Friday, December 29, 2006


It's almost over, and I have mixed feelings about it. As does the world, apparently. As I sit here typing this they are waiting to excute Saddam Hussein in Iraq, he may even be dead already, one more bit of grisly business before the world can take a deep sigh and be reborn again. Not that the number on the calendar is anything but an artificial construct really, but it is important psychologically, and if part of what makes up the world is human perception of it, then I guess that does make the calendar important after all.

This was a good year for me in many ways and a really bad one as well. It is the year I finally stopped accepting my own excuses and started kicking my own ass, which I feel good about. I got more written this year than I have in all the years I've been alive combined, so I suppose that is a victory. I also took care of myself better. I didn't lose any more weight, but I did drop another couple of pants sizes and the number on the weights I was able to lift went up. Another victory. I survived a difficult year at school and have welcomed the beginning of a new one under new management, with a principal that gives me hope that our school will be able to become a world-class school, and someone with the skill to possibly mentor me and help me become the best teacher I can possibly become. If that's what I want.

And I think therein lies my biggest problem with this year, an inability to pin down what it is I actually want. This has, to be frank, frustrated my wife and my family as it has made me very moody, very --well, it's dangerous to self-diagnose yourself as intense, but, ok -- intense, and it has driven home to me the fact that the face I present to the world is not usually the face I wear at home or with myself. In public I can seem friendly, jovial, but at home and in my personal relationships I am often quiet, morose even, seeming mad at the world. It's almost a Jeckyl and Hyde thing, my moods swings, which were supposed to balance out with my meds and with my increased fitness level, have actually gotten worse. Oh, these things help, but I think there's just a deeper issue boiling under the surface, which occasionally pops out, and I can feel it there most days, which makes me withdraw. This isn't fair to the people who love me.

Part of it is just the fact that, outside of my parents, and one or two close frinds. Well, one really (Hi Jenny!), I did not grow up with a great deal of acceptance. Everything I liked and wanted was considered weird and stupid, and I just got used to sitting there blandly, thinking my thoughts, and not telling anyone whatI was really doing. Like, writing X-men fanfic in my bedroom and drawing (really bad) covers to go along with it. Or watching TV until 3:00 in the morning because my thoughts were too unsettled to go to sleep. Planning out multi-volume novels in spiral bound notebooks, and then losing interest in them and starting new ones the next day. Creating elaborate sets and solo-game rules for the MARVEL SUPER-HEROES role playing game figures and playing campaigns by myself because there wasn't anyone to play with. These were the things I loved, the things that were always on my mind, and the things that I was always too embarrassed to admit to.

So, as an adult, I'm always thinking that the things I want or like or are on my mind must be stupid or embarrassing somehow. And maybe I'm right about that, but I married my wife and I adopted my children for a reason, and that was not to shut myself in a closet away from them. It was not to build a manequin and call it daddy and paint it to look like me while I went on with my own inner dialogue with people who are not actually there.

This came up a few months ago as we were all settling down for the night and I was doing something stupid on the internet and my wife was in the room and my daughter was and sho hopped over and wanted to know what I was doing and I got really annoyed with her and just said, "nothing, it doesn't matter" and tried to push her down off my lap. My wife just said, (and I paraphrase here) that I was just shutting everyone out as usual and she made me understand that it was ok to share myself with my kid. It was, in fact, required. And whatever I was doing--as long as I wasn't looking at something dirty or anything--was probably not going to be met with judgement. Nobody really cared if I was looking at silly comic book websites and hanging out at the NaNoWriMo forums. If that was who I was, great. She made me realize that my seven-year-old, who really was old enough to understand, didn't even know I was writing a book, that's how far away I'd pushed her. She wanted to know why I felt so little of all of them that I didn't bother to share.

And that wasn't it. It was just that I ... I guess I didn't know how. Very few people had ever not looked at what I was doing with derision, so I just got used to keeping it shut away. Clearly, that wasn't working anymore. Which led me to the realization that it actually was ok to want what I want, without qualifications. Which led me to the question, what is it I actually wanted?

I wanted to strike the word Dream from my vocabulary. I'd been living with it for too long. It was time to replace dream with work and start kicking my own ass, which I did, which accounts for the vast amount of writing work I got done in between work, family, and "service organizations."

I want to develop some career goal besides teaching. This was tough for me to admit to, but .... I really just don't like it much any more. Even with a good principal and a good environment, I';m tired of it. I'm tired, mostly, of being responsible for so many other peoples' behavior at all times. I just want to be. I don't know what this goal is going to be, I would love for it to be a writing career (thus the kicking of the ass) but I do know I need to come to some clarity soon. I just don't feel like, personality-wise, I'm much cut out for it. Call it burn-out or whatever. And I DO NOT want to go into administration. I break out in hives just thinking about that.

My wife and I set our next goal, which is building a house on property next to her parents', which will be a multi-stage, fiscally complicated, process. And I feel good about that but also a little scared too. We also decided we haven't traveled nearly as much as we would have liked to and want to do more traveling while we're young, hopefully international, since neither one of us even has a passport. I feel like I need this experience as a writer, and I need it with her. We do not plan to take the children, at least not yet, and anyone who knows my kids will know why we're waiting until they're older. I love them, but sometimes ... oy. I have no idea how this goal fits in with the house plan.

Since my birthday is in January, I can say that 2006 was the year I was 33. Jesus' age, which felt signifigant somehow, and probably caused me to do a lot of crucifying of myself. I didn't screw up as much as I have in some other years, but I wasn't perfect either. I have a feeling 34 is going to be more of the same, I just hope to have a better handle on it next time.

God, that was depressing. I promise to try to be funny next time. Still not used to this whole Blogging-as-therapy thing.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The 6 Assholes of Christmas

To the idiot standing outside wal-mart, right next to the "No smoking withing twenty feet of store entrance" sign, smoking a cheap, smelly cigarrette, blowing it at the Salvation Army bell ringer, who was too polite to grab the cigarrette and jam it in his eyesocket ... congratulations, you're a Christmas Asshole!

To the redneck guy in the black-smoking truck who stopped in the Raley's parking lot for the specific purpose of getting the attention of the cold husky dog in the back of someone's else's truck, just to honk at it and scare the bejeezus out of it, then cackle out the window with his friend and peel away with a cloud of smoke and rubber debris spewing out behind him ... congratulations, you're a Christmas Asshole!

To the woman at the outlet mall who wanted my parking place as I was putting my kids inside my Blazer, who apparently decided I was taking too long and decided to hurry me up by honking at me ... Congratulations, you're a Christmas Asshole!

To the gang of teenagers in the mall, standing in the exact middle of the way, oblivious to what was going on around them, glaring at people and giggling profanities at the children who passed by to show everyone how "cool" they were ... congratulations, you're all Christmas Assholes!

To my neighbor, who's complaining that the Christmas Lights across the street look "too mexican" ... congratulations, you're a Christmas Asshole!

And, ok, to the grinch taking the time on Christmas Eve morning to think about this list, type it up, and post it on the web for all the world to see, thus taking advantage of what are probably basically decent people (well, in most cases) just giving in to the holiday stress .... congratulations, you're a Christmas Asshole!

Let's salute all of our Christmas Assholes. May they choke on some fruitcake and die this glorious holiday season. Well, most of them, anyway ...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Christmas Curmudgeon (warning: depressing content)

I've never liked Christmas. There. I said it. I just ... from the time I was a little child, the "magic of the holiday season" has escaped me. It's not that I don't get the meaning of Christmas, or that I don't believe in it. I do. The entire incarnation-death-resurrection cycle that makes up the core of my faith is meaningful and important to me. And it's not because I had my faith "educated out of me" as my family was always afraid would happen. I mean, yes, I know that the entire Christmas holiday was just a way for early Christians to co-opt the Roman Saturnalia festival. This is not what makes me ambivalent about Christmas. My favorite holiday is Easter and I totally geek out about that, even though I know if was just a way for early christians to co-opt the pagan rites of spring, only with a lot less sex. (well, a little less, anyway .... I still want to know why that bunny lays eggs.)

I am annoyed by Christmas in the way everyone is. As a TV geek, I resent the yearly "special holiday episode" most shows take (although the "How I met your Mother" one recently was the way to get it right). I can't stand any holiday song written in the last 100 year. I'm looking at you, Rudolph, Jingle Bell Rock, Rocking around the christmas tree, and I think there is a special circle of hell reserved for the writers and popularizers of "Grown up Christmas List" and especially, "The Christmas Shoes." I hate how everything gets so busy and there's so much social pressure around this time. I have never sent out Christmas cards and only decorated the outside of my house once. Don't ask.

And before you say anything, yes I do like getting presents. Always have. And yes, I realize this makes me a hypocrite.

This recently came to a head when I was putting up the christmas tree this year. My children were helping me string the lights, actually behaving themselves. Jewel's christmas cd was on the stereo (shut up!) and my wife was on the couch watching what was going on providing helpful instruction. And I was thinking, "this is a greeting card moment. this is when I should be happy" but I just wasn't, and I was trying to figure out why that was, and why it has always been that way for me. And then I had one of those stunning moments of realization that we have from time to time, the kind where you wonder why you haven't had it before. Some people need alcohol to get there, I only needed Jewel (shut up!).

ok, stop reading now if you just want this to be the geeky-silly blog and not the serious one, because what follows is in no way funny, but may help explain why I am who I am today. I firmly believe that our personalities start to form when we are little, and the things that happen to us then resonate out and affect who we become as adults. I don't think anyone will disagree with that. And when I was two years old, almost three, I lost my little brother. He died (I think) ten days before christmas. Now, I remember him, but I don't remember the specific occasion of his death or how I found out about it. I remember not going to his funeral, for some reason, and I have very specific memories of him when he was alive. But I think that sadness marked me in some way, and got itself forever associated with this season. I didn't share this with anyone, but I've been thinking about it ever since, and its taken me a while to process, but I think it explains why, exactly I just feel so unbearably sad this time each year, and I usually don't start to feel better until January when my birthday rolls around, and while Easter, with its promise of redemption and rebirth and its sense of relief from a cycle of unbearable grief has always been my preferred holiday.

So I hope that this realization will help me have a better christmas next year, as I think i still need this one to process. So, is this a new christmas beginning for me? We'll see. It may just be further proof that I need therapy.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Random TV Geekness

Ok, they got me. After some initial reticence about the show, I am now a full on Heroes geek! This will probably come as a surprise to no one.

At first, I thought the show was a little plodding and self important. This tone changed with the second episode. I heard this was because they brought in a new show-runner who wanted to lighten the tone. Whatever they did, it worked. Of course, OF COURSE, this coincided with the arrival of Greg Grunberg, who was the best character on Alias for many years, the only one who could convincingly crack a joke while saving Sydney Bristow's life. All we need now is for Kevin Weisman to appear as the techno geek who helps Micah Sanders learn about his powers, and were all set.

Even Hayden Panetierre stopped anoying me, with her stoic "bitch-goddess" face and over coiffed hair. And Bad Glasses Man? The one we all though was evil at first? Well, he may be the most awesome adoptive father of all time. I wish I had some shadowy quasi-governmental agency to help me protect my kids. Go, bad glasses dad!

ahem ... anyway, if you're not watching Heroes now, the previous episodes are being re-run on SciFi and NBC to get you ready for the show to return in January, and are available for streaming online. Oh, and you can get them on itunes too. Yes, I realize I have become a TV Missionary now, but we all knew it was going to happen someday. Any show that includes both a serial killer and an apocalypse will do that to me.

My other TV Geektastic moments so far this season:

The New Caprica Arc on Battlestar Galactica. WIth the fleet evacuated to avoid being killed by the invading Cylons, the civillian population is left on the planet they unwisely decided to settle and are living under Cylon domination for six months. Brutal, brutal stuff, but brilliant. The resistance forms, even utilizing suicide bombers, sacrifices are made, Starbuck is kidnapped and subjected to a Persephone-like internment, which includes making her a mother and then making her scared of losing the child, The Pres and the terrorist bond while waiting to be killed by firing squad, and then, Galactica, which can't live with having left so many behind, literally drops OUT OF THE FUCKING SKY and shows everyone, absolutely everyone, who's in charge. The people return to their home in exile, but have lost 10,000 of their own. Not exactly heartwarming, but brilliant.

The Slap Bet episode of How I Met Your Mother may be the funniest single episode of a sitcome I have ever seen. From the process of slab bets themselves, to the revelation of Robin's dark secret, I was laughing so hard my son came over to the couch to make sure I was all right. Let's just say I volunteer to be Slap Bet commisioner.

The Aitu Four on Survivor: Cook Islands. Rejected and betrayed by everyone, the four left on the Aitu tribe, facing defeat and eventual pagonging from the double-in-numbers Raro tribe, bind together and proceed to KICK ASS! They win every challenge, then Yul, genius as he is, uses the power of the immunity idol to bring the weaselly outcast, who also does all the work and can actually think intelligently about strategy, back over to their side and kick out the RARO assholes, starting with the jive-talking moron and culminating in the sanctimonious Candice, who had betrayed them in the first place. Brilliant, brilliant play for once (i hope you're watching this, Terry) and for once, the good guys win. Of course, from previews, it looks like it all falls apart next week, but for now, good on you Aitu. Thank you for saving this show.

Studio 60 continues to rock for me. Though some character choices have been odd. I appreciate the irony, but is it realistic that Harriett, who's supposed to be this brilliant comedienne, can't tell a joke to save her life. But I still like the show. It's funny and sweet in the right places, and yes, I want to be Matt Albie when I grow up.

Jericho, let' be honest, sucks. But for some reason I can't stop watching. It must be the whole apocalypse obsession.

Oh, and for your homework assignment, Watch Veronica Mars! It's the best show on television right now. Ok, well, it's at least in the top five. The Serial-rapist storyline that started out the season came together so well that I almost slapped myself for not guessing the truth. And the piz-dance? Yikes? My favorite line came from Mac. Paraphrased: I can't go to the Frat party because all the glitter came off my porn-star top. They won't let me in! But don't worry about her, she substituted nicely with an "ask me about my STD" t-shirt.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Truth, She is a Bitch

Recently, it seems the theme of my life has been "Facing Unpleasant truths." Here are some things that I've learned:

I am not as smart as I like to think I am. I am not even as smart as other people think I am. ON most days, I am not even the smartest person in my own house (this will come as no surprise to anyone who knows my wife). Yes, this includes days when it's just me and the bunny and the cat. I may be smarter than the fish, since they accidentally ate the little sucker fish that was cleaning up after them. I stress the word may.

Despite the persistent fantasy I have of competing, If I actually were a contestant on The Amazing Race, I would get so hopelessly lost that Phil Kheoghan would not even be able to find me to Philiminate me. This would probably happen on the way to the airport. During the first leg, when I was still in the U.S. and could actually read the road signs.

In spite everything I may say to the contrary, I am a person who needs order and cleanliness around me in order to function. However, because of various issues (thanks a bunch, brain chemistry!) I am incapable of creating or maintaining it for myself. This keeps me in a constant state of freaked out.

Yes, I know I am too old to watch Anime and read comic books. No, I am not going to stop.

The cute barista girl at Starbucks? The one I always think is flirting with me (yes, i flash the ring, honey)? The one who told me I look "like the guy on CSI" who I choose to believe is Eric Szmada and not William Peterson? Yeah, she just wants a good tip. The guy who works the window on alternate days? Same thing.

My personal style, the one I like to think of as a fusion of earthy-crunchy and alternative hipster? It's really just whatever's on clearance at Old Navy and a couple of t-shirts from Hot Topic. And hair gel. Lots and lots of hair gel, because i have thick, straight hair and it will do NOTHING else.

That is all. I go to cry now.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

not. dead. yet. (think I'll go for a stroll!)

I am posting only to assure you I am still alive. It is november, which means it is NanoWriMo and I am doing basically nothing but writing and working. 50,000 words in one month, which means about 1600 every day. I don't know if I'll make the full 50, but should get close. The book may actually be done this year, if I keep on it, which is great because I would love to start developing the next one. I am such a masochist!

Also, go see Stranger than Fiction! It may actually be my second favorite movie of all time! (of course, nothing will ever beat Serenity.)

That is all.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Stuff and Nonsense

I have several more substantial posts coming, but for now I wanted to get something posted. So, inspired by Kim, I decided just to talk about things that are going well right now, so ... here are 5 things that are making me happy today.

1. Soon, I will be unstoppable!

Ok, so, maybe not, but the other day I ran an entire mile while the treadmill fluctuated between a 5% and 10% incline, and I actually did not die. For someone who's always been so unathletic, it felt pretty good. And my flat mile (well, I usually run at 1%) is way under ten minutes. I think it's at something like 8 minutes now. For someone who started doing this stuff 2 years ago and weighed 200 pounds, I feel pretty good. I also, will probably not die of a heart attack at age 40, which was a distinct possibility, giving my own personal and family cardiac issues. Yeah for not dying!

2. Eating the Elephant

They say you can eat an elephant one bite at a time, and I have kept taking the bites. I've made all deadlines in September and October, and next month is NanoWriMo, with the goal of writing 50,000 words in the month, which may take me really close to the end. Yes, it is still trying to kill me, but I probably deserve it. I actually sent an excerpt to my best friend, Jennie-Fred (who, yes, is an even more important thing about Indiana I miss than the leaves. sorry.) and her response was, "this is well-written, but what the hell?" which was perfect! I will be really glad when it's done.

3. Go Pirates!

Actually, she's not a pirate anymore, but VERONICA MARS IS STILL ON THE AIR! Tuesdays at 9:00 on the CW. Just doing my part, Rob Thomas. This is my favorite show right now, and it's been on the brink of cancellation every single year, but it's still going. Imagine a young, female Philip Marlowe starring in sun-drenched California Noir crime stories. It's just about perfect in every way. But ignore the CW's advertising campaign. They don't get the show, and they make it look lame.

4. Now is the season of ... something

It continues to be fall. The weather, though it has warmed up in the last few days, remains cool. I love the way it's just cold enough to really need a coat in the morning, but it is sunny enough for short sleeves in the afternoon. I'm actually really looking forward to the rainy season this year, but I'll take this for now. It's good hiking weather (as if I have time to go hiking).

5. But what if it is Baroque? Should I fix it then?

I recently found the last two books of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle on remainder stacks. So, two hardcovers for $10. Yes! Now all I have to do is find the time to read them. Maybe when the book is done.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (but not Betty)

My favorite season is here! Fall! No, it's not the leaves. We don't really get the whole autumnal leaves thing in the same way the midwest does, and which is the only thing I miss about Indiana. Of course, there, the colors are a harbinger of the blinding-white winter, so I can live with the trade. No. The fall TV season, because I, of course, am an overly obsessed TV dork.

This year, however, I am not watching as many new shows as before. Because last year, armed with DirecTiVo, I over-sampled, and tried to love shows not worthy of it (I'm looking at you, Supernatural) and ended up canceling many, many, season passes. So, this year, I was more selective. So, what did I try?

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Heroes (of course!), Jericho ... and is that really it? Wow!

So, how did they rank?

Unabashed love for Studio 60. I love the Matt Albie character, and I usually loathe the portrayal of writers on TV. I love that he makes fun of christians while is simultaneously in tortured love with one of them. I love that they've included a sympathetic christian character who acts like a person of faith while also being smart, talented, and funny. She's not a cliche, which is incredibly refreshing. They really need to make the actual skits from their fictional show be funnier, but that is my only complaint. My favorite part? The giant red-lettered l.e.d. countdown clock of deadline doom that hangs in Matt's office. I so need one of those!

As for Heroes ... well, I watched the first episode, and I have the rest waiting. I like it. I'm intrigued, but the first episode took itself so god-damned seriously. I know its going for an Unbreakable Vibe, but there can be moments when characters crack a smile. I'm hoping the addition of Greg Grunberg to the cast helps it out, because so far ... i guess it just needs to develop. Need to work on the cringe-worthy dialogue as well.

"What did you do at school today?"
"I walked through fire... and I didn't get burned."
"wow, honey, that's deep"


Jericho, I'm still finding oddly compelling despite the fact that many of the characters act like idiots, and the people who I'm supposed to find sympathetic, I don't. The kids are smart. They should run the town. I'm with Strega, from Television Without Pity, who is hoping for an army of zombies ... it could happpen.

My biggest problem with the show, is that the main actress, set up to be the love interest, is the most annoying character. She's bratty where she's supposed to be tragic, stupid where she's supposed to be kick-ass. She's clearly going to be who OUR HERO (who is still a cipher, but that's a separate issue which may ending up being part of the point so I'll give it to them for now) is going to end up with, but I'm really hoping he hooks up with the plucky teacher who knows her way around engines. The main girl? I hope she drinks some fallout and has all her skin bubble and peel off before accidentally blowing herself up trying to light a kerosene stove. Could happen! It's a Lana Lang problem from Smallville. You're supposed to love her because she's PRETTY! but she's actually a twit.

later I may post about returning shows I still love (WATCH VERONICA MARS!!!!!!!!), and the ones I dumped (Smallville!) And we kind of wanted to try Ugly Betty, but couldn't because Thursdays at 8:00 are full, with Survivor: Race War and the Earl/Office combo, so sorry, America Ferrera. We love you, but you need to move.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Unbearable Blogness of Being

I've been gone a while. Sorry. Not gone, as in sent to rehab or some sort of mental rehabilitation center (although, after the last entry, I can see why you might think that), just busy, with work and writing and family and other stuff too boring to mention. Plus, the new TV season has started, so OF COURSE that must become a priority. (Watch Veronica Mars! Especially if you have a Neilson Box!) But here are 3 random things that I offer for your edification.

1. In Memorium.

Phoebe died today. Phoebe was my old ibook, and she was named Phoebe because she was white like the moon. (no, she was not named after Lisa Kudrow.) This was a catastrophe beyond comprehension, made only slightly better by the fact that I had, strangely for me, had the foresight to back up all of my important files on the school server last week. There were only two important files not there, and these I was able to rescue, by performing CPR on her until I was able to transfer them onto a flashdrive. But she is gone.

And she's seriously gone too. The screen flashed and she started vibrating and making weird noises, and then the screen scrolled for no apparent reason and then the entire computer went still. All the scene was missing was smoke and demonic laughter. I might poke the corpse a bit and see what other files I can salvage, but I really don't think there's much hope of a resurrection.

If anyone's interested (Phil, I'm looking at you) I'm having a memorial service tomorrow in my classroom about 11:00. Bring tissue. I'm also going to need someone to sing "My Heart Will Go On."

2. Tell me you don't have a driver's license. Or Vote.

I have not been following The Lost Experience over the summer, but have heard from people who have, and who pointed me to the YouTube video that revealed the secret of the numbers and of Alvar Hanso. Pretty cool stuff, actually, I was happy that actually paid off in an interesting way. Of course, it invoked the apocalypse, so I was immediately in (see also: Jericho).

What's scarier? The dorks on the message boards saying "Hey, this isnt real? whaaaaa?" Someone actually posted like three pages proving that it was all a hoax, including links to the imdb pages for the actors playing Persephone/Rachel Blake, Mittelwork, and Alvar Hanso. They were outraged, OUTRAGED I SAY! to discover that it wasn't real. Umm ... dudes ... tie in to a TV show, k? step back from the edge. And put away the car keys, because obviously ... yeah. (No, I don't think xnickerx was one of them. she's had other things going on, what with making cream of wheat profile picks. don't ask.)

3. What would Warren (Ellis) Do?

I met every deadline I set myself in September for the book. Yes, I fucking rock, thank you very much. I wrote a Chapter every 10 days, and each chapter is between 6000 and 10,000 words. Hopefully, the book will be done soon. In September I hit 100,000 words, and yestderday, I hit 300 manuscript pages (trust me, you don't need to know the details of the conversion). So, I'm feeling pretty good about that, and about carving out the time to work every day at 5:00 a.m. Not only do I rock, I am also tired and grumpy. But we all must sacrifice, right honey?

I'm happy with the book so far, even if it has tried to kill me on several occasions, and I think it really did kill Phoebe (am now working on Hera, my wife's laptop, who I think likes me better anyway) and I have come to the unfortunate knowledge that the theme of this book seems to be turning out to be, "You know, everyone really would be better off if you'd just kill yourself."

I am not hoping for inclusion in our school library. For several reasons.

Monday, September 04, 2006

What do the chickens know?

Weird stuff has been happening lately. I'm not really sure how to explain it, maybe it's always been happening and I'm just noticing it now. I will share a couple of incidences with you and let you be the judge.

The last several times I have visited my in-laws, we've had to stop the car because there were, I shit you not, chickens crossing the road. Yes, chickens. The first time, I just looked at my wife and we both chuckled a little and she said, "well, are you going to ask them?" The Red Tornado, who is seven, didn't understand why it was funny, so we explained it to her and now, every time it happens, she starts yelling, "It's the joke! Look, it's the joke!" His dudeness just gets excited because, hey, chickens! And for the record, no, I have not asked them yet, for the simple reason that I am afraid that if I ask them, they will tell me. Who needs that kind of responsibility?

One thing many people don'tt know about me is that I am obsessed with the end of the world (ok, nobody report me to the school district now, PHIL) and the main reason for this is that when I was a young teenager I began to dream about it. I do not know why, maybe it was the apocalypticc Baptist sect preaching about the END TIMES! Gah! That I grew up in (for a detailed explication of this philosophy, see the Left Behind books), or the fact that I grew up in the tail end of the Mutually Assured Destruction Era, but I have dreamed about the end of the world for a long time. Not necessarily about Nuclear war, but about endings, madness, etc. It's infused my writing, even, to the point that there's s an apocalyptic bent to it, which is probably something worth examining someday. In therapy, but whatever. But after an absence of about ten years, the dreams are back, and they are weird. Everything just shutting down. Storms. Disease. Weird, helmeted, super-villain-esque armies in orange jumpsuits and black motorcycle helmets. You know, weird. I know the psychologists are saying this is happening a lot because of 9/11 and the whole terrorist thing, but still. It makes every day seem a little surreal.

And it makes me wonder, what do the chickens know? Maybe I should listen to their cackling as they move across the road, maybe it's a song "So long and thanks for all the seed."

And perhaps the weirdest thing, which is apocalyptic in its own way: my wife called me at school the other day and said that she had to bring the kids by right at three because she had to take her grandmother to the doctor because , and here is a sentence I never thought I'd be typing, in any context, she'd sat on a needle and now couldn't find it, so had to go and get her butt x-rayed. Yes. And then, when she'd had her butt x-rayed and they'd reported, "hey, no needle!" she made them do it again because she wanted to make sure They'd compensated for her fake hip. I'm just going to leave that one as it is, because really, what more could I say?

I am, however, reasonably sure the chickens had nothing to do with that one. Reasonably sure ...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

All Your Brains are Belong to Us!

Well, it's here, and surprisingly, it does not suck. I know that may seem like damning with faint praise, but seriously. Being back at school does not suck. I have good classed, a good schedule, only one subject to teach now. I'm looking at my friend phil whos is teaching english AND history AND leadership AND drama AND nuclear physics AND sex ed AND beach volleyball AND the bible as history AND working as the campus computer tech and i feel very lucky. As i should, he will probably tell me.

His Dudeness and the Red Tornado have started school as well, and HD has not even done me the favor of crying, just a little bit, when i drop him off in the morning. It's like, seeya ... why are you still here? and I go off morosely to the car while he attacks a dog pile of four year olds with wood blocks and dinosaurs.

So far, i'm ok, even if I was suffering with post-migraine syndrome today and was stumbling around like a drunk person. My students, of course, have already come to view me with that mix of bemusement and fear that it usually takes them months to develop. The job that eats your life has started up again, and i guess I'm glad. But I'll be even more glad at the end of the month, when the cash drops into the bank account.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

You're On Notice!

go to the url on the corner of the pic to generate your own list. Kim, Phil, XNICKERX, I Challenge you!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Summer 2006: A post mortem

At left: While standing on this beach, I thought of the impending school year. Somehow, I managed not to throw myself in.

Well, it's over. The last official day of Summer Vacation has come and gone. I don't count the weekend, so ... that's it? When this Summer began a week ago, it seems like, I had some defenite goals for it. I was going to do a lot of writing. I was going to spend time with my family. I was going to get some books read. I was going to keep up on the house, and the home-repair stuff. I was going to blog more. So, how did I do? Well ... a little bit of good, a little bit of bad.

I did write. I wrote a lot, in fact. I wrote more in a two-month period than I ever did before. I wrote something like 30,000 words. This is not as much as I'd hoped to, but i'm giving myself the win here. I got a lot done, and I'm now within spitting distance of getting the book done by Christmas. (Or at least Dec. 31st. See, I'm already fudging, which is what I do.)

I did spend time with the family. We went on a couple of trips and for a weeka nd a half we had some other houseguests and there was a lot of togetherness, a veritable shitload of togetherness, so ... you know. But it was nice. We actually made it to the ocean, which is a goal of every summer, and brought back photographic proof. I wanted to take my daughter to climb Mt. Lassen, however, and this didn't happen. I actually had the day scheduled for it, but then realized that neither of us had the proper shoes, so I decided to put it off until we could get quality footwear. Yes, you read that correctly, I CANCELLED A MOUNTAIN CLIMB BECAUSE I DID NOT HAVE THE RIGHT SHOES! Yes, I feel properly ashamed. But I did not want a broken ankle.

Both my wife and I re-discovered out love of reading. She's zoomed through all the Patricia Cornwell books and I read a bunch of stuff I wanted to. Here is the list of what I read:

Perdido Street Station and The Scar by China Mieville

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

44 Scotland Street and Espresso Tales by Alexander McCall Smith

Scattered Suns by Kevin J. Anderson. (ok, this one is still in progress, but I'm still claiming it.)

OK, the house stuff. HA! and ha-ha! ha-ha! ha-HA! The less said about this the better. It is still standing, is all I'm saying.

I did not blog enough. I blogged more than usual, but did not meet my goal of two entires a week, so ... I'm not sure I had much more to say, though, so maybe that's a good thing. And I never made it to see Superman Returns, so I have been told by the Geek Union that I must turn in my membership card! Never! I am obsessed with Who Wants to be a Superhero so I'm hoping they'll take that as transfer credit.

So, there it was, it was what it was, and was no more. And now is no more ... sniff ... Back to work ... what is this work you speak of?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Everything I really need to know, I learned from Reality Television

At left: The Patron Saint. I managed to find one with his clothes on. You're welcome.

Yes, I did the research on this powerful cultural phenomenon, and have come back with valuable lessons. Now, who's going to pay my therapy bills?

Every detour comes with its own pros and cons /No matter what load of scraps, trash, and random lawn clippings life has left you with, there's always a way to "Make it work!" /Never go up against a Bostonian when death or, worse, elimination, are on the line/ Dave's not your bitch, bitch. And neither am I/ Make friends. It's important to have alllies. It is even more important to have allies you can blackmail./Charm will get you by for about fifteen minutes, after that you'd better know something. If you don't know anything, you're going to have to rely on crazy/When in doubt, date the host. Yes, even if it's Jeff Probst/ Watch out for Bad Model Karma/If you're headed someplace high, be prepared to bungee jump/Run your own damn race!/It is easier to make up for a total lack of talent with a pretty smile and chiseled abs than it is to make up for crooked teeth and a paunch with amazing natural talent. If you have neither talent, nor abs, sorry, you're screwed/Just because you can't read, it doesn't mean you shouldn't be allowed to sign multi-million dolllar contracts that make everyone a gazillionaire but you/Make sure you're in the finals with people who pulled the same crap on everyone that you did/ It's always a good idea to have a swimsuit that can hold in your goodies while your crawling under a log through sand. Just saying/It can sometimes be difficult to know when it is most advantageous to go for it/There is no word in the English Language with a meaning so malleable as that of Integrity/Just do what Tim Gunn says, ok?/No matter what you do, someone is always watching/If you need to know something, ask a sommelier. They know everything/The government does not care how charming you are, how many fish you caught, or how much time you spent naked. They'd love to throw your fat naked ass in jail anyway, so pay your taxes/When the cameras are off, the lights have dimmed, and no one cares anymore that you once gave a slightly off-camera blow job to a construction worker because you thought he was a quadri-gazillionaire, the only thing to do is find yourself among those of equally fleeting celebrity, look around, hold hands, and hang your heads in shame together.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Carpe grabatus

I don't know what happened, things were going so well, and then monday .... crash. Well, not crash exactly, since crash would involve some sort of energy and enthusiasm, more like "slump...all fall down." Could be the heat, could be the return from vacation let-down, could be the ennui resulting from the knowledge that Summer is almost over and school will start soon (thanks, letter from my school district, for THAT), could be the fact that next week I will, in fact, be working at a conference, but all my steam ... it is pfft...

I haven't written anything, I only went to the gym once, I have done some reading, and yesterday I made myself clean the house, but for the rest of the time, it is the couch and it is the internet surfing, and it is the reality television for me. yeah! I am a slug, and I love it. I choose, officially, to blame the heat, because everyone else is.

next week I will work again. Next week I will actually have a reason, however annoying, to get out of bed. I have decided that I will stop feeling guilty for being a late-summer slug, and take this one week off. I should probably lay off the cookies, though.

So, everyone join me in my new slogan, Carpe Grabatus, seize the couch (latin-speaking people, do not tell me i translated this wrong. This week, I do not care. See intended meaning of the motto) and let's party like it's the morning after 1999.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The details of my summer are quite inconsequential ...

No, I'm not dead. I did a stint in rehab, where I met Dakota Fanning, but now I'm back. Sort of.

I've just been busy. I wish I could say that it was with something exciting, but alas. We had houseguests for a couple of weeks, which meant two more kids in the house as usual, and it was fun, but four kids six and under is a lot. We survived. The hardest part was the car trips to and from LA, which ... not fun with that many kids.

Since we've been back from LA (motto: it's smogtastic!) , delivering our houseguests back home, we've just been home. The kids have had kids camp at the gym almost every day, which gives me two hours a day to run/work out/swim, stuff I like to pretend I lopve to do vbut which I secretly hate. And yes, I look fantastic, thanks for asking. Shut up, Phil. I know you're still the pretty one.

Besides that, I've been writing a lot. I've been mostly meeting my goal of laying down 2000 words a day on the book, so the progress feels nice, even though I think this book is trying to kill me. I don't blame it, by the way, it's not a happy little story.

A post is coming soon entitled "What I learned on my summer vacation." So look for that.

In short, I am not dead, I have been working. And there's nothing to report, really. And despite all my gym time, my abs remain in witness protection.

That is all.

Monday, June 19, 2006

My Father ... an Unauthorized Biography

I promised a post about my father ... and in honor of Father's day, here it is ... a few days late

My father was born in 1949 in a little town called Crawfordsville, Indiana (motto: Way more cows than you're thinking). He was the first of five children, but we'll get to that later. What's interesting to note here is that my grandmother, who gave all of us grandkids "the talk" when we turned about 15/16 (this was much to late for some of us, btw) was only 16 when he was born. So all that "wait until later in your life" stuff was defenitely from experience.

Since my grandfather was a carpenter, he followed the work across the country throuout the fifties and sixties, and my Dad lived in many places, including Miami (motto: where the fashionable castro-exile sends their cast-off children, to be eventually forcibly returned by the federal government. Thanks, Janet Reno!) , where his final two siblings were born, and he eventually graducated from High School in Prescott, AZ (motto: there's an aerospace university around here somewhere). During these years, he worked as a butcher in a Grocery Store. When he graduated, he joined the navy, and expected to work in the galleys because of his experience. However, when they gave his the military aptitude test, he was off the scale in his mechaniacl apritude, so that's what they did with him. They made him a mechanic (and also tore up his wrist, but at least he wasn't sent to Vietnam, so ....)

About the time he joined the navy, his family moved back, permanently, to Indiana (motto: combining the worst of the tropics with the worst of the arctic since 1816!) . Why? I do not know.

In the navy, he was stationed at Treasure Island, in the San Francisco Bay, on a tug boat. While in the Bay area, he would meet up with some family friends who lived in Fremont (motto: yeah, there's a town here) , and he started going to church with them there. At this church, he met a high school Junior (I think) named Kathie Fleig. They started dating and by the Christmas of my Mother's Senior year, they were engaged. And at some point, she gave him mono. But, whatever ... These are the stories my grandmother tells.

They were married the next August amidst rumors of pregnancy among my mother's frieds, and, sure enough, a mere two and a half years later, I was born. (Seriously. These were church kids when that actually meant something. They were good.) My arrival coincided with the end of my father's navy career, and Dad decided to take his young bride and infant son back to his homeland ... the great midwest (motto: come for the blizzards, stay for the mosquitoes!). My mother, because she was young and naive, though maybe he'd stay in California (motto: what? we're' california, doofus) , but reality landed on that dream, and she came without complaint. Or, with complaint, but with compliance, not realizing she was soon to be subjected to a completely flat landscape, and snatched of mid-January conversation like this "Hey, it may even get above zero today. Actual temperature, anyway. Yeah wind chill will still be -20, but you can just tell, spring is coming ... eventually."

After working with his father for a while, my Dad got a job at a bottle-cap factory, and he was there for the next 30+ years. He becamse the head of maintenance, and worked long hours throuout the 80's boom and even longer hours through the 90's bust when they let go all of his help. He kept the place running through accidents (he was almost fried in an oven once. He didn't tell us, Mom found out from someone else), ownership changes, stroms, floods, all of the usual horsemen of apocalypse, and he only left, at the tun of the century, because of me. Again, more on that later.

I grew up during these years ... and, I've always loved my Dad, and I know he loves me, but I was not exactly a normal child, and I think sometimes he'd look at me, and think to himself .... what kind of a weirdo have I spawned. Except, he wouldn't used the word spawned. It was probably more like "what the ... you need more comics? You want a structure in your closet to do what with your action figures?"

I was not an easy child to raise, for a variety of reasons. I was undiagnored distracted type ADHD, way to into "the life of the mind" as I like to call it (others call it "living in the clouds" or, alternatively, "head up your ass syndome") I likes Sci_fi and comic books and read huge book sries and had to travel with about 4000 pages of various tyoes of reading material. I was NOT athletic, and worse, yet, had not inherited any of inherit mechanical skills. He actually tried to teach me, several times, how to fix things or build things, but it just didn't take.

But my dad was there for me anyway. When we'd go to strange towns, Like Indianapolis (motto: hey look, a race!) he'dalways help me find the hole in the wall comic shops and books stores and listen to me prattle on in the car. He defended me against those members of his family who thought I was not to be indulged and that all of these things were going to warp my brain somehoe and make me unholy. Turns out they were right, but ... you live, you learn. My Dad may not have always understood me, but he loved me and supported me anyway, which I think is even more of a testimony to his character. He didn't need to "get it" to be there for me. He stood up for my right to be wierd.

And wherever I have been, when I've had a need, he's been there. When I got sick he moved the world to get what I needed to make me better, when I needed help moved (several times, actually) he dropped everything, usually after having worked a 10-hour shift at the plant, to load of the trailer and haul all my stuff (most of which were really heavy boxes of books and comics, actually, now that I think about it) across the county. When things have broken in my house, he's there to help fix them, include 2 recent removals and replacements of toilets. He an Mom are there to watch the kids almost every weekend, and in 1996, when I knew I needed to leave Indiana and go somewhere else to live, he was sad, but he understood.

and then, in a time in his life when he should have been able to think about retiring comfortably from the factory and living out the rest of his life on the property he'd purchased in the 80's and had just paid off, he instead quit his job, and moved across the country, hoping for the best, so he could be there for me and for his grandchildren. And to, you know, help me fix things.

So now, my father works long hours as the head of maintenance at a nursing home, watched my kids on the weekend, and of course, takes care of the rest of the family. He gave up a lot to make this move, and I never really thanks him properly. So, thanks Dad ...

like he's ever going to read this ...

Friday, June 16, 2006

itunes ... you tunes

copied from phil's blog. Kim, I challenge you ...

Open iTunes to answer the following. Go to your library. Answer, no matter how embarrasing it is.

How many songs?: 863

Sort by song title:
First Song: 1000 miles away by Jewel

Last Song: "Zero's and ones by Derek Webb. hmm. numerical references both

Sort by time:

Shortest Song: Lion Wilson by Reliant K

Longest Song: Those final feet by Cowboy Junkes. Probably because the bonus track is attached.

Sort by album:

First Album: 6.1 by Out of the Grey

Last Album: You were Here by Sarah Harmer

Top Five Most Played Songs:
1. "A New Law" by Derek Webb
2. "I Hate Everything but You" by Derek Webb
3. "Try" by Nelly Furtado
4. "Don't Dream it's Over" by Sixpence None the Richer
5. "A Sorta Fairytale" by Tori Amos

many songs come up when you search for "sex"?8 ... because i have the Mary Chapin Caprenter album Time/Sex/Love. honest.
How many songs come up when you search for "death"?1
How many songs come up when you search for "love"?49
How many songs come up when you search for "you"?121

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Rock/Suck June 2006 : I'm doing this again ... why?

I promise, no saved by the bell references this time. That meme seems to have spent itself, thank God.

Three Things that ROCK! (god, that sounds lame.)

Over the Hedge/Cars I'm lumping these two things together because I don't want to make it seem like all I do is watch movies and/or TV. Even though I do. I loved these movies, as everyone probably does. I found the most personal connection in Over the Hedge, however, and anyone who knows me will understand that I am now a member of the Brotherhood of Hammy the Squirrel. This weekend, when I was without my meds, It was like Hammy at the end of this movie, after he has sipped the caffeinated soda. I won't spoil it, just ... get the to a theater. I will probably see Cars again this week sometime, because my son, bless his little puddin' heart, fell asleep in the middle of the movie, and the got really upset when he woke up and realized it was over. That's ok. I'll take that one for the team.

Season Finales. This one really belongs to May, but I'll write about it here. I love television. Probably a little too much. I actually prefer TV to movies, and this year several of my shows did not disappoint. Veronica Mars, easily the best show on TV right now, nailed its season finale. I actually had figured out who the murderer was, but it made it no less satisfying. And the season-ending cliffhanger, with Roni being stood at the airport because of whatever Charisma had in the briefcase....sniff. And what can I say about Lost? Yikes! More was revealed in one episode than the X-files ever explained in 9 seasons. The only part I didn't like was how certain characters just wander through the plot at the writer's contrivance....and Charlie....not that I don't understand being glad you're alive and taking some time to mack on Claire, but couldn't you go look for Locke and Eko, you know, just a little bit?

The End of the school year. It's over. We survived. Most of us, anyway. Enough said.

Three things that Suck!

This conversation I had recently with an auto mechanic.
"Mr. Grayson?"
"Well, I'll start with the good news."
"The brakes? We had a look at them, and they're fine. You still have 85% of the pads left."
"Yeah, but why do they squeak so bad?"
"They just squeal. Some brakes do that?"
"Is there anything we can do about that?"
"No. They'll stop eventually, and we checked out that cooling fan thing you told us about."
"Problem have a coolant leak, which is causing the fan not to go on, and we found the leak, and we can fix it, so your engine won't overheat and explode."
"Well, it's not a cheap leak though. We have to replace the manifold gaskets, and that's about $748 for the part and it'll be $968 for that and the labor altogether."
"But, you know, if we don't fix it, the engine will overheat, and you could lose the whole thing."
"But we can have it done by the end of the day."
"Mr. Grayson?"
Sound of siren in the distance.

The check I wrote later that day. Once, you know, the paramedics had revived me.

The sound our brakes are still making. I've just accepted the fact that a pack of dogs is going to rush us every time we stop at a stop sign.

Monday, June 12, 2006

oh look, a chicken ...

Well, it's over. The school year. Our time in purgatory. Our school has been through a lot in the last couple of years, because we are the last school students attend in a highly disfunctional district. In two years, we're supposed to fix them. Doesn't happen, usually, and the state's noticed and then the federal government, and so we've spent the last two years trying to fix everything in sight without a clear plan and with administration that has bailed on us. But, you know, if we had better teachers...

whatever. change is good, and it feels like we're in a good place now, I actually find myself looking forward to going back to school in the Fall already. There's nothing like a new beginning.

Of course, I always manage to screw those up, don't I?

Anyway...this is a little disjointed because I've been two days off the meds and no part of my brain is currently functioning. What was this supposed to be about? Oh, right. Summer.

I need this break but I have the feeling it's not going to be much of a break. I need to write. A lot. I've been working on the novel since november, and just finished chapter 8. I wish I could spend every day in my friend's copy shop, sipping nonfat mochas and typing on my laptop, which is NOT connected to the internet, which enables me to focus on the task at hand.

I also want to spend time with my family. With my wife, especially, since during the school year --and because of my brain-- we tend to lose track of each other because we get busy and when that happens i go dark. It's like being in the bottom of the Lost Hatch AFTER the idiots went and blew up the ladder. I've yet to find the side door.

see what i mean .... must...stay...on...topic....

anyway...just two more really annoying organizational events this week, and that will be done for a while. And after november it will be done for good, and I cannot wait.

wish we could sell the house and move, but that's not happening yet.

I plan to blog more. At least once or twice a week. In between bouts of noveling and obsessively searching the NANO board ( ... the website for national novel writing month)

cutting this off now ... hopefully will be more on topic and entertaining later ....

Friday, May 19, 2006

Appliance Apocalypse

Bad appliance Karma. It’s come home to us, and I don’t know why, exactly, but it has. In a past life, someone in our house must have robbed and murdered an entire family of toasters who were on their way to church. It’s the only explanation.
It started with the coffee maker. Not the maker, actually, just the stainless-steel carafe. I was washing it out in the sink, and thought it was cool since it had been off for two days. I was using lukewarm water, but the glass lining shattered. Seriously, loud pop-explosion, shards of glass erupting from the top, shattered. It was like it had been capped in a drive-by, the damage was so severe. And all attempts to replace just the carafe came to naught. They don’t sell it individually, which stinks of foul play, but that’s the biz, I guess, as you will see later.
Then it was the stove. It just would not shut off, no matter what we did. The dial just kept going round and round and the stove was getting hotter and hotter, so finally I just turned off the gas and called in one of the big guns…my grandfather-in-law who came, looked at it and basically said, “well, it sure is broken, isn’t it?” So I put it back and called a repairman he recommended. Of course, it could not be that simple.
Repairman comes … has to order a part….another three days without the stove, which did give us a handy excuse not to cook…but then he came back and everything was fine, a hundred bucks later.
A week goes by, everything is fine, and then ….
My daughter gets us up on a Sunday morning and tells me that the toilet is running over and that she didn’t do it. sigh …. So I get up, find that she’s telling the truth and that there’s water all over the bathroom floor. Toilet water, with …. You know .. . in it. Thank God it wasn’t the solid stuff. So I try to plunge it with no luck and clean up the floor because-thank God!—the water has at least stopped running by now. And we’re trying to sell this damn house, so I decide to call someone. Since it’s Sunday, no is is open except Mr. Rooter who wants fifteen dollars just to show up, but I ok that because, you know, I’m desparate. The repairman gets here and shows me in his manual where he’s supposed to take the entire toilet out and this will cost me $270.00. When he is done waking me with smelling salts he tells me that he can be nice and try to snake the thing, and this will only cost me $98.00. I knew I was being screwed, but see above re: desparation. So he snaked the thing and it seemed to clear whatever it was out. I paid my money and he left. $98.00 for twenty minutes of work. Lesson learned.
Later that week I found two broken sprinkler heads in the backyard. They made a lovely fountain. Those, I was actually able to fix for a combined total of $3.96. And I didn’t break them further in my attempt to fix them, which means some supernatural power must have been at work.
The next weekend the toilet was running slowly again. It didn’t over-fill, but it took hours to drain the toilet. I called in the even-bigger gun, my father, who is a mechanical genius and will probably one day be the subject of his own blog entry. He agreed that it seemed it was stopped up (uh, thanks) and offered to come by and help me take the toilet off. I should say here it was not simply the prospect of taking the toilet off that kept me from doing it unassisted, I could have done it. It’s just that … I break things, and if I’d tried to do it by myself I’m sure the porcelain would have ended up in four or five pieces and a geyser of feces-water might have erupted to engulf our neighborhood, killing thousands and worse, seriously cutting into the value of our house.
So my father comes over the evening of mother’s day and we take the toilet off, without breaking it or the plumbing system of greater Tehama county, and we find that it is, indeed, hopelessly clogged, but we can’t really get to what’s inside. So, we turn it upside down in the bathtub and use the hand-held showerhead the kids use to wash their hair to create pressure so whatever it is shoots out the top (now the bottom) and what emerges but….
A chicken-little Mcdonald’s alien-kid bobblehead toy. I shit you not.
So, I guess it was an alien plot. Aided and abetted, I’m sure, by my three-year old. He cops to nothing, by the way.
We managed to re-attach the toilet without incident, and it was later that same evening, I noticed the fridge was really not getting cold.
I should mention here that two weeks ago my wife told me the fridge was making a funny noise. I ignored it because who really wants to think about that, and managed to tell myself that it was just the ice tray filling, because sometimes that does make a funny noise.
Well, now the fridge was warm, and the freezer only slightly cooler, so I call Sears and find out they really just want to sell me a three-hundred dollar service plan, so I move on to Scott, the guy who fixed my stove. He comes over on Tuesday and looks at it and finds that –Gack!—the defroster unit must be replaced and he can order the part and won’t even charge me for the second service call when he comes to replace it. So, the part is ordered and I have the job of cleaning out the fridge. You know what’s coming, right? Of course, we had just gone to the grocery store. So there I was, at midnight, throwing away about $200 worth of food.
So, Scott is a good guy and a good repairman, but the repair, mostly for the part cost about 200. Combined with the lost food … it adds up. But everything is fixed, right now. Except the things I know have been broken for a while (I’m looking atYou, fan in the laundry-room and my daughter’s ceiling fan) and I’m hoping it stays that way for a while.
But the microwave is looking at me funny, and I am afraid.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

I am a bad, bad person, ok?

Just a quick observation.

There are few things more heartwarming than a child singing a song they wrote themselves.

There are also few things more excruciating than a child singing a song they wrote themselves. Especially one they're singing in front of an audience....with a accompaniment...on the spot volunteering....on the topic of teasing....with a religious theme...

I honestly had to leave the auditorium...and I'd made it through the six-year-olds getting up and mangling jokes for 20 minutes. (what's grey and red and red all over .... a newspaper!)

I told you I was a bad person.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Rock/Suck April 2006, or, how many Saved by the Bell references can I work into one blog entry.

Ok, quick reviews. Three things that rock, three things that suck this month because...why not? And yes, I'm embarrassed about using the term rock in this way, but...whatever.

Starting with the positive, in no particular order.

Three things that rock!

My new SBC/Yahoo DSL connection. No, we didn't wait to move. My wife got a laptop for work with wifi and suddenly was motivated to switch to a broadband connection with wifi hookup for home. go figure. That, and the endless "website cannot be displayed" messages all the time for everything were getting really old. The internet is no longer set up for dialup. Time to upgrade. We are, strangely enough, too far away from the main line for anything but the express connection, which is the slowest they have. My parents in Lake California, however, are right on the main line. Strange. It still feels like it flied, compared to the dial-up.

The Dixie Chicks' single "Not Ready to Make Nice." I should preface any discussion I have about music with a couple of caveats. I like some edgy stuff. I like mostly alternative, folk, and punk. I try to pretend to be a music snob. That said....I downloaded Kelly Clarkson and Bo Bice, y'all, so anything I have to say on the subject is immediately suspect. But I like this single for its bravery, and for the fact that they were pressured to release a generic country song to appease their fans after Natalie Maine's comments about president Bush. This song is basically a big fuck you to everyone who complained, and for that, I love them forever. It also gets stuck in your head, but in a good way. Bonus points for the video, with its images of Victorian repression, harkening back to a time when outspoken women were often locked up in sanitariums and treated as if they had mental disorders. There was even a diagnosis for it ... hysterical female syndrome. Have a problem with your wife, call her hysterical and have her committed. Even though I am male, I'm still glad we don't live in that world, and I love The Dixie Chicks and this song for standing up for the right of anyone to have an opinion, even when it's unpopular. NOt that their opinion of our dipshit in chief is really that unpopular anymore.

The Wonder Falls Complete Viewer Collection DVD set. OK, recent college grad, 24, with a useless philosophy degree from Brown University returns home to Niagara falls and starts working in a Gift shop. Underachievers of the world unite! After a particularly bad day, one of the little tsotchkes in the shop (it's a wax lion, incidentally) starts talking to her. And it's only the first. This short-lived TV series takes the legend of Joan of Arc puts it in a modern context, with a sublime mix of comedy and pathos. Throw in a supportive (overly suportive) family, a trailer park menagerie, a lesbian sister, a psychiatrist, an abandoned honeymooner, a russian mail-order bride, a sassy best friend, a "atheistic theologian" brother, a boss who's still in high school, Fatsquatch, an obsessive zookeper, an illegal canadian immigrant housekeepr, and the first woman who went over Niagara Falls in a barrell, put in a blender, and drink down the acerbic tone. It's now my second favorite TV series of all time. (If you can't guess my first, you probably haven't read much of this blog). One of my favorite tidbuts about this series... In Canada it airs on the religious cable network, in the US it airs on the Gay tv network. I'm pretty sure you can't say that about any other tv series. This set contain all 13 produced episodes, and brings the story arc to a resolution.

Three Things that Suck!

Being in the emergency room in Red Bluff, CA at 2:30 in the morning. Let me start off by sayig that everything is fine and someone just had a really major gas attack which made us think it was a disease-related liver problem (not me). But the people you share the space with during the three hour wait to be seen are...shall we say...a bit like the Wal Mart crowd at 1o:30 in the morning. Heavy on the grunting and excess redneck family members, light on the personal hygiene. Making this worse, we didn't have the remote control for the television and it was tuned to TBS, which at this time shows marathons of Mama's Family (which was a least entertaining) and the, horror of horrors Saved by the Bell. Even more horrific was the fact that it was that wierd, The College Years, sequel. I still have not recovered.

The new comedy Teachers should rock, but unfortunately sucks. I want to like the show. The characters are vaguely appealing. I've liked Justin Bartha ever since he was in National treasure, and his characetr seems a little, well....personally familiar. The show is well cast. It's just...not that funny. Kali Rocha, who plays Principal Wiggins, was much funnier as a vengeance Demon on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Most of the jokes are just really flat. The show has very little personality and I'm not feeling the chemistry between Justin Bartha and Sarah Alexander (I think that's her name. I'm sure xnickerx will correct me if I'm wrong.) But the thing that is most annoying is that the school does not act like a school. When they actually talk about educational issues, they get it wrong, more often than thought. It's like they need a technical advisor, which they probably have, but whoever they do have should be fired. I really want to like ths show, and will probably watch next week's season finale, but i have a feeling it's doomed. Which is too bad.

Cartoon network has started showing Saved by the Bell in their adult swim block. The hell? That's been the domain of edgy anime and off-color adult cartoons. Why is screech there? PLus, hello...CARTOON network? I guess its a part of their plan to turn themselves into Nickolodeon, but even I can predict how this is going to go. You're cartoon network. Do I need to say more.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Losin' It ... No, not that

I lose things.

Oh, I know, everybody says they lose things, everbody claims to be scatterbrained and disorganized. Tell someone you have ADD, and they’ll claim “I Think I have that too.” And about that, if you do that, unless you have a medical diagnosis (thus requiring you remove the “I think” from that statement), stop that! It’s annoying to people who actually have the condition. If someone said “I have a brain tumor” you wouldn’t say, “Oh, I think I have one too.

But really. I lose things. I also can’t seem to close cabinet doors, which seems a big enough issue to my wife that it should probably be its own entry. But I lose things. All kinds of things. It is amazing to me that I have not lost one of the children. Permanently.
Anyway, it started, as most things did, in my childhood. I still wonder what happened to my Sallah and Marion Ravenwood figures from my Indiana Jones action set. I looked for those two for weeks. I eventually found the puffy pantaloons Marion wore, which makes me suspect foul play (or fun play!) from Sallah, but I never found either of them. Indy is still in mourning. He and Belloqu have been alone, waiting for their friends for about 22 years now.

I could never keep track of my homework, when I remembered I had homework in the first place. I know all kids have black-hole backpack syndrome, but I think I had the most extreme case. I eventually got used to doing all my work in class because seriously, if it went into my bag, it wasn’t coming out. I would blame gremlins, but I lost all of those as well.

To this day, paperwork is my kryptonite. I cannot hold onto it. Anything in pulped wood form? It is doomed. Checks, money, tickets, important pieces of paper that I ABSOLUTELY CANNOT LOSE such as CLAD test results needed for my credentialing…doesn’t matter what I do with it, what system I put in place, it will be gone.

Car keys? HAH! In addition to the keys themselves, I have lost hours of my life. My wife lives in horror of the groundhog-day-like frequency with which the last conversation we have before one of us leaves is “Have you seen my cars keys?” I’ve started building the time into my day. And yes, I know I need to put things in the same place every time. Can’t do it. Seriously, ask my doctor. I have a note. The Americans with Disabilities Act covers people like me.

The problem has intensified ever since cell phones became the one device we were absolutely, positively never to leave home without. I got through the first 25 years of my life without it, but now … well, If I don’t have it I am officially in trouble, and we all know what that means. And this thing, I swear, I’ve spent more time in the past eight years looking for one of my various phones than I had in the previous 25 searching for keys. Despite the fact that I can call it and have it ring. I have found my cell phone in the following places: between the car seats, in the little organizer, under my seat, under the bed, under the couch, behind the fish tank, in my wife’s purse, on a shelf in the closet, in the freezer (the hell?), and behind a bookshelf.

My daughter, fortunately, is good at helping me find things. She totally saved my ass one time by finding a $3000 check from my school which was meant to pay for a field trip and which I had, or course, put in the chaos blender that is my life. My son? NO help at all. I think he may have been the one who put the cell phone in the freezer. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The upside? While looking for lost stuff I often find a lot of other cool stuff I had lost before, or had not realized I had lost before. In fact, I’ve found the best way to find something is to lose something else and then look for it.

But if anyone knows where our original DVD player remote is, let me know. And don’t worry, my ipod had a clip. The children, sadly, don’t.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Now is the Field Trip of our Discontent

Learning smells like diesel. That's the observation my teaching partner made to me as we watched about 36 middle school kids re-board a tour bus in the parking lot of the jelly belly factory. Of course, later on in the field trip, after telling everyone else on the bus that they were not to use the bathroom unless it was an emergency because it would make the entire bus smell, we returned to find the driver had taken a massive evacuation of fecal matter in there and we found out just how true that warning was. Then, we were wishing for the smell of diesel back. Actually, the smell of anything else. Seriously, I think my eyes are still watering, and my soul, my soul has not recovered.

But it was a good trip. Four days. Four colleges. A Sharks Game. The Exploratorium. A Fortune cookie factory. Jelly Belly (the factory, not the bus driver, because...ew). Marine World. Me. My teaching partner. Three parents. 26 kids. Pus a group from another school on our bus, but more on that later.

The biggest problem: telling one of my kids on the first day to clean up his potty mouth. I told him to remember that he was to act as if he was at school, then I remembered that he WAS acting like he was at school. But no big. I've been known to drop an f-bomb here and there. IN fact, told that was the bigeest problem, my wife, ever the suportive one, replied with "It was Chad, wasn't it." He was good once I talked to him, and so was I.

At the exploratorium, I showed one of my kids the exhibit where the sound waves are sent into water, making the water ripple and spike like a seismometer. I told him, "that's what's happening to your ear when you're listening to your ipod."
"But I see you listening to your ipod," he replied, to which I responded "huh?" and walked away. I didn't see his headphones on the rest of the trip. Sorry, Thomas. I was kidding. I think.

No one stole anything, no one snuck into anyone else's room for immoral purposes, no one fell off a balcony while trying to shout at the people in the parking lot, no one got left behind, no one got injured. So, that's a win. Except for the kid the parents paid me to lose, because, despite my best efforts, he somehow made it back. Yes, I'm keeping the money. What are they going to do?

The teacher from the other school that was on our bus was "interesting." An older lady, she wouldn't even let her boys and girls sit in mixed company on the bus and at breakfast. She completely ripped a strip off one of my girls because of something she misheard them talking about in a private conversation. She then threatened to write a letter to my school about how horrible my kids were, but I warned the administration that the Mt. Shasta fraternization nazi was firing off a missive, and they don't seem to care.

Speaking of which, while I was gone, the students left behind were actually good, my family seemed to actually miss me, and my principal disappeared. Seriously, completely, witness protection got me, witnessed a mob hit disappeared. The official story is "away on a family emergency" but the office is completely cleaned out, including the posters on the wall. Gone.

I swear I had nothing to do with it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Random Acts of Blogness

Shut up, dial-up internet connection, which promises a blindingly fast 56.6 k but can only ever deliver 50.6 on a good day. And shut up all of you telling me I need broadband. I know I need broadband, god how I know. When we get the new house and are moved in, ok? We have a brilliant, kind, generous realtor working on the situation. But for now, stupid dial-up, poking along, like my father on the information superhighway, and the stupid "web site cannot be displayed" message when I try to read my own goddamned blog. It might as well say "Fuck You! You still have dial-up." So, shut up, dial-up!

And shut-up, brokeback cheerleader. Just stop it with the chipper and the sheering and the MOVING YOUR ARMS AND LEGS AS THEY TAKE YOU OFF THE COURT! God, as if cheerleaders weren't annoying enough. It's not AWESOME, It's not OK. IT IS PSYCHO! So, shut up, cheerleader. THat goes for all of you. Unless you're Eliza Dushku in Bring it On. You can say anything you want.

Shut up, noise in my car I cannot identify. You're scaring me, and drowning out my ipod. I think you might actually be some kind of new life-form spawmed by my kids' cast-off fast-food detritus and you're trying to communicate with me. If so? Stop it. I am not interested. I have enough life forms in my life that I have to commmunicate with already, and I suck at that, so this? Is too much pressure. Go find a bio-scientist or something. Shut up, noise in my car.

Shut up peopple trying to spoil last night's Amazing Race for me. I have not seen it yet. I have TiVo, and am not a slave to network schedules, and they moved it to ten o'clock, and we were tired. Shut up, spoiler people.

And shut up sore throat, which made me not go to the gym and run to work out this frustration and which is probably responsible for this bog entry. I know you're there, you can stop it with the going away for a while and then coming back to make my voice squeak like a pubescent 12-year-old when i'm talking to my students, making them laugh at me and causing me to yell, "oh yeah, have you heard how all of you sound?" And then having the principal come in to watch me for the rest of the day because I am apparently "unstable" whatever. Shut up, sore throat.

That is all.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Random Avenger's Top 5 movies of 2005

First off, a disclaimer. I have not seen any of the best film nominees this year. I realize that makes me some kind of uncultured buffoon, but there it is. I plead small children. They’re just not that interested in seeing movies about Journalists investigating horrific murders of other small children, racist cops, state-aided vigilantes seeking revenge for Olympic-related murders, Heroic journalists standing up against Michael Savage (wait…, or Gay cowboys, so any movies we see in Theatres are usually the kid-friendly type or we wait for DVD. And then my wife doesn’t like really heavy movies, so… there you go.

We will probably eventually see both Munich and Good Night, and Good Luck. But no promises.

And for the purposes of this list I’m counting movies I saw either in the theatres or as a new release on DVD, so there may be some things that did not technically come out in 2005.

And so….The Random Avenger’s top five movies of 2005 (because I know everyone cares) are:

5. War of the Worlds

I am not a Tom Cruise fan. I am not particularly a Steven Speilberg fan either, but I loved this movie. I loved that it, like Signs, was the story of an alien invasion told from the viewpoint of the people who were not leading the fight against it, but were just trying to survive it. This movie presented the stark vision of a world in which every person has just gone batshit crazy with terror, and that was the scariest thing in the movie. That, and the aliens.
And the scene of the crowd running away from the great machines as they were reduced, one by one, to ash within their quickly collapsing clothing, was a moment of horrific beauty.

4. Fever Pitch

This is the one that, technically, did not come out this year. But I saw it this year, and it was a new release, so it counts. I like Jimmie Fallon. I even liked him in Taxi, and I hated that movie, so I was pretty sure I would like him in this. It couldn’t get any worse than that one, right. And Drew Barrymore seemed like a good fit with him. The fact that it was about baseball…meh, not a fan, but there have been some baseball themed movies I’ve enjoyed. (Not Field of Dreams. Dear God, not Field of Dreams) But this movie wasn’t about baseball. It was about fandom, of which I know more than I probably should about. (Seriously, Joss Whedon has taken out a restraining order) and even though I did not care about the subject of his passion, I related to the passion of Fallon’s character. And, as written, Barrymore’s character reminded me a lot of my wife, so there was that.
This movie might have ranked higher if not for the schmaltzy, tacked-on ending. Not the one with Barrymore and Fallon, but the one where the Red Sox actually won the World Series. I liked the story much better when the object of the quest remained out of reach. But reality intruded, so what could you do?

3. Batman Begins

Yes, this list is kind of geeky. Live with it. I have always loved the character opf Batman, but the movies were always kind of stupid. Miscast (I hated Keaton and Kilmer, and Clooney, please, just…no), they took themselves too seriously in the wrong places and not seriously enough in others. And Gotham City never felt like a real city. Some fantastic elements? Sure, but no observatories an top of statues holding globes, please. And no one has really understood the character of Bruce Wayne.
Until now.
It’s not perfect. The plot wandered in a few little places, but the right things felt real. Gotham felt real. And I loved the elevated train system that worked visually to separate the slums from the towers but also as a visual reminder of the legacy of Bruse’s father. And we met the father in this movies. We got to feel the loss which drove a privileged young man to dress up like a giant bat. Seriously, it actually makes sense, which is something none of the other movies have even tried to do. I like Christian Bale, I always have since he was a twelve-year-old getting slaughtered carrying a flag into battle on St. Crispin’s day in Branagh’s Henry V. He was absolutely the right choice for this role, not a little bit because he was a child actor, and carries with his the gravity of someone who grew up too fast. Like Bruce Wayne did.
What most people don’t like about this movie was the love interest, played by Katie Holmes. I agree that Holmes might have been a misstep, but I actually loved the character of Rachel. She is original to the movies, and I think has been the best attempt at giving Batman a love interest that matches him. Vicki Vale is too much of a Lois Lane clone. Selina Kyle/Catwoman is better, but then it’s a lot of chasing on rooftops and bondage gear. Rachel Dawes was a crusader in her own right, a match for Bruce, working in ways that he wasn’t able to. That’s what I think works about the character, and why she was necessary to the story. Not just as a damsel in distress.
So, I finally have my Batman movie. The same team is working on the next, but I would almost rather they not. Unless they could get it even more perfect than this one.

2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Suck it, Narnia!
Seriously, I have never understood why many Christians adore the LOTR and Narnia movies, with their magical elements, and continue to regard the Harry Potter books and movies as being the work of the devil. Is it because J.K. Rowling does not speak about being a devout Christian? Because she was once photographed holding a gargoyle? Because if you can show me another story series that demonstrated the power of sacrificial love and the importance of faith and friendship than this one does, I may just give you a cookie.
Sometimes I do not understand my people. That may be a good sign.
Anyway, Harry grows up in huge, tragic ways, as do his friends. The actors mature and actually seem to glow, somehow. The story is epic and beautifully filmed, and that gut-wrenching climax stays with you. This battle will have a cost, and with Harry you are just struck by the horror and the injustice of it all, because really, hasn’t he given enough. The movies accomplishes what the book does, it makes you want to know what’s going to happen next immediately. The world is preparing for war, and the worst is yet to come.

And The Random Avenger’s number one movie of 2005 is:


This will come as no surprise to anyone whose bothered to click on the profile button. And I must confess, this movie was already pre-sold to me. I was in at Firefly: the movie. And for the TV series, to be honest, I was in at “Space Cowboys” (actually I was in at Joss Whedon, but my lawyer advises me not to mention that).

Love that this presents a Science Fiction Universe where the enemy is truly us, that the bad guys are really well-intentioned, but still wrong, that the heroes are what most people would think of as the bad guys in any other story. The villains of this story come from two directions: a mannered, coldy calculating assassin fighting to create a better world he himself does not feel he deserves to belong to, and a race of savages so gone in blood-lust and madness that everything in their path is raped to death, eaten, and then used for parts, hopefully in that order. And when the two threats are found to be from the same place, and our lovable rogues take stop of themselves and know what they must do, it is a grand moment.

Plus, the best one-liners of any movie. My favorite: “To hell with this, I’m going to live!”

And then, “I am a leaf on the wind…..” sniff.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

A Situation Report from the Junior HIgh School Dance -- March 03, 2006

6:59 p.m. We have reconfigured our supply lines to avoid the catastrophe of the 1/19 Junior High Dance. Specifically, we have made sure we had more soda. I do not know if it will be enough, but I pray to God it will be. After the riot of last time, the administration has requested that we find some way to minimize civilian casualties.

7:10 p.m. Most of the locals have been passed through the checkpoint. My idea to separate lines into “vetted” and “not vetted” seems to have paid off, although I wonder about our security procedures, as the outside light has been going off and on, leaving me unable to check the list for those who do not have the appropriate security clearance.

7:59 p.m. Rival factions have met on the floor, flashed their secret signs, and begun to initiate combat procedures. It has, however, turned into a red/blue dance-off, which my partner and I have decided is a healthy way to work out hostilities. We watche for a while as it draws to a stalemate, and then leave it alone. We hope that this will be all of the hostile action we will see for tonight.

8:10 Several Junior high couples are so desperate to “initiate contact” (get their grope on?) that they are slow dancing to Green Day’s “Holiday.”

8:34 p.m. Our supply chief reports that we have just opened out last case of soda. This worries me, but I am informed that we still have plenty of bottled water. AT this point, we can only pray.

8:57 p.m. Whoever decided that twizzlers were a fine item to sell to Junior High students should be court-martialed. I have broken up several “red-whip” fights and peeled the mashed, tortured remains of the WLD’s (Weapons of Light Destruction) off the hardwood floors. I’m sure I’ll be explaining this to the custodian later.

9:10 Five minutes ago I sent my partner into the middle of a frantic gathering of fourteen-year-old girls fighting over a boy. He has not yet returned, and I grow more and more worried, especially as I’ve seen flashes of one girls waving his striped tie in the strobe-light. Have decided to wait another five minutes and send out a search team.

9:17 p.m. The soda gave out five minutes ago, but we still have water . No one wants it, and there have been some threats made, and one group has set fire to me in effigy, but there has been no outright violence, yet.

9:20 p.m. Just as parents started to arrive to pick up their children, our music specialist decided to play the “My hump, my hump, my lovely, lovely, lumps” song. A massive insurgency erupted and I write this from deep within the cafeteria kitchen, surrounded by the last five of my troops that are loyal. Fortunately, we still have plenty of bottled water.

9:32 p.m. We have left the kitchen and found the gymnasium empty, full of abandoned soda cans and mashed twizzler parts. The music specialist has demanded his payment and the custodian has recently arrived, and seems about to start his own rebel movement. There is still no sign of my partner and we have no word yet on civilian casualties.
10:04 p.m. Have counted the money and determined that the evening had a three-hundred dollar profit. It was worth it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Meet my blog

My children are screaming at each other in the living room. No, don't get up, I'll get to it. Eventually. I'm sure that yet another debate over the merits of ennui vs. enthusiasm encompassed in the relationship between Spongebob and Squidward in an episode of Spongebob Squarepants has escalated into shouting and eventual violence. Yes, again.

OK. I settled it by popping in The Incredibles. Yes, I'm that kind of parent. And I'm blogging now, for ... some reason. My wife will say this is just another project to distract myself with, and she's right, but what else is new? This will be an experiment in directed ranting, most likely, a place to get all the nonsense out of my brain and into a public forum where it can be squinted at and poked with a stick. Children can yell "ooh" and be fascinated or run away. If you even let your children read it. There will be cussing. You have been warned.

For those of you who've wandered across this randomly (how appropriate) I'll introduce myself, sort of. I Live in Northern California. No, not Fresno. Not San Francisco. No, not Sacramento either. North. No, still north. Almost Oregon. Hint: A lake. A Dam. You're probably close. Jefferson, as the idealists like to think of it (hi xnickerx!) Or Superior, California. Or Just Northen California for those who don't care what mental image that brings. We have rivers, mountains, and an ocean around here somewhere but you'd never know. God's country, but aren't they all?

I was born along with the collapse of the Nixon administration, though I don't think the two events were related. I think the Exorcist also came out that year, so make of that what you will.

I grew up in a small town in Indiana (motto: a great place to be from!) , population 13,000, and wanted to flee my entire life and have the sick irony of having fled to a small town in rural California (motto: why are all you people here, again?), population 13,000. I teach 7th and 8th grade Language Arts and a college prep program. Yes, people allow me to mold young minds. They even pay me for it. This scares even me.

So, this blog is here so that I can, at some future point, prove to myself that I did have coherent thoughts. Or, as is more likely, give me the opportunity to regret impetuouisity and the easy fix of the publish button. But it will be here and you will be there and who knows where I will be, but somehow we'll get through it all together.

I'm sure the meaning of the title will become obvious over time.

I'd better go. There's shouting again and the three-year-old has demanded to know, yet again, whether Brad Bird paid any royalites to Stan Lee for ripping off the Fantastic Four and the six-year-old, a staunch Birdist, has brought Jack Kirby into the argument.

This could get ugly.