Tuesday, March 31, 2015


I cooked ground beef patties, rice, and edamame. Everyone ate it. It was good.

I realize this is the sort of "Who cares?" stuff that really ought to be on Facebook or something, but I'm just pulling out of a massive head cold, and this is literally all I can think to say. (And, also, I hope I'm pulling out of it. Sheesh. I'm pretty sure I've sneezed out the better part of a shoggoth over the course of this weekend. It's possible that "Cthulhu f'tagn" isn't actually part of an incantation; it may just be the phonetic rendering of a cultist sneezing.)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Report from Monitor Vessel 7J642B

On the command deck of Monitor Vessel 7J642B, Leader Ikslordl regards his staff. He is a tall alien, with a thin body, an oversized head, and a small, narrow face.

Leader Ikslordl: "Concealment Officer?"

On the floor below Leader Ikslordl stands a group of aliens, similar in basic structure to their leaders, but with small differences in build and skins that are lighter, in a mix of grays and greens. One of them steps forward, in accordance with the ancient Forms of Deference.

Concealment Officer Blaxilpik: "Our cloaks are steady, the subspace bleed is absorbing our energy emissions, and the humans have not reacted to our presence. Seclusion measures successful, Leader Ikslordl."

Leader Ikslordl: "Excellent. Then we are ready for our assessment. Xenosociologist Belkwinith, begin."

A third alien steps forward, taking his place beside Concealment Office Blaxilpik. If he feels that this crude physical display of positioning is antiquated and unnecessary, he gives no sign of it.

Xenosociologist Belkwinith: "In the time since our last inspection, the human tribes appear to have settled their differences become unified under a single planetary government. While some disputes are still resolved in battle, their wars are now fought in simulation spaces. The actions are highly volatile and extremely violent -- qualities which appear to be deeply embedded in this species -- but the humans no longer die in them. In fact, by channeling their aggressive instincts into these virtual wars, they appear to able to satisfy their instinctive need for the experience of battle while expending only a tiny fraction of the resources that an actual war would consume."

Leader Ikslordl: "I see. Have they any actual bloodshed?"

Xenosociologist Belkwinith: "Physical combat still exists for them, but it is highly ritualized as a collection of sports. These sports appear to provide an outlet for those specimens who cannot be satisfied with the experience of virtual combat."

Leader Ikslordl: "And to what do you attribute this sudden change of racial character? As I recall, on our last inspection the humans existed in a perpetual state of war, with a seventy-two percent chance of exterminating themselves."

Xenosociologist Belkwinith: "I have not correlated my conclusions with Xenotechnology Assessment, but I believe this came about largely because of rapid advances in their technology, and was made necessary by their ever-expanding population. It does not represent a change in their racial character, but rather a society-wide accommodation to it, with the clear -- and constantly reinforced -- understanding that the alternative is death on a species-wide level."

Leader Ikslordl: "Xenotechnology Assessor Dibbelflop, do you concur?"

A third alien steps forward to face the Leader.

Xenotechnology Assessor Dibbelflop: "Yes, Leader Ikslordl. At least, I see nothing in our data to contraindicate such a conclusion."

Leader Ikslordl: "And how rapidly has their technology advanced?"

Xenotechnology Assessor Dibbelflop: "Extremely, Leader Ikslordl. Despite some anomalies, they are now broadly a Class Six technological society."

Leader Ikslordl: "Class Six? Class Six is a potential threat to the League. Exterminator Zabdjanos, ready your--"

Xenotechnology Assessor Dibbelflop raises a slender, three-fingered hand.

Xenotechnology Assessor Dibbelflop: "A moment, Leader Ikslordl. The classification is skewed by two factors, and while I stand by our assessment, I believe that the metric we apply may not be appropriate here."

Leader Ikslordl: "...Very well. Stand down, Exterminator Zabdjanos. Xenotechnology Assessor Dibbelflop, continue. What are these two factors?"

Xenotechnology Assessor Dibbelflop: "The first is the rapid growth of their technology. While this is not entirely unprecedented -- the Stars Of The Thousand-Year Rule exhibited such rapid development, and may even have departed the league because of it -- in this case it seems to be less of a racial characteristic, and more matter of specific circumstances. Some fifteen of their years (or sixty decitels) after our last inspection, a new social movement arose in a place they refer to as Northexas. It appears to have begun with a local government that happened to combine a good relationship with its citizens and a deep devotion to developing and using the newest and most efficient technologies. At the same time, the lack of available resources -- imposed by the same unchecked population growth that Xenosociologist Belkwinith noted earlier -- forced them to 'do more and more with less and less'. The model of efficiency through technology put forth by this government was emulated, and in some cases adopted outright, by surrounding governments. As more of their resources were devoted to resolving problems with technology, they also began exploring those factors which were depriving them of resources in the first place: overwhelming population growth, and needless, endless wars."

Xenosociologist Belkwinith: "So it was a pattern that emerged at precisely the right time, enabling them to survive against all expectations."

Xenotechnology Assessor Dibbelflop: "That is what our research indicates. My team took considerable time to study their history, because of... well, because of the anomalies in their current technology."

Leader Ikslordl: "Describe these anomalies."

Xenotechnology Assessor Dibbelflop: "Earth is, as I said, a Class Six technological society. They have all the signifiers: liquid crystal data matrices, full neural data interfaces for their technology, orbital solar farms for energy, and the beginning stages of faster-than-light travel using the n-dimensional simultaneity of the Weft. However, there are also... relics."

Leader Ikslordl: "Relics?"

Xenotechnology Assessor Dibbelflop: "When we last passed through the system, there was a data server that remained in operation despite the obvious lack of any further use for it. The data contained on it was obsolete, and had already been copied in an unstructured format onto a newer system. The humans expected to shut it down in less than a decitel."

Leader Ikslordl: "I fail to see how this is relevant."

Xenotechnology Assessor Dibbelflop: "Leader... It's still there. That data server, built on silicon chips powered by electricity carried through copper wires, still exists. It is still in service."

Leader Ikslordl: "Still in service? What does it do?"

Xenotechnology Assessor Dibbelflop: "Nothing, Leader Ikslordl. Apparently it was used by a small branch of the Northexas government, one responsible for providing entertainment to the population. As the influence of Northexas expanded, so did its entertainment branch. At present, they rely on Stage Six technology for all of their operations, and host something like seventy percent of the planet's virtual interactions. However, they still devote a significant fraction of their resources to maintaining that server -- which hasn't actually been accessed in over a thousand decitels -- 'in case someone needs that information'."

Leader Ikslordl: "Ah. I see. Exterminator Zabdjanos, you may discontinue your preparations. The humans are no threat to us. The League endures."

Command Staff: "The League Endures."


Thursday, March 26, 2015


Did you hear about the Male Revue dancer with the lisp?

They say he had a thong in his heart.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

My Dreams are still strange narratives

Sylvester Stallone walked into the empty house. It was in pretty bad shape -- no furniture, doors missing, bits of fallen plaster and other little scraps scattered across the floor. He checked over the downstairs, noting holes in the walls and other problems, all things that would have to be repaired before anybody could live there again. It was going to be a lot of work.

He found the stairs and went up them. The second floor wasn't in any better shape than the first. Empty hallway, empty rooms...

Something growled.

The bear was crouched, claws pressed against the floor, looking directly at him. He took a step back, hands raised, and said: "Easy, there."

The growling deepened, and he reached for his gun.

He shot it twice: once as it leaped, and again as he stumbled out the doorway. It turned and leaped again, and this time it connected with him. They tumbled down the hall, the bear growling and trying to bite, Stallone firing the pistol into its torso. He must have hit something vital; the bear shuddered and lay still.

With a sigh, he rolled it off him and stood up. He limped back down the stairs and out to his truck, just as another car pulled up.

It was his boss. "What are you doing up here?" asked the boss. "This is the wrong address." He held up a piece of paper. "See? We're supposed to be fixing up another house half a mile down the road!"

...And my dreams got weirder from there. No more Stallone, but an even bigger, weirder house being reoccupied by a deeply strange family, complete with an elevated hallway that led around to an observatory; climbing up a rough slope (and eventually a near-cliff) with Secondborn and some random other girl-child in order to escape a rising river; and sundry other strangeness.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Secondborn is a natural climber

Here's video. This is after running around on the obstacle course and making a token effort at dodgeball.

He started with an inclined climbing wall (which is a bunch easier):

Monday, March 23, 2015

Parenthood II: The Quickening

There are acorns on the floor of Secondborn's room.

He's been "decorating", and thought he should have a plant. So: acorns, fallen leaves, and a couple of dead sticks. I don't even ask, anymore.

Anyway, there are acorns on the floor of Secondborn's room.

Every so often, I look down at one, panic for a moment, and then think: "No, it's okay. It isn't poop."

A quote from Sandman, and thoughts on Horror

"You disappoint me, Corinthian. You were my masterpiece, or so I thought. A nightmare created to be the darkness and the fear of darkness in every human heart. A dark mirror, made to reflect everything about itself that humanity will not confront.

"But look at you. Twenty years walking the earth, and what have you given them? Nothing. You've told them there are bad people out there. And they've known that all along."

I was reading through a Facebook thread on the subject of horror stories, and the use of fantastical elements as a way of expressing psychological horrors, and it got me to thinking:

My favorite horror involves... I guess I'd call it a "sense of discovery", or maybe a "sense of exploration". Slasher films do nothing for me; yes, you can build some tension and some sense of being hunted, but in the end the characters are still just up against a guy with a knife. Monster movies can be just as bad, if they're handled like slasher films. But a really good horror film, for me, will have the character struggling to figure out what's going on and how to deal with. (Alien, for example. Or even the original Predator, cheesy as it was in places.) Heck, one of the best horror movies I've seen isn't technically a horror movie; it's a science fiction piece called Screamers. (Just, whatever you do, DO NOT watch the sequel.)

Horror as allegory is fine, but -- as with any sort of allegory -- it has to be handled carefully. Since I'm apparently stuck thinking in movie examples, let me offer Monsters: it works perfectly well simply as a monster movie... but man, I got to the end, and I was like, "They aren't actually winding this into the comparison I think they are, are they? They can't *possibly* be doing that." They were.

You know, actually, I think that was a lot of what appealed to me about Dr. Who, too -- very frequently, most of the struggle focused on just figuring out what was going on. (I came in during the Tom Baker/Fourth Doctor years.)

So as far as I'm concerned, my ideal horror story can basically be summed up as, "There's something going on and we don't know what it is, but we're pretty sure it's dangerous. Now what?"

What about the rest of you? What are your favorite horror movies? Why do you like them?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Everybody Watches Something

"What channel do you watch?" asked Sandra.

Bill shrugged. "Actually, my TV is off right now. It's off most of the time."

"Yeah, but what channel do you watch? You have to be watching something."

Bill looked puzzled. "No... not really. I mean, I turned the TV off."


"Yes. Off."

Sandra gave him a conspiratorial grin. "Yeah, but really -- I mean, what happened? Did you get mad at the producers? Did they cancel a favorite show or something?"

"No, I just... look, I was watching this one channel, very popular, but the shows didn't seem to make any sense. I watched for a while longer -- I mean, my parents watched that channel, there must be something to it, right? -- only the shows made less and less sense the closer I looked at them. So finally I started surfing other channels, but... well... they didn't make much sense either. So finally, I turned the whole thing off."

"Okay, but what do you watch now?"

"I don't watch anything."

Sandra blinked twice, then said: "Are you watching yourself? Like, with a mirror, maybe? I mean, everyone watches something."

"I don't really watch anything. My television has been unplugged for about two years, now. I'm thinking of getting rid of it entirely."

"So you watch other people without televisions? You make them your choice of programming?"

"No." Bill frowned, then tried to smile, then gave it up. "I don't watch anything. You should try it sometime. It's kind of... freeing."

Sandra frowned, puzzled. "But everybody watches something."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

"Well... They aren't exactly zombies..."

I'm working on another short story -- basically an earlier episode of the story I submitted to Swords vs. Cthulhu, with the same characters and setting. It's basically a mid-apocalyptic... I can't decide if it's more "survival horror" or "action adventure". Bit of both, really. The apocalypse itself is of the phantasmagoric, anything-goes variety, except that at no point will conventional physics "stop working". (That places some interesting restrictions on what I can get away with in terms of the fantasy elements, but that's all part of the fun.) In addition to introducing a couple of the characters, this story plays with the zombies that (for reasons of elementary physics and biology) aren't exactly zombies. There are guns, swords, fighting, rescues, and narrow escapes.

So: writing. I might be slow or erratic about updating the Blog o' Doom, here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

More Writing About Writing

I have, once again, run out of things to say, so here are some other people saying things:

1. Writers As Barbarian Conquerors! Attaaaaack!

2. Ira Glass' advice to beginning writers is awesome. You may have seen it before, but it's one of those things that bears repeating.

3. And, just to round out the trilogy, Fake Self-Help Books by Obvious Plant. I'd like to have one or two of these to leave around on my desk.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick's Day Music

Here's a brief collection of songs to celebrate the holiday:

A Thought On Adulthood

"This is why you shouldn't have sex as a teenager: if you associate sex with adulthood, it makes things like having to pay bills so much easier."

Monday, March 16, 2015

Grumpy Cat Window Sticker

So I'm driving in to work the other day, and I see a Grumpy Cat window sticker on the back window of a Fiat. (I think it was a Fiat. One of those little, squarish cars, anyway.) Like this:
I wonder what Grumpy Cat would think of that. Would he approve of having his face on a hip little car like that?
Hm. Well, maybe it would be okay on some other kind of car?
But you're basically okay with being on a window sticker, right?
Well, okay then.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Death by... Moon?

So, between Daylight Savings Time and something that sort of vaguely resembles Spring Break -- at least for Firstborn -- our family schedule is in a state of complete higgledy-piggledy. Firstborn is going off to coding camp (he's learning to program in Scratch), so instead of me taking him to school, the Beautiful Woman is taking him to camp. To make that easier, I've switched over to taking Secondborn to his preschool... except that Secondborn does not want to wake up in the morning. Or go to bed at night, for that matter. It's as if his whole schedule is suddenly off by an hour...

And so but anyway, I've been getting everyone up and ready to go in the mornings. I mean, okay, yeah, that's kind of what I do, but usually I can get Firstborn up, dressed, fed, and ready to leave on time. Usually, I can even manage to make a cup of tea for myself and another for my beautiful wife. This week... not so much. I haven't made it out the door on time even once. I'm making it to work, but I'm either just-slightly-late or just-barely-on-time. And a lot of the reason for this is...



He doesn't want to wake up. Won't wake up, is more like it. And when I do manage to wake him up, he becomes one massive thundercloud of glowering, plaintive unhappiness. Getting him to eat his waffles is a trick. Getting him dressed is a challenge. Getting him into the car is a struggle.

Then, of course, I get to listen to him complain all the way to his preschool. Everybody is mean to him. Nobody loves him. (I explain that, in fact, we all love him, we just need him to help us out.) There's a brief pause. The moon's going to kill us.


The moon's going to kill us.

That... has the makings of a really creepy little short story, or a bizarre element in some sort of larger story. The moon's going to kill us. Individually. Like, we're moon-prey. Or it has a personal grudge. I don't even know, but I'll do... something... with that image.

My four-year-old: providing me with my morning dose of nightmare fuel.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Music: Star Blazers!

I decided that my children needed something inspirational to wake them up this morning:

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Vital Importance of Stretching

Stretching Exercises for Vampires
"You're trapped in this body for all eternity. Stay flexible."

Stretching Exercises for Werewolves
"You may be a hulking mass of primal rage, but you can still pull something if you don't remember to warm up."

Stretching Exercises for Ghosts
"You can walk through walls, but can you touch your toes?"

High Impact Exercises for Zombies
"Absolutely the most Rigor-less program we've ever developed!"

Friday, March 6, 2015

Parenting: Head vs Belly

Me: "Have you brushed your teeth yet?"

Firstborn: "No. Why are you asking me that?"

Me: "Because fifteen minutes ago I came in here and asked if you could pause your game in a couple of minutes and go brush your teeth. Do you remember that?"

Firstborn: "No."

Me: "It's my fault. I should have just made you do it then, when I was thinking about it and I had your attention. Or maybe I need to-- crush yer heed!"

Firstborn: (batting my hands away from his skull) "My head?"

Me: (dropping hands) "No, no, I should have made you do it then."


Me: "But I could still crush your head!"

Firstborn: (lowering his head towards my belly) "If you're going to crush my head, there's something I have to first."

Me: "Does this thing... involve... my belly?"

Firstborn: "Yes!"

Me: "Then you must not do it!"

Firstborn: "I have to do it! Or! The world will end!"

Me: "No! Go brush your teeth! I do not want to crush your head!"

Firstborn: "I have to!"

Me: "Away! Away from my belly! Go! Teeth! Brush!"

Firstborn: "Belly!"

Me: "No--" (pause) "Okay, stop. I have to write this down."

Firstborn: "What?"

Me: "Really. I have to write this down."

And then I ran here, to my laptop. Firstborn still hasn't brushed his teeth, though.

No me today...

Not sure what happened, but I woke up with a severely upset stomach at about 2:30 a.m. Then I had trouble getting back to sleep.

This stuff didn't used to happen, at least not so often. I think I'm getting old.

Anyway, I'm home and resting, so if I get anything useful done it'll probably be laundry instead of blog entries. Sorry. See you all later...

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Scene from a Snow Day

Beautiful Woman: "...And guess what else? There's no school today."

Firstborn: "I guessed that."

Beautiful Woman: "Really?"

Firstborn: "Because I woke up on my own. That doesn't usually happen when I'm going to school."

Me: "Heh. What was the strange thing the dog did in the night? It didn't bark."

Discussion of Sherlock Holmes and deductive reasoning ensues. Then Daddy has to go to work, because Daddy's work doesn't cancel for anything short of an attack by Gojira, or possibly the zombie apocalypse.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


So, I've heard back from the good folks who are assembling the Swords vs. Cthulhu anthology, and my story will not be in it. This is, of course, a tragedy of truly apocalyptic proportions, at least for tonight. I rather imagine I'll have recovered by tomorrow. (I plan to spend the evening sipping on a bit of cinnamon tea with rum whilst shooting things on the Playstation. It's amazingly therapeutic.)

I don't think there was anything wrong with the story per se. The response I received was brief and generic, but I suspect that the issue was just as they said: it wasn't quite what they were looking for. Also, given that they were taking open submissions, I suspect my little story was valiantly battling against a lot of very excellent other entries. So... maybe next time, and meanwhile I have rather nice (if bloody) little short story to either submit elsewhere or build from.

(In fact, I'm wondering if it might become the nucleus of a collection of short stories set in that world, rather than the novel I'd planned to write. This isn't precisely egotism; it's also trust in my proofreaders and their willingness to be honest with me.)

The Holy Umbrella Of Rainlessness

The artifact came to me from an obscure secondhand shop in Deep Ellum in 1987; I do not recall the name, and have never been able to locate the place again. To all appearances, it is a perfectly ordinary (if slightly antiquated) umbrella, save for the motto which is etched into the handle: Dimitto procellis. It was that bit of writing that caught my eye and roused my curiosity; it was that inscription which eventually revealed the true nature of the device.

The first documented use of the umbrella was by Samuel Mathers in 1878. Mathers was one of the founders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and claimed to have created artifact himself. Other accounts dispute this, however, claiming that the umbrella is actually a relic of ancient Atlantis, which Mathers somehow rediscovered and claimed for his own.

The primary use of the umbrella is, of course, to keep the rain off. What distinguishes it from an ordinary umbrella is that instead of shielding the user from the rain, the presence of the umbrella acts as a talisman that actively prevents the rain from falling. For so long as I have the umbrella with me, it simply doesn't rain. There is, however, a price: the moment I leave the umbrella behind, the skies will immediately open up with a heavy rain.

Certain fragmentary parchments, when properly translated, hint that this was how Atlantis was destroyed. The umbrella was carried by the high priest, to guarantee fine weather for the entire land. Each high priest passed the umbrella, along with his title and certain other, unnamed regalia, to his successor. Thus was the umbrella carried by an unbroken line of high priests for nearly eight centuries. Then, one fateful morning, the current high priest (now remembered only as Ashavor The Dimwit) accidentally left the umbrella in his chambers. The rains began before he could return, and that was it for Atlantis...

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tech Support Forever

One of the great difficulties of working in Information Technology -- at least, in my workplace -- is that you're never not part of the help desk. It doesn't matter if your official job only involves working on one or two specialized applications, people will call you for all kinds of computer-related problems. (Or, for that matter, sometimes just for technology advice in general, e.g. "What sort of tablet should I buy?")

I mean, all I wanted to do was get a fresh cup of coffee, but in order to reach that grail-shaped coffee pot I had to fight through a horde of error messages, defeat a bulk email setup, and consult the Cell Phone Oracle on behalf of a postulant.

Some days it's just not safe to walk down the hallway.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Underutilized Words

Here, for your edification and enlightenment on this fine Monday morning, is a list of words that I really think ought to be used in conversation more often.