May 31, 2006

Cub Scout Camp

What a great time Camp Lindblad was. It's a cub scout family camp where the boys can participate in crafts, woodworking, archery, first aid, nature hikes, and campfire skits. The counselors are terrific people who interact really well with the kids. All in all, a great time.

I have known peripherally about the controversy over the Boy Scouts' homophobic policies. In a nutshell, there are two Boy Scout policies with which I disagree:

  • Scout leaders must believe in God. Agnostics don't count. That is, if you're agnostic, you can't be a scout leader at any level.
  • Neither scouts nor scout leaders may be homosexual. The policy does not mention homosexuals per se but does say that scouts and leaders must be "morally straight," and BSA makes it quite clear that homosexuality does not fall within the boundaries of moral straightness.
The FAQ on the policies can be found here.

Now, I entirely 100% without misgiving support BSA's right as a private organization to set their own policies. I do not feel they should be compelled to accept athiests or homosexuals any more than they should be compelled to accept sheep or goats. These policies, however, deeply offend my sensibilities... to the point that I frequently consider removing my kids from scouting because of them.

Scouting ends up being so much fun most of the time, though, that I keep the kids in it and hope they continue with it. They do learn many useful skills and leadership qualities, and I feel that the homophobic, discriminatory, small-minded, paranoid policies of the BSA organization can be overcome with patient and wise parenting and an inclusive and diverse approach to life.

May 25, 2006

Thereby Hangs A Tale

The first issue of Thereby Hangs A Tale is due out some time in June. You all should subscribe because my first published story will be in their first issue.

May 24, 2006

moving right along

I have had enough of the previous entry's title occupying the top of my page. Bad dharma.

So here is something fluffy: Although I think Taylor will win Idol, I want Katherine to win. That said, I would be more likely to buy Taylor's album than Katherine's, and I've enjoyed Taylor's performances more. But that's because I like KFOG, which is more his style. McPhee is more in line with the other pop divas that are so popular these days. I do love her effortless, crystal voice. And she's hecka cute.

I officially hate someone now

If you'd asked me a few days ago whether I hated anyone, I'd think about George W Bush for a bit but then say, no, I don't think I hate anyone. Even George has the country's best interests at heart, though I thoroughly disagree with his methods. Today, though, I officially hate someone.

I officially hate the Richardsons who now own the property where my wife grew up, 1171 Camino Tassajara in Danville, CA. They believe my father-in-law lied to them about a sewer line in his back yard. In my opinion--and I knew the man for over fifteen years--he would never lie about something like that. He would go well out of his way to point out any known flaw in any item he wanted to sell. He was the epitome of honest and forthright. But the Richardsons, when they found that they had not done their homework regarding an extension they wanted to build on to the house after they bought it, decided they needed to blame someone else for their disappointment.

Who better to attack than the bereaved widow?

That's right: my father-in-law passed away from pancreatic cancer less than two months after the Richardsons bought the house. He was in steep decline shortly after the sale contract was signed, and he died just two weeks after moving out of the house. So the Richardsons had a lawyer send his widow a nastygram threatening a $250,000 lawsuit if she didn't fork over $85,000 within two weeks. Of course, we acquired our own lawyer (expensive retainer) and gently reminded them that according to the sale agreement, they were supposed to offer mediation before lawsuit. We then did our homework and found out that both of their claims in the nastygram were wrong: although they said they "knew" my father-in-law knew about the sewer line, I don't think he understood that it was a "main" requiring disclosure. Also, they claimed the existing addition to the house which was done in the mid 70s was "illegal." In fact, the addition had fully approved permits and was entirely legal even though it sat over the sewer main that is in the back yard.

The Richardsons also knew about the sewer line within days of their sale agreement because they had a company come to clean it out. They certainly should bear some responsibility for not doing their own homework to find out more about it vis a vis their expansion plans.

All this culminated in the mediation, which took place on Monday. My mother-in-law ended up paying them a significant chunk of money because they were dead-set on going to court, and she had had her fill of anxiety, pain, and suffering. The Richardsons feel they were lied to. Those who knew my father-in-law know that he would not have lied about something like that. At the time he filled out the disclosure form, he was on heavy chemotherapy and was sleeping sixteen hours a day. The Richardsons, in choosing to attack his grieving widow, have earned my lasting enmity. They think they were wronged. I disagree and think they are the ones who have wronged someone. In my opinion, they extorted a significant portion of her very small retirement fund.

The Richardsons have torn down the entire house that used to stand at 1171 Camino Tassajara in Danville, California. They plan to build a larger, new house in its place. I would say I hope they're happy there, but really I can't say that because I don't hope it. I hope they're very unhappy there, that every time they drive up to the property they think about how they used lawyers and intimidation and strongarming to squeeze a little bit of money out of a grieving widow. The money she gave them is a huge portion of her life savings but a very small amount compared to what the Richardsons paid for the house and are no doubt shelling out for its complete demolition and reconstruction.

I do not like officially hating someone. It is not something to which I aspire. But I will do it if someone earns it.

May 14, 2006

MLB vs Idol

Steroids or voting scandal? Petulant, whiny prima donnas who play a game for millions a year, or overeager amateurs trying to win a recording contract?

I'll be in Denver this week attending the United Way's annual leadership conference. It's a terrific conference, with great speakers. The dillemma is on Tuesday night.

I am attending as both an advisory council member and a Gold Sponsor. The advisory council has group tickets to Tuesday's Dodgers v Rockies game and is a fun group to go out with. The Gold Sponsors have tickets to a sky box for the same game. But then I'd have to miss American Idol.

I can't explain why I like Idol so much. I'm not a freak about it--I never vote, I don't read the web site, I don't really care who wins. But I really like the show. When I was in college, I tried out for the UC Men's Octet even though I'd never had any singing lessons, voice coaching, or anything like that. They gave me two chances. The first time, I sang in the wrong key. The second time, I sang quite well but ended with the melody instead of the harmony line I was supposed to sing. Fortunately, they had a dozen other hopefuls, most of whom sang really well. Anyway, they were nice and gracious and didn't make fun of me. And I'm glad I tried... and I'm really glad they held the auditions in a closed session instead of in front of FOX's TV cameras.

On the other side, I can't exactly explain why I despise major league baseball. OK, yes I can. The game is boring. Ticket prices are astronomical, as are prices for food, parking, souvenirs, merchandise, etc. The players make far too much money. Free agency has robbed the game of any consistency of rosters for more than about six months at a time. And at this time of year, besides a few column-inches and a photo or two of the NBA and NHL playoffs, baseball gets the entire sports section. I am mostly ignoring the whole steroids hullaballoo because I mostly try to ignore the entire sport anyway. Add to this the fact that Little League turns normal parents into crazy bitches from hell this time of year and that if your little boy doesn't play little league everyone thinks you're gay, communist, or a devil-worshipper (or that your little boy is "special needs"), and I think I know exactly why I hate the "sport."

So, my dillemma: Do I stay in the hotel room and watch Idol and try to get some revision in on my novel, or do I go out with the gang and pump up the machine with United Way's money, or do I go to the sky box to be a good corporate drone and get the red carpet treatment?

Decisions, decisions.

May 11, 2006


Rejected again. And this one was actually a good story.

The best part is that with the rejection letter (in the envelope I paid for, I self-addressed, and I stamped), the editor was nice enough to include a subscription card. Not a card saying I was getting a free subscription. A card asking me to send them some money because, well, it would be my duty as a writer to subscribe to their magazine because they make the world a better place. (I'm paraphrasing here, but that was the message on the card.)

Imagine you're a 17-year-old boy who has never really been on a date before, and you're dying to go to the prom yet terrified of asking someone. Finally you get up the courage. You ask that smart girl, the one who seems a little quiet but is cute in her own way. She says, "Thanks for asking, but I've got so many boys asking me that I have to reject 99% of them. But you could rent a limo and pick us up and drive us to the dance. That would be nice."

As if.

May 10, 2006

dooh nibor goes to Washington

The Senate just extended some tax cuts for another few years (pending agreement by the House and signature from Bush). The result is a reduction of federal revenue by $70 billion. This year's deficit is projected at $300 billion already, and I'm not even sure whether that includes the next $60 billion Bush will request as an "emergency" procurement outside the budget to support the troops slogging it out in Iraq.

The benefits this cut to the AMT and dividend taxes provides? Quoting today's Washington Post article:

Middle-income households would receive an average tax cut of $20 from the agreement, according to the joint Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, while 0.02 percent of households with incomes over $1 million would receive average tax cuts of $42,000.
Whoopie. What's in it for me is about twenty bucks. What's in it for poor people is about... nothing. Oh, that's right, all those rich people getting their $42,000 back will create jobs with that extra cash! So the economy will keep getting stronger!

I am consistently baffled by our government. Why don't they do something about the exorbitant costs of health care and the nation's addiction to oil instead? Weren't those two of Bush's biggest priorities? Instead, we get tax cuts for the rich and amendments to the constitution codifying discrimination against homosexual citizens.


May 8, 2006

they like me! they really like me!

Quite unexpectedly, I won my soccer team's MVP award this year. Now, most years I self-delusionally think I deserve it more than whatever guy that wins it, but this year I thought I was only 4th or 5th best. After the votes were tallied, it appeared that my teammates thought different. So that was nice.

May 5, 2006

whose side is God on, anyway

This [link] may determine the answer once and for all. Though I think a tournament would have been more appropriate.

evil editor opines on brevity

I have become a quick fan of two publishing-related blogs recently. One, Miss Snark, led me to the other, Evil Editor.

Evil Editor had a Q & A post the other day that discussed the difficulties of summarizing an 80,000-word book down into one or two paragraphs for a query letter. (It could be noted here that my book's first draft took me 35 days to complete at 72,000 words. My first query letter took 14 days and is less than a page.)

Here is what EE said about the plot distillation process:

Your ability to distill your entire book into one brief paragraph is admirable. Your literary heroes, no doubt, are screenplay log line writers, who describe a two-hour film in one sentence. But don't forget about title writers. The complete essence of Frank Herbert's 500-page story of political, environmental and economic intrigue is conveyed in the simple word Dune. Stephen King outdid Herbert by half with It. Among the greatest plot distillers in literary history was the guy who determined that only one m needed to be stamped on the side of an m & m. Janice Delaney's legendary query for her history of menstruation entitled The Curse, consisted of a blank sheet of paper with a period in the center. (This used half as much ink as the previous record, the query for Dr. Jensen's Guide to Better Bowel Care, which was, of course, a colon.)
And here are a few other choice quotations about brevity:
Brevity is the soul of wit.
-- William Shakespeare

Much wisdom often goes with brevity of speech.
-- Sophocles

Can do thirty pages in two days. Need thirty days to do two pages.
-- attributed to Mark Twain, in a note to his editor

I am sorry I wrote you a four-page letter; I did not have time to write a one-page letter.
-- I do not know, but one web site attributes it to George Bernard Shaw

May 1, 2006

2,400 and counting

It's worth a reminder.