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?