Category Archives: Personal

Lost and Won

LOST: My travel mug, while we were in Indianapolis. It was the first night, when I had pizza at the hotel restaurant and took some of it back upstairs. They gave me a massive box, way larger than I needed (it would have been big even if I’d had the full pizza) and maneuvering it around, stopping to read for a bit … well somewhere on the way I focused on the box and forgot the cup.

Which wouldn’t have been so bad except I cannot handle drinking tea from styrofoam. It’s horribly acidic, and makes my stomach miserable. I went on a mall hunt for a substitute mug, but to my surprise couldn’t find one. Finally I settled for the hotel Starbucks and shelled out $20. Way overpriced! However it met the need, and I must say it’s a good mug, both for keeping the tea warm and for not leaking when I tip it to drink.

WON: Okay, the team I played with for Culture Quest, “The Standard Deviants,” did not actually win the contest. But they announced at the AG came in eighth, the best we’ve ever done, and that’s pretty damn impressive (to me, anyway). I’m very pleased with us. And even though I go to hang out with Courtney, not to actually win, I certainly don’t object.

To celebrate the near-win, here’s a Bob Abbett book cover. No connection to tea or Mensa, I just like it — simple, but interesting.

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The merits of taking a break

Okay, not as drastic as proclaiming “Spider-Man … No More!” (art courtesy of the great John Romita), but our vacation last week just reminded me how important not working is. At least for me.

Even though I love what I do, it still takes on a treadmill overtone over time. Get up. Write with dogs sitting next to me. Repeat the next day. And because I spend a lot of evenings and weekends sitting in the living room with the dogs and TYG, sometimes it all blends together — I feel like I’m always just sitting with dogs. And even though I love them, that gets oddly draining.

Doing something different scrubs my mind clean. I’m able to think more clearly, imagine doing things differently, plus of course just being refreshed from the break. These are good things. While the week got slightly crazy for other reasons, I’m way more refreshed and ready to work than if I’d stuck around last week.

Even small breaks make a difference. Working at the paper, it was easy to tell myself “I’m so close to finishing, I’ll just skip lunch break, keep working, get a little ahead for tomorrow.” I ended up with my brain futzed. Doing something different, even if it’s just sitting and reading over lunch, is amazingly refreshing.

It will wear off eventually, but eventually we’ll go somewhere else. And I’m trying to think of ways to do more types of different things on the weekend, so it doesn’t feel all of a piece with the work week.

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Indiana wants me, but I can’t go back there … oh, wait, yes I can

(Title courtesy of the R. Dean Taylor song).

One thing TYG and I love doing on our Mensa trips is visiting zoos, aquariums, anything of the sort. And wouldn’t you know, the Indianapolis Zoo was located within a mile of our hotel. A very hot mile, but it was worth it. We caught the morning dolphin show (later we found a room offering a view from under the water), saw a cage full of macaws (didn’t photograph well, alas) and a colony of meerkats and hydrated a lot. Like I said, hot.

I thought this bear was a small bear. Then I got close and realized how much of him was in the water.

The flock of helmeted guinea fowl were a hoot as they clucked at us. That’s a crowned crane in the background.

There’s an orang-utan house with several apes. We got to watch one of them practice identifying symbols on the computer. It did pretty well. Below, a mother and child clown around.

Gila monster!

Cheetah!

Lion fish!

And seal! Regrettably I didn’t photograph the walrus exhibit.

One moment of comedy was when a kid next to us informed his mother very seriously that he’d counted the rhino butts and there were definitely three of them in the exhibit.

It was definitely worth getting hot and exhausted for.

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Indianapolis Mensa gathering: the basic economy trap!

So Monday we arrived at the Raleigh Airport and discovered we’d booked our flight basic economy. This is a low-cost, low-service option designed to wean travelers away from bargain airlines. But airlines and travel sites don’t emphasize the drawbacks (only one bag on board) or alert you, so we arrived and learned we’d have to pay to check our third and fourth bag. No upgrades possible (I’m surprised, as airlines make a packet that way). And TYG has another trip we made the same mistake on — but next time we book, we won’t be so foolish.

We arrived in Philadelphia for our plane change, and it was surprisingly compact. Narrower aisles and the gate was just a desk inside the bar/restaurant above (which isn’t a bad idea). A few hours later we made it into Indianapolis, then to the hotel (the big blue slab).

As usual the highlight of the trip was hanging out with friends. Lots of Mensans I know from Florida, or who’ve moved away from Florida, or whom I know just from annual gatherings. Wednesday, the first day of the gathering, I was pretty much social-whirling for the entire day, catching up with people, going out to dinner, chatting with strangers in the line at Starbucks (there was a Church of God in Christ convention the same weekend. Starbucks was packed). The next couple of days I still socialized but gave myself a little time to sit and read — now that I’m accustomed to spending most of the day with nobody but the pups, constant people sometimes felt overwhelming. TYG got out and hung too, though she’s less of a social butterfly than me.

I also explored the area: a skywalk connects the hotel to the convention center to the mall and beyond. Made for a lot of walking.

I didn’t do much in the games room but my friend Zarya convinced me to play a round of Azul, a new tile-based game. It was a lot of fun. And I couldn’t resist the bestseller covers-jigsaw above.

I attended several presentations, although I didn’t give one — I’d applied but the new scoring system shot me down (no idea why). I did have the pleasure of getting several “You’re not presenting? But I love your presentations!” compliments when people found out. The good ones included one on tombstones and art; one on the Green Book used by black motorists for a chunk of the last century; and a Roma college professor who’s written a book about her people (TYG picked it up). A couple of others were dull enough I walked out. I won’t name names.

Hospitality, despite the excellent company, was piss-poor. No vegan alternatives according to one of the other attendees, and the vegetarian alternatives, except for a good hamburger, were uninspired. The pasta with marinara sauce? It was pasta with the tiniest possible streaks of sauce dabbed on. Seeing as we only had lunch and breakfast served (a new thing, IIRC) I think they could have done better — vegetarianism aside, the food was bland. I know it’s cafeteria food at these things, but how about a better cafeteria?

Fortunately there were excellent restaurants in the hotel and around the area, so we spent quite a bit of money enjoying them. Below, some decorations at one of the Italian places (we ate a lot of Italian).

TYG and I also spent a lot of time just reading in bed (yes, reading). With her crazy schedule and the dogs to take care of, we rarely get to spend an evening doing that the way we used to.

Sunday we left early so we could pick up the dogs before the vet closed. Much as I enjoyed the break, it’s good to have them with us again.

#SFWApro.

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My vacation has given me the secret to best-seller status

So as I mentioned Friday, I spent last week with TYG attending the annual Mensa gathering. And it hit me late in the week: John Scalzi devotes blog posts to photos from his hotel room windows. John Scalzi is a best-selling SF novelist. So if I show photos of the view from my hotel … QED, am I right?

And besides I didn’t have time to get anything else about our trip written up, so—

First,sunset

Next, a day view

And a view of some of the roofs below.

Here’s a view of a rainy Indianapolis street, just because I think it’s a good photo

Tomorrow, some actual blogging about the trip, plus more photos.

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Squirrels are the very devil

By the middle of the week, we had three almost ripe tomatoes in TYG’s container garden. We had some green tomatoes that looked like they’d be big and plump enough for fried green tomatoes this weekend (I’ve never made them but TYG’s keen on me trying).

We had one of the red ones and it was perfect.

The squirrels got the other two red ones. And the green ones. And by “got” I don’t mean ate — they yank them off the vine, and then just leave them uneaten. Apparently they don’t learn that they’re inedible, or forget, or the sheer number of squirrels means there’s always one who doesn’t know she won’t like them.

We knew this from past summers. TYG got some metal netting, but it wasn’t easy to work with so we just gave up. I tried moving the plants into the center of the deck, figuring that maybe the squirrels wouldn’t take them if they had to climb off the fence. I was wrong.

Next year, I shall start figuring how to tomato-block the squirrels well in advance of the planting. The tomatoes will be ours!

This year, not so much.

Bummer.

At least the bird feeder’s squirrel proof.

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This week seemed to have such promise

I was really optimistic about this week. Next round of Leaf articles hasn’t started yet, Screen Rant is done, I had time to focus on my personal projects.

But TYG was doing a lot of stuff this week that required concentration. And Plush Dog, for whatever reason, was needy. Actively needy, constantly trying to climb on her computer or barking for attention. So I wound up running interference, plus putting in a lot of extra dog walking. The time added up. Plus I was freaking out over some of the political news. It can’t be helped at times, but it’s not productive. I wound up several hours behind my quota for the week.

So what did I get done?

I finished a second draft of Only the Lonely Can Slay. Relocating the action to my old home town really sharpened the setting, and the dramatic arc improved some. However that’s a long way from saying it has a good arc. It’s trickier because I don’t want my protagonist to know exactly what she’s involved in, even when it’s all over. So we’ll see.

I thought a little about the rewrite of No One Can Slay Her but didn’t actually put any words to paper. I did make more progress on the final draft of Southern Discomfort. I’ve gone over four out of the 12 stories in the draft paperback of Atoms for Peace and edited them, though I haven’t made the corrections in the manuscript on my computer. That matters because some of the notes are just “sentence doesn’t work, fix it” when the correction is more than just a word or something concise.

I did not come anywhere near close my 1,000 words a day goal. Come July with no Screen Rant deadlines to make, it should be doable. And I will make it a priority.

I did draft a query for Space Invaders for McFarland but held off submitting it. There’s a couple of markets I’d like to look at first. Next month, one way or the other, it goes out.

Oh, and as noted this morning, I started making some upgrades to this blog. Hopefully that will prove worthwhile. It may be telling that I think of this as a blog first — but when I visit other author’s websites, I usually go to the blog first. After all, it’s the only part that’s likely to provide anything new.

And I also posted an in-depth review of The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse on Atomic Junkshop.

Subject to a couple of personal goals I hope to accomplish tomorrow, I got a little over 50 percent of my June goals go (the crazy schedule this week put paid to a couple of routine things I normally accomplish in the morning).

On the food front, we ate the first of the tomatoes TYG has been growing in the back, along with the herbs. Unfortunately the local squirrels pulled about twice that number off the plants — they don’t eat them, they just bite into them and leave them. Pure spite.

And we took the dogs to get groomed Wednesday. Plushie’s tail was so matted they had to shave it completely, leaving what looks like a little pig’s tail. Packs quite a wallop when he beats it on us.

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I will try to avoid making anyone’s eyes bleed

So Thursday I upgraded to a paid WordPress plan. This has several features (no ads!) that I think will be useful, plus I got my own domain name.

But I’m also trying to find a different look for the blog. Different background. Different header (the one I want to upload requires some work on the image I haven’t been able to accomplish). Maybe different layout, though this one works quite well.

So the look may be randomly changing as I try styles, decide they don’t work, and try something new. Don’t be surprised. Hopefully I won’t pick anything so garish or awful y’all will just avoid it altogether. But even if all my picks are tasteful, I figured I should let people know. Feedback is welcome.

Below, one shot of Trixie with a little forelock she developed in the past couple of weeks (unfortunately Wednesday’s grooming trimmed it away). Then another photo just to show how adorable she is.

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The light at the end of the tunnel was not an oncoming train

It’s what happens when some of the viscous jelly in your eye gets hard and crusty and breaks off.

I noticed flashes in the corner of my eye last weekend, and soon figured out they weren’t reflections of my glasses. Then I got some big floaters drifting across my vision. A quick check online established this is an unremarkable phenomenon, probably due to age, and not a serious issue. Unless, of course, I had an actual torn retina in which case it was an emergency. It didn’t seem extreme enough (I was referencing an eye doctor website so I was confident it was accurate) so I called my doctor Monday and went in for an eye appt. on Tuesday. Happily I was right, nothing serious, though the floaters are distracting (the flashes have faded away).

That took a chunk out of my week, Screen Rant took a bite more. The one I started on last week proved undoable for various reasons, but I spent about three hours on it before giving up. Tuesday I picked up a new one, 20 Things About Winter Soldier That Make No Sense (Jack Kirby’s cover gives us a look back when he was just Bucky, of course). As yet, it’s not up, though I submitted it this afternoon. It took more time than I wanted — upping the minimum from 15 to 20 adds quite a bit more work, both in searching for entries and writing. It may be more than I have the time to keep doing — it’s fun, but this might have to be my last. I’ll give it some thought.

While Bucky Barnes took up a chunk of time, I did continue work on Southern Discomfort and the Undead Sexist Cliches book. I’ve made my wordage on both for the month, but I’ll put in more time on SD next week. I started work revising No One Can Slay Her, though I didn’t get far. I’ll put in time on that next week, plus (hopefully) rewriting Only the Lonely Can Slay.

Oh, and I got a Createspace copy of Atoms for Peace and began proofing. Cover by zakarianada on Fiverr, rights to it are now mine. Going to take more work than I thought, but that just proves I made a good call getting the copy.

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Sic transit gloria Jason Vorhees

So last weekend, TYG and I were out with some college friends of her, and some undergraduates from the same frat. We wound up in a bar where the undergrads were playing Candyland while watching Friday the 13th on a big-screen TV. Which is an amusing image, but not the point of this post. To wit, that none of them had heard of the film.

It’s another example of how different generations have different cultural experiences. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Friday the 13th film in its entirety, but I still know they’re about Jason Voorhees, the guy in the hockey mask who slashes people to death. The films were everywhere in the 1980s — eight installments in the series in that decade. TV’s Night Court could make a joke referencing the series and be confident people would get it.

Now, though? The students responses when I identified it (had to use Google) were “Friday the 13th? That’s a movie?” or wondering if it was the one with Freddie Krueger. But why would they remember it? There was one series film in the 1990s, one in 2001, Freddy vs. Jason in 2003 and then the 2009 reboot. It’s their dads’ horror franchise.

I won’t shed any tears if the series vanishes into the memory hole, but I hate it when stuff like this makes me feel old.

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