Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Music: Muppet Show Theme (in Metal)

A convergence of two of my formative interests, brought to you by Leo Moracchioli. I can only imagine how Statler and Waldorf would react.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Music: 5 out of 6

New music from Dessa:

Dessa's music occupies a weird Venn diagram between rap, pop, and beat poetry. It's smart, it's quick, and it has bite. Give it a listen.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Music: No Surrender

Bruce Springsteen, with some nicely-turned lyrics and the music to back them:

Friday, April 13, 2018

Honor... and the Mustache

Come close, my boys, and listen well. I have a small piece of my long life's wisdom to share with you, and it looks like this:

A man's mustache reflects his reputation.

Take mine, for example: it small and unintrusive, well-groomed, and part of other things (specifically a goatee, as I am far, far too lazy to shave my chin).

Now, some men choose to have no mustache, and that's a perfectly acceptable choice. There is no dishonor in obscurity.

But consider, by contrast, John Bolton:

His mustache is overflowing and horrible even to look at, much like his reputation. You see? So, my boys, you must always keep your mustaches -- and your reputations -- clean and neat.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Spider Ninjas

I think spider ninjas are stalking me. I saw this one watching me from the back of a car. You can see how it was trying to blend in, but it was no match for my battle-honed senses. I only hope they're merely watching me to make sure I'm not a threat, and they aren't planning anything... nefarious.


I'm on to you, spider ninjas.

Monday, April 9, 2018

A thought, and an addendum

First, a thought which I've increasingly come to endorse:
Character is destiny.

But I think there's a very important addendum:
Our character is not static.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

It's quiet... too quiet...

Sorry it's been so quiet around here. February and even most of March were a real beating, and I'm still just exhausted. Better, but still a lot more tired than I should be, and not doing enough to fix that.

I really need to just make Getting Enough Sleep a priority, but I think I've discussed before about how missing sleep becomes a sort of vicious cycle, at least for me. Apparently even being intensely aware of the pattern isn't enough to actually break it, though. So there hasn't been a lot of writing going on - not here on the blog, and not on any of my projects, either.

That needs to change. And in order for that to change, I have to get enough sleep. Which, weirdly, means I have to give up the time I try to set aside for writing in the evenings, because right now A) I'm not getting any writing done, and B) it just makes the situation worse because I stay up trying to work and then end up even more tired.

So: a break. Perversely, that probably means that there will be more little snippets and stray thoughts on the blog, here, because these things tend to come out when my brain is rested. But, y'know, we'll see.

I hope the rest of you are taking care of yourselves and getting the nutrition/rest/exercise/medications that you need. You're valuable, and you're worth it, so please do what you need to do for yourself.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Happy Easter!

Also, don't use special effects involving actual fire inside your church, m'kay?

Monday, March 26, 2018

Boys and DnD, Session Eight!

Firstborn has been pushing for us to get back on a weekly DnD schedule, and as a result we managed to play again this weekend. It wasn't a terribly complex session, but it went well. Firstborn has been reading the Dungeon Master's Guide (he's thinking of alternating with me, with me running my game one weekend and him running his own game the next), and reminded me that the DMG suggests that the game can be enhanced by using physical props. I hadn't been doing that, mainly because that requires work and preparation, and I'm mostly making this up as I go along. But it was a good idea: we lit a couple of candle for light and atmosphere, and settled in to play...



Departing the goblin village with the goblin child in tow, our heroes went to check the unexplored areas of this level of the dungeon, and discovered that what they thought was the goblin village was only half of the goblin village. The other side of the dungeon has a corresponding large room full of mushroom-houses and goblin decor. It is, of course, as empty as its near-twin.

The party hasn't explored either half of the village completely, so it's entirely possible that there are other passages leading away from either location. Instead, however, they elected to take the one corridor passage that they hadn't fully explored, and head down it back to the guardroom where they first made their alliance with the goblin tribe.

This turned out to be the right decision, because as they were creeping down the passage they heard voices ahead, and the distinctive slap of paper on wood. (I actually slapped a piece of paper on the table to create the sound, because props enhance the game. What can I say? Firstborn was right.)

Secondborn is the sneaky one in the party -- ranger/rogue dual class -- and he moved silently down the hall to investigate. Well... almost silently. His role was okay, but one of the Bugbears ahead rolled really well on its Listen check, and then on its Spot check, and so the next thing everyone knows there's a bugbear standing in the doorway, pointing at Secondborn's character (Drake) and demanding: "What you doing here?"

I asked Secondborn what he wanted to do, and he decided he wanted to try to make friends with the Bugbear. That's not really specific enough for character action (remember, he's seven years old and I'm already using a more-than-slightly-abbreviated version of the rules) so I asked him what he would say to the bugbear.

"I'm trying to find the goblins from the empty village," he told it.

"Uhn," it replied. "Come in here, I show you where they went."

So Secondborn followed it into the guard room, where a second bugbear and a minotaur were sitting on too-small stools and looking at the cards spread out on a wooden table between them. "Sit here," said the bugbear, and Secondborn slipped onto an empty stool. And that, of course, was when the bugbear picked up a burlap sack and tried to pull it down over Secondborn's head. He didn't quite manage it, but the second bugbear and the minotaur both stood up and the minotaur stepped around the table to get into attack range.

I had everybody roll initiative. Firstborn came out on top - 20 total -- followed by the two bugbears, then Beautiful Wife, then the minotaur, then Secondborn. So...

Firstborn raged (he's a dual-class Druid/Barbarian), drew his greatsword, and charge the bugbear with the sack. He only got to make a single attack, but it was a good one. The bugbear turned and attacked him, doing enough damage to hurt but not enough to turn the fight. The second bugbear attacked Secondborn, but also missed. Beautiful Wife, still standing in the doorway, fired off a Scorching Ray at it and very nearly killed it. (She's our only single-class PC, a Halfling Sorceress, and she's kind of a badass.)

The minotaur then attacked Secondborn (who's basically in the middle of the bad guys) and did some damage. Secondborn yanks his longsword out and attacks, hitting the minotaur but doing only superficial damage to it. This ends the round, so...

On the next round, Firstborn drops his animal companion. (He's a second-level Druid as well as a Barbarian, remember.) His companion is Bloodshot, a poisonous viper, which normally coils around his arm or shoulders. He then attacks the bugbear in front of him again, dispatching it. The viper makes a five-foot slither and attacks the minotaur -- and hits. Mind you, it only does two points of physical damage, but it's... well... venomous. Firstborn rolls, and we find that the minotaur has taken six points of Constitution damage, which seriously weakens it.

The remaining bugbear tried to attack Secondborn, but missed -- possibly because of the extensive burn trauma from last round. Beautiful Wife fired off another Scorching Ray and finished the poor thing. The minotaur tried to attack Secondborn again, but also missed. Secondborn again attacked the minotaur, and again did some damage. It wasn't anything too dramatic, but at this point it's starting to add up.

Then, at the beginning of the next round, Firstborn steps in and attacks again -- raging, with his greatsword. That sets the minotaur back. Beautiful Wife tries to follow up with another Scorching Ray, but misses (poor roll for the ranged touch attack, plus she was trying to fire past Firstborn without hitting him). A bit of the glowing moss on the far wall bursts into flame.

The minotaur then takes a step back, turns, and runs for it.


...But now it's Secondborn's turn. And Secondborn's Rogue/Ranger is a dedicated archer. (Think Aloy from Horizon: Zero Dawn, because I'm pretty sure that's who he modeled his character on.) So he drops his longsword, whips out his bow, and fires off a shot...

The minotaur is forty feet down the passage on the far side of the room. The arrow connects perfectly and takes him right the heck down. The minotaur hits the ground face first, sliding along for a couple of feet with its horns scraping sparks off the rocks.

The battle is over.

The goblin child has spent this whole time standing behind Beautiful Wife's sorceress, making little "ooooh" noises every time she uses Scorching Ray.

I recommend that the group stop and make camp here in the guard room, so that Firstborn can use his druid spells to heal himself and Secondborn, and everybody can rest and recover their spells. (Yes, I know, the Dungeonmaster is not supposed to make suggestions, but again: new players, still acclimating to the game, plus a little out of practice. I sometimes make suggestions.) They agree, and we stop there. Total play time? About an hour and fifteen minutes. Total fun had? Lots.

We blew out all the candles and got everybody ready for bed.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Still Life with Banana


...No, I have no idea why I felt compelled to take a picture of that. Or why I felt compelled to share it. Why does anybody do anything, really? What does it all mean, compared with the endless void that surrounds our meager, purposeless existence? Can it mean anything at all? Why am I even typing this?

I think... I think I might need coffee.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Pantomime

Shadows and firelight flicker around the edges of the clearing,
Opposites and partners, dancing endlessly.
She sits on the opposite side of the flames from me,
Each of us casting a long shadow behind us.

Her mouth moves, but I can't hear words--
Just the wind in the trees overhead
And the surge of blood through my veins,
The throbbing of my heart.
She makes an angry gesture
And I can only stare.

I see her lips form familiar words: You don't *listen*.
But there is still no sound.
Finally she stands.
Finally she walks away, passing from firelight into darkness
Taking the trail back to the parking lot
Without me.

She is gone:
Inevitable end to this ineluctable pantomime
That we have drawn ourselves through
A dance as automatic, silent, meaningless, and fascinating
As the play of firelight and shadow on the trees.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Boys and DnD Session Seven!

"I kind of like the idea of a bone bow," says Firstborn. "It could shoot marrows."

With the ranger and the sorceress, they tracked the skeletons back to the nearby dungeon. The descended to the goblin fungus-village, and found it apparently empty. The first couple of mushroom huts were empty, and showed signs of a struggle - knocked over stools, scattered blankets. ("Or maybe the goblins all suddenly developed younger brothers," Firstborn observed ominously.) They proceed to the town circle (like a town square, only round) and a very small goblin leaps out and shouts a warning... about half a second before a half-dozen zombies lurch out of the shadows. Two of the zombies are goblin-zombies; two are hobgoblin zombies, and two are human zombies.

Initiative looks like this:
Secondborn 20
Mommy 18
Zombies 10
Firstborn 6

Plus, because he's a split-level ranger/rogue, Secondborn has Undead as a favored enemy and thus a +2 damage against them.

Secondborn steps up to the nearest zombie and attacks it with his longsword. It's a goblin-zombie, and he dispatches it rather neatly. Mommy (Halfling Sorceress) begins casting Disrupt Undead, damaging one of the hobgoblin-zombies. Firstborn (Elvish Druid/Barbarian) crosses to the Very Small Goblin (probably a child) that shouted the incomprehensible warning and engages the nearest zombie. He's armed with a greatsword, so he makes pretty shot work of the thing. At this point the Very Small Goblin sort of attaches itself to his leg, in what looks like a "Save me!" gesture.

The battle continues, but the zombies really aren't up to this. (Also, in a couple of places they just rolled badly - one zombie tried to attack and wound up throwing its club all the way to the far side of the town circle instead.) So at the end of the battle we have six zombies who have gone from Undead to Just Plain Dead, and a goblin child who appears to understand a little common but doesn't speak anything except small-child-goblin, meaning that the party has no way to really talk to it. The goblin child did, however, manage to pantomime hiding in a basket.

...And that was about an hour of play, which is about the limits of Secondborn's ability to sit still and concentrate, so we stopped there. But hey, the boys are pleased, I'm pleased, and it's progress!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Nonsense Love Poem

Composed last week while sitting in the shower trying to coax my brain into getting ready for work. Apparently, it preferred to do this:

You and me
are like two cups of tea
in complementary
mugs


Me and you
Are nothing that new
but we hold it together
with hugs

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Well, that didn't work...

So I wrote a post designed to go up this morning. And it was all about how I was going to work, and...

Nope. Just nope.

Apparently that was wildly optimistic. I woke up (sort of? mostly?) and called in, and went back to bed and slept until eleven in the morning. This, despite having gone to be just after ten o'clock last night. I'm not sure what's wrong; I'm not particularly achy, or nauseated, or sore, or much of anything really. I'm just terribly, terribly drained. Still discouraged, too, but I think that's because of the lack of energy, rather than the other way around.

Anyway, I spent the day at home (aside from a brief outing for staple groceries), ran laundry, and otherwise didn't move. I think I feel a little better for it? I don't know.

It's a little bit after 9:00 in the evening, and I'm going to write one more e-mail and then go to bed again. I don't know what's going on with my system, but I'm ready for it to stop.

Tired...

I... made it through yesterday. I had some energy in the morning -- I mean, I was intensely tired, but I did have some energy. Then I ate a sensible lunch, and then... well... I ate a whole bunch of corn chips, and was worn out and useless for most of the afternoon. Dinner at home was an excellent pork and rice dish with sliced carrots on top, but I could cheerfully have come home and collapsed, too.

Now it's time for bed and I am tired and weirdly depressed, and I'm starting to wonder if maybe the corn chips have started doing something to my system. So the plan for today is basically, "No corn chips, and try to stay focused." And hopefully I'll snap out of it and feel better about, well, everything.

Hopefully.

I mean, I really do feel useless - sort of existentially, not just in terms of what I actually got done today. I feel like there's a bunch of stuff I need to do and I can't stay focused long enough to catch up on any of it. And I know it'll pass, and I'm pretty sure it's just the lingering tail end of having been really sick (along with everything else that made February such a beating this year). But I want my energy back, and I want to feel like I have something to contribute, and damn it I am just not feeling any of that. If today isn't any better, I may try to take tomorrow off. Probably as a vacation day, since I don't think I'm "sick" in any socially-recognized sense.

Ugh.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Mating Rituals: A Family Discussion

The boys are in the living room playing video games; Beautiful Wife is on the couch, reading. I have come in to bring tea to Beautiful Wife.

Secondborn: "I have a poem for you."

Me: "Okay."

Secondborn: "Roses are red, violets are blue. I spend a lot of time thinking about you."

Me: "That was very nice."

Beautiful Woman: "It was."

Secondborn: "Thank you."

Me: "And someday you will repeat that poem to some young lady, and she'll say, 'Awww. I'm keeping this one.' And she'll take you home..."

Secondborn: "Oh?"

Me: "...and wrap you in her webs..."

Secondborn: "What?"

Me: "...And feed you the still-beating heart of her latest kill."

Secondborn: "No!"

Beautiful Wife: "Oh, yes. That's how your dad and I met."

Me: "Absolutely."

Firstborn: "I could have done without that image. Let us never speak of it again."

Secondborn: "For once, I agree with you completely."

Monday, March 12, 2018

Music: Chosen

VNV Nation, from Praise The Fallen:

This is one of the albums I go back to for certain kinds of writing.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Speech: Saladin Ahmed, Shadows of FRANKENSTEIN

Given at Longwood University on February 26, 2018. I was not there, though I wish I could have been:


He's been working in comic books more recently, but if you haven't read Throne of the Crescent Moon (novel) or Engraved on the Eye (short story collection) then you should do yourself a favor and pick them up.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Music: God Is A Bullet

Concrete Blonde. It's an old song, but I stumbled over it again last night and it seemed... strangely relevant to the current moment. (Content warning: talking about death by gunfire.)I dunno, maybe it's just me; I'm a Concrete Blonde fan from a long ways back.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Monday, March 5, 2018

Dear Diary: Dinner with Grandma

Year 331, Twelfth Age
Leaffall, Day 23

Dear Diary,

I decided I needed to work with some friendlier ghosts while I'm polishing my skills and increasing my power, so I took Grandma Butterblossom out to dinner last night. She was my father's mother, and an accomplished wizard in her own right, and she's only been dead for three years so it was pretty easy to bring her back.

Diary, it was wonderful. I know, I know: I'm mastering the arts of death and bending the darkest forces to my will, so I'm not supposed to feel sentimental about the living, or even the recently-living. I know. But Grandma Butterblossom was always good to me, and it was really nice to see her again. She seemed really happy to see me, and she didn't object to calling me Grimbad Willowisp. She didn't even quirk her mouth when she said it, the way the kids at school do when they bother to use my name at all.

She's a ghost, so she didn't really eat; but it turns out that she could sort of sip from a bowl of soup and a cup of tea, and get the experience of the flavors. I told her about the rest of the family, and school, and my studies, and was just so nice (there's that word again) to have someone to talk to about all this stuff. Besides you, I mean.

Plus, she had some advice for the situation with Mrs. Puffblossom, and some general advice on honing my powers. Necromancy wasn't really her thing -- she was more of a generalist -- but she was still a wizard and her ideas were really helpful.

I have to tell you, Diary, this was the best night I've had in a long time. And when we were done, we went back to the graveyard and she let me put her back down. So everything's fine, at least for the moment. At least as long as my dad never finds out.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Music: Old Blevins

I made a reference to this song on Twitter a couple of weeks back, and it turns out that the person I was tweeting to had never heard of it. So, since I think it deserves as wide an audience as possible, here are the Austin Lounge Lizards with Old Blevins:

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Minecraft As A Fantasy Story

There are any number of enjoyable stories set in the world of Minecraft (Firstborn is particularly fond of the ones by Cube Kid), but Lydia Schoch had made a delightful addition to their ranks, exploring how the experience would seem from the point of view of the main character. I'm trying to work on the Great Unfinished Dark Fantasy Project, so I'm not generating much content for the blog o' doom, here, so this is a lovely morning to go and read her work instead.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Boy Adventure Addendum

In the wake of yesterday's expedition, I would like to note that I was perfectly prepared for the fact that I would have to do laundry when we got home. What I was not prepared for was the sheer amount of wood chips that I would subsequently need to clean out of the washing machine.

So.
Many.
Wood chips.

And Secondborn has informed me that he did not have a good time on that adventure, not at all, and that I should not make the mistake of thinking that he might have enjoyed it even a little bit. Also, he's very angry. At water.

I have promised him that in a week or two, once everything has had a chance to dry out, we will go back to the park and play on the nice, dry tank and the nice, dry wood chips and the nice, dry swing sets.

He is only slightly mollified by this.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Sunday In The Park - the very, very wet park

So, on Sunday my father went off with my brother and his wife to see their son perform in a play. (I need a good designation for the child -- I don't want to use his real name online, but Boy Cousin doesn't seem quite specific enough and everything else I can think of is worse. He's basically the same age as Firstborn, and this was a school play. But I digress...)

Anyway, with Grandfather occupied our usual Sunday afternoon visit was off. This wasn't really a problem, though. After something like four straight days of perpetual rain, the sun had finally come out and the day was gorgeous. "How lovely!" I exclaimed to myself. "I shall take the boys to a park!" And I did.

Secondborn had requested the Tank Park, which is so called because it has an honest-to-God World War II tank parked in the middle of it. The sun was warm, the air was cool but not cold, you could not ask for a nicer day, and I clearly had not thought this through because naturally the whole park was flooded:

Secondborn was... displeased. Volubly. At length. Firstborn, meanwhile, stepped out onto an area of wood chips which were clearly solid ground, except that they were floating on top of six inches of water and his foot promptly disappeared under the wood chips. With his foot and his pants already wet, he elected to keep going, and found his way out to the swing set:

Friday, February 23, 2018

Writing Advice: Find Your Own Dark Place In The Woods

My personal writing advice for aspiring authors: "Find your own dark place in the woods. Get lost in it. Bring the sacrifice for every full moon. Writhe, howl, and gibber before the glory of the muse. Then go home and put in the work to get your story in print."

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Starting to recover...

So, February started with both my wife and I sick with the Flu (and possibly Strep as well, though our tests always come back negative for that). A day later, Secondborn was diagnosed with Strep but came back negative for Flu. And Firstborn was feeling pretty jazzed about his immune system until the following week, when he came down with the Flu as well. (And yeah, we did all get our vaccinations this year - and I'm pretty sure it helped, even if it's not an absolute guarantee that you won't get sick.)

Still, after two weeks of Tamiflu and antibiotics, I was starting to feel somewhat better. And then we had that whole thing with my dad in the hospital last week, and by the time Friday rolled around I was back to being barely on my feet. So I spent the entire weekend basically trying to be at least slightly useful, while shaking off the last vestiges of flu and a resurgent sinus/inner-ear infection.

I am finally, finally starting to feel like I'm really recovering - with the emphasis firmly on "starting to". I got up yesterday morning feeling quite a bit better, made breakfast for the boys, cleaned up the kitchen, and went to work... and then, three hours later, I felt completely drained all over again. I started in on a few outstanding projects and actually got some things done, but I had be pretty slow and careful about everything I was doing. It was too easy to lose track or make mistakes. It could have been worse, but it could have been a lot better, too.

Apparently flu leaves behind in its wake some damage to muscle tissue (which is why people are frequently sore) and to the lungs. Both are mainly because of the immune response, rather than the virus itself, but that doesn't change the results. And it's yet another reason why it takes $%^&*# long to get over the Flu. Personally, I'm midway through Week 4 and still not back to 100%, so it's definitely what they call "a process".

Meanwhile, life continues apace. It's going to be a long week with a lot of early bedtimes.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Traveling Companions

"I was just asking if I could keep you company on the road," said the young man.

"And I just said no," answered my father.

I was seventeen, and we were traveling again. We never much stayed in one place, and I was old enough that I was starting to realize -- and my father had to know already -- that we couldn't keep this up forever. The young man was older, but not too much older. Somewhere in his early twenties, I thought. He wore nice clothes and scholar's sword, and rode a fine horse.

"Perhaps your--" he hesitated, but only slightly, probably because neither my father nor I look as old as we actually are. "--daughter would appreciate having someone new to talk to. And I do know how to use this blade; we'd be safer together."

My father tilted his head, studying the young man for a long moment, then very deliberately turned to look at me.

I looked past him, up at the fine young man on his horse. "It's fine," I told him. "Find a bunk in the waystation if you like, and make a fire for your dinner. But my father is right: we don't need company."

The young man sighed and dismounted. The movement was graceful, and he didn't look back at us as he led his horse away. It took him a while to get settled, to unsaddle his mount and lead her down to the stream to drink, to curry her and tie her to one of the posts in front of the waystation. But once he was finished with all that, he came and sat beside our fire.

My father was small and lean, wiry musculature hidden beneath loose clothes, and he never carried weapons. I was armed, but even together we probably didn't look very threatening. "So you're determined to intrude," he observed.

"Don't you have the least regard for hospitality?" asked the young man. "Travelers should always share their fires. And while I'm not in any great hurry, I've been riding all day. I'm delivering a missive from Lady Auginia of Santimos to the Loklarian garrison at Riftside."

I was half-inclined to indulge him, myself. He seemed nice enough, and he was pretty to look at. And he probably was tired, and maybe somewhat lonely. But he was intruding on our fire, and our company, and he seemed vaguely offended that we didn't want him there.

"Hospitality," my father said slowly, "is something that should be offered -- not taken." He made a small gesture, and murdered the fire. I'd seen it before, but it was still startling. The night was abruptly dark, and much, much colder. Even the coals would be cold, now.

The young man scrambled clumsily to his feet. "What was-- what just happened?"

My father didn't answer him. He just stood up, turned his back, and walked into the waystation.

I decided that was probably a good example to follow, and did the same. Both of us could see in the dark, but unless the young man was particularly gifted I doubted that he could. Behind me, I heard him call: "Hello? Are you still here?"

Neither of us answered. My father was already spreading his blankets on one of the bunks when I unclipped mine from my pack and tossed them onto the bunk above his. The waystation was basically a small, square building -- a shed with a door and a couple of windows at the front, more windows at the back, and two sets of two bunks built out from either wall. It was designed to offer travelers a place to sleep out of weather, but nothing more.

After a few minutes I heard movements and some faint scuffling sounds, followed by a quick murmur that resulted in the warm glow of a lamp outside the door. Then there were more movements, and some whuffing from the horse. The last thing I heard was hooves moving away into the darkness; as far as I know, he never even looked inside the waystation.

To this day, I don't really know if he was actually dangerous, or just young and over-sure of his welcome. Either way, I can't really blame my father for sending him on his way. What I do know for certain is that my father has no patience for people who can't take "No" for an answer.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Long Week

I spent most of Monday with my father in the hospital. This wasn't because he was having a medical crisis, exactly; it was mainly to disseminate information and keep everyone else from panicking.

So what happened? Well, sometime around Friday evening, he had a very minor stroke - so minor he didn't even notice it. Over the weekend, he reported that his balance was a little off, and that he was having a bit of numbness inside his right hand: his sense of touch was fine, but the hand kind of felt like he'd slept on it funny. Plus, he was having an odd bit of numbness inside his cheek, just at the base of his tongue. It wasn't until Monday morning that he connected the dots, and realized that the balance issue might have to do with reduced feedback sensitivity from his right leg, and that all three of these (fairly trivial) symptoms were on the right side of his body.

So, after a bit of internal debate, he decided to visit a hospital and get himself checked out. So he called up a family friend (one of my mother's oldest and most steadfast friends) and explained the situation and asked her to drive him to the hospital.

She promptly called me at work and said, "Your Dad had a stroke, meet at the emergency room at the hospital." This, while absolutely true, was perhaps not the most detailed or reassuring way to explain the situation.

But, okay: I drove down, met her in the emergency room, and spent the next eight hours sitting with my dad. Most of that time was spent waiting for the doctors to run tests, or to get back to us with the results of tests they'd already run. Once an hour or so, one of the nurses would come by and ask a lot of questions: Do you know who you are? Do you know where you are? Who's the president? Who was the president before him? What year is this? What's the date? Then they'd make him do things like lift one leg and hold it up, or push and pull with his arms.

Occasionally, when we actually got information, I'd text it to the immediate family and a couple of close friends. But mainly it was just sitting there, chatting and waiting.

The CAT scan revealed something that looked like some bleeding at the back of the skull, but the MRI (which gives a much more detailed picture but consequently takes much longer to read) showed that as a cluster of veins, and not as any sort of intracranial bleeding. The stroke itself was apparently visible - a tiny thing way down on the left side of the brain. They decided that they were definitely going to admit him to the hospital (all this was taking place in the emergency room, rather than the hospital proper) but then took several hours to find him a room. We were kind of expecting that; hospital visits almost always consist of a great deal of extended waiting, broken up by occasional periods of more waiting. And the staff was thoroughly professional and even quite nice.

There was some discussion of having him looked over by physical therapists and occupational therapists, but his symptoms were so minor that I doubt there's much they could do; I don't know if they ever actually came by. Dad was alert, perfectly well oriented, and quite capable of say, walking or feeding himself (when they finally let us order him some food) or drinking his tea (ditto). So, again, definitely a stroke, but just about as harmless as a stroke can ever possibly be.

And they didn't even find much in the way of probable causes or contributing factors. He doesn't smoke; he drinks, but very moderately; his blood pressure is fine. He had a heart bypass years ago, and some stents put in more recently, but they did an echocardiogram (I think? And I've probably mangled the spelling horribly...) and apparently didn't find any significant issues there.

So they released him yesterday, and I drove back down to the hospital and then drove him back to his house. He's due to go on a mission trip in two weeks (a medical mission, so he'll be in the company of doctors and dentists and suchlike, but also in the middle of nowhere) and the hospital-doctors didn't have any real objection to that. (We're still waiting to hear back from the going-on-the-mission-doctors, though.) They've upped his daily aspirin intake and the dosage on one of his anti-cholesterol/blood thinning medications, but that's about it.

You wouldn't think that sitting around for a day or two would be that tiring, but the whole thing has worn me out. I really want to just crawl into my bed and stay there for a day or two, but we're a bit shorthanded at work and I really can't. So I'm off, but I've promised myself that as soon as I get back home I am Going To Bed. And I hope the rest of you are taking good care of yourselves out there, too.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Through the Pillars

Devothin reined up outside the fortress-temple of Hoshamalis, watching riders and wagons bunch up ahead of him. After a moment, he gave up and dismounted. They weren't going to make the crossing any time soon, so he might as well spend some time with Timber.

The wolf was already pushing his forehead against Devothin's knee, so he knelt to greet Timber directly, half-petting and half-tussling with the heavy beast.

"You know we're going to die of disorganization," said Wilt, who had followed Devothin's example and swung down off his horse to reacquaint himself with his own wolf, Red. "If we get into the barrens and something goes wrong - and it will - we're going to end up standing around the wagons like a bunch of idiots while the twisted and the beasts rip us all apart."

Devothin nodded. He'd been thinking along similar lines. "Probably. Though we do have the elite troops of four different kingdoms here, and I imagine they can do some real damage to anybody who attacks. Mainly, though, we're going to be doing our best to make sure the expedition doesn't run into that sort of surprise."

Wilt nodded thoughtfully. "So we're the scouts for this-" He cut himself off, then finished with, "-expedition."

"Hey," said Devothin. "You can stand in the front line with the others if you want. I'm sure the Storm Knights would loan you some armor."

Wilt shuddered. "Have you seen that stuff? Too much metal for my old bones. If it comes to that, I'll stand on a wagon and loose arrows over their heads."

Devothin huffed. "There you go being sensible again." He had his fingers tangled in Timber's fur, and was feeling much the better for it. He didn't like being separated from the wolf -- not for too long, and not by too far -- but Moroleth had thought it better not to bring the hunting beasts into the High City, so Wilt had stayed with the pack in a woodlot half a mile out.

Isha whistled, and Devothin straightened. "They're actually moving," he said, surprised.

"Huh." Wilt looked thoughtful again. "This Captain Veritos is better than I thought."

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Monday, February 5, 2018

Boys and D'n'D Session 6 (At last!)

Firstborn's Barbarian/Druid, Kaijar, had just arrived at the Watchhouse when the Captain caught him and told him that one of the half-elf kids had come back in from the farm, and that the goblins were asking for their help. The captain wanted Kaijar to go ahead with the kid, since the other two members of his troop were busy elsewhere. Kaijar dutifully trooped off with the half-elf kid, and arrived at the farm about mid-afternoon.

The farmhouse was suspiciously quiet and empty. During the past few weeks, the half-elf family has been making a decent profit bringing in various sorts of mushrooms from the goblins, and trading items from town back to the goblins. The kid starts towards the house, calling for his mother; Kaijar follows more cautiously, and spots a dead goblin lying facedown in the lettuce. He calls the kid back, then advances on the house and knocks on the door.

Nobody answers.

So, Kaijar cautiously opens the door and looks around. It's darker in here, but he spots the skeletons in the three corners and concludes that there's probably a fourth skeleton in the other corner, which he currently can't see because of the open door.

The skeletons step forward and attack.

They are... not very effective. Three of them attack him, while the fourth hacks at the door to try to get through it. (They aren't very smart, either.) Kaijar raises his greatsword and smacks them down, one at a time. The kid, meanwhile, starts backing up until he reaches the edge of the porch and falls back on his butt; then he starts screaming. Kaijar remains just inside the doorway, pounding skeletons into scattered bones and not really getting hurt at all.

He finally finishes off the three skeletons he can reach and steps to the side, at which point the remaining skeleton steps forward, slamming the door closed in the process. The kid outside stops screaming. The skeleton attacks, utterly fails to connect, and promptly becomes a pile of disconnected bones.

Kaijar returns to the porch, assures the kid that he's fine, and sends the kid back to town to fetch reinforcements, since there's no sign of the family.

...And that, since Beautiful Wife was napping (she's still sick) and Secondborn was busy with something else (video games) is where we stopped.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Music: Bring Me To Life

Still recuperating, so here's some crunchy old Evanescence to get us through the morning:

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Ugh. So much ugh.

So Beautiful Wife and I went to the doctor Tuesday, because we both felt horrible. And the doctor swabbed us for Strep Throat, looked us over, and told us that she was pretty sure we both had Flu B.

Tuesday night, Secondborn was complaining of a headache, but he went to bed easily enough. Wednesday morning, he complained of a sore throat and had a very slight fever - so we kept him home and took him to the pediatrician. The pediatrician swabbed him and promptly diagnosed him with Strep, but not flu.

Basically, we're a plague ward. Beautiful Wife and I are on Tamiflu and antibiotics both, while Secondborn is just on antibiotics. Firstborn says he doesn't feel bad at all, just a little bit tired - but Wednesday morning I almost couldn't get him to wake up. I don't know if that means he just stayed up too late, or if he's coming down with something too, but it doesn't bode well either way.

We'll see how today goes. I'm going to try to go in to work, because we're right at the culmination of a rather large project (and waiting to take the next step on a second large project), but I may make it a half day. (I've done a little work from home, but there's only so much I can do with the resources I have here.) And I'll sit in my little cubicle in the back of the locked-off server room and communicate exclusively by email and phone, and sterilize everything. Beautiful Wife and Secondborn will both be home today, and Firstborn... well, that depends on how he was doing when we woke up this morning, but he's probably at school. (I'm writing this in advance, hence the time-traveler syntax.)

TL/DR: Ugh.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

...Annnnnd I'm sick again

I'm kind of amazed that it's taken this long, honestly.

Hello mucus, my old friend
You've come to leak from me again
Because a sickness softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of sickness

In restless dreams I lay alone
On the couch within my home
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
I cannot go intp the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by
The flash of a flashing light
That split the night
And touched the sound of sickness

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People coughing without speaking
People blowing noses glistening
People writing pleas that sore throats never share
No one, nowhere
Disturb the sound of sickness



At least the boys don't seem to have it yet.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Yeah, so...

I don't seem to be writing much for the blog right now.

That's partially because I have plenty of other things on my mind. But it's also, and more importantly, because I'm actually making some progress on a writing project. And that takes time and attention, which means less time and attention to devote to my presence here. (Also: Twitter. But really mainly writing.)

There's probably a better (and better-organized) way to do this, but right now this is what I have and this is what I'm doing. So I'm pretty sure that posting on the Blog o' Doom here is going to be a lot more erratic, but I'm not sure that's a bad thing.

On a vaguely related topic: being over-committed sucks. Don't do it. Get the sleep you need.

Yes, I'm absolutely terrible at taking my own advice.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Music: Burn It Down

Composed by Daughter as part of Music from Before The Storm, which serves as the soundtrack for the video game Life Is Strange: Before The Storm, which apparently I'm going to have to buy now:

I'm currently using it - the soundtrack, not just this song - as background music while I write.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

So much for that test...

So, yesterday afternoon I received a phishing scam in my inbox.

Problem is, it was a fairly convincing one: the email address had been spoofed and looked more-than-reasonably legitimate, the text was clear and simple and didn't have a lot of typos (some, but not many, and nothing that was obviously a non-native English speaker). The only real "tell" was that if you hovered over the link, it went to something random and definitely not anywhere on our site/network.

And I looked at that and thought, "Holy hell! If I got this, then other people are getting it too, and it's too good - somebody's going to fall for it." So I immediately stopped what I was doing, and composed a warning by forwarding the thing with the link removed and a big note at the top that said:

This is not from Information Technology. This is a phishing scam.
Do not click on the link, do not fill anything out. If you already did, please contact the help desk immediately.

Being the good little IT person that I am, I sent the warning to everybody in the organization.
...And immediately got a visit from the Director of IT, because apparently this was a test they were running on the IT staff and I'd just spoiled it.

I make no apologies for this.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Grief is a process

I'd been writing more about my mother, and missing her, and what that means to me and how it shows up in my life,but...

I'm not done with that.

So here's some Dessa. Because maybe if you're in the same place, it might help you in the same ways.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Dark Normality

Somber was only a little way into the city, walking just behind Frost and Blaze, when Shaira stepped out from an alley and fell in beside him.

"Anything wrong?" he asked. When he'd left her, he'd also left her mother's floatbeast caravan with a dead body in one of the passenger rooms. Shaira had known about it, but they'd agreed not to say anything until later -- after the passengers had departed, after the caravan had begun its trading. Shaira was meant to be avoiding whatever truthspeaker came to investigate the death, but Somber hadn't expected that to extend to following them into the city.

"No," said Shaira quickly. She was small and wiry, much like Frost; but she was darker, brown of hair and eye and skin. "I just wanted..." she made a vague, uncertain gesture with one hand. "I wanted to ask you how you do it."

Somber tilted his head, puzzled. "How I do what?"

Shaira hesitated, keeping pace with him so that he could keep pace with Frost and Blaze, who had fallen silent ahead of them. "Well," said Shaira, "this monk, this man you studied under, who was taking you back to your families... his ghost comes to you, half-dreaming, and you just... wake up, and start making arrangements."

Somber lowered his brows and pursed his lips. "It was what he wanted," he said, feeling his way through the explanation. "That was why he came to me: so that we'd be warned, so that we could... make arrangements."

Shaira shook her head. "No, it's not that, it's... this can't be the first ghost that's come to you. I mean, you didn't wake up screaming. You didn't doubt whether it was real. You just... took it in and dealt with it."

Somber nodded, slowing his steps while he considered. "...Yes," he said finally. "That happens to me. Not very often, but sometimes. So how do I do it? Is that the question?"

Shaira made a cautious, equivocal gesture, but nodded.

"I'm a deathspeaker," Somber said, quietly but simply. He hesitated, then reminded her: "I told you a little about the monastery. Everyone who studied there received a solid grounding in the mundane arts. That's true, but we all have different strengths. I can call dead bones to life with nothing more than a breath. I don't call ghosts, but sometimes they come to me. Blaze is the same way, but with light and fire."

Shaira glanced at the pair in front of them. "And Frost?" she asked, curiously.

Somber shrugged. "Frost is good at everything," he said.

"That helps," said Shaira. "It does. But that wasn't exactly my question. I figured out that ghosts come to you, because... one did. I just wanted to ask..." She hesitated. "...how do you deal with that? How do you get used to something like that?"

Somber shrugged. "How could you not?" He looked away, then looked back. "I don't mean to dismiss. But... this is normal for me. This is... It's like you and the drarok. How could you get used to living and working with deadly flying predators?"

Shaira stiffened, then relaxed. "You did," she said. Then she added: "But yes, I see what you mean. And you're right: there are plenty of groundborn who can't even imagine how we manage to live the way we do, or why we'd want to."

Blaze and Frost had stopped and turned back to them, so Somber stopped also. "We get used to what we do," said Somber quietly. "...And we do what we get used to. What's normal for me isn't normal for you, but it isn't anything you couldn't handle if it were."

Shaira regarded him for a long moment, then stepped in and hugged him hard. "That was a better answer than I had any right to expect," she told him. "Thank you. I wish you could have stayed with the caravan -- I'm going to miss you."

Somber swallowed and hugged her back, but didn't answer. He was going to miss her, too.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Music: Stop Motion

New music from Stephanie Mabey (and IMO perfect for those of us who found 2017 a horrible burden on our creative output):

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Blaze and the Unwanted

Yes, I know this needs a better title. Yes, this is just a random character assessment scenario. No, it's not really a complete story as such. But it's here, and it's directly related to my primary current writing project, and well... here you go.

"Mayor, they're still out there. You have to do something."

Blaze paused in the hallway of the ancient inn, listening to raised voices through closed doors. He'd never been much for eavesdropping, or for gossip in general, but this was hard to ignore. Tobia Wistrus was mayor of town of Varnmos, and also the owner of its largest and oldest inn. So when the Imperial Guard had done their midwinter sweep of the borders, naturally that was where they'd chosen to stay. Blaze wondered now if that had been a mistake: he was supposed to be learning the ways of Imperial cities and towns, and attaching himself to the immediate, obvious power structures was no way to do that. Somber, he thought, would not have approved. But Somber was gone, and even if he hadn't chosen to disappear, he wouldn't be out here with the guard. He'd be off with his family, whoever and wherever they were.

Blaze stepped closer to the wooden door. His own quarters were here at the front of the building, the best rooms, adjacent to those of the owner and her family. The conversation was taking place just beyond the door, in what was probably the entryway to the mayor's family floor.

"The Green is open to all," answered the mayor, her voice soothing. "They have the right to stop there, and to pitch tents, even in this weather."

Blaze hesitated, struggling to find context for the arguments. The sky had been gray and the weather chilly when they'd arrived at midday; it had only grown colder since, and when he'd gone to take a stroll outside the air had hurt his face. It was so cold now, it was brutal.

"The Imperial Guard is in town, in your own inn. How will this make us look?"

Context be damned, Blaze decided, and knocked on the door.

There was a brief pause, and then the door swung open. Blaze stepped through, not waiting for the mayor to invite him inside. "I understand there's a problem on the Green," he said.

The man who had been addressing the mayor was older, thin and hunched, the loose curls of his hair gone to gray. "Travelers," he said. "They've come up from Norandos. They've pitched tents on the Green..."

Blaze didn't wait to hear who was on which side, or even what the sides were. He wasn't sure he wanted to know. "I will speak to them," he said, and left the room.

* * *

Even with a heavy cloak over his heaviest coat, the evening wind assaulted him. His nose and ears went numb immediately; the skin of his cheeks felt stretched and beaten. But it was as the older man had said: a double-dozen tents were staked out on the Green at the center of Varnmos, to make bedding places for travelers with no animals and no money.

Blaze approached the nearest tent and shook it gently. "Hey," he called. "You in there." Then he coughed. Even with a heavy scarf, the cold air burned his nostrils, throat, and lungs. "How quickly could you strike these tents?"

There was a long pause; then someone inside the tent untied a couple of bindings and eased one side of the flaps barely open. "You can't send us on," said a woman's voice. "We'll die in this cold."

"Yes," said Blaze patiently, "I know. Come into the inn."

"We can't," said the woman. "The innkeeper -- the Imperial Guard have filled it, and they have the Firewing Prince with them." He could barely see her face, only the one eye pressed to the crack in the cloth wall of the tent, but he could see the small child huddled in a jumble of blankets behind her.

Irritation spilled through Blaze, tightening his chest. He and the mayor were going to talk when he got back inside. Tobia was standing beside him now, shivering despite heavy robes: his abrupt departure had panicked her, and she'd followed him out into the closing of the day. The man who'd been complaining to her had followed her out as well, along with Selandra and a handful of the guard. Blaze straightened and looked around, meeting their eyes one at a time. "No," he said firmly. "I don't care. Even if they're all sleeping on the floor in the common room, it's better than out here. Nobody should be out in this."

He knelt again, looking into the tent. "Gather your blankets and whatever else you need. Leave the tent for the morning, if it's too cold to take it down now. Nobody will touch it. Come inside."

He straightened again, letting his gaze pass over the guards and settle on Selandra. "Go to the tents. Spread the word. Bring them inside."

The mayor had opened her mouth; then she closed it, and nodded. "Will your men double up to give them rooms? Or will we put them all in the common room?"

"Selandra?" asked Blaze. She was in charge of this platoon.

She met his eyes, glanced barely at the guards, and said: "We'll double up. Let's get them into rooms. Nathus, go back inside and tell the others." She straightened, but the guards who'd come out with her didn't wait for a formal order. They were already spreading out, shaking tents and telling their occupants to find shelter in the inn.

The mayor made a small bow. "I'd best get back inside," she said. "I'll need to reorganize the rooms... and see to providing some food."

Blaze nodded and she turned. "You there!" The mayor called. "Nathus! Hold a moment, we'll need to sort this!" The guardsman paused for the brief moment it took her to catch up with him, cough, and then march back into the inn. Blaze turned away, and went to empty out another insufficient tent.

* * *

The common room was full now, the travelers all inside. With a large fire roaring in the hearth at either end of the room and the travelers all inside, it was almost warm. Blaze sat back at a corner table, with Selandra and a pair of guards, watching the slow procession to the pot of stew that the mayor's cooks had put out. No doubt they had had disposed of a lot of leftovers that way, but that was fine for now. Judging by the steadiness of the line, this was more than the travelers had had today, and maybe any time this week. Maybe longer. Blaze didn't know and couldn't tell, and that bothered him. He needed, needed to know more about what was happening in the Empire.

He took a slow sip of heated cider, then set it aside as the older man who'd been arguing with the mayor approached.

"I owe you an apology," he said. "The mayor does too, but I'll make it now on her behalf: we misjudged you. This is... more than I expected. Better."

"This is basic human decency," said Blaze, managing -- mostly -- to keep the growl out of his voice.

"Forgive me for saying so, but... that is not what we've come to expect from Imperial representatives. And Imperial representatives are some of the few people who can have a duly selected mayor removed from office, jailed, or exiled."

Blaze stood silent for a long moment, weighing those words. "...Then Imperial representatives will have to do better. Do you know me?"

"Rumors, talk. We never know who to trust when Imperial representatives come though."

Selandra straightened, but Blaze laughed. "You have a truthsayer in your town?"

The older man drew back, nodding cautiously.

"I will say this again before your truthspeaker, if it will help: I am called Blaze, but my true name is Ionus Davrus, Firewing Prince of House Ebastorius, and I'm something like sixth in line for the Imperial throne, may I never get there. And I expect every town and home in the empire to offer this sort of hospitality to those who need it, when they need it, to the limits of their resources. And if any stray Imperial representative complains about that, I want the citizens to inform me so that I can explain to those representatives what it means to represent the Empire."

The older man bowed. "Your lordship, I will hold you to that."

Blaze smiled. "See that you do."

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Music: Wyoming Wind

"Nobody's answer, nobody's friend." Music by Wishing Chair, for your Wednesday:

This is one of the songs I come back to when I'm... musing on things.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Nature Cat

So... Secondborn is watching Nature Cat in the living room. Nature Cat... puzzles me. I'm still unclear about why he sounds like Robin Hood, for example. But in this episode, Nature Cat appears to have gotten lost... while hiking... in nature. And, in fact, Nature Cat frequently seems to know almost nothing about nature at all. Actually, the more I think about this, the more I think that Nature Cat may be the least aptly-named feline in the modern world.

I feel like there should be some backstory here. Like, maybe Nature Cat was an ordinary suburban housecat until he accidentally got outside and stumbled onto some sort of ancient temple? And then this Voice says, "You have returned to my altar. You shall be my representative. You are now... Nature Cat!" And now Nature Cat has this vital quest to complete even though he's completely unqualified for it on almost every level?

I dunno. I never saw the pilot episode. But I feel like that's basically how it should have gone.