Writers should develop a tough skin (but still remember to moisturize)

image Welcome to Ned’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, that special day each week when I offer writing tips that Publishers’ Monthly has called, “The last word in writing advice. Or so we hope.” And what 50 Shades author E.L. James has refered to as “The inspiration for most of my safe words.”

But enough accolades!

This week’s NWOW was inspired by a good and talanted blogging friend who shall remain synonymous, so we shall call her Michelle, who experienced her first truly negative response to something she posted. The reader in question was somewhat offended by what was essentilly a lighthearted post about accidentally being seen naked by a stranger. I felt Michelle’s approach was tasteful and humorous. Regardless, the reader’s response caught her off guard and caused her to momentarily question her judgement as a writer — something that readers of this blog question every day. Continue reading

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Sounding off about the dangers of sitting

image Last Friday, I offered a “sneak preview” audio snippet of Monday’s upcoming column/blog post. Everyone seemed to like this idea so, naturally, I got very excited and wasted no time in accidentally deleting my SoundCloud account. I went ahead and started a new account, which I plan to fill with full versions of my columns read by James Earl Jones. In the meantime, I’ll keep offering Friday “sneak preview” snippets because it’s fun.

And also, James Earl Jones still isn’t answering my calls.

Monday’s column, It Might be Time To Take a Stand on Sitting, is about a new study released from the Annals of Internal Medicine (Yes, I realize how that sounnds) that suggests sitting dramatically increases our chances of premature death, even if we exercise regularly.

And yes, I have now been standing for 78 hours. Continue reading

Just what we need: intoxicated cats

image As if we didn’t have enough to worry about with North Korea, ISIS and the very real threat of another Justin Bieber album, now we can add “drunken cats” to our terrorist watch list. That’s right. Because it’s not like cats didn’t already have enough attitude, right?

Thanks to Japanese manufacturer B&H Lifes, cats can now get drunk and REALLY disagreeable while drinking a new wine developed specifically for the feline palette.

According to B&H Lifes, the wine is made from a combination of Cabernet grapes and catnip, two flavors cats find irresistible — and the second of which manufacturers explain “helps cats release their inhibitions.”

Apparently cat inhibition is a big problem in Japan. Continue reading

There’s nothing funny about being a firefighter… well, mostly

Here in Oregon, it’s Firefighter Appreciation Day. Appropriately, this week also marked my return to full active duty as a volunteer firefighter with Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue following my surgery in November. To celebrate being back, and the deep appreciation I have for my fellow firefighters, I’m reposting a tribute I wrote in 2013 to the incredible men and women of my department…

image Anyone who has read my “About” page knows that, in addition to being a humor columnist, I’m also a volunteer firefighter — a subject I have purposely avoided in my columns because, let’s face it:

Entering a burning structure with someone who writes about glow-in-the-dark mice isn’t exactly reassuring.

For this reason, I have tried hard to separate my two pursuits. As I’ve discovered, this is a little like trying to separate marshmallows using a blow torch; the longer you keep at it, the more they blend together. The truth is, once the emergency is over, firefighters are funny — which is why, after three years, many are still asking, “Why haven’t you written about being a firefighter yet?”

So to all of you, I say:

You asked for it. Continue reading

Ratings decline may require Oscars to get jiggy before things go wack

image As you’ve probably noticed, we have entered the annual “awards show” season, which officially began with the Golden Globe Awards, and is due to wrap up some time in April, when David Hasselhoff hosts the coveted Intoxicated Karaoke Performance Awards live from Tijuana, Mexico.

Every year, I watch at least some of these awards shows because, as a columnist, it’s important for me to keep up with cultural trends. I also watch because seeing Nicki Minaj always makes me feel better about the way I dress. However, according to a recent poll, ratings for awards shows have actually dropped. So much so that programming executives are calling it “an alarming trend.”

Personally, I think the word “alarming” is a little strong.

Coolant levels steadily leaking from a nuclear reactor — THAT’S alarming; a decline in the number of people tuning in to see how long it takes for a fight to break out at the Rapp Awards is actually pretty encouraging. The obvious reason ratings are down is because the number of awards shows is up. The entertainment industry must ask itself if it really needs The Golden Globes, The Oscars and The Peoples’ Choice Awards in order to single out Hollywood’s finest when they could just as easily save time and money by combining all three into, say…

The Peoples’ Globes Awards.

Okay, bad example (Although, it does sound like something that’s probably available on cable.) Continue reading

The sound and the furry (or why my cat may kill me)

imageThose of you who have a cat, please raise your hand…

WOW! Look at those scratch marks! But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Sadly, many of you probably noticed yesterday that I didn’t post this week’s Nickel’s Worth on Writing, which is when I share pearls of writing wisdom gained from 16 years as shucking a columnist.

*crickets*

Anyway, the reason was because our office server was down the entire day. That left me with some idle time, which I spent learning how to use a new sound recording app. For me, this is like calculating a trajectory to Mars. I’m not a technological thinker. In fact, even with those little symbols in our TV remote, I still get the batteries in backwards half the time and end up turning off our neighbor’s pacemaker.

So, what does any of this have to do with CATS, you ask? First, if you still have your hand raised, feel free to put it down now. Continue reading

Don’t worry: It’s just your toilet paper getting smaller

Evolution of toilet paper I have a friend in Atlanta who I consider an astute observer. The kind of person who is aware of even the most subtle changes in routine or appearance. Which is why it came as no surprise when I received the following e-mail from him:

I think they shrunk my toilet paper.

According to “Derf” (Note: Out of respect for his privacy I have created a fictitious name that should not be held up to a mirror), his recent purchase of Scott toilet paper seemed “more narrow than normal.”

Because many of you are probably reading this over breakfast, I will not explain how he reached this conclusion, nor will I ever be caught without two-ply toilet paper should he come to visit. What I will tell you is that, after reading about his deductive process, I felt a need to go clean my hands, which I did, by dipping them in kerosene and lighting them on fire. Continue reading

A catchy NASA acronym could lead to restrooms on Mars

(It’s my turn over at Long Awkward Pause today, where I was asked to give an update on NASA’s space program for 2015. What I discovered may shock you. Particularly if you’re reading this while wearing a wool sweater and corduroy pants…)

image When NASA director Dr. Charles F. Bolden Jr. said that this year’s mission selection process was the most difficult session in more than two decades, it got me thinking:

I wonder how Barbara Eden is doing?

After a quick Google search found her alive and well, a second thought crossed my mind:

What is the criteria for giving a space mission the green light nowadays, especially in this era of cutbacks? And, perhaps more importantly, how do they manage to come up with such cool acronyms for each one?

After calling the NASA hotline and engaging its new automated information system known as Orbital News History and Official Lunar Development (ONHOLD), I eventually spoke with an actual Programs Education and Research Specialist Operator for Newspapers (PERSON).

It was during this conversation that I discovered the frightening truth. For many years NASA utilized a two-step process in determining its mission programs. This process involved having someone from the automobile industry submit the name of a new sport utility vehicle — Voyager, Odyssey, Explorer, Pathfinder, Contour — then force NASA scientists and astrophysicists to design a mission to go along with it. (Continue reading…)

Remember to love each other like Rufus Valentine

Rufus Valentine hands As I’ve mentioned before, I lived in the South for 10 years, with six of those years spent in the suburbs of Atlanta. In the early 1990s, I was a restaurant chef operating in one of Georgia’s largest shopping malls — three stories of glass, sale banners and merchants spanning six football fields’ worth of mall space.

As you can imagine, I’ve dealt with as many personalities as there are seats in a 280-capacity dining room. The fact that Rufus Valentine dug such a deep groove in my memory should tell you a little something about the man’s character.

I’d like to tell you more.

The first time I saw Rufus Valentine was during the Braves’ heyday in February of 1992, when all of Atlanta was anticipating the spring — and a run at the World Series. Essentially, you could be completely naked; but as long as you had a Braves cap on you were considered properly attired by most Atlantans.

So, when Rufus appeared in his red tights, heart-shaped wings, and Braves cap at the west entrance of the Lenox Square mall, most assumed he was there to express his love for Atlanta’s baseball team. Continue reading

I just remembered: I am slowly replacing my memory with Post-Its

image When my wife called to remind me about letting the dogs out at noon, I instinctively retrieved a Post-It from the desk drawer and scrawled “Dogs at noon,” then stuck it to the computer monitor.

This required shuffling a series of other yellow Post-Its into order of importance, with things like “Call about hair cut,” “Go to dry cleaners” and “Clean out van” written on them.

That one, of course, was moved to the very end of the line.

Sadly, they’re all things I should be able to remember on my own and usually do; like when I’m staring into the closet for a pair of pants to wear.

Later, I got into the van and was gently reminded by a shocking-yellow piece of paper to “get gas.” It was while sitting at the pump a short time later that the notion of Post-It dependency hit me. In the beginning, I was only an occasional user, jotting down out-of-the-ordinary reminders. You know, things like a doctor’s appointment, or that it was time to change the oil.

Then, “Change cat box” and “Take out trash” began appearing on the bathroom mirror, or stuck to the alarm clock — painfully obvious things that were reminders in and of themselves. Continue reading