According to icasualties.org.
June 28, 2008
Update: This picture email from my phone did not include any Verizon spam text! I don't know when they made this change or if it's an anomaly or if they heard the voice of the consumer revolt (yes, many people tell me I'm revolting). But no spam text. Life is good.
June 26, 2008
June 25, 2008
they can't shake my faith in you
just a rumor, dear
buildings crumble, levees break
rumor that God's mad
rumor that I'm Dull Dan
I can be spontaneous!
Let's go shake it, girl
June 24, 2008
This week's Ten on Tuesday theme is "10 inventions that have made life easier." I tried to stay away from the obvious like "the internet" and "google." After all, is "being able to do more work in less time" really making life easier? Or is it just making us do more work in less time?
- The ball point pen. Thank goodness we don't have to use quills any more.
- Flush toilets. Though I'm guessing they wouldn't be nearly as useful without the sewer system attached.
- Sunglasses. Now I can check out all the babes at the pool without getting caught.
- Rhyming dictionaries. How do you think I come up with some of my poems?
- Pockets. Gives you some place to put your hands when people are looking at you and you're nervous.
- FastTrak open road tolling. Has reduced the drive to grandma's from 35 minutes to 20.
- Crumple zones. Without them, my family and I might have been really really hurt.
- Ladders. Without them, my roof would be covered with frisbees.
- Wrinkle-free fabrics. I love love love love LOVE not having to iron pants any more.
- Vacuum cleaners. There is no more efficient way to scare the shit out of a cat.
Make yours @ BigHugeLabs.com
But I have been to 60% (30 out of 50) of the US states. I will probably get to Iowa for work one day soon, and I need to get to Alaska at some point. The rest... well, unless one of my very good friends moves there or there's a business reason to go, it's probably not gonna happen.
Make yours @ BigHugeLabs.com
By the way, I did not count states in which I'd only transferred planes at an airport. If I'd counted those, I could have added four more (Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Tennessee).
June 23, 2008
I'm ready for our campout, I've got everything I need.
With just this twenty-five pound pack, I'm well prepared, indeed.
I've got my tent and sleeping bag, a camping stove and fuel,
and when we reach the camp today I'll cook us up some gruel.
Some extra socks I've tucked away in case these ones get wet,
a first aid kit, my pocket knife, a flashlight... I'm all set.
I see you've packed your things up, too. I see you've brought a lot.
A flashlight and a sleeping bag, a chair and fold-up cot.
Umbrellas for the rainy days, a fan for when it's hot.
a kettle for a cup of tea, a fancy coffee pot.
Binoculars and camera too. In case we see a bear?
And extra shoes--are those high heels? Ah, yes, I see two pair.
Shampoo and your conditioner, blow dryer for your hair--
We're hiking in the woods, my dear. You'll plug that thing in... where?
Alarm clock, cell phone, iPod, books, a portable TV?
I thought we were to be alone, just nature, you, and me?
And DVDs to play at night--a chick flick trilogy?
You left the fondue set at home, preferring to bring brie
and serve it on the crystal plate you got at Tiffany?
Some Lysol and Febreeze because the tent smells mildewy?
The Allies didn't bring this much when they stormed Normandy!
We're camping in the woods, sweetheart! This is just lunacy!
All right, my dear, don't get upset, I didn't mean to shout.
You've got a little extra stuff. We'll take a few things out.
These extra pots and pans I think that we could do without,
and when do you think you'll find time to make fresh sauerkraut?
Now now, my dear, please don't be sad, there's just no need to pout.
It's just that I was trained to pack much lighter, as a scout.
What do you mean, my attitude has put our love in doubt?
Why would you say that I've become some awful, lousy lout?
I'm sorry, sweet, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings so.
If you don't want to sleep outside, then we don't have to go.
Of COURSE I want to go on a romantic trip with you!
But it could be to a resort, a campsite, an igloo.
The only place I want to be is where you are, my dove.
Just give me one more chance to prove I'm worthy of your love.
One of my writing goals for 2008 is to write at least one light verse or poem every week in addition to my haiku wednesday and fiction friday posts. I will try to do this on Mondays.
June 19, 2008
Robin S has cast the gauntlet, and I'd be fool indeed not to rise to her challenge, as others have done. I chose to read some of my own work, a poem called "be it resolved" about Laura Tiffany Tate McSmother, which I wrote earlier this year. The grainy, dark video is crappy at best, and the sound sucks, but at least I look like a bum. (For those of you who are endlessly interested in my hat, you will see that it is on backwards. I did this to allow the light onto my face, but it turns out I probably should have kept it on straight. And also worn a paper bag. But that might have killed the sound altogether. Which, come to think of it, would have been a double bonus.)
be it resolved
Laura Tiffany Tate McSmother
had it in for her little brother.
She'd punch one arm and then the other
and run away when he'd tell mother.
Oh, She was cruel and she was sly.
She'd pull his hair and make him cry,
then pour Tabasco in his eye,
and whisper "Joey, Mamma hopes you die."
When Christmas time approached this year,
and Santa asked if she'd been dear,
she said, "You bet your big, fat rear,"
and grinned all toothy, ear to ear.
But Santa must have seen her soul
cuz in her stocking he left coal.
She wept into her breakfast bowl
and vowed herself a New Year's Goal.
"I won't set Joey's hair afire
or call my little brother 'liar'
or wrap him up in fishing wire
or tie him to the pickup's tire.
I won't paint his favorite teddy green
or switch his juice for gasoline
or force him to eat lima beans...
I will no longer act so mean!
I will be kind, I will be sweet!
I'll say hello to those I meet.
And I won't stomp on Joey's feet.
My resolution is complete."
On New Years Day she tried, she did.
She really, really, really, really,
really, really, really did.
It helped a lot that Joey hid.
By nine a.m. she'd tried to smother
her incessantly annoying brother,
and lied about it to her mother.
Poor Laura Tiffany Tate McSmother.
June 18, 2008
Some very smart and humorous bloggers have begun a new blog called Book Roast, where relatively unknown authors can be found discussing their books with anyone who wants to connect with them.
This is exciting to me not only because I count these bloggers among my friends (even though I've never met them in person) but because it's an exciting step into what I think the future looks like for authors. Last week over at Nathan Bransford's blog, there were three days of lively discussion on how epublishing and ereaders and ebooks (god, how I hate these eterms, but they get the job done I guess) will affect the print publishing industry.
There is much angst and gnashing of teeth in the print publishing industry now. Steve Jobs says people don't read any more. The Kindle is gaining a small but loyal following. Energy prices and environmental concerns are driving hard costs up. Borders has reported financial difficulty. Independent booksellers seem to be disappearing at an alarming rate (at least in my region).
That's why the publishing industry is scared. But they should be scared for many other reasons as well. Rampant globalization is pressuring language barriers, and the internet is spreading information faster than print can keep up. Asia may be a big driver as their economic might increases and they skip a huge print industry and go straight to electronic formats as battery and solar and low-energy technology improves. Publishers, squeezed tighter and tighter, are doing less to publicize new books, forcing authors to be their own publicists.
All these things, I think, are conspiring to change, in a fundamental way, the act of authoring and selling books. The change will likely be subtle, over a decade or two, but it's already coming. And Book Roast is one of those signs that some authors are morphing with the market already. Book Roast should be encouraged and fostered, and we should all be interested in how it works out over time. Although it's not "the new model," I think it is, in a small way, what Salon.com was to magazines when the world wide web first caught fire (not literally, of course).
Anyway, go visit!
This week's words are
Thanks again to bone for the intriguing words. I especially like "someday" because the company I work for, Wells Fargo, is having a contest called Someday Stories. You could win $100,000 for your story of what your someday plans are. More on that some day later. On to 3WW!
someday I'll open
a frequent flier account.
airline's gone bankrupt?
taxi door, open
frequent gunshots crack the night
someday, rain will come
frequent pleas for love
open up to me someday
bee asks of flower
June 17, 2008
I haven't done Ten on Tuesday in a very long time but decided I'd give it a whirl again. This week's theme is "10 favorite moments in your country's history."
As I was compiling my list, I had to think hard about many important events that clearly changed history but which I would have to say didn't fit what I would want my "favorites" to be. In the end, I selected ten dates on which acts of humanity or innovation were realized. That is what I want the essence of the USA to be, and that is what people around the world want the USA to be. Somewhere recently we've lost our way among reality TV, gas prices, Girls Gone Wild, unrivaled military might, and the definition of "is." So thanks, Yano, for giving us a topic that reminds us of some good things we've accomplished in history. These are listed in no particular order.
- July 20, 1969: First human steps on the moon
This is such an achievement of technology, innovation, perseverance, and sheer arrogance that it has to be among the greatest achievements of humankind ever. The amount of coordination, planning, vision, and work this took is simply astounding.
- August 18, 1920: 19th amendment ratified, extending Women's suffrage
It's hard now to imagine that women at one time were not allowed to vote in this country. Ludicrous, right? But it was less than 100 years ago that Congress finally granted women the right to vote. This year we nearly selected our first woman presidential candidate.
- November 16, 1981: The day Luke married Laura
This is the coveted "guest appearance" slot in my top ten; I had to select from many hopeful entries. I was in high school and had no idea who Luke and Laura were, but every girl in my school was, like, totally obsessed with their wedding. Over 30 million viewers tuned in to watch this episode of a frickin' soap opera. Although I'm no television history expert, I see this event as an indicator of some kind. Maybe the eventual downfall of the free world, or perhaps the Apocalypse.
- July 4, 1776: The day the Continental Congress declared independence
This is the only criminal act of treason on my top 10 list. I decided I would pick only one event from this period despite the fact that I could have easily selected ten, some of which were also criminal acts. The Boston Tea Party. Patrick Henry's famous speech. The battle of Bunker Hill. The victory at Yorktown. Ratification of the Constitution. The list could go on and on.
- December 6, 1865: 13th amendment ratified, abolishing slavery
How is it possible that anyone could ever justify, within their own conscience, the atrocity of slavery?
- 1959: Invention of the microchip
In 1957, the editor of business books for Prentice Hall predicted, "I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year." How could he know that two years later the foundation of nearly all of today's technology would be invented?
- January, 1848: Gold discovered at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California
There is no telling how California would have grown or stagnated without the Gold Rush. Certainly, San Francisco would not today be the diverse, vibrant, crazy place it is today without the explosive, uncontrolled, totally unorganic growth in the 1850s.
- 1879: Thomas Edison perfects the light bulb
I had always thought Edison invented the light bulb, but he actually bought a patent and then spent an ungodly amount of effort researching and perfecting it. When I found out the original inventors of the technique weren't even American, I almost removed this from my list. But I kept it in because of the way Edison achieved his 1200 hour light bulb: through sheer effort and dogged determination. It illustrates one of my favorite quotations of his: "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
- May 10, 1869: Transcontinental railroad completed
Probably a huge number of atrocities were perpetrated on the laborers who made this happen, but it still brought together the entire nation and allowed uninterrupted train travel from one ocean to the other.
- December 17, 1903: Wright Brothers fly at Kitty Hawk
Flight was being attempted all over the world, but Orville and Wilbur made the first powered flight of a record 59 seconds over nearly 900 feet on this day.
June 15, 2008
Before we went to Tilden Park for our short hike and visit to the Little Farm and ride on the steam train, we went to see Kung Fu Panda. Go. See. This. It's a hilarious and very well done movie, appropriate for pretty much any age kid and every bit as good as any other animated film in the last couple of years.
June 12, 2008
On a whim, I checked google analytics to see how people get to this place. I already discussed the keywords that bring people here, though it's worth mentioning that Hayden has shot up nearly to the top of the list. Remarkable. Anyway, among referrer links, I found Blogless Troll was top of the list, followed by bone's 3WW site, then Jane. Thanks, guys! (you can't see me, but I'm waving. really.)
Then, next on the list was Network World. A little (very little) investigation later, I found that my rant against Verizon's photo mail spam inserts was featured in Network World's Blog Buzz on May 12th. That mention was good for 29 visits! Three of those people even viewed one additional page.
This is, of course, entirely irrelevant to my ultimate goal of having my novels published, but I still think I should say "thank you" to Paul McNamara. Thanks, Paul! (If you stop by to read this, just drop a "hi" comment on me.)
BTW, this appears to be my week for fame. I got a front-page shout-out on Nathan Bransford's blog during the Great Discussion of The Future of All Publishing. Which has helped me learn a tremendous amount. (Not necessarily reading the comments, but thinking critically about the questions in order to formulate my own opinions.)
June 11, 2008
It's the end of school time. And you know what that means.
It means that it's time for my annual almost-get-run-over-by-an-SUV moment in the school crosswalk. Ladies and gentlemen, the last two weeks of school is when you need to be extra defensive and pay extra attention to the rules. I saw a little girl almost get killed yesterday when her parents were in such a hurry that they had her run across the street through traffic. Now, I'm usually in favor of a little chlorine in the gene pool, but I really didn't want to see cute little Jenny splattered across the street.
But the end of school also means ridiculous graduation ceremonies for children too small to know how many syllables are in the word "graduation." (Many high schoolers also don't know, but that's a different rant.) What is the point, exactly, of a kindergarten graduation? A coworker told me today that their school has a full cap and gown graduation ceremony, complete with a procession across the stage, for kids moving from kindergarten to first grade.
Am I the only one who thinks this is a little over the top? (By which I mean flippin' insane.) Families should definitely celebrate successful promotion by their children, but really, are our kids now so dumb that we have to throw a Times Square gala for not getting kicked out? And what about the occasional kid who doesn't get promoted? The kid whose parents realized they put their little four-year-old genius into kindergarten one year too early, then woke up one day to become Good Parents and Do The Right Thing by having Junior repeat kindergarten? Does Junior participate in this farcical lunacy? Does he "graduate" back into kindergarten?
I give a little more leeway for the 5th grade "promotion ceremony" going on at my kid's school today, but only a little. At least in this case, the kids are moving from the small, safe environment of the local elementary school into the mean, raw, integrated environment of the local middle school. Plus, there's no cap and gown. But then I heard that parents are planning big parties with graduation gifts. I assume that these gifts span the gamut from a new iPod to a new laptop. Surely Aunt Josie will spring for the savings bond.
I am all in favor of celebrating accomplishment. Just the other day I defended giving medals or trophies to all participants on little kid sports teams. And families should have a special dinner or something, maybe a pool party with some school friends, to mark the successful completion of another school year.
But get a grip, America. Not even I'm a big enough Bush hater to think this is what our country's (mis)leader meant by "No Child Left Behind."
Do other countries engage in this mass lunacy? Is it yet another manufactured holiday perpetrated by Hallmark? And what the hell is up with pink for girls and baby blue for boys in that photo? Institutionalizing subtle gender bias.
give me back my key
take your dizzy slut with you
here's change for the bus
key jingles with change
you escape without my name
dizzy hotel tryst
time to change drivers
dizzy win for Obama
now take key from Bush
June 9, 2008
A fellow blogger I greatly admire and also now greatly fear, Ello, posted a most excellent rant about the bad sportsmanship a soccer mom showed at a game recently. Many readers commented on the dilution of competitiveness in kids' sports these days and how it's dragging society down into the depths of mediocrity.
I say fie, mediocrity is not being created on the soccer pitch in the under-10 leagues. It's not even being created by the "everybody gets a trophy" attitude for nine year olds. Sports can teach our kids so much, if done the right way, but what lessons, and at what ages?
My coaching has been in recreational leagues, which fits my style. Both the Under-9 boys and the Over-30 mens team I've coached have ended up the same--mediocre win/loss records. But I always had nearly full attendance and at the end of the year everyone always commented how much fun it had been. I also played on and saw teams with much better win percentages where, by the end of the season, attendance had dwindled and players grumbled. As a coach of recreational teams, I believe that if you pay your money and you show up, you get equal playing time, outcome of the game be damned.
And here's my rant: The under-10 boys league I coach in has a very strict policy that the league determines rosters and that coaches and parents are not allowed to specify what teams or players they want. Pretty much every communication from the league emphasizes this, and it's clearly emblazoned in the registration materials.
But last year in the U-9s, one dad created a new team out of our elementary school and literally handed his roster to the league. With two exceptions, he got an entire roster of the biggest, fastest, strongest, most skilled players. His roster was loaded. Another coach was livid and complained a blue streak to no avail. I just rolled my eyes, took the kids I was given, and resolved to give them the best coaching I could while ensuring they had fun all year, win or lose.
Um, we lost. Mostly. A lot. In the end, all the kids got medals for coming in fourth in the bottom division tournament (that means they came in 10th out of 12). A reward for mediocrity? Not in my view. It's a keepsake for a year full of fun. At the end of the year, one of the least athletic boys who started the season pretty lame at soccer, told his mom that when he grew up he wanted to be either a marine biologist or a professional soccer player. There's little doubt which he's more likely to become, but still I think that's an indicator that our season was a huge success.
But during the season, we played that stacked team, and although we lost 7 to 1, I felt sorry for the kids on the other team. Our league has a "good sportsmanship" rule that says if you win by more than six goals, you actually lose three points in the standings. So, when we played this stacked team, they got their six goals in the first half. In the second half, their coach had to keep the goalie and three of the seven field players inside the defensive 18 yard box so they wouldn't be so dominant. So, while my kids were playing hard and having fun trying their best, those kids were bored. They might as well have been on the bench.
But the coaches actually were happy with the game. They actually thought the victory was the important thing. And I just shake my head and wonder why. My kids came off the field tired and happy and ready for their snack and gatorade, knowing they got blown out but by the afternoon not a one of them cared. What they remembered was their one good pass, their one good tackle, their one shot that was almost a goal. (Which, of course, it wasn't anywhere near being.)
There are times when winning is the only important thing. When the best participate and the rest watch. When losing hurts so bad you want to kick the dog (but don't, of course, because kicking dogs is to be frowned upon). But when kids are 8 years old... No. Absolutely not. The only thing that matters (besides no injuries) is that everyone be allowed to have fun.
June 8, 2008
This is all five of the kids we took with us to Six Flags, playing with a Walrus that is much bigger in person than it looks in those National Geographic videos. I took this photo because I liked the silhouette look.
These are my kids in front of the brand new Tony Hawk coaster at Six Flags in Vallejo. It was a great day, and that's a fun ride. I think I like Medusa better, but this one was worth the short wait (about 20 minutes, the longest line at the park on Sunday except for the water rafting ride at about 3 p.m., which looked like it was 45 minutes).
June 4, 2008
This week's words are
It's tough to write 5-7-5 haiku when you have to use a five-syllable word. I had a little trouble with "deny" combined with these words because denial isn't just a negative response but a refusal or a withholding, which implies a bit more active conflict. When eight of your 17 syllables are determined for you, well... I have to smile and can't deny that it can get uncomfortable! I think these are the hardest words yet. For me, anyway. But still, thanks to bone for the challenge!
smile and deny it
who did move my cheese?
fake jumbotron smile
crowd is uncomfortable
you'll deny my love?
crack a pained, red smile
why deny Prep-H?
June 3, 2008
So I cruised to cnn.com and saw the images below with their headline, and my first thought was this: "Who gets to pick which photos to display?"
OK, the photo of Obama looking happy and triumphant, even dare we say presidential... sure. No-brainer. But who decided on the photo of Clinton? Let's forget for the moment that they chose to leave her name from the headline and refer to her in a context of "she's not doing what she should be doing." Let's forget Dr. Lynette Long's claim that CNN is a bunch of chauvinists. (Dr. Long has not yet replied to my email, btw.)
These pictures are worth well more than 2,000 words. I mean, look at the Senator on the right. Face downcast. Eyes closed. A total look of "I've just been beat, but I have to keep my composure" on her face. My guess is there's a photo editor at cnn.com that's been holding on to this one for just this occasion. But who has that job? It's a job that has a huge amount of subtle power to it, the power to create context and connotation, to define an entire personality or event, to bias a reader in ways the reader is unlikely even to notice, let alone understand.
Even though the photo is, in truth, just one instant out of thousands in Clinton's day, the chosen image becomes what she is for millions of cnn.com readers. When they think of Clinton, that image will come to mind. And someone at cnn.com chose it over an image that displayed confidence, cheerfulness, courage, and, dare we say, presidentialness? (Presidentiality? Whatever.)
Every day I become more convinced that Media Literacy should be a required part of the public school curriculum no later than 6th grade, and continuing through high school. People should be aware of how they are being manipulated.
(PS for full disclosure: I've become an Obama supporter in the past few months, but I'd happily vote for Clinton in November if she had won instead.)
June 2, 2008
I have car camped and boat camped scores of times in recent years, but I have not been backpack camping since I was about 13 years old and I went with my brother and his college buddies into the White Mountains of New Hampshire, starting with Mt. Washington. In fact, I haven't owned a real backpack in nearly twenty years. But this weekend my 11-year-old son (newly entered into Boy Scouts) and I joined his troop on a trek into the Sunol Regional Wilderness for an overnight campout [google map].
It was only three miles in to the camp site, but the weather was in the high 60s or low 70s, and 2.5 of the 3 miles were on a gravel access road and very easy walking. Now, my 11 year old is maybe 80 pounds, fully clothed and soaking wet, and his pack was 25 to 30 pounds. Here he is, having the scout master help rearrange some things on his pack:
The Sunol Wilderness is only about 20 minutes from downtown San Jose, but once you leave the highway it turns into wilderness pretty quickly. This bridge, where my son took a slanted photo of me, is where you leave the parking lot and hike into the open space.
The road winds along the riverbed (which was nearly dry) for about two miles, and we only saw a few other day hikers on the way in. Along the way there are gates and grates in the roadway to keep cattle from roaming where they shouldn't. We actually passed a group of about 20 cows lying in the shade, watching us without much interest. After turning off the road, the path led uphill (pretty steep) for about another half mile, then struck straight up a steep hill with some switchbacks for the last tenth of a mile. Here, the older boys took the younger kids' packs, which was a great idea I thought.
At one point the path wound through a meadow of tall, dried grasses (for obvious reasons, fires were prohibited), and the view from the campsite over the valley really was something to enjoy. This is just 40 miles from downtown San Francisco, 40 miles from downtown Oakland, and 30 miles from downtown San Jose.
Except for the fact that we were on the direct approach to Oakland Airport on the route from Denver (I've flown it many times), you'd never know we were that close to three of the biggest cities in California. The campsite was one of three in the general area (the others were about 200 yards away), and we shared an untreated water source (we had filters to clean it). The photo above is actually during teardown on Sunday morning, about 8 a.m., only ten minutes or so after the sun came up over the ridge.
The highlight of the trip was having a buck wander nearby, just grazing under some of the oaks. It was pretty large, and it had a velvety rack. I have no experience with bucks--I don't hunt and have no idea how to tell how young or old it was. But it didn't seem too concerned that the boys, particularly my son, approached it. They got within about 15 yards, I'd guess, and it just meandered off a little further. I didn't have my camera (fortunately, one of the scouts did).
Kind of an odd feature along the hike is the "W Tree." See if you can guess why they call it that:
Surprisingly, I am not too sore, though Sunday afternoon these old bones felt pretty exhausted. My son managed the heavy pack and long hike like an old pro, though we both learned a lot about how to pack, how to cook while backpacking, the type of equipment to use, and how wonderful it is to get out into nature and just be together, even if you're not doing anything but listening to the birds and feeling the breeze come up through the grass.
PS: Did I mention I did all this with a broken toe? Don't tell my doctor. She said no soccer for six weeks, but she didn't say no hiking in the wilderness.