Thursday, February 28, 2013

So Much For Lunch

So, I tried to have a cheap, healthy lunch here at work. I've been experimenting with a variety of microwaveable meals for this purpose, and mostly it's gone fine. Today's attempt, however... not so much.

This was a "Smart Ones" meal. I extracted it from its box, peeled back one corner of the plastic cover, and started it cooking for a couple of minutes. Then, per the instructions, I peeled the cover back, stirred the meal, and cooked it for another minute. That being done, I reached in and pulled it out of the microwave.

The plastic tray/bowl/thingy that held the food promptly folded in half and slipped out of my fingers. It managed to invert itself in mid-air and land splat-side-down on the carpet in front of the microwave. It only missed my pants because they aren't expensive enough that I would have cared about them.

Seriously, folks... what kind of microwave meal labels itself a "Smart One" and then uses a plastic container that loses its structural integrity when heated???

To be fair, the instructions do say that I should leave the meal in the microwave for a full minute before removing it. On the other hand, so do every other set of microwave meal directions in the world, and the rest of them include it as a polite way of saying, " you don't burn the crap out of your fingers, dumbass." This one apparently includes it because if don't - or, who knows, possibly even if you do - the plastic container will fold like a wet noodle when you try to pick it up.

I cleaned it up and went out to lunch.

The Shining Walls Reloaded

I'm... not entirely happy with the way The Shining Walls is shaping up. I like the main idea - not that I've gotten far enough to start exploring that, mind you - but the writing itself is... not off to a good start.

This is, of course, entirely my own fault. Among other things, the project started (and, so far, has been entirely written) in what I can best describe as a state of abject exhaustion. It has also been competing with a couple of other projects for space in my brain. This is no way to write a book. (Lastly, of course, there's the simple and irrefutable fact that since I'm the one writing it, if I think it sucks I have nobody to blame but myself; if I want the story to Not Suck, I need to write better.)

Rather than deleting what I have, I'm going to mark it with a "Version 01" tag and leave it up. Then I'm going to start again at the beginning, and work on version two. I will, of course, be cannibalizing the bits I like from the first version.

In a way, this is good news. After all, it's been a couple of weeks and the project hasn't been abandoned entirely. That's good, right?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Homophonicish Random Writing

Early one morning, a bunny left his burrow.
He quickly became lost, but was rescued by a burro.
They fell in love, but couldn't get a license at the marriage bureau.
So instead they got an apartment over in another borough.
They had trouble making payments, so they had to borrow...
...then they tried to stiff the loan shark, so he carried them off in a barrow.

Makes a charming little children's story, doesn't it? This is just my brain, playing around with words.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ask the Readers: Elemental Powers

So, if you could have some sort of elemental powers, what element would you want? What would you want to be able to do with it?

It doesn't have to be one of the traditional four elements, either. Is there some other theme or grouping that particularly appeals to you?

Filler: Bohemian Rhapsody on a Ukelele

Four strings. The whole thing... on one instrument... with only four strings...

Monday, February 25, 2013

Once more unto the real estate listings, dear friends...

So, we're... um... buying a house. And selling our current our house. And moving.

At least, it looks that way. Hopefully. Maybe.

Here's how it went down:

On Friday, I came home from work to find Secondborn sprinting (naked, I might add) back and forth between the kitchen and the door to his room. This took him down a stretch of hallway which Firstborn, inexplicably, had designated as his work area for a lego project. As I watched, Firstborn put out his leg, and Secondborn promptly tripped over it. Despite the lack of screaming or injuries, I deemed this unacceptable. As punishment, Firstborn had his legos taken away until the next morning.

This caused Firstborn to dissolve into full-scale Meltdown Mode, which got him banished to his room until he could calm down. In the course of this, from inside his room, Firstborn called out: "No, you go to your room, Daddy!"

At which point I called back, "Daddy doesn't get a room, Firstborn. Daddy would love to have a room of his own to go to. A walk-in closet would do it..."

The Beautiful Woman ventured, "You know, I saw a house for sale. Three bedrooms, two living areas..."

I just looked at her for a minute. "What the hell," said I. "Call [The Bank]. We can at least see if we could get a loan for this."

So, half an hour later, we were pre-approved and [The Bank] was arranging real-estate people to help us find a new house and sell our existing house.

It's not a done deal - not by any means. The particular house that caught the Beautiful Woman's eye appears to be spoken for already, and it's not like we'd even had a chance to tour it yet. Still, we are now definitely looking, and we are very definitely starting to clean out our house and get it ready to sell.

...This is how a lot of our decision-making seems to work, by the way. We'll be plodding sensibly along, making do, until all of a sudden we're just like, "Bah! Enough of this! RELEASE THE KRAKEN!"

Friday, February 22, 2013

Parenting Advice: Do Not Sleep With A Two Year Old

Secondborn hates sleep. He hates going to sleep, he hates being asleep, he hates the very idea of sleep. He considers any suggestion that he should sleep - or, for that matter, that the rest of us would like to sleep - a personal insult. It offends him on an existential level.

It doesn't help that right now he's extremely stuffy, which means that when he lays down he has trouble breathing. Naturally, we do our best to help him get to sleep despite this: a nice, long, steamy shower; a saline rinse for his nose (which he hates); a medicated spray for his nose (which he also hates); and a nightly dose of children's Claritin (which he probably wouldn't hate so much if he hadn't just had his parents sticking things in his nostrils).

This will almost certainly get better as he gets older. It's just that right now, he has tiny little nostrils, tiny little sinus cavities, and tiny little Eustachian tubes... and they clog very easily.

Still, despite all these efforts, Secondborn almost never just drifts gently off to sleep. On a good night, we can coax him into lying still, and that will do it... eventually. If we're lucky, he'll get at least a couple of hours in before the steam and the rinse and the spray wear off, and he starts coughing. The night before last, though, the only way to get him to stay still was to lay with him on the bed. Which, of course, put me in a horizontal position...

Fortunately, Secondborn was a kind and generous monarch. He granted me a few minutes in which to go brush my teeth. Then I climbed back in with him, and we both settled down and went to sleep. So now I have learned one of those Important Life Lessons:

Never, never sleep with a two-and-a-half year old. Somehow, despite being one fifth of my size, he occupies better than two thirds of the bed. As a result, my spine now zig-zags.

It didn't start out that way, of course. No, he lured me in. Then, inexorably, he took over completely.

Here's how it works: in the beginning, I physically move the child so that there's enough room for me to at least lay down on the bed. The child immediately snuggles up, with all the delicate gentleness of a remora. Then, at some later point in the evening, when the blood has pooled in the low points of my body and my fingertips are tingling from holding my arms in awkward and improbable positions, I will roll over. Since I can only roll in one direction (anti-remora-wise), this clears an inch or so of space... for about three seconds. That's how long it takes for his sleeping brain to realize that I've moved, and that he must now kick me in the kidneys a few times, then squoosh in as close as possible.

By the time we've gone through this a couple of times, I'm halfway off the edge of the bed and clinging desperately to the edge of the blankets so my toes don't freeze completely. The only thing keeping me in place is the safety rail that we installed on the side of the bed. My toes have dropped to room temperature, making them slightly warmer than ice cubes, but there's a warm lump pressed firmly against my spine to prevent my escape. I'm lying on my side, on top of one arm, while the other arm dangles helplessly off the side of the bed or flops back behind me.

So, at some indeterminate point in the night, I pry myself out of this artificial crevasse, and move to another bed in the next room. I lay there just long enough to drift back into sleep - blessed, merciful, lovely sleep - and then I hear it. The voice in the next room. The command that I cannot ignore: "Daddy, in here."

I can't ignore it, because every time Secondborn repeats it, it gets louder. And the longer it goes, the more likely he is to either wake someone else up, or get himself so riled up that it'll be impossible to get him back to sleep. So I clamber out of my (nice, warm, comfy, spacious) bed, and shamble back to his room. Possibly I bump into a couple of walls on the way. Then I move the boy aside, so I have at least a foot-wide strip to lie in. The blankets have left completely, so I wrestle them out from under him and make a futile effort to cover my legs and feet. Secondborn thrusts his toes into my ribs, then presses himself irresistibly against me.

I resign myself to remaining here for the rest of the night, and wonder if it's possible to sleep without moving at all.

There is no escape. I am helpless in the grasp of the Small Boy.

Seriously, Kryptonite has nothing on a two-year-old with an agenda.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Notes from the Mad Science Lab: Ice Cream Machine

My son likes ice cream. I mean, he really, really likes ice cream. And since his birthday was coming up, he asked me to make the Ultimate Ice Cream Maker Machine for him. (His name for it, not mine.)

This should have been simple enough. It's just a nano-fabricator, powered by a fusion reactor and programmed with templates for every known type of ice-cream and cone. The technical side of it required only a little tweaking; I only had to thaw out my assistant twice. And once it was ready, it would run on anything; feed whatever you like into the hopper, and part of it will go to power the reactor while the rest gets reassembled into ice cream at an atomic/molecular level. I designed the user interface to be able to modify formulas to fit individual preferences, and gave it some self-programming routines so that it could invent new flavors. It's even self-cleaning.

Getting the samples to generate the templates was the hard part. Do you have any idea how they look at you, when you walk into an ice cream store with a large cooler and ask for one scoop of each flavor to be labeled and stored?

But I didn't count on my son's enthusiasm for ice cream. That's where I went wrong. Because, of course, he was completely thrilled to be able to ask for any type of ice cream imaginable. He ordered all his favorites, then started in on combinations. Then he started asking for entirely original flavors. And then, before he had to leave for his mother's house, he asked the UICMM to create a sample of every possible flavor of ice cream.

Unfortunately, I didn't hear that. I had stepped out to use the restroom. The fates of nations have turned on smaller coincidences.

By the time I went back down the next morning, the UICMM had used its nano-forge to create a fuel-supply system for itself. It had cannibalized about half of the lab to do so. It had used the other half of my equipment to feed itself. Not that I could tell, at first; the entryway side of the lab was buried under a spreading, half-melted pile of fractally-differentiated flavors of ice cream. I had to melt my way in; then I had to burn my way through the mechanical arms, which were trying their best to insert me into the hopper for fuel. Finally, I was able to cancel my son's order and shut down the system.

I didn't destroy the machine, though. For one thing, the boy would never forgive me if I did. For another, the design of the robot arms was intriguing enough that I would very much like to run a scan of both the system memory and the program itself; I'd like to know just how close those self-modification subroutines have carried the UICMM towards becoming a genuine Artificial Intelligence. To be honest, though, I'm not entirely sure what I'd do with an intelligent and self-aware Ice Cream Maker Machine... though there are always those leftover Robotic Infantry prototypes. I suppose I could load it into one of those bodies, and turn it loose to corner the Ice Cream market...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Laying Tracks

The boys apparently got a little... enthusiastic... with the train tracks at their grandparents' house on Sunday:

It's funny to me just how different they are. Firstborn was all about superheroes, powers, and battles - Ben 10, Bakugan, Batman, Lightning Zapzers, Bionicle, Skylanders, and like that. The closest he ever got to being interested in vehicles was Transformers, which aren't so much cool as vehicles as they are cool because they turn into giant freakin' robots and have battles. Cars, trains, and construction equipment interested him not at all.

Secondborn, despite being born into a house which was already well-stocked with the sorts of toys that his older brother preferred, has been Vehicle Boy from the word go. He likes cars, trucks, construction equipment, and trains: Mighty Machines, Bob the Builder, Thomas The Tank Engine, Hot Wheels, and things along those lines.

There's some overlap, of course; Secondborn sometimes enjoys playing with his brother's Skylanders, for example, and Firstborn - who would never dream of watching such things on his own - will now settle down and watch Thomas with his younger brother. But they have, in some ways, very different tastes... and those seem to be innate, rather than acquired.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Road Trip!

Michael Mock set off on a weekend road trip with two other people. A year later, his journal was found. This... is his story.

Road Trip Journal, Entry 1
After several hours on the highway, we have arrived in the hinterlands of Texas. Not sure if Internet connection actually possible here. Honestly not sure if electricity and indoor plumbing have reached this region yet. Have checked into our hotel and brought bags and cooler up to our room. Woman who runs the place may very well be Norman Bates' mother.

R_ and L_ are supposed to have arrived last night. If they have been murdered in their sleep, we are not staying here.

Road Trip Journal, Entry 2
Presence of ice bucket in room seemed to imply that there's an ice machine around here somewhere. Not on our floor, but somewhere. After some checking around, was told that ice machine is in the far back corner of the ground floor.

The ground floor, despite having just as many No Smoking signs as our floor, is positively swimming in cigarette smoke. The sign on the ice machine asks us not to use it to fill up coolers. Am ignoring this with the same casual insouciance as the smokers are ignoring the No Smoking signs. Allergies already making me sniffly; smoke now making my eyes teary as well. Am no longer as concerned about being murdered in my sleep, as I am now considering the logistics of murdering others in their sleep.

Hotel claims to have public WiFi Internet connection. After forty-five minutes, have received notice from my firewall that I am now connected to a network. Does not matter, since my wireless card can only detect the network for about five seconds out of every fifteen minutes. Actual Internet connection completely nonexistent. Am beginning to wonder if I should have brought garlic and ash-wood stakes (vampires), silver bullets (werewolves), and pump shotgun (zombies, serial killers, rednecks). Reassured by fact that cell phones still work.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Weird Dreams part whatever: Monsters in Bomont

Woke up from some very weird dreams the other morning. (My dreams are often fairly memorable, especially if I'm getting enough sleep, and frequently hang together in a more-or-less coherent narrative.)

This particular dream was sort of a cross between Footloose and Dead Space. Since that's not a juxtaposition that I ever expected to encounter in any context whatsoever, let me try to explain. The plot went a bit like this:

  1. Young Man arrives in town.
  2. Preacher's Daughter takes an interest in the Young Man.
  3. Young Man discovers horrible, scary monsters.
  4. Preacher is upset because his daughter keeps running off / sneaking off to spend time with Young Man.
  5. Preacher confronts the young man and demands to know how dare he be seeing Preacher's Daughter without his permission.
  6. Young Man explains that while he'd love to be dating Preacher's Daughter, they haven't had time because they've been Fending Off The Monsters.
  7. Townsfolk seal off Monster Lair with a combination of explosives, construction equipment, and armed rednecks (mainly to guard the people driving the construction equipment).
  8. The End.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Theme Songs

Right, so... apparently it's Valentine's Day. So, to celebrate all the hearts and flowers and candles and romance, join us below the cut for a selection of Valentine's Day music. Also, it's time for the annual Public Service Announcement: the correct abbreviation is V-Day, not VD.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ninjas, I haz 'em

Can you spot the cute little blond ninja in this picture?

And Firstborn: "My ninja climbing powers have gone horribly awry! Maybe I need a new ninja suit..."

What do you do if your house has ninjas, anyway? Is there a special cleaning product that will help? Do you fumigate? And if they claim to be a hedge, does it really matter if you didn't want any more shrubberies?

A Public Service Announcement

Attention, Dallas/Fort Worth. This is a public safety advisory. A grave danger has struck North Texas overnight, and it is vital that all citizens take adequate precautions. That's right, there is Scary, Scary Wet Stuff on our roads. At this time, we advise all citizens to remain indoors. Do not attempt to drive your cars or trucks under any circumstances. Frankly, we suggest you avoid the sidewalks as well; you just never know how dangerous they might be.

If you absolutely must drive, be advised that you should drop to half the posted speed limit at the first sign of moisture on the pavement. This will help clog the roadway and force others to drive at safe speeds as well. When merging into traffic, take as much time as you need and drive as slowly as you like; attempting to match the speed of the traffic that you are trying to merge into is simply too dangerous to consider.

That is all.

This has been an announcement from the Department of Sarcastic Driving Advice. If you are undertaking, or even seriously considering, any of these behaviors, please get off the road. It's not ice, folks; it's just rain. If you thought that this advice was serious, you may be irony impaired and should call your doctor immediately to determine a course of treatment.

Monday, February 11, 2013

How Like A God

I had an interesting discussion a while back, on the topic of how "atheists want to be their own gods".

Now... I never know quite what to say when that particular accusation comes up. To be honest, I don't really understand what it's supposed to mean. Are we supposed to want to worship ourselves? If so, how? By composing little hymns to praise our power and wisdom, maybe? I don't know about you, but I could only do that if I were being ironic - if I were making fun of myself. Am I supposed to want to think that I'm the most important thing around? That doesn't make any sense either. I do all sorts of things - for my wife and children, to pick easy examples, but also for complete strangers - that I wouldn't even consider if I were trying to look at myself as the most important thing in the Universe.

The least nonsensical interpretation that I've been able to come up with is that maybe I'm being accused of wanting to decide for myself what's right and wrong. The problem there is, well... Everybody does that. You can base your decisions on what you think God wants, or you can base your decisions on something else - the Golden Rule, say, or some sort of Utilitarianism - but you still have to decide for yourself what's right and wrong. This is why it's possible to have Catholics who use birth control, for example.

I'm probably overthinking it, though. If I pull back a little, it really just sounds like someone flailing around verbally. It's the sort of thing you'd say if you just couldn't wrap your mind around the idea that it's possible to not worship anything.

But, while discussing the accusation, one of the people I was chatting with asked: "Could we make ourselves gods?"

And that reminded me of a line from L.E. Modesitt - I think it's in The Parafaith War - which notes that as technology advances, worshippers have to make more and more dramatic claims about what their deity can do, just to keep up. (I'm paraphrasing.)

A great many things that we take for granted today - instantaneous communication with nearly anyone, the ability to see things happening miles or even continents away, bubbling magic potions that reliably cure your stomach aches, reliable transportation at ridiculous speeds - would have seemed miraculous not so many generations back. Even a lot of the abilities that were previously the province of gods and demi-gods can be reproduced by human beings now; the Ark of the Covenant was said to have struck down fifty thousand and seventy Bethshemites in one go, but the man-made destruction of Hiroshima accounted for at least three times that.

Are we our own gods? No, I don't think so. But I think that someone from a couple of centuries back would hard-pressed to tell the difference.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Off Week and the end of the world

So, between the Nightmare Server Upgrade From Beyond The Grave and just generally feeling kind of worn out and icky, I haven't done much with the blog this week. It's not for lack of ideas; it's for lack of time and energy. It's also a matter of priorities; where I have found time to write, I've mostly used it to inch along on my current novel-length project.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

More Filler: Uprising

Theme song for a revolution, plus giant killer teddy bears. How can you possibly go wrong?

The teddy bears in that video put me in mind of this scene from Akira:
(You might want to shut this one off around the 3:30 mark; the next little bit isn't really safe for work.)

Filler: The Fat Lady of Limbourg

Since I'm still not feeling up to speed, here's another bit of music. It's a delightfully disturbing little song by a band called Shivaree:

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Filler: Trouble Is A Friend

Because, well, I'm being pecked to death by ducks this week... so to speak, anyway...

Really, it could be a lot worse. We just have a lot going on, particularly at work, and I am exhausted. Software upgrades are not my friends.

More Shining Walls

The next little section of Vital Revocation is up at The Shining Walls.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


So, Firstborn, in his role as a budding game designer, has come up with a new invention: checkers-chess.

Here's how you play:
1. Set up a chess board in the traditional fashion.
2. Add a row of checkers in front of the pawns on each side. Make sure the colors match.
3. Play. Everything moves and captures other pieces exactly the way they normally do in their respective games, except that the rule allowing pawns to move two spaces forward on the first movement does allow them to "slip past" the checkers.
4. Pour yourself a nice, stiff drink to help you recover afterwards.
5. Pass out with your son still begging you for another game.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Aldakes Gets A New Minion

You heard about that, did you? Yeah, Aldakes got himself a new minion - excuse me, "bodyguard". Not the first... won't be the last, either. And I can't feel too bad for this one; kid brought it on himself. Seriously, if it hadn't been this, it would have been something else. Hell, working for Aldakes might even keep him out of trouble.

...Because I saw it, of course. How do you think I found out about it?

Okay, fine. You buy the next round, and I'll tell you all about it.

It's nine a.m. on a Monday morning, two-three weeks ago. We're just past rush hour, but it's still pretty busy. I'm just hanging around, checking my lines and keeping an eye on things. What? Hey, if you can't fly and you want to move around on the rooftops, you need a system. And if your system relies on tech, you have to maintain it. I had just finished making sure that one of my backup routes was nice and tight when I looked over the side and saw Aldakes. You know what he looks like, right? Withered face, purple robes with gold embroidery - you can't miss him. And, of course, he's walking up the steps to Pyramid Bank, just like anyone else.

So, yeah, I saw him down there. Problem is, I wasn't the only one who saw him down there.

As I'm watching, no joke, this guy drops down in front of Aldakes and plucks him right off the sidewalk. I can't see much of the new guy, but what I see looks like a full-body black outfit under a long black cloak.

They get about three hundred feet up, just below the level of my rooftop, before Aldakes lets him have it. No idea what "it" was - magic's not my thing - but the two of them kind of lurch, and then they drop like a rock. They land back on the sidewalk, and for a moment all I can see is black cloak and purple robes, like a bruise on the pavement. At this point, I'm starting to wonder if maybe I should get down there, so I warm up a few of my surprises.

They get to their feet at about the same time, but the guy in black moves first. It looks like a solid punch, right to the mid-section, and Aldakes goes flying. Smashes right through a light pole, bounces off a stone building, and smashes into some poor civilian's automobile. Should be dead, but he's been dead for a couple of thousand years, so I guess he's used to it, right? Anyway, he stands back up, and the guy in black comes flying at him again... only this time, something happens before he can connect. Smashes him right down into the street, and leaves a fist-shaped crater thirty feet across. Destroys another half-dozen cars, too. I can actually feel the building I'm standing on sway from the impact. There aren't that many people on the street, but the ones that are out there are running and screaming.

So I fire off a tranquilizer at the guy in black. He doesn't even notice; I don't think it even broke the skin. He comes out of that crater like the angel of death, faceless in a black mask, cloak like black wings behind him, just hanging in the air.

Aldakes is saying something. He has his hands out, palms down - I can't hear it, but it looks like he's telling the guy to be reasonable. I've got the sonic out, but that's enough to keep me from using it. I don't want to zap the guy if Aldakes can get him calmed down. Might set him off again.

Whatever Aldakes is saying, it doesn't work. The guy throws himself forward again.

This time, he gets struck by lightning. Repeatedly. For about a minute and a half.

At this point, the street is clear. A dozen or so car alarms are going off, and smoke is curling up from the street lights and the power lines, but there's not a civilian in sight. The ones that didn't run away fast enough are sort of stunned and staggering, and frankly if I hadn't been wearing my suit I'd have been blind and deaf as well. But everyone, everyone is giving this battle a good, wide berth.

The guy in black is lying on the pavement. He's twitching, but he's still sort of half-heartedly reaching for Aldakes. I figure this is the time to intervene, so I bathe him with the sonic - and sure enough, down he goes.

By the time I get down to the street, there are two fire trucks, an ambulance, and a half-dozen patrol cars. Some officers are setting up a barricade, one is questioning Aldakes, and Captain Amazing is questioning the guy in black. I let myself be seen, and approach slowly. No need to get everyone excited.

I get there just in time to hear the kid protesting: "But he's a supervillain! He was going into the bank! I just stopped him from..." He sounds young, real young.

I cut him off by asking Captain Amazing, "What do we have here?"

The Captain opens his mouth, closes it again. He looks at the kid, he looks at me. Finally he says, "Got a seventeen year old rookie who decided to make a name for himself. Shouldn't even be out in costume by himself - he's still working under a trial license. How much did you see?"

I shrugged. "All of it. Pretty much, anyway."

The officer in charge - Wieczorik, you know him? Well, he perks up at this, and says: "Aldakes is saying the young man tried to kidnap him, possibly to hold him for ransom. That fit what you saw?"

I take a deep breath. The kid's going to lose his license. Not that he shouldn't, for something like this, but he's not going to understand it, either. I can't help feeling a little sorry for him. But I say, "Yeah. And unless the lightning fried something critical, that's what the cameras'll show, too. Aldakes was on his way to work when this guy flew down and tried to carry him away. Aldakes defended himself, tried to talk the kid down, and then defended himself again."

At this point the kid yells, "But he's a supervillain! Look at-"

"Kid," I say, and amazingly he shuts up. "Aldakes is the President of Pyramid Bank. He's on the board of directors for at least three other banks here in the city, plus the art museum. That building he was walking into? He wasn't going to rob it. He owns it. He was on his way to work."

I can't see the kid's expression; he's still got his mask on. But I can't miss it when he lunges at me, or when Captain Amazing catches him by the arm and hauls him back.

"Easy, there," says Captain Amazing. "We'll get him. One of these days, he'll slip up, and we'll get him. But right now, everything he does - no matter how horrible - is completely legal. That isn't something you can solve by hitting people." The kid is still struggling, not that it does him any good. "Right now, you can still come back from this. You'll probably lose your license, but you can apply again in a couple of years - but only if you calm down. Everybody makes mistakes, even me. That's why you're supposed to be working with a more experienced hero. Even if she isn't as powerful as you are."

The kid snapped his head around. Even without seeing his face, I knew there was a sullen glare under that mask. "She can't even..." He trailed off, maybe because of the way Captain Amazing was looking at him.

It sounded like good advice to me, but I guess the kid didn't take it. And I guess he didn't know what else to do, either. Because as of last week, he's working for Aldakes. Word at the precinct is that Aldakes refused to press charges, so maybe they made a deal. And if I'm hearing right, the kid's signing bonus is just enough to cover what he owes for property damage. So there you go; that's how it happened.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Well-Planned Midlife Crisis

Every life has a handful of turning points: times when, due to choice or luck or circumstances, things go one way instead of another. People, being people, often like to quantify these moments - to mark them, and celebrate them, and ritualize them: birthdays, for example, or graduations. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, except that some of the most significant turning points are only recognizable after the fact - while some of the points that we have rituals to mark turn out not to be terribly significant at all.

To pick a personal example: the Beautiful Wife and I have passed our Ten Year Anniversary as a married couple. This is, for some people, a very deal - an entire decade together! For us, well, it wasn't that big a deal. We might have missed it entirely if something else hadn't reminded us. (In fact, I think that part of the reason we're still together is that we both have a very One Day At A Time approach to being married. Well, that and a good sense of humor.) For us, the really big one was our third anniversary, probably because that's almost exactly how long my Supposed Former Marriage lasted.

Sometimes, though, you can see one of these moments coming. Right now, for example... well, I'm about to turn forty; the Beautiful Wife and I have decided that we are absolutely not having any more children; I still have a steady job, one that barring some sort of catastrophe I'll be able to retire from; and the boys are getting old enough to be involved in school and other outside-the-house sorts of things. So, clearly - unmistakeably, irrefutably - it's time to start planning my midlife crisis.

Now, I know what you're probably thinking: there are plenty of people who have their midlife crises without any sort of planning at all. Well, I don't hold with that. If I'm going to have a midlife crisis, I'm gonna do it right.

The first step is to get a new vehicle. It will need to be something sleek, fast, and sporty - something purchased in complete defiance of the possibility that I'll ever need to take the kids anywhere. Also, ideally, it should be something that really isn't designed to be driven safely. I've checked to see how much my bank is willing to loan me, and together with the savings in my account it looks like I can afford a very nice, brand new, top of the line skateboard. So that part is covered.

Step Two, traditionally, is to trade in your wife or girlfriend for a better model. I kind of cheated on this one, since I married the perfect woman in the first place; if you start at the top of the line in the first place, there's no such thing as a better model. So I'm already covered on this one.

Step Three is where it gets tricky. At this point, the goal is to recapture my youth, or get in touch with my Inner Manliness, or reinvent myself as someone new, hip, and radical. Possibly all three at once. So, for the next year, I'll be living in a cave in the woods with nothing but my wits to rely on, eating only what I can kill for myself, wearing only my own hand-crafted clothing, and learning to commune with the bats. (Catching rabies is completely optional.) I'll also need my laptop, so I can use this experience to become a famous author. Oh, and I'll need alcohol in order to get any writing done, so it'll probably have to be a cave in the woods near a particularly charitable brewery.

Finally, of course, I'll return home having recaptured the primal essence of myself. I can picture the triumphant return already, as I come zooming fearlessly into the driveway on my sleek and powerful skateboard, hermit's beard flapping in the wind behind me, wearing a loincloth that I painstakingly crafted for myself from tree bark and poison ivy, with bats nesting in my hair and my soon-to-bestselling manuscript tucked lovingly under one arm. There I'm met by my adoring wife and beaming children, who have naturally spent our year apart pining for my return; while reporters and literary agents circle the yard, hoping for the barest moment of my time.

Trust me. That's exactly how it will go.

Filler: Bohemian Rhapsody as Mariachi

Okay, so - the post I'd planned to put up for today is taking too long to finish. But, I hate to leave the blog feeling lonely, so...

...I'm just going to set this here and run away.