Inexpressible joy

I call it ‘my wife is coming home from Alaska.’  She has been up there for two weeks.  It’s really good for her; she is Alaskan, and loves her home state like I do my own (Kansas).  It is also good for our relatives up there, who benefit a lot from seeing her (one niece has a new baby and is overwhelmed, and Deb rocks in those situations).  Meanwhile, I have been doing good things down here. One of the chiefest being the Cleansing of the Homestead, a polite term for ‘picking up all the crap my nephew and I just didn’t bother messing with, doing laundry, dishes, and otherwise covering up the evidence of two weeks of exclusively male habitation.’  Needless to say, the nephew Will Be Dragooned into doing his share, and being the nephew he will be assigned the tasks I like least.  But humanely.


Do you promise not to put my tires on someone else’s car?

We had that conversation today down at Les Schwab.  Last fall I had to buy new studs for my wife’s car.  Les Schwab put my tires on the car of a mediocre local news anchor.  The only credit they earned occured when the supervisor came out to the waiting area and enumerated this event to me.  Too stunned to speak at first, I just stared at him with the you could not possibly be this stupid look.  Moreover, I was in no way compensated for the extra hour and a half I had to sit around waiting for them to fetch her car back, get my tires, put them on Deb’s car, etc.  Sorry.  You’re screwed.  You will be delayed another hour and a half; no, it is not your fault; no, you will not get that time back, nor anything for it; yes, we really do expect you to just meekly accept this.

I don’t do ‘meek’ too well.  I am resolved not to let them forget it soon.  If that’s the only compensation I get, besides sinking this particular banderilla, very well.

This led to today’s odd conversation as I had the studs swapped out for the regulars (required soon by law).  I went to the counter, and asked how long it would be.  I explained what had happened last time, and asked if she could promise they would not give someone else my tires.  If she would promise, I would dare go eat some guilty pleasure lunch across the street.  Otherwise I would stand there and never take my eyes off my tires.  This was the part where she was supposed to show shocked disappointment and wonder what could be done to restore my confidence.  I didn’t think very much of her attitude, quite frankly; she acted almost as if I were making it up.  She didn’t quite eyeroll, but Les Schwab got another black mark for that.

Guess they’ll just have to wear it.  It’s not like I would tell the story on the Internet or something.

The joy that is “Weird Al” Yankovic

Alfred Matthew Yankovic dominates the field of parody music so completely that Bob Rivers (who is very funny) is barely worthy to help set up the stage for his show.  He has been doing this all my adult life.  There is a combination of friendly kidding, social commentary, and an absolute performer’s ethic about Al that makes him fundamentally appealing on every level.

If you ever get to see him in concert, it’ll be a superb expenditure of your entertainment dollar.  It’s not just a concert; it is start-to-finish entertainment.  Al crawling around on the stage singing “Like a Surgeon” while his chunky drummer Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz stands out front topless except for a silver cone bra? If Madonna has any guts at all (and I suspect she does), she would laugh herself to tears and be in danger of wetting herself to see it.

Anyway, Al’s working on a new album.  He decided to parody Lady Gaga. Evidently Her Highness did not approve.  Well, it’s always worse if you don’t laugh along.  So Al just put the song “Perform This Way” out on Youtube for us all to enjoy.  And if you think I would deny you a link here, then you think I am very mean:

“Perform This Way” by “Weird Al” Yankovic

You aren’t the whole process

I was compiling a list of the articles I authored for Myths & Misconceptions today for a friend, listening to Rex Navarrette (Pinoy comic, really funny) in the background.  Looking at my originals compared to what the editors published, it got me to thinking about the sentence I hear the most from people who say ‘I want to write’:

“Oh, I don’t think I could handle being edited.”

If you can’t handle being edited, you are writing for personal enjoyment only, because not only will you be edited, you need to be edited.  The author is not the whole process, nor even necessarily the most important aspect of the process.  Nearly all published work has aspects of collaboration.  I am not saying that one must never argue with an editor; I can and I have.  You can argue for a usage or a phrase or a description if you can justify its stet (‘let stand as set’…the term for canceling an edit) in terms of making the writing better, provided you have taken into consideration the space issues the publication faces.  ‘Because this turn of phrase sets up a joke later’ is a good one.  ‘Because this descriptive bit will orphan a later paragraph if nerfed’ is another.

What is not a good one:  ‘Because my ego is bound up in my cleverness.’

A good example would be the piece I authored for Armchair Reader:  World War II on the Warsaw Ghetto Rising of 1943.  It was a very difficult and painful piece for me for several reasons, difficult enough there is only one person who has ever heard the full tale, haunting even to see on the page in the printed book.  I suggested two titles:  Masada 1943 and “Juden Haben Waffen!” (this being what the SS cutthroats yelled out when the Jewish fighters opened up with their very limited supply of firearms).  I thought the first title was brilliant, evocative, and incorporated a bit of my own soul’s blood that poured that terrible day and night of my career.  I offered the second in case they didn’t like the first, knowing I was emotionally bound up in the piece.

The publisher used the second title, as I learned when I got my comps.  A part of me was crushed–but that was so me!  Obviously, it would have been entirely too late to complain; perhaps less obviously, it would have been very unwise of me to lobby real hard beforehand.  The editors make those decisions and the author needs to either be okay with it, or get okay with it, because my emotional problems are not something the editors can be expected to own.  Plus, if I really really wanted them to use my pet title, it was very foolish of me to present an alternative which they might take.

Do I still think my first title was much better? Oh, hell yes.  But that is because I am emotionally bound up with it, and my judgment is deeply biased.  My editors’ judgment was not.

I am not the whole process.  And if I try to assert myself as though I am, I will no longer even have a place in the process.


There are dandelions.

Personally, I like them, though they also make great practice targets for the sjambok on daily walks.  However, between them and the crabgrass, this place is the Amazon basin right about now.  Must slay them all.  Have a huge brush pile to feed to the chipper, which to me sounds like an excellent job with which to get help from the nephew.  Young nephews of athletic bent should, on principle, be assigned strenuous and annoying tasks.  I always was.  He will get the joy of prepping this stuff for the chipper, a hot, noisy, sawdusty, cantankerous widowmaker with the basic guts of a planer, but far more persnickety.  Me? I have to feed it.  I’m the only one who won’t jam it every time.

So soon I’ll be walking around with a backpack spray tank, a mask (can’t hurt), and the motivation to slay any vegetation that displeases me.  For the mulberry weed trees, I have a special plan:  1/2″ drilled holes with Roundup concentrate poured in.  Why do I not use KNO3? Tell you what.  You go to your local Cenex or Purina ag supply house and tell them you want a bag of potassium nitrate, though you can’t prove that you are in agriculture.  Let me know how that works out for you, and who comes to your door.

I guess we better hope the nation’s enemies never get the idea to just start farming.


This is in August, in Spokane.  For the first time, I’m putting myself forward as a possible panelist.  I’m probably now going to find out why panelists go nuts when scheduled for stuff they know nothing about, or get put in rooms that swelter, etc.

While I can’t say I’m not nervous about it, a part of me is sort of looking forward to it.  I’ll try it, and if it sucks, I won’t do it again.  Maybe my biggest worry is that putting myself forward for this amounts to putting on airs, making myself seem more important than I really am from a literary standpoint.  However, one very good aspect to it is that it gives strong support to writing off the entire trip as a necessary business expense.  Put another way, that means I get a 43% discount on the whole visit.  And since I’ll enjoy the con (Spocon really tries hard), and it’s not that far a trip, much good comes of this.  Jane should have my Rasputin costume by then.  Oh, I should probably dress professionally, but at a SF con, going steampunk is professional dress.

Extended warranties

You do know, right, that these are almost always pure profit for the vendor.  This is why sales staff are encouraged to push them at every opportunity, and may even be canned for not selling enough.

There is a devastating yet polite rejoinder for pressure to buy an extended warranty:  “If you think an extended warranty is in my best interests, then you must think this product is going to fail shortly out of warranty.  Therefore, are you saying that this is a very unreliable product prone to failure?”

The usual response is hilarious.  “Well, sir, I don’t mean that, just that, in case something does happen, you’d be covered.”  Have no mercy:  “Right, but this is supposed to be reliable.  Either it is a good product or it isn’t.  A good product doesn’t need me to buy extra warranty because odds of failure are remote.  A lousy product isn’t worth buying to begin with.  Which is it?”

Now, if they answer you honestly, have mercy:  “Honestly, sir, they nearly never break.  But my job requires me to offer this to you, and I can see you aren’t interested, so I’ve done all that is needed.  Shall we ring you up?”  If they have the candor to do that, treat them well.  It takes large nads to come out and say that.  If you’re really impressed, buy extended warranty just to help the guy or gal along.  You never know when that karma might revisit you.

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