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  1. I brought my car in to have a coolant leak fixed, and the engine light was also on (it had been running a bit rough on-and-off for a while), so I had them look at that too. They said it was the catalytic converter and wanted like $3500 to fix it. So wanting to put it off, and figuring it would run for a while at least, I tell them to skip the repair.

    My Dad ends up driving me in to pick it up, and he asks if I want him to stick around. Figuring things will be okay, I say, "nah." So of course the first thing that happens is the paper work isn't ready, and I'm there after all the service guys have gone for the day. I guess they slacked off on the paperwork when I told them earlier that I'd be there the next morning. Surprise! So that gets straightened out after half an hour, thanks to the help of a lovely coed, who is exceptional at her job, and I'm on my way.

    I notice the car is running a bit rough, but I get off the main drag and onto a side-street that leads to my area. So I figure no problems. That's when the car begins going slower and slower no matter how hard I push on the gas pedal. And by the time I've been going 2mph for a block and a half, I decide that I'm just not going to make it. So I pull over, call the dealership--thank goodness I remembered my cell phone--and arrange a tow through a number they give me.

    For the next forty-five minutes, I end up sunbathing in my car, while a hundred plus people whiz past from the local train station, no doubt wondering what the heck is up.

    After all, I was stopped in kind of an odd place. It was by a line of trees and bushes across from a park. Thank god I wasn't wearing a trench coat or one of the cops that passed probably would have hauled me in.

    So Ernie's Towing arrives and gets me back to the dealer, where I realize I'm either going to have to eat the cost of the repair and hope things stop going wrong with the vehicle or start thinking about a replacement. So, to keep a medium story medium, I end up going back the next day and getting one of their cheaper models.

    I ended up with a basic Focus, which took a chunk out of my savings. On the positive side though, if I end up homeless, I'll have a newer car to live in at least. Ah . . . that new car smell. Also, they included the price of the coolant-leak fix in my trade-in value, so I didn't have to pay for that.

    And it might be perfect timing--or fate is just messing with me--but I got a call back on my latest job application. The phone interview seemed to go okay, and now we're moving on to the next steps.

    That reminds me, I need to get one of those big-and-not-so-tall suits to use for any potential interviews and my nephew's upcoming wedding. I'm thinking of getting one like Mr. Furley used to wear on Three's Company, hehe.
  2. Just something that came out when I was thinking about this year's NaNo.

    The call of phantom trumpets heralded the arrival of my guest, who appeared amidst a puff of sulfurous, purple smoke. The tiny, potbellied pig opened his mouth to speak, but was quickly overcome by his smoggy surroundings and launched into a fit of coughing, which managed to unseat his top-hat. I calmly watched as it rolled to a stop on my kitchen table, then waited for him to regain some composure.

    “Must you be so dramatic?” I asked, eyes beginning to water from the fumes.

    “You know,” he began, and was briefly interrupted as the smoke detector chirped a greeting. “You may have a point there.” Then he let out a squeak-like sneeze, which sent his rose-colored glasses sliding half-way down his black snout.

    “Gesundheit,” I offered, while he fussed with the glasses. “So, Mortimus, what brings you to my kitchen on a Sunday night?”

    Mortimus settled the top-hat back upon his porcine noggin, taking care to make sure it rested at its usual, jaunty angle. Then, satisfied that his accouterments were back in order, he beamed a pearly-white smile in my direction. “Oh, I just stopped by to offer moral support for the NaNo kickoff tomorrow.”

    “Just to offer moral support?” I inquired, having noticed his surreptitious glance at my late-night snack.

    “Um . . . well . . . that and the Funyuns. You're not going to finish them, are you?”

    A sigh slipped from between my lips. “You can have the rest, but I'm not going to fry any bacon for you again. It just creeps me out to no end.”

    Tiny feet clicked against the tabletop as Mortimus made his way to the paper plate and the remaining Funyuns. “You are such a wuss,” he muttered, before happily crunching away on the onion-flavored treats.

    I rolled my eyes and thought back to two weeks ago, when I had asked a clear, night sky for help in getting me through this year's NaNo. In truth, an otherworldly, cannibalistic pig with a flair for the dramatic, and a Funyun obsession, wasn't what I had been hoping for at the time, but it's certainly what I ended up with.

    Mortimus derailed my train of thought with a hearty burp. “You got any soda?” he asked.

    “You mean, pop, right?”

    Now it was his turn to roll his eyes. “You're so Midwestern, you know that?”

    I got up to head for the fridge. And as I went, an old adage played through my mind. “Be careful what you wish for.” Smiling, I removed a pop from the fridge for my helper.
  3. (Prologue: Struggles to write something)

    Well, you can stop struggling now, can't you?


    I mean, you did just write something. Didn't you?

    “Um, yah. I guess so.”

    So the struggle is over! Long live the revolution!

    “Just who the hell are you?!?”

    Quite obviously, I'm a voice in your head.

    “In my head?”

    Well, if I was a voice in someone else's head, just how the heck would you be hearing me?

    “ESP, I suppose.”

    Are you telling me you're psychic?

    “No, not that I know of at least.”

    And thus, ipso facto, I am a voice in your head, and only in your head.

    “Ipso whato?”

    I don't even have a head, and I think I'm starting to get a headache.

    “That makes two of us.”

    Now you're trying to tell me that you don't have a head?

    “Of course I have a head-”

    And trust me when I say it's cramped in here, with an annoying tendency to echo. . . .

    “Ya know . . . for a voice in my head, you sure are a pain in the ass.”

    To be honest, there really isn't much else to do when you're a voice in someone's head. I find that liberal amounts of sarcasm helps pass the time.

    “You wanna know what else helps pass the time?”

    Going to the local art museum where we can have in-depth discussions about modern art and what it portends for society as a whole?

    “Actually, I was thinking of having a few drinks.”

    Well, that might not be such a bad idea after all. A nice bottle of wine and conversation by the fire.

    “Sure, sure. I'll drive us to the liquor store if you don't mind.”

    That's a good idea, seeing as I can't quite reach the peddles, the radio, or the steering wheel for that matter.

    (Thirty minutes later at the liquor store)

    I believe that sign denotes that the “fine wines” are off to the left. . . . Why exactly are you heading to the right?

    “Oh, you'll see.”

    Hmm, I've never seen wine in a two-gallon jug before. . . . Is that wine in a box? Wait, what are you picking out?

    “It's called, Cisco, and you're gonna love it.”

    In that case, maybe we should get two bottles.

    “Now that's the first sensible thing you've said all night.”

    (Epilogue: One and a half bottles of Cisco wine are more than enough to get back at a sarcastic voice in your head. However, their consumption may also “get back” at other things like your esophagus, stomach lining, intestines, liver, newly painted drywall, and the finish on your expensive wood flooring.)
  4. This has been edited somewhat, but I posted the earlier version in response to someone who likes mushrooms. ;)

    Did you know. . . .

    The word "Mushroom" can be unscrambled to form "Rus H. Moom." Coincidentally enough, Rus H. Moom is the name of a not-so-famous inventor of late 19th century Indiana, who was looking into industrial uses for boogers. (Note the similarity in consistency here.) After several failed experiments, one of which escaped and devoured an outlying suburb of Indianapolis, Rus hit on the idea of an alternative food product.

    Being the time of history that it was, test marketing revealed that people weren't really too fond of eating boogers, with the exception of the sub six-year-old population, who really didn't have much say when it came to putting food on the table anyway. Further research also revealed that people weren't ready to eat scientifically-manufactured foodstuffs at this point in time either. So Rus went into creative thinking mode. Then it came to him one day after reading a VERY advanced (By 125 years or so) copy of the “Da Vinci Code”.

    "A SECRET SOCIETY!" Rus shouted, nearly giving his cat, Matilda, a heart-attack.

    Thus was born the "Gufnus Society". The Gufnus society eventually succeeded in genetically combining boogers and the muck that gathers under the fridge to form a stable, plant-like life form. Through their world wide distribution network, Gufnus then covertly placed their creation throughout every forest in the world, birthing a new, and all natural (wink wink, nudge nudge), gastronomical treat, which they called "Mushrooms." With their worldwide distribution network already in place, Gufnus was ready to take advantage of the new culinary craze and reaped multi-million dollar profits by taking advantage of an uninformed public.

    Thus, if I were to eat mushrooms, I would be eating really gross stuff and supporting big evil corporations. So, I consider it my civic duty to abstain from these tempting morsels.
  5. This is a story I wrote about my first experience with bottling home brew.

    Well, I went and did it. I brewed up a five gallon batch of (magic) beer and it should be done fermenting. So the night before my scheduled bottling day I decided to wash the bottles, using the cleaning solution and bristly bottle-cleaner thing that came with my brewing kit. Oh my god! I'm so glad I did this the night before. Because if I had waited to actually do it on the same day, I probably would have quit, gone to the park out in back of my house, and blown up my brewing supplies like the army does with enemy arms caches. But I did it the night before which means I'm smart . . . or really lucky in a dumb sort of way. I'll settle for either.

    At my command, I had 48, 12 ounce bottles that I bought from the brew shop and 4 more that I collected (good excuse to drink expensive beer) from a 6 pack of Magic Hat No. 9. (Okay, while not the most expensive beer, it's still more expensive than my usual Busch Light.) These would equal the 53 bottles that the kit said I would need. . . . Right you are, 48 plus 4 does not equal 53, and I didn't realize this until I was half-way done filling the bottles. Luckily, it wouldn't matter. But my first grade teacher has probably risen from the grave as a math-book-wielding zombie, who is now in the lurching process of hunting me down for a whopping.

    Anyway, I filled my leaky bottling bucket with water and added the cleaning powder, ending with a solution that was slightly less caustic than the blood of the creatures in the Alien movies. Yah, I might be exaggerating . . . a little. I then used that to partially fill the bottles and scrub them out using the bristly bottle-cleaner thing. Unfortunately, the bottle brush is the size of a small shrubbery and balks at going into the tiny opening of a twelve ounce bottle. (Hears the perverts snickering in the background). Basically, it requires the force generated by NASA's early rockets just to get the damn thing in the bottle. Once in the bottle, however, the shrubbery-brush does a wonderful job. It was only when withdrawing the brush for the first time that I realized how adept bristles are at springing back into their original positions and launching a virulent spray of cleaning solution over everything within a meter of ground zero. (I'm melting!) And so, cleaning the rest of the bottles went something like the following: me running across the kitchen, leaping into the air and driving the cleaning brush downward into the bottle like a fat samurai dispatching his foe; followed by some placid scrubbing time (queue relaxing music); and ending with me, eyes tightly shut in a sissy-like manner, yanking the brush out and being enveloped in a noxious cloud that no doubt shaved time off my lifespan with each breath. It was over in an hour . . . thank goodness.

    Then it was bottling day!

    I started by opening the fermenter lid to see if the batch was okay, hoping it didn't smell funky and/or look like it was wearing an angora sweater. Actually, I started by praying to the Beer Gods that I didn't screw up when I brewed it in the first place. Then I opened the lid, and . . . ta-da, it looked fine and smelled like warm beer. So I took a measurement to see if it was done fermenting, and it was. That meant bottling day was a go!

    While sanitizing the bottles, I realized that my bottling bucket was still suffering from chronic incontinence, which meant things were probably going to be a little messy. This turned out to be a rather prophetic statement, or more accurately a prophetic understatement.

    I added the priming solution to the bottling bucket and began to siphon the contents of the fermenter over. This was one of the highlights of the day, seeing as I got the siphon to work without a hitch. As expected, though, once the level rose above 2.5 gallons in the bottling bucket, it decided it had to tinkle. So I moved a bowl over to catch the . . . sob . . . wasted beer. Once the siphon was over and I got through gawking at the yucky-looking, yeast layer lining the bottom of the fermenter, I hefted the bottling bucket onto the counter while simultaneously trying to move the wasted-beer bowl over with my foot. Now with my being as coordinated as your average uncoordinated person, there were of course numerous splatters of beer on the floor by the time I finally got the bowl into the correct position. But now I could start filling the bottles!

    So I hooked one end of the hose to the spigot and the other to the bottle filling wand. The bottling wand, for those not familiar, is a tube with a valve at one end that allows liquid to flow through when it is pressed down, but stops when it's lifted. A very neat contraption. . . . (Editor's Note: You might be a redneck if you think a bottling wand is “a very neat contraption.”)

    Due to the length of the hose I was using (insert wiener joke of your choice here), I had to fill the bottles at floor level. I hereby vow that if I ever make beer again, I will find something to boost the bottling bucket higher in order to avoid this. Because as good as the fat-man crouching on the floor to fill bottles image is for ratings, it's still hell on the fat-man. Talk about aches, it was like beer-bottling aerobics or something. Needless to say, between bouts of frequent swearing and spasms of agony, I filled a number of bottles and set them aside for capping. I also managed to overfill several during that time, further anointing the floor with my inaugural batch of beer. Deciding I would then cap what I had filled so far, and hoping I would be able to feel my left leg again in the process, I stood up and promptly activated the bottling wand by brushing the tip of it with my right ankle. This of course rewarded me with a warm-beer footbath, and contributed significantly to the growing pool on the kitchen floor. (A voice from far in the future: “Yes children, Lake Beer was formed near Chicago during October of 2009.”)

    Eventually, I got all 48 bottles filled—or mostly filled. See, I didn't need 53 bottles! Take that, beer kit! Hah! But there were probably two bottles worth of beer between the wasted-beer bowl and Lake Beer. Sigh! Cleaning was fun in a really awful, gosh I hope I never have to do this again sort of way. But now my bottled beer is safely ensconced in the tub of the extra bathroom. I even closed the plexiglass shower doors in case any of the bottles decide they want to become grenades due to over carbonation.

    Two more weeks and it should be ready to drink! Woot!