Juice Dealer (a short two character scene)

A man is standing on a street corner, looking around. He is a dealer in all things power.
Dealer : Charge your phone! Charge your tablet! Charging…
A man passes by him and stops. He reaches into his pocket.
Man : Did you say you charge phones?
Dealer: I do! What can I charge for you?
Man : My phone is dying… I don’t mean to sound morbid of course. Could you charge it?
Dealer : that’s all I do! Let me see your phone.
Man : What are your rates?
Dealer : Why concern yourself with that now? Do you need your phone charged or not?
Man : I suppose you have a good point.
The man gives over his phone, which is attached to a battery. They stay quiet for about half a minute.
Dealer : Okay, you are all charged.
Man : That’s impossible! (He looks at his phone.) How did you do it?
Dealer : As I said, it’s what I do. That’ll be a hundred dollars.
Man : You must be kidding! That’s outrageous! Why didn’t you say it would be so expensive?!
Dealer : Cost is relative. A dollar is expensive if you’re living on the street and it’s all that’s standing between you and starvation. A hundred dollars, please.
Man : But I don’t have a hundred dollars!
Dealer : That’s rather unfortunate. I’m going to have to keep your phone. Well… there is an alternative.
Man : Which is what?
Dealer : Are you a believing man?
Man : I’m not sure I follow. What do you want, my soul for eternity?
Dealer : No. Seven years — and they will be unpleasant!
Man : Hey, whatever it takes — I just want my phone back.
The dealer takes out a tablet and jabs the man with a stylus. The man howls in pain.
The man walks away with his phone, holding his wrist.
Dealer, to himself : Works every time!

The Compound Effect Review

There is a genre of non-fiction books known as personal development, or sometimes known as self-help — though the two are not always necessarily the same thing. Self-help sometimes means that you are working on “fixing” something that is not quite right with you whereas a book of personal development is useful overall to help you be a better person every day.

The one book to which I keep on returning — yes, this is the kind of book that bears rereading — is The Compound Effect, by Darren Hardy. You can find it on Amazon here :

The thing about the book that is so amazing is that it is so very simple — and the message is just that every action you take might seem like it has an incredibly small effect on your being but over time the actions compound. An example he gives in the book is that of three people who are identical in terms of height, weight, physical fitness, etc. One of them starts working out a few times a week and watching what he eats and one of them does basically the opposite — adds a donut here and there, starts drinking with every meal (a strong beverage, mind you), and takes measures to make as little physical effort as possible. The third does nothing.

In the days following, even a few weeks out you don’t see much change but as weeks turn into months you start to see how one of them is getting fitter and one of them is putting on weight and getting out of shape. Not because of one donut — but because of the compound effect of all of the donuts over a period of time.

Every decision we make has an impact. Think about that and take time to read The Compound Effect. It is well worth it. If you like the book, the author has a daily e-mail called Darren Daily where he sends words of inspiration as well as practical advice and steps you can put into practice to make use of that advice — the best kind of advice is the kind you can really use, after all.

Fiction : The Interview

Peter had been nervous about this job interview and with good reason — he had been out of work for a couple of months and he and his wife were struggling to make ends meet. They had been both doing some freelance work on the side and they were grateful for that but this job would make an immense difference in their lives for the better.

snake playing card courtesy of https://morguefile.com/creative/lauramusikanski

It had been going pretty well and Peter sat and looked as the interviewer looked over his C.V.

The interviewer said, “I must say I am quite pleased with your qualifications and it seems you would be a great fit for the organization.”

Peter said, “Thank you.”

“That being the case, there is one final question that I need to ask you. What house are you in?”

“I beg your pardon?”

The interviewer poured water into a short glass. “You’re familiar with the Harry Potter books and films, surely?”

“I am, but I don’t see how this…”

“And being familiar with Potter lore, I imagine you may have found yourself taking online tests… like ones that determine in which house the famous Sorting Hat would sort you, if you were a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

Peter took the large glass pitcher and poured some water for himself before taking a sip. Was this a joke?

“I’m afraid that I don’t know the tests you are referring to, sir.”

“Well Peter,” the interviewer said, “There is no real sorting hat to speak of, naturally. What these online tests do is to ask you a series of questions and based on what kind of person the test determines you to be, it sorts you into the appropriate house. We would like to know what house would be appropriate for you.”

Peter looked at the the interviewer, who did not blink.

“Is this really necessary? It doesn’t seem like it is at all relevant to…”

“Peter let me take you to one of our empty cubicles. I have a computer set up and you can take the test right there.”

“I’m a Slytherin! A Slytherin, okay?”

The interviewer looked over the paperwork in front of him and shook his head, making some marks.

“Thank you for coming in,” said the interviewer, “while we were really looking for a Hufflepuff, we will certainly be in contact with you should an appropriate position become available.”

They never called.

Improving Your Wait Time Starts Within!

For many people, waiting in line (or waiting for an elevator, waiting on hold when you need to get through to customer service…) is one of the worst things in the world — and for me this used to be the case as well. I have learned over time to make the best of the time that I must spend in line, and I would like to pass on what I now do that helps me.

The Romanian word răbdare, which roughly means patience, comes from the word răbda which seems to mean to accept, to tolerate, to endure. The word patience, incidentally, comes from the Latin word pati, which means to suffer. That about sums up my five year old son’s experiences with it when I request he has it!

The thing you should not do while waiting is to obsess over how long it has been that you have been doing so. When you do this you accomplish nothing other than aggravate yourself.

Breathing — I have written before about the wonders of the 4-7-8 technique for helping one get to sleep at night but it works wonderfully when one has an indeterminate wait. The technique, once more:

First, you exhale all the air from your mouth, as much as you can.
Take a breath in through your nose, and count to four in your head as you do this. Stop at four.
Hold that breath for a count of seven seconds.
Exhale the breath through your mouth for a count of eight seconds. You may wonder how you can exhale eight seconds worth of air when you only breathed in for four, but it’s perfectly feasible.
Repeat this two more times – in four, hold seven, out eight. In four, hold seven, out eight.

When I was younger and would get upset, my mother often reminded me that I should breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth, slowly. Not only does breathing in through your nose help prevent illness (those nose hairs do a world of good, you know) but it is inherently slower and more deliberate.

Read! I have a small black bag that I take most everywhere and in it at least one book is always found. There are millions of books out there waiting to be read and so much to be learned, as well as a world of fiction to enjoy.

Be present! Look around and appreciate where and when you are. Who are the other people in the line with you? These are people you may never see again in your life, assuming that you don’t live in a town with a hundred and fifty-eight people where everyone knows everyone else. My grandfather would say when looking about, how many shades of green do you see? The world is an amazing and beautiful place if we allow ourselves to appreciate it fully.

The Line Criticism, and Celentano Talk

My whole family recently spent the bulk of a day waiting in a line for a thirty second meeting and photo opportunity with Senator Bernie Sanders. He authored a book titled Our Revolution : A Future to Believe In. You can see more details about the book here.

Whether or not you think Bernie Sanders has the right ideas — whether you think he’s a communist or have read some of his political accomplishments and realize that he is anything but — this is not the place to discuss it. This isn’t even about what Senator Sanders stands for, or believes — and is more about three people who were excited to see him, and one two and a half year old who tagged along because it’s basically illegal to leave someone of that age home alone. (Tongue firmly in cheek, of course.)

We stood there in line and took turns taking breaks. I took the kids to the Tommy Bahama store at one point because they wanted to pose with all of the mannequins and have their picture taken with them. My phone can attest to this. We went to Ben & Jerry’s at Rockefeller Center and Chaim brazenly walked in as though he owned the place and said to the person at the counter, “Two mangos!” The kids do love a good mango sorbet.

Food was had — not the best in the world health-wise but convenience wise, pizza went a long way.

At some point someone came by and asked me, for what was this line? I answered that it was an appearance by Senator Bernie Sanders and there was a photo opportunity, etc. She shook her head and said, How stupid! and walked off.

What exactly did she accomplish by doing this?

She expressed her opinion.

We continued waiting in line.

Negativity dispersed into the air and ultimately fizzled away, like a person passing gas after eating a bean filled burrito.

I see many a line for people waiting to buy something — often something that they will be able to purchase sans line a few days later. To me, this is ridiculous. What is the difference between the thing they buy after waiting in line and the thing they buy without waiting in line — having it so much sooner?

The opportunity to meet Senator Sanders, on the other hand — it was only on that day. Moreover, as a result of waiting in that line we had a number of interesting conversations that only would have taken place because we happened to be exactly where we were. My children got to meet and talk to people. At one point we were filmed for a Facebook news program broadcasting to an Italian audience — and the journalist asked me how I felt, being Jewish, about the possible appointment of Steve Bannon to president-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet.

The opportunity to speak, however briefly, to Senator Sanders was priceless to me. You don’t have to agree with anything he says but you can certainly appreciate that it meant something to me and to my wife and particularly my son, who has a funny way of pronouncing Bernie Sanders — the New York really comes out when he says it.

Let’s keep it positive — and if there is to be criticism, at least make actual fact based criticism and not just wholesale dismissal of another person with the label of “stupid!”

Side note — when the journalist from the Italian news program came back around to talk to us about how we could see the broadcast, I mentioned that my parents had long been fans of Adriano Celentano and I enjoyed his music as well.

“Celentano,” he asked, “Is he even still alive?”

I confirmed that he was.

“He must be in his late seventies.”

I said that I suspected that was the case and told him how I was telling someone else in the line that Celentano is basically like Italy’s Elvis, except that he is still alive and performing. He responded that Celentano fans are mostly older, in their fifties, sixties, etc.

If so, I guess I am an exception to the rule — but I always have been!

Ann Coulter, Calling for Return to Grandfather Clause, is Cabbage

Today I learned that one way you can really stick it to someone, really call them an unflattering term when speaking Romanian, is to call them cabbage. Today I would like to suggest that television personality Ann Coulter is, in fact, cabbage — varza, if you prefer the Romanian term.

Why? Because she tweeted THIS garbage —

This is basically a call for the return to the Grandfather clause, which was a superb way to suppress the black vote years ago. In many states, there were nearly impossible tests one had to pass in order to pass — but if a person passed the grandfather clause, they could vote. What was the grandfather clause? Essentially it stated that if your grandfather could vote, you could immediately vote without a problem.

So Coulter is saying that IF only people who have four American born grandparents could vote, Trump would win. By that restriction, my brother and I could not vote (all four of our grandparents were not born in the United States) and my parents certainly could not vote (as they and their grandparents were all born outside of the United States.)

Except here’s the thing — all of us CAN vote — and we aren’t all casting our vote for the same Presidential candidate, and that is okay. But what is the purpose of making statements like this?

If Doctor Brown really had a time travelling car, he could use it to prevent Donald Trump from wanting to run for president in the first place — but Back to the Future is a film, and there are no time traveling DeLoreans.

If the only people that could vote were people who had suffered any kind of discrimination, Hillary Clinton would win every state.

If the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Magic were real, the Minister of Magic would probably influence the election through sorcery, in some way.

If every time I sneezed, registered voters came out of my nose, this election would be over in minutes.

But reality is none of these scenarios — so why talk about what would happen if some hypothetical scenario were in place that has absolutely no connection with reality?

Basically what I am saying is that Ann Coulter is cabbage.

Tricky Pickles and Picklesaurus Rex Make a Voting Plan for 2016

I came up with the voice of the character Tricky Pickles, a fellow that popped into my head by ways of the Bronx, one day while out on a walk with my wife. I started doing the voice and talking about… something I don’t quite recall. She told me I could stop. When my wife tells me that I can stop, that means that I should stop because that is what she really means.

The other day I was working on my weekly e-mail to my Patreon subscribers (I have a weekly e-mail called The Burnt Woods Review that goes out about once a week to people who make a small donation here) and the house was empty as my wife and children were at my mother’s house. I was trying to clear my mind before doing some more writing and suddenly this sketch popped in. I just let it play itself out as I recorded it — the name Tricky Pickles and Picklesaurus Rex are somewhat related, though admittedly one comes from a former coworker who would regularly use the expression “Well that’s a tricky pickle” when meaning something was complicated and Picklesaurus Rex… well, have you ever seen those odd videos of cats reacting to pickles?

Don’t do it to your cat, mind you — they hate pickles! I think they must think that the pickle is some sort of snake or other horrifying land beast that means them harm.

Without further ado, here is Tricky Pickles’ Vote Deciding Cat Picklesaurus

What’s next for Tricky Pickles? Will he appear on camera in the next video? Those are fine questions and I think that he will, so I have to come up with a look for him now that I have more or less established a voice.

I have a few other sketches brewing in my brain that I would like to film, though most of them involve other people and of course once you get other people involved, you suddenly run into the issue of scheduling and compensation, etc. We shall see how it goes.