Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween everyone. If all goes according to plan we'll make the usual rounds with Logan and end up at my mother-in-law's for her usual Halloween get together. I'll post pictures over the weekend (as long as I'm not in a NaNo-induced flurry of writing activity the goal is to get in 4,000 words this weekend).

Here's a video for y'all. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pumpkin Carving

Last night we carved our pumpkins. When Brandi and I started going out I hadn't been carving pumpkins for a couple years, but she insisted we do it, and we've been carving pumpkins every year since, although we don't always get to it before Halloween. Last weekend we took Logan to the pumpkin patch. We took him last year on my birthday when he was just over a year old, and let me tell you, a one-year-old is a lot easier to deal with at a pumpkin patch than a two-year-old. We didn't end up getting pumpkins there because they were pretty expensive, but Brandi did get some gourds and stuff to make a nice fall/Thanksgiving centerpiece.

Logan didn't actually carve his pumpkin. Instead he used finger paints to color the exterior. For some reason he did not like the smock, but we didn't feel like cleaning finger paints out of his clothes.

So young and so serious about his art.

I usually have grand designs for a pumpkin, but alas, my artistic ability doesn't ever live up to my vision, so I went with something a little funnier this year. The pumpkins had been in my car and then out on the porch for the past few days and they were wonderfully cold inside, almost frozen.

Clearly, I'm enjoying this too much.

Brandi's pumpkin was a little goofy this year too.

Brandi gets some strange satisfaction of ripping the guts out.

Tonight, we'll be baking the seeds. I think we'll have two batches, garlic and dill. Yum!

The pumpkin gallery. Don't I wish I were that good of a shot.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Irony is

talking on your cell while in the library, completely oblivious of the no cell phones sign right behind your head. Stupid kids.

And while we're on the subject of libraries, the library is not a daycare. It's ok if you want to drop your teenie kid off so they can do some homework or something. It's not ok for you to drop your kid off, tell us you're going to a church meeting and will be back to pick up the kid well before nine and then not show up until just after nine.

I felt really bad for this girl last night that had to stand around and wait in the lobby for around 20 minutes not knowing when her mentally constipated mother was going to come get her. The girl wanted to check out a copy of the soundtrack for Rent, but she couldn't do that because her mother didn't want the daughter's card from another library linked to our system. We didn't want to kick the girl out (we didn't) but we can't exactly have her wandering around the library after it's closed. Then when this idiot mother finally came just after nine, she didn't even pull up to the doors of the library, she just pulled into the parking lot and let loose with a couple of quick honks. That is totally rude to the daughter and the people that live in the apartments on the other side of the library parking lot.

Ugh!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Various and Sundry

I really should be doing something else, but I feel the need to post something, having not posted since Sunday, and I've got little thoughts bouncing around in my head.

*OMG, NaNoWriMo is only four days away! Why can't it just be November first already? I'm trying to decide if I want to start on the story at 12:01 Saturday morning. Sleep might be better though.

* I need something to shoot. I mentioned in my birthday post that Brandi got me an archery set. No one that came over wanted to play William Tell with me and I'm afraid to go shoot in the yard, thinking I might hit a neighbor's house. And Brandi won't let me shoot the Halloween decorations in the house.

* The coffee in the office totally sucks today. It's super watery. I wonder if someone used less grounds or maybe made decaf or something. Either way, yuck!

*My Eurostile fonts are all corrupted. How annoying.

* Why does Lego Batman in the Lego Batman game have to collect coins to buy upgrades and unlock characters? He's Batman, which means he's also Bruce Wayne, which means he can buy whatever he wants.

* In my experience, secrety societies aren't all that exciting. Nor are they really all that secret.

That's about all I've got for now. Too much to do.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

My Birthday

Today is my birthday, the 26th such anniversary of this day since I came into this world. This would make today my golden anniversary. I usally don't make a big deal about my birthday, so I had just a couple things I wanted to do today, sleep in and take it easy.


I woke up at about nine to the sound of the smoke detector, Logan screaming and large toys being thrown to the ground. Brandi had made breakfast. It was a lovely breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast and sausage. Apparently, the smoke from the sausage had activated the smoke detector since Brandi had forgotten to turn on the range hood to suck out the extra smoke. Logan, screamed upon hearing the smoke detector and began throwing some of his larger toys on the floor.


After breakfast we didn't do much. We did some light cleaning and I ran out to get everyone lunch. Then we put Logan down for a nap, where upon he didn't really sleep, and we did a little more cleaning before people came by. My parents, and Brandi's parents and grandparents came, as well as my brothers and their peoples. After much snacking on chips and dips and the like we did the presents thing. I got some books, a couple graphic novels, a couple shirts, a new game In a Pickle, a couple Wii games and an archery set (yippie!). I don't really know anything about archery, but I saw it in the store before we went camping and said it would be neat, so Brandi got it for me.



Then we had the cake and ice cream and pie. I'm more of a pie guy than a cake guy, so Brandi got me some apple pie. Afterward, everyone hung out for a while and people began to leave. We put Logan to bed early and then I ran out to get dinner, which was sushi from Benihana. I had the Philadelphia rolls and the spicy tuna. Brandi had Philadelphia rolls and California rolls. Now, we're watching Serenity and once that's over I've got to go bake a cake to bring to work.



Hope everyone else had a good weekend!


Update: I forgot to mention the part where Logan coughed so much that he threw up all the snacky stuff he'd been eating. That was fun, and it called for a wardrobe change.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Waste of a Day

We've been having some email issues at work, and in an attempt to fix it (not by me), it took me 15 minutes to open Word because nearly all of my fonts were corrupted and need to be removed. Word was kind enough to provide me with a notice on each individual font. Of course I had to ok each message to banish it before it would actually open a blank document.

Grrrrrrrrr!

My cup of anger runneth over today!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Adventures in Parenting, Day 740

We have a corner hutch in the dining room that has had 18 small panes of glass in it. No one knows how, because no one heard it or saw it, but Logan must have hit one of the panes with a toy and broken it. Brandi had gone out to her mom's with Logan and my father-in-law was out of the house. When he came home, Brandi's grandma saw the broken glass, and not knowing that Brandi had gone out to her mom's for lunch, they assumed she was at the emergency room. They tried to call her, and Brandi didn't answer her phone. She was at the park at the time.

Eventually, this Three's Company-esque situation was cleared up. Logan only had a small cut on his right pinky finger. After I got home, I got to clean up the glass, and then after he was put to bed, I got to pull the rest of the glass out of the frame.

I got angry with Logan, not because he did it, but because he could have seriously hurt himself. Of course he doesn't recognize this fact. Ugh, just another fun experience in the Adventures in Parenting.

The Results Are In

I didn't find out until yesterday that Writer's Digest has announced the winners of the 2008 writing competition. And I...wait for it...didn't win. This really doesn't surprise me. I would have been more surprised had I won. But at least I gave it a shot.

That said, I have to question the entries that were chosen as this years winner. Some were good, but then some, including the grand prize winner, were definitely not good. I discussed this at some length with one of the guys in the office that also entered a story and neither of us could find anything redeeming about the winning entry. I did not care for the grand prize, horror and scifi/fantasy stories. I thought the thriller/suspense story was decent, but some of the dialogue seemed a little wooden and I don't think I would have classified it as either thriller or suspense. The mystery/crime story was good. I really enjoyed it. I was also very pleasently surprised by the romance story. I've never read a romance novel before, and I was expecting something flowery and syrupy sweet, but this was not the case.

But you know what, I'll let you decide. Here are the winning entries.

Grand Prize Winner: "Falling Leaves" by William Rausch
Horror Winner: "Look at the Dead Person" by Fred McGavran
Sci-Fi/Fantasy Winner: "Chosen" by Beverly Smith-Dawson
Thriller/Suspense Winner: "Brother's Keeper" by Richard Mazziotti
Mystery/Crime Winner: "The Fish Ivory Man" by Ken McBeath
Romance Winner: "Magic" by Karin Fuller

Unfortunately, this has made me question the value/effort involved in sending my work over to Writer's Digest, because I honestly don't think they'd ever pick one of my stories based on those published. On the plus side, I now have a story that's done that I can start submitting to other publications.

In other writing/Writer's Digest news, Maria Schneider, who was editor-in-chief of Writer's Digest until a few weeks ago and has worked with some big names in publishing, has started a new blog, editorunleashed. Apparently, after some corporate change up at WD and the placement of a new editorial director, Maria resigned, saying the tone and content of the magazine were going to be driven in a direction she didn't really care for. I can respect that, and it really takes guts to leave a nice job like that today. So go check out her fledgeling blog where she's been posting advice and whatnot for writers. She's also launched a forum for writers over there. Anyone who signs up by November 30 is entered into a contest to have a free manuscript critique from her! Go check it out.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Adventures in Wisconsin, in which a perilous journey is taken and I find a new vocation

It's Monday and that means we're back from The Farm. Fall is the best season at The Farm. The air is crisp, the leaves are changing and falling, the insects are mostly dormant, and it's just magical. We arrived on Friday evening after a false start on the way up. We had been on the toll way for just a few miles when Brandi realized that we had forgotten Duckie. Logan hadn't said anything about Duckie, but we didn't want to risk a weekend without Logan's wubby.

The Farm in fall, where firewood is stacked and leaves crunch underfoot.

Because of the odd weather this year, there was an interesting assortment of leaves in various stages of fall conditions. Some trees were still covered in vibrant green leaves. Some were covered in leaves in various shades of red, gold, orange, yellow and brown. Some trees were skeletal and devoid of even one leaf. Brandi got a chance to play with some of the different settings on her (relatively) new camera.

The leaves show off their fabulous fall fashion.

Logan demonstrates his awakening super powers of levitating objects with his mind. I wonder where he gets it?

Oh, that's right.

The only two sources of heat in the house at The Farm are the fireplace and a wood burning stove. The stove itself is more than adequate to keep the whole house warm. This was demonstrated and then some over the weekend as Brandi's grandpa and her dad must have thrown at least three trees in there between Friday evening and Sunday. Holy hell did it get hot in the house. During the day some of us would leave the front door open to get some cool air in the house.

Everyone was having a good time, but poor Logan has been fighting a cold for a while which at this point is just extra mucus that he's having a hard time getting rid of. So it was about 4 a.m. on Saturday that he woke coughing and crying and due to his cough and the unfamiliar circumstances we couldn't get him to settle and go back to sleep. So, Brandi and I got dressed, bundled up Logan and took him out into the cold to go for a drive. To our surprise it was very foggy out. I'm talking, can't see more than 30 feet in front of the car foggy. So I drove for about an hour and a half on country roads through hilly country in the dark of night, relying on the GPS to tell me when there was an intersecting road more than my eyes. Logan fell asleep after about 40 minutes and we kept driving so he wouldn't wake up. We encountered less than 20 cars while driving, some of which were being driven by those crazy Wisconsin locals that will rocket down steep hills on gravel roads when their tires are so bald you can see the thread beneath the rubber.

When we got back to The Farm we didn't want to wake him and we sat in the driveway with the car running while Brandi and I leaned back. We woke up an hour later with the car still running and I turned off the car and we both fell asleep again for about a half hour when it was starting to get cold in the car. By this time it was 7. We brought Logan back in and he woke briefly but then fell asleep again till about nine.

Saturday night he was tired but fighting sleep with a champion effort. He woke up coughing a couple times during the night, but nothing as bad as the previous night.

Saturday during the day we saw that the apple trees were pretty full, so we pulled out the ladders and brought in the harvest. My friends, I have discovered that should I need a new vocation, I would make a decent apple picker. I mastered the techniques of the single apple pluck, the vigorous branch shake, the whole tree rumble, and the throwing objects at the apples can get them to fall. Everybody came out for the apple pickin' and Logan helped himself to two or three during the day. However, many apples were left in the tree to fall down of their own accord later, and many were left in the grass for the deer to find.

Now, Logan, if you could just hold the ladder for me, that would be great.

Well if daddy can do it, then I can too.

I survey the bountiful harvest while getting in position to give the entire tree a rattle.

Mmmmm. Thems' good apples.

Enough work, it's break time!

Logan found plenty of opportunity to get some work done on his new 4x4 ATV. We found out that the little vehicle, which is only supposed to go two miles per hour, goes faster than that and is capable of driving up both ramps from the main deck.

It's important to use the proper equipment and vehicles while working on The Farm.

Logan also showed off his musical talents when he discovered the dinner bell. He thought this was quite funny when we demonstrated it for him, but of course he wanted a shot at it.

Come and get it!

We were lucky enough to get one of those rare photos with a two-year-old when we're all looking at the camera at once. Brandi's grandma's quick shootin' caught this little gem of a picture.
Not photoed: a two-year-old's ability to squirm like a captured serpent.

Sunday, we stopped at a couple of farmers markets on the way home. Logan used much of the ride to catch up on sleep and couldn't be roused to see the animals at the petting zoo. Better luck next year I guess.
Take me home, I'm pooped.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thank God I'm a Country Boy

We're headed up to The Farm this afternoon. It'll be the last weekend anyone's up there for the season. About this time of year Brandi's grandpa usually closes everything down 'cause it gets powerful cold up there (only a fireplace and a woodburning stove to warm the house) and the pipes will freeze, meaning you have to go out and get a bucket of water from the pump if you want to go to the bathroom or do anything else requiring water. However, this is prime season to go to The Farm, with the crisp temps, the changing leaves, apple cider, etc. I haven't been up there during the winter yet, but I will some day. So, y'all have a good weekend. Play nice while I'm away. I'll have some photos when we get back.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

In Rememberance

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Rememberance Day. We'll be lighting a candle this evening to remember the baby we lost in August, whom we will never forget.

Poor Advice

I've been talking about writing here, and at other places, and thinking about it a lot recently. I've also been trying out various writing podcasts and I just re-read Stephen King's On Writing. There's a lot of good advice out there. On Writing is full of it. Among the other advice in the book, one thing that sticks out is the question of whether you're writing for money or writing to write. King says he writes to write, and that the money is an added bonus. I appreciate and respect that. While I would love for someone to pay me for my writing, I'm not doing it just for the payoff. There's plenty of stuff I've written that will never see any kind of publishing, aside from possibly throwing something up here, and that's ok.

Today I've been listening to old episodes from Michael A. Stackpole's podcast for writers. The episode that I just started listening to is prefaced by Stackpole's introduction and credentials, in which he says he's published 38 books and has had 8 on the New York Times Bestseller List. I've never read Stackpole's work to the best of my recolection. From what I've heard on the podcast, Stackpole seems to be writing just for the money, and his podcast really rubs me the wrong way. Some of his advice is ok, but a lot of it seems to be pretty ridgid and in the manner of "this worked for me so you should do it too." Some of it sounds kind of discouraging too, for instance in the last one I listened to he was talking about NaNoWriMo and how 50,000 words is good, but most publishers wont want to look at the manuscript unless it's 80-100,000 words long. I have around 14 more podcasts that I've downloaded but I'm not sure if I'll be listening to those or just dumping them.

I don't know that I really had a point here, I've just seen a lot of writing advice lately and while some is good, there's a lot of BS out there. Personally, my favorite is to just do what works for you when it comes to writing.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Story Bone: Secret Societies

"And according to the ancient laws of our fraternal order—"

"You mean the ones we wrote down last week," said number two.

"Yes, well, some day it will be an ancient law," said number one. "Any way, according to the ancient laws of our order, as long as it is within our power, none of our order will ever want for cheese."

"Cheese?"

"Um, yes, cheese. I recall that we were pretty hungry last week when we were writing this up."

"Yeah, that's right. Come to think of it, I'm a little hungry now myself."

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Truth Behind Thomas the Tank Engine

Thomas the Tank Engine is a cheeky little train, and he and his friends live on the Island of Sodor, where the people are friendly and everyone loves trains. On the Island of Sodor, there isn’t anything that can’t be done with a little hard work, compromise and collaboration. Seemingly everything on the island is run by Sir Topham Hatt, otherwise known as The Fat Controller, a small, round man who is stern, but has a heart of gold. At least, that’s what the show would want you to believe. To even a casual observer, however, the truth should be apparent.

-The Island of Sodor is an ass-backwards place where there are cars, planes, helicopters and more, but everything is done via the railroad. Sure, trains are useful, but no one seems to recognize how limited a train is in terms of where you can go and what you can do.

-For all the many, many accidents these trains have there are zero fatalities. Somehow, the people involved miraculously throw themselves from the train at just the right moment to avoid injury. I’m sorry, but this is just statistically impossible. I’m thinking their must be some kind of cover up involved to confound the railway’s safety inspector.

-Thomas the Tank Engine and the other trains are all a bunch of whiny bitches. That’s right, that’s all they are. The show might want you to believe that Thomas and friends are a happy bunch, but seriously, all the trains do is complain about the work they have to do until they get their way or are forced into labor. The show passes it off as there are lessons to be learned, but really, the trains are used as slave labor.

-What the heck are Thomas and his friends. No one knows the origins of these sentient locomotives. Are they alien beings come to the Island of Sodor from some far off planet? Are they human souls that have been trapped within the trains by the wicked Sir Topham Hatt and his evil league of conductors? Are they some form of artificial intelligence created to reduce the human workforce needed to run the island’s extensive railway system? Also, the trains appear to be immortal, because no matter how many accidents they have or how extensive the damage, they are always repaired and good as new.

-Sir Topham Hatt is a wicked, evil man who rules over the island with an iron fist. No one is allowed to step out of line when it comes to the railway. The Fat Controller has a hand in everything, including the ship yards, airways, roads, the factory system and the Island of Sodor’s natural resources. While Mr. Hatt might put on a friendly face for the general populous of the island, he is a real hard ass when it comes to keeping the trains in line. He commands when and how the trains are repaired, when they are reduced to scrap, and when and how they work.

In reality, the island would probably be more like this:



or this:



Sunday, October 12, 2008

Happy Birthday Logan!

Two years ago today, a Thursday, Brandi wanted me to stay home from work. She was one day past her due date and having some pains. She had been having pains all week, however, and had wanted me to stay home every day that week. I ended up going to work, but didn’t have a good feeling about it. Something was definitely different about the way Brandi felt that morning.

She called when I was half way to work. My phone was in my pocket on vibrate and I almost didn’t feel it. I think I got it on the fourth ring. Her water broke in the time it had taken me to get about half way to work. I needed to come home. I was about a half hour from home and the hospital was about another hour from home. I hung a U-ie on Route 68 and hurried back, cutting through a couple of read lights along the way. When I finally got home, Brandi was nervous, but dressed and ready to go. I got her and her bag down the three flights of stairs from our apartment and off we went.

I decided on the toll way to get to the hospital, hoping by that time, around 9, that rush hour traffic would be gone. No such luck. We were worried about being stuck in traffic too long, Brandi was getting more nervous, especially as we ran into an unending block of stopped traffic. I ended up driving on the shoulder a good little way to get to the upcoming off ramp and taking local roads the rest of the way. Meanwhile, I was trying to keep Brandi calm and calling our parents and my siblings. — A funny side note, the week before I had called my older brother for some little thing, to borrow a dvd I think. No one had picked up and it wasn’t a big deal, so I didn’t leave a message. When he saw the caller ID he called back and I told him it was no big deal. He said that considering that Brandi was close to popping at the time, I wasn’t allowed to call and not leave a message. — So anyway, we got to the hospital in a good amount of time and got Brandi admitted.

It was a cold October day, and as we were pulling into the emergency parking lot, it started to snow. This is pretty unusual for mid-October in the Greater Chicagoland. Sure it gets cold around that time, but usually not cold enough to snow. The ground was warm enough that the snow didn’t stick around, but throughout the morning and into the afternoon it kept snowing and picking up strength. Brandi’s mom was at a hospital up in McHenry when Brandi went into labor, it was part of the school program she was in, and she said that up in McHenry, roughly 45 miles away, it was like a blizzard outside.

Not long after we got to the hospital, my parents arrived, as they both had their own businesses that were run out of the house, and they started from only five miles or so from where we started. They spent most of the day in the delivery room with us, as well as the rest of Brandi’s family, which we will definitely not do next time. Brandi wasn’t able to relax, and having all these people around wasn’t helping me at all either.

After several hours in labor, Brandi was given drugs to help regulate her contractions and move things along and drugs to help with the pain. I did a lot of pacing and fidgeting, while nurses and her doctor would come in from time to time to check on things. The night wore on and Brandi wasn’t progressing and neither was Logan. The doctor started talking about caesarians, which Brandi did not want to do, and we told him we’d think about it. It was about 8:30 or so when the doctor pulled Brandi’s mom out of the room to have a chat with her. We found out later that he had asked her to come in and try and nudge Brandi toward a c-section, which she did.

Brandi reluctantly agreed, and she was prepared for the operating room while I was left alone in the delivery room to put on the O.R. gown and booties that wouldn’t quite fit over my shoes. They brought me into the room and I sat by Brandi’s head while the doctors did their thing. She was shaking and still in some pain, and the anesthesiologist gave her more drugs, until finally Logan was removed.

I don’t really feel like going into detail after that. That night and the first two weeks of Logan’s life we had a lot of scares. Since then we’ve had our ups and downs, our worries and our joys, but overall we’re happy, and we’ know that we’re blessed to have him.

So anyway, Happy Birthday Logan! I know it’s been two years, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. Time slips away so quickly, and before I know it, you’ll be a man out on your own. If I did my job right, you’ll be fine.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Decompression

So the magazine went off successfully as usual. There were a couple of small things to take care of this morning, but nothing major. As of today, we have just under a month before the next issue is due (Nov. 7). This could really interfere with NaNoWriMo, but I don't think they'll let me not work.

Anyway, today is a day for decompression, to take care of things that were put off as we dealt with deadline and to clean up the absolute mess that my desk has become. How's your day going?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

It's That Time of the Month

Yep, it's deadline time. Wait, what were you thinking of?

Needless to say, I'm pretty busy in the office right now. I just finished the first draft on an article, and let me tell you, it was like pulling teeth. Plus, we're busy at home right now getting ready for Logan's birthday party this weekend. There's little time left for reading blogs, or writing blogs. I have a couple things I want to talk about, but they'll have to wait for now.

So have some music. This is the Smoking Popes. These guys went to the same high school I did, although years before, and I've always liked their music. They had a new CD released recently, but this song is from their Desination Failure album, which is great.



Also, I got my first anonymous comment the other day on this post. So exciting!

Friday, October 3, 2008

How I Know I Love My Wife, with examples

There are many reasons why I love my wife, surely too many to list on my humble blog, however, there are two things that happened this week that are opposites of each other that have stuck in my mind the last couple days.

First, we were over at my mother-in-law’s the other night for dinner. It was no big thing. She usually invites us out for dinner every couple weeks so she can spend time with the three of us. When we got to the house, my youngest brother-in-law was playing Rock Band on his PS2. I went up to his room to check it out. He was playing the drums, but had the sound down on the TV and couldn’t even really hear the song he was playing. I would think that if you’re playing Rock Band you’d want to hear the song you’re playing, not the thump of the sticks on fake drums, but whatever. I’m getting off topic.

After a couple songs he asks me if I want to try. I said sure and tried to play drums for “Say it Ain’t So” by Weezer on Easy mode. I didn’t do too bad. It was Easy mode, so it wasn’t like it was that hard either. After that song, I switched to guitar and he went back to drums and we were playing something else. After another song or two, Brandi comes into the room to see what we’re doing. Up until that point I had been doing OK on the guitar. As soon as she walks into the room, I start messing up. Why? Because Brandi has the ability to transform me back into the ├╝ber clumsy teenager that I once was (as opposed to the clumsy adult I have become). No one else really does that. Something about her changes me back into the nervous geek boy that wanted to impress her when we first started going out oh so many years ago. Of course she’d just say I’m uncoordinated, which is true, but this goes beyond that. It’s hard to explain, I’ll just leave it at that.

The other example is from just last night. I get home from work and am having dinner around 9:30. The library had been pretty slow and boring. Brandi has saved a plate for me and is doing dishes while I eat. *Insert exasperated little tiff about something dumb.*

How does this help me realize my continued love for my wife? She drives me completely fucking bat-shit crazy (I’m sure she’d say the same of me), and yet I’m completely happy with her and don’t know what I’d do without her. It’s as simple as that. I look at Brandi’s grandparents who also drive each other completely fucking bat-shit crazy and they’ve been together for over 50 years, so I don’t think I have anything to worry about.