That time I got accused of making a bomb in school but did not get fucking arrested

OK so by now you have probably heard about the 14-year-old in Irving, Texas, who was arrested cause he is a fucking genius who built a goddamn clock out of circuit boards and wanted his teachers to be proud of him but instead they were racist at him and he got hauled off by the fucking cops WHO ALSO THINK HE IS SOME KIND OF TERRORIST cause of course a brown-skinned Muslim boy had invented a bomb and not a clock. Jesus wept.

So when I was a… junior… I think who can remember 15 years ago but let’s say a junior in high school, I worked at a seafood restaurant in Philly. I bussed tables. At this place, if it was your birthday we’d stick a sparkler in your dessert because nothing says “congrats for not dying” like something shooting hot sparks in your face while a bunch of waiters sing you Happy Birthday while thinking about how much their ties smell like clam chowder.

Anyway, I used to steal the sparklers. (Lawyers: anyone know the statue of limitations on this? If anyone asks my account was hacked.) Like, not a few sparklers. The boxes came in shrink-wrapped bricks of like… 12 or 15 boxes or something. So I’d wrap brick up in my salmony apron at the end of the night and take it home, and then to school. My friend Chris and I would play with them on the lawn during lunch. We’d just, burn them. Like in big clumps or patterns or whatever. (I went to a public magnet school in North Philly. As long as we didn’t wander off the property they didn’t pay much attention to us.)

So Chris had a couple “extra” lockers at school, meaning unused ones that he stuck his own locks on. In one of those, he stashed probably 50 or 60 of the empty sparkler boxes, plus pictures he had taken of us when we’d discovered a way down into the sub-basement of the school, a wonderland of decades-old graffiti and flying red cockroaches the size of a Twinkie.

For some reason — which I have no knowledge of whatsoever nope not at all — one of the vice-principals had it out for Chris. He found out about one of Chris’s extra lockers and had his student aides go cut off the lock and confiscate the stuff.

So I get out of second period or whatever and one of my friends is like “hey Chris got yanked out of class and has been in the disciplinarian’s office.” So after I shit my pants and got cleaned up, I headed to third period where I was promptly also yanked out of class. Turns out taking pictures of yourselves doing things that are probably against the rules (even though like three wasn’t an ACTUAL rule against going in the sub-basement) is not smart.

So we’re in the disciplinarian’s office and they are grilling us “what are the sparklers for blah blah” and I was like, “well we just play with them.” And he was like “are you making bombs and putting them in the sub-basement?” and we were likem “WHAT that’s not even poss— WHAT?”

And then.


This guy, the disciplinarian, explains how to make a bomb with sparklers.


And then we got a week’s detention.

And that, my friends, is institutional racism. Two white boys in Philly can bring actual bomb-making materials into school and get detention AND A BOMB-MAKING LESSON, but one brown kid named Ahmed Mohamed can’t build a fucking clock without some assclown teacher who’s watched too many episodes of 24 getting him fucking arrested.

The end.

Asking for a bit more help for Goofus

2015-03-08 13.09.31 UPDATE: We've raised $1,560 this week. From Goofus, Lauren, and I, thank you so much for all of your help, you've gotten us out of the woods on this. I've taken down the Paypal donate button.

Hey everyone.

So earlier this year, we raised some money to help pay for some of the medical costs of getting two kitty sisters we are fostering -- Goofus and Foxy -- much-needed dental care, as well as getting them spayed. We raised a little more than $1,000 of the $3,000 total cost of their care, which we really appreciated.

Before they went into surgery, Goofus (who you can see at the top here) had her heart checked out because she had a murmur. It turned out she has a genetic heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy but the doctors didn't see it as an impediment to anesthesia. It would eventually lead to problems, they said, but they thought she was healthy enough to have her work done.

Two weeks later, Goofus' heart failed. Her chest filled with fluid, and she was in respiratory distress. We rushed her to the vet, where they were able to drain her chest and, overnight, get her stabilized. Cats with her condition live an average of a year and a half after their first heart failure. Could be months, could be much longer. (The doctor did say that Goofus, who is 6, was doing really well so we're hopeful she has a few good years left to her.)

Saving Goofus cost another $1,700, not including a follow-up visit a few days later and the ongoing cost of the five pills a day she has to take for the rest of her life.

Guys, we're tapped out. We had to put all of that emergency care and other costs on our credit card, to the tune of nearly $2,000, and we're not 100% sure how we're going to pay it off. Some people have asked me privately if they can help, and I didn't want to set up a whole new Indiegogo. But I've set up a Paypal donate button here. Anything would help. Thank you so much.

Vegetarian chili with no onions or garlic

My pal Beth Wodzinski asked for a vegetarian chili recipe with no onions or garlic (due to an allium sensitvity), afterI posted my award-winning chili recipe. So here is one!

Vegetarian chili I just made up right now but is probably great

Serves 4-6

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 tbsp red New Mexican chile powder*
  • 1 tsp cumin (4 tsp chili powder can be substituted for New Mexican chile powder and cumin)
  • 1 tsp oregano (Mexican if you have it)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 12-oz bottle or can of beer (Negra Modelo or Dos Equis amber would be good)
  • 1-2 cups corn (frozen or canned, amount depends on how much you love corn)
  • 2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 2 cans beans (whatever you like, I like black beans), rinsed and drained
  1. In a large pot (cast-iron Dutch oven would be awesome), saute bell pepper in olive oil over medium-high heat until it begins to char a little.**
  2. Add chile powder, cumin, oregano, and pepper and saute for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
  3. Add beer, bring to a boil, scraping pan to get up any browned bits.
  4. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Serve with whatever toppings you like, and corn bread. (This corn bread is awesome and can be made in an 8-inch square pan if you do not have a skillet.)

*I get my N.M. chile powder from Diaz Farms, there is both medium and hot red chile powder.

** If you want onions and garlic, I'd add 1 diced medium onion and 2 minced garlic cloves here along with the peppers.

My award-winning chili recipe

Since people have been asking, here is my recipe for chili:


  • 1 lb. ground beef/turkey/chicken
  • 3 cans beans (whatever you like: black, pinto, kidney, etc.)
  • 2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 8-oz cans tomato sauce
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 4 gloves garlic, minced
  •  2 tbsp. red New Mexican chile powder
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • Optional toppings: sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped green onions
  1. Put all ingredients in a large bowl and stir.
  2. Eat with a spoon.




Scenes from a Blizzard

We're in the middle of the Blizzard of 2015 up around Boston! I'd say we had about 20 inches when we got up this morning, and another 4-6 have fallen since then. Did some clearing today, but the storm is expected to last past midnight so we'll do a lot more tomorrow.

Walk through the neighborhood

Today was the first sunny day we've had in a week, so I finally got out in the neighborhood with my new camera.

I'm playing with Lyn to organize and edit my photos. It is working pretty well. A lot less bells and whistles than Picasa, and a lot more fine-tuning options.

Open for business!

Aside from the logo, the Talk Wordy to Me redesign is complete. I've added a page with information about my editing services and another with links to fiction I have written (not much at the moment but that will change!). I built the blog in my first Wordpress self-install (it used to be hosted on with the Genesis Framework from Studiopress along with their Wintersong theme. Thanks to Lilith Saintcrow for pointing me their way! I'm hosting with DreamHost, which has been really great. They've already answered and fixed several problems for me, usually within an hour, and twice late on a Sunday night. If you are looking for a new host and sign up with them, tell them sent you. Thanks to Adam P. Knave for recommending them to me.

Thanks also to Andrea Phillips and Karina Cooper, who both offered me a lot of advice while I was fiddling with this. They both pointed me at Squarespace, which ended not offering what I needed but also is a pretty nice platform. And thanks to everyone else who offered advice or encouragement as I've agonized over this for the past few months.

Lauren's bourbon balls recipe

GUYS GUYS GUYS. The Kentucky Derby is on Saturday! This combines the two things I learned to love in Kentucky: horse racing and bourbon. Lauren always makes bourbon balls for our party. What are bourbon balls? They are basically bourbon frosting dipped in chocolate. I KNOW, RIGHT? The best part is, the bourbon doesn't cook off that much, so you eat a few of these puppies and your are BUZZED. YES YES. I will shut up and give you Lauren's recipe. Because I LOVE YOU ALL.

Lauren's Bourbon Balls

(Makes 2 dozen or so, depending on how big you make them)

1/2 cup chopped pecans 1/4 cup bourbon (We usually use Maker's Mark) 1lb confectioners sugar 1/2 cup softened butter 1tsp vanilla extract 1 12oz bag of chocolate chips (I always get a bigger bag just in case)

The morning that I am going to make them- I combine the pecans and the bourbon and let them sit for a few hours til I'm ready to start.

Combine the confectioners sugar, butter, and vanilla extract in a bowl. (It's really just a matter of smushing the butter up and getting it covered; I found it takes longer than you think.)

Then add the bourbon-soaked pecans and mix well

Take the sugar mixture and form it into balls (whatever size you like) and put them on a tray, then put them in a the freezer for about 2 hours (till they are hard)

Then heat the chocolate chips (use a double boiler if you have one, otherwise use really low heat  (as the chocolate STARTS to heat you might want to toss a cup of milk in the microwave for 30 seconds and occasionally add this to the heating chocolate otherwise the chocolate might start to burn instead of melt, but do NOT use cold milk.)

Once the chocolate is liquified, dip the frozen sugar pieces into it and pull them out with a fork, place them on a tray to dry and VOILA!  BOURBON BALLS.

On turning 30, and chasing dreams

So I turned 30 today. I feel like I have mostly figured out being an adult, or as my mom put it on Twitter, "30 is when I stopped worrying what other people thought of me -- very liberating." I also feel really good about what I am doing with my life. I'm married to my best friend. I have a little house, and two cats. A good job, despite the cloud that has been hovering over newspapers for many years now. And of course, I have Fireside, which I hope I will never stop grinning about. I've tried a lot of side projects in fits and starts, like writing, and some of them I hope I get back to, but Fireisde is the first one I've stuck to. It's hard work, but it makes me so happy.

A friend of mine who is in his 30s referred to himself on Twitter as a "failed" writer and blogger. I hate seeing stuff like that, and I told him:

1. You're not a failed anything till you're dead. 2. Not even then. Homework: "Eulogy" by Frank Turner.

I pointed him to the song "Eulogy" (which I can't find a legit version of online but go Spotify it or whatever) because it says that as long as you spend your life chasing those dreams, you have done well:

I may not be the perfect kind of person, I may not do what mum and dad dreamed, but on the day I die, I'll say at least I fucking tried. That's the only eulogy I need, thats the only eulogy I need.

We have our whole lives to chase our dreams. Don't let yours slip away.

I bet every journalist 30 or younger who reads this blog post spends the whole time nodding their heads

I don’t think the Internet killed newspapers. Newspapers killed newspapers.  People like to say that print media didn’t adapt to online demand, but that’s only part of it. The corporate folks who manage newspapers tried to comply with the whims of a thankless audience with a microscopic attention span. And newspaper staffers tried to comply with the demands of a thankless establishment that often didn’t even read their work. Everyone lost. -- Allyson Bird "Why I left news"