all growed up, that one.

On her blog, Jessica sums up the essence of golf in one perfect paragraph:

This week in the state where I live, there is a large golfing tournament of some kind. Beers are $2. You can also get egg salad sandwiches. The winner gets a jacket.

Jessica is one of my oldest Intertubes pals. We’ve known each other since the days of MSN on Windows 95, which to you young whippersnappers is the Internet Dark Ages. We had to pay by the hour, our computers had to dial phone numbers to get onto the Infodata Superfreeway, Apple was perennially a week or two from bankruptcy, and porn was slow.

Anyway, I’ve never actually met Jessica in person, which is a weird thing to be able to say about someone you’ve on-again, off-again talked to for seventeen years or so. (I ‘ve been owing her a lobster dinner for a decade and a half now.) I started blogging in 2002 after reading her blog, and my little affectation of typing my blog post titles in all lowercase letters with trailing period comes directly from her old blog. She stopped blogging at some point, but got back in the saddle recently, and there’s a noticeable qualitative difference between the old and the new. She has turned into a fabulous writer.  And even though I’ve heard her voice on the radio, and I know she sounds nothing like Daria Morgendorffer, I read her blog post today with Daria’s voice in my head.

What a weird and fabulous thing, this Internets. You meet the most interesting people. (For varying values of “meet”.)

the weekend that wouldn’t end.

So yeah, about the last few days:

  • Quinn turned 7 yesterday. Parental schedules being what they are, we had an early birthday party for him on Saturday. We had eight kids and as many adults in the house, and it was pretty lively. There was chili, cake, liquor, and those awesome little cocktail sausages that someone slathered with a home-brewed BBQ sauce which turned the little things into CRACK. Then one of our friends and her three kids stayed for a sleepover, so festivities were not really concluded until noon the next day as far as the kids were concerned.
  • Yesterday we took our female dachshund in for her planned c-section. We bred her again because we still don’t have the girl out of her that we wanted so we could continue her mother’s line. OF COURSE the c-section yielded…two males.
  • Last night wasn’t so hot. I had to stay up and check on the mom and pups every 15 minutes or so. I fell asleep around 2am. Robin got up just after 4am to discover that one of the pups had died. Now Raven is down to a single-pup litter, and we’re hoping he’ll make it. He’s active and nursing like a champ, so chances are good, but they’re not really out of the rough until they’re a few days old at least. He’s a very pretty color, deep red mahogany like his sire. I predict we’ll end up retiring Raven from breeding, keeping the male, and then buying a female to breed him to when the time comes. So this breeding didn’t go as well as we had hoped, to put it mildly, but we’ll make the best of it.
  • The wife and kids are coming down with something, possibly acquired when the house was packed with adults and kids on Saturday. That means I’ll be getting it too sooner or later.

So that was my exciting weekend that sort of dragged all the way into Wednesday and shows no signs of ending. I could stand about a week away from Daddy duties at this point, maybe drive down to Key West and pound down some Mojitos at the beach or something. Alas, I’m never off the clock here. At least I can do the mojito thing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a garage to clean up and some furniture to reshuffle for tomorrow’s refinancing home appraisal. Then I have to start the sausage & kale soup for dinner, and possibly collapse on the couch and sleep for eighteen hours straight.

christmas 2011 after-action report.

We had a quiet and relaxing Christmas just like last year. With Robin’s family mostly in North Carolina and surrounding states, and my family in Germany, we don’t really have an opportunity to do the Big Family Gathering type Christmas too often. We got together with some local friends for lunch and a social afternoon on Friday, and then stayed home and did the Santa thing on Saturday.

Here’s a picture of the main loot recipients this year. They made out like bandits.

Time flies, doesn’t it? To me it seems like both of them were still in diapers just last week. One morning I’ll get up, make coffee, go to wake up the kids, and find that they’ve left for college.

The kids got the lion’s share of the presents, but Santa also dropped off a telescope and some stargazing books and charts as a family gift. Our friends also thoughtfully gifted us an annual 5-person membership to the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord.

The menu for the Christmas weekend included the traditional family Christmas fare–lobsters–and such German staple items as paella and lobster bisque. The lord of the manor also consumed way too many German gingerbread cookies, and the lord & lady together pretty much drank all the eggnog. Also, we seem to be out of Bacardi now. In short, it was a typical all-American Christmas. I hope yours was as good as ours.

dear diary: today we killed a mailbox and had some chili.

We had friends over on Saturday. There was some truly excellent chili, some 15-year-old single malt Scotch, and some ballistic recreation with various devices.

One of those devices was my friend’s Desert Eagle in .50AE. We shot up a sheet metal mailbox, and I’m here to tell you that if you ever get charged by a roving pack of feral mailboxes, the .50 Desert Eagle will do the job just fine. The gun is completely impractical for defense, too expensive to plink with on a regular basis, and good for nothing but handgun hunting and Having A Blast At The Range. (Of course, “because I want one” is a totally legitimate reason for buying one, and all the justification a free adult needs for the purchase of anything.)

At one point, I decided to try it one-handed:

Disclaimer: The Scotch was consumed after the handling of firearms, hearing and eye protection was used at all times, the backstop was completely safe, and the mailbox had it coming. (Unless you’re mikeb3000000n+1, in which case the targets were defenseless minority baby seals held up by frightened first-graders, hearing protection is for Commies and queers, we were completely drunk and wearing Nazi uniforms, and the backstop was a kindergarten playground at recess time.)

Oh yeah, we also had a bonfire with a ten-foot brush pile I had in the backyard waiting for the first snow to cover the ground. Propane torches are big, dirty fun for getting a very hot fire going very quickly.

Propane torches, good food, great company, fine Scotch, and powerful firearms. What better way to spend an afternoon?


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This past weekend, I engaged in some mutually beneficial voluntary exchange of property with friends. They wanted to set up a home theater PC for their big-screen TV in the basement den, and they had a nice PowerBook G4 they no longer needed. So I traded them my Zotac HTPC, which had been hooked up to our TV but rarely used because we stream Netflix through the Wii.

Looking at the PowerBook, you wouldn’t be able to tell it’s a 5-year-old machine. They look deceptively like the current MacBook Pro models. It’s clad in aluminum, and the keyboard is backlit, which is a nice feature for someone who often writes in low-light conditions—say, early in the morning before the kids get up, or late in the evening when everyone’s in bed. The very last PowerBook model made before Apple went to Intel chips and renamed the line “MacBook”, it still has capable hardware under the hood. It has 2GB of RAM and a 120GB hard drive, and a really nice high-res display. The G4, being retired technology, is not suitable for HD video streaming or gaming these days, but it’s perfectly capable when it comes to running Scrivener or Word, and it browses the Intertubes as fast as anything else out there.

A good exchange of value is when both parties walk away from the transaction happy, and they did. My friends have a sweet HTPC and can stream Netflix to their TV, and I have a nice portable writing rig that runs all the software I need to chip the prose from the walls of the word mines.

hand-knitted organs!

Meet Laphroaig the Liver and his attachment, Glenfiddich the Gall Bladder. Those were hand-knitted for me by my Intertubes pal Karen. Pretty neat, huh?

(No idea why, of all the organs she could have knitted, she would send me a liver…)

Funny thing–when I took it out of the envelope and showed it off to the family, Quinn wanted to know what it is. I said, “It’s a liver.”

He points to the green part and says, “And that’s the gall bladder.”


Kid paid attention to his “Me and My Body” book.

If anyone’s interested in commissioning their very own knitted organs, I can put you in touch with the very talented artist who did this one.

neat stuff for excess currency disposal.

I spent the day plugging away at a new short story, putting a bookshelf together for Robin, playing with the kids, and talking to my family in Germany over Skype. (This was my mom’s first experience with the Interskypes, and the first time she has seen the grandkids since we came over with Quinn seven years ago, so she was a little overwhelmed.) All in all, it was a pretty good way to spend the day.

As announced, I have a few plugs for you—neat stuff I found on these here informational megaparkways that I think are worth the money.

  • For writing music, I’m greatly enjoying my latest find of Kerry Muzzey’s body of work. My favorite album of his is Music for the Body in the Bathtub, which is a dark, dramatic, and atmospheric soundtrack that forms sort of a narrative arc. It’s fantastic from start to finish. There’s also Trailer Music and Trailer Music 2, for more orchestral epic arrangements that are a little more varied in mood.
  • My Viable Paradise pal and critique partner Steve Kopka has a new kid novel out. It’s called Comet Jack, and it’s a cute and well-written story.
  • Local writer Jo Knowles’ YA novel Jumping Off Swings is on sale for the Kindle at the moment. Jo is published by Candlewick Press. I met her a while ago at a Q&A, and she’s a sweetheart and a fine writer. (I borrowed her storybook trick for plotting out novels, and it has served me well for the urban fantasy mystery I’m writing right now.)
  • Intertubes pal Carteach0 is holding a fundraiser to benefit the Wounded Warrior project. I know I’ll be putting in a donation. I’d love to contribute something to the fundraiser as well, but I can’t for the life of me come up with something that has value enough for people to want to bid on it.
  • Michael Z. Williamson’s new novel Rogue is now available for your purchasination. If you like good military SF, you’ll like Mike’s stuff. I really liked his novel The Weapon, and it looks like Rogue is a sequel of sorts. He was selling copies at DragonCon, and I’m too late to point you his way for that particular event, but Amazon is open 24/7.

That concludes the commercial recommendations for this evening. I may actually hit the hay early tonight, because we have visitors coming tomorrow, which requires bright-eyedness and bushy-tailedness on my part. Good night, imaginary Intertubes pals.

brief readercon recap.

I just got back in from Readercon, and boy is my liver tired.

I had a great time with my friends Claire and Chang. My first reading (as part of the Beneath Ceaseless Skies author reading) went swimmingly. It was one of the bigger con suites, and there were probably 25 people in attendance. I didn’t make a complete ass of myself, so there’s that. Reading bedtime stories to kids every night for six years makes for decent reading-out-loud training.

I didn’t go to bed until 2:30am or so on both nights because it was just too much fun socializing with like-minded folks, and talking to old friends I hadn’t seen since Viable Paradise in 2008. As is typical at writer-type gatherings, the evenings just slowly dissolved in what can only be described as staggering amounts of alcohol. At one point, we were sampling some excellent home-brewed beers in a room that was meant to hold two guests, but filled to “standing room only” capacity with twenty people.

I met Mary Robinette Kowal, albeit briefly, and saw (but did not get to say hello to) Marjorie M. Liu and Neil Gaiman and his wife Amanda Palmer. The Gaiman entourage walked in just as we were checking out, and I didn’t have time to hang around and fanboy-stalk Neil Gaiman breathlessly, but Chang did and got some pictures to commemorate the deed.

All in all, it was an excellent weekend, even with the lack of sleep. I met old friends again, got to make a bunch of new ones, and had my first con experience as a neo-pro. And now, with my motivation tanks freshly refilled, it’s back to work.