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When you're building a project in the garage, it's impossible to avoid the occasional three-year-old, who feels like he's helping if he wears the welding mask.
Plus, he keeps all the sparks from trashing my glasses, which I've been wearing since my new contacts started frying my eyes.
I'm just glad my babies are so interested in what Daddy is doing. Makes the time pass more quickly.
DIYProjects in Progress
This here's a bench. Made from a bed frame. Like, from old timey times.
My wife's grandparents left her an old bed frame, and she wanted to to something special with it, so she asked me if I'd make a bench out of it that we would give to her mother for her birthday.
It's been a long time since I've worked with metal, so I was reticent, especially since I don't have any welding equipment. But her mother is the best grandmother our children could ever expect, so I thought I'd try.
Here is the old bed frame.

So the first order of business was cutting the old footer (to the left) into two pieces, which would become arms for the bench. They had to be short enough to accommodate the seat, which meant about 18 inches each. 
So I grabbed an angle grinder and rough cut 18 inches (closer to 20) on each side, which left about a foot of footer between the two cuts. The cuts I made were VERY rough, so I needed to finesse them to create the final arms for the bench.
I cut off about an inch on each side with a finer cutter than the angle grinder, And then I set about cutting the cresents into the pipes so they'd match up to the headboard, which was to become the back of the bench. I used a bench grinder to cut the crescents, eyeballing the arcs based on the width of the pipes. The arc is essentially half the distance of the width of the pipes, but again, I didn't measure, I eyeballed, comparing the arc I was cutting to the actual headboard pipe as I went along.
Grinding metal while wearing sandals may result in toe injuries. Word to the wise.
And in the middle, I burned the piss out of my toe. Pro tip: wear something other than sandals when you're grinding metal down.
Once I got the crescents cut into the arm pieces, Aidan, our 15-year-old, who has been practicing welding with a flux-wire welder, wanted to weld the seams, so I let him take over on that part:
Are you crazy? He's 15. Wear shoes if you're going to be welding anything. Also, flip down your welding mask to avoid going blind.

Once the arms were welded to the frame, it was time to start thinking about the seat, which presented a special problem, because the frame itself provided no support hook-ins for a seat. So I decided I would use lag screws to attach a wooden seat frame to the bed frame itself, which meant drilling pilot holes and whatnot.
First, I built the frame, with the long pieces offset to allow me to insert the lag screws:
Here is the seat frame sitting inside the welded and primed bed frame.

It was important for me to measure accurately, because the back side of the bed frame was about half an inch narrower than the front of the bed frame, simply due to stuff inching around during the welding process. I used old barn wood that we had torn down from a local barn. It was all wet (soaked, actually), because it was raining cats and dogs when I was doing this process.
Once the frame was in place, I had to attach it with the lag bolts: 

That was actually a tricky process, because the pilot holes I drilled were a bit too small. Eventually I ended up clamping the boards and the metal together to prevent the bolts from bending the metal outward, and I used a simple 9/16 ratchet to drive the bolts through the wood and metal. 
Once the frame was attached, it was a simple matter of drilling the wood planks (ancient 2X6 planks from the barn) into the frame. But first, my wife had to prime the metal for its eventual paint job:
She hates this picture, because she thinks it makes her 110-pound body look fat. All skinny people, in my experience, think they look fat.

With the metal primed and the wooden frame inserted, it was time to finally tack on the wooden seat:
Each plank was measured separately, because of the slight difference between the width of the back and the front.
I used number-25 hex-drive three-inch bolts to attach the seat planks. With everything tacked down, we waited a day for the wood to dry, then April sealed the wood and painted the frame turquoise, ending up with a final product that weighs about 70 pounds:

The good review of my book, Robby the R-Word, by Publisher's weekly has now made its way to the book's Amazon page
Here it is: 
Wright's police procedural has a lot going for it: a complicated plot featuring a string of strangely related attacks; Robby Turner, a brilliant man who has been completely paralyzed for decades; a captivating, if scatological, beginning; and Detective Bain, who has enough politics to deal with and sufficient amounts of the underdog about her to put the reader in her corner. More importantly, the plot has enough twists, turns, and unearthing of unexpected connections between the characters to keep readers guessing who is responsible for beating Robby's father and other similar attacks. --Publisher's Weekly
Conveniently, they left out the part about the lesbian sex. But I'm not complaining. It looks pretty good from where I sit.*
It also looks like they now have the Kindle book on there, which is cool, since it's 11 dollars cheaper than the paperback.
So, overall, stoked. The book will be out in less than a month, and then you can voraciously consume it, because you won't be able to put it down (patented glue covers ensure that).
I have been goofing off on trying to get Father of Malice into agents' hands, so I guess I could be doing that instead of posting this. 
*Also, I laughed when the review said the opening is scatalogical. There is a little bit of shit in the first three chapters. It's funny I didn't really notice until someone else pointed it out.
ReviewsRobby the R-Word

"Scorpion," a TV series, is ostensibly about the smartest man ever recorded, with something like a 190 IQ.
Maybe, but whoever writes the series has more like a 19 IQ.         
I will say this: My IQ has been tested numerous times, and my average score was enough that I can confidently say: IQ scores are (how should I say this...? Ummm) bullshit.
IQ, which stands for intelligence quotient, is about as much a measure of intelligence as a quarter pounder at McDonald's is a measure of levels of sound. 
The IQ tests administered in complete sincerity simply measure knowledge, not intelligence. 
Anyway, Scorpion acts like being smart is a disease. Like smart people need to be treated differently, because their brains are so focused on physics that they can't be bothered to process social interactions or interpersonal relations. And it's complete bullshit. 
There is no universal code saying smart people have to be socially awkward. 
Intelligence cannot possibly be measured. How can a smart person say being good at thinking is any more valid than John Elway being able to look over the backs of an offensive line and read the pattern of a potential defensive movement? Or a garbage man knowing exactly where to throw the black Hefty bag to maximize the efficiency of the truck on which he's hanging? True intelligence is immeasurable. The really smart guy discovered how to make fire, how to construct a wheel. Or to make a shelter out of leaves and branches. Humanity has survived to this point because brilliant people solved fundamental problems involved with making sure evolution continued for our species. 
Again, the point is this: Smart people are everywhere, even when we're thinking disdainfully about the people whose brains are much bigger than ours. I knew a guy who had mastered calculus in the seventh grade, yet today, he's delivering packages for a parcel service. But who the hell am I to tell him that's not a career a smart guy would choose? 
I said all that to say this: Scorpion is absolute bullshit. There are plenty of smart people who are absolutely normal socially. My son Axl is one of them. He could read when he was 18 months old. But put him around his athletic cousins and he's just a regular guy, punching, laughing, throwing balls and being a regular kid.
Smart is relative. It's easy. Being a well-rounded person? Not so much. Neither has to be mutually exclusive. Smart people can be socially normal, and socially normal people can be smart. I, for one, am glad we live in a world where Scorpion is one-dimensional, because real smart people are everywhere, and they don't have to act like nerds to prove it.
Plus, the show's situations are just stupid. Some Bulgarian hackers take over the United States' entire defensive network, seize control of jets in the air, making them dogfight each other. They even somehow manage to take control of the jets' ejection seats so the pilots can't get out. Then the hackers take control of a bunch of Navy destroyers, positioning them at the "four corners" of the continental US, and only the intrepid smart people in Scorpion can stop them, by using a stud finder to reprogram one of the planes' computers as it careens toward earth above them. I shit you not. And then the other smart guy uses Play Doh to coat his hands as he grabs onto a cable in an elevator shaft and jumps 30 stories to the ground to avoid the blast from a cruise missile launched at him because the Bulgarian hackers were mad that he was trying to un-hack them. 
And those are the BEST parts of the plot. Don't even make me describe the tandem love-triangle plots between the nerds and their inexplicably attractive love interests. 
Bah. But I do love the irony in the idea that the stupidest show on TV is about the smartest guy in the world.
I Am MeanTV
That headline might be a bit extreme.
I dunno if I've ever mentioned this, but I am a 32nd-degree Freemason.
Let me back up. I joined Freemasonry in 2009 for a very specific purpose: I wanted to go through all the secret rituals to see if Freemasons did indeed worship the devil, as conspiracy theorists have since the 1700s claimed. 
Spoiler alert: No, they don't.
There is a conspiracy theory floating around that Freemasons worship a "light", and in the 32nd degree, they learn the "light" is Lucifer, otherwise known as Satan, but by that point, they're too involved and realize they have to worship Lucifer, too, since they've already done all the other rituals.
It's absolute bullshit, and I'll tell you why.
Like I said, I joined Freemasonry myself specifically to figure out if that was true. The fact is, there are only three levels to true Freemasonry: Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason. An Entered Apprentice is just a guy (yes, "guy". There are no women in Freemasonry) who has pledged to become a Mason and keep its secrets. (Spoiler 2: The secrets are no great shakes; you take more solemn oaths if you join a church). To become an "Entered Apprentice," the initiate is taken through a series of secret lectures all pointing to one ideal: Freemasons are a fraternity of men dedicated to helping and supporting the other men in the fraternity. I can say that without betraying my oaths to keep the specifics secret. 
To become an Entered Apprentice, you have to recite an oath that is dictated to you by the Worshipful Master of the Lodge, which is a guy who has been a Master Mason for some time and has been elected for that year to be the guy leading all the rituals. 
The next level of Freemasonry, level 2, is a Fellowcraft. To become that level, you have to be able to recite the oaths of the Entered Apprentice by heart. One Master Mason asks questions, and you answer them based on the oath you take. Some people recite both the questions and the answers, which I guess shows that you really paid attention or something. I was one of those: I asked my own questions and answered them, which appeared to impress the hell out of the guys in the lodge.
As a Fellowcraft, you take a new oath (Masons call them "obligations") which is very similar to the Entered Apprentice oath, only expanded: you renew and re-confirm your dedication to helping fellow Masons out if they need it, and to asking for help if you need it. 
To get to the third degree, Master Mason, you have to be able to answer questions about your second obligation, which you recited in your initiation into the Fellowcraft degree. Again, I asked my own questions and answered them, which, following the pattern, impressed the hell out of the other Masons. 
You are then taken through a lengthy storytelling and ritual (with more questions and answers) for the third and final degree of Masonry, Master Mason. And at the end of the day, the only thing you're committing to, other than supporting your fellow Masons, is being a good person who believes in God. 
And voila, you're done.
Unless you want to pursue the ancillary degrees of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, which takes you from the fourth degree to the thirty-second degree, which I did about a month after I became a Master Mason.
All the secrets of Freemasonry are in this book. But you'll need a lot of help to understand them, because most of the words are missing a lot of letters.
And after all that degree work, which I completed in McAlester, Oklahoma, you learn the final secret of Masonry, which I can't reveal directly because of the oath I took, but which I can tell you without reservation, is a commitment to God and Jesus in the traditional sense of who they are, much as you would hear in almost any church in the world.
Never, in my entire experience with Freemasonry (of which I have achieved the highest rank), was there any mention of serving the devil, Lucifer or any other such nonsense. Since I don't believe in the devil (a totally different post), I would have laughed and left the building, had that been the case.
Holy cow, now you've been exposed to a ritual of Freemasonry. Pretty sure you're going to hell for even looking at this picture.

I tell you all that to tell you this: Two main characters in my book Robby the R-Word (coming out May 23) are Freemasons. And their Freemasonry is key to the mystery that is finally solved in the book. 
You should pre-order the book, which will not only give you a great bit of mystery-solving fun and the craziness of Freemasonry, but will also enter you into a sweepstakes where I'm going to sign and send a copy of one of my other books to the winner ... ABSOLUTELY FREE! Do it! Pre-order the book now, because (at least until Father of Malice comes out) Robby the R-Word will be your favorite book ever.
I swear, on my obligation as a Freemason, you will love Robby. Go order it, because.
FreemasonryRobby the R-Word
Robby the R-Word will be out in about a month. Publisher's Weekly, a trade magazine that booksellers read when deciding whether to stock certain books, did a review of Robby this week, and I'm pretty happy about it.  Here it is: 

Wright’s (Minister of Justice) police procedural has a lot going for it: a complicated plot featuring a string of strangely related attacks; Robby Turner, a brilliant man who has been completely paralyzed for decades; a captivating, if scatological, beginning; and Detective Bain, who has enough politics to deal with and sufficient amounts of the underdog about her to put the reader in her corner. More importantly, the plot has enough twists, turns, and unearthing of unexpected connections between the characters to keep readers guessing who’s responsible for beating Robby’s father and other similar attacks. Unfortunately, the author has marred what is otherwise a really fine story by dropping in a graphic sex scene between Bain and Jessica Vann, a woman whom she meets in the course of the investigation. Jessica only briefly reappears in the novel to be ogled by Bain’s male partner Officer Russell, which makes the whole affair seem like a gratuitous performance piece written as a male fantasy. The book could otherwise be a satisfying read for a wider audience, albeit one that is prepared for coarse language and graphic violence throughout. (May)

I know what you might be thinking:
Hey, that middle part there isn't so good. But I don't agree with the you I've made up in my head to say that. Here's why, and I'll take it bit by bit:
Unfortunately, the author has marred what is otherwise a really fine story by dropping in a graphic sex scene between Bain and Jessica Vann
So reviewers almost always have to find something to pick at. This would be that. Because the sex scene, while there, is not at all graphic. In fact, if you've read my other novels, this may be the least graphic sex scene I've ever written. The publisher said when the editor, Amy, pitched this book to him, she told all the book's plot points and twists, and then, as a parting shot, said "oh, and a splash of girl-on-girl sex," which apparently became a catch-phrase at their office. And it really is a splash, not anything more than that. 
Jessica only briefly reappears in the novel to be ogled by Bain’s male partner Officer Russell, which makes the whole affair seem like a gratuitous performance piece written as a male fantasy.
This part is actually actively untrue. The character they're talking about, Jessica Vann, is actually an important witness in the case and appears in multiple chapters. True, Russell ogles her in a later chapter (when he first meets her), but that's also very brief, and if it's a "male fantasy," then male fantasies must include being brutally shot down. But again, as I said above, they have to say something negative.
The ultimate truth is, I don't think those lines are negative, because who doesn't like a good sex scene? What reader is going to see that review and go, "Well, I was going to buy the book, but if it has a graphic girl-on-girl sex scene, forget it!" The publisher, who said it was a "four star" review, believes that part of the review may actually expand the audience for this book.
Either way, most Publisher's Weekly reviews I've seen are mostly negative, so with this one being positive, it stands out, and it makes me happy. 
So go buy the book already! If you do it before May 23, you get entered into a drawing to win a free, signed copy of one of my other books!
ReviewsRobby the R-WordSplash of Girl-on-Girl sex
Let me declare my bias before I say anything: I don't think the United States should have attacked Iraq, and I think once the Taliban fell, we should have gotten the hell out of Afghanistan.
I'm not an isolationist, I just think there needs to be a compelling national interest for the United States before we jack some motherfuckers up.
Realistically, since the debacle in Vietnam, the American military has been beefed up to the point that there isn't a country on earth that can beat us, so that's not a concern.  I mean, there is zero chance Syria is going to come kick our asses. But how and when we use that power is important. Was the chemical weapon attack in Syria important enough to us that we needed to intervene? Certainly, it sucked for the people who got attacked by the chemicals and whatnot, but lots of people are killed by crooked regimes all over the world all the time and we don't intervene. 
I dunno. Congress seems to be supporting the strike, Hillary Clinton has come out in favor of it, and on and on, but still. We are not the world's police force, and our military is not the world's paddle. 
And I think Western attacks and wars in the middle east never seem to end well for us. All they seem to do is create new terrorist groups who are upset that we're fucking with them. 
I'm going to withhold judgment. Maybe this was a righteous strike. I certainly hope so. 
But my gut tells me this might have been a horrible idea. I hope I'm wrong.
Two of my favorite shows came back this week, and I was worried about both of them, because it's apparently tough to keep quality going for multiple seasons in a TV show.

My favorite current show, iZombie, came back for its third season this week. To be honest, this is the one I was most worried about, because it has been cleverly written, yet just campy enough for two seasons, and that's a big accomplishment. So naturally I worried that season three would let me down. First, let me synopsize (which, according to autocorrect, apparently is a word) the plot: Liv, a medical doctor, went to a party where she didn't know a local drug dealer was infected by a tainted energy drink that turned him into a zombie. He scratches her (and kills a lot of other people) and she turns into a zombie who hasn't fully converted to the Romero shambling, mindless things. As long as she can find brains to eat, she'll stay mostly human, part zombie. So she quits medicine on live people and starts working at the medical examiner's office, where she has ready access to brains. One side-effect: she gains some of the memories and attributes of the brains she eats, so turns out she's good at solving murders using those memories. 
I know. It sounds like a stupid premise. But it is like chocolate cake wrapped up in another chocolate cake, melted down and fried in chocolate cake batter. The characters she gets involved with (the medical examiner, who quickly discovers her zombie-ism and works to help her, the roommate who works at the DA's office, the cop she ends up helping solve murders, the boyfriend who becomes a zombie himself, the drug dealer who turns zombie entrepreneur by opening a funeral home, scratching new people and then extorting them in exchange for brains) and the writing are exquisite. So naturally, when, at the end of season two, she discovers an entire zombie army that's going to set itself up in Seattle as the zombie home base, I worried.
But I had nothing to worry about. The writers are still excellent, and the show still entertained, with Liv and Clive (the cop) trying to work out what to do with the knowledge that zombies are setting up base in their town, Blaine (the former villain who is now an amnesiac) trying to piece together who he used to be—with the help of the assistant DA, who happens to be Ravi (the medical examiner)'s ex-girlfriend. It makes for a multilayered, fun, still-campy ride as they struggle to deal with the invasion and still come up with a cure that doesn't leave everyone completely memory-less.
Ah, iZombie, thank you for coming back strong. 

Agents of Shield
Agents of Shield, Marvel's mostly-human government agency charged with protecting humans from the super-powered, is only coming back from its mid-season break, but it was a pretty big one. A former ally has turned on the agency and trapped most of its top people inside a Matrix-like dream state called The Framework so he can ... well, I'm not really sure of his motivations. Doesn't matter.
In any case, I was worried, because the Framework is an alternate reality where the greatest pain of their lives has been removed, so their lives are completely different and satisfying. Agent Coulson, the director of Shield, never joined the agency inside the Framework, so he's a high school teacher. Agent May never shot a little girl, who later went on to kill hundreds of people, so she's an agent at Hydra now, trying to make up for letting that girl go. It goes on and on, but you get the picture. The truth is, I was worried that this was a post-jumped the shark plot ploy to give the writers something else to do.
But I was wrong. 
The Framework feels eerily real, like the way America could easily become after a massive terrorist attack where one person with supernatural powers killed a bunch of people and there was nothing anyone could do to stop her. It feels very much like post 9/11 America if there had been a second shoe drop. It's totalitarian, and citizens are brainwashed into valuing the state above the individual, to turning in neighbors who they believe to be "subversive."
If you could imagine Scientology as a government, this second-half of the Shield season feels very much like that, and it's thrilling. 
So I'm glad Shield didn't fumble either. 
Go watch both these shows. Do it. I'll wait. ... ... ... See? I was right!
Aaron Kaufman is the mechanical genius behind Gas Monkey Garage's massive success. And after this season of Fast and Loud, he's leaving. If you've been paying attention, you know this is one of my favorite shows, and initially, I was concerned. 
But the truth is, Fast and Loud doesn't depend on the prowess of its mechanics to be a good show. It's really a show about the relationships that create a growing business, and as such, it won't suffer from the departure of Kaufman.
He wanted to do more in-depth builds than the tight TV schedule would afford him, and I totally understand that. Richard Rawlings, the owner of the garage, wants to keep doing the stuff they've been doing that has made them successful for 12 seasons. I understand that, too. 
In the first season, he was fretting over ten thousand dollars. This latest season, he's dropping a million on cars, half a million on real estate, another half a million on an Indy racer and half a million more on other marketing. The show and his business ethics have made him a massive success, and that's what keeps me watching the show—the relationships he forges while building an empire.
So, though I love the artistry of Aaron Kaufman (Kaufmann? I'm too lazy to check), I will keep watching the show, because I think it's bigger than him. Also, if he does a show with in-depth builds, like he's talked about doing, I'll watch that, too.
TVFast and Loud
OK. A state representative in my town was on the floor of the state House and another representative asked him "do you believe rape is the will of God?" 
The representative from my hometown said "there are instances in the Bible of that happening." Then the other rep asked him if incest was the will of God. My representative replied, "Same answer."
So I reported on it. Headline was "State Rep: Rape and incest are the will of God." Because that's what he said. Not in a direct quote, obviously, but he answered questions about whether rape and incest are the will of God with affirmative answers. 
People lost their minds on Facebook, calling my site "fake news" and saying I was posting clickbait and twisting his words around. Mind you, I'm friendly with this representative, even though I  don't share his views. So I texted him, during which he confirmed that what I wrote is EXACTLY what he said: 
But people persisted in telling me what a piece of shit and liar I am. One even told me I was a fool and clearly a "non believer."
What pissed me off more is the two people in the image at the top of this post are friends of the family. Hell, I even got the woman's husband a job. 
They were mad at ME for reporting what the dude said, and even though the dude confirmed to me that it was EXACTLY what he said, they insisted on supporting him by saying he didn't say that, and if he confirmed that he said that, it surely wasn't what he meant, and how dare I report on it!
And this, dear Whoever Reads This, is why we now have these two words to think about: "President Trump."
If facts are no longer facts simply because they disagree with your worldview, then facts no longer matter; only worldview matters. 
That is a world where made-up stories about one candidate murdering people can actually influence an election, where one candidate can be investigated for hosting emails on a private server and that investigation become top news all over the world — while the other candidate is under investigation for, oh, I dunno, ENLISTING THE AID OF A FOREIGN POWER TO RIG THE ELECTION, but that investigation doesn't become public knowledge until four months after the election.
So our world has come to this: If I don't agree with it, it's "fake news", and if I agree with it, it's the truth, no matter what facts exist to say it's not.
BullshitFake News
This is a Jeep with a blown radiator. And a Cheetos bag in the bumper, thanks, Axl.
So, if you've read the entry below, you'll know I blew through two vehicles this week. After today, you can probably increase that number to three.
See, when Geico asked if I needed a rental car when they started working on my Mercedes, I said, and I quote, "Nah, I have plenty of vehicles."
And the universe laughed.
As the entry below chronicles, I trashed my truck while driving down the highway.
So today, as I'm driving my wife's Jeep Wrangler, smoke starts pouring out the sides and the temperature gauge starts heading toward the right. 
Blown radiator or a busted hose, I figured, so I headed to a radiator shop. Sure enough, my radiator was blown, as the guy from whom I've bought like five radiators in the last two years told me.
And this is funny. The radiator shop had put its last Jeep radiator on a Jeep Wrangler not 10 minutes before I showed up. Can't get one until tomorrow, he said. It would cost 125 dollars, plus another 200 for installation. But in the meantime, I'd be stranded. Because my last mode of transportation, my motorcycle, was at home, 30 miles to the south. And the MGB in my garage needs a water pump.
So I called around. O'Reilly Auto Parts had a radiator, for 230 bucks. That left me with a radiator, but no tools to install it. So I called one of my advertisers, and they agreed to install it if I would cancel their bill for this month (and buy the radiator). 
A total of about 550 dollars later, the Jeep is running again, and my Mercedes is supposed to be done tomorrow. 
But the point is, I've had three disabled vehicles in the last month. 
The moral of this story: never get cocky about how many vehicles you have.