Author Archives: ianmdudley

About ianmdudley

Writer, lover, reader, father, taxpayer, husband, and son, though not necessarily in that order.

NASA experiments with socialized Science – Thanks, Obama!

I recently returned from Southern California and the two-day NASA Social event #DSN50.

#DSN50 was a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Deep Space Network, and as part of the event I was lucky enough to tour both JPL in Pasadena and the Goldstone desert facility that has a number of large antennas on-site.

It was awesome. And eye-opening.

At this point, the court-appointed lawyers have instructed me to point new readers to my blog site banner. Particularly, the bit mentioning mercury. And no, I’m not talking about the Mercury program.

Just so your expectations of accuracy are properly calibrated.

Besides, accuracy is overrated.

Unless you work at JPL, in which case, carry on, please.

On the flight down, I looked out my window to see this amazing sight:

I could feel their eyes on my neck. Their telescopically enhanced eyes!

That’s no double rainbow – it’s a bull’s-eye!

At first, I took this as a good omen for the trip ahead. But then I wondered, what if it’s a Strategic Defense Initiative targeting laser locked onto our plane?

I attempted to alert the flight crew to this potential threat, but all my efforts led to was detention upon landing at Burbank airport.

Fortunately, a check of my psychiatric history led to all charges being dropped, and I was released in time to still attend the celebratory events at JPL.

After registering, we were guided to the JPL control room. I got to sit in the very room where the Curiosity rover (among other missions) was tracked and, well, controlled.

I think I really annoyed the people around me with the constant muttering.

Under my breath, I kept saying, “Ten, Nine, Ignition Sequence Start, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Zero, All engines running, liftoff! We have a liftoff thirty-two minutes past the hour!”

It was a cool feeling, but when I started powering up the computer in front of me and pressing buttons, I was pulled aside and given a stern talking to about firing attitude adjusters on the New Horizons probe.

We were part of a broadcast for NASA TV, which coincidentally was also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Deep Space Network.

It was a huge production, seemingly lavish in its scale (Near-Earth Object Radar Scientist Marina Brozovic brought asteroids to show!), but it turns out they keep the costs down by paying everyone with peanuts.

I prefer honey roasted myself, but honey roasted peanuts are credited for the Mars Climate Orbiter failure

Our host, Veronica McGregor, shows us a typical JPL paycheck. Dammit, unsalted! Again!

During filming, I noticed that the cameras didn’t stay on me. In fact, they were hardly ever on me.

As the star of the show, I couldn’t understand this. When I flagged down the host, she gave me a strange look and then patiently explained to me that yes, I was the star, but in order to protect the delicate egos of the JPL staff and other attendees, they had to make it look like I was an incidental part of the production.

This made sense, and I resigned myself to relative obscurity during the rest of the show, even forgoing the song and dance number I’d planned for the end.

You guys really missed out on that one, let me tell you.

But even without my performance, it was a fascinating program to watch, and I suspect it retains its fascination even when not watched live and in person, but through a TV screen. So I recommend you check it out:

This image is from the NASA broadcast, so they probably own it or something

Despite the lack of focus on yours truly, I do appear…in the background

Another benefit of the trip was a journey to the center of the Universe. At first, I was worried – my flight home was the next day – but the trip was really short.

Did you know the center of the Universe is in Pasadena? I didn’t, but based on how people drive there, I’m guessing the native Pasadenians do.

Their first choice for slogan, 'consider doing timid things, but if it seems unlikely to succeed, skip it' didn't test well.

Gravity is different in the center of the universe – I felt light and giddy standing there

Five minutes before the event started, they were all watching college basketball on those screens. Except for one screen showing a cricket game.

The Control Room at the Center of the Universe is surprisingly close to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe

I’ll be honest. I thought the center of the Universe would be more … space-y … and less LCD panel-y. But I’m not a scientist.

Not since they revoked my license, anyway.

After the broadcast, there was a photo-op with NASA celebrity Bobak Ferdowsi, otherwise known as the NASA Mohawk Guy.

I tried to get a mohawk just like his, but my barber just shook his head and said, "Nope, you don't have the head or hair to pull that style off."

If you don’t know who the guy on the right is, you are dead to me. If you don’t know who the guy on the left is, well, that just hurts my feelings.

After I photobombed Bobak’s portraiture session, I was escorted outside for the tour of other sites at JPL.

Those other sites consisted of a lot of cool places, including the Mars Yard, the Spacecraft Assembly Facility, and the JPL Museum.

Confound these stairs!

I go to great effort to come down to this event and this is how you repay me?

They require effort to ascend!

You make me walk up stairs?

But before I talk about those, I want to talk about stairs.

There are a lot of stairs at JPL.

Now if you listen to the budget-hawkish NASA naysayers, you’d think everyone at JPL tooled around on their own personal rover.

Let me put that rumor to rest right now. I only saw one person riding a rover between office buildings, and frankly, given the anti-psychotic drugs the Burbank airport police administered during my detention, it is entirely possible I imagined that.

Besides, the rovers are too big to fit in most of the hallways.

But to support the more pedestrian mode of travel in use at JPL, there are stairs galore.

What impressed me most are the stairs currently under development at JPL.

Oh, to be sure, there are old stairs, gathering dust and waiting for retrofits and upgrades, but JPL also has new stairs.

Exciting stairs.

Gravity-defying stairs.

Sadly, as they are still under development, I was not allowed to photograph any of these new-fangled modes of ascent and descent.

In fact, prior to rounding one corner, we were all required to put on blindfolds so we couldn’t see a particularly advanced prototype we needed to use to get to the JPL Museum.

But if the smooth, effortless nature of my traversal of those particular steps is any indication, in the future people will take the stairs in lieu of seeing a therapist, and ski lifts everywhere will be replaced with these springy, refreshing wonders.

I look forward to the day I can tell my grandchildren (assuming I have any and the inevitable restraining orders are lifted) that I was there, at JPL, at the beginning of the Staircase Renaissance.

I wish I could say more, but the NDA I signed is quite explicit about the painful consequences if I let slip any more information.

The Mars Yard was a lot less Mars-like than I expected. For one thing, there was air there. Breathable air. Now I may have had my scientist card pulled out of my hands and cut up right in front of me, but I’m pretty sure there isn’t much air on Mars.

And there was way more gravity in the Mars Yard than you’d find on Mars.

In fact, it was pretty close to Earth gravity.

The weather on Mars on this particular morning was a partly cloudy 18 degress Celsius. Or Centigrade, if you're measuring it old school.

Apparently there are a lot of sheds on the surface of Mars too. Who knew? They’re a total mystery to NASA.

Now you can’t try a new maneuver on a Mars rover without testing it first. What if something goes wrong? You can hardly call roadside assistance and ask for a tow truck to come over and right an overturned Mars rover.

I asked. You can’t.

You want to test it on a sibling rover that you aren’t worried about wrecking.

So clearly the only way to truly test how well a new maneuver will work is to send a duplicate rover to Mars and try your routines out on that one first.

When I asked for confirmation on this, the guide sighed and then explained that while NASA had considered this option, in the end it was deemed too expensive and they decided to make do with the less-than-ideal mock-up here on Earth.

This, of course, was little consolation to the poor test rover who had her heart set on going to Mars. I did my best not to bring up the subject in her presence.

The only reason I survived the rover onslaught? Maggie's engine didn't turn over the first couple of times so I was able to hide behind a simulated Marian escarpment.

Jamie Catchen attempts to explain why she chose to aid and abet the robot armies just before flipping on the killbot pictured here, affectionately known as Maggie. The Mars Yard was never so red as it became in the next few moments.

Our JPL hosts, under the command of the robot rover sentries suddenly popping up all over the campus, next took us to the SAF.

No, not a safe place to hide from the malevolent rovers. The Spacecraft Assembly Facility. Basically, a giant cleanroom where they make new spacecraft and robots to crush the human uprising.

You can just make out the giant robot arm in the bottom left of this picture. Be glad it isn't clear enough to see its uncompromising, vicous strength, no doubt to be employed crushing hapless humans

In the SAF is where they build spaceships and rovers that will boldly go where no robotic overlord has gone before

Sadly, the latest satellite being built, called SMAP and supposedly intended to do climate study work, had been whisked behind the walls of a electromagnetically sealed inner chamber in the SAF as part of testing or some such.

I’m no fool. The roving rovers didn’t want us to see the latest killbot, no doubt. So it goes.

During a lull in the rover patrols, we furtively made our way to the last stop on our tour: the JPL Museum (and on the way used those magical, mystery stairs that I will dream about for the rest of my life).

There I was treated to an amazing interactive exhibit the JPL employees affectionately call Randii Wessen.

This life-like automaton engaged the audience, taking questions and keeping our egos in check by informing us that, kilogram for kilogram (damn JPL and their insistence on metric!), there is more life in the form of microbes in the rocks under the surface than all the life above ground combined.

This was my first moment of feeling puny and insignificant. The second moment came the next day, at Goldstone.

I haven't seen figure eights like this since the last winter Olympics!

Randii is either describing the sun’s path as viewed from the surface of Uranus with its 90 degree tilted axis, or dancing the Hokey Pokey. Or maybe both.

In all seriousness, it was an awesome day spent surrounded by smart, amazing, and really cool people, both my fellow guests and the JPL staff. Truly, a once-in-a-lifetime experience I will never forget.

Unless I hit my head and get amnesia.

That would really suck.

Up next in Part 2: The Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex or What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?


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Date Night book signing!

Last Friday night the Missus and I decided to experiment with something new.

I’d been lurking in the shadows of the internet, typing things like “The kids are driving us crazy! What can we do besides hire someone to kill us and put us out of our misery? Oh God, they’re at the bedroom door again, knocking and calling for ‘Daddy’ and asking why the sky is blue and why their pants are suddenly heavy and full of brown and whinging about being hungry again. All they ever do is complain about being hungry and acting like we should feed them. Help!”

It was a pretty specific search term, and it resulted in a pretty specific search result:

Date night.

I did research on this counter-culture concept that lurks in the dark underbelly of the tubes that make up the internet, and it actually sounded like a good idea.

OK, it didn’t sound like anything to me other than getting away from the kiddos, and that’s the only sound I wanted to hear.

So last Friday night was date night for the Missus and I.

There was only one component to date night that we had to plan in advance:

How to ditch the kiddos?

Since Child Protective Services has informed us they will take the kiddos away if they catch us putting them in their Skinner boxes again, we had to come up with an alternative stowing plan:

Babysitting FTW!

Except babysitters cost money.

And tend to be teenage girls, and really, how trustworthy can a hormone-flooded teenage girl be? Especially one who is watching your kids not out of maternal instinct, but due to the cold, hard capitalistic urge to make money?

And paying an older male to watch your kids? Feels creepy.

Plus, still costs money.

How to overcome these obstacles? Why, in the most cost-effective way possible! Time for:

Operation: Overnight with the Grandparents

Or, as the kiddos put it:

Overnight with the Grump-parents! YAY!!!!! *run around house in excitement, crashing into walls and generating more bruises to explain away to CPS*

The best part of having the grumps watch the kiddos?

It’s free!

Also, they apparently have actual ‘feels’ for their grandchildren, which makes them far less likely to eat them.

Or sell them on the black market.

And if they did sell them on the black market, being family they’d most likely give the Missus and I a cut.

Note to self, though: if kiddos go missing and my parents offer us leftovers, skip the leftovers.

Once we had the kiddos safely stashed away in a CPS-approved storage facility (well, assuming they never find out about my parents’ felony convictions for child endangerment and capital murder (before you judge – overturned on appeal!)), the Missus and I escaped into a carefree evening of dinner and a movie.

It's big enough to park my car in, but the doors are too small to drive through! Come on, what were the designers thinking????

Layer the outside with Sherpas, and you’ll stay toasty warm all night.

Right after I took down the new tent.

You see, we got a ginormous 8-person tent for the next family camping trip, as the 4-person is too small for four people when they are two adults and two toddlers.

Yeah, I was surprised too.

And once I buy a tent, I friggin’ put it up right away, before any actual trip, to make sure all the parts are there.

That Everest base camp tragedy is never happening again.

Normally, I’d tell the Missus she was my ‘one all, be all’ and deal with the tent the next day, but the forecast called for rain, and the tent instructions were very clear about making sure the tent is dry when you put it away to avoid mildew.

And who wants to go camping in a musty tent reeking of mildew and BO?

Yes, BO. You try camping for a week without access to showers and not have body odor issues. I wish you the best of luck.

So dinner was a bit of a rushed affair, because the tent is big and took longer than expected to pack up and the movie started at 8.

But fast food can still be romantic if you bring a candle with you to the restaurant.

And don’t sit too close to the play area in the back.

Because the sound of screaming, yelling kids?

Kills the date night mood.

The movie was The Grand Budapest Hotel, the latest movie from Wes Anderson.

And let me say, it is much better than his other movie, Scream.

And a lot less scary.

I highly recommend it.

All in all, a delightful evening free of toddlers screaming, poking, and whining. If you are afflicted with children, I highly recommend this date night concept.

I have a feeling it’s a trend that just might take off.

And hey, just a head’s up that on April 1st and 2nd I’m having a book signing!

It’s all part of #DSN50 and #NASASocial.

Come find me while I’m touring JPL and/or the Deep Space Network, and I’ll answer any questions you have and sign books.

Heck, the book I sign doesn’t even have to be one of mine. I’m not that particular.

Now if you do want me to sign one of my books, and you don’t already have a copy, you should know I’m not planning to have any books for sale.

The only copies I’m bringing with me are for friends in the area.

But if you offer me enough money, well, screw my friends.

Only one catch: you have to be a US citizen to get on the sites I’ll be at.

Oh wait, another catch: you have to be on the list of US citizens being allowed on the tours.

Unless you work there. I suppose if you work there, you could find me.

Especially if you work for Security. Security is always finding me, everywhere I go. So if you work for Security at NASA, it’s a good bet you can find me.

Unlike those chumps at the FBI. They’ve yet to find me! Muhahaha!

But other than that, it’s all-Ian, all-access, all-morning.

Oh yeah, if you have trouble finding me, don’t ask the #DSN50 event organizers.

They have no clue about my book signing event. They think this event is all about celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Deep Space Network.

As if.

Seriously though, don’t ask. You might get me kicked out.

(And here’s a link about the actual #DSN50 event)

Also, on an unrelated note: I have two Skinner boxes for sale. Cheap.


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It’s another writing blog meme! Jump before it hits yo- Too late.

So, like a bad case of the croup, there’s a writing blog hop making the rounds. And like a bad case of croup, I caught it.

This particular round requires a regimen of antibiotics answers to four questions about writing. I’m not sure I have anything of value to say on the art of writing, or as I like to call it, ‘prosefaction,’ but rather than break the chain and have untold horrors befall me and my descendants, I’ll wing it.

Who was so generous as to push me onto this blog hop conveyor belt? Why none other than Kit Campbell. So send your complaints about this blog to her, thank you very much.

What am I working on?

Keeping a tenuous grip on my sanity. Oh, you mean writing-wise?

Keeping a tenuous grip on my sanity:

I’m editing Balloons of the Apocalypse, the next book in the Marlowe and the Spacewoman series, while holding a full-time job, dealing with toddlers when I get home from work, being awakened at the crack of dawn EVERY morning by said toddlers so I’m sleep deprived, trying to pull my weight in the whole marriage/relationship thing, and taking flight lessons.

Why did that come out ‘lesions’ when I first typed it? I may be just a wee bit utterly exhausted.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

David lost himself in the role. He was totally unrecognizable under all that clown makeup and that huge handlebar mustache.

The stuff that dreams are NOT made of.
Image © Glenn Francis,

Hmm. How is it different? I’d say the absurdist element, though that probably isn’t unique to my books. I built a world that makes you scratch your head and hopefully laugh, but my main characters don’t see it as anything but the world they live in and must navigate.

Oh, and I have an immobile character named House who I always imagine being voiced by Stephen Fry (and not Hugh Laurie, who despite starring in the medical drama House also appeared with Stephen Fry in a number of things, including Jeeves and Wooster). House is Jeeves, only without the ability to sap you with a cosh.

At least directly…

And in the Marlowe-verse, David Hasselhoff played Philip Marlowe in the movies.

Why do I write what I do?

Why do any of us write? To keep those effin’ muses at bay, of course. Once they deliver an idea to me, they pester me until I use it.

Jump up and down on my head.

Pinch my cheeks.

Squeeze my buttocks.

Makes me yelp every time, which, given that the bastards are invisible, has caused no end of problems at work, during romantic moments ‘alone’ with the Missus, while passing through airport security, and during the bi-annual, court-order psych evaluations.

But once I’ve written it down, I have a few hours respite before they come up with what they think are brilliant new ideas.

It really sucks when the ideas are lame. They never see them as such.

If you’re reading something of mine and come across a passage that strikes you as particularly lacking, just remember: I thought it was lame too, but I had to put it in to stop the incessant badgering.

How does my writing process work?

Computer and fly swatter. Because though they may be invisible, those Muses are not incorporeal.

I used to pants it, but I’m experimenting with outlining now. I rarely stick with the outline all the way through, but it helps to have a nice, solid map of where I want to go and how to get there from where I am.

Of course, editing doesn’t have much outlining in it. I suspect I’d be doing it wrong if it did.

And there’s my contribution to the writing process.

Now, as I understand it, I’m supposed to burden give a few more writers the opportunity to wax poetic (or prosetic) on these questions. Kit’s already dodged this bullet, as she’s the one who tagged me, so I choose:

Lisa Eckstein (a madwoman with a box and some writing utensils)

Tamela Buhrke (a madwoman who happens to write)

S.G. Browne (a very sane, sensible, and funny writer)

Stephen King (not holding my breath on this one)


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Lovemaking secrets of the Hurricane Spin Mop

So the other night I was flipping through the channel guide on my TV and one channel was showing something called “Lovemaking Secrets.”

I was intrigued.

This is not to say that I have anything to learn in bed.

Quite the contrary. I’m always teaching the Missus new stuff.

How do I know?

I ask her. We’re very big on communication.

Me: “Hey baby, did I teach you anything new this time?”

The Missus: (every time) “Yeah. Self-reliance.”

So I must be pretty good, right?


But never one to assume he has reached his full potential, I decided to take a peek at this exclusive content on something called the BUYIT2 channel.

Worse case, I’d be laughing at their entry-level lessons, right?

Turns out it was an infomercial for the Hurricane Spin Mop.

I admit, I was confused.

“What could I possibly learn about being a good lover from a spin mop ad?” I asked aloud.

In the other room, I heard a “Ha!” from the Missus.

See? Ridiculous to think I could learn anything from a cleaning appliance ad.

But curiosity (and something about the tone of that laugh) got the best of me and I decided to watch.

First, they started mopping the floor.

Makes sense, clean the floor before being intimate on it. As expected, pretty basic.

Not necessarily comfortable, but basic.

And in this case, the floor could really use the mopping. Ick.

Then the presenter took the head of the mop and shoved it into a narrow bucket.

Ah ha, I get where you’re going there, I thought, chuckling to myself knowingly.

Just how fast is the head supposed to spin? Is the amount of lubricant directly proportional to RPM?

This demonstration proved to be too clinical for me. And confusing. And disconcerting.

Then she pulled the mop out, the head spinning rapidly as it exited.

Hmm. OK. This is…new.

Now they had lost me.

Evidently, there are some features and capabilities of my anatomy that I haven’t sussed out yet.

know they never talked about this spinning in Sex Ed, and my parents certainly never mentioned it to me.

You’d think something like that would definitely make ‘The Talk.’

Unfortunately, the ad was long on metaphors and short on concrete explanation. When I asked the Missus about it, she just laughed.

That’s when I knew I’d blown it – clearly this phenomena is something obvious that everyone knows already.

So as amazing as it sounds, it turns out I do still have a few things to learn about lovemaking.

I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’m a better person for knowing I have more to know.

So now I’m going to do some google searches on the subject of spinning…well, this is a family friendly blog, so, you know. Spinning those thingies.

As written explanations may not be clear enough, I better do an image search, to make sure I get a full understanding.

Afterward, I think I’ll teach the Missus some more ‘self-reliance,’ whatever she means by that. I’m already pretty good at it.


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Looking for Justin Bieber action figure potty training videos? Look no further.

I’m the father of two toddlers, and as is usually unavoidable in such situations, we have reached that point where potty training is required.

I had hoped to avoid the whole unpleasant business, but it turns out schools and the like actually require it.

Damned nuisance, that.

The training has not been going well.

In a fit of desperation, I started making short videos for the kids. These cinematic Razzies feature some of their favorite toys and, on occasion, randomly selected household items, all speaking to the kiddos to emphasize the importance of getting potty trained.

The Justin Bieber action figure video proved to be a huge hit, leading me to create a series of them.

As word of these Biebelicious videos leaked out, some of my friends and extended family, for reasons unfathomable to me, expressed interest in seeing them.

So I’ve made some of the shorts available for viewing.

The first video is a high def introduction. The rest are not high def, as I filmed them during my lunch breaks and sent them via my phone.

These videos are aimed at small children. The themes, the humor, they are not high brow. Indeed, the most admiral trait of these videos is undoubtedly their brevity – each is less than thirty seconds.

You have been warned.

Leave a comment

Posted by on 3 March 2014 in Angst, Life, Parenting


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Promo material disguised as actual content – no actual fun stuff, but hey, free Marlowe book and story!

Smashwords has a lot of issues, in my opinion, but access to free books is not one of them. Or maybe it is, if you think a lot of the books there suck. Which I'm not saying. Because my books are there. But of course I'd say that, even if my books do suck, wouldn't I?

The Read an E-Book Week promo is for electronic books, so I have no
idea why Smashwords provides a banner with physical books in it.
Smashwords, man, Smashwords. Know what I mean?

Sadly, today’s post is intentionally devoid of humorous content (unlike most of my posts, which are unintentionally devoid of humorous content).

Have you found my blog even fleetingly entertaining, but not enough to drop $2 on my Marlowe and the Spacewoman book, or a buck on my Marlowe-verse short story?

Well, lucky you, for the next week you can get the book risk free, with a 100% money back guarantee.

That is, free. On Smashwords. Click on the titles below to get your free copy (or, if you’re feeling adventurous, copies).

Marlowe and the Spacewoman

The Santa Claus Gang


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Working together, we can end the scourge of Vivid Imagination Syndrome

Imagination is a curse.

What’s that, you ask? Did the indie author just call imagination a curse? Isn’t a vivid imagination a writer’s bread and butter?

Sure it is. But bread comes in a variety of types, and butter is perishable.

Sometimes imagination is a slice of warm sourdough dripping with whipped butter, taking me on an amazing journey that I’ll be forever grateful for and eager to relive.

Mmm, warm buttered sourdough…

And sometimes it’s chunky rancid butter spackled onto a stale Dutch crunch roll, curdling my tongue and leaving bloody gouges on the roof of my mouth.

Gouges that take several days to heal, and then I have to deal with that annoying flap of dead skin until it finally falls off.


A vivid imagination is all roses and scented oils when I get something good.

When the perfect plot twist manifests.

When the ideal line of dialog materializes from nowhere.

When a new character comes to life and demands, demands to be written on the page.

But then, then I see a penny on my car seat.

What do the non-writers, or the ‘mundanes’ as I like to call them, think when they see a coin?

I’ll tell you. They think, “Huh, that penny must have fallen out of my pocket.”

What does someone afflicted with VIS, or Vivid Imagination Syndrome, think?

I’ll tell you. And in this particular case, since it actually happened, I can tell you in iron clad detail:

Don't touch it! Concentrated evil! Nasty stuff!

This is the moment the shiny, glowing-with-radioactive-energy penny dropped.

Huh, someone broke into my car and left a penny on the seat.

But they were careful to hide the fact of the break-in, leaving the windows and locks intact. How did they do that?

And why? Why so careful to hide their criminal trespass?

It must be a trap!

Is that penny radioactive? Are they trying to kill me with buttock cancer?

And who? Who would want to kill little ol’ me, a beloved indie author with almost no readership?

The Missus? Is she trying to kill me? She does have a key to the car. But we’re happy.

Or are we?

Maybe it’s a government organization. They have the resources to break into a car undetected. But why me?

Is it because I’m destined to save the world, become a world-renowned hero who parlays that fame and recognition into the Presidency of the United States? And they, whoever they are, want to prevent that?


If not that, could it be my involvement with that shadowy writers’ collective, [REDACTED]?

Or is it [REDACTED] because they finally found out I’m working undercover for [ALSO REDACTED]?

Or is this whole radioactive butt-cancer penny just a red herring to distract me from a car bomb wired to the ignition?

This thought process goes on long enough for the Missus to call me and ask where the hell I am and why I’m taking so long to get home.

Aha! So it is the Missus!

Do you have any idea how long it takes to remove all four tires from your car, inspect the wheel wells, put all four tires back on, check the engine compartment and under the seats for bombs, and then safely dispose of a possibly radioactive penny?

Not as long as you’d think – I’ve gotten plenty of practice and keep tongs, a lead-lined bag, and a penny-holding rack in the trunk for just this sort of emergency.

The rack because you can’t let radioactive pennies get too close to each other – they may achieve critical mass.

And that’s just what I need, a smoking lump of drippy, radioactive copper (and zinc if the penny was made after 1981) in the back of my car.

This is the curse of imagination. Time lost inspecting cars and the like for traps, and money spent on tongs and lead-lined bags that, if I’m really honest with myself, I probably don’t need.

Plus the Missus is usually pretty steamed by the time I get back home.

Is it because I’m late, or because the assassination attempt failed?

And this affliction is not limited to pennies on car seats. Oh no.

When I sat down at the communal computer to write this post, I noticed the seat was warm.

Was it because the Missus had just been using the computer? Or is it because the seat is slowly irradiating my bum?

If they find my body with a shrunken, mostly missing ass, you know what happened.


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Could this be Justin Bieber finally being a productive member of society? Or are we the ones who are drunk and/or stoned?

Recently the Kiddos discovered the video recording capabilities of my mobile phone.

The Kiddos are also in the throes of potty training (though actually, it’s more like the Missus and I are in the throes of this ordeal, if you ask me).

So, what better theme to use when they demand I make videos with their toys than potty training?

I was provided a number of props/toys to use, ranging from stuffed animals to plastic baskets to a book called Frumpy To Foxy In 15 Minutes Flat (not mine, so I’m going to hope it belongs to the Missus and was not some misguided attempt at a literacy gift for the Kiddos).

The Kiddos’ favorite video, by far, is the one incorporating the Justin Bieber doll. It is presented here, for your perusal and collective “Wuh?”

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Posted by on 26 January 2014 in Life


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Bigfoot’s Carbon Footprint

I recently decided to reduce my carbon footprint.

As a student pilot spending an hour a week flying a plane around in circles, it suddenly dawned on me that said plane consumes a lot of aviation fuel.

This caused some pangs of guilt. After all, I’m not even doing something useful, like traveling from point A to point B.

I’m flying in circles.


As a student, I’m not that good at flying in circles yet. More like sad, misshapen ovals.

The point being: increased carbon footprint.

Turns out buying a smaller shoe size does nothing towards this reduction, and goes a long way towards giving you blisters.

After walking a day in those smaller shoes, I decided I needed to change tack.

So today, when I realized I’d forgotten to mail a bill and it was now due in two days (and one of those days was a Sunday), instead of driving the quarter-mile to the post office, I walked.

Both ways, even.

Because that makes more sense than driving to the airport, renting a plane, and then flying to the post office.

I mean, come on, how would I drop off the letter? Just throw it out the window as I soar overhead and hope?

Clearly, not a viable option for a member of the 99%.

So I went for the smaller carbon footprint option.

That’s me, a strident eco-activist hell-bent on saving the environment.

At least until I learn enough to fly out of here to a better environment.

I am always focused on personal growth and development, so when I embarked upon this walk it was with the intention of honing my environmental awareness.

I kept my eyes wide open.

And couldn’t help but notice all the cars on the road.

With the windows down.

And the stereos blasting music.

Music I don’t particularly care for.

One might even say music I hate.

Sell-my-kiddos’-soul-to-the-devil-to-make-it-stop hate.

There were two such cars.

Not only were the drivers guilty of reckless noise pollution, but with my newly-sensitized-to-the-environment eyes, I could also see the colossal waste of energy inherent in their thoughtless actions.

Not just the wear and tear on the tires and the road.

Not just the gas used to power the car.

It ends up being more gas than that. Turns out there’s increased fuel consumption to support the electrical system that fires those 20 tera-watt car stereo systems with their bowel-jarring subwoofers.

Oh yeah, and the increased use of water and laundry soap (and bleach) used by innocent bystanders to clean their underwear.

The urbanite’s carbon footprint looks a lot like Bigfoot’s.

If Bigfoot has a glandular disorder that leads to disproportionate foot growth.

My first thought was to start carrying water balloons filled with acid on my semi-regular jaunts to the post office.

Open windows, ya know.

Blinded asshats with an apparent hearing impairment can’t drive, thus shrinking their carbon footprint.

But then I thought about the energy cost of manufacturing the acid, and transporting it to my neighborhood, and realized the cost-to-benefit ratio of an acid attack made it not worth the effort.

Plus the whole jail thing. I couldn’t in good conscience become a ward of the state, forcing the taxpayers to bear the burden of my incarcerated carbon footprint.

I could yell at the drivers, but let’s face it, these guys are in cars while I’m on foot, giving them a significant advantage in a run-down-that-guy-with-my-car fight.

Never come to a run-down-that-guy-with-my-car fight without your car.

It ends up being a short fight and you look like an idiot.

Plus these drivers tend to be imposing guys (notice it’s never women who do this?), and I do not look like your typical I-can-stand-up-to-imposing-guys-no-problem guy.

I look and am more of a coward-who-scurries-into-the-shadows-at-the-first-sign-of-conflict kind of guy.

That rules out throwing rocks, too.

So now I’m at a loss. It seems I can do nothing to get these audio polluters to stop.

Which is why I have decided, with a heavy heart, to start driving to the post office. With my radio on loud so I can’t hear all the scary drivers blasting their music.

I’ve done the math, and it’s the best way to reduce my carbon footprint.

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Posted by on 25 January 2014 in Life


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The ultimate crime: Swedish mystery dramas stole my heart!

Bloody Swedes.

I mean that quite literally. Dead Swedes covered in blood.

Don’t look at me like that. I didn’t do it!

I had some time off at the end of last year, and as with every other holding-a-full-time-day-job, busy-raising-a-family-too indie author, I spent this unexpected block of time off as you would expect:

Binge watching television.

Because it’s not like I have anything better to do.

Like sleeping.

Or getting my second novel out.

I didn’t set out to binge watch anything. I just wanted to see a few movies that came out a year or so ago and that I missed in the theater.

However, the crappy streaming service I have, which I use to stream flicks over the net, and which I’m too polite to name, didn’t have any of those movies available.

So I got desperate.

Which led me to Wallander.

It was either that, or join the Missus on her The West Wing binge.

But I have to stay away from that dreamy Bradley Whitford, or there could be dire consequences for my marriage!

No, not the Kenneth Branagh version put out by BBC Scotland. I’d already seen some of that series on PBS.

And I know it won Branagh a BOMF or BAFTA or WHAM! award or some such, but I just couldn’t handle that level of soul-crushing bleak over the holidays. Branagh’s portrayal of the Swedish detective makes wintering in a Soviet-era Siberian work camp seem like a Disney musical in comparison.

Plus it turns out he mispronounced everything Swedish, even his character’s name.

How do I know that?

Because I watched the Swedish version, where Swede Krister Henriksson, who plays Wallander, pronounces it, presumably correctly since he’s Swedish, ‘Vallander’.

Yes, I watched the Swedish version. Though apparently the second Swedish version, with a new Swedish actor.

It seems in Sweden there is nothing to do but read Henning Mankell’s Wallander novels while shivering in the cold winters, and then deciding the time is right to film a reboot of the television series.

It’s like Sweden’s version of Doctor Who.

But much to my surprise, it turns out that subtitles do not make a show unwatchable. In fact, I became addicted to the few episodes available on my flicks-on-the-net streaming service.

The irritatingly few episodes.

That skip over Series One entirely, to start in the middle with Series Two, and oh, by the way, Series Three is also out there but not currently available.

Bastards at that service that streams a paltry number of flicks over the net!

Actually, aside from the foreign language, the more liberal rules about nudity and swearing, and the locales, Swedish television isn’t that different from American television.

Heck, they even have some spoken English in them!

The first time there was a spate of English uttered on the show, I felt a warm sense of smug superiority as I thought, “Ha! All those Swedes watching at home probably needed subtitles for the English bits, while I understood them just fine!”

Then the Missus pointed out that most of the people in Sweden probably understood the English just fine, as they would also most likely understand French or German just fine.

Just when I thought I had proof I was better than other foreign nationals, the Missus has to come along and point out how not cosmopolitan I am compared to Europeans.

Qué triste.

But I noticed other commonalities to our domestic programming.

Uneven writing, for example. Some episodes, people’s actions or motivations were so absurd as to be ludicrous.

People (and I’m not talking about the murderers that each episode centered on) would casually break the law or do something so counter to common sense that I would jump up and down, screaming “No!” until, in supreme frustration, my frontal cortex shut down and I degenerated into a foaming-at-the-mouth string of “Bork bork borks!”

But the problems weren’t just limited to the writing.

There were scenes with Wallander acting so self-assured and macho, I couldn’t help but think of David Caruso in CSI: Miami.

It didn’t help that Wallander had red hair and wore very similar sunglasses.

Shot in the face? Fully dressed? Don’t let that stop you from jumping off a boat into the freakin’ ocean to rescue a young girl who we have no reason to suspect is incapable of swimming.

I kid you not, that happened. And after saving the girl, he continued his swim to shore, climbed out of the wafer, and started chasing after the bad guy.

Fully dressed. Soaking wet clothes.

Clearly the men of Sweden are made of sterner stuff than us Americans.

Or at least me.

Pontus! Nooooooo!As written, the character isn't depressing enough. We can do better!Acting this bad... Is a crime.Which of these three is not like the other?

And then there was the melodrama.

Oh! The melodrama!

Wallander had two trainees under him, a young woman named Isabel (who despite having depth to her character was pretty much obviously there as eye candy), and a young man named Pontus.

An inexperienced, impetus, eager to please Pontus.

Wallander spent a lot of episodes racing towards Pontus, arms extended, dramatically shouting, “Pontus! Noooooo!”

One might argue he spent too many episodes doing this.

I suspect some sort of homoerotic subtext, and I’m convinced that fluency in Swedish would confirm that suspicion.

Speaking of subtext, Wallander’s dog in the series is named Jussi, pronounced ‘juicy’.

Come on! Even Branagh had the sense to drop the dog from the UK version.

A dog, even one involved in a subtextual homoerotic relationship, would have done too much to counteract the blitzkrieg of bleak Branagh was clearly aiming for.

And then I reached the last episode. Hooked, I searched for more, and quickly discovered there were additional episodes.

Episodes I could not, and still cannot, access.

Shortly after this discovery, the Missus found me curled up in the fetal position on our bed, quietly murmuring, “No! Bork bork bork!”

And now, ruthlessly deprived of the remaining Wallander episodes, I’ve resorted to watching the other Swedish crime drama available on my crappy streaming service, Annika Bengtzon: Crime Reporter.

I don’t even try to understand how a ninety pound Photoshop-perfect looking woman in her early twenties managed to have two kids, the oldest of which means she was fifteen when she gave birth to the child.

American television has trained that sort of critical thinking out of me.

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Posted by on 11 January 2014 in Life, Mystery


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