Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Week That Wasn’t

I realize this past week, for most, was one of thankfulness, a time for family and a reason to celebrate.  For me, not so much.

Nothing this week turned out the way I expected, or hoped, it would.  Thanksgiving?  Bah!  Celebration?  Humbug!  I’ve been in a decidedly negative mood most of the last seven days and here’s why…

Something we had hoped very much to happen; which we’d spent a good deal of money trying to make happen; which we had put quite a bit of ourselves into making happen and early signs indicated was indeed going to happen, isn’t happening.  It was a major blow, to say the least, the details of which I will not divulge.    Suffice to say, I was feeling about as low as I could.  The only good thing about feeling that low is there’s no where to go but up, right?

Of course not.  Because I had my recurrent check ride looming over me for work.  Once a year I have to prove that I actually do know how to fly a plane that, let’s face it, pretty much flies itself.  How hard could that be?  I do it all the time right?  What I don’t do is deal with a myriad of emergencies that I’m expected to know how to deal with should they occur.  The problem is that these emergencies rarely ever do occur.  That’s a good thing, but it can make a pilot a bit rusty on the procedures.  Hence, recurrent training.  Add to that the fact the FAA is scrutinizing every airline’s training program since some inexperienced pilot’s crashed into a house last winter and my stress level rises more than it already was. 

So, I studied all day Monday, even as bad things were happening in other aspects of my life.  I had to put that aside.  Enter Howard, my slovenly neighbor.  While his overweight, over-aged, smoker of a wife is as fertile as Michelle Duggar, he kept asking me for favors I was none too happy to do.

“Moira’s having the baby,” he told me over the phone.  “Can you walk the dog?”

Can I walk the dog?  Can Howard walk the dog?  ‘Cause I have to tell you, I’ve known that dog for nearly six years, and I’ve never seen it walked.  So I did what Howard would have done.  I let the dog out  the back door, once again, stepping over a landmine of stuff.  I can’t even describe it better than stuff.  I had to push my way past a mattress and box spring, on their side, blocking the front door.  Dirty laundry lined the floor.  Its the most disgusting place I’ve ever been.  Every day I’m more incensed at the way they live.  I’m way beyond how.  I need to know why they live that way.  They’ve seen my house.  They know clean exists.  Why do they choose to ignore it?  And why are they bringing another helpless child into that environment?  But I was curious.  Howard had borrowed some tools to ready the baby’s room.  Two days earlier.  I wanted to see how much progress he’d made.  He even encouraged me to check it out, so I wasn’t snooping.  Finished?  Please.  But while I was up there I thought I’d check out the hole in the shower through which he’d fallen.  The shower walls were gone.  I mean…well…gone.  Nothing but studs.  No hardware either.  No spigot, or nozzle, or tiles or anything.  But the guy’s apparently been busy elsewhere.  There was a stack of Playboys on his dresser a foot and a half high.

Well, I had my own studying to do.  Not an easy thing to do when the neighbors are stinking up the bliss I should have been having.  With Tuesday came more studying and more requests from Howard.
Wednesday was day one of my two day training.  The first day is designed to get acquainted with the procedures in the simulator.  I was partnered with a boisterous captain from Long Island I’d never met, who felt the need to tell me, and the instructor, how he once came home early from a trip and caught his wife with another man.  It seemed relevant, given that it was more than a decade ago and he’d been married to someone else for the past twelve years.  He just liked to talk.  On the phone.  With me.  He kept calling, thinking he knew what we should study for the actual check ride, the next day.  Then, out of nowhere, he asked me how long I’d been married and how I met my wife and how many brothers and sisters I had and where they all lived.  WTF?!

Thursday morning.  Turkey day for most of you, but I just felt like a turkey.  Oddly calm, I’d slept pretty well, figuring if I didn’t know it yet, there was nothing more I could learn at that point.  I drove to the Airbus Training Center in Miami feeling confident.  Prior to the actual check ride we were given an oral exam.  The instructor, with a reputation as a real hardass, was impressed.  I aced it.  To make things even better, it was a national holiday.  While the feds have been observing a lot of check rides and failing a lot of pilots, they all took the day off.  My pressure was easing. 

And then the power went out.  Check ride canceled.  Postponed actually.  And guess what?  There’s a new curriculum starting December 1.  The warm up I did the day before?  Not gonna matter.  But do you think they’ll give me another one to prepare for the check ride I’m actually going to take?  Not at thousands of dollars an hour in sim time.  The weight that was supposed to be lifted in time for Thanksgiving dinner?  Heavier than ever.  The writing I’d put off during all this drama?  Still on hold.

And then, something good happened.  I went to work.  Assigned an abnormally long layover – two nights in Tampa – Mrs.. Sarcasm drove over to join me.  It was exactly the weekend we needed to recharge, recover and rediscover life.  And guess what else we discovered. 

Stepford.  Okay, Clearwater.  Home to Scientology and its robots followers.  This is a creepy place, where people walk around in quasi-military uniforms.  Surveillance cameras are everywhere and everyone carries a clipboard.  I’m still weirded out, but it was fun and I’m finally home; finally ready to get on with life.  Sure, I still have to take a check ride, but I don’t know when and won’t worry about it until I do.  That, at this point, is the least of my problems.

Well, this is probably the least.  I just found out somebody is having a  book signing at a Barnes and Noble in January.  I know for a fact he was still on a a first draft in August.  No legitimate publisher works that fast.  He’s self-published and full of BS.  Well, he’s always been full of BS, but now he’s going to convince people he’s a bona-fide, successful author.  Don't get me wrong, self-publishing works for some, but I think, as writers, people should be up front about it.  Unfortunately the general public won’t know the difference.  It shouldn’t bother me, but it does.

I should worry more about the fact Snickers is selling a “King Size” candy bar that is actually two candy bars in a King Size wrapper.  That’s the kind of problem I need in my life.  If that becomes my biggest worry, then all is well.

Monday, November 23, 2009

It Might Be Time To Move

I've been thinking this for a while, and this may just be what does it.  Apparently it's not enough to have mysterious holes appearing in my yard.  Now I have to contend with mammoth arachnids as well.

Whilst doing some yard work, I felt something brush against my shoulder and neck.  A quick glance to one side revealed the most perfectly spun web I've seen in awhile, dusted in fine brown pollen.  Then I noticed its maker scrambling away.  But for the grace of who knows what, this nasty thing would surely have sunk its fangs into my neck.

I mean really!  Giant spiders?  There's water on the other side of those bushes.  Why couldn't it be a harmless alligator?  Next I'll probably get into a fight with one of the many pythons slithering through the Everglades.  At least those are big enough I might see it coming.  A guy was bitten by a green mamba a few months ago.  Yeah, I thought they only came in black too.  But greens are plenty deadly, and better camouflaged.  Man, what I wouldn't give for the safety of an igloo right about now.

That's a normal sized baseball, only a couple inches in front of this behemoth.

I really think the web looks pretty cool here.  I'm pretty sure it's a Banana Spider.  Harmless, but terrifying.

The Bookshelf Muse

I have to give a shout out to The Bookshelf Muse.  She got 100,000 hits on her blog over the weekend.  Well, probably not all this weekend, but it's something to celebrate.  And she is.  She's having a Massive Followers Contest where she's giving away some pretty great prizes, including a full manuscript critique.  There are three ways to enter so hurry on over and

1. Leave a comment and mention being a follower.
2. Post a link on your site.
3. Post a link on your facebook or twitter page.

I can do two out of three.  This being my number 2.

Even entering only twice, I fully expect to win.  After all, the Bookshelf Muse wrote a middle grade pirate book, just like me.  Why wouldn't she want to read it?  In fact, everyone save yourself some time and don't bother with the above.  I've got it locked up.

Just kidding.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Howard - A Character Study; And The Letter Q

In my last post you got a glimpse into the life of my next door neighbor, Howard.  Let me be clear. Howard is a good neighbor. He lets me borrow things without question. He looks after my cats when I go away even though he is allergic.  Plus, he is a source of gossip all over the neighborhood. You see, Howard serves as the security director on the homeowner's association board and knows everything that goes on. Which leads me to the bad interesting fun part.

Howard is paranoid to the point of overprotection, watching the neighborhood like a hawk. I expect someday he will install surveillance cameras all over his house. Convinced every one is out to get him he goes to extreme lengths to ensure security.  For instance, he has a chain link fence around his yard with a gate he keeps padlocked, yet anyone wanting to get into his yard could simply jump the fence.  I said he was paranoid, not smart.  I don't know the origins of his paranoia, but they must run deep, for while I've never checked, he seems the type who would keep a lock on his vehicle's gas cap, for fear someone might pour sugar in his tank.

Howard works for a liquor distributor and has lots of promotional items in and around his home.  Among these are neon signs he keeps on his back porch along with a small refrigerator for beer and wine.  Its the type with a glass door so you can see what's in it.  But Howard never turns on the fridge or the signs because he's afraid the neighborhood kids will sneak through his yard, see the booze adverts and steal something.

This, however, would require them to maneuver a yard so frought with obstacles it is only slightly less nauseating than the inside of Howard's house.  There is an expensive swing set nobody plays on, because Howard's seven-year-old daughter, Sammy, can't keep any friends.  This is of course because every other child is a terror, or has obnoxious parents, or possibly because Sammy is a spoiled brat, but I have heretofore neglected to mention this theory to Howard's wife, Moira, because she is the last person I would want as an enemy.

Over the years, Howard's lawn has been host to a variety of expensive purchases that never saw more than a single use, but that have left large circles of dead grass.  These include a bounce house, an inflatable swimming pool, a slip and slide, and a hot tub which I'm grateful has never been used.  Howard's grass is long and weedy, disguising myriad piles of dog poop no one has ever picked up.  This does not stop Sammy from running around the yard barefoot.  After all, anything she tracks inside the house will hardly be noticible.

Now, I've struggled with ways to describe the inside of Howard's home.  It is a challenge, but the best I've come up with is this: At least Fred Sanford had a reason for all that junk.  Howard and Moira have never thrown away anything.  Unfortunately, it's not just the junk.  It's dirty.  Greasy.  Sticky.

Howard has a penchant for mispronunciation, famously saying things like, "I'm installing new gran-NITE counter tops."  "There was mold in the bathroom, so I sprayed it with disinfecterant."  "The crabs in the fish tank are there to eat the allergy."

Ah, the fish tank.  Now, I edited out a lot of description of their house.  It got a bit wordy and I realized I could sum up this whole post with the following anecdote.

Some years ago, Howard got himself a saltwater fish tank, which he pridefully stocked with lots of rocks, and two fish.  Howard's care of the fish tank resembled that of his home in that, quite quickly, it was taken over by parsites growing on the rocks and allergy algae growing on the tank walls.  Neighborly as I am, I enjoyed feeding the fish when Howard and Moira went on their many vacations, be it in their RV, or countless trips to Disney World and the Disney cruise ships.  After all, as Howard explained, they have to take Sammy to Disney as often as possible while she still believes its real.  Yeah.  A giant, felt mouse in a tuxedo.  Seems real enough.

At any rate, one day they were telling me of just such an impending trip, when I offered, as usual to feed the fish.

"Nah," Moira told me.  "The fish died a couple weeks ago." (that's in bold for a reason.)

Well, I was still bringing in their mail.  So, fighting my way past a swarm of ants on the front porch, I held my breath as I entered, preparing for the assault of stale air and dog.  Stepping over boxes and toys, I weaved my way through the amassed junk, catching a glimpse of the family portrait, etched in a block of crystal, past the massage table; spinning around the slot machine and beyond the vase my wife and I stealthily placed in their midst several years before.  We never heard one thing about that vase, so we're still not sure if they know it's there.

Finally, I spotted the fish tank, still in its place like a memorial to a child who passed too soon.  The water was still in the tank, but it was a swirl of liquid black, impenetrable to mere human eyes.  It was a chilling, unforgiving, and sinister, almost pastel, black.  I stepped toward it for a closer look.  And nearly stepped on the dead fish.

Any one else might have been shocked, but I've come to expect this sort of thing.  Should I have picked the carcass up?  Probably, but I was only responsible for the mail.  I don't know how long it stayed there.  Maybe the dog eventually got it.

And that, in essence, is an overview of Howard.  Moira is another story.  A scary story.  Don't tell her I told you.  Or will tell you.  Or, at least, plan to tell you.

"But wait," you say.  "What about the letter Q?"


Have you ever been to a nude beach?  Or watched the HBO series Real Sex.  Sadly none of these things turn out as titillating as their potential.  It's usually ugly people doing things only pretty people should do, ruining the very thing we want to see the pretty people doing so that we can no longer enjoy it when the pretty people do it.  Which leads me to...

Last night Mrs. Sarcasm had a bad dream in which she was in the yard talking to Howard.

"He was only in his underwear."  She was shaking.

"Topless?" I asked.  And yes, I'm using topless to refer to a man because he has big boobs.  And not the kind I want to play with.

"Yes," she said.  "He was topless."

Unfortunately, I've seen it in real life, so I shuddered.

"And then his unit slipped out," she said.  "He looked like the letter Q."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Who's Your Shower Groomer?

Can you say awkward?  You would if you lived next door to my neighbors.  I've resisted posting too much about real people in my life, for fear they're somehow going to stumble upon my blog.  Or worse, I send them an email and forget to delete the link in my signature.  But this I could not resist.

A few minutes ago my neighbor, Howard, came over to borrow a saw.  It seems his wife is pregnant and he wants to get started on the baby's room.  He's planning chair rails, window moldings, fresh paint, everything and a kite.

Of course, Howard can't just stop by, borrow something and leave.  He has to tell us all about the problems in his life.  Over the years I've learned how his parents favored his sister over him, even sending her to an expensive private school, while Howard schlepted through with the publics.  I've learned all about his parents divorce, and how his father liked to gamble.  I've heard complaints about all his friends, the residents in our community (Howard inserted himself onto the association board a few years ago), and, just this evening, that his pregnant wife lost her mucous plug.

I have no idea what a mucous plug is, but for a woman 8 1/2 months pregnant...oh didn't I mention that?  Yeah.  He's just now getting started on the baby's room.  This after telling Mrs. Sarcasm he couldn't do it last week because he was having a vasectomy.  Kinda personal, don't you think?  And besides, she's overweight, 43 and a smoker.  Oh, and their seven year old sleeps in their bed.  That should be birth control enough, but she is, after all, pregnant right now.  As she has been for nearly nine months.  Apparently Howard's been too busy until tonight, when he walked in to my house and announced that the mucous plug was lost and the baby was due any day, so could he please borrow my saw to start on the room.

Then he dropped another doozy.  There's been a bathroom in a state of dissarray for a while now, and I mean years, and he finally fixed it.  So, while his pregnant wife was showering, he told us, he had to help groom her, but fell through the wall.  I guess he didn't test the drywall.

Did I mention he weighs around 350 pounds and she probably tops 200 when not pregnant?

Now picture them together in the shower.  And he's grooming her, whatever that means.

Why he feels no shame in sharing these types of things, I'll never know.  And I don't want to know, because its now fodder for my blog.  That's right.  I'm starting a new feature all about my neighbors.  And believe me, this just skims the surface.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

To Warm Your Cold Hearts

For those of you up north, suffering autumn's bitter bite, I thought I would share a bit of the finest the Sunshine State has to offer.  Of course down here, it's only the tourists who don't know to use SPF 30 or higher.  And yes, we snicker behind your bright red backs.

So, if winter gets you down, be thankful you're not these idiots.

Some of my favorites. 

No one this white should go outside

Further evidence men should not wear bracelets.

Leftover from Halloween.

We know this guy's American. 
Europeans wear socks with their sandals.

Can you say ouch?

Was this a catcher's mitt?  Golfing glove?
Madonna style, fingerless lace?

Sleep well.

I don't know what's worse - the wife
beater he was wearing; or this...thing.

My favorite.  She's not burned, so much
as just done.

See the rest here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What Would Larry Do #3

Since it's been raining televisions inside my home I headed to the nearest home improvement superstore.  There I found a diminutive associate to whom I explained my predicament, expressing my desire to repair the rather sizable hole in the wall from whence the telly departed.

"Are you going to put the TV back in the same spot?" asked the woman, in rather a manly voice.

Given how well it worked the last time, I considered this question suspect.  Eying my accuser with distrust (since I assumed she assumed me an idiot), I gave a slow, but wide circle of the head and expressed a drawn out, "Nooo."

"Well, you should," she said.  "Now's the time to take advantage of that hole.  Reinforce it with two by fours," she bobbed her head and shoulders in opposite directions.  "Like you should have done in the first place."

Now she truly was branding me an moron.

What would Larry do?

"Well," I began slowly.  I straightened my back, drawing up to my full height, peering over her crew cut.  "I put my faith in the drywall anchors you claim hold 50 pounds.  I used six."

"Really?" she sounded skeptical.

"Oh yeah," I nodded.

"Well, we tell everyone to follow the manufacturers instructions."

"The manufacturer said it would hold."

"Did you test the strength of the drywall?" she asked.

"The strength of the drywall?"

"Sometimes there are weak spots."

"Really?" I nodded, wide-eyed.  "Well, I guess so."

"Right," she said.  "My guess is you didn't test it."

I shook my head, incredulous.  "What test?  I didn't know there was a test."

"You test the drywall for strength," she explained.

"Thanks," I said.  "I get that."

"Well I wasn't sure," she said.  "Since you didn't test it."

"Well had I known...there was some sort of test...I could perform...I would have.  How do you do this test?  Is there a kit?"

"A kit?" she repeated.

"A kit," I repeated.  "Do you sell some sort of drywall test kit?"

"No, I don't think so," she said.  "I never heard of any thing like that."

"What?"  I threw my hands up in disbelief.  "What are you talking about?  You just recommended I do this test."

"Yeah, you test the drywall," she said.  "There's no kit."

"Well then what was I supposed to do?"

"You need to make certain the wall is strong enough to support what you want to hang."

"How am I supposed to do that without hanging something there, like, say, a tel-e-vis-ion?"  Now she had a blank expression.  "It's not like I can just lean on the wall and see if I fall through it."

"Fall through it?" she said.  "Why would you fall through your wall?"

I shook my head in exasperation.

"And by the way," I said.  "I never said I put the TV up on the wall."

"You told me it fell off your wall."

"That doesn't mean I put it up there.  Maybe..." I wagged a finger.  "I moved in and it was already there."  I raised a defiant eyebrow and leaned back in triumph.

"Why would someone leave their TV when they move?"

"I might have negotiated it into the deal," I said.

"Nobody's going to negotiate that."

"Yes they would.  They might.  You don't know what someone might do."

"It's common sense," she said.  "Nobody's going to leave a TV."

"Yes they might," I insisted.  "People leave all kinds of things.  Some people like furniture and they offer to buy it with the house.  Or, what about appliances?  People leave appliances all the time.  You never buy a house that doesn't come with appliances.  Or curtains.  You know, window treatments.  I once talked a guy into a lawnmower, 'cause I was buying his house and didn't have one.  He gave me his lawnmower."

"Who cares about a lawnmower?" she said.  "Where are you even getting that from?"

"Because," I said.  "It's the same as the TV.  I just substituted the lawnmower for the TV.  It's the same thing."

"No," she said.  "It's not."

"It is the same," I said.  "Why isn't it the same?"

"Sir," she said.  "If I have a TV that's nice enough to mount on a wall, I'm taking it with me when I move."

"That's what you might do," I said.  "But you don't know these people.  You never met them before I moved in."

"You're right," she agreed.  "I didn't know them."

"Hmph," I cocked my head.  "I didn't think so."

"But they didn't leave that TV," she said.  "Did they?"

She had me.

"You shouldn't accuse your customers," I told her.  "It's not good for business."

She smiled and pointed.  "Drywall patch is down that aisle.  And new TVs are over there."

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Longest Run-On Sentence I've Ever Composed - 1094 Words

My house is falling apart and I don’t know what to fix first because the screen door is broken and the TV fell off the wall and I didn’t even know it happened so it must’ve been when I was gone cause I would have heard it crash, but then maybe I wouldn’t because I’m not always home, but it doesn’t really matter because it’s been up on that wall for almost a year, and I know it’s been that long cause it was there when my friend Angie visited, which I remember because I was excited to have someone staying in that room because no one ever stays in that room and I was even more excited to have someone watch that TV because I had put it on the wall and I know she was here in January because that’s when I got my new running shoes and I know that was January because my birthday is in January and I got my new running shoes right after my birthday, which I needed to do because I was based in San Juan and there was no place in the world I wanted to be less than San Juan but I was based there and living in a condo with five other people, none of whom wanted to be based in San Juan, but we were all there and we were all always there so to get out of the house I started taking long walks and my feet started to suffer because I had old shoes because I always wore old shoes on the road because, let’s face it, most of the time they just sit in a suitcase, but I was really walking a lot, so I went and bought some really expensive running shoes even though I wasn’t running at all because that’s really hard on the joints but walking is good exercise so I walked a lot even though I couldn’t stand San Juan and it was pretty scary in some areas with packs of wild dogs and chickens and some big hills and some mountains, which is the main difference between San Juan and South Florida, but I didn’t walk on the mountains because they were a little far from the condo and I needed to be close in case the phone rang and I had to work, but that didn’t stop me from walking an average of seven miles a day, although one day I planned a fifteen mile walk but I hadn’t planned on getting a phone call at the five mile mark but I took the call anyway since I wasn’t busy doing anything but walking and I sat under a tree but then a bird pooped on my hand so I walked to the edge of the water to rinse off and  underestimated the softness of the sand and sunk in just as a wave broke and my feet, inside my brand new walking shoes, got soaked, so much so I took off my shoes and socks to dry but they were taking too long and I really wanted to continue my walk even though I still had ten miles to go but I figured walking home five miles in wet shoes would still damage my feet so what difference did it make if I walked ten miles so that’s what I did but I sure paid for it in the end because I had lots of blisters and one toenail was purple when I got back to the condo and it was still purple when Angie visited because I remember her wanting to see it even though I was ashamed because I’ve always had really nice toenails that aren’t cracked or yellowing or covered in fungus but just plain smooth toenail colored toenails but this particular toenail no longer looked like that and it soon fell off, which you might think would hurt, but it didn’t because it had died long before and underneath was a plain, nail-less toe which eventually grew its nail back and I’m quite pleased about that because now I can say once again that I have nice toes, but I wouldn’t have if that TV had fallen on my foot and crushed them, so I’m thankful I wasn’t home when the TV fell but I do wonder why it did because it was up there for almost a year and I know that because Angie visited last January and that was right after I put the TV on the mount above the door in the guest bedroom but now its on the floor behind the door, which I discovered last night because I had to get up early for work and went to bed early but my spouse can’t just get in bed and sleep because she has to watch TV or read, both of which keep me up, so I went to sleep in the guest bedroom and realized when I couldn’t open the door, which we keep closed because our cat will pee on the bed, and I can’t sleep in a bed if a cat pees on it but she can’t pee on that bed because we keep the door closed and I couldn’t open the door because the TV had fallen with the mount which broke free from the wall leaving a hole in the wall, but, surprisingly, only a small gouge in the brand new wood floor, which I thought surely would have damaged the TV, but I turned it on and it still works, so now I have to fix the hole in the wall above the door to the guest bedroom and find a new place to mount the TV because the hole in the wall where the TV was obviously won’t support it any longer but that’s okay because the screen door is broken too and I was going to Home Depot anyway to get parts for that, so I might as well get something to patch the wall but I might already have something so maybe I won’t spend as much money as I thought and its possible I won’t spend any money at all because writing this run-on sentence, and then editing it, which seems like an oxymoron, but that is what I’m doing, has taken longer than I thought and It’s almost time for my spouse to come home from work and I know she’ll be upset I didn’t fix anything but I did get up for work at 3:30 this morning, so what does she expect?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Okay, This Pisses Me Off

Someone I know rather well runs a website for syndicated columnists.  It is just the latest of many failed enterprises for which he has racked up mountains of debt.  Today, he wrote a column about what's wrong with the airline industry and their handling of unions.  While I don't disagree with everything he said, I take issue with his statement alluding that all pilots are wayward drunks.

I won't deny that a lot of pilots like to drink.  After work.

I have never encountered another crew member who I thought was impaired in any way other than what their DNA wrought them.  Some I can't stand.  I get along fine with others, but everyone I fly with is professional and safety minded.  To suggest it doesn't happen, however, would undermine my credibility. 

Guess what.  Some pilots have drinking problems.  So do regular people who drive their cars drunk.  Some even go to work drunk, be it in an office or wherever.  Guess what else.  They deserve whatever punishment they get.  I submit that in any segment of society there will be percentages of all kinds of things.  For example, there are 21 grandchildren in my family.  One is openly gay.  Statistics suggest there should be at least one more.  And plenty are drunks. 

That aside, the aforementioned column was not about drunk or wayward pilots, but the author threw it in anyway.  I don't think it would have gotten past a good editor, but since this particular guy is his own editor-in-chief anything goes.  Well, someone (a pilot) commented on the article that this writer should have asked a pilot or flight attendant what it's really like out there.  Again, this really wasn't what the article was about, but it got me thinking.  This guy has written about the airlines before, and often gets his facts quite wrong.  Knowing me the way he does, I'm irked he doesn't take advantage of my expertise before publishing something.  Maybe he has another source, but if so, I wouldn't want to fly with that person.

So I find myself torn.  If I comment on the article, I may not be able to stop myself from mentioning all his other flaws.  Or the hypocrisy in pointing out that poorly run businesses should fail.  He was a big opponent of the auto and bank bailouts, but when he was running his public relations firm into the ground, and couldn't get a loan from a bank, thought nothing of borrowing from his parents and never paying it back.  Nor did he think twice when he no longer wanted to lease office space and simply stopped paying his rent. 

On second thought, it's increasingly likely I would say these things on his website and I'm rather fond of conflict avoidance, so I won't.  I'll keep them here.  I'm not including his name, or a link to his column.  As far as I know, he's unaware of my blog.  For that matter, very few people I know in real life are.  It's safer that way.

Plus, he's the same guy who not all that long ago told me he was writing a book.  The same guy who had requested an early draft of Schmitty the Pirate to critique and then never read it.  The same guy who thinks his first draft is good enough to publish, but when I asked him about querying it, didn't know what a query was and said, "I run a website.  I'm not just some guy who decided to write a book one day, ya know."

Like me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Monsters? Aliens? Help Me Auntie Em. I'm Frightened.

After a few weeks away, it was time for some yard work, only to find someone's been playing Whack-A-Mole in my backyard.


And what vile creature is responsible?  South Florida being a haven for man-eating creatures, the prospect of poking around in here is, at best, less than appealing.

[EDIT: Each of these holes is about three inches in diameter and, after some stick poking, at least a foot deep.]

Now, there are certain things I expect after being gone a few days.

Urine-soaked scratching post?


Squashed toad in the street?

It happens.


Ants swarming the next door neighbor's front porch? (not to mention the rest of the house. Click on the pic, you'll see 'em.)

Sadly, and for a long while now...


But monsters in my backyard?  No sir.  Never seen that before.  Actually, I think I did spy an armadillo once.  And there have been Iguana sightings.  As well as the occasional snake in the garage.  (I keep a fifteen foot pole handy)

[Edit: I just noticed I capitalized iguana.  I shouldn't have, but the main setting for Schmitty the Pirate is the island of San Iguana.  Muscle memory.  Gets me every time.]

But infestation I can not have.  So help me loyal followers.  I'm Stymied.  I need one of Our Gang to help identify these Little Rascals.  If anyone knows what lives in these holes tell me so I can head for the right hills.

(after stymied, I couldn't help myself)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sweet Blessed Humidity

I'm home.  Finally.  Two weeks in that arid wasteland left me looking, and feeling, a bit like King Tut.  I'm talking the current version.  I don't know how you desert rats do it.  But as luck would have it, even as we enter the cool down period of South Florida, where temperatures and humidity drop for a few months, we have an unlikely hurricane tossing a few more drops of moisture our way.  And I need it.  Like I need a vacation.  And my trip to Las Vegas wasn't a vacation.  And after flying all day Friday to get home, (in uniform so I could cheat my way through security, which also has the unfortunate effect of inviting unwanted questions from the general public, who tend to think sitting next to an airline employee is license to tell him all that is wrong with his airline) I was greeted by a worse than expected mess, courtesy of one fracked up cat.  Thankfully I had anticipated this and the furniture was draped in plastic sheets.  So I spent most of Friday night cleaning up, then got tagged for work Saturday morning, then spent the rest of Saturday afternoon completing the clean up, because I had to be back at work Sunday morning at 4:15 to fly to New York.  Why anyone would ever want to go there is beyond me.  I can't think of a single redeeming thing about that place.  Except for all the lovely agents and editors.  And their families.  And friends.

Anyway I'm finally home, with the rest of the day to unfurl my wrappings and catch up on TiVo.  At some point I'll start writing again, but I also have my recurrent check ride looming on Thanksgiving day, so I should probably study.  You gotta love being an airline pilot.  It's the only job I know of where twice a year you're given the opportunity to lose your job.

Sorry for all the run-ons, but my weekend has been one big one.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What's In A Name?

Quite a bit it seems.  So much it's giving Wendy Sparrow a good deal of trouble since she keeps changing her character's names.  I can sympathize.  When I was writing Schmitty the Pirate, names were the biggest challenge I faced.  Of course, that was before I started querying.  The antagonist changed names a bunch of times.  Schmitty's father changed names a bunch of times.  Schmitty's love interest changed names a bunch of times.  Ship's names changed.  Places names changed.  I think the only thing that didn't change was Schmitty.  Although, looking at my original notebook, I didn't know how to spell it.  I found both Schmitty and Smitty within the same paragraph a few times.  I don't know why I settled on one over the other, but it seems a symptom of something I've been dealing with my whole life.

When I was born, my parents named me Chris.  Three days later they changed it to Matt, claiming I didn't look like a Chris.  What newborn looks like anything, other than a wrinkly, pink mess?  Then there was the running joke I was actually called Julio, because I had been made in Spain.  And there was a family friend who insisted on calling me George.  I never knew why, but his whole family called me George.  I don't think they knew my real name, but at this point neither did I.  And then, a few years back, I moved into a new house and my next door neighbor started calling me Dwayne.  I don't think I caught it the first few times he said it, but by the time I realized it, it was too late to say anything.  I'd been answering to Dwayne, and so I had to become Dwayne.  I didn't want to embarrass him and got away with it for two years, until my wife outed me.

Alas, I fear this will never end.  Even when I tell people my name they get it wrong.  I must speak too fast.  My last name starts with a C, so when I say Matt C***, people hear Mac.  And so, I'm Mac.  So be it.  No one can pronounce my last name anyway.

The point is, character names are important.  I try to give them meaning.  Schmitty's real name is Alistair, which means defender of the people.  And he does a lot of that.  I changed the name of an evil parrot to Matata, which is Swahili for trouble maker.  And he certainly is.

And so is this name business.  I don't always put that much thought into it.  I probably should.  How do you name your characters?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Back To Work

Well, not my job.  I'm still in Las Vegas, a big chunk of why I'm not doin NaNo.  I do have a project to work on though, and if I can complete it by the end of the month so be it.  Plus I have recurrent training -- on Thanksgiving -- airlines never stop.

So, back to my everyday colors, and back to writing.  At some point.