Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Marvel Pictures Pics

Saw this on Newsrama on my way home and figured I'd share: Marvel released some stills of its 2014 movie slate today.  Here's the one from the Guardians of the Galaxy:

Mugshot-style lineup from the forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy.
"Brash adventurer Peter Quill finds himself the object of an unrelenting bounty hunt after stealing a mysterious orb coveted by Ronan [the Accuser]..."  

Paraphrasing the rest: the orb appears to be another piece of the Infinty Gauntlet, and Quill has to team up with a band of misfits, shown above, to keep the galaxy safe.  Wackiness ensues, presumably involving the Kree and a bunch of other space-folk.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Revisiting the Year That Was: 2013's New Year's Resolutions

With the New Year approaching, it's time to take stock of where we are and where we want to go.  Last year, Sally and I sat together and wrote out a short list of resolutions for each of us, and with 2014 coming up, it's time to revisit those old resolutions and take stock of the year that was.

I don't know if Sally's going to share her list or not, but these were my goals for 2013, shared now by way of holding myself accountable for last year's performance.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Fluffy

by Hannah Head
(Sung to the tune of "Monster")

I'm friends with the Fluffy,
who is my pet.

She has so much fur
on the top of her head.

And when she barks, 
you don't know what she said.

And you think she's crazy,
Yeah, you think she's crazy,
Well, that's not fair!

Wa-ooo wa-oo, wa-ooo wa-oo

Well, that's not fair!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Movie and Book Reviews

(or "How I Spent My Christmas Break When I Wasn't Taking Care of My Wife, Who's Had The Flu.")

So.  If you read the last post, then you know that Sally's been down with the flu since Christmas morning.  In fact, I have to take a minute to acknowledge how awesome my kids are, because Sally went down--hard--right in the middle of opening presents.  We'd each opened, like, two gifts when she keeled over.  She literally slumped in her seat, turned green, and then announced that she was going back to bed.  And the girls--without complaint--sat down, had breakfast with me, and waited without complaint--for more than two hours!!--for Sally to get back up and finish opening the rest of the presents with us.

It was amazing, really.

Anyway, since then, the girls and I have been watching movies and reading, almost non-stop.  And Hannah's been drawing.  In order, we've watched:

Friday, December 27, 2013

Ode to Christmas

So, I have been in bed for the past three days with the flu. Not a great time by any standards. By day three I started to think I was getting better, so I did what any normal person would do, I cleaned out my desk drawer. I found missing bills, Get Well cards I never mailed and oddly enough a poem I had written back when I was living in New York City in 1998. I have no idea what its true meaning is, but if you do, have a stab at it and let me know.

 December 25, 1998

I awoke from a dream, quickly
there was a sharp pain, suddenly
No, not of despair or loneliness
far greater, that of remembrance

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Heard on Christmas Eve

Emma: Daddy, what kind of elf is Santa Claus?

Me: Uh...

Emma (crosses arms across her chest):  Dad.  I know the kinds of elves.

Me: Umm...

Emma: Is he a regular elf?  A half-elf?  A fire elf?  An eladrin?  A drow?  I mean, I know he's not a drow.  Is he?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Letter, 2013

Dear Friends,
Dixie
I hope this letter find you happy and healthy this Christmas season.  2013 has been an interesting and exciting year for our family, certainly full of its share of moments worth sharing.  For one thing, our dog Dixie passed on this year, which made me sad, especially since she was the last remaining member of my family from Tennessee.  But we also welcomed a new puppy into the family, Faith, and she’s brought a lot of joy and happiness into our lives.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas is Ready

Wrapping Presents

The Seeker

Promises to be a busy day.  And while I didn't plan to have to do a lot of Christmas shopping this afternoon, it looks like that's what's gonna happen.

This song isn't about that, but it ought to be.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Engineer Class: A D&D Next Design Experiment (Part 2)

This is my first time trying to design a class for any version of D&D, so go easy on me.  Also, if you missed Part 1 of this experiment, it's here.

***
Engineers are the brains of the outfit--capable combatants who know how to get things done.  They rely on a combination of their own fighting prowess and invention.  They succeed by using hasty or deliberate obstacles and traps to shape the battlefield and force their enemies to go in a direction that best benefits the Engineer’s allies, and when that doesn’t work, they fall back on their knowledge of alchemical concoctions or the simple strength of their sword arms.
Play an Engineer if you want to be a tough, capable jack-of-all-trades, a person who knows a little of everything who can therefore adapt to almost any situation.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday News Clippings

Some of the stuff that caught my eye this morning.

When the Right to Bear Arms Includes the Mentally Ill (NY Times)
This article is horrifying.

"Last April, workers at Middlesex Hospital in Connecticut called the police to report that a psychiatric patient named Mark Russo had threatened to shoot his mother if officers tried to take the 18 rifles and shotguns he kept at her house. Mr. Russo, who was off his medication for paranoid schizophrenia, also talked about the recent elementary school massacre in Newtown and told a nurse that he “could take a chair and kill you or bash your head in between the eyes,” court records show...

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Pictures from our Anniversary

The view from our room, on the 42nd floor.
Sally and I had a drink overlooking Times Square before we went
downtown for dinner.
Saw these last night at Dean & Deluca's in SoHo.
Saw these snacks, named for our daughter, in SoHo.
Me and Sally after our run this morning.  We went from Times Square to
Central Park, up to the Reservoir, and back.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Five Things on a Friday: Anniversary Edition

Happy Friday everybody.  And hey!  It's almost Christmas!

1. US Economy Expands at 4.1 Percent Rate (ABC News.Com)
“The U.S. economy grew at a solid 4.1 percent annual rate from July through September, the fastest pace since late 2011 and significantly higher than previously believed. Much of the upward revision came from stronger consumer spending… primarily in the area of health care…

The third quarter rise in the gross domestic product… was the best performance since a 4.9 percent increase in the final three months of 2011.”

Friday Hair Metal: Rush

I think I might've played this song before.  But not this video.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Mazarian the Magician

Been reading Jack Vance's Tales from the Dying Earth this morning. A friend recommended it to me on Google+.

Interesting book. I wasn't completely sold on it until I read that it had inspired some of Michael Moorcock's work, but now that I've started, the thing is like some kind of fanstasy fever-dream. 


***
While we're talking, can I mention that I was practically the only asshole riding his bike through the blistering cold in the Park this morning?  I saw one rather serious-looking rider and one other commuter, and that was it. 

Also: why does it feel like the air is thicker when it's cold, and why is the wind always in my face?  Argh. 

Anyway, it's a slow-looking Thursday and almost Christmas, so the pre-Holiday malaise is on in full in the City. So that's all I got for today. 

What's up with you?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Designing the Engineer Class: A D&D Next Experiment

I wrote a series of posts last week called “13 Things I’d Like to See from D&D Next,” and I’ve gotta admit, I was more than a little pleased with the response.  I posted the link to the D&D Next Community on Google+, and folks there seemed to dig it, chiming in all week with comments about one or more of the ideas that I’d mentioned.  
The Warlord class—or perhaps Fighter subclass—got the most attention, but I personally was most interested in the discussions that arose around the idea of an “Engineer” class or subclass, envisioning the thing in military terms as mobility, counter-mobility, and survivability specialist.  To which I got comments along two basic lines:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Snow in NYC



Sketch in my Notebook (Part 7): Escape!

I (finally) finished drafting "Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki" this week.

I have a process.  I write in the mornings, usually while I'm on the train on my way into the City.  Then I come back the next morning, re-write what I wrote the day before, and start writing again.  When I finish something, I put it aside--hopefully for at least a month--to try to get some perspective on it before I go back for the first re-write.

That first re-write is tough.  That's when I'm trying to fix scene structure, address holes in the plot, and generally make the story work better.  But it can be hard to see what works and what doesn't, especially since I know how the story ends, so the thing holds no surprises for me.  It was even tougher this time because this latest Sneax story took so long in draft that I couldn't let it sit for a whole month.  So I tried to compensate by putting it out to a few trusted test-readers, but they mostly liked the story as it was...  Not helpful.  I mean, it made me feel good, but I mistrust people's kindness.  The idea that the story achieved its purpose perfectly the first time through is ludicrous.  It doesn't happen--ever.

Anyway, it's that first re-write that I finished with the Sneax story this week--for better or worse--and afterwards, I very much felt like I needed to get away from Wanderhaven for awhile.  I love writing for my kids, but the Sneax stuff is decidedly YA-lit, and that's got a certain tone.  I wanted to change that tone, stir up my internal monologue, and so...

I let Dr. Necropolis come to my rescue.

Warning: This next bit is definitely spicy.  There's quite a bit of salty language and associated nastiness.  Also, if you've not read the preceding chapters of this project, there is no way that you'll be able to follow this week's piece.  The other bits are therefore archived in the Sketch in My Notebook section.

You have been warned.
***

The Return of Dr. Necropolis
Chapter 6: Escape!

They threw him into solitary almost immediately.  Literally threw him.  Fat fucking Grossman and his partner, that asshole Little, pitched Frank headlong into a tiny cell down in Solitary Confinement.  He slammed face first into the wall and saw stars, was briefly dizzy and a little nauseous afterwards, having just had his ass kicked by a superhero on top of everything else.
In spite of everything, Frank laughed.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Time

CJ2K: Unexpected Reappearance


I don't know who's gonna win this game, but this part, at least, I like.

Level Up: I Believe in IPA

Is it weird that I'm really fired up every time I get one of these crazy merit badges?

You get this one for checking in with ten different IPAs.

Drink Locally

The "Local Flavor" merit badge from Untappd.  Five beers from a
local brewer?  I think that's what it's for.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Getting our Christmas Tree

We went to get our tree today...


Go Army, Beat Navy!


The game is today at 3:00pm.  Navy is favored by eleven, but this year's Army team has been very good in spots.  I have hope--perhaps irrational.  

The girls and I are going over to watch the game at one of my classmate's houses, and well, regardless of how the game itself comes out, I at least have high hopes for the beer and commradery that'll be shared.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Five Things on a Friday: Meet the Donut Family!

Amongst the news-worthy items: TSA fees will increase, a good bit of sequestration is being unwound, and Federal workers are going to have to pay more for their pensions going forward.  Not sure exactly what that means, but it particularly sucks for my friends who’re still in the military.  I feel for them, but then again, it’s also the way the whole world is headed, and that sucks, too.  Bottom line, we might want to take care of you when you’re sick, but no one wants to pay for your care.  By the same token, we want you to have enough money to pay your bills when you’re too old to work, but no one wants to be on the hook to provide the money.  And no one wants you to actually retire, we’re all just supposed to work until we die.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Sneak Peak: A Wizard of Wanderhaven

Here's a sneak peak out of "War Stories from Wanderhaven."  I shouldn't share it, especially considering that I'm still working on it, and this is still very much a draft, but...  I really like the way this bit has come off.

So here we go.

***

A Wizard of Wanderhaven

Elaina Emboo sat at the top of Master Marconi’s tower, looking out through leaded-glass windows.  Past the bustle of Market Square, she could just make out the sprawl of Wanderhaven’s docks in the distance.  The city was alive down there, she knew, but all was quiet at the tower’s apex save for the occasional gust of wind that rattled the heavy wooden window panes.  Elaina held a copy of Oittougliae’s Magical Transformations open in her lap, but she wasn’t reading it.  Instead, she stared out into the distance, looking at the water.  Somewhere out there was a ship called the Argo, and on it was Elaina’s best friend, a tiny sprite-girl named Sneakatara Boatman.
“Miss Emboo.  I take it that you’ve finished the reading for the day?”

Thirteen Things I’d Like to See from D&D Next (Part 3)

9.  Deep gnomes
I love svirfneblin.  I thought that it was beyond weird that they never got support from 4e, especially considering what a huge part the race plays in R.A. Salvatore’s work, work that has become the absolute bedrock of the D&D playable world.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Thirteen Things I’d Like to See from D&D Next (Part 2)

5.  An “Engineer” class or subclass
Maybe this is the same thing as the Artificer class, I don’t know.  But I think of Engineers in a military sense, in charge of mobility, countermobility, and survivability.  That’s not exactly what an Artificer does, but there is room for it in the game.  For example, an Engineer might open doors, not by picking locks but by using acid or maybe just a crowbar.  Maybe he also employs hasty magical obstacles or traps to help the party shape the battlefield.  I also think the Engineer class would mix potions or alchemical concoctions for use as magical grenades.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sayings from the Wisdom of Loki

The Wisdom of Loki has become one of the cornerstone concepts of the book I'm writing, "War Stories from Wanderhaven."  In the back of my mind, I picture it as a kind of anti-Bible, a justification for all kinds of nastiness and base revolutionary acts.  

After reading about Loki some over the weekend, I've started thinking of him less as a simple trouble-maker and more as the ancient Norse version of Karl Marx. He's a guy who doesn't have a stake in the established order, who wants to overturn everything and ultimately winds up fighting on the wrong side of Ragnarok

Thirteen Things I’d Like to See from D&D Next (Part 1)

1.  A Swordmage or other close-combat Mage build
I’ve talked about this a few times in the past, but bottom line, I liked the way Wizards of the Coast (WotC) developed both close-combat arcane classes and ranged arcane classes in 4e.  The Swordmage is, of course, the most obvious example, but even the early Warlock builds offered high hit points and a focus on close burst or short-ranged spell attacks.  That made for an interesting dichotomy in the arcane classes, and it also added a bit of a challenge for those who played close-combat “squishies”.  



Monday, December 9, 2013

Hannah's Christmas Trees

Anatomy of a Long Workout

I did my first long workout of the new triathlon season this past weekend.  As long workouts go, it wasn’t a particularly hard one, but it was my first brick[1] in several months and only the third time I’ve been back in the water since before the offseason started.
If you’re wondering, the workout turned out to be:
Swim:
  • 200 SKIPS[2]
  • 8 x 100 @ 1:30, every 4th 100 tempo pace
  • 4 x 100 pull @ 1:30
  • 100 warm down
Stretch, and then long slow distance (LSD) run, 6.75 miles (59:30).
Anyway, while I was in the water, it occurred to me that there might be some folks out there who are new to this triathlon thing and are maybe looking for some pointers for designing their own long and/or brick workouts.  With that in mind, here are four things to think about when you’re putting your own long workouts together.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

News Round Up: Six Things That Caught My Eye

Some stuff that caught my eye this morning...

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug Reviews Round-Up (ComicBook.Com)
The first reviews for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug have surfaced. The early reviews of the film seem to be mixed with the film currently holding a 64% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Some critics are finding The Desolation of Smaug to be a huge improvement over the first Hobbit movie, while other critics appear to be disappointed with The Hobbit franchise completely. Here is a round-up of some of the early reviews.



Saturday, December 7, 2013

Watching the SEC Championship Game

With Sierra Nevada's DevESTATEtion.
Auburn is killing it.

A Cry for Love, Found on Twitter

You may find that, but it doesn't come cheaply or easily.  Truth is, our love follows our effort.  People love their kids because of a burst of oxytocin at birth, yes, but also because kids are so much damned work that it's hard to walk away from that kind of commitment, no matter how hard your heart.  

Unfortunately, the reverse is too often true for adult relationships.  We want the connection to be metaphysical and instanteous.  We want it to click and be easy.  It isn't.  Not because attraction is fleeting or because the thrill of the chase fades.  Because the world is complicated, we have to work if we want to eat, and we have to take the kids to soccer practice or singing lessons.  We get exhausted, and then the simplest answer is too often to push one's partner off until tomorrow.

As humans, we live life in moments.  It's possible to work today to achieve our ends tomorrow, but that choice comes with costs.  If you are unable to make your spouse the most important person, place, or thing in your life, then what is that saying about the state of your love?  How is that love "inconvenient, consuming, cant-live-without-each-other love"?  This is why love is work.  Not because people--even our best friends--can be pains in our ass.  Rather, because making love work requires making love a priority.  

We live in a busy world with a lot of distractions.  Fact is, lots of folks just aren't up to the commitment love requires.
***
As an aside, I didn't realize that the quote above was from an episode of "Sex in the City" until after I had this response written.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Five Things on a Friday: Amazing Spider-Man 2 Edition

1. The trailer for Amazing Spider-Man 2 is finally out.  
If you haven’t seen it yet, well, it looks pretty good.  
Electro is one of those villains that gets treated like a relic by a lot of today’s comic writers, but as Brian Michael Bendis showed with his first arc of the New Avengers, he can be plenty terrifying.  I like the treatment that they’ve got in this movie quite a bit, as well as the fact that they have Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) looking like he’s barely holding on by the skin of his teeth.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Kurt Angle vs. Chris Jericho - WWE Championship Match

I'm sort of at a loss today and probably gonna be more than a little short on time.  So...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Stuff I've Been Reading

Jonathan Hickman's epically cosmic Avengers' tale Infinity finally ended this week, for once with a wholly appropriate bang.  A lot of times, the Big Two comic companies tend to use these big events to launch ideas and/or new series going forward--and this one did that, too--but Infinity was also a self-contained story, magificent in breadth and scope and yet detailed enough to provide all of the characters with their own moments.

I dug it.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Working Introduction

I started working on the introduction to my book this week.  The book's been through a couple of working names lately.  Right now, I'm leaning towards either "War Stories from Wanderhaven" or "War Stories from the Western Isles," but I haven't decided yet and don't need to.  Anyway, there wasn't any real need to write the Introduction as of yet, but I had an idea for how it might go over the weekend, and I figured that by the time I wrote the idea down, I could've just drafted the whole things, so there you have it.
I'm not promising that everything that's in here is gonna wind up in the book in this form, but this is sort of what I'm thinking.  If you have time and thoughts, I'd appreciate some feedback.
Thanks!

Monday, December 2, 2013

I am so sick of hearing about "Cyber Monday"

For fuck's sake, nobody needs any of this chincy crap, and none of these so-call "deals" is actually any good!  Really, all this relentless advertising is doing is stoking my loathing for all things retail, and I already hate almost everything.  I want to like Christmas; I don't want to be some kind of evil Scrooge. But. All this fucking retail hype is driving me absolutely batty, and we're not even close to Christmas yet. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Our library

This is our library, newly rearranged.  Sally bought a new couch for the living room this week, so we put the loveseat that had been in there into the library.  But that meant moving all manner of furniture around in there, and while we had the place empty, she steam-cleaned the rug.  

I should also mention that she stripped both the walls and the window frames herself and then stained and painted the place, also by herself.  That took oodles of work, but the results speak for themselves.

Our library, newly rearranged.
Most West Pointers have an "I love me" wall.  I have a bookshelf and a corner.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Now I'm cold...

The Black Dwarves of Ruskva and the Crown of Pluto

Started working on a bit more world-building for our family's D&D Next game and for the next Sneakatara Boatman story.  The story concept has been brewing in the back of my mind for some time now, but it was only last night that I finally started to realize what was missing.  I think this is it.

The Black Dwarves of Ruskva
The black dwarves of Ruskva live in the great caverns beneath Iron Mountain, the highest part of the Kaukasian mountain range, which runs along the eastern border of the Empire of Holy Sentralia.  A race of underground smiths, the dwarves hold two gods sacred--Vulcan, the Sentralian god of the forge, and Pluto, the god of the underworld, patron of their subterranean lair.  Since the time of Badden Sentra, the legendary founder of the Legion of the Red Lord and unifier of the Empire that today bears his name, the black dwarves have also sworn fealty to the Emperor’s personal deity Mars, the Red Lord, and to the Emperor himself.  Indeed, it was Badden Sentra himself who established the dwarves’ Praetorian Precedent, by which the dwarves provide a company from amongst their number to serve as the Emperor’s personal bodyguard.  The members of this bodyguard are consecrated to Mars as an elite unit amongst the larger body that is today the Legion.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Pics: 2013

Ten pounds of turkey, raw and in the pan.

Five Things on Thanksgiving

Five things I’m thankful for on Thanksgiving, 2013:
1.  My Wife.  
Sally is a beautiful woman, which is something that I’ve always found amazing.  I don’t think of myself as a particularly good-looking guy, but I am somehow married to this brick house of a woman, and it amazes me.  Every single day.  And, oh by the way, Sally also has a Master’s degree from Columbia University, and she teaches fitness classes at the local L.A. Fitness.  
I mean, seriously… what are the odds?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

World-Building: Los Legartos of the Rocas del Sol

The good news is that I finished the first draft of "Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki" a couple of weeks ago.  In the time since, I've re-written another story, "The Tower of Al-Kafiri" and started thinking a bit about the plot for the last story, which I'm tentatively calling "Sneax and Elaina Emboo in the Fire Islands."  That'll be the final story in the book, the one that ties all of the others together.

So.  I have a few basic ideas about the plot, but I've decided that actually playing through some of the plot-points with my kids is an integral part of the writing process both because my kids feel like that gives them input into the way the story's gonna go and because they occasionally give me ideas for characterization that I couldn't have come up with on my own.  So we're gonna try to play a bit this weekend, but before that, I have to actually set the campaign up.  I don't love world-building--it's probably my least favorite aspect of fantasy writing--but for better or worse, I find it helpful to put together at least some of the world structures that I'm gonna use in any given story ahead of time.  Then when I need them, they're already there.

I don't know why, exactly, I decided to stick a lizardman in this particular story, save that I thought that cold-blooded lizard-dudes made a natural warrior caste to the elves native to the Fire Islands.

A Little Pro-Wrestling to Kick Off Your Thanksgiving Weekend

I think I've mentioned before that my kids have really gotten into pro-wrestling of late.  In particular, my daughter Emma really likes Big "E" Langston, who won the Intercontinental Title at the Survivor Series PPV last weekend.

Anyway, I may well put something else up today, but in the meantime, let's celebrate Langston's elevation by watching his re-watching his match from Monday Night Raw.

Monday, November 25, 2013

On the coldest day of the year...

...one man sits beside his Trusty Steed.


Yes, Little Red Foldie, today is the day that we battle the elements. Today is the day that only the strong survive. 


It's 20-degrees  this morning. The conductor on the train just started bitching at me for riding in.  She said (true story): "Didn't your mother teach you any better than that?"

That made me laugh. Because, bottom line, my mother most certainly did not. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sierra Nevada's DevESTATEtion Black IPA

Fall is great for a lot of reasons, but as the season rolls on, things start to cool down in a serious way, and it can become kind of a drag.  Yeah, Thanksgiving is cool, but Christmas is equal parts family day and absolute stress-fest, and living in Coastal Connecticut, both holidays are apt to come with freezing weather--and even the occasional winter storm.  Add in the fact that the sun is now setting at around 4:30 pm, and that college football is nearly over, and bottom line, late fall has a lot less to offer than does the early part of the season.

One of the upsides of the season, though, is the fact that we tend to get some of the year's best beers.  My absolute favorite of these is Sierra Nevada's Estate small-batch, fresh hop seasonal.  I've been wondering for a few weeks now when we'd start seeing it in stores, so you can perhaps imagine my surprise when I saw not "Estate" but "DevESTATEtion," (6.7% ABV) an apparently fresh hop Black IPA seasonal in a bottle that looked like Estate's bottle, but capped with black wax instead of Estate's traditional green.

I step in close and see the following:

Friday, November 22, 2013

Five Things on a Friday: Very Early Christmas Edition

1.  I can’t believe how early the Christmas season is starting this year.  
I mean, it’s no secret that retailers make the lion’s share of their profits during the fourth quarter, and that they therefore want to push the start of their prime selling season back as far as they can, but this is still the first year that I can remember seeing “Black Friday” sales that actually start on Thanksgiving.  Or, in the case of Macy’s, even earlier.  Macy’s “biggest sale of the year” this year is actually onWednesday morning, from 9 am to 1 pm.  
I ask you, who the Hell can get to Macy’s at 9am on a Wednesday?  Don’t people have jobs?

Macy's would like your business this year.
At our house, we’ve dealt with this in two ways:

Friday Hair Metal: Present Tense

I have no idea what this song is actually about, but for me, well, today promises to be one of those days.  A day when I'm struggling to live in the moment and just be...


There were newer versions of the song on YouTube, but this one looked like the best, most professional recording, so there you have it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fantastic Run Today

The good news is that the inserts in my shoes worked--really well. I've been struggling with ankle problems on and off for about six months now, and while a friend of mine recommended inserts a while ago, I didn't actually get around to trying them until today. But today was GREAT, I ran a little over four miles--without pain--and I felt fucking terrific afterwards. 

Talk about a Runner's High!  I felt higher than a kite. Partly it was because I ran without pain, but mostly it was because I ran, and it was beautiful outside, and sometimes it just clicks out there. I didn't run particularly hard or fast, but I ran well, and I was pretty damned excited about it. I still am. 

But then I started coming down off that Runner's High maybe an hour later, and it's been like falling off a cliff. I can't ever remember feeling like this--almost hung over--but there it is.  I almost feel sick, and I know it's just the endorphins, or lack thereof.  Strange, right?

Anyway, I totally need to either go run again or else sleep it off somewhere until I can get some real food in me and maybe a beer. What do you say?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Picture Perfect Barbie Family


Hannah took this picture on Sunday of her ideal "picture perfect Barbie family."  Afterwards, Sally and I joked with her that it looked like Ken had two wives, that maybe something freaky was going on, but Hannah said that, no, they just had a teenaged daughter. In which case, mom got married young, that's all I'm gonna say.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sally's First Post

Last month I asked Dan if I could start a blog on his blog site, and his answer was "Yes, but what are going to write about?"  I looked at him like a monkey lost in a jungle and said, "I don't know.  I guess I will write about what I know best...  Health, fitness, good eats, wine parings, shopping, and pretty much everything you don't write about."

For the past month I have been thinking about what my first post was going to be, and basically, I would love to write about many things. I have even written up articles in my head a few times. And since this is site of lists, I decided to write a list about what I am going to write about.

Here are the first five topics that I'd like to write about:

Monday, November 18, 2013

I Finally Figured Out...

...what was wrong with a scene today. It's from an older story, literally been bothering me for years. Unfortunately, now I have to re-write the whole thing from scratch, but what can you do?

Anyway, at least now I have something to work on tomorrow morning. 

*sigh*

This whole writing thing makes me feel like a madman. And obsessing on the details like this can't possibly be good for a guy's personality. 

***
Did I mention that Sally's first post is going up tomorrow?  It totally is. Be up at 5:00am. 

I've already read it. It's cool. Look for it. 

Five Thoughts on Offseason Training

The offseason is in full swing, and it's been a good, long while since we've done anything about triathlon on the blog.  But I've personally been back training for a couple of weeks now, and that has me thinking about my goals, both for the offseason and for next year.

With that in mind, here are five thoughts on offseason training.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Why is Untapp'd Addictive?

Because they give out merit badges!

I've gotten three just this weekend.

The Land of the Free.
For trying five beers from the same domestic brewery,
in my case Sierra Nevada.

Playing the Field.
For drinking 10 different beers in a row.
Taste Crazy.
For trying five different beers in a 24-hour period.  Ha!

LinkedIn Profile Update

I don't know that I necessarily think LinkedIn is a useful tool, but I've still spent some time updating my profile this morning.  When I set it up, I was thinking of it as a way to try to get more freelance writing work, but I've not spent any time actually looking for freelance work, and if I'm being honest, I'd really rather spend the time working on "War Stories from Wanderhaven."  For better or worse, I'd very much like to get that out next year.

But.  You never know who's looking at this online stuff.  Hence the update, which will hopefully make the thing a little more professional-looking.  At the very least, they're giving me a chance to get my resume out there; I might as well try to make it a resume worth reading.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Found on G+

Ten Books that Everyone Should Read

One of my classmates asked for book recommendations yesterday on Facebook.  That seemed like a decent place to start with a blog post, so here we go.

My list of ten books that everyone should read.  And by everyone, I mean everyone who's interested in the same things that I'm interested in.

1.  Altered Carbon.  Whenever someone asks for a book recommendation, I always respond with "I always recommend Altered Carbon."  My opinion?  Altered Carbon is the most important sci fi novel to come out in the last twenty years.  The book is a cyber-punk murder mystery set in Los Angelos in a far flung but imminently recognizable future, and like all good sci fi, it's at least as much a commentary on the world today as it is somebody's musings on the future.  Addded to that is the fact that Richard K. Morgan uses language in a way that makes me groan with envy, and well... there you have it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Friday Hair Metal: Patron Lady Beautiful

Crazy busy today.  Real engineering, real analysis, even a touch of actual design.  On top of that, I spent the ride in this morning re-writing a piece for "War Stories from Wanderhaven."  So this might be it for the day.  We'll see.

It's still one of my favorite songs--Drivin' & Cryin's Patron Lady Beautiful.

Enjoy!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

D&D Next Homebrew: More Oaths for Paladins

In the course of writing my most recent short story for my kids, “Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki,” I wound up with a little conundrum.  The story was based in part on a little D&D Next campaign that the kids and I played through while we were on vacation up in Maine, and in that game, I played my character, Nathaniel, as a paladin of Loki.  I did it that way because my kids were huge fans of the Avengers movie, and as a result, I knew that they’d get a charge out of my playing a character devoted to a villain with which they were already familiar.  And also, it seemed like an interesting character choice—a good way to give the character a little bit of an edge.

However, in the current D&D Next Playtest Ruleset, there aren’t rules for playing anything that even remotely resembles a paladin of Loki.  I mean, you can play a paladin and take a few pains to try to add a bit of trickster-like sneakiness to the build, but mostly, trying to a play a paladin as an antihero is going to be a matter of roleplay.  That’s fine as far as it goes, but it’s not like we don’t have the tools to try to gin something up that’ll be a little more effective.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I Totally Know What's Wrong with Agents of SHIELD

Seriously.  I do.

I imagine that the conversation went something like this:

Marvel: We want you to develop a TV show. Because the movie was such a hit. We want to strike while the iron is hot. 

Whedon: Can't be done.  I'm flattered that you asked, but weekly TV doesn't have a big enough budget. And I'm a totally hot director now. No way am I doing TV again. 

Baby, It's Cold Outside

I was packing my stuff last night for this afternoon's lunchtime run, and I realized that it's gotten cold. I put in pretty much everything: tights, beenie cap, gloves, Under-Armor base layer, wind-briefs...  The forecast says mid- to upper-30s around lunch today, so maybe I won't need all that stuff, but I practically froze last night walking back from the train, so over-packing seemed like a reasonable idea.  Plus, it was only 26-degrees when I woke up this morning.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Last Thoughts on Veteran's Day

I put up a letter Friday afternoon, and folks really responded to it.  I'm glad.  I'm pleased that folks felt like they got something from it, even if it's just an acknowledgement that I haven't forgotten about them.  I haven't--of course, I haven't--but it's a big world, and we all wind up alone in the dark from time to time, and it's easy to feel alone.
With that in mind, one of my classmates put up a link on Facebook to an article that another of my classmates (Mike Stajura) wrote for Time Ideas, which seems to have filled in the gap for Newsweek's old "My Turn" segment now that Newsweek no longer runs in print.  The article is about how difficult it is to leave the military and transition to civilian society, and it is right on.  To quote briefly, when you leave the military, a lot of what you come to take for granted--socially and professionally--just sort of goes away:
"Gone, suddenly, is the cohesive structure that existed to take care of you. Gone is that strong sense of social security. Gone is the sense that, wherever you go, you know where you fit. Gone are the familiar cultural norms. Gone are your friends from your ready-made peer group, who are just as invested in your success as you are in theirs."
That’s true, even for guys like me.

Monday, November 11, 2013

I Miss My Dad

Happy Veteran's Day, Dad.

Me and my dad at Airborne School, 1993.

Memorial Day, 2012.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Route of All Evil

We got a babysitter last night, and Sally and I went to Two Roads Brewery to sit down and have a few beers.  Wow, right?  It was pretty awesome.  Sally got a glass of their No Limits Hefeweizen, which we both like, and it came in a .6L glass that looked almost as tall as a half-yard.  I ordered a round of their Octoberfest, which tastes a lot like a spicier version of a brown ale and was good.  I also ordered a sampler of their winter seasonal, the Route of All Evil Black Ale.

Oh man, that one was terrific.  I liked it so much I ordered a glass.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Updated "About Us" Page

I've been meaining to update the About Us page all week, ever since Sally asked me to put her on as a Contributor to the blog.  That's finally done, but I'll spare you the trouble of clicking over to see what I wrote.  It's reprinted below, if you're interested.

And yes, I did use the format from the old-school Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe to format these bios.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Friday Mad Science: Over-Saturation and Polonium Poisoning

Word hit the street yesterday that Marvel is putting together a bunch of new TV series for Netflix, including the long-awaited small-screen adaptation of Daredevil (DD).  I'm assuming that this means they're gonna adapt my favorite comic series of all time, the Bendis/Maleev Daredevil because in addition to adapting DD, Marvel is also putting series featuring Jessica JonesLuke Cage, and Iron Fist, all of whom are Bendis favorites from series that ran concurrently with (or shortly after) his DD run and occasionally appeared in each other's books.  Jessica Jones’ book Alias was supposed to be particularly good, so although I’ve never read it, that’s an adaptation that I’m looking forward to seeing.  Anyway, each of these series is gonna run thirteen episodes (i.e. the House of Cards formula), culminating in a mini-series that Marvel has called The Defenders.

Veteran's Day Letter

We had a bunch of snow days last year, and as a result, we missed some school days.  To compensate this year, Stratford, CT, cut down on the number of the holidays the kids have--which is fine, but one of the holidays that they cut was Veteran's Day.  Hence the need for the following letter.

***
To Whom It May Concern:
My children, Hannah and Emma, will not be in school on Monday, November 11th, because it is Veteran’s Day.  
It is little remembered these days, but Veteran’s Day actually began as Armistice Day, the holiday to celebrate the end of the Great War, later known as World War I.  World War I was arguably the most horrific and pointless war in human history, and its failed peace led--at least indirectly--to the Second World War and to many of the international boundary-related problems that humanity still faces today.  World War I also set the conditions for the Russian Revolution, which in turn led--again indirectly--to the Cold War.  These are the kinds of historical realities that I think my kids need to spend a day thinking about, and indeed, I suspect that this is at least a part of why the federal government declared the day a national holiday.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

This Week’s Picks (NFL Week 10)

We were doing this segment regularly, but then I had to travel one week for work, and I forgot all about it while I was gone.  I didn’t even make picks in our office pool that week, so I had to come back the next week and pick SIX games instead of just three.  That was last week.  I went 2-4 and dropped to 11-16 on the season, out of a tie for first and into third place in our office pool.
What I’ve learned from this exercise is that picking against the spread is harder than it looks.  Bookies, as it happens, know what they’re doing.  No surprise there; I’m just acknowledging the obvious.
So.  Is there any good reason to read through these picks?  Maybe.  But I don’t that I’d bet money on them.  Take that for what it’s worth.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wednesday Writing Update

If you're wondering where I've been all week, I'll tell you. I finally buckled down and finished the draft of "Sneakatara Boatman and the Priest of Loki".  I'm happy to have the draft done but feeling rather more neurotic than usual about whether or not it works.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

I Fell This Morning

It happened right as I got on the bike. Stood up to pullout into traffic, put power to my pedals, dropped my chain, and bang.  Down I went.  Ugh!   The cab driver behind me stopped and stared. I felt like an idiot. Frankly, I was lucky the guy didn't run me down.

I was also lucky that it got cold this week. I was wearing jeans. As it is, I got a little scraped up, and my knee's a bit stiff, but it's no big deal. If I'd been in shorts, though, it would've been a whole different story. Yikes!

Lesson: Everybody falls.

Man, I hate that one. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Shoot!  I'm almost done!

I wish I didn't have to work today, so I could finish writing this stupid story.  Been working on the damn thing for almost three months now.

Argh!

Weekend Update (11/4/2013)

Before we get started today, you might've noticed that the name of the blog has changed.  Sally asked me last week what I thought of the idea of her posting some recipes and other healthy living-type stuff here, and I told her that I thought it would be great.  I don't know how often she's gonna get to post, but I'm happy to share my space with her and look forward to seeing what she has to offer.

With that in mind, I'll be changing some stuff around in the next few weeks to make it less my blog and more our blog, but for the time being, she's at least got Editorial priviledges and can post if she feels the need.

***
Looking back, it was a pretty good weekend.  Busy for the most part, but that's how life is.  We had a lot of fun, too, and really, that's all I can ask.

We started Friday watching WWE Smackdown, and as much as I don't want to make this a blog about pro-wrestling, I've got to admit that Smackdown entertained.  The show started with John Cena cutting another of his promos, this time against the Real Americans, and for once, I thought he was pretty good.  But then Damien Sandow came out and started woofing, and in as much as I guess the WWE brass was trying to capitalize on the momentum from the match that he had with Cena last week, I personally didn't think it worked.  I mean, we already saw Cena beat the guy with literally one hand tied behind his back, so how much of a threat can Sandow really be at this point?  Sometimes, you get a moment, and if the moment is missed, it's gone, and it won't come back.  Take that for what it's

Sunday, November 3, 2013

I Should Have Written This Morning

The girls are at a local Girl Scout camp right now, having had their first sleepover last night. The house is actually quiet right now--for once--because I have the place all to myself.  But instead of working, I'm sitting here reading comics and soaking up some down time.

True story: I spent $79 at the comic shop yesterday.  Hadn't been in a month, and my Pull List was two issues deep for several of the titles I'm reading.

I ask you, who can write when they've got four issues of Infinity and two issues of The Superior Spider-Man to catch up on?  Certainly not me. The temptation to just sign here and act like a lump has been entirely too great.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Friday Mad Science: Giving Myself a Deadline

I mentioned yesterday that I’m trying to put out a book some time next year.  That’s not supposed some huge secret, but in case you don’t follow the blog every day, yeah, it’s true, and it’s been a major focus for my writing lately.  The book is gonna be a set of fantasy short stories, tentatively titled “Tales for the Lair” or maybe “Tales from the City of Wanderhaven”.  I’m not quite sure, yet, but it'll be something like that.  I think.
I’ve wanted to do a project like this for years, but I realized that the time had finally come a little over a month ago.  Two things went into the realization.  First, I’ve known for a while that I’m a decent writer.  But I feel about my writing much the same way that I feel about being a triathlete.  I know that I’m better than the average Joe, but that doesn’t mean that I’m particularly close to being good enough to do it for a living.  That said, I feel like my writing has taken a big step forward this year.  The stuff I’ve given out recently has mostly gotten responses along the lines of, “Holy shit! I can’t believe how good this is,” and frankly, given how crowded the marketplace is for fiction, that’s where I think a writer needs to be in order to have even half a chance.  I’ve worked hard at becoming a better writer for a good, long while now, but it's also been important to try to be self-critical and to try to hold my work to the same high standards to which I hold other writers.  This year, I feel like I’m finally reaching an acceptable, marketable standard, and so I’m finally ready to give this publishing thing a try.

Sally's Jack o'Lantern

Friday Hair Metal: Right in Two



Not the most exciting video.  Sorry about that.  I like this song, though.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sketch in my Notebook (Part 6): The New Centurion

One of the tough parts of doing a story like this is that you can't go back and make changes as your ideas evolve.  That happened this week, but I couldn't go back and retroactively rename last week's piece, even though in retrospect, the title for this chapter obviously needed to be "The New Centurion" rather than "The Ice Queen."  I also feel like we've spent too much time in backstory here in the early-going, but what can you do?  When I do go back and finally edit this thing, some of this stuff may well get the axe.  In the meantime, though, you're stuck with the first cut.  Hopefully it's at least the best first cut I can put out.

With all of that said, I'm inordinately pleased with this week's piece.  That probably means that no one else is gonna like it at all, but I still think it came out well.  But my opinion only matters so much; you'll have to let me know what you think.

Finally, this is it.  This version of this particular project was only ever supposed to be a sketch, and as much as I think it's going well, I know that I badly need to stick it on the shelf for a while.  I'm trying to put out a book next year, and "The Return of Dr. Necropolis" isn't going to be a part of that book, so with that in mind, I need to focus on other stuff.  I'll talk about that a little more tomorrow, but for now, what you need to know is that the Doctor is going on hiatus, and he won't be back until late Spring at the very earliest.  So get your fix now, because after this, it's gonna be all Sneakatara Boatman, all the time for the next few months.
***

The Return of Dr. Necropolis

Chapter 5 (Cont): The New Centurion

Despite his mother’s warning, Blaine found himself in Special Agent Tiffany Trujillo's car the next morning, cruising up the Taconic Parkway towards Sing Sing and Dr. Necropolis.  Tiffany had worn a blue pants suit and a professionally-laundered shirt that morning, and for once, she looked more like an FBI agent than one of the world’s most famous former superheroes.  She was quiet to the point of being uncommunicative, however, and after twenty minutes or so, it started making Blaine nervous.
Eventually, Blaine tried to break the silence.  “I talked to my mother yesterday.  It seemed like Dr. Necropolis scared her.  You have any idea why?  I’d never seen her like that before.”