Don’t let Tofurky ruin your NaNoWriMo

image Welcome to a special “post-surgery” edition of Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, when I take the cumulative knowledge gathered from 16 years as a columnist and, much like my male nurse Vern, shave an unfettered path to nuggets of wisdom. It’s a weekly feature the Journal Medicine has heralded as “…writing tips proven to be an effective form of anesthesia…” and what Dr. Oz has endorsed as “…a natural cure for constipated writers. Or writer’s block. Or whatever…”

But enough accolades!

Let’s be honest: No one is going to read this. (And not just because I refered to “nuggets of wisdom.”) Why? Because everyone is busy finishing their own novel this month. Who has time to read about writing tips when they have 10,000 words remaining in their 50,000-word manuscript and a 30-lb. Thanksgiving turkey thawing in the sink? Not to mention that, at this time next week, many NaNoWriMo participants will be following up their day of giving “thanks” by attacking fellow shoppers on Black Friday for the last pair of Walking Dead slippers. What if their fingers get broken during a tussle at Target? Or they get walloped at Walmart? Mauled at Macy’s? Shanked at Sears? Body slammed at Bloomingdales?

You get the idea. Continue reading

Male aversion to holiday shopping linked to survival instinct

(Today, I’m at bat over at Long Awkward Pause! Mostly because Chris really hates it when we play baseball in the office…)

Most men won't admit to being afraid of female holiday shoppers

Many men won’t admit to being afraid of female holiday shoppers. The others are still alive.

It’s an American tradition: Kicking off the holiday shopping season by spending the morning after Thanksgiving standing in line at your favorite department store, shivering in the pre-dawn hours, determined to be among the first to get through the doors before your holiday dinner bowel movement hits. It’s a calculated risk, but one we are willing to take in order to make our loved ones’ holiday dreams come true, even if it means wearing Depends Undergarments and knocking fellow shoppers unconscious with a Spongebob Squarepants beach chair.

Admittedly, the last time I participated in the madness of holiday shopping was several years ago as an observer, which is a little like trying to be an “observer” while standing in a mosh pit. One minute I was leaning on a rack of scarves; the next minute I was being used as a battering ram by two large women trying to knock over an electric cart that was blocking the video game aisle.

The women’s names were “Marge” and “Judy.” I know this because, each time before swinging me head first, I would hear the following exchange:

“Ready, Marge!”
“You bet your sweet ASS, Judy!”

After three tries the cart was cleared and I was tossed — discarded, really — onto a table of wool sweaters, where I remained in a fetal position until the three-hour sale ended… (Read more at LAP!)

Manscaping and other things I learned from surgery

Heading to surgery with complete confidence, although my hair looks a little scared.

Heading to surgery with complete confidence (My hair looks scared, though.)

As many of you know, I had surgery last week to repair a hernia that was in close proximity to my [censored]. Being a man, I realize anything within 10 feet of that area is considered “close proximity.” But in this case, I’m not exaggerating.

About the proximity, I mean.

If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, then you also know there was a minor complication that required me to stay overnight for observation, which is something I’ve come to expect when getting my annual psych exam for the fire department — but not when it comes to surgery.

What most people DON’T know is that I was manscaped by a nurse named Vern.

And no, that wasn’t short for “Laverne.” Continue reading

Six examples of why Steve Buscemi isn’t a Disney princess

It’s my first post-surgery post! It’s also Saturday! That means instead of being with hospital staff I’m back with the staff at Long Awkward Pause for this week’s Saturday Six. Imagine my surprise when I showed up to find everyone wearing hospital gowns! Next, imagine how surprised Chris was when he realized his was on backwards! But hey, it’s the thought that counts — and you can count on me never thinking about what I saw ever again. Speaking of weird… this week’s subject is Steve Buscemi’s eyes, and what if they were put on Disney princesses?

For example:

1. Elsa In Fargo

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Omawarisan: I have no idea what Frozen is about. I think you’re supposed to let something go, but that’s about it. Buscemi was great in Fargo, and then he was in the woodchipper.

BrainRants: I want to say, “For the love of god, not another ‘Frozen’ meme,” but this is an improvement.

The Hedonist:  I know your eyes are “up here” but can I just continue looking at your boobs?

Ned: I believe this is actually Elsa’s stunt double.

(What about Pocahontas? Ariel? Snow White? Yeah, it gets weirder. To see just HOW weird, join me for five more examples of Steve Buscemi eyes over at LAP by clicking HERE…)

Surgery is safer when patients come with instructions

(Depending on when you read this, I may already be passed out at the hospital. Preferably in the actual operating room itself and not in the foyer near the registration desk. Today they are repairing a hernia that has kept me away from firefighting for the last month. To celebrate, and because I will be off the grid for most of the day, it seemed like the perfect time to re-run my very first Freshly Pressed post — which, as you can tell from the title, is especially appropriate. And in case you’re wondering: I promise not to come back looking like the old Rene Zellweger…)

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image A recent study conducted by the healthcare industry shows an alarming trend in America’s operating rooms. According to the study, reports of “wrong-site surgery” are on the rise.

To clarify, “wrong-site surgery” occurs when a doctor operates on, say…

Your brain.

When he was supposed to operate on, say…

Your big toe.

Or someone else. Continue reading

Today marks 16 years as a columnist (and my editor’s drinking problem)

Looking ahead to another 16 years from the employee break area.

Looking ahead to another 16 years from the employee break area.

Today, my column has officially been around longer than some of my underwear. As I’m sure my editor would say, it’s a true testament to how a combination of hard work, dedication and “using powdered bleach instead of liquid can prolong the life of your boxers.”

I wear boxer briefs, actually. (Sometimes I don’t think she knows me at all.)

Regardless, 16 years ago my first column appeared in Siuslaw News, along with my first stories and photos as the news sports editor. I had returned to my hometown after a 16-year absence, working as a chef in Texas and Atlanta. Writing wasn’t new to me, but journalism was. I still marvel at my good fortune of being chosen over two journalism grads from the University of Oregon by then-editor Bob Serra, who saw something in my writing that spoke louder than my lack of experience or college degree. Or perhaps it spoke of a drinking problem.

Whatever the case, I still remember the mixture of excitement and terror as I opened that first issue and saw my name in print, along with this photo accompanying my first column… Continue reading

I can’t say ‘Thank You’ enough — but it’s worth a shot

image Late Sunday evening I opened my iPad for the first time since Friday, when I wrote about the tragedy that had swept — home to home and heart to heart — through our small community the previous morning. Those who have been following this blog for a while already know, though I’m a humor columnist (If you just started following, I promise this blog gets funnier), I take a turn for the serious when the situation warrants. And while I still have to produce “funny” for newspapers that carry my column, this blog is a true extension of myself — because you allow and encourage it to be.

Friday was a truly wonderful and humbling example of that.

With the kids in bed and my wife asleep on the couch next to me, I sat staring at the screen with a mixture of awe and profound appreciation for the more than 150 responses — words of encouragement, support and understanding — for me, my son, our family and the community. Writing that post was a necessary part of my own healing process; receiving so much support was like talking through it with a close friend. Continue reading

Why I won’t — and can’t — be funny today

image I stand in the slightly cracked doorway of my son’s room, studying the sliver of his face illuminated by the dim light spilling in from the hallway. He’s 15, and just a year younger than the two teens who died earlier this morning. On the floor next to his bed is his cell phone, seemingly discarded, just below a dangling hand.

The one with the baseball scar on the knuckle.

It’s not until I notice the moisture glistening around his eyes, and see the tear edge hesitantly down his cheek, that I realize he’s only pretending to sleep

His phone buzzes and lights up momentarily as someone’s grief is expressed in a Tweet. I glimpse a screen that scrolls endlessly with disbelief. Outrage. Sadness and pain. Classmates, friends and family trying to comprehend the incomprehensible…

It began with my fire department pager buzzing and shrieking a little after 7 a.m., followed by the report of a motor vehicle accident 15 miles away. A car over an embankment. Possible entrapment. Five occupants; two unresponsive. The caller was one of the victims. All were students heading to school. Continue reading

… This Just In …

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…TAT-tat-tat-TAT-TAT-tat-tat-TAT…

[Breaking News: from another strangely irrelevant moment in our newsroom...]

Oftentimes, finding “hard” news at a small paper is difficult. Unless Mrs. Schelpendorf gets rowdy at the Elks’ Yatzee party and assaults Mr. Schlependorf with a folding chair for spelling cleavage, finding hard news to attract readers requires being “inventive.” I use that word because it is the term our editor used during today’s editorial meeting to “encourage” us (I use that word because I am sometimes sarcastic) to find news that will sell papers. Continue reading

Always call for back-up when talking turkey

image Over the weekend, I was the victim of an unprovoked and extremely frightening turkey attack. In my defense, there were five of them (technically known as a “gang” of turkeys) involved in the assault, which started because of my proximity to a preening female turkey, which had apparently snubbed her suitors in favor of me.

Possibly because she was confused by my chicken legs.

Whatever the reason, the male turkeys didn’t take well to this and decided the best way to handle the situation was to join forces and, one by one, take turns flapping their giant wings at my [censored]. Before I knew it, I was being circled by an agitated turkey gang and wishing my editor had assigned me to something less dangerous, like covering a Blind Axe Throwers convention. Continue reading