Category: Writing

Jan
10
2010

Ten New Year’s Resolutions You Never Thought Of

Drum roll please. Here are ten New Year’s resolutions you, being a sane adult of above-average intelligence, never thought of. Which is a good thing.

  1. Adopt a new vice – Why all the bull about trying to stop a vice, like smoking or junk food? Everyone knows you’re not going to do it. Instead, go out and get a new vice. Start snorting Kool-Aid or hijacking school buses full of penguins.
  2. Eat as many weird meats as you can – You can define weird any way you like. Frogs, turtles, snakes, lizards, worms. Nah, those aren’t weird enough. Chicken embryos, fish excrement, maggots, and testicles of just about any animal. That’s more like it.
  3. Read every street sign you see out loud – Whether you’re walking down the street by yourself or on a crowded bus, read those street sounds loud and proud. Articulate each and every one. Some may thank you for the reminder, others will punch you in the face.
  4. Fart downwind – Not as easy as it sounds, especially in a building with no wind. To rectify that situation, keep a handheld fan on your person at all times. Every time you fart, fan it downwind. Fart, fan, fart, fan, fart fan, just like that.
  5. Set the World Record for Most Times Abducted by Aliens – Might be tough to carry this one out. Unless you start carving mountains out of your mashed potatoes or invent warp drive technology or [insert your favorite sci-fi/alien reference here].
  6. Learn to play the accordion – Weird Al Yankovic played one, so why can’t you? The key is to practice, practice, practice. Especially late at night, when you can’t sleep because all the weird meats you’re eating are causing massive downwind farts.
  7. End all discussions with “To be continued…” – Leave everyone hanging. Extra points if you can end on a cliffhanger or an especially important point.
  8. Spit generously – Nothing says “manly” like lodging a good, healthy loogie from the gullet and landing with a satisfying blop. And chicks totally dig it.
  9. Start ending sentences with a preposition – You know you want to. This includes blog posts, of course. Ending with prepositions is where it’s at.
  10. Suck less on a daily average – Since the opposite of suck is blow, then to carry out this resolution, you can thusly and simply, blow more.

And no, I am not resolving to do any of these. If you would like to, then, please stand upwind of me.


Jan
3
2010

How to Speed Read

Categories: Learning, Theories, Writing

With an easy schedule, I can read about a book a week. I haven’t had an easy schedule in a while unfortunately, but I can still complete a book relatively quickly.

This is because I speed read. Now, I’m no lightning-fast reader. I won’t be winning any speed reading competitions anytime soon. But I’m guessing a book a week is faster than the average reader.

Interested in speed reading too? Speed reading is a “collection of reading methods which attempt to increase rates of reading without greatly reducing comprehension or retention,” according to Wikipedia (and if Wikipedia says it, it must be true, ha ha). There are many speed reading methods out there, such as minimizing distractions, skimming, meta guiding, subvocalization removal, and schematic processing. Let’s go over each one.

Minimizing Distractions
It is easier to comprehend a piece of information if there are few or no distractions around. If you’re at home, turn off the TV, laptop or radio. If you’re commuting to work on a noisy bus or train, try noise cancellation earphones with easy-going music.
Skimming
This involves scanning a paragraph to get the gist of its meaning. Many authors use filler words and sentences that don’t add to the message. Even words like “a,” “and,” and “the” can be skipped. In other words, don’t read and think about each & every word — glance through the text to pick up just the relevant words. If you get good at this, you can even read by common phrases instead of individual words. This is my preferred method.

There is a technique similar to skimming called the Z method where you read one line, diagonally sweep across the second line backwards to the beginning of the third line, then read the third line. This doesn’t work for me though.

Meta Guiding
Some people find it helpful to use some kind of visual guide, like a finger or pen, to follow the passage of text. By moving the pointer under the sentence you are reading at a brisk pace, you aid your eye in skimming the sentence. I do this when there are distractions I can’t minimize, though I do it more for comprehension and not for speed — meaning I move my finger slowly under the text.
Subvocalization Removal
If you sound out each word in your head as you read, you are subvocalizing. Doing this can slow down your pace. There are techniques to remove this habit, such as chanting a repetitive phrase like “A-E-I-O-U” or counting “1, 2, 3, 4″ over & over again as you read. I don’t do this either, though I sometimes subvocalize key words as I’m skimming. Perhaps slows me down, though it doesn’t bother me.
Schematic Processing
This method involves training your mind to read familiar words and concepts more efficiently, while employing specialized study skills for unfamiliar material. I don’t know much about this method, except that it’s based on the work of Malcolm Knowles and his theory of andragogy.

The drawbacks of speed reading are comprehension and lack of sentence appreciation. Comprehension is probably the main detriment for most people. Being an aspiring author, I appreciate a well-constructed sentence. Whenever I’m reading a great author, I will purposefully slow down so I can take in each sentence. However, I have to consciously do this; otherwise I will automatically speed-read my way through the book.

To combat loss of comprehension, I sometimes pause after an important paragraph or chapter and think about it critically. I will visualize the author’s message and find ways to relate it to my life and experiences. Sometimes I’ll conjure up other examples to support the author’s thesis. Other times, I’ll discover conflicts and holes in the author’s argument. In either case, this act of critical thinking significantly aids my comprehension of the material.

So that’s my formula for speed reading and comprehension: minimizing distractions, skimming, and thinking critically about what I am reading.

Do you speed read? If so, how do you do it?


Sep
20
2009

Duck Evolution

“What do you think life would be like if we evolved from ducks?”

She looked up into the sky and, without missing a beat, replied, “There would be a lot more going on in the sky, that’s for sure.”

I blinked. “Really? You didn’t want to think about that first?”

She gave me a look. One of those Of course peanut butter goes with jelly! looks.

“Okay. So there would be a lot more going on in the sky. Like what, floating buildings?”

“Oh, definitely. Since ducks can fly, there would be all kinds of floating buildings.”

“Definitely.”

“Definitely,” she nodded. “And there would be sky traffic lanes and zoned spaces.”

“Zoned spaces?”

“Sure. That piece of sky over there would be commercial. And over there, residential.”

“Ah.”

“There would be buildings on the ground too. Because ducks can also walk, you know.”

I slowly nodded. “Of course, of course.”

She looked back up into the sky and stopped talking. I scratched my chin. Shifted my weight. Then I asked, “So you disagree with the Howard the Duck scenario?”

She gave me another look. One of those, Did you just fart in the car? looks. “What?” she asked.

“Howard the Duck. In his world, things aren’t floating. Everything is just like it is right now, except the people look like ducks.”

“Oh no, no no no no no. That wouldn’t be it at all.”

“You seem so certain.”

Now a Great, I have to teach him the alphabet AND how to count to three look. “Well, duh. Ducks can fly. Hello.”

I blinked again. Twice.

“You don’t understand evolution at all,” she continued, then returned her gaze to the sky.

I looked up at the sky too. Scratched my head. “I guess I don’t,” I replied.

We both watched a flock of ducks fly by. I think I heard her sigh too. Probably off thinking about floating buildings and zoned skies and whatnot. I decided not to ask any more questions and let her watch the ducks go by.


May
17
2009

The Inland Empire

When I first heard the acronym “IE” I thought it meant “Internet Explorer.” That’s because I am a web geek and IE in the web world means Internet Explorer.

Now I know better. The initials IE can stand for many things. A web browser that has frequently frustrated many a web developer. A Latin abbreviation for “id est,” which corresponds to “that is” and not “for example.” Or a hot, dry, wasteland of a Californian desert with the occasional pocket of life and delicious food.

I don’t mean to offend the residents of the IE. There are many great things about this area. Like any other region, it has its good elements and not-so-good elements.

E.g. (“for example”), there are some nice college towns out here, most notably UC Riverside and the lesser known University of Redlands. Both are surrounded by the usual campus niceties, such as vibrant coffee shops, cheap rental housing, and relatively safe neighborhoods. There’s also a bit of nightlife here, though I’m way too old for that crap now. Oh my aching bones.

There’s also a respectable teaching hospital here in the city of Loma Linda. With facilities spanning almost the entire city, if you get hurt in the area, you’re bound to run into a doctor who can help. The city also sports a population primarily of Seventh-day Adventists, further underscoring its relatively low crime rate.

Also known as the 909 (San Bernardino & Riverside’s area code), the IE was once the site of an up-and-coming boom. The dot-com period was a time of significant urban development, especially in cities like Rancho Cucamonga. Outdoor shopping malls, cookie-cutter apartment complexes, and post-modern office buildings were sprouting as fast as useless websites with no real business models. It was a good time to be in the IE back then, so I hear.

According to Jim Stewart’s book “The 909″, there are also artists and writers here. Perhaps a thriving art community as well, I’m not sure. I haven’t actually read the book; I’m just citing its synopsis from Amazon.

San Bernardino city is also the home of the very first McDonald’s restaurant. It was originally a barbecue restaurant set up by brothers Dick and Mac McDonald in 1940. They noted that their best sellers were hamburgers, so they retooled their restaurant and created their “Speedee Service System,” making them a fast food legend. Also, I just saw on the news that their French fries have the lowest number of calories amongst all fast food fries, including In and Out’s fries.

Pretty good stuff, huh? But what about the bad stuff, the not-so-good elements of the IE?

Going with the IE’s perhaps better known nickname, the 909, I found the following definitions on Urban Dictionary:

The area code in Southern California for Riverside and San Bernardino County; usually associated with white trash.

…A great place to live between Los Angeles and Las Vegas if you don’t mind the meth labs, cows, and dirt people.

The arm pit of southern california. or the meth lab capital of the world

My oh my.

And my observations? There are an awful lot of Ford pick-up trucks here with “No Fear” stickers. Every time we go hiking, we spot mud-covered motorbikes and ATVs. A fair number of trailer parks and undeveloped plots of land cover this region. Seeing a field full of overgrown weeds and perhaps an abandoned shack is a common sight. And I mean really common.

If you are a single female, you should avoid walking alone on the streets at night. All the empty fields make for extreme danger.

While there are a handful of tasty Japanese, Thai, and Chinese restaurants, you won’t find many other Asian foods here. One Thai place actually serves Chinese food, though it calls itself a Thai restaurant. I’m guessing the owners aren’t Thai.

Chain stores dominate the retail market. It is rare to find a unique boutique store here. I imagine all the Mom & Pop shops shut down years ago. In their place are all the usual culprits: Walmart, Kmart, Costco, Denny’s, McDonalds, Starbucks, etc.

Fortunately, I have yet to come into contact with a meth lab. But who knows, perhaps I drive by them all the time without knowing.

The dry heat is perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of the IE, or 909, or whatever you want to call it. Horrible for both the skin and the paint on your car, the weather follows typical desert patterns — crazy hot during the day, ice cold during the night.

And that, in a nutshell, is the IE: a desert devoid of much, except for a few pockets of really nice hope and niceties. Which, if you think about it, is kind of like Internet Explorer too.


Apr
5
2009

I’ll Be Right Barack

Categories: Conversations, Writing
A Girl:
“I’ll be right Barack.”
A Boy:
“Wait. What? What did you just say?”
Girl:
“I said I’ll be right back.”
Boy:
“No you didn’t. You said you’ll be right Barack.”
Girl:
“Yea, you’re right, I did.”

Boy:
“That’s so corny.”
Girl:
“No it’s not. I’m trying to factor Barack Obama’s name into my everyday life now. He’s a big part of our lives and I want to make sure I say his name at least once a day.”
Boy:
“Why not just wake up every morning and say his name? Then you’ll have said it once every day.”
Girl:
“That’s just not the same. He means more than just a robotic utterance. He’s our President. He deserves more respect than that.”
Boy:
“Oh, but he deserves to be used in corny lines?”
Girl:
“There’s nothing corny about that. You’re just projecting.”
Boy:
“What? No I’m not.”
Girl:
“Now you’re in denial. It’s truly dreadful. You should see someone about that.”
Boy:
“Stop that!”
Girl:
“Don’t cry. Are you going to run to your Obama now?”
Boy:
“No, I’m not going to run to my… wait, what did you just say?”
Girl:
“I said are you going to run to your mama now?”
Boy:
“No you didn’t. You said… Omigosh you’re driving me insane!”
Girl:
“See, I knew you were loopy.”
Boy:
“I’m not loopy. You’re the one that’s loopy.”
Girl:
“Why, because I’m supporting our President?”
Boy:
“Because you’re… you’re… Argh! Weren’t you just leaving?”
Girl:
“Yea, but just for a minute. I’ll be right—”
Boy:
“Don’t say it! Don’t you say it!”
Girl:
“Say what?”
Boy:
“You know what you were going to say!”
Girl:
“How very unpatriotic of you.”
Boy:
“I’m not the one making fun of his name!”
Girl:
“Barack you are. You are making a mockery of his name.”
Boy:
“You did it again!”
Girl:
“No I didn’t. I said but you are. I better tell Obama about you. She’s going to be worried about her son.”
Boy:
“That’s it. We can’t have this conversation any more.”
Girl:
“Yes we can. Yes we can. Yes we can.”
Boy:
“…”
Girl:
“Okay, I really gotta go now. Be right Barack!”

Mar
15
2009

Text Messaging Etiquette

Have you committed a text faux pas recently? Texting, the short-hand for “text messaging via a mobile device,” is such a common communication method now that a whole new set of manners and etiquette has arisen.

How many of these do you break regularly?

  1. Keep your phone on vibrate or silent mode. No one wants to hear your phone beep every time you receive a new text.
  2. Keep your text messages concise. Brevity is key. For long messages, use email or — how novel — a phone call.
  3. Do not write a text message to someone while talking to someone else face-to-face. Give the person in front of you your immediate attention. The text message can wait.
  4. Do not get upset if you don’t get an immediate reply. The recipient might be busy (see above) or unaware of the new text message.
  5. Be aware that misinterpretations can and will happen. It is difficult to discern emotional nuances from short text messages.
  6. Be judicious with your shorthand. Some people may not be aware of the shorthand you are using.
  7. Be aware of basic grammar rules. Just because text messages encourage shorthand notation is no reason to show your recipient that you have the grammar skills of a two year-old.
  8. DO NOT WRITE A TEXT MESSAGE IN ALL CAPS. A pox on you and your firstborn if you do.
  9. If you know your friend is on a wireless plan that charges per text message, don’t bombard the friend with messages.
  10. Do not write a text message while driving. Not only is this illegal in some states, but doing so renders your awareness to the level of a drunk driver.
  11. If you are writing a text message while walking, watch where you are going. Make sure you don’t walk into someone, a tree, or traffic.
  12. Text messages can be used to politely remind or notify someone who you know is unable to answer the phone. “Can you call me when you’re out of your meeting?” is perfectly acceptable.
  13. Be aware of who you are writing the text message to, as informal messages full of slang are more appropriate for your friends than your superiors at work.
  14. Be aware of your recipient’s schedule. Just as you wouldn’t call someone at 2AM, don’t text message that person either.
  15. Do not write a text message while on a date. That signals to the date that you are bored and uninterested — unless you want to convey that, of course.
  16. Guys: if a girl gives you her phone number, do not respond with only text messages. Dial her number, open your mouth, and talk to her. You will impress her much more this way.
  17. Do not send a text message while intoxicated. Drunk texting is as bad as drunk calling. Bad bad bad.
  18. Do not harass someone with text messages. They can be traced, so it isn’t just rude, it’s also stupid.
  19. Do not use a text message for something formal and serious, like a wedding invitation or ending a relationship. It’s just tacky and lame.
  20. Double-check the recipient before sending your text message. Make sure you are not sending a love note to your boss. Unless your boss is your sweetie-pie.
  21. Do not write a text message while in an interview, unless you don’t want that job.
  22. Do not send a spam-like chain text message, unless you are a total jerk. People who pay per text message will especially abhor you for this.
  23. Do not text while watching a movie in a movie theater. The light from your mobile device can be distracting to other viewers. A hundred years of bad acne on you if you do.

Feb
22
2009

Ode to Commode

Here I sit,
broken-hearted.

Came to shit,
only farted.

Shouldn’t have had
that Taco Bell.
Now my butt
is burning hell.

Pushing with
a mighty clench.
Yet nothing drops
down the trench.

Sweat upon
my furrowed brow.
This room smells
like nasty cow.

Been a while;
my butt’s gone numb.
Would it help
to stick my thumb?

Teeth I grit,
my hands I wrench.
Emitting noise,
and quite a stench!

Time ticking,
I’m running late.
She’ll be pissed,
my waiting date.

Been feelin’ fine,
when it hit me – pow!
Oh all days,
why now, why now?

Here it comes,
just a dribble.
Not enough,
still too little.

Frustrated,
and full of gas.
Push push push,
still, no mass.

What to do,
But sit and wait?
Oh Taco Bell,
you I hate!


Jan
25
2009

Mr. Cornne in Brazil

Background:
A series of vignettes of Mr. Cornne, a young American high school teacher working in a small town in Brazil. Based on a true story. All dialogue is in Portuguese.

Scene One: The Street

Setting:
A street in a small town somewhere in Brazil. Several female high school students walk past the camera. The camera pans to reveal Mr. Cornne walking towards them. He smiles and recognizes them as students from his class.
Students:
Mr. Cornne! Mr. Cornne!
Mr. Cornne:
Good afternoon, my friends.
Students:
We love you Mr. Cornne!
Mr. Cornne:
Blushes and smiles in response.
Students:
Each one leans over on the tips of her toes and kisses him on the cheek.
Mr. Cornne:
Thank you, thank you.
Silvia (one of the students):
Mr. Cornne, you are so handsome today.
Mr. Cornne:
Still blushing. Um, thank you.
Students:
Walking away from Mr. Cornne. Bye Mr. Cornne! We love you! See you in class!
Mr. Cornne:
Looks at camera and smiles. This is why I love teaching in this country so much. The people are so friendly and familial. All students treat their teachers like this, not just me. With such passion. It is their custom. But still, I love it. Though… it seems one may have formed a crush on me. Blushes.

Scene Two: The Classroom

Setting:
Mr. Cornne’s classroom. It is the start of class. Students are arriving and taking their seats.
Mr. Cornne:
Everyone, please take your seats. Waits a moment until all are seated quietly. Thank you. Now take out your English textbooks and turn to page 125. Please read that story. When you are done, we will discuss it.
Students:
They flip open their textbooks and begin reading.
Silvia:
Gets up from desk and pulls chair over to Mr. Cornne’s desk. Positions herself right next to him. Her textbook is in her hands. He looks over curiously as she leans against him and starts reading quietly.
Mr. Cornne:
Looks at camera and shrugs. Silently mouths the words, “She does this all the time. Sometimes other students do it too.”

Scene Three: Chocolate

Setting:
Mr. Cornne’s classroom. The class is over and students are walking out. Silvia lingers after everyone has left and approaches Mr. Cornne. Don’t worry, this isn’t a porn, this is a PG story.
Silvia:
I love you, Mr. Cornne.
Mr. Cornne:
Oh, um, thank you.
Silvia:
Why don’t you love me?
Mr. Cornne:
Uh, well, it’s complicated, you see. First, there’s the age difference. I am much older than you and you are still very young. Then, I’m also your teacher, so…
Silvia:
So what do you love?
Mr. Cornne:
Um. Chocolate. I love chocolate.
Silvia:
I am chocolate. Love me.
Mr. Cornne:
Blushes. Um, that is very sweet of you. Class is over now. You need to get to your next class before you’re late.
Silvia:
Pouts. Bye, Mr. Cornne. I love you! Runs out of the classroom.
Mr. Cornne:
Looks at camera. What did I say about the people here being very, uh, passionate? You should hear some of the things they say to me off camera. My gosh! Blushes and shakes head.

Scene Four: Back in America

Setting:
Back in America. Mr. Cornne is walking down a street in his hometown. He passes by some of his former students. All dialogue here is in English.
Mr. Cornne:
Smiling. Good afternoon!
Former Students:
Cast him a scowl and scurry past him without saying a word. As they walk away, they turn their heads and giggle. Ohmigod, do you know who that is? Mr. Cornne! Didn’t he leave the county and like, get deported or something? What’s he doing back here?
Mr. Cornne:
Looking at camera. Shakes his head with a sigh. I miss Brazil.

Oct
26
2008

Turtle Snack Attack

“Awww, what a cute little turtle!” he marveled. The baby turtle, about the size of his thumb’s fingernail, wiggled on his finger. Its tiny legs struggled to climb and move somewhere.

“It’s so cute it looks almost good to eat! Hmm… maybe…”

CRUNCH. munch munch munch…

“Mmm… kinda tastes like peanut buttery chicken, with a soft warm nugget inside.”

munch munch munch…

He licked his fingers.

Suddenly, the sky darkened. He stopped mid-bite and looked outside. Some kind of swarm was flying towards him. But a swarm of what? He watched nervously as he continued to chew.

munch munch munch…

When they got nearer, his heart dropped into his bowels.

“Wha…” he muttered.”Those are… those are… flying turtles?!”

A squadron of flying turtles crashed through his window and into the room. Splinters of glass sliced the air. He tumbled to the ground and rolled into a ball. Bits of glass and plaster decorated his hair like a Christmas tree.

The outside wind tickled his ears. He looked up and saw the swarm circling the ceiling. His feet sprang and pushed him towards the door. The turtles rounded a corner and flanked him as he tried to escape. Another squadron smashed into his knees and brought him down.

“Noooo!!!” he screamed as the flying turtles repeatedly rammed his skull. They beat down like a relentless bongo drum player with turtle shells for hands. His vision started to go black.

With his last fluttering thoughts, he could have sworn he heard them chant, “Don’t eat our babies. Don’t eat our babies. Don’t eat our babies.”


Oct
19
2008

The Little Lemur

Categories: Stupidness, Terror, Writing

It was a fine sunny day when I took a stroll through the zoo with my stuffed puppy. Because, c’mon, who wouldn’t want to stroll through the zoo with their stuffed puppy?

I passed by the lemur cage and heard a rattle. A lemur was staring up at me with wide, round eyes.

I regarded him with a smile. “Hi little lemur!” I waved. He sniffed the air and looked at my stuffed puppy. I held the puppy’s paw and waved it. “Puppy is saying ‘Hi little lemur!’ too.”

The lemur stared unblinkingly. Not one blink. For a moment, I wondered if those were really eyeballs or just two glorious marbles on his forehead.

Suddenly, the lemur leapt forward. With one unblinking eye focused on me, he held my gaze. Then he squeezed his body through the bars like silly putty through a set of rollers. It was the strangest thing. And all that while, that eye, that unblinking eye, kept staring at me.

Before I knew it, my stuffed puppy was gone. And the little lemur was cradling it lovingly.

“No! My stuffed puppy!”

The little lemur stared back at me, unblinkingly. I called the zoo security. They rushed over. I stammered on about how the little lemur stole my stuffed puppy. Bits of spit showered them. They called me a crackpot and threatened to throw me out.

“I swear! That little lemur somehow squeezed through those bars and took my stuffed puppy!”

“Why in the world were you carrying a stuffed puppy??”

My mouth gaped open. A random fly zoomed in. “Because I was strolling through the zoo!” It was an answer as plain as day. Why didn’t they understand?

They grabbed my arms and dragged me away. I turned to yell at the little lemur, fists blazing. He sat there with my stuffed puppy in his arms. And stared at me with those damned unblinking marble eyes.


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