Friday, December 30, 2016

Thulsa Trump

So, my brain did one of those things where I wondered what it would look like if you had Donald Trump speaking Thulsa Doom's lines. It... works pretty well, actually.
But it's the final run of dialogue, when Doom is preaching to his disciples, that really works best for me:
The only real problem I have doing is this is that Thulsa Doom makes Trump sound far more literate and coherent than he actually is.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Music: Back to the River

The Pretty Reckless:

I've been feeling exhausted and out of sorts for the last couple of days, so I'm trying to get lots of sleep (as opposed to, say, writing articles for the Blog o' Doom, here). I'll probably have some more stuff after New Year's, right about the same time that Surreal Situations picks up again.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Other People's Thoughts On Writing, Part 27 or so

From Writers in the Storm: Coffee, Chocolate, and Whine

Walter Jon Williams, with a rant about having your characters behave stupidly: That Warehouse, Looming

Chuck Wendig:
How To Create Art And Make Cool Stuff In A Time Of Trouble

Finally, from the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers blog, a post about balancing your goals: The Greatest Blogpost Ever Posted

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


There are things you expect as a parent: preparing meals, changing diapers, sharing jokes, helping with homework, and eventually driving lessons and suchlike. Then... there are the things that you didn't expect.

Take last night, for example.

I did not, when I made the announcement that it was bath time, expect to be met with an armed insurrection that rapidly exploded into house-wide rampage of Total Nerf War. I did not expect to be tossing enemy ammunition out onto the floor in order to lure Secondborn out of hiding. I did not expect him to use the laundry hamper as a mobile shield while he scooted out from behind the table to get the ammunition. I did not expect to find us covering each other with empty Nerf guns while we gathered up our ammunition, and then while we each retreated from the room to reload.

I especially did not expect Secondborn to take a running slide between my legs so he could shoot me in the butt.

Still, you go to war with the children you have, not the children you wish you had; and no plan survives first contact with your children.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Vignette with Bacon


Firstborn: "Ooooh. With my one working nostril, I smell bacon!"

Me: "That is because I am COOKING THE BACON."

Firstborn: "Mmmm. Bacon."

Me: "Step away from the bacon."

Firstborn: "..."

Me: "..."


Me: "You have stolen my freshly-cooked bacon. I can never forgive you for this."

Firstborn: ::munching sounds retreating rapidly into the distance::

Music: Christmas at Ground Zero

"Weird Al" Yankovic:

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Writing Advice: Read!

One of the best pieces of advice I've ever been given is that if you want to write well, you need to read - and you need to read good writing. Reading will show you what works and what doesn't in trying to tell a story. Reading will show you how good writers work their magic tricks. And reading outside your chosen genre will give you new information and new perspectives that you can bring into your own efforts. (The classic advice is "Write what you know." In practice, that's often backwards: it should be "Learn what you plan to write." Same coin, other side.)

Reading good books in helpful in a variety of ways, but lately I've found that it isn't always as helpful as reading badly written books. Yes, reading good books (and looking at how they're written) can help you hone your technique... but reading a good book always leaves me feeling satisfied, content, and settled. It's good to see how another author did something, but it's something that's done. Reading bad books, on the other hand... it kind of pisses me off. It makes me want to write things that are better than what I've just been reading. It's downright motivational.

Music: I Wanna Rock You Hard This Christmas

The Dan Band:

Saturday, December 17, 2016

That One Time I fell Off A Cliff

Near the town of Monteagle, Tennessee, there's a place known as Foster Falls, where a waterfall goes over a sixty foot (or so) cliff into a large (and deep) pool of water that's well-suited to swimming. I first came to the place as part of a outdoor activities group, at the tender young age of sixteen. We'd hiked out wearing bathing suits, found the waterfall, and settled in for an afternoon of swimming. Someone mentioned jumping off the top of the waterfall, since the water was supposed to be deep enough.

The idea intrigued me, so I swam out to where the waterfall hit the pool. I made a note of where I was (just on the front edge of the falling water), then swam down to see how deep it was. I didn't actually find the bottom, which meant it was deep enough. Then I went back up and repeated the process a couple of more times, just to make sure that there weren't any hidden underwater rocks or suchlike waiting to snap my spine if I didn't land quite where I'd intended.

There's a path that leads up and around to the top of the waterfall, but after some consideration I decided that I wasn't going to do the whole sixty-foot drop. For various reasons, including the fact that I was there with a group, I decided to play it somewhat safer. So I got out of the water, and went up the rocky shore to the face of the cliff. The cliff, I'd noted earlier, had a nice little ledge that was just deep enough to offer a really good grip for my feet. (It was two or three inches wide, and the surface was actually tilted towards the cliff. On top of that, there was a second ledge running at about forehead level above it. This ledge was only wide enough for fingertips, but with the other ledge below it that would be fine.

So I put my toes in the wide ledge, and clung to the narrow one with my fingertips, and started making my way sideways until I was back out over the water. The plan was to get all the way out where I was even with the waterfall, and then jump backwards. I'd be able to kick off the rock hard enough to land pretty close to the spot I'd scouted earlier.

All of this was going fine until I reached a spot where the fingertip ledge began to climb. It went from being in front of my forehead to being over my head, but that was fine. Then it made another little diagonal ascent, at which point it was no longer possible to have my fingers on that ledge and my toes on the lower ledge. That was not fine.

So I stopped, and took a couple of deep breaths, and considered my options. For slightly complicated reasons involving how balance works, I decided it would be safer and more stable to be hanging down from the upper ledge (as opposed to having my feet safely on the wider bottom ledge, but with no good way to hold my torso against the rock). I thought through what I'd do if I fell. Then I took another breath and started off again, this time hanging by my fingertips from the upper ledge.

I got about five feet. The upper ledge finished its diagonal run, briefly became horizontal, and then turned back down and vanished completely. I had just run out of ledge to hang on. Well, okay, thought my sixteen-year-old self. I'll just go back until my feet can touch the bottom ledge, and try again that way. At which point I removed my left hand from the rock, and began shifting it back to my right so that I could, um, retrace my "steps".

It was at that precise moment that my right hand came off the rock as well, an event which let me clinging to nothing but empty air. I was about thirty feet up. I was not all the way out to the waterfall, so I didn't know how deep the water under me might be. Also, I knew that there was a ledge just a little bit below me, a nice wide ledge that could catch my feet and send me tumbling away from the rock in an uncontrolled back flip. So I did exactly what I'd decided to do if something like this happened, and kicked off from the rock. Now I really was hanging in empty air; gravity hadn't quite gotten a solid grip on me yet.

My heart gave this one tremendous contraction: Ka-THUD.

I started to fall.

My heart did it again: Ka-THUD.

I stuck with the plan. I got my knees bent, back a little curved, elbows tucked in, body loose. If I landed on anything solid I was probably going to break my legs anyway, but by God I was going to at least try to tuck and roll.

My heart did a third of those amazing, chest-absorbing contractions: Ka-THUD.

Someone screamed. Unbeknownst to me, the entire group had gotten out of the water and they were all watching me from the shore. I had time for my first coherent thought: You think you're scared?

Then my feet touched the water.

The moment I went under the surface I flung everything out: arms, legs, hands. Anything that would slow my descent.

I came to a stop just as my feet touched a rock on the bottom. I wasn't dead. So I kicked my way back up to surface and swam to shore.

Nobody talked much on the hike back. Not that I remember, anyway.

Edited to add: Huh. Apparently I wrote this event up once before. Well, if you want to look at two different retellings of the same incident, there it is. Might be interesting from a writing/storytelling perspective.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Plot Summary for Rogue One (minor spoilers)

In order to stop the Empire, Derek Wildstar disguises himself as a storm trooper and infiltrates the Enterprise. With the help of a feather-haired alien named Hawk (the last of his race) they steal the holodisk with the secret plans from Emperor Ming.

The Daleks corner them on the mining ship Red Dwarf, but they escape with help from a young man named Ken Washio. Traveling in secret, they return to the Nostromo with the plans, thus allowing the Rebellion to build a Super Dimensional Fortress Macross of their own so that they can fight off the Cylons.

Did I forget anything?

The reference are, in order:
1. Star Wars (The Empire)
2. Starblazers/Space Battleship Yamato (Wildstar)
3. Star Wars (storm trooper)
4. Star Trek (Enterprise)
5. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (Hawk)
5. Flash Gordon (Emperor Ming the Merciless)
6. Doctor Who (Daleks)
7. Red Dwarf (Red Dwarf)
8. Battle of the Planets/Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (Ken Washio)
9. Alien (the Nostromo)
10. Star Wars (the Rebellion)
11. Robotech (Super Dimensional Fortress Macross)
12. Battlestar Galactica (Cylons)

It's a basically a free-association map of the science fiction influences from my youth.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

What's in a name? Apophenia vs. Intuitive Theism

This is me responding to this post by Tony Breeden, which in turn is responding (sort of) to the loss of faith of former Baptist pastor Bruce Gerencser. I expect my comment to show up on Tony's blog shortly (it's currently queued for moderator approval), but just in case it doesn't make the cut, I'm reproducing it here.

Mr. Breeden disagrees with the idea that children are "born atheists".
I’d actually partly agree with you, in that:
A. I don’t think that children are born “atheistic” in the way that adult atheists use the term, and
B. I do think that a general tendency towards religious belief and expression is “wired in” to the human species.

Where we differ is that I don’t see that either of those things requires or even offers evidence suggesting a “creator god”, let alone the specific deity of the Christian religion.

What you keep referring to as “intuitive theism” has other names, and it’s worth reading their definitions: Pareidola, Apophenia, and Hyperactive Agency Detection. And while those add up to a tendency towards religious belief, they don’t add up to any sort of intuitive or pre-programmed monotheism – let alone anything as specific as Christianity.

Historically and socially, monotheistic religions are a statistical outlier (though admittedly, one that’s been so successful that at the current moment, in Western countries, it’s popular enough to seem like the default). That sort of belief is neither “programmed in” nor particularly intuitive; it only seems that way because we’re swimming in it.

Basically, while the phenomenon you’re describing is real, it is (at best!) an extremely weak argument for the truth of Christianity (or even the existence of some vague, generic, Deist sort of Creator). We aren’t born “with eternity in our hearts”; we’re born with a tendency to assign personalities and purposes to the events that affect our lives.

Edited to add: Mr. Breeden responded that I'm not arguing with him, I'm arguing with peer-reviewed Science! (which, um, isn't exactly how science works; a peer-reviewed article suggesting a specific conclusion is not the same thing as an established conclusion), and then deleted my response. So, I'm guessing that conversation is pretty much over.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Better King Wenceslas

Jonah Knight provides a new take on an old song, and vastly improves it:

The Season's upon us!

Courtesy of the Dropkick Murphys:

I think we've got the worst of the Christmas shopping done, and we'll see how the rest of everything goes.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Friday, December 9, 2016

No, no idea...

Started to go to bed early last night... Instead, I wound up staying up with Firstborn to help him finish math, a study guide for Social Studies, and his weekly reading log. So this morning, I crawled out of bed and tried to get everybody else moving, and...

No. Just no.

Nobody else was moving. Nobody else was going to get up and Do All The Things. So I crawled back out, microwaved a couple of sausage biscuits for the boys, and made the faces- erm, made the lunches. ("Did you have that dream where the little gnome-bugs are putting lunches together for the boys, but when you open them up they have our faces inside?" Apparently my wife did not have that dream. Probably just me, then.) Which is fine, but I have sworn a mighty vow that tonight I will come home, climb into bed, and fall directly asleep.

Meanwhile, the heating in our house isn't working. Which is probably why nobody wants to get out of bed.

So... have some Christmas music:

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Real Work Conversations: Witches

Big Boss: "Did you find the witch's name?"

My Boss: "Hang on, I'm still logging in."

Me: "If we have the witch's name and a silver nail, we can put an end to her for good."

No, I have no idea what they were talking about.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

O Come All Ye Hungry

Me, singing:
"O Come all ye hungry
Come and eat the tacos
Yummy breakfast tacos
that Mommy brought."

Secondborn enters the room and begins attempting to punch me in the kidneys.

Me, still singing:
"Come and devour them
full of eggs and bacon
O come let us consume them
O come let us consume them
O come let us consume them-"

Secondborn continues flailing. Firstborn enter the room.


"I promise to stop singing
I promise to stop singing

"You're still singing."

Me, without missing a beat:
"I promise to stop singing,
If you all will eat."

"What if we promise to eat as soon as you stop singing?"

"I would preemptively stop singing to see if you followed through on your side of the bargain."

Firstborn shrugs, sits, and eats. Secondborn adds one good kick to the shins for emphasis, then seats himself and begins eating as well.

Me, very quietly, and in a completely different room:
"Eat all your tacos
All your yummy tacos
Eat the yummy tacos
that Mommy brought."

Monday, December 5, 2016

Music: Cool Guys Don't Look At Explosions

Spent most of the weekend sorting laundry and excavating Secondborn's room. I feel like a badass.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Real Work Conversations: Panda Style Kung Fu

Me: "Naw, if I was going to study anything at this point, it would have to be Panda Style Kung Fu."

Co-worker: "Nice."

Me: (lifting hands) "I've already got the build for it."

Co-worker: "And you get dumplings."

Me: "Exactly."

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Weird Dreams Part I Don't Even Know Anymore

So, the two kids we were supposed to be watching were perfectly nice. The girl was about eight, the boy a couple of years younger. Mostly they just sat on the couch and watched TV while we were waiting for bedtime.

The problem was the house.

Well, the house and the ghosts. If you turned on the lights - or maybe particular combinations of the lights - you could see them. They were these figures outside the windows, screaming and pounding on the glass, but completely silent. And if you got enough of the lights in right combination of which ones were on and which ones were off, the rooms changed: different paint, different furniture, different hangings. Something about getting the lights arranged brought the house (or sections of it) closer to how it was when whatever created all these ghosts first happened.

We finally got enough of them right that the living room changed. Suddenly, the children we were supposed to be watching were gone, and there was another pair (another sister and brother) there instead... only these were ghosts. Kind of nasty ones, too. And once again, the only way to get rid of them was to complete the process and then deal with them somehow: as they had been? As they wanted to be? By preventing whatever had happened? Something. I'm not sure. I wasn't sure in the dream, either; I remember worrying that solving the puzzle might be going to trap me somehow, or make me vulnerable to the ghosts, I just didn't see any real choice.

So I finished arranging the lights, and the two child-ghosts went away. The other ghosts all melted together and flowed into the house as this sort of creeping black shadow, but I was somehow able to absorb them or consume them.

There was some other stuff later - the two kid-ghosts showed back up, and had to be settled into moving on - but that was after I'd woken up once, and it was much more disconnected.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

All's Quiet... I hope

I've got nothing for this morning. Probably nothing for tomorrow, either. Surreal Situations should still be on time, but everything else had just gotten swamped.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Book Review: 100 Ghost Soup

Hundred Ghost Soup
by Robert Chansky

From the official description:
A Beijing orphan is nearly eighteen. He wants a family and a name, if only for a while. He hacks adoption papers to get them.

He also gets: a long train ride into an empty station in a ghost town. Ghosts. Their leaders, calling themselves Mr. and Mrs. Vulpin, are his new parents. They are illusion-casting fox spirits, glamorous, clever, and trapped. They need him to free themselves of the ghosts.

Our hero works for them and accepts their flaws so long as they pretend to be a family. But then he discovers their wonderful meals are illusory. Are the Vulpins up to no good? And the People’s Republic of China will never allow spirits to possess a town. To save them all, he must travel back to Beijing, rifle the Politburo’s files, and find a Minister’s secrets. When he kindles the wrath of the People’s Liberation Army and the Minister of Fate himself, he must penetrate layers of illusions, decide whom he can trust, and learn to cook.

And then there is the matter of the soup’s main ingredient: him.
I just finished reading this about two weeks ago, and I think it's one of those books that really deserves a signal boost.

Unlike most urban fantasy books (which is broadly how I'd classify this one), Hundred Ghost Soup is set in China. The author handles the setting convincingly (at least to me, a white American who's never set foot in China), striking a nice balance between keeping the reader aware that this isn't a Western setting, and still making the setting comprehensible - without overexplaining. The plot is nicely layered and moves along quickly; there are ghosts, illusions, dreams, and even bits of reality here and there, but while it's sometimes confusing these things are never disruptive. Trying to figure out which is which, in fact, is a large part of the story's charm. The main character is likable and sympathetic, but still flawed and very, very human; the supporting characters are also handled well and fairly. From a technical standpoint, the book is excellent: unlike a great many self-published or even small press books (and I believe Hundred Ghost Soup is the latter) on the market, the editing is all but flawless. I simply didn't see any typos, mis-used words, incorrect grammar, or any of the dozen other kinds of technical mistakes that tend to yank me out of the story and disrupt my reading.

This is a very much a coming-of-age book. It's the story of a young man striking out on his own, using his skills and acquiring new ones, learning more about himself, and finding his place in the world. That said, the approach is anything but typical; Hundred Ghost Soup is fun, funny, sometimes eerie, and often fascinating. If you're looking for an enjoyable, unusual read ten I'd highly recommend giving this one a try. (I enjoyed reading it as an adult, but it would be perfectly suitable reading for high school or even middle school.)

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Meme: We Are Writers

"We consume too much coffee, tea, and wine. We create worlds, people, conversations, relationships. We are the rulers of the mental wards inside our heads. We are authors, hear us procrastinate our roars!" ~Audra Trosper

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Enthusiasm Gap

From a comment on Facebook:
"Much of this country is extremely frustrated by the inability of the government to take care of the middle and lower class. Hillary represents to a lot of people the class responsible for that failure. That was working against her from the very start and she never addressed it to the American people in a way that was convincing. She simply didn't represent a meaningful change in the states where it mattered. That's why her vote totals were lower than Obama's. The data basically tells you people just didn't show up where they needed to for her."

Meh. Maybe? I mean, you switch from a charismatic 40-something president to a... seventy-something? ...woman, you're going to have an enthusiasm gap. You nominate a candidate who's talking about policy and what can actually be done instead of making "bold" promises that nobody could possibly keep, you're going to have an enthusiasm gap. I'm not sure you can blame Hillary Clinton for that, especially since I'd generally consider a realistic outlook and a desire to present it honestly as, well, Things That Should Be Virtues.

But those virtues cost her votes. That's not all that cost her votes; belonging to the same party as the encumbent also cost her votes, being a woman cost her votes, years of Republican demonization cost her votes, agreeing that Black Lives Matter actually had a point cost her votes.

It isn't just an enthusiasm gap. It's also a perspective gap. Those of the Trump voters that I've actually spoken to (and admittedly, that's a small-as-hell sample size) not only genuinely thought that she was lying, corrupt, and definitely guilty of *something* even if we hadn't quite found out what yet. They also thought that Washington was hopelessly corrupt, even while they cheerfully voted Republican up and down the ticket. They thought that minorities were imagining racism, or maybe manufacturing examples of it to gain advantage for themselves. They genuinely believed that Trump was a bold outsider, and as such was the only person who stood any chance of "draining the swamp".

I don't know how to argue with that. I don't know how to react when someone presents me with "facts" that seem self-evidently wrong, but are just as self-evidently right to them. I don't know where to go when we can't even agree on how to decide on what actually constitutes a fact.

I'm not in touch with the ones who voted for Trump on the basis of open, proud racism. The ones I've spoken to seem, instead, simply to be blind to it: it's horrible, so naturally nobody would actually *do* that, so naturally minorities et al must be making it up. They're not bad people; they just want to get along... and that's precisely the problem: (what I see as) their blind spot is going to hurt an awful lot of my friends and co-workers, and possibly them too, if Paul Ryan gets his way.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Note to the Hero from a Villain's Minion

Hey there. Look, yeah, I know you were right there when the boss handed me your baby and told me to take care of her. But you've just killed the boss, his crazy-ass martial artist sister, both lieutenants, and forty-seven of my co-workers. And that was just while you were rescuing your wife. I'm not even counting the two hundred and sixty-three enforcers that you killed, maimed, or jailed in the process of taking down our regional operation.

So, with all that in mind, I think I'm just going to hand you back the baby and back away slowly. Ready? Here you go. Baby. And this is me, backing away slowly. You guys just, um, get reacquainted, and I'll be somewhere waaaaay over here, checking the classifieds by the light of this burning warehouse and pretending that I never even met any of these guys. Yeah, just a stray passer-by, that's me. Happy to help with the baby.

You just do your thing, and I'll sneak away and do my thing, and... oh, one last thing. Could you do me a huge favor, and never mention this part to anyone? Ever? I'm probably going to have to change my name anyway, but that'd be a big help.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

So many tea bags...

I used to work with a guy who kept a box of tea bags in his desk drawer. Every morning when he arrived at work, he'd count his tea bags. Every night before he went home, he counted them again.

I never saw him drink any tea, though. Never. He was just...

...a tea-totaler.

Monday, November 14, 2016

November 2016 Grocery List

Was trying to work out my grocery list for this week:
Gallon Ziploc bags
Bubble bath (hypoallergenic)
Apple Sauce (cinammon)
Queso (regular and spicy)
Check w/ pharmacy abt cure for existential despair (must be alchohol-free)
Hair gel

Thursday, November 10, 2016

It's fear.

Guys, it's not hurt feelings. We're not sad or angry that "our" candidate didn't win. It's fear, and it's legitimate fear - fear that we've elected a man who's disastrously unprepared for the job, yes, but also fear that we've just elected the man who spent his entire campaign painting anyone who doesn't happen to be white, straight, Christian, and male as other-than, less-than, unwelcome, untrusted, guilty until proven innocent.

No, I don't think we're going to start rounding people up and putting them in camps come January; but we just elected the candidate who was openly, cheerfully endorsed by the KKK. An awful lot of people with an awful lot of ugly opinions are feeling like it's acceptable to say and do some really ugly things to their fellow citizens, because clearly that's what America wants.

Don't tell me not to worry.

Everybody Knows

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Secondborn Knows Trump's Plan

Secondborn fell asleep on the couch last night. (He's six, he does that sometimes. Hell, I'm forty-two, I do that sometime.) So this morning, when I woke him up, I told him that Donald Trump had won the election.

"Darn," he said. Then, still half-asleep: "I think I know what he was trying to do. I think he was trying to break the Third Law."


You want it darker

I hope I'm wrong

It looks, at this point, like I'm going to wake up tomorrow to find that Donald Trump will become our next president.

I hope I'm wrong about that.

But if I'm not, I hope I'm wrong about Donald Trump. I hope I'm wrong about what kind of president he will be. I hope, to be honest, that I'm wrong about what kind of man he is -- though he's certainly given enough evidence that there shouldn't be any doubt about that.

I hope he won't start trying to turn our alliances into some sort of protection racket.

I hope he won't start disassembling our trade agreements and destabilizing the international economy.

I hope he won't treat nuclear weapons as something to use on countries, peoples, or forces he doesn't like.

I hope he won't pass massively regressive legislation on women's issues, minority issues, safety net issues.

I hope he won't be appointing Supreme Court justices that want to turn back the cause of equality.

I hope he won't be rounding people up, and putting them in camps or deporting them.

I hope he won't tank the economy.

I hope he won't start shutting down our religious freedom.

Honestly, I kind of hope he's content to just strut around and act important, and leave the governing up to people who know what they're doing. I hope that he doesn't turn out to be the absolute disaster that I think he's going to be. I want so much to be wrong about this.

There are going to be some people who look at this and say, "Oh, you're just sore because your candidate lost." Or words to that effect. And... no. Just, no. I'm not sore, I'm not butthurt, I'm not even angry.

What I am right now... is terrified.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Monday, November 7, 2016

Forget the Election. Be afraid of Octopuses.

Also, figure out whether it's supposed to be Octopuses or Octopi, so we don't offend them.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Friday Pun

I once saw a camel with two heads, one at either end. The man riding it didn't seem to know if he was coming or going, but he was friendly enough. I asked him what kind of camel that was, and he told me: "It's a Palindromedary."

Thursday, November 3, 2016

What A Real Vampire Looks Like

Movie vampires are usually pretty sexy. Oh, not always -- and certainly not if you go far enough back. But if you've been watching the genre(s) for the last couple of decades, the pattern is pretty clear. Vampires are exciting. Back in The Lost Boys they were punk-rock outsiders who lived by their own rules -- not the heroes of the story, but a very real temptation that the hero must work to escape. By the time you get to Twilight, they're bad-boy superheroes who sparkle in the sunlight: strong but tormented, powerful but driven, frightening but desirable.

But that's not how vampires really are. They're rich, yes, but not from centuries-old investments; they're rich because they take from everyone else, as much as they can get away with, as much as they want -- and they always want. They're powerful, but not because they've honed their skills and learned to control their appetites; they're powerful because it never occurs to them to control their appetites, and normal people don't know how to deal with that, let alone defend against it.

Go back and re-read Dracula. A vampire is the one who hires you and brings you to his castle, lets you pour your blood and energy -- your life -- into making him stronger, and then casts you aside without a thought. A vampire is the one who follows you back home and tries to seduce your fiance or your wife or your underage daughter. A vampire is the one who demands you feed his pleasure, because why wouldn't you give him what he wants? A vampire is the one who comes into your room and admires your vulnerable nakedness, while you stand powerless to protest... because the vampire is the one who owns the building, owns your job, and probably owns you if it comes right down to it. A vampire is the one who takes whatever he wants, touches whatever he wants, and never feels remorse because what he wants can never be wrong. He thrills in being having the power to do and say things that ordinary people can't or won't. That's exactly what shows that he's better than everyone else.

Real vampires don't spend centuries struggling with doubt and remorse. They take what they want and expect you to give it willingly. After all, it's only their due. They're the special ones, the powerful ones, the noble ones. You should be grateful for the attention. And they do this, draining everyone around them, until and unless the peasants band together to stop them.

Whatever their actual role, they are always the aristocrats of their particular society. They may pretend to be ordinary citizens, but that's all part of the game; that isn't the company they keep or the treatment they expect, and it never will be. They do as they wish, or as their appetites drive them, and consequences are for other people.

You're probably wondering by now if this is a political post, and you probably already know the answer: of course it is. And if you're reading this, you're one of the peasants -- just like me. We don't use fire and pitchforks anymore -- most of us, anyway -- so get out there and vote.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

How do real cartoonists do it???

I'm currently holding to a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule over at Surreal Situations. Understand that my process consists of taking pictures, running them through a filter, taping them to something, arranging action figures in front of them, taking more pictures, then adding text (in word balloons or thought scrolls) to those pictures.

I mean, I'm not actually drawing. Admittedly, when I write it out that way, it turns out that it is rather more labor-intensive than I think it is (and than I think it should be) but still: I'm not drawing in every line.

And yet, it takes up a surprisingly large amount of my time. And I can't do it when the boys are around, which is a problem for pretty much every creative endeavor I've undertaken in the last decade. Which leaves me trying to cram it in either at night, or at odd boy-free moments on the weekends, or just before or after work.

I don't understand how real cartoonists do it.

On the plus side, I discovered this weekend that another line of children's toys, called Woodzeez, has tools and utensils that are size-compatible with the Imaginext guys. All of a sudden, I have props! And I am stupidly excited about it.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Job Woes

You know, if there's one thing I hate, it's coming in for an ordinary day of work and finding out that the team has messed up so badly that they've opened a rift to other worlds rife with hostile intelligences and dangerous beasts, and leaving me to figure out some way to survive all these things and close the portal, so that the world can go mostly back to normal. I swear, it happens like every three weeks around here. And yet, do they budget for better equipment or even a few more batteries? No. I'll be fighting for my life and fending off extradimensional horrors with nothing more than a crowbar and an HEV suit that's still at 18% charge. Every. Single Time. It's inexcusable.

I swear, the only reason OSHA hasn't closed us down is because our work is so technologically cutting-edge that there's absolutely no precedents for safety protocols. Well, that and I'm pretty sure the administration is bribing the everloving hell out of the inspectors.

I've got a buddy over at Aperture Labs who says he can get me a job there. I may take it. I'm pretty sure it would be safer than working here.

Haunted Yard

Nick stopped and looked at the sign. THIS WAY, it said, in red paint of course, with an arrow pointing out the path through the graveyard that had, apparently, sprung up spontaneously in the front yard of what was otherwise a typical suburban home. "Really?"

"What?" asked Cedric, stopping beside him.

Nick shook his head. The front walk was just ahead, and would have taken them up to the front door. They could have strolled casually up there, said their piece, gotten some candy, and been on their way. But no, these homeowners wanted them to follow a path through the gate in the fence and into the back yard, which was almost certainly set up as some sort of impromptu haunted house. It wasn't worth it.

"Come on," said Cedric, and stepped off the sidewalk and onto the grass.

Nick was still shaking his head when Cedric turned back. "It's not worth the time," he said. "Every house on the street is lit up, and we're going to waste time because some old guy wants to scare us before he gives us candy?"

"It's Halloween," said Cedric. "It's supposed to be scary."

"It's Halloween," acknowledged Nick. "It's supposed to be free candy."

"Fine," said Cedric, and turned around. Then he just stood there, frowning.

Just when Nick was about to say something, Cedric said: "I can't move my feet."

Nick said, "What?"

"I can't move my feet. I'm trying to walk back, but I can't move." He took a step backwards, into the ersatz graveyard. "I can move in, but not out."

Nick shook his head. A chill went down his back, but he refused to acknowledge it. Nothing was holding his friend. No skeletal hands had grasped his ankles; no strange vines twined around his feet. Cedric had to be faking it, but he was doing one hell of a job: he looked terrified. "Give me your hand," said Nick, bracing himself and leaning out. "I'll pull you back."

Cedric put his hand out immediately, leaning towards Nick so they could grab each other's wrists. He should have been wildly off-balance, but his feet didn't move. A second chill followed the first down Nick's back, and settled into a frozen knot in his belly. He threw his weight back and pulled, but Cedric didn't move. He pulled again, harder.

Cedric gasped and let go of his wrist, but Nick kept pulling... and suddenly they were both lying on the grass, between the cheap plastic headstones. As you are, so I was. As I am, so you will be, said one. Mad Doctor F, said another, born ? died 1818.

Nick gathered himself and sprang to his feet, one hand raised. He wasn't sure if he needed to punch Cedric, or someone else. "Fuck," he said, and tried to walk back to the sidewalk.

His feet wouldn't move. "Oh, fuck." He shook his head. "Oh, fuck fuck fuck."

Cedric climbed to his feet more slowly. He looked back at the sidewalk, then at the gate that led into the back yard. "I guess we have to go in," he said.

"I guess," answered Nick, not bothering to hide his bitterness. How was this even possible? He could worry about that later. Right now, he needed to keep his eyes open and his fists and feet ready. Whatever was here, whatever was keeping them here, he didn't mean to let it take them without a fight.

Cedric took a step, and Nick took a step. They held to that pattern all the way to fence: step, wait, step, wait. Nick tried stepping off to the side, or back the way they'd come, but nothing happened. His legs just wouldn't do it. He assumed Cedric was trying the same things, with the same results.

They reached the fence and stopped, looking through the gate and into the darkness beyond. Their flashlights showed only a black-walled passage leading back. Under any other circumstances, Nick would have assumed that the homeowners had set up a wooden frame and covered it with garbage bags; that was certainly how it looked. He glanced to his right, but the front of the house was no longer visible. To his left, the edge of the next property was no more than six feet away.

Nick had been studying Tae Kwon Do for the last four years; he'd started in middle school. That was where he'd met Cedric, and where they'd become friends. They were both young, fast, strong... and utterly at the mercy of whatever held them on this path. "I can't believe you just walked in here," he said, bitterly.

Cedric turned his head, looking hurt and surprised, but Nick pressed on. "We could have walked past, you dumb fuck. We could have been halfway down the block by now."

"I didn't--"

Nick interrupted before Cedric could say anything reasonable. "I was still safe, you fucker, until you pulled me out here..."

"Nick, stop--"

"You want me to stop? Then hit me. Hit me!" He was roaring it at the last, praying that Cedric would catch on or at least react...

...And Cedric dropped into a guard stance and through a punch.

Nick deflected it easily. "Again," he said, trying to sound as scornful as he was scared. "Harder."

Cedric threw another punch, this one at maybe eighty percent power, and Nick slapped it aside and popped him on the jaw. "Do it right," he sneered.

This time when Cedric swung, he used his whole body to drive the blow.

Nick turned his deflection into a catch, took Cedric's arm and all the force behind it, and added his own as he twisted into a throw. Cedric's feet left the ground, and he flew past nick and onto the neighboring yard. It was close; only his ankles were still in the fake Halloween graveyard that fronted this house. He might be safe.

That was when the darkness reached out from the gate, twining around Nick and pulling him in.

Cedric shook his head and tried to straighten, then realized that something was pulling at his feet. He clawed at the ground, digging in fingers and elbows, trying to pull himself loose. It wasn't just that his feet wouldn't move anymore; something was molded around them, trapping them. He twisted and flexed his ankles, pulling his feet free of his shoes... and with the last of his strength, he pulled himself all the way into the next yard.

He wasn't sure how long he lay there, but it was still dark when he finally climbed to his feet. Nick wasn't the only thing gone. His shoes were gone, too, but that was nothing: the entire house was gone. There was no fake graveyard, no hokey sign, no bland suburban home. There was only an empty lot, sandwiched between two ordinary houses, with a big sign facing the street.

He walked back up to the sidewalk, careful not to step into the former graveyard. LOT FOR SALE, said the sign. It had a company name and a phone number. There wasn't a house here. There never had been. And when he tried to explain that the house had taken Nick, nobody in the world was going to believe him.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Necromance if we want to...

Singing quietly for the benefit of my co-workers:
"Necromance if we want to
We can leave your fiends behind
because your fiends don't dance
and if they don't dance
then they're no fiends of mine...

We can go to the graveyard
We can take our shovels there
Dig up skin and bones
Hear the cries and moans
find a lock of hang'd man's hair..."

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Holy Crap, We've Fallen Off The Internet

We've... had a few technical issues at work over the last few days. Strangely, my boss absolutely forbade me to send out the following email yesterday. Since this event occurred at the point where we'd been fixing things for about thirty-six hours straight and finally had most of our applications and services working again, I have absolutely no idea why he would object.
To: All Employees
From: Information Technology
Subject: Holy Crap, We've Fallen Off The Internet

At 4:42 p.m. one of our technicians set off a resonance cascade in the server room and dropped our entire workplace into the abyssal void of No Internet Connection. Until our necromancers can forcibly reanimate the desiccated corpse of the router, we have no ability to connect to the Internet, and no presence on the Internet. Also, we appear to be trapped in a realm of eternal night, and may run of out of oxygen at any time.

If you are devoured by the nameless shapes of the outer darkness, please notify the helpdesk. If there are unspeakable things dragging their claws across the windows of your office, please gather some earplugs from Human Resources. Your patience is appreciated.


Michael Mock
The Workplace That Shall Not Be Named

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Surreal Wednesday

Quick reminder: the next comic is (or should be, better be) up over at Surreal Situations.

Meanwhile, Limpopo:

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Post-Apocalyptic Payphone

So, I went around on Sunday for about two hours, looking for scenes that I could photograph and use for landscapes in Surreal Situations. And, actually, I did pretty well. Someone had cleaned up the area I most wanted to use, which was disappointing personally but not a bad thing overall. However, I found a couple of nice alternatives, and got some pictures.

The difficulty, of course, is that the current setting for Surreal Situations is about three years into the Zombie Apocalypse. That means that I really need to avoid any kind of setting where someone has clearly been mowing the lawn. Also, any kind of setting with cars, unless I can find some cars that are weathered, rusted, covered in dirt, and whose tires have given way to rotting rubber.

The photo I was really hoping to get this weekend was a badly overgrown playground, but a lawnmower and a coat of paint has taken it completely out of my genre.

But, having spent about two hours driving around to grimy, overgrown areas and taking pictures of them, I decided it was time to get back to my father's house and collect the boys. I was all done for the day, I was going to drive straight back.

Then, on the way back, by the side of a major highway, I found a post-apocalyptic payphone:

I was a little later getting back than I'd expected, obviously.

Friday, October 21, 2016


Secondborn charges into the room with a Nerf sword. Secondborn attacks Daddy, landing a flurry of blows.

Daddy feints, disarms, and tosses the Nerf weapon onto the bench behind him. Secondborn squeaks and runs away.

Secondborn returns with a Nerf axe. Daddy disarms him. Secondborn squeaks and runs away.

Daddy sits down and tries to preview some music.

Secondborn comes screaming back into the room with another Nerf sword and begins to attack with a flurry of blows.

Daddy dodges, disarms him, and sends him back out of the room.

Daddy begins to settle back onto the bench.

Secondborn makes a run for the Nerf armory in his closet...

The battle, it seems, is far from over -- but the threat of Bedtime looms ever closer.

Back at work...

Right, so:

Both boys are at school. I have already spoken with the school nurse and brought her up to speed. I finished that just in time to handle a couple of technical issues. Now, I shall attempt to catch up on my email again.

Surviving a zombie apocalypse might actually be easier.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Perfect Storm of Maladies

After considerable effort and no small amount of driving, I have tracked down some Pinworm medication and gotten it into Secondborn. I'll give his brother a dose this evening as well, just to be safe. The plan, as given to me by their pediatrician, is to wait a week after that and then give them another dose.

Meanwhile, Secondborn has developed some kind of rash, primarily on his face, so I've also given him some Benadryl. He coughed hard enough and long enough to make himself throw up last night, so he's at home with me today. It's like a perfect storm of maladies. For the moment, I've asked him to stay out of the back yard and away from the fence beside the creek when he's playing outside at school. (The rash is mainly on the exposed portions of his body, and I'm suspicious that he may have brushed up against poison ivy or something similar.)

Right now, he's building a new Lego set and generally sounding pretty chipper, albeit with occasional coughs, so with any luck we're on our way back out of this.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Smells Like A Workday

Hazelnut coffee makes the hallway smell like popcorn here at work.

This is a distinctly mixed blessing.

Meanwhile, the discussion at Surreal Situations turns to the merits of guitars as a tool for survival.

Monday, October 17, 2016


Monday. No brain. Wife out of town later this week. May be quiet over here. Check out Surreal Situations instead.

Friday, October 14, 2016


Right, so: first up, the next episode of Surreal Situations is up, which means I've successfully kept up with my web comic's M/W/F schedule for an entire week. Go, me!

I've been reviewing my initial impressions of the process, and I'd like to share some thoughts here. (I'm basically reserving the other blog for the comic itself; I don't want to clutter it up/distract from it with discussions of how it gets built.) So, if this sort of thing interests you...

1. Despite my best efforts to keep this simple, it's taking a surprising amount of my time. The Great Conference Adventure was done on the fly, with nothing more than an action figure, an iPad, and whatever I had to hand. Any text/narrative was either typed into the iPod, which was set in the picture; or added when I posted the images on Facebook. For Surreal Situations, though, I'm aiming for something more like a "real" comic: I want the characters to look reasonably natural in their settings, even if a lot of the setup is structured more like a stage play (i.e. with some characters interacting on a stage in front of a flat backdrop).

This means either not using a backdrop (the first episode), finding images and converting them to the right feel (second episode), or taking pictures myself and converting them for feel (today's episode). I'm not real comfortable with using other people's images, even if I'm converting them and adding elements in a way that I think constitutes Fair Use, so I'm probably not going to do any more of that. Unfortunately, that limits what I have available.

The original plan was to use some playsets for the settings, and there will almost certainly be some of that. Unfortunately... A) I started off in the Zombie Apocalypse setting, and there are remarkably few playsets available for that; B) even if such things were readily available, I'm doing this on a pretty small budget; C) and more to the point, I don't have a place where I could store a bunch of playsets and set them up to take pictures. And that's assuming that the boys wouldn't immediately raid such a setup for things to play with, which... ha! Not very likely.

I've thought of some possibilities, but a lot of them involve time and attention: garage sales, secondhand toy stores, leftover aquarium decorations, and things like that. That's all doable, but none of those options are much help when I start thinking, "Aha! For this next scene, I really need some sort of farmhouse with a porch and a kitchen!" (And, again, there's the question of where in the hell I'm supposed to put such things when I'm not using them.)

Some things could be built out of cardboard (which is actually something of a family tradition), but that runs into the question of time and effort as well as storage. This is supposed to be a side project, not a day job.

For now, I'm probably going to stick with just the figures and the backdrops. That means figuring out what I need, and then looking for places where I can take the sort of pictures I can use to fill those needs. Still, sometime this weekend I really ought to hit a couple of toy stores and/or hobby shops. A handful of appropriately-sized props would go a long way towards making this easier. I would, at this moment, willingly maim someone in exchange for a colorful plastic model of a campfire, for example. Instead, I'll probably have to build something using small rocks and twigs.

2. This isn't going to be a zombie comic, though it will almost certainly continue to have zombies in it. I have waaaaaaay too many other interesting figures to play around with. I started with the zombies because that's kind of where my brain goes, and because it gave me something familiar to build from.

3. That's why I changed to this figure for the main character, instead of using the one who followed me around the conference. I wanted a guy who would look a little battered and out of place in any setting he visited. It seems to be working so far.

There's probably more to say, but those are my thoughts at the end of Week One. Any questions? Put 'em in the comments, and I'll answer 'em there.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Job Snark

Hi! So good to hear from you. Oh, you've sent me some updates. All right, they're done -- and with more than one full week to go before your event! That's right, we just dropped everything because of the clear and unmistakable urgency of this new information that I absolutely did not request from you in an email three weeks ago. No, no. No need to thank us. We enjoy these sorts of last-minute, um, challenges. Keep us on our toes, they do, and I'm sure we can all do with a bit more that, now can't we? I'm looking forward to the next one already.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

I forgot the spider!

So, the cabin had its very own watch-spider to stand guard while we slept. It had set up just to one side of the door.

Also, there's a new episode over at Surreal Situations.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


We took the boys on their first real camping trip this past weekend. Camping as a parent is pretty much what I expected:
1. The adults did all the work while the kids just ran around unsupervised.
2. The boys claimed that they were going to sleep out in the tents with their friends, but wound up in the cabin with us.
3. As a result, I wound up sleeping on the air mattress that was slowly deflating, so by morning it was pretty much just a tarp.
4. Fire is endlessly fascinating.
5. Rocks are much more interesting than you'd think.
6. Nature has spiders.

Wanna see the pictures?

Monday, October 10, 2016

So It Begins

I'm starting a webcomic. It'll probably run on a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule, unless that doesn't seem to work and I end up doing something completely else. While this project definitely owes its origins to The Great Conference Adventure, it won't be a direct continuation. It'll still be random and whimsical and occupied entirely by action figures and other children's toys, though. Welcome to Surreal Situations.

poster advert for Surreal Situations, a web comic by a guy who can't draw.

Friday, October 7, 2016


I got nothin' for this morning. How's your weekend shaping up? Everybody get out of the path of the hurricane? Is New Orleans still where we left it? Has the zombie apocalypse started yet?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Warrior's Legacy: The Ghosts Of Who We Were

It was my fault, the first time I saw my father kill someone. I was fifteen at the time, reassured by the blades at my side, secure in my father's training; and I was tired of the two of us being alone. My father took one look at the town and said we should pass by, but I wanted to be among people and I insisted that we stop.

It wasn't that I grew up in the wilderness, exactly. Whenever we could find a place, my father would take a room and survey the local fighting halls. If he could, he'd demonstrate his skills and take work assisting one of the local masters. He was always polite, always deferential, but if he'd chosen that sort of work it was because he respected the master, the style, and the training. We might stay for weeks, or months, or even a couple of years; and then suddenly I'd come back to our rooms and find that he'd packed our things, and we'd be out on the roads or out in the wilderness again. I loved my father, and it wasn't a bad life... but I got lonely.

This time I was very lonely.

So we slept in the trees and went into town at mid-morning, just another couple of travelers passing through. The place was so small that it didn't even have an inn, just a tavern that had a couple of rooms to rent. There were maybe three shops and a smithy, and there might have been a sawmill somewhere out beyond the edge of town. At least, we passed a wagon headed out of town with a load of evenly-cut boards, but maybe it was passing through the same way we were. The driver waved and smiled; I remember thinking that he thought I was pretty, and didn't mind the swords. I liked him for that.

I think I knew my father was right even before we got into the town. He usually was, when it came to violence and death. The people here looked... beaten. Weary, wary, and watchful, they looked at us with a hint of badly-concealed but carefully restrained anger. And then there were the soldiers.

They lounged on wooden porches or strolled down the street. There were only a dozen or so of them, all told; but that was enough. The town held no more than a dozen houses.

They saw my swords, of course: the long-handled battle saber, and the shorter indoor saber, both tucked into my sash opposite the knife. The arrangement itself probably told them something, since their swords hung in heavy leather sheaths from heavy leather belts. They watched us, but they didn't approach immediately... not until after we entered the tavern.

My father has never been good with people. He raised a hand to one of the servers in what he probably thought was a neutral gesture, but I saw her face tighten with irritation and then lower in surrender. So, when she approached, I made sure I spoke up first: "Sorry to trouble you," I told her, which was entirely true. "We're looking for a room for the night."

She looked at me, looked down at the blades, then looked up at my face again. She was probably three or four years older than I was, but she might have thought I was even younger than that. I'm pretty small, and even wearing swords isn't enough to make me look dangerous. "Why don't you have a seat?" she suggested. "Padru is still sleeping -- he's the keeper -- and won't be up for a while yet."

"Of course," I told her.

She motioned to a table, but my father ignored the suggestion and crossed to another table in the corner opposite the bar. I followed him, and found a way to sit that didn't disturb my blades. I could still be in trouble if I stood too quickly, but this way looked less aggressive than removing the sabers and setting them on the table. With all the soldiers around and the townspeople acting the way they were, I wasn't about to take the sabers out and lean them against the wall.

It didn't take long at all. One of the soldiers followed the server over and sent her away with a glance. He was tall and lean, and moved like a hunting cat. "You know how to use those swords?" he asked, without any sort of introduction or lead.

"Her training isn't finished," my father told him, looking up from where he sat.

I had just opened my mouth to answer, but I sat back and stayed quiet. I'd been in the cities enough to know that someone his age shouldn't be addressing someone my age directly, and especially not with my father sitting right there... and I was just old enough to understand why. Watching him, the way he stood, the way he moved, the way he turned to look at my father, only reinforced my awareness that my father had been right all along: we should not have come here.

"It's a pity," the soldier said. "You should bring her up to the top of the ridge. Lord Arilom is rebuilding the old fort, and she could finish her training there." He wasn't quite leering as he said it. He wasn't quite looking at me, either. "We could use some new blood."

My father tilted his head. He was small and wiry, dark-haired and dark-eyed, and dressed in a simple tunic and pants. He never carried weapons. "How much blood do you have there already?" he asked.

The soldier scowled, and his hand dropped to his sword. "If you were armed..."

My father stood up, slowly. He didn't look at me. He didn't have to. There had been two other soldiers in the tavern when we'd come in; now there were at least six. I was certain that my father knew exactly how many there were, and exactly where they were standing. "Yes?" he asked, and his voice had turned... empty, like his stance, like his expression. "If I were armed...?"

"Uppity--" I watched the soldier start to draw his sword, watched my father slam a hand down on his forearm and drive the blade back into its sheath, watched the blow that sent the soldier onto his back on the floor. Slowly, I stood up.

"Let it go," my father said. "We'll be gone, and nobody will hear of--"

Two of the other soldiers threw themselves at him. They hadn't drawn their weapons. I think they meant to beat him down.

It didn't happen that way. There was a brief tangle of limbs; then they both went flying, and my father was still standing there.

That was the moment when somebody grabbed me from behind. I should have seen it coming, but I'd been watching him fight instead. It was one of the soldiers, and he was puissant enough to pin my arms to my sides.

My father turned, and that was the moment when one of the soldiers pulled a knife and lunged at his back...

...And fell to the floor, dead.

My father didn't even glance at the body behind him. He just said, "I didn't intend that. I didn't intend any of this. You should all go... now." There was something horrible in his voice, a mixture of regret... and glee. There was a force to it, a command.

The arms around me let go, and then all the soldiers were backing out the door. "Tell this Lord Arilom to mind his dogs," my father rumbled, and his voice was like distant thunder. "We might be back."

They left in a rush, dragging anyone who didn't or couldn't move fast enough.

My father turned to look at me, and his face was stricken.

"I'm sorry," I told him.

"We'll find another town," he said. "We'll spend time with people again. Not here." Over his shoulder, I could see the server. Her face was blank, pale, shocked. When she recovered, she would be terrified. Everyone in the town would be afraid of us.

I hated that. For a brief moment, I hated him: my father, who had protected us and driven the soldiers away, who had made it necessary to leave again. Then I swallowed, and agreed: "Not here."

So we left. Just another pair of travelers passing through. We never went back... but later that night, and much further down the road, my father took a walk through the trees. He didn't return until nearly dawn. I didn't think much of it at the time, but maybe things changed while he was gone. Maybe Lord Arilom moved on as well. Or maybe he reigned in his soldiers, and they all settled in to help the community.

I like to think that was what happened to them.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Martial Arts: Speed Hitting

This is actually a very effective technique, but it takes a lot of practice to master it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Oh, um, yeah.

Working on something. Forgot I should probably post on the blog. Need to figure out some logistics.

Also, my son keeps demanding that I give him his toys back.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Dig

It wasn't just that the archaeological dig had released some sort of disease.

It wasn't just that the disease turned people into bloodthirsty cannibals.

It wasn't just that the infected were being kept in a special home, where their behavior was controlled with a combination of medications and behavioral modification techniques.

It was the fact that the staff were infected also, and sooner or later they were going to stop restraining themselves and the whole thing was going to break open.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Notes from the Mad Science Lab: Glow In The Dark Spiders

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Today, Savage Laboratories is pleased to announce the release of our latest invention.

In this cage is an ordinary house spider, Parasteatoda tepidariorum. Johan, can you put that on the screen? Excellent. Now, the American House Spider is generally harmless, and helps keep typical houses free of other pests. However, they are also a source of fear and revulsion for many people. Indeed, my new girlfriend has a morbid fear of spiders, and asked me to "do something about them" after accidentally encountering a spiderweb in the back yard one evening. My son, on the other hand, finds the creatures fascinating, and forbade me to destroy them.

Such challenges, I submit to you, are the very heart and soul of Mad Science.

So, if you will return your attention to the screen, I will demonstrate the Savage Labs solution to "the spider problem". Observe what happens as we lower the lights in the room... That's right, the spider is glowing. Now you need no longer fear that you might be surprised by the unexpected appearance of a spider in your house. All you need do is turn off the lights, and you will immediately know the location of every spider around.

Clearly, a single spider is not sufficient by itself, so you be pleased to hear that within the next three to five years, all spiders will glow just as this one does. Indeed, owing to the nature of the retroviral delivery system we have employed to make these changes, the effect will be visible on all forms of arachnids. And, before you ask, the chances that the virus will cross the species boundary and create a race of blood-drinking, eight-limbed superhumans are actually quite small.

Mad Science, ladies and gentlemen: making the world better for you, each and every day.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Writing Advice and Story Structure

If you can't read the brightly colored graphic, it says:
A story should look more like:















Taken from this post.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Seasons of Life

I'm currently suffering from the depressing suspicion that I'm not on a new season at all; my life has basically gone into re-runs.

("Oh, yeah! This was the episode where he was trying to finish a project and his boss kept interrupting him to test something in a completely different program! I remember that one.")

I mean, we're doing okay. We have food, clothing, shelter, and a working marriage. We even have some money to spend on frivolities. This isn't any sort of acute crisis. It's just a recurrent feeling that I'm not making any sort of progress; that I'm stalled, blocked, walled in. I can do enough to keep up, but only barely. I can't seem to get ahead.

I probably need more sleep. Maybe some major life changes, too. (I can work on those in my copious spare time, right?) I dunno. We'll see.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Homeless Appliances

From my recent documentary about the lack of care available for aging appliances, here's a photo of an elderly television sleeping rough on the side of the street.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Conference Recap, On A Personal Note.

And then, at the very last, this one:

September 16 at 1:59pm:
Some of you may be wondering how *I'm* doing after all this. So, just this once, I'm going to break my own rule and post a selfie.

Conference Recap, Trip Home

This series of posts began with the discovery that one of my son's toys had hitched a ride in my pocket to last week's conference. The chronicle of his adventures begins here, if you want to go back and catch up.

The trip home was actually, blessedly uneventful. When you're traveling by plane, this is a good thing.

September 16 at 1:31pm:
He was VERY eager to get home...
September 16 at 1:52pm:
Ah, the touching reunion at last! It's good to be home.
It was a big adventure for a small action figure. Thanks for coming along with us.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Conference Recap, Day 5

This series of posts began with the discovery that one of my son's toys had hitched a ride in my pocket to last week's conference. The chronicle of his adventures begins here, if you want to go back and catch up.

It seemed like it was going to be an uneventful morning, until...

September 15 at 10:23am:
So, he slipped away from the conference to explore the castle...
September 15 at 10:42am:
Honestly, he's incorrigible. That's him on top of the castle wall.
September 15 at 10:57am
Annnnd now he say he needs a solid, full meal if he's going to "take the next step". Should I be worried? I think I should be worried.
September 15 at 11:26am:
Apparently he needed a big lunch so he could head off to explore the wilderness beyond the castle. I guess I'm taking my own notes for the next session. ::sigh:: Interns these days...
September 15 at 3:47pm:
Well, at least now I know where he went...
September 15 at 3:48pm:
Apparently it was part of a plan.
Right, so: the message says, "After hours of tireless exploration, I have made my way to the mysterious headwaters of the sacred river. Legend says that there is an ancient city of pure gold here, but legend is clearly lying. No city, no gold. Still, maybe the discovery will make me famous and I can get speaking engagements or something."
September 15 at 10:13pm:
Passed out in front of the toilet. I mean, okay, it's the last night of the conference, but I *knew* it was a mistake to turn him loose on an open bar. We have to get on the plane in the morning!
So that was the end of Thursday, and also the end of the conference. There was nothing left but the trip home. Surely that would be uneventful... right?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Conference Recap, Day 4

This series of posts began with the discovery that one of my son's toys had hitched a ride in my pocket to last week's conference. The chronicle of his adventures begins here, if you want to go back and catch up.

September 14 at 6:28am:
Roomie is having a hard time getting out of bed this morning. Can't say I blame him. Yesterday was pretty busy, and today is going to be just as long.
September 14 at 7:54am:
Made it to our first session. He still isn't very awake, though.
September 14 at 9:59am
Networking with other conference-goers during the break!
September 14 at 11:40am:
Well, we finished lunch.
September 14 at 1:05pm:
Ready to take notes on the next session...
September 14 at 4:40pm:
"Hertz?" I asked.

"Only when I laugh," he told me.
September 14 at 6:36pm
Oh, my. I hope he knows what he's doing. If he keeps me up all night with drunk music-less karaoke, I'm going to be very annoyed.
That took care of Wednesday. One more conference day to go, and then we'd be through. Unfortunately for me, well... You're going to have to check in tomorrow to find out what he did!