Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Nook Book!

Finally! After too long of a time the unbearable waiting period for Nook owners is finally over. "Dr Zombie Lives Next Door" is now available at Barnes & Noble.


Why not get a copy and enjoy it just in time for Halloween? It's a fun family read.

And it's never been banned by anyone, anywhere. Damn.
Maybe if someone would ban it more people would read it?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Happy Banned Books Week!

So the Packer-Bear game didn't quite work out like I had hoped it would. In all the hub-bub and contention of the weekend one very important fact was lost to me. Saturday was the beginning of Banned Books Week.
During the last week of September every year, hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events. The 2011 celebration of Banned Books Week will be held from September 24 through October 1. Banned Books Week is the only national celebration of the freedom to read. It was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,000 books have been challenged since 1982.
 What bothers me the most is that many people are so eager to ban something they don't like or understand. Often they have never read the entire book they wish to remove, only pieces and parts. They are so eager to find the dirt, the smut, the vulgar. These would be censors must spend a lot time reading objectionable material. Hmmm.

Here are a few of my favorite examples taken for the website http://www.bannedbooksweek.org/

"Betrayed" by PC Cast and Kristin Cast - challenged because "It simply causes kids to think about even more of things sexual." Ha, like that's possible. I haven't read this trite sounding vampire tale but all the objections to it might make me yet.

"Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl" - this one makes the list every year. It must be really awful.

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" by Mark Haddon - winner of numerous literary prizes I can recommend this book, and not because of its "foul language." It is excellent.

"The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins - a book I have wanted to read, and will soon be a major motion picture, was challenged by Goffstown, NH parent because "it gave her 11-year-old nightmares." If that can get a book banned half the books I read would be gone.

"Slaughterhouse-Five" by Kurt Vonnegut, my personal literary idol - This book makes the list nearly every year for what some have called "soft core pornography". I wonder if the critics skipped the part about the bombing of Dresden. Maybe they skipped the book altogether and just watched the movie Valerie Perrine run around inside a glass geodesic dome topless.

So do yourself a favor and the world. Proclaim freedom. Read a banned book this week.
Or find a copy of Slaughterhouse-Five on DVD just to see Valerie Perrine. I wonder if it's on blu-ray.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Rivalry:A Repost and an Update

This picture is from an article in the Wisconsin State Journal that ran last Jan 23 before the NFC Championship game in which the Bears hosted the Packers. The article "A house divided: Rivalry hits home when the Packers play the Bears" is still available online and tells of the difficulty I and fans in other mixed families must live through on a daily basis during the football season.

Just kidding usually they are pretty good about it until gameday, which is today.

At the time the photo Melinda was pregnant with Nolan, just days before he was born. He's now over 7 months old, and the poor kid doesn't stand a chance. They are already dressing him up in silly outfits for weird and disgusting photo ops.

But I can wait. When he gets a little bit older, then he will be mine. I will teach him about Chicago and the glory that are the Bears. I will tell him about Sayers, Butkis, Singletary, Sweetness, Urlacher, and, of course, the Coach, Ditka.

And when he understands those basics I will then play my secret strategy, showing him how much fun it is to cheer for a team against Mom and Grandma and even Uncle Shaun.

Subconsciously I believe Melinda wants to show Nolan both sides of the issue. I found this picture that says it all. I call it "Dressing him in the true colors".

Good luck, Green Bay. You'll need it.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Ahoy, Mateys. Today Be The DAY!

Today be a day like no other. Today be a day when the inner scallywag in us all can have his/her say. Butu today of all days you have to say it right. For today be TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY!

Sept 19 of every year is TLAPD, one of me favorite holidays, one I wish I could dress up and make someone walk the bloomin' plank. But no. Today is a work day for this wage slave. Me pirating days filled with saucy wenches and tankards of rum and gold doubloons and sailing the Seven Seas will have to wait, maybe next year. Arrr

So in the mean times let me leave you with a few special links.

First, the one, the only OFFICIAL Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Then we have a nice little activity sheet to print out and share. And it's from Disney and Capt Jack Sparrow.

Next we have BBC America's Anglo Fan Tournament Women of 2011. So it's stretching the pirate theme but
it's the quarterfinals and we have 3 ladies from Doctor Who still in the race. I won't tell you who to vote for but here are my choices. You make your own.

JK Rowling vs Kathryn Tate - JKR doesn't need this, she has Harry and millions of dollars and, by the way, what has she done lately. Pottermore? Really? Tate is a seasoned comedian, wonderful!

Emma Watson vs Alex Kingston - Another Potterite versus another talented Doctor Who actress. If you vote for anyone here on TALPD vote for this saucy actress. Alex's performance is as close to the true spirit of the pirate as you'll get. (And her birthday is the same as mine.) 

Helena Bonham Carter vs Karen Gillan
Mrs Tim Burton versus another Doctor Who actress and this one even was a pirate in this year's episode "The Curse of the Black Spot". Pirates are cool.

Emma Thompson vs. Maggie Smith - Finally, no Potters or Whos. I only need to say two words "Emma Thompson"! And Emma was in "Pirate Radio". (How's that for a loose connection?)

Go here to vote:

Finally one little non-pirate link. BUT it's zombies! Hooray!
  • Archaeologists in Ireland have unearthed two 8th-century skeletons buried with stones stuck into their mouths.
  • They believe this could have been a way to ensure the dead did not rise up like zombies.
  • Bodies identified as revenants or the "walking dead" tended to be people who had lived as outsiders.

So that's it. Go forth, me hearties, and spread a little pirate cheer. And don't forget
when you do!

Michael Bolton says, "This is the story of Capt Jack Sparrow...."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My Day 5 Geek Out - Politics Is Geeky Too

Geekdom is not confined to outer space vampires, comic books, and dystopian YA novels. Politics can be very geeky too. And yesterday Laurie and I reveled in good discussion and excellent surrounded by thousands of like minded souls at Fighting Bob Fest here in Madison, WI. A day long event of progressive politics sponsored by
  FightingBob.com logo
FightingBob.com is a nonprofit, nonpartisan online opinion magazine that provides an educational forum for writers, viewpoints and topics not welcome on the pages and airwaves of most mainstream media outlets in Wisconsin. We aim to honor and revive the spirit and mission of our namesake, Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette, the populist governor, U.S. Senator, and presidential candidate from Wisconsin who founded the Progressive Party and spent his career battling the corrupting, impoverishing and anti-democratic influence of big moneyed interests over government and public policy.
It was an amazing day. In a time when selfishly radical politics threaten our democracy, in a time when workers rights and the middle class is being kicked into poverty, in a time where some politicians just don't even care about their own constituents, we need more symposiums like this fighting to bring back the voice of the people.

Radio host Thom Hartmann, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep (and future senator) Tammy Baldwin, the amazing Dr Cornel West, the hilarious Jim Hightower, the locally grown and operated John Nichols, the list goes on and on. They led teh crowd in cheers, jeers, and contemplation. It was heart warming, optimistic, energizing, and just plain fun.
"Freedom and justice are defended through education, and the exchange of ideas promotes solidarity among progressives. To this end, Fighting Bob Fest strives to provide citizens with a forum for democratic participation where frustrations with current policies can be constructively molded into calls to action."     from the Fighting Bob Fest website
Wisconsin is not alone in the fight. Sure we have one of the worst governors ever to sit in office, but his time will come. (In fact just this week the FBI raided the home of his top aid, taking away files and the hard drive of her computer.) He was elected because the people were asleep, they were complacent, they were taking the easy way out. But not any more. We are awake and we will give this state back to the people. And we will take the fight all across the country.

John F Kennedy once said "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." It needs your help now if it is going to survive in any way shape or form we can be proud of. We can't let the radical right take control and destroy everything we hold dear. It's easy to tear it down. \But once it's gone, it's a long hard battle to get it back.

Yes, we are our brother's keeper. And when our brother suceeds, we all do.

I urge you to check out fightingbob.com. Sign up for the newsletter. Listen to the speeches. Think. React. Join us in Madison next year for Fighting Bob Fest 2012.

Friday, September 16, 2011

My Day 4 Geek Out - Star Wars Remix

Two words and everyone knows you're a geek. "Star Wars" And now it's on Blu-Ray.
Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Episodes I-VI) [Blu-ray]

I'm torn about mainly because George Lucas keeps trying to milk his franchise for every penny he can. And every time he does, he changes it. Usually not for the better.

But thru it all the fans still love it. And many, following George's lead, feel the need to make their own interpretations as well. That's why Star Wars Remix is so awesome. Here fans recreate their favorite characters or scenes in their own way often using very unique media. Here you'll find a R2D2 made entire of pushpins, or a glitter C#PO, or a Princess Leia made entire of spices. Amazing.

The website has only been up a week but the future looks great. Check it out.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Day 3 Geek Out - I get by with a little help from my wife

The day began as many do, with a walk to work tho this time it was a bit brisk. A small irregular flock of geese flew overhead going in the wrong direction, south. Autumn is here, winter is just around the next corner.

Later while at work I received a text. "Giant library sale tonight until 8... Could be geeky." It was from my wife. She offered to take if, later, she could get $4 worth of plants. How could I say no?

The main Madison Public Library downtown is going to go thru a major renovation. To make a little room before they move to temp quarters they are selling off a ton of books, vhs tapes, and books on tape. And at prices that make a geeky little book hoarder like myself jump in childish joy.

Laurie was very patient as I walked along the tables looking thru what was on display. This one looked good, this one looked interesting, that one is a maybe so I'll hide it over here.

When it was done I had 8 hardcover books (three were for Nolan our grandson, the rest were sci fi or related) and 7 unabridged books on cassette (all sci fi or horror except for one about the building of the Chrysler Building in NYC), and all for the remarkable price of $7.50.

Now if I only had the time to read/listen to them all. Maybe while Laurie is planting her new flowers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Day 2 Geek Out - Astronaut Brewster Shaw

Speak Out with Your Geek Out week continues in fine style.

Today I attended a lecture/presentation by former Shuttle astronaut Brewster Shaw. An alum of Wisconsin he flew as pilot of STS-9 and commander of STS-65B and STS-28.

Held at Engineering Hall on the UW campus it was packed. I was one of about a dozen of a hundred of attendees older than 25. It was an interesting speech but it was more a commercial for the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (he presented a check for $10,000 to engineering student Anthony Sprangers, the first Wisconsin recipient) and then a pitch to work for Boeing (he was VP there after leaving NASA). Later he did speak about what it felt like to launch into space and be an astronaut. He did so to encourage the students to enter the space program. He did so to make them want to go into space. Well, it worked for me, but that's a very easy sell.

My only complaint was that he had no visuals. Come on, man,  you went into space, you were bragging about the photo ops, and yet you don't even bring one? Sigh. Still I am very glad I attended as I got out of work early and it doubled my astronaut count to 2.

That will be hard act to follow tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Speak With Your Geek Out

Okay, I'm a Geek and proud of it. I love Godzilla, Doctor Who, science fiction, outer space, Peewee's Playhouse, epic fantasy, Star Trek, Star Wars, zombies, mummies and monsters... The list is obviously too long to list in its entirety here. Let's just say if it's weird, wild, or wonderful, I love it.

Sunday was the start of Speak With Your Geek Out Week. Initially proposed and organized by author and game designer Monica Valentinelli as a means to show the world the positive side of geekdom and there is nothing, absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

from the official blog http://www.speakoutwithyourgeekout.com/
Over 2,000 people have committed to sharing their enthusiasm and their love of their hobbies and vocations for an entire week of geek. Parents and children, friends and strangers, fans and creators are participating by blogging, mentoring, listening, speaking and sharing.

An entire community has built up around the idea that we can be positive role models. Positive. Before the week even began, people have reinforced the message that being happy is a choice and we are empowered to be who we are when we're together. Or simply: there is strength in numbers and even when we feel like the odd man out? We are not alone.
Some of you know that this summer my son, Shaun, and I attended the North American DiscWorld Convention celebrating the life and work of author Terry Pratchett.  A better collection of geeks you would not find anywhere on this or any other planet. Costumes and characters were everywhere and every now and then I have to admit I was jealous. These people dressed as orcs, bearded dwarves, and malfunctioning wizards, are so vibrant so alive so full of joy and happiness. It was like being part of the weirdest family in the universe and I loved it. And I'll do it again.

(Confession time: I will admit to a fondness for the aesthetics of steampunk. If you don't know what steampunk is, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steampunk I can easily seeing myself dressing for that role. Now if Laurie will only let me do it...)

So stand with me. Hold your sonic screwdriver high. (Yes, I have one.) Put your plush Spock teddy bear close to your breast. (Yes, I have one of those too.) And say with me to the world: We are geeks, we are proud, we will not change, we probably could not change. Don't judge us by your stereotypes. Judge us by our actions. Join us and you will smile in wonder at the universe not just as you did when you were a child but for every day of your life. That's why the universe is there. Just to make us wonder, and smile.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

NASA has an astronaut shortage. Is this my chance?

A new report out this week states that there is a serious astronaut shortage. With the end of the Space Shuttle program this summer and the chances for actually going into space limited there have been a more than average number of astronauts retiring this year. And the number of applicants to fill needed spots has declined as well. But new astronauts are still needed to man the International Space Station and to help plan and implement the future of manned space program.

In 2000 there were 149 in the astronaut corp. Today there are 60. The report by the National Research Council says that won't be enough. It worries that key skills could be lost.

I will state now that I am ready and very willing to step in on a moment's notice to fill the gap left by these retiring astronauts.

For my 50th birthday I attend Space Camp in Huntsville, AL. Once or twice a year they open it to adults only. It was an amazing time. An entire week getting my ultimate geek on, pretending I was on one hand going to the ISS and on the other acting all of 15 again.  But we did train on actual simulators first used in the Space Shuttle program.

As for my age? True, that training experience was a few years ago but if John Glenn can return to space at 77, I am ready and more than twenty years younger.

NASA, where do I sign?

You can see the report here: http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=13227

3 out of 4

Just announced! My flash fiction story "A Holiday For Reality" was selected as a winner in NECON Ebooks monthly contest. That makes winning three out of the last four months. The only month I missed since I have started entering was July when the theme was NECON itself. NECON is the Northeastern Writers' Conference held each year in Providence, RI and I have not attended. That put me at a slight disadvantage. 

The monthly flash fiction contest is only 100 words. It's an excellent exercise to keep those creative juices flowing especially when the work a day world is getting a bit hectic. I recommend it to all my writing friends.

You can find this month's winning entries, including my own, here: http://www.neconebooks.com/flash.htm

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Author Interviewed - Hey, It's Me

After a long Labor Day weekend, it was back to work refreshed and rejuvenated. HA!

But one very nice thing did happen. Kathy Epping, a realtor who lives in our neighborhood, interviewed me for her blog, Kathy's Neighborhood Notes. She did a very nice write up. Here's the link:


Then it was my turn. 

Thinking she saw my book on Amazon or read one of my short stories, I asked her how she out about me and my book.

I was driving past your house and I noticed that you had a lot of garbage out, as if you had cleaned the garage or basement.  Since I'm a Realtor, I thought you might be getting ready to move (my eyes are always peeled for that sort of thing).  I looked you up on the city assessors site, then googled you and found info about you and your book.  I'm also always looking for interesting ideas and information for my neighborhood blog.  Your book seemed like a good idea for a blog post.  And here we are.

And here we are.

Thank you, Kathy. It was fun. I'll let you know when I have any more big news.