The Four-Ace Trick

Every magician knows a four-ace trick. It's a basic thing to know if you handle cards at all.

While in Kansas, I practiced quite a bit. I took cards and a few coins with me. I've been practicing basic card sleights before I moved on to an effect or two that used them. While I was sitting at my mom's house, Evan said, "I know a card trick."

Evan likes magic but he never seems to want to go to far into it. So I smile politely and hand him the cards. I'm expecting at this point to see a ham-fisted trick where he can't manage the cards right. I know he'll get it some day once the interest truly takes hold.

This is what he did. He fumbled with the cards for a minute and then squared them up. He started dealing cards from the bottom of the deck and told me to tell him when to stop. I gave him a couple of seconds as he pulled cards out and dealt them face up on the floor. Upon telling him to stop he pulls a card from the bottom and places it face-up away from the others. The card is an ace.

He starts pulling cards again and again I say stop. An ace falls to the floor.

I suddenly have a WTF moment as he starts pulling cards again. This is not supposed to be happening. I search my brain. This is not something I've taught him. Hell, I haven't see this before. I say stop again and he pulls out yet another ace. Finally I see it. He's tricky but he needs more practice. I call out stop one last time and the fourth ace appears.

At first all I can say is 'Wow'. Eventually I work up to asking him where in the world he learned that. I'm stunned to see he's worked hard on this so I lavish praise on him. He beams back at me and then proceeds to tell me where he got the trick and all sorts of other things about it. I give him a few tips on how to make it a little more mystical and them teach him a card spread. He takes to it immediately.

It's really easy to be proud for him.



I have a flaw and it involves exercise. No, I'm not talking about the one where I don't exercise. I'm talking about the one where I don't have any idea how to quit.

My usual Tuesday night activity was cancelled. The Tuesday outing was supposed to enable me to take a break. Yesterday's walk was a little rough. I expect this, as I'm building up my tolerances again. So last night's walk involved leaving the house, walking to the lake and walking along it until the street curved back up into the neighborhood. It was probably just about the right amount of walking.

Tonight I drove to the lake. The goal was to walk twenty minutes out around the lake and turn around and come back. While this seems perfectly reasonable based on last night's numbers I always fail to calculate one thing into the equation. My exploration gene supersedes my sanity gene.

It goes something like this, "Hey that tree with the bench underneath it looks cool. I'll walk to that." Then along comes, "Ah a bridge. That looks interesting," This pattern continues until I realize that I've gone way too far to turn around. The ego takes over and I find myself walking around the entire lake. Yes, I was about to give up on walking and crawl the last fifty feet to the car but there were young guys milling about and I didn't want to seem old.

So tonight's count is 90 minutes of walking for 3.5 miles. I need some ibuprofen.



The new plan is 15/15. Fifteen minutes of exercise and fifteen minutes working on my magic.

Today was resistance bands and cards. Arms and legs were the order of the day and now I feel it going up and down the stairs. Sucks to live in a basement right now. Ow.

I had to break open a deck of Black Tigers to do the card work (grrrrrr), but at least I have a deck here now. The rest seem to be in storage...along with everything else. Today's work included shuffles and lifts. The details would be boring to most and my friends who already do magic wouldn't want the details either.

Ciao! (beep beep)


Risk vs Reward

I stayed up and finally watched The Dark Knight. After that I took my pills, turned out the lights and fired up the Kindle. Normally I read for a while and when the meds kick in I fall asleep. Unfortunately for me I started reading Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton.

Now I know better than to start something of his because I can't put it down but I've finished all on the fiction on my Kindle and another night of scientific writing was not going to cut it. Instead of putting me to sleep I found myself becoming more and more awake. In order to fix this I shut off the Kindle and curled up to sleep. Instead of relaxing and sleeping I discovered a monologue rolling through my gray matter.

I found myself admiring Wil more and more because he had something I didn't. No, I'm not talking about a writing and acting career. He had happiness.

This internal monologue turned sharply inward and I began to trace out the lines of my own life. Was I happy? The answer was pretty clear to be no and I followed the traces to my own life choices. I realized that I had taken very few risks in my life. Was I unhappy because of this? Why didn't I take more risks?

I mused over this for quite while before I decided that there had to be some change. I became very clear headed and turned on the light (which is a small blessing because it disturbed the cat and she left). It has been as if I've been half-trying all of my life. So I wrote a list.

- Every job I've ever had, except the one I'm on now, was because a friend recommended me or gave me a break.
- I've written three novels and haven't gone back to edit a single one of them because I think that no one will like them.
- I've writing another piece that is destined to be very long and could be several books but I'll just write it until I get bored and of course no one but me will ever see it.
- My performance magic always stalled because of the horrific performances I did at a library once. I had no business being out there.

There are other examples I'm sure but these are the ones coming to me at about 5am.

So I need to take a risk not for the sake of taking a risk but for the sake of breaking this unending chain of uncertainty. Now the question becomes, what risk will it be.



As I sit here in Panera, eating my sandwich, I click play on iTunes and an instrumental version of the Battle Hymn of the Republic begins to play softly in my ear buds. Play a version right now for the full effect for today is a good day.

I know you are asking yourself, “Is this going to be work safe?”. Verily I say yes. Yes this will be work safe. This will be safe on mountaintops and on valley floors. It will be safe in waving fields of gold and safe on playgrounds for today is a good day. A day so good that I will not be brought down by letters from the I.R.S. or people who drive fifteen miles under the speed limit. I am better than that on a day like today.

For I am so bold as to start sentences with prepositions and not care one iota. Today of all days I will say with pride that I am forty-one years old today. I have survived four decades on this great planet of ours and still I live and what a life it has been. I have stood and faced the cold spray of the Atlantic on a bone chilling January day while worrying about getting the car out of the ice covered parking lot. I have run across the sand of Muir beach and felt the chilly breeze from the Pacific. I have witnessed the monstrous flags of Plano Texas and been down a mineshaft in Chicago Illinois.

On this day of days I will stand fully clothed in the naked light of justice and freedom and shout, with my inside voice, that I am proud to be forty-one. I am one year older and wiser for it. I am wise enough to know that I shouldn’t run with scissors and that I don’t have to wait forty-five minutes to go swimming after I eat. I know that putting dirt in the gas tank of a lawn mower is a bad idea and that listening to the Battle Hymn of the Republic seventeen times in a row is a bit much.

These forty-one years have not been without crisis or challenge. I have survived sneak attacks by Chrysler LeBarons and tornadoes. I have visited Las Vegas twice and I’m able to tell every story from those trips with pride knowing none of them are dirty or lewd. I have survived Pagan festivals, farmer’s markets, and being stuck in the middle of the rut in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Although it is chilly in Panera I will continue to type for I no longer whine about the weather and I know where my coat is and even though it is cloudy I still think this is fine weather for a forty-one-year-old man to enjoy even if I just wrote a really bad run on sentence.

As the horns play louder I am reminded that I have not walked this path alone. I have had good friends and family along the way to walk with me. From the time I nearly killed all of my friends in Twizzler inspired road rage to the frisbees full of cheese covered fries and dump trucks filled with ice cream; I have not walked alone. I have freaked the mundanes and soaked in the hot waters of New Mexico and Colorado. I, the man before you, have written my congressman and stood across the lines in counter protest against bigots and homophobes.  I have walked on sandbars in the Kansas River and crossed the Mississippi on a train. I have heard the rail cries of “Joliet!” and wound my way by Amtrak through the mountains of California.

For these things I am happy. Happy that I will stop listening to this song soon as I wrap up this missive. What has seemed like minutes to you has taken an hour to write and I stand by every horn-punctuated word of it. Someday you may find yourself staring into the mirror and wondering how you got here. I will appear behind you from my hiding place in your shower and says these words to you.

No matter who you are or where you are from, you are an individual. You are the person you have become and no one can change that without your express permission or unless they kidnap you and take you to a laboratory buried deep under Buffalo New York. Even if you wake up tomorrow in a tub of ice after a night you can’t remember you will still be unique and an individual. You may have a tragic accident and lose a hand only to have it replaced with a robotic hand that wants to kill you in your sleep. Well of course you’ll be really unique then but that not the point. No. The point is that no matter what age you are you can stand up and shout, “I am, insert your age here, and I’m proud. I’m proud to know that I was right and I didn’t need all of that math from high school. I’m wise enough to know that the time I skipped class did not follow me for the rest of my life like my principal told me it would.

I can say with pride that girls I thought were cute in high school look creepy today. The horns drone on and on and I wonder why I keep playing this song but I have to keep listening and continue to be inspired. I am inspired by the wind and rain and the lint between my toes. Where is all of that lint coming from? Why didn’t I keep some of it? I could have made sweater for a dog or maybe a loofah No, not a loofah. You can’t make those they’re just grown that way. No it’s too late now, too late to look back on what could have been. I will not look back on the women of my life who have slipped through my fingers unless I’ve had more than three shots of vodka in an hour. I will not shed a tear for all of the buffalo chicken wraps I have missed out on back at the old cafeteria.

Today I look forward to forty-two for truly then I will have made it. I will be another year wiser and have all of the answers to life and the universe. Heck I’ll have the answers to everything. So do not shed a tear when they lower the flags to have staff today in honor of my birthday. We can stand side by side and say that we are not old but merely well seasoned. Our best days are still ahead of us. Good day. Good luck and let’s be careful out there.


A bit of thought.

I imagined today that I slipped on the ice. When I fell there was a terrible pain. I looked down. My left leg was turned at an unusual angle, right at the knee. It wouldn’t work anymore. Someone took me to the hospital and they said it would need surgery. I went home and faced the dark stairs down into my temporary home. Every step would be agony. Step by step I went down the stairs until I found my way into my bed.

I imagined that I could lay here forever. Staring up at the ceiling and making patterns out of the smoothed-out ceiling finish. I could see endless worlds of valleys and mesas. I couldn’t really go there though because my leg was unable to take me there.

As I watched I could see armies form on the mesas and tanks slowly move through the valleys. I had no idea what they were willing to fight for but still they moved like chess pieces, trying to get the best position on their enemy. A part of me hoped that not a one of them would fire a shot. This desolate plain of white was certainly nothing to fight over.  Then a thought crept forward into my consciousness.

In my mind a giant, jet powered shark appeared in the distance. It made sinuous turns through the valleys as it raced along on nothing but air. It sleek lines cut through the crisp air without making a sound. No one seemed to take notice of it until it turned into a valley to find the first tanks and mobile weapons of destruction.  The beast lunged forward and ate up the machines of war in single meta crushing bites. It was chaos and beauty as troops and vehicles scrambled to find cover from the perfect hunter. It was the best B-Movie of all time, played out on my ceiling. There was only one thing missing. You laying next to me watching the whole thing, as we laughed at every satisfying crunch.


Christmas...Doctor Who Style

Christmas has come and gone again. We had a strange one this year.

Over the past few weeks, the kids have become addicted to Doctor Who. This is a big deal. Ben is so interested that he would rather watch Doctor Who then Top Gear and that's saying a lot. This enthusiasm led us to have a DW Christmas. Two projects commenced to celebrate the holiday.

I'll start with the second one first. The second project was a gingerbread house. Well it wasn't a house so much as a TARDIS. It turned out OK but we'll do a few things differently the next time we do one.

The first project was a little more ambitious. We decided not to have a tree this year and instead we went with the current theme. Here's our 'tree' looking after the presents on Christmas morning. Click on the picture for a bigger version.

I would fix a couple of things on this project too but for what we spent on materials, this looks pretty darn good.

The DW theme continued Christmas night as we went to E.J.'s to watch the DW Christmas Special. I liked it better than some of the other specials although I still don't believe they actually had snow. I'm guessing it was fish detritus.

Sunday left the world of DW and moved on to Tron. Once again we ended up at E.J's and we watched the original Tron in the morning. I was very happy to introduce it to Evan. Whisk forward to the evening and we all went to see the new Tron movie in Boulder.

So all in all, it was a busy and fun weekend of non-traditional Christmas festivities.