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Category Archives: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

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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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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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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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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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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When Laundry Day, Dishes Day, and Yardwork Day fall on the same day

The name's Ian. Ian M. Dudley. I like my Diet Tab shaken, not stirred.

Pictures don’t lie. Neither does this one. There IS a reasonable explanation.

Apparently my post of a few weeks ago about using games to get your kids to clean the house didn’t go over too well with a few readers.

Maybe more than a few of you. Child Protective Services wouldn’t tell me exactly how many complaints they got, but it was enough to trigger a warning letter and a visitation.

Nothing causes a pang of worry like reading a letter from CPS saying they have concerns about your children while said children are scrubbing the floors with toothbrushes under the impression that this will landsquid-proof your home.

Such correspondence makes you look around and see your home the way a stranger, a judgmental stranger with the power to take your kids away, might see it.

The interior, no big deal. Nothing a wad of cash thrown at a cleaning service can’t fix.

Yes, that wad of cash was earmarked for this month’s psychiatric medication, but I’m sure I can get by just fine without it for a while.

Turns out, actually, the wad of cash required to get the interior ship-shape is the size of all my money in one big pile.

In other words, EXPensive with a capital E, X, and P.

Leaving no wad of cash to throw at a landscaping service for the exterior.

This is a problem.

Now I don’t know about you, but during the winter, I don’t mow my lawn. The wet trimmings clog the inside of the mower and I have to keep reaching into it to clear them out.

Given that I’m allergic to grass and I’m also quite attached to my fingers (and want to stay that way), this can lead to unpleasant issues.

Besides, the lawn is getting constantly watered during the winter period, which encourages growth. If you come along and start mowing it, the grass is liable to get confused.

Does he want me to grow or not? Why water me if he’s gonna hack me up shortly thereafter? Is it possible we’ve been wrong all this time, and Ian’s a sadist?

That last question might be from the Missus – she talks in her sleep at the same time the blades of grass are conversing with each other. It’s very confusing.

So, during the rainy season, I adopt a live-and-let-live attitude towards the lawn, and maintain that attitude until summer.

Which means that right about when the weather is at its absolute, most unbearably hottest, I have to figure out how to cut down a lawn that looks more like an over-planted corn field bent on world domination than a suburban backyard.

If the corn stalks were twice their normal height and shockingly ignorant about personal space etiquette.

Given that it’s not quite summer yet, my backyard looks (or, I should say, looked) a mess.

Not something to make you all warm and tingly inside when you know CPS is coming over, no matter how many ASMR videos you watched before bed.

So this weekend I had to mow the lawn.

Lose my children, incur the wrath of the Missus, mow the lawn.

Unfortunately, I’d been a little lax on the laundry duty as well, and had been for over a week.

Well over a week.

Well over weeks might be more accurate.

Which means I’d already employed every stitch of clean clothing I owned at the office.

Except for my suit.

The one I was married in.

It hangs (or, I should say, hung) in a hermetically sealed case alongside the Missus’ wedding dress.

The case is made of gilded glass with bronze and gold trimming. We made it into a little shrine. With candles and incense and everything.

Well, until a friend said CPS might frown on that. Then we disposed of the candles and incense. But I drew the line at the spotlights. They stayed in place and on.

I’ve learned from past experience what a thirsty business lawn-mowing is. And being genetically disposed towards sunstroke and fainting, I knew I needed to stay hydrated for the colossal endeavor before me.

But the kitchen sink was full of dirty glasses and plates because I’d gotten a smidge behind on that too.

The only clean glass I could find was the last remaining clean brandy snifter.

I’d already used up all the paper cups in the house, as well as the wine glasses and coffee mugs, to support my Diet Tab soda addiction.

Hell, I’d even started drinking out of my cupped hands because the Missus had hidden that last snifter for an emergency.

Well, now we had an emergency.

On the plus side, I find the snifter lets my Diet Tab breathe, enhancing the flavor.

Why not drink it out of the can, you ask?

As if, heathen. But let me ask you this: just how am I supposed to get my frozen Diet Tab ice cubes into the can, eh?

Eh??

That’s what I thought.

Now I’ve already mentioned my grass allergy. Turns out it’s not just my skin that gets all scaly when in contact with grass. It’s my lungs too. Which is why I wear a respirator when I mow.

And I’m a formerly scrawny, still very white guy who burns all too easily, which means I also wear a hat.

At least it isn’t a fedora, dude.

I looked into a space suit to wear during yard work, but those things are bulky, uncomfortable, and heavy. Not ideal at all for taking care of business around the house.

Expensive, too. Fortunately, CostCo has a very generous return policy.

The CPS letter put me in a bit of a panic, so rather than wait for some laundry, I broke out the last clean outfit I had in my possession and got to work.

Yes, I cracked open the Shrine. May the Missus forgive me.

Which explains the photo at the top of this article.

Now many of you are asking, “Ian, I can see the slacks, but why the jacket with no shirt on underneath? Why not just mow the lawn topless?”

The CPS officials certainly asked that when they showed up, unannounced, a week early.

As I was mowing.

The jacket is to protect my arms and back from the sun. I already told you I burn easily.

And I could hardly go to the store to buy sunscreen dressed like that.

And now, a word from our sponsor: me! My books are available!
 

The Santa Claus Gang:

The Santa Claus Gang: A Marlowe and the Spacewoman short story

Marlowe and the Spacewoman:

Marlowe and the Spacewoman

Kleencut (FREE, and another fine showcase for my artistic abilities!):

So bad it won a Voidy for the next THREE consecutive years (would have been FOUR, but 2012 was a leap year)

 

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Is that a hug, or are you trying to kill me with compressive stress?

Young’s Modulus aside, stress isn’t just tensile or compressive.

Stress is a toddler waking you at 2am, screaming about a nightmare he refuses to discuss.

Stress is having a crisis at work that forces you to stay late and work over the weekends in order to save the company.

Stress is, less than a week before the end of the month, bolting awake (shortly after finally drifting back to sleep post toddler’s nightmare scream-fest) and realizing you completely forgot about your promise to read a friend’s book and provide feedback by the end of the month.

Stress is a neighbor’s car alarm going off at 4am, triggered by the feral cats that march in a continuous, unseen stream to defecate on your lawn, shortly after you’ve managed to drift back to sleep after recovering from the double-whammy of an extremely vocal toddler with a bad dream problem and remembering you have less than five days to read a friend’s nine hundred page tome about sentient moss that declares war on landsquid using flying alpacas as a proxy army.

All after pulling an eighteen hour day at work.

Stress is the coffee maker, already hard-pressed to meet your caffeine requirements, shuddering violently, sloshing you with scalding hot but still not coffeed-up water, and then giving up the ghost the morning after all the above.

Oh yeah, and stress can also be shear.

But even though stress isn’t just tensile or compressive (or shear) doesn’t mean that it doesn’t feel that way when you experience it.

There is good news, though, so don’t abandon all hope ye who clicked here and read.

The good news being there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

The tunnel held up by supports under a great deal of compressive stress.

And hopefully zero shear stress.

The toddler will grow out of the night terror stage.

Or end up institutionalized at a psychiatric facility well out of earshot.

The crisis at work will be solved, and your schedule return to normal.

Or it won’t be, and the company will fold and you’ll find yourself with a lot of free time to relax and not worry about work.

The friend will be understanding, given all the stress you are under, and not hold it against you when you warn her that the critique will be late.

Or she will hate you till the end of her days, spitefully poisoning your reputation amongst your shared circle of writer friends, thus ensuring no more beta requests ever cross your desk.

Those feral cats will die, eventually, and their population will stabilize, eventually, so that the fecal flood zone will stop rising, probably long before it hits your front porch.

Or you’ll be arrested for discharging a shotgun in a public place at 2am, and PETA will put you on their ‘boycott and send hate mail’ list, causing your book sales to briefly spike but ultimately bottom out as people read the press and police reports and realize what a psychotic bastard you are.

Especially when they find out about the four-year old you packed off to an institution just so you could sleep at night.

The coffee machine can be replaced, assuming that work crisis is solved and you still have a job. And those burns will heal, after a long and painful period that introduces you to a level of misery you had no idea could exist.

Or, if you’re lucky, the hot water plus an energized but malfunctioning coffee maker will result in you being fatally electrocuted.

In that case, all your other problems won’t seem quite so serious.

I thought writing this post would help, but all in all, I find I’m not feeling any better about my stress levels.

In fact, I think I’m experiencing shear terror.

 

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