Friday, June 30, 2017

Clean Teeth

The scene: evening, bedtime. I wander into the living room, looking for boys so I can tell them to get in bed. Firstborn is sitting on the couch, fiddling with his Kindle Fire. Secondborn has ninja'd himself into invisibility by hiding under the table. Beautiful Wife, like Firstborn, is on the couch.

Me: "Ah, good. There is Firstborn. Now, if only I could find Secondborn."

Beautiful Wife: "He is brushing his teeth."

Me: "I was just coming to tell him to brush his teeth. I will look for him in the bathroom."

I leave the living room and look in the bathroom. It is, of course, empty. Secondborn is a righteous ninja, but he hasn't actually mastered teleportation yet.

Me: "He is not brushing his teeth!"

I return to the living room.

Firstborn: "You sound like a character from an Elephant and Piggie book."


Firstborn: "I have given you too many ideas, and by that I mean 'one'."

Callahan's Friday Pun: Royalty

Me: "Do you have any idea what it's like being the king?"

Beautiful Wife, looking suspiciously at the pool ring on my head: "...No..."

Me: "It's a very unpeasant experience."

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


I am... tired. Beyond tired, even. I'm just kind of *done*. I have no focus, I have no enthusiasm, I'm impatient but not because there's anything I particularly want to *do*. In fact, it's kind of the opposite: I just want to stop doing things. I want this day to be over. I want my job to be over.

I'm not suicidal. I don't want to leave my family. I'm just... I deeply tired of being tired. I'm deeply tired of being discouraged. I'd like to have some motivation back. I'd like to have some energy. I'd like to have some sense of morale.

If I'm about to get sick, then I'd like to just run a fever (or whatever) and get it over with. I don't think that's it, though. I just want everyone to shut up and go away for a few days. Which is kind of a problem, since I'm parent to two pre-teen children and since my wife seems to be in just about the same place I am, emotionally speaking. And, honestly, when I wrote this the boys were doing a lovely job of entertaining themselves; it's just that I can hear one boy's YouTube videos and the other boy's video game, and I want it all to stop.

I swear, I used to enjoy things. I used to have hobbies. I used to be able to finish things, at least every once in a while.

Right now, though -- and I'm going to set this to publish later, not just after I finished writing it, so with any luck none of you will read it until after I'm somewhat recovered -- right now I don't want to do any of it. I just want to bury myself in the earth for fifty years, like one of Ann Rice's vampires, or plug myself into cryosleep for a century-long trip to another planet. I want to turn into a statue and wait until the proper alignment of the stars recalls me to life and movement.

I want to stop needing to do all the things that right now I still need to do.

Instead, I'm going to put the boys down to bed. And in the morning I'll wake them up and I'll go to work again. I'll even pretend I care about what I'm doing there, though I don't guarantee it'll be convincing.

And I think... I hope... that I'll start looking for some way to make a change. Because I think it's vital, especially in a mood like this, to remind myself that things really can get better. And maybe if I act like it, I'll start to believe it again.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Unstructured Time

So, we're making selections from a list of "vital needs" - the things you need to have in your life in order to be happy, or at least satisfied. Firstborn has just finished looking them over.

Firstborn: "What is unstructured or structured time?"

Me: "Structured time is time with planned activities. Unstructured time is time when you get to do what you want."

Firstborn: "Oh."

Me: "Like, I have unstructured time. Maybe I'll play some video games. Maybe I'll take a bath. Or maybe I'll read a book. Or maybe I'll run down the street naked with a piece of fried chicken in each hand."

Beautiful Wife: "Don't run down the street naked with a piece of chicken in each hand. That's illegal."

Me: "There's a fine line between 'unstructured' and 'illegal'."

Firstborn: "...And running down the street in a bathrobe would be right on that line."

Me: "Exactly. Running down the street naked would be waaaay over it."

Firstborn: "An uneaten piece of fried chicken in each hand!? That's way over the line!"

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Being Cherished Is Harder Than Jello

Woke up this morning & came out to the living room to find that everyone had curled up on the couch. I sat down on one end and was immediately snuggled by both boys. Firstborn then offered one of his massages, so I got myself stretched out... and the Secondborn and the Beautiful Woman joined in.

My friends, I feel positively cherished. I mean, it is a truly awesome Saturday morning when the first thing that happens is megaboysnuggles, and the second thing that happens is that the entire family joins in make sure you feel good.

Then, as he was working on my legs, Firstborn discovered just how knotted my calves were. (I keep a lot of my tension in my calves apparently. This is exacerbated by having an extremely sedentary desk job.) "Wow!" he exclaimed, or something to that effect. "Daddy's calves are harder than Jello!"

And that really just broke us all up. I'm laughing, the Beautiful Woman is laughing, even Firstborn starts laughing. Secondborn leaps to my defense with, "Maybe we should say--" but Firstborn waves him off.

"My metaphors need work," Firstborn explains.

Well, that may be -- I mean, I know how he meant it, it just didn't come out quite right -- but even so, the next time I feel like being really snarky about something, I am so going to find some way to work the phrase "stronger than Jello" into the conversation.

Friday, June 23, 2017

LED Eyelashes

I may have observed before that an awful lot of what passes for fashion is apparently just a concerted effort to make clothing way more difficult than it should be. This, however, takes it to a whole new level: I can't even imagine wearing these. They look like the most annoying thing in the world.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Real Work Conversations: Out to Lunch

Me: "Okay, I'm going to lunch. If I'm not back in an hour... call the President."

Me, a moment later: "On second thought, the President's an idiot. Don't call the President. Call..."

Me: "Ummmm..."

Co-worker: "Yeah, I'm not coming up with anybody up there that I'd care to call, either."

Me: "National Guard. If I'm not back in an hour, call the National Guard. They can probably still figure out how to get things done."

Co-worker: "Deal."

My filter is just gone, y'all. It's sailed off to the Caribbean and I don't think it's coming back.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Annnd we're back

We've gone on the Great Family Odyssey to Tennessee, and returned alive if not entirely unscathed. Though we tried to squeeze as much vacation out of it as possible, this has definitely been more of a family gathering than an actual vacation. And it's been a curious mix of splendid fun and horrifying ordeal. And I may come back and explain all that, but...

It's Sunday night.
We just got in today at about four o'clock.
My head hurts.
I have no energy.
I have no brain.
I really need about three days to recuperate and get everything back in order.
I have to be at work tomorrow.


On top of everything else, I have this jagged little cut/bruise/thing on my forehead. (I'll be delighted to tell you any number of fanciful stories about how I got it. My personal favorite is the one about the rogue packs of mutant grizzly bear that roam the Arkansas hills, and how I had to head-butt one of them while they were trying to climb in through the window of our fourth-floor hotel room.) I suppose it might look cool if I was younger, but somehow "The Middle-Aged Man Who Lived" just doesn't have the same cachet, y'know?


Here's a picture of the boys in the one cave we managed to visit:

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Under The Waterfall...

So, we took the boys hiking...

When we got down to the waterfall... No, let me back up a little bit. It's a decent hike, but the waterfall itself is one of those places that figures prominently in both my personal history and my even-more-personal mental landscape. The water comes out between two layers of sandstone, and tumbles down to an intermediate shelf, and then falls down another thirty feet or so into a pit and vanishes. There's no stream leading to it; there's no stream leading away from it. The water appears at the top, drops, then drops again and disappears.

Moreover, if you've followed the trail down then you've likely come out facing it from the intermediate level, but on the far side of the pit. So there you are, firmly on the earth, watching a waterfall that begins Above and ends Below. It has a very World Tree feel for me; it always has. It feels like it's connecting the realms, or at least it should be.

So when we got there, the boys took a few minutes to admire it, then noticed the little hole off to the far side: the one that looks like it would allow you to get down into the pit without having to scale wet limestone walls. Which is... mostly true. Naturally, they asked if they could go down there. Which was... mostly possible.

So I climbed down myself, making strategic use of a couple of logs that had fallen (or been shoved) into the hole. Then I had the boys ease over the edge so that I could grab them and lower them down.

Then they proceeded down the slope to the bottom of the pit.

All of this went perfectly well. We found a frog down there, and then a turtle. I even had them stop and pose for a picture together.

Then, we climbed back up. Well... Sort of.

The thing is, neither of them is tall enough to reach the holds needed to get back out. So I took Secondborn, showed him where to put his foot when he was high enough, and lifted him back up to the shelf, until he could find some handholds and push up with that foot. Then I grabbed Firstborn, who is substantially heavier; he ended up using my shoulder as a step, which was basically fine. Then it was time to get myself back out.

This was... more of a challenge. The handholds and footholds are there. Getting myself positioned so that I could use the ones I needed took a bit of preparation. Actually hauling/pushing myself out with them required what we used to call "a metric fuck-ton" of effort. So while I'd been doing fine on the hike itself, this was the strain that let me know that I'd finally really overdone it.

But, I made it out. Then I sat on a fallen log for about five minutes while my heart rate slowed, my breathing caught up, and my energy made half-hearted promises about someday coming back to me. I sat there with my head swimming and my guts hurting in that peculiar way that overexertion sometimes brings. It didn't help that I was at a higher altitude than I'd been in quite some time, or that the air was a lot more humid than I was acclimated to; but if we're being completely honest, neither of those things would have been much of a problem if I wasn't forty-mumble-mumble years old and if my cardio wasn't so bad. But I sat, and I recovered, and after a few minutes we started back towards the head of the trail.

The hike back up was almost, but not quite, entirely uphill.


Firstborn, meanwhile, for reasons that deserve a blog post of their very own, made the entire hike without needing a break and was ready for more at the end of it.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Puerto Rico As Our 51st State

It seems that Puerto Rico has voted in favor of statehood. This is going to be a contentious issue, for several reasons. First up is that while the vote was overwhelmingly in favor -- like, 97% in favor -- only 23% of the population turned out to vote. (That's low enough to make state-dwelling American voters seem positively civic-minded by comparison.) Secondarily, Puerto Rico can't simply declare itself a full state; that has to be approved by Congress, and the sheer amount of crass political calculation that will go into such a decision staggers the imagination.

Possibly the biggest problem, though, is this: even if those hurdles were overcome, where would we put the fifty-first star on the flag? I mean, right now we're all neat rows of little white stars. An additional star would totally throw off the arrangement.

Well, I can't help with either of the first two issues, but I do have a solution for the big one. Here's my design for our brand new flag, one which would incorporate all fifty-one states and make a clear statement to the international community about who we are as a nation. In an excess of humility, I have decided to call it New Glory:

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A Tale From The Borderlands...

Right, so:

One of the funny little things that I enjoyed about Borderlands 2 is that at various obscure points in the landscape, you find spots where the inhabitants of Pandora have set out chairs in improbable places: beside lakes full of threshers, on the edges of cliffs... it's just such a bizarre-and-yet-believable thing for people to do.

So... What did I find today, whilst exploring the area where we're currently staying (which is on the edge of the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee, if I failed to mention that earlier)? You guessed it:
I mean, I didn't see any threshers, but then we found this:
...So I'm thinking I should make sure I've equipped my best shield and a good array of weaponry in case of bandit attacks... or in case we find a Vault.

Friday, June 9, 2017

June 2017 Writing Resources

1. Jennifer Crusie discusses Protagonist/Conflict/Antagonist and formulating a one-sentence story premise to keep your writing on track.

2. Over at Black Gate, Tina Jens discusses a revised character sheet to help you really get to know your characters in detail.

3. Lydia Schoch discusses The Seven Deadly Sins Of Writing, which are also worth thinking about in terms of their corresponding virtues.

For myself, I've been spending a lot of time cogitating on opening lines and opening scenes, and what kind of promises they make to my readers. I'm thinking specifically in terms of the projects that I'm working on (in no small part because one of the projects continues to frustrate me on precisely these grounds: I can't seem to find a satisfactory jump-off point).

Taking my cue from the Jennifer Crusie article above, I think my premise looks something like this:
A member of the City Watch joins forces with a renegade outlander to try to break the curse that has plunged the city into darkness, plagues, and monsters.

So my current options for opening lines look something like this:
  • Somber made his escape well before dawn on the last day of the harvest festival, when everyone by rights should have been asleep.
  • Maija had been drinking steadily for two hours when the disaster began.
  • Somber hadn't intended to do anything other than get out of the city as quickly as possible, but the boy's arm was broken and there was nobody else around.
  • Maija took three long swallows of her drink, then settled back on the bench. It was the last night of Harvest, and she was with her friends in their favorite restaurant, out on the balcony that overlooked the square. Alcohol, food, and good company were finally conspiring to help her relax.

Those are four different approaches, starting with two different characters (Maija is the Warden of the City Watch, Somber is the renegade outlander) and building from very different aspects of their personalities and situations. They offer different access points to the story. They make different promises to the reader. They set different expectations.

I think it's time to pick one, and go with it.

...And I think I'd like to write out a setup like this for at least one other current project, maybe two.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Love and Tea in 2017

Relationships are different. Relationships are different because people are different. But if you're going to write a magazine-article fluff-piece, you pretty much have to ignore that and pretend that the particulars of your individual, idiosyncratic relationship are actually Grand Universal Truths -- regardless of how silly that makes you sound, and regardless of the actual state of your actual current relationship. So here goes:

Hot Tea
Hot Tea is the foundation of a good relationship, a stable marriage, and solid parenting skills. If you're the first person to get up in the morning, make tea for your spouse. This will show your undying love for each other, strengthen the bonds of your marriage, and provide a stable footing for raising your children.

If you're still just dating, take your significant other out on a tea date. Try new teas. Introduce them to your favorites. Order custom teas, and use funny-shaped diffusers to brew your cups of tea. There's nothing more charming than tea, and nothing more likely to make someone fall hopelessly in love with you than a tea date.

If your kids can be trusted with the responsibility, show them how to brew tea! It'll make them feel useful, and you get tea! There's no downside. Kids! Tea! Awesomeness!

Make hot tea a central part of your relationships and your life. A relationship that doesn't share tea isn't worth having.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Weird Dreams and Travel Plans

I was remarking the other day that lately I don't seem to remember my dreams the way I used to. I don't know if my dreams are less vivid (since I don't remember them, obviously), but it's been a fairly distinct trend. Some of it, I think, is just that I'm getting older... but I'm increasingly convinced that a big chunk of it is spending way too much of my time way too tired.

As if to make up for it, I slept hard last night, had bizarre dreams and actually remembered them.

So, first: the setting was this massive ivy-league university with the most incredibly gothic architecture imaginable. Kind of like Marburg, but on an even larger scale. (It actually reminds me of some of the settings in Bloodborne, only better lit and populated by students and professors instead of townspeople who are descending into madness and monstrosity.)

This part is almost certainly related to our travel plans: my family and I are going to be out of town next week, so visiting this sprawling, epic-scale place is perfectly in keeping with that. (On a related note, I probably won't be posting much of anything while we're gone.)

I have no idea where my pants went, but that part of the dream is almost certainly tied to the way this week has been going: chaotic, disorganized, and full of unexpected crises.

What I'm really puzzled by, though, is this: why did we have a tied-up neo-nazi in the back seat?

Yeah, that was part of the dream too. And no, I have no idea.

Monday, June 5, 2017

An impromptu essay on the appeal of the superhero mythology...

Composed on Twitter. There are probably ways to compile it and post it here (and feel free to suggest them), but for the moment I'm just going to create a link. It's here, and it begins like this:

Friday, June 2, 2017

Sorry about that last post...

I really just needed to get that off my chest. Unfortunately, that was really the only way I could publish those observations. So, thank you all for not-reading the invisible text.

How about some invisible music to make up for it?

Linkin Park:

Skylar Grey: