Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cellphone pictures

A few random cell pictures I've taken in the last month or so.

John gets a closer look with mommy's glasses.

Family Fun Gym at the Y. Horray for padded structures!

John shows off eyes so blue he looks like a Fremen from "Dune".

A bright beautiful day at Navy Pier. Sadly I was working.

Glad this wasn't me

People are just unimaginable assholes sometimes.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Kiss me, I'm Irish

Happy St. Patty's day, from the little Irishman.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Second edits of the stories from Thank You, Death Robot are complete. Whew.
The house is quiet, I'm walking down the little hallway outside of our bedrooms, and the overhead light is on. John's room is dark and the door is cracked. I turn off the light.

*click (off)*

"I'M READING MY BOOK!" John yells indignantly from the other side of the door.

*click (on)*

"Sorry bubby."

My parents will understand why this is so funny. When I was about eight or ten, I once burned a hole in my bedspread when I put a desk lamp under it to hide the fact that I was reading some sci-fi novel or another late into the wee hours of the night.


I'm re-reading Dune for probably the seventh or eighth time. I picked it up this time as something to listen to on the car on the way to work instead of the awful morning talk radio or just regular music. Every time I read this book, I realize about a quarter of the way into it that I've forgotten how magnificent it is. This time, hearing it read aloud, I've found I also discover new things that I hadn't grasped on the previous readings. There's the over-layer of epic scope, large, colorful cast, and cunning plot twists and turns, but then there's also the under-layer of subtle foreshadowing, intimidation couched in innocent dialoge that the narrative doesn't really point out to the reader and could be completely missed on a too-fast read.

There are shades of meaning in nearly every line, particularly from the point-of-view character Baron Harkonnen, who persists in my mind as one of the most brilliant examples of controlled, devious viciousness that I've ever read. In the audiobook version, the reader also makes a point of giving Baron Harkonnen an older, more rumbling voice, almost like Treebeard from Lord of the Rings. This was specifically described in the book but sadly neither movie version took advantage of it. It gives the telling of the story a more Shakespearean air. His dialogue, as well, is quite revealing and funny. There's a great scene I didn't remember from the initial readings where Piter the Mentat is laying out the plans to overthrow the Duke to the Baron's nephews and the Baron is trying to get him to knock it off. At first he subtly hints that Piter is saying too much, and then, after Piter basically lets the whole cat out of the bag, the Baron sighs and says slowly: "Someday I'm going to have you strangled, Piter." If ever there was a nervous laughter moment...

There's also another part I noticed this morning in a minor side-scene with the Baron and his nephew Rabban where Rabban (who is called the Beast and taken by everyone including the Baron to be a mindless animalistic killer) hits on the possibility that there may be more Fremen than they originally estimated and that the Fremen may be more dangerous than they thought. The Baron dismisses this out of hand, all the while playing up how thoughtless and unsophistocated Rabban is compared to his brother Feyd Rautha. I had read that scene before several times but never comprehended the hidden meaning where Rabban actually had the right idea and could have changed the course of the entire story had the Baron seen him differently. I had always glossed over that part and assumed that Rabban was exactly what the narrative voice suggested he was.

If you have only ever seen the David Lynch movie version of Dune, you do yourself a disfavor not to read the book. As my friend Jeramy once told me, it's one of the most brilliant and violent things I've ever read. It's a tour-de-force of statecraft and military strategy, palace intrigue and guerilla warfare. The David Lynch version is like a big psychedelic fever dream of the actual story, which is much grittier and not at all the bizarre, jumbled, confusing mess that the movie makes it out to seem. The movie isn't horrible, it has good moments for sure, but the book is considered by many to be the best science fiction novel of all time.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Like it's my job

I've been editing my face off lately. I'm putting together the second, fine-tooth-comb edits of the stories slated for inclusion in Thank You, Death Robot, the long-awaited Silverthought robot-themed anthology. Paul and I have been working on this for literally years and it has taken on an almost mythical nature akin to people hunting snipe or trying to find Prince Albert in a can. People say "when the Death Robot anthology comes out" the way you'd say "when hell freezes over." Due to the interruption of a never-ending series of other projects and side-tracking activities, we've had this in our print lineup for nearly four years now. Nevertheless, it's going to be finished soon and it's slated for release sometime in late Spring. Keep your eyes open! I'll try to post more when I get finished with this round.

Hey, I've even put aside Resident Evil 5, which I've waited years for and Beth bought me, in order to make hay while my creative sun shines. Plus, speaking of the sun shining John and I have been spending lots of quality time at the park lately and playing swords with his foam nerf "lightsabers".

On the bright side, he still occasionally misses.

Pictures and more book release updates coming soon!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Novel progress

I finished the first revision of my new novel last night at about two in the morning. From initial idea to finished first draft I spent about nine weeks writing it. The first revision took a mere eighteen weeks. Oh well.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Hard Boiled

This is pretty smooth. I've been eating a lot of hard-boiled eggs lately because they're filling, easy, cheap and low calorie. Nonetheless, the organic ones (which are better to eat chiefly because they don't use hormones like estrogen on the chickens), are a huge pain in the ass to peel. The sticky interior adheres to the inside of the shell and you end up losing 20-30% of the egg white when you peel the damned thing.

Until now.

A strangely good deal

My wife signed us up for Amazon Prime earlier this year on one of those "trial" periods where it automatically renews after 30 days and charges you for a year of service if you don't cancel it. Well, we forgot to cancel the renewal so we got signed up for a year of it at a cost of something like $79. At first we were irritated that we had obviously signed ourselves up for some relatively useless value-added service scam. Even a dense or slow consumer should be able to see that the $79 we spent would be difficult to make up with the money we'd supposedly "save" on shipping and faster service.

And we were wrong.

This service has been an absolute godsend to us this year. Not only did we save several times over the money we spent on the membership, but we now have the convenience of ordering from Amazon and getting 1-2 day shipping on everything. We're busy people and we're parents, and getting to a local store wasn't always a viable option for us around the holidays or birthdays, let alone just to fit into our work- and parenting-dominated weekly schedule. Not only does Amazon have nearly every book, movie, music selection, electronic gadget, toy, game, and loads of other stuff, but they have it at prices that approach much closer to the national average than our local marked-up Chicagoland stores do (not to mention the horrific 11.0% sales tax in Cook County that literally feels like I got a pay cut). The end result: we saved a pile of money and internet shopping has never been easier.

Here's how it works:

You pay (all up front, I believe) a $79-ish membership fee for Amazon Prime. The primary benefit of this membership is that you get free (completely free, not just reduced) 2-day shipping on everything you buy. Amazon has things like bicycles and carburetors, etc, that aren't sold by Amazon itself but rather third parties, these items do NOT qualify for Amazon Prime, but nearly everything else does, including some of the "Used" sellers. If you absolutely have got ants in your pants about getting some purchase fast, you can upgrade your shipping to overnight/next day for around $3.99. Super cheap, when you consider that it's generally $20-ish for next day air on something small. For most things, though, even impulse purchases, 2nd day is usually plenty fast. If Amazon fails to deliver your item by the time promised, they refund the cost of the 2nd day shipping to you. This has only happened once in the several dozen purchases we've made this year, and they refunded it without question which I thought was more than fair.

Need to get someone a birthday present fast? No problem. Want to avoid completely the holiday gift rush? Screw malls. Want to take the guesswork out of painfully "tracking" packages delivered UPS ground that can take days (or weeks)? Never worry about it again. Want the Amazon selection (and more importantly their sale prices), without giving up the "get it now" convenience? Amazon Prime is for you.

I normally roll my eyes at people that get suckered into crap service upgrades like this, but I almost cannot stress enough how fun and easy this is. And the membership does easily pay for itself even if you're not a big internet shopper. But this service is almost like iTunes and TiVo were to music and television; once you get it, you never think the same way about internet shopping again. You start snorting and looking down your nose at internet vendors that refuse to ship second day air and you almost can't live without it. I occasionally walk into stores like Best Buy and Target looking for things like books or DVDs and even if they have them right in front of me to impulsively just buy I go home and get them from Amazon.

Last night I bought myself a Jawbone Bluetooth headset to replace my Samsung one that crapped out. This is a very nice Bluetooth that has an MSRP of $129.00, and a typical retail price around $110.00. Last night Best Buy was the only place I could find one on the shelf and they were selling for the full $129.00 (which with the sales tax came to a staggering $143.19, see what I mean about "brutal"?). I went home and picked up the same item through Amazon, shipped 2-day delivery, for dum-dum-daaaaaa: $82.00.

So the ability to (1) take advantage of Amazon's sales and middle-of-the-road pricing and (2) get the item shipped to me not just quickly but completely free, saved me $61.19 last night. One shipment with one item in it nearly paid for the yearly membership fee.

Anyway, my rant is over. If you're a busy person or you order a lot of stuff online, get Amazon Prime. It's sweet.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Someone saved your life tonight

This is a post I'm going to have to wait a while on, since the subject matter is so new and so fresh and so personal. I saved someone's life yesterday. I felt really crappy about it at first, like instead of saving them all I had done was narrowly avoid fucking up their care. When I look back on it now, though, that wasn't the case at all.  It was all me, and I need to just stop being embarrassed about accepting responsibility for it. I was chatting with Paul about it later and when I took a minute to put John to bed, when I came back he said "Save anyone while you were gone, Jesus?" That made me laugh and brought me back to my senses. This wasn't the first time that quick action by me has made a big difference to a patient, but this was the first time it was ALL me, and it was the first time that it wasn't just avoiding something but rather recognizing something that was happening behind the scenes and escalating their care at a critical moment when if I hadn't they were virtually guaranteed to be in the ground today. I bought myself a nice Bluetooth Jawbone headset to celebrate. And I drank a bottle of Coke. And I lost my cellphone at Target and had to have the nice security ladies help me realize that I had inadvertantly stuck it in the belly pouch of my Gap sweatshirt.

Oh well. Whatever. Bring it, world. I saved somebody's life today. w00t! *dances* Yay me! What was that? I can't hear you over the sound of how fucking awesome I am.

Pilcrow Lit Fest

I'm very excited to announce that I have been invited to participate in this year's Pilcrow Lit Fest by its founder, fellow Chicago author Amy Guth.

The festival takes place over seven days (May 17th-23rd), at a number of very cool Chicago venues, and will feature panels with some of the best and brightest upcoming independently published authors in the US and beyond. Last year's festival drew around 80 authors from as far away as Switzerland.

I've been invited to sit on panels and participate in the Rebuilt Books Auction, where authors dismantle their books and remake them into some form of sculpture or art. Last year's festival raised something on the order of $4,000 for the effort to rebuild the New Orleans Public Libraries following the destruction of hurricane Katrina.

I encourage you to check out their website, and come to the events if you're anywhere near the midwest in May. It's my first time on an author's panel, too, so I'm pretty much guaranteed to stutter and sound nervous. Come and watch me squirm!