Saturday, October 29, 2011

Amazing Sand Artist

So you know I like sand art.  I try my hand at it every year at the beach.  I'm getting better with each attempt, learning to sculpt with more detail and getting more creative with my subject matter, but this morning I saw a video that takes it to a whole different level.  I doubt I'll ever attempt this grand of a scale, but it's inspiring to see someone pull off a picture using such a large piece of beach as canvas...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Origami and Erections

WARNING: This post is not excessively adult-themed, as may be inferred from the title.  However, it is quite silly and immature, which can be ascribed to my general nature and should therefore be expected.  Please read on.

My wife took my kids to the hobby store recently.  The kids brought their own money and made their own purchases.  (NOTE: They are both loaded.  I don't know where all the money came from, but it can be helpful in those times when my wife and are desperate for cash.) 

First item: An origami kit.  It has an instruction book and paper, and with it one could make a dozen different endangered animals, if one could somehow decipher the instructions, something neither child is capable of. 

So I've been attempting a lot of origami lately.  We almost made a zebra, except it only has one hind leg.  That's easy to explain though, as zebras and lions are known to have special encounters that could easily explain the absence of such an important appendage.  I consider the zebra a success.

We also have a koala head and a panda head, but neither animal has a body, and I don't think they ever will.  The pictures in the instruction book make IKEA furniture assembly look simple and intuitive. 

My older son also purchased an Erector Set.  It also has an instruction book with amazingly complex drawings, but it is a book someone with a degree in mechanical engineering could easily use as reference.  Sadly, I am lacking in such a degree, but in an effort to reduce the volume of whining in the house, I have been making due.  And swearing under my breath.

My in-laws were here this past weekend, and I spent the whole time waiting for my mother-in-law to mispronounce the toy as an "Erection Set" because I am immature and think that would be really funny. 

Which reminds me of the time our dog had bladder stones.  Nearly 60 of them, and they had gone from the bladder into his urethra, where they all got stuck. During the examination the vet reached back between my dog's legs and felt the stones.  He encouraged me to do the same, not realizing that I was in no way mature enough to engage in a general conversation about my dog's urethra, let alone actually touch the underside of my dog's vacant scrotum.  (NOTE: I have not shaken hands with the vet since then.)

I struggle with this inability to take important things seriously.  It's an ongoing battle that I am sure is pointless, as I have no intention of ever winning it.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Let's go to the hop...

No, it's not a '50s dance party.  It's a blog hop, and I'm in on the action.  There are a lot of great writers out there, and this is a good way to find a great many of them all at once.  More specifically, Matt and Alex are running a blogfest with more than 200 blogs linked together.

As a participant, I'm supposed to recommend three blogs and why you should visit them:

The Literary Lab: This is my favorite writers' water cooler.  The three moderators raise interesting points about reading and writing, and the community of followers add to the discussion in the comment threads.  Writing is a long process, and there's always more to learn.  Following the experiences of others is a great way to pick up new tips / tricks.

Nathan Bransford: I started following Nathan's blog in hopes that he would one day represent my writing, and I continue to read it now that he is done agenting because it's insightful and well-written.  Plus it's another blog where the comments are a big part of the attraction.

D. Michael Olive: Mike's posts are a combination music review and wine review...two things that sit close to my heart!  Mike has introduced me to many guitar and bass greats.  His link compilations can serve as an incredible distraction, though...they make me want to pop a cork and sit back and listen to 45 minutes of music, the rest of the day be damned! 


Roger Ebert: I've been a fan of Ebert's movie reviews since the late '90s.  Even if I don't agree with his rating of a film, I enjoy reading his opinion of why he rated it that way.  His blog takes that same writing (Pulitzer prize winning, I might add) and applies it to a wide variety of topics, from film and TV, to his battle with cancer and subsequent perseverance, to politics, religion, and the world.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Got a Question For You...

Before I had kids I used to think answering a child's questions was a wonderful way to help that child grow and become a better human being.  I was eager to respond to any child's general inquiries about life and the world, to have the opportunity to share my knowledge and help that child learn.

Then I had kids, and that all changed.  I realized that the questions Just. Don't. Stop.

I began to burn out when my older son hit the early threes.  That's when "Why?" made its initial appearance.  Then my kids got to thinking I know absolutely everything about anything, like I'm Wikipedia or something. 

Here's an example from the time we took them to an amusement park over the summer:

How high is that roller coaster?  I don't know exactly.  Pretty high.
Is it a hundred feet? At least.
Higher? Maybe.
How much higher?  Two-hundred feet? I don't know.
How fast is it? Really fast.
Is it faster than our car? It depends on where we are driving.
What year was it built? What, our car?  2009.
No, the roller coaster.  I don't know. Google it when we get home.

A month later we took a family vacation that involved an airplane.  As we made our descent at the end of the first leg, both kids looked out their respective windows.

How high are we?
Are we as high as the Wind Seeker?
What about the Drop Tower?
We're definitely higher than the Diamond Back, aren't we?
Are there any pyramids this high?

As we got settled into our seats on the next flight, my son started asking me more questions.  I fought back.  I took out my notebook and started writing them down.

Is it three o'clock?
What time is it?
Why did the TV turn off? 
Why do they do that?
[Peering at my notebook] Why is it talking about Wind Seeker?
Why are you writing down all the questions?
I'll try not to ask any more questions, okay?
Are you going to show those to people?
What if there was a fire inside the plane?
The flight attendants aren't the pilots, are they?
Why is there an exit way back here?
What if a shark ate the life raft?
What is this volume button for?
Would you stop writing those down? You're annoying me!
When we get high enough I can unbuckle, right?
What does "airborne" mean?
What's "free of charge"?

At this time he pleaded with me to stop writing the questions down.  His attempts to grab my pen and notebook made the process more challenging that I was willing to put up with, so I acquiesced (NOTE: That's a really big word. Thanks, spell-checker, for your help.)

There was one more series of questions that I had to write down, though.  I did get his permission, but I would have done it anyway.  I had pointed out the window and said, "Look at that huge airplane.  You see the higher row of windows?  It's a double-decker."

So there's stairs in there? Yep.
Have you been in one? Nope.
But you've seen one, haven't you? Really?  You just asked that? Dude, I'm writing that one down...


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My Birthday Wish...

On October 10 I turn 40.  Next Monday.  Over the Hill.  The Big 4-0.  How the &*^% did this happen? As far as I can remember I'm way too irresponsible to be this damn old.

I have simple tastes.  I don't want a fancy sports car (however, if a Lamborghini ended up in my garage I would certainly drive it).  I don't need a 10,000 square-foot mansion on a hill (I would rather it be on a lake).

I do want to write for a living, and for people around the world to read and enjoy my stories.  So for my birthday, I don't need anything directly, but I would like you all to get yourselves a copy of The Man in the Cinder Clouds

If you already have a copy but haven't read it yet, now's a great time to crack the cover...and then you can leave a review on or Goodreads as a birthday gift.  And then buy copies of the book for everyone you know, 'cause it feels good to give.

If you have a copy and have read it and reviewed it, not only are you an incredible person who has earned my everlasting thanks, you have the opportunity to recommend the book to other people.

And if you read the book and think it sucks, you can always trick someone you don't like into buying it.  I'm not above that.