New Look. New Resolve?

Like any fallen-off-the-wagon blogger, I’ve decided to commemorate my intention to return to regular (personal) writing by redesigning my site. I think the last time I redesigned my site, I blogged for a week. Now that we’re back up north, with only one house payment, and only two jobs — perhaps I’ll have some time to brain dump online.

Expect lots of news about BirdCam. It’s my latest obsession. :)

Here’s to our new life, which is basically a 1 year rewind. Details later…

The Plant Kingdom Follows Google’s Lead

Oh yeah? Well I could survive on Mars...In an unexpected announcement today, the Plant Kingdom spokesman, Fern Dirtlicker, told press, “providing oxygen free of charge no longer fits into our business plan.”

When asked if the Plant Kingdom will offer a subscription service, or possibly sell the oxygen manufacturing industry to another company, Fern replied, “Nope. We’re just not going to do the whole ‘oxygen’ thing anymore. Users are advised to pick a different breathable gas by July 1st, when PK plans to halt distribution.”

Governments are currently negotiating with the International Clown Federation in attempts to reach an agreement on helium balloon usage, but observers noted that talks aren’t going well. The talks are funny to listen to, but they’re not going well. What will humankind do in light of the Plant Kingdom abruptly canceling their cloud-based oxygen service? Hopefully someone will come up with a viable alternative, but we’re not holding our breath. (Well, actually we are)

I Don’t Truly Admire Many People. Fred Rogers, I Do.

Fred RogersToday would have been Mr. Rogers’ 85th birthday. If you were a child in the 70s, 80s, or 90s, you know Mr. Rogers. Heck, I don’t even remember my childhood, and I still know this man.

I look at the fast paced lives my kids are growing up in, and it makes me sad to realize that not only don’t they have the opportunity to watch Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, even if they did, they wouldn’t enjoy it. I honestly believe Fred Rogers did for several generations of kids something that parents, doctors, educators, and even PBS can’t seem to do anymore — make kids feel good about themselves. There are plenty of good, moral television shows available for children today, but none of them are capable of doing what Fred Rogers did with a little bit of kindness, a closet full of sweaters, and a whole lot of imagination.

To be honest, I don’t think it’s the fault of current television programs that they can’t accomplish the same thing Mr. Rogers did. Our media-soaked world is a different place, and for better or worse, lifestyles have changed. The thing that worries me, is that in our technology rich world, nothing seems to have taken the place of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Nothing has been able to speak to the past few generations in the same way a simple man with a soft voice and a kind heart did for so many years.

I’m almost 40 years old now, which is the same age Fred Rogers was when he started his television show. Yes, my mother raised me to be a decent young man, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit how deeply Mr. Rogers affected the man I grew up to be. Heck, I’m probably a writer today because Mr. Rogers told me I could do it.

It sounds melodramatic, but I seriously worry about the kids who grew up with Power Rangers instead of Mr. McFeely and Queen Sara. Hopefully there is an equivalent positive force in the lives of recent generations that I’m simply not privy to. Hopefully with the speed up of our day to day lives, our youth have been able to slow down enough to care about people. Hopefully, they learned to make believe along the way, too.

Perhaps it’s because I grew up without a real father figure. Perhaps it’s because as a nerdy, introverted kid I spent more time in the land of make believe than other kids. Whatever the reason, Fred Rogers is a man I look up to. I admire what he did, I admire who he was, and in the back of my mind, I always try to live in a way that would make him proud of me. Mr. Rogers, I’ll say back to you your own words, “If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

Happy birthday, Mr. Rogers. You’re loved and missed. Thank you for caring about generations of children. You made the world a better place.

The Defender of the Office Realm


The office realm was a happy place. Mondays came, and Mondays went — but the supply of Monday repellant was always plentiful and hot.

All was good

And it was good.

But then one foul, foul day, something horrible happened. The Elixir of Promised Fridays disappeared!

This bodes not well.

This bodes not well.

Knowing the Office Realm could not survive under such dire circumstances, the king decided to hire a champion to protect his Office from the depression and despair of  an empty cup. The volunteers were many, but the king knew Sir Ibuprofen with the Paper Sword was his best bet against Monday’s onslaught. And so the knight was commissioned.

None shall pass.

None shall pass.

Unfortunately, while Sir Ibuprofen was indeed a valiant fighter, he could only battle evil every 6-8 hours. The king new he needed a champion able to take on enemy after enemy, without the required wait time Sir Ibuprofen demanded. And so, Lord Swingline took the post.

I bind thee villain!

I bind thee villain!

And everyone laughed.

So the king hired a saber toothed stapler, not of noble blood, but far more vicious.

My tooth is stained with the blood of unruly collation!

My tooth is stained with the blood of unruly collation!

Unfortunately, the villagers called OSHA, and the king was required to post signage warning potential thieves of their certain peril.

It was like putting a bell on the collar of a tiger.

It was like putting a bell on the collar of a tiger.

Everyone laughed at the poor saber toothed stapler, and all his staples fell out. Now he lives in the kings bedchamber, and guards against slipper thieves and stocking bandits. The king needed a fierce warrior, and so he scoured the kingdom until he found a sword wielding pod person!

Lord Podbiscuits formerly worked for the post office, opening letters.

Lord Podbiscuits formerly worked for the post office, opening letters.

While a valiant warrior, Lord Podbiscuits annoyed the entire kingdom with his incessant singing. The king even suspected Podbiscuits of drinking the royal elixir, and so had him removed from office.

We stab at thee, appley foe!

We stab at the, appley foe!

Sadly, shortly after the demise of Lord Podbiscuit, all the king’s champions were detained indefinitely by the TSA for attempting to get on a plane with Podbiscuit’s sword. Sir Ibuprofen also insisted he had to be taken on board with 6 ounces of water, and it is suspected the entire group is now in Guantanamo Bay.

Now the king mourns the loss of his champions, and fears for the safety of his realm. Without a hero to protect the Elixir of Promised Fridays, the king fears a curse of Forever Monday. Fearing for himself and his subjects, the king’s only choice is to pray to the chicken gods. (You know, like you do…)

If only there was a chicken strong enough to defend the realm. A chicken whose beak were sharp enough to pierce through the most sinister of evil, yet not be long enough to be considered a weapon by the TSA during kingly jaunts cross country. If such a noble bird existed, one such as Lady Gwenevieve Lockjaw of New Eggland, the realm would once again be safe from the onslaught Monday and all Monday’s henchmen.

The king sent his desperate plea to Queen Klishis of the Metal Birds, and to this day, he awaits her reply…




The Very Super Powers

My family rocks. In fact, they’re the reason I work so hard. These are the people who inspire me to do my best. Heck, I moved my family across the state so these ladies would be guaranteed a university education (free tuition is a perk of my new job).


So is this a post about how important it is to work hard for your family? Not even close. This is a reminder (mostly for myself) that the best thing you can possibly do for your family is be there. Yes, providing is important. Yes, my family is my responsibility to  care for. “Providing”, however, means a lot more than “earning money”, and I have to remind myself of that often.

So Moms, Dads, Grandparents and caregivers — don’t miss the goofy smile photos. Don’t miss the board games. Don’t miss singing in the car. And most importantly, don’t miss your kids growing up! It happens fast. :)

I’m curious, what are some of your favorite things to do with your family?

Sometimes Our Autofocus Is Dumb

Photo by Brandon Milner.

Let me tell you two different stories:

Greg jerked out of his fitful slumber because a cold draft snuck under the covers when his wife got out of bed. After quickly sealing himself back into his burrito-like cocoon, he realized that warm or not, his aching back wouldn’t allow him to sleep. With all the angst a 40 year old man can muster, Greg swung his feet out of bed and shoved them into his slippers. One of those slippers was soggy and misshapen, thanks to a set of puppy teeth which were obviously thoroughly lubricated with slobber.

Greg plodded into the kitchen, and scooped himself a bowl of scrambled eggs, which were getting cold in a pan on the stove. After eating his eggs, Greg dressed himself and patiently waited for a chance to use the bathroom. Then he waited some more. And more. Finally he used the bathroom, shaved his face, and relinquished control of the bathroom to the waiting hordes of children.

With a quick kiss for his wife, Greg grabbed his briefcase and walked out to his car. He didn’t have gloves, or any motivation to scrape the ice off the windshield, so he sat in his cold car and shivered while he waited for the defrosters to do their work. After a few minutes, he grabbed the still icy steering wheel, and drove across town where he faced 9 hours of waiting to come home. Or “work” as some people called it.

Now let’s listen to Fred’s morning:

Fred felt a cool breeze on his leg, and woke to find his wife had gotten out of bed early to make breakfast. She didn’t purposefully wake him up, but after the fitful night of sleep, getting out of bed was a welcome change. When he slipped his feet into his slippers, he found one had been thoroughly chewed by the puppy, and was much more absorbent than he realized when it came to dog slobber.

Not wanting to let his slipper incident go unnoticed, Fred clopped into the kitchen and proudly announced, “Now presenting, Sir Squishy Toes of Tasty Slipper Lane. You may all bow and slobber your praises.”

The girls eating breakfast around the table giggled, and Fred noticed they left him a sizable amount of scrambled eggs in the pan, where the ambient heat kept them warm. Knowing what happens to the bathroom when 3 girls and a wife get ready for their day, Fred quickly gobbled down his eggs and tried to be first into the bathroom. Unfortunately, his plans were foiled when he went back for seconds. (The eggs were good!)

After his eggs, Fred waited patiently in the queue outside the bathroom door. He challenged his daughters to a “pee pee dance off”, to see whose dance was the most pathetic. The girls let dad go next. After a quick bathroom break, Fred grabbed his electric razor and released the bathroom to the girly inhabitants of Tasty Slipper Lane. He grabbed his coat and his briefcase, and then looked around the house for his wife. She was waiting for him with a smile, happy to see that after all their years of marriage, a goodbye kiss was more than just habit — he wouldn’t leave the house without the brief moment of intimacy.

Fred smiled as he approached his car, because the frosted windows meant he’d get an extra 5 minutes of audiobook listening in before work. He sat in his car, shivering slightly, and with his hands crammed into his coat pocket he dove into the world of his audiobook. In a few minutes, the car had warmed up enough to drive, so he went to work. Fred shut the car off in the office parking lot just before an exciting scene in the book. It would be something to look forward to on the drive home. But first, there was hot office coffee waiting inside, and Fred was excited to warm up his hands with a mug full of it.

The point is probably painfully obvious. I’m both Greg and Fred, and this was my morning. For me, and I suspect many others, simply focusing on the positive instead of the negative can make a situation drastically different. This morning, I chose to be Fred, and my day has been wonderful. More often than not, I choose to be Greg, and it sets the mood for the entire day.

When you wake up tomorrow morning, try to be Fred. Just once. See how it goes. :)

37.5 Years

I am WAY TOO YOUNG for protruding nose hairs...That’s how long it took before I had to shave my face every day. Since I know guys that had to shave at 12, I refuse to believe this revelation marks me as a “grown up” — I sincerely hope that day never comes. :)

For the record, I hate shaving. I’ve never really liked it, and apart from a 12 year old boy wanting to be manly, I think I’ve always been perfectly happy with my baby face. But that’s all gone now.

If you aren’t a member of the Hairy Face Cleaving Society, there are basically 3 ways to go:

  1. Use a modern cartridge shaver. This is the route most folks go. The razors can range from pink with moisturizing strips, to 5 bladed steel jobs with a AA battery to provide vibration when face-scraping.
  2. Use an electric shaver. This is the method I currently use. I don’t use it because it offers a clean shave (it doesn’t), I don’t use it because it’s fast (it’s not), I use it because it seems to best hit both “sorta fast” and “notta lotta razor burn” — which is very important to me.
  3. Safety razor with 1940′s handle. This is truly the best method. No really. If you can lather up your pre-warmed face with a soap cake and badger brush, then slowly slide a double-edged razor blade over your throat — you will have the cleanest, razor-burn-freeish shave you’ve ever had.


A gift from Kyle. Or perhaps a death threat, I never considered that...


Truly, the third method is the best, and by far the cheapest. The only problem is that it takes a long time. It’s also difficult to get dressed and let out the dogs while shaving with a double-edged razor blade. Just sayin. Still, if you’ve ever wanted an amazing shave, follow the advice of my cooler-than-me friend Kyle, and try the old fashioned method. You won’t be sorry.

But you might be late for work. :)

New Year’s Resolutions – 2014

Write a book of fiction, just to see if I can.

I’m making this resolution a year in advance so that perhaps I can get my life in order enough that devoting time to writing fiction might be practical.

I have plenty of ideas for books, but fleshing them into more than napkin-sized scribbles is something beyond my ken. Hopefully reading more books this year (my goal is 24) will help. Hopefully spending this year with the notion of getting my life stabilized a bit will help too. Heck, maybe the boxes in my office will even get unpacked.

Anyway, Dear Next Year Shawn: Write a book man. Quit fantasizing about it, and just do it. Oh, and This Year Shawn? Yeah, help a brother out. You have 12 months.

Writer’s Block – It’s Not a Dry Well…

It’s a clogged pipe.

I’m a regular sufferer of writer’s block, and for years I had a deep seated fear it meant I had run out of ideas. Or creativity. Or grey matter. Perhaps that’s true, but since that is depressing and impossible to fix, I decided to declare it a total lie. And now it’s on the Internet, so you KNOW it’s true.

Creativity doesn’t run out, it just gets stopped up a bit. There’s probably an apt analogy about how Drain-O isn’t an ideal fix, and how we often treat mental clogs the same way with alcohol — but I don’t really feel like making such a profound and absurd comparison. Basically, I’m currently cleaning out my pipes. And this is my blog, so both of my readers are stuck with the slimy hair globs of my writer’s clog. You’re welcome.

I’ll leave you with that mental image, and just remind you — if you’re struggling with writing, or creating in general: Creativity doesn’t run out, it just gets clogged up. Write in a journal. Draw a blue duck. Record a podcast about the value of berber carpet. Heck, you can even spew wild claims of psychological understanding as it pertains to creativity on your blog. I know a guy that did that once.


The Obligatory Resolutions Post

I’m normally not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. You never hear anything thing about them after about January 2nd, and they’re often unrealistic and too general. As it happens, I’m actually at a point that I need to make some major changes, and I’m also at the point that I actually realize it. It’s the perfect storm of resolution-making.  So 2013, while in you I resolve to:

1) Have a month of income in savings by the end of the year.

Some of you think it appalling that we don’t already have this in place, but keep in mind this is building on the, “stop bouncing checks” resolution from some time ago. We make plenty of money, but we suck, absolutely suck, at managing it. The current double house payment (wanna buy a house in Indian River?) exacerbates this problem — but we still make enough money. Just need to handle it better.

2) By the end of 2013, weigh 190 or less.

Thank you all for assuming this isn’t a very big goal, when in reality it’s about a 35 pound goal. Yes yes, I carry my weight well, but it’s to the point that even carrying my weight well isn’t helping much. I look fat unless I wear a muumuu, which not only isn’t an option at work, but also makes a person look fat.

3) Stop missing deadlines.

If you know me from my CBT Nuggets video series, you fully understand this one. It seems my life is always chaotic, and every other week I seem to have Ebola, but nonetheless, I need to get on track with meeting deadlines. For Linux Journal readers, you probably don’t realize this as much — but I suspect the Executive Editor (who is awesome, btw) has considered hiring a contract killer to help motivate me. Let’s just say I have a habit of turning in writing assignments for our monthly magazine over a month late. Do the math, that’s messed up.

So there you have it, the Shawn Powers List of Things He Hopes to Do but Will Probably Mess Up, or the SPLOTHHTDBWPME as I affectionately refer to it. I also hope to read more and stress less, but those are too general, and I already reached my self-enforced limit of 3 resolutions. Happy New Year everyone!