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"This just in..."

“This just in…”

This is only a test. More to come……or not…..who knows.


Daily Fitbit stats

My fitbit #Fitstats for 9/20/2014: 14,521 steps and 6.8 miles traveled.

Daily Fitbit stats

My fitbit #Fitstats for 9/18/2014: 1,985 steps and 0.9 miles traveled.

2013 in review!!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,700 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 45 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Case of the Thankful Thanksgiving…

Saturday, we left to drive the 1,000 miles from Florida to Kentucky. My wife and I haven’t spent Thanksgiving with my family since we first got married, so we figured this year would be a good time to change that.

We were making good time and spent Sunday night in Georgia. Nice weather and clear roads were ahead.

Things were smooth as silk until we got an hour away from my parent’s house and stopped for gas. I went to turn the car back on, after fueling up, only to hear “click, click, click”. The car wouldn’t start.

Luckily, I have AAA so I called them and they sent a truck out. The guy in the souped up tow truck (it was a pretty cool looking truck, especially for a tow truck, I have to admit…I should have taken a picture) gave us a jump and the car started right up…..just to die about a minute later. Not only did the car die, but every instrument totally blanked out…not a good sign.

Like an EMP had hit our little Focus, everything died, so the guy towed us to a Wal Mart a couple of exits down. They tested the battery and the alternator, figuring out the alternator was, indeed, shot. Wal Mart doesn’t work on alternators, but the guy knew someone who would bring one out and install it for $260.00 ($170.00 or the part, the rest for labor). Figuring I didn’t have a lot of options (it was getting later in the afternoon) I went ahead and had him install it….praying that the alternator was the real problem. By the time it was all said and done, we had been at Wal Mart for over four hours….which wasn’t so bad as we picked up a few odds and ends we had been meaning to get for our stay up here, anyway.

When the guy finally got the alternator in, we paid him and headed out while I said a few prayers that everything was truly fixed. We had an hour to go and there wasn’t much between Georgetown and Independence except for miles of dark highway. It was also 9:00pm. Had things gone as planned, we would have been there at 4:00’ish. Thankfully, though, the car got us there fine and has been running great, so far.

The whole incident left me feeling thankful.

Thankful that the tow truck driver who suggested going to Wal Mart to have the battery and alternator checked.

Thankful that this Wal Mart had a worker who knew someone (his dad, come to find out) who would come out and fix the problem that night, so we wouldn’t have to spend another night in a hotel…especially being only an hour away.

Thankful that the problem was fixed for a relatively nominal amount…compared to taking it a garage.

And, thankful that we have family to go to in the first place and spend the holiday with. I can’t wait to dig into that turkey and dressing on Thursday. (I’m also thankful for turkey!)

Hoping you all have a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday!

A few shots from the road:

How Steve Austin made me feel old.

My hairline looks about the same, these days.

So, here it is….the day after.

The day after my birthday, that is. It was 44 years ago, yesterday, that I made my auspicious debut into the world. At a burly nine pounds and thirteen ounces, I probably would’ve bounced had I been dropped….on my bottom, instead of my head.  Not that I was dropped on my head.

Too often.

Anyway, when you’re young you never think you’ll be the ‘old guy’…until that one day, when you suddenly look in the mirror and see him. It’s then when you realize that you’re ready to shake your cane at any young whippersnapper who dares tread on your lawn. My reason for bringing this up is directly related to my birthday and the awesome gift my wife got me.  Now, my wife knows I’m a big geek. She’s pretty ‘geeky’ herself and we’ve talked about some of our favorite shows from our youth. One of hers was “The Bionic” woman and, coincidentally enough, one of mine was “The Six Million Dollar Man”.

To show that she was really paying attention, she bought me the entire series on DVD as my birthday gift. To say I was surprised would be an understatement. Like I said, it was one of my favorite shows when I was young. Of course, I was chomping at the bit to dig into the series, from the beginning (which I missed since we were overseas when it debuted).  Granted, watching it now, the effects are cheesy compared to what they can do now, and some of the acting is a bit ham-fisted, but a lot of the story ideas and characterization still makes it worth seeing again.

This is all (in a roundabout way)  leading up to how the Six Million Dollar Man made me feel old.

About ten years ago, I was at work talking to some people about a Halloween party I had gone to. A couple of girls, both around 19 or 20 at the time, asked me who I went as. I told them I went as the Six Million Dollar Man.

They looked at each other.

Then they looked at me.

“Who’s that?” they both asked.

At first I thought they were joking and I started laughing. Then, I realized that they weren’t joking. They had no idea who ‘Steve Austin’ was, besides the ‘Stone Cold’ variety.

It was, at that moment, when I became officially….old. My hairline instantly receded and my gut drooped over my belt. Alright, maybe it wasn’t as instantaneous as that….but, still…

So, that’s it….I have the Bionic Man to thank for me being a curmudgeon. Besides my dwindling tolerance for hippies and the inability to know new singers and songs, being curmudgeonly isn’t half bad.

Happy Birthday to me =)

Lessons learned from a noob NaNoWriMo’ian

So, like I was bragging talking about over on my other blog , I typed a 50 Thousand word novel in one month and, thereby, “won” National Novel Writing Month. Now, granted, it gives you absolutely nothing except bragging rights (and a PDF certificate), but it’s still something you can look back on and say ‘yeah, I did that’.

The month of November taught me a few things regarding writing:

  1. A story makes infinitely much more sense when you have an outline. Now, I did have an outline…that only lasted me through, about, eight chapters. From there, I was totally winging it. I figure I can go back to correct any continuity errors that may have crept up, but I think the story would have flowed smoother, and not quite as choppy, if I had it more thought out.
  2. Writing is a lot of fun….until it becomes something you think you have to do. It’s amazing how many things I could find to do around the house each day as I was trying to hit my 1,666 words a day goal. Don’t get me wrong, the writing was still fun…but the sense of urgency about getting it done, not so much.
  3. Peer pressure helps….a lot. The great writing community over on Google Plus was extremely supportive. A lot of folks, myself included, would post their word counts for the day. They’d encourage those who fell behind as well as applaud those who had surpassed their goal. I’m not sure if I’d have gone the distance if it weren’t for my G+ homies.
  4. Characterization isn’t easy. At least as easy as I thought it would be. It takes some doing to make sure the supporting characters don’t sound like just another extension of the main character. Again, more fleshing out and planning would have fixed this.
  5. Don’t let anyone…and I mean -anyone- read your first draft.  Ever.

So, November and NaNoWriMo was fun and a success. It definitely gave me some tools to try to sharpen up for next year’s “50k in 30 days” attempt.

I just have to remember to unlock the tool shed in October, next year.

Laughing with the angels….

It’s funny the things you remember about people when they leave us. The thing I’ll always remember about my Grandma was her laugh.

She loved to laugh and when she did, she didn’t mess around. She had a loud laugh. One of those laughs that starts out, almost, as a scream then just keeps on going.

I remember when the family used to get together for the holidays…all us kids in one room…the grown ups in another. You would constantly hear the sounds of laughter coming from the grown up’s room….we kids were (usually) fairly quiet…in comparison. Always leading the charge was, you guessed it, my Grandma.

I wouldn’t, necessarily, call her a ‘tough’ lady, but she was certainly no-nonsense. She was brutally honest and told it like she saw it, regardless. I think she was a little worried about me because I wasn’t married by age 30 and I would tend to have long spells between girls I was dating steadily. More than once we had conversations that went along these general lines…

So, are you married yet?

No, Grandma, I’m still single.

You’re not seeing anyone?


You like girls, right?

Yes, Grandma, I like girls.

Then what’s the problem??

To her, it was just that simple and straightforward. Just writing the above brought a smile to my face because I can hear her voice, plain as day. More than once she actually would use the word “broad” in place of “girl”….“So Mark, have you found a nice broad to settle down with?”

I think she did things like that to see me laugh and get a reaction….which I always did and she always got.

She passed away yesterday (10/22/11) and, from what I understand it was quick and painless. Straightforward….just like her.

I could go on for pages about how she touched people’s lives, brought them to the Lord (my mom, chief among them), and always had something to say…no matter what the topic…but I won’t.

Instead, I’ll just say that I know my Grandma went on to a better place and her family will miss her, dearly.

Helen Means will live through her family, friends, and those whose lives she touched.

We’ll never forget her and always love her.

I can just hear her now, laughing with the angels….