2020 Apr 05

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From my local Mexican restaurant: a bottle of Patrón repurposed as a hand sanitizer dispenser.

Been a quiet weekend.  We made pills yesterday and and sat around reading a bunch.  The last week was another busy work week and in general a bit of a struggle, though we did do a happy hour thing with friends on Wednesday, which was a welcome relief.

Currently reading: Just finished CHANGES in preparation for the newest installment of The Dresden Files,  PEACE TALKS , due out in July.  About to start the next (for me) Jack Reacher book, TRIPWIRE.  Such is the state of my attention span during all this shit that I am having trouble focusing on anything more complex.

Currently watching: Doing a rewatch of VENTURE BROS, somewhere in season one, which is uneven but fun.  Finished STAR TREK PICARD, which managed to stick the landing for the most part.  The other night we watched THE MALTESE FALCON.  It was good, although I think I prefer Bogart as Philip Marlowe to Sam Spade.  Which reminds me that I still need to order THE BIG SLEEP.

I ordered face masks from Etsy last week.  Because I’m me, I tried to find some that had a little style to them.  The real question is, should I also order a set of goggles, to really complete the early-days-of-dystopia look?

Overmorrow

I was reading Julian Simpson’s excellent INFODUMP newsletter this morning, and came across a new-to-me word: overmorrow.  Here’s how Julian used it:

And we have to remember that there is an “other side” to this, an overmorrow where we step back out into the world and the shops are open, and the cafes and bars and museums and galleries, and we can see our friends and family and put our lives back together…

According to Dictionary.com, overmorrow is defined as “the day after tomorrow.”  The word originated in the 1500s but generally fell out of usage at some point thereafter.

Always a delight to learn a new word.

Proof of Life

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The quarantine beard is starting to fill in.

I just started week three of a four-week round of prednisone to treat a thing, and it’s been playing hell with my ability to sleep, and my appetite.  Today, for instance, I was wide awake at 4:30am and willing to commit bloody murder for a stack of pancakes.  I had a yogurt instead and logged onto work at 5:30am, which my primitive brain was sort of meh about.

Very glad to have this week be nearly over with.  Tomorrow my plan is to nap as much as I want, and annihilate some pancakes, of course.

The Great Pause

Checkpoint time: a little over one week into what I’ve seen referred to in a couple of places as The Great Pause.  It’s interesting living in the middle of a rapidly unfolding historical Event — big E — that people are already assigning names to.  I don’t remember when the Great Recession started being the Great Recession, but I don’t think it was quite this fast.

I can’t wait for the inevitable thriller that will arrive a few years from now called THE GREAT PAUSE, about a rough-and-tumble anthropologist who finds himself drawn into a plot surrounding millennia-old curse tablets discovered in an Athenian well, which unleashes a deadly plague upon the world…  Not that anything like that could ever happen.

Things that helped me get through the past week, in no particular order:

* Being busy at work.  The world doesn’t stop just because the world has, in many respects, stopped.  Last week at work was insanely busy, which I’m not complaining about; I’m aware of how fortunate I am in my situation.  But it’s legit been helpful to have something to focus on during the days.

* Making dinner.  Cooking is far from being one of my favorite things in the world, but we made dinner every night last week, which was actually fun.  Then on Friday and Saturday night we ordered takeout to support some of our favorite local restaurants.  The pappardelle with Venetian pork & beef ragu from Grist was outstanding.

* Exercising.  With doing the full-time work from home thing, this has been very helpful towards making the mental transition from “work” to “off work.”  My gym has been closed, for obvious reasons, so I ordered some adjustable dumb bells and a bench, but they didn’t arrive til the weekend.  So with nothing else to do, last Monday I went for a run/stagger.  It was rough in the moment, but afterwards I felt pretty okay.  In the three or four times I’ve since gone, it’s been a little easier each time.  I hope to keep up the pace. (har har har)

* Cleaning.  Our basement is starting to look really good.

* Writing.  Last Sunday I started working on a ghost story that’s been bubbling around in my head for a while, and I’ve been working on it in the evenings after I come back from a run.  The off-work reset that exercising presents is apparently also shaking loose some creativity from my fusty brain.

That’s my coping strategy thus far.  I’ll be curious to see how it mutates as time wears on.  Hope you all too are finding ways to get through this weird-ass time we’re living in.

Thirty-Eight

We’re in Cincinnati for the weekend, originally to see a show, celebrate my birthday, and do some other fun stuff.  For one obvious reason, rhyming with “Come on Eileen,” many of these things were canceled.  But, since the Airbnb was already booked, we decided to still venture down and spend the weekend lounging in our adorable little space.

Downtown Cincy is a ghost town.  Only a few places open and fewer people in them.  We were supposed to leave for San Diego next week, but will be postponing that trip til later in the year.  Things right now are certainly surreal.  Makes me think of the old curse, “May you live in interesting times.”  Maybe one day, times will be a little less interesting.

I turned 38 this past week.  Here’s me enjoying a celebratory margarita last night, and not looking a day past 37.

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Recently Watched, Jan 2020

Interested in a few microreviews of movies and TV shows I’ve watched recently? Too bad, you’re getting them anyway.

BLACK DYNAMITE: A blaxpoitation movie that is less a parody and more an homage, and just as funny now as it was ten years ago. There are many great bits to this movie, but my favorite? Donuts don’t wear alligator shoes:

THE WIDOW: A fairly bleak thriller about a woman who believes her husband died in a plane crash until she sees him on news footage, so it’s off to the Congo to solve the mystery. I liked this fairly well. The Congo made for an interesting setting, and Kate Beckinsale is quite good as a determined woman who’s gone through some trauma and is trying to keep her shit together long enough to find her husband. An eight episode, limited series on Amazon was a good format for this type of show. I wish more filmmakers would go this route.

CASABLANCA: Just a fucking classic. I’ll say no more, except that I just now remembered I need to see if I own copies of THE BIG SLEEP and THE MALTESE FALCON.

RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD: What an ugly, miserable film. The John Rambo of this film is so far removed from the tragic figure of the first film, that I sincerely wonder what Sylvester Stallone was thinking when he wrote the script. I’m so mad I sat through the whole thing.

KNIVES OUT: An old school whodunnit in the vein of CLUE that’s clever, funny, and brilliantly casted. Daniel Craig as detective Benoit Blanc is wonderful, but Chris Evans steals his scenes as a sort of anti-Steve Rogers. This and READY OR NOT were my favorite movies from 2019.

V: The original miniseries from 1983 about alien Visitors who one day show up all over the world in big shiny ships. Instead of pulling an INDEPENDENCE DAY, the Visitors want to help humanity by stealing our jorbs resources, and eating our small rodents. More than a little cheesy now, yes, but it is still a surprisingly effective allegory for Nazi-occupied Europe. Also it stars Marc Fucking Singer, so now I’m ready to watch THE BEASTMASTER again.

6 UNDERGROUND: A Michael Bay-directed, Ryan Reynolds-starring, Netflix original (??) that was frenetic and incoherent, and just unwatchably dumb, and I turned it off after ten minutes.

UNDERWATER: ALIEN, but set on the ocean floor. The plot made little sense, but Shit Starts Getting Real within the first five minutes, which was an interesting approach to take. Worth watching when it eventually hits Netflix/Amazon/etc.

ELEMENTARY: We’ve been watching this pretty much nonstop since September and we’re now somewhere in the middle of the fifth season. I’ve seen it before — except for the last season — but Jess hasn’t. The platonic chemistry between Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu is everything. Easily my favorite filmed adaptation of Sherlock Holmes

THE GOOD LIAR: A twisty, witty thriller with Sir Ian McKellan and Dame Helen Mirren as the leads? Count me in. This was quite good.

2020 Jan 01

This first day of 2020 has been, for me, pretty quiet.  I watched the first V miniseries dvd that I got for Christmas, napped, and Jess made and I ate a traditionalish German dinner of sausage, sauerkraut (of which I abstained), fried potatoes, and stewed tomatoes.

Our new year’s eve celebration last night was supposed to be a low-key affair with friends, but was actually a very loud dinner out with said friends, and then back to their house where we were slightly less loud, but still shouting questions and song requests at a struggling robot, and played with pups.

It’s been a perfect way to start the decade.

More so because 2019 couldn’t fuck off fast enough.  I won’t bore anyone by getting into details, but 2019 was a pretty shitty year.  Interestingly, I’ve talked with several people who’ve expressed similar feelings  about 2019, so I guess it’s really more of a collective fuck-you to the year that was.

But — 2019 did have several bright spots.  A trip to England, I had a story published, and, best of all, I got to spend the whole year with this lady.

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Okay, onto some other 2019 look-back stuff.

Books: I read 27 books this year, with a goal of 25 set at the beginning of the year (pretty much the only goal I hit this year).  I reread a number of old favorites this year, including Scalzi’s Old Man’s War trilogy, the second half of the Rob MacGregor Indiana Jones novels, JUMPER by Steven Gould, and a couple of William Gibson’s books.  These were what I will call “comfort reads”:  books I’ve been wanting to reread for a while now, that I knew would not be super challenging.  Essentially, books with which I could easily unwind.

Favorite book(s) I reread this year were the aforementioned Indiana Jones books.  I first started reading this series when the second book, INDIANA JONES AND THE DANCE OF THE GIANTS, came out in 1991, when I was nine. I’ve reread them too many times to count.  MacGregor captured the voice of Indiana Jones and the tone of the movies perfectly.  He also plays a mean game of Words With Friends.

Favorite new book this year was THE IRON DRAGON’S MOTHER, by Michael Swanwick.  Swanwick remains one of the best sf writers working today, in my opinion.  I am very grateful Nate randomly bought THE IRON DRAGON’S DAUGHTER — the predecessor to MOTHER — from the Science Fiction Bookclub all those years ago, and introducing me to Michael Swanwick’s work.

Writing: I set a goal of writing 20,000 words of fiction this year, which I knew going in was ambitious as I haven’t written regularly in a couple of years.  I ended up with around 9,000 words in the bank, which I am still insanely happy with, because I actually started and finished two short stories.  The first was “A Brief Detour” this spring, and then another story that I started in early December and wrapped up a couple of days ago.  Also, the act of sitting down and writing has become easier, since I’ve been setting aside time specifically for it.  I’m going to keep a goal of 20,000 words for 2020 because it’s reasonable, for me.

I have no idea with what kind of regularity I’ll be posting here in 2020.  I’ve slowly been disengaging from Twitter and Facebook, because those sites are time sucks — and in the case of Twitter, toxic af — and I’m trying to be a bit more deliberate in how I spend my free time, and I expect this trend continue this year.  I’ve been thinking of ways I could easily post the kinds of things here that I might normally post to Twitter, things that are short and quickly written.  Jay Springett and Warren Ellis have interesting takes on how a return from the corporate-owned sites, which are by design more ephemeral, to the “Isles of Blogging” could be on the horizon.  I’ve been operating this site in some form or another since 2001, and still enjoy writing here when I do.  Much to puzzle out still.

Anyway, this has been way longer-winded and more wandering than I intended, so it’s time to wrap it up.  My hope for 2020 is that it’s the best year yet for you and for me.  Same goes for the new Twenties.  At the very least, to quote a bit of art we saw at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London:

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Dripping Blood

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As much as I am loath to willingly give any corporate entity access to my DNA, several years of GI antics made me finally relent and sign up to do the EverlyWell food sensitivity test.

Turns out I have a very high sensitivity to cow’s milk, and a moderate sensitivity to yogurt.  Neither of these were very surprising to me.  I switched to lactose-free milk years ago, and generally try to avoid food that contains significant dairy.  The yogurt one is challenging, because I eat Greek yogurt for breakfast almost every day, and occasionally in the afternoons as a snack.  So I need to figure out a way to minimize my yogurt intake while still finding a good source of protein.

The testing process itself was interesting. You poke your finger with a lancet and then drip the blood into these little circles on a collection card.  If your blood doesn’t flow like wine, you squeeze and mangle your finger until it relents and pays bloody homage to the collection card.  This is referred to as “milking your finger for more blood,” a phrase I had never heard before and one that sounds straight out of a Lovecraft story.

So now you know how to poison me and make it look like an accident.  Please do not use this knowledge for evil.  If you kill me I will have no problem haunting you until the end of your days, and maybe even longer after that.

PICARD Trailer

The new trailer for STAR TREK: PICARD dropped yesterday, and it legit brought a tear to my eye.

“You really want to go back out into the cold?”

“More than ever.”

Goosebumps.

PICARD drops in January, so now I have a reason to actually look forward to that hell month.

Indiana Dunes and the Summer Mini-Vacay

Last weekend we traveled to the Indiana Dunes for an end-of-summer mini-vacation. The goal was to get away for a bit and relax, since the summer had been long and a little taxing. We booked a quiet Airbnb near the beach, we hiked, we went to the beach, we read, and we ate good food. It was exactly what I wanted, and, more importantly, needed.

It’s funny: before planning for this trip, I had never heard of the Dunes. I’ve lived in Ohio my whole life, and not only do I usually forget that there are these large lakes north of me, but also that they have beaches. Pretty beaches, even. I’d like to go back again, in the dead of summer, so that I can properly frolic in the water. It was, uh, a little too cool for frolicking for my taste.

When in Dune country ones sees lots of things that declaim the word “Dune.” It makes sense given it’s a national park, and because some percentage of a population are always passionate about where they live. But this appealed to the scifi nerd in me, because up there it’s all about the Dune. Signs pointing tourists towards various Dune sites. Vanity license plates using “Dune” in some “clever” fashion. Shirts, postcards, and tchotchkes that talk about the Dune life, Dune country, etc. Like a dusty airport (spaceport?) souvenir shop on Arrakis.

I take less photos these days, mostly because Jess takes a lot, and she also has a much better eye for composition than I do. Regardless, here are a few from me.

This area was very pretty to hike in, even if it did give off a Jurassic Park vibe
Welcome to the Bog Kingdom
It’s nice to see 9/11 truther asshats also enjoy our national parks