January 28, 2009

haiku wednesday - January 28, 2009

This week's words are

Three words that create a satisfyingly twisted dissonance. This one's going to be tricky. Hmm.

caress my ego
your ruthless love and kindness
sooth my jagged heart

ouch! your jagged nails
turn caress into cat scratch
stop, you ruthless fiend

love's jagged fringe lures
role-play ruthless drill sergeant
caress my rifle

January 27, 2009

Rabbit Hole Day

The southin winds come shiftering
while whistlin' we go walking
among the wildly trepand trees
with branches thick and strocking.

Our path meanders at our feet,
through roots and clathish clay,
and gramley worms caress the leaves
above, this starkling day.

Come now with me to Sparrow Brook,
its feltish water softing,
and sit with me upon its bank
with honeysuckle wafting.

The ice has cracked and melted free
and washed away to sea,
and left this fluorious, fine Spring day
to us--just you and me.

January 25, 2009

New RC plane

Sam bought this aero scout today. It's cool, but the propeller breaks too easily!

January 24, 2009

Yet another trophy for the Dudley boys

The big event of the year at our cub scout pack--verily, in most cub scout packs around the country--is the annual Pinewood Derby. Each scout gets to carve his own little car from a 6-inch by two-inch (or thereabouts) block of wood. There are quite a few rules, and some families go nuts trying to make their car just that much faster than the others. Races are often determined by just a few thousandths of a second.

When I was a boy, I was in cub scouts for a total of about three months, and I hated every minute of it except

  • the time a litter of kittens was born at the house of our surly, reluctant den mother, and
  • the time we took a behind-the-scenes tour of our local McDonald's and all got green milkshakes.
The straw that broke this camel's back and made me leave cub scouts forever was the Pinewood Derby. I seem to remember that about an hour before the competition, my older brother gave me his pocket knife and told me to whittle it into a car. I think I managed not to get blood on anything. I was what, seven years old?

I seem to remember gluing the wheels to the body, but that might not be what happened. Regardless, race time came and I had what was a block of wood with wheels that didn't turn very well. The edges were a little rounded at least. I don't remember even painting it. My car was put on the track with the three others in my heat, the race began, and... my car never reached the finish line. I think it made it all the way down the hill but not much farther.

The night ended early for me, with a lot of tears.

Fast forward thirty years when my oldest son, seven years old, is handed his first Pinewood Derby kit. He was excited. I was terrified. In 8th grade I managed to saw and pound together a few boards into a passable enough tool box to get a B in wood shop. I knew many of the dads in my son's cub scout pack were in construction or spent their leisure time making ornate custom cabinetry and pimping out their Camrys and BMWs. So they knew cars, and they knew woodworking.

I knew Perl and SQL.

This was not going to go well, I could tell. After a brief debate with my wife wherein I argued that Ethan could do every bit as well with power tools as I could, she prevailed and I hacked away. My stroke of genius was to leave it rough (having no skill, it really was my only option) so that it looked like Ethan had built it. He painted it himself, so the illusion was complete.

His car did not finish last in every heat. It actually got one 3rd place (out of four) and three 4th place finishes. But it finished, which was the great thing. During the awards ceremony, though, I learned that our pack did something amazing: they gave awards for design (quality of workmanship) and originality as well as for winning the races.

The next year, our path was clear. To win the design/workmanship trophy, skill was required. So that was right out. To win the races with speed, patience was required. Forget that. But originality--that was right up my alley.

Ethan's aircraft carrier car (we did the pack's first overnight aboard the USS Hornet the previous spring) won first place in originality, and our first Pinewood Derby trophy came home.

The next year the pressure was on for real, though, when Ethan's little brother joined the pack. No doubt he would be crushed if he didn't also get a trophy. So we set to work.

Sam agreed to create a campsite scene on a flat car. It seemed very scout-oriented, and he was able to do much of the painting and gluing himself. For Ethan, who had just gotten his first iPod and totally loved Star Wars episode 1, we settled on a "pod racer." This was a simple car design with what looked like an iPod in the driver's seat, with some old ear buds glued on.

The Dudley boys swept the originality trophies that year, taking first and second place.

Last year we won nothing. We had two losers--Ethan went for speed, and Sam did a landscape of our house (or something like it).

(Yes, those are cinnamon graham letter cookies spelling out "pinewood cars.")

This year, Ethan had moved on to Boy Scouts, and Sam decided to go for originality again. After some protracted brainstorming, we settled on a guitar car. The basic design came out just fine, but it was an insanely slow car. But what could I do? I was traveling a lot and barely had time to make the cuts. Sam sanded and painted it himself. And won 2nd place in the originality category again. Here he is holding his trophy on Thursday night, while I was in Atlanta and unable to attend the race.

So now both Dudley boys have two originality trophies from our pinewood derby. Since our pack gets about 50 cars entered each year, I think that's a pretty good track record (get it? track record? ha, ha!). Unfortunately, Sam still has two more years of the Pinewood Derby. Maybe next year I'll retire and he can do the whole thing himself. I'll just give him some glue and a pocket knife an hour or two before the race.

January 22, 2009

Mark at the Chattahoochie

I am sure it's spelled wrong, but there you go.

If I weren't married...

If I weren't married with kids, I would so totally become a groupie for Emma Anzai.

You can't really hear the song too well on this clip. It's an awesome song, though. It's called "Howard's Tale." Here it is in a playlist.com play list:

Get a playlist!
Standalone player
Get Ringtones

January 21, 2009

haiku wednesday - January 21, 2009

This week's words are

The post-inauguration edition! Yay! I love the word cadence.

humble silence breaks
fingernails rap loud cadence
my resolve tested

smug bitch ain't humble
tight-assed stair stepper cadence
I resolve revenge

firing squad cadence
keeps me humble in my cell
resolve to escape

January 20, 2009

Did I win yet?

Apparently, Jason Evans liked my story.

Thank you, Jason--not only for selecting mine over some exceedingly worthy entries, but for putting up prizes, taking days and days (and days) out of your life to set it up and collect entries by email and post them and read them, and for commenting on each and every entry. It is truly a labor of love and an Herculean effort.

Other friends who placed included JaneyV, McKoala, Aerin, Precie, and Laughingwolf. Other friends who entered include Jana, Ello, and Lissa. I apologize if I missed mentioning you--please comment if you entered and I didn't put your name here! Congratulations to everyone who entered, especially to those who placed. 125 entries is a good body of competition.

See you tomorrow for Haiku Wednesday.

Funniest Onion Article Ever

Friend Jim posted this link on his Facebook page. Since it was the Onion, I followed. It's probably the funnies Onion article I've ever read, and yes that's saying something significant.

Bush speech in 2001

I normally don't post just links to other places, but this was too good to pass up on inauguration day.

January 14, 2009

haiku wednesday - January 14, 2009

This week's words are

Three words with a sort of similar sound to them.

their sunlight forfeit
saplings entwine, strive upward
a dark forest tryst

email chains entwine
forever loves now forfeit
tryst left them empty

forfeit sight and sound
a tryst of touch, taste only
our bodies entwine

January 13, 2009

Random Complexity (Aerin's Challenge)

Aerin at In Search of Giants is hosting a writer’s challenge to foster inspiration and community. It's pretty low-pressure: 1000 words a month. At the end of the year, you'll have a total of 12,000 words, which is not even half a NaNo entry. Go here to sign up!

UPDATE as of May 6, 2009: I was informed that the artist who created the original graphic that was provided for Aerin's writing challenge has popped up and sent a cease and desist letter to Aerin. I couldn't really care as I really thought the graphic ugly to begin with, but since I thought my friend Aerin had created it, I kept my mouth shut. The above graphic is most definitely NOT the graphic in question; the offending graphic has been removed, and this one put in its place. Does it violate someone's copyright? Hmm. Prove it.

Jason Evans' writing contest -- My Entry

You still have a day (update on Jan 14: TODAY!) or so to enter Jason Evans' tenth writing contest. 250 words or fewer, inspired by the photo on his blog. Get the details and read the other 80 entries here.

I have just now sent in my entry. After Jason puts it up, I will edit this post to indicate the number of the entry and include a link to it on his site. For now, you can amuse yourself by (a) visiting the link above and reading the 80 existing entries, and (b) reading my submission below.

Update on Jan 14: My entry is #90.

The photo that is used as the base for the story, shown here, was provided by Jason.

by Peter Dudley

I’m tired. I look at my skinny, motionless fingers in my lap, the black nail polish. The quivering is only in my mind. Orlando knows about the shakes. He still gets them sometimes, and the desperate sweats, too. “It’s like running up the down escalator, Dicey,” he said. “You can’t ever stop.” Cigarettes help, but never enough. He would want me to call.

I shouldn’t be here, sitting with this old Trader Joe’s bag lady waiting for the number 52. My skin prickles, billions of tiny needles, with every thump of my heart. The 52 is late as always. Just like a year ago when Shade picked me up and took me to that party where I got high for the first time. Shade calls me a lot these days, but I don’t answer even though I want to.

Shade’s black Acura slithers up, its thumping music driving my pulse. The window slides down. “Hey Dicey.” Flash of pearls and gold in his smile. “Hop in, girl.”

I stand and take one step, dizzy in desire and need. The door swings out, opened by someone inside, unseen. A promise of painless bliss entices me, but I know Hell awaits. I glance at the bag lady. Her shriveled pomegranate face looks tired, and scared.

I step back up on the curb and shake my head. “Two months sober, Shade.” My steady fingers dial Orlando as I start climbing that escalator again.

January 8, 2009

My first ever fiction payment

Probably not what you thought... I actually have been paid for three short stories in recent years and also some nonfiction, but my first-ever payment for fiction (and poetry) was waaaayyyy back in college. I happened to receive my check and contributor copies while my mother was visiting, so she made me pose with it. I'm glad now she did. Who has a photo of their first fiction payment?

This was for a poem and short story that appeared in a publication called "The Missing Link," which was the 1988 version of the UC Berkeley Engineer's Week publication. I don't know if they still do this or not, but it was your garden variety fiction and poetry literary one-shot magazine... with the addition of technical papers, engineering cartoons, and things like that. 1988 was the first year they opened it up to all students at Cal. I was in the Engineering school anyway, so had I known about it I could have submitted the prior year as well. I also got a short story (much better than the 1988 story) and poem into the 1989 version as well, but I don't recall getting paid for that. At left is the cover of the 1988 issue; below is a scan of my poem that appeared in the 1988 version. Hey, I was only 20 at the time, I think.

January 7, 2009

haiku wednesday - January 7, 2009

This week's words are

Intriguing words today. Possibly more appropriate for an election year, but really they're a timeless combination.

darkness--panic grips
deception expertly laid
surprise birthday scheme

she's just an old friend
no deception, no scheme here
can't soothe your panic

make them panic, fear
lies, deception, and untruths
our war scheme won't fail

January 3, 2009

More Vermont Photos

I finally retrieved the power cable for my camera and was able to transfer the photos to my laptop. I have only a few. I should have taken more of the inside of the beautifully redone, 160-year-old farmhouse and barn. It's got five bedrooms, and although it doesn't have a spacious feel, its coziness is more than comfortable and never feels cramped. Except when you're trying to fit 13 people at the dining table and have to use two wing chairs to complete the seating. Then it's a little tight.

First, way back before we even got to Connecticut, Captain Mike let my boys into the cockpit for a tour. Ethan (the tall one) got to change an indicator light bulb and program the autopilot. Sam (the short one) got to sit in the pilot's chair but didn't touch anything. It was way cool for both of them.

When we got to Vermont, the weather was mostly gray and overcast, and there was already over a foot of snow on the ground. The weather warmed up and actually rained one day--it was over fifty degrees when we had most of our snowball fights. The sunny pictures below are on the day we left, when it was only 20 degrees but beautifully clear and decidedly gusty.

Looking up the road from the driveway. Yes, it's a dirt road.

Looking down the road from across the street. Still a dirt road.

The boys resting after one of our many epic snowball battles.

He's about to throw that across the pond at me, but there's no way he could make it from there. The pond extends back behind him and is formed by a dam out of frame to my left. The pond was frozen over enough to walk across, but we did not ice skate. It wasn't THAT safe.

Standing at the top of our sledding hill (which slopes down to the right), looking back at the barn and the house. The pond is behind me about 50 yards.

Uncle helps Sam get snow out of his boot and then retie them tighter. With trees and a stream at the bottom of the sledding hill, we do a lot of bailing out at high speed. Snow tends to find its way inside garments.

Just the back of the house, one more time. The windowless section is the back of the garage. In the summer, the meadow is hip-high in grasses and wildflowers and various Vemont things. The neighbor mows part of it with his tractor (my parents do not live here full time). The smallish tree right near the house is some sort of apple, and it attracts deer. Although we did not see any, we saw tracks left during the night.