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Not Amused by My Muse January 10, 2012

Posted by Rob Diaz in Biographical, Real Life, Unedited.
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I want to take my muse out back and shoot the freaking beast.

Wait, wait… Let me take a step back and explain my frustration.

I have paper and pens with me nearly all the time. Why is it that the best ideas I get come at the few times where I either don’t have the paper and pen or when it is just not feasible for me to write anything down? It doesn’t matter what the idea might be. Whether it’s a song or a poem or a story or a limerick, the ideas come when I simply cannot do anything about them.

It has always been this way. When I was younger and writing a lot of the time—in other words, before I got a real job—my muse was always around, playfully throwing things my way at the most inopportune times: while standing at attention in the middle of a football field awaiting the start of a marching band competition, on stage during commencement speeches, during final exams, while writing down a customer’s order when I worked at the restaurant, during my driving test or while being put under sedation for surgery (for example). When I stopped being so receptive (due to the aforementioned “real job”), my muse turned to giving me the silent treatment much of the time and largely that has continued even now that I’m trying to write regularly again. I sit down with a blank page and wait for the wonderful flow of words to begin, but my muse remains silent and hidden. I’ve begged, pleaded, offered to buy it fancy, expensive coffees… but the only response I get is a huff and a sigh and an angry comment:

Oh, you want me to be available on your schedule? Well, that’s just not how I work, buddy!

But recently things have changed a little. I’ve once again started to hear the voices. No, not THOSE voices. THOSE voices have always been there, haunting me, taunting me, telling me to… well, ahem… I digress.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Recently my muse has begun speaking to me again. Once again, though, it is proving to be sadistic and mean. The ideas that come arrive in the middle of the priest’s homily, during my speeches and presentations at trade shows (again, for that silly “real job”) or while driving down the highway. Today there was the idea for the Great American Novel, which appeared to me in a vision while I stood in the middle of the shower at the YMCA surrounded by other men in various states of attire or cleanliness. (Shudder.) Yes, thanks, oh malicious muse. That was convenient. Of course, the idea disappeared by the time I was dressed and near a pen and paper, perhaps chased away by the brightness of the white, shiny pages, perhaps taken away by a spiteful and bitter muse.

At times I’ve been angry about the way this has worked and at other times I’m more at ease with it. At the end of the day, do I want writing to be “easy”?  Or do I want it to be work?  I kind of want it to be both, actually—good ideas that, with solid work, become great.  Looking back, the stories that have worked the best for me were the ones where I remembered the vague whispers that came my way during trips to the DMV or dentist appointments. If the idea has “stuck”, lingering in the back of my mind and remaining memorable for however long it takes me to get to the business of writing it down, that is an idea worth exploring further.  The other ideas, trudged from my own beleaguered, sieve-like brain, usually just lay splattered across the page lurking and glaring menacingly at me, snickering and howling with glee at my terrified glances.

So now I sit here, with time to write, a desire to write and the means to write. A few ideas have come to me in the form of a few tiny little nuggets… but nothing real clear has formed. When I ask my muse how to make these little gems work, the response from the evil beast is:

Hey, I’m just the idea guy. It’s up to you to make the 600 magical, talking, radioactive zebras and the 5000 hungry, lactose-intolerant lions play together nicely as they try to save the world from within a 500 square foot cage made of piano wire and duct tape.

This is followed by a few moments of diabolical laughter and then my friendly neighborhood muse is gone, waiting for the right moment to pounce on my unsuspecting psyche, most likely the next time I’m sitting in the little room at LabCorp for a blood test or when I’m called for Jury Duty.

Yeah, that sounds like as good a time as any.

My 2012 Anti Resolutions December 30, 2011

Posted by Rob Diaz in Biographical, Edited, Fiction Friday, Humorous.
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written based on the [Fiction] Friday prompt on December 30, 2011: “What are your Anti-Resolutions for the coming year?”)

 

  1. I will not petition the USDA to make them add a coffee section to the ChooseMyPlate dietary guidelines, despite the fact that coffee is an important part of a balanced diet.  I will, however, continue to pursue all avenues while attempting to ensure that coffee is identified as a vegetable, just like ketchup.
  2. I will not bedazzle my cellphone, my sneakers, my eyeglasses or my laptop bag, no matter how much my wife and daughter think I should or how much my son triple-dog-dares me to do so.
  3. I will not go quietly the next time the aliens come to get me.
  4. I will not sit and eat pizza and donuts while my son does planks, pushups, sit-ups, wind sprints and other strengthening activities in preparation for the upcoming baseball season, mostly because he can now throw a baseball hard enough to hurt me. I might chance some nice, hot coffee, though. Coffee is worth a few baseball-induced bruises.
  5. I will not spend all of my time reminding my daughter that no one likes teenagers– at least half of my time will be spent reminding my son that no one likes pre-teens, either.
  6. I will not buy a Clean Step Mat just because it resembles the magical cleaning properties of the Sisal Carpet from my play, “The Good Old Days”.
  7. I will not tell the Little Neighbor Girl that every time she freaks out about a spider, mosquito or stink bug, and every time she leaves her doll, iPod, game system or homework at my house an angel loses its wings.
  8. I will not make up a whole bunch of fake email addresses with which I then comment on my own blog posts with opposing arguments and opinions just to make it feel like my posts are powerful and edgy.
  9. I will not divorce Kim Kardashian, Sinead O’Conner, Drew Barrymore, Ali Landry, Pamela Anderson, Britney Spears, Carmen Electra, Jennifer Lopez, Renee Zellweger, Lisa Marie Presley, Katy Perry or Ashton Kutcher this year.  Well, probably
  10. If I grow a tomato that looks like the Virgin Mary, I will not put it up for sale on eBay. If, however, there’s one that looks like it has Justin Bieber’s hair… well, that one will be up for grabs.
  11. I will not fall prey to the complacency that comes from everyone saying that December 21, 2012 is going to be the end of the world – my vegetable-based religion will be ready to take over the world and I will be named Prime Potato of the First Couch of Veganomicalism at the Most High Holy Time of 13:13 on December 22, 2012.
  12. I will not try to convince the kids that if they watch the cats play with balls of yarn they will be on the road to an easy PhD in physics as they solve all of the mysteries of String Theory.
  13. I will not sprinkle catnip into my wife’s pillowcase and blankets just so the cat will bother her enough to make her wake up. Well, at least not on the weekends.

Just One of the Girls December 29, 2011

Posted by Rob Diaz in Biographical, Edited, Real Life.
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So, I’ve long held that despite being male, I am just one of the girls. Lacking any real evidence of this, though, I’ve been forced to use more anecdotal facts to try to persuade the non-believers among my various acquaintances that this is, in fact, true. However, it seems that my distaste for monster trucks, my lack of interest in barbecuing and the unnatural-to-some number of female friends I’ve had throughout my life (historically, about 90% of my friends have been female) is not really a confirmation of my membership in the Just-One-of-the-Girls Club of America .

The fact that some kind soul has subscribed me to Redbook magazine, Working Mother magazine and has also gotten me a brand new exclusive subscription to Teen Vogue magazine (complete with a nice, big For Girls Only notice on the invitation) is also not strong enough evidence.

Well, now I have real proof.

As evidence that I am, in fact, just one of the girls, I present the Gender Analyzer for blogs. The Gender Analyzer is meant to help you, the reader of any given blog, to determine the gender of the author of the blog. I do not know the mechanism it uses, but I am assuming that a lot of science and psychology have gone into figuring out what words men use and what words women use when writing.

And science, of course, cannot be argued with, especially when it is coupled with psychology.  So, here we go:

The Theory

I, Rob, a male, am nonetheless just one of the girls

The Science

I have several blogs. Here are the results when I expand them to show all posts (so the analyzer can parse everything on the site and not just the latest thirteen posts) and then run them through the Gender Analyzer:

  • Thirteenth Dimension (this blog) when analyzed, comes up as likely being written by a woman (71% score).
  • Percival’s Place, when analyzed, comes up as being likely to have been written by a man (66% score).
  • Thirteen Exits, my travel blog, comes up as likely being written by a woman (68% score)
  • Thirteen Harvests, my gardening blog, is, apparently, written by a woman(70% score).So, three of my four blogs, when read in their entirety, appear to be written by a woman.

    The Psychology

    I suppose I’m conflicted by this. At least sort of. I mean, I’ve always just been one of the girls and I have no problem with that at all… but at the same time, having some computer program give me cold, hard scientific evidence that I may not be a real man feels like it changes things. I mean, seriously – I do like the power tools and lawn equipment that “real men” like (assuming that real men are into rechargeable, battery-powered lawn mowers and weed-whackers) so where does this computer program get off telling me I may not be a man?

    All of this leaves me wondering if I should just officially adopt a single-name penname such as “Roberta,” which was the name all the women in my wife’s all-female dorm at college called me, or if I just need to put some more cursing, fighting and pyrotechnics into my writing, just to prove that I am, in fact, a man.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that I can’t argue with science and this is clearly science. I also know that anything found on the internet must be a true and accurate portrayal of the universe, so clearly this proves that I am, truly, just one of the girls.

NaNoWriMo 2011 November 3, 2011

Posted by Rob Diaz in Biographical.
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I’m currently getting ready to participate in NaNoWriMo 2011.  I have been busy dealing with “The Real World” so far, and therefore I haven’t actually started my novel yet.  In fact, I don’t even have an idea yet.

The lack of ideas is, however, not a big problem for me.  I think I’ve started before November 5 only once in the past 5 years of NaNoWriMo (the only year I actually had an idea before November 5 as well).  In all honesty, though, Life has made things a bit more complicated again this year (third straight year of complicated Novembers).

If I could count the words I’ve written in tech-related forums posts, I probably already have well-over 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo 2011. Hmm… maybe I’ll write a novel all in forums-post format. It’s kind of like iambic pentameter, epic poetry and haiku combined, especially if you squint a little while reading it.

Or, well, maybe not.

In any event, I’m hoping to have some kind of idea by the weekend. In the meantime, I was interviewed for the Office of Letters and Light’s blog, so you should check it out!

Meet Our Team: Rob Diaz, Ticket Master

Anyone else doing NaNoWriMo this year? Let me know in the comments!

Writing Is My Time Capsule June 12, 2011

Posted by Rob Diaz in Biographical, Edited, Non-fiction.
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I was tagged by Icy Sedgwick in her meme and while it has taken me a few days to get to it, I absolutely do not want to be the one who breaks this chain letter… so here’s my post about what writing means to me.

Writing is my time capsule.  Or maybe it’s a scrapbook.  Whatever stamp I may put on it, writing is a history.

I have written for as long as I can remember.  Poetry, short stories, plays, novels, limericks… whatever it was, it contained a part of me.  Much like someone might build a scrapbook of important events for themselves or their child, my compiled pile of writing is a memory book of thoughts, ideas, emotions and dreams.

While I lost quite a bit of the writing I did in my early years thanks to yellowed paper, faded pencil marks and water damage, I still have most of what I wrote from my middle school years and beyond.  Whenever I go back and read any of it, no matter how good or bad the writing itself was, I remember where I was, what I was doing and what I was feeling at the time.  I remember who inspired each piece, as well, so I am reminded of friends or family or unrequited teenage love.  I can see patterns in the writing that show me periods of deep depression, periods of extreme happiness and periods where I was (or was not) at ease with myself and who I was.

Even though the majority of my writing is fiction, there is a lot of truth to be learned from it. When I wrote things as a teenager, I couldn’t see it then. Nor can I see it in the writing I do today.  But the passage of time allows me to look back and see what was really going on inside my head and, sometimes, remind me of how I dealt with situations that have come up again.  While it would be easy to say “wow, Rob, you deal with everything by hiding on a different planet, with different rules which make your problems go away”, it isn’t really the case. Escaping to a different time or place is certainly a part of the reason I write, but I could tell stories that are set on a sandy beach just as easily as I tell stories set in alien landscapes.  While the settings, the aliens and the abundance of free coffee are included to entertain people who might read my writing, the emotions and plot elements are straight from my life, usually something I’m trying to work through without yelling at too many people. Putting them on the page allows me to review them and analyze them later to see how I did.

What is the writing I’m doing today reflecting about me and my life today? I don’t know. But in five or ten years, when I re-open this time capsule, I should have some interesting things to sort out.

Tagging:

Matt Robb

Virginia Diaz

Heather Dudley

My 2011 Anti-Resolutions January 5, 2011

Posted by Rob Diaz in Biographical, Edited, Fiction Friday, Humorous.
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(written based on the [Fiction] Friday prompt on December 31, 2010: “What are your Anti-Resolutions for the coming year?”)

Note:  Most people put in 5 or 10 of these… but somehow, 13 seemed more appropriate for me.

  1. I will not continue trying to find a legitimate way to claim my coffee investments as a business expense, even though I drink most of it during business hours.
  2. I will not blame Microsoft for everything that is wrong with technology in the world; clearly, most of the blame belongs on Apple.
  3. I will not blame the cats or the dog for smells that most certainly came from my daughter.
  4. I will not sing about compost and pig slop at my next audition for a role in a musical; clearly, it’s better to sing about gang violence and infidelity instead.
  5. I will not continue to float the idea of coffee-flavored cigarettes and coffee-flavored alcohol products because I am completely against supporting such addictive behaviors as smoking and drinking.
  6. I will not go into local steak houses just to place “Meat is Murder” stickers on all of the tables, chairs, menus and light fixtures; I will make sure to order a blooming onion and use the “For Customer Use Only” restroom first.
  7. I will not allow my son to blame the cats, the dog, his sister or his mother for smells that most certainly came from him.
  8. I will not continue my lobbying efforts to make March 30 a national holiday in honor of the glorious day in 1971 when Starbucks opened its first store in Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington.
  9. I will not continue to blame science for letting me down by not having invented flying cars and teleportation devices yet when it is obvious that these technologies do exist and have been suppressed and hidden by a little-known, right-wing government conspiracy.
  10. I will not make my apocalypse story be about December 21, 2012 because the world doesn’t need another story about that specific apocalypse on that specific day; clearly, the real apocalyptic event would be due to a shortage of broccoli and garlic on December 22, 2012 and will take everyone by surprise because of the media’s focus on December 21. (Multi-million dollar movie contract for this unique idea… here I come!)
  11. I will not goad my wife into breaking her anti-resolutions by bringing Caxton or the Great Vowel Shift up in otherwise ordinary conversations, even though it would be a lot of fun to watch her try to avoid her inevitable rant about the subjects.
  12. I will not make fun of the dog for wearing the ridiculous outfits my wife puts on him; I’m sure that if he had opposable thumbs, he’d change out of that stuff and into ripped jeans and spiked studded collars as soon as he got out of her line of sight, just like any self-respecting dog would do.
  13. I will not continue trying to find a legitimate way to claim my coffee purchases and intake as a healthcare expense, even though I drink it for the health of those around me and I once had it prescribed by a doctor (No lie! This happened on November 9, 2010 – along with a slip for antibiotics and codeine-laced cough medicine, I got a slip for a cup of coffee).

Thirteen Things I Can Live Without in 2011 January 3, 2011

Posted by Rob Diaz in Biographical, Edited.
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At the beginning of a new year, we often think about the things we need or want more of in the coming year.  Today, I’d like to think about what I’d really like to do without this year.  This list, in no particular order (aside from the first one), should not be considered all-encompassing.  It is simply what came to mind when I started thinking about this.

  1. I can live without another deadly hurricane, flood, volcanic eruption, tornado, earthquake, tsunami, mine collapse, airplane crash, ship sinking, school shooting, hate-based crime or terrorist attack.  Oh, and I don’t need any more wars or sabre-rattling speeches or threats from leaders of any nation or negative election campaign advertisements from leaders or wannabe leaders of this nation, either.
  2. I can live without hearing anything more about Rex Ryan’s wife’s feet or how much he loves them.
  3. I can live without seeing another television advertisement for prescription drugs. I’d especially like no more drug commercials with catchy jingles, plumbing-less bathtubs in the desert (or on the beach), green-colored mafia-backed blobs that move into the lungs and invite their extended family, butterflies that make you sleep and then wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go (with brushed hair and full makeup on), or legal disclaimers about the possibility of death as a side effect. I also don’t need to see advertisements for miraculous seasonal allergy medicines with a side effect of “head cold symptoms” because, like, why bother?
  4. I can live without another oil spill. Unless it’s a nice splash of extra virgin olive oil on a fresh, green salad. Perhaps with a little vinegar and garlic, too.
  5. I can live without hearing about how WikiLeaks is the worst thing that ever happened to the world, how it needs to be shut down, hidden and vilified as a terrorist website and how Julian Assange is a traitor to every nation on the planet and therefore deserves to be tortured, jailed and/or put to death for leaking confidential information.
  6. I can live without hearing about how WikiLeaks is the best thing that ever happened to the world, how it needs to be protected as a true, honest and important source of information everyone needs and how Julian Assange is an international hero who is being turned into a martyr who will eventually be tortured and either locked up or put to death in order to further the cause of leaking confidential information.
  7. I can live without hearing the politicians in Congress talking about how they’ve now come to Washington to “change how things are done around here” and “fix everything that’s not right.”  What the heck have you been doing for all the prior years you’ve been in Washington?  Seriously… every new Congress has said they’re going to change how things are done, but the only thing that ever changes is the portion of the country that’s angry at any given time.  So just shut up and get on with pissing off the 50% of the country who didn’t vote for you.
  8. I can live without hearing anything more about Bernie Madoff. Give a small amount of money to his wife and then let her get a job like the rest of us losers.  Then sell his homes, sell his cars, turn all of his assets over to the victims of his Ponzi scheme and let him rot in jail.  Maybe make him file his victims’ tax returns, by hand, as well.
  9. I can live without hearing another Justin Bieber song. Baby, oh baby, do I not want to hear another Justin Bieber song.  Throw David Archuleta into this category, too.
  10. I can live without hearing about health care reform or about the plan to repeal health care reform (is that called “health-care-reform reform”?).  And if the current plan is called “Obamacare”, will the new one be called “Whocares”?  Seriously, the subject is giving me a headache and I can’t afford to see a doctor about it. And, really, does it have to be this difficult?  As someone who is about to lose health coverage for himself and his family AND has a pre-existing condition, I want solutions, not rhetoric from a bunch of idiots who DO have coverage!
  11. I can live without hearing or seeing anyone being a Lady Gaga copy cat and wearing an outfit made of raw meat.  And this has nothing to do with me being a vegetarian – I don’t think I’d want to hang around with anyone wearing an outfit made out of raw onions, either.
  12. I can live without hearing someone use the statement “Global warming is not caused by humans” as a reason to justify their stance that there is no reason for us to find better, more efficient and cleaner ways to use  and generate energy. Even if climate change is not being caused or exacerbated by humans, there’s no reason we should be breathing dirty air, drinking polluted water or turning the planet into a giant, toxic strip mine.
  13. I can live without an iPad, an iPhone and a Wii. No, really.  I can.

A Birthday Wish March 16, 2010

Posted by Rob Diaz in Biographical, Edited, Humorous.
3 comments

Yep, that’s right – today is my birthday!  And you know what that means… it means the second most famous dude to be born on the 16th of March is livin’ large and partyin’ down.  I’ll leave it up to you to decide if Eric Estrada is or if I am the first most famous dude born on this splendid day after the Ides of March.  I know where my money is.

But seriously, it’s not really a competition.  I’ve got no beef with the California Highway Patrols or the most famous man amongst those boys.  But I find it silly that everyone else on the planet has decided that The Big E — that’s what I call my man Eric — that The Big E and I spend all of our time worrying about which of us is bigger, meaner and, quite frankly, manlier.  The reality is that we have a mutual respect for each other, a cornucopia of admiration for one another.  All we really want is some peace and quiet so that we can enjoy our birthdays outside of the glare of the paparazzo’s flashbulbs.  All we want is to kick back, enjoy an ice cold root beer or mellow yellow and watch a little Grapefruit League ball on the telly…

But people keep bringing it up.  Every thirteen minutes, my celly’s blowin’ up with people talk-talk-talkin’ at me, trying to drive a wedge where there’s nothing to separate.  People keep wanting to see the gloves dropped and the bikes and helmets all spread around the steaming hot asphalt as we men in shiny sunglasses settle this Birthday Battle as men do.  It’s not right, I tell you.  I, for one, am tired of living in this den of hatred and anger that has been thrust upon us and I will not fight any more!

Can’t we all just get along?  The Big E and me and you and my dog?  Please?  For my birthday?