Saturday, October 31, 2009

Some Quick Stuff

  • Thanks to everyone who read the YA. I'm waiting on a couple more people, but I already have a good idea of things I need to work on.
  • How come the holes in belts are never exactly where you want them?
  • I bought Skittles, Starbursts, and Kit Kats for Halloween. I've kept the bags in the backseat of my car because if I brought them in the house, the Kit Kats would already be gone. Kit Kats are good, for those keeping score at home. Conspicuously absent? Almond Joys. Although, after talking with The Wife, she reminded me of the commercial jingle "Almond Joy's got nuts. Mounds don't" which means that there is actually a candy bar that is worse than Almond Joy. It also means that you can eat a Mounds here, but you can't eat an Almond Joy. Not that you'd want to eat either one.
  • I dressed up for my classroom Halloween party. I was Caesar. I bought my costume at Wal-mart for seventeen bucks. None of my students knew who I was, but when I told them, they said, "Like Little Caesar's?" Yes, just like Little Caesar's.
  • Phillies in six. Utley wins MVP. (Yeah, I know that's not exactly a limb I'm on, since he already homered twice.)
  • My house is falling apart. Two bricks have fallen out of the inside wall of the fireplace. My hot tub is a cold tub. And we've got a leak in the three season's room. So starting today, there's a dollar charge for reading this blog. You can email your dollar to me at Thanks.
  • On second thought, scratch that dollar thing. If I charged people, I'd feel obligated to provide something of worth on here and I just don't need that kind of pressure. So if you really want to email me, you can send along funny YouTube clips.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

From the Classroom

After some kid farted, another one said, "It smells like someone's business."

I had a hard time keeping a straight face.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Why I'm Not Doing NaNoWriMo

I will not be participating in National Novel Writing Month. There are a few reasons.


1. I don't want to start a new novel. I've got two novels in a sort-of-done stage right now and I've been lax on the whole agent search thing. So what I need to do is figure out a decent query for FARVE and hit UP NORTH with the revision stick. And I've got two other novels in progress that have some potential.

2. I probably wouldn't finish in thirty days and then I'd feel like a failure and I don't like feeling like a failure. To illustrate: I was at a bar a few years back and had engaged in some over-imbibing. It happened to be karaoke night. I'm not normally one for karaoke. In fact, what I usually do while someone karaokes is make snide remarks to my friends that are probably louder than I intend them to be. I especially deride the trios of women that sing together because 1. they're not brave enough to go it alone, 2. they act like they're really having fun but that's just a cover for their anxiety, 3. if they're attractive, guys will encourage them and applaud them even if (and there's really no if about it) they totally suck*, and 3. nothing sounds crappier than three twenty-something girls singing at the same time.

So I'd had a few and I got the great idea to show off my vocal range, which, you may remember, is not exactly expansive. I went alone (to do otherwise would have been grossly hypocritical by that time of the night), and I elected to sing Clarence Carter's Strokin'.

I thought I was hilarious.** I acted out the appropriate parts of the song and sang with gusto. I was working hard up there, brother. And when I finished, I expected rousing applause or at least some good-natured laughter. Instead, most people ignored me, a few grumbled, and one jerk yelled, "You suck!" My feelings were really hurt. Which is saying something considering the euphoric state I was in. So yeah, failure stinks.

3. I really can't stand typing or saying NaNoWriMo. Seriously, typing that right then made me throw up in my mouth just a little. Ick. It's like some stupid thing a little kid would make up, like "nana nana boo boo!" And where did nana nana boo boo come from, anyway? All kids, upon reaching a certain age, seem to know nana nana boo boo and I don't get where they learn it. Last week, my very own child uttered this ludicrous phrase and I scolded her for it.*** There will be no nana nana boo boo in my house. And there'll be no NaNoWriMo, either. (Shudders)

* I include myself in this group, but note that I am not faulting the guys. We are behaving as we are biologically programmed to do. It's the girls, knowing that they'll get this treatment, that I blame, because if they are in fact attractive they almost always already know it. It's not like they need drunk guys hooting at them. They do it to make their ugly friends feel bad. That's my theory anyway. And that's just not cool.

**This is sort of a chronic failing, altered state of mind or not.

***I said, "No! There will be no nana nana boo boo. Stop that right now! If I ever hear you say nana nana boo boo in this house, then I'm going to tell you again that there is no nana nana boo boo in this house. You hear me, young lady?"

Sunday, October 25, 2009

An Embarrassing Secret (But Aren't Most of Them?)

"What is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets."
--Andre Malraux

So in an attempt be less miserable, I'm going to unload a rather embarrassing secret today. It's a secret that I only revealed to The Wife two days ago, and since I found the whole experience pretty liberating, I figured, why not tell a few people I've never met?

I don't get time travel.

There, I said it. I know I'm supposed to get time travel because I am 1. a guy, 2. a huge Back to the Future fan, and 3. thought Bill and Ted' Excellent Adventure was excellent. But really, I don't get it and I never have.

I bring this up because of the book I just finished, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. SPOILER: There's some time travel stuff in there. And I really couldn't wrap my head around much of it. This is nothing new. In spite of my adoration of Back to the Future (and the fact that I've seen those movies way too many times to accurately count), I have never gotten time travel.

I mean, I get the theory and I'm perfectly willing to go along with the eventual possibility of it happening. I just don't get the physics at all. Any time I read a book or watch a movie and there's any time traveling in it, my head just about explodes trying to figure it all out.

I think part of the problem is there needs to be some agreement on the rules. Can you or can you not run into yourself in your own past or future? Will that or will that not cause problems? If I go back in time as an old man and influence my younger self to act in a way that I did not when I was younger, doesn't that then change me (the old man)? If so changed, am I still presented with the opportunity to go back in time, or would my new life trajectory make that impossible? If it was impossible and I couldn't go back in time as an older man to alter my younger self's life, then---ah! Screw it!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I Don't Believe You

Blog business first: Thanks to Abby, Yaya, and Top Dragon for joining the party. Your followership has pushed the number to fifty and that is at once awesome and baffling. Not unlike Barry Gibb's voice.

So I was reading Nathan Bransford's blog today. I don't recall the topic, but in the comments, writers were saying stuff I've heard writers say lots of times. And I realized I didn't really believe some of them. In fact, there are a few things writers claim that I hardly ever believe. I don't think they're necessarily lying. I think a lot of them have convinced themselves that they're telling the truth. But I also think there are writers who, especially when commenting in a forum likely read by publishing types, think there are certain things they're supposed to say. So they say them. Suck-ups.

The worst of these is something along the lines of "I have to write." You don't. You have to sleep. You have to drink water. Less often, you have to eat. (Unless you're an Olson twin.) People say they have to write because it sounds good, like the writer is not only dedicated, but physically addicted. Because we all know how appealing addiction is, no?

Then there's the opposite: the tortured writer who comes to the computer kicking and screaming. Like exercise, this writer, who can often be found on bestseller lists, claims she really hates to do it, but, because she's such a pro, she makes herself and, although she's not exactly happy to have it done, she can at least go about the rest of her day. (Which is almost always equally awful.)

I'm also bothered by the whole "my characters go off and do shit on their own without my permission" stuff. I get that you're really into your story and that you dream about your characters. I get that you put your characters in situations and then realize those characters are going to act differently than originally planned. I even get that your characters unexpectedly change during the course of writing a novel. But you are the creator. You are the god of your story. And you decide what your characters will say, do, and feel. So please, quit acting like you've created such amazingly deep characters that they've actually turned into real people with the ability to make decisions on their own. Cause that just sounds like a bad Will Smith movie.

One more: "I don't care if I ever get published/I write only for myself." Look, part of why I write is to entertain myself. But the truth is, I can entertain myself without ever writing any of it down. And I don't slave over commas and word choice out of fear of disappointing myself. Ultimately, 90 percent of what I write is intended to be read by other people. Hopefully, lots of other people.

And now that you're all frothing and your fingertips are itching to disagree with me (just in case an agent stumbles onto my comments and remembers you as the one who agreed that you actually don't have to write), allow me to say some things that I, as a teacher, am not supposed to say:

  • Not all kids are cut out for college.
  • Yes, they can all learn, but they can't all learn what we want them to. And I'm not talking about speed. I'm talking about there are some kids who are never going to get certain things like I am never going to understand the internal combustion engine. (Are engines still internally combustible?)
  • I am not "in it for the kids." And I am not alone. Don't get me wrong, I like the kids. I'd much rather spend eight hours with them instead of adults, but they are not why I put up with the associated nonsense. That reason is simple: pay and benefits, just like most of you at your jobs.*

*Some proof that I'm not alone: Here in Michigan, funding is being cut and will be cut even further next year. When these cuts occur, most teachers will not take much of a salary hit because their unions (comprised of teachers) will fight that vigorously. What will happen instead? Cuts will be made to other programs, programs that help kids. Newer teachers, ones with the most energy and innovative ideas, will be laid off, which will in turn increase class sizes, which has been shown to negatively impact student performance. (And teachers who've been around forever will complain of having 35 kids in their rooms, not realizing the rich irony.**)I'm not proud of any of this, but the truth is, there are a whole lot of teachers who are not just doing it "for the kids."

I'm also not willing to be overly critical. I never took a vow. I never received a calling. This ain't the clergy; it's a job, and it's increasingly becoming a job that's coming dangerously close to surrogate parent for way too many of these kids. So I can understand teachers wanting paychecks in line with other professionals.

**I've never really understood irony.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Writers and Sensitivity

Since I no longer have original ideas, I've decided to simply steal Nathan Bransford's post titles. Why Nathan Bransford? Because everyone reads Nathan Bransford. And because his post titles are sometimes interesting. And because he'd kind of cute. No Alexander Field, but come on, who is?

So today Nathan wrote about the sensitivity of writers. You've probably already read it, so here's my personal take:

I am not, by nature, a sensitive person. My feelings are not often wounded. A large part of this is because I'm fairly oblivious to other people. Yes, I recognize their presence, but it isn't long before I'm blissfully lost in my own thoughts (most of which concern me) while mumbling affirmations ("Yep," "Uh-huh," "Sure") that give the appearance of reciprocal conversation. So when someone looks at me askance or obliquely criticizes me, I scarcely notice, much less care.*

And then there's writing. Like other writers, I am intensely sensitive when it comes to others' criticisms of my masterpieces work. Here's how something like that tends to go:

Criticizer: You know, the beginning of this story just didn't grab me.
My Head: That's because you're a flipping moron.
My Mouth: Oh?
Criticizer: Yeah. I think you're spinning your wheels here a little. The story really seems to start on page six.
My Head: Okay, but what about those first five pages? Pretty sweet, eh? Original stuff, huh? Haven't read anything like it, have you? You expect me to just throw it out, after I've reworked those pages thirty times?
My Mouth: I see what you're saying. Thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

This is where I could spend some time talking about why writers (including me) are hyper-sensitive to criticism of their writing, even when they're not too worried what others think about, say, their clothing, hygiene, or worldview, but I'm not going to because I don't really care why. Some things just are.

I think all writers are like this. The difference is some of us hide it better than others and most of us, after we've internally reacted like a petulant kindergartner**, actually listen to the criticism and do something about it. (And by "do something about it" I'm not referring to retribution against those who would dare criticize us by burning a bag of dog poo on the criticizer's front stoop, or egging their Mazda, or leaving lingerie in the backseat of the guy's 1999 Mazda Millenia, where his wife will find it because his wife cleans the backseat of the Mazda every Sunday, right after she waters the begonias. That's not what I'm talking about.)***

*None of this part is really true, but it sounded kind of good when I wrote it.
**I hate spelling this word.
***On second thought, that part up above where I paint myself with a rather selfish brush, is sometimes true. Sometimes.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Things I Like

Making this list was harder than I thought it would be. It wasn't because I had a hard time thinking of things I like (although I'm sure tomorrow I'll think of something that should be on this list), but because 1. Some of the things I like are kinda boring and I don't wish to bore you and 2. I technically like way too many things. (Foods alone would comprise a list longer than anyone would wish to read.) So I gave myself some rules. First, as for food, I only put down those foods that I really like. As in, I could eat it every day. Second, I left out some boring stuff that just about everyone likes, such as sleep and their family. Third, I was extremely selective when it came to things like songs and movies because I had to be. I'm not even that big into songs or movies, but those lists would be enormous. So, although it is not comprehensive, here, in no particular order, is my list of things I like. I look forward to reading yours.

1. Chocolate milk--store bought, please.
2. Actually finding two socks that match.
3. MSU basketball and football.
4. Tailgating
5. Picking my nose and extracting a good-size booger that I didn't even know was in there.
6. Golfing, except for the putting aspect of it.
7. Peeing when I really have to pee.
8. Pizza--the more meat the better.
9. My Adidas sandals, even if they do shed little plastic nubs all over the place.
10. Gatorade
11. Parentheses
12. Johnsonville Stadium Brats
13. "Love Story" by Taylor Swift
14. Trivia
15. Celebrity impersonators
16. Fish and chips (I prefer cod.)
17. Staying in hotels
18. Grape Kool-Aid
19. Debating
20. Superman ice cream
21. Sarcasm
22. Farting (not in public, and definitely not in the shower.)
23. Warm apple pie with ice cream
24. Pumpkin pie with whipped cream
25. Having a tan
26. The mushy stuff that sticks to my gums when eating a chocolate chip cookie
27. Summer
28. Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat Beer
29. Lists
30. Being past sober, but not quite drunk
31. Bill Curtis's voice.
32. Driving (two-hour limit)
33. Newly paved roads
34. The Star Wars saga (except The Phantom Menace and any real Star Wars fan knows why)
35. Being right
36. Sneezing (limit 3)
37. The Natural
38. The airport
39. The feel of a Q-Tip in my ear (And you know what makes it even better? Knowing that the box warns be against putting it in my ear.)
40. Pringles--all varieties. There is no such thing as a bad Pringle.
41. Skittles
42. "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant"
43. Cold milk
44. The Office
45. Sharpie markers
46. Ketchup
47. The first few weeks of fall
48. When I wake up in the dark of night thinking it's almost time to get up, but then I look at the clock and see that I've still got three more hours of sleep.
49. Hoosiers
50. Snow days
51. McDonald's hot mustard sauce
52. "Breakfast in America" by Supertramp
53. The Crash Test Dummies
54. Eddie Money
55. Chicago's "Hard to Say I'm Sorry"

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Overwrite This

You can think of this as a contest if you like. Except if you do, think of it as one of those contests where there is no prize. Not that I have anything at all against extrinsic motivation (teacher term!); it's just that I'm really bad about actually mailing out prizes. Ask Kelly.

So I read a fair amount of blogs and every once in a while someone hosts a contest that asks readers to submit parts of their works-in-progress. The best place for this sort of thing is probably over at Miss Snark's First Victim, where readers regularly compete for a secret agent's attention. Right now, Agent Bransford is hosting a first paragraph contest.

Now the primary reason I read these things is to make myself feel better. Whenever I hit the writing doldrums I like to read some contest entries because most of them kinda stink. And to me, the ones that stink the richest are written by the people who are most obviously taking themselves way too seriously. These writers fancy themselves quite the literary savants. Where one word will do, they write six. Where "face" will suffice, they use "countenance" or "visage." They happily spend five sentences describing a kitchen wall. You get the point.

So, let's try our hand at some horrific writing, shall we? I'll provide the prompt, and you, with as much overwritten purplish prose to cover up for your lack of confidence as you can muster, will write the scene. Make it good, by which I mean, make it bad. Really bad.

PROMPT: Your main character is being chased. (I'm leaving everything else up to you. Feel free to only submit a paragraph or so. No one wants to read an entire scene of this kind of crap anyway.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Halloween "Treats"

The following is a rerun, taken from my old blog and presented here to you, my loyal readers. Because sometimes, I just don't have the energy for new material.


With my least favorite holiday right around the corner, I thought it was high time to roll out a top ten list. This one has everything to do with the reason for the season–candy, or as you will soon see, sometimes things that are not candy.

Please avoid doling out the following terrible “treats” to the innocent youngsters that show up at your door. Most of them have done nothing to you.



DUM DUMS–These suckers truly suck. You know it’s a terrible candy when you can buy them in bags of approximately 2,000 and EVERY SINGLE STORE that sells candy stocks them. They are like that song “What if God was One of Us?” from the 1990s–terrible, yet impossible to avoid.

TOOTSIE ROLLS–They look like mini-turds, taste about the same, and might just yank out any recent fillings in your teeth.

10. HOME-BAKED COOKIES–Dear Grandma, just because your chocolate chip cookies are adored by your grandkids does not mean you should mass produce them and drop them into trick-or-treat bags. Why? Because no child is going to eat them. First, they crumble to pieces at the bottom of the bag. Second, you scorched the bottoms of a few of them, and third, you just might have mixed in some rat poison. Right to the trashcan with these.

9. BIT-O-HONEY–If you’re lucky enough to remove the wrapping from this crapola candy, you are then treated to a jaw workout, all while enjoying the flavor of–what, exactly? You would think honey, but I like honey and I do not like this. Most of this candy ends up cemented to your molars and you spend the next five minutes digging it off with the nail of your index finger.

8. NECCO WAFERS–In the mood for a candy that tastes exactly like chalk? Enjoy.

7. ANY BAGGED FOOD–These come from the real cheapskates who buy a huge bag of M&Ms and then parcel them out into Ziploc baggies. Your hand touched it; I ain’t eatin’ it. And may God forgive you if you put your homemade chocolate chip cookies in baggies.

6. CANDY CORN–Doesn’t taste like candy. Doesn’t taste like corn (which might actually be an improvement). There’s a reason why you only see candy corn around Halloween: It’s manufactured by the Devil himself.

5. THOSE PEANUT BUTTER GLOBS IN BLACK AND ORANGE WAX PAPER–This treat is so bad, no one bothered to name it. I always wonder what the candy factory that makes these does the rest of the year.

4. RAISINS–See here.

3. APPLES–Straight to the dumpster. Look, I get that you think candy is bad for kids, but giving them an apple is not going to make them pause and say, “Gee, if I eat this candy I might get sick, or I could get cavities, or I could start a downward spiral that leads to obesity and diabetes. I’ll eat the apple instead.” No, what they’re going to say, right after they toss it into the kitchen trashcan (if it even makes it that far–apples make for excellent target practice) is “Pssh, some loser gave me an apple! Gross!” Halloween is not the day for you to sneakily criticize the dietary habits of America's youth.

2. PENNIES–Do you know that it costs the U.S. mint more to make a penny than that penny is worth? So, not only are you giving children something that is almost literally worthless, you’re actually costing the rest of us money. Look, any kid can find a penny under his mother’s couch cushion. Know why? Cause mom just left the damn thing there, which is exactly what you should do too.

1. POPCORN BALLS–Has anyone ever finished one of these things? Is there a prize in the middle? Cause if not, I see no reason to eat one. If you’re lucky enough to dislodge a chunk of popcorn from the ball, you’ll be treated to a flavor most resembling paper. Butterless, saltless, paper. Who thought this would be a good idea? I mean, where did these things start? Did some old lady raid her cupboards looking for a treat and, finding only popcorn kernels, decide “What the heck, kids love popcorn!” And then, after the corn was popped, did this same old lady suddenly realize she had no effective way of delivering the snack. “Oh, I know. I’ll just add some glue, or chewing gum, or rubber cement, or whatever the hell is used to bind everything together into a spherical, tasteless mass. "They’ll like that, surely they will,” the old lady says to herself. Why would an old lady (because it’s ALWAYS an old lady) do that to innocent children? Who in their right mind would think that a child, presented with a truckful of candy, would take the time to gnaw at a popcorn ball? Surely, not someone who liked children, which is why I believe this snack was contrived by witches. That’s right. Witches. What else could explain it? In fact, it makes perfect sense. If not witchcraft, how do they get that popcorn to stick together with such perfect symmetry?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bobbing for Apples

The title of this post is in no way metaphorical. Given that the Halloween season is upon us and there was a commercial on TV tonight that showed someone bobbing for apples, my wife and I had a discussion in which we agreed that bobbing for apples is possibly the least "fun" thing a person could do that is supposed to be fun.

I've done it one time and I'm pretty sure I'm never going to do it again. First, the water is kind of scary. Pools don't scare me. Most lakes don't scare me. Oceans...well, they are scary.* But water in a huge basin like that is scary. And how unnatural is it to plunge your head into a tub of water with your mouth open? The other thing that is not fun is failing to latch on to an apple. The one time I played I had no success at all. It was like the apples were running away from me. I may have had trouble because I didn't really want to open my mouth.

So add that to the long list of things that suck about Halloween. And while we're at it, let's put this "game" on there too. Trust me, those kids are not having fun.

So, what are some other things that are supposed to be fun, but totally are not?

*Jellyfish, size, Bermuda Triangle

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Finished up the YA last night. I've had most of it in pretty good shape for a while now, but I always hated the ending. I'm still not in love with the end, but it's at least respectable enough that I can show it to other people without putting someone else's name on it.

To review, this is the story that is intended to be funny. It is somewhat episodic and I blogged about my concern over that here. For the record, I attempted to at least refer back to episodes that were kind of out there on their own by having something in the episode come up again later in the story. That make sense?

Anyway, the purpose of this post, other than to brag about finally finishing the ending, is to confirm with those people who volunteered to read the thing.

Here's who I have. Let me know if you want on the list or off. I'll take any and all feedback or no feedback at all. It's your game, kids.

and I think Big Plain V, mostly because he complained about missing out on the last one.

I miss anybody?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Least Intimidating College Nicknames

Watched a lot of college football today (including a closer-than-it-should-have-been Spartan victory over archrival Michigan) and it got me thinking about college nicknames. Most colleges seem to have nicknames that project an image of strength and aggression. There are lots of wildcats and bears and tigers and other animals, like badgers and blue jays, that have nasty dispositions and just might kill you or at least bite your ear off.

But some teams have chosen a different strategy altogether. These colleges seem to believe they can lull opponents to sleep with their nicknames. They choose nicknames that no one could possibly be afraid of. It's as if they looked around and said, "What's the least intimating thing we can think of?"

Here, in order from not very intimidating to even more not very intimidating, are nine colleges that have this nickname thing completely backward:

9. Indiana Hoosiers--A "Hoosier" is someone from Indiana. That's it. I've been to Indiana and I wasn't scared at all. If you can judge an entire state by the celebrities that were born there (and why wouldn't you?), then Hoosiers are incredibly unintimidating. Indiana claims Jane Pauley, Florence Henderson, "Mustard" Evan Bayh, Orville Redenbacher, and Indiana Jones as natives. So why are they number nine? Blame two people: John Dillinger and President Benjamin Harrison. Not all hoosiers are saints or popcorn magnates.

8. Tennessee Volunteers--I respect volunteers. Really, I do. It takes a special person to pass up hours of riveting cable television to help total strangers. But I do not fear the volunteer. In fact, if you are a volunteer, scary is kind of the last thing you should strive to be. When I think of volunteers I think of people serving meals to the homeless or those people that shove pamphlets for their politician brother in your hands at Memorial Day parades. Annoying, yes. Intimidating, no.

7. Texas A&M Aggies--"Aggie" is short for "agricultural," which is a fancy word for farming. So "Aggies" are farmers. Like Hoosiers, farmers have the potential to be scary folks, but most of them aren't. I actually know a few farmers and when they're sober there's nothing to fear. They would rank higher but for the frightening machines they drive. I mean, have you seen a cultivator lately?

6. Oregon Ducks--Who loves ducks? Geriatrics, children, and college guys who pretend to enjoy spending quiet afternoons feeding them so their relatively new girlfriends think they're the harmless, sensitive type. Ducks are so not scary, they were long ago rubberized to assuage the trauma children regularly have while bathing.

5. Nebraska Cornhuskers--I don't know much about farming, which is sometimes called "agriculture," by the way, but while husking corn is probably a job I wouldn't want to do because it sounds like it would maybe give me blisters, I'm not exactly terrified of the corn husker. What's he going to do? Throw ears of corn at me? Rub that clear stuff that leaks out of blisters on my new jeans? Hop in a cultivator and run me down? On second thought...

4. Syracuse Orange--Not that it would change their ranking at all, but they used to be called the "Orangemen." Orangemen are what guys who spend too long on a tanning bed are called. Tanning guy. Real intimidating. Dropping the "men" just gives us a color, and not a very threatening one. I could see going with Black or even Gray, but Orange? The scariest thing I can think of that's orange is those nasty peanut spongy candy things you see around Halloween. Oh, and Agent Orange. That stuff's not good.

3. Hawai'i Rainbows or Rainbow Warriors or Warriors (although for purposes of this ranking, I'm ignoring "Warriors")--Hawai'i's nickname was so lame (Rainbow Warriors) that they decided to let their sports teams pick among the above three. Guess which one the football team picked? Here's a hint: It doesn't have the word rainbow in it. I'm not going to get into this one much further because the whole thing just sort of speaks for itself. Rainbows. Jeesh.

2. Pennsylvania Quakers--Nothing like naming your teams after a group of people synonymous with pacifism. Maybe instead of competing against the other Ivy League schools, they could get together for some diplomacy, hold hands, and sing Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love of All."

1. Georgetown Hoyas--Needed research on this one. Like you, I thought a hoya was some kind of bulldog-like dog. That's what their mascot is. The truth is far more interesting. Way back in the early days Georgetown's nickname was "The Stonewalls." Back then, when America still cared about educating its youth, the students had to study Greek and Latin, and one creative Stonewall started a chant that translates to "What Rocks!" He used the Greek work hoia and the Latin saxa because he was pretentious like that. So hoya (the spelling was changed) means "what." The Georgetown Whats. Actually, I kind of like it.

Note 1: I included only schools most Americans might have heard of, which is why the "Dolphins" (five different colleges), the "Manatees" (State College of Florida), the "Banana Slugs," and the "Battlin' Bishops" do not appear.
Note 2: All schools with bird nicknames were automatically eliminated. Birds, even the pretty ones, are scary.
Note 3: All schools with Indian nicknames were also eliminated. Those people have been denigrated enough.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


You might remember that a short time ago I told you all about Writer's Digest selecting my story as one of the finalists for their "Your Story" contest. I then gave directions on how to vote for me, if you were so inclined. Some of you were in fact inclined and things were looking good.

But then today, Writer's Digest announced the winner and it was not me. Here's what it says on the site:

There were more than 1,500 views of the stories, and readers who voted properly helped us pick "My First Job as a Teacher"...

So apparently we didn't "vote properly." Now, there was a warning on the site about previous voting shenanigans and it referenced people who had registered multiple accounts in order to jack up their own vote totals. It said anyone caught doing that would be disqualified. And they should. Obviously, that's cheating. Even the President only gets to vote for himself once.

But it seems to me that soliciting votes is kind of what contests and elections and pretty much anything in which votes are counted is all about. I can't tell you how many Obama volunteers knocked on my door in the run-up to the election. (I think McCain's people were busy drinking coffee at Old Country Buffet.)

But be that as it may, I can accept that Writer's Digest wants its winners selected solely by their forum members. That's fine. But at least say that in your warning. Maybe I'm the crazy one here, but if you hold a contest you should expect the contestants to ask their family and friends to vote for them. And if you won't allow that sort of thing, then you ought to be clear about it.