Monthly Archives: November 2012

Joplin, MO Mission Trip

In mid November I took the opportunity to travel to Joplin, MO with a group of volunteers from church to take part in the ongoing rebuilding effort following the deadly tornado of May 2011. We loaded up the two vans with our duffels and sleeping bags and left Thursday evening.

Robin and her band of volunteers (me in back in red)

Our home-away-from-home was at Christ’s Community Methodist Church, south of Hwy 44 from Joplin. Our hosts pretty much gave us free reign, and the facilities were much appreciated. I was struck by how nonchalant the parishioners were to see “strangers” in their church, but they’ve had many months of housing volunteers there. Still, their hospitality was on display at all times. The Saturday AM breakfast that the men’s group served us before their own gathering was much enjoyed.

We had a briefing Friday morning by the coordinators with Americorps — a great organization. They were very much in tune with the rebuilding effort in Joplin, and the folks we met during the day were an empathetic and caring bunch.

Our group was split up on Friday morning, and I worked with four others helping to fill a couple large dumpsters with the rubble from Marcella’s home. The grandmother’s house was recently demolished to allow for the rebuilding to start. We were able to cut the pile roughly in half.

our morning challenge

The rest of the day was spent mudding and sanding drywall inside Bobbie’s house. While I can safely say that none of us were exactly cheerful, we still found a spot and did what we were able…or what someone thought we were able! We worked side by side with a handful of other volunteers, including a energetic young guy and gal with the Jewish Disaster Response Corps who were “scouting” to lead future groups of college student volunteers from eight NY universities.

I know Allen didn’t enjoy this, but he still dug right in!

On Saturday we pitched in at Byers Avenue Methodist Church, painting and sprucing up a large stairway and cleaning out and repainting a room that would be housing someone through December.

baseboards and walls

The church has housed over 3000 volunteers since the tornado, and it was time to return a little TLC to the facility that has been home base for so many hard workers.

walls and doorframes

Sunday morning we stayed for to worship with our hosts at Christ’s Community, then hit the road for the journey home. Would I do it again? I sure hope to!


Play With The Prose II — Challenge #11: Mall Santa

Round eleven of head-to-head challenge with Fiction 59 (59-word stories) required the involvement of a mall Santa Claus. This can only spell trouble:

“So little girl, have you been naughty or nice this year?” the mall Santa asked, only to be answered by a round of quiet giggling.

Five minutes later Santa emerged from the bathroom stall and then nodded to Tina the Elf, who was still adjusting her bra and top. Definitely naughty, Santa decided, with a twinkle in his eyes.

  • It’s funny how our two submissions worked off the same idea.

Downward trend? RESULTS

Mine was submission #1 for this challenge — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: Nice that these two stories were paired with one another. Not so nice that they made me wanna hurl a little. The first was pretty rote, which in a sense I’m glad for, considering where “little girl” can lead one in a sexual Santa story. Story 2 latched onto the bizarre and misbegotten right from the get-go, and unfortunately it was the insistence of putting all those yuletide puns in the story that kept it from working for me on a shock level. WINNER: #1

Novak – I definitely figured we’d get more of these topics than we’ve seen so far. Y’all really haven’t disappointed with your creativity – I very rarely see too much of something expected. And when I do see something expected, it’s always handled really effectively, just like it is here. They both show instead of tell, and they both paint clear pictures. #2 is a bit more creative (and crass, but it works here), so that gets the edge.

ANDY: Good old CdL depravity. Strange that these got paired together. I’m giving this one to #2, which doesn’t pull any punches, has a great last line, and keeps us in the moment.

WINNER: Melissa David

The more things change…well, you know the rest.

Play With The Prose II — Challenge #10: Excuses

Round ten of head-to-head challenge with Fiction 59 (59-word stories) had a prolonged deadline due to the holidays…but that’s no excuse. HERE is the excuse:

“The Director needs his money — now.”

“I’m their daughter, and I don’t want you calling them anymore! You’re getting no more money from them. They’re on fixed incomes; they don’t even have a TV!”

“Lady, we know where they live…”

“Call again and I’m reporting you! Goodbye!”

“Mom, Dad — that’s it; absolutely no more pledging to PBS!”

  • Yeah, I had nothing. This thing just sort of fell together a few hours before the deadline.
  • Living on a pension and not having a TV aren’t much for excuses (an older couple without a TV? Come on!) but an excuse is an excuse.

More bad news? RESULTS

Mine was submission #2 this time around — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: Story 1 doesn’t really feel like an apology to me. Or an apology for someone else. Which is too bad, because it’s the first time anabelian geometry has been successfully used in one of these stories. Meanwhile #2 gave me a chuckle, and I like to chuckle. WINNER: #2

ANDY – I’m not sure what to make of the entries that force us to go on Wikipedia. Are you to be rewarded for the obvious extra effort, or do I fall back on my lazy nature, where I want to “get it” on the first read? I’m not sure about the first-person voice in #1. It’s not quite working for me. And I’m not sure the character is fully formed. #2 goes for the laughs, and succeeds, but it’s not quite a home run, as it suffers from a bit too long of a build up to the obvious punchline. Not to be too harsh, I actually enjoyed both of these. I’m going with #2 in a difficult call. The voice and flow is a little bit more consistent.

Novak – Oh, these are both clever. The exchange in 2 is solid, but it could have been punched up with a descriptive detail or two; maybe just one excuse? #1 is a bit awkward with the ellipses, but the genius of the approach is much appreciated. Of course, #1 isn’t someone giving an excuse for someone else, it’s giving an excuse for themselves. And on that technicality, I give the victory to #2.

WINNER: David Larson

How about that? My first concensus story! Gotta get my best Santa on for the next one, though…

Offseason Swaps

Been plenty busy lately, but still managed to get a couple offseason trades in. Sports Card Arena is having a trading contest, and I put together two quick exchanges with contestants there, including frequent trade partner BobFranklin. Also, I found Phillies collector Brad’s blog (conveniently named Brad’s Blog) and worked out a first-time swap of a Lidge GU, some Big Hurt inserts, and other singles for some really nice Twins cards that Brad had sent.

clockwise, from top left: 2008 Upper Deck Sweet Spot Sweet Beginnings #109 Brian Bass [556/699] (auto); 2005 Bowman Futures Game Gear #FGG-JMO Justin Morneau (jersey); 1997 Donruss Signature Series Javier Valentin (auto); 2011 Bowman Sterling Refractor Relic #RRR-BR Ben Revere (jersey); 2012 Topps Chrome Black Refractor #158 Joe Benson [073/100]; 2008 Upper Deck UD Premier Signatures Blue #226 Jose Morales [75/99] (auto)

Some others that arrived recently as well:

clockwise, from top left: 2005 Leaf Century Collection #170 Shannon Stewart [090/100] (bat); 2002 Donruss Rookie Crusade #RC-9 Adam Johnson [098/500] (auto); x; 2004 Upper Deck Authentic Stars Gold #AS-TO Torii Hunter [012/100] (jersey); 2004 Topps Chrome #240 Matthew Moses (auto); 2005 Topps Gallery Penmanship #GPA-JB Jason Bartlett (auto)

Thanks for the trades, Brad & Bob!

Play With The Prose II — Challenge #9: Joke

Round nine of head-to-head challenge with Fiction 59 (59-word stories) is a joke … literally! See?

“Hey Moose, did you know there are 10 types of people in the world.”
“Yeah, those that understand binary numbers, and those that don’t!”
“What about the other eight?”
“No, it’s a joke.”
“What the heck’s a binary?”
The last thing Steve could recall as he awoke in the hospital was the fist that pounded him 10 times.
  • This happens to be one of my favorite jokes.
  • Originally the last line mentioned that Moose’s fist interrupted a belly laugh, but I thought number of punches tied in better with the joke. The beating Steve took seems pretty harsh when the laughter is left out.
  • I had been on a mission trip to Joplin, MO (a future post here, I hope) and just got back the afternoon this was due, so not a lot of thought was put into it. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it. If I’d thought about it longer, my last line would have been, Steve wasn’t sure if it was the second or the tenth punch that landed him in the hospital.

Continued decline? RESULTS

Submission #1 in this match-up — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: I have no idea if the joke in Story 2 was already in circulation, or if it was fresh…but it’s new to me, and it actually made me laugh. Story 1 wasn’t bad at all, but it wasn’t a joke so much as a story about a joke. But Story 2 still would’ve carried this one without my little joke-rule. WINNER: #2

ANDY: You really had me going there, #1, a joke after my own heart (I’m a programmer by day). But unfortunately, the punchline just didn’t reach the heights for me, sorry. Funny, but not hilarious, I guess. #2 constructed a great story-joke. The language flows very nicely, and the punchline hits the spot. It’s so much like a real joke, I feel like you must have stolen it. I’ll assume not, though. Congrats, #2.

Novak – Yup, I’m loving it. I’ve never heard #2, though I feel like I should have. A fantastic, efficient joke-telling. #1 takes a somewhat classic gag, and turns it into more of a story. The descent into the pounding made me laugh again, but I just can’t get past – or maybe I don’t want to – the effectiveness of #2, so that one wins.

WINNER: Sarah Johnson

Time for a winner next week, though — no excuses! Well, maybe one…

Play With The Prose II — Challenge #8: Crisis

Round eight (over half way there!) of head-to-head challenge with Fiction 59 (59-word stories) involves defusing a crisis. Can it be done? Will it be done?!

Shelly sat in the kitchen kneading her temples and staring at the blank paper in front of her. “Dad, I need a 59-word story about a man-made disaster, or my Creative Writing grade is sunk.”

The man left, and returned shortly with an ink-scrawled scrap of paper. “A spinning cat…the end of the world… 59 words – great! Thanks Dad!”

  • Meta! This is a thinly veiled reference to my very first Ficiton 59 submission, “Black (Hole) Cat” from back in Spookymilk Survivor VII.
  • While the crisis of not having a Creative Writing assingment to hand in was averted, I think there’s now a crisis of ethics with Dad doing all the work, don’t you?
  • At this point, I could turn in a random mix of letters and numbers, and Philosofer will judge it a winner. 😛

A “return” to mediocrity? RESULTS

Submission #1 in this match-up — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: Slightly less meta, story 1, but still meta. Again, doesn’t really bring me into a feeling of crisis or the aversion of same. Story 2 was an interesting take on the idea of a midlife crisis, and the last line actually made me chuckle. WINNER: #2

Novak – #1 is more of the true meta I was talking about. And I enjoy that. It’s a bit campy, but I applaud the effort to introduce character in meta. #2 has a funny last line. For the life of me, I can’t figure out where you could have added anything more, but the tone of the narrator makes them a fairly blank slate, and I wanted more character there. A solid entry. Also, what’s up with double cats? Are you all collaborating on your matchups just to mess with the judges? Anyway, I liked ‘em both, but the meta one won me over. #1 wins

ANDY: For a second you guys had me fooled into thinking you were working together to create the most awesome spectacle of a matchup ever! Oh well. Sorry, #1, you went totally meta on me and I missed the reference. Was it from this season? I’m too tired to remember or look it up, sorry. However, the concept comes across just fine whether or not I get the reference. It’s the fact that I recognize it as a reference that’s important, right? Also, why did you call the dad “the man”? Anyway, on to #2. Rescuing cats as midlife crisis? OK, not sure I would have ever thought of that, but it’s certainly an original idea. I felt like a bit more effort and time went into #2, and without a clearer distinction to help me make the call, that’s what I’m going with. Winner: #2.

WINNER: Pete Bruzek

I think we all knew how that one would resolve it self. Looks like for the next one the joke’s on me…

Just How Much Is A “Crapton” Of Cards?

I’m not sure what official count (or weight?) defines a “crapton” but I believe I’ve picked up a crapton of Twins in recent trades / LCS pickups / eBay wins. Among them,

  • my first autograph cards of Oswaldo Arcia, B.J. Garbe, Eddie Guardado, Roberto Kelly, Greg Myers, Alex Romero, and Loek Van Mil (tallest professional baseball player)
  • game used cards of Twins’ HOFers Kirby Puckett, Rod Carew, Brad Radke, and Kent Hrbek, plus Paul Molitor

Scans after the break (and these are just the AU/GU cards)…
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Play With The Prose II — Challenge #7: Rock Concert

Round seven of head-to-head challenge with Fiction 59 (59-word stories) takes place before, during, or after a rock concert. What? What?! YOU’LL HAVE TO SPEAK UP!

“Alright class, it’s time to look at your Inukshuk dioramas. Justin, yours is first – can you tell us about it?”

The shy fourth grader stood up. “Mrs. Hornette, it’s a rock concert. And these guys on stage are the Rolling Stones.”

“Well, it’s an excellent diorama, Justin, but I’m giving you a week of detention for those bad puns.”

Will I ever make it to .500? RESULTS

In this round my story was submission #1 in the match-up — the judges’ comments:
MATTHEW: Ugh. I have to say, neither of these stories worked for me. First of all, the pun wasn’t that successful, since Inuksuit don’t roll. And the second story didn’t really feel like there was any driving emotion behind it. Not even opportunistic greed, or scheming. I don’t think you did yourself any favors by starting with the mouth-wipe and ending with the announcement of the paternity suit: the main character feels loathsome, and not in interesting ways. (There’s also the fact that Coldplay is one word, not two.) However, the edge does go to #2 because #1 wasn’t even tangentially related to a concert event. WINNER: #2

Novak – Oh you kidders. These are both funny. #1 makes me proud to have been that kid. #2 has a fantastic twist, but that last sentence comes off a bit awkward. It’s my “Close Call” of the week, but I gotta go with the one after my own heart… #1 wins.

ANDY: Minus 1 point for misspelling Coldplay. Just unforgivable (not really). Both went for the funny here, and I have to say, #1 really nailed it for me. The dialogue put me right there in the setting, and the language was perfect. It didn’t hurt that the joke was great, too. Congrats, #1.

WINNER: David Larson

This week went well, but I foresee an impending crisis…