Thursday, April 27, 2017

Music: Bloodborne Rap

So, I showed Firstborn the "You Died" song, and he told me I needed to listen to the Bloodborne Rap.

And since I refuse to face this alone, here you go:

Hey, if you weren't curious, you should never have agreed to submit to blood ministration.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Past The Rocks and Shelves

The cart moved slowly down the aisle. One wheel creaked with every turn: Yeenk. Yeenk. Yeenk. The two boys pushing the cart couldn't hear it, though. Their ears were stuffed with wax. Their job was simply to push, moving the heavy cart from one end of the aisle to the other. They would not empty their ears until the danger was past.

The man in the cart was heroically built, but his body was hunched over with his knees just below his chin. The breadth of his shoulders was bent down by the heavy ropes that crossed over them, tying him firmly to the cart. His wrists and ankles were similarly bound, tied together and held fast against the metal of the shopping cart. He looked ahead with curiosity and a hint of trepidation; there was no wax in his ears. That was what the ropes were for.

They were a third of the way down the aisle when the song began, rising from the shelves along either side. There things there: unnatural things, but alluring. The first faint strains of their song caressed his ears, and his arm twitched involuntarily. He stilled it, but the song continued.

They near the center of the aisle.

Then the full power of the song comes upon him, and he struggles against his restraints. The boys pause, exchange glances, then draw more ropes from beneath the cart. Deaf to his cries, his pleas, his commands, they bind the man tighter still. When they have finished, they return to pushing the cart. The man curses them, but of course they cannot hear him.

The song crests, then begins to grow quieter as they near the far end of the aisle. The man's struggles grow less desperate, less violent, until finally he is still beneath the weight of the ropes. They emerge at last, and the boys steer the cart to safe harbor beside the dairy products. They pry the wax plugs from their ears, dig fingers in to scrape out the last little bits, and yawn to equalize the pressure. Then they set about untying the man, who slumps within the cart.

In that brief time, he has changed dramatically. His face has acquired new lines, and his hair is touched with gray. He is a sadder man, but wiser: he will carry the weight of this ordeal and the knowledge of the song for however much of life remains to him.

He has heard the song of the corn chips and survived.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Music: You Died

Apparently written in relation to Dark Souls, but let me tell you: this was exactly my experience with Bloodborne. Music by Miracle of Sound:

Friday, April 21, 2017

Ash Knight Scene 2

The House of Charity was a dark, squat stone building that sat on one side of an unlit, irregularly-cobbled street. As Edrin watched, a shadowy figure pushed off from the wall and staggered away, leaving a wet stain behind in the moonlight. It caught up with two other figures who were waiting and few steps away, and the trio wandered off together. Drunk on a workday, Edrin marveled. The last of the brandy-houses would have closed hours ago; likely this group was drinking from their own bottle. They'd have made easy targets had there been any thieves about, but this neighborhood only bordered on the dockside slums. Though poor, it was still respectable, and the young men were in little danger.

Edrin watched for a few minutes longer, then eased out of the shadowed doorway and crossed the street. Ignoring the sharp smell of urine, which carried clearly on the crisp night air, he stopped at stone arch that framed the wide front doors of the House of Charity. The doors were thick oak and bound in iron, but the one on the left had a narrow slot in it for donations.

Using his cloak to conceal his movements, Edrin began emptying the messenger's bag into the slot, one handful at a time. When it was empty, he rolled it up and tucked it behind his belt. He took a moment to survey the street, but at this hour it was completely empty. He could see a single light in the distance: the lantern of a solitary watchman, moving slowly along a cross-street. That was fine; even if he was seen, he was too far away to be identified, and most likely the Watch had no idea that anyone had been stealing from the High Temple. It wasn't the sort of thing that the priesthood would willingly admit.

The House of Charity was part of the temples, of course, but it was almost as far from the High Temple as it was possible to get. It was run by the cenobitic Order of San Tribulus, and the Gardeners (unlike the higher orders of the priesthood) took their vows of poverty, charity, healing, and support quite seriously. The High Priest's coins would be put to good use here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tweets from a Random Housecat

I started a new Twitter account, mainly for my own amusement. As with everything else I do, tweets are going to be somewhat erratic and I have no idea how long I'll keep it up. However, it's amusing me, and it might amuse the rest of you as well.

Random Housecat

Monday, April 17, 2017

Compassion Burnout and Empathy Fatigue

A post on Facebook recalled this memory:

Decades ago, my brother broke both his legs in a motorcycle accident... and shortly after that, had a bad reaction to the anesthesia. He was in another city, but not out of reach; maybe a four hour drive. Only, at the time, I was in the middle of a number of issues that would eventually culminate in a divorce from my then-wife. So when the news came in, my reaction was simply: I do not have it in me to engage with this as well. If he died, well, I was going to have to deal with that; and I was going to have to deal with the fact that I hadn't been there. Even understanding that that might be the outcome, though, this was just one thing too many for me to deal with.

Now, yes: you can tell me, or I can tell myself, that this is a terrible reaction to have when your brother might actually be about to die. And that may even be true. But it doesn't - didn't - change the fact that I simply didn't have it in me to deal with that at that particular time.

It happens.

(In this case, my brother lived; he attended a Halloween party a few months later costumed as someone with only *one* broken leg - not much of a disguise, really - and only has minor residual effects.)

Caregiver Burnout is a real thing.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Oh, Lordy...

The Whiskey-and-French-Fries dinner?

Yeah, that was not the best idea I ever had. Maybe not quite the absolute worst idea I ever had, but I'd put it somewhere in the top ten.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Rorschach Joke

I am (inexplicably) reminded of this:
Heard joke once: Man goes to doctor. Says he's depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, "Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up." Man bursts into tears. Says, "But doctor...I am Pagliacci.”

If you don't recognize the context, it's here:

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Music: Want You Gone

Since I seem to be on a Portal kick:

Work stuff is still dragging on. We'll see how this shakes out.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Music: Still Alive

I know I've been kind of absent lately; I'm trying to sort out some real-world, work-related stuff, and it's eaten both the blogging and the comic. On the plus side, I'm not dead yet.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Music: Everybody Knows

Yes, I'm back to Leonard Cohen:

I was going to juxtapose it with Richard Strange singing "The Time Is Now", but for reasons I don't understand that one doesn't seem to be on YouTube.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Bingo Memes

I've been sucked into doing the United Way at work again this year, and one of our fundraisers is Virtual Bingo. Virtual Bingo is just like regular Bingo, except that A) it's done entirely over email, B) the Bingo cards have names & pictures of our department heads instead of numbers.

Naturally, I've gotten a lot of people complaining about receiving the Bingo emails when they aren't even playing. I've explained that they're supposed to see the emails and become so excited that they rush out and buy Bingo cards so that they can play, too; but for the most part they remain unconvinced (and whiny). In response, I've become even more relentlessly cheerful about our Bingo fundraiser, because I'm helpful like that.

I even made little pictures, because by God if I have to do this then everyone else has to enjoy it with me.

So... Bingo memes:
And if, by some horrid chance, you should find yourself in a situation similar to my own someday... well, feel free to use any or all of these yourself, whoever you are. And remember to smile while you're doing it. Smile big. Smile all the time.

It's the only sensible response, really.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Bloodborne Legos: the first Hunter!

Equipped with the Hunter's Axe and the Blunderbuss:

Out hunting with the Threaded Cane and the Hunter's Pistol:

I will tell you now that this game scares me silly. My six-year-old, however, is completely undeterred. And he's making Lego guys based on it.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

SONY Playstation Network Support Fail

The credit card I use for the Playstation Network quit working on the Playstation Network. (It works fine literally everywhere else.) Last night, I finally sat down to try to troubleshoot, so I could purchase the things that are sitting in my shopping cart. It... didn't work. Not even when I put in a completely different card. And when I went to the Support Forums, I found that I wasn't the only one who had this problem. So, this morning I finally found the link for their chat-based tech support. It...

It did not go well.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:02:42 AM): Hello, My name is Tech how may I assist you today?

Me (3/26/2017, 9:03:12 AM): So, my PSN account apparently cannot actually charge credit cards.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:03:46 AM): I’m sorry for any inconvenience that you are experiencing with your account, I'd be glad to look into this for you today.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:04:11 AM): Just to confirm we are working on the right account. Is the Online ID you entered at the beginning of the chat the account you need help with today?

Me (3/26/2017, 9:04:43 AM): Yes.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:04:49 AM):

Me (3/26/2017, 9:05:11 AM): Here's an overview of the problem; I'm the reply on this thread:

Me (3/26/2017, 9:05:13 AM):

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:05:21 AM): Let me ask you, are you trying to make the purchase from the console, or from the website?

Me (3/26/2017, 9:05:56 AM): I've only tried to make the *purchase* from the console, but I can't add funds to my wallet from the website, either.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:06:22 AM): Thank you for that information. Allow me to access your account and verify the events log, hopefully there is no lock on the account. Please bear with me while I check this for you.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:07:46 AM): I'm curious: if there's some sort of lock on the account, shouldn't the error message say so? All I keep getting is the "invalid credit card - check your information carefully" error, which at this point is starting to make me kinda stabby.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:08:01 AM): Thank you for waiting. After verifying your account events, the system shows that there are some failed attempts to add funds. These can happen when for some reason, such as miscommunication between the bank and PlayStation Network, the payment instrument is not accepted and gets rejected. As result, the system locks the account for a certain period of time; this is strictly, for security reasons.

In this case I will be sending you an email with suggestions that should help you resolve the issue once the block has been lifted. Again, please do not attempt to change your card or make purchases until the lockout period has ended.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:08:30 AM): ...And how long does this lockout period last?

Me (3/26/2017, 9:08:45 AM): Since I apparently have no way of seeing that the account is/isn't locked?

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:09:25 AM): In some scenarios the lock usually lasts from 24 to 48 hours depending on the number of attempts made, my best advice is to not to try within that period of time to not to extend the lock time frame.

My system shows that the last attempt was made on 03/25/2017 22:14:20 PDT

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:09:42 AM): In the meantime, let me provide you an option that does always work for these scenarios, and personally is my favorite one. You can add funds by purchasing a digital PSN card code. These can be purchased online and you get the code right away after completing the purchase online, and there are no extra fees:

All you will need to do is redeem the voucher by logging in and visiting the following link and click on “Redeem prepaid card”:

Me (3/26/2017, 9:10:23 AM): So, check me on this:

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:11:13 AM): Sure.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:12:01 AM): I had a card on file. I'd used it make a purchase back in... mid-February, I think. I tried it again a week or so back, and it said the card info wasn't valid. I finally sat down last night, re-entered the card data a couple of times, entered data for a completely different card, and now my account is locked *because of me trying to fix it*?

Me (3/26/2017, 9:12:54 AM): I realize you aren't responsible for your billing software, and I realize that sometimes these are actually issues with the banks, but that seems a bit...

Me (3/26/2017, 9:13:14 AM): ...well, infuriating, actually.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:13:49 AM): And that's leaving aside the issue where the system doesn't inform me that my account is locked.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:14:04 AM): Keep in mind that the credit card needs to support the AVS system the address on file for the card needs to be the same as the one on the PSN account, I will recommend you to verify with your bank if the card support the AVS sytem.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:14:39 AM): All right, I can ask them about that. But, again, the card *was* working.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:15:17 AM): How long have you been relying on this AVS?

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:15:47 AM): I totally understand It could be there some type of restriction on the cards that maybe was not there before.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:16:13 AM): We used this system for a long time.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:16:21 AM): I’d like to know if you have any other question or request I could help you with.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:19:08 AM): Are you still there?

Me (3/26/2017, 9:19:34 AM): Yes, I do have a request. Could you forward this to you IT guys, or whoever handles the billing software? I quick stroll through the support forums suggests that while the numbers aren't huge, I'm not the only one having this problem. And if the system is going to lock my account for security purposes, it should tell me A) that it has done so, and B) when I can expect the lock to be removed. I should not have to guess. But honestly, given that those same credit cards work fine elsewhere, this looks to me like a problem with the billing system.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:19:52 AM): Do you know for sure that my account actually *is* locked? I mean, is that something you can see?

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:20:42 AM): I really apologize for the inconvenience this lock can take 24-48 hours to be remove i will recommend you that you try once the time pass contact us back with case number XXXXXXXX.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:21:23 AM): So you *can* see that there's a lock on my account?

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:21:41 AM): Correct.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:21:52 AM): Dear God.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:22:57 AM): All right. What happens when 48 hours has passed, and I try this again, and your system still refuses to process my credit card? I'm not real keen on taking the extra step to go purchase some sort of gift card, import that, and then purchase things. I put a credit card on file so I wouldn't have to do that sort of thing.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:24:01 AM): If the issue persist contact us back and will try to help you so far due to the lock on the account you will be unable to make any changes.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:24:22 AM): Also, at least one of the items in my cart is on sale. I have no idea if it will still be on sale in 48 hours. It's probably no more than a couple of dollars, but...

Me (3/26/2017, 9:24:44 AM): Does it keep the price it was at when I first attempted to purchase it?

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:25:07 AM): I recommend you to purchase the PSN cards and you will be able to made the purchase right now.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:25:14 AM): No.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:25:27 AM): Can you escalate this to someone who has the authority/access to lift the lock?

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:26:09 AM): Ok. In this case Please wait for the system to remove the lock because this lock was made automatically by the system and will be remove the same way.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:26:22 AM): CAN it be removed manually?

Me (3/26/2017, 9:26:36 AM): Is there someone in your hierarchy who can remove it?

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:27:05 AM): I'm really sorry but there is no option to be remove manually it was made automatically by the system.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:27:35 AM): And you have no higher level of support to escalate this to?

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:29:04 AM): There is higher levels but since the lock was made automatically by the system this could have happened because of events that can interfere in the communication, such as high traffic on the servers, several purchase attempts from different sites (for example, console and website) which enable the anti-fraud system on the PlayStation account, locking for a period of time the usage of credit cards or PayPal accounts.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:29:58 AM): 'Cause if that's the case, SONY needs to give you guys better resources. There's no good reason why you should be unable to help, or to get me to someone who can.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:30:02 AM): It will be remove on time frame provided I'm really sorry since this can not be remove manually for you I am sorry since I did not help you in the way that you wanted I have done everything possible

Me (3/26/2017, 9:30:11 AM): I know.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:30:17 AM): You've been lovely.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:30:33 AM): And I understand that there are limits to what you can do.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:31:24 AM): But this is asinine, and if you have any sort of channel for passing suggestions to management, you should probably point out that neither of us should be in this position.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:32:27 AM): Is there a corporate contact/customer feedback phone number somewhere?

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:32:52 AM): Thank you for your feedback Edward for sure i have take notes of this situation and i wish i can provide to another option.

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:32:59 AM): Phone support is available at 1-800-345-7669 and our hours of operation are:

8:00AM to 8:00PM Pacific Time, Monday-Friday

Closed on Saturdays and Sundays.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:33:33 AM): Is that technical support, or customer feedback? (Useful either way, but...)

Tech (3/26/2017, 9:35:38 AM): We take the feedback for you and provide the information as well

Me (3/26/2017, 9:37:20 AM): Okay. I'll contact them and let them know that neither of us should be in this position.

Me (3/26/2017, 9:38:21 AM): Thank you. You've done everything you can. I'm still pretty angry, but it's at SONY and this benighted system. You've been as helpful as you possibly could.

TL/DR: They can't troubleshoot my account because there's a lock on my account. There's a lock on my account because I was trying to troubleshoot my account. The system does nothing to alert me that there's a lock on my account, let alone when the lock will expire, and the tech cannot remove the lock or get me to someone who can remove the lock. The only available solution is to wait for 48 hours, try again, and then -- when the credit card still fails to work -- to try to get in touch with support again.

I am... not entirely satisfied with this.

I hope to hell that the poor support tech's day gets better from here. It sucks when your job is to solve people's problems and you aren't actually given the tools to solve their problems. (That being the case, I've removed the tech's name from the transcript, because none of this is really the tech's fault.)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Bloodborne Legos

So... Secondborn is supposed to be asleep. It's ten o'clock at night. But he keeps emerging from the bedroom.

He's been building Lego Bloodborne characters, complete with weapons. So far he's brought me one guy, with a threaded cane and a hunter's axe. He's trying to figure out how to make a saw-blade weapon. Meanwhile, he found a hunter's pistol and brought that out too.

As with so many other things involved in parenting, I can't decide if this is a righteous blessing, or a sign of my impending doom.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Results-Driven Deity

Saw this on Facebook:

And I just... I can't stop laughing.

Can you imagine if Jesus' ministry was results-driven? Can you imagine if Lord Almighty was results-driven?

"All right, human beings. Listen up. That is it. I gave you a perfect place to live. I gave you one rule, and you broke it. I sent you out into the world, and you trashed it. I wiped out the entire sinful lot of you and preserved only the truly faithful, and left them with written instructions so nobody could get confused. And what did you do? You spread right back out and went galloping straight back to sin and iniquity! I came down there and lectured you Myself and left you with a further set of instructions. And look at you now! Just look! I boiled the whole thing down to two rules: love Me and love your neighbors. And what are the two things that you consistently fail to do? Well? That's right.

"I'm sorry, humanity. But after extensive review in committee, We've decided to cancel your funding. We're just not seeing results. You will not be renewed for next season. The good news is, I'm not going to unmake you Myself. No need, really. You'll manage it all on your own. Probably something with North Korea, but that would be telling. Good day, My children."

Friday, March 17, 2017

Opening Scene for Ash Knight

This is the opening scene for something I never finished, but probably should have:

Edrin crouched atop the thick stone wall that surrounded the temple grounds. He balanced easily, despite the rough irregularity of the surface. Chunks of glass had been set into a layer of mortar along the top of the wall, but those were only meant to discourage casual intruders. Edrin's feet found places between them, and the leather of his boots, though soft, was thick enough to protect the places where they pressed against his feet.

The area below him was dark and empty: an open area of grass and a few scattered trees. Edrin dropped into it, then pressed himself back against the wall. Nothing moved; no one cried out. He crossed the grass with steady strides, knowing that if anyone emerged from the buildings ahead there was nowhere he could hide - and knowing also that sprinting for cover would draw all the wrong sort of attention if someone did happen to glimpse him.

A covered walkway ran along the back of the nearest building. He reached it, crossed between two decorated stone pillars, and stopped again. Still there were no sounds -- no human sounds, anyway. The wind stirred softly between the trees and ran its invisible fingers through the grass, while insects whirred and buzzed in the darkness. The Temple Guard would have people nearby, but for the moment Edrin was alone.

He crouched, focusing his energy, then sprang into the air. His hands touched the edge of the roof, and guided him over. His feet landed lightly against the graveled surface of the rooftop, and he straightened. The walkway beneath ran from the Temple offices to the rear gate; the messenger would almost certainly come this way. All Edrin needed to do was wait.

He lay back on the gravel, stilling his thoughts and focusing on his breathing. He could restore his energy, at least a little, before the messenger arrived. Then he heard a door open, and cautious voices drifted across the night air. He turned his head, but still couldn't make out the words. Now he could hear footsteps as well, moving down the walkway. Or perhaps I'll rest later.

He waited until they had passed, then sat up and leaned over the side of the roof. Hanging his head down, he saw three men. The front and rear were heavyset, muscled, and armed; the one in the center was smaller, and carried a messenger's pouch. They seemed wary of the darkness -- as they should be, he thought -- but Edrin had no trouble picking out the Temple's sigil (a divided circle) on the carry-pouch. He swung down, and dropped lightly to the ground. No one appeared to be following the three men, so he fell in behind them. His steps were silent on the flagstones, even when he started to run.

A staff came into his hand as he reached them, formed from the stuff of the Heavens and layered with the curses he desired for this night's work. He brought it across, clipped the rear guard on the side of his head, and swung back to catch the messenger with a mirror of the same strike. Both men were falling as he passed them, and the lead guard was just beginning to turn when Edrin brought the staff down upon his head.

He skidded to a stop as the men hit the ground, and the staff shimmered out of existence. Reaching down, Edrin slipped the pouch off the messenger's shoulder. It was heavy in his hand, just as it should be. He opened the clasp, and saw a mixture of coins and promissory notes. That was good, but the presence of the guards was even better. A messenger might be counted on for discretion, but guards... sooner or later, guards would talk.

The time for discretion was past. He sprinted back across the grass, sprang to the top of the wall, and dropped easily to the street on the other side. It would have been easier -- and far, far safer -- to ambush the messenger outside the walls of the temple, but Edrin meant to send a message to High Priest Mathal Turvis: your status will not protect you.

The first pouch had been simple: it was carried by a solitary messenger who was not expecting trouble. This time the messenger had been accompanied by guards, which was all to the good as far as Edrin was concerned. Next time would most likely be a trap, so he would have to vary his pattern to avoid it. He could not afford to be seen.

Smiling under the hood of his cloak, Edrin walked away from the temple.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Real Work Conversations: Hunters and Badgers

My boss: "So I'll have to hunt that down."

Our Co-worker: "You're a hunter."

My boss: "I'm a hunter. Actually, I'm a badger."

Our Co-worker: "Now I have that stupid song stuck in my head."

Me: "Well, now everything is awesome."

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Employee Discount for the Fitness Center

So, I got a call from a fitness center -- the local branch of one of the big national chains. "Several of your employees work out here," said the fellow, who claimed to be some sort of manager. "They'd like to see if we could set up some sort of employee discount for them."

"What did you have in mind?" I asked.

"Well, we create something where your employees can go online and sign up at a discounted rate."

"That sounds fine," I told him. "Just send me a link to the portal, and I'll put it up on our internal discount pages."

"Great!" he said, and we got off the phone.

Well, a few hours later I get an email from the fitness chain - not the guy who'd called me, but someone else. (I'm guessing this is some sort of corporate or at least regional department that handles discounts like this.) And it doesn't have a link, it has a PDF attachment -- which, when I open it, turns out to be a legal agreement rather than, say, an actual discount.

So I email them back. "Why am I looking at a legal contract?" I ask. "We don't usually do things this way. The guy I spoke to said you were going to send me a portal that I could link to. And why does the contract say the offer is only good for sixty days?"

The response I received was... not illuminating: "Oh, yes! It's a sixty-day period for your employees to sign up. The contract will allow us to move forward on creating a portal for you!"

Okay, fine, sure, whatever. I sent the contract over to the head of Purchasing, who has the authority to sign such things.

The head of Purchasing read over the contract, filled in a 60 day date range in the blanks (March 1 to April 30, which seemed pretty sensible since it was still a week before the end of February), and marked out the line that said we'd provide them with our employee records so they could confirm employee statuses. He initialed the change and signed it, and I scanned it in and we sent it back.

A day later, I got another email from the fitness center people. This one explained that they couldn't sign a contract with something marked out, so they were sending me another copy without that line. I checked it, and they had indeed removed that one bullet point. They had also copied over the dates we'd put in. However, the time period next to the dates now said "twelve months".

So I sent it back to them, with a note suggesting that they should either expand the dates, or change the time period to match the current set of dates.

Three days later I got another copy of the contract. They'd updated it. Now, instead of "twelve months", it said "sixty months".

I gave up. I pulled up Acrobat Pro and edited the document myself. The head of Purchasing signed the revised version, and we sent it off again. By now, of course, it's already March.

Two days ago, we got another email from them. This time they wanted to know what site we were going to place their link on "so they could make it match". Okay, sure, fine. They wouldn't be able to see our actual intranet, but we sent them the link for it.

Now, owing to an odd bit of history that resulted in some complicated jiggery-pokery on our network, that particular web address doesn't always take you to the same site. If you open it from inside our network, it takes you to our intranet site. If you open it from anywhere else, it routes you over to our main, public website. This is more than a little bit daft, but that's how it works.

And that is exactly why we got an email back from the fitness people yesterday, explaining that they couldn't send us an employees-only link to be placed on something that was clearly a publicly-accessible website.

You have to understand, we don't have a dedicated Employee Discount person. We do this on the side ("other duties as assigned") as a courtesy to our fellow employees and local businesses. We sent back an explanation, but at this point we've wasted waaaaaay more time on this discount than it's worth. They'll either send us a link to whatever purchasing portal they put together, or they won't; I'm done messing with it.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Secondborn Wears All The Clothes

Secondborn had One Of Those Thoughts last night, and decided to put on as much clothing as he could manage. Behold!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Busy Writing

So... I'm behind both here and over at Surreal Situations. This is partly because my sinuses have been trying to murder me, and partly because my free time is limited (the next bit of Surreal Situations requires me to recreate an earlier scene -- which is certainly possible, but it means referencing the existing pictures, finding the right props, and getting them all back together - it isn't quick). Mainly, though, I'm behind because I've been working on The Chained Man, which I recently mentioned as possibly the weirdest story idea I've ever come up with. It's coming together nicely, though it's still pretty early in the Zero Draft: I have a first chapter of five or six pages, and maybe three pages of chapter two. Admittedly, it's torn me away fromthe Nameless project I'd been working on, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. I keep restarting Nameless, whereas The Chained Man is sort of pulling me along with its own momentum.

I will get back to Surreal Situations this week, though. It's too much fun to let go.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The First Time I Played Bloodborne: A Memoir

So, a couple of weeks ago I finally got around to playing Bloodborne. (If you have no idea what that is, it's a dark and fairly gruesome video game. Check out Wikipedia or watch the trailer.) I was interested in it mainly because I'd been told that it had a lot of Lovecraftian themes, and fighting horrible monsters with bladed weapons in a cursed or haunted city sounds like exactly my sort of game. My knowledge of the game, however, was limited to one or two casual conversations; I had not, for example, watched youtube videos of the gameplay, or looked at any walkthroughs, or really even read much in the way of reviews.

So I bought the game, installed it, and fired it up.

This was... educational.

The game begins -- and I don't think I'm really giving anything way here -- with a cutscene that lays out the basic plot dynamic. You've come the city of Yarnam looking for something called "Paleblood" and you're going to have to become a hunter to do it. Tonight is the night of the hunt, which will give you your chance. In order to do all this, you'll need a transfusion of Yarnam blood, and in order to get that you'll need a contract. The contract is actually the character creation process, which allows you to customize your character's looks and select one of maybe eight or ten backgrounds that determine your starting abilities. I selected the one that said I had a tragic past but was tougher because of it, because I wanted a character who would be hard to kill. This will become funny in just a moment.

So, having generated the character, I signed the contract and watched the admirably-spooky cutscene.

After the cutscene, my character woke up in the now-empty clinic. I looked around a little bit, then headed downstairs and promptly encountered the Giant Wolfy Monster in the lower room. There were some little bubbling spots in the floor that looked like puddles or maybe pools of water, but I circled around those; they didn't look safe. After considering my situation -- i.e. unarmed, fresh from a medical procedure, and having discovered no other ways out of the building -- I decided to try to sneak around the Giant Wolfy Monster and out the door on the far side.

This went exactly as well as you might expect: I died immediately, and horribly.

At this point I found myself in a new setting: The Hunter's Dream. The little bubbly-water areas were on the ground here, too, but this time they had creepy little homonculi half-emerging from them, and holding out weapons. That looked a lot more encouraging, so I went over and tried talking to them. This was the point at which I discovered that these are Messengers, that they were offering me weapons and weren't going to try to kill me, and that by avoiding all the puddles in the original room I'd conveniently avoided all the little messages that would have told me which buttons on the controller allowed my character to do what. I made my selection of weapons, then wandered around talking to the messengers and getting basic instructions, and looking at the other things in the area. Much of it couldn't be activated yet, but I was expecting that; I'd just started the game, after all.

So I found the little headstone that let me return to the waking world, and came out back in the clinic -- downstairs, of course. With the Giant Wolfy Monster, of course. This time I took a moment to consult the messengers here, and learned how to do things like run, attack, dodge... you know, just the minor little extras. Nothing that important.

Now that I was ready, I tried a few practice swings and discovered that I still didn't have any weapons. This, despite having selected an axe and a pistol back in the dream. Well, maybe I needed to get a little further along in the game before I could use them. Maybe having selected them in the dream, they'd show up later here in the waking world. I could work with that. All I had to do was get past the Giant Wolfy Monster. And while I didn't have weapons, I did at least now know how to make an attack. I tried it a couple of times, and sure enough my character would smack things.

So I walked into the next room and attacked the Giant Wolfy Monster bare-handed.

This also went exactly as well as you might expect: I died immediately and horribly.

I tried again. I died. I tried again. I died. I tried again. I died. I tried again. I died. I dodged past the monster and out the far doorway, then raced up the steps and threw open that door. The monster caught up with me and I died. I tried fighting the monster again and died. I tried dodging past the monster and out the door into the small courtyard, and had to stop and open the gate out of the courtyard. I died again. I dodged around the monster again, made it all the way out of the courtyard and out onto the streets of Yarnam. I'd escaped! I took a moment to look around, found some corpses on the ground and searched them for useful items. Then the Giant Wolfy Monster jumped out of the gate and killed me again.

Well, all right: there was a guy around the corner, patrolling the street with an axe and a torch. Maybe he would help me with the Giant Wolfy Monster? I dodged around the monster, raced out of the building and through the courtyard, ran up to the guy, and waited to see if he'd help me.

Nope. Killed me with his axe.

I tried again, but this time I just ran up and attacked him. He looked mostly human, with his coat and top hat. Surely he'd be easier to kill than the Giant Wolfy Monster. Maybe I could take him bare-handed?

Nope. Killed me with his torch.

After dodging past him three more times, I figured out how to lower a ladder and escaped up to a ledge. I was safe! Finally! Maybe I was close to the area where I'd finally get my weapons, and hopefully some sort of tutorial to introduce me to how combat in this game worked? (Remember how I carefully chose a character whose background would make him hard to kill? I sure did.)

I moved a little further along, and crossed a bridge.

A guy burst out from behind a stack of crates, swinging a scythe at me. I took one look at him and jumped off the nearest ledge. I landed with only minor injuries, and started to explore the tiny little raised yard where I found myself now. There was, of course, no way back from here. There was also (of course) a fire lit in the middle of the yard, where a crucified monster was being burned at the stake. Presumably that was what the townsfolk did on the night of the hunt. And there was a guy standing by the stake. Maybe if I approached him, he'd help me out?

Nope. Attacked me with a cleaver.

This time, however, it went a bit differently: he lunged forward and got too close to the monster-burning pyre. Y'all, my very first kill in the game happened because one of the townsfolk set himself on fire and died.

...And didn't I feel silly two hours later, when I finally figured out how to equip the weapons I'd received in the first five or ten minutes of gameplay? Ohhhhh, yes. Yes I did. And then I went straight back and killed the hell out of that Giant Wolfy Monster, and the guy with the axe, and the guy with the scythe, and the guy with the cleaver.

Annnnnnnd then I stepped out into the street, where a whole group of townsfolk immediately turned on me and I died. But at least this time I was able to go back and eventually kill them too.

Now, I realize that that isn't really how the game is intended to be played. For one thing, I'm playing it offline. (I play video games so I don't have to interact with other people.) Apparently if you play it online, other players in other games can leave little notes at various spots in the landscape, often with helpful tips and warnings. For another, I imagine most people who start Bloodborne have already played the Dark Souls games and are at least passingly familiar with the interface. I was not, which was how my character ended up carrying perfectly serviceable weapons but not actually using them. But even taking all that into account, I do think the game could have maybe offered just a little more instruction, particularly in regards to the inventory system (which I finally discovered by accident).

On the other hand, trying to escape the clinic and explore Central Yarnam with no weapons whatsoever made for one the most harrowing experiences I've ever gotten out of a video game.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Penny War

We're having a Penny War at work (to raise money for the United Way). The way this works is that each department gets a jar, and people put pennies ("or bills", but I can barely type that with a straight face) in the jar, and the department whose jar has the most pennies wins. Easy, right? The catch is that any "silver coins" - nickels, dimes, quarters - count against your total... so you can go sabotage other departments' jars by dropping coins in them.

This led to yesterday's spectacle, wherein one of my co-workers emerged from her cubicle with a plastic cup full of change, sorted all the pennies into our jar, and dolefully announced: "There goes my retirement..."

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Rough Night Of Considering Entropy

Despite being completely exhausted and (for once) sensibly going to bed as soon as the boys were down (around 9:00), I only slept for about five hours. Part of that was the cat - he tends to get annoyed when people are sleeping in the loft bed, and frequently starts meowing plaintively in the middle of the night - but I told him to shut up and he actually did, and I really should have been able to go right back to sleep after that. I think I've been doing that thing where I'm really not getting enough sleep, so I'm exhausted, so I push harder to get things done, so I get even less sleep. Though come to think of it, I also took some Theraflu before I went to bed, and slept pretty deeply - this could easily be a combination of sleeping (and breathing) better than usual, and my body being on a schedule where it thinks it's supposed to wake up after five or so hours.

...Which is fine, insofar as I do feel rested. Unfortunately, I feel rested at 1:30 in the morning, which is probably not going to help me at work tomorrow. And I woke up both depressed and adrenalized. There are several things that are probably contributing to that, too. we're in the middle of a season of big transitions at work, which is both frustrating (as it has a lot of things on hold) and slightly terrifying (as I think some of our systems are going to break down in ways that our current staff won't be able to fix). Our elected officials seem to be making a concerted effort to tear down the government that employs them - I'd single out Trump and Bannon, but I can make a decent case that tearing down the government has been part of the overall Republican platform for a couple of decades now. (I think that a lot of the people who voted for these clowns specifically to tear down government programs - repeal Obamacare, get rid of "entitlements", rid of governmental oversight and the "nanny state" - are going to be unpleasantly surprised when things actually start to fall apart as a result of all that tear-it-down policy, but somehow that isn't making me feel any better about it.) On top of all that, a friend of mine died a couple of weeks ago. I can't say he was a close friend, and we were friends mostly online (but not exclusively so - when he came to Texas a few years back, I organized a sort of "welcome to hell" party for him, and he dragged me out to a couple of concerts while he lived here in town, with some really excellent music that I wouldn't have known about otherwise). So, yeah: we weren't incredibly close friends, but he was one of those bright, erudite, funny people who, even if they never accomplish anything super dramatic, make a big difference to the world in countless small ways. I miss him. The world is a darker place without him.

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. I almost never used to feel that way, but by God I'm feeling it now. I can totally see how God -- if He's out there -- could look at the world and think that human beings weren't such a good idea after all. Admittedly, I'd still try to sway Him with the old "What if you only find one righteous man?" argument. The world we have may not be perfect, but I still think it's worth preserving.

But I'm honestly not worried about any sort of divine judgement or retribution, not even if our country is guilty of the sin of Sodom (the one described by Ezekiel 16:49, mind you, not the one everybody thinks of as sodomy). That's one of the advantages of being an atheist. No, if everything falls apart it will all be on us.

And I suppose that's what really worries me: I'm coming to grips with the deep, visceral realization that human beings can look at all the advantages we have, all the programs we've put in place to make our collective lives better, or at least less miserable -- from support for the arts, public libraries, and school lunches right on up to public schools, political compacts designed to keep Europe from erupting into world-engulfing wars every 20-50 years, vaccines, drinkable water and breathable air -- that people can look at all those things and conclude, "Eh, we're better off without 'em." I'm pretty sure there was a time when I thought that wasn't possible.

Now I'm pretty sure it's happening.

Monday, February 27, 2017

You know what's funny?

"You know what's funny?" Firstborn asked me.

I was lying on the couch, reading on my Kindle and probably two minutes away from fading into a nap. So I said, "Clowns."

"Clowns are scary," he told me, while he switched on the Playstation and activated the controller.

"Good point."

"You know what's funny?" he asked again, and turned on the television.

"Kittens," I told him.

That stopped him. "Kittens are funny," he admitted. There was a long pause.

"You know what's funny, though?"

This time I said, "Puppies." I was not feeling at my most creative.

"Yes," he said. He paused again. "And now I've forgotten what I was going to say."

"Hm," I said. "You know what's funny?"

"What?" he asked.

"Distracting your son until he forgets what he was going to say." I looked back down at my book, ready to return to my reading.

That was when he came and sat down on top of me. "You know what's funny?" he asked.

"What?" I wheezed.

"Using your father as a cushion while you play your video games."

"Oh," I wheezed. "Yeah, that is funny."

Friday, February 24, 2017

Nameless Choices

Somber sat on the stone railing of a balcony, looking down at the crowd below. It was the final night of Harvest, and even here in the second-largest city of the Aricanus Empire that meant that a day of furious trading had given way to a night of furious celebration. Somber had no part in any of it, but he savored the moment of being completely and gloriously alone. He hadn't been alone for the last five weeks, and he hadn't really expected to be left alone at all.

Down in the square, the citizens of Dairilos (and no few foreign visitors) circulated slowly around the central fountain. The fountain was an impressive sight, and there were always a few people gathered around its edges to look up at the statues of the three warriors who stood back to back at its center. The one facing Somber held a shield; the other two held a sword and a book. Here and there, small groups had stopped to talk or joke or sing, but the body of the crowd flowed around them. Out near the edges of the square, people wandered in and out of the restaurants or grouped around the musicians who had set up in the corners of the square. Somber squinted, staring down at a group that was forming midway along one wall: they seemed to be watching a couple who had decided to have sex right there on the edge of the square. On any other day of the year, that would have merited the attention of the Watch, but tonight it was just another part of the entertainment.

Shortly after finding his way to the square -- and shortly after his friends, Blaze and Frost, had left to make their way back to the hostelry -- Somber had made his way into one of the restaurants. He hadn't been particularly hungry, but Dairilos was known for baking its food into its bread, and the smell had simply been too tempting. This particular restaurant took up most of the ground floor, which was empty save for a handful of tables. A long loaf of bread had been laid out on the bar at the back of the room, with a row of bowls in front of it. The custom was to take as much food as needed, and leave a few coins in the bowls to pay the cost. Someone had tapped a keg of beer and set it on the end of the bar with another bowl beside it. Assuming everyone honored the custom -- and as Somber understood it, most were inclined to be generous -- it was a clever way to have the restaurants open while still leaving the staff free to celebrate.

None of that really mattered. What mattered was that Brother Moon and Sister Glow were still at the hostelry, and that Blaze and Frost had gone back there. It was the first time he'd been truly alone since they left the monastery. Since before that actually: it was the first time he'd been truly alone since Brother Moon had told him that it was time for the three of them to return to their families. That part, Somber knew, had been deliberate: none of them were supposed to be unsupervised until their reunions were finished, because if the acolytes wandered off before they were returned to their families, the order would be deeply embarrassed.

He really didn't want to embarrass the order. It was just that he also didn't want to be returned to his family, or whatever version or remnant of it might be waiting to collect him. If they'd been willing to let him stay at the monastery, he would have been perfectly happy.

"You're not planning to jump, are you?" asked a voice from behind him. "...Because this is exactly the wrong night for it."

It took Somber a moment to react. He was lost in his own thoughts, and even hearing the words he didn't initially realize that they were directed at him. When they finally sank in, he turned and said, "Um?"

That was when he realized that he was sitting on the stone railing of a balcony overlooking the Watchers' Square from a good forty feet up, with his legs casually hooked into the stone pedestals. The monastery had been located high in the Grediv mountains, and its walls were considerably higher than this balcony; Somber hadn't considered that his perch would draw this sort of attention.

"You're not planning to jump, are you?" she asked again, and this time Somber really focused on her.

She was almost certainly a native of Dairilos. She had the black hair, the medium-dark skin, and general roundness that characterized Imperial citizens. In her case, the roundness expressed itself in an athletic musculature and high cheekbones, and she was almost as tall as Somber himself. And lovely, he thought, looking at her. She was wearing a patterned vest that bloused out over her hips, covering a loose-sleeves shirt and slacks that were tucked into low leather boots. On her left hip was something that might have been a long knife but was probably a truncheon instead. On her left arm was a shield, oval-shaped but with hooks and spikes extending from it. Either of those would have been sufficient to identify her as part of the Watch. Somber had seen them walking the streets, but all of them had been older. This woman was close to his own age.

"No," he said. "I was just enjoying the view." He paused, looking out over the crowd again. "In fact, what I really need to do is trade in this robe for another set of clothes, and then get out of the city."

"...Ah." She didn't sound convinced. "In that case, could you come back this way? You're making people nervous."

Somber swung his legs over the balcony and stood back up. "I'm sorry," he said. "I'm really not suicidal. I was just thinking."

Standing, he was taller than her but only slightly. "I hope I'm not disrupting your Harvest," he said.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

You should read...

I've been working on other things, so I don't really have anything for the Blog o' Doom here today, but if you've wandered over and you're bored, here are some suggestions:

1. I'm Sorry Steve's Dead, But Maybe He Shouldn't Have Touched My Snapple

2. How to Survive a Post-Apocalyptic Storyline

3. And now I take requests from the search logs

Friday, February 17, 2017

Ugh. Again.

I swear, every time I think I'm essentially recovered, I either end up sick again, or I come down with something new. Back at work this morning, but... ugh. This headache had better go away.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Most Unusual Story Idea

A while back, I put up a post inviting my noble readers to ask me anything. In response, Lydia came up with a series of very interesting questions. This is, I think, the third of her suggested topics:
What is the most unusual story idea you've ever come up with? If you have used it, can we read it? If you haven't used it yet, why not?
Boy, howdy.

One of the great truths of writing is that there is no new thing under the sun, and that novelty is much more in the execution than in the idea. And, as with most authors (I suspect), my writing tends to come back to certain certain themes and certain character types. We may contain multitudes, but they're our multitudes.

So I will say, without apology, that I usually tend to write either warrior-sorcerers, or some variation of (usually an expansion on) werewolves. I like characters who are versatile; I like characters who are caught in between things. (In D'n'D, I tend to play either half-elves or half-orcs. Same basic reason: I like blending archetypes, and setting up tensions between them.) But if that's my "usual", what's my "unusual"? And what would it take to qualify as "most unusual"?

I have a lot of weird dreams. Most of the memorable ones are extremely narrative -- that is, they either form cogent, coherent plots or they seem to be trying to do so. But that isn't governed by my preferences, and a lot of those bits of weirdness have been written down precisely because they feel like story ideas. Unusual story ideas.

But I think possibly the weirdest, least typical story idea I've had is the Chained Man. You can't read it... not yet. Among other things, I'm not sure if it's a mature YA story, or a full-on adult Dark Fantasy novel. I haven't gotten that far into it yet. I'm still throwing up spears and waiting to see where they fall, if that metaphor makes sense.

It's the story of a construct, a reanimated man bound by chains that run deep into the earth, for whom every bit of movement is an effort. It's the story of what happens when his master sends him out to retrieve another construct from the clutches of an invading hero. It's a story of what happens when things go horribly wrong, and the Chained Man begins to discover that almost nothing about his life is what he thought it was.

But you can't read it yet, because I haven't finished it.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Creek Walking and Moss Flinging

I have taken the boys and their grandfather down to the junction of two creeks, where we spent over an hour getting our feet wet, seeing what kind of objects float best, and practicing our moss-flinging skills. It's Texas, so the weather was perfect. The place is a bit more torn up than I remember (erosion and shifts in the soil have not been kind to the concrete), but it's still a good spot to splash around in. (In my youth, my friend and I used to ride our bicycles through here.)

When we came back from the creek, Firstborn and Granddaddy had hot chocolate. Secondborn, meanwhile, crawled into his grandfather's bathtub and stayed there for forty minutes. Still, it was a very successful outing: the boys loved it, everybody got some sunlight and exercise, and the shoes that I threw out afterwards were so old that they needed to be thrown out anyway.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Teenage Goals

Lydia also asked:
When you were a teenager, what did you think your life would be like at this point? How many of the goals you had back then have you reached? How many of those goals have changed over the years?

When I was a teenager, I really couldn't picture myself living past twenty-five. So the short answer looks like this:
Q. When you were a teenager, what did you think your life would be like at this point?
A. Over.

("It is a sobering thought, for example, that by the time Mozart was my age, he had been dead for two years." ~Tom Lehrer)

I wanted... I don't know how to express it, really. I was a strange, precocious, mostly-solitary kid. I did a lot of writing - two or three hours, every night. I wanted to have a tribe, to have people who understood me and with whom I belonged, but I was also well aware that I wasn't very good with people. I didn't date much -- not because other people weren't interested, but because I was so baffled by the social rituals involved in dating. I didn't get it, I didn't have a lot to offer (in the sense of knowing what I would need to do to conduct and maintain a romantic relationship), and as a result I really didn't try.

I think I did eventually achieve most of those goals, though it wasn't easy sailing. I did find a tribe of sorts, but at the time I didn't realize that it was possible (let alone inevitable) that sometimes you just outgrew your relationships with other people. And, of course, I did manage to reconnect with and eventually get married to the Beautiful Woman, which definitely counts as a win.

I did think I'd have published something by now, and with some minor exceptions that hasn't yet happened; but I got a wonderful wife and two extremely awesome kids instead, and I consider that a more-than-fair trade.

The best way I can think to express what I was like as a teenager is something I wrote in response to... no, never mind, I have no idea how to summarize that. Just read it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Why all the blogs?

A while back, I put up an "Ask Me Whatever" post. My iFriend Lydia responded with a variety of interesting questions, which I've been meaning to get back to for a week or two now. So, here's the first of them:
You have several old blogs that you haven't updated in ages. Do you think you'll ever return to any of them? How do you decide when it's time to move on to a new site?
The dynamic here is actually a bit different from what the question implies. With one exception, these aren't blogs where I used to post before I decided to move on; they're blogs created to handle alternate writing projects, most of which I hope to get back to "one of these days".

The lone exception is the BorderTown blog, which was originally created in an attempt to find a replacement for a message board devoted to the Bordertown books. I'd forgotten it even existed until Blogger contacted me a couple of years back and asked me to claim it. So that one really is a sort of historical artifact.

The Shining Walls was a writing project - an attempt to see if I could finish a fantasy novel if I wrote it in blog-post-sized bites. It's one I'd like to come back to, but there are some issues with the plot and setting that I need to work out first. It's about a vampire who gets reawakened to help defend the last human citadels against the hordes of darkness that have overrun everything else. Scripture's Shadow is similar; it was going to be a retelling of the Bible, probably from the perspective of Cain, but instead the stories that are there are a lot more scattershot. Monstrosities was another such projects, which would have been (and maybe someday will be) a modern dark fantasy/horror story, or possibly short story collection. (I had another one for my All The Apocalypses story, but it seems to have gone away - probably from disuse.)

Right Behind isn't really mine; it's a group blog that I'm part of. It grew out of the commentariat over at Slacktivist, and our attempts to write alternate, better versions of the Left Behind books. It's been a long time since I've posted anything there, though.

Surreal Situations is my webcomic, and the only blog besides this one that gets updated regularly. It's an alternate-worlds-spanning pulp adventure, created largely from my children's toys.

So that's pretty much the whys and wherefores of my Vast Collection Of Blogs.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

You had to ask...

My aunt asked me on Sunday how work was going.

I tried to answer her, but I'm still not sure exactly how to put this into words:

Monday, February 6, 2017

Music: How Long?

How To Destroy Angels:

I need to figure out how to put these visual effects into a story.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Birthday Bacon

In ancient times my people roamed the steppes in nomadic tribes. They fished in the streams, gathered grains and berries where they could find them, and hunted the wandering herds of caribou and ostriches. In those long-ago days, now known as the Time Before Cake, birthdays were celebrated with the ritual hunting of a Great Boar, and the sharing of bacon among the tribe.

Today, more or less in time for my birthday, we honor our ancestors and remember their ways. Though the Great Boars are long extinct, and hunting the steppes is largely illegal, still do we share bacon among family and clan. Rejoice with us in the bringing home of the bacon and the frying it up in a pan. These... these are the ways of our people.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Pop Music Observations

Huh. Whaddaya know? Turns out that Billie Jean is not his lover. She's just a girl who says that he is the one - but the kid is not his son. Well, that's what he *says*. Not sure I should believe him.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Music: Information

What am I listening to this morning? Glad you asked. Here's Eliot Sumner with Information:

Monday, January 30, 2017

Adventure Has Two Names, Actually

My father and I took the boys to the park on Sunday. I have photographs.

Firstborn relaxes on the rocks:

Firstborn charges his father:

Secondborn leaps to the rocks:

Secondborn hangs on the rocks:

Secondborn considers a nap:

Yesterday... was a good day.

Friday, January 27, 2017

In Bed

On my way into work this morning, I found a fortune (from a fortune cookie) in the pocket of my jacket. It said:

You skills will accomplish what the force of many cannot... bed.

Okay, then.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Venger Needs A Better Strategy

A few years back, in a fit of nostalgia, I purchased a DVD with the first season or so of the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon (caution: YouTube video). (You can read about the history of the show here.) Two days ago, Firstborn stumbled onto the DVD and started watching it.

The first time I re-watched it, it occurred to me that I'd badly misjudged Eric, the Cowardly Cavalier. Sure, he was obnoxious; sure, he was constantly complaining; sure, he was often trying to get the group to avoid walking directly into the most dangerous areas around. Sure, he criticized Dungeon Master for giving vague (and unhelpful) hints and riddles instead of actual guidance, and for disappearing when the group could most use his help. Thing is, he was very frequently right.

This time, watching it with the boys, it occurs to me that Venger is missing a really obvious opening. I mean, he keeps sending monsters after the kids, or setting traps for them, or using his magic to try to trick them. And I suppose, since Venger is "The Many Faces Of Evil" that such things kind of go with the job description.

But The Many Faces Of Evil would probably have gotten better results if he'd just shown up, introduced himself, and said: "Look, I think we got off on the wrong foot, and that's totally my fault. I was thinking of you as enemies, but it doesn't have to be that way. Why don't you come work for me, instead? I promise that I won't send you anywhere without telling you exactly where you're going and why. It won't just be vague riddles that cause more trouble than they prevent - I'll give you real information. At the end of the year, you turn your weapons over to me and I will see to it that you all return safely to your home. In the meantime, you'll receive generous salaries. You'll sleep in well-appointed houses - or all in one big house, if you prefer - with comfortable beds, excellent food, and hot running water. What do you say? It's all here in the contract, just sign at the bottom."

With an offer like that, I'm thinking that at least half the group would have turned on Dungeon Master in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

100 Truths About Me

...Because I'm brain-dead, and I saw this on Facebook. and why not?

100 Truths about me!
1. Real name: ...Never appears online if I can help it. I grew up in the era of the Great Paranoia About The Internet. Besides, in some ways I'm more Michael Mock than I am my IRL identity.
2. Nickname: Yeah, no. I've used a few handles online (especially back in the day, when that was thing) but the closest thing I've ever had to a nickname was "the wind", which was coined by a guy on my hall in the dorm at college, because I kept appearing or leaving without him noticing. I maintain that it's not my fault that he wasn't paying attention.
3. Favorite color: Meh? Green, black, gray, silver... in roughly that order?
4. Male or female: Male, but not too worried about it.
5. Elementary school: True story - my mother had me placed in ESL for first and second grade. She knew I was a weird kid, and figured I'd do better with teachers who were busy with other things. No, I don't really get it, either. But I spent my first two years of formal schooling in a setting where half the time I didn't understand the language.
6. Middle school: An odd little private school in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex.
7. High school: An odd little private school in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. I graduated at sixteen.
8. College: Two years at one college, which I've written about here and there; then I transferred and finished up at another college (with a major in English and a minor in Anthropology - would have been the other way around if that had been possible). Then I got a Master's Degree in English. Naturally, after a couple of years of being nearly unemployable, I got a job in IT.
9.Hair color: Used to be a brown so dark it was nearly black. Now it's gray -- I blame the boys for that. I hold to the hope that this makes me look distinguished, respectable, or at least mildly reliable, but I'm not counting on it.
10. Tall or short: Almost exactly average.
11. Sweats or jeans: Cargo pants all the way, baby! (Seriously, I need the pockets. Being a father has only made this worse.)
12. Phone or camera: Are there phones that aren't cameras? I have both, regardless.
13. Health freak: No, not really. As long as my body does what I want it to do (which sometimes includes, say, climbing, and sometimes includes, say, lying around reading for hours) I'm good.
14. Orange or apple: Apple.
15. Do you have a crush on someone: I know I'm supposed to say "my wife", but actually no. What I feel for the Beautiful Woman isn't a crush, and while I occasionally get crushes on people they tend to fade pretty fast since I have no interest in actually pursuing them.
16. Guy friends or girl friends: Yes, sure, absolutely. Oddly enough, I think I have more friends (and more close friends) online than in meatspace, but the guys/girls numbers are pretty even.
17. Piercings: My left ear used to have two piercings, but they've long since grown closed.
18. Pepsi or coke: Meh. Mostly Sprite these days, and that only with rum. Tea, though. Lots and lots of tea.
19. Have you been in an airplane: Yes.
20. Have you been in a relationship: Yes.
21. Have you been in a car accident: Yes.
22. Have you been in a fist fight: Yes.
23. First piercing: Left ear. My mom was strangely appalled, considering that she'd given me permission to get it done.
24. Best Friend: At this point, the Beautiful Woman - hands down. Runner up would be one of my college friends, who appears in some of my fiction as Rook or Raven.
25. First award:...No idea. I lettered in track in my tiny-as-hell little private school. I might have won a Pinewood Derby at some point, or not. I wasn't much for awards.
26. First crush: Dorcy Siegel, who was in sixth grade while I was still in fifth IIRC. She could do a standing back flip, without mats or trampolines or anything. If you're thinking that I was probably to young to appreciate what a crush was or what to do about it at that age, you'd be absolutely right.
27. First word: I didn't speak until I was seven years old. My parents thought there was something horribly wrong with me, and kept taking me to specialists, until one night at dinner I looked at my father and said, "Pass the salt, please." Just hadn't had anything to contribute until then. (I might or might not be making this up.)
28. Any talent: Climbing. Falling and not dying. Some talent for writing, for putting things into words that resonate with other people.
29. Last person you talked to: Secondborn, age six.
30. Last person you texted: ...No idea. Probably the Beautiful Woman, but possibly my boss. Machete don't text.
31. Last person you watched a movie with: Beautiful Woman and the boys. The move was Real Genius.
32. Last thing you ate: Pizza, because I'm wild like that.
33. Last movie/ TV show you watched: I was going to put on Final Fantasy - Advent Children, but the boys found a DVD with the old Dungeons & Dragon cartoon, so we wound up watching that.
34. Last song you listened to: You Want It Darker by Leonard Cohen.
35. Last thing you bought: A dinner from Arby's for the family.
36. Last person you hugged: The Beautiful Woman
37. Food: Spicy, probably Genghis Grill (I eat there a lot)
38. Drink: Tea. If we presuppose alchohol, then I vary between rums, Irish whiskeys, and Jack Daniels - often with Sprite.
39. Bottoms: I cannot think of an answer to this that isn't wildly off-color. Pants are for wimps.
40. Flower: Man-Eating Daffodils
41. Animal: Owls, Cougars, Wolves, Tigers, Panthers, Ocelots. Plus a lot of really odd ones, like tardigrades and sea cucumbers and dimetrodons.
42. Color: Didn't we cover this already? Arguably green, but it gets darker from there.
43. Movie: No single film. I like a lot of really bad horror movies, but I have selections for Christmas, Action, Fantasy, and Science Fiction as well. If you want a single suggestion, try Solomon Kane (Sword & Sorcery) or Dead Shadows (French, Lovecraftian horror)
44. Subject: Fantasy, Science Fiction, horror, general geekery, history.
Have you ever? (Put an X in the brackets if yes.)
45. [X] fallen in love with someone
46. [X] celebrated Halloween
47. [X] Had your heart broken
48. [] went over the minutes/ texts on your phone
49. [X] had someone like you
50. [X] hated the way someone changed
51. [] got pg - Yeah, that's not mechanically possible for me, but I do have kids.
52. [] had an abortion - Ditto.
53. [X] did something you regret - Can you make to any sort of human self-awareness without doing this? Serious philosophical/theological question, here.
54. [X] broken a promise
55. [X] hid a secret
56. [X] pretend to be happy
57. [X] met someone who has changed to your life
58. [] pretended to be sick - Seems possible, but I don't think so and if I did I don't remember. Generally, when I say I'm sick it's because I'm sick.
59. [X] left the country
60. [X] tried something you normally wouldn't try and liked it - Fish. I hate fish. Turns out, as of about a decade ago, that I really like sushi though.
61. [X] cried over the silliest thing - Oh God, you have no idea. Mamma Mia. Children's movies. That moment in Saved when the mom starts getting the questions right. Lilo and Stitch, with "This is my family..." The very end of Music & Lyrics. I have no defenses, here.
62. [X] ran a mile - I ran track. A mile was trivial. Three miles was easy. 400 meters, on the other hand, was sheer hell.
63. [] gone to the beach with your best friend - Maybe? Sort of? Not really.
64. [X] gotten into an argument with your friends - Of course.
65. [X] disliked someone - FFS. Yes, of course.
66. [] stayed single for two years since the first time you had a bf/gf or been single forever - I don't think so.
67. Eating: No.
68. Drinking: Yes.
69. Listening to: More Leonard Cohen. We've moved on to Traveling Light.
70. Sitting or laying: Sitting. Easier to type this way.
71. Plans for today: It's 10:30 at night. I'm going the hell to ed.
72. Waiting for: Vast Supernatural Powers.
73. Want kids: Not any more - I have two, and they're awesome.
74. Want to get married: Not any more - married the Beautiful Woman, and she's awesome.
75. Want to travel: Yes, please.
What do you look for in a partner?
76. Lips or eyes: Eyes? If I were looking.
77. Shorter or taller: Whatever. If I were looking.
78. Younger or older: Whatever. If I were looking.
79. Romantic or spontaneous: This seems like an odd distinction. I tend to get interested in people slowly, which I don't think falls into either category. But again, that would only matter if I were still looking.
80. Trouble-maker or hesitant: I'd probably fall under "hesitant", but it's actually that I'm very, very tolerant right up to the point where I'm not.
81. Hook up or relationship: They both have their merits, but at this point I'm married and utterly devoted. I realize that to some people that means I'm a "beta" or possibly a "cuck" but those aren't people whose opinions matter.
82. Looks or personality: Fucksake. Yes. Both. I'm well aware that personality is the more fundamental, but I'm not naive enough to pretend that looks don't matter.
Have you ever:
83. Lost glasses: Oddly, no.
84. Snuck out of the house: Heh. Yes. Those were some stories.
85. Held a gun/ knife in self defense: No.
86. Killed somebody: No.
87. Broke someone's heart: Yes.
88. Been in love: Yes.
89. Cried when someone dies: Oh, HELL yes.
Do you believe in:
90. Yourself: Of course.
91. Miracles: Not in the general sense.
92. Love at first sight: Not exactly, no.
93. Heaven: No.
94. Santa Claus: Of course. I am Santa Claus (at least for one small spot in the world).
95. Aliens: Possible.
96. Ghosts/ angels: No.
97. Is there one person you really want to be with right now: Yes, and she's currently in the bathtub.
98. Do you know who your real friends are: Absolutely.
99. Do you believe in God: Not a bit of it. And that isn't a choice; it's a conclusion, based on best analysis I can make of the best information I have available.
100. Post as 100 Truths: Is this a question? I mean, yes, I did, and I've answered honestly.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


So, I'm at the stage where the horrible head cold has mostly gone away, but I'm still low on energy and have a bit of a lingering cough which is making it difficult to get a full night's sleep. I'm not sick, but I'm definitely not well yet, either. Surreal Situations should update sometime tomorrow and again on Friday. Meanwhile, I have to focus on some things here at work, and if I do get some energy back I'm going to work on the zero-draft of the Unpublished Dark Fantasy Novel. (Well, energy and time. It's the scheduling that breaks me, I swear.)

All that to say, basically, that the Blog O' Doom here may be a bit more quiet than usual.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Friday, January 20, 2017


Firstborn has been diagnosed with Strep. Secondborn work up this morning feeling incredibly stuffy, and running maybe a degree of fever (not enough to keep him out of school), so there's a decent chance he's coming down with it, too. Beautiful Wife and I have both been run down and not functioning well for the last couple of days, and I'm doing the stuffy-head-and-sore-throat bit. Neither of us seems to be running a fever (quite the opposite - my temperature was actually about 4/5 of a degree low this morning) but I have a pet theory that we've both had Strep so many times now that our immune systems just don't react with fever anymore. Yes, I realize that from a medical perspective that's probably nonsense. Nevertheless, I can't shake the suspicion...

Anyway, all that is a long-winded way of pointing out that I'm not getting a lot done, and probably won't until my sinuses quit aching and my brain starts working again.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Poem For The Inauguration

There was a bit of a kerfluffle recently when The Independent published a poem celebrating the inauguration of Donald Trump and many people mistook for something that would actually be read at the inauguration. The poem was, of course, comprehensively terrible, but I really don't think we should let that stop us. After all, the President-Elect and his team are reportedly having an embarrassingly difficult time getting anyone to perform at his inauguration. I think it behooves us, as American citizens, to step in. I think it falls to us, as patriots, to submit our own poems for the inauguration.

I have a modest example here:
There once was a fake billionaire
Who had very strange orange hair
He managed to win
By a slender margin
So thirty million folks lose healthcare

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Music: Patron Saint O' Thieves

The Rumjacks:

(Still trying to get my feet back under me - all my schedules (including writing and blogging) are off right now.)

Friday, January 13, 2017

It's not complicated.

Am I the only one who yells things at pop songs? I've been hearing Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello singing "Bad Things" on the radio a lot lately, and...

Camila Cabello: {singing} "If you only knew the bad things I like / Don't think that I can explain it / What can I say, it's complicated..."

Me: {grumbling} "It's not complicated. Maybe a little kinky, but there's nothing complicated about it."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Locals Don't Seem Friendly

The house was old and even the stones were crumbling, but it couldn't be torn down. The realtor - a young man, new to the game - knew that, but it was hard to avoid when even touching a wall would cause a few stones to fall out. But when he complained to the owner, the old man just asked: "You want to know why we can't tear it down?" The realtor had nodded. So the old man lifted his foot and stomped a hole in the wall.

Darkness took them both.

The town was a backwater nowhere in the mountains of Tennessee, a nothing stop along an obscure highway. They wouldn't have stopped there if they hadn't need gas and wanted food. They wouldn't have stayed if they hadn't emerged from the town's sole restaurant to find that someone had poked holes in the tires on their Jeep. They still might have left, except that Brian wandered off "to look at the scenery" and didn't come back. Then Tara disappeared while they were looking for Brian, and when the others met back at the truck they found that someone had keyed the paint, badly.

The locals were sullen and taciturn, and didn't answer questions except to say that they hadn't seen the missing couple, and hadn't seen anything strange. Then one of the local kids, not much younger than the college kids, said he thought that maybe their friend had gone to see the old house. The locals avoided the house, he told them, but he'd been poking around nearby and offered to take them to it. So the others went with the townie, and Michael went to the bank to ask about his missing friends and the house.

The bank manager was friendly enough, but his answers were politely evasive and his patience grew strained when Michael kept asking questions. When Michael casually asked about the old house that they'd spotted on the way into town, the manager's patience finally snapped. "You want to know what's going on?" he asked. Michael nodded firmly: of course he did.

That was when the manager's face began to change.

He had turned slightly away, and when he turned back his eyes were golden, with a double set of pupils and irises. His cheekbones bulged and pulsed, expanding as if something inside were inflating them. Then his whole face swelled, and his jawline dropped as short, wrinkled pseudopods flopped down from it. Watching this performance, Michael was suddenly convinced that it wasn't just that the man's flesh was changing: it was that something else was pushing in through him, using his body as a doorway from somewhere horribly outside. He turned and went out the door, but the manager followed. The man was still changing, and now he was reaching for Michael as well.

There were rocks in the parking lot: big chunks of fieldstone that served as parking stops. Desperate, Michael threw the manager down and smashed his head against one of them until the top of the man's head - now weirdly soft - sliced off against a sharp edge. The manager shivered once, and then lay still.

Then the rest of the group returned. The town kid was still with them, with the rest of the town - or whatever the rest of the town was now becoming - chasing them. That was when the fighting began.

In the end, they dug a pit and burned all the bodies... but even after throwing the last arm into the flames himself, Michael couldn't shake the feeling that it wasn't over yet.

Yeah, I have weird - and weirdly narrative - dreams.