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9th-Dec-2016 09:24 pm - Update From the Fortress of Solitude
Simon Jester Precious Metals
Which for the last couple of days has been surrounded by ice and snow, just like the more famous Fortress owned by that guy from Krypton. Fortunately, the temperature has risen above freezing and is expected to stay that way for the next week. As a result of the inclement weather, and working in a facility at the top of a big hill, I worked from home today.

Which was...marginally successful. I was able to log in to my desk remotely, but certain pieces of software were out of reach. I spent (along with my boss) a good part of the day trying to fix that situation, to no avail. I also decided that I need to buy a new hard drive for my home PC. It's a repurposed computer from my previous job (hey, they were giving them away and I got one), which was convenient when my home PC died of heat exhaustion a good while back.

It's got a plenty fast CPU and adequate memory and good (if not great) graphics. But it's only got a 75 GB hard drive.* Which was plenty for what they used it for in the workplace, handling a lot of data, but not storing it. Not nearly enough for my needs, though, even with most of my files on two external hard drives. Just the operating system and the software that HAS to live on the C: drive to function have filled it up. So...hard drive shopping tomorrow, probably. Then days of fun installing the OS on the new drive (not the current OS that came with the PC, the Windows 7 install disk from my previous computer) and tweaking everything the way I want it.

So, I hear you ask, how do I like living alone? Well, I am still grieving the end of my marriage at times. That was a long relationship, and I'd hoped it would be for life. But it wasn't, and I'm building a new life one day at a time. Working out my routines. Trying out new ones. And I'm enjoying it. In some ways I miss having other people around to talk to, and in other ways not at all. I can do what I want when I want how I want. I'm learning what works and what doesn't.

For instance, I have a dishwasher in my kitchen. In over three weeks, I haven't used it yet. I just wash up as I go, or at most, leave the dishes until I'm done with a meal, then clean up. And if I want to pause a television show for half an hour while I do, nobody else is inconvenienced.

I still haven't reassembled my computer desk yet. The computer is sprawled across a long trestle table I've owned for a long, long time in the dining/living room. But spending eight hours at it today for telecommuting has put a kink in my shoulders and neck, which means I need to get to that. The current arrangement is okay for brief 20-30 minutes bouts of netsurfing, but not for lengthy use.

The apartment is still quite spartan, and while I do plan to get a little more furniture eventually, I find that I like it that way. I like having lots of empty space. It's tidy, easy to clean; not a lot of furniture to dust or to vacuum around. It just feels spacious...because it is.

My upstairs neighbors are a little noisy. Not unreasonably so, but definitely audible. Especially the rhythmic squeaking of springs I hear periodically from the living/dining room area. At first it sounded like bedsprings--but it was in the living room, which seemed unlikely. Now I've noticed that moves around, and I'm thinking maybe it's...a child's hobby horse (one suspended from springs so the kid can rock on it)? Something that can be--and is--moved around quite a bit. Well, it's a mystery.

All in all, things are going well.

*I remember the day I got access to a computer with TWENTY MEGABYTES of storage on the hard drive, and wondered how on earth I would EVER use that much capacity. It was inconceivable that I could fill a cavernous space like that. Then I shook my head, glanced out the window, and yelled at the dinosaurs to get off my lawn.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/226895.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
20th-Nov-2016 05:34 pm - LIve! from the Fortress of Solitude!
Futurama Scary Door
Literally. My new router is named Fortress of Solitude.

Welcome to Day 001 of My New Life As A Single Guy Again.

Yesterday was Moving Day. With the help of friends (hi, guys!) and multiple trips ferrying my things in a minivan and two cars, I got myself mostly moved out of the apartment I've been sharing with my eventual ex and her youngest son for the last two and half years. We decided to divorce in February. It's taken this long to make the break for various, mostly financial, reasons. But I have a new job (newly employed as an FTE employee, I'd been working under contract to hire since February). So, with a new job finally--it took a couple months longer than I'd expected/hoped--more money, and having finally found a place to live that is affordable and within relatively easy commuting distance of my job (and within walking distance of a number of stores), I moved out yesterday.

It was a long, exhausting day. As I write this, there's still plenty to do. Lots of boxes to unpack. More boxes to rescue from a storage unit eventually. Lots of stuff to buy over the next weeks and months to bring my half of the household split up to full power. But I'm out, and on my own. It's sad. But also a great relief for us all.

And I slept in a real bed for the first time in more than two years (I'd been camping out in the dining room all this time). It was glorious, especially given how tired all my muscles were. My new place is pretty spacious, and I intend to enjoy it very much after the clutter and cramped living of squeezing three people into a 2-bedroom apartment (while still in possession of too much of the stuff that formerly resided in a three-bedroom apartment, and before that a three-bedroom house).

There's probably a lot more to say, but it'll have to wait. I have things to do.
9th-Apr-2016 01:55 pm - It's been a month
Simon Jester Precious Metals
I've been at OHSU for a month as of yesterday. Four weeks. Five weeks since I quit my previous job and took a week off before starting the new one.

I'm working in the Liver Pre-Transplant office. My job involves doing benefit checks--finding out what benefits, exactly, the potential patient's insurance covers so our financial coordinator can assess their situation. It involves sending out prior authorization requests (i.e., getting permission from the insurance company/HMO/whoever) for the diagnostics and office visits needed to evaluate someone to determine if they're a good candidate. It involves tracking the authorizations, and the scheduling of office visits and diagnostic tests and getting authorizations for ongoing, specific visits/diagnostics after the evaluation, and helping to manage patients' required medical appointments and labs (i.e., making sure they know when something is coming due, making sure orders for the medical care are in place so they can be seen, making sure the appointments are scheduled (or in some cases, scheduling them myself). I also enter lab results into the system, and upload diagnostic results from outside offices, and lots of other things.

I spent two weeks being trained and getting a little hands-on experience--and feeling completely lost. There's a ton of stuff you need to know to do this job. I often felt like I was floundering, or stumbling around in the dark unable to piece it all together. So did Carrie, the woman who was being trained with me to take my equivalent role in the Kidney pre-transplant office. But everyone around us--our boss, our trainer, our co-workers and random people who encountered there at OHSU--told us the same thing again and again and again.

It IS a big job. It DOES take a long time to learn. We were doing great, and we shouldn't be hard on ourselves. We'll get it. I was willing to take their word for it, that they knew what they were talking about...but it didn't feel like it.

I've spent the last two weeks, since my initial training, working alongside my counterpart. We split the pre-transplant liver patients between us; I handle A-K, she handles L-Z. Or we will once I'm up to speed, right now we're working closely on all of them while I continue getting up to speed. And...and I feel like I'm getting there. I still have lots to learn, and the job is like a jigsaw puzzle but I've assembled the border now and big pieces of it are coming together, and I'm confident that I'll be able to fill in the rest with time and practice. In some ways, the job is fairly repetitive: benefits checks, evaluation authorization requests, listing authorizations, transplant authorizations, managing patient schedules, and so forth. Lather, rinse, repeat.

In other ways, it's a constant challenge and nobody EVER knows it all because things are constantly in flux. Patients change insurance providers. Plans change. Rules change. Laws change. And when all that remains constant, patients change--they get better, they get worse, and their needs change accordingly. So I'm never going to be in a place where I don't have to ask questions and puzzle out the whys and wherefores of things. But I'm getting a handle on the basics.

And I love it. Time flies. By the time I left my previous job, I hated it. I watched the clock, eager for my next break, or lunch, or the end of the day. The soulless micromanagement of a call center was soul-grinding. But this job, I love. I'm working hard, and learning, and time flies. It's useful, valuable work and it makes a difference to the patients we're working with, which is both exciting and sometimes a little scary. My bosses and my co-workers assume I'm capable and willing to do the job, and continue to be endlessly encouraging, and I'm not being micromanaged, and it's glorious.

So, yeah, I really like this job, and I'm very pleased to have it. It's been a long-overdue and positive change.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/226462.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
9th-Mar-2016 10:35 pm - Adventures In Medicine
Simon Jester Precious Metals
So, as part of the onboarding process to work at OHSU, I have to get some immunizations (or sign a waiver disclaiming any responsibility on OHSU's part if I don't and get sick). I also have to have a 2-step Tuberculosis test. They don't want me spreading it all over. Makes sense.

Monday I went to my doctor and got one of the required vaccinations. I've had the others. I also got the TB test, and was scheduled to go in this morning for the second part, where they check to see if I have TB. I expected it to go quickly. After all, I don't have TB. Right? Right?

Well, the nurse looks at my arm, at the slight redness at the injection site (which, ideally, would be neither red nor inflamed). And then she goes and gets another nurse, who examines me, and asks me a bunch of questions about possible exposure to TB, any symptoms (none), or exposure to people who've been innoculated against it (co-workers who are from out of the country, for instance). That latter thing is possible, I suppose. But I don't know.

Then they call my doctor out of another patient room to examine me. The reaction is extremely mild, the redness is not very red, it's not very large, and it's only barely raised. But "barely" is not "none at all." So, since I need to be cleared by Monday in order to start my job, they send me across the street to the hospital, where I get a couple of chest x-rays. If the x-rays are clear, I'm golden. If not, well, they may have to repeat the skin test in a couple of weeks.

I am rather alarmed at this point. I called my wife to tell her the exciting news and get some support and sympathy, which she delivered. I'm not so much alarmed about having TB--I figure it can be treated. No, I'm worried that I won't get a clean bill of health, so will lose out on the new job--and I've already quit my previous job. That would suck mightily. So I left, stopped on the way home to get an early lunch at the local bakery (bacon/fried egg croissant). It was very tasty. I ate and read for a bit, then went home.

Where I realized was feeling increasingly anxious. Not long after I get home I got a call from my doctor's office telling me the x-rays were clear and I'm officially okay. Wow. that was an incredible load off my mind.

Fast foward to right now. I'm back from a four hour visit to the Emergency Room. I drove into town to pick up Snippy from work. She was having some trouble breathing (talking much or doing most anything strenuous was making it hard to breathe without coughing, and her chest felt tight). She'd begun feeling puny about mid-afternoon and it wasn't getting any better. If anything, it was getting worse. She has a Xopenex inhaler for asthma, which she used four times that day, to no avail.

Finally, she called her allergy doc, who--based on how she sounded over the phone--advised her that, yes, she should go to the emergency room. So I drove her there. She had an EKG, which showed no heart issues. Then was seen by a doctor (with lots of waiting between every step, it goes without saying), and given some IV steroids, and some inhaled drugs through a nebulizer. This got her breathing better. The doctor came back to say that her labs (drawn on arrival) also showed no heart issues, so based on her response to the drugs, he was confident that it was just exacerbated asthma. Maybe the cold, wet weather--I dont' know.

So we're home again, and she's in bed, and will be staying home from work tomorrow. I'll be going out early in the morning to the pharmacy to get a few days worth of additional steroids to help with the problem. So we're glad it was nothing more serious, but all the same--do we HAVE to have ALL THE THINGS happen to us?

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/226229.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
27th-Feb-2016 07:49 pm - Ch-ch-changes!
Simon Jester Precious Metals
So, in 2009 I was laid off from a job I'd had for fifteen years. It was a shock, but not entirely surprising. I'd survived several previous rounds of layoffs and with the economy in the toilet, fundraising (it was a non-profit) was down, so budget cuts were the order of the day. And as the highest-paid admin assistant in my department, well, you take your savings where you can.

In 2011 I found a part-time job doing data entry for a company that runs a loadboard (an online marketplace where brokers needing loads moved can find truckers, who need to find work moving loads). I did that for about two years, then got promoted to full-time. I made outbound calls to get insurance information on carriers (truckers), took inbound calls for billing, freightmatching, customer service, and activation and training on the various software packages we sell for accessing the loadboard.

Did I mention it was a call center. It was. I'd never worked in a call center before, and I never will again, God willing. You're chained to your telephone for eight hours a day. Every moment of your time is monitored and judged, and your calls are recorded. And judged. And you're expected to achieve a variety of conflicting goals all the time. (It got to be a joke amongst my team. Whichever "metric" was trailing would become the focus of frequent emails from the managers about improving it. We'd change focus accordingly, only to have another metric fall--and become the focus of frantic exhortations to get that one back up. It was a never-ending treadmill of incompatible goals. You CANNOT physically do everything they want you to do at the level they want it done. You CAN'T.)

So you learn to focus on what really matters--which means, whatever measures YOU are getting assessed on. In my case, it was outbound percentage. I was supposed spend 30% of my on-the-clock time doing outbound calls. So I set my phone in "after call" so that incoming calls (another "top" priority among many) wouldn't reach me and stayed in that state all day every day so I could make outbound calls. I wasn't supposed to do that, but what the hell. Occasionally I'd get an IM (yes, not just emails, we got IMs too) to take a call if the queues were backed up, but mostly I avoided incoming calls for months.

Then we got new phones, and they took "after call" away from us. And expected us to do outbound calls AND take inbound calls AND document everything AND do all the other back-end stuff without any time to focus on it. And bumped our outbound quota to 35%. And while our department was responsible for taking inbound calls (to help another department) when that department made their monthly goals (with our help), did we get any rewards? No. Just them. And that's when I decided my job had gone from tolerable (didn't love it, didn't hate it, it was just a job) to intolerable.

The company provides (an actually pretty nice) anniversary luncheon each month for people hired in that month. At the last one, I was pretty much the only person from my department in a room of a dozen people or more. They all talked about how much they liked working there, and how they were left alone to do their job and didn't have people looking over their shoulders all the time and micromanaging them, and how the company felt like a family. I listened to these people and thought (but didn't say), "I work at [COMPANY], where the hell do YOU work?" But apparently the call center is very different from the rest of the company there.

Maybe all call centers are like that. I don't know. But I do know that there'd always been fairly high turnover in the call center, but nothing like the turnover in my department in the last few months. One guy decamped to the Billing department downstairs "where the managers have souls." Others have found new jobs and left. I've been looking for work for a while--

--and now I have a new job. I'm going to working at OHSU (Oregon Health Sciences University if you're not from around here) in the organ transplant area. I'll be temping at first, but have every hope of getting hired on as a regular employee. I gave notice at work on Friday. I'm really, really looking forward to this change.

It's exciting. And a little anxious-making. I'm going to have to master new skills, learn a new schedule. Especially my commuting schedule. OHSU is hard to reach, parking is extremely limited (and expensive, if you drive at all) and I will probably end up taking public transit. Bus? Tram? A combination of the two? That remains to be determined. Learning the job will probably take longer, but I'm looking forward to that. It will be important, useful work with people who will treat me like an intelligent, capable adult and not a cog in a machine.

ANYHOW...in other news. Today is my 17th wedding anniversary. Snippy and I tied the knot on a very rainy February evening seventeen years ago today. To celebrate we went to The Melting Pot, where we enjoyed choose fondue, salads, meat entrees (French Quarter--spiced shrimp, pork, chicken, steak and sausages--for me, and half teriyaki marinaded sirloin and half filet mignon for Snippy), and dark chocolate fondue on bananas, strawberries, marshmallows and fudge bites for dessert. We talked a lot, decided to plan a getaway to Disneyland for our 20th anniversary, and generally had a great time. We also had a photo taken of us, which we plan to send to my mother back east. She'll enjoy that.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/225820.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
3rd-Feb-2016 08:21 pm - New Year Resolutions
Simon Jester Precious Metals
What? The new year can start in February. Who says it can't!?

Yeah, not really. But nonetheless, I am intending to put more time and attention into my writing. I currently have two shorts stories ready to reissue under a new pen name. I once had three pen names, but I've ditched one and am reissuing the stories under the second, which is the name I use for sci fi, fantasy, mysteries and pretty much everything but erotica. The first pen name will remain my designated erotica name.

I have two more new stories in the pipeline, one completely written but still in need of proofing, the other 99% complete. Then I'll need to find art for the covers, create the covers in GIMP, and turn them into ebooks in Jutoh.*

I have a couple of other completed stories that need to go out to markets again. I sent them out one or twice, then stopped. But persistence is the name of the game, and I am now, again, in a headspace where I can manage that. I wasn't for a long while.

Then there are the stories--from short stories to a couple of novels--in various stages of completion. I'm tempted, badly tempted, to start over. But as my writing gurus Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Rusch will tell anyone who listens, NEVER EVER DO THAT. That is your critical voice talking. Every writer feels like that, generally about two-thirds of the way through the project.** Throttle that voice and finish the story. Get it out the door. Write the next one, and use what you learned on THAT one. (In fact, they being married, often have to remind one another of this. One or the other will stomp out of their office to announce that the current project is unsalvageable shit. The other will ask, "How far along are you?" The frustrated writer will pause, realize what's happening, mutter "dammit" and return to the office to keep writing.)

In other news, I'm about to start playing in an online superhero game on InsaneJournal. I played in several years ago and loved them to death. But they eventually petered out, as such things always do. I've tried many time over the years to find new games, but never with any real success. But this time for sure!

*Unsolicited endorsement. Jutoh is by far the best software I've yet found for turning documents into ebooks. It's not terribly expensive, it works great, and while the manual is...less than helpful, the author can be reached with questions and always responds promptly.

**I'm right at 35,000 words on The Lifeboat (working title). I'm right on schedule. The urge to start over is powerful, but I'm not gonna. I'm gonna finish that damn thing.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/225600.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
17th-Oct-2015 10:24 pm - Let Me Explain...
Simon Jester Precious Metals
No, there is too much. Let me sum up...

So I had laser eye surgery this week.

Click here for the not-really-gruesome-at-all details, plus other things.Collapse )

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/225412.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
Simon Jester Precious Metals
So some time ago (two years ago? three?) was diagnosed with Glaucoma. Fortunately, it was detected very early. In fact, I'd gone to see my eye doctor because of a new and rather prominent floater in my left eye--which turned out to be a speck of blood from a torn retina. The eye doctor lasered it back into place at that same visit. The floater is still there, but as he told me I would, I've learned not to notice it. But in the course of testing, he discovered my Glaucoma.

He started me on eyedrops to control the pressure in my eyes and prevent the Glaucoma from advancing. The drops worked pretty well, but not quite as well as he'd have liked. So we added a second set of drops. If we couldn't control the pressure with drugs, the next option would laser surgery--or actual surgery. So I really wanted the drops to work.

And they worked for a while--until I developed an allergic reaction. So we switched out the drops. And thus began the long, laborious process of determining (through trial and error) that I am unable to tolerate any of the eyedrops for Glaucoma, with one exception: a preservative-free version of Zioptan. (Each day's dose comes in a disposable, one-use dropper.) But that one drug alone isn't doing enough. So my eye doctor referred me to a glaucoma specialist.

Who happens to be his wife. (And technically, he only referred me to clinic upstairs, where his wife is one of several glaucoma specialists. I chose her.) So on Wednesday I spent about two and a half hours in the clinic getting extensively tested. I was rather anxious about this; giving up on finding a combination of drugs to do the job meant surgery of some kind.

They tested my vision. They tested my color vision. They numbed my eyes and did a pressure check. They dilated my pupils and had me wait until everything was bright and blurry, then examined the interiors of my eyes with the aid of very VERY bright lights, and with lenses they actually placed ON my eye. (All of this was wonderful fun for a guy who has always been extremely sensitive to glare and to having anything near my eyes.)

They did a visual field test. You stare with one eye (the other is covered) at a tiny light in the center of a hemispherical machine and click a button every time you see a flash of light anywhere). Then you do the other eye. And you fear all the while that you're missing way too many of the flashes (some are bright, some are barely perceptible). They examined my eyes again with the aid of bright lights and lenses, and took pictures while they were at it. I saw three different technicians/doctors in addition to my primary. (The technician who administered the visual field test bears more than a passing resemblance in appearance, manner and voice to the actor John Malkovitch. It was a bit odd.)

The end result of all this testing was to determine that I still have undiminished field of vision in my right eye (no loss of peripheral vision at all), and very minimal loss in my left eye (but there is some). Also, that I was a good candidate for laser surgery. So sometime in the next month or two I'll get scheduled for an in-clinic procedure. I asked the doctor how it works. Apparently, on the interior of your eye, right where the iris (the colored part) meets the white, there's a lip or groove or something. This is where, assuming it works correctly, the fluid inside your eye can drain away so that the pressure doesn't get so high that it starts damaging the optic nerve. The procedure will use a laser and some mirrors to zap fifty spots around the perimeter there, causing some inflammation. Then, when the body sends it's healing agents to deal with that, it will usually (in about 80% of patients) also cause it to start draining more effectively.

Why? I don't know. And neither does my doctor. She said they don't know why it works, they just know that it does. And it works better in patients who start with a higher pressure inside the eye (like me, so I'm almost certain to get a beneficial effect). In conjunction with eyedrops (which I'd still be using), it should lower the pressure enough to prevent any further damage.

It's not a permanent fix, though. The effect generally lasts from two to five years, and can be repeated once. So it could good for anywhere from four to ten years. And then? Well, there will probably be some new glaucoma drops on the market I can try. And if not, there's still actual surgery.

So...laser eye surgery sometime in the next couple of months, a follow-up visit at two and then eight weeks post-surgery (to compare pressure to see if worked) and then we'll see. I'm relieved that I can try laser surgery and not have to jump (immediately) to going under the knife, but it's still daunting. It doesn't help that I was definitely the youngest person in the waiting room by a good margin--at least amongst actual patients and not loved ones waiting with patients. I'm not pleased by that at all.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/225040.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
14th-Sep-2015 08:30 pm - Unclean! Unclean!
Simon Jester Precious Metals
My lovely and talented wife came home from San Francisco last Tuesday with a lovely parting gift--a cold. By Friday of last week I could feel myself coming down with it. Not a terrible surprise, really. You share an apartment and these things happen. So I spent the weekend getting worse, and doing as little as possible in the way of chores and resting up for a week of work.

And work today went better than expected. I thought it would be awful, and I'd be completely worn out. But not really. I'm sick, yes, but not as miserable as I feared. But given that Snippy is still sick more than a week since she came down with it, I've got a ways to go yet.

Today Twoson started feeling it coming on. Again, not a surprise. In fact, I pretty much expected he would come down with it--when you're sharing an apartment with two people who are both sick, and you're taking care of them...well.

As colds go, it's not horrible. It's a cold, which means you feel exhausted and congested and occasionally sneezy. But the worst part for me so far is that my whole torso from my waist to my chest is one big sore mass of muscles from all the coughing. And every time I cough I'm reminded of just how many muscles surround my rib cage and are involved in coughing.

On the other hand, I'm enjoying reading the Ex series by Peter Clines. He first came to my attention when Snippy told me about a couple of audio books she was really enjoyed. FOURTEEN and THE FOLD. "Horror procedurals" she called them, in that they don't seem like horror at first, just mysteries. And not particularly threatening mysteries, but the more the characters investigate, the weirder things get until the awful truth is finally revealed and you realize that, yes, it's horror. She told me something about them, and urged me to give them a try. And so I did. And they were great. I really liked them. I can't say a lot about them without spoiling them, so I won't.

Now I'm reading some of his other works. EX-HEROES, EX-PATRIOTS, EX-COMMUNICATION (which I'm currently reading), and at least two others I haven't gotten to yet. It's a series about the zombie apocalypse--with superheroes. And they've been really interesting. And like those other two books, things aren't as simple as they seem. A zombie apocalypse AND superheroes in the same story? Isn't that overkill? Or a violation of the "one fantastic element" rule or something?

I thought so. But there's more going on than you think at first, and pretty soon it's clear that this is not your garden-variety zombie apocalypse (which we've all seen so often before). With every book in the series (I'm on the third currently), it gets weirder and weirder. The zombies are the least of the protagonists' problems.

They're a threat, yes. Five million zombies (or "exes" as in ex-human, as they call them in the novels) in Los Angeles is a problem. But anyone who's seen a few zombie movies knows how to handle that. If you're smart and careful (and little bit lucky), you can survive and establish a safe place in the ruins of Los Angeles. But the zombies are only the beginning. There are worse things than zombies. Much worse--and you have to deal with those while ALSO not letting them distract you from the ever-present threat of zombies.

Like Fourteen and The Fold, these books are full of pop culture references--one character in particular is prone to quoting genre movies and tv shows, or referencing them as a way of explaining things.

I recommend them.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/224984.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
7th-Sep-2015 09:30 pm - My Labor Day Holiday
Simon Jester Precious Metals
My lovely and talented wife took off for San Francisco on Thursday to visit friends. She returns tomorrow. She also texted less than an hour ago to report that she has a cold and ask me to make sure we have Sudafed on hand. It sucks for her that she's come down with a cold, but Twoson and I will take good care of her when she gets home.

This means, among other things, a trip across the river to Vancouver, WA tomorrow because the State of Oregon has made Sudafed a prescription-only purchase. You can own it, but can only buy it in-state with a prescription from your doctor. Those of us who live close enough to the border can drive into Washington and get it there. We'll also have to stock up on other things for colds, I expect.

Anyhow, with Snippy out of town, Twoson and I were on our own for the long weekend. On the drive home after work Thursday, I started feeling very lonely. Snippy was out of town and I wouldn't seen any of our friends (all of whom have their own busy lives, so our get-togethers are scheduled). I even teared up, though it part that was probably due to listening to the country music station on the radio while driving. But I thought about my plans for the weekend and started feeling better.

Those plans started when I stopped on the way home to buy Twoson and myself dinner at Son of A Biscuit (a local fried chicken restaurant who make some very spicy chicken). We watched tv or played on the computer and stayed up to the ungodly-late hour of 1:30 in the morning and slept til 10 a.m.. Once upon a time I routinely stayed up that late, or later, especially on weekends. But not anymore. I work an early job and I get up not so early (but still earlier than I prefer) to make breakfast for Snippy on the weekends. So I intended to enjoy sleeping in on my four-day weekend (I took Tuesday off, in addition to the holiday today).

I spent Saturday, Sunday and today alternately netsurfing, writing, watching tv, reading, or doing various chores. Chores still need doing, even on holidays. I did the grocery shopping, lots of laundry (sheets, towels, anti-allergen mattress covers and pillowcases, clothes). I dusted and vacuumed, and de-cluttered and straightened up the living room area, ran the dishwasher occasionally, and so forth. I didn't push to get the chores done. This was supposed to be a vacation. None of it required concentrated attention, so I'd throw a load in the wash/load the dishwasher and do something fun for a while.

Saturday Twoson was at work most of the day, so I puttered around the apartment on my own until mid-afternoon, then went out shopping. I bought three pairs of jeans I needed. I look for new sneakers, but after trying three different sports shoes stores, I walked away empty-handed. I had a surfeit of choices, a bit of sticker shock, and no real idea what sort of shoes I really wanted. A little research is called for, I think.

I've been writing for an online RPG I joined a couple-three weeks ago. It's been very slow. I've had almost no responses, but it's not me--there's been relatively little activity at all. Perhaps it's the start of school (some of the players are students or teachers, I know), and the holiday weekend. But in any case, I've been having fun making posts of my own. It isn't writing that will make me any money, but it's writing and I'm enjoying it, and that's a start. I keep feeling like I ought to be writing something I could sell, but at least I'm writing now, and that hasn't been the case for a long while.

I tried going for a bicycle ride today. We got a bicycle from a friend last summer. Originally it was intended for Twoson, but he never used it. So I claimed it. Took it out today--and discovered that the tires have gone soft in that time. I need to pump them up again but we don't own a bicycle tire pump. So I'll do that another day.

Three of the four days of my vacation are over now. There's only tomorrow to go, and then it's back to work for three days. I've enjoyed it. I've stayed up late, slept in, and generally enjoyed not having a fixed schedule of any sort for a few days. It's been really nice. I tried a couple of episodes of Archer on netflix; it's amusing, and I'll probably watch more, but I'm in no hurry. I also watched a couple of episodes of Continuum, which I enjoyed and may try to share with Twoson and Snippy. If they like it too, we'll have something else to watch together at least until all our regular fall shows come back on. As I said, it's been nice.

But I'll be very glad when Snippy comes home again. I've missed her, and look forward to spending some time with her. We're planning a celebratory dinner tomorrow evening. The original plan was to go out somewhere if she felt up to it (after a day of travel), or to pick something up from a new Chinese restaurant we've found (or maybe somewhere else) if she weren't. Since she has a cold, I suspect it will be the latter--if she feels up to eating much at all.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/224555.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
Simon Jester Precious Metals
First, I really like CHRONICLE. As "real world teens get superpowers" movies go, it is in my opinion, one of the best. Plus the climactic battle is just phenomenal. THIS is what superheroes and supervillains fighting would be like, and the collateral damage is amazing (and terrifying). it's a great film.

I didn't know until just a few days ago that the guy who did that film directed (or started directing, apparently) Fantastic Four. I don't know if he's in the right, or he was the problem, or (more likely) it was a colossal cluster____ to which he and the studio contributed in equal measures.

What I do know, is that the primary reason (in my opinion) why the earlier FF movies did only okay (though they did do okay) and this one tanked is that the folks in charge were unwilling to commit to making a COMIC BOOK movie. That is, in my opinion, why Marvel has succeeded so well. Yes, they make changes to the costumes, to the backstory, and so forth to make them look better and to appeal to a wider audience*, but they're making movies about COMIC BOOK SUPERHEROES and they don't pretend otherwise.

Guy builds a suit of powered armor in a cave out of scraps? Yes.

Superscience turns a 1940s weakling into a superman? Yes.

And he is frozen in ice for decades then brought back? Yes!

Norse God shows up with huge pecs and huger hammer. Yes!

They have a flying helicarrier? YES!

Look, the very idea of a heli-carrier is preposterous. It would be easy laugh at it. It's easy for movie execs to FEAR that people will laugh at it, and thus veto it or water it down into something "believable" (for Hollywood versions of same). But Marvel COMMITS. They showed us the full-fledged, exactly-as-imagined helicarrier taking flight and they do it without backpedalings or embarrassment. This is what comic fans came to see and they are by god going to show it to us. And even the non-comic fans are mostly going to think, "wow, that's so cool--impossible, of course, but really ,really cool."

Which is exactly the reaction they have to the zillions of impossible (but cool) fights/stunts/car chase scenes in standard action movies. But only Marvel seems to understand that you can elicit the same buy-in from moviegoing audiences if you commit to the superhero story the same way. (And even Marvel had to learn. There are a fair number of low-budget, truly execrable Marvel superhero movies--even tv-movies--over the last few decades. Partly that was due to shoestring budgets and laughable costumes and sfx...but that was also due in part to a lack of commitment. It was a vicious circle that took some serious cojones--and money--to break. But Marvel did.)

Fox seemed to understand it when they did the first two X-Men movies. Yes, they swapped out the yellow spandex for black leather, but otherwise? Scott Summers had actual eyebeams. Wolverine's ginormous adamantium claws were just as cool in live-action as they were in the comics. Rogue's ability to steal powers (not the most photogenic power out there) worked well in the story. Rebecca Romjin's Mystique was incredibly fun too. Plus, of course, they had Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan to give the move some much needed gravitas.

And they didn't shy away from the whole comic-book notion of evolution. "Mutant" means "person with naturally-occurring superpowers" and that's just how it is. Like the heli-carrier, it makes no sense in the real world. That's not how the world really works. But that's how it works in THEIR world, and they weren't embarrassed to tell a story in that world. If that doesn't make all the difference, it makes the lion's share.

But when it comes to the Fantastic Four (especially this reboot), they seemed to shy away from giving us the Fantastic Four we've known in the comics for decades. They shuffle their feet, hem and haw, and are clearly embarrassed by the story they want to tell--and it shows. No matter how much extra action and how many SFX shots they add.

*They have to. The audience for a "hit" comic book" is a miniscule fraction of the audience you need to make a successful motion picture.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/224493.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
15th-Apr-2015 11:00 am - Death & Taxes (in honor of Tax Day)
Simon Jester Precious Metals
by Sinanju
A crossover fanfic (Dead Like Me/Highlander)

George stepped into Joe's and looked around. She hadn't had much experience of bars before she'd died. Truthfully, she'd never been in a bar at all before she died. She had her fellow reapers Mason and Daisy to thank for her familiarity with them in her afterlife. They might have come with her but they both had appointments at the post office.

So did Roxy and Rube, for that matter. George suspected that someone would be going postal today. Multiple reaps at the post office on April 15th? Overworked postal employees and cranky last-minute taxpayers snarling at one another all day? What else could it be?

The bar seemed okay. There was a stage in the back for live performances, empty now. Music poured out of a jukebox instead. George was morbidly amused to recognize Dead Can Dance. The bar wasn't terribly busy. The bartender, a bearded man with graying hair was conversing quietly but intently with a customer, tall, dark and handsome.

George admired him for a moment. He made quite a picture. Jeans that showed off his ass very well, broad shoulders in a cable-knit sweater, short dark hair and a beautiful but masculine profile. He was way too old for her, of course. He had to be in his thirties.

She pulled a crumpled Post-It from her pocket and studied it.

W. Campbell
Joe's Place
E.T.D. 10:47 p.m.

She put it away again and scanned the room, wondering which of the patrons was W. Campbell. Walter? William? She studied a woman idly toying with a glass of beer. Wanda?

George glanced over at the handsome man at the bar again. He looked vaguely familiar. She shrugged and moved closer, curious about the nagging sense of recognition. The bartender broke off whatever he was saying as she approached.

"Help you, miss?" he asked.

George studied the dark haired man openly. "No," she said eventually, diffidently, never looking at the bartender.

"Do I know you?" the stranger asked. His voice, his accent, combined with his appearance to make the connection George was seeking.

"The University," George said, surprised into speaking the thought aloud. She'd seen him once at the University, where her father was a professor. "I mean, you work at the University, don't you?"

"I teach a couple of classes there. Are you a student?"

"No," George said. "I...know Professor Lass. I've seen you there."

He extended a hand and George stared at it for a moment, uncertain of what to do. "My name is Duncan MacLeod. And you are?" Duncan MacLeod. Not W. Campbell.

"I'm Geo--Millie," George said. "I'm Millie." She took his hand briefly, harmlessly. It occurred to her that she very seldom touched the living anymore except to take their souls.

"Pleased to meet you," he said.

There was an awkward silence. The ball was back in George's court, but she had no idea what to say. She opened her mouth to speak with no idea what she was going to say when she saw MacLeod's attention shift. He stood a little straighter, reminding her of how tall he was and how broad his shoulders were, and fixed his gaze on the door behind her. His left hand came to rest on the long coat draped over the bar at his side.

George saw that the bartender noticed MacLeod's behavior as well. He turned to watch the door, and then George did the same. A moment later the door opened and a man in a duster stepped inside, spotted MacLeod and walked up to plant himself squarely in MacLeod's space.

"Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod?"

MacLeod frowned, but replied, "Yes."

"William Campbell," the stranger said. "We have unfinished business."

George relaxed now that she knew who she was here for. She glanced at her wristwatch. William Campbell had about eight minutes to live. She paid little attention as MacLeod tried unsuccessfully to talk Campbell out of whatever misguided challenge he'd come to present. If she had his name on her Post-It, he was toast. A goner.

At last MacLeod agreed to follow Campbell outside. As Campbell turned to leave, George contrived to brush against him, popping his soul with practiced ease. He paid her no mind and stalked out the door with MacLeod following.

George followed them both a moment later, unseen and unremarked, one of the perks of being undead. The two men walked swiftly to an alley not far from the Joe's Place. Turning to face one another, they shocked George out of her blase attitude by each drawing a big ass sword from inside his coat!

"Holy shit!" George cried as the swords clashed. "What the fuck!?" She watched with her mouth agape as they fought the sort of duel she'd only ever seen in pirate movies.

It was a remarkably brief contest. MacLeod clearly outclassed his opponent. Campbell's smug expression soon turned to alarm and then despair. Moments later George gasped as MacLeod's sword took Campbell's head off. His head and body fell to the ground at MacLeod's feet.

George thought she was done being surprised until the light show started. She looked over at Campbell's soul, standing by her side. "What the hell is that?"

"My Quickening," Campbell said in a dazed voice. "I never thought I'd see that," he added. He looked at George with shock dulled eyes. "Am I dead?"

George nodded. "Yep."

Campbell nodded as if this merely confirmed a suspicion. "I really thought I could take him, you know?"

George shrugged. "Guess you were wrong."

MacLeod was doing an electric boogaloo in the middle of a lightning storm now. They watched it in silence for a few moments.

"What happens now?" Campbell asked her.

"You live the cliche," George answered. "Walk toward the light."

The lightning storm surrounding MacLeod seemed to be reaching a climax.

"Oh. Of course," Campbell said, and he walked toward MacLeod and into the heart of the lightning storm--the "Quickening," as he'd called it.

"I didn't mean--" George started to shout after him, but Campbell vanished into the brilliance of the Quickening, which guttered out a moment later, leaving MacLeod to sag to his knees exhausted and gasping in the sudden darkness.

George stared for a minute. After two years as a Grim Reaper, she thought she'd seen everything. Apparently not. As MacLeod climbed slowly to his feet, George turned and walked away. Rube would be at Der Waffle Haus by the time she got back, and he had questions to answer.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/224008.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
13th-Apr-2015 10:23 pm - It's not a tumor!
Simon Jester Precious Metals
It's an "ocular migraine."

So a week ago today I was at work when I noticed that the vision in right eye was suddenly a bit blurry, and also that the light in the room seemed to be strobing. This was, as one might imagine, a bit disconcerting. Worse still, I discovered by moving my hands around while looking straight ahead, that I had a blind spot in my right eye. That was more than disconcerting, it was frightening.

On the other hand, twenty minutes later the blurriness, strobe effect and blind spot were one. My vision was normal again. Nonetheless, I called my eye doctor and scheduled an exam at the earliest possible time. Which was this morning.

I've got glaucoma. It's not severe, my eye doctor caught it early and I'm treating it with eye drops, but still. And I've had laser surgery in my left eye for a torn retina. So I worried that perhaps the vision effects were a symptom of either glaucoma (some sudden worsening, perhaps) or of another retinal problem. Or, hell, a tumor or something. Who knows?

Turns out, just from the description of my symptoms my eye doc was pretty sure it was a migraine. An "ocular migraine", meaning that there's no pain associated with it, just vision effects. Nonetheless, he dilated my eyes and blinded me repeatedly with bright lights while he carefully examined the insides of my eyes. No retinal tears, no other evidence of anything more. Which was a great relief.

I asked if it could recur, and he said it might. They don't really know what triggers them a lot of the time. He also told me that other than pulling over if I was driving when it happened (because it could be distracting) it wasn't anything to worry about. Although if something like it happened and there were other symptoms (like feeling like a curtain was being lowered over my field of vision) THAT was something to be concerned about. But this? Not to worry.

And thinking upon it, I think I've had episodes like this before. But usually they follow being exposed to intense lights or glare, so I never realized it was anything more than being sensitive to such things. This one just seemed to come out of nowhere. It was frightening, but turns out to be about as harmless as one could hope for.

I'm happy about that.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/223942.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
28th-Sep-2014 06:24 pm - I suddenly realized that...
Simon Jester Precious Metals
I'm feeling depressed.

It came on rather suddenly. I had a good weekend, as noted in my previous post. Now I have a bit a headache and I'm feeling depressed. Maybe it's just that I'm not looking forward to going to bed in a couple-three hours to get up at oh-dark-thirty for a long day at work. Maybe.

Maybe I'm dehydrated. I'll drink some water and take some Advil for the headache. It can't hurt. Maybe it's the book I'm reading, which I've been enjoying, but the hero is dealing with some relationship issues that maybe come a little too close to home for me right now.

I know this mood will pass. But it sucks when you're in the middle of it.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/223732.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
28th-Sep-2014 01:54 pm - Time Flies...
Simon Jester Precious Metals
When your weekends aren't booked up. Over the last couple of months we've had weekend filled with entertainment. After spending two months mostly cooped up at home recovering from her surgery (Snippy), or taking care of someone recovering from surgery (Twoson and me), we knew we'd want some fun. So we've

1. Gone to the State Fair. Twice. Once midweek, and again on the weekend.
2. Gone to the state Renaissance Festival, and then to the Oregon Coast briefly, after.
3. Gone to a number of movies, at least once going to two movies in one afternoon/evening.
4. Gone to Rose City Comic Con Saturday and Sunday of last weekend.
5. Gone gaming most every Saturday afternoon/evening, and lately fairly often on Sunday as well, sometimes instead of the Saturday game, but most recently in addition to Saturday.

But this weekend, in addition to Snippy being away, I have had nothing planned. No gaming, no events to attend, nada. It's amazing how much you can get done when you have two whole days available.

1. Stripping the bed, removing anti-allergen mattress and pillow covers, washing box spring cover.
2. Laundering anti-allergen covers, replacing them on bed.
3. Washing ALL THE SHEETS, folding and storing most; remaking bed.
4. Dusting the apartment, excluding bedrooms.
5. Dusting master bedroom. (Twoson's room is his space.)
6. Vacuuming the apartment.
7. Vacuuming the master bedroom.
8. Tidying the living spaces, with TwoSon's help. It looks much neater now.
9. Doing the coming week's food planning and shopping.
10. Cleaning the kitchen.
11. Watering the plants on the balcony.
12. Cleaning and replacing the sugarwater in the hummingbird feeder.
13. Finishing laundering all the new t-shirts I bought mumblety-some weeks ago.
14. Finished laundering my work clothes for the coming workweek.
15. Used online banking to categorize all our income and expenses for the last three months in preparation for doing a new family budget.
16. Currently catching up on laundering the towels, handtowels, etc.

I feel very accomplished, and the weekend isn't yet over.

All this plus time for visiting the game store with TwoSon yesterday. Watching some television, reading a book I bought at Comic Con last weekend (Prepare to Die! by Paul Tobin, which I'm quite liking), and even a little writing. I also bought "Shake It Off" by Taylor Swift on iTunes Friday night, and added it to a couple of playlists. It's a fun song, and a charming upraised middle finger to her critics.

Of course, I'm not looking forward to work this week. It's the end of the month, which means mandatory overtime for yours truly. Ten hour days are not much fun, especially when they start at 5 a.m. (or 3:45 a.m. for me, when my alarm clock will go off in just over twelve hours as I write this). On the other hand, in two weeks, when I get a larger paycheck, well, we can certainly use the money.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/223394.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
25th-Sep-2014 05:12 pm - Rose City Comic Con Report #2
Simon Jester Precious Metals
Belated report, but a report nonetheless.

Snippy and I headed back to the con Sunday morning and got there right at opening. We briefly debated whether to go--we were both tired and the thought of spending Sunday resting was attractive, but ultimately we wanted to see more of the convention. Plus, in our crafty fashion, we expected to have the convention floor to ourselves (for certain values of "ourselves") because most of the attendees would be sleeping in.

This proved to be the case. The aisles were mostly clear, and we were able to navigate them with ease despite the need for a post-surgical walker. Of course, some of the artists/writers weren't there yet either at first. But that was okay. We got a couple of comics signed by the creators, bought a little swag, and walked around gawking at all the art and fiction and stuff for sale.

No panels this time. We just explored Artists' Alley and the marketplace. As the morning wore on people filtered in continuously, until by about 11:30 it was as crowded as it had been the day before. But cooler--because the convention center had finally, FINALLY turned on the air conditioning late Saturday afternoon. Nonetheless by around noon or a little after, we were done. We'd seen what we wanted to see, bought what we'd wanted to buy (if it was available--I persist in believing Marvel is losing huge amounts of money by not putting a Baby Dancing Groot toy on the market ASAP).

On the way home we stopped at our Friendly Local Comic Book Shop (tm) because we hadn't been there in quite a while. We just considered it part of our Comic Con weekend extravaganza. We picked up quite a stack of comics. Because, I repeat, we hadn't been in in a while.

So overall, RCCC was a hit. I wish TwoSon could have had more fun (he didn't join us for the second day), but he'd been having a bad few days and the convention, while it had its high points for him, just didn't enthuse him like it did Snippy and me. We haven't talked about it yet, but I want to go back next year for sure. It was fun.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/223151.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
20th-Sep-2014 03:32 pm - Rose City Comic Con Report #1
Simon Jester Precious Metals
Well, my phone takes sucky photos. I was going to post some pics here, but now I won't.

Mind you, it's a hand-me-down smartphone that is far superior to my old smart phone, but it still takes sucky pictures. Which is too bad, because I took some photos of some really nifty costumes at Rose City Comic Con today. A small kid dressed as baby dancing groot, complete with flower pot. A couple of AIM agents (in bright yellow jumpsuits with cylindrical helmets). The entire cast of Game of Thrones PLUS George R. R. Martin*. And a really terrific Weeping Angel (tm) from Doctor Who. A Ghostbusters team. Plus there were plenty more folks I'd like to get photos of, but I won't try because my camera phone sucks.

Next year I need a better phone for Comic Con. Or an actual digital camera. There are lots of great costumes to see.

On the other hand, we saw a great panel with Greg Rucka, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and Matt Fraction. It was very entertaining. We walked around the floor for a while, and all of us (myself, Snippy, and Twoson) all bought some swag. Lots to see, lots to buy.

Alas, the HVAC was inadequate to the task of cooling the place adequately. Granted, it is unseasonably, un-climately hot in Portland today (in the 90s), but still...you'd think a convention center would be up to the task. But while there were definitely cooler areas, a lot of the space was warm and little humid. We retreated to the Quiet Room, a space set aside for people to sit quietly and read, or just rest away from the noise and activity, or--in the case of one woman who came into the room while we were there--to lay out your prayer rug facing Mecca and pray (silently). But even that room was a little warmer than we'd have liked.

So we left to return home (a convenient 10-15 minute drive) to rest in some real AC before we head back for another panel at 5 this afternoon. This is in keeping with the basic rule propounded by Snippy for years, to leave an event while you're still having fun. If you wait until you're no longer having fun, it can color your memory of the event negatively. If you remember it as being fun right up until you left, you'll remember it more happily.

Then dinner at a local chinese restaurant we really like downtown. And we'll be going back tomorrow for another panel and to see more of the convention floor. Booths full of artists and writers and hucksters and swag, all aswarm with con-goers, many of whom will be wearing elaborate costumes.

*Someone cosplaying as George, just to be clear.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/222795.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
9th-Sep-2014 08:20 pm - Been a long time...
Simon Jester Precious Metals
And it might be a long time before I post again. Or not. I don't know.

I haven't posted much for a long time now because the biggest thing happening in my life right now is something I don't really feel comfortable sharing in a public space like this. And it feels...frivolous to post about lesser things. Like that means I'm not giving sufficient weight to the big issues. Like it proves I'm a bad person to think about anything else, or to enjoy anything else, when there is so weighty an issue at hand.

And yet, I'm the one judging me for that. Life goes on even when you feel like shit, and you can't only focus on your problems. You shouldn't. You need to make room and make plans for good things, because the bad things will come no matter what you do, as a wise person has told me often. But it's a hard lesson for me to practice a lot of the time.

I have a fulltime job again, five years after getting laid off from my previous job of fifteen years. It feels great. Marvelous. I feel like a grown-up again. I'd worked part-time for almost three years, and that was better than nothing but the difference between that and a fulltime job with actual benefits and paid holidays and vacations is like night and day. I don't think I'd realized (or maybe admitted to myself) how badly it hurt to lose my job. I don't like to think of myself as one of those fifty year-old men who loses his job (of fifteen years) and feels like it makes him less than he was, and to wonder if I'll ever get a job in the same field (or for the same money) that I had before. But here I am, working at a job that has nothing in common with my previous one, and doesn't pay as well as that one did.

But it's a real, fulltime job, and I feel like a grown-up again. At least in some ways. (And every sentence I write down is accompanied by one or more I don't write in which the critical voice in my head tells me how I suck. I hate that goddamn voice and wish I could throttle it. It's been my unpleasant companion for most of my life, and led me to say and do things--a lot of things--I regret, both for myself and for the other people I've hurt by doing so.)

I'm working in a call center for a freightmatching company. I started doing part-time data entry work, but now I'm doing a little (a tiny little) bit of that still, but mostly I'm working the phones. I make outbound calls to request certificates of insurance for motor carriers, but I also take inbound calls for customer service (questions, billing/payments), freight matching (posting available trucks for hire or loads that need moving to our database/loadboard), and activation and training (creating login accounts and training new customers on how to use whichever of the many software products we sell). My days are longer but mostly go faster because there's always something new to do.

So, anyhow, smaller things. Frivolous things.

We (my wife and I, and TwoSon, and usually at least one friend) have been to the state fair twice this year. We went to the second annual state Renaissance Festival (we went last year too). They were fun. They were also hot, so keeping cool was a priority. I enjoy these outings. We gawk at the sights, browse some of the vendor stalls (especially at the RenFaire), and eat and drink overpriced but tasty food. We've got Rose City Comic-Con on our agenda for later this month, too. Snippy and I went last year for just an afternoon and really enjoyed, so we're going back (with TwoSon and some friends) for the whole weekend this time.

I've discovered a new tv show: Airplane Repo. It's another reality show, about guys who repossess airplanes. Well, mostly. Also the occasional yacht. I read an article in 2010 about a guy who started a company repossessing airliners, which I found fascinating--so much so that I wrote novelettes and a short novel about a guy who repossesses starships modeled on that idea. The guys in this show don't go after such big prey, but it's still an entertaining show.

We aren't going to Orycon this year. Partly because we're going to Comic-Con instead (but that also partly because we're not going to Orycon, it's a chicken-and-egg thing). We just don't find it to be entertaining enough anymore to be worth the time and money. Most of the people we used to see there don't attend anymore either. We also liked spending time with one couple in particular, but they won't there this year either; they'll be vacationing overseas. We'd considered ghosting the con (hanging on in the hotel's public areas--including the bar--without buying a membership, just to visit with friends), but since that couple will be elsewhere, we won't even bother with that. It's kind of disappointing; Orycon has been a staple of November for us for many years, but it just isn't fun anymore.

Well, that's enough of a random braindump for now, I think. More later, probably.
31st-May-2014 11:54 am - It's been a long time....
Simon Jester Precious Metals
...and no promises that it won't be a long time until the next update. I'm posting this to Dreamwidth and mirroring to LJ, which--alas--has mostly dried up and blown away. Time was when I could hardly keep up with my LJ friends' postings. Now I'm lucky if there are half a dozen to see on any given day.

And now, the news.

We've moved. As anyone who follows my wife's journal knows, we've moved. We moved from a 3-bedroom apartment in another county to a 2-bedroom apartment in the city again. (We sold our house in 2010 and moved out of the city.) We traded space (a third bedroom) for a much shorter commute. Fifteen to 20 minutes instead of 40 minutes to an hour. It's amazing how much time that seems to save us; far more than a mere 20 minutes would suggest.

The old apartment was very nice, but the living area was rather dark. It faced north, and looked at the side of another building in the complex. The master bedroom had a glorious view across the valley and lots of light--almost too much light for a bedroom--but overall the apartment seemed darker than we'd like. Still, it was overall a great place.

The new apartment is MUCH brighter. Our deck (too dark and shady in the old place for plants) is very bright and gets sunlight much of the day, but also still has enough shade for plants that need some. My wife is finally able to do a little gardening again, something she couldn't do in the previous place.

Still, moving into a smaller place requires some sacrifices. Chief among them, I have--at this date--six small moving boxes full of books I'm going to sell to Powell's books or give away to Goodwill if Powell's doesn't take them. I'm pruning my library rather ruthlessly. It was difficult at first. I've been building my library since I was in grade school. But the fact is, I have a lot of books that I'm never going to read again, or never read in the first place. I have ebook versions* of quite a few of the newer ones, as well, so I don't need to hang onto the paperback copies.

Some of the books I've held onto for years or decades, just in case I ever wanted to read them again. In many cases (my Conan novels, first discovered and collected and read in college) I never have. Bye bye. In other cases, I've been holding onto books that I just don't read anymore. Fat traditional fantasy novels, for instance. I don't read those anymore, so they're going to someone else's library. And so forth. Some books made the cut to stay that may eventually be let go in the future. I am sure that at some point I will regret getting rid of a few of my books. But it's worth it, and if I really, really want them I expect can find them again somewhere eventually.

I'll be transporting boxes of books to Powell's to sell this week, when we're not working to empty the numerous boxes still packed from the move. Books aren't the only things we're jettisoning. We have boxes of stuff we never unpacked from the previous move as well as boxes we packed for this one. Time to winnow down our stuff some more.

Oh, and we'll simultaneously be gearing up for Snippy's next surgery in July, and for her recovery. But I'm hoping that this surgery will be the last, and that she'll recover finally after a couple of years of dealing with severe vertigo and its associated

*On my nook, and in Calibre on my desktop and saved (along with all my other documents) in a mirror image of my hard drive on a second drive as well as in the cloud. They're as secure as they can reasonably be.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/222496.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
Simon Jester Precious Metals
Still on the drawing board, of course. And that's probably just as well. Given how poorly many people drive, the thought of them piloting air vehicles over my home--to say nothing of my head--fills me with dread. So...no flying cars.

On the other hand, I'm typing this on a tablet no more than a third of an inch thick, smaller in the other two dimensions than a hardback book, and with more computing power than NASA used to get men to the moon and back. It's connected wirelessly to a small keyboard, and to the entirety of the planet-girdling internet. I can find the answers to most questions that occur to me with an ease that would astound my childhood self--and all without leaving my chair.

We ushered in the bold new year of 2014 at a friend's house. He's hosted a NYE party the last three years and it's always fun. It's low key. Drinks and games--dice games, card games, sometimes board games. We played Coup (a fast-paced card game of bluffing and challenging as you jockey to be the last player left in control of some unspecified coup-prone futuristic banana republic. We played Roll For It! And Unexploded Cow, a cheapass game that would probably be more fun as a drinking game, if you drink. (And if you played it earlier in the evening, when a drinking game wouldn't be an invitation to a hangover the next morning.)

When we got home from the party, there was a car parked in the apartment parking lot with the lights on and the engine running...and someone leaning out the open passenger-side door worshipping the porcelai god in absentia. And doing a very thorough job of it, too. Hope he had fun earlier.

My 2014 got off to a wonderful start with an emailed rejection letter for a story I'd sent out some weeks ago. Oh well. I'll just add it to the Excel spreadsheet I use to track my rejections and sales and send the story out again. I intend to write more this year tha last (that won't be hard), so this is a timely reminder that rejections are just another way to track your efforts.
26th-Sep-2013 09:15 pm - Jack Reacher: Murder Hobo
Simon Jester Precious Metals
Some weeks ago my lovely wife and I went to the coast for the weekend. It was a little getaway for us from the day-to-day trials of her recovery from (her second) surgery on her (second) inner ear to cure her of a debilitating vertigo she's been suffering for over a year now. Not that she's completely recovered yet--that won't happen (per the doctor) for another three or four months. That's when she can expect to be fully recovered from both the surgeries AND from the vertigo that prompted them. But she was recovered enough to enjoy a weekend at the coast.

It was a very nice weekend. We drove down Friday afternoon. We spent a large part of Saturday on the beach, basking in the sun that shone on us despite the predictions of cold and rain. (Which came along on Sunday, a day late.) It was a great day. That night I wandered down to the lobby of the hotel to choose a few DVDs from the huge collection they provide for guests to watch.

We settled on JACK REACHER, the Tom Cruise vehicle from a year or so ago. I'd heard things about the movie, that Cruise was in no way the Jack Reacher from the novels (which I hadn't read), that it was a vanity project (another attempt to prove he was an action hero), etc. But still, we gave it a try.

And it was good. Really, really good. No, Tom Cruise is not 6'5" tall and 250 lbs. But the movie was still a damn good story, and he was convincing enough. We both were really impressed by that movie; so much so, that we bought a copy to own.

And I went to the library to find a copy of the book it was based on, ONE SHOT by Lee Child. The movie followed the novel pretty well. They filtered out a few characters and gave their duties to surviving characters, or simply did without. They gave some of the bad guys some scenes not in the book to flesh them out for the movie. And they added some action that wasn't in the book. But overall it was still a fairly faithful adaptation of the book--and it worked because of that.

I enjoyed that book very much. So I went and borrowed four more, and I'm working my way through them. They're entertaining and instructional. (From a writer's POV, any writer who can write a very popular novel series and get all the books optioned for movies is doing something right, even if his stuff isn't your cup of tea--and these are my cup of tea.)

Tom Cruise is NOT Jack Reacher. Reacher is huge, physically imposing, and a drifter. Jack Reacher is a "murder hobo" in the parlance of some gamers I know. (Your standard RPG action hero PC is a rootless wanderer who finds trouble, kills the guys behind it all--with or without collateral damage, to taste--and then moves on. A murder hobo.)

Jack Reacher is a murder hobo. A former officer in the Army and an MP, he lives with no job, no fixed address, and owns nothing but what he carries with him: the clothes he's wearing, a passport, an ATM card, a roll of cash, and a toothbrush. He supports himself with his pension and the occasional replenishment of his reserves from odd jobs, or cash liberated from bad guys who won't need it anymore. He wears the clothes for a few days, then discards them for new. Expensive habit? Other characters have remarked on that--and he counters with the question, "How much do you spend on your mortgage and insurance every month?" He takes the bus (doesn't fly) when he can, hitchhikes when he can't, and walks when he must.

Typically, he stumbles across villainy in the course of his travels, and when he is unable (sometimes) or unwilling (mostly) to ignore it, he gets involved. While he's capable of cunning, and definitely experienced at violence, he tends not to be subtle. The bad guys can't ever say they weren't warned at least once. By the time all the dust settles, you can be sure that a lot of bad guys will be fucked up, and at least some of them will be dead. Again: murder hobo. Let us be clear: some of the deaths are self-defense. Others are executions.

Jack Reacher is DOING what Jules only talked about in Pulp Fiction*: he walks the earth (well, the USA, anyhow) like the guy in Kung Fu, just going where fate takes him, with no job. Or in the words of Vinny Vega: "A bum." Or in other words, a murder hobo.

These are not "thriller" novels (they're too slow paced and densely written for that). They're mysteries, with action. There's always a mystery at the heart of each novel, one that Reacher will slowly unravel in the course of scratching his curiosity itch and/or teaching the bad guys that they messed with the wrong folks (either Reacher himself or someone he's protecting), before he lights the fuse on the final explosion (literally, in the book I just finished), and then heads on down the road while chaos reigns and the authorities swoop in to pick up the pieces and tag n' bag or arrest the bad guys.

They're not quite like any other novels I remember reading, but I'm enjoying them.

*To be fair to Jules, he may well have followed up on his plan. We just don't see it happen.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/222444.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
14th-Sep-2013 02:27 pm - X-Com: Enemy Unknown
Futurama Scary Door
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.
5th-Apr-2013 09:35 pm - RIP Roger Ebert
Simon Jester Precious Metals
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.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/221836.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
4th-Apr-2013 10:08 pm - Surprising Post is Surprising!
Simon Jester Precious Metals
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.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/221591.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
5th-Dec-2012 08:56 pm - I'm Posting? Stop the Presses!
Simon Jester Precious Metals
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.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/221435.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
16th-Sep-2012 10:50 pm - De Nile ain't just a river...
Simon Jester Precious Metals
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.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/220742.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
26th-Aug-2012 10:19 pm - Weekend Update
Simon Jester Precious Metals
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.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/220581.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
12th-Aug-2012 09:52 pm - Exhausted I Am
Simon Jester Precious Metals
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.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/220391.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
14th-Jul-2012 08:58 pm - Two posts in two days? Inconceivable!
Simon Jester Precious Metals
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.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/220130.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
13th-Jul-2012 11:26 pm - Six Months
Simon Jester Precious Metals
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.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/219753.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
Simon Jester Precious Metals
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.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/219627.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
29th-Nov-2011 10:03 pm - Post Hospitalization Report
Simon Jester Precious Metals
You know the drill. Cut for TMI about abdominal surgery.Collapse )

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/219181.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
22nd-Nov-2011 12:24 pm - BAD Internet Laws Heading Your Way
Futurama Scary Door
Originally posted by write_light at BAD Internet Laws Heading Your Way

From the flist: 

Spread the word, even you're not a US citizen, it is important for everyone!! It easy to do and it can change everything. More info by clicking on the banner.

Website Blocking

The government can order service providers to block websites for infringing links posted by any users.

Risk of Jail for Ordinary Users

It becomes a felony with a potential 5 year sentence to stream a copyrighted work that would cost more than $2,500 to license, even if you are a totally noncommercial user, e.g. singing a pop song on Facebook.

Chaos for the Internet

Thousands of sites that are legal under the DMCA would face new legal threats. People trying to keep the internet more secure wouldn't be able to rely on the integrity of the DNS system.

Read this analysis from boing-boing.net

Get on the phone and call your representative. Express your disapproval. Tell him or her exactly how you feel, and that you don't support this. Tell your friends to call their representatives, their Congressperson, and complain. Mention that you are a registered voter that takes your civic responsibility seriously and that you will use that vote to express your feelings about this.


“We support the bill’s stated goals — providing additional enforcement tools to combat foreign ‘rogue’ websites that are dedicated to copyright infringement or counterfeiting,” the Internet companies wrote in Tuesday’s letter. “Unfortunately, the bills as drafted would expose law-abiding U.S. Internet and technology companies to new uncertain liabilities, private rights of action and technology mandates that would require monitoring of websites.”  The chamber-led coalition in support of the bill includes Walmart, Eli Lilly & Co. and Netflix.

Google and other opponents of the legislation argue that restricting the Internet in the U.S. sets a bad international precedent and that the language defines infringing too broadly.


American Censorship
Whitehouse Petition
Fight For the Future
Save the Internet

15th-Nov-2011 06:29 pm - Gonna get knifed!
Simon Jester Precious Metals

I saw my surgeon today.

Cut for possible medical TMI...Collapse )

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.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/218684.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
Simon Jester Precious Metals
Or...not. Questions, anyhow.

Ganked from 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.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/218390.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
20th-Oct-2011 03:50 am - It's 4 a.m. Do you know where I am?
Simon Jester Precious Metals
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.
This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/217966.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
15th-Oct-2011 12:48 am - Life Goes On
Simon Jester Precious Metals
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.

This entry was originally posted at http://sinanju.dreamwidth.org/217647.html. Comment here or on Dreamwidth.
20th-Sep-2011 10:02 pm - Somedays You're The Bug
Simon Jester Precious Metals
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.

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15th-Sep-2011 11:13 am - Christmas is Coming
Simon Jester Precious Metals
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...in 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 work...at 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!
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