Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


By The Way…

September 29, 2018

I have some other good stuff here:


This should post on Sat. Sept 29 at 10am.


NaNoWriMo – Here We Go!

October 26, 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Participant

It’s NaNoWriMo time again! What’s that? Don’t know what NaNoWriMo is? Why, it’s National Novel Writing Month, of course! Time for all the little novelist wannabes write for 30 days to finish a 50,000 word draft of a novel. I have been aware of NaNoWriMo for years, more like a decade, actually. But I have never truly participated.

Oh, sure, there was that one year that I jumped into the fray a week into November with no prep but just a concept. About a day later, and a full month of day job, rehearsals, and other scheduled activities ahead of me, I quickly recognized the futility of the effort and abandoned the project.

But here it is, just within a week before kickoff, and I have time ahead of me. I’m jumping in full-force with the same novel idea. But this time I have a little prep time to formulate characters, an outline, and general themes that I can work with.

How much is too much or too little prep time for writing a novel in 30 days? When I first heard about NaNoWriMo I figured that the participants jumped in with no concept, no prep, and literally created and wrote an entire novel from scratch. I now know that it is allowed to do prep prior to beginning on November 1st. I also know it is certainly allowable to have an unpublishable product by November 30. It’s all about getting the words down. Participants can always edit and revise later.

I’m seeing that some folks have been prepping for weeks, writing entire character biographies, sketching story and plot structures, and formulating entire chapter and scene outlines. I can see the advantage in that. But since I just decided that I am tossing my hat in the proverbial ring with less than a week to go, I have minimal time. But I am encouraged by my ideas. I am taking my same concept from my previous attempt (it’s a good concept!), and fleshing out some characters, organizing a loose outline, and by Nov. 1st I have a hazy blueprint to work from. The rest will all come from my noodle as I write.

So if you haven’t already, begin your preps and do the steps so get ready for the big day! For my jumpstart, I found a very useful set of novel writing templates from the Evernote blog here:

Happy writing!


I Might Be A Redneck

March 31, 2017

I am a Texas redneck by birth. While others may get to say they are of Italian descent or maybe from Irish immigrants, or even proudly proclaim their Jewish heritage, I’m just a simple redneck. And further inquiry into my family background led to ancestors from remote regions of Kentucky, so I guess that makes me a hillbilly Texan redneck. My given name is Bob Earl…need any other proof?

Up until age 12 I had firmly planned to be a truck driver shipping oil (“awl”) cross-country, just like my dad, my uncle, and their dad (my pappy) before them. It was in my blood. It was my destiny. I’m thankful I became a sensitive artsy dude who loves to sing and draw and write. I am also thankful I lost my full-blown Texas accent when I moved out of the state for good at age 12.

Though I lost my accent (I can bring it back out at will, however), I can still spot a Texan by their first few syllables. Celebrity actors like Tommy Lee Jones and Matthew McConahghey are spot-on with their dialects (Ahright ahright ahright!).

I can also detect a big ol’ fake when I hear it in movies and on the telly. Actors are often cast and directed to speak a general “southern” accent, which usually ends up in some sort of exaggerated drawl that has no real facsimile of any regional southern dialect, of which there are a distinct many state-specific accents including:

  • Texan
  • Oklahoma
  • Arkansas
  • Louisiana Cajun
  • Mississippi
  • Alabama (thanks Forrest Gump)
  • Georgia
  • Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Kentucky
  • Virginia/West Virginia

Left out is the general midwest accent which I simply label as “lazy speak”. I know this very well because after leaving Texas I ended up in Montana. Montanan’s don’t think they have an accent and they’re right. Midwesterners just kinda speak lazy, like they don’t open their mouth and don’t enunciate, much unlike a southern drawl that uses modified vowels and consonant elisions.

I have also been fortunate to have been a tour actor where I have studied and mentally catalogued regional dialects (which has come in handy for a few acting projects). I find it fun and fascinating to try and peg a dialect when I hear it to the appropriate state or nearest region.

But as for Texas, particularly west Texas, I can peg ‘em dead to rights. Here’s a short list of phrases with phonetic spelling that are a dead giveaway for a Texan:

“ahm headin’ tuh Seb’m leb’m” = I’m going to 7-Eleven

Hahbaht them Cahboehs?!” = How about America’s favorite NFL team, the Dallas Cowboys?

“Ah reck’n” = I suppose so

“slicker ‘n greased owl shit” = It’s very and slippery

“awl drillin’” = drilling for oil, also known as Texas Tea

“He’s crooked as a dawg’s hind leg” = that gentleman is up to no good

 “Don’ mess with Tyexas” = please do not say anything disparaging about my beloved home state

I miss Texas, or rather, “ah miss mah ol’ stowmpin’ grounds.”. It’s nice to get back and visit once in a while and unfold the old Texas drawl. But for now, “How ‘bout them Cowboys!”


Fountain Pen Follies

January 28, 2017


I have always liked pens. In my youth and college years I collected pens, much like now I collect books. (If you could see my bookshelves you would probably call me a hoarder.) Most of the pens I ever bought were used only once or twice, or never at all. I just liked how it looked. I even had a fountain pen or two. I tried using them and found them non-conforming to my writing style. None of the pens I collected made it through the many moves from house to house, town to town, or state to state. And I moved a lot.

I still have that fascination with pens. I now am more frugal and more particular with the pens I buy. I much prefer blue ink ball point pens. The 21st century has seen a staggering increase in gel pens and other roller ball pens. I can’t write with those. And here’s why.

When I was middle school age I hit my “writer” phase where I would write in spiral bound notebooks and journals a lot. I wanted my penmanship to resemble the seemingly perfect loopy, consistent, and somewhat flowery cursive that my female counterparts wrote on their papers. I practiced and practiced and found that my slightly right-slanted cursive always came out sloppy. So I modified my style to write sort of like a backwards left-hander. I’m a righty, but I curl my hand around so that my writing it straight up and down. But by doing so my pinky tends to rub and smear the lines I have already written.

With my kooky style I must be consciously aware of the type of ink I use so that it doesn’t smear. Gel inks are no good. Ball points are a must, and has to be of a more viscous ink that drys fast and doesn’t smudge. Fine point uses less ink so that is a must-have as well.

Fast forwarding past the 80’s into the 21st century during which hand writing all but disappeared into the virtual arena of electric keyboards and word processors, I am in a mental place where I like to write freehand again. Not that I could ever write an article or a novel all by hand, I still like to write holiday cards, journal notes, and morning pages a-la Julia Cameron and her Artist’s Way by hand. And I have found a new love for fountain pens. And let’s face it, there’s something cool and retro about an elegant looking writing instrument.

One was given to me as a gift a few years ago. It is Italian made and I have never found an ink cartridge that fits. Recently I bought a cheap Zebra V-301 which has surprised me with how durable the pen is, and how smooth of a writing tool it is. I’m also impressed with this fountain pen ink as it dries fast and doesn’t smudge like I thought it would with my kooky writing style. I like it so well that I went & bought what I thought were universal ink cartridges for my Italian model. Nope. They were Shaeffer cartridges and only fit Shaeffer pens. Well, says I, why not get a Shaeffer model fountain pen to match? So I found a nice, sleek matte black Schaeffer VFM model which I thought I could slip a cartridge inside and write away. Nope. Seems the cartridges fit all Shaeffer pens EXCEPT this model. Gah!

Ok, so I fall back on my trusty 21st century technology and Google my pens to find out what ink cartridges will fit. Turns out there are dozens and dozens of different pen manufacturers and about as many types of ink cartridges. My research landed on what I hope are the right cartridges for the right pens, including my trusty Zebra. So with Amazon Prime delivery I will know in two days if I will need to continue my search for properly and correctly fitted fountain pen ink cartridges, or if I will finally toss them out the window and stick with my trusty Bic accountant fine point. And if all else fails, at least I can still type 80 words per minute…with no smudges.


The Belt of the Gods

June 15, 2016


My life has been changed forever and it is all due to a new belt. More specifically, an elastic stretchy belt.

I have always worn a belt, for two reasons, mostly. First, my lineage is that of a Texas redneck. We wear leather belts. With big belt buckles We just do. Don’t question it. Besides keeping pants above the waistline I’ve never figured out the real reason. Some men are well shaped and don’t need a belt to hold up the jeans. The Texan belt, I figure, is purely decorative with large, shiny buckle to draw attention to our crotch area.

Texan men even wear belts around our necks. That’s right; instead of a formal men’s long or bow tie, we wear the famous “bolo” tie which is essentially a belt around the neckline with a smaller decorative buckle.

Second, and the most obvious reason, is to cinch our trousers around our hips so they don’t fall down. In my 20’s and 30’s a belt wasn’t really necessary for that purpose. But now as I am now the age of mumblemumble I find that my britches tend to sag due to a curious barrel shape my body has taken in my middle parts. Let’s just say that my 20-something six-pack is now a keg. Therefore, a belt has been an unavoidable and fundamental element to my daily couture.

My belt of choice has been a simple, thin, plain, black, leather belt. It works for work. Discrete. Fashionable. Easy to store. But alas, after a hearty meal or the day following an earnest evening of brew tasting the usual belt setting embraces my waistline with much restraint and groaning protest.

Recently I was introduced to the stretchy belt.

And there was much rejoicing and sounding of trumpets and jamming of saxophones and melting of faces with electric guitar!

Hallelujah! This $20 little piece of elastic braided belt is a gift sent by the gods of growing waistlines. No longer do I have to loosen the leather strip another notch after a Thanksgiving feast. I can cinch it up tight enough to hold up the sinking, slipping britches, and when I sit properly in a chair the elastic flexes so I do not feel that burdensome hip pinch.

It feels good to breathe. It really does. And the remorseful act of sucking in the gut to prevent permanent and indented “belt waist” is a thing of the past. Thank you, gods of the growing waistline, for your generous favor to beer-bellied fellows everywhere!


Coffee Armageddon

June 14, 2016


Our coffee machine is busted at work. And guess who’s in charge of coffee. That’s right, yours truly. I had no idea that a coffee-less office could be so uptight. I should have expected it, though. The pure outrage and sinister intimidations I have received from coworkers experiencing caffeine withdrawals is paramount to road rage on an epic scale. Within the last two days since the coffee Armageddon I have been threatened with at least one of the following if I don’t repair the machine or replace it post-haste:

“I hope you step on a Lego!”

“I will dress you as lettuce and feed you to the snails!”

“I will delete your hard drive!”

“I’m gonna rip off your cajones and boil ‘em in motor oil!”

“Listen up you little spazoid, I swear to everything holy that your dead ancestors will cry when they see what I’ve done to you!”

Boy, do they reeeeally want some coffee. But I don’t take any of it personally.

Let me back up and first explain that our office coffeemaker is a Keurig. The Keurig design, though convenient and offers many delicious choices of flavors for single cup pours, turns out to be the Yugo of coffeemakers. If you aren’t familiar with the Yugo, it was a former communist Yugoslavian designed car from the early 1980’s that appeared to have been manufactured at gunpoint. It started as a big hit for economic size, price and fuel efficiency. But it was soon recognized as an unimaginative eyesore and didn’t take more than a simple drive around the block for owners to realize the car was a disastrous and dangerous monstrosity just waiting to break down, fall apart, or worse, blow up at the worst possible moment.

That’s what you get with a Keurig.

The Keurig was designed to be a convenient way to make a single cup of coffee. Oh, but you can only purchase and use the expensive licensed K-cup coffees along with the machine. Oh, and did I mention that the expensive machines are made to be disposable? That’s right, gang. If a Keurig fails or malfunctions (which they often do. Just read the reviews.) there are no repair shops available. Coffee machine repair technicians (and this is a real, honest job, folks) have emphatically stated that the Keurig has no replacement parts, and it is more expensive to repair than to simply replace a Keurig machine. Ergo, they are disposable contraptions.

Which brings me back to my dilemma. No Keurig – no coffee. Also, no manager or CFO around this week to approve a new purchase of another disposable machine. So, I guess I’ll have to endure the sad, pathetic threats of my co-workers for another 3 or 4 days. In the meantime, I’m headed to the 7-Eleven down the block for a nice, cheap cuppa joe.


Bake Mouth at 450 Degrees

April 26, 2016


I’m sure I’m not the only one who has burned the tongue from a hot cup of coffee, or a bite of burger hot off the grill, or maybe a bit of overdone potato. But have you ever scalded your mouth from something steaming hot? I mean fresh outta the oven at 450 degrees?  So hot you can even see the steam rising? Scorched to the point of dripping, ruined flesh?

Uh, me neither.

Oh alright…I did it.

One major problem of extreme hunger is impatience. Any 5pm on a weekday is happy hour somewhere. We had intel that a great new little restaurant just opened up and had a fabulous happy hour prices on delicious food. I’m all about cheap and delicious, so off we went.

I’m a sucker for a delicious dip, so I had to order the cream cheese artichoke heart dip. Prepared fresh and baked at 450 degrees, it went straight from the oven to the table right in front of my hungry, impatient mouth. Ah, dinner time! I knew it was hot, sure. So I blew on it a little, and shoved a chip-full of it right in.

The attempted caress of air used as a stop-gap cooling method didn’t work. Nope. Not at all. With extremely poor etiquette that would cause Miss Manners to blush and glare, I expelled the offensive scorching fragment of hell right back onto my plate. But it was too late. The damage was done. At once I felt hanging chads of flesh clinging to the roof of my mouth. My tongue felt like a summer day on the Sahara. And only mass quantities of ice water soothed the burn.

Dinner wasn’t nearly as delicious after that. But it didn’t stop me from eating it after an appropriate cooling period. I learned my lesson: when the directions say ‘let sit for 5 minutes before eating’, it’s for your own damn protection.

So if this happens to you, feel free to adopt my impromptu methods below to assuage the incinerating oven that is now your mouth.

After the burn:

  1. Let Someone Know

It is important to inform the fellow diners and restaurant employees of the emergency. Do like me and with an open scorching mouth yell, “AAAAAHHH!!! GAHHH DAAANG!!! ‘AAASSS HAAAAAWWWT!!!!”

  1. Apply Ice Water

To begin immediate relief, use copious amounts of ice water. Splash the remaining 10-12 ounces of ice water from your glass inside your gaping mouth. Don’t worry about getting water on your outfit. It will dry. If possible, perhaps through the aid of your dining partner since you now cannot speak, request a trough of ice water be placed in front of you.

  1. Avoid Crunchy Foods

After the burn, it is wise to avoid crunchy foods. Do not eat that tortilla chip that came with your scalding artichoke dip. It is now a shard for which to pierce your sensitive pie hole.

  1. Eat Plenty of Ice Cream

As a form of recompense, ask the restaurant for a dish of delicious, sweet ice cream for desert. At least three scoops. Eat more when you get home. And be sure to stock up because ice cream will be your only meal for the next few days.