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Inspirational Reads

Bite My Squishy, Green Ball

August 25, 2007

Apparently, the ab-lounge wasn't enough. Too bad that ugly bitch can't really fit into her fat jeans anymore. That shit's gone by the wayside, and now we're plagued with a new abdominal-working fad piece of shit exercise implement. Apparently the ab-roller didn't cut it either. The ab-slider? Slid out of vogue. As well the thing with the springs in it that you would hook your feet to and then sit back, using the spring to add extra oomph to your workout. What the hell ever happened to just doing sit-ups?

Now we have the Bender Ball. Like the ab-lounge, it lets you extend your range of motion and gets you up off the floor, adding all sorts of bonuses to your workout to flatten your tummy. Like all rip off fads exercise machines designed to help tighten your tummy and rid you of those unlovable love handles, the commercial trots out a panoply of wasp-waisted middle aged women who swear by the results of the Bender Ball. They, of course, leave out the fact that the ball guzzles booze, belches fire, watches them in the shower, steals their money, chain smokes cigars, and has a 0.04% nickel impurity.

It is time for me to cash in on this shit, man. I am so putting a magnetic, black triangle on a Bender Ball and marketing them as "Flexo Balls". I'll make millions.

Happy Birthday, Lil Sis

August 24, 2007

Today would have been my sister's 26th birthday. Sadly, she died two weeks after her 14th birthday while I was away at college. It was, pretty much, the worst day of my life.

My sister was born with a tiny piece of her brain ossified. This essentially screwed everything up so bad that she suffered from seizures her entire life that were, to be quite honest, horrific and traumatic for everyone around her. To hear her wail when she had one was...well, words can't describe the empty feeling surrounded by helplessness surrounded by fear. As time went on, we grew to expect them and to cope, but it was never something that we were completely at ease with. Also, due to this congenital defect, she could never walk or talk, and years of inactivity on the couch or her bed caused her joins to atrophy. She basically had to wear diapers and be spoon fed soft foods for her entire life.

One amazing thing was that, despite her inability to talk, she developed ways of communicating with us. She would shake her head no or do a sweeping up motion with her head for yes, would hold her left hand to her mouth for food or drink, and could smile when she was happy or let you know that she wanted to do something, like have a story read to her or whatever. Her favorite toy was her glowworm, because the face lit up and because it was about the only toy she could get to play. It had a little music box sewn inside its nightshirt and would play "Rock a-bye, Baby" when she'd hit it with her elbow, and to make it "sing" caused her such great joy. Despite all that, even to this day, I wonder what sort of person she was trapped inside her body.

To say I miss her would be an understatement. For months after she died, I had dreams about her every night. Some were disturbingly intense, like how I had stolen her body from the funeral home and was looking for her soul to put back in it. Great fantasy storylines and such, but horrible if you're a grieving brother. I vowed after she died that I would think about her every day. That's slipped a little in the past twelve years, but whenever August 24th rolls around (or September 7th, the day she died), I always think of my little sister. I wish she was back, but I wouldn't wish her to be back in that condition. After all, I'm Catholic (in case you have forgotten), and so I believe she's in a better place, where she is free to roam and talk and do everything that her poor little tortured body wasn't able to do while in this world. If you want to take that and say that my religion is just there as a comfort, that's fine, go ahead. I'll think you're an asshole, but that's your choice.

One of my biggest issues with my sister's death, however, is that I was home from college for Labor Day at the beginning of my sophomore year. Normally, I would go and say good-bye to her, but this time I kind of walked out the door and gave her a wave and a "'Bye, Steph" rather than saying good-bye like I wasn't some kind of ass. Everything was fine, I drove back to St. Joe and then a few days later, my aunt and uncle show up to give me the bad news. You can probably tell why my guilt has eaten at me these twelve years.

One fortunate thing was that one of our close, personal family friends was the local mortician in town. He took care of everything, and the way he helped all of us cope was amazing. Sure, we had cards pour in from all over the area (including ones from two separate ex-girlfriends of mine, which, you know, was really cool), but it was Master Bruce's tenderness that helped soothe everyone over the first couple of days before we buried her.

However, if I ever doubted that St. Joe was the right place for me, it was made boldly apparent by the outpouring of well-wishers and kindness from the entire campus. A couple dozen of my friends drove across the state of Indiana to come to my house and to be there for me, and for that I'll be eternally grateful. We got flowers and everything from all over the campus, from the President's office, from the science department, professors, dorms...the list could probably go on. I think we still have all of the cards and stuff tucked away some where. Not that we want to be reminded of losing a member of our family, but the kindness expressed was just overwhelmingly wonderful.

Not only that, but I had a couple of high school friends who drove up from Indiana and from Purdue to come to her funeral. If it wasn't for the combination of my St. Joe friends and my high school friends, I don't know how I would have made it through the weekend.

All of these things are bubbling up now, so if my little story sounds a touch disjointed, forgive me. It's not so much a story about the sadness of my sister's affliction or for everyone's pity; more, it's a testament to the strength of friends and healing of the human spirit. So, thanks for letting me deal with a little personal pain. I'll get back to the normal stupidity around here tomorrow. For today, though, I'm going to keep things somber.

So, here's to you, my little sister. I truly hope that your soul is free of all harm and affliction, and that it may wander wherever and whenever it chooses. God bless you.

Stephanie Marie Jenks, b. August 24th, 1981, d. September 7th, 1995.

I Bet You Didn't Know...

August 23, 2007

I'm going to let you in on a little secret. I'm not sure if most of my close friends know this or not. I think my wife, the Comely and Buxom Boudica, might know...or not. I dunno. I might have told her about it once. I might have even mentioned this in college, probably during a long night of imbibing and Irish Drinking Tunes. It wasn't exactly seminal in the formation of the fat smartass you see read before you now, but it was a little something that happened to a younger, kinder me. As I've been reflecting on my high school days thanks in large part to the colossal upset of Homestead High School, I thought this might be apropos. Maybe it's not, but it's what you're getting, so deal with it.

Back when the losing streak to Homestead was not quite yet a decade old (i.e. 1997), I had a professional writing gig. Yep, I used to actually get paid to put words on a piece of paper and have people read it in a weekly column featured in the local newspaper, the Huntington Herald-Press (owned up until very recently by the Quayle family...yes that Quayle family). Yes, that's right, my friends, I used to be a part of the liberal media.

I got paid something outrageous like $0.50 a news item or something like that. I dunno. It was enough to keep me in comic books every two weeks (I know many of you are stunned to hear that this fat geek is into comics) and enough quarters to sneak up to Fort Wayne with my best friends Jason and Tyler to play the X-Men video game in the foyer at Wal-Mart. Anyway, it was a gig, and it got my feet wet, and it showed me, in the long run, that I really don't want to write for a newspaper. But back when I was doing it, damn, it was kind of fun. I think most of the fun came in the mail every two weeks, but it was fun nonetheless.

My job description was pretty simple: report on the news going on around your hometown. Each of the little burgs in Huntington County had a weekly appearance in the newspaper on a set day. I think my day was Friday and I reported on the news around Markle, IN. And let me tell you...there wasn't much to report.

Due to this lack of news, I would often find myself coming up with new and inventive ways of making an ass of myself in the paper. I would hold contests where people could call in and basically all they'd do is get their name in the paper. Which is really kind of sad, when you think about it. For some people, they looked forward to reading their name in my column. Life in small town America, I guess.

Some of these contests were tricky, though. I had a whole series of them that were related to signs of spring, like who saw the first robin, who had the first crocus blooming, who saw the first snake...blah blah blah. One of them was "who found the first mushrooms". Wow. Was that a fucking can of worms.

The mushrooms in question were morels, which are apparently quite tasty if fried up. I'm not a big fungus fan; mushrooms grow in dead stuff and are basically scavengers. It'd be like shooting a vulture and frying it up. I realize that pigs eat garbage, too, but the difference between pigs and mushrooms is that pigs are quite tasty. Mushrooms...not so much.

(Incidentally, my friend Jason, mentioned above, would argue this fact with me into the wee hours of the night, if needed, until I came around to his way of thinking...but it hasn't happened yet, sucker).

Those people who would tromp through the woods looking for a stand of morels--commonly known as "mushroom hunters"--would defend their territory to the end. It'd be like the fucking Battle of Azincourt where one group (usually a pair) would actually try to lead all other mushroom hunters astray if they were in the woods and they thought there were mushroom poachers around. If the poachers were persistant, then there'd be fights in the woods. There might even be shots fired. It'd usually just be a warning shot up in the air, but still. I think you get the picture.

This all seems like a lot of extra work to me. Especially for something that looks pretty much like a dick growing out of the ground. But, people loved themselves some mushroom hunting. I bring this up because it's the only time in my long career (approximately a year) that I would hold one of these contests that the "winner" (which was the first person to call in with the info I wanted) didn't want to be recognized. I remember the phone conversation well. You don't forget something of this nature. It went something like this:

Me: "Hello"
Mysterious Caller: "Mr. Jenks?"
Me: "Oh, I'll go get my dad."
MC: "Oh, no, Mr. Matthew Jenks?"
Me: "Speaking."
MC: "I'm calling about the contest. The mushroom hunting contest."
Me: "Ah, excellent. No one's called in yet. You're the first, sir."
MC: "Yes, well, I found a whole stand in my usual spot. Brought in about fifty or sixty."
Me: "That's quite a haul. Can I get a general idea where this is?"
MC: "No!"
Me: "Oh, well, then...can I get your name?"
MC: "NO!"
Me: "Well, um, I guess you're still a winner. I can't really give you any recognition if you don't give me your name, though."
MC: "That's just too damned bad, isn't it? I don't want anyone following me to my spot! Those are my mushrooms, and I'm not going to let some punk kid ruin my spot for me!"
Me: "I'm not really trying to ruin your spot..."
MC: "Well, that's fine. There, I called in. So there. And if you try to find out who this is or where my spot is, you'll find a very nasty surprise outside your door!"

I always regret not knowing who this was, because I wanted to follow him and "fertilize" his mushrooms, if you know what I'm saying.

It wasn't quite a death threat, but it was as close as I've ever gotten (aside from Aaron Brooks threatening to kill me in the seventh grade because I said his girlfriend had really nice legs (which she did), not knowing that she was going with Aaron at the time). I still to this day don't know who the caller was. I ended up writing something like this:

"We have a winner in the mushroom-hunting contest, but the caller wished to remain anonymous. And, please, people, for the love of God, don't follow him or figure out where his mushrooms are or else he's going to leave me a very ugly surprise on my doorstep." Surprisingly, the paper ran it like that, even with the reported threat in there. Most people thought I was trying to be funny, but my mom gave me this long lecture on how the pen is mightier than the sword and now how we're going to have to be on the lookout for this guy, blah blah blah.

I quit the job about six months later because, well, it kind of bored me, and I was getting ready to head off to college, and writing the column and submitting was going to be a pain. You might well imagine that Markle, Indiana (official town website) was not on the cutting edge of technology back in the late 90s, so I had no idea that people could email me news information from town and I could complete my column on the computer and email it in. Plus, that sounded too much like work and, really, I was in college, I didn't want to have to put much effort into anything.

I did kick around the idea of having a contest in the fall where people would call in with results on hunting puffballs, and I could make it a two-part contest...first to find one and the biggest. But, I really didn't need anyone threatening to leave anything on my doorstep again. Even though, come to find out, that would have been something to help prepare me for college.

Wow, Do We Suck

August 22, 2007

I read something depressing in the hometown newspaper the other day.

My high school (Huntington North) beat local rival high school Homestead in football.

How is that depressing, you ask? It was the first time they had beaten Homestead since 1988.

For reference, I didn't even start high school until 1990. For further reference, none of the kids who play for my high school team were even born the last time HNHS defeated HHS on the gridiron.

Wow.

The kids were, of course, jubilant. I don't know if they actually realize that nearly a score had passed since there were similar jubilant kids on the field after playing Homestead. And you know what the really pathetic thing is? Homestead's not even the best high school in the area when it comes to football! I mean, sure, they're good, but they're not Snider or Bishop Luers or Bishop Dwenger. Couple that with the fact that Huntington North is one of the biggest schools in the area, and, well, you've got yourself a one-way ticket to Patheticstown.

19 freaking years. I hadn't realized. Christ, Indiana was preparing to defend a national title in basketball the last time the Vikings emerged victorious over the Spartans. The thing is, I don't even remember the last time Huntington North beat Homestead. Back then, all I cared about was basketball and Aleisha Crago's ass (and not necessarily in that order...). Wow. Compound this information with the fact that my cousin Scott went to Homestead and Homestead was in our sectional (used to be regional before realignment), so you can see that football expectations back at the old alma mater were never too high.

Nineteen freaking years. Incidentally, 19 years ago in August, the first night game was played at Wrigley Field. I watched both games (the first game on August 8th, was rained out and it was against the Phillies, I think) on tv. I had plenty of free time because, well, no one really cared about football in my home town and there was plenty of other things to watch.

Like Aleisha Crago's ass.

Shut Up, Already!!!

August 20, 2007

I have another beef with the idiots on the sports talk radio station(s) down here (mmmm...beef...). Well, I have several, but this one has finally irked me to the point that I must rant to the interwebs and the ebays and the blagosphere.

Remember me bitching about Chris Clark here? In there I mentioned that Clark would soon be joined by local ACC shill David Glenn. While I haven't heard that one trick pony talk about how ESPN was beating down the ACC's door for that coveted Thursday night football game (please...) yet, his other oft-repeated, ad nauseum phrase has finally got me to the breaking point. It used to merely irritate me, but now I'm ready to beat someone in the head with a shillelagh (remember, I did go to Notre Dame and scored "Irish" on the European quiz).

Now, I appreciate someone trying to make an extra buck. Honest. Hell, I'm all about trying to make an extra buck or two for my damned self. This David Glenn guy, in addition to being a lawyer and having his own radio show, also does commercials for a jewelry store called Diamonds Direct. I guess they're local, I don't really give two squirts, I'll never shop there. What has me irked is David Glenn's constant reference to his wife in the commercials he does for the joint. It'd be one thing if he just said "My wife has a ring from there, it's pretty". No, instead he includes this epithet for her, not just on the commercial (and it's every commercial, mind), but any time he mentions her when he's on his show, or a spot on another show, or just sitting in for someone else. Always, whenever he opens his mouth, out roll the words "The lovely and talented Maria".

Okay, fine. You love your wife. Bully for you. And, you find your wife attractive and talented. I don't even want to think about what her talents are. I'm sure they involve brass poles. But, Christ, say it once, maybe twice...in your lifetime. There comes a point where even the cutesy crap you try to pull to gain points with your wife become as annoying as an itchy rectum. For this guy, it's about five seconds after opening your mouth.

I wonder if that's what he yells out while they make love. Never mind. I don't really wonder that. In fact, I'm thinking of going all Oedipus on myself now for thinking that. *shudder*

I think, however, that I'm going to start doing the same for my wife. She reads this blog, so why not try to score some points with her? Maybe it'll pay off in the sack. Who knows? Maybe she'll make me a cake for when I get home. Mmmm...cake. Or maybe she'll kick me in the nuts. That's a chance I'll have to take. But, from now on, my wife shall heretofore be known as "The buxom and comely Boudica." I've provided a link so that you can read up on Boudica and, perhaps, understand why I chose that name (in the interest of interweb anonymity, I thought I'd provide the buxom and comely Boudica a little bit of privacy).

Now...I'll just sit back and wait for that cake to appear.

Sale on Nitrogen, This Weekend Only!!!

August 17, 2007

I'm a chemist. And, as a chemist, I know things. I know things like all matter has mass. I know that an atom is the smallest bit of a substance you can have and still retain the properties of that substance. I know things like which elements are electronegative, and what a pi-bond is, and the octet rule.

I also, thanks to extensive work done by guys like Boyle, Charles, and Guy-Lussac, that gasses behave a certain way.

You can imagine my...confusion...last night when I was listening to/watching the news whilst working on editing my book, and an officer from the Garner police was talking about filling the tires on his cars with nitrogen, because, you see, nitrogen is not affected by changes in temperature.

Uh. Hmmm.

Officer, I'd like to introduce you to my friend, the Ideal Gas Law.

Ideal Gas Law, officer dumbass.

Now, it should be said that we here at the sprawling A Crown of Thistles home office have nothing but respect for the boys in blue. My uncle was a cop, my aunt is a county dispatcher, my cousin was a jailor, my other cousin is also a dispatcher, and I believe my uncle served as a dispatcher, as well, after retiring from the force. So, you can see, my family likes cops. Sure, sometimes they can be dickish, but for the most part, they're there to help.

It's just a frustrating thing when you hear someone touting the benefits of some new piece of technology, and yet, they are off base.

For the Garner police officer (and anyone else who hasn't spent their life dedicated to this thing), the Ideal Gas law is pV=nRT, which basically states that the pressure (p) and volume (V) of a certain amount of gas (n) is related to the temperature (T). That basically says that, as you heat a gas, it expands. If the vessel is closed, the pressure goes up, too. So, nitrogen, being a gas, would adhere to this.

Another thing the good officer failed to realize is that in every breath he takes, 70% of it is nitrogen. When he exhales, 70% of that is nitrogen. When he inhales, the air is cool. When he exhales, the air is warm. What this means is that nitrogen does, in fact, get affected by changes in heat.

Now, the Garner police department is using nitrogen to fill up the tires on their cruisers in an attempt to lower gas consumption. It's supposed to increase your gas mileage by up to ten miles per gallon. I'm guessing that there is no neat trick to having nitrogen, as opposed to regular air, in your tires. My best guess is that, since it's pure nitrogen, you're not getting partial pressures of all the mixtures of gasses that comprise "air". One thing about the Ideal Gas Law is that you're assuming the gas is pure, which "air" is not. It's a mixture of nitrogen, oxygen, argon, carbon dioxide, water vapor (I haven't yet seen a dessicator line on an air pump at the gas station), and a host of other gasses that comprise the last 1.3% or whatever it is.

There is another law that would cover this mixture is the Law of Partial Pressures, which basically states that the ratio of the gasses inside a vessel exerts a ratio of the pressure on the vessel, so nitrogen would exert 70% of the pressure inside of your tire if it is filled with air. Now, each of the other gasses on the inside of your tire would adhere to the Ideal Gas Law separately, and therein might lie the problem. Different gasses expand and contract different volumes when heated at the same temperature (that's basically what the n is for in the Ideal Gas Law). Also, I think the big key is that 23% of the air inside your tire is oxygen.

Oxygen is a nasty, nasty gas if you don't know how to use it. Your body basically has to repair itself constantly from oxygen's nastiness. Singlet oxygen (and Dr. Creary forgive me if I've switched the two) is the more reactive form of oxygen, which can do deleterious things to the inside of your tire. Also, water vapor on the insides of tires is probably not a good thing (and as I mentioned earlier, I've yet to see a gas station attendant changing the drierite on the air pump outside his station) and can cause some issues. Nitrogen, however, is damned inert and happy to remain as such.

Now, the kicker that really astounded me wasn't even the cop claiming that nitrogen is not affected by the changes in temperature. No, at the end of the report, the reporter told of a garage that will fill your car's tires with nitrogen...for $50!!! I'm not sure if that's per tire or the whole deal. But, fifty freaking dollars for nitrogen, the most abundant gas on earth? Well, hell, that's like paying $5 a bottle for water, the most abundant...substance...on...earth... Oh wait.

I need to come up with a good idea for people to throw money at me. Maybe I should start touting how helium in your tires will make your car lighter and therefore more fuel-efficient.

Hey wait...that just might work. I'll talk to you later. I think I just heard the unmistakable sounds of suckers being born this past minute.

So, Read Any Good Books Lately?

August 14, 2007

All apologies for my extended absence from these marvelous interwebs. I hadn't really thought of updating, to be honest, and for that, I'm ashamed. Woefully shamed. If I had a hat, it'd be in my hand, crumpled, nervously being mashed in between my hands as I sought your forgiveness.

When three separate people asked me if I was going to update, well, I figured I should probably get off my lazy ass (or, better, to plunk it down in front of the computer) and start typing. Since I happen to be sleeping with one of those three and the second of those three yearns for my stimulating discourse to get him through the late nights while dealing with his new baby (feel free to leave congratulatory notes in the comments section...address them to Joe. He'll be crushed if you don't congratulate him...even if you're that pervert who keeps coming here after googling "belly button torture sex", leave him a note), I felt it was imperative that I put some of my thoughts on the screen for your reading pleasures.

With that in mind, I struggled with the subject material. I can't just puke words onto the screen and expect people to come back. Even that guy who keeps coming here after googling "belly button torture sex". There was so much to talk about, and yet very little of it is at all interesting. I could talk about how I've been raised to commander of Omega Squad on travian. I could talk about how my daughter likes Dirty Jobs just a little too much. I could talk about how my little boy wants to grow up and play basketball. I could bitch about the idiots on the talk radio some more. I could talk about Michael Vick, Phil Rizzuto, Karl Rove or how much I suck at large-scale purification (synthetically, however, I'm cranking out over 90% yields, but the Companion machine is pwning my ass when it comes time to clean up my molecules).

Instead, I thought I'd bust out a lame pick-up line, because that's the kind of guy I am. After all, I am trying to publish a book or three, and this blog was born of my love of writing and has since spiraled down into one never-ending dick joke.

Anyway...I've been rereading my latest opus. I'm a few chapters in, and I've realized that proofreading sucks. I know how the story ends, I come across a character and I'm like "he's dead, she's a bitch, this guy is a total polesmoker, too bad he has to die..." My hardest part is that I want to skim over words and such as if I'm reading a paper about Buchwald couplings or something, and I keep having to read and reread parts of the book because I skim over them and then I'm paranoid I missing something glaringly obvious, like a mispelling or some grammatical error And that's just not good eats.

I've also been finishing up a few other reads for leisure. Like, I just finished Tad Williams' "Shadowplay" and I'm almost done with Bill Bryson's "I'm a Stranger Here Myself", which isn't nearly as funny as some of his other books, mostly because he's writing for a British audience without the British wit. Speaking of British wit, I watched Wallace and Grommit and the Curse of the Wererabbit last night. Effing brilliant. We've had it since Christmas, but I just now talked the kids into watching it with me. "It's got bunnies in it!" was the clincher there (feel free to use that without royalties owed in case you want/need to talk your kids into watching it).

To be honest, this whole sudden interest in reading was sparked by my friend (she's not ex-that yet) over at Ex-Everything with the list of things she's read in 2007. It's impressive, and I admire someone who still loves to read that much (duh...), and so I pondered all this earlier in the evening whilst sitting on the best pondering place in my house: the crapper (while reading that Bill Bryson book). I decided (after deciding once again that, with two young children, there is no such thing as privacy) that I've had a varied diet of books that I've read this year. It's not an extensive list, but it is a break from my normal diet of steady fantasy (which I broke up late last year, deciding that I was fantasy-ing myself out between video games, books, writing...not to mention Betsy Hagar).

As for my own book, the Boar War. I should be done with it this weekend. So far, I haven't had to redo much. I realize a couple of things I'll have to smooth out through the course of the story, but that's to be expected. Plus, I need to work on killing people for effect, not just for the sake of killing them. It's a little more difficult in a single-shot stand-alone book, but it can be done.

I promise that I won't take three weeks or whatever to update again. I have some ideas for stuff I need to get done ere September 1st rolls around.

Also, if you want some good, mindless, pretty violence, Castlevania: Curse of Darkness gets the Matt Jenks stamp of approval. I went into sensory deprivation after wrapping up The Boar War and played that for about four or five hours. It was fantastic.