Monthly Archives: January 2012

Spookymilk Survivor X — Challenge #15: Unfortunate Strength

I managed to survive to write another week in the Spookymilk Survivor challenge…whew. One more week until teams merge. The latest challenge was this: write a story where the protagonist is so good at something that it leaves them in an unfortunate situation. 1000 word limit.

To put it bluntly, this challenge sucked. It wasn’t until Saturday morning that I eventually had an idea worth working on, thanks to some suggestions from K and Mo. Here’s what came out:

Geoff took a deep breath. Glancing at his table, he took a couple quick swallows of water from the plastic bottle on his right, and then straightened up his pages of stats on his left. The Target Center crowd was electrified, and he felt an inward excitement. The T-Wolves were making a game of it, and the Lakers were visibly rattled. He took another deep breath as the game came back from commercial break.

The Lakers’ hard-fought loss at Milwaukee last night appears to have taken a toll on them here in the waning minutes of tonight’s ballgame, but I think they’ve seriously underestimated the local team. Love and Bynum, #2 and 3 in the league in rebounding this year, are putting on a clinic this evening, but it’s Rubio’s ball handling and fast tempo on one hand and Kobe’s mediocre 3-pt shooting that have kept this a one point game.

Ricky Rubio takes the ball up court and is met by Steve Blake. Rubio passes to Johnson…back to Rubio. He looks to Love but Gasol has him covered well. Across to Ridnour, who looks, fakes once, and shoots…off the glass and rim! Darko and Bynum wrestle for the loose ball…it goes out of bounds – Lakers ball! Referee Stafford indicates it was off Darko’s foot. Lakers call timeout, with 23 seconds to play. This one is going down to the wire!

It was games like tonight that made Geoff glad he decided to announce Timberwolves basketball this season. He knew he was good – really good. And the fact that he maintained his own stat sheets and did his own research showed in his ability to quickly put the information into play during the quick pace of the game. Add to that the improved play of the Timberwolves, a coach whose philosophies made sense to this team, and the excitement of a rookie assist machine with a flair for the thrilling, and this season so far had been, relatively speaking, magical. Geoff flexed his fingers and his arms, shook them for a couple seconds, and then composed himself.

Coach Adelman has been doing a good job with his bench management tonight. Pekovic is in now for Darko. Milicic matched his 4 points tonight with 4 blocks. Minnesota is looking to try and maintain their single point lead here as Blake inbounds the ball to Kobe, who returns the ball to Blake. Blake is taking his time as the Lakers try to run out as much of the clock as possible. The pass goes in to Gasol, who pops it back out to Bryant. Rubio almost with a steal…Kobe picks up the loose ball…off-balance shot over Love and Johnson – it’s in! Timeout, Wolves! 98-97 Lakers, with 3 seconds remaining. Don’t go anywhere!

Once more Geoff took a deep breath, and mentally willed himself to relax while waiting for the commercial break to end.

Only 3.2 seconds remain in this exciting match up. Johnson looks first to Rubio, then inbounds to Love…Peace gets a hand on it though and it goes by! Pekovic takes the errant ball of the chest, takes a half-turn, and throws up a two-handed jump hook…IT’S GOOD, AND THE TIMBERWOLVES WIN A WILD ONE, 99-98 on a last-second basket by Nikola Pekovic! The T-Wolves find themselves at a strange frontier, 10-10 and a .500 record for the year. Wow! We’ll be back in a moment with the final wrap-up.

Geoff sat back, eyes closed, exhausted. What a game! His heart was pounding, arms and hands ached, but he was satisfied that he had called another great game. The flashing of the lamp near him broke through his reverie, though, letting him know that someone was at the door. He reached under his stats pages on the coffee table for the remote and turned off the TV, heaved himself up off the couch, and went to answer the door. It was Steve, his apartment neighbor from a floor above.

“Pek!! Dude, did you see that game?!” he excitedly asked, as Geoff read his lips.

In the high, slurred voice of someone who had never heard human speech, and unconsciously signing as well, Geoff replied, “Yes, I certainly did.”

I had to work hard to make it look like Geoff was announcing from courtside, and left some little hints that he was up to something besides talking through the play-by-play, up until the reveal in the last couple lines.

Team SPOILER ALERT! did alright in this one, while I’m With Stupid was reduced to one player. RESULTS. The judges’ commentary:

K: Oh, wow. I thought this was pretty ordinary, but instead it’s a heartbreaker. I don’t want to encourage concepts that completely bank on the final line, but man, this one had some power. 3

DK: I like the idea a lot, and the true nature of this guy’s strength. Something about it doesn’t seem to rise up like a lot of the others do; I care about this guy but I’m not sure it develops into what it could. 2

I’ll take it. One more week to the merger…

Advertisements

A Voice Made For Texting

Not long ago, some of the gang at WGOM got the idea of creating an audio podcast where a handful of Citizens could discuss various topics of interest. While I had some interest, I was content to sit back and see how it would go. When the date of the inaugural recording was nearing, it looked like participants were going to be scarce, so I threw my TC hat into the ring.

When last Saturday rolled around, I made sure I had Skype working and was as ready as I would ever be. We wound up with two hosts and two guests, and discussed various offseason topics, primarily focused on the Twins, as you’d expect at that website. I think it went pretty well, all things considered, and we fortunately set a nice low bar for future Pepper! episodes.

Anyway, here it is, in all it’s unpolished glory. Thanks to Mags and Spooky for hosting, and best of luck with future recordings (including #2 this Tuesday). I’ll be happy to jump back in again when others have had their chance and there’s a need for participants.

Offseason Swap

With the end of the year cleanup and the pre-2012 Topps release, people are trying to clear off their desks and wrap up trades, Wicked Ortega from My Past Time…… I Love It! The Cardboard Don and I included. However, we’re ending up with the proverbial Player To Be Named Later; in my case, a Mantle card that was supposed to have been in the package was still sitting here…on the mantle, so to speak. Typical offseason blunder. In any case, The Don passed along these cards, among others:


clockwise, from top left; 2007 Upper Deck Artifacts #MLB-FL Francisco Liriano [045/130] (jersey); 2007 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Rookie Signatures #109 Alexi Casilla [056/200] (jersey); 2011 Bowman Chrome Prospects #BCP205 Miguel Sano [157/899]; 2011 Topps Triple Threads #53 Joe Mauer [1245/1500];

Keep your eyes on the mailbox, Wicked, and thanks!

Looking For Smed In All The Wrong Places

Back in the 80’s, with the proliferation of more and more brands of baseball cards, I decided to just focus on collecting Twins cards. When I did this, I set the following guidelines:

  • only one of each card — no dupes
  • starting with 1961 — no Senators
  • major league only — no minor league cards unless they specifically say MN Twins
  • no “extra-curicullar” cards (All-Star, post-season, World Baseball Classic, etc.) unless they specifically say MN Twins
  • checklists or leader cards only if they specifically identify players as with the MM Twins

Let’s see how Smed (from Smed’s Baseball Card Blog) did with this latest package: 😉

  1. a couple of mid-90’s junk wax dupes; not a problem — I have two nephews that I share those with
  2. minor league cards of Johnny Ard, Troy Buckley, and 1991 Portland Beavers AAA coaches — I don’t collect them, but I don’t turn them away either — I’ll stash those with the others
  3. 1959 Washington Senators Roy Sievers; nice card of a really good player — trade bait, anyone interested?
  4. 2011 Bowman GU of Kyle Gibson from the Futures Game; Twins 1st-Rounder (and former Mizzou Tiger) out with Tommy John’s — well, son-of-a-gun, it says he’s with the Twins on the back, a keeper!
  5. 2011 Bowman Chrome Purple Refractor of Madison Boer…nice!

Not a bad unsolicited shotgun package, all things considered.


clockwise, from top left: 2011 Bowman Chrome Draft Picks & Prospects #BDPP85 Madison Boer; 2011 Bowman Future Games Relic #FGR-KG Kyle Gibson (jersey); 1959 Topps #340 Roy Sievers; 1990 Best Orlando Sun Rays #23 Johnny Ard

Thanks, Smed — your check is in the mail return package will be on its way in the upcoming days.

Spookymilk Survivor X — Challenge #14: Struggling With Decline

As this week went on, the challenge title seemed to be an apt description of my writing. The challenge was to write up to 800 words about someone struggling with decline.

Once more, my current reading (The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest from the Millenium Trilogy) influenced my choice of subject:

At its Cold War heyday, MI5 was the premier counter-espionage and counter-terrorism machine. And we had top agents with a license to kill, for heaven’s sake — one of them was me!

About the time I was hired, fresh out of the military, we had agents everywhere. I signed on during the tail end of Hollis’ term (sorry, Sir Roger Hollis’ term) as the Director General, and let me tell you, we had clout, and we had the money to get things done. When I needed to wine-and-dine four couples at the poshest club in Stockholm while other agents searched through their homes, why, by golly, we just did it! I did acquire quite the taste for the flavour of caviar.

I can’t talk about anything specifically, you understand, but it was fascinating and sometimes dangerous work that took us to exotic places where we met up with some pretty nefarious characters. I loved it! And somehow in the middle of all this I managed to get married. Now, I’m no womanizer, but some of that goes with the job. I had ongoing relationships in Leningrad , Copenhagen , Mainz , Sao Paulo , uh, and Johannesburg . Ah, yes, Johannesburg …

I was able to reach the upper echelons of the espionage game in the mid 80’s, but things had begun to go downhill in a hurry by then. The defense initiative in the States became so big that countries like England didn’t even try to keep up. Budgets were slashed, and many of our younger agents in the Service were let go. The money was no doubt going to “more important” items, like The Bennie Hill Show on the Beeb. And the damn bureaucrats had us pushing paper so much, I barely had the opportunity to brandish my Walther PPK at all any more. I made my last covert overseas trip during this time, and I got to watch The Wall fall in Berlin …from the eastern side, ha ha.

In 1998, they took away our license to kill (and my Walther!), leaving us with only a license to lightly interrogate, at best. Bastards in Parliament had no clue the number of lives I’ve saved and state secrets I’ve secured, while they sat on their arses and debated the price of Earl Grey in Stropshire!. It was about this time that I slipped the disc in my back, probably due to inactivity, what with sitting behind a desk for so many hours a day. I could only work part-time then.

Finally, in 2003, MI5 disappeared completely. The whole Security Service organization was folded into the Parking Violations Division of the Metropolitan Police. All the old chaps were either dead or gone. My dear wife Mathilda had also recently died as well. I couldn’t take it any longer, and I finally retired.

The folks here running Elizabeth Lodge are okay, but damn stubborn about their No Alcohol policy, though. The next administration meeting will be my seventh attempt to get it overthrown.

I sure hope my daughter brings the grandkids next time she visits me.

While I let down Team SPOILER ALERT! this time around, on the strength of Colin & Shawn, we actually had the high score this week. RESULTS. The judges’ take:

K: Putting James Bond in an old folks home is a pretty swell idea, but I had to infer in was Bond solely from the “licence to kill” crack, and didn’t get it from the feeling of his narration. I wish he’d still come off as suave and smartly manipulative. 1

DK: I’m not going to be surprised if I’m on my own in assessing this way, but despite the quantity of great jokes here (“license to lightly interrogate” is a favorite) this feels a little more like a recap of someone’s history than a story in his present, struggling state. It’s good, but it lacks some of the narrative momentum that many of the others have. 1

The sad thing is, this wasn’t about James Bond, only some generic MI5 higher-up. As the team standings go, there was no decline to go with the struggling this week, as it turns out.

Spookymilk Survivor X — Challenge #13: Seemingly Useless Superpower

Regardless of the outcome, this week’s Spookymilk Survivor writer’s challenge was entertaining.  My mission, should I choose to accept it (and I did): Write a story where a character has a seemingly useless superpower and must use it in a conflict (1000 word limit).

I had fun writing this, but we’ll see how much leeway the judges give me. The protagonist of the story doesn’t really have an entirely useless superpower, but it’s a previously deceased character that does. Yet the previously deceased character is not in the conflict in this story, but instead the attention is on the protagonist’s situation. And the fact that the focus of the story on the protagonist is somewhat ironic, in that…well, I’ll shut up and let you read it first:

ISSUE #13: A Bit of a Deathwish
As Ben ducked next to one of the one-story warehouses that laid in rows within the compound, he instinctively knew that the terrorists were starting to take notice of him. In the darkness, the sounds of gunfire and explosions were getting closer, and now a man with a flamethrower up ahead was turning in his direction. Although he couldn’t hear the cursing from this distance, he knew the flood of filth dropping onto flamethrower guy was the work of Potty Mouth from his position on the roof. Suddenly from somewhere to his left, projectiles ripped into the corrugated metal of the wall above him.


I’ve had enough!” shouted Ben angrily as he stormed into the office of his superior, Nick Chopper. “I’m tired of being the center of attention.”

Nick looked up, unfazed. He’d heard it before. “You chose to serve with The Infiltrators instead of standard military service, and you will be completing your term of enlistment with us. What you do with your life after that, well, I don’t care.

“Listen, you have an outstanding power. Someday you could be an actor – imagine all eyes constantly focused on you! Hell, companies would love to have you in their booth at trade shows. But more importantly, right now you are a key component of our team.”

The exasperation and sadness could be heard in Ben’s voice. “No, you don’t get it! I’m not an extrovert — doing those things would kill me. Imagine wanting to play football and be a wide receiver, and ALWAYS being triple-teamed. Attending your first class at law school, and the professor ONLY calls on you. Entering an armed conflict, and every gun is trained on you!


Ben dove for a nearby doorway and through a door partly ajar. He took shelter between several stacked cardboard boxes. He could barely make out the muffled sound of Traumatize outside slamming a couple victims against one of the other warehouse walls. Looking between a couple columns of boxes, as his eyes adjusted to the light, he saw several bound men seated on the floor. Son of a…he wasn’t supposed to find the UN hostages; he was supposed to attract attention away so that the others could find them. The handful of men with weapons who were guarding them began looking around — more than one of them in his direction. Damn!

He broke for an exit at the other end of the stacked boxes, knowing that Dream Police would be reading his thoughts and forwarding the newfound whereabouts of the hostages to the rest of the team. He knew Dream Police would be reading his thoughts, because she couldn’t help but focus on what he was thinking. Annoying as hell, but of course she would know he thought that as well.


Nick got up from his chair and retrieved a framed photograph off of the corner shelf. He placed a metallic hand on Ben’s shoulder and handed him the picture with the other. “Here, take a look at this.”

In the photo Ben saw a dozen or so people dressed in typical Infiltrators garb, some of them obviously mutants and others undoubtedly with hidden powers. Nick pointed out a mousy looking guy on the end of the front row. “This…is Lee Harvey Deathwish.” His voice almost broke as he said it.

“Lee had a latent, very potent ability. Just his presence on Infiltrator missions was enough to end conflicts with no shots fired. MANY lives were saved thanks to him. And then one mission, his options exhausted, Deathwish made the supreme sacrifice for his team and for his country. You see, he had the power to explode.”


Crouching low, Ben broke for a row of equipment parked along the wall near him. He could hear the goons from inside impulsively following him out of the same exit, but his eyes were fixed on the dim outlines of Full Frontal, Tarpo, and The Wailer carefully approaching from the opposite side of the parked equipment. With their appearance, the tide was sure to shift. As Full Frontal shielded The Wailer, Dream Police’s voice whispered in the back of their minds instructing them to engage their auditory desensitizers now. A flurry of bullets ricocheted among the machinery around Ben just as Tarpo joined him. “Heads up,” the wiry demon mouthed at him.


WHAT?!” Ben said, incredulous. “How does someone even find out they have a power like that?”

“It’s hereditary. Lee’s is the sixth Medal of Honor in his family. See, he could have just ignored his power, lived an ordinary life, raised a family in the suburbs…but he didn’t. He chose to help fight tyranny and evil as best he could, and I’m damn glad to have known him.”

Ben saw his superior covertly wipe his eyes before any damage was done. “What I’m trying to say is, you’re a vital member of our team. And it’s not all about you!


The Wailer had the armed terrorists flopping to the ground from his concentrated sonic blast. Dream Police informed the team that Potty Mouth had reached the hostages — they were unharmed. With a jerk of his thumb, Ben directed Tarpo to go help, while the rest of them would sweep up, but from the looks of it there were no others in a position to harass his team: the hostages were secured, and the night was theirs.


Ben sat still for several minutes, then nodded his head and rose from his chair. He opened the door, careful not to knock over Chopper’s large axe leaning against the door frame, and exiting the office and reception area, he continued out across the courtyard.

Nick returned to his seat, and after a few moments of introspection he thumbed the intercom on his desk. “Irene, let’s give Squeaky Wheel a couple days to himself. He’s earned it.”

  • I wasn’t sure how much of the formatting the judges get to see.  I used a liberal sprinkling of italicized, bolded, and underlined text like can be found in comics.  Also chose to bounce between the conflict story and the office scene, much like “The Tales of the Black Freighter” section of Watchmen graphic novel.
  • Lee Harvey Deathwish was a character of mine from my “Champions” rollplaying days at college.  The Deathwish back then could actually reassemble himself after exploding, though, which isn’t at all useless.
  • I liked the nickname Squeaky Wheel for the protagonist so well, I used his real name in the story to save the reveal for the ending lines.
  • I threw Nick Chopper in to test the judges.  Metalic hand, “…wipe his eyes before any damage was done”, axe — know who he is?
  • Another superhero idea I considered:  a guy who could summon the ghost of Mel Ott.
  • Tarpo and The Wailer?  Those names I originally created for a couple goons in the 1985 chain story “Dial ‘M’ for Murray

Sadly, the dividers didn’t format onto Spooky’s site, so the interleaving between dual storylines made for even more jarring reading than it already was? RESULTS. And the judges’ comments:

K: It blows my mind how much this feels like a real comic book. The action and character is there, and the writing style just frigging nails it, right up to the boldface, all caps and italics peppered throughout. It’s got so much damned style. 4

DK: I like the tone of the prose, but I actually felt like this was one of the less inherently useful superpowers on display here, and the way the scenes intercut is somewhat jarring (I realize I’ve had this problem before, so this may just be an issue of mine). 3

Nice that I was called out for getting the comic book feel, but DK rightly nailed me for not exactly having a useless superpower. Still, SPOILER ALERT! lives to fight another day.

Lastly, what does I Write Like have to say?

I write like
Harry Harrison

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

A New Year Friday Random 10

WMP-fired random tracks from the external HD:

  1. Pretending to Care” – Todd Rundgren, A Capella
  2. “My Baby” – Wings, Wings at the Speed of Sound
  3. “Swing Street” – Bruce Hornsby, Hot House
  4. “Standing on Higher Ground” – Alan Parsons Project, Gaudi
  5. “Bordeaux” – John Tesh, Tour de France soundtrack
  6. Goodbye Girl” – Toto, Toto
  7. “Hearing Aid” – They Might Be Giants, Flood
  8. Shangri-la” – Electric Light Orchestra, A New World Record
  9. Endless Horizon [I Love BoB mix]” – Electric Skychurch, Moog soundtrack
  10. Siberian Khatru” – Yes, Close to the Edge

Back to work!