Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Some quotes from some Johns that I am keeping in mind for the new year

“True success is figuring out your life and career so you never have to be around jerks.”
-John Waters

I wanted to write all-ages books, kids’ literature that stands up when you read it today... It may be that this is not what the market wants, but as an exercise it was what I wanted to do. It also stops you leaning on lazy attention-getting devices – sudden death, sudden sexy times. You have to be a lot more resourceful as you write.
-John Allison

There are many things this world has too much of, but books and storytellers are not two of them.
-John Scalzi

Monday, December 20, 2010

gingerbread pugs

gingerbread pugs
Originally uploaded by wombatarama

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I want to make stuff that ends up inside people's heads instead of on top, but it's the same

“There is that great line in Sunday in the Park with George,” he says, referring to Stephen Sondheim’s 1984 musical about Georges Seurat, “ 'Look, I made a hat where there never was a hat’.” He falls silent again and, as unexpectedly as those coins turn to fish, big fat tears start rolling down his cheeks. “I can’t say that line without choking up, because it states, in profoundly poetic terms, what I have always wanted to do with my life. It’s so simple and so funny, but boy it hits me deep.”

-from an interview with Teller (of Penn and) thanks to Wil Wheaton's Tumblr.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sounds right to me

Of course there are different reasons to write, but if you’re interested in getting something published in the commercial marketplace, the only opinion that matters is that of the person who can either sell it (the agent) or buy it (the editor). My advice these days is not to share your work-in-progress with more than two or maybe three people whose opinions you trust and respect, and ideally have some experience in the very delicate art of offering artistic criticism.

-Matthew Gallaway, "Five writers explain how they got, kept and fired agents."

Monday, November 29, 2010

The real meaning of "not safe for work"

Note: if you click on his example link, don't say you haven't been warned.

Personally, I’m a freelance writer, so I work out of my home office. That means that everything on the internet is safe for work, or more precisely, nothing is. Without the peer pressure of nearby co-workers and boss-types, the internet is a constant, beguiling temptation, like one of the Sirens of Greek myth if you could embed Flash in her.

I’d appreciate someone inventing the “NSFF” tag for me, so I would know that I’m about to click on something that’s going to grab me and not let me go until I’ve sacrificed a couple of deadlines to its insatiable hunger for attention.

Nudity would not, as a rule, get this tag. Nudity is so commonly available on the web that it’s not that distracting. I appreciate it, but take it for granted, like paper clips. If nudity is unsafe for work in the sense that standing on the top shelf of a ladder is unsafe, then TV Tropes is unsafe for work in the sense that running with scissors, near a pool, into the path of an oncoming train is unsafe.

-Lore Sjöberg (who also wisely said,
I'm inclined to like wombat because "wombat" is a great name. It's got a "wom," and a "bat," and an "omba.")

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"However," replied the universe, "The fact has not created in me a sense of obligation."

“Here is another thing to remember every time you sit down at the keyboard: a little sign that says, ‘Nobody has to read this crap’. You are not writing to impress the scientist you have just interviewed, nor the professor who got you through your degree, nor the editor who foolishly turned you down, nor the rather dishy person you just met at a party and told you were a writer. Or even your mother. You are writing to impress someone hanging from a strap in the Tube between Parson’s Green and Putney, who, given a chance, will stop reading in a fifth of a second. So the first sentence you write will be the most importance sentence in your life, and so will the second, and the third. This is because, although you may feel compelled to write, nobody has ever felt obliged to read.”

-Tim Radford via Ed Yong.

(Also thanks Stephen Crane and vozamer.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

No pugs were harmed in the making of this picture. Don't believe the look on her face.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Where do your ideas come from

Yeah, it's like a disease, really.

Creativity is like an itch. When you scratch it, it feels good, and then it itches more. You fulfill the aesthetic urge and it pushes you to create more.

But if you don't have the itch to begin with, it's hard to know where to scratch. There's no way to "get ideas." It can't be forced. They just happen. You're eating breakfast one day and you have an idea, and either you forget about it, or you work on it and execute it. The more of your ideas you execute, the more ideas occur to you.

-Drew ("Toothpaste for Dinner")

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween reaches a historical milestone.

The five year old son of some friends of mine, dressed for Halloween as Elmo dressed as a ghost for Halloween. This is the most awesome costume anyone of any age will ever come up with.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

So not fair

It's like some stuff was invented just to screw with journalists...

Correction: July 29, 2006 Because of an editing error, the About New York column on Wednesday, about William M. V. Kingsland, an expert on the privileged of the Upper East Side whose own background turned out to be a bit of a mystery upon his death last spring, misstated the name of the cemetery where he is buried. It is the New York City Marble Cemetery, on Second Street; not the New York Marble Cemetery, which is on Second Avenue.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hobbies of the Future

Lately I got together with some friends I met on the Internet, and after an excited discussion that we suddenly realized could be ended by pulling a device with web access out of a pocket, one mentioned that he keeps getting into these excited arguments with friends, and then suddenly they will stop and realize what idiots they are being and say "If only there were something - you know, like some worldwide network of computers linked together, where we could find out the answer!"

And another responded that HIS friends will deliberately NOT Google something they're trying to remember - they want to try to do it themselves.

And of course this makes perfect sense. After all, all kinds of skills that are no longer necessary turn into hobbies. Some people like to go jousting, some like to make pottery by hand when they could just buy a plastic cup... so of course, now, there are some people who want to try to figure something out without Googling it. I'm just wondering how long it takes before they start actual clubs.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Good for what ails you

This is an actual syringe, almost the length of my forearm.

Friday, August 6, 2010

General Announcement to Pug Dogs

1. Dogs are naturally crepuscular. This term refers to a species which is active at twilight, that is to say, at dawn and at dusk. (Cf. the more familiar terms nocturnal and diurnal, referring to animals which are active mainly at night and mainly during the day.)

2. This is a natural feature of dogs which makes them a suitable species for domestication as companion animals by a species such as my own, which naturally pursues full-time work outside the home.

3. Therefore, even if I am working at home, it is appropriate for you to expect entertainment in the evening when the workday is over.

4. So please LIE DOWN and stop jumping up with anticipation every time I get up from the computer. Thank you.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

All out of Plan Bs

Your first novel was rejected thirty-seven times... Anyway, what kept you going before your unexpected success as Lemony Snicket? Were you ever tempted to throw in the towel as a writer?

I was sorely tempted but could not think up anything else to do. This is how it is for most writers I know - they soldiered on simply because there was no Plan B.

-from an interview with author Daniel Handler

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Take Back the Words!

I was just checking the final copyedits of my book which is appearing in the spring, which includes a scene where zookeepers are chasing a raccoon around a Dumpster. That's right, Dumpster, capitalized, because it turns out, this word is a trademark.

Well, three pages of a novel that include the word Dumpster, capitalized, multiple times, reads like advertising copy for the Dumpster Corporation, so I wanted to replace it. But there is no synonym. I got suggestions from many people. They were either circumlocutions that couldn't replace one word repeatedly, or technical descriptions that no one would recognize, or words for a thing that was similar to a Dumpster but not identical.

I also discovered that many words that we all feel are normal English words are also still trademarked, like Laundromat and Bubble Wrap. Bubble Wrap!!!

Well, I've had enough. I want to start a Movement. Why are corporations allowed to interfere with the natural evolution of language? The way it works now, you can get in trouble if you use a trademark generically - but why does a corporation get to decide how we can use the language? If everyone else, as English speakers, needs the word, why does a corporation get to keep it?

Poppers of bubble wrap in dumpsters out behind laundromats, unite! You have nothing to lose but your superfluous capital letters!

Sunday, July 18, 2010


On Discovery Channel headquarters, for Shark Week. See the other end here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Helping out a fellow creator of fiction

I was walking home from the store with the pugs the other day, when a nicely dressed guy stopped me with a sob story about how his car had broken down and he was short seven dollars for a fan belt. He told me that his brother had a pug, but it was much fatter than mine, and that it was really jealous when you pay attention to anyone else, and that he was a manager at the Jerry's sub shop over on 16th street and if I ever came up that way he could repay me.

I told him I worked at the store around the corner and he said oh sure, he came in sometimes to buy cat food for his mother, he could pay me back then.

The mother's cat was the last straw. I decided to give him the money because if the story wasn't true, he had done enough work coming up with the details, he had earned it.

I liked that it wasn't a big tale of trauma and drama, just a well executed version of a classic tale, with details carefully chosen to create believable characters, and I want to live in a world where that is worth at least seven dollars.

Friday, June 11, 2010

animals behaving badly on vacation

scofflaw pugs on the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk (no dogs allowed April-October)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Conspicuous Consumption

I attended a neighborhood meeting last night where a police officer told the audience that they should have their house alarms turned on even when they are home. He mentioned a case where a whole family and their two dogs were all home and yet were unaware of a burglar.

My first thought was, what the &%^$ could be wrong with those dogs?

My second thought was to realize what neighborhood he was talking about. The lesson here is really this: If you have a house where even the dogs can't hear what's going on at the other end of it, your house is TOO DAMN BIG.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Meaning no disrespect, but...

"True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country."
-Kurt Vonnegut

That's Elena Kagan, new Supreme Court nominee, in the center, in a picture from our high school yearbook.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Happy Pugs (Lilly & Rose) 2010.05.03

Happy Pugs (Lilly & Rose) 2010.05.03
Originally uploaded by Julia Kay

The pugs as Art by Julia Kay.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

More from New Jersey

I fear that despite all the emphasis on recycling, the younger generation is not getting the point: all the crayons I could see in that bottle looked completely unused.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Cultural activities in New Jersey

At my nephew's school, the sixth graders did a project based on Munch's painting The Scream where they painted their own version, including their own fears. I took these pictures of some of my favorites that were exhibited on the school walls.

This student has a common fear, of spiders:

A fear of hang gliders seems reasonable to me:

So does a fear of other people screaming. I guess this kid thinks that the thing to fear is fear itself:

And as far as I can tell, this student is afraid of chandeliers:

Friday, April 9, 2010

Pugs in the news

This news story from Canada should NOT be used by pugs as an excuse for getting fat.

Residents of a Prince Rupert, B.C., cul-de-sac banded together to save a neighbour's dog, Bob, from the jaws of a wolf.

But it may have been Bob the pug's pudgy waistline that thwarted the attack.

Norm Hebert had heard rumours of brazen wolves prowling around Prince Rupert, but it took him a moment to realize what was going on when one showed up on Alpine Drive, the street where he lives, last Thursday.

At first, Herbert thought another neighbour's larger dog was playing with Bob.

"On second look I realized it was a wolf," he told CBC News.

Aiming to end the attack, Herbert rushed out and whacked the wolf with the first weapon at hand — a Sherwood Featherlight hockey stick.

Despite manufacturer's claims that the stick's carbon fibre shaft allowed for accelerated recoil and energy transfer, the Sherwood failed to have the desired effect on the seasoned predator. The animal merely trotted off with the pug in its jaws.

"He just glared at me … and he picked it up like a mother would pick up her kitten," Herbert recalled.

Neighbors joined in a pursuit to rescue the pudgy pug.

And eventually, the neighbourhood posse had the wolf cornered against a chain-link fence, with Bob the pug dangling from its jaws.

"Black, brown chest, he was probably a couple of hundred pounds," Deschamps said of the wolf. "We hit him with sticks and rocks and he decided to drop Bob at that time."

Bob had been punctured, but his pride was intact. Mostly.

"Apparently, he was too fat for the wolf to get a good bite into him," Deschamps said.

Perhaps sensing his continued survival on the mean streets of Prince Rupert might be a matter of size rather than strength, Bob has since refused to eat his dry food. Only black forest ham and cheese will do, Deschamps said.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

More behind the scenes

Pugs looking adoringly at me holding liver.

It's winter again now, cold and gray and damp. Good thing we seized the chance to party with pugs last weekend.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Behind the scenes

of pug party pictures, seen here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cross-species diet advice

The other day at work a woman came in with an overweight pug. She was easily convinced that it needed to lose weight, but didn't really know what she was doing wrong. Among other things she mentioned that the dog got one whole apple a day.

Now, an apple is not the highest calorie snack you can eat. But an apple is the size of this dog's whole head.

I would have thought it was obvious, but I guess it bears repeating: Unless you are a snake, do not eat anything as big as your head.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Shouldn't these dogs look happier?

Shouldn't these dogs look happier?
Originally uploaded by wombatarama

Finally out walking on a warm sunshiney day after all these weeks of the Ice Age, and they can't look a little more cheerful than this?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Some things not to say to the nice staff at the pet boutique

1. "My vet gave me a list of foods to choose from, but I didn't bring it with me."

2. "My dog (insert undesirable behavior here). Do you have like a spray or something to stop that?" No, and we don't have a spray to stop your baby from crying, either.

3. "I know your return policy is that I can't return clothes and that I have to return things within ten days, but can I return this dog coat that I bought a month ago?"

Also, when I ask you if you're changing foods to solve a particular problem, don't say "No," and then after I give you five minutes of information and we've almost made a choice, say "Will that one be good if (insert particular problem here)? because that's why we want to change foods."


Friday, February 12, 2010

No comment

Three pugs deep?
Originally uploaded by wombatarama

There is nothing I could say that would not have bad words in it.

Monday, February 8, 2010

snowpocalypse pugs

snowpocalypse pugs
Originally uploaded by wombatarama

Nice and warm in a hotel instead of our house that has been without heat and power since Saturday morning.

The snow is at least two pugs high, but so far I haven't had the heart to make them stand out in the cold while I take a picture.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Ginger helping stock shelves

The pugs are never this useful. Well, sometimes they model a harness or sweater for people who didn't bring their dogs, but how hard is that?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Not amused

OK this isn't funny anymore
Originally uploaded by wombatarama

Yeah, well I'm not so happy either. I spent a couple hundred dollars on new glasses that look better on the pug.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Unintended consequences

Here are some of the things I do so far in my new part-time job.

1. Explain how to housebreak a puppy.
2. Give free, amateur medical advice. ("Yeah, that looks bad, you should see a vet.")
3. Give directions to the public rest room.
4. Explain that this is a pet store, and we don't sell needles/keyrings/office supplies etc.
5. Convince people that those really ARE dog cookies.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Torturing pug with birthday cookie

Torturing pug with birthday cookie
Originally uploaded by wombatarama

Lilly is eleven years old. Don't you wish you knew what brand of face cream she uses? She has only the exact same number of wrinkles she was born with.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Saturday, January 2, 2010

If Pugs Did Decade-End Retrospectives

Stolen from my internet friend David Wahl, often previously mentioned on this blog in connection with Roscoe the pug of sainted memory.

"Best 10 Smells of the Decade"

1. Prime Rib Gravy
2. Human feet when they remove their shoes after a long day
3. Pee
4. Other pugs' face wrinkles
5. That Great Dane that rolled in dead fish at the park.
6. Poo
7. Whatever it is that you're eating right now.
8. Kitchen garbage that one time you ate crab legs and left the shells overnight.
9. That dead thing you wouldn't let me smell long enough to conclusively identify.
10. Gary Shandling.