Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for Zeal

People are odd. I find that no matter how long I live or how many folks I meet, I’m always surprised at the sheer differences in attitudes from one to another of them. With just four people in a room, I can experience four completely different views on life, personalities, outlooks and so on. Add ninety-six and I’d have a hundred different outlooks. It really is amazing.

I tend to be drawn toward those with a zeal for life. An eagerness to live, and to find out what’s around the next corner. I have known more than my share of Eeyore type personalities, and I can do without them. If more people understood that your outlook on life can really, really change things, I think maybe there wouldn’t be so many sour apples out there. We make our lives, not the other way around.

People with a zeal for life tend to smile more, they tend to have happier interpersonal relations with other upbeat people, and they tend to feel healthier, both physically and mentally. I’m not just talking out my ass here, either. It has been proven time and again that smiling and positive feelings actually help us as human beings in this life. Good things just happen to people who have zeal. Trust me on that one.

Negative people project negative energy, and they tend to find other negative people in that way. If I had a nickel for every time I have seen a group of people in the corner complaining to each other at a social function, I could probably retire by now. The doom and gloom attitudes of some people are baffling to me. I just wasn’t made that way. I naturally have a lot of zeal for this life, and a lot of energy, and migrate toward positive energy like a mosquito to a porch light. And I find it, every time. Our attitudes are like built-in GPS units, guiding us along. If we are negative and grumpy all the time, guess which paths we are going to take?

I don’t know if it’s possible for these Negative Nellie types to change their outlooks and find a zealous personality, but I imagine it isn’t. Although people have the ability to change certain things, our personalities are pretty much here to stay. I can change my outlook on a whole lot of different things, but life in general really isn’t one of them. A bunch of major, positive changes can really help these people, but it’s up to them to find and implement those changes, so they rarely occur. By the same token, I would need a few horrible events to happen, all in a row, in order to chase my zeal for life away. Sure, it could happen, but I don’t think it will. I love this place. Life is fun, people are fun, experiences are fun. Appreciate the little things, and big things find you.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for Yes Ma’am

What ever happened to youth who respected their elders? Nobody says “Yes, ma’am,” or “Yes, sir,” anymore. No, it’s always dude, bro, yea, okay, aiit, cool, fersher and the like. I can’t remember the last time I heard someone say “Yes, sir,” in real life. Where do I hear the sirs and ma’ams come out? On the TV show C.O.P.S., that’s where. When folks get into trouble, a lot of them start to remember their manners. Too late to keep them from jail, but a fun attempt anyhow.

Oh, you can hear respect at the supermarket and similar places, as well, but they are working and know they have to be polite to their customers. So it’s selfish respect. They don’t want to get fired. Approach them when they are with their friends and suddenly, the sirs and ma’ams are replaced with Homie, Lady, Brohemian, Girl and, of course, Dude. I wasn’t alive in the ‘60s or earlier, but something tells me that if a twelve year-old kid called a grown male “dude”, problems would likely have arisen. By that logic, the people back then were in fact teaching their children to respect their elders. Things like that are supposed to be passed on. So, where did it stop?

I know what you are thinking, and I hate generalizing, too. I do realize that there are a large number of young kids today who do show respect to those older than them, and maybe even to one another. However, there is also a large portion who do not, and I wonder if that’s relatively new or if we are losing our humanity, one child at a time. For every nice young boy or girl who remembers to say please and thank-you, there are ten who don’t even bother, it seems. That’s scary. I guess it isn’t “cool” to be a good person these days. Apparently, if you aren’t flying down the road in a muddy truck with 10,000 watts of bass and an offensive sticker in the back window, you just aren’t acceptable.

I would honestly be surprised if I heard a young boy or girl call an adult sir or ma’am. That is why I believe I used to hear it more. Of course, I grew up in Colorado, not California, and for those of you who have experienced both states, you realize they are more than a world or two apart. CA should be its own country, and that’s a fact. At least the southern portion. I hear Northern CA is nice, and maybe the youth know how to respect people up there. I wonder how it is in the Midwest.

Do you fine blog readers feel the same way? Is it just the immediate area I live in, or is everyone in the country just a dude or a chick? Leveling the playing field is fine in some areas of life and society, but respect for your elders is not one that I feel is negotiable. You just do it. No matter what type of clown you think the person is, you show them respect. After all, it isn’t for them, it’s for the speaker. It makes us look like better people when we bother to be polite. The impression left on the listener is profound, and then they hold us in a better light from the get go. Best yet, it’s free. Skateboard: $60. Metal Mullisha ball cap: $35. Adding some sick color to your tribal tattoo: $40. Putting a tiny bit of effort to show other people you realize they are human: Priceless.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for Xenophobia

From an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange.

Yea, I think we can all relate to that, at least a little bit. Maybe not so much the foreigners part, but the foreign or strange portion most definitely. Resistance to change has been a societal problem since society started. It’s like moving from vinyl to 8-track to cassette tape to CD and now, finally, digital music. Each one has caused trepidation and, “Yeaaaa, I dunno...” thoughts from a lot of people. But it doesn’t just end with technology. We are generally unreasonably afraid to change our own lives.

Take the couple who has been married, albeit miserably, for quite some time. Each of them stays in the situation because it’s just easier, and because it’s difficult to predict what will happen if they jump into the deep end without their arm-floaties on. So, they remain together, miserably, because they are unreasonably afraid of the changes that will happen in their lives should they split up. Couples like that keep Dr. Phil in business.

Or maybe you’ve been doing something the same way for years and years and, although you know it isn’t best, you refuse to change your methods. Maybe people even tell you that the way you do a certain thing is ridiculous, and point you to an easier street. You don’t change, though. Not you. After all, you have been doing it that way forever. I suppose there’s some fear of looking like an idiot mixed in there, too, because nobody really likes to be proved wrong. But mostly, it’s fear of changing things you are comfortable with. Xenophobia.

How many times have you heard someone say that they have no talent when asked to do something cool like paint a picture or play an instrument? “No, that’s for other people. I can barely walk straight, haha,” they say. So you ask them how many times they’ve tried to paint a picture or play an instrument, and they almost always reply that they never have. Here, they are scared of failing and creating something that looks or sounds really stupid, but also irrationally afraid of doing something new and different, like painting or playing the tuba.

I find that the older a person gets, the more likely they are to suffer from xenophobia. They are set in their ways, their ma and pa taught them a certain way to live and they are going to abide by it, to the bitter end. That is fine, as long as Ma and Pa taught you to always have an open mind and try all kinds of things. At least things that don’t regularly risk your life. Being scared of skydiving, for instance, wouldn’t be xenophobia even if you’ve never done it. That’s being scared of jumping out of an airplane and landing really hard. Nothing wrong with that.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for Whiners

I don’t know about all you good folks, but I sure see a lot of whining out of people lately. Whining about the president, whining about gas prices, whining on Facebook about having to do yet another load of laundry and whining that the kids won’t behave. Yo. We aren’t seven years old, and so whining makes us look really silly. So, I’m going to dedicate this post to saving whiners a whole lot of time and wasted posts. Here goes:

Yes, we know the DMV sucks donkey balls. I understand that the Lakers lost, again. I know that people drive badly, and that prices are out of control on everything. Every single thing. We already realize that cleaning the house isn’t a whole lot of fun, and that getting up early for work is as about enjoyable a tetanus shot.

Yup, anything that goes wrong in the entire world *is* Obama’s fault. How did you know? Quit whining. Sometimes, Facebook changes things here or there. Please, don’t whine about it. Oh, and the weather is terrible, no matter if it’s hot and sunny or gray and rainy. Quit posting up about it. Weather, weather of all kinds, is horrible. We get it.

There isn’t enough time. Things to do always trumps time to do them in. Please stop whining about there not being enough hours in the day. You aren’t the only one who suffers from lack of time. Oh, and kids? They misbehave. Get used to it, but don’t let us all know every single time Junior acts up. It makes for boring reading.

Some days are just bad days. You wake up late, the boss is angry, you forget your lunch, you sit in traffic, you have a headache that simply won’t go away. Why you people think the rest of the world wants to read about your bad day is beyond me. How about saving those keystrokes for when you have something positive to share? Oh, and I hear that computer screens and migraines are a bad match up. I’m just saying.

If you go to Disneyland, you’ll spend at least half your day waiting in line, and your feet will hurt at the end. Quit whining. Making dinner for the family sometimes goes wrong, or is more work than you expected. Whining on the Internet about it does not change anything. Working out is going to make you sore. Stay fat if you are going to whine about the burn. Being too tired to work any longer means you should go to bed, not open Facebook and whine.

They should create so that these folks have a place to vent, and leave Facebook to those of us who want to share fun links and cheery thoughts. Then again, maybe would create so much negative energy in one place on the Web that the whole Internet would disappear. Kinda like dividing by zero.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Verbose

Verbose: using too many words; wordy.

I’m sure we’ve all met people who say too much, and also some who say too little. Thus, there must exist, somewhere, a happy medium between the two. Kind of like the song says we gotta know when to hold 'em, and know when to fold 'em. As a fiction writer, this is especially important to me. It is absolutely crucial to find a good balance between “Never-ending windbag of description” and “I can’t even picture what he’s talking about because he doesn’t tell me shit.” It’s there, and it’s our job to find it.

I have heard many people complain that they don’t read King because he’s too wordy. They say he can take pages just to describe a cloudy sky. I have not found that to be the case at all but then again, I do like descriptive writing. To me, King is nowhere near over the top. He still leaves a lot to the imagination, which is his job. I feel he does it well, and that he is a stellar writer. You aren’t going to please everyone, all the time, but if your writing is strong and effective, you are bound to please many of them.

Let me give a weak and boring example: He stepped over the aged, yellowed threshold and peered into the library, which had been vacant of life for the better part of a century. The smell of dust and mold was almost overwhelming. He placed his hand on the ancient, tarnished brass doorknob as an afterthought. He could feel the history in the room. His eyes instinctually followed one of the darker boards on the floor as it traveled to the farthest wall. The board was unlike any of the rest of the floorboards, although he could not exactly put his finger on why. He stood on one end of it and the other end traveled directly to a spooky-looking red book on the bottom shelf that looked as if it didn’t belong with the rest. Intrigued, he took a few more small steps into the room, keeping that book in his sights. As he neared it, he felt tingles in his arms and on his back. Something in that book was drawing him, calling to him. He reached for it and...

Or, we could say something like this: He opened the door to the long-abandoned, musty smelling library and looked around. He noticed a floorboard that was darker than the others, and his gaze followed its lead to a rather odd-looking red book on the shelf. Interested, he walked over and reached out for it and...

Both those passages convey essentially the same things, but one is obviously more “into it”, if you will. I largely prefer the first one but you’ll see how little space the second one takes, as well as its simplicity. Maybe the difference is that one works better in a novel, where an author has more room to play and the other works best in a short tale, where the story itself trumps the details. Maybe.

So, what about you? Are you a wordy person or someone who likes to get to the point and leave the cumbersome details to someone else? How do you tell a story, or recount an incident, even when talking? Do you pick the big ideas out and convey only them, or tell all that you can possibly remember about it? I find I’m very interested in all the different takes on the subject. I think, personally, that writing in a few more details than makes us comfortable can actually gear us toward better writing. By the same token, too many details can shadow the story and hurt our writing in general.

Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for Unemployed

We are always hearing about the unemployment rate skyrocketing, about folks losing their houses and cars, and about the economy being in the dumps. I’m definitely not here to tell you I disagree with that, but I would like to talk about living below your means, something I very, very rarely see.

If Person X makes $50k a year, and can afford exactly $3,500 a month in expenses, why oh why would that person seek out things which ensure their bills are $3,500 a month? If the maximum mortgage that someone can possibly pay and still keep breathing is $1,800 a month, they should seek to purchase a house which would allow them to pay far below that. Why? Because shit hits the fan, that’s why.

I am always very impressed with people who plan a little bit, or make smart decisions, because I don’t see it very often. I see people living at or just above their means, struggling constantly to make ends meet. These same people are always saying how they are stressed out and that bills are swamping them and that life isn’t fair. What? If you want to put on the air of success to yourself and others, you’d better bring home the successful paychecks, as well.

Of course, we have the people who match the theme of today’s blog post who acquire a bunch of neat stuff and then lose their job. Now they have to basically sell the life they were used to, and are forced to live more simply. The Escalade goes back to the dealership in favor of the economy car they probably should have been driving in the first place. The house goes to a short sale and big money is lost, forcing them to move into the much more moderate house they should have been living in the whole time. The jet skis go, the Harley goes, the dirt bikes go.

Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t purchase cool and fun things and make the best of life, but I’m saying that as a member of middle-class America, you don’t need to drive a BMW and hit Starbucks three times a day. That is what we call a Yuppie. Do you want to know a secret? The folks who make real money see a Yuppie coming a mile away, and have zero respect for them. You aren’t fooling anyone in your 3-series BMW that looks like a Nissan Sentra with a different logo. The investor who drives a big, black 7-series Beemer isn’t even acknowledging you exist, so why play the game? You’ll only pay for it later when the unemployment monster knocks on your door.

I have designed my life so that if I were to lose every bit of income I receive, I could still float by for a year easy, maybe more, and even a slight, part-time income will get me out of a hole. I live below my means, and still manage to have a ton of fun. If the unemployment monster rears its ugly head at me, I’ll be ready.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Trolls

Trolls are those cute, squish-faced little plastic dudes with Don King haircuts, right? Not anymore. Trolls now live on the Internet, and they waste time and bandwidth every day. A troll is someone who says things, usually on a forum type discussion group, that will get a lot of responses from other members. Sometimes, it doesn’t even matter if the responses are good or bad. Just anything will do. I despise these people to my core.

For instance, signing onto a writing forum and posting the question “What are you reading right now?” is a troll thread. An innocent enough one, for sure, but still a troll thread. The poster is hoping to illicit a lot of responses, which they usually get, and then they feel better about themselves as people. I mean, to tell someone I’ve never met, and who lives in another state or country, that I’m currently reading Clive Barker’s “Books of Blood, volume 3” won’t help that person, or change their life in any way. The question asker is taking advantage of the fact that people like to play along, and share things. A sure sign of a troll question.

Sometimes, trolls are insulting, and their entire purpose on the Internet is to derail threads, and turn them into arguments. A chess troll might call Fischer a raving lunatic racist who wasn’t worthy of the air he breathed. That is sure to get a couple hundred responses, and so the troll wins. On a writing forum, announcing that you think Stephen King’s writing sucks balls is going to get you the responses you so desire. On a welding site, a thread called “Let’s see your welders!” is going to go on and on forever, which makes the troll feel good. Again, pictures of welders other people own won’t change that guy’s day a bit, but he asks anyhow. So, how do we tell the trolls apart from someone asking a genuine question, or someone stating an honest opinion? Here are some tell-tale signs of troll threads or responses.

♣ A troll thread will include information, questions or statements that are completely irrelevant to the theme of the site. For instance, making a thread on a forum that says, “I’m sad today, can’t get anything done” is a troll thread. That information helps nobody, and the original poster (OP) is simply looking for sympathy responses. Another classic example is the thread “What music are you listening to right now?” It seems to live on every single forum. No matter what the answers are, no progress is made because it doesn’t matter a lick what is coming out of my speakers. Not a single bit. Troll thread.

♣ A troll response will often times deviate completely from the subject or intention of the thread. Their goal is to cause a legitimate thread to go in a completely different direction, and there are many tactics to accomplish that. Let’s look at a few:

♦Insults. Trolls learned early on, probably at the playground, that insults are a sure way to either give momentum to a dying thread, or change the subject entirely and gain a ton of responses. Insults work. Example: On a BMX forum, if someone asks what is wrong with their forks because the bike doesn’t turn correctly, a troll might come on and say something like, “Before you worry about your forks, get rid of those ugly ass wheels! Damn, that bike needs a nasty award.” Keep tapping F5, because the responses are going to pour in. That troll wins.

♦Lies. Oh, nothing can get a forum crowd riled up quite like bad information can, especially when it’s broadcast on purpose. It gets bonus points if it involves danger. For instance if, on a four-wheel drive forum, someone states that it’s just fine to drink a few beers on the trail, and that it causes us to be even more alert, that troll is going to receive a *huge* amount of responses. Troll 1, forum 0.

♦Threats. Oh yes, threats work on any forum. A troll might say they can get the IP address of a certain forum poster, and from there get their home address, and then they’ll come whoop some ass if said forum poster doesn’t shut up. That is a dual troll because he’s both lying *and* threatening. Twofer. Or, how about the thread some troll creates that says he or she is thinking of hurting themselves. Oh, boy! Nothing like a good suicide threat to bring even the quietest forum lurkers out to respond. All successful trolls know this.

♦Be aware of the “small successes” threads. If, for instance, someone on a fiction writing forum creates a thread to inform the other users that their recent novel, “Fighting Really Bad Amongst the Stars and Planets” has been purchased and published, that would *not* be a troll thread. If, however, someone creates an entire new thread to tell you that they have finally put a difficult jigsaw puzzle together, taught their idiot dog to play dead, or that dinner tasted really good, they are trolling. Again, watch out for information that doesn’t affect anyone on the site, even in the slightest. Trolls can be tricky.

So, now that we know a little about trolls and their intentions, maybe you will be more keen to spot them and *not* respond to their useless, energy-robbing posts. Trolls are like drug abusers in that they can be very tricky, and will stop at nothing to get what they want. Heroin addicts need to score more dope, trolls need more responses from people. Every time folks chime in on their counterproductive, purposeless threads, their self-esteem goes up just a little. Trolls are sad, small people.

Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for Self

In our daily lives, as we go through this adventure together, we find we have to do a whole lot of things to make a whole lot of other people happy. Those of you with families know exactly what I mean. You folks with real jobs are constantly doing things for your bosses, and maybe even coworkers, that you’d really rather not do. You article writers have surely experienced typing 400 words or more on a subject you don’t particularly like. You fiction writers have written things for other people, or done edits, that you’d really rather not do.

So, what do you do for yourself? Keeping yourself happy is a pretty important part of retaining your sanity. It’s a big deal to treat yourself once in a while. I’m not talking about the occasional ice cream cone, or watching a TV show you may enjoy, although those are nice. I mean, taking a few *hours*, at least, and doing something you really enjoy, just for you. Trust me, your “self” will appreciate it.

Take you to the movies if there’s a flick you would like to see. Read an awesome book all alone sometime. Take a really hot bath, and when the water gets cold, drain some of it and fill it back up again. Wrinkly fingers mean a happy self. Maybe call a friend or family member you haven’t talked to in a while. That kills two birds with one stone, because both parties end up happier. Maybe set aside a few hours every week with your favorite hobby or, if you don’t have a favorite hobby, take a few hours and discover one.

What do *I* do to keep myself happy, you ask? Oh, I make sure I have “me“ time. I read, I weld, I rebuild BMX bikes, I workout, I listen to music and play in a band, I hop in my Jeep and hit the trail, I write a short story, I play pool, I’ll drink a few beers and socialize, I play chess, I watch movies with the lady in bed at night. All of these things are great escapes from the terrible “I don’t want to do it” monster. And it works. I find that as long as I have something to look forward to, tasks become more bearable. If the only thing that was happening every day was me becoming more miserable, I’d find a way to change that, and fast. It just isn’t worth it.

What are some of the things you guys and gals do for your “self”? I’m always open to new ideas. Although the daily routine and having to make a few dollars does get in the way sometime, it is absolutely essential to stray from the main road and see the sights. It really is.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for Rushing

Being a certificate-holding procrastinator myself, I know about rushing all too well. I actually tend to do pretty well under pressure, but have to admit that my work is always better when I take my time. Heck, that’s probably true for all of us. Or at least, the vast majority of us.

If it’s the first of the month, for instance, and I know the deadline for something is the last of the month, I’ll likely wait until the day before the end to do anything. I wish I weren’t wired that way, but I guess that’s how the cookie crumbles. I would love to be able to honestly tell you that I use a little time each day, and knock off the task slowly and efficiently, but that’s jut not the way I do things. There are some endeavors, however, that I always try not to rush.

Take driving, for instance. I like to be a punctual person, although it isn’t always that way. I’d rather leave ten or fifteen minutes earlier than I have to and relax on the way, rather than leave ten minutes late and speed around like an idiot. I’m a very careful driver and have no accidents on my record, and I’d like to keep it that way. Also, being an avid off-road enthusiast, I know the importance of taking your time behind the wheel. Rush over an obstacle and your vehicle turns over. It’s as simple as that.

Writing is another one. I really try and take my time so I can put my best into each and every work, but that doesn’t always happen, either. Too many times I’ve whipped out a short story or article on the day it’s due, knowing full well that I’ve had a month or more to work on the piece. I’m trying hard to change that, and it’s actually working, but slowly. Kicking my own butt into high gear isn’t the easiest thing to do at times. I’m sure many of you can relate.

I also try to take my time when welding. A rushed welding job almost always fails, and there is the big potential to actually get injured. Cutting, grinding, welding, and painting all have to be done at much slower pace than I sometimes would like them to be. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it, either. Take your time or watch your work fail. I guess that’s true in most other things, as well, really.

I’m also a very slow reader. If I rush, I miss things along the way. Besides, I’m one of those dudes who likes to read some lines over and over again, simply because they sound brilliant. I appreciate reading, and I don’t believe it can be fully enjoyed at a rabbit’s pace. I’m much more of a turtleish page-turner. Heh.

I think most of us could stand to work on our time management, a little, and see our work improve. Whether it be a writing piece, a chess game, a vehicle repair, or any other project, taking your time can only be beneficial. That is, of course, unless the endeavor is something like speed dating or a foot race. In those cases, you had better get to rushing along.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Quintessence

Again, from the handy-dandy dictionary that sits on my desk: 1. the pure, concentrated essence of anything. 2. the most perfect type or example of something.

Interesting, to say the least. As some of you know, I’m a chess addict, and one of the things Masters try to do is “find the truth in the given position”. What does the position call for? What is it saying to us? What is the correct plan? What is its quintessence? While there are many, many moves and strategies available at any given time in a chess game, only one is the correct one. It’s up to us to find it. The same goes with life, and with ourselves as people and our interpersonal relations.

Although we must go through our daily routines and may have kids, a job, or bills that regularly get in the way, somewhere in there the quintessence of things lies. For some of us it is dormant, and for others it is clearly seen. Each of us was put here for a reason, I believe, and it is up to us to find and capitalize on that reason. We must all find our own quintessence, if we are to find true happiness. Pick the wrong route or strategy, or engage in things we aren’t meant to, and unhappiness will find us very quickly.

For you writers, I believe the same goes for stories, whether they be a short tale or a novel. When we begin writing, even if we have a well thought-out plan, the story can take a route of its own. It is trying to find its own quintessence, and if we ignore it and short-change something, it won’t read as well as it could. We simply must find the truth, the purest form of the story and its characters. To do anything less will find the words wasted, and unpublished. We must be true to our stories in order for them to reward both the writer and the reader.

Furthermore, I believe that the quintessence of most things lies in energy. Relationships, for example, can either be bad or good. We can try hard to make a bad relationship a good one, but if its base, pure energy isn’t positive, we will never succeed. Just check the divorce rates. None of those people found the quintessence of their union in time to avoid disaster. Be aware! Always look for signs and hints that things aren’t what they should be. Pare things down to the lowest common denominator and sometimes the looking glass will show us things we weren’t privy to before.

Really, quintessence could be a philosophy in and of itself. The search for truth, the quest to reveal everything in its purest form. Once you have cracked that code, life may become much easier for you. Not everything is as it seems. In fact, very little is, in my experience. Keep your eyes and hearts open, don’t lie to yourselves and always run, don’t walk, in the direction of happiness. If the quintessence of a certain thing is filled with negative energy, accept that and make decisions accordingly. After all, it’s ultimately up to you. Life doesn’t just hand that sort of thing out for free to most of us. So, are *you* quintessentially happy?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for Prick

From the dictionary on my desk: Prick – 1. a tiny puncture or dot made by a sharp point. Awesome definition, and fully correct, but *not* the kind of prick I’m talking about. I am referring to a jerk, or an asshole. We all know at least one and, unfortunately, probably a few more than that.

So, what *is* a prick? Well, he’s the guy on your favorite forum who responds with, “Please use the search function, that’s what it’s there for. This subject has been asked thousands of times, and we’re tired of typing the same thing over and over.” - Really? I mean, someone joins a forum and isn’t immediately an expert on how to use it and you berate them? Not cool. If I join a forum I should be allowed to ask questions, no matter what level of Internet expertise I possess. Thanks, prick.

He’s also the guy who has 7,000 watts worth of amps in his truck and enough speakers to be effective at a small stadium, and always has the volume at ten. I don’t care if the music is good or bad, the rest of the world shouldn’t have to hear you coming a block or two away. These pricks don’t seem to realize that they can have high-end sound that stays in the passenger compartment. Almost everyone loves a little bass now and again, but when it rattles the dishes in my cupboard while I’m trying to watch a movie, it isn’t acceptable. Prick.

Pricks also like to one-up you on everything. If you fell on your bike and broke a wrist when you were a kid, the prick broke both of them. If you once saw a monster truck jump over thirty cars, he saw a guy who can do forty. If you tell the prick that you like a certain actor, he knows a guy who knows a guy and got to eat dinner with the actor once. If you say you’ve seen five concerts, they’ve seen ten and hung out backstage with more than a few of the bands. What a prick.

Pricks won’t realize that there is a fine line between a friendly ribbing and being a mean prick. Some pricks justify their comments by saying that they are just “brutally honest” people. The pricks aren’t clued in to the fact that being brutally honest only works when it’s asked for. If you are just always touting your horrible, hurtful thoughts at people, you are a prick. Where, “Hey, I like your new house. You don’t mind the busy street?” might be acceptable, “Hey, how do you like all those Harleys and low-riders blasting by, right out front of your new place?” isn’t. They both convey essentially the same thoughts, but the former is far more diplomatic. The latter guy is just being a prick.

Pricks cut in line, pricks hit women, pricks guzzle booze and then drive, pricks don’t think before they open their fool mouths, pricks know everything about everything and then some, pricks make fun of other people, and pricks always push things way too far. Don’t be a prick. Be nice.

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Open

Yes, open. I mean that to be painted with a pretty broad brush, too. There are all kinds of reasons to be open, and not the least of which is that I believe it can greatly cut down on anger problems. People who aren’t open to ideas and different ways of life are often times angry people. An open mind is a healthy mind.

Religious people come to mind first. And I’m not talking about your average Sunday church-goer who happens to believe what they believe. I’m speaking of the angry ones who’ll literally de-friend you if your belief system differs from theirs in any way, and who’ll speak angrily about other people because of it. Example: “Nobody’s building a mosque in my Christian nation! Nobody!” We live in the melting pot. It’s literally called that. And we live here by choice, although some folks don’t realize that. If you can’t handle other races, creeds, and religions hanging about, I suggest you pack a bag and look elsewhere for residency.

Closed-minded people are generally not accepting of new ideas and things. They usually have “strong opinions” (read: asshole) on various subjects and would be drawn and quartered before changing their outlooks on them. I’m pretty opinionated myself on certain issues (read: asshole) but I try hard to be an all-around okay guy. Tattoos and body piercing, for example, are not my bag, baby. But I understand that some folks really like them, and I don’t judge them one bit. In fact, a large portion of my friends are tatted and pierced. If my mind wasn’t of the open variety, I could really have missed out on some good times with some good people.

Opening your mind to things greatly expands your idea center, as well. I believe it also increases your self-esteem because you will likely succeed more, due to trying new things. For instance, if more people knew how to do little things like change their oil or an alternator, effectively check for spyware on their computers and remedy them when found, and attempt to fix minor broken things, a lot of money would be saved and people would feel better about themselves. The self-defeating attitude of, “I don’t even touch stuff like that, because I’d probably screw it up worse. I leave things to the experts,” just feeds their already closed-up minds. Try a little something here and there; who knows, you just might surprise yourself.

Open your minds, open your hearts, quit using your brains so much in decision making and let your feelings take over once in a while. It really is freeing. I mean, being intelligent only gets you so far before your feelings must come into play. Look at Hitler and Charles Manson – both men highly intelligent, but they possessed rotten, cruel hearts and so their decision-making wasn’t so great at times. Their agendas were that of close-minded men. Don’t be one of those guys (read: asshole). Open up. There’s some cool stuff out there.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for Nap

I don’t know about you guys, but naps are always a crap-shoot with me. Sometimes, I wake up even more tired and groggy than when I went down. Nap fail. I’ve always been known as a die-hard, and most of the time I would rather just stay awake through a tired spell.

I have, of course had successful naps that refreshed me and made it possible to shake off the grogginess, but more times than not they don’t do me a whole lot of good. Well, maybe that’s because I don’t take them often. Sometimes, a good late-afternoon cat nap sounds great, but I very rarely take one because of the risk? Risk? Yea, risk.

If I go to sleep at five o’clock, for example, there is no guarantee that I’m going to wake up by six feeling refreshed. What if I sleep right through until eight or nine? Then the night’s weird and short and I may not be tired for bed time, which puts me on a jacked-up schedule. That ain’t cool. So I mostly avoid them and remain tired, or direct-inject Mt. Dew and Dr Pepper so that I can keep going.

Besides, I’m the kind of guy who doesn’t like to miss things, even if I feel worn out. I’d rather live the day and feel shaky and tired than lay down and risk sleeping the rest of the day away. I’m not a great big fan of daylight, either, which is weird. Much more of a night owl. But sleeping all day and staying up all night makes me feel like hell, so I guess it’s somewhat of a Catch-22.

So, what do you guys do? Any regular nappers out there? Are any of you on an actual nap schedule, where you go down and get up at the same time every day? I know I couldn’t do that. If I’m feeling ill, I’ll nap on and off throughout the day, and I like doing that. But if I feel fine other than just tired, I really, really find it difficult to head to the bedroom and nap. I don’t know why, either. I just do.

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for Magic

Lately, I’ve been real interested in magic, and whether it actually exists or not. Oh, who am I kidding? I have always been interested. I have only recently, however, decided to undergo research to help understand different belief systems and origins of all the so-called magic.

I mean, a very large portion of humanity believes in at least one god of some sort, and in almost all cases, that god is capable of magic such as healing, answering prayers or controlling the weather. So, when we hear that someone is Christian or Buddhist or Hindu or Jewish, we just accept that and move on. But, what if someone told you that they worshiped Bondye, the god of voodoo? You’d likely laugh, roll your eyes or even be a little freaked out. Why, though?

Almost everyone accepts that “good magic” exists, in some form or other. Miracles, good luck, heck even prayer. Well, I’m of the opinion that in order to accept one thing, you have to recognize and accept its opposite. God and Satan, left and right, good and evil, day and night, white magic and, well, black magic. Why not? If someone in a place called Heaven can heal you, surely someone else can curse you. Right? Maybe so.

I’m highly intrigued by African/Southern voodoo and hoodoo, as well as the gypsies. If none of it was ever real, then they must have been part of one hell of a tale, because their ideas still exist today. I’m not sure if I believe that a gypsy can throw a curse at you, like what happened in Stephen King’s “Thinner”, but I know that I’m not going to be insulting one any time soon. I’m also not sure if the zombies are coming, but I ain’t heading to a cemetery with a spell book and a robe at midnight. And that tiny bit of skepticism, that little ping somewhere in my gut that tells me it’s a bad idea to piss off a hoodoo practitioner, a witch or a gypsy, kind of admits belief a little. Just a little. Doesn’t it?

And so, since I have established even a small bit of belief in magic, I feel it’s my duty to pursue it and see what I can find out. Either way, it’s a scary-ass route to take. If I find that it is in fact real, there could be some nasty things in store for me. If, at the end of my research, I find that it is not at all real, many of my dreams and aspirations will be crushed into tiny bits and I’ll be a broken man. Nothing serious.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Literacy

Literacy. That is a damn important word, and it means a heck of a lot more than the average person thinks it does. It isn’t just the ability to read and write, although that is a big part of it. But it also means to “understand”, and be competent. It is true, reading and writing isn’t 100% necessary in society today, but a person who can’t do either is severely limiting their options.

Of course, I don’t expect everyone to get As in English and grammar and create every forum or Facebook post as if it were going to an editor. I also realize that those using mobile devices such as an iPhone to post up may find it easier to abbreviate 75% of what they say to save time. It’s really hard to tell everyone how frustrating your day was when you are behind the wheel.

However, I have seen, first hand, the spelling and grammar of some people (the young especially) and it scares me. I loved to read and write at a very early age and so once again, I understand that it isn’t everyone’s bag but *damn*! Every single person in sixth grade or above should be able to form a logical, flowing sentence that conveys its point in a concise manner. What happens more often is abbreviated ramblings mixed in with so much slang that nobody over the age of 21 can make it out. Why is that bad, you ask? I’ll tell you.

We aren’t always 18 years old and looking for the next party or date. We can’t always spend our days using fuel to drive up and down the Boulevard looking for action. We won’t always be young and pain-free and full of energy. At one point, we must get jobs, pay bills, figure out taxes, fill out forms, create a resume, and so on and so forth. And that, I fear, is what will separate the men from the boys, so to speak.

If you have spent 50% of your life on an iPhone, sending messages like, “Whre u at, grl?” or “FML, wntd to prty so bad I ht my prnts”, does anyone really believe that they’ll be able to clean up their act for a job interview? Now, I realize that every generation thinks the newer one is full of foul-ups and morons, but this newest generation of teens actually scares me a little. Luckily, you still need a decent education to get into most professions that actually make a difference but still, it’s scary. Doctors, lawyers, bankers, psychiatrists and even police will always be required to prove at least a basic knowledge of reading and writing.

I know a guy, right now, who can send out an email where easily 75% of the content is horribly misspelled or so jacked up grammatically that it must be read three and four times just to break its code. That man is 42 years old and doesn’t hold a high school diploma. I’m just saying.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for Kick

Kick is an interesting word, especially in today’s society. It has a bunch of different meanings, depending on how and when it is used. In fact, once I got to thinking about it, kick is quite the chameleon, changing with every conversation and speaker.

Kick. Of course, we have the classic usage of the word, which is to exert force with your leg and actually kick something, whether it’s a ball, a tree, or a tire. For you martial arts gurus out there, it could also be a person. K could have been for karate.

I’m kicking it. I’m going to kick it and wait. In this instance, kick means to relax. Weird, because I can’t think of any instances where punch is meant to be relaxed. Maybe they are kicking responsibility. The more I think about it, the more that term seems odd.

Hey, kick-down.
This term is classically used when referring to drugs, but has since trickled into mass society and can be coupled with anything. If one friend grabs a soda but neglects to get his other friends sodas, someone may yell, “Hey, kick-down, dude!” at him, meaning they also wish for a soda.

Kick-down linkage. Back in the olden days, before computers controlled engines and transmissions in vehicles, cars came with a kick-down linkage. Basically, it was an adjustable rod that told the transmission when to sink into passing gear. If you disconnected it altogether, the car would never hit passing gear. If you tightened it up real snug, the slightest blip of the throttle could place you into second gear, engine RPMs climbing.

Kick the habit. Yea, folks who are quitting drugs or smoking or drinking are sometimes said to be “kicking the habit”. I supposed the thinking is that if you kick a ball, it goes away from you. That’s probably just where the addict wants their habit to go. This one makes some sense.

Kick rocks. This phrase is told to someone when you want them to go away. Get lost. Scram. Not a lot of folks use it today, but if you watch movies from the ‘50s or ‘60s, it was quite a common term. It’s slowly but surely going the way of “Bitchin’” and “Groovy”.

Dang, that baby has some kick! Sometimes, kick is used to mean the amount of recoil felt from a firearm. Pistols with hot loads such as the .357 or .44 Magnum revolvers are said to have a lot of kick, because the force felt when the bullet is fired is great. A shotgun is another good example. Semi-automatic pistols tend to have much less kick because of the presence of recoil springs, which lessen the blow in a big way.

Hey, homie, I got some new kicks. That is the new-fangled term for shoes. It isn’t too entirely difficult to connect the dots and figure out why, but I still find it hard to get used to. I believe I’ll always prefer “shoes”.

Whoa, that’s a kickin’ tune! Here, “kickin’” is used in place of “good” or “awesome”. I must admit I’m guilty of using this one from time to time. It’s a curse, I guess. I like kickin’ music.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Justice


1. the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause.

Those of you who know me also know that I all but refuse to enter debates about three things: politics, religion, and legalizing any kind of drug. I just won’t do it. The reasons are many, but partially because it’s really nobody’s business what I think or believe on those subjects, and mainly because those “discussions” don’t go more than ten minutes without someone flying off the handle. I have much better things to do with my day than listen to some angry nobody call President Obama the Antichrist, or tell me that anyone who doesn’t believe just exactly the way they do is going to burn for eternity once they die.

However, “justice” is a weird word. It can be woven into all three of those categories and yet, probably because I happen to be very interested in the justice system, I usually don’t mind debating or discussing it. If there is anything that can get me fired up more than the previously mentioned topics, it’s a scumbag criminal getting a light sentence or an innocent man receiving time of any kind. Both are tragedies that should never occur but unfortunately, both happen every day, somewhere.

We all know that the “justice system” is flawed and that there are far too many criminals on the dockets to actually deal with them fairly. That doesn’t, however, lessen the blow when such a large percentage of felonies are plea-bargained down to nothing more than citations and probation is granted. While some may consider themselves lucky to get off with a good scare and never break the law again, I imagine they aren’t the majority. No, the lesson usually learned is that it’s okay to continue being a small-time, scumbag criminal because the punishment is either so light as to not be noticed, or not there at all. It’s disgusting.

The flip to that coin, of course, are law-abiding citizens that either find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time or get caught up in the system through other means. Take the guy who finds someone hurting a family member, real bad, or finds a strange man in his house at three in the morning and shoots him. Although that individual surely has a strong defensive case, he is likely still going to do some jail time. That’s just the name of the game. I personally don’t think it’s “just” for a person defending their own life or the life of another to do one solitary second behind bars, but that’s the way it goes. Heck, even a police officer involved in a shooting has to go through a whole big process afterward.

Of course, when I say “justice” I’m not only talking about junkies, murderers and small-time criminals who’ll steal from you and fence the goods for a small profit. No, it goes right on up the line. King-pin drug dealers who get pinched are constantly making “deals” with law enforcement so that they stay out of the Big House. Offering information, rolling over on competing criminals, and even donating large amounts of money to police organizations – it’s all done on a regular basis.

So, what is the idea behind that? Well, the question is a simple one: Would we, as a society, rather have a small-time moron entering houses at night and putting lives at risk, or would we rather let the big fish keep swimming because the war on drugs won’t end anyhow? The real top-dogs rarely get into gunfights in the streets of Los Angeles. They have too much at stake. It’s the small-time and midline dealers and junkies that lose control, and so law enforcement, as a general rule, will let the king-pins keep their operations as long as we get the dangerous criminals off the streets. Justice is served.

Justice, ladies and gentleman, is a winding, rocky road that few of us actually understand well. Like any political, religious or drug-legalizing conversation, none of us really have all the information and are 100% sure about any of it, and so it’s best just left alone. If the smartest people in the world can’t figure politics or the justice system out, I sure as hell don’t know how the rest of us can be experts. What I *do* know, is that when the news tells me about a family of five killed by a drunk driver who has had four prior incidents, I wonder if justice is ever really served.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for iProbably-don’t-have-it

Yep, I realize that technology is moving at a breakneck pace. And yep, I realize that all these cool gadgets and gizmos actually can make my life easier. Do I have any of 'em? Nope. Well, not many. Besides the actual computers in my house, a very basic GPS unit, and a mini-recorder that I take to band practice, I literally have nothing cool or “with-it”. I guess that makes me old. Okay.

Don’t get me wrong, here, it isn’t because I don’t desire some of these items. I just don’t believe I actually need them and so I don’t have them. Would I love to try out a Kindle or a Nook? Absolutely. But, as long as the local thrift store has books for one-dollar, I can’t see me spending all that money just to try something I may not like. All I need is something else to charge or buy extra batteries for. Naw. Books work for me.

Ah, yes, the iPhone. You bet your socks I want one. But they cost a *lot* of money, and the plans are ridiculously expensive, too. I don’t give a hoot about giving or receiving text messages or games or applications of any kind. I would, however, love to jump onto the Internet from wherever I happen to be at the time. That, friends and neighbors, sounds super cool. But worth hundreds of extra dollars? Nope. Guess I’ll just continue to check messages when I get home. Not that big a deal.

The iPad? Fuggetaboudit. That thing just oozes awesome. Unfortunately, the price tag does, as well. Looks like it’s Etch-A-Sketch and Lite Brite for me.

The one iPod we had, the great big model that was just slightly smaller than a microwave oven, broke years ago and we haven’t replaced it. I have a tiny MP3 player made by Sansa that was like forty-bucks at the Radio Shack. No, it doesn’t have ten gigs of space and it won’t tell me when I’m lost, but it plays music and does so reliably. Is the iPod cooler? Sure. Is it way more expensive than forty-bones? You bet. Looks like the Sansa stays.

One technological device I’ve been trying to get my hands on is an EMF reader. The Sweetie won’t let one in the house because she’s afraid the needle will ping at a certain spot, and she’d rather not know if ghosties are here. Sigh. Looks like I’m even relying on good old fashion intuition for that stuff, too.

Is there anything currently available that you do not or will not have? Why? Does price play a part in that decision, or do you just not feel the need to be constantly connected to the rest of the world, during every single waking minute of your life? For me, it’s a little of both. I’m a writer, not a real estate investor, and so I don’t have a lot of money to throw around. However, even if I did, I’m not sure I’d get the iNewst-things-available. Just saying.

Friday, April 8, 2011

H is for Heartburn

You know, my parents always said getting older sucked, and I wasn’t real sure what they meant until, well, I got a little older. I used to be able to eat anything and everything, and usually two or three at a time, with no significant repercussions. Nowadays, I’m lucky to drink a glass of water without getting heartburn.

I mean, when I was younger I used to just make sure I had the essentials before I left the house. Now, I have to have sunglasses, a ball cap, a jacket, the GPS so I don’t get my fool self lost, and a roll of antacid tablets. Oh yes, they are like a friend to me now. A best friend, sometimes.

I like to have a few beers now and again, as well. In my 20s that was no problem. I’d wake up with a slight headache and go about my day. Today, though, I get indigestion for three days after a party night, no matter what I do. Of course, I also love tacos and spaghetti and V8 juice and hot wings and pizza and anything else that gets rough on heartburn. It’s like a curse, really.

I suppose next to go are the joints, but I’m having a hard enough time with heartburn. I mean, really, who needs it? Antacid tablets have become like dessert of sorts. Can of Chef Boy Ardee, pop a tablet. Bowl of soup, pop a tablet. Couple few beers with the boys, probably a couple few tablets. Sigh. I’m only in my mid-thirties. This stuff happens to retired people only, right? Wrong. It has happened to me, and I’m almost not ashamed to say it. Hi, my name is Derek, and I easily get heartburn. Indigestion. Uppies. It goes by many names, and all of them hurt.

I have a roll of antacid tablets in each car, one in my pocket, and one in the garage. I have a big bottle of the stuff both in my office and in the bathroom. It’s gotten so I have come to like the chalky goodness of the slightly flavored things. I used to look at what color I got, but now I just pop one and grimace as it goes to work. Heartburn sucks.

What about you? Get heartburn now more than you did before? Maybe you are gassy? Maybe you blurt things out in church because you don’t care what people think anymore. Whatever your malady is, I feel for you. I feel with you. Heck, I feel ya, brothers and sisters. My life isn’t even half over and I’m already in pain half the time. However, I grin and bear it, knowing that better times are to come. Maybe worse times, but one thing’s for sure: heartburn is here to stay.

G is for Grumpy

Hey, we all have those days. Wrong side of the bed, someone crapped in our cereal, the neighbor’s dog decides that six in the morning is a great time to serenade you. Sometimes it really sets the tone for the day, and a little black cloud follows you around. Nobody can be faulted for that. However, the thing to remember when we are having these unsavory days is to STAY. OFF. THE. INTRAWEBZ.

Why should we do this? Oh, because nobody wants to hear how the third load of laundry is really bringing you down, or how being a single mom is so hard with both kids in school, or that you have a migraine and can’t concentrate. If you have a migraine, get the *hell* off the computer. What’s the matter with you?

Also, nobody wants to hear that your life has taken another rotten turn for the worst. We do not want to read about your minor indecisions, like whether to play with your Xbox or take a nap. We do not want to read about how you got cutoff on the way home from the store and that you’d like to kill the person in the green Honda who thinks he owns the road.

If I see FML one more time I think I’ll consider un-friending that person. I mean, really, can it be *that* bad? I do not want to read about your failed relationships or the fact that hubby is stepping out on you with his much younger secretary. Okay, I kinda do wanna read that, but you get the point. I am not interested in your negative opinions about President Obama, or any other president, for that matter. I don’t give a shit who your favorite Idol was last night and how you are upset that they didn’t get to move on to the next round. I don’t care that you didn’t sleep well the night before, and now all the lights look too bright. Again, take your ass off of the PC and get some shuteye. Maybe read a book.

I do not want to read about the company you work for, and how they are screwing you over. I wish to not see solemn, Eeyore-like pictures of you taken in the bathroom mirror and then posted on the Facebook, so that you can prove how deeply saddened you are. It’s gotten to the point where I’m actually impressed if someone is always smiling in the pictures they post.

We do not want to read about how dinner went horribly wrong, or how you are getting depressed because you realize you are aging quickly, and have still done nothing with your life. We don’t want to spend one second reading a post from you stating that you are plotting revenge against someone we do not know, and how serious the shit-storm is going to be. Please, just think before you post. Save that stuff for personal friends and family, if you have any.

On the days that you are feeling jubilant and light-hearted, please feel free to sign onto the Facebook and let your fingers fly. Tell us about the sunshine, about something a nice lady at the mall did, about a great movie you just watched. But, post up that your kids are driving you crazy because they won’t clean their rooms once again, and I may just have to do some housecleaning myself. Just saying.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

F is for Funny

On the Facebook, my friend Christina Majaski posted up a question: Why are men funnier than women? There were all kinds of interesting responses, and it got me thinking about “funny”. What *is* funny? Why is funny so different for each of us? Is it possible to say something that everyone thinks is funny? Also, there seem to be levels of funny. Some things are worth an occasional “Ha!” or snicker, while others have us doubled-up and snotting because we are laughing so hard. Weird.

So, in keeping with the original topic, a question is begged: Are men in fact funnier than women? I know there are a lot more men comedians who make it big than women comedians, and I know that at your average social gathering, men seem to say funnier things more often. But, does that necessarily mean they are funnier? Because “funny” is so subjective, let’s look at a few things folks think are funny.

People falling down are always funny. Heck, people falling down kept “America’s Funniest Home Videos” afloat for years. But, people falling down isn’t in fact funny at all, when you think about it. Folks get hurt, folks get embarrassed, folks get frustrated, their clothes become ruined. So, why do we laugh when people fall down? Because, I’m convinced, in order to be truly “funny”, the thing has to be not funny at all. I think men are more in touch with that side of things than women.

Some people think that racial and pedophile jokes are funny. Hey, let’s admit it: some of them are. But, is racial cruelty or hurting children funny, in any way? Nope. I’m sure we all remember the “dead baby” jokes from grade school. “What’s red and bubbly and scratches at the window?” “I dunno, what?” “Baby in a microwave!” Now, I don’t know about you but that isn’t funny. Not really. Only, when said in joke form, it becomes hilarious. Maybe it’s the delivery that separates the sexes when it comes to funny. My mom thought that the bear on the Snuggles fabric softener commercials was funny. I think Leslie Nielson was funny.

Eddie Murphy is considered very funny by a large portion of the population. He’s crass, he swears a lot, and he jokes about things that really aren’t funny like hairy aunts and drunken barbeques gone horribly wrong. Bill Cosby made us laugh at misbehaving children and the dentist office, and Robin Williams makes abusing drugs and alcohol a funny thing. Clearly, none of those things are funny. So what gives?

In the end, I’m convinced that funny doesn’t exist. Funny is a defense mechanism we have adapted to deal with the really bad things in life. It seems that the real good comedians joke about the worst stuff. Women comedians tend to make “cutsie” jokes about innocent things like toilet paper and Tupperware. A man doesn’t find that funny. A man thinks a fart in church or showing someone his ass is funny. Go figure.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for Exceptional

Are you exceptional at anything? Do you know anyone who is? It’s really cool, isn’t it? Now, when I say exceptional, I’m not talking about a twelve year-old prodigy who wins Jeopardy for three straight years, never breaking a mental sweat. I’m also not talking about becoming Mr. Universe or Bill Gates or Oprah. While all those people are indeed exceptional, there are other ways.

Maybe you are a mom or a dad, and feel your job at home is done in sort of a blasé, rote, normal fashion. You would not be the exceptional parent, you would simply be a provider who tries to keep the kids alive and, preferably, quiet. An exceptional parent works a hard job and then takes time to read to their kid before bed, fix a good breakfast and then take them to the park on Saturday to play with RC toys. Being exceptional is simply going a tad above and beyond what is minimally expected. Sounds easy, eh?

Maybe you are a writer, and you think research is pretty difficult and also, all those pesky grammar rules get you down, so you just write what you want and then show people that junk. You, sir or ma’am, are not an exceptional writer. Even if you do that sort of writing all day, every day, you are still not exceptional. A writer who takes the time to fact, grammar and spell check, edit the hell out of their work and do everything in their power to ensure an enjoyable read are exceptional.

Or, maybe you have another talent like singing, dancing, playing an instrument or acting. If this is you, then you know that in order to be considered exceptional, you really have to try hard and stand out, which is not at all an easy thing to do. But, the exceptional people find a way to do it anyhow. The merely “good” ones simply do their job and then fade into the woodwork. Boo.

In my opinion, becoming exceptional is a choice, and one we can all make. No matter what we do, we can almost always try a little harder, put a little more effort in, prepare ourselves better. Try to improve. Letting your talents or your life simply flat-line is going to get you nowhere but Boringville, living on Mediocrity Street. Is that really what you want?

Take chances. Put yourself out there for judgment. Forget about consequences sometimes and just do things. Folks who take the initiative in life are almost always exceptional people. Don’t let life just happen to you; do something about it. Be *you*. After all, you probably won’t get another chance.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for Destiny

Do you feel that we all have a destiny? A pre-written course in life? Or, do we choose our destinies every day through actions and choices *we* make? Whichever you believe, I think it adds up to the same thing, which is “Do the best you can with what you’ve got”. Let’s explore.

My biological father is a writer, and I did not know this until much later in life. My adoptive parents are most definitely not writers. By age three I was spelling out words and by four I was reading books. I knew I was a writer. Somehow, I just knew it. And yet, nobody in my family even read a whole lot, much less wrote fiction. Of course, genes play a large part in that, I’m betting, but is there something else? Some destiny I am to fulfill? Am I doing what I was intended to do, or do I just have a strong draw to reading and writing and so have decided to make them for my life? It’s anyone’s guess, really.

I don’t ever, ever talk about politics or religion because of several reasons, but mainly because folks have a hard time keeping civil in conversations about them. After ten minutes, a friendly debate about opinions becomes a screaming flame war. That isn’t for me. However, I believe that discussing a pre-written destiny, or the lack thereof, isn’t about religion at all. Either you think that life has been planned out for you, or you don’t. Whatever vehicle leads you to that conclusion isn’t part of this particular debate.

If I am in the mood for steak, but purposely choose eggs instead in order to “trick fate”, have I really tricked fate or was I supposed to eat eggs all along? Sure, that point is rather moot in the grand scheme of things, but each decision in our lives can go just like that. What if I major in psychology for a year and a half before deciding that I really like sociology instead? Although they are closely related fields, it changes our path in a big way. Classes are different, jobs are different, pay scales are different, and the people we will meet will all change. So, did that hinge on a decision or are we just going about or pre-programmed ways? It’s a tough call for me. Real tough.

I tend to think that while we may have a destiny, life is more like one of those ‘choose your own adventure’ books in which you can pick a direction, but they are rather limited if you want the story to be good. It’s kind of like a game of chess: Sure, at any one point in the game you may in fact have twenty moves to choose from, but only two or three are worth considering because the others are obviously bad and lose quickly.

So, what’s *your* next move?

Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for Chess

Those of you who know me may not be surprised that I picked chess as my “C” entry. Chess. Even the word sounds good to me. I love everything about the game, its history, and its players. Good ones, bad ones, cheating ones – doesn’t matter to me, as long as it’s chess. I’m not here to talk specifically about chess, bur rather, the preconceived notions about it and regular back-handed comments I get vs. “other” popular pastimes.

I’m a regular “party-animal” kind of guy, and I very regularly take my highly built Jeep Cherokee onto extremely difficult trails. I also play the drums in a very heavy rock band, and have been in my fair share of bar fights. So, when folks learn that one of my greatest passions is chess, the comments start flying. Nerd, geek, brainiac, sissy – oh, I’ve heard them all. However, let’s compare chess to say, football, boxing, basketball or baseball, a few of America’s biggest fan-based sports.

Nobody who has played chess for twenty years receives an unnaturally swelled up head or brain. They do not have an ass that is the size of a car door from sitting on it too often, and they don’t forget how to talk because of all the quiet they have to endure. Athletes however, are often irreparably injured (usually the legs go first), regularly receive concussions and the second they get a little old they are cut from the sport. Professional chess players can remain competitive for as long as they want, or are able to.

I have never seen a chess player at an event sweat profusely, emit growls or howls, or slap another man on his ass after a good move had been made. In fact, I cannot imagine a scenario in which any of that would happen at a chess tournament. You ever see a pro-ball player on the field in Levis and a t-shirt? Maybe a fine suit? Nope. Playing chess, though, gives you those freedoms. A chess uniform would be ridiculous, in fact. Go, team!

Chess players are normally not brand or team specific. The professional chess player is far and away a one-man team, and each one has a different style from the next. Some are attacking, some are defensive, some are positional and boring while others display firecracker tactics that really please a crowd. Sure, some folks may love or hate Fischer, or be die-hard fans of Alekhine or Kasparov or another strong and famous player, but I doubt their garages are lined with pictures of those players competing and I’m sure they would admit, if prompted, that other good chess players exist, as well. Try to get a Lakers fan to admit that another team is good, in any way. Good luck with that.

Have you ever seen the *prices* of some of the sports swag? It’s insane. My nephew, 16, received a couple of $90.00+ armless sports jerseys for Christmas. Half a shirt for almost 100 bucks? You are out of your mind. Even the sports equipment like bats or balls or gloves or racquets and what have you are expensive. However, a chess set can be picked up at almost any retail store for a few dollars, without sacrificing the quality of the game at all. I like that.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Blackjack

Last night when I was trying to fall asleep I was considering options for my “B” blog. I had some ideas, but I didn’t really like any of them. Well, this morning we found out that our outside cat, Blackjack, got hit by a car and died. So, of course there was no question about my “B” blog. B is definitely for Blackjack.

I bought this house in March of 2010 and about a month later, a curious looking tiny black cat wandered into the yard. We could tell right away that she was sweet, but she was very timid and cautious around us humans. She’d meow as if to ask for pets and then if you approached her, she’d walk slowly away hissing. It was adorable. She soon came around and was as much a part of our family as the inside cats. She was so lovey-dovey! She’d never tire of getting pet. We named her Blackjack because black cats are supposed to be bad luck. Ha!

About six months later she started getting fatter. And fatter. She was pregnant. She had a cute little litter, and all of them eventually wandered off except one – the weirdest one. This baby *hated* humans. Wouldn’t let us near her. She was black, just like her mama. Hell, they looked like twins once the baby got to be a few months old. Blackjack was a very petite cat, and so is this daughter. So petite, in fact, that we named her “Littles”. Not the most original, I know, but the name definitely fits.

She recently got impregnated yet again, by one of the stray toms in the neighborhood, and for whatever reason decided to have the litter across the street at the neighbor’s house. Well, that meant crossing the street a few times a day to come home and get food before going back to tend to her babies. One day, she either never made it to food or never made it to babies, because she was found dead in the road.

Ironically, Blackjack, who was far friendlier than Littles, hated it in the house whenever we’d let her wander inside for a few minutes. Littles, however, who hated us humans badly until just a few weeks ago, wandered in two days ago and hasn’t left. She loves being with us. We believe (honestly, we believe this, it isn’t for effect) that she came in the day after her mama died. Could she have known? Whatever the reason, we welcome with open arms a fuzzy new edition to the inside family.

Bye Blackjack. We will dearly miss you.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Let's Talk About Arrangements

Today starts the A to Z blog challenge, and I decided to hop on board. Why? Because I like challenges, and it sounded fun. The word I’m choosing for my A entry is “Arrangement”. Let’s see why.

Arrangement is used in many facets including music, writing, furniture and flowers. The question isn’t whether or not things should be arranged, because they probably should. The question, then, lies in the order. Do we arrange first and then create? Or should we create and then arrange? Well, of course the answer is probably a little of both, but I think that arranging and planning and plotting is grossly overrated sometimes. Since I’m a writer, let’s take the short story into consideration.

Now, if we plan the thing and plot it and scheme it and give it directions and names and places and all that before the story gets written, I believe we risk not writing the story at all. Because it can never be perfect. In fact, perfect is quite simply made of Unobtanium. I know quite a few people, and not just writers, who literally plan their way out of possible good times, simply by trying to get all the details straight before hand. Sometimes, you have to just run with it. It’s called improvising. You ever noticed how truly fun moments are never planned? They can’t be. Plans aren’t fun, that’s why.

So instead, I recommend just throwing it together. And that goes for just about anything from flowers to short stories to adventures. Just wing it. Once the major players are in place the details work themselves out. Trust me on that. Heck, even this blog entry was minimally planned. I knew that the theme was going to be “Arrangement”, and generally where I would go with it, but even now the thing is writing itself. Filling in the details. Becoming. You should try it! Talk about liberating.

So, if you have a short story idea in your head, write the damn thing. Write it, you fool! Write it! You can have a wonderful story down in a few hours, or you can wait weeks or months or years while you plan the thing. And the best part? Even if you spend a year planning a short story, down to the last detail, it still won’t be perfect. Nowhere near. Not even close.

So you literally have nothing to lose. Throw those flowers in the vase and see where they fall. There is nothing to arrange if they aren’t in the vase though. Think about that for a while. In the meantime, I’ll consider loosely what my “B” blog is going to be about. What I won’t do, however, is plan it. Not me. Couldn’t pay me to.