Archive for August 2006

A Blinding Flash of the Obvious

August 24, 2006

Bottled WaterLike everyone else, my life is full of those little frustrations that make my days seem much longer than they should be. Especially workdays.

For example, where I work we have two soda vending machines. One has cans, one bottles. I am allergic to aspertame (Nutrasweet), so I can’t buy ‘diet’ sodas. Neither of the machines has tea. The can machine therefore offers me one viable choice: Coke. The bottle machine is Pepsi, which is sweeter than Coke; given a choice, I’ll take Coke any time. Still, I can only drink one Coke a day, or it’s just too much sugar to handle. The Pepsi machine will also gladly sell me a bottle of water for a dollar. That’s just ridiculous, but I have been known to buy one anyway.

Then a few weeks ago, I had my first blinding flash of the obvious: though the tap water here is pretty bad, there is a spigot on the kitchenette sink that dispenses – wait for it – filtered and chilled water. Since this is all they do to bottled water anyway, it hit me that I could refill my water bottle for free. Duh.

So I’d been happily drinking free bottled water for a couple of weeks, when the following fact worked its way through my barely-functioning brain: there is a whole binful of free Tetley teabags right next to the coffepot. Just 18 inches from where I’ve been filling up my water bottle. So I took one and put it in my water bottle, and viola, a half hour later I had a free bottle of iced tea.

Like I said, just another blinding flash of the obvious. But it has made work so much more tolerable.

Broomersize

August 17, 2006

BroomMy buddy Doug Higley (who made my cannibal toe necklace – really) has come up with an excellent weight-loss plan that I just feel I have to promote here.

He calls it ‘Broomersize’, and it’s the most practical, common-sense weight loss method I’ve ever heard of. The principle is so easy, that I wonder why no one has ever thought of it before?

I won’t give it away here, but click on the picture of the broom to go to Doug’s site and find out the secret for yourself. Doug’s lost 17 lbs. on his program so far!

Pirates Constructibles

August 8, 2006

Pirate ShipYaaar! There be Pirates!

I love games, and just this last week I started playing an extremely fun new game called Pirates Constructibles, from Wizkids Games. Pirates is like Magic: the Gathering in that it’s a CCG (Collectible Card Game), but it’s also a miniatures game—some of the cards have pirate ships that you punch out and assemble. (The cards aren’t cardboard; they’re a kind of thin, strong compressed plastic foamboard.)

You play the game on a tabletop; all you need is an area about 3 ft. square. There are little islands you place around the playing field, which you then load up with tiny gold dubloons. You board a few talented crewmembers, place your ship (or ships) on your home island, and start playing pirate.

To win, you must pick up the most gold and transport it to your home island, but you can also attack each other to steal your opponent’s gold or simply sink his ships down to Davy Jones’s Locker.

The rules are relatively simple for a miniatures game (I got my butt handed to me by an 11-year-old kid in my first tournament last Sunday) but are complex enough to make it interesting. There’s a lot of thought involved, from fleet-building to strategic gameplay. The miniatures look great, and there’s even a bit of historical accuracy for historical battle buffs—you can play English, French, Spanish, American, or Pirate.

I only have two complaints:

One, it’s yet another $4-a-pack collectible game, and there are already FIVE editions on the market. The good news is that you can start playing a simple game with just one pack, so entry is cheap. But you could easily invest your life savings trying to get that great super-ship your buddy kicked your keister with last week.

Two, the masts on the little ships are pretty fragile. I broke one my first game. A tube of gel superglue is required equipment.

Highly recommended.

Fading Fame

August 4, 2006

Brando“I usesta be a contendah! I useta be sumboddy!” -Me

It’s tough to experience a bit of fame, and then find out how fleeting it is. Believe it or not, once upon a time people actually asked me for autographs. Oh, not many. But some. I even did a book signing at the big annual BookExpo show in Chicago one year. Trust me, when someone thrusts a pen in your hand with a look of admiration and asks you to autograph their book, it’s a real ego boost.

Those days are now long gone. INFO magazine went under some 14 years ago now, and my last book was published in 1997 and is long out of print.

There are still some remnants of fame left; tattered rags that hint at their once gleaming spendor.

Amazon (who got my name wrong in the first place: I’m listed as ‘Mark Robbin Brown’) still lists nine of my books here. And my publisher, Que, still lists a bit of information about my books when you enter the ISBNs for them here. You can even buy some of them used on Abebooks by searching for my name here. (For most of them, the shipping is four times the cost of the book.)

But being a faded star (especially one that didn’t shine that brightly in the first place) ain’t the same as being in the spotlight, kiddo. Not by a long shot.

Life Magazine: August 6, 1951

August 4, 2006

Life MagazineIt’s August 6, 1951, as the title up there says, and I’m busy being born. Meanwhile, as always, on the newsstands is this week’s copy of Life magazine.

The girl on the cover – Carol Braun – is having fun, fun, fun in the summertime. She’s just been named the Portland Rose Festival Princess, and she’s getting her picture taken (in a tight sweater) to appear on the cover of Life magazine, just like Betty Grable. Life is sweet. (Pun intended.)

So what, you ask?

Well, I grow up, and in 1972 I marry Carol Rudy (a lovely sweater girl herself) whose name then changes to… Carol Brown.

Just one of those strange little coincidences that make life so darned interesting. (Pun intended.)

I ordered a copy of this issue of Life from eBay a few days ago, and just got it in the mail today. I just had to. My life wouldn’t be complete without it. (Pun… well, you know.)