Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Captain's Log, Day 182: Playing *With* Possum

          The night started out pretty normally. I got into a rather heated Halo match with Shorty, wound up in a rather heated debate with her about the properties of laser sword feasibility on the subsequent victory run to Long John Silvers, got my shin kicked repeatedly when I bought her food and managed to get the cashier to think we were dating (a running joke by this point), and...
          ...and, come to think of it, this was really only normal for me. Unless the rest of you had pretend midget girlfriends/wives (it varied) in college.
          One further note: the "pretend" part was regarding the relationship status, not the height. Totally a midget. Hence the shin-kicking.
          Anyway, the real fun started when I managed to steal her phone and send a text from it to a secondary number of mine.
          "YEEK! Radar, gimme that back!" Shorty demanded.
          "Yeah, yeah, give me a second," I said absently. The table was wide enough to prevent a sudden onslaught from the other side, so I had a moment.
          That's not to say she didn't think about launching herself across like a very tiny Radar-seeking missile, but since there would be a certain launch time associated with that while she climbed up on the table, she settled for giving me the evil eye instead. "Well, good thing I password-locked it."
          I finished the text and flipped the phone around. "You mean the password I guessed on the second try?"
          Shorty closed her eyes in mock pain. "You know me too well."
          "As your kill/death ratio in Halo would indicate," I agreed, tossing her phone back across the table. "You may receive an interesting text in a few moments."
          "What did you do?"
          "Texted a friend of mine," I lied. Actually, I had some research to do on a book, and I wanted to see if I could write well enough as someone else to fool one who knew me. Hence, Shorty. Stealthily, I pulled out my phone and texted her back.
          She unlocked her phone. "What did you--RADAR!!!!!"
          I snickered. "It's a conversation starter!"
          "Well, now this guy is going to think I'm crazy!" she complained.
          *BZZ*
          She read the text. "Oh. Wait. Never mind. He knows I'm crazy."
          "Really? How so?" I asked innocently.
          She made a face at me. "Because I hang out with you."
          "Fair point," I conceded, confident she hadn't guessed that is was me.
          (She never figured it out--until I told her a year later, anyway. Definitely my longest-running prank of all time. She didn't believe me either until I sent her the screenshots of the account information for that phone number!)
          We finished the meal with more debate about various random things--arguing about everything was pretty much our favorite pastime--and headed back to college. Once there, I remembered to finally take my racquetball gear out of the car. A fateful decision, as it turned out.
          "What are you planning on doing with that?" Shorty asked as I slammed the door shut.
          "Teach you how to play!" I announced, striking an exaggerated pose.
          She snorted and kept walking, back towards her apartment. "Yeah, no. First off, I already know how--"
          "THEN I CHALLENGE!" I whooped.
          "And second off, just no. I've heard stories--I'm too young to die!"
          "Wuss."
          "No, just smar--hey, is that a cat?"
          I looked where she was pointing. Two glowing eyes stared back at us from under a nearby car. I frowned. "Hmm, something seems off for a cat."
          "It's totally a cat," Shorty said positively and made several clicking sounds. "Here, kitty, kitty, kit--holy crap!"
          I burst out laughing as the "cat" whipped around and retreated, exposing a very long and very bare tail. "Yeah, that's a possum!"
          "Shut up," Shorty suggested, red-faced.
          "Make me," I returned, already rushing forward. "Come on! It went under that car there!"
          "Why are we following the giant rodent?" she asked, hanging back in a manner justifying my "wuss" comment previously.
          "Rodents of unusual size? I don't believe they exist," I quoted. "But to answer your question, I want to catch it."
          "Oh, great." Shorty crouched, muttering something about frogs.
          I ignored her and dropped down as well. "Man, it's going to be hard to get it out from there." I pulled out my phone and snapped a picture, spooking it. "--there it goes!"
          "Behind the fan!" Shorty announced, getting into the chase in spite of herself. (Admittedly, she probably thought there wasn't a chance I would actually catch it.)
          I sighed and hopped back up. "It's an AC unit, you...you...um...math major!"
          She burst out laughing.
          I scurried around the car in hot pursuit. Peeking over the top of the unit, I saw a pointy snout, so I took another picture. After a moment's study, I took my best guess at where his tail was, dropped the phone, and dove. There was a scream.
          But not from me.
          "You caught it youcaughtitholycrapareyouINSANE??" Shorty yelped as I dragged the reluctant rodent out.
          I snagged one of my discarded rackets just in time to prevent the hissing beast from biting my leg. "See? Piece of cake. Take a picture!"
          The possum resigned itself to its fate and stopped struggling, giving both of us the evil eye. Shorty picked up my phone semi-reluctantly and snapped a few pictures. "You're crazy."
          "Yep," I agreed. "Okay, back up, I'm letting him go."
          Shorty retreated with a speed normally associated with ballistic missiles. I let go of Mr. Possum's tail. He declined the possibility of a rematch and took off like a shot into the darkness.
          I held out my hand for my phone. "You know, if these don't turn out, we'll have to catch him again--"
          "Oh hell no!" Shorty giggled.
          Fortunately for her sanity, she did get a good one.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Captain's Log, Day 181: Siege of the Basketballs

          Radar wasn't really paying attention to what he was doing (which wasn't really unusual for him, per se). It was just another day at college--planning what homework to do next, bantering with his lab partners, unloading a siege engine from the back of a truck, dropping an electric motor--
          "GAH!"
          Radar noticed the motor slipping off the tailgate at the last second, but lunged forward too late to stop it. In desperation, he did the next best thing; throwing his leg forward to try to catch it with his foot. Now, he was decently strong, but still not strong enough to stop a thirty-pound motor falling at (what seemed to be) a significant fraction of the speed of light.
          THUD.
          "OW!"
          "What happened?" Liz asked, rounding the corner.
          Radar carefully removed the motor from his foot before beginning his traditional just-broke-his-foot dance. "Motor slipped! Ah, blast blast blast--"
          "You can swear. We don't mind," Phil offered generously.
          "Why didn't you move your foot?" Kaci asked.
          Radar paused his dance to look quizzically at her. "I did. Right under the motor."
          "I think she meant out of the way," Liz clarified
          "Why would I do that? This motor is a rental," Radar pointed out. "My foot will heal. The motor won't."
          Phil snickered and went back to unloading. "Good point."
          The girls were looking a little concerned. "Did you break it?" Kaci asked.
          Radar made a face at his foot. "Probably."
          "Do you need to go to the hospital?" Liz clarified as Radar picked up the motor and limped of with it.
          "Do I look crazy?" he shot back over his shoulder.
          "Yes," everyone said in unison.
          The point was fair. The three of them had known Radar for almost two years now--ever since he'd started taking college classes the year before, at sixteen. He quickly became known for two things: the fact that he ran everywhere, and his interesting additions to all laboratory experiments. Also, for sticking his hand in a beaker of hydrochloric acid when he mistook it for water, to the amazement of Liz (who was his lab partner at the time). By this point, though, everyone just accepted the fact that he was indestructible and let him take lead on all potentially hazardous experiments.
          The project they were working on was their spring design project for physics: building a siege engine. The project originally started with three constraints--be able to launch a basketball two hundred and fifty feet, fire five times in twenty minutes, and be constructed for less than one hundred dollars--but after an overenthusiastic Radar had showed up to a meeting with twenty designs utilizing everything from gunpowder to compressed air to massive springs, their prudent professor had outlawed all chemical, compression, and torsion methods. He clearly hoped to steer them towards some form of gravity as their propulsion system (as in a traditional trebuchet type of thing), but Radar had other ideas.
          Liz, Phil, and Kaci were less enthusiastic about his brainstorm, but they admitted the coolness factor and the uniqueness of the project were definitely pluses. Besides, Radar's prototype had almost put out a lightbulb with a ping-pong ball, so they were pretty confident it would work in some fashion.
          Once they got their siege engine assembled, Radar ran a quick systems check and declared it functional. The others decided to run their own checks, just in case. Radar mock-indignantly demanded to know why he wasn't trusted; Phil pointed out that Radar's prototype had almost taken his head off and burned out all the electronics within it. Radar promptly informed him that a) Phil should have ducked and b) the electronics were Radar's anyway and he'd been curious to see what would happen if he hooked them up to a car battery (and the results had been totally worth it). Kaci agreed on that last point, and Liz suggested that--since this was Radar's brainchild anyway and he was the one most likely to survive any incidents--he should be the one to fire it first. He agreed enthusiastically, and the lab team stored the project in a nearby building and disbanded for the night.
          The next day dawned bright and early for all of them. Well, earlier for the other teams, who had to put together their massive trebuchets, while Team Radar ("We are NOT calling ourselves that," Liz informed the self-dubbed "mascot" between giggle fits) just had to drag their machine out onto the field. Their professor, who was overseeing everything, raised an eyebrow at the contraption.
          "You built that for a hundred bucks?" he asked, a little incredulously.
          "Eighty," Radar said proudly. "The motors were lent to us for free."
          "Plus, Radar has the entire Menards store at his house, apparently," Liz added parenthetically (and a little jealously).
          He shook his head. "I think we'll have you guys go last. That looks like it might destroy the basketballs after a few shots."
          "Hey, keeping them in one piece was never part of the design specs," Phil pointed out hastily.
          Professor burst out laughing. "That's true!"
          They had to wait forty minutes for their turn. Team One's engine could really hurl the ball, but their accuracy was a bit lacking--they got off six shots in twenty minutes, and landed them in a 100-foot diameter area. Team Two did a bit better; they got off seven shots, and landed them in a comparatively tighter fifty-foot circle. Then, it was the third team's turn.
          "So, explain to us how this works," Professor invited them.
          Radar took a step back, trying to get behind his teammates (he hated public speaking). Kaci noticed and caught his arm. "Nuh uh. This is your idea."
          "Yeah, go for it!" Phil said mischievously.
          "I hate you," Radar muttered before taking a breath. "Okay, this is our siege engine--emphasis on engine. It's powered by two electric motors, which spin in opposite directions. The wheels on top, which I stole from Dad's old broken snowblower, grip the basketball and use their rotational inertia, plus the motor power, to fire the ball."
          "Like a massive pitching machine," Liz added helpfully.
          Radar paused, mouth open. "Why didn't I think of that?"
          "I thought that was your idea in the first place," Kaci said, confused.
          He shook his head. "No, but it should have been."
          "So how do you keep the motors from being ripped off the mountings?" Professor asked curiously.
          "Ah. That's the brilliant part," Liz said. "Radar came up with this system--"
          "--with some help from my dad," Radar interjected honestly.
          "--to have the motors on hinges," Liz continued, ignoring him. "The motors are on springs, holding the wheels as close as possible. When the ball is fed through, it forces the wheels apart. The springs help the wheels grip the ball, and pull the motors back together after the ball is fired."
          Professor still looked dubious. "Well..give it a shot."
          "Pun intended?" Radar asked, snatching up the power cords. "Alrighty, stand back!"
          The motors fired up, spinning the wheels insanely fast. Radar caught the ball Kaci tossed him, crossed his fingers, and rolled it up the ramp.
          ZWIPTHUD.
          The ball went hurtling off towards the target, landing about twenty feet in front of it. Radar rolled ball #2. ZWIPTHUD. The ball zipped through the wheels, the motors thudded back together, and the second shot landed almost directly on top of the same spot at the first one.
          "Okay, I so wanna try this," Phil said, grinning.
          "One more?" Radar pleaded, having already launched three and four.
          Phil ignored him and took a ball. "Shot five away!"
          The team continued an almost constant stream of fire, with short breaks to adjust angles and discuss distance to target. They managed to get within ten feet, but couldn't get any further forward, since they had a pretty limited adjustment angle to work with. Radar made a note of that for their report.
          The team totally nailed the five times in twenty minutes part, though--they fired over a hundred times in total. "Plus," Kaci noted, "we're technically the most accurate. All our shots are right on top of each other."
          "Except for that pop fly I did," Radar giggled. "That almost hit me."
          "How did you do that?" Liz asked.
          Radar demonstrated. "Just bounce the ball off the track so the wheels pop it up, and not forward."
          Phil burst out laughing. "I want to try!"
          The basketballs were definitely worn out by the time their twenty minutes was up. Professor ordered a general teardown and cleanup, and the teams set to work. Radar, curious about his grade, approached his professor. "How did we do?"
          Liz, Kaci, and Phil joined him, equally curious. Professor took a breath. "Well...I'm going to give you guys an automatic A. I would have bet money that it wouldn't have worked! Very well done!"
          "I still think the cannon would have been cooler," Radar said amidst the general jubilation.
          Professor chuckled. "I don't think we could get away with setting off explosions on a college campus," he said dryly.
          "Touché," Radar admitted and limped back to help with disassembly.
          "So, Radar, what would you have done if we'd gotten the concrete canoe project they had last year?" Liz asked mischievously as they were finishing up.
          Radar cocked an eyebrow at her. "Are you kidding? Weaponize the sucker. Water cannon turret! Hey, what's so funny?"
          His three teammates were laughing too hard to respond.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Captain's Log, Day 180: The Vault Is Secure

          "Okay, okay, I'm ON!"
          My Xbox live partner finally joined the party, giggling slightly at the barrage of texts I'd just sent her. I chuckled. "Well, I spent enough time porting this map onto my Xbox One--you are GOING to see this."
          "I'm excited," Exastris admitted, accepting the game invite I sent her. A moment later, her icon appeared on my map, along with the words Exastris joined Darkfire Ranger. And she was, like, halfway across the map. "Whoa. Did you make these mountains? They're very square! Like big block cliffs!"
          "No, they just spawned like that," I told her. "Let's see--oh, I know where you are. Jump off the side with the water on it. You should survive..."
          "Should?"
          "Well, it took ME a few tried to get it right," I laughed. "I'll come over to meet you. Look for a railway."
          I heard the echo of a splash through Exastris' mike. "I made it! Oh, hey, I found the railway."
          "Cool. I'll be there in...twenty seconds."
          "Is that a GIANT TREE?" Exastris demanded incredulously.
          "One I built, yeah. The inside is hollow," I replied proudly. "It's a literal tree house...but I gotta be careful with fire whenever I'm in there." I whooshed past the house with no sign of her avatar. "Where did you go?"
          "Nowhere," she protested. "I'm on the bridge next to the railway!"
          "On the bri--oh, you mean over by Nemesis's house," I suddenly realized, spinning the rail car around. "I thought he and I destroyed that."
          "Your brother has a house here?"
          "Two. We built this map together," I explained. "He has a fort here and another on the other side of the map. He's not as dedicated to the craft as I am, though. I mean, I have a tree house, a castle, a pirate ship--"
          "You have a pirate ship?"
          "--the Enterprise from Star Trek, a secure vault, and railways crossing this whole place," I finished.
          "I demand to see the pirate ship," Exastris informed me. "And the vault. You've been talking that up for a while. Oh, hey, I see you."
          "Hi there." My avatar punched her in greeting.
          "HEY!"
          "Sorry-not-sorry. Here's your cart. Follow me!"
          I led the way to my castle. Via the tree house, of course. Exastris loved that, and insisted on exploring it all the way to the top. I couldn't really argue that--I was proud of my creation, and it did have an excellent view up there.
          Once we got closer to the castle, the Enterprise became visible. Well, I say became visible--it kinda blotted out the sun for a few moments. It looked most impressive, if I do say so myself. We rumbled into the railway shed, hopped out, and headed into the castle, taking a brief moment to change our spawn points (Exastris didn't see the point, but I foresaw death and insisted on it).
          "Okay, so...where is this vault?"
          I pointed. "In the well."
          "In the--you're kidding."
          "Nope." I dove in. Sinking to the bottom, I opened the door in the side of the well's wall and walked into the passage. Exastris followed me.
          "Okay, go to," I said generously. "Although, I don't exactly remember how I set this up, so--"
          Exastris brushed past me and headed down the hall--a little too fast. A delayed trapdoor hissed open underneath her at the intersection. She had just enough time to pause and look down before she vanished into the hole. The hole, which led to a pit of fire. FWOOSH. A moment later, a notification popped up on my screen: Exastris went up in flames.
          "RANGER!!!" Exastris yelled, then burst out laughing.
          I was laughing so hard I couldn't breath. "The moment...of...dawning...realization..." I choked out.
          "Yeah, that was a Wiley Coyote moment there," she admitted. "Oh, look! Gravity! Now, how do you get past that?"
          "Walk slowly," I advised, still giggling. "It slides shut after a moment. Then, you can walk over it."
          She took my advice. "Oh, hey, there's a button here. Should I push it?"
          I took a look. It was a benign button--it powered a section of wall that would slide back and allow access to a disarming lever. "Sure, why not."
          Exastris pushed it. The wall hissed open. Startled, she took a step back, tripped the trapdoor, and fell through again. FWOOSH. I fell off the couch laughing.
          "DAMMIT RANGER!" Exastris respawned. "Okay, that was kinda my fault."
          "Maybe you should go a different route?" I suggested when I stopped laughing. "You realize there's multiple paths at that intersection--"
          "You realize you could just tell me how to get through?" she suggested, a little sarcastically.
          "Where would be the fun in that?" I reasoned. "Also, I only know how disarm it by actually going in there and doing it with you, and I'm pretty sure you'd get me killed."
          She laughed. "Okay, true. Still, I'm not sure if I trust you." She navigated the trapdoor, ignored the button, and turned right. I heard a faint click.
          "Oh, now I remember what was down there!" I snapped my fingers.
          "What?"
          BOOM. Multiple boxes of TNT, hidden in the walls and the floor, exploded. Exastris died instantly.
          "A booby trap," I said innocently.
          "Ooh. Sneaky," she complimented me.
          I reset the map and invited her back in. "Thanks. I try. Want to go again?"
          "You're insane," she told me.
          I waited.
          "...yes."
          "Thought so!" I said triumphantly.
          Exastris went down the left tunnel this time, disregarding the button. Needless to say, the booby-traps didn't disengage. BOOM.
          "Are we having strugs?" I asked innocently, using our shorthand for struggle to mock her a little.
          She giggled. "Oh, shut up. Just show me how!"
          I reset the map and led the way. After dodging the trapdoor, I pushed the button. The wall shot back, and I quickly hit the hidden lever before it shut again. "Okay, that disables the left side booby traps. The right side is still live, so DON'T go that way."
          "Got it." Exastris followed me.
          I rounded the corner. "Okay, go stand by the vault door." Once she was in position, I hit another button. Nothing happened.
          "Um..." Exastris started.
          "It's a delayed release," I said.
          Click. The door released. Exastris shot inside--and almost fell off the narrow bridge into the fire below. A long ways below. "Wow, this is crazy! What are the walls made of?"
          "Hardest material in the game," I said proudly. "Obsidian. I can set off all the TNT around here and still never breach the vault."
          Exastris slowly (and carefully) walked across the bridge to the chest at the end--right in the middle of the vault, over the fire pit. "This is super cool. What's in here?"
          "Oh, an extra map, gold, diamonds, some enchanted weapons, stuff like that," I explained.
          "Wow. Crazy."
          "This is a booby-trapped vault at the bottom of a well over a pit of fire surrounded by TNT," I summed it up. "Yeah, crazy pretty well covers it. And you haven't even seen the pirate ship yet."
          "How do you even build a pirate ship in Minecraft? You know what, nevermind. LEAD THE WAY," Exastris ordered loudly and almost blew herself up on the way out.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Captain's Log, Day 179: PANAMA

          I was working on wrestling the steering cable into position when I smacked my hand into the back of the motor. Muttering something uncomplimentary about the motor's parentage under my breath, I tried to surreptitiously check my hand for damage.
          "You okay?"
          Not stealthy enough. I made a face, wiped off the blood, and got back to work. "Yeah, I'm fine. Would you mind handing me the thingy?"
          Full disclosure; I'm not super eloquent under the best of circumstances, and, when making plans to attach a stubborn cable to the appropriate hole on the motor, even worse than normal. Fortunately, Rach was a mind-reader and handed me the correct bolt. A few minutes of tweaking later (Rach wound up holding the engine steady for me), the steering system was complete.
          "I gotta get a longer cable," I muttered.
          "So is it done?"
          I laughed. "Not even close. I still have to install the wiring for the lights, put the side bench seats in, put carpet under the bow seats, put the ceiling in--"
          She poked me. "I meant the motor."
          "Eep! I know, I was just messing with you," I clarified, relocating to the other side of the boat with a speed generally associated with supersonic jets. (Ticklish.) "Yeah, the motor's done. Want to try it out?"
          "Definitely!" she said enthusiastically.
          I gave her a thumb's-up and vaulted out. "Thanks for the help, by the way. Half the work I've done on this thing has been two-person jobs that I've had to do by myself. It's nice to get something done quickly for a change."
          "Have you had this out on the water yet?" Rach descended a little slower than I had.
          "Sort of. The first motor had a lower unit issue, so we didn't go very fast." I made a face. "The boat never got up on plane--which, by the way, is boat-speak for going so fast most of your hull is out of the water."
          "What kind of issue?"
          "It leaked. BADLY." I snorted. "The last test with it ended with us losing most of the oil, which--needless to say--let in a ton of water. The forward gear got shredded or something, so it only ran in reverse. We had to BACK the boat out of the middle of the lake."
          She giggled. "You're kidding."
          "I wish." I sighed. "Super embarrassing. That's how we found out we had a leak--running it in reverse for so long stuck the oil all along the prop casing. That was the point at which I decided to just give up on the dang thing and get a new motor." I slapped the engine cowling for emphasis. "A lighter, more powerful motor. This one's 115 horsepower."
          "What was the other?"
          "One hundred." I snickered. "And the boat's rated for 90. She'll fly when this thing opens up." I glanced down. "I'll need a new prop at some point, though. This one's a little beat up."
          Rach raised an eyebrow. "Is that a problem? The motor, I mean."
          I shook my head. "Nah, I shaved off a lot of weight when I rebuilt the boat, and this motor only weighs maybe twenty-five pounds more than a contemporary 60's ninety-horse. Plus, I reinforced the transom. She'll hold up just fine." I grinned  "Engineer, remember?"
          She stuck her tongue out at me. "Showoff."
          "Wait until this boat actually works," I returned. "Shall we?"
          "Yes," she said, laughing. "I have some boat-related bucket list items to do."
          I had to pull the boat out of my garage "manually"--the parking lot didn't have enough room to hook up the truck and still make the turn. A few minutes later, though, I was hooked up and ready to go. Rach hopped in, I googled the nearest lake, and we set off.
          Ten minutes later, I was cursing. "What kind of stupid landing is this?"
          "Will it work?" Rach asked, looking at the cockeyed trailer dubiously.
          "Not even remotely," I said disgustedly. "I mean, we could probably float the boat off just fine, but there's no way we could get it back on. They need to grade this stupid thing."
          She made a face. "Now what? Head back?"
          "Not a chance," I said resolutely. "There's another lake I know of, and that one is really popular. It's gotta have a decent landing there somewhere."
          Fortunately for my sanity, it did. I backed the trailer into the water, grabbed the keys, and hopped into the boat. "We should probably test the motor first before we take the boat off...you know, in case it doesn't work."
          "Is that a possibility?"
          "Always," I grumbled, pressurizing the fuel line with the hand pump. Going to the captain's chair, I crossed my fingers and turned the key.
          The motor whined a little but didn't start.
          I let off the key, then cranked it again and gave it a little throttle.
          More whining. Still no starting.
          I gave it a little more throttle and tried again.
          The motor whined, sputtered, and almost started, but killed itself.
          A few minutes later, it was still not starting. I was looking annoyed. Rach tried to calm me down. "It's almost starting, anyway. Maybe the problem isn't too bad."
          "The idle's probably set too low," I complained. "I don't have the tools to fix that. What I can't figure out is why it's not sputtering anymore. It was almost there a minute ago."
          "Is the fuel line broken?" Rach asked.
          "No, the fuel line is the one thing that actually wor--" I cut myself off and dove into the back. "Wait a minute."
          "You have an idea?" she asked eagerly.
          I came back up, face probably very red. "You are a genius. And for the record, fuel tanks don't work if they're sealed. I was pulling a vacuum on the stupid thing--forgot to crack the air cap."
          "At least you remembered to put the plug in," Rach giggled.
          I rolled my eyes. "I've only forgotten once in my life, and I should not have told you about that." I cranked the engine over again. This time, it whined, sputtered, coughed...and roared into life.
          "YES!" Rach yelled.
          I bowed. "Thank you, thank you--although this is totally your win, not mine. Okay, let's get this off the trailer."
          She pointed. "Going to leave the motor running?"
          "Sure, why not?" I reasoned. "In case there's a starter problem or something. Besides, it hasn't been started in a while; let's let it warm up a bit." I hopped back out of the boat. Rach held it steady as I pushed it off the trailer and pulled the trailer away. A moment later, I was installed in the captain's chair again.
          "So...how does this work?" Rach inquired, still holding on from the outside.
          I carefully put the boat into reverse but left it idling. "Um...just jump in. I'll back it out."
          As soon as she was in, I gave it a little throttle. The boat backed away from the dock slowly. Once I'd gotten it out a safe distance, I kicked it into forward and turned. Slowly. Really slowly.
          "Is the motor not working?" Rach asked.
          I smiled tightly. "No clue. I haven't throttled up yet. I'm just getting out of the shallows." I pointed the nose of the boat at the wide-open expanse of water in front of us and swallowed. "Cross your fingers."
          Wrapping my hand around the throttle, I carefully pushed it forward. The boat exploded out of the water, hurtling across the lake at speeds that...well, I honestly never expected it to reach. My jaw dropped and I started laughing. "IT WORKS!!" I yelled at the top of my lungs.
          Rach high-fived me. "CONGRATULATIONS!"
          I fumbled my phone out and took a quick video of the motor and the speed we were hitting to send to Dale and Skipper later. "Oh, man...this...I think I'm gonna cry. This is awesome."
          "I bet," Rach said, grinning. "It's gotta be amazing--something you've worked on for so long--"
          "You wanna know the coolest part?" I interrupted her, just noticing something.
          Rach gave me a curious look. "What?"
          I pointed down at the throttle. "We're only at three-quarters throttle."
          Her jaw dropped. "No way." The wind suddenly snatched her baseball cap off her head.
          I burst out laughing. "You lost your hat!" I patted the boat. "I guess you've earned the name Panama now." I spun the boat in a circle and headed back for the hat.
          "You don't have to get it," Rach protested. "It's old and crappy!"
          "We leave no hat behind," I declaimed, pulling up to a stop about fifteen feet away from it. We climbed up on the bow. Rach pointed to a rope. "Think that would work?"
          "Or we could work on your bucket list," I said mischievously and threw her overboard.
          She came up sputtering and laughing. "Okay, that's definitely one off the list. Where's my hat?"
          "About fifteen...never mind, twenty feet behind you," I said, chuckling. "Go get it--I'm going to duck into the cabin, grab my swim gear, and join you. My bucket list involves jumping off the bow."

The Panama
          Author's note: the Panama is a 1961 Lone Star cabin cruiser that I've been restoring for the last year. This story documents the first time she actually worked, which is the fourth time I'd had her on the water. It was also the first time I'd ever actually taken her out to have fun on the lake, as opposed to just troubleshooting various stuff. Many thanks to Rach for helping me get the new motor set up, and to Dale and Skipper for giving the boat to me to restore. 

The Panama when I first saw her

Hooking her up for the first time

The boat was a bit of a mess...

Pretty much all the wood in the boat had rotted.


Yeah, I really had to disassemble the poor thing.

Getting her back together!

I sprung for a new paint job. She needed it.

And damn did it turn out NICE.

Finishing up the cabin...


That ceiling was a pain to install.

WE'RE GOING TO THE LAKE!!!!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Captain's Log, Day 178: Suite Q Lost It

          "I'm just sayin', from a strictly moral standpoint, you probably shouldn't have--"
          "And for the last time," Shorty interrupted me (for the fourteenth--and certainly not last--"last time"), "just because a guy hits on me does NOT automatically make him my boyfriend!"
          "Shorty has a boyfriend?" Betsy asked, walking into the room at the exact right moment.
          I said "Several," at the same time Shorty said "NO," but once again she was laughing too hard to be coherent.
          Betsy took it in stride and threw a pillow at me. "I'm hungry. Wanna go eat?"
          I whacked Shorty with the pillow. "Always. What's in the caf?"
          "Nothing good," Mary muttered under her breath from the other end of the living room (where she was playing one of the Zelda games).
          "Let's go to Dairy Queen!" Rachel proposed.
          "Hmm...yeah, I think I have enough money for that," Shorty said thoughtfully.
          "What, you can't get one of your boyfriends to pay for it for you?" I teased her.
          "RADAR!" Shorty wrested the pillow from me and tried to whack me with it. I relocated to more friendly climates--specifically, right behind Betsy.
          "I'm torn between being flattered that you think I can protect you and being annoyed that you're using me as a shield," Betsy remarked.
          "Go with flattered," I suggested.
          Shorty tossed the pillow to Rachel, who threw it at me and scored a direct hit while I was distracted by Betsy. "YOU HAVE BEEN AVENGED. Seriously, guys, is that a yes on DQ?"
          "I'm the only guy in here," I pointed out. "Hey, does that make me an honorary member of Suite Q?"
          "No," Shorty responded immediately. "And yes, let's go get DQ."
          "Hold on...lemme...yes!" Mary finished whatever game quest thing she was doing, saved her progress, and tossed the controller onto the couch.
          "Suite Q getting DQ," I chuckled and got promptly clobbered by that blasted pillow again.
          We had to make a slight detour on the drive out--Atchison was bisected by a railroad that was guaranteed to have a train on it at the most annoying of times. When we got there, I offered to let the others go first (both as a show of courtesy and partly because I had no idea what I wanted). I also offered to spot anyone who needed it. I was quickly turned down by Shorty, who said something that included the words "not" and "again," but she was giggling too hard for me to actually make it out.
          Suite Q ordered their food pretty quickly and wandered off to find a table. I would've followed sooner, but I got a little hung up on the blizzard choices (TOO MANY TYPES). Once I settled on a compromise (mixing half of the options into one, to the the bemusement of the cashier), I grabbed my drink and headed off to find the girls.
          It wasn't hard. I just followed the uproarious laughter.
          They'd managed to snag the corner booth. I mentally applauded. Then, I noticed something odd--Betsy, Shorty, and Mary were intently studying the center menu thingy that listed all the cakes.
          "Thinking about more dessert?" I asked.
          They ignored me, but some suppressed smiles told me something was up. Oh, geez, was it someone's birthday or something? Rachel looked like she was going to start snickering, but patted the seat next to her. "You can sit next to me," she suggested.
          "Thanks." I plopped my drink on the table and my kiester in the offered spot before looking askance at the others. "Seriously, what's going on?"
          They lost it completely.
          "Shorty, I told you--you should have been the one to do it!" Betsy complained through her giggle fit.
          Shorty whacked her with the menu. "He does NOT need the encouragement! He embarrasses me enough, don't you think?"
          "I thought Rachel did a wonderful job," Mary said, grinning.
          "I just thought of Richard," Rachel laughed.
          "If I may interject a moment..." I raised my hand. The others took one look at my evident confusion and broke down laughing again. I sighed. "Someone want to explain what's going on?"
          "We were trying to mess with you," Betsy explained, not very helpfully.
          "I got that," I muttered. "How, exactly?"
          "Well, we were pretending that we didn't know you," Mary explained, indicating herself, Shorty, and Betsy. "Rachel was pretending to flirt with you."
          "You can sit here," Shorty mimicked Rachel dramatically. "You missed it completely, didn't you?"
          "Well...yeah..." I said, frowning. "That was flirting?"
          "Definitely," Rachel said, shaking her head. "You're hopeless."
          "Was that how you got Richard's attention?" Betsy asked her, referencing Rachel's boyfriend.
          "Of course not!"
          "Y'all are nuts," I declared.
          Mary reached around Betsy to poke Shorty. "You should have been the one to do it. You had the perfect pickup line and everything!"
          She squeaked. "Absolutely not!"
          "I'm curious," I said, raising an eyebrow. "What constitutes the perfect pickup line?"
          Shorty shook her head. "NO. Not telling."
          I looked at Betsy. "Can you tell me?"
          She hesitated, then shook her head. "No, it's way funnier coming from Shorty." She turned to her and gave her puppy-dog eyes. "Pleeeeeeeeze?"
          Shorty shook her head.
          "Imagine his face," Rachel suggested.
          She caved. "Okay, one sec."
          "Go for it," I suggested.
          Shorty composed herself. "For the record, if you ever mention this again, I'll..."
          "Kick my shins?" I guessed.
          "Oh, shut up."
          "No getting distracted by short jokes!" Betsy ordered.
          "And do it the way you did earlier!" Mary pleaded. "It was perfect!"
          Shorty groaned. "I'm trying!"
          "Clearly," I said, going for my root beer. "Everyone, shush! Shorty's concentrating!"
          Suite Q collectively snickered. Shorty gave me an I'm-gonna-kill-you look before smiling sweetly at me. "Hey, a friend of mine always jokes about me having five boyfriends. Wanna make it a sixth?"
          Definitely lost most of that drink out my nose.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Captain's Log, Day 177: Never Sit Next to Me in Movies (Or Anywhere, Really)

          Author's note: I had a disagreement of a historical nature with someone of a short nature--specifically about how much money was owed me due to restaurant-related incidents. I was challenged to provide proof. If there appears to be a lot of Shorty-featured stories coming up, it's because I'm trying to win a bet. Well...succeeding in winning a bet. 

          "I am soo excited for this!" Shorty squeaked, attempting to keep herself somewhat close to the ground. I mean, she was as a default, but she'd been jumping around like a caffeinated frog for the last few minutes. Her decision to switch from body to verbal communication was prompted by a group of people walking up the sidewalk towards the movie theater. I guess she wanted to look "sane" or something.
          I had no such qualms and hopped up on the bench, trying to balance on the back. I fell off. "I'd be more excited if this place wasn't such a cra--"
          "Yeah, it's not the best," Shorty interrupted me hastily before any of the kids/teens (that I had completely missed the advent of) could hear the expletive in progress. (Whoops.) "But it's worth it! I mean, Hunger Games!"
          I snickered. "Whatever, but next time we're going to St. Joseph. Or KC. Or anywhere that has a theater with actual SEATS."
          "What part are you most excited about?"
          That one took me a moment. "I want to see how the archery plays out--and if it's factually correct."
          Shorty nodded approvingly. We were both archers ourselves, so we could pick out the impossible moves from the possible ones pretty easily. "They'd better stay true to the book."
          I shrugged. "Yeah, good luck to that." I nodded to the teens. "Y'all excited?"
          "Oh yes!" one of them said excitedly. "It was such a good book!"
          "Teens still read?" I muttered incredulously under my breath. They didn't hear me, but Shorty sure did--and kicked me in the shin. That was really all the higher she could get.
          "What?" one of the others asked.
          "Nothing!" Shorty said hastily. "He was just being goofy!"
          He eyed us. "You guys dating?"
          We both burst out laughing, which was kind of our default response to such a ludicrous claim. I decided to have a little fun with that this time, though. "Yes, actually--OW!"
          Shorty turned bright red and kicked me. Again. "RADAR! No we're not!"
          "She just shy about i--OW! Will you stop that?" I demanded, hopping back.
          "NO!" she giggled. "You are not dating me!"
          The teens were trying to hold back laughter of their own, with varying degrees of success. "Well, you act like you're dating," one of the girls informed us.
          I chuckled. "We get that a lot." A thought occurred to me.
          Unfortunately, my poker face was slightly less developed than my sense of humor, if such a thing can be believed. Shorty noticed immediately. "What's THAT look for?"
          "Huh? Oh, nothing," I said innocently. "What look?"
          She narrowed her eyes. "Yeah, right. What are you planning?"
          "Oh, look, the door's opening!" I said hastily and made a beeline for the portal. Once inside, I promptly walked straight to the cashier and loudly requested two tickets. Shorty kicked me again and immediately paid me back upon our entry to the actual theater, laughing her rear off the entire time.
          The movie itself wasn't bad. It stayed fairly true to the book, which I appreciated. However, the book wasn't in my top ten, so I decided to enhance the experience with sarcastic comments. ("They should have brought marshmallows on the cart! They could have had s'mores!" "You call that FIGHTING? I've seen better slap fights!") Shorty probably would have punched me if she hadn't been laughing so hard--and trying so hard to keep it quiet.
          She did absolutely lose it at one point though. There was a moment that (I'm sure) was supposed to be very "touching" where the main character's love interest was trying to help her take care of a massive cut on her head. (I won't go into too many spoilers, even though this thing came out YEARS ago.) Anyway, he was being all mushy about it. I had a very low tolerance for mush and could appreciate the stupidity of his first aid attempts, so I leaned over to Shorty--who was wearing her best aww, they're so cute face--and pretended to be the guy, whispering, "Yeah, I love you, so I'm gonna just smear blood all over your face now, 'kay?"
          I won't say that anyone was particularly noisy at that moment in time, but someone definitely got a few looks.
          We decided to have our traditional post-movie discussion/rant dinner over at Dairy Queen. On the way in, Shorty kept giggling about my "lack of ability to appreciate romance" or something to that effect. I shrugged. "Hey, getting someone's face messy isn't romantic. I prefer the practical romantic guestures."
          "Oh, yeah? Like what?" Shorty demanded.
          I marched up to the cash register. "Hi! I'd like a bacon cheeseburger, large combo, and a...hmm...Reese's peanut butter cup blizzard. Oh, and whatever Shorty would like. We're together." I turned back to her. "Like that."
          "MIDWAY!" Shorty squeaked, then considered it. "Okay, admittedly, I walked right into that one. But we are NOT TOGETHER."
          The cashier was looking confused. "So are you on one or not?"
          I said "Yes" at the same time Shorty said "NO!" However, she was laughing too hard to properly enunciate, so I won.
          She did pay me back for that one, though!

          Author's note, part 2: Oh, and she couldn't have been TOO upset about snorting in the theater, since she posted it to Facebook and sent me the archived post when it popped up on her news feed this year. 
          You're welcome. 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Captain's Log, Day 176: Unexpected Changes

          Well, this is going to (again) be more of a progress update than anything else. Next time, I'll be back to writing stories again! I promise!
          March ended with an unexpected offer of employment from a company in Minnesota; I was definitely not passing this one up. Within two weeks of accepting, I'd wrapped up in South Dakota, packed all my crap into a trailer, and driven 24 hours almost continuously to move everything to Minnesota. (I had to make several trips.) This coincided with the Easter season, which made scheduling stuff insane. Additionally, I had to make sure I packed in the necessary work on my boat to ensure that I'd be able to use it this summer (restorations can be difficult!) and still try to keep on my publishing schedule for Deadman Switch.
          I probably went a little psycho for about a week there. In retrospect, I probably could have pushed one or more of my self-inflicted deadlines back, but I didn't want to.
          In Minnesota, I started putting a lot of serious interest in working on Deadman Switch. I got the entire book edited, formatted, and ready to go. At the moment, I'm putting the finishing touches on my new author website (and Facebook page, and Twitter feed...), and once that's done...Amazon ho! I'm hoping to have it in the store by the end of next week.
          Further bulletins as events warrant.
          This summer, I plan on finishing my boat and writing all kinds of new and amusing stories about lake shenanigans. Let the fun begin!


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Captain's Log, Day 175: Where I've Been

          Howdy, all!
          I know, I know, it's been a while. As I may have mentioned, I've been doing some writing. During the month of January, I got about a quarter of Lost done. During the month of February, I was doing a little house hunting (which is just as much of a time-consuming process as one might imagine) and enjoying the 70+ degree thaw I had. (I RAN TWICE A DAY. OUTSIDE. IT WAS WONDERFUL.)
          March has gone back to the regularly-scheduled crappy weather that I've come to enjoy up here--sarcasm definitely intended. Needless to say, work on Lost kind of exploded. I had a brainwave about where I wanted to go with the novel, then sat down and did an easy five to seven thousand words a day. I finished the entire thing in about two weeks. I think I'm getting calluses on my fingertips!
          Before I start on the third and final book in the Bridgehold trilogy (and edited the heck out of Wayward and Lost), I decided to make the conceptual cover art for the next book. I decided to call it Voidwalker. First up, a little refresher on the first two covers; then I'll post the third at the bottom.
          Yeah, I'm gonna make you scroll.
          Additionally, I'm getting my mystery/suspense novel edited for publishing, and I'll be driving to a few choice cities this weekend to snap some pictures to edit for the cover. Hopefully, Deadman Switch will be published within the next few months! I'll post the cover for that one when I get it done, whenever the heck that is.
          Anyway, once I'm done with those, I'll make an official author website, Facebook page, and write a few more short stories for Maximum Effect. Still haven't decided whether or not to publish my books under my real name or a nom de plume, but I'll figure it out eventually, I guess. I'm also hoping to complete the Bridgehold trilogy this year as well--given my track record of the last few days, I think that's doable.
          I'm making progress!



Sunday, January 1, 2017

Captain's Log, Day 174: Update on the Midway Family, 2016 Edition

Merry Christmas from the Midway Family!

Nemesis writing about Radar:
The young Radar Midway’s natural habitat can be found in the urban areas of South Dakota. He can be easily spotted by his considerable height, blue jeans, and the extra layers he wears during the winter season. As we can see, he is quite skilled in using the complex tools of a mechanical engineer, a job that has kept him happily and gainfully occupied for over a year now. His day’s labors completed, he returns to his apartment complex, where his nest is lined with collections of books, shiny computer monitors, and both real and practice weaponry. He may also be found in his recently acquired aquatic nest, a cabin cruiser that he is restoring to become his marine base of operations. If you encounter the Radar Midway out in the wild: smile, remain calm, and use this field guide to engage him in conversation. Remember, he’s more scared of you than you are of him.

Squirrel writing about Quill:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that Quill is one talented babe. She has done so much this past year: some highlights include the primary dance role in her college’s production of Brigadoon last winter; charming the patrons at the library where she continues to work; and a flying weekend to visit Nemesis in London for fall break. The highlight of her year, I know, will be graduating summa cum laude – with her BA in English and minor in Communication – from college this December. She’s crazy smart and works incredibly hard, so we’re all pretty excited for her. As far as employment goes, Quill’s been looking into positions in the library sciences field and has some good opportunities to pursue throughout the country. I (selfishly) hope she stays close to home for employment, since she’s the greatest friend and her dance moves are pretty lit. Please keep this happy hamster in your prayers as she starts a new chapter!

Radar writing about Nemesis:
Normally, it’s difficult to write about someone who lives multiple states away; however, this year SOMEONE went to a completely different CONTINENT for several months, which paradoxically makes writing about him easier and makes everyone else in the family super jealous. Nemesis spent the fall semester in Italy, where he visited pretty much everywhere (super cool), did martial arts in the Coliseum (appropriate), and defiled statues with his hat (less appropriate). During the rest of the year, this English-major-turned-traveler helped out with the campus ministry at his college and sold his first short story to a science fiction publication. We’re all looking forward to his first full-length novel, Hiding from the Italian Police Due to Hat-Related Shenanigans.

Quill writing about Squirrel:
                Please, do come in. Welcome to the 2016 Tour of Squirrel Midway’s College Dorm Room. The central focus of this room is Ms. Midway's desk, where she furrows her alabaster brow over Macroeconomics. Practical application of this subject is seen in how she decides the fate of her peers as Student Senator on the college financial committee. The banner on the adjacent wall, reading “#SWAG” refers to her recent theatre debut. In early fall, she was chosen to perform in the college's vaudeville show Theater Physics where she discovered her talent for rapping. If you turn to your right – your other right – you can see her open closet displaying the lovely clothes she wears to her job at a local boutique. As the outfits demonstrate, she is a true gift to fashion-conscious consumers. Thank you very much for coming – you can settle your bill at the door. Tickets are $57.95 apiece; the proceeds will be used toward buying Squirrel a single textbook for next semester.

Mom writing this time: 
This year, my husband and I decided to take the trip we vowed we’d take after all the kids were legal adults and indulge ourselves in a kid-free vacation to Mexico.  We learned that, when necessary, my husband can fix a stubbornly-jammed suitcase handle using the clip from a ballpoint pen, tweezers, two band-aids and some notepaper.  Also, tequila is a staple there, much like pasta in Italy, except that Italians don’t put pasta in their soap.  Feliz navidad!

We all wish you a blessed Christmas and great 2017!  

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Captain's Log, Day 173: A New Trilogy Is Dawning

          ...and my computer battery has the lifespan of a diseased mayfly. Sorry, had to complain to SOMEone.
          For those of you who follow me on Facebook, some of this might be a bit repetitive. My apologies. For everyone else, I'd like to report that my first book in the currently-named Bridgehold trilogy is complete! (By complete, I mean I'll probably tweak it some as future books fine-tune my timeline, but for the purposes of "active projects," it's 100% done.) I was so excited about Wayward, I decided to immediately make some conceptual cover art while procrastinating on book two.


          On a mildly related note, I'm getting better at Photoshop, although I still had to use a model for the silhouette. 
          Then, of course, I had to make a cover photo for my next book, which I'm tentatively naming Lost. I made it for "inspirational purposes" and certainly not because I was procrastinating even more


          Much thanks to Princess, by the way, who was the unwitting model and official loser of our "camera wars." 
          With any luck, I can finish up Lost within the next month or so and get cracking on book three, which is gonna be Redemption or Reclamation or some appropriate-word-beginning-with-R-someone-find-me-a-thesaurus. Just kidding. Honestly, I haven't thought that far ahead, but I'm hoping that completing Lost will give me some ideas. Some better ideas, I mean. 
          Also, if anyone has any ideas for a new nom de plume, I'd be most grateful. It would be nice to finish the conceptual covers by adding an author name! 
          Gah, thinking up names is hard...
          Oh, and a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all! Thanks for sticking with me!