Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hypothetical Botany Lesson

After I dropped my four-year-old off at daycare, my seven-year-old and I drove back home and he asked me if I remembered something.

“Maybe,” I said. Chances are usually 50/50 on my remembering anything. Actually, probably more like 70/30, and not favoring total recall.

“Do you remember when you were driving and you saw us over by the sheriff station?” He asked.

“I do.” My wife had taken the kids on a bike ride and I passed them in the car.

“And we were on our bikes, and Abbey was with us.”


“Do you remember that Abbey was with us?”

“Yes,” my affirmation was solid, and my tone sarcastic due to the redundancy. He was stalling for some reason. There was something else he wanted to tell me, but he hadn’t built up to it yet.

"Do you remember that we saw that poop plant?” He asked. Now this is getting somewhere. There’s a water treatment facility next to the sheriff’s station. My wife must have called it the poop plant.


“Before we went there I thought it was going to be a real plant!”

“Oh yeah?” I laughed. “Like a Turd Tree?” Hypothetical botany is a subject every father should cover with their seven-year-old son, in my humble opinion.

“I thought it would be a plant that looked like poop.” He clarified, but it wasn’t necessary. I got the picture all too well.

“Would turdberries grow on it? Then it would be a Turdberry Tree.”

“Ew, gross!” He laughed.

“Would you eat a turdberry off of a Turdberry Tree?”


Then I was going to ask him if turdberries had corn kernels for pits, but I realized that that’s just gross, so I figured I would spare him that ghastly detail. Too bad you are not as fortunate. I should probably stop now. Please accept my apologies.

Re-writing a Dream

WARNING: This is a post about writing, not likely to be funny. We will return to our regularly scheduled sarcasm later this evening or tomorrow; funny conversation with elder child is half-transcribed. Thank you.

In my novel FATE'S GUARDIAN, my protagonist witnesses the murder of his best friend as a child. He watches through the window as she is knocked unconscious by her father, who then sets fire to the house and leaves. Afraid to speak out about what he saw, he suffers from nightmares as he fights to forget the ghastly scene.

In the earlier drafts, I had a very macabre telling of the dream, where he exacts revenge on her father.

I re-wrote the scene today, and instead of showing what he dreamed about in detail, I decided to focus more on what he looked like from the outside. I took 2,000 words and distilled them down to 250. I took a scene that had six characters and focused on one (in the first version he woke up his brothers and parents). There are glimpses of his dream, but they are painted with very broad strokes, so the reader can fill in the rest (I'm taking the literary approach)...

Gil fought sleep as long as he could, but eventually he did succumb. For the first hour his body rested in a dreamless slumber, healing many of the physical exertions from the horrid day.

His body twitched as the nightmares started. First his fingers, gripping at the sheets. Then his feet and legs. Kicking. Running. Sweat broke out on his brow and he clenched his jaws, concentrating on his struggle against an unseen foe.

He tried to wake up, but he could not pull himself out of it. Fear and panic evident on his face, his breathing became shallow and fast and his heart raced to catch the wind in his lungs. The dream world took all the realities of the day and enhanced them with childhood imagination. Colors swirled. Julie’s blond hair and pink shirt doused in red blood and blue flames.

In his mind, he ran. The world around him a disoriented blur, he ran to escape from Julie, from Mr. Flaherty, from his own memory. But they were all there, following him, surrounding him at every turn. The things he did. The things he didn’t do. The threats he avoided, only to come home and find that they followed him.

In his dream he screamed. A silent, breathless scream. His jaws stretched wide and air rushed through his throat. His vocal chords vibrated so hard they made his neck hurt, but his voice failed to find a sound and carry it to those who could help. And so his desperate cries went unheard that night, as they would for many more.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Vacation Recap- Part 2

Monday morning we woke up like it was a regular school / work day, but it wasn't. I took the day off work, my wife didn't have to work because her office was closed this week, and the kids are out of school. It was King's Island day.

King's Island is an amusement park near Cincinnati, OH. It lacks some of the mind-blowing awesomeness afforded to Cedar Point in Sandusky, but that's not really a fair comparison. Cedar Point is one of the best amusement parks in the world. It's in a league of its own. Plus King's Island is an hour closer, so it's awesomeness is padded with convenience.

We went with our neighbor and her three kids. Altogether it was me, two ladies (many cool stories could start that way), and five children, ages 10, 8, 7, 5, and 4 (coolness factor henceforth evaporates. Also, see prior post on cool (or lack thereof)).

We started off with The Fairly Odd Coaster in the Nickelodeon kids' area. After waiting for 30 minutes, they announced that they were closing the ride. The bloodthirst among the populace was palpable. They offered a quick addendum: "To put another car on the track."

Murmers of approval wafted through the crowd. This should make it go faster. Eventually.

An hour had passed and we finished our first 45-second ride. We were skeptical as to how the rest of the day would go, but for the most part it was awesome. I only experienced one other line as long, and it was for a coaster that you ride inverted. It flips to the bottom of the track, so it's like you are flying. Pretty cool experience, and worth the wait. But not as cool as the Diamondback.

The Diamondback is a new attraction that just opened in 2009. Its first hill is 230 feet high, and the drop is 215 feet. The next hill is 191 feet. And there are nine more after that, four of them over 100 feet.

The Diamondback is the biggest, baddest roller coaster ever to hit King's Island. It's not the best in the world, but it's good enough. You go up the first hill at such a steep angle it's like you're laying on your back as you watch the scenery fall away to your sides. Then you go down.

I think it's the angles of incline and decline that give the ride its umph. When you go up, you go almost straight up, and the crest is very narrow before you plunge straight down. Words can't really describe what it's like, but I like you people so I'll try:

It's a Triple Scoop of Awesome with Hot F*@% Yeah Sauce, Whipped Ass, and Nuts on top. Your Nuts. Unless you are a roller coaster virgin, and then it's your Popped Cherry.

Wow, I guess you can put it into words. Who knew?

We got hungry and decided on Chick-Fil-A for lunch. We thought a fast-food chain would have the distribution channels in place to move a large supply of food on-site for preparation and sale, and they would have a low cost of goods sold so they would be the more economical eatery.

We thought WRONG.

The King's Island Chick-Fil-A charges $7.89 for a combo meal. That's a sandwich and fries. The drink is another $2. I don't remember exactly what I said when the cashier broke me this news, but I think it contained an f-bomb. Apparently no one ever told that cow that runs the place the Laws of the Combo Meal. Drinks are included. Three combos with drinks and a kid's meal cost $44. Or to put that in more comparative terms, the $7 of food you would normally pay $20 for cost $44.

For dinner we pooled our resources and both families at together at You Call This Pizza? The proprietors probably called it something else, but I think my name is a better description. But since it was only $43 to feed three adults and five kids, it all tasted fine to me.

We closed the park down, staying through the 10pm fireworks show. It was officially Tuesday by the time we got home. We were tired, but it was well worth it. The kids had fun and were well-behaved (for the most part).

Next time we're going to Cedar Point.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Vacation Recap- Part 1

The weekend is over, we're home again and getting back in the swing of things. The trip started up Garrettsville, Ohio (where?) near Aurora (where?) and Ravenna (where?). These are small towns east of Cleveland (oh...Cleveland. Thanks!).

My uncle lives in Garrettsville (remember, near Aurora and Ravenna?) and his daughter just turned one. I should probably mention my aunt here, too, since she's the mother and really did most of the work. It's just that I'm related to my uncle by blood and her by marriage, so I mentioned him first. But I don’t want anyone to feel left out.

The party was a lot of fun, mainly eating and drinking and playing cornhole while the kids played football and soccer. And a bonfire. I got to see my great grandmother and great grandpa, other aunt, uncles, and cousins I only see about once a year at events such as this one. As an added bonus, my Dad was in town and made a surprise visit. We knew about it beforehand but had to have a non-disclosure agreement in place so nobody would know he was coming. I think that was in case he had to back out.

We were going to camp out. By which I mean sleep in a tent in my uncle's backyard while otherwise enjoying all of the amenities of a comfortable home. Due to one brief mid-afternoon rain shower and more than one beer, the tent never got set up. So we slept on air-mattresses in the basement (it was a finished basement, very nice).

We spent the morning trying to get Wii Fit before loading up and heading home. I am not Wii Fit, at least not when it comes to ski jumping. I'm better with Yoga. Apparently my seven year old son has the Wii body of a twenty-six year old. I don't know what to make of that.

We have a GPS named Lila, and she usually tells us where we need to go, in her sweet British accent. Lila smoked some really strong crack before we headed home, though, and instead of guiding us back the way we came, the bitch took us on a convaluted tour through the greater Akron-Canton area before leading us to the road home (I-71 south, in this case).

The rest of Sunday was rest and relaxation, and a little bit of getting ready for Monday and our trip to King’s Island…

Friday, June 12, 2009

What, no post?

You would think that over 5 days I could manage a 250 word post. Especially considering I've written about 2,500 in blog comments ;-)

But alas, nothing. Maybe by the end of the weekend I'll have something. We're going to Cleveland to visit family tomorrow. We'll be camping in my uncle's yard with my two sons and our neurotic Schnauzer. If I can't spin something funny out of that, I'm worthless!

Monday, June 8, 2009

We think we're so cool

Once upon a time, my wife and I were cool. We went to cool places and hung out with cool people. We wore cool clothes and said cool things. We were arctic, we were so cool.

Things heated up when we started a family. Kids can do that. They add warmth to your life and soul, but that warmth slowly melts away your cool.

First to go is the ability to travel to cool places. This is followed by dramatic changes to the company you keep. You hang out with non-parents less and less. Non-parents don't understand that infants don't care if you have a hangover. And if you didn't drink to begin with, a) why the heck not, and b) non-parents also don't understand that you have to stop what you are doing twice a day for six to nine months so your baby can nap, so bear with me.

Cool clothing is next on the list. Your children may wear cool clothes, but you are so broke from buying kid stuff you are afraid to splurge on yourself. I have never splurged on my own clothing. God that sounds bad, if your mind is in the gutter where mine is. If I ever look well-dressed, it is because my wife purchased good clothes for me and told me when to wear them.

The last cubes of cool to melt away are your language skills. Elimination of foul language is the beginning of the end. As it turns out, it is inappropriate to tell a crying baby to "shut the f-up." Who knew. Instead, you are supposed to hold them and coo lovingly, or just let them cry it out while you slowly go insane. You are going to go insane anyway, as a parent, so you may as well start the process right away. Once you have total disarmament of your F-bombs, it's all downhill from there.

The isolation mandated by parenthood keeps you at a distance from new cultural trends. You don't go to the hot new hangouts. Actually, you just don't go out at all, but that's too depressing to mention. You can only watch kid-friendly TV, at least until you get them to bed. Then if you put on a movie, you are likely to fall asleep watching it because you are too tired from dealing with the kids all evening.

And you don't understand the new slang. You are vaguely aware that it exists, but you rarely have instance to practice its proper form and end up saying the wrong thing the wrong way at the wrong time. My wife was watching TV and some criminal did something really stupid and got busted.

"Oh, smack!" She said to the TV. Then she turned to me and asked, "Is that what you say?"


"Oh yeah. Snap." At least she got the timing right.

Luckily this little exchange occurred in the privacy of our own home, not in a public forum where many people would be aware of it. That would really be embarrassing, you know.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

How to Drive Blog Traffic and Comments


Better yet, praise it.

And the ultimate: criticize it.

Ha! Actually, I do think it inspires a thoughtful discussion. There are many valid points on both sides of the table, and while there are examples where it could have been written better, I think it was clearly written well enough (even if it wasn't always written clearly).

That's my smart ass observation for today. If all goes well, I will atually have a fresh and funny post tomorrow. Topic has been selected, just need to write it out.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Another example of poor syntax

The last post had an extreme example of poor sentence structure, but I find lesser errors with syntax are one of the primary drivers of "bad writing." Here's an example that comes from a popular book:

"The room was cut in half by a long counter, cluttered with wire baskets full of papers and brightly colored flyers taped to its front."

As worded, "full of papers and brightly colored flyers" implies that the flyers are in the basket, not taped to the front as the author intends. I believe "taped to its front" is a dangling participle...anyone want to give a formal ruling?

Also, "wire baskets" is plural but then is switched to a singular "its" and although you can discern the intended meaning, it's just sloppy. This has nothing to do with the story, and for many readers this level of detail flies below radar. But for those of us who write and revise and constantly try to turn out the perfect sentence, this burns like lemon juice on a paper cut, or a bad analogy.