Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Check out Indie Writers Monthly!

A new blog/ezine by notable sci-fi and fantasy writers who for some reason have ALLOWED ME TO BE PART OF THE GROUP!

YAY! I have finally gotten past the shame and humiliation of never being picked until last in gym.

Actually, I haven't. But let's pretend I am a normal, well-adjusted person with only the regular number of psychoses!

Indie Writers Monthly is going to be a collaborative effort by the best and brightest scifi/fantasy writers out there, people like Sandra Ulbrich Almazan and Andrew Leon and PT Dilloway and J.K. Rowling (just seeing if you are paying attention), so if you like scifi, fantasy, writing, or me (*crosses fingers*) then check it out!


And don't worry about Mr Bunches.  It was just a flesh wound.

Monday, December 30, 2013

I think "chardonnay" must be a fancy kind of beer.

Today on lit, a place for stories:

"Sippy Cups, Earbuds, and Something That Surely Isn't Wine," a debut short story from Tina Downey about strange things happening during a rest stop in a small town:

Lisa gulps chardonnay and texts Keith again. The boys seem oblivious to the changes now, so she's not as worried about them. But what if something weird is happening to Keith?

Suddenly Tim is crying and Jace is trying to console him. 

Read it by clicking here, and remember: lit pays for your stories, poems, essays, etcs.!  If you want to get paid for writing click this link!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

"Women should dress like this all the time." (Grading 2013)

I used to do reviews I called "Rum Punch Reviews," after a joke from Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently books, and the idea was not just "hey, the book is good/bad" but to write about how I found the book and what the book made me think of and otherwise just sort of write an essay about how the book related to my life.

That's more or less what this is going to be, and so it'll probably go well beyond most year-end reviews.  Anyway, I left off the other day with about the fifth thing I did, so here we go on with my chronological discussion and grading of everything I did for entertainment in 2013!

January 2013: 

1/6 It's My Life, Tim Myers:

Music made this list only if I either listened to it a lot, or bought the song or album, and actually neither of those applies to this song, so forget that I just said that.  This song was in a Toyota Tundra commercial, before they started using that woman who is easily the most annoying spokesperson since that Horrible "We Did It" AT&T girl.

Honestly, if there is a person I dislike more in the world right now than her

then it would have to be that awful little girl who plays the kid on The League.  

She's the girl whose birthday is being celebrated in that song, and while I hate to make fun of little kids, she's an actress and probably makes a decent amount of money so I guess it's fair game to say that I would rather poke my eyes out with hot metal spikes, and rip my ears off using rusty butter knives, than ever hear her say a single word again.

But Jan from the current Toyota commercials is a close second.  And AT&T girl is a closer third. No, that doesn't make sense, but it doesn't have to. It's 5:47 a.m. right now as I type this.

Enough discussion about that song! I didn't buy it.

Song grade: C
Jan The Spokeswoman Grade: F-
Little girl from "The League: F--

1/7: Seahawks/Redskins NFL playoff game, via Gamecast on ESPN

When I did watch more football, my rule was that I would watch at most one playoff game per weekend, so I tried to pick out the most entertaining games to watch, which is tough to do when you don't know much about the teams. In this case, I'm pretty sure I didn't 'watch' this game but tried to follow it on Gamecast, which was an ESPN thing on the computer, and what I remember about it is it was horrible.  Not the game, the experience.  Maybe it was just my computer, but it was slow, and hard to follow the game via just a stats report.  Plus, NFL and ESPN on their websites have a habit of popping up video that you can't pause, stop or skip, which results in slow-loading for pages, and a bunch of video that I do not want.  Outside of Netflix, I watch very, VERY few videos on the Internet.  And when I do, I want to choose them, not have them slow down everything else I'm trying to do.

Grade: F

Ugly Americans: I'm thinking that this must have been another show suggested after I finished watching something on Netflix. But I don't remember much else about it.  One of the things about doing a year-end review/wrap-up as opposed to instantaneously or at the end of the week or month is it lets you know what really made an impression on you.  Or not, in this case.

Grade: F

The Something Or Something Of Todd Margaret (the final episode): 

Here was a show I started watching a while back and then had to wait for the series (such as it was) to finish up and by the time it did, I felt sort of lost in the story, which ended with (SPOILER ALERT!) some kind of overblown trial and extra-twisty revelation that honestly I don't really recall.  This was one of several things this year that started out strong and finished up weak. (The actual show title as I started writing this post escaped me and I didn't feel like going to look it up.  Having now realized it's The Increasingly Poor Decisions Of Todd Margaret, I don't feel like going back to correct it.)

Grade: C, unless you count only the first year, in which case: B.

All I Want Is Everything, Jellyfish

Aim & Ignite, fun. (1/7/13)

Kingdom of Your Own, Matthew &The Atlas

I'll Be Your Shelter, The Housemartins.

Just a word to the wise: If you see an ampersand, followed by weird typing, that's not me being a poor editor, it's something that Blogger does if you flip back and forth between the "HTML" tags and the "Compose" tags, which I do when I cut-and-paste HTML into the post, like to put in videos.  I try to catch it, but I don't always.

Anyway, these were four things I bought using an iTunes gift card I got for Xmas last year.

The Jellyfish and Housemartins songs were from way, way back in the 1980s and 1990s. I own both of those albums on cassette tape.  One thing I've long thought is that when you buy something artistic -- book, movie, song, etc., -- you should be buying the rights to it in every format in the future.  I've had to in my life upgrade from cassette tapes to mp3 (I skipped over CDs, for the most part) and from books made of dead trees to ebooks, and it kind of burns me up to have a book that I own in paperback, or a cassette of an album, that I have to pay full price for to get on the latest format.

This is another of my great ideas that Amazon has adopted, by the way: I heard they were starting a thing where if you buy the ebook you get a paperback or something like that, which actually is a less efficient way to go about manufacturing books, and the more people rely on 'real' books the less books there will be available (because the cost of producing physical books and shipping them makes publishing a dicey game and requires them to spend less on indie or small authors) and the more resources we will use unnecessarily, but, by all means, Stephen King, continue to insist that we use more resources for less gain just so people will have a weak semblance of what it was like in the 1950s during your awful childhood.


All I Want Is Everything: A.
Aim & Ignite (full album): B
Mathew & The Atlas (full album): B=
I'll Be Your Shelter: A

1/10/13: "Searching For Slave Leia." This was a short story I listened to on the "Lightspeed" podcast (a podcast of audio sci-fi stories), and my actual note entered with this story was:


I don't recall the plot offhand, which says a lot about the story.  I'm sure I listened to it because of the title, because

Women should dress like this all the time.
if you put "Slave Leia" into something, men will do that thing. If Obamacare had rolled out with Slave Leia announcing it, we'd all be communists by now (instead of having to wait until 2016 when Hillary wins!)

Now, for the story. Here's a link to it on the Lightspeed page, and having skimmed through it again it's a sort of time-travel-y, near-death-experience-y thing about a woman who was apparently inspired by Star Wars to become a director and then almost dies? Whatever. It wasn't very good.

Grade: D+

1/12/13: Django Unchained: This,

on the other hand, was very good, and I can't actually believe I saw this in 2013.  I recall seeing it, but it was so long ago (nearly a year) that it seems like I saw it in the distant past, and I wouldn't have remembered it as part of this year but for this list.

I liked almost everything about this movie, and I'm not some unabashed Quentin Tarantino diehard.  I didn't like Reservoir Dogs hardly at all, and I didn't even see Inglorious Basterds (because I am boycotting Brad Pitt movies because he spent $30,000 on a hamster cage for his terrible kids).  I did love Kill Bill far more than almost everyone I know, and this movie hit the same heights as that one, an over-the-top festival of intricate plots, ultraviolence, and weird jokes.  Plus, it had Leonardo DiCaprio, who has become one of my favorite actors; I almost saw The Great Gatsby just because he was in it (almost, but didn't because (a) Sweetie didn't want to and (b) it was still The Great Gatsby, a book I consider fair-to-middling at best.)

I expect that this movie will become one that I will watch whenever I can, like Kill Bill and a few others (The Dark Knight), never watching the whole thing through but bits and pieces there.  That is meant as a compliment.

Grade: A+

That's it for this installment.  Let me leave you with another list of things I do almost every day: This one is

Top Five Blogs By My Frequency of Visits:
PT DillowayStrange Pegs (by Andrew Leon)
Life Is Good (by Tina Downey)
Laws Of Gravity (by Liz A.)
The Blutonian Death Egg (by Rusty Carl)

Friday, December 27, 2013

And if you DO buy it, you can read it at lunch, too, and then it'll be like we're pals! (Lunchtime Reading)

"There is a darkness that can touch the souls of men.  An inky blackness that seeps into the crevices and cracks. Leaves men stained and smudged and bruised. It is a darkness that changes lives. That does evil and leaves no good behind."

-- The Evil That Men Do, Andrew Leon.

(You can buy this book here!)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Porn stars, superheroes, and a dead iPod: Grading how well 2013 entertained me.

Last year, about this time, I started trying to post 100 things from 2012 that I thought were the best things of the year, and I was surprised to have so much trouble coming up with 100.  I was certain that I'd read/saw/ate more than 100 things that year, much more, and so this year, in 2013, I tried to keep better track.

Specifically, what I did was keep a running list of all the things I did for entertainment in 2013: each time I watched a new show, each time I saw a movie or ate something cool or read a book or short story or blog, I tried to list it, in chronological order, with the intention all year of REVIEWING THEM ALL, and listing them for you.

Sounds daunting, doesn't it? IT WAS. Imagine having to NOTICE WHAT YOU DO. It's IMPOSSIBLE. But I did it: Like Thoreau, I lived deliberately (not least by comparing myself keeping track of webcomics I read to Henry David Thoreau, who I'm pretty sure did something of note), and that has allowed me to walk through and GRADE the entire year of entertainment, 2013.

A couple of explanations: What I did was list the first time I tried something -- so there might be TV shows or blogs or something on here that I no longer watch or do, or which I watched or did for a while and then stopped and came back.  But the date listed is when I first tried that.

Also, if I did stuff all the time -- TV shows I watched regularly or blogs I read all the time -- I tended not to record those all the time.

But here goes! We'll start with the day I first began writing stuff down, and the first thing on the list:

1. The Packers-Vikings Playoff game 1/5/13: This was the year I stopped watching football. Not because of this game, but because I no longer found it entertaining enough to devote 3 hours of my time to.  By last year I'd stopped watching games live and started taping them, a necessity given the boys and how hard it is to watch a show uninterrupted with them around, and how much I'd rather spend time with them than simply sit and watch TV.  So I almost certainly watched this game on tape-delay, a system that meant I had to spend an entire Sunday disconnected from the Internet, and which ultimately led to my "Sundays With The Classics," a series that started when I would spend Sundays reading classic literature rather than watching TV or being on the Internet.

I don't really miss football: I still check the scores out on Sunday to see who won, and I follow some of the big news.  I know that Peyton Manning just set the new record for touchdowns (which I predict will be broken within 5 years, probably by Cam Newton, just to irritate me), and that the Packers probably aren't going to the playoffs.  But I doubt I could name all the starting quarterbacks in the league anymore, and I can't name all the head coaches.  I mostly follow football the way I follow other entertainment news: I'm aware of the big stories, and will pay attention to really big stuff (I'll probably watch the Super Bowl, but that's probably, making this the first year since I was an adult that it was probably.)

I also don't remember who won this game. Which helps tell you why I stopped watching football: when entertainment becomes unmemorable, who cares, anymore? If I spent 3 hours a week watching a movie and then couldn't remember how it ended, I'd stop watching that movie.  And I don't miss any great plays or anything: they're all over the Internet about 5 minutes after they happen.  Deadspin is great if you just kind of want to know about football.

Grade: D.

2.  Wonderella: 1/6/13. The Nonadventures of Wonderella made it so quickly on to this list because I read it more or less every week.  Published on Saturdays, it's a hilarious web-comic about a self-involved superheroine who is more or less the antithesis of Wonder Woman.  If they make any superheroine movie (and they won't because movies starring women are seen as chick flicks and so men won't go see them) they should make Wonderella.

It used to be the first thing I read on Saturday mornings.  Lately, I've gotten lazy and read it sometime during the week.

Grade: A.

3. Drawn Together, 1/6/13. Until right now, I had completely forgotten I had watched this cartoon series about a bunch of cartoon characters living in a house a la "Big Brother" last January.  I watched in on Netflix, I know, because that's how I watch about 70% of my TV, and I do not recall why I picked it or even many of the plotlines.  I don't think I watched it for very long, although I'd probably go back and watch it again, if I didn't have anything better to do, which I do.

Grade: C.

4. Breakfast of the Gods, 1/6/13:

First off, this year I wrote a story called Breakfast of the Gods, and it's been accepted for publication in Trans Lit Magazine's issue #11, InTRANSigents. It has not yet been published, so don't go there to read it, but do go read that site's online magazines because the stories are very good.

Second off, this Breakfast of the Gods is about all the breakfast cereal mascots going to war: the bad guys are led by Count Chocula and the good guys by Cap'n Crunch and Tony The Tiger.  It is darker and more cool than that description makes it sound:

I believe that the creator ran into trouble publishing it because it violates every single copyright law ever, which goes to show that copyright laws are stupid and that my idea for revamping copyright laws (which has already started to be put into practice by Amazon) is a great one.

(You may doubt that I am that influential but don't be so skeptical: after all, it was just two months ago that I posted a big article on mayonnaise, and Slate has now ended the year with a retrospective on Hellman's, so I am a trendsetter.)

11.  Time Enough To Say Goodbye, P.T. Dilloway: 1/7/13:  I only just now realized that I never posted a review of this book, other than to say "The end battle was incredible."

Which, it WAS, but that gives short shrift to what is really a phenomenal entry in what must be one of the greatest superhero series ever.  I've said before that what PT does best is write stories like this: stories that somehow have the feel of a good old fashioned comic book: CRASH! BANG! POW! stuff, but which carry an emotional weight and depth of characterization to them that adds an extra dimension to the story.  What really makes it remarkable is that PT does this without resorting to the brooding antihero that's become so annoying.  His main character, Emma Earl, is simultaneously upbeat and naive, while carrying with her enough sadness over her dead parents and her abandoned love to be entertaining and not an idiot with rose-colored glasses.

"Time Enough" brings back all the characters from "A Hero's Journey" but adds in two villains (as all good sequels must) and TIME TRAVEL, which can be a tough thing to juggle, but PT does it excellently.  This book, like every Scarlet Knight book I've read, is supremely entertaining.

12. The Tick (1/8/11): Lots of times, I have television shows on in the background, and the trick about finding a show to play in the background is that it has to be one which doesn't depend so much on the visuals to get what's going on.  Surprisingly, this is MUCH LESS of a problem than you would expect for a visual medium: many, many television and movie writers fail to make (effective) use of the part of the TV show where you see things, or have their characters say what you are seeing anyway, so that you can listen to TV shows and understand about 95% of them.

"The Tick" is not one of those shows: based on a comic book, 'The Tick' is set in a world where there are superheroes, but they are not particularly effective or even all that super.  It's sort of like if Seinfeld had superheroes in it, although don't let that mislead you about the humor: 'The Tick' is silly, not absurd like Seinfeld was.  (There's a difference.)

I watched the live action show; I understand there's a cartoon but I've never seen it.  The Tick fits in perfectly with the kind of shows I like: strangely dysfunctional people trying to exist in a almost-like-ours- world that allows for them to be but not to be themselves.  (See also: Andy Richter Controls The Universe, Better Off Ted).

13. Mike Sager, Little Girl Lost (1/8/13): Here's the first thing on the list I didn't remember when I re-read it.  This was a Longform.org article about a porn star who committed suicide when things got bad for her.  I used to have Longform bookmarked on my Kindle, and would read whatever articles sounded interesting about once a week.  Nowadays, my Kindle tabs when I go to the Internet are "Girl Genius," The New Yorker book blog, and trans lit magazine.

What Longform did really well was reprint "true crime" stories, and this is almost one of those: it's a fascinating look at the world of a porn "star" who was really just a sad, drug-addicted party wannabe.  It's easy to dismiss people who live on the fringes of society -- but harder when you get a glimpse inside their actual life.

Savannah wouldn’t give her father her phone number; he’d written long letters, in printing similar to hers: “Please don’t think I don’t care. I do very much. I hope you can talk to me more. I’d like to have your phone number. . . .” Her dad prayed, thought about hiring a private detective. Her mom continued to be indifferent, though Savannah showered her with presents and money. 
When Savannah had gone home to Justin, Texas, and confessed her heroin addiction, her mom dismissed it as a phase. 
 Savannah and Jeanna had parted ways after a big scene in Palm Springs. They’d gone there with a sugar daddy. Savannah had been holding the stash of heroin, thirty bags. The girls had had a little spat. Savannah wouldn’t give Jeanna her fix; Jeanna refused to beg. While Jeanna was waiting in the hotel lobby for a car to the airport, dope-sick, wishing she were dead, Savannah strutted past in a thong bikini, another girl on her arm. 
 For a while, there had been Shawn. He was stolen by Savannah’s best friend, Julie Smith. The couple had moved into a house that Julie had rented and furnished with a $2,000 loan from Savannah. 
Then there’d been the married strip-club owner. The last night of a weeklong stint at his club, the two had dinner. He complained about his wife the whole time. When Savannah asked why he’d married such a bitch, he stomped off. He left her with the check, and refused to pay for her week’s dancing.
It was one of the sadder stories I've ever read -- it gets worse from that part.  Much worse.

Longform Grade: B- (I drifted away from it over the course of the year, as the article selection seemed to waver in strength and I got more interested in other things.

Little Girl Lost grade: B+.

Interlude:  The songs I listened to most this year on my old iPod, the one I bought using money I saved when I quit smoking back in 2004, and which is now is dead, were*:

*I'm not sure if this counts plays only on Itunes on my computer or also on the iPod.

1. Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk, by The New Pornographers: This one gets skewed up a bit because it's Mr Bunches' favorite song. But I like it a lot, too:

2.  I Love It, Icona Pop: 77 times.

This is the song I'm trying to listen to 10,000 times in my life.  I got 77 this year just off my iPod.

3.  When I Go/ Me & You, Slow Club (50 times each, tie).

Surprising to even me. I didn't realize I liked these songs that much.  Apparently I do!

4.  I Will Remain, Mathew & The Atlas: 49 times. Narrowly edged out by Slow Club,

5.  which also came in 5th with "Giving Up On Love," 44 times.

This is probably going to take me longer than I thought.  I'm only up to January 8 or so.  I'll keep working on this over the next few days (if not longer, as fans of my 437-Steps series could tell you).

All of those songs obviously get As, as my favorite things to listen to in 2013.


Here is where I first proposed in 2009 that copyright laws be changed to allow anyone to publish anything but share the profits, something that Amazon started doing this year with their fan fiction publishing.

Here is my October essay on mayo. Here is a link to Slate's article on why Hellman's tastes so good.

Here is a post I wrote back in 2011 that not only discussed Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk but also pointed out that short people live in the future.

Here's where I decided to try to listen to I Love It 10,000 times in my life.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Xmas!

Traditionally, this is when I post an essay about Xmas.  This year, I did not write an essay about Xmas, for a variety of reasons, chief among which was that I wrote a bunch of Xmas stories and posted them online.  You can find them on my blog lit, a place for stories.  They are:

"What Xmas Means To Me: A Choose-Your-Own Adventure."

"Sally, Who Never Existed."

, 2"

"Ten Extremely Short And Sometimes Surprising Xmas Stories"


"It's The Higgs Boson Xmas Special!"

You can also find a couple of old Xmas essays on "Me, Annotated":

"Sexy Traditional Xmas," in which I discuss 8 traditional Xmas songs that have nothing to do with Xmas at all, and

"Sexy Merry Guckmas," in which I discuss such cherished family holiday traditions as "Fort Christmas," the "Throwing of the L" and a Poop-mergency (TM).

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Mr F, TRANSPORTATION Pioneer (Life With Unicorns)

Mr F likes to ride in shopping carts when we go places.  He's no sucker, for one thing -- why walk when you can ride?

Yesterday, we went to a store that doesn't have traditional shopping carts; they've got these sort of bags on handtrucks deals.  

By the time we got there, Mr F had been to two other stores, full of people and sounds and stuff (all things he doesn't like).

Then he learned that at this third store, he would not only have to go IN, with all the people/noise/stuff, but also that the cart was not the kind he could ride in.


And while there's no doubt that I am an overindulgent parent who gives into his kids' every whim, there's also no doubt that to Mr F riding in the cart was a protective measure.

Here he is in the toy department:

And heading past a department I can't name because we got Sweetie a present there:

And heading towards the cash register:

Friday, December 20, 2013

On the Seventh Day of Christmas, You'll Want To Read All These Books.

Because of other stuff (NAMELY, my BRAIN) I sort of ran out of time on my annual Indie Gift Guide, but that doesn't mean that you can't still get all kinds of great Xmas presents delivered ON TIME and for VERY LITTLE MONEY:

namely, BOOKS!  I prefer ebooks because they save the environment by not being written on the skin of dead trees and they don't have to be shipped via large trucks that will nearly knock me into the ditch as I drive up north for hearings today, but you can probably get regular books, too, and if you are looking for last minute gift ideas, or if you simply LOVE READING, then here is a list of great books to buy people.

The House On The Corner, by Andrew Leon: A family moves into the titular house, only to learn that they have a magical annex and that the world is a stranger (and more sinister) place than they believed.  Leon's story is Spielbergian in the best possible way: it brings out the heart of the story in the family and surrounds them with awesome characters and magic.  He's even got a Christmas story about the family:  Christmas On The Corner.  Click here to go to Andrew Leon's Amazon author page.  $3.99 on Kindle; $13.49 paperback.

Girl Power by PT Dilloway: Nobody writes superheroes like Dilloway, author of the smash "Scarlet Knight" series of books.  "Girl Power" demonstrates his genre-busting, as it begins the multi-book saga of what happens when the world's greatest superhero team suddenly finds their sex switched!  Start with "Girl Power" but pick up the sequel, "Girl Power: The Imposters" while you're at it, because you won't want to wait to keep going on this story.  Click here to buy it from Planet 99 Publishing; $0.99 on ebook, $5.99/$6.99 paperback. 

A Dead God's Wrath by Rusty Carl.  Like your westerns with a touch of angry, vengeful gods? Carl's story about a mystical stranger's entry into a small town in 1895 is somehow both short AND epic.  He's got other great stories for sale, but this is the cream of the crop.  Click here to go to his Amazon author page.  $0.99 ebook.

CassaStorm, by Alex Cavanaugh: no doubt you've heard of the awesome trilogy by Alex Cavanaugh, the Internet-ruling writing ninja? It all began with CassaStorm, in which a long-brewing war breaks out both between planets, AND in the family of the main character, Byron.  CassaStorm and its sequels exemplify the best in sci-fi writing.  Click here to go to Alex's Amazon page.  $2.99 ebook, $13.31 paperback.

Lyon's Legacy, by Sandra Ulbrich Almazan: speaking of sci-fi, if you want yours with a dose of ACTUAL SCIENCE, look no further than Sandra's series about dual universes and cloning: the "Catalyst Chronicles" series which begins with this books tells the story of a geneticist who must cross barriers between universes to collect DNA from her own famous grandfather.  The story is inventive, touching, and seems realistic enough to actually happen. Click here to go to Sandra's Amazon page.  $2.99 ebook, $13.08 audible audio edition.

Finding Meara, by Lara Schiffbauer: Lots of kids wonder if they are adopted.  Some of them are -- but very few are adopted from a magical, monster-filled world.  That's Hazel's story, though, and it takes a turn for the worse when her biological father kidnaps her and wants to sacrifice her to maintain his immortality.  Click here to go to Lara's Amazon page.  $0.99 ebook.

String Bridge, by Jessica Bell.  Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a 'proper' career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage--and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits.  THE BOOK COMES WITH A SOUNDTRACK BY THE AUTHOR, which alone should make you buy it.  Click here to go to Jessica's Amazon page.  $3.99 Kindle, $12.55 paperback.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pictures With Non Sequitur Titles

When you take time to smell the roses, make sure you don't forget to smell the other flowers, too. And other things that smell good, like hot buttered popcorn, or the salt air of the sea, or a baby's head.  Smell everything.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Looking back, a strangely high percentage of my employment decisions were made because of girls. (Jobs v. Life)

Seriously, has it been more than a year since I last wrote an installment in this series? The Magic Foam Dice Of Skee-Ball Prizes* is a fickle master, I suppose.  But it's time once again to revisit all the jobs I've had in my life.  Having worked my way through paperboy, McDonald's, and Dishwasher at a country club, it's time to move on to something far more sophisticated:

Dishwasher at a Denny's!

*This is how I choose what I will write about on a given day: I roll a foam die that Mr Bunches got with his Skee-Ball winnings, and the number that comes up helps determine what I will work on that day.  There's about four more steps after that but I thought I'd at least explain the reference.

The country club where I'd been employed for about 2-3 weeks had closed for the winter, leading to the obvious question:

Why was it open until New Year's Eve in the first place?

The country club, which is a thing that amazingly exists in modern America ("modern" meaning 1980s America in this case but I know for a fact they still exist because one of my partners at work belongs to one, and we went to lunch there once for a meeting and I had a grilled cheese that had tomato on it, as well, and it was delicious, which I guess is one reason that country clubs still exist: to teach us new, delicious ways to grill cheese.  "Grilling Cheese For Rich People." Sounds like a winner of a cookbook, doesn't it?)

Where was I? Oh, yeah: The country club, which still exists, is one of the most anachronistic, most annoying things that it turns out people do, and that is in an astonishingly long list of things that people do that I find anachronistic and/or annoying. (That's mostly and and very little or in that last choice).

Whether country clubs are something that needs to be a thing (they don't) is for another essay another time (although I just answered it).  Whether it makes sense for a country club to be open only until New Year's Eve and not after that until spring is another matter entirely.  Another, also stupid, matter, but another matter.  The country club where I got my start in dishwashing was open from spring, sometime, until New Year's Eve, and then closed for several months.  The reason for this, I was told, was that "members don't use it in the winter," which doesn't make sense on like fourteen different levels.

First of all, "don't use it in the winter" means they don't use it for November and December, which I will go to my grave saying are parts of winter.  Well, December, anyway.  The year, to me, breaks down this way:

Spring: March, April, May.
Summer: June, July, August.
Fall: September, October, November up until Thanksgiving.
Winter: post-Thanksgiving November, December, January, and February.

I get really irritated when I hear meteorologists say "BLAH BLAH BLAH winter starts at 5:15 p.m. December 21" because scientific winter is about as relevant to life as the magnetic north pole is to Christmas, which is to say not at all.

Imagine if in regular conversation I said

"Yeah, so these guys went on an expedition to the North Pole,"

and you said "Wow, that would take a lot of training and outfitting and possibly swimming if that half-read headline I remember about maybe the North Pole melting was accurate, and also wasn't there a picture of a polar bear swimming on Huffington Post?"

And I said "What? Oh, no, they went to the MAGNETIC north pole, which is near Ellesmere Island in northern Canada but is actually moving towards Russia at approximately 35 miles per year, which is a huge victory for communism, if you think about it, in that in the future all our compasses will point towards the Kremlin,"

and you said "But Russia isn't communist anymore,"

at which point we'd be off on a tangent, and let's get back to the point here: "Winter" means "when it is cold and dark outside," and to say "Winter" includes 2/3 of March but only 1/3 of December is just stupid.

Also, to say that patrons of a country club don't use it in 'the winter' is stupid, again because you keep it open for November and December, so does their attendance drop off remarkably in January? How did you find that out? Did you used to be open in January? Or do you just assume that? And why don't they use the club in the winter? I get that they don't play tennis or golf in the winter because snow but they don't use the restaurant? At all? Do they only use other restaurants seasonally, as well? The members had to pay to eat at the restaurant (and to use the course; the membership fees only entitled them to be among the limited group of people who could opt to pay for those services, another stupid thing about country clubs, you are paying for the right to pay for stuff, while simultaneously excluding others from paying for those things.)

So for all the dumb reasons they had, the country club closed in the winter and left me to try to find work at a place where people based their spending decisions on something other than whether the food tasted right when there was snow on the ground, and that led me to the Denny's that was about 15 miles from our house.

By this point, I could find jobs that were farther away because by this point, I had my own car.  It was my first car EVER and I bought it for $200 from a guy my Uncle Mark knew, I think? I remember that my Uncle Mark was involved in helping me decide to buy the car but I don't remember if he just went with me to look at it or if he knew the guy, but either way, this car was a beaut.

It was some sort of Datsun, I believe, and it was a shade of brown that only existed in the 1970s and 1980s, a flat brown that appeared to be made of clay rather than paint on metal.  The car had two snow tires instead of regular tires on the back, and that, too, is something that it's hard to believe ever existed or still exists: snow tires, like country clubs, seem like they are a thing that should belong only to the past.

The really cool thing about that car is that it didn't actually require keys to start it; there was some sort of quirk in the wiring or potential explosive hazard or something that allow the car to start if you just turned the ignition, with or without a key.  This made it easy for me to begin my life as a driver by immediately reassigning that part of my brain which otherwise would be responsible for remembering where my keys were to other duty, and for 28 glorious years I have been completely, utterly, unaware of where my keys are at any given moment.  (Even as I write this, I am using the spare set of keys for my current car, the real key having been misplaced some six weeks ago.  You would think I would be more careful about the sole key I have for this car, but you would think that only if you knew nothing about me. I've lost the spare key twice already, and this is I figure entirely because when I was sixteen I owned a car that didn't need a key, so I never evolved to know how to protect my keys.  I'm like a plesiosaur, if plesiosaurs had used keys but not been able to remember where they were, and you can't prove that they didn't, because the fossil record is incomplete.)

Armed with a car, I was no longer dependent on my dad to drive me to and from jobs, which was good because he wouldn't have been pleased about having to drive me 15 miles to Denny's instead of just 5 to McDonald's or the country club, and I would've been in for a lot of lectures about how it is irresponsible to get fired from a job just to go to a party, and my counterargument ("but there were girls there") would likely not have won me points.

I can't, looking back, remember anything about the actual process of getting hired at Denny's. I don't remember the manager or the interviewer or even specifically whether I was hired solely as a dishwasher or as a busboy/dishwasher.  What I remember most is that I was trained by a guy whose name I think was Dave, and Dave had the sort of sandy, greasy-ish already-thinning blond hair and moustache that would mark him as a bad influence of an extremely minor sort in any teen comedy.  Dave would have been the guy who was (like me) not popular, but who did stuff that could be popular: Dave's character would have had a room that he kept a padlock on, and a mom who was not around much, and Dave's character probably would have smoked pot, which my character would have resisted in the movie.

THAT is all I remember about Dave.  And more or less all I remember about working at Denny's, a job that almost completely failed to make an impact on me.  I recall that I had to wear a white shirt, and I had to wear an apron.  And there were these brown tubs of dishes at various 'stations' around the restaurant that I had to go to pick up and wash.  I don't remember actually setting or clearing tables, but it's almost certain that was part of my job.

What I remember, and why I say I was a dishwasher there, was the dishwasher room.  I remember that like I was just in it this morning.  It had yellow walls of the institutional yellow color that fills hospitals and high schools and municipal buildings: a yellow that's so pale it barely registers as yellow, but it's definitely not white, either.

In the yellow room there was a big metal table where you set the brown tubs, and a roller-slide where you would take large, 3x3 plastic trays and stack all the dishes into them before sliding them into the industrial-strength dishwasher that had a slide-down door.  You'd fill a rack, slide it to the right and slam the door down and hear the spray nozzles kick in while you filled the next rack, and then lift the door and slide them down again, pushing the rack out.

I loved that whole thing.  This was way better than scrubbing pots and pans in the back room at the country club and using their miniscule dishwasher (let alone way way WAY better than depooping shrimp on New Year's Eve).  I loved seeing how little food people actually finished (even if the idea of touching food people had touched was gross) and I loved scraping it off and I loved hearing the dishes slide in and clank under the sprays, but most of all what I loved was the way the dishes came out the other end in 2 minutes, clean and hot. Those dishes gleamed, and it took literally no effort on my part to get them that clean.

I was raised hand-washing dishes.  I want to say that when I was a kid we had a dishwasher for a while but I bet that's a memory I invented.  What I remember is that we had to handwash dishes for all the relevant portions of my life, and with a family of five (and then six) and this being the 1970s and 1980s, there were a LOT of dishes.  Nothing back then was pre-made and there weren't delivery restaurants and the frozen foods you could get weren't these "one-dish" pasta 'creations' and things that make up all our meals today.  Back then a simple dinner would require seemingly hundreds of dishes, plates, pots, pans, etc.  And we had to handwash them all, and my mom's rule was not just that those dishes had to gleam, but that dishes had to be washed in hot water.

Hot is probably not a strong enough word.  If the water didn't more or less scorch your hands, it was not hot enough.  If you could stick your hands in it for long without grimacing in pain, it was not hot enough.  Those dishes needed to be sterile.  And I was the one who washed the dishes most nights (by choice: I liked washing better than drying because drying you had to put them away, too.)

So I had a lifetime of hands with red, raw knuckles from using a dobie pad -- that was what my mom called that little sponge with the netting to help scrub, a dobie pad, which apparently is an actual brand name for it, having just googled it -- to get everything clean in water so hot it would sterilize surgical instruments, and it was work.

Compared to that, dishwashing at Denny's was a breeze.  It was my first brush with the future, as I like to think of it, my first brush with how machines and technology could make life superamazing. In getting a job at Denny's, I went from a life where dishes only got clean if you actually felt physical pain in the process, to a life where dishes got clean by sitting in a box for two minutes, clean the way my mom would have liked them, sparkling and hot.

Then I would have to quit Denny's three months later -- because girls.  Or at least girl.  (That is called foreshadowing.  See you in 15 months.)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Over on lit a place for stories today I published "Ten Extremely Short And Sometimes Surprising Xmas Stories".  here's a sample of them:

"It's... a weed whacker," she says.

 "It is!" he says brightly.

 "A weed... whacker," she repeats slowly. The room is quiet.

 The kids look up at them, trying to figure out the significance of this moment. The room is quiet.

"It's perfect!" she says finally, cheerily, and later on, when the weeds attack, again, she is able to save them all, even Timmy who had stupidly asked for a model train.


Click here to go read the whole thing. JUST DO IT. It won't take that long and they are really good stories, I promise.

ALSO: Have you submitted a story or something to me yet? I WILL PAY YOU FOR STUFF YOU'VE WRITTEN. Stories. Essays. Poems. Things That Are All Of Those Combined. Things That Are None Of Those Things. Haikus? Sure, why not. DETAILS ARE HERE.  You've already written stuff. Why not submit it to me and get paid?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Two millimeters, or one week, or other ways to measure time and space.

Here is what happens, and how two millimeters:

can matter so much (and so little?)

Here:  you are going into the doctor because you've broken out in hives again, and itch all over and he is taking a look at you and you are saying also you have been a little dizzy.

Here: you write the phrase make a living as a writer but it comes out make a writing as a liver.  Laugh!

Here:  you woke up last night with the chills.  You were cold and you got up and put on a pair of sweatpants. Dress socks because that is all you could find. A longsleeve shirt over your t-shirt. A sweatshirt over that. You realize that this seems a bit much. You get back into bed with your teeth chattering.

Here: who is that character on The League again? It's not Dixon but it's not Dixon but it's not.

Here: the doctor says "Have you hit your head or anything recently?"

Here: No, you say.  You have not hit your head recently.

Here: After a hearing, two clients come up to you.  "I didn't know you would be here," you say, and extend your hand and say "I'm not sure we've met before." They say that they have met you. In your office.

Here: Laugh! Remind them that you are really bad with faces.

Here: "I'm going to send you for a CT scan," the doctor says.

Here: You came here because you had hives, and a fever!

Here: This morning you didn't recognize a woman standing outside your office. You thought you recognized her, but you didn't, really, because as she talked you realized that she was not who you thought she was and then your goal became to either figure out who she was or get out of the conversation without embarrassing yourself.


Two people you had a lengthy meeting with a month ago and now have just re-introduced yourself to, leading to confused stares and nervous laughter.

A long table on which you lie back, being slowly slid headfirst into a circular ring that will only take a minute or so then wait here until the radiologist says it's safe for you to go.

It's safe for you to go.


It's safe for you to go.

Drive home in traffic and think about the field trip the next morning.

It's safe for you to go.

The doctor is on the phone.

It's safe for you to go.

There is a spot on the CT scan.



There is a spot on the CT scan it's safe for you to go probably nothing we'll order an MRI I'm going to have an EEG ordered for you it's probably nothing.

When I was little, I had a shirt that read "The Great Brain" on it, in iron-on transfer letters that were mirrored, iridescent.  The shirt referred both to a series of books that I loved as a kid, and to the fact that I felt I, too, had a great brain.

When I was forty-four, I sat in a neurologist's office -- two actually, two different neurologists almost exactly one week apart, two neurologists separated in time by just over 168 hours and in space by just over 200 meters, discussing differences in space and whether they matter, the differences in space being in this case, two millimeters, and whether that difference mattered being primarily important because this was the space in my brain that had moved.

It turns out I have an asymmetrical brain.  Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing or not a thing at all remains to be seen, but it is: My great brain is a brain that doesn't quite look like brains really should.

Here is how my brain differs from other brains, or at least how my brain differs from how other brains think my brain should look.  In a brain -- my brain, your brain, our brains -- we have something called ventricles:

The ventricles are the dark, kidney-shaped areas in the center of the brain, and they hold fluid.  They should be symmetrical, and as you know now, mine are not.

You only learned that about 168 hours after I did!

I learned that in a phone call at 4:37 p.m. last Tuesday, December 5, 2013, when my doctor called to tell me that there was a spot on the CT scan that concerned the radiologist and he would therefore order an MRI and an EEG and we'd figure out what it was, this spot that concerned some radiologist somewhere -- a radiologist who'd looked at my brain two hours earlier and felt it was safe to let me leave the hospital and get in my car and drive home -- we'd get to the bottom of this.

At the time, Mr Bunches and I were sitting at the kitchen table, playing.  Sweetie was upstairs with Mr F, wrestling him into clothes or out of clothes or something, and the doctor spoke quickly and carefully and then put his nurse on the phone with me and she gathered information and the wheels were in motion and I got off the phone and Sweetie asked what they'd said.

"They found a spot on the CT scan that concerns them," I said.

"What does that mean?" Sweetie asked.

But we didn't know what it meant; we had only that information.

The next morning was scheduled for a field trip for the boys, and I was supposed to volunteer on that.  That night, we had been planning on taking a ride with the boys, and maybe hanging out.  I was going to read a book I'd bought. We probably would have watched The Office on Netflix.

When someone says something as vaguely disturbing as there is a spot on the CT scan that concerns, it is hard to decide what to do next.

What to do, ever.

I wanted to run in every direction.  I wanted to go lie down.  I wanted to rewind to the phone call and let it go to voice mail like I usually do.  I wanted to hug someone.

Instead, we took a ride.  We got into the car, buckled the boys in, Sweetie drove, and we went for a ride around the route we think of as Mr F's route.

We stopped at McDonald's, and the boys got fries and a "Coke Soda," and after a moment's thought, I got a vanilla shake, asking for it with no whipped cream but still with the cherry.  I didn't get the cherry.

I went to bed that night and then got back up after an hour and then went to bed after spending another hour reading, reading and reading and reading about what might be the problem, looking at google image after google image of CT scans to try to think what might be wrong with mine; at that point I didn't know about the asymmetry or about anything, I didn't know ventricles or anything. I just knew there was a spot.

When I did find out about the asymmetry, I found out about it this way:  the ventricles that I have do not match, aren't even really close, aren't what you'd expect, and, the neurologist added, for good measure, my left frontal lobe also had some concerns, with the gray matter.

You may not know what gray matter is.  I do, now. I know because I've spent hours reading about it and about every single medical term that came up in the past week, as if I could figure out what was going on and head it off at the pass by becoming a neurologist in 7 days.

Gray matter is the stuff that surrounds the white matter in your brain.  White matter is the stuff that thinks. Gray matter is the stuff that protects the stuff that thinks.  And in my case, the gray matter on my left frontal lobe was thicker than on the right side.

Another asymmetry!

Here's another thing that first neurologist pointed out to me:  Here's another thing! It happens that I had an MRI done a year and a half ago, and it so happens that if you looked at that MRI and this new CT scan, it so happens that this asymmetry, this spot, had moved.

Two millimeters.

Which is not very far!

But still, in an ideal world -- in a world where things are not the way they are but where they instead embody the essence of the perfect concept of that thing -- in an ideal world an ideal brain would ideally match up and not be moving around.

So: more tests but not right away because it's not that urgent and so go on home, we'll schedule the next tests someone will call you, and don't worry it's probably nothing.

Which is great!  It's probably nothing.

For the past three months, I had been having headaches -- more or less continuously, headaches that started in the morning and didn't ever let up.

For at least part of that time, I'd been getting dizzy from time to time, a feeling like maybe I was going to fall or something.

I hadn't thought much about those.  After all, during that time, I'd also had bronchitis and of course I work pretty hard and there's the longstanding heart troubles and all that, so I'd never really worried about them.

For the past month or so, I'd had more worrying events: I'd lose the track of conversations from time to time.  I'd have to tell people "Wait, can you start over?"  But what do you expect? I'm usually distracted and have a lot going on! Emails, and phone calls and the twins and a guy at our office quit and all.

I'd have trouble remembering little things: names. Whether I'd put something in a file.  Whether I'd already said something in a conversation.  On a few occasions I'd caught myself saying "Did I already tell you that..." but more often I figured I'd not bring it up.  But I might do twenty, thirty different things in a day! I get 100+ emails a day! I have meetings and constant interruptions!

And of course, the faces I couldn't remember -- increasingly couldn't remember at all, had no recollection of them.

And none of that bothered me.  As Sweetie and The Boy said one day "You're so scatterbrained!"

Ha ha I am!

I didn't think anything of it honestly until the doctor began asking me those questions when I'd just gone there because I'd had another allergic reaction to something or other and had hives again and needed to check with him, and then it went from hey, I need something for these hives to there's a spot on your CT scan to me this morning lying on my back as they hitch that little cage around your face to wheel you into the giant box full of magnets that is going to somehow take pictures of your mind, after they ask you a disturbing number of questions that make you wonder if maybe you didn't have some metal implanted sometime because they've asked you so many times it seems like it must have happened.

And then they send you home again and in the past, when I've had this test, that test, the other test, everything ever it always came out negative, they always called up and said oh well nothing showed up but like finding the love of your life, everything is a miss until it's a hit, and so this time driving home and talking to Sweetie and saying I'm sure it's (probably) nothing and they never find anything it's always a false alarm remember my heart? but my heart wasn't in it and hers wasn't either and we both jumped when the phone rang, a few hours later, and they were just scheduling a follow up with the other neurologist who came highly recommended and who could see me this afternoon.

When your brain might be injured you don't know what to think or feel or report and so telling a neurologist what's been going on leads you to bring up things you're pretty sure don't matter and leads him to ask you things that you never thought to bring up, like

Do you ever smell anything strange?

And you say that yeah sometimes you smell burning plastic and there was this time that you were pretty sure you smelled smoke downstairs and you didn't want to tell your wife so you just got her down there and said "Do you smell anything?" but she didn't, and the time that you told her you smelled something awful and she didn't smell it but thought maybe it was your coffee, you say that and think oh man how bad is this?

(The answer being one you know [it's 2 millimeters bad] and the one you don't [we don't know]).

And for a week I'd been looking up things and reading academic papers and studies and trying to figure out anything that it could be and everything that it could be, that could answer that second question, the larger question, the question that is exactly two millimeters wide:


("There could be 101 different things," said my doctor, wisely, by email.  "Let the neurologist work on it," he said, equally wisely.  But I couldn't because everything else that I wanted to do in the past week seemed simultaneously silly and incredibly important.  How could I waste time reading a webcomic? What if I had no time?  I should be talking to Sweetie or playing with the boys?  I need to get into work to take my mind off of this.  Why should I be at work?  I wonder if I should do my Xmas shopping now or wait? And so on.  There could be 101 different things wrong with my brain? I was going to learn them all.)

(And in between, I was going to spend more time with my family, and also not be crabby, and not waste time on websites reading about the NFL, and at the same time I was not going to assume the worst and certainly was not going to, on a drive with Mr F late at night find tears in my eyes as we listen to Everybody Here Is A Cloud.)

(I wasn't going to do that latter because it was probably nothing).

So I learned about eosinophils (blood cells that are associated with hives but also which can be produced by brain disorders including brain tumors) because I had a high eosinophil count and I learned about what the ventricles do and how various impingements on various parts of the brain can express themselves and I checked into all the other lab test results and tried to determine if they meant something was wrong with my brain too and over and over and over I looked at CT scan after CT scan image online to see if they looked like the one I'd been shown and if so what the website said about that and if not why not?

And that led to today, where I had the MRI and the magnets read my brain and then the doctors read the MRI and agreed that yeah it's moved two millimeters, and they don't know why.

They agree on some things.

They agree that there are areas of my brain that cause some concern:

The asymmetry.  They agree that is a thing.

They agree, too, that there are things called "punctate lesions" which if you look it up like I instantaneously did you will learn means small white-matter lesions in your brain the significance of which is poorly understood, at best. A year and a half ago, I had one. Now I have... some.

Beyond that, they agree on nothing, because they haven't come up with any conclusions yet.

They don't know.

That is what the neurologist told me today.

He doesn't know why the headaches and the rest.

Maybe it's nothing, maybe it's not.

We should follow it, he said, pointing to the computer screen where we'd been looking at the inside of my head in the darkened office.  And we'll do some other testing to nail down what's going on, things that are more subtle than can you remember this list of words, and can you touch your nose, and we'll follow it.  Doctors don't watch things, they follow them, trailing behind at a safe distance, probably more than two millimeters.

I don't get to follow it.  I have to lead it, to be ahead of it, to know what's going to happen and what might happen and what can't happen.

The past week, I spent a lot of time sitting up at night, and watching TV at 2 a.m., and pausing to look out the window when I was at work.   I also spent time helping some first graders understand electromagnetic energy, and took Mr F and Mr Bunches sledding, and joked with The Boy about how we looked like a superhero team in the matching sweatshirts we got for an early Christmas present.

And I kept careful track of when I felt dizzy and whether I could remember words and made sure to mark things on the calendar and make notes, and I stared into mirrors a lot, trying to see if there was anything different about me that I could see.

Every few years, it seems, I get a reminder that everything is measured.  Everything.  The distance we travel and the time we spend doing it: measured out.  And even though I never forget it, each time helps me remember why it's so important to focus on what's so important.

On Sunday, it snowed.  I had been sitting on the couch, in our house, sort of half-asleep.  I had been kind of reading something or other, not really anything at all.  The boys were upstairs watching TV.  Sweetie was reading a book.  The snow swirled and blew and came down for an hour or two and I began watching it.

In my mind were thoughts that were like the snowflakes themselves: hard to grasp, icy, cold, and whirled with an energy that I couldn't really comprehend.  Each of the thoughts individually didn't amount to very much, but together they had led me to a dull, insensate kind of feeling, a half-sleep.

I stood up, and said that I was going to shovel the driveway.  I got the boys dressed, put on their snowpants and gloves and hats, and got myself dressed, too, putting plastic bags around my socks before putting on my shoes.  I don't have boots.

We went outside, and I shoveled the driveway and walk pretty quickly.  It was light snow, easy to shovel and blowing around.

Mr Bunches was playing on the edges of the driveway, throwing snow and clambering around.  But Mr F wanted to sled, and he pulled his sled out and tried to go down the driveway.  It didn't work.  The snow wasn't the right kind to sled, and he wouldn't slide easily.

I put him in the sled and put the sled in the road.  Then I pulled on the rope and pulled him down the hill, going faster and faster until we got to the bottom of the road.  I had him stand up and we walked back up the hill, and did it again.  Then again.  Then again.

Up and down the hill, me pulling him down and us walking up together, we went in the snow until it got dark out and his cheeks were apple-red with cold and we could barely see, after we went inside.

I didn't know that day, and I still don't know, now, what actually is going on with me.  But when you are running down a hill towing a laughing little boy in a sled, the snow whipping into your face and Christmas lights a blur around you, when you skid to a stop and he rolls onto his side laughing and smiles up at you, that's when you realize that you never really know what is actually going on with you, and so you'd best just keep running down that hill and walking back up it.

I'm luckier than most.  Most people don't keep getting reminded that there will be a time they can't run down that hill anymore, and so they don't do it as often as they can.

You can measure life a lot of ways.  You can measure it by the tiny increments of space in your brain, or by the long hours of the night when you stare at a computer screen in a darkened dining room while everyone else is asleep, or by the flights of stairs up to the rooms where they keep the big magnets that see inside you behind locked doors.  You can measure life by counting blood cells or the spacing of your brain waves or by the number of degrees on the wall opposite you as you sit and wait to see what your blood pressure is.

Or you can measure life by how far the sled skidded when you let it go.  By how tall that tower of blocks was before it fell, by how many Batmans it takes to finally capture the Joker.  You can see how long your vanilla shake lasts you on the car ride and how many songs you and your wife agree are pretty good on your playlist.  You can measure it by how long it takes for your wife's hand to slacken its grip as she falls asleep next to you.

You can, that is, fit a lot of living into two millimeters. Enough, in fact, that you won't have time to stop to measure it and anyway, if you do, it'll measure up just fine.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

No news 'til maybe next Thursday

Nothing I'm willing to go into yet, but hopefully Thursday, 12/12, or maybe shortly thereafter I'll be back.  Not before then.  Thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Taking a break.

So I got some possibly-bad, possibly-nothing medical news and I'm going to take a break until it all gets sorted out. Maybe just a day, maybe a bit longer.  But I probably won't be posting on any of my blogs for a few days or commenting much.  Sit tight... I'll be back.

Until then, here is a picture of a Christmas tree at a local mall that I took while giving Mr F a ride at 3:54 a.m. this morning.

Monday, December 02, 2013

This might be one of the best Xmas songs EVER. I like it SO MUCH. (It's the Indie Gift Guide 2013)!

Up today on the gift guide is Liz, a knitter, substitute teacher, and blogger who has this to offer you:

Do you have a mini tablet? A smartphone? You want to keep it warm, don't you?

Well, not really warm, but safe and contained would be good. That's where these handknit cozies come in. They're great to hold your device and keep it safe from scratches in your purse, bag, briefcase, or wherever you carry it.

OK, back to me. I won one of Liz's creations in a contest; it's a water bottle/coffee cup holder that slings over the shoulder. I STILL USE IT. It's incredible and people love it.

And check out Liz's blog "Laws Of Gravity" by clicking this link

PREVIOUSLY, On Indie Gift Guide 2013:

Help fund the movie "Zombie Frat House," which is like if Animal House meets the Walking Dead."Here's the trailer:

Zombie Frat House could use some funding to help get the premiere done. Click here to learn more about how to donate.

At the very least, won't you click here to follow Zombie Frathouse on Twitter? It doesn't cost you anything, but for each new follower, a zombie angel gets its wings.


P.T. Dilloway:  writer of the brilliant "Scarlet Knight" series of superhero books, does it again with his new "Girl Power" take on superhero teams: what happens when the world's greatest superheroes are suddenly changed to the opposite sex? AWESOME ADVENTURES, that's what. P.T. does superheroes right: he mixes classic comic book adventurism with deft characteriziation that bring superheroes and their alter egos to life.


Want to work off some of those holiday pounds while also earning some extra money?


lit, a place for stories 

is paying writers: if they publish your story, they'll pay you -- or you could enter the "My Story Can Beat Up Your Story Contest" and win big money.  Click here for details.