Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Centrum: Get Fit for Summer!

The above photo (which always makes me smile) is from this Spring Break, when my brother and I took a bunch of his friends out for a nice day on the lake. It was sunny, but the weather was lovely and there was a perfect breeze. Going out to play outside for the day wasn't an issue at all!

Now that we're getting into summer, however, it's not so easy to just spend hours outside. Particularly if you might not be in the best shape - I, for example, spent most of the fall chained to a desk while I worked on my graduate classes.

Yesterday, I heard about a great giveaway to go along with the start of summer vacation:
Centrum (yes, the vitamin company) has a GET FIT contest going on now, and the grand prize is a trip to LA and a one-on-one training session with Harley Pasternak.
If, like me, you haven't heard of Pasternak, I've saved you the trouble of going over to Google - Harley Pasternak is a celebrity trainer (think Jennifer Hudson and Lada Gaga) and creator of the 5 Factor Diet.

To get in on this contest, all you have to do it text the word "CENTRUM" with an image of a Centrum multivitamin bottle to the number 89800. That's it! We already take Centrum in our house, so I didn't even have to go shopping in order to enter for the LA trip and training session.

(As ever, thank you to the ladies at the One2One network for this posting opportunity)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Today's challenge over at is to list three things that made you happy as a child. I chose the first three that came to mind:

1. Family game night, particularly when everyone would agree to play Huggermugger - which they dislike and I enjoy.
2. Weekend television, like Wishbone, M*A*S*H, and Hogan's Heroes.
3. Those make-a-wax-animal-model machines they used to have at zoos.


Just testing out an app to let me blog from my iPod.

And getting ready to go see the new Pirates movie, of course.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Adventure of the Silent Partner, Chapter 2

Chapter 1 and an explanation.

Basically this is what geeks do in their free time - write terrible self-instert fan fiction as though it were created by another fictional character.

Tonight's selection is the brainchild four authors, and two of them were tipsy for some of it. Enjoy!

Chapter Two: Crimson and Change Over

The smell of dust and honey filled his nose as something large stood on his chest. Weary from the fall, Coren slowly opened his eyes. He was in a musty study under a large antique desk. An English bulldog stood on his chest. He could tell by the name on its collar that its owners had named it "Gladstone."

It sniffed at his shirt collar and then sounded a loud, gruff bark, then lapped gently at his face and wuffled his hair. He could feel warm, sticky slobber in his hairline, but that wasn't all. A syrupy liquid had become entangled in his coffee-colored locks--it was a bright green and dripping from the edge of the desk. It appeared this his impact had shattered a small chemistry set balanced precariously on a stack of worn medical journals.

Coren shot up with a start, dislodging the bulldog, and had to brace himself against the table, for his knees were uncharacteristically weak. Gladstone began to make a snorting-barking noise as it snuffled around his feet; the door swung wide - a statuesque gentleman in a houndstooth dressing gown stood in the doorway. "Gladstone!" the man boomed in a deep British baritone, "I see you have found a guest! Mrs. Hudson, please put the kettle on, this promises to be a long evening."

Disoriented from his collision course with the mysterious Brit's study, Coren could barely make sense of his surroundings. He ran a hand through his tawny strands and pulled it back to examine the nearly fluorescent substance now dripping down his temple. "Don't concern yourself with that too much, it probably won't even take affect for another couple days," the handsome stranger said nonchalantly, "I would offer you a seat, but I'm waiting for my companion to bring me a rag."

The stranger gave the vulnerable detective a knowing smile that brightened his eyes. Even in the dim candlelight, Coren could tell he was devilishly attractive. The houndstooth robe hid what was no doubt a trim and alluring figure. Before Coren could return the expression, a rotund mustachioed man in a scarlet damask patterned dressing gown barreled in. He flailed about like a befuddled, injured animal and glared angrily at Coren. "What is all this then? An intruder! I shall grab my pistol," the other man, obviously a former English military man from his demeanor and accent, exclaimed.

The lithe Adonis snatched the sleeping cap off his chubby associate's head and stood with the most excellent posture Coren had ever seen, "No need to fret, my dear friend. This gentleman means us no harm." The rouge-clad man fumed and puffed out his cheeks, which made him look like a giant tomato, "Don't be ridiculous! Why, he's gotten your experiment all over his tennis whites and--what the devil are you doing with my cap?!"

The florid man's companion sauntered over towards Coren in a memorizing gait and never broke eye contact as he spoke, "Don't get so upset, old fellow. This was a gift from Sarah back when you were engaged? You always hated this particular one and I assume Mrs. Hudson is behind in the laundering, so you were forced to put this one on before you left the bedroom. You won't mind if I allow our new friend to use it to clean himself up a bit."

Despite his earlier promise to let Coren clean himself, the unidentified man immediately set about running the cloth through the detective's hair himself. "It would be a shame," the man murmured as his larger companion uncomfortably took a seat near the fireplace, "were I to allow this muck to obscure your natural hair color any longer." Coren felt his iron control slip a notch or two, and - not ungently - plucked the soiled cloth from his host's hands. "Thank you, but that won't be necessary," Coren admitted gruffly, "if you'll just point me in the direction of your nearest - ah - water closet."

The man nearest the fireplace started briefly at Coren's accent, but the handsome stranger (who had yet to move back from Coren's personal space) merely allowed himself a small smile. "I see our guest is an American, and from the northeastern corner of the country as well. I had gathered as much from your attire, but it is nice to have complete confirmation from your accent."

While the florid-faced man by the hearth merely made a noise that sounded uncannily like "pwah" in reply, Coren's attractive host finally bestirred himself to move further away. Coren found that he missed the proximity, but was relieved when he realized he was being shown the way to the bathroom. It was there, with the door closed firmly behind him, that Coren's sharp mind finally reasserted itself, took in the details of his surroundings, and realized that he might be in quite a situation, indeed. It was no task for him to piece together the puzzle of his current whereabouts. Due to the lack of electrical lighting, the attire, and the atrocious patterned wallpaper he was in the Victorian era, probably late eighties or nineties. He must have been in London specifically owing to the regional inflections in the accents of his two hosts. Doctor Death's infernal contraption must have been a portal to a different time. Coren could only wonder if the mad doctor had been flung back as well.

Coren sighed heavily and looked at himself in the mirror. Most of the strange substance was gone and his tresses had almost returned to their full body. Rubbing his cheek, he despairingly noticed that he had a bit of stubble. Being so dedicated to his job, Coren often neglected the more time consuming hygiene habits. Luckily, the stubble gave his usually taut, boyish features a rugged edge. The thick, dark bristles highlighted his strong jawline and chin. He chewed nervously on his pouty bottom lip; the unshaven look was popular in modern day NYC, but it would not do him any favors in this era. That man must think he was a scoundrel or worse, a sailor!

Coren always had terrible luck in his romantic life. Sure, there were plenty who expressed interest in him and his charm was more than sufficient to attract whomever he chose. Yet, no one really understood him. Sometimes he wondered what was the point of all the rare vinyl recordings and vintage spirits if there was no one to share and appreciate them with.

Shoving these thoughts firmly into a small lockbox labeled "Later" deep in the recesses of his mind, Coren examined his surroundings for any useful tools. The cramped room was a mess, for all that the two men claimed to have a housekeeper in their employ, and Coren did not allow himself to dwell on how the realization there was no overtly feminine hand at work in this household spread through his stomach like warm mead. Two confirmed bachelors, perhaps? The rents in London, even in this time, would indeed make it economical for two men to share the rent on an apartment. No, on a "flat", Coren corrected himself; best to start blending in with his surroundings.

A few moments of shuffling through the rickety cabinet unearthed several flannel cloths, the most useful half of a hairbrush, three-quarters of a men's shaving kit, and a series of alarming chemical stains - really, what HAD these men been doing with lead tetroxide in the bathroom? Coren puzzled over this quandary as he set about performing his toilet with the materials at hand: damp cloths took care of the last of the gunk adorning his dark tresses, but did nothing for the shudder Coren felt when he remembered the phrase "probably won't take effect for another couple days" and the detective mentally noted to keep an eye on his physical health for any signs of poisoning.

With his hair situation sorted - a new part and a few passes with the brush rendered it very nearly respectable - Coren perused his facial hair with a critical eye. His original assessment had been correct, and severe changes would need to be made, here, for him to pass as a member of the non-criminal classes. Facial hair was considered fashionable in this time period, Coren mused, but stubble was simply outré - no, best to embrace the clean-shaven look, at least for the time being. With a sigh, Coren began the work of removing his three-day-old stubble. As an afterthought, he left the sides alone; if he remained in this time period long he might yet need to grow a set of dundrearies or Piccadilly weepers to fit in more fully.

Coren almost made it through the entire shaving process unscathed, but his brilliant mind was reasserting itself yet again, and it demanded to go over the information available. Just as Coren brought his hand down for the final stroke of gleaming razor against soft flesh, he was struck with the realization of just whose flat he had been transported into by Doctor Death's experiment.

"My God," his mind and body jerked with the force of his epiphany. Unluckily, his hand had twitched as well and embedded the razor into his crisply shaven jaw. He instantly pulled back the blade and examined the reddening nick. A small stream of blood dribbled down his neck looking like the Nile after Moses had his way with it. The bloody river traced his pronounced Adam's apple, a pyramid on the Egypt of his throat. Coren sighed in irritation at his momentary miscalculation of his muscle spasms.

The water-closet door burst open and the flustered man adorned in crimson shouted, "Are you quite alright, Sir? By Jove you've been injured, I shall fetch my instruments!" Before Coren could protest and point out to the hyperbolic medical professional that a little pressure would alleviate the flow of his wound, the man returned with a black doctor's case. He wrenched it open and several instruments flew out and fell to the floor with a clatter. As he fumbled around his bag, the tall gentleman stepped into the WC beside him.

"It is only a minor cut, my friend," he spoke steadily in contrast the theatrical series of seizures his companion was experiencing. "Shut up," he barked, "I am a doctor you know! Where did I put that confounded thing?" If eye-rolling had been customary in Victorian England, Coren was certain that was what the taller man would be doing.

With a long, thin hand that appeared suited to playing a stringed instrument like a piano or a viola, he grabbed something in the doctor's case. "Nevertheless, he is our guest and it should be our responsibility to see he doesn't acquire an infection while visiting our residence."

Finally jolted from his stunned observation of the scene before him, Coren saw an opening to confirm his hypothesis, "Yes, it's not everyday one gets the chance to be mended by London's greatest consulting detective Sherlock Holmes and his 'special assistant' Dr. Watson."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Dear Vincent D'Onofrio: I am so, so sorry.

So, backstory: Criminal Intent is a great show. The lead Detective (Vincent D'Onofrio) is basically a modern Sherlock Holmes. Also he's totally cute. Anyway, Detective Goren is always writing in this notebook, and today E and I came to the following logical conclusion:

Detective Goren is working on his self-insert Sherlock Holmes Gary Stu fanfiction.

And then, because we do this sort of thing, we started round-robin writing the story that Detective Goren would write, if he had a account. Enjoy:

The Adventure of the Silent Partner

Chapter One: Death Takes a Holiday

Super-sleuth Detective Inspector Coren walked into his elegant New York apartment after a long day at work. He and his parter (Detective "Skull" Feames) had been working doggedly to bring down the self-styled criminal mastermind Doctor Death. In reality, the criminal's name was Gary Studdard, and Detective Coren was working hard to understand Studdard's psychology as he undressed after work and put on his favorite vinyl recording - a Tuvan throat-singing group covering ABBA's greatest hits.

Coren had just begun to hum along to "Dancing Queen" when his phone rang. Detective Feames, ever at a loss without Coren's expert opinions and brilliant feats of inductive logic, exclaimed breathlessly down the line, "We need you at 152nd street, now!" Coren dashed from the apartment, leaving the vintage bottle of wine he'd selected for the evening untouched on the kitchen counter.

The ever-dedicated detective hopped into his Ferrari 308 GTB, a generous gift from an anonymous benefactor of Coren's astounding skills. Naturally, he knew it was from the heiress of a particular diamond company who he had exonerated of murdering her ex-boyfriend. Coren smiled fondly as he recalled how grateful the curvaceous blonde had been. Her not-so-subtle flirtations had been flattering, but Coren had politely informed the much sought after scion that he was dedicated to his work. Truthfully, Coren had to turn away many prospective partners over the years since he was yet to find the perfect mate. He needed an intellectual equal, someone who could really understand his eccentric demeanor. Someone who could understand the pain in his heart.

Detective Feames was relieved to see her partner. She ran over to the Italian sportscar parked haphazardly on the curb. Without hesitation, she opened the driver door for Coren and complimented him on his stylish sunglasses. He stepped out and thanked her, modestly.

Detective Coren then strode toward the obvious center of activity up the block, with the ever-impressed Feames trailing in his wake. She updated Coren on the nature of the late call even though they both knew Coren could tell (from the stances of the other officers as well as the locations of the four unmarked vans) that the lair of Doctor Death - née Gary Studdard - had been discovered. Coren removed his embossed leather notebook from his stylish trench coat, eager to note down the particulars of the case before the final confrontation with this latest menace to the peace of his home city.

After interminable minutes of briefing and debriefing with his superiors and other officers, Coren and Feames quickly got into their personas for the final sting operation. Coren had already discovered the floor on which Doctor Death operated (the fourth, judging by the state of the windowsill), the nature of Doctor Death's lair (pseudo scientific research, according to the papers and boxes Feames had fetched from the dumpster), and the people Doctor Death was most likely to trust (anyone delivering Chinese food, if the call Doctor Death had just made to the restaurant up the street were any indication). It was the work of mere moments for Coren and Feames to waylay the hapless deliveryman, and Coren and Feames slipped into their personas - she, a hardened veteran of the delivery service; he, an eager student learning the ropes as he attempts to pay his way through college.

All too soon and not soon enough, our intrepid Detectives were standing at Death's Door.

Feames knocked harshly on the old door, several red paint chips crumpled under her pounding fist. She cast a glance at her disguised cohort and tensely gripped the plastic delivery bag. Calm as a majestic stag sleeping in a fragrant meadow, Coren gave her a reassuring pat on the back. She managed to stretch the already ratchet-tight skin across her face into a nervous smile.

On the other side of the door there were loud clicking noises and Coren noted that the so-called Doctor had at least six additional locks on the entrance to his lair. The villain's excessive precaution had to be due to the perceived importance of his research and acknowledgment of his illegal practices.

A middle-aged man wearing goggles over his eye-patch and single piercing ice-blue iris swung the door open. His gaze immediately focused on Coren whose figure was surprisingly flattered by the unisex polo shirt-khaki pants combination of the Tao Wei Chinese Palace uniform. The cut of the polo sleeves accentuated Coren's carefully sculpted biceps and his rebellious chocolate locks peeked out from under the white baseball cap. The man was finally able to pry his eye away from Coren to scowl at Feames who tragically looked as though someone had stuffed potatoes into her outfit and knocked her hat askew.

Before the evil twin brother of Bill Nye could notice that Feames was holding the pencil completely wrong for a veteran of the food- delivery industry, Coren stepped in to salvage the situation with his usual perfect blend of boyish charm, impish humor, and faux confusion. Tilting his head at an angle painstakingly calculated (during a lazy summer many years ago) to be coquettishly disarming, Coren mildly inquired, "Is the the correct address? Only, we have an order of North Prince Chicken for two, and this apartment clearly belongs to one, very lonely, man." Before Studdard could reply, his one eye widening and fixing on Coren's two piercing mahogany orbs, Coren continued, "No, not a man at all, are you? You see yourself as something more. A scientist? A seeker of all the knowledge of this world and the next?"

As Coren continued in this vein, using the low, hypnotic baritone that worked so well on skittish suspects and injured animals alike, he and his partner wafted into the Doctor's apartment as though propelled by the softest of breezes. The entire situation was moving exactly according to Coren's master stratagem - distract and disarm - but Coren had, as ever, missed one simple detail in his otherwise brilliant examination of the Doctor and his living quarters. If queried much later (although he never was), Coren would have been hard-pressed to answer whether he was unhappy with the way the situation rapidly spun out of control. The order of North Prince Chicken was indeed intended for two diners: Doctor Death and his Chinese Crested canine companion. Coren could read the tag as the furred avenger lunged at Feames - it appeared that "Nom Chompsky" was about to take Coren's partner out of the running, and rip the spell he had so cunningly woven around the Doctor.

The hideously deformed rodent passing as man's best friend latched onto the cuff of Feames's left pant leg. It tugged and growled. Feames tilted her head down to regard the assault with the same expression one might use when noticing one has stuck a foot in a bucket.

"You have a dog," she observed with no inflection.

Coren mentally slapped his forehead in exasperation. He had always been quite fond of the woman despite her frightening visage, but she had never been able to grasp the subtle art of detective work that he had mastered years ago. Sometimes he wondered how she had even passed the exam to enter the Major Case Squad. Nevertheless, her loyalty and continued reverence of Coren's talent made her an invaluable companion and it was his responsibility to protect his partner.

"Ah, yes," Doctor Death finally spoke, his accent clearly originating from the Skåne region of Sweden probably near the city of Malmö, "I'm afraid Mr. Chompsky has an intense disliking for authority."

Feames paled, "Why is he attacking me? It's not like I'm a cop or anything."

Thinking even more quickly than usual, Coren decided that a smart (not as smart as himself, but very nearly beginning to approach it) man would have trained his dog to respond to a command that caused it to cease its attack. After all, only an idiot would fail to implement a failsafe for every eventuality. Mustering a not inconsiderable amount of command into his voice, Coren started with a simple "Nom Chompsky, ligg!"

Doctor Death merely wheezed out a sinister laugh, as "Fot!" and "Kom!" similarly failed to arrest the miniature death-hound's attack - Feamon was beginning to look decidedly ashen by the time Coren realized, based on the bad Doctor's heritage and speech patterns, that the stop command must be something slightly more esoteric. In a blinding flash of insight, and just before Feames could gather herself enough to turn her service weapon on the minuscule hound, Coren began again. "Burlov! Eslov! Trelleborg!" Doctor Death's once-triumphant laugh became a shaky shadow of its former self, and he backed ever-so-slightly toward the control panel of his infernal device. "Lund! Skurup!" bellowed Coren, before finally, in a tone of triumph, "STAFFANSTORP!"

In a thrice, Nom Chompsky had released the (now ragged) edge of Feames' nice yet serviceable slacks and sat down, eyeing Coren and its former master expectantly.

Unfortunately, Feames' obvious distress at the unexpected assault had bought precious moments for Doctor Death to plan the fall of this, his greatest, handsomest, and most intelligent enemy. Before Coren could begin to expound upon how he had known that one of the "heel!" commands must have been the name of a municipality within Skane County, Doctor Death had pounced on the controls of his dread machine - and Coren had not yet finished discovering its intended purpose.

With the light-footedness of a jackrabbit, Coren rushed toward Doctor Death, poised to tackle him as Coren had done so many years ago when he was the MVP of his basketball team in high school. Even as he rushed forward, his ears picked up the minute sounds of the machine whirring to life, although Feames was clearly unable to distinguish such minuscule sounds. He stopped dead just in time to miss a Tesla coil as it shot through the floor of the apartment, already giving off huge bursts of electricity.

Doctor Death bellowed, "MY MACHINE, SHE AWAKENS! TASTE YOUR FINAL DEATH, DETECTIVE COREN!!!!!!!!!!" Wishing to savor the horror on Coren's handsome visage, Doctor Death first turned his laser sights onto the immobile form of Detective Feames. Feames, ever certain that Coren possessed the capability to save them both from any harrowing situation, said merely, "He has a laser."

"No!" shouted Coren, "Your quarrel is not with my feeble-minded partner! It is with me - let us engage in a true battle of the minds." Doctor Death concurred, "Let's get dangerous." Unheard in the heat of the forming battle, Detective Feames commented, "Au contraire."

Doctor Death swung the laser sights around to the gallant Coren, but Coren had just spotted a toolbox in the corner. Harnessing all of his lightning speed (matched only by his love for puns), Coren sprinted to the toolbox and, with a single swift motion, completely appropriately threw a monkey wrench into Doctor Death's devious plans - literally!

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO--" exclaimed Doctor Death as the machine sparked and rumbled, "OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO---" until the lighting arced from the Tesla coil and formed a perfect sphere, "OOOOOOOOOOO--" and finally sucked Doctor Death into the ball of light "OOooooooooo." Meanwhile, Feames was staring vacantly into the pulsating orb of unknown origin, "It is bright." Unbeknownst to Feames, she was within the radius of the orb's pull. "Feames! Back away! It is clearly an extension of the gravitational lensing effect!" but Coren's desperate yet mellifluous cries fell on deaf ears.

With no other solution, as Feames was pulled closer to possible demise, Coren threw himself bodily at Feames. She was pushed to safety, but Coren was not so lucky. He could feel the inexorable tug of the light source throbbing through his veins like some irresistible but yet-undiscovered drug. With a sigh, he was pulled through.