Sunday, October 31, 2010

One Ring Circus

Ladies and Gentlemen!  Children of all ages! 

Allow me to present to you, in the center ring, Matthew the Insane!

Matthew isn't about to embark upon a normal feat of daring.  He will not be merely jumping through flaming hoops wearing nothing but a gasoline soaked jock strap.  He will not be simply covering himself with catnip and throwing himself into a cage with starving lions.  He won't be just eating sushi in Chicago.

Matthew will be, for your enjoyment, writing a novel and posting it online as he is doing it.  He will not be relying on detailed notes.  He will not have the ability to go back and rewrite previous chapters that don't fit with later chapters.  He hasn't completed any of the required research for the historical chapters. 

People with weak constitutions should stop reading this blog right now, because Matthew will have to write a time travel story with multiple interlocking storylines in chronological order.

I see that Matthew has installed Microsoft Word XP on his new laptop, so I without any further ado, I give you...

PINHOLE

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Proud Father 2

A while ago I wrote about how a child can surpass his or her father's ability.  I wrote how that is when a child truly can make a parent proud.

My two year old, whenever he breaks wind, immediately tries to blame it on someone else.

That's my boy!

Friday, October 29, 2010

That Dream

You ever have that dream?

You know the one I mean.  You're late for class and you don't know where the room is.  You run through all the hallways, checking the rooms until you finally find it.  Charging in, you throw yourself into a chair as everyone stares at you.  It's only then that you realize that you've never been to the class before and it's the last day.  The teacher begins handing out the final exam....

Yeah, that dream.  I used to have it all the time and it freaked me out.  Then, one day in grad school, I was talking to a friend (we'll call him "Ken," because that's his name).  Ken told me he had been automatically enrolled in a class that he didn't know about and that there was only a couple of weeks of school left.

"They'll let you drop the class, won't they?"

"Nah," Ken said.  "I'll just drop by the bookstore and grab the textbook.  I can be ready for the final."

I'm guessing Ken never had that dream.  I stopped having it myself around 2004 when I started teaching.  Then, I started having a new dream:

You run down a hallway looking for the right classroom.  Finally, you find it and rush to the front of the class.  There's no projector to show your slides on and you forgot your notes.  You look at the schedule and realize someone accidentally signed you up to teach "Early Zoroastrian Mythology."  You turn to your class and realize all the students are experts in the realm of Zoroastrian Mythology, and will know if you're faking it.

And you're naked.

Yeah, much worse.  I expect I'll be getting rid of it soon.  See, on Monday at 2pm, I got a call from my dean.  I expected he was calling to talk to me about the class I was due to teach next week.

"Hi Dave!," I said to Dave (also his real name).

"Hi Matthew.  I wanted to ask you about your class."

"Yeah, I have some questions about it."

"Were you planning on coming in?" Dave said.

I thought about it.  I did have some things I was hoping to cover with him.

"I suppose so.  When is good for you to talk?"

There was a pause at the other end.

"Your class is from one to five."

"I can come in before that," I said.

"No," Dave said.  "I mean your class is from one to five today.  I've been teaching it for an hour.  Are you planning on coming in?"

Turns out I was supposed to start teaching a week earlier than I thought.  Oops. 

Guess I need to get a new dream.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

DBIM: Blackadder Goes Fourth (episode 2)

Severity: 1
Genre: Television
Date: 1989
Description: The main character kills and eats a messenger pigeon and pretends he never received the message.
Mitigating Factors: The show is set in the horrors of World War I. As one character says: "With 50,000 men killed a week, who's going to miss a pigeon?"
Aggravating Factors: The pigeon was another man's beloved pet.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Reflections

Staring in the mirror at the wrinkles forming on her forehead and around her eyes, she suddenly remembered the tales her father had told her. She had just thought of them as silly ghost stories as a child, but now they were one final hope. Even after sleeping with three star-struck casting directors, the best she could do was a walk-on part. She needed something, anything, to keep going.

He was surprisingly easy to find. She located him hiding from the sun in the sewers under Paris. He had only wanted to be found and put out of his misery, but he agreed to her pleas; he had seen her movies, too. It was much gentler than she had expected and far less erotic. When she woke, it was dark. She was cold, afraid, and covered in sewage, but alive in ways she couldn't describe.

A few calls to and old director friend got her a visitor's pass. A quick trip to the leading lady’s trailer, a muffled scream, a splash of blood, and the same old friend begged for her help. Of course she would step into the part and save the production. Of course she could start right away. She was a quick study and her radiant beauty calmed the fears of the producers.

The dailies had came back blurred in every shot of her and she remembered that cameras and production equipment needed to reflect light to focus the image properly. Later, shattering every mirror in her dressing room that she realized it was worse than that. Her memorabilia was ruined. Videotapes of her old films showed static whenever she was on screen; her Playbills were blurred on every page where she appeared.

In tears, she called her father; it took him ten minutes to remember he even had a daughter. The next day, he hung up on her, thinking it was a prank call.

The sunlight didn’t burn, but she wasn't surprised. Nothing about her transformation went like the old stories said. Instead, she found herself quickly aging in the cool dawn light. By ten o’clock, she looked fifty. By noon, she was eighty. Gritting her remaining teeth, she prayed for the strength to stay on the park bench.

If there was a God, she would be dead by three.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

This I Disbelieve: Soul Mates

At my wedding, right after the ceremony but before the Halloween-themed reception, my new wife turned to our friends and told them all that she knew I was "the one" from the first moment we met. I frowned at that, because I don't believe in such things. (I should point out that she had chosen to meet me for the first time in front of a police station, so if she hadn't known I was right for her, things could have gone very badly for me.)

About two out of three Americans believe we have something like a barcode scanner built into our heads. When we see someone, we somehow instantly know if this is the one person in the whole world who is destined to be our one and only. It makes you wonder; on a planet with billions of people spread out over tens of thousands of miles, what do you do if your soul mate doesn't live conveniently within a few miles of your house?

I didn't fall in love with my wife the moment I met her. In addition to being surrounded by police cars, I had gulped down a Burger King chicken sandwich on the way to meet her and was suffering from food poisoning. Perhaps my barcode reader was distracted because it was trying to keep me from fainting in front of her. Whatever the case, I didn't immediately know I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. That took a few years.

We were watching television. She was sitting on the couch and I was lying on the floor in front of her. I turned to say something and the floor squeaked beneath my head. I turned it back, and it happened again. Squeak. Squeak, squeak, squeak.

She looked down at me and said "What are you doing?"

"I just found a place on the floor that squeaks when I move my head. Come and squeak your head on the floor with me!"

Can you guess her reaction? (When I told one person about it, she said "I would have yelled 'FREAK!' and broken up with you.") She jumped off the couch, got down on the floor and squeaked her head on the floor next to me.
That's when I knew everything I needed to know about who she was and wasn't. She was the kind of person who would make up fake secret service code names for our children. She wasn't the kind who would obsess over jewelry or clothes or cars. I knew she'd surprise me with secret vacations and be enthusiastic about having a Halloween wedding with a cake that looked like a haunted house. She wouldn't care what job I had (if any), the kind of music I listened to (if any), or who my friends were (again, if any).
She was silly. She was comfortable with making a fool of herself in front of me. She didn't mind my being silly in front of her. And that was enough.
Happy anniversary, sweetie.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Movie Doctor: Attack of the Clones

I realized after the Mr. 3000 post, that I enjoy reviewing movies. Actually, that's not true. I don't enjoy reviewing, I enjoy picking apart what didn't work. In Hollywood, they call that being a "script doctor."

I doubt I would make a good script doctor, because it's hard to see the problems with a film before it is made, but I'd love to pick apart someone else's work afterwards, hence my new, regular piece. So, lets get started with one of the biggies: the Star Wars Prequels. I'm going to start easy with the middle movie, because the first one is such a mess that I wouldn't know where to begin and the problems with the third one are pretty subtle, if damning. Attack of the Clones is a pretty obvious fix. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Symptoms (plot)
Separatists attempt to assassinate Queen Amidala. While they investigate, Anakin falls for the queen, who resists his advances. Eventually, they uncover the Sepratists' plan to invade with an army of robots. However, in an incomprehensible plot twist, they fight back with an army of clones. The movie ends when Anakin and Amidala secretly get married.

Diagnosis
There's really two problems.
1. When Obi Wan discovers the clones, Jango Fett tries to kill him. Why? The creation of the clone army is completely legal and are working for the good guys.

2. The love scenes are painful. At one point, Anakin tells Amidala "You're torturing me." No, you're torturing us.

Treatment
1. Give Jango Fett a reason to want to kill Obi Wan. Perhaps he's on the run from the cops or is doing something else illegal. When Obi Wan calls in the information, it brings up his arrest record (or whatever) and they tell him to arrest Jango.

2. The problem with all the love scenes is that Amidala has no reason to spurn Anakin's advances. He's a tall, handsome, brooding, space hero. Anakin, on the other hand, has every reason to want to avoid her. It's forbidden and he knows if he strays from the path of a true Jedi, something terrible will happen.

The solution is to have Amidala pursue Anakin. She requests him as her personal guard, forcing him to have dinner with her, watch her go to bed wearing revealing outfits, etc. When he finally succumbs to her, he does so knowing that he may have destroyed millions of lives.

Now THAT would be a movie I'd like to see.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

True Evil

Lets face it, medical insurance companies are the root of all evil.

Oh, sure you can make an argument for money, or the government, or the phone company, but the insurance company has a lock on this.  Why?  It's not why you think.  I don't blame them for derailing single payer health care.  Sure, it would have been great, but I think they derailed it out of selfishness, not pure evil.

Perhaps I should explain the difference between those two terms:

Selfish
Stealing food from a hungry child.

Evil
Throwing her food in the river while she watches.

Clear?  See, any company is selfish.  Companies only exist for the purpose of making money.  However, most companies are populated by human beings who tend to steer the corporation into somewhat benevolent paths.  Insurance companies are populated by people who are some strange cross between Darth Vader and Jack the Ripper. 

Why do I think so?  The $20 copay.  I mean, seriously, why else would they have that?  Each individual patient pays thousands upon thousands of dollars a year to insurance companies either directly or through work.  Do you really think Kaiser Permanente really needs that extra $20?  Do you think Met Life is just $20 away from paying its bills? No,they put that copay in there just to show you they own you.

"Oh, you're worried about that lesion on little Bobby's neck?" the insurer says.  "I'm sorry, but you'll have to give me $20 to look at it.  You don't have $20 on you?  Well, you can look up "melanoma" on Wikipedia."  Then he turns away to eat more of his roast unicorn.

I have a new policy.  Whenever I go to the doctor, I bring my copay in unrolled pennies.  Serves 'em right.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

New Scene: Mr. 3000

I was stuck on an airplane once with the only choice of movies being Mr. 3000. If you haven't seen the movie, here's a quick synopsis:

A baseball player makes a record by being the first player to hit 3000 runs. He immediately (as in mid game) quits and uses his fame to become a successful businessman. Years later, a few of his hits are taken away from his record and he rejoins the team to get them back. Along the way he finds love and learns many valuable lessons about teamwork.

Yeah, okay, pretty trite fare. You could just guess from the opening scenes that he'd give up his dream of getting his 3000 back to help his team. However, once scene struck me. He's sitting in the dugout with the coach, who hasn't spoken to him for the whole movie. He apologizes, but the coach never speaks. Near the end of the game, he screams at an umpire to defend the player.

I just couldn't get past this scene, and kept thinking about how I would have written it. The result is below.
STAN ROSS
It was wrong the way I quit on the team back then. I was young, Skip. I was young.

There is a long pause. Stan turns to go when-


SKIP
Do you know what cancer is?
STAN
(stunned that the coach is finally talking)
Er. It's a disease. Gives you big tumors.
SKIP

Cancer is one selfish cell. You see, every cell in the body works together. They grow when they're told, they die when they're told and everything goes smoothly. Cancer is one cell saying "Fuck you all. I'm going to keep growing." That cell splits and multiplies until it becomes a giant tumor and kills everything, even itself.


When you quit the team, everything went to hell. We couldn't hit to save our mothers. When you quit, you demoralized us. You humiliated us. Face it, you killed us. Now you're here spouting off how you loved the team? Bullshit.


Prove to me that you're not a selfish bastard trying to kill us again, and I'll accept the apology.
Okay, I know cancer doesn't work like that. So sue me.

Friday, October 22, 2010

DBIM: The Arrival

Severity: 1

Genre: Movie
Date: 1996
Description: The aliens use a device that creates enormous suction to clear a room of any evidence. The first time we see it used a bird gets sucked in from outside and disappears into the machine, presumably killed.
Mitigating Factors: None.
Aggravating Factors: None.

Pinhole Outline

Just so you have an inkling of what I'm going to do next month.  I probably won't hit the goal of 50k words, mainly because the idea freaks me out so much.
Cassandra
Appears and disturbs the first lungfish, and disappears leaving no trace.

Joseph
Falls back to the Roman era and creates the book. He dies when it is finished

Cassandra
Tries to convince her ancestors to go on the path of war.

Willey
Appears in the Elizabethan Era and is taken to the tower by Lord Walsingham. His watch disappears.

Marshall
Has had nightmares for months. His behavior changes. Reveals himself to his parents when confronted. Makes them rich but destroys his mother. First mention of the troubleshooting equipment and drug that replicates a childlike mind.

Lionel
Kills as a gang initiation. It ruins him.

Marshall
Becomes a wealthy playboy womanizer.

The book? Cassandra?
Tries to change history again or appearance of the book or both?

Edmond Blakely
The list appears. Lionel joins the Prism force.

Marshall
Tries to woo his wife but she is repulsed by him. His life fails.

Lionel
Goes around killing murderers before they commit crimes. He becomes involved with an activist who hates his work. She is a member of the book group.

Marshall
Regains his wife. They have a boy. He is crushed. They divorce.

Lionel
Finds that history is changing and is attacked. He destroys the time machine before it is brought online. Cassandra tries to save his life, but her work is undone.

Marshall
Becomes involved in the Pinhole project. Repeatedly sneaks into the lab to change things.

Liza
The woman of many lives and pieces meets herself in a restaurant. Her older self takes the element on to Blakely.

Edmond Blakely
Starts the pinhole project. There is an accident and Willey is vaporized. For a brief moment, they succeed and Marston is amazed and finds god.

Marshall
Is found in his time machine bed with the memories of a child.

Marston
Creates the “Mouth of God” cult in the desert, taking Marshall’s son with him.

Cassandra
Is born to Blakely. She secretly takes his technology and builds a time machine in parallel.

Son of Marston
Leaves the cult with his linked wife. They start a new life but the wife can’t adjust. Wife fakes death to compel her husband to return. He is framed for murder and eventually, with his reporter, destroys the cult’s machine.

Virginia (troubleshooter)
Is brought on board to find out why people are dying at Crossworlds. She realizes that humanity is doomed. Note: wrote this up earlier.

Cassandra
Builds her time travel machine and can’t change anything. Horrified by what she sees, she goes on one final trip with flowers and destroys the machine.

INSERT STORY about the book.

Edmond Blakely
Kills his daughter in a jealous rage over finding she was stealing his technology and won’t share it with him. She appears from the past to try to stop him, but can’t. EB frames her boyfriend for the crime and he is executed.

Boyfriend
Trapped inside a switchlight.

Insert story about the book

Boyfriend
Is found innocent now that it has been proved that matter can pass through pinholes. He goes to Edmond Blakely and kills him for framing him and finds out the EB had wanted to die.

Joseph
Escapes the future. His partner and friend destroy his book. They explain that time works like inertia.

Cassandra
Lays flowers on her own grave. They disappear.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lessons from Bad Children’s Books: The Rabbi and the 29 Witches

[In LBCB, I take older books my children have and analyze the messages within.]

Story
Once upon a time there was a perfectly normal town that was near a cave filled with evil witches. We know the witches are evil because the book tells us so and because, once a month on the full moon, the witches would fly over the town and scream a lot. The townspeople were scared of them, partly because of the screaming, but mostly because... Oh, no, wait, they’re just scared of the screaming. Anyway, nobody goes out at night.

One day, an old grandmother tells the Rabbi that she wants to see the full moon. The Rabbi agrees to help and comes up with a plan. He gathers twenty nine men and has them put dry robes in clay pots, then they go out to the witches’ cave.

At the cave, the Rabbi convinces the witches that he is a witch like they are, and that he can walk between raindrops, which the witches want to learn how to do. The witches conjure a magnificent feast for him. In return, he pretends to conjure the men from outside, who put on the dry robes (it’s raining out) and come in to the cave.

Pretending to take the witches outside for a dance, the men drag the witches out into the rain, where they melt away into nothing. Then all the townspeople go to the cave, eat the feast, and sing and dance.

Oh, and they get to see the full moon at last. Yay team.

Lessons
1. Kill people who annoy you
There is never any mention in the book of the witches causing any harm other than screaming. Sure, the people have nightmares and the livestock are disturbed by it, but the witches never curse or directly harm anyone. The wise Rabbi of the town never even tries to ask the witches to keep their screaming down. He just sets off to kill them. Come to think of it, my neighbor keeps playing his stereo really loud at night; maybe I should pay a visit to his “cave” if you know what I mean.

2. Jewish stereotypes are real
The old woman who sets everything off says “I want to see the full moon before I die! Is that too much to ask?” She then complained about never seeing her grandchildren and went back to her room to sit alone in the dark because it’s to much trouble to turn on the light. Bagels.

3. Follow your leader blindly
When the Rabbi tells the men they’re going to the witches cave armed only with pots filled with robes, nobody asks why. They just assume that, because he was a Rabbi, he knew what he was doing. Later, the Rabbi told them to wear their underwear on the outside of their clothes, paint their faces blue, drink this special Kool-Aid he prepared, and come to his Amway meeting.

4. Menstruation is Evil
Once a month the witches, all female, screamed a lot and scared everyone. Come on, do I have to spell it out for you?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Reality Television

I watched the first two seasons of Survivor.  I watched the first episode of Big Brother, Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire, and most of a rather prurient show called Temptation Island.  Then I got bored.  Why?  Because, seriously, who wants to watch losers like these?  I mean, I could barely sit through the first episode of The Osbournes without wanting to call Child Protective Services and have Ozzy placed in a more caring home.

Then I got into Frontier House.  The whole "House" series was created by PBS to try and cash in on the reality show phenomenon.  Like most reality shows, they take normal people and put them in odd situations.  Unlike most reality shows, the PBS versions have people try and live as though they were in other time periods and educate along the way.  The series is obviously very popular, since it spawned several versions (Colonial House, Edwardian House, etc.). 

What threw me was when I heard about the first one: 1900 House.  It seems that, just living the way people did only 100 years ago, was very difficult.  I got to thinking about other reality shows I'd like to see.

1970s House
Three families try to live as their ancestors did back in the 70s.  They wear 100% polyester clothing, listen only to 8-track tapes, and repaint their homes as tackily as possible. 

1980s House
Six budding young stock market analyists are forced to share a small office.  Whoever manages to backstab the other five the most thoroughly wins.

December 1999 House
A group of teenagers has to figure out how to reconfigure all of their electronic devices to avoid the Y2K issue before the end of the month.  Various doomsday cults periodically enter the house in the middle of the night and try to scare the participants.

You get the idea.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Shameless Pandering

I love both of my readers; I truly do.  However, the marketing department here at I Can Write Funny, has been pushing me to expand my readership beyond my wife and mother.  It took some persuading, but I eventually realized they were correct, and so I have set out to broaden my appeal. 

Of course, in this age where resumes are no more than a list of search terms and Google owns the universe, "broadening my appeal" doesn't mean making my blog more appealing to people.  It means making my blog more appealing to search engines.  There are a number of methods for increasing my GQ (Google Quotient): pinging search engines, leaving links in other blogs, renaming my blog "Famous Actresses Naked in a Bathtub of Jello," etc.  However, the most successful method is to write about things that web surfers are prone to look for.  Therefore, today's posting is designed to appeal to that group.

I have been concerned with Mesothelioma for many years.  For those of you who aren't familiar with Mesothelioma, Mesothelioma is (as described by the first two lines of its Wikipedia page) cancer caused by asbestos.  Mesothelioma is terrible, but not as bad if Mesothelioma sufferers are treated by being shown movies of Megan Fox.  I think we can all see the medical benefits of showing Megan Fox nude in a bathtub filled with Jello.  However, there are dangers, mainly if they end up seeing Megan Fox's creepy thumbs.  So, ideally, Mesothelioma sufferers should be shown movies of Megan Fox nude but still wearing gloves.

Of course, this has nothing to do with Vioxx.  It also has nothing to do with any kind of Structured Settlement.  The reason these two are unrelated to Mesothelioma or Megan Fox nude but still wearing gloves, is because I haven't bothered to look at the first two lines of their Wikipedia pages.  What a horrible scandal involving Bill Clinton and contract management software.  Okay, wait, that doesn't even make sense to me.  You know why?  Because I love Mad-Libs!  And Mad-Libs have nothing at all to do with liberals destroying our country, conservatives destroying our country, or even naked pictures of Sarah Palin riding a snowmobile.

Thanks to my regular readers.  We will now return to incessant rambling on the tragedy of birds being killed in movies.

DBIM: Arrested Development (episodes 2 and 3)

Severity: 1
Genre: Television
Date: 2003
Description: The brother of the main character buys a dove for his magic act and then accidentally kills it. In the next episode he throws the body into the ocean.
Mitigating Factors: He does the same to a rabbit later.
Aggravating Factors: None.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

All Natural

To my eternal shame, I used to shop at Whole Foods (this was back in 2006, when I lived in Chicago, and my shopping choices were limited). Whilst there, I found these “all natural” sugar cookies you could decorate and bake yourself. They were Christmas cookies, and I hate Christmas, but I’m a sucker for cookies, so I bought them.

It turns out that they were not only disturbingly good, but also fun to decorate. I ended up buying them several times over the year and was glad they weren’t only around at Christmastime. One day, however, I looked at the ingredients.

The usual things were on the ingredients list, sugar, flour, etc. Then I hit the word butter and stopped. I looked back at the All Natural label on the front and back again to the word butter. Then it hit me: how is butter natural?

Seriously, think about it for a moment. I always assumed the word natural meant “naturally occurring.” I’ll accept milk as natural. Flour is just ground up wheat grains, so I’ll accept that, too. However, how could butter possibly be naturally occurring?

Think about it. For butter to occur naturally, it would have to have started with a cow. The cow would have recently given birth to make it lactate and drip milk freely from its udders. This cow would have had to drip her milk into a naturally occurring container; lets say there was a shallow depression in the ground under said cow. Since the butter is Pasteurized, all of the above must have happened during a forest fire that, miraculously, didn’t boil the milk away. The milk was then churned, so after the forest fire, a 7.8 earthquake happened on the spot for half an hour.

That is one unlucky cow.

In any case, if you’re going to accept butter as all natural, you might as well say a Subaru is, since everything it’s made of came from nature. Bon appetit!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Obituary for a Dear Friend

I lost a friend of eight years this morning. It was quite a shock. Normally, I try to do humor in this blog, but I just can’t. In fact, the only way I can express my feelings seems to be through the magic of poetry.

To wire the news of your demise
For all the world to hear,
Brought unbidden tears to my eyes
And wracked my mind with fear.

I have known our time together would ebb;
Though you showed me many things.
We surfed together through the web;
We were unlikely kings.

But you expired without a sound
And left my life no form.
Just the realization I found,
That I couldn’t download porn.

Oh, router, you left me with fear
I thought Radio Shack could fill
And now I’m on hold with Netgear
You should see my tech support bill.

Yeah, I lost my modem/router. It was pretty hard for me to accept at first, but then my morning got much worse. Here’s a recap:

9:15 My laptop loses connectivity.
9:30 I confirm the wall outlet is working, the 2Wire is simply dead.
9:45 Mourning period over.
10:00 I arrive at Radio Shack and ask for a router that “won’t take all morning to set up.”
10:30 Return home with Sysco router and begin setup.
10:40 Realize routers don’t come with modems.
10:55 Return to Radio Shack and purchase Netgear modem.
11:15 Modem works fine. Download and install latest update.
11:20 Modem fails. Resetting modem fails.
11:25 Finally get through to tech support. Begin answering pointless questions.
11:50 More pointless questions. Yes, I have size 10 shoes. I have blue eyes.
12:00 Tech support finally answers my question; it’s defective. I say mean things.
12:00 Return to Radio Shack and return products.
12:15 Pick up child from preschool.
12:30 Go to AT&T store (right next to Radio Shack) and buy new 2Wire.
12:45 Finish installation with child’s “help” and one surprisingly helpful tech support call.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Better Spam

So, I got this spam comment on my last post.  It went like this:
Some good point written.


Work of many people on this issue of plastic, there are several plastic materials recycling organic-based view. In February, for example, Imperial College London and bioceramic drug polymer...
Now, I have no idea what the hell this guy was trying to say.  First of all, my post was about someone stealing a magic ring.  There was some talk about copper, but nothing about plastic.  (By the way, the stuff about copper and gold is all true; I researched it all for my wedding ring's creation.)  Second, it was fiction; I made no "good point."  Third, the grammar is terrible.  I mean, I'm not perfect in the grammar category, but at least try.

Here's a better spam comment to make:

You make some interesting points on metallurgy and magic. 
I was also reading about a magic ring made of rose gold.  Many people have found such rings similarly addicting and need help in throwing them into the volcano from which they were formed.  If you want more information, check out my.preciousssss.com!
Now, I can't stop the spam (okay, I just did, but it's irritating to have to delete it all one by one), but I can suggest topics I won't object to.  Here's a short sample:
  • Products related to my posts - See above.
  • Anything sexual - Hey, I have to get more visitors SOMEhow!
  • Video games - My chosen career path.
  • Beauty products - I use a lot of rouge.
  • Anything that gives me an endorsement deal.
Hope that helps!  See you in the comments section.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bad Mugging

I’m not stupid. I have a master’s degree from Bowling Green in popular culture. I graduated Cum Laude from Kenyon. Unfortunately, I also have a $500 a day meth habit that I can’t feed with the jobs I can get with a master’s degree from Bowling Green and a BA from Kenyon. So I steal.

When you mug someone you have to be fast. I’m pretty good at it; never been caught. It’s easy if you follow the script: just show them the gun, show them you mean business, take the money and go. Don’t be stupid. Stupid muggers talk; they say stuff that can identify them. Stick to cash. Stupid muggers take jewelry or credit cards that can be traced back to the source.

I’m not stupid. I’m not. But I did something stupid last night.

It was a standard grab at Lake and Fifth. Lake and Fifth is one of the better corners. There’s lots of cover. You can get people coming off the bus. They relax when they think they’re almost home. I saw this well-dressed guy with blonde hair and blue eyes (remember that: he had blue eyes) and bing I knew that was my mark.

So I make my grab: get in his face, point the gun, tell him to hand over the wallet. It was clean, but I fucked it up. He had his hands up and I see this ring he’s wearing. It’s all shiny and red.

It was the red that caught me. I’d never seen a red ring before. Gold isn’t red, not even red gold. Red gold is a little pink from copper, but you add enough to make it really red and metal gets too brittle to make into a ring. You could make a ring out of pure copper, but that wouldn’t be red either; it would turn green in a day. This guy had a red ring, pure red, and it shone on his finger like a lighthouse, like an LED, like blood.

So I see the ring and what do I do? Stupidest thing in my whole life. I tell him to give me the ring. Crazy motherfucker just smiles.

“You want the ring?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “Give me the god damned ring!”

“Just let me get this straight,” he said, smiling like I had told him Christmas was coming a day early. “Are you asking me for this ring of your own free will?”

I seriously wanted to cap him, but my gun wasn’t loaded. I never load my gun; if I got caught that’d be another ten years in prison, easy. Instead I try to put on my badass Lawrence Fishburne look.

“I’m not asking you, mother fucker. I’m telling you.”

He pulled the ring off and put it in my hand. It was hot, hotter than it had any right to be, and crisscrossed with these little lines like veins. I couldn’t take my eyes away, even though every instinct told me to get away.

“I have more money,” this guy said.

I had forgotten he was there and jumped when he spoke. He was taking off his left shoe.

“Mug money,” he told me as he pulled out a wad of bills. They were all hundreds. “You can never be too safe in this neighborhood. Here. Take it. You’ll need it.”

He put the money in my hand on top of the ring and I looked up into his eyes. They were relaxed, a deep, dark brown. He put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed it.

“Thank you,” he said softly, and he walked away.

He was a nut. He was messing with my head. He must have been part of some new police sting operation to scare the hell out of muggers instead of putting them in jail. They make these special rings that keep heat and give them to guys who dress in suits and walk around at night. He must have prepared that speech about taking it of my free will and needing the money. Probably yanked some contacts out of his eyes when I was looking at the ring.

Yet here I am, still holding the ring. I can put it on my finger and take it off. I can put it down and walk away from it. I look into the mirror and my eyes are still dark brown.

Nothing has changed. Nothing. Not even the ring. It’s exactly the same.

It’s still hot.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Quick Update

Just a quick update since it’s late and I can’t think of anything else to write about. (I was going to write about a blood-curdling animation I found on YouTube about a cute baby bird being fed to a shark by his father, but I already did a DBIM this week.) So, here’s the tally on the novel choices for next month’s writing marathon:


Pinhole = 3

Time Expired = 1

I realize that there’s a problem with the voting system, but it seems all both of my readers have voted twice. Now that I think about it, I like the whole “stuffing the ballot box” thing. Go ahead and vote a bunch of times if you want. Enthusiasm counts!

Anyway, I figured I’d add a little more information about the two lead contenders to help you both vote more.

Pinhole
This novel is a series of short stories about people whose lives are effected by the invention of the “Blakely Pinhole,” a device that allows people to create wormholes. The technology advances over the course of the novel and effects different lives in different ways. The stories span several million years of history and is told in chronological order.

Time Expired
This novel is an odd combination of thriller, dark comedy, and mystery, so it’s hard to say much without giving the big reveal away. There are two major stories. The first story is about Rita, who is trapped in her home with a ticking time bomb, trying to keep the bomb from detonating while figuring out who set it and looking for a way to escape. The other story is a dark comedy about Maxwell, who sets out to propose to the woman he loves, only to be driven to the point of insanity by red tape that blocks his every move.

Anyway, those are the big contenders. I’ll go similarly in depth for every novel that gets a vote.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Way I Like Things

I’m typing this entry on a computer where the period key only works about half the time.  The mouse pad sometimes stops responding for days.  If I want to listen to music or watch a movie, I have to press down on the front left corner of the laptop or there’s no sound, and I can’t change the volume.  Once a week, when I videoconference with my family, I plug in the camera, log in to Windows Messenger, start a conversation, and then call them on the cell phone; the microphone jack doesn’t work.  Sometimes, the screen will go dark and I’ll have to restart to get the backlight back.  Don’t even get me started about what’s (not) going on with the task tray, movie player, memory, or any of the software.
You may wonder why I put up with a computer with this many problems.  I just haven’t been able to bring myself to replace it.  It’s not only because I have a history with this machine (four years), or because I’m bad at fixing things (true, though), it’s because I like my things broken.  Broken things have character.  You can tell stories about broken things.
Take one of my first cars, which I affectionately called “The Red Car.”  It was a 1984 Oldsmobile Brougham with enough bad luck for the entire team of the Chicago Cubs.  Power lines collapsed and fell on it, scratching the roof.  Other cars skidded on icy roads and crashed into it.  Some jerk decided to walk over it one day, leaving footprint-sized dents.  One hot summer, the rear view mirror fell off and the lining of the roof came unglued, causing the inside fabric to billow like a sail when the windows were open.  The gas gauge pointed in random directions regardless of how much fuel you had.  Not long after it was purchased, thieves broke into it and stole it, only to ditch it half a block away.  It’s possible that they just didn’t like the car’s lack of acceleration; my guess is they thought they might get struck by lightning if they didn’t get out.
The Red Car died in a spectacularly amusing fashion.  I had noticed the brakes were acting funny, so I took it to my local dealership.  It was a routine maintenance, so when they hadn’t called me in two days, I got nervous.  I still remember the first thing the head of the service department said when I called.
“Well, there’s good news and bad news.  The good news is we found the problem with your brakes.  The bad news is we totaled the car.”
It seems there was a problem with some kind of caliper in the braking system.  After diagnosing the problem, the mechanic backed the car out of the bay and the brakes failed.  Being a trained technician, he did the logical thing; he turned the car off.
(Okay, that doesn’t seem logical to me, either.  Why didn’t he use the parking brake?  Why didn’t he put the car in gear?  But I digress.)
The car plowed into a giant, reinforced dumpster and put a dent in it the size of a serving platter.  You remember how I mentioned the car had poor acceleration?  It moved slow, really-eally slow.  The only way you could get The Red Car moving that fast in that short a distance was to drive it off a cliff.  I’m still not sure how he pulled it off.
The frame was bent, making the whole car resemble a letter “S” to passing birds.  The front door wouldn’t open and the whole back end was pushed up into the trunk.  When I went in to survey the damage, and talk about their insurance, the head of the department offered to fix it up for me by gluing a new bumper and tail lights on.  I chose money instead.
I eventually spent it all on a yellow pick up truck for my soon-to-be-ex wife.  The truck attracted a lot of attention as a “Baywatch Truck,” and I got some laughs out of that, but it never had enough character for me.
I guess it just worked too well.

DBIM: Stephen Colbert's Alpha Squad 7

Media: Television (cartoon)
Date: 2006
Severity: 1
Description: To escape a deadly trap, Stephen must set off a series of improbable events to escape. These events include the vaporization of a bird by a laser.
Mitigating Factors: The cartoon is gratuitously violent to a lot of non-birds.
Aggravating Factors: None.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Inventions for Parents

We just got this catalog in the mail from One Step Ahead. The catalog bills itself as selling helpful items for parents. As I paged through it, I realized it only had toys and games, blankets and clothes; nothing I really needed. The problem is, nobody has what I really need. What I need hasn’t been invented yet.
So, if there are any inventors out there, I’ve created a list of projects for you to work on. I guarantee parents will snatch them up:
Behavior collar
Mountains of research have been done on the harmful effects of spanking. Not only is hitting your kid ineffective, but it’s embarrassing to do in public, what with all the people who know it’s child abuse. The behavior collar solves this problem by shocking your child whenever he or she does an act you deem offensive (swearing, acting out, spitting food, advocating supply-side economics, etc.).

Anti slamming doors
Nothing removes the enjoyment of putting your child in a time out faster than having said child slam the door in your face, sometimes repeatedly. The anti slamming door can only be moved at a low speed by a child, to prevent slamming. When a parent closes the door, however, it can be moved at any speed desired (to keep children from running out and calling the police).

Vocal spray
Screaming babies on planes are expected these days, but not with the vocal spray. A few squirts of vocal spray anesthetizes the vocal cords of a loud child. The child can then scream as much as he or she wants, but nobody will hear anything. Note, due to the potential for abuse, use of vocal spray would be limited to the most necessary situations: on airplanes, in nice restaurants, after bedtime, in the car, waiting in lines, at religious ceremonies, during school, er... Okay, maybe there should be no restrictions.

School talkie tabs
The school talkie tab (STT) is a small adhesive patch similar to the nicotine patch. When applied to a child’s skin, sodium pentothal is released into the bloodstream, making the child actually tell you what happened in school that day instead of shrugging and saying “nothing.”

Sleeping pills
Okay, so sleeping pills have been around forever, but not in child’s doses. Now that children’s cold remedies have been banned, parents have no way to force their children to sleep, short of the “Desdemona method.” What parents need is a quick-acting sleeping pill that can be administered without parents receiving “Othello’s reward” (capital punishment).

Friday, October 8, 2010

If I could draw #5

A man with headphones sits in front of a gian machine covered in tiny buttons. Some of the buttons are labeled. They say:


• Tote bag

• Mug

• Only one out of five viewers pledge

• Your support is so important to us

• Volunteers are waiting for your call

• This is your station

• Dollar for dollar challenge
• Call now! Don’t wait.

Caption: The Pledge-O-Matic 9000

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What Novel Will They Give the Next Nobel For?

So, I'm gearing up for National Write a Novel Month. For all of November, I'll post pieces of my novel here instead of my usual blog. Since you're stuck reading it instead of my usual brilliant prose, I figure you should all have a choice in what I write. Read the options and then choose.
1. Michael Goose
Romance - The story of a man’s attempt to find true love. Each chapter’s story comes from a classic Mother Goose rhyme.
2. Pinhole
Science Fiction - A series of intertwined stories based around how the development of one piece of technology changes several lives over the course of millions of years.
3. A Thousand Secret Sorrows
Science Fantasy - One man must discover the lost memories of one of the most important people in history, or have those memories kill him.
4. Oneman
Space Opera – A king is torn between saving the lives of his family and saving the lives of his subjects.
5. Scrolls of Merlin
Historical Fantasy – A new take on the story of Arthur (told from the point of view of all of the characters in the story).
6. Riding the Wave
Medical Science Fiction – James Herriott, if he lived on a frontier planet and cared for giant, genetically engineered gryphons.
7. Waterfall Castle
Fantasy – A young man must escape from a giant castle built around a waterfall. As he escapes, he uncovers dark secrets about the castle’s creation.
8. Red Mercury
Horror – A Dracula-style horror story about one woman’s attempt to uncover a mysterious man’s true intentions toward a young rock star.
9. Trophy Husband (dot com)
Romantic Comedy – Tired of waiting for the perfect husband (who will stay at home with the kids), successful entrepreneur Alison decides to hold auditions.
10. Dragon Hunting for the Complete Moron
Fantasy Humor – Wrongfully accused of impregnating the king’s daughter, a poor herdsman is forced to go on a quest to slay a mythical dragon while accompanied by a group of unhelpful characters.
11. Time Expired
Thriller/Black Comedy – The intertwined lives of Rita, who is trapped in her house with a time bomb and Ted, who is kept from his life’s dream by red tape.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Frustration

It's been months since I played a game.  I know, I know, I'm supposed to be a game professional.  It's just hard to find time to devote to it.  When I do start a game, it fills my every free moment until it's done.  So, you see my problem, until I get a calm spot in my life (i.e. never) I try to avoid games.

Anyway, I decided it was time to start again.  I have this old game called MDK on my computer that I had become enthralled with, way back when, but never played past the demo.  Today I tried to play it and I couldn't get it to run.

"Oh, never mind," I thought.  "I'll just get my new PS2 going and play something on that."

I turned on my PlayStation 2 (which I bought to replace my old one and found myself shocked by how small the PS2s are that they manufacture these days).  No video came out.

"Well, I'll figure out that problem later," I thought, as I plugged in my XBox.

My Xbox hasn't been used in a while.  It got a red ring of death, so I brought it in to be fixed (three days before my brother suggested it was under warranty).  It had been sitting on my table for a month and a half waiting for me to have an excuse to use it.  When I turned it on, the red ring appeared again.

In a fury, I drove to the repair place and demanded they fix it.  They told me they only guaranteed repairs for one month, but they'd look at it and see if they could do anything for me.

So, my question is, why do the gods hate my machines?

P.S. I didn't mention that the video for my minitower that sits next to my XBox and PS2 is also broken.  Perhaps the gremlins have moved in to my garage.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Common Parlance: Teaching

I teach.

I don’t teach high school, where kids are forced to go to classes by law. I teach at a college.

I teach at a small, technical school.

I don’t teach at an expensive university where the students are only going to classes because their parents made them go. I don’t teach students at a school with a big name that students attend because they feel the name alone will help their careers.

I have a fun course.

I teach video games. I don’t teach how to program them, which can be boring. I don’t teach how to do the art, which can be difficult. I teach the history. I have students play games and talk (argue, really) about them. I show them how to come up with ideas.

I’m an exciting teacher.

I tell jokes. I throw things. I use slides that have lots of images. I play humorous but educational movies.

I’m a good teacher.

I fulfill the different styles of learning (visual, verbal, kinesthetic). I keep my students’ attention. I constantly improve my lesson plan and slides. I always get good reviews.

In spite of all of that, every semester I fail half to two-thirds of my students. They don’t do their homework. They miss classes. They forget to read the required materials I provide. They forget to take notes when I give them the answers to their tests. They never, ever, ask for help. They always, always ask for more time to do their homework (invariably, days or weeks after the work is due).

Merriam Webster defines teaching as imparting knowledge. I define teaching as forcing knowledge down someone’s throat.

Monday, October 4, 2010

My Modest Proposal

So, everyone knows the environment is going downhill (literally and figuratively). We’ve known it for years, but have done little to change things. The world grows hotter, species are going extinct at an increasing rate, and the air and water are growing toxic. Yet the population of the planet keeps growing; every decade we add another billion people who use more resources.

Americans are some of the worst offenders, not because of our rise in population (right now we’re reproducing just below the replacement rate) but because of our using. The average American uses ten times the resources of the average non-American. In short, America is acting like we have ten times the population we really have. That makes us a country of three billion people. Now China, with their paltry one billion people, seems the responsible country.

What do we do? We’ve been trying to get people to use less resources, but have completely failed. The real trick seems to be to get people to have fewer children. However, we’ve had little success at that so far. I mean, if abstinence-only education doesn’t work, what does? And Obama’s heroic “death panels” have been gutted to become “hope they die panels.”

However, I think I have a new solution. When you choose to become a parent, you have to go kill someone. Okay, so it sounds harsh, but hear me out. First of all, you wouldn’t be allowed to kill just anyone. You’d only be allowed to kill those who either have too many children or use more than their fair share of resources.

Oh, wait, that’s pretty much everyone in the US.  Okay, never mind. New plan: nuclear war!

The DBIM and John Woo

[I'm late on entries, so here's an old piece I wrote for NPR's "Perspectives" series.  It's about birds dying.]

John Woo’s movie Paycheck is the most important film of the new millennium. I urge all of you to go see it now.

Sure, it has flaws. There are a number of plot holes, Uma Thruman should be prohibited by law from doing any more close-ups, and Ben Affleck acts like… Well… Ben Affleck, but it’s still groundbreaking. Why? In Paycheck Uma’s character has these two pet birds and, by the end of the film, they’re both still alive.

Okay, so birds dying in movies is hardly a pressing issue these days, what with Al Qaeda, morning after pills, and the upcoming presidential elections, but it’s a problem that has been growing for years. Today, every time you see a bird in a movie or a television show it will be eaten, blown up, set on fire, or suffer some gruesome death before the end credits roll.

Sure, there are exceptions. Disney movies are relatively safe. The postal owls in Harry Potter and giant falcons in The Lord of the Rings fare pretty well. For the most part, however, birds in cinema have the life span of scantily-clad teenage girls in early 80s horror flicks.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s not just the birds; lots of animals get killed in films. However, birds get it worse than anything else. Lets take the Stuart Little movies as an example. At the end of first movie, the evil cats are defeated when they’re knocked into some cold water. At the end of the second movie, the evil bird is defeated when he gets eaten. That’s right, cats get wet; birds get killed. If this isn’t a blatant double standard, I don’t know what is.

I can’t say I entirely blame the people who make these movies. They’re torn between the desire to make their works more “edgy” while still keeping within the lucrative PG-13 rating. An easy solution is to kill an animal, but dog and cat owners tend to write angry letters. Bird owners like me have always been quiet and unassuming. At least, we were until now.

I urge all of you to join me in protesting the unnecessary avian violence in film. Call your representative! Write the movie producers! Email whoever the heck is in charge of these things!

And somebody give John Woo an Oscar.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Love and the Unified Field Theory

As an atheist (among other things) I occasionally get needled by people who want to know what I believe in. I’ve always tried to eliminate beliefs from my life; accepting something without proof has caused me too many problems in the past. However, there are a few things I still believe in. Here’s one.

I believe that love works like gravity. Okay, so this is going to be one of those articles that scientists hate where the author draws a spurious connection between a law of the universe and some human behavior, but bear with me. This one is good.

See, there are five basic forces that govern the universe: the strong force, the weak force, the electromagnetic force, gravity and incompetence. (You can laugh here.) I’ve never understood the strong and weak forces, but they have something to do with holding matter together. The electromagnetic force is energy: heat, light, lightning, magnetism, etc. Gravity pulls things together.

Gravity is easily the weakest of the basic forces. It’s so gentle that we forget it. We defy gravity daily when we jump, fly in an airplane, or launch a rocket into space. It’s rare when we think about gravity, but it’s always there, doing amazing things. Only gravity can bend time. Only gravity can gently nudge dust particles together until they ignite into a star.

I believe that love works in the same way. When people talk about love, most of the time they’re really talking about something else. Romance isn’t love. Passion isn’t love. Lust isn’t even close. Take away all of those other emotions and ask the average person to tell you about love, and they’ll draw a blank. Real love is far too easy to overlook.

Love is what’s left over when all the other emotions are gone. It’s a bond between living beings that’s so fragile you’d hardly notice it. It’s what keeps married people together for ten, twenty, forty years, even when all the passion and romance has disappeared. It’s the feeling you have when you have finally gotten your screaming baby to sleep and you feel the gentle thump-thump of its heartbeat against your skin. It’s an emotion so subtle, that most people never get a chance to feel it, but it’s always there, gently nudging people together until they ignite.

One last thing about gravity. It’s infinite. I hope that love is, too.

Friday, October 1, 2010

New Anniversary Presents

I have an anniversary coming up this month and, like a lot of people who are bad at buying presents for their loved ones, I consulted a handy guide to find the traditional present to get.  As always, I was horrified at how much the traditional presents suck.  (Seriously?  You expect me to buy her a plate?)  The updated, modern list is marginally less awful, but seems to have been the subject of corporate interests (although the Pottery Barn AnniversaryTM sounds like fun). 

I have attempted to make a more helpful set of gifts:

1st - Air
You lived together for a year?  Big friggin' deal.  Go have dinner out and get on with it!

2nd - New china
You're going to need something to replace that stoneware crap you registered for.  Sure, it looked nice, but it wasn't dishwasher safe and broke easily.

3rd - New flatware
You know that box of formal dining silverware set that's propping up your XBox in the garage?  Yeah, you're never going to use those.  Who has formal dinner parties?  And who would polish the silver afterwards?  Go get some real utensils.

4th - Mortgage
You should be settling down by now.  Get a house.  Renting is like money down the toilet.  (BTW, this anniversary is sponsored by Interro Real Estate.  Call me if you need an agent.  I get a commission!)

5th - Contraceptives
It's a romantic way of saying: "I know your biological clock is ticking, but I'm not about to give up my life."

6th - Baby Toys
Face it, you can only hold off the biological clock for so long.

7th - Baby Sitters
The seventh anniversary is also known as the "Didn't we used to have fun?" anniversary.

8th - Preschool
Preschool is the same thing as babysitters, but with less guilt.

9th - Home repairs
It's always good to fix things around the house, just make sure you don't get a home expansion.  A guest bedroom is an open invitation to have another child.

10th - Vacation alone
If you haven't been together ten years yet, then you'd be horrified at the idea of leaving your children for a week.  If you've reached this point, you've already booked tickets.  If you're past ten years, then you already have a resort and childcare reserved for the next decade.

20th - Pictures of the children
The fifteenth is also known as the "Empty Nest Anniversary."

25th - New cars
The men are going to be going through their mid life crisis.  Ladies, pick now: a blonde or a car?  The women are going to be sore from driving that uncomfortable, old mini-van.  Gentlemen, pick now: a car or a muscular masseur named "Fernando?"

30th - Plastic surgery
You can only put off that mid life crisis for so long.  Time to do everything you can to keep you spouse's interest.

40th - Medical Insurance
Congratulations!  You've stayed together so long that nobody else on the whole planet is interested in you.  You might as well get a fancy plan to keep going for as long as you can.

50th - Trick weapons
You know your spouse will be trying to kill you as much as you're trying to kill him or her.  Why not give yourself the upper hand?  Blanks are inexpensive and effective and give you critical seconds to return fire.

100th - ???
Nobody has ever reached the famed hundredth anniversary.  However, as science extends our life-spans, we will someday see many couples reach this point.  What do you get someone you've lived with for a hundred years?  It's hard to say.  Not only will you have gotten to the point where you've bought everything you need or want, but you'll be too senile to enjoy gifts.  Some suggestions:
  • Dr. Kevorkian Brand Suicide Machines (two pack)
  • Matching cemetary plots
  • Trip to Mars (this is the future, remember?)
  • Organ transplants
  • A butler to keep those noisy kids off your lawn
  • New dentures
Hope these were helpful!  Let me know if you used my suggestions.  I've got legal copyright on this whole list, so you owe me cash if you do...

Thursday, September 30, 2010

DBIM: About a Boy

Media: Movie
Date: 2002
Severity: 1
Description: In an outing at a park, the title character throws a giant loaf of bread to a duck in a pond and kills it.
Mitigating Factors: None.
Aggravating Factors: Later on, the killing of the duck becomes a bonding moment for the two main characters and a humorous interlude.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The DTs

From my journal for today:
8:30 – I was going to have my last can of soda today, but I drank it last night instead. I am now without soda and am starting my attempt to go “cold turkey.”

9:00 – Glass of milk. Bleah. I guess I’ll have to get used to this.

10:00 – Large glass of lemonade. Have to keep hydrated! Hm. I better make some more. Luckily I have a lemon tree.

10: 30 – Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink. Ha ha. Hm. Out of lemonade again. Better get more lemons.

11:00 – Ran out of lemons. I wonder if I can use the leaves.

11:15 – Ran out of leaves. I wonder if I can use the bark.

11:30 – Well, at least I’ll have wood for fires when winter comes.

Noon – Lunch is worthless without a caffeinated soda. Otherwise, I tend to get sleepy. The only obvious solution is to not eat.

Little After Noon – You know the water tastes different in different areas of the house. I think I’ll label each faucet with the taste it has. “Cinnamon-y,” “Loagy,” and “Shimmery.”

More After Noon – This house is has too few faucets. I’m a gonna put in some more so I don’t need to walk so far to get a drink.

Later Than That – Shoot, I need more labels. How am I going to tell which faucet tastes “Brillo?”

Zero Hour – I’m pretty sure that water doesn’t talk. It does sing to me. Why does it sound like Justin Bieber?

After Hours –I went to pick up my children from school and found they weren’t there. I even went looking in all the offices and cubicles. Man, I got some really funny looks from Google security. Now where did I put them?

24 - I think my mind is cracking. I got to get a grip. It’s just withdrawal from aspartame. I can get past this. Where are my sugar free mints? WHO TOOK MY MINTS?!

1408 – The mints are hiding in the attic. I can hear them calling my name. I won’t answer because that’s how they know where I put my ice cream bar.

3:00 – Okay, things seem to be getting better. I tied myself to the bed to keep from hurting anything. Shoot, how do I get to the bathroom? I really gotta pee.

4:00 – Still gnawing through ropes.

5:00 – Whew. Much better now. That wasn’t so hard! I’m through it and back to my normal self. I’m glad I’m not crazy any more.
Now, I’ll just sit down and turn on Fox News.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sick Child Schedule

When caring for a sick child at home while another child is also at home, you may find yourself overwhelmed.  Don't panic!  Here's a list of helpful activities to fill your day.  You don't have to do them all in order, but I did!

1. Make toast for healthy child while sick child is vomiting into the toilet.
2. Clean vomit from bathroom while healthy child dumps toy box onto living room floor.
3. Put toys away while sick child vomits again.
4. Throw out two untouched breakfasts while both brothers lie on the floor while kicking each other in the head.
5. Put sick child on the swing outside to get fresh air while his brother yells at him for not playing with him.
6. Make toast with jelly for sick child while healthy child pours a cup of water on his bed and floor.
7. Offer juice to sick child while healthy child pours his juice into cat's water bowl and then adds their cat food on top.
8. Clean up cat area while sick child lies in his bed complaining that he doesn't want to eat anything.
9. Bind and gag both children.


Full disclaimer: I haven't tried number nine yet, but I may try it this evening.  I'll let you know how it turns out!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ivy

I saw Cal for the last time when he came into my office a month ago. He was in for the usual problem: poison ivy rash. There wasn’t much I could do for the blisters except give him a cream, but Cal’s a bit squeamish, so I applied it for him. As usual, he defended his outdoor activities.

“When I’m outside, I’m at one with nature.” he said. “I live with nature. It feeds me and I do what it commands.”

“By ‘doing what nature commands,’ I assume you mean walk around without pants on.” I said as I washed the lotion off my hands.

“You didn’t seem to mind in college,” he said, pulling his clothes on.

I felt my face redden. When we were both in pre-med, he had taken me out camping on Cape Cod. We had gone into the woods near Barnstable and I had watched him catch fish with his bare hands, light a fire with sticks, and raise a tent: all practically naked. That night, he told me all about the Cape, its history and legends. As the campfire light reflected off of his perfect chest, he told me about the geology that formed Cape Cod; it was essentially a giant sand bar and nobody knew why it hadn’t washed away into the ocean. Okay, it was a pretty dull story, but he was beautiful, and I was in love with him, and his words cast a spell over me.

Then he sat in poison ivy. The spell broke as he swore like he had Tourette’s and hopped about the fire, scratching like mad. Honestly, I was amazed he had managed it. Cal was the most natural outdoorsman I had ever met, knowing the names and uses of every plant we had seen, yet poison ivy was invisible to him. It was worse than invisible, it was almost magnetic. Over the years, I treated him for exposure dozens of times.

“Have you considered looking where you sit?” I said, handing him a prescription. “It’s not like ivy is all that hard to recognize.”

“I won’t need to any more,” he said, crumpling up the prescription as he stuck it in his pocket. “I’ve got a new plan.”

“Cal,” I said, suppressing a groan, “your plans never go well.”

It was true. A skilled geneticist, his first “plan” was to create a new kind of orchid that grew like kudzu. The new plant did, in fact, grow like the weed, but never blossomed like an orchid. Over the next few years, the plant slowly covered rural Virginia, unnoticed by the authorities, but studied carefully by a terrified Cal. Luckily he was also a skilled chemist and came up with a new plan. He chartered dozens of crop dusters to fly over the state, dropping a herbicide he had created. It worked and nobody every found out what he did.

“This time I’ve been more careful,” he told me. “Aerial spraying is too haphazard. Besides, ivy’s roots are too long. Seriously, they go down for miles! So, I’m using a microbe that eats at the roots.”

“But that would devastate the ecosystem,” I said. Was he crazy enough to do it again?

“Nah, poison ivy doesn’t do anything useful. It just grows everywhere making everyone miserable. They’re like mosquitoes.”

“But lots of animals eat mosquitoes!”

“Yeah, but they don’t have to,” he said, shrugging me off. “They could eat something else.”

“Cal, please don’t do this,” I said, grabbing him by the arm as he turned to leave. “Remember what happened the last time? A third of Virginia still doesn’t have any grass!”

“It’s already done!” he said, smiling. “I applied batches to ivy groups all over the Cape last week. I’m going to go check on how fast the microbes are spreading, but it should be over in a month.”

My stomach dropped. He had already started.

“Don’t worry Joseph,” he said, noticing my distress. “I’ll call you when it’s over. We can go camping again, but you have to go naked.”

He smiled at me, and then he was gone.

Over the next month, he was proven right. There were no reports of missing poison ivy, since nobody kept track of things like that, but I checked the sales of rash creams and ivy-specific herbicides, and they had all dropped precipitously. Within that predicted month, all the poison ivy had disappeared from Cape Cod.

The next day, Cape Cod sank into the ocean.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

DBIM

Name: Stuart Little 2

Media: Movie

Date: 2002

Severity: 1

Description: The evil falcon (with the creative name of "Falcon") is knocked from the sky into a nearby garbage can.  Monty, a villain from the previous movie, eats him.

Mitigating Factors: One of Stuart's friends (Margalo) is a canary.

Aggravating Factors: In the previous movie, the bad guys are cats and their punishment is being knocked into a river and coming out wet.

A Humbling Moment

A month ago, I ran into an acquaintance at a park.  He had seen pictures of my friends and I taking a glassblowing class and it had inspired him to take a blacksmithing class.  I asked him how it went and he told me it was the best weekend he'd had in five years.  Then he spent the next ten minutes talking about how much his son had grown from the experience and how good a job he felt he had done as a father.

He didn't say one word about how much he liked it, or what he made, or anything at all about himself.  The entire story was about his parenting.

He set an example I hope to, in a small way, follow.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Someone Take Away My MasterCard

New bicycle:
$85.99

Squeaky horn for handle bars:
$7.99

Helmet:
$19.99

EZ Training wheels:
$18.99

Service to fix training wheels that I couldn't manage to put on myself:
$20.00

New training wheels and (service to install them) to replace the ones the broke after one use:
$40.00

Bike seat for adult bike so younger brother can ride along on bike trips:
$93.00

Sweeping the dust and spider webs off the bike before putting a tarp over it for the winter:
Priceless.



BTW, why is everything for sale at Toys R Us have a price that ends in 99 cents?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What Did I Say to Larry Ellison?

Continuing on from yesterday's theme.

Shortly before I started my somewhat unsuccessful career as a game maker, I had a somewhat unsuccessful career as a technical writer.  If you don't know what a technical writer does, buy a toaster, get out the manual, and flip to the end.  You see those "Frequently Asked Questions" that only morons would ask?  For example:
Q: The toaster doesn't work.  What do I do?
A: Confirm toaster is plugged in.
or
Q: I've plugged the toaster in, but it still doesn't work.  What do I do?
A: Have you tried turning it on, dumbass?
That's what technical writers do.  We interview engineers and try to figure out what they're doing and then write it down in a way that the average person can understand.  Of course, engineers change their minds, so we have to constantly update what we're writing until the time of release.  The moment the engineers finish, they ship the product out with our manuals, even if we haven't had time to document all the changes.  As a coworker once said: "It's like frosting a cake while it's still in the oven."

Anyway, I used to work at Oracle writing manuals for massive, relational databases.  (Don't know what a relational database is?  Neither do I.)  One day, Larry Ellison -- our billionaire CEO and a man famous for dating supermodels and having a cameo in Iron Man 2 -- invited everyone to a rare,Town-Hall-style meeting.  He stood on a stage and talked about racing boats, wrestling Olympic athletes, and the future of the company.  Then he asked if anyone had any questions.  I raised my hand.

(Here's a useful technique.  Always raise your hand immediately when someone asks for questions.  You're sure to get called on because it takes most people half an hour to carefully construct a question.  By then, it's too late, since everyone else has a hand up, too.)

I got the microphone an asked: "What do you see as the future of Oracle documentation?"

Big laugh from the crowd.  Really big laugh.

In Larry's defense, he answered the question well, speaking about getting away from paper manuals and moving to just-in-time documentation.  Then he asked me if he had answered my question.  To this day, I wish I had said: "Yes, but did you notice that everyone in this room laughed when I asked about the future of my career at your company?  That's how technical writers are treated at Oracle."  Perhaps it's best I didn't say that.  Maybe they weren't laughing at my career.  Maybe I had made a joke that I, to this day, don't get.  However, I just nodded and handed the microphone on to one of the other thousand people who had figured out what they wanted to ask.

A week later, I quit my job.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What Did I Say?

There is a moment from High School that, to this day, I don't get.  Okay, so I don't get most of High School.  (If you're all going to play video games and watch science fiction/fantasy movies, what was the point of picking on me for doing it?)  However, one moment stands out more than others.

Our teacher had a guest one day, a recruiter from a technical college whose name I won't mention to protect the guilty.  As part of her spiel, she showed us a movie about the importance of going to college that was "made by high school students like you!"

The next day our teacher asked us what we thought.  Several students pointed out that the video seemed awfully slick to have been made by college students.  The teacher agreed and mentioned that she had cornered the recruiter after the film and she had admitted that it hadn't so much been made by "high school students like us" but that they had been used as "consultants."  The teacher then went on to mention several other things she had noticed the recruiter do that she didn't like. 

I raised my hand and asked "So why did you invite her?"

Big laugh from the class.  Really big laugh.

Afterwards, I approached one of the other students and asked her why it was funny and she couldn't answer.  To this day, I still don't know and it bugs me.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Thoughts After a Trying Weekend

Before you say anything, children are a joy. Children are bundles of sunshine and kittens. Children are our future.

Sometimes, however, children can be a giant pain in the butt. They scream, they cry, they knock drinks across the room while screaming and crying. Did I mention the screaming and crying? If you ever had criticisms of the way your parents raised you, you should try raising children of your own. I promise you, you’ll consider writing a letter to the Pope about fast tracking your parents for sainthood.

The problem with unruly children, other than the fact that they force you to realize what you were like as a child, is that there isn’t much you can do about it. Sure, you can work to modify their behavior, but all the effective methods are slow and involve being calm and thoughtful. None of them involve flushing your kid down the toilet.

Most of all, you can’t ever hit. There are mountains of research that now show spanking or other physical punishments are no better than child abuse and don’t curb bad behavior. In some places, spanking is coming close to being prohibited by law.

Luckily for you, I compiled a list of enjoyable, punitive measures that are perfectly legal. Feel free to use them on your children without fear of prison:

• Playing Garth Brooks music
• Waterboarding (during Republican administrations, only)
• Buying a pet your child is allergic to
• Spending the college fund on scotch
• Repainting your child’s room in chartreuse and mauve stripes
• Legally changing your child’s name to “Snot Rag”
• Making your kid appear on “Jersey Shore”
• Enrolling him or her in a school with embarrassing uniforms
• “Decorating” their stuffed animals with permanent marker
• Taping a sign on your kid’s back that says “Bed Wetter” before a birthday party

I could go on listing these for days, but I’m sure you could come up with better ones. You should probably use them sparingly, but keep in mind your children will hate you no matter what you do.... Or they will until they have their own kids.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Search Terms and Google Analytics

So, I have Google Analytics up for this blog.  Why?  Because I like knowing that my audience (all both of you) are paying attention.  One day, when I finally pass into that giant pop-up toaster in the sky, you'll know I'm gone within 24 hours because I haven't posted.  If I can't keep your attention, it could be weeks before you notice I'm dead, so I have to keep your attention.

GA has this nice feature where it shows you what search terms people entered and ended up with your site.  Mine are:
1. "estate auction" blogspot
2. death watch beetle in costco chair
3. does "music rot your brain"
4. katy perry ice blue hair

I must admit, I'm a bit perplexed by these results.  #3 and #4 I can kind of get.  I did several pieces on blue hair and even mentioned Katy Perry.  I also mentioned how much I hate music, especially sung by children.  However the first two have me flummoxed.  Did I ever mention an estate auction?  And what the flying heck is a death watch beetle costco chair?

Yeah, that last one has me freaked out.  Isn't the deathwatch beetle supposed to warn you of an upcoming death?  Maybe I just took the movie Practical Magic too seriously.  Wait, does this search term mean the beetle is warning me I'm going to die in a Costco chair?! 

Quick!  Google Analytics!  Tell me they're still reading!  Aaaaarrrrrgggg!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Three Red Day

Today, I received an ad in the mail for a new business card from American Express. They call it the Plum Card. It has a number of (frankly unimpressive) features. I could go on about them, but I need to touch on one important point.

Plum?

Seriously? Plum? You couldn’t have called it American Express Crimson or American Express Ruby or, heaven forbid, American Express RED? You have to wonder where they got that name. I imagine they spent a lot of nights playing Clue.

Shortly after I found that in the mail, I took my kids to a bakery in Los Altos. Across the street from the bakery was this store:

Notice the color of the sign? It’s purple (lavender if you’re female). The store is purple inside and out. Notice the name on the sign? Scarlet. The store is called “Boutique Scarlet.” Last year, when I asked the store owner if she had been trying to be ironic by naming her purple store a shade of red, she informed me that Scarlet had been her grandmother’s name. I assume that having a sense of humor is necessary for running a successful business, as the purple Scarlet Boutique is out of business.

Oh, and my phone broke, my son wouldn’t nap, the kids are screaming and fighting and breaking things, and my stomach is upset. So, I guess you could say I’m seeing red.

Yeah, okay, that last one is a bit of a stretch.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The DBIM

It's nice to say "I don't know where this idea came from" so you can claim it just appeared out of thin air like it isn't your fault. However, the idea for the Dead Birds in Media (DBIM) list has a very obvious history.

I bought a maroon-bellied conure (a small parrot) in 1994. Throughout my childhood I had always wanted a pet bird, but I hadn't realized what the experience was like. My parrot had a complete range of emotions, likes and dislikes, a sense of humor (although not a good one; his idea of a good joke was to sit on my head and call to himself), and many other personality traits we only attribute to mammals. You could have knocked me over with a feather, so to speak.

A few years later, I visited Atlanta with my brother. We met with some of his friends and they took us to a laser show at a nearby park. The show was a bunch of cartoon music videos projected on a cliff face with music and fireworks.

In the middle of the show was a piece about a woman in a boat being pursued by sharks. I don't remember the song, but the sharks were meant to symbolize men. They wooed her with candy and flowers while her pet parrot, a cute green bird in a sailor hat, tried to warn her of the danger. In the end, she sails away unscathed. We then see a shark chewing something with a satisfied smile; he burps and a few green feathers float out of his mouth.

I was appalled, but it seemed I was the only one. Of course, I have always been sensitive. Ever since I was a kid, I felt sick to my stomach when I saw someone in a movie die in a way that was meant to make the audience laugh. Now it seemed I had extended that sensitivity to birds as well as humans.

Years later, I saw the movie The Mummy Returns with my wife. Early on, we see that one of the main characters has a pet hawk . Without knowing why, I turned to my wife and said "That bird is going to die." Sure enough, an hour later, I was proven right.

On the walk home, I realized that the only reason filmmakers put birds in movies is to kill them. Over the years, I have found little to contradict this theory, though some people I explain this to strenuously disagree. I have finally decided to put together as comprehensive a list as I can. Why? Partially to show the world I’m right. Mostly in the hope that someone making a movie will see it and CUT THAT SHIT OUT.

Here’s today's entry:

Name: The Mummy Returns
Media: Movie
Date: 2001
Severity: 1
Description: One of the characters in the film (Ardeth) has a pet hawk named Horus he uses for scouting and delivering messages.  Halfway through the film, he is shot and killed.
Mitigating Factors: Horus is shown as a beloved pet, and Ardeth is clearly upset by his death.
Aggravating Factors: None.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Lost LOST Episode

There’s been a lot of criticism of the ending to Lost over the past few months, most of it justified. The general vein of the criticism seems to come in two flavors: the whole afterlife thingy was stupid and there were no answers. While both of these are valid criticisms, I have one more: they never used my spec script.


See I wrote this whole flashforward thingy that they never used. It’s painful to think that my hours of work on the flashforward wasn’t appreciated, that they never paid me for it and that it never saw the “light of day.” However, as I don’t have an agent, didn’t submit it, and (in all honesty) never actually wrote it down, it’s hard to blame them. Nah, who am I kidding, it’s pretty easy to blame them. Jerks.

Anyway, here’s a treatment for my piece of Lost.

Kate, dressed in a dark suit is standing before the judge. He takes a paper from the officer and reads the “not guilty” verdict. The crown explodes. Kate, fighting back tears, hugs her lawyer and turns to the audience, looking for Jack. She spots him and smiles, but then notices a middle-aged woman behind him. The woman is staring at Kate with such intensity that her smile falls. Kate stares as the woman turns and leaves the courtroom.

Later that night, Kate has dinner with Jack, and describes the woman. That night, she sneaks out of bed and starts looking on the internet. She finally finds the woman, the widow of Edward Mars, the bounty hunter who spent years of his life pursuing Kate before finally dying on The Island.

The next morning she tells Jack. He tries to convince her to put it out of her mind, but Kate can’t get past the fact that she is not only responsible for his death, but also keeping him from his family (as he was chasing her) for years. She resolves to find them, give them some of the money from her settlement with Oceanic, and apologize.

She arrives at their door, nervous, and rings the bell. After a moment, the door opens and it’s Mrs. Mars, who gasps when she sees Kate. The words tumble out of Kate’s mouth, incoherent apologies that she can’t seem to keep straight. Then, suddenly, Mrs. Mars hugs her and thanks her.

Kate is confused. Mrs. Mars drags Kate inside where she meets his three children. They all hug and kiss Kate. Mrs. Mars explains that her husband had been an violent drunk. He spent all their money on drinking and gambling and that the only time they had a reprieve from his abuse was when he was chasing her. Kate tries to offer them a check, but they refuse, telling her that she’s done more for them than she could possibly imagine.

Then they invite her to stay for dinner.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Battlestar Galactica Ending

I didn’t watch the Battlestar Galactica reboot when it was broadcast, but everyone raved about it so much that I have been watching the DVDs over the past year. I like Ron Moore (more on that below), but man did he create a depressing show. Still, it held my interest for four seasons. Then, I got to the ending.

I don’t usually rant about such things, but I’ve just had it with all the bad endings to good show. I can handle the occasional “They’ve been dead all along” ending, but I really wanted to see where BSG was going. I’ve been watching the DVDs and avoiding the spoilers (there are several below, by the way), and I really hoped to get more than what I got.

My specific beefs:

1. They give up all their technology
I can sorta get that several thousand people who have been cooped up for years in a ship would want to start over, but give up all their technology? All of it? Really? All of them were good with that?

Apollo must have given one hell of a speech. “Hey, so, we want a fresh start, so we’re giving up all our technology. There are still Cylons out there, so they may come back, and we’d have no way of fighting them off. Of course, with no medicine, a good percentage of women are going to die in childbirth and your children... Well, lets just say they won’t live past their twenties. Who is with me? So say we all?”

Come on, Ron, at least tell us they ditched the technology to hide from the Cylons or SOMEthing.

2. That whole angels thing
Wait, all those visions Baltar had were real? Seriously? All those strange things that happened in the show that we expected to be explained were just done by God? Ooooookay. I guess the “Ship of Lights” was rebooted, too, but in an irritating way.

3. Father Shmather
As a father, this one got me more than the other two I listed above. Both Admiral Adama and Chief Tyrol have children. Both have difficult, but loving relationships with their children. Both decide to leave those children to spend the rest of their lives completely alone. Let me say that again. Both fathers decide they’d rather live in isolation and never know if their children are alive or dead. Guess that explains why our society evolved with such “daddy issues.”

I like Ron Moore’s writing a lot. His work is poignant in a non-smarmy way, which is rare for a modern writer. Still, I think he could have done better.