Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Evidence that I am Harmless

In response to recent internet conversations, I feel a need to defend myself. I have not been accused of anything, but there have been questions about who I am...or am not. Let me give a little background information.

Since I have started blogging, I have made a lot of new friends. This online community I have become a part of has been very rewarding and was not what I expected when I started. My only intention was to write my little stories and I honestly did not know if anyone would ever read them. However, people have been reading and it has been a great experience.

Despite the fact that I have only met these people in the virtual world, I do consider many of them my friends. In fact, this summer I will be meeting in person Jen from "Jen" e sais quoi, since I will be in her city for a wedding. I am not trying to speak for Jen, but I assume she felt that she knew me well enough from my writing that it would be safe to meet and show me around the city. Then again, maybe she carries mace and a gun in her purse and just isn't too worried about me.

However, there is another blogger (Red from Doesn't Speak Klingon) that has been much more cautious. We have developed a mutual curiosity about each other and the idea has been proposed to meet. There are no actual plans being made, it is just an idea, but having never actually met me, Red has one major concern as can be seen in the comment section of one of her posts.

I do understand, but am hit with a dilemma. How does one prove that he is not an axe-murderer? I started with the person that may know me the best, my mother.

This morning's phone conversation:

MOM: Hello.

ME: Hey, Mom. I have a question for you.

MOM: What is it?

ME: Have I ever killed anyone with an axe?

MOM: What!? Do you mean, like, when you were younger?

ME: No. Any time.

MOM: With an axe? No.

ME: So, would you say that I am not an axe murderer?

MOM: I guess so, but I'm not with you all the time. I don't know what you do in your spare time.

ME: Please, help me out here, Mom!

MOM: Fine. To my knowledge you have never killed someone with an axe.

ME: Thank you, Mom. I will quote you on that. I love you.

Now that I had the good word of my mother (and who cannot trust a mother), I thought I would share a story. When I was about 20 years old, I was participating in a Halloween Haunted Hayride. A week before the event a few dozen of us were out chopping wood for the bonfires for the various scenes. I busied myself by throwing the split wood into a truck and assisting the others.

For story accuracy,
his was orange,
not red.
One man named Matt was using a large maul axe since he was splitting some rather large pieces. I was tossing the pieces he cut into the truck. Occasionally, the axe would stick in the wood and I would put my foot on it to steady it so he could pull it out.

One of those times it stuck and I used my foot just as I had before, but this time it was really stuck in there good and pulled the wood out from under me when he pulled the handle. So, trying to be of better assistance, I really leaned into it. I held it down and he gave the axe a wiggle and pulled up. This time it came out. It came straight up and hit me just over my right eye.

The blow threw me back and trying to catch my balance, I almost ran into the tailgate of the truck behind me. My brother caught me and saved me further injury.

Still bent over I removed my hands from my face and saw the blood pouring out of my head. It was like a faucet spewing out water. I wasn't in much pain, but remember thinking, "Wow! My face is probably really messed up."

A girl I didn't know approached me, said I needed stitches and put me in her truck. She drove me to her house and fixed me up in her bathroom. We then returned to the wood cutting, but they didn't make me work. In fact, they took turns making sure I didn't fall asleep. This is as good as it gets with redneck first aid. Within a few days, most of the right side of my face had swollen and turned black.

Today, I only have a small scar under my eyebrow, but you can feel where the bone was chipped (or broken). I really don't know since we never went to the hospital, but this is another reason I cannot be an axe murderer. I have been on the receiving end of an axe and know how they feel. I just can't do that to someone.

Further arguments:

No one wants to see this.
The economy has slumped so low,
this clown had to become a butcher.
  1. One of my favorite shows is Dexter. The lead character may be a serial killer, but he only kills people that really deserve it and he has never used an axe.
  2. Ask anyone in my family, I am not handy with tools. My kids rush in if I even pick up a screwdriver, because they are scared I might try to fix something.
  3. The most grievous injury I have ever caused was to a kid in my youth group. He did have to have surgery, miss his senior trip and go to his graduation on crutches, but I did not hit him with anything.
  4.  One of the reasons I don't like small children is because they are sticky. It is disgusting and I would imagine cleaning up the crime scene after killing someone with an axe could be pretty nasty. No thank you.
  5. I was belted in Tae Kwon Do when I was an undergrad. He never trained us with weapons.
  6. I have never even owned an axe.
I hope this extra knowledge about me will calm any other concerns she may have.  For those of you that know me personally, please feel free to vouch for me in the comment section of this blog. Comments on Facebook will not be seen by her.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Did You Mean "Lobster?"

I received a wonderful compliment this week. The fabulously funny Tracie over at Crack You Whip gave me a blogging award. Tracie is a published children's book author. Noticed that I put the word published in italics. I did that to draw attention to the published part. I am not assuming my readers are stupid and do not know what italics are for (unless you really don't know, then maybe you are), I just intend make this part very clear. I won this award from a PUBLISHED (see what I did there, capitalized and bold that time) author. It was not just thrown at me by some goober that happens to know how to use the internet. This means I am recognized by the literary world. They're going to start sending me checks any time now.

For those of you who don't believe me, I can prove it.
Here it is.   See.   I can do stuff.
I have seen this award floating around the blogosphere, but never knew what it was for. Mainly because I did not know what a Liebster was. I won the Versatile Blog Award from Brandi Boddie at Penning Praises a few months ago. I knew what that one was for since I know what a versatile is, but I had to turn to Google for the meaning of this one. Liebster is actually a German word that translates to "dearest" or "favorite" in English. Now I really feel special.

This is not to be confused with CRACK YOUR WHIP
which focuses on professional bullwhip competitions.
Not as exciting as it sounds.
In order to properly accept this award, I have to follow a few rules. First, I have to link back to the person who gave it to me. As I stated earlier, the Liebster was passed on to me by Crack You Whip. Pay her a visit if you are not already familiar with her blog. It is well worth the trip. Believe it or not, she draws those illustrations herself. Seriously, go check it out.

Second, I have to pass the honor of this award on to five other bloggers and notify them on their blogs. However, they must have less than 200 followers. We don't want those bloggers who already have thousands of followers to get big heads.

When I have have done this in the past, I really had trouble because I did not read many blogs, but now I read a few hundred (slight exaggeration) so the problem is whittling it down to only five of the dozens that immediately come to mind.

The first is a friend of mine. Rob over at Rob's Altruistically Self-Serving Blog. He is one of the few bloggers that I know personally. He has just started blogging and only has eight posts at this time, but he has told a few good stories. Rob may have just started blogging, but he is no stranger to the internet. He is part of a podcast that records every week. The link for the show is on his site.

Next is the fabulous Nellie Vaughn at Buttons Are Not Currency. Nellie writes on a variety of topics, has some short stories and shares her life. Sometimes funny, sometimes thought provoking, always entertaining. On a side note, her name is not really Nellie Vaughn. I know her real name, but am not telling.

Violet at Creative Devolution is one of my absolute favorite bloggers. She lives in Africa and tells her stories through pictures. Her drawings are hysterical and she captures the moment very well. I always get excited when I see that she has a new post available. I wish I could draw.

This blogger I will get to meet this summer. My cousin is getting married in the same city she lives in (Portland) and Jen from "Jen" e sais quoi graciously offered to show us around. She just barely met the requirements of the award since she has 175 Google Friend followers, but she is still under 200 so she gets it. Jen has the courage to disclose exactly who she is in her posts, even on the occasions when she isn't painting herself in a positive light. Her readers love her for her honesty and openly sharing her struggles. She is very funny when she wants to be and is equally adept at addressing serious issues.

Lastly, I have to send some love to my internet fiance, Red from Doesn't Speak Klingon. I became a follower of Red early enough that I commented on her very first post. I have read every one since and have never been disappointed. In fact, one of her posts moved me so much, I proposed to her on the spot. I still don't know her real name, but my offer stands. Red picks apart the destruction of the English language, is anti-Valentine's Day, pro-Star Wars and loves her parents. Pay her a visit.

Here it is again in case you forgot what it looked like.
There are many deserving bloggers, but these are the ones who came to mind for me. I am off to each of their blogs to let them know of the great honor that has been bestowed upon them. Check out each of these blogs for yourself. I will be watching.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Kicking Addiction by Going Cold (Angry) Turkey

I have just entered the last week of my adolescent development class and only have a few assignments left to do. They are the biggest assignments for the course, but I can't seem to concentrate and get them completed. I want to do my homework, but I can't. I blame Mark Zuckerberg's recent decision to partner with Rovio Games. Their partnership allowed Angry Birds to be included in the apps now available on Facebook.

The pigs stole 3 eggs.
You have sacrificed your entire flock.
Who is really the winner here?
I don't know how long it has been available to play, but I discovered it three days ago and installed it immediately. I had played it a few times on other people's phones, but since I don't have a smartphone, I hadn't really put any time into it. I knew how fun it was, so I had to have it. Since installing it three days ago, I have logged 63.7 hours of game play.

I have not been getting my homework done, getting enough sleep or eating properly. After playing for half the night, when I got up to take my daughter to school this morning I felt more guilt than Whitney Houston's pharmacist.

When I arrived back home I deleted the game and blocked the app from appearing on my Facebook in the future. I had to get this darkness out of my life. I always heard fun and addicting this game was and they were right. As soon as I hit my first pig, I was hooked. It only took one. One time and I belonged to that slingshot. I didn't even have to use it for a while for it to build up in my system. It was immediate.

This bird poops out an egg the same size as his body.
No wonder he is willing to kill himself.
On those occasions that I absolutely had to leave my computer, I couldn't stop thinking of ways to destroy that last pig or get more points on the levels that I only had 1 or 2 stars. When I went to sleep I heard pigs laughing at me and was haunted by the "WEEEEE" of overhead birds about to crash through my poorly constructed ice roof. That stupid song was continuously ringing in my ears. I couldn't get away from any of it, but also couldn't wait to score another hit.

Knowing that I couldn't do this alone, I called a friend who had successfully walked away a few months ago. When I told him what I had done, he was deeply empathic. He reminded me that he had warned me to stay away from it. I thought I was strong enough. I could dabble with it and not get hooked. It was just for fun and could put it down anytime I wanted to. Besides, all my friends were doing it. I should have known better.

He made me agree to call him if I began to feel tempted. I have done alright so far, but it is just the first day. I hear it gets harder about day three. I need to find a support group. Pray for me.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fortune Cookie #1 - Lesson in Patience

Kirsten and I went to eat at our favorite restaurant in town yesterday China Buffet #6. I have no idea why it is number six. I have never seen or heard of China Buffet 1 through 5. Maybe the first five failed and #6 is the first one to succeed. I have no idea, but it is the best Chinese place around. I love Chinese food.

Despite the absence of raw fish,
this is still sushi
Kirsten is not normally available for lunch, but the high school got out early. It was for this same reason there were several teenagers in the restaurant as well. Throughout the meal, I kept laughing at the kids next to us. Kirsten couldn't figure out what I thought was so funny. The table had seven students, including two Asians, who were lecturing the others on how to properly use chopsticks, correcting them about what sushi is (a style of food preparation and NOT raw fish), and explaining the difference between sushi and sashimi.

The entire group was very animated and debated extensively about any topic that was discussed. I was not making fun of them. I found them to be very entertaining and enjoyed listening to their banter, especially when it got ridiculous. My daughter begged, "Dad, don't laugh at them. They can't help it. They're theater kids." Well, that did explain a lot, but they were still fun to watch.

We finish our meal and the fortune cookies arrived with our bill. I crack mine open and read this message.

What?!? No, it doesn't.
For the moment let's ignore the fact that most fortune cookies do not contain fortunes. Lately, they contain little pieces of supposed wisdom or advice. False advertising.

That being said, this 'fortune' is wrong. Patience does not produce immediate results. Certainly not infinite patience. The only reason you would ever need infinite patience is because your results are far from being immediate. If I am getting immediate results, I don't need patience at all.

When I go to the DMV, I know that I will be there for a long period of time. That's why I always bring a good book and a sleeping bag. I am very patient because I know it is to be expected. I don't get upset and I don't complain. However, that attitude does not get me quicker results and it is nowhere near immediate.

Patience has nothing to do with getting results. In fact, sometimes being a little impatient will result in getting your way a little bit faster. It's amazing how many businesses will work faster to get you out of their establishment when you start making a scene because you have been there long enough that your mail is now coming to their waiting room.

Kirsten tells me that I am looking at it the wrong way. The immediate result is not necessarily the completion of the task you are waiting for. "Kirsten, that's stupid." She then tried to re-explain, but the results of her argument were not coming fast enough. My being patient was not helping. Once again, proving my point.  

"Dad, you are just wrong."

"We will see about that."

I got up and (much to my daughter's dismay) had a seat at the table of the theater kids. They halted their enlivened debate and looked at me. One of them with his hands still above his head from the point he was previously making asked, "Can we help you?" I produced the fortune, set it on the table and said, "Someone explain this to me."

One of the Asian girls immediately snatched it up. I was happy about that, since it was her people that wrote it. She proceeded to read it out loud, so they could all think about it. My daughter slid under our table.

She explained that patience will produce the immediate result of inner peace, which leads to less stress and better relations with your fellow man. My daughter yells from under her table, "That's what I said."


I took the fortune from her and handed it to the guy sitting to her left. She huffed, "Apparently, he wanted a man's perspective." I politely corrected her. "Sorry, no. It's not because he's a man. It's because he's American." I will not be called sexist.

He then said that patience will make your life better.

Well, maybe....eventually.

I told the table they were wrong and needed to stay in school. One of the girls shot back, "Maybe you shouldn't have asked us then." However, one of the guys (the most strangely dressed one), came to my defense and said, "Wait, I see what he's saying. Anticipated results should pertain to the item...OW!!!"

The Asian girl next to him stabbed him in the arm with her chopsticks. The table then erupted into a heated argument about who was right. Four taking the original position and three who sided with me. However, since I was now being ignored and they were busy insulting each others' intelligence, it was time for us to leave.

I love that restaurant.

Wrong again! These numbers did not win.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Great Week for Blogging

I have had a very eventful week. Well, more eventful than my usual weeks of watching television, doing homework and spying on my neighbors. I even got out of the house a few times.

It started last weekend when I escorted my son, Christian, and his band Odysseus to a recording studio in St. Louis to record their first EP. It was a learning experience for me and, in an unexpected turn of events, my voice made it onto the album. For those of you who have been unfortunate enough to hear me sing, don't start investing in earplugs. It wasn't a solo and I wasn't actually singing. There is a spot in the chorus of one of their songs where we screamed chanted the phrase "Don't take it out on me." I haven't heard the whole song, so I don't know what that means.

$1.99 on Amazon
On Tuesday, which was Valentine's Day for those of you who might not have noticed, the very funny blog The Simple Dude had a give away for single people. The prize was a $50 Amazon gift card. It involved tweeting re-twitting re-twatting tooting re-tweeting a message he put out on Twitter that day and then he would do a random drawing. I re-tweeted (that word just doesn't sound right) his message and commented on his blog that if I won, I would buy his blogging e-book from Amazon.

I did not win, but the winner, who writes the blog Good Youngman Brown, decided to buy the book for me with his winnings. I had the link in my inbox by the afternoon of the next day. I have never met this man. He just decided to do this after seeing my comment that I wanted to buy it. Thank you, fellow blogger. You are one of the good people out there in this world.

Of course, I went to check out the blog of my benefactor and was pleased to find that he is very funny. Be sure to visit Good Youngman Brown and The Simple Dude. You will not be disappointed by either.

A heart, yes.
But no sappy pink
or frilly stuff
Earlier on V Day, I proposed marriage to Red at the blog Doesn't Speak Klingon. Well, I didn't really propose. I just told her I had decided this should happen and she agreed. You can see this in the comments of her February 13 post. We have never met and don't know if we ever will, but I expect that we will be very happy. Vesta Vayne at Cowardly Feminist gave us her stamp of approval. She even encouraged Red to accept.

Then this morning, I was informed by CopyBoy at the blog Not Worth Mentioning that I was the featured New Blog of the Day on his site. I just discovered this site last week and have enjoyed reading his take on the crazy facts he finds on the internet. Thank you, CopyBoy for today's plug.

I know I included a lot of links in this post, but I recommend every one of these great blogs. If I mentioned any you are not familiar with, pay them a visit.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wedding Bells in Aisle 5

Since everyone else is writing about Valentines Day, I figured I better jump on the bandwagon. For those of you that are already sick of hearing about V-Day, don't stop reading. This is not a sappy Cupid post. I married and 12 years later divorced the girl in this story. I just wanted to share a story from my life (that just happens to revolve around the topic most discussed today).

Back in 1995, when I was considerably younger and stupider, I was in love with a girl that I just had to marry. We had been dating for a considerable amount of time and I had decided it was time to 'pop the question,' but wanted to do something different. Doing the traditional getting down on one knee or proposing over a candlelight dinner is just not my style. So, I devised a plan.

Christina had said many times that her favorite place on earth was Wal-Mart. She just loved to shop and Wal-Mart has just about anything a person could ever need. I had a college professor once say, "If you can't get it at Wal-Mart, you don't need it." So, I decided there would be no better place to do it. I know, I'm a romantic.

It's where dreams come true....at discount prices

We were headed into town with my friend John and his girlfriend. We were all going out to eat and had to stop by Wal-Mart for a few things first. I had informed John of my plan so he could keep the girls busy until I pulled it off. It was going to be a bit of a challenge. I knew what I wanted to do in my head, but did not know if the store would cooperate.

As soon as we entered the store, I excused myself to the restroom and told them I would catch up. Once they were out of sight, I sought out a manager to explain my plan. I wanted to use the intercom to declare my love.

Since it was a Friday night, the store manager was not there. It was a shift manager who was afraid to grant me permission without talking to his boss first. Since it had taken about 10 minutes to even speak with the shift manager, I was beginning to get concerned about my time. However, this was important and I would do what I had to do.

When he got the manager on the phone, he wanted to talk to me directly. He asked me to tell him exactly what I was going to say. I had rehearsed it, so I told him. He gave me several conditions that I agreed to and asked to put the shift manager back on the phone. After hanging up he told me not to move and disappeared.

At this point it had been almost half an hour since we had entered the store. I was praying that John was doing a good job of keeping the girls busy since this was taking much longer than I had anticipated. I just knew that at any moment they would be returning back to the front of the store and my plan would be foiled.

When he finally came back, he had me sign some papers to relieve Wal-Mart of any liability from the events that were about to transpire. He then said I had to be willing to have our pictures taken for the national Wal-Mart newsletter. I didn't want to consent to this one because I didn't know if Christina would be up for it, but it was a deal-breaker, so I reluctantly agreed. He then wanted to hear what I was going to say again. Finally, after close to an hour of being in the store, he handed me the intercom microphone.

"Attention Wal-Mart shoppers and especially Christina XXXXXXXX of Waltonville. This is Brett Minor and I would like you to answer a question for me. A few days ago I purchased a ring that I want to present to you. I love you and want you to be my wife. Meet me at register 1 if the answer is yes. If you do not arrive within 10 minutes, I will assume the answer is no and leave quietly. I love you and the timer starts now."

I then took my place at the register and waited. As the minutes ticked by a crowd began to gather around me. After a few minutes there was over 100 people standing at the register waiting to see how this was going to unfold. Every woman that came walking around the corner caused the crowd to hold their breath. I would say, "That's not her," and they collectively exhaled with disappointment, "OHHHH." This happened dozens of times.

Every person that came around the corner was coming to watch the show and the crowd continued to grow. Considerately, they never blocked the view between myself and the area she would be coming from. The time continued to click by.

An elderly African-American gentleman approached me and asked, "Are you worried yet?" I wasn't before he asked, but was starting to think about it. I was pretty positive she would say yes, but maybe I was wrong. It was also possible that she wanted to say yes, but was not willing to be a public spectacle and had fled out the back door. Either way, it would be really embarrassing to be standing here rejected in front of all these people.

Someone shouted out, "Thirty seconds left." Everyone started looking at their watches. I stood my ground and tried to maintain my smile. I could hear the people whispering, "She's not coming. Oh, that poor guy. What will he do?"

The crowd began to chant, "TEN!!!"

Oh, great. She really isn't going to show up.


I can't believe I did this. This is the stupidest I idea I have ever had.


Are they even still here? We came in one car.


The exit is too crowded. I won't even be able to make a quick getaway.


My face feels flushed. Is it hot in here?


Wait! Is that John? Yes. They're here. 


Why is he by himself? Where is she?


She slowly walked around the corner. Her face was beet red, but she had a big smile. As soon as I acknowledged to the crowd that this was her, they erupted into applause. I put the ring on her finger, kissed her and the crowd cheered again. We got lots of high fives and handshakes as the crowd began to disperse.

A Wal-Mart employee jumped in to get the shot for the newsletter and we were on our way out to the car. I asked her, "What part of the store were you in that it took so long to get to the front?"

She responded, "I considered leaving and saying yes later after making you sweat, but thought that would be too mean. So, I decided to make you think I wasn't coming."

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Boredom in Music Land

Yesterday afternoon I braved a mini blizzard, arrived in St. Louis and have been sitting in a dark room ever since. I've been sleeping in an unfurnished room with six gaseous teenagers and really crappy internet service.

That really sounds worse than it is. I have been known to exaggerate.

Much too my disappointment,
there was not a single dinosaur inside.
Last month I wrote about going to see my son's death metal band perform in a club. It was loud, as is necessary for shows of that type, and my ears have stopped bleeding since then. This weekend I am with the band again, but this time it is to record their first EP. They have recorded once before, but it was in the basement of their lead singer's house. This time, we are in a professional studio. It is a much better experience when you don't have to chase rats away to keep them from chewing on the guitar cords.

My being here does not mean that I really have anything to do with this endeavor. Because recording is not a fast process, they have to stay here for a few days to get all the tracks done. With five band members, all their equipment and sleeping gear, it would not fit into one vehicle.

Proposed solution: "Christian, call your dad. He's never doing anything."

So, here I am.

The owner's dog. Pit bull mix to guard
his owner's coffee stash.
Despite not having much to do, it really isn't that bad. I brought my laptop, several books and a few rented DVD's. There is also a big screen HDTV in the next room with a large comfortable couch. I am using these things to distract myself because a person can only watch a drum track being laid down so many times. And it has been done many, many times.

It was really interesting in the beginning. When they first started recording last night, I was fascinated by the microphone setup, the sound board, the process and the beautiful 37" computer monitor the sound engineer has on his computer.

Part of the control room
First, the guitar track (scratch track) must be recorded. This is a basic recording that will not be on the final cut. It is used as the basis for the drummer to play off of later. Once the drums are recorded, other instruments get recorded and added in one at a time. It is an incredibly slow process. The guitar scratch tracks alone kept them up until about 3 a.m. this morning. Since I don't have the energy of a teenager they don't need me for any of this, I went to bed at midnight.

This studio is built for several aspects of the music business. They silk screen shirts for bands, create CD and sleeve art and rent out rooms for bands to practice in. Since we live so far away, they let us crash in one of the practice rooms. While I greatly appreciate the courtesy offered to us, I thought I was going to freeze to death. That room was cold.

Since it is not designed for people to be living here, it is missing some basic accommodations. There is a refrigerator, but no stove or microwave. We ran to the grocery store to have food for the next three days, but since we cannot cook, it is mostly lunch meat sandwiches and fruit roll-ups.

One of the motivational moments between takes
Whether well-fed or malnourished, the plan is to have the entire album finished sometime Sunday afternoon. The guys have really been enjoying the experience and I am thrilled that I got to participate and watch their excitement. Despite all the downtime for me, I love that I was asked to come. I've learned a lot. Hanging out with teenagers, a lot of what I learned involved new ways to fart on each other, but I learned some music stuff too.

Hopefully, the new Odysseus EP will be available soon.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Real Life Pitfalls of Social Media

I have been addicted to Facebook for a couple of years now. My habit when I sit down at my computer has been to pull up my Facebook wall and scroll down reading the various updates until I get to the last point that I have already read. Then I feel that I am up to speed on everyone's lives.

However, for the last few months, I have not been paying as much attention to it. I scan through every day, but I don't read with the diligence that I used to. This is mainly because of my blog reading. I read about 50 different blogs and try to keep up with them, so I don't have as much time to keep up with Facebook. Plus, there is so much more information in a blog than the short little blurbs on Facebook. While one of my Facebook friends may mention that they are having meatloaf last night, blogger Jen of "Jen" e sais quoi gives a full description of the menu and ambiance of her latest restaurant outing in Portland. Much better reading.

When I was spending my precious time concentrating on Facebook, my students and many of the kids in my youth group would be a little unnerved confused when I would ask about their mother's surgery or how the party last Friday was. They always wondered how I knew the things I did, but they tend to forget how public the information they put on Facebook is. I was not looking to see what that specific person was up to. I would just read my Wall and later when I saw them, I would remember what I had read. But if you ever do want to know something, a quick Facebook check will usually give you the information you seek. Generally, if you want to know what movie your neighbor is watching, you only have to scan their page or timeline to quickly find out.

It is amazing the things that people are willing to put on Facebook without regard for pedophiles, serial killers, crazy ex-spouses who may be reading it. We can read anything from the news of them getting a new pet to what they ate for dinner that night. Some people's posts are funny, some only use it to complain about their lives, some use it for political activism and others tell us what is happening every time they do anything.

Example: These people drive me nuts. They post 600 updates a day and never really say anything.
9:04 "Just got a new library book."
9:17 "Thinking about Chinese for lunch"
9:21 "Just saw Bobby. I have missed him."
9:29 "Construction on Broadway again. I wonder why the traffic cones are always orange."

One of the great advantages for parents is the ability to keep up with their children. If you want to know what they are up to, it is usually somewhere on Facebook. Every parent should know how to use this wonderful tool. If your child has a Facebook page and you do not know what is going on in their life, then it is your own fault. Mark Zuckerberg may not care about our privacy, but his lack of concern is very helpful in this area. Now when Kirsten leaves the house, I don't have to worry about who she is with, whether she is eating healthy, what her bowling average is or what state she is in. Facebook tells me everything.

However, this tool is not helpful if you don't use it. This fact hit me hard yesterday when I heard something in one of those rare face-to-face conversations. I couldn't get home fast enough to consult the all-knowing Facebook to see if it was true. About 5 seconds after logging on I found this.

This says Tuesday. TUESDAY!!! Kirsten has had a boyfriend for two days and her father did not know about it. When I picked her up at school, she asked me how my day was and if I had written anything embarrassing about her on my blog that day. I said I didn't want to talk to her. She blew it off and laughed as she hopped in the van.

Me: "Kirsten, you are a big bag of lies!"

Her: "A big bag, not like a little lunch sack or a Zip-loc bag?"

Me: "Nope. A big, rotten, stinking bag of deceit."

Her: "Is there maggots in it?" (Can you tell she is not taking me very seriously?)

Me: "When were you going to tell me you and Steve were a couple?"

Her: "What? I did!"

Me: "No, you did not."

Her: "Dad, I put it on Facebook as soon as it happened. I told the whole world and that includes you."

Kirsten definitely understands the concept of social media. However, like many people her age, they forget about the social aspect of talking to people. Once it is on Facebook, it is public knowledge and it is your own fault if you did not know about it. Luckily, I added Steve as a friend a few days ago, so can keep an eye on both of them.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Stuntman Training #1

After my last post about how my brothers and I wanted to be stuntmen when we were kids, I thought I would share one of our less than spectacular moments. While it was very true that we were very daring and willing to push the limits of safety and sanity, things did not always pan out the way they looked in our heads. In our heads, the stunts were fantastic and always without flaws.

There is only one reason I never attempted this.
We didn't have one!
Many of our stunts involved the use of bicycles. We never really got into the BMX freestyling that was becoming popular at the time, but we did like to jump things. It was because of this love for big air that I got to see a back flip for the first time.

In Waltonville, where we grew up, there is a street (Knob St.) that has been closed and re-opened at least a dozen times that I can remember. The street goes down Knob Hill, which is supposedly the highest point in the county, and the street is fairly steep.

One weekend, we were out on our bikes with some friends and noticed that Knob Street had been closed off again. Being the curious types, we went around the barriers and discovered that there was a large dirt pile in the middle of the road about halfway down the hill. This pile was about four feet tall with plenty of road left on the other side for an easy landing.

The side facing the top of the hill had a perfect smooth side that was destined for jumping. Since some thoughtful road crew person had taken the time to build this wonderful toy for us, it would have been rude to not take advantage of it.

I was the first to take a run at it. The steep grade of the hill made it very easy to gain speed quickly. Lined up for a beautiful shot, I rapidly approached the jump. As I neared the top, I noticed how drastic the drop off on the other side would be. I locked up the brakes and rode smoothly over the mound. Everyone ran up to see what the issue was. I showed them my concerns.

This type of landing is much more difficult.
I was not scared of heights or crashes (I had experienced enough of them), but realized we needed a strategy. The problem was the grade of the hill. Had this mound been on flat ground it would have a different dynamic to the jump. The landing area would have been at the same elevation as the jumping point. However, on a steep grade, much more speed is gained and as the jumper is going up through the air, the ground is dropping away at an alarming rate. We were not intimidated by this type of jump. After all, we had jumped our bikes off the neighbor's roof. You just want to know what you are getting into since the landing will be rougher.

While we were scanning the road for possible hazards (holes, unusual bumps, extra gravel, dead bodies from previous attempts, etc.), my younger brother Kyle, decides to just go for it. He yells from the top of the hill for everyone to clear out of the way. Knowing that he wouldn't warn us again, we scattered to the edges of the road.

These are not exactly built for leaving the ground.
As he comes flying down the hill, I mentally question why he didn't trade bikes with someone. Kyle was on a ten-speed. However, he did something I had never seen before and still have not seen done on a ten-speed.

Using my best guess, he approached the ramp at approximately the speed of sound and shot off into the sky with the gap between him and the ground growing at an exponential rate.

Kyle was very aware that the bike he was using was not ideal for jumping, so as he approached the top he pulled up hard on the handlebars to ensure he didn't land on his front wheel. It was immediately evident that he had overcompensated.

As he sailed past me, I could tell he was flipping backwards. Kyle, never wanting to be accused of not seeing something through to the end refused to leave the bike and stayed in the seat. It was an amazing thing to see as the bike and rider continued to spin until he was right side up again. It would have been more amazing had he landed at that point, but he didn't. He kept rotating until the tires were skyward again. That was when he met the pavement.

At his current velocity, he did not just land. He skidded. Much like a rock skipping across water, but without the skipping part. Toppling and rolling over his bike, taking hits from the pedals and going through the spokes, he came to a bloody, grinding stop. He made a generous skin contribution to the road commissioner that day. He wouldn't donate that much skin at one time again until he hits a dog 15 years later while riding his motorcycle.

We packed his wounds with dirt to stop the bleeding, pulled out the most mangled spokes and attempted to straighten the front wheel (unsuccessfully). We then drug him to the ditch to clear the road so we could try to do better than him. Because Kyle's left side bike was out of commission, he watched from the sidelines as we each took our turns on the now-acclaimed ramp of potential death. Since Kyle has demonstrated what not to do so successfully, our attempts were much more productive.

Once we all had our share of excitement, we decided to venture home. It then occurred to us that the sun was quickly setting, we were about 5 miles from home, short one bike and Kyle could barely move. It was going to be a looooong trek home.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

This Is Why My Body Is Falling Apart Today

Tonight, my daughter told me she needed my help with a school assignment. Being the incredible, uber-cool dad and spectacular all-around person that I am, I was more than happy to assist. She told me to have a seat and pulled out a notebook. She then reminded me that I had once told her I wanted to be a stuntman when I grew up. This is true and I would have been awesome.

I was the oldest of three boys living in the country. My mother has lots of entertaining stories about the horrors that we put her through. We weren't bad kids; we just loved adventure and the more dangerous the activity, the bigger the thrill. I have blogged about some of these adventures before. Living where we did, we had access to motorcycles, tractors, barn lofts, train tracks and all sorts of things to climb on. We were always climbing and jumping and pushing things a little bit further than most kids.

The crazy things we were doing were difficult enough for my mother to handle, but in 1981 things got much worse (or more fun, depending on how you look at it). That was the year The Fall Guy premiered on ABC.

The Fall Guy starred Lee Majors (3 years after $6 Million Man) as a top Hollywood stuntman who got caught up in all sorts of crazy capers. In addition to foiling crimes and hanging out with beautiful women, he did spectacular stunts for movies in every episode. He would jump off buildings, crash cars, get set on fire and tons of other cool stuff I couldn't wait to try out. Add this show to the fact that I had already been watching Bo and Luke speeding along in the General Lee on The Dukes of Hazzard for 2 years and I was hooked. When my dad rented Burt Reynold's stuntman movie Hooper that same year, there was no stopping me.

As the oldest, my younger brothers followed along, which I didn't mind because when one of us got hurt, it was quite handy to have someone available to run and get Mom. Luckily, the injuries were rarely serious. I will cover some of the more grievous injuries in a future post. We had always been daring, but now it was time to actually do things that most people would get injured doing. Before the dream of being a stuntman, I would climb to the top of the barn and stand on the peak just for the fear in my mother's eyes thrill. After I knew what my future had in store for me, I would jump off. Of course, I had to build up to that.

We started jumping off the pig barns. One of the barns was about 6 feet tall on one end and a little over 10 feet on the other. We jumped off the low end until we felt that we had the roll technique down and would move our way up to higher and higher parts of the roof. We eventually graduated to the roof of our house and even started jumping out the second story windows of our bedrooms.

Once we were old enough to drive, we practiced getting hit by cars. We started with cars that sat lower to the ground so we could roll over the hood easier. When we decided we had it down to our satisfaction, we would take the hit at 5 mph faster. We increased the speed higher and higher until we knew we could really freak people out by getting run down in a public place (which we did whenever we saw the opportunity).

One day after school, I was taking my friend John home and as we drove around the corner of the building, he said, "Hey, isn't that your brother, Trevor?" I looked, agreed that it was him and hit the gas. I sped across the parking lot and hit him with the passenger corner of my bumper. His legs got swept up, he went over the hood and his back crashed into my windshield. I locked up the brakes and he slid off the front in a heap.

John was freaking out while I got the subtle nod from Trevor that he was okay. As John was trying to help him up, I was screaming about the damage to my broken windshield. I kicked Trevor, drug John back into the car and sped off. The reaction we got from John was worth the months of practice and cost of a new windshield.

As I am telling story after story, my daughter was writing as fast as she could. By this time, her friend Taylor had shown up at our house and she interjected to question the truth to some of the stories, but Kirsten assured her that she had heard them before from both my brothers and our mother. They were true.

Fire Stunt Tip: Diesel burns slower
than gasoline, but it is much hotter.
Taylor made the comment that her dad would never tell her some of the stories I had just shared, even if they were true. It then occurred to me that she had a point. I wasn't just telling old stories of my younger days, I was talking to my daughter, who I am supposed to protect. I had just told her about how we would set each other on fire and run for the nearest body of water. She now knows that we hopped moving trains and jumped from car to car. I told her how we rode our bicycles off the roofs of houses and climbed underneath moving vehicles. These are not the kinds of stories my kids need to hear.

It is rather difficult to tell my daughter that she shouldn't drive her car up steep embankments (just to see how far it can go before it flips), when I had just told her how much fun it was. I had not been paying attention as I told my stories and forgot who my audience was, but now that I was aware of the situation I changed gears.

Me: "If you even think about doing any of the things I just talked about, you will never leave this house again!"

Kirsten: "Oh, don't worry about that, Dad. I am much smarter than you."

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