Monday, November 23, 2009

Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Thing

There's a DIRECTV call center operator out there somewhere who I need to apologize to. Last year, I signed up for NFL Sunday Ticket through some kind of special deal where it was practically free. All very well and good except that I don't remember anyone saying anything about auto-renewal at full price. So here I am wondering why the TV bill has gone up so much lately and I finally grab a statement and read it. Forty-five bucks a month for NFL games that I haven't watched at all. Yes, I should have recognized this sooner but you see, DIRECTV is very clever with the way they bill you. You get an email every month saying that you have a zero balance. How is this? Because they have already charged your credit card so you have to wait for the credit card statement to get an amount. Wife Number One and Only handles the bills so she doesn't know what I've done or not done regarding the TV. When she finally gets around, through no fault of her own, to mentioning that the TV bill seems awfully high I think that it must be some kind of introductory rate that dropped off. Again, oversight on my part but, I think, encouraged by an intentionally obscure billing system.

All this is to say that I was a little short tempered with the guy who answered the phone when I called in to complain and get Sunday Ticket removed and credited. (OK, maybe I was a lot short tempered when he tried to explain 'company policy.') Now my problem is that I clearly owe him an apology but it's practically impossible to find him and do so. So, DIRECTV phone answering guy, if you're reading this... I'm sorry.

Friday, November 20, 2009

How to Fall Off a Barn Roof

This one is surprisingly easy. The first thing you have to do is get an eight year old friend. We'll call him, oh, Kurt. It helps if you're also eight years old but that's not necessary. Then find a barn, preferably an old barn with attached side buildings used to store tack and channel calves through to get them into a trailer for auction. Make sure you can climb up a rickety wooden ladder and get up to the roof of one of the side buildings. The roof should be about twelve feet high.

Once you've secured all this preliminary equipment, get a small tree frog. The tree frog is really the critical part of this sequence of events. Don't skimp on the frog.

Next, take the frog and your friend Kurt up the ladder, walk out onto the roof and set the frog at the edge. The frog will likely do what it is that frogs do. If it doesn't, poke it in the rump with your finger. Lean forward to watch the frog fall.

(I know what you're thinking. But this is not quite the part about falling off the roof yet. Wait for it.)

Squeal with maniacal eight year old glee and swing down to the barnyard on a handy Douglas Fir branch that is perfectly positioned as a method of reaching the ground quickly and safely. Retrieve the frog.

Climb back up on the roof and repeat the process, only this time letting your friend Kurt push the frog. Squeal with glee. Retrieve the frog.

At this point, since it is clearly your turn to make the frog jump off the roof, you should ensure that you are the one to retrieve the frog. Failure to accomplish this simple task will inevitably lead to the following:

Kurt gets the frog and claims that he's going to take your turn. You don't want to believe him but since possession is nine tenths of the law you realize that you could very soon get screwed out of what is rightfully yours. You follow Kurt up onto the roof and see his happy face turn back to you and repeat that he's going to be the one to push the froggie off the roof and that he's apparently going to delight in intentionally stealing your turn. You explain in brief, eight year old language that you disagree with this course of action, but are powerless to do anything about it because you're watching Kurt run away from you across the roof. You chase him.

Here's where things get interesting. You watch Kurt turn his head and check where the edge of the roof is. He then turns back to resume taunting you while still running at a pretty good clip. You follow, still pleading your case but beginning to accept that as he gets closer to the edge it is more likely that he will, in fact, take your turn. At this point your heart begins breaking because you really, really wanted to push the froggie off the roof and Kurt has done stuff like this before so you're really at a loss for what to do and you begin to reevaluate your position in the universe and wonder how God could be so cruel.

Watch, dumbstruck, as Kurt runs right off the roof at full speed. Stop running and go to the edge to see Kurt sprawled out on the dirt, sucking in air for a pretty good cry if he could ever get it out. Swing down, using the quick and safe method described above, and stand helplessly as Kurt flops about like a dying fish. Run to go get the babysitter. Spend the next couple of hours in the Emergency Room, telling this same story to several different people.

And that's how to fall off a barn roof.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

CSFF Tour Participants

Some pesky computer issues have been worked out and I've got the list of tour participants for Curse of the Spider King. Since Technorati doesn't count links in a sidebar any more I'm posting them here. It makes more sense anyway because the month to month participation keeps changing. My current plan is to keep adding new people to the blogroll on the right even if they don't take part in the tour every time. That will give the sidebar a semi-historical purpose and continue to allow for inter-month cross posting.

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Amy Browning
Valerie Comer
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
Emmalyn Edwards
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Tina Kulesa
Melissa Lockcuff
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Cara Powers
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Jill Williamson
KM Wilsher

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Curse of the Spider King

The CSFF keeps rolling with great titles. This month we feature Curse of the Spider King by Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper. These two guys are like planets that have been orbiting each other for a while and finally collided in a moon creating sort of way. The excerpts I've read prove that this is a book filled with exactly what a great YA fantasy is supposed to have. Plucky kids, villainous villains, and magic both foul and fair. In the hands (and imaginations) of these two, this book is a sure hit.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How to Fall Off a Roof

This last weekend I was putting a roof over the slide-out portion of our trailer. At an altitude of about 8.5 feet I embarked on a journey of discovery that I now relate to you, the huddled masses. I was on top of the slide-out and trying to climb back onto the step ladder by reaching out with my foot and shifting weight onto it. (You know the spot, that tippy top part where there's big red writing DO NOT STAND.) It began to move a little, which I expected, but then began to move a lot, which I didn't expect. When I tried to pull my leg back I realized, like Wile E. Coyote running off the cliff, that my body was too far over the edge and that I had just purchased a one way ticket to the ground. A few decisions had to be made at this point, and made quickly. I could jump for the ladder and hope that it didn't topple over but a brief benefit-cost analysis suggested that I might not like the result of that. I could let my other foot slip off and try to bend back and grab the roofline but there was a lot of plastic sheeting and a not-quite-yet-stable 2x4 frame that I had halfway nailed together and I knew there were a lot of sharp, pointy things in that direction. So, with very few good alternatives available to me, and with the power of gravity frustratingly not following the Warner Brothers acceleration curve, I decided to just go straight down. It is, clearly, the fastest way to resolve the situation. My descent took me past the ladder and thankfully kept any stray arms or legs from getting caught up in the rungs, which would have been bad. On the way down my shoulder got into a test of wills with a small running light on the side of the trailer. The running light put up a valiant effort but in the end was just outmatched. It snapped off and died a heroic death. After that encounter came the 'contact with the ground' part of this story. That event began with my foot, which had forgotten to retract itself from its position of proximate cause and still thought it was reaching for the top of the ladder. My weight came down on it and it did what feet do when asked to support that much stress that quickly: It gave up and let the ankle take it. Stupid foot. By then the rest of me was finishing up the journey begun .372 seconds before. That's when I discovered two things. First, wet and loamy forest ground with a coiled up hose on it is not a bad thing to fall onto. Second, I'm a genius for cleverly arranging random bricks to be 6 to 18 inches away from me rather than directly under me during this event and break a rib or rupture a spleen.

And that's how to fall off a roof.

Friday, November 06, 2009

How Northwesterners Handle the Outdoors

Whether it's hanging out on a windswept, rocky beach or holding your head high when the rain comes sideways, people in the Great Northwest have a unique way of enjoying the natural beauty all around us. Take me and the family last night. Raining at the campsite, check. Temperature around 53 degrees, check. Pop up canopy and parkas, check. The result: Perfect campfire weather!

It's Family Fun Night in Western Washington.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


"The Granite Strand" finally reached its conclusion this morning, clocking in at 17351 words. Now comes the work, of course, of critiques and rewrites and editing and such. But it is always nice to have a completed rough draft to provide the boundaries within which to operate. Until you get to the end you really don't have any definition and can move in any direction that comes to mind. That's how the story grew to the size it is. It will be interesting to see what it becomes.