I Like To Kill People

May 31, 2012

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I kill people.  I do it for pleasure.  Rarely does a month go by without me killing someone.  Often, I’ll kill several people in the course of a single day.  My weapon of choice is a knife, due to the up close nature.  When I use a gun, it’s always a Glock.  Sometimes I’ll use other methods to kill.

I’m not a violent person.  The killing I do is within the pages of my fiction.  I first create characters, and then kill them off with just a few clickety clacks of my keyboard.  I’ll admit that I love writing murder scenes, and I think I’m pretty good at it.  An acquaintance once told me that a story of mine gave him a bona fide nightmare.  How great of a compliment – a story of mine actually made its way into his subconscious, where it waited for the opportune moment to scare the hell out of him.

In “real life” I’m a pretty mild mannered person.  I could never exhibit the type of brutality that some of my characters do, nor could I cut someone’s life short by plunging a knife into their heart.  When people learn that I write pretty violent crime fiction in my spare time, it often comes as a shock.

When I’m in a particularly mischievous mood, I comment that the murderous energy must come out of me in one of two ways – words or actions.  I choose words, simply to avoid the bloodshed.

My thought is that every person has a dark side.  At some point, the energy from the dark side needs to be releases, or it will build up into a violent climax.  My stories give my dark side a place to come out and play.  The dark side can maim and kill, without causing any damage to the “real world”

The Oracle of Key West, Jimmy Buffett, once said “Therapy is extremely expensive.  Popping bubble wrap is radically cheap.”  Like bubble, writing is a very cheap way to exorcise some internal demos.  It costs almost nothing to start.  Grab a pen and and a sheet of paper, and you’re good to go.

Modern Technology And The Baseball Fan

May 30, 2012

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If you’re new around here, you might not know that I’m a huge baseball fan.  If you’ve been a reader for a while, you really have no excuse for not knowing.

I really feel fortunate to live in a time when there is so much modern technology to keep me in touch with baseball.  Sure, it lets me keep up on world news and the stock market, but let’s focus on what’s important.

The Old Days

When I was a kid, I was a fan of the Cubs (I was cured of this disease in my late teens).  I loved baseball, but my access to information was extremely limited.  We didn’t have cable TV, so the only time I was able to watch a game was when the Cubs were on national TV – a handful of games each year.  I did have the ability to listen to games on the radio.  I could almost always get the Cubs games, and often the Cardinals, too.  On a good night, I could catch the Reds from where I lived in eastern Iowa.  I’m sure I could have also picked up the White Sox, but even as a kid I had little interest in the American League.

Statistics?  There were box scores in the daily paper, but if I wanted a running total, I had to wait for the Sunday paper, which would list the league leaders in hitting and pitching (a long list).  I had to run my finger down the list until I found my favorite players.

The Modern Age

These days, I subscribe to MLB Extra Innings.  Although a bunch of teams are blacked out in Iowa (Cubs, Sox, Twins, Brewers, Cardinals), I have the ability to catch most games played by my Colorado Rockies – assuming that I have the free time to do so, and that the game gets over at a reasonable time (those west coast games are killers).  Such easy access to “out of market” games is a dream come true for a baseball fan.

If I want statistics, there are no end of sites that can give my up to date information.  The most frequently used app on my Palm Pre?  The “Baseball Live!” apps that constantly refreshes scores and allows me to quickly check in on any game.  I keep tabs on quite a few players (beside my Rockies,  I watch Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Matt Holliday, Adam Dunn, Albert Pujols, and a few others), so this is really handy.

I don’t get as much time to catch baseball coverage as I would like, and I spend a lot of time alone in my car.  Recently, I realized that it would make a lot of sense to load up on podcasts.  Since then, I’ve been listening to several hours of baseball coverage every day.  ESPN, Baseball Prospectus, MLB.com, Baseball America – if they’re talking, I’m listening.  It’s definitely far better than the options available on over the air radio during my drive times.

Of course, we can’t forget about Twitter.  I’m not a huge Twitter user, but I do follow a couple of Rockies players – Dexter Fowler and Eric Young Jr.  Both interact quite a bit with fans, and I’m come to become bigger fans of both as a result of what I see on Twitter.  EY occasionally retweets some nasty tweets he receives from “fans” (anti-fans), which let us see what they have to deal with at time.  Fowler seems to constantly be doing ticket giveaways.  Both guys are clearly enjoying playing a kids’ game.

Has your hobby been influence by technology in recent year?  What impact has technology had?

What’s On Your Wireless Network?

May 29, 2012

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In early 2007, my house had a cable modem and a wired router.  Then one computer got moved upstairs, a wireless router was needed, and the network began to grow.  Here is what we currently have on our network.

Device Purchase date Use
Wireless Router 2011 We previously had a LinkSys, but it began randomly refusing to allow devices to connect.  It was four years old, so we kicked it to the curb and replaced with a MediaLink router.  No problems with the MediaLink so far.
Mac Mini 2007 This is now owned by my business.  Not the quickest machine in the world any more, but very capable of running WordPress and productivity apps.  I generally avoid OS upgrades (preferring to save the cash toward a new computer purchase).  Thus the machine is running OS X 10.4.9.  Since this OS version is Tiger, the machine’s name is Hobbes.
Mac Mini 2011 Purchased to replace Hobbes as the family’s main computer.  This machine runs OS 10.7 (Lion) and is appropriately named Simba.  You probably think the custom names are a bit much … but it makes it really easy to identify computer when file sharing.
Windows Laptop 2011 This is my work laptop.  The wireless network makes it possible to get some work done from the comfort of the recliner.
iPhone 4GS 2011 This is my wife’s phone, so I don’t use it much.
Palm Pre 2 2011 I bought this cheap off eBay ($45?).  It’s inactivated, so I don’t use it as a phone.  I use it for surfing the web (WiFi only) and listening to podcasts and music.  The best thing about the Pre is the size.  I can put it my back and pull it out when I have a need to use it.  The Pre’s name is Montecore (this was the tiger involved in the incident with Roy Horn of Siegfried and Roy).
Blu Ray Player 2012 We actually recouped the majority of the cost of the Panasonic player by selling the bundled 3d Blu Ray copy of Avatar.  That was a nice surprise.  We haven’t actually played many Blu Ray discs yet, but we’ve used it a fair amount for NetFlix.  It also runs some other apps, including Facebook (the experience is, shall we say, sub-optimal).  It can also interact with DLNA network.  Naturally, I had to do a proof of concept checkout to make sure this worked.
Roku 2012 We bought to Roku to bring NetFlix capability to the downstairs TV (a relic from the early days of this century).

That’s 7 devices sharing the network. In general, they play together fairly well. I haven’t noticed any issue with NetFlix due to the activity of the computer’s for example.

Naturally, those aren’t the only gadgets we have. Here’s a sampling of the others:

  • Kindle – This is a previous generation Kindle with a keyboard.  It doesn’t need to use the WiFi network because it has built-in 3G.
  • My cell phone(s) – I have a Samsung a777, but have actually been using my previous phone for a while now (because I broke the clip for the new phone and haven’t gotten a new one).  The phones can receive text messages, but that’s it.  Battery life, however, is through the roof (5-6 days).
  • GPS – We have two GPS navigators.  The older model doesn’t have free updates and need to be plugged into the car outlet almost constantly.  We’re replacing it with a new Garmin that has free lifetime updates … and hopefully a decent battery.
  • iPods – We bought two iPods years ago.  I used mine more frequently before I got the Palm Pre, but it’s been pretty much idle for the last several months.  The other iPod hasn’t had much use in a few years.  There’s nothing WRONG with them, per se … they just had their functionality included in other devices.  Our kids are 4 and 2 – maybe they’ll be using the iPods before long.
  • Digital cameras – We have three.  We have a new Kodak and two older Samsungs (purchased in 2002 and 2007).  It makes some sense to keep ONE backup, but there’s probably not a need for two backups.
  • Digital video camera – It was pretty cool when I bought it in 2003, but it has fallen way behind the technological curve.

 

What about you – what gadgets are attached to your network?
 

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Is The Indy 500 Dead?

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Emerson Fittipaldi dominated the 1994 Indianap...

My how the mighty have fallen.

This weekend I took in one of my favorite Memorial Day weekend sport related pastimes. I realized a lot has changed since the days of my youth. Of course I am talking about…..

The Indianapolis 500.

I harken back to my younger days, it was on ABC. Of course in those days you did not have 1873 different channels to choose from on cable, or the dish, so on Monday night, you got to watch the Big Race. The entire family got together after a day of running around the yard, and barbecuing to enjoy the air-conditioned living room (typically at my grandparents’ house) and some sugary snacks for me and my cousins. Looking back now I am certain is was some nice down time for the parents and grandparents as well after a long day of chasing us around everywhere.

All of the same names were there, year after year after year. A.J. Foyt, Tom Sneva, Al Unser, Gordon Johncock, Bobby Rahal, Johnny Rutherford….I am sure there are many more, but those are the ones I remember.

You also had the cool sounding team racing names….McLaren and Cosworth sounded rich, chic and mysterious. You didn’t see cars with these names going down the street in your hometown. But you were sure to check out the cool corvette or Camaro that was the pace car for that particular year and it was all painted up and looking sweet!

Jim Nabors signaled that you better get your coke and popcorn ready as he started singing “Back Home Again in Indiana” There were thousands of red, white, and blue balloons released into the air. Even doves on some occasions if memory serves me correctly.

The television coverage was grainy as could be, you had about 4-5 different camera angles and that was pretty much it.

You saw that huge trophy. Wouldn’t it be cool to take that home with you.

There were announcers that you only heard at this event. Of course there was ALWAYS Jim McKay, but then there was also Sam Posey, Jackie Stewart and my personal favorite Chris Economacki.

Even the time trials were a huge event. They took up the weekend coverage the week before the 500. It was pretty much an afternoon devoted to the racing around the 2 mile oval. You got to watch the three laps against the clock, and then hear the announcers break-down their chances for the following week.

You marveled at the guy perched above the finish line waving his flags…green, yellow, white……checkered.

This year the 500 went off with a general malaise of which I cannot ever remember. No big coverage of the time trials, barely a mention on SportsCenter. My local newspaper did not even make it front page of the sports section. Instead it was relegated to about 6 small paragraphs on page #3 of the Sports Section.

NASCAR is much bigger now. The weekend race received front page sports coverage on what used to be considered the biggest racing event in America (with all apologies to the Daytona 500).

Personally, I am not a race fan at all, but for the casual race fan, the demise of the Indianapolis 500 is well underway. All you had to do was look at the stands yesterday. Years ago, the Brickyard was packed to the gills for this race.

Yesterday a lot of race fans evidently dressed up as empty seats. I am sure there will be more fans there for the NASCAR event later this year.

Things are always changin’

Until Next Time, Stay Classy Rutland, Vermont!
 

  

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Project Update

May 25, 2012

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It’s been a while since I’ve given an update on the status of various projects.

The Soap Boxers – the one you’re all familiar with.  The site never has monetized very well, but it’s always been a labor of love.  In recent months, traffic has really taken a hit – dropping 60% from previous levels.  I suspect that a Google algorithm change may be the reason.  We’ve also lost two writers recently.  Both left on very good terms – just got caught in a time crunch and had to prioritize activities in their lives.  We’ll miss Squeaky’s views on politics (though he’ll be an occasional guest writer) and Princess Kate’s insights into the world or art.  Regardless of how many visitors we have or how much money we make (lose), I have every intention of keeping The Soap Boxers alive until I die 🙂

Casting Stones – This is my serial killer novel.  It’s been on the back burner for a while now, to allow me to work on things that can actually make money in the shorter term.  However, it’s time to push it back to the forefront.  Techniques I learned in a recent writer’s should be a great help with this book.  The book follows a female detective as she tries to track a brutal serial killer.  Like many of my fictional killer, the preferred weapon is a knife.  I enjoy writing knife scenes because of the up close nature of the weapon.

Freelance writing – I continue to churn out an occassional personal finance article for The Digerati Life.  Hopefully I’ll ramp up this production in the second half of the year, since I actually get paid for these articles.  I’m not looking for any other personal finance gigs at the moment, but I’d be happy to write some freelance articles about sports (baseball in particular).

Short stories – I tried to bundle 75 of my short stories into one Kindle books, and it flopped pretty hard.  Instead, I’ve decided to break things apart into smaller pieces for a lower price.  The Cell Window (voyeurism) and Key Relationships (love story) are longer stories (10,000 words) that are available as stand-along stories for 99 cents.  The simply titled Stories About Sports is a collection of various sports stories that is also 99 cents.  In the second half of 2012, I’ll be releasing a collections of crime stories and stories with a twist ending.  I’ll also write more short stories for The Soap Boxers.

Helping other writers – I assisted Martin with the launch of his novel, A Changed Man.  I’m hoping to help some other writers launch books under the Hyrax Publications label later in the year.

 

What about you?  What are your plans for the rest of the year?

Republican Party Is Helping Obama

May 24, 2012

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Cory Booker at a Barack Obama campaign rally i...

Cory Booker at an Obama rally

I am in a state of disbelief.  On Monday the Republican National Comittee publically announced its support for the reelection of President Obama. Now the RNC might not have known what they were doing, it woudn’t be the first time afterall. In effect though, that is what they did with the launching of their”I Stand with Cory” campaign. This was after Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Cory Booker was on Meet the Press and while talking about how he is sick of both sides and negative campaigning and manipulating truths and amongst other things included talking about private equity and Bain Capital. Booker got some fack for his comments from the left, but the RNC rushed to his aid saying that they stood with him.

Now Booker talked about much more than just Bain, but the Republicans must have stuck their heads up their asses and only took it out to hear about the Bain comments and then ran with putting that ad nauseuam into their talking points since. I know it is just weird for them to see someone speaking with an independent mind and not being a mindless Republican drone. Now I can understand where Booker is coming from on being sick of negative camaigning, but on the issue of Bain I think he is dead wrong. I can’t blame him though for throwing a few kind words their way, afterall they did hep him with campaign donations before. He must have been just returning the favor.

Since the RNC’s campaign started Booker has come back on TV and attacked them for the same things he was metioning on Meet the Press and taking the soundbite that peased them and running ads with it for negative campaigning. He also said that he fully supports Obama for his reelection. Now after this did the Repubican Party stop their “I Stand with Cory” campaign? Nope, they doubled down on it. So thank you to the Republican National Committe for ending this election cyce early by coming out in full support of President Obama for his second term. I wonder what Mitt will think?

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Fiction Contest Winner!

May 23, 2012

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The winner of this year’s fiction contest is Elizabeth West.  We didn’t draw quite as many entries as we hoped.  In fact, the inaugural context drew exactly one entry.  It’s a fine story, though, and definitely championship worthy.

The giveaway of a $5 Amazon gift card for a random voter had been changed instead to a random commenter.  Tell Elizabeth what you liked about her story in the comments section below and be eligible to win! All comments left by midnight Central on May 25 are eligible (excluding writers for The Soap Boxers and their immediate families).

Want to read more of Elizabeth’s work?  Visit her blog, Graphomaniac.

 

Te absolvo

By Elizabeth West

 


Photo courtesy Jill Barlow photography
 
 
Divine work is the most challenging of all employment. Those who have followed my travails in the papers will wonder for decades, perhaps, why it was necessary. My family, a mother who in her extremity of befuddlement will not understand this and the politically-extremist brother who thinks I waste my education in a servile position, and with whom I have not spoken in several years, deserves the truth at least. This letter of explanation prior to my suicide will serve.

It is lately the hottest part of the summer, and the events of which I speak took place this past winter. The Thames reeks quite heavily, as is normal this time of year, with the effluvia of the city’s profligate denizens. Soon it will trouble me no more.

When one visits the poor unfortunates of the slums of our great city, one must take care not encourage their dreams. So many of them live hopeless lives, caught in the web of poverty, living cheek by jowl with the rats, the filth in the gutters, in the meanest of conditions. To give them false hope of deliverance is to be cruel.

The most unfortunate are the street prostitutes, those shabby and unkempt women who haunt the public houses and the streets outside the theaters, willing to bed strangers for tuppence for a meal and perhaps a night’s lodging. I speak with them now and again but pity chokes my throat and sometimes I cannot think of words. A woman’s lot is an unhappy one. If they, like men, were permitted to enter a decent skilled profession, there would be no grubbing on the street, no ruffian children fending for themselves, no pickpocketing or stumbling bleary-eyed gaze of absinthe and ale as they brush their switching skirts against you. I am proud to say I never once had my way with them. Why stoop to the level of those who use them?

I preferred to dispatch them quickly. It was the kindest way.

Once they were liberated, one might argue it was tremendous and shocking folly to slash and hack, to extract the intestines and sling them over the shoulder, to remove certain parts and spirit them away. I believe some think I am a perversion of nature, but such thoughts are uncharitable. I merely wished to help them. Once they find their way to the streets, there remains little hope of rehabilitation.

I thought long and hard for many months on how best to aid them before taking the initiative. Were I not to do this and draw Divine attention to it with horrific mutilation, some poor soul would have to continue on in her wretched existence, one from which only I, working for the Almighty, can free her.

I wrote several notes to the police in varying dialects and colloquial language in hopes of redirecting their investigation elsewhere. The night served as my disguise and I had no need of masks or leather aprons, or any cloak or concealment, but mention was made of a deerstalker hat, which mine greatly resembles. In Greater London alone there may be hundreds of these hats. I took a risk wearing it in the area, but one must look one’s best at all times. Winter kindly provided its excuse. In the current climate, a chapeau designed for colder weather would have appeared most unusual.

And they say I have some skill with the knife. The police and public search for a rogue doctor or a mad butcher, not an ordinary, meek and retiring underchef.

As to keeping clean, their life’s blood rarely soiled my raiment. I needed to render them compliant immediately and discovered that a quick hand about the throat served to bring unconsciousness swiftly. The body could then be placed gently upon the cobblestones and my work could commence. They rarely fought; in hopes of their meager restitution, their hands were full of skirt and petticoat as they exposed their purses and they had no way to defend themselves.

I made the cuts from the opposite side and then watched the blood drain. The knife I use is one I favor from the kitchen and my employer will not miss it. There is a small nick on the blade; as a renowned chef with a penchant for perfection, he has consigned it to the preparatory area where I work. I am content to use it for the veal and for other things as well.

Once a feral dog, one of many in the teeming city, approached the crimson flow, but I chased it away. How undignified it would be to have one’s blood licked up by such a mongrel. If I could have caught it, I would have liberated it also.

When I left a body to cool, walking silently and furtively away, I felt the exhilarated ecstasy that the preacher exhorts from the pulpit each Sabbath. The pieces I secreted in my lined pocket stayed hidden in my little room until I could not stand the stench, then were discarded. In that state no one could know what they were and I knew not what became of them. My heart pounded and my digits trembled; the blood rushed in my ears and I had to touch them with bare hands and feel their cool, slippery springiness not unlike the offal I prepare for the hungry bourgeoisie each day.

Once I dared to taste; a shock not unlike the shuffling of feet over a wool rug pierced my tongue and I could only surmise that punishment would follow. Therefore I did not do so again. Other, more intimate touches soon followed but did not produce any of the effects which we as youngsters were taught to expect from such congress with oneself. That is all I have ever experienced, I exhort you. The act of love is only to be shared between husband and wife. Thus the tragedy of those poor fallen women is increased.

I must make clear that the kidney sent to the police did not come from me; I can only surmise that my work inspired others. If so, I wish them well in their endeavors.

In church, devout head bowed and hands clasped peacefully in front of me, I gave up each memory of the choked gasp and hitching chest, the bubble and gurgle, to God as is His due. We must help and succor the poor and downtrodden, the preacher thunders each Sabbath, as Jesus Himself would not allow them to suffer in His presence.

I was virtuous; I was kind. I have always been healthful and not slothful. I like to think that I remained gracious, and my generosity will live on even if my identity remains unknown. I was proud but went before God with a humbled heart. I dared not lift my eyes up for His recognition but I hoped that my offerings would please Him.

But each night that I sought to release a soul into His glory, my anxiety grew. A night came when one soul was not enough; two were dispatched within a quarter of an hour and I hastened away before the police discovered my handiwork. It was the closest I came to being caught. Indeed, they ran right past me, and one inquired as to my presence on the dark street. I merely stated that I was on my way home from a friend’s and had heard a disturbance, helpfully pointing back toward the scene. The officer thanked me and passed on. I must admit, I whistled a bit as I walked away.

In reading my confession, as it may be called, you may wonder why I am choosing to end this now. In keeping with my new policy of honest admission, I say before God that my calling to help those less fortunate has become less about aiding them and more about expressing my own desires. I have failed Him greatly. Instead of quickly helping the last unfortunate, I followed her to her dwelling. Undisturbed and unobserved, I perpetrated a great deal of damage upon her person. In a frenzy, I skinned and dissected. I am ashamed to admit that I experienced gratification upon doing so.

It is nearly midnight. I have closed the window against the stench and my little room is close and dark. These memories have awakened nearly the same sensations as when they were new. I must resist a final enjoyment of them. It would not be proper.

Since I am no longer trustworthy, I must end this before my family is disgraced and my work sullied with lurid suppositions. In closing, I would like to request that when this letter is found, it not be turned over to the scandal-hungry press until any remaining members of my family can be notified, so that they may decide upon a suitable statement.

The rope is readied and I am also. I forgive myself.

I am of sound mind and body in this seventh month of the year of our Lord 1889. To my brother and mother I leave all my worldly possessions, to dispose of as they see fit. To my God, I say, your humble and obedient servant is coming home.

Signed,

“Jack the Ripper”

#

From the London Times, July 30, 1889

In a tenement lodging at 1276 Wicket Way, on the outskirts of that district known as Whitechapel, one Mrs. Baker, the landlady of the establishment, on Sunday discovered the body of one of her lodgers hanging from a fixture in the ceiling of his dwelling when she went to collect the rent. Police arrived and determined the poor unfortunate had been deceased for a day at least. Onlookers report that due to the oppressive heat and the window being shut tightly, the removal of the corpse was most unpleasant.

It was observed by neighbors that the deceased had no apparent belongings save a bit of clothing and some cutlery. Police discovered a number of papers in the corpse’s pocket, which decomposition had rendered illegible. The man’s name was not found among their remnants and all objects present were consigned to the bin. Mrs. Baker told police he had registered under the name Jack Reaper.

Mrs. Baker has asked this paper to convey the fact that the room has been thoroughly cleaned and fumigated and may be had monthly for a reasonable sum.


Around The World Of Sports

May 22, 2012

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Hitting on a variety of topics this week as there has been a lot going on.

Horse Racing

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 19: I'll Have Another #9 r...

I’ll Have Another rolled around the track at Pimlico to win the second Jewel of the Triple Crown. We once again have a chance to see a Triple Crown winner as the horse made a huge move down the stretch to catch Bodemeister and get the win by a head in the Preakness Stakes.

Bodemeister is staying home for the final installment of the three big races, so it will be interesting to see who will come and try to spoil the party, as these two horses were WELL clear of the field this past Sunday.

The last horse to win the triple crown was Affirmed in 1978.

Bye Bye L.A.

Showtime gets to go on vacation as they were easily dispatched by the Oklahoma City Thunder in their second round series by a count of 4-1. There is a lot of talk already about players being traded here or there in the offseason. Sadly we also found out what happens in OKC during victory celebrations and 8 people were shot last night in various events following the win.

On the other side of the states, everyone is wondering what is wrong with the Miami Heat. The “Big Three” has not been getting it done, LeBron James has been getting thrown under the bus, Wade has played poorly, and Chris Bosh is injured.  On Sunday, LeBron and Wade exploded for 70 combined points (with some help from Haslem) to get the series back to even, but unless the Heat get back Bosh, it is going to be a large task for them to go any further in the playoffs.  LeBron and Wade cannot win EVERY game on their own. Other players on the squad right now basically can’t hit the ocean falling out of a boat, and the Pacers frankly are a bad personnel match up for the Heat due to their size, especially with no Bosh in the lineup. Could be an interesting next couple of days in South Beach.

In other Florida NBA news, Stan Van Gundy has been fired as coach of the Magic.  Let’s see a show of hands – was anyone surprised by this?

NFL Training Camps

RG III has evidently impressed the Redskins coaching staff and has looked sharp early on in practice. I love RG III!

In other news the Bucs have gotten rid of loud mouthed warrior Kellen Winslow and signed Dallas Clark. Talk about instant locker-room improvement.

Is anyone else surprised we have not heard anything about Peyton Manning in a couple of weeks?

Baseball

No excitement this year for me. The biggest news has been the lack of home runs by Albert Pujols.  The teammate gaining the most from the attention on Pujols this year is rookie Mike Trout.  The 20 year old Trout is one of the top 2 prospects in all of baseball – but between the media attention on Bryce Harper’s antics and their fascination with Pujols being unable to hit his stride, Trout has been able to sneak under the radar a bit.  This shouldn’t be the case, as Trout is batting .350 with 4 homers and 6 steals in 20 games (OPS .613).  Trout’s game is built around speed, so the early homers are an added bonus for the Halos.

Yu Darvish has been garnering a lot of the spotlight, which is normally the case with foreign phenoms.  Darvish is putting up good numbers – he is 6-2 with a 3.05 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 56 innings pitched.  Perhaps the biggest concern at this point is walks.  Darvish has issued 32 free passes – a rate of more than 5 walks per 9 innings.  He seemed to be getting this under control with walks totals of 2, 2, 4, 3, and 2 in a recent five game stretch.  Last night, however, Darvish issues a career high six walks and was sent to the showers after the fourth inning.

Lastly, Aroldis Chapman of the Reds was picked up for speeding last night. Chapman has been literally unhittable this year, posting 39 strikeouts in just 22 1/3 innings and a .196 batting average allowed. Seems like he was trying to drive as fast as his highest pitch speed (which is 105 mph) as Chapman was pulled over Monday for going a leisurely 93 mph on the interstate.

Justin Verlander had a recent no-hit attempt broken up in the ninth inning.  Had he finished with a no-no, it would have been the third of his career.  Batters are hitting just .168 against him this year.

Matt Kemp’s run at an MVP took a hit with a hamstring injury.  He says that the hammy is at 85% and he plans to return to the lineup on May 29th.  Sometimes these types of injuries can linger.  The post-season aspirations of the Dodgers hinges on whether or not Kemp can make a full recovery.

On the topic of comebacks … look no further than the south side of Chicago.  After seven straight seasons of at least 38 homers, Adam Dunn fell hard in 2011.  In his first year with the White Sox, he hit just 11 homers in 415 at bats, while hitting anemic .159.  This year, his average is at .247 (higher than his career mark) and he has 14 homers and 34 walks en route a .986 OPS.  And fans don’t have to worry about the heat this summer – Dunn’s 62 strikeouts (on pace for a record 239) has provided abundant air circulation at The Cell.

Until next time, stay classy Thief River Falls, Minnesota!
 

 

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How To Write Like A Professional: Fantasy

May 21, 2012

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Writing fantasy may be considered redundant. When an author creates an environment, all aspects are controlled. You can choose to limit that environment by historical reality or the geography of the earth, but it is still all imagination. The Fantasy genre specifically relates to either historically impossible conditions (say a Nazi regime in western United States at the end of WWII) or unknown location. Mars and the Moon have always provided locations with unlimited possibilities, even after successful exploration of those locations debunked most of the stories that have been written or are being published today.

Both the moon and Mars were used by Edgar Rice Burroughs in his Moon Men and John Carter’s Chronicles of Mars. He also invented places on earth, such as Lost World and The Land That Time Forgot. Burroughs is the epitome of the fantasy writer as he invented Tarzan, sent adventurers to the center of the earth, invented creatures, brought the dinosaurs back to life and even invented optional ways for evolution to work.

In my installment on series, I commented on George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones and J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Both of these authors chose to invent completely new worlds as well as new inhabitants for those worlds. They are all of these authors are successful in the fantasy genre because of internal consistency, completeness and the ability to weave a grand story. But fantasy can also be short stories that grab your attention. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Richard Matheson’s I am Legend are good examples.

Fantasy can be graphic, but is separated from horror or by the story being about the “Fantastic” rather than the “Horrific”. Shelley’s story is a blend of fantasy and horror. Most of Matheson’s other works are more focused on horror or at least the bizarre rather than fantasy.

Reading these works and seeing how the stories are knitted together will help you in your drive to write better yourself. The fantasy world can come from any dream or even a different examination of the common world. There have been stories of abnormally small or large creatures and people. Just changing the color of something common to something uncommon can blossom into a complete idea.
 

 

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A Bad Trade

May 19, 2012

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Note: this story was originally published on February 11, 2011.  It’s a favorite of mine, so I’m re-running it today.

As the metal door clanged shut, Dan Bell glanced up at his attorney.  She was looking a bit rough around the edges today – in stark contrast to the well groomed and carefully made-up woman he had grown to love.

“The guard is checking in a couple of new lawyers.  We have a few minutes before he comes back.  Let’s do it.”

Dan needed no further encouragement, and in a moment he stood stark naked in the middle of the attorney conference room.  Katie helped him put on the bra and Dan slipped her flower print dress over his head.  Katie dressed herself in the prison garb while Dan finished getting dressed.

“Put on some foundation to cover that bit of stubble,” she instructed.  Katie transferred the shoulder length blonde wig from her head to Dan’s and applied quickly applied a coat of lipstick.  She removed the light layer of makeup from her own face and sat down in the chair that faced the door.  Dan was slipping his feet into her shoes and fastening the clasp of a necklace when she saw the guard glance through the window.

They sat in the room for another fifteen minutes, making small talk to kill some time.  At 10:05, Dan began to put papers back into the brief case and prepared to leave.

“Just remember, Dan, the jig is going to be up at shower time tomorrow morning.  Make sure you catch that flight and get out of the country.”

She could sense the uncertainly in her brother as he readied himself for the escape.

“Don’t worry, Dan.  You look convincing enough.  Sure, you look like me on a bad day – but that’s how I looked when I came in.”

Dan smiled and tried to steady his nerves.

“Thank you, Katie.  And I’m so sorry.”

Katie smiled and nodded.  She had told Dan that the cancer would kill her within a year.  Better for her to spend her final year in prison than for him to spend the next fifty years there.

Dan signaled the guard and was soon walking toward the door to the outside world.  When he got to Katie’s Honda Civic, he tossed her purse and briefcase onto the passenger seat and glanced over his shoulder.  Nobody was chasing him yet.  He struggled to keep his emotions in check as he exited the prison parking lot at the posted speed limit.

Fifteen minutes later, Dan flopped down on the bed of a motel near the prison.  He breathed a huge sigh of relief.  Phase one was complete.  Phase two – exiting the country while passing himself off as his twin sister – would be a bit more difficult.  He stood in front of the mirror.  He definitely didn’t look like Katie at her best, but did he look like Katie at her worst?  Perhaps.

Dan was itching to change into some more comfortable clothes. He tossed the big suitcase onto the bed and opened it.

“Son of a …”

The long flowery dress he was wearing was the most conservative thing Katie had packed.  The suitcase was packed with frilly blouses, short skirts, and even a couple of bikinis.  Dan laughed when he saw an open box of condoms and a started birth control pill.  Then he realized that the TSA would expect to find those items in a woman’s suitcase – bonus points to Katie for her attention to detail.  He glanced inside the garment bag in hopes that there might be a pant suit inside – but it held only dresses.

Dan knew that Katie must be taking some perverse pleasure in his predicament.  Let her have her laugh – he was a free man again.  He considered a quick shopping trip, but decided to wait.

After ordering room service, Dan sat on the bed and inspected his travel itinerary.  The flight to Brazil was going to be mind-numbingly long.  He pawed through the overnight bag to see if Katie had packed anything to read.  He rolled his eyes when he pulled out three Danielle Steele novels.  Katie might be going a bit far with this cloak and dagger stuff.  He could always pick up a couple of books at one of the stores in the airport.

Dan’s eyes found a sheaf of computer printouts in the bag.  “Tips from drag queens.”  As he glanced through the pages, he found himself nodding at many of the tips – they would definitely make it easier for him to pass as a woman.

After wolfing down the room service burger and fries, Dan glanced at his watch – or rather, Katie’s watch.   It was noon – still several hours to kill before heading to the airport.  He decided to try a few of the drag queen tips.  After a nice, relaxing bubble bath, he gave himself a close shave.  As he glanced as his handiwork, he thought it would be a shame to hide his gorgeous legs in the long dress.  It took a moment for him to find what he was looking for – a short black dress in the garment bag.  If he was going to put on a show, why not make it a good one?

The woman who left room 406 later that afternoon was much more attractive than the one who had entered several hours later.  Dan had spent a considerable chunk of time perfecting his makeup, and was reasonably confident that it would allow him to blend into a crowd.  His fingernails and toenails were painted a bright pink, and a bit of Katie’s perfume even made him smell nice.  He hefted the bags into the Civic and headed to the airport.

Dan had no difficulty using Katie’s identification to check in, and was soon in the secured portion of the airport.  He spotted a steak restaurant and made a beeline for it.  It had been a long time since he had enjoyed a real steak.  As he waited for his meal to arrive, he reached into the bag for a book before remembering that it contained only romance novels.  He made a mental note to pick up something different before boarding the plane.

Out of curiosity, he began to read a few pages of the book.  It was definitely not his cup of tea.  As he glanced up from the book, he noticed a guy a few tables over staring at him.  The guy turned a bright red when Dan glanced his way.  Dan smiled to himself – if guys were checking him out, then he was doing a good job of passing himself off as Katie.

At 7:30, the jumbo jet roared down the runway.  Dan was relieved that the flight was on time.  It would touch down just after 6 AM eastern time and give him about two hours to clear customs before Katie secret was discovered at shower time in the prison.  That should be enough time, but it was too close for comfort.  What would have happened if the flight had been delayed?  He wondered if Katie did this intentionally, just to make him sweat – but came to the conclusion that she was just making sure he had plenty of time to make the flight.  Relax, Dan, you have plenty of time.

When the plane touched down in São Paulo, Dan made his way through customs and claimed his bags.  As he jumped into a taxi, he glanced down at his watch – ten minutes to spare.  He set the watch ahead three hours to reflect the local time.  He had the taxi drop him off at nondescript hotel that was happy to rent him a room for cash – the paper trail would stop at the airport.  After ducking out for a quick lunch, he returned to his room, collapsed onto the bed, and tried to sleep off the jet lag.

He slept like a baby until the next morning.  When he awoke, he realized that he would need to go shopping before touching base with his friend that evening.  He was certainly not going to show up for his meeting with Frank in drag. As he pondered his clothing options for the shopping trip, he decided to do a full Katie, just for kicks.  What the hell – it was just a few hours.  He strutted out of the hotel in a short pink dress and matching heels.

He returned to the hotel later that afternoon with three shopping bags full of clothes.  There were a few blouses and a pair of women’s shoes – since it would seem unusual for a woman to not buy any clothes for herself – but also an array of men’s attire.  A few minutes from now, he could dump all of Katie’s stuff, and walk out of the hotel as Dan once again.

He was lost in his thoughts when he entered the room and it took him a moment to notice the man sitting in the chair.

“Senhorita Bell?” the man asked.

“Sim,” he responded uncertainly.

“Senhor Silva wants to know if you have the package.”

“Package?  Silva?  I think you have the wrong person.”

The man laughed before raising the gun and pulling the trigger.  “Senhor Silva does not make mistakes.”

Many miles to the north, Katie Bell was enjoying a long nap in her brother’s luxurious bed.  Hours after the prison switch, Katie’s partner had gotten the judge to sign the papers granting a new trial for Dan and ordering his immediate release.  At 3:45 PM, Katie had walked through the gates of the prison to her freedom.  Free from prison, and free from the long arm of António Silva.

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