Nov 1 2016

Nicest thing I ever did

One day I was walking down the hall at work and a woman I knew from another department was walking down the hall the other way toward the public hallway that crossed the entire hospital. Just as I was about to enter my department, I turned and saw, a two-foot long piece of toilet paper hanging from the waistband of her skirt. Just hanging down, perfectly straight.

Normally in these situations I freeze and stupidly watch the oncoming train wreck in in slow motion, but this time I sprung into action.

“Britney–you have something on the back of your skirt!”

Needless to say Britney was quite happy to have only been seen by one person in a security-locked hallway instead of THE ENTIRE HOSPITAL.

But, it’s not like we became fast friends after that or anything. In fact later she would become one of Those Users who make it onto The List.

Nonetheless, I’m still glad to have saved someone from a fate that pretty much ensures you have to quit your job, change your name, go off-grid, and move to Malawi.

Nov 25 2014

One More Ride: Chapter 6: Keys

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

Velma drove Norville back to his car parked at the cemetery. The rain had largely abated and was nothing more than a heavy mist. Norville prepared to retrieve his spare key from beneath the car.

“Can you hold this a minute,” Velma asked, practically shoving the pizza box full of leftover pizza into his hands and reaching into the back of the Jeep.

Before he could figure out what to say she had already slim-jimmed his door open and replaced the tool back in the Jeep.

Norville stood there, dumbfounded.

“If you could do that, why didn’t you do it earlier?”

“It was raining earlier, and besides, you looked like you could use a bit to eat,” she said, smiling as she wiped the mist from her glasses.

“I guess I owe you one,” said Norville, smiling.

“I guess you do,” Velma smiled back as she got into the Jeep “so go talk to Daphne!”

Velma put the Jeep in gear and pulled away, waving goodbye.

Norville wasn’t smiling anymore.

May 17 2014

Ace Days: Jerry’s big ad campaign

Years ago I when I was at my first full time graphic design I was at a company called Ace that made and sold radio control cars, boats, planes, and other accessories.

Our meager design and marketing team of four was swamped making catalogs, logos, stickers, ads, and packaging, so we hired a new marketing / graphic design guy that was going to to help. Let’s call him Jerry. Jerry’s first assignment was to create our new big ad campaign.

We didn’t have enough computers so Jerry brought his own in and got to work. Jerry worked furiously over the next month on The New Big Ad Campaign. I never saw what he was doing over that month, I just saw the finished product.

Jerry pitched his campaign. It was so simple, so obvious, how had we missed this?

Here was the pitch:

Plain background.


Wearing bikinis.


Holding our products.

I tell you what, that guy was a marketing genius.

Anyway, for some unknown reason Jerry didn’t stay with us long.

Apr 23 2014

Quotable: Dan Harmon on storytelling

“sooner or later, we need to be someone, because if we are not inside a character, then we are not inside the story.”

via St. Eutychus

Jan 5 2014

The Marauder

My dad once told me the story of his uncle Delmar’s car:

“Your uncle Delmar never had kids, so of course he had lots of money.

Back in the 60s this racecar driver told Mercury that he wanted them to make him a car, and Mercury figured that if they had to make one, the might as well make six.

Your uncle Delmar bought one. When aunt Nancy wasn’t around he’d take your uncle Donnie and me with him out on the highway and really open it up.

When he decided to sell it, me and Donnie begged him to sell it to us, but he refused.”

Delmar said, “You idiots will kill yourselves in it.”

“And we would have,” Dad admitted.

“So Delmar sold the car to your uncle Alfred.”

Dad said it kind of derisively, and did his impression of the permamellow Alfred driving the Marauder; it was much like Bill Cosby’s impression of Weird Harold driving his go-cart Continental–slumping sleepily in his imaginary seat with his arm outstretched on the imaginary wheel.

A few years ago I asked Alfred about it, and told him what Dad said about him tooling about in it all slow and stuff.

“That’s not really true,” he said.

“I had it up to 80 one time.”

Nov 27 2013

One More Ride: Chapter 5: Food

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4

Norville tore into his pizza not quite savagely. People always told him growing up that eventually his metabolism would slow, that his freakish ability to consume and process copious amounts of food without weight gain would ebb, that his days of eating whatever he wanted without consequence would be over. So far he was in his late 30s and every single one of those people were still wrong–and living with the consequences they promised he would one day endure. He could rub it in their faces, but why bother? They were already miserable and envious–you could see it every time they appraised his lanky frame. And besides, it wouldn’t bring him any joy anyway–he had food for that.

“Do you think he’s OK?”

Norville snapped out of his pizza euphoria. He was so hungry he had completely forgotten Velma was there with him.

Awkward swallow. What had she asked?

“I said, do you think he’s OK?” Velma repeated, clearly reading his mind.

Euphoria gone. Norville put on his best smile, but he could tell by her eyes that it wasn’t working.

“I don’t know. I want to say that he loves himself too much to do anything drastic, but I suppose we all have our limits. I mean, a guy could deal with rejection from Norville, but from Velma? That’s entirely different. I couldn’t take it.”

Velma’s brow first furrowed at Norville’s mention of her part in Fred’s story. Then she cocked her head in amused curiosity–had Shaggy said what she thought he said?

Norville flushed so fast his face burned. Yet again he had said something–not that he didn’t mean–but that he didn’t mean to say out loud.

“He–he’ll be fine,” he said, hiding behind another slice of pizza.

“You know we have to talk to her,” Velma said quietly.

Norville loved to hear Velma’s voice–he just didn’t care for the words being formed at the moment. He didn’t want to have to do what she was suggesting. He wanted to say, “Yeah, you should do that,” because, you know, they were both girls. But they weren’t really that close anymore.

Besides, Norville knew that when women said, “we should do this,” what they meant was, “you should do this. And with some sense of immediacy.”

Chapter 6

May 30 2013


The other day I was doing some tech support for some longtime customers, a couple in their mid-80s (he uses a Mac, she uses a PC).

While I was there the topic of the next bloodmobile date came up.

“They don’t like my blood,” he said.

“Why not?” I asked.

“I lived in Africa for a while, and I had malaria and denaug.”

“I’ve never heard of denaug,” I said.

“It’s like malaria,” he said, “except worse. First you’re afraid you’ll die, then you get a little better and you’re afraid you won’t.”

It turns out he was taking about dengue fever, which is also known by the Elder Scrollsy name “bonebreak fever.”

May 24 2013

One More Ride: Chapter 4: Heat

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3

Warm air gushed from the vents with the power of one of those annoying hand dryers they put in truckstop bathrooms. Norville had ridden in several Jeeps before; rattly angular things full of crevices for wind to blow through, designed by men who either did not know or did not like each other. The ones that had had heat were the ones in the sun. But with the heat coursing out of Velma’s Jeep’s vents, she could have brought home a pizza or a bucket of chicken without them getting cold. He could really go for some chicken right now. He leaned over the vents letting them shoot the warm air up his sleeves and across his back. His eyelids drooped. He wondered if some weird part of the body secreted some kind of happy hormone when you had greasy noodles, or good coffee, or the rush of hot air across your cold, soaked back.

“Freddy told me what happened.”

Carp, thought Norville. He tried to think quickly, what excuse could be come up with for having been such a jerk to their longtime friend?

“I told him he had it coming.”


“He came to me looking for sympathy and I told him he had it coming, you telling him off like that. He was a selfish jerk who didn’t have a problem bumming food from you and yet him still expecting you to treat him like he was a huge celebrity. Then I told him if he was looking for someone to blame for all his problems he could go home and look in the mirror.”

Norville was incredulous.

“You really said all that?”

Velma was silent for a moment.

“No…I didn’t. That was what I wanted to say, but I just couldn’t. After he told me I just stood there silently, wanting to, but I didn’t have the heart.”

Norville gave a weak wan smile as Velma continued.

“It didn’t matter…while I was standing there not saying anything I guess he read me well enough to know what I was thinking.”

“Was he mad?”

“I thought he’d explode. But he just kind of…shrunk, like a balloon that’s gone wrinkly. Then he left.”

Norville just sat there, not sure what to think. He was elated to find that Vel wasn’t mad or worse–disappointed. He felt vindicated that she backed him up–or was at least willing to. But surprisingly, he mostly felt sorry for Freddy. Vel was always the one everyone turned to when they didn’t feel like they had a friend on the entire planet–because she never gave up one you. Yeah, Fred had turned into a big, alcoholic, womanizing jerk that took advantage of his friends, but….

Velma put her hand on Norville’s.

“Why don’t we get something to eat?”

Chapter 5

May 20 2013

What do we do when a horse bucks us off?

My friend The Dread Pirate Rob has a passel of small children. One day the three year old fell down and hurt himself. Rob comforted him and also used the opportunity as a teaching moment, encouraging him to pick himself back up instead of just crying and waiting for help.

“What do we do when a horse bucks us off?”

His son answered quickly and decidedly.

“Shoot it!”

May 7 2013

Iron Snow


The sound woke me immediately from the weird dream I was having. It was a distinct ‘thunk’–the sound of something hitting the back porch.

Check the clock–245am. Someone must be trying to get into the house. I got up, pulled on some clothes, and stepped out of the bedroom and checked the back door–still secure.

What could have made that ‘thunk?’ Maybe I just dreamed it. I went to the bathroom and then decided to take a look outside before I went back to bed. Then I realized what made the thunk.

We had gotten about four inches of snow on top of all my freshly leafy maple trees, felling thigh-thick branches all over the yard. The same trees The Baby and I had worked so hard to save from the snow back in February. As I peered through the wreckage I saw something scary–both vehicles were in imminent danger of having branches fall on them.

I threw on some more clothes and ran outside into the driving snow, dodging the unfallen branches most likely to kill a guy. I started with the car, since it is more important, scraping the snow off and entering through the passenger side and then driving it down the street away from the trees.

I was about to move the Jeep, but it was almost entirely enveloped in low hanging branches. I ran in to get Elsa. When I got to the porch, the branch above the Jeep collapsed, hitting the roof of the Jeep. If I had not gone to get Elsa, it might have clobbered me.

Finally I got in and got the Jeep moved. I was the tech on-call for the week, and I knew calling in wasn’t an option for me. I got my stuff together and left the house at 3am.

It was so bad I drove 15mph on 13 Highway. The interstate was clearer so I was able to double my speed, though the visibility was still terrible. By the time I got to Oak Grove I was up to 45mph, and by Independence I was at 55. It wasn’t even snowy. As I got into Kansas City it looked like they had simply gotten a nice rain. Still, I was thankful for only a two hour drive.

The real irony was that I was supposed to be off that day to go see Iron Man 3 with Heather and Stickler. The three of us had gone out for breakfast and then to the movie on the opening days of the previous two Iron Mans.

Still, it could have been worse. During the last blizzard the tech had to sleep on a makeshift cot in the IT office.