Writing, COVID, working from home, and how well this whiskey pairs with coffee

Photo by Nic McPhee

Listen: I have hardly posted a thing because the zombie COVID pandemic was the crazy, and working from home is both hard and easy, in that it’s easy to work harder and write far more speeches and such when you are in your pajamas at midnight and not wasting two hours a day on the highway.

So here are some thoughts.

Myth: Writers and editors are solitary creatures.

writing cat, writers, writing, why is writing so hard, writer's block

Reality: Many wordsmiths may be introverts, or extroverts, or whatever. But working with words does not make you anti-social. Not at all. I know people who bang on the keyboard for monies in a variety of ways–reporters, speechwriters, novelists, screenwriters, editors–and 5.6 metric tons of them are some of the most charming and social people I know.

The truth is, WRITING is the solitary part.

You need peace and quiet to do the creative bit, even if you work in a social setting like me with people everywhere. A ton of folks need to close the door, put on headphones, and go.

I can’t close the door and get solitude at work 99 percent of the time, so I’ve learned to tune out the rest of the world and bang on the keyboard faster than light, going back in time to before sound was invented, then returning to the social world when the draft is done.

Writers are different, and there are other folks who like doing amazing first drafts that take a lot longer. My belief is editing and polishing is a lot easier, and you can do a lot more editing and such with people around and noise. Yet that creative part, the hardest and most fun bit, usually takes some intense focus and solitude.

Myth: Working from home will (a) disappear along with COVID or (b) is the future for all possible workers forever and ever

woman using a laptop
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Reality: There are some jobs that have to be done in person. Though I actually kinda believe (b) is true–though only for the workers with the leverage to fight and keep it. Folks were just as productive as when they drove into the office.

A ton of companies and organizations are probably feeling completely befuddled about this now. Maybe they’re jumping up and down that they don’t have to pay massive amounts of cash to rent office space, or freaked out because they aren’t renting and just built a giant building that’s empty.

Middle managers are likely losing their minds because they’re designed to operate in person.

I think this will be good for the workplace, especially people with kids and dogs and long commutes. Pretty good bet that a lot of workers who can Grab a Laptop and Do the Job Anywhere may want to come into the office one day a week for all those in-person meetings.

How well this whiskey pairs with coffee

It’s technically a whiskey creamer, and I am technically on vacation, as is my sister-in-law down here visiting. So we we are trying all these itty bitty bottles of different whiskey creamers in our morning coffee. YOU SHOULD DO THIS, but only on vacation or weekends because if you drive hammered you get wrecked, that is my PSA, kthxbai.

Today’s little bottle is: Sheelin White Chocolate Country Creamer, a product of Ireland, rated a 93 by the Beverage Tasting Institute and silver medal winner at the San Francisco Spirits Competition, where it excelled in the high jump.

Sheelin White Chocolate 750ml

Is it good? No.

It is great, and you ask yourself is there any alcohol in this at all, and you wonder why everything is second-person now, like it’s a bad detective novel, until you look at the tiny print on the tiny bottle to realize this adorable bit of cream and white chocolate is not kidding, and does contain whiskey, and is 28 proof.

Verdict: 11/10, would drink again.

Okay, this video is clever and hilarious–well played, well played

As I’ve been married for FIVE BILLION YEARS, and have never used this thing people call “dating apps,” which sounds like an appetizer made from dates and possibly wrapped in bacon, I am unfamiliar with the Tinders and the Matches and the Bumblebees and such.

What I do know is that this new ad for Match is brilliant.

Here, watch it, then we’ll talk smack.

Okay, that’s perfect, right? The actors, the meet-cute scene, the montage. ALL OF IT.

What’s especially great to me is Ryan Reynolds was involved, and whatever he touches is inevitably funny, along with Taylor Swift letting him use Love Story, her best song, always will be, and no, I have ignored most of her pop songs and actually like the country stuff better, and the new indie piano album, understated, under-rated.

Taylor, you keep innovating instead of pumping out the same songs and albums for 40 years. No, I am not looking at you, AC/DC.

Okay, these dudes have a point.

Also: I would listen to the entire DOG ON THE ROAD parody album. Make it happen. Send me the link and I will send you monies to Australia via horses, dolphins, and finally drop bears wearing cute little ’80s fanny packs, Chris-Pine style, and yes, you want to see the full footage instead of three seconds of a teaser, here you go.

Note: I hope you are all surviving 2020, and I wish you all the best during the last few weeks of the Worst Year Ever–and my promise to you is that 2021 will be far, far better.

Exploding Whale cray-cray–watch glorious remastered 4k footage on 50th anniversary of historic event

Now, weird news has happened forever. We just didn’t have CNN, fark.com and Wonkette around to shoot video, take notes, and tell us about when Billy Bob the Caveman drank that fermented berry juice and tried to kill a sabre-toothed tiger with a spoon. Pour one out for Billy Bob.

Florida Man has always been when us, even before there was a Florida.

HOWEVER: Perhaps the greatest local news video of all time, when it comes to weird news, is the Exploding Whale.

I’ve written about this before. The reporter who covered the story wrote an entire book after the event.

All we could see, though, was grainy footage. Clear enough to witness the cray-cray, just not up to our standards.

Today, however, for the first time, we can view the build-up and the carnage in glorious high-definition, because the reporter found the original footage on this stuff called “film” and technical geniuses turned that film into digital goodness.

Here, watch and share, and raise your glass to celebrate the 50th anniversary of what I believe should be a national holiday: The Day the Whale Exploded.

I come to praise Florida Man, not to bury him

florida man blue collar limo

Usually, a headline beginning with the words “Florida Man” will end with mayhem. You know, “Florida Man goes on three-day meth spree, robs 7-Eleven with Klingon sword”–that sort of thing.

I do not come to bury Florida Man.

Not today.

I come to praise him.

Because we have a feel-good Florida Man story, one so pure and joyous that THERE ARE NO WORDS.

As in, this video has no words. Our hero, Florida Man, doesn’t say a thing.

Check it out.

The ingredients to this warm, soft, viral news cookie are pure and delightful.

Our hero is a janitor with an impeccable goatee who’s good on camera.

His invention is something any of us could do, right now, by telling the Dog “you wanna go for a ride?” It wouldn’t take twenty minutes to hop in our large metal horses, which sleep and sleep unless the Dog sees me using my Pale Wizard magic to wake them, and take us places Very Fast, then buy a bucket and leaf blower.

And sure, you could even improve on this invention with a cushion inside the bucket, and maybe some bolts and duct tape to hold the umbrella. Except we didn’t think of the simple idea in the first place, right?

This man looked at the bucket he used every day, and the leaf blower, and he got those suckers married to an umbrella.

My favorite parts of this are (a) how he steers by wiggling, and moving the umbrella slightly, and (b) the speed this Blue Collar Limousine can go. It would have been funny if it moved at all, or went walking speed. Nope. This sucker flies.

Florida Man, we salute you, and look forward to seeing what you can do with a weed trimmer, handcart, and a box of garden staples.

KILLER SURFING SNAILS is the science video we need in the hellscape of 2020

Documentaries can be amazing, or put the B in Boring–it all depends. Kinda like straight-to-streaming movies. YOU NEVER KNOW.

This, now, is completely educational while being insanely good and hilarious. I could not love it more. Seriously.

Take a look, then we’ll talk snail smack.

What’s so good about this?

The best thing is how the narrator doesn’t skimp on the science. At all.

It’s easy to do a Honey Badger video, where you go all SNL skit and continue to riff on the same joke. Still funny. Just not a ton of science there. We learned that honey badgers are tough, resistant to cobra venom, and willing to take on anything. A classic video, but that’s pretty much it.

This killer snail video, now, crams in tons of science. An amazing amount. The full Latin names of species, the specific names of weird snail body parts, the chemicals involved in digestion and such. It’s crazy.

You truly learn about tons of different species of snails, and in a way that would help you remember those details on that BIO 245 test. If I had to study for that thing, I’d be watching and rewatching this video at 3:30 a.m. in a dorm room instead of staring at the same pages of a textbook trying to memorize the differences between all these snails.

The real trick is how skilled the narrator is at interweaving joke after joke–unique ones, not the same solitary riff–in clever ways.

He never stops informing you, and entertaining you. Which is an incredibly hard thing to pull off.

Also, it’s shocking how violent and crazy these snails are, and how they’ve developed all these different methods of surfing and preying on things. Did you ever think of snails as being secretly badass? I never did. Thought they were slow little vegetarians. NOPE.

VERDICT

I’ve always loved the True Facts series, and this one is an unlikely treasure, a total gem.

Please keep making these. It’s a public service to get us stoked about science, which kinda matters if we want to (a) survive the covid zombie apocalypse, then (b) beat climate warming without (c) giving up and building WATERWORLD-style sailboats like Kevin Costner.

Australian couple deals with infestation of death adders–and no, this isn’t a Harry Potter movie

We’re talking snakes. One of the deadliest snakes on the planet, the death adder.

Thus the name. These snakes aren’t sneaky and trying to bamboozle anybody. I appreciate that. A manipulative snake might try to tell you, “Hey, I’m just your friendly neighborhood legless reptile, using my pointed eating instruments and anti-pest chemicals to rid your home and yard of rodents. That bucket over in the corner is if you want to contribute to the cause, but only if you’re happy with my services. Good day to you and the family!”

This snake is honest. “Hello there, good sir, I’m a death adder. Don’t want to bite you, but if I did, yes, you would die within six hours. Quite sorry about that.”

And for some reason, all the death adders for miles keep showing up in this poor couple’s house in Cape York, which is like Cape Fear, except no Robert DeNiro, and it’s on a different continent, and I don’t remember deadly snakes in that movie.

The story says they haven’t had a handful of these snakes show up, which would be plenty. Twenty of these snakes have slithered into their home, which is some kind of Australian ranch in the middle of the bush.

That’s crazy. A normal human being would pack up and drive away.

However, this is Australia, which is another planet, except Elon Musk hasn’t sent rockets to it yet.

This couple is pretty cool with it. The snakes aren’t aggressive–the couple describes them as docile–their dog is really got at sniffing them out, and they’ve got a system of scooting them into a bag with a broomstick and such.

They don’t kill the snakes. I kid you not. These folks drive them far away, let them back out into the wild, and wish them well, when normal humans would do the opposite and go all ALIENS 2.

The final detail that slayed me was experts quoted in the story, trying to figure out why the death adders were showing up.

Apparently, the population of these snakes is recovering, and maybe booming, after they went on a cane-toad binge. See, the cane toads are poisonous, and the poisonous snakes biting and eating them would later die of the toad poison. Which is karmic payback, if you think about it. The scientist think surviving death adders figured it out. Maybe mother and father death adders started reading their baby sneks new bedtime stories, like the book, “An Afternoon Tea with Cane Toads–Our Non-Tasty, Poisonous Cousins.”

Oregon Man gives Florida Man serious competition by pulling Nerf crossbow on cops

Yeah, that’s not a typo. This real criminal genius thought it was a good idea to bring a Nerf toy to a gunfight.

And yes, police say he first pulled out a tire iron, then a small ax. However, what criminal in good standing thinks the natural progression goes like this?

“First, Imma snag this improvised, short-range weapon meant to loosen lug nuts. Then I’m going even shorter range with a hatchet. And now, for the grand finale, we’re doing full shock-and-awe on the po-po by whipping out this Nerf crossbow. They’ll never take me alive, Cletus–never.”

According to the KOMO story, based on police reports, the whole thing started with this man road-raging and/or stalking two teenage girls in an SUV while he was driving his pickup. Five bucks says that pickup features at least two of the following: (a) various shades of bondo, (b) Bud Light cans littering the bed, (c) a MAGA sticker, and maybe (d) one of those chrome pipes so this tough guy can roll coal.

The girls called 911 and the cops found both vehicles. Any criminal with working brain cells, at this point, would find another place to be or another illegal scheme to pursue. You know, drive off to cook some meth, rob a 7-Eleven while dressed as a trailer-park ninja (this has happened, numerous times), or tie a chain around an ATM and try to yank it out with your pickup truck.

This man didn’t stop. He drove on the wrong side of the road, rammed police cars, went through a chainlink fence. You know, all the things. Only then did he cap this string of Good Decisions by seeing armed police closing in and reaching for that Nerf crossbow.

My only journalistic question is this: What KIND of Nerf crossbow? For they are legion.

The only way to put a cherry on top of this story is to find out that last detail, and to pray to Florida Man that the specific brand of Nerf crossbow turns out to be this one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parasite fungus creates zombie insects, who become ‘flying salt shakers of death’

If you like zombie movies, or are busy preparing for a zombie apocalypse despite the real apocalypse happening RIGHT NOW with a global pandemic, then you have to ask yourself: Are zombies even possible?

You know, before you write a $400,000 check for that bunker in your backyard, maybe think about whether zombies are a thing.

Just a thought.

While the chance of humans rising from the dead to walk again is 0.00001 percent, with the apparent exception of Herman Cain (what the hell, Twitter?), there are a couple of kinda-sorta plausible scientific paths to living zombies. We’re still talking microscopic, and I stand by my earlier posts about practical tips for the apocalypse.

Read the first post here. DO IT NOW.

But yeah, there’s real science on this. Different species of fungus attack insects, taking over their brains to make them do silly, suicidal things that benefit the fungus. We knew about the fungus that takes over ants.

This is so horribly great it was the premise of a great novel–THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS–which they turned into a movie.

Now comes word of a fungus that commandeers the brains of cicadas, and yes, the scientist actually says in this story that the fungus turns the insects into “flying salt shakers of death.”

You can’t beat that line.

There are other parasites out there which are total nightmare fuel, like the five billion species of evil monsters that sneak into the gills of fish, eat their tongue, then stick around as the fish’s replacement tongue. Oh hi, don’t mind me.

This thing belongs in STARSHIP TROOPERS 2: THE BUGS INVADE OUR OCEAN.

But yeah, the fungus zombie thing is crazy. And if you dig deeper, there are more examples of this. A microbe that makes rats lose their fear of cats, because that helps the mouse get eaten and spread more of the microbe. (Humans can get infected by this, too.) Wasps that sting spiders with mind-control drugs, then lay eggs inside the spider so the little baby wasps can eat the spider while it builds a web to protect the little wasps before it dies.

Jeff Goldblum told us life always finds a way.

Nobody said it would always be pretty.

Adopted girl dedicates herself to finding forever homes for senior dogs

If this story doesn’t make you feel something, go immediately to the ER for tests, because somehow, you’re still alive despite not missing a heart.

For years, Meena Kumar has run a pet sitting service, Pet Fairy.

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That’s cool. Not crazy uncommon or anything, but cool.

Here’s the twist: Meena was adopted, herself, so getting senior dogs adopted is a passion of hers, except she couldn’t volunteer at the shelter until she was 17, and she started doing this when she was 12.

What were you and I doing when we were 12? Yeah. Not this kinda thing.

And now she’s raised $14,000 to get that done. Is not a typo. We’re not talking four hundred, or fourteen hundred. Fourteen grand is enough to buy one Chevrolet Spark or ten classic Yugos plus a couple extra transmissions, because you’re gonna need those. Yugos tend not to go.

For her hard work, Meena is getting national press: Today.com, CNN, and now this blog, and it’s a miracle I’m writing about her, because there are Florida Man stories out the wazoo this week, like the people trapped in an elevator. Mechanical problems? No. Methed up idiot threatening people? No. An alligator was waiting to ambush them. Maybe the alligator figured out that this was a magic metal machine. Sit here, wait for the ding, and boom, like a fridge, fresh meat appears.

Get on with your bad self, Brainy Alligator.

So on this random Thursday, when we typically celebrate weird news, it’s nice to spotlight hard work and kindness.

Thank you, Meena–because this is the kind of story we need during the insanity that is 2020.

Washington Man tries to outdo Florida Man, almost succeeds

As a former journalist, I still love the news. If you cut me, I bleed newsprint.

Weird news is always interesting to read, with human beings and animals constantly finding new and unique ways of getting global attention. Usually for plumbing the depths of stupidity.

Nothing illustrates the why and how of weird news like Florida Man stories, named after newspaper headlines that start with “Florida man” and end with stuff like “snorts meth and robs 7-Eleven wearing nothing but My Little Pony T-shirt,” then in the story you find out after he ran off from the gas station, he hid from the cops in a nearby pond and was eaten by a one-eyed alligator who lost the eye in a famous battle with a drunken stripper back in 1985.

You think I’m exaggerating and mixing in plot elements from Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen novels. But I’m not. Go ahead, google “Florida Man” and read a few.

So it’s always fun when my medium-sized, square state tries to compete with Florida Man.

Doesn’t happen often. Florida Man is powerful, and my state is a great place to live.

But it happened recently.

Burglary suspect leaves thank-you note, tries to swim away from cops

That’s one take on the story, a good, straight headline.

Here’s why I like it, and also why it doesn’t quite meet Florida Man standards.

You only need a single element for a story to be news. In this case, a man burglarized a home.

That’s it. There’s conflict there, some kind of backstory–is he stealing things for drug money or is that home a specific target? There’s also suspense about the outcome–will the cops catch him?

The second element is the thank you note, which lets this story go viral. Who leaves a thank-you note? Was it done out of kindness, or did the burglar know the victim? Are we talking a 40-year-old professional criminal starting to feel remorse or a 9-year-old budding psychopath who’s watched too many episodes of HANNIBAL?

Our story’s third element adds value. He doesn’t run from the cops, or drive off to start a car chase. He tries to out-swim the cops. Funny to picture and if there’s video footage, that’ll go viral, too.

But it’s missing a fourth element, the special sauce of Florida Man stories: gonzo nuttery.

How would this story end if it happened in Florida?

That’s the fun part. He would have jumped into that canal and been eaten by an alligator, sucked into a bottomless sinkhole, or swim all the way to the Cayman Islands.

That fourth element can’t do all the work. It needs a character in conflict, a mystery about motives, and a head-scratching gesture. You need those three foundations for your final Florida Man Cherry on the Top of this Ice Cream Sundae of Madness.