog, to protect them from the likes of people like you. Not me. I'm changing them to protect you from us.

Another Note: I'm still working out what to name my wife. Feel free to vote, your options are: My Love, My Darling Wife, My Better Half (too cliche? It's really true), The Hottie, and Biatch. Ha ha! Just kidding about that last one...

OK, time's up. 6:21pm.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

This is a Multi-Award Winning Publication

It seems I have earned the respect and admiration of a few readers of this humble blog. How the hell that happened I have no idea. Stark cynicism must have climbed in value since the last time I checked. But who am I to deny myself the benefits of free publicity?

So I will momentarily shed my humble ego (NOTE: WTF? Humble? You expect any of us to believe that?) and accept these two prestigious awards that some random bloggers made up. (NOTE: is it a Freudian slip that I almost typed boogers just now instead of bloggers?)

First, the Kreativ Blogger Award:


One cannot just claim this coveted prize without completing a series of Herculean tasks. Really, Herculean? Surely you jest! Buy nay, as you read through the list of duties (NOTE: Ha ha! He said "doodie") you will see what a challenge each one is...

1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.

I received this nomination several days ago, and I don't remember who it was from and I'm too lazy to look it up right now. Really the first nomination was from Bridget, but she didn't really nominate me, just emailed me that she wanted to nominate me but was afraid that I would do with the nomination what I am doing right now, i.e. using it to fuel my sarcasm. Then Laura nominated me. And I got another nomination from Vodka Logic. So thanks to all of you!

2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.

I didn't place it, I pasted it. I hope this does not disqualify me.

3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.

Crap. Now I have to do the research I avoided on task number one. Ok, research done, it was Laura Martone.

4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.

4.1 I am a heathen. But regular readers know that already.
4.2 I play bass and guitar, and I write songs and lyrics.
4.3 I try to sing, but I'm not good at it. If you are pretty drunk, I'm good enough that you probably won't mind, though.
4.4 I had a normal, well-adjusted childhood with friends and a loving family, but was still a basket-case as a teenager.
4.5 I am an introverted extrovert. I like attention, but only when I am alone in the center of it. I hate being in a crowd, and I am a shitty conversationalist at parties. Small talk and I have never gotten on well.
4.6 This is like slaying the hydra, all these things about me are like the hydra's heads, as soon as I tick off one interesting thing, another one pops up in its place. I told you this was Herculean.
4.7 I'm really humble (NOTE: Bullsh!t.)

5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.

These are in alphabetical order by author. To avoid creating what Microsoft Excel would call a "circular reference" I did not nominate those who nominated me (and/or considered nominating me):

5.1
D. Michael Olive, DMichaelOlive
5.2 Lady Glamis, The Innocent Flower
5.3 Laurel, Unhinged...Seriously
5.4
Mira, Come in Character
5.5 Penney, The Sometimes Almost Fictional Life of Penney
5.6 Tricia J. O'Brien, Talespinning
5.7
VodkaMom, VodkaMom

6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.

See 5.1 through 5.7.

7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.

Holy f&%*ing s^!# this is taking forever.




Vodka Logic nominated me for this one, and I like it better because the logo is not frilly and girly and the sub-tasks are in quantities of 5's and not 7's.

**Each Superior Scribbler I name today must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.

No rule saying I can't just copy and paste the first 5 from the other award. Sorry numbers 6 and 7, no disrespect. The alphabet doesn't favor you.

5.1 D. Michael Olive, DMichaelOlive
5.2 Lady Glamis, The Innocent Flower
5.3 Laurel, Unhinged...Seriously
5.4
Mira, Come in Character
5.5 Penney, The Sometimes Almost Fictional Life of Penney


**Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.

See above, under the logo.

**Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to this post, which explains The Award.

See above, above the link mentioned above.

**Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor.

How could I not participate when the name is as cute as "Mr. Linky List"?

**Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

This I refuse to do. Eat me.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Till Death Do Us Part

I pulled into a parking space and turned to my wife and sister (NOTE: even though my wife is from West Virginia, I am not, and therefore she and my sister are in fact different people).

"I want to apologize in advance in the event a bolt of lightning strikes as soon as I walk into the church," I said. They nodded, affirming the likelihood of such a smoting.

The architecture of the building was beautiful, a Catholic cathedral situated right in downtown Akron. I know, downtown Akron is not much of a selling point, but you have to trust me on this one. The inside was very nice, and the stained-glass windows kept the reality of its location at bay.

Now I mentioned this was a Catholic cathedral, so that means it was a Catholic wedding. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the tenant s of Catholicism, this requires a full mass before the actual wedding. Minimum run time of 45 minutes. I am a recovering Catholic (went to Catholic school grades 1-7), so I wanted to challenge myself by seeing how much of the rote memorization of the Catholic mass I remembered. Plus I want to see how many times I can use the word "Catholic" in this paragraph. It turns out, quite a lot. Catholic.

If you haven't noticed from my writing, I have a short attention span and an over-active imagination. My thoughts turned to the walls, upon which many things were written. One of these things read "Joseph, pray to Jesus for us" and all I could think was "Damn, that's lazy. Can't even take the time to pray yourself, have to ask someone else to do it for you?"

The priest actually had a good homily, but I couldn't stop thinking about how his squinty eyes looked like Mr. Magoo without his glasses.

The bride and groom wrote their own vows, and they were very good. They were also long. The groom went first, talking about the first time they met. When the groom flipped his paper over and kept reading from the back, an image crept into my mind of him standing there in paper up to his knees ("And then on our sixteenth date..."). Honestly, though, he made a lot of people cry (in a good way). Of course, I was not among those numbers. My mind was already wondering elsewhere.

The most precious part of the wedding was when the priest said, "Frodo, the ring."

At least that's what I heard him say. Everyone else may have heard something completely different.

Monday, August 10, 2009

WARNING: MATURE CONTENT

That got you to click didn't it? You bunch o' perverts. Gosh.

Actually, there won't be any mature content in this post. You may now go elsewhere for your debauchery. Doesn't matter, Google Analytics knows you were here.

I just wanted to tell you about the difficulties I have selecting music for my car. I have a 6-CD changer, which is great because I'm too impatient to listen to commercial radio and I don't drive enough to justify satellite radio.

I have an iPod adaptor, but if I used my iPod I am sure to leave it in the car and then the battery will be dead when I want to go jogging, and then I won't jog without music so ultimately listening to the iPod in the car is bad for my health.

The kids don't appreciate the talents of Crosby, Stills & Nash or Janis Joplin. Those "Best of..." CD's are getting pulled from the mix. Trying to decide what to replace them with is a challenge, indeed.

I discovered recently that the kids like Billy Joel, as they continuously request two tracks from Disc 1 of his "Best Of..." CD. (NOTE: I do have several non-Best of... CD's. But none of them will be mentioned in this post).

Choice 1: Disc 2 of the Best of Billy Joel. Many great tunes, and I am sick as hell of The Entertainer and Captain Jack from Disc 1.

Choice 2: I settled on the "Best of...The Doors." I haven't listened to them in a long time, and Jim Morrison had a great voice for a drunken lunatic. Which disc, though, 1 or 2?

Looking over the songs...Disc 2...LA Woman, good one...Roadhouse Blues, another classic, makes me want to get myself a beer...Love her madly, sweet romantic ballad...The End, wait a minute.

That's the one that goes:

"Father?"
"Yes, son."
"I want to kill you. Mother. I want to..."

Waaaay too many questions to answer there. Disc 1 it is.

Friday, August 7, 2009

So Sue Me

Where there's smoke, there's fire. Where there's thunder, there's lightning. And where there's money, there's a lawsuit.

It seems someone named Jordan Scott is suing Stephanie Meyer for allegedly taking her vampire love story and making it popular.

Now first things first: Jordan Scott, is this all you can do to earn money after American Idol? I know your record sales are down, but frivolous lawsuits are not cool. Oh, wait. That was Jordan Sparks. My bad.

Ms. Scott is suing Ms. Meyer because of "striking and substantial" similarities between the fourth book in the TWILIGHT series and a work titled THE NOCTURNE. The article linked above, which is sourced from MTV because this is totally about music, provides two examples of text, which I will critique for you now to illustrate how different they actually are.

First, Ms. Scott:
"Her face was so pale, it was frightening; and there were beads of sweat pouring down her forehead. She couldn't even stand, she was so weak. ... She was violently ill, vomiting and scarcely able to catch her breath."

This has most of the makings of a hit YA vampire love saga, i.e. passive story telling (was so pale, were...pouring, was so weak, was violently ill) and multiple adverbs (violently, scarcely). Plus you demonstrated an advanced understanding of punctuation by using a semi-colon. But this lacks sparkle.

Additionally, there are many unnecessary descriptions here:
- Her face is frightening because it is pale. Cause and effect is not necessary in YA vampire love sagas. Plus cold and pale is really HOT, don't you know? Nothing scary about that.
- Her weakness is demonstrated through her inability to stand. You said she's weak, your extended examples overwhelm our collective lack of imagination. Cut it out.
- Physical descriptions of sickness, such as vomiting, are just gross. Although you get an extra adverb point for scarcely

Overall, this is a nice first effort that could be made ultra-successful in the hands of a true master.

Now, Ms. Meyer:
"Most of her dark hair was pulled away from her face into a messy knot, but a few strands stuck limply to her forehead and neck, to the sheen of sweat that covered her skin. There was something about her fingers and wrists that looked so fragile it was scary. She was sick. Very sick."

This has all of the makings of a hit YA vampire love saga, i.e. passive story telling (was pulled, was something, was scary, was sick) and adverbs (limply). Plus it sparkles: the sheen of sweat.

If we look up the definition of sheen, we find:

- adjective: shining, beautiful
- verb (used without object): to shine
- noun: 1) luster, brightness, radiance, 2) a member of a family of actors with varying degrees of talent and success. See also: BALDWIN

And the way you made the hair stick to the sheen, it's brilliant. Personally I never would have thought something would stick to a sheen, except a monkey to Charlie Sheen's back. I would have made the hair stick to the sweat. Shows you what I know!

And the vague descriptions that don't force me to actually visualize something unpleasant. What a relief! I mean, something about her fingers and wrists that looked so fragile it was scary. That gives me goosebumps! It's a good thing neither of us can think of what it actually was, we'd really be freaked out!

And the way you told me she was sick without grossing me out with yucky images of puke, or pain in specific areas of her body. Thank you! You said she was Very sick, and because you made that its own sentence, I know you really meant it. 'Nuff said.

Can't wait to read the rest!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Prostitution- Defined

Last weekend we went to Akron for a wedding. On Friday we stopped at my uncle's house to drop our kids off, and they stayed with him Saturday while we went to the wedding and stayed in a hotel that had free shuttle service to and from the reception (it's like getting an official license to drink yourself silly).

I'll tell you about the wedding later. This story is about the kids' experience at my uncle's house, and how it affected my relationship with my Grandma. You're probably wondering what this has to do with the definition of prostitution....

The backstory: We met at my Grandma's house to pick the kids up. I had to go to Grandma's house, there was a serious issue I needed to confront. You see, she gets online sometimes. And she read this post about my last trip to my uncle's house. And while she does get online, she does not get my sense of humor. She got to the part about "Lila smoked some really strong crack" and of course she took it literally and promptly called my aunt to tell her that I was no family man like I pretend to be, I took the kids to a crack-house before I went home.

To my aunt, this was way to good to quash, so she didn't even try to explain it to Grandma. Instead, she called me, laughing so hard she could barely speak and leaving it up to me to clear my name.

We got to Grandma's house before my uncle and the kids did, and I took Lila (our GPS) inside to show it to Grandma and explain such concepts as metaphors and hyperbole. No sooner had I re-polished my tarnished image than my aunt and uncle arrived with the kids.

First thing was hugs and kisses for the boys (had to re-establish the fact that I am a family man). The kids ran off to play Grandma's piano.

"Oh, in case it comes up," my Uncle said, glancing over his shoulder to make sure the kids were out of hearing range, "prostitution is not wearing your seat belt."

To make a short story long, here's how this little word game unfolded:

My Aunt and Uncle were channel surfing with the kids when my older son saw COPS on the cable guide. He loves that show, he first saw it when he was staying at my in-law's house. I watched it with him several times, eventually drawing the conclusions that 1) I didn't want to keep explaining what was happening and why, and 2) the explanations are not suitable for a seven-year-old anyway.

I didn't think to tell my Uncle this beforehand.

So the first scene in COPS was the officers busting a car full of hookers.

"Why are they getting arrested?" My son asked.

"They weren't wearing their seatbelts," was the evasive answer given.

A few minutes later the officer said, "We're going to have to take you in on charges of prostitution."

My son drew the only conclusion he could, given the information available to him at the time. "Prostitution? So that's what it's called when you don't wear your seat belt."

Nobody contradicted his logic. However, my Grandma overheard my Uncle telling me this, and now she believes that I am somehow involved in prostitution. So apparently I went from socializing with crack-ho's to just ho's. And for the record, Grandma knows prostitution has nothing to do with seat belts.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Angel of Death

My son was visited by the Angel of Death last week.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that Rick Daley can be funny sometimes, and right now he's grasping at straws for material. That may be the case, but it doesn't negate the truth of the statement. My seven-year-old son was visited by the Angel of Death last week. Luckily he marked his door with lamb's blood so he survived the incident.

The AoD visited him at Bible school. Now regular followers of this blog may ask, "What the hell was your son doing at Bible school? Aren't you the one who's writing a blasphemous novel about God coming down to earth and hiring a consultant to help Him figure out how to destroy the world?"

In regard to the latter part of your question, yes, but I consider it funny, not blasphemous. My God has a great sense of humor and appreciates my efforts. But as to the first part, I am not opposed to my children being exposed to different religions and cultures. They need to learn about them at some point. However, the specifics of the subject matter can sometimes be called into question.

After he got back from Bible school last Wednesday, he told us that he didn't like it. We asked what he didn't like.

"Well, at first they told us all about Jesus, and that was kind of interesting..." He started, but we could tell he was holding back.

"What else did you do?"

"We had to go into this room where there were all these houses. And we had to paint marks on the doors with lamb's blood and go inside. Then there were loud noises outside, they said it was the Angel of Death. As along as we painted our doors with lamb's blood we would be alright, but if we didn't then we would die."

"Wow," I said, and I meant every word.

"That was just weird," he confided.

I couldn't agree more.

He didn't want to go back and we didn't make him. For all I know he missed out on a re-enactment of the time David had to kill 100 Philistines AND collect their foreskins for Saul. Or the time Lot's two daughters got him drunk and had sex with him. Yep, some parts of the Bible aren't written for children.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fate or Free Will?

Do you believe in fate, or free will? Is it possible to live a life governed by both?

Imagine this scenario. A reincarnating soul, preparing to begin its next life, has a clarity of thought and vision our limited senses cannot fathom. The soul is able to choose the course its life will take, like the expert marksman who knows where his bullet will hit before he squeezes the trigger.

When the soul pulls the trigger, it begins a life it chose for itself. But once it is born, the trajectory cannot be altered. Fate, chosen of one's own free will.

I like this thought. It gives a sense of ownership over one's past and future without having to write off tragedy to the incomprehensible mind of a deity.

Why, then, would anyone choose to suffer in life? Well, if the choice to suffer is made by a soul between stages of reincarnation, a soul who knows that each life is temporary, a soul that has lived many lives and is ready for a new experience, then suffering starts to make more sense. It is not a lesson taught by God, it is a lesson taught by ourselves.

To me, God is bigger than a single life. God is the universe in its entirety, "all that is seen and unseen." There is nothing that is not part of God; indeed, "nothing" itself is also part of God.

So if you look at yourself, you are made up entirely of God. You are 100% God, as am I. The earth, the sun, the distant quasar...everything has equal divinity: 100%.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

When you gotta go...

I was in Chicago this week for a quarterly sales meeting. Wednesday's agenda started at 8:30am, went straight through the working lunch, and was scheduled to go until 5pm with no breaks.

At one stage, one of our salespeople quietly got up and left the room. He came back a few minutes later. "Sorry, I couldn't hang on any longer," he informed us.

"That's TMI," someone said.

"No," I corrected. "It was TMP."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Time Management

I've been doing my best to manage the split between work, family, and writing. I think I'm making progress. This is the routine:

- Wake up really early, between 5am and 6am. This morning I woke up around 5:30 but stayed in bed until my alarm went off at 6am because I knew that coffee wouldn't be ready. I'm stubborn that way. I am not a morning person unless I force myself.

- Hit the computer. Check email and the weather while sipping coffee and letting my eyes adjust to the light. This is the Danger Zone of Potential Distraction, and sometimes I forego it and leap right into my manuscript for FATE'S GUARDIAN.

- Write until 8am, refilling coffee cup frequently. The IV drip is still on backorder.

- I work from home, so when eight o'clock rolls around I save my work and rotate my chair ninety degrees counter-clockwise and hit the other laptop.

- Work all day. Run or exercise around lunchtime, shower, eat and get back to work.

- After work, spend time with the family and get dinner ready. I worked in restaurants for many years so I'm the resident chef.

- Tell the kids to get their pajamas on seven thousand times. If the tub is also involved, then the count doubles. My firstborn is a better listener and usually complies after the initial request, but my other son (who turned five yesterday!) needs the extra goading.

- Talk to my wife, sip wine, and work on the manuscript for EARTH'S END. Thankfully TV season is in a lull (LOST, DEXTER, and AMERICAN IDOL are the primary distractions; WEEDS is losing my interest, it's water-skiing toward the shark but hasn't officially jumped it yet).

- Go to bed.

- Rinse and repeat.

This morning I hit 20,000 words in my re-write of FATE'S GUARDIAN. My goal is 80,000, so I'm a quarter of the way through. I really like this version of it. As I read back and reflect on the prior drafts, I think it's amazing how much I have grown as a writer.

I swear to you I will find success if it doesn't find me first.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Chilling Thought

Short post, not much time. We're about to leave for Dayton to see the air show. The Thunderbirds will be flying, as well as a stealth bomber, Apache helicopters, and other things that, until I know the names of them, will be formally considered UFO's.

The issue: right now it's 59 degrees outside. It's freaking July!!!! Our high isn't even going to reach 70. WTF?

If you happen to run see Mother Nature today, please tell her she is a whore.

That's all.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tongue Twister

Try to say this out loud as fast as you can:

A skunk sat on a stump. The stump thought the skunk stunk, the skunk thought the stump stunk. Who stunk, the skunk or the stump?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Earth's End- Post 5

(You really need to start at the beginning. Click here to get there. Or click here to revisit Post 4)

God stepped off the subway and onto the platform. It reminded him of hell, it just smelled worse. He worked his way through the crowd, careful not to get any muck on his suit.
He went up the stairs and onto the streets of Manhattan. As He walked toward Central Park He noticed His reflection in a window. He admired himself in his fine gray suit, custom fitted and made from a material He just created. It resembled silk, but it was softer and stronger. Too bad the world would be gone before everyone had the chance to admire the genius of His latest creation.

The exhaust from a bus tried to muss his white hair but failed. God smiled, fascinated by the prefect form of his mustache and beard as his cheeks reached their peak.

Damn I look good, He thought. I am who AM!

God was going to go straight to the park and meet Joshua, but He passed a pizzeria and couldn’t resist going in for a couple slices and a beer. If the Earth was to be destroyed soon - and it was, He knew that because He was the destroyer - He thought it wise to take in one last gulp of all it had to offer.

The pizza was like manna from Heaven. Its crust was crisp, and the fluorescent lights made shiny rainbows appear in the grease on top of the pepperoni. For his second bite he sprinkled on some crushed red pepper and chewed slowly, letting the heat spread evenly across his tongue. Then he bit his tongue. Hard.

No one knows the mind of God but God. Whether or not he bit his tongue on purpose will remain forever a mystery. What is undisputed is that in his frustration from feeling the extra burn of pepper on his newly chewed tongue, God smote a bus full of nuns in Peru. Lightning hit the bus and it exploded as it tumbled down the mountainside. God loved a good explosion.

The nuns died instantly and were transported to heaven. God may have lost his temper and hurled brimstone once or twice when it really wasn’t called for, but at least those unfortunate victims got a free pass to Heaven.

He finished His pizza and beer and went back out toward the park. He saw Joshua with his shirt off, washing his armpits in a drinking fountain.

“You missed a spot,” He said.

Joshua didn’t look up. He just kept washing.

“You need some soap.”

Joshua stopped and gripped the basin at its sides, arms shaking. “You come down here in a suit, with money for food and drink, looking respectable, but You send me here like this?”

“Quite an experience, isn’t it?” God smiled.

“Not really, no. Want to trade places and see for Yourself?”

“Ha ha! No, that’s not necessary. I already know what it’s like. I’m God, remember? Whatever you know, I knew beforehand. That’s how you can know it in the first place.”

“Thanks for the reminder. Can You answer one question for me?”

“I can answer any question for anybody. Do you mean will I answer one question for you?”

“When are You going to pull the trigger?”

“Three-hundred and sixty-four days from today.”

“Earth Days or Creation Days?”

“That’s two questions.” God held two fingers up to illustrate his point.

“Humor me.”

“Earth Days.”

"How are you going to do it?”

“To be honest with you, I still don’t know. Got any ideas?”

“No, but I know someone who might.”

God sat down on the bench and Joshua finished washing his torso and face.

“Aren’t you going to tell me?” God asked.

“What about ‘whatever you know, I knew beforehand’?” Joshua said as he put his shirt back on.

“I can make your situation worse, you know.”

“Whatever,” Joshua scoffed. Then he went blind. “OK, you got me. His name is Greg Simon.
He’s a consultant. I read his mind this morning and he had some interesting ideas for a client, I think he may be able to help you brainstorm. Now give me my sight back.”

The world remained dark.

“Please,” he added.

Joshua’s vision returned. “Why did you do that? Do you have any idea what it’s like to be blind?”

God just stared at him.

“Oh yeah. ‘Whatever I know’…I get it.”

“Let’s go meet your friend Peter.”

"Greg, not Peter. Greg Simon.”

“Oh, right. Don’t know what I was thinking.”

“No, you just know what everyone else is thinking.”

“That’s odd, isn’t it? As self-absorbed as I am, you would think me to be completely narcissistic. Go figure.”

They started walking toward mid-town. “I went to Hell this morning. You’ll never guess who I saw there.”

Joshua raised his eyebrows. “Um, let me guess. Moses?”

“How did you know?” God asked.

“Who do you think told him how to get in?”

“You’ve been going down there, too? Son of a bitch.”

“My mother is not-"

“It’s a euphemism, God-damnit.”

“Stop taking your name in vain. It’s one of your commandments; you’re setting a bad example.”

“I’m God, I can take my own name in vain if I want to. And don’t change the subject. When did you start sneaking into Hell?”

“During the Dark Ages. You and Satan were battling over the souls of plague victims, so neither of you noticed. Finding the way in was easy. Getting back out was the tricky part.”

“So what did you do down there?”

“I did that which was denied to me in the life I sacrificed for all the world.”

“And that is…”

“I sinned. Like you wouldn’t believe. It doesn’t matter if you sin once you’re already in hell, you know.”

“Who told you that?”

“Who needed to? It’s simple logic. You sin, you go to Hell. Once in Hell, you cannot get out. Therefore, if you sin after going to hell there is no longer a negative consequence for the action, so the point is moot. Hell’s entire existence is just a sin-avoidance policy between You and humanity. And sinning is just a heaven-avoidance policy between You and Satan.”

God scratched His head. He hated loopholes. “You know, sinning isn’t the only way to get into Hell. Satan is a good salesman, and his uses the direct approach quite often. In fact, he has 490 million active contracts with humanity as we speak. They go void when I end the world. As you can probably guess, he’s pretty pissed at me right now.”

“When has he not been?”

“Point taken. Nevertheless, we can expect Satan to try to kill as many people as he can over the next year.”

“How do you think he’ll do it?”

“By mistake,” God smiled. “Like he always does.”

“Does it matter how many people he kills? Everyone’s going to die anyway. Why do you want to save the souls that are pledged to Satan all of a sudden? You never cared about them before.”

“It’s kind of a professional courtesy. I owe it to humanity to let them know I’m pulling the plug. I always had someone try to warn them before. But they never listen.”

“Tell me about it.”

“You’ll do better this time than any prophet that has come before you. Don’t worry.”

“God tells me ‘don’t worry’? Why does that worry me most…”