Friday, December 30, 2011

Farewell to Twenty-Eleven (or, How About a Nice, Tall Glass of Half-Full?)

Well, despite our best efforts to delay the inevitable, Christmas came and went and now 2012 is breathing down our necks. Yet even with all the insanity of the holidays, The Universe kept chugging along, blissfully ignorant of our late-night mad-dash for deals, panic over the price of the latest toy/gadget/rocket ship, and general jack-assery that comes with yule-ing our tide.

And that, ladies and gents, should make us all feel a whole lot better about Life and Things. I mean, let’s be honest: 2011 was a wild, wacky year. Wall Street was bipolar, we were/are at war, we had more protests at home and abroad than you could shake a stick at, we endured a Kardashian vomiting all over the “institution of marriage” we had to admit that this is the final season of Chuck, and a million other things that make us want to stare at The Universe and say, “Oh come on! Really?!”*

But buried within all the doom and gloom splattered across the TV were also a lot of bright points. There was the discovery of (possible) life on other planets, the excitement as we waited for the results of the whole Higgs-Boson shindig, there were miraculous births and amazing survival stories from disasters, we closed the chapter on one war, we watched some excellent television, etc.

Like the madness of the holidays, it’s easy to let the noise from the negativity of the past year wear us down. But you know what? We shouldn’t because so much in our lives is based on perspective. It’s not so much looking at life as glass-half-full, but rather looking at…actually, I suppose it is looking at the “full” part of the glass.  

2011 is coming to close and, to be honest, things were reasonably good in this small corner of the planet. I got married to “the one that got away”, inherited a new (and completely crazy-in-a-good-way) family, had a couple friends get published (or will be), bottled my first jars of honey, and heard about justice (finally) for a murdered friend. I toured one of the most fascinating cities you’d never think to visit (and you’d be wrong!), wrote a lot of words (on this site and in stories), read some great books, read some fantastically crappy ones, ate, drank, and generally tried to enjoy life to the fullest.   

That’s not to say everything was hunky-dory. There were plenty of dark points and late nights spent staring at the ceiling wondering how to fix things. There were days/weeks/months of biting nails and counting every penny. And don’t get me started on the number of rejection letters I collected.  

But all of those were/are speed bumps and not mountains.

Or at least, they should be. After all, we only have oh-so-much energy to spend worrying about Things and Such, so we had best pick and choose the ones that cut deepest. Otherwise, we’re going to be emotionally exhausted in another 12 months.

As we stampede into 2012, a lot of people will create resolutions or make promises for how to improve on the New Year. But you know what? The Universe won’t care. It will keep doing its thing whether we join a gym or eat 12 boxes of donuts.**

That doesn’t mean we should wallow in despair, stop trying to improve, or give up on our dreams. Instead, we should realize that life is going to happen no matter what and we can either watch it drift by or jump in and hang on. Maybe this is the year we’ll land an agent/publishing contract/underwear modeling career. Then again, maybe it won’t be. Maybe we’ll struggle, cry, cuss, and worry instead. Either way, the big, bad river of life will keep on keeping on.

And if that’s the case, you can bet that when we’re here this time next year, we’d all rather say goodbye to 2012 with a tear of sadness than with a kick in the pants as it scampers out the door. And so much of that depends on whether or not we get out there and make the effort to actually live our lives.  

So here’s to you, 2011: Thanks for all the good times and bad. It was a heck of a ride.

And here’s to you, 2012: May the coming year be one filled with hope, laughter, and experiences worthy of song. And may we never forget that life, with all of its bruises and scrapes, is meant to be lived and not simply tolerated.

*I know, I know, there are many more things on that list, but there just isn’t time to get into all of them. How about we talk over a beer sometime?

**The latter sounds soooooo good right now.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Tweets of the Week: 16 Dec 11

It's that time of year again: The Season of Giving. Therefore, I give you this week's installment of CM's:

Tweets of the Week:*

@Michael_A-Tate: Alright words, look out because I'm going hunting. And when I catch you I'm going to arrange you for display in my zoo...I mean story.

@LovelyWhenReady: If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

@AncientProverbs: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellent, then, is not an act, but a habit." -Aristotle

@ReadWriteLuv: "A committed writer sentences himself to death." -Unknown #humor (ROFL must've been a run-on sentence.)

@HillaryJacques: So glad people can't see me inside stand-up tanning booths. Not because I'm naked, but beacuse I'm doing the robot. Badly.

@JensBookshelf: Sometimes I think I should be a proper grown up and follow politics. Then I remember I like stories with character development.

@herebemagic: I like nonsense. It wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. Dr Suess.

@StaciaDecker: Amazingly, agents would rather allot unpaid work hrs to developing existing clients than to queries from strangers who call them idiots.

@Greorg_Grey: Knowledge is power, and power corrupts. So study hard and be evil.

*Note: All tweets are kinda' as they appear in my feed to include RT credits (when able), trends, misspells, poor punctuation, lies, 15% off retail, buy one get one free, doorbuster sales, and no interest until 2013!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Believing (or Tebowing for Our Stories)

Let me preface this post with a disclaimer: I'm going to talk about religion and sports, two topics that are in the same volatile stratosphere as politics when it comes to "appropriate party conversation." That said, it's merely to set up The Whole Point and, if anyone takes offense, I'm sorry. It's not intentional.

We good?


So here's the thing: I watched the Broncos-Bears game last night (and by "watched", I mean that it was background noise while CobraMrsFit and I puttered around the house). For three quarters, it was boring TV. Tebow and the Broncos looked flat and the Bears, lead by the machine that is Brian Urlacher, completely dominated the Broncos offensive line.

But with, and I'm not kidding, about 2 minutes left in the game, CobraMrsFit and I were glued to the TV. The Broncos not only scored a TD, but failed to recover an onside kick, watched the Bears drive down the field only to have Marion Barber step out of bounds (one of two game-changing mistakes), then somehow also drove down the field which set up Matt Prater for a 59-yard field goal to tie it with 3 seconds left in the game. And, because there wasn't enough drama already, the Bears won the coin-toss in overtime, drove down the field only to have Barber fumble the football (which the Broncos recovered), and then Tebow and Company set Prater up for a 51-yard field goal to win.*

It was, without a doubt, one of the most intense games I've watched in a long time.

Now normally the post-game interviews with players are a load of boring, run-of-the-mill quotes that barely show up on my radar. Last night, however, when the mic was put in front of Tebow, the first words out of his mouth were, "I first want to thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ."

Wait. What?

Tebow then went on to thank his O-Line, the staff, and his teammates. Specifically, he wanted to thank them for believing. "If you believe," Tebow said, "then unbelievable things can sometimes be possible."**

What's amazing, however, is not so much the game (which WAS amazing), but the amount of hate and discontent the Broncos quarterback has generated. Check any sports forum and you'll find an insane number heated arguments about how awful/wonderful Tebow is/is not. Bring his name up at the water cooler and watch as people get into it.

The guy has even been the source of his own Internet meme: Tebowing.


Toss that word in your favorite search engine and you'll find thousand of similar images. Some of my favs include:



So here's the question I have for The Universe: Why the hate? Sure, it's easy to poke fun at a guy who is open about his faith and trust me, I get it why people don't like the way he plays ball. His QB skills are random and wild, but you can't argue with three overtime wins this year. More important, you can't argue with the fact that he continually gives credit to everyone but himself. In almost every post-game interview, Tebow has talked about the quality of his teammates, the great plays others have made, and the power of believing that the impossible isn't.

And maybe that's the reason.

In the recent Muppet movie, the cast is confronted by The Big Bad Guy who says that essentially, their G-Rated, goody-too-shoes humor no longer has a place in a bitter, cynical world. Perhaps Tebow is experiencing the same thing. Maybe we've become so accustomed to celebrities paying rent in rehab (or filing for divorce after 72 days), politicians acting like total idiots on camera, and people generally operating like selfish, intolerant d-bags, that we automatically assume someone with a different attitude is just playing us. And who knows: maybe Tebow really is a tool and just playing a role because it makes him stand out.

But what if he's not? What then?

Again, the guy thanked everyone and not once did he take credit for the win. Sure, he had some amazing plays, but credit should go (and rightfully has gone) to Barber for his two flubs. More important, credit goes to Matt Prater who's two field goals tied and then ultimately won the game in OT.

Yet the media seems focused solely on Tim.

Yes, Tebow is open about his faith, but it seems to be more than just his Christianity. He had faith that his team could come back. He believed they wouldn't stop fighting. But to win, the Broncos needed a lot of miracles to happen. And you know what? They did. Barber flubbed twice, both at critical junctions. Receivers caught balls when they needed to. Prater sliced the uprights on record field goals. Tebow's belief that the impossible could happen turned out to be warranted.

To quote the pastor of our church during every sermon: "This brings us to the 'So What?' What should I take away from all this?'"

We're writers, or at least trying to be writers. We operate in a world where the odds are distinctly not in our favor. We spend hours, days, and even years polishing a story knowing that it may never see print because it's not the right genre, not the right agent, or not the right time. We work, sweat, and cry to create something that, in all likelihood, will never wind up on a bookshelf.

Between our own doubts and external obstacles, it's easy to become bitter and cynical, to assume that we're never going to amount to anything, so we might as well quit. Yet we continue to write, continue to query, and continue to hope.


Because we believe. We believe that the odds don't matter, that there may be a window of opportunity just around the corner. We have faith that, despite the stacks upon stacks of rejection letters, an agent, editor, or publisher will feel the same way about our story that we do. We continue to fight because we refuse to believe that we are just wasting our time.

Ultimately, our success or failure depends on a great many factors. It starts with a story that is polished to a shine, but it also requires that story finding its way to the right person at the right time. Some of that is luck, but the vast majority of it is tenacity, determination, and a little Tebow-level belief that we can do it.

And maybe, against all odds, it'll actually happen.

*For those doing the math, that's 110 yards. Kicking! Ironically, more yards than Barber had on the ground.  

**Quote courtesty of

***Image courtesy of: (wow. that's a long one).

****Image courtesy of:

*****Image courtesy of:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Importance of Genre (or, "You Say Tomato, I Say Banana")

With the release of the Hunger Games movie trailer recently, there's been a lot of noise about the main character, Katniss, vs Twilight's femme fatale, Bella*. Numerous blogs, articles, forum debates, and office discussions have centered around the pros and cons of both characters. The static goes something like this:

Katniss is a survivor who has been forced to operate on her own and does what needs to be done when the situation demands it. She a thinker, a planner, and a good role model for young girls.

Bella is an annoying teen who complains about everything, including the fact that two hot boys are head over heels in love with her. She is clumsy, always in need of saving, and her only motivation is a near obsessive need to be loved.

That's all fine and good for a chuckle, but when you boil it down, the comparisons are unfair. The reason?


The reason why these girls are so drastically different is because the authors designed them specifically for their respective "worlds". Yes, both franchises can be considered Young Adult with female leads, but the similarities end there. Twilight is basically a modern era, paranormal romance while Suzanne Collin's Hunger Games is more along the lines of a dystopian young adult adventure/survival series.

Arguing that one main character is "better" than the other is like saying that water and oil are essentially the same thing.

Allow me to go on record as saying that, personally, I don't care for Bella, Edward, Jacob, or anything associated with Twilight. Allow me to also caveat that by saying I typically don't enjoy romances in general because that's not what I am drawn to. Yes, I find Bella everything listed above and was immediately turned off by the "oh-woe-is-me-I-is-a-sparkly-monster, blah,blah,blah" by Edward. I don't identify with any of the characters and was not interested in whether or not Bella chose Team Edward or Team Jacob. 

I'm Team Potter all the way. Specifically, Team Neville.

That said, I will absolutely defend Stephanie Meyer and Twilight because I recognize that I am not her target audience.

Objectively, her books are well written. Individual plots are well structured and the major story arc is outstanding. Say what you will about the characters, no one can argue with the success of the franchise. Something about it resonates with people.

A lot of people.

Hunger Games also resonates with readers, but for a completely different reason. Part of that is because it appeals to a different echelon than Twilight. Yes, there are a lot of people who love both, but the genres draw certain lines in the sand. And no matter how you argue it, people like what they like. I love fantasy or futuristic worlds with underdogs struggling to overcome "bad people" (*cough* Harry Potter/StarWars/Firefly *cough*). I DON'T like teenage girls boo-hooing about boyfriends. But millions of readers do, or at least don't see Twilight like in that manner. Many more are devoted to the immortal romance that Ms Meyer created and they have developed an attachment to both the story and the characters.   
Comparing the two leads is also unfair because neither would survive in their other's world. Bella would likely step on a landmine or get an arrow to the heart within 10 seconds of the starting gong of the Hunger Games. Katniss, on the other hand, lacks Bella's burning passion which might prevent her from forming a strong alliance with the Cullens. Her independence/survivalist instinct would be a hindrance because she wouldn't want to rely on anyone. More likely than not, she'd tick off the wrong family and wind up on the dinner menu.

Obviously these are broad, semi-humorous sweeps of the paintbrush. There are subtleties to each story/character that different readers identify with. Additionally, the franchises are separated by their respective genre which allows both girls to prosper or fail based on the "rules" spelled out by the author.
But no matter what, it's important to keep in mind that while you or I might like or dislike a story, both Twilight and Hunger Games have main characters that appeal to millions of readers.

And let's be honest, wouldn't we all love to touch that many people with our words? 

*For the 3 people in the world who don't know what I'm talking about, Bella is the female lead for Stephanie Meyer's Twilight Series. Also, Han shot first. Trust me.  

Friday, December 2, 2011

Tweets of the (last two) Week(s): 02 Dec 11

Sometimes life is busy. Between work, holidays, and alien abductions, I've been away from the blog-o-sphere, however, after near riotous demand from the unruly masses*, here is the latest installment of:


@AbielleRose: I don't want to be known as a 'writer." I want to be known as a creator.

@hellioncat: Laughing at someone brave enough to try something they can't do is your greatest act of cowardice.

@alan_tudyk: I walked my dog in the pre-sunrise early morning breeze today. The only sound was my breath and the owl song. Suddenly hungry for Hooters.

@TheNotebook: Don't cry over the past, it's gone. Don't stress about the future, it hasn't arrived. Live in the present and make it beautiful.

@ericjkrause: Hehe. Too true. RT @FARfetched58: You know spammers have ruined everything when a hot female avi becomes a reason NOT to follow someone.

@ItsAYYSIAN: Money can't buy happiness, but it can buy bacon, and that's pretty damn close.

@SoVeryAwkward: That awkward moment when someone asks if you're on Team Edward or Team Jacob...and you say you're on Team Potter.

@Broslife: I always have to remember when I get sad, I stop being sad and be awesome.

@zachbraff: Team not Sleeping on the Sidewalk for a Ticket to a Movie that's Gonna be Out for Months.

@JensBookshelf: A car just drove past slowly, with thumping gansta rap. Guys, it doesn't work if you're driving your Mum's station wagon.

@PamGrier: We do not stop playing because we are old. We grow old because we stop playing. Xox.

@Chemistry_cat_: Holy shift, look at the asymptote on that mother function. #chemistrycat

@Inspire_Us: The difference in winning & losing is most often, not quitting. -Walt Disney

@MorganCline: Brushing my pet bunny & listening to Paul Simons "Graceland" yeah, I'm exactly where I thought I'd be at 32.

@Flickimp: There are times when I wish I was at Bag-end watching the clouds drift by.

@Sam Sykes Swears: In writing, talent is used some of the time. Luck is used once or twice. Persistence is used for absolutely everything else.

@VoiceVote84: This year I'm thankful for a loving family, warm & generous friends, education, and just enough wisdom to be grateful. #thanksgiving

@lanniewright: 'Times are bad. Childern no longer obey their parents and everyone is writing a book." -Ceciro, circa 43 BC

@alyankovic: I swear some days it's no longer worth strapping on your studded leather codpiece.

@Itisawomanthing: Being female is a matter of birth, being a woman is a matter of age, but being a lady is a matter of choice.

@_Snape_: Voldemort is like a teenage girl. He has a diary, a tiara, a favorite ring, a pet he adores, and an obsession with a famous teenage boy.

@JewelStaite: Things uttered in public places that warrant weird looks from strangers: "Man, I sure do love hot dogs."

@KellyMeding: "I hate rice cakes. They taste like popcorn farts." #Chopped #bestlinesever

@alan_tudyk: my ass is in widespread panic

@InspiringY0U: Finding each other is the beginning, staying together is the process. Working together is the success. #InspiringY0U

@joelmchale: Clean up on aisle Los Angeles. #wind

@AntonSesay: You Are Exactly Who You Think You Are, So Think Highly Of Yourself.

@DalekThay: You BETTER watch OUT. You BETTER not CRY. You BETTER not POUT. I am TELLING you WHY. YOU will be EX-TER-MIN-ATED. #DalekChristmas

@ColleeLindsay: BREAKING NEWS: Some people on the Internet are idiots. FILM AT ELEVEN!

@HillaryJacques: My boss's mouth says "get towork" but her eyes say "eat chocolate and frolic". Which to believe???


*and by that I mean complete and total silence from the Intertoobz.
**epic fading sound effect, in case you were wondering. Also, Note: All tweets are kinda' as they appear in my feed to include RT credits (when able), trends, misspells, poor punctuation, lies, knick knacks, paddy whacks, and giving a dog a bone.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Maintaining a Perspective

It's Thanksgiving, that special time of year when we gorge ourselves on turkey and/or pie* and then slip into the inevitable tryptophan-induced coma. It's also the time when we reflect on the things that we're grateful for. It's especially important because when times are tough, a little perspective about the good things in our lives can help balance out the negativity that seems to come at us from all sides. That said, here goes:

Stuff I Appreciate:

1) Family - Yes, it's a cliché, but it is also true. The fam is tight. Dad is my hero, Mom is a mamma bear, and Sis is my BFF. They always have my back and I have theirs.

2) Wife - CobraMrsFit is, without a doubt, the coolest woman I've ever met. She's fun, pretty, smart, and capable with a handgun. She puts up with my harebrained schemes, laughs at my bad jokes, and has more compassion for her fellow Man in one pinkie than most people have in their entire bodies. Why she picked me is anyone's guess, but I am eternally thankful for it.

3) Friends - I'm not talking second-tier friends that fade with time or distance, I'm talking people that know you, get you, and still like you. Most of mine are scattered to the four corners of the globe, but they are somehow always there when needed. 

4) Career - Say what you will about being a Cubicle Commando, the Day Job keeps the lights on and the fridge filled. Not to mention, it allows CobraMrsFit and I the opportunity to enjoy our hobbies.

5) Hobbies - Between writing, beekeeping, classic cars, golf, the gym, learning piano, singing with the Alexandria Harmonizers** and playing video games, there are plenty of amazing things to keep a man occupied. If I ever gripe about being bored, someone smack me.

6) This Nation - Again, a cliché, but true none-the-less. Despite the turmoil being broadcast across the airwaves, my loved ones and I live in a country where we are given the chance to do anything our hearts desire. There will always be struggles, but the magical things about this nation is that we have a voice. On a regular basis, we can vote leaders into or out of office. We have a say in how things are run, are allowed to voice our displeasure, and have the right to wake up each morning under a blanket of freedom that is hard to fully comprehend or appreciate. But anytime we begin to question just how amazing this country is, we need only spend a little time away from it. We may not be perfect, but we are a land of dreams, hard work, strength, and opportunity. 

6) Our Military - Not one thing above would be capable without our men and women on the front lines. They volunteer to spend holidays like this away from their loved ones so we don't have to. They are the modern-day knights, willing to stand between us and the darkness and they deserve more thanks than they will ever receive.

Anyway, that's my list. How about you all? What are you thankful for?

*mostly pie

**shameless plug

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Explaining Things

Sometimes it's not easy to explain writing. I'm not talking about a conversation with family or close friends who get us, I'm talking about the second-tier associate. The acquaintance. The, dun-dun-duuuuun, co-worker.

Co-Worker: "You look tired. Late night?"*

Me: "Yeah, I was revising one of my stories and lost track of time."

Co-Worker: "Writing? As in a book? Like Twilight?"

Me: "A book, yes, but a different genre."

Co-Worker: "Oh." (awkward silence) "So. . . what's it about?"

Me: "Uh, well it's a space opera about a faction that is creating zombie warrior ninja pirates in order to invade the Beltrakian Empire and overthrow the. . ." (passage of time) ". . . BUT, as they make their escape, the Evil Lord Pepperschmitt attacks and . . ." (more time) ". . . happily ever after. Until the sequel, of course."

Co-Worker: *yawns* "Is it going to be published?"

Me: "There's no guarantee, but I hope so."

Co-Worker: (pregnant pause whilst he/she thinks on this) "Wouldn't you rather spend your free time doing something more, I dunno, productive?"

Me: ". . . "

Granted, I wouldn't go into gory details with anyone except a family member, beta reader, agent, or Miss Tennessee, but you get my drift. To us, the story makes sense. So do the hours, days, months, and years we put into them. But to those who don't know us or share our passion, it can seem like a waste of time.

The difficulty is when we begin to convince ourselves of the same thing. Maintaining motivation can be tough, especially when your inbox is stacked with rejections. It can seem like all the time and energy is spent in vain.

The key is to realize that even if we aren't knocking down The Big Bucks or negotiating which scene of the movie version we'll make our cameo, we're certainly enjoying ourselves. We spend hours and years transitioning a plot bunny from the ethereal mist of our minds to the black and white of actual pages because we love it. And because we want to.

When you think about it, isn't that the only explanation we, or anyone else for that matter, ever truly needs?

*this conversation is 92% fictional.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tweets of the Week: 11 Nov 11 (belated)

Due to participation in hometown festivities on Friday*, followed by a weekend of merriment and spine-tingling adventure with CobraMrsFit, I failed to click "Publish Post." Apologies for denying the masses this "week's" unpastuerized dose of awesome, lovingly referred to (*cough*onlybyme*cough*) as:

Tweets of the Week**

@alan_tudyk: When it comes to people, places, and things, lately, I find that people and places just complicate things.

@BadAstronomer: If I somehow became the richest man on Earth I would still stand in the kitchen at night and eat Honeycombs dry right out of the box.

@zachbraff: I just decided you're going to have the best day ever!

@AdviceToWriters: If writing seems hard, it's because it is hard. WILLIAM ZINSSER #amwriting #writing #writetip #NaNoWriMo

@hobronto: Everybody, this is important. Please pay attention: A scrub is a guy who thinks he's fly, and is also known as a buster. Thank you.

@rdonoghue: The only person who ever really objects to killing the messenger is the messenger. Sadly, that's only one voice.

@hijinksensue: "And finally, to Mr. Harry Potter, for outstanding courage and for murdering Professor Quirell, 60 points to Gryffindor House."

@DeathStarPR: Force lightning hits me so hard, Makes me say, "Ow, my Lord!" Thank you for blasting me With 40000 amps of electricity. Stop, Palpa Tine.

@Broslife: A honorary U-S-A! U-S-A to all the veterans out there. Your bravery inspires me to be even more awesome.

@AM_Preston: Appropriate: You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. Ray Bradbury.

*Thank you to each and every service member for your sacrifice and bravery.

**Note: All tweets are mostly as they appear in my feed to include RT credits (when able), trends, misspells, poor punctuation, lies, the Power of Love, dude looks like a lady, rocking around the clock, and hello-is it me you’re looking for?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy 236th Birthday, Marines.


Today marks the 236th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. Formed in the "hallowed halls" of Tun Tavern in 1775, the Marines have spent over two centuries building and reinforcing their reputation as one of America's finest fighting forces. From the early days of battling Barbary Pirates to recent engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Marines have always been ready to answer the call.

It's difficult to put into words exactly what it means to bear the title "Marine." It's more than just belonging to a world-wide fraternity and certainly much more than becoming a warrior. It's a designation that is seared onto the soul and forever marks you as a member of a very small, but very passionate group. The bond that forms between Marines spans generations. It is one that is forged in the heat of combat, the sacrifice of time and blood, and the shared understanding that out of everyone in this nation, they few chose to sign their name on the dotted line.


The process of becoming a Marine is long and painful. For three months, recruits are run ragged, forced to overcome obstacle after obstacle, and pushed to their breaking point in order to hone the skills that will make them an integral part of an elite fighting force. They endure hours and days worth of strife simply for the privilege to stand on parade deck, be handed their Eagle, Globe, and Anchor, and be called "Marine" for the first time. But once they claim that title, they keep it forever. 

As the old saying goes, there are no ex-Marines, only former Marines.    

Becoming a Marine also requires a certain mindset and one of the best examples was during my senior year of high school. We had an assembly where the recruiters from each branch presented their "cases" to the student body which was followed by an informal meet-and-greet. The Army, Navy, and Air Force all talked about the opportunities that their branch offered. When the Marine recruiter stepped up, he stated that the Marine Corps wouldn't promise us scholarships, promotions, or a good time. The Corps would make us dirty, tired, and frustrated. It would send us to crappy corners of the world, pay us next to nothing, and separate us from our loved ones for months, even years on end. We would be stressed, exhausted, and most likely placed in harms way if, and only if, we were strong enough and tenacious enough to complete basic training, follow-on training, and a myriad of other challenges along the way. 

"Suffice to say," the recruiter said, "most of you simply don't have what it takes to make it." 

When it was time of the meet-and-greet, the line to talk to the Marine recruiter far surpassed the line for the others.  

And it's not a fad. The Marines have always prided themselves on never going easy. A recent recruiting commercial depicts young men and women leaping through the boot camp process. In one scene, a recruit is thrown to the ground during hand-to-hand combat training. In another, a squad exits gas chamber training and one recruit pukes. For a service attempting to recruit our nation's youth, that's a bold statement.


And, of course:


But the cornerstone being a Marine is the tradition. Marines look to the past and honor the people and battles that paved the way. Spend an hour wandering the halls of the Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, VA and you'll be overwhelmed by the passion for the history and tradition. Spend an hour talking with an active or former Marine and he or she will gladly explain why they wear accessories that are outdated by centuries. Spend an hour standing at the base of the Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington, VA and you'll likely see a young Marine polishing the emblem so that it shines brightly in the Virginia sun.

It is the tradition that binds each and every Marine and part of that tradition is the celebration of the birthday. From large, formal balls in Washington D.C. to small, intimate gab-sessions at a local bar, Marines always celebrate their heritage. Every year on this day, units around the world pause to salute the Marine Corps' creation. Logistics commands will bend over backwards to ensure that birthday cake, or a facsimile therein, is delivered to warriors in dirty, remote outposts because every Marine has earned the right to have cake and clink canteens to honor the Corps. Retired Marines will pick up the phone and call their buddies just to say "Happy Birthday."

All because they are bound by the intangible, yet unbreakable bonds of tradition.

So on this, the 236th birthday of our Corps, let us remember the sacrifices of those who went before, the sacrifices of those currently serving, and the burning desire of those hoping to one day earn the title of "Marine." It may not be easy, but ask anyone who bears the title and they'll tell you it's worth it.

Semper Fi, Marines, and Happy Birthday.

*image courtesy of:

**image courtesy of:

***image courtesy of:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tweets of the Week: 04 Nov 11

The Twittersphere provided even more gems and droppings of wisdom for this week's installment of:

Tweets of the Week*:
@LGwenn RT @MacDibble “When the going gets weird, the weird turn professional.” ― Hunter S. Thompson

@LGwenn RT @EmperorFranzen Not to trivialize childbirth, but bringing a novel to full-term is much more difficult than popping out a brat.

@BronxZoosCobra Trick or treat, I have no feet, give me something good to slowly digest over several days. #happyhalloween

@LGwenn RT @dianagill Shoes that are hiking/work boots in the front and high heels in the back are footwear's mullets.

@badbanana A hat and cape used to mean you were well off. Now it means you're in a marching band.

@micheleboyd Ah, Halloween. The day when the cosplayers look at the rest of the world and say, "Aww. How cute."

@sirra_girl There are two types of writers. Some write for money, so they publish. Anything. The others write to pursue their dreams of being published.

@KellyMeding RT @LawrencePearce Good quote RT @jasonpinter: "Nobody but a reader ever became a writer." --Richard Peck #TweensRead

@WritersDigest "Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see." -Arthur Schopenhauer

*Note: Give or take a TON of human error, all tweets are mostly as they appear in my feed to include RT credits (when able), trends, misspells, poor punctuation, lies, misrepresentations, raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, and cows jumping over the moon.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Panic at the Disc-Snow.

Saturday it snowed in the DC region. And, as is typical for this area, it prompted a calm, collected response from the natives:

It's snow, people. Which we get here.

Every. Single. Year.

Granted, it was the first time since 1979 that it snowed in October and it was fairly "heavy" for this region. Several thousand people were without power and some schools were actually closed.

But calling it things like, "Snowtober"?

Come on.

Wacky names aside**, the fact remains that the fluffy stuff seems to catch people off guard every time. It doesn't matter that the National Weather Service gives us a heads up, we still seem completely incapable of wrapping our heads around the fact that it will, in fact, snow here (and occasionally we get a lot of it). Many locals drive like maniacs on wet, icy roads either out of denial or refusal to admit the weather people were right. Yes, your Porsche is sexy. Just not when it's off the road and up an embankment. Or spinning out on the shoulder.

Just sayin'.

Then there are the locals on the other end of the spectrum who panic whenever we have a slight weather "hiccup." Or as I like to call it, "French Toast Snow." The second the Weather Channel calls for a light dusting, these intrepid survivalists clean out the eggs, milk, and bread from the grocery store. What I want to know is why, of all products on the shelves, do they pick some of the most perishable? Why not hoard cans of beans, veggies, and Twinkies? You know, stuff that will last a nuclear war.

But as nutty as we are, we love to hate our snow. Give us an inch and we'll shut down highways, buy up shovels and generators and the hardware store, and provide the media days worth of ratings. All while sipping hot cocoa (or, for some of us, Irish Coffee) with a smile.

So here's hoping for a weather-filled Snowvember***.

*Retrieved from:

**Including other media favorites like "Snowmageggon", "Snowpocalypse" and "Snowicaine."


Friday, October 28, 2011

Tweets of the Week: 28 Oct11

Continuing the tradition, here is this week's sampling of the awesome splattered across the Twittersphere:

Tweets of the Week*:

@alan_tudyk: my mutual love of jogging and baked goods has me fluctuweighting

@alan_tudyk: Young women in LA do terrible things to themselves in the name of beauty. Recently, it’s gone too far. Please, take the 80’s Mom jeans off.

@zachbraff: “The McRib”: for people who have no interest in meeting their grandkids.

@kpereira: Fear of failure makes you boring. #notetoself

@Dolly_Parton: The question I get asked the most is ‘are they real?’ …Well, of course not. They’re acrylic. I could never grow my nails this long!!

@hijinksensue: Kiddo singing Beauty And The Bear: “Trailer old as time…”

@Papa_Kosh: RT @OptimusSubprime: My current fitness level can be summed up with these three words: “JABBA NO BOTHER”.

@WritersDigest: “Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

@Janet_Reid: AIEEEEE! Just spelled an editor's name wrong in the salutation! ARGH! Yes, query letter writers, this happens. Prepare for end of the world.

*Note: Give or take some human error, all tweets are mostly as they appear in my feed to include RT credits, trends, misspells, poor punctuation, lies, misrepresentations, caution: slippery when wet, danger: high voltage, warning: curves ahead, and batteries not included.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Morning Reminder

While getting ready to start another week, CobraMrsFit snapped this picture:

Apparently our kitten, Mozzie, wanted to remind us how to treat a Monday.

Thanks, Moz. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Tweets of the Week

Considering the ample amount of awesome scattered across the Twittersphere, I decided to start keeping track of tweets that are simply too fantastic to merely be tagged as "favorite" or just retweeted. But rather than force people to hunt through billions of stellar tweets like, "I go to groceries, LOL", I've taken it upon myself to compile some of the epicness for your viewing pleasure in a semi-regularish installment called Tweets of the Week*. And now, without further ado, I present to you all the inaugural posting of:


@sirra_girl: Night all ~ Someday, the words you've slaved over for months will touch some reader's heart for years.Write on, writers~

@alyankovic: I don't need washboard abs. I've got front-loading Energy Star-compliant abs.

@NickHGarrison: You dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Which is why I'm dressed as a fireman. A sexy-space-cowboy-fireman-president.

@RDavidMacNeil: Alcohol and calculus don't mix. Never drink and derive.

@SethMacFarlane: All the autotune in the world still doesn't sound as cool as talking into a desk fan.

@JSCarroll: new phrase of the day: Hanker Sore - adj. finding a person so attractive it actually kinda pisses you off.

@sirra_girl: SOME editors/agents/reviewers mock and then laugh at newbie writers. They're unprofessional douches on power trips. Don't give up, writers. Write!

@hprw: FAB! RT @farynblack: @tmminchin Some helium floats into a bar. Bartender says, "We don't serve noble gases here." The helium doesn't react.

@HarryPotterish: "When I'm 80 years old, I'll be reading Harry Potter. My family will say, 'After all this time?' and I will say 'Always.'" - Alan Rickman

@Rowan_Atkinson: Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics iz like asking a lamppost what it feels about dogs.

@Papa_Kosh: A man's place is in the kitchen, standing in front of the microwave, wondering if he has to stop it half way through and flip the nuggets.

@grantimahara: #ladygagamath RT @jolieodell: From a @Mashable editor: (RAH)2(AH)3 + [ROMA (1+MA)] + (GA)2 + (OOH)(LA)2

@alyankovic: Next time Netflix wants to make a rash, impulsive decision, maybe they should just buy a puppy or get a tattoo. #RIPQwikster

@DeathStarPR: We're pleased to confirm that today's #OccupyAlderaan protests ended swiftly and peacefully. Sorry, "fully in pieces."

@GeorgeTakei: I've said it before: You either need a calendar on your "smart" phone, or an organized spouse. Either way, keep 'em nearby--and turned on.

So, there you have it. More to follow in the coming weeks.

*Note: all tweets are exactly as they are in my feed to include RT credits, trends, misspells, poor punctuation, lies, misrepresentations, alien abductions, removing the tag from the mattress, void where prohibited, and may have been made with nuts.

**insert the sound of tens of applauding/screaming fans here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

CM Reviews the New iPhone 4S

After nearly 4 years with the iPhone 3G, it was time to upgrade. Not only because my old phone was slowing down at a rapid rate (despite numerous “re-toolings”), but also because the new Operating System, iOS5, was not compatible with it. So, biting the financial bullet, I waltzed into the AT&T store on “release day” and walked out with a lighter wallet.

In the week since, there are a number of things that I like and dislike about the phone*. And while there are plenty of forums out there with user reviews, I offer my own for anyone thinking of upgrading or switching from another phone to an iFruit.**  With that, let’s begin. . . .


1)      The A5 processor chip: This is the same one in the iPad 2, so the speed is remarkable. Certainly far better than the average cell phone. I wouldn’t call it “screaming” fast, more like “high-pitched wailing” fast. Safari loads pages quickly, even on 3G. Faster on Wi-Fi. Both are above my expectation.
2)      Screen Resolution: Excellent. There are a number of complaints regarding yellowing or less-than-adequate pixilation, but my phone seems fine. Very bright, very crisp. Games and apps look fantastic.
3)      SIRI: Yes, it’s a gadget and yes, I love gadgets, but SIRI (the voice assistant) has been not only fun, but useful. During a drive into DC, I activated the assistant and asked her for directions from my current location to my friend’s apartment in DC (had to give the address since it was not already loaded in my contacts page). SIRI connected with GoogleMaps and in no time had me on the right path. There are a number of “Easter eggs” planted by the programmers, so have fun finding them (or cheating and Googling them). Ask her to “Open the pod bay doors” and snicker away.
4)      GoogleMaps: The updated version on the iPhone 4S is a huge improvement to the “old” one on my 3G. It now offers the ability to lock onto your location (via a small, blue, pinging dot), and follow as you travel along your route. The map also rotates with you as you move. The downside is that it still pales in comparison to the GoogleMaps on CobraMrsFit’s Verizon Android. That version (still considered a “beta”) offers turn-by-turn voice nav as well as moving map. I suspect my version is limited because AT&T has a navigation program ($10 a month) and doesn’t want the free app to compete with it. Still, it does a decent job and is free.
5)      iCloud: Love the concept, don’t really use it. It’s great to have the option to store stuff “in the cloud”, but being a cautious person, I’m not too thrilled with the thought of off-site storage. Still, it’s a boon for people that want it.
6)      iMessage: Without a doubt, this feature (offered only to iPhone users who updated their OS to iOS5) is a money-saver. It’s essentially a free text message to anyone with the iPhone’s iOS5. Of note, iOS5 is only compatible with 3GS and newer phones, so those still using the 3G or that one person with the 2G, aren’t capable. iMessage figures out the “free person” automatically and iMessages appear in blue while non-iMessages are green. My sister is a texting ninja, so this alone will save me moolah in the long run.
7)      Face Time: It’s like Skype. Video chat with other iPhone users. I believe it still requires a wi-fi signal to run, but, it’s a great idea. Use it or Skype as desired.
8)      Camera: The 3G had a 1.3 MP camera. The 4S has an 8 MP. The difference is exponential. For iPhone 4 users (the previous generation), the camera makes only a 3 MP jump from 5 to 8 MP. There is an ability to focus on certain objects within the frame by tapping. You can also zoom and the flash is nice. It won’t take professional-quality shots, but the pics are very nice and the video HD-esque. Besides, 99% of the time, you’re using a phone camera to snap a pic of the crazy guy at the party, not win an award for photography. On the downside, the higher resolution means pictures take up more space, but iCloud (or downloading to an external hard drive) fixes any storage issues.
9)      Reception is fine: No antenna issues here. Calls are clear and crisp. Haven’t dropped a call yet.
10)  More durable screen: The Apple people claim it’s the same material used in military planes and helicopters. I had one Apple sales-guy say that means it’s nearly bullet proof. Having seen what a Cormorant can do to a canopy at 140 knots, I’d argue the nigh-invulnerability of the screen. Plus, I’ve seen friends shatter both sides by dropping it. But, the screen is much more durable than the 3G or 3GS.

Dislikes/Meh items:

1)      Wireless iTunes Sync: Being able to sync your phone to iTunes without needing a cord is a great feature, but mind-bogglingly inefficient. 99% of the time, I want to plug my phone in because it needs charging anyway.  Suffice to say, I don’t use the wi-fi sync very often. Also, the computer needs to be “ready” to accept the wireless connection and sometimes it simply forgets (which means the phone can’t “see” it.). Finally, the wireless sync is buried in the Settings tab, which means you have tap the “Settings” icon on the main page, then tap the “iTunes Wi-Fi Sync” option, and THEN tap on “Sync Now”. Three steps to sync a phone. It’s possible you can adjust automatic settings on iTunes, but I have not researched that option yet. Again, one plug of a cable syncs and charges automatically.
2)      Not 4G: Honestly, this isn’t THAT big of a deal since the 4G network is still slooooooow to grow, but some people are nuts over names/titles. Long story short, the improved processor allows the phone to operate at near-4G speeds on the 3G network, but it is not a 4G phone. The Verizon iPhone 4S is also not LTE capable. It’s not even in the design. Maybe the iPhone 5 will be, but we’ll see the iPad 3 long before the next generation of iPhone arrives. Still, I’ve tested it on the 3G and wi-fi modes and both are pleasantly fast for downloads, loading web-pages, and playing “online” games.
3)      The Cases: With my old iPhone, I had an OtterBox Defender which made the phone nigh-invulnerable. My experience was so great that when I upgraded, I didn’t think twice about another OtterBox. The case is good, but less substantial than the 3G. The only case I’ve seen that compares to the previous rendition of the OtterBox is by a company named Ballistic. The case, however, is a huge, triple-threat of rubber and plastic, so it takes up pocket space. There are plenty of cases out there, so picking on that fits your needs is key. Despite the “smaller footprint” of the new Otterbox, it does its job and I am pleased with it.
4)      The Battery: It’s better, but still suffers. Apple claims 6-8 hours of talk/video/whatever, but you can tap the system pretty hard and drain it faster than that. There are cases that are mega-batteries which will recharge the phone, thereby almost doubling the life, but you have to spend between $80-$100. I didn’t, so I passed on it. Also, both battery-cases do not protect the face of the phone like the OtterBox or Ballistic. This may not be an issue if you’re gentle with a phone. I am not. Phone batteries are getting better, but it’s always a double-edge sword between more capabilities and battery life.
5)      SIRI: More often than not, you need to be very specific with the questions you ask her. It’s not a detractor, but if you have marble-mouth (which I do) or speak too fast, she’ll look up some wacky stuff. Also, her voice is a mechanical, text-to-speech sound and only comes in “female.” I’m betting Apple with offer a “male” version at some point and likely make the voice more natural. The SIRI dislike is a small nit-pick.
6)      Not a true “New Generation”: There was a lot of hype about the iPhone 5 and some people (not me) felt let-down. But in all honesty, the guts of the 4S are enough to argue that it is a new generation crammed in the older shell. Personally, I prefer it since the market is flooded with cases and third-party hardware for the iPhone 4 already and that means more goodies to choose from.
7)      Newstand, iBooks, and Reminders: Three mostly useless apps that come standard with the phone. The potential is there, but there are other, more ubiquitous apps on the market already. Kindle for iPhone, for example. Also, Reminders isn’t sync’d to your iPhone’s calendar, so you’d have to enter your note in twice. Sync the two and it would be an awesome app. Right now it sits lonely and unused.


            Overall, the iPhone 4S is an impressive cell-phone with nigh-tablet like capabilities. There are some detractors, but the “good” far outweighs the bad in my opinion. I have been pleased with it, especially considering the cell-dinosaur that I was carrying beforehand. iPhone 4 users may not want or need to upgrade since the cost is astronomical unless you’re at the end of your contract. But for a new phone, this one packs a lot of punch and has plenty of fancy gadgets.

*Keep in mind, moving from the 3G to the 4S is like transitioning from a VW Beetle to a Porsche Boxster. I love both machines, but one is much faster and sleeker than the other.

** HUGE disclaimer: I am not, in ANY way, being paid or coerced into this by Apple, AT&T, OtterBox, Ballistic, or any other company that I am using/reviewing. This is 100% my experience with a phone and the carrier which, overall, has been pleasing enough for me to say so to the online community. Other phones and carriers are equally excellent (my wife loves her Android and Verizon) and customers should choose the right product and plan for their needs. This happens to fit me for now.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Refrigerator of Fantastic Stories

My cubicle at Ye’ Ol’ Day Job is next to a small office kitchen. Normally this isn’t a bad thing. There’s some “oh-man-I-need-coffee” foot-traffic around 9 am and then the lunch bunch a couple hours later. I’m a social creature by nature, so I don’t mind the activity.

Lately, however, the refrigerator has been brewing a special scent of awesome that would waft into my space every time someone opened the door. The musky aroma has been getting worse day the day, making it almost impossible to ignore. This morning, a co-worker and I finally had enough and waded into the appliance like Marines storming a beach.

It wasn’t pretty.

There were numerous condiments well past their expiration date*, but the winner for Most Grotesque Item and the How the Heck Do You NOT Smell That? Award was the package of lunch meat with an expiration date of this past March.

March, people. MARCH!

Condiments I can understand. CobraMrsFit and I regularly force ourselves to eat salads to ensure we use up the dressing before it goes bad. Same thing with ketchup (on burgers, not salads). But lunchmeat? By all things holy, there are no words that can describe the horror of that discovery.

Several dry-heaves later, the fridge was clean(er) and we were back at our desks.

But this morning’s episode got me thinking about the Refrigerator of Fantastic Stories. I have WIPs sitting in there that haven’t been touched in years and I’m pretty sure they have grown stale and moldy. Granted, not all of them are gems waiting to be discovered, but it’s good to at least look at them once in a while. You know, brush the fuzz off the plot and maybe freshen things up a bit. With a little effort, it might even be polished into something crisp and juicy.

Or, if it turns out to be a real stinker, I can always shove it behind the mayo and pretend it doesn’t exist for another few months.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some more dry-heaving to attend to.  

*And by “well past”, I mean over a year.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In Defense of Writer Beware

The Internet is amazing. You can find facts instantly, socialize with people all over the world, and waste time much easier than in prior decades.

But sometimes it can be a petty, dangerous place.

Writer Beware is a site that watches the industry for scammers seeking to prey on green, hopeful writers. Their affiliation with SFWA, Bewares and Awares on AW, etc has helped many new writers (myself included) avoid predators seeking to take advantage of our inexperience. The level of research and professionalism displayed by the members of Writer Beware is both impressive and inspiring. And we youngin’s greatly appreciate their efforts.

Recently, however, Victoria Strauss, Ann “A.C.” Crispin, and AW’s kindly Uncle Jim MacDonald (among others) have been the target of a site called The Write Agenda. TWA (no affiliation to the defunct airline), has placed numerous other writers, agents, and industry professionals who support and are affiliated with Writer Beware on a ban/propaganda/avoid roster . The anonymous team at TWA has also expended a great deal of research and effort to defend allegations of shady business deals as well as level their own accusations against Writer Beware and the trio listed above.

And to be honest, that’s fine. Everyone has disputes and sometimes people are innocent of mis-informed accusations. It is certainly TWA’s right to “watch the watchdogs”.

The issue I have is the way in which they have conducted themselves. For starters, the “About Us” page is almost entirely composed of links dedicated to “attacking” the Big Three. There are tabs at the top of their website specifically for each individual and there have been screen shots (listed by Victoria Strauss on Writer Beware) of recommendations that TWAers ban writers who support Writer Beware. There have even been allegations of burning books written by Writer Beware supporting authors.

But out of all the links, the one that crosses the line in my eyes is the YouTube video (linked here in case it gets removed from the TWA site). The video is a “create your own animation” type made popular by the Android vs iPhone internet sensation or Helicopter Pilots vs Jet Pilots one (no link because each has strong language and we keep things clean here). Victoria (depicted in her undergarments, no less!) is being "interviewed" by a news anchor and much of it centers around the “I won’t answer that to prevent incriminating myself” repeats by “Victoria.”

Not only is the creation of this video childish, but it’s highly unprofessional. These videos are the kind of things my buddies and I might do to poke fun at one another. It’s a wonderful way to be snarky and humorous in a passive-aggressive way. But creating one to defend yourself or take a shot at an industry professional is sad.

Worse, it's not even funny! If you're going to go to the trouble of designing a ridiculous movie, at least expend a tiny bit more effort to make it bearable. 6.5 minutes of boring repetition is boring and repetitive.

Finally, and most alarming, is the last paragraph of their “About” page: “Bottomline? Keep an open mind, review all facts and above all . . .  be careful what you post . . .  it’s getting litigious out there! Lawsuits and Cease & Desist Letters against authors are on the rise. Loyalty to some self-proclaimed publishing “watchdogs” may have a price.”*

Honestly, I can sympathize with their mission statement of wanting to look out for writers who have been led down the wrong path by “helpful” writing sites. The concern, however, is that the above statement is a thinly veiled threat. For a site that watches the watchdogs, who places bans on authors that support sites like Absolute Write and Writer Beware, this comes across as nothing more than cheap intimidation tactics. Perhaps it’s a mis-interpretation on my part, but as an aspiring writer, that’s how I read it.

A lot of people have come to the defense of Writer Beware and its “owners.” John Scalzi wrote and excellent blog post, Write Beware had a very professional and well written defense, and my Twitter feed has seen a lot of ReTweets in support of Victoria, Ann, and Jim. Standing outside the boxing ring, it seems that Writer Beware is fairing the “PR storm” well.  

One final thought regarding this situation: I’m a writing nobody. I don’t have a single publishing credit to my name, no agent, no publishing deals in the wings, and nothing more than a computer with a lot of WIPs waiting to be polished. For someone like me, the publishing industry is a large, complex void of confusion that is navigated with a lot of hope and a ton of help from friends and mentors. There are thousands more like me and we’re all trying to climb the Big Hill together. We might not know all the ins and outs of the industry, but when presented with advice from a anonymous website that creates amateurish, offensive videos while dishing thinly veiled threats and one that conducts itself professionally and courteously, has big-name support behind it, and whose members openly defend themselves, well it’s easy math to which one we’ll heed.


*taken from The Write Agenda’s main page on 03 Oct 11. There is no link due to allegations of malware from their site.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Physics of a Great Story

In the world of Physics, there are two concepts that I absolutely love: Tension and Torsion.

According to

Tension: mental or emotional strain; intense, suppressed suspense, anxiety, or excitement.

Torsion: the act of twisting.

That said, the application of these concepts to writing are stunning. Too many times a plot is either predictable (I’m looking at you, Hollywood RomComs!) or lacks enough punch to make a reader/viewer really care about the outcome. Nothing is worse that getting to the end of a book or movie and going, “meh.”

Enter Physics.

Tension: You know there is something dark/embarrassing/alien in the MC’s past, but the author won’t just come out and tell you, dangit! Instead, he/she drops hints along the way, enticing and teasing you with snippets that reveal iotas of data when you hunger for the whole thing. Or perhaps the MC and romantic interest dance around one another, wanting to say how they feel, but never coming out with a “hey, you know I love you, right?” Cause, come on, where’s the fun in that? Thanks to tension, the plot becomes tighter, more engrossing, and the stakes keep rising.

And you don’t want to put the book down.   

Then there’s the torsion. You’re plugging away happily within the plot, enjoying the rising tension and then BOOM! The author drops a bomb on you with no warning. The police station is attacked, the romantic interest is the murderer, the Dread Pirate Roberts is Wesley, etc. Torsion within a story catches you off guard and makes you wonder what else the author has in store.

And you don’t want to put the book down.   

There are certainly many other Physics concepts that you can apply to writing (Force, Velocity, Entropy, etc), but the Two T’s may be the most powerful and effective ones out there.*

*You were right, Professor: I WOULD use my knowledge of Physics in the real

Friday, September 9, 2011

A Light in the Darkness

This Sunday marks the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, arguably the worst attack on US soil in history. The media has already spent countless hours replaying footage of that day, sharing stories of survivors, and asking the nation, “Where were you?”
Me? I was on a bridge in San Diego, paying a toll. The tollbooth lady turned to me and said, “You sure you want to go in today? A plane just flew into the World Trade Center.”

It was just after 5 am on a Tuesday morning. 

What I didn’t know was that “a plane” wasn’t a little Cessna like I thought, but a passenger jet carrying travelers and fully loaded with fuel. Nor did I, or anyone for that matter, realize that the impact would lead to the destruction of an iconic building. Or that minutes later, the second tower would suffer a similar fate. Or that a third plane would slam into the Pentagon. And another fall from the sky into a Pennsylvania field because heroes on board sacrificed themselves to save thousands of lives.

But as unprepared as I was for the events of that day, September 12th caught me completely off guard. It was late morning and traffic over the bridge was terrible. The local base was on high alert and every car was being rigorously inspected. The ensuing backup created a parking lot out of the streets and cars sat for hours in the same spot. With A/C blasting, I waited in a suburban street and tried to deal with the shock from the previous day as well as the fear of what was to come in the near future. I had no idea a friend would never be found in the wreckage of the Pentagon or that many more would be lost over the course of the ensuing war.

What I did know was that everything had changed. The world was suddenly dark.

There was a tap on the window which pulled me back to reality.

A woman, maybe in her late thirties, stood outside my car with a case of water bottles. I rolled down the window and she handed one to me.

“You look thirsty,” she said. I thanked her and she replied, “Anytime. I just, needed to do something, you know? Anyway, stay cool.” Then she walked to the next car and tapped on the window.

Later that day, another image struck me. The skyline of San Diego was covered with American flags. The rooftop of every skyscraper and house in sight was flying the Stars and Stripes. Driving into the city, you couldn’t help but be moved by our flag silently flapping in the California breeze.

Of all the photos, reports, and media footage that came out of 9/11, those two events are the clearest in my mind. They are also, without a doubt, fundamental proof of who we are at our core. This nation is not without its issues and things have certainly been tough of late, but we know how to recover.

In times of horror, when blood, fire, and fear fill our hearts, we don’t become sensationalized attention-seekers, zealous peaceniks, or bloodthirsty war hounds. We become a nation of solitary figures who walk the streets with bottles of water because strangers might be thirsty. We become unnamed CEOs or never-thanked temps who ensure that a flag is flying on top of our building because it is a symbol of hope and courage. We become a family, willing to set aside squabbles because our hearts and souls are united in the love of country and one another despite all our differences.

There is much to be learned from the events of September 11, 2001 and there are certainly arguments about the course our country has followed over the past decade. But while many may think that we are a nation that is divided, one filled with individuals incapable of listening to or understanding each other, I know better. I have seen the true nature of our country.

It is a light in the darkness and it gives me hope.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Mathematics of Crazy

Without getting into details, this morning I had a nice, heaping dose of the crazies plopped into my lap. I take the bus into the office which means that at any given time, I’m enroute to or leaving the city with 75 of my closest friends. Give credit to the transit authority and the riders because in all the years of travel, this is the first incident worth remembering.

The episode involved someone who, in all likelihood, was merely hung over/still drunk. Even so, the subject matter and volume of his “self-conversation” were above the comfort threshold for most of us sitting nearby. There were some odd threats to no one in particular as well as a couple comments that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. About 10 minutes into our 30 minute ride, the woman next to me leaned over and asked, “Should we be concerned?” I said I was still debating and we continued to the next stop without issue.

When we arrived, the man hauled his guitar case, tote bag, and Red Bull off the bus. My seat-neighbor mentioned her concern to the bus driver who, in turn, told a nearby transit supervisor. The super went to talk with the individual and the bus continued on its route.  

Now, I’ll admit to being more paranoid/cautious than the average person and in all likelihood, there was no real need for concern. It was likely just a guy who had a few too many the night before and was up early to visit our fair city. He was just doing so in a creepy manner*.

Which got me thinking about the Mathematics of Crazy. That is, what is the likelihood that someone on your bus/train/deep-sea research vessel commissioned by SEALs to recover nukes really has gone off the deep end? If they are carving a KABAR into their forearm, chances are pretty good. Sadly, the signs aren’t always that obvious.  

To determine the Crazy Quotient, which is 100% based on my recent personal experience, I offer this equation:

Given 4 years working in this particular city at 5 days a week on a bus with 75 people each way, the total number of travelers comes out to 156,000. If you subtract 15% (totally made this number up) for holidays, days I drive into the city, etc, that equates to 132,600 normal people I've ridden with for every 1 who was possibly not. Going a step further, that means there’s a .000000754-ish% chance that in the next 4 years, the person behind me will be coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs. 

I can easily accept this, especially in a city as wacked out as this one.

Besides, what’s not to say that next time, it's you or me that is the .000000754-ish percentile on the bus?

*”creepy” being veeeeery subjective, BTW.