Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Haiku: Landscape

over the river
in my travels means down and
round lake michigan

"Life is like a landscape. You live in the midst of it
but can describe it only from the vantage point of distance."
—Charles Lindbergh

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holiday Haiku: Options

cracked window, back door
a second-floor balcony
who needs a chimney?

"Santa Claus has the right idea...
visit people only once a year."
—Victor Borge

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Haiku: Freeze

cloud-filled gray sky
eager to spill its load of
rain or snow or both

"Praise out of season, or tactlessly bestowed,
can freeze the heart as much as blame."
—Pearl S. Buck

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Haiku: Meeting Place

families gather
congregate in the kitchen
snacks, cheeses, stir frys

"Where do most people hang out socially at home?
The kitchen. No more maids, no more servants.
Today, most of us live another lifestyle entirely,
in which we're all in it together, and that's the fun.
—David Allen

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Holiday Haiku: Tools

tape, scissors, ribbon
tissue paper and boxes;
or just a gift bag

"The gifts that one receives for giving are so immeasurable
that it is almost an injustice to accept them."
—Rod McKuen

Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday Haiku: Drip

snow melts on rooftops
jagged stalactites of ice
drip drip four-foot drip

"He's Mr. White Christmas, he's Mr. Snow.
He's Mr Icicle, he's Mr. 10-below."
—Snow Miser's men

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday Haiku: Wrapped

am I not a pro
if I wrap gifts with more than
three pieces of tape

"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like
wrapping a present and not giving it."
—William A. Ward

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Haiku: Convenience

tin of chew, Zagnut
7-Eleven Slurpee
last-minute shopping

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands
in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands
at times of challenge and controversy."
—Martin Luther King

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Haiku: Time Off

working overtime
elves long for their vacation
to 'it's a small world'

"A world in which elves exist and magic works
offers greater opportunities to digress and explore."
—Terry Brooks

Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Haiku: Shopping Spree

gift certificates
endless possibilities
(up to twenty bucks)

"In the early days of the Indian Territory,
there were no such things as birth certificates.
You being there was certificate enough."
—Will Rogers

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Holiday Haiku: Santa Comes Early

upset in Motown
with bench-warming quarterbacks
Lions shut down the Pack

"Gentlemen, it is better
to have died as a small boy
than to fumble this football."
—John Heisman

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Holiday Haiku: Digging Out

shovels skidsteers plows
pushing scooping and hauling
winter deposit

"Few things are as democratic as a snowstorm."
—Bern Williams

Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Haiku: Snowfall

night becomes brighter
a blanket of pristine white
reflects the moonlight

"Advice is like snow;
the softer it falls the longer it dwells upon,
and the deeper it sinks into the mind."
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Holiday Haiku: Backup

red passenger van
rows of benches, seats fourteen
Santa's other sleigh?

"Let's be naughty and save Santa the trip."
—Gary Allan

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Holiday Haiku: Baked


a pinch or a cup
too much or not quite enough
amateur baker

"Most hard-boiled people are half-baked."
—Wilson Mizner

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Holiday Haiku: Cold


winter approaches
deeply inhale crisp sharp air
through frozen nose hairs

"Nietzsche claimed that his genius was in his nostrils
and I think that is a very excellent place for it to be."
—Federico Fellini

Monday, December 06, 2010

Holiday Haiku: Clicks


a mouse or touchpad
scurrying over links to
shop in israel

"If you can dream it, you can do it.
Always remember, this whole thing
was started by a mouse."
—Walt Disney

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Holiday Haiku: Timed


lights on a timer
festive mood allowed only
from 4 to midnight

"I'm not saying my wife's a bad cook,
but she uses a smoke alarm as a timer."
—Bob Monkhouse

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Holiday Haiku: Stores, Round 1

stores, round 1

parking overflow
nine hours spent shopping for
my holiday cheer

"If you think the United States has stood still,
who built the largest shopping center in the world?"
—Richard M. Nixon

Friday, December 03, 2010

Holiday Haiku: Decoration


the halls bedecked with
wreaths of cindy, lights of jane
and boughs of holly

"The boughs that bear most hang lowest."
—David Garrick

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Holiday Haiku: Wishes


cliché christmas list:
socks, tie, cash, soap on a rope
oh...and world peace, too

"You can't cross the sea
merely by standing and staring
at the water. Don't let yourself
indulge in vain wishes."
—Rabindranath Tagore

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Holiday Haiku: Take Cover

take cover

thirty-one long days
of bustle, stress, nog, JC
till january

"I begin to think, that a calm is not
desirable in any situation in life.
Man was made for action
and for bustle, too, I believe."
—Abigail Adams

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Finished

Although these daily blogging challenges are exciting and creative and rewarding, they're also exactly what they say they are: challenging.

This blog post fulfills my requirement as a November 2010 NaBloPoMo winner. I've had fun, but I'm glad it's over. For now. But as the quote below says...this one may be finished, but who knows what I'm going to start next? [answer: nobody knows. not even me.]

I'm thankful for...the finish line.

"Every new beginning comes from
some other beginning's end."
—Semisonic, "Closing Time"

— • — • —

In a bit of a departure from my regular format, I'll add something down here below the quote. My nephew, Daniel, took this photo of me during our Thanksgiving feast, to commemorate the passing of the cranberries from counter to table. So I thought I'd share the two photos, 30 years apart. [Note: I didn't spill them this time. I'm older, and more careful. And there's carpeting there now.]

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Web

I'd be excluding a relevant part of my life if I didn't mention during these thirty days the glorious invention that's delivering these words to your eyes.

No, not bifocals.
The Internet!
Web 2.0, to be more specific.
(or whatever version we've upgraded to by now...Web, perhaps.)

I like being a part of Web 2.0...a contributor, a content creator. This blog gives me a space to be poetic or rambly or whiny or (occasionally) funny, it gives me an audience, and other blogs give me access to unbelievably talented writers who may otherwise be custodians or biologists or part-time holiday retail salespeople.

Facebook and Twitter keep me connected to my friends, and allow me to complain about another Lions' loss, or share a photo of a seven-pound squash.

Foursquare and ning and LinkedIn and blippr and YouTube and Plurk and..., the Internet is big.

I'm thankful for being connected.

"Information on the Internet is subject
to the same rules and regulations
as conversation at a bar."
—George Lundberg

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Insulation

After one last relatively mild weekend day, the hatches have been sufficiently battened for the winter looming ahead.

The windows are most likely closed until spring, and the planters and flower pots and deck chairs have been stowed to avoid being buried by the impending snow drifts.

Although we may complain about the cold over the next few months, and don an occasional extra top layer or thicker pair of socks, we can listen to the wind whipping outside and know we have a safe, warm, dry home in which to escape the elements.

— • — • —

My favorite holiday has come and gone, and I've sufficiently and deliciously stuffed myself not once, but three times over this long weekend. In the past year, I've shed quite a few pounds, but during these last few weeks, my progress has taken a recognizably backwards path.

The passing of Thanksgiving is my cue to return to a regular exercise regimen and less gluttonous diet, in preparation for a new year, and a possible Polar Plunge to kick off said year.

— • — • —

I'm thankful for the walls around me, which means I have a place to live, and in my currently expanding stomach, which means that I have food to eat.

"Certainly my life will not ever be as private and discreet,
and perhaps I should even use the word insulated,
as it was before."
—Anita Hill

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Right

I created this blog in August 2006, and for the past four and a half years, have alternately paid great attention or no attention to it.

I've written a biweekly or weekly column in a smalltown newspaper for more than eight next one will be my 400th. I'm also in my sixth season of writing a rather cheesy NFL prediction column, mostly for laughs, and began co-writing a monthly food column in September 2009.

I've attended several writing workshops, and dashed to author events to hear them talk about their process of creating a novel or collection of poems.

I've dabbled in a few lines of poetry myself, and made a half-hearted attempt at completing a novel in a month for the NaNoWriMo challenge (one day I'll finish one). I also occasionally participate in a co-journaling exercise with my favorite writer.

Cap off that list with bookshelves filled with dozens of manuals on the writing craft, and creativity, and grammar and the English language, and writing exercises...and it's easy enough to call myself a writer.

I haven't yet made a living as a full-time writer, and may never be so lucky. But I realized years ago that it's the path for me, whether it earns me five dollars or five hundred thousand dollars.

In Julia Cameron's "The Right to Write," she gives us all permission to be writers, no matter our level of talent. She tells us why we can write, and why we should write.

I am thankful for so many of the rights I am afforded...
...especially, the write one.

"The career of a writer is comparable to that
of a woman of easy virtue. You write first
for pleasure, later for the pleasure of others,
and finally for money."
—Marcel Achard

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Br(e)ak(e)s

Who doesn't love a four-day weekend? (you contrarians out there, put your hands down. you know you do, too.)

I spent much of today thinking it was Saturday. I even caught myself questioning who was hosting Saturday Night Live tonight, when it isn't quite Saturday. While the extended break is always welcomed, it'll be Sunday evening before we blink, so this feeling of three consecutive Saturdays is one worth savoring a couple of times a year.

Not that it was a particularly eventful Sa...I mean...Friday. I didn't join the sleep-deprived masses in the pre-dawn hours, busting down the doors for can't-miss doorbusters. I lazed in bed, I crossed off a few chores on the to-do list, I went to a bar to watch Auburn beat Alabama and show Jessica a bit about the fine art of dart shooting, I'm blogging, and I plan to get lost in a funny movie shortly.

Took my car in to get my brakes fixed, because I found when the pads are completely shot, the metal-on-metal grinding can be tolerated for day, before repairs must be scheduled.

Accomplishy. Sort of.
Lazy. A bit.
Swell. Yep.

I'm thankful for good breaks.
And good brakes.

"People who make no mistakes lack boldness
and the spirit of adventure. They are the brakes
on the wheels of progress."
—Dale Turner

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Left

I love leftovers.
And there is no better day for leftovers than Thanksgiving, and the day after.

My favorite sandwich of the year is a tiny turkey sandwich on a separated twin roll, when The Feast: Part II, occurs on Thanksgiving evening. As we haul out all of the dishes and salads and relishes and sides from The Main Event that occurred several hours earlier, I eagerly anticipate this simple, unassuming sandwich.

One half of a fresh twin roll, extra heavy on the Miracle Whip, a few pieces of juicy white meat, extra heavy on the salt.

Two, maybe three, bites.
Repeated four, maybe five, times.

Use the bread as necessary to mop up the oil & vinegar dressing that escapes from the bean salad across the plate.

A slightly soggier version of heaven.

I'm thankful for an abundance of food and friends and family members, that all may be enjoyed, not only on this, the greatest day of the year, but tomorrow and the next day, and all year round.

So thankful.

"If a fellow isn't thankful for what he's got,
he isn't likely to be thankful for what he's going to get."
—Frank A. Clark

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Slidey

Happy Thanksgiving!

May you not have to eat your cranberries off of the floor.

Tonight, and many nights, I am thankful for lasting holiday memories.

(click here for the story behind this photo.)

"To give thanks in solitude is enough.
Thanksgiving has wings and goes
where it must go. Your prayer knows
much more about it than you do."
—Victor Hugo

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Moonglow

Tonight, as I drove home from work, the moon was hanging very low in the sky, looking ginormous, glowing with a pale golden hue. It looked close enough that if I took the right route and drove just a few more miles, I'd reach the surface...certainly before I ran out of the quarter tank of gas I had left in my car. It was nothing short of...magical.

You probably think I'm being overly dramatical, but...that's what the moon does to me. I don't stare at it only when it's huge or new or full. I stare at it all the time. The moon and Orion, when it's his season to travel our night sky, are my two constants. I may to them.

[I asked Orion if he got any deer this season, and he said he's still chasing them.]

A few years ago, when the moon was bright and high in the sky, I drove a mile out of the town I lived in, and experimented with my new camera until my fingers were frozen, and managed this shot.

I haven't had the same luck in other attempts at capturing the moon, and didn't have time tonight, unfortunately, to run around and find a spot to set up camera and lens and tripod. But I hope to capture an image some night when I see it again as brilliant as it was tonight.

I'm thankful for the moon and the stars, the possibilities of other worlds, and the dream of one day owning lakefront property on the Sea of Tranquility.

"Yeah, we all shine on,
like the moon,
and the stars,
and the sun."
—John Lennon

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Quotable

I'm not the most quotable person you'll meet, but I'm eternally grateful for the millions of people who are.

I love quotes.

I collect them, and copy them, and stick them to my walls or bulletin boards. I include one at the end of almost every blog post I write, and every column, too. Often, a single keyword is the only thing that connects the quote to the column.

Quotes are smart, and funny, and profound, and thoughtful. They can be sarcastic or sincere or sad. Sometimes they're life lessons in thirty words or fewer.

A phrase I use, perhaps too often, when I'm unsure of myself, is, "...don't quote me on this, but..."

But the truth is, I really do want to be quoted, and someday find myself listed among a searchable database of a million quotations.

I'm thankful for so many smart people who say so many smart things.
And some of the dumb ones, too.

"A witty saying proves nothing."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Sleep


(sure, it's cheating. but who isn't thankful for as much sleep as they can get?)

"O sleep, O gentle sleep, nature's soft nurse,
how have I frightened thee, that thou no more
wilt weigh my eye-lids down and
steep my senses in forgetfulness?"
—William Shakespeare

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Luck (Part II)

"Is it fate or random chance, how can I decide?
Are we victims of circumstance when destinies collide?"

I open tonight's discussion (and...I'd love for this to turn into a discussion, because I'm curious to hear how some of you would classify this) with a quote from "Somebody's Out There," by Triumph.

A buddy sent me an e-mail yesterday, calling me out on my recent blog post about luck, arguing that I'd wrongly classified my situation. Here (with his permission) is what he wrote:
"And I have an issue with your blog post from this morning/last night. Luck had nothing to do with you two getting together. That makes it seem like it was completely out of your control. Luck had nothing to do with you infrequently updating your blog. Luck had nothing to do with you and your dorky outings to poetry readings. Luck had nothing to do with you following up on a possibility... luck had nothing to do with anything."
He raises a good point. I ended that blog post by calling myself "one lucky fool," which refers more to whom I was so fortunate to find because of my trip to a poetry reading and my ownership of this blog. [note to all my poet friends who read this blog: the "dorky" term in his comment was aimed directly at me and me alone. I'm sure he thinks other poet/writer types are cool. except me. I'm used to it.]

But what would you call the rather odd series of events that led me to my relationship? Fate? Destiny? Luck? Or simply random day-to-day activities?

I've been called a lucky person in other areas of my life. I play the occasional hand of poker, and have been known to draw the right card at the right time. That's not necessarily luck, because the order of the cards was already pre-determined after the shuffle. But some people are seen as luckier than others. One professional poker player, John Juanda, has the official nickname (and Twitter account) of LuckBoxJuanda. Does that mean that he doesn't also have the skill to play the game? Um, no.

When I'm standing at the dart line and I let go of a dart, I may think that it's doomed from the moment it leaves my fingers, because the shot doesn't feel right. And drops into the triple or the bullseye. Is that luck? I don't know.

I used to play more basketball than I do now, and sometimes I'd throw up a shot that had no chance. And...swish! (or perhaps a bank. oops.)

If I was really lucky, I would have won the lottery by now, right? Because it takes so much luck to hit every number, and cash in those millions. Or...does it?

It's a valid question. I feel extremely lucky and fortunate to have found the incredible person I get to spend my life with, but was the process of finding her lucky? Probably not. It was Doing what I do. Going to a free local poetry reading. Writing a blog entry. And (I love his last line) following up on a possibility. Because it felt right.

Tongue in cheek, he adds an exclamation point to his e-mail by closing with:
"Now as for why I don't have anybody writing blog posts like that for me? I'm just unlucky."
I'm thankful for any luck and fate and destiny and random positivity in my life, whether created by me or thrust upon me.

"I find that the harder I work,
the more luck I seem to have."
—Thomas Jefferson

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Drugs

Nooo...not those kinds of drugs.

Think Sudafed. Think Advil. Think...children's orange-flavored chewable aspirin.

I'm headed in the direction of a cold, I fear. My first one since last November, so I shouldn't complain so much that another one may or may not be coming.

I don't take a lot of cold medications or ibuprofen, but I know they help. Or at least...sometimes they make me believe they're helping. Which can be better than nothing. Last night I went to the store and came home with orange juice (not a drug, just a half gallon carton of deliciousness!), Comtrex (they were out of Sudafed) and lemon-lime Airborne (they were out of orange). If all of these things combined keep my cold at bay until after (did you hear that, illness gods?!?) Thanksgiving next week, then it can run me over like a bulldozer for a week, and I won't complain. Much.

I'm thankful for the sneezes and coughs and aches and fevers and chills that will kindly wait until my favorite day of the year has passed before they latch onto me and make me miserable. And I'm thankful for the drugs (except for the children's aspirin, which I haven't taken in decades) that are going to put up the good fight against these evil demons.

"Drugs are a bet
with your mind."
—Jim Morrison

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Luck

Some might call tonight's post cheating.
I can live with that.
(although this one definitely has more substance than a week ago when I opened my blog, shouted out the word, "haircuts!" and closed it back up.)

Some might call this post schmoopy.
Don't care much about that, either.

In a month of finding things to be thankful for, this topic was bound to come up. And it might be addressed once again before November's end, should I choose to visit it from a slightly different point of view.

But here's a story...
No. Here' story.
In someone else's words.

Tonight, and every night for the past year and a half,
I'm so thankful for being one...lucky...fool.

"People often remark that I'm pretty lucky.
Luck is only important in so far as
getting the chance to sell yourself at the
right moment. After that you've got to
have talent and know how to use it."
—Frank Sinatra

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Clack

Am I the only one who's more than slightly obsessed with the frenetic clackety-clack of keyboard keys? It rates very high on my list of favorite sounds.

Not a brief cluster of a couple dozen clacks, interrupted by a mouse click or two. That sounds more like a Facebook update, or a tweet.

But a continuous run of hundreds of clicks and clacks all mashed together in a row. The heavier, clunky clacks of an older keyboard, or the light, fragile clicks of a new clipboard-thin Mac keyboard, or the softened plastic clacks of a laptop keyboard. I love them all. Music to my ears.

I'm thankful for the melodious soundtrack of fingers dancing across a keyboard, evidence that something is being created. A Stephen King horror story, a Grisham thriller, a Jennifer Crusie romance, a Bryson laugh.

A column.
Or a short blog post.


"We've heard that a million monkeys at a keyboard
could produce the complete works of Shakespeare;
now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true."
—Robert Wilensky

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Juked

Tonight I'm thankful for Internet jukeboxes at bars, because they put like a bazillion songs right at your fingertips. You can find anything on those contraptions!

Except...well, except when you try to type in David & David, but can't find the ampersand key, so instead you opt to type in, "Welcome to the Boomtown," but it doesn't even recognize it as a song!

So you move in a different direction, and play a song by The Call that you haven't heard in years.

I'm thankful for access to so much music, in so many formats.
And I'm thankful for ampersands.

"Here's to the wisdom
from the mouths of babes."
"Let The Day Begin," The Call

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Books

I received a brochure from the Quality Paperback Book Club a couple of weeks ago, after they'd been absent from my mailbox for the last few years.

I've been a member many times...joining, fulfilling my obligation, and then canceling until they'd send me a note, begging me to rejoin. Lather, rinse, repeat with the Book-of-the-Month Club, as well. I can't resist books for a buck. Or a quarter.

Looking around at our overflowing library of books, I chuckle when I catch myself spending too much time paging through the current selections in the QPB brochure, or browsing online for even more titles. We do not...need...more books.

But that won't stop me from joining for yet another time, because if I can get the 2011 Writer's Market for one thin dollar...then everything else in our order will be gravy.

We have books in every room of our house, piled on shelves, stacked on our nightstands. And yes, we have books in the bathroom. (If you don't, you're missing out on some quality reading time!)

I would be most grateful for an extra day in each week to spend more time reading these books...but finding great bargains and obscure titles and interesting topics, is almost as much fun. Almost.

I'm thankful for books. So...many...books.

"The advice of the elders to young men
is very apt to be as unreal as a list of
the hundred best books."
—Oliver Wendell Holmes

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Employed

While it's easy to be thankful for weekends when you're in the middle of one, or impatiently waiting for one to arrive, it wouldn't be so simple if there were no real distinction between weekdays and the weekend.

Sunday nights, and the impending Monday mornings, rate highly on my list of things I'd rather do away with. (along with all of the vampire hype.)

But dreading Monday mornings means I have a job. And although it's one that I may grumble about from time to time, it's also one in which I'm safe from being down-sized, and one in which I know in my own mind that I'm a valuable, productive member of a team.

I'm thankful to be employed through so much economic uncertainty.

"They are not only idle who do nothing,
but they are idle also who might 
be better employed."

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Weekends

This probably goes without saying (kind of like the day I was thankful for cheese, because...seriously...who's not thankful for cheese?!?), but I love weekends.

Whether you love your job or hate your job or are indifferent toward your job, a break from your job is rarely a bad thing. Forty-eight hours to concentrate on something else. Or...nothing else.

Those who don't have a traditional Saturday/Sunday weekend get their break on Tuesday/Wednesday, or Wednesday/Thursday. But it's the same break. Others...freelancers, for instance...may not have a weekend that's as well-defined as some, but they're still able to carve out hours in their week unrelated to the work they're doing.

Several times throughout the year, by choice or by holiday, we get a three-day weekend, and wonder why a presidential candidate hasn't included that in his or her campaign platform: three day weekends every week!

They'd get my vote.

I'm thankful for weekends.

"If all the cars in the United States
were placed end to end,
it would probably be Labor Day weekend."
—Doug Larson

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Sip

Earlier today I took an informal poll asking whether people prefer coffee or tea.

While I've learned to drink coffee in the past few years, I can't, and don't think I ever will, call myself a coffee drinker.

But I love tea. Iced tea, hot tea...many teas. In recent months I've discovered the deliciousness of loose leaf tea, and stores like Fava Tea Company that provide endless varieties to choose from.

Other beverages on my favorites list include too much Diet Pepsi, wines, juices, Gatorades, VitaminWaters, milks of the chocolate variety......get the idea? I'm slightly obsessed with liquids.

Topping that list, though, has to be water. The human body is already made up of so much of it, and I just keep pouring more in. Eight glasses of water a day? about more like eightteen? (perhaps.) Water is the perfect drink.

I'm thankful for having dozens (hundreds?) of beverage choices.

And being from Wisconsin, I bet you can guess which one I'm second-most thankful for! (of course I didn't leave it out of this post until now by accident.)

"I come from a family where
gravy is considered a beverage."
—Erma Bombeck

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Crowds

I spend a lot of time in crowds.

Not like shopping mall crowds. No thank you.

But concert crowds. Author event crowds. The occasional sporting event crowd.

I'm more than willing to travel, sometimes long distances at very odd hours of the day and night, for the chance to see a favorite music group or writer or speaker or celebrity.

Last night we drove down to UW-Milwaukee to hear Michael Pollan talk about food. He is, without a doubt, more of a foodie than I ever plan to be, but he was smart, engaging, funny, entertaining...and I learned something. I also had a blast people watching and seeing others' reactions, and enjoyed hearing what they asked him in the Q&A session at the end.

I've attended quite a few concerts. Not as many as my buddy, Scott, who claims to have a shoe box filled with hundreds of ticket stubs from over the years. (not that I'm jealous. ok, I am.)

Twice I've had the good fortune to see the best golfers in the world play in one of the sport's four majors. It's kind of a rush to see Tiger and Phil and Ernie and so many others stroll past a few feet away from you.

And I've driven down to Chicago...and back...on a Monday spend an hour with writing guru Natalie Golberg.

So tonight I'm thankful, not for the crowds themselves, but for the vibe I get being among 40,000 close friends at Alpine Valley, or even 300 at the Majestic in Madison, who are all singing or jamming or getting drunk to the same great live tunes I am. And for the awe I feel sitting 20 feet from Dave Barry, listening to him talk as funny as he writes.

And I'm thankful for the adrenaline rush that carries me home...and stays with me, sometimes for weeks.

"It's just trying every day to do the best you can
and to enjoy what you have with the mixture
of the venue and the sound and the crowd."
—Keren Ann

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Aim

Tonight I have a little bit of time between getting home from work and going out to shoot darts.

I'm in a dart league.

I've been in one, on the same team, for about 16 or 17 years. And for the majority of those years, I've been a good shooter...better than many. It probably took me the first couple of years to find my groove and learn the mental part of the game, and my skills have declined in the past three or four years.

But for much of the time in the middle, I had a shooter's touch. We used to shoot in more leagues than we do now, and travel to tournaments on weekends. Darts was a big enough part of my life that it was the inspiration for the title of this blog.

I don't take it as seriously anymore, but I'm still pretty sharp. I even had a shot a couple of weeks ago at that elusive Ton-Fifty-ONE to complete a perfect game. I nailed my first five bullseyes, but sent my sixth dart a few holes wide of the triple-17, failing to shoot a perfect game. (maybe I'll get one tonight!)

I realize that in the grand scheme of things, a game of darts isn't much. But it feels good to be really good at something. If I were as good of a writer as I am a dart shooter, I'd be published by now. Well...technically, I am published. But I mean really really published. (should I add one more really for effect?)

Tonight, I'm thankful for the hand-eye coordination and the luck/skill I've built over the years at this game, even a stupid, meaningless bar game. It's given me a great group of friends to hang with, it's given me a diversion to break up the grind of the work week, it's given me at least one thing at which I am, or have been, rather close to exceptional. And it's given me a blog title!

I'll be even more thankful if I shoot well tonight, and live up to the title of my blog.

"This discourse, and the present frame of my mind,
lead me rather to speak to those, who by feeling
Satan's fiery darts, know assuredly that there is a devil."
—George Whitefield

Monday, November 08, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Fooood!

I'm surprised that it took me eight days to be thankful for food. I could very easily use it as an every-other-day blog topic, and write for months!

I love food.

I used to love fast food. But after too many trips through too many drive-thrus, I slowly realized I had to find other foods to love.

Over the past couple of years, I've been introduced to the foodie lifestyle, and while I doubt I'll switch completely from Big Macs to bulgur wheat, I've learned that there's very little I don't like. I have as much fun exploring the menu at a corner greasy spoon as I do at the best Italian or Asian restaurants.

From farmers' market vegetables to beef sticks to sushi to burgers to pastas, I'm thankful for so many delicious food options to choose from, and an adventurous appetite to sample menu items I can't even pronounce.

"I just love Chinese food.
My favourite dish is number 27."
—Clement Atlee

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Haiku

Poetical Thanks

an image, painted
in seventeen syllables
tiny life snapshot

"Every week it's another opportunity to really make that work
and figure out how to make it work better. And I love that it's
like theater, too, and the audience, and it's so short.
It's only 20 minutes. It's like a haiku or something."
—Joan Cusack

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Time

Tonight we set our clocks back and gain an hour.

People talk about the time change, and remind others to set their clocks, and discuss how they plan to use the extra hour. It becomes a hot topic, one that I may turn into a column next week. It's even trending on Twitter as I write this.

In the spring, it's the same process, but the conversation is different: complaints about how losing the hour screwed up everyone's system, and how they don't adjust back to normal for like, I dunno, eight months, or something. (I never understood how losing one...simple...hour could put a person's world on tilt for three or four days.)

As we enter into holiday season, our time becomes more overloaded with things to do, and we may lose sight of what the holidays really mean to us.

Thanksgiving isn't about the turkey or the cranberries or the peas & carrots or the dressing. (OK, maybe it's a little bit about the dressing. And a little bit about the Lions game on TV.) And Christmas isn't about elbowing your way through crowded shopping malls or stringing more lights on your house than the neighbor has, or wrapping each gift using only three pieces of tape.

All of the holidays over the next couple of months...whichever ones you may celebrate...are more about the time you spend with those who are most important to you, making memories, laughing, throwing dinner rolls (and the occasional deviled egg) from one end of the table to the other, or trying to determine just how many different disgusting spices can be added to a malt beverage called, "Christmas Brew."

Tonight I am thankful for the extra hour I get to spend diving into Dan Brown's new book, "The Lost Symbol," and the time I will spend during this holiday stretch (that, quite frankly, makes me rather anti-festive before it's all over) with the people I love.

"Happiness is the only good.
The time to be happy is now.
The place to be happy is here.
The way to be happy is to make others so."
—Robert Green Ingersoll

Friday, November 05, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Ha!

Steve Martin was on David Letterman tonight.

I know this not because I regularly check Dave's guest list, but because Steve Martin has a Twitter account.

When I first stumbled upon Steve's Twitter, I kinda dorked out, because...well, because Steve's hilarious. And I enjoy having as many hilarious people around me as will fit, in person or via any number of various media.

After following Steve's tweets for several days, I half-jokingly tweeted that all I wanted for Christmas, my birthday and all holidays in between was to have Steve Martin reply to one of my tweets.

And then...within a couple of hours of that tweet, I received a direct message. From Steve Martin. It said, "Can't. Too busy."

Simple. Brilliant. Perfect.

He's had a permanent seat on my top tier of favorites for years, along with Dave Barry, Bill Bryson, Ellen DeGeneres, Al Franken, Tina Fey, Mitch Hedberg, Garrison Keillor...and others I'm sure I'm omitting. Michael Perry is a newcomer to this ever-changing list.

I also have the good fortune to hang around with some ridiculously funny friends, old friends, and those who are soon-to-be-new friends.

I am thankful for the funny.

"A day without sunshine is like, you know, night."
—Steve Martin

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Word(s)

I love words.

For as long as I can remember...I've loved words. If the story is accurate, I've been reading since I was 4 years old. (I don't remember much from that long ago, so you'll have to ask those who were in charge back then, because I was just, you know...4.)

After high school, I started on the path toward being an accountant (following in someone else's footsteps), but soon realized that wasn't for me. So I set out on a different path, in the direction of journalism. Along the way, I encountered immovable boulders, downed tree limbs, and a mountain lion. It was not an easy path, for a number of reasons.

But even with those obstacles, I knew that eventually my path would contain words instead of numbers, cells or binary code.

Not that wordsmiths are better than accountants or biologists or computer geeks. In fact, I know people in all of these fields who are also better with words than 85 percent of the population, including me. And these people suck.

I kid the multi-talented.

I can't imagine a life without books to read, or notebooks to fill with thoughts, or a column to write, or a blog to ignore.

I'm thankful for my love of words.

"Actually, if a writer needs a dictionary, he should not write.
He should have read the dictionary at least three times from
beginning to end and then loaned it to someone who needs it. There are
only certain words which are valid and similes (bring me my dictionary)
are like defective ammunition (the lowest thing I can think of at this time).
—Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Moo

Tonight, I'm thankful for cheese.

Bigger picture, I'm thankful for cheese every day. Because in Wisconsin, we make cheese really gouda.
(if you didn't see that coming, then you don't know me very well. or cheese.)

I'm also thankful for blog posts that don't always have to be seven or eight or fourteen paragraphs long.

About 20 minutes away from where I live is a small, unassuming cheese shop out in the middle of nowhere called Pine River Dairy that makes some of the best...cheese...anywhere. And has a selection of more than 250 varieties.

Thanks for keeping me stocked with samples.

"My whole family is lactose intolerant and when
we take pictures we can't say cheese."
—Jay London 

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Voice

It seems fitting that on Election Day, I should write something about politics.

But this is supposed to be a post about being thankful, and I haven't seen much in the last few hours to be thankful for.


Perhaps I can tackle it this way:

I spend quality time with people who are very important in my life, who generally see things the way I see them. Political, social, fiscal, recreational, spiritual...and many other -als that you can think of. We're more or less on the same page.

I also spend much quality time with people who are very important in my life, who couldn't have more opposing viewpoints to mine if you lined them up on a protractor and measured out exactly one hundred and eighty degrees. Not only are we not on the same page, but if one of us is in a Tolstoy novel, the other is in a Rachael Ray cookbook. [Note: I will not use this space to determine which is whom or whom is which. Or...whatever.]

I'm thankful that, in both instances above, we can have open, honest discussions about a wide range of topics in a variety of settings...around a campfire or kitchen table or on a bar stool...and after a sometimes heated debate, agree to disagree and still have a beer together, or play bocce ball. (Or, ideally...have a beer while playing bocce ball!)

My favorite Dr. Seuss quote applies here: "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."

Those who matter accept you, warts and all. And they can entertain your ideas without necessarily agreeing with them, or even vehemently opposing them. And they'll still matter.

I'm thankful for those who matter, and allow me to say what I feel.

"Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask,
'Where have I gone wrong?' Then a voice says to me,
'This is going to take more than one night.'"
—Charlie Brown

Monday, November 01, 2010

Thirty Days of Thanks: Audience

The first year I participated in NaBloPoMo—2007—several bloggers used their daily posts to list one thing they were thankful for. When the blogging challenge began, it ran concurrently with the novel-writing challenge NaNoWriMo, in November, so it was a fitting theme.

Since then, NaBloPoMo has expanded to every month of the year, but November still feels like home. After a successful month of daily blogging in September, I've basically ignored this space during October, so I thought another month of the dailies would give me a kick in the pants...again.

In November, complete with my favorite holiday only a few weeks away, I'll choose 30 things for which I'm thankful. Shouldn't be difficult, because there are probably about thirty thousand around me that I can give thanks for. And I'm not talking only about my CD collection.

A logical place to begin is with you, my readers.

I'm not much of a stats watcher, but I receive weekly e-mail updates on blog traffic, and it's evident that when I pay attention to my blog, you pay attention to my blog. (I'm stating the obvious, aren't I?)

I know I have a handful of regular readers—most of whom are directly related to me—but there must also be some of you out there who may have accidentally stumbled onto this page, and next time stumbled on purpose.

It still kind of blows me away that, whether from this blog or the weekly newspaper column I write, I actually have...readers! An audience. People who take the time out of their day to read some words I may have clumsily strung together.

And for that, I'm grateful, and thankful.
And a little confused.

"The writer does the most good who gives his reader
the most knowledge and takes from him the least time."
—Sydney Smith

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

My, My, My

Heard a song the other day that stuck with me.

Colin Hay, former front man for Men at Work, has released several solo albums since the band's heyday in the 1980s, but I hadn't heard much from him on the radio.

He's made tour stops at the Majestic Theater in Madison (a killer place to see a show with about 300 of your best friends), and I've considered going to hear him play the old Men at Work songs.

But now I'd be more interested to hear his solo stuff. A couple songs off of his "Going Somewhere" release are pretty good, including "Waiting for My Real Life to Begin," and the one below, "Beautiful World."

I recently posted a song by the Soweto Gospel Choir on this blog, as a remedy for Mondays. Or...any days, for that matter. I think this Colin Hay song falls into the same category.

Simple. Effective.

"I watch the sun as it comes up,
I watch it as it sets.
Yeah this is as good as it gets."
—Colin Hay, "Beautiful World"

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Please Merge...Merge!...Merrrge!!


I turned and saw the semi truck plucking off the orange construction barrels we’d just put out to close the right lane on the interstate highway.

The signage and lighted arrow board directing traffic to merge into one lane are effective only if the drivers are awake, and the alarm for this driver was each *pock* that must have shaken him awake as he clipped the barrels, one of them lodging under the truck’s bumper.

“Better make a dash for the ditch!” I thought, as the semi slowly, finally, began to shift into the left lane.

— • — • —

My entry in the 100 Words Challenge, with the prompt, "ditch."

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Not So Much a Dolphin, As a Carp

I remember when I had gills.

Not, like, literally.
If I actually had gills, I'd be in a museum somewhere.

I grew up across the street from a public swimming pool, and spent many hours of many summers swimming, diving, and generally trying to impersonate the Man from Atlantis. (bonus points if you can name the star of that show without looking it up.)

After several levels of swimming lessons, I'd had enough training to work as a pseudo-lifeguard, and spent a few hours (very few) in the chair one summer. If I would've been more serious about it and taken a few Red Cross classes, I could have bought a tube of zinc oxide and a whistle and tried out for a role on Baywatch.

Point being, I've been comfortable around water for more than 75 percent of my life. However, I haven't swum since...well, since before Baywatch went off the air.

Sure, I've splashed around a little, dove into a couple of Great Lakes, partied by an inland lake and become an official Polar Bear. But I haven't really swum.

My new gym has a pool.
Which is a ginormous reason I switched.

Tonight I was reminded that swimming lessons and lifeguard-ish training and summers spent living underwater occurred years...nay, decades...ago.

I still love the water. But I no longer have gills. I still have a decent freestyle stroke, but can't sustain it nearly as long as I once could. And I used to be able to swim two full lengths of a standard swimming pool underwater. (is that 100 feet? I think so...not sure.) Next time I attempt an underwater swim, I'll be thrilled if I make one length.

If I try for two, I may never return to this blog. (unless the Baywatch babes rescue me in time.)

I realize one's early 40s are perhaps slightly different than one's teens, but I'm (slowly) working my way back into shape (take about 50 pounds off of those Polar Bear photos, thankyouverymuch).

I have no desire at my age to become a lifeguard...

...but it'll be much more manageable battling the winter blahs with laps in a swimming pool.

"Only when the tide goes out do you
discover who's been swimming naked."
—Warren Buffett

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New Perspective

My surroundings have changed.

Tonight I moved my writing station from a long-term temporary location (aka the dining table with a view of the driveway...and the television), to a more semi-permanent (if you will) space-saving desk, with a view of trees out of one window, and the street going past my house out of another.

I'm writing this at my new ladder desk, named such because it has basically two stilts going up the sides for legs, a flat workspace for my laptop, and two small shelves above, which are currently empty. If it were a bit more sturdy, I might be able to climb each "rung," and escape from this last-minute blog post.

It's fun to change the scenery once in a while, and people like to show off their work spaces. When mine becomes more organized with favorite creativity tchotchkes, I'll post a photo. We may spend a good chunk of our weekend shifting desks and categorizing our substantial library of books. (seriously. it's gonna be a hoot. I promise.)

And after this daily blogging exercise ends tomorrow, I shall return to this new space with the hopes that my writing takes...a step up.

(ouch. that one even hurt to write. I can imagine how it was to read.)

"First, I do not sit down at my desk to put into verse
something that is already clear in my mind. If it were
clear in my mind, I should have no incentive or need
to write about it. We do not write in order to be
understood. We write in order to understand."
—Robert Cecil Day-Lewis

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

High-Class Words

high-class words

blue-collar writers
have rights to white-collar words
like declivitous

"Reporters used to be blue-collar;
at the Globe now, it's practically
required that you have a trust fund."
—Howie Carr

This haiku inspired by Michael Perry,
a blue-collar writer who uses all
of the right blue- and white-collar words.

Monday, September 27, 2010

As American As Apple Pie...and Haiku

Recently, I was introduced to a new poetic form called American Sentences, which are haiku-length poems created by Allen Ginsberg.

Instead of seventeen syllables spaced out over three lines, American Sentences are simply that...sentences. Ginsberg chose to distinguish from the vertical Japanese text by instead going across, linear.

Unlike an authentic haiku, American Sentences do not require a seasonal reference, but are mere snapshots of a moment. Although...many of the haiku I've written don't qualify as authentic, as I don't always focus on nature or the seasons.

The creator of the American Sentences website wrote one sentence every day for several years, prompting me to consider launching a 100 American Sentences in 100 Days campaign in the near future.

But for tonight, a couple of examples:

Tapping the keyboard so close to midnight leads to next-day crankiness.

The brown carpet stripes don't compare to the Atlantic City boardwalk.

"Poetry is the one place where people
can speak their original human mind.
It is the outlet for people to say in public
what is known in private."
—Allen Ginsberg

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I'm Gonna Let It Shine

I love gospel music.

Grin if you will, stop reading if you must, but...
...I love it.

I've written about it here before, but continue to return to the topic because some days are simply gospel music days. Doesn't matter if you believe what they're singing or to whom they're singing it. The voices, the rhythms, the enthusiasm, the soul with which the songs are sung...all make for an infectious, uplifting style of music.

I've seen a gospel group from Milwaukee come up and rock a small church in Reedsville, and I've driven down to Summerfest for an afternoon of gospel music.

I've also seen the Grammy-winning Soweto Gospel Choir a couple of years ago in Appleton, which I wrote more about after the concert.

Not sure what put me in a Soweto mood today...perhaps the quickly approaching Monday. If you need a boost to propel yourself through the start of your week, might I suggest clicking on the video below?

"Rock 'n' roll came from the slaves singing gospel in the fields.
Their lives were hell and they used music to lift out of it,
to take them away. That's what rock 'n' roll should do—
take you to a better place."
—Meat Loaf

Saturday, September 25, 2010

You Do The Math

Simple math tells us that if A is greater than B, and B is greater than C, then A is greater than C.

One could use foods as the variables: if pizza is greater than pot pie, which is greater than cabbage, then always order carry-out before making kimchi.

Or sports teams. [Note: the Detroit Lions are always...always...the C in this equation.]

This math does not, however, apply to people.

I am not greater than you, and we are not greater than them, and they are not greater than us.

We are all...equal.
The simplest math of all.

— • — • —

My entry in the 100 Words Challenge, with the prompt, "greater."

Friday, September 24, 2010



is it too meta
wasting lines whining about
counting syllables

"Well we really meant you to visit Paris in May,
but the rhythm required two syllables."
—Vernon Duke

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Small Town, Big Laughs

Did I tell you we saw Michael Perry last month?

(Of course I didn't. I wasn't writing much on here last month.)

We saw Michael Perry last month.

Jessica's a big fan, and has read all of his books, and taught a couple of them in her English classes. I've read parts of one she loaned to me months ago...enough to recognize he's a great storyteller with a diverse background and a killer vocabulary.

If you read his books, you will laugh.
If you see him in person, you will laugh even harder.

In his writing, as well as in person, he always has the right word. His stories are tight, descriptive, heart-warming, and funny as hell.

He spoke at Stage North in Washburn, Wisconsin, and we bought tickets online the day of the show, a spur-of-the-moment decision during our late-summer getaway to Bayfield and the shores of Lake Superior.

We planned our day's activities and the drive down to Washburn with time to spare, hoping to secure a third- or fourth-row seat and optimal vantage point.

Turns out Stage North holds only about 130 people, so while we did, in fact, get our third-row seating, there were only eight rows total. How we found tickets the day of the event is still a mystery to me, after the night we were treated to.

Perry walked on stage in a T-shirt, jeans, and work boots, with a few pages of leader notes taped to the floor at his feet from which to jog his memory, and told stories for an hour before taking a break, and then came back 15 minutes later for another 45. Nearly two hours of "The Clodhopper Monologues," as they were titled, described as "country standup."

He talked about life on a farm in a very small Wisconsin town (and whether the word is pronounced "manoo-er" or "ma-nerr"), his job as a volunteer firefighter and registered nurse, his writing process and ties to New York City, involving agents, editors and publishers.

Aside from his three books, he's written for The New York Times Magazine, Esquire,, Men's Health and others. While he may have some big-time connections, he remains genuinely and sincerely small-town.

But always, always...big-time funny.

I'm reading "Population: 485" right now. Give it a read. And if you find one of his speaking engagements within 100 miles...


"And for the love of Pete, don't moo at the cows.
This is the habit of outsiders."
—Michael Perry

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Harvest Moon

Tonight, we were supposed to watch the Super Harvest Moon rise, but heavy cloud cover prevented the gigantic orange moon from appearing, and instead all we saw were sporadic hazy glimpses of a smallish white moon.


So we celebrated the beginning of autumn with candy corn.

Now here's some Neil Young...

"And Fall, with her yeller harvest moon
and the hills growin' brown and golden
under a sinkin' sun."
—Roy Bean

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Inspiration, Art, and Grilled Cheese

I spend time...sometimes much of my time...searching for inspiration.

Writing inspiration.
Life inspiration.
Inspiration to become inspired to find writing and life inspiration.

I find it in the wheelbarrows of writing books I own.

Or listening to a published author discuss writing process.

Or the moon. And the stars. And the sun.

Or a good grilled cheese sandwich.

I find inspiration in the quotes I post at the bottom of these blog entries. Sometimes, that's my favorite part of blogging, and writing my column, is searching for a quote that ties in, however tangentially, with what I've written.

Tonight I opened the book, Page After Page, by Heather Sellers, and found a little inspiration. Or at least encouragement that I may actually be what I sometimes don't believe I am: an artist.

Sellers writes, "The qualities that make me an artist are the ability to obsess on minutiae and the ability to feel intensely. These qualities also make me prone to being swamped by a mood and getting sidetracked by obsessive worrying."

She continues, "When an artist has a mood, it's always a Big Deal. This is how the work gets done. This is also how the work doesn't get done."

Those paragraphs clinch it: I'm an artist!

Don't have to hand me a paintbrush or stick of charcoal to prove it.
Or even a pen or a keyboard.

Just give me something to obsess over.
Then I'm more artistic than Pablo Picasso.

"We should be taught not to wait for inspiration
to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration.
Inspiration seldom generates action."
—Frank Tibolt

Monday, September 20, 2010

In The Spotlight

In The Spotlight

golden orange orb
propped low in the evening sky
a backlit drive home

"Nobody of any real culture, for instance, talks nowadays
about the beauty of sunset. Sunsets are quite old fashioned.
To admire them is a distinct sign of provincialism
of temperament. Upon the other hand they go on."
—Oscar Wilde

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Just Sit Down and Write!...Anywhere.

And platform.

As long as I've been a blogger, I've often paid more attention to one of the above than the other. (I'll let you click through my blog to determine which.)

I search through Blogger, Wordpress, Tumblr. I play around with templates, sidebars, colors, gadgets, widgets.

And then I wonder why I'm up until 3am, and my blog still hasn't been updated.

That tends to be my M.O. when it comes to any type of writing. I'd rather read books about writing or compare books about writing or browse writing forums or discuss writing than know...write. These other activities make me feel like I'm committing to the craft, but they don't fill notebooks or Word docs, do they?

Same with blogging. Dozens of times, I've considered switching to Wordpress, but have become frustrated when trying to set up some of its more advanced features. After reading a couple of articles about how hip and cool Tumblr is becoming (perhaps by the founders or stockholders?), I perused that site as well.

While texting with a tech geek buddy of mine, I explained my goals to update the look of this blog, or start a new blog or...

...and he shot back with, "Content is more important than platform."

I hate it when he's so correct. And so succinct.

The exercise of this month is bringing content back to this blog. Perhaps sooner than later, some of it may actually be good content.

And maybe someday it'll move to Wordpress.

But for now...content.

"The Republicans have a me too candidate
running on a yes but platform,
advised by a has been staff."
—Adlai Stevenson

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Nature Makes Insomniacs

The howling wind in the trees jars him awake every night at 3am, scraggly, leafless branches scratching against the windows and walls of his dirty attic room.

Damn wind! he mutters as he lies on the lumpy, twin mattress, staring up at the ceiling for the third week. Night after night! He envisions a tiny adobe hut in the middle of the desert, the nearest tree miles away in downtown Scottsdale. Sleeeep. I need sleep. He smashes the pillow against his face and waits for sunrise.


The coyotes howling at the moon jar him awake every night at 3am...

— • — • —

My entry in the 100 Words Challenge, with the prompt, "jars."

Friday, September 17, 2010



some days blogs and words
wait in line behind pizza
laundry and the laze

"Among my most prized possessions
are words that I have never spoken."
—Orson Scott Card

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bessie Was A Looker Back In High School

Do cows have social status?

I'm not asking if they amble back to the barn after milking and spend their free time updating their Facebook and Twitter, but...

...are there cool cows, and uncool cows?

Driving past a muddy, fenced-in field earlier this week, I saw two cows sitting together in the slop, barely a couple of feet from each other, while another stood in front of them, also huddled close. Several other cows trudged elsewhere in the one-acre pen near the barn, and there were at least two more sitting alone.

How do these cows decide who to hang with when they're not having their udders yanked?

Are there cliques like there were back in high school? Are there nerd cows and jock cows and brain cows and party cows and goody four-shoes cows? Do some cows stay home every night chewing their cud while others stay out until...well, until they come home?...just in time for their 4am milking?

All of these thoughts flashed through my head in the five seconds it took to drive past a farm in Kiel. And after reading this, I hope they flash through yours the next time you see a herd (gang...clique...whatever) of cows.

I need to remove myself from the rural, I think.

"Single-mindedness is all very well in cows or baboons;
in an animal claiming to belong to the same species
as Shakespeare it is simply disgraceful."
—Aldous Huxley

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Go, Packer(s), Go!

OK, Packers fans, listen up! This blog post is for you.

It's also for Niners fans, Lions fans, Ravens fans...Lakers fans, Spurs fans...and on and on.

This post is for airing English language pet peeves (but just a few, because if I aired them all, I'd never finish this post by midnight), and first on the list tonight is the "s" on the end of many sports teams.

If you're a fan of the Green Bay Packers, you're a Packers fan. Not...a Packer fan. It might sound a little clumsy, but the "s" is correct.

I run into this often when designing ads at the newspaper I work for. When bars have drink specials listed in their ads, I word them as "Packers Specials," or "Packers Drink Specials"...always writing Packers as plural.

Sometimes they'll call to correct the ad. "Take that 's' off of Packers," they'll say, sometimes with a tone of superiority as if they've caught a serious error.

I've stopped trying to explain to most advertisers that the "s" belongs there, and instead repeat to myself the old business maxim that the customer is always right. Even when they're very...very...wrong. (Hey, I'm not the one paying for the ad!)

Many of you reading this are not Packer're Packers fans.

My buddy isn't a Charger fan, he's a Chargers fan.

I'm not a Lion fan...I'm a glutton for punishment.

Got it?

— • — • —

Sticking with the bar theme, a supper club ran an ad several months ago, advertising a specific drink that, if you don't live in Wisconsin, you may not have heard of.

The bar owner advertised Old-Fashioneds (which are delicious, by the way; I recommend it with Southern Comfort and sour). When the ad appeared in our paper, a few bar patrons pointed out the error we'd made in the ad, which caused the owner to call and alert us to our mistake.

Several customers laughed at my spelling, certain that the drink is an Old Fashion.

It is not.

I prefer to hyphenate my Old-Fashioneds, but I've seen it just as often without the hyphen. Unfortunately, I've also seen it advertised dozens of times in other newspapers as an Old Fashion. (what is that, like bell bottom jeans?!?)

Regardless, you'll never catch me sipping an Old Fashion, watching the Packer game.

Got it?

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Another nit to pick in this post is the difference between back yard (n.), and backyard (adj.).

Associated Press style defines the terms as above...the noun is two words, the adjective is one word. (unless my Stylebook is out of date and they've updated this entry.)

"My back yard will soon be filled with billions of snowflakes, and I plan to hibernate through the winter. Before summer bids its final farewell, however, we should have one last backyard barbecue."

These examples are correct to me, although in Mitch Albom's latest column, he uses "backyards" as a noun. I've heard from more than one source that you should consistently use "backyard" in all instances. I haven't yet adopted that thought, but am open to persuasion.

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One more tiny peeve down here, and I'll start making a new list for the next English language entry I write.

When referring to someone with a title, I capitalize every word only if the full title is used:
"We've got to address our budget issues," said Stony Brook High School Principal James Bruckmeier.

But I don't agree with the example: "The board voted to send school Principal Thomas Stenson to the weekend seminar." I prefer, "school principal Thomas Stenson."

The capital P in principal looks out of place in that instance, but I have found in the AP Stylebook an example that reads, " Chancellor Thomas Stenson," and others have disagreed with me as well. But I've also found an ally or two.

— • — • —

This is the kind of stuff I ponder for fun. I'm a total grammar geek, word nerd, punctuation dork. Sometimes I find a reliable source to back me up...other times I argue my case solely because it feels right to me. But I'm not perfect by any means.

Maybe I'll write my own book, and then I'll be correct 100 percent of the time.

Gregg's Stylebook, by Gregg (who has so much style...especially when sipping an Old-Fashioned.)

"I never made a mistake in grammar but one
in my life and as soon as I done it I seen it."
—Carl Sandburg