April 30, 2006

A blog for Randy....

I agreed to write a blog for Randy, one of my favorite readers. He gave me 25 subjects (in five categorical groupings) to choose from, and rather than pick one, I molded all of them into one story. The topics that Randy listed are in red, so you can follow along to see what they were. I've even preserved their original order.

Group 1 (General) 1) My big toe and how it dances.

Fred reclined in the recliner, watching his big toe and how his big toe danced in the air.

"See my big toe! See how it dances!" he said.

"It dances like a cheeseburger," said George.

"You're just hungry."

2) Where to eat a cheeseburger.

"Even so, where's the best place to eat a cheeseburger around here?"

"Nowhere. I'm vegetarian."

"Vegetarians suck," George said. He looked down. "This carpet sucks."

3) Cool facts about carpet and other flooring.

"A dog's ass supposedly leaves no bacteria behind on the carpet."

"I don't believe that for a second."

"I suppose it would be true about other flooring, as well," Fred said. He picked up a book called Technical Manual for Random Things, then dropped it suddenly.

"Ow," he said. "Paper cuts suck."

"I'll tell you what sucks: paper. It should be outlawed."

4) Why I still use paper.

"Still, at least it doesn't radiate you, like computers," said Fred. "That's why I still use paper."

"Damn. Your finger's bleeding, dude."

5) Does it hurt when you type?

"Yeah. That's going to hurt when I type."

He put his finger in his mouth and picked up the book again with his other hand. Leafing through it, he paused to read a random entry.

Group 2 (technical/science) 1) Everything a MySpacer needs to know about HTML, cake, and binder clips.

"A MySpacer need know nothing of HTML, though some rudimentary knowledge of how to post images will expand their 'witty repertoire' when they want to comment on people's profiles. As for cake, any good MySpacer knows that the best knowledge of cake comes from Psmith-Wainscotting's This Week In Cake. MySpacers AND real human beings would be well-served to know that binder clips, especially of the large variety, are quite useful for keeping an open bag of chips as fresh as possible. Simply fold over the top of the bag, and clip the top with the binder clip."

"I hate that book," said George.

Flipping to a new page, Fred continued to read.

2) When time slows down and where.

"Time slows down approximately when and where matter and space begin divorce proceedings. Attorneys are usually brought in to help with negotiations, but in this case, attorneys are not called by that name. In these matters, they are usually referred to as drugs."

Fred turned another page.

3) A brief lesson on septic systems and the Puget Sound.

"How about this, George? Says here that poorly maintained septic systems can actually be responsible for polluting the Puget Sound."

"Bloody environmentalists. They'll get us all killed one of these days. Read about something else, will ya'?"

4) Where does the bread go when you make toast?

"Here's something: Bread undergoes transportation to the toasting realm through the use of toastporters, the red strips of heat residing in all true toasters. While the bread is in the toasting realm, it begins its physical transformation into toast. Sometimes, the toaster doesn't quite have time to-"

"Good grief. Who cares about freakin' toast?!"

5) How to jump.

"Would you rather I read about how to jump?"

"No. Just shut up."

"It sounds quite simple. You might learn something. It'd be like a first kiss, maybe."

Group 3 (nature) 1) The first evergreen tree I ever kissed.

"My first kiss was with a tree."

"Oh. What kind of tree?"

"An evergreen."

"Wow. How was it?"

"Awful. I accidentally ate a lady bug."

2) Lady bugs, aren't they neat?

"Wow. That's pretty neat. Aren't lady bugs neat?"

"Not when you swallow them and they fly back up out of your mouth."

Fred sighed. "Then what happened?"

3) Rows and rows of corn.

"I freaked out. I thought that kissing produced lady bugs and I freaked out, ran out of the forest, through rows and rows of corn, and I wound up tripping over the cat and smashing my face on a rock."

4) How to run over a cat.

"You never can run over a cat when you want to. The trick is to not want to."

"It's a nice day to go for a walk and get something to eat, don't you think?"

"You're just changing the subject because we have to move on to the next topic that Randy suggested."

5) Puffy clouds and their shapes.

"No, it's really a nice day. Look: there are all these nice puffy clouds everywhere. Some of them even have nice shapes. Like those-they look like boobs. And those over there...they look like...boobs."

Fred looked out the window. "Yeah, I'll give you that. Boobs. Everywhere."

"And besides, I'm hungry. I could eat a plastic trash bag."

Group 4 (plastic) 1) Plastic trash bags and why not to eat them.

"Oh, I wouldn't recommend that. If you don't suffocate first, you'll probably die of cancer-which, I guess would not be much different than how most of us will die, anyway. But you shouldn't rush these things."

2) Forks spoons and knives... yea plasticwear!

George eyed a box of plasticwear. "I bet I could eat those."

"Now see here, those are for the picnic."

"Oh yeah. We're late for the picnic!"

3) Bristle blocks!!!!!!!!

"Quite right! How could I have forgotten! Quick, grab the Bristle Blocks for little Timmy!"

"And the music, don't forget the music!"

4) Journey to polycarbonate.

"Journey it is."

"Not that crap! Pick out something better. I'll get the polycarbonate picnic windows!"

"From Journey to polycarbonate. Hmm. Why are we taking polycarbonate windows?"

"Because it's the only way we could work polycarbonate into the story!"

"Oh yeah."

5) Broken CD of terror.

Fred looked through the CD rack. His fingers paused on one labelled: Nonstop Journey Hits. He pulled it out and looked at a post-it note on the outside of the plastic case. The post-it read: "Broken CD of Terror! Only plays the first song, then skips back to the beginning!"

"Perfect," Fred said.

Group 5 (science fiction) 1) Attack of My Favorite Martian.

George and Fred nearly had everything in the car before a Martian appeared before them!

"What's up?" said the Martian.

George wondered that himself, but Fred told him, "It's cool, George. It's my favorite Martian, XvYpRtLq! He likes to attack people, but only with dull stories."

"Oh. Cool," George said dishonestly.

2) Knowing that the center of the solar eclipse ate my sister's car, and how I slept through it.

"Greetings, Earthlings! I just got back from the center of the solar eclipse that ate my sister's car."

"A solar eclipse! How was it?" Fred asked.

"I don't know. I slept through it. It had been a long night previously; I was hanging out where time was slowing down and everything."

3) Only in my dream can I fly (except on Pluto).

George said, "You are not making any sense at all, Martian, but...can you fly? Because that would be cool."

"In my dreams I can fly! Except on Pluto."

"You mean there's something weird about when you dream about being on Pluto?"

"No, I just never sleep on Pluto-it's a total party planet-so I never dream there."

"So, what brings you to Earth, today?" Fred asked.

4) The Blob is coming! The holiest of blobs, and careful swamp monsters!

"If you don't mind my telling you, I am here to announce that the Blob is coming!"

"That great big monster from the movies?!" George asked.

"No, the reincarnation of the Buddha. Humans, he has gained some weight, let me tell you. And look out, swamp monsters, because he is HUNGRY!"

"Shit. So am I," said George. "We gotta' get to this picnic."

5) The dragons lair.

"I'm sorry, George," said the Martian. "You will never get to eat."


"Because you don't have time. There is only one Randy topic left and once it is said-"

"Don't say it!" George screamed.

"Once it is said, the story will be over."

"Quick, to the picnic! I need food!"

Fred and George hopped in the car, sped to the picnic, met their friends there, and ran to the grill, where there was a stack of burgers on a plate.

"Too hot!" George said, trying to pick one up. "I need buns!"

"You need what?" Alice asked. She walked toward them, her hips waving from side to side like the ocean's tide. Or something.

"Uh...I need...buns?"

"Oh baby, you always did flirt well. Remember our first time hanging out together?"

"No. Shut up!"

"We met at Video Palace Harbor Kingdom Mania and stayed until closing, playing that one game, over and over."

"That was a long time ago. And besides, they are open 24 hours."

"Not on Christmas! But don't tell me you don't remember - the name of the game became our mating cry!"

"Who are you again?" George said.

"I still can't make love without crying out, DRAGON'S LAIR! DRAGON'S LAIR!!!!"

April 26, 2006

Roadnotes: Vancouver, B.C.

Yay! The cute girl with the French accent still works at the coffee shop I went to four months ago!


The Vancouver Art Gallery is pretty sweet. And I got to see the rest of Stanley Park that I didn't get to when I visited before. Though the hollow tree is pretty cool, there's no way I could have experienced it like it was in this picture:

Hollow Tree

April 22, 2006









April 19, 2006

The Writing Twilight Zone: The One Word Language

I consider all of my writings works-in-progress. I don't believe it's possible to write something that is perfect, something that cannot be improved upon in some way. However, there are varying degrees away from perfection that one can achieve. If you are very good (better than me), you can be very much relatively close to perfection, whatever that means.

However, what if we simplified the language somewhat.... Would perfection be any easier?

Consider: a language with only one word. Perhaps it is written like this:


Perhaps, given this limitation, we might express the most perfect work of art that can be expressed in that language like this:


It is as perfect as the language allows. Could the work be improved by adapting it to other languages or using images? Probably. But given the limitation of that language, it has the highest percentage of perfection possible.

...though, this could be argued. The work is the most concise way to say the one word that the language makes available, but some would prefer a longer story. Brevity is not always the most masterful technique with which to get a point across (much to my frequent chagrin). Some would prefer the following:


Or even:


Which one is more perfect? Is it brevity or style that counts? Oh, the wily whims and subtleties of perfection!

April 12, 2006

The Best Laid Plans of The Redhead

The Redhead's Plan For Me To Get a Girlfriend:

1. Be friendly around girl I have crush on.
2. Notice when she is having a bad day.
3. Say, "Are you okay?"

Result: She realizes Im a sensitive, kind man and decides she wants me. She gives me anal sex and we live happily ever after.

My Enactment of The Redheads Plan:

1. I am friendly around the girl I have a crush on.
2. I notice she is having a bad day.
3. I say, "Are you okay?"

Result: She says, "What? Yeah. Why?" and has no idea what I am talking about. I find out that she is a lesbian and try to ignore the fact that I get warmer whenever she says my name.

The Good Thing About Starbucks

They've created a consistent coffee drink. If you like the taste, you might be comforted by knowing that you can get that same taste in any Starbucks all over the world. I'll admit: that's pretty tough to do.

Also, their employees get benefits for working 20 hours or more. In Denver, I lost my favorite barista to Starbucks because he simply needed health insurance. I couldn't blame him for signing up.

Sounds great, doesn't it?! A coffee shop where the workers get benefits? Awesome! You might be wondering: how do they do it?! Here's how:

[I was going to insert an image here of a poor, young coffee grower with a cartoon bubble saying, "Welcome to Starbucks! Can I pick your coffee beans today?" but I decided that, ultimately, that's a little cheap - while it may be effective, it is not informative, so I guess I'll have to type some more....]

Starbucks buys coffee from growers that pay workers such minimal wages that the workers can be considered slaves. There was a lot of stink made about how Starbucks was getting more into Fair Trade coffee (a standard set up to make sure that workers got paid a certain amount), but I've found they've only done what was minimally required in order to put out a decent press release here and there. The vast majority of the coffee sold at Starbucks is not at all "Fair Trade coffee," even though spokespeople for Starbucks have claimed that Fair Trade coffee is in line with the "values" of the company.

Now...you can do even worse than going to Starbucks (by buying a can of Folger's coffee, for example), but you can do a whole lot better. Many local coffee retailers do carry Fair Trade coffee. If you are a regular coffee drinker, it is a moral imperative to find out which ones do. If you're stuck on Starbucks, call them and complain: 1.800.235.2883 or send the CEO a fax. If you have any interest in Folger's, all hope may be lost for you, but they have a number as well: 1.800.937.9745.

And now, for my final reason to hate Starbucks - your browser must accept cookies to use their web site (starbucks.com). In other words, just for you to look at their press releases and read information from their own mouth, you have to allow your computer to be less secure. If you don't know how to enable cookies, they'll help you with that! - but only if you're using the world's most unsafe browser.

How To Tell If You Are In A Bad Coffee Shop

1. They have a bunch of mugs, t-shirts and other crap that you can buy.

2. They pipe in corporate music. Evil! Make sure your coffee shop plays actual CDs or mixes from someones mp3 player.

3. It closes before 9pm. Even closing as early as nine is suspect, but places that close at nine can on occasion still be awesome (mind you - just barely). If they close at 4:30pm, that is a dead giveaway that they suck.

4. The employees wear uniforms. This means that their baristas all make the drinks the same exact way which also means that there is no art being put into the beverage. A seriously awesome barista should not have to wear a uniform - they are artists!

5. You have to tell them when you want it in a mug. Some evil places dont even have a mug as an option and others will still put it in a paper cup even if you tell them its for here. They would rather destroy the environment than wash a few dishes. No, a good place will take pride in allowing you to drink your coffee the right way: in a mug.

Coming soon: The good thing about Starbucks (yes, it is about time I got around to trashing them)!

Kirby Puckett: 1960-2006

Update: I just wanted to add this link to a good story about Kirby.

Some of you may know that Kirby Puckett died a couple weeks ago. I was going to have a whole blog series, lasting two weeks or more detailing every good Kirby Puckett story I knew, but I've decided to tone it down a bit and just try to sum it up. This is a pretty self-indulgent blog, so my recommendation is to just skip it, unless you love baseball or you like Kirby Puckett. I already covered how he won his batting title, so that's one story I won't have to torture you with....

I started following Kirby Puckett purely because of these statistics:


How weird is it for a guy to only hit four homeruns in his first two seasons and then suddenly start hitting enough to be among the league leaders? It's plenty weird. He was the first player ever to have a zero AND a thirty homerun season.

That statistical anomaly was what got my attention, but his style of play and his positive attitude was what made me a fan. Minnesota Twins fans have known about him since his Major League debut: he won the fans over with his enthusiastic style of play (and his record-tying four hits in his first game).

Puckett was an exciting player to watch because he liked to swing. He didn't take very many pitches. BaseballLibrary.com describes him as "an unrepentant free swinger who hacked at anything in the same area code as the strike zone." In perhaps his best season, during which he was second in RBI, second in AVG and led the league in hits and doubles, he walked only 23 times. Beat THAT, Barry Bonds!

Unfortunately, Kirby Puckett's career was cut short. In 1995, in the middle of one of his finest seasons, Denny Martinez threw a pitch that broke Puckett's jaw and put him on the disabled list for the rest of that season. During spring training the next year, he discovered that he had glaucoma and was losing vision in one eye. That was why he retired - he could no longer see the ball well. At his retirement announcement he made sure Denny Martinez was there, so that he could tell the world that he was retiring because of glaucoma and not because of the pitch Martinez had thrown last season. Puckett even hugged the pitcher and told him he loved him. Then he told everyone not to be sad. "Kirby Puckett's going to be all right," he said. "Don't worry about me. I'll show up, and I'll have a smile on my face. The only thing I won't have is this uniform on." He did his best to put a positive spin on things.

Even though his career totals were incredibly low for a Hall-of-Famer, he was inducted into the Hall on his first ballot. The voters took into account his positive attitude and his incredible love for the game. When he played, he had fun, smiled a lot and made the fans smile, too. Cleveland Indians manager Charlie Manuel, who coached Puckett in the minors years ago, even says he uses stories about Puckett's "play and attitude" in order to motivate his team (thebaseballpage.com).

And of course, there is Game Six. I can't leave that out. There is a nice synopsis of Kirby Puckett's game here, but the short version is this: the Twins needed to win or else their season was over. The World Series was on the line. Kirby Puckett gathered the team together before the game and told them not to worry. He said, "You guys should jump on my back tonight. I'm going to carry us." And he did. He had a hand in every run the Twins scored and even made a leaping catch in center field that kept the Braves from scoring more. With the score tied at 3, in the bottom of the eleventh inning, he hit a homerun to win the game.

The press made a huge deal out of the fact that he told his teammates he was going to carry them and that he actually did it, but if you knew Kirby Puckett, you knew that he was always doing this sort of thing - not necessarily carrying the team, but saying things that were unabashedly optimistic. And maybe he didn't come through each and every time, but it always seemed like it to me.

Kirby Puckett knew better than anyone that luck could change at any moment, so it was useless to get upset about your circumstances. In 1990, the Twins finished in last place, but one year later they were the first team ever to win the World Series after a last place season. That kind of thing doesn't happen unless you have a lot of optimism on your side.

Now...I wanted to talk about the bad stuff. Well, no, I didn't want to talk about it - just mention that it existed. Since his retirement, there was a messy divorce, nasty allegations, women with very serious accusations against Puckett. Some of his friends have said that not being able to play baseball really hurt him. He gained weight (even MORE weight, that is). I was going to write a little statement about all this, but someone beat me to it and I can't really improve on what they wrote (ottumwacourier.com):

When Kirby the athlete was in a slump, he always seemed to know that things would start to go his way sooner or later.

"I'm zero for my last 14," he'd say. "You know what that means? That means someone's gonna pay."

Kirby the athlete knew that soon, he'd get the opportunity to light up a weak pitching staff with a five-for-five, four-RBI night. Kirby the person hadn't yet gotten that chance.

The press has been fair in talking about these aspects of his life, but in all their summations of the life of Kirby Puckett, they've dropped the best thing about the man. If you would have heard from HIM how he was doing, he would have done his best to tell you that things were going to turn around.

The following facts I couldn't track down quickly, so this is from my memory and bound to be inexact in some way, but who really cares - it's a baseball story and therefore not much different than the "biggest catch" tales that fishermen tell.... Kirby Puckett, some time in 1986 or 1987, was among the leaders in homeruns and batting average until a slump hit him. A MISERABLE slump. Something like 3 for 36 or 4 for 41, maybe. And throughout this slump, Puckett maintained that he was all right, that he would break out any time and some poor pitcher would pay the price. And he was right. He slammed out ten hits in two games, including four homeruns and four doubles, instantly putting him back among the leaders in AVG and HR. Kpow! Just like that, he was back.

At his hall of fame induction ceremony, in 2001, he was blind in one eye but he was still positive:

"Don't feel sorry for yourself if obstacles get in your way. Our great Twins' World Series teams faced odds and we beat 'em. Jackie Robinson faced odds and made this game truly the national game. And I faced odds when glaucoma took the bat out of my hands, but I didn't give in or feel sorry for myself. I've said it before and I'll say it again: It may be cloudy in my right eye, but the sun is shining very brightly in my left eye."

Puckett knew about the ups and the downs and didn't let the downs get to him. And that's what I've gotten from knowing him as a fan.