Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wait, people actually read this shit?

Got two surprises the last few days.

Last night a friend and writer I respect a great deal told me he'd read my blog. He said it in passing, like, "So, I was reading your post the other day and thinking about it."

I had no idea he was reading it. My ego expanded like the heart of a supernova. My lips popped with the heat of the tiny explosion of gassy satisfaction like a hiccup of hydrogen processed in the furnace at the tiny heart of the empty, echoing vacuum of my cranium.

Then today, my best friend from my misspent youth in Switzerland asked how my Holidays were, "aside from a Marine sticking her head in your lap."

Someone quoth my shit! Holy shit! People actually read this stuff?! I was better prepared this time, and managed to keep the fires of ego banked and pleasingly glowy, rather than brainfarting all over the place.

Granted, they are my friends, and a certain level of interest in what I do is expected, as is the inverse, but as another of my friends once told me, "No one is going to be as interested in your shit as you are."

Now I know I gots ta be careful wit' muh writin'. Real people is readin' me.

All kidding aside, it is gratifying to know I do not scream into the void, my words falling unheard into the abyss

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas in Tennessee

This morning was quite fine, with my daughter ecstatic over her American Girl doll, Emily. My wife liked the things I bought her, and my parents appreciated the gifts they received. I too, looked about and thought myself blessed.

Isabelle, Karen, and I spent the day hammering out different games on the Wii... Entertaining, but sore shoulders for all.

Then it came time for dinner: Turkey, stuffing, cranberries, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, aunts, uncles, dog trainers, dog, cat, and a general wonderland of wine. What I wouldn't give for another stomach!

Now we sit and digest, and I try not to watch Prince Caspian for the 8 millionth time (my daughter absolutely adores it, and can quote lines from any portion of the film). I am supposed to get some writing done, I think. Luckily, the laptop lets me be among the family and cozy whilst I type this out.

I am blessed in many ways, most of all with regard to my family. I treasure these times, I really do.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, and best wishes for the New Year.

Later, District 9.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Flying the Red Eye with Red Ma-Girl

"Holy shit, but I need to peeeeeeh!" quoth my squealing neighbor as we finally ended the long taxi to the gate in Memphis. It was a merciful ending to a strange leg of my trip home fo the holidays.

It started with a fifteen minute bus ride that shoud have taken three. Got to the gate in good time, regardless. Boarded on time, which meant we had a nice long wait for the stampede. While we all stood waiting, three marines on our flight were enjoying a few libations.

Now usually when I fly, at least one leg of the trip results in me being seated next to another large mammal, and one of us either arranges to take a different seat or we suffer through bumping shoulders and a great deal of discomfort.

So of course, as the stampede begins, I have a large man behind me. I ask where he's seated, and... wait for it... he's in the same row... other side of the aisle, thank god!

While I'm talking to him, he sneezes rather fiercely (into his elbow, thankfully). I say the usual, to which he replies, "I'm not sure what I've got. Haven't been the same since Singapore."

My first thought? FUCK ME!

"Don't advertise that," I said. speeding up to avoid over-exposure.

I took my seat, a window. The aisle seat was quickly occupied by a guy about my age who seemed to be an experienced traveller. Chatted a moment, confirmed the cool. we both kept our eyes forward, looking for the middle seat, dreading the outcome.

Here comes a Marine.

A dog starts whining in the back of the plane.

The Marine staggers past, blearily checking rows. My row buddy and I share a relieved nod. A family of indian women take seats in front of us.

Behind them comes another of the Marines. Digicam hat popped high and clutching a soda bottle in her hand. Being of exceedingly small stature, as she comes closer she tips her head back to look at the row numbers and the rather large lump of chaw in her lower lip becomes visible. The soda bottle, a rather large 2o oz, is a third full with her spittle and used vegetable product.

"Shit, but it's hot in here."

"You sitting here?" my cool row mate asks.

"Yep, this is meeee!" the Marine replies slurring her vowels as only alcohol and one born in the south can do competently.

The gent in the aisle seat rises and lets her in, helplessly looking to the front of the cabin.

The scent of chewing tobacco and no small amount of alcohol swirls in a sickening melange with the yapping whine of the dog somewhere behind us as she moves into position. She takes a while to take her seat, having to first pound her bag into the space between her seat and the indian's to her front.

"Hooweee! That was shit."

What followed was either a tactful silence or stunned muteness. I am still not sure which.

All the sudden her head is in my lap as she's scrabbling at her bag. This goes on for more time than was comfortable for me, adn I am relieved to discover her scrabbling has a purpose. She's trying to get her Marine training manuals out and study.

"Just made lance, tryin' for corporal," she mutters.

"Congratualtions," I say, releived to have her chaw-soaked mouth away from my crotch, and meaning it too; just cause she's uncouth doesn't mean she isn't a good soldier.

"Uhm-huh," a delay, then, "Shit, I gotta go to the latrine."

The aisle fellow rises, the Marine departs. My aisle buddy looks disappointed. Not that she left, but that she'll be coming back.

"Could be a big drunk one," I say.

He shrugs, as if to say, "Or it could have been a Maxim model."

The Marine returns, sans spitoon and bulging lip. Relieved, I buckle up and prepare to get off the ground.

We get off the ground without a hitch, aside from more muttered imprecautions from tiny Marine next to me, which I am good with. Some people just don't travel well.

The tiny Marine passes out, slumping between myself and Mr Cool Aisle for the duration of the flight, which means lights out for me too. I wake as we start to descend. There's a good bit of weather turbulence, setting the plane to rocking.

Tiny Marine gets agitated, bouncing in her seat and pressing one breast into my arm as she cranks her neck over to look out the window, "I fuckin' hate not fuckin' bein' able to see the ground. Hate worryin' we'll fall outta the sky and crash."

The Indian woman in front of us gives a tiny squeek of fear, not in response to the plane's movement so much as the Marine's brining that movement to her attention.

I just nod wordlessly, working my mouth to pop my ears. Some shit you just don't say out loud, even when you're giving cheap thrills.

We get on the ground and she's all over her phone, shooting the shit with someone, cursing every third word. I wouldn't have batted an eye, but then she starts to tell a story.

"Yeah, that Marine I was telling you about, he tried to kiss me."


"Shit, I told you he tried to kiss me. And I told him, 'I'm no whore to be kissing some Marine I just met. I was raised in a God-fearing household.'"

"Shit, I know. Oh, and by the way I have one word to tell you about- you know."





We make the gate and passengers start to disembark.

"Holy shit, but I need to peeeeeeh!I know, I've been sleepin' the whole trip since we got in the fuckin' air."

By now the other passengers have finally emptied rows through to thirteen, the row before us. I breath deeply, thinking, 'Freedom is nigh!'

Another head-in-lap session as she starts to pull her bag from beneath the seat in front of her.

At last, it ends.

Now for the Memphis to Chattanooga leg.

And back again.

It should be noted: I respect and appreciate all our armed forces. They give more than they should have to each and every day. The individual soldier can often do some funny shit, though. Especially the young, intoxicated and uncomplicated.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ten Signs I'm Getting Older

1) Movies I remember watching as a kid are being remade, and yes, thirty years have passed since I first watched 'em.

2) I have more hair on my back than my head.

3) Video Games I played as a kid appear so clunky they look like a phone from the twenties set next to my cell phone.

4) People of a legal age to drink were born after I started having sex.

5) My kid has a hard time thinking of me as a kid.

6) I can't stay up all night and still function effeciently the next day.

7) I can't drink like a fish and feel okay within a few hours of waking. Now it takes all week, and it's never a good week.

8) Celebrities that die young were younger than I am.

9) The music of my youth sounds dated, even to me.

10) and the worst: Grey hair in the pubes.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

My Results and Observations from Strikeforce 121909

Got 'em all, and in the manner I thought they'd go, for the most part.

Le Vs Smith:

I should have bet on this one, damn it. Smith just wanted it so very badly. He took a brutal beating from Cung's kicks, getting knocked flat at least five times. Smith came through it to land his brute of a left hook repeatedly in the last minute of the bout. Le ended on his face with a couple of goose eggs on his forehead. Smith's unlikely to make a long career of it, based on the lumping he took to win, but man, what a chin and a will to win.

Thomson vs. Melendez

Again, as I called it. Though there was little ground action, it was because both defended so well. The standup was incredible, with Melendez winning because he had been more a student of Thomson than Thomson was of him. They went the full five rounds again. Amazing battle. Can't wait for the third matchup of these two.

Souza vs. Lindland:

Another resent sign for Strikeforce, Souza (The crocodile) is a BJJ specialist who used to have little in the way of strike game. Tonight he came out with a sick arsenal of punches that so rattled Lindland that he was an easy victim for Souza's submission, which was a good example of the jujitsu's ability to knock you out with your own limbs.

Lawal vs. Whitehead:

Lawal did as I predicted. I've never been all that impressed with Whitehead, who looks like a regional fighter more than someone who should be watched on a card with the likes of the rest of the fighters.

Some other observations:

Strikeforce has made some very smart decisions recently in signing a series of fighters I first watched in the Dream tournaments televised in the US on HDNet Fights. Names include Miller, Mousasi, Souza and Fedor. All fighting and earning good money in Japan through the Dream series of promotions.

Mousasi took Souza with an upkick knockout (in Dream 8, I think it was?). All the fighters are something to watch. Every one of these guys was signed at about the same time, to punch up Strikeforce's credibility after the thunderous collapse of EliteXC. They are all also about as good as they come in the international scene.

I noticed Melendez had both Shields and Miller in his corner. Miller is a favorite of mine from the Dream series in Japan. He's known for his showmanship both in the ring and on his approach, something the Japanese audience expects. Interestingly, he had the smarts to tamp down his presentation to make sure that he didn't upstage Melendez on the lightweight's night, to the point of dying his hair all one color.

All this has me looking forward to the Strikeforce fights of 2o1o with a great deal of excitement.

Strikeforce Fight Night December 19 Calls

Taking a page from Mark's Journal, I am calling a few fights of my own.

He's a big UFC fan, and while I don't watch UFC (mainly because I just can't justify pay per view), I do follow anything on HDNet Fights and Strikeforce pretty religiously. Here are my calls for this fight night.

Le Vs Smith:

I would call this for Le, thinking that barring a lucky shot, he should own Smith. Then I considered that while Le hasn't been away from fighting long at all, he has been away from fighting for longer than he has _ever_ been away from the discipline, and it seems to me there are some shenanigans going on with all the title crap. So I give it to Smith by a surprise knockout or a TKO. If it goes to a decision, Le. He has the home crowd advantage, after all.

Thomson vs. Melendez:

Both can kick ass, but Melendez just can't be easily hurt. He can just take so much punishment. I think it'll be a long, very good fight ending with Melendez winning either a decision or submission. This will be the fight of the night, with good skill exhibition by both fighters.

Souza vs. Lindland:

Souza for sure, he has to prove he's worth the money Strikeforce paid to get him signed. Quick submission or submission over time, it's still Souza's to lose.

Lawal vs. Whitehead:

Lawal for an artless win. That said, I think there will be lots of pounding, so a lucky strike by either could end it quick.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Jealousy is a Dark God

I met Peter V Brett at World Fantasy after I was privileged to attend his and Mark Van Name's panel about violence in fantasy. I say Mark and his panel because they were the two panelists whose contributions I took the most value from.

I later cornered Peter (AKA Peat) and spoke with him for a few hours over drinks: A very good time that I both learned a lot from and enjoyed quite a bit. During this time I also met Myke, Alessa, and Rob, the latter two having blogs you can check out along the side here---------------------------------------------------------------------->

All this to say: like many of the folks I met at the convention, I hadn't read his work, but determined that it would be my next purchase. The book, The Warded Man remained unpurchased until I had completed my sergeant's oral.

I picked up the book Monday. I finally had time and opportunity to read it today.

I had thought to pick it up and read for an hour, then get to writing. BIG MISTAKE! HUGE! Holy shit! I've read 287 pages thus far, and I haven't written a thing all day.

When I read something, I often say to myself, "Shit! I could write this."

Sometimes I even say, in the long, drawn out southern style of my maternal forebears, "SHIiiiiT! I could write better than this."

Not once has that occurred to me while reading The Warded Man.

It is original stuff. He's written a gritty fantasy world that is one thing many fantasy worlds are not: believable. The characters have deep-seated, emotional reasons for doing the things they do. Even when it is the thing you would rather they didn't do, you still understand why they are doing it.

Peter writes with a smooth surety that makes me want to bang my head against the keyboard, cry, and drink a couple of my agent's bottles of Scotch to drown my sorrows.

I might get over it.

Until the next installment of his work.


Jealousy is a Dark God.

Monday, December 14, 2009


I am really loving life these last few days. Still sick, but things are clicking along all tracks... And I'm on them.

Mind you, I couldn't figure out how to format the last post so it fucking fit in the damn spot. Also, it's been raining so much I haven't been able to ride back and forth to work, cutting into my zen time.

But then, you can't have everything, all the time, can you?

But wait, you can, when it comes in a BAG O SCHWAG!

I finally picked up my bag o'schwag from World Fantasy Con. I had left it at Borderlands Books with one of the fine folks who work there. Yes, I left it there for nearly two months! There was a method to my madness, though. I had to study, write and generally handle business in the meantime. Self-flagellating reading of other people's good stuff would have been an evil burden to bear while trying to get all my tasks accomplished...

Now, however, the exam is done and the plot-jam broken!

The bag o schwag calleth and creatith scrivening interruptis

Saturday, December 12, 2009

How not to get beat by the police

This post is an oblique response to an incident on the US/Canada border that involved a Canadian SF writer and US Border Patrol personnel. Indeed, it is not so much in direct response to that incident as the persons who expressed their opinions on what happened. No one but the principles truly know what happened on that day, and I am certain that the truth will out when all is said and done.

My post is more in regards to the general contacts with law enforcement in the course of their day to day duties:

The worst people in the world for law enforcement to contact are people who have an awareness of their rights but an inaccurate assessment of _when_ to excercise those rights.

The street or border are not the place to stand on one's rights unless it _starts_ as an emergency matter or the person wishes to make new case law or raise public awareness by causing a confrontation.

Do not argue with the citing/arresting officer. Set your brain on record and be sure to remember what is said. Ask if you can turn on a recording device. Remember the reply. Do not tell the officer what you think is going on. Just recall, with as little emotion as possible, what is happening. Do not speculate as to why things are occurring. Certainly do not do so aloud.

All you are doing is moving the incident from the professional to the personal by stating that you think you are being pulled over based on your race, bumper sticker, car color, sexual orientation or immigration status.

If one does start a ruckus, be aware of the fact that your actions should dictate the actions of the law enforcement personnel you face: If you are six foot tall and have an angry expression on your face, repeatedly refuse to comply with orders such as ‘Get back in your car!” and outweigh/outsize the officer you have decided to argue with, prepare for a justified use of force to gain your compliance.

It will be painful, but you have moved the incident into that arena through the potential for violence you represent. Officers are not required to get hit or even be swung at before gaining compliance with a reasonable level of force. In the U.S. the standards for what is a reasonable level of force is not set by anyone but what another officer of similar training and experience would do in a similar circumstance. In other words, if you haven’t been there and done that, you are not setting the bar for excessive or reasonable force. Your opinions don’t count.

This is a case where the little man complex can get civilians into trouble. If the officer is smaller, lighter or generally not physically imposing and knows it, they can go to the force continuum much earlier than someone who outsizes/outweighs you. This is because they can be justified in using force when someone of greater stature would not be threatened by the relative size of the person contacted.

The courts are fairly well set up to deal with these situations in an environment where no one needs to raise their voice, let alone give/take a beating. Go to court and kick ass in that setting, it is generally much easier on you.

All of these guidelines that I have set forth are in relation to an officer upon first contact. If the officer shows a true inability to reason, then things are beyond the scope of this post. One must take comfort in the knowledge that the truly abusive of power rarely get away with it for long, and Karma is a bitch.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Oral Board

Well, the second oral board examination of my career is in the bag.

I started the day with many concerns, not least of which was the ICK I have been fighting for the last week and how it might prevent me from thinking and responding clearly to the board's questions. I felt like anyone who is rung from a cold medication-induced slumber by the alarm. Clogged nostrils took some time to clear, my brain even longer. I flogged ny brain to figure out where I was, let alone what I was doing there. When I recalled I was sleeping apart in a belated attempt to avoid infecting everyone, I cursed my luck and lamented the fact that I was not healthy for the exam.

I dragged myself through my morning routine, eventually getting on the road.

Being one who has a desperate desire to never appear late to any function, I showed up two hours early. The group that was to take the exam before me went up to perform for their individual interrogators.

A few minutes later a woman who works for the county Department of Human Resources came down and asked me if I was there to take the exam. I nodded, to which she asked if I wanted to take it early.

"Sure," I replied.

I won't bore you all with the rigamarole we had to go through, but suffice to say we are read the riot act and some additional information, and then have to sign away our rights with regard to talking about he test during the testing phases ("First rule of Fight Club" and all that.) Then we get a packet that includes a fictitious officer's background and a report completed by the officer in question. There are glaring deficiencies in the report and additional ones in the officer's performance and background. We are then given a half hour to write out and plan a strategy to answer the eight questions of the board. We don't know the questions, though my study partner and I had a pretty good idea what they would be.

Well now, those of you who have slavishly read this blog will know that I had some friends over to help me with a mock board. The board was very useful in making sure we shored up our weak points and were aware of what we needed to work on. In keeping with the theory that one must train how one works, the mock board had given us sample fictitous officer's backgrounds and a report.

Long story short, my fictitious officer for the board and the one from my mock board were the exact same fucking guy! I had to bite my lip to keep from swearing at my good fortune when I read the officer's background! It was a tremendous boost to my confidence going in, knowing that I had already answered and been critiqued by some pretty impressive minds on what I should do with regard to this officer's performance.

So, I cranked out my notes and spent the half hour making sure I got everything necessary ready.

Then I go before the board, which ends up being an older white southern gentleman and an african american fellow perhaps a few years older than I.

I actually got both to smile and nod at the appropriate points in my disertation and responses to their questions. When not smiling and nodding at me, they spent the entire twenty-two minutes I hoarsely communicated my strategy for improving officer Kirkland's performance either scribbling rapidly or checking off boxes.

Long story short: I did the very best I possibly could. Now it's just a matter of whether they were as easy to please for the others they assessed (The dreaded curve) or I was sufficiently good on the day to get a stand-out score.

Again, thanks to my friends, I actually gave a hugely better impression than I would have otherwise.

I am insanely lucky in my friends.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Ick

The ick hath struck. Last week I got the H1N1 vaccination. Now I'm running a fever and can feel the hole at the top of my throat where the cells are immolating in order to fight off infection. I am pretty sure I don't have the flu, just a nasty cold exacerbated by last week's hell-hath-frozen-over ride (Just 28 degrees before windchill and bay fog).

I must get better, and fast. Of course it had to be my throat, which I need in order to speak to the oral board this Friday.

Needless to say, I am not working tomorrow. Once done with this entry, I am taking several tylonol PMs and passing out. I will take my daughter to school tomorrow and repeat the process.

Sleep is for the weak. And I am weak, the now.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Amazing Amigos Part II

Well, just finished my mock oral board for the exam I have coming on Friday. Stressful as all get out and as useful as I could possibly hope for. I appeared relaxed, and to one of them, a bit cocky. I sure didn't feel that way.

All my previously mentioned amigos showed up as well as my friend and mentor in my own department. He added considerably to the effectiveness of the whole excercise. The lone civilian on the panel had some hugely important feedback, as I knew he would!

Train the way you fight is a military maxim, I believe. If our training was any indication, we are going to do pretty damn well on the actual day of our examination.

If men were judged solely by the quality of their friends, then I would certainly be held in higher regard than my actual merit warrants.

I thank them. I am happy to have had the opportunity to meet and join them under the various trees of our existence.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Few of My Amazing Amigos

Well, I am on the verge of my first paid writing gig. A friend hooked me up with both an introduction and a personal vouchsafe for my ability, rather unexpectedly.

I could not be more excited, and am chomping at the bit to engage in the project. This friend offered to get me into touch with the gentleman who needs a writer out of the blue, and without my prompting him. We will call this guy, a police officer with another agency, Amazing Amigo #3.

I am also in the final preparation phase for the Sergeant's oral exam. In order to best prepare, I decided to get some amigos together to form a panel and coduct as realistic an oral board as we could create.

I wrote a gentleman I know from Black Diamond Games and several conversations we had there. I asked him to be a panelist knowing he's a Lieutenant in another department. Most of the boards we will be reviewed by will be formed of Lieutenants from outside departments. He graciously agreed. Come to find out, he teaches and was directly involved in many similar processes for his own department. Amazing Amigo #2.

Amazing Amigo #3 also arranged, at cost to his previously-alloted family time, to participate on the mock board.

Black Diamond Games has been a nexus for me in my hobby and social life, and the owner-operator, Gary, has been a touchstone since he opened his store 5 or so years ago? Amazing Amigo #4

Amazing Amigo #1 is the guy who has been playing with me for years, who put me in touch with Amazing Amigo #3, and who has been very supportive of me and is generally an amazing guy. He also set aside other obligations to help me out.

Thanks, amigos!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Making Your Own Reality

Given what I write about, enjoy reading and do for a living, I have recently been thinking about something my brother said to me while we were skiing some fifteen years ago. We were both novice downhill skiers hitting the toughest slopes in Garmisch. I was more experienced and so fell just a slight bit less. When I say hitting, I mean hitting. We fell very frequently, but loved the feeling of speed too much to stop.

Somehow, and I believe it was my father who brought it up, we were asked how it was that despite repeated impacts with the slopes at 30+ mph, we remained uninjured.

My brother grinned and said, "I think it has more to do with an indestructible attitude than anything else."

At the time, my brother was in the 101st Airborne, and the statement grabbed me. Jumping out of planes seemed to me a high-threat practice that would result in frequent injury, yet people do it every day without injury.

I have done quite a bit of dangerous stuff including: a pretty horrific car accident that left the roof of the car three inches from the hood, fighting with a fair number of armed and aggressive people, jumping from heights greater than reasonable, and riding a motorcycle at great speed. I have always walked away with, at worst, minor scrapes and bruises (And memories; some bad, all still there).

I have always gone into those situations with the single-minded determination that I wasn't the one going to get hurt. I focused on that before all else. I came out without great injury.

History is replete with examples of soldiers who stood in the face of fire and were not struck. Of course, one could argue that the reason their situation was recorded at all was based more on the very improbability of their survival than any mindset they had going into the situation. Then again, some of the more narcissitic survivors of such incidents refuse to accept the very possibility of their will being thwarted.

The only times I have suffered significant injury, I was not even thinking there was the possibility of being injured: I broke the socket into which the middle toe inserts while playing water basketball. I broke my finger playing dodgeball. I am sure that if I had been aware of the dangers (Who knew you could break a finger playing fucking dodgeball, really?) inherent in the activity, I would have taken on that indestructible attitude and potentially minimized or entirely avoided injury.

My brother's answer is interesting not only in terms of personal injury, but also in other arenas: business, a trade, or anything where what one's mindset is can dictate success or at least significantly increase the margin of success. Given two people with the equivalent capabilities, the one who wants it more will usually win out. This explains why some guys, otherwise unattractive, otherwise not more successful, attract a mate that seems out of their league. Similar people of similar backgrounds have vastly different outcomes based on their outlook. For example: I will be a success because I won't allow any other outcome.

In effect, we make our own luck. In extremes, we make our own reality.

It doesn't work so well for the pure gamble, which is why there are so few who can make a living consistently as pure gamblers. Sooner or later, forcing reality to bend to your will catches up with you. The greater, common reality bites back on your tiny little reality. As most of us get older, this ability starts to break down. We have other concerns, things we think about all the time that make the degree of focus less achievable.

I hope to continue to manufacture my reality long enough to start another career in writing. I hope to always retain some degree of the capability.

It is useful to be able to change things to your favor, even if only for the length of time it takes the greater reality to detect and destroy your modifications.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Proper Urinal Etiquette:

Never stand closer than six feet behind the person at the urinal. Try and stand off-set so that the person at the urinal can see you, and isn’t made paranoid by the fact that someone’s standing behind him while his junk is being aired.

Never whistle while waiting. It is annoying. It is permissible to whistle while urinating, but only in order to place oneself in the hap-pee zone.

While at the urinal, hit the urinal, not the floor, the wall, the roof, or any other place but the damn urinal.

Do not look at the people using the urinals adjacent to yours. Most especially don’t look at their junk (unless it’s that kind of bathroom and you’re that kind of guy).

If you have a need to scratch, do so, but keep any attendant noise generated by the process below which might be audible at the next urinal.

Don’t drop shit (literal or otherwise) in the urinal.

Never consume drugs from the top of the urinal or while standing in front of one. That’s what proper toilet stalls are for.

You may continue a conversation already begun whilst at the urinals, but only if the pair of you were already engaged in conversation to begin with and the following two rules are adhered to: One should steer away from any subjects that might preclude/delay/or prevent the proper discharge of the function the urinal is meant for. For example: one should never speak of or continue to speak about testicular cancer, castration, prostate exams, or other man-junk issues. Nor is it acceptable to ever mention one's love for another man, as in "I love Dave Matthews" (Not that it is ever acceptable to love Dave Matthews).

You are permitted to comment, once and directing the comment at the wall, about what a fine (insert party, sporting event, funeral, dog walking, marathon, whatever) is going on. Once only. And don't expect a fucking answer.

You are also permitted to heave a long sigh or groan as you urinate, but don’t over-do it or sound like you’re getting off, that’s just fucked up.

Don't you dare try to start a conversation with persons already at the urinal! Your shit may be that important to you, but I guarantee it isn't any where near so important to anyone who has half the brains god gave a drunk teenager.

This goes double if the person at the urinal is in uniform and the severity of the transgression increases exponentially should you dare ask a question that is, on its basis, fucking stupid. For instance, “Where can I find an officer to sign off on my ticket?”
Barring the possibility that they might be on fire, there is absolutely no reason good enough for you to initiate a conversation with an officer whose only crime is to attempt to void his bladder in peace!

Lastly, flush! For fuck’s sake, no one wants to smell your asparagus/antibiotic/hangover or whatever piss.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hunting Annoyance

I hadn't been hunting yet this season, so I was really looking forward to hitting the fields with my hunting buddy, Chris. I was even going to play hookie from studying for the day.

Saturday I found out that I guy I went to the Academy with is also a hunter. We were studying for the Sergeant's exam when I told him I was going to bail on him today to go hunt. He got the gleam in his eye and said, "Hunting?" Naturally, I would have liked to go out hunting with him.

Being out on a field with an armed stranger is, at best, nerve-wracking. I had to call Chris and run it by him. Chris had his own 'stranger' he wanted to bring. The plus side, this stranger wasn't going to go armed. He just wanted to train his dog up. Chris and I usually rent a dog, with varying levels of satisfaction.

I should come clean and say that Chris and I both have dogs. Neither of which are suited for or trained to bird hunting. I couldn't survive the man-point deduction I would suffer for showing up to hunt with a red standard poodle. His problem is the other end of the spectrum: A bull mastiff isn't all that suitable for game birds.

Given that it is always good policy to minimize the new variables in an equation involving firearms, I contacted my classmate and said it was a no-go on this occasion.

The day started well in that it wasn't raining when the forecast said it would be. We met the dog owner and got along well.

We hit the field ready to take some birds. Chris went to make certain the chamber on his semiauto was clear to load. Something broke inside his gun with a ping and a tiny piece of metal went flying. The club staff agreed to loan him a gun, but he had to run out to Walmart and pick up shells for the 20 gauge.

Meanwhile, me, the dog and the owner were in the field working the perimeter. Chris was gone for forty minutes. No birds. Not one. Guys in the field next to us got birds up, and knocked some down. They also shot at a bird flying so low that I heard the evil whickering of buckshot through the brush far too close for comfort.

The next three hours we managed to get three birds up, most of which we sight-hunted ourselves, watching them fly in from other, more productive fields. We only knocked two birds down. A fourth bird was pounced on by the inexperienced dog.

I fired at one bird, more out of frustration than any real thought I would hit it at the excessive distance it had reached before it was safe to fire on.

There were supposedly eight birds planted in our field.

It wasn't my day.

Then again, if I was hunting annoyance, I was successful.

Friday, November 20, 2009

ADD not +, or is it?

I have the condition known as Attention Deficit Disorder. It is, for me, best likened to an old reel to reel tape system with the thought processes like the tracks on the tape: I can have eight different 'tracks' going on in my head. When I am on it, all the tracks are running parallel and I can make some pretty astounding leaps of intellect. Much of the time, however, the tracks are running in different directions, disjointed.

ADD is differentiated from ADHD in that I do not have the hyperactivity that is so much more clear for teachers, parents, and doctors to observe.

The condition has played a large part in my development. The fact that I hid my condition (somewhat successfully) for nearly thirty years, also contributed to my development, or lack thereof. I felt the need to do so because a family member, diagnosed with a similar condition, was placed in a special school and special education classes. I insisted that there would be nothing about me that would make that necessary.

I detested lateness in myself, mostly because I learned that if I was early, no one would notice I wasn't organized and I would have time to compose myself.

I never completed my college education. I had, until recently, been unable to complete a novel. My wife had noted (with varying degrees of disgust) that I never finished anything.

Growing up, my mother often observed that I would say, "Sure, I'll do it." and then never complete the task she had asked of me.

Things were much worse if I was under stress or fatigued, with me unable to get out the door with everything I needed for the day. Or even carry on a straightforward conversation.

Teachers would say, "He's so talented, but he just doesn't seem to apply himself."

Things came to a head for me three or so years back. Things were so bad, I went and talked to a professional. She was very good at helping me see what was up, and incredibly smooth at getting me to see how simple the solution could be.

I, in the midst of depression and rage, was whining about my lack of achievement.

She said simply, "Well, you know there are some medications you could take if you wanted to get some of these things finished."

I nodded and changed the subject, one track in my head processing that information while I went on about the other stuff that made me miserable. At the end of the hour or so, all my tracks had reached a resolution, and snapped at me, "Grab the lifeline."

I started treatment the next month. I'll have to take the meds for the rest of my life, but it beats not getting the shit I want to do done. The meds have no appreciable side effects, and keep me in that zone where all eight tracks are making the same music. I've completed the first draft of my first novel, and I'm writing my second one now. I have an agent. I think I might make it happen.

Flash forward to a conversation I had within a year or so of starting medication. I was talking about the condition and what it was like, and how simple it was to treat.

The man I was speaking to, a friend of mine for almost sixteen years, has a stepdaughter he loves very deeply. He went silent for a few moments, then reiterated the symptoms I spoke of. He then told me that he thought his stepdaughter might have a similar issues, describing for me some of the things he'd observed. She wanted to do well in school, but the teachers were saying, "She's gifted, if only she would apply herself." They took her to the doctor, and sure enough, his stepdaughter does have the same condition I do.

We were talking last week, commiserating over some tough times we are both facing.

"There are some bright spots," he told me, "My daughter came home with her fourth straight report card: All A's. You had a lot to do with that."

I choked up a minute, and tried to gloss over it.

He wasn't having it.

I got more choked up.

He let it go, point made.

The point, for me, is that while the condition has and continues to make many things harder for me, it has also made me wiser than I would be otherwise.

Hence, ADD not a -, and maybe even a +.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Under the Tree

Riding is, for me, a great experience. Even when traffic sucks and I am splitting lanes for the better part of 32 miles, I find myself enjoying the experience.

It's about focus and rhythm. Sliding between threats, aware of everything in your environment, and making the best speed possible. Rounding a corner in a 45 degree lean and powering out of the corner in a perfect line is just...sublime.

It is difficult to relay the experience to one who has not felt it for themselves.

As I have written about earlier, I came to it late. My father owned a boat when I was a kid, and I was made aware at an early age of the many ways that being a courteous boater could pay off.

Bikers seem to get this too, for the most part, and are generally up for a wave and nod, usually accompanied by a secretive grin, telling the other rider, "You get it too!"

This common experience is an interesting phenomenon that I recently talked about (In a different context) with some people I consider smarter than myself.

Something that I have dwelt on since those conversations was the concept of 'tribe' or 'bonding group' and how one comes to share an outlook, resources, and identify with a group.

I like to think of myself as an individual, and am comfortable enough with myself to be alone. But then my career, my hobbies, and now even the method I use to get to and fro push me under the tree with certain people sharing some commonality of experience.

Interesting to me is the extent to which I can be identified with the groups I consider myself a part of.

Most of the guys I went to college with swallow and say, "What did you say you do?" when I tell them what I do for a living. One even refuses to call me back.

Many of my old associates can't believe I ride.

Most of those I work with find it bizarre that I speak more than one language. They don't understand when I say I have worked 'wet-back' before.

Most of the civilians I come into contact with are floored when the realize after a brief contact that I am not the jack-booted Nazi their bias dictates they beleive all officers are. They can't believe that I haven't had to shoot someone (Or that I don't want to, if I don't have to).

I often wish that people were self-aware enough to know that being in the shade of one tree doesn't prevent discovering the details of the person beneath it with you, or the ones in the sun, or the people under the next tree over.

Move through the trees, taking what shade and ease you find, but don't deny others their place, with you or otherwise.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Inner Gorilla

My inner gorilla was live and beating at the cage last night. Tormented by the actions of people who should know better, he reached long arms out and started rattling other people's cages:

"Shiit," says the clueless.

"Sir, you shouldn't be speaking, let alone cursing, in here."

Five minutes later, "Shiiiit."

Now he's just being an ass. "One more outburst, and you are done."

Three minutes later, "Man, shiiiit."

The inner gorilla yammers, barks, starts thundering at the cage. I hold the cage in place, but the cotter-pin keeping the gate closed is gleaming in my mind's eye, ready to lift. "Madame clerk, please give this man a continuance so that he might return when he is in a better position to adhere to the rules of the court."

Madame clerk, her gorilla rumbling as well, cranks the paperwork out, hands it off.

I give it to the cursing man, "You are to return on this date. Leave now."

"Man, fuck that! I need to talk to the judge."

I try to give him a glimpse of the gorilla. He refuses to meet my eye, "No, sir. You don't. You need to leave and return on the date given."

"I need to talk to the judge."

"No, you need to leave. Don't make me put hands on you. I really don't want to put my hands on you," I say, but really don't mean it. The cotter pin is now a hair's breadth from falling to earth.

"Fuck you," he mutters. But then he makes a mistake, he meets my eyes. The gorilla makes him shift in his seat, alarm dawning.

"Ladies, please step aside, as I believe I am going to have to remove this man from the room," I ask of the ladies waiting patiently in line to handle their business.

"Man, you ain't the judge," he says as he rises from his seat.

"No, I am not. As I said before, I'm just here to enforce the rules, not make the decisions. Don't make the decision that will make me put hands on you."

He walks from the room into the antechamber, "Man, fuck you. You just trying to be everything you ain't." Despite his words, my gorilla starts to subside. He's leaving.

"Your perceptions of my behavior have no bearing on my behavior, sir," I say as I follow him out. Got to be sure he leaves.

More muttered curses, but he leaves.

Five minutes later, he's back, "Man, I can't come in at this time."

"Then go down and reschedule. The courtesy of the court is reserved for those who can control themselves."

"Fuck you, you ain't the judge."

I am moving toward him, the line of ladies moving instinctively aside. They have no desire to be between my gorilla and it's target, "No sir, leave now."

He retreats, cursing me all the while, calling me racist.

Rather than hear it, I start to say, "Buh-bye." in a loud voice every time he opens his mouth and give him my best princess wave all the way to the elevator.

My gorilla mutters, snorts, scratches his ass and curls up till the next time.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Lots on my plate, hoping for more!

I've got quite a bit going right now: studying for a promotional exam, writing Last Captain, and all the regular day-to-day treadmill it seems that everyone races on.

I've a bright spot coming up tonight: An RPG developer is in town, and I'm having dinner with him and one of the contributors to the game. I am hopeful that I may possibly get a paid writing gig out of it.

We'll see.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Follow Up

I recieved a CD of the pictures David took on his trip out here. It arrived via US mail.

I've got to say I think he probably rode his bike to the post office. I wonder what worked itself out while he rode.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Writing It Out While Riding It Out

I first forked a motorbike at the tender age of 35. I haven't looked back much. I ride a Triumph Speed Four for my commute. She's my first bike, and I've put quite a few miles on her.

I used to operate under the conceit that I was the only guy in northern Cali riding a British bike listening to French rap. The other night I was proved wrong. The owner of the restaraunt I was treated to, Garcon, also rides a Triumph, and is a fellow fan of MC Solaar.

The same day I discovered I wasn't quite the individual I thought I was, I also talked to David Drake about riding. He told me that he does so more because he hates driving from point A to point B so intensely, not because he loves to ride.

I scratched at that a bit and commented, "I love it 'cause you can't think about anything else while you do it. It minimizes cognitive dissonance, and my subconcious can work shit out without thinking about it."

David smiled, looking out the window of the car, "Then it won't be a surprise to you how many plots have worked themselves out for me on my way to the post office."

Recently I have been very happy to have both writing and riding in my life. Writing allows me to concentrate on dealing with one thing at a time and how to tell it. Riding allows me to escape any stress from writing and the things that drive me to write.

Now I just have to console myself that I may be the only American in Northern Cali riding a British Triumph Speed Four listening to French Rap by MC Solaar and writing about it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

StUpId GuN

OR: How a democracy can deal with the moronic behavior that has become so commonplace on our roadways.

Ever find yourself screaming at some moron that’s cut you off or done something terribly dangerous and illegal in front of you? If so, you may have even looked around for a law enforcement officer, praying that karma was more immediate for the jackass than it seems to be for your boss?

Ever feel like you are being picked on when that officer you wanted there for the above situation finds you when you’ve just made an honest mistake like missing the somewhat-obscured stop sign in an unfamiliar area?

GRIFFIN SYSTEMS, INC has the only solution that doesn't require vigilantism: StUpId GuN!

Not an actual firearm, this device would be situated in the vehicle like a laser for speed detection, with a steering wheel activation button. Vehicles equipped with such a system would likewise be equipped with a detector calibrated to note any laser hits scored against the operator’s vehicle and a light bar that engaged when the system’s threshold is exceeded.

The device is simple to operate: simply point StUpId GuN in the direction of the person who has recently driven like a moron in your vicinity. Scrolling through potential targets on your heads-up display, you may select the appropriate vehicle.

The appropriate vehicle being that lone vehicle occupant in a sedan that drove at a 45 degree angle across the solid white line to get into the commuter lane ahead of you, endangering you, your children, and the five or six vehicles behind you with their moron move.

You may then hit them with the StUpId GuN. The laser reaches out and the receiver detects the hit. The lased vehicle records the hit and an indicator shows the operator they’ve been hit. Once the detector receives a set number of hits, a light bar pops up and the vehicle is automatically removed from traffic.

The light bar then indicates to traffic in all directions in bright LEDs, “I’ve been a moron, and now I’m in time out.”

The length of time the driver is placed in ‘time-out’ by the StUpId GuN is based on the number of hits to the system for that single incident and any other points the operator may have carried over from previous actvities warranting StUpId GuN hits.

“Unfair,” many of you may howl, but no, GRIFFIN SYSTEMS, INC is interested in preserving and defending our democracy. Here’s how:

You can receive up to five points per week before the system is activated. Only one point can be delivered per operator per incident. This means that if you were driving in a manner deserving of the attention of StUpId GuN in front of many people, you may be hit with all five points in one sitting. If, as is often the excuse in traffic court, there truly were no other people on the road, then you’re getting away with your StUpId GuN behavior. If you are not commuting to work on weekends, you receive double points on weekends. If you are a senior citizen, you are forgiven your first point every week up to five consecutive weeks, at which time StUpId GuN will notify DMV that you need to be re-tested. Points fall from your record exactly one week from the time that the point was accrued.

For you skeptics out there, let us assure you that GRIFFIN SYSTEMS, INC has already thought through most every possible ramification and implemented a solution. In our constant drive to improve our already outstanding systems, we have provided a FAQ for the discerning consumer.


Problem: There are so many morons on the road, how can I be sure they won’t StUpId GuN me just to get me out of their way?

Our solution: One can only engage the StUpId GuN against a target if your StUpId GuN point score is lower than that of the target. Police officers and other emergency worker’s vehicles are no exception. If they have a worse record in their private vehicle than you, they can’t StUpId GuN you.

Problem: How long do the points stay on my record?
Solution: Moron, you were already told that. Prepare to be hit with StUpId GuN.

Problem: But what if I have a legitimate emergency that makes me drive like a maniac?
Solution: StUpId GuN believes in calling for emergency services if you need emergency assistance. Just because you think you’ll get there faster doesn’t mean you’re right, and often means your endangering others. Moron.

Problem: What will traffic cops do with all their spare time?
Solution: Traffic cops may, in future, have access to a super StUpId GuN that GRIFFIN SYSTEMS, INC currently has under development. At this time, though, no SuPeR StUpId GuN is available, aside from the TASERs some officers carry, which are better termed, DuMb DrUnK NuLlIfIeRs than TASERs in the humble opinion of GRIFFIN SYSTEMS, INC.

Problem: But what if everyone does it?
Solution: If that’s true, the other drivers who conduct themselves as you do won’t feel the need to hit you with StUpId GuN (unless they are the kind of moron that thinks their poo doesn't stink like yours do).

Problem: I refuse to accept that by adopting this system others can embarrass me with a light bar saying I should be put in ‘time-out.’
Solution: Then stop driving like a moron, or suffer from StUpId GuN, moron.

Please feel free to post any additional questions you might have regarding StUpId GuN or GRIFFIN SYSTEMS, INC.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

"It is well that war is so terrible -- lest we should grow too fond of it." -Robert E Lee

I like this quote, I really do.

Most veterans who joined up (as opposed to being drafted) say they felt a duty or calling to do so. Most do not emerge from the experience unchanged, even the REMFs. They may come out with the same sense of duty, but be otherwise subtly changed.

My brother was in Bosnia when Clinton was telling the citizens of the United States of America that there were no ground troops in Bosnia. He was still there when the UN went in and Clinton 'sent' troops.

I'd like to relate a story of his that illustrates much of the weirdness inherent to experiences in a combat zone:

A French major is at a base that is manned by primarily Danish soldiers and commanded by a Dane as well. Troops from the US are also on site. There is a base manned by the french some distance away.

The Serbians would often close the roads leading to the base with sniper fire, roadblocks and mortar fire. This was one such day.

Many of the base personnel are observing the fire in the hills around the base, including the commander. The Danish commander has ordered the base closed to traffic.

My brother, a sergeant at the time, is standing next to a danish Soldat a few yards from the commander (I beleive he was a colonel, but I may be wrong).

The French soldier marches up to the Danish commander and says, in heavily accented english, "I must get back to my men."

The Danish commander points at the hills and responds in very American English, "The Serbs have closed the pass."

"That is of no matter, I must get back to my men!" says the Frenchman.

"I cannot command you to stay, so do as you must. I am not ordering my men to go up there with you, though."

"Very well. I shall go."

As the frenchman stomps off to his vehicle, my brother turns to the danish soldier standing next to him and asks with an american soldier's idea of a french accent, "Does your dog bite?"

The Dane looks at him from under his helmet, smiles, and replies with a much better french accent, "No."

My brother snaps his hand away from an imaginary bite, puts a shocked look on and says, "I thought you said your dog does not bite?"

"That is not my dog!" says the Dane.

The two howled with laughter as the frenchman drove into the hills.

The fascinating thing for me isn't that the two men had watched the the Pink Panther (A very great movie; sellers was a genius), it was that they both had the same grasp of a bad situation and responded to it in the same way.

Two young men, growing up thousands of miles apart and in different cultures, shared a moment that will live with them forever. Most memories of soldiers in a combat zone are rarely so pleasant.

I think that was what Lee was on about, in that we must love the moments of brotherhood and good-feeling that can arise only from facing toward the sound of the guns with comrades who are willing to do the same in support of us, and still hate the conflicts that make it needful that we ever send our men and women into such situations.

My thanks to you, veterans of all wars. May you find what ease as you can through the nights that come, when there is little thanks, and only the memories.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The weirdness of being the fulcrum

Strange how at times we can can feel as if we were the fulcrum upon which everything moves. Hubris, yes. But just because we've gone beyond the rocks of hubri doesn't mean we are wrong...

When I was fifteen and feeling the same way, I went on an excursion into poetry

This is one of the products of that period:

At all times I am the wheel;
At my best I am the hub, controlled in all I do
At other times I am the spokes, being driven but also giving
At my worst I am the rim, being ground, crushed, suffocated by what I am.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Online Education

I have a few buddies (I know it's hard to believe, but yes, I have friends) who seem to be quite adept at finding weird and funny things on the internet.

One of those funny things is an hilarious list found at www.eviloverlord.com/lists/overlord.html . I call it an online school for learning to be The Evil One.

Funny, but it can also be something of great value to the writer. If you have any of these contrivances going on between your protagonist and antogonist, there had better be a very good reason.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What I'm Writing, What I'm Reading

I cranked out 2000+ words on The Last Captain this weekend. A respectable number, given the other demands of family life. This recent spat of writing has been motivated by a number of miseries in my personal life and a great deal of hope for the future.

I attended the World Horror and Fantasy Convention the weekend of Halloween, and several events there were very significant for me.

I was blessed in that I was able to drive an author around that wrote one of the mainstays of my reading since I was 16 and living in Switzerland. David Drake was gracious, thoughtful, fun to be around, and generally the type of man I had imagined him to be.

I made a new friend, another author of speculative fiction. Mark Van Name, also gracious, thoughtful, fun to be around, and generally the type of man I like to associate with.

I made many other contacts and new friends. It was enormously stimulating to me to associate with people smarter, better educated and more experienced than I who were interested in the same things as I. So stimulating that despite a very late night, a great number of drinks, and a strong desire to just snooze, I could not sleep well the entire weekend. Entirely over-stimulated.

I am currently reading One Jump Ahead, by Mark Van Name. A fun read and thoughtful, just like it's author.