Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Lil Bit's Masquerade Party

Lil Bit, fellow HNTer and all around cool dude person, invited me to a Halloween Masquerade party in which we're supposed to include a pic of a mask that represents you (just ONE), explain why that picture was chosen -- ie, what is it about the mask that speaks to you, represents you, etc.

Well, Lil Bit, I didn't have a lot of time to work on this but I'd like to offer the mask I wore today to work (yes I dress up every year at work whether or not everyone else participates or not -- fortunately, this year, many people participated)

My costume was "Chain Bookstore Zombie" and the "mask" I wore, the paint on my face and the uniform I wore represented the Mark of the past 14 years, the Mark who was a chain bookstore zombie. I'm partially poking fun at myself (particularly since I now work for an independent bookstore and that's what independents do, isn't it? Make fun of the chain stores) But in many ways, the mask shows the scars and bruises of the past 14 years, the darkened eyes from lack of sleep pulling over-night shifts. No, these are just typical retail bruises and things I'll continue to bear in my new role. I'll always cherish my years with Coles, Chapters and Indigo, and I had the pleasure of working with a ton of fabulous people.

I could go on and talk about the other masks I wear -- the mask of horror writer, the mask of father, the mask of husband, the mask of boss. But maybe that'll be at Lil Bit's next party...

Happy Halloween!!!

NaNo What Now?

The eve of October 31st has always been a special and magic time for me. I'll never grow out of my love for Halloween. But this year there's an extra special bit of excitement in the air, as it also denotes the eve of the beginning of NaNoWriMo. "NaNo what now?" you might ask.

NaNoWriMo -- short for National Novel Writing Month. It's basically a fly by the seat of your pants approach to writing a novel. The goal is to write 50,000 words by midnight of November 30th. I've signed up to NaNoWriMo to put pressure on myself to finish "A Canadian Werewolf in New York" - I've got about 10,000-15,000 words of what used to be a short story that I've decided to turn into a novel -- and for the next 30 days I'll be hammering out the next 50,000 or so words in order to complete it. No, I know, I'm not following the rules 100%, as you're not supposed to have begun work on the novel ahead of time, but I am following the write 50,000 words rule and will only be counting the new 50,000 words than I write rather than the words that came before it. The goal is simple -- finish the first draft of the damn novel (which will likely be between 70,000 and 80,000 words in total) for once and for all.

For me, it's all about the pressure. I work best under a tight deadline. I also made the promise on The Writing Show podcast during my guest spot in Paula B's "Getting Published" reality series and she'll be checking in on me to see what progress I've made. More pressure. I love it.

In honour of NaNoWriMo and Halloween, I'd like to present a postcard challenge story that I wrote when I crashed a local writing group meeting this month that my buddy Kim is in. The postcard challenge is to write a story of about 220 or less words using a theme and 3 specific words that are supplied. This month's theme: Weird Science. The words: catnip, duct tape, trowser.

Trick This Treat By Mark Leslie (220 words)

Maxwell shook his head as he wiped his hands on his trouser pants and stepped back to admire his handiwork.

Sure the entire setup was a bit messy and pretty simple in construction; held together with a nail here, a screw there, and duct tape in several places where nothing else seemed to work. But the series of booby traps he set up in his front yard would certainly do the trick, instantly killing or maiming anyone with the nerve to set foot on his property tonight

“Trick,” he muttered, enjoying the pun and glanced across the street at the grinning hollowed out pumpkin set out on the front porch. The flickering candle light was more noticeable now that twilight was settling in.

His work complete, he went inside and filled the cat dish to the brim with catnip, wanting to be sure the little furry companion was content and happy and stayed out of his hair.

It was a lot of work, he knew.

But dammit, if he didn’t do something to stop those pesky kids from coming to his door and distracting him all night, or kept the damn cat from pestering him for food and treats, he wasn’t ever going to get his bloody novel started.

He only had one month, after all.

NaNoWriMo started at midnight.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Something I Don't Miss

Sigh . . . though I no longer commute from Hamilton to Toronto any longer, I still get the email updates from GO Transit regarding train delays etc. (I keep forgetting to cancel my subscription to that service)

I certainly don't miss freaking out when I see these in the middle of the day.

There's something about the "please be prepared with alternatives to get home today..." that brings back some frightening memories.

Yeesh, am I like an old man taking glee in reading the obituaries because MY name isn't printed there yet?

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Big Picture

It's happening this Sunday, and with everything going on family wise, I sincerely doubt that Francine, Alexander and I will be able to take part in the event this time, but just in case people from the Hamilton area are blog browsing and read this and might be interested in attending a worthwhile event, I'm putting the information up.

This will be the third time that The Big Picture (which is basically an awareness of the size and importance of the local art community) has been done.


celebration historical record show of strength!

A giant photo shoot / rally of the VISUAL ARTISTS, CRAFTSPERSONS, WRITERS, MUSICIANS, DANCERS, ACTORS, CULTURAL WORKERS and ARTS SUPPORTERS of our time. Smile and be counted!

WHERE: Hamilton City Hall Parking Lot Rain or shine!

WHEN: Sunday October 29 @ 11 am followed by the BIG ART TAIL-GATE PARTY @ noon Free hot dogs, drinks, entertainment. Bring the kids!

Information? Volunteer? Jessica Vellenga 905 527 6481 jessicavellenga@gmail.com Bryce Kanbara 905 523 7754 Brian Kelly 627 9692 Ian Jarvis 905 529 3355 Frances Ward, Patti Beckett, Klyde Broox, Jeremy Freiburger, Chris Pannell, Ingrid Mayrhofer, Paul de Courcy, Barb Patterson, Jim Chambers. Thanks: Hamilton Community Foundation

Thursday, October 26, 2006

HNT - Ghost!

Last week Francine and I bought a 6 foot inflatable ghost on top of a globe containing a black cat, pumpkin and a tornado whirl-wind of bats. Alexander desperately wanted it, because every single time we went into the store he went nuts over it. And when we brought it home, he ran screaming around the house in delight over his new friend. (One of the cute parts is that the air escapes out the ghost's hands, so it looks a bit like he's waving at you with the fingers of both of his hands)

But when he goes to bed, Francine and I have fun with the ghost. We like to think that we bought the thing for Alexander, but I'm sure that neither one of us wants to admit that we each were secretly hoping the other one would say "let's buy it."

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Tech Teddy Terrifies Toddlers

I had to laugh when my buddy Samson forwarded me the following picture of a teddy bear/USB jump drive. Not sure if it's an actual product that is available or someone just customized their own miniature teddy bear.

I can just imagine Alexander screaming madly when I ripped the teddy's head off and slammed his neck into the front of my computer . . . but the picture on the bottom is reminiscent of a "head stuck in the honey pot" scene from Winnie The Pooh, so maybe it wouldn't freak him out at all. Maybe he'd just think he was watching another Disney cartoon.

But then again, I have a pretty sick sense of humour. Speaking of which, I rather enjoyed the "distractions" subject of The Survival Guide To Writing Fantasy podcast that Tee Morris recently produced.

And all through it I couldn't help but think about the very therapeutic writing of the dark humour story "Distractions" that came out one day while I was pondering similar things. (More evidence, I suppose, of my sick sense of humour)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I'll Sing My Song To The Free

As Mr. Pete Townsend once sang: "The song is over, it's all behind me."

I've finally finished the online serial thriller I, Death which is a free read. I posted the last entry today. The story (a novella length work in blog format which weighs in at somewhere between 35,000 and 40,000 words) is now complete. Wow, 10 months, lots of twists that I didn't anticipate, a great deal of "making it up as he goes along", plenty of audience participation and feedback and some fun challenges to kill friends in the name of raising funds to support literacy. Does it get any better than that?

Yeah, I guess it does, since I already have a publisher interested in publishing the book which will contain a novella adaptation of the blog story along with the sequel to "I, Death" -- "The sequel?" you ask. "But how can that be?" Well, I never did explain what happened to Sarah now did I? Nor did I properly explain Peter's curse. Thus, a follow-up short story of about 4000 words.

Monday, October 23, 2006

But What About Spidey?

I was reading an article in the newspaper this morning which covered this fun new book called 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived: How Characters of Fiction, Myth, Legends , Television and Movies Have Shaped Our Society, Changed Our Behaviour and Set the Course of History.

And was terribly disappointed to see that Spider-Man didn't make the list?

What the heck is that about? I mean, a "Johnny-Come-Lately" character like Buffy the Vampire Slayer made the list, but Spidey didn't? And after he changed the fact of comic book history? (Before Peter Parker came along, super-heroes didn't have complex or in-depth alter egos in their civilian life. Parker was a shy nerd loser teenager who struggled with typical teenage angst during the day and by night fought crime and super-villains. Later in his career, he succumbed to the flu, colds and ulcers. Peter Parker added a unique element of realism to the world of comic book characters and, in my mind, changed the face of comics forever)

Now I know that Buffy has had a huge influence on popular culture, and of course, her being a television character (yes, I know, first a movie character, then, more popularly a television character) ultimate makes her more accessible to people -- but I'd argue that more people who never read comic books know who Spider-Man is at first glance rather than Buffy. But I am definitely curious to check this book out and see how Buffy ranks in there and Spidey doesn't.

Friday, October 20, 2006


For the last couple of months, every time we've gone into Costco (one of those wholesaler warehouse jobbies), Alexander has rushed to the back of the store where the Halloween display and the six foot inflatable globe with a friendly waving ghost on top and inside are a black cat and pumpkin surrounded by a tornado-like flurry of flying bats.

Last night, however, when we got there, the Christmas merchandise had replaced the Halloween stuff. (I mean, Halloween is still a week and a half away, we might as well put out the Christmas stuff. Hell, why not get the freakin' Valentine's Day stuff out now, and, oh, while we're at it, Easter isn't all that far away at that point...)

Alexander was extremely anxious and worried as he ran back and forth down the "seasonal" aisles, concerned that the ghost was gone; and all the while yelling out "Ghost!" repeatedly. After several minutes of panic, he finally found the ghost near the produce section, and delightedly wouldn't leave his friend.

Despite the fact that I'm not a fan of giant inflatable yard ornaments, we just couldn't resist the acknowledgement of the joy that finding this giant ghost gave to Alexander. He kept yelling out "Ghost!" and then, as he noticed we were discussing potentially actually caving in and buying it, he sat down on the skid beside the ghost, kept looking at it and at us . . .

As of this morning, the ghost is sitting in our living room -- he spent a very exciting evening last night running back and forth between the kitchen and living room, laughing and yelling out "Ghost!" and then playing a game of saying goodnight to the ghost (and turning him off, he deflated and settled onto the floor) and then tapping him on a deflated shoulder saying "Wake up!" (and turning him on and watching him fill with air)

Mr. Ghost will make it out into the front garden within the next few days -- but for now, it's a delight to have him occupy the living room and watching Alexander take such delight in his new friend.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

HNT - October Dreams

I couldn't resist peeking out from behind a book again this week. Why? Because I've been hanging onto this book (which I think I bought last November or December) just itching to read it during the best month of the year. The Fall is a magnificent time of the year, the colours, the brisk chill in the air, and, of course, the entire month is a wonderful build up to HALLOWEEN!!!

I started reading October Dreams (edited by Richard Chizmar) late last week and man has it ever been worth the wait. It is an incredible collection of stories, essays and memories of Halloween by a variety of names in the horror and speculative fiction field. I haven't yet skipped a single entry nor have I been even slightly disappointed with the selection of items within. And I know I'll be sad when I finish reading it. But then again, there's always NEXT October to re-read it.

If you love Halloween stories, then this collection is definitely for you.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Frankenstein's Idiot

I just received some information about a new horror release from Anchor Bay that I'm eager to see. It's called Freak Out and appears to be a spoof horror film, somewhat in the style of Scary Movie. However, this one promises to be a more solid cross-over, mixing the absurd with slasher in a way that has garnered some pre-DVD release attention and accolades.

I have to admit, while initially skeptical, I have rather enjoyed Anchor Bay's recent horror releases. I was watching The Garden recently and quite enjoyed not only the chills, but the masterful way that the story unfolded. Lance Henriksen (a brilliant under-used actor) plays the devil living on a ranch in a remote farming community. The story is the basic good against evil show-down, and the struggle is paralleled rather nicely in a chess match between Henriksen's character and the young Sam, who suffers from terrible nightmares, self-mutilation and instinctively knows there is something evil about this rancher who so kindly takes him and his father in when they become stranded after an accident.

Freak Out, with the pitch-line, "Trained to kill . . . by idiots" looks promising. It almost strikes me as a sort of "Trailer Park Boys" master plan gone horribly wrong. Given that my own horror writing tends to contain elements of dark humour, and I enjoyed the strange clip from the film that I have previewed (see below), I'm rather curious to see how well this indy film can actually chill.

Yes, I'll admit, every year when the annual Simpson's Halloween episode airs, I get a little creeped out. Of course, there are scenes in Disney's Sleeping Beauty that still give me nightmares.

But then again, I'm just one big 'fraidy cat.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

My Ship Isn't Coming And I Just Can't Pretend

When I listen to a Rush song occasionally I get these flashback images of my buddies and I doing our 2/3 air-band in Pete's basement. I call it a two third air band because I would play an invisible bass guitar and keyboard a la lead singer Geddy Lee, Steve would bounce around making "just drank really potent lemon juice" faces while doing guitar solos in the style of Alex Lifeson, and Pete, of course, would hammer out his magic on a real set of drums almost perfectly in time with the professor Neil Peart.

Some fond memories of three giant nerds passing the time in a small Northern Ontario town. Good times, as my buddy Mathew Growden would say.

But there's one Rush song that now has a new, funnier memory to go with it.

Last night Alexander and I were heading to the grocery store in the truck and listening to Y108. The Rush song Fly By Night came on. As the song reached the chorus...

Fly by night, away from here
Change my life again
Fly by night goodbye my dear
My ship isnt coming and I just cant pretend

...for the first time, Alexander shouted out in a huge voice while waving his hand in the air and smiling proudly at me: "Byyyyyeeeeee!" (prompted, naturally, by the "goodbye my dear" line) And, of course, he did it every time the chorus came on, completely delighted with himself that, like Daddy, he was singing along to the song, or at least to a part of the song that he had some sort of context for.

I'm sure that, like me, once he's a teenager, he'll start feeling this burning need inside to get out and explore the rest of the world, to leave the nest and fly away from his parents. So I'll rest assured that his "bye" right now is a fun "see you again very shortly" kind of "bye" rather than that "I'm off to University" or "I'm going to travel Europe for a few years" kind of "bye."

Monday, October 16, 2006

It's Not Because I'm A Horror Writer

Alexander is starting to speak more and more, and even put a few words together (most often stated phrases right now are "Daddy Stinky" and "Where did it go?") -- while he can understand a huge whack of words, there are maybe about 30 or so words in his regular repertoire.

Among those words: "Ghost" and "Pumpkin" -- it seems as if he has caught his parents' fascination with Halloween. In our travels, he is quick to point out these two items in Halloween decorations. And, since that is what parents nauseatingly do with their kids whenever they start doing something cute, we prompt him along.

Daddy: Alexander, what's that?


What does a ghost say?


But it's not because I'm a writer who often delves in dark fiction that he says these things. If he picked up on my writing lifestyle, the conversation would more likely go like this:

Daddy: Alexander, who decides if Daddy's stories get published?


What does an editor say?

"Not right for us at this time."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

HNT - 10th Anniversary

This week, HNT falls on a very special day. Today, Francine and I celebrate 10 years of marriage. I can't begin to explain how grateful I am that Francine has put up with me and stuck with me all of these years. She not only regularly sees me at my very worst and has never run away screaming, but she's also the first to prop me up when I stumble or can't stand on my own, and has never let me down.

Fran is a remarkable woman, genuinely caring with a good heart, a selfless and loving mother, a strong and supportive yet gentle partner, a beautiful, sexy and exciting woman, and the best friend that a man could ever ask for.

I could go on for hours trying to describe the love in my heart for Francine and the fact that I'm still delighted all these years later that she agreed to marry me. And I think I will. Off line, while cuddling with my lamb-kabobs. This week's post is another archive photo, one of my favourite pictures from our wedding day, 10 years ago.

And if you'd like to not just see me expose myself, but hear me expose myself, I was a guest on this weeks The Writing Show podcast, offering insights into a horror writer's creative process. Give it a listen while browsing nifty half-nekkid images this week and let me know what you think. If you like sexy things, check out last week's show with author Cher Gorman: "Make Your Writing Resonate With Sexual Tension."

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Watching My Son Sleep

Life has been hectic and stressful these past couple of months. One of the biggest stresses was the confirmation we received yesterday from the doctors and nurses at the hospital that it's very likely my Mother-in-law will not recover enough to return home. It's devastating to think about that, to consider what this means.

So this morning, in the midst of getting ready for work, I took some time out of my morning routine to just sit there and watch my son while he slept. I can't properly describe the sense of peace and tranquility and the overwhelming love that I felt while watching him peacefully doze. For several minutes, everything was all right with the world again. And when he opened his eyes and smiled at me, my heart just about burst wide open.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Wanna Hear Something Cool?

I am delighted and honoured to be a guest on Paula B's The Writing Show podcast.

I'm a guest for a series of "reality show" writing podcasts that she's doing entitled "Getting Published" -- Paula will be following me as I attempt to use the pressure of being a guest on her show with this year's NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to finally finish the first draft of my novel "A Canadian Werewolf in New York"

The interview, which I did with Paula a few weeks ago, is the first in a series as she tracks my progress and runs for about an hour. It's actually not bad. Paula is a wonderful interviewer, I occasionally sound like I know what I'm talking about and I only sound like a complete idiot a couple of times (like when I mispronounce NaNoWriMo, for example)

Click on the link below to read more and download and listen to the episode.

Podcast: Getting Published with Mark Leslie (Episode 1)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Hangin With Neil Peart

My good buddy Pete sent me a link to an extremely rare interview with Neil Peart on YouTube. Peart is not only the drummer for Rush (my favourite band), but also one of my favourite writers. I grew up a huge fan of his lyrics, and was just waiting for the day that he would start to publish his writing.

I greatly enjoyed a sci-fi/horror story he co-authored with Kevin Anderson, and enjoyed all three of his books (travel-type memories): The Masked Rider, Ghost Rider, and Traveling Music.

I'm itching to read his latest book (Roadshow: Landscape with Drums) which just came out in September, because with each new release, his writing gets better and better. And, no, you don't need to be a Rush fan to enjoy them, you just have to like reading a bunch of words strung together one after another. If you like that, you'll love the way Peart strings words together.

Check out this wonderful interview. I couldn't resist wanting to share this.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Friday, October 06, 2006

Author Self Promotion Tip Number 7

Some fun news for a writer friend of mine was an article featured in the McMaster Daily News today. Kim Foottit, author of the story "Walter's Brain" which appears in North of Infinity II, was highlighted in a wonderful article written by Susan Bubak of McMaster Daily News.

Photo by Susan Bubak - McMaster Daily News

The article begins:

"McMaster researcher Walter Wyndham talks to dead people. Wyndham was studying the memories contained within the brains of the dead when one of the brains began communicating with him through his computer. Sound like science fiction? Well, it is." (Read the full article here)

This is a beautiful example of today's author self-promotion tip (which was liberated from the Dean of Canadian Science Fiction and a master of promotion, Robert J. Sawyer) -- Define yourself as a big fish in a small pool. (Read one of the many words wisdom articles offered on Rob's website, a beautiful resources for writers and researchers, here)

Translated, this self-promo tip means that since it's tough to get noticed or featured in places like The New York Times (as a starting or relatively new writer, it's likely you might not be a well-known name -- a huge group of us fit into that category), so having a national or international newspaper, or The Oprah Winfrey Show, for example, take notice of you is a tough thing to do.

But the smaller more local media outlets might be more reachable, and, in many ways, more supportive. Smaller outlets, such as your University, College or High School newsletter, magazine or newspaper are likely to take pride in the publishing achievement of an Alumnus or current student.

Company newsletters also play that same role. Celebrating achievements of employees is a great way to boost morale and highlight the people who make a company excellent.

You'll find a similar sense of pride and support in local community newspapers -- perhaps not the larger print outlets, often owned by out-of-town conglomerates, but the more community-oriented weekly freebees are a good place to start.

This goes not only for the place you live or work now, but places you lived, worked, went to school. (Dan Ackroyd went to Carleton University and was a member of the student theatre group there -- Sock'N'Buskin -- very briefly. Sock'N'Buskin still mentions this today. Why? Pride in the successes of members, students, etc.)

From my own experience, the best support I've gotten for my writer are the media outlets in the home town where I grew up. I grew up just north of Sudbury, and the two newspapers and two radio stations there, as well as the bookstores there, have been tremendously supportive of my writing efforts. When I launched One Hand Screaming at the Sudbury Chapters, for example, both newspapers put half-page articles in the paper, the Chapters staff did a wonderful job of decorating (it was October, and the book being horror fit perfectly) for the book launch and advertising my arrival, and there was actually a line-up of people at the store to get copies of the book signed. The most copies I've ever sold at a single time so far, in fact.

So, congratulations, Kim. You're a brilliant writer, it's great to see you get exposure -hopefully more people will get a chance to read your wonderfully touching story and discover your brilliance for themselves.

Oh, and Kim, have you contacted your hometown newspaper yet to let them know about this achivement? What about the McMaster Alumni magazine?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

HNT - Man I Smell Like A Woman

Shh! I'm about to reveal a secret . . .

I discovered this week that my wife's deodorant/antiperspirant works better on me than my own. As Paul Simon once sang: "Who am I to blow against the wind?" So I've switched. And I have to admit, I don't mind smelling "powder fresh" pretty.

Bonus points to the folks who recognize the song by a Canadian country music singer I'm referring to in the title of this post.

Reveal your own secrets
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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dude Smells Like A Lady

The verdict is in. At about 8:30 PM last night, about 14 hours after I'd applied Mitchum to my left armpit and Lady Mitchum to my right, Francine did the sniff test.

Her answer: "This one (the left armpit) smells fresher."

Guess I'll be sporting Lady Mitchum's "powder fresh" from now on. Hmm, women's products must be made with some sort of magic -- it makes me wonder if I might try using her shampoo. Is there a possibility it could reverse the male pattern baldness?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

RETMO: I Smell Pretty Again

Pardon me, I'm having a retro moment. Allow me to refer back to this post when I say that I smell pretty today. Well, half of me smells pretty at least.

As I was putting on my deodorant this morning, I ran out after finishing my left armpit. So, knowing how perfectly well Fran's works on me (I ended up switching over to Mitchum after an experiment where I wore Fran's Lady Mitchum when I ran out of my own brand about a year ago), I applied her Lady Mitchum to my right. Now, every once in a while I catch a very pretty scent.

Of course, I'm inadvertently running an experiment here -- which will start to break down and fail first: My left or right armpit? And if Lady Mitchum wins over Mitchum, then darn it all, I'll go for smelling "powder fresh" pretty every day. I'd much rather smell like a lady than a sweaty warthog.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Groovin On A Sunday Afternoon

This past weekend we bought Alexander a new CD/AM/FM Player -- this one an RCA model I'd spotted a little while ago that included an MP3 player line-in and dock. Wal-Mart was celebrating its anniversary sale, and they had MP3 players on sale -- the Creative Zen Nano 512 MG. So we got him one of those, too.

Alexander, of course, loves his music. Sure, he loves jiving and grooving to whatever happens to be on the radio. (For some reason though French country music gets his juices going the best - don't ask me how he happens to always land on that station). He enjoys listening to Baby Einstein CD's when he falls asleep. Enjoys? No, demands.

But because he likes to handle his CD's they get a bit scratched, and the existing CD player/radio that we had in his room was too sensitive. (His CD's would play perfectly fine in every single CD player in the house except for the one in his room) So we got a new one. And the MP3 player option is, I think wonderful, because yesterday I burned 3 of his CD's onto the MP3 player for a wonderful stream of more than 2 hours of bedtime listening pleasure. (For those nights when it takes him a little longer to fall asleep -- usually days that end in "y")

Funny. He's two years old and already has way cooler tecnological stuff than I did at ten times his age. (Not hard for Alexander to out-cool me, since I didn't even own an 8-Track player until I was ten years old)