I wanted a drawbridge, but it wasn’t in the budget.

This was Castle Frostbite’s portcullis just before we left for our trip:


The state of things last week:

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And today:


I could show you a graph of our bank account balance correlating to the picture series above, and you’d see a rather significant downward curve. The corner of the porch and entry area had rotted to the point that the floor had developed a four-degree tilt, so it was high time to Get Shit Fixed. As always, once the handyman started ripping out stuff, he found more rot, so he ripped out more stuff, and so on. At some point there was a cement truck involved, but now there’s a solid foundation underneath that spot, not just logs dropped into dirt.

The job isn’t finished yet—the outside needs a new wooden stair set, and the inside of the new entry area still has two interior walls to be finished—but it’s coming along. And now I can actually get bulky things into the house via the front door instead of having to cart them around the house to the sliding glass door of the living room.

Got too much money and/or free time? You too can experience the joys of owning a fixer-upper!

frickin’ illegal immigrants.

Turns out we picked up some stowaways in Virginia. When we were at our friend’s place in SoVA, I took all the bags out of the car to restack the cargo space. The van was parked on the grass, and…well, you can imagine the rest. I’ve been pulling ticks out of kids and grown-ups since yesterday.

Today I’m bringing our housesitter to the aerodrome for her return flight in the big metal sky bus. Because the aerodrome is in Manchester, I’ll use the opportunity to meet a friend for lunch at Chez Vachon. A nice big plate of poutine won’t fix the tick infestation, but it’ll dull the edges a bit.


back from vacation. now i need a vacation.

We’re back from our trip to the South. Pictures and details later, but here’s a quick list of observations and such.


  • When you drive up the Eastern Seaboard, you have to just about take a mortgage out these days for tolls. Between the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, the NJ turnpike, and the George Washingtom bridge alone, I paid out enough in cash tolls to put about 300 extra miles worth of gas into the minivan.
  • I don’t know what goes on at 4am on a Sunday morning in and around NYC, but there must be some sort of local cop holiday or amnesty at that time. I got Fast & Furioused by dozens of cars, some of which were pretty high-dollar rides, and at least eight motorcycles. Three of those bikes passed me in the breakdown lane at triple-digit speeds. It appears that I-95 and the NJ turnpike are an informal racetrack in the wee hours of the Sunday morning.
  • New York City: your roads suck.
  • New Hampshire kids will physically start to melt when you take them on an hour-long walk of a Southern college campus in Southern spring weather.
  • Chik-Fil-A chicken biscuits are still pure crack.
  • A Dodge Grand Caravan is the best possible vehicle for 2,800-mile family trips short of a fully equipped rock star tour bus or RV. Three rows of seating, separated captain’s chairs for the kids with space to walk between, multiple outlets for recharging gadgets and plugging in coolers etc., lots of cargo space, seating for seven passengers…all in a stable ride that gets 26MPG on the highway.
  • iPods and iPads are lifesavers when traveling with kids.
  • Smartphones with 3G data access make trips vastly more survivable. You can look up real-time directions, phone numbers, and hotel information, email and message friends with updates from the road, post cutesy stuff on your TwitBooks, and generally stay connected to the world as you’re chugging down the road.
  • Delaware only seems small when you pass through its narrowest part on I-95. When you traverse it at its maximum north-south extension, it seems a lot bigger, especially when you’re going through half the state on state routes where the speed limit fluctuates between 55 and 40.
  • You don’t have to wonder whether you’ve crossed the Mason-Dixon line. Within a mile or so, you will see the first 100-foot vinyl cross by the side of the highway to let you know you’ve arrived in the South.
  • There are at least two dozen better names for the Mason-Dixon line. I suggest as alternatives “Sweet Tea Line”, “Waffle House Line”, and “Leave On Your Air Conditioning Or You Will Die Line”.
  • Don’t eat the country-fried chicken when you’re already feeling ooky from that GI bug the kids caught from their cousins a day into the trip.
  • When visiting relatives with kids, call ahead to make sure they don’t have GI bugs going around in the house.
  • When you pack clothes for the kids, don’t pack long-sleeved NH spring clothes for a southern spring climate unless you want to have to make a stop at a southern Wally World and spend $200 on shorts and t-shirts.

Other than the GI bug, which everyone but Robin was afflicted with for a day or so, the trip went fairly well. We got back half a day early because I elected to drive the return leg from southern VA to NH during the night in one go, so we had almost a whole extra day to decompress at the house yesterday. The kids are still asleep, doubtlessly happy to be back in their own beds. Or maybe they’re just tired from playing on the new playset that was installed in their absence as a surprise:


Today I have to pick up a new chicken condo at Home Despot, and then assemble the same. While I’m out, I’ll catch a matinee of that Avengionators flick everyone’s raving about. I’m fit and well-rested today–sleeping in one’s own bed after a week away is a pleasure that simply cannot be overrated.

wagons ho!

Team Munchkin Wrangler will be rolling in a few minutes. Today we’re going as far south as I can flog the Grand Marnier. We’ll do an overnight pit stop somewhere in southern PA, and hit my brother-in-law’s place in East TN tomorrow, for the first proper stop of our Southern Madness 2012 tour. Knoxville on Monday, North Carolina on Wednesday, Virginia on Friday, and back at Castle Frostbite by Sunday or Monday.

If we’ve been in touch about getting together in K-town, monitor your Intermail and Twitbooks for more precise data as we get closer.

2,000 miles, seven days, two small kids, and only one iPad. Wish me luck…

castle frostbite: (perennially) under renovation.

The Castle’s portcullis area is temporarily equipped with convection-style air conditioning:



The previous Lord of the Manor didn’t have the coin or inclination to fix the place up (or indeed have his laborers perform essential maintenance), so we’ve had to improve and fix the Castle piecemeal. We held off on the covered porch and entry area until this spring, at which time the corner of the porch had developed a visible list due to the log framework rotting away underneath.

Now the porch is gutted, the entryway had its floor removed, and the rotten logs at the bottom have been stripped. The log walls have been raised up with a bunch of ten-ton jacks. Castle Frostbite’s maintenance wizard will complete the gutting early next week and then start pouring concrete foundations so the remaining logs have something other to sit on than soil.

Oh, the joys of castle ownership! You know how they say a boat is a hole in the water that you pour money into? Well, a house is a lot like that, only it sits on the ground, and you use the bundles of cash to cover the roof and hold up the walls.

monday search term safari CIII.

ducks living in blow-up boat

See, that’s why we need Rick Santorum in the White House. He will put a stop to that sort of immorality.

letter envelope and pen

I don’t like to use them for production work, but fountain pens with italic nibs (“calligraphy pens”) make lovely lines with varying line width depending on stroke direction. There’s one you can buy at Staples or from my favorite pen pushers at JetPens. It’s called the Pilot Plumix. They’re about $8 and come with one ink cartridge. Just stay away from the Sheaffer calligraphy pens–those are junk.

happy dachshund

A happy dachshund is one who eats. Dachshunds live to eat, even more so than other breeds. When they’re not eating, their predominant moods are “belligerent” or “SLEEP MODE ACTIVATE”.

how to storyboard a novel

I don’t routinely storyboard my novels, but I did so for one of my current works-in-progress, an Urban Fantasy/paranormal mystery. Because the plot had to be airtight and planned out well in advance, I storyboarded that one using a method I borrowed from Jo Knowles. Find the freely available storyboard printable pages, and use one panel per chapter. Make a sketch inside the panel visualizing the main event or mood of the chapter, and write a one-or two-sentence chapter description underneath. Incredibly useful for keeping all your ducks in a row and seeing the flow of the story.

pretty girls in the street

See, that’s why we need Rick Santorum in the White House. He will put a stop to that sort of immorality.

olivetti lettera exclamation mark

They don’t have one. Omitting it let them save a key, because you can make the exclamation mark with the ‘ and . characters. Make a period, backspace one spot, and strike an apostrophe right above the period.

sarnafil pvs

Our Sarnafil roof is three years old, and we’ve had zero problems with it. It turned a leaky metal roof into a watertight slip-and-slide that clears its own snow load. They’re expensive, but well worth it.

can you carry an assisted opening knife in MI

Glib answer: you can carry anything almost anywhere as long as you’re willing to accept the consequences if you’re caught with the item. I don’t know MI knife laws, but I think it’s pretty sad that regular law-abiding people need to take to the Internet to find out if their home state allows them to carry a particular tool in their pocket. My own home state of New Hampshire did the smart thing a while back–they got rid of all the onerous knife restrictions that were put on the books because some legislators in the 1950s had their horn-rimmed glasses fog up in panic after they watched The Blackboard Jungle and Rebel Without A Cause. Plus, you know, switchblades. We know what kind of yutes like to carry those. (Hint: it rhymes with flop.)

hipster with powerbook

The hipsters carry MacBooks now, ever since they retired the PowerBook name in 2006. On the other hand, you could probably score hipster points again by sitting at your local indie coffee shop with an original Sony-built Powerbook 100 running Mac OS 6 and WordPerfect.

what makes marko kloos so damn sexy?

I know I’m being set up here, but that’s my favorite search term ever. I suspect it’s just a natural property, or maybe it’s that German accent combined with my unbridled masculinity. STOP LAUGHING.

far horizon traders review

My dear wife bought me a FHT leather satchel for my birthday almost two years ago, and it has worn in very nicely. It was very reasonably priced, very well made, and arrived quickly and well-packaged without any hinky business, so I’m giving FHT two thumbs up.

it’s not rape if she’s a tease

I don’t know why people need to keep pointing this out because it seems rather simple to understand as far as social yardsticks go:

If the other person said or indicated “no” at any point during the whole thing–if he or she didn’t freely consent and participate without any threat or use of force or coercion–then it’s motherfucking rape. I don’t care if she walked down the street stark naked except for a pair of six-inch heels–if you forced or coerced her in any way, it’s rape. It’s not that hard.

things you don’t want to hear at a gunshop

“Can I still buy a gun if I have a murder conviction?”

“I’ll take this one. According to prophecy.”

“Say, do you know when the bank across the street opens?”

“Uh, can I buy, like, just one bullet?”

“The Voices say I want that AR-15 carbine over there.”

“Don’t even try to rip me off. I know all about guns. I play Call of Duty every day.”

“I want that Taurus Judge. It’s a hand-held shotgun. You don’t even have to aim the thing.”

“This one is just like I used to carry in the teams. Why, this one time in Fallujah…”

“I need a clip for my gat.”

“Whaddaya mean, ‘background check’?”

“What kind of rifle would you use for a lying, cheating deer who ran off with your best friend?”

“Will this go through a cop’s vest?”

how to write a military novel

I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll recap because it’s really easy to write a military novel. Just write whatever novel you want, and then make an editing pass and insert ranks in front of every character name. Presto!

“Corporal Bella woke to find Lieutenant Edward watching her from the foot of her bed…”

And that’s the take for this week, friends and neighbors. Tune in again next week for a new round of Search! Term! Safari!

sharp of tooth and skunky of breath.


The puppy had his five-week checkup and first deworming yesterday. He’s doing just fine. His name on the AKC paperwork will be Uther, but we’re going to call him Henry around the house. As you can see, he has discovered stuffed animals, and the little pink pig is his favorite so far.

Don’t be deceived by the tranquil scene in the picture. He fell asleep while mauling his little pink pal.