The Thumbs Up Man

A breather from the day. Time to clear your mind, engage in your own alternate reality. A need to stretch your legs, take in fresh air.


On a Walk Down a Road Through Trees

Photo by Sharon Hughson

I go for walks a couple times a day. Even when the clouds take over the sky here in Seattle, I like to walk and let my mind wander to the alternate realities in my head.

Going for a walk is a common activity. We see each other out there every day, we walkers.

When I pass someone I smile and say, “hi.” The most common response is a strained smile and “hi.”

Some people thin their lips into a grimace and try to blend into the background like the Predator.

The Predator

The Predator

Some people act as if I am the air and do not see me.

I would say most people fall into one of those three categories.

I thought I had seen every response imaginable.

Until the thumbs up man.

Courtesy Jay Malone Flickr Creative Commons

Courtesy Jay Malone Flickr Creative Commons

He wore thin framed glasses that complemented his wiry build. Like my best friend from high school he had short wavy burnt red hair. That’s who I thought of at first.

I hadn’t seen my friend since 1997 though. Spring Break that year I flew to Minneapolis the first week of April. A freak snowstorm hit, I remember. The freeways had been empty.

In the middle of the snowstorm we drove to the theater to see Private Parts, that Howard Stern movie. Like the roads the theater had been empty.

Movie Theater

However, the thumbs up man was not that friend.

Still, the man had given me a thumbs up.

What was I supposed to do with a thumbs up? My normal “hi” no longer felt adequate.

Maybe I did know this man?

I was positive I did not.

Was he wishing me luck? If so, for what? Perhaps the thumbs up man had come from the future to wish me luck for something that has not happened?

What do you think?

After we passed I realized that the thumbs up is a brilliant greeting. I mean, look what it did for me.

So, the next time you pass someone on a walk, instead of saying the standard “hi” greeting why not give that person a thumbs up?

When You Cook the Awesome (At Least to Me)

Some days you cook the awesome. Some days you don’t.

That’s the paleo alternate reality with oompa and loompa.

However, one of my last meals was the awesome (at least to me).

Bill Murray You are Awesome

If you’re interested in trying out your own paleo alternate reality I suggest checking out Nom Nom Paleo. Michelle Tam has an extensive recipe index on her site. In addition she has a primo cookbook.

Nom Nom Paleo

So far, and I emphasize “so far”, we’ve found Michelle’s recipes the yummiest and easiest in our paleo alternate reality.

But on to the recipe, you say.

How does this meal sound? Skillet fried pork chops smothered in chopped bacon bits and onion and apple slices?

Yumtacular (at least to me).

The verdict from oompa and loompa?

Good, not great. The pork chops themselves were not a hit, but the sauce, oh the sauce. If you look at the recipe you will see that the sauce calls for drippings from bacon bits, bone both or chicken stock, fish sauce, and arrowroot powder.

But that’s not all. Oh no, that’s not all.

Into the sauce you throw the seared pork chops and onion and apple sauces. The concoction then simmers for half an hour.

At the end, when you taste the gravy, unseen Angels will weep on your shoulders at their inability to be part of your personal heaven.

Our only revision is to try chicken instead of pork. I loved the pork and pork fat. Munched it up. But the pork was not as popular with the rest of the crew.

What’s your biggest cooking success?

Dogs and cats! Living together! Mass hysteria!

Do you live in an alternate reality?

In a recent New York Times article radio astronomers reported they had seen the markers of the beginning of the Big Bang, The article reminded of one of physicist Dr. Guth’s other ideas: parallel universes.

Spock from the Mirror Universe

Spock from the Mirror Universe

I won’t go into the physics, which entails inflation theory. Needless to say, the implications are manifold.

From what I understand of the idea the physics must be consistent across the universes because the particles from which the universes began are all the same. Balls will not fall up and Hogwarts does not exist.

Or could it exist?

Hogwarts Castle--Under the Cover of the Universe?

Hogwarts Castle–Under the Cover of the Universe?

A different roll of the evolutionary dice and humans or human-like creatures could evolve to have the ability to manipulate matter, or maybe they develop cybernetic implant technology that gives them the ability to shape the world around them. No wands needed.

Maybe your mirror universe self has mastered the powers of creation?

Let’s say these alternate universes exist. Alan Guth was spot on about the cosmic background ripples after all. Let’s say the alternate realities are there under the blanket of the universe. How do we travel to these alternate realities?



Sliders delved into the idea of alternate earths (the first season was wicked awesome. After season two I couldn’t stand to watch it). They traveled to these alternate realities via a wormhole.

Maybe travel to an alternate reality or universe is possible through a simple change in your state of mind as was used by Christopher Reeve’s character to travel back in time in the movie, Somewhere in Time.

Somewhere in Time

Maybe Stephen Lawhead had the right idea? In The Song of Albion Trilogy Lewis Gillies, a student at Oxford, finds his way to the Celtic Otherworld of Albion. He travels there by circling a Celtic cairn at just the right time of day.

Maybe there is a village, like Wall in Neil Gaiman‘s Stardust, where on the other side lies the faerie realm?

Maybe my own Tir Alaind is real? Maybe Hogwarts is real? Maybe Patrick Rothfuss’s Four Corners of Civilization is real?

Maybe our minds aren’t imagining these alternate realities? Maybe our minds are simply peeking under the blanket of the universe and seeing what our eyes cannot see.

A Paleo Alternate Reality: The Struggles with Oompa and Loompa


Ever had this conversation with your toddlers?

“What do you want for dinner tonight?” says me.

“Meat,” say oompa and loompa.

OK. Sounds good to me.

I take out the fresh grass fed sirloin, marinate it in grass fed ghee and Himalayan pink salt, grill it on low until it’s tender and juicy. I set the table with toddler friendly plates and have on the side garlic seasoned, mashed garden grown potatoes.

Food ready, I call the kids to the table.

Oompa the older sees the food and says, “I want pasta.”

Loompa the younger echoes, “Pasta!”

“No,” I say, “meat. You asked for meat.”

Oompa says,  “No. I want pasta and sprinkle cheese.”

Loompa chants, “Pasta! Pasta!”

And with each chant of pasta the inner paleo in me withers. I think that’s why part of my mind is in an alternate reality.


Personally, I struggle with feeding my kids what I consider healthy food and keeping my sanity. The two struggles are often intertwined. I mean, kids test our sanity, right? That’s their job in life.

In the past three years I’ve become hyper-aware of what is in the food I am eating. Through excessive research I’ve found that a diet abundant in healthy fats (grass fed butter, pasture raised animals, oils high in saturated fat) and protein from pasture raised animals, but low in carbohydrates and devoid of refined sugars is the best diet for me. Excessive carbohydrates, even so-called healthy grains, are a non-starter. Instead, when I do eat carbohydrates I gravitate towards sweet potatoes and rice.

The results? I haven’t been in this great of shape since I was twenty-two and training for Air Force ROTC boot camp.

I follow the paleo diet in a loose fashion in that I eat dairy and grains from time to time. The big changes to my diet have been the virtual elimination of refined sugars and a daily carbohydrate intake under 75 grams a day.

What is the paleo diet? Robb Wolf explains it best.

The Paleo diet is the healthiest way you can eat because it is the ONLY nutritional approach that works with your genetics to help you stay lean, strong and energetic! Research in biology, biochemistry, ophthalmology, dermatology and many other disciplines indicate it is our modern diet, full of refined foods, trans fats and sugar, that is at the root of degenerative diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression and infertility. – Robb Wolf

I follow more of a paleo template. Every person is different. Therefore what works for me won’t necessarily work for you (or oompa and loompa).

If you are interested in reading more about the paleo diet outside of Robb Wolf check out nutritionist, Chris Kresser’s site, fitness author, Marc Sisson, and the Weston A. Price Foundation.

What does my paleo approach have to do with oompa and loompa, you might ask?

Well, I’d like my children to eat the best diet possible. I’m open to any diet for my children as long as it’s devoid of refined sugar and processed food. Even grains, but a grain centered diet takes effort and preparation. You should neutralize the anti-nutrients in grains by soaking and sprouting them. Then they can be used for cooking.

Do you think I am at a point in my life where I can hand make pasta from sprouted grains?

But my children love boxed pasta. I can’t soak boxed pasta. By then the grains are beyond help. It’s like trying to reanimate a desiccated corpse.

One could argue that, as a paleo parent, I shouldn’t have pasta around, but here’s the rub. Pasta is easy. Certain foods that give me a small internal cringe are easy. I’m looking at you, cheerios.

When you have three kids easy and fast are essential. That’s why I try to win small battles now.

So, instead of simple whole grain pasta we have Einkorn pasta.

If you aren’t familiar with einkorn wheat you should read this article on the Tropical Traditions site. The short of it is that the dwarf wheat we eat today is about as far removed from the native wheat of the wild as we are from chimpanzees. The dwarf wheat has been found to produce a higher insulin response, and it has a higher amount of gluten protein .

So, instead of plain butter, we eat grass fed Kerrygold butter.

Instead of vegetable oil we use rendered pork fat from local, pasture raised pigs.

Instead of flour we use nut flours.

Small victories.

Compared to the standard American diet I feel that my children eat quite well, but I would like to do more, feel even better about what they are eating. I read many paleo parenting websites, Paleo Parents, The Paleo Mama, Nom, Nom Paleo, to name a few, and honestly I don’t know how they have time to prepare all of the wonderful meals they detail on their blogs and in their cookbooks–yes, cookbooks! (Eat Like a Dinosaur being a favorite).

They have idyllic breakfasts, wonderful lunches in cute containers, and dinners that have more in common with a Norman Rockwell painting than with reality.

In my world half the time my wife and I are lucky to get something on the table that isn’t take out or take ‘n bake pizza.

We’ve gotten better, but there just isn’t time to be as good with the food as I’d like us to be. The food I feed my kids is important, and is a work in progress, but I’ve come to the realization that there are other parts of life on which I should focus.

Is it better to spend the time I have after work playing with my kids or spending an inordinate amount of time on a meal I found on a paleo website? The answer is obvious, but coming to grips with the answer was difficult for me.

Care to share your experiences feeding your children?

The Long Road


Recap: I finished the first draft of my novel, The Tome of Worlds, in July of 2013. Since then I have read through and edited the book twice. Not all of the edits are in the manuscript. In fact I have yet to finish editing the novel on my computer even though I’ve read through the story twice. I’ve gotten to the point where I need an outside opinion. I think the story is very good. Surprisingly good. And now I need someone to take me down a notch.

Have you ever read through your story or novel and wondered who wrote the story? I mean, at times I don’t remember writing the words I am reading. Other times I am amazed at how well the story is written. And of course there are times when I think the writing is clunky. Still, I am very pleased with what I wrote.

My life has changed quite a bit since I finished writing the novel. My wife gave birth to our third child in early January almost 7 years to the day we met. We moved back to Seattle. I have a new job, but with the same company. Oh, and I won the fantasy football championship in my 12 person league.

Lots of changes.

Still, through all of the changes I have kept at the novel. I wrote two short stories, and just last week I started the sequel to my novel, tentatively titled Portal to the Deadlands.

Now that we are settled in Seattle I hope to get back to my blogging ways. I’ve missed the connection to the community.

“A great achievement” New book review and interview for A JANE AUSTEN DAYDREAM

Really, one of the best books I’ve read this year.

The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard

Jane AustenAuthor and blogger Christoph Fischer has recently given a wonderful review for my new novel A Jane Austen Daydream.  Here is an excerpt:

An excellent concept and a great achievement, a must read for Austen fans open for a playful read and those who wish Austen had written more. This is like a little welcome encore for us fans.

I also agreed to be interviewed about the book and my writing. It was a very interesting interview with some fun and serious questions mixed in. This was my response to the question about how the idea of the book came to me:

It was in reading a biography on her that I realized how little her life actually mirrored her books. She did not have a Darcy waiting for her at home, and died far too young and only with her sister and mother for company. So at the…

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A Review of Thumbprint by Joe Hill


Has anyone else jumped on the Joe Hill bandwagon? Ever since I read Horns and NOS4A2, I have been hooked on his writing.

Just read my reviews on those two books. Joe Hill is one of the good ones.

Review of Horns

Review of NOS4A2

On the plane ride home I decided to give one of his short stories, Thumbprint, a try. It’s the story of a young woman who has returned from a tour in Iraq where she did things she regrets. Odd occurrences begin to happen to her. Someone is leaving envelopes with thumbprints in her mailbox, on her door, and someone, likely the same person, has been in her house.

Thumbprint is a well-crafted mystery with a horror twist. The writing is crystal. The tension builds from sentence to sentence like an ever-growing ripple.

But the end came down with a big thud and left me wondering what I missed. Joe Hill ended the story in abstract, which sometimes works, but for me, this time, I was left wanting.

For 99 cents it’s worth the read, but be warned. At the end you may be left with your mouth agape, wondering where the ending of the story has gone.