Sunday, January 29, 2006

I could be your hero...

We had our joint birthday bash last night and I think a good time was had by all. I got to see a side of one of Trish's friends that I'd never seen before. First off, I had no idea that she had a tattoo until seeing her in a bathing suit in the hot tub. Second, she got a little drunk - didn't do anything outrageous - but you could see hints that this conservative, soft-spoken lady has a 'wild side' that she usually keeps under wraps.

It always interesting to find out there's more to people than you know.

An acquaintence of mine couldn't resist petting/interacting with the cats whenever one of them wandered into the room - I never would have guessed that he was a cat person. You never can tell.

As almost always happens at one of our gatherings, eventually the guitars came out and Rick took over the piano and we took turns entertaining each other. Goddamn I wish I could play guitar as well as Rick plays piano - the guy is just incredible. I was telling the 'surprise' cat-lover and his wife about Rick having donated one of kidneys to his best friend and, you know, what are the chances of being a match and everything and they were just astounded. But Rick is so casual about it - it's just something he did, not a big deal. I swear if it had been me I would try to get the story made into a TV movie or something. Rick doesn't seem to think he did anything so spectacular but I think he is a genuine Goddamn hero.

Not the kind of hero that we used to talk about in my police career - being a hero by being willing to take the risks, but a real hero who actually DID something. Hmmm - I think I sense a storyline coming together...

Saturday, January 28, 2006


The other day my wife told me that something was “…as plain as the day on my face.” And she wonders why I don’t take anything seriously.

My computer monitor stopped working so now I’m virtually blind.

I complained to the check-out girl that my groceries appeared to be moving by themselves. She said that happens a lot. Then I told her that my religion didn’t allowing scanning and asked her to key in all the codes manually; she said they had a special check-out line for that but it was in another store across town.

The waiter asked me if I was ready to order. I told him I didn’t know but I’d check with my parents.

I tried to use the drive-through at Tim Horton’s but they said I needed a car. I don’t think that’s fair.

We have government inspectors for meat but the stores can sell any kind of vegetables that they want to. I think this puts vegetarians at a distinct disadvantage.

A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a ladder for?

Friday, January 27, 2006


We moved into this house in September and, God knows, there are LOTS of jobs that need to be done to make it acceptable. I've been working away - new sub-floor and laminate in the Family Room, fixing the hot-tub (apparently the previous owners didn't understand basic chemistry) etc.

Anyway, we decided that the portable dish-washer that we brought from the previous house needed to be built-in. (The previous house was a rental with a small kitchen.) So I did a little research, bought the parts that I needed and decided on the placement for the built-in dishwasher. One problem: the hot-water pipe was directly behind where the dishwasher needed to be placed so we had to move it about 4 inches to make the dishwasher fit.

Not a problem - our friend Richard is a Wiz at plumbing, so we asked him to move the hot water pipe.

Now, I've gotta tell you - I'd rather do electrical work than plumbing because electrical either works or it doesn't whereas plumbing can 'sort of work' and I've never been a big fan of soldering copper. I think that compression fittings and flex-tube are the greatest inventions of the modern age.

But Richard is a die hard believer in copper and he is very good at it.

So Richard comes over to the house and decides to re-route the copper pipe. No problem - I think we would do just as well to replace it with flex-tube but hey, HE's the plumbing expert. So he goes about it.

Have I mentioned that I am a cheap bastard? Well, I am. And just like Richard believes that copper is superior to plastic when it comes to plumbing, I believe that aluminum is superior to plastic when it comes to venting. So when we moved in, I replaced the plastic exhaust from the dryer with an aluminum tube. But, being a cheap bastard, I used an eight foot length of tube rather than paying for a ten foot tube. My eight foot tube 'just' fit.

Anyway, Richard decided that he needed to move the dryer in order to do the re-routing. And, of course, my 'just fit' eight foot tube tore in the process. He tried to re-affix it but anyone who has worked with aluminum tubing can tell you that won't work. I told him not to worry about it and I would take care of it.

So I decided to splurge and buy a ten foot length of tubing. I also deciced to buy a 90 degree angle piece to make it easier to install (because installing the first one had been a bitch). So I figured I was ahead of the game - I had more tubing than I actually required and a piece to fit it to that I didn't have the first time.

Away I go - remove the old tube, replace it, fit the new piece, attach it - phone rings.

'Jennessa - Can you answer the phone?'

'Okay Dad.'

Keep working - this shouldn't take long.

'Dad... They want to talk to you...'

'Who is it?'

'I dunno...they said it was important.'

So I stop working on the dryer and pick up the phone...

'Mr. Clarke... What are you paying for long distance?'

'Are you serious? You told my daughter this was important?'

'Well it IS important, Mr. Clarke. We can save you 30% on your long distance calls...'

I hang up on them.

'Jennessa...' I call out. 'Please don't interrupt me unless the caller tells you who they are. Okay?'

'Okay, Dad.'

Back to work on the dryer. And those clamps can be a real bitch, you know?

'Dad... telephone!'

'Who is it?'

'It's the bank.'

Oh shit...maybe I better take this call... 'Hello?'

'Hello Mr. Clarke...I am authorized to offer you...'

I hang up on them.

'Jennessa...' I call out. 'Please don't interrupt me unless the call is a matter of life and death. Okay?'

'Okay, Dad.'

Back to work on the dryer. And I've almost got the aluminum tube hooked up to the vent outlet when...'

'Dad... telephone!'

'What is it?'

'They said it's a matter of life and death...'


'Hello Mr. Clarke... I am an associate with Manulife. Do you know what will happen to your family if...'

...And I hang up.

...Is it possible to sue Alexander Graham Bell even though he's dead?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Limited Engagement

I'm itching to get started on the next novel in the Bonfire Series (Working Title: 'Kindling') but I really think I should wait until I know what's going to happen to the first one (Splinters).

Getting published is a bitch.

After having exhausted everything I could think of to acquire an agent in the States to represent 'Splinters' (Long story short - I felt it had mass market appeal and that meant an American Publisher and that meant an agent) I decided to start trying the smaller Canadian Publishing Houses. But God, it all takes so long! You wait three or four months to find out that they don't think it suits their catalogue. (Well, Duh! It's a new approach to novel-writing. Of course you don't already have anything like it.)

At what point do you decide that your vision is wrong and the status quo is correct? I dunno - haven't reached it yet, I guess.

My friend Randy keeps pushing me to self-publish. 'That way,' he argues, 'you keep 60% of the margin instead of 8%.' And he's right but it seems to me that 8% of something is better than 60% of nothing.

I mean, it would be different if the book was non-fiction. If you've written a book about something like Economics or History or How To Skin A Cat you can go on a Speaking Tour and sell your book that way and self-publishing makes sense. But you really can't take a work of fiction on a Speaking Tour if you are an unknown author - who would show up to hear you? Imagine the posters - 'Tonight Ladies and Gentlemen - someone you've never heard of speaking about something you've also never heard of.'

Oh yeah - that's gonna pack 'em in.

It's different if it's a Celebrity Author. 'Tonight - Ladies and Gentlemen - Stephen King reading excerpts from his latest shopping list.' And they'd be turning 'em away at the door.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Chosen People

Before you hit the 'Flag' button - Read the ENTIRE article.
If you do you will realize that the only group being treated
in a deragatory fashion are antisemites.

Who are the Chosen People?

If you said 'the Jews': congratulations - you are right. But ask yourself this: Is being 'Chosen' a good thing? It really depends on the context, doesn't it? The Jews were 'chosen' in ancient Egypt - chosen to be slaves. The Jews were 'chosen' in Nazi Germany - chosen for extinction; not a good thing. In fact, George Bernard Shaw quipped that, if the Nazis realized just how 'Jewish' their notion of Aryan Superiority was, they would immediately abandon it.

Actually, I can instantly prove to you that being one of the 'Chosen People' isn't a good thing. Anyone can be a Jew. In fact, if you are a man who is already circumcised or a woman it is as easy as joining any other 'Religion'. (If you are a man who ISN'T circumcised then, I grant you, it's a pretty big deal.) But when is the last time - other than for matrimonial reasons - you ever heard of someone becoming a Jew? C'mon, you know... Sammy Davis, Jr., right? Can you name anyone else? I bet you can't.

Sammy Davis, Jr. was a short, ugly, one-eyed black man, married to a beautiful white woman, living in the Southern United States in the 1950s. I mean - Hell, if he was already circumcised, he probably figured: ‘What've I got to lose...I might as well become a Jew. At least the food's good.'
If being one of the 'Chosen People' was a good thing, don't you think people would be lining up to join?

It's like the whole 'Gay' thing. The single most compelling argument for homosexuality NOT being a matter of choice is this: Who would chose it?

Okay, ask yourself this: What is the most powerful and compelling force of political/cultural change in the last two thousand years? It's gotta be anti-semiticism, right? I mean, c'mon - aside from the Nazis, you've got the Spanish Inquisition. And when you realize that people of Arab descent are also a Semitic people you have to throw in the Crusades as well. In two thousand years, name me one other thing as powerful as anti-semiticism... you can't. Do you still think that being 'Chosen' is a good thing?

But they persist. Jews continue to be Jews despite everything. They lose their homeland - there are still Jews. They regain their homeland but are restricted from going there - there are still Jews. The restrictions on them are lifted but chunks of their land are cut away - there are still Jews. Their sacred sites are given away - there are still Jews. They get blamed for every bad thing that ever happened on this planet yet there are still Jews.

Is there a direct relationship between anti-semiticism and some kind of learning disability?

What is the source of this hatred of a people who persist in spite of the best efforts of some to eliminate them?

It's because they killed Christ, isn't it?

The politically correct among us will point out that it wasn't the Jews who actually killed Christ, but the Romans. But secretly the Jews still get blamed, don't they?

You know my response to those who blame the Jews for killing Christ? - So what. If they did, they killed one of their own. Indians killed Gandhi - we don't blame every Indian for it. Blacks killed Malcolm X, a white American killed JFK.

And when you get right down to it, if Jesus came to Earth to be sacrificed for our sins then someone had to do the sacrificing. Whoever killed Christ - Romans or Jews - weren't they fulfilling the will of God? For God to give 'his only begotten son' someone has to take Him, don't they?

It's like God said: 'Okay Jews, I'm sending down my son to be sacrificed so you kill 'im, okay?'

And the Jews said: 'What? Us again? Why don't you have the Romans do it? They're gonna be gone in a few hundred years anyway.'

And God said: 'Tell you what, YOU finger 'im and I'll get the Romans to do the actual wet work.'

And the Jews said: 'Okay. But you know they're gonna blame us anyway.'

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


The potato was first brought to the Netherlands in 1534; it was not readily accepted. In those days people believed that things growing underground must be poisonous – so, despite food shortages and near starvation the Dutch, like so many others, were slow to adopt this new food as a staple.

The Dutch King was a wise man and he knew that acceptance of the potato could make the difference between life and death for thousands of his subjects. So he ordered that potatoes be planted in the Royal Gardens. Then, as harvest time drew near, he had a fence erected around the potato plot and posted armed guards to protect it.

But only during the day; the potatoes were left completely unguarded after night fall.

You can guess what happened. The potato quickly became a regular staple in Dutch households. And, despite a nasty habit that the Dutch have of dipping French Fries in mayonnaise, it has remained so to this day.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Smell This

Something I could never understand: Why do we call it 'gas' when it’s a liquid?

Does that make any sense? I mean, that’s at least one instance where I think the Brits are smarter than us. They call it 'petrol', which sounds a little weird but at least doesn’t mean something else.

If we call the liquid that we put in our cars 'gas' then shouldn’t we call the gas that we heat our homes with 'solid' or something like that? Natural Gas IS a gas, but gas is a liquid – it’s like we have a fundamental misunderstanding about basic Physics.

And another thing – Natural Gas doesn’t have any smell. They add that rotten egg smell to it so you can tell if it’s leaking. Who decided on rotten eggs? Why rotten eggs? I mean, I know you don’t want it to be something that people like to smell – like roast turkey or something. ‘Cause then you couldn’t tell if Grandma was trying to commit suicide or getting an early start on Thanksgiving. But why rotten eggs? It’s unpleasant, but it isn’t disgusting like dirty feet or something.

If you want to make it something people really don’t like to smell - make it smell like spoiled milk. Nobody can stand the smell of spoiled milk. My parents would stand in front of the refrigerator and argue about whether the milk was spoiled because neither one of them wanted to smell it.

'It’s past the expiration date.'

'Well, I had some yesterday and it was fine.'

'Yesterday wasn’t past the expiration date.'

'Well, smell it then.'

'I’m not gonna smell it. You smell it.'

This would go on until finally one of them would get a bright idea – 'Billy!'

So I’d come into the kitchen. 'Yeah Mom'

'Smell this.'


'Never mind why – just smell it.'

And that would work, too. Because there’s no way you can smell spoiled milk and pretend it’s okay. When you smell spoiled milk you just gotta make that 'spoiled milk' face.


'Okay, it’s gone bad – throw it out.'

I sometimes think my parents only had kids because they didn’t want to smell spoiled stuff in the refrigerator. My mom used to get me to smell stuff all the time. She claimed she couldn’t smell very well. 'Okay mom I’ll tell you what – you smell it. And if you still can’t tell if it’s bad then I’ll smell it.' That never worked.

My dad was worse. He’d get me smell something that he knew was bad. 'Here Billy – smell this.'

'Ugh. Oh god, that’s awful!'

'Yeah, well what’ja expect - it expired last August.'

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Yellow Rabbit

With apologies to Grace Slick, here is my 'updated' version of the classic 'drug' song - White Rabbit. I just feel that art needs to more accurately reflect current society. Who knows? - Maybe Gracie could stage a comeback.

On those few occasions that I have committed a travesty of Karaoke, I always request White Rabbit, ignore the actual lyrics and substitute mine. It goes over surprisingly well. So try these alternate lyrics at your next Karaoke party!

Yellow Rabbit
Only one pill makes you larger
Tadalafil, when you’re small
‘Cause the ones that you get from Phizer
Don’t do anything at all
Take Cialis – You’ll feel ten feet tall

And if you go like a rabbit
Jumping around from hole to hole
You’ll be hooked up for thirty-six hours
Instead of Viagra’s small window
Take Cialis and then you’ll know

When men get depressed or
A little older blood moves slow
But you can regain that concrete mushroom
If you get your blood to flow
Take Cialis and watch it grow

Defying logic by your proportion
Thanks to your yellow friend
It’s like the clock has been moving backwards
And you’re now nineteen years old again

Remember – the yellow pill instead
Raise the dead Raise the dead

Saturday, January 21, 2006

My New Gameshow Idea

My Dad Can Beat Your Dad

Three ten-year-olds (boys or girls) each pick one 'event' for their fathers to compete in against each other. Events can be anything measurable: hit a golf ball the furthest, lift the most weight, run the fastest, eat the most hot-dogs, whatever. We present five choices to the kids and they each choose one different event; (in alphabetical order - based on the Dad's last name.) Kids choose from among:
1- My Dad is the 'Strongest'
2- My Dad is the 'Fastest'
3- My Dad is the 'Smartest'
4- My Dad is the 'Bravest'
5- My Dad is the 'Grossest'

Once the three events are decided all three Dads compete in all three events. Dads win points based on each event: 3 for first, 2 for second, 1 for third, 0 for incomplete. BUT if a Dad fails to win the event his child picked, he gets a zero (he will keep competing because total points determines the winner.) This puts extra pressure on each one in turn. In the (unlikely) event of a tie, prize is split between the winners.

We play events in the order chosen. For the first event, Dads compete in randomly selected order. Whichever Dad wins the first event chooses the order for the next event. Whichever Dad wins the second event chooses the order for the third. Events are played on three consecutive days and are explained up front to all Dads.

Possible events.

'Strongest' - Restack a pile of construction bricks in the shortest time. Most 'chin-ups' in one minute. Rock-climbing the quickest. Marine-style obstacle course. (To mix it up, have them do an event with their kid on their back.)

'Fastest' - Steeplechase without a horse. Run a mile. Three-legged race with their kid as partner. Eat hotdogs/spaghetti/tofu/whatever in the quickest time.

'Smartest' - Kid goes in a maze Dad has a map of the maze and has to lead the kid out by giving instructions via walkie-talkie. Dad takes over a chess game against computer that is within three to five moves of checkmate, can he win? Spelling Bee.

'Bravest' - Walk a tightrope. Ride a bike across a 2X4 suspended between two buildings. Catch the most snakes in a pen. Pretty much any type of events where there is an element of perceived danger.

'Grossest' - Likely to be the most fun: eat disgusting things. Find a key in a vat of something disgusting to to unlock a chain holding their child before the vat dumps out on their child. Endless possibilities.

Spin-off Possibilities:
My Mom Can Beat Your Mom
My Mom Can Beat Your Dad
My Celebrity Dad Can Beat Your Celebity Dad
(or My Dad Can Beat Your Dad: Celebrity Version)

Friday, January 20, 2006

Credit Where It's Due

In 1974 (when I was seventeen) I wrote and published a Science Fiction story entitled: "Axioms of a Mad Poet". It was a completely amateurish story and I no longer have a copy of it. (If, by chance, anyone out there HAS a copy I would love to get it from you. It was published in a small 'summer project' newspaper in Toronto's East End and back then I used the name "W.B. Clarke" because I thought it sounded more 'authoritative'. Hey, I was seventeen.)

Despite its pedestrian nature, there was ONE line in that story that I really liked: 'Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.' It may be the most meaningful line I ever wrote and was completely original. I'd like to think it would be remembered as 'Clarke's Law' or 'Clarke's Razor' or something equally ominous.

The problem is, the line HAS been remembered and quoted extensively (try a GOOGLE search) but is never attributed to ME! It is sometimes referred to as 'Hanlon's Razor' - (a mis-spelling of Heinlein) because the line: "You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity" is in "Logic of Empire" by Robert A. Heinlein. Nothing against him, but my phrasing is better and, frankly, more succinct.

I clearly remember writing this line because originally I had it as 'Never ascribe to malice that which is explained by stupidity' but decided to change 'ascribe' to 'attribute' and modify 'explained' by adding 'adequately' - I vividly remember making those changes and I was proud of the result even back in 1974.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


I received an interesting email solicitation. SPERMAXX, an all-natural herbal supplement, promised that I would see at leasta 30% increase in Semen Volume, Sperm Count, Sperm Morphology or Sperm Motility (Note it says 'or' and not 'and' in that claim) if I used their product for ninety days. They backed up this claim with a $1 Million guarantee.

So I went to their website (which is designed to get you to order their product rather than provide you with actual information, but I digress). Finally, I located the terms of their guarantee where, among other things, I found these definitions:

Semen Volume - a measure of how much semen is present in one ejaculation.
Sperm Count - a count of the number of sperm present per milliliter (mL) of semen in one ejaculation.
Sperm Morphology - a measure of the percentage of sperm that have a normal shape.
Sperm Motility - a measure of the percentage of sperm that can move forward normally.

I did a little research - apparently, the one they are counting on is the first definition since the Semen Volume can vary considerably and a 30% variance is not that great. Sperm Count, Sperm Morphology and Sperm Motility are far greater measures of fertility and 'Semen Volume' is merely a base-line number. Anyway, I figured I could beat their guarantee and cash in on the $1 Million.

I ordered a 120 day supply of SPERMAXX (at $59 per 30 day bottle- 2 pills per day) and waited. When the order arrived (with a load of other offers but again, I digress) I called my lawyer and then "cleared the pipes" (a 'Something About Mary' reference) and waited three days - based on my research. After the three days, I obtained a sperm sample and took it to a local Medical Lab and instructed them to measure the Semen Volume, Sperm Count, Sperm Morphology and Sperm Motility ($150 for those keeping score). The next day I began my course of taking SPERMAXX - exactly according to their instructions.

After 88 days, I again "cleared the pipes" and on the 91st day I again obtained a sperm sample and took it to the same Medical Lab and instructed them to again measure the Semen Volume, Sperm Count, Sperm Morphology and Sperm Motility (another $150 for those keeping score) and notified my lawyer.

When I received both reports from the Medical Lab, I copied my lawyer and contacted SPERMAXX by email to inform them that they owed me $1 Million. Because...

My Semen Volume - actually went down .05%.
My Sperm Count - remained unchanged at 0.
My Sperm Morphology - remained unchanged at 0.
My Sperm Motility - remained unchanged at 0.

The last three results were, of course, due to the fact that I had undergone a vasectomy seven years before. But since the conditions of their guarantee made absolutely no mention of surgical variance, I (and my lawyer) felt that I had met the specific conditions of their offer and their product had failed to meet those conditions and they were, therefore, liable for the promised payment of $1 Million. Apparently they disagreed.

Long story short - The SPERMAXX site is now gone and I no longer receive their SPAM (If, in any way, I contributed to this state of events I am thankful.) However, I am still out $536 (for their product and my tests) and have yet to receive the promised $1 Million.

There ought'a be a law.