Friday, September 29, 2006

Children's Literature: Snowmen At Night

I was listening to a recent Writing Show podcast with artist Kalman Andrasofszky and was fascinated with the discussion of colour and light source in illustrations. Having been a comic book fan for most of my life, I could see where Kalman was coming from and why he highlighted the importance of that.

Shortly after listening to that particular episode, I was reading a board book I'd borrowed from the library for Alexander called Snowmen At Night (by Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner) -- and the importance shone in an entirely new light. (Pun completely intended, of course)

Not only is the story a fun and intriguing one (it explains to children how snowmen get all droopy and lopsided and disheveled looking overnight -- isn't it obvious? They gather together, horse around and play wonderful snowman games all night - that's how)

It's a wonderful story, fun for both adults and kids, and the artwork is truly spectacular as well. The wonderful lighting effects of the snowmen playing at night was done quite wonderfully, the multiple light sources of the full moon and the streetlights offering up some of the best illustrated lighting effects I've seen in a long time.

Kudos to the Buehner's for such a marvelous book. I think the larger format hardcover of this one is a book we'll want to buy and add to Alexander's collection. (Perhaps just because I love reading it so much)

(Speaking of fun snowmen stories, two of my snowmen stories "That Old Silk Hat They Found" and "Ides of March" are available in eBook form at Amazon, Kobo and many other places)

Thursday, September 28, 2006

HNT - In Memory Of Rainy Pete

The shock has subsided, but now the mystery burns on.

RainyPete, fellow blogger, fellow HNTer and friend, has died a tragic death.

Pete was a loving husband, a nurturing father and a faithful friend who will be fondly remembered by many as a funny guy who got pleasure out of making people laugh and spreading smiles. While I only had the pleasure of meeting him in person once, I'm a much better person for having known him. He was a spirited, generous man, finding good in everyone, and he always held helping and being there for others in high regard.

Ironically enough, it was Pete's efforts to help and support a young man he'd only met through the blogosphere that ultimately led to his untimely death.

Goodbye Pete, old chum. You will be sadly missed.

I'm tempted to request that my fellow HNTers post a picture of themselves with a clown nose next Thursday, in honor of RainyPete. But I'm no Osbasso, and besides, I wonder how many people will actually read the small print. **

RainyPete was an avid HNTer
Learn more about HNT by clicking on the image below


** (This post is a work of fiction - RainyPete is alive and well, just a willing victim of an online story that I'm unrolling called I, Death. Pete's character has died as part of a fund raiser for literacy)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Alex Catches Up

I took Alexander to McDonalds this evening and the little guy melted my heart. He'd been watching me dip my french fries in ketchup for several months now whenever we're dining at McDonald's or Harvey's.

Up until this evening, he would dip a fry into my ketchup cup then offer it to me. He'd tasted the ketchup before and didn't like it, but seemed to enjoy the act of dipping. But tonight, he relished the whole ketchup experience, pretty much taking over the ketchup and not letting me at it. It was adorable watching him concentrate and so very carefully dip each single french fry into the ketchup before eating it.

Hmm, I guess I'm not the only ketchup fiend in the house now. I'm thinking he'll need his own little ketchup cup now when we go out for a special fast food treat. I wonder if he'll also show a preference for Heinz like his old man? Sigh, my little guy is growing up so fast.

Monday, September 25, 2006

It's Official. I'm A Nerd, Geek, Drooling Fan

Francine and I just finished watching the premiere of Heroes on NBC. I loved it. I was like the thrill I got when I was younger and they introduced a phenomenal new villain or plotline in Spider-Man. Yes, that much fun.

I was so excited and giddy that I logged onto immediately after the show to the writer Tim Kring's live blog for the show in which he was answering viewer questions about the series.

And for a cute touch of "reality" there's even a blog being kept by one of the characters. Hiro, the bored Japanese office worker and Star Trek geek who discovers his ability of teleportation. His blog is cute and wonderfully in character. (Although since he's now teleported himself to New York, I wonder if he'll keep posting on his blog -- at least my fictitious character Peter O'Mallick, hasn't left town and has kept up his blog)

It's official. I'm a nerd, a geek, a drooling fan. But I can't wait to see the next episodes. And I was a little miffed that NBC cancelled Windfall after just a handful of episodes. But they're forgiven now, for delivering Heroes.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Unseen

Sometimes the scariest thing in a horror film are the things that are unseen, or implied.

For example, the following clip, which is from a recent DVD called VooDoo Moon, sets up just the right suspense without showing too much.

IMHO, the best thing about this short scene is the pan across the weapons on the wall, then the sudden cut back to the missing blade.

While many horror films contain over the top gore and nonsense that gives horror a bad name, there are little scenes like this that remind me that good chilling horror can still be made.

Mind you, they can't all be as perfectly "unseen" and terrifying as The Monkey's Paw (where you never see the "monster" behind the door, but are chilled to the bone at the thought of what's behind that door).

Thursday, September 21, 2006

HNT - Daddy's Finger

Another busy week (and trying to fight off a cold, so it's early to bed and sleepy sleepy in the morning), so I'm pulling a photo out of the archives, one of my favourites. Hoping I can get to doing my HNT visits by the weekend.

Alexander was very young in this picture, back when we were still counting his age in weeks. I'd just finished changing his diaper when he grabbed onto my finger. I managed to reach the camera with my left hand and snap this shot as he was looking off to the side in the direction of his bedroom window.

Clicking on the button below leads
to Osbasso's blog where you can learn
more about Half-Nekkid Thursday . . .


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Handwashing 101

Over the years I've resigned myself to the fact that occasionally, when in a public restroom, I'll witness a guy use the facilities then walk straight out without so much as a glance at the sink on his way out.

Sure, it's disturbing, particularly since handwashing is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of communicable diseases and infections.

Now, I'm witnessing that slightly more often here in the public washrooms at McMaster University. It's frustrating to see intelligent young men whose minds one would think might be properly educated in basic principles of hygene, particularly given the fact that the facts on handwashing are thrust at us each and every cold and flu season.

But just the other day I saw an old guy with a Santa Claus like beard whose whole persona reeked of "professor" pull the same stunt.

Sigh. Is there no hope for my male counterparts? Even the supposedly educated ones? C'mon guys, follow the instructions on the image below. Handwashing is not all that difficult and won't take that much out of your very busy day. C'mon. Give it a try. It doesn't hurt. Honest.

(Oh, and Step 7, not shown on the image above -- when using the male washrooms at McMaster, be sure to use a paper towel to open the door on your way out -- because Mr. Peepee hands ahead of you likely didn't wash HIS hands)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Cialis Is Not For Everyone

I can't help but giggle at some of the spam that makes its way into my inbox. While gmail has pretty decent spam filters, there's always some crap that makes its way in. And as I'm glancing at an email to determine that it is indeed spam, I usually can't help but notice peculiar things about it.

Like this one, for example:

Worried about the loss of erectoin? EVEN if you have no
erectoin problems SOFT CIA7LIS would help you to bring
back some romantic moments that u lost in past.

Just disolve half a pil under your tongue and get ready for action
in 15 minutes. SOFT CIAJLIS! It makes your lovemaking incredible!


Now I'm not worried so much about the loss of erectoin, but actually worried that I've never even had an erectoin. Sure, I've had an erection. But what is this thing called an erectoin? I'm beside myself with worry.

I've got to imagine that spam costs someone some sort of money -- but you'd think they'd take the time to at least do a simple spell check on the crap that is sent out. Or is that just the editor in me speaking? I'm sure they don't even care whether or not I have a penis never mind that I might be worried about erectoin problems; and the whole point of spam is to hit as many people as possible. But to top it off they didn't even offer me a website link to go visit, particularly so I could take advantage of the awesome 70% discount.

But what I'm truly concerned about is that while they spelled so many simple words improperly they still managed to spell lovemaking and incredible just fine. Maybe it's a side effect of the cialis?

Monday, September 18, 2006


I friend of mine from the west coast recently forwarded me a link to this video clip from The Muppet Show, which I haven't seen in years. I found it even funnier since every once in a while when I'm changing Alexander's diaper and I need to distract him, I'll hum this little tune to him.

Of course, I usually accompany the "Mahnahmuhnah!" with a drop-in close-up or tummy tickle, and he delights in the thrill of the fact that, like the monster in this clip, I sometimes take my time before surprising him with a "Mahnahmuhnah!"

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Gonna Make You Grove

Last night during a trip back from the grocery store, I turned up the radio when Led Zepplin's "Black Dog" came on. Alexander delighted in bopping to the song, accompanied me singing the high pitched "ah ah's" and clapped vigorously when the song finished. It was a wonderful experience.

I only hope his taste in music continues to match mine when he's into his teenage years.

Friday, September 15, 2006

And Then There Were Three

Today we start to strike the set of T-29, the temporary September Rush location for the 1st Year Arts & Humanities textbooks and amalgamate then into the Tank (I used a theatre term and an academic bookselling term in the same sentence . . . strangely enough both terms I learned on University campuses almost 20 years and half a Province apart).

We now go back to 3 main bookstore locations on campus for Titles. The main store (which carries about as many trade titles as the average Chapters) in the basement of Gilmour Hall, the Health Sciences Bookstore (in the back of McMaster Hospital), and The Tank (which, after next week will hold all the textbooks -- we still have Science & Engineering texts in the main store for another week)

I have to say, I'm still giddy and excited about every new thing that I learn in this new job.

(incidentally, the title of this post is also the title of a very fine album by Genesis)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

HNT - What Are You Reading?

This week I thought I'd do a little plug for the new science fiction anthology North of Infinity II, which is finally available in the U.S. and Canada (our store received it just this week). It's got some great tales by some very talented writers and is definitely worth a look.

And, speaking of great reads, I was delighted to see the book that the mystery guest on Osbasso's HNT post this week is reading this week. Good selection, if I do say so myself.

And for fun, if you leave a comment, let me know what YOU'RE currently reading.

Osbasso's blog is always a great read.
Visit him and learn more about Half-Nekkid Thursday . . .


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wash Cloth

The other night, just as I was about to put Alexander in the bathtub, Francine was coming home from a visit at the hospital with her mother. Alexander was completely naked, but, excited that Mommy was home, bolted downstairs for the front door in a reprisal of the old "streak of the naked baby" routine he used to enjoy so much.

After flinging the door to the garage open, greeting Francine in his nakedness and sending us into fits of giggles, he then started darting around the living room and kitchen, enjoying the splendour of the freedom from clothes.

Fran was catching me up on the daily update from the doctors and nurses at the hospital, and we were just a few steps behind Alexander on his trip back up the stairs. We got delayed in our conversation half-way up and then next thing we could hear was Alexander getting into the tub on his own. When we reached the top of the stairs, he was sitting in the tub washing his feet and legs with the washcloth.

That sent us into another fit of laughter. In all the time that we've been bathing him, we've been the ones doing the washing and he's usually fighting with us to stay out of the way of his funtime with his bath toys.

But now I'm going to enjoy his baths even more because, while he's washing himself, I'm going to have a race with his two toy boats I've had my eye on for a while.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

And Nature Shows You The Way

Yesterday was a long and tiring day at work -- another 12 hour day of hauling out boxes and skids of textbooks, cracking them open just in time for students to grab them (if anyone remembers the madness surrounding "Tickle Me Elmo" dolls, you can imagine it was like that, except for first year Biology, Chemistry, Math and Physics textbooks. And no, those textbooks don't giggle and say cute little Elmo catch-phrases, although I think at one moment I heard the phonebook sized Physics textbook say: "Me really heavy" and chortling madly when a student overloaded past capacity with an armload of heavy textbooks struggled to pick it up)

Of course, my mind was also heavy with a few different things in the evening as I was walking across campus back to where my truck was parked. I'd been thinking about the tragedy of September 11th 5 years earlier, about the families of 9/11 victims like Raymond Mesenheimer and what they were doing and feeling.

And underlying everything was the nonstop worry and stress surrounding my mother in law. A cancer survivor who was recently diagnosed with lymphoma, she was on medication for sciatica that might have contributed to a sudden downspiral in health. Almost a week ago she was rushed in to emergency in the middle of the night and diagnosed with heart failure, pneumonia and a blood infection. With only 19% of her heart functional, she's still in the I.C.U., sedated to an unconscious state to give her body a chance to recover, and has a respirator (she's doing 95% of the breathing on her own but the respirator keeps her airway secure and open).

My mother in law is a wonderful woman whom I love dearly. And there are way too many things that we'd like to do with her, way too many memories for her to build with Alexander as well. Fran is visiting her twice daily, desperately missing their daily lunch-time chats, telling her about the events of our days and letting her know about all the people who are sending her their kind wishes, thoughts and prayers. Alexander is itching to show her the new puzzles he has mastered, the new books he has acquired, the new dance routine he has perfected. I am anxiously awaiting another chance to see her roll her eyes affectionately at one of my stupid jokes, or the chance to sit back and just listen to the magic of her fingers dancing across her piano keyboard.

And so while it can go one of three ways, and we're taking it one day at a time, we're hopeful that she'll pull out of this and recover.

All this stress and concern and gloom was swirling in my head as I was walking home, physically exhausted and wincing with every step due to a pulled or strained stomach muscle (likely from lifting boxes or moving skids improperly), when nature stepped in.

Just ahead of me, not much more than 10 feet, a doe and her calf stepped out of the woods, onto the sidewalk and started crossing the road. They made it to the other side and paused at the woods. The doe turned, noticed me, then looked back at the other two calves that were following along behind them more slowly. Then all four deer calmly strode into the woods on the far side of the street and disappeared into the wooded area.

I paused and watched them, realizing that while there was often traffic down this stretch of road that lead to the farthest parking lots on campus, it was quiet. There wasn't another pedestrian in sight either. It was just me and those deer.

And despite the stress, the worry, the physical pain, I felt at peace. And I got a sense that everything was going to turn out okay.

I love it when nature does that to me.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering Raymond Meisenheimer

2,996 is a tribute to the victims of 9/11.

On September 11, 2006, 2,996 volunteer bloggers join together for a tribute to the victims of 9/11.

Each person will pay tribute to a single victim. They will be honored by remembering their lives,
rather than simply remembering their murderers.

Raymond Meisenheimer, 46, West Babylon, N.Y.

Jurisdiction: Bronx
Rank: Firefighter
Agency: FDNY
Unit: Rescue 3
Funeral Information:
Memorial Service held Friday, October 5

On September 11, 2001, Raymond Meisenheimer was two months away from retiring after 20 years of service with the New York City Fire Department.

He and his wife Joanne, their daughters Lauren and Kaitlynn were planning on moving from West Babylon, N.Y. to Holtsville .

Joanne and Raymond had been having the house of their dreams built for his retirement. He had the new patio penciled in, right down to individual flowers and placement of the Jacuzzi. The family had joked that when Ray, a do-it-yourselfer, finished the basement in their new home it would be the "He-Man Woman-Hater's Club" -- a reference to the fact that the whole family was girls and it would be the only haven for the single male of the family. But in all seriousness, the family was looking forward to his actually being home finally on evenings and weekends and during holidays.

Raymond, a West Babylon Class of 1973 graduate, was a fire chief's son. When he was a teenager, fooling around on a motorized racing team in East Farmingdale with his buddy Gerald Murtha, there was always a sense of purpose related to their friendship. Both Murtha and Meisenheimer joined the Engine Co. 222 firehouse in Bedford-Stuyvesant, then moved to the elite Rescue 3 Co. in the Bronx and got teaching jobs at the Suffolk Fire Academy in Yaphank.

Mutha described Ray's life as "work, family, work, family, work, family." Meisenheimer was a leader in local and state efforts to plan for events like September 11, and was a leading authority on technical rescue problems like trench collapses. He was just ending his shift on September 11, 2001, when the call came in and he rushed to the scene.

Meisenheimer didn't just enjoy joking with his wife and daughters, but also enjoyed a good ribbing with his colleagues and buddies at work. In 2000, Meisenheimer and a few other New York City firefighters cheerfully took on a weight loss challenge on Good Morning America. He began a serious regimen of exercise, eating well, enjoying a healthier lifestyle and resisting the chocolate donuts that some colleagues jokingly brought in some mornings to tempt him with.

The firefighters who escaped the World Trade Center attack said that they would bring Meisenheimer back to where he belonged. His wife and family finished the dream house and followed through with the basement and patio plans just the way that Ray wanted.

Raymond Meisenheimer, friend, husband, father, teacher, hero, didn't lose his life on September 11, 2001, he gave it.

"The Sun" poster, Sept 11th victim tribute poster, available to order

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Sometimes It's The Little Things

Every Saturday Alexander and I enjoy a trip to the Terryberry Library, and on our way to the kids' section we usually swing by the "What's New" section so I can check out the newly arrived books.

I was delighted to see a copy of the anthology Bluffs: Northeastern Ontario Stories From The Edge (which contains my story "Being Needed" -- listen to me read the beginning of the tale on Episode One of my Prelude To A Scream podcast) on the newly arrived shelf. Not only that but it looked well worn and read.

I managed to mostly supress a little shout of delight at the sight. Yes, sometimes it's the little things that but a bounce into my step.

Friday, September 08, 2006

First Chapter Contest Honorable Mention

I recently received news that the first chapter for my novel Morning Son received honorable mention in The Writing Show's First Chapter contest. The first three chapters of the novel is currently sitting in the "slush pile" of a Canadian publisher, and I'm hoping that they're interested in wanting to read the rest. (And, of course, hopeful that they'll want to publish it)

You can read the Prologue and First Chapter linkable off The Writing Show Contest post here. And if you do read it, let me know how eager you'd be to read the rest of the novel. The one line description of the novel reads: A grieving man uncovers deeply buried family secrets on his quest to lay his father’s ashes and memory to rest. The main character happens to be the manager of a large chain bookstore in Ottawa. And it's not at all based on some of my own experiences. LOL.

Actually, unlike most of my writing, this is a contemporary fiction novel, with a bit of a mystery storyline to it, but with virtually no horror or science fiction content. I actually wrote the first draft of the novel a couple of years before my father died and since some of the novel was inspired by events in my own father's life, he actually read some of the novel (like the horrific motorcycle accident that almost claimed his life when he was a young man) before he passed away. I'll always cherish the time we spent discussing the novel on the front porch of a cabin on Manitoulin Island one rainy afternoon.

Congratulations to winner's Gregory Huffstutter, Scott Middlemist, Stacie Penney and other honorable mention folks Kent Blackwood, John Ling, Charleen Touchette and S. Barry Paisner. And thanks to the judges and Paula B for a very fun and exciting contest. You can read the wonderful samples from all these folks at the very same link.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

HNT - Getting Hammered

Since I've used HNT to talk about the character auction I was involved in to raise money for the Hamilton Literacy Council, I figured I'd share the winner of the auction in today's post.

The winner is none other than fellow Hamiltonian, fellow blogger and fellow HNTer RainyPete. A man who is as generous as he is funny.

Peter gets to be killed off in my online serial thriller, "I, Death" -- a couple of days after he won, we arranged to get together for a few beers (Hamilton's own Lakeport Honey Lager, of course) and figure out how best to kill him. Not to give it away, but since the horror tale is being rolled out in blog format, told as if from the point of view of an actual real blogger, the method of death will be related to the unique story format being used. We haven't worked out all the details, but as it rolls forward in the next few weeks, it should be fun.

So for this week's HNT, I present a shot that RainyPete took of the two of us working out details on how to best kill him off.

And yes, for those perceptive enough to spot them, you can catch Yorrick the skull and Darth Tater in the shot.

Go visit Osbasso, a guy lots of people would like to get hammered
with and learn more about Half-Nekkid Thursday . . .


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I Knew You Were Going To Read This

Further advancing Rupert Sheldrake's recent announcement of proof that telephone telepathy actually exists (you think about a friend that you might not have thought about in years and moments later they call you), I just had this feeling YOU would be reading this. So that's why I wrote it.

I also had a feeling that as many as half of the people reading this would leave me a comment. Even those who normally swing by without saying hello (which doesn't bother me in the slightest, BTW, swing by as often as you like without stopping to say hi -- I know we're all extremely busy - and getting past my spam-check validation takes time you know)

And you likely know, before even getting there, that this post ends with the very next sentence. But Freaky, isn't it?

Monday, September 04, 2006

Extreme Vacuuming

Alexander has always enjoyed the vacuum. Even when he was barely crawling, he would scream out in delight whenever we pulled the vacuum out. As he got older, he would let out his typical battle cry and run towards the storage closet where the vacuum is kept whenever it was mentioned that it needed to be done.

Even now, it's not a promise to visit Dairy Queen or McDonald's that gets his attention, but a promise that he and Daddy will get to vacuum. While I'm vacuuming, there are three main activites that occur.

1) Alexander runs up and down the hallway screaming in delight

2) Alexander follows along doing his own vacuuming with Dusty, a toy vacuum that he got last Christmas (one of his favourite toys, of course)

3) Alexander works hard at moving objects (the footstool, his toybox, book basket, etc) out of the way so I can properly get behind spots.

And at the end of each and every vacumming session, as I'm trying to unplug the vacuum and put it away, he points out "spots that I've missed" -- of course, there's never anything there, it's just a wonderful stalling tactic so we can continue with his favourite past-time. Sigh.

Recently, he's taken the sport to a new level, enjoying taking Dusty onto the stairs and doing acrobatic stair vacuuming. And the other morning while Fran and I were laying in bed, he dragged Dusty over and pulled him into the bed and tried to vacuum us. The funniest part about it, of course has to do with a series of random phrases that Dusty mutters, because just as he was rolling across my chest, he started to choke and say that he swallowed a hairball.

I think he's starting to invent a new sport that might catch on. Extreme Vacuuming. Watch for it this fall on TSN.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Winning Bid In I, Death Character Auction

I just found out that the winning bid in the "I, Death" character auction was set at $100. Excellent, killing someone off will raise funds to support the Hamilton Literacy Council.

I can't wait to be in contact with the winner and start working on plans to kill them in the fictionalized story of Peter O'Mallick's death curse. It's going to be fun because I have no idea how I'm going to pull it off, but will enjoy the thrill of writing them into the story as I go.

Gotta love that kind of writing challenge.