Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

No costume for Louie this year. But he did just get a bath after getting good and muddy at the park. So I guess he's being a big damp ball of curly fuzz this Halloween.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Come to San Diego. We may have closed our libraries, but you can drink on the beach!

Dear city of San Diego:

If you're going to shutter the Carmel Valley library, and deploy patrols to deter vandals, can you place me on a shift and give me a key? I promise to keep the hoodlums away, and keep the fiction stacks company.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Campaign for Niceness

With election season wrapping up, I'm hoping to ride the mob mentality coattails and go on my own crusade to improve the lives of this great planet with a really radical idea--ENCOURAGING HUMAN DECENCY! I am fed up with rudeness--whether from Tri Club members who send me rude emails, people who are impatient in coffee shops, rude drivers, and EXTREMELY rude punk kids in community college Spanish classes. STOP IT PEOPLE. This is an issue that moves beyond party or ideological lines, and we need to work across the aisle to solve it. Here is my talking point: we need to get along.

So I'm asking all of you--great people of the world wide web and the great wide world itself--to band with me and fight the insults, the belittlement, the abuse and realize that we are one people. I'm Michelle Panik, and I approve this message.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sad Day

No, the Green Dragon didn't break down for good. The Christian Science Monitor is ceasing daily publication and becoming a weekly while also focusing on their web version. I don't purchase the CS Monitor (although I did recently become a KPBS member!), and now I feel guilty about it. I've been reading it online for years, and think they do some of the best news reporting in the world. At one point I considered subscribing to their "treeless" edition, which delivered a facsimile of the print publication to your email inbox every morning. But because I could read a different version online, I didn't.

Much has been said about media bias, and the argument has legs. But the larger problem is that people don't go to unbiased news sources. If you watch Keith Olbermann or Bill O'Reilly for fun, fine. If you watch them to learn about the day's events, you need your head checked. The CS Monitor is a truly impartial publication, and I hope their migration to focus on the web reflects the changing tides of media technology, rather than portending their demise.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I Write a Murder-mystery

That's right. Except the only publication it will see is as a ditto for a beginning ESL class.

It's part of a lesson project for my TESOL speaking and listening class. I just have an inkling of an idea, but can't wait to begin piling on the cliches, stock characters, and melodrama.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Hi. My name is Michelle, and I give my characters too much credit. I make them too nice, their intentions too simple and pure, their actions too damn likable.

Recognizing I have a problem is the first step in my recovery. I'd like to thank talented writer and close reader Kimberly for showing me the err of my ways. Sometimes, what a character needs is for his wife to leave him. And before that happens, he should destroy his front yard.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

He Said, She Said

Bryan and I went through our mail (absentee) ballots this evening--wild Saturday night!--and read through candidate statements, issue arguments and rebuttals. We eventually decided which bubbles we wanted to fill in, and also decided that what the California ballot needs is a proposition to end propositions.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Dukes of Hazard Car

For anyone keeping track, the driver-side door handle on my car recently stopped working. It has now broken off completely. So I've begun simply opening the passenger door and climbing over. I'm nimble.

I really should just leave the windows down and climb through the driver side's. Not like anyone would steal the car. The only reason keeping the windows down gives me pause is because it would make it easy for would-be thieves to steal my Orbit gum. And I really like Orbit gum, especially the Sangria Fresca.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Final Year of Her Twenties

Before you turn thirty, there are a few things BO and I think you should do:
-sky diving
-scuba diving (BO's idea. I'd never do this)
-cliff diving (I might do this)
-platform diving
-synchronized diving (BO has a great toe-point)

And if you're still alive:
-wrangle a cowboy
-visit San Diego!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Good Fortune

Good fortune continues to abound for Squaw Valley alumni. The latest Santa Monica Review arrived in yesterday's mail. On my way up to bed last night, I randomly opened it and happened upon the name Timothy Dyke, whom was in my Squaw Valley workshop. It's a great, clever story-about-a-story meta-story, and I recommend every either buy a copy or borrow mine.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Karma--You Give Some, You Get Some

Tonight at the grocery store checkout, I decided I didn't want a bag of Goldfish crackers. And instead of putting it back in the aisle where I got it, or at least giving it to the checker and explaining my change of heart, I stuck it on the magazine rack. I only had an hour to get groceries, take Louie to the park, eat dinner, and get to a night class at UCSD.

The checker saw me stash the Goldfish in front of Laura Bush, and said, coldly, "If you don't want that, could you please hand it to me?" Yikes. I would have done that originally, but said checker is one I usually try to avoid (except I couldn't tonight, because her line was shortest, and I was in that one-hour hurry). She is a militant checker, telling customers to single stack their soup cans, and not load the belt too wide. Tonight I got off easy; all she did was instruct me to carry my bag of strawberries alone in one hand so they didn't get squished. Off I slouched to the parking lot.

Where I redeemed myself, by pushing my shopping cart all the way to a return chute, rather than ditching it in an empty parking space.

Turns out my karma's still pretty good. ONTHEBUS decided to take one of my stories. There were two SASEs in the mail, and the thicker one was a rejection (a no-thanks slip, along with info about entering their latest contest [because they liked my first story so much?]).

The piece forthcoming in ONTHEBUS is something I read an early draft of aloud in my Squaw Valley house late one night. I was then selected for critique in Sands Hall's open workshop, where I got the valuable feedback that made it publishable.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lake Tahoe

(Salmon swimming upstream.)

(Diving for salmon. Either that or these ducks had money in Wall Street and are making like ostriches to forget about it.)

(Chelsea can't wait for some salmon of her own.)

(I forget the name of this lake. So I'm going to call it Lake Pretty.)

(Halfway through a hike. Jim, Bryan, Carol, and John.)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

On the Plane from Reno to San Diego

On the way home from Tahoe today, Bryan and I sat behind a couple where the husband chose the aisle seat and the wife the window. They left the middle seat open for a stranger. I would rather be in the middle seat and squished up against my husband (which is where I sat) than have a little leg or elbow room next to a stranger.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Strangely Surreal Election Humor

Yin and yang.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Green Dragon

People often poke fun at my car. It's American-made, has a front bumper that sometimes drags, and the clear-coat is coming off. The windshield wiper pump broke, and I never open the sunroof for fear it won't close.

But my grandpa very graciously gave it to me in 2003 (when he decided, at age 92, that maybe he shouldn't drive anymore). Since then, I haven't had a car payment. And also since then, my insurance rate keeps dropping. Just last Sunday, I was telling my brother Mark that the insurance "is like $400 for six months." The new bill just came in the mail, and it turns out I was wrong. The cost for the privilege of driving my fine automobile around town for the next six months? $250.

The chipping clear coat is looking more like a "custom finish"--like sponge-painting in a bathroom--than a fault.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

God Only Knows What I'd Be Without You

Happy paper anniversary!

Monday, October 13, 2008


Sometimes, all it takes is a fun-size bag of Whoppers from your husband.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Smell of Petrol on a Sunday Morning

(Bryan and Mark talk technique.
Which means how not to fall on your ass.)

(Cole eats M&Ms from the same net 
he'd been dragging through the dirt all day.)

BO and I met Mark and his friends up in Gorman today. We rode this very peculiar type of bicycle that has a motor that's stronger than your calf muscles. And no spandex required! Mark led Bryan off into to trails, and brought him back in one piece with a smile on his face. I stayed on a flat section and practiced shifting between first, second, and third. Which is a whole lot easier than in Bryan's car! Of course BO and I don't have bikes or any of the fun bike accessories, but Mark, Karen, and Drew were so kind to lend us helmets, gloves, bikes, and plenty of advice.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

California Calling

I worked an Obama phone bank this morning. I've never before volunteered for a campaign, but it was both fun and informative and I recommend everyone volunteer for a campaign sometime in their lifetime. You will get a peek into the campaigning process, and might even influence the voting outcome.

I called Democrats and Independents, but even so I was disappointed about not getting yelled at more. I really hoping for something I could use in a story.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Music to My Ears

The Boston Typewriter Orchestra.

Want more bang for your buck? Click on "Cornelius."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Almost a Year Ago

In case you are curious about one of the gnomes that showed up at the ceremony...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Alright, Paniks

Who's responsible for this little guy?

He showed up in the mail today, with a return address of "Gnome Group, Inc." in Flushing, New York. We will be sending the address label out for handwriting analysis and fingerprint dusting.

For the uninitiated, gnomes have been spontaneously appearing to Paniks the last five years. The last appearance was a trio at Bry and my wedding. Since we are almost at our paper anniversary, we are considering this latest pint-sized one an anniversary gift. Many thanks!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cyclist Chatter

Overheard at Starbucks:

A trio of elderly cyclists. One sung the praises of her water filter, which she’d purchased through her Amway business. No matter how many different ways she explained it, a man with a rear-view mirror attached to his eyeglasses was chronically incapable of understanding the filtration process. God bless his elderly-but-still-getting-out-there-and-cycling soul.

The third cyclist—a man with eyeglasses as big as the bags under Droopy Dog's eyes—shared his toilet-cleaning habits, and wondered whether those tablets that make the water blue and smell like lilies really do any good.

Their parting words, which I agreed with, were that energy bar companies should stop making “chocolate”-flavors products, because it’s false advertising.

Monday, October 6, 2008

I Am My Own Lab Monkey

Learning a foreign language while also learning how languages are learned is symbiotic in ways both prodigious and distracting. Distracting because instead of just swallowing what my Spanish book gives me, I want to analyze whether the method is best, and how I would tweak the activity. Just do the activity, Michelle.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Common Ground

My ESL Speaking and Listening class is a clinical look at, in part, dialogue. Which, as a fiction writer, I've been studying for years. In a very different way, and for a very different purpose, but the conclusions are strikingly similar.

One point the book hits on is the notion of an interlocutor answering a question with another question. From the book:

S1: What does pragmatics mean?
S2: Do you have an hour or two?
S1: Complicated, huh? Just give me the short answer.

And this conversation involves two willing participants. Just think if S2 were irritated.

S1: What does pragmatics mean?
S2: You saying I don't know what pragmatics means?
S1: No, I'm just asking--
S2: You asking me to prove my knowledge to you?
S1: I just--
S2: You just want to make a fool out of me.

The stuff of a convincing character.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Flying Solo

Louie and I went to The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf today. I had some structural changes to make to a story draft, and I find that when I need to make such major shifts, it helps to also change my locale. (Swapping chairs at Starbucks doesn't cut it.)

While there, a small bird hopped over to us. He was small, far too small to be on his own. I looked around for his mother but couldn't find her. He stared at us a moment, then hopped closer and began pecking at crumbs from a chocolate muffin. Again, I looked around for his mother, or another creature who should be telling him not to eat coffee shop pastries with their trans fats. He needed to be looked out for. He needed an other.

Speaking of others--my other, along with Tim, is famous (9/22/08).