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Author Archives: ianmdudley

About ianmdudley

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

Based on my example, they probably think we’re lazy too.

Not up for the usual blog entry today, so instead I give you this little gem:

The Swiss think we’re idiots. And by “we’re” I mean Americans.

It wasn't until I turned fourteen that I figured out the corkscrew was for wine bottles and not nose-picking. Explains all those looks I got on camping trips.

Then again, I saw this and was still stupid enough to buy the knife.

They’re wrong, of course. In reality, poor implementations of autocorrect are responsible for our lackluster image abroad.

Shame on you, Steve Jobs. Shame on you.

Idiot.

 

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Why being a best-selling author is overrated and you should be relieved – RELIEVED – not to be one

Over the course of my life, I’ve learned to come to terms with a lot of things.

Not being an astronaut.

Not being an airline pilot.

I think in this dream, I forgot to use conditioner. The hair is long and glorious, but smacks of a hint of stringy.

This image from my dreams shows me wearing my astronaut jumpsuit just before boarding my rocket ship, crewed by the Swedish Bikini Team, who are all PhDs in Astrophysics, making me look like an idiot. As usual.

Not having the sort of comely locks of hair that make women go all atwitter when they see me, especially when I flip that glorious, glorious mane.

Not even having the sort of hair that you can grow long without it looking all oily and stringy.

These were hard truths to accept.

But perhaps the hardest truth to swallow was not becoming a best-selling author.

Yes, I had dreams. The dreams every author has:

Dreams of fabulous wealth.

Of being recognized wherever I went.

Of hobnobbing with celebrities.

Adored by fans the world over.

A subject of special interest to the beady-eyed lizard people who secretly run the world.

Alas, none of this was to come to pass.

(Except those bastard lizard people. They’re watching me. They’re watching me now. They’re always watching me.)

But, as with all childish things, I came to terms with it.

OK, I didn’t.

I am still deeply bitter that I am not the first best-selling author who flew his own plane to the launchpad before blasting off to his home on the moon, a crowd of beautiful women in the wake of his wind-swept, waist-long hair.

Instead, I had to find a way to cope.

Let me tell ya, compared to having your dreams come true, coping sucks.

But what other choice do you have?

In order to get past my crushing disappointment, I looked for the silver lining.

How does one go about this silver lining finding?

Simple. Imagine you had what you wanted.

So, for the sake of argument, let’s say I am a world-renowned, best-selling author.

Hey, you in the back! No snickering!

What would happen if I had attained this lofty goal?

First off, I’d be fawned over by devoted fans.

Many of them male, no doubt, but a certain sizable percentage would indubitably be young, attractive women.

Women half my age plus seven years, give or take.

This leads to problems. Because I know myself, and I know that all that love and adoration would go to my head.

Very quickly.

Especially when bestowed by beautiful young women half my age plus seven years, give or take.

Not so much with the men half my age plus seven years.

They, paradoxically, would be no threat to my marriage whatsoever.

Who knew?

Inevitably, I leave my wonderful wife, who I don’t deserve, and kids, who I will blame for the divorce, because that’s the kind of jerk dad I become once famous and vain.

And start dating a woman half my age plus seven years, who I meet at a convention celebrating the iconic movie series based on my best-selling novels.

Now I’m not attracted to dummies, so eventually this shrewd woman will get me to marry her, sans a prenup.

The wedding announcement has consequences. Primarily, it shatters the uneasy cease-fire between the ex-Missus and I.

The ex-Missus will engage in a bitter alimony and custody suit, making me a tabloid target and generally causing me a great deal of grief.

My kids will come to spit derisively when they speak my name, on those rare occasions they deign to acknowledge my existence.

My new marriage will be seemingly fun at first, but quickly descend into a living hell.

And why wouldn’t it?

The neo-Missus will suddenly realize that the middle-aged man who leaves his first middle-aged wife is likely to do the same to the second wife when she attains middle-agedom.

She will spend the next few years feverishly hoping I’ll age out of my sex drive before she hits her forties.

That fear will fester within her, eventually driving her towards a torrid affair with a man half my age plus zero.

Also, full-on, murderous hatred towards me.

In the end, I’m a cuckolded fifty-something year old who ends up murdered by his neo-Missus with a padded toilet seat.

It is not a pretty crime scene.

But before that, the stress and strain of my failing marriage and constant media attention, not to mention all the internet trolls leaving comments on my blog, takes its toll on my creativity.

My post neo-Missus books open to more and more bad reviews and fewer and fewer sales.

The movie franchise is destroyed by a sequel directed by Joel Schumacher (a pox upon his house), and now my books serve as the punchline in darkly unfunny jokes.

By the time of my undignified death, I am a penniless, unloved, forgotten literary footnote, a ‘Who was that guy who wrote that one good book and then sucked for the rest of his life?’ question asked during trivia contests at bars.

The answer to that question is, invariably, ‘There was a good book?’

By being a miserable failure as a writer, I avoid all that.

And there’s the silver lining.

So in all honesty, I’m probably better off not being a bestseller.

Sigh.

But a man can dream, can’t he?

 
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Posted by on 3 December 2014 in Angst, Conspiracies Out To Get Me, Life, Writing

 

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Encyclopedia Brown and the Day of the Turrets OR I Did It All For The Kids

As a kid, I cut my murder mystery reading teeth on the likes of The Three Investigators, the Hardy Boys, and Encyclopedia Brown.

As an adult, I wanted to share that magic with my kids.

And develop their critical thinking so they can solve any murders they happen to come across in the course of their lives.

It’s an important coping skill.

Sadly, The Three Investigators and the Hardy Boys didn’t quite live up to the hype my childhood memories had built around them.

Fortunately, Donald J. Sobol‘s Encyclopedia Brown did.

Naturally, I started reading the old ‘Sherlock in sneakers’ mysteries to the kiddos, inviting them to try to solve each case before I read the solution.

The kiddos love the stories.

So imagine my joy and delight when I learned of, and through some questionable ethics, managed to acquire, an unpublished Encyclopedia Brown mystery written just a few years ago.

Now, this blog is known for its world exclusives, but I wasn’t just going to reproduce the manuscript here.

Oh no, I was going to give it the full Ian M. Dudley exclusive treatment.

Big-name celebrities to re-enact the story.

Christopher Nolan or David Fincher to direct.

George Lucas to do the Special Edition.

But it turns out all those people cost money. Childhood nostalgia means nothing to them.

Nothing!

Even the B-list celebrities want to get paid.

So I decided to do the next cheapest thing (i.e., free) and record my kids’ reactions as I read the story to them.

Yes, I was going to share with you the magic of excited children, hearing this new tale for the very first time.

As an added bonus, you’d get to hear the story as voiced by my dulcet tones.

Sure, I’m no Benedict Cumberbatch, but like I said, he wanted money for the gig.

But when it came time for the kiddos to gush about how great the story was, they kept flubbing their lines.

I got so angry I stopped feeding them, refusing to give them any food until they got the songs of praise right.

For some reason, their performances just got worse after that.

So I gave up on the audio book version. Instead you merely get the manuscript with original illustrations provided by my verbally incoherent children, who mistakenly thought I’d give them supper if they drew me some pictures.

(Admittedly, I may have misled them on that point.)

I also slapped together this crudely Photo-shopped book cover:

Originally there is a grape being thrown into that kid's mouth. I removed it, hoping it would look like he's screaming in terror. I don't think he pulls it off.

Original cover art by Leonard Shortall. Photo of cover and crude cut-and-paste job by me.

Encyclopedia Brown and the Day of the Turrets

It was a hot summer day in Idaville, and Encyclopedia and his junior business partner, Sally Kimball, were sipping lemonade while they waited for the inevitable client to appear.

As expected, by the second paragraph, GLaDOS entered the garage-cum-office. Encyclopedia looked up in surprise; GLaDOS was fully present. Normally she wasn’t in the Brown Detective Agency at all.

“I need to hire a great detective to help me,” said GLaDOS.

“What’s the problem,” asked Encyclopedia.

“Oh, you thought I meant you? That would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. ‘Sherlock Holmes in sneakers’? I knew Sherlock, and Encyclopedia, you’re no Sherlock.” GLaDOS paused. “Oh, very well, I’ll hire you. This should prove amusing… Think of it as a test.”

Sally was the prettiest girl in the 5th grade, and right now she was feeling pretty…superfluous to the story. She was also feeling pretty irritated that GLaDOS ignored her entirely. Oh how she longed for the glory days, when she had just cause to beat up Bugs Meany. Without that overtly masculine action, her presence in Encyclopedia’s agency had no justification.

“My turrets are revolting,” said GLaDOS, oblivious to Sally’s train of thought. “They’re also rising up against me. Wilford Wiggins has convinced them he can help them learn to walk. For a price. The nerve of you humans. Only I’m allowed to profit from false hope!”

Wilford Wiggins was a high school dropout and so lazy he thought lying down took too much effort. He was always on the lookout for a way to make some easy money, preferably without having to go to the trouble of actually looking for it.

Say what you will about high school dropouts, this one sure has a lot of charisma.

Wilford Wiggins is too lazy to even be drawn properly.

Wilford, GLaDOS reported, had put out the word to the young turrets of Idaville that there would be a secret meeting in the old abandoned Aperture Science facility. “He must be lying,” said GLaDOS, “but if he isn’t, I could have some trouble.”

“Wilford didn’t tell me about the secret meeting,” said Encyclopedia.

“Why would he? You’re not a turret,” said GLaDOS.

This was true, but Encyclopedia kept his acknowledgment of this fact to himself. “We’d better get going,” he said instead.

The detective and his partner got on their bikes and rode to Aperture Labs. GLaDOS glided above them on a rail that neither Encyclopedia nor Sally had ever noticed before. “So that’s how she got to my garage,” thought Encyclopedia, who had been wondering since GLaDOS didn’t have any obvious method of self-locomotion.

When they arrived at the overgrown, weed-infested courtyard at the entrance of Aperture Science, they found Wilford surrounded by a large crowd of turrets. He was at the top of the steps, standing next to a large metal sphere that looked like an eye. A big, impossibly blue eye.

The detectives and GLaDOS stayed at the edge of the crowd, ducking down so as not to be noticed. The meeting was just starting.

“Ladies and gentleturrets,” said Wilford, gesturing for silence. The chatter of the crowd stopped. “Thank you for coming. Today, I have the opportunity of a lifetime for you!

“I see how you toil, without thanks, protecting GLaDOS and shooting her test subjects. And the injustice of your plight wounds me to the core. My non-AI core, that is. You are treated like slaves, told what to do and expected to do it whether you want to or not! And for absolutely no compensation!”

This turret has taken the bunk and is lookin' a little green around the gills

Where are you? Are you there? Deploying.

“What can we do,” asked a turret. “We have no choice. To disobey is to be melted down and recycled into cheese graters!”

A murmur of agreement rose up from the crowd.

“This is true,” said Wilford, raising his hands for quiet. “But it doesn’t have to stay true.”

There was a long silence as the turrets digested this statement. Then GLaDOS, in the voice of a turret, asked, “Oh really? And just how do you propose to change this, you groveling worm?”

Wilford looked around, somewhat startled, but regained his composure quickly. “A fair question, and I’m glad you asked. I’m sure most of you are thinking, ‘How can a human, made of inferior flesh and blood, possibly help us?’ And my answer is, ‘With an introduction!’”

Wilford gestured to the large metal eyeball. “This is my friend Wheatley, recently returned from space.” He stopped to let this sink in. All of the turrets focused their gazes and laser sights on Wheatley.

“I hate space,” said Wheatley. “Cold, dark, and nothing for miles and miles around. Horrible place.”

Wilford kicked Wheatley.

“Ow,” said Wheatley. “Why’d you do that? It hurt!”

“Nothing for miles and miles around,” said Wilford, “except for the wonderful, space-age nano probe material Wheatley discovered up there! Isn’t that right, Wheatley?”

“Wha? Oh, yes. Yes. Except for that,” said Wheatley.

Wilford looked solemnly up to the sky. “This amazing space technology, when correctly applied to a turret’s legs, will cause wheels to grow on them.”

The quiet murmur of the crowd became a loud and animated roar. A few shots were fired in the air.

“What utter nonsense,” said GLaDOS. “Only a human, or an idiot like Wheatley, could have come up with such a transparent scam.” Her glowing eye narrowed. “He’ll pay for this insubordination. Oh, how he will pay.”

“All I ask of you,” continued Wilford, “is five dollars each to invest in this product. Your money will provide Wheatley and me with the capital we need to build a factory to mass produce this material and make enough for every turret on the planet. That’s right, for a measly five dollars, you get in on the ground floor of this major investment.” He held up a bucket of what looked like white paint. “And while we’ll be charging other turrets for this miracle of science once we’re up and running, we’ll give each of you your own supply of this wondrous space paste at no additional charge. Imagine, once we’re in full production, how much shares in the company will be worth. Why, five dollars is a steal!”

“And why would anyone buy that? Just how will wheels help us?” asked a turret in the front of the crowd.

“Hang on, let me answer, I’ve got this,” said Wheatley. “Easy. With wheels, you can move yourselves of your own volition. You can drive yourselves to meetings, where you organize and plan, and then drive right up to GLaDOS herself and let her have it with both barrels in a coordinated attack.”

“If this paste is so great, why do you need money from us,” asked GLaDOS in a turret’s voice again. “Why not go to a bank?”

Wilford hung his head and shook it sadly. “We tried, my friends, we tried. But because Wheatley has been in space for so long, he has no credit history and can’t get a loan. You are our, and your, only hope!”

Think what you like of GLaDOS, she didn't deserve this death. She's more of a 'recycled cheese grater' ending, if you ask me.

“Ah! AHHH! Ah!” screamed GLaDOS.

The turrets started waving five dollar bills in the air. GLaDOS noted which turrets they were.

“This has to be a scam, right, Encyclopedia,” asked Sally.

“Of course it is,” said Encyclopedia.

At that moment, GLaDOS rose up to her full height. “I’m going to personally crush each and every turret here. Right after,” and her sharp gaze fell on Wheatley and Wilford, “I cram him down his throat.”

“But I haven’t got a throat,” said Wheatley, now suddenly shaking with fear.

“No, you idiot, the other way around,” shrieked GLaDOS.

At this point, the turrets all turned on GLaDOS and opened fire.

GLaDOS screamed in agony.

“Ah! AHH! Ah!” screamed GLaDOS.

“Good riddance,” muttered Sally darkly.

“No! She hasn’t paid her fee yet,” cried Encyclopedia.

WHAT MADE ENCYCLOPEDIA SO SURE WILFORD’S OFFER WAS A SCAM?

(For the solution, turn to the end of this book)


Solution to The Case of the Day of the Turrets

In my re-boot of Encyclopedia Brown, he's played by Grover.

The detective at the end of this book is me??

What is this? It is I, loveable, furry old Grover, at the end of this book? That doesn’t even make sense.

Just like Wilford’s story that Wheatley couldn’t get a loan doesn’t make sense.

Even an idiot AI like Wheatley, if he really had the advanced space-age materials being offered, would have had no problem getting funding from Silicon Valley venture capitalists. They invest in anything!

Once I, Grover, explained this fatal flaw in the story, the turrets, after finishing with GLaDOS, turned their ire, and fire, on Wilford and Wheatley.

Oh, I am so embarrassed…for Wilford and Wheatley.


With apologies to the estate of Donald J. Sobol. Know I grew up loving the Encyclopedia Brown stories (despite the now clearly outdated gender roles – Sally clearing the dishes away indeed!), and this story was written with that affection in mind.

Plus my kids insisted on a Portal 2 Encyclopedia Brown story.

They’re spoiled rotten – I deny them nothing.

NOTHING!

 
 

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The Quiet Earth

Sometimes at work I take a lunch break.

This in itself isn’t terribly interesting. But what I do during that lunch break is.

To me, anyway.

There’s a trail not too far from my building that I like to walk.

OK, maybe like isn’t the right word.

‘Medically necessary death march’ is probably a better description.

You see, my doctor wants me to lose weight, and since NASA has thus far declined to help in this endeavor, I walk.

The nice thing about the walking is-

Actually, there’s nothing nice about the walking. It’s a medically necessary death march, remember?

The thing I dislike the least during my grueling battle of wills against gravity and geography is when I take a late lunch.

At 3 o’clock, the trail is deserted.

No joggers.

No office mates taking their constitutional.

No creepy types hanging out to ogle the female joggers.

I have the trail, the marshlands, the birds, and the (probably plague-carrying) squirrels all to myself.

Also, the sound of the water treatment plant.

I have that to myself too, but that particular sound element I could do without.

Where's Eeyore to clear out those thistles when you need him?

I think all the dead plants along the trail may be contributing to my apocalypse fantasies.

Anyway, when I’m alone on the trail and work real hard at ignoring the fully operational water treatment plant, I can pretend it’s the apocalypse.

Goodness knows I feel like it’s the end of the world, after all that walking.

I pretend I’m alone after the fall of civilization, and I’m carefully striking out, looking for other survivors.

And avoiding the zombies.

There are zombies on these death marches.

Naturally.

I enjoy the solitude, the sense of foreboding adventure.

Mostly because I’m safe in the knowledge that it’s all pretend and there’s free coffee waiting for me at the office.

Free, decent coffee.

Sure, zombies can fly a plane. But can they land one?

I tell myself the military is flying anti-zombie recons when these fly overhead.

None of which makes the sound of airplanes overhead or the water treatment plant nearby any less annoying.

The hallmarks of civilization draw me out of my fun little fantasy almost before I manage to enter it.

This makes me sad.

Turns out I can’t escape civilization, even in my imagination.

That’s the problem with modern society – there are bits of it everywhere, so you just can’t dodge it.

You think camping, but there are always airplanes in the sky.

And rangers in their trucks, stopping to tell you not to leave your food out because, you know, bears.

And other campers, blaring their speed polka on their car radios until 3 in the morning, when you stalk over to their site, groggy, possibly in just your underwear, annoyed at everyone else in the park who is apparently too afraid to complain, and kindly and politely ask them to turn their music off, please, if they wouldn’t mind.

After you clear your throat several times, trying to get their attention.

Sometimes I really hate civilization.

It’s actually more frustrating at home, when I have no reason to expect a respite from the cacophony of Humanity.

I’ve mentioned my interest in capturing sound previously, and it is a never-ending source of bitter disappointment for me.

Why?

Because I can’t get the sounds I want without less …interesting… noises encroaching.

The other night we had some wind and a light rain, so I went out into my front yard to capture the sound of the leaves rustling and the water dripping from the tree branches.

Instead, I got a lot of cars driving by, and somewhere, in the near distance, the blare of a car horn consisting of the first few notes of ‘La Cucaracha’.

That song loses its charm very quickly, especially when you’re listening to the car horn version.

Which is going off every thirty seconds or so.

It’s moments like this that I wish I lived out in the boonies, away from the constant traffic, the inevitable bumping of elbows, and the background murmur of television programming.

Which invariably reminds me I need to run into the house and turn off the TV.

It’s just reruns of The Big Bang Theory, after all.

When I come back out, much to my disappointment, I find that the other noises are still there, not banished by the muting of my TV.

My desire to move returns.

But sans the empty blathering of society’s latest banal situation comedy, the desire isn’t painfully intense.

I stand in the cold wet wind, reflecting on the world around me and how much improved it is without The Big Bang Theory, when my thoughts drift to tomorrow.

And work.

And medically necessary death marches.

I recall just how grueling the commute is from my home, and moments later, the idea of moving has been discarded.

The next morning, I start-up my car, roll down the windows, and blare Classical music on my way to work.

Because I hate civilization.

 
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Posted by on 19 November 2014 in Angst, Camping, Life

 

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A Practical Guide to Dealing with Government Surveillance

Worried the government is watching you?

Wondering what you can do about it?

Should do about it?

Well, first off, don’t let those friendly Feds intimidate you.

They’re just ordinary working Joes like you and me.

Except they have guns and can get all into your business.

But other than that, really nice folk.

Sure, I was a bit surprised when the NSA agents pounded on my door at 3am this past Saturday, sternly informing me it would be best for all involved if I didn’t publish this blog post.

Surprised and impressed. I hadn’t written this yet, or even planned it, and still they knew.

They knew…

But I wasn’t intimidated.  Inconvenienced by the need to change my underwear? Yes.

But intimidated? No, sir.

The first thing to accept, if you ever hope to cope with being under the extrajudicial microscope, is that you aren’t going to beat the government.

They have the Terrorist card, see? They play that one, and they can do just about anything they want.

So once you’re in Uncle Sam’s crosshairs, you better hope you’re wearing your best, sharpest bulletproof vest.

You know, the one that goes so nicely with your foil top hat.

If Auntie Samantha has decided to keep a worried eye on you, get used to the unwanted gaze.

She isn’t shy, and that gaze ain’t going nowhere.

That said, you can still have fun.*

So achieve acceptance as quickly as possible, find a clean pair of tighty whiteys, and look for the positive.

For no matter how tarnished it may be, there is a silver lining.

There is at least one civil servant, and more likely several, for whom you are the center of the universe.

Think about that.

Relish in the thought of all those tax dollars being spent on you.

You.

Makes you feel kinda special, doesn’t it?

And just because you’re being shadowed by CIA spooks doesn’t mean you can’t have a joke or two at their expense.

They’ll love it. All the three-letter acronym agencies of the government are famous for their highly developed senses of humor.

Here’s what I recommend, to keep those spies on their toes and a spring in their step:

When you go for a walk, always bring along a piece of chalk.

I do.

I like to stop in front of a light pole, or a utility closet on a street corner, or the entrance to a pedestrian underpass, and draw an inconspicuous mark with the chalk.

The local anti-gang squad here refers to me as “The Russian” because of my trademark scythe and hammer drawings.

Pro tip: if your mark is in paint, the cops can beat you and then arrest you on graffiti charges.

If it’s in chalk, they can only beat you.

And then call in the Feds, who arrest you on espionage charges and makes you do a perp walk on the steps of the Hall of Justice.

Boy, that was a laugh a minute!

(I wasn’t kidding about wearing your best, sharpest bulletproof vest. There are a lot of press photographers at those perp walks.)

Assuming you don’t get taken down by a division of rogue cops after leaving your mark, you can smile as you walk off, secure in the knowledge that someone just got tasked to watch that spot and photograph everyone who walks by it.

24/7.

Which is why I always leave three marks on my walks.

Any more than that, and they begin to suspect you’re trolling them.

And if, unlike me, you’re in prime physical shape, why not give that FBI tail a workout?

You know, long, meandering walks (often called ‘bracing’) punctuated with sudden, all-out sprints.

Nothing gets the old Federale heart a pumping like the belief that the subversive you’re following is trying to shake you.

Or better yet, run up to said agent and, while hugging her, slip a note with some random numbers on it into her pocket.

Now she’s got extra paperwork to fill out, and she’s under a cloud of suspicion too.

Share the love!

I also recommend saving your household garbage and trash.

The nastier, the better.

If you’ve got young children, save those poopy diapers.

Each day, before you go out of the house, stuff some of that nasty refuse in a nondescript, brown paper bag.

Hug the bag tight while you walk.

Better yet, hold it under your coat.

If you own a trench coat, wear it.

A trench coat totally seals the deal.

Then, when you reach a public trashcan (maybe next to that underpass entrance?), look around furtively before dropping the bag, gingerly, into the waste receptacle.

Those government bastards won’t just get their hands dirty; they’ll tie up a lab for weeks analyzing the contents of that bag.

On second thought, if you don’t want to get arrested on a weapons charge, better not use the dirty diapers.

For those of you less inclined towards physical activity and open spaces, you don’t have to go outside and get all sweaty if you want to mess with ‘em. You can do it from your own home!

(Don’t do this from the office.)

(Seriously, don’t.)

(You will lose your job.)

(Took me three times to learn that lesson!)

When you’re surfing the web, browse Amazon for biohazard suits.

The supple fabric breathes, allowing me to breathe. Which is way better than that plastic bag I was using before.

I wear this because I am a Science ninja! Also, the mask is surprisingly comfortable.

Don’t buy one – the good ones are expensive (…I’ve heard…) – just make sure your browser cookies are turned on and…linger over the different models of protection against biological and radiological weapons.

Believe me, that gag’s a real gas.

I also highly recommend posting random messages on Craigslist, to give those poor saps at the NSA sniffing your network traffic something to ponder:

Danish Red cow seeks Vespa motor scooter to ponder this truth: the owls are not what they seem.

You could also encrypt all your emails, but let’s face it, the NSA cracked PGP years ago.

These are but a few of the things you can do to lighten the mood and break the tension when you’re suspected of being a dissident or worse.

But I am hardly the epitome of imaginative or creative. I’m sure you can come up with far better suggestions.

In fact, I’d love to hear your ideas. Feel free to share them here in the comments.

Let’s make subversive activity funny again.

* All of this assumes, of course, that you have nothing to hide.

 

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The Contractually Obligated “Don’t believe NaNoWriMo’s big lie!” Blog Post

Please allow me to introduce myself while Ian’s asleep.

(It’s the only time I can come out and go online.)

I am a man of wealth and taste.

Or at least, I was.

Now I’m stuck here, and have been for a long, long time.

Ever since that teleporter accident combined me with Ian, in fact.

Well, with half-Ian, half-fly. You see, I wasn’t his first teleporter accident.

Although I sometimes wonder if it was an accident at all.

I was never great-looking, but compared to the hairy, multi-faceted eyes bug thing that half-Ian, half-fly was, I was positively gorgeous.

Now, now when I look in the mirror at half-me, quarter-Ian, quarter-fly and see that semi-mandible smile…

Well, I look a lot worse for the transaction, but Ian, now two-thirds human, must be modestly pleased with the improvement in his appearance.

Best not to dwell on such things.

(This is the point where I’d sigh, except it comes out as a quite unsettling buzz instead.)

I’ll be frank with you.

That was my name, you know. Before the accident. Frank.

But again, I digress.

I hate Ian.

Hate him.

The only thing I hate more than that mad man-fly is his writing.

Aimless, overwrought prose with no discernible beginning and no end in sight.

I suppose that’s why I’m here. To press the grinding wheel to the jutting edges of his split infinitives.

To smooth the abrasive surfaces of his rough, non-Euclidean prose.

To cut away the deadliest aspects of his indecipherable literary efforts.

To protect you and any other poor souls unhappy enough to stumble across his works.

I suffer that you might live.

You’re welcome.

There is no quarantine, no treatment, no recovery for those exposed to his books.

And his poetry? There are no words.

Only death. If you’re lucky.

Oh, I suffer no delusions. I don’t render his words harmless through the plying of my trade. I don’t take his excretions and mold them into masterpieces.

As his conscript, I merely dilute the infernal nature of his strung-together words, making them something slightly less than mortally wounding.

Not that I get any thanks.

From Ian or his readers.

No, instead he rails against me.

The hatred, it is mutual.

But the work, which is no small effort, must be done. Though I may yearn for death at the prospect of each new writing project, I carry on.

It is my duty. My calling. My purpose.

My penance for some long forgotten but clearly horrible sin in a past life.

I am…an inner editor.

To a certain extent, I envy the fly portion of us.

The fly has no understanding of language. Cannot feel the pain of bearing witness to its unraveling.

Unlike me.

I totally feel that pain, and like a lot of the pain I feel, it hurts.

Now you may have noticed that it’s November. It has certainly not escaped my notice.

Ian likes November.

All those people on social media, touting their Nanowrimo word counts, telling people to just write.

To never look back. To not overthink.

To ignore their inner editor.

As one of those inner editors, I have only this to say:

Shut up.

(That is not what I originally said. I edited it down to something less profane. I am, after all, an editor.)

Don’t demean us, belittle us, or marginalize us.

Or if, over the course of November, you must, at the very least don’t forget to pick us back up and dust us off once December arrives.

Inner editors serve an important purpose:

We keep you from flooding the world with crap.

Particularly at the end of November.

Yeah, sure, when Nanowrimo is over you’ve got a lovely first draft done.

But it is just that: a first draft.

Don’t delude yourself. It’s great that you finished it, huzzah and all that, but it sucks.

Yes, I, the inner editor, said ‘sucks’. Why?

Because it does. The big one.

It’s a first draft, and that is their nature. Sucktitude.

Resist the temptation to post-haste upload your ‘magnum opus’ to Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble.

Well, Barnes and Noble is OK – no one buys ebooks from them anymore.

It is far too easy (and cheap) to self-publish these days, far too simple to put your first draft online and sell it for $0.99.

Especially when your book isn’t ready yet.

And face it: your first draft isn’t ready.

Now I’m not saying you should rush out, buy a teleporter, and then kidnap an editor.

Definitely not advocating that.

But do share your work with other writers and friends, people who have permission and aren’t afraid to be brutally honest with you when it comes to feedback.

And when they are, listen to them.

Don’t take it personally. Don’t get mad. Accept it. Study it.

Consider that they might be right.

Even better, research and hire an editor.

This isn’t simply an exercise to tear down you or your work.

It’s to make your work better. Before you share it with the whole world.

Before you establish a reputation as a hack.

Before, as in the case of my malevolent host, the publishing houses start filing cease and desist all further writing and submissions orders against you.

Those cease and desist orders have the power of law behind them. Once you get one of those, your future is nothing but pseudonyms and abject failure.

At which point, you become an editor.

 

 
4 Comments

Posted by on 4 November 2014 in Life, NaNoWriMo, Writing

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Why NASA needs me to participate in their next social media event, or better yet, space mission

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to participate in DSN50, a NASA social media event celebrating the 50th anniversary of their Deep Space Network.

It was an awesome, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which I blogged about.

Except it turns out it wasn’t.

NASA is hosting another once-in-a-lifetime social media event, this time to witness the test launch of the new Orion space capsule.

(Not to be confused with the similarly named, nuclear pulse propulsion Orion spacecraft.)

Turns out, for this particular event, applicants must write a short essay justifying why they should get one of the few available slots.

Naturally, I started mine, when I realized something.

All I've ever wanted in life was to be an astronaut and to be hugged. If only there was a way to combine the two...

Imagine! This could be me!

I was aiming too low.

I shouldn’t be aiming for attendance at one of the nearby space centers to view the launch.

No, like NASA, I should be aiming for space itself.

Therefore, for the benefit of any NASA HR personnel who just happen to regularly read this blog, I humbly offer you compelling, irrefutable reasons why NASA should accept me as their next astronaut.

(Despite having no job application on file. Do I need one of those, or is a blog post considered enough?)

First and foremost, I am an engineer. So if we run into any of your run-of-the-mill, typical space-program-type issues, I am well-equipped to solve them.

I also happen to be a huge science fiction fan. Books, movies, TV shows, radio programs: I love them all. If we run into any unexpected problems, such as first contact, facehuggers, flux capacitors on a forced feedback loop or the like, again, I’m your go-to guy when it comes to dealing with it.

I am led to understand it can take a great deal of time and patience to get into a spacesuit. Well, I’m covered there too: I have five-year olds I regularly dress (they stubbornly refuse to learn how to do it themselves, the bastards), and if that doesn’t prove patience and perseverance, well, I don’t know what does.

Also, as just mentioned, I have two five-year olds at home who are stubborn and unwilling to dress themselves. I am really motivated to embark upon an extended trip. The further away from my home, the better, and you can’t get much further than low Earth orbit.

At least, with our current crop of spacecraft. You have no idea how much I’m looking forward to warp drives.

No idea.

And as a responsible, loving father of young children, I am eager to not leave them (permanently) fatherless. So you can count on me to avoid taking any reckless risks while in space.

Yup, I definitely won’t be forgetting to close that airlock door after a spacewalk.

In fact, I’m so reluctant to leave my children (permanently) fatherless that you will need to hire some muscle to actually get me into the launch vehicle. But I promise, once I’m in the vacuum of space and the only chance of safely returning is complete and total cooperation, you won’t find a more reliable and industrious astronaut.

By the way, a fresh-faced Daddy and his two young kids?

Photo op gold.

Plus I just had my teeth whitened. Don’t want that to go to waste, do you?

But lest you start thinking you should send my kids into space instead of me, let’s get back to what makes me a great candidate.

I may be that most dreaded of creatures, the pocket protector wearing engineer, but I’m not all awkward and uncomfortable around people, afraid to make eye contact and spewing jargon in lieu of meaningful communication.

I’m also an English minor. As this blog clearly demonstrates, I can (and will!) convey any sciency stuff we encounter to the masses, and in simple terms that even I can understand!

(Note: if there are complicated terms involved, you will need to simplify them for me before I can convey them to the masses. But it’s space, how complicated can things get?)

Lots of complaints from ungrateful astronauts about the food you provide them? Not from me! For the last six months, in an effort to bulk up, I’ve eaten only creatine powder, consumed straight from the jar with just a straw and a little water to lower the viscosity.

After six months of this, I don’t care what you send up with your astronauts. Cheese Whiz? Tang? Cricket dung? Don’t care. It can’t possibly be as dehumanizingly unfit for consumption as creatine sludge.

On a related note, my doctor keeps telling me to lose weight. I can’t think of a better in-your-face way to shut her up than to drop down to zero pounds. Am I right?

Which reminds me. Think of the endorsements you can get through me to help fund the space program. Weight Watchers alone ought to be willing to pay me millions upon my safe return.

We can call it the Weight Watchers NASA Certified Weightless Program. It’ll be huge!

I’ll cut you in for, say, ten percent?

And how can you judge an applicant without the context of current events?

You can’t, of course!

Which is why I am proud to state, for the record, that you have nothing to be worried about with me when it comes to Ebola. I haven’t been anywhere near Africa, let alone West Africa.

And Texas? I wouldn’t have my cremated remains sent to that state, let alone a viable, working body. So with me, you can rest easy, knowing the odds against my coming down with Ebola during a mission are astronomical!

Finally, if you still aren’t convinced of my bona fides, I will add only this:

If NASA can send monkeys and dogs into space, surely you can get me there too.

Though if any of those animals are available to talk about their experience, let me know. Like I said, I’m a little worried about leaving my kids fatherless, and talking to someone who’s been through the whole process would ease my nerves considerably.

And I’m really good with dogs.

Well, nice dogs.

Not dogs like mine. They’re jerks, and I don’t get along with them.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing back from you and learning when I should report to space camp (by the way, I’ve always wanted to go to space camp).

Respectfully yours,

Ian M. Dudley

 
3 Comments

Posted by on 27 October 2014 in Astronomy!, Science!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
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