Planning Dinner

“What should we have for dinner?” my sweetie asks me fairly often.

“Um…” Think! What haven’t we had lately? What complements the weather? Do I have a hankering for something? How much work will it be to prepare? “… chicken?”

“OK, how about chicken with a buttery-garlicky sauce and spicy mashed potatoes? We can have a salad later. Would that be all right?”

Would that be all right. My sweetie is funny sometimes. So after the anguished seconds it takes me to simply name an animal, she dashes off a complete menu that she pulls from thin air, along with a schedule.

I’m eating well these days.


The Questions You Ask Define You

When you use a search engine, your queries are recorded for posterity. Therefore it’s possible that someday a man in a dark suit will ask me, “Why is it that on October 25 your searches were ‘tracer bullets’, ‘shelf life of cobra venom’, and ‘benzedrine’?”

To which I’ll answer, “I’m a writer.”

NaNoWriMo 2010 is Upon Us!

I haven’t done much (well, any, really) planning for my novel-in-a-month adventure this year, but I’m really hoping to restore my writing momentum with a good, hard deadline. I’m pulling out an idea for a story that my sweetie and I hashed out. After I make this awful draft, we’ll work together to make a not-awful version. The idea has a lot of potential. Here is the synopsis I tossed together this afternoon:

Step on a Hack

Penn Jetterson is a best-selling author. The thing is, he doesn’t do much of the writing anymore — the publisher assigns writers to churn out novels based on outlines Jetterson jots down between highballs. Lately, the quality of the work has suffered dramatically. For a while he’s been content to simply sit back and rake in the cash, but lately the writers assigned by the publisher to fill out the plots he dreams up have been, well, awful.

The latest stinker, pooped out by one Bennie Hamwich, opens with a couple having a marital spat while in a car, flying through the air after driving off the top of a parking structure during a high-speed shootout. She is doing her makeup. He is lighting a cigarette. The car continues its improbable arc. She tells him she’s having an affair with his partner on the force just as tracer bullets (tracer bullets!? really?) hit the gas tank, exploding the car.

That’s chapter one. Through an improbable (and unfortunate for the reader) series of events, the bickering couple is still alive in chapter two.

The excerpts from those novels would be downright funny — unless it’s your name on the cover of the book. Penn Jetterson needs a way to salvage his name.

Conveniently, the horrible co-authors are being murdered in horrible, improbable ways that only they could have dreamed up. When poor Bennie Hamwich’s body is recovered from the fiery wreckage of a car that slammed into the side of a building (three stories up), with the charred remains of an unknown woman in the passenger seat, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to make a connection between the novel and the method of his demise. (Although it might take a rocket scientist to actually make it happen.)

Sales of Bennie Hamwich’s last piece-of-crap novel skyrocket on the news. Another untalented co-writer is eaten by piranha in the sewers of New York. A third meets his demise in an unlikely incident with a photocopier and a bottle of snake venom.

Who is killing the hacks? Is it Jetterson, trying to clear his name? Or is it the publisher, in a despicable attempt to boost sales? Or is it someone else, revealed at the last moment in a true crime against the mystery genre?

Only time will tell, my friends, only time will tell.

Any connection you might make to this horrible book is strictly coincidence.

Excitement in the Neighborhood

The other day both my sweetie and I were hard at work in the office when the piercing sound of a smoke detector rang in our office. It was not in our place, but somewhere nearby. That happens now and then, of course, but this time the smoke detector did not stop, nor did we hear the inevitable sound of someone cursing at the thing.

The acoustics of our apartment are rather unfortunate; our unit faces another like ours, with a paved driveway between and parking directly beneath our floors. Sounds that occur nearby are amplified and injected directly through our windows. My sweetie and I have learned to be very quiet, which means that our new neighbors on the other side of the cone of loudness probably have no idea that we can hear every word they say. They should be good for a few stories…

Anyway, I went out to see if I could pinpoint the source of the still-screaming smoke alarm. Outside the sound was diminished, but eventually I established that it was indeed coming from the apartment opposite ours, unit six, where our neighbors were still settling in. While I was out there, I ran into the occupant of unit seven, who shares a wall with the screaming unit six. I tested the air and smelled like burning food.

There comes that moment of indecision – it’s probably just something in the oven overcooking. They left the house and were delayed and now dinner is turning into a blackened, crispy, not-very-tasty lump. But they’re new neighbors, and I don’t have a phone number for any of them.

The door onto their little balcony was open. I know because that’s where I first saw smoke coming out. Another of unit six’s smoke detectors joined the chorus. I mentioned that I saw smoke and both the neighbor and my sweetie called the fire department.

The firemen are stationed right around the corner; the list of questions my sweetie had to answer before the call was sent out took about as long as the deployment itself. Shortly the truck pulled up in the street and while one crew began assembling a long hose to reach back to unit six, an advance scout jogged down the driveway. “The door on the balcony is open,” I said. I imagined that if the firemen used a ladder they could spare the neighbor’s front door. (In retrospect, I realize that the fireman was not going to forego causing minor property damage if it meant not having the best possible egress from a burning building.)

The fireman jogged up the stairs and with two sharp whacks from his axe the wood splintered and he was in the apartment. The other crew had a hose laid and partially pressurized when the advance guy reemerged to shout “It’s a pot on the stove!” Then the advance guy plunged back into the smoky and loud apartment.

Then the guy reemerged with a surprise. He had with him Joe, my new neighbor, who had been inside sleeping through the whole thing. It had never occurred to me to, say, knock on the neighbor’s door before calling the fire department. I expect that anyone sleeping through two smoke detectors would not have heard my knock, but sometimes certain sounds get through where others don’t. The fireman never tried the knob to see if the door was unlocked. It probably was locked, but it’s funny the assumptions we make.

Joe was groggy, and a little sheepish. He passed me on the way to get checked out by the firemen and I introduced myself. “I had some beers earlier,” he told me. When the firemen were done with him, he chatted for a bit with the assembled neighbors. Nothing like a visit from the fire department to serve as a neighborhood icebreaker. Joe’s had brain surgery, has been stabbed a couple of times, and various other health crises over the years.

A day later I overheard him say that he had mixed up his medications, and he had put some hot dogs on the stove and fallen asleep. Let this be a lesson to all of you: If you’ve had brain surgery, stay away from hot dogs.

As I type this I hear the sirens and horns as our local firemen (who were very cool) head out on another call. Let’s hope it’s as benign as something charring in the kitchen.


Say What?

My hearing isn’t what it used to be. In ideal circumstances it’s still plenty good enough; I tend to like the TV volume a bit lower than my sweetie, for instance.

Add background noise and that changes in a hurry. My ability to filter noise from signal was never that good, I think (recalling people having conversations with bursts of static on their CB radios), but thirty-five years of rock and roll and twenty-five years of highway driving with the top down have taken their toll. Now when my sweetie is by the sink with the tap running I’m lucky if I can tell she’s speaking at all. Forget about understanding her words.

Recently I was on an airplane and every time I tried to speak with the attendant I had to repeat myself. I could understand her, but she couldn’t understand me. The difference? I was wearing noise-canceling headphones. Even with the big cans over my ears I could hear her much more easily, and so naturally I responded in a lower voice than necessary. A nice reversal of the person-with-headpohones-on-talking-loudly joke.

If I wore those big-ass headphones around the house, I’d probably miss fewer things that my sweetie said. I’d hear more while driving as well, though wearing those things would undoubtedly get me pulled over.

What I need, then, are nice little inserts like a hearing aid, but while hearing aids amplify the signal, these would simply reduce the noise. My hearing without noise is plenty good enough, thank you.

I mentioned in an episode a while back that if I ran an airline, I’d have all my on-aircraft personnel fitted for items like this, both for their health and for more efficient service on-plane. So this isn’t a brand-spanking-new idea. I just can’t find a product that actually does this. I don’t even think this is a get-poor-quick scheme. I suspect the pattern of my hearing degradation is pretty dang typical, and all the technology already exists to make these things. The market could potentially be huge.

So, someone make me my earplugs already!


Pinup Fundraiser

Pinup christmas card cover

Santa has excellent modeling talent

The holidays are upon us with a vengeance, as Madison Avenue tries to convince America (and the world) that November now qualifies as last-minute when it comes to your gift shopping. (One chain has advertised four Black Friday sales – on Thursdays.)

This is also the most important time for many charities to raise funds, and this year my sweetie and I thought we would help. We recruited Harlean Carpenter and Santa Claus for a photo shoot, fed them sandwiches (although Santa is on a very careful diet these days), and the above image is the result. It turns out that was the very first picture we took, out of well over two hundred. Go figure. It was a fun day, for sure. (Thanks also to Rick Markus for his excellent work with the reflector.)

Now you can share in the Christmasy fun and support two worthy charities at the same time!

The charities:
You are all familiar with the Salvation Army, and they get a chunk of dough for each pack of cards sold. The other beneficiary is a group called Pinup Angels, who will use the money to send care packages to troops serving overseas.

How you can help:
The first way to help, obviously, is to buy cards. A pack of 20 cards goes for only $15 – a ridiculously low price if you ask me. All we need is a shipping address and an email address. We will bill you though PayPal (no PayPal account is necessary) and send you your cards. It’s easy!

If you’re old-fashioned or the name “PayPal” makes your head rotate 360 degrees, I’m sure we can work out alternate payment, but the system really is pretty seamless these days.

Shipping is free in the US. For Canada, add $1US for the first pack and $0.50US for each additional pack. For European shipments add $3 for the first pack and $0.90 for each additional pack.

The second way to help, the way you can be really, really cool and earn some badly needed karma after all the things you’ve done this year is to help us sell the cards. To be honest, we’re depending on help from all our friends to get word out and flog these things far and wide. So please, please, hit up your co-workers and friends with a light but persistent pitch. Collect email addresses and we will do the rest. (We will never, ever, use the emails collected this way for anything other than billing. There shall be no spam.)

Help Now!
Here’s the link to the official Web site, with contact information and whatnot. Order your super-awesome cards and start feeling good about the holidays.


A little of this, a little of that

If I’m going to get a draft of Munchies done by the end of October, I’m going to have to get crackin’. I am way, way behind.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, two new kinds of banana bread out of the oven today, varieties never before imagined. Oh, yeah, life is good.

I’m trying to think of the last time I saw a movie that was advertised as an ‘event’. Maybe never.

My sweetie carries a copy of the constitution in her purse. Awesome.