Monday, November 30, 2015

Personal Talents

I was thinking about specialized skills. You know, the things that set you apart from other people. The areas where you really excel. You may have competition, there may be people who are better at these things than you, but it's a pretty rarified arena. And I was considering my own specialized skills, and I think I've found it. I think I've settled on the one thing that really sets me apart. "Ominous silence." I mean, most people can be silent -- at least if they put their minds to it, or if you duct tape their mouths shut. A few people can be silent in a mildly disturbing fashion. But, really, there are only a few of us who can manage a full-on *ominous* silence.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Holidays: Black Friday

It's coming. You know it's coming. There is no escape. Sanity is forgotten. Empathy is for victims. The Doorbusters... have arrived:

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Recommendation: Engraved on the Eye

Saladin Ahmed's Engraved On The Eye appears to be free on Amazon right now. It's a collection of really awesome short stories, including some science fiction, some fantasy, and at least one truly hilarious supervillain story. I highly recommend adding it to your collection.

Thanksgiving: Addams Family style...

I'm not saying that this is how the Thanksgiving holiday goes at our house... but I'm not denying it, either.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving: exploding frozen turkey

This probably constitutes some sort of public safety announcement, but... honestly? I'm just putting it here because it's vaguely Thanksgiving-related, and it involves a giant fireball.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Music: Short Change Hero

...And now Secondborn is asking if he can play Borderlands II. Yes, child, the answer is Yes.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Weird dreams, part I don't even know anymore...

A note from Facebook last night:
Went to bed at 9:30 like a sensible person. (Kind of early, but given the last couple of days, that's sensible.) Snapped awake at 1:00 a.m. for no good reason, following a dream in which some sort of mutagenic plague was turning people into mutants, which -- with the irrefutable logic of dreams -- led into a highly improbably sky-diving scene, followed by a bit where I/we were bopping the mutants on the head with boffer weapons to keep them back. Boffer weapons. Big, poofy, things with lots of padding and not much reach. Horrible, horrible tool for self-defense. Who wants to live forever, right? I guess? I dunno. Come to that, I don't remember being particularly scared; maybe I just absurded myself awake. Can that even happen?

And how the hell do I get back to sleep?
Then, this morning:
This morning's dreams were every bit as weird as the ones in the middle of the night, but with a more gothic flavor: big, decaying house, isolated, decadent family; some strange being living down in the family crypt (and quite possibly related to the family somehow), and then a very noisy alarm clock. ::sigh:: I think I might be broken.
Seriously, what the heck is going on in my brain?

Music: More Trouble

Lenka, with "Trouble is a Friend":

(The writing exercise reminded me of it.)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Flash Fiction: Trouble

This is in response to Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge. The idea was to play a song at random, and use the title of the song as the title of a 1000-words-or-less story. I queued up iTunes, and got Shawn Colvin's Trouble -- which seems eminently appropriate for a Friday The Thirteenth. So... off we go!

It was just a bottle. Just a small bottle, with nothing in it but air. Air... and just a little something else. A tiny invisible flame, waiting to sear everything away and make the world clean again. I'd been carrying it for two days now, ever since I smuggled it out of the lab. I wasn't going to sell it. I wasn't going to keep it. I was just... waiting for a sign. And here, in Grand Central Station, standing in the main concourse in the middle of rush hour, I found it. I watched the hands of the clock fall into place, tracing a lost character from a forgotten language, telling me it was time. Someone jostled me as I took the bottle out of my pocket, but I didn't drop it. I pulled the cork, took a deep breath, and left it sitting on the counter of the information desk.

It would be weeks before anyone noticed that anything was wrong, months or even years before they realized that the Age of Man was over. They would probably never realize that the world had ended on January first at five-forty-five p.m. But it had. That invisible flame was already rushing out, touching anyone close enough to breathe it in, spreading from one to the next... and sterilizing them. We would live long and healthy lives, but none of us would have children... and as the conflagration spread silently around the globe, neither would anyone else.

An overweight man in a business suit crashed into me, hurrying on his way from somewhere trivial to someplace even less important. He glared at me, annoyed by my lack of movement. "What do you think you're doing?" he growled as he lurched around me, breathing my air, taking the invisible flame into his body.

"Causing trouble," I told him.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Sin Of Sodom

"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy." That would Ezekiel 16:49.

I wouldn't bother mentioning this -- what with me being an atheist, and all -- except that, in my life, the people I hear protesting the most loudly against taking in refugees or living in the same country as Muslims are the same ones who speak the most loudly about their Christian faiths. Also:

"When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God." That one would be Leviticus 19:33-34.

As Ezekiel (a notoriously cranky old bastard) might have said: Listen and take heed, motherfuckers.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Yeah, not today...

I've got several thoughts in process, but right now I'm feeling disgusted with the world, myself, and my life, and generally just sort of tired and run down. It's dull and self-indulgent, I know, and I imagine I'll be over it soon enough. But for the moment... nothing.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Music: Hillbilly Thunderstruck

AC/DC, redone as... um... heavy metal bluegrass? Or something? Something awesome?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

En Guarde!

On Saturday, my brother and his wife called us up to tell us that they'd found a fencing class in our area. "In our area," in this case, turns out to mean "within walking distance of our house". So, I scooped up the boys and got them dressed, and they went to try their first fencing class.

I remember just enough about fencing that I can help them work on their stepping and posture outside of class. I can't fence myself; not anymore. I used to, but Kung Fu and the SCA have given me too many habits that conflict with classical fencing. Still the boys had a good time at it, so if everyone really is recovered by Saturday, we're going to try it again... and if nobody makes any strenuous objections, I'm going to sign them up and make it a regular thing.

Boy with swords, right? What could possibly go wrong?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

And now there is fever!

I just went to go check on Firstborn, and he seemed a bit warm to the touch. So I got the thermometer, and... 101.something degree fever. (Those of you using Celsius, I have no idea how that translates. Anything over 100 is bad; anything over 103 is dangerous.)


Except... The reason that I had to pick him up early from school this afternoon was that he was, um, messily sick. You see my quandary, here?

I've given him a bit of Advil to keep the fever down, with the full knowledge that doing so might very well trigger... other problems. So now... we wait.


On the plus side, I should be able to go into work tomorrow, probably for the entire day. Even knowing how much I need to get done, the prospect is starting to sound positively restful.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Secondborn Knew This Would End Badly

So, as I'm driving over to Firstborn's school to pick him up -- he having been struck down by the same eldritch curse that flattened his younger brother last night -- Secondborn decides that he has something to tell me.

"I knew dis would end badly," he says, from the back seat.

"You knew what would end badly?" I ask, being distracted by a combination of stress, exhaustion, and traffic.

"Firstborn at school," he tells me. "I knew dat would end badly."

"Yeah?" I say, glancing at him in the rear view mirror. "It would have been a lot more helpful if you'd told us that this morning."

"I was keeping it a secwet," he says earnestly. "It was a secret dat I knew."

There is a long, long silence. Finally, I say, "Child, you are making me irrationally angry. Please stop talking."

Seriously, what was I doing in that former life? Sacrificing bunnies and kittens? Transporting underage nuns across state lines for immoral purposes? Helping Ayn Rand write her books? Whatever it was, I'm sorry already.

Oh, No, Not Again

For anybody who's wondering about last night's post, the answer is yes: Secondborn is sick again. This puts me in very much the same position as the bowl of petunias:

Speak Poop And Enter

The party made camp at the base of the cliff, where the moonlight had revealed the hidden door. There were runes carved into the rock -- old, weathered, but still legible. A robed figure, tall and lean, stood studying those ancient sigils, while behind her a shorter, stockier figure paced back and forth impatiently.

"Curse it, magus, are we going to be able to enter or not? I don't fancy trying to fight our way back out through those swamps, especially at night."

Sashinna spoke absently, her attention still on the stone. "Have patience, my prince. It's a riddle -- an ancient riddle, written in an ancient tongue."

"Well, then, what does it say?" Dwir turned to look at the runes himself, as if he could understand them if he only stared at them hard enough.

"It says, roughly: Imagine if you will a child of five summers -- a male child, though in this case it matters not -- who has just done the most disgusting and unsanitary thing that you can possibly imagine. Now, take a step back and realize that your situation is not quite so bad as that. As a parent, you begin -- this word doesn't translate well, it's a reference to the warriors of an ancient kingdom. Legend has it, they found it shameful to show any sign of pain, fear, or disgust. The upmark here makes it into something descriptive or comparative."

Dwir frowned at that. "So... 'As a parent, you stubbornly begin...' Something like that?"

Sashinna smiled. "Close enough, I think. As a parent, you stubbornly begin to clean the foulness and mess, and you say to yourself..."

Dwir waited, but she said said nothing else. After a moment, he demanded: "You say what?"

Sashinna shrugged. "That is the riddle, my prince. What do you say? Answer it, and we have secret passage through the mountains."

The warrior Dourk, who was the largest of the company, stirred beside the fire. "Speakin' for meself," he said in his west-country drawl, "I'd be cursin' gods, men, and children alike."

"I've tried," said Sashinna. "Every word and phrase I know."

"Poor child?" suggested one of the scouts.

"I've tried that, too."

"Not a one of you have children, do you?" asked Arimil the Butcher. He had been polishing the edge on his axe, but now he sat back. "You've a sick child, who's just made an incredible mess, and you're the one stuck cleaning it up. As a parent, you say to yourself, At least it's not poop."

Dwir and Sashinna exchanged a glance; Sashinna shrugged, and rattled off a liquid stream of syllables.

At her back, the door swung open.

Monday, November 9, 2015

I call this song

So, I've been hearing this song on the radio a lot lately:

I think it can be fairly described as a song about a woman who can't take a hint.

So, I'd like to propose a lyrical reply:
You called my phone again last night
No message left but that's all right
Whatever you are going through...
I just don't want to hear from you

Why would I want to talk to you?
You told me that we were all through
But you keep coming back again
You just can't seem to let it end

I ignore it every time you call
That doesn't slow you down at all
We're over now and I've moved on
But somehow you just won't stay gone


We're done - why can't you let it be?
You're not someone I want to see
I don't care what you have to say
It doesn't matter anyway
That's all you're gonna get from me


Maybe you hope that I'm still sad
Or guilt has got you feeling bad
Nostalgia's got its teeth in you?
Or maybe all of that is true

I fell for you and I got burned
But that's done now and I have learned
to let it go - it's nothing clever
No one's gonna grieve forever


Let it end... (x3)
Anybody want to put this thing to music?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Luke as a Toddler

You know... Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen raised Luke from the time he was a baby. That means there's actually a very good chance that at some point during his childhood, one of Luke Skywalker's adoptive parents actually said, "Use the fork, Luke."

Thursday, November 5, 2015

School Project

Home. Dinner: Mac & Cheese for Secondborn, hot dogs for Firstborn and myself, pumpkin pie for both boys. (That's a vegetable, right?) Firstborn is working on a school project. The sweet release of sleep seems ever more distant and mythical, like a magical dream from childhood that can never come to pass in the harsh, adult world. Despair grips me. Will we ever be done? Is there some final end to this torture? When will we brush our teeth? But all is bleakness and dark, and hope is nothing but an illusion to comfort the weak. We will be trapped here in this squamous abyss for all of time, and I know it. There is no Reading Of Books At Bedtime. There is no end to this purgatorial drudgery. Sleep is a myth, free time a nearly-forgotten legend. Secondborn announces that his bottom is "entire poopy"; this seems a fitting metaphor for my existence, but I send him to the bath despite. The need for a page on Caddo pottery binds us like heavy chains, dragging us ineluctably down into the airless, loathsome depths. There is no reprieve. There is no release. I am a parent, now... and always.

Real Work Conversations: Gunpowder

Me: "Got your barrels of gunpowder ready?"

Co-worker: "What?"

Me: "Gunpowder."

Co-worker: "Why gunpowder?"

Me: "It's November fifth."

Co-worker: "...And that means?"

Me: "Remember, remember the fifth of November? No? The Gunpowder Treason? Guy Fawkes?"

Co-worker: "I should look this up, shouldn't I? How do you spell Fawkes... Never mind, first hit on Google."

(There's a brief pause.)

Co-worker: "That was 1605! In England!"

Me: "Exactly! How do you not know about this?"

Co-worker: "History was the only class I failed."

Me: "That's probably because they didn't teach you about the cool parts with the explosions. Or almost-explosions. Foiled explosions."

Co-worker: "...Probably."

This needed to happen...

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Cloud Roads on sale today!

Buy this book. Just... trust me. If you're the sort of person who reads my blog, then you're the sort of person who will love this book (and this series). It's on sale today for $1.99 on Kindle and Nook.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Tired... Too tired...

Work is trying to kill me. The boys' schools are both frustrating me. I don't seem to be able to make time to really settle in and write, and when I try to force it, well... it jumps off the rails, as this little Halloween short just did. We're headed into the holidays, which are fraught in their own special ways as well. (Interesting word, fraught. It's the archaic past participle of freight. So when you say something is "fraught", the image is of something fully loaded, carrying cargo.) Beautiful Wife has hit the point in the semester where her students are freaking out and falling apart (she had something like four of them burst into tears in her office the other day), and she's got Sisyphus' own load of grading to get finished. Allergies are leaving both of us tired and headache-y. (Headacheous? Headacheicitous? Whatever.) Both the boys need to be getting more exercise, but I honestly don't see when that could possibly happen.

I am fucking worn out. We both are. Hell, probably all four of us are. I have no idea how we make it through the holidays, let alone the rest of the school year.

So... I think what I'm going to do is go and make myself a drink, fire up the Playstation, and engage in outrageous acts of imaginary violence until my shoulders don't feel so much like they're trying to crawl up my back. And then I'm going to go to sleep. And hopefully, in the morning, I'll feel better -- you know, rested and alert and more able to cope.

Odds are, though, there won't be anything on the blog for at least a day or two.

Music: Zombie

A little late for Halloween, I know, but I liked it. Play it when your co-workers are around and see how long it takes them to recognize it.

Monday, November 2, 2015

2015 Costumes

The boys, as Adventurer and Vampire:


Halloween went well this year; a family a few doors down from us had assembled a small haunted house in their front yard, so we got more visitors that we've had in the last couple of years.