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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunday Stuff

Some links I've gathered of late:

:: Margarita Kareva is a Russia-based photographer who specializes in fantasy art photography. Her photographs beautifully portray women that have been transformed into fairytale princesses and witches..

These are amazing. Here is just one, but they are all captivating. These make me want to brew some tea and read something Russian.


:: Video mock-up of what will be the world's tallest roller-coaster.

The concept here is fascinating, actually; it's not just the tallest by putting the tallest climb into its initial hill, which is usually how coasters become the tallest. However, I wouldn't ride this thing unless I was offered a large amount of money to do so. It's not the height, but the nature of the thing: I don't like going upside-down, and I really don't like the feeling of never knowing where the hell I am in relation to anything else, which is what this coaster seems to have in spades.

:: I have to admit that I do still go into RadioShack a couple times a year. These days, it's almost always to buy new headphones, because I tend to like their selection of such. RadioShack is, of course, slowly circling the drain, although it's amazing how many years a big chain business can be "circling the drain" and still hang on. Sears and K-Mart are still around, obviously, despite having been on death's door for over a decade each. (There is the flip side of the coin, obviously: witness the very quick demise of Borders, which went from "struggling" to "stone dead" in just a couple of years.) RadioShack is always an odd kind of place, and I like shopping there a lot more if there are already people in there to occupy the time of the poor salespeople, who almost always end up staring at me if I'm alone.

Anyway, here's an article in which a guy who worked there years ago describes what it was like during his tenure. He describes a barren, soul-less, amoral hellscape of epic retail proportions:

But as this company has spent the last decade-plus trying to save itself, the happiness of the employees has always been the first to go overboard. Its store managers are worked so hard that they become unhappy, half-awake shadows of themselves. Labor laws have been brazenly ignored. Untold hours of labor haven't been paid for (when I quit, on good terms and with two weeks' notice, they withheld my final paychecks for months and wouldn't tell me why). Lawyers have been sent to shut down websites that have bad things to say about RadioShack. Employees who make a few dimes over minimum wage are pressured, shamed, and yelled at as though they're brokering million-dollar deals.

RadioShack is a rotten place to work, generally not a very good place to shop, and an untenable business to run. Everyone involved loses

Youch. Compared to that, working for Pizza Hut seems like an idyllic heaven.

:: Frozen, one year later. Wow. I find it hard to believe that the movie is only one year old, because it was sunk its hooks into the popular culture in a way that few Disney movies have, no matter how good they might be. Personally, I love Frozen (and I think I owe it a blog post), but it's strange: I was barely aware of its existence when it was first released, and I only started hearing about it when its DVD and Blu-ray releases were quite near, because that is when my social media starting exploding with friends of mine absolutely thrilled to finally get their copies of the movie. And since we don't have young children, we were never subjected to endless singing of "Let It Go" and "Do You Wanna Build a Snowman", so there's that.

Anyway, what I really love about Frozen is the fact that the story is about two young Princesses who are plunged into a very strange circumstance, and through it all they worry about their own agency. Now I wonder why I find a tale like that so compelling....

More next week!

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Millennium Falcon Flies Again!

Unless you live in some kind of cave, you're aware that there's a new Star Wars movie coming out in a year, and that the first teaser trailer erupted upon the world today.

And if you're not aware of those things, hey! There's a new Star Wars movie coming out in a year, and the first teaser trailer erupted upon the world today!

Here's the trailer:


And here's a breakdown, shot-by-shot.

A few thoughts:

:: I like the look of the new hero (?) and the heroine (?). A stormtrooper unhelmeted, and the lady who rides the odd-looking speeder bike.

:: The tech looks Star Warsish, but also different: the R2-unit-like droid with the rolling body, for one, and the heavy-duty speeder bike.

:: X-wing fighters roaring across a lake: cool!

:: OK, this particular thing seems to be generating the most discussion I'm seeing online, which is very weird considering this film is the seventh in a series of space opera flicks that feature more and more gonzo weaponry each time out. I'm referring to the Sith lightsaber we see ignited, by the shadowy figure in the forest; it appears to have two little lightsaber wristguard things, which is indeed rather odd. But we only catch a glimpse of this weapon, so maybe there's logic here that we don't know yet.

:: The trailer sounds like Star Wars, not just the ships, but the sound of the speeder bike and the Imperial droid language heard in the background as we see the unhelmeted stormtrooper.

:: Finally: the Millennium Falcon. Wow. Even with the arrival of the Prequels, I never thought I'd see that ship on the big screen again! The longest continuous shot in the trailer, which is as it should be, as that's the biggest payoff. (By the way: Remember how in the Battle of Endor, Lando got the Falcon's dish antenna knocked off while navigating the Death Star's superstructure? It's been replaced with a sleeker square dish!

And just because I'm curious, I'm sure it's already been linked over at Metafilter, so let's see how many comments it takes before someone rips on the Prequels or George Lucas! Answer: Technically, zero, since the poster who links the trailer in the first place gets it right out of the way! But in the comments proper (which number 205 as of this writing): It happens in the very first comment, and then the thread devolves from there into a lot of folks whose faith in everything has been wrecked by three movies they didn't like (and yet they still watch the trailer and comment a lot). Fancy that.

I guess it's still true:

Episode VII has a title. Let's mark the day by bitching about THE PHANTOM MENACE! #StarWars

Anyway, I'm excited. I've noted many a time that while I had problems with JJ Abrams's Star Trek movies, his direction was not one of them, and neither was his cast. I maintain my optimism pretty much because I did not hate the Prequels, and because somebody had the good sense to keep Orci and Kurtzman (the writers who are in the process of ruining Trek) the hell away from Star Wars.

Obviously, we'll see -- but my hopes are high.

Magic Friday!

Maybe we should stop calling it "Black Friday". I mean, if we take the day after Thanksgiving as the de facto start of the Christmas season, and if we consider the Christmas season to be the year's most magical period (and I certainly, absolutely do), then maybe we should call it "Magic Friday". Just a thought that popped into my head while listening to this piece of music by John Williams: "Flight to Neverland", a concert arrangement of several of his themes from the movie Hook.


Happy Magic Friday, folks!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanks, given: Things I'm thankful for

Wow! I didn't mean to go quite this long without saying anything in this space, but the recovery from the snow storm led to a number of very busy days, both at work and at home. What small writing time I've found, I've devoted to Princesses In SPACE!!! III (not the actual title), in a now-almost-certainly-futile effort to stay caught up with NaNoWriMo. Alas, it's probably not to be. But anyway, we soldier on! Here is my annual list of Things For Which I Am Thankful.

Bib overalls, writing, Star Wars, Hayao Miyazaki, Guy Gavriel Kay, John Williams, Person of Interest, Sarah Shahi, Lois Macmaster Bujold, Outlander, Veronica Mars, Enrico Colantoni, Adele, Idina Menzel, Kristen Stewart, "Let It Go", Arrested Development, chicken dances, Freaks and Geeks, Ithaca, Cayuga Lake, the Rochester Lilac Festival, fleece pullovers, scarves, retired racing greyhounds, our new house, a room for all my books, George Lucas, Gordon Ramsay, Hector Berlioz, Sergei Rachmaninov, Wicked, showtunes, raisin bran, The Oatmeal, the Sterling Renaissance Festival, antique shopping, taking ridiculous numbers of selfies, Guardians of the Galaxy, discovering that a coworker and I have the same second-favorite Madonna song, handing copies of Stardancer to my friends, Asian Star (our favorite local Chinese restaurant), Arriba Tortilla (our favorite local Mexican restaurant), Firefly (our local cupcake joint), Firefly (the teevee show), Castle and Beckett, A Prairie Home Companion, Car Talk (thanks for the memories, Tommy!), snow, sun, learning to live with a dog, watching two cats learning to live with a dog, drinking rum, single-malt Scotch, science, the stars, getting the occasional pie in the face, holding The Wife's hand, listening to The Daughter play music and video games, the feeling of getting home, the sense that I've figured out the plot, life, the Universe, and everything.

May your Thanksgiving be bountiful and grand!

Friday, November 21, 2014

The blanketing of the world, part deux

Oy.

That was fun.

And by "fun", I mean, "This is the kind of shit that makes people want to live in weird places whose names end with 'exas' or 'zona' or 'ida' or 'arolina'."

The lake-effect snow that started the other day? It just kept on coming...for three days. My town has received over 70 inches of snow, and other places nearby have received even more than that.

At least our personal larders were well and truly stocked, so at no point have been even close to going hungry. We never lost power, and our heat has been fine (especially once we saw warnings about the exhaust vents on high-efficiency furnaces, and started making a major priority of keeping them clear). I haven't been to work since Monday, which stinks, but it is, as they say, "what it is". Not a big thing in the greater picture.

How did we occupy our time? Reading, fretting, hanging on the Interwebs. Making geeky jokes about Imperial walkers in my backyard and more Frozen references than anyone need hear. Oh, and shoveling. Lots of shoveling. Holy shit, the shoveling.

The storm came in two "waves", with about twelve hours between the first wave (about 4-5 feet) and the second (another 2-3 feet). So, after the first wave we dug out as much as we could, just to give ourselves a fighting chance of digging out after the second. Shoveling that much snow is really hard, not just because it's difficult to begin with, but when the snow piles get to be almost as tall as you are, it gets hard to figure out where to put the stuff as you shovel it. As it is, I have completely barricaded both of our garage doors, so we won't be getting out of those any time soon. (We haven't been using a garage for a car at all, so that's not an issue until Tuesday, when I have to take the garbage out.)

And then there was the stuff at the foot of the driveway, the Plow Pile, which is the broken clumps of icy stuff blasted up by the passing snow plows. We're lucky that our street was plowed each and every day this week, when other people we know still haven't seen a plow. (We're wondering if some town official or another lives on our street.) That was insanely hard to shovel, but the guy next door let us use his snowblower for a bit, which did help. The kicker there is that a snowblower actually came with the house! It's in my parents' garage. One main order of business, once we're cleared out, is me figuring out if it works, how to use it, and getting it into my garage, so I'll be able to deploy it in everyone's favor. I'm not generally a big fan of snowblowers, but they have their moments.

Let's see, what else? Not much. All those snow days were stressful and worrisome, which meant that they were awful for writing. I don't have much hope of being a NaNoWriMo winner this year, but them's the breaks. Princesses III is still on the way!

And now, because I'm tired and I don't feel like writing a nice transition to the "here's a bunch of pictures" part of this post...here's a bunch of pictures. I'll arrange them roughly chronologically so you can see the progression. And note the dee-oh-gee action; turns out he loves this stuff. What a weird dog.

Oh wait! One geeky thing that struck me as funny, although no one reacted when I posted it a couple of times to social media. Our "official" snowfall total ended up being 71 inches, which I decided to convert into other units. I thought about light-nanoseconds and other such items, but then I settled on...the smoot. What's a smoot, you ask? Well, fifty years ago, some guys were pledging a fraternity at MIT, and as part of their pledge, they were ordered (MIT is legendary for its pranks) to measure a local bridge, using as their measuring stick a guy named Smoot. Mr. Smoot is 67 inches tall, so that's one smoot. Therefore, my town officially received 1.0597 smoots of snow.

And now, pictures.

Snowmageddon '14

Snowmageddon '14

Snowmageddon '14

Snowmageddon '14

Snowmageddon '14, continued

Snowmageddon '14, continued

snowMG 3

Our front walk is now a trench. That mound on the left is as tall as me. #Snowmageddon #OrchardPark #wny

My car, right now. #Snowmageddon #wny #OrchardPark

The Wife's car, right now. #Snowmageddon #wny #OrchardPark

Trench! But there's no thermal exhaust port at the end of it. #StarWarsReference #Snowmageddon #OrchardPark #wny

So, there you go. Snowmageddon 2014 draws to a close. Next up? A massive warm-up might lead to flooding! Huzzah!!!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Now for Kindle!!!


As you can see, Stardancer is now available for Kindle! It is exclusive to Kindle right now, but I did enroll it for Kindle Unlimited, so if you're partaking of that service, you can read it for free. (Just make sure you read at least 10 percent of the book, so I get the credit for it, money-wise!) And if you don't have a Kindle, get the Kindle app for whatever device you do have!

The paperback is still available, if that's your preference.

Enjoy!

(And yes, I will be getting back to less book-and-writing posting at some point. This month has been exciting, though!)

Something for Thursday (Mike Nichols edition)

I see that director Mike Nichols has died, which is obviously a deep shame. I don't think I disliked a single movie of his that I've seen, although I haven't seen them all. (Well, Regarding Henry wasn't all that great, but it had some good moments.) My personal favorite film of his is Working Girl, the comedy starring Melanie Griffith and Harrison Ford, which I've always felt is a pretty underrated movie. Griffith is terrific in it, and the film was made during the period when Harrison Ford was really firing on all cylinders.

Anyway, here is the title song from that movie, "Let the River Run", sung by the great Carly Simon.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Random Wednesday Conversation Starter

Can any of you drop by with a snowplow and maybe a pizza?

OK, that's not fair. Real question: Name your favorite fictional spy, secret agent, or other such operative!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The blanketing of the world

Or at least my little corner of it.

Over the last few days, local meteorologists have been sounding the alarm that today could potentially bring some significant lake-effect snow to the region. Lake-effect snow, for those unfamiliar with such things, is snow that is fueled by cold winds traversing the still-warm and open waters of a large body of water, like Lake Erie. Those winds pick up moisture, and then when they hit land, they dump it, usually in narrow bands of nastiness that are often just a few miles wide. It's not uncommon for towns in the band to get a lot of snow while towns outside the band, just a few miles away, get almost none.

Lake-effect snow bands often start in the Buffalo metro area and almost always, after a few hours, shift southward into what's called "Ski Country" in these parts, so unless you live in those regions, usually you can count on a lake-effect storm not lasting all that long, even if it dumps a good amount of snow.

That, however, is not the case with this one. The lake-effect band has not budged, as of this writing. It started very late last night, and I got up at 4am to check things out. At that point, this is what the local weather map looked like. The blue area is the lake-effect band, and at this point it had looked like this for roughly four hours.


We live right smack in the middle of that. The blue area there is the lake-effect snow band.

Eight hours later, I took another photo of the weather map:


Ayup. The snow band has gotten a bit wider, but other than that, it's in the exact same position it was nearly twelve hours ago when it fired up.

We are getting absolutely socked here at Casa Jaquandor. Virtually every town on my side of the City of Buffalo has imposed travel bans; there are snow plow trucks stuck in ditches. Our street got plowed a couple of times, earlier, but nothing since, because what's the point?

I've seen my share of big snowfalls here, but this will be right up there with the biggest I've ever seen. Meanwhile, friends of mine who live less than twenty miles away are posting photos of their snow-dusted front lawns, blades of grass still visible, under sunny skies.

The following photo has been making the Buffalo social media rounds this morning, taken by a passenger on one of the last flights to actually get out of Buffalo Niagara International Airport. When I say that lake-effect snow can form very sharp lines between clear skies and snowy doom, I am not exaggerating.


That big expanse of gray at the right is Lake Erie, and at the lower-right corner is Downtown Buffalo. Casa Jaquandor? Well, we've been swallowed up by that enormous cloud of white doom. But hey, I still have electricity and the Interwebs and food and rum and Scotch and overalls and blankets and kitties. We'll make it through!

The Empire needs to quit searching my backyard, though.



Sunday, November 16, 2014

I am SO behind the times....


Good talk, good talk! See you out there!

A frequent feature of the message boards at the NaNoWriMo website is all the "pep talks": brief essays on writing, sometimes by major authors which are then sent out to the entire NaNo community, and sometimes by regular participants which are then beamed to the local area forums. One great example of the latter ran yesterday, by a fine woman who goes by the Twitter handle So_I_SAW. I asked her permission to run it here, and she graciously conceded, so here it is:

The world doesn’t need my novel. Let me say that again: the world doesn’t need my novel. I have no delusions of grandeur. I won’t be writing the next Harry Potter (or insert whatever book/series in your genre that fits). I don’t think I’ll be writing a game-changing novel.

So why do NaNoWriMo at all? Good question, particularly since I’ve yet to “win”, heck I have yet to finish any of the writing ideas I’ve started.

It’s simple really. I need my novel. I need the outlet. I need the story. I need the characters I live with to come out onto the page so I can re-read about them whenever I want. I need the story that I wish someone else would write. I am my primary audience. I need this.

Doing NaNo gives me a chance to refocus. There are so many authors, self or traditional published, who dismiss the event all together. If we really wanted to write we’d do it all the time. We’re not trying hard enough to make time. No novel is ever truly complete in a month. (To that last one I say, no duh. This month is about writing, not fixing and editing.) But to the other comments? I think the statements are unfair. Life gets in the way sometimes. We move, we have jobs and bills, and families. We experience creative drain. Illness. Stress. Or sometimes we just can’t write. Personally I had a few life events that took significant time and energy away from every other aspect of my life. My marriage was falling apart, I was unemployed and struggling with severe depression and a loss of a family member. It was too much all at once. I couldn’t make myself write, read, heck, I could hardly form sentences some days. The truth is, sometimes we just can’t write and hearing we aren’t trying hard enough is unhelpful. Take the break and come back later. And if you’re like me, re-read your old writings for a good laugh.

Doing NaNo allows me to try. Even better, I can do it knowing that there’s a whole world of people also trying. It’s less lonely. There’s a nice satisfaction to adding to my word count and our region’s word count. I can refocus my ideas, have a place to update my stats, complain, and get inspired with other people doing the same thing. I get a touch of healthy, encouraging pressure by participating. I’m reminded that I need this. I can practice leaving all the things that have previously held me from writing.

The world doesn’t need my novel.

But I do.

Every thing in the history of the world that's been worth doing has had to start somewhere, and that the world doesn't always make a huge deal of things doesn't mean they're not worth doing. So go ahead and start!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Resetting the Clock

Lord knows I had my issues with the Aaron Sorkin series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, but there are a few moments from it that stick in my head, the best being in the second episode, I think. Matthew Perry is playing the late night comedy show's head writer, and he's moved into the office vacated by the previous guy, who had just been fired for a live on-air rant about how awful teevee is, or something. That's not important. What's important is the the old writer had a digital clock on the wall that counted down the time to the next episode's airing, which meant that he had a constant reminder of how he had to always be working.

Well, in the second episode, our writer guy and his director buddy (played by Bradley Whitford) put together the first episode of their era in charge of the show. It's a long, slow struggle, and they barely pull it off. The very last scene has the Perry character realizing that they've done it, they've got the show finished and it's good and it's on the air and it's all over -- and then Perry happens to turn to the "Countdown to Next Episode" clock, just in time to see it reset and start counting down again.

That's it. Moment's over. Back in the saddle.

Or, a wonderful moment (one of many) in the best baseball movie ever, Bull Durham. Our pitcher, Nuke LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), has just had a pretty good inning, retiring the side in order after spending most of his early season struggling with his control. He comes back to the dugout and takes a seat next to his veteran catcher, Crash Davis (Kevin Costner):

NUKE: I was great, huh?

CRASH: Your fastball's up, your curveball's hangin'. In the Show, they would've ripped you.

NUKE: Can't you just let me enjoy the moment?

CRASH: Moment's over.

My point? Stardancer is out (and really, if you haven't ordered a copy yet, what are you waiting for!), and I'll have more to do to sell it and market it and bask in its inevitable glory, but for now, the clock has reset, and the moment's over.

Time to keep writing.

It's a good think I happen to love writing, but I'd still like to punch the person who said, "The reward for doing good work is the opportunity to do more work."

Now, if you'll excuse me...I'm off to do some work. Sigh!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Those three little words....

AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE!

STARDANCER front cover

STARDANCER back cover

Yes, today is the day. I'll have more to say later on, but for now: Stardancer is now available for purchase on Amazon.com.

Currently the book is available in print only, but the Kindle e-version will follow in two or three weeks (more likely two), with other platforms to follow once any exclusivity periods run out.

As I say, more later.

For now, STARDANCER is available for purchase!!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

With thanks

Thanks to all who have served in our military, in wartime and peacetime, with hopes that as the future comes to pass, there will ever be more of the latter and less of the former.

T-minus One!

Oh wow...One day to STARDANCER! How to wrap it up? Well, there is a teen romance aspect to the book, so...Danny and Sandy will finish out the countdown.


Tomorrow, folks! Tomorrow, all things change!

Monday, November 10, 2014

T-minus Two!

Two days to Stardancer! Adam Ant and "Goody Two Shoes".

Sunday, November 09, 2014

What's in a title?

So I was scrolling through Instagram the other day, and I happened upon a new photo on the Official Star Wars Instagram feed:


And thus was the Actual Title of Star Wars Episode VII introduced to the world. Interesting!

Jason is less than thrilled with this title:

I hate to be one those fans, you know, the ones who seem to derive more pleasure from bitching about the thing they supposedly love than, you know, actually enjoying it, but I have to admit I am… not impressed. It’s become somewhat axiomatic that the prequel titles — The Phantom MenaceAttack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith –  were ridiculous and clunky (and there are even some who say the same of the original trilogy titles, A New HopeThe Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi), but I disagree. I liked them from the start, because they evoked the saga’s origins in the old Flash Gordon cliffhanger serials of the 1930s, whose episodes had titles like “The Unseen Peril” (sound familiar?), “The Prisoner of Mongo,” and “Doom of the Dictator.” They have an enthusiastically pulpy sound that I personally find appealing. The Force Awakens, on the other hand… the tone is off, to my ear. It sounds very much like the title of a fan film to me, so many of which seem to be sooooo self-consciously serious, at least in my experience of them.

I can kind-of see his point. It does sound slightly generic, and besides, can the Force really be said to awaken, if it really is an energy field created by all living things? "Awakens" seems to imply that the Force can go dormant, which isn't entirely in line with my understanding of things. But anyway, I suppose we'll see.

Mainly, I'm just bugged that they missed so obvious an opportunity to stick to the X of the Y pseudo-tradition in Star Wars titles. They didn't even have to change the concept: Star Wars Episode VII: Awakening of the Force.

Titles of series items are interesting things. Some creators take an approach of similarity or formula when titling things, so we get the Indiana Jones films being Indiana Jones and the X, although the less said about the ham-fisted retconning of the first Indy film into Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, the better. The Harry Potter books all take a similar approach: Harry Potter and the [Magical MacGuffin], and Robert Ludlum's three-word titles (The Parsifal Mosaic, The Matarese Circle, The Matlock Paper) are true-form things. On the other end of the scale, there are the James Bond movies and titles, which have no traits in common from one to the next.

Teevee shows sometimes do interesting things with titles. Every episode of Friends was titled "The One With the..." or "The One When...", in keeping with the way a lot of people of that age describe teevee shows. ("Hey, ever see the one when Ross does that dumb thing?") Remington Steele always had the word "Steele" in its episode titles, and The Mentalist always includes a color.

My approach? I don't try to be consistent from one title to the next. Each project has its own title, even projects within a series. It's just better that way for me.

T-Minus Three!

Three days to Stardancer! Here's my favorite song from a 90s compilation CD of various rock acts covering the Schoolhouse Rock songs. It's Blind Melon with "Three is a Magic Number".

Saturday, November 08, 2014

I gotta buy some blue Sharpies

Yesterday I got home to a box from UPS. Here's what was inside:


Oh yeah, babe. This thing is happening.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to buy the Sharpies. (And a bunch of groceries, because the family's gotta eat.)

T-Minus Four!

Four days to Stardancer! Here's a bit of film music, which may at first seem to be the wrong number, but the title of this particular track is "The Fourth Musketeer". It's from Michael Kamen's score to the 1993 film The Three Musketeers.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Something for Thursday

Time for some Jerry Goldsmith, I think. Here's a suite from his score to Total Recall, which contains some of his finest SF action music.

T-minus Six!

Six days to Stardancer! I couldn't find a song I really like for six, so here's Kermit the Frog reporting on the creation of the Six-Dollar Man!

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

T-minus Seven!

Seven days to Stardancer! Let's hear some Elmer Bernstein!

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Monday, November 03, 2014

T-minus Nine!

You know what we need? A musical countdown of the days until Stardancer's release! It's nine days out, so here's Dolly Parton with "Nine to Five".

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Sunday Burst of Strange, Goofy Stuff

Let's go!

:: I saw this on Facebook, and it's pretty hilarious. You have to have the sound up, because the commentary provided by the two guys recording this construction-site mishap is what makes the video. I have no idea what the malfunctioning machine is or what it does. I do not care.


:: Want to heat your house with a woodburning stove but you don't want to bother chopping those trees you've felled into firewood? Fear not! This wood stove burns entire tree trunks!

:: When I'm drilling holes in walls and stuff at work, I'm always a bit nervous that I might hit something important. Like...a train. Wow.

More next week!

Thoughts on owning a dee-oh-gee

Walking Cane. #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #overalls #HickoryStripe #vintage

I suspect that every single family in America that has had the experience of moving from the restrictive life of apartment living to the freedom of a house with a yard has had some version of this conversation:

ME: We're moving into a house!

KID: Yay! That means we can get a dog!

Now, depending on what kind of person you are, the bit immediately following that exchange can go in several directions. Ours was like this:

ME: Wait, what?

WIFE: Oh yeah. We're getting a dog.

KID: Yay!

ME: Wait, what?

In other words: we now have a dog.

I am not a dog person and never have been. This is something I've noticed about America over the years: you're allowed to like or dislike cats as you see fit. Nobody bats an eye if you say, "I don't like cats." However, saying "I don't like dogs" is often akin to saying something like "Apple pie is terrible stuff" or "Man, that Benedict Arnold guy is sure a misunderstood figure" or "Jeez, who needs grandmothers". Disliking dogs is simply not something you're really allowed to do in this country. The sentiment was summed up perfectly a while back by Jenna Woginrich:

I'm also not a very sensitive person when it comes to folks who dislike dogs. I understand them about as much as I understand folks who throw up when they are hugged. They gross me out.

See, that's me...although perhaps I wouldn't so much say that I dislike dogs as feel very uncomfortable around them. It's probably a combination of things. I never once owned a dog as a kid (and frankly never much wanted one, either), so I rarely had any chance to get comfortable with the idea of a large beast coming at me. There were several instances when I was bitten by someone else's little asshole of a dog, which didn't help, and to this day, I am generally deeply suspicious of any dog whose size is on par with a cat's. I find barking to be an unpleasant sound, and a dog's whining makes me reach for the earplugs or headphones. And this whole business of "doggie kisses"? No. Just...no.

(By the way, I don't quote Ms. Woginrich up there to pick on her or call her out or anything like that. She's actually one of my favorite writers, constantly sounding a ringing call to the idea that if there's a life you want you live and you've not already living it, then get up and go make it happen right now, even if that means you figure out the money stuff as you go. But as wonderfully as she writes, I know that I'm not cut out for the life she has chosen. I do hear the call of nature and earth, but I also hear the call of cities and the stars. To be honest, I'm not really sure what life I'm meant for, which may be why I'm so driven to create worlds in my head where I can live. But that's another topic for another time. Today we're talking about dogs.)

Now, I don't want to give the impression that I hate dogs, because I don't. I've known a few dogs that I've liked, here and there, throughout the years. I had a friend in high school who had two large dogs, one of whom was old and a bit addled and slow-moving (so of course his name was "Flash"). My mother-in-law owned a terrific spaniel named Spanky, who one year when we were visiting finally "got the kitty" he'd been stalking for a while. (The "kitty" was cat-sized creature with black fur and a white stripe on his back, if you take my meaning.) My sister has owned a bunch of dogs, one of whom was a nifty animal named Homer, and the old youth pastor at our church once had a really cool dog whom all the kids adored. We also had a family friend with a golden retriever who was a lot of fun. So I do have it in me to like specific dogs, and it turns out that every dog I've liked has been a big dog, for the most part. If I was to own a small dog, it better be like Verdell in As Good As It Gets.

Back to the business at hand: the decision was made to look into getting a dog. I wasn't completely on board with this, obviously, but I wasn't dead-set opposed to it, either. It just seemed like quite a big change to me. The Wife did her research, and she came to the belief that the best dog for us would be a retired racing greyhound. We wee a lot of these in our travels; local greyhound adoption groups often host "Meet the dogs!" events in places like the local malls and the County Fair, and we've long admired the way these dogs look, even if they make me really uncomfortable. It turns out that greyhounds tend to be quiet and well-behaved, and quite a few of them are cat-friendly, which is obviously an absolute necessity. We contacted the local group and started the ball rolling.

I don't know how all greyhound adoption groups work, but ours puts quite a lot of thought and effort into things. They go down south and pick up retired dogs from the racing tracks; then they bring them back up north for adoption. When you first tell them you're interested, they set up a "house visit" in which they bring a couple of their own dogs just to show you what it's like to have a dog that big in your home, and during the visit, they take note of circumstances that will help determine which dog you should get. We needed one who would be calm most of the time, comfortable in our backyard, and naturally, good with cats. Not all greyhounds are those things, it turns out, and I greatly appreciate that our local group doesn't just bring back a bunch of dogs and hand them out like candy. It doesn't, and shouldn't, work that way.

That's how we got our dog. We didn't get to pick him out; he was the one that best fit our needs, based on his behavior as it was observed by his foster family. I don't know how it is for all greyhound adoption organizations, but the one we worked with really does want all dogs to succeed in homes for which they are well-suited. We got our notice a month or so ago that a dog matching our profile had been identified, and that we'd get him on Sunday night. Thus, we became dog owners.

I, of course, proceeded to panic.

Hey, whaddaya want from me, anyway?

A lot of people I know who own dogs joked that I was soon to become a dog person, to which my response was the same each time: "No, I'm not going to become a 'dog person'. I'm going to become a 'this dog person'." I figured that my experience would be a lot like becoming a father. I have never liked being around children, so when we had The Daughter, I realized that I would still be uncomfortable around children, with the exception of my own. And that's pretty much how it still is. Having a dog of our own would mean that I would like this dog just fine. Your dog? Keep it at a distance until I get to know it. And maybe even after that. That first night, though, was tough -- particularly the hours before the dog's arrival, hours during which it seemed as if every single Facebook friend I have who owns a dog decided that it was time to post their latest horror stories. Ouch.

We've been at it a bit more than a month now, so we're finally settling into what life with the dog is like. And it's...interesting. And fun. And scary. And sometimes a bit surreal.

Our dog's name is Hurricane; we call him "Cane" for short. Along with his documentation was a listing of his results as a racer, and it turns out that he wasn't very good. He only raced seven or eight times, but he never placed higher than seventh in those. Now, we have a pretty nice large yard that is bound by a four-foot fence, so in nice weather (not so much anymore) we take him out back and let him run around. When he gets a good head of steam going, I can't believe how fast he is, so I keep wondering just how fast the six dogs were who finished ahead of him. It's amazing how fast he runs. He also loves toys that squeak, and he will just happily carry around his squeaker-ball in his mouth, making it squeak a lot. He has already destroyed two squeaker-balls. (By the way, a four-foot fence is fine because greyhounds aren't jumpers. Other big dogs that are jumpers would clear this fence with no trouble at all!)

I've also discovered that taking a dog for walks is a very pleasant thing to do (other than having to clean up the poo, of course). Cane is a fairly decent walker, when he's moving; he puts his head down and keeps on going. Until, that is, he finds a scent, and then he stops dead in his tracks and sniffs it. This can go on a long time, until I intercede and pull him away from the smell. Cane is also terrified of other dogs.

This comes from his early life, I suppose; he was bred for racing, so the only dogs he knows are other greyhounds. Dogs of any other type scare him, and when they're nearby he'll start whimpering and whining. This happens even when we pass house where the dogs are inside. He has met some dogs that he'll be friendly with, but generally, other dogs scare him. I find this surprising, as Cane is quite a large dog, and yet he is terrified of nearly every other dog. I did not expect this. (He is not afraid of other greyhounds. I took him to a greyhound "playdate" type of thing last week, and he and the others were social, which means they stood around and looked at each other. Occasionally there was a bit of butt-sniffing, but mostly, just a lot of "Oh hey there. Whassup, dog.")

Let's see, what else? Well, for someone who is accustomed to cats and their relative independence (as long as you fill the food dish at regular intervals), dogs are a different kind of work. We feed him at certain times, but we don't leave food down. He gets treats when he gets home from walks or at other times when he's behaving nicely, and we've discovered that he loves popcorn. There are also these things called "Kongs" (the company is called Kong and makes a lot of dog-stuff, but generally the name "Kong" refers to this item), which is basically a hollowed out piece of thick, tough rubber. It's shaped like a snowman, and you fill it with dog food ("kibble", which I always though part of the brand name, "Kibbles-n-Bits") and then close it off by smearing peanut butter over the opening. Then you freeze it, and when it's time for bed (which involves putting Cane in his crate), we toss the Kong in with him. It gives him something to do while he winds down for the night, and puts something in his stomach so he's not whining at 5:30 am because he's famished. That's happened.

Oh, and the cats. We have had almost no trouble at all with them adjusting to the presence of a dog, or vice-versa. The cats' attitude seems to be, "OK, there's this big thing living here now", and Cane's attitude seems to be, "OK, sure, whatever. Can we go for a walk now?" Cane has vocalized at them a couple of times, when they've come too close while he's eating or enjoying something yummy, but for the most part, nothing at all has happened. He's made no effort to chase them or menace them in any way. The cats, for their part, sure do like Cane's nice, big water bowl. So much so, in fact, that we may retire their current water bowl.

It took Cane a little while to get accustomed to things here. He went from his racing life to living with two different foster families and then finally to us, all in about a month. He does seem to be a part of the family now, and I'm fine with that. I like this dog.

I'm still suspicious of yours, though.

Some pictures:

Cane watches The Wife leave for work. #Cane #DogsOfInstagram

Daily dose of the dee-oh-gee. #DogsOfInstagram #Cane

This is what happens when a teenage girl refuses to share her tacos. #Cane #DogsOfInstagram

I have a friend who is a huge Disney fan. She said, on the basis of this next photo, that his back markings look like a hidden Mickey. Now that's all I can see when I look at his back!

Walking the dee-oh-gee after work is always nice! #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #overalls

This next one I quoted as any good Seinfeld fan would: "And you want to be my latex salesman!"

"And you want to be my latex salesman!" #Cane #DogsOfInstagram #SeinfeldQuoteFTW #overalls

Julio saw this twitchy thing that looked like it might be fun to play with. Cane, realizing his tail was entertaining the cat, thought otherwise. Julio struck his best "Who, me?" pose as Cane gave him the "Dude, really?" look.

Julio wanted to play with Cane's tail. Not so much with Cane himself, though! #Julio #Cane #CatsOfInstagram #DogsOfInstagram

Dee oh gee #NewDog

Saturday, November 01, 2014

It's not easy, going to the stars.


What a bad week for space travel.

But there will be better weeks, as surely as there will be worse weeks. We've never turned back before, and I don't think we will now, either.


Let the NaNoWriMo laser-like focus begin! Session #1 is in the books, and my word count is a bit over 1700. Not too shabby. On target, and all that. It helps that this year's book is Princesses III (not the actual title), which is starting at long, long last to coalesce in my head a bit. Oddly, I wrote the last scene first. Weird, I know, but the thing with the last scene is...well, I can't really say that, can I? Book III needs to get done now, though, if it's going to be available for purchase in two years!

Onward and upward! Zap! Pow!!