Sunday, April 24, 2011

Book excerpts: The Unbitten Onion, Powerhorns Study

Winding down a seven-year study focused on enhancing and promoting effective communications between individuals, the American Communication Association released preliminary results Friday, citing the most effective supplement to meaningful communications is the electronic power-horn, the latest form of the dated megaphone.

Spokesperson and study participant of the ACA, Mehki Vivu, claimed that this type of tool should and will be used more often. "Take a standard two-person conversation; you get lots of nods and head-shakes, but the people aren't really hearing one another. They're just waiting their own turn to speak." Picking up a 10-watt power-horn with built-in siren and detachable mic, she demonstrated. "Can you hear me now? God##amn right you can."

The study focused on two-person communication aids in three individual settings: home, work, and social. School was not chosen as a setting due to various laws regarding state-run schools and noise/interference policies.

To do the home environment, the ACA chose hundreds of families across the U.S. to participate in the study. One participant, Doug Baker of Nags Head, NC, reported dramatic changes in the way he and his wife communicated with one another. "First thing in the morning, I'd grab the horn and get right up next to her in bed. Then I'd say, 'Honey, do you want eggs or pancakes?' Up she'd come, swingin' and spittin'." Before that, claimed Baker, she would just mumble and continue sleeping.

In the work environment, results were mixed, but with overwhelming favor toward the power-horn.

Vivu personally tried the power-horn tactic at several retail outlets, including McDonald's. "Normally, before this [power-horn study] I would order a double-cheeseburger without pickle, and invariably, it would either have pickle, or I would get like Chicken McNuggets instead of what I ordered. So in three of the McDonald's that I went into, I said the very same thing; 'I want a double-cheeseburger withOUT pickles,' right into my 10-watt power-horn. Not once did my order come back incorrect."

Although Vivu's McDonald's orders were correct each time, she did have other problems. On her second visit to the golden arches, a customer in front of her passed out after her announcement. He had been wearing a particularly sensitive hearing aid, according to witnesses. On her third visit, a frightened worker launched herself out of the drive-thru window into a customer's vehicle, later claiming that she thought it was a robbery. "Small stuff," claimed Vivu. "Those things happen everyday--the difference now is that we can get the correct order, every time. It's worth a little confusion, isn't it?"

In a social setting, the power-horn was rated top-notch for getting a message across. Study participant Andrew Behrmer of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, took his power-horn to the beach with his wife and children. "My target," said Behrmer, "was the people who somehow manage to get sand on you. Happens every time. You have your little spot, away from everybody, but they throw a frisbee or whatever and next thing you know, your ham sandwich has crunch nuggets."

The first person Behrmer used his power-horn on was a three year-old boy who was chasing his beach ball too close to Behrmer's blanket. "Yo! Stop there. I'll get your ball, kid," Behrmer said through his more powerful 70-watt power-horn (necessary, according to him, because of the breeze on the beach). "The boy never stopped moving; he was coming at us quick, and when I hollered into the horn, he stayed quick, just in the opposite direction. His parents came to inquire but I held them at a distance with, 'Stand back, or I will increase the volume.'"

In another social setting, Behrmer targeted people who's car stereos were too loud. "At one stop light, this guy had some kind of techno-rap song playing so loud that my rear-view mirror was rattling. I came up with the power-horn and cranked her full power--said, 'Turn that sh$$ off before I throw my wife at you.' Zip. Silence. That felt good--I did it for the rest of the day at different traffic lights."

As the news was released about power-horns, manufacturers are scurrying to up production to meet the expected demand. Vivu is optimistic about the change, claiming that if people could only communicate more accurately with one another, half of the problems in our daily lives would disappear. "And don't forget the pure entertainment value of the power-horn," said Vivu. "Ever walked up behind somebody in a bathroom and barked out a Howdy-Doody with one of these? It's priceless."

--The Unbitten Onion, Issue #31, Study Reveals Boost in Communications Through Power-horns

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Stuff you probably didn't know about my books: Alt's Name

Alt's name came from a cat I used to have. His name was Alton. I couldn't resist; I was at the SPCA one day, checking out dogs and cats when this Air Force couple walked up and asked if I was looking for a cat. I said no. They said that they couldn't bring him on their change of station, so they would be giving him back to the SPCA where they got him. So I took him.

What is unique about Alton is that he had been hit in the head with a hammer by their two-year-old son (he was just playing) and as a result, Alton could often be seen staring off into space. The choice was clear.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Book excerpt: The Lost Dialogues of Table 18

“Here you go,” I said. “How about if we put the popular thoughts up and lace them together. Bill Cosby said, ‘The problem with women is that they are always ‘c’mere, c’mere, c’mere, get away, get away, get away!’ Then the Venus/Mars dude said just that; we’re from two different planets. He also said men favor their ‘caves’ for retreating to during arguments, in order to figure things out, while women want to solve it right then and there. He said women are vocal creatures… wanna talk about any issue, all the time, right away when it happens. Men, he suggested, needed time and space to figure out anything related to the relationship and other issues, really. He basically said that men do not do dialogue to solve problems. And to be honest, we don’t.”

“The dude was right,” he said.

“He must not have included guy-on-guy dialogue though because as far as I can tell, you and I are solving the problems of the universe, right here at table 18, are we not?”

“No, not really. He was right. Guys aren’t constructive with dialogue; we have merely found ways to entertain ourselves with it.”

“Deep, bro. Seriously.”

“That guy did pin down some truths, though. Especially the cave and the dialogue,” he said.

“Yeah, but that was only a couple of ornaments on the real tree of man v. woman. Plus I think he ended up getting divorced. How about the old saying that if you put a nickel in a jar every time you have sex in your first year of marriage, or, in more modern realities, the first year of your relationship, then you take one nickel out every time you have sex after your first year of the relationship, you’ll never empty the jar?”

“You paid for sex?” he asked.

I shook my head. “Not directly.”

--The Lost Dialogues of Table 18, Ch. 5, "Men and Women"

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Stuff you probably didn't know about my books: Devon Avoncorte

If you've read The Lost Dialogues of Table 18, you are familiar with the good pirate. He is based on a real-life character that I was friends with. His name was chosen carefully, because he was really the Devil's Advocate. :)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Book excerpt: Name of Alt

The first conversation I had with Khan was when I was 121-years and was about ten minutes after I left a planet in your galaxy, actually, and went like this (we literally used a common language in the universe that is based strictly on the frequency of tones, but this is, of course, the English equivalent):

“What are you, and why are you on my ship?”

“Off to Hell with you,” he said, smirking.

“I’m sorry, I must be misunderstanding you,” I said.

“No. Off to Hell. Begone with yourself and your ridiculous thumbs, especially,” he said, giving a dismissive wave with one of his wings.

“In which direction would I move if I wanted to march off to Hell, accompanied by my ridiculous thumbs, especially, and the rest of my body, in the interest of progressive exploration, and after I’ve marched off to Hell, what would you then say? Can we move along with…”

Interrupting, “RathoKhan. Here because I want to be.”

I looked at him for some time. He was fixated on my feet as he struggled to stand from the G-force which was about 1.8G and moving from the floor toward the port side of the craft as a turn began. I couldn’t tell if he found my feet interesting or he was just trying to think about balance or maybe not focused on anything.

“Won’t your family miss you? You do understand…”

Interrupting again, “Yeah, yeah. You’re on your way out of my galaxy soon and you’re not coming back… blah, blah, blah. This ain’t my first ro day oh, partner. What the Hell is wrong with your feet?”

I looked at my feet for a moment before looking at his. “My feet are fine. Your feet should not be the standard by which feet are determined to be ‘right,’ or ‘wrong.’”

“Bug off, slim. Feed me already. Could this even possibly be how you treat all of your guests? How rude!”

“I did not invite you,” I said.

“Plants do not invite the rains,” was his retort.

“Granted, nor are the rains the plants’ guests,” I said.

“Granted back, but do the plants not take in the rain when it shows up? And could the plants take in the rain if the plants hadn’t shown up in a place where there was rain?” he asked.

I paused, looking at his ridiculous feet. “Plants did not show up because of rain, nor vice versa; it just so happens that they work well together on most plant-bearing planets.”

“Did they start out working well together?” he asked.

“Depends. Some plants need no rain, and if rain shows up, the plant will ignore it. The plant won’t even acknowledge the rain.”

“Nor does the plant interrogate the rain,” he retorted.

“I’m going to object to the last statement because it appears to me that you are attempting to vacate the problem of you being on my ship and me not understanding why while replacing the topic/problem with the question of why I would interrogate you. Any creature of logic would understand why I interrogate you. I’m not a plant, nor are you the rain.”

“Exactly wrong,” he said, still looking at my feet. After a few moments, he finally looked up into my eyes. “My statement arguing against this interrogation was not to change focus or to use misdirection as you would tender—one should think he can safely assume that the pilot of this craft will not let go easily of the question of the source and meaning of my presence on the ship—the question of interrogation was to ask why you must necessarily question a thing that has never hurt you and may help you.”

I had heard similar methods used in previous discussions among some of the brightest Douzians—the old “It isn’t what you said because it’s a list,” front, which told me two things that I had already suspected but now had confirmed—he was intelligent and he was versatile in dialogue. I would have to continue to fence if I wanted to get to any real information, and I was heavily outmatched. And although I sensed he didn’t want to be interrogated or really even to communicate at all—he just wanted to pretend to have been together forever—I could tell his logic machine was really just going through the initial phases of warm-up. As I said earlier, Douzians don’t argue. We solve or let it go. I pushed, somewhat hopelessly, to solve...

-- Name of Alt, Chapter 15, "A Pet."