A Scene From My Laundry Room, Earlier This Week

Inside the laundromat
Not my laundry room (except for one day last week).

The scene: a technician has come to my home to fix my dryer.

Dryer Technician (D.T.): What seems to be the problem?

Me: Well, it gets hot, but it doesn’t rotate. And it makes a noise.

D.T.: (turns dryer on)
Dryer: (works perfectly)
D.T.: Maybe it was a glitch?
D.T.: (tries various things)
Dryer: (works perfectly)
D.T.: How do you know it wasn’t rotating? It stops when you open the door, you know. (He somehow manages to say this without sounding condescending).

Me: There’s still some motion when you open the door, though. It doesn’t come to a complete stop immediately.
Me: (doubts own sanity)
Me: And it was making a noise.

D.T.: What kind of noise?

Me: Um, like, a, um, friction noise? I thought a belt had come loose, or something.
Future me: The word is “scraping”. A scraping noise. This isn’t difficult.

D.T.: Well, since I’m here, I might as well take a look inside.
D.T.: (removes drum and points at some stuff that looks like black gritty dust on the bottom of the dryer)
D.T.: Well, the belt is definitely worn. All that came off the belt. Oh, and see this part of the belt that’s jutting out? Something was definitely pulling on it there.

Me: Oh! I was drying a load of towels. They were heavy.
Me: (convinces self that dryer was only working today because there was no laundry weighing it down. Regains faith in own sanity).

D.T.: (fixes dryer)

Me: (lives happily ever after)

A dryer belt
For sale: one dryer belt, slightly used. Okay, very used.

2015 Year In Review

In 2015, I published a grand total of one blog post, embarrassingly titled “Resurrecting the Blog”. Oops. I’ll try to do better in 2016.

I did have a few things published elsewhere. There were three original short stories:

  1. I am Graalnak of the Vroon Empire, Destroyer of Galaxies, Supreme Overlord of the Planet Earth. Ask Me Anything. on Flash Fiction Online, April 2015. It’s pretty much what you’d expect from the title.
  2. In the End, You Get Clarity, in Unidentified Funny Objects 4, October 2015. This one’s a superhero origin story. Sort of.
  3. A Dozen Frogs, a Bakery, and a Thing That Didn’t Happen, in Daily Science Fiction, October 2015. A modern-day fairy tale.

Also, my 2014 story Why I Hate Zombie Unicorns was podcast in audio on the Drabblecast in January 2015, and in October, I ranted about the Wizard of Oz as part of a group blog post about scary children’s movies.

book_small

 

In other news, my cats continue to be adorable.

cats_small.jpg

 

Resurrecting the Blog

Your caption here.
Your caption here.

Okay, I admit, it’s been a while since I’ve posted here. That’s because I’ve been working on a major redesign. From now on, this blog will focus on something that’s tremendously important to me: kitty litter. It will feature:

In-depth reviews of cat litter – every brand available in supermarkets and pet stores, plus alternatives like sawdust, shredded newspapers, and other homemade formulas.

A litter taxonomy, providing a standardized way to categorize litter by consistency, primary ingredient, color, scent, density, and aerodynamics.

Fun interactive contests, including:

  • Litterbox caption contests.
  • Litter identification contests – based on a picture, who can come closest to guessing the brand of litter, number, age, sex, and breed of cats, amount of time since the box was last scooped, and what the cat(s) were eating?
  • Name that tune – after listening to the sound of a cat scratching around in a litter box, can you identify the sex, age, and breed of cat, brand of litter, and amount of litter in the box?
  • Premium subscribers can also participate in weekly deluxe contests – these are just like the standard litter identification contests, except that instead of working from a photograph, you’ll receive a sample of litter mailed to your home.

I hope you’re all as excited about this as I am. If not, you can always check out a story I wrote that went live on Flash Fiction Online today.

Mudville, 2358 (Casey at the Bat, With Aliens)

Mudville, 2358

The crowd at Mudville Field was full of hope that autumn day.

They’d come out by the thousands just to see their home team play.

Three billion of us watched remotely from our homes and bars

And just about a million from the colony on Mars.

Earth’s major league team managers had come up with a scheme

To trade their strongest players to create one perfect team.

When Mudville won that lottery they also won the chore

Of crushing Earth’s most bitter rivals from Tau Ceti Four.

Tau Ceti’s long-term strategy was not above reproach.

A team’s star player might be summoned by Tau Ceti’s coach,

Then suddenly announce that his career had run its course,

Retiring on an income from an unnamed foreign source.

Those who refused to quit would face some unexplained bad luck.

A broken arm, a broken leg, run over by a truck.

No one had ever proved that these misfortunes were foul play,

But after five or six most people thought it looked that way.

Earth hadn’t won a Series since the one in ‘thirty-two,

But this time it seemed possible the team might just pull through.

No one had thought they had a chance to make it past game five,

And here it was game seven, and the team was still alive.

A few Tau Ceti fans sat in the bleachers by third base

Out past the left field dolphin tank (a lush aquatic space).

The Earth team’s land-based fans were the majority, of course.

The humans and uplifted apes had all come out in force.

The snackbots tossed bananas, peanuts, cotton candy too.

Their throws were always graceful and their aim was always true.

The beer drones fluttered overhead, all chrome and gleaming brass.

They shot fluorescent liquids into every waiting glass.

By inning nine, Tau Ceti was ahead with five to three.

The Earth fans were about as tense as anyone could be.

Their only hope was Casey; of this one thing they were sure

His swing was strong and certain and they said his heart was pure.

But Casey couldn’t bat until four others had their turn.

Joe Flynn was first and you could almost see his stomach churn.

It might have been the pressure, or it might have been the stench

Emitted by the players perched upon Tau Ceti’s bench.

The pitcher’s eyestalks locked in place and focused one by one.

Her scales glowed green and purple in the bright midmorning sun.

Her tail spikes flicked from left to right, so sharp and black and straight.

Her talons grazed the ball as she propelled it towards the plate.

Poor Flynn just stared at her, the way a mouse looks at a cat.

He crouched inside the batter’s box and choked up on his bat.

He focused on the ball and swung; he gave it his best try.

Tau Ceti’s second baseman made quick work of his pop fly.

Up next was Thayer, who had never stood out from the rest.

He looked so grim and earnest as he faced his greatest test.

He passed with flying colors — hit it right out of the park.

The score was five to four and now the mood was much less dark.

Then Sato’s turn came up. It didn’t last for very long.

“Strike one, strike two, strike three” was Mister Sato’s sad swan song.

Hernandez feared she’d strike out, end the game, and fall from grace.

Instead she hit a triple and stood firmly at third base.

When Casey made his entrance, he was such a welcome sight.

The humans cheered; the dolphins jumped for joy and sheer delight.

The snackbots threw confetti, and the beer drones poured free booze.

With Casey batting for us, there was no way we could lose.

The first pitch came, the first pitch went, and Casey let it go.

The umpire called “strike one” and Casey shrugged and said “I know”.

The second pitch was like the first; the umpire called “strike two”

And Casey’s fans grew quiet as they willed him to pull through.

Now, Casey hadn’t worried once, not since the game began.

If you looked closely you might think he had a secret plan.

He paused for one brief moment and stood still and calm and tall.

And then he stepped up to the plate and waited for the ball.

Then Casey swung as strong and sure as only Casey could,

A swing that caused the game to end the way he knew it would.

And Casey smiled and Casey laughed as he threw down the bat

And left the field, defiant, with a flourish of his hat.

The fans sat in the stands, just staring with their mouths agape.

And though they all still try there is one fact they can’t escape.

The umpire called “strike three.” The call was good, without a doubt.

There is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has sold out.


This probably reminds you of Casey at the Bat by Ernest Thayer.

Pop Quiz: Internet Marketing

1. On which website would you be most likely to find an ad for used kitty litter?

  1. The Onion
  2. Craigslist
  3. Amazon.com
I prefer my cat litter new, thanks.
Figure 1. What’s wrong with this picture?

2. Take a moment to examine Figure 1. What’s wrong with this picture?

  1. In description on the left, the apostrophe is missing from the word “World’s”.
  2. The standard list price for cat litter is, apparently, $96.85 for a 7-pound bag or $109.47 for a 14-pound bag.
  3. Used kitty litter costs more than new kitty litter.
  4. Used kitty litter is being offered for sale.

3. Every two weeks, Alice’s cats convert 25 pounds of new cat litter into used cat litter. If Alice pays $9.99 for each 25-pound tub of new cat litter and sells her used cat litter at market rates, how much profit will she make in a year?

4. Alice wants to quit her job and live off her cat litter profits. She currently has two cats; how many more will she need to adopt?

5. What should Alice call her online store?

  1. The Cat Waste Place
  2. Alice’s Organic Free-Range Artisinal Feline Extrusion Emporium
  3. I Haz Had Cheezburger

Alice’s store turns out not to be as profitable as she’d hoped. She looks for ways to earn some extra income and decides to respond to this craigslist ad:

I have a terrible problem. My litter box is dirty and smells horrible and I don’t want to clean it. I am amazing at making pancakes however. I will trade my pancake skills for a clean litter box. Serious inquires only.

  • Location: bathroom corner
  • Compensation: pancakes. All you can eat!!!
  • This is an internship job

6. Essay question: describe the expected career path of the person who successfully completes this internship.

7. What’s unusual about this ad?

  1. It promises all-you-can-eat pancakes but doesn’t mention syrup.
  2. It doesn’t specify whether the pancakes must be consumed when the litter box is being scooped or whether the intern can show up at the employer’s home at any time and demand pancakes.
  3. It’s on craigslist, but it doesn’t say anything about the intern having to perform his or her duties naked.

8. What’s the probability that the person who placed the ad has at least one cat?

  1. 60%
  2. 40%
  3. 20%

Valentine (2014)

Roses are red
Violets are blue
My library books
Are all overdue.

Roses are red
Violets are too
Rose-colored glasses
Are what I see through.

Roses are red
Goulash is stew
Have a nice meal
And don’t get the flu.

Roses are red
Some cheese is bleu
But not the kind
That’s good in fondue.

Roses are red
Kittens say “mew”
My cats are cuter
Than your kangaroo.

valentine_2014

Why Cats Are Better Than Dogs

If you have any doubt that cats are better than dogs, please take a few minutes to do the following:

1. Sit in a comfy chair in a warm room with a cup of your favorite hot beverage.

2. Read the classic Jack London short story To Build a Fire, a harrowing account of a man and a dog struggling to survive in extreme cold weather.

3. Read Darla’s (She’s a Maineiac) Tales From the Ice Storm of 1998 (part 1 and part 2), a hilarious account of a woman and a cat struggling to survive in extreme cold weather.

I rest my case.

The Making of OmaMania! The Musical

OmaMania! movie poster

A few months ago, blogger and all-around nice person Hippie Cahier had a great idea: she wanted to create a video in honor of fellow blogger Omawarison, who’d recently retired from his day job. Her plan was ambitious: gather a couple dozen bloggers in one place and create a video in a single weekend. I was up for the challenge. I just had one concern: I’ve seen enough movies to know that if a group this size gathers in one place for a weekend, one of two things will happen: they’ll either pull off an intricately-plotted heist or be murdered one by one. I mentioned this to Hippie and told her I strongly preferred the heist scenario. She agreed.

I generally travel pretty light, so I packed only a carry-on for this trip. My bag was a little heavier than usual, but I didn’t think much of it until I got to the airport and the bag started meowing. I called Hippie and asked her to pick up some supplies for a last-minute addition to the cast: my cat, Thunder.

During the flight, I read the plans for the heist. Hippie had emailed them the previous night. I was impressed. She’d planned out every detail, including exactly what each person would say at each point throughout the operation. That seemed like overkill, really, and I was a little worried she’d turn out to be a micromanager, but the plan itself seemed sound.

Hippie was a very gracious hostess. Her house is bigger than I’d expected; each blogger got a private room. My room (which was next to one painted plaid, for some reason) had all kinds of personal touches. She’d set up the cat food dishes and litter box that I’d asked for, installed a new cat tree for Thunder, and left the traditional five pounds of dark chocolate on my pillow. Most of the rest of the gang had already arrived, so I dropped off my bag, left Thunder to get acclimated, and headed down to the living room to join them.

Hippie introduced me to everyone, but I’m really bad at names, so I was never quite sure who was who. I poured myself a glass of wine (other available beverages included coffee, tea, gin, and lemonade) and bumped into a woman with bright yellow hair who was helping herself to a Reese’s peanut butter cup. I started to apologize.

“Sorry, I’m — oh, hey, did you paint that?” On the end of the table, there was a watercolor of two dogs frolicking with wild abandon.

“No. I’m not sure who did.”

We both looked around for a minute. The artist failed to materialize. The dogs, however, had been there all along: a collie who looked just like Lassie, and a little black and white dog that I thought was adorable until it began savagely attacking a stuffed sheep, callously ignoring its squeaky cries of distress. I was glad I’d left my cat upstairs.

“Okay,” Hippie said, loud enough for everyone to hear, “I think that’s all of us. Did everyone get a chance to look at the script?”

Everyone nodded except me. “No, sorry — I didn’t get the script. When did you send it?”

“Last night, around 8-ish, I think.”

“Oh, that’s weird. I got some mail from you then, but it just had the plans for the actual heist, not the script for the movie.”

There was a long, awkward pause. I heard a few nervous giggles. Finally, Hippie spoke.

“Um, that was the script. There is no actual heist.”

“What? Are you trying to get us all killed?”

“She’s right,” said a pregnant woman, gesturing with a half-eaten Pop-Tart, “movies teach us that in this situation, if we’re not involved in a heist, we’ll be attacked by a serial killer or some kind of supernatural entity.”

People began to take sides. One guy rattled off ten reasons why we should just make the movie. Another walked around with a clipboard taking a poll about whether we should do the heist: the four possible answers were “yes”, “no”, “other”, and something about brains. In the end, we decided to [Note: one blogger who was present for the events described here is also a lawyer. At her request, I’ve redacted some text that was in the original version of this post.]

[redacted text]

[redacted text] and a goat. So of course [redacted text]

[redacted text]

[redacted text] just a bridal shower. But [redacted text]

[redacted text]

[redacted text] hostage situation. They said they used to have a guy who was really good at that sort of thing, but he retired last year. So then we [redacted text]

[redacted text]

[redacted text] which is how we wound up spending the night in jail. We got out on bail with just enough time to go back to Hippie’s place, pack our things, and catch our flights home. And we still hadn’t shot any footage.

The story has a happy ending, though. Hippie filed a FOIA request and eventually got copies of all our mug shots, which she stitched together into an amazing video. As the old saying goes: when life gives you lemons, make a patchwork quilt. I think she’s done an excellent job.