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.


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.


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:


Dripping Blood


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.

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

Kirby Update

Apparently I was a tad premature last week when I gently poked fun at Kirby and his stylish but affordable headwear. What we thought was an eye infection was in fact the early symptoms of a herniated disc in his neck, which is… well, a bit more serious.

I will spare everyone the full saga, but Kirby began acting weirder over the next couple of days, which saw us spend the day two Wednesdays ago at MedVets in Dayton and Cincinnati, and it all culminated with Kirby having surgery on Thursday. That Thursday was also the day of my move out of my apartment and into Jess’s house. It really gave a nice boost to the ol’ anxiety and stress levels.

It was a long, long week.

The good news is that Kirby is ten days into a four week recovery period, and is feeling much better. He’s down to prednisone once a day, in the mornings, so we’re no longer having to wake up multiple times in the night to take him out. I feel like I am finally able to breathe again. And I am so glad that fucking July is in the rear view mirror.

So the moral of this story is don’t make fun of your dog’s cone head, even if it’s super hilarious, because karma, as the saying goes, is a bitch.

The World’s Unhappiest Satellite Dish

Last night, while watching the season finale of STRANGER THINGS (so good!), we noticed Kirby was having trouble opening one eye. He was able to partially open it, and looked like he was just repeatedly winking at us, like a lecher with a nervous tic.

We were concerned it might be an eye scratch, which can potentially be serious, as it can lead to a fucking ulcer, and potentially blindness — Jess knew this, by the way, not me, as she is wise and experienced in all things pupper related, and I am, uh, not even remotely — so we got dressed and took Kirby to the critter ER.

Fortunately, it was not an eye scratch, but the beginnings of an eye infection, which is not nearly as bad. Kirby got an antibiotic, eye cream, and puppy painkillers. He also got a cone for his head, which he was… not thrilled about.

Kirby is feeling better today, although he will continue to be the world’s unhappiest satellite dish for another couple of days.


The Wright Library in Oakwood turned 80 this year, and to celebrate they will be publishing an art and literary zine, GLIDE, on April 26. I have a short story that will be included; a secret history entitled “A Brief Detour” about the Wright brothers, Dayton, and time travel. It was fun to write and I am happy to have it be a part of GLIDE.

Wright Library is holding a release reception for GLIDE on Friday, April 26 from 7-8:30pm. Print copies will be available for anyone interested. An online version will also be published. I’ll share the link once it’s up.

I am planning to be at the reception for a bit, so feel free to swing by and say hi if you’re in the area.


I can’t adequately express how happy I am that spring is here.  The sun absolutely killed it today, shining all day long, and making it warm enough that I didn’t need a coat.

We spent most of the weekend in Cincinnati, taking in a show — Iron & Wine, accompanied by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra — and bumming around downtown.  We walked across the bridge to Roebling Point Books in Kentucky, where I picked up a gorgeous old Heritage Press copy of 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA.

It was really nice to be out and about.  The city felt like it was waking up from a long hibernation.  A lot of people were out, and the atmosphere just felt livelier.  The worst part about living in Ohio, for me, is the lack of regular sunlight in the winter months.  The cold, while not pleasant, I can handle — but the grey skies just sap me of my energy, affect my mood.  Today, though, was different, brighter.  Tomorrow is supposed to be grey and rainy, but at least today it felt like the season switch had finally been flipped.


Old Lang Sign

Rounding out 2018 in relative quietude with: reading, snoozing, and sneaking popcorn to three dachshunds who perpetually act like they haven’t eaten in daaays.

We did go out for an early dinner with friends, to a Brazilian steakhouse. There were so many delicious meats, but the desserts were my favorite: caramelized plantains, and this rabanada.

2018 was a very good year for me. Lots of change, nearly all of it positive. I met an amazing girl in July who’s made an already good life great; started personal training in January and have stuck with it; and moved into a lovely apartment downtown. Also, I am writing again, which has been such a relief. I can only liken the feeling to holding one’s breath for a year, and then finally being able get a lungful of air.

Historically, I shy away from talking about good things that happen to me. It makes me feel uncomfortable, like I’m being a braggart, or rubbing it in the faces of others who maybe aren’t in the best of places. Nor do I want the universe to misconstrue such an attitude as me staring it in the eye and daring it to try me. But what I’ve come to realize is that, from time to time, it’s okay to acknowledge and appreciate the good things in one’s life.

My attitude going into the new year is one of “resetting expectations.” With myself, and with others. As part of this effort, I’m setting four goals for myself. They will hopefully help build on some positive things I’ve already been doing, and also help me create good habits in other areas. I’m not going to really talk about them in this space, because ha ha, why publicly set Future Josh up for failure?


According to my comprehensive authors and books spreadsheet, now in it’s fifteenth year of use, I’ve read 19 books this year, not including graphic novels, which is down slightly from last year, which was down from the year before it. That’s not a trend I am super thrilled with, which is why I am making one of my goals to read 25 books in 2019. This is the only exception to my “not publicly talking about it” goals policy. Future Josh, hopefully when you’re reading this next year.if you don’t like reading this next year… well, get stuffed.

My favorite book that I read this year — even though it came out in 2014 — was BROKEN MONSTERS, by Lauren Beukes. It’s a weird crime novel full of vivid prose, strange but compelling characters, and a brilliantly fucked up serial killer. Beukes has become one of my favorite writers in recent years, with MOXYLAND and THE SHINING GIRLS also being among my favorite reads. She has a new book out in a few months, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m talking about it in this space next year.


2018 feels like it’s been interminably long but also gone by in a blink. 2019, I think, will be very much the same. And I am okay with it. So time to strap in, take a long pull of champagne, and kiss a pretty girl in a few short minutes. See you next year.


Some time back I was “ordained” by the Universal Life Church so I could officiate my sister’s wedding. Then today at work someone referred to me as an “Internet Priest,” and, while not technically accurate, it amused me greatly.

The wedding was a couple of weeks ago, held at a charming farmhouse-y complex in one of the local Metroparks.  The sun was shining and the temperature was crisp, which meant we could pose for outside photos without melting.  The wedding was THE PRINCESS BRIDE themed, my sister’s idea, and a thing I am only slightly jealous of because now I won’t be able to use it one day for my potential future wedding.  The ceremony was short, the party long.  No guests were unduly unruly — “no more rhymes now, I mean it” — which meant the bride and groom did not have to murder anyone on their special day.  It was great to spend time with family and friends and celebrate the bride and groom, who by all accounts had a blast.  Oh, and there were donuts.

And how did I perform in my official capacity?  Well, I didn’t screw up my lines, and I managed to slip in a STARSHIP TROOPERS quote, so I was pretty fucking pleased.

Really, the day couldn’t have been anymore perfect.


The photos were of course taken by the official Bales family photographer, the renowned Bill Cunningham, who as always did a wonderful job.


October also saw my long-planned move to a new apartment finally happen, from the suburbs to Dayton’s small but mighty(ish) downtown.  This change was needed for multiple reasons, not least of which is that my former residence would get frigid during cooler — not even cold, but cooler — weather, thanks to poor insulation and an old furnace as efficient as Soviet bureaucracy.  A change in scenery was also needed, and thankfully timing, finances, and the stars all aligned in a way where I could make it work.  Not sure I’ll be a city-dweller forever, but for now, so far, I like it a lot.

“Being downtown” always sounds in my head like the way it’s said in this scene from WAYNE’S WORLD 2, i.e. terribly awkward. It could be that’s because I sometimes struggle to not feel self-conscious about enjoying nice things, or I could just be tired.  Regardless, i think I am rambling at this point, so here’s a picture from my patio. It’s peaceful, especially at night.


Currently reading: THE FIRST FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST, by Claire North (GR)