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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cowpocalypse averted!

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Do you avoid drinking milk? Well, let me thank you. Our gracious overlords - sorry, our federal government has reached at least one agreement today and avoided a potential cowpocalypse.

Yes, federal taxes will take more of your hard-earned money. But it's not like you were spending your dollars on dairy products.

So consumers of that delicious moo juice thank you for the sacrifice of your idle funds. Now, milk-drinkers won't have to hand over extra moolah to pay $7 a gallon for their favorite beverage.

You have this country's udder gratitude!

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." Enjoy the decline.

When Being Down Is A Good Thing

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The other day I caught my dog chewing on my feather comforter. I was going to yell at him but he already looked a little down in the mouth.

Oh well. Time for a new comforter filled with the best insulation possible. Not that pink stuff you fill your walls with - it tends to give me hives. No, it has to be the best insulator possible - down. Ever see a duck wear a sweater? I rest my case.

For the moment, with the cold weather here, I trying to cover up with my dog. Still, I need a soft, warming blanket that won't whimper when I'm trying to sleep. Besides, it's difficult to fluff a dog. But not as difficult as taking a comforter for a walk ... more like a drag. (Even though cleaning up afterwards is a cinch!)

So I begun shopping and have learned one thing: You know inflation is bad when the price of down is up!

Friday, December 28, 2012

True story ... mostly

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I think the eye doctor at Walmart is purposely messing with people. At his entrance way in the parking lot, he's placed a billboard advertising his services. The words are the same sized except for the last item. It's printed twice as big as and reads “foreign objects removed.”

As I walked by this sign, a good ol’ country boy behind me pipes up in an inappropriately loud voice. He asks his companion, "Does this mean the doc’s gonna remove the Mexicans?”

Upon hearing this, two approaching Hispanic guys slow down. They stare at redneck with the friendliness of "do we need to kick your ass?", then they read the billboard. One amigo says to the other, “Si, what a good idea! I hope they start with my mother-in-law.”

Thursday, December 27, 2012

This Veteran Salutes a Sad Good Bye to You, Norman Schwarzkopf

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RIP to America's last great general: Norman "Stormin'" Schwarzkopf. When "Shock and Awe" was more than lightning and kittens (awww).

Ban Movies to Prevent Violent Behavior

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Recently, the news is full of everyone wanting to save the world by banning their favorite vice. Among the top ten near-criminal behaviors are images flashed into your innocent eyes - movies.

Yes, we all know that watching movies causes violent behavior. But what do you expect?

On one hand, you surrender 2 hours of your hard-earned income, another 2 hours of your brief life watching a badly-made movie that has no refund. Who wouldn't feel a tad frustrated? Especially when you could have stayed home and watched bad over-the-air television for free.

Or, you listen to your best bud say that only a moron would sit through your favorite flick. Who can blame you for winging a DVD or two at their empty noggins?

Forbidding movies would probably help the world become a better place. But then what else would we blame our bad behavior on? Pictures of our parents?

At least, I tried.

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Every so often, WriteToDone.com promotes a writing exercise called "Scene Stealers:Telling a Story". They give you a opening scene; you try to mold it into a story (or at least a plausible introduction) of 350 words or less.

I took Monday's challenge and entered my attempt. I hoped that someone would give some needed direction or constructive criticism. So far, nothing.

No criticism is the worst. Your efforts weren't good enough for Pulitzer Prize, or bad enough for the death penalty. At best, your efforts earned a "Meh" of indifference, but nothing motivating enough for a couple of key strokes in your direction.

And so, for all of the Russian visitors this blog has been getting this past week, here was my entry. I ran out of my 350 word limit, so all you get is an intro.

All comments are welcomed.

Monday's exercise was: "Ron etched another line in the wall of the mud hut that had been his home for the last 31 days. When would the nightmare end?"
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Ron etched another line in the wall of the mud hut that had been his home for the last 31 days. When would the nightmare end?

Certainly not today as the hatch on the top of Ron’s muddy confinement opened. In dropped another body to share the misery of Ron and 12 others in the dank cell.

“Hi, I’m …,” said the new arrival. He was immediately interrupted with a grumbling “Ron. Yeah, we know.”

Everyone in the cell was named Ron. In the spirit of bureaucratic efficiency, the prison system kept those with the same first name in the same cell.

“I used to lived with idiots”, thought Ron angrily. “Now I’m surrounded by mo’Rons.”

But what could he expect? These are the days of A.P.P.L.E. – Agency for the Protection and Promotion of Leafy Edibles.

A.P.P.L.E. originally began as a Federal department dedicated to regulating and taxing vegetables. After the latest round of elections, A.P.P.L.E. had an expanded role: They could inspect your house for signs of plant abuse.

For example, any potted plants found over or under watered earned you a few weeks of “reeducation”. Reeducation meant a muddy confinement in the ground so you would come to appreciate your photosynthesizing brethren.

If dead plants were discovered in your home, you spent the rest of your life in the ground. Then you were buried to become plant food as a fitting retribution.

You could escape arrest. These enforcers of A.P.P.L.E. were rotten to the core. Paid with enough greenery showing Benjamin Franklin’s stern face, these corrupt investigators would look the other way. But a quota – either arrest or personal funds – was going to be made.

They caught Ron with a dusty, dirty, faded plastic fern in his apartment. When he couldn’t pay the extortion, the unsmiling A.P.P.L.E. police jailed Ron for “the simulation of an unnatural act towards living vegetation”.

31 days later, Ron made another line in the muddy wall. The lines didn’t count his time stolen by idiotic political whims. Another line simply added itself to Ron’s escape plan.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

But what! There's more!

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It wasn't like I was watching during the late-night times - those wee hours when you're open to all sorts of suggestions. It was mid-morning with a mind already sharpened by a fifth cup of coffee. Yet there it was on the TV: a sleek, seductive infomercial offering incredible solutions at impossible low prices. And it promised to help me overcome a decade's long inconvenience.

10 years ago, I woke to a house full of smoke. The wiring in my then 40-year-old stove had shorted out. The burner had begun a threat to quick-fry itself and my home into a crispy, crackly crunch. I jumped out of bed in time to introduce the stove to the fire extinguisher. Ten years after flipping the stove's circuit breaker, I've fed myself very well using an old two-burner hot plate and microwave oven.

One of the downsides living is watching dependable objects become less dependable. Besides my body, I mean. My two burner hotplate has become a one burner, finicky heater. My microwave still works as well as long as you add in a few extra minutes for cooking, and hang around to reset it every so often.

That's why the infomercial for the Nuwave inductive cooker caught my attention. The ad had me at "but wait there's more!"

They started with a single high-tech burner making five star chef out of a fry cook for just three easy payments $33.95. Plus shipping and handling - an unmentioned extra 30 bucks.

"But wait, there's more!" They also would throw in several pots and pans at no cost.

"But wait, there's more!" If you call now, they would throw in a second inductive cooker. As long as you pay the shipping and handling of another $30.

"And if you call in the next few seconds…", They would "give" you another set of pots and pans. Again, as long as you pay yet another shipping and handling charge of 30 bucks.

Thank goodness for the Internet. I did little research on the Nuwave offer. The company has an excellent reputation for delivering the first inductive burner. As for their "but wait, there's more" enticements, not so much. Fortunate for my bank account, I read several recent reviews and complaints of unshipped merchandise and of customer filings with the Better Business Bureau.

That's the seduction of infomercials – a good one makes you think you found the easiest, cheapest solution to your most nagging problem. But a little research keeps you, and me, from getting burned.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

This is what we should ban.

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Forget guns, ban bullets. Yes, you can make guns illegal. But some idiot will figure out how to use Legos to fire bullets at the innocents. Then we will have to ban Legos, depriving children of yet another evil influence that we adults survived.

So, with bullets illegal, guns will be nothing more than expensive clubs. Can I get an Amen!

Not that psychos will stop using guns to hurt people. But when those psychotic bullies attack, THEN we can ban guns without worries from the NRA. Then we can forbid all manners of club-like objects, such as hammers, large twigs, and small, overweight dogs. Even fuzzy toys won't be able to escape legislation (I'm sure you'll agree that Tickle-Me-Emo was not meant to leave bruises).

All this banning gets us closer to the source of problem: unstable idiots. Of course, we can't forbid all fools. That would wipe out almost all of our bureaucrats. Where would our country be without the irresponsible telling the responsible how to live their lives?

Still, our goal lies in detecting and controlling unstable individuals. Since most of us want easy answers and simple solutions, let's go with band-aid options. Let's fix a symptom instead of the problem. The sooner we ban bullets – including that gateway projectile: BBs – the sooner we can think we are living in a safer world.

At least until the next horrific incident.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Wendy Liebman tweeted:

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"Slept like a pig today."

That happened to me once when I was camping on the ground. A storm passed through during the night and I awoke in mud puddle, squealing.

Anyway, I hear mud is great for the skin. Blemishes rarely touch pig skin. Of course, the same can be said of this year's Kansas City Chiefs. With their 2-and-11 record, maybe their avoidance of the pig skin is a religious decision.

Friday, December 14, 2012

One of Today's pseudo-americans: Roy A. Cooper

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It's official. The North Carolina Supreme Court ok'd their government to arrest you for gambling on video sweepstakes. However, you are strongly encouraged to play NC lottery.

I want to thank all of those pseudo-moralists: those dedicated to an American version of the Taliban. Thank you for watching out for me and my fellow citizens. A big thanks to you, Roy A. Cooper, NC Attorney General, for leading the fight to protect us from ourselves ... except in times when it benefits the state's revenue.

Heaven knows I'll easily succumb to those evils of gambling that aren't link to those sacred words, "North Carolina Education". (Is it ok to use that titillating word, "succumb"? At least, until you ban it.) So, praise be to the NC General Assembly and their supporters for all of hypocrisy legislated under the name of freedom.

I'm taking a gamble by posting this. Will I offend? Gamble or offend, either brands me as a criminal under NC law.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

How To Dodge A VERY BIG Bullet.

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As I type this, a three-mile wide asteroid 4179 Toutatis is whizzing over our heads at a scant 4,000,000 miles.

You probably know that the moon is almost 240,000,000 miles away. So, on the planetary scale of things, we dodged a bullet.

If you would like to thumb your nose at Toutatis (or moon the asteroid), you can go online to the Virtual Telescope where they have real-time view of this ballistic rock.

But wait! There's more. In 2015 and 2029, the asteroid 99942 Apophis will zing over your scalp. If its path varies by as much as 2000 feet, then the year 2036 will be a treat you won't forget. Imagine the excitement as you watch the gentle impact of planetary bodies - equivalent to a few thousand atomic bombs.

Notice I said "you" instead of "we". Given my family's history of lifetimes under 70 years, I have a better chance of building my escape pod than I do of being around to shake your hand and say, "Well, it's been nice knowing you."

Of course, by 2036, humanity might have solved all its differences. The people of the world will live as one universal love-fest. Then it's a simple matter of getting everyone - especially those even mildly considering a membership with Weight Watchers - to shift over to one country and jump up-and-down. Repeatedly. With the force of almost 10 billion people madly stomping on Spaceship Earth, our planet could shift ever-so-slightly out of the way.

And on a collision course to the sun.

I guess I should shake your hand now. Well, it's been nice knowing you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Guess why today is special.

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The Inter-web is a-buzz with news of those magical numbers 12/12/12, which happens to be Kiam Moriya's birthday. Today is extra special because Kiam entered this amazing world at 12:12.

But wait, there's more! Today is his 12th trip around the sun. WOW!

Not only that, his favorite number is ... 5. 5? He ought to lose a present over that. Maybe that $12 check from Grandma.

Anyway, I'm hoping he has dozens and dozens of happy birthdays - which is 144 - which a gross ... way to wish someone happiness.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Happy National Gazpacho Day.

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I didn't know until I read Peewee Herman's tweet: Today is National Gazpacho Day. He asked his readers how they would celebrate.

Well, armed with this vital knowledge, I had to do my part. So I left a can of tomato soup in the cold. But it is winter; the can froze and blew out an opening in the side.

Lucky for me, I have my handy-dandy repairman friend - Gus. He filled the perforation in, and I celebrated Gus-patch-hole day.

Mañana, y'all!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Another day. Another hero gone.

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It played sounding simplistic, even with its convoluted time signature of 5/4. Still, in 1959, Dave Brubeck, along with Joe Morello on the drums, created that catchy tune "Take Five" that jazzes on today.

Dave died today, having aged only to 92 - in that brief time signature of 1/1. He had no idea about his music influence on me. I never got to thank him.

Thank you, Dave.

Monday, December 03, 2012

What to give new parents.

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For the new parents in your life, and only $7.99! http://shutupandtakemymoney.com/crib-dribbler/
When their little tike hits the ground running at that precious age of 3, you can then give the proud parents a gift of the ultimate baby sitting tool: the hamster wheel attachment.

Friday, November 30, 2012

My twitter link

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OK, if you really want my twitter link, it is:
@mysticfree

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Delicious Holiday Drink

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What do you put in your seasonal eggnog? Today, my friends raved about the wonders of rum and cinnamon. Then we moved onto other tasty treats and what the crazy ingredients we've added.

I mentioned how I've put Bacardi 151 into tapioca. My friends wanted to about the taste. I assured them: the proof is in the pudding.

Monday, November 26, 2012

How To Protect Your Online Self.

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Ain't our technology great? Don't you just love the way our gadgets work with the Internet to make our lives easier, quicker, cheaper, and paranoid?

You can't deal with the Internet without hearing tales of people having their bank accounts hacked, their identity stolen, and harassed by tons of spam.

So this holiday season, I invite you to protect your privacy while surfing the web. Sites like Facebook don't have your online safety as their main concern. So it's up you to protect yourself.

I found this excellent site, Adjust Your Privacy, as an easy way to go to all the major sites you use, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, StumbleUpon, and immediately adjust your privacy standings. This should keep you from having to search for these vital - but often hidden - options.

Technology is great. It's the businesses and the thieves that make it more difficult than it should. If you want more of these tips, let me know.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Maybe some fears shouldn't be overcome.

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To get rid of your fears, you have to confront them. You must deal with your terrors head-on. Of course, if you fear standing in front of speeding trucks, this advice isn't the best to act on.

At the moment, I dread colonoscopies. I'm afraid of how it's going to affect my budget, of what the doctor might find, of being in that intimate position without somebody buying me dinner first.

I'm also terrorized of skydiving naked. Actually, that's more of one of those embarrassing dreams: I jump out of a plane, see a crowd of people looking up at me, and realize I'm not wearing anything – including a parachute.

How can I confront these two irrational concerns? What if I had the colonoscopy and then skydived while clothed with only a parachute? Ah, well, this scenario gives birth to horror number 3.

The moment I launch myself out from the soaring plane, an involuntary scream will try to escape, forcing my mouth open. Instantly, my cleared digestive track will turn me into a very loud human whistle.

My flute-like noise will cause people to look up and point as I streak audibly towards them. They will say "I heard him the instant he stepped from the plane. Talk about your early detection. Good thing he had that colonoscopy."

Perhaps I have nothing to fear aside from little embarrassment. And that arrest record for public indecency.

Maybe if I get a few piercings, I can play a catchy tune during my dive. No fears there.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I had to make a tough decision today.

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Would you spend six hours out of your busy day to earn $10? How about at least six hours to write and edit a 600 word article for $10?

So what's the dilemma? Today, I'm free from the rigors of my main job. I could catch up on chores. Perhaps, I could be lazy and relax for a change. Or, I could tackle a writing assignment that's less than rewarding.

Oh sure, I'll make a whopping $1.33 an hour. At the most. At a penny a word for my hard work, I should be able to retire in the next millennium. And I don't have to worry about getting recognition or feedback for how well anyone enjoyed my article. What would be a better use of my time?

Compelling arguments to ditch the content mill, yes? Any reasons to continue? Only the fear of dealing with the freelance market that pays a dollar a word and more. A silly fear at that.

In fact, how do we advance in our lives? I don't think it's from focusing on "what if I fail". I bet success follows those who concentrate on "what if I succeed". (A dash of luck at the right moment probably helps too.)

I think we can agree: Profitable success doesn't come from wasting your time on low paying tasks for ungrateful recipients.

What's at the end of a long freefall?.

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Lately, my days have this sense of uneasiness - as though I'm free-falling into a dense fog. Behind me are misty objects of where I was. In front of me, a thick cloud obscures what is to come.

I don't know who pushed me into this speedy descent - one of those many things not under my control. So I do my best to control what I can now – my flailing arms and the occasional scream or two.

I work to make my unexpected tumbles into breath-taking feats of acrobatics. Once in a while, you might be impressed. More often, you might cringe as I bounce painfully off the side of life's cliff. Yeah, I ... meant to do that.

Years ago, I wasn't too concerned with hitting the ground. Now, the rapidly passing air roars in my ears; the musty smell of dirt grows stronger in my nostrils. Pressing on my skin is the inescapable approach of that impending moment: when my free-fall becomes a sudden stop. When I transitioned from life-filled movement into static nothingness.

I can hope for better times on that flat plane of death. For now, each morning greets me with an ever-growing presence of a wall. Not an inconvenient obstacle to overcoming. Not a challenging monolith to puzzle over. But an inevitable barrier of finality - of that ultimate splat.

Aside from that, how's your day going?

Fixing a $50 mistake by spending $12 more.

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Have you ever taken a class or signed up with a group to improve your life, to become better skilled, to gain more knowledgeable, and, hopefully, to add to your happiness? Yet, after spending your time and money, were you disappointed to learn that leader or the teacher wasn't quite up to the standard of excellence that you wanted – or that you needed?

Last month, I enrolled in a creative writing course at a local community college. In Tuesday's class, the instructor explained how to create a story. He drew a hilly curve on the chalkboard and spoke about having conflicts on the peaks and resolutions in the valleys. I asked the instructor where those conflicts should occur. His answer told me a lot about the $50 that I'd invested: He said, "Where ever it fits along the story line."

Over the past several weeks, I've read quite a few informative blogs on writing. (May I highly recommend Wordplay and Storyfix to you?) From this accomplished artists, I knew the art of storytelling required a little more precision than "where ever".

Yesterday, I got a hold of "Story Engineering" by Larry Brooks. For $12, I have learned more from the first three chapters than I have from the nine hours of class time. At this moment, my time and effort will be better spent devoted to mastering Mr. Brooks's material than with attending any more evening classes.

I don't mean to imply that I had a bad instructor. He filled his lessons with energy and humor. But he doesn't have the proficiency that I need and must develop in myself.

The $50 wasn't a complete loss. Part of the class required us to quickly construct answers to in-class assignments. After we read our hastily composed thoughts to the rest of the class, our peers would comment on our unedited pieces. I learned that I could get more than one laugh with my idiotic writings.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

How many words could Chuck chuck?.

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(30 Dec 2012: major revision)

His obsession had begun to destroy his life. But did Chuck care?

Twice, he almost got fired. Both times his boss had found him searching the Internet for books instead finishing a vital project. Lucky for Chuck and his phone's camera, he had earlier caught his boss at the Christmas party with someone who wasn't Mrs. Boss. Ho ho ho.

Last month's mortgage check bounced. But only because Chuck spent too much at Amazon's buy-one-get-one-free sale. He justified the overdraft charges and late fees by claiming he would have spent just as much had the sale not taken place.

Over a weekend, Chuck remembered to attend 3 days of book fairs. But he forgot the two events that truly blessed those same days: his 10th wedding anniversary and his son's 2nd birthday.

His innocent toddler forgave him. His wife ... not so much. Chuck just hugged his son, and dismissed his wife's anger as "one of those women things". She obliged by not showing him any of her woman things for several weeks.

He promised to do better. Yet, he soon found he couldn't stop himself. He was buying mysteries and science fiction and graphics novels and cookbooks and cookbooks about cookbooks. He was expanding his unread library with fat biographies, lengthy thrillers, weighty westerns, and numerous little-known depressing Russian stories.

With 61,978 books, Chuck wrestled with a slight problem: He had a compulsive monkey on his back. It didn't care if it could read. And neither did he. Until that one sunny Thursday.

Customers leaving a popular bookstore found Chuck sitting in the middle of a trash-strewn parking lot sobbing. He had run out of room for just one more book. Not a big deal for you or me. But a tearful Chuck found himself shaking and drenched in a cold sweat.

In that lonely moment, he realized that his agony wasn't about a lack of space. His anguish was about his literary monkey. It had crowded out his family. It had drained his money. It had almost cost him his job.

And so, during that moonless Thursday night, in the quiet of his backyard, Chuck blazed a new chapter of living with the stoke of a match.

As the ashy smell of burning wood filled his nostrils, as the crackle and the hiss of a wild fire roared in his ears, as the heat scorched his skin, Chuck faced his sanitizing pyre, contemplating his addiction.

In his mind raged that monkey on his back - that monster of accumulated words, paragraphs, and pages. It cursed, threatened, and pleaded for its destructive life. It promised to be content with sales flyers. It begged for a simple life of only news tickers. But Chuck knew what he must do.

He thrust his trembling hands into a large old leather-covered suitcase. With a mighty heave and a forceful flick of his wrist, Chuck felt himself become a freer man as he fed the hungry flames: his Kindle. The 64 gigabyte version. Within seconds, his hideous hoard of books melted away - gone forever since he never backed up his electronic enabler.

Chuck lived happily ever after ... until a 2 terabyte reader with a 3D display, a lifetime subscription to Sports Illustrated, and a kitchen sink hit the market. Another tale for another time.

Still, this leads us to ask an important question: How many words could Chuck chuck if Chuck could chuck words? Answer: All of them.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

What Voting Really Comes Down To.

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We constantly hear that it's our civic duty to vote. But isn't your actual civic duty to do no harm? What if this noble duty is violated by your election choices?

Today, you can vote to have your money taken - and that of your friends and family. Or you can vote to be told how you can spend what's left.

In choosing the lesser of two evils, it still becomes a vote for evil. If you vote, you can pick those who take - not earn or ask - the hard earned money of your fellow citizens because you feel entitled to it. Or you can pick those who believe they have a right to control what your fellow citizens can do with their bodies and with what's left with their money. Either way, you vote and give up your right to complain about the results. You asked for it. You got it.

In pick of the lesser of two evils, it doesn't matter who wins. We all lose. How is that in keeping with our civic duty? How is that keeping with the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Today I met a TV celebrity.

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With all the free food samples being handed out, my shopping adventures at Sam's Club are more of a satisfying dining experience than of a dreaded chore. Today was even better.

In the middle of the Super Store stood a make-shift kitchen. When I saw someone dressed in professional cooking attire instead of the usual free-sample uniform, I nearly drowned from salivating at the thought of tasty goodies prepared by a master.

Imagine my astonishment as the chef turned out to be one of the top 5 finalists on season 7 of "Hell's Kitchen": Jason Ellis.

Yes, I realize we are not talking about the worldwide fame of, say, Denzel Washington. But if you're a fan of Hell's kitchen, you'll know that Jason was a serious contender to win the season - regardless of Fox's edited-for-dramatics showed on TV.

As I walked up to his display, Mr. Ellis had just begun setting up for his upcoming demonstration and was in the midst of audio feedback problems from his microphone. As an electrical engineer, I tried to make a few technical suggestions. And I might have been of some service had I not found myself caught up in the awe of facing a celebrity. Yes, I was more of an embarrassment than of help. Maybe that's why Mr. Ellis put his wireless mic down and said with a playful smile, "You know, I know how to cook. I'm not an audio guy. I can do this without a mike."

Have you ever meet someone who not only emanated a cool confidence, but exhibited a humble proficiency of their being? Suddenly, I felt myself at ease in the presence of an honorable man of class and style.

We briefly talked about his adventures on Hell's Kitchen. I asked if the experience changed his life even though he didn't win. Amazingly, Mr. Ellis said he was glad he didn't win. It turns out that the winner might get about 50% of all revenues generated by the show - for the first year. This percentage decreases over the course of five years to the point of zero.

Since Jason didn't win, Fox had no claim on his subsequent efforts. All the revenues generated from his tours, his speaking engagements, his endorsements, his books belong rightfully and solely to Jason. I suggested that he write a book on "how to win on Hell's Kitchen without winning". Mr. Ellis paused for a couple of minutes, then said, "I hadn't thought that. What a great idea." See?! Sometimes I can be helpful.

We talked a bit more. Yet, even though Mr. Ellis was extremely friendly and generous with his time, I knew he had to ready for the upcoming show. And my groceries were warming to the point of needed a frying pan, or a trash can. We fist-bumped in parting, with me wishing I could learn more from this amazing individual.

As I drove home, I wondered what it would be like to write a behind-the-scenes book about Jason's experience with Hell's kitchen: his challenges with winning a place on the popular reality show, the ordeals endured while on the show and while helping one of the contestants during the final cook-off, and the success that Jason achieved afterward. As he said, "being on the show opened a lot of amazing doors for me." So I'm pretty sure Mr. Ellis has a story of hope, of extraordinary effort, of arduous struggle, and of unexpected wins in the face of challenging odds.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Sad Effects of Hunger When Writing.

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Have you ever been so hungry that you could feel your backbone through your belly button? Now the only reason I have my finger shoved into my belly button is to poke my grumbling stomach into quiet submission. I had to skip lunch and dinner to meet the rewarding demands of work. So here I am - 13 hours after breakfast - jones-ing for some food.

"Jones-ing for food." I wondering if cannibals ever say that or, "I'm jones-ing for some Joneses. Do we have any?" "No, they got away." "What?! How many times have I told you that we have to keep up with the Joneses."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Slap To the Face...Book

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I didn't mean to cause any trouble last week. But I could only get in touch with my friend was through her Facebook page. I only wanted to post my condolences and comfort her after she had been fired that day by our employer.

If she hadn't taken so much time to care for her daughter who is dying of lupus, my friend would still have her job. She did put in extra unpaid overtime hours whenever she could. But it didn't matter. In fact, with our company being run as it is, do such efforts really matter?

I asked this because, earlier that day, I had been called into an ominous meeting. Apparently, our customers don't want what we have to offer. It's up to us engineers to rush development of more products - similar to what the customers aren't buying now. The top VP told we weren't putting in enough 12 and 14 hour days. And if we didn't start giving the company more unpaid hours, there would be "some serious bloodletting come January".

So that night, I commiserated with my unemployed friend on Facebook. I told her that a lot of us would probably be joining her in the unemployment lines soon.

A few days later, our HR person discovered my posting. Outraged by my legitimate remark, she sent a screenshot of it to the company president. The next day, one of the VPs paid me a visit. He spoke of an upset company president who would probably be calling me into his office in a matter of days.

I expressed my sincerest regret for publishing what I thought was an sympathizing observation; I immediately offered to delete the offending comment. That action seems to have helped since I haven't been called to the principle's office yet.

So this week, as I hear more reports that the company is actually making money – just not enough money to satisfy the bankers and investors - I repeatedly bang my head on the concrete floor of my work space until the urge to laugh hysterically passes. Of course, I put on my OSHA-approved head gear because our health insurance won't pay for self-inflicted brain damage any other way.

Maybe if my brains suffer enough traumatic stress, I won't care about the good people that I work with. Maybe I'm just a few blows-to-the-head away from becoming upper management material. Nah. I'm still stuck with the annoying condition called a moral conscious. And I don't think employees are a necessary evil when running a business.

How To Program Politically Correct Software.

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At work, the policy on political correctness has gotten much tougher. I have to be very careful what I write in my programs now.

Before, I could set a button on the screen as "Disabled and Grayed Out". Now, I have to show it as "Physically Challenged and No Longer A Member of AARP".

Friday, October 12, 2012

2012 Nobel Peace Prize.

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Congratulations to the European Union for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. A special thanks to Germany for behaving all these years.

So, 500 million people get to split 1.2 million euros ... before taxes. Hmmm. Just a thought but have you all considered spending it in wild abandonment while visiting Greece? I can't promise that it will make a difference.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Traveling Across America

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This week, my sister is traveling with her husband as he pilots his 18-wheeler across the country. After reading her emails, I want to quit my job and travel to all those places that aren't 'here'.

I don't know if I would take anyone along. While it may be easy to find a travel companion, it's got to be much, much harder to get rid of one - sort of like a disastrous marriage. What would be the proper etiquette for traveling divorce? Maybe fling open your companion's door while driving fast, then give them a good shove while shouting, "Tuck and roll, Baby!"

Yes, I know it's not the best of ideas to travel alone. Although, most of the time, I drive by myself. It's not bad. If my singing gets too annoying, I tell myself to shut up. If I feel lonely, I just hug the road.

Still, given my car's condition, perhaps I should have a mechanic follow me in his auto parts truck. I wonder how exciting it would be getting towed across America?

Sieving Your Internet Experience

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What would compel you to click on a link such as affordablesieves.com? Affordable sieves, of course, as opposed to unaffordable sieves - like the kind we get to vote for next month.

Regardless, aside from those rare individuals under a strain to complete an important filtration project, what would make you forego adorable cat videos for links outside of your comfort zone?

According to the book "Trust Me, I'm Lying", media manipulators appeal to our overwhelming sense of curiosity by using the old standbys: fear, uncertainty, and doubt. You probably know the difficulty in answering "Where were you last night?". Depending upon where you were - or weren't – you may find yourself trying to address all three concerns.

The idea is that, when you strongly relate to certain phrases, you find it almost impossible to ignore them. For those of us with health concerns, we would click on the enticing but completely bogus link of "Can Metal Sieves Cure Cancer?" History buffs would go crazy over a book link to "The Pope's Gold and The Gold Rush: Holy Mass versus Holie Mesh". For those of us faithful to the Church of Oprah and Romance, we couldn't stop ourselves from following "How Sieves Saved My Marriage". And, for entrepreneurs, how can you resist "How to be Siftless for Fun and Profit"?

I can think of many more inept phrases that you could screen. But the point is, with the right words, you can filter your audience into clicking on almost any phrase. As long as you don't strain yourself.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Let Us Reflect On The Shininess of Our Heads.

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Would you shave your head? Given the length of their mustaches, most of those women would obviously say no. So on to the men.

"Guys with shaved heads are also seen as taller, stronger and having greater potential as leaders, researcher Albert Mannes has found." This according to a study done by a University of Pennsylvania lecturer, who just happens to be ... wait for it ... a balding man.

Mr. Mannes arrived at his shiny findings after showing pictures of bald guys to 60 people. Amazing. Out of 7 billion people, his highly-subjective study only needed 60 to reach a conclusion.

Also having no bearing on the research were the subjects in the photos: guys with looks that melt the underwear of women everywhere. So if you happen to see Marilyn Manson sporting a shiny chrome-dome, you would find him as equally rugged as, say, Bruce Willis.

Perhaps, there is hope for me then. I could shave my head and advertise "This space for rent. Ask me how." With the right ad, I could get lots of pretty women to look at me and smile.

Nah, the truth is some guys look great bald. My good friend's clean-shaven head gives him the sophisticated look of Damon Wayans. Ever time we go out for lunch, women always come up to him and flirt.

That wouldn't happen with me. I'd shave my head only to have women approach me with, "Oh, I'm sorry. Chemo? I'll keep you in my prayers."

Maybe I'll just grow a mustache.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The 'Secret' of Writing Great Stories?

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I can't give you exact reasons why but "Chronicles of Riddick" is one of my favorite movies. Tonight, I watched it again for the first time in a few years. But now, when I watch movies and read books, it's to understand the how and the why of compelling stories.

One aspect of this science-fiction thriller that caught my attention was the protagonist, Riddick, versus the antagonist, Lord Marshal. Throughout the movie, Riddick deals with self-doubt and incredible setbacks. The overlord has none of these hindrances. The villain acts with a single-minded focus and complete confidence of achieving his evil goals.

As I think back to the Harry Potter movies, there seem to be the same set up with Harry and Voldemort - a hero with self-conflicted drama versus overly optimistic bad guy.

Is this the secret to well-written fiction?

Friday, September 28, 2012

What I Learned At A Wedding

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A few years ago, you could entertain a party of your friends with ease. You would simply slip a CD into your boombox (or cassette, for your older folk; or a record, for you ancient rockers), crank up the volume, and let the music work its magic.

But those were simpler days before technology and hype evolved into their present forms. I've just come from a wedding reception and learned what the new norm is.

First of all, not just any person can provide the entertainment. You have to affix "DJ" to the beginning of some name that would make your mother blush. "DJ Kitty Kat" or "DJ incredibly Sexy" are popular, tamer versions.

Next, you need to buy a new performance controller. Otherwise, you can't wow the crowd with your ability to distort music that already consists of a mangled base beat and mumbled words.

Not that this mattered to most of the audience at the wedding reception. They would just as easily raved to a stutterer pounding a bass drum. Although, I did overhear the father of the bride saying, "I paid $5000 for this?"

Apparently, the only thing that separates a DJ from the rest of us is the ability to ask and receive a large fee for this back-breaking work … and the ability to face customers any time afterwards without shame.

Fortunately, our 'entertainment' hasn't evolved that far yet. We party-goers still have simpler technologies available. For mere pennies, we still have the low-tech sound-filtering capabilities of cotton balls.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Do I have the talent?.

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Last week, I attended a meeting of a local group of writers at the nearby library. They read their amazing works. I kept my mouth shut out of intimidation of the greatness of their offerings.

In two weeks, I get to attend a 6-week creative writers class, offered by the nearby college. The more I read what I've written, the more I doubt my abilities. Will this class help? Or, am I nothing more than a wheel-chair bound racer hoping to compete with biped Olympians?

With my race against the literary wind of fame and fortune, I hate to think that my best chance is only by jumping off of a cliff - great time, but the end result is a killer.

Have You Hugged Your Steak Today?.

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I think I can tell you this because you won't tell anyone else. So, Shhhh.

My favorite animal is steak. I love the way they talk to me, sort of a sizzly sounding voice. And that intoxicating aroma! I would rub my nose in their essence if I wasn't concerned about 4th degree burns to my face.

Steaks are hard workers; perfectionists, in fact, if you don't keep on eye on them. On a rare occasion, I get distracted on some task that demands my immediate attention away from my delicious friends. When I return to my beloved steak and ask, "Are you done?", it always replies, "Well done!". Oh no.

Sometimes, my juicy, red steaks aren't around when I need them. I meant to bring them home but I couldn't. Such a sad time. I hate miss steaks like that. Sometimes, my budget tells me to avoid them for the moment. Sometimes, the store only has the blue-green ones that I'm allergic too. (For some reason, my love can't overcome the sickness they unintentionally give me.)

But the ones that make it home bring so much joy. They don't mind patiently waiting in my freezer until I come for them. Then they rest contently in the safety of my warming pan. I'm always entertained by their favorite performance trick of being flipped.

Thank goodness, I'm a vegetarian. Otherwise, I wouldn't have the respect that I do for my meaty friends ... or the extreme leaning towards the sun.

Shhhh, don't tell anyone.

=============

Thank you, Cheryl, for inspiring this post. I'm sorry.

Monday, September 24, 2012

How To Dress For Success ... sort of.

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A couple of weeks ago, our CFO added more letters to his title and became the company's latest CEO. He spent much of that week endearing himself to employees by issuing bizarre memos, stricter company policies, and demands that we bow low when we approach him.

Of course, I am kidding about the "bow low" demand. That will be issued at the end of the month. However, in an obvious effort to improve employee morale, he has proclaimed an unforgiving dress code.

Have you gone to a convenience store with this warning displayed prominently on their door: "No shoes, no shirt, no service!"? Our beloved CEO issued a similar threat: "No sneakers, no jeans, no T-shirts, or else no job!"

Thank goodness, he implemented this wonderful change. Why, just the other day, as my fellow workmate and I crawled along on dirty floor of the plant, working feverishly to repair an antique piece of greasy machinery, I said, "You know, we really need to start wearing suit and ties for our job." What I said in jest must have been over heard.

But I can understand the reason for this latest edict. Somehow, during new company president's start, we employees - with decades of faithful service to the company and to our customers - turned into children, suddenly forgetting how to dress properly for our workplace. When we had special visitors, such as new customers that we want to impress, we knew to wear spiffier business attire. Yet, somehow, we must have forgotten this a couple of weeks ago.

The obvious solution is simple. Very soon, upper management will announce uniforms for when we have visitors – burqas for everyone. What looks more productive than a plant full of worker bees dressed like masked beekeepers. Besides, you can't have visitors lusting after the hard-working employees. Who knows what better job offers might come of it?

In any case, as a guy, I am a little disappointed with this strict dress code. I guess I can't show up to work in my new miniskirt and high heels. According to the new policy, that would be an obvious drag.

===========================

Update! The natives grumbled loud enough that the CEO has reissued his dress code. "Comfortable" shoes for those who have medical needs. Given that many of the workers on the floor are heavy-set women in their late 50s and early 60s, we applaud the CEO for his generosity.

He will also allow us to wear jeans - as long as the jeans do not have holes in them. This one is confusing. After all, jeans have to have 3 holes so you to put them on your body. But perhaps our CEO wants to make a fashion statement. Perhaps, we must take our hole-less jeans, throw the legs over our shoulders, and loop them around our neck. Just as you would with a fancy sweater if your name was 'Biff' or 'Babs', and you had to slave away enjoying yourself at the country club.

T-shirts are still forbidden unless it has a split at the neck and a couple of buttons along the split. Nothing screams professionalism better than a ripped shirt with sensible buttons.

Burqas are being considered ...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Fine Whine On Wine Making

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Bacchus is the esteemed Roman god of wine. Backyardachus is where I have my shed and plans to honor Bacchus as I making wine again.

Every man needs a hobby and brewing is one of the more rewarding endeavors. Unless, of course, your hobby becomes an obsession. At that point, you either need to start selling your liquid fruits of labor, or join an AA group.

Some people recommend HomeBrewIt.com for wine making equipment. I'm going for a more natural approach. I''ll gather apples and pear that lay rotting in my backyard. Once collected into a garbage bag, they can ferment further in the darkness of my shed. Later, I'll squeeze the pulpy mess and strain the good stuff into bottles with fancy labels to share with my good friends.

The bad stuff might be recycled. These special brews of decayed fruit and insects make great anonymous gifts at Christmas; especially to those special folks - you know, those who went out of their way throughout the year to make your life more difficult than it should have been.

Of course, by distributing such unwelcomed presents, you can't align yourself with Bacchus, the god of tasty beverages. Perhaps, Mars, the god of war (and now of Curiosity) would be a better standard.

For The Love Of A Leaf.

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Why does Springtime have the sole reputation for making us do crazy things, surprisingly, without involving any arm-twisting? What about Autumn: When leaves fall dead to the roadside so they can bloom into colorful election signs. When we have a special night to don masks and become someone else for an evening of celebration. Of course, a few days later, we have another riotous free-for-all, complete with zany characters and unbelievable actions - otherwise known as an election - where we're compelled to pick those who wear their masks constantly.

I have to admit that I've done my share of crazy during Autumn. Though masks weren't involved.

During my pre-teen days, I lived in Gorham, a tiny town in the White Mountains of NH - scenic, peaceful, or as I liked to call it: the tourist trap of the North.

By the end of September, the mountains would explode into panoramic color, causing a migration into Gorham of rich, old ladies from Boston. Herds of them would saunter through the town, pointing and admiring leaves that hung just out of their reach. The hunt was on!

Being a gentleman, I would offer to climb towering trees and pluck an authentic White Mountain Autumn leaf just for them. Being an enterprising gentleman, I offered my services for a dollar - just for them.

I said Autumn makes you do crazy things. On more than one occasion, I risked my life to keep my customers happy by grabbing for a leaf just a post-summer's breeze away from my outstretched finger tips. Crazier still were the old women who tipped me $5 and $10 for a piece of plant already destined for the ground in a few days.

No, we can't restrict silly actions to just one season. If people drive themselves silly to buy dying leaves, then watching them vote for the lesser of two evils makes perfect sense.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Looking, nah, Listening Into Podcasting

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How do you put 3 long, tortuous hours a day (my commute to and from work) to good use? This year, I ended up converting my car into a "Educational Vehicle of Escape" by putting the "Downcast" app on my iPhone.

Radio and TV and Cable have had their influential moments in the sun. These days, the latest media of persuasion, entertainment, and learning has become podcasts.

So far these past 9 months, I've traveled with Adam Carolla, Kevin Pollack, Larry Miller, and Penn Jillet as they put their comedic interviews online.

I'm learning the craft of writing from "I Should Be Writing" and "The Writing Show". And, thanks to the discussion groups broadcasted by "Nerdist Writers Panel", I have an intriguing insider's look on how famous writers create those successful movies and TV shows.

The only downside is that I now need more time to spend listening to these and many more podcasts.

Of course, you have to wonder: How expensive is it to have a show on the Internet? Is anyone making money?

According various remarks made different people during their podcasts, their programs are very profitable. In fact, a little research shows that you and I could make our own engaging episodes. All we need is a mixer board, some mics, perhaps a web cam, and software. In fact, with a $150 plug-and-play system such asavid pro tools and some Internet bandwidth, we could be in business today. Then, with a little self-promotion and a lot of attention-grabbing shows, we can attract a big enough audience to have sponsors lavish our efforts with lots of money. See how easy that was!

So my "Educational Vehicle of Escape" has been quite an educational experience. As soon as I get a moment, I'll put my knowledge into action and retire soon after. Hopefully before I hit 70.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

OH, now you tell me.

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"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Yeah, that'll teach me to date someone with bipolar disorder.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Twitter to the Rescue ... I Hope.

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My company has installed Wireless Internet in the office area. In fact, right this moment, I'm using it to compose a tweet to rescue me from the bathroom stall:

"Here I sit, so broken-hearted.
Come to [insert family-friendly related word] and only ...

... discovered we're out of toilet paper. Again!
(No time to rhyme.
And, apparently, no time to hire competent janitorial help.)

Instead of screaming 'til I'm rescued,
I'll send a tweet in this unpleasant interlude,

'Cause big brother is watching our Internet packets,
in case we play with non-work related tactics.

My bum is numb,
so please interfere on the double,
I ask only for relief
and absolutely no trouble!

So ... HELP!"

I'm sure I can get this tweet down to 140 characters. I've got the time. It's not like I'm going anywhere soon. I can sit and reflect on the millions we made the big boys so far. I wonder if they splurged and got us single ply ...

If Only My Life Is A Beach

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A refreshing salty breeze coming off of the ocean, rhythmic crescendos of the wet waves, warm sand between my toes, and - most important of all - no one else around me on the beach! That's one of the perks of taking vacation at the beach in September. After the Labor-day crowds have returned to their stressful work life, North Carolina shores became a paradise.

But paradise is going to have to wait yet another year. I had hoped to enjoy a long over-due act of selfish relaxation this month. By now, I had planned to call one of a Holden Beach NC real estate offices to reserve a ocean-front escape. But noooooo!

Have you ever had faced tough, unpleasant choices? A few months ago, I had to decide who needed my time more: myself or my friends and family. I had to pick what needed my money more: my sanity or my loved ones livelihood. I had to choose between a few days of self-indulgence or several months of handling unexpected needs of others. It's as though Life has kicked sand in my face and laughed horribly about it.

I can't do everything. Even though I try. Something has to give. So this year, the closest way to get to the beach will be through this crabby post. Sorry about that.

Maybe I'll won't vacuum the house for a week so the dirt and sand from outside can build up. With the cat knocking out some of the litter from its box, I should have a crunchy, almost-beach texture on the floor. Then, I can boil a kettle full of salt water to humidify my small house. Once I kick off my shoes, I can simulate an ocean breeze by racing bare-footed around the cat box. Heck, I might even take my clothes off and pretend to be on the French Riviera.

Of course, there is always the hope of next September.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Future: A One-wheel Motorcycle.

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Try popping a wheelie on this engineering marvel - a single-wheeled, electronic motorcycle. Slated for production in January 2013, Ryno motors estimates the cost to be about $4500 for this Segway-like vehicle. Given the size of the battery, you can spend 60 minutes, screaming around town at a death-defying 20 miles an hour.

Of course, never mind the unintentional wheelies. I wonder how many people will put a basket on the handle bar and give other people rides?

Of Shining Pearls and Fast Metal

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I began this week by studying vehicle-to-vehicle communication: a new technology where cars and trucks talk to each other. ("V2V" for you folks with an affinity for acronyms, or as I like to call you: "FWAFA".) With these chatty vehicles sharing information, accidents and traffic jams should disappear from the road ways. Of course, this also means your car will snitch on you. "Pssst. Herby is going 2 miles an hour over the speed limit. Pass it on. Yeah, I tried to tell him, but he's not listening to me. So pass it on to highway patrol."

So I plunged down the rabbit hole of Internet links. Researching V2V turned into looking up vehicle electronics. This became motorcycle cruise controls, then historical motorcycles, followed by historic motorcycle racing.

Finally, I arrived at the web doorstep of an award-winning Louisianan racer - Barbara Conner. And no ordinary racer is she! Here is an x-ray technician who revs motorcycles and cars into trophies, raises 6 children, and has a popular Barbara Conner jewelry line loved by several film and music stars.

Not only does she race motorcycles and design pearl jewelry, but she does this in the right order. You wouldn't believe how many people try to be successful by racing pearls, or wearing white motorcycles after labor day.

My research started with vehicle-to-vehicle communications. I ended up learning about one incredible person who communicates her desires into a mastery of vehicles, a mastery of family life, and a mastery of the market place.

Now I just have to figure out how move my potential for great things into actual success. I wonder if anyone has thought of marketing clam-covered motorbikes. If no one has shared this idea, is it because they're shellfish?

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Big Brother and the Political Conventions.

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When I looked at the TV Guide tonight, I saw "Big Brother" on CBS and Democratic National Convention on the CBS side channel - one show about sneaky people sabotaging the welfare of those around them, and other being a reality show.

Now, don't get your political panties in a twist. It's just a repeat of last week when "Big Brother" broadcasted along with the Republican National Convention. I know, "Big Brother" verses "Bigger Brother" - redundant programming at its best.

Either week, what do you expect? You encourage them when you vote. With your checks and your check marks, you encourage them.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Which do you pick: your heart or your greed.

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This time last year, my company replaced its president. We went from a man with the deposition of sweat-shop owner to a man who cared about the workers. A shocking first for us peons. This new CEO actually fought for our benefits and moral-boosters. And, as of yesterday, even though we still had not had a pay-raise in four years, our future looked hopefully and rewarding.

Things looked so well that one of the board of directors made a surprise visit to the plant yesterday. Without any word of warning, he summoned all of us into the cafeteria for a meeting. Of course, he called this employee-gathering during the lunch break so, conveniently, most people were already off the clock. (Smart thinking, that board-of-director guy.)

With a big, warm smile, he told us how great business was: how they (the investors) had secured cheaper financing, how our sales dollars had been much higher this year than expected, how our sacrifices had cut operating costs. He ended the meeting by thanking us for our hard work, and by telling us that our Chief Financial Office had become the new company president. (Again, smart thinking, that board-of-director guy - paying for two jobs with the price of one salary.)

So, the company was doing well: cheaper loan payments, lower operating costs, higher sales, and a reduced expense with upper management. His final words to the company's 80 hard-working, pay-raise starved members was, "Thank you and good-bye."

Our former president was a great man - easy to talk with, sympathetic to the hardships we endured to make the company profitable. After yesterday's little speech, we're reasonably sure of a mutual parting of the ways resulting from conflicts of characters - generosity and fellowship of our favorite CEO verses greed of our glorious overlords.

I don't think our overlords, I mean, our investors realize that their business has survived, not only in spite of the downturn in the economy, but because of a downturn in the economy that prevented better companies from hiring us all away.

Of course, that downturn has begun to swing upwards. As of today, even McDonald's looks like a financial walk-in-the-park for several of us ...

Friday, August 24, 2012

How To Feel A Mental Burn

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Do you know why we spell 'love' with a silent 'e'? Because English words don't end in 'v'. Someone long ago started adding that non-nonchalant 'e' and the practice took hold. Centuries later, we don't give 'love' verses 'lov' a second thought. Sometimes, even not even love ... but that's another matter for romance novels and country songs.

You can doubt my tale. But remember that only a few years ago we had 'electronic mail'. Then we had 'e-mail'. Now, we banter across the Internet with our superior 'email'. Ah, the magic of the '100th monkey' effect.

Yesterday, my post assignment had the phrase "3d jigsaw puzzles to exercize your brain". After my first read of these keywords, my brain pulled a ham-string when it hit 'exercize' while anticipating 'exercise'. I wasn't expecting my mental working-out to hurt so much. Fortunately, after alerting my clients about the troublesome word, they corrected it to read: 3d jigsaw puzzles to exercise your brain. (The link takes you to a site that sells challenging 3-D puzzles, phonetic words not included.)

Yet, this is how words change. While we get inundated with a 'z' instead of an 's', we skip merrily down the road, and happily accepting "your" for "you're". All because of brains that rapidly adapt to survive the most ridiculous situations. With enough repeated onslaughts and social acceptance, even "there" becomes the norm for "their" and "they're". OMG!

"i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt."

Don't worry. School just started. That block quote will be on your kids' homework. Good luk! (or luc, depending upon the teacher.) I recommend some 3D puzzle while the pieces still fit together in a logical manner.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Planning for the future.

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I have several posts waiting in the wing - some humorous, a few poignant, most embarrassing attempts at writing. But I can't publish them. Not yet.

I'm about to take a writing class at the local community college. So, I'm going to need material for my homework assignments. Sorry.

And then I have to consider how some future posts will fulfill obligations to the content mill that still helps with my bills. Hopefully, we won't have to put up with that low paying silliness much longer.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My 1st Step into Publishing.

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I finally did it. I swallowed my pride, ignored my fear of looking like an idiot, overcame a debilitating desire to remain unknown. Then, I submitted my first article to Yahoo!'s contributor network. Today, they published it:
http://voices.yahoo.com/finding-comfort-food-spring-lake-nc-11645526.html?cat=8

The piece isn't much, embarrassingly so. Just a fond review of a good restaurant that these hard times may soon put out of business. But this article means a small victory over my fears and my procrastination. It is also an important step to one of my 2012 New Year's resolution - you know those grandiose goals we make on January 1st, only to give up on by January 2nd. I had resolved to learn the craft of writing and to make the results profitable.

While I am nowhere close to claiming that seductive title of success, at least I've finally taken that first step in that direction. Hopefully, I won't slide away and end up in the ditch of life's well-intentioned failures ...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

haters and 8'ers.

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At first, upper management of Microsoft demanded that their employees stop referring to their latest operating system as "Metro". Instead, those that want to keep their jobs were to use the name "Windows 8".

Now, the big bosses want the phrase "Modern UI Style" to grace the lips of computer users everywhere.

But already the lines have been drawn; the battle has begun. The "Windows 8" loyalists have resorted to name-calling and talking down to anyone who uses anything but the name "Windows 8".

What do you expect? 8'ers are always goin' to be 8'ing.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

The morals issues I have to deal with.

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Ok, I'm in a bit of a moral dilemma. So I ask you, my friends, what is worse: Doing donuts in the parking lot of a Krispy Kreme, or doing bagels in the parking lot of a synagogue?

Why does such a humble man have to wrestle with such philosophical battles?

Monday, August 06, 2012

Going for Gold.

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As of this moment, China has 61 medals and the United States has ... 61 medals! Not bad.

Of course, China's best athletes came from a crop of 1400 million people. United States pickings were out of a measly 300 million citizens. I think we can safely say that the US can brag based on statistics alone.

Yes, a silly argument. Sillier still is that, somewhere in the world, a lazy spectator sits on a couch, face full of food, watching the action. When a highly trained athlete only gets 4th place, our lard-butt has the audacity to call the Olympian "a loser".

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Word To Your Bad Self

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It was a muggy, sunny Sunday. Across the street, my neighbor loaded up the surf board rack on their car and headed out for the beach. The neighbor to my right stuffed their car's luggage rack full of suitcases and drove away for a vacation.

My neighbor to my left, well, he's a little different. He was providing the music at a wedding that day. So he stacked all of his sound equipment in his little Toyota. To transport his brother who is the DJ, he used the DJ Racks mounted on his car's roof.

In an odd way, this is smart thinking. You certainly don't want to lash your DJ directly to the car - that would scra-scra-scratch the paint. Definitely, a wic-a-wic-ked good idea.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

It's all in the words.

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According to OMG facts, a group of ravens is called an unkindness. A group of ferrets is called a business.

That would explain why a session of Congress is called a meeting of ravenous ferrets.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Seems Like Only Yesterday.

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I'm not that old. Yes, instead of twitter and blogging, we had to sit around and talk face-to-face, searching for those elusive answers to life. Yet, even then, it was hard to ignore the Google ads on our foreheads.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A WTF Saturday.

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Stepping outside, I began yesterday morning with: Why couldn't my car passengers take just a few minutes last night and close the car's door? Wait a minute! Why did they leave my car's truck slightly open?

Bewildering observations. Then a sudden realization. All followed by a sicken feeling in my stomach. I rushed around to the other side of my car and found, proudly saluting me, a raised gas tank cover. Someone had tampered with every car door, including the engine hood.

Inside the car, strewn across the passenger seat, sat the contents of the glove box. Yet, from that pile of lamps, fuses, gum, and state-required paperwork, nothing was missing. That's when my anguish turned into incredulous curiosity.

I frantically searched through my car, taking inventory. Yet, only a small, $15 FM transmitter, used to play my music on the car's radio, had been taken. Everything else was intact: audio cords, USB adapter, a traffic camera that I was testing for work. The gas tank guage still showed full. My tools and a power inverter remained safe in the truck. The battery from the engine compartment appeared untouched. The thief even left my spare change, mostly quarters, in the ashtray. Aside from my FM transmitter, my car wasn't attacked by a thief; it was ransacked by a practical joker.

I won't mind if someone broke into my house and stole all my dirt and trash. If only all thieves could be so pleasant. I would leave my doors unlock. I would wait as a child waits in hushed excitement for Santa Claus, full of hope that a thief would visit and steal my home clean. That would be a Christmas miracle! And we should all be so lucky.

So, why did some stranger break into my car? Instead of detailing the interior and washing the outside, they only left a mess.

So as my sphincter-tightening adventure ended for the day, I closed all the car doors and went for a spin. Then I stopped twirling around and drove my car. It ran fine. I felt better. Still a little violated, but better.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Coming to terms

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You have probably realized that much of Life is a gamble. Eating without choking. Driving without crashing. Listening to music without being Beiber-ized.

And then you have insurance companies trying to bet you that you are not going to die. Of course, we all know that you will win that bet. The downside - among many - is that you can't enjoy your winnings.

Yesterday, my insurance company up the ante as they raise the rates of my term insurance. I was expecting this. They fully disclosed the timing of rate hikes in the original term insurance quote. Like a poker game, the policy said, "When we see that you survived another decade, and, given that you'll be over 50, we'll rise the pot by another $50 a month".

So the game continues. I just can't believe that ten years has already slipped by. While I'm still ahead of a gamble, I really don't want to cash my chips in just yet. I have a few "rolls of bones" left in me.

The downside of speed reading.

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The Internet article read "Queen tours Olympic Park after debut as Bond Girl". But I read the headline too quickly. When I saw "Queen", I thought of her age, and read "... debut as Bond-o Girl". Oh! No wonder she looks to be in great shape! The healing power of bond-o! It fixes dents on cars and royalty.

But I wrong. Her majesty got to play the part of a Bond girl while appearing with the latest incarnation of James Bond: Daniel Craig. I'm not sure if I want to see the seductive murmuring of a bikini-clad, 86-year old woman. But she is the queen of England, and sometimes "it's good to be the queen".

Frantic Friday Fun

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On Friday, my work day drew to a close as it usually does: my boss bursting into my office at 3 PM with a frantic "I have something important that will only take a few moments for you to handle".

One of my wishes is to get assignments that actually take "only a few moments to handle". But Fridays consistently prove that my fairy godboss still isn't granting any wishes.

Actually, my gracious overload - sorry, my boss - had two "little somethings". The first concerned a device known as "accent lighting". Basically, a piece of fancy electronics that you attach to the bottom of your car door. When you open your door, these lights illuminate the ground so you don't trip getting into your car. These handy gadgets work even better at night. This cool accessory is extremely popular with the cool guys and their cool cars so they don't become clumsy oafs when with their cool dates.

The second crisis involved a trailer hitch module that I had worked on over five years ago. It would detect any obstacles behind your truck and warn you. My little baby would also shut itself off if you had your trailer attached - after all, who wants an annoying electronic device that constantly reminding you of your attached trailer. (Although, if you're going down the road and your trailer falls off, the sudden silence would be an excellent indication that you should pull over and watch the little adventure you just caused.)

With all modesty, I must humbly say that my trailer hitch design was great. It was going to revolutionize the trailer hitch accessories industry. Five years ago, it cost less than $40 to make. Yet, as great as my cheap work-of-art was, management killed the project. In their brilliant minds, the manufacturing cost for everything should be no more than $1. So, even though they planned to sell my baby for $90, the powers-that-be deemed that they wouldn't make enough profit.

My boss's crisis were, in fact, about the profit of his two "little somethings". His boss wanted a detailed report about how we would (not "if it was possible to") make the accent lighting device and the trailer module for a dream-world dollar. And he wanted the report by 5 PM.

I gently reminded my boss that even a small electronic project takes at least 2 weeks of proper research, design, and development work. He came back with, "How hard can it be to look up a few parts, and throw something on a piece of paper? We don't even have to worry about testing." Oh, that's right. I keep forgetting that we shouldn't worry about safety issues. After all, that's why we have customers.

He left after I told him I could give him a very, very rough estimation of the projects' details by Monday (free time during the weekend is highly over-rated anyway). An hour later he called my phone. "Don't worry about those projects," he said. "My boss decided we can get something from China in a couple of weeks." Great! For the past three years, we've had to re-engineer several boatloads of botched products from China. Those added costs never seem to make it into management's manufacturing reports.

Oh well. Just another Friday to make me feel secure in my employment. I feel so much safer too.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Writing For Peanuts?

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How much can freelance writers make? According to a couple of writers' blogs, competent freelancers should have no problem earning at least $1 a word. To me, this sounds promising for a career change.

For planning purposes, a work-year consists of 2080 hours. (Of course, as a salary-paid peon, I work closer to 3000 hours a year without any overtime.) So ... if I can create 100 sell-able words an hour during a "normal" year, that's a hefty pay raise to $208,000!

Ah, I can dream.

I say this because I visited a couple of popular work-for-hire sites. Their jobs offers expect you to be happy with a tenth of a penny per word. Yes, some jobs are much more generous with a penny per word, but even with those high payers, I still couldn't support my family of four on $2080 a year. Who can?

Well, someone must be. Those low-wage gigs have tons of people submitting proposals.

How is that possible? For one reason - the bulk of responses to these slave-wage jobs are from people in countries where you can live comfortably on pennies a day.

So how is $1 per word earning possible? Do you have to spend $0.99 a word looking for work? Or, do you just have to have lots of blackmail material on your prospective clients?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Careful What You Type.

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While Facebook monitors our chats for criminal activity, I won't let that stop my minions and me from our plans of world domination. No police force can stop us now. No military will prevent our crushing rule. No force will ... hang on a minute. There's someone knocking at my doo........

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A well-hinged post

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Today, my assigned challenge is to use the phrase "piano hinges". Originally, this long bearing attached pianos to their lids. However, piano manufacturers soon realized they had the blueprints upside down. After correcting that little oversight, builders began placing lids on finished pianos. Soon, the instrument went on to become quite popular - especially since everyone could now easily access the keyboard.

Today, piano hinges are used in many industries. For example, by high-strung carpenters to keep themselves in tune to their surroundings. Also, by stagehands during those intense dueling piano competitions where the competitors tended to become unhinged.

Surprisingly, this sturdy piece of hardware is also used by government contractors working hard to pad their overpriced projects. In fact, several of the military advanced jet fighter have piano hinges for that concert-hall, surround-sound experience that our pilots crave (when background music isn't available).

And, here's a little known fact that I just made up: did you know that Air Force One uses piano hinges, and not only in the plane's piano lounge? I didn't know that either until I read it … just now. Right here. Thanks for stopping by.

I need a fake ID and tattoos.

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Standing in line at the store today, I'm at that awkward age where I need a fake ID. Either I need to show that I'm younger than I am, or that I'm old enough for a senior citizen discount.

My girlfriend thinks I'm just being silly about our age. In fact, she is thinking about joining the crowd and getting a little ink added to her body - just a little something to make her hip and trendy and sophisticated. I suggested having the word "Gucci" tattooed under each of her eyes so she can walk around with a pair of designer bags.

You'll be happy to know that I regained consciousness shortly after that loving suggestion. If I keep make suggestions like that, I may need a fake ID from the "Witness Protection Program". Make that the "Witless Protection Program".

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Honest, this really happened

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The following actually happened a couple of days ago. It's taken me a little time for my bruised ego to heal so I could write about it ...

So there I sat, patiently waiting my turn. My attention focused on a woman's home-and-garden magazine as I read about the "6 ways to please your plant." (You never know when you might be married to a frustrated vegetable. And I've already gone through one marriage to a fruit cake. So I was preparing myself. As I climb that relationship ladder, I just might be able to move from the dessert section up to the plant kingdom in my quest to that top rung where a real woman awaits.)

So there I sat in the hair salon, waiting, reading, comfortable, when a flash of lightening stuck outside. Then, the usual boom of thunder and the flicker of electrical power. "Oh no!" shouted one of the hair stylists, "The air conditioner has stopped." A few minutes later, she announced further disastrous news, "The temperature has gone from 77 to 79! Call someone! Quick!" Knowing what could happen next, I buried my face deeper into the magazine.

All I wanted my hair cut. And by the same woman who has dealt with my mane for these past 15 years. Because she does such a good job, I've tried to keep my business with her at all costs. Even when the bad economy of a few years ago forced her to close her barber shop and move. Even when she set up a new business in this den of old, blue-haired ladies, highlighted gossip, and permanent drama that would curl your hair. And your lips.

So there I sat, reading, not as comfortable now, ignoring the commotion, and trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. Then my area became noticeably dimmer. One of the stylists - an immense gal with a butch haircut - stood in front of me, eclipsing the light. One of her chubby hands on her ample hip, her other hand - surrounded by charm bracelet charms of the Venus symbol, NOW letters, and an intimidating feminist logo squeezing the life out of a limp Mars symbol - pointed at me. The charms jangled in rhythm with the jiggle of her forearm's loose flesh. In a loud, accusatory voice, she said, "You're a man! What are YOU going to do about this?!"

I never felt so violated in all of my life (aside from that IRS audit). I just want to be loved for my brains, not for my brawn. (Ok, for my brawn, too.)

I stood up. Slowly. Around large, angry mammals, I know the importance of the "no sudden movement" rule. "I'll reset the circuit breaker," I said, avoiding eye contact. "This might reset the air conditioner. The lights will go off for a few seconds, but they should come back on." The other women silently nodded their approval as I strolled to the back room.

I flicked the breaker. Even with my warning, a woman screamed. "Maybe someone took advantage of the momentary darkness and use a pair of scissors in a merciful manner," I thought. But no. Upon returning, the only murderous act I found was some old lady's hair dyeing.

With mounting hysteria in her voice, another woman reported on our impending doom. "It's at 81 degrees now!" she said with the drama of a soap opera.

I opened the front of the shop just as the store owner from next door opened his entrance. "Is your A/C out?" I asked. With the brevity that only comes from the Y chromosome, he motioned with his chin, grunted "Yep", and surveyed the darkening sky.

A brilliant bolt of lightening interrupted our manly chat and killed all the power to the building. From the darkness behind me, I heard the wailing and cursing as the ensuing apocalypse stampeded towards the door, towards the fresh air, towards the beckoning daylight. I did what any gentleman would have done (and any one with a sense of self preservation), I quickly stepped aside.

So, finally, there I stood, uncomfortable, and rescheduled my appointment by the glow of a flickering cell phone. Of course, maybe a smarter man would consider a different time and place for a haircut that involves less drama - say, a trim using a high-powered fan and an electric weed-whacker. Maybe I could suggest this to my stylist and ask her to come to my house. I wonder if she likes vegetables.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

stupid birthday card selections ...

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Dear Friend,

Happy 55th birthday! I'm sorry I didn't give you a celebratory card. When I went shopping, the birthday card aisle had "happy 48", then "happy 49", followed by "get well", and "sympathy". Since I've crossed that half century mark myself, I left store rather discouraged.

Given the card selection, I hope to see you next year ...

Cars, Guns, and Money

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My Nissan Stanza Wagon served me well for 13 years. Then one day, after 405,000 miles of faithful service, it refused to go any further. So I shot it.

Sorry, just kidding. Besides, the town has ordinances against its citizens shooting defenseless vehicles. That's why we have a police force who love target practice on unarmed cars. (That story is for a later post.)

No, I turned my Nissan over to a car donation service and bought a new Hyundai Tiburon, a venerable win-win: I had new car AND a tax write-off for the year.

Now after 11 years of equally faithful service, my Tiburon is becoming a little cranky about being used. You would think that after 307,000 miles, the car would be broke-IN and not break-ING. But that's the difference a "G" makes, and I need several G's to pay for some upcoming, costly repairs.

Of course, for many more G's, I could get a new car. I also understand that souls in hell want a drink of cool water, but that's not going to happen either.

Stay tuned ...

Friday, July 06, 2012

Haunted By My Failures.

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Once upon a time, I planned to become very wealthy with my artworks. Not the "Vince Van Gogh" wealth where I have to die first. That would make paying my bills while alive very difficult. No, I wanted to focus on the "Thomas Kinkade" road-to-riches. All he did was create a few whimsical scenes of dusk surrounding well-lit homes inhabited by people without concern over their electric bills. Mr. Kinkade has such an appealing niche - even electric companies would buy his creations for their greetings cards to send to their customers. "Merry Christmas! Look how comfy and inviting this home is with the heat on high and the lights all lit up. This could be you! Think about it this happy season. Love, your Power Company"

So, all I had to do was to fill a niche and easy money would be within my reach. Just a few specialized paintings for a few special people - those with more money than sense. I picked a marketing nook: the popular trend of sparkly vampires and the supernatural spirits.

My first composition showed nothing more than a dimly lit room with a few pieces of dusty furniture. I called it "A Family Gathering of Happy Ghosts".

Apparently, only ghosts enjoyed the canvas because not a living souls said a word. I then realized my rookie mistake - the public gets excited by titillating works posing as art.

So I made my second painting more risque: a dimly lit room with a large, drab covered bed and a few old, dingy chairs around it. I called this master piece "Still Life of Nude Ghosts".

Again, not a word from the community. Not even a mention in any hoity-toity art magazines.

But of course not. Obviously, I wasn't being hip or modern enough. No one cares about ghosts these days.

So my third, most ambitious mural showed a dull doorway opened to, you guessed it, a dimly lit room that held a large mirror on the wall. I labeled this wonderful work "Nude Woman Vampire Admiring Herself In A Mirror". To make it even more daring, I added a voyeuristic aspect by framing the canvas in the shape of a keyhole.

Again, not so much as a boo from anyone. Had I stupefied my potential patrons into excessive awe? No. I finally realized why my brilliant works would never reach the popularity they deserve: my paintings were too realistic.

And maybe the rooms were too dimly lit ... by Kinkade standards, anyway.

in training, sort of

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Does anyone know how long you need to wait between sets of a workout routine? Is 10 years too long?

It's not that bad. I haven't completely rested during this time. I did a little lifting during these past 10 years. You probably know that those fine, hand-rolled cigars weigh several ounces. So while one of my arms curled that fine stogie between my mouth and the ashtray, my other arm hoisted a heavy mug of ale repeatedly from the table to my ever-so-thirsty palette. Both of those heavenly items as full-bodied as I am … now.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Andy Griffith was the last straw.

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What is going on?! Listen, you guys - you know who you are, such as Richard Dawson, Ray Bradbury, Bob Welch, Doc Watson, Robin Gibb, Donna Summer, Vidal Sassoon, Maurice Sendak, George Lindsey, Adam Yauch, Dick Clark, Andy Rooney, Mike Wallace, Thomas Kinkade, Michael Hossack, Patrice O'Neal, Ronnie Montrose, David Jones, Etta James, and now Andy Griffith - this is too much! What kind of example are you trying to set for the us? Get rich, famous, and then kick the bucket? What kind of role models are you trying to be?

I must say with the deepest respect and sincerity: Stop it! I know that life tends to take its toll. Heaven knows there are many a day that I can barely drag myself out of bed. But, good grief! You seem to forget that many of us are working hard to achieve your kind of success. What good is it if you guys people keep trading your fame and fortune for an eternal dirt nap?

What if the rest of us decide to do the same? "I think I'll give up my hamburger flipping job today and die." Ok, bad example. No, wait. It's a good example. We go to our flippin' jobs because we hope our hard work will pay off into a better life - like what you famous folks have ... and had.

So could the rest of you admirable heroes be so kind as to please refrain from dying? That might give the rest of us mortals some hope. Thank you!

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Mr. Know-It-All explains the Supreme Court ruling.

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I know some of you are confused about the recent Supreme Court ruling on the health care law. But let's see if Mr. Know-It-All can help. Since he only has few minutes, we could only get brief answers to a few important questions:

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Q: What does individual mandate mean?

A: The Supreme Court has confirmed what we already knew: a single man has the constitutional right to ask any woman on a date. He can ask her on a man date repeatedly, if necessary. The health coverage part comes into play if she slugs him or resorts to mace. Hopefully, he has insurance.

Of course, Mr. Know-It-All is just kidding. This complicated high-court decision is based on the legal definition of the key word, "individual", which is Latin for "what is the loneliest number in whole wide world."

Thus, one man can date himself without any fears or repercussions as he sits by himself at that table of shame in the restaurant. And so, constitutionally, as long as our single guy is healthy enough to sob quietly into his beer as he pretends to read a book, no one has to care and no one has to pay for his meal. (At least, not until universal restaurant care goes into effect.)

The issue of group man dates - such as going to baseball games with the fellas, hunting with your best-est buds, or wearing blacks robe together at work - will be taken up by the Supreme Court after their wives let them out of the house. Assuming that the women justices are ready to allow the men and their shenanigans back into court.

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Q: I can't afford the "affordable" medical premiums, and I can't afford the fine for not buying insurance. Do I have any other options?

A: Yes, you can get elected to Congress. Not only will you then be exempt from this and many other laws, you can then retire with full pension for life after 4 short years. What better deal than to make rules for others that you don't have to live by, AND get paid forever!

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Q: How many new doctors will the healthcare provision add?

A: Zero. However, we will see about 16,000 new IRS agents, who are rumored to also act as a proctologists. Or as hemorrhoids. Painful either way, unless you become a member of Congress.

==========================

Stay tuned for more questions and answers ...

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Thanks for the visit.

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It's 1:40 in the afternoon on this last day of the month and only 18 page-views away from the 500 mark.

I'm completely surprised how my visitors numbers soared after writing a silly review on a pizza product review and from blogging support a new book by an almost famous writer.

Of course, I have no illusion about this blog gaining fame and fortune. Who am I kidding? This blog is as visible as Kermit the Frog working on the movie set with green screens. I'm here, but where am I? "Adapt, Adopt, and Improve" is my play area and it shows. Hence, the lack of repeat visitors and comments.

So, as June passes by as an unexpected blip of popularity, who knows what July will be. No matter what happens, I just want thank you for visiting.

UPDATE: As of midnight: 502 hits and visitors.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Am I A Hottie, Baby?

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I'm sweating to the oldies. That's right, the summer heat is in full solar nuclear bloom, the air conditioner is broke, and "I love Lucy " is on the TV.

The outside is at a record-breaking 40 degrees centigrade; or, as I prefer to call it, 104 degrees F! The "F" also stands for "Fahrenheit".

Thursday, June 28, 2012

It started as such a quiet day

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Have you ever been in the solemn silence of a church or in a hushed auditorium just as a someone gently steps up to the podium? Then you know the thrill caused by a misbehaving sound system unexpectedly feeding back into the microphone. The resulting squeal has been known to take the curl out of many a fine hairdo, and elicit a surprising swear word or two from an otherwise peaceful person.

As a handy tool for today's musical prankster, this simple phenomenon is called feedback. Because feedback is a straightforward process, you don't have to have expensive, high-quality equipment to pull off this gag. Sure, you could buy EVH Amplifiers, and Sennheiser dynamic microphones. But, for a little more excitement with your joke, stick with the really cheap electronics – those made with duct tape, rusty wires, and glue strips. In fact, you don't even have to spend a dime to liven up your afternoon.

Start by casually walking into your local music shop. While no one is looking, connect a cheap guitar and low grade speaker to a bottom-of-the-line amplifier. Next, build another system, but use a microphone in place of the guitar. With the amps off, have the volumes knobs cranked to maximum.

Now the fun begins. Arrange the equipment by placing the microphone from the second group in front of a speaker from the first group. Repeatedly add speaker->amplifier->microphone groups with the microphone in front of the previous speaker and build your chain as long as you can.

Finally, with the prep work all done, turn on the electronics and rest. You've certainly earned it! Relax while you wait for some unsuspecting soul to pickup the guitar and strum.

One strum is all it will take to set off this Rube Goldberg chain of over stimulated sound. If you're lucky, only the store windows will blow out. However, if the amplifiers are extremely cheap, the howling noise will abruptly stop. Don't worry, the next sound to follow will be sizzling pops along with pretty sparks and rock concert-like smoke as the cheap components self-destruct.

At this point, you should quietly leave the store. While the store owner and the firemen will, no doubt, be laughing themselves silly over your little shenanigans, this is a good time to practice humility. There will be time enough to claim the credit due to you when the police arrive at your home.

Congratulations!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

fantasy versus reality.

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With all the chaotic stories on TV, I just want to make sure we all understand the difference between fiction and nonfiction. An recent example of fiction would be "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter", while a recent example of nonfiction would be "John Edwards: Rielle Hunter".

Just so we're clear.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hooray for our side … Almost.

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I consider myself very fortunate to be living in this great age of human inventions – from the spectacular achievement of space travel to the insignificant triumph of the ShamWow.

Of course, just because we invent something, doesn't mean that the problem is solved. It's an amazing accomplishment that humankind has invented age-defying facial cream. At the same time, you probably notice that gravity has yet to lose its battle.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

too soon or not soon enough?

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After being found guilty, I heard that Jerry Sandusky quickly cancelled his victory party at Chuck E Cheese.