Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 - The stupid year in review

I had planned to do this anyway but after reading the year in review of my wildly talented friend, Dave Johnson...I had to take account of what happened somehow.  So here it goes.

My year was filled with stuff I had to do, not stuff I wanted to do.  What King Solomon put to words and what the great Pete Seeger put to music is true:  There is a time for every purpose under heaven.  My purpose was to just get stuff done.

I began 2012 with working every day of the year for the first six weeks without a day off.  I ended up traveling for work about every day and on weekends I'd come home and get my other work done.  By the middle of March I was exhausted, discouraged and I wasn't feeling well.

I decided to change my diet drastically and I found time every day to walk.  I walked and walked and walked.  By Summer I had lost 26 pounds.  I felt some better and I had no clothes that fit.  In fact, besides some business attire that I wear for work on occasion, I still don't have clothes that fit.

With Spring beginning my work was slowing down enough that I could take weekends off and it was time for me to work on my mom's estate.  Every weekend required me to paint, replace carpet, and fish through the belongings of my deceased parents.  When the growing season started I discovered that the riding lawn mower had finally given up on me.  I had two acres of lawn to mow without a mower.

I was nearly killed by hornets.

I held an estate sale at my house.

I celebrated my younger son's 2nd birthday on a river boat cruise.

I borrowed a mower from a nearby friend with the hopes that the house would sell quickly.  Weeks went by and the house wasn't sold yet and I was beginning to be more obnoxious with my requests to borrow the mower than I'd allow myself to be.  My best friend Eric came to the rescue and said "Just come get my mower whenever you need it."  I'd head to his house which was about 30 minutes away and then drive to my mom's place which was another 40 minutes away.  After that I'd mow the lawn which took about 2 and a half hours, then return it...hauling it in the trunk of my small sedan.  I did this until his mower caught on fire.   I came over the day after I returned it to see a burned spot on the sidewalk in front of his house surrounded by the discharge of a fire extinguisher.  I have no doubt that I caused this somehow.  He bought a new mower and for another month I used that one until the house finally sold toward the end of Summer.

By August I had a chance to finally breathe and I celebrated by riding my motorcycle.  I rode and rode and rode.  It was one of the few things that I did in the year where I was able to sit and think about nothing.  I did a lot of that.

Through the Winter and Spring after about 10pm I worked on my book.  I couldn't sleep anyway so I figured I may as well just keep plugging away on it.  My wife and I worked on it and pursued it completely as a glorious, independently published work.  When it was finally done, I read the book from beginning to end and realized what a dark and stressful year it was.  It wasn't the most serious literary effort that I have worked on but I will tell you one thing:  I WROTE A FRICKIN BOOK AND IT'S A HARD THING TO DO.  I'm proud of it but also determined for it not to be the only published example of my writing.

I went to Texas.  I saw an old compound that was shot up by a well armed not in San Antonio.  The gift shop insisted that I remember it.  I bought a comic book and then I hired a Mariachi band to play while I ate lunch...and then bought a cowboy hat.  

I dealt with creditors, lawyers, accountants and beautiful super models.  I'm lying about one of these.

I voted but I don't think a single candidate I voted for won in an election.  Still, many national magazines insist that I belong to the fastest growing political movement in the country...unfortunately a fair amount of us don't vote.  I am constantly toying with the idea of being a non-voter myself but I usually give in and vote so I can punch my ticket to the debate of the issues.

I made a pirate ship cake with a 2 year old.  

The year just sucked in a lot of ways.  When I look back and see that I had buried my head in my tear drenched palms more times than I have taken a vacation I know it's time to change things a bit.

That was the season that was 2012.  Turn! Turn! Turn!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Holy Cow! Thank you so much!

Most of you that read this blog or know me personally know that I wrote a ridiculous fiction book that came out in 2012.  I promised that I would donate all of the profits from the first month of sales to the local gospel mission in my county.

I did this for two reasons:

  1. The Everett Gospel Mission is a very worthwhile cause which provides help to homeless people in the Snohomish County area.
  2. I wanted to provide a good reason for you to buy it since this was my first published book.
I was really quite surprised that as many copies sold as they did.  Many of you bought a copy because you just like buying a book when you know the author.  Some of you were promised and unusual book and figured I would deliver.  Some of you will read just about anything and have no standards at all.

This morning I rounded up the donation slightly and we collectively made a contribution to the Everett Gospel Mission for $500.00.  Not bad at all for a book with a small profit margin and a $12.00 asking price.

You did it though.  My reasons weren't completely selfless...I wrote a book and just wanted people to have an incentive to read it.  It was your kindness that did the rest.  Now readers in three continents can claim they own my stupid book!  Seriously, I simply can't believe it.

I'm currently kicking around a million ideas for a new writing project and so far I don't like any of them.   If you know my style, the less you hear about it, the harder I am working on it and once I'm done with it I'll be shy about sharing it.  I'm not sure what that disorder is called.

...and I'm still asked about the Kindle version.   Well, I announced it would be coming soon and in typical fashion the whole process blew up a bit and made me a liar.  I'm working out some "quality" issues with Amazon and will have them sorted out.  I will continue to work on it and will announce when it is available.  Thanks for your patience and your interest.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Christmas I met a president

Since I was a little boy I had always wanted to meet a president.

I remember one Sunday afternoon my whole family sat and watched Richard Nixon deliver a speech on the television.  The only response to his speech that I remember was that of my grandmother, who said that she didn't believe a word he said.  She was also a Republican.

It intrigued me immediately why the entire country would put someone in charge that a fair amount of people distrust so much.  Whoever these mysterious people were that got to be president, I knew I had to meet one eventually...and about eight years ago I finally did.

I met Jimmy Carter.

Yeah, I know.  I could sense the expression on your face when you read it and I haven't even finished typing this sentence yet.  It's like saying you got your picture taken with the 2001 Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens.  It's kinda cool...I guess.

President Carter was in Seattle for a book signing of his Christmas memoire, Christmas in Plains.  I bought a voucher for the book which was essentially a ticket to stand in a long line and wait for him to scribble his name on the title page.  I was surprised that the line was so long to see a rather unpopular one-term president, but this was Seattle after all.  Many of the people in line still had Dukakis bumperstickers affixed to their Volvos. 

After about forty minutes in line I finally got up to the table where President Carter was and he decided it was time to take a break.  There I was standing across a table watching a former president drink water.  I would have time to talk to him if I wanted, but what would I say?

He sensed the tension as only a man who brought peace to Egypt and Israel could, and broke the ice.

"What are your plans for Christmas?"  He asked in his warm southern accent.

I had a tough time with this question.  I knew he probably was used to having an awesome Christmas.  Why else would he bother to write a book about it?  I didn't want to spoil the moment and tell him what kind of Christmas I had in front of me.

In fact Christmas Day was a marathon of traveling between two family events that were hours apart and usually involved a turkey dinner where the turkey was out of the oven about the time everyone was ready to leave.  It was exhausting and rarely worth the fuss.  Merry Christmas, President Carter.

"Um, well...I'll be spending it with family."  I stammered.

"Oh that's nice."  he replied.  "Family is important." he continued.

"What are you and Rosalynn doing?"  I asked.

"Oh we......"  he replied as I wasn't listening because all I was thinking about was how I was having a conversation with a president.

He signed my book and we wished each other a Merry Christmas and I walked on by the Secret Serviceman who was beside him and returned to my car in the parking lot.

I finally got around to reading his book about two years after our brief meeting and I was taken by his descriptions of Christmas from his youth.  His memories were filled with humility and service for others and lots and lots of family.  I was right...his Christmas' were awesome.

I'm not sure my Christmas memories will ever match those of President Carter, but they're memorable all the same.  Who knows, maybe I'll write my own Christmas memoire.

Merry Christmas to all of you and may God bless you with peace.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Why the Power Company Hates Me

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall have mercy"  - The Gospel of Matthew
 Since my mom died, I've had to make a lot of phone calls.  Most of the phone calls are the type where I am tying up loose ends.  Paying bills, correcting, notifying, getting information, etc.  I've made countless phone calls.  Interestingly they either go really well or go badly.  I suppose that's just a built-in expectation when dealing with this kind of thing.

I am far beyond it being an emotionally charged subject.  Most of the time I just want to get it over with so I can go back to the other million things I have going on, both at work and at home.  The last phone call I have had to make was to the utility company.

When the house was sold, the power company apparently had the wrong notification date so they continued to bill well after perfect strangers were in my mom's house rearranging furniture and eyeballing picture frames to make sure they were level.  No problem, I'll give them a call.

The first call I made to them went well.  I explained the date that it was sold and got it straightened out with them.  They thanked me for calling and I hung up while crossing it off my list.  Over the next two weeks they continued to send bill and notices.  I figured there may be some gap until their system would catch up after my phone call so I decided to let it go a couple more weeks until I called them again.  In that time two more bills and a threatening letter followed.  I laughed at the threatening letter because they explained impatiently that they were willing to move forward with steps that would result in ruining the credit rating of my two dead parents.  I called again.

This time it went badly.  I say this because this is obviously a mistake on their part and there really was no attempt to solve the problem.  I gave a briefing on the first call I had made and what I thought had been straightened out and asked them what they were going to do about it.  The representative explained that the balance was still due, and wanted to know how I was going to make arrangements to satisfy the balance.  I was out of time during my lunch at work so I just assured them that they'd be wise to take care of it since they are not going to be paid.  They threatened to turn off the power.  I countered with offering what was left of my ham sandwich.  We were obviously at an impasse.

Collection notices now began showing up at my house and I let them pile up.  It wasn't that many days before I came home and the pile of communications from Puget Sound Energy was two inches thick.  This is just what I received since I was assured that it was all taken care of.  I gave them a call.

Obviously my patience with the situation was wearing thin but it was tempered by the fact that I had no real skin in the game.  It wasn't like I owed them money.  It wasn't like I was stressed with keeping the lights on while juggling a host of bills and creditors.  I just wanted them to have things in order and stop wasting their resources.

The representative informed me this time that unless I gave them personal information about myself I could not discuss the account.  I decided to decline and proceed without mercy to the unvarnished truth of the matter.

"You are sending bills to my father under this account number and I want to let you know that he has been dead for sixteen years.  The house is owned by someone else and nobody is going to pay you.  You need to stop sending bills."
She then went over the account with me (ya know, the one she said she wouldn't unless she knew who I was?) and explained that she would make a notification in the account and it would be taken care of.  I recognized this dismissive gesture and explained that this was my third call for such a resolution and I was skeptical that it would be resolved.  She conceded that their system may send fewer bills after it goes to a collection agency.

"Look, I'm just trying to be nice.  I can easily throw away the bills. I just think it's  wasteful for you to pursue this.  I don't want any more bills being sent to my house on this."
 She assured me that there wasn't anything more she could do.  At no time during the call did she break out of the customer service role and agree with me that this was stupid.  Well, not yet.

"Could I at least verify the account with you and then change the billing address?"   (They were using mine due to the mail being forwarded)

I gave them a new address for the billing address.  I recited the Post Office box number to where the bills needed to be sent.  Her ears finally perked up.

PSE:  "Sir, what PO Box address is this?"

 ME:  "It is yours."

PSE:  "Why would we send the bill to ourselves?"

 ME:  "Why would you deliberately send bills to a dead person?"

PSE:  "..."
Is the matter taken care of?   For mercy's sake I hope so.

Friday, November 16, 2012

I will miss you Wonder Bread

When Jesus told Satan that " does not live by bread alone..." I'm sure he was talking about the bread at our house when I was a kid.

We bought our loaves of bread at an overstock goods store about 10 miles from where we lived.  The brand name was "Freshie" which was funny because you had pretty much one day to get it eaten or it was anything but fresh.

My mom would send me to school with these awful sandwiches and when the loaf was almost gone and shopping day was still several days away, the sandwich was reduced to one piece of bread folded over.  Freshie brand bread did all it could to resist bending.  Like palm trees when they bow into the wind and become stronger and more resistant, the last five slices in the loaf were more than determined to defy any attempt to stretch the loaf for the sake of rationing.  They would simply split at the seam where the fold should have been.  That was "Freshie" bread.

Growing up in a rural area, my family lived ten miles from the nearest large chain grocery store.  The rule generally was that if anyone had stopped off near civilization they would call home and ask if anything was needed.  My brother did just that one day after my mom realized we had already tortured the last few slices of the Freshie loaf.

My brother came home and set the loaf in the kitchen and handed my mom the receipt.  My mom took the receipt and her voice filled the room.


My brother responded that he bought Wonder Bread.  My mom was furious.  I'll avoid tear jerking illustrations of childhood poverty to just say that my mom felt that the 39 cents that a loaf of Freshie demanded was already too much.

My brother left and was mad for doing his best while being cut down for buying Wonder Bread.  I was mad too.  I was hungry and wanted a sandwich but my brother messed up and bought the wrong bread.  My mom was still mumbling on about how mad she was at the wasted money when I asked her what I should do.

"We can't take it back, you'll just have to use it."  she replied.

Thanks to my dumb brother I would have to cobble together a sandwich using some bread my mom obviously didn't want in the house.  I went into the kitchen and looked at the white plastic bag with the colorful dots all over it.  With contempt I took the clip off and reached in and grabbed a couple of slices.  I noted that the slices were a little heavier than I was used to.

After I made the sandwich, I was still mad that I was having to settle for Wonder Bread and wondered why my brother got a wild hair to buy some crazy bread that was bringing such unhappiness into our home.  

I took a bite.  It tasted HEAVEN.  Oh my dear Lord, I never knew that bread could be...what's the word I'm looking for?  Edible!  Moist!  BENDABLE!

My brother went from being the dumbest most undependable person on the planet to a genius before I was halfway through my lunch.  I savored every moist bite.  I only needed to fix one glass of Tang instead of two to help me choke down the sandwich. 

I never minded growing up poor that much, but Freshie bread became all the catalyst I ever needed to seek a more comfortable life.  A life filled with bread so great that it was called a Wonder.

Even though a slice of Wonder Bread hasn't passed my lips in ages, I will miss it.  Wonder Bread represented for me the hope of all I ever wanted in life:  To be middle class.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Veteran's Day - I think we've got this one wrong

I'm pretty annoyed by Veteran's Day.

"No way!  You're not gonna dump on Veteran's Day are you?  Why do you hate America?"

Why yes, I am going to dump on Veteran's Day.

There is barely a distinction between Veteran's Day and Memorial Day anymore.  Yesterday I saw posts from people honoring those who served and died to make us free, others thanked a vet...even more were just the usual if we didn't have these brave people protecting our freedoms we would be speaking (insert language of country we have fought).  Personally, I'll be damned if any Red Coat could make me speak English.  Part of me wants us to lose a war to Iran so they can go about the business of teaching our kids Farsi in public schools.  Good luck with that.

November 11th was once a holiday to help us remember how absolutely worthless World War I was.  You know, that war that sent 2 million of your untrained great grandfathers to Europe to fight in a war that was almost already over?  For a great many years it worked too!  Once upon a time the United States had to be dragged, kicking and screaming into wars...and once we were in them we did things like invent Atomic weapons to get out of them as quickly as possible.

Now I'm not dumping on vets.  Don't get me wrong.  My heart sinks reading the stories of the increased numbers of suicides, PTSD, and other problems that those who are serving are now facing.  They need our support now, as much as ever. Our vets need to be honored for certain, but not at the expense of one opportunity a year to reflect on the horrible cost of war.

Like World War I, war is often unnecessary and the official reasons for entering them are almost always surrounded in lies. I think we still need days in the calendar year to remind ourselves of this.

[also, please save yourself from arguing that I'm against veterans or am unappreciative or's a waste of time for you and me.  I've personally thanked the vets in my family and they have my undying appreciation.]

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Summer in the Crawl Space

While preparing to sell my mom's house there were lots of things to take care of.  Beyond the normal things you'd expect (new carpet, paint, etc) we had a few plumbing issues to take care of.   A leaky tub and shower caused water damage to the flooring and insulation under the master bathroom.  Nothing a couple of plumbers couldn't solve.  After that it was closing up the insulation and cleaning up the vapor barrier.  Boring stuff right?  I mean are you even still reading?  Stay with me.

Under the house is the crawlspace.  This isn't just a generalized term to describe "under the house" but was a true description of the type of space there was available under my mom's house.  At the roomiest height there was only enough room to sit and any actual movement required crawling.  Not on hand and knees either...I mean crawling like you're in the bootcamp scenes in the movie Stripes or in my case maybe Private Benjamin.

I have on eye protection and a respirator since the air is full of rodent poop dust and I am crawling on my belly and sweeping with a horizontal hand broom.  I make a long sweep with my right hand and then heard what sounded like wind chimes. Just so you know, that's the sound it makes when you're sweeping a raccoon skeleton across 6mm sheets of plastic.

I admit that this was freaking me out a little.  I'm holding my breath while I move the skeletal remains of this poor animal along.  I continue crawling along on my stomach just a few feet behind the trail of bones with each sweep of progress.  I swept the bones over and across this large mound under the plastic and then stopped for a second to catch my breath.  While trying to calm down I heard something else that I hadn't heard before.  It sounded like buzzing.  I took off my respirator and shouted over to my brother.

"Hey, do you hear that?"  My voice barely carries.

"What?"  My brother stops tearing at insulation. "What did you say?"

"I hear buzzing or something?  I said after another big breath.  "Can you hear that?"

"Oh," he said then stopped for a second.  "I did see bees over there earlier."

This tiny back area of the house which took me five minutes to crawl into took me just 3 seconds to get out of.  Crawling over the raccoon skeleton and away from the sound of bees I was able to get out of the crawlspace.  No stings, just a bump on the head where I smacked it on a beam, crawling quickly while breathing out a panicked shriek.

The exterminator later pointed out to me that he was able to kill thousands of bald faced hornets in the nest that were still in the large mound.

"Um, large mound?"  I asked.

"Yeah, those hornets made a huge mound under the plastic, I'm surprised you didn't see it down there."  He held his arms out in a big circle as if to demonstrate the circumference of the place I nearly died. Only a couple of hours earlier I was crawling over that mound while sweeping along a dead raccoon.

Seriously, that day really sucked. 

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Peace in the Valley

I'm from the Snoqualmie Valley.  I was born in upper part of the valley, in the town of Snoqualmie, and grew up in the lower half around Duvall.  I moved away when I left my parents house and never really returned under great circumstances.

For awhile, I convinced myself I didn't like the valley.  It was rural after all.  Ya know, the middle of nowhere?  The novelty of answering the question, "So, where are you from?" had long since worn off in my life.  I simply answered:  Seattle area.

It didn't help that after I moved away in the late 80's I was always returning.  From the late 90's on I looked after my handicapped mother.  The stability of her finances, health, and home was a burden on me.  Many many weekends were spent out there in the valley, taking care of property I hadn't lived on in 20 years.  I hardly had time to sit and visit with my mom as I was racing the setting sun to finish the lawn or whatever else was needed.  I didn't regret it, it was how we did things. 

It was a hard situation.  She grew older and living alone was a challenge.  It was never a bargain having limited mobility but she always handled it gracefully.  From my earliest memories my mom needed my assistance with something.  It had been pretty well established in my mindset that she would always need help, though I always watched at a close distance to see where the line was.  All my life I felt there were things I needed to help my mom with.

I never interfered with her independence and I was often times her only advocate when people in our lives suggested strongly that she move away.  Moving away meant leaving her friends and the community she had been so involved in.  

So when I returned to the valley, it never came with much appreciation.

Rory on the suspension bridge that crosses the Snoqualmie River
This last weekend, my older son and I took a ride on my motorcycle and we rode through the valley.  Just for fun.  No burden.  Even at six years of age he knew that we were headed out that way and we wouldn't have a whole day of work ahead of us.  He asked to stop at a park and I had to stop and think where there was one.

We headed along the west part of the valley passing by the old Carnation Farms and into the town of Carnation.  There we stopped at Tolt-MacDonald Park which features a suspension bridge that crosses the river.  I was about my son's age when the bridge was built and I remember what a big deal it was when it opened in the Summer of '76.

Next time I'm out that way I plan to visit with old friends and try to see if there's anything left to appreciate.  I bet there will be.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Real world MPG and the EPA

Ever since I bought my first car back in 1988, my dad educated me on how the MPG works on a new car.  Take whatever number is on the sticker of the car and reduce it until you can imagine yourself disappointed.  That is the actual mileague you are likely to get.

Car manufacturers have been caught in the past fudging numbers on other performance areas of their products.  Hyundai, for example, had apparently advertised better horse power than two of their engines actually produced, and then eventually settled on a class-action lawsuit.

But what happens when the Federal Trade Commission and the EPA are partially responsible for helping a car company deceive its customers?  The example I will use will take us right back to Hyundai (full disclosure:  I have happily owned 3 Hyundai vehicles myself and have never had much of a complaint about any of them).

Hyundai faces a new lawsuit with regard to their claim that the Elantra can actually get 40 miles per gallon.  In about every car review and test drive report from various industry news sources, nobody has achieved the claimed 40mpg.  So what gives?

Hyundai (and other carmakers) are hinging their defense based upon an interpretations of Federal laws concerning advertising (the way they are allowed to lie to you) and how the EPA numbers are calculated (the way they are able to generate false numbers to use in their lies).

It is not a very new concept that someone may introduce fraud to entice you to purchase their product.  Sadly, it's also not new that the methods used to make fraudulent claims is endorsed by the very agencies that should be protecting you.

If government, at any level, has a useful is to protect you from force and fraud.

In these cases, the for-profit car magazines did for the consumer what the government should've done in the first place.  Instead, the agencies that were supposed to protect the consumer allowed corporations to hide inside their complicated rules and methodologies. 

I would like to see the MPG fall under the scrutiny of private companies, using the Underwriters Laboratories model.  Let companies advertise their mileage ratings as they're measured by organizations who only survive by maintaining a bullet proof reputation.  It would be an improvement over the current endorsement of agencies that the public has long since given up trust.

Friday, July 06, 2012

My Brain and You.

It’s been an interesting experience to have people you know want to read your book because, well…they know you.  My first feeling is one of embarrassment really.  It’s hard to explain, but I’ll try because that’s why I blog.

I know quite a few authors.  I have been given books, have had offers to preview, and have bought books by people I know.  Some I have read thoroughly, some I’ve skimmed, and others I just looked at the signed title page.  I’m happy to own them all.

When someone you know wants to read your book they are not thinking “Oh, your ridiculous description of your book sounds very interesting, I want to buy it.” 

What they are saying is “I think it would be interesting to see what kind of crap spins around in that brain of yours.”

It could go pretty wrong too.

Let’s say your next door neighbor is the next Stephen King.  He’s currently writing a book that will be on the best seller’s lists and will be loved by everyone.  Hollywood will buy the rights to it and it will become the scary Summer blockbuster hit that will be the gold standard of scary thriller movies.

He’s not famous yet but he wants you to read it.  You discover that the plot is centered around the main character murdering his next door neighbor.  Your thoughts?

Your thoughts aren’t “Wow, this guy can really craft a thrilling story.  He is bound to break it big.”  Instead, you’re thinking, “Holy Crap! My neighbor is insane…is this the kind of crap that he makes up in his sick little head all day?  I'm moving!"

It’s a matter of perspective.

I make up stories.  It’s what I do.  If you read my book, don’t move away.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Yeah, so my book is for sale.

What you need to know:
  1. You can get it by clicking here. It is $12 plus shipping and handling.
  2. This is a work of fiction. It contains people who are real and imagined but everyone is captured within the world I created in my own mind. Including myself. I've joked that all autobiographies are mainly fiction...I'm just telling you before hand.
  3. It's 100% self-published. All of the layout and design was done put together by me and my wife.
  4. Chances are if you know me, you or someone you know is fictionally represented in this book. You should buy it and find out what happened to you.
  5. I never planned to make much money on it though I wanted to take what it could make and turn it into a donation for the Everett Gospel Mission. Everett is a Navy town just north of Seattle and is the largest city in the county I live in. The Mission is a powerful force for good in the lives of those who are homeless or have addiction issues. I've known many success stories as a result of their ministry.
  6. Mature audiences should read this. I don't mean just grown up either...I mean if your sensibilities are easily offended then just buy a copy and put it on your shelf and then when someone asks about it just say "Yeah, I know the dumbass that wrote it." and then shake your head dismissively.
  7. I won't ask you what you thought of it...but don't think I don't want to know. Tell me anything you want or say nothing. Just know I won't put you in the awkward position of giving me feedback when all you'd really say was "Look man, I couldn't get past chapter 2."
I will report later on the check I'll write to the Everett Gospel Mission in August.

Friday, June 22, 2012

New community, old results

This week I was engaged by an active member of the Self-Publishing community.  I was invited to become active as a contributor to their unique fraternity.  I took him up on it and I took some time this week to meet some new people.

Now first, I must make clear that I'm not much of a reader.  Anyone who has visited my blog knows this.  I read every day but only consume about three fiction books in a calendar year...and with great difficulty.  I wish I could read more, but that's just not my life.

Also, I'm not a literary critic.  I know what I like and I know what I don't like. 

One thing I have found, at least so far, is that many in the Self-Publishing community take themselves really seriously.  Maybe it's not just this community but authors in  general...I don't know.  Either way, just let me warn you that if you seem the least bit sarcastic after meeting the eighth author with a dragon on their book may be treated as an outsider.

So how did my first impressions go?  I think so far they think I'm a jackass.

They had all but written me off (see what I did there?) until I mentioned something that brought me back into their graces:

There's a unicorn in my book.

Friday, June 08, 2012

So the book is done and junk

I'm horrible at self-promotion.  I spent a year and a half writing a book and really only about four people knew it existed, and one of them was my mother who passed away last July.  You can imagine the problem I'm having creating something I want people to read and enjoy but I don't want to bother letting them know it exists.   I only introduced the fact that I had written a book to the public on a blog post a couple of weeks ago.

I posted the cover on my Facebook account and I got plenty of messages and emails about it that ranged from a rather wide spectrum of reactions.  I guess I wanted to take an opportunity to address a few of them since, thankfully, there is some interest in what I wrote.

The book is fiction.  It's not real.  When pressed for a genre, it fit in the realm of Alternative History.  It begins with real people in a real context and then diverges into a story that I made up in my head.  

The book contains adult humor and themes.  I've been asked if it is suitable for young readers and my answer is "No."  It contains naughty behavior and genuine redemption as I understand it.  But you can read it and decide for yourself.

The book is over-the-top in many areas.  It's fiction after all.  Why should it be stuck within the normal confines of reality?  And unlike most fantasy books, I don't try to explain it away with overly convenient world rules.  If I say there is a midget marching band, then there's a midget marching band.  Nuff said.

Where can I get it?  It will be available through me on a very limited basis and on an insane basis.

I concede the book doesn't have wide appeal, and broad appeal was never my intent.  I wrote it over the last year and a half between 10pm and 1am and was having fun with it.  I stayed loose and never worried about my prose or literary flourishes.  I just wrote a story and often laughed to myself.  I had a tough year and I used this as an escape.  Staying up to write kept me from thinking about not sleeping.

I have friends that make things.  They crochet blankets or make birthday cards or scrapbooks.  I write.  This project was meant to be self-published and offered to my friends as a gift...a gift you have to buy...ha ha...but if you buy 40 or 50 of the books, you can sew them together and make a crappy blanket.

Hard work was put into this. Not just the story but all of the supportive photos, cover and artwork that accompanies the fictional story.  There is some production value to this book.  You may not like it, but you won't complain that it lacked effort.  Oh, and if you do complain I'm going to send you outtakes from the backcover photo shoot.  You've been warned.

Can you just borrow a copy from me or do you have to pay for it?  I shouldn't be amazed that I have had this question a few times.  I'm not a library and don't make me lecture you on the tragedy of the commons.  Go for private property!  Own a copy!  Read the next paragraph if you're not convinced.

The proceeds of the book will be matched by me and then will be given to the Everett Gospel Mission.  I'm not making any money on this project, just a tiny tax write-off.  If this still doesn't convince you then let me know and I'll work out something with you.

I will have some books on-hand eventually and I'll do some personal fulfillment in-person or through the mail.  I'll autograph any name you request in the book, including my own.  I have Dave and Steve Show Pins and some extra stuff you may see from the book's cover.  I'll throw in odds and ends as I find them to anyone who gets a book from me.  

Are you in it?  Buy it and find out. Ha!

I will let you know when the release date is. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


When my wife and I were expecting the arrival of our children we spent a lot of time discussing names.  We went through our family tree, in one branch, about four centuries back.  We didn't find much that was helpful.  For my second son, he actually came home from the hospital without a name.  We couldn't agree completely on the perfect name so he had to wait.  It seemed like something we wanted to take seriously.

My six year old son thinks that names are important but not so important that he will take more than a split second to come up with a name.  He has a stuffed dog with two spots on it.   His name?  Spot Spot.  He is growing a pair of Venus Fly Traps which he also named:  Venus and Trap.

I hope this trend changes otherewise, in future years, this blog will proudly show photos of my grandkids, Slimey and Purple Face.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My writing project

I mentioned in a post last November that I have been excited to talk about things I’ve been working on but resisted so I could concentrate on actually finishing my project. 

Just after the hiatus of the Dave and Steve Show and before my mom took ill I had begun working on a side writing project.  It was mostly a creative writing exercise to help me unwind sometime between 10pm and Midnight when I was able to finally sit down and take a break from work, parenting, etc. 

When I was taking care of my mom and then later, the affairs of her estate, this project became a nice diversion from the stress that was all around me.  It wasn’t long before my little side project became a full-fledged book.

So what is it?  Fiction?  Non-fiction?  A coffee table book?

No, it’s uh…Autobiographical fiction.

Most autobiographies are fiction, I’m just telling you it’s all lies before you read it.

In truth, I was on a relatively popular podcast called, Dave and Steve Show which ended about a year and a half ago.  I’m still in touch with a hand full of listeners from that show.  This book chronicles the rise and fall of the show, but it does so from my imagination.  Chances are if you interacted with the show in any way, you are fictitiously included in the book. 

Even though this isn’t my most serious literary effort, don’t think for a minute that I’m not proud of it.  It is action-packed, touching, lascivious, redemptive and contains a foreword written by Bigfoot.  It’s 250 pages of some of the greatest fun-filled moments my brain could invent during the last stressful year or so of my life.

I’m excited to be sharing it with you soon.  Stay tuned.

Monday, May 07, 2012

An Open Letter to Estate Sale shoppers

Dear Estate Sale Shoppers,

It was great having about a thousand of you visiting me this last weekend.  I got to talk with many of you and hear your stories, your wants, and your disappointments.  I pretended to care about whether something went for 7 dollars or 5 dollars.  I tried to treat you all with respect.  

I encountered a few things that warrant some reminders that may be helpful in your future Estate Sale shopping.

  1. My garage is not a local store, it is my home.  When I put up big signs that tell you the sale starts at 9am that doesn't mean you show up at 8am to get an early look while I'm getting my kids breakfast.  I tried to be kind to you but when you got pushy you were getting very close to a line you don't want to cross.  Please wait until I'm ready.
  2. When you say you're unimpressed with the Estate Sale because it doesn't have anything that you want (antique jewelry, antique furniture and rare items) you acted like I failed you somehow.  You acted like I led you to believe that I had all of these items.  You acted like the low-income status that my family has lived in my whole life was some sort of life-long plan to screw you out of an afternoon.  I'm sorry we didn't have any of those things and my parents lived simple and honorable lives, paid their own way, lived debt free, and didn't take a dime of assistance that wasn't given voluntarily. 
  3. Remember that these items have stories.  Sure it's a box of junk, but it was junk that was in the top drawer of dad's table.  It's an exciting treasure to you but it's another step of the long process of saying good-bye for the seller.  Take a second to remember that while you're putting your foot down that the price should be fifty cents less.
  4. If you don't have much money but have a great need for something, say so.  I was glad to almost give away an item that a couple needed for an elderly parent that lived with them.  They didn't come prepared with lots of cash but spoke of how much this item would help the parent have some independence while taking a bath.  I made up my mind that they would leave with this item, money or not.
  5. You and I both know you don't need this stuff.  You and I both know that this stuff is just going home to your house to sit by other piles of stuff.  You have a problem, and for this one weekend, I was your enabler.  Have fun but remember, when you die your kids get to do what I'm doing.
That's about it.  It was great meeting all of you.  Let's hope we never reunite in a garage again.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012


Obviously, I teach my children libertarian principles.  I teach respect for personal property, and the idea that it is wrong to use force or the threat of violence to get your own way.  This isn't a radical concept at all and is probably taught in nearly every home. We're now taking our swing at the learning opportunity proposed by the concept of dignity.

It's hard to put your finger on what dignity is.  It's like an old hat I used to wear.  I wore it so often that most of the time I never knew it was on.  I could only feel anything when the hat was gone.  With dignity, sometimes I have it and I don't know it, but I know what it feels like the minute it's taken away. 

The need to talk about dignity came when my 6 year old made fun of his little brother for taking a dump in his diaper and making the predictable stink.  The toddler was mocked for the indignity of not yet having been toilet trained.  The older brother mastered toilet training completely by age 3 and now cannot remember a time when he didn't use the toilet like a well-trained chimp. 

I explained, to the best of my ability, about dignity but I wasn't really sure if I got the concept across.  I went beyond the "stop it, that's not nice" BS because my kid isn't stupid.  He knew it wasn't nice...that is why he was doing it.  I mean, kids are experts at taking dignity away without really knowing what they've done.  Obviously any respect for dignity has to be modeled by me first if it's going to be meaningful in any way.  That's a whole other blog post.

While out shopping we ran across a man selling copies of Real ChangeReal Change is a homelessness issues newspaper often sold by the homeless themselves.  My first exposure to this type of newspaper was in Chicago.  When offered a copy of Chicago's Streetwise I declined any interest in the newspaper.  The paper's vendor informed me that it was about homelessness and then he asked me "Don't you care about the homeless?"  Outside of the normal "it's a shame" attitude I can tell you that I really didn't. 

This time, I took my son over to the gentleman, introduced myself and bought a copy.  I gave him a little extra and we talked for awhile after introducing my boy to the man.  They shook hands.  He may have been homeless but we looked at each other in the eye and talked, like people.  He felt no shame in what he was doing and he got no "it's a shame" attitude from me.  I know nothing about him and never once did I care if he spent the money on booze or cigarettes or worse. 

It's amazing how much less we care about what people do when they're earning what they have.  I know people who advocate drug testing for people who receive welfare checks, because after all...freeloading is the equivalent of being reprobate.  It's too bad what is missing from almost all non-voluntary assistance is dignity.  That's where the shame is.

At home, we talked a lot about dignity last week.  We will probably need to keep at it awhile.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Claim my bowling ball: An open letter to the Tolt High School Class of 1986

When I graduated from high school years ago, I took with me more than a world class education. I also took with me at least 15 pounds of spherical urethane.

Our class was among the first crop of classes that participated in organized group parties following graduation.  Apparently the fast and loose living of those who graduated in the late 70's and early 80's brought on the need for more safe and sane celebrations. 

For our graduation party we spent the night at a bowling alley and then had breakfast at the Space Needle in Seattle.

We didn't just bowl, we were entertained by a David Lee Roth impersonator and various other distractions.  It was the 80's after all.  I enjoyed spending one last block of quality time with people I had known most of my life. 

Then there was the door prize.  Remember that?  Of course you don't...but I do.  After all, it was my ticket that was called.   Everyone cheered and I remembered walking up to claim my prize:   A bowling ball.

When the party was over the next morning, the school bus dropped off many of us in Duvall.  It was there where I disembarked still wearing the clothes I wore to graduation twelve hours earlier.  I discovered that after waiting about thirty minutes that no one was going to come pick me up and take me home.  I reached into my pocket and got out my cell phone only to discover that I would not have a cell phone for another twelve years.

I learned later that my family was with my sister who had just gone to the hospital with a medical emergency.  Rightly so, picking me up from my graduation party was rather low on their list of priorities.

So, I began walking.

From Main Street in Duvall just about every destination is uphill.  My plan was to mostly walk back roads to my house as I was sure it was some kind of short cut.  I climbed the first of a series of hills crossing 3rd Avenue when I heard a pop sound coming from my feet.  The leather stitching on my right shoe broke free causing the shoe to dangle loosely.   I had worn those dress shoes exactly once before at some other event and one uphill half-mile climb had done them in.  I only had about five or six more miles to go, carrying a bowling ball while walking with a broken shoe…having not slept in over a day.  So far this wasn't a good start to the "freedom" I had been wanting so much after graduation.

I should have just dumped the bowling ball off along side the road, or even better yet...I should have just rolled it down the steep hill from the top of Stella Street and watched with glee as it left a path of devastation.   I didn't dump it though.  I continued to carry it like a well-dressed zombie, dragging one foot the rest of the way.  I hate that bowling ball.

Here is a photo representing how I imagine the ball as it finally came to rest after rolling downhill leaving a path of devastation and mayhem.

For years my mom and dad reminded me that I should get that bowling ball drilled and take it bowling.  I never intended to use it for anything and when I moved out I left it at their house.

Just recently I was cleaning out stuff in a back room at my parent's house and I came across the bowling ball.  It is still undrilled and in the same shape it was in when I hauled it all those miles years ago.

I'm sure I could write volumes on the symbolism.  I could outline the blessing of the prize that was coupled with the burden of responsibility.  The appropriate symbolism is there for sure but those volumes will never be written.  I'm going to get rid of that bowling ball.  How is that for symbolism?

It could easily go in a garage sale but I'm sure through a trick of providence the bowling ball was meant for someone else from the Tolt Class of 1986.

One of you needs to claim it. 

If somehow your life was cheated by not having this bowling ball then email me, reply to this blog or contact me through various social media.  Pass this along as I’m sure I’ve lost touch with dozens over the years. Let me know why the bowling ball should be yours.  If convinced then I'll make sure you get it.

If more than one of you reply then I'll make a judgment, or you can all possibly work out a custody agreement on your own.  I'm no Solomon, so don't expect to get your share in pieces.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Real ideas can change things

Once again my precinct elected delegates exclusively for Ron Paul just as it did four years ago. 

Last time when I was sitting across a living room from conservative Republicans they told me how much Ron Paul scared them.  After all he was for ending wars, legalizing drugs, changing the monetary system, and then it was all followed up by the typical Ad-hominem attack of him being crazy or anti-semite or whatever.

This year I talked to even more conservative Republicans in our pooled caucus meeting of a few hundred Republicans and almost universally they said "I agree with almost everything he says...I just don't think he can win."

And of course he can't. Ron Paul's ideas are far too exotic for a country that is averse to risk.  It took over four years of listening to Ron Paul after he became a national figure for his ideas to simply not be "scary" to other Republicans.  It would take far longer before the nation would see them as mainstream.

But that day is coming.

He had to stand alone for 30 years to have the credibility to deliver a different message.  He had to be consistent to the point of being called crazy to earn the platform to talk about ideas that he believed in.  Unlike most politicians you actually believe that he believes what he's talking about.

I've have several friends who voted for Obama who read Ron Paul's books and articles far more than I do because they know that you can't just dismiss him as a kook.  There seems to be something there right or wrong. 

It's impressed upon me that true conviction and standing up for something is admirable.  I should've known this all along but now I have a real life example.

...for me...back to supporting Gary Johnson.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Sad and Busy

I've been working lately on the slow process of dealing with my mom's belongings.  Most things require cut and dry decisions...throw   Figuring out what needs to be done with the physical items isn't nearly as difficult as sorting out the emotional items.

I went through tax returns that covered the last 25 years.  I saw a financial history of my parents struggle to keep their heads above water.  I saw my own income as a teenager added to theirs to bolster what little we had.  It was a walk through the history of my life that I wasn't prepared for.

I never had to deal with many of these types of things when my dad passed away and now I'm handling items that belonged to both of them.  Emotionally it feels like I've lost them both at the same time.  It sucks.

I will be glad when this is over.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Soda Stream–Frickin Awesome

I love to drink fizzy stuff.  I’d drink my own blood if I could get it sweetened with a healthy amount of infused bubbles.  I don’t drink as much as I used to due to the fact that it’s really not all that good for you, but there are times when I can’t resist.

About a decade ago I saw some exhibitor at a local county fair pushing some sort of device that allowed you to inject Carbon Dioxide into your water, add syrup and then you instantly had some awful tasting soda.  It intrigued me and I wanted to buy it though two things prevented me from buying it.

  1. I was broke.
  2. The whole operation seemed small-time and I knew I’d end up with an obsolete machine without replacement parts or refillable CO2 bottles.

I grew up on all the normal soda pops but found Pepsi to be my favorite.  Since then the formulas for all the major brands have changed enough that none of them really taste all that great.  I celebrated Pepsi Natural only to see it go away and Pepsi Throwback is an improvement over modern formula that is simply awful.  Don’t even get me started on Coke…their problems are legion.

Oh yeah, back to Soda Stream.  Have you seen it? 

Thanks to Christmas it now sits on the counter in my kitchen and I’m able to make all sorts of fizzy stuff.  The Sodastream company manufactures their own syrups which can run from acceptable to uh…interesting but at least are free of corn syrup.

I’ve always wanted to make my own soda syrup and be the soda king of the entire world.  I’m not sure what I’d call my soda but it would be frickin awesome.  It would be so fizzy your mouth and throat would bleed after each sip.  If I had my way you’d be drinking one now while reading this.  Lucky for you my dreams have yet to be realized.

Instead of living my dream I pretend to be a bigtime soda honcho in my kitchen.  It is the beverage equivalent of the Easy Bake Oven.  I’ll be blogging about my delicious lightbulb baked cookies next week.