🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩
Bowl Bust 🏈
To say that I know how to write is like saying I know how to breathe. No one considers that they know how to breathe. They just … breathe. No one is particularly good at breathing or bad at breathing. Again, they just … breathe.
I’ve been writing in some way, shape or form since I was about 6. That’s what I do. It’s as essential to me as breathing. Sure, I can choose to not write, but it’s not good for my health, though it’s probably a bit dramatic to say it’s as not-good as not breathing. I get that. But you get the point, right?
Right now, I have about 10 short stories or books in various forms of completion. None of them — zero — is finished. Only one is a completed first draft. All the others are in various stages of incomplete.
This is becoming a problem.
I set as one of my Fifty Intentions for 2023 to complete one short story before the calendar flips to a new year. That is an astoundingly low bar to clear for someone who writes as much as I do, yet my track record tells me it’s not going to be easy. I started about four or five short stories/books last year and, as I said, finished none.
So I decided to use part of my day off today to do something different.
In the past, I haven’t had any sort of plan or outline when I write. Most of the time, when I start writing a story, I don’t have any solid idea of how it is going to turn out, and I certainly don’t have all the plot twists and turns in mind. They just sort of … happen. When I tell fellow writers that this is my method, they tend to be wide-eyed with horror. No one would teach anyone to write this way. I get that. I’ve met no one who’s been successful using this method.
My own success has been limited. When you hear “John Agliata,” you don’t have the same reaction as when you hear “Stephen King,” after all. And why not have the goal of being the next Stephen King, right? So perhaps my method isn’t the “right” method … not just the not-right method for anyone else but the not-right method for me, too.
So today I decided to try to outline one of the in-progress stories I have. It’s something of a sci-fi story, about a time traveler (or is he perhaps just insane?) who comes back from a time in which the next iteration of COVID starts the downfall of society, a time in which all the things we rely on today for information have been wiped away by an artificial intelligence that escapes into the system and, thinking it’s doing what’s best for society, wipes away everything that is harming our health and unity, which is pretty much everything digital. I dig this story. I have a general idea of how I want it to end. But after about 54 pages of writing it in the fall/winter of 2022, I, well, stopped.
This is a trend, I realize, and a bad one. I come out of the gate with an idea and a ton of enthusiasm, and nothing can stop me from finding time to write. Then, eventually, I come to a point that is somewhat challenging to write through or around, and I just sort of peter out.
That’s not good.
So I figured, hey, maybe I can outline what I’ve already written and use that as a springboard for an outline of what I want to write to finish this bad boy. Nowhere in my mind at the moment is the thought of publication. I just want to prove to myself I can finish something. Anything!
I outlined Chapter 1, then got lost in re-reading Chapter 2 and was unable to think of some random detail I’d need for Chapter 9 or 10 so I stopped and moved on to working on the family finances for January. Now, the open file of my outline is taunting me.
I’m probably giving more significance to this inability to finish than likely is actually there. But it’s just like the yips in baseball. If, as a second baseman, you start thinking about the routine throw you have to make to first after a grounder, the chance of you screwing up that routine throw explodes exponentially. Yankees 2B Chuck Knoblauch once got so up in his head about that throw that he sailed one so badly it whacked the mother of former ESPN Sportscenter anchor and general curmudgeon Keith Olbermann right in the face as she sat in the stands.
I don’t want to hit Keith Olbermann’s mom in the face with my writing, and so I need to … need to … finish something.
These past few days have been frustrating far beyond my inability to finish a story. Never have I spent so much time to accomplish so little as I have trying to figure out what should be really damn simple, if only I were the one creating all the systems that link everything in this world.
For example, I have a personal checking account for our family finances. At the end of last year, I opened up a business checking account for my business, Johnny Boy Marketing. The two accounts are at different banks, which, while not ideal, shouldn’t be an obstacle.
I have a simple need: The ability to move money from one account to another. This is, indeed, simple if I’m moving money from my personal checking account to my business account. What is proving to be far more challenging than it should be is moving money from my business account to my personal one, which is actually how most of that money flows.
The blame for this falls squarely on Regions Bank. Not sure who designed their app or website, but it wasn’t someone who uses their app or website. I understand that there’s a learning curve with any new app or site, but this isn’t a curve. This is a sheer rock wall. And it’s ridiculous. It should not be hard to move money from one account to another. Period. If your app or website makes it hard, you haven’t done your job in designing said app or website, and you need to fire whoever did it and hire Johnny Boy Marketing to do it for you. If it’s actually not possible, as a rather sketchy customer service person seemed to suggest it is, then you shouldn’t be a bank in 2023.
But that’s not the only place of frustration. My company decided to switch insurance carriers for 2023. This decision was communicated to us peons very late in the game, which is on our HR department. The all-employee meeting to go over the change was on Tuesday, Dec. 20. We needed to have our open enrollment decisions in by Thursday, Dec. 22. That wasn’t a problem for me. I had mine in the following morning.
What I haven’t gotten back yet is a membership card with a member ID and group number. Our HR person said she’d let us know as soon as she knew when these would be available. But then, of course, everyone was taking days off, and no one heard anything.
These numbers are, evidently, important to doctors. Between my family and I, we have three doctor’s appointments this week. As of now, we can attend exactly zero of them because, with our lovely nation’s screwed up healthcare system, we don’t have those numbers to give them.
So I called the insurance company today, knowing it’s a holiday but knowing that, sadly, some people work on holidays. I know I did when I was a newspaper guy. I once went trapsing through the woods surrounding a small airport in Minnesota on Thanksgiving night to get closer to a scene of a plane crash — with a surgically repaired foot in a cast! So suck it up, buttercup.
After navigating through the company’s annoying automated phone tree and getting disconnected or running into a message saying to call back tomorrow, I finally got a recording saying that they saw my account information and someone would be available to speak to me momentarily.
And they were! So I asked for what I needed — my member ID and group number. I didn’t even ask for what I really need, which is an emailed copy of my card or something that would allow me to sign into their app or website. Just give me the numbers and enjoy your not-holiday.
“Oh, I’m sorry, our commercial division would have to give that to you,” I was told, and before I could protest, I was transferred … where I promptly ran into an automated message that told me to call back tomorrow. My son has a doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning, and I don’t have time to call back tomorrow morning. I’ll be working.
So I called back. Got a different person who started to transfer me to “commercial,” but I interrupted because I’m rude like that.
“Can you see my member ID and group number on your screen?” I asked.
“Can I have those numbers please?”
“Our commercial division would have to handle that.”
“I understand that’s what you’re saying, but I can’t reach a human being in your commercial division, and I need the numbers you can see right now so my son can go to the doctor tomorrow morning,” I replied.
“I’m sorry, our commercial division would have to handle that.”
“Have I verified who I am?” I asked. “I have given your system my Social Security number, my birth date and answered two separate challenge questions. So you know this is actually me, right? The me your system said it identified, right?”
“Then may I please have the numbers you are seeing on your screen?”
“Our commercial division would have to handle that.”
And that is why people are angry these days.
Top 5 Things You Will Learn If You Read This Whole Thing You can’t “Hippy” the desire to conquer land out of boys. Sometimes leadership is thrust upon us. Bob is an idiot. There’s a game played by a bunch of violent, drunk Englishmen that even Nazi bombs couldn’t stop. Even the most violent feuds…Keep reading
While I might be good at writing, here’s something I’m not good at, apparently: Picking the winners of college football bowl games. After 40 of them, I’m 20-20, which is well down the list of both pools I created — one for work, one for friends and family.
To be fair, which of you had Tulane beating USC?
Today’s Reasons to Keep Living
- I need to finish a story.
- I need to get my insurance member ID and group number.
- I need to learn how to pick bowl games better.
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🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Weird Wound Treatment 🧂Phillies Bring Doom ⚾Meetings Suck 👎🏽 Apparently, I’ll take medical advice from waitresses and allow myself to receive medical treatment from busboys. This, I learned last night. I have a tendency to get hurt in really interesting ways. When I tell you that I once got a concussion…Keep reading
Welcome to Issue No. 8 of Listicles, the feature that presents the Top 10, Top 5, Top 3, Top 100 or Top 1,000,000 of whatever it is you want to know about. Email your Listicle suggestions to email@example.com. No. 5: I held an epic car concert If you were anywhere in the vicinity of my…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Football Picking God 🏈Fish Story 🐟Free Floating ☁️ A few months before Boy The Elder was born, I had about $100 set aside to buy Wifey Poo a gift that I intended to give her after she ushered our child into the world. It was the least I could do for,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩New Route Home 🏎️Confirmed Weirdness 🤪Here’s Your Sign 🤦 I took a new route home from the western part of Missourah yesterday after doing the whole open-house thing for work in St. Joseph. Rather than shoot down to I-70 and traverse the state on that familiar road, I went across Hwy.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Woo-Woo vs. The Beast 🛻Dart Throwers 🎯My Job 📋 I am not used to driving a tank. My normal vehicle is Woo-Woo, AKA The Shitty Little Car, AKA a Nissan Versa. It’s practical. It gets great gas mileage. I hate it. Woo-Woo normally accelerates as quickly as a child asked to…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Unwitting Guinea Pigs 🐹False Bragging 🦹♂️Put Me In, Coach 🚀 My regular readers (hey, you three!) know that I have a hatred for social media’s influence on society with an intensity rivaled only by the heat of a thousand suns. The latest bit of “Are you fucking kidding me?” comes from…Keep reading
Welcome to Issue No. 7 of Listicles, the feature that presents the Top 10, Top 5, Top 3, Top 100 or Top 1,000,000 of whatever it is you want to know about. Email your Listicle suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. No. 5: I reached out to a friend I have not been shy about sharing that I’ve…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩More Stupid Human Stuff 📱KC Trip ⚾Miserable Missourah 😠 Quick: Take a look around you. If you’re in a room with five other people, one of them thinks you’re financially struggling if you don’t have the latest iPhone. That’s according to a new survey following the release of the iPhone 14.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Loser Species 👶Email Win 📧Dad Pride 👨👦👦 I’m pretty sure I’m not normal. Normal people respond to that statement with, “Oh, John, nobody’s normal,” which is just a sign for us non-normies that the person we’re talking to is normal. Yesterday, I was waiting for Wifey Poo to pick me up…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Concert Thoughts 🧠Marriage 💍Drunk Idiots 🧉 There’s this scene in the 2004 movie Garden State in which Sam (Natalie Portman) looks at Andrew (Zach Braff) and notices … … And yeah, that resonated with me then and resonates with me now. Ever since then, being “in it” has become a thing…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Sadness 😥Beautiful Skies ⛅Two Terms For 2022 ✌️ Back in our early days at Pound Ridge Elementary School, Sarah was the fastest girl runner in the class, which bought her some serious playground cred. There were only a few of us boys who could hang with Sarah in the 50-meter dash…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Ear Flushing👂Grunge God🎶Tech Guy📺 If you have to have a doctor tell you a body part or yours is small, I suppose one of the least offensive would be the ear canal. That’s what a doctor told me this morning, after I finally broke down and actually went to said doctor’s…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Toys in the Hall🪅Idiot Governors🗳️Flopping FedEx✈️ Last night in my hotel in Springfield, Missourah, I set out a glass of milk and a plate of cookies before going to bed. It’s not that I don’t know how to read a calendar or have any particular belief in a fat man in…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Which One?🗺️Leave Introverts Alone🤫Oxford Commas🤪 I’m on the road for work this week, in Springfield. Ahhh, but Springfield what? There currently are 35 populated places in the United States named Springfield, spread out over 25 states, including five in Wisconsin. In addition, there are 35 Springfield Townships, and Ohio owns 11…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Surrounded 😷Wood Splitter 🌲Morons 🤪 I’ve had COVID. Twice. The first time fucked up my life for a year. I’m still not back to the me I was before it came into my home, and I’m pretty sure that now, nearly two years later, that’s not going to change. The second…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Sunday audible🤒Fantasy Failure 🏈Anal Chess♟️ Sunday was supposed to be a romantic day spent in a canoe with Wifey Poo, the two of us paddling leisurely down the Meramec River. Mother Nature was not in the mood to play wingman and decided to pick the one day in the midst of…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Finish Line Scene 🏃♂️Baseball’s Better ⚾M-I-Z! Z-O-UC-H! 🏈 I have never understood the modern-day purpose of running for the sake of running. Sure, I understand it’s a great form of cardiovascular exercise and it’s a convenient way to get from Point A to Point B, yet the desire to strap on…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Book Guy 📚Queen Stuff 👑Bernard Shaw 📺 I’ve decided I want to own a copy of every Stephen King book ever written. That’s about 75 books at the moment. I have a built-in bookcase in my mancave/home office. I don’t think it would hold all 75 in hardcover, but perhaps it…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Beginnings 📚School Start 🚌Real Baseball ⚾ I was thinking this morning on my drive to work how we rarely know when the significant times in our lives begin. So frequently, the most important things that happen to us start with nothing noteworthy. Of course, there are exceptions, the “love-at-first-sight” moments or…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Fallin’ Thoughts 🤕Shinedown 🎸Sleepy 😴 The brain can be surprisingly efficient when the meatsack it’s attached to is in the middle of falling off a ladder while holding a revved-up chainsaw. This, I learned yesterday morning while attempting to saw a limb off a tree that was getting way too close…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Overview📅Fantasy Football🏈Elite Bonding🤼♂️ Days that start with chainsaws and lighter fluid and end with four hours of really good professional wrestling are bound to be added to the “good” column for review when the scales are weighed at the end of a life. Yesterday was such a day for me. In…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Funeral 😢Glimmers ☁️Meat 🥩 If you’re lucky, you’ve had a second mother. Whether your first mother was or is an amazing person who nurtured you and raised you among calm consistency or if she was lacking in certain maternal fundamentals, having a second mother is a blessing. Today, we were there…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩We’re Dumber 👎OnlyFans Thrives 🍑Shinedown 🎵 Official statistics put the COVID death toll in the United States at 1.04 million, with another 713 deaths yesterday. More than 4,000 people are in the ICU right now suffering from what the former Moron-in-Chief called that one person coming from China and a situation…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Dethroned Queen 👑Gravy Wrestling 🤼♂️Dog Talk 🐕 Don’t fuck with the Bucyrus Bratwurst Festival board. That’s a message Abigail Brocwell is learning the hard way. Brocwell was expected to be inaugurated as the queen of the festival in the northern Ohio town earlier this month, but she was stripped of the…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩3, Unassisted ⚾A Sad Day 📅Tracking Your Vagina 🌸 The last time Boy The Younger was on a baseball field, the “coach” of his team removed him from a game in the middle of an inning because I had privately messaged him to not attempt to steal home with my kid…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Hydrogen Issue 🚀Karting 🏎️Lake Life 😌 I was all excited to watch the launch of the moon-bound Artemis 1 rocket this morning, only to see the clock stopped at T-minus 40 minutes because of a “hydrogen issue.” Don’t know about you, but I’m thinking having an issue with hydrogen is a…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Karen in Control ⌚Karting 🏎️What podcast? 🎧 In the winter of 1993, I went to a comedy club with a friend and, in the spur of the moment, decided to be one of those who came forward to join the fun and be hypnotized. This was decidedly out of character for…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Little League Flap ⚾Grandpa Joe 🤦Psychedelics 🍄 Boys are interesting creatures who aren’t easily understood. One of the many, many weird things boys do is mercilessly make fun of their best friends. My closest friends in middle school and early in high school were affectionately nicknamed Goon, Tree Frog, Butt and…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩 Death Cometh Sooner 💀Twitter Security 🔓Game Over 🌑 Average life expectancy in the United States dropped in 2020 by almost two years in 2020, the biggest decline since World War II. Every state and the District of Columbia saw a drop. Guess it was a little bit more than that…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Worm brain 🧠Chicken Big Mac 🐔Eye Twitch 👁️ Caenorhabditis elegans is probably too elegant of a name for something that is really just a disgusting little worm about a millimeter long and most easily found in rotting fruit. It is more commonly known as a lab roundworm and was the first…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩The Agliata Homeschool Academy 🚌Hypnosis 😳Sunburn 🌞🔥 When you tell people you homeschool your children, you typically receive one of three responses: An enthusiastic: “Oh, that’s so cool!”An I’d-rather-be-dipped-in-acid: “Oh wow! I could never do that!” A you’re-one-of-those-weirdos: “Oh… really… homeschooling, huh?” The percentage for each has changed in the wake…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Indycar 🏎️Best Friends 😎Baseball Irony ⚾ There are certain people who look at car racing as an endless series of left turns. These people are idiots on whom nuance is lost. Boy The Elder and I crossed the border yesterday late-morning to head just past the fine city of East St.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Swine Inflation 🐖Swamp Thing 🎥Phone Calls 📱 Life was different when I went to college in Iowa after growing up in suburban New York City. This isn’t to suggest I was a city kid. I wasn’t. The city was a place we went to a few times a year, and where…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Triple-Threat 🖥️🖥️🖥️Tasmanian Tiger 🐅Video Work 📹 Humans were not meant to stare at laptop screens. At least, humans of a certain age were not meant to stare at laptop screens. I say this after successfully lobbying for a second monitor at work, which effectively turned my laptop screen into a third…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Look Before Brewing ☕Hoop Construction 🏀Nuclear War ☢️ If you’d like an indication of how much of a Monday yesterday was for me, know that I ended up with an orange in my coffee. Well, to be fair, it wasn’t a full-blown orange. It was something called a Cutie, which is…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Weird Date 🪦Nature Walk🌳Bulldog Bath 🐶 If you have a date walking around a cemetery, you’re either weird or goth, and neither Wifey Poo nor I were wearing black today, which I guess tells you all you need to know about us. Old cemeteries are something of a fascination for us,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩So Long, Kid 👨👦Steak Celebration🥩Chip & Joanna 🪚 Regular readers of my drivel know that I’m kind of an emotional guy, which is like saying that Jack kind of could have fit on the spacious floating door with Rose in Titanic. So it should come as no surprise when I say…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Cash 4 IRS 💰Cash 4 Workers 💸Sound of Silence 🤫 Be extra careful on your taxes this year. The IRS is expected to receive nearly $80 billion when The Inflation Reduction Act eventually becomes law, and its plan is to hire 87,000 full-time workers. More than half of the $80 billion…Keep reading