I have created another blog to give updates on my writing efforts. You can find it here.

January 31, 2008

In which I show you something new

Just a little housekeeping note here. I've added a new feature to my blog. Over on the sidebar you'll see a listing of the books I am currently reading, as well as anything I may have recently finished. I'm also including a link to the Amazon page for each book, in case you're curious to find out more about them. Blogs are supposed to give insight into the person writing them, so I figured this is just another way of letting you see into who I am. It's pretentious, sure, but I figure if you didn't care, you wouldn't be here, right?


January 19, 2008

In which Goldilocks turns 7

Today is Sage's birthday. She's turning 7. She's spending the day with her mom and brother and her friends. They are going bowling. Hopefully it will be a good day for her.

I can't believe she's actually 7! I remember the night she was born like it was yesterday. I was so happy and excited to get to meet her at last, and now she's 7 and in the first grade. She's getting so big. To look at her, she doesn't look like a little kid any more; she's starting to look like a young lady.

She fits in so well with the rest of my big new family. When Darlene and I first got together we wondered how Sage would relate to the other kids. She was so used to it just being the two of us when she came for her visits, and suddenly she had to share me with a wife and three more kids. She immediately accepted Darlene as a stepmother and she and the girls have been inseperable. We have a big family, and she has been an important part of it for the last two years.

I love you, Sage, and we can't wait until we can see you again. Happy Birthday!

January 18, 2008

In which I pranked my German class

It's odd, but the subject of pranks came up during my day twice yesterday. Jessica had to leave school early due to illness. I went and picked her up and on our way to the doctor, we stopped off at McDonald's. While we were eating, she asked me for my best prank I had ever pulled on anyone. Then, last night I was browsing on the message boards at TTNMC for the first time in a long time, and found a discontinued thread from last summer devoted to pranks that people had pulled. I got to thinking, and I have decided that there were two pranks that I was involved with while in high school that need to be discussed here. One of them, the German Class Incident, I told Jessie about yesterday, and will tell you about now. The other one is the infamous PEN Pals story. That one deserves its own post, however, so I will relate that story sometime this weekend in its full glory.

The German Class Incident took place during my junior year of high school (1987!). I have no idea today where the idea came from, but I read about it or saw it on TV or heard about it from someone or something, and decided I was going to give it a try. The idea was simple: fool as many people as possible in the class into thinking something was going on when really, the only thing going on was my prank. It actually turned into a fascinating look at mass group psychology/behavior.

The key to success was going to be me having some time by myself in the room before class. That was easier than you might think it would have been. Let me describe the classrooms at my school. The school was laid out like a big square, with classrooms on both sides of the corridor. The classrooms on the right side of the hall were actually double classrooms, with one opening out into the hall, the other opening outside of the school, and an open doorway connecting them.

My German class was in one of the outer rooms, that had the door that went out onto the sidewalk. So, when the class was seated facing the chalkboard, behind us to the left was the passage leading to the inner classroom (and from there out into the school hallway). Behind us to the right was the door going outside. I sat in the far right row, so I could sit sideways in my desk and lean my head back against the outside wall of the school.

Are you with me so far?

I had German in third period. There was a 10 minute "break" between second and third periods (or maybe it was between first and second, I don't remember for sure. Whatever. I had German after the break, so there you go). I never figured out why we had that break, but for some reason they gave us five extra minutes between those two periods. Most people spent that time standing out in the hall chatting. Some would go into their classrooms and set their books down then go back out into the corridors. I was usually one of the first to come back into the classroom and take my seat, and there were always lots of unaccompanied books on desks when I came in.

My idea was to write a note in block letters, "Look on the back wall above the outside door. Pass it on." Realize, of course, that there was nothing on the wall. That was the prank, see. I snuck into the room in the middle of break, before anyone else came in. I folded the note and slipped it into the textbook of the person who sat in the front left corner of the room (all the way across the room from my seat), then drifted back into the hallway. A couple of minutes later I re-entered the room at my usual time and took my seat. The teacher came in and class began.

Frau Neace's teaching style was a lot of chalkboard work, so she usually had her back to the class as she taught. I kept a surreptitious eye on the girl in the front left seat. She opened her book and the paper fell out. I held my breath as she read it, then turned her head to look in the back corner above the outside door. Her eyes narrowed and she frowned, obviously confused. She looked back down at the note, then back at the wall. She clearly had no idea what she was supposed to be seeing. She passed the note on to the person behind her, but she kept turning and sneaking little peeks at the wall.

Over the next ten minutes, the note made its way up and down the first two rows of seats. The entire left side of the room was murmuring to itself as people who had seen the note turned to look and discussed it quietly as they tried to figure out what was going on. People in the next row over were talking to them too, trying to find out what was going on.

A quick aside here. If you ever try anything like this, let one person in on it beforehand. That way you won't have to sit there as the only one who knows what's really going on. For me, it was a guy named Steve. He sat right in the middle of it, and kept shooting me these looks like, "Dude!" For my part, I was keeping my eyes glued on the teacher so no one would see that I was trying hard not to die laughing as the left side of the classroom plunged into chaos.

Finally, the teacher noticed. She turned around and asked what was going on. By this time, the note was halfway up the third row. The person that had the note took it up and showed it to the teacher, saying something like, "We're trying to figure out what this is all about." Frau takes the note, reads it, then looks up at the wall. She looks back at the note, then back at the wall. Squints. She asks the left side, "What is this?" No one knew. It had just appeared out of nowhere and was getting passed around. By this time, the right side wants to know what the note says, so Frau reads it aloud. "Look on the back wall above the outside door. Pass it on." When she said that, every head in the room turned to look at the back wall above the door. It was magnificent. It looked like one of those clich├ęd shots of a tennis audience you see on TV. It was all I could do to keep a straight face. I looked above the door like everyone else, but I already knew what was there.


Frau threw the note away, and life went on in German class. Steve and I shared laughs afterward, and I never heard it mentioned again. I don't know if anyone ever figured out what really happened or not. If they did, they never mentioned it to me. It was really cool, though, watching half the class get more and more confused and unsettled as the other half got more and more antsy to find out what was happening. Definitely an interesting group psychology experiment, if anyone ever gets the chance to try it. I'd be curious to find out if it works as well on adults as teens, but there's really never a chance in the adult world to do anything like that. That classroom setting is something that goes away after a certain age.

One last observation regarding group psychology and behavior. It's not prank-related, but it came to mind as I was telling that story. I was at a crowded post office a few years ago. I sat and watched the crowd at the door for a while before I went in. There was a double door, but only one of the doors was being used. Someone would go through, hold it for the next person, who would hold it for the next person, and so on. Some were going in, some were going out, and there was actually quite a line queued up to go through this one door. I figured the other door was locked. I went down and pulled on the other door, and it opened! I went through and held it. Someone else came through, and by the time I came back to leave, both doors were in use.

My conclusion based on that observation is that most humans tend to be lazy sheep that blindly follow the lead of others who went before them. Unless someone is brave enough to open the other door first, forget it. It will stay shut and everyone will keep using the same old door. That's why U.S. automakers don't encourage alternative-fuel technology, that's why you never see Libertarian candidates in national debates, and that's why no one wants to coach the Falcons. Sheep, I tell you.

PEN Pals story coming soon. Get ready, Ben!

January 10, 2008

In which 12 becomes 13

It's a big day in the Brady-Shirey household today. Steven has a birthday and is turning 13! We're really proud of how he's starting to become a young man. He does his homework, keeps his grades looking pretty good, helps keep things clean around the house, does a little cooking here and there--he's starting to act like he's got some sense! He's about ready to be taller than his mom, too. He's still a kid at heart though, playing GTA on his PSP, harassing his sisters and the dog, and hanging out with his friends. Also, I don't think I've mentioned it here, but he is on the 7th Grade basketball team at his school!

He's come a long way from the kid I met two years ago. He pretty much looks the same (only taller), but he's changed a lot on the inside. I'm really glad I can be part of his life and he can be part of mine. His mom and I are both really proud of everything he's doing, and we're excited to finally have a teenager in the house. I love you, Steven! Happy Birthday!

January 8, 2008

In which I talk about old music and new blogs

I usually listen to sports talk radio in the car on the way to work. The hosts don't always limit their topics to sports, though. Today, they all brought in stacks of their old 45 rpm records and they got to talking about music and playing some of their old records. It was pretty cool. One of them had a lot of '70's stuff--disco, Andy Gibb, stuff like that. The older one was into the '60's--Beatles, some psychedelic stuff, some folk; a pretty eclectic mix. It got me to thinking about the music I listened to when I was a kid.

I got my first real stereo for Christmas when I was 12, I think. That would have been Christmas of 1981. It had one of those turntables with the long spindle that would hold six records at once, a radio, and a tape deck. For the first year or so I bought vinyl instead of tapes, because the albums were a couple of dollars cheaper and my allowance wasn't high enough to get me into tapes. When I got a little older and my allowance went up, I upgraded. I didn't get a CD player until I was in college.

I remember the first albums that I got for myself after I got the stereo. Actually, I think they were bought for me as presents the same Christmas, but I got to pick them out and they were mine, not just my parents' stuff that I was borrowing. I got three albums the first time I went to Turtles Records & Tapes (remember the stamp books and gift coins?): Hi Infidelity by REO Speedwagon ("Take It On The Run", "Keep On Lovin' You"), Mistaken Identity by Kim Carnes ("Bette Davis Eyes"), and Bella Donna by Stevie Nicks ("Stop Draggin' My Heart Around", "Edge Of Seventeen"). As it turned out, the Stevie album was scratched or cracked or something, so I took it back and got Stars On 45 instead. Remember that one, with the long Beatles medley thing? I eventually got the Stevie again, years later, on tape. I still have all three of those albums today, along with most of the other albums I got back then. I have a turntable, too, but I don't use it much any more. Every now and then I'll give them a listen. For what it's worth, my first tapes were Built For Speed by the Stray Cats, and Chicago 16. My first CD was the Broadway cast recording of Phantom Of The Opera.

How about you, Faithful Readers? Leave a comment, tell us about your early music listening experiences. What was the first album/tape/CD that was ever really yours?

Before I go, I want to take the chance to officially welcome Amy Heather McCoubrey Buser to the blogosphere. She's been writing a blog in her son's name for a while now, but she just recently started a blog of her own at Blogger, m00kie's world. Check her out and tell her Sam sent you!

Support your local bloggers!

January 5, 2008

In which I test picture posting with my new phone

Jonathan Creek in Maggie Valley

In which I refuse to resolve for the new year

Happy New Year!

I'm not going to make formal resolutions this year. I was brave enough to do so last year and it blew up in my face, so I'm not going to take that chance this year. They would probably have been similar to last year's, though, since I didn't do so well with them the first time around.

One thing I am serious about is trying to write more often. I've said so several times, but the desire remains strong. Ben's friend Megan has expressed her desire to post something every day in January. I'm not nearly that ambitious; I know I'd never maintain that. I am going to try and get on once or twice a week, though. I did well in fits and spurts last year, but this year I want to try and maintain throughout the entire year.

I'm going to keep messing around with videos, too. That's been kind of fun so far. All I've done so far has been slideshows. I want to try a regular video at some point, and see how that works out. Who knows? I might be the next whoever that guy was who put videos on his blog for the first time then got better at it. Remember that guy? He was awesome.

Anyway, Happy New Year to all. Oh no...my kids are currently giving my mother-in-law a makeover. Lord help Grandma. Support your local bloggers in 2008. Holla!