sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
And lo, Sinanju was not dead these many months, but only slumbering.

So, lo these many years ago (we're talking the early-mid 90s, people), Sinanju discovered the game X-Com: UFO Defense. It was laughably primitive by the standards of today's games, but at the time it was a hell of a lot of fun. You were in control of the defense of earth against invading aliens. It was two games in one. In one game, a real-time strategy game, you were in overall control of earth's defense--deciding where to site your bases, and how to spend your budget. You could build bases, add facilities, hire scientists, engineers, and soldiers. Equip them. Research alien technology. It was a constant struggle to do as much as possible as effectively as possible with a limited budget.* You also had to build fighter interceptors to chase down and destroy or disable UFOs, and send out teams of soldiers to fight the aliens and bring back corpses, live aliens for interrogation, and alien tech to research.

That was the second game. A tactical turn-based game of squad combat. You had to send your soldiers out in a Skyranger aircraft to investigate downed UFOs (and kill or capture the survivors), UFO landing reports, and terror missions (where the aliens landed in a populated area to terrorize and kill civilians and destroy property). There were a variety of alien types, each with their own special abilities, and you never knew what you would face until you confronted them.

I spent many a happy hour fighting the aliens. I played that game off and on for years and years. Even long after computer tech had evolved past the limits of the time, and it required special software (DOSBOX, for instance) to keep playing it. Or most recently, playing it via Steam online. Nor was I the only one who played that game. There were sequels. None, however, where anywhere near as entertaining (to me) as the original. As the years passed, people tried to mod or upgrade or duplicate X-Com. None succeeded, really.

Until now. I am now happily playing X-Com: Enemy Unknown via Steam. It's an updated and streamlined version of the game. You only have one base now, instead of several.** The graphics and interface are greatly improved, but the game is largely the same. You still have to balance a limited budget against a huge number of options in terms of research, manufacture, and the equipping of your fighter craft and soldiers. You still have a turn-based tactical game of squad combat. It's a great deal of fun.

As with the original X-Com, you can customize the names (and in this version, the appearance and voice, to a limited extent) of your soliders. I'm currently using Hollywood celebrities (and semi-celebrities) to fight the aliens. Clare Danes and Michelle Rodriguez are kicking ass and taking names, to name two. Matt Damon, alas, did not fare so well; he died in an early mission. The aliens are just as vicious, nasty and dangerous as in the original game, and the graphic are much more...graphic. I'm pleased to announce that the civilians I must rescue are less moronic than in the original game (they tend to hide, rather than walk around at random in a firefight, or stop blocking doorways you desperate need to use...resulting in some "accidental" civilian casualties when you're trying to prevent them).

It's still early days for me on this version of the game. I haven't encountered psionics yet.*** But I will, I'm sure.

So that's what I'm doing for my entertainment these days.

* In the original X-Com you could sell excess weapons and equipment (including alien equipment and corpses!) on the black market. To whom, they never said. This could be a godsend when you were short on cash but had lots of captured goodies to dispose of (you only really needed one of most things for research). But once you learned how to build laser cannons, it was all over. They were the item that was cheapest to manufacture and most profitable to sell in the whole game. It eventually became SOP for me to build one dedicated base (usually named LaserFab One) to house a small army of engineers and a bunch of labs, to churn out laser cannons by the scores, and sell them as fast as they could build them. Once LaserFab One was up and running, I could make literally MILLIONS of dollars a month and no longer have to worry about the relative pittance (by comparison) that the nations of the world were giving me. I literally had more money than I could spend; the only real bottleneck in building and upgraded bases and equipment at that point was construction time and storage. WIll this work in the new version? I don't know yet.

**Which means, sadly, that I can't expect to fight a desperate base-defense battle. Those could be terrifying (especially before you learned to keep a fully armed and armored team of soldiers on call while your A-Team was out on a mission), and you could lose an entire base if it went badly. They were fun. I've heard/read people saying they never had a successful base defense in X-Com, to which I can only reply: then you weren't doing it right. A properly designed base forced the aliens (who had to enter through the hangars) into a bottleneck corridor where you could pour fire on them as they tried to advance. With a generous supply of weapons and ammo (and soldiers on hand to use them), you could almost count on winning...though the cost could be high.

***In the original, the aliens could use psionic powers to make your soldiers panic. Or worse, take over their minds and turn them against you. Early in the game, there was nothing you could do about that. Later on, you could research and then build psionic testing and training facilities and run your soldiers through it. You'd discover which ones had potential and could (someday) use alien psionic devices against the enemy. I must confess that I seldom bothered. Instead, I simply made it a practice to engage in summary execution (in the field) of soldiers who too often panicked or were mind-controlled. Alternatively, I'd make likely subjects of psionically-induced panic walk around with a primed grenade in one hand (usually walking point, to spot aliens--hey, they're expendable). If they panicked, they'd drop everything they were holding. Including the grenade. Bang! No more problem. It was ruthless but efficient, letting me spend my money on more important things.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
I see the news of his demise is making the rounds--livejournal, twitter, facebook, tumblr, etc.

I used to watch his show when it was still him and Gene Siskel. Of the two of them, Ebert was the one whose take on movies I most often shared. He could separate "it's a fun movie" from "it's a good movie", which not a lot of reviewers can do. He could tell you that a movie you were interested in seeing might not be great art, but it would be fun to watch. Which is sometimes, or often, all you really care about.

My all-time favorite line of his, though, was his capsule summary of the original TERMINATOR film. He described it as, "Dirty Harry and the Road Warrior meet the killer from Halloween."

Colorful, inventive, and more accurate than you might think.

RIP, Roger.
sinanju: (Memes)
Surprising that I've posted at all, really.

This meme is lifted from Killabeez:

1. What's making you happy in one of your fandoms right now?
2. What's making you happy in your personal life right now?
3. What's making you happy in your work/academic life right now?
4. Name one celebrity crush.
5. Name one food you currently enjoy.
6. Name one kind of fic that always makes you happy.
7. Name one pairing that historically makes you happy.
8. Be randomly happy.

1. Hmmm. It's probably too early to call it a fandom. I've only seen one episode of Orphan Black, but I enjoyed it and I look forward to more. On the other hand, while I was initially very enthusiastic about Lost Girl, I'm done with it after watching the season 2 finale and trying the first few minutes of the season 3 opener and realizing I just don't care anymore. The series started off well, surprising me repeatedly with the writing, plot and dialogue they gave me...but I've grown disenchanted with increasingly sloppy writing and poor execution.

2. This is easy. My lovely and talented wife is recovering rapidly and well from the surgery to correct a problem with her inner ear that has been giving her relentless and debilitating vertigo, nausea, and sensitivity to noise for six months or more (and was probably at the root of the intermittent vertigo she's suffered for many years). Only one day after the surgery and she's far more animated, happy and relaxed than she's been in a long time--and that despite the pain of recovering from surgery. She may (probably will) have to have the same surgery on her other ear in a few months time, but if her response to this surgery is any indication, she's bounce back quickly and the repairs should end her trouble with the vertigo once and for all.

3. Not a hell of a lot. I need a new job. I'll be looking again very shortly, now that the surgery mentioned above is over. On the other hand, I _am_ writing a little again, after a long hiatus to deal with medical issues (mine or my wife's) and my dad's death last year. So that's good.

4. Jemima Rooper, who played Thelma the ghost on Hex. And was the heroine of Lost in Austen. For bonus points, I'll also add Gemma Arterton (Hansel & Gretel, and who was also in Lost in Austen as Elizabeth Bennett).

5. Green Bean Chicken from Panda Express. It's tasty, relatively good for me (it's meat and green beans, after all) and best of all, it's meat and green beans with some sauce, so it's not a huge carb/sugar load--something I have to pay attention to now that I'm diabetic.

6. Crossover Fic. That has always been--and will always be--my favorite kind of fanfic. Ideally it involves crossovers of two fandoms I enjoy, but if it's done well, I'll read crossovers with fandoms I've never even heard of.

7. None spring immediately to mind. There are ships I, uh, ship. But none that I value above a well-written story with some other ship--or none at all.

8. I've been married to my lovely and talented wife for fourteen years. We've had our difficulties and arguments, as every couple does. But if we're older (and sadly we are) we're also wiser, and closer than ever.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
Wow. Yeah, I know I haven't posted much for a long while. I've been busy trying to make lemonade out of the lemons life has handed us over the last couple of years.

But I've made a fascinating discovery.

I'm diabetic. Just got diagnosed as diabetic a couple of months ago. My long-term (three-month) blood sugar level has been at about 6.5, which right at the threshold of diabetic, but it's enough to count. So now I test my blood sugar at least two or three times a day, sometimes more if I'm concerned. Or curious.

I attend a series of classes on living with diabetes. My goal is keep my blood sugar level between 80 and 140 (mumble) units. 70 to 130 would be even better. This involves, as everyone no doubt knows, cutting way back on my consumption of sugar--and of carbs in general. And exercise.

I've been doing pretty well at it too. Or was until around Thanksgiving, when I baked two pecan pies. They're incredibly delicious, if I say so myself (it's the recipe my mom uses, but she's in Virginia and unavailable to make them for me, so....) So I ate a little pecan pie every day for a week or so. That, plus the other carb-heavy things at Thanksgiving (potatoes, stuffing, gravy) of which I ate a little, got my blood sugar reading a little higher than usual, and higher than I liked.

I've brought it back down again by going back to my non-holiday diet. But I also slacked off on my daily exercise. Which brings me to my fascinating discovery.

Yesterday, when I checked my blood sugar two hours after dinner, it read 152. So, as an experiment, I did 20 minutes of aerobic exercise. Jogging in place, squats, lunges, dancing around--whatever I could manage in the apartment. (I didn't feel like walking through the cold and the dark to our apartment complex exercise room.) Then I checked my blood sugar again afterward. It was down to 112. That's FORTY POINTS of improvement from 20 minutes of exercise.

I tried it again today. I had lunch with my lovely wife downtown. Thai food. I had Pad Thai, which is noodles with sauce and various chopped veggies and a little chicken. But: noodles and sauce. Carbs, baby. When I checked my blood sugar two hours later, it was at 152 again.

So I did another 20 minutes of aerobic exercise. When I checked again, it was 76. SEVENTY-SIX. HALF of what it was before I worked up a sweat.

I knew that exercise could help to moderate my blood sugar, but I had NO IDEA it could produce such drastic improvements with such relatively light exercise. That's...encouraging. It's going to motivate me to do it a lot more regularly now. Unlike exercising for some nebulous long-term purpose like fitness or weight control, where the benefits accrue only gradually over time, when I test my blood sugar, I get an IMMEDIATE and DRAMATIC demonstration of just how good for me that exercise can be. That's powerful stuff.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
Or the not-so-many-sweets life, more like.

I'm diabetic. Just diagnosed around a month ago. When I was in the hospital in July of last year, my blood sugar was noted as being a little high. There were more pressing things to worry about (like fluid on my lung and a perforated bowel...), but my doctor kept an eye on it. Ditto when I had surgery in November of last year. And just recently, and after my last fasting blood test, my doctor pronounced me diabetic.

Now, at a reading 6.5 (in whatever units they use), I'm right on the threshold. It's not like my blood sugar is way out of whack. But it's right there. I'm diabetic.

I was...very unhappy (to say the least) to learn this. I'm the first person in my extended family (to my knowledge, as confirmed by my mother) to suffer from diabetes despite it being at least partly genetic. The diabetes nurse said it's quite possible some of the older generations might have had it and never been diagnosed. But it doesn't really matter.

A combination of genetics plus a very stressful couple of years (stress can exacerbate the tendency) plus a new and very sedentary job over the last year--data entry, which is even more sedentary than writing or being a secretary--and a lifelong habit of eating sweets and drinking soft drinks = diabetes.

So now I am the proud owner of a blood testing kit. I test my blood at least a couple of times a day, in the morning before I eat breakfast, and after my largest meal, usually dinner. Normal blood sugar levels are between 80 and 120. So far, all the readings have been between the low 80s and a high of 143. Since my initial goal* is to keep it below 180, I'm doing well so far.

But that's not surprising. I've drastically cut back on soft drinks (and drink diet soda when I do drink them because it doesn't affect my blood sugar), and sweets. And I'm exercising more. And eating better in general, as part of my new health regimen. And given that I'm only barely diabetic by the numbers, that may well be enough to bring my long-term blood sugar level back down into the normal range.

I hope so. But even if that works, this is still going to be a lifelong condition. Which means the days of happily munching on chocolate and other sweets are behind me. Worse, it means that--unlike a diet undertaken to lose weight or for general health--I don't get "days off." I can't exclaim, "Screw the diet!" and gorge on two or three donuts secure in the knowledge that I can resume the diet tomorrow. Or rather, as my therapist says, I _can_. I just _shouldn't_. Which is what I mean by "I can't."

So I'm getting used to the idea that my self-image must now include diabetes as part of who I am. I'm not thrilled by it, but, well, it could be worse. I could have discovered I have cancer or some other far worse disease. Diabetes can be life-threatening, but it's not like I've been undiagnosed for years, or have shockingly high blood sugar. If I take care of myself, it needn't be a serious problem for many years, if ever.

*Once we have a handle on my day-to-day levels, if I'm consistently staying under 180, the dietician will want me to try to keep it under 140. The closer to normal, the better, naturally.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
Friday was my dad's birthday. He would have been 78 this year. I thought I was dealing with it okay, I frequently think I'm doing okay. And then it sneaks up and hammers me, and I have a sucky day.

And that's the thing. I don't recognize that my day is sucky because I'm grieving. I just think I'm tired or in a bad mood. Which is true as far as it goes, but it's WHY I'm in a bad mood and feeling tired that's the point. I'm tired because repressing my feelings is hard work. Remember that Daffy Duck cartoon, where he discovers Ali Baba's cave full of treasure? Remember when he tried to stuff the genie back into the lamp, jumping up and down on him with every ounce of strength he has? Yeah, like that.

Saturday was one of those days. It wasn't until my lovely and talented wife asked me if I needed to lie down in the bedroom and cry that it occurred to me that maybe I wasn't just feeling bleak and tired and antisocial for no good reason. I did as she suggested, and it helped. Not enough, but it helped. I'd had plans to attend a party that evening, but I called to cancel because I just didn't have it in me. Just like the August Babies party last month, I wanted to want to go--but I didn't.

Instead, I spent the weekend at home, alone or with Snippy and Twoson. I didn't go to the party Saturday night. I didn't go to our bi-weekly D&D game today. I just couldn't face dealing with people for a while. It's frustrating and aggravating to feel this way; and doubly so because it might not happen if I wasn't so busy trying to repress my grief. Half a century of practice is hard to undo quickly. But I'm working on it.

In other news, I'm trying to figure out how to turn my ebooks into POD books. I'm using CreateSpace, and learning how to format the interiors, calculate the page counts, and create covers (front, back and spine) instead of just front-cover art. It's not rocket science, but it's not simple either. It's going to take some take. Fortunately, it's not a time-sensitive project.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
My father managed (and eventually owned and managed) a small radio station for many years. It was a small station, 1000 watts by day and 250 watts at night. It catered to the local community, consisting largely of farmers in southern Virginia. Unsurprisingly, the music of choice at WODI (1230 on your radio dial!) was country music. I worked there throughout my teens as a weekend DJ, every Saturday and Sunday afternoon from 1 p.m. to sign-off at 7 p.m. (sometimes 10 p.m. in the evenings during the summer, or when they were broadcasting the local Little League baseball games).

I also filled in when other DJs took their vacations, or when someone was ill. More than once I got home from school only to have my mom hand me some food in a brown paper bag and send me off to the station to relieve the morning DJ, who had been on air all day because someone else had called in sick or otherwise failed to show.

A number of country music songs make me cry now. I pretty much only listen to them when I'm driving--and only when I'm alone in the car, since my lovely and talented wife hates country music. The songs don't have to be maudlin, but there are a handful that never fail to make me tear up (if not actually cry) because they remind me of my days in the station as a teenager...and of my father. I miss him.

I've been trying not to let the grief build up, but denial and repression aren't easy habits to break. Occasionally it catches up to me and all the repressed grief breaks through. Yesterday was one of those days.

Snippy, Twoson and I drove down to the state fair in Salem, which we do every year. We enjoy looking at the various displays of crafts, and wandering the huckster areas, and eating various tasty foods. And I enjoyed it this years as well, despite being a little "off" all day. We got there right as the fair opened at 10 a.m. and left about 2 or 2:30, when the worst of the heat (and the crowds) were just getting started. And we're going back next weekend to do it again.

We drove home, rested a little, and then Snippy and I drove up into Washington to attend a big communal birthday party/cookout some good friends hold every year. It's a fun party, and we look forward to it very much. We don't see enough of our hosts, plus there are friends of friends I like who I only ever see at this party.

But I just didn't have it in me to enjoy it this year. We didn't stay long. I tried, but I felt worn out. I felt old and weak and slow and a failure, and try as I might, while I wanted to want to be there...I didn't. I just wanted to hole up at home and let the grief (which I finally recognized as the source my black mood) wash over me.

So we left. We stopped along the way to let Snippy take over driving because I wasn't up to it. Came home and I did just what I'd needed: holed in the bedroom for a while and let the grief have me. It helped, but denial and repression are exhausting; I spent today recuperating, and it's a reminder to try not to let it happen again so often.

I really regret not being in a frame of mind to enjoy the party. It only comes around once a year. I wish I'd been able to spend more time with my friends, and that Snippy had gotten a chance to try some new liquors with our host, a pleasure she shares with him that I don't (it all tastes like paint thinner to me). I really wish I could have stayed and enjoyed it.

Well, there's always next year.

Also, it turns out that listening to Ed Bruce (particularly "My First Taste of Texas") while writing this entry is another good way to bring up tears.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
We had our grandchildren for the weekend. A boy, five, and a girl, two and a half. I drove sixty miles to pick them up Friday afternoon (including through stop and go bumper-to-bumper traffic for a several miles due to an accident), then sixty miles back home. We had them Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning, before we did another sixty mile (one way) round trip to return them to their mother.

I love them, and I like playing with them. We took them to the pool Friday night and again on Saturday. We took them to their grandmother's brother's birthday party for a while, and we went to Build-A-Bear to get them some stuffed toys.*

But Dear God! We (me, my lovely wife, and Twoson) are exhausted from dealing with them. We all took turns taking care of them, so we all got some time off, but even so....

I've never wanted children. As a child myself, I always sort of assumed I'd get married someday, and presumably have children. That's what grown-ups DID. At least in god-fearing Baptist country. But when I was older, I realized that I didn't want children. I didn't have the patience for it. I still figured to get married eventually**, but having kids? Not for me, thanks. My wife gigs me occasionally about my lack of self-knowledge in many areas (with good reason, I confess)--but this was one area where I knew my mind.

When I did finally get married at the ripe old age of 40, my wife already had two kids, eight and twelve. And we raised them. Not without arguments and tears (for someone who had never raised kids, and never wanted to, I had some firm ideas on the subject that made for a lot of friction before I learned better). But I missed the screaming infant, terrible twos, rambunctious toddler stages...and I didn't miss them a bit.

I've gotten a taste of that with the grandkids on the occasions when they visited (or we visited them), and this weekend. It's exhausting. I don't know how parents do it day in and day out, and I hope I never have to learn.

*In theory they were going to leave them here, so they'd have toys already in place when they come to visit again in the future. In practice, they took them home.

**Or so I thought for many years. In my thirties, especially my mid-to-late thirties, I began to wonder if I was going to wind up the weird old lifelong bachelor uncle to my many nieces and nephews. I'd had some long-term relationships, but I'd never married, and if I'm totally honest, never intended to marry. I knew none of those women was one I wanted to stay with forever. I didn't find anyone like that until I met my lovely and talented wife. She's the one I COULD see staying with forever, and the one I intend to stay with forever. And so it was that I married a little over a month after my 40th birthday.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means....

So, I signed up for a June writing workshop on short stories under the tutelage of Kristine Katherine Rusch (award-winning writer and editor), among others. It was a week-long exercise is reading and writing and reading and writing and more writing. Or so I hear.

I didn't make it. I couldn't get the time off from my day job. I didn't get my time off request in soon enough for what is, unsurprisingly, prime vacation time real estate. I was disappointed, but frankly it may not have been a bad thing. I'm not sure I was in the right headspace to work at my writing last month. So maybe it's just as well I couldn't go.

I can't complain about not getting the time off--my bosses have been very accommodating about my need for time off--just over a month after I was hired--for my surgery last November, and for the trip back to Virginia (again, on very short notice) for my father's funeral.

I'd already paid for the workshop, so I wrote to them and had them apply the fee to a different week-long workshop in October...which was cancelled this week for lack of interest (only half a dozen of us had signed up). So I'll be applying the fee for some other workshop once they announce the schedule for the remainder of 2012 and the first half of 2013 later this month.

But in the meantime, I didn't get the boost of enthusiasm and confidence I always have when I've spent a week with other aspiring (and accomplished) writers. And I won't get one in October now, either. So I need to find that somewhere else. I also need a first reader (or two, or three) for my fiction. My wife used to do it, but I think I need some input from other people.

So I'm looking for a writing group.

I know a number of local writers (for various flavors of "local") are on my friends lists on Dreamwidth and LiveJournal. I'm in the Portland Metro Area (Clackamas, to be specific). For that matter, it doesn't HAVE to be a local group. People who are willing to share work and responses by email could prove helpful too.

If any of you are in, or know of, a writers group that could use another member, I'd be interested in knowing about it. I write erotica, romance, science fiction, and fantasy for the most part, with the occasional mystery or crime/adventure story. Short stories and novels, both. I've had a number of short stories published by Cobblestone Press, an epublisher, and have published more under my own publishing name (Gelastic Press).

Any help anyone can offer will be greatly appreciated.

Six Months

Jul. 13th, 2012 11:26 pm
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
This is the six month anniversary of my last journal post. Exactly. Jan 13, 2012 to July 13, 2012. That's a pure coincidence, though.

I haven't had much to say, I guess. Or at least, wasn't motivated to say it anyhow. I'm using eyedrops twice a day to treat my glaucoma, and so far it seems to be working. At my last checkup the pressure in my eyes was down by a third, which is where the eye doc wanted it. I'll go back at the end of the year for another visual field test to see if there's any change. Ideally, there won't be any, and we'll just stick with the current regimen. If there is, we'll fiddle with it.

My father died in March. It was hardly unexpected. He'd been in home hospice care for almost two years, in a very slow decline. I suspect--well, actually I know, because he said as much when I visited two years ago when he first went into hospice--that he was ready for it to be over. He'd had open heart surgery for calcified valves, and was still suffering from congestive heart failure. He was weak, and seldom got out at first and then was confined to his home, and finally to his bedroom.

He said more than a few times over the years that he'd never expected to get this old. He was 77 when he died. I'm not sure why he felt that way. Anyhow, mom and my sister were with him when he died. Snippy and I flew back home to Virginia for the funeral. Snippy was a rock, taking good care of me all the while.

I had flown back to Virginia twice in the last few years, each time thinking it was the last time I'd see my dad. First when he had his open heart surgery. I still remember flying into Dulles the night before his surgery. I rented a car and drove to Lynchburg, speeding much of the way (and really flying along some of those stretches of highway not giving a damn if I got pulled over for speeding because I feared I'd miss a chance to see him if I got there too late that night). I was half-convinced he wouldn't survive the surgery. No good reason for it, just the fact that it was open heart surgery.

He survived it, obviously, and recovered. But he suffered from congestive heart failure, which they treated with drugs and whatnot until they concluded that it wasn't fixable, at which point he went into hospice. Hospice is typically six months or less, so I flew back again for what I thought would be (and was) the last visit I had with him, though he hung on for almost two years.

So I thought I was prepared for it when he died. My lovely and talented wife told me you're never really prepared, though, and she was right. It hit me harder (and in more ways) than I expected. It still does. My strongest memory of the trip is going upstairs in my childhood home after the funeral to find my mother leaning on their bed sobbing because she'd just buried the man she loved and had been married to for 55 years. I hugged her and cried a little myself, then closed the door and left her to it. That was the first and only time I saw her really cry during that visit. (She's not the only one to cry in private. I do too, like now.)

Snippy chronicled the high-stress couple of years we've had in her journal fairly recently, so I won't list all our travails. But it's been tough, and losing my dad didn't help. I had big plans for this year, which we both hoped would be better. I had been intending to write a lot, and publish. Instead I haven't written a goddamn thing this year. (Well, okay, one short story.) So when I get together with my mastermind pals (when and if) to see how we've progressed on our goals, I expect to be gently mocked for failing so big.

Still, I am finally starting to write again. So that's something.

(Long, long pause.) That's all I have for now.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
Oh...about thirteen days ago.

And 2012 is off to a fabulous start. I don't care to go into it, but life for Snippy and me got interesting this week, in the Chinese Curse sense of "interesting."

Also, I had an appointment with the eye doctor this afternoon. Actually I had it in June originally, but I was hospitalized and had to reschedule. Then I had surgery and recovery from surgery, and had to reschedule. So I had it today. I had a visual field test, had photos taken of my optic nerve, and had the pressure in my eye checked and the thickness of the cornea checked, and then had the actual doctor come in and examine my retinas (retinae?) with a big magnifying glass and blindingly bright light.

By the way, one of the doctors who worked on me bore an eery resemblance in appearance, voice, and manner to...John Malkovich. And let me tell you, having John Malkovich as your doctor is WEIRD.

Anyhow, I have glaucoma. This is not a surprise. I've been having these exams regularly for a couple of years. Ever since I went to this doctor about a big new floater in my left eye and--during that first visit--he sat me down in front of a laser to tack my torn retina back into place. (This did not fix the floater, but as he said I would, I've learned to ignore it mostly.) Anyhow, he told me then that I was right on the borderline for possible glaucoma. I remained borderline for a couple of years, but today the doctor concluded that I had edged over the border into glaucoma-land, at least in my left eye.

This is not tragic news. He wrote me an Rx for eyedrops to manage the problem. One drop in each eye (the right eye, too, because it's borderline and it can't hurt and might help) once nightly. I have an appointment to see him again in a month to see if these eyedrops are working. If not, there are other eyedrop drugs he can try.

So I'm not going to worry about it.

I'm also a carefree bachelor this weekend. My lovely and talented wife flew out of town yesterday morning to visit friends in the Bay Area. Twoson moved out last weekend to live with his dad. So it's just me. I'm enjoying the solitude. I can eat when I want, sleep when I want (and hog the whole bed), watch whatever I want went I want, and generally live like I'm a bachelor again. The only thing lacking is donuts and whores (as in the Kids In The Hall skit wherein they celebrate the news that they'll soon be fabulously wealthy with the phrase, "We'll but UP TO OUR KNEES in donuts and whores!")

And, really, I can have donuts if I want them. But no whores. I promised.

I made myself red beans & rice for dinner tonight. From a box (actually, two boxes) of Zatarain's red beans & rice mix. Damn tasty. Especially when you add half a pound of spicy chorizo (browned up the other night in anticipation of this) to give it some extra zing. Their jambalaya is tasty too. Tomorrow I'll be cooking up some Zatarain's Dirty Rice (and adding a pound of ground beef). I expect that to be just as good as the other two products.

sinanju: The Shadow (Default)

I saw my surgeon today.

Cut for possible medical TMI... )

If I still have a job. See, I just started a new job a bit less than a month ago. It's part-time, with no benefits, but it brings in enough money to ease our finances while still giving me time to work at my writing.* But even if it were full-time and had benefits, I've only been there about three weeks. So tomorrow I'm going to have to tell my boss that I am going to be unavailable for about three weeks, starting next week. And I'll tell her that I'd like to come back to work after that--but that if they have to let me go and get someone else in to do the job, I'll understand. And I will.

And even if I have to find a new job, I'm a lot more hopeful about my prospects than I would have been a couple of months ago. For whatever reason, I got lots of return calls to applications and emailed resumes in this last round of job hunting--a far better response than I'd gotten in any of the time since I was laid off. Some of it was no doubt due to the Christmas shopping season; I applied for some seasonal work. But a lot of the responses were for office jobs of the non-seasonal sort. One temp agency in particular has been very persistent in trying to get hold of me. I told them I'd gotten a job and was unavailable, but they'll be my first stop if I have to go job-hunting again after I recover.

*In theory. What with illness, surgical procedures, and other fun, Snippy and I have been doing well just to handle the basics of working and doing the absolute minimum of household chores. But eventually...I'll start writing and publishing again. Because that, not another dayjob is our real hope of changing our financial situation in the long run.

sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
Or...not. Questions, anyhow.

Ganked from [ profile] seawasp [profile] seawsp because it amuses me...

1. Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, and find line 4.
"do not afford copyright protections to works" --Nolo Press Copyright Handbook

2. Stretch your left arm out as far as you can, What can you touch?
The wall of the dining room corner in which my computer desk is set.

3. Did you dream last night?
Yes. I can't really remember about what now, though.

4. What is on the walls of the room you are in?

5. What is the last film you saw?
Monsters vs Aliens (I keep it saved on the Tivo for when nothing else amuses me.)

6. Do you like to dance?
Not especially.

7. Would you ever consider living abroad?
No, I don't think so. I'm content with my nation of birth. (Besides, there aren't a lot of nations in the world where you could move 3,000 miles from your birthplace without crossing a national border. I've moved far enough.

8. Last time you swam in a pool?
Years, probably.

9. What color is your bedroom carpet?
Off white, I think. Maybe some kind of beige.

10. Do you really know all the words to your national anthem?

11. Can you touch your nose with your tongue?

12. What colour is your favourite hoodie.
I don't have a favorite hoodie.

13. How are you feeling RIGHT now?
A little tired. Happy, though. Things have been tough around here for a while, but Snippy and I feel like we've found our emotional balance again.

14. Whats the closest thing to you that's red?
The red cloth pen & pencil holder velcro'd to the upright of my computer desk.

15. Did you meet anybody new today?
Interact with--(I went grocery shopping), yes. Meet? No.

16. What are you craving right now?
Some dark-chocolate coated peanuts from See's Candies. I've been craving them for several days now. I just haven't gotten around to getting them. We've been busy.

17. Do you floss?
Not as regularly as I should (and once did, before I got out of the habit).

18. What comes to mind when I say cabbage?
The unpleasant smell of cooking/cooked cabbage.

19. Are you emotional?
Yes. I don't necessarily SHOW it, but I have feelings.

20. Do you bite into your ice cream or just lick it?
Are you assuming an ice cream cone? I don't do those. I eat my ice cream out of a bowl with a spoon.

21. Do you like your hair?
Yes. I'm very happy that it turns gray but doesn't fall out.

22. Do you like yourself?
Yes I do. Which is not to say that I don't have self-doubts or self-image issues, but underneath it all, I can't imagine wanting to be anyone else.

23. Would you go out to eat with George W. Bush?
Sure. I'm sure he's got interesting stories to tell. (I voted for him. Twice. I'd also go out to dinner with many people I've voted against--but not all of them. Some of them just make my skin crawl.)

24. What are you listening to right now?
"Color Splash" (some design show my wife is watching in the next room).

25. Are your parents strict?
Yes, they were. But I haven't been subject to their authority for many, many years.

26. Would you go sky diving?
Uh...maybe? I've gone bungie jumping, and loved it. I'd do it again except that my lovely and talented wife has forbidden me to. She's also forbidden me to go skydiving--and I don't object much because I'm not sure I could really go through with it anyhow.

27. Do you like cottage cheese?
Hell no!

28. Have you ever met a celebrity?
Yes. The first one was probably Vincent Price. I saw him do a one-man show at the Ford Theatre in DC, then got his autograph afterward.

29. Is there anything sparkly in the room you're in?
Only Edward the Vampire. Heh. No.

30. How many countries have you visited?
Jamaica. I'm not interested in travel.

31. Have you made a prank phone call?

32. Do you use chap stick?
Yes. Otherwise, my lips get chapped and dry in cold weather.

33. Can you use chop sticks?

34. Who are you going to be with tonight?
My lovely and talented wife, and Twoson.

35. Are you too forgiving?
Uh, no. "Too forgiving" is not one of my character traits.

36. What is your best friend(s) doing tomorrow?
She (my lovely and talented wife) will be running her first D&D game/module for our new Sunday gaming group.

37. Ever have cream puffs?
I don't think so.

38. Last time you cried?
Last week.

39. What was the last question you asked?
"What are you watching, sweetie?" when I had to answer the question about what I was listening to.

40. Favorite time of the year?
Spring and Summer.

41. Do you have any tattoos?
No. Nor will I ever.

42. Are you sarcastic?

43. Have you ever seen The Butterfly Effect?
Oh dear god, yes.

44. Ever walked into a wall?
A few times, usually in the dark.

45. Favorite colour?
Rich blue(s).

46. Have you ever slapped someone?
Once, to my regret.

47. Is your hair curly?
No. It gets wavy when it gets long, but it's not curly.

48. What was the last CD you bought?
Damned if I know. It's been a long time.

49. Do looks matter?

50. Could you ever forgive a cheater?
Maybe. But I'd never forget.

51. Is your phone bill sky high?
Nope. It's quite modest.

52. Do you like your life right now?
In some ways. In other ways...I'm really ready for the shitstorm of the last year or so to abate.

53. Do you sleep with the TV on?
No. But we do use a white noise machine (the sound of rain).

54. Can you handle the truth?
It depends on which truth. Sometimes denial is more comforting.

55. Do you have good vision?
Mostly. I need glasses, but only to make things sharp. I can see well enough without them to read, to use the computer, watch tv, or navigate on foot. I can even drive, but that's a bigger risk than I'd prefer to take.

56. Do you hate or dislike more than 3 people?
Dislike? yes. Hate? Maybe. But usually only briefly. They cycle through my queue pretty quickly (I don't hold grudges for long).

57. How often do you talk on the phone?
As infrequently as possible. Not even every day.

58. The last person you held hands with?
My wife.

59. What are you wearing?
White t-shirt from Poplar Grove, jeans, green fleece vest, socks and sneakers.

60.What is your favorite animal?
I can't say. I don't think in terms of my favorite ANYTHING. I like too many examples of movies, tv shows, songs, foods--or animals--to single one out.

61. Can you hula hoop?
I can. I choose not to.

62. Do you have a job?
Yes. Two, actually, if you count my writing.

63. What was the most recent thing you bought?
This week's groceries (specifically, three pounds of stew meat).

64. Have you ever crawled through a window?
Yes. A number of times (as a child, usually to unlock the door when we locked ourselves out of the house).

65. Have you ever lied to a police officer?
If I ever have, I'm sure as hell not gonna confess to it here. That's a crime, you know.

66. Do you shout at the TV?

67. Name one thing people give you funny looks for when you confess it.
I write (for sale) superhero erotica.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
I'm sitting at my computer instead of lying in bed, asleep. My sleep schedule is all shot to hell. Admittedly, it's never been terribly regular, and I accuse my father of being a bad role model in that regard. All through my childhood, my father worked irregular hours. He was manager (and salesman, and chief engineer, and ultimately owner) of the radio station he worked for/owned. And some of his work (weekly transmitter frequency checks that had to be done in the middle of the night, for one) required odd hours. Other work--like sales--had to be done during regular business hours. So, unsurprisingly, he always had a variable schedule.

So I come by my nightowl tendencies honestly. But in this case, it's because I've spent the last forty-eight hours in bed. I've been working the job hunting gig with a vengeance lately, scoring a number of interviews over the last couple of weeks--and doing a lot of cold-calling and resume dropping (or application collecting) as well. I had an interview for a seasonal retail job at Old Navy Monday afternoon. It was group interview, and it was obvious to me almost immediately that I was not what they were looking for. No real surprise--to me OR to my lovely wife--but I went anyhow. Just another in a long time of handshaking face-to-face encounters with the public.

Then I drove home. And the sun, low on the horizon at this time of year, was like daggers in my eyes (and I'm light sensitive at the best of times). So I gobbled some Tylenol and thought nothing more about it. Until later than evening, when the headache came back, and I felt the slightest tickle of a sore throat. I took more painkillers and hoped desperately that I wasn't getting sick--I have a writing workshop at the coast coming up this week (later today, as I write this). But no such luck.

By bedtime I had a pounding sinus headache, my throat was closing up, and I began to shiver. I climbed into bed feeling sick as a dog, and I've spent most of the last two days there. I spent a lot of my time sleeping, and when I wasn't sleeping I was mostly dozing or lying there in a stupor watching the science channel. Fortunately, the virus (or whatever) seems to be as short-lived as it was sudden. My throat's still a tiny bit sore, but my other symptoms are mostly gone. I'm good to go for tomorrow's start of my four-day workshop, thank god. I'd have been really pissed off I'd had to cancel.

But that does mean that after two days in bed, I'm not at all sleepy despite needing to get up, pack, and make the trip tomorrow--to say nothing beginning the workshop tomorrow evening. Still, I'll manage.

Of course, my wife had her own drama this week, and I was too sick to give her the emotional support she wanted and needed. Which sucks. And we'll be apart for the next four days. On the other hand, she'll have the whole bed to herself for that time, with no cover-stealing husband to contend with.

And I did get a job. Not at Old Navy (thank god). No, I'll be doing part-time data entry work. More money, regular hours, and no dealing with the public, and with time left over to work on building my publishing empire. It's not ideal--it's in Beaverton, rather than across the street--but I can live with a commute if I have to. Having more money coming in will ease a lot of tensions in our household.

And speaking tension, I know my lovely wife posted in her own journal that she'd choked on some food this weekend. She couldn't breathe (or not enough to matter) and I gave her the Heimlich maneuver. And saved her life. Which scares the hell out of me. Not that she could have died--as she said to me when I was very lovey-dovey to her over the next couple of days--she could get hit by a bus ANY day and die. Which is true. But that wouldn't be a situation in which I was in a position to save her and might have failed. That's what really scared me; that I could have failed to save her. Losing her would be awful enough, but to do so through some failing of my own would be even worse.

So I guess we can write off "surgeon" as a potential field of employment for me. Some people may thrive on that kind of thing--I'm looking at you, Rory--but that's more excitement than I really want in my life.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
I haven't been posting as much lately. I've been doing most of my posts lately just to let my lovely and talented wife know what's going on in my head. (I'm the silent type.) But I've been talking to her more, I think.

I'm seeing a therapist. My lovely wife urged me to do so, believing (correctly, as it turns out) that I've been depressed. I've been seeing the therapist for a couple of months now, and I think it's helping. Some days now I feel both less depressed (able to do more, get more writing done and get more job-hunting done) and more depressed (in that I am FEELING depressed now, and like I don't want to get out of bed to face the job search). But then, nobody likes job-hunting. It's demoralizing.

On the other hand, I've had three--count 'em, THREE--responses this week to my blizzard of emails and resumes lately. Which is a much better rate than I had been getting. I haven't changed what I'm doing, so I wonder if maybe the job market is actually picking a little. I didn't get one job (I'd have heard today if they were offering it to me), but I am still waiting on a second interview for another, and have lined up an appointment for a third job this coming Monday.

The therapist is also working with me on digging into some of my less-than-helpful behaviors. Things I do that cause strife between the wife and me, and which are not helpful. I don't like the results. She doesn't like the results. But I keep doing them. So we're working on identifying why I do them, and how I can learn to use more constructive behaviors.

I'll be in Lincoln City for four days this coming week, attending a writers' workshop on Thinking Like A Publisher for those of us who are writing and publishing our own work electronically (or in POD form). I'm looking forward to it. Hanging around with other writers, and learning from them, is always inspiring. I expect to learn a lot next week, and hope to put it all to use as I slog (slowly) toward the day when I can make a living (then a decent living, then ultimately a very good living) from my writing.

Speaking of writing, I have seven short stories published through Cobblestone Press. They were my first seven sales. At this point, I have two dozen other stories (from shorts to novellas to one full-length novel) self-published on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and other sites. I am currently getting more sales (and making more money) from the self-published works than from the stuff I published through my epublisher. Not that I'm making a lot, but...I'm making even less from Cobblestone. I suspect that had I sold to some of the much larger epublishers, I might have done better. Or maybe not.

In any case, my contracts for the works published there are for three years. They also have a clause allowing me to reclaim the works after they've been available via the publisher's website for eighteen months, if I notify the publisher via registered mail. I've been thinking about doing that. Those stories, along with a few new ones, would make for some nice short story collections--but I can't collect them while they're under contract. Plus, I think I might do better self-publishing them.

Or that was my thinking until recently. Cobblestone has recently made a deal with Amazon, so my stories (and everyone else's) are now available on Amazon, where they are much more likely to be seen by potential buyers than before. (In fact, just tonight I looked at my author page on Amazon and found that "Flying High", my first Cobblestone sale, was the third or fourth-ranked of my stories on Amazon now, nestled amongst my self-published stories.) Which suggests that they may sell better now that they're on a much, much larger platform.

Plus, Christmas is coming. And with it, if 2011 is anything like 2010, a huge boom in ebook sales as people who recieve a Kindle or a Nook (or some other ereader, but mostly Kindles) start looking for fiction to buy and read on their new toys. Since I have to give my publisher 90 days notice of my intent to reclaim my works, and it would take days or weeks for new versions of the stories I self-publish to propagate to all the various web sites, it would be counterproductive to do so now, when Christmas is less than three months away.

So I've decided to hold off on that. I'm going to wait to see how they sell for the next few months, both before and after Christmas. Eventually I'll reclaim them, even if it's when the contracts expire.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
So early in August I was looking for work. Just part-time, something to bring a little money in while I continue writing, and so my lovely and talented wife wouldn't feel like the sole and too-often unappreciated breadwinner. I went 'round the mall applying at various stores. I got a call back from Macy's, and went in for an interview.

I got a job offer. I'd be working early mornings (mostly), getting stuff into the store (the night crew move it from the trucks into storage, then it gets put on display in the stores later). I'm not a morning person, but I can go to work at oh-dark-thirty if I have to. I've done it before. They had me fill out an electronic form for a background check, but otherwise I was good to go. It was part-time work, right across the street, and it wouldn't interfere with my picking up Snippy after work because I'd be working mornings. Not a lot of money, but otherwise great.

So I waited, as instructed, for news on when I was to start.

And I waited. I emailed them, just to make sure I hadn't overlooked anything I needed to do. Got an email back saying that the background check was "in process" and they'd get back to me.

So I waited. And waited. Well, it's only a seasonal job. Maybe it starts later than I thought. I waited some more. Emailed them again, and got no reply. So today I went back to the store and asked about it. They couldn't answer me immediately, but the lady in HR got my phone number.

She called me later this afternoon. Seems that my paperwork got filed in the "didn't get hired" drawer instead of the "hired" drawer. So I never got contacted and--surprise!--all the jobs in question have been filled. Well, shazbat! They do have more jobs to fill come early October. These would be "recovery" folks--they tidy up the store and bring out new stock after the customers have messed it all up. Same pay, but these are evening jobs. I say again, SHAZBAT!

If I don't find anything else, I'll take that. But I'm damned annoyed (and frustrated) that a much better-fitting job slipped through my fingers. My lovely and talented wife was likewise annoyed and frustrated, and angry at me for not following up sooner. I could argue "how the hell am I supposed to know they lost my paperwork?" but really, the end result is the same: the job I really preferred to take is gone. And I wasn't looking for something else because I thought I had this one.

So I guess I'll go back to looking for part-time work. Until and unless they actually come through with one this time.
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
Oh, I know. It isn't even Thanksgiving yet. It's not even Halloween yet. But Christmas is coming. And with it, the inevitability that many, many, (many, many, many) people will receive an ereader as a gift. And then those people will, naturally, want to buy things to read on their new toy. Or they'll be given gift cards to accompany said reader for the same purpose.

It happened last Christmas. There's every reason to think it'll happen again this Christmas. Last Christmas, I hadn't gotten into indie publishing my work. But now I have. And I want to have as much stuff as possible available for potential buyers.

So one of the things I'm doing this week is pulling apart my episodic "starship repo guy" novel. I'm going to break out the various parts--which range in length from about 4,000 words up to 33,000 words--as separate novellas, short story collections, or novels. A little rewriting is necessary on a couple of them to make sure background info is there, but there's less of that than I thought there would be. When I'm done hammering them out, I'll have four short novels (or novellas) and one collection of three shorts in about the same word range to publish.

I've decided on cover art for them--and learned that cover art for SF is harder to find online than cover art for romance or erotica. There's plenty to choose from when it comes to attractive men, women, men & women in suggestive poses for romance/erotica covers. There isn't so much when you're looking for images with the right tone for an action-adventure SF story. More compromises are necessary.

So there will soon be five books online employing the title template "Repo Book [Number]: [Starship Name]". And if they sell, I can always do more of them. In the mean time, I also want to continue writing and publishing other short stories, and possibly some longer works over the next three and a half months. The more I have up, the better. (Plus, writing is practice for writing better. So...the more, the better.)

In other news....

My father's birthday was yesterday. He's seventy-seven years old. In October of last year, he went into the hospital for a few days with congestive heart failure. He'd had open heart surgery three years earlier, and had never completely recovered. That last hospital visit was...the last hospital visit. He came home and began receiving hospice care. My mom said on the phone that he wouldn't be going to the hospital again. He has a living will and a DNR notice. Snippy and I flew back in November to visit him, fearing it would be my last chance.

But he's still alive and kicking. And showing no signs of that changing. I have mixed feelings about that. I know he never expected to live so long, and has said he's ready for it to be over. He's weak, always tired, and...ready for it to be over. But it's been almost a year now, and as far I can tell, he could live a long time this way. When I spoke to him on the phone yesterday, he mentioned that he remembered thinking his grandfather was ancient at 83, and said he thought he might make it that long. Seems unlikely, and I expect he knows that, but I also suspect he wouldn't consider it a blessing, even if it seems possible sometimes. I don't know what to wish for him, or my mom.

I think I'll probably talk about this in therapy today.

I'm in therapy, did I tell you? My lovely and talented wife suggested it. She thought I was depressed, and she was probably right. I've doing it for a couple of months now. It's been interesting. And helpful. It isn't easy. I'm a very private person. I write about things much more easily than I talk about them. So talking to the therapist has been a learning experience in actually, you know, expressing what I think or feel.

...there's a gyro cart downtown. They make THE best lamb gyros I've ever tasted. Alas, they close at 5 p.m. I'm never downtown anymore except to pick up my lovely wife after 5:30. Or for my therapy session at four. I can't get to the cart before it closes! Argh! But today--today I'm taking Twoson to the train station so he can travel down to visit with his dad for the weekend. So I'll be going downtown earlier than normal. And I will HAVE A GYRO or know the reason why!
sinanju: The Shadow (Default)
Well, half of it, anyhow. The left side. I just got home from having a filling replaced.

For the last few months, I'd been feeling pressure on one of my lower molars when I chewed with it. I made an appointment with the dentist and had it looked at, but she didn't see anything awry. So time passed, and the pressure seemed to increase. Last night I was eating a cookie and suddenly felt something hard between my teeth. What's this?

Well, juding by the sharp edge I felt with a fingertip when I explored the tooth, my tooth had chipped. Fortunately, there was no pain. Nonetheless, I called to make an appointment this morning as soon as the dental office opened. I got one for 9 a.m. at another office, not my usual one. I drove out there, had an x-ray taken, and then got treatment.

Turns out it wasn't a cracked or chipped tooth. I'd simply lost a filling. So they numbed me up, cleaned out the cavity, and refilled it.

They NUMBED ME UP. As in, they gave me a shot of novacaine. In my mouth. Which, for those unfamiliar with my dental history, was a landmark event.

I had an...unfortunate experience (to put it mildly) with a dentist when I was a child involving several (and incredibly painful) injections prior to some dental work. My mother found another family dentist later. That was the last time I ever submitted to having any sort of injection for dental care.

It was NOT the last time I had cavities filled. Throughout the rest of my childhood, teenage years, and until I was a young man and living too far from my childhood home to make it practical, I stuck with that local dentist, who filled my cavities without anaesthetic. He had an old-fashioned drill, slower than the ones that produce the familiar high-pitched whine we all know and love, but which was also easier on my nerves (in every sense of the word). It was sometimes uncomfortable, but I was more than happy to accept some discomfort rather than face the needle.

As it happens, I've not had any new cavities in my adult life. But I lived in fear of the day when I would have to get one filled--by some other dentist, who wouldn't have that familiar, slow and relatively painless drill.

That day came today. And it was...anticlimactic. I was rigid as a board when the dentist brought the syringe into my line of sight, but they'd used some anaesthetic gel on my gum, so the actual injection was mildly uncomfortable and nothing more. Then they cleaned out the cavity, filled it, and sent me on my way quickly and professionally.

It was a great relief. I curse that long-ago dentist for the butcher he was, but the women today (the dentist and her assistant) were wonderful.


sinanju: The Shadow (Default)

August 2017

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