Friday, December 15, 2017

The Christmas Song

Chipmunks roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost ripping at your nose
Chorus of screams being sung by a choir
And things dressed up like Eskimos

Everybody knows a sacrifice in the dark
Will help to make the pyres bright
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
Will chase us down the streets tonight

They know that doom is on its way
It's coming for us all and they want to slay

And every mother's child is going to cry
To see horrible things drifting up in the sky

And so I'm offering this simple phrase
a protection spell just for you,
Though its been said many times, many ways
There's nothing else that we can do.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Music: Baby It's Cold Outside

A newer, less rapey-sounding version, courtesy of Abney Park:

"What's in this drink?"
"Rum."
Indeed...

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Holiday Season

Today is... Tuesday? Is it Tuesday? It is. Good.

I kind of hate the holiday season.

It's not the holidays themselves, exactly. It's the way they inevitably seem to disrupt, well, everything. Add to that the fact that my wife is finishing up her grading for this semester (and needs to have it finished, I don't know, right now) and is going to have both boys home during the time that she needs to be planning her upcoming semester, and...

We almost missed gymnastics class last night. It's Mondays and Wednesdays every week; not that hard to remember. But we almost forgot, because there's so much else going on right now. We're trying to get the boys caught up on their homework (they're both behind) and make sure Firstborn is still practicing the upright bass. Oh, and I need to practice a 2-3 minute presentation on a book with him tonight.

I like having a regular schedule, and this time of year it always seems to just fall apart. And that would be great if I could stop and relax, but that isn't how this works. I still have to be at work, plus we have the various family events, and honestly I just want to huddle in bed with my Kindle and cup of hot chocolate.

So... I dunno. You can probably take this for generalized grumbling/griping and ignore it, and honestly I'd probably feel a lot less discombobulated if I could manage to get a full night's sleep, but here we are.

Monday, December 11, 2017

I dreamed of my mom last night...

Well, like the title says, I dreamed of my mom last night. It was a weird night anyway - I went to bed later than I really should have on a Sunday, and then my sleep got interrupted a couple of times. This last time, my sleep had been interrupted by the alarm clock, but I'd hit the Snooze button and was back to dreaming. And somewhere in those few minutes, in a jumble of dreams about finding a place to stay and getting my stuff together for a trip, my mom was moving through one of the rooms I was crossing.

It's the first time I've really dreamed of her since she died (April of 2016, so we're coming up on two years now) or at least it feels like it. The first time I'd dreamed of her as her, rather than just as an element of something else.

Anyway, she was crossing the room in her slow, steady way (with the crutches and braces from childhood polio) just like she always did, so I stopped to give her a hug. And it was right in the middle of that that I realized that I had to be dreaming because there was no way she was there like that, and sure enough the alarm went off again a moment later.

It was very strange, but for a moment it was kind of nice.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Six Flags, Seven Years Old

Right, so: Six Flags. Firstborn's Middle School decided to do their Orchestra field trip to Six Flags today. Beautiful Wife went along as a chaperone, and it seemed like something that Secondborn really shouldn't miss out on. So, I bought us a couple of extra tickets and drove Secondborn down separately.

We were able to meet them just inside the park, and hooked up with the orchestra group just inside the gate. It turns out that both the band and the chorus had come along on the trip, so this was around a hundred kids all told. Beautiful Wife led her ducklings group to the meetup point, and then they broke up to wander the park separately. (It's a whole new world: these kids all have cell phones. Well, except for Firstborn. But otherwise? Pretty much all of them.)

Anyway, deciding to bring Secondborn along was just about the best decision I could possibly have made. That child...

Okay, look: he's seven. He's silly. He does handstands everywhere. And apparently he, um, "dabs". (I had to look it up. I knew it was a strike-a-pose gesture for him, but I'm old and I have no context.)

So that's him, dabbin' while we're waiting in line for the Mine Train. Anyway, this kid: over the course of the day, he worked his way up from the Mine Train -- a relatively slow, slightly clunky beginner roller coaster which is mainly exciting for a couple of moments when it goes whizzing underground into the dark -- and made it all the way to a ride on Pandemonium. I'm borrowing other people's YouTube videos, because there's no way I was taking my cell phone out on a ride, but that link really doesn't do the thing justice: Pandemonium is a roller coaster in which the chairs spin around on top as the car travels along the track. And with me on one end of the rotating seats, they spun around a lot.

And when we got to the end of the ride, Secondborn just said: "That was horrible. We must never do that again." But he was grinning madly while he said it.

Firstborn's friend loves this stuff. He was the one who kept nudging our boys towards bigger, faster, swooshier roller coasters. But Firstborn is practicing his quiet cool, and he kept up just fine. Firstborn's eleven years old though; I'm not surprised that he just went with it. Secondborn, on the other hand, is seven - he couldn't have ridden Pandemonium without a parent, and there was another ride (some sort of spinning bull rodeo thing, later) that he was just exactly tall enough to be able to ride. Like, the top of his head was exactly at the line where he could ride it. And while this isn't quite his first time on any sort of roller coaster, it's pretty close.

So all things considered: I'm extraordinarily pleased with the way our day went, and I'm ferociously proud of Secondborn for riding some reasonably insane things with me, Firstborn, and Firstborn's friend.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Music: Lovecraftian Christmas Songs

Since we're nearing the holidays, and I've been too tired (and probably sick) to write anything, here's a playlist of songs from the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society:

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Christmas Crud

Yep, the Christmas Crud got me again. It started last week, just in time for the training session. And I keep thinking I've mostly shaken it off, but... not quite. So... more rest, more liquids, more stopping when I run out of energy. Ugh.

I've done very little writing, and nothing for the blog (obviously). I finished reading a solidly enjoyable new fantasy novel - Age of Assassins - but instead of starting something else new, I've gone back to Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me. It's fun, it's got cheery dialogue, and everything turns out all right in the end: just what I need right now. (Age of Assassins was a bit darker, but it was fun and adventurous and I'd recommend it too, just for different reasons.)

Meanwhile: my job is full of work, our departmental transitions are still bobbing along like icebergs in a choppy sea, the holidays are rushing towards us like an avalanche, and my workplace is full of Christmas music. Also, it's still warm enough that I don't need a jacket. All in all? Pretty much what I expect from early December in Texas. Yes, including the plague.

How're the rest of you holding up? Any humorous NaNoWriMo stories you want to share?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Music: Can You Picture That?

Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem:

We're doing a training session this week, so I have no idea what (if anything) will get posted here. This, however, should help cheer me up as we head into the week.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

At work, once again...

I am at work once again. Probably half the staff (at least one third) is out. It would be a perfect time to work on my End Of The World project, except that someone has brought in a new baby and I can hear cooing and cheery voices from the direction of Human Resources.

I did manage to sleep last night, but I've got to a better handle on my schedule, get some kind of rhythm going so I don't keep looking up to realize that I'm dangerously exhausted again.

Meanwhile, we'll be heading up to Oklahoma tomorrow, so tonight is basically Pack All The Things, Load The Car, and Go To Bed night. If I get any time, I might play a bit of Borderlands 2 - The Horrible Hunger Of The Ravenous Wattle Gobbler is seasonally appropriate, after all. Though... I probably should have started it a day or two ago if I really meant to play all the way through it.

Anyway, enjoy the feast, and give thanks that the annual sacrifice of the all-devouring scavenger birds will give the sun strength to continue to rise despite the gathering darkness of winter. (That's how the holiday works, right? Or is it just me?)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

That one conversation...

Two co-workers pass in the hallway.

First Co-worker: "Hello."

Second Co-worker: "I should have taken this week off."

They stop. Their eyes meet. Then they shake their heads sadly, and move on.


Y'all, I have heard this conversation five different times so far...

Monday, November 20, 2017

Thanksgiving Traditions...

Ah, Thanksgiving: when we settle down with family and friends in a spirit of gratitude and gluttony. Also, the time of our yearly watching of Addams Family Values.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Gathering Strays

Somber conjured a light and said quietly, "Don't attack," before he stepped out of the doorway and into the hall.

He'd been listening to the sounds of the approaching group: soft footsteps and quiet whispers, the rustle of fabric, the occasional soft thunk as something shifted in a pack. Now they stopped, blinking nervously in the dim light. "You have to go back," he told them. "They're waiting up ahead."

The man in the lead was older, respectable, and scared out of his mind. Something about the whiteness around his eyes and the way he held himself told Somber that he was only barely hanging on to control. "We have to get out before..." His voice was a little too loud for a whisper, and the woman beside him elbowed him sharply. "Listen to the young man, Rabius," she said, and Somber decided that she was probably the man's wife.

"There's a warehouse two block over," Somber continued quietly. "It's still safe. We're gathering people there." He paused, but Rabius had settled back and looked less inclined to break and run. "We can get there, but we can't use the stairs."

"How...?" The woman shook her head. "Lead the way."

Somber motioned past them, and they stepped to the side of the hall to let him pass. One or two reached out to touch his robes, which would have bothered him under more normal circumstance. Now, he didn't mind.

He led them back up the corridor, noting again the broken doors on either side. Some looked in on empty rooms, but others showed shattered furniture and other wreckage. At least one held a pair of dead bodies, fresh enough that they hadn't yet begun to stink. Somber checked the doorways until he found the one he wanted, then turned left into it. There were a few concerned whispers, but he thought the group was still following him.

It wasn't an especially large group: four adults, two children, and an infant who was carried by the youngest of the three women.

He crossed to the door on the far side, stepped through it into an untouched dining area, and continued to the window beyond. It was still open, the glass pane in it wooden frame raised to let in the night's breezes. Looking down, he saw Maija standing below, waved, and then held up seven fingers. She waved back.

"Here," he said.

"Here?" asked Rabius, sounding as if he were starting to choke. "You expect us to--"

The oldest of the three women elbowed him again. "He expects you to stay quiet, and not bring those things down on us." Her voice was a whisper, but it was vehement.
,
Somber nodded, and she stepped up beside him. "I am Vara," she said.

"I'm called Somber."

She glanced at him. "That's a terrible thing to name a child."

Somber shrugged. "That's Maija, down there."

"Ah," said Vara, and turned back to the others. "There's a peacekeeper down there, and she has a sword."

Rabius straightened, while the two women behind him exchanged a glance. One of the children tugged on the sleeve of his robe. "How do we get down?" she asked.

Somber knelt down. He was taller than anyone in this group by at least a full head, and it didn't seem fair to make the child crane her neck. "I'm going to put a word on you," he said softly, "and you're going to drift down like a feather, slowly."

"Oh," she said. "What about Pulous?" She touched her jacket, and Somber suddenly found himself eye to eye with something that might have been a snake except that it had legs, and might have been a lizard except that it had four legs on either side of its long, slender body.

"Just hold onto him," Somber answered quietly. "I'll make sure the word covers him, too." He studied her a moment longer, then asked: "Are you two going first?"

"Yes," she said firmly.

"Good," he said. "Step up onto the windowsill, and let's get started."

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Exhaustion and Self-Care

I'm having (I've been having, actually) one of those weeks where I'm just tired -- and I seem to stay tired, no matter what I do. I don't think I'm actually sick, though it's the sort of thing where I could easily get sick. I've been trying to be good: drink less, go to bed earlier, that sort of thing.

I've also been trying to eat healthy, though admittedly this past weekend I cooked up A Whole Bunch Of Bacon, and I've been snacking on it ever since. So, y'know, not exactly unmitigated success on the healthy food front. There's also a weird feedback loop - what we used to call a vicious cycle - where the more tired I am, the more likely I am to eat crap food, and the more crap food I eat, the less likely I am to have the sort of energy I need...

I don't think I'm sick; I think it's a combination of things. The end of Daylight Savings Time means that it's suddenly very dark out, very early. The weather is weird -- it's mid-November, but it's sixty-eight degrees outside, and I sent the boys off to school in shorts this morning -- and that tends to throw my sinuses off. (And yeah, I have been pretty stuffy - I think I'm allergic to my workplace, or at least parts of it.) Some of it may be work-related stress, too: our whole department is still very much in a state of chaotic transition, and I'm still stuck in a weird position of having two bosses. (Which is kind of my own fault, but this wasn't how I intended for that move to shake out. Hindsight, though...)

So, with all that, naturally it's a busy week for both the Beautiful Wife and myself. Monday was gymnastics; we missed two different events yesterday night (book fair at Secondborn's school, something my wife was supposed to attend - oh, yeah, and there was going to be a mid-week DnD game, but that got cancelled). Tonight my wife has another event that she was supposed to attend, but the boys have more gymnastics and her parents can't cover it for us. (Which happens -- my in-laws are really great, but they do have their own lives and schedules and social activities, as they should.) Tomorrow night, one of our old college friends is in town and I'm going to try to get together with him for dinner; Beautiful Wife has cancelled out of that one, because we're just too close to the end of the semester. Oh, and Thanksgiving is coming up, after which Christmas is scheduled to fall on us like a ton of bricks.

Honestly, the only thing I can see to do it keep working my plan: little or no drinking, watch what (and how much) I'm eating, make sure I'm getting at least eight hours of sleep per night, and don't try to Get Things Done unless they're really necessary.

TL/DR: I'm tired, there is way too much going on, and I'm just going to take care of myself and cut my activities down to the essentials.

But before I go back to that, I'm going to add a piece of music here, because I think it really captures the spirit of the season:

Friday, November 10, 2017

Jandra

No, I don't need another writing project - and I'm not starting one. This is related to something else.

Jandra stands in the open door of her prison and watches the last traces of the greenish mist recede. She is hunched, old despite her relative few years. This place has aged her, sickened her, broken her. Far away, in the last shadows of the trees, she can hear the giants moving away towards the marsh beyond. She does not know what they are. They are a product of the mist, or a part of it, and like the mist they do not come to the strange, empty stone buildings here at the center of the trees. Jandra, for her part, does not leave the buildings when there is even the faintest hint of mist in the air.

Jandra fears the mist.

She does not know where it comes from, or why it avoids the derelict structures. She only knows that she is safe here, save that she must venture beyond the stone structures to gather food, firewood, anything she can scavenge. In the trees there are beasts that hunt, and carnivorous things that might be plants. These are dangers, but after years -- or longer? -- she knows them, knows their shapes and their smells and their ways. There are worse things in the marshes, and those she only knows in part. She does not venture into the marshes willingly.

The mist is something else. It comes when it would, lingers for hours or days, departs without warning. It brings things with it, things from marshes and perhaps from other places as well. It does not enter the rounded, lobed stone shapes of the buildings, but when it comes Jandra can only wait inside until it passes. Her world is tiny then, only a few paces across, with stone on all sides except for the open doorway, where the mist hangs in a filmy curtain.

Jandra has given up all hope of discovery or rescue. There is no one else here. Nobody is coming. There are only the structures, and the woods, and the mist, and the marshes beyond.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Owning a house is like

Firstborn, conversationally: "You know, I think having a house is like..."

Me, under my breath: "Hell. Purgatory. The abyss."

Firstborn: "Owning a giant baby that eats money."

Me: "Owning a giant baby that eats money."

Mommy: "Only you don't really own it, you only own like half of it."

Just make it a priority

A rant on Twitter:







Monday, November 6, 2017

Writing Progress

I am very, very definitely not doing NaNoWriMo this year. (I essentially never have; I honestly don't see how I could.) But I have been writing, and I am making some progress.

I currently have three projects on my mind. I'm not sure if that's how everybody does it, but I seem to make better progress if I can kind of rotate through them, or switch back and forth if I need to take a break from one of them. And despite all the well-meant writing advice in the world -- and there's an awful lot of writing advice in the world -- I've come the conclusion that actually the only correct way to write is to find what works for you and your current project(s), and do that. Whatever it is, do that. However much you can manage, do that. Everything else is a distraction.

So, the current projects:
  • The Chained Man - Bastion lives in servitude to his necromantic master, until a fatal mistake and a chance encounter cause him to question everything he thinks he knows. Dark fantasy with a bit of intrigue.
  • The Nameless Prince - (I really need a better title for this.) Somber, a foreigner and runaway who has taken shelter in the Patrol of the Imperial city of Dairilos, wakes up to discover that his newly-adopted city has fallen under a curse... a curse that is somehow connected to him. Dark fantasy, bordering on horror.
  • Random High Fantasy - (Yeah, this one also needs a better title.) As the youngest prince of Norguard, Devothin Farstrider spends his time with the hunters who protect the border kingdom from encroaching beasts and tribes of beastmen. When the High King calls for champions to protect his daughter as she makes a sacred pilgrimage to the lost temple, Devothin and his siblings are sent to answer the call. Hijinks ensue. High Fantasy, with an emphasis on magic as an aspect of divine favor.

I'm making the most progress on the Random High Fantasy project, I think because this is kind of my natural element. (Yes, that also means that in a lot of ways it's the most, um... generic? genre-ic? ...of the three, but I'm having fun writing it and I think it'll be fun to read. Devothin is unenthusiastic about being dragged into this quest, dubious about any prospect for the royalty of a provincial border kingdom to make an advantageous marriage with the High King's only daughter, and not overly impressed with the other groups of royalty who were also selected to accompany the princess. On top of that, the Shadow of the Princess (a sort of cross between bodyguard, assassin, and lady-in-waiting) seems to have taken a particular interest in him...

So, yeah: it's not much. (Well, maybe.) But it's progress, and that's not nothing.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Accursed Clock Resets

Daylight Savings Time begins this weekend, so if you're living in one of those areas afflicted by this hellish curse then you'll need to set your clocks back on Saturday night. As I understand it, those who set their clocks back will become part of the shambling hordes, roaming the streets in search of their lost sleep and/or coffee, while those who fail to set their clocks back will join the ranks of the panicked, fleeing civilians.

I'm not sure which is worse.

(I'm sure there are also preppers out there who have been adjusting their sleep schedules incrementally for the last week; if you are one of those people then please be aware that however much I may like you personally, I also cordially despise you.)

Good luck, everyone.

May the gods have mercy on our souls.

Annual Holiday Illness

Last year... last year wasn't so bad. But for several years previous to that, the holiday season - beginning now, just after Hallowe'en, and continuing until sometime after New Year's - has been an unbroken string of illnesses. It's almost a tradition, albeit one I'd be happy to be rid of.

And this year is off to an ominous start, since I've just spent the last two days being moderately sick, with a weird mix of nausea, headache, sore throat, low energy, and swollen lymph nodes in both my throat and my armpits. I'm back at work today because I kind of have to be, but ye gods I want this to go away.

I'm skipping NaNoWriMo again this year - I don't think I've ever seriously attempted it - but this means I'm also back at that wonderful time of the year when I go back to thinking about that End Of The World project. You know, the one that begins with all the plagues, and gets worse (and weirder) from there. I'm not going to try to work on it; that one's on hold. But boy howdy, it sure is on my mind.

On the plus side, I had a coronary calcium screening and a stress test recently (for a variety of reasons, mostly featuring family history and one weirdly unpleasant morning a couple of weeks ago) and the results were absolutely as good as I could have hoped: the scan showed essentially no calcium/blockage, and the stress test was (according to the doctor) "as close to perfect as I ever get to see". So whatever else may be afflicting me, my heart is still plenty healthy. So that, at least, was a relief.

2017 has been a beating, and we're coming into the holiday season (which is usually even more of a beating), so all of you please take care of yourselves and each other, and be sure you're getting enough food and water and keeping up with your medicines and exercise. You're important, you matter, and you deserve to be at your best.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Affordable Care Act Signup Begins Now

It’s on us to spread the word: You can #GetCovered starting November 1 at http://HealthCare.gov.

Hallowe'en Costumes: A Coda

Unfortunately, with my father's eyesight failing, this is probably the last year that he'll be able to do one of these elaborately constructed home-made costumes. It's the tragic end of a glorious era, that goes all the way back to my childhood.

No, really. Here's a picture of me and my brother, at about those same ages:

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

All Hallow's eve

So it begins. First, the boys get ready:

Secondborn has decided to be Squirtle this year:

And since he was a Squirtle, he decided that he definitely needed to have a water gun. I figured, "What could possibly go wrong?" soooo...

Firstborn, on the other hand, had elected to be a Transformer. Here, sans boy, is his costume:
The costume was designed and built by his grandfather, with help and input from Firstborn.

Here, sans costume, is the boy:

Here he is in robot mode, wearing the costume:

And, of course, the tank transforms:


Finally, here they are together:

The Beautiful Wife and I decided to be superheroes this year, so here we are:
(Picture courtesy of Firstborn.)

Happy Hallowe'en, everybody. Hope you all had as much fun as our kids did.

Halloween

This year - maybe the last two years, if I'm being honest - has/have just worn me out. Usually I'm pretty excited about Hallowe'en. I post music, talk about costumes, write little scare stories...
This year, I'm just not feeling it. It's not that I don't like the holiday, it's just that I don't have any emotional energy left to spend on it.

...And I guess that's not entirely true. I mean, my desktop background and my lock-screen image are both suitably spooky, and I've set out little toy monsters on the top of my desk. Back at the beginning of October, I took a giant tube of tiny little monsters and arranged them all over the office to puzzle and delight passers-by and fellow employees. And we have costumes for the boys, and I bought candy to hand out. So it's not like I haven't done anything to prepare. It's just...

I dunno. I'm tired, I'm still feeling kind of sick, my energy is very off-and-on, and everything I try to do (including work) seems to take twice as long as it should, run afoul of odd delays, or both. And the part where Hallowe'en falls on a Tuesday this year is just... ugh.

Nevertheless, for tonight I'll dig out a Batman costume, put on something spooky, and stand in the doorway and hand out candy. And the boys will go out with their mother and trick or treat, and it'll probably all be fun. I just wish I was more excited about it, y'know?

Music: My Boy

This one is outside my usual range of musical tastes, but it caught my ear so here you go. The artist is Billie Eilish:

Monday, October 30, 2017

Put It Back

I'm going to show my age for a minute here. (I'm also going to give slightly embarrassing evidence of the fact that I've been living in the D/FW Metroplex for waaaaay too long.)

Many, many years ago they started trying to expand US 75 as it passed through north Dallas and its suburbs. And it was, charitable, an unholy mess. Also many years ago, The Bo and Jim show was on a radio station called Q102, which was actually quite popular until it was eaten by something larger. And during this time period, Bo and Jim created a little song for their show about all that horrible construction on US 75. It was called, I believe, "Put it back." (Maybe that was just the refrain, but I'm pretty sure it was the title as well.) And the major theme of the song, or at least the part that sticks in my head, was a plea to just quit trying to work on 75 and put it back, because the people in Fort Worth are laughing at us.

Why am I telling you about this? Well, I just found out this morning that TXDoT is planning to close off a big whopping section of US 75 between November 11 and November 13. That's basically a Saturday morning until early Monday morning, assuming everything stays on schedule. That's less than two weeks out, and they're not just talking about narrowing it down to one or two lanes; they're planning to shut down the whole thing, from Renner Rd in Richardson to 15th Street in Plano. Which... is going to be a nightmare.

So I'm suddenly wondering if Bo and Jim still have that old song, and if it's going to turn out to be as evergreen as I think it might be.

Aging Parents and Planning

Had a conversation with my wife last night about my father and his eyesight. Despite being healthy as a particularly healthy horse in all other ways, he has macular degeneration resulting in extremely poor eyesight.

At the moment, this manageable. It means that he needs help with detail work (including such things as reading the bills so he can pay them) but he's managed to find a renter to live in one side of the house, and she helps him out with that. (I've done some of that myself, also, when we're over on weekends.) He has a sort of bicycle-sized electric tricycle that he can drive to the grocery store, so he can still do his own shopping. He's part of a reasonably active church community, and he has several family friends in the area. About the only thing he can't do is get to the liquor store; the nearest ones are too far away for the tricycle, and he feels awkward about asking the family friends to take him. (Before anybody asks: I took him on Saturday. And he drinks slowly, so he's set for probably the next year.)

But this isn't going to last, and I'm not sure what happens when it starts to fall apart. Of the nearby family friends, the husband in one couple has Alzheimer's, and it seems to be starting to get more acute. Another couple is still in very good shape, but that could always change suddenly; we just don't know. And my dad's eyesight wouldn't have to get too much worse before he wouldn't be able to get his own groceries anymore. Having the renter appears to be going brilliantly, but she might not be able to help him out the way he'll need it if his eyes really go.

The only problem is, we don't really have anywhere to put him. Our house isn't big enough; we don't have any spare rooms for that. My brother and his wife might have an extra room, but their house is arranged with all the bedrooms upstairs and I'm not sure that would work. But honestly, even if we had the perfect arrangement to move him into, I'm not sure he would want to move in with either of us.

There are some other possibilities, and I know we've talked over at least some of this with him. But I think it's time to discuss all this with him again. The thing is, I've been thinking that the current arrangement could probably last another three or four years... but I'm starting to think it may only really be manageable for another year or two. And that's a little scary.

There's another little coda to these thoughts, but I think I'm going to save that for the post-Hallowe'en post.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Animal Crackers

Animal crackers? There are no animal crackers. What do you mean, why are there no animal crackers? Well, I know perfectly well that neither of you boys would bring animal crackers into the living room, so clearly there has been some sort of perfectly-natural animal-cracker migration. In fact, clearly it turned into a stampede, and in the rush to escape the kitchen a great many animal crackers were crushed. How do I know this? Well, there are animal cracker body parts and stray crumbs all over the the living room floor, two of our blankets, and a small section of the couch. Clearly, there is only one conclusion that we can sensibly draw from the evidence before us, and that is that at some time this afternoon there was some sort of animal cracker migration that culminated in an animal cracker stampede.

Where are the animal crackers now? Why, I've no idea. No doubt some intrepid and determined future archaeologist will someday discover the Lost Graveyard Of The Animal Crackers, but today is not that day. And until that day, we simply have no way to know. I'm sorry to be the one to say it, but the animal crackers are simply... gone. They have burst their cages and escaped into the hinterlands. They will not return.

...Though I might get them out tomorrow night if people can remember not to eat them in the living room.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Ugh

So, I did that thing where I got some sleep, felt better, then stayed up writing. (Not real late, a little after midnight, but apparently I'm still not up to that.) So this morning I'm tired and shaky and ready to go right back to sleep for another ten or twelve hours. Emotionally, I feel a lot better because I actually did get some writing done; but physically, apparently I'm just not up to this. Not sure if that's just me getting old, or if I still haven't quite recovered from whatever's had me feeling bad for the last couple of weeks. Maybe both!

Anyway, hope everybody else is feeling far better than I am.

Monday, October 23, 2017

On Brevity

There comes a point in any writing project, no matter its purpose or subject, and regardless of its length or importance, where it seems that, despite all need for brevity and all desire for concision, the twin, driving needs of eloquence and comprehensibility uproot all good intentions and tear down any attempt at pithiness, leaving the author adrift in a sea of his or her own words, helpless on the tides of explanation, until at last they reach the shore of their thought and are cast loose onto a single sand-grain of punctuation; that sand-grain being, of course, the period that marks the end of the sentence.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Ideal Life

I'm trying to visualize the kind of life I'd like to be living - or at least retire into - and here's what I'm currently coming up with (in a real-world setting, so now Vast Supernatural Powers for this one):

I want to live in a castle, or at least a big stone house with a tower; the place should be reasonably isolated, with a lot of empty (and interesting!) landscape around it; however, it should also have electricity, indoor plumbing, reliable internet, and a truly excellent school system. With that as a sort of safe haven, I would also like to be able to visit a reasonably cosmopolitan area with lots of interesting restaurants and things to do.

Now, to make that possible, I need to either:
1. Win the lottery.
2. Inherit an unexpected windfall (possibly from a Nigerian prince).
3. Start robbing banks.

(Actually, some modest version of that might actually be possible eventually, even on our current income, but since I'm fantasizing I'd like to have it happen, y'know, now.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

It... might be quiet

Beautiful Wife is out of town for the remainder of the week. Fortunately, her parents are picking the boys up from school. That still leaves me handling the bedtime routine, though - right after, right after we got an email from one of Secondborn's teachers that he hasn't been doing his homework, and right after Firstborn's Orchestra teacher informed us that he'd be keeping a practice log that we needed to sign off on. So I added those to the evening schedule.

Last night went perfectly. We caught up most of Secondborn's homework; Firstborn did his music practice. Everybody ate. I ran laundry. I managed to shut off the TV and get them into bed with a minimum of arguing and without anybody going into a meltdown. But, well... that was only the first night.

Tomorrow night? When we have to do this all over again? Yeah, that's when the screaming is likely to start.

And you know, despite how unbelievably well the boys handled themselves, by eight o'clock last night I was tired down to my bones. Just exhausted. Enervated, even. Which... {shakes fist at sky} ...isn't how it's supposed to work.

I'd psyched myself up to not try to do anything except keep things running and get the boys down. Everything else could wait. But I would have loved to have squeezed in an extra half an hour of writing before I went to bed myself, even if it was only character sketches or making little vignettes of the world and some of its settings. Instead, I watched a few horror movie previews on Youtube (apparently that's something I do to relax) and then went to bed.

I think I'm going to promise myself that if I can just get through tonight, I get to play half an hour of one of my comfort games (like comfort reading, but a video game). Meanwhile... well, it's going to be a slow day and we're just going to have to muddle through.

Music: Smoke Signals

Phoebe Bridgers:

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Dear Diary: Still Missing

Year 331, Twelfth Age
Leaffall, Day 17

Dear Diary,

I saw Mrs. Puffblossom last night. She was spying on the house again, just like usual. Except... well, Diary, the thing is... Mrs. Puffblossom has been missing since the ghost possessed her. So it's not really Mrs. Puffblossom watching the house. It's the ghost.

I'm worried, Diary. I mean, bad enough that I called up a ghost strong enough to possess zombies and other people, but... now it's watching me. It wants something, and I don't know what.

I need to get the ghost out of Mrs. Puffblossom and dismiss it properly. It's not just for my own safety... but, I mean, it's not because I much care what happens to Mrs. Puffblossom, either. She's a nasty, gossiping old biddy and it's her own fault for trying to spy on us. But... if I'm going to be a necromancer, a real necromancer, this has to be how things work: the undead do as I command. I can't call them up and then have them running loose, or thinking that they're in charge.

So I'm going to do this. I'm going to figure out a way to track down this ghost, and I'm going to send it back beyond the Veil. Either that, or I'm going to bind it to a tree.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Cool Wind In My Hair

So we pulled into this weird hotel - hey, it'd been a long day, we were on a dark desert highway, and we had to stop for the night. If it hadn't been for those voices down the corridor, we probably would have stayed. Instead, we pulled over at a rest stop half a mile further on and slept in the can. I think that was the better choice, but I can't help wondering...



You want to write good fiction? Or tell good stories? Listen to songs. Find the ones that tell stories. Look at the way they pack their stories into just a few important words, how they rarify the essence of the tale and set it to music. It's not the only way, not the only thing, but if you're prone to Writing All The Words and Explaining Everything the way I am, it's surprisingly helpful.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Asking for what, exactly?

Tucker McCrady:
"I get pretty angry when someone suggests that women are 'asking for it' if they dress a certain way. And up until today, my outrage was mostly directed at the notion of “asking,” the notion that dressing a certain way is a request of any sort. People should feel free to dress however they want! But of course, our choice of dress does communicate things, and we all know that; we all have reasons for dressing one way on one day, and another on the next. Pretending otherwise isn’t quite exactly to the point.

"What is to the point, what really is outrageous, is the notion of 'it.' When people say women are 'asking for it' by dressing provocatively (whatever that means), the 'it' they are referring to is sexual harassment. Which, if you think about it, is saying that if you dress in a way so as to stimulate or invite sexual interest (which you are perfectly entitled to do), you are simultaneously asking to be sexually harassed...as though men just can’t be expected to worry their pretty little heads about the difference between sexual interest and sexual harassment.

"Which of course is the whole problem; men all too often don’t know or care what sexual harassment is, or at least not enough to not do it.

"If I ask for a pat on the back and turn so you can give me one, I suppose I am taking the risk that you might instead strike me so hard as to injure or even cripple me. But taking that risk is my business; if you do decide to crack my spine, it is beyond absurd to say that I asked for it. There is only one person to blame for an assault, a harassment, or even a professionally inappropriate expression of sexual interest that might be appropriate in another context. It’s the person who chooses to do it, not the person trying desperately to juggle risks in a screwed-up, misogynist world.

"So the next time someone refers to someone as 'asking for it,' ask them to clarify what 'it' means. My guess is they’ve probably never even thought about it."

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Superhero Bar Stories: Most Surprising Power

Made it rain frogs? The guy actually made it rain frogs? Okay, right, that's surprising. And honestly, I don't know if I can beat it. But the most surprising power I've ever run into personally, well...

Picture the scene: Midtown Bank, down on Fifth and Ocean - you know it? Good. Okay, so, this is about two years back. Made the news and everything; you can look it up in the morning.

It was a bank robbery, is what it was. About eight guys, most with pistols or shotguns, plus one idiot with a grenade launcher. Yes, to rob a bank. Classic M79 - no idea where he got it. Anyway, they stroll in wearing their ski masks, wave their guns around and start yelling for everybody to get down on the floor. Which is basically what happens, except that one of the tellers manages to kick the silent alarm. So by the time they've got the money and are starting for the door, the first police units are pulling up outside.

So the robbers change plans. They close the doors and decide that everybody who was in there is now a hostage. A couple of them go around to cover the sides and the back, make sure nobody's getting out or coming in. If I'd gotten there just two minutes earlier I could have walked right in unnoticed, but by the time I arrived the place was closed up tight. And it's a bank, so it's not like anybody's going to leave a window open on the second floor or anything.

Well, the police settle in for a hostage drama, and I settle in with them. Captain Amazing shows up too, but he doesn't want to bust through the wall or even the windows. Too much chance of hostages getting killed. So we wait, while the negotiators do their thing.

And we wait.

And we wait.

And finally the bank robbers start getting impatient, and grab one of the tellers, march her right up to the front door, and threaten to shoot her if the police won't meet their demands.

That's when he moved.

You know The Viper? Yeah, well... apparently he banks at Midtown, when he's not on the streets. He'd come in just before close of business, just before all this went down, and he'd been waiting with the rest of the hostages. But I'm looking in the windows from a nearby rooftop, and while everybody's attention is on the robber and the hostage at the door, I see this one guy at the back just kind of... shift... into the biggest freaking snake I have ever seen in my life. And he slips around the robber next to him and starts squeezing. And he's fast enough to do it before the guy can say anything, and after that it's too late: the guys being squeezed too tight to breathe, much less yell.

Maybe half a minute later he slides away. I can sort of see the other hostages reacting, but... well... giant freakin' anaconda. Most of them just freeze, or maybe scoot quietly away. Maybe some of them were wimpering, but it wasn't loud enough to give him away. So he comes up behind the next robber, and it's the same thing again: a lightning-fast strike, and then he's coiled around the guy. And that's it for that guy.

He's almost to the next one when the guy happens to look around. Maybe he heard something; I don't know. But he looks back, and the snake rears up and strikes. I don't think it even bit him, just slammed its head into him and punched him straight back into the wall.

At this point, there's only two of them left in the main room. The other three are watching the back and sides. Well, these two open fire, and...

Nothing. The giant snake is either bulletproof, or close enough to it. And it's fast. It flows across the floor like a river of evil scales, slaps one guy down with its tail, and coils around the other guy. The hostage? The teller they were threatening to kill? She finally starts screaming. Fortunately, she starts screaming and runs out the door. Which means the rest of us can get in. Which means the robbery is effectively over, because the remaining three perps are all in different areas, and all well away from the hostages.

I talked to the guy afterwards, once he was a guy again. Nice kid, just... sometimes he's a giant, super-powered snake. And that was the most surprising superpower I ever ran into.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Cold War-est Book Ever To War Coldly

So, my dad is sorting out old books (many of them from my childhood), which mainly means putting them in boxes and letting us go through them. Some of them are classics; some of them are odd. I mean, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is a respectable title for any childhood library. I discovered (and found that I had fond memories of) Danny Dunn on a Desert Island, and passed it along to Firstborn, who also enjoyed it. On the other hand, some of them are just... kind of creepy. I'm still baffled by The Lemming Condition, for example. And only marginally less creepy is today's selection:

The Rescue
A Novel by Elizabeth Faucher
Based on the Motion Picture Written by Jim Thomas & John Thomas

"Now A Major Motion Picture from Touchstone Pictures," the cover proclaims proudly, disdaining any sensible rules for capitalization. (I have no memory of such a Motion Picture ever existing, but I'm sure it did.) But the real wonder of this thing is the summary on the back. The book was apparently published in 1988, which puts it firmly in the same era as Iron Eagle, and... well... just read it:
Their fathers are locked up in a prison camp behind the Bamboo Curtain. Their government has decided that it's too risky to attempt a rescue mission - it could lead to war. So now it's up to the SEAL kids - J.J., Shawn, Adrian, Max, and Bobby - to rescue their fathers and bring them back to freedom and safety.
That's right, kids: it's your responsibility to Save America by doing Something Insanely Stupid That Might Actually Cause A War Heroic. Yeah.

You go right ahead with that.

Man, I grew up in a weird era.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Dear Diary: Camping

Year 331, Twelfth Age
Leaffall, Day 9

Deary Diary,

Well, I'm back. Dad decided that the whole family needed to go camping. Didn't even give us time to pack, just threw a few things in the cart and drove us out of town. And for NO REASON. The zombies were almost done cleaning up the house by the time Mom got home, and he didn't even stay around long enough to hear about Mrs. Fluffblossom next door.

Okay, so... I tried to summon a ghost back on Friday, and she trashed the house. Stupid ghost. So I called up a few zombies to help me clean up, which would have been fine except apparently the ghost wasn't gone yet. So the ghost kind of possessed one of my zombies and took off with it. In it. Whatever. And, of course, it staggered right past Mrs. Fluffblossom, who was probably trying to get close enough to see what all the noise had been without actually looking like she was spying on us. (She totally was, though.) So Mrs. Puffblossom starts screaming, and then the ghost steps out of the zombie and into her. So now the zombie is just standing out there on the sidewalk, and Possessed Mrs. Puffblossom goes racing off into town.

...And then Mom gets home and finds zombies cleaning her house. "Her" house, like none of the rest of us live there, right? But everything's pretty well put together, so mainly Mom's just yelling at me to get the zombies out of there, and then Gladwin walks in. She just looks around, says, "Huh," and then goes to her room and closes the door. Mom finally sits down at the kitchen table, and the zombies are finishing the last bits of cleanup, and that's when Dad walks in, looks around, and says: "Everybody in the cart. We're going camping."

Which... I can't even. Two days, Diary. Two days, in the woods, with my family. My face is sunburned, the back of my neck is one giant bug bite composed of many smaller bug bites, my ankles are itchy, my feet are sore, and my best black-and-red robe is torn up and stained with dirt and grass. They didn't even let me bring Fluffy, the one person in the family who might have actually enjoyed it. It's a good thing she doesn't need to eat, 'cause they just left her in the back yard. No crystal ball to watch my shows on, no mystic tomes to read. "Family time," Dad kept saying with a kind of manic gleam in his eye. "It'll be good for us. Get in the cart." So we're out there in the forest with nothing more than the clothes on our back, a deck of cards that's missing the Queen of Flames and the Jack of Shadows, and Mom keeps trying to get us to sing.

Necromancers don't sing, Diary.

Necromancers. Do. Not. Sing.

Not even if you tell them that they don't get to have cider with the rest of the family unless they sing. Not even then.

Then dad spends the rest of the time trying to get me to go out hunting with him. "Learn how to survive in the wild, son. There are roots and berries all through these woods, and if we can catch a couple of squirrels we'll have stew!" Yeah, no. I know Dad was a big deal in the outriders in his youth, and I know he wishes I could be more like him, but I'm not. And I've got more important things on my mind. I'd honestly prefer to just sit around the campsite and watch Gladwin play unwinnable games of solitaire.

Anyway, he finally did pack everything back up and take us back home, but... well, my weekend's gone, Diary.

The only upside was that I forgot to excant the zombies, so the house was really clean when we got back.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Dear Diary: Poltergeist

Year 331, Twelfth Age
Leaffall, Day 5

Dear Diary,

Well, I'm in trouble again. And this time, I have to admit that it's actually kind of my fault.

I'm still trying to figure out how to summon ghosts. Well, actually... summoning them isn't the hard part. Keeping them around is harder, and binding them to my service is much harder. So the one I summoned last night, pretty much at random? Well, she hung around. Mainly, she hung around smashing stuff.

She trashed the house. Yeah. The whole house. While I was skipping school. And I really need to get it cleaned up before my parents get home. That gives me a few hours, but... I'd better get started. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

A Potion To See The Fey

Honey and spices; three tears from a writer or singer (one will do, but three is better); equal portions of dawn and dusk; a splash of whiskey poured across a golden spoon; and your favorite childhood memory. Stir it only with your breath, and drink it only by moonlight.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Real Work Conversations: Nobody Wants It

Me: {Reading an email} "Seriously?"

My Boss: "What is it?"

Me: "This other department has sent over a list of items that they're getting rid of, in case anybody wants to claim them before they go to auction."

My Boss: "And?"

Me: {reading from the email} "As a note, none of the electrical items have power cables and the wireless mic/receivers are in an illegal bandwidth for US use."

Boss: "Seriously?"

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tweet-length Halloween Poem!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Dad Joke

Did you hear about the Yeti who went into business as a personal trainer?

Turns out he was surprisingly good at it. Did a lot of work with core strength and core endurance, helped a lot of people get fit and strong.

The called him the abdominable snowman.

ACA Enrollment Reminder

Enrollment for 2018 Affordable Care Act (ACA / Obamacare) starts November 1 and ends December 15. 45 reduced the ADVERTISING funds by 90% to announce when people can enroll.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dear Diary: Cutting Class

Year 331, Twelfth Age
Fading, Day 21

Dear Diary,

Mopeybeard's father brought him up to town today, so I skipped school to go hang out with them. Mopeybeard's dad didn't look too pleased about that. I think maybe he brought Mopeybeard during the week because he knew I'd be in school then. But he didn't say anything, he just glowered at me. So I hung around, and Mopeybeard made friends with Fluffy, and we actually had kind of a good time. I mean, we got to wander around the big market, and watch Mopeybeard's dad bargain with clothiers and rug-merchants and an alchemist. Apparently he sells the products of his forge up here, then buys stuff like that and takes it back down to resell in the Underhalls. I'll bet it works really well, too.

Anyway, after a while he let us wander off. Mopeybeard set up on a corner, singing and playing his lute, and actually got a bit of a crowd. (Even if they did keep saying things like, "Do you know anything more cheerful?") He sings really well, for a dwarf who's still too young to drink. And even if most of my people didn't properly appreciate him singing about how depressing it is to live in the dark all with a bunch of dwarves who spend all their time working, I really enjoyed it.

Then Mopeybeard's father came back and collected him again, so I went home. Mopeybeard would love to have me come visit, but I can't see in the dark (yet) and anyway there's no way my parents are going to approve a visit to the Underhalls. So I'm stuck here in Sunvalley, at least until I graduate. Or grow powerful enough to travel the roads of the dead. There's a thought. Anyway, it's going to be a while, however it finally works out.

When I got home, my dad gave me a long look, and then just said: "You owe Miss Gentlerain a page describing what you learned at the market today." Which tells me two things: first, that the illusion I tried to set so everyone would think I'd been at school all day didn't work. And second, that apparently the school just decided to go with it. I gotta say, that does make everybody's life easier. Which, since we're all treading ineluctably towards our inevitable deaths, seems like a pretty sensible idea.

Good night, diary. Tomorrow we'll try to summon a ghost again.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Real Work Conversations: IT

Co-worker: "So I've got this coupon for Alamo Drafthouse, and I was looking for something to go see. I was thinking about IT, but... then I was thinking, 'Do I really want to be eating while I'm watching IT?'"

Me: "You'll have to order root beer floats."

Co-worker: {Stops}
Co-worker: {Looks at me}

Monday, September 18, 2017

A retired supervillain walks into a bank...

An attempted bank robbery on Ceti Prime went awry this afternoon when the would-be robbers encountered the retired supervillain formerly known as Technocrat. Security sensors recorded the following dialogue...
"Ah, yes. That's a good-looking weapon, young man. Very threatening. Death ray, is it? Oh, a heat ray. Yes, that *is* impressive. Your own design? Excellent. I have high hopes for you, young man. High hopes. There's just one tiny little problem with it, but overall it's really a very good design. One doesn't usually see such devotion to craftsmanship these day. Problem? Did I say it had a problem? Oh, well, I suppose I did. When one gets to my age, one *does* tend to natter on. Oh, the problem! Quite right, quite right. Well, you see, it's a lovely little heat ray, and I'm quite sure it's capable of cutting me in half or slicing straight into the vault, but... well... I'm sorry to say that the quantum subconductor is empty. What? The battery, young man. Your weapon has a dead battery. And so, as a matter of fact, do all your friends' weapons. Shocking coincidence, I'm sure, no idea what could have caused it. Still, under the circumstances, I *do* think you should maybe run away now, before the Authority arrives, and let the rest of us be on about our business. Terribly good to have met you..."
Despite a planet-wide manhunt, neither the supervillain nor the would-be robbers have yet been found.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Dear Diary: Harder Than It Looks

Year 331, Twelfth Age
Fading, Day 17

Just a quick note, Diary: summoning ghosts? Waaaay harder than it looks. I mean, I managed to imbue my last zombie with a spark of actual creative intelligence; I didn't think a ghost would be much harder than that.

Turns out that ghosts are hard to conjure, and a lot harder to conjure in a way where they'll actually be able to hang around for more than a couple of moments.

Oh, well. All part of the research. I'll get it done sooner or later, hopefully before Midterms.

Friday, September 15, 2017

More Music: inFamous Second Son Rap

Secondborn found this one last night, and for a while there I wasn't sure I'd be able to get him off my computer again. It's a rap by JT Machinima, based on inFamous Second Son.(It'll make more sense if you're familiar with the video game.)

Music: Raining Stars

How about a bit of metal to finish out the week? The band is Lord of the Lost (featuring Formalin), and the song is called Raining Stars.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Dear Diary: Pets Are Therapeutic

Year 331, Twelfth Age
Fading, Day 14

Dear diary,

So Mom thinks I ought to get a puppy, "like a normal boy". Yeah, she actually said that.

But it turned out to be a good idea.

I mean, yeah, Fluffy is another zombie and now my mom won't let her into the house. (Have I mentioned that adults make no sense? Adults make no sense.) But she's cute, she's obedient, and she's completely loyal to me. I need to get my own place so she can sleep on the bed with me at night.

Gladwin (That's my sister. Not sure if I mentioned her name before.) thinks it's weird that I'd rather have a dead dog than a live one, but once I pointed out that Fluffy doesn't pee on everything and won't dig up the yard unless I tell her to, she was a lot more reasonable about it. And my dad just shook his head and looked sad.

No, Mom's the real problem, even though this whole thing was her idea. I wish she could just be proud of me, for once.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Music: No Matter What Goes Right

Today, in the category of "Songs That Make Me Think Of my Beautiful Wife", I offer this one from Trout Fishing In America:

Ye gods, I can't believe we all got through yesterday. That was a very long day.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hero's Journey, Virgin's Promise, and story structures

Okay, confession time:
I've always been kind of dubious about just how "Universal" the Hero's Journey really is. It's usually introduced (to me, anyway) as "Joseph Campbell claimed that all the great stories follow this pattern," but it seems to me that it's actually more "all the stories that Joseph Campbell really enjoyed follow this pattern." And it seems to me that it's a pattern that's very much grounded in what we might call Western Civilization, and to some extent in Western concepts of masculinity.

More importantly, though, it seems to me that The Hero's Journey is mainly just a template for a certain kind of Coming Of Age story. It doesn't, for example, work anywhere near as well if your "hero" is a forty-year-old man. (That's not to say that it can't be done, just that doing so requires a fundamental subversion of the original template.) For Luke Skywalker, it works fine. For a superhero origin story, it works fine. But for a character who's already established as capable and empowered, it really doesn't fit; it's not, for example, a pattern that fits well for Conan the Barbarian, or any of the Die Hard movies. And it doesn't even always work for superheroes; I re-watched The Incredibles recently, and Mr. Incredible is *so* very clearly following a Heroine's Journey/Virgin's Promise story arc. (Talk about your Price of Conformity. Sheesh.)

But the Virgin's Promise/Prince's Journey/Heroine's Journey template seems in some ways even more universal than the Hero's Journey ever was. If the Hero's Journey is fundamentally a pattern for a Coming Of Age story, the Heroine's Journey seems to work for almost any story where the protagonist is struggling against all the forces (in ourselves and/or others) that want to preserve the Status Quo and resist change.

...Which is a struggle that you can have at any age, and in a great many different environments. That doesn't mean it's universal. It's probably not going to work for a story where, say, the primary structure is built around learning enough about the monster that's eating people to either kill it, or at least successfully escape. And while it could be a single character's arc in some sort of team setup (I'm thinking of Leverage, or X-men as examples) the overall show is going to have a different setup and different story beats.

So I'm increasingly suspicious that "universal" story structures are actually just common patterns for particular kinds of stories, and that there are probably a lot more of these patterns than the two I've looked at so far, *and* that some stories may start with one template and then slide (with varying degrees of success) into another.

Friday, September 8, 2017

No, that kids book isn't creepy at all

So, I was at my father's house and he was unloading a bunch of books from back in my childhood. In the course of sorting through to see which, if any, the boys might like, I found this:

The Lemming Condition
by Alan Arkin
I have no memory of every reading this book. I mean, I might have read it, but if so I either long since forgot about it, or I blocked it out of my mind completely. So when I found it, I promptly flipped it over to read the back, and... well...
I... I just... I don't even... I mean, the thing about lemmings running off the cliff is a myth, but if I ignore that... who thought this book would be a good idea? I can't imagine.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Dear Diary: Cooking Class

Year 331, Twelfth Age
Highsun, Day 28

Dear diary,

Well, that was a disaster. They didn't even let me finish the rest of my school day. In-school suspension... and then, a full suspension when

I guess I should start at the beginning, Diary. That's usually how these things are done. So...

I made myself an undead servitor to help me pass Cooking class. It was an incredible success, not that you'd know it from the way everyone reacted. I found the grave of Elvar Glorion, the greatest Halfling chef ever to live in Warmspring, and called him back. I got the full body. I mean, he was still dead, of course, but he wasn't even decayed -- just a little emaciated. And more importantly, I conjured back that critical spark of his spirit, that allowed his reanimated corpse to cook!

Nobody even seemed to notice, at first. Laurel Twinblossom asked me if I'd brought my uncle to school, but that was about it. But then, while he was cooking, Disbell Windhorn got close enough to really look at his face and started yelling about how I had a dead guy in the classroom. Okay, yeah, he wasn't wrong, but did he really need to freak out like that? And then Mrs. Dawnpetal fainted, and somebody ran off to tell the principal, and... it didn't get any better from there.

At first, Principal Brightstream was threatening me with legal action for having a corpse around food preparation. I pointed out that the corpse was properly raised and therefore completely preserved against decay -- no self-respecting necromancer is going to create zombies that actually rot -- but he just kept repeating "A corpse. Around food." Then I pointed out that the corpse was also a famous chef, but apparently that doesn't make any difference. Then I wondered out loud what it would do to the reputation of the school if people learned that we had corpses roaming the halls and preparing second breakfasts, and finally Principal Brightstream decided that maybe we'd better not mention this to anyone. Which, y'know what? Fine. Whatever.

Unfortunately, Secretary Brightbottom had already whispered my dad. So halfway through my day of in-school suspension, he shows up demanding to know what's going on and what I've done this time. And since I refuse to return Chef Glorion to the earth, the principal decides that maybe I need more time with my dad, and changes my in-school suspension to three days of regular suspension! Which makes no sense. I mean, if I'd released him there they'd just have had to clean up a corpse in the detention hall, plus I'd still be failing Cooking class. Adults make no sense, diary. I'm just going to go back and underline that.

ADULTS MAKE NO SENSE.

It's fine. I'm fine. I'll just have to try something else. Not with Chef Glorion; he's done his best for me.

No, next time I'm just going to get a ghost instead.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Some Poems Rhyme

So... Secondborn came and pulled me away from the computer and all the way into Firstborn's room, so he could repeat a poem to me. It went like this:
Poppies are red
Bluebonnets are blue
Some poems rhyme
But this one sucks
He didn't make it up himself, of course. Apparently he got it from a Minecraft/Walking Dead crossover that he was watching through my Amazon account. Still funny, though.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Two Kinds of... wait, what?

Etiquette for Elevators

1. Anyone getting off the elevator has the right of way. Let them out, then get on.

2. Shift around. Mutter to yourself about things like "you know they're made of meat" or "listening, always listening" or "the voices never stop" or "salt in the wounds adds flavor".

3. If you have luggage, keep it tucked out of the way behind you, preferably in a corner.

4. If the trip is more than three floors, punch an extra button; then look expectantly out the door when you reach that floor. Say things like, "Oh, don't mind him. He's just an old softie. Just scoot over a little bit to leave room for his tail."

5. If there are children on the elevator, look at them suspiciously, then put a finger to your lips.

6. Brood.

7. Be sure to inform your fellow passengers that these elevators always have cameras.

8. Do not make eye contact; that would be rude.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Game of Golf.

I can't be the only person who thinks that not only is Golf kind of its own special language, but that it's almost entirely made up, right? Right?

Oh, you want an example? All right. "The green on this hole is very receptive." What does that even mean? Am I trying to proposition it at a cocktail party or something? Why would you even say that about what I assume is a well-groomed stretch of grass?

"Usually this is a mid-iron shot with a bunker on the left and a bunker behind the green..." Should I be worried about machine gun fire? Do I need to elbow-crawl towards my next shot? What is going on here???

"This week's game will be a 4-Person Team Championship Stroke Play." WHY DOES ALL THIS SOUND LIKE SOME KIND OF THINLY VEILED EUPHEMISM? WHY???

Oh, right. Probably because it was invented by the Scots.

Anyway, as far as I can tell, here's how you play golf.

Step One: There's a little white ball. Set it on the ground, then hit it with the metal stick. The ball will going flying off into some wildly unlikely location, including such possibilities as Off In The Trees Where You Will Never Find It, In The Deep Grass With The Snakes, or At The Bottom Of A Pool Of Mucky Water That Some Idiot Left Lying Around.

Step Two: Drink beer.

Step Three: Walk to the edge of the area where your ball disappeared. Set a new ball on the ground and pretend that it is absolutely, without question, exactly the same ball that disappeared a few moments ago. If your companions question this, offer them more beer. Hit the new ball with the metal stick, and watch your new ball disappear to some new but equally idiotic location which might as well be the bottom of the Marianas Trench.

Step Four: Drink more beer.

Step Five: Repeat Steps Three and Four until one of your balls miraculously lands near the hole. Tap the ball into the hole. Be gentle. Be graceful. Above all, do not let anyone know how drunk you are already.

Step Six: Drink more beer.

Step Seven: Move to the next hole, and repeat this process.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Dear Diary: School Is No Place For A Necromancer

Year 331, Twelfth Age
Highsun, Day 21

Dear diary,

My father's mad at me again. It's school, of course. My report scroll came home.

Okay, so I'm behind in Advanced Treasure Counting and I'm failing Cooking. Oh, and Coach is threatening to hold me back if I don't at least start hitting the targets when we practice throwing. I mean, yeah. I guess I can see why he'd be mad. But it's not like asked to go to school.

"You're the smartest kind in your class! You could do this easily if you'd just apply yourself!" Well, yeah, but that's sort of my point. Cooking and Treasure Counting? My intellect and my time could be spent on far more important things. There are ancient books out there, just full of forbidden knowledge and waiting for me unlock their secrets. Instead, I'm staring at a pan full of scrambled eggs and wondering if I could reanimate them into some sort of oregano-flavored undead slime-monster.

But when I try to explain about how nothing we're learning in school is truly important, Dad just gets this look on his face like... like he really wants to start screaming at me but doesn't think it'll do any good. He won't listen.

I give up.

I guess I could start hitting things for Coach. I mean, I hate him. All he does is shout a lot and lecture us on how important sports are and how they Prepare You For Life. (Can you imagine, diary? I'm trying to explore the fathomless secrets of Death itself, he thinks sports will prepare me for life?) But I could do it. And the treasure stuff is pretty easy, when I pay attention. Some of the stuff with the interest and the economics is even kind of interesting.

But there's no way I'm ever going to be a decent cook. Maybe I could create some kind of undead servitor to do my cooking projects for me? There's an idea.

Later, dear diary. I have to go do research.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

I hate this time of year.

We're into our second week of school for the Beautiful Wife and both boys, and naturally we're sick. (Firstborn appears to be the lone exception.) Fortunately, we're not badly sick -- I took Monday afternoon off, but made it all the way through Tuesday, if only barely -- but this is a lot more sick than I'd like to be. Especially since I'd like to be, well, Not Sick At All.

But, no: headache, low energy, irritability, occasional chills, inability to concentrate... blech. At least I'm not sick to my stomach anymore; that was what did me in on Monday. But I can feel the swollen lymph nodes in my throat, and they are not happy.

The worst part, though, is that the Beautiful Wife and I are both just demoralized. And I'm pretty sure it's less of a rational assessment, or even a reaction to being sick, than it is a direct result of being sick itself. But it's just... Ugh. I feel useless. And wasted. And stuck. It's like we've come down with an emotional head cold as well as a physical one. I feel like... I feel like I'm never going to do the things I really want to do.

And then I think about the boys sleeping in the next room, and I know that can't be right. I'm already doing the things I really want to do. This is the life I want. And yeah, there are some things which aren't developing the way I'd like, or anywhere near as fast as I'd like, but I'm pretty sure that shouldn't fill me with this weird existential combination of dread and despair.

The boys are actually doing okay. Secondborn was sick to his stomach back on Sunday (just as I was on Monday), but he managed to go to school and seems to be doing fine; Firstborn continues to watch YouTube videos while walking on the treadmill at every opportunity. He laughs in the face of illness. He, too, seems to be handling his first week of school (and his first year of Middle School - he's in sixth grade now) pretty well.

So, again: rational analysis suggests that things are actually going well, if not perfectly. But... well... just try telling that to my feelings...

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Scam I Can Get Behind

It occurs to me that if I'm ever going to go into - ahem - "business" as a scammer, I really need to come up with a scam I can deliver convincingly... or at least enthusiastic. And I think the "Spellcasting Miracle Worker" scam might be just the thing. I mean, I probably wouldn't be that convincing, but... well, look at this thing that showed up in my comments:
My names is Cathy i want to testify about the great spell caster called Scammer Amuck my husband and i have been married or 5 years now we don't have a child and the doctor told us i can't give birth because my womb have been damaged due to wrong drugs prescription this got me so worried and my husband was not happy so he decided to get married to another girl and divorce me i was so sad i told my friend about it she told me about a powerful spell caster she gave me his email address well i never believe in it that much though i just decided to give him a try and he told me it will take 24hrs to get my husband back to me and i will get pregnant i doubted him the 3rd day my husband came back to me and was crying he said he didn't want the divorce anymore 3 weeks after the doctor confirmed that i was pregnant he can also help you Email him at spellcastingscammer@somegenerichost.com or spellcastingscammer@equallygenericemailhost.com
I mean, convincing is probably pushing things a bit, but I could deliver a pitch like that with maniacal, hyperbolic enthusiasm. That'd be close enough, right? And as a special bonus, I'd throw in some punctuation.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Witchcraft in Pre-History

Ladies and Gentlemen, it turns out that Witchcraft has a much longer history than anyone previously realized. We now have photographic evidence that our earliest mammalian ancestors learned to worship the Goddess from actual dinosaurs! Behold:

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Ballad of Grimbad Willowisp, Halfling Necromancer

Year 331, Twelfth Age
Highsun, Day 14

Dear diary,

It's been three months since I took the name Grimbad Willowisp and swore myself to the study of darkness and death, and my parents are still in denial about it. My mother keeps telling the neighbors that I'm studying to be a wizard, which I guess is sort of true. But she can't even bring herself to say the word "necromancer", even though I've done everything I can to make it obvious: black robes with red trim, black eyeliner, grim expressions... Seriously, she can't think she's fooling anybody, can she?

And my father's even worse. He's started making a point of calling me by my full birth-name, Grinbroad Willowsend. I tried telling him that my name is Grimbad Willowisp now, but he just shook his head and said, "No it isn't." Can you believe it, diary? Neither could I. I became Grimbad Willowisp when I became a necromancer, but just try telling my dad that.

My sister is just as bad, but at least she keeps the other kids off me. After Merrybloom Rosewine made fun of my clothing and then mysteriously lost her homework on the way to school for three days straight, everybody leaves me alone. That's fine with me. And it's not like I don't have friends. I mean, yeah, Mopeybeard is a dwarf, but he's really good with his lute and his songs about how his father doesn't understand him and he just doesn't fit in in the Deep Halls make me feel like maybe I'm not the only one, you know?

They just don't get it. We spend our lives speeding towards death. How can you ignore that? How can you not want to know everything there is to know about it? But they don't. They're too busy worrying about what's for lunch. They'll never understand me.

It's just you and me, diary. And Mopeybeard, when his father brings him up to town.

Yeah.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Memento Mori

So, a little over a year after my mom died, my dad is cleaning out her stuff. (He's looking at renting out one side of the house, partly for income but mainly so that someone who doesn't have the same eyesight trouble can help him sort through mail and pay bills.) This is, I think, a good and healthy thing.

It is, however, turning up some odd mementos. I'll probably talk about some of the others later, as many of them relate to my childhood. For today, I'll simply remind you that I don't talk to anti-vaxxers for the simple reason that I go straight to blinding rage in about seven seconds flat. The reason for the rage? Here:

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Boys & DnD, Session 6

I was going to say that this was another short session, but actually these under-an-hour-and-a-half games seem to be about ideal for us as a family.

If you're coming in late, we have:
Firstborn, playing an Elf Druid/Barbarian (2/2) and his animal companion, a viper.
Secondborn, who is playing a Human Ranger/Rogue (2/2) with a focus on archery.
Beautiful Wife, who is playing a Halfling Sorceress (4) and her familiar owl.

They have been sent to investigate a mysterious dungeon, which was discovered when a section of ground caved in near one of the outlying farms around their woodland town. As Patrollers (i.e. guards who protect the homes outside the city walls) their assignment was to find out what was scaring the family of half-elves nearest the dungeon entrance; it turned out to be a group of goblins which had snuck out and raided the chicken coop. After killing off the goblins on the top level, they found a circular ramp leading down to another, deeper level which was dimly lit by some sort of phosphorescent lichen growning in the cracks between the stone blocks of the walls, floor, and ceiling. They discovered something that had probably once been a temple but which was now infested with giant spiders, fought off a band of goblins led by an ill-fated hobgoblin, and went back to town to report.

Upon their return, they discovered a skeletal owlbear guarding the bottom of the ramp, and defeated it reasonably handily. Further explorations led them to a large room in which the goblins had evidently grown a village out of giant mushrooms. The group decided to bypass the village, and went down another passage instead.

Today, we picked up at the far end of the passage, where a battle - or at least a skirmish - was already in progress. A trio of goblins were facing off against three skeletons and a ghoul. Firstborn and Beautiful Wife decided to hang back and watch, but Secondborn snuck forward along the wall.

The goblin the center of the room turned out to be a spellcaster, and blasted the ghoul with a Magic Missile. That left the two goblin fighters squaring off against the (human-sized) skeletons; they exchanged blows, with the goblins taking some damage but destroying two of the skeletons. Secondborn chose that moment to step in and attack the remaining skeleton, and destroyed it.

That left our three heroes staring awkwardly at the three badly-startled goblins.

Two of the goblins moved to position themselves where they could watch the far hallway (the one the undead had evidently emerged from) and the hallway the characters had come down at the same time. Beautiful Wife and Firstborn stepped back to one side of the hallway, and the third goblin (seeing his way clear) ran past them and back in the direction of the goblin village.

"Well," observed Firstborn. "This is awkward."

The goblin wizard said, in bad-goblin-voice but in the Common tongue, "What you do here?"

"Exploring," said Firstborn, and Beautiful Wife immediately agreed: "Exploring."

"Exploring?" asked the goblin wizard dubiously.

"Yes. Exploring."

"You killed mushroom farmers."

Beautiful Wife answers this one: "They stole our chickens."

The goblin wizard kind of grunts at that, but he doesn't seem offended.

At this point, the goblin fighter returns with reinforcements: three other goblins and a hobgoblin. Beautiful Wife and Firstbon step into the room, staying out of their way, and the whole crowd stops just inside the doorway. They seem puzzled that nobody's fighting. The hobgoblin says something, and the goblin wizard translates: "Chief Grok wants to know what you do here."

Firstborn repeats his line about exploring, the goblins have a quick exchange, and then the goblin wizard says, "Chief Grok says you trespassing."

Firstborn replies, "...It's a valid point."

After a little more consideration, he offers: "Maybe we could make a deal? We stay on the surface, and you stay down here?"

The goblin wizard passes that along, and the hobgoblin thinks about it and then replies. "Chief Grok says that good."

At this point, the goblins and their chief are all just kind of standing around looking at our heroes, like they're just waiting for them to leave. Firstborn, though, says: "...And maybe we could say that if one group needs help, they could come and ask the other?"

"Wait, we're making alliances with the goblins now?" asks Beautiful Wife.

Firstborn, bless him, just shrugs.

"Chief Grok thinks that good idea," says the goblin wizard.

At this point, the characters decide that it's definitely time to troop back up to the surface and report in, so they move past the goblins and head for the ramp.

Folks, this is going to make the next stage of the campaign so much easier. I honestly hadn't expected our heroes to parley with the goblins; I thought they'd probably jump into the middle of the fight and kill everything. But since they have, and with some degree of success, my plan to get them back down into the dungeon was to have one of the goblins come up and ask the for help. (The goblins, as you may have surmised, have a reasonably serious undead problem.) But Firstborn has conveniently gone right ahead and boldly laid down the groundwork for that, which will make things so much easier.