Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Loose Lips -- Writer's Poke #138

For Writers:

When the party was over, she followed him upstairs to the bedroom. I had had too much to drink, and I was going to sleep on the couch downstairs. But at the moment, I wasn't tired. The idea of her going upstairs played over and over again in my mind.

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door; it was the neighbor from the adjacent apartment. We knew each other, but we weren't friends. He asked me if I had seen this girl, and I explained that she had gone upstairs with the party's host. At the time, I didn't realize that she and the neighbor were dating. And apparently, I wasn't in control of my mouth. I told the neighbor some pretty mean things about this girl and how slutty she was to go upstairs to my friend's bedroom.

The next morning when I woke up, the girl had apparently already left, but as I was preparing to leave myself, she came back. And when she saw me, she tore into me. How could I, she asked, tell the neighbor those awful things about her? At first, it didn't even register in my mind what she was talking about. But soon I pieced together that she had returned from the neighbor's apartment, and she was mad at me for ratting her out.

For whatever reason, I felt bad. She explained that she did what she did simply because she had had too much to drink. I tried to use that same reasoning with her, as a way of explaining why I had said what I did, but she never forgave me. I should have been more in control of my lips, she told me.

And truthfully, she was right, but I didn't have the heart to suggest that she take her own advice.

Have you said or done anything while drunk that you later regretted? Are regrettable actions performed while drunk worse than regrettable actions performed while sober?

"A drunk man's words are a sober man's thoughts." -- Proverb

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Facts of Life -- Writer's Poke #137

For Writers:

I'm tempted to quote the theme song from the 1980s television show "The Facts of Life," but I won't. For those of you familiar with the show, I'm sure that the song is already starting to play on an endless loop inside your mind.

And for that, I apologize.

But on a more serious note, are there any "facts of life"? We live in an age where everything is relative. Most people seem scared to take a position or to stand up for something that they believe in. And anyway, as we all know, belief and facts don't always go together.

Your mission, if you're up to the challenge, is simply this: list as many facts about life as you can. And then, take it to the next level. Take those facts, and develop your life philosophy. For those of you that already have a life philosophy, don't impose your philosophy on the facts. Come up with the list of facts first, and then create your philosophy solely from those facts.

It will be interesting to see if your fact-based philosophy is at all similar to any life philosophy you might already claim to believe in.

What are the facts of life? Spend 15 minutes and brainstorm as many as you can come up with. Then, from that list, develop a fact-based life philosophy.

"That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet." -- Emily Dickinson

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Gift of Childhood -- Writer's Poke #136

For Writers:

When I was five years old, I had rather simple pleasures. For Christmas that year, I would have been happy getting Lego's, tinker-toys, or stuffed animals. Heck, I would have been happy getting a fuzzy pillow. I loved fuzzy pillows.

My grandparents' gift to me, however, taught me that the simple pleasures of a five year old boy weren't proper. It was time, they said, that I grew up. After all, I was five, and I had had my opportunity to have a childhood.

The gift they gave me was a "grown up" gift. It was a lamp with a little porcelain figure of a boy standing as part of the base. I think I tried to hide my disappointment when I saw what they had given to me, for that was the kind of polite boy I was.

This was 1978, so my grandparents would have been 71 and 69; they both came from modest backgrounds, lived through the Great Depression, and believed that childhood was somehow just an unnecessary luxury. Their gift to me was practicality; being a child just wasn't practical.

What is the worst present you've ever received? How did you respond to the giver?

"There's nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child." -- Erma Bombeck

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Crazy English

This one is for the English teachers out there:


1. The bandage was wound around the wound.

2. The farm was used to produce produce.

3. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4. We must polish the Polish furniture.

5. He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

7. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8. A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10. I did not object to the object.

11. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

12. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

13. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

14. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

15. They were too close to the door to close it.

16. The buck does funny things when the does are present.

17. A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

18. To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

19. The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

20. After a number of injections my jaw got number.

21. Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Anything for Love -- Writer's Poke #135

For Writers:

Meatloaf's "I Would Do Anything for Love," quite possibly the most important love anthem of my (or any) generation, has a purposely misleading title.

First, Meatloaf chronicles all of the things he would do for love, including: 1) running into hell and back, and 2) never lying to you (and that's a fact).

Meatloaf is nothing if not a romantic.

But anyone that's listened to the song knows there is specifically one "thing" that he would never do for love: the enigmatic "that." And what exactly "that" designates isn't specified until the end of the song.

And what exactly is it that he would never do? Simple: Meatloaf would never go "screwing around" for love.

What would you not do for love?

"Happiness is the china shop; love is the bull." -- H.L. Mencken

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tuned In or Tuned Out?

What are you tuned into at the moment?

If you live in the Western world (i.e. the United States and all the places it influences), then you're probably tuned into Christmas. Doesn't really matter if your Christian, atheist, or other. Tis the season, yes?

Yet this is also the season when stress levels go up, and suicide rates go up.

The only thing that goes down is money in the checking account...

and maybe, well, we won't go there...

I've been the proverbial "sick dog" for the past few days, but my brain is still active. Ain't that a bitch? :)

Drop me an email some time, my good droogies. I miss you all.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fetus Cookie Cutter

The cookies that make you want to take a pregnancy test. Mmmm.... fetus-flavored. My favorite!

The Sign Story Game

Here's a new game to play when you make that long Christmas road trip to Grandma's house. See who can create the best story through the common, everyday road signs you pass.

Above is a pretty good example (click on the image to enlarge), but surely you can do better.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cheerleaders Take Nude Pictures? Amazing!

It would be too easy for me to make a joke about this story, and I promise I won't say something like: "Why weren't cell phones invented when I went to high school" or "These girls were just trying to show their school spirit."

As far as I can tell, though, nobody was pointing a guns to the girls' heads. That is, if they decided to take nude pictures of themselves, that's their business. And who hasn't taken nude pictures of themselves? Not me.

But the real interesting thing about the story is that the lawyer admits that the girls made an "error," but surely that's enough, right? Just admit you've made the error, and then you shouldn't have to face punishment. Isn't that how our society works these days?

Life without You -- Writer's Poke #134

For Writers:

Have you ever wondered what the world will be like when you aren't around to wonder?

For most of time future, you won't be around. And when you're gone, some people might remember you for a while, but it won't be long before those people are gone, too. And then, all the people that knew you, or knew the people that knew you, will be gone as well.

Simply put, in less than a hundred years time, even the idea of you will have vanished. Even the most famous people in the world become nothing more than a name. Take Alexander the Great, for example. The man conquered "the World," but what do most people know about him, really?

So, if you're not remembered for "you," how can your legacy go on? Or does it matter?

What difference can you make with your life that will last at least 100 years into the future? Would it bother you if you didn't receive the individual credit for making such a long-lasting difference?

"The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it." -- William James

Monday, December 8, 2008

Your Good Is Not Best Enough -- Writer's Poke #133

For Writers:

The ideal of perfection is not good for morale.

Since when did the definition of "good" become "not good enough"? Take, for example, the popular book Good to Great. If something is good -- a business, a life, etc. -- why can't we be satisfied? And what is the standard by which we measure good against great, anyway?

A cliched phrase that has lost all meaning is "best practices." In the business world, you'll often hear people talk about "best practices," as though what works best for others can somehow be retrofitted to work best for everyone. Does that ever really work? Not in my experience.

The conclusion: humans aren't perfect, nor do we need to be. The standard by which we should be measured is "good," and to measure humanity by any other standard is an insult.

Think about something specific in your life that is good. Explain why you believe good really is "good enough" in this case.

"Have no fear of perfection -- you'll never reach it." -- Salvador Dali

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Farty Towels -- Writer's Poke #132

For Writers:

Sometimes it's just as much fun to watch my wife watching TV as it is to watch the TV itself.

Linda isn't squeamish. She can watch the most violent horror movie without any problem. It's the slapstick comedy that gets her every time.

Are you familiar with Fawlty Towers? If you've somehow missed this British sitcom, please quit reading this poke right now. You need to purchase the Complete Series DVD post haste.

What makes this series difficult for my wife to watch? It's the masterful use of farce -- taking the comedy of errors to the point that laughter itself becomes painful.

Basil Fawlty, played by John Cleese, isn't a bad man, but he always brings disaster upon himself, and while viewers understand that Fawlty gets what he deserves, on another level they also recognize that he is powerless to act in any way other than he does.

Fawlty simply tries to play the role he has been culturally designed to play, and when things inevitably go wrong, we feel badly for him. He is a man trapped in own faulty misinterpretations of culture and what it means to lead a successful life.

What faulty assumptions have you had, and how did you finally recognize that they were faulty?

"Let us carefully observe those good qualities wherein our enemies excel us; and endeavor to excel them, by avoiding what is faulty, and imitating what is excellent in them." -- Plutarch

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Dying Expectations? -- Writer's Poke #131

For Writers:

Sometimes people sit around at parties and ask silly philosophical questions. Well, maybe not the parties you go to, but they do at the parties I go to.

One typical question might be something like, "If you knew you only had six months to live, how would that change the way you lived the rest of your life?"

We're all going to die, so why should the knowledge that we're going to die in a specific period of time make a difference to the way we live our lives? Do people really live life not believing that they are going to die?

I've got news for all you non-immortals out there: You're all going to die. You might not know when, but you might as well start living like you do, because death happens -- even to you. And it could happen sooner than the hypothetical question raised at my philosophical party.

Sweet Dreams.

What do you want out of life? Do you live each day with that "want" in mind?

"Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives." -- A. Sachs

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tavi and Bret as "Deuce and Domino"

What's better than the matching white undershirt look?
I don't know, but there's just something about that Tavi. :)

2009: 50 Book Challenge

If you're at all like me, you try very hard not to let the books in your house run wild. No matter how many books I read each year, I always seem to buy even more.

So for 2009, I've decided to try something novel: the plan is to read from books I already own, and not buy any additional books for an entire year. Is that doable? I don't know.

Here's the challenge: I don't care if you buy more books in 2009 or not. I just want you to read 50 books. Are you up to it?

I tried to narrow my selection to the "Top 50 Books to Read for 2009," but I couldn't narrow it to 50. But here's an idea (subject to change) of what I plan to read in 2009 (in no particular order):

Scott Adams -- God's Debris
Scott Adams -- The Religion War
Chuck Klosterman -- Killing Yourself to Live
Chuck Klosterman -- Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs
Chuck Klosterman -- IV
Russell Baker -- Growing Up
Frank McCourt -- Angela's Ashes
Frank McCourt -- 'Tis
Lee Stringer -- Sleepaway School
Claude Brown -- Manchild in the Promised Land
Ruthie Bolton -- Gal
Luis Rodriguez -- Always Running
Jim Knopfel -- Ruining It for Everybody
Brent Staples -- Parallel Time
Mary Roach -- Stiff
Mary Roach -- Spook
Mary Roach -- Bonk
Michael Palin -- Hemingway's Chair
Eric Idle -- The Road to Mars
Eric Idle -- The Greedy Bastard Diary
Robert Greene -- Seduction
Robert Greene -- War
Carl Sagan -- The Dragons of Eden
Carl Sagan -- Broca's Brain
Carl Sagan -- Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
Carl Sagan -- Pale Blue Dot
Carl Sagan -- Billions & Billions
Conversations with Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan -- The Varieties of Scientific Experience
Brian Greene -- The Elegant Universe
John McWhorter -- Losing the Race
John McWhorter -- Winning the Race
John McWhorter -- Authentically Black
Mick Foley -- Scooter
Nathan McCall -- Them
James McBride -- Song Yet Sung
James McBride -- Miracle at St. Anna
J. K. Rowling -- Harry Potter #5
J. K. Rowling -- Harry Potter #6
J. K. Rowling -- Harry Potter #7
Jamaica Kincaid -- Mr. Potter
Jamaica Kincaid -- Annie John
Ernest Gaines -- In My Father's House
Ernest Gaines -- A Gathering of Old Men
Ernest Gaines -- Of Love and Dust
Ernest Gaines -- Catherine Carmier
Ernest Gaines -- Mozart and Leadbelly
Tim O'Brien -- July, July
Tim O'Brien -- Tomcat in Love
Richard Wright -- Eight Men
Walker Percy -- The Thanatos Syndrome
Walker Percy -- Signposts in a Strange Land
Walker Percy -- The Moviegoer
Walker Percy -- The Last Gentleman
Walker Percy -- The Message in the Bottle
Bret Easton Ellis -- The Informers
Bret Easton Ellis -- Glamorama
Bret Easton Ellis -- Lunar Park
Chinua Achebe -- A Man of the People
Chinua Achebe -- Anthills of the Savannah
Chinua Achebe -- Arrow of God

Up for the challenge? What 50 books do you plan to read? Let me know.

The Scar That Made Her Funny -- Writer's Poke #130

For Writers:

It's just speculation, but my guess is that no one would have ever heard of Tina Fey if a stranger hadn't cut her face with a knife when she was a small child.

Anyone that's ever seen Tina has probably felt their eyes move uncontrollably to the big scar that marks the left side of her face. I hate to admit it, but that's the first thing I notice every time I see her on TV.

And I should know better. I was born with an unusual right ear that interested many people when I was growing up. The top of my ear lapped over too much on top, and my peers couldn't help themselves. They would notice. And although some were too polite to mention noticing, I could always see them looking at it out of the corner of their eyes.

In a strange way, I think my flawed ear made me a better observer, a better listener. I'm sure Tina's scar left a similar mark on the way she interacted with her peers, too. Humor certainly is a great defense.

Humor is a weapon we use to control what people are laughing at.

What scars, literal or figurative, have shaped your character?

"I just want to show off my scar proudly and not be afraid of it." -- Carly Simon

Engrish: Toliet Beard Know

I consider this a "found poem." :)

Check out

And the next time you think your teenagers don't use good English, just think about how much better their mastery of the English language is compared to the rest of the non-English speaking world.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The End -- Writer's Poke #129

For Writers:

One of my students told me that he didn't like short stories. "I'm just getting into the story," he said, "and then it's over. And I'm like, what happens next?"

I pointed out to the student that readers of War and Peace might feel the same way, wondering what happens next. In fact, all endings may seem somewhat arbitrary, and that's because -- at least on some levels -- they are.

In writing, the writer has the power to decide when to begin and when to end. Worrying about "what happens next" should not be the main objective. That's just plot. The main objective should be: Does the "middle part" that makes it to the page serve a purpose? Does it have continuity? A discernible and meaningful theme?

Bottom line: Does it make the reader think?

And is leaving the reader wanting more such a bad thing?

Start with the end in mind -- be it your life, a relationship, a piece of writing that you're working on. How do (or did) you get there, and how do (or did) you know it was the end?

"In my end is my beginning." -- Mary, Queen of Scots

"In my beginning is my end." -- T.S. Eliot

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Ann Coulter and Poetic Justice

I guess I just don't see it. Why do some people think Ann Coulter (see above) is attractive?
Anyway, in the Department of Poetic Justice, we've just learned that Coulter has somehow broken her jaw. And it's been wired shut (hopefully permanently).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Blue Pill or the Red Pill? -- Writer's Poke #128

For Writers:

In the move The Matrix, Neo is offered a choice. He can take the Blue Pill and continue to live in ignorant bliss, or he can take the Red Pill and learn the painful truth.

Why would anyone purposely choose pain over bliss? Yet there seems to be something hardwired in the human brain to do just that. We expect, however, to be punished for our choice.
This is what the Genesis myth is all about. Adam and Eve were basically told not to take the Red Pill. But they were, in essence, still given the choice -- and the right (the expectation) to be punished.

Now consider this: What value is being given a choice if you have no way of knowing the consequences of your decision? Neo cannot really know what will happen when he swallows the Red Pill, any more than Adam and Eve could know what would happen when they chomped down on God’s Apple. All that these characters know is ignorant bliss; but they also know that bliss without truth isn’t enough.

What pill do you choose, and why?

“The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance.” – Socrates

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why I Don't Write Poetry -- "Zugzwang und Zwischenzug" (circa 1994)

Yes, I've taken more than one creative writing poetry class in my life; I think they're fun, but I'm by no means a poet. And yet here's a poem that just won't die. My droogie Vikram has posted it to different Internet sites over the years, and so it's still out there. Did it really leave such an impression on him that he continues to feel the need to share it with the world?

When it was originally being reviewed in class, one of the girls in class said: "This sounds like you're trying to be pseudo intellectual." Well, really. Does anyone "try" to be pseudo intellectual?

Not me. I just had a number of things working against me. 1) I was young, 2) I knew I couldn't write poetry, 3) I liked German, and 4) I played chess. Put it all together, and you end up with the following poem.

"Zugzwang und Zwischenzug"

- Freedom or love: which do you choose?
Pretend for a moment that Life is the Let's Make a Deal game show,
and the God is none other than his Holiness, Monte Hall.
Imagine further that He presents you with the following offer:

- Will you take this tiny little box of love?
Will you go for the door which leads to freedom?

If you take the box of love, you must make that box your home.
But it looks like such a small cell -
who would want to make their home in such constriction?
So maybe it would be wiser to escape through freedom's door -
and not worry about love at all.
But then you would be homeless, loveless, lonely, and exposed.
Freedom and love prove to be pejorative unless taken together.
What do you do when you're caught in zugzwang?

- Freedom or love: Which do you choose? We're awaiting your reply.

"I guess... I guess I'll take the tiny box of love."

[Bells and sirens go off, reminiscent of East L.A. after Rodney King.]

- You're in luck! Since you picked the tiny box of love,
you win the door that leads to freedom as well.
Had you chosen the door, then that's all you would have gotten.
Thank you for playing our game! Zwischenzug!
Love leads to freedom, but freedom does not lead to love.
That deceptively tiny box is in reality quite roomy.
Big enough to contain not only love, it also admits access to real freedom.
For in that tiny box of love is the key to freedom's door,
and the key to happiness.

(18 June 1994)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hairy Super Nachos -- Writer's Poke #127

For Writers:

Nothing beats Denny's in the middle of the night. The people, the atmosphere, the food...

One particular summer night, we decided to hit the local Denny's for some burgers, and we ordered the super nachos as an appetizer.

The waitress brought out the super nachos, and boy were they tasty. After consuming about half of them, however, I noticed a hair hidden in the cheese. I pulled on said hair, and I pulled, and I pulled. To put the length of this hair into perspective, if it were growing out of my head, it would have easily reached down to my ass.

Finding a hair in one's food can be quite off-putting, but finding a six foot hair hidden in my nachos made me want to go back into the kitchen and strangle the cook with his own offending hair.

But I didn't. I paid good money for those super nachos, and I just kept on eating them.

What is the grossest thing you have ever found in your food? Or, what is the grossest thing that you've ever (knowingly) ate?

"I ate a bug once. It was flying around me. I was trying to get it away. It went right in my mouth. It was so gross!" -- Hilary Duff

Monday, November 17, 2008

Learning How to Live -- Writer's Poke #126

For Writers:

They threw his body off the bridge just a couple of miles from my house. Later that evening, someone discovered it, and three suspects were quickly arrested.

Shane was one of the first people I bonded with when we moved to Mattoon. He came to my birthday party in 5th grade, but we didn’t remain friends for long. School wasn’t his top priority, and by middle school, he had been placed into one level of classes, and I had been tracked into another.

He grew his hair long, and got involved with people that weren’t always looking out for his best interests. By the time I entered college, he was totally off my radar. But apparently at the time of his death, he recognized his life was heading in the wrong direction. He enrolled at the local community college, and he started making a different group of friends.

The changes he was making came too late, and three or four of his “friends” bludgeoned him to death. Drugs and booze were probably involved.

I went to his funeral, but not too many people from our class attended. I looked at his body, and it was difficult for me to believe that someone my age had been murdered. The physical evidence was right there before me, and I wondered if I was somehow responsible -- for not caring about his life when he was still breathing. Now that he was dead, what could I do about it? And, was my concern for his death genuine? That is, did I care about Shane, or was my feeling of grief more self-serving?

Whose death has left a lasting impact on you?

“Our life is made by the death of others.” – Leonardo da Vinci

A Closet Full of Money -- Writer's Poke #125

For Writers:

God, I believe you exist. But just to prove it, put a million dollars in my closet. When I open the closet and find the million dollars, then I will know that you really exist.

I opened the closet door, but no million dollars – just the same dust pan and broom, and bottles of pepsi that were there before my prayer.

Did my eight-year old brain really expect God to prove His existence to me by poofing a million dollars into my closet? Not really, but that didn’t stop me from being angry at God for being so stingy. What was a million dollars to God? After all, didn’t God own the universe? Was my request really that unreasonable?

Over the years, my belief in God has varied – to the point that it doesn’t much matter to me one way or the other. No matter what happens in my life, I’ve learned not to expect miracles. God may exist, but not in this life.

Do you believe in God? Why or why not?

Or, does belief in God matter in your daily life? Explore why.

“I don’t know if God exists, but it would be better for His reputation if He didn’t.” – Jules Renard

Snow Insanity -- Writer's Poke #124

For Writers:

Vikram and I decided to spend a few days with Patrick at his place in the Peru-LaSalle area. It was late December in Illinois, and we ended up getting snowed in. We tried to shovel the drive with Patrick’s plastic toy shovel, but we quickly broke it in two.

When did Patrick get so anal? That’s what Vikram and I wondered after being trapped in Patrick’s house for 18 hours. Take your shoes off, he said. Put this and that back where you found it, he said. It didn’t take long for tempers to flair. We had been friends for ten years, but we weren’t used to living together in an Illinois snow prison – especially with Patrick as the Warden.

At one point, Patrick went into his bedroom, and when he came back, he pointed a gun at my head. This was rather unexpected, but he wanted to make it quite clear that this was his house, and he wasn’t going to take my sass any longer.

As it turned out, it wasn’t real gun; it was just a starter’s pistol, but he had made his point.

If you were stranded on a desert island, who is the one person that you could live with that you wouldn’t drive crazy (or that wouldn’t drive you crazy)?

“Whom God wishes to destroy, he first makes mad.” -- Proverb

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Who Beats Your Meat?

This isn't one of those fake Internet signs; this is a real sign that I saw while on a business trip in northern Minnesota a couple of months ago.

And it reminds me of a conversation I overheard in the cafeteria when I was in high school -- must have been 10th or 11th grade. Gabe and a couple of other guys at the next table over we're talking about what losers kids that still masturbated were. I don't remember the exact conversation, but to paraphrase, it went something like:

"When I was a kid, I masturbated like a kid; when I became a man, I put my penis away."

It's not that the guys thought masturbation was sinful; it's just that if you didn't have a girlfriend to handle your affairs, so to speak, then you were just a wanker.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Obama Zombies?

This news story just proves how costly victory can be. After you've won, what's left to be done?

Seriously, though, I think there probably are supporters that thought winning the election was the end -- although President-elect Obama has tried to make it pretty clear that "the end" of the election cycle was only the "beginning."

-- This video's dedicated to all of my Republican friends :) --

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Facebook High School Reunion -- Writer's Poke #123

For Writers:

It sounds silly to admit, but thanks to Facebook, I now have more friends from high school than I did when I was actually in high school.

I was a loner in high school, although that was purely accidental. My main problem was that I just didn't know how to be social.

My popularity probably peaked in 8th grade, and by Freshman year, I had started to close myself off. Once that happened, I never figured out a way to reconnect. My classmates had their own circles, and I was on the outside. Every once in a while I might find myself as part of the gang, but for the most part, I was an outsider.

Now years later, the class of 1991 is rediscovering itself through Facebook. Almost daily, it seems, someone from the past resurfaces. It's really rather surreal. One member of the class even admitted to feeling his former high school "angst" returning.

For me, it's not so much angst as it is a second chance.

How many close friends do you still have from high school? What has been your experience with Facebook, Myspace, or other social networks? Has the Internet helped you to reconnect in any meaningful ways?

"The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past." -- William Faulkner

Taking Candy from Boy Scouts -- Writer's Poke #122

For Writers:

I didn't consider it stealing at the time.

For a brief period in my childhood, I was a boyscout. Being a boyscout never had the same cache as being a cub scout. Cub scouts were cool. We'd make pinewood derby cars and go to summer day camps. Being a boy scout, on the other hand, always felt a bit dorky -- probably because the troop was tied to my church.

Each of us got a box of candy bars, and we were expected to sell them for a fundraiser. As time went by, however, it seemed like the troop leaders had forgotten about the candy bars. And over time, I ended up eating more of them than I sold.

Months later, the troop asked us for the money and any leftover candy bars. Unfortunately, I didn't have any money, and I didn't have any candy bars. I owed the troop around $20, and I didn't have any money of my own to pay for the eaten candy bars.

I told my dad what had happened, and for some reason, he thought this would be a good time for us to go into a private room and pray. It seemed rather silly to me then, and it seems rather silly to me now, but I suppose Dad thought this was my first step down the path of sin, and he wanted to make sure that God and I were still on friendly terms. After all, God doesn't give away His candy bars for free.

Describe a time when you were "guilty" of stealing. Did you feel guilty afterwards? Have you ever felt "justified" when stealing?

"In Scouting, a boy is encouraged to educate himself instead of being instructed." -- Sir Robert Baden-Powell

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Race Matters

To all of those people that say: "Barack Obama's race shouldn't matter." I agree with you; it shouldn't. But we don't live in a "it shouldn't matter" kind of world. We live in a world where African Americans were 3/5 of human for the first 87 years of the country's existence -- a country where it would take another 100 years after that for African Americans to more fully secure their civil and human rights.

We live in a country that, once Obama leaves the senate, will have 100 non-Black senators.

So, yes, race matters. Ideally, it shouldn't. And maybe one day it won't. Right now, it does, and that's not a bad thing.

Thanks to Accordion Guy for the image:

Palin 2012? The End of the World Approaches

Palin isn't going away. Now that she’s had a taste of the lower-48, Alaska must seem pretty rural (Yes I know she spent time in Idaho, but let’s face it: Idaho is more or less the middle of nowhere, too).

So I got to thinking: It’s clear that Palin has 2012 on the brain.

And a lot of people have 2012 on the brain as well, because we all know that the world’s going to end in 2012. Don’t believe me?

The Mayans said so, and they’re never wrong. Trust me.

Poles will shift, nukes will explode, and even worse, Palin will be elected president. Luckily the world will end before she can be sworn in, but Palin’s election will be the exclamation point that lets people know that the prophecies of 2012 are real.

This isn’t being discussed anywhere else – you’ve read it here first. Even the wiki for 2012 doesn’t list the Palin election on its “list of possibilities” -->

Surely this is an oversight that will soon be corrected.

For more about the upcoming end of the world, you might want to subscribe to the blog dedicated to the purpose -->

Monday, November 10, 2008

Zurich Airport Shuttle -- Heidi's Welcome Kiss to Switzerland

Taking the Zurich connecting shuttle between terminals is an interesting experience. First, they get you visually. Looking out the train window, you see Heidi welcoming you to Switzerland with a kiss. This is pretty cool just because it's so unexpected.

Not surprisingly, a number of people on Youtube have got out their video cameras to capture it, but it's probably one of those things that you just "had to be there" -- jet-lagged and unprepared for it...

The first version is just the video, and the second version is someone's attempt to capture what it looks like when actually viewed from through the window of the shuttle. Also, in the second version, you can kind of hear the "sounds of Switzerland" that they play in the background -- cows, bells, horns, etc. Fun stuff.

Norwegian Gem Mediterranean Cruise in November: Random Thoughts -- Entry 6

1. Some days I'm sure I looked like an America -- when I wore my Kansas City Chiefs hoody, for example. Other days, it would surprise me that people automatically knew I was an American. When they spoke to me, how did they know to automatically speak in English. Why didn't they speech to me in German? Was my American-ness really that obvious?

2. Being abroad during the U.S. election was a pretty cool experience. Yes, the whole world was watching our election, and the whole world seemed to be in love with Obama. People would come up to us and show us their Obama buttons, for example. All the newspapers had full coverage -- more pictures of Obama than McCain -- and lots of electorial maps in full color... From Malta to Italy to Switzerland, all of Europe was interested in who we were going to elect, and most seemed to be rooting for Obama.

3. Where are all the water fountains in Europe? Why don't Europeans believe in toliets? Or clearly marked street signs?

Norwegian Gem Mediterranean Cruise in November: Pisa Is Not 15 Minutes Away – Entry 5

I know it’s hard to believe, but maps lie. On the map, Pisa is just a fifteen minute train ride from Livorno. But how do you get to the train station?

First, you have to take the shuttle bus out of the port area. Sounds simple, but just leaving the port area is a journey in itself. The bus has to negotiate around the dock area, wait for a road to move into place (kind of like a draw bridge), etc. All told, fifteen minutes just to leave the port and drive 2 miles.

Next, you have to find the public city bus, and then ride it through the bumper-to-bumper city traffic. That’s another fifteen minutes.

If you’re like us, you like to walk. So once in Pisa, it’s a thirty minute walk from the train station to the Leaning Tower – and that’s if you can coax your wife to cut down on the window shopping, and if a few hundred student demonstrators don’t storm the train station when you’re trying to make your exit.

And actually, getting to Pisa was a lot quicker than getting back. On the return trip to the ship, trains to Livorno were delayed by up to an hour, one was eventually cancelled, and track information kept changing. What was just a fifteen minute trip on the map ended up taking 2 ½ hours.

So was it all worth it? Yes. The Leaning Tower of Pisa was everything I’d hoped it would be. They only allow 40 people up at a time, but there was no problem getting tickets. And if you’ve ever been drunk, you should have no problem walking up the Tower.

Pisa is worth the day’s experience. But would I ever try to go to Florence? I don’t think so… just not enough time…

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Norwegian Gem Mediterranean Cruise in November: Opal Penthouse Suite (Room #11518) – Entry 4

No, we cannot afford a penthouse suite on a cruise ship, but we somehow ended up with one for this cruise. And, wow, let me tell you: It will be tough to give up the luxury.

The Norwegian Gem only has 10 penthouses on the ship (as well as a few additional penthouses that make up an even more exclusive “private courtyard” on the ship’s top deck). So, Linda and I are one of only 10 couples on the entire ship of 2300 people that are living this large. Now I know how John and Cindy McCain probably live. We have our own butler, which basically means I have someone to go get me cokes, we have our own doorbell (I know that means nothing to non-cruisers), and we even have a cordless phone that works anywhere on the ship. That way, if we need to contact our concierge immediately, we can do so.

Actually, we did try that one out. We were interested in knowing if we could see Mt. Edna volcano one evening, and so the concierge called the Bridge for us to find out visibility. She called us right back to apologize that visibility would be poor for the viewing. She apologized for the weather! Oh, what power to have both a concierge that will call the Bridge for you.

The room itself is ridiculously huge. When I booked the trip, we were going to have a standard balcony room, which is about 180 square feet. That’s a nice room for a cruise ship, but the penthouse is 3 times the size. It has 2 bathrooms, a full-size tub(!) with a picture window overlooking the ocean, a seperatre six-head shower (plus rain-head) that overlooks the ocean, a flat-screen tv (plus 3 other tv’s), a kid’s bedroom (that we’re just using as a walk-in closet for our luggage and dirty clothes), a living/dining room space as big as most balcony cabins, an up-scale coffee and cappuccino maker – and on and on and on.

Basically, the room is so nice that we toyed with the idea of staying in the room the entire vacation. Who cares about visiting Europe? This room is too good to leave, and with a butler bringing in meals, you’d never have to.

Why did we get the penthouse? These rooms generally run $2800-3500 (or higher) per person, but two days before sailing, I received a call from Norwegian, and they asked me if I wanted to upgrade for a very small fee. Apparently they called everyone with a balcony room, but I was the one to say “yes” first. Lucky us.

Besides the room itself, the upgrades – from towels to soaps to a real king-sized bed – are all first-rate. As I noted above, the only rooms more exclusive than ours are the Courtyard rooms, and we even have an invitation to attend a private courtyard party. So, we’ll get to visit and use a part of the ship that maybe only 30 people out of 2300 have any access to.

We’ve been on nine cruises; for our first six we had interior cabins. These were fine rooms, and our cruise experience was always pleasant. Interior cabins are certainly the most economical way to go, and for as little as cruises charge for interior cabins these days, you really do feel like you’re getting a steal. The down side to an interior cabin, of course, is that there’s basically a bed and that’s it. If you’re claustrophobic in any way, then that might not be the cabin for you, and it also can hurt a marriage to have a spouse under foot all the time. One possible plus, though, depending on how you look at it, is that having an interior cabin gets you out and about on the ship more. When you have a balcony of your own, that’s one less reason to leave the cabin. And then, when you find yourself with a penthouse balcony, the rest of the ship is more or less easy to ignore entirely.

Why is it so difficult to ever see a rich person? Because they live behind walls of luxury. Why would they ever want to leave?

Norwegian Gem Mediterranean Cruise in November: Malta (Escape to Mdina) – Entry 3

Tuesday -- Malta

“Get up extra early in the morning and watch the ship come into the harbor. It will change your life.”

Well, maybe we’re jaded, but it wasn’t a life changing experience. The approach to Valletta, Malta is pretty enough, but neither Linda nor I found it to be spectacular.

Valletta is a very “earthy” looking city, and if brown is your favorite color, then you’ll probably love it. It’s a walled-city, though, and that’s pretty cool. Neither of us has been to Israel, but Malta triggered that thought in our imagination. Is this what the Holy Land looks like?

The main thing to do in Valletta is to walk up the main pedestrian street and visit St. Johns Co-Cathedral, and like any good tourists, we did that. St. Johns is certainly worth a visit, but no matter how lovely a Cathedral is, there’s only so much time you want to spend there. So, we looked around for a few minutes and left. Shopping isn’t my thing, either, so wading through the mass of people on the main street wasn’t my idea of fun.

What we continue to notice, however, is how much smaller the typical Mediterranean person is. I found myself easily looking over the crowd, as though I were a giant among men (which I am, of course, but usually not so literally).

Earlier in the morning, we took the public bus over to Mdina. That was the best part of the day, and had we known it, we would have stayed in Mdina longer and skipped Valletta all-together. Interestingly, all buses on Malta start at the Fountain outside of Valletta’s city gate. So for 3 Euros (about $4), we traveled from the ship to the Fountain to Mdina, roundtrip. By way of comparison, the comparable cruise-sponsored excursion to Mdina cost $95 per person. So, you do the math. Yes, the cruise excursion let you taste wine, but that’s a lot of wine to make up the difference in cost.

Mdina, someone said in a cruise review, is a good place to kill 75 minutes. Wrong. This is a place worth visiting for as much time as you have on your cruise stop. And unlike Valletta, Mdina is relatively empty of tourists. Only a 30 minute bus ride from Valletta, this is a very quiet place, and if you want to see a church, they have one there, too: St. Pauls.

Norwegian Gem Mediterranean Cruise in November: Naples (the City of Dog Shit) – Entry 2

Wednesday -- Pompeii (Naples)

All the information I read before the trip stated that Naples would be a gritty, trashy-looking place. And that was spot on. Naples looked very ghetto in a lot of ways. All of the apartment building were run-down and old, and the trash was everywhere. This is also a city where people apparently love their dogs, but have no concept of picking up their shit. It was all over the sidewalks. All over the place.

We seemed to be two of the only people from the ship that decided to walk from the port to the train station, and thank God for cruiser Tom Ogg. It was only because of his step-by-step directions (with pictures) that we were able to easily find the place. (Tom Ogg has posted a plethora of information to the Internet – just google his name and your cruise port destination, and you’ll probably find something very useful).

On the way to the train station, the sidewalk stopped. Actually, it was closed for construction, and this forced us to walk right out on the main highway. Luckily, the traffic was so bad that we were walking faster than the cars, but then the cars would speed passed us from time-to-time, and we had no shoulder to walk on. Instead, we were pushed up against a fence, simply hoping that no cars would edge over too close in our direction. And then of course there were all the mopeds and motorcycles that cut in and out of traffic. We finally managed to cross the street and find an open sidewalk, but it was a bit hairy for a while.

Looking down the side streets was like looking into an Italian labyrinth. We felt pretty safe sticking to the main artery, all things considered, but just going off a block or two in any direction might be enough for us to be forever lost. Sometimes someone would stick their head out of an alley door and just stare. It made you wonder what was on their mind.

The train station reminded me a little bit of the Chicago’s, but maybe that’s because I don’t use public transportation that often…

Our mission today was to go to Pompeii. The cruise-sponsored tour would have cost us $95 per person, but train tickets were only 9 Euros round trip for both of us, and the entry fee was 11 Euros per person. In other words, we saved about $150 doing it on our own. The train ride itself only took 30 minutes, and the station was literally right outside the main gate to Pompeii.

If you’ve never been to Pompeii, you’ll have a difficult time imagining just how big it really is. We had thought about visiting Capri in the morning and Pompeii in the afternoon, but in the end, we stuck to just tackling Pompeii, and that was a very smart decision. All told, we ended up staying there 5 or 6 hours, and we didn’t even see probably 1/5 of it. We caught the major highlights, though, and we saw much more than our fellow cruisers that used the cruise-sponsored trip. The main coliseum in Pompeii, for example, is in the far back corner of the property, and I’m sure no group tours went all the way back to see it. Pity, too, because it was amazing.

I generally hate doing the same things that all the tourists do, but I went in to this cruise knowing that we’d be doing touristy things. So far, though, it hasn’t been a bad thing. Pompeii is a must-see. Just give yourself plenty of time, bring plenty of water, and don’t forget to use the bathroom before you enter!

Norwegain Gem Mediterranean Cruise in November: Rome or Vatican City? -- Entry 1

(I thought I'd blog daily, but I was having too much fun. I'll start catching up entries now, but I won't add any pictures until after we get home... The cruise ship Internet service is pretty good, but it's still 40 cents a minute.)

Thursday -- Vatican City

This is our ninth cruise (and our third with Norwegian), and I have to admit that I had some concerns about cruising the Mediterranean in November. After all, November is the “off-season,” and we assumed it would be rainy and cold. Actually, however, the temperatures have been in the 70s, and it’s been so warm and humid that I now couldn’t imagine cruising the Mediterranean in the summer. The off-season has the additional advantage of not being nearly so crowded. Trust me on this: if you come in November, you’ll still be sharing the experience with a lot of tourists everywhere you go – so just imagine how many thousands more would be in your way at “peak times.”

Ports are about choices. There’s always too much to do, and never enough time to even scratch the surface of seeing it all. Today, for example, we planned to take the train into Rome and spend 4 hours running around the major sights. At breakfast, though, we realized that it might be easier to go to Vatican City and get more accomplished. The major “sights” of the Vatican are closer together after all… Of course what we failed to realize is how big the Vatican museum really is. It’s so huge that if you looked at every item it contains for just ten seconds each, it would take something like 12 years to see everything.

Please, if you ever go on the Mediterranean cruise, avoid the ship-sponsored cruise excursions. Here’s why. The port city is an hour away from Rome by train and cost just 9 euros per person round trip. The walk to the train station is only 4 blocks from the port, and then when you get to the St. Peter’s station, it’s maybe just another 4 blocks to St. Peter’s Square. So, you can get there for 18 euros ($27). The cruise ship will take you to Rome via bus for a minimum of $119 per person, and that’s just to drop you off. If you want to do anything more on your excursion, prices go up to over $400 per person. If that’s not bad enough, it takes longer to get to Rome via bus than by train.

The train ride itself is an interesting experience. The seats are built for people under 5’ 8”, and every seat is full. The ride there smelled like sitting in a kitty litter box for an hour, but hey, it’s cheap. Everyone in Italy apparently knows just enough English, too, to communicate with Americans. Some of the signs around the country are written in English as well, so finding your way around is pretty straight-forward.

Lines at St. Peter’s Square are LONG. On a typical day 60,000 people may be visiting the Square and Sistine Chapel and the Church. The day we were there was pretty light – maybe just 40,000 people. To avoid the lines, we did something we don’t normally do – we joined a group tour. That turned out to be a really good decision in this case, though. It cost us 40 euros per person, but our tour started and 11 and when straight through to 3:30. Jim, our tour guide from Michigan, conveyed information for 4 ½ straight hours. He only took a 15 minute break when we visited the Sistine Chapel – and that’s because people are supposed to be completely silent when visiting there.

Amusingly, it’s not completely silent in the Sistine Chapel. Employees walk around yelling “Silence!” and they do their best to stop people from talking, and taking pictures. Both are losing battles. Apparently people aren’t allowed to take pictures in the Chapel because the Japanese company that paid $180 million for the restoration owns the copyright. So it becomes a game. People try to see how much they can get away with, and stern-looking Italians try to stop them.

All told, we spend almost 6 hours at Vatican City, and it was an incredible experience. Some people attempt to visit both Rome and Vatican City in a single day. How they do that, I don’t know. If you try to see it all, you’ll end up seeing nothing. And like I noted above, even 6 hours in Vatican City isn’t nearly enough time. It’s a place that deserves weeks, if not months.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day 2008

As a reminder:

Voter turnout is expected to heavy across the nation. Therefore, election officials have decided to extend voting through tomorrow.

Democrats are asked to vote today, and Republicans are requested to vote tomorrow.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Head Over Heels -- Literal Lyrics Version

Don't you just hate music videos that have nothing in common with the song lyrics?

Me, too. Thankfully, Ted Turner has developed new technology to match the lyrics to the video. Check it out.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Math Humor

Have you ever noticed how funny math people are?

Someone: pick me up off the floor!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Judgement, Experience, Both, Neither

Have you ever wondered how we get stuck with the candidates that we're asked to vote for? Actually, this year's crop (with maybe one major exception) turned out to be pretty good.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Voldemort for President 2008

Voldemort for President. Finally, a candidate that says exactly what he means!

(But how do we know that McCain isn't really Voldemort??)
Happy Halloween

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Professor Badass: My Hero

I wonder if this is how students saw me when I walked around campus?

Unfortunately, my wife reminds me that she once overheard two of my students (circa 1999) that were sitting in the hallway after class talking about me. Apparently they thought I wore my khakis tight -- I admit it, I did -- and that could only mean that I had to be gay.

Sorry fellas. I might read poetry, but gay I have never been :)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rick n' Roll, Baby -- "Never Gonna Give You Up" (Literal Music Video version)

Okay, so I guess I like Rick Roll. So what?

Anyway, can you really watch this "literal lyrics" version just once? Thought not!

President Palin??

Here's a funny, funny interactive Palin link.

Just imagine what it would be like to have her as our President.

Warning: Don't click on the Red Phone!!!

Sarah Palin Debate Flow Chart

Can you believe that some people are already talking about a Palin 2012 presidential run? Can you imagine that? I can. It would be glorious. :)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

World Clock -- Births, Deaths, and Other Interesting Facts Updated Every Second

Here's a pretty interesting data clock that I think you'll find worth a look:

In 2008, over 48 million people have died so far. Wanna know how? Click the link.

Over 111 million people have been born (vs. 38 million abortions).


Prefer your information by the day? At the moment:

252,000 people have been born today
108,000 people have died today
86,000 abortions
1,700 divorces (U.S. only)
200 more people have entered the prison system
51 species have ceased to exist

Monday, October 27, 2008

Just Do It and Other Sexual Cliches

Doug Brown's Just Do It should be better than Charla Muller's 365 Nights.

After all, Brown writes for a living, and the book does a lot of the things I was hoping Muller's would do. For example, Brown actually does describe the sexual encounters with his wife.

But the descriptions grow pretty monotonous.

Brown does include specifics on things they "try" to enhance the experience: toys, lubes, locations, positions.

Brown also includes a lot more dialogue, and on the surface, that should be a good thing. It should be good to hear what his wife is thinking along the journey... unfortunately, it's impossible to know who is "speaking." Doug and his wife sound exactly the same in the dialogue portions, and Doug doesn't really go into his own "deep thoughts" (probably because he knows his wife will be reading the book??).


After a while, I just wondered why I should care, and perhaps that's the main problem I had with both Just Do It and 365 Nights.

Hell, both authors even admitted that the "sex marathon" was getting boring to them after a few weeks, and perhaps that boredom carried over into the writing(?).

Perhaps the two books were simply too contrived for my tastes. I like to read memoirs because I like to see how people handle real situations. Describing sexual encounters with a spouse certain counts as "real," but something about the forced aspect of having sex with someone, even a spouse, seems wrong to me.

So Doug and Charla, if you're reading my reviews, sorry. Both books left me rather limp and unsatisfied.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

365 Nights -- A Sexless Book about Doing It for a Year

Two memoirs were released this summer with sex as the unifying theme.

One was the straight-to-paperback 365 Nights by Charla Muller. In her epilogue, she asks that English majors go easy on her, so I'll try to be kind.

Muller's book promises to be a book about sex, but while she shows us the gun above the fireplace, she never takes it down off the mantle. The sex itself, which one would rationally assume would be the centerpiece of the book, occurs off stage. All we get are cliches like "doing the deed" and "the Gift."

This could have been a perfectly nice book about married life and intimacy, but the book is mis-titled and therefore misleading. As a reader, I'm not looking for any pornographic details, but I am looking for some specifics here. Muller never once mentions what happens in the bedroom, whether she orgasms, or anything like that. She does mention that her husband was once, around the 80th night, too tired to complete, but that's as graphic or as detailed as she ever gets.

Questions that readers never get answers to while reading this book: 1) does Muller like sex? 2) how many partners did Muller have before marriage? 3) is sex important to intimacy (I'm assuming the book's answer is "yes," but we're also told that daily sex became routine and more of a chore).

Interestingly, this book has an editor listed as a co-author (and not her husband, by the way), and that is a warning sign itself.

The other "sex" memoir is Just Do It by Douglas Brown. I'll post a review on it shortly.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mane Attraction -- Writer's Poke #121

For Writers:

When you start to go bald, my wife tells me, just shave off your hair. Don't do a comb-over.

I have no intention of doing a comb-over, but that's a choice a lot of men make. Don't they know better? They must, but something about vanity blinds them to the fact that they are doing something that most swore they'd never do.

Does hair still equal masculinity in our culture? Chest hair is no longer sexy, unless you're David Hasselhoff or Paul Stanley. Leg hair doesn't seem to be important either, although I remember when I was growing up that kids would point out that I didn't have a lot of it, as if not having a sufficient amount of leg hair made me less of a man.

I've kept a goatee for years, but that's simply out of convenience. Shaving every day is a drag, as I found out when I experimented with the bald look -- both face and head -- in my early 20s. But assuming I do start going bald like my dad and his dad before him, I have no problem shaving daily and showing off my lumpy skull.

What does your hair say about you? If you're not bald not now, would you be willing to shave it all off?

"We're all born bald baby." - Telly Savalas

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Forgiving Dr. Mengele -- Writer's Poke #120

For Writers:

Eva Kor decided that she couldn't live with hate any longer; she forgave the human beings that experimented on her and her twin sister; she forgave people involved in a great evil.

She forgave people, not the evil. Somehow, she recognized that forgiving the former was possible without also forgiving the latter.

People hated her for her willingness to forgive, claiming that she had no right to forgive. But Eva's point was this: forgiveness is the only way to move on. It is the only real path forward. And it's an individual choice. She didn't need anyone to ask for her forgiveness. Forgiveness is something freely offered.

Forgiveness is power. Forgiveness is liberation.

To forgive is not to forget. How could the Holocaust ever be forgotten? But what purpose is gained by holding on to hate?

In what ways have you allowed hate to control you?

"You cannot hate other people without hating yourself." -- Oprah Winfrey

Monday, October 20, 2008

What Was Palin Thinking?

"What Was Palin Thinking?" Sure to be a great DVD board game. Look for it at a Walmart near you during the X-mas Season.

Friday, October 17, 2008

McCain and Palin Selected for Roles in New Batman Movie

Now that their political stock has dropped more than the Dow Jones, McCain and Palin have decided it's time to plan for life after politics.

Interestingly, both have landed roles in the popular Batman movie franchise. McCain will assume the role of Harvey Two-Face, and Palin will be the first female to play the Joker.

Courtesy of:

McCain Caption Contest

This photo, taken at the conclusion of the third McCain/Obama debate, screams for a caption contest.

Pundits have noted that McCain was a lot more animated in the last debate, but perhaps that's not always a good thing.

Anyway, if you were to put a caption to this photo, what would it say?

Here's my lame attempt --> McCain: the Original White Zombie

Or how about --> Here McCain attempts to solitify his conservative zombie base.

Now I just know you can come up with something better than that!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fuller 2008

The people have called, and I have listened to their call.

The country is hungry, and I will feed their bellies.

Yes, I am happy to announce that I am running for president of the United States of America.

Please click the following link to see a news story about my surprise entry into this year's political campaign.

There are only three weeks left, but together, we can change the world!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

National Novel Writing Month Is Coming

November is National Novel Writing Month, affectionately known as NaNoWriMo.

Now in its tenth year, NaNoWriMo's goal is to get writers to, well, write. No more procrastination, and no more excuses.

The rules of the "contest" are simple: Just write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November.

Last year, over 100,000 would-be writers signed up, and over 15,000 crossed the 50,000 word finish line.

What do you win? Well, you win the fact that you've written a novel, and once the organization confirms your word count, it sends you a nice certificate, suitable for framing no doubt.

According to the organization's website, a number of NaNoWriMo novels have found publishers, and at least one was a #1 New York Times best seller.

November sounds like a great time to write a novel, and I plan to enter the contest. Check out the link, and if you're interested in entering, too, email me. ( Together, maybe we can encourage each other to write the next great American novels.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Christopher Buckley Jumps Ship and Endorses Obama

Christopher Buckley, son of National Review founder William F. Buckley, has decided to jump the sinking McCain ship to support Obama!

Buckley who still writes for National Review himself notes that he decided to post his endorsement to thedailybeast blog rather than in the conservative magazine because he didn't have the stomach for the amount of hate mail he knew it would generate. (That's probably the longest sentence I've ever written without any controlling punctuation marks.)

It's time for more Republicans to attempt that McCain's ship is sinking. More importantly, it's time for more Republicans to come out for Obama.

Click on the link below to read the Buckley piece.

Friday, October 10, 2008

McCain Booed at His Own Rally for Defending Obama

For the past few days, McCain and Palin have been calling Obama a plethora of things as I've noted in a previous post. Not surprisingly, impressionable Republican minds have been soaking up these warnings like sponges.

Friday night McCain seemed to understand that his campaign was taking things too far. He actually took the unusual step of defending Obama's character! Yes, McCain told his crowd that Obama was an honorable man, and a good American. He told them that they had nothing to fear from Obama as president of the United States.


Question: Will McCain now tone down the rhetoric in his stump speeches and in his commercials? Will he put a leash on pitbull Palin? Or, will he continue taking the low road, while attempting to take the high road simultaneously?

Pundits on MSNBC tonight suggested that perhaps McCain knows that he's fighting a losing battle, and perhaps the so-called "old McCain" is coming out. Perhaps the McCain that really does believe in Country First will replace the one that wanted to be president at all costs.

Check out McCain's body language in the video. He didn't really want to defend Obama, but he did it. Kudos to McCain for apparently doing the right thing tonight. I hope this is a trend of things to come.

McCain: 100% Negative -- Meanwhile Coleman Pulls All Negative Ads

McCain is angry.

A University of Wisconsin study found that 100% of McCain's TV ads are negative. In comparison, only 34% of Obama's ads are "negative." And in his desperation, it looks like McCain has nowhere to go but deeper into the gutter. He will continue to attack Obama and try to make his "character" an issue.

Great move, McCain. Don't attack Obama on the issues. Just try to attack him personally. Yeah, I'm sure that will work for you.

Interestingly, Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman announced today that he will pull all negative ads in his race against challenger Al Franken. He's also going to skip a McCain rally today... "to 'dedicate his time to implementing his suspension' of negative ads. "

Hmmm... interesting...

This indicates to me that Coleman is no dummy. McCain is a sinking ship, and so are negative ads. Coleman is right for once. People care about the economy, and not desperate attempts at assassinating an opponent's character.

But McCain will probably prefer to go down in a blaze of negatively.

Obama will win this election in a landslide. I think he even has a real shot to win 60% of the popular vote, which would be pretty incredible.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Palin: Fear This T-Shirt

I say, you just gotta love capitalism, don'tcha?
After Nov. 4 when Palin goes back to her igloo in defeat, this shirt will be worth what your stocks are currently.
But at least the shirts will still make good cleaning rags. :)

McCain: A Character-assassinating Bridge-builder?

John McCain claims that he can "work across party lines." Really?

This man's campaign offers no sense of working collaboratively with people.

Look at how he and Palin (and their ads) have described Obama:

1. Liar
2. Hypocrite
3. Naive
4. Terrorist
5. Dangerous
6. Liberal
7. Dishonorable

Those are just the first seven descriptors that easily come to my mind.

Let me ask you: If someone described you in these terms, would you be willing to work with that person with a smile on your face? Of course not. Name-calling is not the way to form alliances and to work with people that disagree with you.

Now look at the other side. Has Obama and Biden (and their ads) described McCain in the same ways? For the most part, clearly not. Yes, they have tried to tie McCain to Bush, but they've never criticized him as a person.

McCain's tactics bother me. Yes, he's just playing the political game, but Obama is showing that you don't have to play that game. For the most part, he has run a very honorable campaign.

I'm not sure why the Republicans cannot see this -- other than they simply refuse to see it...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

War on Metaphor

You cannot win a metaphorical war.

The next time you hear someone say "We must stay in Iraq and win the War on Terror," please remind them:

The War on Poverty started in 1964 -- and there are still poor people.

The War on Drugs started in 1971 -- and there are still drugs.

Terrorism as a term has been around since at least the French Revolution (that, by the way, began in 1789).

The point is: There is no such thing as "The War on Terror," and therefore, there is no "front" to this war -- not in Iraq, and sorry, not in Afghanistan, either. Further, there really is no "enemy" for our military to attack.

Can you defeat terrorism by dropping bombs and locking up people in Cuba? Nope.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

How to Read Elizabethan Poetry

For some reason, I found yesterday's Zits comic (above) a lot more funny than my wife did.

But it made me think: what's the best way to read Elizabethan poetry? Amazingly, someone has posted an article on the Internet to address that very question:

Pulleys are optional.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Who's That Happy Girl?

Octavia turns one next Thursday; don't forget to wish her a happy first birthday -- she'll never have another first birthday, folks. :)

Why is this girl so darn happy?

Satisfaction -- Writer's Poke #119

For Writers:

"You're never satisfied," my wife tells me, and I know that she's right. But is that a bad thing? If I were easily satisfied, I might still be working in a factory, or I might still be an adjunct instructor in Illinois, or I might still be a full-time instructor in South Carolina. The point is, whenever I've felt unsatisfied, I've tried to do something about it.

But when do the feelings of dissatisfaction end? For some people, never. Some of us were raised to believe that "good" in the enemy of "great," and if we're not striving for perfection, then there's something wrong with us. This is a tough lesson to discard. And for me, just being satisfied with who I am and where I am in life is one of the most difficult problems I deal with on a daily basis.

Part of it is this: I don't want to live a "satisfactory" life. To me, that smacks of living a cliche. But how to avoid being trapped in the cliche is the rub. At 35, I have the wife, the kid, the mortgage. I have the career. And I've worked hard to get where I'm at. So why do I sometimes feel unsatisfied? Why do I feel such a strong urge to be different? To live a life unlike everyone else's my age? How can I avoid living through the regimented stages of an average existence?

Is there such thing as "age appropriate" satisfaction?

"As long as I have a want, I have a reason for living. Satisfaction is death." -- William Shakespeare

Palin vs. Biden -- Draw (by Repetition)

After last night's debates, I was left wondering: why even have debates?

Palin admitted early on that she wasn't planning to address the questions asked by the moderator; instead, her strategy was simply to vomit out all the talking points that she had memorized at McCain's ranch.

And it's probably a good thing she did that, of course. When she was interviewed by Charles Gibson and Katie Couric, she got herself in trouble when she didn't stick to her talking points (i.e. when she had to come up with an original thought on her own).

If you compare Biden's answers with Palin's, it's pretty clear that Biden knew a lot more. Biden, I'd betcha (to use Palin talk), didn't have to prep or study for the debate. He already knew the issues, and he clearly knew what he was talking about. Palin, on the other hand, didn't express a deep understanding of the issues. However, Palin does have an ideology, and she stuck to that ideology, but what use is having an ideology if you don't know why you believe what you believe?

This always gets me. For example, Palin can say that she thinks some issues are better handled at the state level. That's a pretty standard Republican position, but ask her why. I betcha she won't be able to explain the logic behind it.

Biden underperformed last night, but before the debate, that's what all the advice givers and pundits suggested that he needed to do. After all, a draw in the debate wouldn't be the end of the world for Team Obama. That said, I was very glad to see Biden attack the maverick label. McCain and Palin mavericks? Please. Perhaps the only real maverick in American politics today is Jesse Ventura. Palin is a pretty standard conservative, and whatever McCain was, he can no longer claim maverick status. He's a pretty standard old fart (I mean Republican) himself these days.

So in the final analysis, Palin came into the debate with a much weaker position; both sides, in my mind, played for a draw, and a draw is what resulted.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Palin: Telegenic but Clueless

Have you read John Updike's "A&P"? It's a short story, and the narrator asks what pretty girls have for brains -- perhaps just a fly buzzing around in a jar.

Personally, I don't think Palin is stupid, but based on the limited number of interviews she's granted over the past couple of weeks, it's painfully evident that political issues aren't her forte. And that's unfortunate; since she somehow got elected governor of a state, and was "tapped" by McCain to be VP, you'd expect her to know something about political issues...

Most of you have probably seen her response to Katie Couric's question about supreme court decisions, other than Roe v. Wade, that she disagrees with. Amazingly, she cannot come up with a single case.

I look for patterns. It might even be excuseable for her just to be off for one question, or even one interview, but let's look at the pattern:

1. Charley Gibson asked her about the Bush Doctrine, and she had no idea what that was.

2. Katie Couric asked her to name one thing McCain has done in the past 25 years that she supports, and she couldn't name one(!).

3. Katie Couric asked her what magazines and newspapers she read to stay informed, and she couldn't name one(!). (I honestly wonder: Is she able to read?)

What will happen at tonight's debate? Get your beer and popcorn ready!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Clarity and Audience

I'm sure this cartoon was designed with science fiction in mind, but it also is a pretty good attack on James Joyce.

Question: If a book is written by an author for his own amusement (i.e. Joyce, Pynchon, most post-modernists), can it ever really be considered "good"? When is it okay to break the rule of clarity in fiction?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Space in 2D (not to scale)


Fun image... if you're at all interested in feeling small.

Click the image for a view that you can actually read, or click the link for this image and a lot more funny stuff.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

How Do We End the Iraq War? (And Other Rhetorical Questions)

On May 1, 2003, President Bush declared "mission accomplished" in Iraq. Americans have short memories, and no balls. Most Americans don't even realize there are two American wars going on right now. How sad.

Okay, I'll admit that I supported the invasion of Iraq. At the time, I doubted the line of bull the government was telling us, but I supported the removal of Hussein for his past offences. Who cared if we were punishing him 15 years too late, or under false pretenses? But by 2003, it became clear that our declared mission was over. Even Bush said so. And yet, we're still there 5 years later.

If we even talk about leaving Iraq, Sean Hannity questions our patriotism, and says that we are giving aid and comfort to the enemy. So I have some questions:

1. How will we ever know when the mission is over, when it was declared over five years ago?

2. Who do we expect will "surrender" to U.S. forces? We're not fighting an army. We're fighting an ideology, and how do you ever defeat an ideology with an army?

3. If it's so important to be in Iraq to protect America, why don't we have the same commitment to protect America from off-shore drilling, oil dependency, nuclear energy, kids that can't read and write, and the Wall Street fat cats?

4. Russia invades Georgia for a few days, and the U.S. is outraged. And yet, we stick around in Iraq for 6+ years. What's the difference, other than we're America, so we can do whatever we want?

5. In the first presidential debate, Obama noted that he was a friend to the American veterans. McCain just smirked at that, claiming that he knew the veterans best, and that he would take care of his veteran friends.

Okay, veterans get free health care from the government, right? How many veterans are there? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 24.9 million veterans.

First, how does anyone "know" 25 million people?

Second, why is government health care good for 25 million veterans and not for the other 275 million Americans?? (Note: Of the 275 million, only 40 million are uninsured.)

6. In the first presidential debate, McCain smirked at Obama when Obama said that he would hunt down and kill Osama Bin Laden and cross the Pakistani border if he had to... To that McCain said, "You don't say that [you'll cross a country's sovereign border]; you just do it."

First, since when do we think we have the right to cross the borders of other countries without their consent?

Second, since when do we have the right to kill anyone in cold blood without any kind of trial, even Bin Laden? Bin Laden may or may not be the most evil person in the world, but I have a real problem with the idea that we think we can just kill him, whether he's on the battlefield or not; apparently all the world is now a battlefield. That's scary.

I know it's a bit of a drag to leave comments, but if you have any thoughts or feedback, I'd love to read what you have to say.