Wilder by Far

A look at life with the Wilder family. Updated most weekends and some vacation days. You can contact me at movingnorth@gmail.com..

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

"Flame on." -Johnny Storm, The Fantastic Four

It's an unusual thing for me to post on a Thursday, especially after a Wednesday post. And a six pack.

Anyway, The Mrs. has a blog, over here. The Mrs. used to be a myspace blogger, but has come over to the dark side of blogger. Funny thing is, we were sitting on our computers snarking at each other, back to back, not saying a word, each tied to the Internet on our own computers. The funny thing is, this is how we argue in reality. So, have a look at our world . . .

Backstory: The Mrs. is a writer. You should buy her book here.

Original Post

Plot arguments do not lead to domestic tranquility

I had a book epiphany today. The kind where you just stop everything you are doing and think, “My, God. That’s brilliant! I am such a genius!”

My incredible idea was that I should swap the back story part of book 2 (The Second Seal) with the one in book 3 (already written and currently gathering virtual dust on my hard drive).

Speaking of back story, here’s a little on this whole predicament:

All of the books in this series have four major storylines. Three of those are set in the present and the fourth is set in the past. The fourth storyline fills in the gaps in the other three and gives the reader a historical perspective on the rest of the plot. Except in The Second Seal. It didn’t really do that and I have spent no small amount of time trying to figure out a way to make that happen. However, all of my ideas fell a little short.

Until today.

I made a small change in a secondary character that tied him directly to the fourth storyline in Book 3 (I allude to this a bit in #2, but not a lot. You’d really have to be paying attention to catch it.).

The difficulty is in convincing my husband/writing partner/editor to do it. Because he is in love with the section from Book 2. I think this is because it is the last part of any of these books that he actually sat down and wrote. He loves it and is unwilling to change certain parts of it (more on this in an upcoming post). He really doesn’t want to make the change. I just think waiting until the next book is asking a lot of the reader, especially when it might help to know more about what is going on in Book 2.

I apologize for being so vague, but I don’t want to let any spoilers slip out.

Your thoughts?

Comments Follow

Dear The Mrs.

It was (really, Internet) my idea to tie the two. There wasn't a tie, and this makes the two parts sync together like beer and chocolate pudding. Trust me, that's better than it sounds.

As we discussed today, we already went over the tie from the historical plot to the present, and, well, yes. I like the old plot. It would make Fitzgerald weep with envy. It is so good it would make Hemingway want to take a shotgun and . . . oh, my bad.

The beauty of this tie (in my opinion) is that it brings together two of the present plotlines, provides a real reason for one of the character's actions, but yet doesn't explain just who The Old Man is. It's simply too much to pull in The Old Man along with the other characters and not end up with Madolyn Smith's (yes, that's spelled right) description of her husband's writing in Funny Farm:

You have a flashback, a flashback in a flashback, and, what is this? A flash sideways?

No dear. It's good. It was good before you rewrote the whole damn thing. Now it's even better. Stop before you become Andy Farmer.

With hugs and bunny kisses,

June 28, 2007 10:44 PM
John said...

The book was even good with the Italian Assassin.

Paging Mr. Machina, Mr. Deus X. Machina . . .

June 28, 2007 10:45 PM
Sean said...

Leaving out the whole "This doesn't make sense/It's not supposed to make sense" argument, the tie between them is exactly why these two should be in the same book. Like I said to you the other night, it's okay for the characters to be confused, but don't leave the reader wondering what the heck just happened.

No. It wasn't. No plot device in the known universe was as bad as the Italian Assasin. But, at least I now have new lows that I can aspire to.

June 28, 2007 10:50 PM
John said...

No, you establish that they're father and son. You just don't show he's Darth Vader (yet).

It worked for Lucas. He didn't cut off Luke's hand until Empire. Empire was the best movie. You don't want to add Ewoks next, do you?

And, really, the Italian Assassin (not a Sylvester Stallone movie, really) wasn't all that bad. Sure, he just was a version of Basil Exposition, but he died wonderfully.

Oh, and Internet? We're sitting on our computers, back to back, writing this in our living room. She's listening to some crappy music, and I'm thinking about putting some Mojo Nixon in.

June 28, 2007 10:55 PM
Sean said...

The Ewoks had their own cartoon, thank you very much! I'm just saying that it leaves TONS of unanswered questions at the end of the book. Afew of those I don't mind, but I think this leaves too many.

And the Foo Fighters, Audioslave and Flyleaf are not crappy!

June 28, 2007 11:04 PM
John said...

Sure. The Ewoks had their own cartoon. So did M.C. Hammer.

No, it doesn't. You DO hit the main plotline, there's a truly beautiful ending. This is ancillary, and similar to wondering if Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's manager had difficulty signing up new acts after his headliners got waylaid on their way home from Hamletstock. No. It is CRUCIAL to The Third Seal, but a sideline in this book.

Foreshadow. My freshman English teacher told me that. Of course, she also told me to spell "fulfillment" as "fofillment" on my Frosh term paper.


Point taken. Foo Fighters and Audioslave are not crappy. Flyleaf? Neverheardof'em.

Something tells me your readers are going to be amused by this byplay.

June 28, 2007 11:25 PM

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"Wax on. Wax off." - Mr. Miyagi, The Karate Kid

An overcast summer morning in Houston, or a giant yellow fire alien intent on conquering humanity with a trident. You be the judge. You can click on it for bigger wallpapery goodness.

I believe that work is the best medicine, after, well, actual medicine. I also believe that work is the best teacher, after, well, Mr. Miyagi. I also believe that π is exactly 22/7.

It was Saturday and The Boy was parked (on a middling nasty day) in front of the TV, watching a show on how to install ceramic tile (I am not making this up). The Mrs. was sprawled out on the couch, making a noise gentle soft snoring noise, similar to an industrial vacuum cleaner with a tennis ball stuck in it. I looked at The Boy and saw what every father sees when he looks at His Boy sitting watching TV: free labor going to waste.

“Get your shoes on. We’re going outside.”

“Okay.” The Boy got up, with no protest. Maybe he thought we were going to do something fun.


Out into summer Houston, just as hot and humid as the inside of Al Gore’s pancreas, we went. I had a chainsaw and a trimmer, and it was time to take out a little vengeance on the trees.

The previous owner of the house had let the trees grow wild. That’s not so bad, unless you have to walk under them, or, worse yet drive a riding mower under them. I got hit full on in the forehead at full mower speed by a nice branch, and had a little chainsaw party for that particular friend early on. I thought I was done.

As we got more moved in, I continued unpacking and found the canopy/sunshade that attaches to the mower. In Fairbanks, this little canopy was frivolous, since the Sun was never overhead enough for the canopy to provide any protection at all. Nor, really, would you need it. The Sun was never intense enough in Fairbanks to give anyone a tan, let alone a sunburn – and our family is so pigment-deficient that you can actually look right through our skin and see our major internal organs, sloshing around inside us, doing the icky things they do. Despite their being no immanent danger of immolation in Fairbanks, I put the canopy on the mower anyway. It just looks right that way.

I looked at my canopy and then put it on the mower – it was a bright, sunny, hot day. The canopy helped in two ways:
It kept the Sun’s evil rays off of my skin, and,
It kept the Sun’s evil rays off my beer.

That theory worked fine, until I drove the mower under a tree and a low-hanging branch caught the edge of the canopy, ripping the nylon fabric and breaking mangling one of the supports of the canopy.

This was war.

I proceeded to hack, grind, and rip every branch within 84” (261 meters) of ground level. The Boy’s job? Pick each branch up and put it in a plastic trash bag for disposal. Difficulty factor? Prevent Pugsley from doing stupid two-year old things. (Pugsley was outside wandering about on an edict from The Mrs. that there be no stinky smelly boys in the house for a bit. Saintly though she might be, she does tire of us from time to time.)

I gave The Boy trash bags. Were these ordinary bags? No. The plastic on the bags is as thick as one of Grandma’s quilts, and there’s enough volume inside each bag to put the entire population of Switzerland, with a little room left over for a few assorted short Bolivians. Each trash bag is so big it takes approximately six barrels of sweet, sweet oil to manufacture.

I continued hacking while The Boy, well, frittered, sputtered, and complained (around the time I’d finished amputating limbs from the trees). Eventually, Pugsley decided he wanted to go take a nap, and that left just The Boy and I.

When working alone, The Boy was cantankerous, obstinate, and just plain whiney. Working together, he stooped and picked up the branches and leaves and ran them back to the bag like a sweaty irritated rabid weasel after three cappuccinos and an espresso. The Boy motored. Me? I just moved the bag along, encouraging him gently with repeated fatherly encouragements such as, “More” and “Faster” and “Maggot.”

We loaded up nine of the humongous trash bags.

In The Karate Kid Daniel-san learned how to block punches by waxing Mr. Miyagi’s car. I’m thinking that The Boy learned his own lesson that day.

Hide on summer days when Dad comes looking for help.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

"Cheese is the Devil's plaything." - Dr. Gregory House, House, M.D.

Original Post Date: July 2, 2005

That's Anchorage above, at about 11pm, near the solstice. A pretty place, mountains all around. You can click on the picture to make it larger, and, it's worth it.

But, too many rules here in the big city. Probably can't hunt moose in town.

Anyway, I got an actual moose-related letter from an Alert Reader with a question:

Dear Chicago Sun,
Do you have moose cheese up in Alaska? My daddy says if it's in the Sun, it's so.

First, I was worried. When would the Chicago Sun catch me reading their mail?

Second, I was thoughtful. Hmmm, don't remember seeing that at the local Safeway or Fred Meyer's store. Maybe in with the mouse eggs?

Then I thought about the process involved in making moose cheese. You'd need to:
  • catch a 1200 pound moose
  • keep catching and releasing moose until you got a female (important before you started milking)
  • check the moose to make sure she was lactating
  • milk said 1200 pound moose
  • and repeat this process until you got enough moose milk to make cheese.
This was enough to make me think that the idea was a bogus one, unless you were a suicidal hippy. Lo, I must report, gentle reader, I was totally wrong.
There is moose cheese, Virginia.

I pulled the following story off of ESPN
, for heaven's sake. ESPN has an article on moose cheese. Virginia, if it's in ESPN it's so. I used the very useful "Bork" text feature that one can download for Firefox, and am pleased to present the a paragraph on moose cheese, as presented by a Muppet Swedish Chef:

Fermers in nurzeern Svedee ere-a meelking muuse-a und mekeeng cheese-a, vheech zeey sell fur a lut ooff duoogh — neerly $500 a puoond. Zee booyers incloode-a upscele-a hutels und restoorunts in Svedee. Bork Bork Bork!

Chreester Juhunssun und hees veeffe-a, Ulla, sterted zeeur 59-ecre-a deury ferm, "Muuse-a Huoose-a," sefee yeers egu in Bjoorshulm, 404 meeles nurt ooff zee cepeetel, Stuckhulm. Zeey cleeem it is zee oonly muuse-a deury ferm in Ioorupe-a. Bork Bork Bork!

So, Chreester Juhunssun is making moose cheese. At $500 per pound, with a total output of 660 pounds, Chreester is making about $330,000. Selling moose cheese. After Swedish taxes European taxes, and Moose tax, that would leave him with about $53.21, enough to buy that new ABBA album he'd been saving for.

So, now I know that moose cheese exists, an important lesson. Another important lesson I learned was that Swedish is not a language, but only any accent.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

"This truck has given me 20 years of faithful service: nobody can put a price on that. Now who's gonna tow me home?" - Hank, King of the Hill

Wondertruck getting forest first aid.

This weekend was about saving the life of an old friend. Wondertruck. Wondertruck is a 1985 short-bed F150 4x4. It’s grumpy, and as a person who’s driven stick shift vehicles most of my life (they’re way cheaper), this particular stick shift is perhaps the most cantankerous I’ve had the chance to drive. It guzzles gas at a prodigious rate. The AM/FM/Cassette is installed upside-down. “That’s the only way it would fit,” Bill told me. Bill sold me the truck, up in Alaska.

Wondertruck has an exterior that can best be described as bits of flaking paint tenuously held together by bits of rust.

Houston hasn’t helped with the rust part, though Wondertruck (amazingly) still starts on the first try (except for that whole “dead battery in the woods as the hornets were taking turns stinging The Boy because he’d tramped on their nest incident”).

When moving from Alaska to Houston, I couldn’t bear to leave Wondertruck. It had helped me haul over twenty cords of wood, and it’s been loyal to me. I thought I could return the favor.

Turns out that when you move to Texas they want the vehicles to be inspected, for such pesky things such as meeting emissions (which Wondertruck passed in Fairbanks) and making sure all the various safety features work.

So, back in February I took Wondertruck in to get tested. Like a surgeon coming in with bad news, they told me that Wondertruck needed major surgery.

In the case of Wondertruck, the tail pipe and muffler had rusted through so utterly completely as to make it unlikely that there’d been more than a suggestion of metal holding them together for years. No wonder the vehicle passed the tailpipe test in Fairbanks – it was pretty unlikely that any emissions were making it to the end of the tailpipe.

Wondertruck also needed an emergency brake cable, which is odd, since in all of Texas (outside of an overpass or two) I have yet to see one place one could park a vehicle and worry much about it rolling anywhere – there’s just no up and down to this state.

I waited until June. Did I want to spend $340 on a vehicle that was worth maybe $400?

The Lexus driving guy made up my mind for me.

Something about a rusty old hulk of a vehicle seems to drive some fraction of luxury vehicle drivers just a bit insane. Perhaps it’s the graceful way that Wondertruck shudders to a start from a red light? Perhaps it’s the fine lines of primer and rust? Perhaps, just perhaps, it’s the fact that they don’t have enough self-confidence for a ride like Wondertruck.

So, with only a week left until Wondertruck’s Alaska tags expired, I took it in to get the repairs done.

The Boy has told me on several occasions that he wants to have Wondertruck available for him when it’s his turn to start driving. Wondertruck has that effect on people.

Until 2016, then, Wondertruck is mine.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"You're right. No human would stack books that way." - Venkman, Ghostbusters

The Boy and I find it best to watch scary things with a Scooby blanket, even in summer. That way you can pull it over your head if something scary happens.

The Boy is interested in two things above all else: home improvement (he gets his household remodeling techniques via the DIY™ network) and ghosts. Ghosts he gets from his favorite show: Ghosthunters®(LINK) on the Sci-Fi© network.

If you haven’t seen Ghosthunters©, it’s a show where two plumbers that work for Roto-Rooter® go out and hunt for ghosts. I am not making this up. They have a team of (fairly) irascible fellow ghost seekers that form the core of The Atlantic Paranormal Society (T.A.P.S.©), which makes inventive use of the “The” in the name. If only The United Nations had the acronym T.U.N., then I think it would be more popular, but only if it were composed of plumbers from every nation in the world. And would be better if T.U.N. hunted ghosts, instead of putting Cuba on the human rights committee. When you think about it, putting Cuba on anything with the words “human rights” attached to it is similar to putting Paris Hilton in charge of The Righteous And Meek People Society (T.R.A.M.P.S.). Hmm, strangely, that fits.

Anyhow, we were talking about ghosts. The Ghosthunters® use a variety of high-tech gear bound to excite the inner geek in any six year old. They have:
  • Infra-red cameras, which pick up heat radiation instead of visible light,
  • Pez® dispensers, which hold sweet, sweet Pez®,
  • Remote video cameras and microphones,
  • More computers than Cuba, and,
  • Cool shirts and hats that say T.A.P.S.© and make them look like they’re on a drug raid.
And, when I really think about it, I’d love to have my own infra-red camera, too so I could just walk around all day staring at cups of hot coffee through it. “Ohhh, pretty colors.” I even checked out how much they cost on teh Intratube a year or so ago, and decided I could just drink the coffee, instead of shelling out the $10,000 for a costly device, that, while neat, could dispense no Pez®.

The plumbers Ghosthunters® search around, and, mainly find vague camera malfunctions and the occasional thud. They listen to the accumulated audio with the keen ear of someone listening to every ABBA© album backwards looking for proof that ABBA™ encoded The Secret Swedish Death Star© plans in “Dancing Queen”. (Full disclosure – I’m not sure I trust the Swedes – I think they’re hiding something, otherwise they’d speak English.)

In additional full disclosure, I must also admit to liking the show myself. Sure, it’s hokey, but it’s fun to watch. The Boy, however, sees no hoke. The Boy laps up all the technology, all the faint squeaks that become potential “evidence” for a ghost.

Not that the Ghosthunters™ have any vested interest in finding ghosts, not with ratings, the lucrative merchandising, the Ghosthunters© magazine, and the whole “having to go back to plumbing forty hours a week instead of having a pretty sweet TV gig” at stake. No. Certainly they’re nothing but the height of true dispassionate scientific skeptics. Fortunately, they find a ghost nearly every episode. Who’d have thought that possible?

As I said, The Boy has yet to have his bubble burst. He may have doubts about the Tooth Fairy® (I never bought that one, myself) and Santa© is on the bubble, but, by golly, ghosts are real. The Ghosthunters® find them, don’t they?

Okay, final disclosure. I was typing away in Word© on my Winders 98 (Southern Edition) and the first time I typed “ghost” the system went beyond blue screen of death, and straight to a grid pattern of dots on the screen. I had to reboot and start writing again, from scratch.

Perhap, just perhaps, this is evidence of a paranormal event taking place inside my eight-year-old computer running nine-year-old software.

Must be. Think of the ratings.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"Yeah, baby, yeah! I'm the Midnight Bomber what bombs at midnight!" - The Midnight Bomber What Bombs at Midnight, The Tick

Original Post Date: 6/22/2005

This is Denali on the solstice. Go ahead, click on it to make it bigger. It's worth it, and I'll keep waiting. Denali looks like it does the rest of the year (it doesn't change much, being a mountain and all, not like leaves fall off of it), but, right now there is actually light so you can see it, and no cloud cover. I took this from the MiG 21 I bought after the settlement I had over spilling coffee on myself (who knew that coffee would be hot?) due to a piece of asbestos flying off a DC-10 and hitting my Ford Pinto.

Okay, it was really an Alaska Air Flight (motto: you'll get there when we damn well feel like flying the plane) into Fairbanks.

Oddly, you get used to the sun almost setting at due north, then immediately heading up out of the same north it almost thought about setting in. It just cuts a full circle through the sky. The moon, though, does what it does in Topeka or Kalamazoo, comes and travels east-west. Odd, since you get so used to them tracking together at the lower latitudes, that the sun and moon are on such completely different paths up here. Again, like late Alaska Air flights, you get used to it.

I did however, actually take the picture during the seven minutes between ascent and descent when you can use devices powered by a single AAA battery. I must admit, the FAA treats science like voodoo when it comes to airplanes . . .

FAA Guy: "Let's see, airplanes fly through lightning, right?"

Other FAA Guy: "Yup."

FAA Guy: "So, we should be really, really worried that someone is using a device that emits 1/10,000,000th of that energy, right?

Other FAA Guy: "Yup. Can't regulate lightning, but we can make 'em turn off a digital camera."

FAA Guy: "Yup."

Other FAA Guy: "Sure wish we could regulate lightning."

I've been in a commercial plane and seen lightning hit the wing. Since I was

a. 18, and

b. drinking

I thought it was cool. Now, I'm just glad that the engineers who designed that plane had a chance to design a few B-17's first.

Speaking of which, good thing our flyboys back in World War II didn't have I-Pods. The Germans wouldn't have had to shoot us down, our bombers would have just fallen out of the sky because Horace from Michigan was listening to the Andrews Sisters singing "Rum and Coca Cola" and Ebeneezer from Florida was listening to Benny Goodman's "In The Mood."

America. Saved from totalitarianism by a dearth of compact electronic devices.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

"We're giving Pilate two days to dismantle the entire apparatus of the Roman Imperialist State." - Reg, The Life of Brian

The Boy, contemplating the reflecting pond paid for by your oil dollars. His comment? "How deep is that?" I love The Boy.

It was a rainy, hot weekend in Houston. Actually, the horror stories that I’ve heard about Houston being hotter and sweatier than Rosie O’Donnell’s armpits are not at all true – Houston is much more like Jodie Foster’s armpit. Perhaps even Julianne Moore’s armpit. I’m sensing a trend here. Do you still dream about sweating of the lambs, Clarice?

So, what do you do with a perfectly nice Saturday, when you really don’t want to face working on the house again? In my case I spent a good chunk of the morning with The Boy, watching DIY® network. The Mrs. got up and said, “What’s the plan?”

Given the general lethargy of the room, the gravity field emanating from the couch soon dragged her down, too. Fast forward two hours and an episode of “Man Caves”. (Man Caves is a show about big fat former NFL™ defensive lineman Tony Siragusa renovating houses.) The Mrs. awoke.

The Mrs. confronted me. “I though you had all sorts of plans of what you wanted to do this weekend.”

I nodded.

“Did they somehow all distill themselves into sleeping on the couch all weekend? I got dressed and ready to go, and, hmmph. Nothing.”

I grasped for an excuse, no matter how feeble and Clinton-like. “Umm, honey, I was going to go to the store. Buy some more O’Doul’s.”

I could see by her expression that me wandering off to purchase more near-beer wasn’t what she was looking for. I went through a litany of the potential things we could do, and she nodded. Within ten minutes we were loaded into the Wildermobile® and off.

Another ten minutes, and The Mrs. was wondering, umm, exactly where were we going?

“The Houston Museum of Natural Science.

“I thought we were going to the Antiquarium.”

I had but one (true) defense. “I have no idea where the Antiquarium is. I know where the museum is.”

We found the parking lot for the museum. We disengaged our personal restraint devices and headed . . . well, we headed toward a clump of trees.

“Where do you think it is?” I asked.

“Well, the sign was on that corner,” The Mrs. responded. We proceeded to walk, and saw a gentleman walking out of (what appeared to be) the main mass of museum.

Sam Houston points the way to the entrance. We went the other way. Stupid us. Never NOT trust a statue.

“That must be the entrance,” The Mrs. said.

“Nope. No wheelchair ramp.” I pointed at Pugsley, strapped into his adamantium stroller (adamantium being the only metal strong enough to support him at his current weight) and said, “Do you want to lift him up those stairs?”

I saw The Mrs. face turn pale. No one wants to pick Pugsley up, since he weighs more per unit volume than anything but adamantium. We kept walking, but saw what was, obviously, the back of the building. We turned around, primarily because The Mrs. had my ear in her hand, which is a really effective navigational aid for her. I just wish The Mrs. wouldn’t say “gee” and “haw” so much.

Anyhow, we managed to heft Pugsley up the stairs to get inside, and found out we were at the back entrance. We stopped at the McDonald’s® inside the main museum hall and fed Pugsley. Hey, a boy’s gotta eat. And if it’s Pugsley, well, let’s just say the most dangerous place in the world is between that boy and a steak.

We ate, and then I bought tickets and we went inside to see the Romans.

Doesn't Jupiter look a lot like Jim Morrison?

Let’s just say, I enjoyed the exhibit (very much), but it would have been much better if Judas Priest had been singing songs about Rome in a mini-concert while we perused ancient hunks of rock. You know, ancient rockers singing about ancient rock. Would have been neat.

We finally got out of moldy old Rome, and left. The Mrs., The Boy and Pugsley all had fun. The Romans weren’t so much different from us, with the exception that they didn’t have DVD’s.

We walked out into the Jodie Foster armpit that is Houston, and a general calm descended over us. Not a bad Saturday.

Tonight’s post brought to you by the wine Shiraz, the letter Judas Priest, and the beer Negra Modelo. (Did I say I was giving up drinking? No. I just like near-beer, too.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"A beer is a lot like a woman. They smell good, they look good, and you'd step over your own mother just to get one." - Homer, The Simpsons

Worth it? Yeah.

“Is that pop?” the clerk asked, a puzzled expression on her face.

“No. It’s beer,” I replied.

“But the age check didn’t come up,” she insisted, checking the screen on her register for the third time.

“Well, I should hope that you’re not thinking about carding me,” I replied. Then I shamefully admitted in a tiny voice, “It’s not real beer. It’s near-beer.”

Oh the horror, the shame. Me, John Wilder, buying O’Doul’s©. On purpose.

During my last experience with antibiotics, I’d been restricted from that sudsly delight of which none other than Founding Father Ben Franklin (and Founding Editor of Ye Poore Richard’s Playfulboy – the wood carving of Miss September, 1746 was a stunner) actually said, “Beer is proof that God loves us, and wants us to be happy.”

During my confinement away from real beer I was working in the yard. It was hot. Sweaty. Beer weather (in truth, cold and shivery is also beer weather in my book, but that’s splitting hairs). I drove off to the store and bought a six-pack of O’Doul’s™.

I cracked the top of the beer umm, beverage, and drank. Deeply. Astonished, I put the beer umm, beverage, down.

It was good. Dang. I really liked it. Just dang.

I finished working in the yard while my head swam with possibilities. Hmmm. I could drink as many of these as I wanted. It’s cheaper than real beer. It has fewer calories. There’s NO DOWNSIDE. Except, of course, the shame.

Oh, the other downside is that The Mrs. mocks me. We were talking on the phone, and The Mrs. let on that she was going to go to the store to pick some things up. I requested that The Mrs. purchase some near beer for me.

“It’s not real beer. Why not drink water?” The Mrs. asked.

“Okay. Want to talk about Diet Pepsi©?” The Mrs. had won with a stunning oratory in the Great Diet Pepsi™ War of 2005, maintaining the right of women everywhere (okay, not everywhere, but in our house) to consume calorie-free soda, which is, like near beer, essentially real expensive water.

I’m off antibiotics now, but yet the O’Doul’s© sits in front of me as I write this. Actually, it’s three four empties and the one I’m currently sipping on sitting next to my monitor.

Now, O’Doul’s® are not alcohol free. In fact, if I weighed a little less than I did when I was in seventh grade, and drank a case of O’Doul’s™ in an hour and did not manage to die of diluting my system with 288 ounces (931 liters) of water, well, I would be almost impaired enough not to drive. If the wind didn’t blow me away first, being that I would weigh less than John McCain’s chances of becoming President. (True fact: near beer has about the same concentration of alcohol in it as does orange juice, and just slightly less than the alcohol content of Lindsey Lohan’s breath).

The philistines in Pennsylvania are (as near as the first search page on Google© can prove, because I got bored after that one) the only state to prevent children under the age of 21 from, and I quote, “purchasing non-alcoholic beverages.” I’m guessing that the legislature in Pennsylvania doesn’t really read that one before voting. The way I read it, if you’re under 21 you can’t buy Coca-Cola© in Pennsylvania, but stock up on all the Cuervo™ you want.

I also appear to be a part of a fraternity of people that I didn’t know existed. I was shopping at Target® and grabbed the last few six packs of O’Doul’s© off the shelf. I was walking around with The Mrs., The Boy, and Pugsley, when a twenty-ish, USMC-ish looking guy came up to us.

“Dude – where’d you find the O’Doul’s™? I love that stuff.”

I’d like to tell you I shared. In reality I told him where the O’Doul’s© had been. I saw him later, and he looked sad. No O’Doul’s® for him. Not his. There wouldn’t be, he said, with a sniffle, until tomorrow.

But I had mine. Even if the age check thingy didn’t come up.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"Imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light." -Egon, Ghostbusters

Original Post Date – June 15, 2005 - one of my favorites.

Original title - The Fast and the Furious

The Mrs. and I were out driving on what passes for a road in Alaska. We saw the sign above, and I had to take the picture. Now, I'm not one to promote the defacing of public property, but I must admit I liked (not licked) the ingenuity of those that defaced this one. Being older than 12, I would not have thought of this one myself.

Recently, there have been a spate of commercials on the radio advertising that if you do not wear a seat belt while driving a car you will:
  1. get a ticket
  2. gain 46 pounds
  3. be forced to have Paris Hilton over to cook dinner and you be forced to eat it
  4. possibly spontaneously explode
  5. die a hideous instantaneous death if you hit something as small as a mosquito in your car.
I heard the commercials, then saw signs like the one above spring up like flowers after the snow melted.

One of the local radio hosts made a comment that he thought that there had been more people drown in the last year than die as a result of not wearing seat belts in Alaska. I must confirm that (by doing no research whatsoever, just agreeing because it suits me) he is correct.

So, the solution may be to make all Alaskans wear life vests whenever they leave their beds. It would save a life, so, could it be wrong? I assume that they would fit under the seat belts.

Another leading cause of death in Alaska is wildlife. Wildlife generally has two ends, the pointy one and the soft one. If you shoot the pointy bits off, you generally don't get treated as a chew toy for one of the Berenstain Bears Gone Wild (now that would be a DVD). So, in addition to the seat belt and the life preserver, why not an option here - either require full chain mail or a 12 ga. shotgun loaded with slugs? I think most Alaskans already have the 12 ga., so that might be popular. After all, it might save one life . . .

Actually, I just actually checked the real statistics, and it looks like suicide is a big killer up here, too. Now, chain mail won't help, so, probably the only solution would be some sort of happy medicine that you would have to take or a personal therapist hanging around. So, as a compromise you could have an I-Pod playing affirmations continually in a pocket in your life preserver . . . .

Yet another cause of death in Alaska is heart disease. Perhaps if we all had those paddles George Clooney used on ER, and had them welded to our chain mail, we could save another life or two.

Let's make all of this mandatory, because it's worth it to save just one life.

The radio talk show host noted that this was part of some sort of Federal enforcement effort, where they send money to states to have them help us help ourselves by wearing seat belts. As I am too lazy to check this either, so I will again confirm it as possibly an actual fact.

I think that seat belt laws particularly rankle Alaskans. You've just moved to a state with a population of about one person per square mile. That's closer to the population density of the Moon (0 per square mile) than to that of New Jersey (750,000 per square mile), although I hear that the Moon is still slightly more hospitable than Trenton.

So, you're here, in the middle of this vast wilderness where just walking around there are:
  • bears more hostile than an Ozzy Osbourne crowd forced to listen to a Michael Bolton medley wanting to eat you,
  • low temperatures so extreme that being caught out in them without proper gear can freeze you more solid than Ted Williams' head in 10 minutes
  • Natasha and Boris still chasing Moose und Squirr-el with all sorts of explosives and fiendishly overcomplicated plots,
and someone, who is not your mom, is telling you to put on your seat belt to be safer. You're taking personal responsibility with your life on (potentially) a day-to-day basis, making the incongruity of this message absolute.

Anyway, all of you residents of New Hampshire who sent your Federal tax money up here to buy radio airtime on the local radio station to tell me to wear my seat belt, thanks. I'll put it on, over my life preserver and my chain mail suit.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

"Danny, I'm having a party this weekend. How would you like to come over and mow my lawn?" - Judge Smails, Caddyshack

The Boy, wrapped up in work. And whining.

Living in Houston is a bit like living in a science experiment, but not the “doctor keeping his wife’s brain alive in a jar” 1950’s version. More like the science experiment that you had in kindergarten where you planted a seed in a cup and, ta-da, some six days after your Sugar Puff™ addled mind had forgotten that you’d even planted something, your teacher would hand you the cup with something green growing out of it and tell you that you’d made that, and she was so proud of you. Then you’d take it home, and your dog would eat it.

In most places I’ve lived, you had to fuss and fret to even keep a lawn alive. Here, it’s different. You plant something, it grows. You don’t plant something, something fluffy with a seed-pod attached to it will waft down from the heavens and the next morning a massive plant 40’ in height, drizzling a sap made of acid is living in the eensiest crack in your driveway. If you’re lucky, all the plant wants to do is eat you. If you’re lucky.

If you’re unlucky, the plant will be from the IRS and ask probing questions about your deductions, such as why did you think that beer was deductible? Nobody likes having their deductions probed, especially not from cranky IRS plants that spit acid sap.

Anyhow . . . we do have a lawn, and it seems like our lawn abuts approximately 43 miles of concrete. I’ve noticed recently that the concrete part of the yard seems to be . . . shrinking. Actually, it was the lawn growing, getting ready to claim my garage door for the Glory of King Louis XIV of France.

I had previously (two houses ago) combated my acquisitive lawn through the use of a hand edger. This hideous device consists of a half-moon shaped blade, drenched in sweat. It didn’t come out of the box drenched in sweat, you had to supply your own. Actually, it didn’t come in a box, just off the rack at Home Despot®.

It takes about a minute a foot to edge with this contraption, and the final result, well, isn’t all that great. I did some quick math, and 43 miles times 5280’/mile equals finishing sometime near the time to start edging again. While at Home Despot© this weekend, I told The Mrs. I wanted to buy an edger. Since The Mrs. seems predisposed to allowing me to purchase extraordinarily dangerous tools, I waited for approval. An ever so slight nod indicated that the edger could come to play.

I unpacked it when I got home and put it together. It consists of a blade that rotates nearly at the speed of light, attached to a stick and some wheels. It reminded me of a circular saw, but for the lawn. I was good with that. The box says it was “2 in 1”, but I’m not sure what the other thing that it could be used for is. Perhaps it was designed for Civil War reenactors to practice amputations with. Dunno.

The Boy and I, slathered in sunscreen, went out to edge lawn. The Boy got there after I’d done the first mile or so. I told The Boy to gather up a broom to sweep off the huge clods of sod that had been living on the concrete. Pretty soon The Boy was sweeping them up, and using an old snow shovel (inventive, he) as a makeshift dustpan.

After about ten minutes, The Boy wandered over up to me.

“Let’s finish this tomorrow.” He was already red in the face and sweating under the unrelenting Texas sun.


“Let’s take a break.”

“Okay. Get a soda. And get me a beer.” (Actually, it was an O’Douls, which, while a neighbor of beer, well The Mrs. refers to it as “water with calories”)

We sat in the shade, The Boy sipping on a soda, me sipping on my near-beer.

“When do we rotate from work to play?”

We switched back from rest to work and, about an hour later, the Black and Decker™ Edge Hog®, The Boy, and I had finished edging the lawn. Looked nice. I helped The Boy sweep up the last of the grass from the edging work. The Boy looked at his work, and seemed to be satisfied that he’d got the job done, and done well. I agreed. The Boy was released from work to play.

I asked, “Did you have fun doing this?”

“Yeah,” he said, smiling.

The IRS plant pods must have taken his brain. I hope he doesn’t start asking about my 1040 form next.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

"Well, being an evil villain, you are contractually required to explain your plan before you get rid of us." - Yakko, Animaniacs

Pugsley coming home from his day job. Together we can rule the galaxy as father and son. The Emperor has foreseen this.

I did a search on my real name on Google™ the other day. Combined in the search term with Texas, I found not a single entry on me. When I did a search for “John Wilder Texas” I was the number two-returned slot. I considered that “Not Bad” when compared to the CEO of a multi-billion dollar electric utility (TXU) is also named John Wilder. He might be using a fake name, too, after the whole Enron® mess. I think that whole fake-name-thing is common among executives nowadays, since the FBI would never solve it.

FBI Agent 1: “Who is this Gill Bates who stole all the Microsoft© money and then disappeared?”
FBI Agent 2: “It’s just a mystery that can never be solved.”
FBI Agent 1: “Let’s go get nachos.’
FBI Agent 2: “I like nachos.”

As far as Bill Gates® goes, I don’t know how to figure him out. He’s got billions of dollars (some people work a whole year and don’t make that kind of money!) and he just gives the money away. To charity. To help people. I would say it made me sick, but I’d be worried that people from Bill’s foundation would show up at my door with a cure.

I really can’t understand level of generosity. If I had billions of dollars, I would do one of two things:
  • Become a Batman©-style superhero or,
  • Become a Lex Luthor©-style super villain.
I think that becoming the super villain would be better. Being a superhero without super powers would require a bunch of gym time. Instead, being a super villain, I would have lackeys create super-powerful gadgets using amazing super-science that could, say, instantly make a beer icy cold. Wait, that’s not really bad. In fact that’s good. I won’t scratch it off the list. I like cold beer. Okay, here are some truly evil devices my minions would pump out:
  • A device to make undesirable body-hair grow faster,
  • Bird flu shots (not bird flu prevention shots),
  • Lemon juice coated paper (so paper cuts would really sting), and
  • A device to combine a hurricane and a volcano. I’ll call that one a hurricano-ray.
The key evil device is one that would stream non-stop pictures of meaningless, vapid, shallow, and trampy celebrities like Paris Hilton to the homes of my enemies, thus numbing their minds for my take over. What, you have one and call it a TV? My plan is working. Already. I didn’t have to lift a finger. Mwahhahahaha.

Regardless, I would conquer Earth and use it as the base for my intended domination of our Galaxy. And I would have a cool island fortress, perhaps with trained Evil-Ninja-Monkeys. And, of course, Pez™.

Okay, he doesn't look quite so evil now, does he? Don't be fooled . . . he does this Sith thing where he crushes juice boxes with his mind.

Anyhow, evil thoughts aside, I thought it was fairly funny that my “alter-me” was of significantly greater web presence than my “real-me.” I guess that’s how John Cougar felt before he convinced the record company that people could discern the difference between “Mellencamp,” and “Melon-baller.” Sadly, I bought two John Melon-baller albums in the 1980’s before figuring that one out.

I’ve heard it said that fame is like a drug. If so, my current level of fame is somewhere between antibiotic-level and diuretic-level.

And I’m good with that. I’m not sure I could handle nasal-steroid-for-sinus-infection-treatment-level fame.

That might go to my head.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

"Whoa, whoa. You better watch what you say about my car mower. She's real sensitive." - Arnie Cunningham, Christine

Original Post Date: 6/5/2005

This is my backyard. If you click on the picture, it'll get bigger. I'm actually in the picture, waving. I've just finished mowing it. With a 15 year old push mower.

I don't think I'm exaggerating much if I say that my backyard is bigger than some baseball outfields. Heck, you be the judge. It takes four hours, and three tanks of gas (not to mention, umm, more than one beer) and my push mower to get through all of the mowing.

I have many things against me:
  • the lawn is the size of Donald Trump's ego
  • it's light here 24-7 until August - the grass grows continually so you have to do it weekly
  • I have to use the push mower
Why, you might well ask (as The Mrs. does) do you mow this lawn the size of a Kansas wheat field with a dinky push mower?

The Mrs.: "Let's get a riding mower. Here (looking in the classifieds) is one for $800."

What guy could resist - his wonderful wife wanting him to go out and buy power tools? I want that mower, I really, really do. But I can bring myself to do it.

I mumble something under my breath. She understands Christine, but, you know, she doesn't understand.

Christine is the mower. Her picture is below. And she's dangerous.

As you can see, Christine is no longer a show-room model. I checked her sticker, and she was made in September, 1990. Soon she'll be old enough to buy beer.

As far as details go, when I bought her, I overfilled her oil tank with oil. She blew black smoke from the engine. I thought her days were numbered, back in 1990. I have yet to change (or, in the past five years, even check) her oil. Yet, she keeps running. The black smoke stopped in 1992.

The handle broke. I responded, first, with duct tape. That worked, for a while. Finally, the metal in the handle fatigued, and I got out the welder. You can see in this picture the result of four years' worth of welding. I've added enough structural steel to the handle to effectively double Christine's weight and make her eligible to star in a Mad Max sequel. The speed control and the bar you let go to stop the mower are gone now, as well. Yet she runs.

The Mrs. took an instant dislike to Christine when they met. "That's an ugly lawn mower, John."

Me: "It works."

I sharpened her blade once, back in 1998. Now, rather than doing precision cuts through the grass, Christine mashes the individual stalks with a blade that must be rounded smooth from the constant mowing. Yet she runs.

I first became aware that there was something amiss when my brother-in-law, Manolito, moved to Tangiers. He left his mower with us. A nice mower, it was - power driven wheels, 5hp engine. The Mrs. was thrilled - a new mower! We used the mower, and I doggedly held onto Christine. Soon, though, the new mower developed problems. Eventually, it became so unreliable that you couldn't even start it.

This I could write off as coincidence. Christine was running great, and The Mrs. understood, a bit, when she said, "Why get a new mower? This one runs." Christine was perfect for our postage-stamp lawn back in Midwestistan.

Now, Alaska. When we bought the house, a new 6hp, power-driven mower was left. I filled it up with gas, and started to mow. Within 15 minutes, the mower belched a thick cloud of black smoke and became utterly inoperable. The pull start would not even pull. Christine had claimed her second victim. She and I have now mowed the place, twice.

I don't know exactly what she'd do if I bought that riding mower.

It keeps me up at night.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

"Well life has a way of turning out different though, don't it?" - Matthew McConaughey, Reign of Fire



Quote of the week: “That makes The Mrs. feel all stabby,” said The Mrs. on Saturday night, after I told her I had to shag my hiney into work on Sunday, after being there on Saturday, too. Talking about herself in the third person – that makes John scared.

To make up for The Mrs. feeling all stabby, I went to Home Despot® to buy a power washer. I’m aware that power washers might not make every woman’s knees weak, but The Mrs. had even suggested I get one two weeks ago. I said, “No, too expensive.” Then I realized that The Mrs. was encouraging wanting me to buy dangerous power tools. I made a note to lower my life insurance coverage amount.

In Houston, all the parts of the exterior of the house get an alien fungus growth on them. If the alien fungus growth gets too thick, the alien fungus can focus its fungus mind on you and make you do bad things, like, well, heck. What would a fungus do for fun? Sit around and spore all day?

Anyhow, this green stuff, that The Mrs. calls “algae” tends to form on the north side of the house (no direct sunlight) and under the eaves in a spot or two. Since our house is clad in vinyl made from sweet, sweet oil, the fungus doesn’t eat it, but rather just sits there, mocking us with its greenish hue.

I was wondering (idly, which is the best way to wonder, really) exactly what I was going to do to remove the fungus. I could have The Boy do it, but realized he was getting just a little too big to duct tape to the end of a stick to do the high spots.

Then one day I was driving home (in the sunlight – a rarity) when I noticed that a guy was pressure-washing my neighbor’s house. Immediately I began to worry that my neighbor was gagged and tied to a chair in his foyer, while this person commandeered the exterior of his house for his own tawdry pressure-washing fun. After calling 911, the police explained that my neighbor had hired this stranger to pressure was his house to get the gunk off the side. I tried to explain my neighbor must be under the influence of the mind control fungus, but they looked at me oddly and drove off.

Anyway . . . I realized that this would take the gunk off the my siding, (saving my mind from the fungus whilebeautifying my home) and that they sold pressure washers at Home Despot©. But, if you read the first paragraph you probably saw all of this coming. Anyhow, an explanation of how a pressure washer works is in order. You hook a hose up to it, plug it in, and water shoots out the other side at 1800 psi (roughly the recommended inflation pressure on Angelina Jolie’s lips). The 1800psi is generated by the pressure washer through a series of 1800 elves that eat electricity and shoot tiny squirt-guns into the hose at the same time. 1800 psi is enough pressure to rip paint off buildings, rip oil off of concrete, and rip that smile right off your face if you touch it to your skin. Also, not so good for the skin.

So, to make The Mrs. think about me without having a stainless steel cooking knife, or even a (+4) Dagger of Stabbiness, share her mental image, I was forced to buy a really cool power tool. I know, I know, it’s rough being me, but someone has to do it. I had to fire Matthew McConnaghy McOnnahey McDonaughey McConaughey because he just wasn’t me enough. An aside, don’t you think Matthew had a heck of a time in kindergarten? Heck, probably took him ‘til middle school to figure out how to spell that beast of a name. What kind of parent names their kid Matthew?

Finally I got home with the power washer. I unpacked it, flipped through the instructions, and set it up. The Mrs. came outside as I was testing it on a patch of concrete embedded with dirt. She then stole it from me and proceeded to clean our concrete patio (30’x30’).

I then realized I had essentially given a knife made of water to a woman who admitted feeling a bit stabby. I can’t complain, though. I was sitting in the shade on a hot spring day. Watching The Mrs. work, all stabbiness gone from her demeanor. With a cold near-beer in my hands.

Ain’t life grand?

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