Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Strange And Hazy Blog Award

At some point, after a certain length of time on the road, a weary traveler looks at an alarm clock, unable to understand the colorfully glowing numbers on the display in whatever hotel, in whatever city greets the day.  Invariably, middle of the night tossing and turning turns to fretting when the meaning of the hyroglyphs becomes lost.  Questions arise, such as; What is that infernal machine?  What purpose does it serve?  Why hasn't it done it's job yet?

And then, the weary traveler becomes aware, although not really, that the alarm clock has not failed, but inablity to distinguish meaning from gibberish has resulted from too many nights in strange beds, in strange cities.  This of course, lends to restless nights, spent worrying that in fact the alarm clock will fail and steps must be taken to avoid falling victim to technological fallibility.  Finally, exhausted from standing guard over the very device designed to prevent such worry, slumber takes hold.  The traveler falls deep, untethered to the waking world, enveloped in the boundless land of sleep.  Unencumbered dreaming begins with the most precious of...

And then the alarm rings.

Thus is my burden.  Worst of all, it happens, occasionally, when I am home.  There is no greater dread than to awaken in one's own bed, uncertain of where you are.  Last night was one such night.  I knew I was home, but awaited the alarm with absolute certainty that it would fail.  It was locked in my head that 4:04 AM would come and the radio would not turn on.  I knew, however, that something would happen.  I envisioned a breeze wafting up through the branches of trees, swirling the dust and leaves clinging to the ground, as I clung to the belief that too many recent trips to Haiti had infected my alarm with the technological failures of that poorest of nations.

Suffice it to say, I had a piss poor night.

Strange as it was, it is quite fitting that I have been awarded the Strange Men in Pinstripe Suits blog award.

Thank you to E.F. Collins over at Little Bits and Pieces.

In her own words, E.F is a writer of horror and dark fiction, with the occasional poem of the same darkish nature as her fiction.  You must agree that use of the word darkish qualifies as strange, so it is with great honor I accept this award as bestowed by E.F., or Effie, if you read her profile.

Despising blog rules as I do, I've copied them straight from Effie's blog.

1. Add the logo of the award to your blog post.

2. Add a link to the person who awarded it to you (the strange ones will come after you if you don't...well, not really, but it sounds good).

3. Nominate seven other blogs telling us why you think the recipient is strange enough to deserve the award.

4. Leave a message for those nominated on their blogs.

5. And, if you email catephoenix(at)gmail(dot)com and tell her you've received the award for your strangeness, she'll enter you in the biggest kick-ass Strange Men competition ever. Details over at strangemeninpinstripesuits.com (click on the award link on the home page)

And the nominees are:

Bossy Betty, who once stopped following me because I didn't comment enough on her blog.  Do you realize the lengths it takes to stop following a blog?  Tremendous.  It would be far easier to simply stop reading it. Anyway, she came back because I complained.  Strange indeed!

Matt, over at Cynicus Sarcasmos.  How strange is Matt?  I was the second follower on his blog, which upset him, because he really, really wanted to keep it at one.  Matt is sarcastic, like me, only in Latin, I think.  I'm not certain.  It's all Greek to me.

Ted Cross, a diplomat who has written a fantasy novel that takes place in the future in a Tolkeinesque middle earth type world.  Huh?  Strange, right?

That Amy Saia.  She sings.  She writes.  She loves old adverts.  Strange.

Erica, at Laugh.Write.Play.  I don't actually find Erica strange.  I just dig her blog.  She always starts her posts with an enthusiastic and friendly greeting.  Actually, that is strange.  Nobody is that friendly all the time.

Dana, over at A Squirrel Amongst Lions.  Dig through her posts to discover how she named her blog.  If that's not strange enough, Dana used to go by Girl with One Eye.  Now she's Dana Elmendorf.

Finally, I always love bestowing awards on Travener, aka, the Big Litkowski.  Why?  Because I don't believe that even winning an award he did nothing to deserve could make Travener happy.  I find that strange.

Congratulations to all!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Daunting Deadline

Some weeks back, I took a trip home, and spent some time with a fellow I'd only met a few times before.  Upon parting, he offered the gift of a book, a rather thick tome called World Without End, by Ken Follett.  Having spent such sparse time with this particular gentleman in the decade since our first meeting, I had little grasp of his particular tastes in literature, and no idea if they would mesh with my own.  In fact, there were a few moments during our visit when I actually caused him to count to ten.  You see, my company had just gone through a trying contract negotiation, upon which I offered my thoughts on both the process and outcome.  Well, me being a union grunt, and him being the upper management type, seemed to disagree about a few aspects of the labor process.  I'll admit, I found his counting to ten rather amusing, and while I didn't consciously say anything I knew would lead to such a response, I will certainly be mindful I can do so during any future intercourse. 

Having said all that, I thoroughly enjoyed our visit and look forward to the next one, but as I accepted his copy of World Without End, he informed me it was a sequel to a book called The Pillars of the Earth, the best book he'd ever read.  This is when a gift becomes a burden.  When you have something you can't enjoy until you take several steps of your own first, costing you time, effort, and in this case, money to buy the first book.   But then, someone else saw my copy of World Without End and, with great fanfare, boasted how The Pillars of the Earth was the greatest book she'd ever read.  Perhaps the greatest book ever written.

Now it seemed I had no choice but to read both books.  For one thing, I had in my possession a gift, and it would be rude not to enjoy it as intended.  For another thing, I had, it seemed, for a good portion of my life, been missing out on the greatest thing literature has ever known.  To be presented with this information and further choose to ignore it would serve a great injustice, not only to myself, but to anyone I might enlighten on the joys of these two books in future endeavors. 

It befell me to seek a copy of The Pillars of the Earth.  I could certainly have purchased and downloaded it to one of numerous e-reading Apps on my iPad, but that seemed almost too easy.  And I'm cheap.  So it was off to the library only to find quite a backlog of people waiting to read The Pillars of the Earth.  I put my name on the list, third in queue and went on with my life.

After our trip to Savannah, a few weeks back, Mrs. Sarcasm and I were both interested in reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt.  Once again, we turned to the library.  It's been an enjoyable and fast read, but today my copy of The Pillars of the Earth became available and I went to pick it up.  I now feel the weight of its 973 pages, due back on September 11.  And it's such a popular book, they won't allow me to renew it.  Apparently there's even a television series based on it, now airing on Starz.

So I'm feeling daunted.  To read a thousand page book, in only two weeks would pose a challenge, but throw in another one with the same return date, add it to my increasingly busy work schedule, set aside time to write my own crap, and critique for my writing partners...

This is why they invented the word frak!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Is This Becoming A Problem?

My one year blogiversary is coming up.  To pin down the exact date I went through my old posts and discovered some had far more comments than is the norm here.  I've noticed some spam in my last couple of posts.  This has never been a problem before, but it seems it's becoming one.  I hope not, because the last thing I want is a spam filter.  I hate word verification.  You finish composing this incredibly deep and meaningful comment, hit enter and then -zap- you're right back where you started.  Even more than that, though, I hate the idea of seeing spam and then having to delete it.

I saw where Blogger has put together a new spam filter that supposedly dumps anything it deems untoward in a separate folder.  Thus far I haven't seen mine.  Now, I may just be trying to build myself up into something far bigger than my little presence on this world wide web, but I'd like to keep comments free from scrutiny by The Man.  Especially since I am The Man and don't wish to be bothered by it.

For those of you using comment moderation, how much spam do you get?

P.S.  I've been writing today.  Still waiting on my last beta to get back to me on Skully, so I've started a new story (long or short?  I can't decide) about ghosts in Savannah.  Fun times.

Monday, August 23, 2010

What Would Larry Do #7

As happens just about every August, the hottest time of year in South Florida, our air conditioner is on the fritz.  Apparently, with a life expectancy of 8-10 years, ours is dying young.  As if it weren't enough I already replaced it once, and I replaced the air handler (the indoors part) only 2 years ago.  And guess what?  Thanks to government regulation, no new AC unit is compatible with my 2 year old air handler.  So now I must buy a whole new system.  The good thing is, there are federal and state rebates that go into effect on August 30, and may cut my overall cost by close to 50%.  I can wait a week, and am using the time to get some quotes.  So I called the folks no longer associated with Roebuck and set up an appointment for 5 PM.  At 6:15, they called back.

"I thought you were coming at five," I said.

"Well, I'm fighting traffic," he snarled into the phone.  "I'm just the backup, you know.  The other guy canceled."

So be it.  When he finally arrived, he looked friendly enough, even introducing himself as Henry.  Have you ever met a bad Henry?  Seriously, the name conjures up images of a kindly gentleman in a fishing hat, sitting in a rocking chair on a wraparound porch, watching his grand kids chase frogs down by the creek.

But this particular Henry reeked of cigarettes.  I expect his work truck will always smell.  And it's got to be in his clothes.  On his skin.  In his eyes.  How could he ever escape it?  The very thought makes me gag.  And is Henry married?  Does he have grand kids?  Would they even want a hug from a man who smells so bad?  No wonder they're down at the creek.  Probably washing off his scent.

So Henry comes in and I tell him what's what and that I want a quote because I want to take advantage of the rebates that go into effect on August 30.

"Why don't we reschedule then?" Henry said.

"Because you're here now," I said, slowly.

"We're not in the business of putting things off," he said.  "We'll give you a 5% discount on the initial visit.  Better for you to reschedule."

"You can't give me a quote today?  That's the whole reason you're here.  I thought that's what your ad meant by 'free estimate'."

"Look, I just came from another home where someone wanted a free quote.  That does me no good.  We want your business today."

"But if I buy from you today, I can't take advantage of the rebates on the 30th. "

"Then it's best to reschedule."

"So you're not going to give me a price? You're not helping your cause. " 

He had icy blue eyes, and stared at me through wire-rimmed glasses, perched at the tip of his nose.  I could see he wouldn't budge.

"Sure I will," he said.  "I'll even give you 5% for the initial visit."

"But I'd have to pay you now," I said.  "And lose out on the rebates."

"You want to wait a week in this heat?" he asked.

"I'm planning on it," I said.  "Besides, even if I buy it from you now, you don't have the part."

"It takes a couple days to get the permits.  Then a few more for installation."

"There's my week.  That's why I want the price now.   Under your system I have to wait two weeks."

There was a long pause.  Our eyes locked.  Who would blink first?  Henry had it within him to quote me a price.  It was all on paper. He only had to look it up.  Give me a price now, the ball starts rolling.  By August 30, I'd have my new air conditioner and a nice little rebate check to boot.

"We don't want to waste our time," Henry finally said.  "We do business differently."

I nodded, rose from my chair, opened the front door, and said, "Not with me."

With that, Henry was gone.  Now I have to call the fumigator.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

When The Words Come Out Wrong

I'm back to work, after a couple weeks off, and wouldn't you know it, I've been flying with a real gem.  As company goes, she's pretty good, if you're stuck with someone for four days.  But wow!  What a vocabulary she has.  There are a few things she keeps repeating, so they're fresh in my mind. 

For instance: 

  • She must find a UBS (USB) cable to charge her new phone.
  • She has a friend in the Army who speaks Fasari (Farsi).
  • And her favorite TV show is Glee Club (Glee)
I especially like the last one.  One would think that one would know the name of their favorite program, but that would take all the fun out of it for me.  She reminds me a great deal of my neighbor, Howard.  He, too, is linguistically challenged, offereing up such gems as:

  • A fish tank full of allergy (algae).
  • Cabinet draws (drawers).
  • And gran-night (granite) counters.
Not to be outdone, Howard's wife, Moira, once complained of all the d'briss (debris) in the yard after a hurricane.

Life is never boring.  Heard any good ones lately?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ghosts In The Graveyard, And A Dolphin Encounter

No, I haven't lost so much weight as to wither away and die, although I did commune with the dead over the weekend.  On a whim, I and the madam headed north for a few days in Savannah, Georgia.  Never did I expect someplace hotter than South Florida, but my sweat stains the squares, dripping with Spanish Moss, as though the trees themselves were melting under the summer sun.

Savannah is such a beautiful place, if you go there once, you'll be there twice.  Being Friday the thirteenth, it was only appropriate we took a ghost tour through America's most haunted city, and it has inspired a new character and short story, which, knowing me as I do, will likely turn into a long story. 

Then, we headed out to Tybee Island, where we had a lovely, if hot, day at the beach.  Being some 400 miles north, I assumed the water would be somewhat cooler.  I was somewhat wrong.  No matter.  The waters off Tybee Island are home to frolicking dolphins, who frolicked right up to us.  I could tell something was up when the water just in front of me erupted with fish, frantic to escape something.  Then came the dorsal fins, and those smiling snouts, scooping up lunch only inches away.  Okay, maybe feet, but only a few of them.  Everyone on the beach waded out to see, for which I was grateful.  There's something unnerving about being the only biped within striking distance of these close to 500 pound animals.  At one point, one of them floated on his back, just out of my reach, just below the surface, teasing its prey, before snatching it with a flick of the head.  All in all, good fun for everyone.  Unless you happened to be bait.  I only wish I swam with my camera.

I did, however, take some pictures at Colonial Park Cemetery.  You decide if I captured any ghosts.

Look closely.  There's an orb in the center of the picture, just below the top, over the left of the two gravestones in the distance.  A spirit?  That's what they say.

 Here, it seems to have moved off to the left of the tall gravestone, just above the slab on the ground.

They say you can catch a ghost anywhere, so I took a picture of a random window on a darkened street.  Is that a spectre?  Or a spruce?

So, how was your weekend?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Minus 170

No, I'm not under on word count.  Ever since deciding the time was right to become a father I've felt it necessary to get in shape.  Not that I was ever obese or anything even remotely close, but I have let myself go a bit in the last twenty years or so.  Lately I've been exercising almost everyday and do feel better.  This week I added swimming to the routine.  I'm not an Olympian, so don't expect to see me zipping back and forth, but it seems to be working.  Today, I stepped on the scale for the first time in a while, and my thrilled eyes lit up at the number on the dial.  I can't say I actually know how much I've lost because it's not something I ever kept track of, but there have been times when it's hovered just under 190.  I'm a short guy, so that ain't good.  But things are moving in the right direction, and I could use some encouragement.  If it's just me cheering for myself, I'm might not get too far. 

Using a number of random internet weight calculators, based on my height - 5'8" and age - 37 my ideal weight range falls between 125 and 164.  Being rather close to the high end of that scale makes it seem attainable, although even losing a further five pounds wouldn't make me comfortable.  So, I'm setting a goal of 155 pounds.  It's in sight.  I mean, I'm still using binoculars, but there is a hazy shape taking form on the horizon.  So I'm throwing a new meter over on the side bar to help keep me honest.  I had even considered keeping an updated Vlog, but felt bad exposing you, my loyal readers, to such a sight.

The main idea is, no matter how much I lose, or how long it takes, I want to be around a long time after our Korean arrives.  And I want to be able to keep up with him/her.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Right-Click That Mouse

There's a new blog in blogland.  Captive Audience.  Her latest post involves strange and seldom celebrated, unknown holidays.  Do check it out.  My friend and fellow author (can I say fellow author when I haven't been published?) had me help set it up, basically, by copying mine.  I thought it looked quite snazzy, then she dressed it up with a mint background and it looks even better.

Jeanne has a twisted sense of humor, displayed throughout her newest book, Wrinkles, Waistlines and Wet Pants.

So, I'm over there teaching Jeanne, a teacher, how to change her layout, add gadgets, post links, etc...And I'm becoming ever more frustrated by a couple of things.  One, she never closes a damn window.  I think I'm a little OCD because I can't stand clutter, even so far as not having any icons on my computer desktop.  One window at a time please.  Close when done.

The other thing I noticed: every time Jeanne wanted to add a link to her blog, she went up to the address bar, highlighted the link by holding down her mouse and dragging it across the entire address.  Then, she went up to file, scrolled down to copy.  Then when placing the link, she clicked file again, then scrolled down to paste.

Now, as long as that paragraph took you to read, I sat through numerous repetitions.  Finally, I said, "Right click it."


"Right click."

"What does that mean?"

Next came a challenging lesson, reminiscent of last week's teaching my mother-in-law how to use an iPod.  But Jeanne actually is computer savvy, and she uses a Mac, so 10 points there.  But how long can a person use a mouse and not know about the right-click?  - 20.

Now, Jeanne still works, so she can't be offended by what I'm about to propose.  But for society's sake, here's a new rule.  Upon retirement, everyone must surrender their technology.

Let's make the world a safer place.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Why Did You Write That?

Or, a better question, what was your purpose in writing that?  I didn't think it made a snazzy blog post title, though. 

My every-other-Tuesday night critique group has had a solid core of writers who have been meeting for several years now.  But we still suffer from lack of information each time someone reads.  We limit ourselves to no more than 5 pages.  It can be any five pages, and often comes from the middle of a chapter, somewhere in the middle of someone's book.  This leads to a lot of repeat comments such as, Why did so and so do this? or Who was that?  What is point of that?  Why is he in the scene? and on and on.  If we'd been able to read what came before, or after, these questions would surely have been answered.

Even though we most always offer some form of setup before reading, these questions still arise.  So last night, our esteemed leader instituted a new rule.  Before reading, tell the group the purpose of your piece.  What do you want to accomplish with it.

This got me thinking about writing in general. If we have a purpose before we write something, be it a novel, a short story, a poem - whatever - it seems we can write a more focused piece.  This is not to say we need to know all the details beforehand.  That would certainly make it less fun.  But I do believe our writing can improve.  Even if we don't know where we are going, it will be so much more helpful to know why left.

This may seem obvious and maybe some have approached their writing like this all along.  I have not.  At least not always.  From now on, I'm going to try to.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I'm Going To Be Rich

Well, by gum, it looks like I'm on the fast track to Easy Street.  I suppose we've all seen those spam emails promising to deposit millions of dollars into our bank accounts, if we only offer our help to someone suffering monetary overload.  But have you ever responded?  I did today.  Here it is.  If Patrick K. W. Chan responds to my response, I will, of course, post it, and any further correspondence.  Just don't tell anyone you saw it here.  It's a secret.  His family is in danger.

He wrote:
MR.Patrick K. W. Chan
(Executive Director & Chief financial Officer)
Hang Seng Bank Limited
83 Des Voeux Road, Central
Hong Kong SAR


It is understandable that you might be a little bit apprehensive 
because you do
not know me but I have a lucrative business proposal of mutual interest 
someone who suits my proposed business relationship.

I am Mr. Patrick K. W. Chan Executive Director & Chief financial 
Officer of
Hang Seng Bank Ltd. I have an obscured business suggestion for you. I 
will need
you to assist me in executing a business project from Hong Kong to your
country. It involves the transfer of a large sum of money.

Everything concerning this transaction shall be legally done without
hitch.Please endeavour to observe utmost discretion in all matters 
this issue.

Once the funds have been successfully transferred into your account, we 
share in the ratio to be agreed by both of us I will prefer you reach 
me on my
private email address below (mailtochan09@yahoo.com.hk) and finally 
that I shall furnish you with more information about this 
operation.Please if
you are not interested delete this email and do not hunt me because I am
putting my career and the life of my family at stake with this venture.
Although nothing ventured is nothing gained.

Your earliest response to this letter will be appreciated.
Best Regards,

Mr. Patrick Chan

So I answered with this, doing my best to sound as illiterate as those who normally send these things:

MR.Patrick K. W. Chan,

HOW FORTUNATE your timing in contacting me at this time.  It is with 
GREAT TREPIDATION I have received many solicitations causing wary 
anxiety from reputed scam artists promising get rich quick schemes.  I 
can tell from your email you are a trustworthy individual, no doubt 
risk life and limb in contacting me.  I sympathize with you and your 

It happens that I have been seeking just such an obscured business 
transaction as the one you are suggesting.  I find the execution of 
just such a transaction most agreeable, and will do everything I can to 
hasten your execution.  Regarding the transfer of large sums, I am most 
agreeable.  Lest you further fear your safety in the event of a hitch, 
be forewarned, I have access to a trailer.  It is meticulously 
maintained and can also accommodate a golf cart, procured under 
questionable circumstances.

I look forward to giving you the business.  Fear not.  This transaction 
will be shrouded in the secrecy afforded by the internet.

Awaiting your response,

You'll notice I included a link to Mr. Chan's email.  Do with it what you will.