Quote Monday obliterates the summer reading program

::Evelyn turning in her Summer Reading Program sheet after the first week::
Girl: “And you read all of these?”
Evelyn: “And these six here. I ran out of room.”
Girl, under her breath: “Jesus Christ.”

Ollie: “We’re soldiers. Play us a marching song.”
Alex: “Jingle bells jingle bells…”

Alex: “We’re going to have pancakes for breakfast!”
Sara: “Oh yeah? Did Daddy tell you that?”
Alex: “Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, uh… I tell’d him that.”

Alex: “My pizza cutters are missing!”
Me: “Oh no we need a detective!”
Alex: “No, we need those pizza cutters.”
To be fair, it is hard to cut pizza with a detective…

Pre Order UFO 7, including a new story by me!

Long running humorous anthology series, Unidentified Funny Objects, is currently running a kickstarter for the latest in the series, which is set to include a story by me!

The first blurb is about my story, Chad Versus the Rebel Alliance:

A long time ago in a galaxy close enough not to violate any copyrights, the clone army fighting for the side of the evil empire is made up of a bunch of bros named Chad.

For the low, low price of $10, you can pre-order the ebook, which will include my story, or else you can go for the (beautiful) print version for $20.

Any of the books from from UFO Publishing are worth your time, but if you’re looking for a little more Shane Halbach in your life, I might recommend you upgrade that ebook to the $15 level (or $35 if you’re into the paperbacks!) and add a copy of UFO 5, including my story “The Lesser of Two Evils”. Either deal, ebook or print, is a great deal for two volumes of hilarious stories, and that’s two exclusive Shane Halbach stories not currently available in any other format!

And hey, if you’re into that kind of thing, there are a lot more reward levels to choose from: signed books, the full back catalog of books, even artwork and custom cross-stitching. And if you’re feeling REALLY generous, you can toss in for a “Tuckerization” (having your name appear in one of the stories).

Anyway, please back this Kickstarter because I love this (LEGALLY DISTINCT FROM ANY EXISTING SPACE FRANCHISES) story, and I really want it to exist in this world, and in your hands.

In the meantime, enjoy this excerpt:

Hey bro, can we get the thermostat up a few degrees? I’m freezing.”

Shaw ground his teeth. “It’s not cold in here. You literally ripped the sleeves off the shirt I lent you.”

Chad flexed his arms. “Suns out, guns out, baby!” He pointed out the porthole into space. “Suns. Everywhere.”

Free Audio Fiction by Me – Ten Things on Cast of Wonders

episode art wide

The full title, of course, being “Ten Things Sunil and I Forgot to Prepare for When Preparing for the Apocalypse”, because every story deserves a 14 word title.

This story previously appeared in Intergalactic Medicine Show, but that requires a subscription, so I am very pleased that it is now available to a wider audience.

There is nothing that tickles me more than hearing a story of mine in audio. I love the performance element that the narrator brings to the story, just another tasty layer on top of everything. Kyle, buddy, my eternal gratitude. Your reading is exquisite.

As to the story, to quote myself:

Making plans, surviving on your wits, doing what you have to do…except plans never survive contact, now do they? The best laid zombie apocalypse plans would most likely fall apart before things even began (I’m forced to admit, even mine).

But what happens if your plan is *totally* wrong? Like, your plan might be great for surviving zombies, but what if when the apocalypse comes it ends up not being zombies at all?

Maybe it turns out you don’t know as much as you thought you did.

Go give it a listen; I am very proud of this story!

In which I get shot

…sort of.

Spoiler alert, it was a pellet gun, not a real gun! Don’t want to bury the lede here; I am fine and well!

So it’s a Monday afternoon at about 6. I’m walking home from the train as I do most every day, and I’m just around the corner from home.

I hear a “THWIIIIP” and something hits me in the side. It hurts, kind of, but mostly I’m just surprised. My first thought is, “Someone just shot me with a rubber band.” I quickly scan the street but I don’t see anybody. I’m craning my neck, trying to see my side. I keep double checking because it’s starting to hurt and it kind of seems like I should see a mark or something on my shirt but I don’t see anything, which is confusing. I scan the street again and the high rise across the street. There are people walking everywhere, but nobody looks suspicious.

Finally, I decide somebody shot me with something so maybe I shouldn’t be standing around on the sidewalk like an idiot, and I hurry home.

As soon as I got through the door I picked up my shirt and was very surprised to see a decent amount of blood. Sure enough, the pellet (I presume now it was a pellet or bb gun of some kind) hit me and made a tiny little hole where it went through my shirt. I hadn’t seen it because it was more around my back.

Alex ran to greet me as soon as I came in the door, so unfortunately he saw it. “Did somebody bite you at work, daddy?” he asked.

Now, it’s kind of funny to say I got shot, but obviously I didn’t really got shot and it makes me a little uncomfortable for anybody to say that I did. A lot of people in Chicago, and the U.S. at large, really do get shot, and I certainly don’t want to equate this with that.

That being said, it was a pretty decent wound and everybody I showed it to was pretty horrified. (I debated about adding a picture to this post, but honestly it might be kind of gross. So if you’re that kind of person and you want to see it, it’s on you to click through.)

In any case, I didn’t tell the kids I got shot because that would panic them. I just told them I “got hit by something” and had to go to the doctor so it didn’t get infected. I think we might have finally gotten them through the emotional trauma of me getting mugged, so that is the last thing I need them thinking about. In other news, CAN BAD STUFF PLEASE STOP HAPPENING TO ME NOW???

I really didn’t want to call the police, and I really didn’t want to go to the Emergency Room, but I was persuaded to do both. I kept apologizing to the police, like, “I know you guys have real crime to deal with,” but the police seemed to say reporting it was the right thing to do.

As far as the ER…what a wretched, wretched place. I guess I was more imagining the children’s ER, which is what I have more experience with. The wait was going to be EIGHT HOURS! Everybody was very angry and aggressive. After waiting 30 minutes to even check in, I was ready to get the heck out of there. If it wasn’t for the slight chance that the bb might still be in me, I would have just gone home and slapped a bandaid on it. Honestly, the thought of digging it out with a pocket knife seemed more appealing than hanging around in that ER for 8 hours.

Sara kept trying to talk me down, but honestly the only thing that kept me there was the looks on the total strangers faces in the ER when I showed them my wound. The immediate, universal look of shock and horror kept me in place. 🙂

Luckily for me, they cleaned it and poked around in it in triage, and they didn’t feel anything inside there. In retrospect, at the time I thought I heard the sound of something metal hitting the sidewalk, but I looked around and I didn’t see anything. So it most likely was not still in me, but it’s the kind of thing you want to be sure about, you know? So I ended up being home in time to read the kids a bedtime story.

Now, the unfortunate part about all of this is that this happened right next to my house. I have to walk by that corner twice a day. The only way to avoid walking by there is to instead walk down the street where I got mugged.

I know this was most likely a random act of a stupid kid, but why me? There were tons of people on the street at that time, why was I singled out? This has never happened to anybody else I know; what is this curse I’ve fallen under? Why is the universe so random and capricious?


Okay, got it out of my system.

Listen, I’m fine. It doesn’t even hurt anymore. It’s just a thing that happened, a blog post to be written. It sucks. I’m not happy about it, but after I heal up the only lasting effect will be a tiny hole in a tee-shirt I got for free. To be honest, getting shot by a kid with a bb gun is the one thing that is MORE likely to happen in Indiana than in the city of Chicago.

(Still wouldn’t mind if stuff would stop happening to me, though.)


Taking apart my iPhone

I have an iPhone 5s. Also, I am cheap (the two things may be related).

When I get something, I like to use it until it is used up, and then use it a little more beyond that. I took my last car to 197,000 miles and was disappointed I didn’t make it to 200,000. I wouldn’t even had this 5s in the first place if I would have realized that my old 4s would have been fine after it dried out (my mugger threw it in a puddle where it was recovered by the police). I still HAVE that iPhone 4s come to think of it.

So needless to say, when my battery got to the point where it couldn’t hold a charge for an entire day, and I started spending a significant amount of my life anxiously looking for an open outlet, I didn’t go buy some fancy new phone.

Apple had been offering a special deal on battery replacement, but of course my phone was too old to qualify. $80 for a battery replacement? Not on this old phone! But, it turns out, you can get non-OEM batteries for only $20 if you’re willing to do the repair yourself. “I’m pretty handy,” I thought to myself, “especially when it comes to electrical stuff. How hard can it be?”

Let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t look at the instructions before I bought it, because I probably would have balked.


Everything is tiny and delicate. A lot of the instructions are of the, “Pry this open with a crowbar BUT DO IT GENTLY OR YOU WILL RIP APART ALL THE CABLES AND YOUR PHONE WILL NEVER WORK AGAIN” variety.


You really get an appreciation for how finely these things are engineered when you are working in there. There is absolutely no room to spare; everything is super tiny and just so. Each screw is subtly different and if you put them in the wrong place you will destroy your phone.

Obvs you need a super high tech sorting device to keep track of everything, and I did:


Did I mention those screws are tiny?


But, by going as slowly and carefully as I possibly could, I did finally get that battery out! The adhesive on the battery is the hardest part, but I knew that going in, so I was not deterred.


So everything was going great up to this point! Got the battery in, got all those tiny screws back in, and then I thought, “You know, I should probably fire this puppy up before I finish putting it back together.

Uh oh.

The display had lines through it and I couldn’t get the touch screen working at all. I was SURE I had screwed something up (possibly literally). Luckily the instructions had mentioned something about lines in the display and that it had something to do with one of the connectors not being tight. Sure enough, I had a loose one. It’s pretty hard working on those tiny little connectors, but after a few tries I got it seated properly.

Voila! After only 1:45 I had a fully functioning phone again.


In retrospect, even though there were some nerve wracking moments, it was kind of fun. It’s been a while since I had a project like that. So I would say, if you enjoy that kind of thing, go ahead and go for it; if not, it’s probably worth the money to have someone else do it for you.

And, hey, I have the tools now…

The Whole 30

Sara and I recently completed the Whole 30 diet? Program? Purification ritual? Feat of endurance?

Well, whatever it is, I beat it!

Wikipedia describes the Whole 30 as “similar to, but more restrictive than the Paleo diet” for all those people who were looking at the old loosey-goosey Paleo diet like, “do you even have rules, bro?” You can read the details here, but in a nutshell don’t eat any sugar, dairy, grains, legumes, corn, or alcohol. What you CAN eat is more or less your own body hair.

Now, I want to say right up front that, by and large, the Whole 30 is a bunch of malarkey. It’s one part pseudoscience and one part cheap psychology tricks to get you to buy in (and buy branded stuff), with one part of regular, old fashioned dieting advice (eat more veggies, yo!) That being said, it works for me personally as a diet by making everything very black and white. If you are wondering if you can eat something, the answer is probably, “no”. There are no cheat days, no gray areas, and no point counting.

Besides, I can do anything for 30 days, right?

I don’t know what I really set out to gain from this. I was relatively happy with my weight; I mean, who can’t stand to lose a few pounds, but I was already lighter than I had been in a decade. I guess I was just looking at is as more of a detox / reset: see how the old body feels without all this stuff in me. Even then, my motivation was dubious at best. I mean, I was just going to go back to doing everything I was already doing before when the 30 days was over, right?

On the other hand, we already do a lot of the things that the program is designed to teach you. We eat pretty healthy, as a rule, and we already do a lot of meal prep. It is nearly impossible to buy pre-packaged food or to go out to eat, which means you have to prepare everything yourself….which we already basically do. So I think it wasn’t as much of a challenge for us as it could be for some people, and I didn’t really expect to learn anything (though it turns out I did; see below!)

The first few days were pretty rough on me. I felt like I got run over by a truck. I was so hungry all the time and dizzy, and just had 0 energy. I think that I did learn a lot during those first few days, though. I think in the absence of dairy and grains and everything I just didn’t know how to eat to get my body the right nutrition that it needed. I guess I never thought much about that before…if I ate enough to be full, I got enough calories. I never had to worry about protein or fat before.

Another thing I should mention is that I also drastically cut my coffee intake during this time (DOWN TO ONLY 3 SHOTS OF ESPRESSO A DAY I PRACTICALLY QUIT COLD TURKEY IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT). I usually drink my coffee with cream and sugar, and those were both out. So at some point I was drinking it black and I thought, “Am I even enjoying this? Is this pure addiction at this point?” So it seemed like as good of a time as ever to scale it back, since I was cutting out everything else anyway. But that no doubt contributed to some of the tiredness in that first week. (Yes, I did end up using some of the approved coconut or almond milk substitutes, but they are POOR substitutes, let me tell you.)

After I got over that, things went pretty smoothly. I’m not really a “cravings” guy, and I’m more into salty snacking than sugary snacking, which is still permitted (mostly in the form of salted nuts). So I didn’t really feel the stuff where people were saying you want to punch someone for a cupcake or whatever. There was stuff I missed not being able to eat, and I got a little tired of eggs, but I mean…it was a hassle, yes, but it didn’t feel like the kind of thing that I should get a major award for or something.

One thing I do want to mention is that the cookbooks were pretty legit. I’m not talking about “sure, for a diet” legit, I mean legit, legit, even when you’re not on a diet. I don’t know if I’ve EVER had a cookbook with so many meals that I would actually want to eat. I mean, if we get one or two good solid meals out of a cookbook, that’s a decent cookbook. We will be eating a lot of things out of these cookbooks in the future!

So part of the program is that you aren’t supposed to weigh yourself until the end. I understand why they do it: if you’re working hard but not losing weight, it could be easy to get discouraged. I didn’t really care about all that, but in for a penny, in for a pound, you know? So I didn’t weigh myself. I was thinking it might be nice to lose a few pounds, but again, I wasn’t really focused on that.

So I was very, very shocked when I got on that scale! Turns out I lost about 11 pounds!

I have to say, that certainly motivated me to try to learn some lessons from all of this, rather than just immediately reverting to the way I was before. But even without that, I did feel like I learned a lot more about nutrition and how my body works than I expected to along the way.

Okay, so what were my takeaways from all of this? And what does it mean for me going forward?

  • First off, I think it is very useful to just sort of hit the reset switch now and again. Not being able to just eat whenever I wanted just really highlighted the number of times I kind of mindlessly eat whatever I want. So for example, it used to be that I rarely had a snack in the afternoon. Then it became, “Well, now and again I get a little peckish in the afternoon,” to, “I should pack more lunch but I can’t think of what and I know I can always get a snack in the afternoon,” to, “It is 2 pm and I haven’t had my mandatory snack.” Obviously on some level I knew I should cut out some junk food snack that I ate every afternoon, but being prevented from having it really made me realize how far that habit had slipped. (I also learned that I am forever trying to just pop a little something in my mouth when I am preparing food for the kids!) So anyway, I think that after 30 days, those habits are now all broken. Over time they will surely resurface, but at least right at this moment I am back to ground zero, and now I know how to break the cycle again in the future.
  • I really don’t need so much coffee. That was another habit that had been creeping up and up for years, and needed a reset. A cup or two in the morning is one thing; getting headaches because you only had a cup or two in the morning was too much.
  • I need to get a glass of water when I first get to work. Usually I’m pretty thirsty from the walk, but I sit down first and start getting into things and after a while I’m not thirsty anymore. Just immediately go get the water! Once I have it, I will definitely drink it. This is not Whole 30 specific per say, but it’s certainly healthier and drinking more water helped me feel fuller during the morning.
  • The main reason I don’t eat better is convenience. It’s so easy to pour a bowl of cereal or eat a cheese sandwich, that I just take the easy way out. But, at the end of the day, it’s not THAT much work to go the extra mile and get something healthier (i.e. grill a truck load of chicken over the weekend for salads!) Also, pack more food. You don’t need to snack when you’re full. I had gotten in the habit of taking less and less food (see afternoon snack above), and it was mostly because I was being lazy.
  • I guess the final thing I learned is both kind of a doozy, and probably just me having been an idiot. What I realized is that decades of messaging has taught me that oil and meat, especially red meat, equals instant heart disease. I have this half-formed idea in the back of my head that nearly anything I could eat is healthier than eating meat. I’m sure eating meat is not the BEST thing for you, but here’s the thing: you have to get protein and calories from somewhere. So if you replace your meat intake with say grains and cheese and sugar, those things are all bad for you too, and in some ways worse for you. So like, everything in moderation, but eating eggs and fried potatoes for breakfast always seemed to me like a heart attack on a plate, but replacing that with some sugary cereal is a downgrade, not an upgrade.

Again, I think that I could have figured a lot of these things out on my own, if I had some reason to. But doing this program kind of forced me to learn them, and now I can’t unlearn them. So while I expect to revert somewhat back to the baseline, I do think I came out of this as a smarter and healthier individual.

And also, I won.

Anybody else out there tried the Whole 30? Any experiences, positive or negative to share?

Quote Monday has plans for tomorrow

Alex: “Remember when we came here yesterday and I ate a chocolate chip cookie?”
Evelyn: “I remember that, but it wasn’t yesterday.”
Alex: “Tomorrow?

Sara: “Are you doing lots of fun stuff?”
Oliver, enthusiastic: “Yeah! They have this thing called ‘Judge Judy’…”

Sara: “I love you sooo much.”
Alex: “I don’t. I’m angry right now.”

Me: “Would you like it in a bun?”
Alex: “Would you, could you in the dark? Would you, could you in the rain?”