Monday, September 30, 2013

Modeling Consent Culture

Over at Disrupting Dinner Parties, guest poster Rebecca Flin describes her first encounter with "consent culture". I'm not going to repost the whole thing here; but this is the sort of message that really deserves a signal boost, so this is my small contribution. Go read it.
So we know what “rape-culture” is at this point, right? Thank god we finally have a word for it! Like the emergence of the term, “sexual harassment” in the 1970s, the recent addition of the term “rape culture” to our everyday lexicon has given us a way to describe what used to be called “just the way it is” or “life”. Therefore, we are now able to see and discuss it. And I don’t know about you guys, but I see it everywhere: movies, the news, music, child-raising, the subway, you name it. Rape culture is our culture. But now that we see it, we can start changing it right?

So tell me, what can I do to move away from rape culture?
Seriously, go read it.

Sunday, September 29, 2013


Still working on a story for the Nightbreed anthology. I really have no idea whatsoever if I can finish this before the deadline, and I cannot believe how much of an ordeal this has been. If I can wind it up today, I can probably still get some of my proofreaders to go over it before I send it off. Honestly, though, I'd hoped to have it done last week - or, for that matter, back at the beginning of the month - in order to allow a reasonable amount of time for that.

I'm not pleased by the prospect of sending off a hurried, last-minute bit of writing... but I'm even less pleased by the idea of not sending off anything at all.

Somewhere in here, I really need to reconsider my writing process.

Friday, September 27, 2013

In Which Firstborn Chooses a New Video Game

So our oldest son has learned how to tie his own shoes. As a result of this, of course, we no longer have to tie them for him. (He's seven. It hadn't been a problem, up until we bought him shoes that actually used laces; he's been operating on a velcro-based system for the last five years.)

As a secondary result of this, he has earned a prize. Now, I want to take a moment and emphasize that this was not my idea. No, this deal was set up by the Beautiful Woman. The deal was that if he could manage to successfully tie his own shoes three times in a row (and thus demonstrate basic aptitude at the activity), he could go the Movie Trading Company and pick out a new video game for himself. Well, yesterday he managed the feat - so yesterday his mother took him to the store and let him pick out a game.

The difficulty with this sort of arrangement is that once you've told the child that he can pick out any game he likes, he will expect to be allowed to purchase any game he likes. He chose (wisely) something that would work on the PS2, so that wasn't a problem. (Xbox would have been a problem; the Xbox is currently buried in the storage unit, to puzzle and delight future archaeologists, I suspect.) I had to pick up a second controller for the PS2 (because guess what else is currently boxed up in the storage unit), but that wasn't a problem; I'd been meaning to do that anyway, and it was pretty cheap.

However, I'm a little bit embarrassed to admit which game he actually chose. It's... well.. it's Mortal Kombat: SuperDeathBloodSport. I think. Something like that, anyway.

This is embarrassing for two reasons:

1. People might judge me for letting my seven-year-old purchase a game with that much spurting blood in it.

2. He pretty much pounded me into the ground in Versus mode last night.

Still, he earned it and he's happy with it, so I can't complain too much - even though I'm pretty sure I'm going to get pounded on again after dinner tonight. You know what they say: "Sticks and stone may break my bones, but pixelated violence will never hurt me."

Imperial Marches

We're doing some sort of training during lunch today, so here's the Imperial March:

Join us below the cut for more variations on the theme...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sorcerous Hazing

Werdeth pushed the bathroom door opened and noted with relief that nobody was inside. What had been a faint twinge in his shoulderblade was now a burning pain, centered there but spreading through most of his chest and up across the back of his head. It wasn't natural; whatever it was, someone had done this to him.

Ignoring the pain by an act of will, he crossed to the rearmost stall and closed the door. Inside, he unbuttoned his shirt and pulled it off, then hung it on the back of the door. His flesh looked normal, but he thought he could feel a faint tingling when he held his fingers above the center of the pain. He needed to get this under control, before something bad happened.

It wasn't a physical problem, so it had to be sorcery. Miserable as it was, it probably wasn't an attempt on his life; something like that would have been either much faster, or much more subtle... unless his peculiar talent was reacting unexpectedly, of course. That meant one of the other students, either aggravated by his arrival, or just being cruel for the pleasure of it. It might even have been some sort of test; they might have expected him to catch it and counter it before it became debilitating. His talent didn't work that way, but the other students didn't know that.

His left hand folded into a fist, claws digging into his palm. That was bad; he wasn't supposed to have claws. That entire arm was covered in dark fur, now. He forced the change back, refusing to let the pain distract him. Then, cautiously, he started to shift, looking to become something that could handle the pain. His skin hardened into armor plates, grew clusters of spikes, began to drip something that sizzled when it hit the tile floor...

He forced it back, again. That wouldn't work. He only knew one mode well enough to assume it safely; anything else meant letting the beast find its own way. If the beast took control with this sort of goad, it might very well kill, or be killed, or both.

For a moment he just stood there, breathing hard, willing his body to obey. When he had control again, however tenuous, he straightened. This magic, this spell, this curse... whatever it was, it was in his body now; it was part of him. He twisted it, shaped it, tore it loose from his flesh. It sat on his forearm, glaring, claws digging at skin that grown hard as bone: a nasty little thing, misshapen, with tiny eyes in a head that was almost entirely teeth.

He met its eyes, still exerting control. "Back," he said quietly, and it flinched away. He made a casting gesture, and it leapt from his arm. He opened the stall in time to see it slither under the bathroom door and out into the hall. It was going back to whomever had created it, wherever they were. Probably in class, he decided, and reached for his shirt. It was time to head back to his own classroom, preferably before the little beast found its creator.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Clockwork Quartet: The Doctor's Wife

Still writing, and reloading my work computer. So, this morning, I offer you an inspiring musical tale of true love...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Still Writing, just... not here

Still working on the short story; allergies are trying to kill me. Work is... interesting, and distracting, and not quite the well-tuned machine that one might hope for.

Firstborn and I managed to play Borderlands 2 online with Uncle Nadrick, which thrilled him immensely. I was even more proud that when we ran out of time, he shut the game off without complaint, and sat down and did his homework. I think he's finally figured out that that's how to ensure that he gets more opportunities to play with his uncle - short term loss, long term gain.

Secondborn, meanwhile, was satisfied to watch Hot Wheels: Battle Force Five on the portable DVD player. So, two happy boys, two tired parents, but overall a very manageable night. Just... not a lot of writing.

My hope is to go to bed early tonight (like, right when the boys do) and wake up early. That might let me make some progress before the rest of the world crashes down on me again. We'll see.

Here is some completely random Kate Miller-Heidke, because I enjoy her music:

Monday, September 23, 2013

Morning Brains

A conversation from yesterday morning at our household:
Beautiful Woman: "You're up."

Me: "Yep. Already had my brain eaten, too."

Beautiful Woman: "The boys ate your brains?"

Me: "Well, Firstborn did."

Beautiful Woman: "Firstborn, did you eat your daddy's brains?"

Firstborn: "Yes."

Beautiful Woman: "Firstborn! Don't eat your daddy's brains until after you've finished your pancakes. Brains are a dessert, not a meal."

Firstborn: (giggles) "I'll go finish my pancakes now."

Friday, September 20, 2013

Ride My Giant Lizard

In the carpool line with Firstborn this morning:
Firstborn: "I still want a giant lizard."

Me: "Many men do." Pause. "So you could ride it to school?"

Firstborn: "Yes."

Me: "You'd have to take it to the riding-lizard stables around the back of the school, though. And Giant Lizard Food is expensive. I mean, you can raise your own herd of giant bugs, but you'd need somewhere to keep them. And you have to watch them closely to make sure they don't chew through the fence."

Firstborn: "But the giant lizard would still have a sticky tongue!"

Me: "Oh, yes. Feeding the lizard wouldn't be a problem. It's just buying the food, or herding the giant bugs for him to eat. Have you ever tried to herd giant insects? It's really hard."

Firstborn: "And if there was a robbery, I could just tell the lizard to drop its tail. Then the police could walk up to robbers and just say, 'You're under arrest.' And their car would be like a jail. If it was all crunched up, it wouldn't even be able to drive anymore."

Me: "Good plan. I'm sure the police would appreciate the help."

Firstborn: "That's what I thought, too."
So now I want a giant riding lizard, too. Quick! To the Mad Science Lab!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Quiet, Back Soon

Yes, I know - it's been quiet for the last couple of days. What do you expect, out here in the middle of nowhere? Just be careful if you go out into the woods. You never know what might be out there.

I'm not in the woods, of course. I'm working on a story that's set in the woods. Specifically, I'm still working on a short story to submit to that Nightbreed anthology. (You may insert any amount of grumbling and curses, here.) So that's why nothing's getting put on the blog; such time and attention as I can scrape together is pointed elsewhere.

There will be more posts as soon as the story is finished - or as soon as the deadline is past, whichever comes first.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Recommendations: Calvin and Muad'Dib

A friend of mine posted a link to this on Facebook, and it's amazing how well the dialogue works when you plug it into old Calvin and Hobbes strips:

Calvin and Muad'Dib

Go have a look. It's pretty awesome.

Monday, September 16, 2013

On Vacation

I had scheduled this week off, with an eye towards cleaning, writing, and resting.

You'd think I'd know better by now.

On Friday morning, I zoomed into work, put my headphones on, and finished writing the thing I'd been trying to finish for the last two days - an entry for a contest, because winning awards helps justify our budget, or maybe just that gives our CIO a way to show off for the other directors. Whichever, it was the last big thing I needed to get done, and I got it done. So by mid-morning, I was looking forward to a quiet day with a few routine updates and maybe one or two routine interruptions. (We get a lot of those; they're usually just helping out people in other departments, one way or another, and generally not that big a deal.)

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the building, two of our employees were having the following conversation:
1st Guy: "Hey, I can't seem to open this massively infected file. Can you try it? Here, I'll put it on the network drive for you."

2nd Guy: "No, I can't open it either. Hey, do you get about two dozen virus warning when you click on that?"

3rd Person: "Hey, why am I suddenly getting all these virus warnings when I try to look at my own files on the network drive?"
...So that was pretty much the rest of my day. This particular infection was both pernicious and virulent, and dealing with it involved going up to the infected department, kicking all of their computers over to Safe Mode, and scanning the everloving poop out them individually. It's been years since we had to go machine-to-machine like that...

So that was the workday. Once it was over and things were under control (at least theoretically), I left work and caught up with my wife and our children at a nearby McDonald's. They played, we all ate, we went back home...

The garage door wouldn't open. I thought the battery on my clicker had died, so I went around and came in through the front door, then opened the garage manually. In the process, I realized that the garage door opener was fine, but the house didn't have power.

Then the boys came inside, and Firstborn informed me that we did have power... in his room. And the stove and the dishwasher were still lit. So, okay, I started checking fuses... nothing was tripped, and resetting them didn't fix anything. So I figured maybe the fuse box had gone bad, put in calls to a couple of electricians, and didn't hear back from any of them. If this had happened a week or two earlier, we'd have had to leave the house; Texas is just too hot. As it was, we just had a warmish night.

So on Saturday, we finally got an electrician out to look at it; he pronounced the fuse box perfectly healthy, and said the problem was that the box was only getting power along one of the two legs that feed it. So I needed to call Oncor. To their credit (and my great relief), Oncor got someone out to help us quite quickly, and the fellow cheerfully informed me that no, he really didn't need me there for anything, and yes, I could run away and finally get some lunch.

So, after a bit more wrangling - absolutely nothing that I tried to schedule, coordinate, or otherwise plan made even a token effort at working out - I managed to gather up the Beautiful Woman and both boys (who had gone over to play at Nana and Poppy's while the electrician was there). The boys had eaten very little lunch, and my wife hadn't eaten at all, because... Well, she'd gone off to teach her Saturday morning class, and found - guess what? - power outages at the college. I am not making this up. She wound up teaching in the dark for an hour and half, because it's a seven-week class and they can't just cancel.

So we finally all got food, and went to visit my brother and his wife. Among their many virtues is the fact that they own a pool. We swam, and cooled off, and chatted, and finally went and had dinner. By the time we got home, the house had electricity again, so I plugged in all the electronics and turned on the air conditioning, and then we went to sleep.

Then, on Sunday... No, forget about Sunday. It wasn't as bad as Saturday, but there was a lot of catching-up kinds of work to do. Sunday night: still exhausted. That's all you really need to know about it.

So today, I'm taking a vacation from my vacation. I'm not working on any of my projects. I'm typing this, obviously, but mostly I'm just playing video games. There will probably be a hot bath later, and perhaps a beer. Or maybe I'll just collapse and take a very long nap. Assuming this goes right, well...

Friday, September 13, 2013

Real Parenting Conversations: Last Nerve

I arrived home last night to discover that my wife had retreated to the back room. Why? Because the boys had taken Secondborn's room, which we've been valiantly attempting to clean, and torn it completely apart. Scattered things around, pulled all the clothing bins out, broken at least one of them... They hadn't actually knocked over the furniture, but it still looked like a typhoon had hit the room. When I went to investigate, I couldn't even open Secondborn's door; two of the bins were wedged between it and the shelves. It would open far enough for the boys to squeeze in and out, but I had to get Firstborn to move some things before I could come in and help them clean up.

This led to the following conversation later in the evening:

Beautiful Woman: "Thank you for seeing that the boys had done me in."

Me: "Well, the look of abject despair on your face was a big clue."

Honestly, though, I hear people talk about how they have to work on their marriage, or how marriage takes a lot of effort, and I just... I kind of disagree. Your marriage shouldn't be one of your problems. Your marriage should be where you go to get help when you have problems. (That's true for friendships, too, and if you aren't married then you ought to be able to get help from your friends when you really need it; I don't mean to imply that marriage is the only way to do this.)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Notes from the Mad Science Lab: Afternoon PSAs

Attention, minions. The hunt for the monitor serpents has now been underway for approximately twenty straight hours. By my count, nearly half of you are either dead or incapacitated, and Medical is starting to... triage... anyone they can't fix immediately.

The escaped monitor serpents, meanwhile, have gone through at least four full generations. They are now smarter and more experienced at dealing with you. They have also developed legs, and arms with opposable thumbs - probably as a result of genetic pollution from eating so many of you. Twenty minutes ago, their leader contacted me by way of the intercom system. Since this shows more technical aptitude than some of you will ever possess, I have negotiated a truce with the Serpent Emperor.

As of now, we are no longer attempting to capture any of the escaped monitor serpents, regardless of their current level of evolution. The serpent people apparently regard the older generations of monitor serpents as honored ancestors. At this time, you may all consider yourselves on break. Food will be available in the cafeteria, and if any of the serpent people choose to eat with you then I expect you to treat them with the same respect that you do your co-workers.

That brings me to my next point: I have decided to replace you all with serpent people. Starting tomorrow morning, you may all consider yourselves terminated. After breakfast, I will provide transport back to the mainland. This offer will remain in effect until everyone is healed, cured, or revivified. If you wish to continue working here on Mad Science Island, you should visit Human Resources and fill out the proper application forms. You may use this an an opportunity to apply for a different job assignment, but be warned that you will almost certainly be interviewing against serpent people for some of those positions.

Thank you, and have a nice day.

9/11 a day late

I don't really have much to say about 9/11. I didn't when it happened; I never have since. By and large, I just don't talk about it, because this is one of those peculiar issues where my failure to have any sort of strong reaction is actually offensive to some people.

So instead of posting anything of my own, I'm going to link to a Cracked article on The Six Weirdest Things We've Learned Since 9/11. (Surely I'm not the only one who finds it disturbing that, in our post-9/11 world, our best reporting is done by people whose actual field is, at least ostensibly, comedy... That's not just me, right?)

"Hey, guys -- I'm starting to think we overreacted to the terrorism thing."

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Notes from Mad Science Lab: Evening PSAs

Very well, minions. It seems I need to add some additional information, so take note.

The second stage is not the end of the monitor serpent's life cycle. If they are injured - if, hypothetically, you attempt to beat one to death as revenge for your friend - they will writhe around and give a very convincing impression of being in extreme pain.

That isn't pain. It's their second metamorphosis, and it doesn't involve a cocoon. When the changes are complete, the third-stage monitor serpent will shed its skin and emerge with a layer of scales that is quite capable of stopping small-arms fire. Its new teeth are not as large as they are on a stage-two serpent, but they are extremely sharp, and there are a lot of them. So if, hypothetically, you manage to provoke a monitor serpent into its third stage, odds are extremely good that it will... hypothetically... rip you apart and eat most of the pieces, thereby making it extremely difficult to determine which minion needs to be restored this time.

In addition, the third-stage serpent is now strong enough to gnaw its way out of a standard holding cell, escape the cryptozoo, and lose itself in the lab complex. Naturally, this is a situation that we would have... that we would prefer to avoid. This is especially true since, at this stage of their development, the monitor serpent is both fertile and hermaphroditic.

No, don't bother looking it up. It means that a single serpent can lay enough eggs to hatch dozens of new monitor serpents, which will also have to be caught and returned to the holding facility - preferably without injuring them and thus triggering another round of changes.

I expect to see everyone in the cafeteria for dinner, when we will determine the identity of any minions who might have been devoured. After that, we will form seek-and-capture squads to locate any specimens that might be missing from their pens.

Eat well, minions. It's going to be a long night.

Notes from the Mad Science Lab: Noon PSAs

Attention, minions.

Pursuant to my earlier announcement, it seems that some of you have noted that the second-stage monitor serpents are not eligible to be shipped to the client. That is true, but it does not make them fair game for your amusements.

I have already explained that second-stage monitor serpents are larger, stronger, and tougher than their first-stage counterparts. Once they've eaten, they continue to grow. If they've been in the second stage of their development long enough to grow fur, then they are more than strong enough to kill a grown man. So, if the consequences outlined in your New Minion Contracts are not sufficient to deter you from interfering with the experiments, you might want to consider your own safety instead.

On a related note, former cryptozoo technician Samson will be rejoining you tomorrow, once the medical staff finishes restoring him to his new cloned body. I hope he enjoys his new position on the janitorial staff.

Notes from the Mad Science Lab: Morning PSAs

Good morning, minions. The time has come for today's announcements, so please pay attention. This information might very well save your life.

It has come to my attention that some of you have been tormenting the monitor serpents just to watch them metamorphose.

Knock. It. Off.

Yes, the larval form of the monitor serpent is kind of cute, with those big eyes and the strange little bat-ears. And yes, if you knock them around a bit, they quit squealing at you, coil themselves up, and secrete their cocoons. I realize this must be fascinating to watch; no doubt you are overwhelmed with awe at the sight of the biological marvel that I have created.

Unfortunately for those of you engaged in this... pastime... the monitor serpents emerge from their cocoons larger, faster, tougher... and starving. Several of you have lost fingers and toes, and in one memorable case, an entire nose and both ears. The rest of you should learn from their example, and do otherwise.

Leave the monitor serpents alone. In addition to what your interference is costing us in medical services and lost work hours, you're delaying their shipment to the woman who commissioned them - a woman, I might add, who is paying us a very great deal of money to create these beasts. This is unacceptable, and anyone caught handling the monitor serpents without express orders to do so will face penalties.

I trust I won't have to repeat myself on this.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Amish Avatar Music?

So, right, music for this morning:

The Guild - Do You Wanna Date My Avatar?

More silliness below the cut:

Monday, September 9, 2013


Tip o' the hat to Lydia for reminding me of this story...

Once, in a former life, I had cat. I was, at the time, living in a rental house - one half of a duplex, actually. The front hall had this odd wallpaper with, I don't know, some sort of woven surface. Not quite firm enough for a basket, but it kind of gave that impression, materials-wise.

One evening while we're watching television, I glance over at the cat. The cat is in the front hall. He is eyeing the wall in a particularly speculative fashion. As I'm watching, he bunches himself up and springs. He must have sunk his claws into that wallpaper, because he stuck to the wall... and then proceeded to walk right up it, almost to the level of the ceiling.

I have no idea what possessed him to do this.

I'm pretty sure, however, that just about the time I made my way over there - marveling as I went - the cat figured out that he had no idea how to get back down. This, I imagine, is one of the reasons that cats bother to keep humans around.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Hooters

Okay, so, still a bit strung out and worn out. That being the case, you get music this morning. Specifically, you get The Hooters, because that's what I feel like playing right now.

More below the cut...

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Weird Week

Monday was a holiday.

On Tuesday, I came into work at 8:00 p.m. for the Great Software Changeover Of Doom.

I went home yesterday at, I don't know, around 1:30 p.m.

So now it's Thursday and I have no idea how the hell that happened. Also, my sleep schedule might be just a teensy bit off.

But, I went to lunch, and grabbed some caffeine. So that should be all good. Except the caffeine just seems to be making me more tired.

If I can make it through the rest of today and get the boys down to bed tonight, I should be able to get to bed and start restoring some semblance of a sleep schedule, hopefully before I progress to full-on visual hallucinations.

Wish me luck, folks.

End of the Hunt

Isham stood in the shadow of the trees and studied the house. It was neat little A-frame, tucked up against the side of a hill; a nice house with a nice view, and no nearby neighbors. Shielding his eyes against the light, he looked for the little details: the shape of the woodpile, the bit of stained glass just visible in the leftmost window, the bird feeder that hung at the corner of the porch.

This was the place. Samina was here, kept by some Natural, and Isham meant to get her out. Satisfied, he retreated back into the trees to wait.

It was dark when he emerged. He approached the house cautiously, wondering if they were expecting him; but nobody emerged to challenge him. A pair of clippers took care of the power line, and the place went dark. Isham was already moving towards the back door. The Naturals should be blind, while he could see better now that his eyes no longer needed to strain against the light.

He had almost reached the door when it swung open and a man stepped out. Isham lunged, knowing he had lost the element of surprise, but hoping he could win it back if he dispatched the Natural quickly and silently. His blade was sharp, and in the darkness he was quick and strong.

The man turned and brought his arms up, sweeping the knife aside and capturing Isham's arm in one fluid movement. A moment later an elbow rammed into Isham's ribs, and a moment after that he found himself face down on the pavement with his arm twisted painfully up behind him. He struggled, trying to free his arm, but the Natural just twisted it further, hurting him, nearing the point where his arm would break. He felt his own steel touch the back of his neck, and went still: defeated and shamed.

Then a child's voice said, "Isham?" and everything he'd thought about this place - his fears, his plans, his expectations - shattered into dust.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Too Old For An All-Nighter

So, last night we made the Great Software Changeover. Or, well, actually it was more like this morning. But it's there and it appears to be working, and hey look! A squirrel. What was I saying?

Oh, right. Biscotti in the breakroom. And anyway, we just need to finish out some of the peripheral setup, and give the thing a day or two to make sure it's working. I'd better go turn in the mobile hotspot, too.

But hey, eventually I had a nice breakfast. Brunch. Something. It had eggs.

I may be too old to be pulling all-nighters.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

And now... more sleep

I've delivered Firstborn to his school.

I've delivered my car to the shop.

I have returned home.

Starting at 8:00 p.m. tonight, we will undertake The Great Software Switchover. With any luck, we will emerge triumphant sometime before dawn. Admittedly, that's not the way to bet, but it could happen. Hypothetically. Maybe.

So right now, I'm going back to sleep. Because at my age, that is what one does to prepare for a long and trying evening.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Goal For Tonight

This weekend has actually gone very well, despite a few odd difficulties (hundred-and-ten degree heat, window on the driver's door of my car suddenly refusing to roll all the way up, a completely random but very brief bit of rain). Of the three main projects that I had scheduled, I've accomplished one of them (Get Enough Sleep), most of a second one (Proof Reading), and sort of vaguely mulled over a third (Finish A Short Story). Also, both boys have been exceedingly well behaved for their ages.

It is now, roughly, bedtime for the two boys. So my plan is to wrestle them into bed, duct-tape them down so they stay put, and come back to write the short story - and, if I have any brain cells left after that, to finish the proof-reading. I'll need to make some food for myself (I never quite got dinner) and set some things up for tomorrow (Firstborn should probably have a lunch to take to school) before I go back to working on projects.

Despite the odd setbacks (fixing the car is going to take a chunk out of my time tomorrow, I suspect), this is actually, well... progress.

I know. I'm as surprised as you are.