Random Bits from Facebook

April 17:
Fifty years ago today, April 17, 1971, Dave Arneson had his local gaming group over for what he called a medieval Braunstein. A time-traveling hyper-intelligent fly on the wall would have recognized the session as a fantasy role playing game, the first such that had ever taken place in the history of the world.
The pebble becomes the avalanche, and the world changes.

April 18:
Dredged from 2016:
The following is posted on behalf of the friend who wrote it, because it's sad and smart, appropriate WAY beyond its primary content, and generally worth reading.

When I came out poly to my family, the message that I got was- sanitized, paraphrased, and to the salient point:
"We love you, but we do not like how you live and we don't want your sex life shoved into our faces."
For anyone who has said that, or something that could be condensed to that, I have a story to tell you.
I am the most boring man at my workplace.
"I went camping with my husband this weekend. [Long story with a lot of anecdotes.] What did you do, Jason?"
I spent time with a woman from out of town who is for all intents and purposes a second wife. We took the kids to the zoo. I got to take lots of pictures, and that was amazing. That afternoon, we met up with my wife and her boyfriend, an old friend, and my new girlfriend who is fitting hand in glove into my world. After dinner, we met up with other friends and watched a movie about two men learning to share the woman who loves them both. I was snuggled on the couch between my wife and my new girlfriend, and my out of town girlfriend leaning against my legs. Everyone was happy, everyone laughed and had a good time, and I haven't felt that kind of carefree joy in a very long time. After the movie, my out of town girlfriend and I got to spend an evening alone together and reconnect, because our last two visits were short due to random accidents of life. All in all, it was a great weekend and I came out of it feeling amazing and refreshed.
"Not much. I had dinner and watched Bandits with some friends."
I have to keep it short and simple, so as not to invite questions because I don't like to lie and I'm not good at it. I can't share in the communal Monday experience because I don't want to "shove my sex life into people's faces." This closet, as comfortable and well appointed as it is, grinds away at me when I'm at work, just like it has for the last 20+ years. I can almost tell this story to my parents these days, but I make lighter of it than it is because I don't feel like watching my mother stiffen up, change the subject, or heaven help us all cry again.
To most of the people on my friends list, this is echo chamber material. I'm posting it friends only because the closet is still a real and necessary thing at work, even if I refuse to go into it otherwise (excepting certain extenuating circumstances.) That said, feel free to tell this story if you think it would be useful. Copy and paste it without attribution if needed. If you feel as I do, at least know that you're not alone. And if you've ever given that message to someone you say you love, think long and hard about the pain you're causing that you might never see. Maybe dig around inside you to figure out why you feel like you can talk about your life and loves, but it's not appropriate for someone else to have the same bonding experience.

April 19:
Life in my household:
We are still plowing through "Supernatural". We have gotten to season 13, in which Dean is dealing with epic grief by being chronically caustic and surly. After one particularly deft insult, Dementia commented, "Wow. When Dean is grumpy, he's almost as caustic as you are."
I'm inclined to take that as a compliment...

April 21:
I have always found the idea of "dream job" troublesome. I never bought into the idea that "work" was a source of meaning, it was always something unpleasant that you had to do to avoid even more unpleasant things, like being cold and hungry. And I've always had many more things to do than I could accomplish in several lifetimes, WITHOUT worrying about food and shelter. Every now and then I run into people who actually love their jobs, and I react with both envy and bafflement.

April 22:
Mostly useless trivia:
It's not certain, but the odds are that a celebrity "Dame" outranks a "Knight". The reason for this is that most celebrity knights have the rank of "Knight Bachelor", the lowest rank of knighthood in the British system, and that rank is NEVER issued to women. The lowest such rank that is open to women is "Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire", which, like its male counterpart ("Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire") is slightly higher on the ladder. (Also a slightly different ladder, but higher in any case.)
One finds oneself going down some very odd rabbit holes while watching "Graham Norton"...

April 23:
These (Spiral Path Business Cards) came in today's mail. They are part of my deranged and haphazard plan to play Storyteller at Bristol this year. I shouldn't (and WILL NOT) accept tips, but I can certainly push these on people who are interested.
I think it's a functional concept: Dress to mostly fade into the background, but with a, "May I Tell You a Story?" sign on my hat, and then see what develops, all while being careful not to interfere with the official performers, or offending the Powers That Be.

April 25:
So the question of the day (and I am looking directly at you, Carl Johnson) is: To what extent would you consider "Fiddler's Rose" furry fiction? I am looking for a hard yes/no binary, but subsequent comments will be VERY welcome. Thanks!
(For bonus points, same deal for "Storybook Orc". And for that matter, the various gnoll-focused fragments.)

April 27:
Mental Meanderings:
I spent two years as an inmate of Wheaton College, a place where the writings of C.S. Lewis are held in VERY high regard, and during that period I consumed almost all of his catalog. I carried MANY things away from that, but the two that have stayed with me most strongly are things that were NEVER discussed at Wheaton and would significantly upset my fellows students, and the administration, and the faculty. Both are from "Perelandra", one of old Clive's most highly regarded works, and he makes the case for each decisively, if somewhat clandestinely: First, that arguments are won based on skill, not on truth, and second, that sometimes violence is the best solution.
I'm a truth-seeker; I am always willing to lose an argument. Over the years I have refuted a fair number of the things Lewis taught. But I have never been able to dent either of those.

April 27:
After 18 months without, my van once again has a nose ring. (Which is to say, I crawled under the car, and hooked up the connection for the nose rope, and the car is now ready to carry the canoe again.)

April 29:
Language meanderings: I recently came across a piece that claimed that the distinction between "High Fantasy" and "Low Fantasy" was etirely one of setting, that what I call "otherworld fantasy" is "High", and what I refer to as "this world" and "crossover" fantasy (two separate categories, to my mind) are "Low." I have always though of the distinction (in addition to being too vague) as having more to do with scope than setting.
Of course, I don't really think of "High" and "Low" in scope, either; I think more in terms of "save-the-world" and "save-the-ranch" plots. Dementia pointed out that "save-the-ranch" is not a particularly transparent term, and this led to a vocabulary discussion. "Epic" captures "save-the-world" moderately well, but the other? I thought for a while, and dredged up "picaresque", which caused Dementia, who has a degree in literature, to look at me cross-eyed.
So the question-- the main question, because there seems to be a LOT of room for discussion here-- is, what is a good way to differentiate between the two scales of story that will be meaningful to the average reader?

April 30:
The "Supernatural" crawl is into Season 14...
How does Dean Winchester say, "I love you"?
"Hey, you wanna drive?"

Random Bits from Facebook

April 2:
From the Dredge. Glorious insanity.
From 2015:
I fully understand that introduing a species to an alien evironment is, if successful, bioterrorism. I don't approve of it. It's a very bad thing. But every now and then I come across a concept that is just so COOL that I wish I were a bit less ethical...
One example would be introducing bull sharks to Lake Michigan. They could handle the fresh water, but unfortunately the cold would probably kill them. ::sigh::
Another possibility that has just come to my attention would be to introduce Japanese snow monkeys to Wisconsin. There is already a colony of several hundred on a reserve in Texas, so they have the adaptabiliity to diet and we know they can handle the temperature. Yes, I know that this would be ecologically insane and highly illegal, but... Monkeys. In the North American forests. How cool is that?

April 2:
Marketing isn't just "soul-sucking"; that's not a strong enough term. It doesn't just drain your soul away, it strips your soul away in tiny sequential pieces and then pours pain-enhanced torture salt into the wounds.

April 3:
A memory, apropos of nothing:
The clerk in the convenience store was wearing two similar pendants; one was on a slightly longer chain, so that it hung just below the other. One was a unicursal five pointed star in a circle, the other was a six pointed star made of two equilateral triangles: A pentagram, and a star of David.
I pointed and said, "That's an interesting juxtaposition."
She shrugged and said, "I'm Jewish by birth, and I practice the Craft."
I smiled and said, "Well, then, you're entitled." and she smiled back. I picked up my goods, touched the brim of my hat, and went on my way.

April 4:
The Sharp-tongued Critic:
Once upon a long ago, I attended an original play in which Clueless Tom had a part. It was at a local amateur theater, and was a first effort by the playwright-director. It was a train wreck. One of the sets was a massive drawing room thing that went either on or off during every scene change (except, of course, for the intermission, when there was actually time available). The action of the play took 54 minutes, but the scene changes took 57. The writing and direction were on a par with the set design.
Afterwards, I found myself face to hopelessly earnest and fragile face with the writer-director. I was unwilling to lie outright, but was also unwilling to kick the puppy. I shook his hand, looked him in the eye, and told him that the play was amazing, and that I had never seen anything quite like it. He misinterpreted my words, as he was intended to, and then gushed at me a bit about the writing process. I clenched my teeth and nodded a few times (as did Dementia, who kept a straight face and made vaguely supportive noises throughout), then escaped into the night. Once we were outside, we broke down a bit.
I don't LIKE to lie. I'm good at it, but as a matter of professional integrity, I won't, as a critic, lie with words. But if you force me into a position where the truth is not a socially acceptable option, you would be well advised to pay careful attention to the context.

April 5:
Department of Counter-steering:
Back in the early days of the DucKon Science Fiction Convention, it tried to be REALLY inclusive in its programming. There was a Klingon track, and a Furry track (which eventually spun off to become Midwest Fur Fest), and a Psychic track. The Psychic track was sufficiently playful to allow my friend Mary to run a Chocomancy panel, which used vending machine M&M packets as a divination tool. (Hey, divination needs a randomizer and a set of rules, and that's ALL...) And there was also the annual "Psychics vs Skeptics" panel.
I went to one of those, and it was kind of amazing. The Psychics were BEGGING for research into documented but unexplained phenomena, and the Skeptics were staring fixedly off into space chanting, "No, it's not real, go away." Which is to say that the Psychics were pleading for science, and the Skeptics were demonstrating religious behavior. It was both hilarious and terrifying.
A sufficiently open mind holds nothing, and a sufficiently closed mind admits nothing, and neither case is ideal. The universe continues to be stranger than we can possibly imagine, and I am good with that. Sometimes the only valid answer is, "Keep looking, and remember that the journey is the worthier part."

April 6:
Behind the Eyes:
My usual depression mode is despair, but the Black Dog and I have a LONG history, and I know how to deal with it. Today I am dealing with apathy and a side order of melancholy, and I have a feeling I ought to be worried about that, except, you know, apathy. I'm still trudging forward, it's not paralytic, it just... IS. So far.

April 7:
Writer's Life
When "Fiddler's Rose" went to print, there were three reader comments that I REALLY wanted to receive. Over the two years since then, I have gotten one of them (and thank you so much, Dycon, for those four words ("Good story, well told"); they made my WEEK), and I am herewith abandoning the quest for the other two: To be compared to my prose models, Douglas Adams and Sir Terry Pratchett. Dementia says I should reference those two gentlemen in my blurbs, but I resist. I think I have done well with my goal of emulating their peculiar mastery of the language, but I do NOT tell the same kind of stories they do, and I feel that to invoke them would be fraudulent. Adams and Pratchett are humor writers, and I very much am not such. But we all share a joy in the language that I have tried very hard to convey in my writings, and I think I do it adequately. I hope that at least some of my readers agree with that. Unfortunately, "He writes a lot like Adams and Pratchett, but with more blood and less humor," is not very good ad copy...

Randy Smith: Based on your dialog style, you remind me more of Neil Simon.

The Incomparable Nikki: In terms of deftness with banter, as well as playful elegance with the prose itself, absolutely. Haynie ain’t zany, and insists things make sense, so on the first “OMG WHAT HAPPENS NEXT” read, I found myself thinking more of Heinlein or Brust. - Later: I also got some Elmore Leonard vibes.

April 8:
The Sharp-tongued Critic
I keep saying that I am a sharp-tongued critic. I am aware that there hasn't been a lot of evidence of that, lately; once I got into print, I decided that I should respect the fellowship of living authors, and bite my tongue, regardless of what may go on inside my head, or in live conversation. On the other hand, DEAD authors are fair game, and the other day I stumbled across my review of a book (and subsequent movie) that most of us have read and been forced to compose insincere flattery about: "The Great Gatsby."
Journal, May 15, 2013:
Drawing inspiration from the ads for the upcoming movie, I decided that I would re-read "The Great Gatsby" after some 40 years. I didn't remember it well, and did my best to approach it with as little baggage as possible.
It is a thoroughly mediocre book. If I were truly reading it in a vacuum, I would have suspected that it was an early book by a now well-established middle-aged writer who had dredged it from a bottom drawer in the hope of quick cash.
The prose drove me to think of the dancing hippopotamus in Disney's "Fantasia". While it is often deft and occasionally lyrical, it is so self conscious that the whole is cumbersome and ponderous. I got the impression that Fitzgerald was constantly looking over his shoulder to make sure that the audience was properly cognizant of his cleverness.
The plot is standard stupid-people-being-unhappy stuff. There were apparently some grounds, at the time of publication, for reaction to the idea that people could be so monumentally vapid that their daily lives could kill others as collateral damage and then roll on with no shadow of consequence. What might have been outrageous in 1925, however, is boring in 2013-- and I suspect that even in 1925 the outrage would only have been feigned in the name of propriety.
With two exceptions, the characters are so thin that it is flattery to call them cardboard. The first exception is Gatsby himself, and he is a pulp hero, a creature every bit as improbable as Tarzan, Conan, or Doc Savage.
The second exception is the narrator, who is the closest thing to a real character in the novel. Unfortunately, he is badly marred by Fitzgerald's self indulgence. First person narrators have three faces: The character as he sees himself, the character as the author sees him, and the character as the prose itself reveals him to be. Ideally, the latter two are nearly identical, but not here. While Nick has great depth and passion relative to the other impossibly shallow characters, he is by his own admission, and his actions, fundamentally lacking in those things. And yet the prose, Fitzgerald's often deft, occasionally lyrical, and relentlessly self conscious prose, speaks of depth and passion that do not otherwise exist in the book.
I suppose I am required to mention the optometrist's billboard; it seems to be inescapable. I strongly suspect, given Fitzgerald's quirky and vaguely sadistic sense of humor, that it is what is known locally as a "black helicopter", that is, a prominent and absurd detail which exists solely to give critics a focus onto which they can hallucinate significance. I certainly hope this is the case, and if it is, think better of Fitzgerald for it.
I am told that literary academia regards this piece of mediocre fluff as one the best books ever written. Since I am predisposed to believe that literary academia is intellectually (and by extension, morally) bankrupt, this fact serves to confirm my opinion.
Journal, May 25, 2013
"The Great Gatsby" is a very, very PRETTY movie that manages to be fairly faithful to the book without ever really getting it. As much as I dislike humorless stories, director Luhrmann's efforts to find humor in this story fail miserably and damage the narrative. The characters of Nick and Gatsby are both stripped of the dignity that Fitzgerald gave them (and he gave them few positive qualities) and are made pathetic. All told, this is a vacuous movie that is unworthy of its cast or its source material (and I don't even LIKE the source material).

April 8:
Does anybody else still play Minesweeper? I'm coming up on 800 games on this install, running an 11% success rate. (Got up to 12% for a while...) About half the failures are mistakes and the other half are simply unwinnable. (I have had endgames where winning required winning five consecutive 50/50 chances.) It's an odd sort of meditation; it isn't exactly restful, but it DOES make the rest of the world go away.

April 9:
It is, once again, National Unicorn Day, and the Dredge offered me this. How could I refuse? ("Unicorns are Monsters.")

April 9:
So... Second stick accomplished, two weeks to relative freedom from the primary threat. (It seems that word about, "The guy who bent the needle," got around. I mentioned it to the RN who was about to stick me, as a caution, and his face lit up. "That was YOU? I HEARD about you...")

April 10:
Long, grumpy writing thing. You have been warned. (If you're a writer, scroll down and read the post script.)
Dementia has a degree in literature, and consumes fiction compulsively (she usually has an audio book, an e-book, and a TV show on standby at all times, active depending on what she is doing), and I am, well, ME. We have FREQUENT discussions about story theory.
Something that comes up a lot, and doesn't seem to be addressed much in the world at large, is the matter of transparency. That is, technique should serve the story, and never call attention to itself. The pitfalls of bad technique are obvious; those of good technique are less so. The idea isn't unique to us; it is actually the original thought behind the often repeated and generally misunderstood maxim, "Kill your darlings."
Oddly, the first example of this idea I encountered had nothing to do with writing; it was a discussion of economics and public relations. It was pointed out to me that a restaurant with three mediocre cooks and one brilliant one would do better to fire the brilliant cook, because inconsistency is toxic to business.
In regard to our household and story, the word "transparency" was first applied to the art of the late Steve Dillon on Garth Ennis' "Preacher". We had been reading the book for a year or more before one of us commented on how consistently perfect the art was, always supporting the story, never calling attention to itself. As time went on, we occasionally remembered to pay attention to Dillon's art, and were always amazed. And then the next issue would arrive, and Dillon's art would slide below the surface, subjugating itself flawlessly to the story as always.
An example of failed transparency is Fitzgerald's grossly over-rated "The Great Gatsby". Fitzgerald's prose is soarling and lyrical, and yet it is presented as the voice of a first person narrator who is hopelessly boring and mundane, and could no more produce those amazing phrases than he could fly. Once you notice the discrepancy, the book disintegrates; the incongruity is as obvious as an off-key tuba in a string quartet.
I am inclined to think that the path to transparency, the real goal of any dedicated storyteller, is through lyricism. That is, I suspect that you must be capable of lyricism in order to master transparency. This comes up because, in my quest to find a path to market my own writings, I come across things that drive me to despair.
The case at hand: A fellow who has been cranking out 50,000 word "novels" at the rate of one a month for the last four years or so, and each of them is pulling in more than $1000 in sales every month. I envy his productivity, and his success. But when I read his stuff...
He might actually be good at laying out stories; I will never know. I can't get past the prose. It is... anti-lyrical. It reads as if he went out of his way to express his thoughts as inelegantly as possible. It is actually painful for me to read. The writer wouldn't know "transparency" if it ran him over in the driveway seventeen times.
Ah, well. I am not a commercial writer. I am an accomplished story-teller who still hopes to pull a meal ticket out of my craft, but no more.
A postscript: I have occasionally told other writers, "You are a talented/competent/accomplished" prose artist." This sounds weak, but it is NOT; in light of the above, and remembering that, when wearing my critic hat, I am a sharp-tongued bastard, it means that I think you have the linguistic part of the craft DOWN. I may not be interested in the story you are telling, but I respect and admire your language craft. And that is no small thing.

April 11:
You'd think that this would be obvious...
(Meme: It amuses me that "Tax and spend Democrat" is considered a damning pejorative phrase by right wing pundits. News flash: That's what governments are SUPPOSED to do. That is, provide necessary services that the private sector can't manage, and pay for those services with taxes. Tax and spend. It's what government that WORKS does.)

April 11:
Dementia came up with this today. Heady company. (And I will say that all four of these women are very much worth getting to know.)("Roses" meme.)

April 12:
I tried to do a couple of social things this weekend, a casual Zoom gathering, and an on-line convention. They both made me feel lonely. Such is life.

April 12:
Two years ago, when I joined RWA (Romance Writers of America), I shelled out for a small piece of RWA bling. I came to the conclusion that RWA wasn't really where I belong; I wrote a romance novel, yeah, but that was mostly an accident.
Now that I have squeaked my way into SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America), I went looking for a small bit of SFWA bling, and found this: It's a "secret" SFWA decoder ring, made of stainless steel. Oddly enough, it is almost exactly the same size as my wedding band (middling-gargantuan).
It's silly. It's fun. It's more than a little stupid. I kind of love it.

April 13:
Graphical foolishness:
So... I took my completed vaccination card and scanned it, then stripped the scan back to a blank CDC card, then added all of the information back in clean Times Roman (the card is all sans-serif). And then I shrank it down to 3.5 x 2.5, added blank space to make it 3.5 x 5.0, and threw an inverted Pfizer logo into the empty space. Print it, trim it, fold it, shove it into a card protector, and I have a snazzy, high durability pocket-size card. Mostly pointless overkill, but it seemed like reasonable behavior at the time.

April 14:
About 11 months ago, I posted this:
It takes more delta vee to get from the surface of the earth to (crash into) the surface of the sun than it takes to escape the solar system completely.
An interesting corollary to this is that, if you can handle the navigation, it takes less energy, from earth, to crash into any other star in the Milky Way than it does to crash into the sun.
It has been niggling at the back of my brain ever since, and here's why: Yes, the orbital velocity of the earth around the sun is more than half the total needed for solar escape. So yes, it DOES take more delta vee to hit the sun than it does to escape, but it absolutely takes less FUEL to hit the sun, because the sun will help you on the inbound trip, and will fight you on the outbound trip. The image shows the proper path: You accelerate outward until your course is 180 degrees away from the sun, and then you shut down your engines and let the sun reel you in. As long as you haven't already hit solar escape velocity when you shut down (and you won't have), you just slide in. Boom!

April 14:
Response to a meme on "Whiskey and Fire" that read: "Space is littered with the remains of time travellers who were smart enough to time travel but too dumb to realize the earth isn't in the same spot all the time."

This is one of those things that touches off echoes in my brain... As stated, it assumes that there is some kind of "universal coordinate system", which there very much is NOT. The map of the universe is a crazy quilt of gravity wells, all of which are in motion relative to each other, and "location" is just a momentary statement of where your mass is relative to the nearest few significant masses. So the idea that your time travel drive keys on the most significant local mass for location is not only possible (within the absurd bounds of "possible" relative to time travel in the first place), it's EXTREMELY probable. (The meme is still funny, but stuff like this wakes me up in the middle of the night...)

April 14:
Check the dates. Masks for everyone, but the Faire LIVES! (Bristol WILL open in 2021.)

April 15:
Dementia is listening to the audio of the first novel in a popular science fiction series. I hear bits of it, and gnash my teeth, and occasionally ask questions. The science is AWFUL, made worse because the writer seems to be actually striving for authenticity. And I have taken to referring to it as "Mary Sue versus the Straw Men," because, well, it is. (Please do not infer the gender of either the author or the protagonist from that title, by the way.) That's about all I can say without identifying the thing (which I won't do), but... Gaahh!
Edited to add: Dementia wishes me to point out that while this book is not quite bad enough to quit, she will NOT be consuming the next book in the series.

April 15:
I made two posts yesterday about orbital mechanics, and then there was this floating around in my head: I am inclined to dislike time travel fiction; it puts too much stress on my ability to suspend my disbelief. It is FAR easier to believe in magic and dragons. That said, though, I have certainly enjoyed SOME time travel stories.
Larry Niven has proposed that any universe in which it is possible for time travelers to edit the past will inevitably metamorphose itself into a universe in which it is NOT possible for time travelers to edit the past. This closes off a lot of possibilities.
Here's something that closes off most (or all) of the rest: When considering space time, it is reasonable to think of the forward direction for time as "the direction in which entropy increases". Once you see that, you realize that time travel requires access to negative entropy. And if you have access to a functional negative entropy generator, using it to travel through time is kind of like using a space shuttle to go down to the corner store for coffee.

Random Bits from Facebook

March 16:
Guess who's an Associate Member of the SFWA as of about 4:00 o'clock this afternoon? (And a big "Thank You" to Mr. Steve Jackson, who made it possible.)

March 17:
It has now been fifteen years since Clueless Tom was five minutes late to his own death. That which is remembered, lives. (Card: "Final Voyage" poem.)

March 18:
Path of the Madness:
I didn't expect the SFWA membership to make me crazy (-ier). I should have, but I didn't. It was something I wanted, hoped for, and had stopped expecting. And now that I have it, I can't shake the feeling that I sneaked in through the back door. I also can't shake the feeling that, in a well-ordered universe, I should have been invited in the front door. This means that I am simultaneously suffering from Imposter Syndrome AND feeling unappreciated, and much of my mind wishes I would decide on just ONE thing to be crazy over.
A few details: There are three distinct tiers of SFWA membership: Affiliate (cash, plus a referral from an existing member), Associate (sell a short story to a Real Publisher), and Active (sell a book to a Real Publisher (or, alternatively, sell a PILE of self published books)).
So... "Fiddler's Rose", which is both my personal masterpiece and Magnum Opus (probably), gets me nothing, while "Laggy's Last Game", which was a toss-off (I like it, it's a good story, but it was only two days from conception to completion), gets me an Associate membership.
As far as the SFWA is concerned, I'm not a novelist who has been studying the craft for more than 40 years, I'm just a guy who has sold ONE story. And that hurts. On the other hand, I am IN the ballroom, and the buffet table looks pretty good...

March 19:
So, first vaccination today. 12:45 appointment, showed up at 12:30, waited in line until 1:45, got stuck at 2:00, was cleared to leave at 2:30. Only got out of my car to take off my sweater and (during the 30 minute cooldown) hike across country to use the bathroom. They had a case load of 1500 today, and were processing (I think) 36 at a time in the Lake County Fairground pavilion. It's an interesting operation. It would have been nice to know the details above before I left home, though.
Also, was responsible for the waste of a dose when the first needle bent against my skin. Oops.

March 20:
Vernal Equinox, and also Ostara; time for the fourth of my "Celtic Holiday" poems. ("Equinox" card.)

March 21:
I usually read my longer pieces to Dementia before I post them, both because I want her opintion and because it's a good way to find textual flaws (I read "Fiddler's Rose" to her on a chapter by chapter basis while I was writing it). The other day, after hearing my post about my ambivalence regarding SFWA membership, now that I had it, she commented on how alien the whole process of posting such things was to her. This opens the topic of, "Why?"
I'm trying to break myself of the desire to change other people's minds about anything; the effort never accomplishes anything except making me grind my teeth. But I still post a lot of other things...
First, probably, I am keeping my tools sharp. I may not have much ability to make up stories, but I can describe the one I am actually living to the best of my ability, in the name of being ready when an actual new idea comes along.
Second, I am documenting my life for my own sake. I don't HAVE to do that in public, but, the world being what it is, Why NOT? I have pretty good reason to believe that at least a few people find my meanderings entertaining.
Third, I am convinced that pain shared is pain reduced. Talking about the stuff that goes wrong, and occasionally bleeding into the keyboard, helps me keep taking the next step. And, once again, I have good reason to believe that at least a few people find watching me struggle through that next step makes it just a little bit easier for them to make their next step, too.

March 24:
I get all sorts of flak when I say this kind of thing, so here is what the fair-minded but decidedly liberal gentlemen at had to say about gun control this very day:
We've often observed that most Republican politicians don't really want abortion outlawed, because abortion is a powerful wedge issue for the Republican Party. Well, we also suspect that most Democratic politicians, even those from anti-gun states, don't really want gun-control legislation, because gun control is a powerful wedge issue...for the Republican Party. That is to say, many Democratic voters say they want gun control, but they don't make that a priority when voting. On the other hand, there are vast numbers of Republicans (including many infrequent Republican voters) for whom guns are issues #1, #2, and #3. If the Democrats were to somehow pass a gun-control bill, Republican politicians and pundits across the land would wield that like a cudgel. "See? We told you the bleeding-heart, socialist, communist, hippie, anti-American Democrats were coming for your guns!" they will say. The next election would be brutal for the blue team.
In short, the risk/reward calculus simply does not add up for the Democratic Party. Further, even if the Party's elected officials were willing to take a bold risk—not unlike Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law—there is another major impediment: The Supreme Court, which is currently very gun-friendly. The moment that any gun-control legislation was passed, two dozen Republican state attorneys general would sue, the case would quickly reach SCOTUS, and SCOTUS would likely strike the new law down. Politicians are not known for their willingness to sacrifice their careers for the greater good, but even if a bunch of Democrats were up for that, it's hard to justify for a law that's not likely to make it even to the next presidential administration.

March 24:
A friend of mine, someone with whom I shared a love of small boats, and a minor obsession with the "Hero Wars" game (and, by the way, whose politics I HATED), was named Moose of Year by his local lodge on March 4. On March 5, he was killed in a motorcycle accident. He was 50 years old. He died doing something he REALLY loved, but... WAY too soon.
Open roads, Aaron. Fair winds, calm seas, and friendly fires, but most of all, open roads.

Our Hero Wars guild is doing this as a tribute to "Sting", which was Aaron's name in the game. His teams will be our entire entry in a competition on Saturday. (Image of "sole defender" set up.)

March 29:
Clueless Tom would have been 66 today. Here's what I said about the adventure in the photos when it happened:
So after I made that post about it being Tom's birthday, I got to thinking that GaryCon was still going on, and how much he would have loved it... I cobbled together a badge that would help explain Clueless Tom the Memorial Bear, found him a hat (because he MUST have a hat), and hit the road. Comments on the individual photos will follow in due course. I will have to get a photo of Tommy with Ernie G. in his lair to round out the set, sometime.
GaryCon has been virtual for the last two years, and has moved into a larger (and for me, less friendly) hotel. But still a good time, in any case.

March 29:
Foolishness. Accurate foolishness, but foolishness nonetheless. ("Gregarious Introvert" meme.)

March 30:
This was on this morning. Coca-Cola is hardly a paragon of corporate rectitude, but there are times when I am stupidly proud of the purveyors of my personal addiction...
When white Atlantans refused to buy tickets for a banquet honoring newly minted Nobel laureate Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964, then-president of Coca-Cola J. Paul Austin called a meeting with Atlanta's business leaders in which he declared: "It is embarrassing for Coca-Cola to be located in a city that refuses to honor its Nobel Prize winner. We are an international business. The Coca-Cola Co. does not need Atlanta. You all need to decide whether Atlanta needs the Coca-Cola Co." The banquet sold out within two hours.
(The bottle in the photo was made in 1962, and was in general circulation until at least 1987.)

March 30:
A story has happened. Tell me what you think. It contains a character that many of you will recognize... (Link to Grex and the Turtle story.)

March 31:
Life in my household:
The day's news was being discussed. Hyena shook his head and said, "I think I need to quote Ellen Ripley." Dementia just laughed.

Random Bits from Facebook

March 1:
Welcome to the madness:
I woke up this morning with the song, "Never On Sunday" stuck in my ear. I have never heard the song end to end, have never seen the movie, don't even know more than a line or two of the song, and haven't heard it at all in decades. Yet there it was. My cranial denizens chewed on it for a while.
At one point, a female voice said, "The difference between a prostitute and a courtesan is like the difference between a bar and a restaurant. You go to a bar for the alcohol. You go to a restaurant for the food, but you GET alcohol."
This has been a public micro-exorcism. Thank you for participating.

March 5:
From the Dredge. Apparently I am in the habit of sharing it every year, and I'm good with that. Maybe I should just start thinking of March 5 as "Elder Traffic Sign" day. (For the record, the sign is still on duty, at 360 Osborne Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba.)(Image of the "Elder Traffic Sign".)

March 5:
My contributor's copy arrived today. It's time to storm the battlements of the SFWA! (Image of cover and contents page of Hexagram #6.)

March 6:
Grishnakh is 39 years old today, and still on duty in my car, as he has been in every other car I have ever owned. (Thanks, Pete!)(Grishnahk portrait.)

March 7:
From an RPG design board (regarding "Stealth"):
About 40 years ago, I actually did some second story work; I was slightly out of my mind, and broke into public buildings, particularly indoor swimming pools, just for the hell of it. Never got caught, but came close a few times. I learned some things. Some of it is dance related, a matter of "grace"; being able to freeze instantly in any position and HOLD that way until a threat has passed. Some of it is learning what color and fabric combinations go black in low light, and which go white (you'd be surprised). Some of it is learning how to stow all of your gear so that it is handy and secure and quiet. And some of it is just refined athletics. You may have the skill and strength to climb over an eight foot fence-- but it takes a great deal more skill and strength to climb over that fence without making any noise.

March 8:
It's my birthday, so we have a poem. It is intended to be neither autobiographical nor prophetic, and yet, it might be either or both.
(In reference to that other post: 50, base 13, is equal to 65, base 10. Which is more obviously relevant today.)
(Card of "Fortune's Toy")

March 9:
A bit of business before I talk about the poem: As is my wont, I have gone through the list of birthday wishes (over a hundred this year, among a few sites), "liked" each", and given a few moment's thought to the identity, and my relationship with, each of the well-wishers. It is always a magical and humbling experience, and I love you all. Thank you.
Now... I happen to share a birthday with Kenneth Grahame (1859 to 1932), author of "The Wind in the Willows." I chose to ignore that fact yesterday (selfish of me), but today he gets his due. I encountered fragments of his work when I was very young, by way of Walt Disney and the Goodman Theater, and read the book when I was in high school. It's very good, though somewhat lost in the cacophony of the modern fantasy market. But then there's the Rat...
Ratty, and his famous line, "There is nothing-— absolutely nothing-— half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats," has been adopted by a global community of people who agree with that statement, and who call their gatherings "messabouts" therefore. It occurred to me yesterday that the attached poem hasn't seen daylight in years, and that bringing it out was a great way to honor Ratty and his creator.
(And no, I have never built a boat, and probably never will. I am a sailor and an oarsman, not a carpenter. It matters not.)(Card of "Galatea")

March 9:
So... the big birthday present yesterday was a website for Spiral Path Publications. It was still being tweaked up until a few minutes ago, but it seems to be good now! (Link to

March 10:
Ad copy I can't use:
Dementia was setting up the new "Spiral Path" web site, and was reading through the "Fiddler's Rose" sample, and... she got lost. As in, the story sucked her out of "proof-reader" mode, and into "reader" mode. And she has had the book read to her (as I completed each chapter, during composition), and then read it herself,, cover to cover, once it was finished. I feel pretty good about that...

March 12:
37 years ago today, I showed up for my usual evening shift, and had an opportunity to impose my personality on a newly hired receptionist, who was at the end of a long day and was fed up with meeting new people. She just wanted me to go away and leave her alone.
Dementia still hasn't gotten that wish. I am pretty sure that she has rescinded it, at some point...

March 13:
Life in my head:
I woke up this morning with the sick feeling that I had forgotten the name of one of my best friends. I fought back the incipient freak out and worked the problem. We had spoken at length earlier this week about... What? I can't remember. I can't remember his face! I can't... Wait a minute. I haven't been out of the house since Sunday, which means I couldn't have had that conversation, which means... Which means that my subconscious created an imaginary friend just so that I could panic at the prospect of forgetting him.
Thanks a lot, brain.

March 15:
This does not make me happy. It's still true. (Politics is the art of the possible. Let's keep the impossible stuff off of the table.)(Meme: Wealth Tax Unconstitutional meme.)

March 15:
Writer's Life:
The story I have been working on for the last couple of weeks has collapsed. There just isn't enough story to support the necessary setup. I tried diffferent points of view, different starting points, adding an audience character, pretty much every trick in the box, but it just wouldn't happen.
So now I am in that horrible place "between stories" where I have actually lived most of my life. Being marginally creative is NOT fun; it's very much like being addicted to a drug that no one knows how to synthesize.
I am aware that there are writers out there who have more ideas than they have any hope of ever using, and, nothing personal, but I hate you all.

Random Bits from Facebook

February 16:
In the US, there were more Covid-19 deaths last WEEK than there were firearm murders in the last YEAR. Firearm violence is a TRIVIAL problem with a large and disproportionate political cost. There are large and critical problems that need to be addressed, and firearm violence is very much not one of them. Gun control is a stupid waste of political capital.
(Personally... I used to be pro-gun. Now I am just anti-anti-gun, because I want humanity to survive, and in 2021, "gun control" is a good way to ensure that we won't. I so very much DO NOT WANT to be involved in this fight; I have been avoiding it for years. But I can't just watch the country, and the world, go over this cliff.)(Either Or Meme)

February 16:
Two and a half hours in, 80%-plus done, game called because of darkness. Too much snow and not enough me.

February 16:
February 16, 1804: Stephen Decatur and the "Intrepid" sneaked into Tripoli harbor, captured and set fire to the captive "Philadelphia", and returned safely without losing a man along the way.
I told this story to Dementia while passing through Decatur, IL, a few years ago, and her response was, "Why wasn't I taught this? Why isn't there a MOVIE?"
Why, indeed.

February 17:
This is a follow-up to yesterday's political post. It was clear fairly quickly that a logical disconnect was in play, and I hope I have found it. If not, I am simply baffled.
I am not now, or ever, talking about compromising with the GOP. That is absolutely a losing game. What I am talking about is luring voters across the aisle. I have been tracking the impact of "firearm rights" on national politics since the 2000 elections, and it is clear to me that there is a group of hard core firearm rights voters who do not want to vote Republican, and will shift across the aisle if the Democrats only had the sense to leave their guns alone. This group amounts to about 2% of the electorate, which would be enough to give the Democrats full control of the country.
There is no reason to believe that ANYONE will vote Republican rather than Democratic if the Democrats drop their gun control plank. (Some currently active Democrats will stop showing up, but the number is relatively small.)
There is, to my knowledge (and I HAVE looked), no other issue which has a comparable opportunity cost.
Firearm violence is a numerically trivial issue, and the political cost for chasing gun control at this point in history is inexcusably stupid. (Disarming the Peasants Meme)

February 17:
My mother died on this day in 2010. She was not herself at the end, had not been for several years, but she had been smart, kind, almost infinitely forgiving, and REALLY daffy.
I suspect that she often found loving me something of a chore, but she did it anyway.

February 18:
Yeah, my head is just a LITTLE bit toxic tonight... (Musk/AI meme)

February 19:
Life in my household:
Dementia was looking over some sheet music. " Apparently, back when I first started studying the ukulele, I got the idea that it would enhance the process if I did the chord charts in Elder Futhark."
Hyena laughed so hard he nearly fell over, and was completely unable to speak (or move) for about three minutes.

February 21:
From the Dredge. Still true.
There is enough evil in the world without propagating garbage that you have made no effort to fact check.
Just... Don't.

February 23:
A troll attacked my Livejournal archive last night. Its spelling, grammar, and punctuation were excellent, and not at all vulgar, but still hateful and toxic. What kind of person invests half an hour (by time stamp) into spewing anonymous hatred?

February 23:
In happier news, it looks likely that "Laggy's Last Game" might just qualify me for Associate Membership in SFWA. I would like that a LOT.

February 24:
From the Dredge. Still not right.
I was in Burger King today, and the CNN newsreader was interviewing an AI expert. At one point, the newsreader said, "Now, this is not as advanced as the computer, I don't remember its name, from the movie 'A Clockwork Orange' that tried to take things over."
When did reality break?

February 25:
Externally, it wasn't much of an event. There were no witnesses, and there was no physical evidence. I just walked up to the edge of the abyss, took a good, long look, and then walked away again. If I had chosen to keep it to myself, no one else would have ever known.
Except... The world changed, for me. That was the first true decision I had made, the first time I had not just followed the path of least resistance, in the nearly twenty years I had been taking up space. And going over the edge WOULD have been easy, was definitely the path I wanted to take. But that path didn't belong to the person I wanted to be.
As I walked away, I made another decision, that I was a WRITER. I didn't really know what I was doing, still don't, never have. But that moment of looking into the face of Oblivion was the moment I became ME.
It's not an experience I would recommend; once you have found your way down that path, you NEVER forget it, and it never stops calling. But it was definitive, a significant part of who I am, and I just wouldn't be me without it. (Semi-colon earned meme.)

February 27:
Trolls and other vermin:
My Livejournal Archive Troll has struck again, having now left its mark on all three of my most recent archive drops.
In other news... I am not fond of the term, "mansplaining", due to its overwhelmingly sexist overtones. Unfortunately, the term fills a linguistic void for behavior which is not particularly gender limited.
I have been accused of "mansplaining" once, I think unfairly. I attempted to (gently and politely) point out an egregious error to someone who happened to be female and much younger that I am, and was excoriated therefore. I walked away.
Yesterday, I was on the other side of the counter. In a discussion in which no one was presenting credentials, someone arrogantly and condescendingly pronounced my opinions categorically wrong. This IS mansplaining, as the term is more correctly used, gender identities notwithstanding.
I just wish there were a better term.

February 28:
Animosity does not help the situation. (Lack of Disadvantage meme.)

Random Bits from Facebook

February 1:
I spent three and a half hours doing honest labor this afternoon (it involved snow and a selection of shovels). I REALLY disapprove of honest labor...

February 2:
It's Imbolc, and here we have the third poem of my "Celtic Holiday" cycle. ("Trickster's Song" card)

February 2:
From the Dredge. Worth remembering.
On this day in 1925, Gunnar Kaasen and his dogs arrived in Nome, Alaska, with a a cargo of diphtheria anti-toxin. The payload (though no single dog or musher) had traveled 674 overland miles in 128 hours through near-blizzard conditions. Just sayin'.

February 2:
Here's the thing about the United States.
Let's start with a magic box. It might contain a BIG diamond, or something of similar value. It might contain a shrapnel bomb, and kill you instantly. It might contain pretty much anything in between.
Now... If you live in the United States, and trace your history back to the various points where you or your assorted ancestors entered the country, every single one of those traces will lead to someone who was given one of those magic boxes, and OPENED IT.
This is NOT a sane act. Ever. (It is sometimes the least of several evils.)
This is who we are. We are the children of greed, courage and insanity.
And I'm good with that.

February 2:
On this day in 1709, Alexander Selkirk was greeted by friendly human beings after being marooned for 52 months.
In the fall of 1976, I named my very first D&D character "Selkirk". He was killed by the very first monster he met.
Good luck finding meaning in that.

February 3:
I just read an article which presented a case that the Dunning-Kruger effect isn't real, but rather statistical noise in a fancy evening gown. The proof offered for this is that the results of the self assessment skill tests on which the original study was based have results nearly identical to a random distribution.
Which is to say, the debunkers think that by proving the average person has near zero skill at self assessment, they have disproved a study that claims that the average person has near zero skill at self assessment.
Well, that isn't quite true, either. Dunning-Kruger claimed to prove that ability to self-assess skill improved as actual skill improved, and the fact of the matter is that it doesn't. The emergent fact is that almost everyone is awful at self-assessment, regardless of actual skill level.
Fortunately, empirical reality is fairly persistent.

February 3:
It has been pretty well demonstrated at this point that I have an unusual abiltity to hold and manipulate large abstract concepts in my head. Every few years I spend some time with a bottle or two of "Old Economist", and I get to the point where I can see a fuzzy picture of the whole economic landscape, and it invariably terrifies me. There are still paths open which give humanity a half-life of greater than 50 years, but they are increasingly improbable.
I come back to day to day life with an awareness that there are things that can be done, and things that MUST be done, to improve our odds, but doing them depends on people understanding the situation, and the arguments for doing those things are right at the edge of MY understanding, and my ability to articulate them AT ALL is marginal. My ability to articulate an eleven stage argument to people who generally get lost at stage four is... less than marginal.
I need to go play video games for a while.

February 4:
It's February; the Black Dog is doing his best to tear off one of my feet, and my right shoulder has decided to begin yet another round of the "dull, diffuse, intense" game. So today we have an installment of "Why Paul Is The Way He Is."
When I was 22 months old, which is to say, sentient but semi-lingual, my parents sent me away to this special camp to be tortured by strangers. They came to visit me every day, and the first few times I thought they would rescue me, but they didn't. Well, they did EVENTUALLY, but it took two weeks.
I came out of the experience with a profound fear of the dark that lasted into adolescence, and a fundamental inability to trust other people that is still going strong.
I was only semi-lingual, remember? I didn't understand that I was dying, or that the place was a hospital, or that the evil strangers in the white coats were actually trying to keep me alive. I just understood that it was AWFUL.
This is all reconstruction, of course. I know that the hospitalization happened, and that is when the fear of the dark started, and that SOMETHING happened to my ability to trust. All I really remember is an infinite gray corridor with lots of dark windows, accompanied by a sensation of loneliness and pain. But it all fits.
I am unaware (not that I have really looked) of any serious study of the impact of hospitalization during that critical "sentient but non- or semi- lingual" period. I have run into a few people who have had similar experiences, and they all have their own psychic scars. These just happen to be mine.

February 5:
"Supernatural" Geekery:
Episode 20 of season 7, titled "The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo", was first aired on April 27, 2012. It introduced Felicia Day's character Charlie Bradbury. It also mentioned both Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Which is just weird, even for "Supernatural."

February 6:
The other day a friend posted a description of a complex and detailed dream she had had, and I responded by saying that it was more complex than any of my dreams ever were. I went on to say that there is reason to believe that I dream rather less than is normal.
So of course last night I had a (for me) unusually complex dream. I present it here for archival purposes.
Dementia and I were driving west on a bright sunny day through a yellow-gold landscape; there were storm clouds gathering on the western horizon. And then we were walking under the same circumstances. The storm began to move toward us very quickly, and a funnel cloud formed in the middle distance and headed in our direction. I tried to change our path to go northward, but Dementia didn't turn. And then the funnel cloud was so close that there was no other recourse than to fall flat, which Dementia did onto her back. I took one last look at the funnel cloud before I dove to the ground, and saw it had swerved to the south and was rapidly shrinking. By the time it was due south of me, it had shrunk to human size, and resolved into a long-haired woman of cloud who was facing away from me.
Mental noise is weird.

February 7:
Into the pain-killers at 12:30 this afternoon. This does not bode well for the rest of the day...

February 8:
From the Dredge. As it happens, I have the ring back. There are competing narratives. One says that it was never stolen, and that the whole kerfluffle was just confusion. The other is baldfaced magic. The mundane explanation is far more probable, but if you hold a gun to my head, I will NEVER disavow the possibility of the magical explanation, because, quite honestly, I WANT to live in a world where precious things can sometimes return to you when you call them.
What follows is an exercise in absurdity, but since I have only just realized that the ring is missing, and have therefore never made any effort to call it home, it certainly can't HURT. Who knows what currents may flow on the web?
LOST: Wedding ring, 10 kt gold, size 13. Inscribed, "C.Y.H. - Jewel." Last seen Omaha, NE, in July of 2012.

February 9:
It's even scarier when you realize that the audience laughed.
(Peggy Sue meme.)

February 10:
From the Dredge. Fun, and shareworthy.
My friend Steve Lortz told a story once about an experience back in the very early days of RPGs that has stayed with me because it has some interesting things to say about the world at large.
Steve was in the Navy when D&D was published, and he quickly became the local game master. At one point, he designed a dungeon with a number of teleport rooms; the rooms were identical except for location, and if you spent a few seconds in one of the rooms, you found yourself in one of the others. To lure players into the rooms, he added a curtain across each room; to push the curtain aside, you had to enter the room and trigger the magic. But the magic was in the ROOM, not the curtain. Except... The very first player to enter one of these rooms decided to surprise whatever was on the other side of the curtain, and simply dashed into it, got tangled, and fell to the floor. He found nothing else in the room, and when he left, he was in a different part of the dungeon.
That player told others, and the word spread about the magic teleportational CURTAINS. If the players wanted to trigger the magic, they would enter one of the rooms, deliberately tangle themselves in the curtains, and then find themselves elsewhere. They never did figure it out. Steve had to supress a giggle every time it happened.
Just because you can make it work, doesn't mean you understand it...

February 10:
And here we have another installment of, "Why Paul Is The Way He Is." This one is about pets.
Over the course of my life as a resident of my parents house, we had two dogs, a rabbit, a few of those green anole lizards that were sold as "chameleons" back in the day, several turtles, and a whole bunch of fish.
None of them were mine. Well, actually, I thought of the dog my parents had when I was born as mine, but that was just a toddler's delusion. Also, the reason I have never wanted a pet of my own.
Blackie, short for "Black Douglas" in spite of being female, had been adopted by my parents during the first year of their marriage. She was small, mostly black, and utterly devoid of pedigree. She was reasonably well behaved, except when she occasionally ran away and came home pregnant. I loved her dearly.
When I was four years old, she ran away, and never came back. After a few days, my father sat my brother Tim and I down (Pete was not in the picture yet) and told us that Blackie had been found a few blocks away, that she had been hit and killed by a car. (As it happens, this was a lie; she had been put down on the advice of the family pediatrician due to Tim and my allergies, and a failure of efforts to find her another home, but I didn't learn THAT for another 22 years). My memory of that conversation includes a very precise location, near the window at the east end of the attic of the house we lived in at that time.
So what happens to a four year old, whose ability to trust has already been permanently damaged by spending two weeks in the hospital when sentient but pre-lingual, when you tell him that the creature he loved most in the world ran away and died? He concludes that this is what happens when you love another creature: It leaves you forever.
I've learned to trust other humans enough to avoid being fundamentally paranoid (though it is a matter of discipline, not inclination), but animals? No thank you. The risks out weigh the benefits by far too much.

February 11:
It's DARK in there...
A few years ago, I joined a number of high-IQ societies, in the hope that I would encounter someone, in one of them, who had a clue about finding employment as a very smart but damaged person. Nothing came of it, and I dropped my memberships in all but one ("Triple-Nine", and kept that because the people seemed decent and the life membership rate was dirt cheap). The following originated there.
When I first joined this group, a question went around about dating people who were more intellectually normal, and I related that I had had more than one woman tell me that she liked me, but that the contents of my head were too scary, and that she was already as close as she ever wanted to get.
This statement was met with disbelief. Several persons flatly expressed that it was impossible to be afraid of an idea, that the women in question were lying for one reason or another. Having actually been there at the moment, I remain confident that the expression of, "Your head is too scary," was sincere. I may have stumbled onto a way to express the disconnect.
The world I live in is absolutely depressing and scary; I see further than most people, and have a clear view of monsters that are well below the horizon for nearly everyone else. This has led to me being about a half-step away from an anti-natalist. For most of my life, there has been a metaphorical billboard across the street from my front door that says, "Why not kill yourself today?" in happy flashing letters.
Forty years ago, when I was actually in the dating pool, I was less good at keeping the inner ugly to myself, and I have since realized that, "Your head is too scary," actually meant, "I have seen a glimpse of the world you live in, and I do not want to live there, or risk being drawn in." This strikes me as entirely reasonable. I don't really want to live here, either.
As it happens, I am married to a woman who is utterly immune to this effect. This works out well for both of us. There is a great deal of functional paradox involved...

February 12:
Lots of interesting stuff in the Dreadge today, like this seasonal 575 poem.
The world's a snow cone
The flavor of frozen death.
I despise winter.

February 12:
This is a sort of character study that came out of conversation this morning. I thought it was worth sharing.
Spoken with a strong Southern accent:
"My great-great-grand-daddy died at a place called Culloden fighting against a government that would NOT leave him and his alone, and after he was dead, that same government bundled up his wife and kids and shipped them to America.
"My great-grand-daddy died twenty-three years later, fighting that same government, because it would NOT leave him and his alone.
"My family has never owned a slave, or even enough land to build a house on, but when it came down to war against a government that would not leave us alone, my brothers and I fought, and they died.
"So you ask me why I still wear the gray coat fifteen years after the war ended? I wear it because I am the angriest son-of-a-bitch that you will ever meet, and I hope like hell that this piece of gray cloth will make you pick a fight with me, because I haven't killed anyone yet today, and I am getting a bit twitchy.
"The name's Hex. It's your move."

February 13:
Political snark, and linguistic silliness. (Ayn Rand Selfishness meme.)

February 14:
Or, in this household, "A good day to clean out your repository of minor gifts looking for an occasion, but if there is nothing there, it's no big deal." (Emotional Blackmail Day meme.)

Random Bits from Facebook

January 16:
(Word-stingy meme.)

January 17:
I haven't been terribly impressed with "The Watch", so far. It tries too hard to be magical and fails. The most recent episode, though...
Our heroes are in the Discworld equivalent of a nursing home. They have been warned that violence is NOT allowed. A fight starts. An alarm goes off. Disco balls drop from the ceilings in every room, and the air fills with the sound of "Wham" playing "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" and the combatants are magically compelled to dance with their opponents.
It's SILLY. It's DUMB. And if you can watch that scene without grinning stupidly, there is something WRONG with you.
Sir Terry's ghost is grinning from ear to ear.

In the comments:
I made this same post over on the "Concellation" board, and was then goaded into replying with the following, which seems relevant:
It's not wonderful. It's not awful. It kind of reminds me of the recent "Dirk Gently" productions; no one involved actually gets the books, but there is just enough of the original magic peeking through to keep me interested.

January 18:
Back in the late 1990s, during a period of financial desperation, I realized that you can't kill yourself for financial reasons as long as you have an open lottery ticket in your pocket. It's absurdly improbable, but that open ticket means that if the universe actually wants to bail you out, there is an easy path. I made sure I always had that open ticket, and I survived.
Times improved, and I kept playing one ticket in each of the four potentially life changing drawings every week. I called it "mental health insurance", and honestly, it struck me as the most rational insurance pool I participated in. Desperation was replaced by prosperity was replaced by desperation was replaced by prosperity was replaced by desperation again. Things are not currently as bad as they were in 1999, or in 2008, but the ship is once again sinking, and has been for quite a while.
About a year ago, I stopped playing the lottery. I had realized that if the universe really wants to bail me out, there is a more personal avenue available. It's called "Fiddler's Rose". (The monster has been assembled, the tower has been erected, and the electrodes are in place. All it will take is a single bolt of lighting. Of course, there hasn't actually been a lightning storm in this county in over fifty years...)
Edited to add: Please note that this is history, and it not intended to be an indicator of my current mood. Other than the fact that I would REALLY like to see that particular lighting bolt.

January 18:
Weird stuff I say:
"Lurking, like a single piece of chocolate covered asparagus in an otherwise innocent box of candy."

January 19:
My Art Director persona is having a nervous breakdown. I am trying to write the specs for a new cover illustration for "Fiddler's Rose", but whenever I put on my Art Director hat, I freak out. I'm OK otherwise, but it is frustrating. I will get over it eventually.
It does not help AT ALL that Metaphorical February (defined as that portion of the year when life seems most meaningless and hopeless) arrived last night.

January 26:
The latest thread of creativity has led me to a dryad who inhabits a cemetery yew, and the why behind THAT is a very nice little writer's puzzle indeed. (I suspect that I will have to invent an entire body of dryad lore to make it work, and so far I am good with that.)

January 26:
I would seem to be about 2/3 of the way through my 6th visual migraine in the last five years (also my entire life, but the first one was in December of 2015, and yes, I am keeping a log). Always a creepy experience.
Update: Over, except for mild nausea. Still creepy, though.

January 28:
Love of the language:
A person who creates scrimshaw is a "scrimshander", and the practice of doing so is "scrimshandering".
This delights me...

January 28:
Life in my household:
The conversation ranged over the demotion of Pluto, the absurdity of flying cars, and the pointlessness of interplanetary trade. Hyena asked Dementia if she knew, as a matter of Solar System geography, where "The Asteroid Belt" was, and she smiled and pointed straight up.
Hyena fell over from laughing.

January 29:
"I am now open to suggestions." --Brian Daley in the character of Gil MacDonald, "The Doomfarers of Coramonde". (Pendulum Meme)

January 30:
So, in between kicking at the Black Dog while it tries to rip off my foot, I have had a minor flash of creativity. I like these characters, and would really love to have Cady develop into that bloody-knuckled pragmatist I mentioned a few weeks ago. All I need is a good fantasy-noir plot to drop them into...
Fragment One: The Dragon
Once upon a time there was dragon named Sessoria Terrorwind, and she was fierce and fearless and foolish, for she became involved in a battle with a sorceress who was far beyond her measure. Once the battle was over, and her companions had died or fled, the sorceress came to Sessoria where she lay mortally wounded. They spoke briefly, and Sessoria asked the sorceress to promise to remember her, and to give her a grace stroke, for she was in great pain. The sorceress agreed to both things, and Sessoria died.
The sorceress arranged for Sessoria to be buried, and then built a town on top of the grave to stand guard. But one day a thief discovered the body, and stole one of Sessoria's bones, for dragon bones are very valuable. The bone changed hands many times, and was eventually reshaped into a sword. And the dragon spirit in the bone woke up, and took for itself the name Sessorina.
Fragment Two: The Warrior
Once upon a time, there was a yew tree that stood near a crossroad. There may have been a body buried deep below the yew's roots, but only the spirit of the tree would know that for certain, and she has never told. It happened that a minotaur spent the night beneath the tree, and he was never seen again. Only the yew spirit knows what became of him, and she does not tell that tale, either, though she will swear, angrily, that she was completely immune to the minotaur's magic, and that she acted entirely of her own free will. The fact remains that she bore the minotaur a child. The child did not appear in the world for many decades after its conception, for a dryad is a sovereign goddess within her own grove, and things there occur on her own schedule, and no other.
In time, the crossroad gave rise to an inn, and the inn to a community, and the community laid its dead to rest at the foot of the yew tree. And the tree became a grove, and the inn became a fortress, and the community became a town, and eventually part of a larger city. And then, at long last, the minotaur's daughter came into the sunlit world.
Her mother named her, "Cicada", for she had spent many long years growing in the bosom of the earth.

January 30:
I just had an established mid-list author tell me that I couldn't possibly have written a novel that was 99% dialog, because it is impossible to develop characters or drive a plot with only dialog.
Not sure how I should react to that...

Jaunuary 31:
From the Dredge. The situation that occasioned this statement was having gone for a 1.2 mile walk when the actual temperature was negative 8 Fahrenheit.

Carl Johnson:
"Just because you're doing something stupid doesn't mean you have to do it stupidly." -- Paul Haynie

Random Bits from Facebook

January 1:
Meme: Norman the Necromancer was experimenting with sheep parts, and accidentally created a Hoppy Ewe Ear.

January 2:
As characters, Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel leave me cold. But Wynonna Earp, Jessica Jones, or Lara Croft? I am SO there. Maybe it's a matter of bloody-knuckled pragmatism.
And then there is the fact that WWII aircraft get to me almost as much as square-riggers do. And then you add the mystique of the female taxi pilots who flew more of them than any combat pilot, and my brain melts.
So you take Chloe Grace Moretz, whose "Hit Girl" is about as bloody knuckled a pragmatist as exists in the history of fiction, and you make her a taxi pilot who ends up in a B-17 on an intelligence mission, and you add supernatural elements?
In a lot of ways, this seems to be a heavily reworked reprise of a Twilight Zone story that, in two incarnations, has starred both William Shatner and John Lithgow...
I am SO there. I am so VERY there. (Ad for "Shadow in the Cloud".)

January 2:
The "work for hire" project has been submitted, and I just got this back from the publisher: "We can work with this, though squeezing of type may be necessary! I like the style. Thank you!"
NOW I can take the victory lap. And maybe get some sleep.
So very much never again, though.

January 3:
Well, grrr. I missed my chance to make comments about cosmic irony on Perihelion Day. I DID shovel snow on the day in 2021 when the Earth will received the most solar radiation of the year, though.

January 3:
Ash nazg durbatuluk;
Ash nazg gimbatul;
Ash nazg thrakatuluk,
Agh burzum ishi krimpatul.
(The author was born on this day in 1892.)

January 3:
"Here's the thing about kobolds. They're vain, cowardly, and kind of dumb; they regard torture as a sport, and they like food that screams as it's being eaten. But they are pathologically loyal, and their vanity significantly exceeds their cowardice. So one kobold will run away from pretty much anything as fast as it can go, but ten kobolds will march right into a dragon's mouth, because none of them wants to be the first one to break."
Yeah, I might just have a handle on a kobold story.

January 4:
It's not REALLY "Never", it's more like, "Almost certainly never." It is possible that at some future date someone will point at something about which I am passionate, and pile money on top of it, and offer me an absurdly remote deadline, and get me to bite. It's just really unlikely. Here's why.
Both of the recent work-for-hire projects bit me at really vulnerable passion points, and the second (smaller, and shorter deadline) came along before I realized how miserable the first was going to make me. So for a week I had two of them going on, and until I got the little one taken care of I was as unhappy as I have ever been.
The thing is, when I have a commission hanging over me, it is hanging over me ALL THE TIME. Whatever I am doing, I am also NOT doing The Thing. And for that week, there were TWO things, which meant that even if I was working on one of them, I was NOT working on the other one, and the Crazy Meter just kept racking up the charges. Finishing the first project slowed down the accumulation, but there is no way to stop it, to say nothing of reverse it, as long was there was still a project in the queue.
I went through some of this with "Fiddler's Rose"; I made a lot of noise about "surfing on a soap bubble", and was in constant fear that the bubble would break. But there were no third party commitments; I had entered into the project with an expectation of failure, and as much as I wanted to complete the book, I didn't really believe in it until the last few weeks. And, critically, I hadn't made any promises to anyone, so there was no honor on the line.
So now the crazy meter has ticked down to a more of less normal level, and I can say that I am really glad that I have done the things, and will be proud to see them in print, but it will take a LOT to get me to ever put on that particular hat ever again.
And people wonder why I didn't try to go with traditional publishing for "Fiddler's Rose."

January 5:
More koboldry:
"Doc was smart enough to know that the first rule of being the smartest person in the room was to never assume you were the smartest person in the room."

January 5:
Life in my household:
"And she threw me a smile that had never heard the first rumor of sanity."
Those of you who know Dementia have probably seen that smile at some point...

January 8:
Medicare supplement vendors are driving me to contemplate suicide, on the basis that that is probably the only way to avoid them.
Edited to add: This is humor. It is REALLY dark humor, but you HAVE met me, right? Anyway, it triggered a helpful Facebook bot. This does not improve my mood.

January 9:
It has been pointed out to me that, as a result of Wednesday's Clown Rodeo, the entire Capitol building is mechanically insecure from an IT perspective, and that every nook and cranny needs to be swept in detail. While the Clown Rodeo had no chance at all of surviving even 24 hours as a coup, it still managed to do MILLIONS OF DOLLARS in completely pointless damage. On the off chance that any of the participants otherwise managed to avoid committing a Federal felony, this puts every last one of them on the hook.

January 9:
OK, so here's your chance to weigh in on something that has been participating in the erosion of my sanity. I am currently beginning to shop for an artist to do this design in a consistent style. Photo-realism would be wonderful, but probably out of my price range. (And yes, I know that the rose is too big. That will be fixed.)
The question for the gallery is this: What color is the dragon? I have had in mind that Rose's dragon form was basically bronze, but that might be a problem with the background red (which can be changed, with some reluctance). Black with red highlights (and giving the rose red highlights to match) is also under consideration. And, honestly, I am open to other suggestions. And remember that the associated human form is a redhead.
(Also thanks again to Jonathan F. for the line art.)

January 10:
Life in my household:
Hyena: "Jeopardy" answer: The key figures of the second generation of this widespread religion were named, "Rocky" and "Shorty".
Dementia just laughed.

January 11:
Two years ago today, "Fiddler's Rose" went live on Amazon (among other places). It was a terrifying and euphoriant experience.
Two years later... Do I rhapsodize about the many emotional highs I have gotten from various readers (mostly friends, but a few strangers)? Do I whimper about the fact that it is apparently unmarketable and will never actually find an audience?
Neither. Taken as a whole, it's just too big. It simply IS. Thank you all for your various parts in the journey.

January 13:
My friend Jonathan has trouble with my relationship to the idea of "truth", and I have wasted a couple of days trying to explain myself. The problem is that the question rapidly becomes an exploration of the interplay between Metaphysics (the branch of philosophy which asks, "What is True?") and Epistemology (the branch of philosophy which asks, "What is Truth?") and I have neither the energy nor the time to do anything like justice to THAT one.
It comes down to this: Sometimes the truth is so toxic that speaking it is an evil act. And sometimes falsehood has so much potential to heal and comfort that failing to speak it is also an evil act. And I am opposed, in those cases, and in general, to evil.

January 15:
Dementia has never been good at silence. Left to her own devices, she always has music (or lately, an audiobook) going in the background. This is to some extent a matter of blocking her tinnitus. Fortunately, our tastes are similar enough that this is seldom a problem.
Today she was listening to a self help thing that that pushed WAY too many of my buttons. After about 20 minutes I was grinding my teeth and quietly chanting, "I will NOT swallow a revolver." At the 40 minute mark I asked her if it were a book or something shorter, found that there were only 20 minutes to go, and refrained from further comment. (If it had been an actual book, I would have asked her to please keep it as far away from me as possible. I have done this before, and she respects my wishes.)
There are days, certainly, when I can raise my eyes to the horizon and stride off fearlessly to face the dragons that dwell there. But there are also days when the Black Dog howls and it is all I can do to keep putting one foot in front of the other. And on days like THAT, observed optimism in others just makes it worse.

Random Bits from Facebook

December 16:
Oh, the horror.
Disney is working on a reboot of "Firefly".
Joss is probably not involved.
It's going to be "family friendly."
Be afraid. Be VERY afraid.

December 17:
The Wheel Turns:
Jeremy Bulloch died today at the age of 75. He is best known as the actor who played Boba Fett, but the signed picture of him on the bookcase in the living room actually shows his face (and Carrie Fisher).
In 1996 and 1997, I brough my quarterstaff arena to three conventions in Tulsa, OK. Security at all of them was provided by the local Klingon club, who, out of costume, were pretty much everything you didn't expect a Klingon to be. We got to be friends, so I ended up in their company for the deadest of the dead dog parties on Sunday night.
On one occasion, that meant pizza with my partner, six or eight Klingons, Peter Mayhew, and Jeremy Bulloch. It was one of the best fan experiences of my life. Bulloch was a typical British actor; he hung wallpaper when he wasn't in a current production, because the bills never stop. He was never a huge star, but he did SO MANY things, and he was really a charming fellow. The world is diminished by his passing.

December 19:
And here is today's happy thought. (Meme: The more I understand, the more depressed I get.)

December 20:
The van got t-boned sitting in the driveway at 2:00 AM. I was JUST about to go to bed. Other driver was trying to escape, but his car was too badly damaged BEFORE it hit mine. It seems that he eventually left the scene in handcuffs. I am somewhat less than happy.

December 20:
Pictures of the carnage... The damage to the van is really pretty minor, but will be expensive enough. Both doors still work fine, though I keep forgetting to check the window in the slider. The other car had tripped heavily over a railroad tie about four feet before hitting the edge of my driveway. I suspect that the CVJ died at that point; the car didn't seem to have any ability to move when I showed up.

December 21:
As a result of Sunday morning's foolishness, this afternoon I had occasion to demonstrate that I can still deadlift a soggy railroad tie. Go, me.

December 24:
(Meme: Too old for greed, too poor for generousity, so guilt will bite with festive ferocity.)

December 28:
As a writer, story structure is my bread and butter. In the last few days, I have been reminded by a musician, and then again by a dancer, that all performance art requires story structure. We are ALL buskers; beauty is boring; it's the swindle that makes it sing.

December 28:
Reposting this here for archival purposes; I posted it to a couple of fan sites, and got my answer in short order.
Weird fannish trivia question: At ChiCon V, in 1991, there was a "World Building" panel with four people on the panel. Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Hal Clement, and a fourth, who I think was Fred Pohl. Can anyone confirm, or give me the correct identity of the fourth person?
Edited to update:
Identity confirmed:
Literary - Classic Worldbuilding Techniques - Grand Ballroom A
Moderator: D.A. Smith
H. Clement, L. Niven, F. Pohl, J. Pournelle

December 28:
Posted for archival purposes:
"Reply From Extraterrestrial Intelligence" by E. Michael Blake
An alien happens to stumble across one of the NASA probes harboring various messages from earth as part of SETI (The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and decides to answer it, in the form of a funny and insightful interstellar monologue.
(This is the "nitrogen" play that we saw half of at TorCon in 2003, and I have been looking for since.)

December 29:
Stuff the goes on in my head:
My friend Jonathan has given me the idea of assembling a book of my various first-person pieces. Yesterday a title suggested itself: "The Swindle Makes It Sing". This appeals to me on a whole bunch of levels.
Now all I have to do is finish the interminable work-for-hire project that is currently eating my brain (NEVER again. Really. NEVER.), and then maybe I can start working on it.

December 29:
Now the world has all turned white;
Joy has vanished overnight;
Beauty has a nasty bite.
How I hate the snow!
(First significant snowfall of the season. I think I will make a tradition out of that poem, which I wrote a few years ago.)

December 30:
Life in my household:
Dementia: That's a really cool thing, but if you're going to buy it, you really ought to have a use for it. Like, you know, a gaming group that meets here regularly...
Hyena (interrupting): Every thirty-five years, regular as clockwork.
Dementia: Exactly.

December 31:
When I am at my keyboard, my physicality focuses down to my hands, my eyes, and my brain, and I am 27 years old, just as I have been since 1983. And then I get up, and every one of the intervening 37 years reminds me of its presence twice, and for the first ten steps I am 101. Such is life.

December 31:
Primary composition of the "work for hire" project that has been haunting me since early November has been completed: 3200 words in 51 days, for an hourly rate that is just short of being a negative number. I think I will be happy with the result, but never again.

Random Bits from Facebook

December 3:
Writer's Life
I have been styling myself as the "World's Foremost Authority on Gnolls" for more than a decade at this point. It occurred to me this morning that my claim to the title might be better than I had thought.
Back in 2006, when I started my crusade to establish gnolls as public domain creatures, I collected all of the gnoll literature I could find. Prior to "White Box" OD&D, this meant two stories. I bought a copy of "The Book of Wonder" by Lord Dunsany for "How Nuth Would Have Practiced His Art Upon the Gnoles" (1912), and then I hunted down an out of print anthology that contained Margaret St. Clair's 1951 story, "The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles."
I wrote my gnoll essays, found a publisher, and said publisher (Mike Varhola of Skirmisher) decided it would be good to include those two stories in the finished book. Dunsany was in the public domain, but the St. Clair...
I found contact information for St. Clair's agents, and Mike opened negotiations. It turned out that they didn't have an electronic copy of the story, so I read it aloud to Dementia (the better typist), who transcribed it, and it was duly forwarded.
Before that day, there was NO electronic copy. Since that day, there has been no (legitimate) need for anyone to make an independent transcription. So my voice, and Dementia's fingers, are seared into the history of the story.
I kind of like that idea...

December 4:
Epiphany and Inspiration
Conversation turned, briefly, on Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones, and I found myself commenting that I have a definite weakness for hard-drinking, profoundly single women who can and will break your face-- Ritter's Jessica, Wynonna Earp, Faith from "Buffy", and of course Rose Stonecrow.
And that got me thinking. I still have a lot of "lone wanderer" fragments in my archive. Most of them are male, most of them are wizards, but there is a lot of good stuff there. And if I were to consolidate them around a single, non-magical, female hard case... There just might be something there. Maybe.

December 5:
Two unrelated things:
First, the illustration: I went looking for Sidney Sime illustrations, and happened to see this REALLY GOOD version of "The High Lonely House of the Gnoles". It's about twice the resolution of any version I have seen before; you can see the canvas grain under the paint. It's GORGEOUS. (Also, as it happens, now in the public domain: The painting was published in 1912, and Sime died in 1941.)
Second: Having written what may be the only 99% dialog fantasy novel, I now find myself giving serious consideration to writing a hard boiled fantasy novel with a main character who does not speak AT ALL. In first person. I mean, if it's already impossible, why try to make it easier?

December 6:
25 years ago today, I walked into the front hall, intending to put om my shoes, and found them occupied. One of them contained something edible, the identity of which has been lost to time, and the other contained a little brown lump of magic.
Willie G., the pocket ape, has been with me ever since, almost always in the same building, usually within arm's reach. His main job is to remind me that Dementia loves me, but he has become a talisman of stability. And today is his 25th birthday.
The photo is from October, 2019, with Geneva Lake in the background.

December 8:
Life in my household:
Dementia was in the middle of consuming an audio version of a popular and well-reviewed novel. Hyena asked what she thought of it.
"Well," she said, "I wouldn't say it was overwritten-- you would, but I won't-- but if a deft and sympathetic editor had gone over it, and gotten rid of about a third of it, it would be brilliant."
Hyena laughed and said, "I'm developing a reputation."

December 9:
Not the first time I have said this, but the first time as a proto-meme. This seems to be turning into a recurring theme for me: Justice is nice, but sustainability is mandatory. (Fatter Mice meme)

December 9:
Writer's Life
Dementia: The first sentence is long, complex, and clunky. No one will bother to read it.
Hyena: It's journalism. The first sentence MUST say What, Where, and When. Two of those things are vague, so the sentence is going to be long, complex, and clunky.
Dementia: You can do better.
Hyena: It's easier to just take you off the preview list.
Dementia: I know all of your passwords.
Hyena just growled...

December 9:
"Supernatural" Geekery:
And there it was: Season 2, Episode 3: Dean calls the Impala "Baby" for the first time.

December 10:
I first learned of the Dunkirk boatlift from a "National Geographic" article by Alan Villiers. In it, Villiers mentioned that "Skylark" was a popular name among the coastal tour boats, and that it had become a sort of generic term for the "little ships" that participated in the boat lift. A little while ago, I came upon a very sad picture of a very tired boat, with a caption that said she was the last of the Dunkirk "little ships" remaining in Scotland, and restoration efforts were underway at last. And I looked at the sad little ship again, and thought to myself, "She's one of the last Skylarks," and then realized that was EXACTLY the name on her prow.
"Skylark IX" was one of eleven such ships built in the late 1920s in Poole, Dorset; she was intended as a harbor cruiser. In 1939 she was pressed into military service as a minesweeper, and in May of 1940 she rescued more than 600 men during the boatlift. Postwar, she became a tour boat on Loch Lomond, and then fell on hard times.
In 2010, she sank, and people belatedly realized that she was a treasure, and started working on raising and restoring her. She still has a long way to go.
At her best, she was never beautiful. But she certainly is wonderful, and deserves better than she has gotten so far. I wish her well.

December 12:
Four years later, I haven't had the chance to visit the Lady. Doesn't mean it won't happen, though.
Dredged from 2016:
I am always kinda-sorta on the lookout for new canoe expeditions, and I think I have just found one. It turns out that about two miles downstream of the I275 bridge across the Ohio River, just west of Cincinnati, there is a rusting hulk in Taylor Creek on the Kentucky side of the river. The local kyakers call her "The Ghost Ship."
She was beautiful once. She came into the world as "Celt", a 186 foot clipper bowed fantail steam yacht. She changed hands and was renamed "Sachem", was pulled into the US Navy and hunted submaries during WWI, then went back into private hands after the war; she was refitted for diesel and did a stint as a gamefishing boat. Back into the Navy as "USS Phenakite" in WWII, first as a sub chaser, then as a sonar lab. Back into private hands and a stint as a New York Harbor tour boat, first as the "Sightseer", and later as "Circle Line V". She left active service in 1983.
In 1986 she was partially refitted and sailed through the Great Lakes to the Mississippi (which must have included Chicago along the way), then up the Ohio to her current resting place and dereliction.
There are a fair number of small to medium logisical challenges involved in actually meeting this particular lady in person, but as of now I really WANT to meet her...

December 12:
Back in the early '70s, there was this little blue plastic block puzzle called, "Soma." It had seven pieces, each formed of three or four cubes, and together they formed a larger cube. It came with a booklet that showed a large number of alternative shapes that could be made with the cube, of increasing difficulty, and I dutifully worked my way through the entire booklet. At some point over the course of the next decade I made an offhand comment that it would be cool to build a Soma out of hardwood: Cut the 27 matching cubes, and then glue them up into the seven puzzle pieces. I don't really remember the circumstances of the moment, but my brother Pete was present, because at some later date, probably my birthday, he presented me with the Soma cube I had described. It remains one of the best presents I have ever received (second best from Pete, as it happens).
All of this comes up because today is Pete's birthday, and all I can do to commemorate the occasion is express my gratitude. Pete has certainly thought I was crazy on many occasions-- so have I-- but he has always had my back when it mattered.