🧩 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 🧩Dentist Visit 🦷Basketball Sucks 🏀Found Husband 👨 No one truly likes going to the dentist. I’ve had people push back on me when I’ve said this before, but when I lay out the following scenario, well, it’s pretty much checkmate: “You just had the most well-respected doctor in the world tell…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Dumb Gubment 🦅Dawg Party 🐶Flying African ✈️ We as modern Muricans tend to just accept that it’s the gubment’s job to educate our children. Of course, when other countries that aren’t our friends do that, we call it “indoctrination,” but that’s a topic for another day. The topic for today is…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Costly Mortality ☠️Crazies, Unite 🤪Defining ‘Appointment’ 🦷 I’m getting ready to die. Sounds ominous, right? Dramatic? Scary? It’s not. Oh yes, in a certain light, it’s depressing as hell. But what it really involved was a meeting with an attorney that Wifey Poo and I had yesterday to figure out exactly…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Books and Stories 📚SVB Lessons 🏦Basketball Party 🏀 Holy crap, you guys! I actually finished something I wrote! In fact, I finished two somethings I wrote! As my regular readers (hey you three!) know, I’ve been stunk in a funk of starting to write books and short stories with gusto and…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Podcast Appearance 🎙️The Birth Control Pill Story 🐶Good Tired 🥱 If you would have asked me a few years ago whether I could ever envision myself on a stage in the back room of a dive bar sharing a story about how my dog ate six months of birth control pills…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Pee Mate 🚽Game Maker 🎲Dumb Muricans 🦅 I have been thinking about death a lot lately, not because I’m particularly eager for it to happen or because I’m particularly not eager for it to happen. I guess it’s because I’m a few months shy of my 49th birthday and please-for-the-love-of-God let…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Dieudonne 🌍Hoops Win🏀Cornhole Roll ✔️ In 2021, during some of the darkest and most difficult times in our lives as individuals and couple, Wifey Poo and I did a thing. It was a big thing. It was a challenging thing. It was an amazing thing. But to say it was just…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩’Full Stop’ 🛑Needles 💉Business Lessons 🧑💼 Here’s something I learned about myself today: One way to ensure that I will debate you on a topic until I give my last breath or until you are huddled in a corner in a fetal position is to end the statement of your opinion…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Mindfulness 🧘Mullet Prez 👩🦳Murder Family 🔪 Our brains are amazing things. So adept are they at routines that they can essentially run on autopilot and let you do the everyday stuff like operating a multi-ton object advancing at 70+ mph among lots of other multi-top objects advancing at 70+ mph without…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Bloody Hell 💂Circus Moments 🤡Silence 🤫 OK, people: I’ve got a bone to pick with you. But first, a little digression. What in the bloody hell does that phrase mean? “A bone to pick with you?” That sounds absolutely disgusting. And if you’re wondering why I said “bloody hell,” well, that…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩24 Hour Video 😡Rubik’s Kid 🧊Dilbert Doofus 🤪 There are two things I cannot stand in the working world — and in life, in general. The first is people whose lack of preparedness turns ordinary stuff into emergencies. The second is when people criticize the result of something they previous approved.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Mormon Billionaires 💰Bigger Packages 🍌Birds Really Aren’t Real 🐦 Can we just get on with blowing the tits off the world with nuclear weapons or something and end this stupid thing we call the human race? Yeah, I know that’s a little dramatic, but when I take a look at the…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Muricah The Evil 🦅You Buy You 💰Big-Ass Van 🚚 I find it rather humorous that Muricah warned China not to send arms to one side of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine … and that we issued this warning with a straight face. I’m quite sure most Muricahns believe their country…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Salve 🩹Car Wash 🚗💧Light Removal 🎄 I try not to venture too often into a Wal-Mart, especially on the weekend. I cling to slim hope for this nation as it is, and I find Wal-Mart trips do not help my grip. Alas, this weekend, Boy The Younger was under the weather…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩CC, BCC, FU 📧Basketball Poll 🏀Andy Rooney 🎙️ This week has largely been a Shit Week marred by Shit People. What are Shit People? They aren’t exactly easy to define, but one hallmark of a Shit Person is his rampant use of the CC function at work to passive-aggressively play power…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Chill Day 🛋️Busy Weekend ⚾Halftime 🏈 I’m not working today. Not only am I not working at my day job, I’m not doing any work for my side gig today. I’m not planning on doing much of anything, actually. And I don’t feel guilty about that. This weekend was insanely busy.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Big Pharma Sucks 💊Work Rules 🧑💼Big Weekend 🏈 Spend any time in front of the television and you’ll see ads touting the latest drugs that you shouldn’t take if you’re allergic to and that you most definitely need to ask your doctor about. Now comes a study showing that the people…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Top 5 🎈Symphony 🎻Living Eulogies 💗 Top 5 things overheard in Missourah last week as a purported Chinese spy balloon made its way over the state en route to its rendezvous with an F22’s missile: Despite my high-brow upbringing in Suburbia, New York, I’m not what anyone would call A Symphony…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Space Walk 🧑🚀Bye-Bye Brady 🏈Failure Rate 🐿️ When Boy The Elder was just Boy and devoid of a younger brother, we had a nickname for him: Pokey Joe. BTE didn’t do anything fast, but more than anything, what he did incredibly slow was get out of a car. That would suck…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Raccoons 🦝February 💘Man Nips 🕺 Today I bring you the story of a raccoon who got his balls stuck to railroad tracks. But the reason you think I’m bringing you this story is not the reason I’m bringing you this story. You think I’m bringing the story of the raccoon Neil…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Tyre Nichols 😔Tattoo Day ✒️Nephew Hoops🏀 I was a white kid in suburbia, New York, in 1988 when the gangsta rap group N.W.A. came out with its album Straight Outta Compton, featuring the song Fuck Tha Police. It was scandalous, at the time, to suggest that the police would be anything…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Car Concert 🎵Sick Wife🤒People Suck 🖕 Within the 24 hours in the run-up to Snowpocalypse 2023, the estimates on the Weather Channel app for our snowfall total ranged from 1 to 10 inches. That’s like going to the doctor and being told you have anything from a splinter to terminal cancer.…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Mission: Failed 👎Ho 🤣Handy Family 👍 It has to suck to work at the Missouri Department of Transportation. Why? It took exactly 75 minutes for all of 2023 to be a failure. Let me explain. Those of you unfortunate enough to have been involved in any sort of corporate planning process…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Houston 🖊️Sad clown 🤡Taco Seasoning 🌮 Houston, Missourah, is not unlike a lot of other rural Missourah towns through which I’ve driven and bears a resemblance to the Small Town USA in which Boy The Elder did a lot of his early growing up and to which Boy The Younger came…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Definitions 📖Missing Bourbon 🥃Mysterious Knocks 😵 I generally abhor any writing that starts with, “Webster’s dictionary defines …” Webster’s dictionary defines “ceiling” as a noun meaning “the overhead inside lining of a room.” The implication is that it’s a limitation, a max, a point of demarcation between what’s out there and…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Sadness 😥Annoyance 😠Disappointment 😞 When Boy The Elder was Boy The Only in our home, he watched one of the Air Bud movies featuring a basketball-playing dog. Or maybe it was football. Or soccer. By the time that series was over, that dog had played them all. Anyway, whichever Air Bud…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Thor’s Blurry Hammer 🍆Pigeon Delivery 🕊️Idiot List 🤪 Thor is really, really good with his hammer. And by that, I mean that Thor the walrus in Scarborough, England, is really good at masturbating and ruining New Years Eve. If you haven’t heard about this story, stop reading stupid news like politics…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Bruising Basketball 🏀Poke ☝️Six?!? 🔫 I grew up in the NBA era of the Bad Boys Detroit Pistons while loving a New York Knicks team that was, to put it mildly, quite physical. Guys like Steph Curry and LeBron James can makes basketball seem like artistry these days, but give me…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩What There is Like! ⛅’Modern Policing’ 🚨Xylophone Time! 🎵 When you decide to talk about a time in which you truly believe you more-or-less died and saw what comes after this life, you have to be comfortable with the fact that people might think you’re nuts. Hell, talking about it on…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Grace Ashford! 📰Idaholy Shit! 🥔Story of the Year! 🍆 The three most influential people in my life as a journalist are, sadly, all part of the Great Newsroom in the Sky now. Professors Michael Perkins and Bob Woodward (AKA Bob Woodward-Not-That-Bob-Woodward) helped educate me at Drake University, and Lisa Warren was…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Poor Puppy 🐶Romeo and Juliet 🤴👸Meta Mistake 🙊 Disturbing news out of Washington, D.C., today as Republican Congressman-elect George Santos (if that’s his real name) brought a 6-month-old puppy to the house floor and screamed “Hey, look at me!” before slitting its throat and lapping up its squirting blood like a…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩A Pretty Good Rant 😠Tesla Plunge 🚗Missed Lasts 😥 Those of you who regularly read my drivel (I see you, DirtySciFiBuddah) might have become aware of the fact over the past year or so that I am not a huge fan of our world’s modern institutions. All of them might, in…Keep reading
Welcome to Issue No. 15 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. So last year, I had a list of 100 intentions for 2022, and I did fairly well,…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩2023 📅Helping 🧠The Universe 🔭 I’m not much for long-term plans and goals. This isn’t to suggest I don’t think they’re important. I just think that spending a lot of time on them is futile. What’s the saying? Man plans, God laughs. Something like that. Anyway, I’ve learned through experience that…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Chain Links 🔗”Work” 🧑💼Popular Toys 🧸 After my first son died in December 2000, I spent a lot of time wondering why. Why me? Why Wifey Poo? Why Jacob? Why this level of suffering in a world supposedly created and run by an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God? So I did what…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Chiefs! 🏈Indy Tickets 🏎️Bank Visit 💰 When I bought the tickets to the Christmas Eve contest between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Seattle Seahawks as a gift for Boys The Elder & Younger, it was sometime in September and temps hovered around 90 degrees. The thought that the game might…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Timelines 👶Extinctions 🌋Sin City 👌 As I fall deeper down the rabbit hole learning more about theories on space and time, the concept of alternative timelines comes up again and again and again. Whether it’s the stuff of science fiction or one day will be proven to be the stuff of…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩’Cousin’ Laughs🎤Improv!?!? 🎭Drake Hoops 🏀 Back when I was a boy, I had a favorite Cousin-Who-Wasn’t-A-Cousin. His name was Joey DeVito, and he was in no way a blood relation to me, though I called his father Uncle Frankie and his mother Aunt Celia. I’m pretty sure this is an East…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Glazed 🍩Bingo! 🖥️Disappearing Christians ⛪ I didn’t intend to bring doughnuts for my co-workers yesterday morning. It just sorta happened. How it happened and how it played out is a window into my weird mind. First, an explanation: I have a card purchased from Boy The Younger that entitles me to…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩STL’s Homeless 😥Snake Hoo-Hoos 🐍That Was Epoch 👴 I found James huddled underneath a blanket as he sat, knees to his chest, head bowed, just outside the doorway of a CVS in the Delmar Loop section of St. Louis. If you’re not familiar with the area, it’s a fun place filled…Keep reading
🧩 Today’s Puzzle Pieces 🧩Knicks Memory 🏀JBM LLC 🧑🏼💼Brain Drain 🧠 My most memorable interaction with Paul Silas occurred when I was a 17-year-old kid with big dreams of being a sports reporter. I’d talked with Paul before — his wife and Mother Dearest were active in the local Make A Wish Foundation chapter and…Keep reading