Friday Fictioneers 100 Word Flash Fiction–Afghanistan

1506592_625265090867976_988980829_n

Every Friday, writers from around the world gather at Rochelle Wisoff-Fields blog to share their 100 word flash fiction stories based on a photo prompt. Here is my humble submission:

“That’s nice, you like dolphins?” Regina asked as she deftly finished wrapping Charlie’s wound.

“It was my Mom’s,” he sighed. “She bought that a couple years ago on a trip to Pensacola. That was before the cancer. She’s gone now.”

Regina stood, stuffing bandage wrappers into a large Ziploc bag.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“I can still feel them,” he said. “My legs I mean. It feels like a friggin bus is parked on top of them.”

“That’s just phantom pain Charlie, it’ll fade with time.”

He closed his eyes, forcing back tears.

“It’s ok Regina. You can go now.”

 

32 Comments

Filed under Short Stories

Mega Millions of Losers

ImageMega Millions lottery officials announced today that two winning tickets had been sold for a jackpot of 648 million USD. One ticket was sold in Georgia, and another in California. In recent days, lottery officials have been practically gushing as the estimated prize went up and the hype reached nearly epic proportions. What they don’t tell you is how many LOSING tickets were sold.

I see this as well at some convenience stores, they’ll have photocopies of winning scratchies up at the counter or a big sign that says: “$10,000 Winning Lottery Ticket Sold Here!” Ask them how many thousands of dollars they’ve sold in the various state-run gambling schemes in just the last DAY? CNN reports that $8,000 of Mega Millions tickets were sold in just one hour in Florida alone, how much loot do you think they raised across the country? I haven’t been able to find that figure anywhere, but rest assured the states will always win more than they pay out. After all, they make the odds. I would love to be able to print up $50 million worth of scratch tickets that pay out only 5 million in prizes, but of course that would illegal. The 48 states that run lotteries have the balls to send people to jail for naughty things like bookmaking and using drugs, yet they all run the biggest con games on the planet.

How come the media isn’t doing any reporting on all the people who lost money? It wouldn’t be a very glamorous story. Gamblers tend to come from lower-income households, these are the people our state governments choose to prey upon. How many people missed a meal, or couldn’t buy shoes, or pay the bills on time because they blew their money on this latest scam? The Obama administration, champions of the poor, even gave states the right to run their own internet gambling operations.

You’ll hear the argument: “you can’t win if you don’t play”. It sounds logical, but what are the actual probabilities of winning? They are so low as to be almost non-existent. So you may be playing a game, but it’s a game you’re going to lose.

“But Bill, aren’t you a libertarian? Don’t people have the right to gamble away their money if that’s what they choose?” They sure do, but what frosts my balls is that the states run the show. You or I can’t run an internet gaming site unless we want to set up an off-shore company; we can’t print our own scratch tickets and sell them on Ebay. The state gets to determine which casino gets to open and where, so the casinos will not compete with their lotteries. Then they get to spend millions advertising their scams to pull more money out of our pockets, and we go along with it.

Lotteries are a tax, people. Plain and simple. You either choose to give the state more of your money or you don’t.

THEY can’t win, if we don’t play.

How much money did YOU lose on Mega Millions?

8 Comments

Filed under Rants

Master of the Universe

Image

Image credit: Vertigo Comics

My ass is busted. This weekend I got so much crap accomplished I thought I was another person. Normally I’m something of a procrastinator. OK I’m a professional level procrastinator with a lazy streak. If there was a trade organization for procrastination I would be the president, only we would never get around to having meetings. So when I saw myself actually getting things done for once it was hard to believe.

A foot of snow with drifts up to my knees and weather at night dipping down below zero, no problem. My new snow-blower worked fine, although it’ll take some getting used to. I kept getting hung up on frozen rocks in the driveway, maybe I’ll set the skid plates lower. I also didn’t realize until I was done that I had my reading glasses on the whole time. No wonder why things seemed blurry.

I also had to shovel off the deck, and make a little trail to the woodpile. From the woodpile I moved a couple of days worth into the house because I didn’t want to be going outside in the middle of the night when it’s ten below zero (-22 Celsius for you folks that insist on using the metric system, like that’s ever going to catch on).

Let’s see, what else? I made cheese omelets, fed and watered the chickens, baby got her bath (it’s an ordeal, trust me), put plastic film up on a bunch of windows, knocked off some other honey-do items, did laundry–well you get the picture.

Tonight I’m still a little sore. The fire is cranking and the house is all toasty. As I thought about the weekend I remembered a story from Harvey Pekar’s “American Splendor” comic where he fixes a clogged toilet and feels overwhelming pride in this simple accomplishment.  When you have depression problems it’s sometimes hard just to get dressed, so yeah when I get a bunch of stuff done it’s a big deal. I may even celebrate. Now if I could just get that short story finished…

 

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Secondary Fermentation–A Quick Update

Image

Not wine yet. It looks more like runny peanut butter. Yum!

Chardonnay anyone? At this point the primary fermentation is done and the unfinished wine is transferred from the primary fermenting tank to the carboy (that’s a fun word isn’t it? It’s just a big jug). I first tested the specific gravity with my hydrometer. It’s supposed to read less than 1.010 before you can start the next phase. My sample read about 1.000 so it was fine. Specific gravity is a measure of the density of a liquid. The more alcohol, the lower the reading, so you can tell about the progress of the fermentation by the specific gravity. End of science lesson. You can read more about the hydrometer by clicking the link at the bottom of this post.

This step is simple, you just transfer the wanna-be wine from one container to the next, leaving behind the heavy sludge at the bottom of the primary fermenting tank. This is made up of dead yeast cells and the oak wood chips that you put in during the primary fermentation.

Image

Yeast sludge and oak chips at the bottom of the primary fermentation tank

You don’t need to add any chemicals or anything at this point. I put an airlock in the top and let it sit at around 72 degrees Fahrenheit for two weeks. Yawn, boring. The next steps get a little more exciting.

13 Comments

Filed under Homesteading

Google Trends: Miley Cyrus and Jesus Neck-In-Neck!*

*Alternate Title: The Evil Index and the End of the World

I spend a lot of time on Google trends (http://www.google.com/trends) plotting various search terms to see how their popularity has changed over time. Maybe I’ve mentioned that I’m obsessed with charts and graphs? Anyway, Google trends will show you what search terms are “hot” on a particular day (of interest to online marketers) as well as how different search terms trend via a nifty chart.

You can learn things from these charts. For example, enter “cookies” into the search field and you can see how much people all around the world search for my favorite food. Cookies show a strong seasonal trend, with searches spiking right around this time of year.

The really cool thing, to me anyway, is that you can plot multiple search terms on the same chart. Take the above example and plot “asparagus” and you can see graphically the relationship between cookies and asparagus and how it basically stays the same over about a decade. Link to chart here.

Don’t feel like clicking on links? The chart shows that asparagus (big surprise) has a much lower popularity than cookies. It also shows that asparagus has a seasonal trend as well, peaking during asparagus season in the early summer. Hmmm…very interesting. My curiosity encouraged me to search multiple combinations of terms to look for other relationships and distinctions.

Enter:The Evil Index TM

What would happen if you plotted something evil, something so hideously evil and abominable that nothing else could equal it? Well, I tried. I plotted “Satan” and it was comforting to see that interest in this search term had gone down over time. So are things so much more hunky-dorey today than they were six years ago? I don’t think so. Something must be going on.

Next I had to find a search term that measured something good, and holy and uplifting like puppies or Jesus. I entered “Jesus Christ” and waited. It took Google a few seconds to plot the results. I got anxious, was Satan going to beat Jesus Christ? The comforting answer came, Jesus kicks Satan’s ass! See link here. I breathed a sign of relief, that good had triumphed over evil, and so resoundingly. Why then, did Satan’s influence seem to wane in the past few years? If good so out-searched evil, why is the world still so shitty? Something must have replaced Satan as the most evil thing on the planet. I only needed to find something even more hideous and terrifying to chart.

All would be revealed when I started plotting celebrity names. Most of the time Jesus won out by a landslide, but there was one interesting development. It turns out that while Satan’s popularity may be decreasing, there is another icon of evil emerging: Miley Cyrus.

001 (3)While Jesus is still much more popular overall than Miley, the twerking demon has shown some strength in the past. Late in 2008, when the country was still reeling from the banking crisis and economic malaise, Miley’s popularity briefly exceeded Jesus. This was a dark omen. From there until late 2010 Miley and Jesus traded places on top of the search list several times, and then, Miley’s chart began to go the way of Satan’s, her influence seemed to fade. That was until the “incident” at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. I’m grateful that I don’t watch TV, so I was not directly exposed to this unholy spectacle, but the internet was on fire with Miley the next day. Thankfully interest in her has only very recently dropped off, but she is still almost dead even with Jesus in search popularity. This can not be good.

So I propose The Evil Index TM. Anytime Miley’s search popularity exceeds Jesus the index turns negative–the apocalypse is on it’s way. Anytime Jesus beats Miley it’s a positive measure, and we can feel hopeful that Judgement Day has been temporarily averted. I’m working on plugging these values into an excel spreadsheet and working out an algorithm to come up with a nice neat number for the index that I can chart.

The fate of humanity may depend on it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Pop Culture

Call of Duty Black Ops 2 Nuketown Zombies Smackdown

Image

Image credit: Treyarch Studios

Round 30 and I’m sprinting to keep ahead of the pack of undead behind me, I turn the corner, two dozen stinking reanimated corpses appear from every angle. Up comes my RPD and I rip through the nearest zombie’s skull, draw the others to the left, then dodge right. Sprint, jump, stab right and left. Somehow I make it through.

The two guys playing with me are sitting in front of the same TV split-screen and either don’t have a mike or aren’t talking. I like this map because the games are usually pretty quick, and when you’re playing zombies with dudes that don’t have mikes they’re usually even quicker. This time though, we keep miraculously reviving each other when one of us goes down and the rounds keep ticking away.

Back up a bit, because those of you unfamiliar with the game or just gaming in general are beginning to drift.

Before I became obsessed with blogging I was obsessed with zombie video games. The original “Nach der Untoten”* that was unlocked when you completed Call of Duty : World at War got me hooked. The map was tiny and dark, almost claustrophobic. The zombies were extra unspeakably evil because they were friggin Nazis.

Call of Duty zombies has you complete one round after another. With each round you get more zombies and the bastards get harder to kill. They’re also faster. You have to score points by slaying zombies and boarding up windows to unlock doors and obstacles. In one of the rooms there’s a mystery box that gives you a random weapon, some of them better than others.

For me, the beauty of the game was it’s simplicity. When I first played I was terrified and physically shaking. I don’t think I got past round 2, but pretty soon figured out some strategies until I could survive by myself to around round 16. The bodies piled up and I loved it!

So anyway, after “Nach der Untoten” I played another zombie classic Left 4 Dead. The creature sounds in that one are voiced by none other than Mike Patten of Faith No More (I’m a big fan). However, maybe because I’m an old dude on a bunch of meds, I get confused switching from one game to the next because the layout of the controller is always different. Luckily Black Ops came out and along with it a whole bunch of new and unique downloadable maps.

Fast-forward to Black Ops 2 and the downloadable map “Nuketown 2025”. Nuketown was a popular multi-player map from Black Ops 2 that was supposed to be a mock town that the government was about to use to see what would happen when they dropped an H-bomb on it. Nuketown was complete with 50’s era cars and houses with funky sofas. Dummies decked out in polyester stood around waiting to get incinerated.

Nuketown 2025 takes place after the bomb has been dropped and the Zombies come out. (There is a whole back-story about an evil Nazi named Dr. Richtofen and time travel and some device that controls the zombies, but that’s beyond the scope of my really giving a crap) In this map there are no windows to board up, and every so often a random perk machine drops down from the sky and lands in a random location. Your survival depends on the right perks dropping. Perks machines were something that evolved after “Nacht der Untoten” and let you survive into higher rounds by giving you special powers. The perk dispensers look like retro soda machines, but the tonic they dispense packs a kick! The most essential in my book is Juggernog, which lets you scoot around zombies and get hit a few times without going down. As for the others, I think it’s a matter of personal preference and which weapons you have. The real challenge with Nuketown is that you may not get Juggernog in  time to survive the deadly horde of unholy flesh that’s closing in on you from all sides.

Round 36 and I become entangled in a swarm of clawing zombies. Then I’m down, the freaks leave me and race to the last surviving member of our little platoon, who’s trapped in the back yard of the green house and will never be able to revive me. The blood red stain clouding my vision begins to turn black. The world begins to fade away. There are only shadows.

*”Night of the Undead” See, the two years I spent on German in college was not wasted!

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaming

We Have Fermentation!

Image

My wife and I just started a new batch of Chardonnay from a Wine Expert kit.  The primary fermenting tank is sitting in our living room and the whole place smells like baking bread from the yeast doing its thing. In the picture you can see the bubbles of carbon dioxide that are given off by the fermentation. There are several stages involved in wine making starting with the primary fermentation, which in the case of this white will be about a week. Next the wine is transferred to a carboy for a couple of weeks to finish fermenting. Finally, the wine goes through a stabilization and clearing process. In only about six weeks, if I don’t screw something up, we’ll have twenty-seven bottles of excellent wine for the cellar. I’ll update as we go from stage to stage.

4 Comments

Filed under Homesteading