My mom is better than your mom. OK, well that may or may not be true, but my mom rocks. Why you ask? I’ll tell you why.
My mother taught me to love language. We were always reading when I was young. My mother routinely used large words and spoke correctly, even in casual conversations. I once had a girlfriend ask me, “Why don’t you talk like everyone else?” Turns out I was speaking correctly and she wasn’t used to hearing proper grammar.
My love of writing is a direct result of my love of reading, which I also learned from my mother. Therefore I could extrapolate that this blog is my mother’s fault, so I guess you’ve got her to blame if you don’t like it. (more…)
Be it known, that on this day, April 13th, 2010, my daughter, Colleen, age nine, beat me at chess.
I of course took it with all the grace and humility of a world-class diplomat. I accused her of hacking into the town computers in order to alter the softball schedules without updating the parents. In this way, Lauren would then have to call me repeatedly while attempting to drop Meghan off at practice, thus distracting me from our game. It was brilliant really, but her tremendous hacking and social engineering skills didn’t detract from the fact that she was a filthy cheater.
Yeah, she didn’t buy it either. She even refused my offer to issue a statement on national television refuting my earlier claim of foul play. That kid is a class act. (more…)
When I first saw the announcement for Apple’s Magic Mouse, I knew right away that I simply had to have one. I mean just look at it! It’s sleek, it’s sexy, and it just oozes Appleness. The designe engineers at Apple really hit one out of the park with this baby. Having owned an Iphone for a little over a year now, I’ve grown to love the multi-touch interface. I figured this mouse would be a natural.
I like chocolate. In fact everyone likes chocolate in our house. We try not to have it too much, because it’s not the healthiest thing in the world, but sometimes you just need a tasty morsel of gourmet chocolate to melt in your mouth while you moan in pleasure. You know you do it. There’s no need to deny it. We’re all friends here.
Since we all love the stuff, I buy my girls a tower of heart-shaped boxes filled with a variety of tasty gourmet chocolate every Valentine’s Day. Sure I eat half of them, but that’s not important right now. What matters is that I care enough to buy my girls the chocolate they deserve for no other reason than I like it too. Chocolate defies both logic and grammatical protocols you see. (more…)
I like my butter soft. I don’t think that’s so strange, but it has been a source of lighthearted contention in our house since we’ve had a house to share.
You see Lauren is firmly entrenched in the camp that believes butter should be refrigerated lest it go rancid over time. Being someone who won’t drink milk that’s even close to the expiration date, I can see her point of view. While I have experienced the joy of lumpy milk first-hand, I have never sampled the taste of rancid butter. Perhaps that is why my point of view differs from Lauren’s.
Aged milk aside, I like my butter to be soft, which means that it needs to be warm, which, in turn, means it shouldn’t be stored in the refrigerator. Cold butter means firm butter, and firm butter just doesn’t spread nicely. The risk of torn toast is simply too great for me to risk firm butter, let alone hard butter. I spend a great deal of time and energy toasting my bread to a perfect texture and golden-brown color. I am certainly not going to risk my handiwork with something so vulgar as firm butter.
As an aside, I would like to point out that no one uses the term “buttery” to describe something hard and cold. If my butter isn’t buttery, than what is? How can the thing I’m using to describe a texture and consistency not exhibit the fundamental principles used as the basis for identifying said principles? Call me pedantic, but if my butter isn’t buttery, I’m not eating it. I have my standards after all.
While I like my butter to be soft, Annie has no such preference. She likes her butter in any form, so long as it’s available, though to be painfully accurate, availability is rarely a concern of hers. Annie doesn’t just like butter, it is by far, her favorite food, and she will do whatever it takes to sneak a lick or even steal an entire bar of the stuff. Annie it would seem, can not be bothered with the rantings of a butter connoisseur.
Since Lauren wanted to keep the peace, she took to storing the butter in the microwave when we were not at home. The butter stayed soft, and Annie couldn’t figure out how to open the microwave door, though I did catch her staring at it in contemplation more than once. Lauren then took to storing everything even remotely edible in the microwave. At first we used the oven, but quickly learned that we often forgot when the oven was full. Apparently bananas, butter, grapes and clementines don’t do well in an oven when it’s preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Who knew?
Annie altered the battlefield in the butter wars, as the ever escalating games of “hide the butter” have come to be known. You see if we left the butter out — so that it might attain the perfect consistency needed for easy spreading — it would disappear. We thought for a time that we had been visited repeatedly by the butter fairy, but we grew suspicious at the callous lack of dollars where the butter had once been. We were also concerned about the teeth marks on the butter dish. According to my measurements of the bite radius, the butter fairy would have been about 120 pounds, sporting large fangs and powerful jaws. Somehow this didn’t line up with the mental image I’d always had of fairies. To be fair though, I’m far from an expert on the subject, regardless of what my middle school gym teacher might have said to the contrary.
Early in the butter wars, Annie took an entire stick off of the counter, and when Lauren caught her in the act, Annie chewed furiously in an attempt to swallow the stick before Lauren could take it from her. Convinced that we needed better armor, Lauren bought a closing butter dish. Once we contained the butter, Annie stole not only the butter, but the butter dish as well. She then proceeded to lick and chew the butter dish in an attempt to extract the last molecules of butter essence from the plastic tray. We threw that butter dish out.
Lauren then bought a Rubbermaid butter dish with a “locking” lid. I use the term locking loosely, since the magic ferret-dog managed to take the dish, dismantle it, enjoy the contents, then summarily destroy it. Annie’s lust for butter, it would seem, knew no bounds.
She had eaten through one butter dish, and tried desperately to destroy the next. Lauren then went all out and bought a heavy-duty industrial grade mil-spec space-age locking Tupperware butter dish. This dish was a piece of engineering magnificence, guaranteed to keep the butter safe from shark attacks and two-year-olds. Surely it would keep a puppy at bay, even if she was a 120 pound ferret-puppy from the magical land of Newfoundland where butter fairies roam.
I am happy to report that thus far the beast has been unable to gain entry to the butter. The super-dish does sport marks from one night’s attack, but her efforts were for naught, and for now, our butter remains safe. Sure we eat dinner every night with a butter dish marred by bite marks. Sure we sometimes have to scoop the butter from the lid instead of the tray. Apparently she rolls the super-dish around at night in an attempt to get at the tasty butter inside. None of that matters. What matters is that, for now at least, we have outsmarted the ferret-dog.
Our butter remains soft and the integrity of my victory toast is assured. Life is good… for now.
The old man sat downstairs talking to his lovely wife. The lovely wife was saying good night as she did every night. The old man had always been a night owl and went to bed long after everyone else was asleep. As she reached in to kiss him, a noise caught his attention. She’s in the sink he thought. He pulled away from his bride and left the office to run upstairs. He had to be quick. There was no proof without catching her in the act.
The old man could still pretty spry when he wanted to be, though the years had limited the duration of his sprints. He knew his limitations. He just needed to get to the kitchen before she jumped down. As he rounded the landing that served as a midway point on the stairs, he pivoted on the railing and launched himself upstairs. As his vision cleared the top floor, he could see the beast. I have you now…
With both humans downstairs, the beast had infiltrated the kitchen and decided to feast on the bits of chicken stuck to the tray soaking in the sink. She had stood on her hind legs, and was standing at the kitchen sink like a person. The beast was as large as a man, and twice as strong. Her two front legs supported her massive frame while her head bent down into the sink in order to grab the tasty morsels from the pan.
Adrenalin fueling the chase, the old man reached the top of the stairs in an instant. He had planned to run up behind the beast so that he could surprise her. If he could scare her while she fed, perhaps she would learn not to eat from the sink. That was the plan anyway. It seemed like a good plan before it all went bad.
As the old man reached the second floor, something unexpected happened. Though he couldn’t be sure what was wrong, his aging brain had time to register one important alert. With pain imminent, the old man’s brain sounded the alarm to all bodily systems: Warning – collision imminent – brace for impact!
The human body is a marvelously complex machine. The brain serves as the command center for much of the body. Like a large sea vessel, when emergencies are encountered, alarms are initiated. In this case, the ship had lost it’s bearings due to a sudden unplanned change of course. Specifically, instead of moving forward, the ship was now diving straight for the floor. Old ships are not submarines after all, and sudden acceleration towards the sea floor is cause for alarm. So it was with the old man. He was not built for sudden acceleration towards the floor. Still, the old man’s brain was pretty active. Aware of sudden danger, his brain recorded the following actions and alerts in short order:
Cause: Sudden lack of ability to remain upright
Secondary Cause: Falling
Primary Cause: Tripped
Root cause analysis: The Beast
Alternate Beast Identification: Ferret Dog
Canonical Name of Ferret Dog: Annie
Emergency Restorative Action 1: Scream in anger and pain
Emergency Restorative Action 2: Re-evaluate horizontal position
Reset all systems and report
Critical systems: nominal
Man-parts: How YOU doin’?
System has been reset
Prime Directive: Kill Ferret Dog
As I flopped on the ground trying to decide which limb hurt the most, Annie jumped down from her feast while Lauren came upstairs to see what all the fuss was about. It hurt to get up. It hurt to do anything. Somehow, someone had come in and replaced my body with that of an old man’s. As an additional insult, it would seem that the old man’s body had clown feet that had hooked the top step of the stairs. None of that mattered though. It was hard to see through the pain, impossible to think through the rage. One thought consumed me.
Kill The Beast!
Annie enjoyed the advantage of youth. The beast, however, lacked wisdom. Though I might have been unable to run up a flight of stairs while remaining upright, I should damn well be able to outsmart a one year old dog. Life isn’t like it is in books though. Slowly I climbed to my feet while Lauren watched, her concern masked by her strenuous attempts at curtailing her laughter.
Annie cowered in the corner. She had no fear of physical retribution, for we had never laid a hand on her in anger. She knew though — oh the beast knew what she had done. She wore her guilt as if it were a necklace of thick iron. Her head hung under the weight of it, her eyes looking up at me with a pitiful stare.
Still my fury was consuming. I gathered my bruised old body, stood towering over her and pointed a shaky finger at her. The only word I could manage through the anger and pain hung in the air as I glared at her.
That was it. That was all the English I could conjure. My internal conflict had consumed all of my mental resources leaving me with only basic language skills. I wanted to kill the Ferret Dog, but I could never hurt her. The beast had won. I’m not entirely sure how, but she had won.
I gathered up my bruised body along with my battered dignity and limped back downstairs where I could hurt in peace. The battle had ended; I had lost. Losing wasn’t the problem though. What bothered me most was that for all my pain and humiliation, the she-beast hadn’t learned a damned thing.
Annie is not allowed in the office. I know that, and she knows that, but only one of us cares. I’ll leave you to decide which one of us that might be. It might be the same one that mutters “stupid dog” under his breath from time to time, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you.
Annie knows that so long as part of her is outside the perimeter that defines the office, she is being “good”. Good, as with most issues of morality, is a topic open to interpretation. It is also therefore subject to the interpreter’s point of view. Someone it would seem, has informed Annie of this moral loophole.
Take for example the included picture of Annie. This picture was taken from inside the office. As you can see, the curve of her spine is on the tile – outside the office – while the majority of her body is on the carpet – inside the office. This position, while technically adhering to the letter of the law, flaunts her disdain for the spirit of the law.
Annie didn’t just walk up and lay down in that spot. She started by sitting down in the hallway outside the office with no part of her body near the door. Over the course of the next fifteen minutes though, she stretched, and rolled, and twisted like the bored child that she was. Idle paws as it were.
I imagine that during one of those contortions, her back paw must have touched the rug. Jackpot! she surely thought. With a paw on the rug, the incursion could begin. The game had begun. Next a casual roll would flip her tail onto the rug. Of course she wasn’t comfortable that way, so she rolled over to the other side. Two feet in!
If we happened to have seen her at this point, she would have looked all twisted and uncomfortable. We usually comment on how strange she is, or how she sleeps like a teenager when we see her like that. It’s all a ruse though, for she had a plan and she was determined. She was on a quest to violate a rule she found offensive – a mission of civil disobedience. Since I am the giver of rules, I am therefor “the man”. She is my very own Abbie Hoffman in a black and white fur coat. Thank God she can’t write her own book.
As she continued her machinations, more and more of her body poured into the office. She was slow and deliberate and moved in such a way that I never noticed her efforts. She was on a covert mission like a Marine sniper in the tall grass: quiet, deceptive and deadly. I never saw her move. Like the intended target of the sniper in the grass, I never figured out what was going on until it was too late.
After her dance of deceit I turned my chair and saw her curled up as you see her now. Her mission had been accomplished. She had quietly infiltrated my lair and delivered the fatal shot without making a sound. Her stealth was admirable – her mission a success. Without uttering a sound or causing a fuss, she had not only shown her contempt for my rules, she had done it in such a way that I didn’t see her do it. Therefore, according to the rules of war and the articles of the Geneva Convention, I could not tell her that she was bad. Had she just walked in and sat like that, she would have been open to my counter attacks. She was far too smart for that.
So Annie sits with 90 percent of her body in the office, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. Stupid dog indeed.
Writing a book is an arduous process. Anyone who says otherwise probably hasn’t written a book, or if they have, it likely hasn’t been published. As I wrote in my blog entry What it Takes to be a Published Author, writing is harder than most people think. Sure it is sometimes easy to sit down and put words on paper, but almost 100% of the time, those words are crap. While the mechanics of writing are different for everyone, I thought some might be interested in how I approach the task of writing a book. (more…)
I am a fan of experiences that make me question reality. Imagine getting ready to lift a heavy container. You flex your muscles and lift, only to discover that the container is empty. Your brain panics for a split second as it tries to reconcile your previous perception of the container’s weight with the reality of the empty vessel in your hands. Experiences like this are a rarity, for our perceptions of the world have been reinforced through years of conditioning. Water in a river will be cold to the touch. Fire will be hot. Heavy things are heavy. We expect our world to be predictable.
Some things are never predictable though. Spill paint and try to predict where it will splatter. There is a randomness to life that is reassuring, for strict order would make living unbearable to even the most committed of control freaks. Still, this randomness is in itself, reliable. We can rely on the fact that splattered paint will create a different pattern every time. There are certain laws to which the universe is bound. In certain cases, where order might otherwise lead us to madness, randomness is key. If every sunset were identical, then none of them would be spectacular.
Life with a puppy is a mixture of predictability and randomness; order and chaos. A puppy will grow, be silly, play and love. She will also nibble, chew, and make a mess of damn near everything while she learns the rules. While the acts themselves may seem random, they will occur with certainty assuming the puppy leads a relatively normal life. Try though to predict where the puppy’s drool will end up when she shakes her head and you will see the inherent randomness found within the universe. While you can safely assume that most of the drool will end up on the floor, this is simply the nature of gravity. Where on the floor it resides is a far more complicated matter.
Trying to determine where drool lands is not an act that calls reality into question. Big dogs drool, and the drool goes everywhere. My reality is filled with proof — I don’t need to study the matter any further. We need a different type of experience to test reality. For a truly jarring experience akin to lifting a surprisingly empty container, we need only one thing; a special kind of dog. We need a dog that that cares not for the rules of nature, nor for the equations that describe the laws of physics. Luckily, I know of such a dog.
I am a 45 year old writer and science buff who thinks he has a pretty fair grasp on reality. Sure there might be zombies outside the fence at night, but until you can prove to me that there are not zombies, their existence is, at the very least, a possibility. One fine night I opened the sliding glass door in the dining room to call the dogs. Upon opening said door I saw dog number one laying on the deck wagging like the good boy that he is. Guinness thumped to me his lazy Hi Daddy – I like you but you’re not the Mommy greeting that I so often receive. Not seeing Annie, I leaned my head out a bit and looked to the left where I should have been able to see the entire back yard. Only instead of the yard, I found myself looking eye to eye with dog number two; Annie, resident she-beast with the newfound ability to bend time and space.
For one reality bending second, I looked into the eyes of the mischievous one year old Landseer. She was smirking. So help me she was smirking! My brain clicked into high gear and tried to reconcile the perceived discrepancy that had lead me to question reality, and thus my very sanity. The logical process initiated by my brain unfolded as follows, all in the span of 1/10th of a second:
I bet she would tell me that Annie’s sitting on the storage box
I wonder if… wait… what?
Annie had chosen to sit on the large plastic outdoor storage box on the deck. We have since witnessed her on the patio table as well. Why? Because she’s Annie. Apparently being Annie involves a blatant disregard for anything regarding normalcy. There seems to be no other reason that we could discern. She just likes to be different. Annie came to us from a rescue foster home where she spent the first few months of her life with not only other dogs, but cats as well. She seems to have taken the characteristics and mannerisms that appealed to her from each species. Then again I think Annie is simply ammused when I am forced to question my own sanity. I wonder what Kate Beckinsale would think.
Everyone loves a clean dog. Not many people enjoy the act of washing a dog, but they certainly enjoy the results. Imagine if you could teach a dog to bathe themselves. Sure they can give themselves a thorough tongue-bath, but that’s not what I mean. Imagine if you could get your dog to soap himself up, work up a good lather, then hose himself off. Heck, while we’re wishing, why not throw in a towel dry. Imagine seeing your dog walking into the bathroom with a bar of soap in his mouth and a towel thrown over his back.
These were the thoughts that ran through my head as I saw Lauren chasing Guinness out of the bathroom. Normally I would expect Annie to be causing trouble in the bathroom, so when I saw that it was Guinness, I had to look again. Mr. Guinness, resident good boy and zombie hunter extraordinaire, had tip-toed into the bathroom and pilfered a bar of soap from the tub. As I watched, he came trotting out of the bathroom, furiously chewing something as Lauren followed. He looked like a kid that had stuffed a candy bar into his mouth and was trying to swallow it before his mom could reach him.
She managed to grab him and then dug her her small hand into his enormous mouth as any mother would in order to get the illicit treat. Lauren then pulled out the remaining third of a well chewed bar of Ivory soap. The girls had just finished their showers, and I had opened the last pack that morning, so the bar was fresh and bubbly. His breath was fresh and bubbly too for the first time in months, which was nice, but not germane to the story at hand.
Lauren and I both stared at the soap remnant, then both looked at Guinness in unison. He was the good dog! Good dog’s don’t eat soap. He looked very pleased with himself and sat like a good boy expecting a treat. He then had the nerve to sniff Lauren’s hand to see if maybe she would return his pilfered snack. We told him No! and put the remains of the soap in the trash.
Guinness showed no signs of any distress over the next few days, which I guess is a testament to his constitution, or perhaps his size. Then again maybe he puked somewhere and it smells so nice we haven’t noticed yet. Lauren and I have been kind of afraid to go into the kid’s room lately. Maybe I’ll don my environmental suit and check it out. Then again maybe I’ll have the kids do it.
We now have to lock the bathroom door not only to hide the kitchen trash, but to hide the tasty soap. I’m sure that plenty of people lock their bathrooms to keep their dogs from drinking in the toilet, but to hide the soap? If there is a book entitled Problems that Normal People Have, I don’t think there’s a chapter regarding the need to hide the already locked kitchen trash can in the bathroom along with the soap. Experience has taught us that it’s hard to be normal with Newfies. Given the choice between the two though, I’ll take the Newfies every time.