Emergency Cheese Services

As seen on the streets of Chicago:

emergency cheese services

For when you just absolutely need cheese services, STAT!

I’d like to note that that’s “services” plural. Look, I’m from Wisconsin, and even *I* can’t come up with multiple services you can perform with cheese. I mean, there’s eating it and that’s it, right?


The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Shazam! Come check out Evelyn as troublemaker Gladys Herdman at Provision Theater, playing November 28 – December 20!

Based on the book by Barbara Robinson

When the Herdmans (the nastiest kids in the neighborhood) decide they want to be in this year’s Christmas pageant, everyone is sure it will be a disaster. But when the curtain finally goes up, a miracle happens—making it the best ever! This hilarious and heartwarming comedy, filled with singing and music, makes a firm statement about the transformative power of the holiday season—not to mention the transformative power of theatre.

Performances are Saturdays at 3pm & 7pm and Sundays at 3pm; special matinee performances will be on 12/2, 12/9, and 12/16 at 10am.

Tickets are cheap and the show is hilarious (and family friendly!). Evelyn is having a great time and I promise you will too.

I have officially gone full on Mr. Rogers

Now that it’s snow season here in Chicago, I am officially to the point that I’m leaving a sweater and comfortable shoes to change into in the office.

Getting old is kind of funny. I mean, I didn’t set out to be this way, it just happened. I wear boots to walk the kids to school, but I don’t want to wear them all day. I get cold, I need a sweater.

On the other hand, one of the best parts about being an adult is that I don’t have to put up with anything. If I’m cold I don’t have to do some macho crap about wearing shorts in the winter to prove how tough I am, I just put on a sweatshirt.

Anyway, this was just all a long way to say that right now I am wearing slippers at work, and that’s called “winning”.

Tough chickens, beggars don’t ride fishes, and other phrases

Sometimes when one of the kids is whining about how much they want something, what I think in my head is, “Yeah? Tough shit.” But I don’t *say* tough shit, because swearing at children is frowned upon by society for some reason. So I had to come up with something else to say, and what I came up with was, “tough chickens”.

“But I don’t want to set the table!” “Tough chickens, do it anyway.” “I know we’re late for school, but none of my socks feel right!” “Tough chickens.” “But dad, I don’t want to eat supper, this poultry is too hard to chew! “Touch chickens.”

I’ve said it so often that the children just assume it’s part of the English language, an accepted phrase, and I’ve heard them say it to each other. In fact, one time I told Ollie I made it up and he refused to believe me.

Another phrase you can’t say to kids is, “Wish in one hand and shit in the other, and see which one fills up first.” I mean, it’s really a shame, because there are some scenarios where that one would just be PERFECT. But there are two phrases that mean about the same thing, that are *almost* as lyrical: “if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride” and “if wishes were fishes, we’d all cast nets”.

A little more child friendly that telling a kid to shit in their hand (and less risky, too. Kids can be disturbingly literal at times). Anyway, I like the sound of “wishes were fishes” and I like the sound of “then beggars would ride”, so I told my kids the phrase was, “If wishes were fishes, then beggars would ride.”

When Evelyn got old enough she said it didn’t make sense. Naturally, I explained that the whole phrase was, “if wishes were fishes, then beggars would ride. Fishes.” (I always say the fishes part as kind of an aside, like I was explaining.)

She seemed to accept this for a while, but eventually she must have heard the full horses one somewhere because one day she got fed up. She said, “Daddy! Beggars don’t ride fishes! They ride horses.” And I said, “Well, if you have wishes, why stop at horses?”

Right about now you’re probably thinking what a good father I am, and you’re right.

So this one time we were at the swimming pool, and the kids wanted to play a game they had learned. “It’s called sharks and fishes,” they said. “Can I just kind of float here?” I asked. “No, that’s not how you play. You have to try to swim away so the shark doesn’t eat you.” “Ooooh, I was thinking of a different game,” I said. “It’s called sharks and hotdogs. It’s kind of the same thing, except the hot dogs just have to float there while the shark eats them, because hot dogs can’t swim.”

“Daddy!” said Evelyn, who does not appreciate this sort of genius as much as she aught to, “That doesn’t make any sense. Sharks do not eat hot dogs.” “Oh yeah?” I said. “Then where did they get the phrase, ‘like a shark with a hot dog’?” “That’s not a phrase,” she said suspiciously. (But I mean, honestly, does it make any less sense than some other, more legitimate phrases? ) “Yes it is,” I said. “You say it when something is really fast. Like, ‘wow, he ran that race faster than a shark with a hot dog!'”

Anyway, this is just a long way to say that I convinced my kids to use “faster than a shark with a hot dog” in everyday conversation.

But don’t stop there! Let’s talk about how my uncle Scott invented the phrase “awesome snaps”:

Now that I am officially old (in the eyes of my kids), nothing I say or do is very cool. To illustrate this, I made up the phrase “awesome snaps” that I use to say something is cool; like Ginger snaps, but more awesome. I did this specifically in order to get an eye roll from my daughter, who assures me, at every occasion, that “awesome snaps” is NOT a THING, and never will be.

Oh, it will be. Ohhhh it will be.

I mean, look, if you aren’t interested in molding the minds of the next generation, why even HAVE kids, amiright? And if they don’t like it? Tough chickens.

In regards to Syrian refugees, and modern day pharisees

I normally steer far, far away from politics on this blog. However, I am just so very upset about this Syrian refugee thing, and I just can’t keep my mouth shut.

In the past few days I have seen so many so called “christians”, including every single GOP presidential candidate, say that we should disallow Syrian refugees from entering our country.

Let me be blunt about this: if you think we should turn away refugees, you are not a follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Here’s the thing: I have seen the bible twisted around to support just about every conceivable position. It’s a big book, and there’s a lot of scare quotes in there. By selectively applying it, we can make it sound as if it says just about anything. But the New Testament is VERY, VERY clear on one point: Jesus is about love. Love they neighbor as thyself, do unto others, the meek shall inherit, turn the other cheek, the Good Samaritan, love, love, love.

The book is *very* explicit on this point. What should we do with the tired, the poor, the downtrodden? Do we help them? Jeez, I wish it said somewhere.

I mean, for all the quoting of the bible and quoting of the quran these biblical scholars do, I’m not sure they’ve ever really read the thing. If you read the New Testament and you got anything out of it other than, “‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself” then you missed the entire point.

I mean, literally, every time the dude had a chance to speak, he reiterated. “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me;” Very explicit.

“But wait!” you say. “If we let in these refugees, we’re at risk! They could be terrorists!” Yes, they could be. And I’m sure Jesus would say, “Oh goodness no, I didn’t mean for you to follow my teachings when it caused you risk! I certainly don’t reward anybody who is hurt or killed while following my teachings!”

No, of course that’s not what he’d say. He’d say, “Hmm, oh really? Well, I do remember VERY EXPLICITLY telling you what you should do when you encounter someone who needs help. Like OVER AND OVER AND OVER again. But remind me where I said you can ignore all that when it might be risky? Did I say that while I was working with the lepers? Or was it when I was refusing to fight against my enemies, instead allowing them to kill me in the most painful and humiliating way possible?”

Do you know who let a guy in, even though he *knew* the guy was going to betray and kill him? JESUS %^&$ CHRIST, that’s who! (You guys really should read this book; helluva plot twist, this Judas guy.)

I saw this meme going around the other day, and it went something like this:

Find someone who doesn’t believe we should kill Muslims and ask him why not. When he says, “Because killing is wrong and we should strive to be better,” punch him in the face. If he tries to retaliate, explain how violence is wrong. When he agrees, punch him in the face again. Keep doing this until he finally understands he is wrong.”

That is LITERALLY EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE OF THE TEACHINGS OF CHRIST. If you know even the first thing about Jesus, it’s that he’d be the one advocating for peace, and getting punched repeatedly in the face, turning the other cheek and getting right back up.

Why would you spread that meme, unless you absolutely reject the teachings of christ? Why would you want to proclaim that you want to punch Jesus???

“But wait!” you say. “If we let in these refugees, they’ll bankrupt us! They’ll all live off the dole for the rest of their lives and never contribute anything to society.” Yes, they might. And I’m sure Jesus would say, “Store up your wealth and never give it to anybody! I certainly don’t reward anybody who gives away all their Earthly goods to the poor!”

Think of every religious person you’ve ever admired. Mother Teresa, every saint, every nun, anybody even a little bit holy. Why are they revered? Because they gave of themselves tirelessly in the face of insurmountable odds, regardless of their own personal risk? Or because they were really good at pre-emptive strikes?

“But wait!” you say. “These people are *different* than us! They dress different, believe different, have a different skin color. They’re inherently violent, and they’re not even Christian!” All of that is true (I don’t believe the inherently violent part, but for the sake of argument let’s say that one’s true too). And I’m sure Jesus would say, “Ew, yuck, they’re different? Keep them out, I only love certain kinds of people. Make sure you don’t lead a good example; I don’t want any of the wrong kinds of converts.”

Like, you know at one time Jesus as literally the only Christian, right? I mean, even after he got his disciples and everything, 99.999% of the world was not-Christian. If Jesus had said, “Hey, we only help Christians over here” he really wouldn’t have had many hungry people to feed, or homeless people to shelter. Are you not glad that he opened it up a little bit from that original handful of people?

Look, there were a bunch of guys in the bible who were more concerned about money, politics, power, and displaying the trappings of religion, all the while doing the exact opposite. They were called the Pharisees. Spoiler alert: they are the bad guys in the story. These are not the guys you want to be aligned with. One could argue the ENTIRE POINT of the New Testament is a rejection of these guys; Jesus basically exists as a counter-example to people who pretend to piety, while turning away the tired, the poor, the displaced.

Evelyn’s doing this Christmas play, right? So the whole Christmas story has kind of been on my mind lately. So you have Mary and Joseph, poor and displaced, ready to give birth, and nobody will take them in, give them a place to stay, so they end up having a baby in a barn. I don’t need to spell this out for you, here…

To recap: Christ is VERY, VERY explicit on whether or not you should help those who need help, regardless of any personal danger it might put you in. Leaves no room for doubt.

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” – Hebrews 13:2

Sara decided being pregnant wasn’t hard enough, so she broke her foot

This baby is really going to be tired of hearing about this one for the rest of its life.

On Thursday, Sara was walking to get the kids at school when she stepped on some loose gravel while crossing the street. Her foot twisted under her, and she fell to her hands and knees. She called me right after and said that it hurt pretty bad, but we both assumed it was just a twisted ankle. She could still walk on it, even though it hurt pretty badly, so we decided to just kind of wait and see what happened.

So she finished the walk to school, picked up the kids, and walked home.

That night she was certainly having a lot of trouble hobbling around, and cried out a few times from pain, but she didn’t even take any Tylenol or anything. Even though it didn’t swell that much, we were still certain it was a sprain. In retrospect, all of the bruising and pain were localized to a *very specific* part of the foot, but hindsight is 20/20.

Anyway, the next morning it didn’t seem much better, so she called first thing for a doctor’s appointment. She was on hold for 30 minutes, and by the time they answered, there were no appointments left. She also tried to page her doctor, but didn’t get a call back. “Oh well,” she decided. “I guess I’ll just stay off it over the weekend and see if it’s better by Monday.”

Her doctor finally called back 7 hours later and said she would take a look if Sara could come over right away (good thing she works at the hospital!). They decided to do x-rays, but didn’t think they’d be able to read them until the next day, so Sara started walking home. When she was halfway home, the doctor called back and said, “Your foot is broken, you have to come back to the hospital!”

So she turned around and walked back.


We figured out later that between when she fell (about 3 p.m. on Thursday) and when it was diagnosed (about 5:30 p.m. on Friday), she walked about 5 miles on it.

That’s totally worse than walking uphill both ways to school.

The doctor said 6 – 8 weeks for the boot, which means it won’t be off before the baby is born. I’m not sure why adding a broken foot makes labor seem that much worse, but labor with a broken foot just seems that much worse.

The main problem is that Sara walks *everywhere*, and we’re pretty dependent on that to get around. She has the car now, but it doesn’t really help; we can’t really park closer to work or school than our house anyway (this is assuming that Sara is even able to drive). So the next couple of weeks just got a bit trickier.

Let no one say that Sara doesn’t like a challenge!


Review Roundup

I have a couple of stories out recently, and since (probably) don’t google me quite as obsessively as *I* google me, I thought I might bring them to your attention.

First up, I had “The Story of Daro and the Arbolita” in the November issue of Analog.

This is what Lois Tilton at Locus had to say:

Humans settling Tillal, the world of the arbolita, take great pains to avoid harming the margalo trees that sustain much life on the planet. Daro is driving a truck through the forest when he sees an injured arbolita lying on the path. Attempting desperately to avoid striking her, he swerves his truck so that he’s injured and several trees are uprooted. For this crime, the arbolita intend to sentence him to death, but at least he gets a trial.

I’ve seen quite a number of stories concerning humans caught up in alien justice systems, but this one relies on the philosophical thought experiments typified by the trolley problem. I like this use; although the fictional situation might be considered rather contrived, so, of course, are the original thought experiments.

Bob Blough at Tangent says:

Shane Halbach is a new writer to me. He shows promise in “The Story of Daro and the Arbolita” by his use of stories within the alien culture he creates. A man driving a futuristic big rig on an alien planet crashes into some trees in order to avoid killing a native. Due to this, Daro is put on trial for killing the trees. The society is very lightly sketched and the trial involves telling stories to remind the judge of certain truths. It is an interesting idea but too fleeting a glimpse to be very memorable.

So he wants more from me. Got it. Editors take note.

Sam Tomaino at SFRevu says:

“Daro is driving a “suspensor tug” towing a flatbed through a narrow road on the planet Tillal when he sees one of the native arbolita lying on the road in front of him. To save her life, he lets loose the flatbed which destroys several of the sacred margalo trees. He finds himself on trial for his life and must tell a good story to get out of it. Nicely done.

Finally, Rocket Stack Rank says:

Rating: 4, Recommended

On planet Tillal, the Arbolita practically worship their margolo trees, and killing one is a crime–even to save a life.

This is essentially a courtroom drama, even though it’s a very alien court. The hapless public defender makes for good comic relief. The idea of defending oneself by telling a story is interesting.

The story is light enough that we don’t get deeply emotionally involved, although the scene at the very end where the Arbolita Daro saved peeks at him before he goes comes close.

(Although I particularly appreciate the comment there that says, “What a strange and memorable story. The words monkey trial and kangaroo court come to mind but they don’t quite describe the scene of ape-like creatures using fables to judge a man. :-)”

Moving over to “Exit Strategy” in Fantasy Scroll #9,

Quick Sip Reviews says:

This one might not be as Halloween-themed as some of the other ones, but it certainly is a lot of damn fun. Calling to mind older sword and sorcery fantasy stories, it involves a dwarf, a heist, and a dragon. And I’m not going to lie, this one reads an awful lot like a D&D session, but that’s never really bothered me. It reads like a really fun D&D session, filled with fun characters and people doing their best to find the weakness of a tough opponent and find a way to bend a few rules. In any fantasy where there’s a rather rigid magic system, there are situations where things can be interpreted rather loosely. And here things get a bit clever as Delevan, the dwarf, and his fellow thieves seek to filch a whole lot of coin from a powerful dragon. There is a bit of back-story as the characters argue before agreeing to team up, and a lot of banter as things go from bad to worse to everything-was-fine-from-the-start. The characterization might not be incredibly deep, but sometimes that’s not the point. Sometimes the point is seeing people get eaten by a dragon and live to tell about it. Fast and with a delightful and rather grumpy voice, the story does what it sets out to do: to entertain. Job well done.

Overall, very positive. Thanks to everyone who has reviewed my stories or left me a comment. If the worst thing you can say is, “This story was too short,” I guess I’m doing all right. :)


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