Meet Paco. And Contest Winner.

The results are in and first we’ll reveal the name of the puppy. He’s “Paco” and he is one-eighth Chihuahua. He is also one-eighth Miniature Pinscher and one-fourth American Staffordshire Terrier. (The remaining 50%, which goes back beyond third generation, is a mix of more than several different breeds.)

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Paco Chewzing

NOBODY guessed all three breeds correctly. However, five people had two correct. The winner was picked from those five using an ultra-scientific method we developed. Each of the five names was written on a small piece of paper, folded, and tossed on the floor in front of Paco. The first one he picked up was declared the winner.

paco down 2And, the winner is Linda Stuffelbeam, of Lombard, Illinois. Linda will receive a signed copy of my book, “Roy and Kitty.” And, as a bonus prize, a durable, stylized bookmark with a glossy photo of Paco. Linda also gets a copy of my new CD, “Smooth Country Covers,” which could serve as a fine coaster to hold a drink while she is reading the book.

The other four contestants who also made two correct guesses, will receive a heartfelt thanks and a lick on the toe by Paco, at a later date. Those four are Donna Abella, Sandra Finn, Sharon Simpson, and Valerie Vancil (yes, a cousin of mine who only communicates with me when there’s a prize.) Paco’s Booby Prize goes to Mitch Kite, the only contestant who had zero guesses correct, Mitch receives a “good boy” and a virtual pat on the head.

Here’s what you should have guessed:  1. Dachshund  2. Smooth Coated Spaniel  3. Rat Terrier   4. Beagle  5. Chihuahua  6. German Shepherd  7. Miniature Pinscher 
8. Boxer  9. American Staffordshire Terrier  10. English Bulldog

We received entries from Arizona, Wisconsin, Illinois, Tennessee, and Washington. Thanks everyone for visiting Brainshowers.net. If you like our stories please share (below)

 

Monk Gets it Straight

One of my all-time favorite TV shows is “Monk.” In one episode, Monk, a detective with O.C.D. is hurrying into a burning building to save a child, and while running through a smoke-filled room he spots a stack of several books. The books are out of alignment, so he stops to straighten them into a neater pile, before continuing to rescue the kid.Monk TV Show

According to WebMD, 3.3 million adults in the U.S. have O.C.D., Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. It’s possible millions more cases are never reported. I have never felt the need to seek professional help for my mild case of O.C.D.  However, I have figured out some ways to deal with it. There are lots of places on the internet to get detailed information about O.C.D. so I won’t bother to cut and paste any of that.

I’ll share a couple of ideas which might help you or someone you know who has a mild case of O.C.D. (Note: If I had a severe case you probably wouldn’t be reading this…I’d still be on about my 600th rewrite.) I have learned to deal with O.C.D. using the memory technique of association. Tie the word in with a graphic image, make it as bizarre as you can. For example, you might remember Mrs. Burnside’s name by picturing, not just something burning, but something weird like a water buffalo but, burning on only one side of the creature. Picture it, a water buffalo…burning, just on one side. Burnside. Get it? This method would be particularly useful if Mrs. Burnside happens to look like a water buffalo. COD Door

One of my biggest nuisances with O.C.D. is making sure I’ve closed the door when taking the dog out. While my dog, Paco, waits patiently wondering what the heck I’m doing, I firmly grip the door handle, pushing it gently against the latch, and create a mental picture of, for example, a green elephant pushing the door closed with his trunk. I repeat the mental process. Halfway down the street, when I’m asking myself, “Did I close the door?” the green elephant responds, “I’ve got it. Don’t worry.” Next day, different picture. Same dog. Another thing I sometimes do is use my “Departure Double Check.” For example, before I get in the car to go somewhere, I pat my pockets one-by-one and say, out loud, “wallet, cell phone, glasses, keys…” Saying it out loud makes it easier to convince your brain that you have accounted for these things. I use the same “say it out loud” method to remember that I closed the garage door. Only I say it louder, “Door IS down!” (repeat if necessary.)


Disclaimer: What works for me may not work for someone else. As the commercials say, “results may vary.” If you think you have a severe case of O.C.D., please consider seeking professional advice.

A Ping Pong Ball Decision

The 1994 Wyoming’s House of Representatives race, Republican Randall Luthi and Independent Larry Call tied with 1,941 votes each. Governor Mike Sullivan settled the election by drawing a ping pong ball out of his cowboy hat and pulled out Luthi’s name. Luthi served the Jackson Hole-area district until 2007, ultimately becoming Speaker of the House*. Close elections happen. But, by one vote? It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.In a 1910 contest for Buffalo, New York’s congressional district, Democrat Charles B. Smith snuck by incumbent De Alva S. Alexander by a single vote:  20,685 to 20,684. That same year, Conservative Henry Duke defeated Liberal Harold St. Maur in the South West England city of Exeter to maintain his seat in the House of Commons by a vote of 4777 to 4776.

I’ve always looked at it this way: If you are considering staying home and not voting, then what if there are thousands of others feeling the same thing? I always try to apply a little telepathy as I leave for the polling place thinking, “c’mon the rest of you…let’s go vote!”


(*source: mentalfloss.com)

On Writing Well

On Amazon there are well over fifty books about writing. Favorite reference books, besides the dictionary, are Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style,” and “Roget’s Thesaurus.” But, these are “tool books” to help you use a better word, avoid grammatical errors, or not look stupid misspelling something, or is it “mispelling?”BOOKS_pile of

Books about writing are different. Not reference books, per se, but rather books about the reasons for writing, instruction that goes beyond the books already mentioned, exploring the feeling one gets from creating, the sense of accomplishment of knowing that you are, little by little, mastering one of the most screwed up languages among those that use Latin script. (or is it “which uses…”)

My favorite book about writing is subtitled “The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation.” Actually, it is perhaps my favorite book, period. (or should it be…”period!” Written by Lynne Truss, it was a #1 New York Times Bestseller, and is famously titled, “Eats, Shoots and Leaves.” (or is it “Eats Shoots, and Leaves?”) Placement of the coma is critical.

A former writing teacher at Yale who writes about writing is William Zinsser. His “On Writing Well” is a must-read for anyone who wants to write well. Hence the title. (or is it “Hence, the title?”)

Another book by Zinsser, which I’m currently reading, is “Writing About Your Life.” Early on, Zinsser suggests that it’s good to start writing about something that you do, or have done, and the words and thoughts will come. That’s how I wrote this piece. (or is it “…how this piece was written?”) Note that this book of Zinsser’s is not so much a “how to” book as it is a collection of written pieces, gathered to teach by example.

I’m a stickler for punctuation; I use semicolons in text messages. That’s why I like Lynne Truss’s book so much. I also attempt to use correct sentence structure. But, I will expose a secret of mine; I cheat a bit. There are lots of tools right here on the internet to help you write well. I edited this piece in a program called “Grammarly.” It’s not free, but it works quite well. Then, there are the free, basic supports such as Dictionary.com and Thesauras.com and lots more apps and programs.

If you feel you’d like to write…or need to write…just jump in. Starting is the hardest part. And, don’t be afraid to re-write, and then re-write, as many times as necessary. Writing is work. Writing is fun.


The article you just read, is a re-write of one we published in April of 2016. In doing the revision, I made twenty-eight edits of the original. Did I mention, having patience is a good quality for a writer?

Upstairs at the V.F.W. Hall

In the early ’60s, I was working at powerhouse radio station KSTT in the Quad-Cities. In addition to being a disc jockey, I also did commercial production. One day during my air shift, the receptionist buzzed me on the intercom. “Ulysses is here,” she announced with a twinkle in her voice. I asked her to send him back to the studio. Ulysses Walker was a local promoter who from time-to-time would bring acts to town for a one night show. They were always up-and-coming R & B artists who were not well known. Whenever he had another show, he would come and ask me to write and produce the commercials for the event. He refused to talk with our sales reps about his advertising. He said I was the only one he wanted to work with.

“Not many have heard of these two artists,” Ulysses told me. “But, Bill, they are excellent, got a great band, and with a good spot on the radio I think we could maybe fill the upstairs room at the V.F.W. hall. It holds about five or six hundred people. I gotta load up the place to make any money.VFW 02

I told Ulysses I’d give it my best shot. He handed me a 45 rpm record on some obscure label and described the group – a duo, with a band, from Tennessee. I had never heard of them. A couple days later he came back and listened to the commercial I had created, liked it, and handed me cash to pay for the ad schedule (he did everything by cash.) We started running the spot a few days later. It was a small schedule, Ulysses could only afford about twelve radio ads.

Well, it turns out the show did fill the V.F.W. hall to standing room only capacity! Ulysses credited my commercial for the success, but as I told him, “It wasn’t me. It was those two and their band. What a show!” Either the commercial did work, or more people than we realized had already heard about this new group… (scroll down)
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___IkeTinaRevue

Originally published on Brainshowers.net in October, 2015

billvancil@gmail.com

Clicking Up the Wrong Tree?

How has Amazon affected the lives of so many people, even those who’ve never used it? I like it. I use Amazon Prime and don’t have to leave home, to buy paper for my printer, a bookshelf, audio gear, or nearly anything. I like the two-day delivery, sometimes one-day, and love the way you can return items without paying the return shipping.  But, all that is just me. Some folks don’t like to buy stuff online for a variety of reasons; they’d instead go to the store and see, hold, smell what they’re buying. I like that, too, if the store is well stocked with quality and well staffed with courtesy.

Fact is, many of the stores that people like to go to are changing because of Amazon. Let’s face it. The more people buy things online, the more it hurts brick and mortar businesses, the more malls close, and woefully the more these stores attempt to be like Amazon instead of trying to be different in a way that makes them better than Amazon.

shopping cart bigEver been in the supermarket and have difficulty getting down the aisle because a store employee is blocking your way with an over-sized cart? That’s because the store person is gathering purchases for someone who ordered online from the market that wants to compete with Amazon. But, are they clicking up the wrong tree?

Walmart has an excellent website where you can order anything they sell and then get “free pick up.” That’s right, and they will not charge you to come to pick up the stuff you bought from them. How thoughtful. They are hip enough to recognize the threat from online stores. They are energetic enough to come up with what they feel is the answer. Again, are they using the wrong pick up line?

I’m not suggesting these stores stop offering such internet related services, but to compete for business their emphasis should be on customer service. Face-to-face, helpful, smiling, thoughtful customer service. Not enough retail business take the time or invest resources in customer service training. 000custservI can order a can of mixed nuts from Amazon and not worry – if I like the price and know the brand. But, if I want to try something on, or touch a texture, or ask a question, in-store may be the best place. But, unfortunately, it is not always, because the person at the store may not have been trained about the inventory, and is mindless regarding customer service. I went to a pet store recently and found the person who the store claims is a trainer. I asked her about teaching my dog not to jump up on people. She took me directly to the dog toy aisle and tried to sell me a seventeen dollar chew toy. I left the store and got my answer via google. I will continue to buy online, and go to stores, for sure. But, for now, I find it more comfortable sitting in front of the computer than being in a store. Except for buying produce. I like to select my own yams and bananas.

Coyotes are Really Pussycats

The sun was starting to rise brightly above the Catalina Mountains. To the west, a weary  moon was slowly calling it quits for the day. My dog Roy and I left for our walk a bit earlier than usual. It was a chilling thirty-five degrees. Not so cold to our friends back in the Midwest; but here in the Sonoran Desert, it brings out the long underwear and warmest gloves. Roy and I decided, instead of going down the sidewalk past house after house, we’d trek down the straight, extra wide expanse of gravel Long-Shadowscalled Camino del Norte (Road of the North.) There was a sense of timelessness. No traffic, no noise, no breeze. The majestic saguaro cactus seemed to be stilled by the cold, standing nervously, needles chattering. Roy, in his jacket, didn’t seem to mind the cold. He was doing his normal routine; sniffing every rock, and spraying the smaller desert weeds. I was enjoying the fresh, brisk air; dressed for it with leather coat, wool scarf, and stocking cap. Coyotes LookingUp ahead, we spotted movement. A pack of coyotes, four maybe five, in the middle of the road. They looked larger than usual, fur fluffed up against the cold. Then I noticed another, much closer to us, we could see his steely eyes looking our way. A couple of scenes from old western movies I had watched as a kid flashed through my mind. “What would Hopalong Cassidy do?” I thought, “That lone critter must be a scout.” Then I remembered what Hopalong would have done. I pretended to draw a six-shooter from an imaginary holster, raised it in the air, spun it twice, and shouted “Pow! Pow!” really loud. Hopalong CassidyThe scout jumped back, turned and looked at me like I was a nut case, and meandered back toward the pack. As I blew the imaginary smoke from the imaginary pistol, and put it back in the imaginary holster, I noticed the pack was slowly returning to the underbrush at the edge of the road. Just to be safe, we turned and walked toward home. In order to demonstrate our bravery to other creatures who might be watching, we walked at a normal pace, showing no fear, glancing back only twelve or thirteen times. I knew we were just playing a mind game with ourselves. From experience, Roy and I well knew that coyotes are really pussycats in canine garb. They are more afraid of us than we of them. Like a fish story, this tale has the potential to grow with age. In a few years it could become an amazing account of being chased home by a pack of thirty enraged wolves, or was it mountain lions?

Originally published 12/28/2015 as “What Would Hopalong Do?”