Showing posts with label shorts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shorts. Show all posts

Saturday, August 17, 2019

All the right things, in three parts. Item three.

Back in 1996, I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. The whole world was one big crazy snarl and I couldn’t figure any of it out.
One day, a coworker handed me a simple wooden puzzle. She got it from a vending machine and once it was dissembled, she could not get it back together.
It was so simple, I don’t know how she didn’t see the answer. I reassembled it and she pulled it apart as we talked. That little puzzle was passed back and forth between us, a dozen time or more as we talked.
It was so simple. Hold these pieces gently, like so, and the last piece tied it together. Pass it back, she pulled that piece and the whole thing came apart again.
23 years later, 18 of them married and it all works exactly as it did all those years ago. Kitty takes it apart and I put it together as we talk. I pull it apart and Kitty puts back together as we talk.
I have no idea where that little wooden puzzle went, but it works just the same.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Eulogy of Perception

When turned 11 or 12, my little sister gave me a hamster for my birthday. Over the years, he had a dozen different names. The last one was "Herman Vermin", from a very warped comic book I can't recall the name of.

I never got into the crazy cage thing, he lived in a glass tank his whole life. But I held him every night. I'd sit reading this or that comic book, while the hamster scurried around. He was really well behaved and hardly chewed the corners of the comics.

On a long holiday weekend, Herman started acting funny. Slow, tired. He wasn't looking good. All of my friends and family were away. I didn't have anyone to ask for advice. I took him to the vet. It was the first time I had ever taken a pet to the veterinarian. It was hard.

The guy asked what the problem was and I told him that Herman looked sick.

He examined Herman and said: "It's old age. They don't live so long. I think it's time for you to say goodbye."

I really didn't want to say goodbye. I held him for a long time before going to bed. On my wall was a picture of me and Herman back on my birthday, when I first got him. Compared to that picture of 11 or 12 year old me and Herman, he looked paler, thinner and smaller. I fell asleep, lights on staring at that picture, reflecting on the past and how much that little guy meant to me.

And in the morning, he was gone. He passed while I slept. I was mad and confused. How could I not have been there for him when he had been there for me over all the years.

I buried him in the yard behind my apartment.

Frustrated by loneliness, I called my sister in Toronto. I told her what happened, expecting a sympathetic ear.

"So, ah... Are Mom and Dad still in California?" she asked.
"Yeah." I said.
"And Doug?"
"Alabama for Reserves," I said.
"Hmm. Mark and Ryan?"
"Looking for a college. Visiting family," I said.

I was getting mad. Really mad. She gave me this hamster, when was she going to say "I'm sorry for your loss"? I had this damn thing for all these years. And now he was gone and I was all alone. I was in my own apartment, alone. Really, really alone for the first time in my life.

I felt emptiness filling up with fire.

"I'm sorry, Phil," she said.

Finally!

"I'm so sorry. I hate to tell you this but hamsters only live about 18 months. Two years tops." She paused, and I felt my world sinking.

"Mom, Dad, me... all of your friends... we've been replacing that hamster every couple of years for over a decade. He died a long time ago. I'm sorry. But for someone who is so smart, you aren't very observant." 

"What the f..." I stammered.

"Hey, I'm your sister. It's what I'm here for. You're welcome."

Click.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Truth or Tall Tale Tuesday (TOT3) - 1 in 3

Molly’s husband asked if they had a thermometer because he wasn’t feeling well.

Her initial answer was “I am feeding two babies because I am their mother, not yours. I am not the keeper of thermometers so you need to go look in the bathroom.”

Several minutes later, her husband comes back downstairs and asks, “Do we really need three thermometers?”

She turned to see him with a glass thermometer in his mouth and replies “You have one in three chance of wanting me to answer.”

Molly is now officially the keeper of thermometers in her house.

***This is a switch up for Truth or Tall Tale Tuesday. This story is both true and not true. My sister in law relayed this tale to me at a party. She told it as true but was drunk. When I asked her about it later, she had forgotten all about it and was pretty sure it was a humorous story she made up.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

31 Notes for Writing History

I have written 100+ History papers in the past 6 semesters. I have collected some advice from my professors and personal experience, which I though should be shared:
  1. Learn to love double spaces papers, hate single spaced papers. 
  2. 12 point fonts are fine.
  3. New Times Roman is the default choice for a reason.
  4. The professor's style guide is best. Do not argue. 
  5. Oxford commas are impactful, important, and helpful.
  6. Staples are not be a good idea, they should be the law. 
  7. Number multiple page documents even when stapled. 
  8. Use the school directory to look up the professor's name. Spell it correctly. 
  9. Add your own name to spell check. 
  10. Do not merely spell check. 
  11. Do not use contractions. 
  12. "Extremely" and "huge" both mean "I need a thesaurus". 
  13. Dates do not have apostrophes. 
  14. "Very" is unnecessary.
  15. "Interesting" is not. 
  16. "Toward" is United States usage, "Towards" is British and Buffalo, NY usage. 
  17. History does not repeat, but sometimes it rhymes. 
  18. "Etc." is not worth using. There are better ways. 
  19. Foreign words are in italics. Foreign means it is not in an English dictionary. (Important if you are any kind of bilingual.)
  20. No first OR second person, unless the professor requires it. Thank them when they do.  
  21. The past is always in the the past tense.
  22. Do not confuse British for English. The same goes for others. If in doubt, look it up.  
  23. Do not confuse name places for countries.
  24. "Would" is a crutch or a mistake. Be careful. 
  25. "Led" is clearer than "Would lead". 
  26. Passive voice is painful, but not avoidable. 
  27. When comparing situations implicitly link subjects to periods. 
  28. Do not hide verbs.  
  29. Learn how write citation from memory.  
  30. Do not use clich├ęs.
  31. Learn how to type special characters and accent marks manually.  
Bonus: "Thank you" means "thank you". "You're welcome" means "you're welcome". They are not interchangeable. 

Full of S*** on Valentine's Day

As a child, my favorite "toy" was a black corduroy tuxedo. It must have been a hand-me-down from lord knows who. It had black pants with a red stripe down the leg, and more importantly, a matching black vest.

With my toy blaster, it made the most epic Han Solo costume ever.

Not that I wore it for Halloween. It was my "Everyday Han Solo" costume. I wore it to school, I wore it church. I wore it winter, summer fall and spring. I wore the hell out of that thing.

I wore it until it was ridiculously small on me; and even then, I did not give it up. I willed that thing to fit me for the opening of Return of the Jedi. I managed to hold on to it for years, no matter how hard my mom tried to dispose of it.

I told Kitty this story, long before we ever got married. She laughed and said, "You are so funny, but so full of shit."

My only reply was to pull the sad, little suit out of my closet and show it to her. She was so shocked and surprised, her eyes rolled back into her head.

On this Valentine's Day, I don't have any eye rolling revelations, or a tux, or wacky surprises in the closet, Jennifer Kitty Viverito. Only a great story about fun times. Thank you, today and every day, for laughing with me.

New Unnamed Project - Meet Terra and Vera

When the semester ends, I start losing my writing skills. While writing science fiction and fantasy is wildly different than writing about history or social studies, any writing helps keeps some of those skills sharp.

Tonight's posts are two excerpts from a 7 character study. Terra and Vera are travelers on a space ship in the Epsilon Indi system. When we meet them, they are waking from cryogenic sleep. This story is fairly hard science fiction story. There is no faster than light travel, no artificial gravity, few habitable planets as we would like them to be.

One interesting plot point is that Epsilon Indi seems to have a Jupiter analog in addition two brown dwarfs. The Jupiter analog is where their ship was built, about 6.5 AU from the primary star. The brown dwarfs are 1,500 AU from the primary. Since there is no FTL, travel between these locations is tedious.

When the colonists left Earth, they traveled in generation ships. On arrival at Epsilon Indi, the colonists developed suspended animation to make travel in the system easier on the mind. One of the side effects of the technology is that the human mind has to be awakened before the body is brought out of cryogenic freezing. This experience would normally be painful and boring, so the ship's AI is able to generate a mindspace for the humans to exist in. This is called chimeric space. Chimeric in the sense that it is a dream or wish, unfulfilled.

Chimeric space has some rules. An AI controls it, but that AI cannot impinge upon it. Some robots can appear in chimeric space, but this is quirk of software. They are being informed of the output of a simulated version of themselves, rather than an actual participant like human.

Another quirk of this simulation is, it cannot be used to create mirrors. When a mirror is requested by the sleeper, they instead see an external view of themselves. Any mirrors that do appear have special coding to make them work correctly and cannot be simulated at a whim. The closest chimeric space can go to creating a mirror on the fly is giving the sleeper an external view of themselves. Since people can shift between internalized and externalized points of view, they have concept of "entopic" point of view, which merely means "in the correct place or way".

The sleeper has an idealized sense of themselves, the real world and the virtual world. A person in chimeric space is slowly adapting back to their sleeping body and will detect changes happening to them in the real world. Their sense of time is highly distorted, so becoming aware of someone dressing them seems to take days or weeks.

Terra and Vera have some commonalities, despite Terra being twice as old as Vera. Both were injured in war, both had cancer. Terra is a space ship captain and her brush with cancer was a known occupational hazard. Vera, on the other hand was irradiated by a weapon. As a consequence, she has any number of physical and mental problems, few of which most people can relate to, although through age and experience Terra can come close to understanding.

The title "Vera 1.0" is a consequence of her PTSD. She is reliving the past. When I get to it, "Vera 2.0" will take place along side of Terra's experiences. "Vera 1.0" is taking place in just seconds, like how dreams coalesce in the moment of waking.

This is very rough draft. I hope you enjoy it. As always, please feel free to share your feedback.


The Almost Ugly, Unicorn Princess Story

Nothing is ever perfect, until it is.

Within the first 24 hours of dating my wife, I did something unusual that has been a part of our lives ever since: I read a book to my wife. It was a passage from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. It doesn’t matter what page or passage, it was the one I meant, and it wasn’t a thing I intended to do. Nothing is so perfect, but it left a mark on us that still exists today.

Fast forward many years. My wife brought three wonderful children into this world and I made damn sure that I read to them as I did her. Reading is incredibly powerful. It requires no money, no power, no station or status but it can enrich a mind in ways that exceed all of those things.

I read to my kids and I still read to them even though they can do it for themselves. I read to my wife and I read for myself.

And sometimes, a tiny bit of magic can come from such a simply pleasure.

My daughter was born with a hemangioma. It was a strange, tumor-like structure on the bridge of her nose, about the size of a golf ball. Most of the time, they are very benign. Most often, hemangiomas do not require any treatment at all.

However my daughter, Cat’s hemangioma was different. Located on the bridge of her nose, there was the danger that it could affect the development of her eyes. Cruelly, this would not be direct damage to her eyes but a subtle impingement on her visual perception. Her brain would learn that something prevented sight in that space between her eyes and compensate by ignoring input from that area. If it wasn’t removed fast, she could have a large blind spot that her brain learned not to see. If that happened, there was a chance her sight would be destroyed.

(All that and it was unsightly. Having a child with a tumor on the face has the side effect of pulling every a-hole out of the woodwork to point, stare and lecture.)

As I mentioned before, hemangioma are structures that typically require no treatment. It turned out that our insurance didn’t want to treat it at all. My wife fought an epic campaign to make them understand why it was so critical to have this one, special case treated. She found the best doctor. She worked with him to get the best treatment while battling the insurance company into submission. Our daughter had the best care, from the best people at every step of the way. No BS. My wife, Jennifer really did it all.

At the time, I was doing the best I could to provide. I would work like a dog, come home and did the things that needed to be done. I did my part, the best I could. My place was to support. And I made damn sure that if the kids wanted a bedtime story, they would get it no matter how tired or frustrated I was.

I read The Hobbit in a sing-song voice. I read Watership Down because of the bunnies on the cover. I read The Last Unicorn over and over again as it was my wife’s favorite. Stupid, nerdy stories that were age inappropriate; but they put my family in magical, far-away places.

At the end of the day, Cat’s hemangioma was excised but she was not left unmarked by it. On the bridge of her nose was a scar. And it was more than a red splotch. To this day, she calls her scar “her marker”.

A couple of months after the her treatment, I found Catherine playing with two neighborhood girls. There seemed to be a small row happening on our front lawn. The girls were dressed as princesses, complete with copious amounts of make-up. It was comical, except my daughter standing between the other girls armed with a red permanent marker. The other girls looked very concerned.

“What are you doing,” I asked.

“Playing Princesses…. Unicorn Princesses,” Cat answered.

“Unicorn Princesses?”

“Yes, we all need markers”

“For what?”

“To be Unicorns.”

I took the marker away and Cat blew her stack. It was obviously nap time, but I had this niggling feeling that this was somehow my fault.

After a nap, I asked her what a “Unicorn Princess” was. Surprisingly, shockingly she explained that Unicorn Princesses were princesses that had a red marker on their foreheads where their horn used to be. If the other girls wanted to be Unicorn Princesses, they needed the same marker she had. Otherwise, they would simply be plain-old princesses.

Oh boy, it was my fault. And then some. I was so lucky I happened on the scene when I did. Otherwise I would be explaining a livid, semi-permanent, red mark to two sets of parents. That would be a very ugly conversation, indeed.

That night, situation defused, I read to my wife The Last Unicorn. I started where the trouble and the magic began:

“Molly smoothed the strange hair, and Schmendrick noticed on the forehead, above and between the closed eyes, a small, raised mark, darker than the rest of the skin. It was neither a scar nor a bruise. It looked like a flower.”

I can’t think of any other words that would be so perfect.

Short Story - Kitty's Whim and Horses

It started when Kitty wanted to ride horses. So one cold winter day, we were off to ride horses on a whim. Her horse was named Star and mine was called Chico. I can managed to mount a horse and saunter around, but I am far from experienced.

Chico was a majestic, deep brown horse, standing about 16 hands. I got on him like a champ. And I sat there for about 5 minutes smiling and admiring him as he admired me.

Well, no. He was sizing me up.

First, he twitched head to hoof. Then he spun, followed by a serious attempt to throw me. Since I was still attached, he took off like bolt of lightning racing over mud and snow, on the trail and then between trees. His final trick to get me off was to crash to a stop in a shallow pond and roll.

I managed to keep my seat through all of it, including in the part where he rolled over me in 18 inches of water, mud and ice. I somehow fell backwards against Chico's rump instead of being smashed forwards onto the pommel. Then we trotted back to the barn where the rest of the group was waiting.

I was terrified. So terrified, that the grin I had on mounting him was locked on my face. I couldn't speak because I had the wind knocked out of me. The people who were expecting a complaint or possibly a lawsuit were left the impression that I was completely unfazed by the horseplay. And off we went on the rest of the ride. Me, sopping wet, bruised and bloodied; others, happy, dry, and content.

After that, I was in with her.


Short Story - The College Job

In the early 1990's, I had a "job" watching the computer rooms at my school. I didn't take much effort, either it was nailed down or too old to be of use to the average student. I wasn't required to know anything about computers. Which was good, because I didn't.

One day, a guy who had interviewed for the very job I currently held came in the room. He knew a lot about computers and for whatever reason wasn't given the job. I think he had a relative at the school and it was a political thing. Anyone but him, as show of "fairness".

His sudden appearance set off alarm bells. He was acting oddly, fidgeting with stuff and moving from work station to work station. Since the room was fairly full, it was a distraction. If someone got up, he plopped himself in to the empty chair and fidgeted before moving on. Final, I asked him what he was doing.

He muttered something and turned bright red. It was clear he was both angry and embarrassed. I asked him to repeat himself and he shouted "I'm cleaning mouse balls."

I nearly died.


Sunday, June 30, 2019

Welcome to The Cat's Old Apartment

Many years ago, I rented an apartment in West Seneca. It was far too expensive and way too small. While it wasn't awful, it was really marginal. It had a kitchen, living room, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a sitting area in an enclosed porch. The porch looked out on to the back of another house, so I didn't use it.

It was all unremarkable until I bought a cat. I hated the place but boy did that cat love the old apartment.

The first remarkable thing that happen was the cat could walk into rooms and vanish. She was Siamese so she was pretty vocal, even when not visible. Once she vanished, I could hear her but never find her until she chose to reappear. It was baffling. After a while, I got used to it.

One day while washing dishes, I opened a cupboard. The cupboard was annoying, it was a massive wooden structure 2-3 feet deep, yet opening the doors revealed that there was only about 12 inches of space to put things. I had assumed that the pipework was taking up the rest of the space. In any event, the cat entered the bottom cupboard. I bent over to grab her and guess what?

She wasn't there. I opened all of the cupboards and drawers as if there was a chance I was mistaken about her entering the only open door. I could hear her meowing, happily, but no cat in sight.

Then I heard it. Swish, clank. Meow! Swish, swish, clank! Meow.

I almost bolted from the apartment.

Instead, I grabbed a chair, a cup of coffee and sat down. I could hear the cat moving, sometimes from within the cupboard. But other times, the sound was coming from the bathroom or the bedroom, which was on the other side of the wall. Her movements were punctuated with that odd swish-clank! noise.

Three cups of coffee later, the cat reappeared from the cupboard I saw her enter. I noticed a small hole in the back of the cupboard, just big enough for a determined cat to enter. On closer inspection, I noticed many small holes, often no more than an inch or two in diameter in the back of each cupboard. Very odd.

The next day, I armed myself with a flashlight, paper, pencil and a ruler. A map like the one below was the result. This map is not to scale, it is more a schematic and from memory.


The first thing I noticed when mapping the old apartment was that if a door could open, it would often block another doorway. Annoying. Item 2, room dimensions didn't make sense relative to the exterior size of the house. And the cupboard was disturbingly disproportional to the room and interior storage space.

There was obviously a space behind it. Looking in the various holes revealed something disquieting. There were ropes, chains and pieces of cloth.

If I was the bolting kind, I would have been gone at this point.

With a little experimentation, I was able to determine the function of this odd cupboard. It was physically dominating in the room, obviously hiding a space behind it. Aside from the small holes, no bigger than a couple of inches, there were no larger openings. Nothing on the walls behind it nor the attic above or the apartment below. Violently opening or closing the cupboard doors caused air to enter the holes and made the fabric, ropes and chains swing noisily. It was meant to distract.

But distract from what?

In my bedroom, the cat had taken a liking to the closet. It turns out there was a secret passage way from the closet of one bedroom to the closet of the other bedroom. It was about 7 feet long. In bedroom two, there was an odd grill, which looked like a heater vent. Except, there was no central heat in this apartment. I had a gas heater awkwardly placed in the kitchen, nearly blocking bedroom 2's doorway. It turns out this grate could be pushed upwards to allow access to the bathroom.

In the bathroom, across from this grate was an inset shelf, no more than 3 inches deep. Pushing it allowed access to the large space labeled with a question mark. This area was about 10 by 10 and painted jet black. Or so it seemed. I entered the area without a light and as my eyes adapted, I noticed the shapes standing along the wall. And they were looking at me.

This time I did bolt.

When I worked up the courage to reenter the apartment, the cat was happily playing in this space so I had to go back in there. With a baseball bat and a very bright flashlight.

Someone had painted the walls with odd blue, pink, purple and mauve lines. They were not even and sometimes broken lines. At about head level, there were white ovals. Only the floor and ceiling were actually black. These shapes looked like people standing against the wall. How creepy.

In this space, I noticed two ladders. One went up and one went down. One lead to the basement and another lead upwards to a crawl space. It was horribly filthy and the wooden catwalk was only about 18 inches wide. I decided not to try my luck.

Later that evening, while sitting in the living room, I took a good look at the old fireplace. It had been sealed up years ago and was now a rather small but nice bookshelf. That matched the shelf in the bathroom. I pushed it and it slid back to reveal another space.

This area was a crawlspace with a ladder to one side, again with the odd paint job, which also covered a window. When a window's glass is painted over, the creep factor climbs by 101. I climbed up the ladder and noticed the same 18" crawlway leading back to the bathroom. This was no an attic of any kind, it was a catwalk above the ceilings. I could see that the area above the cupboard was sealed up with thick wood planks. Some odd bumps might have been the chains and ropes.

I have no idea what all of this was for. Maybe someday I will tell what my landlady said about the apartment and my friend's theories. But not at night. I don't want to think about it.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Epsilon Indi in Fiction - A World Building Exercise

In my latest work, so far unnamed, the heroes are bound for the Eighth Planet. The ship's AI has named this planet Urbian-Adams for the two people who "helped" discovery Neptune, Sol's eight's planet. The ship's AI is snarky as hell. Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier cranked some heavy math to pinpoint the planet for French observers, while John Couch Adams seems to have sent British observers on a wild goose chase. It was expedient at the time to make them co-discovers, but it turns out there was a lot of horse trading going on. There is a fascinating reading here about what really happened.


This is a hard sci-fi story, so the heroes are outbound from habitable worlds so that I don't have to describe them... yet. Except the question came up on MeWe.

So I need some scale here. Pales and Salus are huge brown dwarfs orbit each other. They are 1460 AU from Epsilon Indi and they orbit each other at a distance of 2.1 AU. They have no anlog in our solar system.

Kawal is named for 2060 Chiron's discover, Charles Kawal. This is a tiny body between Saturn and Uranus and it is classified as a small body and a comet. The ship's AI likes trivia. Additionally, the ship has been to Kawal before. It is fairly old.

Urbian-Adams is very like Neptune, while Minerva and Kawal are like Rhea and Dione. These planets are smaller than our moon and a mix of ice and rock. As mentioned before, there have been a manned mission to both planets.

Iuno Regina is a near Jupiter analog. It orbits much further from the star than our Jupiter. Either it is smaller than Jupiter and orbits at about 9 AU (like Saturn) or is more massive than Jupiter and orbits between 10-20 AU. I have selected the first, smaller mass planet.

Around this planet is Bacchus, which is one of many moons. Bacchus has a dense atmosphere and some sort of liquid on the surface. It is very much like Titan, which would be a good place for humans to have small outposts. There is no life, despite having mud and liquids on the surface. Vera memories take place here.

The trouble spot is Terra Mater. It is just .6 AU from the star. It does have an Earth-like atmosphere, called "The Stuff". Terra is much smaller than Earth, about 85% of Earth's radius but is far more dense. The stuff is largely nitrogen, CO2 and O2. It is not particular dangerous, but also not breathable. Life on the planet has been stuck at Devonian level, where plants first took to the land and fish ruled the sea.

So what is the problem? First, from a story teller's point of view, I have a planet named Terra (Mater) and character named Terra. I need to change that. Second, if Terra Mater is just .6 AU from the Epsilon Indi, I need to cram 3 other planets inside that orbit. This means Apollo and Vulcan must be very low mass and close to the star. No more than 0.15 for Apollo. Neither is as big as Titan.

Duellona is a hell like world at about .25 AU. There are two problems with it. This is too hot and it is in a belt of asteroids. This belt of asteroids is far less dense than our solar system's asteroid belt, but a Venus sized planet sharing orbits with big rocks is not good. In the time line of the story, it known before the colony left Earth. It was visualized by a scout craft and all seemed well. At some point between the flyby and the colonists arrival, it was clobbered by a very large object, maybe several. The whole surface is a magma sea. The colonists have deliberately sent several probes to their doom there. Duellona is interesting but deadly. It is the most telescopically observed object in the solar system, merely for being striking.

The colonists on Terra Mater arrived by massive ion ships. As a consequence of not being able to land on the surface of the Terra and the danger of space rocks from Duellona, the colonists have decommissioned their ships' engines and power plants on any old rock that looks like it could be a danger to the colony. These rocks have been moved to Trojan orbits around Terra.

I figured I would share this world building as it won't appear in my story and will go to waste. The primary purpose of this exercise was character building, which meant limiting the scope of the setting. The heroes are stuck, but not trapped on a single ship going to a planet with no surface. This is the stuff of character building.

As a result of this world building, I have significantly altered my characters, "Terra" in particular. She is now named "Keira" and will feature more prominently in Vera's story.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Three Character Study - Moral Creatures

This document was written as 3 character study, where 2 of the characters are children. The main intent was to create a realistic seeming conversation including children. I did not want idiots or wunderkind. I think I succeeded, but in free writing, created a rather dark story.

The secondary intent of this post was to imbed a Google doc into a blogger post, as can be done with Google sites. It's a bit tricky, but I think I nailed it down. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

File under funny - Between the Sheets

When the children were old enough, I decided they could earn an allowance by doing chores. My daughter immediately claimed making the bed was a chore. I decided to run with that one and handed out fresh bedding to all of the children. They were to strip the bedding, toss it down the laundry chute and make their beds.

My daughter finished in record time. My boys on the other hand had some trouble. I found them sitting on the top bunk scratching their heads over the sheets.

Thoughtful head-scratching.
I explained the fitted sheet went on the bottom, the top sheet of course went on the top. They didn't look too impressed with my explanation, but climbed off the top bunk and went back to work.

I checked back a little while later and found two happy boys, sitting on freshly made beds. Ah... if only everything was so simple.

At bedtime, I noticed two sheets neatly folded on the desk. The boys were already falling asleep so I did a cursory check. Yes, both boys had fresh bedding that matched what I gave them. Perhaps we had 3 sets of the same sheets. Stranger things happen around here.

The next morning, my wife watched as the boys made their beds and discovered the extra sheets.

She called me in and asked, "What did you do?"

Flummoxed, I shrugged.

She explained to the boys: "That's ok, but when you make a bed, you put two sheets on each bed."

The boys protested. "Dad told us to put the top sheet on top and the fitted sheet on the bottom. So we did."

My wife replied "Yes..." and cracked up. They put the top sheet on the top bunk and the fitted sheet on the bottom bunk.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Five years ago… My tech support hell ended

Five long years ago, I quit my technical support job. I couldn't do it anymore.
Me: What seems to be the issue?
Woman: My monitor is broken.
Me: *click* No, it isn’t. It’s just off.
Woman: Yeah, that’s the problem. That green light is bothering me and when I press that little button, it turns off. The problem is, when the green light turns off, the monitor stops working.
Me: That is the power indicator light. It’s on when the monitor is on…
Woman: Yes, you understand!!! No one else understood the problem.
Me: …
I am very happy where I am now.

Monday, June 1, 2015

All the right things, in three parts. Item two.

Image by LearningLark at Flicker.com. CC license.
Years ago, I worked in a bookstore called “The Paper Cutter”. As a receiving clerk, one of my duties was to field phone calls. One particular type of call really bothered me.

Caller: “Do you have the Cliff-notes for Fahrenheit 451?”

Me: “Lord, no! Do you know what that book is about?” Caller: “No. You read it?” Me: “Of course.” Caller: “Can you tell me about it?” Me: “Just read it. Seriously, if you come in before my shift is over, I’ll buy you a copy.”
I was good to my word and purchased that title for a few people who came in before 5 PM. I wish more people loved reading as much I as I do.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

All the right things, in three parts. Item one.

I was on the hunt for a book last weekend. It has been so long since I bought a physical book. We ventured out to Barnes and Nobles and I tried to find something I would enjoy. As tried to browse, the kids were hounding me for books for them. I couldn’t say “no” to them and said so. I blew double what I budgeted for my book and I was lucky it was that little.
I seem to recall a trip to a local five and dime called “The Tec” on Main Street, where my parent’s had this same conversation with me. My dad said “I can’t say no to a book for you.” There was no mark language back then, but “for you” might as well have been underlined and bolded.
Somethings are important. Instilling a love of reading in your kids is one of them, and I am glad that my parent’s gave that to me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Of #Blackstormtroopers or How Right was My Mom

When I was a kid, my parents took me to see Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. In the case of the last two, they let my sister and I ditch school. How cool are my parents?

My parents were largely silent on Star Wars. We knew they liked it, but in retrospect, they obviously enjoyed our love of the series more than their own pleasure. They stepped over countless Star Wars toys, sat through endless monologues, and fielded wacky questions about Tie Fighters and X-Wings. Now that I have children, I totally understand this.

However, during our first viewing of Return of the Jedi, my mother offered a singular and powerful opinion. I have to count it as one of the most important formative moments of my life.

Picture it:


Luke is standing over a crippled Darth Vader and Vader's voice is distorted, failing. He requests that Luke remove his mask, ending his life, so that he may look upon his son with his own eyes.

With great sorrow, Luke complies and we see that Sebastian Shaw is the actor playing Luke's father.

My mother was mortified. She spluttered "Where is hell is James Earl Jones!?!"

I hissed: "Mom! James Earl Jones is...."

Then I got it. She knew that James Earl Jones was Mark Hamill's dad. She just knew that was the right thing, and somehow I knew it too. That piece of accidental advice has stayed with me all my life. Skin color doesn't matter.

There is a corollary to this story. My wife purchased a set of Star Wars DVD's for me. One day, the kids and I watched all three movies. This was one of the special edition sets with all of the modifications George Lucas had time to throw in.

I was stunned when Hayden Christensen was cut into Shaw's role as Anakin.

I howled: "What the hell? That should be James Earl Jones!"