Archive for General

Fight Pediatric Cancer & You Might Win a Book

I ran the Warrior Dash as a St Jude Warrior in 2012, and I’m doing it again this summer.

My biscuits are burnin’!

Any Warrior Dash participant who raises $300 for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital is eligible for extra privileges including gear check, lunch, and showers. With your help, I was able to take advantage of those privileges in 2012, and I’m hoping to do so again this year.

As an incentive, I’ll be giving away an autographed trade paperback copy of Lie with the Dead. Anyone who donates $5 or more through my St Jude Warrior page will be eligible for the drawing. If we beat the $300 goal by April 15th, I will give away two copies.

The drawing will be held on April 16th.

For more information on St Jude, or to donate, please visit my St Jude Warrior page.

Thank you for supporting the cause, and good luck!

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

One Wipe Charlies: A Review

Let’s get one thing out of the way right off: One wipe? Not so much. But there’s a whole lot to like about Dollar Shave Club’s One Wipe Charlies.

DSC’s Mike bills the OWCs as a sort of extraction team. You’re a busy man, so you wipe once and you get on with your life. Problem is, I’m a big busy man, and my diet ain’t the greatest. If I subsisted on granola and greens, one wipe would probably be all it takes. Instead I eat a lot of meat and dairy. I’ve been known to burn through half a roll of TP in a sitting (pun fully intended), and I’ve even slain the jet-flushing industrial toilets in some public restrooms.

(Too gross? Too personal? I’ll just skip the hair issue. You’re welcome.)

Instead, think of the OWCs as a clean-up crew. You’ve handled the real business and the battle is over. Now it’s Charlie’s turn to kill off the survivors and stash the bodies. In those terms, all I’ve ever needed is one, and I’m much happier with the final result.

The next thing to consider is cost. One Wipe Charlies work out to ten cents a wipe, so I hit a couple of stores to examine alternatives. Some baby wipes are cheaper, but the thing to remember is they’re not all flushable. Unless you’re also keeping a diaper disposal station nearby, you want a garbage can loaded with crap-covered wipes, or you want to bring a plumber into the equation in the future, the Charlies still come out on top.

I also don’t want to go around smelling like baby powder or a “baby fresh” scent all day, but we’ll come back to that in a moment.

I did find some Kroger-branded flushable wipes which were far cheaper. I don’t recall the actual cost, but I got over twice as many wipes for a similar cost. Great, I thought, I get the same experience and save a few bucks even over Dollar Shave!

In the end, not so much.

First, the Kroger wipes are smaller. Not a lot smaller, but there are times those couple of inches count. Second, they smell like hell. To be specific, they smell like the witch hazel they’re made with. Witch Hazel isn’t really the image I need at that particular moment.

Looney Tunes Witch Hazel

“Trust me, I’m here to help.”

Now, are you really smelling what’s down there? Probably not while you’re walking around. However, it does make things easier on a significant other and on your laundry. And honestly, just opening the One Wipe Charlies package and handling the peppermint-scented wipes is a lot nicer than everything else going on at the time. And it’s a gentle peppermint, not an overpowering toothpaste or candy smell. Dare I say, it’s a manly peppermint: just enough to counter the biological stink but not enough to overpower you in the other direction.

Are there other, cheaper alternatives I haven’t seen? I dunno, maybe. The convenience of delivery, the one-click ordering, and the comfort and hygienic advantages, however, will keep me Dollar Shave-loyal for the time being.

Not a Dollar Shave member? Sign up now and give it a shot. I’d appreciate your using my referral link.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Notebook Nerdery

I still dig paper notebooks. Though I could tap notes into my smartphone via Evernote or a host of other apps, it’s much easier to write in a notebook. I also find it helps me think faster and make more connections. I’m more free-form scribbler than mind mapper. So, when I’m out and about, I tend to have a small notebook with me, preferably something that fits in a jacket or jeans pocket.

I finally filled a Piccadilly I’d been carrying for a while. It’s a cheap knock-off of the Moleskine pocket notebook style, and while I expected it to get beat up, the binding just didn’t hold together. I have Moleskines I carried longer, and though the covers around the bindings began to fray, the bindings themselves held.

I know there are a lot of other things out there, so I decided to do a little browsing. Here are the highlights:

  • Field Notes are pretty cool, but I prefer a hardcover and elastic strap. The hardcover is easier to write on without a table, and the strap helps contain anything I stuff into my notebook.
  • The Midori Traveller notebooks are gorgeous. For $50+, though, they can stick them in their ass. The passport size comes in brown for $28 on Amazon, which is still a bit much. However, I’d prefer the black passport size, and it’s $45. It might be a different story if I were an artist or a fountain pen nut looking for superior paper, but I’m just a pencil scribbler.
  • The Leuchtturm1917 intrigued me, and a video comparing the Leuchtturm1917 pocket notebook to the Moleskine got my attention, but I’m not convinced spending $8-10 more (including shipping) is worth the difference. Page numbers would be cool, but I could do (and have done) that myself.
  • I felt the same way about the Rhodia Webnotebook. Another comparison video suggested some advantages, but once again it’s paying $8-10 more for things that don’t quite make a difference in my needs.

A few other brands looked like more of the same. For all of them, I might change my mind if I wrote in pen or wanted sturdier paper, but I write with a pencil. Always a mechanical pencil, and always one with a retractable, non-stabby point. I still prefer to erase rather than scribble or cross things out (I have a different use for strike-throughs), so my eraser sees a lot of action, too.

I’ve considered the Evernote Smart Notebook before, and I looked at it again now that it comes in a pocket size. The extra cost comes with three additional months of Evernote premium, which adds value. However, I’m not convinced it will really do me any good.

For one, there’s no reason I couldn’t snap a photo any other note notebook page. The sticker tagging and the dot guidelines make it easier for Evernote, I’m sure, but I’d rather have straight text notes than photos. I also don’t think Evernote will make any sense of my manic chicken-scratchings, either.

I haven’t been motivated to test it, though, because the act of transcribing those notes into the computer helps keep the details fresh in my mind and often prompts new ideas, corrections, or improvements. It’s become part of my process. Transcription is also quicker with page numbers (whether pre-printed or hand-written), as I can leave a lot of the extra brainstorming notes in the notebook and just type a book and page number into an Evernote entry for quick reference.

On top of that, Moleskine’s Evernote design is not very enticing. I can live with the lime-green band, but the stuff all over the cover is ugly. A simple Evernote elephant logo embossed on the front, or a just few additional elements like on the Hobbit notebook would be much nicer. Not a deal-killer, just a nitpick.

In the end, I came right back to the standard Moleskine notebooks. I have two now: a standard, pocket-sized one and a larger one with my name on the cover (gifted from a friend). I could still be convinced by some hands-on with the other notebooks, but from what I’m seeing on the web I’d rather not spend the extra ducats. I’m good with a middle ground between affordability and premium features.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Dollar Shave Razors

My first real razor blade came courtesy of Gillette when I graduated from high school. It just showed up in the mail, and I fell right into the “give ‘em the razor, sell ‘em the blades” trap. I used that two-blade system for years, until it started to shred my face.

Then I took a marketing class in college, and we discussed how the best blades went into the newest, most expensive razors. In other words, the shiny, new, four-blade beast with the vibrating handle and the easy-glide aloe strip got the sharpest blades, while the blades with microscopic defects—just enough to hose your shave—went into the older, lower-margin systems.

I wanted a good shave, so I bought a vibrating razor, wondering if it would really make a difference. I called it the dildo blade, and every time I needed new blades I pondered how ridiculous it was, because that stupid vibration didn’t make a lick of difference.

I jumped brands to Schick. Got this Hydro thing with four or five blades. Sturdy, metal handle, nice grip, shaved well. New blades, however, approached eight bucks a box. I found myself milking enough shaves from those bad boys that I may as well have been shaving with a butter knife when I threw them out.

Enter the Dollar Shave Club, and their entertaining commercial and promises of “fucking great” blades.

Free handle, a buck a month for five, two-blade heads, and two bucks shipping. If I wanted to jump up to a four- or six-blade system they could hook me up for a few dollars more. After thinking on it a while, I used up the rest of my expensive blades and set up a Dollar Shave account.

My first package arrived less than a week later. I have to admit, I enjoy their packaging slogans. “Welcome to your better bathroom?” Righteous.

My first Dollar Shave shipment has arrived

They may not be the first to do this new “man marketing,” but they do it well.

The package came with my blades, the One-Wipe Charlies I ordered (and will be reviewing soon), and the free handle. They also threw in a single-serving application of their alternative to shaving cream, Dr. Carver’s Easy Shave Butter.

The handle is plastic with metal clips to hold the blade head, and it’s a bit shorter and lighter than my current Schick handle. My first shave with it didn’t go so hot. The blades are indeed sharp, and I sliced a small bump on the front of my neck and I finished with a few other cuts.

Round two didn’t fare much better. I took a lighter grip on the handle and found I didn’t get near as close a shave as I wanted. By shave three, however, I had the feel for the Dollar Shave razor down and things went great. I got a few more shaves out of the head before tossing it, and then went on to the second head. It worked just fine from shave one.

The verdict: a solid win. I like these blades. Now that I have a feel for the handle, I’ve been happy. While the handle is light, it doesn’t feel shoddy, and the metal clips get a sturdy grip on the heads. Every time the Wife or I would knock my old handle off its hook in the shower, the blade head would fly off. With the Dollar Shave handle, that hasn’t happened yet.

I was less taken with the shave butter. It felt fine, but I shave in the shower, sometimes without my glasses or contacts. Because the butter is transparent, I had a tough time telling where I had and hand’t shaved. Even more important, I’m not sure it did any better than my standard Barbasol shaving cream. The shave butter is eight bucks for a six-ounce tube, while a can of Barbasol costs about two bucks and lasts for what seems like decades. I even use it to clean my shaving mirror and prevent fogging, and it still takes forever to get through a can.

Now let’s talk about value. I’m told Dollar Shave gear is made by Dorco Pace, who also sells their own gear online. In a quick comparison, it looks like purchasing direct from Dorco is close to or cheaper than Dollar Shave, especially after factoring in shipping. This is assuming, however, one buys Dorco gear in bulk and has a drawer full of spare cartridges. I’d just as soon not have the clutter in my bathroom, but your mileage may vary.

Also, the Dollar Shave setup has a feature I wasn’t aware of at first: delivery every other month. I don’t shave daily, so I won’t go through five blades in a month. Now Dollar Shave Club will send me refills every two months, and I won’t have to worry about a drawer full of spares or having to run out to the store because I forgot blades. If I need to change something, then it’s just a couple of clicks in my Dollar Shave account to stop a shipment.

Cheap, convenient and effective is a trio of advantages I can get behind. It appears I could go even cheaper with an old-school safety razor, or just purchase a straight razor and leather strop and be done with refills altogether, but that can wait until I’m older and crabbier. Unless their blades turn to garbage, I’ll be with Dollar Shave Club for a while.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Some Creators Need a Smack Upside the Head

It’s okay to gripe about a job. Everyone does it at some point, and it’s good to get things off our chests once in a while. But to walk away from a dream job because it’s harder than one expected? That’s just stupid.

I have a lot of friends working full-time in the creative field. Some write books, some write comics. Some are artists, some are musicians. To many of them, this is the dream job. Heck, to me, this is the dream job. They’re realistic, though. They know there are pros and cons to this kind of work, and there are times they get pretty stressed out. Every so often, however, one of them wonders why he didn’t stick with a “real” job and avoid the array of troubles he’s dealing with.

This makes me want to punch them square in the face.

Let’s put these troubles in perspective, shall we?

Complaint 1: Money, or, “I miss a steady paycheck.”

Yeah. As if going back to the grind of a day job suddenly makes home improvements, emergency car repairs, and other unexpected financial hits go away. As if all of us can afford steak dinners and expensive bourbon every night of the week. Learn to manage your money as it comes in, rather than blowing it on books and bar tabs because you happen to have a full wallet at the moment.

Complaint 2: Insurance, or, “I can’t afford these medical bills!”

News flash: insurance is the single biggest hit on most of our paychecks, and it probably was on yours, too, back when you still had said “real” job. Even then, it doesn’t cover everything. Most affordable insurance plans are garbage. I’m still making payments on family surgeries from two and three years ago, just as you will have to do when you have that sudden unexpected medical crisis that wipes out your savings. (And you do have a savings account, right? Refer back to “learn to manage your money as it comes in,” above.)

Complaint 3: Taxes, or, “Holy shit, I owe the IRS a ton of money!”

Hahahaha! Yeah. You can move to a state without sales tax, or without property tax, but you’re still going to owe Uncle Sam. Our employers siphon Uncle Sam’s cash off our paychecks for us. Learn to do the same on your own.

Complaint 4: Working for The Man, or, “My editor’s a moron.”

Everyone is beholden to somebody, and that includes editors at major publishing companies. The bigger the company, the more stockholders and board members there are breathing down their necks. Congratulations, you’ve just figured out your boss is just as good or as bad as any other boss out there.

Oh, you’ve got deadlines? Poor baby. Remember inconvenient schedules, mandatory overtime, and someone watching your time card? Remember having to work holidays, or not being able to just take a break to work down at the coffee shop? Remember not being able to take a walk around the park when you feel like it to clear your head?

Work is a verb. It’s something you do, wherever and however you do it. Even if we start calling it “super happy funtime,” I’m sure there would be some part of it we hate.

Complaint 5: The Fanboys, or, “Man, they’re tearing me apart on this forum.”

Let’s take Superman for example. The problem is everyone knows who and what Superman is, what he represents, and how his story should work, but these things are not the same for everyone. When a fanboy says “Superman would never . . .” he means “My Superman would never . . .”

Now extend that same thing to any other character, or to a traditional monster like werewolves. Things are tough all over, precious. Many critics and reviewers write from the perspective of “I wouldn’t have done it this way,” and all you can do is ignore them and move on. If Stephenie Meyer lost any sleep over the “vampires don’t sparkle!” thrashing she received, she consoled herself with thick wads of cash.

Complaint 6: The Letdown, or, “This isn’t as fulfilling as I thought.”

Finally we have the Big One. It kind of ties back to work still being work, but part of it is perhaps reevaluating expectations, and why exactly you felt this was the dream job in the first place.

If a writer landing a regular gig at Marvel or DC thought that meant he got to hang around the hallways with his favorite superheroes all day, for example, then he had the wrong expectations. If a writer landing a tremendous contract with a New York publishing house thought book tours meant packed signing events and rivers of booze, then he had the wrong expectations. If a screenwriter thought his screenplay would make it to the screen without a million studio notes, directoral changes, and input from actors, then he had the wrong expectations. All you can do is do the work and hope for the best, and work work work until you reach a point that you have the juice and the trust to do it your way.

If the expectations of the work are in line, then maybe it’s time to ask what your expectations of satisfaction are. If you find fulfillment in the steady paycheck and the insurance, then fine, begone. Make room for the rest of us.

You have to find the work fulfilling.

Let’s compare two products: a fantasy book and a widget. Both bring in the same amount of cash for an individual, whether it was paid out through royalties, an hourly wage, or a salary.

The fantasy book gets mixed reviews. Some folks are calling it a Game of Thrones knockoff, but there’s also a group of people who really dig the book. It dips in the Kindle charts, there’s a modest movie option but no real traction, and the author moves on to his next project.

The widget, meanwhile, is just another product on the shelf. Whether we’re talking production or sales, it’s the same, day-to-day business: go to work, move widgets, go home, collect a paycheck. Once in a while the employee beats a production quota or sells a shitload of widgets and gets a pat on the back, maybe even lands a nice Christmas bonus. Then it’s back to business as usual. The industry slumps and rebounds, and pretty soon it’s on to the next widget.

Me, I’ll take the fantasy book every time. I’m not writing for fame and fortune, I’m writing because I enjoy it. Some parts of the business side are a pain the ass, but some parts are a lot of fun. I know not everybody is going to enjoy my work, and I know it may not bring in tons of cash and solve all my financial woes, yet I still find it fulfilling.

So again, every job sucks. Some may sound like the bestest gig ever!, but then you still have to deal with people, and with disappointment, and with financial hardship. It’s okay to bitch about these things.

Just don’t sit there and tell me you never should have taken on that dream job, or that you’re going to walk away because it’s too difficult, because you clearly haven’t considered the alternative.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Wisdom From Strange Places

Sometimes wisdom comes from places you wouldn’t expect. Take this Twitter gem for example, which has stuck with me since yesterday:

Applies to so many things we see in publishing, on the Internet, and more.

And it’s so much cooler hearing it in Grimlock’s voice.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

War Rocket Rugrat

My family inadvertently reenacted the worst portions of the Soviet space program yesterday.

That’s the problem with science kits: they promise so much, but give so little. The Rugrats received a simple rocket kit for Christmas last year. Little more than a plastic soda bottle and some tchotchkes, it’s supposed to shoot “up to 100 feet” into the sky.

Here is our sad little rocket:

Launch One: FAIL

Made by Acme, apparently

Now, to be fair, we weren’t all that concerned about looks. The fins are cheap balsa wood,  and the rest is flimsy, light plastic lashed together with strips cut from a sheet of silver foil tape. The Rugrats are still too young to cut and tape straight. End result? Something that could explode and we wouldn’t be too concerned about it.

The fuel for this simple rocket is vinegar and baking soda. When the two mix you get carbon dioxide, which is supposed to punch out a stopper at the bottom and propel this thing skyward. A simple chemical reaction. So we loaded the vinegar into the body, dropped the baking soda into the engine tube, and took them out to the field across the street.

Launch One: I mix the materials and the engine immediately blows off in my hands. The rubber stopper misses my face by inches.

The Wife and Rugrats laugh and laugh.

The Wife and Little Bird run home for more fuel, we clean up the rocket and reload, and we take it back to the center of the field. I put in the stopper (engine) and tighten it up more this time. The eldest Rugrat wisely flees the launch area.

Launch Two: Mix the fuel, set the rocket down, boosh! It all explodes out of the bottom before I let go.

The Wife and Rugrats laugh and laugh.

I know the chemistry is sound because we’re getting the reaction, and the stopper does pop loose. However, the paperwork says it’s supposed to take 8-30 seconds for pressure to build up. Maybe the designers of this thing should have read up on the Nedelin catastrophe. We load up again, this time using less baking soda, and I try to get the stopper/engine on good and tight.

Launch Three: Mix the fuel and it blows up all over my shoe before I can set it down.

The Wife and Rugrats laugh and laugh.

This thing writes its own premature ejaculation jokes at this point. Maybe the kit designers are trying to build empathy for their personal problems.

Though I suppose it could have been worse. The kids want to try a Mentos and Diet Coke launch sometime.

We had enough vinegar for one last launch. I examine the stopper and make sure it tightens as it’s supposed to (it has a screw and a handle that are supposed to compress it lengthwise to make it wider). I dry the stopper and the mouth of the bottle to make sure it will get a good grip. Prep the engine, return to the launchpad. Again, my assistant Rugrat flees the scene.

Launch Four: Mix the fuel, set the rocket on the ground. It immediately falls over on one of its flimsy balsa wood fins. I reach down to pick it up . . . Boosh! The stopper pops and the rocket shoots fifteen feet or so through the grass.

The Wife and two Rugrats laugh and laugh.

The Squirt hangs his head with a sad pout because the rocket “sucks” and we’re out of fuel, so he didn’t get to see it fly up into the air. Thanks, Science! You like making little kids cry?

Man. Science is a jerk sometimes.

And that’s why I didn’t get any real writing work done yesterday.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Brain Dump

Storms have rolled through here every day for the past several days. There’s a lull in one right now, so I’m outside with a small Sancho Panza cigar, pounding at the keys and enjoying the cooler weather. The bugs and toads are singing again, and everything is shiny and wet. The sky keeps flashing to the east and south, and a nice rumble will roll through several seconds later. There’s an ominous beauty about it all: serene and quiet, but it could all go to hell at any moment.

I should probably be working on a short story, but I’m physically exhausted and the mind is going a hundred miles an hour in different directions, so it’s not happening. I owe an editor and a collaborator some email, but those responses need more thought, too. Instead, I’m going to exorcise some of this other nonsense right here and clear out the works.

  • Cats are a pain in the ass. Ours has been missing five days, so we’ve been worried he got himself killed. Today, the Rugrats were fairly sure they spotted him in the field behind our back yard. They went to get a better look and he got spooked and ran, the little dumbass.
  • Today I snapped up The Baddest Ass, the latest Billy Lafitte book from Anthony Neil Smith. The first books, Yellow Medicine and Hogdoggin’, were some great reads, and I’ve been looking forward to this one for a long time. I wrote a review of Hogdoggin’ for Indie Pulp a while ago, and you can see a book trailer for The Baddest Ass on Smith’s site. If you haven’t read any of these books, Yellow Medicine is free. No excuses.
  • Because I’m told I don’t mention it enough: The Pack: Winter Kill is only $4.49 on Kindle, my friends. Expect news on the sequel, Lie with the Dead, soon. If the reviews won’t sway your purchase, you can get a free extended preview with the purchase of the Pack short story “Bravo Four” for only 99 cents.
  • I’ve got some more comics work lined up. Score. It’s too early to share any real info, but this is going to be a fun one.
  • The Jennifer Connelly Writing Motivator is my new favorite Tumblr blog. Okay, second favorite. But I can’t link my absolute favorite because I work for a school district and it would not be a wise move.
  • Of course, the day job doesn’t stop me from pimping my first novel, Deadliest of the Species. Only $2.99 on Kindle and it will also be available in trade paperback. No reviews yet, but it’s the book that won a Bram Stoker Award when it was first published. Try it. You’ll dig it. Find out why Edward Lee called it a “big, plush, hot, creepy, erotic gem.”
  • This cigar went sour quick. Not a fan. Pretty sure it’s a cheapo, though, and it may not have fully recovered in the humidor, so it may not be fair to Smoke Blog it. Let’s just call it caveat emptor.
  • Some of you may remember me mentioning a book called Powerless. It keeps getting back-burnered for other projects. I’ve come to the realization that while I still dig the plot and characters, the approach I had taken with it is way off. Time to scrap it and start fresh with a real outline.
  • Speaking of outlines, I’ve revisited the one for the third Pack novel and it will be off to my editor soon. I’m itching to start writing it.
  • While I haven’t always been a fan of outlining, I now find they are a huge time saver and can help avoid major rewrites.
  • The tub of Italian beef I buy at Costco tastes better than the Italian beef sandwiches offered everywhere I’ve tried in Peoria. That’s sad.
  • Holy shit. Sick Day was supposed to be a NaNoWriMo project a while back. Time moves way too fast.

That’ll do it for now. I hope to have that Chromebook review for you soon. Given a few recent conversations, I may put together something about how I use Evernote to support my writing, too. Tomorrow, I rewrite and resubmit a short story.

I’m out.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Buttwipe Blog

Dollar Shave Club is now getting into the buttwipe business:

I’m in. I have one last disposable head on my razor and I was about to set up a DSC account anyway, so I’m going to throw a pack of Charlies on my order.

Dean Putney posted a cost analysis of a toilet wipe on Boing Boing, and he estimates it costs about a third as much to stick with traditional TP. But here’s the thing: it’s not about cost. His analysis is all well and good, and my family just purchased some TP in bulk from Costco, so the numbers are similar. Yet there are still, shall we say, issues.

I’m a big dude. My diet isn’t wonderful. There’s a hair thing involved. Do you smell what I’m shovelin’ here? Sometimes paper just doesn’t get the job done. Or it looks done, but later, well. . . issues. And I’ve been known to go through half a roll at times. What does the cost analysis say then?

Now, are there cheaper wipes out there? I dunno. Guess I’ll look. But if these are more durable than baby wipes and are biodegradable, that may be all I needed to hear.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Achievement Unlocked: New Workspace

After fixing two separate sinks with two separate problems this week, I decided to keep on with the handyman routine and build the new home office desk I’ve been thinking about for some time now.

New Floating Desk

Quick shot with the smartphone before I bury the surface with office stuff.

Total cost: about fifty bucks after I return an extra bracket I didn’t need. This is a 6′ x 23 1/4″ bullet-nose shelf from Menards, supported by a trio of commercial shelving braces mounted to the wall studs with cabinetry anchors. I thought I’d need more support toward the front of the desk, but I found braces long enough to do the job. I’ve inadvertently leaned on the edge a couple of times now and it doesn’t budge, so I’m calling it good.

I have a few extra holes around one brace because stud finders are bullshit. Turns out Bob Vila agrees, and I used his advice to measure from an electrical outlet to find the right location. Boom, braced. And it just now occurred to me that I put the stud finder right back in the tool kit it came with, apparently so I can make the same mistake next time. D’oh.

I have to thank my sons for helping me out, particularly the eldest who installed the last few wood screws to anchor the shelf/desk to the braces. We had a light lunch and were starving after the Menards trip, so we hit Taco Bell quick. The Volcano Burrito I ate gave me a huge headache and had me feverish and puking within an hour. We’d have been done a lot faster if I didn’t need breaks to worship at the porcelain altar between measuring, drilling and leveling.

I’m very happy with the result so far. It takes up far less space in my office, I mounted it at a more comfortable height, and it will give me a lot more work surface to play with. I also see now that I need to rethink my wall decorations; everything is up high due to the huge frame of my old corner desk. 

My original vision included a small space to use as a standing desk for occasional work on the iPad or laptop, but that would take up far too much workspace and would require more carpentry work than it’s worth. It also turns out I can buy an Ikea Norbo for $30 and mount it in a separate spot if I really want one. The Norbo wouldn’t match my desk surface, but I’m typically a function-over-form guy. Heck, look at the sand-colored walls and blue carpeting I inherited from the previous homeowner; one year I really will get around to changing all that. I can live with the paint, but there’s also a birdhouse wallpaper border that has to go.

It wasn’t the lazy Sunday I’d originally planned, but I’ll call it a successful Sunday despite Taco Hell. I’m looking forward to putting this thing to the test with some writing sessions over the next few days.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Things I Learned Today

The dude in Fargo got hosed

You all remember the wood chipper scene in Fargo, right?

Poor Carl. Anyway, turns out Gaear got hosed by a bad wood chipper. Today, contractors took down trees at my day job to make room for new construction. They fed entire trees to this thing. Mulched them in seconds.

Mulched Grove

You get surprisingly little mulch from a tree

With one of these bad boys, Gaear would have been long gone by the time Marge showed up.

Plumbing can screw up your whole day

Slip nuts on a sink drain can, apparently, spontaneously break. I drained a sink full of dishwater and heard it splash all over inside the cabinet. It doesn’t look like a lot of water in the sink, but when it’s spread all over your cabinet, it’s quite a mess. Cleaning up, getting parts, and repairing the sink derailed the rest of the day’s plans.

Plumbing repairs are actually fairly cheap

If you do it yourself, that is. I’ve learned more about plumbing in the last two homes I’ve owned than I ever thought I would. I can now replace drains, reseat toilets, sweat pipes, replace water heaters, and replace thermocouples and heat elements on water heaters.

The sink repair above? $1.87 for the part I needed. If I’d paid a plumber, I’m sure it would have been at least $80 for labor.

Four Roses Yellow is good stuff

Really. You should try it. Not as good as their Small Batch, but still good. Goes down smooth.

The Montecristo Chicago cigar is good stuff

Really. You should try it. Separate Smoke Blog post will follow.

Chromebooks can spontaneously reboot

No computer or operating system is immune to occasional glitches, and ChromeOS is no exception. On the plus side, WordPress saved what I was working on, as did Google Docs. And the boot time? Just a few seconds. I was back to productivity in less time than it took for me to cuss the thing out.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Why the Hell Would You Eat That: Big Chain Pizza

Let’s get this out of the way up front: if you’re getting a pizza from a big pizza chain, you may as well be eating frozen pizza. Don’t trust any pizza place that can “run out of crusts,” because frozen pizza is exactly what you’re getting.

I didn’t even know this was possible until we moved from the Chicago ‘burbs out to central Illinois. One of the few pizza joints in the area at the time was a Marchelloni’s, which later became Geo’s. They had a thick, buttery, doughy crust most Chicagoans would call pan pizza, and they pretty much sucked. However, their competition was worse, so we gave them another shot one night and ordered a couple of large pizzas.

“We’re out of large crusts,” she tells me.

“Okay, can’t you make more?”

“We don’t do that here,” she says, all snide like I’m the asshole. Turns out the crusts are made elsewhere and shipped in frozen to the actual store. No thanks.

Know who else does this? Pizza Hut. Our local PH had a night donating their proceeds to our elementary school, so we paid them a visit. They were jam crowded with townies and unprepared, so they ran out of everything but regular thin crust (and those were “going fast”).

This is why these pizza joints’ pizzas are nasty, greasy messes. Yeah, Pizza Hut may be edible when it’s hot and fresh, but suck it down fast because it becomes slop two minutes after it hits the table.

Now, I realize some of you are stuck in the wild pizza frontier outside of Chicago and New York City. I realize some of you think Domino’s, Pizza Hut, and the bland bullshit served up  at your local mom & pop dustbowl pizza place is pretty good. I pity you. I really do. When some friends of ours from L.A. first tried Domino’s out in Baltimore and were impressed, I wept for their souls.

See, when the dough is made fresh on the spot, it’s got your standard dough ingredients. If you can see the guy rolling out your dough, you’re in the right place. Frozen dough? Now you’re getting preservatives and shit in it. It’s been processed, just like the garbage pizza in the freezer aisle. Not to mention these big chains need to make sure the crap they’re serving has to taste the same at every location, which means the rest of their ingredients are equally processed and preserved and loaded with things like MSG. Domino’s and Papa John’s can claim “fresher ingredients” all they want, but remember, McDonald’s makes the same nonsense claim about their fries.

I’ve tried your revamped pizzas gentlemen. An improvement? Maybe. Good pizza? Sorry, no.

I’ll admit I’m a pizza snob. Am I a Chicago or New York pizza guy? Both. I love a good Chicago stuffed pizza, and I like the giant slices you gotta fold in half to eat, so long as they’re not hyper-processed chain food disguised as the real deal.

Growing up in the ‘burbs, we could get good pizza just about anywhere, and most everywhere had a signature flavor the chains couldn’t match. Friday nights were pizza night in my family. Even our dog responded to the word pizza with excitement. Most places we called were dedicated pizza joints, but there were a couple bars that had pizza ovens, too.

Unfortunately, the farther I move from Chicago, the harder it gets to find good pizza. Things were so bad my mom, who commuted to the suburbs, brought pizza home with her on Friday nights. One pizza joint gave her an insulated delivery bag when they found out what she was doing. An hour from the oven, their pizza tasted better than anything local.

Out here in Peoria, most of the bars serve frozen pizza. The locals think it’s great, but to be fair, they have nothing to compare it to. In fact, the pizza is so bad out here, people dip it in ranch or Catalina dressing. I was horrified the first time I saw that. If the pizza is so bland you have to jazz it up with a dip, why the hell are you eating it?

The biggest culprit is Butch’s. Peorians love Butch’s because they make their pizzas locally in Morton, and they sell their own hot sauce and seasonings. My theory is they make the hot sauce to disguise the flavor of the pizza: no matter the topping, a Butch’s pizza tastes like a salt lick. It’s good bar food because you’re drunk and hungry and won’t remember the flavor anyway.

Monical’s is the nasty local chain of choice. They’re all over the Peoria area, and if I drive east on Route 24 into Indiana, I’ll pass half a dozen or so of them, all right there on Route 24. Their pizza is a cracker with a little spaghetti sauce on it. Dry and bland. Kids go ape over it, but they’re too young to know better.

Understand, no pizza is going to be good for you. My point is if you’re going to eat something unhealthy, shouldn’t it at least taste good? Shouldn’t it be worth those extra calories? The extra laps around the track you’ll have to punish yourself with?

Choking down a Caesar’s hot & ready just isn’t going to cut it.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.