Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Hunk Makes Me Break A Solemn Oath. (Sweetie's Hunk of the Week, 49)

Raise your hand if you saw this one coming after Sweetie took me to see Avatar Thursday. This week's Hunk is:

Sam Worthington.

You don't know him without: I don't know. It's hard to say you know Sam Worthington if you saw "him" in Avatar since for most of Avatar he's a blue cat guy with a ponytail that plugs into things and that is not exactly how he looks in real life.

Not exactly.

But I don't know what else anyone would have seen him in. He was in Terminator: Salvation, but I never saw that, and if I haven't seen it, it can't be very good, right? Or popular? (That's the theory, anyway.)

So I'm not sure how you'd know Sam Worthington, who can probably walk around anywhere he wants and not get recognized because most people think he's a 9-foot-tall Cat Person, and I'm pretty sure he's not.

Also, Sam Worthington is kind of bland-looking. He's got the kind of looks that would make you not realize that you know him when you run into him a second-time. The kind of guy who you'd say "Oh, hey, hi, we haven't met" and introduce yourself, and he'd say "We have met, actually, last week." And you'd say "Oh, yeah, right, how've you been," but you wouldn't mean it, at all, you wouldn't actually remember him, a point that would be made right then when he said, in response to your question about how he's been, "I have a fatal brain cloud, remember? God, why would you ask that?" and he'd burst into tears, while you were still shaking his hand, and then you wouldn't know whether you should stop shaking his hand, or maybe grip it comfortingly, or turn to the guy to your left and make a comment about the weather.

You can see why I do not make friends easily.

Also, if Sam Worthington did introduce himself that way, I bet even I would remember him the next time. He should do that even if he doesn't have a fatal brain cloud.

(Sam, if you do have a fatal brain cloud, then I apologize for making light of that fact.)

(Or anyone reading this, who might have a fatal brain cloud. I'm sorry for your plight. I didn't know.)

(Wouldn't it be incredible if Sam Worthington read this? I bet he does. Say Hi to Sweetie in the comments, Sam!)

[Spoiler Alert!] As it turns out, it would not
be so incredible if he read this... read on.

I ended up, I think, on "you'd know Sam if you have the uncanny ability to somehow picture someone as a 9-foot-tall blue cat, but otherwise, you wouldn't know him at all." Let's move on to

Things That Make You Go Hmmm About Him: How about this? I think he's kind of a pretentious dink.

Remember that I don't research these in advance; Sweetie tells me who the hunk is and I dive in and start writing. So when I got to this point, I tried to find out something interesting about Sam Worthington, and in that quest, I just read this whole article about him. The article left me with the impression that Sam Worthington isn't worth spitting on -- not even if he's lying below your face, and not even if you really, really have to spit. Like, say, you were eating Skittles and now you have Skittle-mouth and feel all gummy and need to spit, and Sam Worthington has fallen just below you. Even then I wouldn't waste the effort. That's the kind of impression I got from one interview with Sam Worthington.

I started reading the article because I got a link there in which it said that Sam Worthington, just before he was cast in Avatar was about to go on walkabout-- apparently people do that, or say they're going to do it, and some people are serious about doing that even though anything that's been done by Paul Hogan in a movie can't be taken seriously in real life -- Sam was going to go on walkabout with his clothes and a duffel bag full of books. I read the article hoping to find out what books he was going to take.

And I left with the impression that the books would be something like The Complete Idiot's Guide To How To Be A Jerk-Off, or maybe "I'm An A-Hole, What Of It?" You read that article, and that's the impression you get.

Sam says, at the start of the article: "Oh, isn't it cool? It's so cool being an actor! It's so cool having my face on a bus. That's bullshit. I hate people like that." But later on, he says he'd name his kid "Avatar" if it helps sell the movie. So, you're a jerk if you think having your face on a bus is cool, but you're an upstanding guy if you'd sell out your kid for commercial success? Got it.

"But I wouldn't glue my kid to the side of the bus.
I have standards."

Sam also said, about some role or other:

"Hopefully I'm bringing more complexity to it than Jean-Claude Van Damme does. No offense to the dude." Yes. You want to see good acting? Watch Avatar, and wait for the scene where a completely-CGI-created "Sam Worthington" bites into a completely CGI-created "interplanetary fruit" and says how good it is. That is complex acting. I totally believed that his fake 9-foot-tall-cat-creature found that fake fruit delicious. It was way more complex then when Ms. Pac Man would eat the cherries and then turn the ghosts blue and eat them, too.

Sam is also known for his on-set BS: He caused so much trouble on one show that he shut it down. Sam thinks that's great, because his concern was to "elevate" matters. I'm sure his fellow actors, as well as the crew of that show, felt elevated as they waited for unemployment checks. Fellow actors call him a shouter, and Worthington describes that as his professionalism. He's proud of his professionalism, describing how he's never been afraid to throw a tantrum rather than do a scene he disagrees with.

"Professionalism," in Worthington's world, is synonymous with throw a tantrum. Which makes my 3-year-olds incredibly professional.

And which makes Sam Worthington a loser.

(So, Sam, I'd just as soon you didn't comment here.)

Reason I Assumed Sweetie Liked Him:
We can scratch personality off that list, right? That's one reason why I hate reading about actors. You get this image of an actor or actress, based on their character, and you think you like them, but what do you know, right? You're just assuming that Harrison Ford is like Indiana Jones, only then you see him on David Letterman and he's not, he's a weird, dumb guy. Or you think Jennifer Aniston is like Rachel, and she's actually a vapid chain-smoking tanaholic. Producers and directors should never let actors out in public. They should require, as part of their contract, that actors and actresses not talk, and not be interviewed, and not make retarded comments about their professionalism and how the process works and how intellectual they are.

It's acting. It's exactly what Mr Bunches does when he pretends that he's Wall-E and runs around his bed buzzing and beeping, and then falls down. That's your "process." Get over yourself.

I had this idea, after Avatar, that Sam Worthington might be okay, only he's an ass who's full of himself. So I'd have been better off if Sweetie hadn't named him hunk of the week, or if, instead of reading about him, I'd have just tried to find a clip of him in a barbershop quartet on Youtube or something.

But the damage is done. Schrodinger's Cat never comes back to life, and Sam Worthington is dead to me. So I'm just going to say who cares why Sweetie liked him?

Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: "He's got a cute baby-face."

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Actual Reason For Liking Him: Picture that baby face saying these actual Sam Worthington quotes:

"I'm still yelling and screaming and don’t know what the fuck I'm doing, but at least I'm now standing up for myself a bit more.” "It was some shit, fucking bullshit, that. It was the most drunkest movie I've ever done in my life." "But I don't ever feel that there's a pressure of a suit going, 'If this fucks up, it's because of you,' because I'll go, 'You hired me, dickhead!'"

And I'm so sick of Sam Worthington, I'm going to take a drastic step and reveal that he's an android sent to kill John Connor in Terminator: Salvation.

I never wanted to see the movie, anyway.

Thanks, Sam Jerkface Worthington-- you made me violated my [SPOILER ALERT!] oath -- one of only two vows in my life I'd ever taken seriously.

(Yes, Sweetie, the other one was our marriage vows.)

Nowadays, we use Sweetie's maternity clothes as a tarp to cover the backyard for outdoor parties.

Sweetie will likely never need maternity clothes again -- the Babies! have pretty much permanently scared us out of parenting -- which makes it kind of a shame that I only after-the-fact heard about Kiki's Fashions.

Kiki's Fashions offers actually cool, actually good-looking maternity clothes. That's a welcome change of pace, I'm sure, from the sweatpants, muu muus, and borrowing-hubby's-t-shirts that most pregnant women have to resort to in order to get through a pregnancy without also getting an indecent exposure ticket.

When Sweetie was pregnant with the Babies!, she had a lot of trouble finding anything that not only fit but looked nice -- and if we'd known about Kiki's Fashions, she wouldn't have had to worry. Dresses, tops, bottoms, whatever women wear to look nice, Kiki's probably sells it for pregnant woment, giving you a chance to be the most stylish-mommy-to-be on the block. Or any block.

If you're in the market for chic maternity wear -- for yourself or as a gift -- head over to Kiki's Fashions ( and check out what they've got. Tell them you know me and get a discount... seriously: when you check out, use coupon code "blogfriends" and you'll get a 20% discount.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sigourney Weaver looks weird as a blue cat. (3 Good Things From 2/11/10)

I've had a kind of sore throat all week. It hasn't stopped me from talking, in the least, but it did make me google "sore throat" as a symptom, upon which I learned that a sore throat is a symptom of malaria. So I'm pretty sure I have malaria. Despite that, I at least have 3 Good Things from yesterday to help me recover:

1. An early Valentine's Day present from Sweetie: No, not that, you perverts. Sweetie took me to see Avatar, in 3-D. We went on a Thursday night specifically because we had some coupons for a half-price movie on Thursdays -- but once we got there, we found out that the coupon doesn't work for Avatar. So Sweetie paid full price for the movie -- part of why she's so great -- but she saved money anyway, as I opted to skip the popcorn due to my malaria-induced (probably) sore throat.

My quick review: The movie's great, the 3D's not as good as the 3D was for Final Destination 4: The Final Final Destination, and the glasses kind of hurt my nose. But the movie was great, really, and I kind of got goose bumps during Sam Worthington's big speech. (The only thing missing from the movie was a scene where the band plays bravely as the ship goes down. I still get misty-eyed about that. And the part where the old man and lady hugged each other while the water rose around them.)

2. I win, Mr. Trainer Guy At The Club Who Ignores Wedding Rings. Sweetie yesterday revealed to me that Wednesday night, while I sat home being a dutiful husband and doting father, she was getting hit on by a trainer at the health club - -a guy who'd offered, before, to "train her" for free, and who on Wednesday asked her out for drinks, despite knowing that she's married.

Well, Mr. Trainer Guy: She went home with me last night! Take that! You may have muscles, and the ability to put your pants on in the morning without breaking a sweat -- but I've got Sweetie.

3. I still had hot water for my shower. As a dutiful husband and doting father, I somehow missed, on Wednesday night, the fact that Mr F had gotten into the furnace room, thrown a brick into the cats' litter box, and turned off the hot water heater. In my defense, I was distracted from "actually supervising" Mr F because I was watching videos on Youtube with Mr Bunches.

Sweetie discovered the lack of hot water yesterday morning, and we restarted the hot water heater. Sweetie had to take a cold shower, but I put mine off long enough to get a nice steamy shower.

Then again, how many articles can you actually read about Sneinton? (Seven, I bet.) (Friday's Sunday's Poem, 43)

In the spirit of Ezra Pound's Metro Station (which would make a good TV show, right?) come two poems today which deal with a similar experience:
Thoughts in a 'bus shelter at Ruddington
by Barbara Buttery

I'm a poet of little fame.
(You, surely, know my name!)
I've written quite a lot of verse
Which people tell me could be worse
At least, that's what I claim!

Thoughts whilst travelling on a 'bus in Clifton at 3.30pm
by Barbara Buttery

What's happened to Farnborough?
It's not the school I knew
Then the pupils all wore brown
Now they're dressed in blue


Barbara Buttery calls herself The Bard of Sneinton, a town name I suspected came from Dr. Seuss. But I looked into it, and it turns out that Sneinton is a suburb of Nottingham, and, like everything does, it has its own website. And it also has a windmill of some sort that shows up in pretty much every article you read about Sneinton:

Update: You know what I just noticed, after posting this? English people put an apostrophe in front of bus. Like this: 'bus. I like it -- it makes the bus seem jaunty. But why is that, English people? Something to do with King George? It always comes back to him, doesn't it? That and crumpets.

I'm pretty sure I had a point when I began this post, but I forget what it was.

I don't think about cell phone covers all that much in a given day, but that's because I'm an old dinosaur who views his cell phone as either a necessary evil or an incredible annoyance.

Or as the thing that falls out of my pocket when I'm sitting at my desk, and then I accidentally run it over with my desk chair, resulting in it no longer working anymore.

But the kids these days - -they do go nuts over things like cell phone covers, accessorizing their phones the way earlier generations dressed up their Trapper Keepers, or the way Paris Hilton treats boyfriends/chihuahuas.

Which gives me, as a parent, a golden opportunity to do two things: (1) lecture kids on how, when I was their age, we didn't go around making our cell phones look all fancy-schmancy, and you know why? Because we didn't have cell phones, that's why! We had the Atari 2600, and it wasn't even called that, it was just the Atari, and you mostly played Combat on it and I was pretty good at that game.

(2), I get to give the kids cell phone covers as presents, and get extra-credit on birthdays and things like that -- giving the cell phone covers as an added little gift to the kids, like a stocking-stuffer, only better, because, like I said, not only do they like it, but it also gives me a chance to lecture.

And another thing! We had Pitfall!, and it was pretty fun, too, even though it was kind of repetitive.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Paperboy, 6 (Jobs v. Life)

Life is what happens when you're not working. -- Me.
Jobs v. Life is an ongoing attempt to explore my life through the jobs I've had. Read it from the beginning here.

It seemed so harmless when I began forging newspaper subscriptions. Who would ever find out? I wondered, as I came up with the plan that would have, today, landed me in some sort of juvenile detention facility (Wales, we called it as kids, the Home for Boys located in Wales, Wisconsin), but which back then simply got me a disappointed look from the Milwaukee Journal circulation manager.

Life as a paperboy was largely routine: Every day, the papers would be dropped off by Mr. Ferris, every day I'd sub my share, inserting one section into another, and every day I'd ride around and deliver the papers. Once a week I'd go collect, asking people to pay me for the papers I'd delivered, a process that always seemed awkward -- and still does today, when I have to remind clients to pay me for the legal work I've done for them. There's always a slight sheepishness to my requests, a feeling that I'm not actually owed the money, that I have to ask them to pay me and hope they do, and I've had that feeling forever, at least since I did the collecting on my paper route and felt sheepish, then, about asking people to pay for the papers they'd been reading all week.

It would have been simpler, then, to get people to pay for the newspapers up front, and that is what we now do, in fact -- our subscription to the comically-tiny Wisconsin State Journal is paid for six months in advance, and my Kindle subscription to the New Yorker is deducted automatically, in advance, each month. Back then, it never occurred to me that I could do that -- that I could charge up front, go there on Friday and say If you don't pay me, no paper starting tomorrow. The world was different back then, and most people paid; only a few didn't pay regularly and those few were the losers of the world, the kind of men who answered the door with no shirt on, having obviously not showered, or people who came to the door with a beer in their hand and a baseball hat on. Back then, grown-ups -- the ones society valued, anyway -- didn't wear baseball hats regularly, and they did pay their bills on time.

Even if it had occurred to me to charge up front, or in advance, I doubt I would have done so, for the same reason I feel embarrassed now to bring up money; I'm one of those people who feels as though they maybe shouldn't be paid.

Don't get me wrong: I think I do really valuable work as a lawyer -- as valuable work as any lawyer can do, given that lawyers, as a class, add nothing of value to society and exist only because we exist; if you eliminated "lawyer" as a job beginning right this instant, society as a whole would not change in any great degree -- but regardless of the value of my work, there is always something in my head that feels as though I shouldn't have to ask to be paid, and that by asking I'm exceeding my boundaries, I'm doing something wrong, which in turn makes me uncomfortable talking about money with clients and customers, and in turn makes me try not to do that.

As a lawyer, I don't have the opportunity to ask for all the money up front -- that is, I could, when you hire me, tell you you need to give me $10,000, right now, but most people can't do that and in the back of my head, I think that if I insist on such a thing, insist on getting paid in advance, nobody will ever hire me and I'll have to find real work.

As a paperboy, I had the opportunity to ask for money up front but that same feeling, the resistance in my character and mind to asking for money kept me from, at the time, even thinking about doing so. It was awkward enough to ask the beer-holding, shirtless, baseball cap wearing deadbeats to pay me for the papers I'd already delivered. I wouldn't have been able to imagine asking them to pay me for papers yet to come.

That was all part of the routine, though: subbing, delivering, collecting. That routine existed every day, 365 days a year, with no real variation. Here and there someone cancelled or moved. Here and there someone started a new subscription. But my paper route was essentially the same for the years I held it.

Three times a year, though, there was an alteration in the routine, a new set of tasks to do. Once a year, paper boys back then delivered calendars to their customers at Christmas; and twice a year the paper had a subscription drive.

The calendars were delivered by paper boys in hopes of getting a Christmas tip. That was the only reason we ever took them. We'd tell the Milwaukee Journal how many we wanted, and then, a week or two before Christmas, we'd go around, at night, after dinner, and deliver the calendars. Delivering the calendars meant taking them right up to the person's door, trudging through the dark and cold and wet and snow up to unfamiliar houses with unfamiliar smells and weird decorations and unusual furniture -- all furniture was unusual when it was in the Mueller's house -- and ringing the bell, and waiting.

Someone would come to the door -- usually the housewife -- and say "Yes?" This was the first awkward part of the delivery, a delivery that hadn't been made since a year ago: Most of the people didn't know me, particularly. They saw me if I collected, but more often they saw my older brother who did the collections for a couple years, and other than that they never interacted with me, anyway. Collections were done during the day, usually on Friday, and yet here I was, in the dark, and bundled up in a winter coat and Green Bay Packer hat with the large pompom on top, standing on their porch, on a Tuesday, or Thursday, holding up a calendar for the next year.

So I'd have to introduce myself. "I'm the paperboy," I'd say. No name, just a title.

"Oh," they'd say, or something like that, and I'd have to go on.

"I've brought a calendar. As a Christmas gift." I'd hold up the calendar. "Merry Christmas."

Back then, nobody was really Jewish, or any other religion. Or at least, nobody worried about whether they were.

The housewife would thank me, open the door a crack and take the calendar, and sometimes get me some money. Sometimes they'd say "Oh, thanks, here," and they'd dig around and get a dollar or two, or maybe a five, or rarely a ten, and hand it to me. "Merry Christmas to you," they'd say.

Other times, they'd say "Oh, wait, I've got something for you," and they'd disappear, leaving me standing on a cold, dark porch looking into their house, the parts I could see, and judging how weird they were based on what kind of strange things they had -- dried branches in pots, or pictures of older kids in turtlenecks, or maybe a painting of some sort -- until they came back with some money or a check.

Worse than waiting on the porch was being invited inside to wait, being fully engulfed in a stranger's house with a stranger's weird odors, and dog or cat staring at me, odd throw pillows, and sometimes kids or husbands sitting on the couch. The kids would never talk. Sometimes the husbands would. "Hi," they'd say, and go back to watching TV until the wife came back out with a purse or check, and I could stop standing there dripping slush on their carpet and head back out to the next house.

All of that was done for, as I said, the sole purpose of generating tips at Christmas. I don't remember how much we got, annually, but I bet it worked out to less than it was worth, given the time commitment. Looking back, it might have made more economic sense to simply not order the calendars and stay home those couple of nights. Or, in the alternative, to at least let people know they were coming and explain to them that a Christmas tip was expected, because many people didn't get that: they'd take the calendar, say thanks, we'd all pause awkwardly, and then they'd close the door and leave me standing there.

Worse than that, or equally awful in a different way, were the subscription drives conducted twice a year. For these, we and all the other paperboys had to be picked up by a circulation manager -- generally someone we barely knew, or didn't know at all -- and driven to some part of the city where we didn't deliver papers. I didn't know, then, how they picked those parts of Hartland where we'd go to drum up new customers. I'd guess, now, that they went to areas that didn't have a high subscription rate, but I'm not sure there was that much science involved at the time. It might have just been whatever part of the city would be tolerant of a middle-aged man sitting and smoking in his car while 12-year-old boys walked around knocking on doors.

The idea was that we would go door-to-door and try to get people to subscribe to the Milwaukee Journal. The incentive for us was prizes: the more people we got signed up, the better the prizes got, using a point system that gave the most points for a daily-and-Sunday subscription, and the least for a subscription only.

We would be given little cardboard handouts, shaped like bookmarks, with whatever slogan was big that year. On the front was a picture of the slogan-and-ad, and on the back was some information about the Journal as well as a spot to fill out the name and address of the person ordering the paper, and boxes to check about what they were ordering. Set loose on some section of Hartland, we'd go and introduce ourselves, and ask people to sign up for the Journal, and, periodically, check back with the Circulation Manager and give him the cards we'd filled out.

I did that, year in and year out, with little success. I am not a natural salesman -- as you'd guess, from my reluctance to even ask people to pay me for what I did for them. I've heard that salesman are people that don't take no for an answer, and I've never understood that. No is a perfectly good answer, to me. When someone asks me whether I'd be interested in something, and I say no, I mean it. I don't want to take a second look, or hear more, or get a better bargain. I said no, and I meant no. I get irritated by people who persist after that, sometimes only mildly annoyed, and sometimes quite upset.

"I'm sure it's a bargain but I'm just not interested," I might say if I'm in a good mood and trying to be polite, hiding my bother. But if I'm not in a good mood or the saleperson has persisted, I can become rude: "Don't call here anymore. I'm not interested. Leave me alone." (And you can see another glimpse into my personality in that I think it's rude to tell people, total strangers calling for commercial reasons, not to bother me at my home.)

The people whose nights I was interrupting to try to get them interested in the Milwaukee Journal would, more often than not, tell me No, thanks, sometimes politely, sometimes rudely. They rarely talked to me, at all, beyond that. I'd venture to say that only about 1-in-20 was even kind of interested in hearing about a newspaper subscription, if even that high a percentage was.

Which made for discouraging -- and, in retrospect, frighteningly dangerous -- nights: A 10 or 11 or 12-year-old boy, wandering around an unfamiliar neighborhood where he didn't know anyone, at night, supervised by someone who'd never met his parents, knocking on strangers' doors and talking to them. All the really good episodes of Law & Order start out with a premise identical to that, and such a thing nowadays would likely end up in the authorities intervening with lightning speed. Back then, it was simply accepted; my parents just let us go, and I don't recall them even talking to the guy who picked us up and took us. It's a wonder that I didn't grow up as the indentured servant of some sultan or drug lord.

I wasn't really cognizant of the danger of those nights; I'd never been instructed in danger, or not as much as I should have been. Lectures from my parents about society and the people who made it up didn't focus, back then, on the deviants and serial killers and kidnappers and rapists who would someday become the almost-obsessive focus of my mom's talks to my sister and the reason she kept a steak knife under her pillow in later years; instead, Mom and Dad tended to discuss more the less desirable people around them -- the less desirable being people who lived in apartments or duplexes, people who didn't properly landscape their yards, and people who could be heard yelling at their kids, or each other, by their neighbors. I was raised to distrust people who fit into any of those categories, the result being that I got nervous when sent into an apartment building to solicit subscriptions, because apartment dwellers were, on some level, suspicious. If I approached a house with an unkempt lawn, my senses were buzzing with worry.

Between my natural disinclination to sell someone, and the constant state of nervousness generated by poor landscaping and rental units, I was a completely ineffective salesperson and never got very far in the prize-winning aspect of the promotions. I never got the Brewers' tickets, or the bike, or the Coleco Football head-to-head game. I got Penny Racers and things like that.

Then, on about the last year of my paper-delivering days, I had a genius idea: Why not just make up the subscriptions and turn them in?

I worked that through in my head, walking along Maple Avenue, cutting across the broad lawns underneath the giant old trees in front of houses set well back from the curb. What could go wrong? I'd just get the information from the people, fill out the card, and turn it in. It was a perfect scheme.

It never occurred to me that there was something missing from my logic, that there was something happening after the card got turned in; all I thought about was this: to make a sale, I talk to the person, I fill out the card, I turn it in, I get points and win prizes. If I were to, then, fill out the card with their name, and turn it in, I'd get the prizes and the people in the houses would be none the wiser.

I put it into action, immediately. At the next house, the old man listened to me for a minute, and then said "Thanks, not interested."

"Can I get your name?" I asked him. He paused.

"What do you need that for?" he asked.

"We've got to keep a record of who we talked to," I told him, a lie I'd made up on the spot.

So he gave me his name, and I thanked him, and I walked back to the curb, away from the porch light shining down on my misdeeds. I took out one of the cards, and the pen we'd been given to have people sign with. I filled in the man's name, and his address. I checked Daily and Sunday. I don't remember for sure, but I'm fairly certain there was a signature required, and so I signed the man's name. I likely didn't make any effort to disguise my handwriting -- forgery was new to me, and I wasn't an expert at it, or anything.

Before going on with the plan, I checked in with the circulation manager. I handed him the card. "I got one," I told him.

He took it, looked at it, put it on a stack. "Good job," he said.

I headed back out into the night full of purpose. I didn't forge every card, and I didn't forge a subscription for every house I went to; I'd figured that would be too suspicious, to go from an ineffective salesman to salesman of the year, and nobody ever got too many of these things. I meted the fake cards out, here and there, turning in a couple each time I checked back in... but I outdid every other paperboy that night, and I got some sort of prize, right up front. I don't remember what it was, but I recall getting it, and being extremely proud of my plan.

The next night when we went out again, the circulation manager pulled me aside.

"I want to talk to you about some of these subscriptions," he said. He held up the tickets from the night before.

"Um..." I said.

"They're not real."

I didn't say anything.

He said "How'd you get them?"

I didn't say anything, again, not right away, and he said "Did you make them up?"

I nodded, and he said "So they're all fake?"

I shook my head and said "Not all of them."

I remember him sighing and shaking his head and asking me to tell him which ones were real. I had to sort through them, going over them, while the other paperboys hung nearby, pretending they were going off to sell subscriptions but really wanting to see what was going on. I pulled out the 1 or 2, maybe that were legitimate, and told him the other ones were faked.

There were quite a few -- more than I'd have liked to own up to.

I stood there, wondering what was going to happen. Would he call my parents? The police? Would I have to apologize to someone?

He shook his head again. "Don't do that," he said. "It'll just screw things up."

Then he sent me off to try to sell subscriptions. I walked off into the night, feeling a little bad about what I'd done, but a lot bad about not getting any prizes. I didn't even try to sell subscriptions that night. I just walked around, looking at houses and trying to sort out just how terrible it was, what I'd done, and why I bothered doing this selling, anyway.

Not long after that I stopped being a paperboy -- but my resignation had nothing to do with the subscriptions fraud, or my feelings about the paperboy life in general, and had everything to do with the fact that I'd turned 16, and 16, in my dad's mind, was time to go get a real job.

Sweetie's Good Things! (3 Good Things, From SWEETIE, from 2/9/10)

Sweetie had a rough day yesterday... as you'll see. So on our drive to get me some shoes last night, I suggested that she think up 3 Good Things and I'd post those today. Here's what she came up with, in reverse order of how she named them:

1. Mr Bunches said "Nice?" before petting our cat Scruffy Jean MacDougal: Scruffy -- shown at right -- has a love/hate relationship with the Babies!. On the one hand, they're about the only people who will sit and pet her for any length of time. On the other hand, they're also the only people who might decide, while petting her, to see if her ears are removable. So Sweetie works on the Babies! to make sure they understand that Scruffy is not to be mistreated; she mostly does that by telling them "Be nice!" whenever they go within fifty feet of Scruffy. Yesterday, Mr. Bunches went up to Scruffy and before petting her, asked "Nice?" and then proceeded to be nice.

2. QUOTE: "I didn't get arrested." Sweetie and Mr F got a visit from the cops yesterday after Mr F accidentally called 911 and hung up, resulting in Sweetie first getting a call back from the emergency center, and then a visit from the local police just to make sure that everything was okay.

Of course, we only have Sweetie's word that Mr F was the one who called 911; I told Sweetie that I suspected that she gets so lonely for grown-up company at times that she might have dialed 911, in what was literally a cry for help.

3. Brooklyn Decker made the cover of Sports Illustrated. I'm not kidding; Sweetie actually picked this as a good thing, and picked it first. Then she said something about licking Brooklyn Decker's stomach, and we almost drove off the road. I am either a very lucky man, or a man who one day will come home to find the house cleaned out and a note on the counter explaining that Sweetie's run off with the SI cover models...

...And left me trying to explain to 911 how Mr F called again.

Anyway, here's hoping those help Sweetie have a better, and less police-involved, day today. I'm going to finish up with one of her favorite pictures of all time, Mr Bunches when he was about 1 year old:

Claudius wanted to be the first man to reach the stars. It was murder to get there... or was it? Read Eclipse in hard copy or on your kindle. Buy it here, or Kindle it here.

Cyber Defender: Like a superhero, only it's an inanimate computer program. (But it might still wear a cape.)

Do you know what a Gumblar is?

You SHOULD, I suppose. "Gumblar" is a virus that redirects people from the page they wanted to be on on the Internet, to a fake page that will install malware onto their computer. And it could be your page they blame, either your blog or business website or social networking spot -- so your customers could be trying to find your website, and end up crashing their computers or being the victim of identity theft.

Or you could have that happen to you -- go to your home page or blog or email and end up on a phish site with your personal ID numbers being siphoned out of your computer.

And you'd probably never even heard of Gumblar. Who can blame you? It's impossible to keep up with all the new viruses and problems that stupid hackers can cause. That's why I don't even try. I just use Cyber Defender.

Cyber Defender helps protect a computer against pop-ups, spam, infected emails, and other troubles - - and if one gets through anyway, Cyber Defender can remove it from your computer, protecting you twice over. Using that program, I don't have to keep up with all the viruses and cures and hacks; I just have to keep my Cyber Defender current and I can surf the Internet in peace.

Cyber Defender can even protect you against the trojan horse virus, a particularly bad virus that lets a hacker use your computer like it was your own -- so that YOU'LL be blamed for the illegal downloads and problems caused. Trojan horses can give up your personal ID, log you into your bank accounts, send out spam, and worse. Why risk it? You can get Cyber Defender, or you can be a victim. I know which side of that line I want to fall on.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Fifty-Seven

57. Start all buildings on the first floor.

Yesterday, heading down from a conference with a client, I got on the elevator on the 7th floor and wanted to leave the building. I was confronted, on the bottom row of buttons, with "L," "G", and "2."

Guessing, I hit G, thinking Ground floor, right?

Wrong: It was garage. I had to hit L, which apparently stood for lobby -- something that might have made sense if there'd been a real lobby in the building, but there wasn't.

What's wrong with having the first floor be floor 1? Just number floors 1-- beginning at ground level -- on up. I don't care what you call the floors below ground level (although negative numbers would make sense -- so that the first floor below ground level would be -1, and so on), but it doesn't make sense to use Ground or Lobby or Atrium or Entrance for the first floor denomination, and then numbers after that, and it forces people to guess at the nomenclature you used when you designed the building.

Prior entries:

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

They didn't listen. Twice. (3 Good Things From 2/8/10)

What can you say about a Monday that'll lead you to be happier on a Tuesday? Find out by reading my 3 Good Things from yesterday...

1. Super Bowl leftover lunch! For the Super Bowl, we had what I like to refer to as "Things That Only Need To Be Heated Up," things like chicken nuggets and pre-made taquitos and pizza rolls and, of course, potato chips. Even with my and The Boy's best efforts, we didn't eat all the stuff, allowing Sweetie to pack leftovers for my lunch yesterday. As we all know, the only thing better than a dinner of Things That Only Need To Be Heated Up is a lunch of Cold Things, etc.

2. I was right about the snow... yesterday. When I woke up yesterday morning, it had snowed, and ordinarily that meant I'd have to shovel the driveway first thing in the morning, instead of slowly waking up by checking my email and doing some writing. But when I went outside to get the paper, I carefully analyzed the snow and decided that it was "Just a dusting" and would likely melt later that day, sparing me from having to shovel. In deciding that, I ran the risk that it wouldn't melt and it would instead become ice by the end of the day, and The Boy wouldn't be around to shovel it because he had to work.

But I was right, and when I got home last night about 6 p.m., the snow had (mostly) melted off the driveway.

(Of course, I woke up this morning to find 3" of snow had fallen last night, with weathermen predicting another five today, so I was out there shoveling today instead of yesterday.)

3. Mr F and Mr Bunches got to jump on the bed. (Don't tell Sweetie!) While Sweetie was working out last night, I was left alone and in charge of the Babies! We opted, before learning time, to clean up my room a little, and by "clean up" I mean "Watch The Colbert Report rerun while I put away my laundry and Mr Bunches and Mr F jumped on the bed," something Sweetie doesn't let them do, and something that I, officially, do not let them do, either. For the record, I said: "You should not be jumping on the bed." Twice.

Buy my book, Eclipse, on the Kindle for just $0.99!
Claudius wanted to be the first man to reach the stars...
but getting there would be murder.

Blurk is the sound the internet makes when it goes out. Now you know.

As you know, my primary goal in life is to get on Jeopardy!, and once a year, I take the Jeopardy! online test to further that goal.

For several years, when I wanted to do that, I had to drive down to my office and use my work computer to take the test, heading downtown at 8 at night (the test is always at night) and logging into my computer -- a 60 minute round-trip for a 12-minute test.

I did that, though, because our home internet service was so unreliable; it cut in and cut out and would do so without any warning whatsover, leading to major problems if you're taking an online test to fulfill your game-show destiny.

Here's what happened: I was taking the test, and I was acing it. I knew pretty much every answer that came along; it was like Jeopardy! had decided to lob me a softball. I was six or seven minutes into the test and thinking I'm not going to get a single one wrong, and then...


The Internet cut out. Halfway through the test! The test I was cruising through! I was this close to meeting Alex Trebek and showing up Ken Jennings with my own fantastic run of wins, and blurk! It was all gone, and I had to restart the connection and couldn't log back in. My best test ever, and nothing.

Ever since then, I haven't trusted our home internet service for anything important. Yeah, I'll use it for banking and blogging and paying bills and making sure I haven't been sued, but for the big stuff -- Jeopardy! tests -- I use my work computer.

If you're stuck with terrible or unreliable internet service, maybe you should change, too -- no, you can't use my office computer, but you can use wild blue satellite internet service. They've got a variety of different plans to help you break free of slow, unreliable internet services, and for a limited time activation and installation are totally free: You can get satellite internet with no money down, and low monthly rates that are less than you'd probably pay for other services. No dialing, no delays, no big bulky dish: just smoother, faster, more reliable internet access for you.

Eclipse Now Available On the Kindle For $0.99!

Claudius' path to the stars was layered in blood and lit by madness...

As a little boy, Claudius would close his eyes and look to the stars in hopes of escaping from the pain and misery of his life.

As a grown man, Claudius murdered his two shipmates while the rocket disintegrated around them, leaving him drifting helpless and alone in space, awaiting a rescue that may never come.

Or did he?

In Eclipse, you'll follow the tortured paths of a mind reeling in madness, seeing the world through the ever-changing view Claudius has: astronaut, high school boy, patient, doctor, killer, victim. Follow Claudius forward and backward through his life, revisiting his childhood, his time at NASA and interviews with psychiatrists, and the ending of the first manned mission to the stars... while all the time, the mystery of what really happened, at each step continues to unfold and grows deeper.

Eclipse is a haunting science fiction tale in the Ray Bradbury mold, a story that takes on new life and new meaning each time you read it, and a story that you will never forget.

And it's now available on the Kindle! You can download Eclipse for just ninety-nine cents!

Click this link to go to the Amazon page to download this story on your Kindle now!

Monday, February 08, 2010

Worth A Thousand Words, List of Pictures:

1. Shopaholic.

2. Refreshing.

3. Art.

4. Tootan.

5. Dancefever.

6. Rainbows.

7. Summer.

8. Fountain.

9. Closeup.

10. Upgrade

11. Raptured.

12. Tortoise.

Did you know I write books? Books like Eclipse: the harrowing sci-fi story about Claudius, who wanted to be the first man to reach the stars. He might have made it there -- but it was murder to do it. Buy it now at, or get it for 99 cents on your Kindle.

Ukuleles, choirs, and some 80s synth pop: It's "Awesome Covers Of Already Awesome Songs"

"You love the Ukulele," Sweetie told me the other day, and it's true. I do. I tend to be a fan of the more-unusual instruments, because the more-unusual instruments make the songs that they're being used to play quirkier and more unpredictable (or less predictable, however you want to say it.)

Sweetie was commenting on my finding the latest Ukulele Cover Version of a song I liked already. In this case, it was a cover version of a-ha's Take On Me, with Ukulele, done by a group called Shiny And The Spoon:

Shiny And The Spoon aren't the only people to ever cover Take On Me via Uke: Here's a version that predates them by almost 18 months:

That version doesn't have the sweetness that Shiny And The Spoon's does, but it is faster, and it has those all-important dramatic pauses. Too many musicians overlook the dramatic pause as a musical effect. That's what killed Bach, for example -- doctors theorize that if he'd used a dramatic pause a little more often, he'd have survived that bread factory explosion.

In between those two versions, mctrmt posted this version of Take On Me:

It is possible to cover the song without a ukulele. I wasn't sure, at first, why you'd want to do that, but A.C. Newman showed me it's possible and can be okay.

Sara Bareilles lent a stripped-down acoustic-y version:

As did "Anni B Sweet."

Then again, if you think the song sounds good stripped down and ukuleled, consider it as a choir version:

And while that's pretty good, this is by far the Most Awesome version of the Already Awesome Song:

(And I couldn't finish this up without putting in the literal version, so here that is:)

I'm a computer genius! (3 Good Things From The Weekend)

Not a single one of the 3 Good Things is the Super Bowl win. I mean, sure, I won the bet with Sweetie and The Boy and that means that I and the Babies! will be wearing Saints gear pretty soon, but the weekend was so chock full o' good things that the Super Bowl didn't even make the cut!

1. Thanks to the coupons, at least the movie was free. Sweetie and I tried to take Mr Bunches and Mr F to their first real movie in a real theater, opting for a 10 a.m. showing of Ice Age 3 on Saturday. (It was actually Mr Bunches' second trip to the theater. But the last time, when Sweetie tried to take just him, he wouldn't leave the parking lot, so that doesn't count, right?)

We got into our seats about 9:52, with me thinking that the Babies! would last 8 minutes until the movie started, before getting restless. But then the movie started late, Mr Bunches got nervous about all the people and the dark, and Mr F bumped his head on the seat, forci
ng us to abandon our seats and wait in the hallway for a few minutes. We tried again, and they watched about 10 minutes of the actual movie -- but we had to leave when Mr F's boredom prompted him to roll like a log across the front of the theater.

2. Nobody was hurt in the disaster. During their naps yesterday, I had to repeatedly head into the Babies!'s room to calm things down and remind them that naptime is for sleeping, not for piling mattresses on top of Mr F, or stripping down and trying to jump off the dirty laundry basket in the closet. The lesson didn't take: the picture to the right is the scene that greeted me at 4 p.m. when I went in to "wake them up." That's in quotes because they hadn't bothered to actually sleep.

3. I got the regular 'puter working again, finally. After our laptop broke down, then got repaired, I needed to reactivate the internet service for it to begin using it again, and I'd been putting that off because of how time-consuming and tedious I thought it would be. But by Friday, I was tired of having our tiny 'puter and not having access to all my actual files and writings and stuff, so I took advantage of getting home from work early on Friday to get on the phone to my wireless provider and find out how to de-activate the netbook and re-activate the laptop. She walked me through the complicated process as follows:

Her: "Plug in the card, then click "Tools,", and "Activate."

Me: "Done. Now what?"

Her: "Now you're done."

I'm glad I could fix things like that.

(But it was good to get the laptop going again, because then I didn't have any more tiny screens to squint at, and we could use all our music again, and I had my stuff saved on the hard drive, stuff like my novel the After -- and I finally got to update that over on 5 Pages.)

(Sweetie, on the other hand, took advantage of the return of the laptop to download some Lady Gaga songs.)

(And the theme from Cold Case.)

(No, I don't know why, either.)