My firefighter fitness test shows I’m getting older and faster… say WHAT?

I shaved HOW many minutes off my time?

I shaved HOW many minutes off my time?

As a volunteer with our local fire department, I am required to take an annual physical agility test to prove I can, among other things, walk a balance beam and drag 100 pounds of concrete mix — things we often do as construction workers firefighters. The test includes seven stations that need to be completed during a running clock within 15 minutes or less. And there’s no station called “refreshment swig” or “brownie lift.”

I asked.

The seven stations of the test are:
1) Crawl and Lift: Cross the fire station bay on your hands and knees three times, stopping to lift a 20-pound roll of fire hose over your head each time. Think of it as shopping on Black Friday.

2) Hose drag: Pretty much what it sounds like. Drag 100 feet of hose for 50 feet in one direction, then the other. Kind of like taking your kids to the grocery store.

3) Lift and Carry: A dummy weighing 100 pounds is lifted and carried 30 feet in one direction, then carried back. I’ve seen this happen in bars at closing time.

4) Ladder Carry: Demonstrate the proper lifting technique and carry the ladder 50 yards in one direction, set it down, pick it up and carry it back. This is similar to helping your wife move furniture. Continue reading

Don’t mess with The Master when it comes to fake poo

It takes an artist to bring this rubber poo to life. Or maybe just somebody weird.

It takes an artist to bring this rubber poo to life. Or maybe just somebody weird.

Around noon today, I will effectively be putting the “finishing move” on my son regarding an ongoing practical-joke battle involving fake dog poo. Though I will be working on deadline here at the newspaper several blocks from home, I will know exactly when my triumphant moment occurs. That’s because I will hear his anguished holler as he drops to his knees, fists raised, and cries out “DANGGGG YOUUUUU!”

Or something to that effect.

I know this may come as a surprise to many of you, but yes: I own a piece of fake dog poo. I’ve had it for years and pride myself on executing it masterfully in terms of timing, placement and appearance. Just putting it on the floor is for amateurs. A true maestro of poo knows that turning it from a single note to a symphony requires, well… a movement. There needs to be a set-up, i.e., a reason for the poo to be there. For example, last year someone in the sales department brought their dog to work because their home was being fumigated. The dog, a nervous sheltie, routinely got out of the sales room and roamed through the office. Continue reading

Being on a roll is good, unless you’re skating downhill

image It’s been more than 250 years since John Joseph Merlin invented the roller skate. Considering that there were no cement sidewalks, asphalt streets or concrete half-pipes in 1760, then one can only assume Mr. Merlin’s intention was to commit suicide.

Hmmm, running myself into a wall at full speed probably won’t do the me in. But maybe if I was rolling down a hill..?!?

I thought about this during a recent trip to Eugene, which is the closest big city to us and home to many University of Oregon students who roller skate through downtown. They do this as a way to leave a smaller carbon footprint, which is ironic considering I go through twice as much carbon in my brake pads by trying to avoid hitting them in traffic. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a roller-skate prude shaking his fist at a generation of whippersnappers with their fancy moves and ibuprofen-free flexibility. In fact, it wasn’t long ago (Okay, 10 years *cough cough*) I was lacing up my own skates in a show of dexterity rivaling any speed-skating Olympian suffering a leg cramp at 40 mph. Continue reading

Six state laws that will give you a Long Awkward Pause

It’s Saturday! That means I’m with the rest of the staff at Long Awkward Pause for the Saturday Six, which is a collection of strangeness made even more strange by our comments. Think of it as a six-pack of Yoo-Hoo with several Red Bull chasers. This week’s topic? Bizarre state laws that make you wonder if any of us are really safe from our local congressmen — even if you aren’t an intern. Our first weird state law comes from New Jersey, where apparently it is a misdemeanor to: Frown at a police officer…

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Omawarisan: …or the governor.

Chris: Or the couch you will be sleeping on after frowning at your wife for getting a speeding ticket.

Ned: Please send bail money, Chris and Adam. I should’ve read this before I left for Hoboken.

(Want to know which state lets you shoot whales, but only from your car? [Hint: It’s not Kansas]. Then follow me over to LAP!…)

Convince readers to take a leap of faith, instead of a flying leap

image Welcome to Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, when I share writing wisdom gained through 15 years as a newspaper columnist — or as my editor calls it, “Reasons I have a cardiologist.”

But enough accolades!

As I’m sure all of you remember, the last NWOW was about the importance of honesty in all genres of writing…

Fine, no one remembers.

At least you’re honest.

In that post, I talked about how writing must ring true with readers for them to become emotionally invested. This is particularly important when it comes to fiction, where you are often asking readers to suspend their disbelief and buy into something — such as an eccentric character, over-the-top situation or random reference to the new iPad6® in hopes of getting a free one — that requires a leap of faith. I this case, your reader is making a “leap” over reality because they have faith that you, the writer, will keep them safely suspended until they land safely on the last page. Assuming, of course, your book doesn’t end with, “…Then there was a massive explosion and everybody died, including the basket of puppies.” 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…]

Even though we’re a small community newspaper, we are located at the intersection of two major state highway arteries connecting the valley to the central Oregon coast. In fact, instead of our current newspaper slogan…

Siuslaw News — Your source for local news. Twice weekly. Unless we lose count

… there was serious talk about:

Siuslaw News — The heartbeat of local news and events. From the coast’s main artery. All in one stroke. Continue reading

All cultures agree on world’s worst smell — not counting frat houses

image As some of you might have noticed, there has been very little talk lately of the Star Wars Missile Defense System, which was once heralded as the ultimate defense for our nation and the world. This highly advanced system was to have been launched into outer space where, with the push of a button, it could send out missiles capable of targeting a single movie theater — or even an entire chain — should it threaten to actually screen any Star Wars movie made after 1983. It was this threat that kept George Lucas at bay for nearly 20 years.

However, in part because of the astronomical scale and cost of building this defense system, and in part because the top secret design mysteriously began appearing as McDonald’s Kid’s Meal toys, the program pretty much went down the garbage chute. Since then, the U.S. military has been looking for a new “ultimate” weapon” that possesses world-wide applications. The result is something simple; something terrifying — and something that, according to scientists at the Monell Chemical Senses Center, “is so universally repulsive it would be considered unbearable by people from ALL cultures.”

I’m talking, of course, about Jar Jar Binks. Continue reading

Please root for me at the World Soccer Cup

Just a heads up that I’m going to be a little busy today. I think I’m ready for the challenge. I’ve done my stretches and had five Red Bulls. Please root for me as I take on Costa Rica…

I think my biggest challenge will be passing the ball to myself.

I think my biggest challenge will be passing the ball to myself.

I wonder if I will get called for “off-sides?”

Six more reasons for a Long Awkward Pause this Saturday

It’s Saturday, which means I’m with the rest of the staff over at Long Awkward Pause commenting on this week’s Saturday Six, or as I like to call it: Six reasons to wash your eye balls. This week’s subject? Those things our kids make for us that we can’t hang on the fridge because, while thoughtful, are unintentionally inappropriate. At least we hope it’s unintentional.

For example…

imageBrainRants:  Oh, so this is just like American Pie.

Omawarisan: Buzz also knows how they fill Twinkies.

Chris: Seems like this should be Woody’s job.

Ned: When this kid grows up, I’ll never buy from his bakery.

Want more examples? Don’t worry! There’s help available! Join me over at LAP…

A few questionable observations at the mall

My favorite part about visiting a mall? Meeting new friends!

My favorite part about visiting a mall? Meeting new friends!

We live in a small town. The closest thing we have to a mall experience is one-stop shopping for a bottle of Smirnoff, a chicken sandwich and roofing tar thanks to having a True Value hardware store, Subway restaurant and liquor store all joined by a single parking lot. This is the number one complaint by visiting teenaged tourists, who are often found rocking themselves into a coma when their devices lose cell service and they raise their heads to find they are in a wirelessly foresaken land of mall-less-ness.

“WE ARE IN A WIRELESSLY FORESAKEN LAND OF MALL-LESS-NESS!” I hear them scream.

But today I am laughing at them! Ha-Ha-HA! What makes today different? Because I am doing so from a really big mall. How big, you ask? I don’t mean to brag, but let’s just say it has an escalator. In fact, I can go ice skating, ride bumper cars and buy over-priced merchandise without even breaking a sweat. At least not until I get my credit card statement. Continue reading