Short Story: “Through-street”

This past weekend we had the pleasure of attending and performing at the first of what will no doubt be many Nerdcon: Stories events. Among the things both Paul and I did was give short presentations under the heading “Why Stories Matter”. Mine was a mostly humorous slideshow talk with the subtitle “A Scientific Explanation”.

A bunch of folks asked if the story I told at the end of my presentation was available anywhere. The answer is now YES; you’ll find it below. For those who weren’t at Nerdcon: Stories, the story was a “case study” of sorts that was run through an app that could allegedly determine a story’s value and assign it a numerical value of between 0-5.

This story stumped the app and caused my computer to crash.

One last bonus tidbit: the cover of the September 2015 issue of the American Journal of Totally Legitimate Science that appeared in the slideshow is here:


And now, please enjoy “Through-street”.



by Storm DiCostanzo

Doris Bennett lived for eighty-nine years, the last thirty as a clear-minded widow in her home on a quiet through-street in Chicago. Her only friend was her dog, Samson, a five-year-old Rottweiler the neighborhood kids called “Devil Dog,” mistaking his gruff demeanor for meanness.

And Samson was gruff, perhaps because he understood that Doris was alone in the world, and needed someone to help look out for her. When Doris ventured outside, Samson led the way with his double-barrel gaze, reserving a rumbling growl for the rowdier children.

“Hush, Samson,” Doris would say. “They’re just kids out here enjoying themselves, just like you and me.”

Apart from Doris Bennett, the only living creature that Samson couldn’t fool was a toffee-colored stray cat known as “Notch”, named for her battle-scarred left ear. Although Notch strictly avoided people, when Doris and Samson went strolling, she was rarely more than a trashcan’s width away. And when Notch’s eyes met Samson’s, he’d let out a Groof!, whose meaning they both well understood.

Of course canine and feline both knew that theirs was a love best savored from a discrete distance. But sometimes circumstance intercedes.

Doris Bennett didn’t think it unusual that Samson would be barking at the postal carrier as he came up her walkway, late one afternoon. And she didn’t notice that Samson’s eyes were trained across the street, and not at her front stoop.

Usually a single, sharp “HUSH” would back Samson away. But the moment Doris opened the door, Samson darted through, nearly knocking the letter carrier down.

Samson dodged one, two cars. A third grazed his hind quarters but didn’t slow his charge towards the shallow alley across the street, whose entryway was clogged with jeering children. Hands rose high, then swung down sharply like threshing blades. Some of the smaller kids fed stones into the hands of their taller peers. Others tried and failed to pull the rock throwers away. Doris couldn’t see their target—a small, toffee-colored cat—but Samson did.

None of Notch’s tormentors saw Samson coming, and the Rottweiler barreled through the forest of skinny legs, opening up a gap. Notch squirted free.

The gap closed, and Doris realized that Samson was now trapped in the alley. Arms rose high above anger-wrinkled faces, and swung down. Doris felt her cheeks flush with rage. She stepped through her front door, oblivious to the postman, to the five steps down her front stoop, to the fact that she hadn’t run a single pace in over two decades. And oblivious to the car rushing down her street.

Doris Bennett had not led an extravagant life. After her funeral expenses were paid, there was more than enough leftover for the veterinarians to patch up Samson, and to provide his new adoptive family with a stipend sufficient for him to live out the rest of his nine years in comfort. Which he did. More or less.

Doris Bennett had also been a thoughtful woman, and having no heirs or close friends, in her papers she’d specified that the remainder of her savings be used to improve the neighborhood where she’d spent most of her life. And one year to the day after being laid to rest next to her husband, the Alvin and Doris Bennett Memorial Playground was opened, for the benefit of the neighborhood children.

Tea Time at Downton Abbey



The following was received in the Paul and Storm inbox, and is published below in its entirety…

(…or as a viewable/downloadable Google Doc/pdf.)


Hello Storm –

You might not remember me, but I’m Emily, the girl from your neighborhood who sent my manuscript to share with the world. Well, I’m all grown up, but I haven’t stopped writing. In fact I’m much better at it now, and when I read “Emily and the Really Sexy Vampyre” now its a little embarrassing.

But I was just a girl then, and I’m completely a woman now. And I want to afford you the opportunity to publish my latest work, my first as truly an adult in this world. I do not expect any remuneration or other monetary gains, but if anyone is interested in making a movie or internet show based on this, I would very much appreciate it if you could help me out in that regard.

Unlike my Vampyre story, this one is truly “A fan fic,” which I understand is a totally normal and legal thing to do, these days. It was inspired by the most delicious teas I have ever had, which as it turns out were themselves inspired by “Downton Abbey,” which is an internet show from England. You’re an American guy and, no offense, a nerd, so you probably haven’t heard of it. But its enough to know that the award-winning TV series, Downton Abbey® has entranced millions of viewers and become a modern media sensation. Every episode is an explosion of drama, relationships and intrigue. Downton Abbey is home to the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants. The first two seasons follow their lives from the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 through the First World War while the later seasons follow them into the early 1920s. From the pen of Academy Award® winner Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey is the most watched drama ever on PBS!

Without further pomp or adieu, please enjoy “Tea Time at Downton Abbey, by Emily Smith.” And I hope the world is as inspired by this show and these teas like I have been, truly.



by Emily Smith (a pen nom de plume)


It was pretty much an average day at Downton Abbey, in between when some very momentous things had happened, or were going to happen. The two living Grantham sisters sat in the super-fancy and very-historic Downton Abbey parlor. Which might seem crazy if you live in a boring house like most people, but to them it was no big deal. In the morning.

“What should we do to-day?” said Lady Edith, the younger and frumpier of the pair, but certainly of noble Grantham blood, for certain.

“I have an appointment this afternoon with a man,” said Lady Mary, who was the very picture of British pale-elegance. She wore a nice but not crazy-fancy day-gown, which was probably just the first thing she had grabbed for her from the closet, because everything she has to wear is beautiful, even when it was for just whatever.

“Well, aren’t you ever so popular?” said Lady Edith, twisting her lips up like two rubber bands. “Where’s our tea?”

“It’s on the way,” said Lady Mary, one elegant eyebrow lifting in anticipation of delicious tea. “But I’m not meeting the man as a social call. I think he can help us save Downton Abbey, our ancient and traditional home, which is totally worthy of being kept around.”

“Of course,” said Lady Edith. “But the man is a handsome and mysterious Prince, is he not?”

“Not a Prince, silly,” said Lady Mary. “He is Sir Wentworth Namesley, the Viscount of London and Baron-Earl of Westershire. But his titles are not important, nor his mystery or looks. It’s his money earned from the tea trade that concerns me.”

Before Lady Edith could retort, the very pretty and humble Anna entered the room, bearing a spotless silver tray, which itself bore a teapot, which bore two cups, next to it.

“Your tea, m’lady,” said Anna with a little smile. She poured the tea, and the two Grantham Ladys whiffed at the air, with elegance, which made them look even more regal.

“Thank you, Anna,” said Lady Mary. “It is our very favorite, is it not?”

“It’s English Rose!” chirped Lady Edith.

“It is indeed English Rose tea,” said Anna, with a dear little nod. “It is no wonder that you love it so, as it is so like yourselves! This vibrant, ruby-red infusion of rose, raspberry and hibiscus has fruity, floral notes and a touch of sweetness. Inspired by traditional British desserts, this caffeine-free, luscious tea is perfect as an afternoon treat. Enjoy hot or cooled over a tall glass of ice.”

Anna left them to their English Rose tea and important talking. Which they did for a while, in elegance.

“Oh, dear Mary,” said Lady Edith, who was allowed to call her by her first name because they were sisters. “I’m sorry if I was cross or jealous with you earlier. And I’m sorry you have to play these silly nobility games to help save our revered and solemn estate.”

“It’s okay, dear Edith,” said Lady Mary. “Ever was the price of being so very English.”


Back downstairs, Mr. Bates beamed as his beloved Anna returned to him. Only moments before he had been brooding over some secret, a very dangerous one, probably.

“I’ve brought you biscuits and sandwiches, my love,” said the plainly-adorned but very pretty Anna.

“You know me so well,” said Mr. Bates. “For you’ve also brought my favorite Brambleberry tea.”

“Yes! I know how you love Brambleberries, even if you would never confess it to anyone else,” said Anna.

“It is true, I am honorable but rugged,” said Mr. Bates. “But this tea reminds me of my carefree simple youth, when I would play amidst the Brambleberry patches near my humble home.”

“Yes,” said Anna. “It is a bold yet smooth premium black tea is perfectly coupled with a handful of summer fruit – blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries. A touch of sweetness to this cup will bring out the full, ripe flavor.”

“Your sweetness always brings out my full, ripe flavor!” said Mr. Bates, eyes gleaming.

“Mr. Bates!” said Anna, teasingly. “Not here in Downton Abbey! We do not want cause a scandal!”

“I don’t care what anyone thinks, because that’s how much I love you,” said Mr. Bates. “I would punch anyone in the world for you.”

“Oh, Mr. Bates!”


Later in the afternoon, the Downton staff was having a jolly good time, even though they did not have the advantages of their betters. Everyone except for Mr. and Mrs. Bates was crowded around the sturdy oaken wood kitchen table. On one end were Mrs. Patmore and Daisey, of the kitchen staff. On the other, Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes, being in charge of all the stuff.

“Mrs. Patmore’s Pudding Tea!” shouted Daisey. “Everyone loves it the best, so we should serve it with my cucumber sandwiches!”

“That is quite ENOUGH, Daisey!” scolded Mrs. Hughes. “We appreciate that you are loyal to Mrs. Patmore, but the Butler’s Pantry Blend will be expected.”

“To poppycock with expectations!” said Daisey. “Mrs. Patmore’s dessert tea has the homemade flavors of vanilla sponge cake drizzled with rich caramel sauce. The full-bodied base of premium black tea lends itself well to a splash of milk, making it a perfect afternoon tea to partner with puddings, scones and shortbread!”

“Well, I never!” huffed Mr. Carson, his face turning beat red. “I am in charge of this household! The Butler’s Pantry Blend has A base of robust black tea creates a standard that is softened with the essence of honey! This tea embodies both the strong, no-nonsense character of Mr. Carson and the sympathetic sweetness of Mrs. Hughes! Together, they create the harmonious balance needed to keep the manor in order!””

“Yes! Yes! Butler’s Pantry Blend!” shouted half of the servants around the table.

“No! No! Mrs. Patmore’s Pudding Tea!” shouted the other.

“Now, now,” said Mrs. Hughes. “We are fortunate to have so many delicious and distinguished teas to serve! We also have the Estate Blend, Earl Grey black tea has become one of the most enjoyed flavored teas in the world. This classic traditional British tea with bergamot orange oil has been paired with exotic vanilla for an intriguing finish. Enjoy this robust tea with or without milk and sugar or even over ice. Perfect for high tea or any time of day.”

“It’s true,” said Mrs. Patmore. “And don’t forget Organic Grantham Breakfast Blend.

Full-bodied, malty, organic Assam black tea is infused with the spicy flavor of organic ginger root. Try with a splash of warm milk and sweetener for a flavor reminiscent of sticky ginger pudding. This energizing tea is perfect for an early morning foxhunt or preparing for the dramas of the day.”

“ENOUGH,” thundered Mr. Carson. The room fell stupid-quiet. Everyone thought that everyone was going to get fired. Even Mrs. Hughes looked worried. “There is only one thing to do for it. Mrs. Patmore?”

“Y-yes?” said Mrs. Patmore, meekly.

“Prepare ALL the teas, lest Downton’s guests think we’re stingy,” said Mr. Carson.

“Hooray!” shouted everyone in the room, but a quick glare from Mr. Carson piped them down but quick.

Outside the kitchen right after, Mrs. Hughes patted Mr. Carson on the arm. “Don’t worry—everyone respects our Butler’s Pantry Blend Tea. And it’s wonderful that you’re not always such a grumbling fuddy-duddy.”

“Frussen muss-fuss!” said Mr. Carson.


Later that evening, after the day’s adieu and excitement, Earl and Cora Grantham were getting ready for bed. Cora leaned against her Tea Sampler Pillow, which is A perfect way to sample our Downton Abbey® Teas for yourself or a friend, each pillow contains a selection of our Citizens’ Favorite Downton Abbey® Teas.

Some servant or other came in with tea, and set it down. Cora thoughtfully admired the Flora and Fauna Teapot, A 12.5 oz Wedgwood teapot featuring sweet cuckoos and feminine blossoms for the most elegant afternoon tea setting. Inspired by pattern books from the early nineteenth century, this teapot is crafted from fine bone China and features burnished gold edge lines. Pairs with Flora and Fauna Tea Cup and Saucer. Infuser not included.

“Earl?” said Cora.

“Yes, my love?” said Earl, sipping from an English Rose Mug, in sophisticated style with this 16 oz quaint English Rose Mug. Pair with our Downton Abbey® English Rose tea for a delightful afternoon cuppa.

“Do you still like my tea?” asked Cora.

“Oh, my sweet!” said Earl. “I adore Lady Cora’s Evening Tea! This caffeine-free blend of chamomile and lemon balm will calm the mind and body. Relaxing botanicals create a cup of tranquility that helps ease the nerves. Nice before bedtime when a soothing cup is a welcome friend.”

“A friend?” said Cora.

“Well, yes,” said Earl. “My mother, the Dowager Countess, may not have approved of my love for you, but I assure you it is complete and enduring.”

“And mine yours, too, as such,” said Cora, eyes aglow. “And that wrinkled prune mother of yours has always been sour because she never had a tea named for her.”

“As usual, you’re probably right.”

And thus did night fall on Downton Abbey, and the teas of Downton Abbey.




Counting Cheeses

Couldn’t sleep. Tried counting sheep. Didn’t work. Made this instead:

Counting Cheeses

Still can’t sleep.

– Storm

Weird Al Super Bowl 2015

Weird Al Football2015 is the year. Super Bowl XLIX is the place.

The first campaign to have “Weird Al” Yankovic featured as the half time entertainer at the Super Bowl may not have achieved its primary objective. But it did attract a lot of attention, first in a NY Daily News article, then picked up at Nerdist. Eventually over 24,000 people signed a petition, and many thousands more expressed their support on various Facebook pages.

We have only begun. And we are starting this bus up again.

Why? Because the underlying facts about why “Weird Al” Yankovic is the ideal entertainer for the Super Bowl Half Time Show remain as true as ever. Namely:

  • He has an incredibly wide, positive appeal. Not only is he a genuine American icon, and not only has he continued to win new fans decade after decade, but he’s done so by being good, clean fun. To quote The Simpsons: “He who is tired of Weird Al is tired of life.”
  • Featuring Weird Al is to feature a wide swath of musical styles. “Another One Bites the Dust”…”Beat It”…”Smells Like Teen Spirit”…”Amish Paradise”…”Lump”…”Ridin'”…”Born This Way”. Musically, what do they all have in common? Very little! But through his humor, personality, and original songs, Weird Al appeals to fans of many types of music.
  • Unparalleled showmanship and production values. Weird Al’s live show is a rock show disguised as a comedy show. All the elements are there: lights, video, costume changes, general spectacle. And given a stadium-sized budget? It would be awesome in every sense of the word.
  • Nerds and geeks are “in”. They’re at the leading edge of popular culture, a trend that doesn’t show signs of ending any time soon. Tech innovators are celebrated. “The Big Bang Theory” pulls in killer ratings. EVERYONE carries miracle computers around in their pockets. Now is the time to bring one of nerdhood’s heaviest guns to one of America’s most celebrated events.

So go forth and spread the word. Sign the new petition. Make noise on Facebook, Twitter, and everywhere else people gather. The momentum may not have been enough for Super Bowl XLVII, but after being struck down, we’re now more powerful than anyone could possibly imagine.


Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer: The Fan Fiction of Beverages

I could hardly believe my eyes: there on the shelf of my local supermarket was a four-pack of “Flying Cauldron Butterscotch Beer”. Could this really be the beverage I came to love during my single ill-fated (and completely accidental) semester at the Hogsbreath school for under aged wizards? Or was it just an unauthorized knock-off that would surely get its creators dragged off to Azerbaijan Prison by demontors?

I grabbed a four-pack and suddenly felt the sensation of being pulled from the inside by my navel, and I clutched the bottles close just in time to be dashed hizzy-tizzy though the flu network. Moments later I found myself in front of the fireplace of a familiar-looking hut. Standing before me was an equally familiar giant of a gamekeeper.

“Well, look who it is!” he said. His grinning teeth were the size of saltine crackers, framed by a bushy black beard. “It’s been decades! What are you doing here?”

“Hangrid!” I said, dusting myself off. “I think these bottles might be responsible for my visit.” I held up the Butterscotch Beer. Hangrid cocked one eyebrow and grabbed the carrying case with his pinky.

“Innerestin’,” he said. “I never s’posed the Flying Cauldron would export one of its most famous–and valuable–recipes.”

“Me neither,” I said. “But I’m not convinced it’s the real thing.”

“Well ‘en…let’s find out!”

We examined the packaging together. All the facts looked right: the very wizardly-looking layout stated that it was a “100% Natural” “Non-Alcoholic” “Butterscotch Cream Soda” that has been brewed by the famed Flying Cauldron brew pub since 1374 (which is, of course, in Hogsbreath, England). Curiously, there was a URL on the side of the cardboard pack, and on the bottom were adverts not only for Reed’s Ginger Brews, but also for Virgil’s Root Beer and related products.

“Enuf reading,” said Hangrid. “Let’s put ‘er to the real test.”

Hangrid picked up a purple umbrella, waved it a wooden table, and two frosty crystal mugs appeared. “Sorry,” he said. “I din’na mean to show off, what with your…you know…um…”

“My complete lack of magical ability?” I said.

“Yes, that–oh, look! The bottles are open!” said Hangrid as he passed me one of the chilled clear glass bottles.

The rich amber liquid poured out smoothly, and little bubbles formed at the bottom and sides of the mug. It never quite formed a head, but did sparkle invitingly.

“Looks like the real thing to me,” I said.

“Ah, but how does it smell?”

I lowered my snoot and took in a healthy whiff. To my delight, the scent was indistinguishable from a Brach’s butterscotch candy, with just an underlying hint of Brach’s butterscotch candy.

“Oh, aye–it smells like the real thing!” said Hangrid. “Bottoms up!”

We clinked our mugs together. Hangrid downed his in one quick gulp; I decided to take a measured first sip. The sweetness and rich butterscotch flavor worked in concert to immediately saturate my palate. To those who’ve never experienced the brew, it’s not as thick on the tongue as you might imagine, which is surprising given how sweet it is.

“How do you suppose they manage that?” I mused to Hangrid, who lifted his umbrella and bellowed out “stevia rebaudiana!” I ducked under the table, anticipating disaster. I might be a complete moggle with zero wizarding skills, but Hangrid has just enough to be dangerous.

Nothing happened.

“What kind of spell was that supposed to be?” I asked.

“Oh, it was no spell,” he said. “I was just reading the Nutrition Facts. Look!”

Sure enough, in addition to being sweetened with unbleached cane sugar, the last ingredient was stevia leaf extract–the current all-natural “it” sweetener (and a little bit goes a long way). Which is probably also how 12 fluid ounces of such a sweet drink can only tally 120 calories. Magic indeed!

As I drank down the rest of my mug, the flavor remained fresh and delicious all the way to the end–velvety butterscotch from start to finish, and the flavor even lingered for a few beats after it had vanished.

“Well now,” said Hangrid as he teed up the other two bottles. “It seems like the real thing to me. And if it’s not…well, I don’t care.”

“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” I said. We hoisted our glasses. “Here’s to Harrie, Harmonium, and Ron Wesley, wherever they may be!” And the rest of the afternoon passed in a happy blur.

So if you’re looking for a beverage that will transport you to a magical world–or if you just really like butterscotch–then Flying Cauldron could be your beverage of choice.

At least until K. J. Rawlings’s legal team shuts it down.

Happy Canada Day

Make Poutine Not War

Short Story: Cinnamon

Cinnamon-coverEver wonder what it feels like to animals when you pet them, particularly smaller ones whose whole bodies could be covered in one or two strokes, or held entirely? Of course you have! And if you haven’t, you’re probably thinking about it right now.

Either way, that simple idea was the inspiration for “Cinnamon”. And naturally it required space aliens to explore it. Then a bunch of other ideas decided they wanted in, too. Then it got weird.

You can all 3,600 words of “Cinnamon” here on Longer Thoughts (after the “More” below), or view or download it as a pdf (right-click and “Save as” to download.)

Special thanks to the All-Star Advance Readers, and also to Jonathan Coulton’s rodent friend, who kicked the ol’ imagination into gear. Trees and rocket ship used in the design to the right are from

Please enjoy “Cinnamon”.

Read More »

Sic semper tyrannosaur!

Sic semper tyrannosaur

From a twitter exchange with Molly Lewis.

Farewell, Reinhold

Our cat, Reinhold, didn’t have many friends (even if he had a decent number of Twitter followers). Although handsome by feline standards, with fluffy orange and white fur and a face suitable for national cat food campaigns, Reinhold’s disposition towards most who aren’t in our household was best described as, by and large, hostile.

In his estimated fifteen-odd years, Reinhold bit or scratched us, our friends, relatives, neighbors, contractors, caretakers, veterinarians, UPS drivers, Girl Scouts, and pretty much anyone else who ventured through the front door. When most cats feel threatened, they run away. Reinhold was a big believer in Stand Your Ground, and he felt threatened by nearly everything. Over the span of his career, we estimate that he drew well over a pint of blood (mostly ours), and we lived in constant fear that he might one day escape the house, after which the neighborhood children would start to disappear, one by one. Thankfully he never did.

We knew what we were getting into when we adopted him and Cougar (with whom he was already bonded) twelve years ago. They’d been living in a room in a foster home for over a year, unable to mingle with the other cats in the home and unshowable at adoption fairs because of Reinhold’s habit of screeching, hissing, and generally channeling Satan when in the presence of other living beings. But Mrs. Storm had seen his picture in a rescue agency’s binder, and it was love at first sight. And the first time we visited him, he exhibited no signs of being the Destroyer of Worlds that he was reputed to be.

Us: He’s incredibly sweet. And what an incredibly loud purr! We’ll happily take them both.
Feline Foundation foster family: Ummm…no.
Us: Why not? He seems to like us.
FFFF: You should come back again next week. You need to see what he’s really like before making that kind of commitment.

On the second visit we saw the whole truth. One moment you’re petting a beautiful, purring cat; the next moment OH PLEASE DEAR GOD DON’T LET HIM HURT ME. But Mrs. Storm could see the loving critter inside the snarling beast, and we decided that her efficiency apartment would make a better home for him.

The first day was frightening. Cougar hid under the bed, but Reinhold made the kitchen his citadel, and would screech whenever either of us came into his line of sight. Even hearing us move in the main room would start him growling, a sound not unlike an old hand-cranked fire truck siren winding up.

The first night was utterly terrifying. The second the lights went out, the kitchen demon’s siren began to fire up a mere five feet from the bed. Ten minutes after the lights went off, something fluffy and menacing landed with a dull thump at our feet. We froze. He began his jackhammer purr. A breakthrough? I started to move my arm. He yowled. I quickly pulled the covers up over my head. I might have cried a little. But Mrs. Storm assured me that he was all bark and no bite, and that he would not in fact rip our throats out as we slept. Probably because of exhaustion brought on by abject fear, I did eventually get to sleep, and to this day there are no scars on my throat.

Of course Mrs. Storm was wrong about him being “no bite,” and we do carry scars on other parts of our bodies from the years it took to learn what set Reinhold off and why. But once we did, and began to earn his trust, we were rewarded with a feline companion whose depths of affection (on his terms, of course) were nearly boundless. Reinhold always wanted to be near us, would come when called, and always met us at the door when we arrived home. Upon return from road trips, the first thing I’d see as I turned the key was Reinhold bounding down the stairs, eager to cash in on overdue scritchin’s. Although he never permitted us to pick him up, he would often seek our laps, where he’d stretch out and stay all day if allowed. And every night he’d cuddle up with us and ease us to sleep with his loud yet soothing purr.

Of course he never lost all of his semi-feral ways. But for us, his lapses of incivility became just another facet of who he was, like a charming uncle who sometimes shivved people for no apparent reason.

The extra caution and occasional bloodshed were worth the rewards of having earned his trust and affection, and we thought Reinhold was strong and stubborn enough to live forever. We’d nearly given up on him three months ago, after his weight plummeted from his lifelong fifteen pounds to just over seven. That time it was a thyroid condition, from which he rallied after treatment.

But one can only hiss and screech at the Grim Reaper for so long before he collects. A bowel condition compounded Reinhold’s recovery, hectoring him until he was no longer capable of eating or drinking. Still he sought us out, even using some of his precious energy to manage to purr in his final days, comforting us all.

Cats are excellent at hiding their pain and distress, which can make it difficult to know when you’re no longer doing them a favor by keeping them alive. Our vet told us that Reinhold would let us know when it was time for him to go. We also researched how to make the decision. We determined that as long as he was eating, drinking, pooping properly, moving without obvious distress and, most importantly, responding to us, that his pain wasn’t excessive. This was a cat whose ferocity made 300-pound plumbers cower in fear; for him to show any weakness at all was exceptional.

Saturday morning Reinhold was curled up in a ball behind a couch on the first floor, as out of the way as it gets in our home. He no longer responded to us talking to him, not even flinching an ear. Never had we seen him like this. It was time.

We made an appointment to have Reinhold euthanized at our home the following Monday. We coaxed him into sitting on the bed with us, and over the next two days we spent our time with him there. His lucid moments came less frequently, and it became clear that it hurt him to be touched anywhere except for the top of his head. As much as we wanted to pet him, we knew it wasn’t a comfort to him anymore. And holding him? Although a lap cat, never in his life were we able to pick Reinhold up for more than five seconds before his feral instincts kicked in.

Thankfully, the vet and technician arrived on Monday before major organ failure occurred. The procedure was quick and humane: Reinhold was given a fast-acting sedative, and we were able to pet and comfort him as it took effect. Then we had some time to say our final tearful goodbyes, after which he was given a drug that stopped his heart. He went peacefully.

In death we were finally able to hold Reinhold in our arms. As much as we wish he’d allowed us to do so during his fifteen year life, to him it was a source of great stress. But for us, at that moment, it helped us let go.

Some might say we were crazy to choose to live with the feline equivalent of Jekyll and Hyde (particularly those who met him “in the fur”). But the sorrow we now feel is a testament to a simple truth: the love you give pays dividends as love in return. As with people, no pet is perfect. In Reinhold’s case, he started out as a holy terror. But with generous doses of love, patience, and understanding, our lives were enriched beyond measure.

So while we’ll feel sad for a long time over the loss of Reinhold, we also feel grateful to have known him as a unique being who was able to overcome his fear and mistrust, to become a beloved member of our family.

Rest in peace, Mr. R.

Storm and Reinhold, circa 2006

Weird Al. Super Bowl. YES.

UPDATE: there’s now a petition, plus a “Weird Al as Super Bowl xlvii Halftime Show” Facebook page. Patton Oswalt-approved Twitter hashtag is #SuperAl.

So go forth and help make the Super Bowl “Weird”!


The movement has begun. First in a NY Daily News article, then picked up at Nerdist. Tickles the brain, doesn’t it? But it goes way beyond that “wouldn’t it be neat?” feeling.

There is a serious case to be made. And so I present, point-by-point, why “Weird Al” Yankovic is the ideal entertainer for the Super Bowl XLVII Half Time Show:

  • Incredibly wide, positive appeal. Not only is he a genuine American icon, and not only has he continued to win NEW fans decade after decade, but if he were a politician, his negative poll ratings would be negligible. To quote The Simpsons: “He who is tired of Weird Al is tired of life.”
  • Featuring Weird Al is to feature a wide swath of musical styles. “Another One Bites the Dust”…”Beat It”…”Smells Like Teen Spirit”…”Amish Paradise”…”Lump”…”Ridin'”…”Born This Way”. Musically, what do they all have in common? Very little! But through his humor and personality, Weird Al appeals to fans of many types of music. No need to have gratuitous walk-ons by the musical Flavor of the Month. And that’s even before you get to his original songs.
  • Unparalleled showmanship and production values. Weird Al’s live show is a rock show disguised as a comedy show. All the elements are there: lights, video, costume changes, general spectacle. And given a stadium-sized budget? It would be awesome in every sense of the word. And though he wouldn’t need to include the musical Flavor of the Month, odds are he’d find inventive ways to include them nonetheless.
  • Nerds are now cool. Yep. Geeks and nerds are currently at the leading edge of popular culture, a trend that doesn’t show signs of ending any time soon. Tech innovators are celebrated. “The Big Bang Theory” pulls in killer ratings. EVERYONE carries little computers around in their pockets. Now is the time to bring one of nerdhood’s heaviest guns to one of America’s most celebrated events.

So go forth and spread the word. If a Facebook page can get Betty White on SNL, and netroots action can reverse the course of a major bank, there’s no reason a strong net consensus can’t help the NFL see the basic wisdom of having “Weird Al” Yankovic as the featured entertainer for the Super Bowl XLVII Half Time Show.

Make it so.

– Storm DiCostanzo