Volleyball Victory!

sand volleyballI wrote this the Monday (7/23) after the Sunday evening that sees me attend a regular company volleyball league at The Sands, a facility with softball fields and at least 20 sand volleyball courts.

In the summer of my first year at Gannett, I joined the softball team. We did okay but ran into some problems later in the season when we had to forfeit games because not enough people showed.

The next year, I joined one of the two company volleyball teams. We played at Trophies, a bowling alley and volleyball court off of Euclid. The team was boy/girl and each Sunday evening, we played three games against another team.

We had T-shirts with some goofy image that didn’t make sense and didn’t relate to the team name – Chewblockas.

We lost every game. I don’t think we came close to winning, but it was the recreational team, so we were out there to have fun.

This year, I joined the recreational team-as opposed to the competitive team-and we had the interesting team name of Ace Ventura – Spike Detectives, with a T-shirt that has a lama in a pink tutu. The other company team name is the Volley Lamas.

Since not very many people signed up for each team, we’ve had to borrow players from the competitive team.

We’ve lost every game…

…until last night. We finally won!!!

I can now wash my t-shirts.

Oh, I forgot to mention that last year, I decided until we won a game, I wasn’t going to wash the t-shirt. As I said, we lost every game last year. This year started the same and until last night I hadn’t washed the shirt.

Now I can. Yeah, I know pretty blech sounding, but it was my superstition. So, now the shirts can go in the laundry the next time I wash clothes.

I’m sure the world thanks me.

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U & I – Let’s Eat!

downloadRecently, the company introduced Uber Eats. Drivers can sign up to deliver food from restaurants-many of which don’t have delivery-to residences. It’s another way for drivers to stay busy between pickups of people.

As one restaurant owner mentioned, about 40 metro places have signed up. There are two other delivery services in town and they seem to do a good job. However, I’ve stayed busy with delivering food from various places and it’s interesting to note the different restaurants-some of which I never knew existed-from which I’ll pickup food.

A deli.

A Mediterranean place near Drake.

Iowa Tap.

Cool Basil – a lot of pickups from there.

Eat Thai.

Captain Roy’s.

A sandwich shop near 86th.

El Fogon – A popular Mexican place.

Cabo Sol – Another Mexican restaurant

The Mad Meatball.

However, of all the places that have signed on, the one place, or should I say, the one chain of restaurants, I’ve visited the most to pickup food is…McDonald’s. McdI’m amazed. With most of the restaurants, I may travel anywhere up to ten minutes to deliver the food. I understand that. To offices, or homes or apartment buildings. With McD, I may travel only about a mile or so? So, my mind-set is: how lazy are you that you can’t go five or six blocks for a large fry? Seriously, that was one order I picked up. A large fry. Which costs what – a couple bucks, then you spend about six dollars for delivery? I’ve picked up from most of the metro McD’s.

The other issue is finding the person who wants the food. With picking up fares, I can usually be in the general neighborhood or outside the correct door of the condo. With food delivery, some people want me to find the correct apartment. That’s tough sometimes when there reading the building numbers can’t be done because there is no number, or it’s hidden, or the correct building is somewhere within the heart of the complex.

Many people, though, have helped and are right outside ready for the delivery. That’s cool and I appreciate that.

So, next time you’re in Des Moines, order Uber Eats. I may bring some food to you. If you’re wanting McDonald’s, though…get up out of the couch and go for yourself. Sheesh!

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Psychological Hacks

hacksI read the following list on Quora. I’m not sure when I signed up for emails from this site but some of the questions are interesting. Most questions deal with music and most of the music questions are about either the Beatles or Michael Jackson. Why were the Beatles so popular? Did Paul like Yoko? Did John like George? Did Ringo like ice cream? Why was Michael so popular? Why do people like Michael? The same ol’, same ol’ questions that have been answered scores of times.

However, sometimes the inquiries are interesting. Some deal with writing. Bland questions that everybody asks when it comes to fiction writing or else endless question about the top 5, 10, 33 books one should read before one dies.

Then there is the point of this week’s post. I can’t claim credit for the list of answers. That goes to Akshay Vaishnav (and if that’s a real name I pity the person. Lol) The question was: What are 20 psychological hacks? I hope you enjoy them.

  1. When you first meet people, try yo notice their eye color while also smiling at them. It might be because you look for a second or two longer, but all I can tell you is that people will definitely respond to it.
  2. People are extraordinary aware of their sense of touch. If someone (let’s say, a member of the opposite sex) “accidentally” rests their knee (or any part of body) on yours, then let’s say, they know it’s there.
  3. If you make the biggest smile you can, you will automatically feel happier 🙂
  4. The moment your alarm wakes you up, immediately react by sitting up, pump your fists and shout ‘yeah’ !
  5. Pay attention to peoples’s feet. If you approach two people in a middle of a conversation, and they only turn their torsos and not their feet, they don’t want you to join the conversation. Similarly if you are in a conversation with others who you think are paying attention to you, and their torso is turned towards you but their feet are facing in another direction, they want the conversation to end.
  6. Foot-in-the-door phenomenon. People are more likely to agree to do a task for you if you ask them to do something simpler first.
  7. If you ask someone to do you a small favor, cognitive dissonancewill unconsciously make them believe that, because they did that favor, they must like you.
  8. If you ask someone a question and they only partially answer, just wait. If you stay silent and keep eye contact, they will usually continue talking.
  9. Chew gum when you’re approaching a situation that makes you nervous, like public speaking or asking out a girl (well in my case). Apparently if we are eating something, our brains trip and it reasons “I’d not be eating if I were in danger, so I’m not in danger.”
  10. Avoid the sidewalk shuffle by looking intently over the oncoming person’s shoulder, or between people’s heads if it’s a group. Your gaze shows them where you are going. They will drift toward the opposite or create a gap to avoid you.
  11. When you are studying/learning something new, teach a friend how/about it. Let them ask questions. If you are able to teach something well, you understand it.
  12. People will remember you not by what you said but by how you made them feel.
  13. If you get yourself to be really happy and excited to see other people, they will react the same to you. It doesn’t always happen the first time, but it will definitely happen next time.
  14. When people are angry at me; if I stay calm, it’ll get them even angrier and be ashamed about it after.
  15. If you have a warm hand when you shake somebody’s hand, you immediately become a more desirable person to get along with.
  16. False attribution of arousal also known as the “suspension bridge effect”: When you take somebody out on a first date, take them somewhere exciting that will get their heart beating e.g.roller coaster, a horror film, or a suspension bridge. This gets their adrenaline up. It makes them think they enjoy spending time with you rather than the activity 😉
  17. The key to confidence is walking into a room, and assuming everyone already likes you.
  18. Refer to people you have just met by their name. People love being referred to by their name, and it will establish a sense of trust and friendship right away.
  19. Studies show that when people are presented with a list of options they are most likely to pick whatever is first. The same is shown to hold true for voting.
  20. For interviews alter your psychological state beforehand. Tell yourself “I have known these people all my life. We are old friends catching up. I can’t wait to see them.” Visualize the experience, shaking hands, making eye contact, having conversation. What things can you not wait to tell them? Hold an open pose, stand with your legs apart, hands on your hips, and shoulders back when you do this and SMILE. This may sound cliche but you are in charge of your own psychological state and the power of suggestions is strong.
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Retreat!

lw_lodgeIn early June, I attended the annual retreat at the Langwood Educational Center a couple miles east of Grandview, IA. It’s a place where writers and artists of various kinds gather to discuss their crafts.

This year saw a seminar on no line poetry, one line poetry, and two line poetry, along with trilets and triplet type poetry. You think a poem can’t have any lines? You mean to say a poem can be just a title that says it all? Hmm…

Other seminars included watercolors, discussions about story plots, critique groups, short stories, how to use sensory information in stories, and an intro yoga class where participants sat in chairs to do the stretches.

Around a dozen or so attended with some coming for a seminar, then departing.

lw_dormThe weekend started on Friday afternoon and lasted until Sunday afternoon. Those who didn’t stay in motels could stay in the A-frame where cots were provided. A couple brought tents.

While the weekend was fun and informative, we did have to contend with 90+ temps throughout the days. Yes, the main shelter house was air conditioned, but the sleeping quarters weren’t. The nights cooled down enough that my small fan inside the tent kept me comfortable. And I was up for morning runs at 5:30. Yes, I sweat, but I felt good afterward.

People enjoyed the fire ring, s’mores, good food and conversation. I had to depart by noon to be able to do my normal Sunday activities before I went to play volleyball. Unfortunately, I had missed the email stating there wouldn’t be games because of Father’s Day. So, I could have stayed at the camp longer. The good thing was the facilitator emailed a copy of the information for the seminar I missed.

There will be another retreat in October, but this one will be more of a true retreat. People show up, congregate for meals, but for the most part, find their own space and work on their own material. Editing stories, creating new poems. Some just sit by the fire, relax, and do nothing. There are no seminars and no schedule. Last year, I was able to finish editing one of my Mallory Petersen stories. This year, I want to edit another in the series.

There was talk of moving the weekend for the spring retreat to earlier, but for now, it’s scheduled for June of ’19.

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U & I: Long Trips

long tripSometimes passengers will ask me what my longest trip has been. I usually tell them about the hour run from the airport to Grinnell one late Saturday night. Or the one from West Des Moines to the Grinnell. Or the few times I’ve taken people up to Ames. Or the run from the airport up to Ames, then back to the airport because the passenger had forgotten his identification.

That last one was interesting because the weather was fine until we hit Ames, then snow started falling. On the way back, we were caught in a three mile single lane backup because of an accident. We were hoping we wouldn’t miss his flight. However, I had just turned onto Martin Luther King when he discovered his flight had been delayed because of the bad weather. That trip was a bit over 90 minutes.

I’ve heard of Uber drivers taking passengers from Des Moines to Kansas City, from DM to St. Louis, and from DM to Springfield, IL. One driver has a monthly agreement to take a guy to Chicago for business.

Until today (the day of this writing, June 11), I haven’t had a really long trip. I’m on vacation this week so I thought I’d drive for a couple days before other commitments take me out of town for the rest of the week. This morning I was checking out car dealers, just looking at what vehicles might be out there. Late morning I decided to turn on the app and drive for a while until I had to head down to Oskaloosa for class. A bit after one, I checked and discovered I hadn’t made but about $20 in a couple hours. I was a bit disappointed.

Then I received a call on Northeast 14th. I thought the passenger was was at one of the two motels in that area, but when I looked again, I saw she was next door, at a trucking company. I called to make sure and she said she was just coming out after a restroom break. She had two pieces of luggage, so I assumed we were headed for the airport. I confirmed her name and started the trip. I waited to see her destination, and to confirm what I thought.

The app was a bit slow in coming up, but I saw the time it was going to take to reach her destination and the first part said 3 hours. What?

“Where are we going?”

“Dodge Center, Minnesota,” she answered.

Oh no. Wow, I wasn’t expecting that. That meant six hours driving time. That meant I wouldn’t make it to class. That meant if I was going to take this trip, I needed to call my assistant instructor and see if he could handle class by himself.

He could, so, I took a deep breath and hit the interstate.

Dodge Center, MN. Look it up. About 2700 people, located about 20 miles west of Rochester. She napped most of the way. I took one restroom break and grabbed some food. We rolled in about 4. She grabbed her paperwork, then she had to lead me to her destination.

Oh, I forgot to mention her occupation. She is a truck driver who delivers trucks. She takes buses and Uber to reach her next pickup point.

I dropped her off, turned off the app and started for home. One stop for gas and I made it back to the house around 7:30. Tired. Going to bed after I finish this blog and upload it to be scheduled to post.

Yeah, it was pretty good money. Made about what I’d make for driving several hours on a Friday night and most of a Saturday afternoon.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

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Martial Arts Testing

ATA logThis will post the day after I will hopefully have completed and passed my third midterm testing.

As most of you know, I am part of the American Taekwondo Association and a 5th Degree Black Belt. Ive been a 5th Degree for about 12 years and I decided it was time to get serious about testing for 6th. Part of the requirements are that I pass 3 midterm tests. I passed the first one several years ago. A few years ago, I failed in my second midterm. Back in February, I finally passed that second midterm. I need one more successful midterm.

My goal was to test down at Little Rock during the annual World Expo. Testing was yesterday at 7 am. Yes. That freakin’ early. The previous time I tested down there testing started at 10 am.

Anyway, should I be successful, I then can continue training to test for 6th next year. Should I not be successful, I have two more opportunities to pass the third midterm: one in Sioux Falls in October and next year’s camp in February.

How do I feel about testing at the time of this writing? Pretty good. The form is pretty solid with minor issues that I will continue to work on. Then there’s the sparring part of the test. I feel pretty goo about that. Board breaking is next and I’m a bit anxious. Not because I don’t have confidence I can break the boards, but rather that I worried about the quality of the boards used. At the testing they bring out fresh new, out of the box boards. Which are like breaking oak. Maybe I’ll be one of the last testing and others can, uh, break them in a bit. Lol.

The final part of test is the physical fitness test. Pushups, situps, a series of kicks, a series of hand/kick combination, and a series of punches.

So, the morning of this writing, I learned that I need to pace myself. Slow down on everything. Keep the good power, but start slower, move slower, take some needed pauses to maintain the power. It can be done and I will  be working on it the next few weeks. Then I have to stay focused enough to maintain that pace and not let the adrenaline rush me into rushing through everything and tiring too soon.

I’ve been excited about regular workouts and training and being able to test. I hope to have good news on this front when I return from Little Rock.

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Alpha, reborn

I wanted to tease everyone.

A couple years ago, my publisher ran into some health problems. and she has not recovered enough to keep the business going. So, this year it will close. Which means Alpha was destined to become an unpublished book.

However, good news. I found a new publisher and soon, good things will happen. Alpha will be scheduled for re-publishing with maybe a new cover and a couple of corrections (At least one spelling error and a street name will be fixed).

I also wanted to tease everybody that Beta, the first book in the Mallory Petersen series, will also be released later this year (if everything works out). And if you’re confused about Beta  being the first and not Alpha, technically it is and it isn’t. Ask me and I’ll explain. Beta has been out of print (and when I say print, I mean not published) for several years and it’s high time it came back on the market. It went through a professional editing process so it’s cleaner, tighter, and better looking. It will also have a new cover.

Meanwhile, I wanted to give you a small hint of what Mallory faces in Alpha. Look for promotions here and many other places.

Excerpt:

ALPHA

On a rainy October morning, Mallory Petersen, private detective and martial artist, discovers the corpse of her boyfriend, Bobby Furillo, in front of her office in Des Moines. Bucking police authority and continually attacked by unknown adversaries, Mallory uncovers Bobby’s devastating secrets. Each new revelation puts Mallory in deeper peril from powerful and dangerous people. And just what are those enigmatic RSVP cards that keep showing up in Mallory’s mail?

Murder takes but a single bullet.

I later learned a .45 caliber ended the life of Bobby Furillo, but I could have provided a reasonable guess upon seeing his body. I stood on the sidewalk under a dirty white protective awning as the October sky dumped enough rain on which even Noah would have commented. I did not envy the score of officers, forensics experts, and paramedics moving quickly, trying to protect both the corpse and the crime scene from the elements.

Dressed in jeans and sweater under a Sam Spade trench coat and hat, I shivered, horrified, but I couldn’t stop staring as it all unfolded before me.

Bobby’s body lay crumpled upon the wet asphalt in the parking lot next to my office building. Blood from the massive exit hole in the back disappeared in thin colored streams. Red tinged water saturated and darkened his jeans, a leather jacket, and a striped button down shirt. The expression on the once handsome face showed a combination of surprise and shock, blended together to form an image too tragic for anybody to want to remember, but one I’ll never forget.

I also couldn’t stop looking at the half dozen roses thrown aside at the moment of death. Rain battered mercilessly, detaching petals at random, sending them swirling into the gutter and on down the street to disappear in a soon to be overflowing sewer entrance.

Bobby had stopped by my office to take me to lunch and he wanted to bring me flowers.

Instead, when I drove into the parking lot, I’d discovered he’d brought me death and heartache.

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…for an old man.

A few weeks ago I was playing volleyball on my company team. We came the closest we’ve ever come to actually wining our first game after almost a year an half of games. I made the joke that I wouldn’t wash my t-shirt until we won one game. So, last year’s t-shirt is still unwashed as is this year’s. Yeah, I know. But it’s my superstition.

Anyway, on the last point we lost, one of the girls hit the ball up and out of bounds. I ran after thinking maybe I had a shot. I didn’t and we lost. I was complimented for the hustle by someone outside the fence line and I gave him a thumbs up. After the game one of the guys on the opposing team said, “You have good hustle for an old man.”

I’m sorry, but what the hell did that mean? Okay, I was the oldest player out on the court, but what the hell did that mean. I know, I know, he meant it as a complement, but still…

I realized I’ve aged. Nobody has to remind me of that and I wish they wouldn’t. But, I’m still doing the same things I did 25 years ago. I’m still training in martial arts and I’m better at it than I was 25 years ago. That morning I was up in Ames training with my instructor. I’ve been out nearly every morning working out, going for runs, doing pushups and situps, working on my form.

Yeah, I’ve put on some weight in the last 25 years, but I’ve also lost a lot of weight in the last two years. Yeah, I have less hair than I did 25 years ago…and that I can’t deny and do not like it when I look at photos that show the fact. That bums me out. A lot.

I’m not mad at the guy. I’m just a bit depressed. I have enough evidence in my everyday life that shows I’m getting older and some guy telling me so doesn’t help.

Okay, short blog this week written on the day this happened. Thought I’d better get it down before I forget the feeling.

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Sparking Ideas

sparking ideasWhen I saw Jeffrey Deaver at a writers’ conference several years ago, he told a story about how one of his plots was conceived. He’d had an electrician over for some rewiring and Deaver was observing his work. At one point the guy was making a tricky connection and he said he had to be careful not to touch a certain wire or connection or else the result might be fatal. Deaver’s creative mind perked up and he said, “Really? Tell me more.” Or something along those lines. Thus, was the idea behind The Burning Wire.

I can relate. There are many times when I am researching a story an idea will hit me when I listen to somebody talk about something completely different than what my story is about. Or I see something interesting that sparks an idea. Or I visit someplace and note observations and descriptions.

I’ve mentioned several times to people how a scene in Alpha was changed when I visited the Val-Air Ballroom. My original idea was to have Mallory, who sees a woman she’s been looking for, chase her through an empty building. I hadn’t been to the Val-Air in a while, so I visited to write down descriptions. I didn’t think I’d be able to get inside, but I could still remember it from when I had been there in the past.

To keep a longer story short, I ended up walking into a quinceanera, a birthday party for a 15 year old Mexican girl. They go all out for these parties. People and music and food and the cost to rent the Val-Air? I couldn’t imagine.

Anyway, nobody threw me out and probably didn’t notice I was there. I was fortunate to find the manager in his office and was able to obtain a bit more information. Walking out, I thought to myself, “You can’t make up this stuff.” The birthday party was included in the book.

When I, uh, committed a minor infraction by trespassing on railyard property (don’t tell anybody, ok?) to look for descriptions for the climactic scene in Alpha, I found the perfect spot under the East 30th Street Bridge. It was so much better to see it and add some reality to the scene than it would have been if I would have tried to make up the descriptions.

Another example of how people can spark an idea is from a few weeks ago at my writers’ group in Knoxville. I had been trying to come up with the final chapter, the epilogue of the latest novel I’m finishing up. I’d written a series of interludes that progressed in intensity and I wanted to make the final scene the most intense. I couldn’t think of anything for a couple weeks. At the group, I’m listening to the moderator read his selection and he mentioned something about Minneapolis. In my story, I have a character who lives in Minneapolis. The idea quickly formed, and I scribbled down a short outline of that scene. It’s intense, but it also has a bit of humor that I think will be a pretty good way to end the book.

People will give you ideas. Listen to them. Listen to their stories and what they want to discuss. Keep your mind open. A story idea or a new scene or a change of scene may occur.

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U & I: Talk Talk

talkWhen I pick up passengers I leave it up to them whether they want to talk during the ride. Many times, the only words I hear are hello, a confirmation of the name, and a confirmation of the destination. They’re silent the entire trip with maybe a thanks at the end.

Some passengers want to chat about me and they ask the usual questions of how long I’ve been driving and where I live. Most passengers will talk to each other about the event they’re going to, what happened at the place they just left, or other things in their lives.

I don’t mind silence or if they want to talk. I feel I’m helpful to visitors to Des Moines who are looking for interesting places to visit, restaurants to try or discussing things in my life they ask about. Since I’m a published author, sometimes I have a chance to promote my books. I’ve even sold a book to a guy when I had a box of books in the back of the car.

There are times, though when I wonder if the passengers realize, or care I can hear most of what is being said. Sure, there are times when couples talk low and I don’t hear things, and that’s fine. Some of the topics that are discussed…well, maybe those should be kept for another time and place. On the other hand, the apathy about my hearing them could be because we’ll probably never see each other again so it doesn’t matter it If overhear.

I don’t mind if people talk about themselves…for the most part. I’m not interested in certain topics. For instance, the guy who was going to his probation officer told me that’s where we were going. I wouldn’t have known his purpose or recognized the building if he hadn’t announced it. Then he proceeded to explain a lot of the crimes he’d committed. Not major felonies but I’d keep DWI and check kiting to myself.

I’ve heard gossip and family history. About a guy who started out pretty well until after college when he started drinking and taking narcotics. About how the ex-boyfriend treated a girl. A guy almost discussed his marital problems but decided against it and then made me an offer to lay a hundred bucks down for me at the roulette table at the casino. Red or black, my choice. If I won, I’d get $200. If I lost, I’d get nothing. Or I could take a fifty dollar tip right away. I went with the fifty since he was a bit intoxicated.

Some passengers I wish would stay silent because they’ll talk just to talk. And the manner of speaking is irritating. Repetition or subjects that don’t need too much explanation, but they’ll harp on about for five minutes.

I’m okay with people giving me directions, but when I know where I’m going, you don’t need to tell me to turn at the next corner…then left at the next corner…then turn right at the convenience store, etc. I do find it helpful if a passenger will tell me what house to stop at, so I don’t have to look for numbers or try to guess which driveway to turn into. At night it’s a bit difficult.

Some of the drunks get a bit rowdy and exuberant. Had a guy call me Cowboy all the way home. Had a couple girls who were drunk, and we stopped at McDonald’s and they couldn’t decide on an order, then one discovered she’d lost her purse. She figured she’d left it back at the bar. It had her money and license, so she couldn’t drive home the next day to Minnesota until she retrieved it. They spent most of the trip to West Des Moines griping about a guy until we were close to the house when they complained about the lost purse again.

As I mentioned, I don’t mind conversation. Sometimes, I wish the passengers would be a bit more prudent in their choice of topic.

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