Thursday, December 11, 2008

Darwin Awards Winners?

A friend emailed me the message below, captioned "2008 Darwin Awards." It's hilarious, so I'm sharing it with you. I double-checked it with the actual Darwin Awards website ("A chronicle of enterprising demises honoring those who improve the accidentally removing themselves from it!"). The 2008 nominees listed didn't include any of these anecdotes. Perhaps they're from previous years...but the website has so many I didn't take the time to check them all.

So enjoy the stories, whether true or apocryphal, and visit the Darwin Awards website for more tales of unbelievable (and deadly) human idiocy.

"It's not the heat, it's the stupidity."

Subject: 2008 Darwin Awards

It's that time again...The Darwin Awards are finally out, the annual honor given to the persons who did the gene pool the biggest service by killing themselves in the most extraordinarily stupid ways.

Last year's winner was the fellow who was killed by a Coke machine which toppled over on top of him as he was attempting to tip a free soda out.

This year's winner was a real rocket scientist....HONEST!

Read on...And remember that each and every one of these is a TRUE STORY. The awards were bestowed this year by December 6th, 2008 because the panel of judges believed that no one else could do more stupid stuff than these morons did by that time in 2008.

* * * * * * * * * * *

And the nominees were:

Semifinalist #1

A young Canadian man, searching for a way of getting drunk cheaply, because he had no money with which to buy alcohol, mixed gasoline with milk. Not surprisingly, this concoction made him ill, and he rushed to vomit into the fireplace in his house. This resulting explosion and fire burned his house down, killing both him and his unfortunate sister.

Semifinalist #2

Three Brazilian men were flying in a light aircraft at low altitude when another plane approached. It appears that they decided to moon the occupants of the other plane, but lost control of their own aircraft and crashed. They were all found dead in the wreckage with their pants around their ankles (HARD to control light airplanes when everyone moves to one side).

Semifinalist #3

A 22-year-old Reston, VA man was found dead after he tried to use octopus straps to bungee jump off a 70-foot rail road trestle. Fairfax County police said Eric Barcia, a fast food worker, taped a bunch of these straps together, wrapped an end around one foot, anchored the other end to the trestle at Lake Accotink Park, jumped and hit the pavement. Warren Carmichael, a police spokesman, said investigators think Barcia was alone because his car was found nearby. 'The length of the cord that he had assembled was greater than the distance between the trestle and the ground,' Carmichael said. Police say the apparent cause of death was 'Major trauma.'

Semifinalist #4

A man in Alabama died from rattlesnake bites. It seems that he and a friend were playing a game of catch, using the rattlesnake as a ball. The friend -- no doubt a future Darwin Awards candidate -- was hospitalized.

Semifinalist #5

Employees in a medium-sized warehouse in west Texas noticed the smell of a gas leak. Sensibly, management evacuated the building extinguishing all potential sources of ignition; lights, power, etc.

After the building had been evacuated, two technicians from the gas company were dispatched. Upon entering the building, they found they had difficulty navigating in the dark. To their frustration, none of the lights worked. Witnesses later described the sight of one of the technicians reaching into his pocket and retrieving an object that resembled a cigarette lighter.

Upon operation of the lighter-like object, the gas in the warehouse exploded, sending pieces of it up to three miles away. Nothing was found of the technicians, but the lighter was virtually untouched by the explosion. The technician suspected of causing the blast had never been thought of as ''bright'' by his peers.

*** Now, to the winner of this year's Darwin Award ***

(awarded, as always, posthumously):

The Arizona Highway Patrol came upon a pile of smoldering metal embedded in the side of a cliff rising above the road at the apex of a curve. The wreckage resembled the site of an airplane crash, but it was a car. The type of car was unidentifiable at the scene. Police investigators finally pieced together the mystery. An amateur rocket scientist ... had somehow gotten hold of a JATO unit (Jet Assisted Take Off, actually a solid fuel rocket) that is used to give heavy military transport planes an extra 'push' for taking off from short airfields. He had driven his Chevy Impala out into the desert and found a long, straight stretch of road. He attached the JATO unit to the car, jumped in, got up some speed and fired off the JATO!

The facts as best as could be determined are that the operator of the 1967 Impala hit the JATO ignition at a distance of approximately 3..0 miles from the crash site. This was established by the scorched and melted asphalt at that location.

The JATO, if operating properly, would have reached maximum thrust within 5 seconds, causing the Chevy to reach speeds well in excess of 350 mph and continuing at full power for an additional 20-25 seconds.

The driver, and soon to be pilot, would have experienced G-forces usually reserved for dog fighting F-14 jocks under full afterburners, causing him to become irrelevant for the remainder of the event. However, the automobile remained on the straight highway for about 2.5 miles (15-20 seconds) before the driver applied and completely melted the brakes, blowing the tires and leaving thick rubber marks on the road surface, then becoming airborne for an additional 1.4 miles and impacting the cliff face at a height of 125 feet leaving a blackened crater 3 feet deep in the rock. Most of the driver's remains were not recoverable. However, small fragments of bone, teeth and hair were extracted from the crater, and fingernail and bone shards were removed from a piece of debris believed to be a portion of the steering wheel.

Epilogue: It has been calculated that this moron attained a ground speed of approximately 420-mph, though much of his voyage was not actually on the ground.

You couldn't make this stuff up, could you?


Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Five Writing Strengths

A long time ago Shauna Roberts tagged me for a writing meme: to list five of my writing strengths. It would be easier to list five writing weaknesses, but I finally came up with these:

1. Excellent command of punctuation, spelling, and sentence structure, as well as large vocabulary.
2. Widely read in fiction, especially genre fiction, resulting in broad knowledge of literary conventions and reader expectations on which to draw for own writing.
3. Instinctive grasp of good writing style.
4. Good at analyzing facts and setting them out in readable fashion (a skill more useful in writing nonfiction than fiction.)
5. Ear for lyrical language.

Whew. I'm cringing. Too much training in self-deprecation, not enough in self-praise. Better post this before I change my mind and erase everything!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Brilliant Beagle

Any dog this clever deserves to run free: See Andrew Sullivan's Why I Love Beagles.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Weird Events

In the last few weeks some weird things have been happening in the New Orleans area, or not far from it:

KKK Reappears
A hitherto unknown enclave of the Ku Klux Klan was discovered about 60 miles northeast of New Orleans, a group of eight or so cretins who had gathered to induct a new member. The leader of the group ended up shooting and killing the new member because she got cold feet and wanted to back out of the deal and go home. The other members of the group helped him try to cover up the evidence and dispose of the body. The whole thing was done so clumsily police had little problem in finding the evidence. All was revealed within a short time. Police were tipped off to the shady doings when a clerk at a nearby convenience store told them two people he/she recognized had asked how to get blood out of clothing. Despite having signed an oath of secrecy to protect their fellow Klan members to the death, etc., the Klanners couldn't talk fast enough once police found them.

Police in a New Orleans suburb arrested a man they saw walking down a street in full Nazi uniform, carrying a loaded 8mm Mauser. He told them he was planning to kill a neighbor with whom he'd argued about a dog. Subsequent news article say his family members say he has mental problems. No sh*t, Sherlock.

Mad Bomber
A car exploded in uptown New Orleans and police were able to determine the bomber lived nearby. They found his home was a stockpile of explosives. What do you want to bet his family members also will soon be reporting that he has psychiatric problems?

Handcuffed D.A.
Two judges at a local court had simultaneous hearings that involved the same assistant district attorney. One was in the middle of a several-days-long murder trial; the other had a pretrial hearing in a murder case that had been repeatedly postponed. Each insisted the A.D.A. had to be present in her or his court immediately. One judge came to the other's chambers and they argued. Finally, the judge with the pretrial hearing ordered the A.D.A. placed in handcuffs to keep him from going to the other courtroom. It was eventually settled when a higher-up in the D.A.'s office came down and pledged to handle the hearing while the targeted prosecutor was uncuffed and allowed to go back to the ongoing murder trial.

Scary things--sometimes kinda funny, except for what they portend.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Meming a Return: 6 Random Things

Nola over at NOLA Notes tagged me for a meme, and I thank her for the kick in the *ss to get me started back blogging again. Following the advice of my semiguru, Leo of Write to Done and Zen Habits, I won't explain or apologize for my absence, but jump back into the game. Here's the SIX RANDOM THINGS ABOUT ME meme:

The Rules:

  1. Link to the person who tagged you.
  2. Post the rules on your blog.
  3. Write six random things about yourself.
  4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
  5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
  6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

So, six random things you don’t already know about me:

  1. I once worked as a decorating consultant in a branch store of a well-known national paint company. This was the early 70s and we decorating consultants were the first women who had ever worked in their stores. The idea was we would advise female customers on their choices in paint, wallpaper, and carpet-- i.e., sell the products. We were trained to know the products, but received no training in actual decorating or design. They hired pretty much any woman who was willing to work in a paint store around a bunch of male chauvinists who were alternately panting with lust over having an actual female in the store, or sneering at her for having the nerve to work in a male milieu. (Ah, how things have changed in the past 30 years.) I'm not noted for skill in interior design. Lucky for them I could coordinate colors, at least. I soon tired of mixing paint and lugging around wallpaper and carpet swatch books, and moved on to an office job, much more my preference.
  2. I learned to play the piano and the clarinet in grade school. I haven't touched either in years, but I'd kinda like to get back to the piano. The clarinet, nah. I don't mind listening to good clarinet (yeaaa, Pete Fountain), but I'm not gonna tongue any more reeds myself...heh heh.
  3. My great-grandfather on my mother's side was married four times and sired 24 children, of whom at least 20 lived to adulthood. (The wives kept dying off, either from childbirth fever or other disease. Those were hard times.) My great-grandfather was conscripted into the Confederate army during the Civil War and dodged bullets from Yankee snipers while on picket duty during the siege of Vicksburg. Best we can estimate, he was in his seventies when he was siring those last five children in the 1890s...heh heh.
  4. For several years now I've had a secret desire to attend a monster truck rally.
  5. In sophomore year of high school I scored the highest grade in the school on a nationwide Latin examination. Got a medal for it. It must have astonished my Latin teacher, since I hadn't shown any special aptitude for Latin in class. I still like Latin, and am glad I know a little about it. I think it would be cool to learn conversational Latin--it would be funny to start chatting in Latin at a party, say. Well, I'd find it funny, but I guess everyone else would consider me a total dork. Or sadly insane.
  6. In high school and college I sewed a lot of my own clothing. I even made my own wedding dress, appliques and all. I haven't touched a sewing machine in years, but maybe I'll get back to it someday. (Yeah, like I'll get back to playing the piano.) I have the patience now to do a much better job on that stitching.
  7. Here's a bonus 7th thing: I don't like to cook, but I love cookbooks. I have a lot of them. Every now and then I open one and peruse the recipes, saying to myself, "Hmm, that doesn't look too difficult...I could probably make that." I especially like the ones that include commentary such as the background of the recipe, or anecdotes about the author's life.

I expect most of my usual blog buddies have already been tagged for this meme, but I'll name them anyway. If any of you have already done it, just send me a link to your post on it. And, of course, any of you who haven't done it and don't want to, c'est la vie.

  1. Shauna of For Love of Words
  2. Charles of Razored Zen
  3. Candice of C.S. Harris/Candy's Blog
  4. Roz of The Ninth Muse
  5. Farrah of Farrah Rochon
  6. Rae Ann of Rae Ann Parker
Hey--it feels good to be back.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I'm ba-a-a-ck

Greetings, all. I evacuated for Hurricane Gustav, but have returned safely. I had no damage, either bodily or to property. The biggest aftermath for me is exhaustion.

I spent three days preparing to evacuate--packed LOTS of stuff this time.

(That's the Katrina Aftereffect: When I evacuated for Hurricane Katrina I expected to return home in two or three days, so took only a few changes of clothing. I didn't anticipate serious flooding, despite the TV warnings...I've been through dozens of hurricanes; there's always exaggeration in the preliminary warnings you hear on TV. Then Katrina came through: the levees broke, New Orleans was devastated, and I couldn't return home for more than three weeks. Although my own home survived Katrina safely, the visions of others' losses stayed with me. For Gustav I was wiser and planned for the possibility of being away for weeks and/or losing my house to wind/flood damage.)

I left on Saturday, August 30, with my daughter and a friend of hers in three vehicles, each vehicle loaded. We didn't go far--to a rural community north of Lake Pontchartrain, about 50 miles from where I live. I have friends there who were willing to house us and our menagerie of pets for the storm. (We had six animals with us--four dogs and two cats.) It's the same place where I stayed during Katrina. It's high ground, no possibility of flooding, although of course it can suffer wind damage. (My friends lost 30 trees from Katrina.)

We settled in and waited, per the usual. The storm came. Lots of high winds, and lots more rain than from Katrina. The high winds lasted for two days and the rains continued on and off for four days. Amazingly, our refuge did not lose electricity, although most around us did. Not only did we have lights and access to TV, we had AIR CONDITIONING (the most important thing to me). We went through the week in comfort, with only anxiety and boredom to plague us.

We returned home on Friday, September 5, to find the house in good shape, with electricity and cable TV working. On setting foot inside my house, I dropped the armload of stuff I was bringing in, sat in my favorite chair in the living room, and burst into tears. I didn't expect it; I guess it was the relief of being safely home. While evacuated I wasn't conscious of feeling extreme anxiety--in such a situation, you have to go from moment to moment and not think about all the awful possibilities--but I guess it was there underneath.

I've spent the last four days doing what has to be done--putting away stuff at home, restocking the fridge, going back to work on Monday, etc.--then collapsing and sleeping a lot. I guess there's some post-traumatic stress stuff going on inside me. It seems odd since I experienced only inconvenience this time (didn't even lose the AIR CONDITIONING), but who can account for the ways of the psyche?

I just hope we don't have to do this again this year. Now Hurricane Ike is down there in the Gulf, but it's heading for Texas/Mexico, and all we'll get is some rain. I don't wish harm on anyone else, but I'm glad it's not heading for us.

And thus ends my tale.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Yikes! Not another one!

I've been drafting a couple of different blog posts with the Katrina Anniversary in mind, but now we have Tropical Storm (possibly Hurricane) Gustav down in the Caribbean, soon to be in the Gulf, and things in this area are going in to hurricane preparation mode...which means I must do that also. So, unless Gustav changes his mind and heads for Texas or Mexico, I will be probably be offline for a few days. (I hope it won't be longer than that--it depends on where I evacuate to, if evacuate I must, and whether the electricity goes out.) Bye for now.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Alternative Olympic Sports

My last post noted that the IOC has added BMX racing to the Games this year. In an earlier comment Steve Malley had listed BMX as one of the sports on his list of fantasy Olympics games. His others are pole dancing and dodgeball.

I suggested the addition of pogo stick. Steve Malley immediately came up with a list of pogo stick events: "single pogo, team pogo, triple-bounce for height and again for distance, single-bounce the same way, perhaps even a sort of pogo-obstacle course!"

Lana Gramlich suggested bungee jumping....(Cool, but really scary to me--no heights, please!)

Shauna Roberts suggested cat herding--it "would require athletes with speed, balance, and agility." (Claw-proof uniforms, too...that probably would be the most challenging Game of all.)

Bzzzt! (Light bulb above head) Faithful readers, what are your ideas for alternative Olympic sports?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

New Olympic Sport Added This Year

In response to Excelsior, my August 12 post about the Olympics, Steve Malley commented with his typical dry wit, "I'm waiting for pole dancing, BMX biking and dodgeball to be admitted as new sports..." Well, Steve, one-third of your wait is over: BMX is now part of the Olympics, beginning with the Beijing games this year. Who knows, maybe in 2012, the IOC will add pole-dancing and dodgeball, especially since they're removing softball.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Few Interesting Links

I recently came across some interesting blog/website links to share with you. I can't recall where I found two of them, so if those two came from any of your blogs/websites, I apologize for not being able to credit you:

1. On Indexed Jessica Hagy cleverly converts all kinds of ideas and concepts into graphs and charts. Humorous and good for a daily laugh. This has become so popular she has produced a book, which you can buy from any of several popular online booksellers through links on her website. The book's description on states:

A unique, hilarious take on the modern world

Jessica Hagy is a different kind of thinker. She has an astonishing talent for visualizing relationships, capturing in pictures what is difficult for most of us to express in words.

At, she posts charts, graphs, and Venn diagrams drawn on index cards that reveal in a simple and intuitive way the large and small truths of modern life.

Praised throughout the blogosphere as "brilliant," "incredibly creative," and "comic genius," Jessica turns her incisive, deadpan sense of humor on everything from office politics to relationships to religion.

With new material along with some of Jessica's greatest hits, this utterly unique book will thrill readers who demand humor that makes them both laugh and think.

2. Contrarywise is a website featuring literary tattoos--tattoos based on books, poems, lyrics, and many other things. The site is simple: a photo of each tattoo, with a blurb underneath setting out the exact language used in the tattoo, and usually an explanation of why the person chose it. Some of the tattoos are copies of illustrations from books rather than quotations, such as the rocking-horse fly by Victorian illustrator John Tenniel from the 1871 first edition of Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll.

It's fascinating to see the quotations people choose to wear on their bodies. I'm not into tattooing myself, but if I were to get one it would be a quotation from a book. For example, an excellent one recently posted is a quotation from Gandhi: "My life is my message."

3. On The Ninth Muse, my friend roz m has a link to Wordle, which she says "makes a word cloud that visualizes the word frequency in a passage you copy to the wordle site. You can experiment with different layouts, colors, and fonts until you find the image that makes you most content. This seems like a good tool to use in writing; it could allow you to see what the dominant words (and the ideas linked to them) are in a chapter or scene." Clever idea. Thanks, Roz, for the link and for your description of it. (Unfortunately, I wasn't able to experiment with it on my aging and cranky home computer, but I plan to try it on my office computer next week.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

On Crusie's "The Double-Edged Blog"

(Yikes, two posts back-to-back! Is the world ending?)

I just read Jenny Crusie's latest entry on Argh Ink, "The Double-Edged Blog." Jenny's a best-selling author of women's fiction, known for her great sense of humor. She blogs about her works-in-progress, the businesses of writing and publishing, and life in general. She's found that while her blog gives her a chance to express herself freely on topics beyond her writing, it also results in the occasional flame-war from readers who don't like her opinions. She analogizes blogging to a double-edged sword:

I found out that blogs were a chance to say anything I wanted and I was hooked. For awhile, everything was lovely, and then I posted something a lot of people didn’t like. I can’t remember what it was now, but it was the first time somebody said to me, “You know, you should stop blogging, it’s going to hurt your career.” I said, “How is that possible?” and she said, “If they don’t like what you say on your blog, they’ll stop buying your books.” That was incomprehensible to me then, and it’s still puzzling to me now. ...

Then I tripped again, this time because I was thoughtless (this happens a lot). One of my friends got a ludicrous letter from a reader and I posted it with her first name on it. That was flat out wrong of me, and I did apologize and take the name off the blog but basically, I screwed up. First lesson: Never blog when you’re really angry but not admitting it to yourself. Practical application: Wait twenty-four hours before you post something you’ve written.

Then while I was being careful on Argh–well, careful for me–I lost my temper on somebody else’s blog and became The Author Who Is Pro-Plagiarism (because that was more fun for people to get upset about than The Author Who Thinks This Is Being Handled Badly and People Should Stop Author-Bashing Until They Know the Facts). This annoyed some people so much that they’re still mad at me; some of them cornered Bob [Mayer, Crusie's co-author on a couple of books] at Thrillerfest to tell him just how awful I am, as if he didn’t know the black depths of my heart already. And of course, they’re never going to read me again. (Actually my fave comment about the whole mess was on another blog: a reader said she was never going to read me again and then followed it up by saying she’d never read me before either. I kept thinking of the old “Doctor, will I be able to play the piano after my broken arm heals?”/”Of course”/”Funny, I couldn’t play it before” joke, but that’s probably just more evidence of how depraved I am.)

I always enjoy Jenny's blog entries, whether or not I share her point-of-view on certain issues. I'm baffled by the people who incite flame-wars because someone has an opinion that differs from theirs. Or, even worse, those who begin online campaigns against a particular writer because they don't like his/her point of view.

Jennie's blog entry is well worth reading, especially for anyone who's had a similar blog-experience. Several of the comments following it are thought-provoking, too.

As Jenny says:

I feel strongly that anybody who evaluates the rest of the people in the world by how closely their attitudes and statements agree with her worldview is in danger of structuring a life much like the Alberto Gonzales Justice Department. We don’t learn from the people who agree with us, we learn from the people who make us say, “Wait a minute,” and that learning goes both ways. I learn a lot from the critics who intelligently analyze my books and find them wanting; I’ve also learned a lot from the people who have thoughfully and calmly disagreed with me on this blog. Haven’t learned a thing from the shriekers and condemners, though.


I'm taking a break from my vacation to immerse myself in the 2008 Summer Olympics. I am a total non-athlete, yet I love the Olympics. My sleep/wake cycle has been disrupted as I try to follow the late-night/all-night broadcasts.

This year's opening ceremony was the most fabulous ever--amazing, beautiful, enchanting, overwhelming--with such creativity in its different elements. And, wow, what a way to show off China's huge population: over 15,000 individuals performed in the spectacle. I did wonder, while watching the segment of 2008 drummers beating huge drums, whether this wasn't meant to remind all of us that China has one-fifth of the world's population.

I always enjoy watching the Parade of Nations, when the athletes from the various countries make a circuit around the stadium. I particularly like seeing the native costumes some of them wear.

I prefer the individual sports such as swimming, diving, and gymnastics to the team sports such as volleyball and baseball--although I will watch the basketball finals if the USA ends up in them.

The TV coverage in the U.S. is limited to whatever NBC wants us to see. I wish I could pick and choose what I see. NBC shows different sports on various cable channels it owns, but I don't have access to several of them. If I had a newer computer, I could view video of other sports I'd like to see (such as archery and equestrienne events) on NBC's Olympics website. My computer, however, is aging and temperamental and it limits my online activities. It no longer will play videos.

Ah, the same old story: an info junkie who either can't get enough info, or is inundated with so much info it's overwhelming.

I have enjoyed watching Michael Phelps achieve his record number of gold medals in swimming, and the US gymnastics teams win silver and bronze medals.

A different type of entertainment is hearing the sniping and petty politics, such as:
  • The press discovered that the little Chinese girl who sang at the opening ceremony was in fact lip-synching to the voice of another little girl whom the Chinese government deemed insufficiently pretty to represent their country publicly. (Stewart Sternberg posted a good blog entry on that.)
  • Famous gymnastic coach Bela Karolyi complained that the members of the Chinese women's gymnastics team surely are underage. The rule of the international gymnastics organization is that they must be 16 years old.

International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) officials have accepted the passports of the Chinese women, which indicate all are old enough to compete. Karolyi is originally from Romania, and he says falsifying documents is a common practice in totalitarian regimes such as Romania, Russia and other former Soviet bloc nations.

The solution, he said, is to not have any age limit. He believes if a gymnast is good enough to earn a spot at the Olympics or world championships, that athlete deserves to go. He said some juniors today are just as proficient as the age-eligble competitors.

To me, almost all of the Chinese team look younger than 16--one looked to be no more than 10 or 11. I don't know a lot about gymnastics (except the bits I pick up every four years while watching the Olympics), but it's obvious that child-size gymnasts are lighter and more flexible, and can do better contortions, leaps and flips than adult-size bodies. On the other hand, since the age limit presumably is there to protect the very young gymnasts, I don't agree with Karolyi's solution of doing away with age limits.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Good Site for Post-Katrina Photos

As we swelter through The Month That Contains the Third Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina (better known to most of you as August 2008), I may be posting only Katrina-related entries. Or maybe not. For right now, I'm linking to Pontchartrain Pete's blog, in which he's recognizing The Anniversary Month by posting a new Katrina photo every day of the month--his theme is "One K a Day."

Friday, July 25, 2008

Hurricane Preparedness?

After posting a serious entry on Hurricane Katrina's aftereffects earlier this week (Katrina Tattoos), I'm going for the funnybone now.

A friend who lives on the Mississippi Gulf Coast sent me the following humorous e-mail. (Her hometown of Pascagoula was devastated by Katrina.)

This is a witty sendup of the many "hurricane preparedness" tip sheets distributed this time of year. It's going around the Internet via e-mail, with nothing to identify the original author, so I assume it's not subject to copyright protection and reprint it in its entirety.

Special Message from the Gulf Coast FEMA Office
Subject: Hurricane Preparedness 2008

To ex-Gulf Coastians, present Coastians, and future Coastians or those who know a Coastian: Hurricane season is upon us. It begins June 1 and ends November 30.

Any day now, you're going to turn on the TV and see a weather person pointing to some radar blob out in the Gulf of Mexico and making two basic meteorological points:
  1. There is no need to panic.
  2. We could all be killed.

Yes, hurricane season is an exciting time to be on the Gulf Coast. If you're new to the area, you're probably wondering what you need to do to prepare for the possibility that we'll get hit by "the big one."

Based on our experiences, we recommend that you follow this simple three-step hurricane preparedness plan:

STEP 1: Buy enough food and bottled water to last your family for at least three days.
STEP 2: Put these supplies into your car.
STEP 3: Drive to Nebraska and remain there until Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, statistics show that most people will not follow this sensible plan. Most people will foolishly stay here on the Coast.

We'll start with one of the most important hurricane preparedness items:


If you own a home, you must have hurricane insurance. Fortunately, this insurance is cheap and easy to get, as long as your home meets two basic requirements:
  1. It is reasonably well-built, and
  2. It is located in Nebraska.

Unfortunately, if your home is located on the Coast, or any other area that might actually be hit by a hurricane, most insurance companies would prefer not to sell you hurricane insurance, because then they might be required to pay YOU money, and that is certainly not why they got into the insurance business in the first place.

So you'll have to scrounge around for an insurance company, which will charge you an annual premium roughly equal to the replacement value of your house. At any moment, this company can drop you like used dental floss. Since Hurricane Katrina, I have had an estimated 27 different home-insurance companies. This week, I'm covered by the Bob and Big Stan Insurance Company, under a policy which states that, in addition to my premium, Bob and Big Stan are entitled, on demand, to my kidneys.


Your house should have hurricane shutters on all the windows, all the doors, and -- if it's a major hurricane -- all the toilets.

There are several types of shutters, with advantages and disadvantages:
  • Plywood shutters: The advantage is that, because you make them yourself, they're cheap. The disadvantage is that, because you make them yourself, they will fall off.
  • Sheet-metal shutters: The advantage is that these work well, once you get them all up. The disadvantage is that once you get them all up, your hands will be useless bleeding stumps, and it will be December.
  • Roll-down shutters: The advantages are that they're very easy to use, and will definitely protect your house. The disadvantage is that you will have to sell your house to pay for them.


These are the newest wrinkle in hurricane protection: They look like ordinary windows, but they can withstand hurricane winds! You can be sure of this, because the salesman says so. He lives in Nebraska.


As the hurricane approaches,check your yard for movable objects like barbecue grills, planters, patio furniture, visiting relatives, etc. You should, as a precaution, throw these items into your swimming pool (if you don't have a swimming pool, you should have one built immediately). Otherwise, the hurricane winds will turn these objects into deadly missiles.


If you live in a low-lying area, you should have an evacuation route planned out. (To determine whether you live in a low-lying area, look at your driver's license; if it says Biloxi, Gulfport, Long Beach, Bay St. Louis, Gautier, Pascagoula, Waveland, live in a low-lying area.)

The purpose of having an evacuation route is to avoid being trapped in your home when a major storm hits. Instead, you will be trapped in a gigantic traffic jam several miles from your home, along with two hundred thousand other evacuees. So, as a bonus, you will not be lonely.


If you don't evacuate, you will need a mess of supplies. Do not buy them now! Gulf Coast tradition requires that you wait until the last possible minute, then go to the supermarket and get into vicious fights with strangers over who gets the last can of Spam.

In addition to food and water, you will need the following supplies:
  • About 23 flashlights.
  • At least $167 worth of batteries that, when the power goes out, turn out to be the wrong size for the flashlights.
  • Bleach. (No, I don't know what the bleach is for. NOBODY knows what the bleach is for. It's tradition, so GET some!)
  • A 55-gallon drum of underarm deodorant.
  • A big knife that you can strap to your leg. (This will be useless in a hurricane, but it looks cool.)
  • A large quantity of raw chicken, to placate the alligators. (Ask anybody who went through Katrina; after the hurricane, there WILL be irate alligators.)
  • $35,000 in cash or diamonds so that, after the hurricane passes, you can buy a generator from a man with no discernible teeth.

Of course these are just basic precautions. As the hurricane draws near, it is vitally important that you keep abreast of the situation by turning on your television and watching TV reporters in rain slickers stand right next to the Gulf and tell you over and over how vitally important it is for everybody to stay away from the Gulf.

Good luck and remember: It's great living in paradise! Those of you who aren't here yet, you should come.


Once again, I can't take credit for this clever parody. Kudos to the Unknown Wit who composed it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Katrina Tattoos

I live in Metairie, a suburb that suffered far less than New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina. As we approach the third anniversary of the storm, I can drive around Metairie and see few signs of storm damage except some empty lots where buildings have been razed, and the occasional FEMA trailer still remaining in someone's yard.

If I go into New Orleans, however, it's a different story. No matter where you go in the city, except perhaps the French Quarter, you cannot escape evidence of Katrina. First, many devastated homes and businesses remain, neither rebuilt nor razed. Second, the streets--in bad shape before the storm--now are truly dangerous, with enormous potholes, sinkholes, and other damage either unrepaired or worsened or recently developed. Third, there are the Katrina Tattoos remaining on many homes, even those that have been restored and are reoccupied.

(Photo from the International Journal of Health Geographics,

What I call the Katrina Tattoo is the marking made by Search-and-Rescue teams as they made house-to-house searches for humans and animals in the months after the storm. If you saw pictures of New Orleans in the months after Katrina, you'll have seen the S&R markings on houses. S&R teams supposedly searched every building in all the flooded areas. Many houses were searched twice, by official teams and by animal-rescue teams. To notify others that a house had been searched, S&R teams marked each building with spray paint in a specific manner.

First they sprayed an "X" on the front (or roof) of the building. In the photo, it's on the roof, which means that the water was so high that searchers could access the house only through the roof. You can see they had to hack through the roof to get into the attic of the house.

(In other cases, people hacked through the roof from the inside after being trapped in their attics by rising water. I know people who keep a hatchet in their attic for precisely that purpose.)

The letters/numbers inside the quadrants of the X have specific meanings. In the top (north) quadrant is the date of the search; in the left (west) quadrant is the search-team identifier; in the right (east) quadrant is a notation of any hazards or unusual conditions in the building; in the bottom (south) quadrant is the number of victims found and their condition, e.g., live or dead. You can find an official explanation in the Army's Catastrophic Disaster Response Staff Officer's Handbook.

Interpreting the X in the photo by these guidelines, we can see the house was searched by team CA-8 on September 11, the team had to break into the attic, and they found one victim, who was dead. I interpret the arrow at left of "1 dead" as indicating to subsequent searchers that the victim can be found inside the attic, through the hole nearby.
On the right side of the photo are the pieces of wood the searchers removed when they hacked through the roof. It's obvious the hole is too small for the searchers either to have entered through it, or to have removed the body at that time. The initial searchers were looking for the living; the dead were removed later.

The second X, on the front wall of the house, would have been made after the water subsided. It indicates the body inside was removed on September 19 by "Kenyon."

Ray in New Orleans blogged about these markings a few months post-Katrina, with a couple of photos. I'm sure many other bloggers and articles have discussed the S&R markings, but I'm not going to take time to do a full Google search.

After Katrina's second anniversary Travel and Leisure magazine wrote in "Soul Survivor":

Even in mostly recovered neighborhoods, you’ll notice the persistence of "Katrina tattoos," the X marks spray painted on façades by rescue workers after the storm, noting when the property was searched, by whom, and whether any survivors—or bodies—were found. Most have been painted over, but some are intact, left deliberately as symbols of perseverance. One Marigny resident has even had his cast in iron and mounted by his front door.

They were documented most famously in Chris Rose's columns for the Times-Picayune, which he later turned into
1 Dead in Attic, a book chronicling the aftermath of Katrina on the populace as well as on Rose himself. (I did a blog entry on Chris's work when the book was nationally released.)

What makes me think of this? Well, of course, it's only a few weeks until the third anniversary of the storm. (We are daily reminded by local news media, even if we wanted to forget it.) And, as I said earlier, you can't drive through New Orleans without seeing Katrina Tattoos still present on buildings. Some people, even after renovating their homes and returning to live in them, have left the S&R markings on them.

What message are they sending? I think it's something along the lines of "Remember the Alamo" or "Remember the Maine": We suffered and we survived, but others died; we came back, but we won't forget, and we'll keep a reminder ever-present.

For those of you who thought this entry would be about body-art, rest easy. Tattoo parlors, both local and around the country, have reported a huge number of requests for Katrina remembrances since K-Day (8/29/2005). You can see some of the results here and here.

Finally, I came across this while searching for links for other things: the most poignant reminder of Katrina--Unidentified Victims from Hurricane Katrina.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Running of the, Cows,, Roller Girls

(Photo from

Ah, the Big Easy! New Orleanians are always coming up with new things to celebrate and new ways to wear costumes and get wild. The latest craze is the Running of the Bulls, New Orleans-style. Imitating the annual encierro in Pamplona, Spain, a local group has organized to celebrate the Festival of San Fermin by analogy to the bull-running made famous by Ernest Hemingway (The Sun Also Rises; Death in the Afternoon).

Like the runners in Pamplona, the participants here dress in white pants and shirt with red sashes and neck scarfs. Unlike the runners in Pamplona, however, the New Orleans runners are chased by the Big Easy Roller Girls, a local team of roller derby pros. For the event, Roller Girls (self-described by one Roller Girl as "a bunch of bad-ass chicks on wheels") carry wiffle bats and wear horns.

The Running of the Bulls, New Orleans style, first took place last year. I don't recall reading or hearing anything about it back then, so I was doubly amused to read Chris Rose's column on Thursday announcing it. The 2008 bull run took place on Saturday (July 12) and hundreds of people participated. The route goes through the French Quarter (of course), and includes stops at two "watering holes" (e.g., bars) along the way (of course).

I've come across some amusing blog entries on the run. Pontchartrain Pete calls it "a winner of a new tradition." Humid City has photos: Roller Girls in their bull costumes; the field of runners in their costumes. Local TV station WWL's website has photos of a guy in full toreador garb, as well as The Rolling Elvi--Elvis impersonators on scooters. And there are videos posted on YouTube, of course.

Looks like the Running of the Bulls will become one of N.O.'s midsummer draws: Last year 150 runners were pursued by 14 Rollergirls; this year there over 600 runners and 33 Rollergirls--exponential increases!

And animal lovers can rest easy: no real bulls are used.

(The official title of the event is San Fermin in Nueva Orleans. I briefly considered that perhaps the subtitle should be The Running of the Cows--since all the "bulls" are in fact females--until I realized it would have completely different implications. Dropped the idea quickly.)

Friday, July 11, 2008

A Tale of Two Bridges

Eeks, egad, it's eerie how fast time flies, whether or not I'm having fun. I've neglected my blog for over a month due to workplace pressures and homeplace exhaustion. For weeks I was super-busy--barely checking e-mail, much less blogging. I hope I still have a few readers patiently waiting.

I started the post below a couple of months ago and never finished it, which turned out to be a good thing because I now have another experience to carry out the theme.

A few weeks ago I left my home in Metairie, a New Orleans suburb, to drive to the little town of LaPlace. LaPlace is about 15 miles away via a 12-mile-long bridge on I-10 that crosses the marshes at the edge of Lake Pontchartrain and goes over the Bonne Carre Spillway. The spillway is a man-made diversion, created some 70 years ago to keep the mighty Mississippi River from flooding New Orleans in times of high water. When opened, the spillway diverts huge amounts of river water into Lake Pontchartrain. This year was one of the rare occasions when the spillway was opened, due to the river's extremely high water level.

It was early morning and the weather was foggy, but visibility was okay. As my car approached the spillway, however, I could see a wall of dense fog rising over the spillway waters. It was eerie. The fog was so thick I could not see even two feet in front of my car. As I drove into it, I remembered some '50s-era SF movie in which the protagonist went through just such a Wall of Fog and came out...CHANGED. (Cue Twilight Zone music.) My wall-of-fog lasted the whole way across the spillway, which is several miles.

My left brain knew a confluence of air temperatures and moisture from the spillway waters had combined to produce the wall of fog. Yet my right brain ignored logic and my reptile brain took over: chills ran down my spine and I could feel the hairs on my arms and back of my neck lifting. Am I going to turn into a giant insect or something? I wondered. If only I'd had a camera with me; I'm not likely to see something like that again. (And it would have looked really cool posted on my blog.)

In another eerie bridge experience, a couple of weeks ago I was returning home from the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge is 24 miles long and runs from Mandeville on the north shore to Metairie on the south shore. Dusk had fallen as I approached the southern end of the bridge. Suddenly my car was surrounded by hundreds of small dark birds swirling around, over and under the bridge. It was bedtime for the purple martins. These birds make this area one of their stops in their spring migration. They live in huge flocks and while in this area they nest on the underpinnings of the Causeway bridge. They spend their days flying around hunting insects--fortunately for us humans, the martins love mosquitoes--and every evening at sunset they return to their nesting area. It's quite a sight to see them flying in from all over the New Orleans area in great flocks, wheeling and diving in unison, swooping and fluttering. Driving through their midst, I felt as if I were in Hitchcock's The Birds. They didn't crash into my car, however, and their swoops and dives seemed joyous, not malignant. Of course, nightfall is prime time for mosquitoes, so no doubt the birds' apparent joy was simply at having a plethora of prey rather than sheer joy of flying. Still, it was a cool experience.

So, metaphorically speaking, I've lived through two horror movies--but I haven't morphed into a giant insect or developed superpowers, nor been attacked by crazed birds.

I did get some ideas for stories. A writer's brain uses every experience, after all.

The photo shows one end of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

In Memoriam: Robert Asprin

I just found out that science fiction/fantasy writer Robert Asprin died a few days ago at his home in the French Quarter here in New Orleans. He was 61. Asprin, creator of the MythAdventures fantasy series, had been scheduled to be a guest of honor at MARCON, a major SFF convention taking place this weekend in Columbus, Ohio. His death occurred shortly before a friend arrived at his home to drive him to the airport. The Times-Picayune website has a good article on him. (Photo from Jody Lynn Nye, Asprin's collaborator on several books.)

Asprin also was an early participant in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), where he was known under his persona Yang the Nauseating, and was instrumental in creation of The Great Dark Horde, a subgroup within SCA (known as a "household").

I haven't read any of Asprin's work, but I recall seeing his books in bookstores, and online as well. A quick perusal of his website and the Great Dark Horde website shows an antic wit and a great sense of humor. I post this memorial out of respect for someone who obviously had great creative gifts, and used them well.

May he rest in peace.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Nero-esque Perspective

"Bush Fiddles While New Orleans Burns"

I came across this collage accidentally while net-surfing. The poster was created by Lojo in St. Louis and her partner a few days after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and was posted on Flickr on September 9, 2005.

In case the photo doesn't enlarge when you click on it, you can see the large version here. Or, if you don't have time to go there, the text on Bush's forehead says, "As thousands of hurricane victims suffered and died, the leader of the richest nation on earth went to a concert."

The artist encourages anyone to download it and post it wherever they like, so here it is.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Awful Truth

Kassia Krozser of Booksquare and Dan Green of The Reading Experience are engaged in a provocative dispute about the need for authors to market their own books. See Kassia's "Not a Formula for Success," Dan's "Living on Earth," and Kassia's riposte, "Life on Venus: Authors Do Market."

I know dozens of writers, both published and unpublished. What surprises them most when their first books are published is learning they'll be responsible for most--or all--of the promotion and marketing.

As aspiring ("pre-published") writers, we all imagined we'd merely need to complete the manuscript. Once we signed that book contract, maybe we'd have to make a few changes here and there based on the editorial letter. After that, however, we would move on to our next manuscript. The publisher would take care of actually selling the book to retail outlets and readers.

T''ain't so. The Awful Truth is that publishers' promotional and marketing resources are allocated to the authors who bring in the most money...i.e., those who are already big sellers. You know, your Stephen Kings, your James Pattersons, your Mary Higgins Clarks.

The average writer is a peon--very low on the list for services from the publisher.

Thus it is that the typical novelist--probably an introvert, almost certainly someone who hates the idea of "selling" anything to anybody--has to get out and beat the streets (and Internet pathways) to promote and market his/her book.

Sigh. Yet another note of harsh reality intruding into our fantasy worlds.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Little Housekeeping

I just performed some long-overdue housekeeping on my blogsite. I cleaned up the Links section, removing some links that were defunct or no longer of particular interest to me, and adding several for blogs I now follow regularly--specifically, Curtiss Ann Matlock, Cute Overload, Full Throttle and F**k It, NOLA Notes, Pontchartrain Pete, Rae Ann Parker, The Dreaming Tree, and Zen Habits. Hope you'll check out any that you haven't tried before.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Six Unspectacular Quirks Meme

My friend Shauna Roberts has tagged me for a meme. Here are the rules:
  • Link the person who tagged you.
  • Mention the rules in your blog.
  • Tell about six unspectacular quirks of yours.
  • Tag six bloggers by linking them.
  • Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger's blogs letting them know they've been tagged.
1. I love animals, especially cats and dogs, and can't remember a time in my life when I didn't have pets. Currently, I have three dogs, three live-in cats, and two neighborhood cats who visit daily. One of my favorite websites is Cute Overload, which I visit every day just so I can be cheered up by viewing photos of cute animals. (The pic at left is from Cute Overload, in fact.)

2. I dislike talking on the phone. I put off making phone calls, especially business- or repair-related, for as long as possible, sometimes causing myself great problems because of my procrastination.

3. Speaking of which, I'm an inveterate procrastinator. This sometimes causes me serious difficulties (but we won't talk about that now). The procrastination also helps me produce my best work. It's amazing how being up against a deadline makes my brain kick into gear and start clicking away like a well-oiled machine. Even when I start projects well ahead of time, they stretch out to fill the time available--until, once again, I'm up against the deadline and have to complete everything in the next 24 hours.

4. I love to clip articles from magazines and newspapers. Sometimes it's self-help stuff or practical information, but a lot of times it's quirky oddball factoid stuff (like the article on the Velcro 5oth anniversary celebration I mentioned in my last blog entry). I have stacks of clippings stashed away in various places around my house (not, unfortunately, properly sorted or filed away).

5. I like alphabetizing things -- lists, books, canned goods, etc. I find it soothing. I've been known to start alphabetizing other people's books in their homes or offices--by author if fiction, by subject/title if nonfiction. Usually they're amused, but occasionally someone is irritated and I have to apologize and reshelve the books the way they were. Yes, I realize it must be OCD....

6. I despise brand-name snobbism. To be specific, I'm appalled that people want to wear clothing or other items with the designer's name marked on the outside, especially when it's splashed all over. I disdain those who feel they have to prove their affluence by buying/wearing/using clothing or other items for their brand names. Their whole purpose is to show off, which I find contemptible. ... It's okay to buy high-quality products--it's sensible to buy the best quality one can afford. But why show the world you lack a sense of self-worth by covering your body/home/etc. with these signs of insecurity? Why be a walking billboard for designers or manufacturers?

After reviewing what I've written, I realize I sound curmudgeonly--rescued only by my love of animals. Ah well, by this point in life I've earned the right to be a curmudgeon!

Oops, almost forgot I'm supposed to tag other people for this meme. Don't know that I can come up with six, since others already tagged some I would have chosen, but here goes:
  1. C.S. Harris at Candy's Blog
  2. Charles Gramlich at Razored Zen--oops, no good, I see Lisa already tagged him.
  3. Steve Malley at Full Throttle and F**k It--oops, I see from the comments following his latest post that someone else already tagged him, too.
  4. Timothy Hallinan
  5. NOLA Notes
  6. Pontchartrain Pete
(I won't be offended if the taggees decide not to participate--memes can be time-wasters as well as fun. But it's interesting to find out these things about one's acquaintances.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Sound of Success

The great thing about newspapers is that the factoids are more fun than the real news. For example, this Associated Press article from earlier this week grabbed my attention.

It reports that Velcro USA marked the 50th anniversary of its patent of the hook-and-loop fastener by lining one-and-a-half miles of Manchester, N.H. streets with employees who performed a "wave" by tearing apart swatches of Velcro in succession.

You can even see video of the big event here.

I love it. Saturday Night Live couldn't have thought this one up. And let us all give tribute to the inimitable hook-and-loop fastener, without which our world would be far less convenient, and much less fun.

Viva La Velcro!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

More Book Awards & Nominees

More book award listings, via the Poisoned Pen eNews for May 1, 2008. I am fond of these lists, both to give me an idea of what's popular in various genres and also because the lists offer fodder for my reading appetite.


Louise Penny, Fatal Grace (St Martin's)

Hank Phillippi Ryan, Prime Time (Harlequin)

Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower and Charles Foley, Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters (The Penguin Press)

Donna Andrews, "A Rat's Tale," in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine (Sept/Oct 2007)

Sarah Masters Buckley, A Light in the Cellar (American Girl)


John Hart, Down River (St Martin's)

Tana French, In the Woods (Viking)

Megan Abbott, Queenpin (Simon & Schuster)

Vincent Bugliosi, Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy (W.W. Norton and Company)

Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower and Charles Foley, Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters (The Penguin Press)

Susan Straight, "The Golden Gopher" – Los Angeles Noir (Akashic), ed. by Denise Hamilton.

From the Crime Writers of Canada

Linwood Barclay, No Time for Goodbye (Bantam)
Terry Carroll, Snow Candy (Mercury Press)
Maureen Jennings, Journeyman to Grief (McClelland & Stewart)
Louise Penny, Cruellest Month (St Martin's)
Jon Redfern, Trumpets Sound No More (RendezVous Crime/Napoleon & Company)

Claire Cameron, The Line Painter (HarperCollins)
Sean Chercover, Big City, Bad Blood (Harper)
Liam Durcan, Garcia's Heart (McClelland & Stewart)
Susan Parisi, Blood of Dreams (Penguin Australia)
Sharon Rowse, The Silk Train Murder (Carroll & Graf)
Marc Strange, Sucker Punch (Castle Street Mysteries/Dundurn)

The Last Laugh Award is for the best humorous crime novel published in the British Isles in 2007.

Declan Burke, The Big O (Harcourt)
Ruth Dudley Edwards, Murdering Americans (Poisoned Pen Press)

Chris Ewan, The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam (St. Martin's)
Allan Guthrie, Hard Man (Harcourt)
Deanna Raybourn, Silent in the Grave (Mira)
Mike Ripley, Angel's Share (Allison & Busby Ltd.)
LC. Tyler, The Herring Seller's Apprentice (MacMillan)
Donald Westlake, What's So Funny? (Grand Central)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Louisiana Queens

In the midst of writing a new post that is going to be elegant, discursive, and celebratory, I realized I couldn't finish it today--I have to look up further info to make it complete, fact-check, etc., etc.

But I wanted to put up something new on the blog, so here we are: Ta-dahhhh! Louisiana Queens!

I'm thinking Louisiana has more queens than any other state. We have carnival queens, festival queens, and of course, cross-dressing queens. We even have dog queens.

Photo: 2008 Louisiana Association of Fairs and Festivals Queen of Queens, Brandi Stout (2007-2008 Miss Zwolle Tamale Fiesta Queen)

If the legislature ever decides to change the motto on our auto license plates--which has been "Sportman's Paradise" for as long as I can remember--I suggest LOUISIANA--THE QUEENLY STATE.

And, by the way, creds
for giving me the idea to a couple of local blogs I just discovered--NOLA Notes and Pontchartrain Pete. (Their Queens entries are in their archives--here for NOLA Notes and here for Pontchartrain Pete.)

And this is off the subject, but too good not to share: NOLA Notes' "Ode to Galatoire's" (one of the storied New Orleans restaurants).

Closing thought: Being a blogger is like being a stand-up comic--we "borrow" a lot of material.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

"The Long Slow Revenge of Inanimate Objects"

Tim Hallinan has a great post on his blog today, "Long Slow Revenge." It's hilarious, yet sobering. Haven't we all had days like this...or perhaps not quite as bad as his day was.

I spend a lot of time trying to fight my way through the piles of inanimate objects--especially books--I've surrounded myself with over the years. I never thought, 25 years ago, that my love for buying rather than borrowing books, and for keeping memorabilia, would come to overwhelm me. Because, of course, being a procrastinator, I've continually put off the all-important technique of organizing my collections. Every now and then a box full of whatevers falls off its stack and spills all over the place, and I must pick up, rearrange, reorganize, etc....yet it's never done.

My sympathies, Tim. May you wreak vengeance on those objects! Let us say unto them, "The mills of Tim grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small...."


    THOUGH the mills of God grind slowly,
    Yet they grind exceeding small;
    Though with patience he stands waiting,
    With exactness grinds he all.
    Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Sunday, March 30, 2008

2008 Hugo Awards Finalists

The World Science Fiction Society (WSFS) is an unincorporated society which sponsors the annual World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon) and the Hugo Awards. The Hugo Awards, given annually since 1955, are science fiction’s most prestigious award. The Hugos are voted on by the thousands of members of the current Worldcon which is also responsible for administering them. Winners will be announced and trophies awarded at the Hugo Awards Ceremony at Denvention 3, the 66th World Science Fiction Convention, on Saturday, August 9.

Best Novel
  • The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon (HarperCollins; Fourth Estate)
  • Brasyl by Ian McDonald (Gollancz; Pyr)
  • Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer (Tor; Analog 10/06-1-2/07)
  • The Last Colony by John Scalzi (Tor)
  • Halting State by Charles Stross (Ace)

Best Novella
  • “The Fountain of Age” by Nancy Kress (Asimov’s 7/07)
  • “Recovering Apollo 8” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Asimov’s 2/07)
  • “Stars Seen Through Stone” by Lucius Shepard (F&SF 7/07)
  • “All Seated on the Ground” by Connie Willis (Asimov’s 12/07; Subterranean Press)
  • “Memorare” by Gene Wolfe (F&SF 4/07)

Best Novelette
  • “The Cambist and Lord Iron: a Fairytale of Economics” by Daniel Abraham (Logorrhea, ed. John Klima, BantamSpectra)
  • “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” by Ted Chiang (Subterranean Press, F&SF Sept. 2007)
  • “Dark Integers” by Greg Egan (Asimov’s 10/07)
  • “Glory” by Greg Egan (The New Space Opera, ed. Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan, HarperCollins/Eos)
  • “Finisterra” by David Moles (F&SF 12/07)

Best Short Story
  • “Last Contact” by Stephen Baxter (The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, ed. George Mann, Solaris)
  • “Tideline” by Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s 6/07)
  • “Who’s Afraid of Wolf 359?” by Ken MacLeod (The New Space Opera, ed. Gardner Dozois & Jonathan Strahan, HarperCollins/Eos)
  • “Distant Replay” by Mike Resnick (Asimov’s 4/07)
  • “A Small Room in Koboldtown” by Michael Swanwick (Asimov’s 4/07; The Dog Said Bow-Wow, Tachyon)

Best Related Book
  • The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community by Diana Glyer; appendix by David Bratman (Kent State University)
  • Breakfast in the Ruins: Science Fiction in the Last Millennium by Barry Malzberg (Baen)
  • Emshwiller: Infinity x Two by Luis Ortiz, intro. by Carol Emshwiller, fwd. by Alex Eisenstein (Nonstop)
  • Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction by Jeff Prucher (Oxford University Press)
  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
  • Enchanted
    Written by Bill Kelly
    Directed by Kevin Lima (Walt Disney Pictures)
  • The Golden Compass
    Written by Chris Weitz
    Based on the novel by Philip Pullman
    Directed by Chris Weitz (New Line Cinema)
  • Heroes, Season 1
    Created by Tim Kring (NBC Universal Television and Tailwind Productions)
    Written by Tim Kring, Jeph Loeb, Bryan Fuller, Michael Green, Natalie Chaidez, Jesse Alexander, Adam Armus, Aron Eli Coleite, Joe Pokaski, Christopher Zatta, Chuck Kim.
    Directed by David Semel, Allan Arkush, Greg Beeman, Ernest R. Dickerson, Paul Shapiro, Donna Deitch, Paul A. Edwards, John Badham, Terrence O'Hara, Jeannot Szwarc, Roxann Dawson, Kevin Bray, Adam Kane
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
    Written by Michael Goldenberg
    Based on the novel by J.K. Rowling
    Directed by David Yates (Warner Bros.)
  • Stardust
    Written by Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn
    Based on the novel by Neil Gaiman
    Directed by Matthew Vaughn (Paramount Pictures)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
  • Battlestar Galactica “Razor”
    Written by Michael Taylor
    Directed by Félix Enríquez Alcalá and Wayne Rose (Sci Fi Channel) (televised version, not DVD)
  • Doctor Who “Blink”
    Written by Stephen Moffat
    Directed by Hettie Macdonald (BBC)
  • Doctor Who “Human Nature” / “Family of Blood”
    Written by Paul Cornell
    Directed by Charles Palmer (BBC)
  • Star Trek New Voyages “World Enough and Time”
    Written by Michael Reaves & Marc Scott Zicree
    Directed by Marc Scott Zicree (Cawley Entertainment Co. and The Magic Time Co.)
  • Torchwood “Captain Jack Harkness”
    Written by Catherine Tregenna
    Directed by Ashley Way (BBC Wales)

Best Professional Editor, Long Form
  • Lou Anders (Pyr)
  • Ginjer Buchanan (Ace/Roc)
  • David G. Hartwell (Tor/Forge)
  • Beth Meacham (Tor)
  • Patrick Nielsen Hayden (Tor)

Best Professional Editor, Short Form
  • Ellen Datlow (The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (St. Martin’s), Coyote Road (Viking), Inferno (Tor))
  • Stanley Schmidt (Analog)
  • Jonathan Strahan (The New Space Opera (HarperCollins/Eos), The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year: Volume 1 (Night Shade), Eclipse One (Night Shade))
  • Gordon Van Gelder (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction)
  • Sheila Williams (Asimov’s Science Fiction)

Best Professional Artist
  • Bob Eggleton (Covers: To Outlive Eternity and Other Stories (Baen), Ivory (Pyr), and The Taint and Other Novellas (Subterranean))
  • Phil Foglio (Cover: Robert Asprin’s Myth Adventures, Vol. 2 (Meisha Merlin), What’s New (Dragon Magazine Aug. 2007, Girl Genius Vol. 6-Agatha Heterodyne & the Golden Trilobite (Airship Entertainment ))
  • John Harris (Covers: Spindrift (Ace), Old Man's War (Tor, pb), The Last Colony (Tor))
  • Stephan Martiniere (Covers: Brasyl (Pyr), Mainspring (Tor), The Dragons of Babel (Tor))
  • John Picacio (Covers: Fast Forward 1 (Pyr), Time’s Child (HarperCollins/Eos), A Thousand Deaths (Golden Gryphon))
  • Shaun Tan

Best Semiprozine
  • Ansible, edited by David Langford
  • Helix, edited by William Sanders and Lawrence Watt-Evans
  • Interzone, edited by Andy Cox
  • Locus, edited by Charles N. Brown, Kirsten Gong-Wong, Liza Groen Trombi
  • New York Review of Science Fiction, edited by Kathryn Cramer, Kristine Dikeman, David G. Hartwell, Kevin J. Maroney

Best Fanzine
  • Argentus, edited by Steven H Silver
  • Challenger, edited by Guy Lillian III
  • Drink Tank, edited by Chris Garcia
  • File 770, edited by Mike Glyer
  • PLOKTA, edited by Alison Scott, Steve Davies, and Mike Scott

Best Fan Writer
  • Chris Garcia
  • David Langford
  • Cheryl Morgan
  • John Scalzi
  • Steven H Silver

Best Fan Artist
  • Brad Foster
  • Teddy Harvia
  • Sue Mason
  • Steve Stiles
  • Taral Wayne

John W. Campbell Award (An award for the best new writer whose first work of science fiction or fantasy appeared during 2006 or 2007 in a professional publication. Sponsored by Dell Magazines.)
  • Joe Abercrombie (2nd year of eligibility)
  • Jon Armstrong (1st year of eligibility)
  • David Anthony Durham (1st year of eligibility)
  • David Louis Edelman (2nd year of eligibility)
  • Mary Robinette Kowal (2nd year of eligibility)
  • Scott Lynch (2nd year of eligibility)

From and

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Diggin' Poetry with the Rest of You

Lately several of my favorite bloggers have posted about poetry. I generally tell people I don't like poetry--I got burned out on it in my long-ago years as an English major in college. I don't read it as a leisure activity. Yet at times of high emotion or tragedy, I've found myself writing poetry. Poetry is the highest expression of the art of language, and good poets are the most skillful users of language. Perhaps at times that have intense meaning for us, we need to express ourselves within the discipline of poetry.

I recall several poems from my college years. My all-time favorite is "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold, which I reproduce here. (It's long out of copyright because Arnold died 120 years ago.) It's easy to find on the Internet; I got it from

Dover Beach
by Matthew Arnold (1822–1888)

The sea is calm to-night,
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits;—on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanch’d land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand.
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægæan, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl’d.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Zen Focus

I've been working on unitasking since my post last week, but it's a lot harder than I expected. The monkey mind jumps around from topic to topic. Turning off the TV helps for a while, until I remember I haven't listened to the evening news, etc. I turn on the 24-hour news channel, but after the half-hour go-round, I find myself switching to entertainment channels. Before long I'm back at trying to get work done while keeping an eye on the TV program. I'm back at square one.

I've been following the Zen Habits blog I mentioned in the Unitasking post. I especially liked a recent post on Focus. Here's a trenchant excerpt:

Your focus determines your reality.

It’s something we don’t think about much of the time, but give it some consideration now:

If you wake up in the morning and think about the miserable things you need to do later in the day, you’ll have a miserable day. If you wake up and focus instead on what a wonderful gift your life is, you’ll have a great day.

If we let our attention jump from one thing to another, we will have a busy, fractured and probably unproductive day. If we focus entirely on one job, we may lose ourselves in that job, and it will not only be the most productive thing we do all day, but it’ll be very enjoyable.
The essay discusses four ways to focus:
  • "Focus on a goal. ... Maintain your focus on your goal, and you’ve won half the battle in achieving it."
  • "Focus on now. ... [F]ocusing on the present can do a lot for you. It helps reduce stress, it helps you enjoy life to the fullest, and it can increase your effectiveness."
  • "Focus on the task at hand. ... People find greatest enjoyment not when they’re passively mindless, but when they’re absorbed in a mindful challenge."
  • "Focus on the positive. ... [L]earn to see the positive in just about any situation. This results in happiness, in my experience, as you don’t focus on the bad parts of your life, but on the good things."

I'm tempted to reproduce more of it here--Leo Babauta, the Zen Habits blogger, has released all his content from copyright, and freely grants permission to others to reproduce it, although he asks to be given credit. (Speaking from my lawyer side, I'm astounded...but what a very Zen thing to do, eh?) I won't copy it here, however, but rather recommend you go to the Zen Habits website and read it. The guy has a good prose style and the site is well-designed, with lots of good content.

FOCUS. Yep, that's what I need to do.