Thursday, March 27, 2014

Recipe For The Perfect Cucumber Sandwich

A friend's post on Facebook reminded me of a recipe for the perfect cucumber sandwich. Follow these simple steps to sheer cucumber sandwich perfection.

You'll need
Two slices of wheat bread
A few leaves of lettuce, either iceberg or romaine; the latter preferable if possible
8 discs of sliced cucumber, 1/4" thick

  1. Place both slices of bread next to each other
  2. Place lettuce on one slice
  3. Place cucumber discs on other slice
  4. Place a few slices of tomato on lettuce side
  5. Place a slice of Swiss cheese on top of the tomatoes
  6. Place three slices of medium rare roast beef on the cheese
  7. Put either some mayo or horseradish-infused brown mustard on roast beef
  8. Remove cucumber discs and toss them out.
  9. Wait, don't waste food..give them to a hungry person, or a dog, or a vegan
  10. Place three slices of bacon on bread that used to have cucumbers on it.
  11. Bring sandwich together
  12. Place sandwich on plate
  13. Add a fist full of potato chips on the side
  14. Pour yourself 12 ounces of your favorite beer.
  15. Unless you've been really awesome, in which case make it a 16 ounce
  16. Aw, go on,m you've been good. Go on, make it a 16 ounce.
  17. Take sandwich and beer into living room and find something awesome on tv
  18. Now, where the bloody blue Hell is the remote?
  19. Whoops. There it is.
  20. Sorry
  21. Turn on tv, take a swig of beer, and enjoy your cucumber sandwich.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Obligatory St Patrick's Day Post

Here's an autographed picture of the Dropkick Murphys.
I was unable to secure a potato or a Guinness.
Well, I'm half-Irish, so I'll make it a shorter post. So here we are, another St.Patrick's Day, a day when we commemorate St. Patrick driving all of the snakes out of Ireland by threatening them with green beer and Shamrock Shakes. Or something like that, All I know is that there's talk about Guinness, potatoes, and catching leprosy..or...wait...maybe it's leprechauns. Then everything sort of goes black, and we wake up wondering what the Hell happened.

Anyways, it is my firm belief that St.Patrick's Day should be the template for how all holidays are observed. It's because the holiday is the ultimate example of inclusion. For instance, here's how some people react to other holidays:

Christmas Person: Hey, Merry Christmas!
Bitter Joyless Dumbass: I don't observe Christmas. Some ridiculous fairy tale about some made-up God born on December 25th, when everyone knows the story is ripped off from mythology, and furthermore...
Christmas Person: Wow, what a bitter, joyless dumbass!   :::: walks away::::

Halloween Person:
Hey, Happy Halloween!
Ultra-Religious Person: I do NOT observe Say-tun's Holy-day!
Halloween Person:'s not....
Ultra-Religious Person: I will hear no more of your lies, blasphemer! I cast thee out, Say-tun!
Halloween Person: OW! Hey! Stop whacking me with that Bible! Those King James Version Family Bibles are heavy, man! Where do you even keep that thing on your person!? Ow! Ow!

Fourth of July**
Hey, Happy Fourth of July!
Ultra-Liberal Pseudo-Intellectual D-Bag Customer at My Dad's Restaurant: Well! I don't celebrate any holiday that commemorates the slaughter of Indians!
Me: Wha?  :::walks away, confused:::

But now, let's look at St. Patrick's Day!
St. Patrick's Day Celebrant: Heeeeyyy!! Happy Saint Paddy's Day! Here! Have a Guinness! Take two, they're small!
Confused, Non-Irish Person: But, I'm not Irish nor am I Catholic...
St. Patrick's Day Celebrant: Ahhhhhh no worries! No one's perfect! Now, here's an Irish Carbomb, an' some Guinness, an' some Jamison's!
No Longer Confused, But Now Totally Inebriated Non-Irish Person: Besht holiday evah! Whoops! Just wet myself! HAHAHAHAHA! Erin's gold bra! :::vomits on bar floor::
Everyone In Bar:  Huzzah!

Happy Pat Sainty's Dayyyy!
On Saint Patrick's Day, people don't let a little thing like them not being Irish nor Catholic stop them from dressing up in green, eating corned beef and cabbage, snorting Lucky Charms, and drinking enough to float an aircraft carrier. Everyone comes together in a sloppy haze of drunken good fellowship, and everyone has a good time.

And that's how all holidays should be conducted. Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!

**And yes, this scenario really honestly did happen. East Cambridge, back in the mid 70's (the Bicentennial to be exact), my dad's old restaurant. And thus the seeds were sown for my hatred of ultra-liberalism, a hatred which was fueled by further ridiculousness like that, as well as them being lousy tippers (so much for showing solidarity with the working class!).

Friday, March 14, 2014

A Tale Of Two Novels

Doc-tor! I have a novel lodged in my head!
My brain hurts!
I've heard it said that everyone has a novel inside them. Me, I have two. Well, actually, about six. No, wait, a dozen. But let's get back to those two. It wasn't always that way. First there was one, then partway through writing it, my brain said "Here's a different story,  pretty much complete from start to finish! Isn't that exciting? Start writing it now, while it's fresh in your head!". So I put the first one on ice, and starting frantically writing the second one.

Both are science fiction. One is set in the present day, and deals with time travel. The other is set in the not too distant future, and deals with an officer in the United States armed forces and the adventures she has. The word counts for them stand at 33,760 and 81,780 respectively.

I am not going to go into specifics about them. I don't want to give anything away.

I think they are both good science fiction stories, and though they both deal with subjects that have been done to death, the characters and their situations are what I feel set them apart and make for compelling stories.

I know exactly how each is to unfold, including the endings, which for me is usually the toughest bit. Two complete stories.

Each has a few minor things that need addressing in order to make sure that each story adheres to its respective internal logic, but this is small stuff.

Funny, both novels are one-word titles that begin with the letter "A". That just occurred to me.

And yet, I fear completing them. Because if I complete them, I will be obliged to try to get them published. There lies the problem. What if they're just not good enough? What if, in fact, they're trite and/or stupid?

See, while they're being written, they are potentially awesome stories that will see the light of day as published novels. They haven't been rejected yet, so that hope that they will be published is always there. But if they are submitted and found to be lacking, that hope, that potential, is gone.
How about spiders in high places?

And that scares me. More than spiders or heights.

I'm trying to talk my way out of this, using my powers of super-rationalization to get over it. Yet whenever I come up with a good rationale, I can immediately shoot it down in the next instant.

For instance, I keep reminding myself that people like my writing. Yeah, but that stuff is small things like blog posts, humorous articles, my gaming campaign, and the short short stories I sometimes do about our game. Novels are bigger in scope, bigger in audience.It's a whole different animal.

I remind myself that I've had two novels and a short story published. Yeah, but those were for the niche market of role-playing games, where the bar is set a littlle lower. Okay, much lower. These two novels in different states of completion are aimed at the mainstream. It's a whole different animal.

I remind myself that people have told me that I write realistic dialogue, come up with interesting personalities, and have an easy to read, conversational writing style. And it's at that point that I tell myself to shut the Hell up.

This little thing has two novels in it.
Not to worry; it's bigger on the inside!
Don't get me wrong; I'm not on a compliment fishing expedition here. Nor am I looking for a pep talk. Frankly, I'm not quite sure what it is I'm looking for here. Maybe  I just have the need to vent and throw this issue, this fear, call it what you will, out there. Who needs counseling, I have a blog!

I know what my problem is: I fear rejection, and you can't reject something that hasn't been submitted. And yet, I sit here saying "But these are good stories! There's adventure, and humor, and cool characters!" At least I believe that's the case. I don't know. I look at the words, after going over them time and again, editing, polishing, and the stories seem rather dull, the characters hokey. Even the nifty parts that, at the time I wrote them, I was rubbing my hands together and going "Mwahahah! Yesss!", I now go "Eh. Whatever."

But that's when logic  kicks in and says "It's because you're seeing the same words time and time again; you've grown jaded to them. Someone who reads them for the first time will enjoy them!" Stupid logic! Shut up and get me a beer!

And yet, every time I sit back and go "Fine. I just won't finish them. Forget it. It was a stupid idea anyway", my brain keeps coming up with newer and better scenes, cooler dialogue, to put into the stories. Part of me simply refuses to put the ideas down; Hell, I even have sequels already outlined for both novels!!

"You can do eet!"
So that's where I stand, at war with myself, two opposing forces of equal strength. On one side is my innate sense of competitiveness, my love of weaving a good yarn, my sense of optimism, and two stories that when you get right down to it, are pretty cool. On the other side, some leftover issues from my childhood that insist that everything I ever do is utter crap, my insecurities, and a fear of the death of hope.
" Hell you can!"

Of course, I wonder if my subconscious is engaged in some trickery by compelling me to post this. I've learned from past experience that it can be a tricky bastard.

In closing, although I don't usually get my wisdom from movies, there's a line from Shaun of the Dead that gives me pause. It just may be one of the things that helps motivate me. It's something that Shaun's girlfriend, Liz, says near the beginning of the movie, when she's railing about their relationship going nowhere.

"If I don't do something, I'm going to end up going into that pub every night for the rest of life like the rest of those sad old f*ckers, drinking myself to death and wondering what the Hell happened."

Strong words, and though not an exact fit (I don't go to bars all that often, and despite many jokes and references about beer, it would be stretch to even consider me a moderate drinker), it's the spirit of the quote that strikes me, the underlying message. Wise words from a zombie romantic comedy!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Take It Offline...PLEASE!

Once upon a time, before the advent of social media, people were no doubt exposed to the dubious pleasure of witnessing couple-friends arguing at parties, dances, double-dates, what have you. Sometimes, alcohol factored in. Many times, it didn't. And you just sort of stand there, feeling awkward and out of place, fervently wishing that some friendly rock would allow you to crawl under it until the shelling stops.

Can't unsee this! Stop! Eye-bleach time!
But now, thanks to the Internet, we can witness couples' angry spats unfurl in all of their horrific, "I can't unsee this" glory on our Facebook pages, in the privacy of our homes. And if you're one of those lucky people that remembers things better when you read them as opposed to hearing them, then Shazam! That's the one big impression of those folks that's going to stick with you for quite some time.

How come so many people forget that when they're sitting at their computer, sniping at their significant other, yelling at their kid, screaming at a supposed friend, or vehemently and rudely disagreeing with someone's politics, that they are inevitably going to have to face these people in person at some point, since it's likely that many peoples' friend lists include people that they see or hang out with on a regular basis? Is it sheer obliviousness, just not caring one way or the other, or is it just the heat of the moment?
You know where this is going. I don't even have to say it.

We all say things we regret. That's a given. We're all human. Every couple argues, every parent-child relationship has its rocky patches. But when you post private matters on social media, holy Lord, the badness is taken to a whole new level of suckitude. The real killer ones are the breakup dramas that play over the Internet, only to have the couple reunite weeks or months later (and no, I don't mean teenagers; this happens with ostensibly mature adults).  Even though they're back together, you can't forget the bridge-burning vitriol they dropped on each other in the not too distant past. You get tempted to congratulate them by using the names they called each other during their online spats, as in "So glad to see you two have reconciled! Congratulations and best of luck, Pathetic Man-Child With Performance Problems, and Gold-Digging, Fifty-Cent Hooker With More Issues Than Readers Digest!"

And things can be just as cringeworthy at the other extreme. How about those people who share online just a tad bit too much about their intimate lives? Great calamity kittens, you can never unread stuff like that!! Congratulations; it's now been added to your memory banks forever; enjoy your time in Hell.

So please. PLEASE. Remember that when you post something on Facebook or wherehaveyou, it's tantamount to jumping onto the roof of your car and bellowing out your words through a nuclear-powered megaphone with boosters set up all over the world. If you already keep this in mind, then fantastic! You are a rock star! You're awesome! The rest of you, watch what you say.

Although the duck insists it was consensual
Don't yell at your kid (and kids, don't yell at your parents) online. Couples, keep those arguments behind closed doors. And as for the two you, and you know who are, we don't want to read any more stories about you, the champagne-filled waterbed,  the inflatable mongoose doll, the bottle of bleach, the Slinky, and the duck. Really.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

On Turning 55...

As of March 6th, I am 55 years old. I've been sitting here, trying to come up with something profound, but it's just not happening. And I think it's not happening because I just can't seem to muster enough bluster to make a fuss about it. And I think I can't muster enough bluster to make a fuss because in the final analysis, it's ultimately no big deal.

Happy Birthday To Me!
Yay, double nickels!
Oh, don't get me wrong. I want a big deal made of my birthday. To me, it is a big deal; just not in any negative way. But if I have to endure one of these every year, then dammit, I want every possible perk I can get! There are already plans afoot to make a fuss of sufficient level to satisfy my outrageous demands, so yes. A fuss is good; I guess I just can't bring myself to get too worried about getting old.

Which I guess is rather fortuitous, because it seems to me that the biggest contributor to getting old before your time is to worry about getting old. Yeah, I know, that kind of rots, but what can you do? You worry, you start doing the whole self-fulfilling prophecy thing. It's like when they say that the best way to walk a tightrope is to not look down.

The day before my birthday, I was walking down a corridor at work thinking, "Hmm...I'm turning why do I feel like I'm still 30?" Ah, who knows. I think obliviousness in this matter works to my advantage. The less I think about it, the less likely I'll wind up as one of those old dudes who stares off into space with his mouth half-open, getting ready to do a shift as a Wal-Mart greeter.

My Dad, The Bad Role-Model
I remember my dad when he was in his 40's. He had bags under his eyes, jowly cheeks, a lot of gray hair, and was overweight. He looked worn out, worn down, and, well, old. Being in my mid-teens, and noting a lot of traits I shared with my father, all I could think of was "Wow, that's what I'm gonna be like in my 40's!"

But that was the ignorance of teenager years. I didn't factor in the harsh realities of my dad's lifestyle. He worked hard, six days a week, from dawn till late at night, at his barely surviving restaurant. He rarely took vacations or rested up, and was always worried about money, since the place never really turned much of a profit. He was stressed at home in an unhappy marriage characterized by lots of loud arguments, and his diet was horrendous, lots of fats, oily foods, red meat; you know, the typical Portuguese fare. I shudder to think what it would've been like if he smoked or drank excessively.

But it seems the only negative thing I have in common with my dad in those matters is that I worry about money. As expected, I'm in a hell of a lot better shape in my mid-50's then my dad was in his mid-40's. He did manage to turn a few things around later on in life, but eventually died of a form of leukemia in 2000. So he died at 71. Barring any unexpected nastiness, that puts me on course of lasting well into my 80's, I reckon. The 90's would be good, just so long as, again, I don't end up as a slack-jawed Wal-Mart greeter.

Keep Your "Getting Old" Gallows Humor To Yourself, Thanks
This is frickin' hysterical, said no one, ever.
There's a whole industry out there dedicated to churning out party supplies of questionable taste, all of them dedicated to making light of the fact that some poor schlub's birthday number is really getting up there. For the record, I hate those kinds of jokes. Despise them. I am on board with the whole idea of laughing at grim situations, but in my case, I see nothing grim about aging. So no, call me crazy, I somehow have managed to fail to mine that pure comedy gold that is limp dicks and loose bowels. And anyone who brings that sort of stuff into my airspace runs the risk of not being able to celebrate any more birthdays themselves!

Speaking of public perceptions of getting older, I need to go off on a tangent and say that I really roll my eyes when someone describes themselves as "I'm fifty-one years young!" No. You're not young. You may feel young, act young, think young, maybe even pass a little for young, but you are most assuredly getting older. Suck up and deal. Denial is more than just a river in Egypt. Now, I do go on record as saying "I'm not old. I'm oldER, maybe, but I'm certainly not old!" That's about as hair-splitting about semantics as I want to get.

Battling Age
I see aging as fighting a holding action against a relentless army who will eventually win no matter what. I am outgunned, outnumbered, and outclassed. I can put up a spirited fight every day, but eventually, time will win. That's just the way it is. But to me, the trick is, not to give ground unless you absolutely have to. Make Father Time fight for every inch of territory gained.

"Allons-y, mes amis! We will turn back the Nazi invaders
and May of 1940 shall be France's most glorious month!"
I think the trick is, if you still enjoy doing the stuff now that you did ten, twenty, thirty years ago, then keep on doing it! As long as you're physically and mentally able to do so, and the interest is still there, and you don't feel stupid doing so, then hey. Why not?

Don't be so quick to ascribe things to getting old when there are still other possible, even likely, explanations. Over the last twelve months, I've been experiencing more soreness in my knees, heels, and back. Oh, gee, must be getting old, right? Well, as my lovely wife has pointed out to me, thanks to some situations that cut into my exercise and eating right regimen, I'm carrying a little more weight than I'm used to, something which causes joint pain in people even half my age. Oh, okay. That's fine then. Get back into shape, and it's all good. And that's happening and sure enough, the aches are fading!

Or forgetting stuff. I do that sometimes. I completely space out on some things, and sometimes even recollect them incorrectly ("Look, I distinctly remember parking the car on the left side of the lot! Absolutely! Oh..there it is on the right hand side! Derp!"). A senior moment? Nope. Not when I remember that I have always walked around with my head in the clouds. I have a 22-track mind, and it's always working, what with that imagination of mine running 24/7. I tend to be rather distracted a lot, and that inevitably results in forgetting things. I guess I just forgot that I can be forgetful. Mystery solved.

Sure, there are some concessions I have to make to age. We all do. For example, I wear reading glasses now because my desire to understand the words on a page has overridden my dislike of looking like an old person stereotype.  And while the aches and  pains in legs and feet had more to do with extra weight put on them, it is true that as you get older, your body is less forgiving about having to carry that extra poundage. And let's not get into what happens if you eat too much or too spicy food just before going to bed.

Still haven't gotten my AARP card yet, despite the awesome discounts. I don't know. It seems so, elderly. It also sounds like an onomatopoeia for a burp. "AAAARP! Oh, sorry, that one escaped me!"

And So...
Why so Sirius?
Be thankful that there's no official manual out there that gives the guidelines as to age-appropriate behavior, thus no one can legitimately tell you to "act your age".   The way I see it, you're never too old to learn something new, try something different, or even change your mind or opinion about something. Keeping a teachable spirit. Yeah, that's what it's all about. And definitely don't take yourself too seriously (leave that for the late teens and twentysomethings out there! Bwah!).

And now, as for me, it's time to enjoy my birthday. There will be a nice long run at the Y, and then pizza and beer later on. Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to you, and God bless!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Winter of Our Discontent

It's a well-known made-up fact that every New Englander has the right to complain about winter. It's actually written into the Constitution. And winter makes it easy to complain about, because each year, it seems to come up with new and original ways to piss us off. There's a certain baseline grumbling that New Englanders do every winter, and, oh who am I kidding? We New Englanders always find ways to complain about every season. For instance:

Summer: It's too hot! It's humid! I'm sweating too much! And what's with all these damn mosquitoes!?
Fall: What's with this frost? Man, it's getting too cold too soon! There's too many leaves to rake up!
Spring: It's the day after the first day of Spring! Why isn't it shirt-sleeve weather right now? One day, it's 65, the next it's 12! Spring is a tease! A damn, dirty tease!

Well, like Mark Twain said,  "If you don't like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes". Which is also what the Ramones said about their songs. Really!

"I'm Mr. White Christmas, I'm Mr. Snow
I'm Mr. Icicle, and why winter really blows!"
Ah, but the winter of 2013-2014 has distinguished itself as being one of the nastiest, most disgusting winters we've had in a whilw, and not just in New England, but the entire northern tier of the United States. Some past winters have had more snow. Others have had bigger cold snaps. But this one. Oh, this one has somehow brought together the worst of both. And it's also even managed to give people below the Mason-Dixon line more than just a taste of frozen Hell on Earth as well!

So when I hear/read people complaining about the winter this year, I say to those who try to stop them, shaddap and let people complain! First off because, well, I'm doing it too, and second, yes, this one is a vile, nasty one. In fact, I'd put it in my Top Five Crappy Winters, and as a born and raised New Englander, yeah, that's saying something. Besides, every person that you let complain about winter is one less person you'll find climbing a water tower with a high-powered rifle.

The problem has been that we've been pummeled with at least one storm a week for a good stretch of the winter, and the temperature has barely broken the freezing mark, so all this damned white crap doesn't melt, but rather ir accumulates higher and higher. Really, we've just about run out of places to put it.

Speaking of the snow, I don't know what is worse: the actual snow, or the hype that precedes it. People at
The meteorological map that pretty much sums up what
every week has been like this winter.
work, cashiers at the supermarket, desktop apps that flash warnings whether you want them to or not, commercials for the 11 pm newscast, all of them, screaming at us about the approaching storm! There's no escaping it.

After the storm has its way with us, there's the question of where to put the stuff. At the end of our driveway, we have Mount Accident Waiting To Happen, a big snow mountain that blocks our view of the road when we're backing out, exposing the rear of our car to the idiots who have mistaken our nice side road for a NASCAR course.

At the other end of the driveway is the Great Wall of Frozen WTF, which is what you get when the plow guy keeps pushing the snow from repeated plowings into the same spot and it freezes over to a Rocky Mountain-like consistency, effectively cutting off easy access to the backyard. But that's okay, because there's nothing important back there that's immediately necessary...

...except, of course, for the fueling cap to the underground propane tank that powers our furnace.

The driveway itself is now known as the House of Terra Memorial Skating Rink, since it's pretty much now a thick sheet of ice that makes Antarctic ice shelves feel inadequate. There's never a Zamboni around when you need one. All we need now is skates and a hockey mask. Failing that, we'll take a chainsaw and a hockey mask.

We are the South; Our blood is chillin'
We are the ones who got an inch of snow
So let's start skiddin'
And the ice has gotten so thick, that no amount of swear-fueled attacks with metal snow shovels will break it. We'd use ice-melt stuff to help us get a jump on it, except that no one seems to stock it anymore. Apparently there's a shortage of the stuff, since much of it was diverted to the South to take care of their own version of snowy Hell. So, no ice melter for you; come back next year! Yeah, one or two inches of snow, and it's a bloody crisis down there. Let's just hold a benefit concert for them and be done with it. I know, I know, they aren't as accustomed to it as we are in the North, but it's tough to be sympathetic when you're doing your best imitation of the Sochi Olympics figure skating competition, if it was being performed by out of shape, drunken walruses with no depth perception and a case of Tourette's.

This winter can't end soon enough, and yet I get this sick feeling that this one is going to take its own sweet time in leaving us, like that final guest at the end of a New Years Eve party. Just a hunch. Oh, an inevitably you hear some people say "Hah! So much for global warming!" Um, the rest of the Northern Hemisphere is actually experiencing a warmer than average winter. It's just the northern US that is being "blessed" with this sneak preview of Mister Freeze's underwear. In fact, it's theorized that climate change has caused more moisture to fall because of warming temperatures, thus the endless hit (hate?) parade of storms.

Of course, I believe there's a special place in Hell for the person who feels that they have to inform you of the next snow storm while you're still dealing with the current one. As in:

You: Wow, after two hours of shoveling this 15 inches of snowfall, I finally got the car freed!
"Helpful" Neighbor: (gloomily) Yeah, well, there's another storm on its way, day after tomorrow.
You: You are cordially invited to shut the Hell up, you ray of frickin' sunshine!

Jack Frost.
But fear not! MLB Spring Training has started, and no matter how much of a tough, recalcitrant bastard winter is this year, it will eventually be overwhelmed by the warm weather. It's just a matter of time before we stop complaining of the soul-chilling cold and start complaining about the stifling humidity. It's inevitable. The only question is will the winter give out before our sanity does?