Category Archives: personal

Happy Birthday, Little Miss

Three years ago today, the Little Miss was born. This is the first birthday that she has been fully aware of, and consequently, very excited about. In the ordinary course of the morning, getting ready for school, I’ll ask her what she wants for breakfast, and she’ll tell me yogurt and Cheerios. This morning when I asked, she said, “Nuffin” (Nothing).

I went downstairs to put stuff in the car (there’s cupcakes and goodie bags for her class, after all), and when I came in, she was coming down the stairs. “Are we leaving yet?” she asked. Clearly, she was excited to get started.

Three years goes by in the blink of an eye, and it is easy to lose the little moments in the over all wave of passing time. But, as I’ve done for both kids, I jot down milestones in Evernote, as they happen. I was reviewing the milestones for the Little Miss this morning, and here are a few of them from the last 3 years.

5/13/2012, Crawling

My note reads: [The Little Miss] crawled forward about 2 paces this evening on the carpet in the office.

She was about 9 months old at this time.

5/21/2012, Standing

Not one for being satisfied with simple, crawling, a week later, I noted (with a photograph) that she was pulling herself up into a standing position.

5/27/2012, Mama

The Little Miss said, “Mama” deliberately for the first time.

6/5/2012, Big brother

The Little Miss said her brother’s name, deliberately, twice in the same evening.

8/13/2012, Steps

Just shy of a year old, the Little Miss is taking 5-6 steps at a time before plopping back down to the floor.

9/29/2012, Sleep

The Little Miss is sleeping through the night in her crib. Both of her parents are greatly relieved, and are also (finally) sleeping through the night.

2/25/2013, ABCs, and potty

The Little Miss sings (adorably) the ABC song, as well as “Bah Bah Black Sheep.” She’s 18 months old. She also used the potty for the first time on this day.

7/8/2013, Preschool

The Little Miss had her first day at preschool today.

10/25/2013, Bunk Beds

Never one for wanting to sleep in her own room, the Little Miss and Little Man spent their first night in their new (at the time) bunk beds, and loved it. They’ve been sleeping there ever since.

12/8/2013, Frozen

The Little Miss went to see her first movie in the theater, Frozen. She hasn’t stopped singing since.

2/1/2014, Skating

The Little Miss (and Little Man) went ice skating for the first time today.


The Little Miss will have yet another milestone in the next 2 weeks, when she moves into the “senior” classroom at her school. In the meantime, it was wonderful to see her so happy and excited about her birthday this morning. She will be celebrating with her classmates today, her family this evening, and her friends (at her party) this weekend.

Happy birthday, Little Miss!

Lazy, Low-Energy Saturday

Possibly because I am still recovering from the last few weeks of very intense work and long hours, possibly because I am still recovering from my trip to L.A., today turned out to be a lazy, low-energy day for me, very unusual, especially for a Saturday.

Kelly and the kids were gone most of the day. They left the house for various adventures at 8:30 in the morning, and didn’t get back home until 10 hours later. And what did I do during those 10 hours? I’d planned to go for a long walk, get a bunch of writing done, and a bunch of chores as well.

In reality, I spent most of the time on the couch. I finally finished the first volume of William Manchester’s biography of Winston Churchill, and started almost at once on the second volume. But until this evening, I did no writing at all. I lazed around all day, except for about an hour in the middle of the day when I found enough energy to clean all of the bathrooms in the house.

This evening, I finally sat down to write. I was planning to write the second draft of an article, and adding another scene to my story. I managed only to add the scene to the story, but it was an important step forward. I’d been struggling with this part of the story for months, writing, and rewriting, but never getting it right. Tonight, I decided to brute force my way through it, and it seemed to work! I feel pretty good about it.

We have quite a few things on the calendar for tomorrow, but it was nice to have a lazy day, even if it was unexpected.

“Who’s the Yankees Shortstop?” Or, Knowledge Versus Fandom

Last night, after a wonderful happy hour at Finn McCool’s in Santa Monica, catching up with old friends and coworkers, I walked back to my hotel. Movie crews were working on both sides of Pico between 4th and Main filming something all day long, but by the time I walked through there at 9 pm or so, it looked like things were winding down.

I was wearing my Yankees shirt, and a guy saw it and said, “Who’s the Yankees shortstop?”

“Jeter,” I said, automatically, thinking, cool, another Yankees fan.

The guy seemed momentarily taken aback, paused, regrouped, and then said, “Well, you wouldn’t believe how many people wear that that shirt and don’t know shit.”

I walked on.

As I got into the elevator, I was still thinking about it. Knowledge of a team in no way defines your enjoyment of that team, unless you are in fourth grade, when knowing the names of the band members in the current popular band, or the starting lineup of the team is a silly badge of schoolyard pride. If I hadn’t come up with the name of the Yankees shortstop, it wouldn’t make me any less a fan. (Perhaps just less fanatic.)

It occurred to me then, that what I might said, when he asked me about the Yankees shortstop was this:

“Jeter. But if you think knowledge of the players makes someone more or less a fan of team, then you tell me, who was the Yankees shortstop before Jeter?” I wonder if he would have come up with the answer. Of course, even if it couldn’t it wouldn’t make him any less a fan.

Yesterday’s Inaugural LAX Bradley Terminal Mini-Con

As the fates would have it, my flight yesterday arrived at Los Angeles International Airport around the same time that my friend, and fellow science fiction writer, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, was arriving for his flight to London for the World Science Fiction Convention. I’m not going to make it out to London for Worldcon this year, alas, but there is an unspoken rule in the science fiction world that if two writers find themselves together in the same airport at the same time, a mini-con must be arranged at once. And so, one was thus arranged.

We met up in the Bradley Terminal and proceeded downstairs for food. Alvaro and I then proceeded to talk shop for the next 90 minutes, and it was a blast. Of course, no mini-con would be complete without memorabilia, so I pulled out my copy of the November 1942 issue of Astounding1, which I carry around with me for just such emergencies2, and Alvaro and I posed for a Golden Age selfie.

LA MiniCon
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Swart Fowler

Despite what you may have heard, Alvaro and I did not plan to dress similarly for our mini-con. That part, at least, was a coincidence.

We made a sacred pledge that should any disaster befall Alvaro, I will inherit his copy of Asimov’s Annotated Paradise Lost, the only Asimov annotation that I don’t own. Should any disaster befall me, Alvar will inherit my signed paperback of The Caves of Steel. Should anything untoward happen to either of us, immediately look with suspicion upon the other. After all, we are writers, and science fiction fans moreover, and books, especially rare book, are the currency in which we deal.

When it was over, I grabbed a cab for my hotel, and Alvaro and his crew boarded their flight to London. I’d say that the inaugural LAX Bradley Terminal Mini-Con was a complete success. We are already trying to figure out in which city the 2nd annual LAX Bradley Terminal Mini-Con will take place.

Notes

  1. Which Alvaro can attest, really is signed by A.E. van Vogt and Jack Williamson.
  2. The way one might carry around a towel for similar emergencies.

My New Macbook Air

On Friday, I got myself a brand new Macbook Air, the fruit of my labor from writing over the last several months. I got the 13″ model, essentially the mid-range, which is fine for what I need. I’ve only had it about a day, but I love it. Two things I especially like are its light weight and its backlit keyboard.

Tomorrow, I head to L.A. for work, and I have a lot of work to do on the plane, some related to the day-job and some related to writing. So tomorrow I will get to test out the 12 hour battery life of this thing and see how well it really holds up.

Getting the laptop was setup was relatively trivial, thanks in part to a playbook I have for what to install on new computers, and in what order so that I can be efficient about it. Then, too, since most of my documents are in the cloud, there was no need to copy back and forth a lot of stuff.

At this point, everything is synced up nicely. All of my Git projects have been pulled over, all of my TextExpander snippets, and my Keyboard Maestro macros, so it is like working at my desktop computer. Except on a small screen. And I can take it with me wherever I go.

For #TBT: The Grave of the Unknown Warrior, Westminster Abbey, July 2007

West entrance to Westminster Abbey
West entrance to Westminster Abbey, July 2007
Back in July 2007, I visited London for a week, after spending the two previous weeks in Italy, Greece, Turkey and Croatia. It was my first trip to London, and I loved the city. One of the more moving events of that trip was my visit to Westminster Abbey, where I stood among the graves of people like Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Henry V (“Harry the King” from Shakespeare’s play.)

Upon leaving the Abbey, I came across the Grave of the Unknown Warrior. Having just finished the section on World War I in Manchester’s biography of Winston Churchill, I feel compelled to repeat it here:

Beneath this stone rest the body
Of a British warrior
Unknown by name or rank
Brought from France to lie among
The most illustrious of the land
And buried here on Armistice Day
11 Nov. 1920, in the presence of
His Majesty King George V
His ministers of state
The chiefs of his forces
And a vast concourse of the nation
Thus are commemorated the many
Multitudes who during the Great
War of 1914-1918 gave the most that
Man can give life itself
For God
For King and country
For loved ones home and Empire
For the sacred cause of justice and
The freedom of the world
They buried him among the kings
Because he
Had done good toward God and
Toward
His house

Heading to Los Angeles Later this Month

Well, Santa Monica, actually. And it is a whirlwind trip. I’m flying out for work on Sunday, August 10, and then taking the 6 am flight back home on Wednesday morning, August 13. It’s my first work-related trip to L.A. since 2011. I used to go much more frequently, but I burned out on that kind of travel. A 5 hour flight across the country seems twice as long.

But, I always try to look for the silver lining. I’m attempting to finish up the first volume of Manchester’s biography of Winston Churchill before the flight, so that I can spend my 10 hours in the air making my way into the second volume of the biography.

As for my schedule in L.A., the roughly 48-hours that I’ll be in town are already booked solid, mostly with work-related stuff. On Sunday evening, at least, I’m having dinner with friends from high school that I don’t get to see very often.

I have a ton of day-job work leading up to the trip, and so my days of high productivity pulses courtesy of RescueTime will probably continue for a while. I’m guessing they will continue through mid-September. We’ll see.

Various Updates for Sunday, July 27, 2014

First, sorry I haven’t been as active here as usual over the last week or so. As you might have guessed, things have been busy. But even for me, they have been unusually busy. Two big projects at the day job reached simultaneous critical milestones last week, and that took up a lot of my time. I’ve also been busy writing articles, and working on stories. And on top of that, I’ve been writing a bunch of code. Here is what RescueTime had to say about my productivity last week:

My productivity for the week of July 20

Keep in mind that my productivity pulse is typically in the 65-75 range. When it is in that range, I feel comfortable, and not overwhelmed. Below 65 and I start to feel a little lazy. Above 75 and things start to get a little intense. My average for the entire week was 78. There were days when I was close to 90.

In any case, here are a few updates of possible interest to folks:

1. R.I.P. Maggie: On Friday, we said goodbye to one of our two cats, Maggie. Maggie was nearly 18 years old, and had been healthy her entire life, except for the last few weeks. She had a tumor combined with some other infections. We thought that with some medication  she might rebound, but it wasn’t to be. She was a sweet cat, and will be missed by all of us.

2. Part 2 of my Going Paperless series on how I’ve simplified my Evernote organization will appear on Tuesday. Part 1 covered how I’ve simplified my notebook organization in Evernote. Part 2 will cover how I’ve simplified my tag organization. I had to delay it last week because–well, see the chart above. But it will be out on Tuesday.

3. My latest column for the Daily Beast went live on Thursday. The third piece in my column on quantified self for The Daily Beast went live on Thursday. This piece, titled, “Self-Tracking for N00Bz1 provides a simple 3-part framework to consider for folks who want to investigate self-tracking.

4. I’ve added some features to my Google Writing Tracker. I posted about it on Friday. I’m in the process of doing some major refactoring, and I’m alpha-testing some new functionality that breaks my writing down into fiction and nonfiction. (Hint: so far, so good.) In the meantime, I’ve made my Daily Almanac script–which works with the writing tracker to produce a daily summary email–available to anyone who wants to use it. I updated the project on GitHub for anyone interested.

5. For the first time in nearly a year, I’ve done no reading for 2 consecutive days. That’s how busy I’ve been. Seriously, it has been intense.

6. Some changes to the blog are coming. Nothing too dramatic, but I am testing out some new styles. For the most part these will be subtle changes that should improve the look of the site, and take advantage of improvements to CSS and browser capabilities. The biggest change will be to my How I Became a Professional Science Fiction Writer page. That should be pretty cool, so stay-tuned for that.

7. I started watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars cartoon series. Since I’ve stated here often enough that I’ve pretty much given up television, it is only fair when I admit to slipping. The Little Man had been watching episodes, and occasionally, I’d hear one in the background while writing or doing some other activity. What struck me first was how much better they were than the last 3 movies. The writing is pretty darn good. So are the story arcs. The Little Man has just finished the first season, and I’m only on episode 6 or 7, but I am enjoying it. Usually, I’ve been watching an episode or two just before bed. On some nights, I’ve tried for more, but I’ve just been too tired lately.

I think that’s about it. Once again, sorry for not being as active here as usual. Hopefully things will return to normal soon.

Notes

  1. As with a lot writing for news and magazine outlets, I write the article, but the editor typically comes up with the title. I mention this only because Kelly said that “N00Bz” didn’t sound like a word I’d use.

Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead

Kelly has been watching Doctor Who. She watches an episode or two each evening. Usually I am writing or reading while she is doing this, but occasionally, I’ll get sucked into an episode. It’s rare, but it happens. It has, however, happened the last two nights in a row. She watched an episode called “Silence in the Library” and I was vaguely reminded of Audrey Niffennegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife. It was a fascinating episode, really. And it ended with a “To be continued…” cliff-hanger.

So last night, she watched the concluding episode, called “Forest of the Dead,” and once again, I was sucked in. But I liked it. In fact, the double-episode quickly rose to the top of my favorite of the small handful of episodes that I’ve seen, eclipsing “Blink,” which was the first episode I ever watched, after a crowd-sourced recommendation. The ending of “Forest of the Dead” was spectacular.

Now, before anyone jumps into say, “Oh, you have to watch episode x, or y, or even z!” understand that this was a fluke. As much as I liked the episode, I just don’t have time for TV. Unless I really need to give my brain a rest, the time I spend watching TV is time that I could be writing. It’s not that I don’t like what I see. It’s that I like writing more.

Well, also, with rare exception like this double-episode, I can’t really stomach TV dramas anymore.

In any case, I thought I should at least mention that I saw and enjoyed both these episodes of Doctor Who since there are people out there who can’t believe that, as a science fiction writer, I don’t watch the show regularly.

A Full Day

This was a full day. I was at the office early, and immediately head-down in development work. And I mean head down. I ate my two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at my desk, almost oblivious to them. By the time I came up for air, it was nearly 4 pm. But I had made substantial progress, and that pleased me.

I came home and set about writing. I completed the second draft of an article for The Daily Beast, and put some more work into the first draft of another article for The Daily Beast. I also roughed out an article for another market. I squeezed in a little work on the novel as well.

Kelly to the kids out this evening (we were all out at a birthday celebration yesterday evening) so when I had finished with the writing, I returned to the day job work and made even more progress. Productivity-wise, it was one of my better days in a while, and in fact, tied my best ever “productivity pulse” in RescueTime.

RescueTime July 17

But days like these also leave me completely mentally drained. At this point, I don’t feel like reading, writing, browsing, or anything but getting into bed. I may even watch a TV show to give my brain a break.

Then, I’m back at it tomorrow.

I am aiming to have the re-outlining of the second draft of my novel completed by the end of the month, and then getting aggressive and seeing if I can manage to write the complete second draft in 3 months (August, September, October). I’d like to have a proofread version done by November, before the World Fantasy Convention.

Blood-Sucking Ticks and Clocks

We seem to have a tradition for the Fourth of July that goes beyond spending the holiday in the small town of Castine, Maine. Last year (2013), the Little Man, slipped coming out of the bathroom, and cracked his head on the floor. He didn’t require any stitches, but there was a good deal of blood and crying. Fortunately, my cousin is a doctor and he took a look at the wound and said it would be okay. This year, I jokingly told him I’d make sure the Little Man avoids any slips or spills. And to his credit, the Little Man did not fall on the Fourth of July.

But after the morning parade, I got a text from Kelly. I’d walked back to the house with the Little Miss, while Kelly took the Little Man on a firetruck ride. She texted with the gleeful news that the Little Man had managed to acquire a passenger: a small tick, which found a comfortable spot on his head. Not wanting to freak out the Little Man, Kelly said nothing to him, but when they returned to the house, my cousin, the good doctor, took a look, and, as Dr. Seuss once said, with great skillful skill, and with great speedy speed, successfully removed the tiny hitchhiker.

Jump-cut ahead to a few days ago. The Little Man was taking inventory  of his many wounds, tiny scratches that he has on his legs, for instance, the kind of scratches and scrapes that all five year old boys and girls collect. He called the more prominent of these scrapes “blood holes” which sounds gruesome until you actually see what he is talking about–and then it takes all of your will not to smile or laugh. He was explaining why he needed one snack or another.

“It will make new blood,” he said, “to replace the blood that came out from the blood holes.” We’re talking volumes of blood measured in microliters, picoliters, even.

“You really didn’t lose that much blood, buddy,” I said. “Those are very small scrapes.”

“But Daddy,” said he, “I also had the clock.”

I stared at him, utterly baffled. “The clock?”

“Yeah, the clock. Remember, in Maine. It got on my head and drank my blood.”

I stared at him some more, thinking I’d stepped into some alternate reality populated by blood sucking clocks, à la Salvador Dali. I had no idea what he was talking about. I just stared, mouth agape.

“Remember, Daddy? At the parade?”

And then it dawned on me and I couldn’t help myself. I burst into laughter. “A tick!” I said. You mean a tick?”

“Yeah!”

This, of course, was yet another insight into the mind of a five year old. After the tick was removed, we showed it to him and told him what it was. A tick. Five year olds know nothing of ticks, except that they are half the sound made by–you guessed it–a clock. In this case, a blood-sucking clock.

I have a feeling I am finally beginning to understand from where Dr. Seuss derived much of his inspiration.

The Junior/Senior High School Years Playlist

I said this on Twitter earlier today:

and then I ran off to the dentist leaving people guessing what that playlist might look like. I’m too lazy to type it all in, so here is a screen capture of the list, which centers around the years 1989 and 1990. This is part of my Autobiography playlist, which I put together mostly from memory of what songs I associated from what periods of time. It does not necessarily mean the songs are from that period of time; that just when I was listening to the song. It also doesn’t necessarily mean I like the song, just that it reminds me of the time–although in the case of this period of time, I like most of the songs on the list.

Here it is:

High school song list

ETA: At my friend Lisa’s suggestion, I made this list available on Spotify.