Filler Friday

Wow, yesterday was a day. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the type of full day that leads to interesting writing or fascinating ruminations. It was just a day full of tedious chores. Yawn.

I mean, I could complain about minor-ass stuff that happened. Getting to work only to get a text from the wife that her sugars are wacky again and she’s run out of test strips, requiring me to leave work, drop by the house, then drop off the strips at her school, which is at the edge of a construction zone, then rushing back to the station to floor manage the news stand-ups.

But what would be the point? This is neither world-ending, deal-breaking, or even particularly annoying. It is just something that happened. I complain bitterly over the notion that it has been my turn to be the worrisome one for quite some time, but she refuses to listen to me.


Nice weather has made another appearance locally, cool temperatures, low humidity. I am hoping it sticks around at least another day, as tomorrow morning I’m covering a local charity 5K run, and I could use something a bit comfortable. I would enjoy having to roll my sleeves down for a change. Then, home to rest for the Saturday night show.

Incredibly, this will be the first Sunday in a while where no demands are placed upon me (yet). I am torn between becoming a complete vegetable at home or becoming a complete vegetable at Dave’s house. Either way, vegetation is in my future, and I welcome it.

The Strange Business of Not Being Able To Do Work

I voted yesterday, thus renewing my license to complain for another year. I love voting early. No lines, no waiting, and since I choose fairly out-of-the-way venues, no organized harassment of voters. Yet.

Or, as I put it then:

Though honestly, now that I have the new computer, I have much better things to do than watch TV, even if I was digging the new Hawaii Five-O.  The better things to do should include catching up on my writing, but I’m still cursing incompatible software and searching for replacements. I’ll be trying a new open-source graphics editor tonight, and hopefully it will allow me to carry on in peace.

Mainly: trying to find an open-source (ie., hopefully free) HTML editor so I can go back to writing reviews. I’m familiar enough with simple HTML that I could likely muddle through using a text editor and a template, but I like looking at a WYSIWYG image and pretending it’s a sheet of digital paper that I have magically conjured, complete with images. More plainly, dealing with my text in-between tags makes my head hurt.

I seem to recall taking a week to get back up to speed the last couple of times I did a forced upgrade. I mean, Good God, I got a copy of Plants vs. Zombies for my birthday, and I haven’t even played a full stage of it yet. Likely because I realize if I really let it get a hold, I’ll be playing it for hours. See also Angry Birds, which has killed my Droid battery a couple of times.

Strange days, indeed.


Considering my near-Pokemon relationship with respiratory diseases (“gotta catch ’em all, gotta catch ’em all!”), it’s little surprise I wound up visiting my death-bed for most of last week. A little overtime put in cleaning out my garage, setting up, shooting, then breaking down the International Festival, led to a breakdown of another sort. The more cynically minded among you might point out that this coincided a bit neatly with the arrival of my new computer, but those cynics will be guided to a trashbag full of mucus-soaked Kleenex.

I am feeling much more connected these days, in the thrall of updating my Twitter and Tumblr feeds every few minutes. This is a nice piece of machinery – quad core processor, more RAM than I’ve ever had (and capable of expanding to even more), and I managed to dodge the hideous bullet of Windows Vista. Yes, it came with Windows 7.

And I am finding that nothing I have works with Windows 7.

In all my Web shenanigans, I’ve been using the same graphics program forever, and it ain’t Photoshop. I long ago found Micrografix’ Picture Publisher much more intuitive – hell it was like using one of my hands, it was that damned easy – and stuck with it. Well, Micrografix got bought by somebody years ago, and last iteration they put out was compliant with Windows 2000, I think. Ditto for my ancient but still lightning fast and reliable ULead SuperSaver, which cut down graphic file sizes with little loss of resolution.

I’ve also found out if I plopped down $150 more for Windows 7 Ultimate I could run a compatibility mode that would allow me to use this stuff. Instead, I’ve been exploring the wonderful world of open-source programs.

But really, I kinda expected that. I’d hoped it wasn’t going to be the case, but… (and I’m going to guess Office XP is just going to produce evil laughter from the OS)

What really has me steamed is hardware. The digital video converter I got to use twice? Useless. The programmable game controller that I gave myself as a Christmas present? Works fine, but the programming software is not compatible. Sorry, no updated drivers will be forthcoming.A work-around is devised, a well-reviewed replacement for the converter is only $25, but…

I am ending sentences with but… quite a bit now.

I do keep hearing rumblings that what promises to be my next big writing gig has finally passed the funding hurdles, and at least now I can write at length. Especially since I replaced my broken computer chair. Yeah, that’s another expense we can mark down in the book.

Theoretically I can absorb all these expenses soon, but…


Put off my appointment with disease too long

I knew something more than allergies were up when my beloved Wal-Phed did not staunch the flow of water from my sinuses last night.

I am hoping this is nothing more than a cold coming on. That was a pretty rough weekend for a poor, out-of-shape old man (and rapidly getting older). I accompanied the wife to target last night, just to get out of the house, and I ached abominably as I walked across its sterile expanse.

As I finished up my story on the Houston Comic Con, the sniffling turned into full-fledged sneezing and coughing.  Good timining, I guess, but I think the damned thing could have used a little more tweaking, but I decided it was best to get my ass out of there and away from innocent people. And into bed. Definitely into bed.

So. Here I am. Wastebasket of wadded-up Kleenex by my side (and it is Kleenex, dammit. Brand lawyers, stuff your letters), a brain made almost entirely out of mucus. And guess what? My new computer came today! At least I have something to do instead of poring over quaint old Batman comics.

As I pistol whip Windows 7 onto admitting who’s boss, I’m imagining the bloatware I’m deleting is actually the germs in my head. That’s satisfying.

*SNORT sniff moan*

Counting the Hours

So the boss and I were discussing how weird it was, that the day after the Festival, we both felt fairly chipper, but the second day after, we both feel like we’ve been hit by the Sandman’s steamroller. She’s been throwing stuff at me whenever I yawn.

I mean really, blah and blurgh. I was doing some more physical stuff yesterday, admittedly, taking the second huge round of trash from the garage clean-out (Other people may talk about Spring Cleaning, but around here it’s Fall Cleaning. That’s the only time time we can count on it being cool enough to actually pull stuff like this off and survive) to the curb. Then dragging out the water hose – we had a fair amount of rain this summer, my lawn didn’t need it much, but the wife was whining that she couldn’t get her Halloween cut-outs to stake into the ground because it was too hard , waaaaaaah. (You may think Dave Sim is rubbing off on me, but no, that was almost verbatim. I married the youngest of the family. I love her more than life itself, but oy…)

Ah, well, it would have to be done, anyway. The lawn needed the water. I turned the garden to mud – well, mud-ish, the light was failing fast – and hammered in the damned decorations. Went back inside sweatier than ever and covered in mud, and continued to go back and forth in Tweets with Zack Handlen about how much the new Word sucks. Still covered in mud. Because I appreciate contrast in my life.

Yeah, speaking of contrasts, hearing how people are cold and snow is falling in London. And me, sweating in the garden. It was still a balmy 85 degrees at 7 in the evening, and while the humidity was not up to the killing Summer levels, it still wasn’t comfortable. I could use a little nip in the air, frankly. Please note I am wearing a sweater as I type this out. The server farm remains frigid.

Well, with any luck at all, and if UPS isn’t lying, I should have a new computer – well, a refurbished one, anyway – tomorrow evening. Then I get to cackle for a bit and then mutter as I realize how many software discs I don’t have and how many passwords I didn’t write down.

Aftermath: Pretty Tedious, actually.

Slept the sleep of an older man who’d been doing some physical labor last night. The International Festival wasn’t as tiring as last year’s version – for one thing, I graduated from grip to cameraman, so I was, at least sitting down once the damn thing started. However, as we were a man short – which seems to be a tradition – breaks were few and far between. In fact, there was exactly one. I locked down my camera on a wide shot, then ran outside to wolf down a turkey sandwich, use the john, and then rotated through the other camera positions so they could do the same.

Tear-down always goes quicker than set-up. What took us three hours to accomplish in the morning was put away in a little more than an hour. After unloading at the station, we were released, and I went home, amazed that I was not more tired. Until I fell asleep in my reading chair. Then I stopped being amazed.

I was in this morning at my regular time, and the only ill effect – didn’t need my cane today, though I am moving slower than usual – is that my pre-lunch crash started early, and it is lethal. Caffeine is doing nothing to alleviate this, and I am in serious danger of waking up at my desk with Keyboard Face.

Sorry, dozed off for a second there. What was I talking about?

Vanishing Act

Yeah, I just wanted to make sure you were having blackouts, too. Thus my not-blogging yesterday.

Actually my yesterday got started way too damn early, about 4:30am. It happens. Sometimes I empty the Incredible Shrinking Bladder and am able to go back to sleep. Rampant allergies madE sure that yesterday was not such an occasion. So I got up, took some antihistamines, and continued with my ongoing project of reading the complete Cerebus. I’ve been hung up on Volume 13, Going Home, for a few weeks now.

I’ve gotten some interesting reactions from this little journey of mine. Mostly mixtures of admiration and pity from people who, like me, were regular readers of the book during its periodical days and just drifted away for any number of reasons. In my case it was trying to keep track of a storyline month after month, especially when creator Dave Sim got into his heavily text pieces like Jaka’s Story or, especially, Reads, leaving behind what had gotten me into the series in the first place: some especially sharp satire on politics, then religion, and, always, pop culture. I abandoned the periodicals, or “floppies” as they seem to be called these days, and just kept to the dense trade paperback collections, the “phone books”. The last one I picked up on first publication was volume 12, Rick’s Story, and I was picking them up largely out of habit, the completist’s urge. Financial concerns, like having a kid, soon put a stop to even that, and Cerebus slowly passed from my radar.

That means I missed out on a lot of the fun. If by fun you mean people screaming at each other in print and over what passed for the Internet in those days. Given that such things are now epidemic, somebody must find them fun. Mr. Sim, you see, has some unpopular ideas about gender politics. It tends to color everything you read by him, much as you may try to ignore it. Especially in Coming Home, where, having read From Hell, Sim decides to annotate his work.

Thus more bitching about women and feminists, and we begin to get some intimations of Sim’s conversion from godless secular humanism to religion. Not just any religion, but old time religion. Literally. What they refer to as “Abrahamic”. Basically the Torah, the Apostles, Revelations, and all of the Quran. This surfaces in his lengthy annotations on F. Scott Fitzgerald (who is a character in the second part of Going Home, in the person of F. Stop Kennedy), when he brings in special scorn for a Fitzgerald character’s irreverent dismissal of the Bible as “fatuous and simple-minded writing”.

This all gets very strange, in my mind, when I consider that I generally find his most well-rounded characters to be female. The annotations themselves are an interesting read, going into great detail about Fitzgerald, though I am rarely sure how the lengthier notes apply to the story they supposedly annotate; the art is some of the most gorgeous Sim and Gerhard have created, and some of the storytelling itself is elegant and wondrous; there was, however, an intimation of a plot somewhere in the first part of the book, and the second part, “Fall and the River”, which forms the second half of the book, abandons it for a lengthy digression, seemingly because Sim became obsessed with Fitzgerald, just as he did with Oscar Wilde in Reads and Melmoth.

I also covered the ribbon-cutting on a new theatre opening in the afternoon; I was surprised that it was a re-purposed retail space, but I don’t know why I was surprised; it’s logical for a young theatre to be exactly that. Anyway, that turned out to be ridiculously tiring. I seem to be getting old.

This weekend is going to suck out loud. Sub-division-wide garage sale tomorrow, followed by the Saturday night show; then I get up waaaaay too early Sunday morning for coverage of the Fort Bend International Festival, which is going to be a 12 hour day for me. So I cannot honestly say that Monday will not be another Blog Black Hole.

A Pause for Crap: The Early Days

Finished my Faculty Art Show story, if just barely. Slept till my alarm clock this morning. Something disastrously horrible must be waiting in the wings.

One of the VHS tapes I did not toss out int he VHS purge was my Super President bootleg, duh. I was also delighted to find my legit Here Comes the Grump tape, a show that was meant for the kids, sure, but the kinda warped little kids, with some designs inspired by Yellow Submarine, I’m sure. It has a goofy psychedelic-lite vibe going for it. There are also entire episodes on YouTube, but the commies have requested that embedding be disabled. Jerks.

So you just have to be happy with watching the extraordinary opening for Super President one more time.

WordPress found a way around the non-embed? Have some brain-wrecking cartoons:

The Tooth of Crime

At this point, I’m awake and active, though ranking somewhat lower than slime mold on the sentience scale. I’m relatively certain that I slept last night – there’s a six hour hole in my evening, and I didn’t wake up covered in blood. Though you can’t prove it to me by any method that requires measurement of restedness, ’cause I ain’t got none.

Sleep was thankfully inevitable, after a couple of nights nearly devoid of it due to my wife’s suffering. The dentist appointment in the morning was not very encouraging, in fact it was fairly alarming. She needed oral surgery, and she needed it right now. Under a crown, one of the roots of a root-canaled tooth had fractured, and there was severe infection, reaching out to surrounding roots. The expanse of the infection was why no pain medication was having any effect at all.

Quite, quite good, incidentally.

So I spent most of the late afternoon, into the evening, sitting in the waiting room. I read Osamu Tezuka’s Ode to Kirihito in its entirety – and it is not a thin book – and started on another. My emergency throwdown book was DC Showcase Presents The Brave and the Bold Vol. 3, which is early 1970’s Batman team-ups, but after the intense and complex Kirihito, the novelty of seeing Batman exclaim, “Right on!” failed to satisfy. Eventually, about a thousand dollars later, they released her to my care.

One of the first questions she asked me, while waiting for the elevator, was, “Could you hear me out in the waiting room?” “Um, no…” “Good.”

As much of the infection as possible was removed, of course, and a bone graft inserted. Apparently he had shot the area full of anesthetic before she left, with a caution that after it wore off, quote, “Katy bar the door,” unquote, a phrase which has never made any damn sense to me, but I’m not an M.D. Took her home, spent another 40 minutes at the pharmacy, went home to cook a late dinner for myself and The Boy. The patient was satisfied with only a Smoothie.

Oh, Katy bar the door, indeed. Vicodin still wasn’t doing much good for her mouth, but eventually she did get to sleep. She didn’t have much choice, by that point. I doubt she’d slept more than a few hours the entire weekend. She seemed better this morning, but still inclined to mass murder if she only felt better. I left her int he company of Vicodin, two different antibiotics, and a prescription mouthwash.

Me? I’m trying like hell to stay awake and get my story on the Fall Faculty Art Show edited. I’ll probably absent myself a bit early to go home and hopefully sleep before I go pick up The Boy from school. The story’s in pretty good shape, needing only my open and close and some B-roll over the interviews. And graphics. And a music bed. And…

Aw, crap, I’m never getting home.

"That's him, officer! That's the one!"

Double Book Reviews

My wife’s toothache began, as do all horrible toothaches, late Friday night. By Sunday she was finally ready to call a dentist (I married the Queen of the Wusses, and being married to royalty does not have the perks one would imagine). I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep this weekend. I filled it with reading. In other words, those two novels I mentioned Friday? Both history.

Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan is what we call a ripping good yarn. It’s the first book in a new Young Adults trilogy, a steampunk adventure story set at the dawn of  a World War I being fought by genetically engineered animals on one side and steam-driven mechs on the other. We get a hero from each side: from the “Clankers”, the son of Archduke Ferdinand, on the run from other Clankers because he has a clear line of descent from the aging Emperor. He’s got a loyal crew of five retainers and a Cyclops Stormwalker equipped with a cannon and two Spandau machine guns. On the “Darwinist” Side, we have Deryn, a young girl who is pretending to be a boy to join the Royal Navy; she was trained by her now-dead father to be the match of any male airman. The airships in this reality being mutated whales serving as the basis for an ecosystem that produces mass amounts of hydrogen.

Leviathan is imaginative, full of thunder if not too much blood (young adults, remember), and is just, as the Idiot Prince would say, “A roaringly good story!” I handed the book over to my 12-year-old son with no reservations.

Last night’s sleeplessness was eased by Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim, which I will likely not be handing over to my son. Leviathan I consumed in two days, but Slim I gobbled down within a day, as I tweeted, “Like hot pizza after B-Fest”.  It’s a berserk mixture of Donald E. Westlake, Clive Barker, Andrew Vaachs and a heaping helping of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Stark, the central character, escapes from Hell, where he was sent, still living, eleven years before. A living person in Hell was a novel thing; he’s spent the time in gladiator pits, where cheating demons applied a hex here, a protection spell there, and taught him some battle magic of their own. In consequence, he’s very hard to kill, and has returned with the intent of slaying his old coven who betrayed him, and later killed his one true love in life while he was fighting nightmare creatures in the ninth circle.

What that paragraph doesn’t convey is how funny the book is, a black, mordant humor that keeps things from getting too horrifying or bleak. When the last line of a book is severed head saying, “Be quiet, the movie’s starting”, I know I’ve found a comfortable place to rest my imagination.

There are now three books I have compulsively read in one sitting: Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs, Roger Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October, and now Sandman Slim. Sorry, Mr. King, but there was no way I could have read The Stand in one go. I tried, believe me.

The only problem here is, I found these two books by reading reviews of their sequels, both of which are so new my library apparently doesn’t have them yet. So, you know, Argh.

Anyway, as I write this, my wife is at the dentist. Maybe I’ll get some sleep tonight instead of reading. That would be sweet.