No, not my Great American Novel. That is still buried somewhere in the recesses of my soul. I’m talking about my latest technical endeavor, Subfiles in Free-Form RPG. This is an update to a book I wrote just over 11 years ago. It was the publisher’s highest selling book on that particular subject and many weeks made the monthly top ten sold list. Those were the good old days of RPG and the AS/400, but as you might have guessed, with technology changing so rapidly, those days went bye bye with the Y2K scare. So, imagine my shock and dismay at being asked to write a second edition of that book in late 2009.
“Why?” was my profound inquiry.
“Because people are asking for it, DUH!” was the prompt response. Ok, I added the “DUH” part, but I really think it was assumed.
So, I did a little research myself and to more shock and dismay, I discovered that there was a young crop of overseas and US developers learning the midrange market (that’s the IBM computer market that houses the RPG language) and these developers were looking for updated materials on various programming techniques, subfiles being one of those techniques. In the end, still a little apprehensive on what the long term market really was for this kind of book, I decided to give it a go. Besides, if the publisher was willing to take a chance, why shouldn’t I? Plus, I thought it’d be cool to write another book.
So, after almost two years in the making, with some starts, stops, delays, lots of writing, coding, testing, and editing, the book is out.
If you have an RPG programmer in your life…please tell me because I will be shocked, but more importantly, steer him or her to this book. Reading it will be a mind altering, life changing event for that lucky programmer and you can feel good about yourself for having enabled the experience. If not, well, I think it will make a grand coffee table coaster or conversation piece, and I bet it would work way better than those stupid rubber door stoppers that never function properly and you end up bashing your toe trying to kick the thing under the door. Yeah, better than that.
If you have a comment or want to know what the hell Free-Form RPG is, leave a note here or pop over to the Subfiles in RPG tab on this site.
I was recently riding my T2000 road bike along the Santa Ana river bed enjoying a nice Southern California day when just over ten miles into a thirty mile ride a bug flew into my mouth. This has happened many times before and usually the critter doesn’t make it much farther than my teeth or tongue and I am able to redirect and spit it out without harm to me or the flying creature. I know I need to do a better job at breathing through my nose and keeping my mouth’s opening to more of a sliver, not the wide open tunnel it must have looked like to the incoming bug. I’m working on it. This time, however, the bug’s aim was a bit sharper and it was able to negotiate its way through my teeth, over my tongue and straight down my throat. I forced a cough or two in an attempt to remove the intruder, but it wasn’t having any of that. I thought for a moment about swallowing the bug and at least removing it from my throat, but my body wasn’t listening to the brain’s suggestion at that action. I was still riding, coughing, and planning other modes of extraction when one of my coughs took hold and out came the…bee. Still riding, my first thought was, “I’m glad I was able to get that sucker out of my throat” and a my second thought was, “I wonder if it stung…” The thought didn’t have time to completely form when the my question was answered. The bee had stung me inside my throat. It was at this moment that I decided to stop riding.
I climbed off the bike and took a couple gulps of water. I waited and wondered what would happen next. I felt a little pain in my throat and it became a little tighter, but after a few minutes, it wasn’t too bad. I had been stung before, on the exterior of my body, and had never experienced an allergic reaction. So, why would I today? I climbed back on the bike and continued up the river bed towards the halfway point of my ride. As I got close to the halfway point, I realized it was a little tougher to breathe. I could still do so, but my throat felt less like the tunnel of before and more like a small tube. I stopped at the halfway point to down more water. The more I rested, the better my throat felt so I chilled there for a a few minutes and then hopped back onto the bike for the journey home.
This is where things really became interesting. Those who know me would probably say that stubbornness is one of the last traits attributed to me, but for some reason, on this day, I was a full-fledged, 100%, card carrying member of the stubborn club. I was not going to be stopped by something as trivial as a honey bee. Maybe a wasp, hornet, or even a bumble bee (given how wide open my mouth was, this wasn’t out of the question), would take me out, but not a sweet, little honey bee. So I rode, and the more I rode, the harder it was to breathe, so I rode faster in order to get home quicker which, you guessed it, made it even more difficult to breathe. It didn’t matter if I was attempting to breathe though my nose, mouth or eyelids, I found it equally difficult to suck in oxygen. I thought maybe that was no ordinary honey bee. Maybe it was one of those killer bees from Africa. Maybe I should stop and make a phone call and get some help. I rode on.
Well, I am alive today to write this so you can probably guess the outcome. I made it home safely. My family being made up of the loving and caring individuals that they are, did what any loving and caring individuals would do in this case; they gave me a whole heaping load of crap for riding home. “Why didn’t you call for a ride?”, “You could have died!”, and “Dad, you are dumbest man I know, a complete and utter moron!” (Okay, the last statement wasn’t actually said out loud, but I am certain they all thought it) are only samples of the verbal assault I received, some might even say deservedly so; however, I like to think I lived on the edge, tested my limits, and dug deeply within myself. There was nothing else on this earth, but that bee, my bike, and me. Man versus Nature. Yes, it was a honey bee but, hey, it could have been one of those evil, killer honey bees. In either case, killer bee or no killer bee, it’s still nature.
Or, it might just be another in the many life lessons that end with the same moral: Keep your mouth shut.
Last week my Mother-in-law, Frances, took a call from her husband’s Uncle. The call went something like this:
Uncle: “Hello Frances”
Frances: “Hi Uncle! How are you?”
Uncle: “Well, not so good. Aunt Jody, Tina’s Mother, just passed away from a brain tumor.”
Frances: “Oh my! That is horrible! When did this happen?”
Uncle: “Just now.”
Frances: “Ok, thanks for the information. Let me know the funeral details, etc…”
A few minutes later Uncle called again:
Uncle: “Hi Frances, It’s me again. Jody is not dead. She is sleeping. The doctor misdiagnosed.”
For a few days, we weren’t really sure if Jody were sleeping or dead. Tina eventually called back saying that her mother was alive. We’re still not sure about the doctor.
“Bitter much!” is probably the first thought you had when you read the title of my post, and I admit, it does seem a bit harsh, but before you label me as a curmudgeon, holiday scrooge or mother hater, hear me out. After that, label away.
I have nothing against a day to celebrate moms. Moms rock! Heck, let’s celebrate them every day. I have no problem with that. In fact I, along with my daughters, will be throwin’ down in the kitchen tomorrow preparing a fabulous brunch while Corina lives a life of leisure sipping sparkling wine, texting friends, and telling me how I should be preparing brunch. I’ll also call my own mother and wish her a Happy Mother’s Day and she’ll tell me how I don’t call enough and ask when I can get out to see her next. It’ll be awesome!
The problem is not with taking time out to celebrate those around us, it’s that we have to have an official day to tell us to do so. Maybe we’re just too busy to take time out to appreciate the moms, dads, sisters, brothers, friends, lovers, secretaries, grandparents, and postal delivery people in our lives so we need the official reminders. I can see that. I know we are all busy doing what we do, but the commercialism around these holidays is just more than I can take! Mother’s Day is not the only culprit. Christmas, Valentines Day, Father’s Day, Secretary’s (sorry, Administrative Assistant’s) Day, birthdays, etc. all follow the same we-want-you-think-we-care-about-your-loved-ones-but-we’re-just-in-it-for-the-money bullstuff (kiddies may read this). Don’t get me wrong, I am not immune to the insanity. As I said earlier, I’ll be celebratin’ tomorrow. I get into the “Christmas Spirit”, accept my Father’s Day pampering, and dress up on Halloween…and have a blast doing so. However, I don’t think I carry the guilt or stress that many do during these holidays. That’s the part that really bothers me. With all that’s going on in world and in our own lives, we need to stress over buying a gift or card for [fill in the blank]‘s Day? I don’t think so. Why not make it a habit to show love and appreciation, in your own way, every day?
So, please take care of the Moms in your life tomorrow, and every day. Celebrate the loved ones and those you appreciate whenever it moves you to do so and not just when the calendar demands it. I need to improve in this area big time, but let’s get so carried away with these celebrations that the actual holidays become moot (might be weird to celebrate Halloween like that, though). Who knows, this might even help with Hallmark card sales and restaurant business, but that will be the bonus and not the reason for the holiday.
Ok, got to run, need to get to the store to pick up the groceries for tomorrow’s feast, but I am happy to do it because it should be one of the many Mother’s Days I celebrate this year.
Ten years ago this month, I bought my first serious road bike. I lived in the Chicago area at the time and my buddy, Dave, and I decided that we were going to train for long distance riding and would eventually ride the Lewis and Clarke Trail from St. Louis to the Oregon coast (An unattained but still desired goal, by the way). I began to investigate touring bikes and really liked what I saw from Cannondale.
So, one night after work, Dave and I headed to On The Route on the north side of Chicago. I already had my eyes on the T2000 touring bike so I was quick to test ride, get fitted and hand over the credit card. Dave and I attached my new shiny bike to his trunk top bike rack, secured the straps and prepared to make our way back through the city and out west to my house in Oak Park, which is just a few miles outside of the city.
As Dave drove back through the city, he and I talked about all the great rides we would share. I stole periodic looks into the side mirror to make sure that my T2000 was really there and not a dream. We wove our way through the city and entered the I-290 West (The Eisenhower) towards Oak Park. We had made it through the side streets of the city and were now about to enter the smooth and well-kept interstate (for those of you not familiar with Chicago roads, that was sarcasm). We had gone a few miles on the Eisenhower when Dave looked into the rear view mirror and said, “Holy Shit! Where’s your bike?”
I laughed at first and said something brilliant to Dave like, “Funny!” He said, “No, look, it’s gone!” I didn’t go to the side mirror. Instead I turned around and to my horror, I saw that there was no bike. I don’t even remember what I said but I imagine it would have made a truck driver, sailor and my mother all blush. I had visions of my bike bouncing around the Eisenhower causing accidents and creating general chaos. I looked back from where we came but did not see any such chaos. About that time, Dave had pulled to the side of the interstate and we both flew out of the car and ran to the back so we could see how the bike had escaped. But the bike hadn’t escaped at all. There it was, still hooked from the wheels, but half lying on the road. The top straps had come off, but not the bottom ones so we had been dragging my new shiny bike for, at least, a few miles. I was first to laugh and Dave joined in, although apprehensively not sure if I was really laughing, was in shock, or had gone mad. I think it was a combination of all three.
It turns out that he bike had done quite well for being dragged a few miles at 70 mph. The seat was messed up and the handle bars had some damage and minor scrapes, but not much else. We refastened and carefully secured the bike and headed to home. Dave felt bad, but I assured him that it wasn’t his fault and that he had done me a favor by helping me to pick it up. Besides, I had helped to “secure” the bike so it was as much my fault. I called the shop and took the bike back the next day. After they laughed heartily at the story, they fixed up the T2000 at no charge and i was on my way again…this time with no transport mishaps.
I still own my T2000. It has been a great bike and because of a few scrapes under the brake lever on the left side of the handlebar, I am often reminded of that initial trip home.
I’d like to propose a day to recognize and celebrate air travel in this country. We often overlook or take for granted this accessible luxury and I think it’s time to stop. We set aside special days to appreciate bosses, secretaries (sorry, admin assistants), mother, fathers, religious figures, Presidents and a civil rights leader, why can’t we set aside a day to appreciate air travel? I’d like to further propose that we deem April 1 as Air Travel Appreciation Day because of the perfect fit it has with the mischievous fun we already have on this day, April Fools Day. In fact, air travel is mischievous fun that just keeps on giving. When I fly, I feel a little like Bill Murray’s character in the movie, Groundhog Day, except that instead of waking up everyday to Groundhog Day again, I wake up to April Fools Day! I wait for the flight attendant to announce, just as we’re landing, “We know you have a choice in air travel so we thank you for flying so-and-so airlines. Oh, and by the way…APRIL FOOLS! Please see the extremely knowledgeable and helpful gate agent for on-time and accurate connection information, a checked baggage fee refund, your free and nutritious meal and the missing leg room that we keep removing then adding to a few rows near the front so we can charge a premium for selecting those seats. Our apologies for the cracked sternum that you may have experienced while you had your tray table down and the person ahead of you reclined his seat into your lap. The gate agent will have free-drink coupons and an ambulance ready to transport you to the nearest hospital. As you exit the aircraft, please notice we’ve replaced our rude, insensitive flight attendants with their pleasant and cooperative doubles. Say “hello” and give one a hug on your way out. Also, we promise to no longer refer to your trash as service items and will instead call what it is, garbage. If this is your final destination, have a wonderful day and when your plans once again call for air travel, please come back and see us again”
So you see, there is no better day to appreciate air travel in this country than on April 1, Happy Air Travel Appreciation Day! Book a flight today, but don’t fall for that classic April Fools prank the airlines like to pull where the gate agent tells you that you’re flight is canceled and there is no way to get you to your destination without an overnight stay in another city that is not even close to your desired arrival city and that you’ll have to spend the night on your dime because it’s not the airline’s fault that your flight was canceled and you’ll also do so without a change of clothes because although you are stuck being rerouted to another city, your luggage made it on a flight to somewhere else you didn’t plan on traveling. It’s a good prank and even more reason to appreciate and celebrate air travel on this day.
Have you, or anyone you know, ever been offered something to eat or drink and decline with, “I can’t, I just brushed my teeth!”? I’ve heard this statement from more than one person in my life and I don’t understand the concept. Can’t? What do you mean, can’t? Is the tooth fairy going to suffocate you in your sleep if you eat after you brush your teeth? What if the food offered is really, really good or you just decide that you’re hungry again? You mean to tell me you CAN’T eat because you brushed your freakin’ teeth? I’m assuming that this is an evening only statement. I’ve never heard anyone utter it after the morning brushing, but still, come on! Even if you’re worried about what your dentist might think or what the tooth fairy will do to you in your sleep, you could, oh I don’t know, brush AGAIN!
I understand if you aren’t hungry or the food being offered isn’t all that good and therefore not worth the time it takes to re-brush for the evening, but if that is the case, state, “I won’t, I just brushed my teeth!” That makes it sound as if you’ve made a decision. Like you’re a take-charge person who has weighed the options and is now instructing the evil tempter to take his food and shove it! This, I can respect. This is the statement of a successful person. A leader of men…and maybe women. Someone who is not afraid to take a chance, but also knows when it is prudent not to do so. The use of “can’t” is weak and not only disrespects the food offerer but in a larger sense, defines you as a coward. As someone who lives in fear and who never questions anything, not even the tooth fairy.
So, go ahead and decline that divine dessert, but do so because you won’t, not because you can’t. When you figure that out, you’re on your way to the path of enlightenment and an enriched life. Me? I brush my teeth in the evening and then go right out into the kitchen and chew on a few sugar cubes and follow that with some popcorn and chunky peanut butter. Then I brush again. That is just the way I roll!
Last weekend my daughter, Kalia, and I ventured into an upscale clothing store. I won’t name the store but I will tell you that it is based in London and the staff serves martinis to its customers, and even potential customers. As civilized as the latter is, I typically don’t shop at this particular store, but I had walked in during the holidays (rumors of martinis) and I actually dug some of what I saw. So here it was on this day, fashion consultant Kalia by my side, that I bravely set foot inside for something other than a martini.
I entered the store and took in my surroundings. As I made my way toward the men’s shirts, I noticed that an extremely attractive saleswoman was staring at me and sporting a surprisingly seductive smile on her face. I began to turn to see who was behind me, but thought better of it. This was the big time, I had to act like I’d been here before, like I belonged. So, I smiled back. She gave me an approving nod and turned back to help a customer. As I made my way deeper into the store, I took another glance toward the woman and she was once again smiling and staring at me. I felt like Chevy Chase in Vacation and this saleswoman was Christie Brinkley. She seemed very pleased that I had entered the store that day. Our moment was broken by capitalism.
“Hi there! Can I help you?” a young, well facial haired salesman inquired. He also seemed happy that I was in the store that day, but I figured for a different reason.
“Just kind of looking, right now” I answered.
“Where is my martini?” I thought.
“OK, let me know if I can help” he said as he jetted to the back room.
I shopped around for a while but didn’t see anything I needed so I started to make my way out of the store when I eyed some nice sweaters toward the front. As I stopped to take a look, I noticed through my keen peripheral vision that Christie was walking toward me. As she moved closer, she smiled again. I said, “hello” but she said nothing as one does when he or she is overwhelmed with emotion.
I felt pretty good now. All I needed was a martini. I decided to try on one of the sweaters and while I was at it, with my new found confidence, shoot a debonair look Christie’s way. She must have felt, and was impressed by, my presence because she turned toward me at the same time and laid that smile on me again. This time Kalia broke the spell,
“Dad, you going to try on the sweater?”
“Huh? Sweater? What? Yeah, I think I will”
I found my sales guy and asked to try on the sweater. It fit, looked pretty good and, most importantly, was approved by Kalia. So I headed to the cash register where Christie was already there ringing up another customer. My sales guy finished with me at the same time as Christie finished her sale so I looked her way expecting to see that old familiar smile, but she did not smile. I looked away, quickly regrouped and turned back again, but still nothing. In fact, her face and body language said, “Look, I’m done with you. You purchased something so now get out! And quit starring at me!”
She had done me! Sales tactics 101. I have worked in retail before and knew many of the tricks, but she got me. Flirt with the customer until he buys. I quickly went from Chevy Chase to Robert DeNiro in Analyze This! When Billy Crystal would say something that impressed DeNiro, he would point his finger at Crystal, shake his head and say, “You…You’re good. You’re good”. Yeah, I felt like that. She was good. It didn’t work, of course. I was going to buy anyway. Really, I was, but she was good…and I never did get that martini.
It used to be the case that I enjoyed shopping at Costco about as much as I did visiting my dentist for a root canal…without Novocain. It ranked right up there with sitting in heavy traffic, cleaning toilets, and judging a fingernail scratching a chalkboard contest. I don’t want to go in to all the reasons why this was the case, but I will say that it was a combination of my lack of affinity for shopping in general, my overall views on the mega-store concept, and the fact that Costco will sample the you-know-what out of its products, but won’t let the customer sample wine. (The latter is a topic for another time)
Well, that all changed with the Invention of Costco Wars (except for the wine sampling part). I know longer mind going to Costco, even on a busy Saturday afternoon. In fact, that is even a better time to go if Costco wars are the goal. What are Costco wars, you ask? Well, first off, they are not wars in the sense you might be thinking. Instead, they are a variety of challenges and dares related to shopping at Costco. The concept was spawned out of Twitter conversation between Felicia Yonter and me. It is meant to add (more) fun to the shopping experience, but I don’t need to explain it here because Felicia does a fantastic job of it on her blog so check it out, join in the games, and please post your ideas and results on Twitter or to either of our sites.
-Unfortunately necessary disclaimer copied from Felicia’s post: This is a fun game suggestion and is in no way affiliated with Costco officially, although Costco employees are welcome to participate. Please do not get hurt and absolutely do not hurt others in an effort to snap a picture for participation. Jeez.-