Letters to Holly

Monday, December 27


The good news is that the deputy got a white Christmas. The bad news is that so did all of the eastern half of the country.

My vacation started Friday, and the boy and I spent much time together as Your Sister visited old friends and attended an evening church service. All was clear. Then we woke up Saturday to a snow that never ended.

We lost satellite service around noon. Your Sister and I have passively established a morning schedule with him: she sleeps in, and I mind him until about noon, depending on how she wants to feed him. While we have plenty of frozen milk, she may have jury duty next week, and we'll need that to feed him. She also has a cold that's reduced her milk flow, leaving not much to pump and store. For now, he drinks straight from the tap.

After she awoke and I handed him over, I gussied up to climb the roof and clear the dish. I always forget how far it is from the roof edge, and my plan to jostle the dish with a broom was chucked as soon as I saw there was no way to reach the dish from the ladder. I stood on that ladder a good three minutes debating the intelligence of following through. I decided that a fall from that height onto that much snow would probably be somewhat better than landing on the ground. And with that slight comfort, I decided to try it.

Up I went, and the wenting went well at first. I dusted off the dish, and eased my way down, and it was within five feet of the ladder that I started sliding toward the gutter. I was only stopped by the mound of snow my sliding created between me and the ladder. I realized I had positioned myself on one leg, instead of keeping both shoes on the shingles. Once I got back to one flat sole and at least one toe section, I could control my movements to the ladder and gently gently gently reach my legs over to stand on it. We stayed in the rest of the day. We did Christmas in the afternoon once the sidekick was settled, and it went well. Your Sister made a new lamb recipe that was astounding, and we cut into our holiday red velvet cake.

On Sunday, I attacked the driveway, for, I think, the fifth time this year. Unlike the previous storms, this was mostly snow, and it was an easier row to hoe. I could work the shovel like a gliding plow instead of digging, lifting, carrying, and dumping it. That Girltalk album got me through it, and I again thank ye kindly. The new neighbor walked over with a beer as a way of introduction, and I told him I'd hold off until I finished the drive. He told me he was trying to dig his driveway clear so his parents could get back to Myrtle Beach. When I finished ours, I walked over to help him clear his, but he had finished already. Instead, we talked families and weather. I gave him some bags of cocoa Your Sister made before getting back inside to thaw.

We had to rescheduled today's doctor appointment for the boy, and we're aiming for Thursday. We have no idea what the weather will do for our Wednesday and Thursday plans. I've already bumped back a photo session with a high-school buddy for Thursday. It depends on how warm the air gets, and what kind of snowplow traffic we get in the next two days.

Picture of the Day
We may use these hobo signs if we try to walk into town.Before the boy came along we would trudge through the white junk to the local Italian spot. Now, we'll have to drive there if we can go at all.

Wednesday, December 22

Moving Forward

The music is a'downloadin' as I type.

I'm only as far as the Beastie Boys in burning our CDs. This is gonna take a while. Although, I think I already burned the Beatles so that's eight or so CDs I can skip.

I'm listening to guest-host Hal Sparks on the Stephanie Miller Show, and he's streaming the president's formal signing of the DADT repeal. I'm obviously glad it's on the way out, but the Pentagon will still need to make adjustments, and Congress could vote down any financial bills needed to make those changes. Still, this repeal is the product of political arm-wringing and generational distinctions. We no longer live in a culture where the only gay representations are limp-wristed fops or skeevy club-hoppers. The easy punchlines in the 1970s were the wispy gentlemen and niche performers like Liberache and Paul Lynde. Do you know Paul Lynde?

I think it's too simple to say AIDS humanized homosexuality to the mainstream. I don't think it was one event that made gays less abhorrent to the majority. But I think we can point to educational programming like Sesame Street that made it a point to say diversity was no sin, and when sitcoms began tackling social matters like homosexuality, it lost its stigma. I think it's similar to the thinking that a generation raised on Eddie Murphy, Tiger Woods, Bill Cosby, Michael Jordan, Whitney Huston, and the emergence of rap/hip-hop would have no trouble with a black president. That's why John McCain is on the wrong side of this; he seems to have never reconciled his generation's notions of gays and his personal associations with the military. Not even a gay daughter can sway him. He's entrenched. I feel sorry for his mental roadblocks, but only to the point that he's intentionally preserving the mindset.

+ + +

I'm tracking the Amazon order for Your Sister, and, while the package is officially in the state, it's on your side of it. It has three days to move four hours this way. I have my fingers crossed.

Real-Time Girl Talk Reaction
Skee-Lo mixed with T-Pau is awesome. Old Dirty Bastard + Radiohead is eye-popping.

Tuesday, December 21

It's What We Really Wanted

New comics are up.

Under an arrangement with My Mom, we would buy our Christmas gift, and she'll reimburse us.We decided to get a smaller stereo unit and replace the frat-boy unit I've had for most of the decade. The old one is fine, but it requires a standalone cart, and that cart clutters up the large room and it's running out of room for our CDs. Virtually all single-unit stereos include an iPod dock, and getting one of these lets us remove the cart entirely. So we bought one. That required getting a new, larger capacity iPod, and I picked up a 16G player that claims to hold 4,000 songs. That should be plenty. Now, unfortunately, I need to burn all our CDs, and this will take some time. The transition to the new stereo unit will not be immediate.

Note: We'll keep our CDs squirreled away. You'll still be able to rifle through them to burn whatever catches your eye.

Buy the two pieces meant going to Best Buy, and Best Buy was a scarf bedecked riot. I genuinely pity the associates; I've worked such jobs at Christmas time, and between the foot pain and increased employer demands, you have to handhold shoppers who haven't done their homework before walking in the door. I hope to go to stores and malls during this week's lunch breaks just to watch the madness.

Your Sister delivered cocoa to her teacher buddies during school yesterday and took the sidekick in a Santa hat. Cooing ensued, I'm lead to understand.

We're aiming at next Wednesday for a holiday meal. So far, My Mom is the only one to RSVP. You're certainly welcome too.

Picture of the Day
Maybe we'll catch up on movies during the vacation.

Monday, December 20

Don't Ask, Don't Have a Cow

We watched the Senate votes on Saturday. The final Don't Ask Don't Tell vote was originally scheduled to take place around noon before it was pushed back three hours to accommodate debate on the START Treaty. We tuned in just in time to see the DREAM Act, providing citizenship to illegal aliens who serve in the military, fail in the chamber. The DADT vote was a pleasant surprise, 65-31, and the president should sign it into law soon.

I heard the usual rhetoric about this on the drive home Friday -- DADT gives gays special rights, this will weaken the military, and it disrupts unit cohesion. When I hear the argument about rights in the military, I don't hear the obvious counter: When is bigotry upheld in the military? Soldiers can't veto their commander's orders on grounds of prejudice if they're paired with a Catholic or black or a woman. Why would they get to mumble about the gay soldier they're partnered with?. (Ignoring for the moment the old irrational notion that homosexuals have no criteria and will fuck everyone in their gender).  As George Will said Sunday:
WILL: The Marines are a small service in which every Marine is a rifleman, and their specialty is small-unit combat, and unit cohesion matters. With that said, the Marines have their orders from the commander-in-chief. You tell a Marine to take the hill, the hill will be taken, and therefore they're going to implement it.
There seems to be a mass assumption that allowing gays to serve openly means the military will place walk-in volunteers into war zones without boot camp or basic training of any kind. Anyone who signs up still has to cut muster before they're deployed. Whoever is in the war zone will be prepared and capable no matter who they dream about when they fluff up their pillow. And the rampant fears of sudden sexual harassment against straights suggests that the military won't be allowed to shut down anyone's unwanted advances. That's crap. Military discipline is still in effect. The only thing this law changes is automatic discharge for soldiers discovered to be gay. 

The deputy seems to have a small cold. We think we all three have the same nasal drip, and it's affecting his sleep patterns. He had a rough weekend but managed to sink back into his bedtime pattern last night. He and I had more time together than normal. Your Sister ran errands and finished Christmas craftwork while I watched him, and I took him to the store Sunday to give her a baby-free hour. I got frustrated with him; he was unsettled from the head cold and all our comforting tricks were failing. But I started to regard him as a miniature version of Your Sister (granted, as an outie instead of an innie), and that got me through. He seems to have gotten through the worst of it.

Picture of the Day
I've almost finished backing up my Christmas gifts.

Thursday, December 16

Christmas Shopping

I scrambled through the mall, desperate to find a gift for Your Sister. I had no clue. I considered jewelry and used the constant TV ads that appeared during football games as her barometer. She wasn't having it. Said it's needless. Said she'd never get to wear it around the deputy. The first jewelery I bought her was a pair of diamond earrings. She traded them in for a wristwatch. She hadn't asked for jewelry since her last-second request for a Valentine's Day ring a few years back. She probably wants a trinket, but the commercials turn her off to the whole industry. So that's out.

I considered a Kindle/Nook, but it doesn't seem like that great a deal. The tech is eye-catching initially, but they're small and limited, and you're still paying double digits for books. There's no savings, and the machine is more fragile than a paperback and more expensive to replace. I very much like the idea of it, and I think she does too. However, I think she'd see it as a luxury. Maybe after a couple more advancements, they'll be irresistible. Besides, we didn't throw down a pile of money on bookshelves for nothing. And the final argument against buying a Kindle: Amazon gives away the software free for laptops.

I left the mall empty handed. I hoped to find the new John Mellencamp CD for her, but the mall's only record store didn't have it. I knew than that Amazon would be my lord and savior, and after about five minutes of freeform scanning, I found the gift.

It's the collected O'Brian books about Jack Aubrey, including the unfinished 21st novel. Also she'll get this:

It's an illustrations of ships from that time period. And I found that CD to give her too. Amazon saved my fish-pill-popping bacon.

Speaking of the Omega 3 pills, they make my stomach unhappy. Your Sister received a similarly solid report from the doctor yesterday. Our stats are parallel, small wonder given that we eat almost the exact same things. Her cholesterol is fine, and she will be taking none of my fish pills. Here RDW (red blood cell distribution width) was a little low, but that's not surprising. She's always cold and quick to get lightheaded. The doctor suggested that it's normal for her and possibly no cause for alarm. Considering all the junk food we eat, our overall cholesterols are strong.

Moving Picture of the Day
The first trailer for Thor, Marvel's next comic movie. Captain America follows soon after, and those will set up Avengers, with characters from the Iron Man and Hulk films.

This plot is not canon. Yes, Thor was banished from Asgard for hubris, but he was trapped in the body of a doctor with a limp working out of New York. Still, seeing big-budget Asgardian production design is cool and cool some more.

Wednesday, December 15

Take Your Medicine

Oh, sure. I could have bought the cheaper Omega 3 pill that gives me only 300 mg of magic fish essence. But the slightly more expensive pills give me 460 mg of Omega 3. Decision made. Bottle opened. Eyes widened.

These pills could derail a train. They are large-calibre bullets of oil.

The bottle suggests three pills a day, but the doctor says two will do. She shall be heeded. I've had three so far with no signs of gills yet.

It remains shockingly cold, and more things are to tumble from the sky tonight. My online weather source gave up on forecasting what we'll get and replaced "snow" or "rain" with "precipitation."

Your Sister today for her physical with the same doctor I just saw. We'll compare blood work when I get home.

I sent off my submission for the 2011 convention collector cards, but I'm skeptical that it will be used. Despite assurances that they would contact me in October to follow up on an August request for card art, I was told just last week that they had filled up all their card needs. It was suggested I could send in my submission, and they would use it if room magically appeared. This greatly displeases me. If a card is not produced, I'll make my own and distribute them where their cards are. Also, I can use the card art to make fliers. Your Sister started reading my script for the new hero comic. I'm curious how it reads in script form.

Picture of the Day
Yes, it's that cold.

Tuesday, December 14

Checking Things

This is some cold cold right here.

We tested the road conditions Monday afternoon. Your Sister needed to deposit a check, and she was feeling the pinch of cabin fever. I was in the workshop almost all day, working on office stuff through a virtual desktop. The ice was the worst on the road connecting us to the main road; the shade prevents the sun from burning away anything. But it's been scraped and sanded, and we made it down and back with no trouble in her newish Nissan, the SUV. It was a cookie-and-beer run, and I discovered my hometown microbrewery label in our grocery store. Huzzahs erupted.

I had my physical this morning, my first in more than six years. I peed, I coughed, I exhaled during the prostate check, and I wore a terrycloth skirt for the whole thing. We ran through my blood work from last Tuesday, and the only hiccup is my good cholesterol is too low, and the doctor suggested I take Omega 3 supplements. My total cholesterol is 179, a solid number despite my diet of junk and crap and fluff. Also, she told me to keep running. Everything else was solid. She said I have good genes. 

Picture of the Day
Doesn't everyone have their physical in an operating theatre?

Monday, December 13

Double Drained

I'm on the call/mail list for the local charity group that organizes blood drives, and I made an appointment for this weekend. Almost as soon as I sat down with my waiting number, I was asked what my blood type was, and a shining light appeared in the eyes of the organizer when I told him O positive. Would you consider a double donation, he asked. I've done it before, and I know it takes much longer than the usual pint. I said it depended on the time involved and was assured it would be maybe an hour. Twenty seconds later, that was an hour and fifteen minutes. I called Your Sister to see if she could spare me for two hours, and she groggily said yes. OK, I told them, hook me up.

Unlike with previous donations, I had two "yes" answers on the pre-pint checklist. I always tell them I had a heart murmur in middle school, but I had to tell them this time that, yes, I had come in contact with someone else's blood because my wife gave birth. They blew those off, and I suspect I could tell them that not only have I, say, had sex with someone who lived in Africa, I could have dug a hole in Somalia and actually had sex with the continent of Africa, and they wouldn't care. These drives have quotas, and they eye my big-veined supply of warm blood as a walking snickerdoodle.

But the apheresis machine was wonky, and they announced I'd have to wait. I wasn't keen on that, and I said so. Also, if I'm going to be hooked up to that contraption, I'd like to know what's wrong with it. Nothing major, they said. It was a problem with the displays. It had to reboot. The drive organizer backed me up here and told them I couldn't linger. I had a limited window to bleed, and I had to get to steppin.' Within 15 minutes, the machine was back up, and I was in the chair and draining. They gave me the aluminum blanket to stay warm (trivia: this is the same type of foil used to insulate the Apollo lunar module) and Tums for my tingling lips, a symptom of calcium deprivation.

I noted that the floor trembled when someone walked by, and the nurse instead suggested I was shivering. I doubt that. Still, the saline replacement for the plasma was chilled and obvious as it hit my arm. Once they had their fill, and I ate their cookies and juice before getting Starbucks for Your Sister and me.

Rumors moved through town that the Sunday snowfall was gonna come early. We zoomed to the grocery store, and there was everybody. The rumors panned out, and we got almost five inches before Sunday. Your Sister felt some cabin fever (and probably some misanthropy) and volunteered to clear the driveway. I hovered over junior. Within a half-hour, she had caught the eye of a passing freelance snowplow, and he happily scrapped our driveway clear. That left Your Sister with less to do, and she helped the neighbors shovel their pavement. They told her they were tired of clearing their steep drive, and they were selling the house. It's a nice place, but that driveway does look like a beast to shovel.

We gave the boy his first sweet potato, and he seemed to like it. I mean, he puts everything in his mouth, so I can't see him getting indignant over foodstuffs. He returned from Your Parents' Friday, and Your Mom seemed more cheerful than she's been maybe since they came back from the last trip. Maybe Your Dad talked to her.

My Mom is feeling Dad's absence again, and I wonder if she's becoming inured to the anti-depressant. It's also the holidays and she's no longer working. I want her to get out of the house, and we suggested she hang out with Your Sister and the boy every once in a while. She's keen on coming up for a holiday meal and visit with whomever can make it.

We're asking a high-school friend of mine to do our first portraits as a trio. She lives fairly close by, and we'll feed her in addition to paying her photography rate.

I'm working from home today and will spend some downtime proofing the comic script so Your Sister can read it. I think she'll dig it.

Oh, I bought a set of markers and took another pass at the holiday cards I'm sending out. Even with the snow, they should be received before Christmas.

Friday, December 10

I Like to Do Drawrings.

I'm doing two drawings this year for some online folks.

One online acquaintance, whom I've since met at conventions, sends out handdrawn cards each year to a small group of friends. I've gotten three, including this year's. It's a big gesture. He needs some reciprocal love.

He sent this. It's Sergeant Slaughter fighting Destro, a GI Joe character. Sarge is a real-life wrestler who, in a stroke of complete fucking genius, was brought into the GI Joe universe and toy line. His finishing move is the Cobra Clutch, a sleeper hold, and he's applying to a member of Cobra. There's so much right about this drawing.

In response, I'm sending him this. I assume he likes Hawkman. Who doesn't like Hawkman?

I only have three color markers. I can offer him no flesh tones. This is, by the way, the best Hawkman I've ever drawn.

I'm sending an online Secret Santa winner this drawing:

I quickly drew them both yesterday as I watched the sidekick. Your Sister was off attending a teacher workshop. She'll meet up with a college buddy today while Your Parents watch the boy.

He had a horrible night, and we suspect the Christmas lights kept him awake. They're a low intensity blue, and we hoped they'd replace the nightlight. But his vision may not be able to filter them the way we can. Once we unplugged them, he slept. Lesson learned. His howling was so bad, we suspected teething. It's still early for that, although My Mom says I teethed (tothed? toothed?) at three months.

Thursday, December 9

Going Ahead With Things

Achievement unlocked.

I feel like James Bond. I didn't even know about the cards until I saw yours.

The insulated curtains are up in the nursery, and the room feels much better.

As it stands now, My Mom will come up for a holiday dinner, and Your Parents won't. When Your Sister suggested it to them, Your Mom told her to not plan anything and let things just happen. She said she would give me their Christmas presents to us tomorrow when I drop off the deputy. That sounds like they are avoiding any family get-together in the wake of the July 4, Veteran's Day, and Thanksgiving assemblies. Can't say I blame them. OK, I could blame them to some degree, but, really, why? They only hurt themselves by boycotting or grumbling through such events. When I talked to My Mom last night, she asked specifically what was going on with Your Parents in Alabama. I suspect they will, in fact, come by when they remember the deputy will be a quarter of the way further into his first year.

We're thinking of getting a new stereo system to replace the fratboy boom system I hastily bought after my separation. Actually, I now remember I got that for Christmas from my parents as the separation began. They were inclined to replace everything taken by the missus to both comfort me and spite her. Either way, the current system requires its own stand. I'd like to get rid of that and get a smaller system to fit in the bookshelves. We'd then burn all the CDs to our laptops and move them to a docked iPod. I'd also like to get a second drawing table so I can work on the next comics in the house proper.

I'm drawing comic Christmas cards for some online friends. I also contacted the convention folks to remind them they once asked if I'd make a collector card to promote next year's show. The card is made, and I'd like to get that piece out in public view.

The deputy has learned how to blow raspberries. Now he can make that noise from both ends.

Tuesday, December 7

Hello, Winter

The Friday doctor's appointment was good news/bad news.

The dandy: The doctor said that if he's shown even incremental improvement, that's a sign that he'll completely grow out of this by the time he's one year old. His rule contends that "90% of the patients get 90% better 90% of the time. " He'll stay on the Prevacid and return in six months.

The stinky: All that took 30 seconds and a $60 co-pay. Seems like we could have done this over the phone for free.

It's true that his snoring is a tenth of what it once was, and I wonder if the Prevacid is for our assurance more than his health. After more than a week of sleeping on his back, we've heard no regression, suggesting the reflux is under control. What has interrupted his sleep is the cold snap. It's f'ing freezing. Literally. We've ordered insulated curtains for his room. As I type, there's snow blowing like crazy in Asheville. I stayed home Monday and put up the Christmas tree. Your Sister bought the boy's first stocking. He can fit in it.

We piled into the car again and drove to a nearby Christmas street market in Flat Rock. It was nice. Small, but nice. The sleet probably affected the turnout, leaving more edibles for us. Your Sister specifically went for the advertised mushroom soup only to be told by that vendor that he couldn't get it together in time. Her grievous wound was salved with Starbucks.

The deputy and the cat now have wrestling characters in my new video game. They are tag team champions, and their entrance music is "No Sleep Til Brooklyn." I love this game.

I dropped by my new GP today for my pre-physical bloodwork. I was told I would replenish the three vials' worth by tonight, and this would not affect my ability to donate a pint Saturday. I assume they would call immediately if the vials turned out to be filled with buffalo sauce.

We'd like to have family over around Christmas and New Year's for a meal. Are you available?

Picture of the Day
Build your own Falcon.

Friday, December 3

Forward Progress

The first draft of my third convention comic script is done.

I write as long as the momentum allows, set the script aside, and return later in the day to see if it will bellow a lingering ember. Often that does happen.

This morning's work was not what I expected. I didn't know what the final image/thought of the story would be. I've provided the big moments of the superheroine origin but not an obvious exit. I figured I'd need to hammer out some dents and prune weak dialogue before building a new scaffolding. To my surprise, I only needed to apply one final sentence to button the script. I mentally skipped what could have been a page of talking and dropped the capstone in place.

I'm as relieved as I am delighted. Now I can print it and get to polishing. I still need to determine how many pages I can feasibly draw and afford between now and May.

Almost Obligatory Baby Information
Despite the doctor's advice, Your Sister gets a mite concerned when the boy doesn't have a bowel movement. He reminded us that some babies can go three weeks without it. He hadn't befouled a diaper since the weekend, and she set her mind to fixing that when I brought him back from Your Parents' house last night. Protracted stomach massage ensued, and she seemed as physically relieved as he when he was placed naked on the changing station and extruding what appeared to be a few pounds of batter. Within a half hour, he had drunk 8 oz. of milk and was sacked out in the crib. We see the otolaryngologist Friday afternoon.

Dramatic Confession from My Innermost Dungeon of Shame of the Day
I had to look that word up.

Picture of the Day
To celebrate my comic work, I shall mosh with my crocs.

Thursday, December 2

Baby Learning

I compared the sidekick to a videogame a few months back. I was referring to the template of a self-contained series of tests a player will encounter. Used to be, video games were simple button-mashers; the only trick was timing the correct button press. But as technology and competition expanded, the gaming universe developed a puzzle subsystem now seen in almost every current major game. This is what parenting is like.

Particularly, I could compare him to a customizable role-playing character. As we develop specific skills (solid food, sitting up, etc), he becomes distinct from other babies as he develops on the same general timeline. By giving him certain tools and tasks, we're molding him. But that means we have to respond to his responses. We're in a feedback loop, and that forces us to out-think him.

Take his new sleep position. We took him out of the bassinet last week, and he's slept in the crib ever since. I'm relieved with this; that crib needed more business. He proved he could sleep flat on his back with the travel bed, but he's accustomed to curling up in deep sleep because of the bassinet frame. As we moved him to the crib, he still curls up and his subsequent leg movement will often jerk him awake. I'm not shocked by this. He has the leg muscles of a gymnast. That muscle jerk keeps him from sleeping and us from eating supper. We would have to scoop him up again and hold him until he reached a deep enough sleep to last through the next put-down attempt. Recently, I tried simply holding down his legs after putting him down, and it worked. He crashes quickly. I told Your Sister about it, and she got the same results on her nights to put him down.

A few weeks back, I started setting him upright to build the sitting muscles. I'll keep him this way for ten minutes at a time. Just last night, he put his right hand flat beside him, locked the elbow, and stayed upright for a few seconds. He's evolving. Your Sister was amazed. By the end of the year, just after his six-month birthday, he might be sitting by himself.

He doesn't have the dexterity to mimic the sign language, but we suspect his acute arm movements are his tried at it. Not that there's any mystery when he's hungry. He began keening and lowing right before the hunger cries start. It gives us time to warm up bottled milk. He's teaching us.

Picture of the Day
We've become fans of the The Walking Dead. This season has only six episodes, and it ends this Sunday. This is a behind-the-scenes shot of the very first scene, and it influenced my comic script (first real draft almost done). Specifically, it gives us the tone of the series and some zombie violence early on before moving toward the slower establishing scenes. It hooks us. I needed that for my comic, and that helped unlock the other parts of the script between the major moments I had in mind.

Wednesday, December 1

Reading and Chewing

I've shaken up my weekly routine a bit by eating actual meals for lunch. I previously avoided all restaurants during my lunch break for a number of reasons, but mostly I didn't want to be That Guy Who Eats Alone. It's sad. I've always found it sad to see, and I didn't want to multiply that feeling by being That Guy.

I used to at at my office. When the office eating policy changed, I took to window shopping to kill my lunch break, and I'd snack to maintain my blood sugar. Recently though, I decided it was no sin to sit down and eat a meal, and I've ventured into a few of the local eateries: Golden Palace (great for lunch), Firehouse Subs (overpriced), Burger King (heavy on the stomach), and others. Whenever I went to a restaurant, I took a book. Otherwise, I hit a store or two and grab Starbucks and bananas for lunch. I think that helped me lose weight, and it is a filling meal. I eventually worked up curiosity about the sports bar and went in a few weeks back with a West Wing scriptbook.

Yesterday was my third trip into the sportsbar across the street, and I had a new book, The Wordy Shipmates, an extended essay on the Pilgrims. I've probably created a reputation as That Weird Book Guy because, come on, who takes a book to a sports bar? But the lunch prices are good, and I'm filled up, and it's well lighted. There are banks of TV screens showing mostly sports highlights, and I can only watch so much of that without hearing the channel. And instead of staring at the walls, I want to read. Yesterday, I made a shocking discovery: A man reading a book in a sportsbar lures waitresses. I'm sure, were I a hump, I could exploit this. I'm surprised by it, but the sight must be such a rarity that people slow down to interact with it like a car crash on the freeway.

One of the recurring comments during the Thanksgiving assembly was how much a baby instills within a new parent (me) an expanded scope of love and purpose. So far, I'm not feeling it. My resolve to care for the sidekick remains intact, and yes, I'm willing to punt other kids who bother him. But that alleged supernova glow of harmony doesn't broadcast through me. I'm still the same me as before, but now I have a small roommate who can't walk. I suppose I'm the kind of parent who doesn't romanticize the infant stages. I prefer someone who can talk and walk, someone who can convey a personality. I can work with that. I can grow attached to that. Now? He's a larva in clever onsies.

Picture of the Day
I found this yesterday.

Tuesday, November 30

Socks and Sabers

I've enjoyed my months of wearing Converse without socks, but now that time must end. The sharp, cold air is too stark, even for my short walks from the car to the office or the mall. Add to that the strong probability of rainstorms, and these simple canvas shoes won't cut it. I must dust off my socks. I must smother my feet and say goodbye to the Converse until spring's sunlight again warms the earth. Converse with socks, so suggest? I'd need to buy a size larger to accommodate the socks. Also, that combination doesn't look right. Converse are practically boat shoes. Socks are unnecessary.

I bought three new pairs at Target, and the flustered clerk only rang up two of them. I debated saying something, but the register aisles were crammed. I didn't want to add to the wait times of those behind me, and, hey, free socks.

I've been paralyzed in writing the new hero comic. My brain churns with plot strands and scenes, but formatting it on paper freezes me. concerns of issue length and format stymie me, and I need to simply write everything down as it flows and whittle it to an affordable size later on. This is what I must do. Yes. Now to do it. I know what happens in the story but not how the comic will depict it. I'm wary of starting with four pages of conversation -- and as I type this, I think I figured out how to avoid that.

The deputy seems to have forgotten how to sleep all night, and I wonder if the change to crib sleeping put him off his schedule.

Picture of the Very Cold, Rainy Day
Empire director Irvin Kershner died this weekend. This image is from Ain't It Cool News.

Watching Empire this weekend, by sheer confidence, I noted a new subtext to the Vader/Luke fight created by the prequels. We know from an earlier Empire scene that Vader would rather turn Luke than kill him. But Vader reveals to Luke that he wants to team up to overthrow the Emperor. I suggest that that's half the new story.

I think Vader wants Luke to turn to prove to himself that he wasn't weak when he turned on the Jedi and caused Padme's death. If Luke can turn, anyone can, and Vader would be no worse than anyone else. I propose he yearns to settle this in hopes of redeeming himself, but Luke wants Vader to join him and redeem himself via a Skywalker family intervention. They both want the same thing -- Vader's peace of mind -- but Vader sees himself as so corrupted and low that he fights Luke's sales pitch of the good side of the Force. We get that in Return, but it's delivered in such simple terms that it lacks heft.

Also, I wonder if age plays a part in the Empire fight. As they begin, Vader exclusively wields his saber with one hand, and it's a theatrical move: Luke is fresh from Jedi boot camp with Yoda and Ben and is fighting to save his friends. He has initiative and vigor. Vader plays the part of a grizzled gladiator who is in no way threatened by this. The stance gives him a swagger I missed the first four dozen times I saw the film. Vader has been cleansing the galaxy of Jedi and rebels for decades; he shouldn't be threatened by a dirt farmer even if he is carrying Vader's old weapon.

Maybe we do need to show the films in episodic order to the deputy. I intended to go by release date before I considered all this.

Monday, November 29


I did a strip for my friend's Comics From Space webcomic, and it went live this morning. There will be a batch of guest strips, and mine is the first.

I was flattered to be asked and immediately set down what I thought was the perfect idea for a joke involving those characters. Within two weeks, the joke was used by a Conan O'Brien ad. After much cursing and cat kicking, I summoned up another gag and sent the strip in ridiculously early to avoid a similar joke theft. That's probably why my strip is the first to see daylight.

My voice is low and rumbly today, making me sound hungover. Your Sister and I ended the weekend by watching The Walking Dead, a new series based on a zombie comic. It's hitting her hard, spooking and exhausting her within a hour. We have to watch more TV afterward before we dare go to bed.

Moving Picture of the Day
60 Minutes gave the first extended preview of the new Spider-Man musical last night. The backstage story threatens to eclipse the stage work: Bono and The Edge wrote their first musical, and director Julie Taymor's reputation as Broadway's most dynamic creator helped this show stay alive despite financial collapse. Also, the two original leads actors left during production delays. The show is alleged to cost about $65 million, making it the biggest show in the history of the Great White Way, and it will have to summon the loyalty enjoyed by Wicked to break even. It's a giant enterprise, but it looks amazing. There's no way this could tour though; it's too technically demanding.

I'm very curious about it, of course.

Wednesday, November 24

Gap Part Two

I went back to the mall with a new Dr. Oid app called ShopSavvy. It's a barcode scanner that uses your camera to read codes and find nearby prices on the same item at similar store. The Superman shirt didn't show up, and I expected that for an item so exclusive that it's only sold in brick-and-mortar Gap stores.

I called the Gap customer service line again and asked them if they could find the item via the item number. The operator did so but confirmed that the smallest size (6 months) is sold out nationwide. They have no sizes smaller than one year. She asked if I wanted to check back later to see if they might re-order that size. I asked if there were some other means I could track the item availability myself. Like, maybe, a website of some sort, a website that might -- indulge me, operator -- take my order online and send the item to me. Nope, I was told. I can either call that number gain or go back to the store randomly to see if they have it.

I remain surprised. I'm so used to shopping in the 21st century that I'm baffled by a major outlet chain's inability or lack of desire to make shopping convenient. I can only defend them if I assume they had no idea this item would be popular. If that's the case, they'll probably over-order the next time, and I'll get it on sale within a few months. There's always eBay too.

A new comic is up. You might see ads on the blog now. I'm testing the Google Ad program with the new-found global demand for Doom recipes. The ads, so far, are unobtrusive. If that changes, I'll end the ad experiment.

Picture of the Day
The new theory on T.Rex is that it was covered in feathers. Blasphemy.

Tuesday, November 23

Retail Horsefeathers

I stroll the mall to kill lunch breaks. I hit my usual shops -- Old Navy, Barnes & Noble, the anchor stores for their constant clearance sales -- and go back to work with a Starbucks drink. I like to go into the Gap stores to look for sales. The three local Gap stores are connected by doorways, so you can go from my sizes to those of the deputy easily. I like Gap when it has a sale. I'm not spending $70 on a sweater, but I'll stock up on $10 thermals. I haven't bought anything at the Baby Gap store, but I appreciate some items that look clever or fun.

For instance, I saw this shirt last week.

The cape is Velcroed on. It didn't come in a size close to where Your Nephew is, and I held off on buying it. It felt rash to buy something he'd have to wait until next summer to wear. But I thought about it over the weekend, and Your Sister encouraged me to buy it. He were probably affected by his new favorite play. We hold him over our heads and zoom around the room. He swims through the air. He's Superbaby. Back to the store I went.

They had only one left, sized for two-year-olds. I can't say I was very surprised. Deflated, yes. I made the mistake of anticipating the purchase and eventual unveiling to the boy. I looked through the store and found no more. I checked the label for the brand name and Googled with my Dr. Oid Phone. Nothing. I checked the Gap website. Nothing.

I picked up the remaining outfit and carried it over to the cashiers who were kibbitizing. They had little interest in helping me as I stood with the hanger on my finger. This is the international retail sign for "I want to speak about this item, perchance to buy it." One of them looked at me and walked away. I could feel Angry Brain clear his throat. The other cashier looked at me and simply said "hi." I said "I need to ask about this please" and explained my hope there would be more coming in. They weren't forthcoming with that info.

"Yeah, it sold fast. We have plenty of Batman." [said while she walked to the Batman shirt and held them up.]
"He's a Superman huh?"
"Yeah, he is. Are you going to get anymore of these in?" [said with an expression that hopefully communicated that I would buy it and one assumed they were in the buying/selling business]

What followed was a clucking of confusion. A third cashier was brought in, and the air filled with "um" and "I dunno." Eventually the new woman said they would get their next shipment in Wednesday and perhaps I could try then. Out the door I went. I wondered if they held single male shoppers in suspicion.

I later pulled up the Gap site at a desktop monitor and called their customer service. After describing my experience and the shirt, I was told that the item was probably a "store-specific" item, and the Gap universe couldn't help me. The store would have to contact the Gap folks to tell them where they ordered the shirt. In other words: Gap can't tell me what Gap stores sell, and Gap.com doesn't sell what Gap stores do. That's a significant breach for the customer to fall into. I see why it's called "gap."

Next time, I'll scan the price label and search via barcode.

Hokey Smoke News of the Day
Via the Associated Press

Vatican: Everyone can use condoms to prevent HIV

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Using a condom is a lesser evil than transmitting HIV to a sexual partner - even if that means averting a possible pregnancy, the Vatican said Tuesday, signaling a seismic shift in papal teaching as it further explained Pope Benedict XVI's comments.

The Vatican has long been criticized for its patent opposition to condom use, particularly in Africa. But the latest interpretation essentially means the Roman Catholic Church is acknowledging that its long-held, anti-birth control stance against condoms doesn't justify putting someone's life at risk.

Benedict said in a book released Tuesday that condom use by people such as male prostitutes was a lesser evil since it indicated they were moving toward a more moral and responsible sexuality by aiming to protect their partner from a deadly infection.

His comments implied that he was referring primarily to homosexual sex, when condoms aren't being used as a form of contraception, which the Vatican opposes.

Questions arose immediately about the pope's intent, though, because the Italian translation of the book used the feminine for prostitute, whereas the original German used the masculine.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, told reporters Tuesday that he asked the pope whether he intended his comments to only apply to male prostitutes. Benedict replied that it really didn't matter, that the important thing was the person in question took into consideration the life of the other, Lombardi said.

"I personally asked the pope if there was a serious, important problem in the choice of the masculine over the feminine," Lombardi said. "He told me no. The problem is this ... It's the first step of taking responsibility, of taking into consideration the risk of the life of another with whom you have a relationship."

"This is if you're a woman, a man, or a transsexual. We're at the same point. The point is it's a first step of taking responsibility, of avoiding passing a grave risk onto another," Lombardi said.

The clarification is significant.

UNAIDS estimates that 22.4 million people in Africa are infected with HIV, and that 54 percent - or 12.1 million - are women. Heterosexual transmission of HIV and multiple, heterosexual partners are believed to be a major cause of the high infection rates in Africa.

Benedict drew the wrath of the United Nations, European governments and AIDS activists when, en route to Africa in 2009, he told reporters that the AIDS problem on the continent couldn't be resolved by distributing condoms. "On the contrary, it increases the problem," he said then.

In the book, the pope was not justifying or condoning gay sex or heterosexual sex outside of a marriage. Elsewhere in it, he reaffirms the Vatican opposition to homosexual acts and artificial contraception and reaffirms the inviolability of marriage between man and woman.

But by broadening the condom comments to also apply to women, the pope is saying that condom use is a lesser evil than passing HIV onto a partner.

While that concept has long been a tenet of moral theology, the pope's book "Light of the World" - a series of interviews with a German journalist - marked the first time a pope had ever publicly applied the theory to condom use as a way to fight HIV transmission.

Monsignor Jacques Suaudeau, an expert at the Vatican's bioethics advisory board, said the pope was articulating the idea in church teaching - long practiced by some church officials with regards to condoms - that there are degrees of evil.

"Contraception is not the worst evil. The church does not see it as good, but the church does not see it as the worst," he told The Associated Press. "Abortion is far worse. Passing on HIV is criminal. That is absolute irresponsibility."

He said the pope broached the topic because questions about condoms and AIDS persisted.

"This pope gave this interview. He was not foolish. It was intentional. He thought that this was a way of bringing up many questions. Why? Because it's true that the church sometimes has not been too clear," Suaudeau said.

Luigi Accatoli a veteran Vatican journalist who was on the Vatican panel to launch the book put it this way:

"He spoke with caution and courage of a pragmatic way through which missionaries and other ecclesial workers can help to defeat the pandemic of AIDS without approving but also without excluding - in particular cases - the use of a condom," Accatoli said.

Picture of the Day
This girl is going to become Internet-famous today. When a very popular wrestler lost his world title last night to a bad guy, the cameras cut to the disappointed faces of children in the audience. She was the first. And how anyone could hope to top this is beyond me. That -- THAT -- is the sincere face of audience displeasure. You can almost see the daggers fly.

Monday, November 22

Cooking With Villainy: Porckhops With Sherry Sauce with Glazed Carrots

The Latveria mountains are truly resplendent as autumn's bold colors blanket Doom's fair kingdom. Doom allows this. Doom is pleased.

Doom is aware that this is a time of much hustle and bustle as families gather to celebrate their success and feast themselves into comas. Yes, yes, Doom also will indulge the noble populace of Latveria with the annual Doomsgiving. All Latveria will reap the bounty of our happy laborers. All Latveria will relish the finest foodstuffs, and the world will envy the camaraderie and joy that Doom bestows. Observe, jealous globe, the delights that could be yours if you but recognize the genius and largess that makes Doom the pinnacle of human achievement. Doom is good. Doom is gracious. Doom awaits your fealty.

But before the grand banquet, Doom wishes to assemble a simple meal. Simple but robust in flavor. Simple for Doom to concoct, of course. You lesser beings could not begin to cobble the glorious culinary architecture that Doom whips up as but an afterthought. But Doom feels a swelling of altruism this time of year (which explains why Doom is not crushing the accursed Richards clan while they are sluggish with sated stomachs), and Doom will grant you this delicious boon to tide you over until your own paltry Thanksgiving meals. Do not ask Doom to extend this courtesy a second time.

Now, attend Doom.

Porckhops With Sherry Sauce
4 porkchops
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
1/3 cup chicken broth
3 tablespoons dry cooking sherry
4 ounces cream cheese or sour cream
1 tablespoon fresh cut chives
Doom commands you to rub peppercorn on the porkchops and place in the heated oil in a skillet on medium high. Doom commands you to cook the pork eight to 12 minutes, turning once. When done, Doom commands you to remove pork from skillet and set aside, kept warm.

Doom commands you to add sherry and broth to the skillet. Doom commands you to stir constantly over medium heat to loosen drippings from skillet. Doom commands you to add the sour cream/cream cheese and stir constantly until it is melted. Doom commands you to maintain heat to reduce sauce slightly. Doom commands you to add chives and lower temperature on sauce to thicken. Doom commands you to pour over chops.
Doom commands you to smack your lips.

Glazed Carrot Side Dish
1 pound of carrots, sliced
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablepoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 tablespoon orange peel/zest
3 cups water

Doom commands you to boil the water before adding carrots. Doom commands you to to allow the water to boil again and then reduce heat to simmer for ten minutes. Doom commands you to drain the carrots and set aside.

Doom commands you to heat butter, sugar, salt, and peel in a skillet over medium heat. Doom commands you to stir constantly until mixture is bubbly. Doom advises that the mixture may become pasty as the sugar combines with butter. Do not be alarmed, puny one. This is no reason to cower. Whatever form your mixture takes, Doom commands you to add carrots and coat with mixture in skillet until carrots are warmed and serve.

Doom commands you to make yummy sounds. Doom suggests that you allow glaze and sauce to mix. Doom himself is impressed with the alchemy he has consumed. Doom's concoction is a true reason to be thankful this year.

Doom decrees you are welcome.

Small Move, Sparks. Small Moves.

When the food grinder instructions tell you how wonderful the apples will be when you mush them for a baby, they do not say that the apples will oxidize immediately and turn into the most yucky looking crud this side of his diapers. Yet, it tasted right, and he seemed to like it. This was his first fruit and his first ride in the high chair. The seat is a little big for him; his arms can't quite reach properly across the tray. We gave him a sip cup to play with and filled it with water. It's built differently than the bottle nipples and requires some effort to get the drink. Also, he wasn't impressed with the flat taste of water. We progress slowly.

However, he also may have executed his first intentional cooperation. Usually, when you try to put his pants back on, you fight to get two fat, bent legs into two pants legs. It's a struggle. Tthis weekend, when I held up his pants after a diaper change, he stuck out both legs arrow straight. It was a definite muscle movement that lasted more than a few seconds. He wanted to help and moved accordingly. I was delighted. It suggests "normal" mental development and motor coordination. I told Your Sister about it when she woke up from a nap, and she got the same results a few hours later when she changed him.

I ran Sunday for the first time since the abominable performance in the Halloween race. I stayed in a low gear and chugged through about 3 miles, including the rotten hill near our house and intended only to walk a cool-down lap around the neighborhood. I was almost back to our hose when the iPod shuffled onto "Hungry Like The Wolf," and I had to run and run flat-out. I had no choice. The faux jungle rhythms got me kooky. That was fun, and now I'm suffering (the new title of my autobiography).

We've made some conditional plans for the weekend travel with Mom with the understanding that we'll have to be flexible. She seems up for it. Your Sister is weighing seeing a new Disney movie with the nieces versus shopping with the in-laws. Neither sound much fun for a five-month-old. I could stay home and mind him while scarfing leftovers.

Picture of the Day
This might be the largest man-made partial lunar eclipse ever seen.

Thursday, November 18

Thinking Ahead

According to Your Sister, whom I'm inclined to believe, Your Parents said Tuesday they were not going to Alabama. They cited the neighbor's dog and said they agreed to take care of it over the holiday. They told her this while they were out at the baby store. When Your Sister got home, she found a message on the phone. It was Your Parents. Saying they were going.

By the time you read this, their answer probably changed four times.

We're talking about various Future Baby Concerns including gates and locks and playpens. He's fairly immobile right now; you set him down, and he won't go anywhere. But eventually those knees will find purchase, and he'll probably rocket himself into the ceiling fans. We figured out how to fence in the kitchen and TV room. Also we discussed how we should teach him to refer to his bathing suit area. I suggested "battleship."There was no applause. In related news, the boy seems to have learned how to cough, and it's his new party trick. If you cough back at him, he laughs.

Ingles held a companywide food drive yesterday complete with soldiers standing outside next to donation canisters. I bought a small bag of items from his posted list and offered to buy him something from Starbucks. He wouldn't hear of it. I assume he didn't want to tempt fate amid limited pee breaks.

Moving Picture of the Day
Another comic book film. I don't know this title, but that's a nice cast except, honestly, I'm seeing Olivia Wilde everywhere, and it's getting boring.

Wednesday, November 17

Weak Copies and Grand Masters

I was so concerned about leaving my concert ticket at home that I kept in in the car for three days. I was ramped up. Not so much in eagerness to see Sir Elton, but in a heightened pessimism that my ducks should be lined up when the inevitable obstacle falls from the sky. It didn't. I saw the show. It was huge.

Your Sister called right as I parked to say she and the sidekick were in town meeting Your Parents at a baby store. We couldn't meet for dinner as she was on her way home. After a quick dinner at the Noodle Shop (with a West Wing scriptbook), I snuck into the nearby 16 Patton Gallery to pursue a mystery. I was in there last week as a new exhibition was being assembled, and I saw a near life-size reproduction of a Bouguereau. That's my favorite artist. I know my guy. This is the original, Evening Mood.

Here's the copy.

I hadn't seen this gallery offer reproductions before. Not direct reproductions, anyway. Anna Jurik's work includes a series of people taking in artworks in museums, and her work includes those art pieces.

I like Jurik's work. It exemplifies everything good about oil paint. I was sorely tempted to buy one earlier this year but couldn't justify the cost.

Anyway, the Bouguereau copy is weak, and I couldn't figure out why it would hang in a gallery with this pedigree. I consider it on par with Blue Spiral. They shouldn't offer this kind of knock-off. I wondered if they knew it was a copy and secretly hoped I could bust the artist for trying to sneak one on the local art scene. I downloaded a copy of the original on my Droid (or, as Your Sister first called it, Doctor Oid) and prepared my comments to whoever was minding the gallery.

Turns out the painting is part of a display from a local fine arts club dedicated, their flyer says, to studying and creating realistic fine art. So this was a student's work. To his credit, or maybe his teacher's, the ID card notes the original, calling it a reference. I think that's a stingy word choice. Not stingy is the asking price.

That's some chutzpah right there. You could probably buy a print of the original for a few hundred.

I killed some time at the nearby art store and discovered a portfolio designed to the dimensions of my comic art boards. That would make it easier for me to make sketches at that size for the convention and sell them. I made use of downtown's new-ish public bathrooms (very practical, not decorous) and browsed Malaprop's. About 7:10 I headed to the civic center and got in a line that strung from the center's front door to the parking deck behind the library. There were two big concerts in town, and the parking spaces vanished quickly. I felt pretty good about getting a first-floor space three hours before the show began. Leaving would be a breeze.

I sat between two sets of women in the back right corner of the civic center. The stage was a simple platform on the concrete floor, and the room was a barebones brick box.

But once the lights went down and the stage lights went up, none of that mattered. We got three hours of Elton John. Kinda.

The show was advertised as a greatest-hits show by Elton. But he recently released an album with Leon Russell, whom he cites as an influence. Elton took the stage at 8:07 to explain how the night would go: Russell would play some of his solo hits, Elton would play a few of his, they would play from their new album, and Elton would finish the concert. That duo material was a solid hour of the show, and it was all new stuff. Some folks around me grumbled at that, and I admit that it's not what we paid for. But one gets the feeling Elton is gonna do the show his way, and the new stuff isn't bad. It's very much in keeping with the classic Elton sound: background harmonies to kill for, honkytonk piano, and white soul vocal phrasing.

When he did play the classics, they each had a vigor that made them practically new-sprung works. "Rocketman," for instance lasted well over ten minutes and drifted into gospel, blues, and prog rock. He's got a galaxy of songs to choose from, and I'm glad to say I heard some of my favorites -- "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," especially -- and didn't hear those overplayed on local radio -- "Get Back Honky Cat" and "Crocodile Rock."

There was no intermission. A three-hour show like that is worth the money even if it's not what the money was coughed up for. I think Your Mom and Sister would have balked had they come along. As it as, streams of folks left at 11, presumably to relieve babysitters.

Leaving the parking deck was indeed a snap and well worth the special-event fee. I picked up a soda and candy bar at a local convenience store (while evading beer-seeking hobos) and drove home with my ears ringing and my grin glaring.

Moving Picture of the Day
Earlier this year, Warner Brothers realized they owned DC Comics, a goldmine of licensing material, and cranked up several movie projects. The success of the Batman and Marvel films (Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men) suggests the superhero genre isn't fading. The first of the new films is Green Lantern, and the trailer was released with the new Harry Potter film.

Speaking as a comic fan, this isn't bad. They've brought in a LOT of the Lantern franchise instead of hedging their bets. The hero is a cocky pilot and the origin also seems intact from the comics. This looks like the next big thing for boys.

Because the trailer deals so much with fighting fear, I think the It Gets Better project could make some headway by handing out lantern rings to show support for gay kids.

Tuesday, November 16

Mutable Plans

Your Sister and Sister-in-Law talked yesterday and worked out some details of Thanksgiving. Then Your Brother called me, and we exchanged new information. As of yesterday afternoon, Your Parents were going to Alabama. As of six hours later, they are not. Many pairs of hands were thrown into the air.

We are going. We are on the record with this. Sharing rooms will let us stay in in the Alabama house, and the single grandparents will share a room. I ran the suggestion by My Mom, and she's OK with it. Also, we're not coming back the day after we drive down. I told Your Brother we'll call to keep them informed as we drive down, but we have no idea how long this might take.

I thought the radio interview was on the weekend, but it's tonight ... while I'm at the Elton John concert. Crap beans. I was told another interview ext week might be possible, but as we're leaving town for Thanksgiving, there remains only a small window of opportunity.

New carpet welcomed me to the house. It's not much different than the original, but the padding is better. And of course the new carpet is a billion times cleaner. I unplugged and unhooked and de-cabled the TV and its accessories before leaving home and reconnected everything when I returned. The wifi wouldn't work. I checked the phone cable and AC wire and hit the reboot buttons. Nothing. I checked the phone outlet and found it working. I wondered if the carpet people had nudged the baseboards against the internal wiring and spent a few minutes wondering how soon they could come back and fix it and if they'd need to hire an electrician. Finally, I moved around the plugs to different outlets. That worked. It shouldn't make a difference. A cosmetic change like this shouldn't affect the contraption. And yet. That kind of fix is akin to magic. "I'm doing this in hopes a meaningless alteration will make something work the way I want." Took me almost an hour to get it going again.

Picture of the Day
Sometimes the British tabloids give us something beyond cheesecake and fake news. Here's a look of images from the new space station window. This image in particular is straight out of an industrial scifi movie. Yet she's really up there, 220 miles above us, reclining in a TIE Fighter cockpit.

Monday, November 15

Talking About Shows

I sometimes hit the local comic store on my Friday lunch break. Comics come out on Wednesday, and that day is usually the busiest as people take their own lunch breaks and grab the newest issues. I avoid that scene. I go to the mall on Thursdays, making Friday my best choice for killing an hour there.

Last Friday, I ran into a guy who co-hosts a local radio show on comics, and he asked if I wanted to sit in on a few shows. I could pimp my minicomics and chat about recent comic happenings. (Me, talk about myself for a couple of hours? Where do I sign up?) He interviewed me during the convention this summer, and he reran that segment on air within the last few weeks, so I hear. As it stands, I can't hear the show in Mayberry. The station is too weak to reach that far, but it does stream online. I want to do this. I have to figure out when.

Later that day, Your Sister and I were invited to a dinner with a teacher buddy and her son. Like his mom, the kid is smallish, and he seems to weigh the same as the deputy even though he's two years older. Of course, our boy is tall for his age.

I ran into my theatre liaison at the grocery store, and he caught me up on the company's doings. You might remember he, like me, swore up and down that he was walking away from them. But, unlike me, he's too nice to watch them founder and continued the work with playbills and publicity. One of the folks who succeeded him quit in a huff, and he picked up the slack. He noted that even though the rent on the theatre space had been cut in half, the company faces a complete lack of money around March.

The director of the Christmas show can't find a lead, even though that show opens within a month. He might shutter the production if no one can be found. They're looking for singers and haven't contacted me about it. I noted to my liaison that the group could dust off one of their other scripts and do a reading theatre in a short amount of time. This would unfortunately mean they'd change shows yet again after selling tickets, but it's better than refunding tickets sold for a show that never hits the stage. There are reasons reading theatre is my default suggestion for this group: it's easy, cheap, and doesn't require full casting. Do it as a faux radio production, and you have something unique in an area awash with theatre groups. But, of course, I have stepped away, and those ideas no longer have an advocate. And the company is this close to closing. Maybe those facts are connected. Maybe not.

As I talked to My Mom last night, she asked if I missed theatre. I said I missed the Greenville group specifically, but I don't miss doing bad theatre amid a constant string of bad decisions. I don't miss the ever-present hum of regret as I stand onstage and watch someone bungle their lines when they have script in hand. And it would be magnified now by the realization that, for this, I didn't do my turns at feeding and bedtime for a month.

Picture of the Day
Hokey smoke, are our maps bad.

Friday, November 12

The Trouble with Good Intentions

As we sat in the parking lot of the local grocery store, sipping our Starbucks breakfast drinks and planning the rest of our day, we had the idea of treating Your Aunt. She had driven into town Wednesday and was staying with Your Parents for Veterans Day, and we were invited to have a meal with them. The boy would of course be in tow.

Our big idea was this: Ask the parents to watch the deputy while we take Your Aunt in town. We'll treat her to a dinner, if she wants, and stroll downtown. Your Parents are always saying they love watching the boy; it didn't feel like we were dumping him on them.

Your Mom cobbled together a meal of frozen lasagna, hummus, pita bread, and cranberry salad. It was fine. We had it for a late lunch not long after we arrived and fed the sidekick. We told Your Aunt of our notion, and she was relieved almost to the point of tears. I didn't know this, but apparently those sisters have very little diet in common, and she didn't want anything in the house. We were happy to be of service. I was with the deputy when Your Sister mentioned the idea to Your Mom. I didn't hear the sales pitch, but initially Your Mom was OK with it. We fed the baby again and left with him sleeping on the floor. We said we'd be back soon, maybe a few hours. All seemed well.

We ate at Tupelo Honey. None had eaten their before, and we enjoyed it. Your Sister got shrimp and grits, which made her very happy. Your Aunt wanted to duck inside Urban Outfitters, and we did. Back home we went. And the bottom fell out. Your Mom was insulted that we went somewhere else to eat. She was crying. She appeared drained to the point of exhaustion.

As I made a beeline to the boy and Your Dad, I missed what the womenfolk were saying, but I caught up later. Your Mom took our excursion as a comment on her food. I assume she was told that we thought of the invite before we even got to their house. I dunno. Again, I was with the baby. The back-and-forth went on a while. Your Aunt commented to Your Dad that when they visit her house, Your Mom brings all their food with them. They don't eat the same, she said. I stayed back. I minded the sidekick. This was based on a family dynamic I'm not a part of. I did mention to Your Aunt later that, as far as we knew, there was no dinner planned. And as I type this, I have no idea what, if anything, Your Parents ate last night. We packed up the boy and drove home after reassurance was attempted. When we got home, Your Mom and Sister talked on the phone for about an hour.

It was goofy and awkward, but I still think the invite was correct: Your Aunt drove a long way, and should have had the chance to sight-see. Which is what we did in a very small amount of time.

Your Mom is also trying to convince Your Sister that the boy prefers bottle and formula over nursing. We understand that bottles let everyone feed the baby, but if Your Sister needs to be milked, why not use this handy, new milking machine? Formula is for emergencies. Earlier this week, she threw away an entire bag of milk over concerns of contamination, and she used formula instead to feed him. Are these items related? I'm not sure. But I found a handful of Tums in the diaper bag last night, and one was the exact same color of green that he pooped out a few weeks back. I couldn't figure out why he made that strange color. I'm forced to wonder (until I hear back from Your Sister for confirmation) if they've given their grandson non-prescribed medicine. I hope this is a misunderstanding. I hope I'm very wrong. If not, I'm going nuclear. Until I hear anything, my angry brain is tightly leashed.

Your Aunt said Your Parents won't go to her house for Thanksgiving for the same reasons they won't go to Alabama. We appear to be going there.

Picture of the Day
Seriously this stuff is confusing.

Tuesday, November 9

Or Maybe Not

Your Sister is cool to the idea of staying in NC for Thanksgiving. She's concerned the Birmingham contingent has already budgeted for the food and may already have it in storage. As it stands now, we're driving down there. But I continue to worry.

As I warned her, if we're resolved to do it, we'll do it. But we need to warn everyone what we're dealing with on this drive. And My Mom will have to be content with staying down there longer than one night. I don't relish the idea of making that drive again the very next day.

I intend to mention to her that the Alabama family couldn't make our wedding because of their baby. I don't begrudge them that. At all. But I think that will temper their temptation to begrudge us the desire to stay home.

A while back, I offered to join a buddy in her AIDS walk 5k this weekend, but she hasn't chimed in to say if we're still a go. It's in Asheville, the same day as Asheville Pizza and Brewing's Superhero 5k Race. The latter is very tempting, but I can't spend two consecutive Saturdays in town and leave Your Sister with His Highness. I'm still working on core exercised to ensure my recent 5k disaster doesn't repeat.

Speaking of Asheville, two things I forgot to mention about roller derby:

1) The singer forgot the lyrics to the national anthem, and started every lyric with "so," making it sound conversational. So, you know, I was watching the rockets glaring red and stuff. So, there I was, with bombs and stuff bursting as bombs are wont to do.

2) The halftime show was interpretive juggling set to '80s rock music. That's a tough sell, but the crowd was into it by the second verse of "Don't Stop Believin'."

Picture of the Day
Some days are like that.

Monday, November 8

We May Wimp Out

Since last we typed, the deputy has learned to roll over.

He rolled over for the first time Thursday night. He was trying to look at the TV while on my lap, and I set him on his mat facing away from the screen. He arched to find and stare at it and eventually rolled completely over to -- and this is most important -- get up on both elbows. He did it again Friday while she was watching, and he was a rolling-over machine this weekend. He moves in one direction -- to his left -- and he once accidentally rolled onto his back again. It's a new trick, and he enjoys doing it. He and I had lots of face time Sunday while Your Sister backed. She made cookies for the carpentry class, who just finished the deck, and made another upside down cake for us.

She and I had another dust up Saturday over the boy. She picked lunch at the local pad thai restaurant and specifically ordered crispy tofu. Just after the food arrived, the deputy wailed, and she began to move to take him outside to settle him. I leapt up and took him instead. She objected hard. I argued that she should enjoy her food while I care for him. He always acts up when our food arrives, and I always grab him first. I see it as courtesy. She saw Saturday's move as a rude veto of her gesture. This debate went on for a while even after I apologized and promised to let her grab him first the next time it happened. When we had lunch out on Sunday, I positioned myself in the corner of a booth so I couldn't get to him. She got him first, and that seemed to settle it. We get frazzled. We chafe. We grumble through it and let it go.

I especially felt Saturday afternoon that I needed to let her sit and eat in peace because I planned to go to roller derby that night. And I did. It was another blow-out win for our gals, and I have yet to hear anything about the team logo I made. I did ask a "fearleader" if they plan to have a B-team to use that logo, and she said yes.

It was a cold walk back to the car as fall gives way to winter in Asheville. My town didn't get the snow that fell near the Tennessee border, but the cold did kill off my remaining pepper plants. I yanked them up Sunday evening, officially closing the garden this year. We did not plant any cold-weather crops.

We are considering staying in town for Thanksgiving this year. We're wary of taking the deputy on his first long car ride, through Atlanta no less and speeding to Alabama to make a lunch date. We hesitate about this. It is our turn to go down there, and we always like the food and company. But ... It feels daunting. We're daunted. The idea dauntifies us. And Your Parents claim they're holding out to save money, but they always say that and they always break down and go. Feels like we should too. If we do stay in town, we'll make dinner for whoever wants to come by. Maybe we could set up webcams on our laptops and have a virtual dinner with the Alabama folks.

Speaking of plans, I'm going to write the first draft of my new convention comic this week. I must give myself more time to make that comic now that we have a mobile fire alarm in onesies.

Picture of the Day
How fresh was that bundle of kale we got from a neighbor? This fresh:

He didn't survive the night in the fridge. We didn't discover him until after.

Wednesday, November 3

Daddy Time

The evening was deliberate.

As soon as I got home, Your Sister pointed out some bottles of milk and offered the deputy to be fed when I was ready. The offer was not snippy or forced. She set the tone immediately, and all seemed well. She wanted me to have the most opportunity to be a dad. I appreciated it. I don't think either of us expected him to drink so much that night though.

I gave him one bottle's worth and moved him to the play mat with dangling animals. He's learning to intentionally reach and grab. His aim is wonky, but he's getting there. No matter how good he gets with that, I don't see his arm strength catching up to that of his legs. I don't think my arm strength can catch up to his legs.

Around 7, he started to get noisy, and I began the bedtime routine. He still won't let me read to him, but he'll happily chug milk while I hum along with Pandora. And that's exactly what we did. He drank himself into sleep within 20 minutes, and I knew he'd wake up before long. Half an hour later, he did, and more milk and music ensued. I probably walked two miles within that room as I held him after feedings. Each time he would nod off, I'd attempt to set him in the crib, and he'd fully wake up and want to interact. I scooped him up, hummed some more, and we repeated this about three times. He was dry, he was full of milk, he was not too hot or cold. He just wouldn't sleep. After the fourth time and an hour later, I threw in the towel (gently, quietly) and let him have the recommended 15 minutes of cry time to see if he'd settle. He didn't.

I changed him and gave him more milk, and by now he'd swilled 15 ounces. That's a record. I set him down again, and Your Sister offered to come into the game as a closer. I stepped aside (gently, quietly), and she had no better luck. She suggested he was scared to be alone and wanted to be held. She tried that and got another earful when she set him down. We gave him another 15 minutes, and he finally conked out as we started our late supper.

A few hours later, I changed his not-surprisingly packed diaper and changed him into a sleep bag. I held him for one song off Pandora, and he was out cold. I set him down with no problem, satisfied I had worked my shift like a proper father should. I do suspect he was unaccustomed to this and didn't understand that he was supposed to sleep.

Almost all the ironwork is up on the deck, and we have an estimate for the new carpeting. Progress is progressing. We watched the primetime election coverage for some hours after supper but called it a night before we heard anything about the Western states. I woke up this morning to restrained Republican commentary, and the onus is on the successful Tea Party candidates to live up to the rhetoric. They have to drastically eliminate spending without compromising with the larger caucuses.

Picture of the Day
Dig the shoes.