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Archive for April, 2012

Sometimes, when I wake up in the middle of the night, my brain begins to think rather than falling back to sleep. Like last night, when I woke up puzzling over a Dean Koontz novel I had been reading immediately before nodding off. Reading often puts me to sleep. No offense, Dean. One of the characters had just died of a heart attack.  A sputter here, a synapse there, and — bingo!  I began wondering where the story would go next.

Too late. I was wide awake.

At times like these I have often found that taking a very, very hot shower helps prepare me for a re-visit by the Sandman. Something about the influx of heat and the sound of the shower striking my skull is what does it. My master shower happens to have one of those shower-chairs (with armrests and a back) sitting in the bathtub, which makes taking a shower a lazy and comfortable experience.

“Pssssssst”, went the hot water. INnnnn went the heat. Pitter-Patterrrr went the friendly little water-sounds on my naked scalp. So pleasant. So nice. “AHhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” I awoke about an hour later, screaming — eyes wide open — within a very cold, 50-degree rush of well water. I had fallen asleep in the shower chair.

Man, oh man, I was so totally AWAKE even Dean Koontz couldn’t help.

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FRIDAY FOOD THING

Hog's Head Cheese

Today’s FRIDAY FOOD THING was going to be a leap of faith for me: a review of something I have never had before. Something I’ve been afraid to try. A Southern something called Souse. Something that’s often called Hogs Head Cheese. Souse sounds better, but it was not meant to be. When I got home from the grocery store, a bottle of wine and my package of souse was nowhere to be found. The only thing I can figure is the grocery store bagger must have put the wine and the souse on the bottom shelf of my shopping cart, where I neglected to look. The wine and the package of souse is probably still sitting in the parking lot cart caddy.

Well, the package of souse probably is…

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04/28/2012

Tim Says: Oh, oh. The ball’s a rolling. I just called a local butcher shop and can purchase a hog’s head for $8 plus tax. Sounds cheap to me! I asked if they could cut my head in half for me. They laughed. “I meant the hogs head!” “No!” they said. “That would tear up our saw.” I made a mental note. Haven’t stepped off the cliff yet. But now I know the cliff is there if I decide to leap.

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(from 1999)

Last week I purchased a golf “driving net” and set it up in my back yard. With it, I will hone my golfing skills to the brink of perfection and beyond. My fingers were trembling as I teed up my first golf ball.

“Whack!”

The ball careened wildly off the top of the net and shot straight up over my backyard fence at a little over 400 miles per hour. About ten seconds later (and two blocks away), I heard a distinct “TWOP!” as the ball landed on a distant neighbor’s roof. Then, a “CLANK!” as it tumbled into an aluminum gutter.

Somewhere in the distance, a bird chirped.

I decided to move the tee box closer to the net.

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Sometimes, small victories are the best kind.

As many of you know, about a year ago I became heavily involved with the free, online shoot-em-up video game, UberStrike, where my screen name is “Gray Mouser”, a fictional character introduced in 1939 by the famous science fiction author, Fritz Leiber.

It wasn’t long before — with some amount of trepidation — I joined the UberStrike Forum, a game-related “chat room” of sorts. As the year progressed, I became fascinated with a particular section of the UberStrike Forum called “Cmunity“, a special area where appointed UberStrike gamer-”WRITERS” published Uber-related articles.

I couldn’t stand it. I wanted to become a part of it. After wrangling with UberStrike’s Manager, I was quickly accepted as an official Cmunity Writer. It wasn’t long before I was promoted to Cmunity LEADER, the equivalent of Spider-Man’s boss, Jonah Jameson. Gray Mouser had suddenly become Cmunity Newsroom’s Editor-in-Chief!

Soon, word got out there was a new, 62-year old UberKid on the block.

Cmunity Writers are hot stuff, all of them volunteers and highly admired by the mostly 13-19 year old UberStrike gamers. Everyone wants to become one.

It was somewhere along this timeline that I decided I wanted to help these aspiring wannabe writers. It was time to give something back.

After much juggling and jostling, I managed to get my boss (screen name: “Lady Daga”) to agree to something I called the  [Cmunity FREELANCE] Program, a program designed to encourage these aspiring non-Cmunity Writers in a self-discovery kind of way, by giving them a taste of the real publishing world complete with rejection letters. The Cmunity FREELANCE program gives these young wannabes the chance to have their writing displayed right beside the Cmunity Writer big dogs.

This past weekend, I “accepted” the first [Cmunity FREELANCE] Program article, a small victory made larger for me by the fact that I shot and edited a YouTube video to enhance the writer’s (screen-name “Elite|Phoenix”) article. I had spent 20 years of my working career as a television editor-writer-story producer, shooting and editing all kinds of stories, but none of them as rewarding as Springs for the Win, my personal return — after 30 years — to the world of editing. It was like riding a bike once again, a bike super-powered by light years of technological editing advances.

Sometimes, small victories are the best kind.

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Tim says: Point-and-shoot games like UberStrike are not for everyone. But if you geezers out there want to join me in jump-starting your heart rate, getting those hand-eye coordination brain cell synapses firing again, and discovering that today’s international youth are pretty damned amazing after all, I invite you to get off your butts and give UberStrike a shot. The game needs more of us seniors showing these young whippersnappers a thing or two. Mac user? A free Mac App version is available in the Apple App Store.

Cya in game!

–Mouser

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For the past few days I have baited my minnow trap with stale slices of bread and thrown the contraption out into the shallows near my boat dock. Curious minnows and tiny sunfish soon gather around and eventually find their way through the one-way doors to feast on the goodies within. But hours later, upon checking the trap, I have noticed the trap has been mysteriously opened, devoid of both bread or minnows.

Years ago lake otters would have been the obvious culprits, swimming by in their charming manner, fooling us into laughing at their antics, later backtracking when we weren’t looking, to peel fresh fish from our stringers or shiners from our bait boxes, chuckling to themselves as they laid on their backs, in plain sight, nibbling on what they had stolen.

But, sadly, I haven’t seen otters in my cove for many years.

This morning I noticed a lone grebe paddling around the end of the dock. A grebe is kind of like a duck, except (some of them) are dark and have white bills with myriad shades of glowing neon eyes. Grebes come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. All grebes are exceptional swimmers and, like penguins, can dive underwater and travel great distances. And like otters, I discovered, they can open minnow traps and gobble down anything that’s inside.

So now when I toss out a baited minnow trap I also toss a few pieces of bread off the other end of the dock. The grebe pays me no mind, dives ungraciously underwater. A minute later a chunk of damp Wonder bread is yanked below the surface, and when I leave the dock to grab a bite to eat and return later, my minnow trap is empty all over again.

I’m sure this love-hate relationship will flourish, and we will become great friends. Who knows, maybe one day we can share a box of crackers and a can of sardines.

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Very similar to Spring Cleaning but occurring one or two weeks later, “Plant Day” has always been one of my most pleasurable household chores. Plant Day is that particular moment in time when all wintering indoor plants are moved outdoors for the summer. A kind of healing quest where, over time, all the winter-damaged miscellaneous plants of every description are carried outside (dead and yellowed leaves forming a Hansel & Gretel bread-crumb pathway through every doorway in the house) to a screw-hook fastened to a wizened tree or overhead porch-space, with a garden hose outlet nearby.

So it will be today at Lake Gaston.

One by one, the south-side houseplants are removed from their dangling chains and crowded tables, transferred to a seasonal space out-of-doors where varying degrees of sunlight soon performs a triage of sorts. Out comes the kitchen scissors amid screams heard only by me, as lagging shoots, roots, and leaves are snipped off in a massive shearing operation not unlike that shared by draftees at boot camp, sheep farms, or possibly even guillotine inductees.

But after a while the screaming subsides.

A positive type of attitude adjustment is occurring, one that works quite well in tightening up the ranks of straggler or confused plant limbs and dangling vines. By the time evening trickles through the leaves of nearby oak and maple tree neighbors,  the indoor house plants will have become OUTDOOR house plants, no longer flinching when I walk by browsing casually through their foliage, looking for last-minute edits, like a needle-wielding dentist.

By nightfall most wounds will be healed and plant-heads will be carefully exploring their new surroundings, murmuring semi-contentedly to themselves just loudly enough so I can hear — new night sounds melding with the screeing of tree frogs, hoot-owls hooting, and the flap-flaps of bat wings chasing insects overhead.

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FRIDAY FOOD THING

It began many years ago when I realized taking pictures from a TV screen was easy if you had a digital camera. Just for fun, I began taking snapshots of outrageous television advertisements. Outrageous from the viewpoint of product reality: what they advertise vs. what we get.

I want one!

My first experience was a Burger King “Whopper” sandwich ad. I mean, have you EVER bought a “PERFECT WHOPPER” that looks like this one? Sesame seeds placed just so; exquisitely deposited dollops of ketchup and mayonnaise; thick onion slices to die for; perfectly arranged serrated pickles; Ginsu-sliced tomatoes and leafy lettuce straight from Martha Stewart’s garden?

Hell, I don’t want to EAT this burger — I want to frame it and hang it on my wall!

Which got me to thinking.

I printed the picture and carried it into my local BK. When my Whopper was delivered I opened the wrapper on the counter and asked for the manager. Yeah. I was a butt-head. I placed the ad picture I had taken next to the pathetic burger-thingy. “I want one that looks like THIS one!” I said, pointing to my picture.

Needless to say, I was not very popular with that particular BK establishment for a long time to come. Like — forever. Of course, I realized the burger-thingy’s shortcoming was not the manager’s fault, false advertising or not. And even though I received an extra burger or two, I went home to the internet and did a little “false advertising” research, where I discovered it is nearly impossible to get a “false advertising” conviction because of  little known legalese gobbledegook often referred to as “reasonable expectation”.

In the above link, the following excerpt pretty much sums it up: “An advertiser cannot be charged with liability with respect to every conceivable misconception, however outlandish, to which his representations might be subject among the foolish or feeble-minded.”

At least the bureaucrats who concocted the document did not exclude themselves from the folks they are trying to confuse.

Today’s FFT is not about the Whopper, however.  It is about “Mrs. Paul’s frozen, 100% WHOLE FILLETS — Beer Batter Fillets”. Man, does that picture on the box look terrific — or does it? When I got the package home, I noticed a tiny, unobtrusive bit of text on the bottom right corner of the box: “ENLARGED TO SHOW QUALITY”.

"Enlarged to Show Quality" Perception vs. Reality: the REAL fillet is to the right.

Do those advertising folks know how to gobbledegook us foolish and feeble minded folks or what?

BTW, the 4-inch long fillets tasted “okay”.

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(from 2001)

I received a phone call last week from a creditor who was inquiring about my recent change of address. It seems I had forgotten to inform the Texaco credit card folks of my move to Lake Gaston, and they were politely wondering if the current North Carolina charges were, in fact, my own doing.

Is that a Duck?

On that particular morning I had taken the call on a wireless phone. I was sitting on the dock enjoying a cup of coffee.

“Excuse me, Mister Lee… but is that a DUCK I hear in the background?” asked the account representative.

“Yes, it is,” I replied, heading to the house in order to examine my most recent Texaco credit card statement. “I’m now living on a lake,” I explained.

When I got to my office I sat down next to my computer, where I had left a Microsoft Golf game program running. (MS Golf often lets fly with a “RiBBit!” sound effect to distract you during a back-swing.)

“Excuse me, Mister Lee,” the voice said again, this time hesitantly. “… but is that a FROG I hear in the background?”

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Spring on Lake Gaston

With the mild type of winter we’ve had here in North Carolina, it’s hard to feel that Spring hasn’t already happened. March came in like a sacrificial lamb, and even though it’s long gone, there’s still a passive bleating going on out there that’s becoming more and more like a whimper. The daffodils near the edge of the lake are thoroughly confused, as are the azaleas—now in full bloom. Leaves have puffed out from tree branches like lime green popcorn. (I would think the maples and oaks have been fooled by unseasonably warm weather before, and are smart enough to know better. But they are actively frolicking like children in the warm afternoons as well.)

But for now, everything seems right, and even though the mad prance of Spring seems to have passed like a ghost, I’m sure there’s a surprise or two greening just around the corner.

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A place to float away...

I’ve always admired rock gardens. Simple in design, zero maintenance, and pure as the driven snow. Curious, I visited a garden center to check out the price of a large display stone. I fell in love with one of those rocks –  five feet long, four feet wide, and three feet tall. It weighed several tons, no doubt. It would look great sitting in a 20-foot circle filled with raked sand, which is definitely NOT zero maintenance.

“Okay,” I finally asked a salesperson. “How much is that rock?”

“Four hundred seventy-five dollars.” She was serious. “And — of course — delivery is EXTRA.”

Of course. Turns out “delivery” was an additional two hundred dollars. Purity and simplicity.

In the old days I suspect farmers paid handsomely to have someone REMOVE large stones like that, or it took them weeks to do it themselves. Which got me thinking: beware of anyone who can afford to buy a seven-hundred dollar rock!

Unless — of course – - you’re a clever farmer who knows there’s folks like me who fall in love so easily with a rock: “Yep, — four hundred seventy-five dollars. But you gotta MOVE IT yourself!

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