Friday, September 30, 2011

Logically Speaking, That Is Quite Puzzling

I like doing puzzles. However, I am very particular as to the kind of puzzles that I like to do.

I'm not a big fan of crossword puzzles because that requires the kind of minutia knowledge that I'm not really exposed to on a daily basis anymore. Nor do I like cryptograms or anagrams or even Sudoku for pretty much the same reason. I definitely don't like find-a-word or anything related to that because I don't find it stimulating or challenging enough.

However, much I like to be challenged in my writing, I do like to be challenged in my pursuit of games of armchair leisure. Which is why I like doing logic puzzles and word/number crosspatches.

Doing logic puzzles satisfies the mental restlessness that my mild OCD/ADD inflicts on my psyche from time to time. In addition to solving super micro-flash fiction stories (one short paragraph), the logic problems themselves are great for when you need to resharpen your focus on something that can be overly tedious or brain draining.

Take writing for example. Not just the stuff that you produce as a creative outlet, be it fiction, poetry, haiku, or whatever, but also the stuff that you may have to produce on a daily basis for work.

Logic puzzles can be a great way to stimulate another part of your brain and give the writing part a welcome respite from the pressure of trying to create something out of nothing that makes sense.

The same principle applies for word/number crosspatches. A crosspatch puzzle is simply a blank puzzle that looks like a spider web (most of the time) that hiccuped with a list of words or numbers to work with. The challenge is to make all of the words/numbers fit into the puzzle and unlike Sudoku where you have a few number to start with, crosspatches quite often doesn't give you anything to start with.

Because you have to make all the words/numbers fit, one of the challenges is finding the proper pattern and combination of words/numbers. So again, you're looking at such a stimulating exercise for the brain that more often than not, allows you to get that second wind to complete your particular task at hand.

What are some of your favorite puzzles that stimulate your brain and get you back on track?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Am I Wasting Your Time Today?

I'm one of those old skool peoples who enjoys reading newspapers. Problem is, today's newspapers really suck bull moose testicles. Anyways, the one thing that really bugs me about today's newspapers is when they publish a story that is such waste of ink and pulp that you have to give yourself a mental bitch slapping for wasting your valuable time in reading it to begin with.

Such is the possible end result after reading this particular post. The wasting of your valuable time that is, not the mental bitch slapping, unless you're into that kind of kinkiness, then by all means, feel free to spank yourself silly with a ruler and a whip, or have someone else spank you silly with a ruler and a whip.

I actually had a three page handwritten rough draft of a post sitting on my copyboard, waiting patiently to be unleashed on an unsuspecting public. However, after taking another long read and giving myself a Moe Howard slap on my cerebellum, I realized that the post wasn't what I thought it was, and in fact, it was simply a rehash and reheat on how and why I bend towards the opposite sex when I write my stories (yeah, pun is intended).

Shame really that I didn't post it, because it was probably the best concrete explanation that I've been able to come up with in the past six years of why I write the female characters that I write. But I didn't, so I'm stuck with trying to come up with something that is writing related and yet won't drive anyone away.Lets face it folks, anytime I put something up that is related to my personal writing endeavors, 99% of the time people click on through and move on to the next blog on their subscription/reader list.

So that leaves me with the thorny problem of not giving you the feeling that you're wasting your time today while you're reading my blog.


So, one of the few Anon commenters that actually posted a thoughtful comment the other day (and someone who is apparently a long time reader of this blog) asked me a question about my current writing project, Blackness In The White Sand. The question was: Is this story going to feature a main character that was just as nasty as the one in the original version of Blackness In The White Sand?

I did answer their question, but after thinking about it for most of that day, I decided that my answer could be improved upon.

I'm not sure how many of you were reading my blog in 2009, but back then, I decided to expand on a short story that I published in my closed short story blog called "The Sand". The story itself was about a woman who had decided to check out a secluded nude beach and had a freaky encounter with a strange man. When the encounter finished, the young lady had found herself turned into a vampirish hybrid (I was on a vampire kick back then).

Anyways, I came up with the brilliant idea of expanding it, and in no time at all, I was churning out a lot words. I was also churning out a lot of violence in the story as well. I wasn't uncomfortable with it because the plot revolved around the woman searching for the guy so that she could be turned back into a human again, so she pretty much was on a rampage from the very first page of chapter one.

The story itself was pretty freaky to begin with as my imagination was really running helter skelter at the time because I was also starting to get a little bit interested not only in the concept of Hell but a little bit of horror as well (see, I'm not totally against horror). The main character in that twenty-two page piece of slop was indeed nasty and one of the things that I used to do back then whenever I wanted to do a writing update was to showcase a little bit of what I was working on. In this particular case, I want to share with you that particular excerpt from the original incarnation of Blackness In The White Sand.

The reason why I want to share it with you is threefold: One, it will give you a basic idea on how I used to write back then; two, it will give you a taste on just how violent and nasty I could get with my writing; and three, I'm leaning towards having that same level of nastiness in the newer incarnation.

Warning: it is pretty nasty, so reader discretion is strongly advised.

An excerpt from the original version of Blackness In The White Sand.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Adios Facebook!!

I don't like change. Especially when it's done for no other purpose than to roll out the latest technology and make a semi-user friendly website, non-user friendly.

I basically use two web companies for all of my online social needs except e-mail: Blogger and Facebook. Blogger I use for my public online needs and Facebook for my private online needs.

As of late, each company has decided to roll out new features, which depending on what kind of a heavy user you are, is either the greatest thing since sliced bread, or the worse thing since New Coke. With Blogger, most of their improvements have been somewhat of mixed blessing. The latest improvement, which I wrote about here, will initially drive me buggy, but in the long run, will be something I'll get used to. So long as I'll be able to do the following things without too much aggravation, I'll grudgingly accept it.

1} Allow me to write blog posts.
2} Allow me to schedule blog posts.
3} Allow me to easily access my old posts.
4} Allow me to properly moderate comments.
5} Allow me to find my blogs.

Whereas I use Blogger for my public online persona, I use Facebook for my private persona, and it's Facebook that is the main reason for this post.

Unless you've been comatose for the past week, you know and probably experienced Facebook's new and improved semi-user friendly website with all of the latest bells and whistles. What you probably didn't know, and the main reason why I'm saying adios to Facebook, is that they're introducing a new concept called "Timeline" that in my opinion, will take your privacy concerns and stick them where the sun don't shine.

If you read this nice informative article by PC World, you'll get a better understanding of what I'm about to say. In a nutshell, Facebook will be taking every single scrap of information that you posted about yourself since your first day on Facebook, either publicly or privately, and what your friends also said about you both publicly and privately, and create a nifty searchable record that will be attached to your profile.

Now I don't know about you, but I migrated to Facebook because I wanted to be somewhere where I could be myself and share certain things with friends about myself that I didn't want to put out on the blogs or in the chat rooms. However, this new feature being rolled out by Facebook is taking my personal information to an extremely uncomfortable level of non-privacy.

Because of this new feature being rolled out, and its something that you can't opt out of, I have decided to deactivate my Facebook account. For those of you who follow me both on the blog and on Facebook, you'll now get me just on the blogs, or via the e-mail if you so desire. For those of you who follow me exclusively on Facebook, you'll now have to keep up with me via the blog or via the e-mail if you so choose to.

In any event, I will post a note on Facebook that will reiterate what I've stated here today and give everyone at least a couple of days to prepare for my departure from Facebook. It's been a fun 2+ year ride on Facebook, but for the time being, my privacy concerns easily outweigh me keeping in touch with my friends on a social network.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Turning An Old Recipe Into Somethng Better

I love a well crafted cover song.

By well crafted, I mean that the artist took enough time to put their own particular signature on a song while staying true to the original version, so that more often than not, it surpasses the original version of the song.

Some fine examples of this would be:

The Hooters "Boys of Summer". Whereas Don Henley's version was a bit poppish and somewhat upbeat, the version by The Hooters was far darker and in my opinion, true to the original intent of the lyrics.

The Mike Flowers Pop "Wonderwall". This version is done in a mixture of big band and swing, and definitely more upbeat then the original by Oasis. You don't hear much in the way of radio airplay for this song, unless you happen to catch it either on satellite or college radio.

Johnny Cash "Hurt". I am not a fan of Nine Inch Nails by any stretch of the imagination, and in my opinion the original version of this song sucked moose testicles. However, this excellent version by Johnny Cash evokes the anguish that the original did an epic fail on.

Johnny Cash w/Fiona Apple "Bridge Over Troubled Water". Forget about the bombast of the original by Simon & Garfunkel. This version with just piano accompaniment and acoustic guitar achieves the emotion and mental anguish that the original failed to do.

Metallica "Whiskey In The Jar". I always thought this was an interesting concept, a heavy metal band doing a cover of a Roger Whittaker song. But it actually works out pretty well, as it's one of the few cover songs that I enjoy listening to on rock radio.

But as you know, the bulk of cover that receive airplay today basically suck. For the most part, they done as a filler for a c.d. in the vain hope that somehow the cover will save a mediocr c.d.

Some bad examples:

Ugly Kid Joe "Cat's In The Cradle". A mediocre band whose only major hit was this cheesy remake of the Harry Chapin classic.

U2 "Everlasting Love". A live cut that was so crappy that the only reason why it got any airplay was that U2 performed it.

Billy Corrigan "Mudslide". A good musician doing a remake of a Fleetwood Mac song. Epic fail.

Motley Crue "Smokin' In The Boys Room". Hair metal meets rock & roll. Feh.

Lenny Kravitz "American Woman". Garbage designed to keep his name on the air while he turns into a modern version of Hollywood Rod.

There are scores of others that for the most part are confined to rock radio, because as you know, commercial rock radio is severely lacking in original thought and original programming, but for the moment, those bands names escape me.

So my question to you is this: Do you have any favorite cover songs that surpass the original? More importantly, do you have any examples of bad cover songs?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My Brain Is Still Being Pinched, But Now I Like It

I actually got a halfway decent update on my various writing projects to share with everyone, so let's shove our faces deep into the pile of your fruit pastry of choice and start chomping away at it.

The trunk novel that I dug out of my bin about month or so ago, A Lascivious Limbo, has now found its way back into the bin. I belatedly came to the realization that for the moment, I am unable to reconcile the various plot threads that currently populate the book with each other so that I could properly finish the book. Some day I may take it back out and finish it, but for now, it's taking a very long siesta.

The short story trilogy that I've been having a problem getting restarted has bit the dust. However, do not weep for the death of the trilogy, because after I had given some serious thought about the basic plot of the trilogy (contract hit), I realize that this would function a whole lot better as a novella/novel than as a trilogy. Thus, novel number five was born, which I will install future posts under the tag "novella". I also decided to recycle a previous novella title, thus this fifth novella/novel will be called Blackness In The White Sand.

As for the twin toned complex mini-dynamos that I'd spend all of 2010 writing about both here on the blog and ultimately a polished 149 page manuscript, I e-mailed another query to another e-publisher over the weekend, this time to Carina Press, which is the digital arm of Harlequin Books. According to their guidelines, they don't mind simultaneous submissions and I should expect an answer in 14 to 16 weeks.

Interesting thing about me and the query process: even though I'm getting better at putting the proper components together for a query, it takes me at least two weeks (or in this case, two months) to do the grunt work required in order to have a presentable query.

So that's what's going down with me with my writing this week. Tune in next Wednesday when we'll feature another absoutely-heart-stopping-brain-thumping-just-about-ready-to-break-out-the-Huggies look at what I'd produced for sentences and paragraphs the previous week.

Or....maybe I'll just talk about why being a writer makes you view everyone and everything with a detachment that borders on flippancy.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Book Review: Noir At The Bar

A few weeks ago, through gracious generosity of writer Chris La Tray, I was able to score a copy of Noir At The Bar, an anthology featuring pulpy, noirish and downright decadent short stories from a plethora of accomplished writers who specialize in this smash mouth style of writing.

If you click on the link, the first thing that shocks your senses is the cover, which features a pissed off woman ventilating a guy. The second thing that will shock you are the jacket blurbs, because they ain't your typical run-of-the-mill bland praises to the high heavens. They are more in the vein of what the editors clearly state about their book (with tongue planted firmly in cheek):

Come on in and please grab yourself a drink or two before we start, you'll want to brace yourself for those stories of crime and transgression from the scourge of St. Louis's literate.
Now as most of you know, I am very much a Johnny-come-lately to the short story scene. It wasn't until I started to both serious up with my writing and my blogging in 2008 that I began to step outside my comfort zone for preferred genres of reading. I got my toes wet, so to speak, by first reading stories by Charles Gramlich and David Cranmer, then went full immersion by reading Beat To A Pulp (see review for their anthology here), which became my boot camp for reading/appreciating noir fiction/crime fiction short stories.

Which pretty much makes me a newbie with an open mind. And as a newbie with an open mind, the rest of this review will be written from that point of view (person who likes to read + writer who doesn't write in that particular genre = newbie with an open mind).

This anthology grabs you by the neck and pinches your brain the second you get past the forward and read the first story "Gunpowder and Aluminum Foil" by Matthew McBride, and it doesn't let go until you finish the last story (which I think is pretty cool) "Vampires Are Pussies" by Chris La Tray.

Now that isn't to say that the entire book isn't one long steady brain pinch. There are a few times in the book where the pincers loosen their grip because the story doesn't quite make sense ("Ballad of Larry Plank" by Derek Nikitas, "The Morning After" by Jedidiah Ayres and "Five Revelations Concerning Jenny As Told To Maura C. By A Compassionate Angel" by Laura Benedict), but overall the pincers apply the pressure until the very end.

One thing that I'd found interesting, is that a writer can always redeem himself/herself in the eyes of a reader. I mentioned previously that there was a story in the Beat To A Pulp anthology called "Acting Out" that I simply did not like. However, that same writer has a story in this anthology called "Deviances" that I found so endlessly fascinating that it makes me wish that he wrote more of that particular character.

I did find one story in the book incredibly disturbing. Even though it was well written, it focused on a topic that the average person doesn't have contact with unless they see it on the t.v. news. The topic of choice had to do with religious cults, and after I had read it, it left both a sour taste in my mouth and a memory that I couldn't quite shake for the rest of the day.

However, my personal feelings about that story does not take away one iota from the fact that this book is not only an excellent read, but a fantastic sampler for someone who is looking to expand their reading horizons into other genres. This book will not let you down and in fact it will probably make you search out other stories/books written by these gifted writers.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Picture Me A Little Bit Sad

Over at Shooting Suburbia we have the final installment of "The Many Days In The Life Of Yello Bear" for your enjoyment, which also marks the end of the current incarnation of that blog as everyone knows it. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was leaning towards putting my picture blog on a short hiatus because not only was I getting ready to do a little job hunting but I was becoming mighty unmotivated to continue it.

For the time being, my wonderful picture blog is going on a temporary hiatus. The job hunting is going excruciatingly slow (45 minutes to do one online app, which is pretty damn discouraging) and the motivation to continue the picture blog is still pretty much shot to pieces.

But that isn't to say that there might be some light at the end of the tunnel, because I did have an epiphany of sorts while I was out doing my morning errands this past Saturday (9/17).

This past Saturday, the day and the weather were picture perfect. In other words, it was sunny and just mild enough for an early autumn day that you could wear a hoody without sweating. While I was walking, I got to enjoying the scenery so much that I actually reached into my pocket for a camera to take pictures. Then I remembered that I haven't carried a camera on me for about five months.

But then I got to thinking about a suggestion that a couple of regular blog readers had made when I was lamenting my use of disposable cameras: why didn't I get one of those cheapy digital cameras to use?

Viola! A solution to one part of the problem.

I have one of those cheapy video cameras that doubles as a digital camera. I have a reusable memory card, and I have one of those USB cables to upload the pics to my computer.

I still have motivation issues as well as time issues to work on, but if enough things finally start to fall into place, Shooting Suburbia will once again be an active participant in the world of Weblogs. Until then, it simply remains just another testament to my ability to start up a semi-successful blog that poaches yet another part of the creative person that is me.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pardon Me, But Do You Acronym?

Today is Friday, which is obvious to most people, unless you live on the other side of the international date line, then today is Saturday. However, for the sake of argument and for the sake of this blog post, we will state unequivocally that today is the former and not the latter.

So speaking of the former, let us explore the past eight days leading up to this particular post, which could be considered almost Seinfeldian when all is said and done, and which will become fodder for this post.

Last Thursday, I needed to run a couple of errands because I was going on a short road trip to my other office that I do my job in. Coincidentally, last Thursday was the night that my daughter's school had their first open house, so my wife and mother were going to be attending that. Since the elder child wasn't going to be home to do the babysitting thingy, the youngest was stuck running my errands with me.

So while I was driving to my local Cumberland Farms to pick up lunch for tomorrow (yes, they do have pre-made sandwiches and such, and believe it or not, the stuff is pretty decent taste-wise and price-wise), I decided to strike up a conversation with the youngest. Now if you're a parent, or just someone who deals with anyone under the age of 19, you know that trying to have any kind of meaningful conversation is about on par with smashing your head with a couple of bricks, except that with bricks, you know what the end result is going to be: concussion, stars, blurred vision, and finally, blacking out.

Anyways, I started off with my standard line, "So sweetie, how was school today?"

Vocals laced with music was the response that greeted me. So I tried a different approach and asked, "What's the song you're singing?"

She answered that it was some new duo that uses a text acronym for a band name (yes the actual name escapes me, but I think it's based on the acronym ROFLMAO). Anyways, that apparently jump started the conversation with my daughter, because we spent the next five minutes talking about text acronyms. However, self-censorship was in full force, because you know I wasn't going to explain to my soon-to-be 11 year old daughter what WTF & STFU & WTH (plus the variations) as well as the aforementioned ROFLMAO stood for.

Which left me stating that I knew what UR was and what OMG was (but I didn't explain OMFG), and that I really hated "lol" and its big brother LOL. Irritates the F'n crap out of me, but I blogress. Anyways, we finished up our litttle conversation once we pulled into the parking lot. I bought my lunch (ham salad wedge, kettle chips, Pepsi Max and an apple) picked up some oleo and a snack for the child, and headed home.

My friends, spending a car drive discussing text acronyms with your child should never be the highlight of your week, but in my case, it was. Why? Because it was one of the few times that I had a conversation longer than either ten words or seven seconds with my daughter.

I suppose it could be helluva lot worse, but honestly, the fact that I had something in common with my daughter made it a most memorable highlight, which is why I wrote about it today.

Instead of about this particular book, which I will talk about on Monday.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Writing Has Given My Brain Such A Pinch That...

This week's installment of Writing Wednesday will be more of an exploration of this particular writer's state of mind than anything else.

I really didn't want to admit that I had a problem, because admitting that I had a problem meant that somehow I didn't want to do it anymore, that it became too hard, too tough and too aggravating to do. The "it" that I'm referring to is my writing, while the "problem" is my lack of motivation. Not just the creative aspect of it, in which a story slowly comes to life on paper, but the business part of it as well.

I mean, for the past week and the for the past couple of weekends, I plan out what I want to do for writing:

1} Continue working on my short story trilogy.
2} Searching for publishers (mostly) for my book.

Simple, yes?

Execution has been seriously and unequivocally flawed.

Try as might, I can't quite seem to wrap myself around the short story trilogy I'm writing. I mean, I've gotten better in hammering out the details to whatever plot I happen to apply to a given story, and the main one that I threw in (a contract on the M.C.) is very doable. Shoot, this trilogy is starting to percolate into something a little bit longer, because I even though I threw in a small swerve, that swerve will serve as a fantastic starting point for a possible novella-to-novel length book.

"That's great news!", you're probably saying to yourself.

Well, it would be great news if I was churning out a ton o' words for it. I mean, it's bubbling beneath the surface so bad that it's threatening to become my next great writing obsession (Line 21 was my first). Problem is that I'm slowly finding myself unable to pull the trigger. I mean, I pick up the story, do even more editing, then spend a minimum thirty-five minutes staring at a blank piece of paper in a ultimately futile attempt at writing.

I know it ain't writer's block or burnout that's preventing me from writing. I believe its something much worse. What that is I haven't been quite able to put my finger on, but whatever it is, its pretty much stopping me dead in my tracks for normal writing.

Now on the other side of the equation, whatever it is that's preventing me from writing is slowly preventing me from submitting as well. I've been able to narrow down one of the symptoms, which was submitting to a publisher this summer that requires an exclusive window for consideration. This is all fine and good, because every publisher has its own policy. However, I think that for the most part, the average publisher doesn't mind simultaneous submissions.

In hindsight, it probably would've been better had I submitted to this particular publisher later in the year, like in the fall when I'm job hunting, so that I don't mind having something on the back burner while I'm busy concentrating on something else.

Because of the policy of exclusiveness, I haven't really bothered trying to tighten my query letter nor synopsis for most of the summer. However, for the past week, I've been forcing myself to do just exactly that, because even though I'm getting better at playing this waiting game, I'm afraid that if I don't start submitting again, then there is a good likelihood that I'll just put this on the back burner and write this up as a learning experience.

And because I really don't want to do that, I'm making a conscious effort to move on. I'm figuring at this point, almost two months later, I've garnered another rejection of my novel. So I'm making the attempt at re-writing my query letter to suit the next few publisher's needs, tightening up my synopsis, and making a concrete decision on a pen name.

I should mention that this current writing snafu is also making itself known in my blogging, because for the life of me, I can't find a proper ending for this post. So because I can't find a proper verbal ending for this post, I'll leave you with this pictorial ending:

Just inside the zoo, located in Columbus, Ohio

Monday, September 12, 2011


I thought I would lighten the tone of the blog this week by writing about something that I like but haven't touched on in quite sometime.

What I find enjoyable about the particular components of a song has greatly changed over the years.

When I was younger, like my son's age, I used to appreciate the screaming guitars and the wailing drums (YYZ is one of my favorite drum instrumentals). As I grew older, that type of instrumentation began to bore me, so I started to explore the more traditional style of instrumentation*. You know, the type that requires a greater degree of skill than the average good musician has in order to play.

For those of you who may be newcomers to this blog, traditional means that any instrument that doesn't require electricity to play.

In addition to enjoying and appreciating that traditional instrumentation, I've also grown to love and appreciate good vocalization. No matter how well written a song might be, without good vocals, all you get is either a good poem or good piece of micro flash fiction.

And just line the fact that I enjoy stripped down instruments, I also appreciate almost stripped down vocals.

The reason why I say "almost stripped" down, is that for the moment I can't quite wrap my mind around a song that has nothing but vocal in it (I've listened to barbershop quartet music in the past decade, so it's not like I don't know what I'm talking about). For me to appreciate a vocal driven song, there has to be something in the background that is being used as a beat.

Doesn't matter what's been used to maintain the beat, so long as it's there, I can appreciate the vocal stylings of the song. I could be something simple as a hand clap (the song "The Scotsman" features the audience clapping their hands in perfect rhythm), something complex as an acoustic guitar, or any other kind of instrument in between.

One of my favorite vocal songs is this:

One of the reasons why its my favorite song from the 50's is that its the only song that I know of that uses a triangle and a metronome for a back beat. It doesn't overwhelm the song but stays just enough in the background to let the vocals shine through.

Now rap, in my opinion, is probably stripped down vocalizing in reverse. I'm not sure why music is added to a rap vocal, unless its to get the average person to listen to it.

Personally, I think that the reason why music is added to rap songs is that a fair percentage of people don't quite get poetry of any kind, which is really what a true stripped down rap song is. While the message in the reap song can be powerful, I think that the added music can detract from the message being given.

Now just because I enjoy and/or appreciate these types of music doesn't mean I enjoy every single effort that comes down the road. One of the radio shows that I absolutely detest is something called "Acoustic After Dark".

"Acoustic After Dark" basically features well known rock and pop performers performing crappy acoustic versions of their hits. Now I don't know about you, but I cannot stand badly arranged acoustic versions of rock and pop songs (Cumbersome by Seven Mary Three instantly comes to mind). To me, it sounds like these performances are just trying to take advantage of the latest fad without really doing the yeoman's work that is required to turn that song into something good.

Anyways, that is my five cents (adjusted for inflation) about vocalizing. Feel free to chip in your five cents as well, because I'm always on the lookout for having a lively conversation with someone, no matter what the forum may be.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Picture Me Saying "Pluck!"

I deal with the tragedy that was 9/11 by not dwelling on it. I say a prayer to those who left this world much too soon in New York City, in Washington DC and in Pennsylvania. They will always be remembered in our hearts, in our minds and in our souls. May their spirits always be at peace.

Over at Shooting Suburbia, we have our second to the last post of the amazing journey of Yello Bear, which coincidentally is the second to the last post before that wonderfully little niche blog takes a well deserved vacation.

Over here, we have the father of all rants. No obscenities will be uttered, which is why the title of the post is a malapropism.

My friends, the end is coming soon. Not in the biblical sense of the word, but reality based. I'm slowly reaching the end of my tolerance with certain things related to Google. It seems that in its infinite wisdom and keeping in line with its policy of continually offering bells and whistles without addressing the problems associate with the previous offerings of bells and whistles and thus driving people away, Google has managed to get me to purchase that one way ticket out of town.

Basically the problem is that Google's e-mail program as well as Blogger is unable to figure out that I have IE8 as a browser on my computer and not IE7. IE7 originally came with the computer, but I was able to upgrade to IE8 about two years ago, then I was able to reinstall IE8 when XP had to be reinstalled on my computer last year. Since their customer service forum was of no help, I was forced to come up with my own solution to this particularly annoying problem.

Which was to change how I do business in the Cyber World. Which meant to change most of my e-mail life over to Microsoft's wonderfully annoying e-mail system Hotmail. Hotmail won the battle over Yahoo simply because Hotmail has a feature similar to Gmail, in which you can move the cursor over the sender's e-mail and find out instantly where that e-mail actually came from. Great for detecting spam and what not.

So not only are my notifications from Blogger going to Hotmail, but my notifications from Facebook are going there as well. Also, my day to day contacts with friends are moving over there as well, so for those of you who have e-mailed me from time to time on personal matters, the main part of the e-mail addy is still the same. Just use at the end of the addy instead of the current, and things should be peachy keen.

One other thing: I also changed my homepage from Google to...yeech...MSN.

Bottom line is this: changing about 85% of the way I currently conduct business in the Cyber World should bring me a little peace of mind to my already fractured and chaotic real world. Because frankly, if I can transfer that peace of mind to my real world, then I'll be able to tolerate the inevitable change that will be coming to Blogger, whether I want it or not.

Friday, September 9, 2011

You Want It When?

We've all experienced bad customer service in one form or another during our lifetime, and for the most part, we don't put up with it for very long. We find ways to make our opinion known that we won't be treated like chattel. We complain to the manager, we complain to the business owner and in cases where it's a continuing problem, we take our money elsewhere.

I fall into the above category about 25% of the time and one of the reasons as to why the percentage is so low, is because I've spent most of my working life in a multitude of different customer service oriented jobs.

I've delivered newspapers when I was both my son's and daughter's ages. I've worked in various cashiering jobs and had a few retail management jobs. All of which require a major degree of customer service skills not usually seen in today's world. Even my current job requires a level of customer service that the average person probably wouldn't even consider doing on a quarterly basis, let alone a daily basis.

Because of this vast experience in standing on the other side of the counter asking people, "You all want fries with that?", I developed an incredibly high tolerance for what people might call bad customer service. While people would get upset at what they perceive to be bad customer service, I usually let that type of service fall by the wayside because what might be bad to one might seen by another with a sympathetic eye, especially since some people don't know how to follow the rule of "Do unto others as others would do unto you."

Now that isn't to say that I treat all bad service with the same sympathetic eye. If I get what I consider to be genuinely bad service, then I simply take my business elsewhere. Case closed.

However there has been the rare occasion in which I have escalated my usual response and entered the realm of actually complaining about it.

On Sundays, my early afternoon routine usually consists of the following: lunch, grocery/shopping at Big Lots, and picking up staples (milk, bread, eggs) at Aldi's.

I used to do Burger King for lunch, but the g(rease) factor got to be a bit too much for me to handle, so I started going to Wendy's. However, the customer service for both of these particular restaurants in my hometown are complete polar opposites.

Whereas the service was fast enough at Burger King so that I could take my fast acting insulin prior to entering the restaurant without worrying about the potential side effects, Wendy's was so slow that I didn't dare risk applying the same strategy there. Instead, my lunches were always to go, that way, I could safely take my insulin and eat my lunch without worrying about the side effects.

However, this past Sunday (9/4), service sank to a brand new low. I was already ticked about the previous Sunday's visit, in which I got hung up behind two frat boys with a dozen burger meal combos to go (seriously, about 12 separate bags) and the cashier on duty was incredibly slow and incredibly stupid because he continued to take new orders without really expediting the old orders.

So here I is, standing line and once again hung up behind three groups of people who were waiting for their order. And just like last week, the kitchen seemed to be concentrating more on the drive-thru than the front, so people were waiting so long for their order to be completed that they actually starting eating what little food there was on the tray. So when the cashier asked if she could take my order, I said loud enough for everyone to hear, "I am not putting my order in until you get rid of the back log in front of me."

It took about another five minutes before the back log was finally cleared so that I could put my order in (chicken sandwich, fries and a small diet soda). I was so pissed when I got to my car, that I decided to actually pay attention to the website printed on the bag that wanted to know how your visit went.

When I got home from my grocery shopping, I went to that website and absolutely buried that store's rep. I complained about the poor management skills, the poor cashiering skills, the poor way that the front was run and the overall poor quality of the restaurant (they actually did an entire business day without any napkins in the store). That particular store is notorious for slow service to begin with (seeing people walk out because they didn't want to wait that long is a frequent happening) but this is making a visit to a busy eye doctor's office seem like a drag race.

What does the future hold in store for this particular Wendy's? Well, just like a particular Subway, a particular Friendly's and a particular D&D that I experienced piss poor service at, it will fall by the wayside because my hard earned dollars will be spent elsewhere.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Writing Human's Rain Delay

Nothing much to speak of for a writing update beyond starting short story number three of my trilogy over the long Labor Day weekend, as everything else is still unchanged from last Wednesday. So for your enjoyment and amusement and potential ammunition to mock me with, I present to you, my somewhat secretive (to everyone else) pre-wrting routines.

My pre-writing routine may never become as well known as former Cleveland Indian Mike Hargrove, who earned the sobriquet "Human Rain Delay" (if you Google the phrase, the first five entries, including Wikipedia and YouTube, refer to him) during his playing career, but more often than not, it has become just as OCD as any other annoying routine that I had the displeasure of doing for years before finally getting rid of it.

I have developed two very annoying routines that I perform prior to doing any kind of writing, and that includes blogging. Before I write out a single word on paper, or type out a single word on the computer, these pre-writing routines must be performed. Otherwise, I can't get into the proper frame of mind for writing.

If I'm writing something on the computer, be it a blog post or a story, after getting the computer started and what now (I use my laptop in two hour increments and turn it off when I'm not using it), I play a game of spider solitaire. If I win, I move on to the next step. If I don't, I keep on playing until I win. For those of you think that this sounds stupid because it's a game that is easy to win at, it isn't. I play the game with a severe handicap, so naturally it lends itself more to losing than winning. The longest losing streak that I had while playing this game, was 49 consecutive games, which naturally cut into my writing time.

The next step, should I win a game, is to log into Facebook. Once I get done checking that, I then check Blogger; my Gmail; my Hotmail; my Yahoo twice; FoxNews; ESPN; and my local newspaper website, in that order.

Then I write, either my blog post (with various research links if need be) or my story (again doing research if need be). Sometimes I'll write original stuff and sometimes I'll dictate my scribbles via the Dragon.

There are times though that I've been able to break that routine by simply cracking down and staying offline. But it doesn't last for long because I really need to have at least one thing from the CyberWorld going at the same time that I'm writing. Doesn't matter what it is, so long as I have it going, I'm writing.

For when I decide to write outdoors, that's when it gets positively infantile.

Example: I want to work on a short story.

1} Grab my folder of paper, my clipboard, the printed pages of what I written so far, a rubber fingertip and my hat.
2} Go outside to my writing area, get myself situated in my chair, take out a pen, clipboard, short story and start studying where I had left off at.
3} Ten seconds later, decide to get a snack. Get snack, eat, then repeat step #2.
4} Ten seconds later, decide to get a drink. Get drink, drink, then repeat step #2.
5} Ten seconds later, decide to move my chair to the other side of the tree so that the sun isn't beating down. Move chair to the other side, gather up my stuff and transport it to the other side of the tree. Repeat step #2.
6} Ten seconds later, decide to blow my nose. Get either tissue from the house or napkin from the car, blow my nose, then repeat step #2.
7} Ten seconds later, screw around with my phone. Fix phone, then repeat step #2.
8) Two minutes later, while repeating step #2 for the fifth time, allow the gentle mountain breeze to lull me to sleep. Nap for about an hour. Wake up from nap, repeat step #2.

Keep in mind that I have yet to write a single word down in the preceding hour and a half of being outside.

9} Eventually I come to my senses, get angry with myself for wasting all of this time doing all kinds of pointless shit, and start to write. Which usually lasts anywhere from a half hour to an hour plus, and I wind up with a minimum of three handwritten pages of text.

I have another writing area, which is my front porch, and except for steps #5 & #8, everything else applies.

This is my tiny little screwed up writing world. It's long term, it's deeply ingrained, and there is no hope for a cure for me. If you don't want to see anyone else suffer from the same kind of malady, for god's sake, stop them before they can get started on the road to ruination. Don't let anyone, including yourself, come up with such an annoying pre-writing routine as mine. Please let this be a warning to others that OCD is positively lethal when you're a writer.

Monday, September 5, 2011

'Cause You Know I Really Like Workin' For A Livin'

All time favorite unemployed/underemployed video.

The exquisite beauty of life is that sometimes we have to do things that we really don't want to do. Like working more hours than the standard 40 hour work week.

Because of the bruising battle budge battle that took place in this state this past summer between a guv'nor who thinks running a state is like running a city (sort of like a president who thinks running a country is like running a senatorial district) and a complacent labor union who has no problem being a boot licking brown noser, my personal/family finances are in the state of flux that I'm no longer used to dealing with.

So as much as this pains me to even consider, I need to embark on a hunt for a second job. I really don't want to do this, but to quote a lyric from Cage the Elephant, "I got bills to pay, I got mouths to feed, there ain't nothing in this world that's free."

It's not like I haven't done this type of stupidity before. Prior to my lovely daughter being born, I was doing two jobs on and off (mostly on) for about 4 years running. I was averaging about 70 to 75 hours a week, and yes, I was getting burned out doing it. Back then, the reason as to why I was doing it was because I had what could be considered a small gambling problem, so the second paycheck basically funded that gambling problem.

I eventually reduced the gambling problem to a manageable level ($220 a week to currently $120 a week) and subsequently gave up the second job as I started to move slowly upwards in job class and salary at the first job. However, as the economy eventually kamakized into smithereenies near the end of the last decade, the family finances began to eventually mirror the economy. Money became tight but the bills certainly didn't stop, no matter what kind of outside financing I was able to find to help ease the strain.

But now its 2011, and unfortunately, the immediate needs of the family (second car and one child aging out of the dental insurance) dictates that I make the genuine effort at finding something to help ease the strain. However, if/when I do get that second job, there will be a few major adjustments in my life that will have to be done, and unfortunately they will be in the area of blogging and writing.

For the writing aspect, the actual writing portion might either get put on the back burner for a while, or at the very least, I'll switch my major from writing novels to writing short stories. If I do anything with a novel, it will probably be in the form of shopping around my current project to the small and medium sized publishers. As for submitting my short stories, that will probably get put on the back burner as well, since I may not have the time to do a thorough search and destroy for what I got sitting in my slush pile.

As for blogging, that will be a bit tougher to handle. I'm three and a half years into this thing and I'm starting to make great strides in terms of readership, visits and subscribers. I care about the people who read and visit my blog and the last thing I want to do is mess that up.

Having said that, I am toying with the idea of putting Shooting Suburbia on semi-hiatus, simply because I haven't found the time to produce any more fresh content. I haven't carried a camera with me since early spring and I haven't felt motivated enough to get the last remaining camera developed. If I do that, the only blog I'll have to worry about for the foreseeable future is this one.

The only change right off the bat that will be done is to eliminate the Sunday post, leaving me only three days a week to worry about. If I do anything else with this blog, I will definitely let everyone know ahead of time.


It does make life easier. But it sure hurts like hell to get the proper amount needed in order to get what you need.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Picture Me Playing Both Sides At One Meaning

After a one week hiatus, in which Yello Bear porked out on bbq'd possum and deep fried rabbit with kangaroo giblet sauce and a ten pack of Hooker's Ale, Yello Bear is ready to enterain you with a full tummy and a vacant brain. Come join him over at Shooting Suburbia.

Over, yours truly would like to thank everyone who choose to hang around my blog after reading a sample of my wit, for briefly putting me at the 100 subscriber mark this past week. It really means a lot to me that there are people in this big blue marble who find my musings interesting enough to have them feed to their reader or e-mail three to four times a week.

I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

My next goal in my blogging life (which is a pipe dream at best), is for my little blog to become one of those "Blogs of Note", although I don't really see it happening because my blog is a bit eclectic and not narrowly focused as the majority of the blogs of note are theses days. Still, one can always hope.

Friday, September 2, 2011

If You Tweak It, They Will Leave

I haven't done a rant in quite some time here, so in celebration of all things me, I will simply say this:

The views expressed here may sound like sour grapes, but they're my own sour grapes. Reader discretion is strongly advised.
And now, I will say this:

Blogger in its infinite wisdom, has yet again foisted another "improvement" onto its users. While some of the previous changes have been good (sort of):

Dropping support of older browsing programs as new ones are created; the little favicon thingy (where you can put a picture in your url so when someone brings it up, they can see you); new templates; and the new photo editor.

This latest change could be the one that might drive a few of the casual (i.e., you and me) bloggers away and possibly scare off potential newbie bloggers (i.e., those who are taking that next big step and posting their thoughts, etc. online) from using this service (which in spite of a few things that I loathe (like not very good customer service for anything that isn't directly related to the blog itself), I still love using).

For those of you who use Blogger for your blogging needs, you've probably seen the latest version of the dashboard that was rolled out on August 31st. While some people (mostly the pro and semi-pro bloggers) are thrilled to pieces about this upgrade, people like me are not.

The main reason why I'm not thrilled about this latest upgrade is to me, at least on the surface, it ain't user friendly.

Most of the time when I rant about something, I do it from a personal point of view. This time, I would like to offer my opinion with a mixture of a personal point of view and the point of view as a potential new blogger.

When this new "improvement" came up, I clicked on the link to take a look see. Instantly, I was given a message that Blogger doesn't support my browser and some aspects of my blog won't work in this new environment. WTF? Blogger stated back in July that they would support only the latest 3 versions of any browser on the market today.

Since I have IE 8, that pretty much means I'm good, because as far as I know, there is no IE 10 or IE 11 on the market, only IE 9, which I can't get with Windows XP. So it means that Blogger is reading my cookie wrong, which it does whenever I try to make sure that it doesn't count my page views because it says that I have IE 7. Anyways, I dismissed that annoying little message and took a brief glance at what the new dashboard looks like.

What I saw immediately rubbed me the wrong way. Unlike the old version with the tags "New Post/Edit Posts/Comments/Settings/Design/Monetize/Stats", the new one has everything scattered all over and the stats page sits directly next to your post count. I scrolled down a bit further and saw that the rest of the dashboard where your blogs are, was radically altered as well.

All of this is really hard to describe without doing a visual, so if you want a basic idea of what I'm talking about, check out the link on your dashboard to sample the new and improved dashboard, which will soon become mandatory whether you like it or not.

While I don't mind things being improved to make the overall experience smoother, I don't like things to be improved just for the sake of keeping up with the other blogging services. Where does this leave me and my four active blogs? I'm not really sure.

If I can't find a way to avoid all of the bells and whistles that Blogger insists on putting into this improvement, I may act like the proverbial brat and take myself elsewhere. And that's something I really don't want to do. I worked too damn hard to build this blog up to where it is today, only to have to move it someplace else because an upgrade winds up being a downgrade.

The bottom line is that I'm not happy about this latest improvement to something that really doesn't need to be improved. Just because something looks relatively old, doesn't necessarily mean that it should be kicked to the curb and replaced by eye candy.

The Legal Disclaimer

All the content that you see here, except for the posting of links that refer to other off-blog stories, is (c) 2008-17 by G.B. Miller. Nothing in whole or in part may be used without the express written permission of myself. If you wish to use any part of what you see here, please contact me at