Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas Song


Okay, the usual excuses: The light was bad, my arm was tired. I had two broken fingernails, and this was maybe the fifth time I sang the new song all the way through. Plus my voice is what it is, and my guitar squeaks are part and parcel of it ...


Listen to it here, or in the player down the page on the right. 


I figure another score of songs, I might start getting a little better at it. It's part of the creative process, the willingness to produce a certain amount of crap. Everybody has to start somewhere, and that becomes the benchmark to show improvement -- if there is any ...


Got to put my car in the shop -- that cooling fan thing came back and it's guzzling coolant -- thermostat, maybe a leak somewhere. First time in for repairs since I got it, if you don't count the bodywork when I got the front end caught on a ladder ... Not bad for an '06 model. With any luck, it won't take too long to fix, nor cost an arm and a leg ...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Concentration


We went bowling while the family was here during the holidays. Not my sport, though back in the day, my parents were in a league and I learned how. Even how to keep score in the pre-computer days. 


Observe the focus. The concentration. The steely-eyed resolve ... 


This would have been just before I broke two of my guitar-playing fingernails. And probably just before I threw a gutter ball ...

Movin' On


I brought this up in a post a month or so ago, but it bears repeating.


Tomorrow, November 30th, will be my wife's final day working for the Lower Columbia River Ports. She signed on there ten years ago, based out of the Port of Portland, to shepherd  to completion one of the largest-ever public works projects in the Pacific Northwest. 


Not to spend too much time on the details, but the basic effort was to deepen the Columbia River ship channel another three feet. The channel has been dredged to forty feet for decades, since the mid-1970's, but the extra yard became necessary for the ports to stay competitive -- to allow larger ships to call, and to load the smaller ones heavier. Talking billions of dollars. Thousands of jobs.


The notion started twenty years ago, and mostly nothing happened until five or six years had elapsed. There were some good folks working it, but they weren't getting traction. The Colonel on the Corps side, Bob Friedenwald, retired, then went to work for the ports.


Dianne signed on to something called the Channel Coalition, ran that for a time, then was hired by the ports to manage the project from their end. 


These days, every "i" must be dotted, every "t" crossed, the environmental regulations, at local, state, and national levels are so convoluted as to be nearly impossible to satisfy. Every agency and its kid sister had input and the ability to offer roadblocks. The elected officials in the Northwest had to work their asses off to keep the money coming in, and the two primary managers -- Dianne, at the ports, and Laura Hicks, at the Corps of Engineers, had to produce documentation that started with a slim notebook and eventually ran to shelves equaling thirty feet. Wetlands, mitigation, crab fishermen, dredge material disposal, town meetings, environmentalists, it was a long, long road, many bad stretches and blocks, and if not for the work of a bunch of folks, wouldn't have happened.


Chief among those who made it happen were Dianne and Laura. Without them, it would have died, more than a few times.


It's a big, big deal. 


It moved forward. Eventually dredging began. And this month, the last of the 103-mile stretch was finished. This seem to be a perfect time for Dianne to walk away, to retire on a high note that wasn't going to be topped. 


She did a thing, and it was of great import. It wouldn't have happened without her, and it will echo and reverberate through time for as long as there is ship traffic on the Columbia River. Something to be proud of, this.


And someone to be proud of, too.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What's in a Name?


When I was a middle-schooler, the male/female career path in the U.S. was less flexible than it is now. There were mandatory classes for girls and boys that were different. We all took English, Math, and History, but the girls took Home Ec(onomics) and the boys took Shop.

Louisiana not being a bastion of equal rights, nor of anybody's liberation in particular, that's how it was in the early 1960s; however ...

There was a class that boys had to take either in the eighth or ninth grade. For the life of me, I can't recall the exact name, but it was something designed not to be off-putting to young men, Consumer Science or somesuch. Whatever the name, it was flat-out home ec -- the skills taught were how to iron a shirt, sew on a button, balance a checkbook, and basic cooking -- as I recall, we cooked two things: a hamburger, and fudge, which, when you think about it, was one more thing a young man in those days needed to know how to cook ...

Few boys in my day would have volunteered for such a course, given an option. Home-making was for women, and if you needed any of that stuff, that's what mothers and sisters were for, and what your wife would do once you left home and got hitched. Yeah, you might roast something over an open fire if you'd shot it, but cooking? In a kitchen? Sewing on buttons? Ironing a shirt? Geez Louise! Sissy stuff!

Of what I learned in junior high, that class was as useful as any, and more than most. In Shop, I learned not to put my fingers into the saw blade, how to make a ring out of  a Monel nut, and how to polish plexiglass. I have ironed more shirts, sewed on more buttons, and cooked way more hamburgers over the years, and even though my wife is better at all these things, I can, in a pinch, manage.

I think maybe a lot of what passes for education in today's schools might be tweaked and tuned toward the end of practicality thus, and earlier than senior year, too.

Willie With Weed


Country singer Willie Nelson has been busted for -- gasp! -- possession of cannibis! 


I -- I'm shocked! A musician with marijuana! A guitarist with ganja! A player with pot! 


What is this world coming to? 


And by Immigration this time. In Texas. Apparently they thought Willie Nelson's tour bus was full of illegal immigrants. Agent said he caught a whiff of weed when the bus's door opened.


A whiff? Shoot, I smelled those burning leaves all the way up here, in the rain. Willie's bus must go down the road like something from a Cheech and Chong movie -- you could hide a battlefield with the smoke ...


Does seem as if Willie gets busted every time they crank up the tour bus -- dope, dope, dope, even moonshine once. Man is seventy-seven years old. If he was gonna quit toking reefer, probably he'd have done it by now ...


Leave the man alone. He's not driving. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

New Song


My songwriting goal was one a month when I started in September and I'm ahead of that -- three months, and at least six so far, four of which are recorded and up on SoundClick. After I've played this one through a few times, I'll take a stab at getting it down -- and since it's a seasonal thing, I need to get it done in the next couple of weeks.

Got what I think are some nice progressions, with slides -- a glissando chord here and there, done in D-major, enough minors to give it a bittersweet flavor,  and even a sharped-minor chord. Hubba hubba.

It’s Not Christmas
I
Hallowe’en but the lights are red and green, Santa Claus already on his wa-ay/ Every year it comes a little faster -- better get your presents wrapped by May.
II
Somewhere in the hype, the spirit it got buried, somewhere we lost sight of it al-ll/ Dig down through the tinsel and the Walmart gift cards and you really don’t need to shop the mall.
Chorus:

Put away your money, don’t load your credit card, we are only here for a little while/
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year, and I hope you can be with those who make you smi-ile.
III
It’s not about the gifts and it’s not about the parties And it’s not about the turkey nor the tree/All the blessings of the season to the joy within your soul/ And remember all the best things are still free.
Chorus - then tag, from "Merry Christmas ..."

(Not a patch on Robert Earl Keen's "Merry Christmas from the Family," the hands-down best Christmas song ever -- it's a bit early, I'll post the video link here later, but if you want, you can see that here

Not a patch, but we all doin' what we can. Alors.)

Living With Dogs


Years ago, I heard the announcer on the Westminster Dog Show comment, "Around our house, dog hair is considered a condiment." I laughed, because it is so true -- when you have double-coated critters who shed all the time, and who blow their coats a couple times a year, the dust bunnies prowl the halls in packs. 


Yesterday, I had a keyboard malfunction. Actually, it was a variation of the Pepsi Syndrome -- from the old  SNL sketch about the guys who spilled a Pepsi on a keyboard at the nuclear power plant and set the klaxons hooting. We were out of drinking glasses -- all in the dishwasher after Thanksgiving -- so I had my water in a coffee cup and managed to slosh it onto my computer's keyboard.


Crap!


Quickly, I flipped the board over and shook it, and got some of the water out, but not enough. I didn't get any hissing or sparks, not enough juice for that, but the circuit boards got wet enough so half the keys didn't work and I got that buzzing, clicking repeat. More, I managed to pull the chord hard enough to unplug something and the board went totally dead.


Okay, okay, fine. I need instructions in how to operate a wheelbarrow, and probably it would dry out, but the wires weren't going to re-connect themselves, so I reached for the screwdriver.


Long as I was going to take it apart, I figured I might as well pull the keys off and clean under them, too.


So, armed with tweezers, cotton swabs, alcohol, some Dust Off canned air -- well, it's not just air, but compressed gases that include #1-1-difluroethane, a refrigerant, so you don't want to be breathing it and risking death and all -- I went into anal retentive mode and took apart, cleaned, and dried out the sucker. 


Works fine now, as you can see, but I got enough dog hair out of it to make a rat terrier. Amazing. I can see how a computer tower with a cooling fan would gather hair and dust, but I never saw any dog hair land on the keyboard, so how it worked its way underneath the keys? 


It's like how the car seatbelt buckle sometimes gets twisted. You know, the insert somehow winds up facing the wrong way, and it's an absolute bitch to saw it up and down the strap and get it turned back around. If it takes that much effort, how did it somehow spontaneously get reversed in the first place?


Never a dull moment. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Another Black Friday


Thanksgiving has come and gone. My inlaws, their children and grandma have taken the big metal birds back home. Quiet here today -- when you have seven people walking around in the house and you reduce that number by five, it does that.


Had a fine visit. Good talks, good food, Nerf wars in the front yard, and walks on the beach. Watched some movies on the tube I wouldn't have otherwise, some good, some terrible. Sixteen of us for dinner yesterday and still have leftovers for a few days. I didn't even gain any weight though I ate like a pig. 


As these things go, it couldn't have been much better. Hope all of you who celebrate this holiday enjoyed your versions. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Snow Business


The snow mostly stalled out just north of us -- Seattle got dumped on; Portland got a dusting. 


I mentioned that we have a houseful of family visiting and we decided it would be a good thing to go to the coast for a few days. We just got back. Had some fierce winds, rain, and this morning, a dusting of snow there, too. Wind howled like a monster movie, and it gusted to maybe sixty -- blew the hoody on my jacket up and off my head even with the elastic strings pulled tight. 


We came home from Lincoln City via Highway 18 to 99, and while there was some snow on the road, it was sanded pretty good, and no problem. Cold enough so the slush on the side of the car froze there -- and is still there. Looking at a day or two where the high temp won't get above freezing, and the coldest November on this date in thirty years. 


Nice when the sun peeked out and we got a chance to watch the ocean. Here the view from our motel room window:


video

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Weather Forecast


So, weather guys have thrown the bones, done a crystal scry, and made burnt offerings to the gods to come up with a prediction of snow down to the valley floor, starting tonight and through tomorrow, maybe the day after. Three inches total, they say, but I can't remember the last time they got that part right, and it'll stick for a day or two because they are also saying we'll get a little arctic blast to go along with it that will drop temperatures into the low twenties. 


At the moment, it's clear, sunny, and chilly, couple degrees below freezing.


Not even Thanksgiving and already the ski resorts are up and running here, I think Timberline opened the day after Halloween, and even Ski Bowl has enough of a base for people what like to slip around on the nasty stuff balanced on slats of wood or plastic.


I'm ready for summer. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Mystery Men


One of my favorite guilty pleasure movies is Mystery Men. It's a comedy about a bunch of third-rate super-heroes who have to step up to save the day when the main super-hero gets accidentally cooked.

The characters range from a guy good with a shovel to one who throws forks to one who has incredible stinky farts to one with a haunted bowling ball to one who gets really pissed off to ...

Well, you get the idea.

The plot is silly, the action is silly, but in some way, it hangs together into a funny ride.

One of the heroes is The Sphinx, whose power is very mysterious -- plus he can cut guns in half with his mind -- and he becomes the trainer, teaching the rag-tag collection with enigmatic phrases that embody a wonderful circular logic. An exchange between The Sphinx and Mr. Furious:


Mr. Furious: Okay, am I the only one who finds these sayings just a little bit formulaic? "If you want to push something down, you have to pull it up. If you want to go left, you have to go right." It's --

The Sphinx: Your temper is very quick, my friend. But until you learn to master your rage --

Mr. Furious: -- your rage will become your master? That's what you were going to say. Right? Right?

The Sphinx: Not necessarily ...

Now and then I get into a discussion that reminds me of this ...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Gotta Love the Hype



Before (above) 


After ...

So, super-model Heidi Klum has revealed her anti-aging secret. You can go watch the vid, but I can sum it up for you: She's thirty-seven.


There it is, folks. Best way to look young is to be young. 


Amazing, isn't it?


It cracks me up every time I see one of these miracle-cream anti-age commercials featuring a twenty- or thirty-something woman smiling through her Botox as the V.O. blathers on about how this goop smoothes out wrinkles. Uh huh.


When they put somebody up who looks like Mother Teresa at eighty, rub some of the miracle formula onto her face and make her look like Heidi Klum? Then they'll get my attention. Until then, it's snake-oil ...

Long Time


Stagger Lee was a bad man, eve'ybody know/
He had a pearl-handle straight razor, and a blue-steel fo'ty four ...


And Yours Truly and his lovely bride have now been married for forty-four years, too.


Got a houseful of family arriving this afternoon to visit for Thanksgiving, so the celebration will have to wait until next weekend. The traditional gift for a 44th? Groceries. (43rd is travel, and 45, a sapphire, but ... groceries?)


I'll have somebody camping in my office the next week, so postings will be hit or miss. Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate it in case I miss saying it later.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

November



3:45 p.m. and it's cold, gray, raining, and dark enough out that the streetlights have kicked on.


Man. Gonna be a long winter.

TSA


I've had some folks allow as how maybe stripping to minimal clothing -- underwear, or in the case of women, a bikini, while standing in the line to pass through the airport scanners might be a way to bypass the pat-down, in lieu of the scanners.


I must admit that the idea of a line full of Playboy bunnies in micro-bikinis might enliven the wait; however, given what most people in the U.S. look like these days, that notion is not one to inspire lust. Use your imagination.


As I understand it, it's an either/or choice where they have these machines, no matter how brief your outfit. They will have to feel around your private parts, because of the underwear bomber. The only way to avoid this would be to be completely nude -- and you can book it, sooner or later some loon is gonna get caught trying to smuggle something onboard a plane up his Hershey Highway -- and that is gonna open another whole avenue of exploration.


When the guy lubes up the finger of his rubber glove? That's the day I stop flying anywhere. I already avoid it as much as possible -- the days when air travel was a fun adventure are long gone. It is getting to the point where it's gonna start costing the airlines money, and if it gets expensive enough, I expect that the bottom line is going to come into play. 

Mail Fraud


So, somebody is screwing with me. I've gotten a magazine, which I figured after bringing it up here was some kind of promo thing, but there have also been deliveries of a couple other items my wife and I didn't order -- movie club, tea-of-the-month club, one of which was attached to a credit card I don't use.  Not gifts, but subscriptions I didn't make. 


So, I called the credit company and cancelled the card; called the commercial companies and allowed as how I didn't order anything. Apparently this happens a lot -- somebody screwing around thinks this is pretty funny. 


The U.S. Postal Service doesn't much laugh. They consider it mail fraud, and because it crosses state lines, and was probably done by phone or the internet, it falls under Chapter 63, Section 1341 or 1343 of the U.S. Criminal Code.


I filed a complaint. The big companies track incoming orders, date and source and stuff, and while it won't be at the top of the feds to-do list, those slow wheels can grind fine. The movie club folks have a date and order information they can pass along. 


I hope whoever did this is having a nice chuckle now, because the fine and prison time are hellacious -- not more than a hundred grand, nor more than twenty years.


Quoting Han Solo: "Laugh it up, fuzzball."


Next time I get something like this delivered, the info goes straight to the postal inspectors. If you are reading this blog and responsible? Maybe that next knock at your door will be karma coming home to roost.


Have a nice day. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Sport Coated Self at Orycon 32


Me, right, presenting the 2010 Endeavour Award 
to David Marusek


Finalists Camille Alexa, Cat Rambo, Yours Truly, and winner 
David Marusek. Finalists Patricia Briggs and Kay Kenyon 
were not present.
Photographs by James W. Fiscus
Who says you can't be a writer and still devastatingly 
handsome?



When You Know Who You Are ...


... You Know What to Do.

This is a quote I got from a speech by George Emery, at the student union at L.S.U. in -- I think -- about 1971. There's a post here that lays out the context and a bit about the speaker.

That event was a pivotal one for me regarding how I look at the world, one of those "Aha!" epiphanies that sink in and stay with you. Yeah, yeah, touchy-feelie hippie stuff, but the message still resonates with me to this day.

Yesterday, I got an email from a woman who is putting together a scrapbook for George Emery's 80th birthday. He is still with us, and still doing good work, and I was delighted by her note and his continued presence in our world.

She was, she said, one of the hosts for that event -- small world, hey? -- and came across my blog posting from 2008 and liked it, and was considering using some part of it in the scrapbook.

Oh, yeah, by all means -- I'd be honored!

The brass plate pictured above is one of several I had made three and some decades ago. This one is on the top of my gun-cleaning supply case ...

Happy birthday, George.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Amaurosis Fugax - A Tale of An Occular Migraine ...


That's "am-uh-row-sis few-gax," which is, I think, Greek and Latin for "fleeting blindness." Kind of a catch-all term, but what it means is more or less that -- all of a sudden, you get a visual disturbance which, after a few seconds or a few minutes, goes away.


Got that this morning. 


Looking at the computer screen, and of a moment, there was what seemed like a big floater just to the left of center in my left eye. I blinked. Rubbed my eyeball. 


It didn't go away.


This was not a happy event. 


After a few seconds, the spot grew and the vision through it was gray and fuzzy. 


Really not happy with this.


After another minute, it got bigger still, expanding from an oval that occupied maybe an eighth of my visual field to a quarter, then half. 


Kept on expanding, but as it did, the perimeter developed a kind of iridescent sheen and the middle of the spot cleared somewhat.


Five minutes, plus or minus a bit, and the thing expanded away, disappeared, leaving my vision what it was before.


Spooky, lemme tell you.


I am pretty sure I know what it was -- off to the opthamologist in a bit to see if we can figure out what caused it. Most of the potential reasons I'm pretty sure I can rule out, and what is most likely is benign. If it is what I think, I'm already doing what needs to be done to treat it. Still, it's like the Viagra commercial -- if you suddenly go blind? Good idea to call your doctor.


If you don't see a posting after this one in a few days? Might be something else ...


Addendum:


Yep. What I thought. And the cause is most likely a phenomenon known as "occular migraine," or, more properly "opthalmic migraine." Doesn't do the pain thing, like the   headache, but the aura effects. Neurological in origin, since, if you close your eyes, it doesn't go away. Cause is unknown for certain, though there are triggers -- lights, sudden acceleration, like in a jet, and some others -- that seem to be common. 


Nothing about which to worry. As my doctor said, if it happens and you are at home, sit back and enjoy the show.


The colors, man, the colors -- !


My eyes are still dilated, and I'm getting rainbows all over my blog, so, I'll check you later.



Look into my eye ...



Armageddon In Switzerland

Those of you not paying attention might have missed this:





CERN, a really big science project, is smashing particles together hither and yon, and finding the Higgs is apparently just around the corner. (The Higgs Boson, aka The God Particle.) 


There is a school of thought that all this mini-Big-Bang particle-smashing might lead to the creation of a black hole, at which point we'll just have time to bend over and kiss our asses goodbye before the baby black hole swallows us up, rocks and all,  and spews us into an alternative universe ...


Have a nice day.

FatSam Online


Moran's ebook store is up. 


The Trinity Vector is one dollar at fsand.com today, for the first five buyers. Such a deal. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Star Wars Been Bery, Bery, Good to Me ...


Got a note from one of the editors at Del Rey -- Shadows of the Empire just went back to press for a few thousand more copies. Fourteen years ago this one first hit the racks, and I'm still getting royalties -- not huge, but still, it earned out the advance a dozen years back.


Always nice to be attached to a profitable project. 

Psychedelic Sky



Now and then, the high and thin clouds here will catch the sun at just the right angle to put on a light show.


I shot these two pictures about twenty minutes ago. You'll have to double-click on them to get a good view, and my camera isn't the top-of-the-line model, but it's pretty cool, what sun and water vapor sometimes do. 



Bad Blood


If you are a John Sandford (John Camp) fan, all you need to know is "that fucking Flowers" is back, in Bad Blood.

If that's too cryptic, Sandford, whose name is larger than the titles on his novels, which tells you his status, is a mystery writer who has a long-running series about a cop/state investigator named Lucas Davenport, who lives and works in Minnesota. These all have Prey in the title and far as I know, they all hit the tops of the bestseller lists.

Camp, a reporter, won a Pulitzer before he skyed off into fiction. Writing as John Camp, he did several books about Kidd, a computer expert/thief, before introducing Davenport under the Sandford pseudonym. The Prey books took off, and three or four years ago, he broke out Virgil Flowers, a supporting character,  into his own books, of which there are now four titles.

These are page-turners and potboilers -- which are not bad things in my mind -- and I always enjoy the trip to the generally-cold Minnesota country for the romp.

Powell's in Beaverton



Is that a wookiee in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me ... ?

I was part of a big group autograph session at Powell's this evening. Peter, the scifiguy there put it together and it was quite the to-do. Thirty-some writers, a fair-sized crowd. I was on the end with the Star Wars writers -- Tim Zahn, Kris Rusch, and Andy Magels, we had members of the 501st Cloud City Garrison and some of the rebel scum with us posing for photo ops. 


Lot of fun people there, and some new writers just getting their feet wet. Great job by Peter and the gang at Powell's. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Enemies List


As far as I know, I don't have any serious personal enemies. My definition of "enemy" here is somebody who, given the opportunity, would do you personal harm; or, to whom you would do personal harm, given a good chance you could get away with it ...


Not talking about generic enemies -- crazy-hats terrorists or psychotic true believers.


Sure, there are folks with whom I have disagreements. Those who think I am obnoxious and vice-versa. People I wouldn't volunteer to be stuck on an elevator with for anything less than fairly big money, but those aren't so much enemies as annoyances. I don't drift off to sleep worrying about what they might do, or what I would do to them, in the right circumstances. 


In fact, I've only had one serious enemy I can point out. After some years of feeding that fire of resentment, we eventually sat down and agreed to an armistice. Not what I would call a happy peace, but an agreement to cease hostilities. Time, as they say, heals all wounds -- and also wounds all heels; hanging onto anger usually doesn't do you much good. If your gut is churning, your enemy will rejoice. 


A year or so after we achieved détente,  he died -- natural causes -- and that war was over.  Not a win or a loss, just an end. The worst enemies often come from the best friends, which was what happened in my case. You know the old saying: It's easier to forgive an enemy sometimes than to forgive a friend. I missed the friendship for a long time; however, here, my head-scratching admission: I sometimes miss him as an enemy ...


I bring this up because I recently made a post about seeing a guy I didn't care much for, and somebody asked me if this guy was an enemy. In the strictest sense of being on the opposite side of issue, you might say so, but for me, he doesn't rise to the level of what I'd consider any big deal. 

More Orycon


Did a day at Orycon yesterday -- had panels and signings and all, started around eleven a.m. and ran until five p.m. They've been running these for thirty-two years, and I've made to all of them but one -- that year we were living in Washington state and got snowed in. 


We don't drive in the snow. Rain, I can do; snow, in my little cars? Nope. No weight, no chains, no skill ...


But I was at the original SF Symposium the folks who run Orycon put on at the local U the year before the first con. 


The hotel was crowded, the fans and writers and editors and costumers and singers and all. I visited with a few folks -- had lunch with Rory. Chatted a bit with Irene. Had a beer afterward with my daughter and my son-in-law -- he's just gotten a job as a tattoo artist, after doing his training. I introduced a young martial artist I know to Rory, and probably helped him sell a couple books from that.


At one point, looking for a place to sit quietly, I went to the filking room and listened to a woman sing some Irish songs, accompanied by a guy playing something that looked like a cross between a guitar, a lute, and a harp. Never seen an instrument quite like it -- I've seen harp guitars, but this didn't look like those. I didn't get the singer or player's names, but it was a pleasant interlude.


Fine time, though I have to say, if you are at the Doubletree at Lloyd Center, stay away from the lunch buffet. The restaurant was busy, and we opted for that instead of ordering from the menu -- we had panels and getting our lunches and eating wasn't going to happen in time. 


Food that's been sitting in a steam tray for a couple hours? Edible, some of it, but the seafood paella? It had mussels you could use for the soles of running shoes. I was tempted to throw one and see how high it would bounce.


Anybody know what the instrument in the photo is? It's got several strings that are fretted, and then a bunch that are pre-tuned, like a harp's.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Orycon 32


I went to Orycon today -- I usually don't on Fridays, but got a last-minute call from Jim Fiscus, who administers the Endeavour Award -- a plaque, and a check for $1000 to a Northwest writer to help encourage the arts up our way. 


Did I remember I agreed to MC that last year when we were chatting?


Um. No, but, hey, I'm good. 

It was to be a short ceremony -- shoehorned in just before opening ceremonies. Unfortunately, the rehearsal for that ran long, and we didn't get into the room until 6:27 p.m. for what was supposed to be a 6:30 p.m. start time ...

Jim, who sometimes is known to get excited and rant a bit, was making cut signs at the folks on stage, who were blithely ignoring him. When they finally trooped off, and Jim got a mike, it kept going off every time he seemed about to say something disparaging. Either wonderful coincidence or a sound guy with a wicked sense of humor.


It did come back on just in time for Jim's " -- bunch of muthafuckahs!"


Imagine it with a slight Germanic accent. 


Then there was the award, a lovely glass plate etched with a design by artist Ashley Harper. 


Where is the award?


I thought you had it.


I don't have it, I gave it to you!


Hey, Moe! Hey, Larry! Wooowoowooowwoooo -- !


Finally we got it all sorted out, over my somewhat hysterical giggles. 


My part was easy, all I had to do was get up read the names of the finalists, then call out the winner. Wore a sport coat and leather shoes. People who have known me at this con for thirty-odd years walked past me, not recognizing me. Perfect disguise, a sport coat. 


I read out the finalists. Asked the audience for a drum roll, and made the announcement. And the winner -- David Marusek -- was onstage behind me and so deep in conversation with the other two finalists who made it there that he didn't hear me. Got a nice, classic double-take when I went over and tugged on his sleeve. Hey, Dave? You, uh, won ... 


Best laugh of the evening. 


Saw Rory Miller in the green room -- we're doing a panel together on the morrow. He sent me greetings from a guy we both know and wondered at the tone of the message. Something going on there? he wondered?


Oh, yeah. Maybe after our panel I can take him to lunch and tell that story ...

Diversity


Every now and then, I babysit for my youngest grandson. On the way to my son and daughter-in-law's house, there is a street that, in half a block's span, has a Buddhist temple and a mosque. Interesting in such a whitebread community such as ours to see that ...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Advice for Young Writers Who Want My Job


Okay, so I got another one today, a query from a young writer looking to get into doing shared-universe stuff. 


I know, I know, I said I wasn't gonna answer any more of those. I even put up a PayPal button -- you want an answer? Five bucks! 


I took that down after two days -- it just seemed, I dunno ... harsh. 


I was a newbie writer once. Back when we used chisels on stone.


But I really am going to stop answering these queries -- or at least, I'm not going to write it out every time.


To that end, this post, to which I will link in my sidebar list. 


If you are a newbie writer, there are a lot of things you need to know, and I can't begin to lay them out. However, if you are looking to get into writing for a shared-universe, if you want to write Aliens or Predators or Star Wars or Star Trek or any like that, here is the information I can impart to you about it:


Go here.


Or click here.


Or here


There are probably four or five other postings on my blog that address this, but they will just be repetitions of these. 


P.S. If you are somebody I don't know, I can't read your unsolicited material. It's a legal thing, not personal. 

For Those Who Served


Happy Veteran's Day to the men and women who served in the armed forces. I usually don't agree with the policies of those who sent you into harm's way, but I respect and honor your service in going.

The Times They are a Changin'



So, come next year, The New York Times is going to add an electronic book bestseller list. 


Hear that train a'comin' ... ?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ordinary Discipline


Let's talk about ordinary discipline. Not the kind of thing where you get trapped by a boulder and saw off your own arm with a dull knife, or deliberately walk into withering  machinegun fire, or even force yourself to sit down and do your income taxes, but the day-to-day stuff. Things that you elect to do that don't, in the moment, really stir your passions.


On that front, I have a small victory and a small loss to report today. 


The victory: I needed to go to the gym and work out. I mean, this membership is costing me eight bucks a month! and if I don't go at least once or twice a week, why, that's just pissing the money away. But my wife had a yoga class elsewhere. And there I was, on my leather recliner with the cat on my lap and the dog lying next to me. It was nice and warm in the living room. Outside, it was chilly, a hair above forty degrees F., damp, though the rain had stopped. It was still rush hour, so the traffic was going to be crappy. And there's that wanting-to-do-nothing-but-eat-and-hibernate that always comes with the time change.


You know, where they cut a piece of rope off one end  and then tie it to the other end to make it longer? Daylight savings? Where it gets dark at five o'clock?


It was tempting. If I stayed home, who would know? 


Sigh. Unfortunately, I would.


I stirred my lazy ass up, dressed in sweats, grabbed the water bottle and off I toodled. 


As always, once I got there, I was glad I went. Hit the weights, stretched, did my djurus, and we're talking an investment of forty-five minutes. Victory.


On the way home, I heard Baja Fresh call my name: Yo! Stevie! Shrimp Diablo burrito! Come on, you don't have anything thawed for supper. And you just worked out, probably burned three, four thousand calories, right? C'mon ...


Okay, I had a light lunch, no snacks during the day, no sugar, and I could get the burrito without the cheese-melt and molé sauce, right? 


Still, I had plenty of fruit and veggies and nuts and all like that at home. What to do?


Since I gave it away in the lead, you already know ...


Batting .500. Not so bad.