Word of the Day: maunder

Christmas has come and gone, and I’m feeling barely aware that it was here, and I admit that I’m feeling a touch “down,” and disappointed in myself. Don’t let it worry you, I’m sure I’ll be over it soon.

This is a strange story that was inspired by a simple sentence, that I held onto for years until I could figure out how to make it work as a story. Until now.

Today’s Word:


As in:

It’s weird, isn’t it?

I’m a normal guy. Well, mostly normal. I like sports, and beer, and gadgets. I’m living the cliche.

Granted, I don’t tend to tell people about my “work,” which is usually only normal for secret agents. Or people in my field. My field’s not exactly socially acceptable. No, I’m not a garbage man or an undertaker or anything like that. Geesh. I’m a simple honorable thief.

Yeah, I know. I should stop.

But, it’s hard to get a job in this economy. It’s not like I can list skills like “fencing goods,” “stealth” or “lighting fast appraisal” on most resumes. I have very little in the way of job history, and my references are not exactly what anyone would consider ideal. I mean, I don’t even know what “Stumpy’s” real name is, and I ain’t asking.

It’s not a terrible life. I don’t have to put up with performance reviews, or uncomfortable polyester uniforms, or TPS reports. Nope. None of that. Sure, the threat of jail is a bit loomy, but, that’s not that big a risk if you’re careful.

So, why do I maunder on a Saturday night, shuffling down an empty street, looking like the saddest sad sack that ever blew down a street?

I can’t even believe it myself. I don’t know what it is about that girl. I mean, she was pretty, that’s part of it, sure. It’s more than that, though. There’s that dimple, and the way she laughs, and all those cliches. I’d never thought I’d have been susceptable to all that stuff.

Maybe it’s more the way she was with those kids. I don’t even like kids. They’re not even her kids, it’s just a job, but, she protected them, and they trusted her. They’re good kids too. Polite. They stayed calm the whole time I was there.

Look, I didn’t know anyone was still in the house. They are rich, and were supposed to be on vacation. I didn’t expect to find the kids and the nanny playing hide and seek in a dark house, when they were SUPPOSED to be on vacation.

I didn’t even steal anything from there. I couldn’t. I lost the will to take stuff. I’ve turned into a fool. A fool who wants a different life. A life where people cared about you, and where you had regular meals, and people who looked up to you, and treated you like something other than garbage.

It’s a fantasy world, but it had given me cravings that I can not ignore. How can I continue my life of crime with this gnawing emptiness consuming my thoughts? How did I get infected with the idea that I could have a happy life? What thief suddenly has dreams of being a nanny?


I told you it was a peculiar idea.

maunder / MON – der / to wander slowly and idly 2. to speak indistinctly or disconnectedly.

I have no ideas, but I must post

Well, that’s not entirely true. I have ideas. That’s not the problem. However, all of them seem self-indulgent and only of interest to me.

As I try and get myself together for the end of the ear, I’m racing in so many directions, and I can’t focus on what to do with today’s post.

Then, of course, I get that annoying self-loathing which is reminding me that I’ve failed to post on the previous two Sundays, and I’m feeling uncertain whether I’m going to have something ready for the next Sunday, which is, of course, Christmas.

All of this is served alongside my to do list, which includes a bunch of stuff that I was hoping to accomplish before Christmas.

This, apparently, is translating to a ramble-y stream-of-conscious post.

I just finished watching American Horror Story’s season finale, and as messed up as this season was (content-wise), I learned that they’re essentially creating a season-long anthology show, and that’s inspired, and inspirational to me.

I’m supposed to go to work tomorrow, and I will need to deliver some Christmas presents tomorrow night, before I go to my mother’s  for the holiday itself, and I’m honestly feeling like the holiday is something of an annoying distraction, and I’m resenting it, and feeling a bit Scrooge-y. In point of fact, I’m not feeling that Christmas is anything but a day of deadlines, presents due, column due, blog post, due.  Then the day after Christmas, I start working on the stuff I wanted to have done *before* the holiday, but, is now late, so I’m playing catch-up instead. Family photo album “Christmas present,” which I’ve only just started.  Backlog of writing work I failed to get done during the past two weeks.  Oncoming deadlines of ornaments (Jan. 7), thank you notes to write (Jan. 3), newsletter (Jan. 1), blog posts (2 plus a Word of the Day) and columns to send out. Columns which no one is even reading.

And they say that the holidays are stressful. No solid waste matter, Sherlock.

Part of me is glad I’ve given myself so much to do in the last few weeks, because it helps to distract me from feeling depressed about the holiday. Much better to  have little sense of the season than to notice that everyone is spending their holiday with children and significant others.

That busy plan was working pretty good until I wrote the above paragraph. Thanks so much, brain, for that one.

Does this post serve any purpose except to make feel slightly better about myself for not missing yet another deadline?  I’m not even sure I’m not just going to delete this thing, and just live with the continual shame of missing deadlines. Is that better? I don’t know.

I’ve got at least another hour’s worth of work to accomplish tonight, and I’m cold, and long for a warm bath and bed. I’m this close to letting that seduce me away from doing anything meaningful tonight.

Expletive this. I’m posting, and then thawing in the tub for a bit.

Making the mundane more festive!

I’m working on a bit of brain death today, but, I promised to post. I think. Anyway, this is another one of those “making the mundane fun” work e-mails I sent last year.

Subject: The Santa no one wants
“Wait, Wait!” you say,
“This cannot be!”
There is no Santa we’d wish to flee!
Alas, if I may
Just disagree
There is a He without devotee.

Santa of Science
His gifts: green fur
It causes foodstuffs to not long endure.

Food in the Fridge
Should not long be left
For the holiday Scientist elf.

Remove, then, your food
Hide the temptation
Avoiding his furry donation.

The deadline looms
This Thursday by noon
Else smells the guilty to impugn

This verse is probably not going to be a runaway Christmas favorite anytime soon, is it? Oh well.

If you are confused by that monstrosity, which is not entirely unlikely, the gist is this: please take out any food from the various fridges which will spoil over the holiday. This preparation needs to be completed before noon on Dec. 23rd to make sure that these items are not left in the building as a science experiment of a different sort.

In addition, I want to wish everyone a wonderful break. Stay warm and safe, relax and enjoy your time with family and friends.

Word of the Day: edacious

This is another entry in the “fractured nursery rhyme” genre. I also suspect I’ve got serial killers on my brain.

Today’s Word:


As in:

Police finally arrested a suspect in the bizarre string of murders, which left a trail of pumpkin and death all over the city. Peter Logan, 38, was arrested on evidence that he is the notorious “Pumpkin Eater,” so called for leaving bits of pumpkin with human bite marks at the numerous brutal murder scenes.

The police believe that Logan, who first came under suspicion when his wife, Dorothy, went missing a number of years ago, has been moving around the country under a number of names, and is responsible for over 40 murders in 15 different states. His missing wife is now believed to be one of his victims.

In an interview with the suspect, police questioned Logan about his wife. He told them in a fit of fury, that “he had a wife,” and that “he couldn’t keep her.” Later statements, which brought into question whether the suspect was mentally fit to stand trial, indicated that Mrs. Logan had been “put into a pumpkin shell.” The statement, given on video, was accompanied by fits of maniacal laughter. After his comment on the whereabouts of his wife, Logan again laughed, and stated that “there she kept very well.”

As the body of Mrs. Logan has not been found, no one is entirely certain what Mr. Logan meant by the statement. Some have speculated that he only said it because it rhymed with ‘shell.’ Others wondered if Logan had some mental aberration that compelled him to speak in rhyming couplets.

Despite the lack of a case against Logan for the disappearance of his wife, he stands charged with dozens of other murders, and the prosecution has strong evidence that Peter Logan is the “Pumpkin Eater.” Legal experts suspect that the recorded statements about his wife are little more than the “basis for an insanity defense,” however, they maintain their case is very strong and feel confident that Logan will not be leaving police custody any time soon.

“It’s hard to believe this is a real case and not the plot of one of those Jack Patterson novels,” noted investigator Phoebe Monroe. “Granted, if it were an Alex Cross case, the killer would be a good deal more perverted, so, I’m grateful it’s not worse than it already is.”

A few people, mostly neighbors of Logan, have indicated that they believe the man is innocent.

“They got the wrong guy,” said Janet Fuentes. “There’s no way he did all those things to those women. Once, he even babysat for my kids, and they had a great time. Do you really think I would leave my children in the care of a serial killer? Of course not. I’m an excellent judge of character. Some people might even say the kids coming home with carved pumpkins in July is proof enough, but, they weren’t even real pumpkins, just those foamy kind you get at hobby stores.”

This characterization is at odds with the edacious “Pumpkin Eater,” whose appetite for pumpkin and for violent homicide has only gotten worse.

Bail was not granted, and Logan is being held in a maximum security cell until it is determined where he will be tried.

edacious / eh – DAY – shus / having a huge appetite: ravenous 2. excessively eager: insatiable

My take on the 2011 shows

We’ve hit mid-season, which means, I suspect, that my friends are waiting to hear which of the new fall shows I’ve really enjoyed, which ones stink, etc.

Of course, I probably should’ve done this weeks ago, because your viewing habits have already been set for the season.

At the beginning of the fall, I mentioned the shows I was most interested in: Terra Nova, Once Upon A Time, Grimm, Pan Am and Ringer.

Which ones do I still care about?

The only one I look forward to every week is Once Upon a Time. I’m rooting for this little town of curses fairy tale characters, and well, it’s got Jane Espenson, and I tend to root for her, too. Emma Caulfield is going to be on it in a few weeks, so, we can check in with her.  It’s charming, and I really want to know how it all works out.

I’m still limping along with Terra Nova and Ringer, but, without much enthusiasm. Terra Nova had an ok pilot, but I remained unconvinced. At this point, it feels mostly tedious to me, and I’m finding it hard to swallow my disbelief. They were sent into the past to save the future? But, the future is still sucking, so, why do they keep sending people? Don’t they (the future) know it pretty much already failed? Dumb.

Ringer is convoluted and is much more soapy than I’d like. The supposedly dead twin is increasingly unlikable, and I’m not entirely sure I care about any of them any more.

Pan Am was, well, boring. Sure, there’s espionage going on, and people are having affairs, but, somehow, I wasn’t compelled to watch after the first episode. Grimm was much the same, even if, admittedly, I like the pilot better than the Pan Am pilot. It might be a show I check out again later. I think it has some identity issues, and it’s trying to be a blend of humor, pathos and horror like Buffy was, but, it’s not managing the tonal shifts with nearly the Buffy’s deftness. Which is disappointing, since David Greenwalt is there, and he was a longtime Buffy writer, and co-creator on Angel.

Strangely, a show I hadn’t heard too much about has also earned my interest. I should’ve paid more attention earlier, because it’s Tim Minear’s new show, American Horror Story.  It’s about a family who unknowingly moves into a house with more ghosts than the Stanley Hotel. It’s creepy, and it’s hard to know what is and isn’t real. Several of the people introduced from the beginning aren’t even alive. We only anticipated a few of those, and it’s just gotten weirder. Don’t watch this if you aren’t a fan of scary movies. It’s pretty warped. The best news, if you’re a Tim Minear fan?  The ratings have been on a steady growth pattern, and it’s already gotten a full season order. Maybe his “curse” has been lifted with the show about a cursed house.

I’ve also peeked in at Unforgettable, Blue Bloods, Person of Interest, with Michael Emerson, and Revenge.  Unforgettable is ok, but too reliant on its gimmick. Blue Bloods struck me as a very typical cop show, and I don’t care too much about ordinary cop shows. Person of Interest is the best of this bunch, and has a J.J. Abrams pedigree, which, for me, could be an asset or a detriment. It’s watchable, but, seems largely unremarkable. Except, of course, that I just remarked on it.

At any rate, that’s my take on the new fall shows. I’m looking forward still to the River, to premiere in January.

There are more things in heaven and earth…

A few months ago, I started working on my grand scheme to self-syndicate a column. It’s been something that had been in my head for longer than I care to admit, and before I knew what it was I would write about, or what the style would be.

I wrote many sample columns, I threw out many ideas, and finally I had hit on the style that felt “right.” Sure, it needs work to continue to improve and polish it, but, I could *hear* the right notes, and the false ones, for the most part, at least. It’s a work in progress.

I sent my first dozen or so to a few friends, and then, asked them to pick their favorites, the best of the best, the ones that I would use as my samples, the ones for the query packet.

One of the top vote-getters was the one about the “Cafe Du Monde.” I wrote it over my lunch hour one day, it was one of those that came pretty easily.

In the story, I have a conversation with a co-worker about the famous restaurant.  The co-worker was, in reality, a kindly gentleman, who’d been working at our workplace for many years, long before I did. His name was Buz Newman.

I sent my first batch of query letters out on Sunday. On Tuesday, I learned that Buz had died.

When I wrote the piece about the Cafe Du Monde, I thought about Buz. I think about him every time I see a Cafe Du Monde mug. I’ve not even seen or talked to the man in more than 5 years, but, he was the kind of person that sticks with you.

He was a man of subtle wit, and was a well-rounded sort of person who had good taste, and knew many things about a variety of topics. He was a person who didn’t ramble, nor did he say much at all, but, when he did, he conveyed a good deal with just a few words and a meaningful expression. He listened well, and when he was met with a puzzle, he would doggedly pursue the answer until he had it.  He would work for hours, ’round the clock, to get things back in working order, and not complain a bit, nor show any outward sign that he’d been at this for days straight with no rest.

I had not really thought this much about him, or remembered all these things about him until I saw his picture, and the obituary, and shared stories with others who’d known him. I wondered if there was some cosmic timing about the column going out to the wider world, and me learning that he was no longer in it.

I am now also wondering if he is mad that I turned him into a chatty woman in the story. The reality is that he’d said nothing more than “But of course,” when I’d asked him about the beignets, and he smiled broadly, and with that twinkle in his eyes, I knew he was pleased.

I am glad to have known this gentle, wonderful human being. I hope he’s still smiling, and will forgive my touch of “poetic license.”

Anyway, rest in peace, my friend.


Word of the Day: spavined

It has been a very strange day.  It ended well enough, but, it had a fair number of downs. At any rate, I am off work tomorrow, so, I’m glad about that.

Today’s Word:


As in:

A group of concerned citizens has come forward to try and force the US government to rearrange the calendar to “reschedule” what it calls “Non-Compliant Holidays.” According to the group, a “non-compliant holiday” is one which falls on a specific day, which means that it often is celebrated in the middle of the week instead of always creating, as is “proper and pleasing to God and man” a three-day weekend.

The group contents that these holidays, such as July 4, and Dec 25, should be instead “declared to take place on a revolving basis, to better comply with the wishes of a three-day weekend demanding public, like the more flexible and therefore, compliant holidays, such as Memorial Day (last Monday in May) and Labor Day (first Monday in September).”

The group is further committed to making Black Friday, (the day after Thanksgiving) a federal holiday, so that the Thanksgiving holiday is a proper four-day weekend. The group doesn’t officially declare Thanksgiving to be “non-compliant,” since it is not tied to a specific date, but, most of the members agree that the fact that it does little to contribute to the length of a weekend on its own, and forces people to return to work in the middle of a week or use their own precious leave time to create a long weekend, makes it a sore subject for the movement.

While the group has the support of many workers, many people are confused about why this issue is worth attention when much more serious issues are ignored.

“If these so-called ‘non-compliant’ holidays fall on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday, the weekend is extended already,” notes federal employee Janice Lopez. “That’s more than half the time. Sure, it’s hard to come back to work after taking a day in the middle of the week, but, it’s better than not having it at all.”

Another protester, a retired World War II veteran, nearing 90 years old, said “Our country has been celebrating on the Fourth of July for as long as I can remember. Changing it now would be against a very important tradition. I mean, what would we even call the holiday? Fireworks Night? July Fourth but celebrated on the Seventh? How stupid would that sound?”

Despite the arguments of spavined war veterans, advocates of the idea are not giving up. These supporters say that they are bringing the issue to light for all the workers who don’t have leave that they can use to make a longer weekend.

A few critics of the scheme highlight the flaw in this altruistic aspect, noting that workers who don’t have leave, often don’t have such things as paid holidays either, and any day off, no matter when it falls, is as inconvenient as any other day. Even moreso, workers in the service industries rarely have weekends off anyway, so, the concept of a three-day weekend is not a concept that means much.

Other critics highlight this as a new symptom of class-war, where those with generous paid holidays demand more form their comfortable existence, while those without just try and work enough hours to pay the bills.

Maybe we should just work hard at achieving the 4-day work week.

spavined / SPAV – ind / old and decrepit: over the hill

Remembering the Sand Creek Tragedy

November 29th is the anniversary of the Sand Creek massacre, and you may be wondering why I bother to keep such horrible things in my memory.

I could say it’s because I am a horrible person, and my brain gravitates to terribly sad events to hold in its memory.

I could also make a claim that such an event should be remembered as a lesson of man’s cruelty to his fellow humans, but that sounds patronizing and insincere.

I could tell you the gosh honest truth — that I was reading a book of Cololrado ghost stories, and for the first time, absorbed the date of the attack, in large part, because it sunk in that it’s the day before my birthday.

Yes, that means I’m over 150 years old.

When I first heard the story of this dark spot in Colorado history,  I was in grade school, and it was covered in the 4th grade state history curriculum.  We learned that soldiers attacked and killed defenseless old men, women and children in the small village of peaceful Arapaho and Cheyenne living on the banks of the Sand Creek.

The massacre was led by Colonel John Chivington in 1864.  It was a national scandal.

What I didn’t learn in school was that not all the soldiers present joined in the attack.  Two officers, Captain Silas Soule and Lieutenant Joseph Cramer refused to follow Chivington’s orders, and told their men to hold their fire. Later, the two men provided testimony of the terrible mutilation of the bodies. Despite their testimony, no charges were ever brought against Chivington.

A few weeks after giving testimony in this case, Soule was murdered downtown by Charles Squires. Most people “knew” that the trigger man, a soldier loyal to Chivington, was probably hired or acting on orders by Chivington. Lt. Cannon tracked Squires, and brought him back to Denver to stand trial. Squires escaped jail, and Cannon was poisoned. Squires was never again captured or tried.

Silas Soule, a fascinating character in not only Colorado history but in US history, was from a famous family of abolitionists, who were good friends with John Brown. He was active in the border wars leading to the Civil War.  His death came shortly after he’d been wed.

Originally, Soule was buried in Mt. Prospect cemetery, and a huge monument graced his burial spot. When that area became blighted, and bulldozed to make way for Cheeseman Park, Soule’s body was relocate to Riverside Cemetery. Today, only a military marker marks his resting place. It’s among the most often visited graves in the cemetery.

I went to the spot this weekend to get a picture, and was successful on that score, but, I failed to be able to get it posted in time to include her. I’ll try and add it at some point.

Usually, every year in late November, there is a healing walk, sponsored by the Cheyenne and Arapaho, that stops by the grave of Soule. They stop to honor the man who had refused to attack defenseless civilians, and who eventually, lost his life for taking this stand.


The Legend of the Quaking Aspen

When I was learning Colorado history in grade school, my teacher told me us the legend of the quaking aspens. She said it was a Ute story. The story goes something like this.

One day, the creatures of the forest learned that the Great Spirit was coming to visit them. The animals and plants did their best to make the forest ready for this great honor. All except the aspens. They were haughty, and did not fear the Great Spirit.

And the time arrived, and the forest and her creatures welcomed the Great Spirit, and in their fear and excitement they shook even as they bowed to honor their guest.

All except the aspens.

So the Great Spirit told the trees, from now on, you will always quake and tremble whenever anyone looks at you.  And quake they do, even to this very day.

There was something about this story that captured my attention. I’m not sure if it was the fact that it was a story from another culture, and when you hear such stories, you get a real sense of the kind of people they are; the things they value and the way they see the world, or if it was more the fact that there were aspens all around me when I was growing up, even on the playground of the school where I heard this story, and I thought about how often the aspens quaked.

Whenever I heard the sound of the aspens, I also thought about the Great Spirit, and I wondered if the story was as much about associating that ubiquitous sound with the Great Spirit as it was about humility.

Over time, I forgot the specific detail of the story’s conclusion, and I remembered the story to have ended with the Great Spirit forcing the aspens to quake whenever the Great Spirit was nearby.

It made me think that maybe the point of the story was really about saying the Great Spirit was everywhere. Whether you could see it or not, the aspens knew it was there, and they shook. It struck me as a beautiful way to be constantly aware of the creator’s presence, which was always all around us, which means that even though my version of the story makes little sense, I like the fact that for nearly 30 years I’ve thought about the presence of the creator nearly every time I’ve heard the sound of the rustling wind shaking the leaves of the aspens. I think any story that makes us pause and think about the world around us, and acknowledge the sacred source of all things is a pretty good story. Even if it’s a story that mostly existed only in my brain. Until now, when I’ve shared it with you.

I don’t know how authentic the original story is. As far as I have been able to tell, it was a story told by William Byers, the founder of the Rocky Mountain News, in 1873.  I’m not even sure if, at this point, its origin matters so much. After all, it’s not his version that stuck with me over all these years.

The End of the Relationship

I’ve finally broken up with Chuck.

No, not a fellow with whom I’ve had a romantic relationship, but rather that show on NBC.

It was likely bound to happen. The Buy More is a large part of this rift, it’s been a sore spot since the beginning, because I’ve always hated his non-spy coworkers. They were never funny; just awkward and pointless.  Mostly, they made my flesh crawl every time they showed up on screen. I kept hoping the writers would get a clue and kill them or maim them or simply forget about them and stop writing reasons for them to show up, but, no. They just keep on appearing.

And, while Chuck’s best pal Morgan started off being as horribly annoying as those two schleps whose names will not sully my mind or my blog, he started to redeem himself somewhat when he started growing up and having something more interesting to do besides harass Chuck.

Except that, just about the time they’d given him a likeability makeover, they made him the new Chuck. I tied to give them a chance, I dutifully watched the season premier, to see how all the game-changing, season-ending developments were handled, and find out what their “new normal” would be for the last season, but, it turns out, I hated it. Morgan has never had the sweet vulnerability that made the title character compelling. He lacks Zachary Levi’s charm, and given that they started the character of Morgan as a selfish, childish, jerk, now that he has been given the MacGuffin-spy power mojo, he just feels like an unsympathetic guy who just got everything he ever wanted, but, he didn’t, in any way, earn it. Chuck the character was set up with some native talent, and was established from the pilot as being a kind guy, who’s worked hard, but hadn’t managed to do more than find a “pay the bills” job at the Buy More.  Morgan always just looks like he’s a hair’s breath from an unseemly shout of  “Yahoo! I’m finally a superhero! I so deserve this!”

And then there’s the ridiculous situation of having money, and then not, and then no longer being agents of the government, and all of them deciding to “stay together as a team and fight the bad guys.”  Really? John Casey has been largely wishing he could get out of this assignment for the whole show. And now, he’s voluntarily staying with them, just because? Yeah. There’s really only so much disbelief I’m willing to suspend.

All of this adds up to a show I was no longer enjoying even a little. It had become a painful way to spend time, and a relief to just stop and pull the plug. So, I made a clean break of it, and I broke up with Chuck. I don’t even miss him. It is a weight from my conscience, and decent fodder for a blog post. Yahoo!