Category Archives: personal

A Few Brief Programming Notes

I am here at Disney World, having a blast with the family. I have been entirely immersed in vacation, and I guess that means I’m doing something right. A few notes for the next couple of weeks:

1. I mentioned that I would be posting a new Going Paperless post on Tuesday, but as you may have noticed, no post. This was poor planning on my part, thinking I’d get the post written while at Disney World. Silly me! But never fear, the new Going Paperless post will be coming out on Friday.

2. Although I am on vacation for the next 3 weeks, my email does not seem to care. While I am reading my email periodically throughout the day, you can expect slower than normal response times over the next few weeks. Basically, if it seems to me that the message does not require an immediate response for some business reason, I am likely not to response for several days, or even a week or more. Please be patient with me.

3. For those wondering, yes, I have been writing every day, despite the fact that there have been some long days. Today for instance: We left the hotel room for the Disney World parks at 7 am and didn’t get back until 8:30 pm. In between, I had a blast, and also managed to walk 22,109 steps (10 miles), and yet I still managed to write nearly 600 words when I got back to the hotel this evening, this despite being utterly wiped out. The streak continues at 514 consecutive days.

4. Tomorrow is our last day at Disney World. We then head down to the gulf coast, where I plan to relax quite a bit more.

And with that, I am off to bed. Good night everyone!

A Quick Check-In from Disney World

The first leg of our vacation is complete, and the second leg has just started. We left the house Saturday morning, and drove to Florence, South Carolina, which is our usual first night stopping point. We did the entire 403 mile drive making only one stop, in large part because the kids were entertained and well-behaved. According to my Automatic Link data, the first leg was 182 miles, and took us just over 3 hours.

First Leg

That was  impressive, but the second leg was even more impressive, at 218 miles and hitting 31 MPG (not bad for the Kia Sorento):

Second Leg

We spent Saturday night in South Carolina, and then drove down to St. Augustine, Florida on Sunday. We wandered around the old town Sunday evening. This morning, we made our way to Orlando and arrived at the Disney World resort around noon. We spent the afternoon wandering around Downtown Disney, had an excellent dinner at the Rainforest Cafe, and then returned to the resort, and walked around the grounds to get some air. The sun set just as we completed our walk.

Coronado Sunset

The drive was good for audiobooks. I listened to more than 10 hours of Will Durant’s Caesar and Christ on the way down. I also managed to write 600+ words on the first night of vacation, and another 1,000 words last night. And as soon as I get this post finished up, I’ll be tackling my writing for this evening.

So far, vacation has been great. A lot of driving, but most of that is over now for a couple of weeks. Everyone is having a good time, the weather is great, and I feel far more relaxed than I felt on Friday.

We are here through Thursday, and then we head down south to the gulf coast for the rest of our vacation, before we begin the long drive back home.

My 5 Favorite Christmas Songs

Tis the season when the mall food court below my office pipes in Christmas music nonstop around the clock. It is also the season when Sirius XM has its various Christmas music channels, and Kelly wants to listen to them whenever we are in the car. In the past, I have grumbled about how the constant playing of these songs over and over again can become grating. This year, I thought I’d embrace my frustration, and instead, report on my own favorite Christmas songs. Here they are:

1. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (Kim Gannon and Walter Kent)

2. “Silver Bells” (Jay Livingston and Ray Evans)

3. “The Christmas Song” (Bob Wells and Mel Tormé)

4. “White Christmas” (Irving Berlin)

5. “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (Edward Pola and George Wyle)

Anyone care to post their top five? Drop them in the comments.

Christmas Tree, 2014

We set up the Christmas tree yesterday. Kelly stood up the tree. I helped string the lights and a handful of ornaments. The rest of the decorating was done by the kids. Later, they made holiday cookies for the neighbors. Of course, now that the tree is up, it no longer feels like winter. The temperature is approaching 70 F today. Go figure.

Christmas Tree 2014


We had a full house for Thanksgiving this year, and it was a blast. Lots of turkey, lots of food, lots of drinks, fires in the fireplace, and even some snow to start things off. All of our guests headed back home yesterday, and we used yesterday afternoon to recuperate. The kids napped for hours, and we lazed around much of the afternoon and evening.

Today, we are setting up the Christmas tree, cleaning up more of the house, and getting in some more rest before we head back to work and school tomorrow. It has been a great long weekend, but it has to come to an end at some point. On the positive side, in less than two weeks, we’ll be on vacation.

In any case, if you’ve been wonder why things have been quiet here the last several days, now you know.

Less Than Three Weeks to Vacation

We are down to 20 days and counting before we head off on vacation, and what has become a December tradition for us. I have been looking forward to this vacation for a long time. I need the break. The day job has been busy and stressful lately, with no sign of letting up. It will be nice to have some time away from that.

And it really will be time away. I learned a long time ago that vacations and work do not mix. When I go on vacation, I completely disconnect from work. I don’t check work email, I don’t log in. I don’t have a work mobile phone so I don’t have to worry about phone calls, but I also make it clear that I am on vacation and not answering calls anyway. To help mitigate this, I usually prepare a detailed set of notes that people can refer to in my absence. Around this time each year, I spend time bringing it up-to-date.

Of course, I don’t consider writing work, and I look forward to being able to do a little more writing, since the pressure of the day job is temporarily neutralized. I managed to write 30,000 words last December, about 20,000 while I was on vacation. I hope to do even better this year.

All told, we’ll be on vacation for 23 consecutive days. We begin our drive down to Florida on December 13. As this is a Disney World year (we take the kids to Disney World every other year) we arrive at the park on the 15th. We are there through the 18th. That afternoon, we’ll drive down to my in-laws, and spend the rest of our time there, until we head back sometime around January 1.

We’ve been prepping for the trip for a while now. We’ve arranged for a house-sitter, we’ve taken the car in for maintenance before the long drive, and we’ve started to figure out what we need to bring with us.

Still, I keep eagerly counting down the days until I am actually on vacation. I look for milestones along the way. We have a lot of family coming into town this week for Thanksgiving, which will be a nice milestone between now and vacation. We spent much of the day yesterday cleaning the house and getting it ready for our guest. That included doing some rearranging of furniture so that we could support 10 people at the dinner table.

I’m hoping to make a lot of progress on the second draft of my novel while I am on vacation, something about which I’ll have more to say soon. And of course, I will be posting here as well.

“What Other Rides Can We Go On, Daddy?”

There are certain moments from childhood that I look back on fondly, and somewhat wistfully. Rarely have I experienced the feeling from those moments as I felt them as a child. There are some things that seem lost in time in that way. But last night, something I thought was lost in time was found again.

I lived in L.A. growing up. Going to Disneyland wasn’t a frequent thing, but we probably went once a year or so, probably a little more as we grew older. One thing that stands out in my mind was one of the first times we went to Disneyland after moving out to L.A. Somehow, my brother and I had acquired a wall map of Disneyland. We would pour over that map, admittedly, me more than my brother. And then, at night, after we went to bed, we would plan out our visit in our imaginations, talking back and forth about which rides we wanted to ride, and in what order we should ride them. In hindsight, those late night conversations with my brother were often more fun than the actual trip to the park.

Last night, the Little Miss wasn’t tired when it was time for her to go to bed. So she came into our bed. The lights went out to 9 pm, and Kelly was asleep almost at once, but the Little Miss still had energy. So we started talking in whispers. She asked me how long before we went to Disney World.

“Three and a half weeks,” I whispered.

I then started reminding her of the some of the rides that they had. She’d been there once before, when she was about 17 months old. I told her about the carrossel and she got very excited.

“What other rides can we go on Daddy?” she asked.

I told her about Dumbo, and then Tea Cups, and Peter Pan’s Flight, and the Arial ride, and It’s a Small World After All. This went on for more than 40 minutes, back and forth, back and forth, all in hushed whispers. She seemed delighted by it all. And as she finally grew sleepy, and only muttered, “What other rides can we go on, Daddy?” as her eyelids flickered, I realized that I had just had as much fun with my daughter as I had with my brother when we much younger.

I slept pretty good last night.

My Semi-Annual Reminder That I am Not a Fan of Science Fiction Movies

Because I’ve been asked nearly a dozen times what I’ve thought about Interstellar, let me remind folks that while I am a science fiction writer, and I love reading science fiction, I am not a fan of science fiction movies. Sure, when I was a kid, I loved Star Wars. But as I got older, the science fiction movie gene within me atrophied. Indeed, the movie gene seems to have withered within me, and so it should come as no surprise that I have not seen Interstellar.

Nor do I have any interest in seeing it. I never saw Gravity either, and I feel no worse or better because of it. I’m not saying that science fiction movies are a poor substitute for books. I am no position to be a judge of that. For me, however, I’d much rather spend my time reading or writing science fiction than seeing it on the big screen.

For those who are curious, the last science fiction movie that I saw in theaters and truly enjoyed was Contact. But that was a long time ago, and my movie gene has withered tremendously since that time.

Once again, no judgement for those who enjoy such movies. I enjoy watching my friends talk about science fiction movies they loved or hated. I just have no desire to see them myself. Personal preference. And now I have another post to which I can point people when asked what I thought of Interstellar.

I’m Alive, Just Tired, and Busy

I noticed that I hadn’t posted since last Thursday. Most of my time the last four days has been spent at the World Fantasy Convention, which took place just down the street from my office in Arlington, Virginia. It was a great convention, and I’ll try to do a write-up of my time there in the next few days. But it also was exhausting. I arrived home each night, and crashed, only to get up the following morning and head back to the convention.

I’m nearly finished reading American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer. It has been a fascinating read, but also incredibly frustrating, especially the parts about the AEC “trial” in 1954. I should finish that up today and tomorrow, move onto the new Stephen King novel, Revival.

I wrote everyday while at the convention, and I think I’m picking up steam on the 2nd draft of the novel. I’m still not far enough into it to know for certain that I’ve got the beginning right, but I’m optimistic.

All of this is to provide excuses for why I haven’t posted in a few days. I hope you can cut me a little slack.

My Double-Commute into the Office this Morning

Thursday mornings I volunteer in the Little Man’s school library, shelving books. I do it from 6 – 7 am. It’s a nice way of getting an hour of volunteer work in each week. This morning, as I headed out the door at 5:45, it was already raining out. The school is a 6 minute drive from the house. I got there, went inside, did my work, and managed to get it all done by 6:45 am. So I headed into the office.

I am fortunate to live 5 miles from my office, against traffic both ways. When I don’t have to drop kids off or pick them up from school, my commute takes 12 minutes. That turned out to be particularly fortunate this morning.

I pulled into my parking spot at work, got out of the car, and then habitually checked my pockets for keys, as I always do when I get out of the car. To my dismay, I found two sets of keys. Which meant that Kelly was home without any keys. This is due entirely to breaking my routine last night. Normally, I hang my keys on the key rack, and grab them before heading out the door in the morning. It is automatic. Last night, I left my keys on my desk, so I grabbed them this morning and put them in my pocket before heading downstairs. When I left the house, I passed by the key rack, grabbed the keys hanging there, and headed out the door.

So I got back in the car, and headed out into the rain, arriving home about 12 minutes later. I dropped off the keys, explained my folly, and then headed back into the car, and arrived at work 15 minutes later. A double-commute!

As far as I know, it’s the first time I’ve performed that particular folly, and it just goes to show that while routines can be good, when broken, they can be annoyingly bad, too.

Fall Day, Soup Day

Yesterday was the first really fall-like day we’ve had this year. Sunny but cool and windy. It was a day off for me. I’ve been working hard on a software rollout project at the day job. This weekend was supposed to be a rollout weekend, but it was postponed thank in large part to flaws in the software that we uncovered and that the vendor now has to go and fix.

So I spent my day yesterday trying to relax and not be frustrated over the fact that our hard work is now delayed. Kelly took the kids out for the day, and I lazed around the house. I watched a movie. And I made soup.

The cold weather, coupled by a scene of cold weather in the movie, made me crave soup. I decided to make my Apple, Ale & Cheddar soup, but knowing that Kelly prefers a healthier soup, I also made a sweet potato soup for her. I went to the grocery store to stock up on what I needed, and then spent an hour or so in the afternoon preparing and cooking the soups.


They both came out really good. I had 3 bowls of my Apple, Ale & Cheddar soup after I made it, and I brought some for lunch with me today. I picked up a loaf of sourdough bread at the store and had that with the soup. It was fantastic. When Kelly and the kids got home last night, I had their soup all warmed up for them.

It was chilly again this morning, and the house was cold, so I finally turned on the heat this morning. I tend to see how far we go into fall before the heat gets turned on.  This year, we made it a month.