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My New Favorite Song

WARNING: Highly addictive and possibly annoying, depending on your personality.

Narwhals, by Weebl, recently featured in Sprint commercials.

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What I Learned This Week – 2/22/15

This week I learned that I can’t run the space heater downstairs at the same time that I run the space heater upstairs. At least not in using the outlets I tried with the other day. I tripped my circuit breaker.

Not my actual heater

Not my actual heater

This week I also learned that it might not be wise to burn candles directly underneath my thermostat. It turns out, the radiant heat that it produces is enough to throw off the thermometer just enough that the furnace will not come on as often as it should.

Yes, it was damn cold this week in Michigan.

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DIY Thomas & Friends Buffer

The other day my son was begging for a buffer to put at the end of his track, so that the trains would not roll off.

My first thought was that SOMEONE must sell such a thing, but that by the time you added the cost together with the shipping, the price would be pretty cost-prohibitive. If you decide that you want to go this route, you can visit TrainsGalore.com, which is an awesome website with almost anything you can imagine for Thomas-type trains. Here is their link to order buffers: http://www.trainsgalore.com/Search.aspx?k=buffer

I once ordered unpainted Thomas wooden railroad cars from them and had kids decorate them as party favors at my son’s birthday.

The car I designed (that the dog promptly ate).

The car I designed (that the dog promptly ate).

I chose the cheap, crafty route and fashioned a buffer out of a spare piece of track that we already had and some popcicle sticks.  I also used an exacto knife to saw through the wood, and an engine to make sure the dimensions seemed appropriate.

Supplies I used to make a Thomas buffer

Supplies I used to make a Thomas buffer

I glued it all together with some wood glue and allowed to dry away from tiny, excited hands. I added two dots of red paint (any old paint you have laying around) to signify reflectors. Here are pictures of the finished product.

Finished buffer

Finished buffer

Close-up of finished buffer

Close-up of finished buffer

My son was so excited that he wanted to show the completed buffer to everyone. He even told me, “Mommy, you are the best mommy.” I don’t get that everyday. I actually get that never!

I will admit that this design may be best suited to use on a train table environment. My son plays trains on the floor, and the buffer tends to not handle being stepped on by humans or dogs very well. But, we just glue it back together again. You might also think about trying a more triangular design, which might have more stability.

The few minutes of crafting I did were worth this very happy boy.

Happy boy

Happy boy

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EXPOSE`: Thomas & Friends

Thomas is a pimp (not really)

Thomas is a pimp (not really)

So, my son REALLY likes the children’s television series Thomas & Friends. I have watched A LOT of episodes over the past three years. I have watched many of the SAME episodes over and over again.  And I have come to notice a few things. Maybe it is just my distorted view of things, but maybe you will agree too.

Emily Photo: ttte.wikia.com

Emily
Photo: ttte.wikia.com

On the island of Sodor, all women are bitches. The only female engine that was in the cast for a long time was Emily, the dark green engine. She is the definition of a bitch.

I will set the record straight. None of the engines ever does what they are told to do. It is actually a really bad example to set for kids.

But every episode that Emily is in, she bosses the other engines around. She wants to tell them how to do their jobs, sometimes even telling them to change what jobs have been assigned to them.

One episode, a popular soccer team was coming into town. Emily was all excited because they were her favorite team. Every engine got assigned a task. Emily was assigned the task to haul dirty laundry. Emily was disgusted by this. She wanted a more important job, perhaps maybe even carrying the team to the game. The lesson we were supposed to learn from the episode was that the laundry was for the team, and it was important for her to take care of it.

What?

The lesson was that the only way a woman can be of use is to take care of the laundry? Oh no they dih-ehnt!

Other female engines that have been introduced since had not fared much better. Belle is seen overwhelming Toby with her outspokeness and eagerness. Rosie is shown as a tag-along. She feels like a kid-sister for Thomas in the limited number of episodes she appears in. Molly is a big yellow engine. In one of her earlier appearances, she is picked on by another engine. Any guesses who? If you said Emily, then you are correct.

Victor Photo: ttte.wikia.com

Victor
Photo: ttte.wikia.com

Then there is Victor, who is an engine from Cuba who works at the Steamworks, fixing Sir Topham Hatt’s other engines. I imagine that Victor is gay. Maybe it is the accent. Maybe it is his “partner” Kevin, who seems to live with him at the Steamworks.  Kevin always calls Victor “Boss”, and has a very large crane arm.

I always imagine Victor, in his foreign accent, saying things to the other engines like “Oh, I will make you over, my little friend. With a new coat of paint, I will make you look FAB-u-lous!”

Ferdinand Photo: ttte.wikia.com

Ferdinand
Photo: ttte.wikia.com

Oh, then there is Ferdinand. He is one of the Logging Locos from Misty Island. He is big, kinda dumb, and has a gap-toothed smile. He has a very wide nose. His catchphrase? “Dat’s right.” Ferdinand just comes across as an African American male talking ebonics. I don’t mean to insult anyone with that comparison. If anything, I am offended by the show designers creating him that way.

Do your kids watch Thomas and Friends? What strange things do you notice after too many viewings?

THOMAS-sheds

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Research: Pride & Prejudice

Sometimes, I check out a CD or a movie because someone suggests it to me. Sometimes I am interested because it is perpetually in pop culture for decades and I cannot avoid it.

In these circumstances, I am probably not eager to try it, and expect to not enjoy it. But I consider it “research”.

I was told years ago by a co-worker to listen to “Nothing’s Shocking” by Jane’s Addiction. He told me if I liked Kid Rock, I should listen to this CD because it is what came before. He was kind of weird and cool, so I got the CD. I would disagree that it really has anything to do with Kid Rock’s sound, but it was an alright CD. I considered it a failed research project though. My life wouldn’t have been missing anything had I never listened to it.

I got the books “Forever” by Judy Blume and “The Perks of Being a “Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky because everyone always talks about them being great books, especially in the Young Adult genre. I was highly dissatisfied with Perks. I think I would be better off if I had never read it. As for Forever, I think maybe Blume’s books are best enjoyed at the age for which they are written. When I was in 4th grade, Tales of a Forth Grade Nothing” was da bomb. I could never diss Mrs. Blume.

I decided I needed to either read or watch Pride and Prejudice, because everyone talks about it all the time. Actually, the last straw was when I was reading an article called “Sex, Lies, & Fifty Shades” in my Entertainment Weekly magazine. It used Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice as an example of The Prince Paradigm.

Pride and Prejudice meme

Pride and Prejudice meme

Since I generally do better with visual than I do books, especially ones filled with fancy old British talk, I chose to watch the BBC miniseries from 1995 starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. I was a little concerned about a 6 hour miniseries. But it had a 5 star ranking on Amazon.com.

How many other movies rate that high?

The costumes and all the formality of courting and dancing, etc. back then would have driven me nuts. Once I sort of associated it with when I watch “Anne of Green Gables” (PBS, starring Megan Follows), as being of a time whose customs I know not, it was easier to watch. Just like Anne, Pride featured beautiful shots of the countryside–England, rather than Canada, of course.

The first hour I spent just trying to remember everyone’s name and what they did. But, as I reached the end of episode 5 and found it was now 2:15AM, I realized I had been drawn into the story. I actually cared about Lizzy and Mr. Darcy and if they were ever going to get together.

I actually feel really cheated that I didn’t watch Pride and Prejudice sooner. So many other movies I watch are based off of this story that came first. I recently watched the movie “Austinland” which, while a great movie, no doubt would have made more sense had I watched P & P first. And I have watched “Bridget Jones Diary” in the past. Wait, why does Colin Firth keep playing characters named Mr. Darcy? Is that a really common name in England?

Anyway, Pride and Prejudice was definitely worth my time checking out. I enjoy writing bantering dialogue between my leads and feel like I was “schooled” by the movie. I might benefit from reading the original book. I did find a free eBook version, although I enjoy reading physical books more.

I must admit, I may be a little obsessed now. And that really should have happened years ago. Maybe I wasn’t mature enough yet in 1995 to see past the dresses that look like nightgowns and the lack of kissing.

BTW, I am sooo glad that Lizzie and Mr. Darcy get to kiss at the end.

Next up on my research list? Flowers in the Attic.

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What I Learned This Week – 2/15/15

In trying to do some research while working on my next book, I ran across the coolest website ever!

http://popvssoda.com/

It is a website devoted to surveying people to find out what you call soft drinks where you live.

And it shows that where I live, “POP” wins! Ha!

BTW - I ALWAYS drink a soft drink

BTW – I ALWAYS drink a soft drink

You can take the survey (based on your hometown) and add your input to the color graphic as well. I especially encourage you if you are from one of the counties currently in white, meaning their is no data available.

My first book, The Wind Could Blow a Bug is NOW AVAILABLE!

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My New Favorite Movie

I found my new favorite movie on Netflix the other day. It is called “Magic Beyond Words: The J.K. Rowling Story.

Lifetime's "Magic Beyond Words: The J.K. Rowling Story"

Lifetime’s “Magic Beyond Words: The J.K. Rowling Story”

I will say right off the bat that this is an unauthorized biography. So all the facts are probably not 100 percent true. They may have had to make up situations to string together actual events. It comes across in some spots as cheesy and sugar-coated. And it is a Lifetime movie, so there is the requisite woman getting knocked around scene.

But the end result is like a Cinderella story for aspiring writers.

At the end of the movie, we are given the info “In three years, J.K. Rowling went from being a welfare mother to one of the richest women in Great Britain.”

That just astonishes me.

MAGIC BEYOND WORDS-Rowling Quote

The movie is loaded with suppositions about where Jo Rowling may have gotten her inspirations for Harry Potter. Her best friend in high school is a boy with red hair that she labels “weasley”, whose car looks like someday movie magic might make it fly. Jo’s school teachers bear more than a passing resemblance to Professor McGonagall and Professor Snape.

Weasley look-alike and young Jo with awesome hair and eye makeup

Weasley look-alike and young Jo with awesome hair and eye makeup

I was surprised at all the money Lifetime put into the movie. There were several special effects shots to illustrate Rowling’s creative process. There was everything from a symmetrical building turning into Gringotts bank to chess pieces engaging in physical battle with one another to candles floating above her head as she pecked away on her ancient typewriter.

The movie shows the joy as Rowling receives her first book advance check. She is seen buying her toddler daughter a giant teddy bear. And maybe, just maybe, that would be the first purchase. But I bet a close second was the purchase of a computer. That would make working on her follow-up book immensely easier.

The movie portrays Rowling as always wanting to be a writer, but she was influenced (mostly by her parents) to have a practical career. Then her writing suffered, never more than just a hobby. When she put all her concentration into it, that is when she became successful. I can highly relate to that.

If you only think of your writing as a hobby, that is all it will ever be. And if you are convinced that you need a practical career and writing isn’t it, then writing will never be your career.

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Everybody Talkin’ ‘Bout

EVERYBODY TALKIN-Gossip Meme

Everyone keeps talking about Bruce Jenner. His mom gave an interview outing him transitioning into a women, which anyone with functioning eyes and a link to TMZ had already figured out. Now he has been in a deadly car accident. [Wo]Man just can’t stay out of the spotlight.

It seems among the most commonly discussed questions is: He is 65. Why bother with all that surgery now?

Um, what?

I feel bad for Bruce, that all these years he has felt this way, and society has finally evolved enough that he can be himself. He was all Mr. Muscles Gold-Medal winner, and I’m assuming all that time he just wanted to go home and slip on some panties. He must have felt like this for decades. No one goes through all this therapy, surgery, and public scrutiny just for a fad.

I am happy that he can finally become himself. Sixty-five is not too old. He could live another thirty-five years. Why keep denying who he really is?

But all this thinking about Bruce led me to a realization about another celebrity that everyone always thought was strange and had too much plastic surgery…

Michael Jackson.

Think about it. Michael always wore his hair long, as Bruce is now. I once heard that MJ was getting all his plastic surgery so that he could look more like Diana Ross. Sure, Ross is beautiful, but a rather strange thing for a grown man to say.

He is especially close with his sister Janet.

AND HE LOVED KIDS!

Everyone twisted it into some dirty, perverted thing. I do not happen to believe that.

What if maybe he was just a woman trapped in a man’s body?

Maybe that is what was really torturing him, what he was hiding from the public’s prying eyes all these years.

Maybe he just wanted to raise and nurture some kids just like most women would.

If that is the truth about Michael, I am sure some tell-all book will reveal it in the next 50 years. Just remember, you heard it here first.

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What I Learned This Week – 2/8/15

This week I learned about the 80’s TV series The Facts of Life.

The Facts of Life aired on NBC from 1979-1988

The Facts of Life aired on NBC from 1979-1988

Entertainment Weekly, which seems to be trying to gain more readers by being the go-to pop culture binge one-stop, put an in-depth article about The Facts of Life on their website. You can check it out here: http://www.ew.com/microsites/longform/facts/

Actually, a lot of it I already knew, but just forgot. Tidbits, like that Nancy McKeon (she was always my favorite) was up for the role of Monica on Friends (Courtney Cox is the best Monica). Or that Mindy Cohn was not even an actor–she was just a regular girl at a private school giving show creators a tour of her school (she proved to be a very important quarter of the show). Or that Geri Jewell was the first actress with cerebral palsy with a recurring role on a TV series. Or that they tried to make a spin-off at the very end about students at Eastland again, featuring young Juliette Lewis, Mayim Bialik, and Seth Green. But, it wouldn’t have lasted, even if they did pick it up. Because it looked like a lot like the first season of The Facts of Life. Mostly taking place in the common room of a dormitory, which had proved unsuccessful previously. The show was its most successful and engaging when it centered on only Mrs. Garrett, the four girls, and the cafeteria.

The article mentions all the “special episodes” that occurred over the years, including racism, “abortion, adoption, drug abuse, alcoholism, rape, and suicide at various points”. But they forget to mention the episode where Tootie talks to the young prostitute in a New York City, and almost gets recruited herself. The prostitute was played by a very young Tammy Lauren, later known for playing Ginger Szabo on ABC’s post-WWII masterpiece “Homefront”.

In the 1980’s, The Facts of Life made me want to create a male version of the show.  I wanted to have Dick Clark as the head master, then all the trouble-making school boys would be played by all the young, male actors that I had crushes on at the time.  It would have been a hit with tween girl audiences.

If you want to reminisce about all things Facts of Life, including Andy, Pippa, George, and Beverly, check out the link above.

The paint fight is always my favorite.

My first book, The Wind Could Blow a Bug is NOW AVAILABLE!

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Excerpt: The Wind Could Blow a Bug – Chapter 11

The Wind Could Blow a Bug is the first book in the Riley Sisters series. It is also my debut novel. Available for purchase at Amazon.com.

TWCBAB_med

The Wind Could Blow a Bug
The Riley Sisters
Book 1
By Jennifer Friess
ISBN: 978-0692339565
#TWCBAB

If you missed the previous excerpts, you can read them here:

Chapter 1: http://imnotstalkingyou.com/2014/12/04/excerpt-the-wind-could-blow-a-bug-chapter-1/

Chapter 2: http://imnotstalkingyou.com/2014/12/30/excerpt-the-wind-could-blow-a-bug-chapter-2/

If you haven’t purchased your copy yet, this will be your first glimpse at the story from the leading male’s point of view. Enjoy!

Note: Course language included.

11

WADE

“Rushing off again, I see. Any reason in particular?” a familiar voice came from behind him.

Wade was just throwing his tools into the toolbox in the bed of his truck. He was running behind. He knew Jane was sitting at his apartment waiting for him. Wade didn’t used to mind the twelve hour days working on the farm. But now that Jane was in the picture, that had all changed. When he woke up in the mornings, he couldn’t wait to get to the Diner to lay eyes on her innocent face.

This was a big change. He was a guy that used to sleep as late as possible. He would just smear some peanut butter on a slice of bread and fold it over, shoving it in his mouth on his way out the front door. He was always running late.

When Wade would leave Jane at the Diner, he actually would feel a little sick to his stomach when he got back in his truck to head to the farm. He chalked it up to the greasy eggs. But if Wade was honest with himself, it was more likely that he was having a visceral reaction to having to wait so long before seeing Jane again.

By the end of the day, it was pretty bad. Wade was jonesing to be with her again. Of course he wanted to have sex with her, but it was more. He also missed holding her, talking with her, watching her face light up as she talked about a favorite TV show.

Today being Friday, it was especially bad. And here Josh was trying to hold him up.

“You know. Just off to get some pussy,” Wade replied, nonchalantly.

“Whatever happened to our quality time together? We used to play video games and eat burgers. And then you just abandon me for some girl,” Josh whined. He was doing this on purpose. Josh could tell Wade was itching for this conversation to be over. He wanted to leave.

“You can do both those things by yourself,” Wade deadpanned.

“I don’t believe you are leaving to get pussy,” Josh said.

“Oh, I guarantee you I will get some pussy. But, ya know, getting off is something else you can do alone.” Wade was closer to Josh than any of his other brothers. They were so close in age. But they were too much alike. It resulted in a lot of butting heads. Like, say, right now.

“I don’t think you are going for pussy. I think you really like this little school girl. I think you are going for more than just a quick lay.”

“You’re crazy. Either way, I am not hanging around talking to you anymore when I could be getting my dick wet,” Wade grumbled.

“She is growing on you. You have never gone out with the same girl for more than a week. And you are so obedient. Running off to pick her up like a damn chauffer. . . I’m worried about you, man.”

“Why would you be worried about me? She can’t take me in a fight.” Wade laughed at the image of her trying.

“No. But she could take your money. And your heart.” Josh put his hand on Wade’s arm to get his attention as Wade opened the door to the truck. It worked. Josh got his attention. Wade pulled Josh’s hand off his arm and met his brother’s eyes.

“It’s not like that, man. She isn’t like that,” Wade growled. Josh had been jealous many times before of all the girls that Wade got, but he had never gone this far to interfere.

“Maybe, maybe not. Wade, you think every girl is interested in your body. But most are interested in your money, too. This whole town is poor as dirt. Everybody knows who holds the keys to the bank. She is graduating soon, right? Maybe you are her plan for economic stability,” Josh finished.

Josh wasn’t wearing his usual smart-ass smirk on his face. There was an earnestness in his voice that usually wasn’t there. A real note of concern, but Wade didn’t care.

“Never. She is the sweetest girl,” Wade said, shaking his head.

“Could go sour.”

“Fuck off, Bro. She isn’t like that.”

Wade climbed into the cab now. He slammed the door, started the truck, and gunned the accelerator. Josh disappeared in a cloud of dust and gravel behind him.

 

My first book, The Wind Could Blow a Bug is NOW AVAILABLE!

PURCHASE as a Paperback or eBook on Amazon.com TODAY.

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