Saturday, December 31, 2011

Flash Ahhhh!: Episode Fifty-Two – Yep, Chris Always Gets the Last Word

by the According To Whim .com crew

(This Episode by Chris McGinty)

[INT – CHRIS’S HOUSE – DAY]

(Chris and Miguel are in the living room with Garrett who is tied up to a chair. Chris’s decoy Duran Duran collection is being put back in its rightful place by Chris and Miguel, as they tell Garrett the story of what happened since the cave. Garrett, in his tied up state, has no choice but to sit and listen to the tale.)

GARRETT: So you guys all fell asleep in Nathan’s bed that night, and he slipped into a coma. Then Larry came and put him into a neat and tidy dream where all the loose ends were conveniently tied up, and he will spend the rest of his days joyriding in a life sized lightcycle, while his coma ridden body withers away in a bed at Dainty Pines Assisted Living Center. That’s kind of sad really.

MIGUEL: Why is that sad? Chris was “Seven and the Ragged Tiger” the seventh album?

CHRIS: No, the third.

MIGUEL: So then it goes after “Big Thing?”

CHRIS: No. Let me do that. Just put the posters on the wall in alphabetical order of the artist that designed them.

GARRETT: That’s sad because Nathan is in a coma.

MIGUEL: How do I know who the artist was?

CHRIS: Are you really that incapable, Miguel?

MIGUEL: I don’t know shit about Duran Duran.

CHRIS: You know enough to get by I’m sure.

MIGUEL: I know that they were next door neighbours with Information Society. Sure, Garrett, Nathan is in a coma, but he’s happy. We’re happy that he’s happy. So why is that sad?

CHRIS: I have to at least give you credit for saying “neighbours” in proper British.

MIGUEL: Well, thank you. Speaking of “Thank You,” does that go with official albums or not.

CHRIS: Yeah, technically.

GARRETT: Well, ok. So Nathan’s happy, but you two will never see your friend again. Doesn’t that make you sad?

MIGUEL: Ok, so does it go after “Big Thing?”

CHRIS: Yes.

MIGUEL: About how far after “Big Thing?” See, Garrett, this is the problem with our society. We place a higher value on how the self experiences life than we do on the happiness of others.

GARRETT: Well, I can’t help it. I have to worry about Angelina, and I’m just trying to find out what I have to look forward to if Nathan’s experience was just a dream…

(It’s at this point that there is a deep rumbling noise approaching the house. They all look out the window in time to see a life sized red Lightcycle go zooming by, a familiar voice filling the air.)

NATHAN: Yeeeeeeeehawwwwww!

GARRETT: Why do you guys want to fuck with me?

CHRIS: Cos we’re bored.

GARRETT: So then all the stuff that Larry did really happened, and wasn’t Nathan’s coma dream?

MIGUEL: Yes.

CHRIS: Probably.

MIGUEL: Probably.

GARRETT: So then where is Larry?

CHRIS: Who?

GARRETT: Miguel?

MIGUEL: What? I’m happy that you’re the one having to deal with his difficult side rather than me. It’s refreshing.

CHRIS: Are you sure that you want to do this, Garrett?

GARRETT: Well, I guess I really have no choice. I have to go into hiding for a while so that Angelina doesn’t find me and castrate me. And at the moment your offer to organize your real Duran Duran collection is the only means I have of hiding from her.

CHRIS: Ok, Miguel, I’ll lift at his feet. You lift the other side.

(Chris lifts Garrett, who is still tied to the chair, by the feet, as Miguel lifts Garrett by his face.)

GARRETT: Mphs suggle fhlilm.

MIGUEL: English please, Garrett.

(They carry him to Chris’s Daytona, and throw him into the backseat.)

GARRETT: I said that you can untie me.

MIGUEL: Hmm. Wish we’d thought of that.

(They get into the car, Chris driving, and they take off down the road. Garrett grumbles in the backseat.)

GARRETT: You could at least have thrown me back here face up. Why does the backseat taste like decade old soda?

CHRIS: That’s probably decade old soda.

MIGUEL: Um, I think I might vomit.

CHRIS: Decade old soda isn’t that gross.

MIGUEL: No, that’s not it. It’s the speed you’re going.

CHRIS: Well, we’re racing Nathan’s Lightcycle. That thing can fly.

(Miguel rolls down the passenger side window and flips off Nathan, who has the mirrored windows drawn back so that Miguel can see him. He holds up some sort of iDevice.)

NATHAN: I got it today!

CHRIS: Oh great! Like you need more debt.

NATHAN: No, I bought it for cash after selling rides in the Lightcycle to a bunch of thirty something guys at the local comic book shop. It’s the iDevice that Larry had in the cave, but I got all 52 optional upgrades, so mine’s better.

CHRIS: And by better…

NATHAN: I mean that I can’t figure out how half of the features work. But I figured out the most important one.

(The bullhorn comes on, and Nathan’s voice comes over as the voice of Arnold Schwarzenegger.)

NATHAN: Hasta la vista, baby!

(The Lightcycle flies away so fast that within ten seconds they can no longer see it.)

CHRIS: If he thinks he’s going to charge me to ride in that, he’s a fool.

MIGUEL: I’m thinking I’d rather stick with less nauseating activities… like sticking my fingers all the way down my throat after drinking curdled milk.

(In nearly no time, Chris pulls into a self storage park. He goes all the way to the back, where he parks by a pink leopard skin painted storage shed. They get out, and Chris opens the storage shed. They drag Garrett in, and once they’ve gone through all seven of the security clearance checkpoints, they are on an elevator that is traveling a mile and a half below the surface; it’s at this point that they untie Garrett.)

GARRETT: The two of you are so kind. I’ll be sure to thank you after my skin grows back from the ropes rubbing it off.

(When they get to the bottom of the shaft, and Miguel has been properly medicated against the panic attacks he almost experienced from claustrophobia in the elevator, they step into an immense cavern. There are warehouse sized shelves filled with Duran Duran recordings and memorabilia that seem to go on for miles.)

MIGUEL: I really had no idea your Duran Duran collection could be this big. I mean, I was expecting big, but this is insane. I’m imagining that if I look long enough, I’ll find a crate that’s marked “Ark of the Covenant shoved in here somewhere.”

GARRETT: I’m not sure that I’ll be able to organize all of this in five years.

(Andy Taylor steps out from between shelves.)

ANDY: Don’t worry. You’ll have help.

MIGUEL: You have an actual member of Duran Duran in your collection!

CHRIS: Twice ex-member… but yes. It was the only way that I could get the master recordings of “Reportage.” I had to agree to let him watch over them to avoid them being leaked to the public… fucker.

GARRETT: Remember. We agreed. If Angelina dies by some tragic accident, or is showing any signs that she’s either forgotten or forgiven me, you come get me immediately.

CHRIS: Yes. Yes. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks to see how things are going, but for now, I need to get Miguel back to the surface before the meds wear off.

MIGUEL: I love you, Chris.

CHRIS: Thank you.

(Once Chris and Miguel are back in Chris’s car; Chris makes a phone call and puts it on speakerphone. He hands the phone to Miguel to hold up and drives off as it rings. Angelina answers.)

ANGELINA: Hello?

CHRIS: Hey. Garrett is taken care of. He won’t see the light of day for another five years, although, he’ll have the greatest music ever recorded to keep him busy. But at least you won’t have to inflict bodily harm.

ANGELINA: That’s good. I’m not really a violent person by nature, just by trade.

MIGUEL: Wait, that sounds like you’re saying that people are born a certain way, and that bad actions are the result of choice.

ANGELINA: Why do you hang out with that liberal, Chris?

CHRIS: I’m not sure. He’s certainly more interesting now that he plans to become a licensed bounty hunter and travel the world looking for people to rough up.

MIGUEL: I was only considering that, thinking out loud if you will.

CHRIS: So I guess you and Paul are vacationing in foreign lands now?

ANGELINA: Well, we will be after Paul figures out how to land this damn balloon. I’ve had to hang my ass out of the basket twice now to pee.

MIGUEL: I don’t know why, but that makes me a little hard.

ANGELINA: Why do you hang out with that pervert, Chris?

CHRIS: I’m not sure. Listen, I hate to tell you Angelina, but Dentre probably overrode the balloon remotely so that it won’t land by normal means. I would suggest that you figure out a way to deflate it before you drift into hostile territory.

ANGELINA: That Dentre. I think he’s probably the coolest guy who I never slept with. I can understand why he’s resentful of Paul taking the money, the girl, and the balloon, though not necessarily in that order of importance. Well, I gotta go. I have to figure out how to create makeshift parachutes that will work.

(They hang up.)

MIGUEL: I mean, some guy thought it was raining, but little did he know, he was getting a golden shower from a golden goddess.

CHRIS: Miguel… you’re making me queasy now. Stop.

[INT- DAINTY PINES ASSISTED LIVING CENTER – DAY]

(Chris and Miguel walk in. They find Agent 1, Agent 2, and Agent 3 dressed as orderlies pushing the professor in his wheelchair.)

CHRIS: How’s the patient?

AGENT 1: He’s doing well today. He’s coherent, holding conversations, and the false aging reversed a little.

AGENT 3: We think he’ll be alright with Agent 2’s healing power.

AGENT 2: Ah, but my work isn’t as good as Larry’s work. Larry has helped the professor move beyond his need for extreme competitiveness.

PROFESSOR: Yep. I’m ok with the fact that you guys defeated my plot to control the world. In fact, I’m happy to just let the world turn without my interference.

MIGUEL: Sounds for sure like there won’t be a sequel.

CHRIS: Hey, watch this.

(Chris punches Agent 2 in the face very hard, caving in his nose. Agent 2 uses his healing power to put it back in place.)

CHRIS: That’s so much more fun now that I know he can heal. Miguel, quit drooling.

(They walk out to the patio where they find Nathan and Stan.)

CHRIS: Where’s Oliver?

NATHAN: He’s taking the Lightcycle for a Test Spin. Then he’ll bring the Program into his hand at the end of turn. Did you see that Jane Wiedlin link I sent you?

CHRIS: Yeah, when she speaks Japanese, she looks just like an Anime character.

NATHAN: The Professor of Dirt is coming by later to visit his brother, and play a few games with us. And your psychologist friend, the one played by Kelsey Grammar wants us to start going to a weekly session. I told him that I doubt you could free up the time from following around Danny Daewoo.

CHRIS: Good call. And way to wrap up a bunch of minor characters in one line.

NATHAN: And by the way, while I might not like Mr. Daewoo’s music, he is leading a fight against Tidy Cabs to create legislation forcing them to clean up their cabs. The first thing they did was to apologize to me for P.R. sake, and so now that I really don’t need it, I’m allowed to ride in cabs again.

CHRIS: Anything else amazing happen while I was dealing with Garrett?

PROFESSOR: Eric called and reminded me of our plot to overthrow the world through crochet. I told him that I wasn’t interested, but he also told me that the government used COBALT Driver’s vehicle repair ability to catch up the six month backlog at the motor pool.

NATHAN: Great! Another resource that we no longer need that is now available to us.

CHRIS: Everything is tied up so neatly.

(Larry appears surrounded by a glow that accompanies his transcendence from the physical world.)

LARRY: Ok, I have now made sure that Dorothy is no longer running around in the dream state that she got caught in when my secondary power was manifesting itself. She’s back in Kansas, and is happy. And her little dog too. Her aunt bought her tickets to see Rick Springfield perform “Living in Oz” from start to finish.

CHRIS: Ooh! Ooh! Nathan! Take me!

NATHAN: No!

CHRIS: We can go in your Lightcycle!

NATHAN: Ok. Just this once. But first, we have game day.

(Speaking of Lightcycle and game day, Oliver comes whipping around in the Lightcycle and skids to a halt.)

OLIVER: Nort bad. Nort bad ert all. Let’s play Axe-iz ‘n’ Alleys.

(An hour later, the “Axis and Allies” game is set up.)

MIGUEL: This is so cool!

NATHAN: I didn’t think you would like this game.

MIGUEL: It’s just like “Return of the Jedi!”

NATHAN: Well, it’s more like World War… oh, you’re talking about something else.

(Nathan turns to see three ghostlike figures standing there. It’s vaguely reminiscent of Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Yoda at the end of the original trilogy… if Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Yoda were a board member, a unicorn, and Larry.)

BOARD MEMBER REGINALD: Well, I was unable to transcend until I cleared up all continuity glitches in this story, but I finally realized that I was holding on to my comfort zone, thinking that there was a way to explain everything in rational, realistic way. But once I let go, and realized that every single bit of it could be explained away as bad dream states, and Angelina’s mercenary nature, I transcended into the next level of existence, along with Larry and Skippy, here.

(He points that the unicorn who recently was referred to erroneously as Fluffy in the cave.)

NATHAN: Wait. Wait. You mean that Chris caused a continuity glitch that I covered for by calling a questionable reality into play?

CHRIS: It happens.

SKIPPY: It’s ok. My Little Pony really caused a problem in the eighties of perpetuating the belief that all horses, and all magical horse-like creatures, look alike. It’s an honest mistake for a human, Nathan.

CHRIS: I’m Chris.

NATHAN: Speaking of misspoken names. Is anyone going to tell me how Larry relates to all of this?

SKIPPY: What? You don’t care how I transcended?

NATHAN: Well, of course I do.

SKIPPY: But you’re not going to ask?

NATHAN: Great. I’m married to a unicorn. Why yes, I was just wondering how you transcended, Skippy.

SKIPPY: On a basketball scholarship through TCC.

NATHAN: Um… I want a divorce, Skippy. Ok. What’s up with Larry!?

LARRY (in his best Yoda voice): Patience, you must have. Told, my story will be.

MIGUEL: Oh, this is so cool!

CHRIS: This oughtta be good.

LARRY: Have we ever established if this is 2006 or 2011?

(Everyone looks at each other and shrugs.)

LARRY: Well, then I’ll be vague as to the timeline. A little over ten years ago, I was born. Mein Pa, my real father, worked for the government. He was working in an experimental section on a program to create super soldiers, because for some reason the government does everything only to advance the cause of war in these types of stories. They created a serum that would grow super powers in people. The problem is that there were people like the professor here…

PROFESSOR: I’m feeling much better now.

NATHAN: Can I just interject that it would have been nice if we could have known all of this months ago?

CHRIS: It’s amazing what a deadline, and writing the last episode, will force you to come up with.

LARRY: There were people like the professor here who became too interested in the ways that these super humans could be used to bring down the government. Mein Pa insisted that the experiments stop before the professor could do anything harmful. The government responded with special forces, like COBALT, as a means of protecting against anyone getting hold of the super humans. But bureaucracy being what it is; the professor found a way to get people with powers close to him. He paid congress to pass legislation that super powers must be registered. Then he started working for a government funded school teaching a course on super powers.

NATHAN: But what took so long for him to get his plan in motion?

MIGUEL: This is so cool! And Larry’s dad should probably be added as a ghost in Special Edition releases the same way they need to add Qui-Gon.

(Nathan elbows Miguel.)

LARRY: Mein Pa foresaw a terrible future where government inefficiency let too many powerful humans slip through the cracks, so my father hid the formula from the government.

NATHAN: How do you hide anything from the government?

CHRIS: Heh, heh, heh.

NATHAN: Why are you so amused?

CHRIS: Wait for it.

LARRY: The best way to take anything out of the hands of the government is to hand it off to the private sector. Mein Pa sold the formula to various junk food companies to use as a secret preservative. He explained that in low enough quantities, people wouldn’t develop the super powers. His mistake was underestimating how much people will overdo snack foods.

NATHAN: You mean?

LARRY: Yes. Mr. Peepers soda and Twankies snack cakes are among the many junk foods with the preservative.

NATHAN: So in spite of your father’s best efforts, there would still be people with crazy powers for the professor to try to use. He just had to wait patiently for someone like Chris with super speed or you with your ability to retain information that evolved into the odd dream state power to come along, and then to find a way to manipulate it.

MIGUEL: But wait. My wife and I don’t overdo junk food. Why do we have powers?

LARRY: As it turns out, HBO Original Programming, such as “The Sopranos,” emits a frequency that is the opposite of the dampening field. It can also cause super powers to manifest.

MIGUEL: Oh. Yeah… we definitely overdo HBO shows.

NATHAN: So what happened to your father, Larry?

LARRY: The original leader of COBALT was a crazed guy who felt that he was doing his country a service by torturing my father until he told what happened to the formula. Mein Pa was killed during one of these interrogations, and that’s when this crazed guy was kicked out of the service, and Eric stepped up as leader.

CHRIS: And…

LARRY: And what?

CHRIS: Why didn’t the professor know who you were?

LARRY: Because Eric helped my mom by hiding us from the government with new identities. When he looked me up in the county records he found hardly anything.

CHRIS: Because…

LARRY: Well, I guess now that I’ve transcended from this plane of existence, it won’t hurt to say that my mom and I took on new identities.

CHRIS: Your original name being…

LARRY: Reece! Are you happy? My name was once Reece. Larry was my alias

NATHAN: Really? But how did you know this, Chris?

CHRIS: It’s like all that stuff I tipped Garrett for. I just say random stuff, and sometimes it sticks.

NATHAN: So do we call you Larry or Reece then?

CHRIS: That’s like when the asked Prince if they should still call him The Artist.

LARRY: Well, since you put it that way, I guess I know how Prince felt when he was finally able to drop that odd symbol. I’ve been emancipated from the bonds that bound me. Yes. It feels right. You may now call me Reece.

CHRIS: Whatever, Larry.

(End of “Flash Ahhhh!”)

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 - A Whim in Review

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Welcome to my 2011 Wrap-up post. This blog will be a list of stuff I (or Chris and I or Miguel and I) did over the last 12 months that was interesting, good, or bad. It's nice to have a quick review of the year like this. It's a bit like covering your yearly goals to see what you accomplished or failed to accomplish plus more cool stuff.

  • Hangman's House of Horrors: Once again we (Miguel and I) worked with the local charity haunted house making some videos. I decided I didn't want any direct involvement with the house this coming year because their 'core' volunteer and employees rub me the wrong way. I will be glad to help behind the scenes but that's about all.
  • Renegade Anime business: In 2011 I started my Anime model business back up. I have focused on online sales and conventions for the quick turnover. It has been mildly successful. I will continue it through 2012.
  • Dallas Comicon: I setup at the 3 conventions that the guys in Dallas put on. The convention moved to the Irving Convention center this year and was a big success. We posted a week's worth of thoughts about it.
  • Every 15 Minutes: This is a highschool program tries to turn kids off drinking and driving with bloddy re-enactments. I helped video the one that Decatur put on at the Highschool this year.
  • House Work: For some reason 2011 turned out to be all about house and yard work. I took on a lot of repair work around my own house and my mom's rent house. I did a couple of blogs about the work I did on my house.
  • Rent Property Work: My mom's rent house was trashed and I started a rather tedious blog about repairing the damage. The blog is still going on.
  • New vehicle: I had issues with my little Ford pickup and decided it was time to put it out of it's misery. I pulled the trigger and bought a new (and much larger) truck. That was not before I spent money to get it fixed and it wasn't fixed right.
  • Season 2 pickup day: Chris cornered me into shooting some missing stuff from Season 2 so we had a day of pickup shots (not shot where I am in a pickup, but shots we missed or were lost).
  • New VW: This fall I bought a 1970 Beetle from a co-worker. I didn't have the money to buy it outright so they put me on a payment plan. It's a nice beetle and I hope to use it as a daily driver in 2012. Read about it here.
  • College: I took some health care government funded classes from Midland college during the 2nd half of the year in preparation for a certification exam. I passed both the class and the test. I then turned my sights to going back to real college and getting a Bachelor's degree.
  • Concerts: I am approaching 40 years of age in a couple more years and believe it or not I have never been to a concert until 2011. My first concert experience was Duran Duran (who else?) at WinStar casino. Low and behold they came back to Texas and I got to see them again at Verizon center! Will miracles never end?!
  • Flash Ahhhh!: Chris got at least one big goal he started out on (with me in tow). We are talking about our whopping 52 part Flash Ahhhh! serial that can been seen here on the According To Whim blog. At times I was inspired and other times I couldn't give two farts about it but in the end I am glad we did it.
All in all it was a fairly busy yet quiet year. I can't describe it well. I am hoping that 2012 will be awesome in so many ways but I know that I will have to make things happen.

For those of you who bother to read our stuff: thanks so much.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chris’s Goals, For Reals This Time

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

On Tuesday, I tried to write my goals for 2012, but soon came to the realization that I didn’t know what they were. These thoughts kept shrouding any real thoughts, “What am I going to do the same? What am I going to different? How can I break out of my comfort zone and do the things I wish to do?” The answer to these questions seemed more important than compiling a list of arbitrary activities to do. Then I went off on a tangent about the terrible necessity of priority, using Nathan’s near contradicting goals as a my example, because I couldn’t think of a comparable example in my own life, aside from getting a better paying job that doesn’t give me as much time to write on the job so that I have more time to work on projects at home.

So today, I would like to try to actually just make a list of activities without having a mental meltdown about whether any given thing is better than the other. I can do that when I make my daily To Do List. FYI: The first ten-weeks this year actually starts after the first day of the year, because of how the last two off weeks fall. So January 2, 2012 marks the official first day of my year.

Nathan mentioned that we don’t have any group goals yet. We technically have one that involves making our blogs less catch all, and more focused on a given topic. As far as anything is concerned, I’m sure we’ll have a brainstorming session and I’ll throw out ideas, but I’m going to leave the choice of what we’re actually doing as a group, and the schedule by which we do it, up to Nathan.

My important solo goals include the following:

Prioritizing – I need to buckle down. I’m always too ephemeral in my choice of what to do on any given day. It works out for me sometimes, but too often, I find myself with too many incomplete projects. I need to pick a primary and secondary goal, and make everything else less important by action rather than concept.

Write 3,500 Words a Day – This will need to include the priority goal. I have to have a primary work and a secondary work and quit veering off into other directions. This year the daily blog was really the priority, so that worked out on some level, but I couldn’t decide on a definite secondary priority. I got serious for a couple of weeks and finished writing a novel, but I was all over the place after that.

Editing – Speaking of my novel, and many other projects of that nature, I need to do the final stages of making it readable. I adopted the “six pages a day” technique of Stephen King well enough at times, but I don’t do the planning future projects and editing thing right, because when I start planning a new project, I just start writing it. This of course means I’m not writing whatever I was writing the previous day, week, or month. This needs to stop.

Publishing – This year. No matter what. Step away from the comfort zone.

Music – I did not write a complete song this year. This will not do. While this is not the first year of my life that I haven’t written a song, it is the first year since I was in JAKT (2006) that I haven’t written (or co-written) a complete song. I bought a cheap acoustic guitar to take with me to work while I was at posts that were secluded from compressed civilization; and I did play, I did form a few ideas, but I didn’t form a full song. I guess I have two days left, and maybe I should get started now, but if nothing else, I can’t let 2012 go without music work. Oh, and… See – Publishing.

Organization – It became very clear how poorly I handled this goal this year when I was trying to find the title to my Mazda that needed to be sold for scrap. If writing is primary either music or organization is secondary. Either way, one needs to be a strong tertiary goal.

Debt – Yep. My goal is to go irreversibly into debt. Not really. Sort of. I’ve had this thought about going to college if student loans and grants could pay my whole way, and provide some living expenses; for no other reason other than to take a break from working low paying jobs and getting nowhere with it. I worked two and a half jobs this year. I think it would be ok to even it out this year. But if I decide against that, which is likely because I’m not all that interested in institutional learning, I’ll instead focus on living on hardly any money and try to pay off debt. Since I’m presumably going to be telling Nathan to live on nothing (it has to do with whether he’s serious about getting out of credit card debt or not) I feel I should put myself through the task too. Since my dad owns the house I live in and pays for it, I could live off of $800 a month (after taxes and child support are pulled from my check). It would mean cutting back on all of my already meager luxury spending, but I think it would be worth it on some level. Either it would allow me to work fewer hours, or it will give me a nice emergency fund and debt payment stream.

My fun solo goals include the following:

Reading Robotech – This is a goal that I’m sharing with Nathan, though it is not a group goal in the strictest sense. He came up with it, and it sounded fun. We’re going to read through all the printed material of Robotech, and watch all the shows and movies. One of our blogs will be devoted to Robotech fandom.

License Plate Game – I’ve been working three shifts at a hotel as a security guard. Not my favourite post to do. I don’t mind walking around. Even when I’m at secluded posts, I tend to do some amount of walking around. I get too antsy sitting in one place for too long. I have to write to keep myself from wanting to get up and walk around. Anyway, while patrolling the parking lots, I see a lot of different states on the license plates, and I remembered the game that is commonly played on long trips. It’s basically playing Bingo with the fifty states by trying to cover as much of your card as possible. I thought that it might be interesting to see how well I could do if I gave myself the entire year to collect states. I was really hoping I wouldn’t still be doing the damn hotel post by the time the new year started though.

Give Me 15 Movies to Watch – I asked a few people close to me to list 15 movies that I haven’t seen that they feel I should see. This started with Miguel and Loren, because I think they watch the most movies of everyone I know. Loren has given me most of his list. Miguel has disappointed me so far by giving me only two movies: American Pie and Avatar. While I appreciate that he feels I should see these movies, it seems like a waste to give me movies that I will probably end up seeing by default at some point in my life. Maybe as he tries to think of thirteen more, he’ll have to think of something more interesting.

And that’s really about it. I’ve tried to purposely keep my list short because of that prioritization thing. If I listed everything I would like to do, the list would be too long. Maybe I’ll create a new daily blog: “Stuff I’d Like to Do.” Eh, it would take up too much time writing that much.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 Junk on the web I found interesting

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

This is a list of stuff I have found over the last year either through others or by Stumbling, browsing the net. Alot here is a lot older than 2011 but that's when I found them. Enjoy...

  • Portal video game end song. This is charming end song utilizing a text to voice I guess.
  • Mr. Trololololo guy. This crazy video has apparently be floating around the web for a while but I only discovered it this year. The song is kooky but his expressions and singing face are what make it great.
  • This He-Man flash video. This is greatness.
  • 4 Chords is all you need to for every pop song ever made. I disagree that these are all the same song but it's VERY entertaining.
  • The Rocket's (a French band) song Galatica and their tribute band's version of the song. This was one of my most enjoyable finds of 2011. I also really like The Rocket's version of On The Road Again.
  • It wasn't until 2011 that I really got into Kraftwerk with this video. Their 2004 concert had the best stuff but most of it was pulled for copyright.
  • My biggest unknown find was David Zed. I was so impressed that I wrote a blog about him. I discovered him and The Rocket's because of the suggested videos that YouTube put on the Kraftwerk video page. In case you don't go read the blog here is the original video I found of him plus some of his comedy work. Here is that original video with funny subtitles.
  • Friday parody that is by far the best.
  • This color footage of London in 1927

The following isn't stuff I from this last year but it's more cool stuff from the net over the last couple of years:
I hope you enjoy this interesting link edition of the According To Whim Daily Blog. Please stick around in 2012 as we expand our horizons and hopefully get lots of cool stuff done.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Chris’s Apocalyptic Goals, and the End of Nathan’s World as He Knows It (and I Feel Fine)

by chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

Nathan spoke about his goals for the coming year in his last post, so I figured that I needed to write mine out… mostly because I need a post for today. Ok, I’ll stop being flippant about it, but the truth of the matter is that I’m not sure what goals I have for the coming apocalypse. The usual suspects are there: writing, writing, organizing, and writing. The problem comes in the form of what I should change and not change about my current situation. Like how many hours should I work per week this year, and doing what?

Let’s start by talking smack about Nathan’s goals behind his back. I’m reasonably sure he doesn’t read this blog. Hi, Nathan. The main reason to talk about Nathan’s goals first is because even though we haven’t made group goals yet, we do have one goal in common, listed right at the start of his post: Painting his house.

Wait? That’s not it. Must be the next one: Leveling his house. Oh wait: Working on his mom’s rent house. Um, oh: Selling one of the VW Beetles. It’s around here somewhere: The Anime model business. Nope: Reading Robotech. Hmm: “The biggest thing in 2012 is of course my debt pay down.”

Whoomp there it is! Well, it’s not the first thing, but it’s the biggest thing. To be fair, he said nothing about order of importance. The only reason I bring this up is because I think it ties in to what really should be both Nathan’s and my primary goal for the year: Stepping out of our comfort zones.

I’ve talked about this often. And I do realize that it’s not for everyone. But the fact of the matter is that I think that part of setting goals is to plan to do something that is not something you would do normally. Many of Nathan’s goals (and even my own goals are but in a different way) are things that if he had no written goals, he would probably get around to doing anyway. There is nothing wrong with this. It’s a good way to keep organized, and most of your goals should be created based on what you want to do. But there is another side to this.

The truth of the matter is that there are things we all want to do that are out of our comfort zone, and these things don’t get fair and equal representation on our goal list. Sometimes there’s a good reason why they don’t. For instance, I wish to one day participate in a demolition derby, but if I put that goal before everything else just to get it off my list, I’m not really using my time wisely. That’s one of those goals that shouldn’t be on my list until I’m making enough money to live off of, while doing work that I enjoy.

But the way that we think as humans, if someone approached me one day and said, “Hey, I need a driver for a demolition derby, and it will only cost you the price of the car to destroy,” the fact of the matter is that I would rationalize why it is that I should put writing my second novel on hold to find a good destroyable car, so that I could get that goal off my list. The problem is that it wouldn’t be the right choice. Not really.

Am I saying that Nathan’s goals are wrong? Am I saying that putting home improvement projects, which he’d do even if he had no written goals, is a bad idea unless he also puts something like getting out of debt on there too? No. What I am saying is that one is going to push Nathan out of his comfort zone, and one is going to keep him firmly lodged in his comfort zone. Any guesses as to which is which?

Let’s look at this quote from Nathan about our difference in opinion about how he should handle his debt:

“My immediate plan is to pay off credit cards and Chris’ plan is to pay off everything but I am not so sure about that. I don’t want to drive my life into the ground for that.”

What he’s referring to is the fact that I discussed going after all of his debt while we were at it. I had a Scorched Earth tactic that would actually get rid of all of his debt in the course of a year, with a few casualties. In my extreme scenario, he would work practically nonstop, and his house and cars would be sold by year’s end. One can see why one might call that driving his life into the ground. My point was simply that it could be done if a person was willing to take enough steps outside of the comfort zone.

What I hope Nathan realizes is that the plan I came up with when I came over about a month ago was a scaled back plan based on the fact that he only wants to get rid of the credit card debt by the end of the year. The plan was to pay $1,000 a week against his credit card debt. I’m sure he has to realize that for the next year, his life is still pretty much driven into the ground if he’s willing to do this, because he has to put the novel before the demolition derby if he’s going to even accomplish this much of his debt payoff. I can only suggest what he should do. I can’t make him do it.

What I’m saying here is that Nathan wants two things from the following year. One is to finish upgrading his house and one is to get rid of his upwards of $7,000 a year in interest payments. Imagine how much home upgrading he could do with $7,000 a year, or even the $3,000 a year that’s specifically interest on credit cards. Do you see my point?

The way that Nathan needs to run his goals in order to achieve them both is going to require that he resist the temptation to go out of order (for instance, let’s say he wanted to replace his carpet and linoleum, and applied for a credit card to afford it). In other words, he will need to throw $4,000 every two paychecks at his debt, and then live off the rest, because the credit cards don’t go completely away unless he does this. Then if he has enough money to do house upgrading from the extra money he makes doing on call, then he can do the upgrading.

The moment that he says, “Well, I’ll only pay $800 this week so I can paint the back of the house.” And then says, “I’ll only pay $800 this week because I need to do some weatherproofing.” And then says, “I’ll only pay $800 this week because I’m tired of being on call.” And then says, “I’ll only pay $800 this week because my wife has pointed out that I’m still spending money, and that I can short the debt repayment by $200 this week to buy her something.” Next thing you know, Nathan has shorted his goal by a little over $10,000.

Sure, in that scenario, he did well all things considered, but he didn’t accomplish the goal outside of his comfort zone in favour of the goal inside the comfort zone. And my example is if he’s still willing to part with $3,200 every four weeks, which may still be a bit far out of his comfort zone to happen if he prioritizes anything else that costs money over the debt repayment.

And let’s be clear, it doesn’t count if you pay off $52,000 in credit card debt if you get a $20,000 home equity line of credit for repairs, rack up $15,000 in student loans, get various new household appliances on rent to own, and rollover a current car loan into a bigger car loan for a newer car. If you’re starting with $137,000 in total debt, and you pay off $52,000 in credit card debt, you should have only $85,000 in total debt at the end of the year. Saying, “I may still have $120,000 in debt, but none of it is credit cards,” just isn’t fair representation of the goal.

It might seem like I’m picking on Nathan, but this does apply to me as well. I’m used to living on little money, so I’ve already started living on $800 a month (which is only possible because my dad pays my rent, and is not counting money paid out in income taxes and child support before I get my check). I would be better to step out of my comfort zone and look for a better paying job, whether I believe there is one out there or not. I still plan on living on $800 a month for the whole year of 2012, regardless of what I make, and regardless of what I want. I will save an emergency fund, and then I will start going after my own debt.

I don’t have a comparable plan for getting rid of my debt in a year. If something occurs to me I will certainly try. That was why I was suggesting that Nathan try that route, as opposed to just going after a small portion (though admittedly highest interest) of his debt. Yep, what is under the umbrella of credit card debt is only approximately 37% of his debt (based on the figures I remember). It just seems to me that if someone showed me a relatively low risk (albeit very life-changing) way of getting rid of 100% of my debt in a year that wasn’t illegal or immoral, I think I would have to give it an honest go, even if the plan wasn’t 100% surefire.

But back to me. I have a lot of things that I should be doing in a certain priority order. And one of them is definitely out of my comfort zone. It is the part about using priorities. For as organized as I come across as trying to be, I fail on probably the most important level. I don’t prioritize. Even when I do prioritize, my priority tends to change too soon to be effective.

Do I have goals for 2012? Yes. Do I know what they are? Yes. Do I know how to set them? No. Why? Because I’m running into the problem of priority. I can’t decide what I should put above all else. Do I look for a job that pays better, but gives me less time to write, or do I make my priority to write 3,500 words a day, even if I’m stuck in the same low paying job (or jobs) as I’ve always been stuck in? A way to do both would be ideal of course, but barring that, I need a priority.

Here’s my point lined up in one succinct sentence:

This year, Nathan and I should pick one year-long goal, and one goal per ten-weeks, which drags us out of our comfort zones, while accomplishing something that we want in our lives.

And if I’m going to further that thought, making it not one sentence and not so succinct, it’s to say that these “out of comfort zone” goals should be our priority above all other things within reason. For instance, if I found a job that paid twice as much as what I make now, but would require me to move to Alaska, it might not be a reasonable move outside of my comfort zone, but for four times what I make it might be. Not changing the oil in Nathan’s car because of debt repayment is not reasonable, but postponing a new paint job on the house might be. The point is to be honest about the excuses we will tell ourselves, and to have a true set of priorities to back ourselves up when we start bullshitting ourselves. Otherwise, our comfort zones become a soft, warm bed at the bottom of a cold pit. We know we can climb out, but it’s cold, it will take a while, and that bed is warm and requires a lot less climbing to get into. Yet we will just lie there and wish we were out of the pit.

Monday, December 26, 2011

I need to get the house in order for the Apoclypse...

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

I know I've had a couple of posts about what I have done in 2011 to the house and other projects I hoped to get done and ones I did get done. This post is about the stuff I hope to do in 2012 in terms of projects not related to According To Whim. Infact Chris and I haven't had our 2012 goal talk yet. I am sure that will be happening in the next week or so.

As you all know I spent a good amount of time getting my house prepped and painted last Spring through Summer. In the upcoming year I need to finish that job. You may have not noticed that I ever claimed victory in that particular goal. It is done for the most part but there still some places that I didn't get to do. The back porch hasn't been done at all. Most of the railings need replacing so I didn't think it wise to spend a lot of time painting if I was just going to tear them down.

I also plan to do some MORE house leveling this year. I spent money this last year having someone do it but they didn't really mess with the biggest offender which is one of the additions. If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself! I am going to just do it myself. It means a lot of time doing a lot of tedious house lifting in little doses so the addition doesn't crack too much inside. After that I am going to have to take some advice of one contractor and put a moisture barrier along the East wall of the addition.

I am of course going to continue working on my mom's rent house. I am getting there in little steps but I don't see it taking much longer than late Spring to have it completed (at least to point to where someone could live there).

I plan on selling one of the VW Beetles this coming year too. It is supposed to be the Super Beetle but I am not too sure now. The 70 Beetle is having issues that I don't know how to fix. We will just have to see. In order to sell the Super I will have first have to get it inspected (but I think I am ready for that now). The 70 Beetle is going to need some work with the brakes and get the engine issue taken care of. That shouldn't be too hard to do since the original owner likes messing with them and has offered to get it working nice again (for me for free).

My Anime model business will continue through the next year. EBay is going slowly but with great profit. The conventions are so-so except the May one which will look like another massive one so I might do well there. I am not selling my stock at 50% off this year though. My supply has dried up so I am going to try to get as much as possible with what I have left.

In 2012 I also plan to have the complete Robotech experience. You can read all about that in this post. I am going to have a separate blog for this so check it out once 2012 starts at: http://robotechnow.blogspot.com/.

The biggest thing in 2012 is of course my debt pay down. My wife and I are going to work towards paying off our debt. My immediate plan is to pay off credit cards and Chris' plan is to pay off everything but I am not so sure about that. I don't want to drive my life into the ground for that. We will just see how it all plays out. Chris will be posting the details as the year goes on.

I am planning on going back to college to finish my Bachelor's degree. You can read all the previous thoughts in this blog. A Bachelor's degree requires around 128 hours of credit. I already have 93 hours going in so it should be too bad.

So that's all for my personal goals for 2012 (for the moment at least). We will probably list some goals here on the blog for According To Whim stuff after Chris and I talk about it.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

MEEEERRRRYYYY CARPETMAS!

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

I would just like to say Merry Christmas since according to the Mayans this will be the last one you will ever have...

Today's post is about the carpet and linoleum I got installed and the trials and tribulations in getting it. Back towards the first of the month my wife and I went to The Home Depot to order carpet and linoleum for our living room, dining, and a small bedroom. We found what we wanted, got a Home Depot card so we could finance it and made the order. The cute girl that helped is said that we were lucky since it was the LAST day to make pre-Christmas installation. We made the order and waited.

The installers called to schedule a day and at first he said that they couldn't install the carpet before the 29th. I told him to forget the whole thing and he quickly changed his tune and 'found' an install date on the 21st. It was running really close to Christmas but at least it would be before the happy day.

The day arrived and our installers showed up (speaking so little English I actually did have trouble understanding what he was saying). At first he said they didn't have enough carpet. I quickly saw though the installers misunderstanding and pointed out that the living/dining area would have a combination of carpet and linoleum. It took ME, a no-body to point out the facts on his diagrams and worksheets... sheesh.

They got the work done in only about 4 hours or so. The two guys worked fairly quickly and dealt with the crappy job that the previous owner did putting his own carpet in (complete with visible seam, see pic above). After they pulled up some of the old carpet I could see the slap-dash job the previous owner did including this truly fantastic job at carpet padding.

Yes, the was another carpet under the carpet. I guess he got a better deal or had some carpet lying around so to save money on padding he used a 2nd carpet. Sheesh.

After they got done it looked great except the big uncarpeted area in the living area where the linoleum guy would come and work on the next day (Dec 22nd). After the carpet guys left I put the furniture back and enjoyed the new carpet.

The next morning the linoleum guy showed. I was surprised because he was an older white guy, very proper, very polite. I have had a lot done to my home over the last 5 1/2 years and I have NEVER had one person work on it who wasn't Hispanic. After my initial shock he got to work. He did a great job but it took all day to the one area. Apparently there is a lot of work that goes into putting that kind of flooring down properly.

Before he left one of my co-workers and her husband showed up to help me work on my Beetles so I wasn't around for the final touches (baseboards) of the job. He packed up and left while we puttered with the carburetors of the bugs.

When all was said and done the house have a new and fresh feel to it. New flooring really can spruce up a house enormously! It was expensive but I think it was totally worth it!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Flash Ahhhh!: Episode Fifty-One – Wrap It Up, I'll Take It

by the According To Whim .com crew

(This Episode by Nathan Stout)

[EXT – STUBBY’S FLOODED HIDEOUT / SIX FLAGS – DAY]

NATHAN: Miguel, what’s poking me?!

(Nathan blinks awake. He is sitting in one of the Roaring Rapids rafts that brought them all up from the depths of Stubby’s now flooded-out hideout deep below Six Flags. The raft is sitting in on dry ground now, the water receded away.)

NATHAN: What happened?

(Everyone in the raft blinks, as if waking.)

LARRY: Sorry, I had to put everyone out for a bit.

(Chris looks around and sees the other raft with the Grrrls in it.)

CHRIS: So the Grrrls are still here! Maybe Nathan didn’t ruin everything.

NATHAN: Why did you mess with our minds?

LARRY: I had to take care of a few things. I altered reality to see what would happen next if I didn’t interfere and I didn’t like it so I took some steps...

PAUL: Yooohoooooooooooooo!

(Everyone looks up. High overhead Dentre’s RE/MAX balloon is floating away with Paul and Angelina in it.)

DENTRE: Paul!

PAUL: Sorry guys, Angelina and I have some making up to do. By the way, I found this floating in the water. I think it’s yours Nathan.

(Nathan’s red Tron Lightcycle lands in his lap.)

NATHAN: Sheesh...

MIGUEL: Are you going to go after them? Need some help beating the crap out of him? I can assist.

DENTRE: Nah... What’s the point? The crisis is over, Paul’s no threat, and Angelina only works for those who pay her, so she’s no danger either.

SHAG: Groovy.

NATHAN: Yeah...

SHAG: No, groovy as in... this is groovy.

(Shag fishes something out of the puddle of water the raft sits in. It’s a plastic shark.)

SHAG: I think that’s my cue. I’m out of here man.

(Shag leaps over the rail and scoots out of sight in a 70s kind of fashion. He calls out after he rounds a corner.)

SHAG: Been fun, Dentre. Ring me up when you need more swingin’ help.

(Eric comes running up to the raft and clasps a hand on the now-feeble professor.)

ERIC: You are coming with me, sir.

(The professor looks around a little confused.)

PROFESSOR: Ehhhhh?

LARRY: I don’t think so. Eric, there is nothing more you can do to the professor. He is now old beyond use... or misuse by anyone.

(Eric looks down and realizes that he is now holding a python. He yelps and drops it whereupon it vanishes. The professor is still just sitting there, staring out at nothing.)

CHRIS: This is cool. It’s like Larry has evolved into some sort of god or something and is setting things to rights.

MIGUEL: There is a name for that in movies and books...

(Miguel’s testosterone-fueled mind can’t think of the word, since clear thinking is more for those in the realm of normality, and not the World Wrestling Federation.

NATHAN: The phrase is “Deus Ex Machina” and you taught me that. It means “god out of the machine.”

LARRY: I’m no god. I am just more than I once was.

ERIC: Jay used in next maraschino or not, the professor has a lot to answer for!

LARRY: Go away.

(Eric vanishes along with his troops.)

CHRIS: Good one!

NATHAN: Where is he?

[INT - MILITARY BASE - DAY]

(Eric is sitting at his desk. He looks confused.)

ERIC: What... where?

(Eric tries to remember how in the heck he got here but there is a fog and he just can’t. He sits in the silence for a long time trying to remember, but nothing is coming through.)

ERIC: I was looking for someone or something...

(Eric thinks and thinks then sees the book on his desk.)

ERIC: Ha!

(Eric remembers that whatever this book is about is the key. It’s the book he got from the Comicon. He knows for sure that he must build whatever this book is about. That is the key to all his hard work over the months.)

ERIC: I remember!

(Eric pages through the book, mentally planning his next move. His life goal is within reach again, and no one is going to be able to stop him. The book is “The Ladies Home Journal of Crochet Hats,” circa 1972.)

[EXT – STUBBY’S FLOODED HIDEOUT / SIX FLAGS – DAY]

CHRIS: What about the professor? He’s hardly going to be able to take care of himself now.

LARRY: I need you and Miguel to take him to Dainty Pines Assisted Living Center. He can spend his days playing board games with Stan and Oliver. Arrangements have been made and your car is out at the front gate.

(Chris and Miguel do as they are told because you don’t want anyone who can think you out of existence to be irritated at you. They help the old codger out of the raft and walk him out of the park and out of this story.)

LARRY: Grrrls...

(By this time, everyone has disembarked from their rafts, and are standing around Larry.)

GRRLS: Yes?

LARRY: Thank you for making me a man.

NATHAN: Perhaps that’s what brought your powers to their fullest extent? If that’s the case...

(Nathan holds his arms out to the Grrrls, and they all turn their noses up at him.)

LARRY: I appreciate what you did, but you now need to live chaste lives. Loose lips sink ships...

(There is a nervous titter from the group.)

LARRY: Remind me not to tell that one again. Anyway, I have restored and expanded your salon, so that the income will sustain you all in a rather normal manner. No more contact killings...

(They reply in unison.)

GRRLS: Yes, Larry. Thank you, Larry.

LARRY: Good.

(Larry twitches his nose. They vanish from the park and appear in spanking new salon gear at their spanking new salon: The Healing Touche II: Electric Boutique... don’t worry, only a small percentage of you will get that joke.)

LARRY: I have nothing to do to or for you, Dentre. Your path is already set.

(Dentre exhales, as he looks about Arlington with its broken glass and depressed property values.)

LARRY: Your mission of stopping Quincy failed to an extent, but you and your organization will be thrilled with the upswing of market values once insurance companies have paid out to repair the damage.

(Dentre looks hopeful.)

LARRY: One word of advice... get into house flipping right now. You will make a killing. Oh yeah, and invest in glass companies. There were a lot of windows in this city.

(Dentre has a positive jump in his step, and he vaults out of the raft, linking arm and arm with the gold pant-suited Century 21 agents. They stroll out of the park... yep... and out of the story.)

NATHAN: Where’s Stubby?!

LARRY: He did leave as you dreamed it. We are about to take care of him now.

(There is a flash, and Nathan and Larry are sitting in LoseStar Casino at Stubby’s Blackjack table. Stubby freezes when he sees the two. His shock turns to anger, but he regains control of himself.)

STUBBY: Dealer has 21.

(There is a disappointed sigh from the others at the table. He begins collect the cards. His work hampered as it always is by his short, stubby fingers.)

LARRY: Let’s play.

(There are some chips in front of Larry and Nathan. Nathan wants to point out the fact that Larry is far too young to be gambling, but since he could probably obliterate the world with one thought, Nathan thinks better of it. Stubby watches them both with malevolence. After a couple of hands, Larry breaks the silence.)

LARRY: Ok, I think we are done. Nathan, tip the man.

(Nathan reaches into his pocket at Larry’s prompting and finds a stack of bills in it. Larry nods his head at Stubby.)

NATHAN: Here... you... go...

(Nathan puts the money on the table hesitatingly.)

NATHAN: Chris and I wanted you to... have this...

(Stubby looks stunned.)

LARRY: And they wanted you to have this too.

(Stubby’s hands cramp up and he bends over them. They hurt like hell, but then he sees them transforming, becoming longer, more normal sized. Stubby’s eyes fill with tears and he looks at his beautiful long fingers. The hot chick sitting at the table raises an eyebrow. She smiles at him and his long fingers. Her body gives an involuntary quiver.)

LARRY: Taken care of.

(The two walk to the front of the casino.)

LARRY: Well, I think that is about all. Here, gimmie that Lightcycle.

(Nathan hands him the toy.)

NATHAN: What about Garrett?

LARRY: Angelina will be taking care of him. I assure you nothing I could do could begin to equal the revenge she will have planned. I am going ahead alone. Head back and I will meet you, Miguel, and Chris. I will finish all this mess up and we can get on with our lives.

(Larry vanishes.)

NATHAN: Wait! How do I get back!?

PORTER: Sir, here are your keys.

(Nathan turns to the porter who hands him some keys. Nathan looks past him at the very real bright red Lightcycle waiting for him.)

NATHAN: Oh man...

(End of Episode Fifty-One)

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Case of the Misdiagnosed Vehicle (Part Two)

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

Yesterday, in Part One, I discussed the back story of my car to give you some of the clues, and some red herrings, intended to give you, the reader, a chance to solve a mystery as in some detective novels where the reader who pays attention to the details has a reasonable chance of solving the mystery before the protagonist. If you have not read Part One yet, you should go back and read it, and if you wish to have all your facts straight, maybe read through it a second time. I did my best to make the mystery fair. And the fact that it resembles a bad episode of “House M.D.,” with all the misdiagnosing, is unintentional. This is just how the situation played out.

The morning of the 20th, I was very tired, and was still feeling the effects of a recent cold. I didn’t want to stop anywhere on the way home, and of my work stuff, I was only going to take in what couldn’t be left in the car. No multiple trips from car to house for me that morning. This is probably why I didn’t notice that my headlights were on.

I was surprised that night when I was leaving for work that my battery was dead, but when I hooked up my roommate’s car battery to my car battery, and my headlights came on, I knew what the problem was. Or so I thought I did. The problem is that the car was starting when we jumpstarted it, but it wasn’t staying that way. It would run for less than ten seconds and then die. Then it wouldn’t even do that, so we let the battery charge more. It ran for less than ten seconds, died, and then wouldn’t do even that again.

My boss worked my schedule around, so that I could use my roommate’s car to go to work, and while we were texting he suggested that maybe my alternator was bad. I went to look, and the alternator belt, while not broken, had started fraying. I showed my roommate and told him that it might be a good idea while there was no traffic to push my car to the nearby mechanic so I didn’t have to pay for a tow.

This was a good idea, except that while in ok shape, I’m not in that good of shape. Pushing the car nearly killed me, which is wrong, because in an episode of “House M.D.” it’s supposed to be the patient that nearly dies, and in this case the car is the patient, damn it! The driveway is slanted, so we both had to push the car onto the street, which was not all that easy to be honest. Once we had it out on the street, he helped me start pushing it. I told him to drive his car down there to give me a ride back. Ugh. By the time I was almost there, the slight momentum that the street provided was not really there anymore, and I was gasping for air. Luckily, a couple of guys helped me push it the rest of the way. I was glad for the ability to lie down before work, and that there was an asthma inhaler in the house.

The next morning, my dad came and got me and took me to the mechanic. I explained what happened, and they said that they would start with the belts, and then see what the other problem was. We had to jumpstart the car again, but this time it started and stayed running. I was wondering if maybe the battery on my roommate’s car was just not strong enough, but dismissed it.

They replaced the belts. They drove the car. There was no trouble. I got there. They started the car and moved it from the shop to the parking lot. I paid for it. I started the car and drove it home. I parked it in the driveway. No problems. No problems, that is, until I tried to leave for work that night. It was doing the same thing, except that the battery didn’t seem to be dead.

I called my dad. I figured that we could try jumping it anyway, and if it started up he could take me to get a battery. It didn’t start though. I was completely at a loss. Maybe the alternator was bad, but why would it crank, run for less than ten seconds, die, and then not even do that? As I understand an alternator, it just recharges the battery. It doesn’t keep the car running. Have you figured it out yet, cos I hadn’t?

As my dad was driving me to my post, which was luckily a post where I didn’t need a car to sit in, he said something about how it just seemed like it wasn’t getting any gas, like the fact that my driveway sloped was causing it not to start. I immediately thought of the movie “Sling Blade,” which if you haven’t seen it, go watch it. It’s worth your time. I told my dad to turn around.

You see, I’d vaguely remembered the gas light having come on before renting the car, but it hadn’t been on after I got the car back. I was so tired and sick that morning that I was looking at the gauge thinking that I should stop for gas, but I decided that if the light didn’t come on, I’d do it on the way to work. I guess that after a certain point, the light goes off and stays off.

As I said, much like an episode of “House M.D.,” the original occurrence and symptom masked the actual problem by drawing the attention to the wrong issues, and an offhand comment brought it all into focus. We got a gallon of gas in a gas can, and the car started right up. Mystery solved.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Case of the Misdiagnosed Vehicle (Part One)

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

I have a mystery for you today. As a child I was a fan of mystery novels and short stories that gave you, perhaps, not all of the information, but enough information that if you take your time, you can likely work out the mystery for yourself. I’ve never been good at creating that type of mystery, and I’ve noticed that many detective novels shy away from giving clues in favour of holding off the revelation for all readers until the final chapter. It’s too bad, really, but today I have one for you, and the great thing is that it really happened. I will give you more information than you need, but some of it will be relevant for solving the mystery. To be fair, I will leave out a train of thought that I had during these events, because to dwell on it would be to make things too clear. I want to point out that while this should read like a bad Sherlock Holmes story, it doesn’t. Since it involves diagnosing a problem with my car, it reads more like a bad episode of “House M.D.” Enjoy.

In October 2011, I bought a car for $1,100; a Honda Accord. This became necessary as I went from having two vehicles to having nary a one. Ok, I’ll try not to sound like I’m writing in the late 1800s. The car was by no means in great shape, but when it comes to certain vehicles, Honda Accords being one make and model, you’re more or less buying a car that won’t die an easy death. At 243,000 miles though, it promised to have its share of problems.

The guy selling the vehicle explained a few of these “personality traits” to me. There was minor body damage. The door handles to both front doors were basically functional but broken. A previous owner of the vehicle had done some custom wiring that caused a number of issues; one being that rather than turn the key in the ignition to start the car, you turn the key to the on position, and then push a button that starts the car. He said that it must be a theft prevention thing.

Maybe or maybe not related to the rewiring, were some odd problems. The doors are auto-lock, but one of the doors doesn’t lock, so you have to do it manually. The gas gauge won’t go past a quarter of the way full, but will flash the light letting you know that the gas is low. There is a speaker that cuts out randomly. To make matters worse, it’s hard to say why the speaker cuts out, because the radio isn’t installed properly. It could be that the speaker is bad, or that the wire is bad or otherwise not connected properly.

I made sure of one thing before I bought the car, which was that the heater worked, because while it was still hot out and the seller was making a big deal that the air conditioner worked well, I knew that I would need a good heater in a couple of months for sitting at my security guard job. I made sure of that one thing, but I should have made sure of two.

One thing that I also need when at a guard post is stuff to keep me awake. For me, this is a wide range of electronic devices (including my cell phone and laptop) that need to be charged after a couple of hours of use. I noticed three problems that the seller had not pointed out, each seemingly insignificant at that price. The first was just that the side view mirror was being held in place by a piece of cardboard. The second was that the trunk leaked when it rained hard. The third was that there was no cigarette lighter or other jack to plug in my chargers. This has caused me the most trouble in writing. I used to write as much as I could write in a night, even if it meant charging my laptop. Now I write for a couple of hours, and even if I still have stuff to write, I have to shut the laptop down because of a low battery.

The car worked fine for the first couple of weeks, but I soon found myself having to take it to a mechanic because the brakes were out. I didn’t take the car to my regular mechanic. This was simply because I was not certain of being able to get a ride to pick the car up, so I took it to a mechanic less than a mile from my house. This way I could walk to pick it up if need be.

They looked at the brakes, showed me that one of the lines was out, and then got to work on fixing it. They did the front pads, the master cylinder, and the brake line. This was a lot of money, so when they started talking about how my alternator and air conditioning belts really needed to be replaced soon, I told them I would have to deal with it later. I went about my merry way, and had no problems until December 20, 2011.

I had no problems, but I did take it to my regular mechanic. I took my older kids to Tulsa to see their grandma for Christmas. Because I feel it is cheaper in the long run, for wear and tear, to rent a vehicle, I took my car to my mechanic while I was in the rented vehicle. On my laundry list of things to fix was: the side mirrors, the speaker problem, the door handles, the lack of a cigarette lighter, the leaky trunk, and an oil change. They were only able to do the oil change and the side view mirrors, because most of the parts had to come in from the dealer. One other thing; I’d asked him about the belts, and in his opinion they weren’t a pressing issue. He was wrong, but we’ll get to that soon.

If you’re taking the part about solving the mystery seriously, you might want to take the time to review all the facts again before we get into the events of December 20 to 21, of 2011, which we will do tomorrow in Part Two of this exciting-ish mystery.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Selling my house

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

No Chris, I am not selling my house, it's just a blog title. This blog is about our economy and all the times we tried to sell this place.

Back in 2005 we lived in Fort Worth in a rent house off I-30. It was a noisy place what with the freeway yards from our front door but it did provide some entertaining moments when wrecks happened and stuff like that. The house didn't sit on the freeway but up higher with I-30 in a canyon like setup. Anyways we lived there for a year or so but I got a job in Decatur so we began to look for somewhere to live up there. Decatur is about 45 minutes North of Fort Worth. My wife got a job there too so we all we needed to do was move. We looked and looked at houses in Decatur. This was my preference but the prices were too high (for some damn strange reason) and the wife didn't like the houses that were in more reasonable neighborhoods. Decatur realty prices are still high and I could never figure that out. None of the houses are that great and the location isn't fantastic either. It remains a mystery.

We took our search South and I made a huge mistake. I am not sure why in the WORLD I decided to look at mobile homes... well I can. They are cheaper and you get more room. I have had to do a lot of work on my mom's mobile homes so I am not sure why I didn't run screaming from these places. I am guessing it all came down to price. I could pay 120,000 for small 2 bedroom in Decatur or 60,000 for a 4 bedroom massive mobile home in Rhome. Needless to say we bought it. It needed a bit of work but I am cool with that. I am fairly handy and can do a lot with the right tools. If I knew then what I know now... I would have talked them down another 15 thousand!

We had been living in Rhome in a fairly nice (and as I said earlier, big) mobile home. Possibly THE nicest looking mobile home in the whole city (yeah, they look that trashy). I hate to hate on my neighbors but most of the people out here just don't care. To be fair on Rhome, we ACTUALLY live in a city called New Fairview. Our address is Rhome but we reside in New Fairview... strange I know.

In 2009 we decided to move back into Fort Worth. The wife would be done with school and soon and I wanted to work back in the city so we were both keen to sell our house. We got the realtor who sold us the house to sell it for us this time. We set a price and waited. We went though a lot of trouble to make the house look super nice at all times so if we had a showing we didn't have to panic. We showed the house several times but no one bought. We actually started the selling process with one person who just vanished (we even got to keep their earnest money). No other buyers... this was just as the economy was tanking but at the time we didn't know this.

We have up in 2009 but went again the next year with the TOP selling realtor in Wise county. She was positive we would sell. I had done some more fixing around the house and it looked great once again. We did the usual super cleaning and de-cluttering and put it back on the market. We had about 12 showing in the 6 months it was up for sale. I even had a swanky website with a lot of pics of it. It looked like this (but this is the one from the previous realtor who tried to sell it for us). During all that time we had one positive buyer and even had the inspection done but they failed to get the final loan (they prequalified). After this we gave up again.

We are deep into the Bush/Obama economy and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Over the last year we have put a lot into the house since it seems we are going to be here a bit longer and some stuff HAD to get done. We got skirting, leveling, irrigation fixed, I added some new plumbing, ran electricity down to the shed in the back, got new carpet, painted the outside (as you are all painfully aware), and so on. A bunch of things that I am sure will help sell it next time (if we ever get out of this market slump).

One day I would love to buy a real house with a real foundation in a neighborhood of my choosing. I am not sure when that will be but one can hope.

Wait! Don't get me wrong I do like it here. I have made this place my own and done of alot of custom stuff to make it enjoyable and uptodate... it's just I would like to have a real house some day.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tips for Writing Interactive Fiction (Part Two)

On Sunday, I explained how I found that a lot of online interactive fiction isn’t worth the time to read because it lacks any real story. There are some good works online, so don’t take this to mean that I think it’s all bad. I’m just disappointed by most of what is available. I already discussed why story is the most important aspect of interactive fiction. Now I’d like to discuss some other aspects.

Map – I saw a diagram of the choices in “The Cave of Time.” The stories could be over in as few as five entries, or up to nine entries. This was because they valued the number of endings back then, and so out of 115 pages, over one third of them were endings (40 in all). In two cases, you could end up on the same path in multiple ways, which is clever, but still these books weren’t very well organized. At the time, the need to release the books quickly overshadowed a lot of testing the material. In spite of this, there are still some amusing stories, and a reasonably well structured system of branches for the stories.

Start Simple – Choose a structure that will be easy for you to fill in to begin with. Concentrate on making the stories fun to read primarily, and the map secondarily. If you wish to do something more complicated later, write a sequel to one of the endings, and tell your reader to continue from there. If that works out, write a sequel to another one of the endings. By doing this slowly and focused, you can create a longer work by creating many short works. But to begin with, write the simple one. It’ll be enough work as it is, because even if you write a 50 page work with 12 endings, you still have to write 50 pages.

Choices – The other problem that I see is too many choices or not enough choices. The examples that I gave in the section about story and plot of how the bad interactive fiction is written, you’ll note that you always had two choices. A lot of these limited games are like that.

The average CYOA book had anywhere from 1 to 4 choices per entry. The one choice would just tell you to go to another page after you read what happened. This was typically the resolution to your choice on one page, and then the set up for the next choice on the next. You rarely had four choices, maybe once or twice a book, if at all. It wasn’t very common to have three choices. But it wasn’t all just two choices the entire book.

The reason that two choices is the most common combination is because every time you give more than two choices, the more you have to do to cover for the choices. One entry with two choices creates four choices between the second entries. If those four have two choices, you will have eight choices between the third entries. Then sixteen between the fourth entries. It’s about this time that you would start ending entries so that it doesn’t get out of control. If you do two choices each time you have two, four, eight, sixteen. If you do three choices each time, you have three, nine, twenty-seven, eighty-one, and then you can start ending. You can see how quickly it can get out of hand if you’re not careful. The better way to go might be to choose your endings before you start writing so that you know what you need to do.

Also, don’t be longwinded when possible. While the readers don’t want empty entries that tell them nothing but what their choice is, they also don’t want to read too long between making a choice. Between choices you should maybe have 25 to 500 words, probably breaking up longer entries. But here’s the thing. Vary the amount of information. If all of your entries are 25 words, your reader will feel they aren’t getting any information. If all of your entries are 500 words, your reader won’t feel like they’re interacting much. A good balance and variety between long and short entries will help keep your reader invested.

Schedule – Finally, we have the bit that has nothing to do with the story itself, but the completion of the story. Plan your interactive fiction project the same way you would plan any project. If you wish to write a 90 entry story in 30 days you can either do three entries a day; or six days of mapping, then five entries a day, and six days of editing. Or whatever works best for you. But have a plan so that it doesn’t feel overwhelming. If you can see the end approaching in little steps, you will move toward the end more easily. And please don’t post your work in progress online in case you get sidetracked.

Testing – As with anything you would write, allow someone else to look at it for mistakes, and to tell you whether they’re having a good time. This is especially necessary if you write an interactive fiction with a gaming system (i.e.: if there are rules that require stats and dice rolls to get the character through the adventure). And finally, make sure that your reader doesn’t get frustrated trying to find the one good ending. I remember reading books that were almost impossible to complete because of poorly planned maps, or bad gaming systems that made it a “lucky roll” to get you to the end. One final note about gaming systems, books that used gaming systems tended to have more, but shorter, entries because the time you spent playing (rolling dice and noting changes on your character sheet) would make the time spent expand. This is typically the same with solo adventures for a known role-playing game, where the entries are shorter because you take time to randomly complete encounters.

Thank you for reading. I hope to see some better interactive fiction sites in the future. One final note. While the idea of getting everyone involved in the creation of an interactive fiction by letting people write the next entry of a game when they reach a dead end might seem like a good idea, it only really works if you have some form of quality control. This is not to say that you reject any ideas that don’t appeal to you, but that you create a submission process, and requirements (like a minimum number of words per story part).

Monday, December 19, 2011

Possums, Cats, and Skunks Oh my!

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Possums are cute (most of the time). Skunks are cute when they are babies. Cats are out to kill you, but look great doing it. I can agree with that last sentence when I don't have to deal with them invading my home.

I live in a mobile home. OK, it's not a 'real' house but it is a nice mobile home. Really nice actually. One thing that sucks about mobile homes is the fact that they are raised up off the ground. The space underneath is just asking to be overrun by vermin.

When we moved into our place in 2006 there was existing skirting (the stuff that covers the gap between the bottom of the mobile home and the ground. It seems to have done fairly well at keeping critters out. Well at that point the house was nearly 10 years old and the skirting was beginning to show it's age. It began cracking and breaking open due to sun, wind, and animals trying to get under it. Eventually they did and I fought a war with possums for a couple of years. I would catch them in a trap and then release them the into a field behind the house. Note to everyone, possums like cat food.We have completely fenced in back yard and it's an acre in size so I wasn't too worried about them coming directly back. At this point I would try to fix whatever spot the vermin got in at and go about my business.

This went on for a while and in 2011 we got several things done to the house such as leveling and new skirting. The new stuff would is great. It's super think and looks decent. They put it all the way around the house. The only spot they didn't do was the side porch and the outer part of the back porch. They did put it along the house under the porch though. This effectively cut off every point of access for anything getting under the house.

This apparently didn't last too long. I would hear scratchings under the house so I set up my trap again and tried to figure out how the heck they were getting in. I finally discovered that the house siding UNDER the back porch was rotted and the screws holding the skirting on were easily pulled off. This meant that animals pulled away the skirting in this vulnerable spot and got back into their nice warm (or cool depending on the weather) cosy, home.

When animal take up residence in mobile home underpinning they tear the shit out of everything down there. There is actually a black plastic lining under the house. Behind the black plastic sheeting is the insulation, electrical wires, and plumbing. The cats, skunks, and possums get up in there and make them selves a nice comfortable home, ruining everything.

That hole they made thanks to rotten siding had been sitting on my mind for a while and what I could do to fix it. I don't want to just seal the house up and have something die under there... oh man no. I need to get the animals OUT from under there. My plan was to do something I saw on a trap of sorts. Basically I got a piece of stiff chicken wire and cut an X shape and bent the pieces out. This design would allow the animal to crawl through easily enough but then they tried to come back under the house the pointy, sharp edges would make it difficult to do and they would loose interest.
One of the cats investigating my work.

I did that on Sunday afternoon and got the clever idea of hooking up one of the old cameras with night vision and running the AV line into the house so I could see what was going on (via TV). I did this and while it was still light out side I saw the semi-wild cats of the area with my hidden camera. They poked around the new construction and one of them actually went in. It looked painful though. There were big clumps of cat hair on the wire once it got it. Later it came out easily enough but I never say it or any of the other cats go in again.

Once night fell the possum made an appearance. This is a big mother! It would investigate then move away. I think it couldn't figure out that there was a  hole in the wire to get though. I think it just left to investigate other ways of getting out. From the regular timing of its visits to the hole I think it was making a circuit of the house, looking for another way out.
A 2nd possum?

After a bit more a second possum showed up. At least I think it was. It was outside the house and was sniffing around the hole and eventually got through the hole. This tells me that my hole idea isn't perfect. I will either have to make the hold smaller or bar it up completely and use the old trap method of getting the animals out from under there. Either way it was fun watching all the wild life on my TV screen!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tips for Writing Interactive Fiction (Part One)

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

When I was thirteen years old, I spent a couple of days on a very limited BASIC program for my Commodore 64. It was a D&D style adventure, and to be honest it sucked. The whole story was over in just a few segments, and the battle system was not random because I didn’t know much about programming random events at the time. I made it to look like it was random as a sequence appeared: You miss. It hits. You hit. It hits. You hit. It misses. You hit. It is dead. But that was the same sequence every time you played.

In spite of the many flaws this game had, I was learning BASIC, and I’d never written a “Choose Your Own Adventure” style game before. Recently, I have been reading about the “Choose Your Own Adventure” line of books, and I’ve been interested in reading a few. The library has many interactive fiction books, and I even own a few that I’m keeping in storage, but I figured I would look online to see what was available out there. Um. I might as well go find that BASIC game I made and put it online as a text adventure for the quality of some of these games.

This is not to say that there is no good interactive fiction online. I actually have found some interesting stuff that I plan to read/play. The problem is that there is a higher percentage of crappy works out there. Much higher. I decided that I would like to write my thoughts about how to write a good interactive fiction story. I don’t write a lot of interactive fiction, but I have dabbled a little bit. My issue is that I get bogged down in trying to create a stat based game, and become frustrated, thus never finishing my work. I’m basing this list on my own failures in writing interactive fiction, and what I’ve enjoyed and not enjoyed from the professional publishers. I will only get to one item on the list today, but it is likely the most important one:

It Is Still a Story – The biggest problem that I’ve seen, particularly online, is when the story details are written in a line or two.

“You have a soda. Drink it? Play Atari?”
“You choose to play Atari, but you don’t own one. Look for emulator? Look for actual system?”
“After asking your friends and family, you realize you’ll have to buy one. Look on eBay? Look at thrift stores?”

No one cares about a game like that. The only way that anyone will ever care about that game is if you have thousands of choices that actually lead to a thirty minute adventure with twist and turns. How bored would you have been if “The Cave of Time” read: “There is a cave. Go in? Go home?”

If you are going to take the time to write interactive fiction, map out an actual story. Realize that you are going to write a small book of short stories. Depending on what age group they were written for, “Choose Your Own Adventure” books would be around 50 to 130 pages long, and would have a wide range of possible endings (“The Cave of Time” had 40 possible endings, the first younger reader CYOA had 12 possible endings).

In most cases, these should each be short stories that dabble with a little character (this is supposed to be the reader, so not much character) and has the five basic steps of a story (introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement). Basically, each of your stories needs a plot. This seems so obvious until you see some of the crap that people have put online.

The introduction never changes, but the climax tends to often be the end of the story. Typically, your climax, falling action, and denouement will take place on the same page in an interactive fiction story, but since the stories tend to only be a few pages long each, this is ok.

The story hook obviously needs to be something that allows for a number of different possibilities. A story that is too specific in nature is probably a better short story. When you have something like a cave that goes to many different times, or a spaceship traveling among many inhabited planets, you have many directions that your story can go because you can write many unique stories using the basic plot. Treat each story, no matter how intertwined they may be, as though it is the only one your reader will read. If you don’t then it probably will be the only story your reader will read.

On Tuesday, I will continue my list of tips for writing interactive fiction.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Flash Ahhhh!: Episode Fifty – Gently Down the Stream

by the According To Whim .com crew

(Part One by Nathan Stout)

[INT – STUBBY’S HIDEOUT – DAY]

(The millions of gallons of water have completely filled Stubby’s cave and is beginning to rise back up towards the surface and the gaping hole above. Shag, Dentre, Chris, Nathan, Paul, Angelina, Miguel, and old man professor lie about in the Roaring Rapids raft wet and tired. It lazily bobs as the water level in the cave rises.)

CHRIS: Well, that about wraps it up. I think we completed my intended goal quite nicely.

NATHAN: Here, here.

MIGUEL: There, there.

SHAG: Groovy.

(A mumbling sound comes from Paul and Angelina, who are horizontal on floor of the raft, making out.)

DENTRE: What are we going to do about him?

(Dentre points to the shriveled up professor. The professor looks up.)

PROFESSOR: Huh, ehhhhh?

DENTRE: NOTHING old man, just sit there!

(Dentre has to shout it because the professor can’t hear much anymore.)

NATHAN: I don’t know. He’s not much of a danger now.

CHRIS: What do you want to do next?

MIGUEL: Fight!

NATHAN: Sleep for Christ’s sake!

SHAG: Bubble bath with some hot mammas.

CHRIS: I think we need to...

(Chris stops and tries to think.)

CHRIS: We have to...

(He thinks some more.)

CHRIS: I don’t know right now.

NATHAN: Because there is nothing else! You stirred up every pot and there is no more trouble for you to get into. Perhaps bed...

CHRIS: What about Garrett? Surely we need to deal with him.

(Angelina stops kissing.)

ANGELINA: Don’t worry I’ll deal with that sack of shit at some point.

(She goes back to kissing.)

CHRIS: Oh.

(Across the cavern, another couple of rafts slowly float along. Eric and a couple of his troops, along with Larry sit around in one raft, waiting to get to the top of the cave. In the other raft, a collection of gold pant-suited agents and the Grrrls sit.)

ERIC: This is the biggest failure my agency has ever experienced. We will be the laughing stock of the government.

LARRY: It doesn’t matter, the T.A.C. never really worked right. If you did get it, you'd only look like an even bigger fool than you do now.

ERIC: It didn’t work?!

LARRY: Nope. I just acted like it did so the professor would try and fail miserably. Now if you will excuse me.

(Larry vanishes and appears in the other raft. The women in the raft squeal at the cute boy and gather around him. They rub his hair and knock his glasses sideways and ooh and ahh all over him. Larry’s eyes roll and he has a big cheesy grin on.)

CHRIS: You know... I just wanted to have a little fun with my newly found powers...

NATHAN: I’d say you accomplished that goal beyond your wildest dreams.

CHRIS: We did have some fun didn’t we?

NATHAN: Speak for yourself.

MIGUEL: Yes, I had some fuckin’ bad-assed fun. I feel the need for more. I think I’ll join the MMA!

DENTRE: You know, Miguel, we are always looking for additional agents.

MIGUEL: Maybe. I gotta go where the action is.

(There is a squishy kissing noise and Shag points down at Paul and Angelina.)

SHAG: I think THAT’S where the action is right now!

(Everyone laughs as if it is some sit com.)

(End of Part One)

(Part Two by Chris McGinty)

(But what they don’t realize is that there is an even bigger evil that they will have to face in the sequel “Flash! Ahhhh! Ahhhh!”)

NATHAN: No! I’m calling bullshit.

(Fine.)

[EXT – BALLOON MADE RIVER – DAY]

NATHAN: Where is Chris?

MIGUEL: What do you mean where is Chris?

NATHAN: I mean that Chris is missing all of a sudden, and any time he goes missing, things become complicated again.

MIGUEL: Where was the last place you remember seeing him.

NATHAN: Over there where that pile of snoring black clothes is.

MIGUEL: That pile of snoring black clothes is Chris. He’s gone to sleep.

(Nathan crawls across the raft and smacks Chris.)

CHRIS: Heeeey! Wot’s, uh, the deal?

NATHAN: You got a lot of nerve passing out before I’ve had a chance to get home and get some sleep.

CHRIS: Not my fault that I’m bored after riding through a flooded Arlington on a raft for the last thirty minutes.

DENTRE: Yeah, this isn’t going to help property values over here any. Not that they were all that fantastic after Quincy’s glass breaking incident.

SHAG: Hey man, this is the groovy part though. Floods are covered under federal disaster funds. High powered amps aren’t. In a year or so, Arlington will be restored back to its original condition.

DENTRE: We can hope. Speaking of Quincy, I haven’t seen him since the flood. I hope he didn’t drown.

NATHAN: No, he didn’t drown, but I don’t think we’ll be seeing much of him in the future.

(Unless there is an evil brewing that…)

NATHAN: Still calling bullshit!

(Fine.)

MIGUEL: So what are you guys going to do about Paul? I mean the guy got a little bit nutty near the end there.

DENTRE: That’ll be for the International Association of Realtors to decide. You can’t repeat this to anyone, but the I.A.R. has its own court system, being a secret society like the Masons and the Illuminati.

CHRIS: Wow! Hey Eric! Did you know that the I.A.R. has its own court system, being a secret society like the Masons and the Illuminati?

ERIC: Of course I knew, Cliff.

CHRIS: My name is Chris!

(Chris notices Eric and Larry high-fiving in the other raft, and he starts to grumble. Then Larry appears in the raft with Chris, Nathan, and Miguel.)

LARRY: Hey, I just wanted to tell you guys goodbye. I’m going to transcend beyond my physical limitations. I’ve finally acquired enough knowledge in my lifetime to see beyond this matter dependant existence.

SHAG: That’s like totally far out, little man.

CHRIS: I agree with Shag. I haven’t ever admitted to this, but that’s my long term goal is transcendence from this corporeal plane of existence, you know, after starting the world’s most legendary band and writing a few hundred books.

NATHAN: I’d be happy with a full night of sleep. I could call it transcendence from this conscious plane existence.

LARRY: It’s been interesting everyone. Goodbye.

(With that Larry turns into pure light and then disappears from sight.)

SHAG: Groovy!

MIGUEL: Bad ass!

DENTRE: Fascinating.

NATHAN: Motherfucker.

CHRIS: Nathan, we really need to review your slang usage and comprehension study material.

NATHAN: No! That motherfucker transcended and never explained anything about how he became involved in all of this. And the professor is pretty incoherent, so we’ll probably never find out from him. Her Eric! Do you know anything about Larry?

ERIC: Yes.

NATHAN: Anything you can tell us?

ERIC: No.

NATHAN: Motherfucker.

CHRIS: I’d be happy with an explanation of who the hell Eric is.

(After another hour or so, the water finally thins out enough that the rafts hit land. Everyone piles out. Shag and Dentre call the I.A.R, and Paul and Angelina are taken into custody pending charges of Unethical Realty.)

NATHAN: Isn’t that phrase a little redundant?

(Eric and his COBALT goons take the professor and his agents into custody, just because no one really knows what to do with them. Stubby goes to work, a little irritated that things didn’t work out for him.)

CHRIS: You know that we’re going to have to go beat up Garrett and get my Duran Duran collection back.

NATHAN: Chris. Seriously. We’ll have time for that, but after we’ve slept for a change. Besides, if you haven’t noticed, everyone is gone except for us and Grrrl 1, Grrrl 2, and Grrrl 3.

(Chris grins from ear to ear.)

CHRIS: I see your point.

[INT – NATHAN’S BED – NIGHT]

(Chris, Miguel, and Nathan are all cuddled up under the blankets. Chris sighs very heavily.)

NATHAN: I said I was sorry!

(Chris sighs.)

NATHAN: I’m sorry! In retrospect, pointing out that, “You Grrrls have a night job to get to and we need to get to bed,” was probably not a great suggestion, and I would have been better off suggesting, “You Grrrls deserve a night off and some loving massages that we’re willing to give.” Next time…

CHRIS: If there’s a next time.

NATHAN: I’m sorry!

CHRIS: Just go to sleep. We have a lot of things to try to clear up tomorrow.

(End Episode Fifty)