Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Giant That Lives At Our House!

Since I posted pictures of our newest dog and have told stories of Max, our black Labrador, a few of you have E mailed me and wanted to see pictures of him. I don't think some of you believed how big he really is.

Max weighs between 120 and 125 pounds generally. Our veterinarian has stated that Max is the biggest dog he takes care of. Walking Max is incredibly difficult. It takes nearly everything I can do to handle him. I swear that dog could pull a plow and till a field.

Having Max as a pet is really cool. As big as he is, he's a dog that doubles as a pony.

Whenever I have to walk him somewhere, it's better if he wants to go that way anyhow. Because, at least for a while until I get a better grip and can dig in, we're going where he wants to go. Most veterinarians have tile floors. Sometimes it's hard to get a grip on tile floor. Occasionally, I have done extreme dog sledding there while handling Max.

As you can see from these photos with Chandler, Max is huge. We've had Max since Chandler was a baby. Can you imagine letting your child play with something this monstrous? What if it got hungry?

Utility people who have gotten surprised or ambushed in the backyard have sworn they thought they were getting attacked by a bear. Max has never hurt anyone, but he won't let anyone get around Sherry or Chandler if he thinks they're dangerous. He's kept other dogs away and he's killed snakes in the backyard. He has a unique approach to the latter. He grabs the snakes in his jaws, whipcracks them from side to side, then crunches them to death.

One thing we all know is that Sherry is Max's best buddy. She can get him to calm down when no one else can. He adores her, and I have to admit he's got good taste.

Chandler got his second snow day off this week. And tomorrow he gets his third. Today he and Ruby chased each other around the back yard, laughing and barking. Chandler was the one who was laughing, just for clarification. But I swear sometimes I think they traded off.

And yes, Max is a gentleman. He always saves the last dance for Sherry.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Stranded In A Winter Wilderness!

The winter storm the weatherman predicted arrived Monday afternoon without fanfare. That morning had been cold and wet, but I didn't really expect the ice to arrive the way it did. It crept over us with stealthy ninja moves and turned highways into lethal wastelands. When I went to bed last night, there had been two fatalities, 60 injury related accidents, and 140 non-injury accidents. The police department gave up investigating anything that was not an injury.

My wonderful wife Sherry grew up in Minnesota and is used to inclement weather. On Sunday night, she insisted on going to your grocery store and stocking up for least three days. When all five kids lived with us, that was never a problem. I was known as the dad who had the corner grocery store in his house. I never bought less than 10 cans of anything, never less than the large economy size toilet paper, and never less than the 10 pound package of hamburger meat, which I divided into 1 pound packages and put into the freezer.

Without Sherry's foresight, one of us would have had to have been out in this mess. As it is, we get to stay home, warm and comfy.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Time For A Cat Adjustment!

My son's newest cat, Tiger, has been overly energetic since we brought him home. At first it was pretty cute. Chandler and Tiger would play all throughout the house, chasing each other and having a great time. But they're both too big to do that. Lately Tiger has started marking his territory and doesn't always use the litter box, which invokes the Mom Wrath.

Chandler has tried teaching him to use the litter box every time, but that's not working. He's a stubborn cat. We've also tried putting him outside, but Tiger has always been inside the house. Every time he goes outside, he freaks out and cowers until we bring him in.

I have to admit, Tiger's outside experience hasn't been good. The first time he accidentally got locked outside, I was mowing the lawn. He freaked out and I didn't notice it at first. He was jumping up to grab hold of the doorknob, crying out for someone to come save him.

Since then, he goes out long enough to roll in the dirt once, then comes back inside the house.

Sherry has gotten frustrated with Tiger's bathroom behavior failings as well as his Tarzan of the apes gymnastics across the curtains. And she's gotten tired of picking up all the pictures Tiger continually knocks down from the entertainment center.

I went to the vet to pick up food for our labrador this afternoon. While I was there, I mentioned Sherry's desire to have Tiger declawed and neutered.

(See why I never get her mad enough at me to invoke Mom Wrath? I mean, you're on your best behavior or you end up missing body parts you'd kind of taken for granted and figured would always be with you.)

I told the vet that I felt guilty about having Tiger neutered at such a young age. I didn't want any personality changes because my son likes him just the way he is. And after going through the operation, Tiger probably is not going to be as trusting as he was before.

The vet said he understood my feelings, but he said this is the mistake most people make. They don't think they should have a male cat neutered as much as they think they should have their female spayed. He went on to tell me that a healthy young male cat could impregnate as many as 20 females in a single day. So one day of having your cat loose in the neighborhood could result in the birth of a 80 kittens.

Man, if tomcats had paternity suits they would be so screwed!

Later, I was talking to my wife and son, letting them know what the vet had said. I mentioned the fact that our young tomcat could impregnate 20 females in one day if left unchanged or unsupervised. I also mentioned that that must really be the life. My son laughed at me. But he's not worried for his cat anymore, so this is good.

I'm not crazy about having Tiger declawed, but he is tearing up things and I know that, with my son, that cat will never live outside and he will be taken care of for the rest his life.

So I feel better about it too. Still, I hate to change the natural order of things. But that order is changed the minute you bring a cat in the house to live -- because that's not normal either. For either one of you.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Lesson In Economics!

I love teaching life lessons to kids. It's always interesting to me to find some way to relate "adult" ideas and realities to younger minds. The correlation doesn't always exist and sometimes I have to be creative.

Today an opportunity presented itself and I chose to take advantage of it. With all the current economic concerns, today's kids are going to have to learn how to squeeze a buck the way I had to when I was growing up and paid for everything myself.

Now that I'm back teaching at OU, my eleven year old has to stay after school with his mother while she catches up on lesson plans and tutors kids (for free). He's not always happy with this arrangement, but this is what we have to do. I guess I could launch into the whole adult responsibility thing. But for now I'm going to stick with economics.

This is a very simple lesson, so pay attention.

Chandler is always looking for ways to make money, and to make the best of a situation, which generally means making money. He negotiated a deal with his mother to earn 50¢ a day for helping her when he stays after school. Bright kid, I have to admit. I wouldn't have thought of doing something like that.

So today, on my first day at school, he earned his first 50¢. On the way to dinner tonight, he was happily telling me about it. So I asked him what he did with the 50¢. He said he bought a coke. I pointed out the cokes cost a dollar. He said his mom loaned him 50¢.

Then I told him this is how America has gotten into so much economic trouble. People earn 50¢, then go out and spend a dollar. Pretty soon, you're broker than broke.

He went on to tell me he did not force his mother to loan him the 50¢. I told him that I only wanted to discuss managing personal finances at the moment and didn't really have time to get into the whole banking and bailout issues.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

At Amazon

Sundayyyy, Sunnnnddddaayyyyy Giveaway!

HarperCollins has graciously allowed me to give away another book on this site. This is one of Gregory Maguire's Wicked books.

Please comment on this posting to enter the contest. The drawing will be held Thursday night. Good luck!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

How Much Is That Robot Cat In The Window?

I usually start my morning by reading news articles at various websites. Some my favorites are the science pieces. I like to know what's coming next. Plus I admit to a heavy fascination with technology.

Today there was a piece about robot cats. The article discussed both the needs of humans for pets as well as the downside of pet ownership. Personally, I sometimes enjoy having them inthe house when I'm by myself. As long as they don't bother me. And I do enjoy watching my son play with them. He has a blast with them, and they have an affinity for him.

Also personally, I'm taking allergy shots once a week to help me control hay fever and sinus problems...after having surgery for the same. I'm highly allergic to cats as it turns out. My son has three cats. Do you see the quandry?

I went to pick my son up for lunch today. Usually when we have lunch, we talk about a lot of things. He's into science and technology and always has lots of questions about superheroes. Today I brought up the possibility of a robot cat.

Chandler assured me that a robot cat could not love a person nearly as much as a flesh and blood cat. I assured him that I could live with less love and that the robot cat could not make me sneeze nearly as much as a flesh and blood one. Plus you didn't have to feed or clean up after a robot cat. I thought I could sell him on that one alone.

I also explained the fun you can have with the robot cat. Need a statue? No problem. Just turn the robot cat off in whatever stance you want it in, meek or ferocious.

Need a paperweight? Use the above application and simply place the frozen cat wherever you need to.

Want a television remote upgrade? Simply program the robot cat with a blue-tooth application or infra-red relay. Then tell the robot cat what you want to watch on television. A serious upgrade would be where the robot cat would automatically record the programs you routinely watch. And if you're a guy watching racy movies at home and get caught, you can always blame it on having a defective robot cat.

There are various other uses for a robot cat that I can see. Yard defense would be perfect. Neighborhood dogs would no longer fertilize my lawn and create a stinky obstacle course.

But the one I think I would enjoy most of all would be programming the robot cat to answer the telephone.

"Hello, this is Mel's robot cat. Mel can't come to the phone right meow..."

Friday, January 16, 2009

What Is It That Makes A Made Bed So Comfortable?

Sherry made it back from Minnesota this evening. This morning when she got up it was 47° below. Most of the cars at the hotel she stayed at didn't start. She said there were a lot of people stranded in the lobby waiting till it warmed up. I hope that happened. I keep having this mental image of a lot of people stranded at the hotel like in a bad Twilight Zone episode.

Sherry was worn out after that 15 hour drive. She wanted to watch Will Peterson's last CSI episode, but I don't know if she made it through it. I'll check in the morning.

During the last couple of days, I have to admit I haven't made the bed. I guess I'm a bachelor at heart. And, honestly, Chandler and I have both been sick. Some great three days for Mom to be gone.

Anyway, Sherry went to bed. The first thing she did was make it all nice and neat. I was worn out from the cold I've been fighting and laid down for a while myself. I'm back up again because I'm waiting for Mucinex to kick in.

The thing that amazed me is how comfortable the bed felt after Sherry made it. The bed hadn't changed at all, but there's something about the sheets, blankets, and comforter all been neatly arranged that really feels different. Something so simple can make such a big difference. Usually I don't go to bed till I'm passing out at the computer. But tonight, when I just felt bad, that neatly made bed felt amazing.

It's weird how you forget the little things and take them for granted so much.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

My Son's Twisted Humor!

Sherry left on Tuesday to go to a funeral in Minnesota. Chandler, my eleven year old, and I have been bachelors since. He got up sick Tuesday morning, though. He has chronic asthma and this is a bad time of year. I've been having some problems myself with sinus headaches. When I start to getting them, I usually start Mucinex almost immediately to eliminate sinus drainage, which is a primary source of my asthma flare-ups.

Chandler is too young for Mucinex. His biggest problem is from the drainage going on right now. He missed school yesterday and today. This morning I took him to his doctor and got some antibiotics as well as other medicines. So he's going to be better soon.

But getting back to my child's twisted sense of humor--I know it's not all his fault. He's been brought up around me all his life, and truth to tell my wife isn't much better. She's just more practiced at hiding her twisted nature.

Anyway, I had to get my weekly allergy shot Tuesday morning. On the way back, Chandler and I stopped at Taco Bell for a late breakfast/early lunch. We got it to go so we could go back home and feel miserable together. And maybe catch cartoons.

While we were waiting in the drive-thru line, Chandler had a really bad coughing fit. I told him he was going to cough up a lung. He immediately fired back, "If I do, I'm going to sell it."

My kid. Probably other people would love him, but NO ONE else would understand him.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Trying Something New Over At Storyteller's Role!

I decided to try an all writing blog again. I have done it before in the past and kind of lost interest along the way. However, teaching at the University of Oklahoma is making constantly think about the way I write.

(Also, I finally got my speech recognition software working again. So, just as I'm doing now, all I have to do is speak into a microphone and the computer types everything into the document for me. So we'll see if my production raises. You still have to plan out what you're going to say and how a story progresses, but it saves a lot on the wear and tear of the hands and the back.)

I'd like to invite you to come by, take a look at Storyteller's Role, and comment or ask questions. I'm going to be thinking about writing a lot over this next year two as publishing has its ups and downs as well. Work still appears to be there for me, but I know the publishing landscape will change some. It already was before the recession hit.

So over at the Storyteller's Role site, I want to write about what I think I see in the business, the skills I think will be necessary to get a writer by, as well as the new opportunities writers have based on the Internet audience. One thing to note, reviews are no longer under the purview solely of magazines and newspapers. Bloggers are increasingly taking over this role and reaping the benefits as new writers worth reading.

It's a new world, people, but there are even more doors now than there were before. You just have to look for them. Good luck, and thanks for being there.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Homely Dog Has Got A Home!

In the terrible ice freeze of 2007, we lost one of the family pets. Lindsay hadn't been with us more than a handful of years, but my wife and son had gotten very attached to her.

We talked about getting another dog to pair up with our 120 pound black labrador for a year before Sherry and Chandler were really ready for a new dog. Sherry had owned a beagle before we got married and really enjoyed that dog. So I thought maybe the new dog should be a beagle. After all, I'd grown up with Snoopy in Peanuts. And there was something to be said for having a smaller dog since we have Max, the labrador.

As an addendum to that ice storm story, there was a funny interlude. The OG&E guys came out to our backyard to check the transformer there when all the power was out. I knew they were back there when I heard voices. Then I heard terrified yells and knew that they had met Max. In the winter with his full fur coat, Max looks even more huge.

The young guy had cleared the fence, but the older guy couldn't get over. He was pressed up against the back of the house and in fear for his life. Both of them told me they thought they had been rushed by a bear. It was funny to me because Max has never tried to hurt anyone, except for a snake he killed in the backyard.

So anyway, I made a few calls and found a beagle mix at the shelter. When Sherry and Chandler were out of school last week on the last day of winter break, they went to the shelter to look at the dog. Sherry didn't know the shelter required cash only so I had to make a trip up to give her the money.

Then I saw the dog. It's a cross between a beagle and a Basset hound. Why someone would do that, I have no clue. As you can tell from the picture, she looks like a stretch beagle, like a limousine of doghood. It's really weird, because she has short little legs though with her body length she can nearly stand up to my shoulder.

But the dog is just homely. I pictured beagles and got a totally different image. The color was way off from what I had imagined. The fact that she looks like pulled taffy is just bonus homely points.

I threatened to go look at the rest of the dogs in the shelter just to assure myself that they had indeed picked out the homeliest dog in the building. I didn't, but only because I was afraid we would end up with more than one dog that day. I usually don't go to shelters because I tend to go into rescue mode.

Needless to say, Ruby is mostly a house dog at this point, and is being babied by my wife and my son. Chandler, whose mutant power is animal attraction, has already got Ruby following him all around the house and yowling after him when he has to go to school. You'd think that dog's heart was being broken.

I'm checking around for a homely dog contest. My wife and son tell me I need to stop being mean about Ruby's looks. But when she takes home the blue ribbon, I'm going to have the last laugh.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The New Wimpy Kid Is Coming!

The new Wimpy Kid book goes on sale at midnight, January 13. Several of the bigger chain stores are doing midnight lay downs with the book at that time.

Jeff Kinney, the author and illustrator of the book, has done a fantastic job with this series. Greg Hefley, the main character, isn't perfect by any means. He may not even be a kid you want your kid to know. But he's a lot of fun too read about.

There's already a movie in the works. And with only three books in, if you haven't heard of the series, do yourself a favor and pick up all the Wimpy Kid books on Tuesday. The only thing you'll hear it out of your children for hours is giggles. Then when they go to bed, read the books and relive your childhood.

A new USA Today interview with Jeff can be found here.

I can't recommend these books enough.

At Amazon.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Holy Ransom Note, Batman!

My 11 year old is going to be rich one of these days, and I'm going to be broke. His quick and agile mind is always working. And he's starting to turn his incredible brain power to making money. Expect infomercials from this kid soon.

I accidentally left my phone in my wife's van the other day. I was supposed to meet a student for lunch to get some paperwork taken care of, but his number was in my cell phone and not in my computer address book.

I called Sherry and asked her for the number. She told me she was busy driving and that Chandler would have to get it for me.

After a moment, Chandler answered the phone in his sly, devious voice, and said, "We have the number. Do you have the money?"

Evidently, ransoming things is now a viable business in his financial lexicon. Of course, faced with the fading economy we're currently in, ransoming could be a lucrative line of work.

For those of you who want to skip the whole cut-and-paste routine with newspaper clippings, there is a ransom note generator you can find here.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunnnnndddaaayyyyyy GiveAway!

I have one copy of Stephenson's new book that I'm giving away on the site. I'm also giving away two copies at BookHound.

Simply comment to be entered. I'm taking entries from now till Thursday, then drawing them out of a hat. I'll announce the winner on Friday.

Stephenson is regarded as one of the best science fiction writers working today. This is supposed to be one of his finest books.

Again, we have the good people at HarperCollins to thank for the books. You can check out more information about the book at Amazon.

Good luck!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Sunday, Sunday, Sundayyyyyy -- Giveaway!

Thanks to the generosity of the good folks at HarperCollins publishers, I have copies of Maureen McCormick's recent hardcover in hand to give away. I'm giving one away on this site, and two on Bookhound, my book review site.

I've got a few more books that I'll be giving away as well on successive Sundays. First come, first serve. And the postage is on me. You just can't beat a deal like that!

1-08-2009. Happy Birthday, Elvis! Our contest is over. Congrats to our winner, Terri. Stay tuned to next Sunday when we have another book giveaway.