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Inspirational Reads

Letter Never Sent

April 29, 2008

Sorry for the misnomer, but I had kind of a shitty day at work today. I've resolved to stop listening to other people and start doing synthesis the way I know how to do it, and if that requires a little lithium-halogen exchange, then sobeit. I'd rather work with pyrophorrics than bumblefuck around trying to guess my way through someone's ham-fisted attempts at explaining a procedure to me, be it written on paper or orally submitted. Wow, that was a touch cathartic. Anyway, to cope with my sadness, I'm listening to Reckoning by R.E.M. (yeah, I like R.E.M. Eat it!). Since it's R.E.M., it all sounds like a suicide note anyway. Like my rant, it's cathartic in it's own way. Listening to R.E.M. is like hanging with my friend Steve: no matter how shitty something seems, you can take comfort in the fact that someone else has it shittier than you.

The reason for this oh-so-joyous post is that I sent off my manuscript stuff. Not today, but yesterday. I was going to write about last night, but I got wrapped up in telling everyone about Fair Oaks, IN and so I got a touch sidetracked. When I went to mail everything off, I was careful to keep my papers neatly stashed away in a folder so that the torrential rains wouldn't mar the otherwise pristine copies of my cover letter, outline, prologue and first three chapters. For some reason, I was strangely calm when I sent it off. I wasn't the usual ball-of-nerves that I have been in the past when I send away some of my work. I'm sure that doesn't really mean anything, but I thought I'd share that part of the journey. Now, I sit and wait.

I did want to thank everyone for your kind words in the comments section. I know that it took me a whole week to make the "big" announcement, but I had two sick kids to deal with (they had the croup...yeah...my kids were diagnosed with a disease that contained "the" in the name...yech!) and my wife was reading through the parts that I wanted to submit to make sure there were no big, glaring errors (she did miss that I misspelled the name of one of the countries in my book...shame on her!). Again, thanks to everyone for the congrats. It made me feel good all over again.

Since my wife liked what she read (she told me this, several times...and each time I responded with "You're married to me. You have to like it; it's in the contract." This did not amuse her as much as it did me), she went ahead and read the rest of the story, making small grammatical corrections along the way. Which reminds me, she changed "courtesy" to "curtsy", and since I don't want to look like a ham-fisted hack (I've used ham-fisted twice in this post...), I need to change it back. Anyway, apparently the ending made her feel really good. Again, I told her that she had to like the ending and the book because we're married. Anyway. Here is perhaps the highest praise I've gotten so far (keep in mind the source, please):

"I liked the ending. It made me smile. It made me feel good." (beat) "The end of Harry Potter didn't make me feel good. Your book made me feel good."

Deuce.

This means that, with the potential for the Boar War to be published at some point in the foreseeable future, I had to get back on the writing gig and start working on King of Storms and finish the rereading and smoothing over of both Shadows and Thistles. So, yeah, I've started in with the typing monkey routine again.

Fare thee well, Final Fantasy XII. I hardly knew ye. If you ignore the 108 hours of you I've played...

Holy Cow!

April 28, 2008

If you watched Dirty Jobs tonight, you saw Mike Rowe doing all sorts of unspeakable things to cows. What you might not have noticed, however, was that this particular episode took place in my beloved home state of Indiana. Fair Oaks, to be specific.

The thing about Fair Oaks is that, as Mike referenced, it is literally in the middle of nowhere. I should know. I did my undergrad at a small college a few miles from Fair Oaks. If you need further illumination, I went to St. Joseph's College, in Rensselaer, IN. Oh, and here's a link to Fair Oaks Farms. Just think...the power to program that website was fueled off cow shit.

In case you really want to check the terrain out, here's some Google maps goodness. Crank the map down to the south a little bit to get the location of Rensselaer:

View Larger Map

Yeah. If you play around with that map(if you want to, that is), you'll see some of the local metropoles, such as Virgie, Asphaltum, Parr and Aix. I actually lived in the same dorm with a guy who lived near Fair Oaks. His family owned a farm there. It was very odd, because his house was on the back of the property, and his grandparents' was on the front of the property, and they shared a driveway, yet it was long distance to call from his house to his grandparents' house (one was listed in Fair Oaks, the other in Demotte, if I remember correctly).

To answer your other questions, yes, it was that flat out there. Glaciation is a bitch on the hills. Also, yes, -30 windchills were common. The wind never stopped blowing in that part of the state. It's kind of on the eastern edge of the Great Plains, sort of. I'm sure if Mike was up for it (pun!), he could have warmed up and found a whole other set of cows to inseminate if only he had gone down the road about 12 miles and laid himself up on Halas 2nd (pun again!). Because I love imparting useless trivia upon you, that part of Indiana used to be at the bottom of a sixth Great Lake, called Lake Chicago. And, according to Google Earth, there's an impact crater a few miles to the south in Kentland. I never knew that until about twenty minutes ago.

What did we do in the wilds of Northwest Indiana with such throbbing metropolitan areas thriving around us? Aside from drink and try to bone drunk townies, that is, we would go to this thing called "Moody's Light." The story goes that Old Man Moody was a farmer, and one day he was out working the fields when he came home to find his house had been ransacked and his family killed and hung from a tree. Moody went a little nuts and vowed to find the killers. The crime went unsolved, and Moody, unlike certain star running backs, went insane trying to find some closure for the acts committed against his family. So, even in death, he tries to find the murderers. If you drive down the road slowly and point your car lights at the tree stump where his family was hanged, then flicker them, a light appears at the end of the road and slowly, gradually moves down the road toward you and then it gradually goes away. Or, sometimes it just sits there and shines into the car. This is Old Man Moody's spirit coming to judge your soul and see if you are the one who killed his family. I have been to Moody's Light several times and seen the phenomenon almost every time. Some nights Moody gets shy; other nights a sheriff's deputy is lurking around to tell you to get the hell out of there. Those two pictures are someone's attempts at trying to show you what the ghost looks like.

This light is somewhat famous. It has appeared on Unsolved Mysteries and In Search Of, though neither Robert Stack nor Leonard Nimoy were ever rumored to have been hanging around Rensselaer. But if they were, chances are they would have been hanging around Darryl's Donuts downtown or even Rick's Pizza. Or maybe they went out to Trail Tree Inn to get bottomless cups of coffee, a Big-T sandwich, and hit on by a very hairy trucker named Bear. Not that any of that ever happened. Ever.

Drumroll, Please

April 25, 2008

A few months ago, I was told by someone that some people think that I sometimes have a somewhat bad attitude. I told them to grow some and to give me names, instances and examples. Okay, so the latter isn't true, but the former is. In accordance with this revelation, I've spent the past few months trying to...reinvent...myself in a not-so-dour-and-pessimistic way.

Growing up, my mother always talked about the power of one's words, and how if you say something bad, it could potentially happen. Saying something good would yield the opposite. I always thought this interesting, as belief in this hinky voodoo magic was counter to the unwavering faith in God and Jesus that my mother crammed down my throat since I was a wee babe in swaddling clothes. I've never been a big believer in this; if I say "Wow, a topless Leelee Sobieski would be nice right about now", Ms. Sobieski isn't going to stroll through that door sans-a-blouse (never mind that she doesn't have a proper key fob and I'm pretty sure my friend Joe wouldn't let her in for me, but rather he'd squirrel her away and keep her for himself). Yep. I'm still waiting.

I have to think, however, that my current run of good luck is just that--a lucky streak. It can't be because I'm thinking fewer terrible thoughts about the woman in the building who smells like dirty feet, right? Right.

What luck, you ask? Well, allow me to recap (this is where the suspense is supposed to be building for the announcement--just to let you know):

We have a concierge service at my work, and that provider was running a March Madness trivia quiz. Basically, answer a very easy question, and you get your name put into a drawing for a free shirt of your favorite team. Well, yours truly happened to win week two's drawing. I opted for an Indiana shirt, though I was tempted to go for something crazy, like the Maine Black Bears or the VCU Rams (or the VCU dance team). I ended up going with Indiana since I grew up an Indiana fan, and my in-laws send me a Notre Dame basketball t-shirt every year (they get a free one for buying season tickets, and neither my father-in-law nor my mother-in-law are really t-shirt kind or people, if you know what I'm saying). So, it's not like I don't have a shit-ton of ND basketball shirts lying around. They do happen to be very good for mowing the lawn in (as, usually, the advertising on the back is more prevalent than the logo on the front).
The excitement should be building...just to let you know.

On the same day that I caught word of the glorious news of my basketball trivial knowledge (the question happened to be the distance of the three-point line in college basketball), I received other glad tidings. You see, I will now officially be a published author. It's true; I heard from someone at my old employer that they had submitted a paper to Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry Letters, which has since been accepted--so long as the small revisions are made. Now you, too, can see the contributions I made to peeling back the foreskin of HSP-90 inhibitor science. Once the ASAP is out, I'll publish a link here. Until said time, bask in my carbazole-synthesizing glory. Bear in mind, I have written a master's thesis and published two patents prior to this, but this seems bigger. My name will now be linked with something grand and glorious and involving a Fisher Indole Synthesis.
Just to let you know, the excitement should now be on the verge of climax. Get your tissues ready.

Remember my April's Fool's "prank"...you know, the one that you all saw through? Yeah, well, I did send out a couple more query letters to gauge interest in the book. Monday night, I came home and stopped by the mailbox. Therein, I found a letter addressed to me, with my own handwriting. Naturally, I thought this could only come from a future me, and that I was sending myself vital information that could save my life. Dare I read it, lest I alter the space/time continuum, thus throwing the universe into complete and total chaos?

I realized, then, that this was my self-addressed, stamped envelope that one of the agencies asked me to include with the query letter. Figuring it'd be another rejection, I opened it up and started to read the letter as I was strolling down my driveway. I began to bounce my head back and forth as one does in a sing-songy way when reciting something that you know by heart. "Dear Mr. Jenks, Thank you for submitting your novel with us, however, it does not fill our needs at this time..."

Only thing was, those weren't the words. Instead, the agent said that The Boar War intrigued him, and that he wanted to read the first 50 to 75 pages of my book. I stopped right there in the middle of the driveway. I re-read the letter. I messed my pants.

I debated whether I should share this in a blog, because, you know, other people can find this site and read through the shit that I puke up onto the screen on a semi-regular basis. I was worried that this might turn off any potential agents or others interested in my work. But then I thought that these guys probably have a lot of other things going on in their lives and that looking me up on the internet to see if I have any unholy fascinations with certain young starlets. Plus, when I started this blog, it was supposed to be a look into the life of a writer, seeing what he goes through trying to write, develop and ultimately sell his product, and getting an agent and all the good things that go along with it are a part of that process. So, there you go. I'm sharing.

Now, let's not put the cart before the horse, either. This is just initial interest, but it's at least something. It isn't the same rejection I've been met with all the times I've submitted before. I'm still a little shocked and still greatly honored that this chance has finally come. I've had my wife look at the first 75 pages (it just so happens this coincides with the first three chapters and the prologue) and corrected any mistakes I might have made (there was one glaring one that dealt with the timing of the story). Now, I have to put together another synopsis, this one dealing with the remainder of the story, but in more detail than I had shown with my original synopsis. I plan on getting it out this weekend, and then we'll see where we go from there.

So, there's the big announcement. Probably not as much as you were hoping for, but it's something, at least. A starting point, if you will, that shows that, yes, I really can do this. Now, hopefully, I can seal the deal and give you more good news in the coming weeks.

A Petulant Snit

April 22, 2008

I'm a selfish bastard.

No, that's not the big announcement mentioned yesterday. We all already knew this.

No, this is more personal. See, I'd like just once--just one single effing time!--for someone else's NMR tube to break, spilling their carefully crafted molecule all over the inside of the transportation bucket. I'd like, for a change, to go over and not find half an NMR tube awaiting me where its jagged, sharpened edges glint with the sad remains of a once proud synthetic intermediate.
I guess you can figure out how my afternoon went.

This isn't the first time such a tragedy has befallen yours truly. In those final days of grad school, when any student worth his snuff is working desperately to get those final few molecules characterized and the experimentals written, such a doom fell upon my shoulders. I had synthesized a particularly devious aldehyde (for those unenlightened in the art of organic functional groups, aldehydes tend to be very reactive and, therefore, very unstable) and carefully had purified it. I took a rather crude 8-scan proton NMR and saw that the product was beautiful, pristine, immaculate with an easily-discernible E to Z ratio (it was a cross-metathesis product).

"Beautiful!" thought I, as I laid my eyes upon the FT readout. "No one has reserved the machine for carbon-13 tonight! I'll come back and retake this tonight and get a carbon at the same time." A well-laid plan, if ever I saw one. Yet, I've heard, these often go awry. I ended the scan, stopped the spinner, and ejected the tube out through the top of the machine. I am always very careful with my samples, but, just this one time, my concentration lapsed for a mere moment and I bumped the bottom of the tube against the lip of the sample injector, jarring it from my hands, causing it to spin slowly away from the top of the 300 MHz Varian machine I had lovingly praised moments before, and saw it shatter into a million tiny shards laced with a thousand droplets of deuterated solvent and perfect product.

It was, of course, all of my material. This set me back two weeks, thanks to the need to synthesize the aldehyde under very careful, dry conditions (actually, it was a PCC oxidation, but the material often fell apart upon work-up and chromatography). My friend Clara was standing right there as I looked down upon my shattered hopes and, tears barely staunched in my eyes, I announced: "God hates me." The look of compassion and empathy in her eyes was palpable. Dejected, I swept up my mess, discarded it in the broken glass container, and marched the very lonely three flights of stairs up to my lab wherein I sat at my desk and sulked and pouted.
Then I went and ate a large dipped cone from Dairy Queen.

Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together

I love cross-pop-cultural references.

Ruby Vroom

April 21, 2008

Sorry for the delay. It's been a bit hectic around here of late. Currently, a full half of the household is afflicted with some bronchial/pneumonic/allergy plague (that would be the younger half) and I'm going mad with the constant, continuous coughing [1]. It sounds like a fricking sanitorium around here.

I was also, you know, remiss to remove the picture of the lovely Leelee Sobieski off the top page of my blog. Plus, after Lisa-tastrophies suggested casting Leelee as Princess Leia, I about passed out thinking about Leelee in a Slave Girl Outfit. Tasty. Then it suddenly hit me: gratuitous Leelee Sobieski pictures![2] Not to mention, I'm still really just in absolute love with the idea of Kevin Smith directing remakes of Star Wars. I don't even care if Yoda spouts out "Snoochie booches!" instead of "Concentrate!" when he's on Luke's back while giving Luke his Jedi training during The Empire Strikes Back. Seriously, Harvey Weinstein, get this done.

Speaking of movies...did you guys (and fine ladies) know that there's a live-action G.I.Joe movie in the works? Makes sense after Transformers (which I still haven't seen, more on principle than anything else) and all, since for some reason the two are inexorably linked (at least in my mind). Anyway, I found out after coming across the following picture while reading one of my favorite new blogs, Pfangirl:
As Pfangirl put it: Wow, a hot girl in a leather cat suit. No one has thought that up before! (I paraphrase).

After a bit of due-diligence (read: reading blogs), I discovered that said hot girl is named Rachel Nichols, who apparently is a popular blonde actress from the tv show Alias and some other movies which I've never seen. At first, I was confused. I mistook her for ESPN's sultry slice of NFL coverage, who actually has red hair. You can imagine my confusion. Also, didn't Scarlett wear an outfit that was much more yellow and much less black? And just where the hell is she supposed to keep extra bolts for her crossbow? On second thought, maybe I don't want to know.

Rachel Nichols...

...and more Rachel Nichols.

One final update, we won't be putting the house up for sale this spring. The realtor came out and looked at the house and basically said the following: "The interior looks awesome, the yard and the landscaping look great, the exterior of the house looks like shit." Again, I paraphrase. So, I'll be busy here in the next few months scraping and repainting trim, replacing rotting wood, replacing damaged siding, reglazing exterior windows and touching up parts of the paint where it has peeled away from the house (I have a bad feeling I'll be painting the whole damned thing in the fall). If I can get a weekend where it doesn't rain and/or drop below 40 degrees, I'll be able to get a bulk of that stuff done.

Oh, and major announcement coming later in the week.

[1]: I loves me some alliteration.
[2]: If you think it's easy to find a picture of Leelee Sobieski that won't trip the porn filter at your work, think again. Oh, and, yes, I am encouraging goofing off on my blog while at work. Deal (hi, Amanda).
[3]: I didn't put a three, but see if you can catch the obscure pop culture reference from the title and how it fits into this entry. No fair using Wikipedia.

Continuing the Path toward Enlightenment

April 14, 2008

I spent this weekend corrupting my children, my daughter moreso than my son, though he did get himself a little taste. Let's fill in the back story first, and then we can sally forth into the wilds of the tale which I am about to craft.

Remember last weekend, when I flipped back and forth between the Star Wars prequels and the Lord of the Rings movies? And then sprinkled in a little bit of UNC getting their asses handed to them by Kansas? Right, well, there were a lot fewer North Carolina beat-downs this weekend, but the original three Star Wars movies were on Spike TV or whatever it is (I think the Lord of the Rings movies were on, too, but I resisted that temptation). And, if Star Wars is on, I've got to watch.

But this time, I had a little friend.

Yes, I let my daughter stay up Friday and Saturday night to watch Episodes IV and V. Being as today was a school day (though she's home sick), I didn't let her stay up to watch Return of the Jedi. I have it on tape, anyway, so I can complete her training at some point. The little boy, however, got really sleepy and really pissy toward nine pm, and thus he had to retire for the evenings.

Now, my daughter liked the original movie plenty. It captivated her and kept her interest. However, it was hilarious watching her get all fired up and worried toward the end of The Empire Strikes Back when Luke is facing off against Vader and Han gets frozen in carbonite. She was yelling at the television, "No Luke! Don't go in there!" and "Oh, is he going to be okay?". It was marvelous. But, somehow, we had kept the big secret from her and she was like, "What? That's his father?!?" Classic stuff.

Anyway, my wife had a friend over last night, and after her friend left, we watched the very end of Return of the Jedi (since there was nothing else on). This was the remade version, where there was that awkward, strange ending that no longer featured the Ewoks' celebration music. I'm not saying it was better; I'm not saying it was worse. I'm just saying it was awkward. My wife didn't like this new ending one bit, and she voiced her opinion as such (she loves her some Ewoks). Then she said, "You know, you should get Silent Bob [Kevin Smith] to redo these movies."

My mind went blank for a moment. And then it began to imagine the possibilities. And then I had to excuse myself from the room so I could clean up the mess in my pants. What a brilliant idea! I thought Kevin could sit down with George Lucas and be like "Look, you can do the special effects and help with the directing and you also get all the licensing and marketing. I just want to make good movies." And the fantasy was good. Very, very good.

She wondered who might be cast as the various roles. We tossed around a few names for various roles and I offered up a few story corrections that needed to take place. And then my wife suggested getting Leelee Sobieski to play the role of Padma/Amidala. And then I had to reexcuse myself from the room so I could clean up the new mess in my pants.

Yes, that's right. I have a crush on both Kevin Smith and Leelee Sobieski. Sue me.

Personal Hamster Huey

April 8, 2008

I am convinced that Bill Watterson was prescient and somehow had the ability to peer into the future and watch my life unfold before his very eyes. Upon seeing these visions, he set pen to paper and drew some of the most masterful comics the world has ever known. Copies of said comic follow.

Here's a refresher course, in case you've forgotten:


Calvin's dad and I have a lot in common. For instance, we're both stuck reading the same story every night. For me, I have to deal with this particular gem:
The sad thing is, this is just a part of the story (in book form) of that cinematographic masterpiece, Thomas and the Magic Railroad. I guess it wouldn't be so bad reading this book, but my little boy, Tank, has it memorized and breaks into the story to tell me who all the characters are. However, there's another book that goes with it that is the print version of the other half of Thomas and the Magic Railroad, which is just as scintillating a read.

Calvin's dad pretty much sums it up right here:
Yup.

Remembering Charlton Heston

April 7, 2008

In the depths of my Nerdvana from this past weekend, I didn't realize that Charlton Heston had died until my wife told me about it Sunday evening.

I'm not going to talk about what a great actor Heston was, nor will I touch on his political life, but I will say that perhaps my favorite movie he's been in (and his filmography is extensive)was Ben-Hur. In the eighth grade, we watched Ben-Hur in conjunction with my social studies class as the teacher was a huge fan of the Roman Empire, and there were some Roman things in Ben-Hur, I guess. It fascinated me. This was before I really had any idea that there were grand, great stories on film, but this was one of those moments when my mind began to open up to the possibilities of life beyond the Police Academy movies. The movie was just that good, that well-done that I instantly fell in love with it. I've watched it a handful of times since, and always I have the same thoughts on it.

However, Ben-Hur was not my favorite character played by Heston. Oh no. For that, you would have to look to Colonel George Taylor, the astronaut played by Heston in Planet of the Apes. Why this character? you may ask. Simple. Taylor was from Fort Wayne, IN, which is the city I associate with my hometown (more people have heard of Fort Wayne, IN than they have of Markle, IN, which is a sleepy little village about 22 miles south of Fort Wayne). Another notable fictional character from Fort Wayne, IN was Fawn Leibowitz, who was the girl killed in a car wreck in the movie Animal House. While I was still living there, there was an indy band that toured the area from Fort Wayne named Fawn Leibowitz. I suppose that had more drawing power (and was far more humorous) than a band named after George Taylor.

Rest in peace, Mr. Heston. You'll always be remembered for your incredible presence on the screen as well as the trivial fact of one of your character's home towns.

Nerd-vana

One thing about my April Fool's post where I claimed I was tired was that almost all of that was true: I do have a lot of work ahead of me, or to do, or on my plate, whichever cliche you'd like to us. I did a lot of that this weekend, specifically on Saturday. Thusly, I rewarded myself on Saturday and Sunday nights.

How? you might ask. Well, I laid on my bed and/or couch and flipped back and forth between the Lord of the Rings movies on TNT and the Star Wars prequels on Spike (with a little bit of Kansas beating the shit out of Carolina on Saturday night, just for the sheer joy that it brought me). To add to that, I also threw in a healthy dose of Final Fantasy XII and, in case I didn't get me enough Tolkien with the movies, I was reading Children of Húrin.

Yes, I had reached a state of Nerd-vana. The only way I could go further would have been to have a stack of old X-Men comics at my side so that I could read up on the whacky adventures of Wolverine and Jubilee. *shudder*

One thing that stood out for me, though, whilst viewing these two trilogies: as good as the Lord of the Rings movies were (and I have some serious issues with the Two Towers...I don't consider myself a Tolkien purist, but there was just some bad series of events that went on in the second movie), the Star Wars movies were that bad.

I realize that Lucas could never connect with the awesome power of the original three stories (episodes IV through VI, if you will), since we all already knew what would happen to Annakin Skywalker. But, come on. Let someone read through your script and be like "Wow, this dialogue sucks, dude." For all the sweeping camera angles, immense battle scenes, and close ups of the characters so that you couldn't tell they were standing on their knees, the cinematography of the Lord of the Rings movies was incredible. Not so with the Star Wars movies. Oh, here, let's zoom in on a couple of Clone Troopers pointing to a target. That's not awkward or anything. While Peter Jackson masterfully wove together the two or three major story elements that were going on (depending on where the story stood) by putting together long scenes filled with character and plot development, Lucas hashed together several short, disjointed scenes that did not forward the story at all, but rather simply gave us one more thing to guess at (wait, why was this guy doing this?).

While neither series was perfect (though, in my opinion, Return of the King was about as perfect as you could get), the flaws of one movie series were enough that it detracted from the story overall. Though there were several instances of very "un-Tolkien-like" dialogue in the Lord of the Rings ("No one tosses a Dwarf!" or "This...is a pint!"), the dialogue at least worked well with the characters. Not so with Star Wars. Lines such as "I killed them...I killed them all!" should have been character-defining moments; instead, they were insipidly delivered, invoking a groan and a rolling of the eyes from the audience rather than empathy and compassion and a glimpse into the defining soul of the character.

If nothing else, I can take from this a more rounded critical eye that I can apply to my own works. One thing that I've heard over and again is that I have none of these dialogue issues; however, the delivery of some of the words and lines need to be more fine tuned (again, thanks to Julie, who originally wrote that down for me in some of my earliest editorial comments). With this in mind, I have more comfort and more confidence in pushing forward and getting these things cleaned up and ready to go. That is, of course, unless there's another marathon of movies on that I want to watch (despite the fact that I own the DVDs...).

Note: I learned while searching for pictures that there are a lot of people out there that have named their cats Eowyn. And taken pictures of them. And shown them on the internet. Yeesh.

Abuse of Language

April 5, 2008

The other day, I was in lab talking about something, some reaction or such, and I said, "What's the worst that could happen? An explosion?" The labmate with whom I was speaking and I had a nice chuckle, and then he said "Well, I guess we could always crank the heat up and see what happens." To which I replied, "Don't blame me when it goes 'Poon!'" I then used very large, sweeping hand and arm gestures to pantomime the billowing clouds of fire and smoke as I wrapped up my sentence.

Then I realized what word I used to recreate the onomatopoeia of the explosion. My labmate and I had a good laugh over that, too.

I realize I'm going to probably offend my female readers here, but this little exchange got me to thinking. We have a perfectly lovely and utile language here in English, and yet we seem to spend most of our creativity on developing and inventing clever words to describe our sexual organs. Take, for instance, poon. Said in a deeper, almost airy way, it's a lovely way to describe the sound made during an explosion. However, I think we all know its "true" meaning--actually, the word "poon" is often used to reference a certain group of trees from the East Indies known for their solid, durable wood. Yep, that's right. You get hard wood from poon.

*taps microphone* Is this thing on?

It's not even taking another word and twisting it to some perverted means, like hooters. We all know what hooters are, thanks in large part to Al Bundy and that rather mediocre restaurant. I prefer to think the Al Bundy had more to do with it than the restaurant, but that's just me. We can make up any number of words to describe a body part, and instantly one knows what it means. Such as, if I were to say, "Wow! Look at those mugumbas!" you'd know instantly that I was ogling some girl's breasts.

Of course, this doesn't stop with just the female body. It works for the guys, too, lest we forget James Van der Beek's soliloquy from Varsity Blues in which he lists a very long stream of words, phrases, and descriptors for the penis. Or the wangdang. Or the John Thomas. I think I've made my point.

If nothing else, I've proven on this here little blog that I'm fairly proficient at throwing around words that some people consider offensive. So, it might seem like I'm a hypocrite, complaining that we're using our creativity to come up with new words for our naughty bits--especially when I use them every day. Maybe I am, maybe I'm not; that's for you to decide. However, in all the words used to describe genitalia, there is one used to describe female genitalia that I find completely and downright terrible, and thus I never use it.

Yeah, that one.

Is this a Bad Sign?

April 4, 2008

Do you think it means anything when I have a very long and very detailed dream that Mike Rowe and I are driving a truck filled with dry ice from Texas to California in order to help make some Hollywood special effects for a movie about fish?


I didn't think so, either.

I Creaned My Pants

April 3, 2008

Okay, so most of you didn't fall for my juvenile April Fool's Prank from the other day.

Hopefully, you'll appreciate my juvenile potty humor.

No? Well, tough.

Anyway, as I was laying down my little head upon the soft pillows of my bed late Monday night, I flipped over to ESPN because I wanted to catch the scores of the NIT semis. Fortunately, I was lying there when the NCAAM news came up. Much to my surprise, I saw the words "Indiana will name Marquette head coach Tom Crean to the same position."
I thought for a moment that I had misread. Or that I had fallen for some April Fool's Prank. Except that it was after midnight, and the collective brain trust at the World Wide Leader isn't half so clever as to concoct this clever ruse.
At the time, I was unsure how I felt about the hire. I felt it was good that a highly-respected coach had left a program he had returned to glory for Indiana, despite the daunting task in front of him. However, to be quite honest, I wasn't wowed by the hire. I felt it was probably a good move, but after that I didn't have much to say. So, I slept on it.

I woke up Wednesday, and I was fired up. I began to think about how Tom Crean had taken a Marquette team that had gone through a slump since the golden era of Al McGuire and built them into a perennially ranked team that was very seldom mentioned for being on the dreaded bubble in March. I thought about Dwyane Wade, Travis Diener and how he led his teams to two victories over Kentucky (sorry Ψ * Ψ) in the NCAA tournament. I thought about Dominic James and how Tom Crean recruited him out of Indiana. I thought about Jerel McNeal shooting light's out against Notre Dame in the Big East tournament. Everything I could think about Tom Crean was positive, aside from how, at times, he looks a little bit like Tom Arnold. But, fuckin' aye, if that's all you've got going against you, you're doing something right.

It seems, thanks to the guys at Inside the Hall (which is the best Indiana basketball blog going) who have provided several link dumps (and yes, I've read all of the included links) giving a national perspective on Indiana's hire, that everyone else around the country also thinks that this was a good hire by Indiana. I've heard nothing but positives, whether it's local ass clown David Glenn talking about it or I'm reading a story on Yahoo! sports (I try to avoid columns on the World Wide Leader's website). The only negatives I've heard are from Illinois fans, and they all are saying that Crean made a huge mistake by coming to Indiana. And by "all" I mean Deadspin's own Will Leitch and Foul Balls' Tom Fornelli. And, if you can get under Illinois fans' skin, then you're doing something right.

I think I was surprised more than anything on Tuesday night, which is why I wasn't jumping around making an ass of myself when I read the news. However, Wednesday morning, I was basically doing just that because I was so fired up. I think Crean is going to last a long time at Indiana, he's going to right the ship, he's going to rebuild a program with a proud tradition, and he's going to get in players who aren't going to have character issues like the current crop of players seem to excel at having. I only wish that Indiana had been smart enough two years ago to offer Crean the job; apparently, from what I read, they talked to Crean about the position but ultimately ended up going with Sampson. At least this time they seem to have gotten it right.
As excited as I am, I can only imagine that Marquette fans are feeling the exact opposite. This was a total surprise to me; I can imagine that this was a total blindside to them. At the outset, I figured Tom Crean was the darkest of the dark horse candidates, because he was paid top money by Marquette and had a long contract in place. Indiana's athletic department is notoriously parsimonious, and they've got quite a few football coaches they're still paying for doing their typical underwhelming jobs at Indiana. To go out and hire Crean away from Marquette, and pay him top dollar was totally unexpected. I'm glad to see that Indiana, the president and the trustees are willing to do what it will take to get their basketball program fixed and back on track.

Again, though, I feel bad for Marquette fans. They lost a helluva coach on Tuesday, and I can understand if they're angry, disappointed and sad. I had the same emotions going through me when it was revealed that Sampson had spit in the face of the Indiana tradition and program. I don't have this worry with Crean. Yes, right now, with the NCAA infractions meeting looming, DJ White's graduation, Eric Gordon's bolting for the NBA, and Bassett and Ellis kicked off the team, this could only be considered a lateral move--at best--for Crean. It's not like Marquette is a program that's not steeped in tradition and a solid, venerable basketball program. However, the difference is that I think Crean can take the grimy mess that is Indiana's program and polish it back up to where it is, truly, one of the five best programs in the country (UCLA, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, Duke...pick a top five out of those).

When the luster returns to the program in a couple of seasons (hell, Crean might be able to string together 20 wins with a group of walk-ons and bench players this next season), we as fans will get back to seeing more of this in Bloomington...except with a nice crimson tie and another red banner.

I'm So Tired...

April 1, 2008

I haven't been posting a lot lately. My kids went to visit their grandparents last week for spring break, and I've been doing a lot of work around the house trying to get it ready to put on the market so we can move. Exhaustion has been, well, an understatement, to be honest. There's still a lot to do. I have to finish hanging the baseboards in the bathroom downstairs. I have a few more screws to screw into the shutters on the second story. I have to pound some edgers down into the ground around one of the beds I made at the back of the house and I have to finish putting the edging in on the bed I made at the side of the house, plus I need to put down some more mulch and some more stones in various beds. This is not to mention all the mowing and edging I need to get done, too. I guess I just need to find the right tools for the jobs at hand.

On top of this, I'm starting up a new project at work. It's fun, but it's got some tougher chemistry involved, plus, I've got so much to read when it comes to papers and such. There's a whole bunch of biology to learn, there's biological tests and assays I have to familiarize myself with, and then there's just the new chemistry that has to be learned (I did a Baeyer-Villager the other day...and it was fucking sweet).

The thing that's tired me out the most, though, is the whole writing thing. It's not that I have a lack of topics swirling around in my mind; quite the opposite, to be honest. But, also, honestly, it's tough to find the time. I just put the kids down to bed and I still have to gather up the trash and take it out and straighten up the kitchen. By the time I'm done with that, it'll be well after nine, and already I need to start getting ready for tomorrow when I get to do it all over again.

The thing that I'm most tired of, though, is rejection. Yeah, I got two more emails this week telling me thanks but no thanks. Or whatever the form rejection is these days. It's not us, it's you. It's just not what we're looking for. Grow a larger copulation organ now. All of that crap. It's soul-crushing. I realize you have to keep trying, but I've been working on these things now for years. Too many years to even think about, because when I do, I just get depressed more. I've progressed very well on the whole Hundred Kings Saga thing, but now I'm getting to the point of wondering why should I even bother? I pour my heart and soul into carefully crafting a land and characters to populate the land and all the other subtle little nuances that breathe life into a set of words and make them a person and all I get is "Sorry, no."

I guess the big problem is that I'm tired of the form letter. You know, you could at least put my name in the title of the email. "Dear Author" just doesn't cut it. Blegh. Thanks for carefully considering my book/letter/synopsis. Next time, introduce yourself right before you kick me in the nuts, okay?

Maybe I'm slitting my own throat with this post, but I just don't care anymore. I just don't. I'm out. I'll probably keep working on the stories, but they'll be all mine. I'll be happy with the way they end and how they work out. But, I won't cry over the little details that I've worked in only to have some heartless assistant send me a form rejection letter. Screw that. I don't need that stress on top of it. That's right, I'm giving up. Even though we didn't give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor, I'm giving up now.

So, this is the end. I'm getting out of the writing business, for a long while. That means things will slow down here even more. Don't worry, I'll still be puttering around your sites (I mean, I have to have something to do between reading ring-closing metathesis papers) and still providing my soulful wit in your comments sections. But, for the most part, I've ridden off into the sunset.


Thanks, all. It's been fun.

Sayonara.

I'll let Bender say the rest.

Happy St. Hugh Day!

Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Hugh. Hugh was appointed the Bishop of Grenoble by the council at Avignon in 1080, which was impressive as he was not yet ordained as a priest. Apparently, his piety was so great that everyone just knew he was destined for great things.

What kinds of great things? Well, he had a dream in which he saw seven stars. This, of course, inspired him to form his own monastic society, which is naturally named the Carthusian Order. He founded the Carthusians (along with St. Bruno of Cologne, who perhaps taught him many things about how to be a bishop without being a priest) in a snowy, alpine village called Chartreuse. The Carthusians are famous for their lurid yellow-green robes and their ability to craft very fine fishing lures.

Hugh (also know as Hugh of Châteauneuf, which means "Nine Castle" en français) was the Bishop of Grenoble until his death in 1132, though he tried to quit and enter a monastary at Cluny two years after taking the seat of bishop. After his death, Hugh wasn't done. No, his body was burned by the Huguenots during the Wars of Religion. However, at this point, Hugh had already been canonized. Clearly, they didn't like sharing a name with poor Hugh.

Also, today is April Fool's or All Fool's Day. Since it's also Hugh's day, and he was French, I'll add that it's poisson d'avril en France. What is poisson d'avril?, you might ask. I'll tell you. Poisson d'avril means "fish of April" or "April's Fish" (get your mind out of the gutter now), and it is the day set aside for hanging small paper fish on the back of your friends. Oh, those plucky French, what won't they think of next?

As you may have been able to tell, I do have the ability to quickly and easily translate all of these French terms into English (or a reasonable facsimilie of English). That is because I studied French for four years in high school (I mentioned that a while ago, but it's always good to remind folks who might be new or whatever...plus it allows me to add the extra level of yet another parenthetical clause). And, what would high school be like if you could not torture some poor, unsuspecting fool on poisson d'avril? It would be even more painful than usual, let me tell you. Of course, the unsuspecting fool in this case was our French teacher, Ms. Knipp.

Madamoiselle Knipp was, perhaps, the one person in all of history I've met with a heart of solid, 18K gold, mostly because she put up with this stupid shit and didn't beat the hell out of us with her enormous yardstick, knicknamed Spanks. Anyway, the first time we learned of poisson d'avril, a couple of my friends (since I lived in a tiny village in the eastern part of the county and I didn't have a car nor parents who were willing to drive my ass around for such stupid endeavors) sat around most of the night of March 31st drawing thousands of tiny fish on little post-it notes. They arrived at school early, a few minutes after the janitors went around unlocking all the classroom doors, and snuck into Ms. Knipp's room, covering the walls with all of these little fish. A good time was had by all, and we were finding tiny paper fish for months after the prank, which would have been legendary by French standards.

The following year (when I was a junior), right before the third period, someone in the office paged Ms. Knipp to come to the office. Confused, she obliged, and as she went around the corner, my friends came running in with an electric skillet, oil, and, yes, fish. They fried up fish for everyone in the class, and when Ms. Knipp returned from her fool's errand, everyone yelled in unison "poisson d'avril!" Incidentally, I think that's when I got a fish bone caught in my throat and I ended up puking (I did make it to the restroom). It took me several years before I could eat fish again.

So, let us celebrate Hugh of Châteauneuf, his yellow-robed friends, and French fish everywhere today. Also, since it's St. Hugh day, let's celebrate guys named Hugh. [1]


Also, today is FitzChivalry Farseer's Beloved day. Yes, that's an obscure reference. No, I don't expect most of you to understand it (if you do, post it in the comments, you vile lurker).

[1] Two of the three of these men, my wife finds very, very sexy. The third is simply cute and on the list because he has a British accent. I hope everyone appreciates how hard I had to work on this picture.