Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A quick check-in

Hello all. Yes, I am still ticking, although my life over the last few weeks has had me considering, seriously, removing myself from the mortal coil. That has passed, as I now (as of yesterday) can count myself among the ranks of the full time employed! YAY!

Anyway, I still have one major hurdle ahead of me, so I'm by no means out of the woods yet. I can, however, see the clearing ahead. Hopefully the new year will allow me to get on a regular writing schedule so that maybe, just maybe, I can turn this into something more than an intellectual exercise.

I would like to thank my 3 readers for sticking with me. It will be more worth it in the near future. I have some big plans for this. Will it ever materialize like I want? Probably not, but the maybe is getting stronger! My writing time has been divided lately and this has suffered. I've regained focus on my book and a new story began to take shape Sunday. I'm still not sure where that one will take me, but I am excited about the premise. If any of you are fans of White Wolf's games, you may enjoy that one once (if) it gets finished.

Well, this seems rather short...How about a story? Here's another from my collection of flash fiction. There is a bit of a moral to this one, and it's pretty in your face, but I still enjoy the premise. I hope you do too!

"It's still amazing," DeShawn says without looking up from his gloves.

"What's that killer?" Rod, DeShawn's manager, asks from his usual position, leaning against the dressing room door.

"It's amazing that, without fail, this is always the calmest moment. Not after the match, not on the ride home, right now." DeShawn sighs. "I'm actually going to miss this. Right here, right now."

At 41, DeShawn knew that, essentially his career was over. Sure, the big name heavyweights could still fight into their 50's, but he was no big name star. Although the last 20 years were great, he just couldn't get over that hump. Never quite made it.

Everything started out so well too. Golden Gloves championship in his class on his 21st birthday. Under card matches for some of the biggest events of the time. But all that is ancient history. Now, it's merely survival fights in dingy arenas where more often than not the purse isn't enough to cover the travel expenses. DeShawn would have hung up the gloves months ago, except for the phone call.

Six months ago, DeShawn got a call from an old sparring partner who turned into one of the larger promoters in the Deep South. He was putting on a huge card over Thanksgiving weekend, and wanted DeShawn to fight in one of the under card matches. A few years earlier, and it would have been a no-brainer. Now, staring retirement squarely in the face, DeShawn wasn't sure if he had what it took to put on a good match, even if it was for an under card. The persuasiveness of his old buddy and the guaranteed purse eventually won him over.

Now, just a few short minutes from his last ever professional bout, the doubts that DeShawn had all those months ago came flooding back.

"Rod," DeShawn asks with a tear in his eye, "What am I doing here?"

"One last, big payoff killer!" Rod responds in his usual gruff exuberance. "A chance to go out in front of a big crowd instead of in front of a few dozen drunken gamblers!"

"Yea, I suppose," DeShawn replies weakly. "Is it worth it though?"

"Of course you punk!" Rod jests. "Now get out there and beat that mook senseless!"

With a chuckle, DeShawn headed out of the locker room for his last, long walk to the ring. Upon entering the arena, he was overcome by the spectacle. Nobody would confuse the Bartow Arena with Caesar's Palace, but it was a damn sight better than the back of Ernie's Pool Hall in Tulsa, the site of his last bout. Even a half full house was still good for several thousand boxing fans.

Climbing between the ropes, DeShawn is confronted by his opponent for the night, a lean, hungry up and comer 15 years his junior. The last thought DeShawn had before facing off for the last fight of his career was, 'Lord, please let me not get embarrassed out there!'

At first, it seemed to DeShawn that the youngster would make quick work of him. His opponent came at him from the bell with a flurry of punches that DeShawn barely was able to fend off. As the round went on however, DeShawn began to see a few flaws in the youngster's game that could be exploited. Unfortunately, his opponent's age allowed for a torrid pace that DeShawn was unused to.

As the first three minutes came to a close, DeShawn was only able to land a few weak punches. What he lacked in offense however, was made up for in the amount of knowledge he gained about his opponent. With the ringing of the bell for the second round, DeShawn's confidence began to grow. Not only did he think that he was going to have a decent fight, he might actually win!

After three more minutes and a few more weak, tentative attacks, DeShawn began to see his opponent weakening. Apparently this was the youngster's first fight in front of such a large crowd. He had thrown everything he had in the first two rounds. Now it was time to show the rookie what a veteran can do!

Dashing from his corner at the start of the third round, DeShawn began throwing powerful punches with bad intentions. After exhausting himself in the first two rounds, the youngster's defense wasn't as quick and sharp as it should have been. Glancing blows turned quickly into solid, damaging shots. One shot ended in a sickening crunch as DeShawn crushed his opponent's nose. Only feeling slightly guilty, DeShawn continued the onslaught until a solid shot to the youngster's midsection crumpled him like a used beer cup.

Collapsing into a neutral corner, DeShawn watches as the referee slowly counts, quickly becoming aware of his own fatigue. Only after he hears the three chimes from the bell does he realize that he has won. Dropping to his knees, fists thrust triumphantly above his head, DeShawn basks in the polite applause from the crowd.

Striding back to the locker room, head held high, DeShawn finally knew what it was all about. It wasn't about the fame, glory, or money. It was taking pride in a job well done.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Brain Nuggets

Time for a few more things that are too short for a post on their own, but too long for a Facebook status!

At what age, if any, is it too old to have crushes? Seriously, is there a point that it turns from 'Awww...that's so cute!' to 'EEEEEEWWWWW....creepy!'? Does it make it worse that the person knows it's a crush? Pre-teens and teens by and large don't know the difference, that's what makes it sooooo cute. I get that a 60 year old man crushing on a 21 year old is creepy in the extreme, but what about the gray areas? These are the things that come to my mind as I'm coming off of a caffeine fueled Epiphany...

Ladies...What is the big deal with the 'bad boys'? I'm not talking about the barflies that act all big and bad, I mean the true bad guys. The guys with a rap sheet that goes from Green Bay to Milwaukee. Maybe it's a difference in the sexes, but in reverse, I wouldn't find a gal with multiple felonies and who was just released from prison attractive, no matter what they looked like on the outside. I just don't get it. The incident in the Milwaukee freeway recently brought this one to mind. When given the choice, the gal stayed with the felon. Am I missing something?

As much as it pains me to say it, I have officially gone over the line from huge fan to fanboy. It's not something that I want to admit. I have spent my entire adult life trying desperately to avoid becoming the 'OMGOMGOMGOMG' kind of fan of anything. Yes, I have deep respect and admiration for many different people from all walks of life (writers, musicians, sports players, etc), but it has always been in a respectful way. I came to the realization last night that there is now one person that, if I ever got the chance to meet, would turn me into a blubbering pile of fanboy goo...The conscious part of my brain was a little surprised by the subject of said fanboydom, but the subconscious apparently always knew. Oh well...time to go over to the dark side.

edit: After a bit of a reflection, it has come to my attention that if you look at my electronic presence, you might get a hint at the person who is discussed above...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Googling away knowledge?

Over the past few months, there have been times where I thought it would be fun to have a bit of a trivia contest either here or on my Facebook page. After about 10 seconds thought, I realized how silly that sounded. With the ease of finding information online, any contest is only as good as the fastest Googler.

That got me thinking. Are we losing the desire for knowledge? With the ease of web searches at any time thanks to PDA's, cell phones, and netbooks, what motivation does the average person have to actually learn things? Am I the only one left that enjoys reading information and learning it so I don't have to Google everything?

I heard a story on my way home from work the other night that said teachers, despite the negative affects that it has, have had to introduce more electronic media into the classroom so their students pay attention at least part of the time. Now, I'm not a technofear person, but perhaps the reason that we seem to be getting less and less out of our students lately is the fact that they don't feel the need to learn anymore. If the 'typing' I see online is any indication, that attitude is getting more and more widespread.

Yes, we need to embrace the future. So much good has come from technology over the past 25 years, but if we don't remember what got us here, how can we continue to move forward?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale...

As some of you may or may not know, I have turned writing into a bit of a hobby. Not only here (which is mostly my random thoughts and feelings at the time), but also in the forms of novels, short stories, and poetry. Most of this has been unpublished for various reasons (in the case of the novels, they are all in rough drafts that are in various states of incompletion). Until now.

The reason for this is kind of a bit long winded, but if you will bear with me for a minute, it will become clear.

I am a bit of a sci-fi/fantasy fan. Growing up with Red Dwarf, Star Trek (Both TNG and watching TOS reruns with my mom), and being introduced to David Eddings and Robert Jordan. As such, one of the places I drop into fairly frequently is WWdN: In Exile, the personal writings of one Wil Wheaton. Mr. acting Ensign Crusher himself. It was because of his recurring role that I really got into The Big Bang Theory.

Anyway, some time after his first appearance on that show, I came up with a bit of an odd story idea. I had been playing with the flash fiction genre (generally 1,000 words or less) at the time. One night at work, I made two critical mistakes. First, I let my muse and my mind wander off together unsupervised. Secondly, when they returned REALLY happy about what they created, I was foolish enough to listen. Now, don't get me wrong, I love the insanity that my mind lives in and the creativity of my muse startles even me with it's brilliance sometimes. That doesn't mean that I should have even considered hearing their love child. I was tired. I wasn't thinking. I let them tell me about what I created...

I will have to admit, it was pretty good in a funny, demented, fan fiction kind of way. So when I returned home that night, the three of us sat at the computer and put 0's to 1's and saved it for posterity (or at least until a hard drive crash). That's where it's sat for well over a year. Now we return to the afore mentioned Mr. Wheaton. For some reason, I commented on a post of his where I vaguely mentioned the story I wrote about him. About a week later, he posted an unrefined story of his own. After the story, he made a comment to other writers to not be afraid to publish to the world. I think in some way that was, at least partially, directed at me.

So, in that spirit, and without further ramblings by yours truly, here is the first of my short stories that I am willing to bring to the light of day. Most of these haven't seen any revision since I originally wrote them, nor have they undergone any more advanced editing than a spell check, so don't expect perfection.

Trying desperately to avoid being lulled to sleep by the rhythmic swish swish of the wiper blades, Pamela began to wonder, again, whether this trip shouldn't have been put off until tomorrow. No matter how many times her mom told her that it was just a routine procedure, Pamela had this funny feeling that there was nothing routine about it. So, after only a few minutes thought, she grabbed what she needed and headed off into the rainy, Ohio night.

Approaching Akron with no sign that the rain will let up anytime soon, Pamela decides to pull into the truck stop ahead. "Maybe", she thinks, "I'll get lucky and the diner will still be open and I can get a cup of coffee." Pulling into the well worn parking lot, it appears that Pamela's luck is with her. Although empty, it does indeed look like the diner is still open.

After carefully parking her car as close as she can get to the door, Pamela sprints to the diner door in a vain attempt to avoid most of the rain. Practically diving into the diner, Pamela is greeted by the inviting warmth. "Hey hon!" calls the waitress cheerfully. "Dreadful night isn't it?"

"Tell me about it!" Pamela says breathlessly. "You guys are open, right?"

"Of course!" the waitress replies. "24 hours, even on Christmas! The name's Flo. Grab a spot anywhere you want. I'll grab ya a menu and be over in a sec."

"Thanks!" Pamela calls as she slides into a booth near the register. Looking around, she sees that, while clean and tidy, there isn't much remarkable about the place. Just your typical roadside diner.

"Hear you go dear," Flo says returning with the menu. "Can I get you something to start with?"

"Just a cup of coffee," Pamela replies while trying to shake the last of the rain from her hair.

"Sure thing," Flo calls over her shoulder. "Leaded or unleaded?"

"Leaded!" Pamela chuckles. "Haven't heard that term in quite a while!"

"Well, we are pretty old fashioned here!" Flo says chipperly, returning with the coffee. "What brings you out at this time of night?"

"Just passing through and need a bit of a recharge," Pamela says with a nod of thanks. She explains to Flo about the issues with her mother while giving the menu a once over.

"Oh honey," Flo says empathetically. "Sorry to hear that. I'll get this over to the cook."

As she casually flicks the ticket to the cook who is leaning through the service window, Flo calls to Pamela, "Care to talk about it some?"

Even though the last thing Pamela wants to do is air her problems to a complete stranger, she does that the entire time. The odd thing about it is, since her dad passed away several years ago, Pamela has had such a hard time talking even to her close friends about her feelings. Now, sitting in this little roadside truck stop, talking to someone she has never met before, she finds herself pouring out emotions she never knew she had.

Dabbing up the last bit of egg yolk with the last scrap of toast crust, Pamela turns to Flo and says, "Thanks a lot. I guess I've been meaning to get that off my mind for quite some time."

"Oh, don't you worry dear," Flo replies sweetly. "We don't often get customers this late during the week. Well, except for the long haul guys, and I spend most of the time trying too keep their hands off of me!"

Getting up with a long needed stretch, Pamela says, "How much do I owe you?"

"Never mind dear," Flo says. "It's on me. Like I said, it was nice to have someone to talk to for a bit."

"Really?" Pamela asks incredulously. "No, I got to give you something!"

"No really," Flo insists. "Go see your mom. She needs to see you."

With a wave to the cook and a hug of thanks to Flo, Pamela heads back into the monsoon. As she pulls onto the frontage road, Pamela is startled by the sudden appearance of flashing red and blue lights in her rear view mirror. Slightly annoyed, she pulls over and waits for the officer to approach.

As she rolls down her window to talk, the officer gruffly barks, "Please turn off the car miss!"

Complying quickly, Pamela asks, "What is the problem officer?"

"Can you tell me what you were doing back there?" the officer asks sternly.

"I was just getting something to eat and some coffee. I have a long trip ahead of me!" Pamela says innocently.

"Right," the officer replies sarcastically. "Give me another one!"

"No really!" Pamela pleads. "You can even go back and ask Flo!"

"Flo?" the officer replies, significantly less gruff than he was a few seconds ago.

"Yes!" Pamela almost squeaks. "She's the waitress!"

"Miss," the officer replies gently. "That restaurant has been closed for years. Ever since the fire."

Whipping her head around, Pamela notices that the place where she was just minutes ago has, in fact, been shuttered for years. The faded fire scars are still visible even in the dark. "Wha...Who..." Pamela stutters. "What is happening?"

"I think you better come with me miss," the officer says calmly. "We'll get you a room at the motel."

Following the officer numbly, Pamela wonders, did she imagine the whole thing, or did something else happen out here? Although no answers would come on the short drive to the local motel, Pamela did know one thing. Her life had changed in a way she wouldn't have believed just a few hours ago.

Perhaps I'll share some more in the coming days and weeks. Real life is going to get VERY real for me, so I can't make any guarantees. Anyway, I'm sure you were expecting the Wil story. Sorry dear reader, but whether it's actually a legal issue or not, I don't feel comfortable publishing anything, even digitally, that contains a real person without their blessings. Sorry to disappoint!

Friday, December 3, 2010

This Old Cub

OK, fist things first. This is probably the worst thing to do considering the news is less than a half an hour old as I write, but if I don't get it down now, I don't think I will be able to.

WGN is now reporting that legendary Cubs player and announcer Ron Santo has died at the age of 70.

It will come as no great surprise that I am a Cubs fan. I have been as long as I can remember. I am a proud member of the WGN generation, growing up with a summer of 140 games televised on the network. When I got older and found myself away from the TV more frequently, I turned to the radio to get my Cubs fix.

I never got the chance to see Ron play. He retired a few years before I was born. My love for Ronnie developed over the years as I listened to the games on WGN radio. I'm sure there are a lot of people that feel that he wasn't a great color guy, but to those of us who were fans he was the perfect color guy. He was as much a fan of the team as we are. I know I don't speak just for myself when I say that we often didn't hear Ron's cries of despair because they were drowned out by our own. Often, you didn't need the play-by-play. Ron's emotions told us all exactly what happened.

There's no more deserving player who is not in that Hall that deserves to be there. I'm not going to go into this now. It's not the place or the time. All I'm going to say is that it's way past time. Let's get it done now.

I can't go on anymore...I'm still too shocked. Rest assured I will say more later and it will be more of fitting tribute. I'm not real religious, but if everything the Christians have been telling me is true, God is now blessed with the best baseball announce team. Rest well dear Ronnie....

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Peu de mort blanche

Well, it starts...

Yea, I know we've been spoiled. It's already December and we are looking towards only our first accumulating snowfall. It doesn't mean I'm happy about it!

Well, let's be honest here. I am looking forward to it a little bit. I'm a weather geek, and that means all weather/storms. The reasons I'm not happy about it have been fairly well documented. I won't rehash this, even though I know damn well it will happen again. As I write this, we are roughly 24 hours from the expected start of the snow and the exact strength of the system is unknown. That makes me very nervous. Doubly so when they are talking about possible lake enhancement.

But I digress...The real reason for this post is to gather advice. For those that missed it, the first storm last winter was also a doozy. One of the more complex storms of the season a well. During that storm, I made hourly observations as long as I was physically able (it was overnight and I did have to sleep a bit). I put it to you, dear reader (yes, I mean my only reader!) should I do the same this year? It will be a bit more difficult as there are few places where I'm living now that I can use for official depth measurements, but I am willing to give it a go.

So, what say you? It will be a fairly short duration storm (aprox. 6 hours as of this writing), so the only thing stopping me from every hour is the timeframe (12 am-6 am Sat.). Would you be interested in my hourly updates on Facebook? Leave a comment either here or on Facebook.