January 28, 2007

sweep! sweet!

Last Thursday night was our Cub Scout pack's Pinewood Derby. The scouts, with varying levels of help from parents, create pine cars of certain dimensions and weight, then race them. It is a lot of fun. This was Ethan's fourth year and Sam's first.

Unfortunately for them, their father has neither the patience or the skill to make really fast pine cars. You have to grind down the axels, get the weight exactly at 5.0 ounces, reduce the wind resistance, etc., etc. Just a lot of work that a 10-year-old has little patience for. And if he's not doing the work, then I'm not doing it for him.

Fortunately for them, the race committee also offers awards for best design (craftsmanship) and best design (originality). Part of the fun is to see the cars--many are exquisitely crafted and beautifully painted, glossed and sanded to a high sheen. Since their dad does not, however, have the patience to make a fast car, it follows that the dad also has little patience for creating beautifully crafted works of art.

Thank God we have originality as an option.

This year Ethan earned his second trophy for "most original design" for his PodRacer. Ethan's a Star Wars nut, and Episode One is his second favorite episode, even though it sucks. He also received his very first iPod for Christmas this year, so when I suggested a PodRacer with an iPod theme, he was all over it and designed the car you see pictured here.

In Sam's first year, the competition was a little easer. A Tiger Cub, Sam mostly had to compete against dads who had never been to a Pinewood Derby before and therefore were unaware of the Tiger Division's originality award. When I suggested to Sam that he do more of an art project for his car, he came up with the idea for The Campsite, and we had a lot of fun building it together. Getting the little Elmer's Glue marshmallows on the ends of the sticks was tricky but seems to have worked.

So it was a clean sweep--most original design trophies in both categories. Pretty sweet.

January 25, 2007

thursday thirteen (#3)

Thirteen Songs I'd Be Embarrased to Admit Are On My PDA
  1. "The Sign" by Ace of Base
  2. "With a Little Luck" by Wings
  3. "Hot Blooded" by Foreigner
  4. "Down Under" by Men At Work
  5. "It Can Happen" by Yes
  6. "Walk This Way" by Aerosmith
  7. "Intuition" by Jewel
  8. "Altamira Elegy" by Leda Atomica
  9. "Big C" by the University of California Marching Band
  10. "Tom Sawyer" by Rush
  11. "Hot Legs" by Rod Stewart
  12. "Feelin' Groovy" by Simon & Garfunkel
  13. "Bat Out of Hell" by Meatloaf

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

January 21, 2007

did I win yet?

Vote for me.

Click here and rate my chapter a "ten." Or don't. Actually, I don't much care. The Gather contest is well underway, and they have over 200 entries, I think. My chapter currently has a rating of 4.5 out of 10, and readers have been courteous enough to leave four somewhat helpful comments. I admit disappointment in the points total, but as I said earlier: I don't much care.

The voting and scoring really is a popularity contest for the most part. I entered because (a) it was free and (b) 25% of the manuscripts that move on are selected by the editorial panel, not by the vote totals. I certainly did not enter to get votes. I'm not sure anyone I know is even registered on Gather.

Anyway, if you are registered and would like to see my score go above 4.5, go to this page and vote: My Gather Contest Entry: Jumping The Stream

I'm off to Minneapolis in the morning for a turnaround business trip. It is the first step on my road through work hell over the coming few months. I am hoping I can continue to make progress on Forced Air during that time, but it's not looking hopeful.

January 18, 2007

thursday thirteen (#2)

Thirteen Quotations About Writing
  1. Writing, at its best, is a lonely life.
    Ernest Hemingway
  2. Writing [for the novelist] is not an activity, but a condition. That is why one simply can’t resume the work when one has a job and a free half-day.
    Robert Musil
  3. Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing.
    Norman Mailer
  4. The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.
    John Steinbeck
  5. Sometimes I think [my writing] sounds like I walked out of the room and left the typewriter running.
    Gene Fowler
  6. I always start writing with a clean piece of paper and a dirty mind.
    Patrick Dennis
  7. No stile of writing is so delightful as that which is all pith, which never omits a necessary word, nor uses an unnecessary one.
    Thomas Jefferson
  8. In writing and politicking, it’s best not to think about it, just do it.
    Gore Vidal
  9. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows, that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention.
    George Orwell
  10. Writing stopped being fun when I discovered the difference between good writing and bad and, even more terrifying, the difference between it and true art. And after that, the whip came down.
    Truman Capote
  11. The writing of a poem is like a child throwing stones into a mineshaft. You compose first, then you listen for the reverberation.
    James Fenton
  12. Writing is the only thing that, when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.
    Gloria Steinem
  13. Planning to write is not writing. Outlining … researching … talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.
    E L Doctorow

And, as a bonus, a revival of a post I made some time ago related to Evil Editor's remarks on brevity in writing.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

January 17, 2007


Sunday had a chill, which for Walnut Creek means about fifty degrees. The tiger cubs (cub scouts) were playing hide and seek in the playground, when for some reason I looked straight up into the blue-blue sky and saw this:

I had never seen a rainbow straight above in the middle of a blue sky before. One of the other scout dads thought it was due to ice crystals high up in the atmosphere. Whatever caused it, I have to say it was amazing to see, and brilliant in both its brightness and richness of color.

Writing Update
Yesterday I sent Jumping The Stream to Gather's First Chapters competition. Although my submission has not yet made it up to the site, I see there are already 61 entries posted. I am not going to campaign for votes or encourage people to sign up for Gather just to vote for my novel. Feel free if you want to do so, however. After it gets posted, which should be within the next few days.

January 11, 2007

Candles on a Cold Night

I joined my first peace rally tonight, with M and the boys. I'd say about 250 or 300 people showed up, held candles, sang songs. We walked among the crosses on the hill and talked about what the memorial was about, what it meant that Americans were dying in Iraq, and what some of the signs and slogans meant. We listened to a woman talk lovingly about a young man whose photo was pasted to a cross. We marveled at the number of crosses (1,300) and then marveled that the actual body count is well north of twice that. We wondered what a large drawing of an eagle's head meant pasted on one of the crosses.

I am happy to say that although I suspect the politics of the crowd leaned somewhat anti-Bush, this was a peace rally, not an anti-Bush rally or even an anti-war rally. The talk and songs were about peace. When a driver passing by yelled "F**k Bush," the response was tepid. I think the mood was definitely pro-peace without a lot of politics rolled in.

Here are the pics:

thursday thirteen (#1)

Thirteen Places I've Been
  1. Finland (Helsinki and Tampere)
  2. Japan (Tokyo)
  3. Germany (Frankfurt, Munich, and Hannover)
  4. England (London, York, Stratford-Upon-Avon, etc.)
  5. Scotland (Dumbarton and Edinburgh)
  6. Portugal (Lisbon and Evora)
  7. Mexico (Tijuana and Cabo San Lucas)
  8. Canada (Nova Scotia)
  9. France (Paris)
  10. Austria (Salzburg and Vienna)
  11. Continental USA (AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, DC, FL, GA, IL, ME, MD, MA, MN, NV, NH, NJ, NY, NC, OR, PA, RI, SC, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA, WI)
  12. Hawaii, USA (Kauai)
  13. ... and I flew over the North Pole when I went to Finland. I guess that counts.
Most of those trips were paid for by one of the companies I worked for. I no longer travel overseas for work, though I've been all over the country for conferences recently. Every trip was fun. Some brief memories from some of them:
  • Evora, Portugal: On the "outing" day arranged by our host, we toured this historic town and rode in hot-air balloons over the farmland and countryside. We huddled in a little farm shack when the rain hit, waiting for our chase car.
  • Hannover, Germany: My first overseas trip for work, and although I made it all the way to Hannover, my luggage enjoyed an overnight in London. It was snowing when we arrived, and I had no coat, no shaving kit... basically nothing. Great parties at CeBIT, though... Annika, Heidi, and the other girl whose name I don't remember. Plus the beer hall at the CeBIT center. Enormous. Thousands of people singing some song about Alice ("Alice! Who the f*** is Alice?") along with an oompa band. Priceless.
  • Tokyo, Japan: Our corporate liaison grew up in Japan. He went to college in North Carolina. We went to a restaurant with him that had no pictures on the menu. His translations went something like this: "I think that says 'chicken.' And that one definitely has an egg in it. This one... I don't know." Tokyo is the most foreign place I've ever been. In other countries at least I could attempt to sound out the words.
  • Tampere, Finland: A seasoned world traveler by this time, I arrived in Tampere with no Finnish money. Silly me: I had assumed that the Tampere airport would have an exchange booth. It did, but the booth was closed that day. The girl in the coffee shop could not help me, but the taxi driver was happy to take US dollars. Everyone I met spoke English. Finland and Wisconsin look a lot alike to me, when you get outside the city. In Tampere, I enjoyed a true Finnish sauna with a coworker, taking breaks to jump in the lake. In Finland, a true Finnish sauna entails no clothing. Unfortunately, the coworker was male. (Side note: When I was there, the rage was TexMex. Finnish TexMex is not a cuisine experience to be sought out on purpose.)
  • York, England: I love this city. I'm not entirely sure why, but I do. One thing I don't love about it is the Jorvic (pronounced "yor'-vik") Viking Museum. Oh, it had some neat things about it, but it really was incredibly cheesy.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

January 8, 2007

oh, so now I know

You Should Be a Film Writer
  • You don't just create compelling stories, you see them as clearly as a movie in your mind.
  • You have a knack for details and dialogue. You can really make a character come to life.
  • Chances are, you enjoy creating all types of stories. The joy is in the storytelling.
  • And nothing would please you more than millions of people seeing your story on the big screen!

January 7, 2007


mallapropism: an incorrect price tag on an item in a store

There is an email going around crediting the Washington Post with a contest that challenges the entrants to take any word from the dictionary, create a new word by adding, subtracting, or changing a single letter, and supply a definition for that new word. Although I can not find any reference to this on the Washington Post's web site, I'm willing to believe the attribution. Below are the 2006 winners, according to the email that's going around like a flu virus in a day care center:

Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.
Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an asshole.
Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The Bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.
Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.
Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
Glibido: All talk and no action.
Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating

Finally, some contributions to the list from me (not submitted to the contest):
meducation: self-diagnosis of fatal diseases by use of Google
poutside: where children are taken when they're being naughty in a restaurant
relinquash: to give a whining child the toy they want in order to get some peace and quiet
cornsider: to go into the cornfield to set 'n' ponder a while
harboor: the sailor who doesn't know proper sailing etiquette
iconfusion: not understanding what all those darned little pictures on the computer mean
vergitarian: someone who has almost decided to stop eating meat

(Yes, that first one, mallapropism, is mine as well.)

January 6, 2007

poetry and religion

A haiku I wrote.
Magnetic poetry rocks.
Blogging makes it so.

I think I got religion today [link]. I mean, how can you argue with the idea that the supreme being is a Flying Spaghetti Moster? Bonus: Heaven includes beer volcanoes as far as the eye can see, plus a stripper factory. And you get to call yourself a Pastafarian.

And all this time I thought religion was at the stem, if not the root, of all evil perpetuated in the world. Well, OK, maybe that's a bit harsh, but... well... yanno.

May you be touched by His Noodly Appendage.

January 5, 2007

aging sucks

After years of good health, I'm now besieged by niggling imperfections. I've been to the doctor's office three times in two months (OK, once was an annual physical), which is one more time than in the past six years. Worst, it's affecting my exercise. I'm off the soccer pitch for at least another two months with this knee thing, and I missed half of the season with foot and groin injuries. Good thing I got my MVP last year.

Another way aging sucks is that I can't keep up any more. Grownups used to joke about getting their seven-year-olds to program their VCRs. I'm not a total Luddite, I suppose, but in the last fifteen minutes I stumbled upon two different blogging memes (what a poetically constructed word for its meaning and for the blogosphere) that left me, like going to the skate park, both eager to participate and terrified that I might break my neck if I try.

Who has time to participate?

On the other hand, I gained a minor victory for being lampooned on another popular blog. An anonymous coward posted a satirical set of comments, including one from me. I'm terribly flattered. It means I've become recognizable at least one place in the blogosphere. That's enough for now; I'm sure, however, that everything will keep flowing past me at increasing speed until one day I'll find I'm asking my seven-year-old to program my new cell phone.

Aging sucks.

Writing Update
I have completed the first draft of my synopsis of Forced Air, though I must knock it down from six pages to five for the PNWA contest. I've got a good hook, and I've revised the first few pages to the point I think they're almost readable. I am hoping that in another week I'll have my PNWA entry ready for critique. If you're interested in critiquing it, let me know.