Friday, February 28, 2014


It's not that I didn't know the song - it's been, um, kind of inescapable, and I've heard at least two different covers of it already... It's that I'd never watched the video. So, here's Imagine Dragons with Radioactive.

...Because post-apocalyptic muppet death-match arena, that's why.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

If you'd just quit complaining and work, we could be done by now

The Beautiful Woman and I spent the better part of an hour last night getting Firstborn to complete an assignment for school. It was something he was supposed to have done during school, only he hadn't done it (or hadn't done it correctly, I'm not sure). He was supposed to write a reasonably detailed narrative about a time when he got hurt.

Firstborn is seven years old. He's in second grade. "Reasonably detailed" in this context means "eight to ten sentences, with transitions".

It took an hour. Ten sentences. One hour.

That means it took him an average of six minutes for each sentence. Six whole minutes.

He dithered. He stared at the list of details to include. He fiddled with his pencil. He got up to go to the bathroom. He talked about what had happened, then got irritated when we said things like, "Good. Write that down." He did, in other words, almost everything in the world except the actual assignment.

Somewhere around the third time I heard myself say, "You know, if you'd just sat there and written the sentences instead of fiddling around, we would be done by now," I wondering if maybe it wouldn't be toooooooo bad an idea to wash my antibiotics down with whiskey. (Spoiler: it would be. I didn't.)

Finally, after dragging the whole thing out for just about as long as humanly possible, he finished up and we put him to bed.

Afterwards, I called my father to apologize.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Superhero Bar Stories: Truly Villainous Villains

The worst villain I've ever run across? Hard to say. I mean, you know, there's Aldakes -- he does some pretty horrible stuff, but he's careful to keep it all legal. Yeah, in some ways that makes it worse. And you hear about some horrible ones -- that guy in Arizona who was using his mind-control powers to convince people he was doing miracles, remember him? But the worst one I ran across myself...

...Okay. I've got one for you. Maybe not the worst, maybe not the most evil, but this was the guy that made me come closest to violating my rules about unnecessary violence. He was a bank robber, and he called himself Laughingstock.

His M.O. was always the same. He'd pick a place to rob, dress up in a clown costume: makeup, wig, big red nose, huge floppy shoes, the works. Then he'd walk in carrying a big, ugly plastic flower -- the kind that shoots water if you squeeze it. He'd get everyone laughing until they could barely stand, and then he'd clean out all the drawers and walk out. He'd always leave the flower behind, I think so everyone would know it was him.

Well, the first time I went after him, I was alone. So I popped up beside him, told him he was under arrest, and reached for my handcuffs. He said I looked like a SWAT team refugee and my mirror shades were twice the size of my face. Doesn't sound funny, does it? But when he said it, it was hilarious. Hell, it was the funniest thing I'd ever heard. And before I knew it, I was doubled over, laughing so hard I could barely breathe. I was furious, but I still couldn't stop laughing... and I couldn't do anything else well enough to stop him from walking away.

And that was it. Laughingstock left me lying there in the street in and got away clean.

So the second time -- you knew that was coming right? Of course there was a second time -- I stayed unnoticed and came up behind him. The plan was to stun him, and then get him restrained. I was maybe two steps back, with the stunner ready, when Blurstreak came zooming up. You know Blurstreak? I don't know what he's like out of uniform, but he can run at several hundred miles per hour, and he's sort of mostly intangible when he does. He comes at us in this blurred line of super-fast movement, and of course Laughingstock opens his mouth and says something about Casper the Windy Ghost, and follows it up with a couple of other line.

And, of course, Blurstreak falls over, helpless with laughter. So do a couple of innocent bystanders. So do I. So we're all just laying there laughing, and I'm just a little too far away to use the stunner. It doesn't matter: I dropped it, which is even funnier than being caught like this. And I'm trying to reach for something else, but I'm laughing so hard my ribs ache, and you know what? That's funny, too. Dammit.

Laughingstock turns around and sees me behind him. "Another ghost?" he says. "They gotta quit serving spirits 'round here."

And that's what finally does it. At this point everything is so funny I'm about to asphyxiate, so there's only one way to respond. I manage to pull out the splat-gun and fire off a snap-shot, right at Laughingstock's face. It explodes around his head like the biggest booger in the world, and for about three seconds this is the funniest thing I've ever seen in my life. Like, I'm actually about to give myself a stroke it's so funny.

And then all of a sudden it isn't funny at all. Any of it. Laughingstock's rolling around on the pavement, flailing at his face, trying to pry off the goop before he suffocates, and getting his hands stuck in it too. It looks like something out of one of those old cartoons, except nobody's laughing -- no, not even me.

So I step forward, slap the cuffs around his wrists, and spray the goop on his face with a big dose of catalyst so we can pull it off. By the time he's starting to recover, we have a proper gag in place -- one the lets him breathe, but not speak.

After that it was just a matter of getting him into a patrol car and sending him off to jail.

So there you go. Not the most evil villain ever, but that power of his was probably the most annoying thing I've ever come up against.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Crawling back out of the pit

So, with the help of antibiotics and various other medications, I'm slowly recovering from the whatever-this-was that has had me floored for the last week or so. Sleep is pretty critical at this point; I got a solid night last night, and I feel like I need about three more. I don't know how active the blog will be; I'm trying to catch up on some outside writing (and reading, and a half-dozen or so movies)so it's very likely that there will be some interruptions around here.

Meanwhile, I picked up the latest album from Within Temptation. It's not my favorite piece of their work, but it's well done and plenty enjoyable. Here's a sample to amuse yourselves with:

In books, I've been reading Xu Lei's Dark Prospects books, which are basically a story of adventure and exploration set in China (and Mongolia) around the time of the cultural revolution. They seem to fall into the basic category of "weird tales", and excitement, fear, and discoveries abound. If you like that sort of thing, check them out. (I haven't quite finished the second book, but I feel safe both in recommending the pair of them, and in classifying them as weird tales.)

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Hunter Prince: Crystal Resolutions

The Queen's Garden was on the north end of the castle, tucked into the corner between the Keep and the high outer wall. It was a place where gravel paths wound gently through beds of flowers, or turned off to secluded resting-areas shaded by chaba-trees and siv-vines. In the spring, both trees and vines added their flowers to the cultivated arrangements below; summer began, by tradition, when the flowers of the trees and vines fell away, to drift to the ground like brightly-colored snow.

Cyjar was lying on a stone bench in one of those enclosures. Siv-vines wound through a set of trellises all around and overhead, offering plenty of shade but still letting in the late-summer breeze. The small, red-brown siv-fruits were almost ripe; he'd eaten a couple of the redder ones already, fresh from the vine.

The book was another history, an account of the Accord of Ironthorn that had united the people of the empire with the people of the hills. His father had suggested that he read it, since in a few weeks Cyjar would go to join the hill people on their great summer hunt. It was interesting stuff, even if it had all happened two hundred years ago. One to the princes, second-prince Biltrop, had been given charge of the western outliers - a group of farming settlements that had grown up against the edge of the great forest where the hill people lived, at a time when the hill people were raiding heavily. Biltrop had begun trying to strengthen the outliers' defenses, before eventually realizing that the outliers were plundering the great forest every bit as much as hill people were raiding the towns. With that knowledge, he had taken a small force and gone to find the Forest King...

Cyjar was so caught up in his reading that, while he heard the footsteps on the gravel path, at first he didn't realize they were coming towards him. He looked up to see his cousin Seshil standing hesitantly at the entrance of the resting-area. He marked his place and closed the book, then greeted his cousin: "Seshil."

"Cyjar." Seshil hesitated, then came and sat on a nearby bench. "I wanted to talk to you."

Cyjar looked at him. They were close to the same age, and close to the same size: they both had inherited the trim, compact build common to the royal bloodline. "It's strange to see you without Dabin," he said.

Seshil chuckled. "I suppose it would be." He drew a breath. "Did you ever have something that seemed like a clever idea, something far too fun not to do... and then, looking back, realize that it was incredibly stupid and could easily have turned into a disaster?"

Cyjar considered that. There'd been a few things, after all. Once he'd gotten into the candied chaba-fruits, and eaten enough to make himself sick; once he'd decided that it would be fun to try sleeping in the stables, and awakened to the panicked sounds of guards and servants searching for him. None of that was really important, though. Seshil wouldn't be asking the question if he hadn't done something himself. And he wouldn't be asking Cyjar unless whatever he'd done had been directed at Cyjar. So while Seshil hadn't said, "I'm sorry I left a grabby-monster in your room, I shouldn't have done that," this was still a confession of sorts.

"Was it your idea, or Dabin's?" Cyjar asked quietly.

"I'm not sure," Seshil said. "A little of both, I think. That it was possible, that was my idea. Dabin was the one who thought we should really do it, though."

Cyjar frowned, turning that over in his mind. "Easy for him to say," he told Seshil. "He isn't studying with Magister Hollint. He wouldn't have to face the consequences if you were caught."

"I realize that," Seshil said, suddenly angry.

"Do you?" Cyjar pressed gently. "It's always been like this, with the two of you. You come up with these ideas, and Dabin presses you to go through with them... and lets you get in trouble for them. Dabin might not have come up with it on his own..."

"I don't know," Seshil interrupted. His anger had melted away and he suddenly looked thoughtful. "He left a Spineback in my boot when I was seven. I didn't know until I put it on. It burned, and my foot swelled... they had to cut the boot off, and the healer said I nearly lost two of my toes."

Cyjar looked appalled. "Perhaps he could have come up with it on his own, then. But you wouldn't have gone through with it if it wasn't for him. You need to stop listening to him so much." He reached down to his belt, and untied a small pouch that hung there. "Here." He tossed the pouch to Seshil.

Seshil caught the pouch and opened it, looking at the soft glow of the golden containing-crystal inside. "Thank you," he said simply.

"I haven't said anything, and I don't think anyone's checked the inventory in the King's Menagerie, so you should be able to put it back with nobody the wiser. But, Seshil... what I said a moment ago? I meant that. You and Dabin together are trouble, and sooner or later it's going to get you into trouble. Either stop listening to him, or rein him in, or... or something. He's your brother; I dont know. But think about it."

Seshil drew a deep breath. "I'll think about it. And, Cyjar? Thanks."

Friday, February 21, 2014

Dear Secondborn...

My dear, sweet child...

I realize... that you are three.

I realize that you are playing Lego Star Wars.

I realize that you are not wearing any pants.

And I realize... that as a pantsless, game-playing three-year-old... you are deeply involved in your pantsless playing of games. I realize that nothing else in the world has much, if any, importance to you. I realize that since nothing else truly matters, by all rights I ought to be perfectly willing to drop whatever trivial task I'm doing - reading a book, say, or paying bills - and come running to assist you.

However... and I realize this will come as a shock to you... I am not going to do that. I know this must seem senseless and cruel, and I can only hope that someday, in the weeks or years or decades to come, you will understand and forgive me.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Still Sick...

What started out as a rather nasty head cold last week (and may or may not have been Strep; the test came back negative, but Secondborn tested positive for it a few days earlier) has decided that it's just going to hang on, and try to work its way from my head, down to my lungs (I spent all of Sunday and Monday with Darth Vader Voice, which was the only enjoyable part of the whole thing) and now back up to my head in an attempt to become a sinus infection, an ear infection, or both.

As far as I'm concerned, this can stop any time now. I'm missing too much work, and I have waaaaaay too much that I need to be getting done there. So if I'm not feeling better by the time this publishes - like almost-completely-recovered better by the time this posts, then I'm heading back to the doctor's office. Seriously. I'm into day eleven of this. Enough already.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Child's Nightmare

Weldon Charles stood beside the crying child at the edge of the cliff. In the distance, not quite lost among the clouds, a black shape floated in the air, growing smaller as it moved away. "I lost it!" the child said, and inhaled a mucous sob. "I lost my tower."

The child looked to be about eight; a boy, slender and handsome, his face showing the first traces of adulthood. Weldon hadn't meant to help him; he hadn't meant to be here at all, and felt very much an intruder as he stood on the edge of the cliff. There were trees behind them, and trees far below; but this rough stretch of rock was utterly barren. Still, he knelt down and reached into his pack, rummaging...

His hand closed on something and he pulled it out. It was a chess piece, black like the tower, only this one was in the shape of a horse. He handed it to the boy. "If you hurry," he said, "you can still catch your tower."

The boy took the piece, but only stared at it.

"It flies," Weldon said quietly. "How else do you think it goes over the other pieces?"

The boy's eyes widened as the chess piece grew and changed, becoming a horse he was sitting on. The boy screamed in pleasure -- something that was almost a war-cry -- as his mount launched itself off the cliff.

Weldon stood for a moment longer, watching the boy and his new horse gallop away through the sky after his tower. Then he stepped back out of the dream...

...And woke in his tent. He cursed, but without any particular rancor. He didn't much like camping, and had only come this far out in order to be alone. With other people around, his dreams were never his own. He could sleep, but it was only when he was far away from everyone else that he could truly rest. It was harder every year to find some place that other people weren't, some forgotten corner of the world in which to lay his head. He didn't have the money to travel as far as he needed, or anywhere near as often. Still, it was hard to be angry with a child, who doubtless hadn't come out here alone, and certainly hadn't meant to pull Weldon into his nightmare. And with the boy dreaming happily, he might even be able to spend the rest of the night in his own dreams...

...If he could only get back to sleep.

Continued from here.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Jolly Good Morning

How am I doing? Why, I'm lovely, thanks for asking! I mean, just look around you. The birds are shining in the sky! The sun is chirping happily in the trees! All the little squirrels dance and sing with joy on their way to school. Small children dart back and forth across the parking lot, chittering cheerfully to each other as they gather their nuts. And my voice! Just listen to my voice! It sounds as if I've either just hit puberty, or started gargling broken glass! It's a full octave deeper, and rough enough to sound positively demonic!

What? Tired? No, not at all! Bushy-eyed and bright-tailed, that's me! All ready meet my new project, and start new people! As long as I don't have to actually talk to them. The projects, I mean. Or the people. I got plenty of cats last night, and the sleep didn't wake me up at all! It's just that making words so people can hear them kind of, um, makes me cough uncontrollably. But that's a real thing, smally!

So don't worry. I'll just site writ here in my computer, boot up my chair, and get to work!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday Evening Parenting Observation

Why is that every activity we undertake in order to tire out the children inevitably leaves the adults exhausted, and the kids completely unaffected?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day

It's Valentine's Day. Let's celebrate with some romantic music, shall we?

Let's start with "She's My Girl":

How could the day be complete without "The Masochism Tango"?

Finally, of course, "I hold your hand in mine":

Still not enough? There's more music in last year's collection.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Something In The Closet

There was something in the closet. Linda knew it, but she didn't know what it was. She didn't want to know. Whatever it was, it scared her.

It wasn't always there. It particularly wasn't there when anybody else was around; it didn't want anybody else. It wanted her. She knew that with the same baseless certainty that she knew it was there in the first place.

It wasn't just at night, either. Mostly that was true, but sometimes she felt it even in daylight. It got to where she wouldn't keep anything in there - nothing that mattered, anyway. Nothing that she couldn't leave behind if she ever found a new apartment. She moved a dresser in front of the closet door, while her clothes sat in neat stacks on her couch.

Her friend Debi thought it might be a ghost, which didn't help much but did make Linda feel less like she might be losing her mind completely. Debi even came over to have a look, but she never felt anything. Of course she didn't; with her in the room, it wasn't there. The closet with just a closet.

That night, as if annoyed by the intrusion, the closet door clicked open. Though the dresser was still in front of it -- Debi had helped her move it back after they checked inside -- Linda huddled under the covers, terrified, until she finally fell into an exhausted half-sleep shortly before dawn.

She made it through work, and then to class, and then went over to Debi's place and promptly fell asleep on the couch. Debi threw a blanket over her and left her there, then went to sleep in her bedroom; so neither of them saw the seat cushion rise on the big stuffed chair on the far side of the living room, or the glimmering eyes in the line of darkness beneath the edge of the cushion.

In the morning, Linda borrowed Debi's shower and then some of her clothes. She didn't have time to get back to her own apartment before class, and after class she had to go to work. It was later afternoon before she finally returned home, and found that the closed door was open. The dresser was still in front of it, but pushed out an angle to make room for the door.

"What is it?" demanded Linda. "What do you want? Are you trying to scare me? It's working." She was gesturing wildly and her voice was rising, but she couldn't seem to stop herself. She stalked toward the closet, too tired and too angry to be scared of it. "Is it me? Am I what you want?" She reached the closet door. "Do something!" She stepped inside. "Do something, or go away." She pulled the door closed behind her.

Then she stood there, in the bright clean light of a single bulb, staring at the two wooden rods with their collections of empty coat-hangers, at the row of shelves along the back wall: waiting.

Nothing happened. It wasn't here.

Shaking, she opened the door and stepped back out into her bedroom. She found a piece of paper, wrote "Fuck you!" in big, black letters on it, and taped it to the inside of the closet door. Then she closed the door, so whatever was inside would be sure to see the message. She considered putting the dresser back, but finally wrestled it into place against the wall. It hadn't kept the door closed, anyway.

That night, Linda woke in darkness. She knew the closet door had opened itself again; she remembered hearing the faint click of the latch drawing back. That's enough, she thought. Whatever this thing was, whatever it wanted, she was done being scared of it. She sat up, turned to put her feet on the floor, and stood.

She was facing the closet, so she could see the thick line of darkness even before it reached up to curl around her ankle. She drew breath to scream, but another one lashed out, whip-fast, closing over her mouth: a tentacle, a tendril, something smooth and cold and foul. Her arms were taken, too, and then she was moving forward, the bottoms of her feet burning as they slid over the carpet. She tried to put her arms out as she went through the door, but her fingers closed on empty air. She had a brief impression of the door swinging shut somewhere far behind her; then there was only the rushing darkness.

Yes, this is part of a longer piece. No, I won't ever manage to get the whole thing done. Yes, it's the direct result of a nightmare - thank you, Secondborn, for waking me up at three in the morning with your coughing. No, this won't be the only part of this that ever gets written.