Thursday, November 29, 2012

I Promised

I've been saying I would for months and months...

And now, finally, I'm working on edits of a story I wrote. A lot of work to be done. Too bad I'm not a better writer. Maybe I should write more. I've heard from various sources that that is how you get better, but I still don't believe. I think it's just that I lack a really good muse.

Isn't prolonged bouts of hard drinking the way you gain a good muse? That's what muses are drawn to, right?

There you go. I've finally found the solution.

I'm off...

Oh, wait, I've got to finish the edits first. Damn, looks like I'll never get better as a writer, because I don't even have time for heavy drinking.

At any rate, look forward to some stories about ugly people turning pretty, coming to a store...er, internet retailer near you!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ugly Sweater 4

I said the other day that I was in the market for an ugly Christmas sweater. Then, by chance, I found what I thought to be a non-ugly sweater. I decided that I must have it.

But I'm cheap, and was hoping to get it for a lower price. I kept an eye on it, hoping that on Black Friday it would go cheap, but, despite every other sweater at the damned store going on sale that day, my preferred sweater did not.

I had given up hope, but just the other night, on a whim, I checked it out, and found that, lo and behold, it had gone on sale, for Cyber Monday!

Huzzah! Or at least you might think that's how I reacted. Until I looked closer. No. No huzzahs for me. The sweater was already sold out.

I guess I'll go back to wanting an ugly sweater instead. Ugly people like me wouldn't look good in such a nice sweater anyway.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Suggestions?

So, as a follow up to yesterday's post about the Carpenters, I wanted to get some opinions, if anyone has them, about Christmas music.

See, I like Christmas music. I know that's not hip with the kids and stuff, and it's cooler to hate things, and be counterculture, and to vomit a lot, but I fear for my tooth enamel with all that vomiting really.

My problem is that I'm kind of in that "I've heard it all" mentality right now. If I have to listen to another version "Sleigh Ride", "Do You Hear What I Hear", or "Baby, It's Cold Outside" I might wind up convicted of a violent crime, but I'll have a good defense, the crappy Christmas music drove me to it.

Part of my problem may be that I've been listening to the Christmas radio stations, which play as much Kenny G and Michael Bolton as they do Bing Crosby. But I'm tired to death of endless versions of the same songs with very little variety. I think I heard two different versions of "Do You Hear What I Hear" within a single five song block the other day. What the hell? Is there nothing else to choose from?

I believe that there must be something else to choose from, so I come to you begging for suggestions. What is your favorite Christmas music that I might check it out? Especially your favorite stuff that is original, and not endlessly remade by the hacks that are just out to fulfill a quick album in their contract with A&M or Geffen.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Carpenters?

I'm a little freaked out right now.

I've been listening to Christmas music on the radio for the last few days, and I think I'm becoming a fan of the Carpenters.

I know that it's so uncool to say so, but I can't help it. It's the truth. Karen Carpenter's voice is absolutely unbelievable. It's the kind of voice that seems to be relegated to the past. I don't know anything about Karen, how much training she had with her vocals, whether she's just one of those naturally gifted people or not, but her voice is like, as they used to say in the old SNL skits, butter. She hits the notes with such ease and suavity.

My wife will sometimes put on those shows like American Idol, The Voice, or X-Factor, and the shlock and dross that show up wanting to be singers for a living makes me projectile vomit uncontrollably. Karen Carpenter is like day to their night.

But the Carpenters are a cheesy band from the '70s. They sing songs that are pretty much only appropriate on the Lawrence Welk Show. I'm not old enough to have watched that show. My older brothers or sisters probably loved it, but I'd never heard of its existence until I was in my twenties.

Yet I like to listen to her sing. What kind of a huge, HUGE nerd does that make me?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Studly

We did the turkey trot 5k on Thanksgiving again this year, and, just like last year, the whole fire department was out (except for the guys who were on duty I suppose) running the race in full gear, carrying their oxygen tanks on their backs.

They weren't always the fastest, but they were definitely the most respected.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Me 3 Cat 0

(Warning: This post contains accounts of the extermination of household pests, do not read it if you are offended or squeamish, please).

It was a low water year last year. What that tends to mean is that a lot of the critters that live in the woods start coming into neighborhoods in search of food, because enough of it didn't grow up in the hills. From deer to cougars to voles, there's just more critters in the neighborhood this year.

Unfortunately, what that has meant in my house is that we have mice in our walls. Mice! Now, I'm sure I've mentioned this enough times in the past that you all know by now, but I have a cat. It's an churlish, unpleasant standoffish beast, but until now, it was enough to keep the mice away. I guess the mice got word that my cat is scared of its own shadow, much less anything that is actually alive.

So, despite the fact that the cat isn't away, the mice are playing. What am I to do with a mouse problem and a worthless cat? Well, I got myself some traps, and set to work playing like I'm a cat.

My first trap attempts, the no view, no touch ones, got me nothing. The mice were not enticed by the peanut butter that lay within.

But one day my daughter saw a mouse in her closet. I went down and started removing all the items off the floor. I took with me one of mouse-kind's oldest enemies, a kitchen broom. Eventually, I removed all the hiding places for the mouse, and then the broom took care of it for me.

Cats are the natural enemies of mice, but I was the one taking care of them. The score was me 1 cat 0. It made me wonder why I was buying food week after week for this worthless thing that provided no usefulness nor affection.

Sadly, that was not the last mouse. As time went on, I saw another mouse, and it was brazen enough to scramble around my kitchen floor, skirting the edges of the cabinets, while I was still awake and in the room.

The fancy no touch traps continued to not work, so I had to move on to the old-fashioned kind that you see in all the old Tom & Jerry cartoons.

Rish Outfield and I were podcasting one night, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw the mouse make another brazen run from one spot of cover to another. I'd thought it had dashed into my pantry, so I grabbed the broom, and had Rish help me remove everything from the floor piece by piece, as I'd done earlier with the one in my daughter's closet.

No dice, however. My peripheral vision had led me astray. The mouse had probably been leaving my pantry instead. Eww.

We went back to podcasting, but as we did, Rish kept seeing the mouse venture out and grab at crumbs on the floor. We placed a trap out with a hunk of bread on it as bait, and the monster actually stripped the bread from the trap without setting it off, as Rish watched in amazement. It was like a scene right out of a cartoon. So tired and cliché, that it couldn't be believed if it wasn't seen.

I had to re-set the trap, and this time I squished the bread onto the trap so that it couldn't be pulled off without setting it off. I know, I set it off on my fingers once while preparing it.

The mouse didn't return, not while we were podcasting, nor for the rest of that night. It was probably gorging itself sick on the food we'd already provided it, I suppose.

I was determined, though. I knew where the mouse was looking for food each night now, and I was going to get it. I re-set the trap again the next night, and at four in the morning or so, I awoke to a strange clacking in the kitchen. My wife sent me out to investigate, and I found my cat trying to abscond with a mouse that was caught in a trap.

The nerve! I had caught that mouse, and my cat was trying to claim it as her own. Nice try, but the score is me 2 cat 0. It was becoming a rout.

It didn't stop there. I saw a mouse run behind my fridge, so I pulled it out, and found nothing. I was confused, because I knew it hadn't com out the other side. I realized that it must be hiding inside the fridge. Not where the food is, but underneath where the coils and wires were. I planted some traps down there, and sure enough, a little while later, got another mouse.

Now it was me 3 cat 0.

Now the question comes up. Just today, my wife called me at work and said, "It's you 3 cat 1."

I couldn't believe it. I was sure there was no way it could be true. I had set traps in the basement storeroom, because we were pretty sure there was a mouse nibbling his way into things we were keeping down there, but the cat was a useless mouser, so there must be another explanation.

She told me that the kids had found a dead mouse left on the stairs, and unless it crawled half way up the stairs then had a heart attack, the cat must be responsible.

I'm glad that we got another one, but I hate to give up the shutout. I find it really hard to believe. The cat's idea of mousing is staring at a place that a mouse is known to be for a while, then getting bored and going off in search of a good spot to nap.

I went downstairs, and checked the trap that I had set, and found it sprung. So, like those politicians who won't give up even though there really isn't any likelihood that the recount will come up different, I refuse to concede that mouse to the cat. I think the trap killed or injured it, and the cat just picked up my scraps, like she tried to do with the original mouse in the trap. She probably grabbed the dead mouse from the trap, only this time, unlike the first time, it came out of the trap, and she didn't have to drag it along with the mouse.

At the very least, we can call it a draw, or no contest, or whatever. I say it's still me 3 cat 0. Catch me another one cat, prove me wrong.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is upon us here in the U.S. of A. It's a holiday that encourages some introspection. In our busy lives, we forget to take time and do things like that. There's a reason why phrases like count your blessings, and stop and smell the roses were coined, because we don't naturally do that.

The economy has been tanking, then making recoveries, then tanking again. Social change has been making strides, then getting stymied, taking a step back, making more strides, then getting taken away again. So it's easy to look at your life and think that things suck worse than ever. Heck, I'll admit that things aren't better for me than they have been in previous years.

But to try to say that I don't have things to be thankful for is definitely not the truth. I may be working more and earning less, but I still have a family that loves me. I still have a podcast that brings me joy and fun week after week. I still have a job, and that's more than many people can say. I have enough food that I can have a Thanksgiving feast, and that's more than many people can say as well.

And I live in an era of unprecedented prosperity, really. I sit here typing on my computer, writing a blog post. I'm not so old that I can't remember a time when both of those things were unheard of. We had a typewriter in my house growing up, and I was out of the house before the internet became available there. I have a tablet that I can play Angry Birds or Cut The Rope on. Oh, and I might be able to put it to a worthwhile use as well. I guess I should look into that. Heck, even my kids have tablets to watch Netflix on, and video game consoles and so on and so on.

I'm not even close to a rich man, but all the same, I live in the lap of luxury compared to people fifty years ago, or even fifteen years ago. And I can't help but be thankful for that. If it weren't for all the advances that have taken place in the last twenty years or so, I wouldn't be able to have a podcast, a blog, a facebook account, or a website. And without all those things, I'd have no relationship with you, the reader of my blog and listener of my podcast.

And that's something that I'm thankful for this November. The people that I have met and associated with because of The Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine. I may not have ever met any of them personally, but they've brought me some moments of real joy in the last few years, and I thank them for that.

Thanks for caring everyone. And Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ugly Sweater 3

Ha ha! I found it!

I think this one might be worse than the last one. However, when I got it back in the day, I thought it was the most gorgeous sweater ever. Funny how tastes change as time passes. Things that are cool, stylish, and pretty, become lame, tasteless, and ugly. Weird.

So, which sweater do you think is worse, this one or yesterday's?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ugly Sweater 2

I found a picture of me in one of my old ugly sweaters, so, for fun, I thought I'd post it.

The worst part is that I liked it enough that I wore it for more than one year's worth of portraits.

What do you think? It was nice of Bill Cosby to give it to me, huh?

I've got another picture of a different ugly sweater somewhere. If I can find it, I'll post it.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Parachute Pants Rollercoaster

The first fashion frenzy that I remember being a part of was parachute pants. I actually wasn't a part of it, because I didn't own any when the frenzy was on, but I remember when it happened, and how everyone in the world HAD to have a pair of parachute pants. It was 1983. Kids were bringing flattened cardboard boxes to school and practicing their breakdancing backspins on them at recess. Parachute pants were so huge, because they were what break dancers wore. And who was cooler than a break dancer after all? No one, that's who.

I did finally get a pair of parachute pants, six months later, when they were old news and hitting the clearance rack. My mom knew I wanted some, and now that they were cheap, she picked me up a pair. Unfortunately for me, maroon was the only color available by this time. All the cool black, red, grey and white ones had been bought up months ago. And doubly unfortunate for me, they weren't all that cool anymore either.

Years later, in 1987, there was a day when all my pants were dirty as I tried to head to school in the morning. My mom made me wear the hand-me-down pair of parachute pants that I'd received from my older brother to school. At this point, parachute pants were about as cool as bell-bottoms were. Acid wash jeans were the craze this year. The time of parachute pants had long passed. I was so embarrassed to be wearing parachute pants to school, and I just prayed that no one realized what I was wearing. They might mistake them for Bugle Boy pants or something, which were super cool at the time now.

Alas, my fears were realized when a girl named Amy got in line behind me at the pencil sharpener and asked with disdain, "Are those parachute pants?"

All I could do was mutter an embarrassed yes, and make haste back to my desk.

As you can see, parachute pants made an impact in my life growing up. The experience of being the poor bastard who couldn't have them made a lasting mark. So, I was very surprised years later to be talking to my wife and have her tell me that she thought parachute pants were those big, poofy 1001 Arabian Nights-type pants that MC Hammer danced around in on all his music videos. I'd never once heard those called parachute pants in my life.

She was willing to admit that she might be wrong about their name, however. After all, she'd grown up in a town so small, it was officially classified as a village, because it didn't have enough people to earn the name of town. Not necessarily on the cutting edge of fashion.

Just the other day, however, I was talking about parachute pants with someone else who wasn't willing to admit that they might be wrong. I moaned about the fact that I might be the only person left in the world who didn't mistakenly think MC Hammer's pants were parachute pants, and I was unequivocally told that I was the only person in the world who was wrong in thinking that they weren't.

I let it slide off my back at the time, but something about it bothered me. I got more and more worked up about it as time went by. The first thing in the morning, I got onto the internet to try to discover if I really was wrong. I read the Wikipedia article on parachute pants, which told me that I was possibly both right and wrong. Parachute pants were the breakdancing pants that I remembered, but as the years passed, they might have evolved into the idiotic pants that MC Hammer wore around.

Still, I was all ready to get on my blog and have it out. Parachute pants looked like this:

Not like this:

I was ready to hurl insults in the direction of the person who dared to call me wrong. I had several very specific memories involving parachute pants to refer to after all. I knew I was right!

But before I could get some time on a computer, I had to hit the streets for my commute. With a little bit of time now, my anger was already beginning to fade. I started to wonder what my deal was. Why did I get this indignant fury when I knew (or at least thought I knew) that I was right. My wife runs from any argument with me, because she knows that I'll get this way.

My parachute pants blog post was taking a different turn, but it wasn't even done yet. Just minutes from my destination, traffic started going crazy. The cars in front of me all suddenly jammed on their brakes, swerving to avoid the other cars in front of them that were also pounding their brakes. What was going on?

Then I looked to my right, and understood. The dust hadn't even settled yet from a rollover accident. There on the side of the road, a Kia Sportage lay on its side, windshield shattered, body pummeled. But what really freaked me out was the toddler that had just struggled its way out of the car. She was the only one out of the car yet, and she was only feet from the roaring traffic of the freeway. I had to get pulled over, and make sure that kid didn't wander her way in front of a car.

Luckily for the kid, there were dozens of other people stopping as well. By the time I got to the car, it was mobbed with people, the car's occupants were all removed, 9-1-1 had been called, and the people in the car all seemed to be fine. Which is crazy, considering they were inside of this car:

Here I was again, riding another loop in an emotional roller coaster. Could who was right and who was wrong about parachute pants have seemed more trivial than it did at this time? The answer is no. Suddenly, the random and capricious nature of life and death was what was weighing on my mind. I was really freaked out as the cops arrived, and, realizing that I served no purpose here, I made my way back to my car and continued on my commute.

I found myself unable to control my emotions for the last five minutes of my trip, tears flowed, dried up, flowed again. It was weird. Maybe I was experiencing shock or something like that. I don't know.

Making things worse, I arrived at work, and told everyone about the accident, and everyone's response was, "Was this the rollover on I-80?"

It wasn't. Apparently, this morning there had been an earlier rollover accident in which the driver was thrown from the vehicle and died.

Two rollovers. One I witnessed. One I didn't. One everyone walked away from without any serious injuries. One with a fatality. Life and death are capricious and random. And at any moment, Death's scythe could be swinging toward me or you. There's just no knowing.

It makes you think, for sure. And it also makes you realize that there are things that are important in life, and things that aren't. And I'm pretty sure that parachute pants aren't.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

All I Want For Christmas

I've never had one in my life. I've had some ugly sweaters before, but never an ugly Christmas sweater. But I've recently grown envious of those who do have them. I want an ugly Christmas sweater.

I searched the web for Christmas sweaters, and I clicked on the first site on the list, JC Penny's. That's a super old-school kind of store, so they ought to have some good ugly sweaters, right? I mean, the last time I shopped at Penny's it was likely still the 1980s. So I proceeded to check it out.

They had some sweaters that fit the basic mold, but they weren't particularly ugly. I think I really want this red sweater now. It's got that snowflake design and stuff, although it's not particularly ugly. I kind of actually think it looks really good...

I went back to the search page and tried the next link. OH MY GOSH! Now these are ugly Christmas sweaters! Maybe I'm not so keen on having an ugly Christmas sweater after all.

At the very least, I have a hard time justifying spending $30 or more on one, since I would only wear it as a joke, and sparingly. I'm just not counterculture enough to get away with wearing it. I'm old enough that people would just assume I actually liked it instead of seeing that I am wearing it ironically like the hipsters do.

Ah well. I guess I'll just go with the JC Penny's one. I really like that one, so it won't even be ironic, and people will assume correctly instead.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Integrity

A few posts back, I told you about my diet/weight loss goal for the rest of the year. I also told you about my cheat day. At the time I wrote that post, the cheating was a recent thing, but since that day, the cheating hasn't stopped. I've gone into a tailspin, eating whatever the hell I want, and now my exercise has been slipping as well. Since the snow hit, it's just been too cold to go out running in the morning

I don't know if the rest of you get this way when you get like this, but I've been really depressed recently. It's kind of a spiraling thing. I cheated, so I feel bad that I didn't live up to my promise, even if it was only a promise to myself. Being depressed makes me eat emotionally, further breaking that promise, so I feel worse, and eat even more emotionally, and so on.

It works the same way with writing too, I think. I don't write, and I feel bad, so I want to be comforted, so I watch TV or surf the internet, and I feel even worse for not writing, and it goes on forever.

So, I've been reading this book on weight loss, and it talks a lot about self-image and integrity. To succeed, I have to change the way I look at myself. I can't think of myself as a weak-willed fat guy. I need to instead think of myself as who I want to be, like a determined athlete-in-training or something. Because after all, if I am faced with a choice of eating the pizza and drinking the soda or not, if I'm a weak-willed fat guy, I'll eat the pizza, but if I'm an athlete-in-training, I'll probably make a different decision.

The integrity thing is important too. I can develop a great deal of self-confidence if I simply work on my integrity. Each time I live up to a promise I make, my integrity grows. If I mess up, I re-commit, and fulfill my promises. In time (so says the book's author), I'll be someone with a great deal of confidence and a whole new attitude.

So, I'm working on changing my self-image and developing some integrity. Hopefully, it'll help keep me from getting depressed and spiraling downwards. For starters, you'll never hear me refer to myself as an aspiring writer or a wanna-be writer or anything else like that. Nor will I call myself a fat guy or anything like that. I am Big Anklevich, writer and marathon runner-in-training. Hear me roar.

Friday, November 9, 2012

S'Winter

It's here. This was the view from my desk at work this morning.

I'm not really a fan.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween Party

We have a little costume contest at work each year on Halloween. I never go all out. Half-assed is what Rish tends to call my effort level. But I always at least dress up. Here's my costume from this year, for those of you who haven't seen it already on Facebook or Twitter.

But a special treat for those of you who read the blog...an exclusive as we like to say in the news business. One of my coworkers dressed up as Announcer Man this year. He won the contest by a landslide.