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The Walking Dead

hoodedzombieIt’s not easy when you find yourself laughing at yourself. Of course it’s not any less funny than if you’re laughing at someone else.

I had just finished documenting my favorite new anti-social behavior—being completely out of the time zone—and then I had a week with too much exercise, and too much work.

I went from a week of being vibrant and playful like a puppy, to a week in which I was sloppy tired like the walking dead. I was laughing one week about how everyone around me was looking tired and I was well-rested. Then I got myself all worn out and started falling asleep before 8 PM. I was exhausted, true, but the joke still turned on me, no doubt about it.

It kind of reminds me of that joke about Leftagawea, Sacagawea’s older sister who has a longer leg on the right, so she’s always turning left. Leftagawea took Lewis and Clark around only half of the country because she took them in a circle. They started at the Atlantic Ocean and ended at the Atlantic Ocean. When Lewis and Clark found out what happened, they hired Sacagawea instead.

It’s a dumb joke, but it totally relates to what I did to myself. Turned around and went back the other way, didn’t I?

So now what? I just have to control my steps. I have to regulate my exercise routine better, and/or take on less work. That’s good advice for anyone—in or out of the time zone.

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Why Science Fiction Owes So Much To Stan Lee

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It occurred to me that there might be someone out there now, or in the future, who wants to know what the big deal was about Stan Lee.

Stan Lee is one of the masterminds of science fiction. Granted, he didn’t write every plot for every comic book, but he did present the basis for the stories. The spectrum of his science fiction was impressively broad. For instance, a short list of the sci-fi themes he thrilled readers with would have to include radiation, genetic mutation, atom manipulation, cybernetic augmentation, interstellar travel, and extra sensory perception.

My favorite of his themes is still gamma rays.

Whenever someone asks one of those questions about the mysteries of life, the answer is “Gamma rays.” Sometimes I say it with a laugh; sometimes I’ll say it with a straight face because I gotta make them believe.

Why do my shoes wear out so fast? “Gamma rays.”

How do people get so smart? “Gamma rays.”

How did you get all that lumber in the back of your truck? “Gamma rays.”

How do I lose my car keys when they’re in plain sight? “Gamma rays.”

Why did the satellite signal just go out? “Gamma rays.”

Gamma radiation was one of Stan Lee’s trademark reasons for super stretchiness, the ability to create force field shields around yourself, skin that’s hard like stone, and flames coming out of your hands. Radiation itself, in Stan Lee’s incredible imaginary universe, could do lots of great things and turn ordinary people into fantastic mutants or beneficial man-size bugs.

He helped fashion a science fiction universe that includes so many characters we can hardly count them.

Through Stan Lee we have some choice words in our vocabularies. In the Marvel comics you’ll find yellow narrative strips, sometimes even accompanied with a caricature of Stan Lee himself. In those strips he would have something about the story, and hints to help you know what was going on, since some of the stories could be really complicated. The narrative might say something like, “Back when Cap’n America met Red Skull in ISH 95.” ISH meant “issue”.

Comics came out in really short episodic bursts, with only a few pages to tell the story, so of course the writers and artists would helpfully point you to an issue where the critical parts of the story were. Stan might continue, “Find out whether Cap gets capped or if his shield saves him, next ISH. ‘Nuff said.” That was one of Stan’s signature lines: ‘Nuff said.

Then there’s that word “thwip”, which should be in the dictionary, if it isn’t. The definition: the sound of Spiderman’s webs shooting out and attaching to something. It may not be a word that you use much in everyday life (though it could be), but it’s definitely a Marvel comics staple. Without that word, and some of the other comic action words like chuff!, crash!, pow!, splang!, some of the comics just wouldn’t be as much fun.

Stan Lee helped many of us young men and women realize that we could invent worlds of such rich fascination that we could lose ourselves inside. He led us to invent our own super-powered characters. He even led us to love science and the experiments that drive us to learn new things about the physical universe in which we live.

Though many of us were disappointed to learn that getting bit by a spider wouldn’t give us spider talents, we still loved the world of the web-slinger. And though we discovered we couldn’t have psychic super-powers by radioactive waste, we still enjoyed thinking about the possibilities. Every child who’s ever picked up a comic book, with Stan’s stamp of “Excelsior!” within the pages, has found a fantastic world where the ordinary could be extraordinary. The same joy is experienced by adults who allow themselves to suspend their disbelief for the moments it takes to turn the pages on a brightly colored action landscape.

Thanks Stan Lee! See you on the other side of the great divide.

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Audiophiles in Family Units

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It’s no secret that I love music.

Music makes the day go by a little easier. Music makes work less tedious. All work can be tedious if you’ve done it long enough. Music makes the routine tasks less routine.

Music will keep you sane.

Have you ever gone on a road trip…with your family?

Everyone who has ever been in a family unit will know how it is when two members of the unit are battling with each other, battling over willpower, battling over space in the back seat, battling over breathing room and elbow space. Maybe it’s brother and sister. They just look at each other and the hate rays start flying from their eyes. So taking brother and sister on a road trip could be like traveling in a small metal box with badgers inside. You know before you start it won’t be comfortable, and it could prove to be deadly; however, if you bring the right mix of music along, the trip could actually be enjoyable for everyone.

And then if sharing the music doesn’t work, there’s always the headphone option.

God bless the human being who invented headphones! With headphones we can all listen to different music at the same time. We won’t interrupt each other, and we won’t annoy each other. Little brother can listen to his Emo-Screamo, and little sister can listen to her Pop-Forty, mom can listen to her Mike Bubble, and dad can listen to his SoundSlave AudioGarden, and no one will get fed up with the other’s choice of music.

Headphones=happy family.

Headphones=non-deadly road tripping.

Oh yeah, and snacks—bring lots of snacks.

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Chiming-in

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I’ve been off DST (sounds like a bad drug, doesn’t it?) for a week now.

It feels just fine. I don’t see any difference…except…my short fuse with other people who…well, I better take it down gradually. Since I love people, I don’t want to start insulting anyone. However, there was a time this past week when someone said something that made me either want to slap my forehead or their face. When you want to wake someone up quickly, you slap their face, right? It works in the movies.

Gradually, chronologically:

My wife was first. She puts up with my weird ideas, and there’s really no end to my gratitude for her. She did tell me I was crazy for not switching my clock with everyone else. She asked, “Why do you do this to yourself.” And all I could think of in reply was, “Because I can.” Underneath my simple response is the idea of being a free spirit. Freedom is worthless unless you exercise it.

Then there was my boss. I told him I was going to be on a different time than everyone else, and he was totally on my side. See, he comes from Arizona. They’re smart in Arizona; they don’t do DST. Plus, he told me that it messes up his dog the most. He takes his dog for a walk at the same time every day, except of course when the irrational masses shift their clocks. Then his dog doesn’t know what’s going on.

There was my friend Garrison, who said something like, “They’re trying to vote on doing away with Daylight Saving Time.” That was a head-slapper. We were having a conversation, and I had already told him that I was off the DST for good. My whole point was that you don’t have to wait for anybody to vote. If you’re tired of shifting your clock unnecessarily, then STOP. If you’re an adult person in a free country, you don’t have to wait for someone to tell you what to do or when to do it. Take charge of your life already.

He’s still my friend, even though I get mean on him sometimes. He returns the mean, believe me. I did not slap his face.

Anyway, other than those who I told that I was not on DST anymore, no one really knows, do they? I mean, it’s not like they can look at me and recognize, “OOO, he looks like a non-DST kind of guy.” It’s one of those subjective things.

It would be funny though, if someone picked me out of the crowd and got insanely jealous, “Why do you look so rested?!”

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Letter Names

What fascinates me about the names of letters is that some of them can’t have a name, unless it’s spelled without the actual letter in it. Why do you suppose we have letters like that? It could be that they’re superfluous letters. We use those for spelling words all fancy and extravagant, like an arabesque woodwork on a door, or a lattice frame for a vine.

I do feel sorry for anyone learning the English language. They can’t have an easy time of it. We don’t do much correction, and haven’t done much over the years. We add words all the time, which can be confusing to even native speakers. We combine words from other languages. We mix languages in and then we mix them all together, so we don’t even remember the origin of the words we use, or the original meaning.

My list below is not the final word on the subject of letter names though. If you want to spell them the difficult way like me, you can think up your own letter names. If you would rather keep it simple, you can just write them as a capital, like so: A, B, C…; and then when you want to suggest more than one in your writing, like so: As, Bs, Cs…and so on. The following is how I would spell the names of letters in English:

Ay

Bee

See

Dee

Eeee!

Eff

Jee

Aitch

Eye

Jay

Kay

Ell

Em

En

Oh

Pee

Kyew

Arr

Ess

Tee

You

Vee

Double You

Ex

Why

Zee

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Positive Words Dominate

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My favorite positive-sounding words in alphabetical order:

Adventurous

Brilliant

Clean

Delightful

Energizing

Fun-loving

Gorgeous

Healthy

Impressive

Joyous

Keen

Laughter

Masterpiece

Nutritious

Optimist

Power

Quality

Remarkable

Spirit

Tremendous

Uplifting

Vital

Wonderful

Xenosthesia

Yummy

Zippy

So, once you have a list like this, what do you do with it? I try to use one of these words every day for a whole month. (Sometimes people catch me. Other times I can slip it in a conversation and nobody knows my secret.) If I manage to go even a week with one of these words each day, I feel successful. It definitely changes my view of things if I’m actively looking for the positive. The added bonus is if I manage to cheer up someone else.

If I don’t notice people cheering up around me, it seems like it might be worth it to try using two or more of the same positive-sounding words in a conversation. For instance, I have some people I meet regularly and they have a habit of pessimism. Their first words to me are often about the weather, and their first words to me are complaints. If I don’t practice my own optimism, I can get dragged down into their pessimistic view. The weather isn’t always bad, but some people see it that way. So when they complain about rain, I return with: “Isn’t it gorgeous when the grass is so healthy and green?” Or, “I feel like the rain is energizing me today.”

That last one, energizing, is one of my favorites because it also reminds me of Star Trek. If the pessimists don’t change, won’t smile, won’t even acknowledge the optimistic side of things, then I think, “No chance for this planet—beam me up, Scotty.” And then of course Scotty would say, “Energize.” And we’d all zip off to find a wonderful planet where people can appreciate what they have.

I could be the alien on another planet, expressing my xenosthesia to them through positive words. Positive words dominate the universe.

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Work Station

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Where I work is at the waterpark. You know it. You’ve seen it from the highway. It ain’t much, but it pays the bills.

Every three days I have to clean out the tumbleweeds from the kids’ pool. Every ten days I have to clean out some kids from the same pool. They come in when the wind blows. They pile up where the coping overhangs the deep.

My reason for being here, contrary to popular opinion, isn’t the free ride on the water slide. My fellow employees are the whole reason I can do the routine work cycle of each work day: rise, comb, brush, travel, punch the clock, lunch, punch again, travel the opposite direction, and lay this smelly carcass down. That’s the cycle. My favorite thing about my job is the quality of the characters. My fellow employees. For instance, one of the characters I work with says, “A bus station is where the bus stops; a train station is where the train stops; so, of course, at work, I have a work station.”

Oh yeah, he knows how to work something, and it’s called the system.

Another favorite character is the guy who claims that gasoline fixes everything. He has a bad habit of smoking. It doesn’t affect his work at all, only his health. He can barely talk anymore from the hacking cough he’s developed. Sometimes I’ll catch him smoking in the cafeteria. He tells me he doesn’t have time to put down the ham sandwich, and he never flicks his ashes. He just lets them fall off with the force of gravity as they become a long enough horizontal column. His ham sandwich turns into an ashtray, if he holds it with the wrong hand. When we had a problem with the cash register the other day, he fixed it. When he was done with it, you could have sprinkled it on a sandwich.

Another of my favorite characters, one of my fellow employees, isn’t a fellow at all, she’s a woman. She has the superpower of ceaseless banter. I wish I had that power. There are so many situations where that would be a useful skill. My whole vocabulary some days is “yep” and “nope”. But she can carry on a conversation with anyone as if they both were lifelong friends. I have to admit though, she can contradict herself. Just the other day she told me about one of the customers who was talking to her, and “he wouldn’t stop talking. It was him. It wasn’t me.” She told me this, and I couldn’t stop laughing. Since I didn’t witness the scene, I had to imagine it, and I imagined two people with random subjects popping in their conversation every five seconds so that every minute twenty-four separate subjects were covered and dispatched.

And then there’s me. I’m the math whiz. I can tell you how many bricks are in the west wall: 347. I can tell you how many sets of false teeth are down the cracks of the couch in the television lounge: 2.5. I can tell you how many times Dante’s name is written in the restrooms around the whole park: 42. I can tell you how many ping pong balls some mischief maker shoved up inside that hand dryer that makes a funny noise when it operates: 17. And I can tell you how many ping pong balls we have for the ping pong table now: 0.

There are no more Cracker Jacks sold in the cafeteria. If you want some, you have to bring your own.

There’s no water in the pools, unless it rains. Kind of like the same way I wash my car.