Friday, October 19, 2018

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Missed connection: Fire

Okay, so, here's the thing: I think I need you to help me prevent the opening of the Great Seal and the end of all life on Earth.

It was last Tuesday, about seven o'clock in the evening. We were in one of those restaurants on the east side, the kind that has a central fireplace behind a metal grate. I was there with my parents, but honestly we probably just looked like a trio of college students. You were at a table by yourself, but every time you looked at the fire the flames bowed and the light dimmed. And every time I looked at it, it roared back up. By the end of the night we were both staring at it, and occasionally sparing glances for each other.

My parents basically dragged me out of there, because Frost and Flame don't mix -- except when they do, and I think maybe we did. So find me. It might be important. It might be more important than anything.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Missed Connections: Magician

We're thirty minutes into this birthday party, nobody's served food yet, and the other parents are starting to look pretty tasty when you show up: the entertainment. This family has hired a stage magician to entertain their third-grader and his friends. So there you are, and there I am. And then you started your performance, and it was excellent. Except...

I saw that card fall out of your sleeve, land on the floor, and then jump back in a moment later. It would have been a grand bit of stagecraft, but nobody saw it except me. Or the bit where you held out a coin and then pretended to pull it out of the birthday boy's ear. Nobody but me saw you hold it out. They all thought your hand was empty. And then the birds that came out of your hat? The ones that nobody had to chase out of the house later? That was the one that really gave it away.

I gave myself away too though, didn't I? I looked at something I shouldn't have been able to see once or twice too often. And then you started looking at me. And then the show was over, and you left before I could catch up with you.

Well... I guess by now you've figured out what I am. I want you to know that it's not what it seems. If you want to know more, look me up. You're a lousy magician, but you're a very impressive sorcerer.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Holy Crap Sunday: A Recap

So Sunday was... fraught. (Interesting word, fraught. It's derived from "freight". Something that's fraught is carrying a lot of freight, usually -- the way we use it now -- in the form of emotional baggage.)

It stopped raining shortly after I got out of bed (a solid seven hours of sleep that I could easily have doubled except that my life hasn't worked that way in decades), so in keeping with our current policy I pried the boys away from their video games and took the whole family on a walk around the block. Well, the whole family except for the cat; kitty don't go on walks. Kitty's a hardcore napper. But I digress.

As soon as we got back from the walk, we all piled into my car and I took us to the donut shop, because boys who have been on walks are eager for donuts.

That left me enough time to scramble some brunch: hamburger, bacon, Colby-Jack cheese, garlic salt, and eggs. Sort of like an omelette, except it was more of a splat -- but again, I digress.

I finished eating, and we emptied out the back of the van and ran off to purchase a new treadmill. It turned out to be a bit larger (and nicer) than we expected, but the van has a lot of storage, and we managed to make it work.

(There's a story there. A while back, we changed Secondborn's room into an exercise room. He'd been doing most of his sleeping on the lower bunk in his brother's room, and we needed a way for the boys to exercise inside the house. So, the exercise room acquired a treadmill, a television, a small trampoline, and Firstborn's laptop, which was plugged into the television. The rule was that you could only watch YouTube videos on weeknights if you were active on the treadmill. Unfortunately, on weekends Firstborn liked to play games on his laptop, and he got in the habit of sitting on the front of the treadmill while he was doing so. The eventual result of this was that the front pinched the track while the treadmill was trying to run, and when it couldn't turn it burned out the motor. Around this same time, Secondborn started complaining about not having a room of his own, and asking us to put a bed back in there. So... the arrangement didn't last, but when it was working it worked brilliantly. Anyway, the dead treadmill left, Secondborn got his room back complete with a new bed, and this treadmill represents the second iteration of this cunning plan.)

So: we bought a new treadmill and brought it back to the house. It turned out to be nicer, newer, and bigger than the last one. It also turned out to be bigger than our front door. Or any other doors, for that matter. (Beautiful Wife: "I have made a terrible, terrible mistake.") So I spent the next half an hour disconnecting the very-prominent control panel section so that we could lean it against the tread and maneuver (read: manhandle) the whole thing through the door. In the process we discovered that our Very Elderly Cat had pooped just inside the back door; fortunately, the boys were helping us out and Secondborn cleaned that one up. And then I spent the half-hour after that figuring out how to get the control panel slotted back into place. And immediately after that, I discovered that Very Elderly Cat had also thrown up in our bedroom.


By now it's after 1:00, and I still have some errands I need to do. The first is to check on a maintenance job I left running on a SQL server at work. I started it right before I left work on Friday.

It's still running.

This is, for a variety of reasons, not optimal. Not only is that a long time for a job to run, but it means that two other jobs have kicked off, run simultaneously with this one, and finished -- one on Saturday night, one early Sunday morning. Also, this process locks various tables while it works on them, so while it doesn't take the whole system offline it can cause some really ugly delays. If our departmental politics were less fraught than they are right now, I'd say that this was all part of the troubleshooting process. As it is, well... I'd really hoped to have all this cleaned up by now. And now I have to remote in and check on the benighted thing every so often so I can see when it finishes.

After that, well: groceries. Because people (and cats) still need to eat. Once I had everything I needed, I headed back to the house and put it all away.

And then, finally, I got to take a hot bath and read for a while.

Gentle readers, it was amazing.

There are still things that need to be done. Beautiful Wife is off to a girl's night out, so I'll be the one putting the boys down. That's not as big a deal as it might be, because that's usually my job anyway. I need to get more lines in on the Beauty and the Beast/Heroes Are Assholes story, but it might be better to sleep first and get up extra early to work on that. And there's always more reading lined up and waiting for me. But I think I might actually have adulted my way through this long damned day.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Missed Connection: A Message In Ogham Found Carved On A Stone In Wales

It was a great party, wasn't it? Everybody was there: the king, his knights, all those courtiers... and you, clearly a magician, respected by all despite your half-human bloodline. I tried to catch your eye, but you were focused on that water-sprite instead. And when I tried to look you up afterwards, well... Nowhere to be found. "Trapped in a tree," I was told, or maybe it was a cave, or a stone, or an unseen tower. Talk about missing your chance...

Well, the party's been over for centuries now, and I'm leaving this stele at the spot where that famous table once stood. I think if you ever escape, you'll come here first. It's barely even a ruin anymore, but you'll find this if you look. And you'll know I looked for you. My brother's gone, his kingdom fallen to less than ruins, but you can still find me on the Isle of Apples if you care to look.

I'll be waiting.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Halloween Short Story: Awakening

I should never have opened the book.

My fingers bleed. They color everything I touch. But when I touch things, I can feel all the way through them. I can trace their shapes from the inside.

My eyes are burned away. They were so limited. They only saw colors, shapes, movements, distances. I can see everything now.

My feet... I remember having feet. No longer. I am wherever I desire to be, however I wish to be. Gravity is no longer my master. Distance was a failure of perception.

My body...

My body... becomes...

As does my mind.

I have no fear of this apocalypse. It is not mine, but I am a part of it, at home in it, satisfied by it. It nurtures me, fulfills me, and strengthens me.

These great beasts? They come against me. They come against us, and our world.

I devour them.

When they are gone, when the world in all its madness and tragedy is preserved, well...

What happens then? What will I do?





I do not shape the end of things, the end of myself. It hangs before me, half-seen, calling me, pulling me on.

I do not shape it.

It shapes me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Missed Connection: Statuary

You were at my sister's gallery. You looked at the statues and remarked on their realism. My sister guided you around in her mirrored sunglasses and hijab. I was back at the register, too shy to speak, but you glanced my way several times. My sister started to take her glasses off, but your phone buzzed and you left just after.

I'd like to see you again. Most people who come to the gallery never look at me, not really. And since you gave your name as Percy, I think we might have things to talk about.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Classic Fantasy Tropes: Soul-Devouring Sword

Tired: The hero has claimed the most powerful magic sword in the realm for his own. It eats souls.

Wired: Actually, it ate one soul and felt really guilty about it and now it doesn't want to cut its way through armies, destroy legendary monsters, or change the fate of empires.

Inspired: The sword is now inhabited by the soul of Hap, a forty-year-old career soldier who would rather be playing dice and will happily dispense advice on how to avoid dangerous situations. Hap will also explain to the hero, cheerfully and at length, how best to spend his money, why he should just turn in and get a steady job, how much better things were in Hap's day, why you can't trust merchants, and the vital importance of owning a Shar-Pei.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Missed Connection: Human Scents

Last Thursday, just past midnight, under the moon. You were the handsome kit with the silvery back and the black-tipped tail. You smelled just enough of human things to tell me what you really were. I was the red with the pointy ears. We were interrupted, and you led the hunters away before I could introduce myself. If you survived, I'd love to meet you again with our skins on.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Music: Zombie Love Song

Your Favorite Martian:

Missed Connection: Knocking, Rattling

You were the young woman in apartment 31: black hair, dark skin, and the most beautiful brown eyes.

I was the soft footfall in the hallway, the late-night rattling of cupboards, the persistent chill in the air, and the empty corner your cat kept staring at.

You don't know me, but I'm begging you: move back in. Let me haunt you.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Rebuilding / Retuning

I've created a new bedtime schedule for us, partly because Secondborn has been having some issues recently and partly because I have this growing fear that the year is getting away from us. So we started it last night. Which means that for the first time this school year, Firstborn has practiced his bass and Secondborn has practiced his piano. We've also added in a cut-off time for any kind of Looking At Screens, at which point we switch over to about fifteen minutes of general cleaning, then Getting Ready For Bed, then about fifteen minutes of reading in bed before Lights Out.

This actually went pretty well this first time, but I expect more wailing and gnashing of teeth as we continue on with it. Still... so far so good. And if it helps us start feeling like things maybe aren't constantly on the edge of spiraling out of control, so much the better.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Can't Post Today

Sorry, Exit Strategy comes out today. It's the fourth of the Murderbot Diaries. I will not be posting anything until I'm done reading it.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

The Power of Coincidence

Put in Dragon Age: Origins this morning. (I've never played it. I know, I know, I'm embarrassingly behind.) Anyway, at the end of the Character creation process, I started asking Firstborn if he'd switched the PS3 over to his account while I was away earlier, and...


No, it turns out that I had simply managed to select the combination of traits that offered a character whose default first name was also Firstborn's name.

What are the odds?

Friday, September 28, 2018

In Otter News...

Some days there just doesn't seem to be anything worth saying. I know it's not actually true -- there are plenty of things worth saying, and repeating, and amplifying -- but that's how I'm feeling this morning. I think this is just the aftermath (or continuation) of being sick, and maybe also an effect of this week's news cycle, which has just been horrible all the way around.

So... here's live footage of sea otters. Yes. Have some sea otters.

Ugh, Part 758

Okay, seriously: what the hell is wrong with me? I've gotten everybody in motion, dropped the boys off at school, and made it to work... and I'm exhausted. And I have a headache. And I'm exhausted. (Oh, and I'm thoroughly disgusted by essentially everything to do with Kavanaugh's likely appointment to the Supreme Court and what that says about our society and the future of our justice system.) And did I mention that I'm exhausted?

I got home last night, nibbled a little dinner, and immediately passed out on the couch. Admittedly, it's a bit different when I do it. When Beautiful Wife passes out on the couch like that, I keep everybody quiet, curse the very existence of the phone when it inevitably rings, and try to put the boys to bed without waking her. When I do it, I get woken up to see if I have any cash for the lawn guys, the boys rampage loudly across the house, my wife talks and full-volume Phone Voice in the kitchen, and I still end up putting the boys to bed. I ask you: where's the justice in that?

It's not just me, either. Firstborn seems to be doing okay, but Secondborn hit this morning looking exactly like I feel: tired, cranky, and unready to accomplish anything. Including pulling on a shirt.

I don't think it's allergies. I think we're actually sick. And I think this weekend should be devoted to resting, cleaning, and disinfecting.

I just don't know if that's actually going to happen.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

"Ugh," explicated

So, since sometime around Sunday evening, the entire family has been sick. No fevers, so we're still sending the boys off to school, but I took Monday and Tuesday off (and I really need to be at work when this posts, regardless of how I might be feeling). But headaches, stuffiness, touches of nausea, that sort of thing. Lots and lots of that sort of thing.

It might just be allergies. Mold and fungus counts are apparently insanely high right now. But... well... I'm still feeling pretty ooky even after spending all day at home, and my immune system is acting like it's taken a serious hit, so... I don't know.

It's not just that I hate feeling like this. What I really hate is the fact that I can't tell. Am I wildly contagious with something horrible, and morally obligated to avoid human contact until it's gone? Would I be okay with maybe some Motrin and Benadryl and a crapload of caffeine to balance against the drowsiness? Who can tell?

All I can say is that it better not be flu.

I just got the flu shot on Saturday.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


What does parenting mean to me? A long string of lovely, fulfilling moments broken by the occasional urge to start screaming and never stop.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Heroes are assholes, iteration 3

So I've been looking at the antagonists for my latest story idea, and...

Well, it started out as a matter of making sure that their role in the story made sense. (It does. This is a huge relief.)

And they're not typical villains, which is very much what I wanted. I mean, it's also what I needed for this plot, but... I didn't want a Big Bad who just A Villain, just doing evil for evil's sake. (That might make an appearance in the Ash Knight story, but not here.) But what they're doing, both the taking risks and the acting with restraint, makes sense for their background and motivation. And as a result, well... The story could be told from their side just about as easily, and they would look completely heroic.

It's all in how you tell it. And my current protagonist has made his fair share of dick moves, and the villains are also pulling some dick moves -- but they both have morals, and they both have limits, and they both have reasons.

Heroes are often assholes, if you step back and look at them closely. It comes with the territory.

Friday, September 21, 2018


Vincitor watched the mourners file away from his father's cenotaph, and felt his hands curl into fists. The ceremony had been tasteful and lovely and -- despite the political element of the occasion -- most of the mourning seemed sincere. His father had been well-loved in these lands.

"So," said Valia, standing at his side. "You and I inherit the title, the lands, and all the headaches attending to them." She was Vincitor's twin, and the older of the two, but Court Law in Verigor still held to certain views from the old religion, and so held that twins could inherit as if they were a single person. Unless one of them stepped aside, they would both assume their father's noble rank and rule together as Viscounts.

"It's not official until the Countess performs the confirmation," Vincitor said quietly, "and that will be half a season at least. That's time enough to restore the honor of our blood."

"We can't invade Alisaze, not without the backing of the Crown. And the Crown is rightly convinced that the last expedition proved too costly. We need time to recover our resources, and time to weaken Alisaze in other ways."

Vincitor turned to face her. "No," he said quietly. "But we can slip across the border, find our father's murderer, and kill him. The Alisaze won't thank us, but at this point I think they'd be quietly relieved -- as long as we were done and gone before anyone in authority found out."

Valia nodded. Few of their informants were left in Alisaze, but the ones who were there were thorough, trustworthy, and reliable. She knew that as well as her brother did. Probably better, since she was the one making sure they received their pay. "A single division of the Home Guard?" she asked.

"Proelor's," said Vincitor. "You know how close he was to Father."

Valia looked away and her lips twisted, but after a moment she nodded. "Unquestionable loyalty," she said. "Shared cause. Yes. I'll speak to Mother about managing things while we're away." She paused. "I think she'll approve."

Vincitor smiled. "She'll worry," he said, "but she'll approve."

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Legendary Things That Probably Never Existed

Apparently this is my week for making lists. Eh, whatever... with Hallowe'en fast approaching, I've been thinking about monsters, mythology, and sundry sorts of legends. So, without further ado, here's my current list of Legendary Things That Probably Never Existed In Real Life:
  1. Unicorns
  2. Dragons
  3. Vampires
  4. Winged Horses
  5. Bigfoot
  6. Mothman
  7. Ghosts
  8. Vacations
  9. Retirement
  10. Functional Democracies

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

How's your morning?

Co-worker: "How's your morning going?"

Me: "..."
Me: "...So, let's just get down to business, then."

Co-worker: "Ooookay, then."

I'm still just worn out, is the actual answer. Like, I'm not sick, but my sinuses are still weirded out from the airline travel, and I think my ears are trying to decide whether they develop infections or just let it pass. Then, of course, there was last week's conference -- where people from all over the country brought together their knowledge, expertise, and germs.


Plus, Secondborn's still recovering from the flu. So basically, getting everybody up and out the door and getting myself to work has worn me out. Hopefully I can take it easy for the rest of today, though -- and tonight's definitely going to be an early bedtime.

Secondborn Dances On My Last Nerve

I swear, that child has given me a whole new benchmark for the concept of "exasperation". If he were a soda pop, he'd be exasparailla.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Mundane Magic Items

As you probably know if you've been following this blog, I've finally gotten back to playing Dungeons and Dragons. This has naturally gotten me to thinking about magic items. Now, D'n'D has a long (and ever-growing) list of magical items, but it also has a distinct emphasis on adventuring equipment and particularly combat. And honestly, that seems to be the case in a lot of fantasy worlds: it's easy to find a legendary magical sword, or even have one made, but nobody ever seems to be out there getting rich by making the sort of things that people can actually use. You know, in their daily life, when the only Orc they've ever met is the head cook at Mama's Diner, and spends half his time reminding the kobolds to wash the dishes.

So, with that imbalance in mind, I submit to you a list of Mundane Magic Items: minor items, generally useless for combat, but exactly the sort of things that an enterprising Enchanter could get filthy rich selling in bulk to the general public.
-A stone that heats water
-A pot or pan that cooks anything placed within it
-An enchanted broom that sweeps and dusts when a command word is spoken
-A Decanter of Endless Honey (useful for sweetening your water elementals)
-A small sundial brooch that reminds you of appointments
-A small cloth square that will clean *anything* (I would have killed for this after that last battle in the sewer)
-Ring or Amulet of Insect Repulsion
-Umbrella of Feather Fall (also keeps rain off)
-A vial of paint that glows in the dark
-Goblet of Drink Chilling
-Box of Food Preservation
-Wall-Mending Putty which changes its surface to match the texture and paint around it
-A plow that turns any stones it hits into rich, aerated soil
-A small glyph that can be attached to anything, and answers when you call out to it
-Bottomless Chamberpot (dumps your cess into an extra-dimensional void, so it never needs to be emptied or cleaned!)

What other helpful magical gizmos should a magic-rich world have available?

Thursday, September 13, 2018


I just realized I haven't been posting.

This would be because I've been at a conference all week.

I've been thinking about plots and storylines, and all the things I want to write, and it's well past time to take one and really dig into it. Not start on it (I've already done that), not think it through (done that already, too), just set up a regular time every day and write.

I have no idea how to schedule that, but I think setting myself a couple of rules will be a good start:
1. I only get to read if I can't be writing.
2. I only get to play video games when I finish writing.

Here's hoping that simple, dumb systems are the key to success!

Monday, September 10, 2018

One for the 90s kids in the room

I think it's been about a week since she looked at me, cocked her head to the side, and said she was angry. Two days after that she told to come back and see her once I'd gotten it together. Then three days ago I realized it was my fault, but I couldn't tell her. All things considered, I'm surprisingly sure that it'll be another two days before I apologize.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Music: Wish You Were Here

I'm heading off to a conference next week, so I'll leave you with Cody Jinks and this lovely bit of country music:

And hey, have a special bonus song! This one's performed by Luther Wright & The Wrongs:

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Music: Skeleton Key

by Dessa Darling, and if you aren't already familiar with her music you should listen to it -- all of it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Music Commentary: Dodging the Question

I've been told before that one of the big issues with me and music is that I actually listen to the lyrics. Today's example comes from a band called Florida Georgia Line, with a song called "Meant To Be". (It seems to be on YouTube here, except this isn't the version that I keep hearing on the radio - even some of the Who Sings Which Piece Of The Lyrics is off.)

Anyway, there's a point in the song where the girl talks about her previous experiences with dating and expresses her concerns with continuing to date:

I don't mean to be so uptight, but my heart's been hurt a couple times
By a couple guys that didn't treat me right
I ain't gon' lie, ain't gonna lie
'Cause I'm tired of the fake love, show me what you're made of
Boy, make me believe

But the boy in the song just sidesteps the question, and the girl (by joining him for the vocals on the chorus) just seems to go along with it:

But hold up, girl, don't you know you're beautiful?
And it's easy to see
If it's meant to be, it'll be, it'll be

This... bothers me. She says she's worried about getting hurt, and your response is "Don't you know you're beautiful"? Yeah, not helping.

So I propose the following alternative lyrics:

It's okay, girl, we can take it easy now
While you get to know me
If it's meant to be... (etc.)

Monday, September 3, 2018

Short Fiction: Sick Note

"It's not that we don't believe you," said the boss, "it's just that if you're out again you'll need to bring in a doctor's note."

Four hours later, Bob was roaming the street with blood in his mouth and a doctor's note in his hand. A pack of his fellow infected, his few remaining co-workers among them, hunted with him. As he caught the scent of their next victim, Bob had a brief moment of clarity: he remembered a time before he needed to hunt and feed with his packmates, and he wondered if HR regretted that idiotic sick-note policy.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Disproving Your Own Point

Radio: "You're advertising-free with Scotty and Brett on 93.3!"

Me: "And yet, here you are advertising the fact."

Is there a word for when the act of saying something actively disproves the thing you were trying to say?

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Firstborn Misses His Class

This was composed entirely by Firstborn, entirely on his own. I have not edited it. Apparently the incident in question happened last year, though this is the first I've heard of it. He was writing about it for his English/Language Arts class this year.

So one time during the second day of sixth grade I went to fifth period during fourth period time, and as such I had to do fifth period multiple times, due to the fact that my fourth period class is math honors, and since directly after math honors is math rocks, and since I don’t go to math rocks, I had nowhere to go after fourth period, so The Teachers decided that I had to do fifth period again.

Let me explain. At that point, I had had effectively two days- One from the previous school day, one half from that day, and the last part from the before school tour- to know my schedule. Due to this, I was only about eight times out of ten sure where to go. However, that last fifth caught me that day, although there weren’t too many negative effects of this.

In my I eyes, nothing was really that wrong. After all, this was one of my periods, and it happened at around this time, right? Eh, it was probably fine, no need to worry about that messed up sense of time in the back of your head, am I right?

In that kind of spirit, I went through this class all the way to lunch, where my friend asked why I was not in class, ghosts didn’t show up, and I found out that I had my schedule messed up. So my actually kind of so-cunning-you-could-brush-your-teeth-with-it plan was to just do my math afterwards, so I went back to class, finished class, and then tried to go do math. However, as I mentioned earlier, I would have had to go to math rocks, and since I don’t go to math rocks, I had to do fifth period- history, by the way –a second time over.

In all honesty, I’m just glad that history doesn’t change either…

It doesn’t…


Monday, August 27, 2018

New Campaign, New Enemies

So we picked up with the D'n'D game again last week. It's been pretty memorable so far. I mean, there was the opening battle, in which we defeated a bunch of barbarian raiders by basically failing to die the way the obviously expected us to.

Then there was the time we tried to infiltrate a bandit camp, and wound up being questioned at the top of the central guard tower... and promptly threw the bandit leader off the tower, hauled up the ladder so nobody else could get up, and drove the bandits out of their own outpost with little more than archery and attitude. That was the same episode where we rescued the colonel in charge of our fort and carried him back on top of a wagon loaded with treasure, so we came out looking pretty good there.

The episode before last, we basically cleared out a haunted cave (with teamwork, yet!) and killed the barbarian raiders who were using it as a base, and captured the second ancient book that we'd been seeking. That went about as well as you could expect, with the barbarian leader getting tripped by our fighter and basically kept prone while we beat her down.

Then, of course, there was our last session, when we encountered a wee little baby blue dragon and very nearly all died.

Yeah. Dragons are tough. Even the teensy cute ones.

Friday, August 24, 2018


I've gotten the whole family down to sleep.

That means I win, right?

That... means... I/// zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Music: Smells Like Teen Spirit

Not the Nirvana version, though. This one's by Tori Amos:

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Giant Mutant Nutria: A Found Audio Story

Yesterday, on my break, I left a message for my wife on our answering machine. Then another. Then another. And then, well, it kind of got out of hand. So... this is what she came home to:
Message One: "Ahh! Help! Giant mutant nutria are attacking [my workplace]! Send help now! Nutria!" ::BEEP::

Message Two: "It's okay. I'm hiding in the server room. I don't think they know I'm here. The smell from the coffee machine hides my scent." ::BEEP::

Message Three: "Oh god. They're gathering around the door. Can they hear me? Are they just... searching? Have to keep quiet now. Pray for me." ::BEEP::

Message Four: "Oh God, they're burrowing through the walls. If I stay behind the server rack-" (Whispering:) "They're in the room now." ::BEEP::

Message Five: "They're gone now. They looked at my computer screen for a long time, and now they're gone. They weren't... reading... were they? Couldn't have been." ::BEEP::

Message Six: "Okay, so... I was looking at the Wikipedia article on Coypu when they broke in. Now there's a note on my screen. It says, 'Sorry, didn't realize we were herbivores.' I think the crisis may be over." ::BEEP::

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Sparse and Erratic

Okay, so:

I realize I haven't been as good about posting on the blog o' doom here as I used to be. I haven't done a Mad Scientist thing in ages, and while I used to throw little bits of fiction up here I've been really bad about that. (It's not lack of ideas, it's more that the ideas that I really like, I'd like to look at actually *publishing* in some fashion, and I don't have the time and energy to create material in more than one area. Heck, I can barely manage *one* area...)

Which is why we haven't heard from the mad scientist, the halfling necromancer, the father trying to get his family through the multipocalypse, any random bits of speculative fiction, or even my random, weird dreams.

Reader, I want you to know that there is actually a post sitting in my draft folder right now. The text is completely empty, and the title just says:
"I dunno, just do something with this."


Apparently I've resorted to leaving myself little notes that I should write things for this blog, without even the courtesy of adding a writing prompt.

I keep hoping things will smooth back out, and I think they are - but's a very slow, gradual process. So, as always, we'll see.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Monday, August 20, 2018

Achievement Unlocked: First Week of School

So the boys have finished their first week of school (and if it seems like that's starting hellishly early in the year, well, it is) and so far they're doing pretty well. We've managed to keep them on a pretty regular schedule (sleep, meals, etc.) and we're trying to get exercise, and while this semester's schedules have us dropping the boys off relatively early, they're handling that pretty well, too.

That intervening week between the last week of summer camps and the first week of school, though... Well, basically because of this:
School: "Every family in our district has a stay-at-home parent, so if we schedule the classroom walkthrough and locker-opening practice for a weekday morning it won't be a problem."

The rest of us: "Ha-ha-ha-WHAT?"
So, I don't know. It was stressful, but we got through it with a minimum of drama - partly, I think, because I took the first three days of school off from work, just to make sure I wasn't panicking while we worked out the timing. And the time off seems to have done me some good in other ways, though frankly I feel like I could have used more of it. I finished outlining a story I'm planning to write, though I'm not sure how well my new plan of writing first thing in the morning is going to work. On the other hand, I can hardly be finishing fewer things than I was already, so there's that.

We're still getting things squeezed into place; we'll see how it goes. Hope the rest of you are doing well and not too overwhelmed by all the things that you have to keep in motion. Being an adult is hard.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

And So School Begins Again....

I took the beginning of this week off, because it's the first week of school for the boys and I've been promising myself that I'd take some vacation for that for, I don't know, five years now? Longer? Anyway, that part has gone pretty well: the boys are on a regular schedule, and we're getting into the rhythm of getting everybody ready in the morning and doing the follow-up stuff (homework, notes from the school, etc.) when we get home. Plus the whole Getting To Bed On Time At Night thing, though the cat is still doing his best to make sure I can't get a full night's sleep.

And despite some stress about being away from work right now, I think I really needed this. Like, I'm feeling hugely better: better rested, more alert, better mood, and a lot of my creativity is suddenly back online. I think I've even lost a couple of pounds just from not being exhausted and not eating to try to make up for being exhausted. I feel like myself again, and it's a profound relief. (It's also rather worrying just how much time I seem to spending lately where I don't feel that way, but there's not much to do except watch to make sure I don't fall back into those patterns.)

I finished Martha Well's latest Murderbot book, Rogue Protocol, and I really can't recommend this series highly enough. They're short, they're fun, they're full of action and suspense and snark and a main character who's remarkably sympathetic for a heartless killing machine.

I've now moved on to On The Shoulders Of Titans, which is the sequel to Sufficiently Advanced Magic. So far it's every bit as enjoyable as the original, and features an ace protagonist along with a broad cast of fun, interesting characters - not to mention an interesting, enjoyable magic system and an ominous plot with potentially world-altering consequences. My one complaint with the sequel so far is that the author picks up where the first book left off, without filling in the bits of background explanation that would make it more accessible to anyone who hasn't read the first book. That not entirely bad, since it means we get to skip a lot of exposition, but it also means that I keep having to stop and try to remember which character is which, and how they fit into the first book (which I read a year ago, and I've slept since then).

...And now, I think it's time to get back to some writing of my own.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Into the Black Commentary 001

So, I wrote this on Saturday when I was half-soused and apparently thinking, I know, I'll write a space opera! I should totally be able to do that without any sort of plan!

...And it kind of shows.

I mean, okay, "Jeremy"? Why "Jeremy"? Why isn't he using some sort of call-sign, as the other fighter apparently is? And why is he hauling on a manual control lever for a space ship? Shouldn't he be using some sort of neural interface or something?

And if we're at the level of fighting aliens equipped with plasma cannons, who the hell is coating their ships in ablative armor? And why are the undefended aliens dumb enough to follow him into the atmosphere at speed?

Seriously, what was I thinking?

Oh, well. Back to Take Two on the Heroes Are Assholes story. At least I know how that one's supposed to play out.

Also? Note to self: alcohol isn't necessarily a bad thing when writing, but it sure as hell doesn't make up for lack of sleep.


Monday, August 13, 2018

Into The Black, 001

Jeremy shoved the stick forward, decelerating as rapidly as he could when he touched the edge of the atmosphere. The Antiraian ships were close behind him, but their plasma weapons lost cohesion in even these little fringes of air. G-forces shoved him against his bindings as his fighter shed a weight of ablative armor to protect against the sudden heat.

Tha Antiraian ships, unprotected, blossomed into fireballs and died. Jeremy yanked the stick back, correcting course, and headed back out into open space. He could hear the cries of his fellow pilots through his familiar, some victorious and others screaming before they fell silent. Warbird was headed his way, with a half-dozen Antirians behind her. Unshielded, he loosed missiles and dodged to the side, watching with satisfaction as the cloud of pursuers fell to one. Warbird made a quick spin and came in behind her remaining pursuer, pouring cannons into it until it disintegrated.

Jeremy grinned, then spun aside again. He couldn't afford to be still; if anything hit him now, he was dead. He needed to get back to the Onus, before anything else went wrong.

His console triggered him: there were missiles approaching his ship. He reversed thrust, then shoved himself randomly to the side. Warbird had loosed her own missiles, and the Antirians targeting him abruptly died.

Their weapons, however, hadn't. A bright flare cut off scans for where he'd been a moment before, and scans showed at least two missiles circling back towards his ship. Jeremy activated a combination of thrusters that twisted his ship around, then fired the main thruster. One approaching missile immolated itself in the plasma jet, and the other fell into line as he fled, then exploded when it got too close. The main thruster flickered, but recovered, and he was away, tracing a twisted arc back towards the Onus.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Music: The Masochism Tango

Tom Lehrer, of course, to brighten your Friday morning:

So, the Heroes Are Assholes story has... outgrown itself. It was supposed to be a short story, but... it's not.

It's a first chapter.

More to come on that front, as I burn wickedly onwards.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Music: Among the Ghosts

Performed by Lucerno:

D'n'D Night

We've moved the D'n'D game from Saturday nights to Wednesday nights. This seems to work better, because A) there's a lot less drinking, and B) there's a clear cutoff time when we have to stop so we can all be functional at work. We're still using the new set of characters, and it seems to be working well - it's a completely different play style from what we were doing before, and so far it seems a lot more effective (even without a mage in the party).

I'm enjoying it because my new character is much more the kind of thing I like to play, and the rogue/ranger combination is working very much the way I hoped it would. Basically, I do almost all of the searching, checking for traps, and opening locks -- and then I sneak up on things and stab them. I don't really have the hit points or the armor class to go toe-to-toe on the front line, but between Dual Wielding, Sneak Attack, and Favored Enemy bonuses I can dish out a pretty respectable amount of damage (especially considering that I'm mainly using daggers). Where I run into trouble is when we're facing opponents who are immune to sneak attack damage (which so far mainly means undead, but this campaign features quite a bit of undead enemies - I need to make them my next favored enemy)... Or when we're up against an opponent who can dish out a lot of damage. My best strategy seems to be to move up front, flank enemies with the fighter or cleric, and then drop back and snipe as soon as I take damage. (Alternatively, I can get a surprising amount done just working as an archer, but I don't expect that to scale up as we grow stronger and start facing tougher opponents.)

I was also recently amused at the contrast between how I think of the character, and how I present the character in the game. Like:

Thinking about the character: This is Vendril Bloodthorne, a member of the garrison at the border fort. His family has lived on the border for three generations, serving as scouts and soldiers to defend the realm from the incursions of the desert nomads and other dangers, and Vendril is proud to continue that tradition. He is aware of the human-vs.-elf conflict and prejudice within the realm, but out here on the border the soldiers treat him well; it's what you can do that counts. So when the patrol turned up an unusual number of unusually strong raiders in the ruins and their squad commander was killed, Vendril took charge of the remaining archers and they willingly followed his lead.

Vendril in the game: This is Vendril. He sneaks up on things and stabs them a lot.

Anyway, tonight we basically just finished clearing out a supposedly-haunted cave that the raiders were probably using to move troops around the border wall and into the realm. In the event, the cave turned out to be wildly, unbelievably haunted, as well as occupied by the nomad leader we were looking for. But we managed to fend off a rather large number of undead and the nomad raiders, mainly by using group tactics (and a surprising amount of Alchemist's Fire). We're considering keeping the place as a backup headquarters, in case the garrison at the fort is overrun, but we probably need to come back after we've gotten a bit stronger (we're still just 3rd level characters, which in D'n'D is just a step above cannon fodder) and clear out the remaining threats. Still, the nomads left a fair amount of supplies for their troops, and the setup is nice: underground, but with a raised structure that's reasonably defensible built inside the cavern.

Next week we should be headed back to the fort with our prizes (mainly, an ancient book that describes what the nomads are likely to be seeking - ancient weapons or magics or both, in one of the ruins that are just on our side of the border). We'll need to get some of the party members healed, too; remember, kids, battling undead is not for the faint of heart or the low of saving-throw.

But once we've checked in and turned over the book (and hopefully had a chance to find out more about what we're up against), we'll probably be off to the next set of ruins, to try to get ahead of the Nomad army and keep the weapons (or whatever) away from them.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Whence comes the question?

Guess what? Our words "question", "query", "inquiry", and "quest" all go back to the same root, the Latin word "quaerere" (meaning, unsurprisingly, to ask or to seek).

I mean, you really don't need to know that, but I thought it was cool.

Oh, and also?

"Etymology" goes all the way back through Latin to Greek, and is composed of "étymon" (the essential meaning or origin) + "lógos" (word, reason, or study of). So now you know the etymology of "etymology".

Monday, August 6, 2018

Superhero Bar Stories: Midnight

Hey, kid. Pull up a chair. I'm hearing good things about your work with Titania. You thinking about striking out on your own once your trial's up, or do you plan stay with Titania as a team?

Really? Good to hear it. No, you're not interrupting anything. Me and Bob here, we were just swapping stories. Topic? Well, it hadn't started as anything in particular, but Bob just finished talking about how he finally captured Midnight. You want a quick recap while he hits the head? All right: Midnight was a supervillain around five years ago. Darkness-based powers: he could see in the dark, make whole areas dark, and travel more or less anywhere he wanted at any moment within his own darkness, which he could stretch out for as much as half a mile. He wasn't the restrained sort of villain, either. Not like Dr. Diablo, say. He did whatever he felt like: robbery, kidnapping, assault... it got worse from there. And we didn't know who was doing it, because it was always dark -- even for security cameras that were equipped with infrared, even night-vision goggles, everything. Whenever he showed up, anything even vaguely close to visible light just... died.

Even Captain Amazing can't see through his darkness. He hears about a robbery in progress, busts in through an open window... and then has to stop, because he can't see anything and with his strength he can't be blundering around. He'd kill someone by accident. But he remembers The Seer, from out in Sacramento, and he gives him a call.

Yeah, sorry. Bob is The Seer. Bob's a psychic, and one of his powers is that he's aware of everything around him. So the next time an area goes dark, Captain Amazing carries The Seer into it and turns him loose. And Bob locates the guy, and grabs him telekinetically. And Midnight tries to slide out through the shadows, but The Seer has a solid grip on him, and... nobody's quite sure what happened. But a moment later the lights are back on, Captain Amazing comes flying back in, and Bob's lying on the ground next to this skinny guy in all black who's weirdly... stretched out. Like, his left arm and his right leg are six inches longer than his other arm and leg, and his head and chest are weirdly misshapen.

Yeah, yeah it was. I told you when you started that you'd make mistakes, and the thing was to own them when they happened. Bob still feels bad about this one. I think Captain Amazing does too. I mean, The Seer was just trying to capture the guy, keep him from hurting anybody else. He didn't expect to maim him. But sometimes when you have two different kinds of power in direct conflict, weird things happen.

Hey, Bob. Yeah, I was just telling the kid here, because I think he needs to know. He's working with 'Tania, probably will be for a while. Lightlance, when he's in costume; Cyrus when he's out. And now it's your turn -- I'm going to get the next round, so you get to tell the kid uncomfortable stories about me.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Writing Advice: Just Sleep

So, I made myself a little sign to put on the wall in my, um, office. (Read: closet.) It's not the be-all and end-all of writing advice, but I think it's something that needs to be firmly in my head, so putting it where I'll read it over and over seems like a good way to drill it in.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Nope, still no brain.

Between heat, allergies, and the change in schedule (getting the boys onto their summer camp/ready for school schedule has thrown me off), I have not had the brain for any of the topics I wrote down on Wednesday. I did, however, get some more words in on the Heroes Are Assholes story, so I can be pleased about that, at least. It's going to be a long and hopefully tedious day at work, and then tonight I need to do what I've been promising myself I'll do, and just go to sleep as soon as the boys are down.

Or sooner. Sooner would be good.

Ah, well. Onward and forward. Nothing but good times ahead.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

I have topics, but no brain...

I have blog topics that I could probably knock off pretty quickly if I had any kind of brain for doing brain-things. Topics would include:

1. We took the kids to a ropes course last Saturday. I have pictures, and even video, and plenty of commentary. What I do not have is the ability to make the words go into the sentences.

2. Firstborn's project from last week's coding camp. This was fairly simple, but also pretty neat, and again I have video but no ability to focus.

3. Firstborn is spending this week in Teen Camp. (He's been twelve for like six weeks now, so he only just barely qualifies.) Apparently they took the Teens by the mall as one of their early activities. Firstborn has comments about touring a mall with a pair of teenage girls and a guy who doesn't care enough to argue against going into clothing stores.

4. We got the basketball net set up beside the driveway, which means I have achieved a personal goal, and it didn't even leave me dribbling. I'm not sure this one merits an actual blog post, but any opportunity for puns is a slam-dunk.

5. Oh! And Secondborn zinged his brother a good one on the way down to the ropes course.

...So I'm just going to leave these here, in the hopes that maybe I'll come back and flesh them out when I have a brain.

Monday, July 23, 2018

BB Gun Villains

So, between long stretches of swimming at Granddaddy's house on Sunday, the boys asked if we could get out the BB gun. (It's an incredibly old one, dating back to my childhood, and we've been using it to introduce the boys to the basics of gun safety.) So we did, but of course we needed targets. Granddaddy suggested that we grab some of the spare cardboard boxes out of the closet.

Cardboard boxes alone don't make terribly interesting targets, though, so I grabbed a sharpy and dew a target on the first one:

As you can see, we shot that target a bit, then moved to the next -- only, Secondborn announced that her was going to draw this one:

Well, that dastardly fellow barely stood a chance. Firstborn, however, announced that this was clearly only a henchman, because he didn't have enough mustache to be the evil genius. So, for our last target, Firstborn took the sharpy and gave us... this:

I am pleased to report that the boys were victorious not only against this final boss, but against his styrofoam-cup minions as well.

It's clear to see who got the artistic talent in this family, and I am here to tell you that it ain't me.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Unmanly candles

Texas in July.

A porch with a candelabra.

The most unmanly candles I've ever seen in my life.

A friend of mine forgot to take the candles out of her candelabra for the summer. The month of July has shown her the error of her ways.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Gritty Reboots

I feel like not enough people realize that Twelve Monkeys was basically the darker, grittier reboot of Time Bandits.

That said, if you're looking for the grand high king of darker, grittier movie reboots, I can't think of anything more powerful than the change in artistic vision that carried us from 28 Days to 28 Days Later.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Basketball goals

Well, my wife bought us a basketball goal off Craigslist. So, I've been given a new task: my task is to set the thing up so the boys can shoot baskets when they need to just Go Outside And Do Something.

So that's my goal. My basketball goal, if you will. (If I succeed, it'll increase my net worth to the family.)

Last week I basically just scoped it out with my father, and dug the hole for the thing.

This week, we pounded in some stakes and used them to rope the pole in place -- playing a little bit of Pole Position, as it were, and with an all-new level, yet -- and then mixed the concrete and poured it into the hole around the pole. The boys helped, both with mixing the concrete and pouring it in, and then went off to spray each other with the hose in the back yard. Once the concrete hardens, we'll attach the backplate and the hoop, and at that point we should be done.

Meanwhile, the boys are off to their coding camps this week, and I'm back to work once again.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Movie Night: Pixels

So, on Friday as she was bringing the boys back from an outing to the park, my wife informed me over her cell phone that the boys wanted to make popcorn and watch the movie Pixels. It turns out I had seen a preview for it at some point in the past, but I'd forgotten all about it afterwards. So, not having much idea what to expect from this, I put out a quick poll on Twitter.

Of the four options in the poll, here were the results:

-"You kidding? It's great!" 0%
-"It's not too bad." 20%
-"You're gonna need beer." 20%
-"Whiskey, and lots of it." 60%

So tonight I made popcorn, and Beautiful Wife rented the movie, and off we went. And while I didn't supplement with lots of whiskey, I did at least pour myself a drink before we got started.

First up, the important part: the boys thoroughly enjoyed it. And despite a couple of scenes which were so embarrassing for the characters that it was painful to watch, I think I'm going to have to go with the 20% who said: "It's not too bad." It really wasn't the worst movie I've ever watched. It's not even as bad as some movies I've watched repeatedly, though that's partly because it doesn't take itself too seriously. And the action sequences were pretty actiony, in a few spots genuinely tense -- and in several places funny, as well. I don't think it's a movie that I'd ever actively recommend to people, but if someone was looking to spend an evening on something amusing, light-hearted, and a little weird, I certainly wouldn't try to argue them out of it.

The important part, though, was that we had a family movie night in which the entire family watched the entire movie, and everybody had a good time. So if that's your movie-rating criteria, this one got full marks.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Aftermath, Part I

Random bit of fiction I wanted to get down while it was fresh in my head.

Aya lay on the bed and shivered, listening to the voices outside and feeling thoroughly ill. Her left arm was a pulsing mass of pain, ending in the bizarre silver thornbush that had taken her hand and seemed to be trying to grow down her arm. She wasn't entirely sure where she was, only that she was far from home and hurting almost too badly to think.

"You have to turn her over to us," said a voice, deep and rough.

"I have to do no such thing," said another voice, softer. "And if you push past me, like as not you'll set the weapon off again."

There was a long silence, and Aya fell into a dreamless, not-quite-sleep again.

She came back to consciousness knowing that someone else was in the room, and that she was trying to offer a cup of water. Ava reached for it, remembered her hand was gone, and tried to reach with her other arm. It was slower, weaker, but she grasped the cup and lifted it to her lips.

"There," said the woman in the gray robe. "The soldiers have gone. For the moment, you're safe."

The thing that had taken her hand seemed to think so, too. It had retracted back into a solid block, with only three stray branches and a couple of spikes extended. Useless, even for grasping a cup. Useless for anything Aya might want to use it for.

"I'm called Shimmer," said the woman. "I'm told that you are Aya. And this," she gestured towards the silver extrusion at the end of Aya's arm, "is one of the Great Weapons."

"I don't see what's so great about it," said Aya. "It can't even hold a cup."

Shimmer nodded. "In that," she said, "You're right. It's only powerful, merely lethal. But you found it, and it chose you, and as far as I know there is no getting rid of it."

"...And no getting my hand back." The pain was still there, but it was slowly receding. As it did, Aya found that she could think more clearly. "You're that ascetic," she said. "The one who comes through twice a year, talking to people and checking their health."

"Just so," said Shimmer. "I belong to a nameless monastic order, and you strike me as someone who might find it useful to be nameless for awhile."

Aya looked away. "I want to go back to my family," she said.

Shimmer nodded. "I won't try to stop you." She gestured towards the weapon. "As I said, you're safe here, for now. But would you be safe there? Would your family?"

Aya didn't answer, but she squeezed her eyes shut. The Great Weapons were legendary. Their presence had turned battles, driven back horrors from beyond the passages, changed the destinies of nations and peoples. But she'd grown up on a farm; she couldn't do any of that. She needed her hand to help with the planting and the harvesting, with gathering eggs and milking cows, with stroking the dogs and bathing her siblings. Only...

She pictured old man Sowre, standing in the market and watching to see how each interaction, each bit of gossip, could be turned to benefit his shop and his family. She remembered Bisko, during her brief time at the school, talking about Jarib Niss, whose parents had come here to escape the Empire, and how he and his family didn't belong in their town. She remembered her own father, grumbling about how that lazy old thief master Wyrdlees always charged twice as much for the tools in his shop as it cost the blacksmith to make them, but agitated against the business of anyone who went to another town to buy their tools cheaper. Her father would never ask her to threaten the shopkeeper, of course, but he wouldn't mind mentioning his daughter's Great Weapon and making the man sweat over a discount, either. And that wouldn't be good for her, and that wouldn't be good for her father.

Those aren't the sort of people we're supposed to be, Aya thought. "...And if I go with you?" she asked reluctantly.

"There is a place," said Shimmer. "It's merest chance I know about it, for all that it's run by my order. You'll be safe there, beyond the reach of anyone who wants to use you, and in the company of some others who might understand your struggles, at least it part."

"What would you want to use me for?" asked Aya, still half-angry from the pain, and desperately suspicious as well. "Or your order?"

But Shimmer shook her head calmly. "It isn't a prison, or a recruiting center," she said. "It's a school. And its purpose isn't to exploit people with the sort of power you now carry; it's to rein them in, to teach them consideration and control. My... the ones in charge of this, they are trying to make a world where if someone like you uses something like your Great Weapon, they do so with as much understanding of the consequences, and as much concern for the common good, as we can give them." Shimmer looked away. "Too many disasters have grown from people with too little responsibility being given too much power."

Aya didn't want that to be her. Still... "Alsom Trent used to throw dirt clods at me between classes," she said. "Are you sure I can't put a fist-sized burn on his rear?"

Shimmer tilted her head, regarded Aya with wary amusement for a long a moment. "You can," she said. "As I said, I cannot stop you and I won't try. But I am absolutely sure that you shouldn't."

Aya sighed, handed the cup back, and settled back on the bed. "Fine. I'll visit your school. I can't promise I'll stay, but I'll look at it."

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Ideas vs. Execution

A few weeks back, another author challenged me to actually write a story idea I've been kicking around for years - something related to a Twitter observation that she'd made. I figured, with my schedule, that would take maybe three weeks, depending on how long the story decided to be. That was, I don't know, at least six weeks ago.

I actually got (what I think is) a really good opening, then got bogged down on the next section, and then the world fell on my head with work, family issues, and general exhaustion. I have tried to keep going on it; I have tried cleaning up the troublesome section; I have tried setting aside the troublesome section and rewriting from the end of What I Think Is A Really Good Opening. But I think I'm back to the same problem that I have with pretty much all my writing projects:

I let myself get too tired.

I let myself get too tired, and then I try to keep pushing, and then I'm even more tired, and eventually I hit a point where at the end of the day I'm completely useless but I can't seem to let go and just Get Some Rest like a sensible person who realizes that they're tired. Like, I know it's a problem, I know exactly how to solve it, but I just can't seem to get myself to do it.

Changing habits is hard, y'all.

But I guess the solution there is, do it anyway.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Music: Hurt

...As it might have been performed by Kermit The Frog, in his Emo phase:

Monday, July 9, 2018

Sunlight is not my friend...

Did some work in the back yard yesterday, basically just making a hole in the ground so that next weekend we can cement a basketball goal in place. It wasn't a terribly long or difficult job, I took a break in the middle of it, I drank plenty of water...

It was still hugely enervating. Like, this was mid-afternoon, and by the time we hit dinner I was wiped out. Some of that's the heat, some of that's the direct sunlight, a little of it is the physical effort. But overall? Doesn't matter why, it kicked my ass. Half an hour of manual labor in the direct sunlight kicked my ass. And it was only about 90 degrees out there - nowhere near as hot as Texas sometimes get.

So I did the smart thing. I went to bed early. I'm hoping it helps.

But next weekend, when everything's had a chance to dry out and we brace the pole and pour the concrete? I'm gonna try to do it in the early, early morning.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Annnnd it's gone...

We were talking about something at lunch a few hours ago, and I remember thinking "Hey, that would make a neat little short story, kind of a reversal of the usual layout," and then we finished lunch and now I can't remember what it was.

But no, I'm not ridiculously frustrated with myself at all. Why do you ask?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

A grand adventure

I took Secondborn on a walk this morning. We're trying to get him enough exercise that he doesn't feel compelled to jump around the house while he's recovering from his hernia surgery, so it was quite a long walk... in the mid-morning Texas sun. Beautiful Wife and Firstborn were supposed to go on their own walk after us, so we made a little arrow out of sticks to show them which way we went, and... well...

It might have gotten a little out of hand. There might, hypothetically, be a trail of sticks from our front door to Nana's front door. Secondborn might hypothetically have gotten a popsicle before we started for home. We might hypothetically have returned, sweaty and well-exercised, rather later than we'd planned on.

Friday, June 29, 2018


So Secondborn, at the age of eight, has had his hernia surgery. The doctor made an incision, found the opening in the abdominal wall, and sewed it shut; that's what you do with hernias. This is good news.

Even better: before he sewed it closed, the doctor ran a little camera around to the other side, and made sure there wasn't any sort of incipient hernia or congenital weakness over there. There wasn't; the inside of the kid's abdomen looks fine. (On a related note, I now have a high-resolution color portrait of the inside of my son's abdominal wall at age eight. That one's going in the scrap book, believe me.) The hernia was, according to the doctor, "respectably sized" and he apparently had no trouble finding it.

Secondborn handled it well: he wasn't allowed to eat or drink that morning, but he stayed in a good mood and went off with the doctor the way he was supposed to. We'd briefed him on how he'd have a mask on his face for the anesthesia, and apparently he handled that just fine as well.

Here's the thing about getting your children (or apparently your grandchildren, for that matter) through surgery: this stuff is stressful, y'all. I still don't think I'm entirely decompressed from it.

After the surgery, they put Secondborn in a room until he woke up. When he did, the nurse asked him if he wanted a drink of water. "I can't!" he replied. "I have to have surgery!" And, of course, once he was awake they brought us in to sit with him until he was ready to go, which was just about as soon as he was conscious. We had to wait a little longer, both to let the anesthesia wear off and to go over all the rules for after-care. We also had to pick up some pain medications, mainly to get us through the first day -- after that, we should be fine with over-the-counter stuff.

So... it's done.

Now, if we can just keep Secondborn still (or, at least, not moving at full speed) long enough to heal, I think I can finally stop being stressed out about this, and start being relieved. That's not going to be so easy, though. The child only has two speeds: sitting on the couch, and parkour. Still, with any luck we can get him through this and not have to deal with it anymore.



Hm. Two additional thoughts:

1. Thank the gods for modern medicine. (Or, y'know, better yet: thank science. But either way, the sentiment stands.)

2. In the modern United States of America, this is a relatively simple medical procedure, even when performed on a child - and (in the modern United States of America) we're still spectacularly lucky that getting this surgery done hasn't bankrupted us.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Music: My Father Makes Recommendations

So, my Dad made a couple of music recommendations while we were at his house on Sunday (right before we took him out to see The Incredibles 2). Apparently he'd been talking about them to his renter.

First up: Chug-a-lug
(Roger Miller)

Second up: Hugging and Chalking
(Hoagy Carmichael)

Not my usual fare, but what the hell. Have at, if you're so inclined.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Callahan's Friday Pun: On The High Seas

Did you hear about the noble freebooter who accidentally dropped a tea bag into his cup of grog? It was the most piratea thing he'd ever done...

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Snarky McSnarkypants Strikes Again

Me: "I still have a picture of your mother and I sitting on a bridge with you, and you're like this tall."
(I'm holding my hands about eighteen inches apart.)

Beautiful Wife: "And now you're almost as tall as I am. You're still cute, though."

Me: "Well, he was cute. He's starting to be more handsome, now."

Beautiful Wife: "And snarkier. Now he's our snark-monster."

Firstborn: "I'm not a monster. I am a snark-god."

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Political Reptiles

Beautiful Wife, reading off a poll on MSN: "It asks, 'Is the government secretly run by reptile-people?'"

Me, sleepy: "Yes. It's called congress."

Firstborn: "I mean, yeah, but those are snakes."

Me: "Snakes are reptiles."

Such are the political conversations we have before coffee.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

I slept!

I took some melatonin and went to bed a bit before 10:00 last night, and proceeded to actually... what do they call that... Oh, right: sleep.

That makes this morning the first time in maybe as much as a month that I've woken up and not still felt tired.

As perverse as it seems, I think I actually get more done when I set my sights lower.

I need to do more of this.

And yeah, none of this is new -- I've probably published some version of this same shocking, radical discovery at least four times over the last couple of years on the Blog o' Doom here alone -- but it keeps coming as a surprise, at least on a visceral this-is-how-it-actually-feels level, and I feel like maybe if I write it down again, this time the lesson will finally stick with me.

It never seems to work like that, but I keep trying anyway.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Firstborn Runs His First DnD Game

So, on Wednesday the boys had a couple of friends over, and Firstborn decided that he would try running his first Dungeons and Dragons game. He's using (a very abbreviated version of) 3.5, though it's so abbreviated that it barely makes any difference -- it's almost its own, different edition.

The two boys who were visiting were brothers, so let's call them Olderfriend and Youngerfriend. They're a little younger than my own boys[1], but they're bright and engaging and fun.

So Firstborn called Olderfriend and spent over an hour on the phone, putting together his character. And he was, I think, planning to run just a two-person gaming session... only Secondborn decided that he wanted to play, and then Youngerfriend jumped in as well. So by the time I got home (work day, remember) they were trying to throw characters together ten minutes before they were supposed to start playing.

I helped. Specifically, I fired up my laptop, opened up a character generator that I have installed, and threw together the two other characters that Secondborn and Youngerfriend wanted.

This... wasn't as easy as it could have been.

Secondborn had looked at the available minis and chosen a wolf. He wanted to play a wolf. Standard D'n'D isn't wildly well equipped for that in 3.5, but okay: I managed. The generator has an interface for companion animals, so I made him a wolf with an additional level of ranger.

Youngerfriend had picked out a giant orc with an axe, so that was pretty easy: half-orc barbarian, greataxe, a couple of throwing axes, a chain shirt, and we were good to go.

Youngerfriend, however, is very young. So by the time I got everything printed, he had the orc miniature hopping all over the board, and Firstborn (our would-be Dungeon Master) had his head in the "I have face-palmed so hard I actually hurt myself" position. He can see where this is going. We all can.

But we hand out sheets and dice and get everybody settled long enough for Firstborn to announce that they're all in a tavern, only the barbarian is getting thrown out for bouncing around and breaking things and looking for something to fight. But the other two -- who are, I think, a fighter-mage and a wolf from the pack who raised him[2] -- hear the barbarian stumble into a couple of weary travelers outside, and step outside to make sure nobody gets hurt.

At that point, the village is attacked by Dark Forces. "Because," as Firstborn puts it, "reasons." It turns out a couple of mimics have wandered into town, and are Tearing Things Up. The battle begins!

...I don't have stats for mimics handy, and my laptop's in the back room. I make some up on the fly -- armor class, hit points, attack bonus, damage -- and have Firstborn write them down. There are two mimics, because that's how many miniatures we have. Then I spend the next few minutes walking the boys through the (very abbreviated, mind you) process of resolving combat. It's... brutal.

I really didn't make the mimics strong enough, and while the wolf is the only one in the party with multiple attacks, the barbarian is a freaking combat monster... who promptly rolls maximum on both his to-hit and his damage, and one-shot-kills one of the mimics. The other two characters make successful attacks on the other mimic, and the barbarian steps in on the following round to finish it off. ("Whack!")

He hasn't even raged, because I don't have it in me to explain rules that only work sometimes.

Nevertheless, Our Heroes are victorious! And now the time has come for them to make introductions and forge new bonds of friendship, and...

"Die!" says the barbarian.

So the barbarian and the elf resume combat, only this time with each other. And, unsurprisingly -- I should never have maxed out strength on a barbarian run by a small child -- Youngerfriend's barbarian kills olderfriend's elvish fighter/mage[3]. Olderfriend accepts this philosophically, but decrees that this means that the townspeople arrest the barbarian and execute him. Youngerfriend accepts this philosophically. Firstborn looks completely appalled. Secondborn announces that he's making a run for the woods, flees the town, and vanishes.

And then I announce that well, okay, we're done, and averybody gets up from the table and goes outside to play.

There is a marked lack of tears, angry screaming, or dark recriminations. The adventure has essentially imploded, but nobody is upset and everybody had a good time, so I advise Firstborn to take the win -- which he does. The boys' mothers -- who were off at the far end of the kitchen having a conversation about something that had nothing whatsoever to do with orcs, half-elves, wolves, or mimics -- look up in surprise, and throw out variations of, "Are we done already?" They're only a little more surprised than I am, and they weren't paying attention at all.

So I gave them a quick recap, kissed my wife, and went off to play my Elvish Ranger/Rogue in a completely different campaign, and finally have that drink.

Quest completed.


[1] Who are now twelve and eight, and how in the nine hells did that happen?

[2] Don't ask. I certainly didn't.

[3] I think. I don't know, I'd just come home from work, I hadn't even had a drink, and I was barely keeping up as it was.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Maybe Some Relief

So, I know I've been on about my dad, but he was... better, Sunday. Maybe only in the short term, and only in limited ways, but better.

But Secondborn has an inguinal hernia, possibly congenital, and the damned thing... it's there, but it hides when we try to have doctors look at it. I mean, the pediatrician could identify it. The ER staff couldn't find it at all by the time they finally tried to scan for it (and initially sounded very dubious that the pediatrician could have made the diagnosis without getting an ultrasound, but eventually confirmed that with the symptoms we described it really couldn't be anything else). So yesterday, Beautiful Wife finally managed to get the child into his appointment with the pediatric urologist.

The plan was that she would take him in for the initial appointment, and I would be at work as usual (which, y'know, at some point does need to happen). But after the second phone call of the morning, and maybe two hours of actually being at work, it was completely obvious that Beautiful Wife was completely (and understandably) freaked out, and right on the edge of melting down.

I explained the situation and went home.

So when we went to see the doctor, we all went to see the doctor. And we probably looked like we were on safari, or waiting for the apocalypse. I had The Backpack -- the one in which I keep my laptop, my kindle, all my chargers, a bag of allergy meds, a toothbrush, a first aid kit, a sewing kit... it's kind of my work bag, but it doubles as an overnight bag or a go-bag. Beautiful wife had her pack, which she carried in lieu of a purse because it's easier to transport papers in a day pack. Secondborn had his Kindle Fire to play on, and Firstborn had packed the Nintendo Switch and several games, along with his Kindle. But we honestly didn't know how long this was going to take, or whether they would send us immediately to surgery or not be able to find anything and look at us like that was because we were clearly insane.

And that was the other reason I came along: in my experience, doctors are much less likely to blow things off if they're described by a man. And since we didn't know this doctor...


The appointment went swimmingly, by which I mean exceedingly well. Secondborn wasn't showing any extrusion, but the doctor was able to get him to clench up and show us exactly where he could see the hernia. (Suck it, Emergency Room.) He described how this sort of thing happened -- possibly a congenital weakness in the wall of the abdomen from when the testicles first extruded, possibly related to Secondborn's perennial constipation (which he was able to show us via the ultrasound), or possibly some combination of both. Then he described the minimally intrusive surgery it would require to fix it, and explained that once he'd made the incision he would run a microcamera over to the other side, to make sure there wasn't any potential hernia waiting to happen there as well; if there was, he would fix that, too, as part of the same procedure. (Apparently sometimes there are... indentations in the abdominal wall, that lend themselves to forming hernias.)

I'm having a little trouble describing how much of a HUGE FUCKING RELIEF IT WAS to have finally made our way to a doctor who essentially said, "Yes, I can easily see the problem you're describing, even though it isn't active right now, and yes, I know how to easily fix it and we're going to schedule that now, and in the meantime here's what to watch for and what to do."

Then he addressed the issue with Secondborn being constipated, and gave us an explicit To Do list so that we could clean out the blockage that we'd seen on the ultrasound and maintain a more... even flow of processing... from there. And the first big step of that -- getting the child to drink a full cup of magnesium citrate -- occupied most of the rest of the afternoon, but it's done and hopefully we're at a point where all this will finally just... be done.

Now, if we could just convince my dad to quit having strokes...

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Dungeons and Dragons, Season 2

So I mentioned a week or so back that we might be the wrong party for our current DnD quests. Well, the Dungeon Master made a suggestion and everybody seems pretty happy with it: we roll up a whole new set of characters in a different area, and experience the current chain of events from another perspective. (If we get far enough along, we'll probably reintroduce the original party and see how that goes. )

So, last game we wrapped things up with the current party, and then created a whole new batch of second-level characters for Season 2. This party is off helping to defend a border fort from raiding desert nomads in a corner of the land that our last party never visited. So, the new party looks like this:

A half-giant Cleric (first level, because of the level cost for half-giant) worshipping a nature deity and armed with a scythe.

A human fighter, also armed with a scythe. He's probably going to do most of the Beating Things Down that the party requires.

A gnomish bard, who's focusing mainly on offering buffs to the rest of the party and handling the charisma-based skills.

An elvish rogue/ranger (me) who's heavily dex-based and focusing mainly on stealth, scouting, and not being caught by surprise, but is planning to eventually combine dual-wielding and backstabbing for some damage-dealing capability. (Currently, I'm relying on Weapon Finesse and a rapier.)

We're a little weak on arcane spell-casting, but unlike the previous group we're at least all good-aligned, and I think we've got a pretty effective party here. Our first game opened with the desert raiders attacking our fort, and our commander immediately dying, so we're currently in the midst of trying to retake the courtyard so we can drive them out. Our fighter took command of the remaining foot, while the ranger/rogue took command of the archers. The cleric went with the foot, and the bard went with the archers, singing Rush songs to boost our morale.

So far, so good.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Never rains but it pours

So we spent about three hours in the emergency room on Friday afternoon/evening. Secondborn appears to have an inguinal hernia right at his crotch (that may be redundant), and apparently when he was using the bathroom he strained hard enough to make something extrude through the hernia, resulting in extreme pain. However, we weren't able to push it back in and lying on the couch apparently wasn't relaxing him enough for it retract on its own. So... off we went to the emergency room... with fairly predictable results.

First, we wound up in the waiting room for about twenty-five minutes before they got us into a room. Second, about ten minutes into that stretch of waiting, while Secondborn was lying across a pair of seats, whatever tissue was protruding through the hernia finally receded. So, by the time they finally called us back, he was walking normally and no longer in pain. Then we spent three hours in the emergency room, mostly waiting for nurses and doctors and PAs. We went through the whole description for the nurse, and later for the doctor. The doctor felt around but couldn't find the opening, so we got a sonogram but apparently that couldn't see the hernia either.

So, three hours and $850 later, we have a CD with the sonogram results and instructions to hurry back to the nearest ER if it happens again. About the only upside of this is that the ER doctor confirmed that given the symptoms we described, it pretty much has to be a hernia -- we're not going to have to go through the What Is The Real Issue Here process, at least.

We're in the process of setting up for a surgery -- and apparently the urologist who'll be doing it is really good, since he was recommended by our doctor and the ER doctor recognized his name and said complimentary things about him. Hernia surgery is both commonplace and about as safe as it gets, so again all this could be a lot worse. However, after the Friday ER visit, it seems possible that we'll only be able to set up the hernia surgery at a time when tissue is actively protruding. Otherwise, they may not be able to find the opening so they can fix it.

On a completely unrelated note, it seems I'll be postponing yet again my plan to replace my rather elderly laptop. Probably until at least Christmas. Eh, what the hell. I didn't want to move to Windows 10 yet anyway.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Dad news, not bad news

Sorry, it seems to be a theme this week, but it's what's on my mind and this blog has always been whatever happened to be on my mind. (Admittedly, skimming back through it, it does seem like I used to have more humorous/whimsical stuff on my mind than I have in recent years.) And I don't know what's changed, exactly, though the dark gods know there's no shortage of possibilities, but... Well, author Seanan McGuire posted on Twitter this morning:

...So maybe I'll just leave off thinking about reasons why I might be a lot more discouraged now than I was, say, a couple of years ago, and I'll promise to do some serious self-care this weekend. (Like, get All The Sleep, exercise, eat good food, read good books... Yeah, that sounds like a plan. 'Cause seriously, I feel like I've been pretty useless this week and honestly I just wish I'd taken the week off. I did put in for some vacation time soon, though, and that should help too.)

Anyway, Beautiful Wife went and collected my father yesterday, and brought him back to our house for the afternoon. Firstborn sat with him and worked on one of those Science Kits you can order -- Tinker Crates, I think they're actually called -- and my dad helped him out and explained concepts like "fathoms" and I don't even know what all else, but when I got home from work my father was looking better and more content than he'd seemed the last couple of times I saw him. Even the slur in his voice had gone down, though he was still having a little trouble putting words together. I'm sure some of that was just that he was making an effort, but I also think that being relaxed improves his condition and being stressed makes it worse. And my father is one of those people who really craves human contact -- interacting with people recharges him, where it just exhausts me.

My wife is brilliant, y'all.

Anyway, I'm still not sure where all this is going, and I'm still pretty worried, but there's good stuff happening too.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Still worried...

I realized last night that I'm actually completely stressed out about my dad having his second stroke in six months. I mean, it's a couple of other things, too -- the boys making the adjustment to their summer vacation and how we're handling that this year, a dental issue that's pretty mild but is still One More Thing I Have To Deal With, and the usual house cleanup and maintenance. But mainly, it's this thing with Dad.

And I've been doing that thing where I'm completely freaked out but pretending even to myself that everything's okay, or at least that it isn't that bad and we can just keep going through it, and... yeah, that's not so much what's happening. And, of course, I've been telling myself that we really just need to wait and see how this plays out, because there isn't really all that much we can do about it -- which is true, but apparently does nothing to settle the underlying sense of panic. Which means that I'm weirdly unfocused and not making the best choices, when I really need to be working on the things that I can work on.

I think I need some time off, but I need to get some stuff back under control at work, first. (Oh, yeah - there's yet another reason why I'd be, um, unaccountably stressed...) I think I'll see if I can put in for a couple of days around the July 4th holiday - that would combine for a nice extended weekend. And while I'm at it, I should put in now for the first couple of days of school in the fall. I've been meaning to take those off for a couple of years, now.

No new tale to tell, really. Just feeling unproductive, out of control, and really ready to just take a moment for myself.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

I'm worried about my dad

We lost my mom just over two years ago. (Well, not technically "lost". She died. We know exactly where her ashes are. So now that my deep-seated pedantic streak is hopefully satisfied, I will point out that emotionally that means that we lost her. She's gone. She is lost to us. Yeah. Suck it, nit-picky brain voices.)

I remember observing, a year or so before that, that we were entering the season of losing that generation: a couple of my dad's close relatives had died, and it was starting to look less like chance and more like a pattern. I can't find the post that I wrote for that, but it's here on the blog somewhere.

Then, in February, my dad had a stroke -- and I started worrying that, while it had looked like he would be okay in his own home for the next several years, maybe that wasn't the case. And even before that, we'd been discussing my father and his eyesight, and how that might complicate or disrupt the life he's set up after mom's death.

But over Memorial Day weekend, he had... I'm not sure it's a second stroke, exactly. It's more of a repeat stroke, as it seems to have happened in the same area of the brain and affected the same general areas of functionality. And while it seems to have come to fruition on that Saturday, when he was out in the heat at the local renfest, I've spoken with his renter and she tells me that she was seeing signs that something was wrong a couple of days before that -- being unable to focus, to find common words, to pronounce them.

So we went to visit him on Sunday (and found the renter at home there -- she's rented out one side of the house, and helps him work through his bills). The visit itself went well, and I think he was glad of the company and the interaction and the chance to get some things done. But I'm looking at him, and I think this second stroke is worse than the last one. We're not talking about it, but the slur in his voice seems worse, the effect on his manual dexterity seems worse, and the stumbliness of his walk -- stumbliness is a word, now -- is worse. The first time, it was barely noticeable, and mainly only if you knew him pretty well. This time, it's... obvious.

He's met with his neurologist, and I think his cardiologist as well. Apparently his blood pressure spiked with this more recent stroke (and apparently that's fairly common) so they've got him on a medication to hold it down, but something about either the blood pressure or the medication or both is making his eyesight even worse -- which he insists is only going to be temporary, but I swear by all the dark and forgotten gods that I can't tell if that's actually the case, or if he's just holding that out as an article of faith. It had better be temporary... but what if it isn't?

And, of course, as a result of that his mental state is quite a bit worse than it was last time. How much of that is psychological and how much is physiological -- if you can even separate the two in a meaningful way -- is impossible to tell. But he's... much more depressed. Much more impatient. Much more irritable. Much more scared. Frankly, so am I. And it's really shaken his sense of purpose -- between the eyesight and the coordination, so many of the things he enjoyed, so many of the things he was good at, have been taken from him. He's a gentle man, but he's proud, too, and so much of his self-image is tied up in being physically well: he's the one who doesn't get sick, who doesn't get tired, who doesn't have to watch what he eats... (I think that makes him sound kind of elitist and snobby-superior, but he's not; he's never been obnoxious about it, he's just quietly proud of the way he quietly keeps going -- and suddenly being frail has shaken a big part of his sense of self.)

I spoke to my brother before we went over there, and again when we got back to our house. He wanted me to ask if our dad had any contingency plans, or thoughts on how he wanted things to go -- the possibility of a group home, or moving in with one of us, or...

So I brought it up, while the boys were busy swimming in the pool and my Beautiful Wife was busy talking with the renter about the situation.

It wasn't an easy thing to ask, especially of someone who was slurring his words as a result of the stroke, and whose slur got worse as a direct result of being asked upsetting questions. And the answer was almost exactly what I'd expected: he didn't have any contingency plans, and didn't want to talk about them. He wanted to live independently, in his own home, and that was all there was to it. He hated the idea of living in a group home. Much like my mother (and if we're being completely honest, myself) he'd rather expire with some dignity on his own. I don't think he's had any suicidal ideations -- though may the dark gods help me, I didn't ask and I wouldn't blame him if he did -- but I think his ideal outcome is to either recover some functionality and purpose, or to expire quietly and on his own terms.

I don't know what to do with that.

Beautiful Wife is trying to recruit him to do some sort of Intro To Computer Mechanics class for our boys, who are out of school for the summer and need to be kept busy anyway. If that helps him feel like he's contributing (and honestly, it could be really, really useful -- far too many people know how to use a computer but don't understand how they really work) then maybe it's at least a partial solution. But if it just wears him out, or frustrates him... I don't know. Trying to get him to move in with either our family or my brother's is equally problematic: so much of his support network is based in his suburb that trying to move him up to ours seems likely to cause more trouble than it resolves. But his current arrangement may not be tenable, even though his renter seems disinclined to panic and look for somewhere else to live (and we've assured her that even if we had to move Dad out, she's not going to be suddenly displaced).

Basically, everything sucks and I can't tell if this is temporary or if we're going to have to work out something for the long term.

And I've known for as long as I can remember that life frequently sucks, and sometimes there are no good choices. But the last couple of years seem absolutely determined to drive that lesson home.