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I’m dying, and it’s all NPR’s fault

The Missus and I recently celebrated another marriage anniversary, having destroyed the divorce pool our friends had going by quite a few years (if I can hold out for a couple more years I’ll win the jackpot, and I am totally going to win that jackpot).

As a reward for endur surviv enjoying so many years of agon horror blissful wedded matrimony, we decided to get ourselves FitBits.

(OK, the Missus is convinced I’m going to drop dead if I don’t get more exercise, and this was supposed to help put off that outcome. Which is strange considering the strychnine I’m pretty sure she’s been lacing my morning tea with (she has her own jackpot date in the pool, and I suspect it’s considerably earlier than mine…)).

The FitBits are great, once you get past all the data they are sucking up and phoning home to the manufacturer. So yeah, if you enjoy tinfoil hats as much as I do, then maybe “great” is a bit strong of a word to describe it.

But there are upsides. And one of those is the feature that is saving my life: the step tracking and daily goals associated with that walking. If I hit 10k steps a day, according to the FibtBit manual, I will live forever.

Immortality (and on top of that, looking pretty good too) is a pretty effective incentive, assuming most of that time is spent being single and looking fit (because you can be single and lonely or single and not lonely, and let’s face it, this culture is all about how good you look), so I’ve been pretty diligent in getting those steps in because when I hit that divorce pool jackpot I am gonna be rich AND look good!

Which is why I’m so upset that NPR has taken it upon itself to kill me.

That’s right, National Public Radio, you are really making me consider the possibility that Trump is right to want to cut off all your funding and redirect it to the Brown Shirts of America organization (welovehate.org, a 501c non-profit charity where, for tax purposes, you can write off your bigotry!).

Wait, I can hear you shouting, with more than a little surprise in your tone, NPR is good, how can you say it wants to kill you?

Two words, my loyal reader:

Pledge breaks.

What, that isn’t sufficient explanation? Seriously, it’s not obvious from just those two words?

Fine. I’ll spend more time sitting at a keyboard typing instead of getting in my steps, which means I’m adding you, loyal reader, to the list of things trying to kill me.

NPR is killing me with its pledge breaks.

Here’s how it works. I drive to and from work in a car. With a radio. And since I get incredibly anxious when there isn’t noise around me, I listen to the radio. And because I need to feel somewhat anxious in order to be motivated to move around and do things (also sometimes referred to as “functioning”), I counteract the soothing effects of radio noise by tuning into the news. That is, NPR.

It works great. The lizard portion of my brain is lulled by the cacophony spit out by the radio, but the sleep center is constantly stabbed awake by the onslaught of stories about all the terrible things happening in the world. And NPR strikes just the right balance of bad news and unbiased, level-headed commentary to keep me functional but not in a state. Unlike some other radio news sources.

(I’m looking at you, KCBS!)

But right now NPR is in the middle of a pledge drive, which means they’re going on and on about how important we the listeners are, how easy and affordable it is to pledge, how vile and guilt-ridden we should feel if we haven’t pledged yet, and matching funds and the like.

Which means I’m not listening to NPR.

I know, I know, they’ve got this thing called Pledge Free Streaming, which allows me to listen without the pledge breaks during the pledge drive, but I only listen in the car on my way to and from work, and I don’t have an unlimited data plan on my phone, and my state has a hands-free law, so risk of impending death aside, that just isn’t a workable option for me.

So because of pledge breaks you’ve stopped listening to NPR and now you’re suffering from a spike in anxiety that you’re afraid will kill you, you ask?

No. That is not how NPR is killing me. That’s far too obvious a play for an evil, left-wing liberal media outlet to use when trying to silence its own constituency.

No, their plan is far more insidious.

I have an AED strapped to my other wrist.

According to my FibBit and reports on NPR, my heart has stopped beating. Also, before pledge drive season, my arms were as smooth and hairless as a baby’s butt. Anxious Hair Growth syndrome strikes again, dammit. Also also, those 1980 steps? I haven’t gotten out of bed yet. Thanks, Obama, I mean, NPR.

You see, when I tune out NPR, I don’t turn off the radio.

I switch stations.

And because all the other news stations make me too anxious, and because the lack of NPR dials up my existing anxiety to 11, I turn to soothing, relaxing music.

Classical music.

The kind of music you swing your arm to, as if holding a baton and conducting the orchestra.

The arm your FitBit is on.

The FitBit that reads this ‘conducting’ as steps taken, therefore falsely incrementing your step counter so you think, at the end of the day, that you have attained those 10k steps when, in fact, YOU HAVEN’T!

That, that is how NPR is killing me. With pledge breaks.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get in some more steps. I think.

Would you like to support NPR and end its pledge drive early so Ian can drive to and from work at a relatively familiar level of anxiety? If so, click here to donate. Ian would appreciate it and NPR probably wouldn’t mind either. Just put “Give Ian some peace!!!” in the comment section so they know I sent you.

Better yet, don’t leave a comment. That might be seen as violating the restraining order they had issued against me after all the letters I sent and calls I made asking them to stop the pledge breaks…

I’m also thinking of a Walk-A-Thon sort of event where people can sponsor me. You know, hit x number of steps and you’ll buy a copy of my book. Or, conversely, if I don’t hit x number of steps you will return my book for a refund. If there’s enough interest, I’ll put together a cool sign-up sheet (that is, xerox the kiddos’ most recent walk-a-thon form from school with the school name crossed out) and let you, my loyal reader, make a pledge.

Call now, operators are standing by!

 
 

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Best Pet at Home

Being as I’m so precise when it comes to homework, I’ve been trying to find ways to make homework time more fun and less drudgery-ish for the kiddos.

So when one kiddo started getting writing assignments, I decided to sit and write with him. And not just my own thing. Oh no. We read the directions together and we follow them together.

That’s correct. I’m doing my kiddo’s homework assignment as well.

First, the instructions introduce the topic and then call for the student to state their opinion clearly. Secondly, the writer must justify that opinion with reasons. Finally, we are also reminded (admonished?) that we must include an introduction and a conclusion, all while using linking words, whatever those are.

The first time we did this was a bit rough, because I made him re-write his composition due to poor planning and profound illegibility issues. I made him re-do the assignment on a fresh piece of paper, my thinking being he’d re-write it, get his thoughts in order, and then transfer the effort neatly onto the homework sheet. Make him write it enough times and maybe, just maybe, he’d be incentivized to do it right the first time.

(Ha!)

My son is a bit lazy, and as we all know, lazy is the father of ingenuity and invention. He decided we should just tape the paper with the writing onto the homework sheet and forgo an additional round of writing.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. In fact, it’s resting against the trunk, putting off a lot of body heat and making me uncomfortably warm. Which is to say, I’m lazy too, and not wanting to endure the nuclear hissy fit of wailing and gnashing of teeth that would ensue if I refused, I rolled with his suggestion.

And once done, we read our creations to each other, followed, of course, by a standing ovation (from the dog, who looked a little confused to be standing on its hind legs while I forced its front legs together and apart over and over all the while bellowing, “Bravo! Bravo!”).

No nasty note from the teacher was sent home, so we’ve decided that our approach is OK. Or at least acceptable.

(Though this is the same kiddo who forgets to bring homework, report cards, library books, backpacks, his sibling home from school on a regular basis, so I might be setting myself up for a truly horrific parent/teacher conference in the near future.)

The dog, however, may be sending a different message, as it now hides from us whenever a backpack crosses its line of vision.

Tonight’s session started on the fresh piece of paper. The kiddo entirely skipped the part where he artfully applied vaguely letter-shaped scribbles to the homework sheet. Instead he demanded a clean piece of lined paper and wrote about the Best Pet at Home. And added a drawing of his preferred pet at the bottom for extra credit.

First of all, turtles are eseay to watch.

In my opinion we should have a turtle.

Since I’m not willing to make my child suffer something I am not willing to suffer myself, I cranked out a short paragraph of my own. So here, for your reading pleasure, is my virtuoso effort to describe the best pet at home.

I did not include a picture with mine. I did enlarge the font to more accurately portray my use of large letters to make my treatise look longer. Old school habits die-hard…

Snails are fascinating creatures and well worth consideration as a family pet. First of all, their spiral shells are an excellent hypnosis aid (handy if you have rowdy kids). Secondly, they are very slow, so if they run away, they won’t get far before you find them. Finally, they don’t eat much and so are inexpensive to keep. In conclusion, snails are the perfect pet for a family of limited resources.

Suck it, Herman Melville. Whales make terrible pets, you idiot!

 

 
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Posted by on 8 March 2017 in Art!, Life, Parenting, Writing

 

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Strange Request in a Writing Prompt book

This past Xmas, the Missus got me a writing prompt book as a gift.

Given that we had agreed not to exchange Xmas gifts, this resulted in me

A) noticing an extra package for me under the tree and
B) making a mad dash to the store on Xmas Eve to pick up something for her.

This is how the Missus ruins my Xmas every year.

But as the end of February approaches, I have finally overcome the trauma of last-minute Xmas shopping on Xmas Eve and reached a point where I can start using the book. And I’ve decided, unless I have something better to blog here, I will start posting these entries rather than letting this space lie ‘fallow’ for months at a time.

You have been warned.

Since the first page of this book clearly states that no part of the book can be reproduced without permission (I’m paraphrasing here, not flat-out reproducing!), I’m a little reluctant to spell out the prompts. Instead, I will underline the words I’m supposed to use in my narrative…in my narrative. Without further ado, my first exercise!

I went to the carnival to have fun. Instead I sprained my wrist fending off a pickpocket wearing a mask. Hardly inconspicuous. The pickpocket or the sprain.

There were some uncomfortable moments at the first aid station as I flirted with the attractive nurse while my wife and kids looked on, becoming less and less sympathetic towards my predicament.

Things only got worse when the police showed up. The pickpocket was a juvenile, and I’d sprained my wrist while grabbing him, causing the twerp to twirl sideways, fall down against a bike rack, and break his arm.

Apparently this had stirred up a bit of a controversy: a forty-something man breaking a thirteen year old’s bones. The only reason I wasn’t immediately arrested is because the kid fled when the cops showed up. Still, the arrival of the police and the departure of my wife (and kids) left me a little shaken.

However, the nurse was both sympathetic to my plight and receptive to my overtures, so the day wasn’t a total loss. She gave me an apple and instructed me to return in an hour when her shift ended.

I found a bench, had a bite of the apple, and then watched the white flesh turn brown due to oxidation as I waited for the hour to pass. That long, endless hour.

The nurse and I spent a pleasant afternoon walking and talking in the shade of the sassafras trees that ringed the carnival site. But in the end, as I leaned in for a kiss, she pulled away and invited me to join her cult.

Awkward! So I found a piano bar and requested “Particle Man”.*

* I feel I need to address that last sentence, which is itself more than a little awkward. You see, I got so focused on making sure I used all of the prompt words that I forgot that the story was supposed to be about a strange request made at a piano bar. In fact, when I went back to make sure I’d used all the words and discovered this oversight, I wrote underneath the subject the comment “Tots forgot about this!” and then went back and added that last line. You see, I had no choice. I’d literally used every available line on the page, and having written using ink, I could not erase the work to try again.

Strangely enough, the out-of-focus pictures properly show the paper as white, but the in-focus ones cast them as a yellowish pallor.

You see? When I say I left myself a comment in a writing prompt book, I Do. Not. Lie.

We've reached the end, my friend...

And when I say that I ran out of room and had to mash in an awkward last sentence to tie the whole mess together, I Do. Not. Lie. Again.

If you’re interested in the book I’m using, it’s called WRITE THE STORY. I make no endorsement, as I’ve hardly scratched the surface. Though I must admit, the title on Amazon is Write The Story Art Teaching School Kids Adults Class Project Leaning, which is not only awkward but appears to have a typo in it. But the two exercises I’ve done thus far are…writer prompty and have been fun.

 
 

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You Don’t Have To Be Precise

“You know you don’t have to be precise, Dad.”

My kids say this to me at least four times a week. Reproachfully. The guaranteed times are every evening after they finish their homework (Monday – Thursday nights) and are forced to endure my returning it to them with the mistakes highlighted.

They don’t like this, as they’d prefer that once the homework is done, it’s done.

Actually, they’d prefer not to do the homework at all, but as I constantly remind them, life isn’t fair.

Often the return of this flawed homework is accompanied by much wailing and gnashing of teeth.

They get pretty upset too.

I’m not helped in my push for “getting it right” when one kiddo defiantly informs me that his teacher has said “It doesn’t have to be precise.” This attribution to the teacher may be true, but that doesn’t sway me.

So homework takes about four times as long as it needs, and becomes a dreadful anticipation every evening after dinner.

At first, because they don’t want to do it. Then, once they are doing it, they are stunningly inefficient about it, interrupting each other, stopping to do a song and/or dance, or claiming such a state of dehydration that if they don’t get something to drink (preferably with chocolate in it), they will die. Literally die.

Then, once it’s done and handed to me, Stage 2 begins. Errors are found and pointed out, sheets of paper handed back, and at this point the stomping begins. Angry stomps that, because they are so young and low mass, are almost comical in their lack of resonance and inspiration of dread.

But laughing is a mistake, because then you get the glares. The angry, I-swallowed-a-black-hole-and-now-my-face-is-screwing-up-in-a-rictus-of-indignation-and-unspeakable-pain glares.

Laughing now is a mistake too, no matter how tempting. For they have been dealt a terrible injustice that they are powerless to fight.

Show your work?

Answer correctly?

What poppycock!

But this weekend, one of the kiddos asked me a question while we were driving, and after I answered, he said, “You don’t have to be precise, Dad.”

Apparently I’d gone into too much detail. A failing I am prone to, I do admit. If I can give a long answer or a short answer to any question, I invariably choose the overly detailed response.

But it was strange hearing this admonition on a non-homework night, which got me to thinking.

Do I, in actual fact, have to be precise? (Probably not)

Indeed, is it possible I am too precise? (Yes)

Why am I precise? (Excellent question!)

And I had a sudden, obvious epiphany.

You see, in real life, I earn my paycheck by being an engineer. A metrology engineer.

What’s a metrology engineer?

I measure things. Most of the time, very small things. VERY small things.

(Cue genitalia jokes)

Very small things that have nothing to do with biology.

And it dawned on me, as I was driving, that my job requires me to be precise. It’s sort of the definition of what I do.

I’d often wondered how I had fallen into this particular day job. I’d studied Engineering in school, but if you’d told me, even as late as my senior year in college, that I’d grow up to be a metrology engineer, I would have said, “A what?”

And then sucker-punched you for insulting me.

(As a nerdy engineer-type, the only fighting I do is dirty since in a fair, you-know-it’s-coming fight, it’s far too easy to stop it from coming and then beat the pulp out of me. I prefer my pulp stay where it belongs – inside me.)

Heck, I was 2+ years into my career before the focus narrowed on metrology. Prior to that, it was a lot of stuff which happened to include some metrology.

But then, suddenly, I was the Metrology Engineer. And now, many, many years later, I still am.

And so the epiphany I had was that maybe, just maybe, I didn’t fall into metrology by accident.

Maybe, being a ‘precise’ person by nature, I moved into it deliberately without realizing it.

Which means I was doomed destined for this career all along. That who we are truly does define us, even when we don’t know it.

And that is why I now fervently hope neither of my kids is douchy. Cause given what I think I just figured out, that would be bad.

 
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Posted by on 17 January 2017 in Life, Parenting

 

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My car was dirty, I had a microphone, and Oxford comma later, *BAM*, ASMR video!

I don't know where this is, but I'm quite sure it won't smell too pretty when I get out.

This is how I imagine it might look if I was eaten by Cthulhu and then, inexplicably, regurgitated. Yes, that is the imagination life dealt me. You should be so lucky.

Tip to the aspiring ASMR artist – always do a test run. I did, using an old cell phone as a camera, and the cell phone overheated, causing the software to “shut down some apps” to help it cool.

Included in the shut down apps?

The camera software.

Sigh.

Sorry. Life has been crazy. No real updates, just this video. If you actually bother to watch, wear headphones. I made it for listening, not really watching. You know, 3D sound and all that.

And as an added bonus, it’s short.

 
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Posted by on 29 August 2016 in 3D sound, Angst, Life

 

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Finding Publisher – A simple guide to getting (your kid) published, even if you really shouldn’t

As an amazingly successful published author, I am recognized as an expert on the subject and often asked how one should go about getting published.

By my kids.

Everyone else? They just tend to roll their eyes when I talk about getting published.

If they even notice I’m talking.

But, in case someone out there is looking for advice on how to get published, here is my simple guide.

How simple, those of you with short attention spans ask worriedly?

Simple enough for a pre-tweener.

As proof for the above statement, I am using my pre-tweener kiddo’s experience following my sage advice to illustrate my approach.

Step 1: Write a book. I can’t help you with this one, except to say form words with letters and sentences with words and paragraphs with sentences. The more pleasant and easier on the eyes the paragraphs, the better.

Don’t forget the spaces between the words and sentences (but NOT between the letters!).

Fortunately, Step 1 turns out to be the easiest part of the process.

Those fat blue drops? Tears of joy I managed to get this project completed to the kiddo's satisfaction.

A surprisingly large number of best-sellers start out as staple-bound, hand-drawn paper books

It smells fine, so these contents must be brilliant! Whew!

Flipping open a homemade book is like slicing the author’s brain in half and seeing the either brilliant or gangrenous contents within.

Step 2: Write a query letter. This involves doing market research so you can argue convince the publisher you’ve selected to print your book that people will actually buy it. I know, this sounds like something the publisher should be doing, but apparently they are lazy.

Don't worry about spelling errors in your query letter. Publishers know you're too busy focusing on the book to waste a lot of time on the query letter.

While the penmanship is not great, this *is* the preferred stationary of editors and publishers everywhere. Also, plaintive requests to print your book on the outside of the envelope always helps improve the odds.

As a bonus, you can falsify your data and the lazy publisher won’t bother to check.

If dealing with a small child, you will most likely be asked what to put in the query letter. Ah, the innocence of youth, asking that age-old question as if there’s an answer. I simply told my spawn to say why someone would want to read their book. A translation of his letter (pictured above) appears in the Details section if you click on it. I think he put it exactly how the rest of us authors wish we could put it.

Now I know, you’re thinking, “Why bother with a query? My book is amaze-balls and I had to buy a home security system just to ensure the manuscript wasn’t stolen after I wrote it. Why not just send the publisher the only copy of my book and be done with it?”

Good question. And for the most part, you’re absolutely correct. But there are two points you overlooked: publishers are lazy (see above) AND they have terrible office security systems. But the sheer awesomeness implied by your query letter will excite the publisher out of their apathetic state and give them time to upgrade (or install) a suitable security system in their office.

Or they might ask you to send the manuscript directly to a bank for safe-keeping in a vault.

This is the true purpose of the otherwise tedious query letter – to learn the appropriate secure address to send your manuscript to.

Step 3: Wait for the offer letter. Don’t worry, you’ll get an enthusiastic and generous response almost immediately. Books are in high demand, and publishers can’t wait to crank out more. As an author, you’re a valuable asset in high demand! Prepare to be on Easy Street (near the intersection of Unbelievably Effin’ Wealthy Lane), living the high life! You probably won’t even have time to run to the nearest corner convenience store to get a slushy. That’s how fast the turnaround time will be!

Publishers are sh*t-eating mo-fos who deserve to die the most outlandish, B horror movie way possible, caption notwithstanding.

You will never receive a form letter from a publisher. Even in the unlikely case of a rejection, they always hand-craft the nicest, most details rejections, nudging you into the right direction should you wish to make some edits and try again. The publisher’s response is always the highlight of my submission process.

Step 4: Upon receiving a request back from the publisher to see your full manuscript, send it. Then sit back and wait for the proof copy to show up on your doorstep, along with the check for an advance so large it dwarfs the GDP of third-world countries like Sweden and Belgium.

It only took ten hours of sweat equity and ~$12 on my part to make a beautiful book that filled my kiddo with the sort of joy one won't experience again until their second marriage.

Not only is the print quality on this CreateSpace proof better than the original, but it’s also slightly larger. And at this age, the kiddo approves of larger.

You haven't experienced true joy until you've seen your kiddo flipping the pages of his/her own published book.

This binding is less prone to rusting and looks WAY better than the stapled version. And the paper feels more solid too. Less likely to dissolve in water.

And wa-la! You are done. You are now a bona fide published author with all the associated bragging rights that come with that.

Yes, you can corner coworkers, guests at parties, Nanowrimo participants in coffee shops, even complete strangers on the street, and sing the praises of your book and your writing prowess, all in the name of encouraging them to buy a copy of your book.

Step 5 (optional): You can also do as the kiddos below did, and flush with pride and confidence, start your next book.

When I say predators, I'm speaking metaphorically. Except when it comes to that dog that keeps eating their homework. I hate that dog.

And here we have two young authors in their native habitat, writing away while their parents watch over them, keeping an eye out for predators that might eat them or tattoo artists who might give them age-inappropriate tattoos.

Environmental destruction aside, this did keep the kiddos quiet for a couple of hours. Two blissful, screaming and punching and crying free hours. (And the kiddos were quiet too.)

Excited kids without a clue as to how the process really works are book-generating machines. There will not be enough trees in the forest to keep up with their paper needs. Thanks for destroying the environment, you jerks. Personally, though, I blame the parents.

FOOTNOTE:

Yes, the kiddo did come to me asking to have his book published, and yes, I did make him write a query letter. I wanted to properly prepare him for the horrid, thankless reality of being a writer.

However, I fear I may have undermined that message with my ‘response’ to the query letter and making a physical copy of the book for him (via CreateSpace).

What do you think? Did I do the kiddo wrong? Keep in mind that said kiddo was jumping, dancing, and running around the house with pure joy when that proof copy found its way into the kiddo’s hands.

For any parents out there thinking this might be fun to do for their kids, here’s the process I followed:

1) Wait for kiddo to write the book and then come to you, demanding it be sent out to a publisher to be printed. This will most likely happen in the middle of reading said kiddo a book s/he likes. In this case, it was Yobgorgle by Daniel Pinkwater.

(Interesting aside: it was another Pinkwater book, one of the Blue Moose series, that put the idea of getting a book published in said kiddo’s head. I think Pinkwater owes me, big time.)

2) Pretend to mail the book to a publisher. If you have qualms about this, but encourage belief in Santa or the Tooth Fairy, then lose the qualms.

3) Spend those precious few spare moments when you aren’t working, the kiddo(s) aren’t around, and the spouse isn’t on the computer to painstakingly disassemble kiddo’s book, scan each page, and then import into a word processing document.

4) Realize you should have downloaded the CreateSpace template for the book (and cover) BEFORE you imported the scanned pages into your document.

5) Realize that the scan resolution you used (600dpi) is way to frickin’ high to generate a manageable word processing document (unless you have a terabyte of RAM and an OS that can address all of it).

6) Resize the images down to something manageable.

7) Export your kiddo’s book to PDF format if using CreateSpace. This is a CreateSpace requirement. Modern versions of both Word and LibreOffice have an Export to PDF option.

7) Discover that your kiddo’s six page book isn’t long enough for the 24 page minimum required by CreateSpace. Get creative. I separated pictures from text, put them on opposite pages. I also wrote crazy author, illustrator, and editor bios, and manufactured some ‘deleted’ scenes.

8) Upload your book to CreateSpace. Wait an hour for the upload because you didn’t downsize the images enough. Then realize you need a proper cover with something to go on the back of the book. Wait for the panic attack to subside and slap something together. Unless your kiddo is in high school, they aren’t going to care that much about the back of the book.

If they are in high school, put something jaded and ironic on the back.

Oh yeah, and download the cover template BEFORE creating the cover. You will need your favorite PDF-reading image editor. I use Gimp 2, but Photoshop probably works as well. You will be using multiple layers, with the cover template as the bottom-most layer. Ultimately, nothing from the template should be visible in the final image.

Save two versions of the cover – one in the native format that preserves all the layers, and one that is a flattened PDF.

If your image editor won’t let you save/export as a PDF, save as a normal image and then open that image with something that does allow such an export. I use the free program Irfanview.

9) Get an email back from CreateSpace within 24 hours stating that your manuscript and/or cover has formatting problems. Don’t open this email when your kiddo(s) are around. Wait until they are somewhere they can’t hear you swearing. Then do your best to understand what the cryptically described issues are and fix them. Then upload everything again.

If you didn’t save a layer-preserving version of your cover, this is the point where you decide the whole thing is pointless and the kiddo(s) should be sold off for medical experimentation. Why? Because you’ll have to start the cover from scratch.

10) Step 9 will most likely happen several times before success is yours. Once it is, order the proof copy. CreateSpace allows you to preview the book online as well – do that first to make sure everything looks right. I spend about $4.50 for the 24-page book and about $6.50 on the cheapest shipping rate. Despite the predicted delivery date, I received the proof copy in three days. Apparently no one sends mail any more, so the post office has nothing better to do than rush the few packages they do get to my house.

 
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Posted by on 5 June 2016 in NaNoWriMo, Parenting, Writing

 

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Natural selection: Survival of the rudest

Humans may be the most evil animals on Earth, but raccoons surely are a close second.

Certainly they are the most inconsiderate animals on Earth.

Right bastards, they are, raccoons.

Whoa, Ian, what’s with the raccoon hate? What, you ask, have these cute, cuddly-looking little bandits ever done to you?

Plenty. They’ve had it in for me from day one, and you’re a naive fool to see them as anything but the thieving, conniving bastards that they are. To wit:

  • As a small child, a raccoon mauled our beloved family pet, a soft, cuddly, and thoroughly un-maul-worthy bunny rabbit.
  • Frequently while camping, raccoons have raided my campsite, stealing the heavy food I packed in. And, surprisingly, all the beer. Though I haven’t ruled out my campmates on that.
  • On one camping trip, the raccoons broke into my car and stole all the Blake Shelton CDs that somehow found themselves, against all odds, in my car. They left all the classical music CDs untouched.
  • A few months ago, a domestic dispute between two raccoons unfolded on my roof. Loudly. At two in the morning.
  • Regularly while driving at twilight, I see raccoons skulking about the street corner storm drains, a shifty glint in their eyes. Clearly up to no good.

As I said, the most inconsiderate animals on Earth.

Which brings to me last weekend, when they went from inconsiderate to just f*cking with me.

About six months ago, my beloved kiddos, playing in the backyard, decided that throwing toys on the roof and then asking big, gullible ol’ Daddy to get them was the bestest, funnest game in the world.

Teenage Mutant Smug Turtle, more like

This crime fighter doesn’t inspire confidence.

It took me about three rounds of this sport to catch on, at which point I flatly refused to go back up and fetch their latest volley, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle doll, a plush stuffed animal that shouted TMNT catchphrases when flung against hard surfaces.

Such as the ground and roofs with slate shingles.

So up it stayed on the roof, through sun and rain and wind. My refusal to recover it instantly converted this into their favorite toy. The kiddos still cry themselves to sleep at night, mourning the loss of that toy and cursing not just my name, but the date of my birth.

Which I find ironic, given if their curses against my birth had any weight or power, there would be no them to curse me.

Time travel has its paradoxes, and so too, it turns out, does black magic.

I’ve attempted to explain to them the dangerous lack of logic in such a curse, in case it turns out they do have magical powers, but apparently six-year olds aren’t that good at understanding where babies come from or how their Daddy’s genetics contributed greatly to who they are.

And as they are still six, I have no enthusiasm for the birds and the bees conversation yet because I know, when I make the Missus give it to them, I will bear the brunt of her irritation at making her do it.

So the kiddos, not understanding, just wail anew and spit at me.

Numbskulls.

(I will say, the spitting is an improvement over their pre-potty training days, when they found less pleasant things close at hand to fling at me when expressing their disdain.)

But speaking of bastards, back to the raccoons.

Last Sunday, I retired to bed early. I’d recently been tasked to hire an engineer at work, and the lovely recruiter scheduled an 8am phone screen with the latest candidate.

I am not a morning person. I have never been a morning person. If the sun wasn’t essential for all life on Earth, I would have it snuffed out just to sleep in an extra five minutes. This is how I feel about getting up early, let alone being well-rested when I rise.

So I not only had to be at work at the normal start time, but I had to be sharp and pleasant and ready to talk to potential talent.

Where_in_the_world_is_Agent_Carter

Greatest (British) American hero

Hence the retiring early, despite the Missus’ entreaties to finish watching Agent Carter with her on the DVR. I’d sat through the first hour, quite enjoying the episode, but it was one of those ‘two hour events’ networks often put on to generate excitement about a program, and I simply could not stay up another hour.

I left my poor Missus, wailing and gnashing her teeth at my absence from her side as she watched the second hour without me, and went to bed.

Except shortly after closing my eyes, I heard something in the crawlspace above my bed.

Well, possibly in the crawlspace. Or possibly on the roof.

It’s surprisingly hard to tell, when lying half-asleep in the dark, whether the thump thumps you hear above you are on the roof, in the crawlspace, or maybe the result of some Lovecraftian beast walking upside down on the ceiling directly above you.

I am not a morning person because the night terrors that arise from my twisted, dark imagination keep me up at night.

I am a morning person out of necessity.

I struggled awake. I threw on the lights. I reached for the cricket bat next to my bed.

Nothing on the ceiling, thank the Old Ones.

Still some thump thumps, though.

I went outside, still clutching that cricket bat, and checked the roof as best I could in my PJs, bare feet, and with no ladder.

Nothing, which told me a truly shifty bastard was at work.

Naturally, my thoughts went immediately to raccoons.

I went back to bed, light left on, and tried to doze off. All was silent and right with the world.

At first.

But then the thump thump again. Only this time, something new:

The Thing On The Roof (henceforth known as TTOTR): Thump Thump “Cowabunga!” Thump thump
Me: WFT?
TTOTR: Thump thump “Totally awesome, dudes!” Thump thump
Me: OMFG! The neighborhood teenage hooligans are playing on my roof, and they brought a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle doll with them! I mean action figure, I added, knowing they’d correct me as such had they heard my thoughts. Such are the teenage hooligans in my neighborhood – smug.
TTOTR: Thump thump “Cowabunga” thump thump I taunt you with my spooky ambiguity thump thump

I abandoned raccoons for teenage hooligans because come on, what raccoon plays with toys on a stranger’s roof in the middle of the night? It defies all logic.

I rose again from bed, blearly-eyed and more than a little put out. This time I went to the backyard, where a ladder leans against one wall of the house, left over from that game, many months ago, of Daddy Fetch From the Roof.

I climbed the ladder, and because I was tired and I couldn’t find a proper flashlight, used my cell phone for illumination.

Let me just say, when attempting to see something in the dark from far enough away that you have time to successfully climb down a ladder and flee in case said thing decides to charge you, a cell phone light is not sufficient.

This thought is the very one that went through my head as I alighted that ladder. It was not a comforting thought.

Made all the moreso by the fact that I couldn’t climb the ladder, hold my cell phone, and hold a cricket bat at the same time.

I felt naked.

Yes, my PJs are slight and flimsy (and mostly see-through), but I’ve never felt naked in them before.

Of course, I had forgotten all about the kiddos’ little game and the toy left up there as I ascended that ladder. I just knew that something very wrong was happening on my roof, and while I really, really had no desire to see what exactly that wrong was, the only way to get some sleep was to investigate.

I don’t do my best thinking when I’m tired.

Fortunately, in moving the ladder into position, I’d made a lot of grunting, groaning, and “Ow!”ing sounds. This, apparently, alerted the bastard raccoon on the roof that I was coming.

I was back to raccoons at this point because once my head cleared the eave and saw no living creature there, I knew only a raccoon could have slipped off so stealthily.

Almost like a ninja.

Teenage hooligans tend to make a lot more noise disembarking my roof in a hurry.

I speak from experience on that count…

The only thing to greet me, as I tottered on the top rung of my ladder, surveying my roof, was the now silent and dismembered TMNT doll.

This battle goes to you, raccoon, but the war goes on.

As is natural in these situations, I paused for a moment in order to tweet about it. I then scraped the remains off the roof, carried them into the kiddos’ room, and with a scream fit to reanimate a thoroughly dead-due-to-mauling toy, woke them so they might see the logical conclusion of fun had at Daddy’s expense.

I explained, as my father once explained to me while I lay sick in bed one morning, that a raccoon had mauled their precious, beloved companion.

There was much crying and wailing after this. Mostly from the Missus, who was not happy that I had awakened the kiddos in the middle of the night and distressed them so.

But they were out of school for the whole week and didn’t need to get up early like I did.

Why should I be the only one to suffer?

I am living proof that humans are the most evil animals on the planet. At least when they’re really, really tired.

No doubt the kiddos will carry on that tradition when, years from now and despite my protests to the contrary, they decide it’s time to unplug Daddy from life support.

Holy Disemboweled Ninja Turtles, Batman, the shingles on this roof look, well, OK, actually!

In case you thought I made this whole horrifying story up…


Yes, I’ve been away from this blog for a long time. It hasn’t just been raccoons depriving me of sleep and leaving me too stressed out and exhausted to post.
I had pretty much given up on life, and by extension, this blog, but then the raccoons came, and their outrageous disregard for common decency fired me up again. Gave me the will to live. Endowed within me a newfound zest for life (or at least revenge…).

 

 

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