Category Archives: Holidailies

The 300(+)

Sigh.

Despite walking at least 3,000 steps per day (far short of my goal of 5,000, granted), and despite writing down everything I’ve eaten, and sticking within my Weight Watchers Points range, I somehow managed to gain three pounds since I posted my entry last week. That puts me back over three hundred pounds, which sucks.

Ah well. Much like writing, when I have a setback, I just need to go ahead and start again where I left off. Or, rather, since I get tired of thinking “I have to start again”, I need to continue. Not start over. Continue.

In other news, today a co-worker of mine gave me a copy of How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci by Michael J. Gelb. It’s one of many self-help or self-enrichment books that I bought back in the heady days of the mid to late 90s, but at some point I had lost my copy, and recently I’ve been thinking about it. Actually, Leonardo da Vinci has been on my mind quite a bit. So much so that I actually purchased the audiobook of Walter Isaacson’s biography of the man. I’ve been listening to it while driving or walking, and I’m really enjoying it. It’s fascinating to learn about da Vinci’s life and the times he lived in, as well as his creativity and artistic output. I certainly don’t think I’m going to become a great Renaissance man of da Vinci’s stature, but maybe I’ll be able to expand my brain just a little bit. I’ll keep you all posted on my progress, if you so desire. Or not. Heck, I’ll do it anyway, in the form of the occasional blog post.

And that’s all I’ve got for you today.

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The high speed romancealogical database!

(The title is a reference to a Futurama episode. So there.)

A few years ago, I created this. It’s an online SyFy original movie generator. It’s eleven years old, but still relevant, since those movies are still pretty awful. Of course, they don’t have to be good; they only have to make back more in advertising revenue than their budgets, which often run into the tens of dollars. I should probably update the code to make it more interactive, I suppose, but I think it stands well as it is.

Now, last night Jennifer and I watched a Netflix original movie called A Christmas Prince. It was… an experience. Well, okay, it was stupid. It was a bad film. Just as a bad SyFy film can be full of tropes and cliches, so can a bad romance. And this one ticked all the boxes: the plucky heroine who doesn’t know how beautiful she is; the stupidly handsome reluctant prince; the mischievous young girl. Etc. The dialogue was awful. With one exception (the editor), the acting wasn’t horrible, because Rose McIver (who also plays Olivia in iZombie) is pretty good. But on the whole, this is a bad movie.

So Jennifer suggested, “Why don’t you create an online romance film plot generator? Just like your SyFy movie generator?” This strikes me as a pretty good idea, except that I’d have to watch a lot of these bad romance films and take notes just to make sure I know what tropes and cliches are abused in these films, and I am not willing to do that. I suspect I’d need an insulin shot afterwards.

So I turn to you, my plucky readers. What elements should I include in my online romance plot generator? What types of characters? Situations? Plots? Give ’em to me. So I don’t have to watch them myself.


Note: I don’t mean to devalue the romance genre as a whole. I know that there are good quality romance novels and movies out there. I just haven’t read them or seen them, and that’s only because I don’t seek them out because it’s not a genre I’m particularly interested in. But just as my SyFy movie generator is not meant to devalue science fiction as a whole, so my romance movie generator won’t either.

Hm, now I’m thinking I ought to create a horror movie generator as well.


Ho ho holidailies!

And This Time, I Mean It!

Here I am, staring the half century mark in the face. Which of us will blink first?

Anyway, I’m not actually freaking out about turning fifty years old. I didn’t freak out when I turned thirty, nor when I turned forty. Why should fifty be any different? I do recognize that I’m very fortunate that my body hasn’t started to seriously break down yet, though. I’m heavy enough right now that I could be suffering from severe joint issues, or severe back issues. I don’t. I could also be suffering from heart problems (reports of people having their first heart attack in their 40s are depressingly common), or diabetes, or a multitude of other issues.

Which isn’t to say that I am in very good health. I am overweight, I have asthma, hypertension, and gout. They’re all under control, but I’d love for them to go away without the need for medications; I’d also like to forestall all the other potential issues for as long as possible. I really don’t want to, say, have to replace a knee at a relatively young age.

So, to that end, I’m re-committing myself to getting healthier. I’ve started walking again: 5,000 steps a day for now, with a goal of increasing that to 10,000 at some point. Some day I may even take up running. Unlikely, though, since even at the best of times I’m an awkward runner. The main goal here is not to lose weight, especially since exercise isn’t really a factor in weight loss; rather, I just want to improve my stamina and my Constitution stat.

The other thing I’m planning on doing is just eating better. I signed up for Weight Watchers some time ago, but until recently I haven’t taken it very seriously. They’ve just rekejiggered their plan entirely, and it looks pretty good, though I’ll have to make some changes in how I’ve been approaching it.

Here’s hoping this all sticks this time. There are plenty of things I’d like to be doing — such as snorkeling or SCUBA diving or simply hiking/backpacking — that are just not feasible right now.

None of this is new. I’ve posted about this sort of thing many times. But with this new milestone birthday coming up, I’d like to be able to stick to all of this, without falling to the wayside within a week or so. Will you all help keep me on point?


Hey! Ho! It’s time for Holidailies! HO HO HO!

Adventure Time!

Last Saturday, Sherman got sick. After a normal morning of running around, picking fights with Ingrid, and generally getting into trouble, he started crying, then threw up. Then we noticed that he was straining and crying when he was in the litterbox. Jennifer told me, “Something’s wrong with Sherman,” and we decided that she would take him to the emergency vet while I went down to my parents’ house to celebrate my mom’s birthday.

The vet couldn’t find anything wrong with Sherman, even though it was obvious he was in a lot of pain. Cats are not good at telling us humans exactly what’s wrong with them or where, exactly, the pain is, so Sherman was not forthcoming. Finally, the vet sent Jennifer home with some pain meds and instructions to feed Sherman a bland diet and keep him isolated for a few days.

Sherman’s a pretty rambunctious little cat, so being holed up in the library for a few days sounded risky. Would he go stir-crazy and start ripping apart all the books? Cry nonstop, keeping us awake at night and triggering our guilt feelings?

Fortunately he did not do any of those things. He was quiet the whole time. We went in to visit and play with him several times a day, and we fed him baby food for the first couple of days. Tuesday we reintroduced him to canned cat food, which he wolfed down, having gotten bored of the baby food, and yesterday we let him have some kibble, which was OH MY GOD THE BEST THING!

Today we let him out of the library. I was worried that the first thing he’d do was go charging at Ingrid but nope. He took a few tentative steps through the library door, then wandered around upstairs for a bit.

But the real proof that he’s better came this morning. Usually when we open the front door we have to make sure Sherman’s nowhere near since he has a documented history of trying to run outside. This morning, I didn’t see him when I opened the front door, so I figured it was safe to open the door. But the moment I did, Sherman charged out of nowhere and shot through the door.

I shouted after him, of course, but that never does any good with a cat. Usually when he goes outside he gets distracted by something — a neighborhood cat, a stranger jogging by, or (once) the gravel in the neighbor’s yard, which, for some reason, really confused him.

But nope. Today Sherman was intent on having an Adventure. I chased him for half an hour, around the block and around several houses. I thought I had him for sure when he ran into a shed in someone’s back yard, but he crouched low and ran on his belly when I tried to grab him.

Fortunately, he ran under someone’s truck, and that’s when he stopped. For some reason, cars frighten him, even if he does invariably run underneath them when he gets outside. He sat, hunkered down and crying, like he always does, and I managed to grab him by the tail and pull him out. I know you’re not supposed to grab cats by the tail, but I figured in this case any handle would do.

I carried the squirming and fussing cat home (did I mention that we call him “Squirmin’ Sherman”?) and tossed him atop the cat tree in the living room, where he immediately settled in and started bathing himself. Stupid cat.

So I was a bit late to work, and I only now just realized that I was going to take the trash can to the curb, but completely forgot because of the stupid cat.

At least he’s feeling better now.


‘Tis the season for Holidailies. Check it out.

Slay Ride

When I was a kid, we had this Christmas tradition where my mom would bake a bunch of sugar cookies, and then my sisters and I would decorate them with frosting paint. Occasional we’d attach accessories such as glitter or marshmallows or chocolate chips. It was a grand time, and a neat tradition, and we’d serve the painted cookies at Christmas Eve, along with all the other goodies.

I don’t remember how it happened, but at some point, this tradition took on a macabre turn. Instead of a cheerful Christmas stocking, we ended up with a bloody severed foot. Instead of a jolly reindeer with a shiny red nose, we ended up with a zombie reindeer. And so on.

And I’m not sure what it was that ended the tradition; perhaps it was the beach bunny elf with the strategically placed chocolate chips, or the swarm of zombie snowmen. Or maybe it was just that my sisters and I moved away and ended up with grown-up responsibilities such as jobs and no longer could make it to my mom’s house to paint the cookies.

But the spirit of the tradition lives on! At Thanksgiving this year, my mom gifted both my sisters and I with this:

The Walking GingerdeadYes, a kit for making zombie gingerbread men! How cool is that? How cool is my mom?

Naturally, Jennifer and I were thrilled and couldn’t wait to make these cookies. Last night was the first night that we both had free, so we decided it was time.

So we looked on the back of the box for the instructions. The first thing we noticed was this:

WGD-back-panel

We figure it’s pretty generic text, and probably shows up on the back of each of the different gingerbread kits that the company produces. On the back of this particular kit, though, we thought it was particularly funny.

Anyway. We put together the dough, mixed up the white frosting, baked the cookies (during this part I Tweeted, “The house is full of the smell of baking gingerbread and the screams of the damned’), and decorated them. This is what we ended up with:

WGD-doneNeither Jennifer nor I will be transitioning to a career in decorative baking anytime soon. But I think they turned out quite spiffy anyway. And horrifying. And truly in the spirit of my family’s holiday tradition.

(And you can’t quite tell in this picture, but the three gingerbread men in the middle are normal ones, made with a normal gingerbread man cutter, screaming, because they’re surrounded by zombie hordes.)


‘Tis the season for (undead) Holidailies!

Supplement: My story, “Night of the Frozen Elf”, was selected as an Editor’s Pick at Book Country yesterday. Read it here!

Infested!

Remember this scene from our kitchen from last night?

A Dalek in the kitchen!
A Dalek in the kitchen!

Well, we thought that a single Dalek in the kitchen, easily dispatched by my sonic screwdriver, would be the end of it.

We were wrong.

When we woke up this morning, we heard a familiar sound from the kitchen: a soft, almost plaintive “Exterminate!” We came into the kitchen, bleary-eyed and barely awake, and saw this:

Dalek hanging from dishtowel
Dalek hanging from dishtowel

It was cute, in a sort of ready-to-destroy-the-universe way, and it was easy to take care of. We simply grabbed it, and smashed it to smithereens on the floor and gave the pieces to Sherman to play with.

But then we went to make coffee:

CAFFEINATE! CAFFEINATE!
CAFFEINATE! CAFFEINATE!

And then we realized the entire kitchen had been taken over! The Dalek from the night before had merely been a scout or it had left spores or something behind! The Daleks were everywhere! Daleks in the silverware drawer:

Silverware
Silverware

Daleks in the microwave oven!

Microwave!
Microwave!

Daleks among the potatoes! (Warning: DO NOT LET YOUR POTATOES GROW EYESTALKS!)

Spuds!
Spuds!

Daleks in the Kitchen-Aid!

Eggs-stir-mix-bake!
Eggs-stir-mix-bake!

Daleks in the refrigerator!

Refrigerator!
Refrigerator!

Even Daleks in the dishwasher!

Dishwasher!
Dishwasher!

It’s an invasion! Help! Someone call the Doctor!

Birthday Thoughts ‘n’ Things on the Seventh Day of Christmas

A Dalek in the kitchen!
A Dalek in the kitchen!

First things first: There’s a First Friday write-in at my house this Friday at 7:00 pm this Friday, January 3, 2014. Hope to see you there! If you want to come, send me an email or something and I’ll tell you how to get here.

Anyway, today’s my birthday, and I turn 46 years old. I’m quite all right with that. I freaked out a little bit about turning 40, as is traditional, and I suspect I will do so a bit when I turn 50, because I think you’re supposed to. But 46? Meh.

It’s also New Year’s Eve. The picture above shows what Jennifer and I have done so far. We inflated the Dalek that my parents had given me for Christmas, and then it invaded the kitchen. Fortunately I had my sonic screwdriver ready, and successfully fought it off. Go us! Now it’s up to the cats to deflate it with their claws. I’m sure that won’t be difficult for them.

Typically, I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions. I used to make them when I was younger but I usually didn’t keep them for very long. Then, in a bout of rebelliousness, I decided that instead of New Year’s resolutions, I would make March 25 resolutions — the thought being that March 25 was just as arbitrary as January 1 for that sort of thing.

Nowadays I use my birthday and the end of the year to consider the areas of my life that I like to focus on, and consider where I’m at in those areas of focus. Those areas of focus are, summarized:

Health. Physically, I’m not very good at this, but with the mindful eating I’ve been practicing I’ve been getting better. Emotionally and mentally, though, I’m pretty happy with where I am, though there’s definitely room for improvement.

Relationships. I’m still working on some basics, like returning phone calls in a timely manner. For some reason, I suck at that. But I have good relationships with my wife, my family and with my friends, both online and off-, and I’m looking for ways to make those relationships better and stronger.

Geekery. By which I basically mean learning and fun. Learning IS fun, of course, but in the “fun” column I also put gaming, reading, entertainment, and so on. It’s all geekery because I’m a geek. This coming year, I do intend to do some more learning. A lot more.

Writing. Always. This year I plan to focus on it a bit more. Maybe start submitting short stories again.

And that’s all. As I said, I don’t really make resolutions. Instead, I just like to refocus on what’s important to me.

‘Tis nearly the end of Holidailies

Christmas Thoughts ‘n’ Things

NOTE: Even though most of this post was written on December 26, it’s now the 27th as I finish and post it. Happy third day of Christmas!

Ingrid in a Santa hat
Ingrid in a Santa hat

It’s December 26th in this particular time zone as of this writing, which means it’s Boxing Day, or the second day of Christmas. Tradition demands that I give Jennifer a pair of turtle doves, whatever those are, but I’m going to pass. I guess I’m just a lousy husband. Anyway, here’s a picture of one of our cats, Ingrid, wearing a Santa hat. It’s okay. She always looks this grumpy.

Aside from all the driving, the past two days have been pretty low-key. On Tuesday, Christmas Eve, Jennifer and I went down to my parents’ house to hang out with the family. We all sat around and chatted, had Chinese food for dinner and various cookies and things for dessert, then opened stocking stuffers and presents. I had drawn my sister Leona’s name in the gift draw (my parents draw names to see who we’ll be giving a gift to, instead of giving everyone a gift; I really like this tradition, because it means I can put a lot more thought into a single gift instead of trying to find something for a bunch of different people), and I gave her a nice black sweater which she’d been wanting. Her husband Mike (who wasn’t able to come to the festivities) had drawn my name, and I ended up with a copies of Wonderbook, an illustrated book on writing speculative fiction by Jeff Vandermeer that I’d really been wanting, and Existence by David Brin. My parents also gave me a three foot tall inflatable Dalek. They’re Doctor Who nerds just like me, so they know what I like. 

Yesterday, Christmas Day, we went to Jennifer’s sister’s house to spend time with her family. It, too, was a pretty low-key affair. After breakfast we opened presents, and again I ended up with some pretty cool stuff: a book on ghosts and hauntings, a DVD of The Universe from the History Channel, and a subscription to Scientific American, which makes me happy in light of my plan to writing The Neverending Symphony in 2020. It was fun hanging out with various in-laws, nephews, and nieces, and the caroling in the evening was fun as well, but by the time the day ended, Jennifer and I were both wiped, and quite ready to go home.

And now I’m back at work while Jennifer’s off shopping with her family (on the 26th, they hit the post-Christmas sales to stock up on cards, ornaments, and supplies for the next year). It’s been a slow day, customer support-wise, so I was able to spend the day focusing on some projects that I’ve been working on.  There’s hardly anyone else in the office, too, which has been nice. Not that I don’t like my co-workers, of course, it’s just that it’s nice to be able to focus on existing projects rather than on customer support emergencies.

So at this point there’s not much left to do except sit around and wait for my birthday. Once that’s over, then it’ll feel a little less like limbo around here, and a little more back to reality.

‘Tis the season for (rambling) Holidailies

Advent Thoughts ‘n’ Things

First of all, here, have some music:

This is “This Endris Night”, as performed by Vox Musica, the women’s voice choir to which Jennifer belongs. They always sound great.

One of the atheist billboards in Sacramento
One of the atheist billboards in Sacramento

Meanwhile, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has put up some billboards around the Sacramento area. I approve. Not because I am personally an atheist or agnostic, but because there are a lot of people out there who are, and they each deserve to know that they’re not the only ones out there, and that they have a right to dignity and respect as well. I have read that some people believe that these billboards are somehow discriminatory against Christians, but I find that idea ludicrous; Christians are NOT a persecuted minority in the United States of America, and anyone who tries to tell you that they are has bought into the Fox News victim mentality.

The shield of the Episcopal Church
The shield of the Episcopal Church

Me, I’m happy to call myself an Episcopalian — though, I suppose, to some people, the Episcopal Church barely counts as a Christian denomination. I believe in God, in the Incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ, and in the Resurrection. I was baptized in the Episcopal Church, and confirmed there as well. All the basic stuff. I believe that God’s commandments to human beings boil down to what Jesus called the two great commandments: Love God, and love each other. The rest, I think, is more or less fluff, and the more you get bogged down in the theology and strict Bible-ism, the more likely you are to let your own prejudices and hatreds interfere with the two great commandments.

Most importantly, I feel these two great commandments are essentially identical, if at least not very much alike. As Christ himself put it:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ((Matthew 22:37-40, NIV))

There you have it. In my mind, if you serve others you’re essentially serving God, no matter what your religious inclinations are. In further verses (particularly in the Sermon on the Mount), Christ teaches that our neighbors are not just the people who live next to us, but all humankind, as well, even our enemies.

So. Christmas. It’s upon us this very Wednesday. Right now we’re still in the season of Advent, the time of expectation and waiting for Christmas itself. I wish I had some Deep Meaningful Insights to share with you about the season, but I don’t. Just… as we finish running out the season, allow yourself to relax, be meditative, and so on. It’s hard to break out of the rushing and materialism that marks Christmas in our culture these days, but it’s important to do so.

Other than that, I got nothing.

In other news, I’ve revamped my blog. I’m not yet happy with the layout, navigation, appearance, or so on, but after using the same home-grown theme for years and years, I thought it was time for a change. Plus, the new layout is responsive, and looks good even on my cell phone. The wonders of living in the future!

‘Tis the season for (random) Holidailies

Another Holiday Miscellany

First off, have an earworm. This is “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues. It’s been in my head all morning, no matter how many other Christmas songs I listen to.

This is still one of my favorite Christmas songs, though it’s been eclipsed a bit by “The Season’s Upon Us” by Dropkick Murphys (which I linked to just the other day).

###

Yesterday I got a nice card from my boss, which had been signed by him and the chairs of our department. It was very nice, and I really appreciated it. (He also was passing out candy but I skipped it because I’m still avoiding refined sugar. Yay me!)

Our office doesn’t really do much for the holidays. We have a half-day winter retreat, where we conduct work stuff and have a book exchange. In years past this has been a “white elephant” book exchange, but this year we were all asked to bring in copies of our favorite books. I brought in a copy of Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, of course, since that’s my favorite book of all time. And I ended up with a copy of Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami. I’ve never read anything by this author, but we were discussing him in our writers’ group recently, and I’m really looking forward to reading this book.

What does your office do for the holidays, if anything?